Using my headlamp, I left Villamayor de Monjardín in the dark at 7:04 and fell in love with the sunrise. The path carried me on gently rolling hills through farmland, vineyards and olive groves. Another huge house-like haystack stood alone in a mowed field. The countryside glowed under dramatic skies, blue colors peeping out from purple haze. I loved the weeds along the path and the white bark trees with branches reaching upwards. Yellow, white and lavender flowers like tiny stars covered the ground. I felt so lucky to be out walking.
Villamayor de Monjardín to Los Arcos Centro (12.2 km)
We walked through a stretch of beautiful vineyards and farmland with other crops.
As I continued on, charcoal clouds smudged the sky ahead and, though it wasn’t raining, a rainbow threaded its way through the clouds.
The actual path followed the squared edges of a large field, but I followed Ben the priest’s example and trekked over a narrow mowed path diagonally across.
I passed a bicyclist taking a selfie at a particularly lovely spot and I offered to take a photo of him. He took one of me in return.
To the north, a huge mountain with a flat rocky face towered over hills lit coral by the sun. Two French women I met marveled over it and said they have a mountain like that in France that Cezanne painted. One of the women spoke English but the other didn’t; that one glared at me whenever her friend and I conversed.
I saw some ruins on a hilltop to the south, but the path never approached them.
Around a sharp turn, it started raining lightly, so I put on my poncho. Then I came upon a bucolic scene. A flock of sheep nibbled nonchalantly on grass and berries, bleating away, the bells around their necks chiming a soothing tune. Suddenly, the modern-day shepherd, wearing a windbreaker, and his two dogs must have made a signal, because all the sheep, trustingly and without any misbehaving or straying, followed him across a small bridge. I was mesmerized by the whole scene, so much so that I started crying and couldn’t stop. I found it so simple yet so charming and even spiritual, a connection to a rural life from which we are so disconnected in today’s world. It felt natural and eternal, akin to the spiritual likening of Christ to a shepherd. Like the sheep, believers trust him to lead and tend them.
It seemed I was blessed with a moment of presence.
After nearly 12 km in the countryside, we climbed gently through the Pass of the Goats before descending into the crossroads town of Los Arcos, with a declining population of only 1,200. With its Roman origins, it remains a classical pilgrim stop.
My first order of business was to get some cash, which I was finally able to do. Ben (the ordained Episcopal priest) and I had passed a pizza shop/bakery on the way into town, so we each, separately, backtracked to it. I ordered a veggie pizza and sat outside on a bench along the Way to eat it. Eventually, Ingrid, Marianne (from Orisson) and Pat showed up and we all sat on a bench, chatted, and ate pizza and chocolate-iced cookies before tackling the last leg of our walk.
Pat and I left Los Arcos by via the 12th-century Romanesque Church of St. Mary of the Arches, or Iglesia de Santa Maria de Los Arcos. The church was embellished in the 16th, 17th and 18th centurie, so it now has Gothic, Baroque and Classical elements.
We had 6.8 km to Sansol and 1.0 km to Torres del Rio, where we could finally rest for the night. We could see Sansol on a hill from a great distance and since we could see it, we thought it must not be that far. By this time it was late afternoon and the sun was permeating. Not a sliver of shade could be found. It seemed an eternity to get there in that sun. I couldn’t keep up with Pat’s pace, so I fell back and walked the rest of the way by myself.
Los Arcos Centro to Sansol (6.8 km)
About a mile before we reached Sansol, the path dipped under the shade of a lone tree; it was one of the few places offering shade on that stretch. Under the tree, sitting on a log, was a Québécois couple, Daniel and Rosalina. I asked if I could join them and we chatted for a while. They were a good-looking older couple who seemed smitten with each other. Rosalina wore a linen dress with a flowery top underneath and a straw hat; she was so delicate and stylish. Daniel was thin, slight and very handsome as well. Somehow our conversation turned to my loved one and his issues and my hopes and prayers for him. Rosalina got very quiet; she and Daniel shared that they had a son with whom they had been estranged for quite a long time due to similar issues. They hoped I didn’t give up on him, but they understood perfectly my dilemma.
The final stretch into Sansol was via a paved road, which was quite hot by the time we arrived at nearly 1:00.
I didn’t stop in Sansol but walked right through the town. Luckily, I had only 1.0 km further to go after Sansol, and I arrived at Albergue Casa Santa Mariela in Torres del Río, a quintessential pilgrim village.
I showered and washed my clothes and hung them on the balcony outside our room to dry. The albergue had a market downstairs, from which I bought a cerveza. I drank it on the patio under umbrellas with Anna, Thomas (from Germany, who I’d met in Muruzábal) and some others. Then I went up to my room to rest my legs and catch up with Instagram.
I walked up to the town’s 12th-century Iglesia de Santo Sepulcro, which is based on the octagonal church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The cross-ribbed cupola forming an 8-sided star is emblematic of the Knights Templar; openings at the base of the ribs allow light to filter in, displaying a clear Moorish influence. The simple interior has a 13th-century crucifix, unusual in that it has four nails, as the feet are separated, instead of the customary three. The church’s decoration has a definite Mudejar (Gothic/Islamic) influence, with a Cisterian feel to it. At least 50 capitals are decorated with animal and flower motifs. It used to be a beacon for medieval pilgrims on the Camino.
I walked downhill to the Hostel San Andrés, across the plaza from my albergue, and sat on the patio waiting for dinner with Pat, Anna, Thomas, and Kees and Jannie from Holland. Anna grabbed a guitar from the hostel and sang “🎶 Moonshadow, moonshadow 🎶.” It was such a relaxing and soothing atmosphere among friends.
At the pilgrim dinner at Hostel San Andrés, Kees got us all a table together and we enjoyed a lovely dinner filled with laughter. We drank all the wine we wanted and ate chick pea soup with chorizo and red peppers, salmon and french fries, and some kind of pudding.
Back at Casa Santa Mariela, Anna slept in the bed beside mine and Thomas in the top bunk overhead. We had the balcony door open all night, so the sounds of the night drifted in on a gentle breeze. Gentle snoring added another layer to the melody. Happy pilgrims all.
It was funny how I didn’t connect at all with some pilgrims, while I did with others. I met Stephanie from Portland, Maine in Los Arcos – Ingrid had been walking with her earlier – and I had nothing at all to say to her. Another was a lady named Tracy from California in my albergue this evening. She seemed a driven type-A person with no humor. I tend to gravitate toward easy-going people who make me laugh and who laugh with me, like Darina, Anna, Ingrid, Pat, Thomas, Kees and Jannie. 🙂
Sansol to Torres del Río Centro (1.0 km)
*Day 9: Wednesday, September 12, 2018*
*30,607 steps, or 12.97 miles: Villmayor de Monjardín to Torres del Rio (19.9 km)*
You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:
On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.
This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Natural Beauty at Fonte Filipe.