Catch Up

An unfortunate side effect of walking long distances over rough terrain is that by the time we arrive at our destination we find ourselves so exhausted that writing feels like climbing yet another mountain.

Forgive us gentle reader and pour a glass of Vino Blanco (white wine) or the beverage of your choice, sit back and relax, because this catch up may be a long blog.

Urtega to Lorca

We awake at 6:00am ready for the new day and have set off by 6:30 am, The air is crisp and fresh as we stride rhythmically down the gravel road.

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Luckily we stop to adjust our packs at the bottom of the first downhill for to our right is a single yellow arrow painted on a small concrete block that we were lucky to find in the low light. Had we not stopped we might still be wandering the lattice of country paths.

We blast through the first two villages Muruzabal and Obanos. The sun has risen by the time we make Obanos and we pause to take photos of the church and an interesting statue on the outskirts.

This statue is a tall solid rectangular iron block with the silhouette of a pilgrim removed from its centre. Leading to the statue is a path of wooden paving blocks enabling pilgrims to walk through the silhouette. From the silhouettes head to the top of the statue is an elongated removed rectangle.

I would be very interested in knowing the sculptors intent with this piece, is the rectangle the grace of God entering via the third eye, or does the removal of the human subject signify humanity’s temporal frailty?

We take a picture of Pam walking through the statue and move on. We have much ground to cover today.

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Puente la Reina is a larger village noted for its medieval bridge and friendly locals. We wind our way through the narrow streets following the yellow arrows faithfully. We stop to buy fruit, Buenos Dias and Buen Camino greetings from the few locals walking the streets at this time.

Most Spanish villages seem to be built on either a hilltop or ridge crest and the humble pilgrim enters sweating and breathing heavy and departs downhill wincing on tired feet and sore knees.

Puente la Reina however is built on a river bank and we exit crossing the famous six-arched Romanesque bridge over the river Arga.

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The Camino follows the river flat for a distance and Pam and I are making great time when we pause for a drink of water.

Suddenly the wind changes direction and the odour of the sewerage plant we have just walked past hits us full strength. Pam asks me ‘is that a sewerage plant?’ to which I answer ‘yes, of course, don’t you know what a sewerage plant looks like?’

‘Why would you stop at a sewerage plant for a drink’ she asks and begins to gag.

‘You wanted the drink’ I reply flippantly thinking she is bunging on an act with the gagging.

Quite quickly her gagging has turned to full blown retching which she seems to be having trouble stopping. We do our best to evacuate the area of stench however the swirling breeze seems determined to have Pam on her knees spewing.

Finally we pass through and Pam gets her convulsions under control. For some reason she is annoyed by my statement ‘that wasn’t so bad’.

A short distance after the sewerage plant we are approaching a cliff to our right that I have been watching for a while.

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I can see no path following the river further and shortly my fears of steep uphills are realised.

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By now the sun is high in the sky and the contrast of the blue sky, white gravel road and green shrubbery is spectacular.

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The path is steep and we are nearly at the top when we come across a strangely costumed fellow passing in the other direction. He looks like some sort of pirate with high boots, dark leggings, a studded belt and loose shirt flowing. A maroon bandana is bound around his head.

‘I don’t want to be a pirate’ I say to Pam once he has passed and she replies ‘I am sure he was carrying a Stanley knife in his hand’. I had only glanced at him in passing and had seen no such weapon however he surely was dressed as a bandit. In either case we pass unscathed and crest the hill gasping.

The village of Maneru lies just over the crest and we walk through without stopping.

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On exiting the village we sit in the shade of the walls of a small cemetery to have a drink. To our left lies a ridge that is inexplicably lined with fluttering red flags.

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Between Maneru and the village Cirauqui the Camino path is a long slow descent through fields of grape vines and olive groves followed by the inevitable ascent into the village itself.

Cirauqui is a village built on a steep sided hill. Just after entering Pam and I stop for lunch at a bar. While I am ordering  Pam has to stop some Canadian pilgrim women from pinching my seat. However she was unable to stop one of these ladies from taking off her shoes and then commencing to clip her toenails and peel skin from her many blisters as we ate.

