May 19, 2011 Los Arcos to Viana


Arrived Villamayor and found Monique. Walked with her and talked of her past relationship and plans for study in acupuncture. Arrived in Viana with her. She was tired and tense, tried to cajole her toward happiness, but not having a room for the night made her justifiable tense.

Night in Viana albergue. Met Sebastian there, a German firefighter at sink in men’s room. Dinner with Monique, Arlene, Sheila where we talked about why we’re each doing the camino.

May 18, 2011 Estella to Los Arcos

Walked out of hotel to find camino and who should be there but Luke and the two girls. Talked to them to see how Luke’s knee was doing. He was carrying his guitar which hopefully is becoming easier to manage. Saw Renee at the same time. She was heading to store and ultimately this was the last I would see of her on the camino.

Set off alone for Villamayor and there met Monique. Walked with her through beautiful green fields to Los Arcos where we found Rocky. Stayed at municipal albergue where saw Joanne and Kat, Roberto and Philippe, and many others. Walked much of day with Dave of Canada, so invited him to dinner with Rocky, Monique and I at Restaurante Museo del Peregrino.

Dave is a tech consultant (retired) who started a company and turned around another company in Canada, apparently leaving him fairly wealthy. His wife was born in Leon and had died of cancer in 2005, which led him to the camino to get in touch with her memory. He met a German woman here on his last camino and was married. In process of divorce from her now.

May 17, 2011 Cirauqui to Estella

People began rustling around the albergue at 06:00 and a Korean girl turned on the light (not good pilgrim etiquette) at 06:15. I managed to stay in bed until 06:30 then up and out at 07:00 (early for me). I enjoyed a slow walk to Estella. Met Sheila from San Francisco and sat for a bit with Roberto of Italy, Felipe of France (had met him with Roberto at the top of Col Orisson) and Ariel of Netherlands at a park as I came into Estella. The dog’s name is Ma-at and is 8 months old, with one month of his life spent on the walk with Philippe from Le Puy in France to Estella. So that dog had something like 1000 km already on his odometer.

I bought a phone in town and then went to find the Internet at the local library so I could send an email to Rock and Luke with my new phone number. I decided to stay at swanky hotel here to unwind and knew that Rocky, who I though I’d see here, would appreciate that. Waiting for her at Plaza Mayor 12:45.

Just now starting to get into the camino spirit. Could be the cervesa I’m enjoying, but am recognizing there’s really no need to rush and that every day holds its charms. I’ve decided to let go of my anxiety about where Luke is and how Rocky is. They’re both adults and going at their own pace. I’m appreciating Estella now. Charming town with narrow Calle Mayor and older people who look grim, but hard to protest with beautiful weather. The Plaza Mayor is dominated by a large Romanesque revival church with two towers and the place, which I’d walked by but not through in 2008, has its charms.

Had dinner after finding Luke, who had taken bus to Estella and was waiting for Gal and Lila at the municipal albergue. Earlier I’d had nice visit with Luke, Robert and Philippe at park. Night at nice hotel. Rocky, I just learned, had gone on to Los Arcos for blister care and rest, so she’s now ahead. I slept quiet night by myself at Chapitel Hotel just below the grand citadel/church above city. Would happily recommend this boutique hotel to pilgrims stopping in Estella. A charming, older building with an ultra-modern interior.

May 25, 2008 Cirauqui to Villamayor de Monjardin

I was beginning to learn that blisters are worst just after you begin walking on them. After a half hour or so, they move from being excruciatingly painful to only painful. I knew I’d need to get new boots, but more importantly, to get off my feet in order to get them healed. As I left Cirauqui I stepped gingerly on my tender, blistered feet.

I hadn’t seen Stefan or Trevor for a full day now, and I wasn’t quite sure where they’d spent the night last night. The American girls were long gone, so I left Cirauqui feeling a little lonely. I thought, too, that if I walked quickly enough I might be able to catch up to Trevor and Stefan. I also decided to email the American girls to see where there were, with the slim chance that perhaps we’d meet along the way.

The miles after Cirauqui began to fade together, with the first goal being to find the town of Estella. It’s a reasonably large town, and by the time I arrived at its outskirts my main need was to get water and a restroom. I found both at a convenience store across a busy street from the camino. Since the trail doesn’t go through the heart of the city, I wouldn’t learn until my next camino that Estella is a very charming town with a lovely plaza and a nice retail center full of interesting shops. My goal was simply to get as far as I could that day, and I set my sights after Estella on the town of Villamayor de Monjardin.

Outside Estella I stopped at the famous Irache Monastery/Winery with its wine fountain, free to pilgrims. As a late starter once again I found that other pilgrims were ahead of me and I was by myself at this popular pilgrim stop. Unfortunately that meant there was no one from whom to borrow a cup, so I skipped the wine.

After Estella the path went through a stand of forest and I must have missed the yellow arrows to Villamayor because I found myself on an optional track to a destination some 6 km out of the way. Villamayor is surrounded by vineyards, so it is easy to see — a conical mountain with a castle at the top and a village at the base. I realized, though, that it was a mile or two across the vineyards from the route I was taking, so I cut across country and then across the highway to get to the town.

Exhausted as I climbed up toward the albergue I heard the welcome accents of South Africans and saw Trevor and Stefan sitting at a cafe just outside the private albergue. After a long day of solitude I was happy to see my friends. They helped me into the albergue, found me an empty bunk, and then we sat together for dinner at this albergue run by a Dutch evangelical group.

The group invited us to a chapel service after dinner and about half of the pilgrims there that night joined them in the dining room for a time of singing and devotions. I was impressed by the earnestness of the hospitalera who shared her testimony and I enjoyed singing songs as a young man led with his guitar. Best of all was knowing my two buds were here and feeling the joy of camaraderie and fellowship in this place so far from home.