Well I really enjoyed my virtual trip to Pamplona, and I’ll be adding it to my list of places to visit in real life! A few more photo stops before I leave though and I’ll be on my way.
For some though, Pamplona is the starting point of their journey and for one it was a pretty big journey at that. When John H. Clarke embarked on his Camino in 2011, it was one of the scariest things he’d ever done in his life. He spent the first 31 years of his life in Houston, Texas, never living more than 20 miles away from where he grew up – his biggest move was 150 miles away to start a new job. He’d only been on a plane two or three times and never for more than three hours. Despite that at the age of 53, he hopped on a plane and flew into Madrid, negotiated his away onto the correct bus and finally arrived, tired, hungry and apprehensive in Pamplona. You can follow John’s subsequent journey in Camino: Laughter and Tears along Spain’s 500-mile Camino De Santiago. I know I could never step outside of my comfort zone and be as brave, so all respect to John!
Stage 4 Pamplona to Puente la Reina
So today starts quite easily leaving the old town via the Plaza Consistorial square, the official start of the San Fermin festivities. It’s a lovely stroll down the Calle Major onto the Taconera Park/Gardens passing two of the old city gates, The Portal de Sant Nicholas and the Portal de la Taconera.
Next it’s the beautiful park that that’s grown around the citadel, also known as Vuelta al Castillo and on through the University area towards another lovely green space – The Pamplona Riverside garden. The Acella Bridge crosses the Sadar river and leaves Pamplona behind.
The next point is Cizur Menor, a town in Cendea de Cizur . Cendea is a term used in Navarra to designate the set of several towns that make up a single town hall. In this case, it encompasses Cizur Menor, Cizur Major, Guendulain and finally Zariquiegui where the Romanesque church of San Andrés’ is a welcome sight as it marks roughly the halfway point of today’s route.
From Cizur Menor, the route has been gradually climbing as it heads towards the peak of the Sierra del Perdón the natural barrier between the Pamplona Basin and lush wine growing region of Valdizarbe. The route from Zariquiegui leaves the track to travel a path between boxwood and thorns up to the Gambellacos fountain, commonly known as La Reniega.
The Legend of La Fuente Reniega
There seems to be variations as to how the fountain got it’s name, but both agree that a pilgrim, exhausted, parched and, in some versions dying, met the devil disguised as another pilgrim. The devil tempted the pilgrim, offering him water if he rejected by turns, God, The Virgin Mary and finally Santiago (St James). The pilgrim rejected all offers and instead prayed to God. At this point the legend offers two variants. In one the devil disappears in a sulpherous cloud and water springs forth from the spot and in another, Santiago appears in his place and either guides him to the hidden fountain, or offers him water from a scallop shell.
The area has reported other incidents affecting local farmers and pilgrims that are viewed as miracles associated with the Virgin Mary.
This final uphill push can be hard, while the peak might be called the hill of forgiveness, the wind and the weather can often be unforgiving. The fact that this was the spot chosen for the first wind farm in the region is a fair indication of what you might expect.
Tim Moore who walked the camino with Shinto (a donkey), had his own struggle over the top and notes he wasn’t the only one,
Everyone I met afterwards told their own saga of the ascent of what we called Windmill Hill… Canadian Evelyn…had been repeatedly gusted off her feet, pressed face down in the heavy mud for long minutes as she mustered the resources to raise her giant rucksack into that bullying, deafening gale. A little Japanese man softly described how his pack had been torn open, its contents scattered over the hill like the aftermath of a plane crash. Someone said they’d seen that bloke on crutches hopping and sliding up ahead of them. God alone knows how he did it.Spanish Steps : One Man and his Ass on the Pilgrim Way to Santiago, p91-2
Another Tim, or rather Timmy whose journey I’ve also been following had another unforgiving experience, this is one pilgrim you will probably recognise:-
Alto del Perdón (The Hill of Forgiveness)
The Hill of Forgiveness, or Mount of Pardon peaks at 750m, under the hum of the surrounding 40 wind turbines. It offers 360° paranomic views and is named after a XIII century basilica dedicated to Nuestra Señora del Perdón (Our Lady of Atonement), unfortunately obliterated by Napoleon’s troops. Today, a commemorative plaque reminds us that there was once a hospital to attended to pilgrims. While the basilica may have gone, the tradition of forgiveness still pertains and pilgrims unburden themselves, with each step up the hill, by forgiving others, and asking forgiveness for themselves.
At the top is the now iconic monument created by Vicente Galbete in 1996. The sheet metal sculpture shows a caravan of pilgrims from different periods, thereby representing the evolution of the Camino throughout its history.
The Lore of the Camino de Santiago, by Jean Mitchell-Lanham describes the sculpture as follows,
“The sculpture exhibits a small history of pilgrims and the pilgrimage…through various stages of development, from the beginning in the Middle Ages up to the present day, in the form of a procession. Of the twelve pilgrims, the first pilgrim appears to be searching for the route and symbolizes the beginning of interest in the pilgrimage. Next is a group of three that depicts the growth or rise in popularity of the Camino. These three are followed by another group depicted as merchants or tradesmen on horseback that symbolize the medieval era of merchants hawking their wares to the pilgrims. Spaced away from them is a solitary figure that characterizes the decline in pilgrimages due to political, religious, and social unrests from the mid-fourteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. At the very end of the procession are two modern-day figures depicted to show the renewed interest and rise in popularity of the pilgrimage in the late twentieth century.”
The sculpture is inscribed with the words “Donde se cruza el camino del viento con el de las estrellas” — “where the path of the wind crosses with that of the stars.” The path of the wind represents the top of the mountain with its windmills and the path of the stars is the road to Santiago de Compostela (Compostela means ‘field of stars’ – we’ll discover that story later)
The descent down to Uterga, the first town in the Valdizarbe begins over loose stones which makes for a slippery descent. Once over that hazard it’s a steadier descent down, through cereal fields, to several small villages they all have something of architectural or historic interest to offer.
Uterga : The Church of the Assumption – a gothic church surrounded by olive trees, with scenes from the childhood of Christ on the capitals of its facade
Palace of the Marquis of Zabalegui. A Baroque palace and ancestral home of the Perez de Rada family. It currently houses the Palacio de Muruzábal winery and cellars.
It’s then another steep slope down towards Obanos, the first village at which pilgrims from Somport (The Aragonese Way) meet up with those from Roncesvalles. The nearby Iglesia de Santa Maria de Eunate is believed to have been used as a pilgrim’s cemetery due to the dozen’s of scallop shells buried there. It’s a village that has a medieval quality, with a varied history and some interesting local legends. Things to discover,
From here the route passes under the arch of the Obanos gate and follows along the Robo river plain to Puente la Reina. The town was named after the 11th century bridge that was ordered to be built by Queen Doña Mayor, wife of King Sancho the Great, hence the name ‘The Queens Bridge’. It was intended to offer safe passage to pilgrims crossing the river. The bridge spans 110 meters with 6 beautiful arches.
We’ll have a look at what Puente la Reina has to offer in the next instalment – I need a rest now!
How I covered my kms
28th April – 14.1kms
29th April – 12.8kms
Total cycled so far 107.8kms, distance left 666.2kms