Looking after your feet is rule number one on the Camino and this lady was in bad shape. Doing this surrounded by other people eating could be seen as bad form.

At the very top of Cirauqui the Camino passes under a building through an arch. Within the arch a small table and stamp enable the passing pilgrims to stamp their credential. Pam and I add to our stamp collection and begin the steep downhill out of the village.

Our goal is to make Lorca and find accommodation for the night and to do so we have another six kilometers of undulation before us.

Not for the last time I am wishing that there was a bridge from each crest to the next.

The Pilgrim’s Law of Undulation is a harsh mistress granting small hard won victories atop each crest only to strip them away in the inevitable knee grinding descent that follows.

During our walk between Cirauqui and Lorca we go through several underpasses under the highway, one of which has some graffiti we feel is worth photographing. Pam is particularly taken with the Pilgrim Doll.

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The last ascent from the river bank up into Lorca leaves me gasping for breath and once again I am left ‘guarding’ the bags while Pam sorts out the details of the Albergue.

Tonight we are in a room sleeping four in two double bunks and following the rule of ‘first in, best dressed’ Pam and I appropriate the lower bunks.

After showering we make our way downstairs for drinks. Pam goes back upstairs for a while and a young Spanish man named Carlos sits with me at the table. After a while we start a conversation of gestures. Pam has left me with the ipad and using the translate app Carlos and I strike up a typed conversation. I had already gathered he was walking the Camino, it turns out that he is walking for ten days, he is from small village near Valencia and is traveling with a friend. He asks if I am enjoying myself and I truthfully tell him that the Spanish people are beautiful and friendly and that Pam and I are having a great time. He has trouble saying Mick or Pam and calls us Miguel and PamEla.

Unbeknownst to me during the time I have been speaking to Carlos, Pam has been speaking to his ‘friend’ upstairs. Carlos and his ‘friend’ are going to be our companions for the night.

Pam has been under interrogation from Carlos’ friend who is a feisty young red haired woman that Pam and I duly nickname ‘Firecracker’. Firecracker has been speaking non-stop Spanish to Pam. Downstairs I shout Carlos a beer and having finished I return upstairs to see what is going on with Pam. On seeing me Firecracker launches into a rapid Spanish tirade which from the accompanying gestures I recognise as meaning ‘no snoring’.

That night we dine with three Germans, a married couple from the Netherlands Marte and Elma, a young lady from Turkey who is working and finalising her PHD thesis in Finland, a man from the USA who speaks with a strong British accent despite having lived in the US for forty years and a lady from Austria.

Carlos and Firecracker have their own dinner at the bar however at the end of the night Carlos shouts Pam and I a delicious liqueur made from the berries Pam and I have seen often on the sides of the path.

Pam and I bed down for the night and Carlos and Firecracker eventually go to sleep together on the same bunk above Pam.

I am so afraid of setting Firecracker off by snoring I barely sleep.

Lorca to Villamajor de Monjardin

Carlos and Firecracker had conveyed to Pam and I that they were walking over thirty kilometers per day and that they did not like starting before 8:00am.

Albergue life begins early, there is a subset of pilgrims who seem determined to begin each day rising at 4:00am and setting off by 4:30 in the dark. I am not sure if they even care about the other pilgrims as they inevitably wake everyone around them.

After a night tossing and turning, afraid to let my larynx let loose a single snore, I listen to the early crew ready themselves and depart. The doors to the shower and toilet in the Albergue crash shut with each person entering or exiting. There is no way anyone could sleep through this however the top bunk above Pam remains quiet.

Pam and I are both awake and know we have a long steep walk ahead and are eager to leave earlier rather than later. Firecracker has us both nervous however so it is 7:30am with the sun coming up by the time we finally make our way out of the albergue.

The dinner the night before had been fairly ordinary. Pam had requested vegetarian options and rather than preparing a fresh salad the tuna all other salads had contained was merely scraped off.

