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LIVE from the Camino Down from the source of the Río Aragón

2020 Camino Guides

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Shortly after crossing into Spain, by the Col des Moines, at about 2150m, making my first ever footsteps in Huesca province, the path follows a tiny stream, not deep enough to cover your trainers. This is a source of the Aragón river, which the Camino Aragonés follows more or less its entire course. Within an hour you're at Astún ski station and already it's wide enough to make a couple of little waterfalls, being joined by other little streams all the way, so that by the time you're down to Somport it's already a significant brook, and, a couple of hours later at Canfranc station it needs to be channelled through the village, with its first hydroelectric station just downstream.

I stopped for lunch near the station. It's an amazing structure, but I was between guided tours, so didn't get to see inside. I did have a very good lunch. It probably felt better for being my first hot food after a couple of days in the wild, my first napkin, my first wine - a tasty fruity white Ribera de Gállego-Cinco Villas - my first chance to recharge my mobile etc.

I had been expecting to stay at Canfranc or Canfranc station, but was making such good progress down-stream that I carried on to Villanua. Other than a short patch where some enemy of the human race had repaired the camino with a horrible ankle-turning aggregate, it was a lovely afternoon, largely alone with just the river for company, and the valley getting wider as I got further down-stream.

I stayed in the private Albergue Tritón in Villanua. Perfectly OK. I had a room to myself, one bunk bed, for 16€. And my first shower since Borce three days earlier, bliss. Going on to Villanua would mean an extra hour or two in Jaca, and time to get to the cathedral museum before it closed for Sunday afternoon.

The view is back over France from the Col des Moines border crossing.

DSC_0401.JPG
 

Attachments

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
Keep posting — so few people walk and report on this Camino route
 

pelerine

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte (2010j, Primitivo (2013), Plata (2014 + 2015), Salvador (2016), Torres 2017), Portugues (2018
Have only just found this thread and do not know how to find its beginning!???
Buen camino anyway!
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
Pelerine: yours is only the third post on this conversation; there are many more about the Aragonés if you are seeking more info on it.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Villanúa to Jaca

An early start and a short day as I was determined to have time in the cathedral museum, which shuts at 1.30 on Sundays. The nice dueña at the albergue advised me to head straight from the albergue to Castiello de Jaca, all on good dirt tracks, rather than backtrack and follow the official camino, which apparently spends most of that section by the main road. Very pleasant.

Into Jaca by not long gone 11, and dropped my rucksack off at the hotel I treated myself to after my two days in the wild. The museum (3€ after quite generous pilgrim discount) has a fantastic collection of romanesque wall paintings and sculptures - rescued, mostly in the 60s, from some of the highland churches which were falling into decay at the time. Just amazing. I especially liked St Luke's winged bull (in the pic) - it can't be easy holding an epistle if you've only got hooves.

And then a big menú del fin de semana in one of the bustling restaurants near the cathedral, and then back to my hotel and my first sheets in what felt like an age.

DSC_0409.JPG
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
Alansykes: where did you start from?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances
Aragones
Baztan
Invierno
Norte
Great post alansykes. I enjoy following it. Where are you going next if I may ask? Straight to Arres or will you take the detour up to the monasteries at San Juan de la Pėna?
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Jaca to Santa Cilia vía San Juan de la Peña

After a few km from Jaca, alongside the main road, the camino splits, some people carrying straight on, and others turning left towards Atarés and up to the two monasteries of San Juan de la Peña. I did the latter. A spectacular day, well worth the effort of the climb up (and equally difficult descent). From near the new monastery you can go to the Balcón de los Pirineos, with, for me, the best panorama I've yet seen of the Pyrenees, including all the way back to Midi d'Ossau in France. And the old monastery, hiding under its cliff. I sort of knew what to expect from reading about it, but the reality was still jaw-dropping. Especially liked the bug-eyed figures on the capitals. Then down the steep, sometimes loose-stoned track to Santo Cruz de los Serós. More wonderful views of the mountains and down to the village, and the sweet smell of hot pine, mingled with some wild lavender and rosemary, and even some saxifrage and late-flowering arnica. Santo Cruz has a couple of fine churches, one with an outstanding 16th century Flemish relief of the entombment, and then over the hill to Santa Cilia, with yet another pretty, simple romanesque church at Binacua.

