Day 12 | Monreal to Tiebas
Before I start I’ve added a little bit of music. We heard it drifting out of a bar today. Maybe give it a play whilst you read; it kind of fits our mood.
So we knew that today would be hot. In all honesty it’s too hot to be out walking and yet these two English folk were out in the mid day sun! We woke with the village but unlike other days, today we rose early as we knew if we wanted to do any walking it had to be done early! It was the first time that I was able to catch the sunrise coming over the mountains!
We packed extra water in a picnic bag surrounded by ice to keep it cool and set off. We’re almost at the end of our journey now so the drive is taking longer and longer… today it was 49 minutes to our start. This is the last stage of the Camino Aragones but we’ve split it into two to make the most of our day tomorrow. Today we hoped to walk from village to village, there and back to the car each time. The reason being that if things just became too hot we wouldn’t be hours from the car. Gronze says today is a long stage walking along the northern slope of the Sierra de Alaiz, through mountainous terrain with an irregular profile; until Tiebas. Where we plan to end for the day. The total distance from Monreal to Tiebas would be around 15km but for us that would be 30km and in this heat that’s too far… and Gerry can still only manage around 12-14km before his ankle starts getting cross. So we adapted the plan. Yarnoz to Otano and back… Ezperun to Guerendiain and back and from there we’d decided what next depending on the weather.
We started in the little village of Yarnoz. We parked the car near the top of the village beside the chuch, had a little meander around this tiny hamlet before heading off along the camino. There was a strange mist hanging over the valley and we wondered if it was caused by the Canal de Navarra which runs through this area? We thought it would be cool but it wasn’t and the mist or haze stayed with us for most of the day. The sun was rising and it was time to go. The path reminded us of the walk out of Puenta la Reina a few days ago. A narrow track along the foothills, at times quite overgrown so our legs we getting scratched by the shrubby broom plants that line the path. There was very little shade either so we knew our brollies would be coming out soon. We made good time and were surprised how quickly we reached Otano. This was a very sleepy little village with what looked like once had some very grand houses that were now sadly left and in ruins. It was an odd mix of a few very nice properties, modernised with neat gardens and other houses where the roof had fallen in and plants were growing out of what was once a window or a door. We took a look around the church before turning around and heading back.
It’s really humid this morning and already we felt it was too hot to be out. But we kept up our pace and made good time on the return trip. Gerry said he didn’t like the narrow path as he couldn’t place his foot so firmly, with the odd stone hidden by the glass and plants he’s always nervous of turning his ankle again. But regardless we made good time and were happy to see the car.
Onwards we went. Stopping on the way to have a look at the canal; we were really surprised at how deep it was and how fast moving it was. I wondered if this was fed by the Yesa dam? I have such mixed feelings about it having read so much in recent days; I can see both sides but it feels so sad for so much history to be returned to dust and lost forever. But I guess that’s what happens to all us eventually.
We drove on to the next village but were greeted by large iron gates across the road. We checked on the maps and we were on the right road. We wondered if the only house left in the village was perhaps a farm as the gates looked like huge wide metal farm gates? Either way we couldn’t see a way to get in. So we thought we’d head onwards to Guerendiain and walk back.
Guerendiain was a very different village to the ones we’d seen already today. It was neat and every house modernised and looking perfect. Flowers and gardens, old farm carts painted and adorned with geraniums and lots of sculpture around the village. The church looked equally well cared for and we wondered why this village looked so prosperous and yet a few kilometres down the road they looked so abandoned? Maybe as folks move out of the city they will slowly return to the abandoned villages too?
We found the arrows and started walking. The trail was pretty much like our earlier walk and the wide views really weren’t changing too much. It was hot and to be honest we were both finding today hard. We could see Ezperun ahead and we stopped for a drink of water. We asked why were walking today? It was a bit of a slog, hot and humid and we weren’t actually walking to a destination. We decided to turn around and head back to the village.
Back in the car we wondered what next. It was only 11:00 am but already 30c and so so humid. We decided to drive on to Tiebas as there were services and we could get a cold drink and then decide. Actually Tiebas turned out to be quite a large village with a huge church, a ruined castle and amazing views. We parked at the entrance and walked along the streets, following the ever present arrows.
The town was granted royal lordship in January 1264 and is home to the ruins of the Castillo or Palacio de Tiebas which was started in the same period. It was built in French gothic style and in the early days of it’s life it had a bit of a gruesome history as a state prison and place of execution. In time that changed hands, was destroyed and rebuilt and now very little remains but we wandered around the ruins and took time to pause and admire the views. In the distance we would see Pamplona and closer still we could see the Alto de Perdon, although the famous iron statues weren’t visible. We wandered into the centre to find a bar and passed the old church that stands in the middle of the village, locked like so many other churches.