Outside the albergue in the early morning is a crate of fresh croissants and Pam feels obliged to help herself to one.

We stride off with the crumbs of Pam’s criminal history falling behind us.

Our plan since Pamplona has been to stop at smaller villages rather than larger towns in the hope of being able to find accommodation more readily each night. Our plan for today is to make Villamajor de Monjardin which is a small village lying at the end of a long climb about eighteen kilometers from Lorca.

This is going to be an important day for Pam for we will walk past the fabled Fountain of Irache at the Ayegui Bodega. This fountain has one tap pouring fresh water and one that pours red wine. Anyone that knows Pam well would understand her sense of anticipation.

We make the village of Villatuerta while the morning is still young and stride through barely pausing to photograph the sights.

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Onwards towards Estella we pace with flint sparking from each heel strike.

Estella is a larger town and I spot the first servo I have seen in Spain. Of course the path of the Camino leads us to the highest point of the town. Here the way becomes a little confusing for the first time. Yellow arrows seem to point in all directions and we are forced to consult the guide book for the shortest path leading to the fountain of legend.

As we make our way out of Estella the Monasterio de Irache can be seen on the left and on the right the winery Irache de Ayegui Bodega.

We are alone when the fountain comes into sight and we solemnly enter the gates of the small courtyard.

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Pam has planned this day to perfection, she is aware of the opening and closing times for the Fountain of Irache, she has studied the time the fountain is most likely to have run dry in the afternoon. She has made me break my previous best kilometer times one after another this morning and finally she is here.

My role is to record the magical moment that the red elixir springs forth and fills the Chalice of Hope (600ml water bottle) Pam has emptied of less worthy liquid earlier.

The moment is at hand, I stand with iphone poised, Pam places the Chalice of Hope beneath the Spout of Benediction and turns the tap.

Nada, nothing………not even red dust!

She turns the spigot again, one way then the other, twisting turning……..it is as freakin’ dry as the Simpson Desert.

Pam is inconsolable. We trudge from the courtyard with shoulders hunched and feet dragging. I think of offering my slow moving sad faced wife that I go back to Estella and buy a bottle of red wine (which can be had from 1 Euro upwards) from a supermarket.

It is in the best interests of the ongoing good health of my genitals that I keep my trap firmly shut.

The fabled Fountain of Irache has become the Fountain of Bitter Disappointment and it takes quite some time for Pam’s normal good humour to return as we plod towards the village Azequeta.

From a long distance out looms an imposing large hill topped by the ruins of the town castle the Castillo de San Esteban de Deyo. Our path draws us ever closer to this sight and my blood runs cold at Pam’s taunts that our destination lies at these ruins.

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We have lunch at Azequeta and run into our Netherland companions Marte and Elma from the previous night.

They have set out ahead of us by the time we begin the last two kilometer uphill climb to Villamajor de Monjardin. Of course this path began with a steep descent from Azequeta canceling the gains we had made with our previous climb.

The last 500m of the gravel road into Villamajor de Monjardin runs alongside a massive stone wall that holds the fields above us in abeyance.

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The Castillo de San Esteban de Deyo is far above the fields to our right.

Villamajor de Monjardin is a picturesque postcard of a town and we feel inspired as we enter despite the debacle of the fountain that shall not be named earlier that morning.

Our hopes are dashed at finding the both albergues full. There is no other accommodation in this small village and the next town lies twelve kilometers down the path. We are thinking of returning crestfallen to Azequeta in the hope of finding something when Marte comes to our rescue. He and Elma have accepted the last two beds (mattresses on the floor) of the second albergue however he had arranged that if people who had reserved at the first private albergue did not arrive by 2:30pm that he could have their beds.

The alberuques who take reservations have a rule, be there by two thirty or the reservation is null and void.

It is 2:20pm when Pam and Marte make their way down to the first albergue and I spend a very uncomfortable ten minutes sweating and ‘guarding’ the bags.

Pam and I have been lucky so far on the Camino and once again grace falls on our side and we capture a bed each for the night.

