To Puenta la Reina

07.08.08 Thursday.

Monreal to Puenta la Reina.

In order to avoid a 600m climb over a large massif the Aragonese Way takes a course north west around the edge of the high ground, generally skirting the edge of the cultivated land and the woods on the lower slope it loops around until it reaches Tiebas. We walked this part at first in the dark with head torches dodging the mud from last night’s rain and only managed to wander off route once in the dark which is near miraculous. The heat wave seems to have broken and even at 1130 when we reached Puenta la Reina having walked through a pleasantly fresh morning, it was only around 30 degrees. The route skirting the mountain although avoiding major ascents had a great deal of up and down as it hugged the flank of the Sierra de Alaiz. A couple of hours after seeing the lights of Pamplona at about 0630 we managed s coffee in Tiebas, most unexpected as most bars in Spain don’t open till 1000. An hour or so later we saw our first distant view of our day’s destination but it was another hour and a half after that we joined the main Camino Francais in Obanos on the outskirts of Puenta la Reina. Before this it had become obvious that we were reaching the more popular part of the route to Santiago as we met dozens of Spanish and other nationalities who were obviously walking a bit of the Camino for a day, no packs etc (we later found there is an organised system to sent luggage from one place to the next along the Camino). I fear that on leaving the Aragonese Way we may have seen the last of the Camino how it was 20 years or so ago, except possibly for the plains of Castille where few except the true pilgrims go and the land is so flat you go mad and start charging at windmills!
Before joining the French route we encountered a truly lovely little church at Eunate out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by its own arched outer walls and with the wafer thin marble in the windows replacing the glass, this is a common feature of most of the churches here and gives a beautiful pearly light within the arched domes. This church was used many centuries ago as the burial place for pilgrims.
The joining of the ways at Obanos is marked by a modern thin crucifix in the square outside the church and an arch through which both routes pass. Puenta la Reina is a large town by standards round here, maybe not as quite big as Stourbridge (Tim’s home town)!
We had a Pilgrim Menu for lunch at 9€ at one of the several Bar/Restaurants in town having first secured a bed at the second of three hostels in town.
While wandering the town we met again for the third time a Frenchman named Patrick who is doing his own route a bit like us. Starting in the south of France he crossed the Pyrenees and wandered up the GR11 down the way from Jaca and now intends to catch a bus to get to the northern coastal route to Compostella. He walks slowly with a bad foot from a motorbike accident but walks most of the day arriving late at hostels and pressing on in a somewhat disorganised fashion. We gave him a couple of peaches yesterday bought from the van in Monreal that came round before he got there and he insisted on buying coffee for us in town when we met. He may be in Compostella at the same time as us, or Finisterre. Tim feels we are destined to meet again in spite of the different routes. Maybe the Camino is getting to him!

Link to where we are on Google Maps