El Camino: Day 6 (Estella to Los Arcos)

Posted on 19 September 2012 by brett

Bodegas Irache Winery

Red wine and water fountain of Bodegas Irache Winery (1891)

Is it ever too early in the morning to drink wine in Spain? A few kilometers from Estella lies Bodegas Irache’s fountain of wine. It was 8:30 in the morning but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to drink from the magical fountain of wine. The fountain was installed in 1991 for thirsty pilgrims on their way to Santiago. The inscription on the fountain says, “Pilgrim, if you want to arrive in Santiago with strength and vitality, drink a mouthful of this great wine and overflow with happiness!” Bodegas Irache Winery has been in operation sine 1891, but the vineyards of Irache have existed since before the 12th century and are closely linked to the nearby Irache Monastery. Interestingly, there is a live webcam pointing at the fountain enabling anyone to see pilgrims in “real time”…indulging in their red wine at Bodegas Irache Wine Fountain.

Navarrean vineyards

Grape tasting in Navarrean vineyards

Continuing on a beautiful country trail for 7 kilometers, we made our way to Villamayor de Monjardin. Upon approaching the village, we spotted San Esteban de Deyo Castle (formerly a Muslim fortress) perched high on the mountaintop. We thought for a second about the hour climb to the top, but quickly came to our senses as we remembered the 12 kilometers ahead to Los Arcos. We whizzed past the 12th century Romanesque Iglesia de San Andres, and departed from the other side of Villamayor.

Navarran countryside

Walking several kilometers through the gorgeous Navarran countryside

The following 12 kilometers was open countryside filled with vineyards, crops and large haystacks. Los Arcos appears out of nowhere and suddenly we found ourselves walking down Calle Mayor to the main church square. “Casa de la Abuela” Pension is right off of the square. We settled in, paid for our laundry and took a quick shower before heading out for lunch. The owners of the pension are previous pilgrims and have decorated the halls with their Camino photography. They recommended a local restaurant which had a nice and cheap “menu del dia”. After lunch we walked around the small village, took some photos and visited the municipal albergue. This is where you find most of the pilgrims spending the night, as it’s the cheapest $5/night option. With these places you never know whether you’ll be sleeping on a bunk bed, a mat or the hard floor. It’s definitely the rough and true way of the Camino pilgrim, but we’ve been opting for more comfort and privacy.

Mesón de Gargantúa

Fabulous Pilgrim’s Menu at Mesón de Gargantúa

While hanging out at Casa de la Abuela, we met a woman whose feet were torn up with blisters. She had let it go too long and her foot was nearly infected. She told us many people were suffering from blisters, and some have even lost toe nails! We were fortunate not to have any of these foot problems. We account our success to wearing our sneakers and going against the recommended hiking boots. Boots are good for hiking a few hours but unimaginable for the long hours on your feet during the Camino. Our sneakers are light, comfortable and flexible, allowing our feet to breath. I actually have two pairs of the same sneakers on the Camino. One is a half size bigger. I start out with my normal size 8 and switch when my feet are swollen later in the day. This method has been working wonders for my feet!

Iglesia de Santa Maria

20:00 mass at Iglesia de Santa Maria

We had the best pilgrim’s menu at Mesón de Gargantúa in Los Arcos. Many of the pilgrim menus have been lacking in care, however the food at Los Arcos Restaurant was wonderfully prepared. After dinner, I decided to check out the 20:00 mass at Iglesia de Santa Maria. There were quite a few pilgrims in attendance, but I was more amazed at the devotion of the local villagers who must attend every night. The priest spoke of the pilgrimage and Camino often during his Spanish sermon. It’s been a long time since I attended mass and this was a nice opportunity to experience the Catholicism of Spain. Every village we walk through revolves around the Cathedral and churches. It’s amazing how vibrant the religious community still is in Spain.

An early bedtime is essential if we want to wake up at 6:00 tomorrow morning. We plan to set out before sunrise and get a head start on our 28 kilometer day ahead. The San Mateo festival awaits us in the Rioja capital of Logrono.

See our Photo Album:
El Camino: Day 6 (Estella to Los Arcos)

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