I left Bodega del Camino in Lorca by 7:03 with no breakfast. I had to use my headlamp until it got light enough to see. It was so pleasant walking early in the morning and watching the sun rise. I hiked for a bit with a lumbering Spanish man named Antonio. He didn’t speak a word of English and I hardly understood a word of his Spanish despite my Spanish in 10 Minutes a Day! No surprise there.
It was a day for snails in their shells, pretty wildflowers, and starry weeds on the trail. Vineyards gave way to cornfields. We passed a huge building-like haystack like in The Way, but it was a bit far off the path to photograph properly. Antonio and I parted ways when I went to take a photo and then I jumped into the bushes to take care of business.
About “taking care of business:” This is something people don’t like to talk about on the Camino. There are long stretches where there are no bathrooms at all. For a path that is a UNESCO World Heritage site, there are simply too few facilities for pilgrims. Many of the towns along the way wouldn’t even exist if not for pilgrims coming through. Although many disagree that Spain should provide better facilities, I believe the country derives enough economic benefit from the Camino that it should provide and maintain facilities. Although pilgrims are able to use bathrooms at bars, those were only in the towns, and some required a purchase to use them.
I arrived in Villatuerta around 8:30 and stopped for a potato omelette and huge coffee. It wasn’t my normal café con leche, but better; a lady at the bar was having one, so I just pointed to it. I wished I had learned the name of that coffee so I could order it in the future. Pat from Seattle sat at the café and joined us. I also met Bernie, a woman from Britain, and her husband Mick. Once again, I felt Pat connected with them so much better than I did; it seemed I always had the hardest time connecting with people.
I tried to use my debit card in the ATM machine and it said the transaction was denied and I needed to call my bank, which I did. They told me the attempted transaction was trying to access a savings account not attached to my card, despite the fact that I was pushing the button for “current account.” The bank guy stayed on the phone with me while I tried again, but it still didn’t work. He said my account was good, had plenty of money, and they had on record that I was in Spain, so I should try another bank. I never found one on today’s path sadly, so I was nervous about running out of money.
Lorca to Villatuerta (4.5 km)
In Villatuerta, I walked past the 14th century Church of the Assumption, watched over by a statue of St. Veremundo. Supposedly the church has ornamental screens on the wall behind the altar depicting St. Veremundo defeating the Moors. The church was closed so I didn’t go inside.
Just outside of Villatuerta, I stopped to explore the ruins of the ancient pilgrim hospital and 10th century hermitage and of Archangel St. Michael (ermita de San Miguel arcangel). It had a nice little picnic area with olive trees scattered about.
I walked on from Villatuerta with Pat. She is the eldest of five children and has been with her spouse 27 years. They had five children between them from previous marriages. She said her husband’s son died from an opioid overdose but she didn’t want to mention it earlier when I’d told her about my loved one because she was afraid it would bring me down. I told her, no, it made me feel not so alone. I told her I felt guilty because I left my marriage when my loved one was 14 (my husband and I got back together after a seven year separation), and I feared it did permanent damage to him and our relationship, although it was the best thing I’d ever done for myself.
Villatuerta to Estella (3.9 km) and ermita de San Miguel arcangel
Pat and I walked into Estella together; at the tourist office, we dropped in for a sello and ran into Darina. Pat said she was going to stay in Estella, so I went on my way.
The compact and vibrant town of Estella has a population of 14,000. It is a recommended stopover as it has a wealth of historical buildings, museums, churches, restaurants and bars. I climbed an impressive set of stairs to the Church of San Pedro de la Rúa, where the Kings of Navarre took their oaths. It has a beautiful 12th century cloister, two sides of which are missing due to a troubled past.
As was common on The Way, artisans were encouraged to return and bring their skills with them. The influx of stonemasons and artists resulted in the beautiful buildings, monuments, bridges, hospitals and cathedrals seen today. However, jealousy and greed also caused much disharmony, leading to the expulsion of the flowering Jewish community in the 14th century, and the destruction of the castle adjoining San Pedro, which destroyed two sides of the cloister.
I walked alone from Estella to Irache on a road lined with factories and businesses. Soon, I came upon an ironsmith artist from whom I bought a tiny iron shell necklace for 4€. David from Britain and I took turns taking photos of each other with the artist, who gave me a fresh fig, opened it for me, and wished me a Buen Camino. As it was already hot by then, that fig was like nectar from heaven.
