Day 6, our last day for this year. Estrella to Los Arcos 22kms
There is an unreal sadness to waking up and knowing that it is the last day of this part of our journey along the Camino.
The sense of lightness that comes with fitting your life into a ruck sack and needing only to follow yellow arrows and shells will be over after today.
The morning hope and anticipation of new landscapes, new stories, new walking companions, will be lost until next year.
But all the same, the sun rises, the way beckons and we don our walking boots.
We find no medieval kings or princesses as we leave hidden-from-view Estella, instead we walk part of the way with a young chemist from Barcelona.
” I have finished my studies at university here,” she says, her walker-sticks tapping the road in time to her words ” but in Spain it is impossible for young people now. Rents are high and wages are low. I have a job in a laboratory but it does not really pay my rent “
” You studied chemistry and yet you speak such good English,” we say.
She shakes her head.
“Not so good. It must do another test. I need the next certificate in English because I want to go and work in New Zealand next year. “
“Why New Zealand?” I ask.
” Because it is different. It is an adventure,” she says. ” none of my friends, none of the Spanish people my age want to walk the Camino. None of them want to live in New Zealand. I like to do different things.”
She walks with certainty and fearlessness and I am quite sure Spain’s loss will be New Zealand’s gain.
But for now, the future that matters is at the end of our toes.
” Did you know, ” she asks, ” that there is a fountain of wine on this part of the walk?”
For a moment Ninesh and I are so stunned we stop walking.
” A fountain of wine,” we shout, ” you mean like water, only wine?”
Our companion nods, laughing at our excitement.
In the game of ‘ rock, paper, scissors, a fountain of wine would always, always beat a Mountain of Forgiveness .
” It’s not far,” she says, consulting with the ironmonger in the workshop where we have stopped to purchase some hand crafted iron shells. Like his father and grandfather before him, he stands over a fire day after hot day, creating works of art for those pilgrims and visitors who wander by.
The thought of a fountain of wine just up the road does not seem to be of any interest to him, but Ninesh and I find ourselves with a renewed spring in our step as our Spanish companion leads the way.
And before we know it, we are there.
It is not so much a fountain as a tap but when you turn it, it runs red, warm wine rinning in a stream and forming alcoholic droplets on the ground around us.
I’d like to say it was the most delicious wine we have ever tasted but our Spanish chemist took one gulp and spat it out.
“Not good,” she said, ” don’t try.”
As authoritative in her recommendations as her walking, we used the tap marked
” aqua,” to fill our bottles instead. Like many things, a fountain of wine seems to be better as a concept than a reality.
And so we walk on through ancient woodlands, past olive groves and vineyards, along white chalky paths and up ridged, rocky hills (of course). When we reach the top we gaze at the view, the Pyrenees stretching as far as the eye can see, wooded summit after wooded summit, many with churches and monasteries seeming to be balanced precariously on their tips.
In front and behind us, the unending line of foot-weary, hope- heavy pilgrims make their way towards Santiago de Compostello,
And for a moment it feels as though there is nothing else, only this time, this place, this journey,
And I wonder how many others have stood on this spot, staring at an ancient, winding path that will forever lead its travellers towards their field of stars.
At Los Arcos we leave my worn-away boots, our temporary pilgrim way of life and the Camino behind us.
It feels strange to be sitting on a bus, to be moving through scenery while our feet are still.
We find ourselves peering through the window, wondering if the path is perhaps just the other side of a passing hedge or hill.
But we are back in the modern world and the bus follows blue sign posts to motorways, not yellow arrows to forgotten villages.
We are reclaimed by thoughts of tomorrow and, more importantly, by a search for the perfect tapas and the strongest mojito Bilbao has to offer.
Tomorrow we will step off the plane and into our normal lives (probably with a slight hangover).
But if we listen carefully in the busyness of our hectic days, I am sure we will still hear it, the beating of our heart to a more ancient rhythm, from a time when all that mattered was the distance still left to travel towards your dreams.
We will be back next year with stronger muscles, newer boots and with a more posititve attitude towards hills.
Buen Camino. Go well.
Quote of the Day
“I’m going to walk very slowly so that today lasts longer…” Ninesh
If you ever get the chance, walk El Camino