Estella to Los Arcos.

If you ever walk the Camino, this stage may be one of your favorites for a few important reasons.

Reason A: El Fuente de Vino.

Yes, you budding Spanish speakers… a wine fountain. Just outside of Estella, Irache vineyards have provided a fountain that disperses their wine for thirsty pilgrims who pass by – and a webcam to document any ensuing shenanigans, or perhaps also to ensure that pilgrims do not abuse this gift by taking more than un trago.

Reason B: Pablito.

A few kilometers after the wine fountain, you pass through a tiny town called Azqueta. Ask for Pablito, an important personality in the culture of the Camino de Santiago. (I happened upon him carrying a basket of vegetables from his field as we entered the town.)

Pablito will take you to his house, where he will stamp your pilgrim’s passport with his own stamp. (It says “Pablito.”) He may comment that his name is not the commonly used diminutive form of Pablo – he is named after Saint Pablito, not Saint Pablo. If your walking stick falls on the floor, he’ll tell you not to even bother picking it up. (“You won’t be taking that with you, anyway.”) He will take you to his back shed, past a plethora of abandoned walking sticks – aluminum walking poles, polished wood staffs bought from tourist shops, or (like ours) sticks chosen from the forest along the trail. Leading you to a heap of branches cut in the forest, he will carefully measure and cut you a walking stick appropriate to your stature. He will remove the rough parts with a hatchet, and then instruct you on the proper Pilgrim walk – 4 steps to each swing of the staff. If you lack the trademark conch shell (the most recognizable emblem of the pilgrimage, that pilgrims have carried on their packs for centuries) he will give you one from a basket carried from the coast – again, with a cord carefully measured.

(If his wife wants to go into town to the store, or do something else unrelated to your pilgrim needs, he may reply along the lines of “Hang on! I’m giving these people their shells.”)

After properly equipping you for your journey, Pablito will take you to his backyard (as seen above), where there is an 800 year old stone found in a nearby field, marked with the faded shape of a St. James’ cross on one side and the cross of the Knights of Malta on the other. He will also point out his tree that looks like an elephant. (“You’ll never see a tree like this tree again!”)

Pablito was one of many characters we met along the way who made me feel very grateful for my ability to communicate in Spanish – if I had been monolingual I would have missed out on so many things.


One Response to 187/365

  1. Chelsea says:

    I am reading through all of these on my phone this morning…we dont have Internet at home yet. This might be my favorite so far 🙂 and I want to know what happened to your walking sticks when you were done! The previous post about small goals…those are words of wisdom I have recently encountered (or re-encountered) and they carry me. Can’t wait to see you later!!

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