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 13, 2011 Roncesvalles to Zubiri

Albergue lights turn themselves on promptly at 07:00, so I guess it’s time to get up here at Roncesvalles. In reality I’m already awake after a largely sleepless night. In a “double room” (2 beds, 1/2 height walls) with Lila. Rocky and Luke in another double on one side, Doron and Yael on other side. Our group slowly started getting up, then the hospitalero announced everyone needed to be out by 08:00 for cleaning. We all eventually headed out the door to Cafe Sabina for desayuno. On the road again at about 09:00. Walked with Lila first, then by myself to Burguete. We all stopped at an alimentation for fruit, then I left the group and walked on ahead. This was the last I saw Luke for most of the day.

Church at Burguete

Church at Burguete

After a time I met Roberto of Mexico and walked with him and Kathy most of the rest of day. Arrived in Zubiri at 16:30 and had agreed with Rocky to rendezvous here, so I waited on the bridge for her to arrive — which she did two hours later at 18:30. She’d had two very long days for a first-time pilgrim and she was surprisingly cheerful, but also relieved the day’s walking was done.

Sat down to write impatiently in my journal while awaiting Luke. As bikers and walking pilgrims passed I kept asking, “have you seen a guy carrying a guitar with a few Israelis and a Canadian?” After a time I heard reports he was behind us with 2 girls, drinking coffee under the trees.

While waiting saw Rev. Renee from Nebraska whom I’d met on the Camino Forum. We had good conversation about the camino and spirituality. She is staying at the pension at the bridge. Once we heard Luke was behind us Rocky and I made reservations for 5 people at the albergue — after learning that 2 albergues and all hotels are complete.

This was a hard day. Little sleep last night means I was mentally tired. Legs are ok, but toenails are too long and sharp sides dug into two toes, meaning bloody sock liners and need for bandages later. Also, weather is warm — 70-75 degrees, so I needed lots of water. Partly, too, I was frustrated to be in a group whose members each had such a different pace, which meant a lot of waiting rather than walking or resting. Gonna have to find a way to make this work.

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.