5: Estella – Torres del Rio (29)

Video collage from stages 4 and 5.

5 March 2011. Saturday

Easier steps today

Easier steps today

Despite the somewhat strange energies of the cramped dormitory at Estella’s pilgrim shelter I slept well that night. Breakfast was included in the seven euro fee. It consisted of a jug of cold coffee that we could pour into a mug and reheat in a microwave oven. To go with the coffee, the mandatory industry toasted slices of bread wrapped in plastic were served with a selection of jam in big glass jars. We made ​​an attempt to partake of the buffet, but the  messy and crumbly long table in the kitchen did no wonders for our appetite. Instead we left the hostel and decided to have breakfast in some café along the way.

It was incredible how much easier the hike was today. My involuntary low tempo of yesterday had helped the body to recover a bit. Without problems I managed to keep up with Erik and Jürgen’s pace. Outside Estella there is a winery called Bodegas Irache, where pilgrims can fill their bottles with red wine directly from a spigot in the wall, for free. (They have a website with webcam here.) Our high pace meant that we missed it, and probably several other places worth visiting along the road to Santiago. Before the trip I had decided to follow the traditional pilgrim rules but now I definitely broke the main rule – to walk slowly.

Web camera with live images from the wine-tap outside Estella

Web camera with live images from the wine-tap outside Estella. It’s linked to a real-time web-cam that works on and off.

Just outside the town of Estella, we passed a campsite with a smallish grocery store at the gate. We arrived as the staff were opening up the place for the day. The shelves were well stocked and we collected both a decent breakfast and some food to bring along with us. We ate our breakfast at a table in the shop entrance. Inside the store, the staff turned on some music. “Highway To Hell”. I was hoping it was not a bad omen.

The landscape changed. The fields were green, the roads better and the sunny weather made the views beautiful. In the distance we saw snow-capped mountains. On more nearby hills were medieval fortifications, churches and monasteries. It was a beautiful day in every aspect.

Faster than expected we had traversed the 22 kilometers to Los Arcos. A medieval village that was a common goal when starting from Estella. We had selected Torres del Rio as our next stop which was eight kilometers further on, but we took he opportunity to have lunch in Los Arcos. In a small bar next to a plaza, we were served delicious tapas and drank a few cups of café solo. As usual, we didn’t remain in our seats for long. Soon our backpacks went back on and we continued along the road paved with yellow gravel.

Erik, Jürgen, Philip and Laura outside Casa Mari in Torres del Rio

Erik, Jürgen, Philip and Laura outside Casa Mari in Torres del Rio

The landscape continued to be beautiful and we could see Torres del Rio from a distance. There is both a municipal and a private shelter there. We chose the latter named Casa Mari at the far end of the village. We were the only quests there for a long while. There was a washing machine and once again we were able to get our clothes completely clean. We hung them out to dry on a cozy terrace behind the house. The shower room was also situated next to the terrace. Although it was a sunny evening, it was a very chilly experience to rush across the terrace, just wrapped the small, thin hiking towel, and then wait for the water to become hot enough to allow the body to thaw out again. Again, I thought that it probably would be preferable to walk the camino in the summer. But still, this evening was crisply beautiful and I took a walk along the narrow village streets. At the other shelter I met Jenny who looked a bit distressed. She had taken a bed there and said the place felt dirty and smelly. I suggested that she’d try to get her money back and come over to our place.

– Jürgen has promised to cook us a pasta dinner, I said.

Pasta dinner

Pasta dinner

Back at Casa Marie, Danish Laura and her new companion Philip had joined our company. We bought a few cans of beer and sat in the sun on the street in front of Casa Mari and relaxed. Jenny managed to get the money back and checked into our hostel instead. Jürgen had found a supermarket and bought the ingredients for the pasta dinner he had promised us. It became a very cozy dinner with very interesting conversations. No other pilgrims found their way to Casa Mari, so this night had the potential to become calm and tranquil. But for me that would not be the case.

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