Santa Cilia's albergue's kitchen was shut, so the two friendly Germans I'd bumped into at the monastery and I went to the local bar where I had my first sopa de ajo of this camino. Yum.
 

Attachments

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
From Santa Cilia de Jaca to Berdún

Not the camino I had planned to walk, originally meaning to stay in Artieda. There was no coffee in Santa Cilia, so after an hour or so I walked over the bridge to Puente la Reina de Jaca. And then saw a yellow arrow and automatically followed it. After about an hour, ambling along in a semi-detached state, I started wondering why Arrés hadn't appeared. When I suddenly realised the pretty hill village quite a long way off on the other side of the valley was what I had been aiming for. It soon became clear that I was following the old camino, almost entirely going along the north side of a big reservoir, while almost everybody now goes along its southern bank. As I was determined to visit the monastery of Leyre, on the north side, my mistake proved quite useful, and I was soon checking-in to a pleasant hostal in Berdún, almost half way to the monastery. So it goes, sometimes.

Berdún, although now almost entirely snubbed by pilgrims, is a pretty hill town and used to be where people coming over the Somport Pass met up with those who came over the Pyrenees on the old Roman road at Puerto de Palo, which goes down into Spain via Hecho and Seresa. Sounds like an interesting route, perhaps next time. According the the landlord of the hostal, I was the first pilgrim on any route to stay there in over a year.
 
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Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
Walked the north side of the reservoir this past spring from Leyre to Artieda - it was probably the most difficult day in over 70 days of Camino walking. Due to the high water level, it was mostly walking on the shoulder of the “old” highway on a hot day with zero services. I really wanted to see the old Camino route and for my sins, God allowed it...😜

If the water level is low enough, portions of the old route will be exposed and walkable, as well as the still usable ruins of a hot springs resort about halfway on your walk tomorrow.

Take food and a lot of water. Also, be sure to head uphill at the end of the old highway route utilizing the road that used to be the route to the monastery but is now closed to traffic. That shortcut will save you several kms versus walking into Yesa and then onto Leyre.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Berdún to Leyre monastery

The arrows try to keep you off the main road where possible, but often it isn't, and at one point a roadside sign told you it was 80km to Pamplona and 820 to Santiago. Luckily most of the traffic is on the parallel motorway. The landscape is slightly lunar, the grain having been harvested and the fields ploughed and put to bed for winter.

Fortunately for me, Yesa reservoir is at its lowest point ever, 17% of capacity, and roughly half its level of this time last year. So I was able to avoid the tarmac road and walk over paths that are usually underwater. Another lunar landscape, almost completely bare of vegetation for miles around, slightly surreal. The odd ruined structure had emerged from the water, and a university archaeology team was taking advantage to see what they could find. It was odd to think that I was one of very few pilgrims in the last 50 years walking along a path that had previously been busy for a millennium.

Shortly after rejoining the road, I was taking my first ever steps in Navarra, and shortly after that saw the monastery high above, half way up a steep traffic-free road, as @Vacajoe describes.

It had been quite a long day, and as it was nearing 4pm I was beginning to assume sadly that I would be too late for lunch in the monastery restaurant. At this point I met a Benedictine monk strolling down the hill. By very good luck it turned out to be Padre Javier, the Fray Hospitalero. He immediately turned round and escorted me to the monks' refectory, where, in a hall big enough to seat 100, I was served lunch in solitary splendour, some bread, some rice and fish, a peach and a glass of wine, just what I needed. After that he took me to the guest accommodation, a small room with a bunk bed, a shower and a miniature table and chair, very comfortable. He gave me a key to get in an out of the monks' side, and promised to meet me again after vespers. I was apparently the 5th pilgrim to stay here this year (as well as five transeúntes, although as the overlap between pilgrims and hobos can be quite extensive, I'm not quite sure how you tell them/us apart).

