My Camino Story Pt 6

27 October  Estella to Los Arcos

I am minded of the morning in Roncesvalles, 5 days ago, a lifetime ago… when I had heard people packing to make an early start.

Now I was one of those people.

I leave my bed at 5 a.m. and move all my stuff into the hallway to pack so as not to disturb the others.  I have got rid of as much excess baggage as possible and my shoulder feels so much better from resting it yesterday.  It is pitch dark as l make my way through the silent village, I am alone on the dark Camino. 


The bright Camino arrows are not so easy to see in the early morning gloom.


I make a few wrong turns but eventually I find my way out of town and onto the path.

On the Camino my standard pilgrim breakfast  is a ” bocadillo jamon y queso ” which anywhere else is a simple ham and cheese roll, but here, in Spain is elevated to something… special, I am looking forward to finding a cafe open, so I can be rewarded for my early morning rising…

Back at the Albergue everyone rises at a more civilised time, the group Matt and Paul walk with today has swelled to 11 people.

In the dark, I stumble past the Fuente (de vino) which famously dispenses free red wine to pilgrims, but it is a little early for me… and I make my way snaking under the quiet roads through the wise words of the graffitied underpasses…Image


I love that the Camino is as urban,  as it is rural, I find much inspiration in both environments. I remember feeling very quiet… inside… looking for my answer, seeking a truth… to stay? … to go?…

Away from the roads and waiting for sunrise, I realise, I am in a valley and that the sun has already risen, reflected on the rock face behind me… its glow starts to warm the morning air, today will be hot.


I find I am walking up again, the sun at my back, until I reach Villamayor de Monjardi.  At the open Albergue I am treated to free coffee and biscuits  and at the cafe given the tastiest  bocadillo ever…



I am enjoying the feeling of being alone, the only pilgrim in town and I take some time in the quiet dark church across from the cafe, I make my peace with the god of my understanding,  I confess my sins alone, simply and I ask for guidance… a sign…


As I leave the village I turn back to see the church spire in the sunlight… Today is bathed in light.

My step is light as I descend through the sun ripened grape vines lining the path in the valley below  Ahead of me I see a pilgrim and gradually I catch him up and fall into step beside him…

“Buen Camino” I say

“Buen Camino” he replies I can tell he is not English and we walk, quietly, in step for a while. Gradually a halting conversation begins: through his scraps of  English, my schoolboy French and some Spanish, I find out that his name is Peter, he is from Belgium and he walks the Camino all year when he reaches Santiago he turns round and walks back to St Jean and then starts again.  Back in Belgium  he had a family and a good job, he has a small pension but otherwise he lives very simply, occasionally working in the Albergues during winter, but mostly he just walks and laughs (especially in the rain, at the rain, singing in the rain) and helps the pilgrims he meets.

“Why do you do it?” I ask

He says  ” …have tried to do life… twice, it does not work for me… this Camino, I understand… I work here, I fit…”

I begin to understand that there are choices I can make beyond those which I had, ever, previously considered this is both liberating and alarming and as Peter sets off down a side road to meet friends  I am left alone again, walking in the heat of the afternoon through a beautiful and alien landscape my diary entry reads “Such an important day… I am on Mars”


I leave a message for my friends using the sun- bleached stones “nearly there”  it says  but where am I near?  I was looking for solutions to my life’s problems, did Peters way hold a solution for me?

The sun marks its arc and begins to drop down behind the trees



I’m touched by the light of the sun today, the simplicity of it’s actions: it rises, lights and warms the day, and then  sets it neither asks nor expects, it just is…

The sun gives…

I am the first pilgrim to arrive at the Albergue so I go to the shops and that night I cook a simple meal for some of the pilgrims it feels good to be useful… to give, I return to my bunk later and there is a packet of almonds on my bed, I try to find out who has left them so I can return them when I talk to Anna she laughs, did it never occur to me that someone had left a gift for me?

I’m still unclear about what to do but the act of walking alone opened my eyes to greater possibilities I feel calmer and more trusting in an outcome that will be right, whatever it is

Tomorrow we will walk through paradise.

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