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Camino de Santiago Day Twelve: Arrés to Ruesta: Life Among The Ruins

I walked the extra mile on the Camino this morning. I hope it helps me get to heaven.

We'd left the Albergue in tiny Arrés early and started down the winding road out of town. Arrés is one of those typical Spanish villages that started life as a mountain fortress of sorts, and as such sits high - at least 400 metres - above the plains on a rocky outcrop. We'd just reached the valley floor when It dawned on me that we'd forgotten to feed the donation box. So it's back up the hill with a fifty clutched in my hand. The Cordoban looked suitably impressed when I dashed into the Albergue, sweating profusely and too out of breath to speak, and dropped our contribution into the box.

Like I say, I hope it earned me bonus Camino points.

We had our two tins of sardines and an apple we shared for lunch in a nice shady spot followed by a quick siesta, and then set off to Ruesta. For more or less the entire time we had monster construction vehicles rushing around kicking up dust and making a huge racket. They seem to be working on expanding the man-made lake we're walking next to. I'd read that this lake is the reason why the village of Ruesta was abandoned years ago, as it was expected that it may disappear beneath the rising water.

Which is why I was looking forward to our stay.

Ruesta didn't disappoint. It was like we'd just arrived at Angor Wat; the place is stuffed with overgrown ruins, crumbling towers and windows through which vines are crawling (which, coming to think of it, is a description of many Spanish villages. But that's another story). We had to search for a few minutes to find the folks running the albergue, two young hippies who were sitting under a delapidated pergola reading dog-eared copies of Isabel Allende and a Spanish translation of a Trotsky biography, and consuming massive mugs of beer. Not only were we at Angor Wat, we were also at an ashram in Goa! A Spanish radio station blared sixties music from tinny speakers. Their welcome was warmhearted and sweet.

The albergue building is a spacious, very new stone building and we got the presidential suite, so to speak, because we were the only visitors. I sniffed around the ruins for the rest of the afternoon, camera in hand, but much of it was off-limits for fear of the whole lot tumbling down on an unsuspecting pilgrim.

So I sat down below the high walls in the greenery and imagined arriving here as a poor pilgrim, and being welcomed to his expansive castle by a hospitable, aristocratic lord.

We shared the evening meal with two friendly late-comer pilgrims. The food was absolutely five star (I tried enquiring whether there was a chef in the house but never got a straight answer), and the lengthy meal felt more like an outing at a class restaurant with good friends.

Just like it would have been eight hundred years ago, coming to think of it.

Bottom line: Don't miss Ruesta on the Camino Aragones. You're treated like a noble.

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