El Camino de Santiago: Day 4 – 19km Arzua to Arua

So today was to be a little easier than our 31.5km day yesterday… The bones were a little weary and some of us had a blister here and there, but we were all determined to complete our mission so our spirits were high.

We began the day with breakfast in a lovely little restaurant down the road at 8.00am. We were a little more relaxed this morning and took some extra time to chat and consume the usual array of Jamon, cheese, bread and orange juice. By the time we finished it was 9.00am and a few of us stretched outside on the pavement while we waited for the others to purchase their water for the day. As I was walking out, I noticed there was a food display.. in Australia we generally have cakes in these… In Spain, it’s cheese!

It was quite a chilly morning, probably around 7 degrees but I loved it! I’m a cold weather fan and there’s nothing like warming up with a brisk walk. As we ambled through the city of Arzua, the streets were quiet but we made up for that with our usual morning banter. A little bit of  live video from that moment is here.

It wasn’t long before were once again engulfed in the most beautiful forest and of course a hill thrown in for good measure… It was cool enough for our Giulia to transform herself into Little Red Riding Hood and donning her famous red coat. She looked so cute. I found myself in a constant state of happiness as we made our way through the trees. It’s why I’ve become so ‘addicted’ to these treks. My happy place is on the ground, in nature, experiencing other cultures with groups of like minded people. We’re all walking with a purpose, for a common cause. Humanity at it’s best. Connection like no other.

At the top of the hill, there was a man making walking sticks with the most beautiful designs carved into the tops. I was tempted to buy one, but it really wasn’t a practical idea, especially considering I already had one. He had a little sign there saying that we could choose the price. It’s a wonderful thing this Camino industry. So may locals earning a living out of the pilgrims doing their thing. Win, win for all I say.

It really was a beautiful walk through the fog. The gorgeous Spanish countryside was a feast for our eyes. We came across a soldier who was walking closely behind an older man. We all had our thoughts on what the situation was. The consensus was that he was walking with his father. We probably should have asked, but it seemed like a very steady, slow and personal space they were travelling in and I felt it would have been rude to intervene. I guess we’ll never know… That’s the beauty of the Camino. Everyone has their story. Some we discover, others we don’t.

After about 6km, we reached our first stop, Casa Caldaza. It was a popular place and unfortunately only one toilet…needless to say, there was a line up. Something we were fast becoming used to. When you gotta go, you gotta go!

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We decided to sit while we waited. Some of us tucked into the delicacies from the cafe, others pulled out their own snacks from their packs. We hung about for about half an hour, watching people come out with beer and wine… This was 10.00am in the morning! We wondered what we were doing wrong and some of us decided (namely Jo!) that we would definitely have a drink with lunch today… and with that thought in mind, we promptly set off on the next 10km stretch.

We thought it would be easy, considering the distance we covered the day before, but often when you think you have something in the bag. It just isn’t.

It wasn’t long before our feet were crying out at us. They were bruised and sore from all of the hard surfaces and this particular section of the trail had lots of stones and bitumen. It was a killer and it was hot… and never ending it seemed.

Eventually we came across an interesting character sitting alongside the trail with his dog. I think he was meditating.. Anyway, as soon as he saw our Giulia, he made a beeline for her and swept her up in a rather long hug… A bit too long for my liking and I could see her attempting to escape when he finally let go. Not sure what that was all about but clearly he felt some connection. I guess he’s only human. Not sure Giulia felt the same!

We started to separate after this point, as some were keen to get to the lunch stop for a rest, others were happy to take it slower and get there in their own good time. This is the beauty of group trekking. There’s no pressure to keep the same pace, as long as we all communicate. We all know where we are stopping and we find each other at the end of the day.

We did eventually meet up at our lunch stop. A fabulous cafe about 3km short of our destination Arua. True to our word, we decided it was time for a beer/wine with lunch on this occasion as we were close enough to our hotel and we figured we’d earned it! The food was delicious! We met up again with some Australian girls who we’d met a few days before. Petula and Carmen from WA. We also met a lovely woman from Lake Michigan who told us she had breast cancer some years ago and congratulated us on supporting our cause.

The last 3km were a breeze. As we walked through more beautiful forests, and a couple of small villages, we knew the end was near and it would be our last night before we were to arrive in Santiago! We were all feeling pretty good about that and the energy somehow lifted. It’s amazing how the mind works, or maybe it was the beer at lunch. Whatever it was, I loved this afternoon.

We reached Arua around 4.00pm, 19km all up for the day. Our hotel was the most gorgeous little place you’ll ever see… My room had a bath so I didn’t waste any time getting into that. Others put some priority on the laundry or booking in a massage with a masseuse who would come to our hotel! There’s a story about that and of course it involves Keira and her feet. She did happen to fall asleep during the said massage and did happen to come out with her blisters sewn up… and it worked.

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We eventually all met up in the loveliest lounge room with a view. Ordered a few ‘beverages’ from the bar downstairs and set ourselves up for a good old gossip while the washing went on in the room next door. I also took advantage of the leg massage machine that was conveniently placed in this particular room. This was my absolute favourite accommodation on the whole trek. Hotel O Pino… I didn’t want to leave!

Earlier in the day, we discovered via social media that Connie Johnson had passed away, so we made a pact to have a drink for her at dinner that night and that’s exactly what we did, while we reflected on our own mortality and the work that this wonderful human and her brother were doing for cancer research. It was an emotional moment and very relative to our journey. A fitting end to a beautiful day of connection and timely inspiration for our final day to Santiago.

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