The Road to Santiago.

October 8, 2002


Fountain of wine.
Fountain of wine in Irache

Estella to Villamayor de Monjardin
652 K from Santiago
Got up early and packed my things fairly quickly. (It helped that I hadn't taken much out the night before, only the necessities.) Went to the other part of the alburgue to partake of the breakfast that I had prepaid the night before (only 2.5 euros — the alburgue only cost 3). The breakfast wasn't much — choice of coffee, tea, or hot cocoa and packaged toast or shortbread cookies.  Fortunately I also had a kiwi from yesterday which provided some good nutrition.

Went to a small tienda de comestibles (grocery store) where I bought two each of pear, orange, and kiwi as well as a hunk of cheese and three thin slices of lomo (roasted pork loin). I wasn't going to be caught again without food while on the trail. The search for a caja automatico (ATM bank machine) to make sure I had enough cash for the road. Most of the restaurants in small pueblos and all the alburges accept only cash, so I have to plan in advance to have enough at the end day to ensure myself a bed.

The banks, of course, were across the bridge, in the new part of town. I then had to get back to the old section in order find the camino again. As I was heading back, I saw the three women from Lorca heading in the opposite direction. They were glad to see me and asked me how I was. I said fine, then I asked if I was going in wrong direction. They replied no, that they were headed for the bus station to go home. It was all the time they had and would finish the camino at some future date. I thanked the one who was concerned for me yesterday and told her that I was going to be all right; some days I just need a little nap in the afternoon — a little siesta and then I'm ready to go again. She gave me a kiss goodbye.

Saw Sergio by the medieval church. He was upset that it wouldn't be open until 10. He had wanted to be well on the road by then. Part of the reason for a camino was to visit the old churches. He said in stilted English, "Churches always closed, but the bells never close!" He then told me about the famous and ancient monastery of Irache. He said it was just a little detour, but well worth it.

About 8:45, I was overtaken my MiguelAngel who said he was looking for a good breakfast before he started out. He overtook me again complaining that he couldn't find any coffee, only a panderia (a bakery shop). He had a 30-inch loaf of pan (bread) sticking out of his backpack.

Hilltop destination
Soon I met a man also heading for Irache. He was French but we conversed in Spanish and since we were about the same in proficiency, it was easy and pleasant conversation. He told me that his name was Pascual and that he already had been to Santiago and was heading home to France. When I asked him if he wasn't going the wrong way, he explained that he stayed in Estella because yesterday was Monday and it was closed. (Most church-related sites are closed during the afternoons on Monday. Generally a building is open from 9-1 and then 4-8).

Pascual told me about the second, and probably more popular, attraction of Irache — a wine fountain. Actually it is two fountains — one has fresh water and the other fresh wine. It is situated in front of the Bodega Irache, a famous wine producer. When we got there, Miguel was eating his bread with a plastic jar full of wine. Next to the fountain is a vending machine where you can purchase bottles to take home. (It is considered gauche to take more from the fountain then that which you can drink while there. They even have a webcam there so you can watch on the Internet pilgrims sampling the wine. The address is I haven't seen it yet, but I plan to check it out the next time I go online.

Inside the monastery's halls was a museum that depicted local life in the 18th and 19th century. That and the various architectural styles of the different cloisters made it an interesting departure from walking.

A half-hour later, I was again overtaken by Miguel. Since we were passing a restaurant/bar, he invited me join him in that cup of coffee he had been looking for. On the big screen was a Mexican musical group, which lead to a discussion of Mexican music. It seems that we both like Ana Gabriel and Linda Ronstadt.

Noontime I passed two young German women, who were having their pilgrim's meal of bread, cheese, and wine. The view was splendid, but due to a recent application of fertilizer, the smell was horrendous. I didn't know how they could stand it.

Ran into MiguelAn who was having a lunch of bread and wine. Since his water bottle had wine in it, I offered him some of mine. I told him that I was going to stop at the private alburgue in Villamayor de Monjardin rather that push on to Los Arcos. He wasn't sure what he would do. I didn't want to stop because I knew it was going to be steep climbing — we could see the castle on the high hill in the distance. I figured I would trudge on and eat once I got there.

About a half-hour later, MiguelAn passed me at a good pace. I told him that if he decided to stay I would buy him a drink in Villamayor de Monjardin. He said that we would meet at the fountain. Sure enough about an hour and a half later I saw his backpack in the square.

He had searched out the private alburgue which was in a house at the top of the hill just above the fountain. The proprietors were a Dutch couple for an evangelical group known as Oasis Trails. They were assisted by volunteers from Holland who would come for a couple of weeks at a time. Since the volunteers knew no Spanish, French and English were the other languages used along with a lot of gestures and smiles.
Even though it was evangelical, there was no proselytizing — just lots of literature. At the meal, the host recited the Lord's prayer which was familiar to everyone. This night, he chose to read it in English. As the only native speaker, I think I was the only one who heard all the glaring and sometimes funny mistakes. Still, it didn't take away from the sense of the solemnity.
Dutch alburgue
With the host and his wife, there were a volunteer couple from Holland. The man's white beard and heavy Dutch accent made me feel like that I was back in Ohio's Amish country during my college days. The pilgrims included MiguelAn and me, Sergio (whom we hadn't seen at dinner the previous night), a Belgium man, named Marc, and another man from Sweden with a name which sounded like Euan (sp??) The meal was family style which began with a big delicious mixed salad and a cucumber salad. It was followed by several big kettles of chile con carne which was served over white rice. I don't normally eat beans, corn, or rice (carbos), but it was the only choice. It was delicious.

After dinner, I had to calculate my insulin dosage based on what I had eaten. My carbohydrate counter tells me how many carbos are in a cup of rice, a cup of corn, or a cup of beans. But was that a cup or a half cup of rice that was put on my plate? And when MiguelAn put another spoonful of chile on my plate, how many grams of corn and beans were in that spoonful.  I had to guess and the amount that totaled up came to over 160 grams of carbohydrate where I normally eat 25 to 50 for dinner. I had to take a big dose of Humalog.
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