Up and out early, as we head for another big city, Burgos.
Peculiar weather. There’s mist in the air in places, and clear skies elsewhere. Makes for a particularly beautiful morning.
I have so many gorgeous pictures of this landscape that I struggle to choose…
Anyway, we press on, past a rave going on in a tiny village. A thoroughly surreal scene of disco balls, thumping music and tranquil countryside at 7:30am on a Sunday.
We get to Espinosa del Camino and find a terrific cafe.
We pass through more perfect landscapes….
And then it all goes a bit wrong. A few days ago I tripped on a rock and went over on my left ankle. It was sore, but I do this sort of thing quite a lot and I can usually just walk through it. Today, I was discussing the education system of Northern Ireland with a fellow peregrino, like you do, and I took another stumble on a steep downhill path, and OUCH!
As it happened, post taking that video, I phoned up some friends of ours, Evelin and Daniel. They used to live in Crieff, back home in Scotland, but now live in Burgos, all of 10km or so from this bus stop. Daniel came and picked us up and whisked us off to their house (when you get in a car after 11 days of walking pace it all seems very fast).
My ankle is not happy.
Evelin knows of a good physio in Burgos, so first thing tomorrow morning we shall phone them up and see if I can get an appointment and some professional advice on the wisdom of continuing.
Once again we are blessed with a room full of folks who don’t snore. Now, speaking with the full authority of a 60+ years old bloke I am surprised at this. The demographic of the peregrinos who walk in September is traditionally an, ahem, older group (‘Silver September’ is a phrase you might hear). And I reckon it’s largely men, maybe 60/40 split, if not more. So, in a room full of old blokes what would you expect? Snoring! But no… I’m not sure why not. Is it all the good clean living? Who knows…
It was also quite cool last night. At 3am or so, someone got up to close a windows, which was a first on this trip.
We creep out of town, being as quiet as possible. We have a short day today.
You could divide the Camino into sections, each denoted by a major city. You would have SJPP as the start, then Logrono, Burgos, Leon and Santiago. Today we find ourselves about halfway between Logrono and Burgos.
We suanter through Redecilla del Camino, Castildelgado and Viloria de la Rioja.
And arrive in Belorado, our destination for the day, around noon.
The albergue is another donativo, run by the Swiss chapter of the Federation of St James (I can’t recall the proper title). The hospitalero couple are splendid folks – he looks like a Swiss Santa Claus. They are sitting in the sun, outside the ancient church, greeting all the passing peregrinos.
Belorado is a pretty little town with the, by now, usual top quality murals decorating the old buildings.
It’s a busy day in town. There’s a wedding in the church. And in the evening there’s some sort of procession from one church to another in the town.
Here’s the wedding:
The guests at this wedding are very stylish. Speaking as a representative of one of the pale and pasty nations of Europe I cannot help but envy my southern neighbours. I don’t know. There must be some ugly people in Spain but I don’t know where they are. Maybe there’s a dark demented city ordinance forbidding the ugly from going out in the daylight. Or, maybe it’s the sun and the diet. Whatever. I am jealous.
I head to the square and eat patata bravas and champagne Americain (that’s Coke Zero, in case you were worried) for lunch.
Llew and I head off to the supermarket to stock up on the boring stuff and come across some yarnbombing on the way back.
Diana makes us all dinner…
Now, it’s time for the procession. Again, we don’t really know what’s going on – so here it is…
The chant is an earworm and gets stuck in my head for hours.
Around 9:30 our Rolex wearing Santa Claus of a hospitalero does the rounds of the church estate to lock up.
His last action of the day is to turn on a projector on the other side of the road that produces the best camino arrow of the trip.
We’ve decided we all prefer the donativo albergues. These tend to be older, and are often run by some local Catholic church. Logrono was such an institution, and today we are heading beyond Santo Domingo, the recommended stop, to Granon, home of the oldest donativo. Apparently the same Father who ended up running Logrono started out at Granon. As I understand the story he was a parish priest who had this enormous ancient building and felt it was all a waste of space. So, he got in some mattresses and mats, and opened his doors to the passing peregrinos. He would house and feed them with no expectation of payment. Like I have said on numerous occasions, the rules of the capitalist society in which most of us live just don’t really apply here.
We arise at the Najera albergue un-bright and early. It’s been raining…
It’s dark and Najera isn’t particularly photogenic. We get out of town and into the fields.
The sun comes up, thankfully….
