Day Thirty Five: Pamplona to Cirauqui - Grampies Go On Their Knees - CycleBlaze

May 1, 2017

Day Thirty Five: Pamplona to Cirauqui

We had tried to organize a 7 a.m. start with the Pension lady, but ended with 7:30. She seemed much relieved with this. Still, when we showed up at 7:30 in front of the non-descript building where our bikes had spent the night, everything was still locked tight (except we could no longer see our bikes through the window!). We were beginning to try to decipher the phone numbers on the door, when the lady did appear, looking a little sleepy.

However she set about busily preparing breakfast, and fairly quickly came up with fresh orange juice, coffee, hot chocolate, toast, and hot churros. This was our first experience (ever) with churros and we found them to be quite sustaining. So we set off in good shape. We made out way out of town, which was easier since we had started on the "exit" side.

Although our map materials showed the road we needed, we could not quite spot it. So we succumbed to the lure of the beautifully marked walking way, and the column of people using it. As seems to be usual, the path started off as manageable gravel. This whole bit was an uphill section leading to a high ridge known as Alto del Perdon. So there was no temptation of riding the bikes through and around the pilgrims. Rather we just became walkers, though less efficient than the real ones, because of the awkward stance needed to push a bike.

It was kind of fun being with the group - not lonely like on the open road. We met people from all over and learned their stories. But the fun petered out as the path rose and became strewn with large rocks. A little, loaded Bike Friday is just far out of it element in such conditions. But we kept pushing, and finally arrived at the hamlet of Zariquiegui. This was really great, because here was a church with someone to stamp our creanciale, a cafe, and a teeny grocery store. The store was the first open one we had found in Spain! Wow - we bought cheese, and chocolate, and they had some fresh fruit cups with strawberry and banana!

All the pilgrims settled in at the cafe and surrounding ledges and enjoyed a break. We were standing looking at map panel and scoping out how to get back on road, when a man came up and said "Want to know how to get back to the road?". This turned out to be Kempton, from Seattle. I asked him how he knew the road ahead, and he replied that he had done this route fifteen times. I could see it, because he had a mountain bike emblazoned with Camino symbols, and weighing easily under 20 pounds. The Camino stuff was not stickers, but had been built into the paint job. Dodie had a go and easily lifted the bike - she could have gone over head with it!

Kempton's advice was right on, and soon we were in Astrain. The push continued, only on road, up to the Perdon ridge. Looking at the Bikeline map, I got the impression that the ridge housed a string of churches. Strange, that would make it the most religiously endowed ridge on the planet! It took Dodie (of course) to figure it out. The Bikeline symbol for church is a circle with a cross on top. The symbol for a wind turbine is a circle with a four bladed propeller on top. Duh!

The road outside Pamplona
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Pilgrims in the mist. The one with an arm raised is not waving, but checking a photo
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We took to the pilgrim path
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The trail was filled with walkers
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The walkers formed a steady column across the landscape. The wind turbines are on a ridge that we would eventually crest.
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The path eventually became Bike Friday unfriendly
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We were fascinatd by the large number of walkers
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Dodie could have easily lifted this mountain bike over her head - what a beauty (the bike, eh).
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Camino decorations were painted into the frame
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At the first cafe/store we found, on the walking trail.
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That cafe wasa at Zariquiegi, on the blue line, which is the walking way. We soon returned (were exiled) back to the road.
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Pamplona back in the distance
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Back on the road
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We continued now through a series of hilltop towns. Each with a picturesque church and cluster of Spanish style (duh!) buildings around it. I love the kind of landscape and small towns where you can see the next one (or two) in the distance.

The next major town was Puente La Reina. This is a medieval market town, named for an 11th century bridge over the Arga river. The humped design of the bridge is said to represent the progress of life - where you can't see where you are going until you get there.

Puente La Reina has the Church of the Crucifixion, with a Christ on a unique Y shaped cross. The church was founded in the 12th century by the Knights of Saint John, who were engaged in protecting pilgrims from the moors. It is currently run by the Padres Reparadores, who also have a pilgrims refugio on site. When we were there, about 3 o'clock, pilgrims were pouring into the refugio. We got them to stamp our creanciale, but we were focussed on going farther. Also, of course, at least one of us is not keen on refugios.

So we left town, planning to end at least 15-20 km down the road. This was at least partially hindered by another stinker of a hill, directly out of Puenta. We blew by the next hill town, Maneru, since to go in and look at accommodation would take time and involve climbing up to the town. I had a used a web site most helpfully pointed out by Elaine Griffin in our guestbook, to identify a likely albergue in Ciraqui. Likely meant that they offered individual rooms.

So we took the time to climb to Ciraqui. Actually, to reach the albergue we had to put up some steep streets in the town, and then, having followed direction signs for the albergue, hit two sets of stairs. Rather than scout a way around, we just adopted train station mode and carried the darn bikes up.

We are still feeling our way on the accommodation front. But there are so many pilgrims swarming about that just showing up, especially after 4, will not do. The two private rooms in the place were long gone, and we were lucky to nail down two beds in a 10 bed dorm. There were some beds on the "ground" floor, but at our late hour we were upstairs. That means coming down a flight of stairs just to find one of the two bathrooms serving about 40 people.

The albergue experience, however, is very positive. With a ten bed dorm, it is not like strangers are in your room, but rather it is a shared environment, like sitting with people on a bus or plane, or in a restaurant for that matter. Next, the family style meal offers a huge amount of comraderie. And in this case, piles of food were brought out for sharing at the table, and there was lots to go around. So I came away feeling that I had had sufficient food - something that does not always happen at a restaurant, much less when scrounging stuff from our food bag.

One disadvantage, so much eating and chatting takes time, to the detriment of writing this blog. Further, after eating, the pilgrims have little to do but go to sleep. so at 8:30 the lights are out in the dorm. Here I am down in the lobby, stealing some extra time. In 45 minutes, though, it's all over for me and blog. That means I am just going to try uploading some photos, maybe caption a little, and then I must join my new pilgrim friends, dreaming of distant hills and downhill paths.

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This is one of several shots I took, to capture the many shades of green
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Walkers in town, walkers everywhere!
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Uniquely stand alone planted grapes
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A sign outside the church, advertising the unique crucifix
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Y shaped crucifix
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Puente la Reina
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Puente la Reina
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This is detail of just one of the massive ornate gold walls
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Looking out on the actual Puente. Pilgrims have passed through here for centuries
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The famous bridge. (So many bridges around the world are famous, eh)
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Hillside town
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Pushing up to reach our albuerge
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A bed for the night - 11 euros. With supper and breakfast, 44 euros total for us both
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Looking out the back of the albuerge
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There were many tables of people in two rooms for supper. These are some of the eight people at our table, including us. The breakdown was 5 Germans, 1 Ameerican, and us 2 Canadians. One fo the Germans was from Leipzig !Two of the Germans had merino tee shirts lettered Jakobsweg, reminding us of the various ways this route is designated in the different languages. In Germany also, there is little recognition of the many different variants of the route. Also the Germans said their friends were wondering where they could eat or sleep in such a wild foreign land.
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These German boys are twins. The one one on the right is the baby, having been born 50 minutes later.
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Today's ride: 37 km (23 miles)
Total: 1,537 km (954 miles)

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