You are following me ahead ». “From victory to victory until final defeat.” “New veins are coming out.” On the Camino, adversity is fought with irony. That is when you catch up with those who got up earlier than you or those who come fresher are on your heels; The rest of the time, you are your only company. You put one foot in front of the other and let inertia take care of the rest, as cicadas orchestrate a thunderous symphony and traffic is heard in the distance. You make sure the rhythm is always the same, as if guided by a tuning fork, even if the slopes wreak havoc on your quadriceps and blisters even on your eyelashes.
Puente la Reina leaves us with mixed feelings: the arch of the Crucifix, through which pilgrims still bleary pass, the medieval bridge of uncertain authorship over the Arga River, the dinner that takes longer than necessary and it is about to cost us to sleep in the street . The problem is having to do it ten people in a room with which you are falling, no matter that you leave doors and windows open. Anyway, blessed vaccine.
We return to the road with the urgency of someone who knows that he is waging an unequal battle against the sun. The first obstacle is a slope between pine forests that no one had before reaching Mañeru. It will not be the last. In fact, the highest elevation of the day awaits us in Cirauqui, which hides vertigo slopes behind that postcard landscape between vineyards and cereal fields. Marie sweats the fat drop. She has come from Alsace (France) after working as an au pair in Galicia eight years ago. His Castilian has a Galician accent that completely disloys you. His excuse to return is not so much to see the apostle as to refresh the language and get to know the Spain that extends beyond the Santiago airport.
In Lorca, there is a fountain with three pipes that deserves to be declared a World Heritage Site, and that the Codex Calixtinus gives birth to the river that flows there: «Be careful not to drink from it, neither you nor your horse, it is deadly! ”, rescued the guide Eroski, the pilgrim’s best friend. Leif and Susan, Swedes from Orebro, are a married couple who are already in their sixties but are close to diving into the pile as ‘hooligans’. A hundred meters ago we have exchanged the traditional ‘Buen Camino’ and his has sounded like a rattle, it does not matter that the itinerary of the Coast between Irún and Santiago already appears to him, he assures. Anyone talking to him about the ‘Millennium’ trilogy, the same gives him a stroke.
We enter Estella through Calle de Curtidores, leaving first the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and then that of San Pedro de la Rúa, which is reminiscent of a fortress. Many hostels are closed and you have to be alive to reserve in the rest, lest you have to sleep in the open. Pau has not gotten off on the right foot: an inopportune twist has left his ankle swollen like a boot, so he has hobbled to the Ega River to put his feet in the water in the hope that the cold and some bags of peas frozen to help you weather the storm. It doesn’t look good.
Viviana and Noelia, both from Barcelona, must return to work in a couple of days, thus saying goodbye to the adventure at Los Arcos. It is the next stage that starts again with a steep ascent to the Irache Winery, where the fountain awaits that flows young red wine – one hundred liters a day, which is not mucus of turkey -, authentic El Dorado for those who do the Camino, It does not matter that the sun has not yet risen.
The route continues from there towards Villamayor de Monjardín, in whose castle tradition says the remains of Sancho Garcés rest. We passed a field of lavender – “Whose band?” Exclaims Mariano, who was looking for grapes, causing a general laugh – and we headed up the slope of the day when a little breeze was still blowing. That saves us, because the heat does not respect anything or anyone. At the fronton bar, the waiter -txuri urdin to the core- viciously attacks the Bilbao-that is, me-, not in vain this year they have hit us even in the veil of the palate.
We then started a descent, which for a change is not bad, and it did not take long to see that the half hour we have spent between sodas and RedBulls is going to take its toll. The sun is already in all the high and the twelve kilometers that remain until destination become an ordeal. Vines, sunflowers and mowed fields where bales of hay are piled up are witnesses to our tiresome wandering. Not a tree that provides shade.
Rubén’s ankles have been made of flour since forgiveness came down and he talks about returning to Madrid, where the second dose of the vaccine awaits him. We will say goodbye in Logroño. Manuel is not much better: he confesses that he started walking with new shoes and now recklessness pays. In Estella the Virgin appeared to him in the form of a pilgrim who has drained the blisters with a hypodermic needle, injected him with Betadine and bandaged both feet as if he were Nefertiti’s brother-in-law. A job what is said fine.
In Los Arcos, we go straight to the shelter to lick our wounds. The thermometer shows 35º when we read that tomorrow’s stage will be 30 kilometers. May God catch us confessed.