I am sure It has become abundantly clear how big of a physical challenge the past week has been for me, this despite what I thought was a lot of preparation. Today we looking at an arduous climb and then a 13 km stretch absent of services until we reach our destination. The weather report is for hot temperatures, (mid 30’s) and little cloud cover. The terrain is classic rolling hills with farmland and mountains surrounding the region.
Our thoughts are to expect the worst, and be prepared. We decide to send our backpacks onto Los Arcos by cab, to be held at an Albergue for our arrival. The reduced weight will just make the day a bit easier. We also decide to leave very early in the morning to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Waking up at 6:00, we pack up as quietly as possible, and slipped downstairs to eat the leftovers from our dinner last night before setting out. The streets of Estella at 6:30 in the morning feel quite surreal. Dim lighting and narrow streets reflecting, the taps our walking sticks, and muted voices gives a feel of being the last people in the world. Leaving the town we climbed through residential streets at quite a serious rate. My right knee and shins are painful again today, but I am sure this will fade with the day, as is has before. Pilgrims share these aches and pains equally. There is no sense in mentioning it to another person.
After an hour we came to the famous Irache Wine Fountain. An impressive steel and brass wall plate fashioned and fastened to a large stone building. Two spigots are attached to the metal plate offering red wine and water to Pilgrims on their journey. This area is surrounded by a tall iron fence and a motion controlled light. The sun is still no where to be seen. Turns are taken by the “early Pilgrims” taking photos and filling their bottles with water……I’m kidding. As I didn’t have an empty water bottle I decided to sip directly from the wine tap.
I have never had an occasion, or the desire, to drink so early in the day, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The amount of wine I had was actually much less than a mouth full, but my shins and knee were completely pain free within about 10 minutes.
Before everyone jumps to a conclusion, I am not recommending red wine as a breakfast drink, nor will I make this a part of my daily ritual……. it is just interesting to note.
Our walk continued although Eddie was destined to walk on his own again today. He soon outpaced us and it would be much later when we would see him again. What a walking machine this guy can be.
We continued to gain altitude but much more gradually than in past days. After our training during the past week in the hills and mountains this walk presented was very manageable, especially without the packs we are now accustomed to carrying. And when we arrived in a tiny village at the highest point of the trail today the time was just past 10am. We all still felt quite fresh and it was still so early in the day. Bonus!
It was in this town we re-joined Mark and Zeb. They had left ahead of us by about 20 minutes, but when they came to the hamlet Mark wanted to draw a picture in his notebook. One unique feature of today’s Camino would be the next stretch of 13 or so kilometres without any access to water or food.
We decided as a group to buy a baguette, salami, and a tomato. As a nice added touch we will have dates for desert. Our lunch, however, would be a couple of hours from now down the road.
This road, as it turned out was now changing to rolling farmland, highlighted by the absent of any shade. (I should have given you a bad pun alert) The weather forecast was for a mostly sunny day and temperatures in the mid-thirties. Thankfully Spanish weather forecasters are as accurate as Canadian weathermen. (Weatherpersons?) The day was turning out to be much more comortable thanks to a wisp thin cloud cover. This culled the sun’s energy and the day was very comfortable….but still very hot. We came across Ebbe and Jytte having their lunch under one of the solitary stands of trees. We stopped and tried to beg for any extras. Of course we all broke into laughter and we said goodbye……without even a bread crumb.
If you have not already understood the communal nature of the Camino I must explain. There is a very strong sense of community. We are all looking out for each other. If we had in fact needed food Ebbe and Jytte would have given us something without question. I assume the baguette sticking out of my small day pack was a sign we were not really in need.
Just before noon we decided to deviate from the trail, walked off the path and up to a small farm house ruin. We invited an American woman we met (Benita) on the trail to join us. Our sandwiches were so delicious and we topped it off with dates and the grapes growing in the fields around us.
Once on our way it felt like a very short remainder of the day when we arrived in Los Arcos.
To our delight and surprise Eddie had arrived two hours earlier and had already booked us beds in an Albergue run by Austrians. He had motored at high speed all day. The Herculean effort, however, has been at a tremendous cost to his feet. We are really quite worried about the numbers of blisters he continues to develop. We want Eddie to take the bus to Logrono tomorrow.
….Los Arcos appears to be a small farming community. Oddly, this town has a rather large and astounding cathedral. Susan strongly suggested I go in and check out the “Black Virgin Mary”. More impressive to me, an amazing pipe organ complete with enormous pipes and a fan of horizontally arranged trumpets. I can only imagine the power this instrument must have in this environment.
Once we were all into the Albergue we organized ourselves and went down to the centre of the town and met up with Mark and Zeb. We invited ourselves to sit with them, and apparently I sat between Mark and a fountain he had just finishing drawing….so he drew me as well.
Ebbe and Jytte came into the square and our “family” was again complete.
After dinner we returned to the Albergue and I was requested to bring out my ukulele. There was a guitar and several people took turns in making music. Everyone got into the action, singing, playing or even clapping.
…..for those who may have a particular interest, Bene was right into our rendition of “Wild Rover” and ensured people clapped at the right time.
All-in-all a day we were so concerned having the potential to be a nightmare turned out to be one of the best days on the Camino, without question.