We make our way to the room, 7 steel double bunks means 13 potential snoring farting companions however we are just grateful for a bed and hot shower and the chance to leave our packs.

We wander the town for a while, it has one ‘supermarket’ run by a Spanish speaking gentlemen from the UK and one bar/restaurant where a single girl is frantically trying to keep up with the orders for drinks and dinner.

As we walk about a mobile butcher van pulls up and is greeted by the fanfare of older locals.

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The bar is beside a roofed area where the sport Basque Pelota is played. We have a couple of drinks as we watch pilgrims who have not been lucky enough to get a bed and are unwilling to forge on the extra twelve kilometers to the next town unrolling bed mats and erecting tents on the concrete.

As the afternoon passes dark clouds begin to gather and by 6:30pm lightning bolts are firing into the earth with small hail stones breaking on the concrete.

The area of dry concrete beneath the shelter has shrunk by two thirds by the time the storm passes.

After dinner Pam and I climb into our top bunks relived and exhausted.

I toss and turn with the bed moving beneath me unsteadily with each roll until the 4:00am crew once more wake the room fully.

Villamajor de Monjardin to Los Arcos

Pam and I have changed our plans again over dinner. We have decided that the social aspect of staying in alberques is outweighed by the stress of not knowing if there will be a place for us to sleep at each days destination. We are now booking accommodation in advance and forgoing the alberque experience for the serenity of personal rooms and toilet facilities.

We have decided to make the next days walk a short one (13 km) and have booked a hotel room at Los Arcos. I tell the 4:00am crew to go shove their backpacks where the sun don’t shine in my mind, roll over and refit my bug eyes to shun the lights they turn on and off, then go back to sleep.

We set off just after sunrise. On the walk down the hill from Villamajor de Monjardin along the eroded rough track we meet a puffing German lady walking back up the hill. There are no fountains or places to fill water bottles between Villamajor de Monjardin and Los Arcos and this lady has set off with empty water bottles.

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While I am sure other pilgrims would assist, dehydration is no joke.

The irony is that at the bottom of the hill after a short walk along the flat we encounter a fountain, admittedly the last for the day, however I am sure the German lady will let loose a couple of shizers on passing.

Other than Pam’s first bush pee (let me look for the photo’s) the walk along the smooth white damp and soft gravel road is uneventful. The by now ubiquitous fields of grape vines interspersed with fields of baled stubble pass by in a series of gentle undulations.

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Los Arcos is a rare sight, a Spanish town built on flat land.

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We enter Los Arcos and stop at the first bar that has wifi as we are keen to see if results have been posted regarding the Australian federal election. There is no real news at this point so we continue into town. We walk the canyon streets that lead to the main square The Plaza de Santa Maria Los Arcos and the church by the same name.

Following the previous afternoon storm the morning has been damp and clouds have continuously threatened to empty their contents on us. Pam and I have walked today with the rain covers on our backpacks however it is not until we sit down to eat lunch in Los Arcos that it actually begins to gently rain. We watch many fellow pilgrims donning wet weather gear whilst we sit reveling in the slightly guilty pleasure of knowing we will be dry and toasty in our hotel room.

As we finish lunch and make our way towards the hotel we hear the first thunder crack of the rapidly approaching storm and our smiles widen.

We pass a market selling fruit and other foods and vow to return after the storm has passed, make our way to our hotel and shower and rest.

Pam has read of the inner beauty of the old church we had passed by in town and insists we attend the Pilgrim mass. Bells tolling draw us from the hotel along with many other townsfolk.

The church is incredibly ornate inside. The entire high wall of the altar along with two thirds of each of the high sides are adorned on every surface. Hundreds of statues depicting biblical passages reside in alcoves or thrust from the walls between floor and vaulted ceilings. No area is left plain for gilt covered carvings fill what small space there is left between each statue.

The priest begins intoning the mass, he has a good voice and leads each hymn. The local congregation are good singers as well and the mass is simple and powerful.

