camino de santiago

As you can imagine it was a little bit of a late start this morning. It was morning twilight when we left, everything was a funny shade of grey. Leaving Estella was a comedy in itself. It seems everyone had slept in. Which resulted in everyone walking/crawling through the streets playing follow the leader. Zombie like in our slowness. That is until we turned a corner and saw our Korean friends sipping coffee and looking very much awake! We figured they had stayed in the town previous to Estella, we had not planned on seeing them so soon this morning! I felt a little rage at myself at having slept in, they had caught up with us! On our way out of town, I was shocked to see the amount of tour buses and taxis that pulled up. Each containing very enthusiastic fresh faced, designer dressed, baby backpack pilgrims get out and stretch before starting their days stroll. These were clearly the mythical creatures “The Gucci brigade” we had heard so much about. I tried to stifle a snigger. Seriously five days walking, roughing it in albergues, washing my own clothes by hand and I think I am a proper pilgrim. Seriously I had turned into a pilgrim snob and know it all, in my short five days. I would later meet people that stayed in hotels and private accommodation for personal reasons other than just pure unadulterated comfort. Mind you, that feeling that some people took the easy way out never really left me. Having a late night wasn’t the only reason we left later than usual this morning. The main influencing factor was the walking in the dark may lead to us missing the very important “Fuente de Vino”, you don’t need very much spanish to translate that baby. Yes just like the creatures of the gucci tour we were enthralled by the idea of a fountain of wine. Our little wine fed brain cells rejoiced in wonderment at the stories. Naturally by the time we got to Monasterio Irache we had blown this wine fountain out of all proportion, imagine Homer Simpson running through candy land!

Everyone is literally buzzing with excitement walking up the hill to the monastery with its fountain of free wine…. and water. As we suspected, there was quite the queue. Then came the sinking of hearts, it wasn’t a giant fountain spurting out red grape juice. It was this wee little thing. Most people produced their scallop shells to serve themselves a drop of wine to spur them on their way. Sean produced a Ballygowan bottle!!! I tried to hide in the crowd, but no such luck “TAKEMYPICTURE” he chuckled at my embarrassment. Not just one picture was taken. Its surprising how other pilgrims all of a sudden had selective hearing while the wine was flowing. Thankfully the fountain only allows scallop size portions of wine!!! We did buy a bottle later that evening and it was delicious. When we go to our local restaurant now, I always ask for it. I listen and smile patiently as the waitress tells me “Good choice” Me thinking: I know, Waitress: Its my favourite, Me: Awh, really? : Waitress: Yes, have you had it before? Me: now resisting the temptation to squeal “Girl I have drank from the fountain of Bodegas and have eaten luscious grapes from the vine!” Inevitably I just say  “Yes it’s lovely, thanks.”

We stopped in the town of Luquín for breakfast. If you know me you know I loved stodgy gluey food. We walked up the steps and found a bar beside a handball alley. We ordered cafe con leche as usual and then I saw a frittata like no other. Instead of just having one slice, they made an enormous sandwich of it. A lush warm potato frittata enclosing a treasure of ham and mayonnaise. It was so fecking yummy I could have licked the plate….. oh go on then you know I did. I went back in for seconds, but it was a major hit with others… SADFACE. I still dream of how good it was. Sometimes on a cold Irish day the memory of its smell and taste catch me unawares and I really do get hunger pangs for that cloudy cold morning in Luquín.

We passed this lovely building. I stopped and got out the guide book and it had a picture of it and informed me it was a 13th century fountain of the Moors or Fuente de los Moros. That was it. Walked for ages happen across this little gem and nothing in the book. I shook the book with frustration much to the amusement of passers by. Such a beautiful little spot and since I came home I can still find no other information on it.
The search continues though!

This is one of my highlights of the entire trip. After passing through the town of Villamayor de Monjardin, we started an 8.3km (ish) walk through yet another cruce. Reading in the book that it was eight kilometres of uninhabited, unsheltered country side was daunting. We had stocked up on water and fruit in Villamayor just incase. I really wasn’t expecting to be lifted by the scenery, I really didn’t expect to be walking through a painting. I walked for most of it just whispering “oh wow” or “Sean are you seeing this?” not wanting to break the spell. It was like jumping into Berts chalk paintings and suddenly being transported to a wonderland. I took a zillion pictures in the first kilometer but none captured its magic. I thought about stopping to take it all in, but my eyes yearned to see what was over the next horizon. Miles and miles of patch work landscapes, like a giant blanket comforting the land. Just like that, it was all gone and it turned back into the regular lovely countryside.

