Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Pamplona to Lograno

Friday 1 June: Pamplona to Puente la Reina - 15 miles (24km). Walking alone today it's another uphill morning but I soon catch up with Erin, Cameron and Natasha. We walk together up Alto del Perdon which is topped with pilgrim silhouettes cut from sheet iron and wind turbines stand like sentinels along the skyline. I continue with Natasha, through Uterga and Obanos, where we duck under an iron pilgrim obelisk, and on to Puenta la Reina to spend a lazy afternoon in the little grassy garden of the arched albergue beneath the town's magnificent church bell-towers. Natasha is an attractive, slightly geeky, twenty-four year old with a good degree in English but sadly, disillusioned with life in Britain and in general, she hides her intelligence under a bushel. I'm sure I was much more optimistic at her age or has Britain really has changed that much? I've been out of the mainstream for nearly three years, I was kind of looking forward to returning to London and doing the normal things in life - like getting a weekday job, shopping in Woolworths on a Saturday and reading the News of the world on a Sunday.
Refugio Reparadores (€6) is a standard bunk-bed albergue with a small kitchen and dining area, pleasant garden, free wifi, hot water and showers. 
Saturday 2: Puente la Reina to Estella - 14 miles (22km). Erin, Cameron and Natasha have already left when I follow the camino through the backstreets of Puente la Reina, over the medieval pilgrim bridge and on through vineyards and olive groves to the pretty saucer-shaped village of Cirauqui for a breakfast. On the village outskirts locals have constructed a map of the world on a hillside from old car tyres. Occasionally there are little shrines to those who have died on the camino. Wickedly, I hope each one is a cyclist rather than a walker.
I meet up with Natasha again just before Lorca and we walk together under the motorway arch and on into the beautiful town of Estella. With the prospect of free wine nearby we continue to the  albergue in the western suburb of Estella
. To my complete and utter disbelief - it does exist - Fuente de Vino, the Wine Fountain. Yes, on the camino, just before the 12th century Cistercian monastery, is a tap linked to the adjoining winery that dispenses free wine to pilgrims. It's Saturday afternoon and we are the only two pilgrims there (yes, I suddenly decide I am a pilgrim). If this was in Britain there would be queues down the path for miles with people carrying bottles and jars of all shapes and sizes, and piss-heads everywhere. Natasha is optimistic enough to bring an empty bottle (I was too sceptical) and we have a quiet evening chatting in the pleasant picnic area nearby. 
Albergue San Cipriano at Ayegul (€8) is in a modern sports hall, with beds, not just bunks, hot water and showers, no kitchen but a little pilgrim bar. There are three large supermarkets and the Fuente de Vino close by. 
Sunday 3: Estella to Torres del Rio - 15 miles (25km). We walk up to Villamayor with a castle on the hilltop and fine views of a limestone ridge to the north. We meet Gary, a busking Irish lad, en-route, then suddenly around a bend, we arrive at Los Arcos for a supermarket lunch of overpriced dried fruit and nuts. We decide to stay in an uphill albergue in Torres del Rio but walk back down to the town centre for an enjoyable communal pilgrim meal where I meet stalwart Mike from Cumbria, jovial American Dave who is walking with his daughter Julie, kind-hearted Leia also from the States and Damian from Belgium who has little English.
Albergue Casa Mari (€7), more bunk beds in small rooms but with a scenic terrace, wifi and detached hot showers.
Monday 4: Torres del Rio to Logrono - 13 miles (21km). Once again I walk briefly with Erin & Cameron in the morning then catch up with Natasha just before Los Arcos where we call into the little Austrian albergue to get our credentials stamped. We carry on to Logrono where there's good fun at the albergue - Leia punches a hole in Natashia's straw hat for her dreadlocks to drape through and the girls join forces with Swedish girl Johanna to serve up a party pasta meal above the little foot-spa pool in the albergue courtyard - lashings of wine and an entertaining night, the young lads that the girls have in tow do the wash up.
Municipal albergue (€7), crammed together bunk-beds with inadequate washroom facilities make for a hectic morning.
Photos of the Camino de Santiago from Pamplona to Lograno. I've now walked 101 miles (163km)

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