Day 13 | Olcoz to Eunate
I pinched that line from a friend who set up a business during the first COVID lockdown (she’s been really successful too… if you’re in the UK and need cakes ). We kind of stayed hot all evening yesterday; Gerry felt it more than me but it was really hard to cool down after walking in the sun. Last night we decided not to repeat the exercise today but to be more cautious about the time we spent under this hot Spanish sun! We also decided that we’ll not come walking again in July (or August) because it’s just too hot. We said the same last year when we walked the Lebaniego and yet here we are again… but in our defence both times it’s been because of lockdowns and changes in restrictions and the simple desire to come walk as soon as possible… but regardless… in future we’re staying put at home! I think we both agreed that we’d rather walk in the cold or even the rain than really hot sunshine… and at home we know how to keep the house cool and the garden is growing and productive and we should make the most of the French sunshine.
It was because of that Gerry said he didn’t want to walk for too far today and to limit the time outside and be done before mid-day. So we found a spot just after Olcoz that would give us an hour or so to walk before turning around and heading back to the car. The drive from our apartment was over an hour this morning… we were up early again (tractors this time) and I caught another sunrise. We decided there was no need for picnics as we would be on the Camino Frances and there were bound to be options!
We’re familiar with this road now and we drove along and pointed out the paths we’d walked and the sights we’d seen. In many places you can pick out the track from the car; I love that as we drive through Spain even now I can see the paths I’ve walked. There’s a new road being built beside the Embalse and every day we pass a chap holding a Stop/Go board. He’s there in the morning when we drive through and always there in the afternoon when we return. He must get so hot! We also said that he must get so bored but then we considered this… maybe he has the best job in the world because his mind is free to wander where ever the mood takes him. Maybe he can compose a song or write a masterpiece in his head!
Onwards we drive, with the hillside villages we’ve walked through, we wondered why Spanish villages are so often high on a hill? Is it because they get a better breeze higher up? Our little house certainly does. We thought at first it was for defences but I’m not sure that every village had to be defended? So maybe it is more about the climate? Perhaps one of you clever people could tell us? Onwards, onwards towards the cement factory and the Gorge and then to the villages we walked yesterday and Tiebas with it’s castle. We were almost there. We parked the car and set off.
We were both a bit quieter today. Reflective maybe? I asked Gerry if he had enjoyed his camino; it’s been different for sure and not the walk we planned. He said that when he hurt his ankle it was so bad for the first day that he thought it was over and in his mind had planned for us to return home. I know he didn’t enjoy the day when I walked alone. I never realised he’d thought about leaving, so just being able to do the walking has been a real bonus for him. We’ve also had extremes in weather. In France it was so cold we were in long sleeves and coats and so wet we just had to stop and here in Spain it’s been so hot it’s been too hard to continue at times, and yet, despite this, here we are… walking towards the end. Perhaps it’s been a really good camino after all?
We meandered through Eneriz and onto a dirt track that reminds me so much of the camino. Crunch Crunch Crunch. We passed fields of asparagus and I’ve never seen them grown as a crop. I love asparagus but the green stuff, steamed lightly with a little oil and balsamic vinegar; I’m not a fan of the white stuff you get with an ensalada mixta! They were watering the crops as we walked and we dodged the spray… it would be a different matter on the return trip!
Many times over the last few weeks we’ve talked about Gerry’s mum; she would have loved the view from our apartment but hated the heat. She died earlier this year and we miss her. She was the matriarch of the family and she had such a big personality. She would talk to anyone and often did… regardless of the language. We miss her. This is the first trip we’ve taken since she died. The last few years she joined us in Spain over the winter and she always read my blog. We miss her. I had felt that ending in Eunate would be the perfect full stop for this camino. It’s a beautiful little destination. It doesn’t have the bells and whistles that Santiago has but it was the right end for us.