We roll up in Azofra and have Breakfast #1
And now, some cat videos…
My Merrell sandals that I am accidentally wearing (see later in this post) break a lace. It takes ages to replace it…
We pass through Ciruena, through more fields…
I wander into Santo Domingo, past the cathedral…
… and discover a hiking shop. Hmm, methinks, let’s see what they’ve got to replace my excellent (but sadly inappropriate in the Spanish heat) Salewas. A few minutes later I have a pair of outrageous Hokas. I head to the post office and send the Salewas home.
I speed on out of Santo Domingo to try and catch up with the others. I pass our Texan pals, Brian and Mike, as I rush on past.
Off to Granon…
The hospitaleros are out to lunch, so they leave the place under the charge of Connie, a peregrino who happened to be there when they left for lunch. It’s that kind of place…
This is a very old church. There are two dorms and Llew and I end up in the upper one, right under the roof. It overlooks the kitchen.
We claim our mats, dump our stuff, and do the washing of ourselves and stuff. Diana is very impressed (?!) with the laundry facilities that are right up in the top of the church.
The drying area is a good walk down the street, in what looks like common land. It’s an honest borough!
Now that we are all clean and shiny it’s time for lunch.
At 5pm the hospitaleros round us up to help prepare the evening meal. I peel a huge bowl of spuds and then seem surplus to requirements. The albergue has two Spanish guitars which are miraculously in tune. I pick up one and a French chap, Guilliame, picks up the other. We are both aged hippies so know much of the same stuff. We have fun serenading the kitchen crew.
At 6:30 we take everything that needs cooking across the street to the aptly named Patiserrie Jesus bakery, where they cook it for us, whilst there’s a pilgrim mass in the church. We dutifully attend. Still clueless about what;s going on but everyone seems very happy.
Back to the albergue for dinner…
We all help with the washing up. Then, like Logrono, the hospitaleros take those who are interested into a back room, at the top of the church, for a ‘contemplation’. This is very nicely done and rather moving. The leader goes round the gathered group and asks each of us to say something about why we are here. Or keep silent. Or sing. Or anything that makes sense to you at the time.
I start out explaining my story and struggle to keep it all together. I make it through and feel better for it. Others have strange and strong stories to tell. But, just as what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so what happens in this circle stays there.
Most folks on the Camino are recognizably ‘pilgrim’. We all share specialist footwear and quality backpacks and we wear ‘technical’ clothing (made of quick drying synthetic material). But, every now and then, you see someone who looks very different.
Yesterday, after we had checked in to the donativo in Logrono a young very English chap arrived – think Hugh Grant in ‘Notting Hill’. He was wearing a tweed jacket and normal street shoes and didn’t seem to be carrying much luggage. He was sitting next to the hospitalero desk and had the ‘thousand yard stare‘. I could hear the hospitaleros discuss what to do with him. He seem so detached.
After the communal dinner that he did not attend, and the service (ditto), we went back up to the dormitory around 9:45pm. The tweed jacket-ed peregrino walked in, lay down on his mat, with no sleeping sheet or change of clothing, shut his eyes and went straight to sleep, still wearing his tweed jacket.
After 10 mins or so he started full-on no-nonsense snoring. Two Italians, who had mats next to him, moved over to the other side of the room. That wasn’t nearly far enough so they gathered round him and had a discussion about Plan B. They shook him gently. No effect. They conferred again between themselves, did an Italian shrug of the shoulders and gave up. We all settled in for a long night.
To be fair, it wasn’t just the snoring Hugh Grant that was making a noise. All the windows were open and the street sounds of Logrono wafted in on the breeze and added to the general din.
I have many hours of BBC stuff on my iPad so I fired up a ‘Charles Paris‘ mystery and put in my headphones. A little light murdering should help pass the time. After a few hours of that, I turned to my 8 hour recording of white noise. The idea is to turn it up loud enough to mask the external racket. It must have worked because I found myself waking up at 5:30 with the rest of the peregrinos. Hugh Grant was still fast asleep. And silent. Damn him.
Anyway….. The snorers had to get to us eventually.
The route out of Logrono is quite tricky in the dark. Flocks of peregrinos would perform a kind of murmeration, like starlings, and move as a fluid beast through the city. All getting lost, and then all finding the path again.
Logrono is a big town and it took some time to get out, above the city.
We pass a toro advertising hoarding on a hilltop (not quite sure what was being advertised…) as the Camino trail followed the road.
