I have a swollen left ankle and I have to give in that I have a small heel blister on the right foot. The ankle hurts more. ~May 15, 2006 Journal Entry
It didn't seem that long before we reached the third famous Camino landmark in this one day. We had arrived at the city of Puente la Reina. As usual, there was this feeling on my part of wanting to see something of the city yet at the same time wanting to make the goal for the day. I was also still wanting to find a post office to
get rid of some of my superfluous pack weight. I had also learned in the meantime to lighten my pack by not filling my Camelbak to the maximum 3 liters. There was ample opportunity to refill in the small villages, the cities, and even out in the countryside at Eunate. It was a small relief to let go of at least one of the fears I had brought with me.
Like Pamplona we blew through Puente la Reina (Bridge [of] the Queen) stopping only to take some photos and admire the beautiful bridge expressly built for the growing number of medieval pilgrims. I have only somewhat of a blurred memory of walking through a narrow and rather brown, dark city street, store after store selling Camino souvenirs. Given the predominance towards Camino tourism along the route, I understood completely Renate's feeling of wanting to just get through the cities and back into nature.
The bridge, however, was worth stopping for.
It had the effect of bringing you snap back to the origin of the Camino. You can't help but think of how many feet have walked over it, how much harder it surely was in medieval times, and how much different their motivations must have been. I've read that it was considered to be a privilege to die on the Camino back then. Curiously, as I would later come across monuments where modern day pilgrims have recently died on the Camino, nearly always someone would comment that it would be "a great way to go." So perhaps the modern day and medieval pilgrim still have some thin common thread between them, or perhaps the Spanish countryside simply has a magical intoxication that makes even death look reasonable.
Puente la Reina is a quite popular starting point on the Camino. There are large municipal albergues due to this fact. The one I saw looks imposing and industrial, not at all what you imagine for yourself while on the road. We were headed for a smaller, private albergue almost 8 kilometers outside of the city.
The route became distinctly more difficult. It wasn't because of the terrain really; it was because of the heat. It had become rather warm and this made walking more effortful. My left foot was hurting a bit, but not from a blister. I was puzzled by it because I hadn't turned it over or remembered
anything that could have caused it. I would have to simply wait and look at it later.
We took one last break under some low bushy pine trees. It was there that I was confronted by another universal pilgrim fear: having to urinate in nature. I went off between some other trees. I wasn't really so afraid as I was unpractised. My main concern was peeing in my boots. I imagined that as most unpleasant. I searched around for a suitable spot like a nervous cat in some kind of large litter box. Around me I could see bits of toilet paper. I wasn't the only one who had been there. It is an unfortunate fact that many pilgrims don't practice appropriate elimination in nature. It is also true that there is no bush, tree, or rock on the Camino Francés that hasn't been visited. Dripped and dry, I felt rather proud of myself. I can't really justify why. Sphincters and our relation to them are rather funny things.
Cirauqui was an uphill climb at the end of a
long day of magnificent and eventful walking. I can still picture the village perched up on its hill in the distance, my foot hurting, my shoulders beginning to scream, hot, sweaty, and tired. Sometimes the last 2-3 kilometers are the hardest. Because the albergue in Cirauqui was a private albergue it generally meant better accommodation. We arrived in the afternoon and were some of the last pilgrims to find a place for the evening. I was ready to begin the pilgrim albergue rituals of unpacking: showering, washing, food shopping, resting. The rituals began to be more methodic, more fluid, more relaxed: a curious comfort.
More pictures of Puente la Reina and Cirauqui have been uploaded to the Picture Gallery.