THAT THE BLIND MAY SEE

Pamplona – Puente la Reina – Estella – Los Arcos 

Beautiful Navarra

Dear Amigos, greetings from Los Arcos. We are now Three Masketeers, as friend Billy (Willemijn) joined us in Puente la Reina.

The Three Masketeers

Billy is Dutch and, having walked to Santiago from her home in Holland, became a volunteer in the Pilgrim Office. Billy is also a writer and speaks 6 languages, so it was a natural step for her to become a guide with companies who organise walking holidays, including pilgrimages on the Camino. Since Covid the companies have no customers, so Billy has been exploring the lesser known routes and has joined us for a time. Gemma is now in a “bubble” with two other women, walking happily and sharing suitable accommodation. 

Gemma, Julie and Leticia

Everyone is asking the question “is the Camino safe?” All of us certainly feel safe, but I must emphasise again my view that on Camino, like at home, you are only as safe as you make yourself. Stay distant from others, cleanse your hands frequently and wear a facemask!

I have been very impressed with the preparations made in hostels to keep guests separate. Gemma and her bubble have felt safe finding rooms where they can share at a distance. Billy has already complained in one albergue and refused to stay in another because too many people were packed into one room. This highlights the problem – the huge reduction in pilgrims walking makes it easier to stay safe, but the private albergues are starved of business so when some pilgrims come along the temptation is to be blind to the recommendations and pack them in. I say again, no matter what is offered, it is your responsibility to stay safe. 

We’ve been walking through beautiful Navarra but the area has had several “rebrotes” or new outbreaks of the pandemic. On Friday we walked into Pamplona, our first major city. We met a friend who lives there for dinner. It was a great reunion but I was staggered at the way bars and terraces were jam packed with customers. The waiters were wearing the symbolic facemask, but the clients were singing, shouting, hugging and kissing. Just like a normal Friday night in downtown Pamplona. I wondered why people are so blind to the fact that it is our own behaviour which spreads this virus. 

The Reverend Long Legs

It was with some relief when we marched out of town the following morning, through the lovely University campus. Onwards and we were soon at Cizor Menor and then making our way up and up to the Alto de Perdón. The Reverend Long Legs forged ahead, clearly emboldened by having scaled the Pyrenees. I huffed and puffed up to the top to enjoy the magnificent views and the cooling breeze. There were only two other pilgrims there but soon the “bubble” of young people from the previous day arrived in slightly diminished number. They were impressed that the Old Guys had got there first. The descent is difficult and we took our time because the temperature was also rising. 

Alto de Perdón

The names of the next villages will be familiar to many reading this: Uterga, Muruzábel and Obanos. However these, and many others, are not as you remember them, or as they would be in another year. At this time they are like ghost towns with bars closed or, if open, terraces empty and lacking the chatter of hundreds of pilgrims. During the day one Italian pilgrim who is walking for a few days stopped to chat. 
As for the heat, we are carrying lots of water and, of course, Stephen Keep Me Kool just had to demonstrate the traditional method of cooling down. 

Puente la Reina remains as charming as ever and going in through quiet streets and leaving in the morning in silence I realised that we are seeing the Camino Francés in a state that just last year would have been unimaginable. We walked towards the very picturesque town of Cirauqui, the streets of which seem laden with history.

Square at Cirauqui

I was sitting in the shade in the main square when an argument got up between two men and a woman. As it got louder and louder I realised the men were protesting about the restrictions the government has imposed to control the spread of the Coronavirus. The latest of these is to ban people from smoking outdoors if they are doing so within two metres of another person. “It’s the limit” said one using very colourful language. “It’s like the dictatorship all over again,” agreed the other.  The woman interjected, “why can’t you see that it’s right to stop people blowing smoke in other people’s faces and perhaps spreading the virus?” she asked, and went on “and why are you two bothered anyway, neither of you smoke.” I exited through the arch and they were still arguing as I made my way out of town. 

Stephen (who speaks Italian) and Geoli

As we went down the path we were followed by three wee girls. We assumed that they were local youngsters perhaps going to a swimming pond in the river. However as the hours wore on, and we made our way through lovely countryside with the hay drying waiting for the bailer, and the sunflowers darkening ready to yield their harvest, our paths crossed a few times. We only met one other pilgrim that day, Geoli (Joel) another Italian who is walking to Sahagún, halfway along the Camino. He hopes to return next year. Just outside Estella we met the three young girls again and I wondered if they were walking 22kms to see their grandparents. There must be buses I thought. 

These three youngsters were polite and friendly. Not so some of the locals we passed. Several times my “hola” was ignored. So much so I wondered if local people were becoming apprehensive about “foreign” pilgrims? “Not at all, ” said people in the hostel, “around here they’d be the same with people from Madrid!” 

We were very tired. The Mass with Pilgrim Blessing in the Church of San Miguel appears to have been discontinued, so we just had dinner before bed. After breakfast we checked out. We’d had three drinks before dinner the evening before. Stephen The Ever Honest One said to the lady at the desk that he thought we hadn’t paid for those. She went off to enquire and came back with a till receipt. “You may not have paid, but someone did” she replied. It appears the locals still like us. 

