September 17, 2002

9/17/02 Estella

22 km

Actually slept well despite some pretty serious snoring. And I'm not including me! Everyone made a mass exodus very early, even before the sun was up. Last night we had rain and the clouds still lingered over the area.

Fog hung in the valleys as we started to climb. Again!

The trail was damp but I had no problems with any mud. Passed a few older pilgrims and then we all started to get spread out. All morning the sky stayed dark but it didn't smell like rain.

Walking through the countryside

In Ciraugui, the Camino wound it's way through town, climbing all the time. We had to walk through a Gothic arch as we went through the old city wall (built in the 9th century). The route followed an old Roman road out of town and down the mountain. This Roman Via Traiana was clearly visible, with even a set of vertical stones to mark the center-line of the street.

By the time we reached Villatuerta, the sun had come out in force. For some reason, I decided to switch to hiking boots here and changed then out in front of the Iglesia de la Asuncion. I thought maybe they would protect my feet more on these hard surfaces we walked on.

As I reached Estella, it was hot and humid. I sat in front of the refugio with a half dozen other pilgrims as we waited for it to open up at 1pm.

Waiting for the refugio to open

I am staying at another large refugio, with space for 110 pilgrims. A bunk, warm shower and kitchen privileges cost only $3. I keep meeting more people. There is Coleman and Alecia from Ireland, Alfonso from Mexico and the only vegetarian in Spain, Francisco from Seville. Another in this cast of characters is 'Cristobol', Kit Nuzum from the USA, whom I had only met briefly near Roncesvalles.

Cristobol is one of those colorful characters you never forget. He's walking the Camino, making a video, and raising money for the Children's Hospital in Seattle. He's also carrying a digerido and playing in as many churches as he can. In his previous life, he was a deep-sea diver working for everyone from oil companies to treasure hunters. He speaks a kind of back-alley Mexican-Spanish but it just adds to his character when talking to the other Spanish pilgrims.

Because we had access to such a large kitchen, a bunch of us decided to cook dinner. Victoria was the cook and handed out purchasing assignments. The bad thing is each of us bought extra. Two people bought bread and two of us bought wine. No matter. We started out with only Victoria, Angela, Josué, Bixen is a teacher from Pamplona, Carlos from Malaga, Cristobol and Francisco. But we soon added Bob from the USA and Leif, a retired teacher from Denmark. Our impromptu dinner party lasted till almost lights-out at 10pm.

Carlos, Cristobol, Jim, Josué, Victoria, Angela

It turns out Leif had section-hiked the Appalachian Trail from 1974 to 1989 with some American friends he met in Maine. I had a great time talking to him. And the wine sure didn't hurt our conversation. I certainly didn't have any trouble falling asleep.