At the end of the mass the priest calls the Peregrinos (pilgrims) forward for a special blessing. We see many of the pilgrims we watched setting off at lunch have returned to town rather than brave the lightning.

Having received our blessings we make our way back to the hotel, eat a simple pilgrims meal and tumble into bed in preparation for the thirty kilometer day we have planned for tomorrow.

My knee aches in anticipation.

Los Arcos to Longrono

Our intention is to wake early and leave the hotel by 6:30am however we sleep late and are not out the door until 7:15. The rain looks like it has stopped about five minutes ago so our timing turns out to be just right.

It looks like it may start raining again at any moment, clouds are low and heavy, the sun is yet to rise.

There are many other pilgrims leaving at this time today and on the outskirts of town we fall into a steady kilometer eating rhythm along the damp wide gravel road leading from Los Arcos to the village Sansol.

The pilgrims around us are mostly young and energetic. The Wacky Races begin for the day, by now we have settled on our characters, I am Dastardly and Pam is Mutley heheheheh.

We pass a group of four young guys all speaking continual rapid Spanish, they greet us Hola, Buen Camino. Two young men pass us, one wearing a dark beret (beret boy), the other has red hair (blood nut). As they pass a gaggle of young girls blood nut is showing off, leaping and clicking his heels together.

It is ideal walking weather, cool with a slight breeze, the heavy clouds are keeping the sun at bay and the rain softened gravel road cushions our footsteps. The road undulates slightly as it gently climbs towards Sansol.

Sansol of course is built on a hilltop and the last part of the climb into town starts us puffing.

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There is a cafe right on entry to the town doing a roaring trade, we see blood nut with his shoes off massaging his feet, no giggling girls in sight this time, Pam gives her victory cry heheheheh as we forge onwards through the Sansol towards the next village Torres del Rio.

Sansol and Torres del Rio lie close together separated by a steep sided valley through which flows the Rio Linares. Did I mention the steep sided valley. The slow morning climb lost in one knee grinding descent down a rough wet slippery stone trail only to be regathered in the huffing puffing climb up the streets of Torres del Rio.

We have almost made the outskirts of the village and have only a little further to climb when we pass a bar that is full of young men who have obviously been pulling an all-nighter. The evening before in the hotel in Los Arcos Pam and I had watched the 2020 Olympic city selection vote and Madrid had lost to Istanbul.

I am not sure what the reason was for these young men to have been drinking all night however by the time we pass they are full of piss and vinegar. Several of them are running on to the street and lifting pilgrims packs up their back. It all seems in good spirits however Pam and I are glad to pass unmolested.

Pam and I have demonstrated that you can escape Logan however no matter where you go you can’t escape Bogans.

One of the four guys we have been catching and falling behind all morning seems to take some offense at something that was said and all four slow down. We are keen to avoid drunken altercations so we march on up and out towards the next village Ermita de la Virgen del Poyo.

A small walled cemetery provides seats on the outskirts of Torres del Rio and we take our first pause for the day. We eat the nectarines we had purchased at the markets in Los Arcos. I have not eaten a nectarine so tasty since I was a young child, golden yellow flesh with nectar indeed flowing with every bite. I am very disappointed now that we only bought two.

The four young men catch us again and we swap jokes about us swapping places. I see one of them eating berries from the side of the path and ask if they are good to eat. They gesture ‘yes, very good’. I have been continuously seeing these berries on our way and not knowing local flora have not eaten any despite their visual similarity to small round mulberries. Now the floodgates are open I stop frequently to pick and eat fresh rain washed sweet berries as we walk.

Delicious nectarine followed by fresh wild berries, mana from heaven.

The Camino passes but does not enter Ermita de la Virgen del Poyo so in effect there are no villages on the ten kilometers between Torres del Rio and Viana. The undulations increase in depth and gradient as we climb onwards and upwards again with the last 500m of the last crest very steep.

At the top we find our four Spanish friends resting and eating. They greet us with a friendly hola and wave us on. From this height the valley spreads out before us and the village Viana and the city Logrono can be seen in the distance.