Eventually we head into wine country.
It’s getting hot. The trail follows the road, unfortunately.
I indulge in a small amount of theft
We approach Najera, whicch is a much more industrial town than I remember.
We arrive, Jonathan is first, and he discovers than the municipal albergue is shut. Something to do with a water or a plumbing issue. Our Spanish is too poor to tell.
We settle on a cheap (EUR10) place whose name I have already forgotten. It’s busy and hot. But we’re in good time and all get beds. We do the clean up routine and either collapse on our beds for a sleep or go for a wander. I elect the latter and find a cafe down by the river where I eat a salad (healthy!) and some patatas bravas (basically chips in a chili mayo sauce – not so healthy). Lovely.
We’d booked slots for the communal evening meal in the albergue. Us veggies were very well taken care of.
Life is simple and we make our own entertainment. I was having an in-depth discussion with a couple from Montreal about the independence movements in Quebec and in Scotland when a sing-song broke out at the other end of the table…
All good fun. Off to bed. Snoring was a gentle 3/10.
Another quality nights sleep. Thus far, 7 days in, we’ve had zero snoring incidents. This, as we shall see later, is a statistical anomaly.
We’re up 5:30am-ish, along with everybody else. We get packed and ready to go.
It’s a sad day as Llew has decided he needs to look after his health and return home. After a ridiculous amount of messing about with Easyjet he has a flight from Madrid to London at 9:45pm tonight. He’ll get a bus to Logrono, then another bus directly to the airport.
Us remaining three head on up the hill for the long walk to Logrono. It’s dark, but the sky is clear and the stars are out. I usually try and not use a torch, so my eyes can acclimatise and I can see as much as possible of our surroundings. Today is too dark for that, and the path has been chewed up by the storm. So we line up behind Jonathan and his epic floodlight head torch and off we go.
Through the outskirts and into the fields.
Eventually there’s enough light to see where we’re going.
The town of Sansol appears, looking like a Christmas card of ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’.
I come across a fruit stand alongside the path and fill up on bananas, hard boiled eggs and march on.
Just round the corner we come across an old chap out practicing his guitar.
The voice caught singing on the soundtrack is Dianne, from Australia. As is common on the Camino you bump in to the same people over and over and Dianne and her friend are regular co-walkers. She is particularly interested in Jen’s Master thesis, ‘Finding My Feet’, for which Jen first walked the Camino in 2016. I promise to try and email Dianne a copy.
We arrive in Viana..
…and eat at at least two cafes as we slowly make it from one end to the other. The folks who run the food truck from a few days back have a cafe here, ‘Pilgrims Oasis’.
I add to my collection of murals and graffitied signage…
And we cross from Navara into La Rioja…
We arrive in Logrono!
We find our albergue – the very grand old church.
The square by the cathedral has some of the same excellent graffiti from 2017…
The camino way markers have changed. In Logrono we have these embedded in the pavement:
Now, this is a donativo. These are the oldest and ‘purest’ albergues. They are run by volunteers from all over the world and are free. You get a bed, a shower, a meal and you can pay nothing. Proper hospitality. Here’s the box in which you can place your donation. And this honest Scotsman put in a sizeable sum.
The donation part got a mention – once – in the introduction to the albergue; in there, along with the showers and laundry.
The is old-school albergue-ing. The accomodation is, ahem, basic. Mats on the floor in a big room.
We unpack our stuff and do the washing. I take a wander round the very pleasant centre of Logrono. Then back for the pilgrim mass at 7:30.
Still got no idea what’s going on, but it’s pleasant to be here.
Back to the hostel for the communal dinner.
Stomachs full we go through a secret passage:
A short non-sectarian, non-denominational ‘service’ is held. A kind American lady gave me a copy of the recording she made.
(I can’t upload this file at the moment, I’ll do it when I get back…)
And then a hospitalero played us out…
Best day so far. Many thanks to the volunteers who make it happen. Camino-spirit abounds…
We’re doing an extra-long day, to make up for being out-of-sync with the guide book. It’s 21.9km, according to Brierly, from Estella to Los Arcos and we’re still in Villatuerte, some 3.9km short of Estella.
Nice albergue, good sleep, proper beds. Spiffy.
We come across the wine fountain in Ayegui, which, for once, is actually running. A number of Brits are living up to the national stereotype and downing red wine at 6:30am with considerable enthusiasm.
