Day 5 – Estella to Torres del Rio (29 km)
The 5th day started with a bit of sunshine. I almost lost my way through the less pleasant, but not very extensive newer outskirts of Estella and then progressed in the right direction. Finally, just over three km past the albergue, I reached the large wine cellar that is well known for its generosity and is greatly anticipated by all pilgrims passing through.
At the entrance to the bodegas, winery in English, is a fountain with two taps. One tap for red and one for white wine, and there is no restriction to the tapping. When I arrived, a young couple filled their Coke bottles, and guess what I did: nothing. It was one of those crossroads where one afterwards wonders what one should have done: should I have spilled my water and filled the bottle with vino? What held me back was that I did not want to walk without water, and, not being a seasoned drinker, I was afraid my legs would not take the wine so well this early in the day. Perhaps the opportunity will come again one day and I might then act differently.
Wine on the house
Later we were walking on farm tracks and country roads. The scenery was even more beautiful than before and, surprisingly, the sun stayed out for most of the day. This made the journey a real pleasure, although it was bitterly cold. With the exception of passing through one tiny village on the way, we walked about seventeen kilometres before reaching the next community with shops and bars – Los Arcos. It was a small town rather than a village and boasted an enormously large church with adjoining monastery.
The church door was open while women were cleaning, but they did not mind me entering. It revealed an overwhelming interior ‒ Spanish baroque with gilded altar walls. Above the row of columns and arches on either side of the nave the walls were decorated with paintings displayed on every conceivable flat surface. The impressive frescos were quite dark when I saw them and would probably be even more imposing when lit up during church services. The cleaning ladies also showed me an adjoining Gothic cloister – the enclosed central garden of the monastery with the customary walkways under arches on all four sides and diagonal paths to the centre well. They took a photo of me with arches in the background.
As I left, Eric was sitting under the arcades in front of the church and had lunch. We had crossed paths many times that day and walked together for some stretches. Earlier on we had a joint breakfast sitting on a rickety bench in the fields at a junction of two farm roads, but I could not bear the cold after a while, so I closed my backpack and carried on ahead without him. Low temperatures never bothered me when walking.
After stocking up provisions in Arcos, I found a sunny bench on my way past the town gate and, although still nippy, the weather was pleasant enough for a late lunch. There was still enough time afterwards to push on for another seven or so kilometres to Torres del Rio, which I reached just before five in the afternoon and after a twenty nine kilometre stint for the day.
Iglesia de Santa María de los Arcos
Torres is a reasonably sized hilltop village with winding streets following the contours of the terrain. To my surprise there was a second Eunate-type octagonal church, which also was supposed to have been built by the Knights Templar and the keeper of the large key, living next door, was kind enough to show me the interior.
The church had similar Mozarabian decorations and alabaster windows that made a connection to Eunate obvious. It must have been designed by the same architect – or been copied. The building was, however, a fair bit larger and had more windows.
The ceiling is similar to that of the Eunate church.
It so happened that Eric and I were the only pilgrims in our private albergue and Dominique, who surprised us later, was the only person in the municipal hostel higher up the hill. Noelia had decided to stay in Los Arcos for the night. Dominique provided dinner – spaghetti bolognaise with grated cheese – before Eric and I returned to our bunks in the lower part of town.