The morning brings us back to the same parking lot where we ended our walk yesterday. We are headed to Estella, roughly fourteen miles away. The map indicates it’s another day of rolling hills. The first part of today’s trail into Mañeru appears a bit steep so I decide to have the bus take me around this first incline. Luckily the highway crosses the Camino less than three miles down the road where the path begins to descend into Mañeru. I spend most of the day alone, walking in silence. Between Ciraugui and Lorca I am greeted and passed by group members who walk at a fast pace. I don’t recall any thoughts today other than to keep putting one foot in front of the other. At the day’s end, however, I laid in bed, my mind going a mile a minute and at the same time, it felt blank and void.
Todays Camino paths follow close to the highway with bridges and tunnels switching us back and forth between opposite sides of the highway. Most of the paths today are dirt, gravel, and ancient Roman roads. We will pass near the Alloz Aqueduct built in 1939 and cross another medieval bridge. The landscape now brings vineyards, olive trees, and more harvested fields.
Walking through today’s medieval villages has a special feel. The steep, winding streets through the villages are flourishing with day to day activities of life. Young children are playing in the streets, tweens have booths set up selling their handmade jewelry to pilgrims. Laundry is hung to dry from windows, hanging planters full of flowers add character to the white and brown buildings. Bars (cafes) are buzzing with locals and pilgrims. The many churches along the way provide places to stop, rest, pray and reflect, allowing the Holy Spirit to work within one’s heart. “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:7
Entering Villatuerta I walk through a modern residential area. Up ahead there are benches along the street for weary pilgrims. I stop and rest for a minute and eat an apple. With renewed energy, I walk on through the town to Our Lady of the Assumption Church. I find some of my fellow pilgrim peeps working out on stationary bike pedals that are in front of the church. I entered the church had my credential stamped and said a prayer. I leave my energetic peeps to pedal on, knowing they will pass me by soon enough.
Although cooler than yesterday, the day is still warm. The lack of shade along the trail is taking its toll on me. My feet feel heavy and my body is telling me it can’t take one more step forward. Suddenly I see a father and son that I have passed several times today along with two of my pilgrim peeps, they are resting in the shade at a fountain. Estella is just a short distance down the road. I wet my bandana with the cold water, wrap it around my head, put on my “git r done” attitude and kept on moving. “I am not saying this as if out of need. For I have learned that, in whatever state I am, it is sufficient.” -Philippians 4:11
Finally, I’ve reached the destination for the day. The leaders of the pack, as usual, are waiting to cheer us in with cool refreshing sangria. The father and son team arrive walking past where we are sitting, we cheer their arrival also, they wave in gratitude. I enjoy several sangrias, I am feeling disconnected and empty as if the toll of the day took all the emotions that loomed within me and lifted them from my heart and soul. I am baffled by these feelings so I decided to head to the hotel and rest.
Mass this evening is at the Church of San Miguel (Saint Michael). The church combined with the steps that lead up to it has a feeling of overwhelming massiveness. The facade at the entrance of the Church is very detailed and includes carvings of the battle of Michael the Archangel slaying the serpent on one side and the three Marys before Christ’s empty tomb on the other. I am not able to focus tonight, distracted by this strange lack of emotion within me. Thank goodness I am brought back to reality by a majestic sound, one of the pilgrim peeps is accompanying our singing with his harmonica. The sound of this beautiful instrument resonates in the Church giving me goosebumps along with a feeling of joy. The day has left me with much to contemplate. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future full of hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen