September 12th 2014 – Day 9
Navarrete to Azofra, 22km
I had a near-perfect sleep after drifting off around 10pm. The town’s church bells woke me a few times but I was back asleep shortly afterward. Most towns in Spain have churches that chime on the hour every hour. I was reminded of my stay in Hontanas last May where the bells kept me awake all night. However, I wake up close to 5am right before the alarm bell went off on my phone. I wanted to get up, get ready and head out on the trail. The destination was Azofra which is 22km eastwards. Last year, I passed it without giving it much thought but I decided to check it out this year as I heard a lot of good things about the municipal albergue. Hmm..I seem to be basing my decisions on where to stay on their albergues..shouldn’t it be the other way around? 🙂
I leave the hostel keys on the table and quietly close over the door. There is no one around, you could hear a pin drop in the streets. It wasn’t long before I was retracing my steps from last year. The only difference is last year the sun was out..now it is pitch black with a chill in the air. The thought crossed my mind that I could catch David, Bob and Leslie as they were staying in Ventosa which is another 6 km down the line. I first of all had to deal with the pitch black in front of me. I still had this nagging groin pain on my left leg and the blister on my left foot had not burst. A few Camino candy got rid of any pain I had.
Navarrete’s winding streets are tiny and without a decent amount of light you run the threat of getting lost. Yep..it happened again! I missed an arrow and had to retrace my steps before I ended up on the main road. Once you leave Navarrete, you have a short walk on the main road with lights and then you are back in vineyards again. And once again, at that point I lost the arrows again. I was almost thinking of staying put until the sun came up so I had some natural light. I switched on my torch on my phone and found myself slap bang in the middle of a nowhere. GPS to the rescue! I was off the Camino by a few kilometres. Not a great place to be alone at close to 6am. In the end, I discovered I had followed a rogue arrow down a detour to a town called Sotes. It’s not officially on the Camino but it has an albergue and people can stay there. After about an hour, I got to the next town, Ventosa where my buddies were staying. I meet Christina and her friends from Argentina again as she was leaving and waved to them. It was the first time I saw Christina since outside of Zubiri. I wandered on making my way along more vineyards and dustpaths, mostly alone although I do stumble upon two French women who wish me a Bon Matin!!
It wasn’t long before I could see the lights of Najera and it took an hour or so before I got to the outskirts. My hip was beginning to hurt again but I was hoping the walk would be over soon so I could put my feet up. I was craving a cafe con leche also. Entering Najera is not attractive by the way, the Camino floats alongside an industrial centre. A park doesn’t hide how hideous it is. I pass the funny little dome building and the scribes on the wall and it isn’t long before I cross the River Najerilla. It’s a beautiful town once you get into it. Again, all these memories come back to me from last year.
Leaving Najera, it was close to 9am and I knew my day was nearly over. Azofra is the next town and is about 5 km away. It is also when I bump into Paddy from Canada. He is just leaving Najera and heading to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. He was the life of the party back in Torres del Rio so it was great to talk to him. It was only then that I realised that it was him who stood up on the chair to take a great group shot of us all. A funny man and really intelligent. We reach Azofra close to 11 and grab a drink, a cold one. It’s quiet and the albergue is closed until after 12. What else better to do than chill with a drink until it opens!? I wish Paddy a Buen Camino as he headed to Santo Domingo, where he had a pension booked. At this point, everyone I has previously met are ahead of me. The joys of a slow Camino. I meet new friends here also, Alo from France, Peter from Germany and Joanna from Cork in Ireland, all of whom had started a day after me, the 4th of September. Azofra is such a tiny town, even smaller than Navarrete, but it’s shop / tienda was open all day (yay!!) so I was able to make some dinner. There are no bunks here also. Each room consists of two beds so I had the option of a room to myself or sharing. I shared with Peter. Highlight of the evening was coming across a group from South Korea, all of them stayed in the albergue. One brought with them a guitar and there was a mini-session that evening singing songs from their own country, as well as Beatles tunes.
I must have walked over 25km if you take into account me becoming geographically embarrassed! Tomorrow the aim is Granon as the majority of the gang here are going there..but I would like to walk longer so my last day is as short as possible. Two more days to go!!