Distance: about 23 km

Blister Count: 8, with 2 burst. Yum

Injury Inventory: Blisters, swollen pinkie toes, knee pain, and pains in every single muscle in my entire body.

This was also a punishing day beacuse of the heat, but one fo the most fun at the end.

The walk was milder than the day before in terms of ups and downs. The town we passed through were gorgeous. That’s one of the best thigns so far: seeing really little Spanish towns that you would never go to otherwise, that you would never think about. But they’re great. I can understan why some people who do the Camino, from all over the world, come back to some of these little towns to open hostels. Nice places to get away from teh world.

In a little hill town, with winding streets called Cirauqui, I came upon 3 white kittens playing in a windowsill (small town Spain is full of millions of cats that seem to belong to no one, while cities are full of ankle biting dogs). And made friends with a skinny black cat out in a plaza while I rested, ate breakfast and stretched.

Estella, or Lizarra in Basque was in full fiesta mode when we arrived!! It’s on a little river, with ruins above the hill behind a church when you enter. It feels like it’s being hugged by the surrounding countryside, it feels comfy like a good sweater. I was reading James Michener’s Iberia before I went, his chapter on Santiago and the Camino and he said if he had to live anywhere in Spain it would be here. Imagining that since he worte in 1968, there were probably fewer ugly apartment blocks, I could see why.

So as we get there, the townspeople are gearing up for theri fiesta! Just like in the more famous images of Pamplona’s fiestas, everyone wore white, with red neckscarves and sashes. Literally everyone. If they weren’t dressed that way you could bet money they were a pilgrim.

After settling in to a little hostel, run by church volunteers and on donations, and one of the better ones despite this financial constraint, I went into town.

I bought a knee brace, and with my errands done for the day, headed to the plaza, where the barricades were already set up for the bulls!!! Yup! i saw a real small town running of the (small town sized) bulls (but still big enough to do damage). We gathered along with everyone else in the plaza where there were food stands, a band, games for the kids (tug-of-war). The basques know how to throw a party!

We were a group of the Napoletanos, two girls and their mother from Malaga, a couple other Italians,a French girl and a couple of Catalans. The language situation was ridiculous. Since so many of those languages share words (the Catalans and Italains can almost understand each other) it was a strange flowing interweaving of languages.Its amazing what some common linguistic roots and a little sign language can accomplish, there was really no language barrier at all.

Only problem with a party is that I was on my feet for even more hours after walking. Finally I had to give in (and the hostel closed at 10 anyways) so I got a bocadillo, and hobbled off to sleep, with the sounds of music, laughter, and fireworks flowing through the night air. I slept well.