Day 6 Puente la Reina to Estella Oct 4

The top priority for today was to buy a new pair of hiking shoes. I couldn’t wear mine anymore, the blisters on the inner side of both feet were too sore and wearing them made them worse.  I also did not want to risk creating new blisters by overusing my sandals so we opted for a bus ride to Estella, our destination for the day and a town big enough to have a shoe store.  As we waited for the bus we were joined by Aurora and Richard whom we had met on our first night at Orisson.  John was in his late 70’s. Aura in her early 70’s.  I know this because it was the second time John had told us their ages.  He then asked Linda how old she was and she very diplomatically told him a woman doesn’t reveal her age.  I remember at Orisson he had bluntly asked her why she was doing the Camino.  After getting over being startled and tongue-tied she told him ‘ It’s rather private.’  He wasn’t rude, just forthright and interested, although, as Linda later pointed out ‘He seems more interested in telling than listening.’
Despite his manner, I liked them. Tall, thin with long white hair in a ponytail and topped off with a broad-rimmed hat and wearing jeans and a big silver-buckled belt, Richard was determined to enjoy life.  Aura was dramatically dressed in a crisp white shirt tucked in a small waist, a wide-brimmed hat and wearing a chunk of quartz around her neck.  I couldn’t help estimating its weight.  Probably over 200 grams. That’s when I got suspicious.  A clean crisp white shirt?! Jewelry?! Really?  I looked for their backpacks but none were in sight but Richard soon filled us in.
‘We hadn’t planned to walk the Camino but we were in the area and it sounded interesting.  So we used the luggage transfer service and we are walking the interesting sections.’
Barely a pause. ‘You know how many national parks there are in the USA?’ He didn’t wait for an answer. ’58. And we have visited 42 of them.’
While John was talking, Aura had her hands on her small hips and was swaying, swishing and swinging her hips in circles, never still.
The bus arrived and we climbed on.  There was a couple we had met a few days ago already on board.  I felt like we were fugitives taking a bus.  But if we were fugitives, John and Aura were illegals. At least we had backpacks.
It would have taken us all day to walk to Estella but the bus ride took 31 minutes!
The town of Estella is tucked between some steep hills alongside a river and has a variety of stonework. The downtown centre has very few cars, replacing cars for outdoor restaurant tables. We walked all over downtown searching for a shoe store with good quality hiking and running shoes which we were told existed and eventually found after following and then ignoring a few directions that pointed to the far end of town.  I purchased a men’s pair of Solomons as they tend to have wider feet.  My heels loved them.
We debated about where to stay. The municipal albergue was alive with people, a constant beehive buzzing with a couple of rooms with 16 beds and one with 30. The guidebook warned about getting there early to get beds in the 16 bunk room with one toilet. When we arrived to check it out there were only a few bunks available in the smaller room. The location was great, near downtown, on the Camino route, and down an ancient pilgrim worn street. Cheap at €3 (@$7) but it looked noisy and stuffy with beds only available in a far corner of the room. One alternative was further down the Camino route forcing us backwards for breakfast but the facilities were newly renovated, modern, clean and quiet yet pricey at €13 (@$18.50) each sharing a room with six beds. As we started to leave the municipal one I saw a backpack on the floor with an open bottle of wine sticking out of a pocket. I recognized it. Sure enough, there was Mats in the lineup.
We found the alternative albergue, perhaps a bit sterile compared to the municipal one but sleep might be easier and it comes with clean white sheets (real sheets!) and a white quilted bedspread (quilted!  White!).  
I had a snooze while Linda explored and I found Linda with Mats in town, and we all joined Steffen and Stacy who were sipping a beer at a table in the square. Within minutes, Lisa had found us too.  Lisa told us she had spent the previous night in a hotel. ‘I almost cried, clean sheets, a queen-sized bed, a bathroom all to myself AND a bathtub’!

At home, people are starting to discuss ageing ailments. Here, the focus was on feet. Stacy had found a silicon insole that allowed her to walk today. Lisa had just purchased an arch support and hoped it would allow her to walk tomorrow. And everyone admired my new Solomon hikers. Mats, a peregrino of experience, dispensed advice ‘don’t throws out your auld hikers. Vear each a leettle to break ze new ones in. Ya.’

This was Mats’s third Camino. The first two he didn’t make it all the way. An infected blistered foot cut short one attempt and a lack of time to complete halted his second attempt. On one trip he met a buddy and they instantly became great friends. They had pledged to do he Camino together in 2018 but Mats hungered for the Camino and is back and will do it again next year too. He works as a conductor on a tram, in Stockholm, that takes tourists to the zoo. He loves it. ‘The Camino has the same feel’.

Time on trail: 0
Weather: Perfect, not too hot not too cold.

Distance travelled: 21.7km by bus! Which, by the way, took only 31 minutes!

Distance to go: 622km
Food: chocolate filled pastry, double espresso con leche (too strong), fried egg with sausage and fried potatoes, a shared salad with caramelized goats milk cheese with balsamic vinegar and apples, and a vanilla ice cream cone.
Lesson learned: people have their own pace. Some see this as a reflection of your lifestyle, others see it as your natural stride.
Feeling: my feet I think will be much happier.
Aches and pains: more draining and band-aiding but the blisters aren’t hurting. I think they enjoyed the bus ride and their new shoes.

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