Stage 3 - Cizur Menor to Puenta la Riena

28 August

Walking in my shadow One of the many books on the Camino is entitled Walking in My Shadow. The title of the book reflects the fact that the Camino is an East-West journey and that most people do most of their walking in the morning. The reason for the title is seen most clearly shortly after dawn, which is when this picture was taken. I had left Cizur Menor at about 7am, at which time it was just beginning to get light. The track led across fairly open and rolling farmland, and as the sun rose the contours were revealed. Watching sunrise was one of the great pleasures of the Camino, and I usually found the first part of the day's walk the most enjoyable.

It has to be said that the peace that morning was somewhat disturbed, with the thump of dance music emanating from some farm buildings and audible for miles. Friday night partying was obviously still going on at 7am!.

Sculpture on the Alto di Perdon The Camino climbed a couple of hundred meters to a ridge called the Alto di Perdon (780m). Here there is a curious sculpture of pilgrims, one of many pieces of sculpture and artwork, both ancient and modern, to be encountered along the Way.

Wind generators on the Alto di Perdon Also along the ridge was an extensive wind farm, again one of many encountered on the journey. The Spanish appear to have taken this element of sustainable energy very seriously. Once at the top of the ridge, there is a spectacular panoramic view over the Navarra region, with the towns of the Camino ahead clearly discernible

The route down is quite steep and somewhat rocky, probably some of the roughest terrain of the Camino but still hardly rough by even moderate hill walking standards. Eventually it levels off and becomes the familiar wide track. I was joined for a while by a French woman who had begun her pilgrimage in Lourdes, and whose English was about as good as my French, by which I mean basic schoolboy (or in her case schoolgirl). Our efforts to communicate were quite entertaining.

View west from the Alto di PerdonLanguage is an interesting phenomenon on the Camino. Spanish is, of course, widely spoken, as any of the pilgrims are Spanish. Many of the pilgrims from outside Spain are either French or German, with a sprinkling of other Europeans and a few from further afield. However when people of different nationalities meet the common language is often English. So despite the fact that there are relatively few native English speakers around, English is heard quite widely. Although I have quite good Italian and some French, I found myself speaking English most of the time. I did regret not having put more effort into learning Spanish.

Octagonal church at Eunate At Murazábal we decided to take the reccommended detour to Eunate. This is actually off the route from Roncesvalles, but is on the route from the Somporte Pass just before the two routes join. Here there is a very attractive twelfth century octagonal church surrounded by arches as seen in the picture. At the time we arrived a wedding was just about to start, which is not really surprising at about 1pm on a Saturday in a beautiful church!

From this point it was only a couple of KM to Obanos, where the two routes actually join. As I entered the village there seemed to be a party atmosphere, and most of the villagers were dressed in red and white. On entering the square it became apparent that there was a party going on. It was the beginning of the annual fiesta - a celebration I discovered would last for five days. The village is proud of its connection with the camino, and so pilgrims were quickly drawn into the party. As there were only another 2 or 3 km to my final destination I accepted the hospitality, which, being Spanish, included a fair amount of food and wine.

fiesta at Obanos As the party continued a band struck up, and the giant figures seen in this picture started to dance through the village. The figures were large wooden frames dressed up, and a person got into each one, lifted a harness onto his shoulders, set of through the streets.

By this point it was really time to move on, so I headed off to the next town on the route, Puenta la Riena, so called because the pilgrim bridge (puenta) across the river in the picture below was built by Queen (riena) Urraca in the 11th century.

Their are a variety of hostel possibilities in Puenta la Riena. The large hotel on the way in has space. There is a religious house with beds. There is a municipal refuge in the centre of town, and there is a large modern private refuge up a hill across the bridge west of the city. I chose the latter, but though it was pleasant, clean and friendly it somehow lacked character. At this point I had met up once again with the Italians I had encountered the previous evening.

The bridge at Puenta la RienaBeing a Saturday evening I went back into town in search of the vigil mass for Sunday as I would be up and walking well before any morning mass. My experience of liturgy was varied. Some places made a real effort to acknowledge the pilgrims and provide texts and special blessing. Other places no effort was made at all, and indeed at times the liturgy was very poor The worst was... well I'll save that for later. Here, however, the mass was celebrated with care and there was a pilgrim blessing afterwards. After the mass I saw the German group at a bar so I joined them for a drink before returning to the hostel.