Last night as we bought supplies in the local store, the grizzled local behind the counter asked us where we were going tomorrow, when we replied that we were going to Torres del Río he smiled and said ‘Ah, you are cyclists!’. We corrected him, and he just gave us a look filled with pity.
You see the natural stopping point for a stage from Estella is at Los Arcos which is 20km away. Not only did we intend to go another 10km, but those 10km are notoriously sun-struck, which doesn’t matter in the morning but certainly matters in the afternoon.
With that in mind we set out from Estella before the crack of dawn. Not only did that mean we missed breakfast but when we got to the famous wine fountain just outside town they hadn’t turned on the wine yet. So we had to make do with a sip of water.
It is worth mentioning navigation on the Camino here. We do have an excellent app but it’s not practical to use it all the time. So much of the time we’re just looking out for signs. There are a lot of signs but navigating is like playing paint by numbers – at every intersection you look for a sign, find it and follow it, then look for the next one. I mention this because this game becomes harder in the dark and an early morning and no coffee had slightly frayed tempers that might have benefited from a calming cup of wine.
Anyway, not lost, we continued on in the cool and, ever so slowly, the Sun rose behind us lending us shadows as we walked. We were soon out of the town and walking through some beautiful countryside of vineyards and wheat fields.
About 9km into the walk we stopped for coffee and croissants at a little bar and chatted with some pilgrims from the USA. Most other people were on a slow day to Los Arcos but we had an agenda. That agenda had us moving on another 2km for another coffee.
Then it was a long stretch of 10km with no shade and nowhere to stop, or so we thought. But some enterprising soul had set up a food truck about halfway to Los Arcos – so we had cold drinks in the shade and home made bocadillos using the supplies we had bought the night before. It was heaven.
All too soon we were moving again. I won’t belabor how little shade there is – but there is absolutely no shade, none. We met a lot of fellow walkers in the two tiny blocks of shade to be had on the whole stretch.
We got to Los Arcos in good time and camped out in the stunning square with ice-creams and cold drinks. There was a wedding taking place and the square was crowded with extremely well-dressed locals. When the first fireworks went off and reverberated around the square we literally thought a car bomb had gone off. They got progressively louder to the point that every single child was in tears, and I was pretty close myself. Made for some great people watching though.
Then there was the last 10km to Torres del Rio. It was hot. But putting the heat to one side, the path was good, as it had been all day, and the countryside is extremely beautiful. Views seem to stretch away forever patched in greens from the vines and olives and yellow from the wheat. There are also swathes of black which we first thought were ploughed fields of dark soil, but in fact they are fields of dead sunflowers. We’ve come up with no explanation for the huge dead sunflower fields, but we’ve seen a lot now.
So in the end the walk wasn’t as bad as we feared and we are now in tiny Torres del Rio. It has a small Templar Church, a couple of hostels, and a few houses. It also has some seats and we only need to move a few paces to get a meal.