Day 7 – Villava to Puente la Reina

Walked today: 7.6 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 54.5 miles

We took a taxi from our hotel up to Zariquegui (elev. 2054 ft), where we stopped on our walk from Pamplona last Sunday.

We got breakfast at the San Andrés Albergue, (same as last Sunday morning), then began our trek up the Alto de Perdón at 7:15.

leaving Zariquegui and heading up Alto de Perdón

We took photos on the way up looking back at Pamplona as we worked our way up the steep slope. The 450 ft climb covered 1.5 miles.

Zariquegui and Pamplona in background
near the top

At the top (elev 2510 ft) we took a short break for photos of the pilgrim sculptures, a popular icon of the Camino Frances.

Linda at the top, 2510 ft.

Alto de Perdón pilgrim statues, up close, Pamplona in background

Looking westward from Alto de Perdón

The windmills that lined the ridge were obviously well placed as the wind was continuous at 20-30 mph.

We headed down the mountain on the other side of the ridge. The steep path was only slightly curved, almost straight down and was covered most of the way with large, loose, stones.

The 600 ft drop in elevation covered only .65 miles!!

Heading down from Alto de Perdón
Rough going
Almost down
Made it!! Finally

Once we cleared the rocky path, the walking surface dramatically improved and the next 300 ft descent was gradual over the 1.6 miles into Uterga (pop.205) which served as our much needed mid-morning break featuring zuma naranja (fresh squeezed Valencia orange juice) and more cafe con leche.

Our Uterga rest stop

We passed through Muruzábel, another small village with an impressive church tower,

huge church and tower for small village

then on to Óbanos (pop. 800), where Linda found a nice shady bench.

While enjoying the cool, dry breeze and shade, a Óbanian? local gentleman approached us and tried to carry on a conversation with us which wasn’t going well as his English was even worse that our Spanish. We struggled with our itranslate app, which became even more frustrating for all. Finally, he wished us “ buen Camino” and began walking toward town center. Jim tried the app once more and finally created a message in Spanish thanking the gentleman for his kindness and hospitality. He grabbed his pack and walked hurriedly to catch the gentleman.

Jim called out and the gentleman stopped just in front of the Iglesia San Juan Bautista. When Jim showed him the Spanish note, he smiled, a little in disbelief, and said it was nothing. He then pulled some keys out of his pocket and gestured for Jim to follow him toward the church door, which was closed.

A little background before we continue:

Óbanos is a lovely historic Camino town, best known for a murderous 14th-century pilgrim legend. Duke William (Guillermo) of Aquitane and his sister Felicia undertook the Camino de Santiago. On the return journey, Felicia was overwhelmed with piety and went to become a hermit in Amocain rather than returning to her life of luxury. Her brother tracked her down and tried to convince her to return to her court duties. When she refused, he became enraged and stabbed her to death. He was then overcome by remorse and walked to Santiago again and returned to Óbanos to mourn his sister for the rest of his life. He built a hermitage on Arnotegui (a southern hilltop) to serve pilgrims and the poor. Guillermo’s silver-covered skull is kept in Iglesia San Juan Bautista. The town puts on a play called The Mystery of Óbanos every year, retelling the legend with a cast of most of the 800 villagers!

-“A Village to Village Guide to Hiking the Camino de Santiago”, Dintaman&Landis

In 2014, we stayed in Óbanos and we walked through it again in 2017. On both occasions we were disappointed because the church was always locked and we were intrigued by the legend and the “ silver covered skull”.

Iglesia San Juan Bautista in Óbanos

Well, it seems that our gentleman friend was apparently the church Priest. He unlocked the door and lead us into the church, showed us the famous skull, the other remains of Guillermo placed in a box on the church altar and also apparently the remains of his martyred sister, Felicia,

were prominently place in a 12th century container, also on the altar.

Priest pointing out prized Guillermo relics

Guillermo’s silver covered skull

Priest leading Jim up to the altar

the rest of Guillermo’s remains are encased here

The priest then asked us if we would like our pilgrim credentials stamped with the church logo, which we happily said “si” in perfect Spanish and “muchas gracias” on our way out of the sanctuary.

We continued the remaining 1.4 miles into Puente la Reina and our room at Hotel Yakue (62€).

In the 11th century, Sancho el Fuerte’s wife financed a beautiful 6-arched Romanesque bridge over the Río Arga, so pilgrims and other travelers on the Roman route could avoid expensive ferrymen and treacherous boat rides.

Consequently the town of Puente la Reina grew around the Queen’s Bridge to provide services and commerce in support of pilgrims.

Old part of Puente la Reina

We had bogadilla’s for lunch and supper from the Jakue bar and got to bed early for a 6:00 start in the morning.