Then we come across the metalworker, who, thankfully, is open this early. I buy another 5EUR Camino shell – I shall write more on this later…
On through Azqueta… (with breakfast)
A progress report – note I didn’t get the bus…
The path is in quite bad shape. And the sky is grey and cloudy. I don’t think it’ll rain.
We are entering wine country…
I roll into Los Arcos around noon.
It’s a bit of a scrappy town but it does have a splendid town square and church. We head for the municipal albergue, the Isaac Santiago, pay our EUR8 for a bed for the night and clean up. The sun is shining and the washing will definitely dry this time…
As I said in the video, Llew got the bus today and is thinking of going home. His health issues are getting to him. He’s trying to sort out his EasyJet flights and it is causing more pain than his ailments.
We head to the marvellous town square and eat pasta and salad instead.
We visit the extraordinarily ornate church – this town has 1200 inhabitants and one of the most ornate churches we’ve seen yet.
Some of it is oddly camp. Check the organ pipes in this video…
We basically muck around all afternoon. More food in the square and an early-ish bed. Ready for the long day (28km) tomorrow….
La Casa Magica, our albergue in Uterga, is a very pleasant place. But the beds are awful. The bunks had some strange metal mesh grid onto which was placed a mattress. The trouble with the grid was that anytime you moved in bed, the grid pieces should slide past each other – at least I think that was the designer’s plan – but in practice the metal pieces didn’t slide. Instead they got stuck and then would move all of a sudden and make a noise like someone hitting a metal chair with a baseball bat. So, the act of just turning over in bed made 3 or 4 rapid pistol-like bangs and the whole room would wake up. There were maybe 20 beds in the dorm and this cacophony went on all night. Not much sleep was had. But, thanks to the excellent WiFi, I was able to listen to Radio 4. I was still awake at the 4am news, such was the heat and the racket. Oh dear. A truly terrible nights sleep. It does occur to me that the hospitaleros might not actually know this. La Casa Magica is a very nice place in all other respects, but if they never sleep in their own dorms, and if the clientele changes every day and no-one ever tells them (us included) – how would they find out?
We’re up and out at some point. I was so sozzled that I can’t recall when…
On the way out we pass our Texan friends from dinner the previous evening. Mike, at some point in the evening, had dropped off two wooden Camino shells that he’d made back in Houston. During yesterday’s dinner we’d been talking about the day and Llew asked me what was so special about Alto del Perdon. I started to explain, and of course, became a quivering wreck in 5 seconds flat. Mike, bless him, reckoned I needed cheering up. He’d made about 50 small (c1cm) wooden Camino shells to bring and hand out to people he met. So I am now the proud recipient of two shells, one for me and one for M. Thank you Mike!
Across from the albergue was another albergue which seemed to be the home of half a dozen cats.
We head on out…
On through Muruzabal and Obanos.
The weather is a little restrained, for which I’m very grateful. Sadly this makes the pics muted, but here they are anyway – hopefully you’ll get some idea of the landscape through which we passed.
We walk through Puente La Reina, stopping at least twice for tortilla and cafe con leche.
We see evidence of recent bull-bothering activities. I wonder how long such casual animal torture will last?
On through Maneru and Ciraqui…
…and then to Lorca. I remember this place fondly from last time – the cafe owner was, I think, Korean, and she would look at the customers as they came in, size them up, and then talk to them in their own language. As far as I could tell she was correct most of the time. Very impressive. Our multi-lingual host wasn’t around when I arrived but I ordered orange juice and a sandwich and sat down on the ground to recover.
We arrive in Villatuerta and find La Casa Magica. We check in and do the clothes washing and pin the results to the washing line.
Llew and I signed up for the communal dinner and were treated to an enormous veggie paella.
At the end of dinner the heavens opened again and our clothes get soaked, again. Oh well. It’s another thunderbolts and lightning special…
Off to bed. The four of us have our own room, and no bunk beds!
Today’s plan is to not get wet. Anything else is a bonus.
We’ve got an albergue booked at Uterga so we’re in no hurry. The Arre albergue is quite casual and doesn’t kick us out until 9am. But, we’re out at 8-ish and we amble up the road into Pamplona.
Having our own room means we can mess about and make noise.
We pack all our stuff in plastic bags, just in case the 20% (depending on which app you use) chance of rain actually materialises. My walking shoes are too wet, so I pack out my Merrell sandals with padding, add moleskin plasters to my feet and slather the lot in vaseline before inserting the slimy result into my socks.