One of our Korean friends leading the way…again! though this time I was glad to fall back.

The sun had made an appearance and the heat was stifling so most took the time to shelter under the cover of tall trees, I presume it was an owner of one the vineyards rode past as I applied yet more sunscreen. After that I pretty much don’t remember the rest of the walk to Los Arcos. Still now I can close my eyes and I am right back there, I can feel the prickle of the heat on my skin, the smell of those strange looking brown sheep, the taste of the dry dust that hung in the air, the chatter of many different languages, that feeling of wanting to stop and breath it all in. I close my eyes and am submerged back into richness of colour. This probably was the start of my realisation of what it is to do the camino. People often had told us that we would walk it again “hell no” being my initial response or when people said this was their third trip, I would be like “Really?” After this walk I got it. I understood the magic and the power of the camino. I have no doubt in my heart that I will walk it again once, if not twice more in my life time.

Los Arcos. Pints, pizza and sangria. We had stopped and taken off our soaked hats and shoes and considered staying here. Watching the world go by in this square was snooze worthy in a good way. As usual after a rest we figured we had time and so we walked on. Sansol was meant to be our final destination. Meant to be…

This is Torres Del Rio! Taken from Sansol. Many many times I gave out about the distances in the guide book and the discrepancies between local sign posts and the guide book. Trust me before this camino blog is over I will give out time and time again! When we reached Sansol, we were shattered, for once Sean walked ahead of me up hill, finding short cuts. We got to our destination and as tired as I was I just didn’t want to stay there. Why I really don’t know. We walked around it and just didn’t feel the love. I am like that, if I don’t like something, its pretty much goosed. Anyway we looked at the book and as tired as we were figure one more kilometre wouldn’t kill us. We followed the sign posts out of the town and it brought us to the side of a hill, from which we could clearly see Torres Del Rio. It wasn’t even a kilometre! a hop skip and a jump and we had a arrive. Sean had to sit down and have a right ole laugh!

YAY!!! our home for the night! It was fab, a room that sleeps ten people, a shop that was fully stocked. It was perfect. I didn’t pack a bikini or swimsuit and this evening was the first time I cursed out loud and had a sulk. Just down the road from our albergue was a hotel which had a pool. We stood looking at it, like, like… poor charles Dickens children covered in soot with ragged clothes, staring in the window at a massive feast. I had one hand on the window as Sean gently lead us away. As we ate dinner and drank our bottle of €2 Bodegas wine, we taunted by the cheers of sheer joy of those clever people who brought their trunks!

Stretching is all important. We didn’t see many do it, any available space we could find was used for ten minutes of stretching out our over used and battered muscles. After this image was taken we meet the nicest man from Boston. He had told us that this was his second tour of the camino. I asked what made him want to do it the first time. He said that he had always spoken of it and dreamed of it so much so his son bought him a ticket. How wonderful to be able to do something like that for your parents. I mean they spend their whole life raising you, supporting your dreams no matter how silly they seem. I found this gesture from son to father so sweet and moving. I hope some day we can do this for our parents. When I asked why he came back a second time, he laughed and asked was this our first time walking. We nodded. He replied that you can’t just walk it once, he was retired now and sure he had all the time in the world now to enjoy it and walk it at his own pace. It was this gentleman, who told us that we had to stop in Rabinal and stay in the confraternity of St James and take afternoon tea. He had done this the first time and later in the evening he went to mass and listened to the monks chant. He said for him it was one of his highlights. When later we did stay in Rabinal, we toasted him. Thats the thing about the camino you meet so many wonderful people for a second and they tell you amazing stories. You will often go and relive part of their story, you add to that and pass it on to another pilgrim. So the stories grow in richness and history and in that, all pilgrims are inextricably linked to one another. Kinda like sharing and passing down a family history, because in the end anyone that walks the camino is part of a wonderful family that spans the globe.

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