Camino Day 8 – Vineyards and Wheat Fields

Thursday 27th April 2023

Distance 21.5km (13.4 ml). Total Ascent 370m (1213 ft)

Estella – Los Arcos

I was up showered and ready before it was light. I said Morning Prayer in the quiet of my room then once I could see where I was walking I was off. My day off had been a welcome reset of my purpose and enthusiasm. As I left the town it was pleasant uphill walking in the cool of the morning. I hadn’t been walking too long before I came across the famous wine fountain.

I was in two minds whether to try it, especially at quarter past seven in the morning, but in the end why not. I had a mouthful of mediocre red wine from the tap and I had ticked a Camino box. Opposite was the remains of the monastery which started the tradition before the modern wine producer took on the tradition.

As we gathered round the wine fountain – I was chatting to other pilgrims and we walked on for a while until we reached a fork in the path. At several places along the trail there are alternative routes but it’s not always straightforward when making a decision.

I continued on the path I had chosen and soon the faster walkers pulled away and left me on my own. The walking was up and down as normal but not too taxing and the weather was perfect. I ws one of those days where the views were just lined up one after the other.

As I approached Azqueta, the first village of the day there was a very picturesque castle on top of a conical hill. I must admit my first thought was, ‘I’m glad we don’t have to climb up there.’

Once through the village the views just kept coming.

The fields of wheat and yellow flowered plants gave way to more vineyards.

After going through the village of Villamayor de Montjardin and down into the down into the next valley I was looking out for a promised food truck. Thankfully it was there so got some refreshments. I did muse about the much higher prices charged at these things but reckoned they needed the premium for them to drive out to the middle of nowhere to help pilgrims. Not long after this there was a man who had a guitar but I passed by before he played and expected some money.

All through today’s walk I was still thinking about my decision not to book accommodation. I must admit I was struggling with this. I knew that it was possible to find a bed each day but walking with all this in my head sometimes stopped me from relaxing and enjoying the walk.

Finally along a valley then over a small hill and today’s destination was in sight. I had checked out what I thought was the best Albergue, Isaac Santiago, and walked through the town to the other side. It wasn’t open when I arrived but the queue was not too long to I could kind of relax, take off my boots and wait for check in.

Check in was very slow when it started and unusually I was allocated a top bunk. There was only 4 in the room so it wasn’t too bad. I did my normal housekeeping and then sat around chatting to a few other pilgrims. There was a couple from New Zealand I had met before and a young German guy. We were discussing booking or not booking and the New Zealand couple were panicking about not having anywhere to sleep, though they eventually got somewhere for the following night. All this didn’t help me to remain calm though.

I decided I would have walk around the town and check out the shops to get some food.

I wandered around and spent some time people watching from a shady bench. After a trip back to the Albergue to check if my washing had dried, to stash my shopping and have a rest and a read. I went back into the town when it was time for the Pilgrim Mass and Blessing in the church.

I have never seen such an over the top decorated church. Every surface was covered in baroque gilt sculptures and wall paintings. When I got there there were already quite a few locals there in the middle of some Marian devotion. (Rosary maybe?) I just sat and drank in the peaceful atmosphere.

When the Mass started I was trying to follow it using an App on my phone but I still struggled as everything was said so quickly in Spanish. Afterwards all the pilgrims were invited to the fron and after the priest blessed us each were given a small prayer card in our own language.

Prayer of the Pilgrims

Lord, you who recalled your servant Abraham out of
the town Ur in Chaldea and who watched over him
during all his wanderings; you who guided the Jewish
people through the desert; we also query to watch
your present servants, who for the love of your name,
make a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Be for us,
a companion on our journey
the guide on our intersections
the strengthening during fatigue
the fortress in danger
the resource on our itinerary
the shadow in our heat
the light in our darkness
the consolation during dejection
and the power of our intention
so that we under your guidance, safely
and unhurt, may reach the end of our journey
and strengthened with gratitude
and power, secure and filled with
happiness may join our home.
For Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen

Apostle James, pray for us.
Holy Virgin, pray for us.

There always seems to be encouragement when you need it.