Camino Postcard 5: Puenta la Reina to Estella

O’er the hills and through the trees,
We’ll go ridin’ you and me…

15.4.19. This morning, I went to the albergue-hotel dining room via the internal stairs and ate breakfast. During the time I was there I forget where the stairs were and managed to get lost looking for them.

The car park at the albergue-hotel at Puenta la Reina

Eventually, I admitted defeat and returned downstairs via the car park outside. There, I met Ellena and Carolin who had already eaten and were beginning the day’s walk. Ellena and I exchanged phone numbers so that she could tell me if there was any room at the albergue they were intending to stay at tonight – we were all heading to Estella.

At this point, I didn’t know if Ellena really would contact me. I hoped she would but maybe the idea would slip out of her head, or she would decide that one evening in my presence was enough, and move on. I would be sad if that was the case because she and Carolin had been such good company yesterday but one has to respect other people’s decisions.

As I think about my departure from Estella now, I can’t ‘see’ the path that I took that morning. The memory has been crowded out. Looking at my journal entry for that day (written a day or so later), however, it appears that the morning walk was a tough one. Brierley’s guide shows why – it was uphill. That would have made my leg ache. Day five of taking ibuprofen.

A memory returns – I recall eating elevenses at a café after climbing a narrow and steep alleyway. As I arrived at the café, I saw Ellena and Carolin sitting on a nearby wall, their backs to me. It would have been polite to go and say ‘hello’ but I was too shy to interrupt them, and maybe they wouldn’t want to speak to me, anyway. Not that they had shown any signs in Estella of being bored by me, of course – quite the opposite. Not long after I arrived, they left, and so the immediate problem resolved itself. The deeper problem of not worrying so much remains.

A street mirror selfie, taking somewhere between Puenta la Reina and Estella!

At the café I met a very friendly Australian couple. They told me that after they finished the Camino they would be taking a holiday in Portugal. What’s more, their whole European excursion was being done on full pay from work! Apparently, Australians are able to go on paid leave from work for 15 weeks in order to visit their ancestral homelands. I presume this is a one time thing but what a good deal!

I left the couple at the café but met them again at lunchtime in the little village of Lorca. They invited me to join them for lunch. Full of gratitude for their kindness, I was very happy to accept. We ate pizza and talked about everything for a clean hour.

My right leg had been really aching by the time of my arrival in Lorca but was so well rested over the course of that hour that for the first twenty minutes after leaving, I walked with my best pace yet. Even when my leg started to tire and ache a little again, I was able to keep going at a good speed.

Ponies quite rightly ignoring me and grooming each other

The afternoon had two highlights: stopping for a break outside an enclosed graveyard (most, if not all, of the graveyards I saw were walled. One or two were right next to playgrounds. Perhaps the Spanish like to teach their children about the circle of life early) during my supercharged walk and watching the world, or rather, pilgrims, pass by and seeing some ponies in a field. There was no one nearby so I started singing Pony Boy by Bruce Springsteen to myself. A minute or two later, their owner arrived in his car and started calling them. In the languid way that ponies and horses have, they trotted towards him.

By the time I reached Estella I had not heard from Ellena. I had not seen her or Carolin again after the café so knew they were almost certainly ahead of me. My heart fell but there was nothing to be done: they had to take their path just as I had to take mine and maybe it was not meant to be that we would meet each other again.

However… Later on, Ellena did indeed text message me. She and Carolin were staying at ~ ~ actually, I can’t remember but it didn’t matter, for she had texted! I will have to ask her this but I don’t believe we made any plans to meet again in the texts. When we met the next morning, it was by chance.

As for that evening, after checking in to the albergue, I walked back up the road to a green opposite a beautiful old gothic church. I sat there for a while, drinking my Coca-Cola and soaking up the sun. It became cloudy, though, and soon, thunder began to roll. I returned to the albergue and that evening, the heavens opened.

As the rain poured down, I rested. That night, I didn’t eat. This albergue didn’t make meals and I hadn’t been able to find a supermarket before the thunder arrived. I went to bed that night happy but hungry.

I’m rather fond of this photograph. I’m sitting on grass, relaxed and in front of a beautiful gothic church. Look at the blue sky! It’s hard to believe thunder started not long later