Friday, February 4, 2011

We Wake and Smell Coffee, Walk and Smell Roses, Step Without Looking and Smell Sheep Doo

John MacKay, here flanked by Sandy
(note the hairdo) and Jeanne. John joined
us beginning at Puente la Reina.
Villamayor de Monjardin is one of those precious places on the Camino that is so full of character -- the character of our Dutch Evangelical hosts, the character of the rambling albergue, and the character of this castle town itself. Up behind the modern town, at the top of the conical peak are ruins of the Castillo de San Esteban. Next Camino, we vowed, we'll scramble up the peak and walk through the ruins looking for arrowheads and pottery shards and imagining the battles and romances seen by this castle over the centuries.

The group's spirits were livened after hearing that Castillo de Monjardin wine is available in Seattle. We agreed to stop by the Champion Wine Store just down from the church to make certain to get a sentimental bottle of our own.

Shepherd friend and his flock leave tailpipe emissions
but win our hearts with their nagging happiness.
After taking the access road down from Villamayor we walked along very pleasant, uninhabited countryside filled with vineyards. It was before Los Arcos that we had to step off the path for a shepherd and his 4-500 sheep (plus a few goats). The Camino doubles as a sheep highway sometimes, since it's off the roadways and inhabited only by pilgrims who, like us, are delighted by the distraction. No sheep seems to be able to walk very far without a conversation of happy nagging. With hundreds of sheep in this flock it sounded like a high school cafeteria on pizza day. Once the sheep passed, though, we realized that they left a trail of STE (Sheep Tailpipe Emissions) nearly impossible to step around. 

Knights Templar Church at Torres del Rio, our stop for
the night. Greta sang in the beautiful acoustic before dinner.
The sunshine which had blessed us most of our Camino was, as predicted, replaced by rain. By the time we got to Los Arcos we'd been drenched by a series of strong showers. These were not Seattle-style showers, but tropical in their intensity. Each of us grabbed our nearest Gore-Tex everything (jackets, pack covers, ponchos) and the puddles mixed with STE meant a certain fragrance to our boots. At Los Arcos we stood under the arches of the Iglesia de Santa Maria de los Arcos to let a squall pass and, to our good luck, a priest with a key passed by. We wouldn't be in town for the daily pilgrim mass at 7:00, so it was a treat to see the inside of this ornate and exquisite church building.

We caught lunch at the cafe/bar just across from the church, then turned right and left the city by its medieval city gate, crossing the Rio Odron toward Torres del Rio, this night's goal. As we left Los Arcos we looked left to the portico above the cemetery entrance which when translated reads, "You are what I once was and will be what I am now." With that cheery thought we ticked off the 7 kms to Torres del Rio at a lively pace.

Elissa and Jackie at a park in Torres del Rio.
This little, medieval town is a perfect pilgrim stopover. With its quaint, stone houses and 12th century Knights Templar church -- the Iglesia de Santo Sepulcro -- we felt we'd stepped back into time. After the church opened in the evening we returned and asked Greta to sing some hymns for us in the beautiful acoustic. She sang Amazing Grace, which carried our thoughts to God's forgiveness and goodness. We thought of our faith, based on images and ideas that here seem a million miles away. But we realized that, through Jesus, we share a common bond with the Knights Templar who built this church 800 years ago. With those thoughts in mind it was off to another albergue bunk to rest for the road ahead.
(Our stop at Torres del Rio completes the total distance equivalent our Cyber Pilgrims walked in Week 1. We'll stay in Torres until our group posts more mileage on Monday. Remember to send your totals for Week Two to Greta by then. Thanks, pilgrims!)

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