After checking out the beautiful 11th century crypt, the lovely tympanum with its lions, bull, birds, whale, monster and saint, carved by the same sculptor who made the door of the Praterías at Santiago cathedral, and the church itself, a mixture of romanesque and gothic, it was time for vespers. Hearing the Gregorian chant, it was no surprise to learn that the monastery had been repopulated in the 1950s by monks from Santo Domingo de Silos. Then back to the refectory where, with the twenty-odd monks and a couple of other guests, we ate an excellent dinner in total silence other than listening to one of the monks' reading from the rule of St Benedict. Followed by complines and then bed after a brief look at the moon catching the emerald of what little water there was in the reservoir.

A memorable day.

DSC_0514-1.JPG
 

pelerine

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte (2010j, Primitivo (2013), Plata (2014 + 2015), Salvador (2016), Torres 2017), Portugues (2018
Being a man you were put up within the walls of the monastery and had your meal with the monks. Where do they house female pilgrims?
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Being a man you were put up within the walls of the monastery and had your meal with the monks. Where do they house female pilgrims?
Women had stayed there as well, reading the visitors' book, so I don't think it's a problem, fortunately. I was slightly surprised, as in some places it clearly is.
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
If you are a female or traveling with one (my wife!), the only accommodation is the full-price, no-pilgrim-discount parador 😞. It’s nice and bookable online, but definitely not what one hopes for when visiting a monastery as part of a religious pilgrimage. If you hope to save money, the pilgrim albuergue in nearby Yesa was very clean and modern with a small bar/cafe located onsite. Check the dates, though, as it was not yet open for the season when we passed through there in late April of 2019.
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
Alansykes: those women must have had special ties to the monks (family? affiliated religious laity?) as my wife was definitely and pointedly not allowed to book a bed there a few months ago. They said they had plenty of room for me and others, but not for her or women in general.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
According the the landlord of the hostal, I was the first pilgrim on any route to stay there in over a year.
It was odd to think that I was one of very few pilgrims in the last 50 years walking along a path that had previously been busy for a millennium.
While the crowds overpopulate the Francés! This sounds like a superb way across the mountains into Spain. As always, thank you for your inspiring posts, Alan!
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Leyre monastery to Sangüesa vía the Foz de Lumbier

It was still dark as the monks started singing Lauds, but just daylight as they finished, and we processed again to the refectory for an excellent breakfast, eaten in total silence, not even a reading from the rule. Then Padre Javier blessed me, hugged me and sent me on my way. I promised to send him a postcard from Santiago, hope I remember.

I was just heading up off the road when a car from the Policia Foral stopped me and strongly recommended I go to the Foz on the Yesa road rather than up through the forest. I showed them the wikiloc trail @Mikel Olivares had walked, which they looked at suspiciously, then reluctantly muttered "hmmm, puede ser" a few times, and I went on my way.

It was a lovely walk, steadily upwards through the thick woods of the Sierra de Leyre, with at least four different varieties of oak. Nearing the ridge i looked down for the last time at the monastery, and also back to the twin peaks of San Juan de la Peña's sierra from two days earlier - surely the only place in the world where two 1000 year old royal mausoleums from two separate kingdoms are in line of sight of each other?

The descent to Lumber is less of a pleasure, as there are some steep sections on loose scree, but certainly no worse than several parts of previous days. It's a pleasant town where I had a surprisingly good early lunch - duck confit, excellent apple tart etc, washed down by a delicious San Martín de Unx white.