There are some great murals/grafitti on the walk into town.
Off we go through the very pleasant streets of Pamplona. No rain…. Yet.
We walk past the ancient ramparts designed to keep the likes of us out in the olden days, and remark on what a different world it is now.
Today is a very straight route, heading pretty much due west. The landscape changes west of the city. The last few days were in familiar territory – the trees and landscape could be Scotland. From now on we’re in what might be called stereotypical Spain. I look forward to it.
We head on up to Alto del Perdon. I love this place. It’s perhaps second only to Orrisson in my where-to-go-in-your-head-when-in-the-dentist-chair locations. And today it has more weight, more emotional thump than it might normally. It was in Pamplona four years ago that Jen and I left Mike and Llew, and headed back to Madrid to be with Muriel when she went to see the oncologist about a recent test. As most readers of this blog will know, that test was positive, and what with one thing and another1 Muriel was given an 18-months to live prognosis. Four years later, she is still here. I wrote earlier about this camino being ‘unfinished business’. Thanks to Jen and Muriel’s brother, Albert, who is visiting from Australia I get the chance to come back and pick up that trail from four years back, where, in an alternative universe, Jen and I head to the bus station and home. Today, the quantum world splits and I head west for the hill of Alto del Perdon.
The scenery is marvellous, even if the sky is un-Spanish in its greyness.
The track is quite badly damaged by the recent storm and we have to cross a fast flowing stream at one point. Jonathan decides to go barefoot and has to reassemble himself.
We stop at a small town for a bocadillo – basically a cheese and tomato omelette in a baguette. Can’t be healthy…
I walk ahead as I want to get to the monument by myself.
I sit and think and sit and think some more.
I can’t put this into words. In a way, it’s like some kid getting to go to Disneyland to see Mickey Mouse. There’s nothing inherently special about this time and this place.
And yet… and yet…
I weep buckets.
I worry what will happen when I get to La Cruz de Ferro. I fear I shall surf down the moutainside on a wave of my tears.
I leave and make my way down the other side of the hill, and try and catch up with the others.
We amble through the glorious countryside to Uterga where we have 4 slots booked in the Camino de Perdon albergue. And very nice it is, too….
We check in, do the washing of ourselves and our stuff and await dinner. It is excellent and we share our table with two Texans who have been training in 110 deg F heat for this. They’ll have no trouble with the Spanish heat!
I write this blog and get bitten by some evil looking insect. Tomorrow I reckon I’ll have a huge welt on my left hand. Oh well….
I’m not going to write much about the details of this. This is Muriel’s story and it is hers to tell. ↩︎
All you need to know is that it rained. And rained. 146 litres per metre square, says the local paper. I make that near enough 6″ of rain in old money. And most of it fell on me, I am quite convinced.
I gather that the storm had a name (‘Mary’?) and made the international news.
We left Zubiri bright and early
We don’t get too far before the rain starts. Around Illaritz it really starts poring down. We put on our rain gear, and our backpack covers and keep going. We get to a cafe in Zuriain and hunker down to wait it out. Then this happens…
This is inside the cafe. Water is pouring over every surface, including those with electric outlets. Some British wit makes a comment about needing to report this to health and safety.
Throughout all this the staff are supremely indifferent and get on with the important business of making excellent zucchini and spinach tortilla.
We arrive in Arre where we had booked into the ancient 12th century albergue. We get there at 12:30 and find it doesn’t open until 3pm. We are soaked and cold. So, we carry on a few hundred yards and find another albergue that will let us have a private room for the four of us for 25EUR each. We gladly take it. We get out of the wet stuff and the others are kind enough to let me shower first. I put my clean clothes on the floor, just outside the shower, and don’t notice until too late that the shower drain was backing up and flooding out the door. So, now my clean clothes were soaked, too. I cobbled together enough clothing to be decent in public and asked the hospitaleros for advice. A splendid chap showed up with drain cleaners, mops and all sortsof things and within 10 mins all was well.
We were knackered…
Soon the dreaded ‘full’ sign went up on the albergue door.
We dry out, but our clothes require more. We find a laundrette and wash and, more importantly, dry all our stuff.
I venture out into the evening and find yet more evidence of Spanish local spirit.
There’s some kind of music festival on. All afternoon kids had been shouting and squealing outside the albergue. Lots of food and wine was being consumed at communal tables. And now we have a music event.