I stumbled upon a quote by Lord Cecil, “Solitude shows us what we should be; Society shows us what we are.” Following this thread, the higher elevation ‘alternativo’ path was chosen for today. Few Peregrinos stray beyond the yellow brick road to take these detours, especially if it involves elevation gains. The majority of the pack focuses on completing their day’s journey by early afternoon. The turn off for this route was just past the Fuente de Vino (Fountain of Wine) where a bodega offered one to fill a cup or flask of their vintage from a complimentary tap.
Snacks and extra water were packed per guidebook recommendation due to limited access to facilities en route. No encounter was made during these glorious hours of solitude. My mind had not slowed down greatly since my Camino commencement. However, when walking continuously for days, I imagined my speedy mental pace would eventually parallel my slow, steady walking gait. I savored this Camino diversion with a backdrop of an endless panoramic horizon. Creative thoughts seeped into my narrow brain space as fresh forest air filled my lungs.
The path eventually wound down to a village where the local coffee house was open, which is always a wonderful perk. Pun intended. I entered and encountered a Belgium bunkmate from last night. Not really able to verbally communicate, a nod was shared and a bond was felt. We had both soloed the high road. I felt fantastic. I savored my coffee and subsequently savored a second one. A few klicks beyond the village the road yielded back to the main route. A sense of deflation was felt with the final descent.
Café Movil was a drink and snack stand in the middle of absolutely nowhere allowing pilgrims to quench their thirst and put their feet up for awhile. Common pilgrim practice was to kick off one’s shoes at stops to air, massage, stretch or re-bandage wounds. I bumped into a friendly Arizona couple that I would encounter on several occasions during the Camino. We sat shoe-less and cooled off at the Café Movil.
My legs started aching as I recommenced walking, so my remedy was to bee-lined it to my destination of Los Arcos to shorten the time of this throbbing sensation. Camino buzz also persisted that hostels were filling up and the thought of walking beyond this village in search of a bed depressed me. The rumor proved false on my arrival and a bed was scored at an Austrian hostel. Soon to meet up with my Austrian traveling mate, this hostel seemed an appropriate premonition.
Exhausted and hungry, I dug into the remains of my snack bag in the hostel dining room. A German couple started up a conversation and then offered to share their dinner with me. I was touched. A topic discussed over a large bowl of spaghetti was the upcoming USA presidential primaries. They found the American political scene fairly entertaining this year round. I agreed with them.
The Germans planned to attend the Pilgrim mass that was held nightly in most village churches. I went reluctantly, but arrived late. Sitting through a whole Spanish mass seemed horribly long to me.
The church doors opened onto a square where cafe tables spilled out. After exiting the church, many faces were recognized taking in their dinners, laughing and sipping wine. We were, after all, in Rioja, one of the best wine making regions in Spain. The camaraderie made it feel more like a vacation than a pilgrimage at times. A bottle of wine was offered with most Peregrino meals as per Spanish culture, most likely heightening the jovial spirits. As they say, when in Spain, do as the Spaniards. Viva la Spain!