Daily life along the Camino has settled into a pretty regular routine. We have begun to develop a rhythm and are repeating our daily chores and activities almost without thinking about them. And, we are seeing familiar pilgrim faces in the albergues and along the trail more and more frequently. In spite of the routine, the past two days have gone by in a flash.
The weather has been unusually warm for September, but today we were blessed with an overcast sky until about noon and a delightfully refreshing breeze most of the day. I said the breeze must have been from the wings of angels who were with us to provide protection and comfort. However, once the sun finally emerges from behind the cloud level it is brutal. This is one of the common experiences shared by all pilgrims. Another, of course, is walking and just…moving…forward.
Early in the morning (Day 7), we passed through the city of Estella. One of the most famous sights there is the Iglesia San Pedro with its beautiful adjoining staircase leading to the streets below. You can see it in the movie, The Way. It was even more impressive to see it in person.
The Camino continues to bless us with the most remarkable occurrences and experiences. Shortly after leaving Estella we came upon the Bodega Iracha winery, which offers pilgrims a truly unique form of comfort. Alongside the Camino and out of the way of regular tourist traffic is a fountain for pilgrim refreshment. What distinguishes this fountain from all others is that it has two fonts – one with water and one with wine! The owners of the Bodega wanted to provide this wine fountain (the Fuentes del Vino) as a gift to fortify pilgrims along the way. And who would pass up an offer like that?
Later in the day, we took a scenic optional route that, while a few kilometers shorter than the standard route had a significantly greater elevation gain. However we were rewarded with yet more spectacular views of this beautiful countryside. We spent the evening in a private albergue in the town of Los Arcos. The altarpiece in the town church, where we attended part of the evening pilgrim mass was almost as spectacular of the one we saw in Puente la Riena a day earlier.
This morning at first daylight we hit the trail again and spent the day working our way to our destination for the day, Viana, where we encountered one of the most incredible experiences we have had to date on the Camino. It was the most remarkable of coincidences (or was it St. James rewarding us for our perseverance again?) that the town was having a festival today and exactly (almost to the minute!) that we entered the town center they began their own version of the running of the bulls!! This was just too good to be true! What a thrill as the bulls came racing by us, only mere feet away, and the bravest of the townsfolk (mostly men, but some brave women as well) taunted the bulls and jumped aside just in the nick of time. The bulls ran back and forth over a several block route a number of times. After a half hour the excitement was over. There was an ambulance standing by but, thankfully, was not needed on this day. This is the sort of Spanish immersion that I could never have imagined. The Camino continues to deliver without fail – time and time again! What could possibly be next?