July 17, 2008

Day 52: 4 June- Estella to Los Arcos

We were tipped out of the Municipal Albergue here in Estella earlier than anywhere else along the trail: at 7.15am we had to be gone! I think it was a ploy agreed to with the management of the nearby Bodegas Irache free pilgrim wine fountain to keep the numbers down! It didn't open until 8am, and you needed to be dedicated to the cause to wait there that long....
The scenery this day was superb, with vineyards, wheatfields, poppies, distant mountains....

At the church in Villamayor de Monjardin, which was open all day, unlike Spanish churches in general, they even offered confessions in English.
The path continued on with beautiful views,
stunningly beautiful views of the sort that usually I am jubilant to be walking in.
But for some strange reason I became disheartened with walking on this beautiful day. My ankles were causing me pain, and it seemed like everyone was passing me, and I had been walking alone for too long. The countryside felt very remote here, ordinarily something I love, but on this particular day I had a 'crisis of confidence', and I seemed to be walking on forever, towards a village that was not visible. It seemed like I would need to shorten my walk soon by taking the train to Leon....
Arrival in Los Arcos did not initially lead to an improvement in my spirits, despite the presence of a welcoming resting place at the entry to the village. But as I arrived at the far end of the village, and came to the albergue, just past the church, life began to improve. The albergue here was staffed by warm and friendly Belgian hospitaleros. They will never know how much their welcome meant to me this day. Also on offer at this albergue was the opportunity to have a professional foot/leg massage in the evening. I was glad to put my name down for this one! And the Aussie Mick, who I had met before, was also here. He had dislocated his shoulder since our last meeting but was as friendly and down to earth as usual. When he asked how I was, I was able to pour out in English how disheartened I was feeling this day... and of course I instantly felt better.
I returned to a restaurant in the area near the church, and ate a healthy and filling lunch. Again, I felt so much better. Next I met up with a group of Irish guys and the Aussie Mick, who were having a peaceful drink at the tables near the church. I had a great talk with them- they were interested to learn more of the Le Puy route - and I was invited to join them for dinner.

The massage was wonderful, and a very timely thing for my ankles. The very kind masseur told me straight off that I was dehydrated and needed to drink more. Perhaps this was the reason I had found the going so tough this day. I resolved to follow his advice.
The church and cloister in Los Arcos were both impressive, and the church was opened at 6pm so those staying in the town did have a chance to see it.
There was a Mass with a pilgrim blessing, where the priest spoke several languages to the pilgrims present.
But I guess my favourite part of the evening was the meal I shared with the Irish guys and Mick. Thanks guys!

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