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Hiking the Camino de Santiago in 2019

GoldCanyon340

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Day 6 supplemental - 14th September 2019

Spent this evening rearranging a couple of nights’ accommodation. We’ve shortened the next few days of walking due to temperatures ranging from 26 to 31 degrees. Spent 90 minutes contacting hotels and albergues via Facebook and the great godsend of cancellable stays at booking.com

Tomorrow will be 18kms to Uterga and Monday significantly shorter at 6kms to Puente La Reina. Very confident we’ll make up the slack.
 

GoldCanyon340

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Day 7 - 15th September 2019: Pamplona to Uterga

Early start due to the expected warmer weather and the distance of 16.8km. Left Pamplona through its southwestern suburbs. I read this few kms is not that attractive but it’s fine. Once you reach the campus of University of Navarra the buildings become more sparse.

As the landscape opens you get your first view southwest plains and this morning’s wasn’t ideal: a vast bank of black cloud resembling the best representation of Mordor I’ve seen for a while. Mrs 340 sent her backpack to Uterga and was not carrying her raincoat in her day pack. I did know the wind was roughly southeasterly today so our best hope was this weather would move away to our right.

Another 1km under our belt and the light shower started. Not looking good. The next town down trail was Cizur Minor and we arrived without too much issue. Parked ourselves at Asador El Tremendo for a coffee and weather radar check.

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Wind direction assumptions validated we waited 30 minutes and the showers passed. Continuing the S/SW direction for today we headed into very different landscape. The rest of today was all through ploughed farmland. Every day up to now has been forest, lush gullies and general greenery.

The view of the ridge over which we have to walk still had cloud:

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The view south with the clearing sky looked more promising:

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More distance ticked off and the local farmer was moving sheep between fields. This field was the site of a major conflict in the 8th century where Charlemagne defeated Islamic forces. No doubt the sheep are aware of this.

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A climb into Zariquiegui afforded a pleasant stop for late morning tea in this quaint village. If you’ve seen ‘The Way’ the church in this picture hosts a scene:

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The main street where we stopped for coffee and respite from the warming sun:

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Refreshed we walked for an hour up a medium incline to reach the silhouette sculptures at Alto del Perdon. This is one of the well known images of the Camino. Every single item if foitage I’ve seen of this location on YouTube and in The Way has the wind blowing a gale. But today it was calm.

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Calm until a bus load of tourists disgorged and ruined the serenity. These interlopers aside, the other win from this location is the view west of our destination and, more importantly, the view *downhill* west. The first 1-1.5kms of this is steep and in shale. This is the mentally challenging facet of hiking especially at the end of the day. The last 2kms though is a flattish track on a good surface until the last 300m with a climb into Uterga. Most of these villages were built centuries ago on high ground for fortification. Good for people back then, not so good for hikers just wanting to get dinner and a bed. Once in Uterga though I was more than happy with accommodations for tonight. Great place with an outside verandah and bar.

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Had a cheeky beer to celebrate the day and then the threatened thunderstorm hit. Shower and change for a tasty pilgrims’ dinner with the standard bottle of wine.
 

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GoldCanyon340

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Day 7 - 15th September 2019: Uterga to Puente La Reina

A short 6km today with our rearranged schedule. Really glad of this as tomorrow is 18kms with decent climbs.
We had breakfast of bread, preserves, juice and coffee on the verandah. Mostly flat day today through more farmland. Olive trees are becoming more prevalent now, mostly on farms but also some wild ones too.
The first village we pass through is Muruzábal and of course the Camino swings by the church.

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Then it’s on to Obanos where the infrequent scallop shells roadside again become frequent.

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Obanos has a beautiful church.

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Another olive orchard heading to Puente La Reina.
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We arrived at Albergue Jakue, our accommodation for tonight, at 11.30. There’s a great bar/garden area where we relaxed as reception opens at 3pm. We did a side trip here and I’ll detail that in a separate post.