From the bar we could look back from the terrace and see Perdon with Pamplona in the distance. We used google to try and figure out which villages were which, trying to trace the Camino Frances in the distance. It made me feel quite melancholic.
We made plans. It was almost midday and far too hot to walk. We had yet to visit Monreal so we would head back there and hoped to find a place for lunch. It seemed a good idea but sadly when we arrived the bar was closed and the church locked. It felt like everyone was sleeping off the day and that we were the only fools mad enough to be outside on a day like today. What should we do?
Every day since we arrived we’ve seen road signs for a town called Sos del Rey Catolica. It’s intrigued Gerry and so we thought we should go there. It was only 30 minutes out of our way and we had all afternoon. I read about it’s history as we drove. Prehistoric remains have been found in the area but the earliest documented presence is that of the Suessetanos, an Indo-European people of Celtic origin who settled around the 6th century B.C. The first known documented record date back to 211 BC when they allied with the Carthaginians. They were later destroyed by the Romans who took control of the area. Many people came and went over the centuries and today Sos del Rey Católico preserves its medieval layout and along with other monuments of great historic value; it even has a Parador! And at the top of the village stands a 12th century tower. At it’s feet is the church and a maze of tiny streets.
Even with all it’s history, none of the above are reasons for why the town is so celebrated today but rather it is because it is the birth place of King ‘Fernando el Católico’; more commonly knows as King Ferdinand II of Aragon, considered the first king of Spain; his marriage to Queen Isabella I of Castile was regarded as the “cornerstone in the foundation of the Spanish monarchy”. It was under his rule that the Spanish completed the Reconquista but also in 1492, he issued the Edict of Expulsion which was to be the start of the Spanish Inquisition. It was also the year in which they commissioned Christopher Columbus to find a westward maritime route to Asia, which resulted in the discovery of the Americas.
The old town is large and a maze of narrow streets. We meandered through half of the town, returning to the main plaza where we found a small restaurant with it’s tables in the shadow of the 14th century market square. Under the cool shade we ate and drank and watched the world go by… actually not much of the world went by today but we nonetheless watched. It was hard to pull ourselves away from the cool but it was gone 2:00 and we wanted to visit the church and the tower. As we walked along one narrow street we heard music drifting out of a window. At first we thought it was a different song that transported us back to a wet day on the Primitivo as we arrived in Galicia… it made me again feel sad. It’s melancholic guitar just suited my mood.
We found the tower and wandered around, again admiring the views and trying to spot the places we’d walked and visited… Sanguesa, Rocafort, Lumbier Gorge and the Monastery at Leyre… so much history in such a small area! We didn’t linger as the sun was burning the backs of my legs and I could feel the sweat running down my face beneath my mask. We left Mike Griffin to his blues and retraced our steps via the church… which was sadly covered in scaffold and closed. No matter. We were hot and tired and it was time to go home.
Our car was like and oven and the thermometer registered 38c. We talked about our camino as we drove. It’s not been the walk we planned. We found it hard to remember that just 8 or 9 days ago we were so cold and wet that we couldn’t walk. And then our first day in Spain and Gerry turning his ankle. We had hoped to walk much more than we have; sadly we’ve still eaten pilgrim meals without the kilometres so I suspect we’ll be on a diet when we get home! I’ve really missed travelling from point to point. When you are walking to a destination there seems a purpose in your walk and we don’t have that same feeling now. When we heard the song in the bar I remembered that day in Galicia. Gosh how the world has changed. We played the song in the car on the way home and I honestly could have wept. Our own world has changed since we last walked the Lebaniego and sadly COVID is still with us. I know we are lucky. I know that for so many the loss has been huge and we should count our blessings but I can’t help but feel sad for the life we lost. The freedoms we had. The simple joy of walking from one horizon to another without fear. I sometimes worry that the world will never be the same. That maybe we wont be able to recapture the things that we had then. Gerry tells me that I’m wrong. He’s a pragmatist and a realist and I trust his judgement. We have to feel hopeful don’t we?
It’s been an interesting day… I guess looking back at all the history that these hills have seen must give us hope that if nothing else… things will change.
Tomorrow we’ll return to hills just beyond Pamplona and finish the very last kilometres of the Camino Aragones. The weather promises cooler temperatures and when we finish Gerry has promised himself a return visit to Cafe Iruna for a few pinchos and a glass of something cool.