September 18, 2002

9/18/02 Los Arcos

20 km

It rained yesterday afternoon and again last night, which didn't bode, well for our departure this morning. Because the refugio began serving breakfast at 6am, the whole place seemed to be anxious to leave as soon as possible. Me, I had a slight hangover.

It was completely dark as the steady stream of pilgrims made their way through town. It was very difficult to see the yellow arrows that were supposed to guide us out of town and back up into the surrounding hills.

Opposite the Monasterio de Irache, a local wine maker has installed a very ornate 'Fuente del Vino', a wine fountain that offers the pilgrims a free drink to refresh themselves for the days journey. Even though it was early morning, Angela and I had a quick taste of the wine while the rain tried to increase more than a sprinkle.

Just a taste at the 'Wine Fountain'

Most of the Camino was through the woods as we made our way through Azqueta and Villamayor. In both pueblos (small towns), the church towers were enveloped in a dark fog. The rest of the day, we passed miles and miles of farmland, most of which contained acres of grapes. The wind was still pretty strong but it never really rained any harder.

I stopped for a quick snack break and got a chance to say goodbye to Josué. He's meeting a friend tomorrow that wants to walk a few days with him, so he needed to do a few more kilometres to meet her. Hopefully we will meet again on the 'road'.

I joined Carlos as we entered Los Arcos, with another pilgrim on horseback just ahead of us. The refugio was at the opposite side of town, just past the church. And now that the days' walking was over, the sun finally decided to come out.

Josué [España]

I ended up joining four Spaniards for lunch, Bixen, Carlos, Pedro and Jose Maria. Had a good meal of salad, trout and wine. And I was following the conversation mostly. They told me that eating and drinking a meal with friends was an essential part of Spanish culture. I had fun and was well fed.

Tried to catch up on my journal writing. Then it was time to visit the Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Asuncion. Inside I found one of the finest churches I've ever seen. Besides the golden retablos, every square inch of church was painted fresco. Just amazing.

Tonight, I went to the pilgrim mass. Even though baptized into the Catholic Church as an infant, I don't follow any organized faith at the exclusion of all others. I go to these masses in the belief that my prayers might have a little extra power when said in the presence of so many of the faith. After the service, the padre (father or priest) called all the pilgrims forward for a formal benediction, and a few words of wisdom for our journey. "Pray for peace, the clergy that help people, and the sick," he said. "And when you finish, how about a little prayer to St James for me." With a smile, he said goodbye.

On a happy not, Angela had accidentally left pictures of her family at the refugio in Puente la Reina. She made a call and today, a pilgrim on a bike dropped them off. He didn't stay long enough for Angela to thank, so we think he might have been a messenger from Santiago.