Seeing our intended destination spurs us on however caution is needed on the steep descent winding down the hillside. Halfway down we see two silly older American women who have left the path and are charging down the side of the hill. One has an apple in her mouth with her hands holding two walking poles. She suddenly loses her footing and only just recovers in time to prevent a serious fall.

They are laughing as they rejoin the trail and I feel like smacking some sense into them both. We have now heard of two broken bones so far on the Camino and this could easily have been a third.

Near the bottom of the descent we pass a small hut made of stones balanced one atop each other.

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On the outskirts of Viana we rest and take off our backpacks for only the second time today at the pilgrims fountain at the entrance to the town. Our four Spanish friends catch us again here. Viana is as far as they are going today. It turns out one of them is Italian and was married four years previously in Australia before honeymooning in Fiji.

We are all laughing and smiling and as we leave they call us their Camino brother and sister. This is the Camino Way.

We have walked 18km up and down some pretty steep hills in less than five hours so far today. We estimate 10km or more to Logrono where we have a hotel reservation.

Unsurprisingly Viana is built on a steep hill, Pam is moaning for a coffee by now and we stop at the first bar we come to. Inside we find Tim and Sue, the lovely Irish couple we had met in Roncesvalles in what seems a lifetime ago.

They are walking as far as Logrono and then for them the Camino will end as they are catching a bus further on for a few days holiday and then returning to Ireland. We wish them well and feel a little saddened that we will probably never see them again.

By now I am whining for food and there is nothing to eat at the bar so we make our way into the centre of Viana following the Camino yellow arrows.

Most of the villages we pass seem like ghost towns with very few locals to see. Viana on the other hand is busy, maybe it is because it is early Sunday afternoon. There are families eating out in cafes, children running down the cobblestone street, bells are ringing calling townspeople to mass and through the midst of life in Viana pour the Camino pilgrims looking bedraggled yet happy.

We stop for a quick lunch and press on knowing we still have a long way to go on our tired feet.

Walking down the twisting streets out of town we come across an older English gentleman who has fashioned some sort of homemade golf cart for his backpack out of what looks like some discarded pram wheels and his walking poles. He is having a hard enough time of it on bitumen and I don’t like his chances of keeping it functional on the dirt.

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We leave Viana and wind our way along the flatlands leading to Logrono. We are passed by a couple of guys from the USA and hearing us speak English they fall into step with us for a while. A common encounter on the Camino is for two family members, one usually older, to be walking the Camino together.

Hearing we were from Australia the younger of this pair relates a story to us about how he was scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef off Cairns and on resurfacing felt a little unsteady. He was diagnosed against his protests of him being fine, as having the bends and was flown from Cairns to Townsville in a portable decompression chamber where he then had to spend further time in the permanent decompression chamber in Townsville.

Pam made a joke about how that would have been front page news in North Queensland and he tells us that he was greeted by reporters on his release but not by his girlfriend at the time who had flown off solo to continue the holiday at Ayers Rock. Apparently their relationship didn’t last long after that.

The American pair are walking faster than us and by the time we have come to a footbridge across the highway they have left us behind.

The footbridge we encounter is unique, constructed of wood with a wooden ramp up and down on each side to enable pilgrims traveling via horseback (which is a legitimate way to do the Camino) to cross safely. The upper deck of the footbridge is covered in steaming piles of fresh horse manure that Pam navigates her way through gingerly.

Soon after the footbridge we are making our way towards Logrono past the industrial area outside the city along a wide seemingly endless bitumen pathway constructed specifically for walkers and cyclists that slopes gently upwards. Logrono is once again out of sight and the pathway extends for kilometers out of the city. Our feet are screaming by now and bitumen and concrete are the two most painful surfaces to walk on.

We rest for a short while on concrete pipes hidden in long grass on the side of the path then make our way groaning onwards.

Finally we crest the last hill and Logrono comes into sight once more.

