Six Seventy Four

It has been almost two years since leaving my life in Mauritania. Since then, my wife and I attended my brother’s wedding in California, backpacked for a year from Mexico to Peru, spent the summer visiting family and friends in the United States, took a road trip with a Prius and a tent from California to Oklahoma and back, wintered outside Madrid, bought and converted a campervan, and took two three-week trips before finally reaching in Cologne yesterday. We had been planning this move for months but we wanted to wait for the winter. And the extra months in Spain gave me the opportunity to really improve my Spanish comprehension.

And now, a new chapter emerges; living in a city, navigating life in a new language, project-based work with friends, and another region to explore.

Artazu and Puente La Reina

Navarra is breathtaking; lush hills and valleys, villages and churches built with ancient stone, a distinctive Roman bridge, wind turbines, and the requisite Basque aupa in response to hola! While we just arrived from Logroño yesterday, I’m astounded by how much there is to see just outside Pamplona. I read Navarra leads Europe in the use of renewable energy and Spain in education.

We spent yesterday night near Artazu, a village on the Arga river. The air was much warmer than the night before, and we opened the back door of the van to take advantage of our new two burner camping stove.

The next morning we walked a loop around our camping spot next to a small ermita meeting some Sunday cyclists on the way back. We did our daily cleaning (hand broom, vacuum, shake dog bed, etc.) and took off. A few kilometers away is Puente La Reina. It’s the meeting point of the camino francés and camino aragonés and there are guest houses and restaurants catered towards pilgrims.

We stopped at Casa Martija mostly to charge the MacBook but enjoyed a delicious vegetarian torta de txantxigorri with a coffee. As we walked through the town, signs of the massive national huelga feminista were everywhere. It is amazing to see how much feminism permeates even small towns.

Finding a good camping spot can be tricky some days. We try heading down a bumpy road only for it to lead nowhere. Or we rely too much on coordinates found on a van camping app and it ends up being underwhelming.

But other times, we find those gems through no doing of our own; empty patches next to rivers tucked away, or a dirt road winding up into farmland outside the city. We’ve learned a lot camping through California to Oklahoma and with the van in Andalusia. One things keeps resonating with us; don’t force anything.

On our way back from the afternoon’s walk, we were treated to grandeur.