Camino Day 5 - Pamplona to Puente La Reina (27 km). Another incredible day on the Camino. The weather has been perfect, with cool mornings and fluffy clouds in the sky. Lots of barley fields and red poppies, and windmills at the top of the pass. Stopped at the famous pilgrim sculpture before the long downhill into the Arga Valley.
After a having a potato omelette at the Nogales Bar in Muruzabal, took a detour with an Australian to the Santa Maria de Eunate, a beautiful 12th century octanal church with attached Romanesque cloister once held by the Knights Templar. Charlemagne reportedly stopped over in Puente La Reina after his military conquest of the Moors. After Mass at the Iglesia de Santiago, the priest called up the Peregrinos for a special blessing, just like they've been doing for 800 years.
Camino Day 3 - Zubiri to Pamplona (21 km). Another pleasant day of quiet trails through rolling countryside and woods along a meandering river that leads to Pamplona. There is something about the repetitive motion of walking a long distance in such a beautiful environment that both focuses the mind and frees it. The physical exertion rewards the spirit.
My favorite stop was the small 13th century church of St. Stephen in Zabaldika, which requires a short steep climb to get to. The cool sanctuary is a spiritual oasis along the way. The side chapel displays a statute of Joseph holding baby Jesus, which is vrare. The artist imagined Joseph as a real father intimately involved with the life of his child, not just a bystander with carpenter tools.
Approaching Pamplona, I ran into my new best friends from Beijing whom I met previously on the trail. They had seen the movie, the Way, in China and were so inspired they decided they had to walk it.
Day 2 - Roncesvalles to Zubiri (22 km).
Today was a relatively easy hike through quiet woodland trails and beautiful countryside. My Saloman trail runners were still soaking wet from the trek over the pass so I used my trusty Asics running shoes. Before setting out, I made a quick visit to center myself and say a few prayers. The quiet solitude often sweeps over me when I am by myself in these old churches as I think of all the sinners and saints who came before me and are now long gone, and of the many who will come after me.
Shortly after the trail leaves Roncesvalles, it enters the Sorginaritaga forest, which means "oak wood of witches." It was here where the townspeople in the 16th century let their imaginations get away from them and decided witches were gathering in the woods to hold their covens and exercise their evil powers. This led to the burning of at least nine innocent people at the stake. You do get an eerie feeling as you walk through these woods and think about what happened here and why.
Around 4 o'clock, I crossed over the Puente de la Rabia, the medieval bridge over the Rio Arga, and arrived in Zubiri. After checking into the Hosteria de Zubiri, I ducked into the unassuming little church down the road for a few moments of thanksgiving.