Dee is woken early (6:3-am) by men singing harmonies on the back of a truck, the sound of the church bells and aching legs. I have had fits of dream filled sleep. Breakfast is buffet and uninteresting. They seem to have the idea that travellers want this rubbish when I know Dee and I really want the pinchos and lashings of dark sweet coffee. The owner is as sullen faced as his staff. I greet him with a ‘hola’ only to get a snarled smile in response. The comida is dour, where has the animated conversation and broken language communication gone? One last time, avoid the Hotel Bidean , Puente de la Reina. In spite of it’s architectural quirkiness and comforts, it has a dour, inhospitable nature. Undaunted Dee and I laugh at the lost opportunity of these idiots. It costs nothing to smile and say hello.
We look forward to the day and what it will deliver us. We set off only to stop 100m down the road where we get coffee and tortilla on a roll. That’s more like it. Over the bridge and on for 2-3 km we enter Maneru ,passing through vineyards and olives we find a little gem.
Ciraqui is everything that Punente de la Reina is not. The people are friendly and helpful. The town is a labyrinth around a knoll and means ‘Nest of Vipers’ but it is a delight.
We stop on the steps of the Iglesia de San Roman and chat in my broken Spanish to 3 senior woman who are delighted to know where we are going and where we have been. Walking up the steps to this 13th century church with it’s famous lobed arch, Mudejar portal, we are informed the church is open. Stepping into the gloom it is difficult to see initially but as the eyes adjust the wonders are evident. Again the vaulted ceilings and gilt sculpture everywhere.
An old lady comes through, she is one of those to whom we were speaking and she turns the lights on for us and the splendor that is illuminated is breathtaking.
We drag ourselves away for lunch at the fountain. There is a small celebration in the church which is why everyone in town is dressed in red and white without exception. We pack and leave on a Roman road that is 2000 years old. We pass over the Roman bridge, equally as old and the road continues for 2 km.
The going becomes tougher and tougher and we stop at a small village (name??) with a great little fountain. Wash our heads, faces, drink and walk on. The leg aching more evident, the scenery boring, the heat becomes a factor. Entering Villatuerta we take a wrong turn and have to walk 500-600m along the highway before rejoining the Camino. Dee has aching knees and feet and my left Achilles screams at me to stop.
Frequent water and rest stops ensue. Dee is over it and says she will not, or more appropriately cannot, walk tomorrow. Again the Camino becomes a huge mental and physical challenge where each metre is a victory over body and mind. The conversation has stopped, the antalgic trudge has set in reminiscent of day 1. Looks like it will be 2 lifetimes before Dee forgives me, the look on her face is pure pain and exhaustion. We press on concentrating on each step, over a bridge just short of Estella, I suggest a swim to lighten the mood, not happy Pete. Estella is there, we stamp our credencials and walk on looking for a hotel and the shower, our symbol of completion, of rest, of achievement or at the very least our reward.
I leave Dee in the Cristina Hotel after taking some time to find reception. The room is old and clean, overlooking a main promenade that leads to the town centre. The nocturnal Spanish are coming to life. I’m off in search of a lavanderia (laundry). Some 15 minutes later I find it and leave our stinking clothes. I feel sorry for the owner. Around and around looking for a bottle of wine. Once found and an auxillary Corona to go, I head to Cristina, a shower and feet up. Dee is in a happier mood. We drink and eat and recover.
In our youth we enjoyed various party drugs, now it seems the drug of choice is anti-inflammatory. We still enjoy a good drop (LOL).
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