The morning dawned grey and damp, but the forecast promised sun, so I remained hopeful. The last of the sprinkles fell as the sun burst through the clouds treating me to a colorful rainbow on the horizon.
The Camino split into two routes today. I opted for the road less traveled, following the route frequented until the 15th century when the city of Estella was developed primarily to cater to pilgrims. I passed the ruins of an 8th century monastery, which became a hospital (place for pilgrims to sleep, not a medical facility) in 1050, the remaining stone walls glinting in the morning sun.
I didn’t see another pilgrim except when I backtracked from the alternate route a bit to visit the Fuente de Vino (wine fountain) on the main route through Irache, because free wine!
Back on the historic route, I walked through low slung forest of encina trees (closely related to the oak tree – I learned this from Alvaro yesterday) and pines. Solitude is hard to come by on the Camino Frances owing to its growing popularity. And to paraphrase Robert Frost, for me, taking the road less traveled made all the difference. It offered me a chance to be alone with my thoughts and take my time, both of which are difficult when you walk with other people.
Every so often, the trail broke out of the forest, offering breathtaking views of the stone escarpments of the surrounding mountains and the valley towns below.
After lunch in the tiny villge of Luquin, where coats of arms decorate the 17th and 18th century homes of the town’s well-heeled families…
…the trail descended into the valley where it rejoined the current more traveled route. It meandered through olive orchards, vineyards and fields of wheat, green waves rippling in the chilly wind that blew throughout the day. Cotton ball clouds dotted the sky.
I was exhausted by the time I reached Los Arcos but buoyed by my time off the beaten path.
Today I walked 18.8 miles.