Day 6: Estella to Los Arcos
The road is a shared experience in two senses. Like any journey it involves movement forward through space, but it also involves a kind of time traveling into the past. In discovering the road for yourself, you share the experience of thousands of people over a course of a millennium. – Laurie Dennett
Sleeping in the hotel in Estella last night was a godsend. I feel rested for the first time in days. The spring in my step has returned, and I am full of energy as I head out of town, past the steps of the beautiful Iglesia San Pedro church. It is time for school and I watch the parents escort their children to their classrooms. The adorable cherubs wear their best school clothes while lugging their roller-board book bags, decorated with cartoon characters and superheroes. It reminds me of my Partridge Family lunch box; I cherished that lunch box as a kid. I wonder where it went?
Marilee and I cross a medieval pilgrim bridge and head out of town. Quickly we begin to see all the same familiar smiles. When the day ends in larger towns and cities, the pilgrims tend to disperse and separate, although, like a funnel, we all come back together again on the Camino path.
For a period of time, we walk along with a lovely French lady and a man from Rome, who by the way, has walked the Camino seven times! Just out of town we arrive at the famous landmark along the Camino… the Bodega Irache wine fountain, that provides, you guess it… wine from a fountain! Here one can drink wine freely, directly from a faucet out of the wall, or purchase a plastic cup in a vending machine and partake. I watch on while a pilgrim began drinking from the fountain the old fashioned way; he throws back his head and guzzles directly from the faucet.
TIP (Camino Web Cam): By the way, Bodegas Irache provides a webcam where we can wave to family and friends. Bodegas Irache webcam
Later, I stop to pad my toes a bit more while Jaime & Tom from CA walk by. I pick up my pace and join them for about a half-hour. We also pass by an American priest, who I had heard was walking the Camino. We greet him with the usual, “Buen Camino.” Unfortunately, pilgrims are not free from illness on The Way, and he had to stop for a few days in a hotel to recuperate from the awful flu. We say our goodbyes and carried on.
The landscape continues to offer many rolling hills, a few small villages and guides us mainly over farm roads. The temperature today is perfect, and I comment on how thankful I am for not walking in the summer’s heat and crowds. The peak season for walking the Camino is summer. This is convenient for those who want to use their summer vacation time.
Tip: (Camino Walking Time): However, in my research, I learned that it’s nice to walk the Camino just before or after the peak summer season. The weather is a bit more comfortable, and there is no pressure to race to the day’s destination village and find a bed. Autumn is my favorite season of the year, and I am glad to be on the Camino during this time.
After the first couple of hours of our trek we take a break, and luckily this morning we cross through a village with an open bar hosting treats, soda, and coffee. Plastic tables and chairs are usually set outside each Spanish bar where pilgrims congregate, rest and chat with their new friends. Sometimes breaks are even located in full-on restaurants, while others could be as simple as sitting on the side of the road or stopping in someone’s open garage with vending machines. We never complain and are happy for the consideration and thoughtfulness of the locals along the Camino.
At about today’s half-way point, Marilee and I decide to stop for lunch near a fountain under a tree for shade. I devour the items I purchased from the market last night. My lunch on the Camino usually includes bread or crackers, nuts, ham, and cheese. Each evening, when I get a chance to shop in a local market, I try to purchase different Spanish cheeses and hams. I enjoy sampling the choices each province or region in Spain offers.
While breaking, the lovely French gal we met earlier today joins us, along with a lady from the Netherlands, Jeantine, who I quickly appreciate for her wonderful attitude, and her chocolate treats. Jeantine is walking the Camino in stages; Europeans have that luxury since they live so close. Many break it into smaller week-long trips at a time and return during their next vacation to carry on their journey.
TIP (Camino Walking Time): It doesn’t matter how long it takes to walk the Camino. As long as a pilgrim has stamps in their pilgrim passport, he/she can still receive his/her Compostela (certificate). The pilgrim just has to make sure each stage contains an overlapping stamp with dates.
