Day 5: Sore Feet and Bull Fighting (Villava to Puente La Reina)
Shaking Peter's hand I stepped out onto the dark streets of Villava in the hope of finding Pamplona's City skyline sooner rather than later. With my walking poles methodically strumming the ground I made good pace and arrives at Pamplona withing 45 minutes. Rather intimidating, the pavements were plagued with mobs of young and intoxicated teenagers and I had to politely prod some aside with my walking poles. It was 6:30 in the morning!? Do people still do all nighters or am I older than I'd care to admit?
After Pamplona is sidled towards Cizur Menor and the misty, wind turbine riddled mountainside of Alto del Person. The path was quite rough underfoot but easy going and vast swathes of sun flower fields and harvested wheat fields rolled away as far as the eye could see.
At the summit of the mountain is a pilgrim bands journey immortalised in steel as their silhouettes stand out against the dramatic backdrop. Each of the pilgrim's heads is bend down towards the west, and Santiago with the inscription: 'where the way of the wind crosses the way of the stars'.
Following a ridiculously treacherous decent of loose boulders and slippery slippery stones I was back on rural country lanes and heading for Puente La Reina.
When I arrived I was delighted to see that an excited hubbub hung around the rectangular town like a suppressed sneeze. All the men were dresses in white trousers and t shirts whilst adorning their necks with red neckerchiefs - oooooo a Village People tribute act, I thought happily!
Alas, it was not so. After looking at the impressive roman Bridge (which the town's name sake, Queen Bridge) over the now very wide River Arga and marvelling at its six gigantic circular arches, I found my hostel and after speaking with the receptionist learnt that a festival was about to get underway celebrating the towns patron Saint.
In order to celebrate the town had been boxed in with sturdy metal gates and shops had broad wooden panels covering their windows and doors which were just about big enough for people to slip through. Intrigued I walked to the town square where a sanded space had been set up with red fencing all around it with steps set up behind for standing on. Six bulls soon charged into this space and a very intense display of acrobatics and steady nerves held my gaze and breath! This is naughty, but one man fumbled his pirouette out of the bulls way and got absolutely clattered by the thing, and I mean clattered. Before I could give a little cheer for the bull about twenty men had leapt on it to stop if tramolong their companion: 12 of them literally wrestled the thing into submission and then walked it back to its pen!
Havinf had my fill of bulls and red neckerchiefs (I never thought I'd see the day) I went to sniff out some food and a beer. After some microwaved (I was as upset as you are) red peppers and some beaten pork tenderloin I decided to wash it all down with a lemon larger, it was incredibly refreshing and as it had come in a plastic cup I slipped through the bars back outside to see what all the commotion was.
Standing in the street I slapped my lips contentedly and looked down at my half pint, that really is delicious I thought. Breaking my deep reservoir of appreciation was the speedy shuffling of feet and muffled cries as a troop or men sped past me. Looking up, I realised that they were being chased down the narrow street by a bull, an actual live, gigantic bull.
Caught completely by surprise I threw my beer over my shoulder and over the nearest shop fence like a Kentucky show horse. Sprawled across a gruff Italian man's lap I jolted back to my feet and brushed myself off in what I hoped was a nonchalant manner despite he and his friends rudely loud laughs! Looking wistfully at the pool of frothy, still refreshing looking lemon beer on the floor I wandered back to my albergue.
The plan it to get to Estrella tomorrow and just when I thought my blisters were looking a scoach better...