Category Archives: Estella

Estella, Spain, September 4 2011


I’m taking some recovery time in Estella.  My pinky toes are bruised and blistered and I have decided that I really need to give them time to heal or I will be spending the rest of my trip in acute pain.  I’m not of the opinion (as some of the more devoutly religious pilgrims on the trail are) that the only point of this journey IS to suffer.  I believe there have been and will be sufficient hardships along the path that I don’t need to purposely contribute added pain!  

I’ve given my toes an extra day and a half rest so far and I have the rest of today as well.  It’s a Sunday and scattered showers so there is not much else to do.  Tomorrow I will need to decide whether to continue on foot to the next town or take another short bus ride.  It’s supposed to be a rainy day tomorrow…  that may help me decide.  But if I take the bus I will miss an interesting monastery/castle half way up a mountain that I really hoped to see.   We’ll see what happens

In fits and starts, I have begun to get the “hang” of being a pilgrim.  In pilgrim hostels the day generally begins about6 amand you are out the door by7am… a little before the sun rises.  Then you walk!

I walk very slowly!  I have discovered that my pace is about 2 km (or 1.24 miles) an hour.   That includes breaks, but that is REALLY slow!  I think my pace may improve a little when my toes are healed, but I also just like to move slowly, making sure of each step I take so I don’t slip and injure myself.  For the most part (at least so far) the paths have been “walking trails”.  They are a few feet wide and composed of dirt and rocks.  They go up and down small mountains and hills.  The rocky terrain going down the mountains is the scariest!  That’s when I really take my time and plant each of my feet and each of my walking poles ever-so-carefully!  

After anywhere from4to 8 hours of walking I stop…. Sometimes at a pilgrim’s refuge and sometimes at a cheap hotel.  The first order of business is to take a shower…. the world looks a lot better after a warm shower!  Next you wash your clothes.  I have only two sets of clothes…the ones I’m wearing and the ones I’m not.  After your shower you put on your clean clothes and wash the ones you were just wearing in the sink and hang them up to dry on the clothes line (usually) provided.  

Now you have time to explore whatever dinky town you might be in… perhaps sign up for a pilgrim’s dinner if there is one available.  I do so whenever possible because it is one of the few times I will get a salad along the way…. and I get to sit with other pilgrims and chat.  Otherwise, you go in search of a small grocery store (grocery stores are always small little affairs in all but the biggest of cities) or a bar serving tapas (little finger foods) that are always delicious but rarely a healthy meal choice.

There is usually an interesting church to see.   Originally the pilgrimage was made predominantly by people looking for forgiveness of some sin or deliverance from some physical ailment… which would have been seen as divine punishment for some sin.  So, churches popped up along the way to give the sinner plenty of opportunities to make spiritual amends… after all, you really couldn’t be sure you would actually make it to the end of the pilgrimage.  Life was too uncertain back then!

Otherwise, there is time to chat with other pilgrims or study up on tomorrow’s path…or just sleep!   If I can, I usually opt for a private room.  I just prefer my privacy at the end off the day, and the ability to leave my things spread out and unattended when I step out the door.  But I have stayed in refuges with anywhere from 30 beds in a room to just 4… and always co-ed.   In Lorga I spent the night with two French women, a little older than myself, that spoke nothing but French.  They seemed to suffer from an affliction that is most often associated with Americans… they figured if they just spoke really slowly and loudly to me, surely I would be able to understand them!  LOL!  

My Spanish is improving.  Each day I get better and better at either ordering food or asking for a place to sleep… the two interactions I have the most experience with!  I can also ask for directions, but don’t always understand the answer.  As long as they point, I get the gist.

It’s not always easy to find food.  The towns I pass through are often no more than a few houses.  There might be a cafe or a small store, but inSpainthey take siesta seriously… stores and cafes open no earlier than8 amand often close between 1 and5 pm.  Good luck finding something to eat!  On one of my recent 8 hour walks I had nothing all day except a granola bar from my pack and wild blackberries off of the trail!  The pilgrim’s meal that night was VERY appreciated!

I am happiest when I can find a little market with over ripe fruit.  In theUSAour fruit is banned from the shelf as soon as it gets even a little ripe.  I like really ripe fruit, but am not about to carry around a bag of it, waiting for it to ripen.  The other day I found some ripe pears and selected one.  I brought it to the counter to pay.  The old clerk looked the thing over and started pointing out its flaws to me…. the end near the stem was a little rotten, it had bruises here and there…it was just a mess!  I sympathized with her point of view, but I WANTED that “rotten” pear!  Eventually, with an air of disgust, she wrapped it in a baggie and refused to charge me for it!  That pear was delicious!… and all the better for the heavy negotiations I had to endure for it!

Life’s a trip!