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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Saints and Cynics Day 11: Estella to Los Arcos

Estella to Los Arcos - 21km (244km cumulative)
Estella was in the midst of a 'medieval fayre', complete with what looked liked the four horseman of the apocalypse. It might have been keeping the punters happy and filling the coffers of the town's merchant classes but it drastically reduced the refreshment options for wandering pilgrims such as your correspondent. I found an Italian eaterie but even that was only doing pizza and I really fancied some carb-loaded pasta; I quaffed a magheritta and a cold beer then headed back to my pension to enjoy the delights of Forgotten 80s via the internet. On Sundays I try my hardest to find a room with decent wifi to satisfy this peculiar passion; you might think me a nostalgic fool - who am I to disagree
Next morning, of course, bright and early, I was back on the trail. I have fond memories of this stage of the Camino Frances from May 2012. Back then, when I arrived in Estella, I was so tired I spent much of the afternoon asleep in the park. The next day, suitably refreshed, I more or less galloped along the 'alternative' route to Los Arcos

Estella cathedral. On Sunday evening it was - of course - closed!

The former Benedictine monastery of Santa MarĂ­a la Real de Irache

100km from Roncevalles, Artix is a further 111km distant so thus far I've hiked 211km!

The (in)famous wine fountain at Bodgeas Irache. Pilgrims can 'help themselves to a free glass' but nowadays the fountain has a daily 'budget' and fixed 'opening hours' - 08:00 - 22:00, should you care to partake.

A parting of the ways. I took the left hand route, as I did in 2012. Then it was because I wanted to avoid the albergue in Villamayor de Monjardin on the 'normal' route as I'd heard it was run by a bunch of Dutch evangelicals. I was wrong then, but it turned out I took the right path for the wrong reasons. The owner of the hostel where I stayed last night went to great lengths to point out that this was the authentic route, though it began back in Villatuerta, 3km before Estella. As was the case in 2012, I had the path almost entirely to myself.

The Basque mountains to the north still showing well

The path. It's the main thing ...

... it animated and enlivens the landscape

'One thing I should mention is the impact of the Europe/'Brexit' debate upon my perception of the landscape and also the notion of pilgrimage because the Camino de Santiago is very much a European project, it puts me right in the heart of Europe. When I got back from #TransCatalunya, I drove down to Exeter to see my supervisor; it was predictably wet, grim cold and windy ... and I drove through the [my beloved, enchanted] Blackdown Hills and it felt that I'd lost my love for them. Even driving down to Weymouth the day before I left for Saints and Cynics, it wasn't the same, the landscape wasn't animating itself; it didn't feel so intimate. You could probably say not so much that we'd fallen out of love but that we'd become indifferent to one another.
And so therefore, because I'm in Spain, because I'm in Europe, does this enhance the landscape here? Because I've been much more engaged with the landscape, between Roncevalles and here - I can't remember much of this from 2012 - is it because I'm much more academically engaged? Is it because in the intervening period I've spent so much time hiking in Spain or is it just because of this deeper love for the concept of Europe which is manifesting itself in the landscape? In which case there is, I suppose, a spiritual element, but it's also what the landscape represents philosophically, if not politically' 
Field recording, 25/7/2016

Path of the Day. The pilgrim ahead of me is carrying plastic carrier bags in each hand and had her boots laced to the back of her rucksack.

The last of the Riojans

The main plaza in Los Arcos. This tranquil scene belies the fact that, in the early hours of the following morning, the local policia had to be called to gently move on a group of pilgrims and locals who were carousing in true European fashion. You can take your Brexit and stick it up your ...

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