Since our last post from the tiny village of Uterga (about 15 km from Pamplona) we have strolled, meandered, hoofed it, sauntered, hiked, trekked, or more simply, walked. We are enjoying a rest day in the town of Los Arcos or translated, The Arches or more simply, Arches. At our casual, permanent-vacation pace we’ve covered about 45 km in the past three days and we are feeling pretty good.
Our favorite day so far along the Camino was the day we left from Uterga. We were the last to leave the albergue (without coffee) which is often the case and we strolled southwest for an hour or so without seeing any pilgrims until we reached a hotel that thankfully was open (a novelty on a Sunday), had a restaurant and was operated by a smiley kind Spanish woman who made great cafe con leche. We relaxed for an hour or so and then walked through the rest of the town of Puente La Reina and into the most lovely fields of wheat, rolling hills, contrasting colors and puffy clouds under a deep blue sky. Until this day we had mostly walked with new acquaintances past large groups of walkers or within packs of 20 to 50 other folks with their heavy bags and trekking poles or wooden staffs. This particular day however, on the part of the trail that impressed us most, we were alone for hours and hours, getting a sense of what it must be like to be on the PCT or another less populated walk.
But let’s back up just a minute. While we were enjoying a beer in the afternoon sun in Uterga, we noticed another pilgrim at the bar who looked a lot like our friend and fellow Universe, Thad. We haven’t seen our dear Thad in a couple of years, ever since he packed up his soccer skills and relocated to the eastern USA. While secretly gawking at Thad’s doppelgänger and noting the remarkable similarities between the two we discussed how we thought Thad would really enjoy this walk. We decided to email Thad to let him know we saw his clone and to invite him to join us on this adventure, long-shot-fantasy-idea though it was. We weren’t expecting much to come of our impromptu idea, but it turns out Thad is able to make the journey and will be joining us for the last week of walking into the town of Santiago de Compostela! It will be a mini Universes reunion, and we can’t wait to see him. Thad has since confessed to us that this was his plan all along and he paid his doppelgänger handsomely.
The last 45 kilometers brought us several new acquaintances to walk with, some steep hills, lots of crop land, more gigantic wind turbines, scorching sun, ancient ruins, aching knees, countless coffees, friendly locals and a fountain dispensing free wine. We could hardly believe our ears when we were told of a place where the wine flows like water. We had to find out for ourselves if this was true. We left our belongings in the albergue (which was the basement of a community sports center/racquetball arena/construction zone) and walked on another 4 km despite our exhaustion to the place where supposedly a pilgrim can get “fortified” (ie: wasted) for their journey. To our delight the rumor turned out to be true and we found the fuente de vino. Even better, the wine was actually pretty good! The wine fountain is provided to pilgrims by a local winery named Irache. We visited the wine fountain again the next morning at 7:15 and sacrificed one of our two water bottles – on a hot day with limited options for refilling – to fill it full to the brim with vino tinto. At the tail end of our walk as we began to stagger with exhaustion we finished the last of our water, unsure of how much further we had to go before Los Arcos. It was at this crucial moment that we opened the canteen full of wine and tested a long-standing query: Will wine dehydrate you further at a time of need, or could it possibly fortify and sustain a failing pilgrim? Unfortunately (or fortunately) our experiment was ruined when we remembered that we had an orange and some cheese in our packs, which seemed to hydrate us sufficiently.