TIP (Camino Break): To give my feet a rest, during my breaks, I take off my shoes and allow my feet to breathe. It makes a world of difference! Some pilgrims even switch out their socks. I haven’t yet but do take my socks off when I can. Tummy full and body rested, I put on my shoes and carry on.
At one point we stop to watch a shepherd and his dogs herd his sheep. With not a word spoken, the shepherd masterfully directs his flock in peaceful silence. Not even a week ago I was rushing through the modern-day bustle of city life. Now I feel like I have gone through a time warp, watching this man work in a profession that has existed for thousands of years.
My Camino guide (A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago: St. Jean • Roncesvalles • Santiago by John Brierley), indicates that today’s stage offers more than one path to Los Arcos. Just after the Bodega Irache wine fountain, the Camino splits into an alternate route that leads pilgrims up a mountain. However, we choose to stay on the main trail, because the thought of walking up more hills just doesn’t sound like fun today.
All paths eventually merge within each stage, and to my great delight, the two Canadian couples I met in the Pyrenees, Donna & Wayne, Robyn & John, cross our path! This raises our spirits and we all walk together into our home town for the evening, Los Arcos. I am continually blessed by the amazing people I have met on the Camino, and grateful when God puts just the right people along my path, at just the right time to carry me on.
Winding through the old and narrow roads of Los Arcos, we find a nice alburgue on a corner, just before the town’s main square, the Plaza de Santa Maria, which proudly houses the village’s church. The alburgue seems cozy and clean, and the hospitalaro (host) even offers to wash our clothes for .50 euro. Europeans like to naturally dry their clothes, rather than us Americans with our dryers, so she meticulously hangs them to dry over the balconies. There is nothing like the smell of clothes dried in the fresh air. I loved it when my mom used to hang our sheets to dry in that backyard during the Seattle summers.
Many alburgues also provide common areas, and even kitchens, where pilgrims can gather or cook their own meals. This alburgue provides both. In the common area, I check out a vending machine. I am not a big fan of vending machines, probably because in the States they only offer unhealthy snacks, and I seem to always lose my change in those crazy contraptions. However, my opinions are beginning to change, for they are an efficient way to dispense snacks and drinks along the Camino. In the common area of our alburgue, the vending machine even offers beer for only 1 euro. Gotta love it!
After showering, we congregate in the kitchen/common area, to enjoy everyone’s company, share stories, and savor the aroma of the bread baking in the oven for breakfast. In this alburgue, the kitchen/common area is near the front entrance, so we serve as the welcome committee, greeting our other fellow pilgrims as they arrive. Our new friend, Jim from Calgary, soon walks in, along with Russ, our Lucky Leprechaun.
A large group of us decide to head to the bar in the main plaza at 7:00 pm for our traditional pilgrim meal and spirits. I enjoy how we are all resonating on the same wavelength and have become our own family. It is also so fun to meet new people each day, and greet previous friends in villages or while passing on the way. I have never experienced anything like this, and am moved by the love and respect everyone has for one another. I enjoy seeing the true decency in people and cherish the glory and blessings from God.
After having a great time at dinner hanging with our new Canadian friend, Jim from Calgary, and of course Russ our Lucky Leprechaun, we meet some of Jeroen’s family from the Netherlands. His brother, brother-in-law, and young nephew have joined him for a few days on the Camino. Post dinner conversations are filled with various topics and tons of laughter.
Back in our alburgue, I take a farewell picture with my favorite Canadian couples (Donna & Wayne, Robyn & John), and sadly say our goodbyes, for they only planned to walk the Camino this short time.
As I lay in bed, my thoughts again carry me into the lessons of simplicity and friendship. I continue to learn that the simple things are more important; I really do not need much but the clothes on my back. A few well-selected pieces of clothing can go a long way. I do not need all those lotions and potions that the TV and magazine commercials urgently message. What’s more important are the people and friends that come into my life. I look forward to the additional, profound lessons and realizations the Camino will reveal in the near future. Some say, the changes in your life (physical, spiritual, mental, emotional) truly start to happen in the coming weeks. I cannot wait!
Until tomorrow dear family and friends…