Rest of the day was the usual schedule of getting your feet elevated after a day’s hiking, shower and changed into non-hiking clothes for a few aperitifs before dinner and sleep.

The outside bar area for the albergue is really good, almost tropical.

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GoldCanyon340

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Day 7 supplemental
A side trip to Iglesias de Santa Maria de Eunate. A stunning church a few kms outside Puente La Reina and really isolated. You can do a diversion to this church from the Camino but the sun was hot so we went straight to Puente and got a taxi here with an arranged pickup 45 minutes later.

The octagonal roof, while not unique, is rare and an indicator of a possible Knights Templar church.
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GoldCanyon340

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Thoughts from the front....

I’ve been delayed posting for the last week. We’ve had some minor logistic issues and injuries. Nothing serious but after some tiring days’ hiking I’ve been having the pilgrim dinner at our destination and collapsing into bed.

Getting back on track now though and I’m in Belorado on the town square with a beer posting this, about a week ahead but I’ll catch up with posts. Again today was physically tiring but I’ll talk about that in the post for today.

It amazes me with the injuries suffered by people on this walk. Yesterday we met an extreme runner from the UK (as in someone who does Ironman and 250km runs/walks) and his feet are destroyed. He has never had injuries like this in his life.

The trail continues....
 

GoldCanyon340

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Just noticed my last two posts for day 7 should be for day 8 (16th September 2019)
 

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Day 9 - 17th September 2019: Puente La Reina to Villatuerta

18kms today so we left the accommodation at 6.45am to eat the supplied breakfast at the hotel next door: coffee, juice and croissant or pain au chocolat. We set out on the trail soon after while still mostly dark. Crossing the eponymous puente from ‘Puente La Reina’, a beautiful bridge but unable to be photographed due to the low light, we crossed the local freeway and headed into the countryside. As the sun rose we had lovely views back west.

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The first town is Mañeru 5.2kms along the trail. We stopped for second coffee here.

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Mañeru is a quaint town. This location along with every town on today’s hike is on a hill necessitating a lovely climb to each. Hint: spot the sarcasm.

2.6kms to Cirauqui which we could view immediately after leaving Mañeru, past the grapevines.

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Cirauqui is another decent town with the second steepest climb of today to approach the town centre.
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Leaving Cirauqui is a moderately steep descent along a Roman road. The surface is uneven and rocky but I’d like to look good after 2,000 years.

5.7kms to the next town Lorca and this was a tough leg. The temperature rose quickly and the landscape also became drier, almost in sympathy it seemed. Some of the walk was along the motorway, walking through two underpasses crossing from side to side of the road. We passed this modern aqueduct for the Canal de Alloz.

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Shortly after we stopped at a medieval bridge crossing the Rio Salado. The heat was getting difficult now but the cool breeze off the fast flowing river brought a welcome relief. Then the killer climb of today into Lorca. Very, very difficult with little shade. Getting the to one of the two albergues for a late lunch was such a relief. A salami pizza and two beers for lunch did not touch the sides.

The final 4.5kms to Villatuerta was very different: flat landscape next to ploughed fields and the motorway for 90 per cent of the distance. The accommodation for tonight was at Casa Magica. We had a wonderful pilgrims’ dinner at communal tables. Met a really lovely American couple from California and had a wonderful chat.

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A tiring day and very glad of a good sleep after a satisfying dinner.
 

GoldCanyon340

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Day 10 - 18th September 2019: Villatuerta to Viilamayor De Monjardín (rescheduled to Los Arcos)

Last night we received an email from tonight’s accommodation, or not as it turned out. They had double booked our room and given it to someone else. We planned to head to Viilamayor de Monjardín so last minute schedule rejigging was needed. The next major settlement after Villamayor is Los Arcos and after thirty minutes researching options and hotel reviews we secured a room there via booking.com. Los Arcos is 12.2kms after Villamayor, which in turn is 13.2kms after Villatuerta. Not wishing to walk 25.5kms we planned to walk to Villamayor and get a taxi to Los Arcos.

