This blog is a record of my observations, experiences and crazy thoughts about my 800 kilometer pilgrimage across northern Spain: the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (April-May 2009).
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Day 7 - Villamayor de Monjardin - Monday, 27 April 2009
Estella -> Villamayor de Monjardin = 8K (647.7K to go!)
The sun (literally) shines down on me as I start my walk from Estella this morning. The rain is gone and everything is fresh and green in the crisp morning air.
I spend some time looking around before I leave town. Guidebooks call Estella "the Toledo of the north" because of the wealth of monuments the city has. The king of Navarre once had his palace here - it is said to be one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture on the Iberian peninsula.
Estella is the last city in the Navarre region. The Rioja region is ahead and Logrono is the next city on the pilgrim route. The terrain and character of the experience will change in the days ahead.
Before I actually leave town I meet some of the US film crew and other team members who are here in Spain filming a documentary of the Way of Saint James, el Camino. Theresa, the senior producer, rounds the corner and we recognize one another from our previous meeting a few months ago at the Gathering of American Pilgrims in Albuquerque, NM. There is hugging and conversation. Soon I find myself agreeing to be tailed by a film crew and to participate in an interview.
I limp along (the knee still hurts) beside another pilgrim (a sweet young Scotsman in full kilt) and the film crew follows behind.
A few kilometers up the road we arrive at the famed wine fountain at Irache (sponsored by the Bodegas Irache). We stop and sip red wine from the fountain.
The film crew sets up by the Visigothic Monastery of Santa Maria la Real and films an interview with me. I share my prayer ribbons which friends have given me to take to Santiago. I also have the opportunity to discuss my personal motivations for walking the Way of St James. I speak of my gratitude for a full rich life (despite the challenges of cancer, loss of a son, etc). I share stories about my parents with them. I even sang a little song ("I'm a pilgrim, I'm a stranger, I can tarry, I can tarry but a day...")
While I was signing the release forms, one of the team members thrust a cell phone on me and asked me to contact them later in the week for possible follow-up.
I laughed out loud just thinking about me having a cell phone on me! Anyone that knows me is aware of how resistant I am to having a cell phone in my life! While many pilgrims do carry cell phones, I am not among them. In fact, I am a bit of a Luddite about telephones in general. Even in the USA I avoid answering phones. I know my spouse will laugh loud and long when he hears I now have a cell phone (and charger) on my pilgrimage of gratitude!
With the diversion created by the film crew behind me, I begin my walk. A look st my plans confirmed that my delayed start would mean a change in my destination for the night. The stretch between Villamayor and Los Arcos is devoid of places to stop and no water is available for about 12K immediately following the steep climb up to Villamayor. And my leg was still aching.
I walked through a beautiful oak forest with a fairytale view of castle-topped Monjardin in the distance. I stopped to look at the 13th century fuente de los Moros below the ruins of the Roman-based Castillo de Deyo. I played with an adorable kitten as I rested in a small village square.
After the long climb up to Villamayor, I decided to stop at the parochial albergue rather than the Dutch-run facility further up the hill. The albergue was very small and very modest (mattresses on the floor) and was run on donations. The host was affiliated with the Catholic church.
I met a delightful American woman there (Rese) and spent a wonderful evening sharing stories over dinner at the small local bar. Later we met another American, from San Francisco. We shared our evening meal in the tiny local bar and had a lovely time getting acquainted.
At dinner we were offered the local digestive as a gift at the close of our pilgrim meal. Orujo is the name of this drink. It is green, there are herbs in it and it is quite strong. It has a deceptive effect on most of us. The joke among us became this: do not drink green stuff!
Finding our way back to the albergue, we giggled like school girls.
All in all though, it was a fine end to a lovely day.
In April 2009, I began my 500-mile trek across the rocky paths and mountains of northen Spain. I finished my walk on the the ancient Way of St James (the Camino de Santiago de Compostela) in early June 2009.
I consider this a pilgrimage of gratitude. Each step was an opportunity to express gratitude for the abundance life offers; each footstep, one of finding joy. It was a humbling experience. It was a character-building experience. It was a spiritual adventure and a physical one too - who knew I was such a mountain goat? I hope you will enjoy my rambling, stream of consciousness obeservations of my experiences as a pilgrim on this historic pilgrimage route that really is only the begining.
Of course veteran pilgrims know: the Camino never ends - once a pilgrim, always a pilgrim. So, wherever YOUR path takes you, I wish you "Buen Camino".