{camino: day 7} muruzábal to lorca & ruminations {week one}

Today, for the second time on my Camino, I decided to carry my full backpack rather than sending it ahead. At 7:30 a.m., Ingrid and I followed the path from Muruzábal to Óbanos, a mere twenty minutes away.

At the entrance to the historic village of Óbanos, we stopped to admire the metal scallop shell, the symbol of the Way, set in concrete pavement.  A friendly white horse welcomed us to town. We walked past the neo-Gothic Church of St. John the Baptist (San Juan Bautista), but we didn’t go in.  In this town, the noblemen of Navarre met in the 14th century to try to limit the power of the monarchy.

It was only a half hour further to Puenta la Reina. At the entrance to town was the beautiful Church of the Crucifixion, or Iglesia del Crucifijo, today named after the 14th century “Y”shaped crucifix brought here by German pilgrims.

In town, we stopped for breakfast. I went inside the Iglesia de Santiago, with its twelfth century façade and portico. The interior was sombre but was brightened by a gilded statue of Santiago Peregrino. On my way out, I ran into Darina from Slovakia and found out she might stop in Lorca, which was also my destination. Darina and I had quickly come to understand that we both enjoyed walking alone, and at our own paces.  However, whenever we stayed in the same town, we would often meet for dinner or beers.

On the way out of town, I strolled through an arch and across the Romanesque Puente la Reina, which means “Queen’s Bridge.”  The bridge’s six arches span the Arga, which we had first crossed in Zubiri. The bridge was named in honor of Doña Mayor, wife of Sancho III, who ordered the Romanesque bridge be built to help the increasing numbers of medieval pilgrims cross the river safely. Charlemagne is thought to have stayed in this town after he defeated the Moors in Cizur.

At Puente la Reina, Ingrid and I parted ways because she was moving at too fast a pace for me. I lingered to take photos of the bridge, and she went on her way.  Soon, I came upon a Californian named Rubin who was slowly making his way with two bad knees. We had run into a group of Mexican guys earlier, and he was with them but going at a snail’s pace. I had to sneak off into the woods to take care of business.  When I got back on the path, I thought for sure I’d overtake him, but I never saw him again.  It was hard to believe with those knees that he was outpacing me, but apparently he was!

I continued on my way to Mañeru, which was another 5.2km mostly on level ground but turning into a steep slope with reddish soil and large stones which made progress awkward.  This village is linked with the Knights Templar and the Order of St. John, whose influence was considerable in the Middle Ages. Here, I stopped for a coffee break then walked past a small cemetery with a pretty iron cross over the gate.

I continued on another 2.6 km to Cirauqui, passing vineyards and olive groves and fig trees along the way. Cirauqui is a medieval hilltop village with narrow winding streets, archways, and imposing houses with massive main walls and façades, ornate balconies and doorways topped with coats of arms. It was quite a climb into town and I didn’t feel like lingering as I needed to walk another 5.7km to reach Lorca by 3:00 or they’d give away my room, unless I called to let them know I’d be late.  As I wasn’t sure my phone would work in Spain, I powered on.

After descending a steep hill from Cirauqui, I came upon a rough track that was once an old Roman road. Alongside, was a rest area / “book crossing;” it offered, for donations, fresh fruit, drinks, tables, chairs, library books and a place to rest in the shade of an olive grove. A young Spanish man with a braid and his girlfriend were operating the stand and said they’d been doing it since July of 2017. He said something to the effect that he hoped the land would become a cultural center in two years.

My pack was feeling ponderous at this point, and it was scorching, so I enjoyed a bit of a rest in the shade.

Finally, it was a long tough slog 5.7 km to Lorca under a relentless sun. The dirt track meandered gently downhill through open farmland and parallel to a highway. We tunneled under the highway several times and then walked under a modern aqueduct (canal de Alloz).  I didn’t really chat with anyone all day, so it was a bit lonely. On the hot, shadeless dirt track, it seemed to be a day of centipedes.  The Way seemed to be crawling with them, or maybe it was just the heat making me delusional!

We crossed a medieval stone bridge over the inviting río Salado (Salt River) before the long uphill climb to Lorca, and although many pilgrims had stopped to soak their feet, I didn’t stop because I had run out of water and just wanted to get to Lorca and have a cool drink.  It was miserable as there was little shade and my mouth and throat felt like sandpaper; I kept stopping to catch my breath under each tiny bit of shade I could find.

I finally arrived at Lorca at 2:00, drenched in sweat. I was never so happy to arrive somewhere. This quaint village is the site of a former pilgrim hospice with connections to the monastery at Roncesvalles.

Ingrid was sitting at the door of La Bodega del Camino, looking red-faced and irritable, but she had to go on because she’d reserved a room further on.  I felt so bad for her because it had been a grueling walk and it would only get hotter as she hiked on.  It also happened to be her birthday; I didn’t think today’s walk could have offered much of a birthday celebration.

I secured my room and went right upstairs to shower and wash my clothes. While I was having a tinto verrano and a cool gazpacho at the bar, Darina arrived. We arranged to meet for dinner in the cafe of the albergue at 6:30. I went up to my room and lay down to catch up on Instagram and write in my journal.

At a dinner of paella (a frozen pre-made and heated version), Darina and I were joined by Josh and his sister Lisa.  Josh, who lived in Washington, D.C., would be starting a new job at USAID the following week, and Lisa would continue to Santiago without him. Pat from Seattle checked in at the albergue right across from Bodega, but she partook in the pilgrim meal there.

