Monday, 23 February 2009

The house is astir. It is a new day, another walk. It is still rather dark outside, but we set off anyway. Down through the ancient hill village to the Roman bridge at the bottom of the village. This was a fine bridge, mostly still in good shape.On the far side one wall of the bridge has broken down so that you have to climb down through what were the insides of the bridge that have now spewed out into the river. Apart from that big hole, most of it is as it was in Roman times. It would not be a difficult job to repair and restore this structure. I wonder why they don't do it. I can see from looking at the map that the track is going back and forth crossing and recrossing the road. I take the short cut straight down the road. It is very quite.The Sun begins to come up and I enjoy a new day. Estella is reached for breakfast. I sit in a town bar on the main street, as it climbs out of the town. I study the map. I am at the end of the section that I had cut in half to press on to Cirauqui. It is only 9:30am. I wonder if I can do a whole section of 22kms, but that is only 13 or so miles, it sounds shorter in miles and I decide that it is on. I also decide that I will have to cut a few corners, walk along the road to make it all happen faster. Phone calls are also made about the gbp. They go on for a while. They are not satisfactory; neither do the help the situation or me. In fact for me thay make things worse. They will dominate the day in a way that will make today's walk the hardest yet. However, at this point I do not know it. Coming out of the bar,I go up the hill following the yellow arrows. They take me up a steep hill into a new housing estate. I find this rather suspicious. I wonder if I am on another of those Camino wild goose chases that add miles, show you some not very pretty place, and take you to a second cousins bar that just happens to be on the way. And sure enough here comes the bar.I am about 150 feet above where I would really like to be and the path is taking me straight down the hill on steps. I have been on a big loop. There is the main road with pavements that lead from where I was to where I am now. It has a gentle rise to it and is 30% of the distance I have walked. We are at a zebra crossing. I can see that the Camino crosses the road here to go off into another circuit of old road. I know from the map that we will rejoin it later after an extended walk. Oh boy. You do not get me twice in so short a distance.I walk straight up the road. Later I find out that what I missed on that loop was the free wine fountain. Win some; lose some, but not loose both! I keep to the road for a great deal of that day. It is hot, hard work. The gbp is eating away inside and I am getting very tired. The distance seems endless and I wonder if I am really up to this. Catch the bus home now screams every muscle. A bar appears around lunch time. It is full of the usual suspects. Old men playing cards,truck drivers, husbands~fugitives from wives in siesta time. I wish this was an Alberque. I would gladly stop here. I carry on. About an hour later I am about three miles away from Los Arcos. I am walking on a road which is undulating. We are in a rough scrub countryside and I am on my own. I am all in, but have to continue. I cannot stop here in the middle of nowhere. Far ahead of me in the heat hazy I see someone coming towards me. I watch as he gets closer and closer. I do no know why I am looking at him intently, but there is something about him that holds me. He looks like a pilgrim in dress and baggage, but he is walking the wrong way and off the Camino route. I am off the Camino route. This is not an easier way and no one would return on this hard road so who is he? He looks up and fixes me with his eyes. This is extraordinary. I feel him looking into me with the question 'Are you alright'. My mind says 'Yes'. I feel a breath of refreshment blowing through me and I am stronger for the encounter. Our eyes part and we go our separate ways. My mind straight away wonders if this has been an Angel encounter. They do happen on the Camino, but not to me. I turn to look at him, but he has gone over the hill and out of sight. My interest is up now, so I turn around. If I walk a little way back. I will see him. I do this. On the top of the hill I have a view of the last 1.5 miles I have walked. There is no one! And no turnings off, or houses or bars or anything, just scrub! Was it an Angel? I think so.

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