Dawn brought cockerels and bells and birds. The scent of spice on the wind.
I’m in the Mediterranean now. Over the hill and into a different climate. Vineyards and olive trees. Ciccadas chirring in the evening. A slower pace in the heat.
The devil nearly had me in Lorca. I’d been distracted. “Dolmen” said the battered sign, with no indication of distance. It was almost time to chant. I figured I’d go to a place of power. But it was bloody miles uphill and involved breaking through a fence and fighting through a thornbush. I eventually sat sweating on the edge of a valley chanting down to a dolmen in the punishing sunshine.
Then a long squabble with more thorns to get back on the trail. All the while the devil had been closing on me. I stopped at a vending machine to get an ice tea in Lorca and “Tchack”. Fucker was right on me. I jolted forward, almost down the wrong path but an old lady waved to protect me and pointed to the right one. “Tathanakyou” I attempted in my ItalianoSpanish mess and ran from the devil. Or the confused monk. Your call.
I didn’t stop going after that. I didn’t stop for lunch. I kept on pushing on. The Fitbit zinged my fifteen miles way early and I was out the other end of Estella, where everyone will sleep tonight, limping up a hill. Estrella is a huge stone town, preserving and enforcing reverence in the way you can with stone. Monasteries and churches galore.
Impenetrable vast dark buildings. “You are in darkness. The light is above you.”
There’s character there. It’s irreverent too. At the base of one of the pompous raised stone edifices a little shop called “Namaste” offers tarot readings.
I had it in my head I was going to stay in a village called Ayegui. Why there? Well, it’s a little bit after Estella, which will be like Kings Cross in the morning. And Ayegui has a WINE FOUNTAIN. Which would be closed in the morning if I was leaving from Estella. And anyway, evening is the time for free wine from a magical wine fountain. There’s a webcam. It’s on a 12 second time delay. So I did a little silent comedy routine for a few persistent friends on the WhatsApp group. Then I had some free wine. It’s laid on by the monks. It’s just a delightful idea. It’s so completely silly and so completely right for this walk and this region. Free wine from a tap in the wall. I had a fair few glugs. It was good. Sticky hands and beard.
Then I discovered that the monastery was not an albergue. And the next town was a good 5km off. And my feet were already in shutdown. Back to the wine fountain. Glug glug and fill my flask with water. And off staggering slightly pished into the mountains.
All you have to do is walk through the pain. I was already halfway through the next recommended day stage, clomping vastfooted like Scott of the Antarctic through the tiny village of Azqueta when I spot “La Perla Negra.” And they spot me. “Come stay!” shouts the proprietor to this shuffling mangled human. And she’s right. I want to and I will. Normally I’m the opposite of a mark. But she was selling what I wanted.
It’s peaceful here. I’m sitting out front now, winding down, and I’ve got half a day ahead of the devil with no extra blisters. Onwards.