The track ended and we were directed into a shady grassy path, a tunnel of trees almost. We walked between two fields, one of corn and the other of beans. I wasn’t so keen on this path as there were puddles of water and I knew it would be the perfect place for critters who like to bite… so I picked up the pace. I was really happy to see the end of the ‘tunnel’ and it looked more open ahead. But actually we popped right out in front of the church. We had reached the end.
We walked around this tiny church but to our dismay the gates were locked. I was so disappointed. I just assumed that we could go in. We walked around the grounds and I told Gerry that I wanted to go in for his Mum. He gave me a hug and said he felt the same. We both fought back a tear. We really do miss her. We sat on a bench in the shade and had a drink of water. Just as we were making moves to leave a lady came out of a building beside the church. She went up the gate and unlocked it. I ran over and asked if we could go inside. And of course she said yes.
It’s such a small little church. It’s history is unsure. ONAT is the name that has been given to the hermitage since the beginning of the 13th century until today: Onat, Onate; Unat, Unate, Eunate is it’s name today. ONAT-ONATE (On-Ona, good; Ate, door) would have meant “the good door”, possibly because it has always been a unique temple surrounded by a special spirituality.
Eunate’s origin has not been fully clarified. Some attribute the construction of Eunate to the Order of the Templars, based on architectural aspects, such as its octagonal plan or some of the marks of stonemasons. Others think perhaps Eunate had been a convent but it doesn’t appear in the documents. There are no mention of Onat, Unate or Eunate.
The octagonal building is dedicated to Santa María and was built in the second half of the 12th century, around 1170. Some say that in this place there used to be a thieves’ cave where many curses, assaults and murders were perpetrated. And so a lady (described as a very rich “queen”) induced by the spirit of God, had the church of Santa María de Onate erected and built. Tradition said that the queen or noble lady was buried in the cloister and her burial was the object of an annual funeral ritual, as stated in the old documents of the Brotherhood of Santa María de Onat. The burial, of which there is a document in the Cathedral of Pamplona, appeared during the excavation in the cloister; It contained a complete skeleton, perfectly preserved despite being very shallow.
The origin of the Church of Eunate is linked to this lady who wanted to build a place for prayer and eternal rest. It seemed a fitting place to remember Mum.
We lit a candle and sat in the cool and just felt happy to be here and when we were ready we left. We walked around the pillars that look like a cloister and we talked about Viv. My arms prickled with goose bumps and I thought back to a day on the Via de la Plata when Maggie told me about Thin places… where heaven and earth are so close that you can reach across the divide. I told Gerry and just as we wandered away a sprinkler started and he got soaked. We laughed so hard and he said… that was Mother… I can hear her laughing and saying I got you boy! We hugged and both swallowed our tears. We do miss her.
We turned around and headed back to the car. We also both agreed on what our song should be. Viv was a lifelong Liverpool football fan and when Gerry and his brother found her plans for her funeral she had already chosen the music. I played it as we made our way back and this time we couldn’t stop the tears. I must have been the luckiest girl because I had the best mother-in-law. So today was for her.
It was just before midday when we reached the car. The heat of yesterday hadn’t returned thankfully and we wondered where to go next. I knew of a little bar after Alto del Perdon where I have enjoyed a few cold drinks and mid morning snacks; it seemed ideal. We found a table in the shade and watched pilgrims come and go; oh my I can tell you it pulled on my heartstrings! I just wanted to keep on walking with them. We chatted with a dutch couple walking their third camino… lucky them! We finished our meal and headed off.
We drove up the the Alto and admired the view and watched more pilgrims arrive and pose with the great iron figures. Gerry spotted a road sign the a cow on it… you see so many here as your travelling. He’s been saying that they always look sad and downhearted so today I took a photo and made gave the cow a smile… but now Gerry thinks he looks like Scooby Doo… there’s no pleasing some people!
We had through to go to Pamplona but the traffic was too much after a few weeks of quiet so we headed instead to Estella. We sat in the main square and Gerry had his first vino tinto of this trip…. a cheeky little Rioja to celebrate the end of our camino. Tomorrow we’re moving back to the mountains for another adventure but for today we’ll enjoy one more evening over looking the plains of Aragon.