Day #6 El Camino
Monday 18th September
Estella > Los Arcos
Distance Walked: 23km-ish
Leaving early wasn’t an option today, we had to plan our departure to coincide with a wine fountain about 2km out of town opening at 8am (we found out later in the day that it was open from 7am) and it was vital that you don’t miss it! It’s perhaps the most exciting part of the pilgrimage for many, especially those who aren’t religious, unless you consider drinking a religion… So a few of us stopped for coffee and croissants to start the day and here my buddy had his walking stick stolen. I’d found 2 sticks on day 1 and 2 and they’ve been useful for me. He had paid 9 or 10 euros for a stick. This made me laugh watching him race ahead to see if he could catch the robber. He’s not the fastest walker but this certainly spurred him on. I wanted to be there to see the interaction if he had found the person who took his stick. It would be like society has gone full circle. Two cavemen fighting over the ownership of a stick. Next there was a stop to visit a blacksmith, he’s obviously realised that opening early morning and making crafts with a Camino theme will win over Peregrinos, and he’s right. I bought a shell made of metal. I don’t wear jewellery but I do like to support fellow artists whenever I can and I thought his work was lovely. If my 3 euros for an ornament I’ll probably never wear can go towards keeping him doing what he loves then I’m glad I can do my bit. My right foot was hurting in the first 1km today and I was feeling quite down about reaching my 30km target today. There was also mention of a big hill climb and decent and I wasn’t confident. Then something I’d say similar to a miracle occurred. I lined up with excitement with a dozen or so others to watch each other take photos as we poured red wine from the holy fountain. As promised, there was free red wine just coming out of a tap on the side of a building. Heaven’s above! A second tap pouring water wasn’t being used as much but when you’ve got red wine coming out the side of a monastery or winery or whatever it was, why would you drink water? I even saw a couple of campervans parked 30 metres up the hill. This made me think they were sleeping overnight and filling drums of red wine to then travel and drink for a lifetime or sell in their own restaurants or something. There didn’t seem to be any security of any sort keeping watch. I filled up my flask and this is when the “miracle” occurred. I took a sip and surprisingly it was tasting OK. The next thing that happened was the pain in my foot just disappeared. Not only did the pain go away, but the soreness of my blister seemed to vanish and I found a burst of energy. A burst that would last the entire day. Now I don’t want to believe this was some kind of blessed wine, but I can’t believe that it isn’t either! I guess I’ll just have to keep drinking wine. It’s a sign from above. As I passed through the village Villamayor, I looked high above to what I could only guess were ruins on top of another hill. This was not on the route but I knew I had to climb it. Nobody else was going, a few laughed at the notion, considering we’re walking some 800km, the idea of adding a voluntary extra 2-3km hillclimb seems preposterous! I found an Englishman who was keen to join me and my friend from day one, German Becky conveniently appeared and she was eager as well. Englishman John had broken his heel twice or something and bailed out as we approached the hill but we powered on and I’m glad I had someone to do it with. Firstly for safety reasons, hiking in any place can be dangerous if you twist an ankle or the weather changes or a grizzly bear rips your heart out. So it’s wise to hike with someone to use as a decoy if a wild bear wants to attack. At the top was an old castle, one that’d seen battles for over 1,000 years. It’s hard to fathom the history. A very important and historic ruins and the view and stillness was breathtaking. It was this moment up there that made me appreciate this walk I was on. I had been feeling a bit like sheep just following a path, every day waking up in a race to get a bed in the next major stop. Leaving in the dark, competing with your fellow walkers somewhat to get from A to B. I hadn’t really stopped much to enjoy a town or sit and relax in a field or meet locals. I was in a rush to push out some miles and this wasn’t making me happy. I’ve been having a good time, but I don’t want to feel rushed or like I need to be somewhere. In the back of my mind though, I do want to reach Santiago by a certain date and I also am aware that the longer the walk takes, the colder the days and nights will be, and I’m not fully equipped for that either.
I decided to call it a day at Los Arcos. With the extra hill climb added to the day, it totalled around 23 or 24km and that was good enough for me. The albergue I rolled into was pleasant enough, 6 euros for a bed and I laid out on the grass to do some stretching upon arrival. I’d chatted a little with a group of Spaniards over the last week and they came out and joined in a group stretch. One of the guys even gave me an impromptu physio session. It’s important to stretch!
The kitchen was tiny and the tiendas were equally tiny and the customer service wasn’t the best either in this town, so a few of us opted to dine out. Our pasta was perhaps microwaved but the service was nice and the wine was only 1 euro a glass. All in all, a pretty good day capped off with a game of cards and another bottle of wine.