Outside the albergue there were two horses tied up western style awaiting their riders. There was Mara who had walked and ridden from Zurich in Switzerland and Valentin who had journeyed from South-West France. They were the first horse borne pilgrims I had seen on the Way. I had already seen a lady and her donkey near Pimbo in France.
The Way followed close to the Autovia A12 motorway though it was some distance away and the traffic could hardly be heard. The route itself was in the bottom of the valley with the road on the valley side. Soon the Way climbed to meet the autovia and for a short time I was back in the modern world. Thankfully soon after the route descended again into quiet rolling hills covered with vines. Ahead lay the picturesque village of Cirauqui. It was similar to many of the French villages being built upon a hilltop. I put a stamp in the Credencial at the church at the top of the village.
As the way moved up one hill and down another, I noticed piles of stones at the bottom of each descent and at the top of each ascent. I realised suddenly that perhaps it was a way to leave thoughts behind. From then on I thought of what I wanted to rid from my mind. I would take a stone at the top of the hill and descend to leave the bad thought in the valley. When I had a good thought, I carried a stone from the valley and placed it at the top of the next climb. It felt surprisingly refreshing and liberating. It seemed to work.
At the next village of Lorca it was time for coffee. There was a great little cafe on the way out of the village. There I caught up with Pascal and Bernard again. Philippe from Paris was there and we chatted. I had seen Philippe a few times on the Way so far, but had never spoken to him previously. He was always wearing his earphones. He revealed that he loved music and listened to it most of the time on the Way. His musical tastes ranged from classical music to Lady Gaga and was quite progressive for his middle aged years. He also let me listen to some traditional bagpipe music that originated from the area where I live in Scotland. These were local recordings so I don’t know where he came by them.
Suddenly there was a commotion and people were rushing out of the cafe with their cameras. Outside there were three Polish men with a huge wooden statue of Saint Paul. The statue apparently weighed 15kg and they had walked from Warsaw taking it in turn to carry the huge object. Everyone was amazed by their dedication and faith.
It was only 7km to Estella, the next destination. Moving down the Way there was an amazing view of an old castle with the towering cliffs of the mountains behind. At the entrance to the village there was a monument to Saint James complete with walking staff and scallop shell symbolism. It also served as a water fountain and for a while I rested to drink some of its cold refreshing water. On the monument was an inspiring inscription …
Excelente agua y vino,
Carne y Pescado,
Llena de toda felicidad
Excellent water and wine,
Meat and Fish,
Full of all happiness)
Estella was quiet. After checking into the albergue, I wandered around the deserted town. It was 4 o’clock. In Spain shops close at 2pm and don’t open until 6 or even 7pm. Only pigeons strutted round the wide open square in the late afternoon heat. At the supermarket Takumi was there stocking up on his favourite biscuits. We had met in Aire sur l’Adour and at Larrasoaña. Takumi always left early each day arriving before everyone else at the next albergue. He had already photographed all the churches in the town before I had arrived in Estella.
We went back to the albergue to cook. On arriving, everyone had the same idea and the kitchen was bustling with pilgrims, walkers and cyclists preparing their evening meal. Eventually there was space and a fine meal of chicken and pasta with fresh salad followed.
Later in the evening, after a brief walk around town, the staff were ushering everyone into the dormitories. It was nearly 10pm as I went outside to collect my walking boots. They had been left to dry and aire in the sun earlier that afternoon. The man in the alberge shouted at me to go to bed. Because of his rudeness another pilgrim had become embroiled in an argument. Furious Spanish followed. Not every albergue has a warm friendly staff, however most do. I fell asleep trying to remember only the good things of the day – there were many.
TIP: Always leave early in the morning and be in bed by 10pm to keep within the spirit and custom of the pilgrimage.