You´ll remember that we lost 8 kms by walking down from San Juan de la Pena to Santa Cruz (which is not on the actual camino) and then to Santa Cilia. So, after breakfast we loaded our gear into the minibus taxi and the owner of the hostal drove us down the winding road with magnificent views of the Yesa dam to Ruesta. We passed a number of the pilgrims who we had dinner with last night and caught up with a couple who had continued to Ruesta yesterday. The few stone buildings in Ruesta were abandoned due to the planning of Yesa but now one or two of the derelict buildings are occupied and there is a very modern albergue in amongst the ruins -and nothing else that we could see. The path today was very easy - mostly along gravel or dirt. The first 7km went straight uphill all the way to the wide ´meseta´at the top. It was then a long, winding road through scrub land,similarto the moors in England with scrubby vegetation and very few trees. We stopped at the only village between Ruesta and Sanguesa - Undues de Leida - for a coffee and coke. From there the path dropped quite sharply and soon we were in the valley walking between wheat and barley fields. A few kms from Sanguesa we passed a large stone marker that marked our entrance into Navarre. The terrain softened, with no more stark, stony hills and weird gravel formations. As we entered Sanguesa we saw our first European stork and followed his flight as he-she swooped onto a next, one of many, on top of the church. We were led to the pilgrim albergue by a wizzened little man but when we climbed the stairs to the dormitory we found it fully occupied by old men! We think that it is a group that is starting from here as we have not seen them before and none of them had sunburn! We, on the other hand, look positively burnished with brown legs and arms and sunburned noses! We walked all the way through the long town and visited the information centre. There is a hostal across the river or the camping further down. We crossed the bridge to the hostal - the young man tells us it is 82 euro for a tree bed room. Val's feet are giving her hell and we were not prepared to cross the river bridge again to try to find beds on the other side of town so we took the room. At least we have our own bathroom and best of all a nice fluffy towel! Marion and I went back into town to look for Internet and a camera shop where I had my memory cards downloaded onto 2 CD´s. Later on we return to the calle Mayor and have a tapas dinner in the local bar. On the way back to the hostal we stop at an internet cafe and catch up with the blog and me with a few emails. The next two days will be shorter walks to Izco and to Monreal. We just hope we make it before the senior citizens´club get there!
Val - Minister of Nutrition
I am now resigned to the fact that I will not satisfy my culinary obsession on this trip and that's fine - there is much to enjoy and I've probably been a bit of a pain about food - the wine has been no problem at all, its certainly easier to get than coffee and food. In every village you can normally find a drinking fountain, Syl and Marion say in some they offer both water and wine on tap! And so I will perhaps expand on more of the basics of our trip to prepare any of you who might consider such a trip as walking the Camino.
WARNING: some readers may find parts offensive! If you are going to consider walking a Pilgrimage walk then I highly recommend you attend one of Syl's workshops which she holds in Durban. She is also a guest speaker at the Gauteng workshops. Syl is the convenor for the KZN branch of the Confraternity of St James of South Africa - the website is http://www.csjsa.co.za/.
Properly research your route so it meets your cultural, historical and culinary(!) expectations. You can walk many pilgrim routes in France, Portugal and Italy as well as Spain and other countries. Some are remote like this one and offer something equally unique. Some, like the Via Francegenia in Italy, you will have the opportunity on many occasions to end the day in a established village - usually a walled city, high on the hill where you can eat fine Italian food. Be be prepared because there are many days where you will walk without coming across any inhabitants throughout the day. The workshops equip you in many ways including a back packlist and equipment recommendations. I am walking (and have walked for up to 5 weeks) on the exact list Syl gave me, no more and no less and have not wanted for a thing. However, I am proud to say that I have influenced Syl's list - I insist on one little evening number just to get away from the trousers and t shirts and this can be a dress or top and skirt, one of those that can be rolled up tightly and must weigh next to nothing and of course can be worn with the current fashion statement footwear..."La Crocs". Be prepared to share dorms and ablutions with the opposite sex - the Germans in particular are at ease with nudity. Take dear Bernd for instance in Italy, we had just reached th4e top of the Great St Bernard Pass and it was indeed worthy of celebration so I decided to go to the local tavern and have a glass of wine and a local palte and phone Martin. By the time I got back to the Monastery where we were spending the night, the girls were fast asleep in the dorm. I grabbed my toiletries and went to the (unisex) ablution block. I have dreadful eyesight in the dark even though I wear contact lenses and the room was dimly lit. A man was standing at the basin and we acknowledged each other. I cleaned my teeth, took out my contacts (I have 20/20 vision close up without them) and immediately realise that he is stark naked! He is tatoed from his neck down, arms, hands, bum, legs to his ankles...he lkooks like he's wearing a patterned babygro! I make a hasty retreat and jump into my bunk fully clothed. Bernard befriends us and this is a girls holiday so we really don't want him tagging along for too much longer. We decided to tell him that Martin (my husband) is a very jealous man and very upset that we have a man walking with us. Syl gets the job of telling him.."but Syl" he says "you must not worry, I am Gay!" Then dear sweet Bernd oversteps the mark - he tells us what food to buy, how to cook it and drinks our wine. We part company the next day.
Lovely walk today just cross with my blisters...I walked 800km in Italy without one and instead of doing what I always do, I saw some gel heel pads and decided to buy them...they were too big and wrapped up around the base of my heels causing blisters. We have Compeed, excellent plasters so these will sort it out together with some lambs wool......we arrive in Sanguesa and Syl pointed out the European Storks on top of the Chapel where they have their nests - she has seen them all over Spain and some of their nests are huge and years old. Long walk around town to find our accommodation, we enter through the door and go upstairs, there are about 12 beds all very close to each other and full of middle plus aged men, there are 2 beds left ..we would not have stopped there anyway - we have shared dorms before but this one didn't feel right. We left and walked and walked until we came to a hostel that had room, it was more like a boutique hotel with a trendy little seating area and we had a room with OUR OWN shower AND toilet between us..but the cost per person was E27 as opposed to the usual E8 - E12..it was lovely. Whilst I tried to repair my feet (I bartered with Marion "you give me your spare lambs wool and I will carry your wine goblet!") Both Marion and Syl gave me their spare lambs wool for free!! Syl and Marion went on a recce to find a cameral shop to copy over her photos onto a CD and somewhere to eat as there are no facilities to cook here - when we arrived this afternoon everything was closed so have walked on half a slice of bread and an apple and starving! We cannot have breakfast in the morning because the hostel will only serve something at 0830am and too late for us. We have some leftover fruit and hopefully there will be a village with a shop on our way. Syl and Marion return with a wonderful 70% cocoa chocolate bar for me..it is Roncesvalles Chocolate Artesano. They found a bar with tapas is lively with only one barman serving which is quite normal, serving beers, wine, coffees and tapas all on his own. The tapas display is nothing like we saw at the beginning of our arrival in Spain but worth trying. We have mushrooms with garlic and butter mopped up with bread, Tuna...fresh with olive oil - served cold and very good. The croquettes were filled with cheese and ham or pimentoes are quite doughy and stodgy. Then we hit the Internet cafe, a dingy place and part of an amusement arcade which appears to be the only facility for the poor local kids who have to live here. There is a foul smell throughout this "town" almost toxic. It is an Inner City Slum. The smell turns out to be the water purifying plant that we walk past in the morning.