Stephen (Who Like Wine) at Irache

Stephen (Who Likes Wine) was excited about visiting the wine fountain at Irache, which sits on the route just outside of the town. As we left the outskirts we saw a man and woman ahead. He had a kind of satellite dish sticking out of his rucksack and he was speaking into a recorder. The two were engrossed in what they were doing so we passed on. They caught up with us just as we went uphill to the Bodega of Irache and the gates to the Fountain of Free Wine came into view. Just then the three young girls from the day before staggered out into the road swaying and holding on to each other for all the world like drunks. The man and woman burst out laughing as soon we all did. The children had been lying in wait for their parents. We took the traditional photographs and we all carried on walking at different speeds, the youngsters yet again forging ahead. 

The three “Drunks” and their Mum and Dad

As we were having a breather later the Dad, Rafa, arrived along the path. He explained that the Spanish National Association of the Blind have commissioned a new guide to the Camino which not only has directions but also descriptions. The satellite dish is a GPS tracker and he was narrating what he saw. Truly the blind shall see the Camino in the Holy Year and beyond. 

Rafa with GPS, mapping and describing the Camino for the Visually Impaired

As we walked in the afternoon heat towards Los Arcos we remarked to each other how beautiful is this part of the route and how privileged we are, not only to see it, but to see it at this special time. Let’s hope everyone has the opportunity to do the same very soon. 

Please continue to send your prayers, hopes, wishes and intentions to:

Wewalkforyou2020@gmail.com

15 thoughts on “THAT THE BLIND MAY SEE

  1. What wonderful stories. It seems as though you are finding that pilgrim fellowship even with the small numbers. Your pictures bring back so many memories and such a longing. Go with God. Ultreia!

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  2. Nice to see your faces again! All the best and God’s speed to you and Stephen (say hello from me!) from me here in Norway.

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  3. So beautiful the description you write of The Way. My heart is full! I have a heart to walk since 2012 and have my backpack and all I will need at the ready! Then, 2015 Cancer treatment and a different kind of Camino. Now, I am a survivor and I am biding my time! I will have all the time I need now as I am Retired/Disabled now from my Nursing career! Thankful for your time and dedication! Prayers that I will walk The Way in His timing! Prayers for your journey! Forever your servant!
    Lorrie
    Dorena, Oregon

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  4. Great post! Just know we appreciate your walking on our behalf and we look forward to to hearing more from you! So any memories. I have a picture of myself on the exact spot of the last picture you posted. Not sure of the name of that village you are coming upon, but the spite of the church is unmistakable. Looks hot! Stay hydrated and keep writing!!!

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  5. Oh wow, what a lovely surprise, an unexpected blog update. We thought they would only be once a week.
    Fabulous read & photos. Hope you are enjoying all those kms each day & very well done to you both. Take care of each other 👍👍😊😊😊

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  6. What wonderful reading, Thank you so much. I have never walked the Camino Way and no doubt won’t get the opportunity due to my health but I get doo absorbed you daily spiritual walk and expwriwnces. Thank you for including us in all in your own pilgrimage. It’s a spiritual experience in itself, for us.
    God bless you one and all.
    Take care and keep safe and thank you again.
    Margie English

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  7. Thank you Johnnie and Stephen for all that you’re doing. The spirit which you’ve undertaken in this pilgrimage for so many is inspiring. The blog updates and photos are wonderful. Stay safe, stay well and take joy in every step.

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  8. Wonderful to be journeying with you. The photos bring up so many beautiful memories. I can place myself at the spots. Thank you for doing this for us. It is so special and comforting to know you carry our prayers as we carry you three in our prayers as well.

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  9. ! Buen Camino a todos ! Is that a Tilley hat, John ? Made with Canadian persnicketiness ? Waterproof (as when Steve does his head-cooling trick). One doesn’t OWN a Tilley hat, of course ; one is its custodian for the next generation. I’ve recently obtained one. NOT, of course, for possessive and showing-off reasons. Only for the future generation, and to stimulate the economy of the reopened Rohan shop.

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  10. Hello John! Thank you so much for taking us (virtually) on your pilgrimage with you! Jeff and I loved your descriptions and the photos. We miss Spain so much and wish we could be with you. It’s hard to not know when we will ever be able to travel again (especially as Americans). We’ve been thinking about you and the team – wondering how the pandemic is effecting the trek. Your stories gave good insights. It is interesting to hear about the people you are meeting who are also walking. It’s nice to know there are some pilgrims, but it sounds like it is pretty quiet in comparison to pre-covid. The New York Times just reported this morning about the unfortunate surge of COVID-19 happening in Spain. It says the president has called the national army to assist with contact tracing, and the article pointed out some of the similarities between what’s happening in USA and Spain regarding some mixed messaging from the top down in government and in general, a rush to open the economy too soon. It’s a very complicated issue, with so many unknowns still about Coronavirus. The entire world is suffering the effects of the Pandemic – physical, emotional, financial, social and otherwise. I am glad to hear you are staying safe, washing and wearing masks and being diligent to leave over-crowded lodging if necessary. I hope you will be able to complete your Camino, and will be praying for your safety.
    It looks like it is also very hot there! Stay hydrated and as cool as possible!
    Cheers from Utah,
    Holly & Jeff

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