Day 11 – To Viana

Los Arcos to Viana – 18 Kms, 26,682 steps

My afternoon and evening in Los Arcos was very pleasant. The bar on the central plaza serves a perfect Sangria and, my accommodation, the Pension Los Arcos, was just right. After my previous lousy night, it was a joy to sleep in a comfortable bed beneath a ceiling fan.

During Happy Hour in the plaza, I met three Irish pilgrims who told wonderful stories, in a thick brogue. We got on famously and found we shared our feelings about the former U.S. president. Apparently, the Irish have no love for his golf course nor his assault on democracy. When I told them I knew the song “Fields of Athenry” (a traditional rugby anthem) they stood and we all sang it together, to the amusement at those at nearby tables. We may or may not have gotten all the words and/or notes right, but it was a great bonding moment. My Irish ancestors from my mother’s side were smiling down, I’m sure.

Dawn breaks just outside the Los Arcos walls

As sunrise becomes later and later, the crowd of pilgrims waiting to leave then gets larger. I departed Los Arcos in the cool morning air with a lot of company and set my sights on Viana.

I seem to be meeting a lot of Australians this week. The Pilgrim Office says 451 Americans completed their Camino last year and 103 Aussies. It’s not surprising that 68% of the pilgrims are Spanish. In all, pilgrims from 168 countries completed their walk last year. Those numbers should be larger this year due this being a Holy Year and pent-up demand,

Lovely weather over the farm fields

I was able this morning to help another pilgrim. A woman emerged from the bushes ahead of me (where perhaps she had answered Nature’s call) and proceeded to continue straight down the farm road. I realized the Camino turned right just there and crossed the highway, a turn she had missed. I called out, got her attention, and pointed out the change of route. She might of walked on some distance the wrong way if I’d not been there (or, possibly, my presence kept her from noting the signage). But, whatever, it was nice to do a good deed.

Someone has too much time on their hands

The rock sculptures I come across now and then, piles of rocks carefully arranged, are interesting but sometimes seem a little obsessive.

Nuestra Senora de Poyo

At the highest point of my walk today, I passed a hermitage featuring the mosaic shown above. It says “Bless the town of Bargata and protect the pilgrims”.

A traditonal stone “vineyard observation” hut

Today I entered the great wine-producing region of La Rioja. Along with vineyards, there appeared the ancient stone “beehive” vineyard observation huts. These were apparently where guards slept, to protect the vineyards during harvest from pirates. Yes, grape pirates.

It was so beautiful today and I enjoyed fantastic vistas across fields and valleys. It wasn’t hard to remember to be “in the moment”, instead of just “on the way”. Sadly, a photo doesn’t provide the awesome scale of the view.

Inspiring views
An olive grove looks down on a vineyard

I arrived in Viana just after midday and remembered that it was the town, on my last Camino, where they had their own “running of the bulls” going on at the time. I also remembered how abused and pathetic the bulls looked and how cruel the whole event seemed. No bulls today, thankfully.

The Camino, right through the middle of Viana

I’m staying in a 3-star hotel and it’s nice but in some ways not as nice as my 1-star hotel last night. For example, today’s hotel has no laundry facilities and small, shallow bathroom sinks. It’s a hotel right on the Camino but it doesn’t seem to understand that pilgrims have to do their laundry daily. Oh well, at least my room has an antique-looking desk. And to be fair, there is a fine-looking breakfast buffet on tap for tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow will be a short Camino day for me, just 10 Kms, to Logroño, a larger city of 155,000. It appears I’ll just be missing their wine harvest festival (and the hangover that comes with it), which is okay with me. Onward!

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