The gorge itself is about a km from town. Utterly spectacular. The path follows a former railway line and you reach the Foz through a 500m tunnel. And then high cliffs on both sides, the river gushing beneath you, vultures overhead, just wonderful. Another tunnel takes you out at the far side, and I didn't see another person the whole time I was there. Just at the far end, a cliffside path with metal chain to hang on to leads you to the ruined pilgrim bridge over the river, looking back up the gorge. Not best done if wet, or if you suffer from vertigo.

Another hour and I got to Sangüesa, rejoining the Aragón and passing the outstanding tympanum of Santa María la Real. My 10x-great-grandfather Henri II d’Albret was known as el sanguesino, which I assumed meant "bloody", which always surprised me as he wasn't, certainly not by the standards of the time. Turns out it just meant he was born in Sangüesa.

There's an excellent albergue and the hospitalera was trying to encourage people to go by the Foz the next day, which I enthusiastically supported. Three Spaniards, a French couple and me, and we had a very convivial evening, although as the Spaniards spoke no French or English and the French spoke no Spanish or English, I ended up slightly as piggy in the middle.

DSC_0536.JPG
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Returning to your familial stomping grounds, Alan - with your usual gift of sharing the journey with the rest of us at home. Gracias!

This all sounds so wonderful, with just that wee edge of adventure to spice things up. Do you have a pic of that ruined bridge? I assume there is no need to cross what remains of it, right?
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Do you have a pic of that ruined bridge? I assume there is no need to cross what remains of it, right?
k
Unfortunately the bridge was completely destroyed by Napoleon's troops, so this is the best shot I could get looking back up the gorge from where the bridge was. It's not very good as I took it when I was lying on the ground with my eyes closed trying not to think what would happen if I slipped.

DSC_0551.JPG
 

Martyduc

Hunter Valley,Australia
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Portuguese Finisterre Muxia Ingles Mozarabe VldP Sanabres Serrana Salvador Norte Espiritual
k
Unfortunately the bridge was completely destroyed by Napoleon's troops, so this is the best shot I could get looking back up the gorge from where the bridge was. It's not very good as I took it when I was lying on the ground with my eyes closed trying not to think what would happen if I slipped.

View attachment 65774
So many thanks Alan for what you put yourself through to inform and inspire us!!!
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Yeah. Crossing? I guess not. My feet don't have wings. A pity; one more black mark next to Napoleon's name. It would have been a beautiful bridge, built at no small risk.

It's not very good as I took it when I was lying on the ground with my eyes closed trying not to think what would happen if I slipped.
May I totally disagree? ;) It gives quite a clear sense of that gorge. Not to mention the risk factor. You must have had to go along like a bug on a wall.

Edit...now I've had a closer look - what's with the cave, I wonder?
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
When I went through the gorge, I opted to stay away from the devil's bridge outlook. I had no idea what this path through the gorge was and my relief was enormous when I saw a sign describing the history ... clearly if a train could do this path, so could I, but the side path to the outlook, no way!

It's a gorgeous walk. You go past the ruins of a Roman villa too.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes/Burgos/SdeC (by train) 77; Frances 12,15,17; Finisterre 17; Lourdes/Aragones 18; Meseta 19.
k
Unfortunately the bridge was completely destroyed by Napoleon's troops
The extent to which Napoleon's soldiers ravaged Northern Spain takes my breath away.... I don't think that many peregrinos grasp it.
 
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NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
I'm beginning to think this might be inching up on the list. Roman ruins, gorgeous gorges, monateries, and mountains? Yes, please.
If memory serves, the ruins are on the other side of the river, so you can see where it was but you don't get close unless you go walkabout.

