That was the Camino west from Pamplona in January. On the first day of my promised continuation – and for the first time ever – I was not overtaken by a single pilgrim. Because there were no other pilgrims. Isolation, good and bad, would be the constant theme of my Spanish Way. Though there were many winter starters, I seemed to miss most of them.
Maybe James wanted it that way. Much later, in fact, upon reaching the Atlantic Ocean, a reason occurred to me .
Day one was Spain’s Big Freeze. Cloudless and windless, with scarcely a glimpse of snow on the tops, Navarre was nonetheless iced over. The puddles and any water that didn’t move quickly enough were frozen so that a trekking pole couldn’t make a dent.
The problem with this kind of weather is that you cannot stop. A quick snack on a bench was all the rest I could afford, with the perspiration stiffening and chilling inside my clothes.
Crossing from one valley to the next, some interesting metal figures of old style pilgrims…
And a first glimpse of what would become a very familiar sight across northern Spain.
The things you do with Euro-credit. Or used to do.
Descending into a new valley is one of those bracing, uplifting things that walkers get to feel more than other travellers. Sorry for the smugness, but you see my point…
At Obanos I had to pause for a few snaps and observations.
It’s a village that has a lingering nobility, because it was headquarters to a kind of nobles’ union. Sancho the Strong of Navarre encouraged his lesser nobles, or infanzones, to associate against invaders and assorted wrongdoers.
Their junta became a kind of Basque or Navarrese resistance movement: one guesses that the main force to be resisted were those bloody Castilians. And what’s changed?
Finally, Puente La Reina, where the last pilgrim road, that from Arles via Somport, joins all the others. Here, all the ridges of the scallop shell have converged to make one long line to Santiago, (which rather breaks up the scallop metaphor).
Many churches in Spain tend to disappoint by having a drab or lumpish interior electrified by a blingy altarpiece, perhaps acquired at the expense of the New World. But in the church of Santiago in Puente la Reina, it all works.
For pilgrims, the essential landmark is the puente, the bridge which was named after Sancho the Great’s queen. He was such a pilgrim-friendly guy.
The structure doesn’t disappoint.