I had a bottom bunk in a nice 6-person room.  We were given sheets and pillowcases but no blankets. I hadn’t yet used my sleeping bag, and was trying to avoid using it to see if I could do without it and possibly toss it out (reducing the weight in my pack).  When darkness descended, the cooling night air made me wish I had taken it out, but I didn’t want to rifle through my pack in the middle of the night, possibly waking the other pilgrims. Instead I put on my fleece and leggings, but it was hard to be comfortable without any covers on.  To warm up, I did knee exercises in my bed, trying not to disturb my five roommates. 🙂

Ruminations {week one}

The first week of my Camino was all about getting into the rhythm of the walk: determining when to eat breakfast and when to stop for snacks or second breakfasts, learning to listen to my body’s needs and limitations, figuring out the afternoon routine once I checked into the albergue, learning how to sleep with hordes of people in the same room, realizing that I didn’t want to walk in the late afternoons when there was no respite from the sun.  I quickly learned to reserve rooms ahead of time because of the crowds.

The challenges of my first week included getting used to carrying my full backpack. I only carried it two days, opting to send it ahead for the other five, but those two days were misery. After the first week, I would opt to send it ahead for the rest of my Camino.

The heat was another challenge.  The early mornings were pleasantly cool and the sunlight lovely, but around 10:00 a.m. it got hot and by 11-12, it was usually sweltering.  Walking up and down hills in the heat with little shade made me wonder how on earth people did the Camino in the summer.

Problems with my loved one would become a near constant on my Camino and I often shared with other pilgrims my fears, worries, and even my hopes. I would find consolation from many compassionate people, some of whom would share a related story that was highly personal, without offering unwanted advice. After a deep talk, they would often disappear on the horizon and I’d never see them again, as if they were angels who dropped in to console and assure me I wasn’t alone in my struggles. These were sacred moments.

My first hope was to befriend everyone I met, which is how I often feel whenever I am thrust into the midst of people I don’t know.  I had that optimistic view in the first heady days of walking.  Soon it became apparent I would be naturally attracted to certain people, and them to me. Just like in life, some people got on my nerves. Others I had no feeling about one way or the other.  Some people I hoped to befriend, but they seemed standoffish, and I’m not one to pursue people who don’t seem interested. I never considered latching on to anyone and walking with them the entire way; that simply wasn’t my way.  I wanted time for silence and contemplation, although I was happy to have chats with pilgrims who would walk beside me for a while. I enjoyed sharing intimately with fellow pilgrims and listening to their stories; this rarely happens in everyday life.  I also liked to walk at my own leisurely pace, stopping to take pictures or to rest whenever the urge hit me.  I loved the long stretches of silent reflection and stopping into churches to pray.

My first week’s highlights included the first two days walking over the Pyrenees.  Between the excitement of starting out and the magnificent scenery, I felt great energy and enthusiasm. I enjoyed walking with Ingrid those first days. I was entranced by bucolic scenes of green meadows and infinite peaks, spotted pigs, cows, long-haired sheep, black-faced sheep (churros), horses wearing gently clanging bells, and a beech forest, the trees gnarled and moss-covered.

Another favorite day was walking from Pamplona to Muruzábal.  We had gorgeous scenery all day, topped off with the climb to Alto del Perdon.  There we had magnificent views of wind turbines twirling on the ridge line and rusted sheet metal pilgrims headed westward in a line.  On that day, I met Darina from Slovakia, who would become a dear friend on my Camino, and who would encourage me to take a bicycle on a detour to explore the 12th century Romanesque church of Eunate.  This was of my most memorable moments on the Camino.

I found myself captivated by anise, blackberries, thistles, prickly weeds, figs, olive groves, huge square haystacks, rolling farmland, medieval stone bridges, and meandering rivers. I became obsessed with collecting sellos (stamps) in my pilgrim credenciale.  I loved the tapas in Pamplona and the potato tortillas and café con leche that became regular “second breakfasts” along the Way.  I loved the pilgrim meals where people shared their reasons for doing the Camino and fellowship evolved among pilgrims. I loved simply being outside each day, putting one foot in front of the other, with no other obligation whatsoever.  It felt like a daydream, magical and otherworldly.


Muruzábal to Óbanos (1.8 km)


Church of St. John the Baptist


Church of St. John the Baptist

Óbanos to Puente la Reina (2.2 km)


Church of the Crucifixion


Church of the Crucifixion


entering Puente la Reina


entering Puente la Reina

Iglesia de Santiago in Puente la Reina

Puente la Reina


gate to Puente la Reina


view from Puente la Reina down the Arga


Puente la Reina

Puente la Reina to Mañeru (5.2 km)

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building outside Puente la Reina


Puente la Reina to Mañeru


Puente la Reina to Mañeru

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Puente la Reina to Mañeru


Puente la Reina to Mañeru





door in Mañeru

Mañeru to Cirauqui (2.6 km)


Mañeru to Cirauqui

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Mañeru to Cirauqui


figs on the Way


Mañeru to Cirauqui


Mañeru to Cirauqui


stone walls on the way to Cirauqui


olive groves along the way


Mañeru to Cirauqui


Mañeru to Cirauqui


Mañeru to Cirauqui


Mañeru to Cirauqui

Cirauqui to Lorca (5.7 km)




Cirauqui to Lorca


Roman Road – Cirauqui to Lorca


Roman Road


Rest Area / Book Crossing along the Roman Road


Rest Area / Book Crossing along the Roman Road


Rest Area / Book Crossing along the Roman Road


Rest Area / Book Crossing along the Roman Road


Rest Area / Book Crossing along the Roman Road

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Santiago: 676 km ??


Cirauqui to Lorca


the modern aqueduct (canal de Alloz)


Cirauqui to Lorca



paella in Lorca


Josh, Darina and Lisa at dinner in Lorca

*Day 7: Monday, September 10, 2018*

*29,410 steps, or 12.46 miles: Muruzábal to Lorca (17.7 km)*

You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:


On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.

This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Rock Cistus and Water.