A bit further along, I found the famous Fuente de Vino, a fountain installed by a local winery that has two taps, one with water and one with wine. Here, I ran into David again. I had nothing to drink from as I’d sent my pack ahead again; it had my shell attached to it. David shared his shell as a cup. An inscription on the fountain asks the traveler to exercise moderation. After drinking a sip or two of wine, I continued on my way, passing the ancient Benedictine Monasterio de Irache, long connected with Roncesvalles and the Camino, but it was closed. A community of monks served pilgrims here since the 10th century, but were forced to evacuate in 1985 due to a lack of novitiates. I sat at a picnic table in the shade to cool off and refilled my water from a fountain there.
Estella to Irache (3.3 km) and Irache (0.7 km)
I followed a long ascending and descending dirt track along a wall in an unsightly area, then walked in the sun along the edge of a plowed field and then in a shaded holm oak and pine forest. To the south, I had an amazing view of the rocky face of the Sierra de Urbasa.
Irache to Azqueta (3.4 km)
I walked through the sleepy town of Azqueta and then onward to Villamayor de Monjardín up a broad, dusty track running between vineyards.
It was always such a welcome sight to see a village ahead at the end of a long day of walking. However, seeing the cone top of Villamayor de Monjardín in the distance, I thought, I hope to God I don’t have to climb up there!
Luckily only the ruins of St. Stephens Castle (Castillo de San Esteban with the tomb of Sanchez I) sit atop the conical peak, and though some hardy pilgrims, including Darina and Anna from Denmark (she had slept in my room in Lorca the previous night), climbed up there, I was too tired to consider it.
Azqueta to Villamayor de Monjardín (1.9 km)
I checked in to Villamayor de Monjardín Albergue, showered, washed my clothes and ran uphill to the only bar in town for a Coke Zero and a ham and cheese sandwich. A couple from Holland, Kees and his wife, Jannie, joined me and had a beer. Over many years, they have been doing sections of the Camino starting in Holland.
Later, I did some Instagram posts and wrote in my journal and then had a beer with an obnoxious guy named Tim and his friend Ben, the Anglican priest I’d met in Muruzábal. We’d had a bit of a misunderstanding with the bartender who charged us too much. They both seemed anxious to get rid of me. I didn’t really care because, though I liked Ben, I didn’t care at all for Tim.
I visited the 12th century Romanesque San Andrés Church, directly across from our albergue; that was about all I could handle. Its Baroque bell tower seemed incongruous, but it was pretty. I said prayers for my kids and family, my fellow pilgrims and myself.
Villamayor de Monjardín had lovely views of the countryside and plenty of good company. Darina, the Dutch couple, Anna (who pointed out that her name is a palindrome) and I sat at a red table outside at the bar, the only restaurant in town, for what seemed like an eternity while they served an entire pilgrim meal to an adjacent table without checking in with us once. We got increasingly impatient over being ignored. Anna got up in a huff and said she was tired of waiting, although it was the only restaurant in town. Shortly after she left, we were finally served delicious lentil soup with chorizo, bread (as always), albondigas (meatballs in sauce with tomatoes), thinly-sliced potatoes, flan, and all the wine we could want. It was delicious.
The next morning, Anna, quite chagrined, said she needed some anger management, and felt embarrassed by her behavior the night before. Luckily she had been able to scrounge together two eggs, a huge tomato, and a little spaghetti for dinner. I loved how she learned something about herself, and we all could relate because we’ve all had regrettable behavior at times in our lives. She was good-natured and self-deprecating about it, which made her endearing. It was lovely getting to know this group of pilgrims, all seeking something and expanding their hearts.
The albergue had disposable paper sheets, the consistency of the small sheets you use when drying clothes. “Sheets” such as these were commonly provided. Pilgrims in the twelve beds in my room were pungent. I was near the window, but had to walk past everyone else to get to the bathroom. It was disgusting. Smells in albergues in those hot September days were generally quite unpleasant.
Villamayor de Monjardín
*Day 8: Tuesday, September 11, 2018*
*30,219 steps, or 12.81 miles: Lorca to Villamayor de Monjardin (18.7 km)*
You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:
On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.
This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: A Very Traditional Village.