There was a thunderstorm overnight and showers when we woke. Took a leisurely breakfast at the hotel planning to set out at 9am when the weather forecast said drier conditions would make a good morning’s walk. But the showers persisted. Waited in the hotel lobby for 45 minutes and it seemed the slight rain had abated even though a few drops were still around. The church in Villatuerta is a nice one even in gloomy weather.

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Thirty seconds after I took this picture the showers restarted so we changed into our rain resistant (note: not rainproof) tops and continued. And then followed a miserable 3.9kms to the first town of Estella. We were wet and the wind was cold.

The rain held off obediently for a short period so I could take a snap of this rural church.

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Once the rain restarted it came back heavier. This is one of the local rivers enjoying the rainfall.

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But by the time we reached Estella we had no motivation to get to Villamayor by foot. Estella’s tourist office is on the Camino as is the case in most towns. They called a cab for us and we waited 10 minutes so not a bad outcome.
It was a quick ride to Los Arcos by which time the skies had cleared mostly. The old town area of Los Arcos has narrow laneways and is pretty.

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The main square is next to the church and hosts three bar/restaurants. We got a morning tea of pasta (we need the energy after all!) in one of these to wait for the hotel manager to return to the property. Once we were able to check in we dumped our stuff and headed back to the square for a proper lunch of paella with a bottle of rosé wine.

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The church opened at 5pm for tourists before the 7.30pm service. Here’s a couple of pictures of the exterior and the cloister.

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The interior of this church just is just absolutely stunning. I’ll post pics separately but when you see them just remember Los Arcos has a population of 1,100. There is 7kg of gold adorning the altar and other decorations. Admittedly this gold was ‘obtained’ from the colonies but still the scale of this building defies most words.

Overall today was even. A disappointing start with double booked rooms and wet weather but we had a great lunch and dinner in the square and a visit to the church that we considered equal to Notre Dame in some respects. Just the one concern is a small blister I’ve developed on my right big toe.
 

RTWtraveler

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Looking forward to this. It's one of those things on my bucket list, however I'm not a fan of hostels and bed bugs and noises of others so want to hear all about the auberges. Are you carrying everything or using a sherpa service?
You will have a great time! In June 2019 we bicycled 350km of the Norte trail. We are retired (70+) and also felt private accomodation would be more attuned to our lifestyle, though we did use a monastery for two nights.
 

waltervp

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Fantastic! I have cystic fibrosis and did it in 6 weeks comfortably. You will love it, best thing ever for walkers and non walkers alike. Plenty of support everywhere and plenty of accommodation options too.

W
 

GoldCanyon340

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You will have a great time! In June 2019 we bicycled 350km of the Norte trail. We are retired (70+) and also felt private accomodation would be more attuned to our lifestyle, though we did use a monastery for two nights.
The Norte track is hillier than this one I believe?

Most of the private rooms in the accommodations have been very good.
 

GoldCanyon340

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Fantastic! I have cystic fibrosis and did it in 6 weeks comfortably. You will love it, best thing ever for walkers and non walkers alike. Plenty of support everywhere and plenty of accommodation options too.

W
The townships and settlements along the Way are a blessing for a rest or coffee or something like to eat.
 

GoldCanyon340

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Day 11 - 19th September 2019: Los Arcos to Armañanzas

A short day of 7.8 kms. We walk to Torres del Rio and get a pick up to accommodation 2kms off trail in Armañanzas.

Start with breakfast in the square where we witness a woman with a terrible foot injury. She has a blister covering the entire ball of her right foot. Something like that can get infected so easily. She obviously won’t be walking today or tomorrow.

Heading out of Los Arcos the trail is dry and the sky is clear.

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An interesting feature of today and the past few days has been many wild fig trees along the trail. You can smell the figs before seeing the tree and most have one or two ripe fruits. I adore figs and a couple of these is an excellent snack.

Another fauna but much more abundant of course is olive trees. We’ve passed many olive groves and this one is in the foothills of Sansol., with the town in the background.

