I started out today with the plan to walk just 8k to Estella, but decided when I arrived in the town that I would go farther to Villa Mayor de Monjardin. Because I had shortened my walk yesterday, I was now “off stage.” In other words, I wasn’t traveling with the masses of pilgrims who were all starting and stopping where the guidebooks suggest.
I think that being off stage works well for me. I started around 8, but there were no other pilgrims around. I ended up walking most of the day by myself which was lovely.
I fueled up with a cafe con leche and fresh orange juice at the bar across from my Alburgue. After that, I left the town by myself and exited Lorca which will forever be special to me for being there when I really needed to stop.
A little out of town I found myself walking with a Korean couple who have lived in the US (Silicon Valley) for 50 years. Huan and Gene are in their early 70’s and leisurely walkers, but I enjoyed talking with Huan while Gene followed behind singing something I hadn’t heard before.
We passed a fairly large vineyard and winery. The modern building was striking and unexpected.
I passes a chestnut tree, or as I remember calling them as a kid, a monkey ball tree.
Because I seem to stop every 5 seconds to take a picture, Huan and Gene got ahead of me a little. But I love watching others walk the Camino and seeing how they are taking everything in.
At one point Huan bent down to look at a hairy black caterpillar. She even took a picture of it. She went on to tell me that when she was a young girl there was an invasive and aggressive species of caterpillar that was eating all of the foliage on the mountains.
The government decided that the most number of people in any category was elementary school children so they turned eradication of these pests into a school project. Huan said they would collect the empty c-ration cans left behind by the US soldiers and their “schoolwork” was to fill the cans with the caterpillars. At the end of the day they would turn the can into the teacher and the one with the most would get extra credit points. It worked! Today the hills in South Korea are lush and green thanks to this effort by some of the country’s youngest citizens.
Here is Huan and Gene crossing a medieval bridge in Villateurta.
After that I am not sure what happened to Huan and Gene, but it is typical. Pilgrims come and go as you walk. So, I thought that I was all alone and then I heard bells. I looked up to where they were coming from and surprise!
Here are some other beautiful sites before we even reached Estella.
I wish there was time to stop and learn about every church we pass, but in many cases, they are not open and if they were, it would make for a much longer Camino. I hope to do some research on the churches when I get home so it is nice to have these reference photos.
I thought this was an interesting water system. Something else to research when I get home.
Estella is a fairly large and modern town, but still has a charming historic area.
While I had contemplated a short day with a stay in Estella, I was there well before noon and you can’t check into alburgues until 2. I didn’t want to wait around when I could be gaining more ground rather than just killing time. Since I was feeling pretty good, I continued on to Villamayor de Monjardin. That turned out to be a great decision.
Henry, who was part of my original Camino family, told me about a metal worker right before Irache. I was thrilled when I came across his shop/studio.
He hand makes small jewelry and mementos so I bought a few things that seemed small and light and I moved onto the famous monestary with the wine fountain
This is another of those major milestones along the Camino. The wine flows freely for pilgrims. I didn’t have a cup, but the Camino worked it’s magic and out of no where a woman from the Czech Republic rode up on her bike (yes, you can do the Camino by bike) and poured herself some wine and offered her cup to me first. Little acts of kindness go so far on the Camino and in life.
While we were there a small tour bus pulled up and the guide said loudly, “Look! There are some pilgrims now.” I felt like I was an animal in the wild who was being hunted for photographs. Yes, they did sneak picture of us, because, after all, we are real live pilgrims.
Past Irache I got a little disoriented and ended up on a alternate to the main route that would take me past my planned destination and would have resulted in four hours more of walking than I wanted for today. Luckily I figured this out in the first 1/2k and I was able to correct my course.
No sooner did I get back onto the right path and Damion and Kyle showed up. These are some of the people who adopted me into their Camino family last night!
Kyle from East Stroudsburg, PA is an interesting guy with well thought out opinions on the drug epidemic, gun control, minimum wage, affordable healthcare and a whole host of other issues currently facing the US. He is a student and world traveler. Damion is a school teacher from Perth Australia who is on a one year sabbatical. I really like walking with these guys and they were very sweet in encouraging me during the last few tough kilometers.
Luckily our destination was not that castle on the top of that hill. Actually, tonight I learned that the hike up there isn’t that bad and it affords a 360 degree view where you can see 28 ancient towns and villages.
The place where Kyle and Damion were staying didn’t have any private rooms which I what I felt I needed tonight so I continued to the next Alburgue and was welcomed with open arms and a foot bath!
While they didn’t have any private rooms, Jan, the owner said he would give me a room that he would try to keep private for me. This is the first time I have really felt like a pilgrim. I was taken in, given a room and fed a delicious meal. This is a special place
Jan welcomes everyone and explained that the alburgue is part of a community of people living their lives as devout followers of Jesus Christ. He wasn’t preachy; but he shared his moving story of what brought him here and how he has put his life and those of his wife and children into God’s hands. He is a wonderful man and, while I don’t share his deep religious convictions, I respect them.
Dinner was delicious and filling. There were lots of fresh vegetables in the stew and the meal started with a salad. You can tell when food is made with love, as George Schenk of American Flatbread has taught me.
I do believe that everything happens for a reason and that was proven today when I got lost for a short time and once I was reoriented I bumped into Kyle and Damion. They were important in helping me get through that last few kilometers today. Had I not made that unintended detour I would have stayed less than a kilometer ahead of them, not having any idea they were right behind me. As frustrating as it was that I walked all of those extra useless steps, it turned out to be a good thing.