Fat, unfit and fifty on the Camino de Santiago

Camino AragonÚs

Shadowing the Pyrenees: into Navarra

Thursday May 12 - Friday May 13

Sanguesa - via Lumbier - Izco

I have reached the section where the Camino aragonÚs joins up with the one from Roncesvalles - the Camino francÚs at Puente La Reina - that means I┤ve done about 160 km and the whole feel is clearly going to change. When I reached Puente la Reina there were just so many more pilgrims - there are 3 pilgrims hostels here and the one I┤m staying in has 10 dormitories with between 10-20 places in each. The new hostel at Estella, where most people will be going next has 170 places! If anything makes me give this up it will be the mass of humanity - I think this will be more of a penance for me than the sore feet.

My last message finished in Sanguesa. From there I decided to take the slightly longer choice of routes as I could not face going straight up a steep hill first thing and the other sounded more spectacular and went through a couple of villages, so I could get a snack en route and water. I started out along the main road through the industrial estates of Sanguesa to the first village Liedana, where I had breakfast at a typical trucker's hostal on the main road before crossing the medieval bridge to skirt round the hilltop town, as I had no need to slog up to it (however pretty it may have been). From here the path followed the old railway track from Pamplona to Sanguesa to go through the Foz de Lumbier. This is one of those deep ravines carved by the river through the limestone rock, not uncommon in Spain. Before reaching the ravine the path cut along the edge of some Eocene sands and mudstones in which it is possible to see perfectly preserved ripple marks of the sort you only usually see in geology textbooks. There were also supposed to be bird footprints preserved, but I didn┤t see any of these on the rocks. At the start of the Foz one could take a slight detour to see the remains of the medieval Puente de Diablo which was destroyed during the civil war and had the legend attached of a maid selling her soul to the devil to get the bridge built in one night so her mistress could get somewhere to take some cure. The pact was broken and the maids soul saved, because the devil was supposed to finish by 6 am and it was in fact 7am - clearly he didn┤t take account of the change to summer time and forgot to put his watch forward!

The Foz de LumbierVultures in the Foz de LumbierLooking up to the Alto de Loiti after leaving Lumbier

I then plunged into the first tunnel, which was a bit like entering Moria and at the middle it was pitch black and I could have used Gandalf and bit of light, but it soon turned and I could see daylight again. Out in the Foz there is the rio Irati at the bottom and sheer rock faces either side with vultures swooping across and sitting at the top of the cliffs. It was really amazing and I realized from the size of these birds that ones I had been seeing earlier were probably smaller birds of prey than eagles or vultures. At the far end of the Foz there was a strange noise which I realized was the cooing of hundreds of doves sitting in the overhang of the rock face above the river - a strange contrast of the two types of birds. I left the Foz by another tunnel to reach the village of Lumbier, endowed with a medieval bridge and the main village sitting serenely on its hilltop.

I didn't go up into the town itself but stopped for refreshement at a bar on the Camino , as this was the last available watering hole before my destination for the night. From here I started the ascent to the Alto de Loiti - a pass over the mountains at 700 m high. This started fairly easily along gravelled farm tracks. The morning was becoming warmer and at the next village of Nardues was a petite public garden with a grassy sward shaded by trees, several decorative stone column drums and most important a fuente for a long cool drink and replenishing the water bottle. I had a rest here before facing the main ascent up to the Alto de Loiti. The next village Aldunate was barely a kilometre further on, but from here the Camino followed a narrow path, very wet from the previous day's rain and in places poorly signed. It was also getting much warmer and humid by this stage. I wish I had just walked up the main road, (like the Italian pilgrim I saw emerging along the main road at the top), which would have been a lot easier, that scrambling through the scrub and trees up the rocky and muddy track, in places masquerading as a small stream. (And I could have taken a break at the Roman villa that lies close to the road - but that would have meant missing the Foz de Lumbier and I have more experiences of villas than vultures!). When I finally reached the top I was rewarded with a good view back down the valley to Lumbier.

And from here I did initially follow the road instead of a detour up through the woods and back down onto a track, which I picked up further long the route.

From there it was only a few easy kms to the albergue at Izco which was a pretty little village with a church and houses, but no shops. The hospitalera at the albergue sold food to cook in the evening. I arrived there about 5 mins before the next thunderstorm and it rained for much of the evening. This was a friendly little albergue and as all the lower bunks were occupied, no-one seemed to mind me taking a mattress into the common room to sleep on the floor, rather than try and launch myself onto a top bunk.

The garden and fuente at NarduesIzcoSello

Some of the pilgrims staying included some I had met in previous days including Axel the mad frenchman, the mad German whose name I'm sure I knew but completely eludes me and a Brazilian woman I recognised from the previous night in Sanguesa. A new nationality was an Italian, who had started out somewhere not that far from Genoa, but instead of taking the direct route to France and the Camino had gone via most of the cathedrals of northern Italy as far as I could make out from his Italian. I think he was regularly walking 35-40 kms a day, so of course he was not someone I would meet up with again. I think he was also planning to walk home again from Santiago!

I felt quite pleased as the previous days walk was about 22 km and my feet had felt fairly OK so I thought the same again the next day should be manageable.

Well I┤m going to leave you in suspense there, as I think my time might run out very soon, but there is no timer to tell you on this computer and I don┤t want to lose this.

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