(Day 7: 22 KM)
Estella – Los Arcos
Up early in order to make it to the wine fountain (next to the Monasterio Irache) and at least a taste before the day’s allotment is totally consumed, we exit our albergue (on the hill of hills) and initially wander about the dark trying to find the next yellow marker pointing the way to Santiago. After much mumbling in “tongues”, we find our way. As the crew clicks their way up another hill, I duck into a just opened market whose doors are wafting the smell of chocolate filled croissants. I purchase four, willing myself not to eat them right there and then and scurry up the hill.
When we reach the wine tap, there is a bottleneck (pun intended) of pelegrinos waiting impatiently for their chance at the spigot for wine. The wine is “church wine” and not worthy if more than a taste. Maybe it was just the fact it was 7am. I don’t know. Onward we tred. The weather was pleasantly overcast and the tred was easy on the feet.
I walk ahead with headphones on listening to a classical guitar compilation… Mozart in E minor. It’s like having your own soundtrack as I/we meander through corridors of oak trees that open to rolling farmland creating a mosaic of color that changes with the streaks of sunlight that sneak through the rich puffy clouds that dance gingerly overhead.
We reach a hilltop hamlet (Villamayor de Monjardína) and find all the “bars” closed, but not to worry as a kind man has stepped up and has provided “gratis” fresh coffee, tea and cookies for the pelegrinos. We leave a sizeable donation, so that he may continue this Camino “trail magic”.
I continue ahead once again, to the next town and in search of the allusive internet. No internet to be found. I sit on a bench and start to pen my blog. An older gentleman approaches, and asks in accented and broken English, ” You walk the Camino with me?”. I hesitate, then think, why the hell not. He is Daniel and he is a 72 year old French man who now lives in Germany with his second wife…first wife (and love of his life) died of cancer a few years ago. We talk in broken English/ French and German about life, love and the Camino. This is his second time, the first being with his first wife. He is happy and healthy and full of life. I hope I am just as energetic, fit and full of life and happiness as Daniel is when I am his age.
We pass a sheepherder as he and his dogs wrangle the sheep across the road. Eventually they cross Paul, Sue and Jerry’s path. As we walk an Oasis appears literally in the middle of nowhere. Some enterprising Spaniard has set up a rolling cafe at a crossroads of sorts 6KM from Los Arcos. We stop for an orange juice and to air out our feet as the skies have cleared.
From where we sit, one can see the ruins of an ancient “hospital de pelegrinos”. Before long, Daniel is ready to start again. We part here, as I decide to wait for the rest of my clan, who arrive in no time and are just as happy and surprised to discover this Oasis as well.
Once refreshed we begin our final approach to Los Arcos where we check into Casa de Austria, an albergue run by an eclectic group of people who’s primary language is German.
It is a colorful and full service place. Los Arcos is a small town with big walls that have harbored millions of pelegrinos. We dine at a restaurant adjacent the city’s church who bells keep time hourly. I order paella as a full pelegrino meal is just too much these days. Once again the food is splendid and relatively inexpensive. Another good day on the Camino. As with each days walking, thoughts and prayers for the healing of loved ones continue, as well as prayers of thanks for this wonderful opportunity to walk the Way.
Be Strong! Austin Strong!