Day 6: Villamayor – Viana: 19 miles
Thursday, September 15, 2016: Departed: 6:20am, Arrived 1:30pm
Kim and I were up and at ‘em early with breakfast snacks in hand, and walked through fields, vineyards and olive orchards as light slowly came around us. There was no obvious sunrise, as a cloudy day obscured direct rays of light; it just slowly became more light out. The whole day, we probably only had direct sunlight hit us no more than 15 minutes, so while the sun didn’t give the wheat fields their golden glow and the upper slopes their green, it was none the less perfect walking weather. No rain, and no burning sun, and highs in the upper 60’s.
One of the things that has struck me throughout the Camino is how concentrated a village is. When you walk from town to town, the villages, at least in this Navarra region of Spain are a compact patchwork of yard-less homes on narrow streets that pedestrians and cars have to navigate. Right angles are not to be expected. Front doors let you out directly into the street with no sidewalks, and no driveways. I suspect that gardens and parking spaces, for those that have cars are hidden in the back somewhere. Every one of them has a church near the center, and it is the tallest structure in the town, and probably has been for over 500 years. Entering and exiting a village is very abrupt. The homes just stop, and the fields begin. And then you walk through a patchwork of cultivated fields, where the tallest structure is a huge monolith of baled hay blocks stacked together like leg-gos. There are no homes or people, until you reach the next village, where the homes start abruptly again. In the states, people’s houses are also certainly more dense near a town center, but then they diffuse into the surrounding countryside, such that the residents (country folk and suburbanites) of one town meld and overlap into the residents of another. I never imagined it could be otherwise. But here, residential clusters and pastoral expanses are quite distinct from one another. The Camino between Villamayor and Los Arcos stays mainly in the latter for a very pleasant walk.
Kim and I had a little sit down brunch when we arrived to Los Arcos, and soon after that we decided we’d walk separately till Viana. It’s not like we’ve walked side-by-side the whole time thus far; I have sometimes gone on a little further, or stayed back, at my own pace pending the terrain, but typically have stayed within sight, or stopped till we’re caught up. But this time, 7 miles from our final destination, we deliberately distanced ourselves to have some alone walk time. We had talked about doing it the day before when we started to get on each other’s nerves, but decided it would be better if we walk separately when we are “not” upset, rather than separating “because” we are upset. So after a good morning of walking and talking beside each other, we finished off the remaining stretch on our own, or beside other pilgrims. I arrived in Viana about 15 minutes ahead of Kim, where we decided rather than push on, we should find beds and stay.
We ended up in a Parroquial albergue Santa Maria that is part of the main church in town (sponsored by the church, run by volunteers who are former pilgrims, and by donation only). The lodging is simple, thin mattresses on the floor, and communal meal is not just eating together, but you help make it, eat it, and clean up with the other pilgrims. Combined with only 12 people sleeping here, it made for easy fellowship and conversation around the table. Definitely a different vibe than some of the larger albergues that feel like pilgrim factories. I liked it very much. It reminded me that when random people come together for a night around a table, it is both a sad and beautiful thing that it will only happen once. These people will never be together again, but it is a wonderful trail of miracles that allowed it to happen this once. It is Sacred Serendipity.