Day Four - Thursday - March 28, 2013 /// Uterga to Estelle /// 21 miles
Strava data: http://app.strava.com/activities/46196758
We were in for another long effort day. This time Francesco and I walked the first 10km together and met up with the Irishman Joe, German Joe and woman from Denmark "Sunshine" for a coffee at one of the small towns along the way. They had started just a short time before us while I had a shower in the morning at the hostel in Uterga.
From there we continued to catch up with the three of them at each of the popular resting/water stops. We passed through Puente la Reina, a famous location along the Camino and snapped a few photos of the Iglesia de Santiago and of the bridge itself that lead us outside the city. After a long hard walk fighting with sore feet and mud we arrived to Estelle.
When my walking buddy Francesco and I arrived to Estelle we were toast. The feet were swollen, almost numb in a way but we could feel every step, and we followed the guide book which suggested the Albergue Municipal (Muni) which is the official hostal for pilgrims on the Camino. It was 7 Euros and included breakfast (toast, butter, jam, coffee with milk). Both Joe´s (Ireland and Germany) and "Sunshine" from Denmark were already checked in and staying at this Muni. We took a look around the place to see what beds were available and how the amenities were. The place was like a cave and cold which they attempted to make up for with blankets where most Muni´s do not provide blankets. Traveling as light as I am with the intentions of running as much as I can I am not carrying a blanket or small packable sleeping bag as most pilgrims are.
After a night of not sleeping so well in the last Muni, I wanted to have a look around at the other Albergues available to us in Estelle. We took a quick look at the guidebook and saw one that stated it was, "donativo", or donation based and was constructed last year. Great! This meant a new modern building with plenty of hot water and electrical sockets to charge the all important GPS device, a.k.a. iPhone with the Strava App. On the map this Albergue was over the bridge, up a hill and only 1 kilometer away from where we were standing. Even such a short distance seemed a near impossible challenge for our feet at that moment. We pressed on to the Albergue "donativo".
The place was nice, organized, clean and new just as we expected. Only three beds remained and we took two. As pilgrims, the first order of business is to take off your shoes and if they are wet inside from rain, rivers, creeks or sweat you´ll need to dry them as best you can, put newspaper in them to absorb the remaining wetness overnight and begin washing any clothes that need to be cleaned and put out to dry on a clothes line in the remaining hours of daylight. Francesco and I got busy with our "pilgrim chores" as I´ll refer to them before having a shower and heading out around town for dinner.
Dinner started with a walk around Estelle to the main plaza area where all the small town locals gathered each evening. The place was a madhouse with children playing soccer/futbol and everyone speaking loudly to hear one another across the patio tables from the conversations around them. After such a long day we weren´t big fans of the noise and energy level so we stopped at a small pastry shop to ask for a dinner recommendation that was not so busy. We received two recommendations of which both were of a much higher price and not on the ´pilgrim budget plan´. We continued to look around the town and bumped into an Italian couple that Francesco had spoken with on the Camino earlier this day when we stopped off at a creek to put out feet in the ice cold water. At that moment we all decided to dine together and share stories about the Camino experience so far and of our lives back home.
We found a nice restaurant that had a fixed three course menu for the night priced at 10 Euros which also included a local Rioja wine. First course was a choice of a mixed greens salad, garbanzo bean soup or smalled breaded and rolled ham and cheese pieces that resembled pigs in a blanket. Second course was a choice of Spanish tortilla which is very common here in Spain consisting of eggs and thinly sliced potato stacked together and cooked like an omelete, seafood soup with shrimp, mussels and scallops and french fries or white fish with roasted potatoes. The third course was a dessert of either ice cream, flan (solid pudding with caramel topping) or coffee. The meal was enjoyable overall and the wine was a well done Rioja.
The company and conversation in three languages (English, Italian and Spanish) is what made the evening. Such a great time meeting new people especially those on the Camino. It´s impossible to find someone who isn´t just enjoying life and open to going with the flow and what is dealt to us each day albeit the terrain, weather conditions, etc.