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Just before we enter the outskirts we come across the roadside stand Felicia’s which stands in front of an unkept house. This stand has a history for Felicia has welcomed pilgrims to Logrono stamping their credentials and selling fruit and drinks. Felicia passed away in 2002 and now her daughter Maria keeps the tradition alive.

We have our credentials stamped and donate a couple of Euro then make our way down past houses guarded by mangy dogs.

The rougher outskirts fall behind us as we cross a road and walk along a brick paved path towards the bridge into town. We stop for a rest and behind us blood nut and beret boy stumble across the road with some of their crew. We are happy to see they look just as painful and exhausted as we do.

We have not removed our backpacks to rest and as I stand up from the low seat I feel something ping in my left knee. ‘Urgh that can’t be good’ I think but carry on.

As we walk towards the bridge the brick paving swirls in front of my eyes like some standing light wave physics experiment. I am so tired I am beginning to hallucinate. We come to a map and Pam figures out that our hotel is still a long way to go. I groan in frustration.

Crossing the bridge across the river into town we see the hotel immediately in front of us.

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I groan in frustration again, this time at Pam’s map reading skills, however I am super happy to see our final destination so close.

We make our way into the lobby, register and catch the lift to the room.

The room is large, clean, comfortable and the bathroom really has a bath.

Guess what I am doing tonight?

After having a shower and a little rest we make our way into town to have dinner. We come across Tim and Sue and sit with them having a few drinks. As we sit we are greeted by Varena, the German lady we met on the train into St Jean Pied de Port several lifetimes ago.

We all sit and talk and laugh like we have known each other for years. Tim and Sue swap addresses and tell us to stay with them if we make it to Ireland then bid us goodnight and farewell.

We have dinner with Varena and she also swaps details with us and tells us to stay with her if we come to Germany.

Shared pain makes for fast friends.

The bath is tremendous.

Logrono

My right boot has split open down the inside on the Camino and each day is opening a little wider. By the time we make Logrono there is only approximately one centimeter of stitching holding the front end of the boot together and we are forced to stop and either have it repaired or buy new boots.

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I am very loath to buy unknown new boots that may be uncomfortable and give me blisters. So far my feet are blister free and it is one of my major goals to keep them so.

Pam and I had made Logrono by 3:30pm Sunday afternoon and all the shops other than cafes and restaurants are closed. We will stay two nights in Logrono then move on.

We obtain information regarding shoe repairers from the hotel desk clerk and make our way into town to have them repaired and pick up some other supplies.

Logrono could be a small city anywhere in the world. Traffic, hotels, shops, churches. Lots of churches. It is a nice city, clean and filled with friendly people. We take my boot to the cobbler and walk about for a couple of hours. Pam buys a jacket in a camping store and we refresh our bag of nuts and dried fruit.

My boot is repaired as good (or hopefully better than) new by the time we return and we are charged the princely price of 3.50 Euro.

We had also decided to launder all our clothes the night before and having had my boot repaired make our way back to the hotel to pack them into my backpack and take them to the launderette.

We leave the hotel with my backpack full of both our clothes, on the way up the street my left foot rolls unexpectedly between a sheet of metal covering the road and a drain grill. My left knee is sore and weak from standing up with my backpack on the previous day and is unable to stabilise the weight it is bearing.

I go down like a sack of potatoes crashing onto my right knee and right elbow then rolling over onto the backpack like an overturned beetle with my Pacerpoles waving in the air. Pam and two Spanish passerby’s come to my aid as I unclip the backpack and stand up painfully.

I wave the Spanish people on saying ‘Gracias’ and Pam, realising I am OK, begins to laugh hysterically. For some reason Pam finds people falling down and hurting themselves terribly funny and she is splitting a gut as I bend down and put the backpack on again.

I am not amused and by the time we wash our clothes and spend ages trying to dry them in a dysfunctional dryer, I am getting short tempered.

Pam is still periodically chuckling none the less as we return to our hotel with a backpack full of heavy damp clothes to dry them over the balcony railings.

‘I kiss the Earth and then I get to thinking’
‘I don’t want to think, I want to feel’
‘How do I feel?’

