Welcome to the second installment of Dispatches from the Camino. Fr. Iriberri and IVC member Christine Eberle share their reflections from further along the Camino trail. Below are some highlights!
Fr. Iriberri: A wonderful sunny day, nothing like yesterday. Still warm, even in the highs of Arantzazu. Today was more like a nice summer day than October. But the colors of the trees were talking about fall. Going up from Arantzazu is not that difficult although our heart rate goes up pretty high. But only after one hour leaving the Shrine, we are already in the wonderful prairie of Urbia. The beech forest is amazing, and pilgrims enjoy the sound of the steps on the brown leaves. It has been a long step for us because we wanted to find our night accommodation with the Sisters of Mercy in Eguino: they don’t usually take pilgrims but they made one exception for us today. In Araia, with its beautiful church, pilgrim’s can stay at the brand-new hostel with 14 beds (just opened last September 2022). It is a good option, because Araia has a supermarket and a pharmacy so pilgrims can find how to satisfy their needs. Along the way we enjoyed the presence of the sheep and the cows, which it is a good combination of nature and life, that helps us to give thanks for all the gifts received in our life (our meditation for today).
Fr. Iriberri: Today it was announced rain… but we had only some drops, nothing serious. We were lucky because today’s walk is “the muddy one” in the Ignatian Way. Mud can be so thick that walking becomes a real penance. The bright side is that we are walking in the most beautiful spot in the Ignatian Way… bringing memories of Hobbits land and stories about gnomes. Going up is difficult again and two of the pilgrims had to take a taxi to Santa Cruz de Campezo, our accommodation for today. But the steep was not that bad, and we reached the top in one hour. After that, just enjoy the beech woods and the sculptures that erosion-nature had worked in the stones. Orange arrows show the way. From time to time, we stop to take pictures and share pour feelings about the wonders of Creation. Today our meditation is about the purpose of this life, the meaning of this nature that looks so beautiful in October ad the place of humankind in this planet. God is so generous with us! It was a happy walk that ended in the brand-new pilgrim’s shelter (opened last July 2022) in Campezo. It has more than 40 beds and the price (breakfast included) is quite affordable: 20 euros (bed linen included but no towels). Tomorrow our destination is Laguardia, but we are going to shorten the walk and take a bus from Kripan to Laguardia. God is good!
Christine Eberle: On Monday we left the retreat house in a bus, which took us to the foot of—you guessed it—another mountain. We hiked from San Roman to Ullibarri, where Carlos, our wonderful bus driver, met us to bring us the rest of the way to the charming little town of Santa Cruz Campezo, where we stayed in a brand new pilgrims hostel (Aterpea), created especially for the Ignatian Camino. It was our first experience of bunk rooms—one for the ten women, the other for the seven men (five pilgrims plus Fr. Jose and Fr. Nilson, a young Colombian Jesuit who has been our companion for these first few days.
Fr. Iriberri: Once more, a blessed day! It was announced pouring rain for the whole day and… yes it was raining all around us but not in our place. We enjoyed a dry walk all day, seven hours of walk again, in order to reach the town of Kripán. We started early morning, and our first experience was when the smoke alarm was triggered by some toast that were too much toasted! The little embarrassment lasted for a few minutes, and we felt that the whole town of Santa Cruz de Campezo would be awakened by our smoke alarm. Luckily nobody came to the hostel and we could leave it without problem. We walked through beautiful small towns like Genevilla, Cabredo and Lapoblación. Stony houses and churches with magnificent altarpieces that the Duque of Najera paid in order to enrich and protect the populations. The proximity with Najera and Navarrete helped that generosity 500 years ago. We are back to the time of Ignatius. We had the chance to get inside of the medieval church of Lapoblación and pray for a while, before having lunch at the entrance of the church. The vegetation has changed from the first day of our pilgrimage: now we are finding less beeches and more oaks as we go south, and we find a drier land. We walk on the acorns. The range of the Cantabric mountains are in our back and we open ourselves to the prairies of La Rioja region. The companionship is growing among the pilgrims and little by little a community is being formed. Today we had three pilgrims that had to stay at the shelter in Campezo because their health condition is not too strong, so better not to walk for one day. Perhaps tomorrow they will join the group. We ended our walk in Kripan and took a bus to Laguardia, which shortened our step from 19 miles to 14 miles. We could walk the whole step, but we don’t want to be too tired and have time to write and read. Our meditation points today were about being indifferent as Ignatius says and be free to follow Jesus. The two hours of silent meditation start after the prayer introduction that Fr. Joseph everyday gives to the pilgrims to center the day.
Christine Eberle: On day six we summited our last mountain for quite some time, emerging into La Rioja valley… wine country! We’d been seeing the peak for two days, never believing we’d actually get close to it. Leaving Santa Cruz Campezo we saw the peak in the distance; how was it possible we’d get there? Once out of the mountains at last, we walked another couple hours down a gravelly path with the rocks soaring above us to the right. Amazing!