El Camino Frances

The Traditional Route from France

Navarra

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Puente la Reina to Estella

18 May 1993 and 3 June 2002 Puente la Reina

The Camino leaves Puente la Reina by the medieval bridge then follows the river bank for a little while. A set of steps leads away from the river and the way rises through the villages of Mañeru and Ciraqui.

Ciraqui

Ciraqui is a hilltop village with quite a steep climb through the streets. Here there are shops and bars for refreshment and a refugio if you wish to stay here. Leaving the village the Camino follows a Roman road downhill to the semi-ruined bridge then crosses a main road to regain quiet countryside.

Salado

A little later there is another semi ruined medieval bridge across the Rio Salado. This river crossing is mentioned in 12C documents berating the local population who waited here to take advantage of people and animals poisoned by the river water. It seems much more peaceful now.

Refreshments and accommodation can be found in the villages of Lorca and Villatuerta and then the Camino enters Estella.

1993. The traditional pilgrim’s route was blocked off for repairs so I entered town along the main road. The Tourist Information Office was closed while the staff took a party of tourists around town so I went into the church of San Pedro de la Rua and sat through the wedding of an old couple. This was a nice quiet affair with the music provided by a young combo of musicians with guitars and an accordion.

After this the Tourist Office was able to give me directions to the refugio which at that time was in a temporary building at the edge of town. When I got there it was not due to open until 4pm (others later told me they had to wait until 6pm) so I walked back to the centre of town and got a room in the Hotel San Andres. Here I had the luxury of a bath (very small) and a portable television which I worked from the bed by poking the buttons with my pilgrim’s staff.

I met other pilgrims around town during the evening and was able to form friendships and arrange to meet them at the end of other stages of the journey.

Estella

2002. The route into town was different this time and the yellow arrows led directly to the large refugio in the centre of town. There was already a long queue of walkers waiting in the street for the door to open and then we were processed two at a time and led up to the dormitories to be allocated bunks. This was my first indication that the Camino had become much more crowded since 1993 (which was a Holy Year) And I would have difficulty finding refuge accommodation on numerous other occasions.

Estella

There was a decent kitchen in the refugio so a few of us formed a multi-national mess (UK, USA, Canadian and Swiss) and went to buy groceries for our evening meal. This meal was taken in the garden of the refugio and shared with others who contributed wine to the party. The meal lasted well into the evening and we were joined by others as they prepared their food. Lots of tasting going on as we got to know one another.

During the night a violent thunderstorm woke us up and this set the pattern for the weather over the next two days.