Puente La Reina – Estella (23.4kms)
The day didn’t start smoothly…eight people, four bunks crammed into a small room made the daily routine of doctoring our feet to prevent further damage, loading up our backpacks correctly and getting dressed a slow and complicated process. To top it off there was no one on reception, for me to arrange porting my backpack. I therefore, had to carry my backpack, which as I had swapped to walking sandals had boots strapped on the side.
Adjusted for the 170m climb out of Puente La Reina this was a 23.4km walking day. One that went smoothly until the end of the day when as we descended 110 meters to the Rio Iranzu, Lisa and I dropped behind the still jaunty walking pace of Michael and Dean. As the temperature soared and the air became filled with a metallic odour, which stung our eyes walking became heavy. Up on our right down in a valley was a series of brick apartment buildings, windows smashed in and charred interiors. The air was filled with desolation. I was wondering were the hell we were.
Bizarrely as we continued along the track, down steps beside the main road and onto a path that wound down to a pedestrian bridge over the rio Egar, the air was filled with the smell of BBQ. Down in the valley under a makeshift shelter a group of local guys were cooking and having a few beers. On we walked, past a burnt out looking industrial building with the sign Camping Lizarra stuck to the corner of the building. The air was filled with the smell of hops, which reminded me of the old yeast manufacturing plant in Ponsonby. Cloying and acrid..who the hell would want to camp here…spun around my head for the next few kilometers.
When we passed a woman hobbling beside a man showing little sympathy, I turned back towards Lisa, shook my head and tried to hasten the pace. There was no way we could help her. We however, needed to help ourselves and get out of the increasing heat.
Estella – No Vacancies…
Lisa and I finally made it into town and found the guys. According to the first Albergue manager all the beds had been taken for the night. Michael told us we would need to walk to the next town. In unison we replied, NO. Dean found one of the last two remaining beds. The three of us walked back over the old and high Roman bridge through Estella’s narrow streets. Thankfully this route took us passed the Turismo office. They found us a hotel room on the outskirts of town. I found additional strength and channelled Camp Mother to navigate us, by foot, to the modern hotel.
On the outskirts of Estella: best ever breakfast follows night of pain…
The price of the hotel included a bus transfer in the morning to the start of the next day’s walk and the best breakfast of the trip. Two tables laden with fresh juicy green melon, large fluffy Pain au Choclat pastries, Apple tart, a large glass container full of freshly squeezed orange juice and jugs of coffee and hot milk and other assorted breakfast foods.
All this came after a night of intense pain. The antibiotic cream the Pharmacist had given me for my deroofed blister had not prevented infection and with limited supplies to hand and no Spanish I resorted to Triguard dotted on a gauze bandage. At 1am sitting in the bathroom with a damp towel wrapped around my burning foot I doubted I would ever walk again. I’m not sure if it was the second painkiller kicking in, or exhaustion from heat and pain but I feel asleep before the church bells struck two.
By some miracle when Michael’s alarm went off at 6.15am the pain and swelling had subsided and I could put weight on my foot and walk another day.