Yesterday morning from La Casa Magica, I headed out alone again, but before I did I fueled myself up with cereal and orange juice and then grabbed myself a couple of cakes and another orange juice for the road.

The plan was to get back on schedule and make it to Los Arcos – a 25 kilometre day. I popped in my ear buds and listened to tunes. It wasn’t too long before I caught up to Thomas and Christina. We chatted for a few minutes and then wished each other well. I’m not sure if I’ll see them again since they were planning to take it slow and catch a bus at different points.

IMG_0647

The rising sun draped the Spanish landscape of hills and old architecture in the most beautiful and clear golden colour I think I have ever seen. Even the freshly overturned earth looked stunning.

IMG_0646

It is so surreal to me that I am here in Europe walking across this expansive country. Odd little things like graffiti spray painted on a concrete wall emphasize the fact so simply and clearly.

IMG_0648

I contemplated this as I walked and admired the endless rolling hills of ripe vineyards, stopping at times to say hello to other pilgrims.

IMG_0717

IMG_0708

IMG_0720

IMG_0722

Along the way I stumbled across the most SPECTACULAR fountain. A friend of mine had told me about it, but I had not expected it so soon.

This wasn’t a regular drinking fountain of water. No, instead it poured wine. Yes, WINE – red wine! Is that not the coolest thing ever? So, I did something that I have never done before. I filled my water bladder half with wine and half with water. That’s one full litre of wine – two litres diluted.

IMG_0664

While I sat on a short retaining wall eating an apple and the cakes from breakfast, I watched people arrive at the fountain in awe.

IMG_0660

When Andrew arrived, he also filled up his water bottle with wine and water.

I took off ahead and listened to tunes again, my strides and sticks in time with the beat of the music. Boy, did I laugh a lot along the way. I tried to capture the moment by balancing my camera on a fence post and fiddling with the self-timer, but failed miserably.

Andrew weaved his way into sight. The wine seemed to have gotten to him too although his animated display could have been more for show. He can be a bit of a comedian sometimes.

IMG_0685

This was also the stretch where I quizzed him on all the English bad words that he knows. I won’t repeat which ones, but he knows quite a few.

The weather finally changed from the endless days of sun that has been my experience so far.

IMG_0729

Yes, finally the rain. We unpacked our rain jackets and pack covers, however I should have unpacked my rain pants too. I was too lazy to take off my boots to slip them on. As I walked, the rain soaked into my socks and then filled my boots with water. 

Charlotte from New Zealand was up ahead. I had met her earlier while taking a break at a rest area. We had spoken about how humbling this experience has been so far. Part of her Camino was letting go of some of the physical aspects of herself. Just before her journey she had cut her long hair short over her ears and also decided to leave her make-up behind.

We all walked into Los Arcos together in our rain gear: Andrew in his stylish blue Gore-Tex rain jacket, me in my moss-green water resistant wind breaker and Charlotte in her billowing red poncho.

IMG_0727

IMG_0728

I find the ponchos amusing regardless of their practicality. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture, but they make pilgrims look like awkward hunchbacks since they are designed to wear over top of a backpack. Instead, I packed a clear plastic rain cover to wear over my rain jacket, basically a plastic bag – not so practical, however it’s very light. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Los Arcos is a popular destination. The recommended albergue was full, but we managed to find another which was also nearly full. Luckily, there was an overflow area in the attic. It wasn’t a big deal to me and Andrew, but Charlotte thought it would be hot and stuffy, so she moved on to find something more comfortable.

The attic was a large and open room, not hot and stuffy at all actually. Mattresses were scattered all over the floor. There was also one small adjoining room with two mattresses on the floor and a sheet covering the doorway. Andrew and I claimed it and offloaded our packs.

There were only three of us up in the attic – me, Andrew and a guy we met later on, Ian from Brazil, who occupied a bed at the end of the big open room beside a small window. It would be a quiet night unless Ian turned out to be a snorer.

Andrew mentioned while we were unloading our packs that he suspected the hospitaleros thought we were an item. He said it must make me feel good since they obviously think I am much younger than my 44 years. Either that or they think he’s a lot older, which I doubt. It’s flattering to me they would think that, however I’m not sure what Andrew thinks. Maybe he’s amused by it or maybe he’s horrified. I’m not sure.

Los Arcos has a lovely plaza where a number of crowded bars line the street across from the cathedral.

IMG_0741

We studied the menus posted on sandwich boards outside and settled on a bar that had the most reasonably priced food – Andrew ordered seafood paella and I ordered a pizza. We also ordered a pitcher of sangria, red wine mixed with citrus fruit and a splash of brandy. It’s Andrew’s favourite cocktail and one of the many luxuries that he enjoys back home.

Afterwards, we explored the cathedral and then walked the streets telling some good “stories”, ones I dare not repeat here! It was an entertaining evening.

IMG_0733

We returned to the albergue before lock-down. Hospitaleros always lock up the albergues during the night, so you must be back in time otherwise you have to spend the night outside.

My hips and lower back have been quite achy after the long days of walking with a 12 kilo pack. The extra walking around Los Arcos telling stories didn’t help.

Andrew offered to crack my back to help relieve some of the tension. He directed me to stand up and face him with my arms hanging by my side. Then he reached through between my dangling arms and rib cage and clasped his hands together over my spine pulling me towards him. “Relax,” he instructed, “Inhale deeply and then slowly exhale.”

I stood trying to let the tension slip away then suddenly the remaining air shot out my lungs in one quick volatile burst when Andrew suddenly squeezed my body tightly against his chest. My feet lifted off the ground and dangled below me and with each squeeze I could feel and hear my vertebrae pop. Very gradually Andrew lowered me back down onto my feet. My back loosened.

Andrew wasn’t done yet. He also instructed me to lay flat on my back with my head turned so I was facing him – my arms as well. Then he directed me to turn my hips in the opposite direction with my knees bent – a torso twist. Gently, he pushed my hip forward. Again I could feel the tension release.

Andrew then cracked his own back and neck. It’s amazing how he can crack his own bones so easily – something I have never been able to do.

Ian from Brazil, who was quite drunk, slunk through the curtain into our room. He had been drinking wine in the plaza and was looking for pilgrims to socialize with. He stayed for a few minutes and then, after realizing we weren’t in the same frame of mind, he crawled out and passed out on his mattress.

In the morning, the first thing Andrew said to me is, “You’ve got to hear something”. I was curious what he thought was so fascinating, so I leaned in close as he held out his phone. At first I couldn’t hear anything, but then there was a very light and almost inaudible sound of slightly heavy breathing or what he considers snoring. I could have killed him! He had recorded me while I was sleeping. Horrified would be a good word to describe my reaction. I can’t believe the thought even crossed his mind in the middle of the night to hold his phone out and press the record button.

After we packed up, we had breakfast downstairs in the lounge area and got onto the topic of bad words again. He said he thought the word “hunk” was a bad one. Laughing, I said, “Yeah, you’re a hunk alright”, but then filled him in on what a hunk really was.