Lots of big birds nest in the high cliffs of the gorge.
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
Attached a few pix from our trip in this area April 2019. My favorite part on this path are the great train tunnels! (3). The bridge is still partially there (3), but you do have to walk a short portion that is much safer without a pack and while holding on to chains! (2)

Thanks for your continuing posts! 9DEF5179-E580-413B-9829-009CD0F2D8A1.jpeg F995D7EF-5279-4782-ACCC-2A061D472882.jpeg 76861F3E-C049-4D9A-8C46-4DA3D00B2D9F.jpeg
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
Alansykes - still walking?
 

Trevor_Cropredy

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
frances, Via Podiensis, Primitivo and Muxia
Leyre monastery to Sangüesa vía the Foz de Lumbier

It was still dark as the monks started singing Lauds, but just daylight as they finished, and we processed again to the refectory for an excellent breakfast, eaten in total silence, not even a reading from the rule. Then Padre Javier blessed me, hugged me and sent me on my way. I promised to send him a postcard from Santiago, hope I remember.

I was just heading up off the road when a car from the Policia Foral stopped me and strongly recommended I go to the Foz on the Yesa road rather than up through the forest. I showed them the wikiloc trail @Mikel Olivares had walked, which they looked at suspiciously, then reluctantly muttered "hmmm, puede ser" a few times, and I went on my way.

It was a lovely walk, steadily upwards through the thick woods of the Sierra de Leyre, with at least four different varieties of oak. Nearing the ridge i looked down for the last time at the monastery, and also back to the twin peaks of San Juan de la Peña's sierra from two days earlier - surely the only place in the world where two 1000 year old royal mausoleums from two separate kingdoms are in line of sight of each other?

The descent to Lumber is less of a pleasure, as there are some steep sections on loose scree, but certainly no worse than several parts of previous days. It's a pleasant town where I had a surprisingly good early lunch - duck confit, excellent apple tart etc, washed down by a delicious San Martín de Unx white.

The gorge itself is about a km from town. Utterly spectacular. The path follows a former railway line and you reach the Foz through a 500m tunnel. And then high cliffs on both sides, the river gushing beneath you, vultures overhead, just wonderful. Another tunnel takes you out at the far side, and I didn't see another person the whole time I was there. Just at the far end, a cliffside path with metal chain to hang on to leads you to the ruined pilgrim bridge over the river, looking back up the gorge. Not best done if wet, or if you suffer from vertigo.

Another hour and I got to Sangüesa, rejoining the Aragón and passing the outstanding tympanum of Santa María la Real. My 10x-great-grandfather Henri II d’Albret was known as el sanguesino, which I assumed meant "bloody", which always surprised me as he wasn't, certainly not by the standards of the time. Turns out it just meant he was born in Sangüesa.

There's an excellent albergue and the hospitalera was trying to encourage people to go by the Foz the next day, which I enthusiastically supported. Three Spaniards, a French couple and me, and we had a very convivial evening, although as the Spaniards spoke no French or English and the French spoke no Spanish or English, I ended up slightly as piggy in the middle.

View attachment 65773
The piggy-in-the-middle can be quite a proud moment. I'm lucky enough to speak fluent French and can get by in German and Spanish, thus particularly on the Podiensis I was often took the role of translator, although as I walked it in September 2016 it was usually myself being questioned as to why the English wanted to leave the common market! I continued to experience some of that last year on the Primitivo. I'm still at odds as to which route to plan for next year: the Olvidado? the VdlP (from Salamanca) and there are many other less-trod sections that I'd love to try, including walking from Lourdes via the Aragon. I remain surprised that more don't choose this route.
 

DeansFamily

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 18/916/10/17 Muxia/Finisterre 18/10-22/10/17 Norte 21/4-29/5/18 Primitive 20/9-5/10/18 VdlP
How lucky to be able to walk this Camino. We drove through this region last year and it was stunning (only beaten by the Transvargarrian Highway in Romania) and we saw the Camino signs and have promised ourselves to walk the Aragones eventually. Thank you for the wonderful commentary and Buen Camino.
 
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IngridF Camino Aragonés 8
OLDER threads on this topic
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