Yesterday I was up at 3am as intended but due to an upset stomach did not actually leave Estella until 4am. Still, it was two or three hours ahead of everyone else so I was pleased to get a headstart with my bad knee. I walked through the silent streets and out of town, climbing up into the darkness towards Irache, home of the famous wine fountain. No free wine for me though as it gets switched off at night to stop drunks sitting there drinking it all night! Not that it bothered me to be honest, I was happy with the water.
I pushed on, walking under the moonlight, only using my head torch occasionally to check for the little yellow arrows that I have come to instinctively follow. It felt really amazing to walk in the complete peace and quiet, not another pilgrim in sight and a lovely cool breeze. The cooler temperature was perfect for walking and wasn’t something that I had considered when I planned an early start so was a nice surprise! For anyone planning on walking the Camino I really recommend having at least one very early start. Walking under the stars was an amazing experience, something I will no doubt do again.
When the sun came up, the heat started to build! By the time I passed Villamayor de Monjardín it was hot! At this point other pilgrims began to catchup and overtake me and as the heat increased, so did the pain in my knee. Although I was by far the slowest pilgrim of the day, I still found time to take a picture of a wasp or hornets nest… Wasn’t too sure but didn’t want to poke them to find out what they were for obvious reasons! There were several of these small nests all along the rocks..
I eventually reached Los Acros, 21.1kms and a shocking 7 hours later. My knee really was slowing me down! I met with some other pilgrims in the square and had a cold drink and bought a pair of walking sticks, one stick was just not enough anymore.
Now, this is where I made a bad decision which I admit was very stupid… Not wanting to be left behind by the faces I had come to recognise, I decided that I could walk the extra 7kms to Torres del Rio, as this was where everyone else was heading. Bearing in mind the sun was now high in the sky, there is no shade on this stretch, and no water fountains, not to mention the injured leg. I started off ok and was quite positive, but all of a sudden I felt a sharp, intense pain in the side of my knee which almost put me on my back! This scared me, and I carefully continued. It happened a few more times though so when I found a tiny bit of shade under an olive tree I sat down to look at the map and decide what I must do. I was halfway between Torres del Rio, and Los Acros, so turning back was pointless. I could either push on or make a shelter for the night. I have my military poncho with me and sleeping bag and know how to make a shelter, but the trouble was that the sun was so intense that I had already finished half of my water, and there was nowhere out here to get more. I had no choice but to continue. The pain was so bad that I started to cry like a baby at one point and took an extra painkiller in an attempt to ease it… Eventually I reached Sansol, but the Albergue here was deserted so I had to hobble the extra kilometer to Torres del Rio; thank god I bought the extra walking stick!
I eventually made it and found my way to La Pata de Oca, a very popular Albergue. When I went to book in I was asked if I want to stay in the albergue for 10€, or book into the hotel for 60€. Are you kidding!! A hotel!? Great, give me a room for two nights! So, here I am sitting in the hotel bar with a glass of water and my leg up.
Just as I was about to hit publish my cousin walked through the door! Yes!