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A small climb into Sansol and we stop here for a cool drink but more importantly to check my left foot. In addition to the small blister on the side of the big toe I’ve now acquired one under the small toe. This is not good. Time to utilise a Compeed before completing the quick 0.7kms down the hill to Torres del Rio.

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At Torres we stop at the first café but the food is limited and the staff uninterested. We buy coffees to get the wifi password and check out other options for lunch. Not many but there is an albergue up the road next to the church and with a garden.

Very glad we head there. The garden is an excellent place to stop for lunch.

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We both have a pilgrim lunch, the usual three courses with bread and a bottle of wine. Even though these meals are the standard of food you’d be served in the front bar of an Australian pub they are filling and very good value. In Australia the bottle of wine alone would cost more than the price of the entire meal. Afterwards we met the American couple we talked with in Villatuerta who were staying at this albergue.

While waiting for our pickup I visited the church but its doors were closed until evening service.

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Our ride arrived and we were transported to Armañanzas, 2kms northwest of Torres. After a shower and a rest the accommodation owner Martín, who picked us up from Torres, offered to drive us back to Los Arcos for dinner as options in Armañanzas were limited. A kind offer, doubly so when he said he could be back at 8.30pm for a return to the accommodation.
A good dinner of paella and pizza in Los Arcos where I snapped an evening picture of the church.

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GoldCanyon340

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Day 12 - 20th September 2019: Armañanzas to Logroño

A tactical no walking day. Our destination is Logroño but we decided over breakfast to get the bus rather than walk due to blisters: mine are developing nicely and Mrs 340 has a small new one. We’re not disappointed with this as we have to consider the long term. Walking 800kms until the last week of October means having to make decisions you wouldn’t do at home when doing individual day hikes.

There is an 8.53am bus from Torres del Rio to Logroño so we consumed breakfast at a rapid pace. Martín ferried us to the bus stop in Torres with time to spare. I really commend how he helped us with transport. There’s an increasing number of off trail accommodations providing transfers to get part of the Camino business. Next year, 2020, is a holy year for the Camino as the Feast Day Of St James, 25th July, is on a Sunday. This always brings an increase in pilgrims and more off trail accommodation will be needed sorely. A previous Feast year of 1999 saw double the pilgrims walk the trail compared to 1998.

The 30-minute ride to Logroño was easy. Spanish regional buses operate a decent network and many of the buses themselves have wifi in case you really can’t go without seeing the latest cat meme on Facebook.
I didn’t take pictures today as Logroño was heaving with people due to the commencement of the San Mateo festival: I was conscious of possible street theft with an influx of tourists so I left my iPhone in the hotel room safe and explored town naked, as it were.

Had a fantastic tapas lunch on Calle del Laurel, a narrow backstreet packed with tapas bars. Just such a wonderful atmosphere. We did as the Spanish do and parked ourselves at the bar with a bottle of rosé wine and ordered lots of small plates. I’m really getting into tapas with piquillo peppers.

After more sightseeing of the cathedral and secondary churches we did more of what the Spanish do and took a siesta. Had a quiet evening but were woken by the 11pm fireworks for the start of the festival. The sound of the fireworks was accompanied by the forecast thunderstorm.
 

GoldCanyon340

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Thoughts from the front....

I’m a week ahead of my posts, as you keen people who understand dates may realise, but I like to post random thoughts occasionally.
I’ve found my iPhone Health app underestimating my walking distance by 10 to 25 per cent. Mrs 340’s iPhone is fine. I’ve had to give up judging our progress between settlements by phone distance and instead gauging it by time (I don’t always walk with Mrs 340 as I go at a faster pace).

This is a new phenomenon. At home my phone measures my distance accurately.

Superficially this is an issue for me in that, along with an underestimated distance, my steps are not counted correctly either. This causes major problems as I’m on the full point earning level in the QF WellbeingI app and Mrs340 isn’t. So I’m losing the weekly challenge and a massive 50 QF FFP every week.
 

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