I’ll solve the mystery for you Mr Eddie Vedder.

I feel sore.

Logrono to Najera

Today we know we have another 30km plus walk ahead of us yet still it is 7:30am by the time we leave the hotel. As we were still drying clothes in the hotel cupboard overnight we are not able to pack in advance and have to spend valuable time organising our backpacks again before we can leave.

Once again good fortune has smiled on us for getting out of the city of Logrono is complex and relatively poorly signed. The sun shining is on our side and we cruise past the city itself and make our way onto the path leading through parklands out of the city.

Though we thought the path into Logrono was long, the path out is longer still and at least an hour and half has passed before we put the city behind us. Right on the outskirts of the city park Pam spots two squirrels dancing up and down a tree trunk chasing each other playing. This is the first time either Pam or I have seen a squirrel in the wild and watching their merry chase, their reaction time astonishingly fast, has us both laughing.

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We come across another road stand providing Credential stamps and Pam earns a kiss on each cheek from the long grey haired and bearded man to go with the two stamps.

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Then the grind begins.

For kilometer after kilometer the Camino follows beside major roads. We only occasionally walk on the highways themselves but spend hour after hour walking on bitumen or gravel service roads. We briefly leave the highway and head towards the village Navarrete. Before the village is a large winery in front of which lie the ruins of a twelfth century pilgrims hostel and monastery. Pam and I stop for our first real rest here and eat some fruit and nuts.

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We pass through Navarrete and soon rejoin the service roads beside the highway. Walking long distances beside major roads is very tiring, humankind’s touch brings mostly desolation and the black ribbon with the mechanised beasts rumbling its length has no soothing element. Our fellow pilgrims feel the grind as well and other than the occasional Buen Camino we walk without speaking.

Kilometer after nerve fraying kilometer passes, it is getting hotter and the distances between villages is long.

Finally we leave the highway and the path leads towards the village of Ventosa. We stop at a bar and regather our spirits.

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The Turkish girl we met in Lorca (Melita) stops about ten minutes after we do. She is on a mission to find an ATM to get cash to buy cigarettes.

Leaving Ventosa we see our first real uphill challenge for the day. Pam and I are harder now and we make our way up and up without pause. It is only when the road becomes a rough rocky track only passable by four wheel drives or tractors that we pause for a breath.

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Immediately on cresting the hill we are surrounded by grape vines. The valley of the Rio Yalde, Rio Najerillo and Rio Tuerto stretches out before us and we see three towns (Aleson, Huercanos and Najera) closely grouped together. From where we are it looks like one big extended town and we think we are close to the end for the day.

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Alas it was not so. The track winds on and on heading to Aleson where the backdrop of mountains behind the town is breathtaking (I have my finger over the lens as I take photos, not so bright). We pass the industrial part of this town making our way through scenic concrete production facilities and gravel heaps then between warehouse after warehouse.

We cross the Rio Yalde which is a little clear looking stream that smells like sewerage via a rough wooden bridge and walk beside the river under highways towards Huercanos and at a run down parkland finally turn towards Najera.

Pam makes the comment ‘I walked thirty kilometers two days ago and felt like a warrior, now I feel like a broken old woman’.

We make our way into Najera unsure of how to locate our hotel, we collapse on a park bench and watch children play in a local sports ground. It takes us ten minutes to muster the will to continue.

We limp through town and by good luck alone find our hotel. We shower and rest, then make our way to a bar to have a drink.

Despite the absence of steep gradients this walk beside highways has been our hardest walk so far, my left knee now hurts more than my right, our feet are on fire from walking on bitumen and concrete.

We make it back to our hotel again by about 6:30pm with the intention of having a rest and then going to the pilgrims dinner at 8:00.

The last thing I remember is talking with Pam at about 7:45 as to if we really wanted to eat or just go to sleep.

I guess sleep won.

PLL
Mick & Pam

2 thoughts on “Catch Up

  1. I was told there would be more on the food Miss Pam Lol! It sounds like this leg was a hard yet worthwhile slog. The pictures are amazing.

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