Camino de Santiago Day Eight: Biescas to Sabinanigo: Nope, We're Not Black

Determined to stop our bad habit of late morning starts and to stretch our sightseeing time on the road we started out of Biescas at the crack of dawn. Well, almost, it was around eight or so. The night time drizzle had subsided, so we could set off sans our signature red ponchos that make us look like two drops of tomato sauce waddling along the road.

We followed a neat jogging path for about a kilometer along the river before joining a paved, local farm road. The snowy peaks have now subsided into low hills as we gradually bid the Pyrenees goodbye. It's a fresh, crisp morning, perfect for Camino walking.


We continue our daily habit of nosing around every village church and trying the door to see if we can take a look inside. At each one I see and learn something new about Romanesque design and architecture, and Spanish and church history. For me, El Camino is a long journey back in time. A few times when we were around quiet ruins I'm sure I could hear the clank of a blacksmith hammer and the creaking of a passing wagon...

Lost in these sort of thoughts we stood at the small parish church in Oros Bajo, feeling sorry that, once again, the door is locked. Suddenly there's the sound of jingling keys behind us and an old Spanish gentleman comes down the church path at a trot, gardening gloves in one hand and a bunch of keys in the other. He babbles a few sentences in Spanish, unlocks the door and we look around while he provides commentary, mostly in a sort of impromptu sign language.

At one stage we realise he's asking where we're from.

South Africa.

He gives us an incredulous look, rubs his cheek.

No moreno?

No, we're not black.

We end up taking a group selfie with our helpful church key keeper, and then we're on our way. Someone in rural Spain has just learnt something new about the people of faraway South Africa.


I loved the route section that followed, before we got closer to Sabinanigo. We stopped by several very early Romanesque churches built in the 900s, simple yet storm-weathering structures that leave one in awe of the courage of the brave churchmen who in spite of primitive, dangerous conditions helped start the tradition that would become the Camino de Santiago.

Some reading I did before we embarked on the Camino told of the unique, 500 year-old bridge of Puente de las Pinas, so along the way we went on a small detour and solemnly walked across its wooden slats. Who-ever controlled the bridge way back then also collected the tolls paid by traffic passing over it (which included pilgrims on their way to Santiago) so it was fought over, destroyed and rebuilt many times during its existence. Fortunately now, in it's 'old age' it is well looked after, and in peaceful, park-like surroundings. Yet... Was that the ringing of clashing swords I just heard?


The road flattens out more and more as we approach Sabinanigo. It's not particularly interesting scenery and we up the pace a bit. At Aurin, just outside Sabinanigo we ford a shallow but ice cold river, boots in hand. This is probably how thousands of pilgrims crossed dozens of streams eight hundred years ago when few of the many, many bridges we've crossed so far existed. Brr!

Once inside the rather featureless, industrial town we find that our hotel only opens at 4pm - how weird, a hotel that honours the siesta system - so we while away the afternoon in a nice eatery with a bocadillo menu to die for.

With no obvious church or historic building in sight to examine we took a walk to a nearby park and sat down on a bench and watched life pass by - two very amorous lovers, a woman who talked incessantly on her mobile, and a nimble runner shadow boxing while jogging. Less than an hour later we were fast asleep in bed. It's been another long and active day.

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