Uterga to Casa Magica
We hear the rustling of people getting up and getting ready at about 6am. There’s no breakfast at the Albergue in Uterga, so we get some coffee out of the machine out front (which is not bad) about 7am and start walking. The most popular English Camino guidebook is Walking the Camino, by John Brierly. He divides the walk from St Jean Pied de Port (where we started) to Santiago de Compostela into 34 recommended stages. Each stage is a day’s walk and many stages end in a more-or-less larger town, where there are things to see when you’re done walking. There are a lot of pilgrims who will follow the stages religiously and just about all of the towns and cities at the end of these stages have large municipal albergues. Last night we stopped about 6km before the city that ended this stage and I’d like to make that up this morning and get closer to Santiago.
We made that 6.6km in about two hours, stopping for a snack and a bathroom break in a city along the way. In Puenta la Reina we stop at a small bakery where we can have coffee and pastries, use the restroom, and charge our phones. Susie sees a family of storks up in the church tower and gets very excited (we call this a birdgasm).
We carry on through the medieval town, crossing the river and continuing down the valley, stopping to watch the motorized hangliders (can’t think of the name now) buzz above us. We trudge up a hill and to the water fountains that are placed in just about every town. We pause to wash our face and watch Mary apply her lip gloss.
Up and down some more hills until we come to the next village. I have the perfect postcard view when a man on the road takes off his shirt. Aaargh, time for Photoshop! We get a stamp in the town square for our Pilgrim Passport. We leave the town on a 2000 year old Roman road. Amazing to think people have been traveling here for centuries, and now it’s us. The Roman bridge over the stream is still there. Will it be the same for the modern bridge we use to cross over the highway?
Over the next hill, we stop for an Aquarius (our new favorite cool, refreshing drink) at an enterprising Spaniard’s van parked along the trail. He brought tables, chairs, food, drinks, and travel necessities to sell just in the right spot between two towns. We continued on to Lorca, where we stop for a salad. Ensalada mixta has become one of our favorite things to eat here – butter lettuce, vegetables, tuna, often a boiled egg. Yum. We see Michel from Switzerland, cooling his heels here with a beer, and say hi. It’s interesting that we keep seeing the same faces. We smile, wave, and say, “Buen Camino” each time. It never gets old.
The last couple hours are hot hot hot. We try to make it to Estella, but have to stop in Villatuerta. And so glad we did!! We found one of the most wonderful places to stay so far this trip, Casa Magica. Simone greeted us warmly and helped us check in. We walked through what looked like a barn door onto a floor of carefully placed stones. As she stamped our Pilgrim Passports, she told us the story of the house.
The house was built in 1500. We did in fact enter through the former barn (what nice floor for horses!). She and her husband bought the house 7 years ago and have been working on the remodel ever since, making it available to pilgrims about 6 years ago. Simone is from Brazil and used to work for Disney as a decorator in New York. She left the rat race to walk the Camino and met her husband, Miguel, a local guy who was working as a helper for the pilgrims passing through. Within 6 months they were married and owned La Casa Magica. But it was not so Magica then.
Animals had lived in the courtyard. At one time 5 farming families were living in the house. There was lots of junk piled everywhere and the gorgeous stairs, timbered ceilings, and floors were covered with cheap material. They cleaned all that stuff out, painted the walls vibrant colors, and brought in nice touches as Brazilian hammocks, local furniture finds, and an indescribable sense of style and comfort for a pilgrim hostel. To top it off, she had a bedroom with 4 beds on the floor (no climbing to the second bunk!) with one bad bed, so we had a room all to ourselves and a place besides the floor to put our stuff. Heaven!
After showering in the modern bathroom and washing and hanging our clothes in the former barnyard courtyard, we lounged in the comfy hammocks and enjoyed some local wine. Dinner was at the bar across the street. Lights out just before 10pm and a guaranteed sweet sleep.
Scroll down to see more pics of La Casa Magica!