Camino Day 4 - Friday 31/5/2002:
Los Arcos

42.5 km (!) today
136.5 total

After my 2.5 hour sleep, woke at 0530, got dressed, packed and left in the darkness just before dawn at 0600. I resolved to get as far ahead of El Lobster as quickly as possible. As I was leaving, I got talking to one of my dorm-mates, who recommended an anti-inflammatory tablet for the knees, and gave me one to take in the event that my knees acted up again.

The plan was to get as far as Estella (Lizarra in Basque, but 21km distant no matter how you name it) as quickly as possible. It was raining slightly so I used my black bin liner to cover my pack. (This was much better than the poncho, which restricted vision and mobility somewhat.) After a couple of wrong turnings caused by me missing the yellow arrows in the semi-darkness, I made excellent time, passing some people who had obviously set out in the complete darkness even earlier...

View back to Puente la Reina

At daybreak (960x720, 57K)
Also Much Bigger (1600x1200, 364K)


on the hill (960x720, 37K)

King of a mile of road

(960x720, 38K)

Santo Sepulchro Estella

Estella (960x720, 56K)

The track here was just that -- a track. It climbed a couple of hundred metres; dawn brought a spectacular view back towards Puente la Reina. When my knees acted up, I took the anitinflammatory, and fifteen minutes later, was striding away purposefully. Amazing things, drugs. At any rate, I arrived in Estella at 10:30. The town itself was fairly unwelcoming; the info office wasn't even open until 11, so after breakfast (a cup of coffee in a bar), I decided to keep walking, stopping to phone home and drink some water a half-hour or so later. As I finished the call, Alan, an English chap, passed by. After a heart attack ten years previously, he was taking things nice and easy. While we were talking, Richard from Australia caught up with us, so we headed off towards the C12 Monastery of Irache. I confess that the lure of the monastery was less than the lure of the Irache Bodega, who installed a Fuente del vino (a wine fountain) for passing pilgrims. They even have a website with webcam. So we had a wee drop to slake our thirsts.

Richard topping up

Bodegas Irache (960x720, 68K)

Skulling 'em back

My fifth (960x720, 75K)

Blisters in them thar hills

(960x720, 65K)

Grapes and dust...

Getting Hotter (960x720, 60K)

Richard and I were walking at more-or-less the same pace, so we set off for Los Arcos (a further 21km.) Raju warns: "The walking in the [10 km] section between [Urbiola] and Los Arcos is easy and very pleasant in either very early morning or late evening light... There are no villages, no shade, no roads, no water, and almost no buildings at all along the way."

Of course, we did this in the height of the afternoon heat. Scorchio!

Richard's idea of water reserves was (get this) a 330ml bottle of water. Unbelievable. I shared some of mine, opening for the first time some water in my pack which I'd carried all the way from Bayonne! We met Maria, a Brazilian lady, who was slowly making her way through the heat-filled plains. As Richard and I sat sipping our water in the only bit of shade we came across on the journey, we saw her slowly walking towards us in the shimmering distance. We said we'd better wait for her. Two minutes later, a farmer's tractor pulled alongside her, she flagged it down, and next thing we know she's getting a lift to the other end of the farmer's lands, a good 2 km further down the track! We waved at her as she drove by.

We keep plodding along, eventually catching up with and passing Maria about a kilometre from Los Arcos. We'd both run out of water at this stage, so the cold water from the fountain at the entrance to Los Arcos certainly hit the spot!

We arrive at the official albergue, which has two beds left. Apparently this is one of the best albergues on the Camino. However, just as we were talking to the officials, Maria waltzed in, flopped into a chair, and demanded to be housed. So we told the people who were running the show to let her have it; one of the officials, a German, brought us to a private house which has a couple of bedrooms for use of pilgrims off their livingroom. The lady of the house had no English, but her schoolkid daughter learns it in school and so we were able to communicate fine. We paid our fees (6 euro), showered, and went out to explore the town.

We had the Peregrino Special at a local restaurant: a 3 course meal with a half-bottle of wine each was E7.50. You'd barely get a sandwich here in Cork for that money!
The TV was showing bullfighting from Madrid; it was the first time I'd seen it in all it's gory. Err, I mean glory. I was a bit miffed at the mounted picadors "pic-ing" the bulls, and was secretly willing the bulls to do well. My wish was granted 'cos one of the bullfighters got neatly gored, after which I wasn't quite so sympathetic. The finer points escaped me, but I resolved to read up about it. (Now that I have, it's actually all very technical, and my respect for the bullfighter has increased. Somewhat.)




28-Nov-2003: Thanks to Ed Margerum for pointing out that I had miscaptioned Santo Sepulchro Estella (top right) as San Pedro de la Rua. As he says himself, "After you've seen a thousand churches it's hard to keep them straight."