Changing It Up
At the start of my day, my mind naturally fixated on taking the same steps that I had before. My goal was to stay in Villatuerta at the memorable and quaint albergue, La Casa Magica, once again. After getting caught in a downpour outside of Mañeru, that didn’t happen. It was a good thing. It was time for change; to have different experiences and to create new memories. It was time to focus forward on a new journey.
Just outside of Uterga I managed to detour off the Camino and get lost on a road that eventually led into a farmer’s field. It seemed odd to me that I couldn’t find a yellow arrow, but at times they were further apart, so I kept walking. The wide dirt road grew narrower and more obscure. The middle and sides grew increasingly thicker with dewy grass until eventually it was over knee high and the wheel wells not so visible.
“This isn’t right,” I thought to myself. “The path shouldn’t look this different in spring.”
Most of the Camino that I’d seen thus far did look different to me. I hardly recognized it with the lush vegetation around it instead of the dry golden grasses and rototilled farmland that I remembered in fall.
I decided I must have missed a turn, so backtracked and kept my eyes peeled for a yellow arrow. A man in a tractor stopped, pointed and shouted, “Abajo arriba izquierda!” I nodded and continued down the hill, my thoughts now confirmed.
The road was marked very clearly by a sign and arrows. My head must have been in the clouds to have missed it.
The sky was spitting by the time I got into Puente La Reina. Last time, I had walked straight through and didn’t stop to see anything, so this time I investigated the church.
It was beautiful inside with golds against greys. A statue of Saint James stood against a wall.
I didn’t feel compelled to find the statue of Our Lady or light a candle and say a prayer in front of her like I used to. Even though I am not religious she was a source of strength to me on my first Camino. An overwhelming feeling beyond words would fill my heart whenever I saw her and then tears would flow. This time I couldn’t find the same feeling.
Puente La Reina: History and Legend
Puente la Reina, translating to Bridge of the Queen, is well known for its 11th century Romanesque bridge. There is some interesting history and numerous legends about it and the river Arga that flows underneath.
One of the most curious is the legend of the Txori, little birds that would seemingly clean the image of the Virgin with their wing feathers and beaks after retrieving water from the Arga. At the time, the Virgin was housed in the bridge’s central tower. The little birds were celebrated by town folk for a long time until a count put a stop to it saying their spiritual interpretation of the birds’ actions was false. Eventually the central tower was removed and the Virgin relocated to the parish of San Pedro. Whether that was because of the Txori or not remains unknown. One thing for sure is that the little birds had at one time stirred up lots of controversy here to the extent that the government even shot guns at the bridge to try and scare the birds away.
Some other interesting bridge history, which I learned from my parent’s journey along the Camino Frances in 2015, is that this bridge might have been designed to represent a life span in that you can’t quite see where you’re going until you get there. In the same way I wouldn’t understand this journey until it was done.
The bridge was also designed with holes to withstand high waters.
Before continuing further, I stopped for breakfast just outside of Puente la Reina in the same café that I had in 2013 and I enjoyed the exact same breakfast, my usual favourite: un cafe con leche, pastel de chocolate y zumo de naranja.
Memories of my Camino buddy surfaced here in Mañeru. He had called out to me from a wooden bench he was sitting on as I passed. He was switching his insoles from his sneakers into his boots to see if that would help with his blisters and tendon pain. We continued walking together to Villatuerta from here.
This time I would stay.
The rain had me ducking into a bar in Mañeru where I ordered a café con leche and updated people back home. I tried to wait out the rain, but it was still falling when I left.
I didn’t make it very far.
At the top of the hill I stopped and turned around.
Upon returning to the café I journaled…
My original goal was to reach Villatuerta, like on my last journey, but I stopped at the top of the hill and turned around.
My thoughts were that I could keep walking as far as I could or I could stop here, get out of the rain, catch up on posts, rest my knee (which doesn’t hurt, but feels over exercised) and leave what’s to come for, hopefully, better weather tomorrow.
Furthermore, and a big reason I stopped was to change my journey up. It’s time to make it different and to create new memories. So, rather than stick to the same destinations as before, I will stay in different villages, experience different albergues and explore different sights along the way.
That evening I stayed at a wonderful albergue in Mañeru. The hosptialero was kind and cooked us a beautiful meal and the Camino spirit was very much alive with this group of pilgrims from Germany, USA, Denmark, Zambia and Canada.
That night before bed I wrote…
It might seem like the bunch of us in the last photo were ready to carry on all night, but the life of a pilgrim is to be up at the crack of dawn and to be out the door with pack and boots on, poles in each hand and ready to walk by 8:00 a.m.
The hospitaleros will be ushering us out the door in good Camino fashion (hopefully), so they can prepare for the next day’s group of pilgrims. So, right now, at 9:29 p.m. I am the only pilgrim up journaling at the long table we all shared food, wine and good conversation at tonight.
I’m glad I made the decision to stop because I met a great group of people tonight 🙂