Maybe it’s because I am fond of Estella, or maybe it’s just the gorgeous rolling landscape with the Villamayor church peeking up, but I really do enjoy the walk to Villamayor de Monjardin and even on to Los Arcos. For one thing you get to walk past the wine fountain (a dollop of expectation management is required in my opinion) and you get to see the lovely and ever changing face of Montejurra mountain to the left. There is an alternative path too, going up into the foothills and via Luquin, but it is steeper and has fewer to no services until Los Arcos so pay attention to the sign where the path splits, or make sure you have extra food and water if you take the Luquin route.
We took the path to the right, towards Villamayor. The path winds through rolling fields, some woods, this iconic tunnel, and you’ll see tall, white cliffs in the distance to your right. The camino will soon be running out of hills, so enjoy them while you can and be grateful you don’t have to climb them.
About halfway through the day you get to Villamayor, a small town with a shop, an albergue and a bar up to the right. I have stayed at the albergue, it’s good and serves a good breakfast, but take earplugs because the church bells toll every hour … When we got there, the bar wasn’t open yet, so we got some drinks and snacks at the shop and carried on.
After Villamayor though, there is a 12 km stretch – flat, open, dusty, dry – with no services apart from a ‘man in a van’ oasis about halfway. They sell drinks (including draft beer) as well as snacks and fruit, and they even have a stamp! There are seats in the shade and it makes for a lovely stop. The only thing they don’t have is a toilet, so go easy on the beer. It’s still a long 6 kms to Los Arcos!
After that it’s back to this. The long and winding road that just keeps going.
Seeing the sign for Los Arcos is a definite mood lifter every time! Los Arcos – the arches – in pilgrim terms is little more than a square, but that also means most pilgrims gather there eventually, which is good. Our group had scattered through the day, some walking fast, some slow, some alone and some together (hi, Jim!), some rested after the walk and some just showered and went back out into the sun. We were in a nice albergue which served a communal meal, but on a lovely afternoon we decided to go to the square instead and share our impressions and experiences from the day, enjoy some rehydrating beverages and a meal. Sitting there together, seeing lots of pilgrims we had met along the way, watching darkness fall and the church arches light up, was a wonderful end to a wonderful day.
… except we decided to go for a nightcap somewhere where the locals went, and someone had reccied out a bar not far from the square, so off we went. One of our party didn’t so much enter the establishment as fly head first into it, landing softly on the chest of a man innocently having a drink at the bar! This was a great icebreaker though, and soon there were drinks being offered and counter-offered, photos taken and friendship instantly established. They didn’t speak much English, and we spoke little Spanish, but sometimes having a common language is just an optional extra – in this case communication flowed nicely without it. Had it not been for the curfew, we would have stayed a lot longer!