Part 3 in a series of snapshots of my journey on the Camino de Santiago, Spain, February and March 2013. Personal comments and responses are welcome.
In the morning, while lacing up my boots, I ask a couple if I can join them to start off the day’s trek. They agree, and we head out of Estella and down a snowy path, complaining about up-hills. And down-hills. Little do we know that the most awful stretch of the Camino, which will be endured in about a week’s time, are the Flat-Lands. Far from being taxing on the leg muscles, the flat ground will be psychologically demanding.
I tell the couple about the ‘Fountain of Wine’ that is somewhere along the Camino. They are, of course, very interested, though somewhat wary. It sounds like it could be a bit of a ‘Camino Myth’, they suggest good-naturedly. I don’t like the idea of it being a myth and besides, I say, I have heard from several reliable sources that it is true. And I am very much looking forward to seeing it.
We get lost in the snow a little; we are not sure of the path and the many sets of footprints that we are following are confusing. When we call out to a pilgrim across the main road for advice and help, he crosses to join us and our quartet is complete.
It is not long before he asks us: “Did you see the Fountain of Wine back there?” We stop in our tracks. I accost him with questions, my tone verging on aggression: What? Where? How far back? Is he joking? What turn off? Which sign post? How many kilometres?
He patiently explains where it was, and what it was like; I can tell that he is trying to play down how great the Fountain was, to save us more pain. We realise that, wonderful as the iconic Fuente del Vino may be, we have gone too far in the snow to back-track now. So we move on, our footsteps heavy with the burden of regret and missed free wine. My vision of jolly pilgrims laughing as they take turns drinking straight from the tap, which spills a never-ending fount of sweet red liquid fades with each step. He says he would have missed it too, if he hadn’t looked in his guide book last night, and read about the turn-off. I am raging.
After some quiet contemplation I resurface with a new, hopeful idea: Well, what was the wine like then? Did you put some in a water bottle? Could we try a little?
He tells us he doesn’t drink wine. Hates the stuff.