For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Friday, 5 December 2008

Journey's End

4 veteran Spanish walkers arrived soaking wet later that night to join Carlos, Javi, a Spanish couple on mountain bikes and myself in the albergue in Monreal. They'd walked more than 40 km in one day and were exhausted. One of these 4 friends - a huge man with intense, dark eyes and a black beard - could have come straight out of a painting by Goya or El Greco. He was a living portrait of either axe-murderer or saint - I never did decide which. After applying various creams and medicaments to their feet and knees, the group had a boisterous meal then retired to the dormitory. Unfortunately as soon as one of the party put head to pillow he began an earth-shattering cacophony of snoring which seemed set to last all night. After a while I just couldn't take it. So I pulled my mattress from the lower bunk where I'd been attempting to sleep and dragged it downstairs into a narrow, sloping lobby area between the albergue's kitchen door and its exterior entrance. Even here you could faintly hear these tremendous snores. However I did manage to get a reasonable night's sleep in the end - which is more than can be said for the other unlucky pilgrims.

Early next morning I walked by Monreal's parish church...



... and the beautifully restored church of the Natividad in the hamlet of Yárnoz...



... then had a brief rest at the Fuente de la Paz (Peace Fountain) in Guerendiáin...



After 13 km I stopped for lunch in the village of Tiebas where I met up again with most of the pilgrims from the previous night. We ate in the bar. The guilty snorer looked rather crestfallen. Apparently his 3 companions were refusing to sleep in the same albergue as him any more! As usual I ate the rarely sensational but always OK menu of the day (menú del día) - normally a 3 course meal costing about 9 or 10 euros and consisting of something like soup, pasta or paella as a starter, followed by a simple, unadorned piece of chicken, beef or veal with a few patatas fritas, and a yoghurt, caramel custard (flan) or tart for dessert. You helped yourself to however much wine you wanted from a bottle plonked down on your table. A café solo (black coffee) or café cortado (coffee with just a dash of milk) finished off the meal.

The Camino passed close by the Canal de Navarra, a recently completed, beautifully engineered irrigation channel...


... and paralleled a railway line for a short distance to reach yet more wind turbines...



... until it finally brought me to the place I'd been dying to reach all afternoon: the chapel of Santa María de Eunate. The chapel is octagonal in shape with an exterior, free-standing, roofless arcade or cloister surrounding it. It's very beautiful, and very special, and very old - dating from the 12th century. Luckily it was open so I went inside and spent quite a long time there. I illuminated 8 candles (they were the electric sort which lit up when you inserted coins in a slot) - for my wife and for my 2 children, and for my father who turned 90 this year, and in memory of my mother and my sister, and for myself, and for this troubled but wonderful world...



... before completing the final few km to Puente la Reina, my day's destination - and my journey's end, for Puente la Reina marks the point where the Via Aragonés meets the Camino Francés...

Here are 2 photos of the famous medieval bridge in Puente la Reina (which I also photographed last year). The 1st is looking into town...



... and the 2nd is looking out of town. Notice the yellow arrow pointing the Way. This would be my last yellow arrow of the pilgrimage...

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