We all sort of headed off on our own and met up again in Cirauqui. There was a grocery store open so I took the opportunity to buy a demi-boutellie (half bottle) of wine and some saucisson for lunch later. The path was pretty and peaceful but still going uphill then downhill, it seems you can't go uphill without going downhill and seldom are we ever on flat land. And the rocks are relentless, every now and then this stretch went on pavement but that too proved painful. Thanks to the Compeed, the blister on my left toe was fast healing but my feet, ankles, legs and ass were downright sore. Thankfully I don't have knee problems, I hear that's a real pain for people out here. So, I took it slowly relishing the fact that I was walking through my first vineyards. Somewhere along The Way someone had spray painted "You're in Spain!" It made me smile :)
This part of the journey was breathtakingly beautiful. I went through the picturesque town of Lorca and met up with a few others and stopped for Cava (Spanish sparkling wine). Every little town we walked through today was a quaint village with pilgrim connections, either monasteries or hospitals or medieval buildings or Roman churches, from like the 12th century. Amaze is what Anna and I would say. Amazeballs is what Dee would say. Amazing became just amaze. I bypassed the ruins of the ancient hermitage of St. Michael (you know the arcangel), yeah, amaze stuff like that.
The road out was a steep climb on a heavily eroded path before descending into Estrella. I noticed another route option on a big confusing sign, but since I didn't have a guidebook, I stuck with the yellow arrows. Fortified with the knowledge that I had wine and saucisson on my being, I headed to Ayegui, a place that was suggested by someone last night. Just as I was hobbling into Estrella, Lauren from Washington caught up with me, who was also on her last leg. We were standing there resting and trying to rally each other on when Alexis from Scotland comes running along asking if we knew directions to the Hotel. Alexis wasn't doing the whole Camino, in fact she was only doing parts of it, in non-sequential order, and sending her rolling suitcase on each day to the next Hotel she had previously booked. I tried not to judge and I reasoned everyone has their own Camino, but it was tough to empathize with her when we were sacrificing for survival. She flitted away and Lauren and I proceeded to tackle the notorious last three kilometers, which inevitably turned out to be the hardest of the day.
We finally made it to the alberge on the far side of town and lo and behold, there's Shai from Brooklyn, Jorge and Brendon from California, Guy from Australia and Kathy from Switzerland who live in Sweden, Brian from Ireland, and Esther and Yenny from Holland. Dee texted me saying she only made it as far as Estrella. The warden was a very nice, German man named Peter who retired here long ago and has done the Camino 28 times! 12 alone in the holy year! Lauren and I were so spent it was all we could do to listen to the John Denver song he played for his American pilgrims on arrival (I had never heard it before, something about a tomato garden).
Peter the warden showed us around, basically we were in a huge handball gymnasium and the alberge was beneath the court. There was a large room with about 40 single beds in one room (no bunk beds). The whole room was kind of funky but Lauren and I selected our beds and crashed. The showers here were not so good -girls-only but communal, plenty of hot water but it was too hot (it got hotter the longer you had it on, clever I thought). I ventured upstairs to find the restaurant next to the handball court and watched as a group of guys came to play. It was loud, I don't know how Lauren could sleep underneath it! Then I watched a cute couple play handball and by that time dinner was served.
I sat with my usual cast of characters and we toasted to a "Happy 4th of July!" I had to go wake Lauren so she wouldn't miss dinner. It was here I heard that Brian from Ireland was staying in the same fun place last night but he came back late and got locked out for awhile. He also got locked out at the convent in Arres, the town before, almost had to climb a wall until someone took pity on him! These places have rules and curfews. Guy started telling a story about how one time last year, they locked all the pilgrims inside the gate, and the locals went into town for a big wedding or celebration. "That's how some of them think of us," he said, "it's in their culture." After dinner, a group headed down to a large grocery store (supermercado) while I had a check-in call with my Mom and then went to bed. Ever grateful for my ear plugs, in they went. It was my seventh day on the Camino and I walked 24 kilometers today, I was beyond exhausted.
- Lillian Hellman