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.