Camino Frances 2018 – Ventosa to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

September 16th, 2018 – Day 5
Ventosa to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, 32km

A long day, but a day I met and walked with new faces. It was expected to be a hot day again, so I was prepared. It was a Sunday also. So we were prepared for that too. Sunday’s on the Camino are a different kettle of fish.

Patricia, from Logrono, and Karsten, from Germany, left Albergue San Saturnino in Ventosa after 6am after some breakfast. Well, some fruit and coffee, until Najera. We had 11kms to conquer before reaching the River Najerilla and it’s many cafes and albergues. Not that we had planned to stay there. My two companions had open minds, while I had my heart set on Santo Domingo and her two hens! Patricia had taken some time off from work to walk part of the Camino and hoped to walk to Burgos. So she was in no rush. From the off, I could see she was having great difficulty with her pack. Its settings were not right and its weight was on her lower back. And this was her 2nd day. We talked about her summer spent in Ireland while studying English, which seems to be the place to be if you are a Spanish student during the summer months. She had fun, but she did tell me that not a lot of English was learned! Karsten had walked part of the Camino, from Leon, so he knew the score. He liked the silence and only spoke when spoken to. But I enjoyed his sense of humour. This is strange for a German, right? However, we would walk together to Burgos. Little did I know that he had something in common with me and it was great to chat with him about it.

Najera, our first stop, is situated underneath a cliff face and there was an eerie silence about the place when we crossed the Najerilla. There is a great cafe to the left of the river and we stopped there for a 2nd breakfast. We met Jan, from Denmark and Andrew, from Scotland. They were both aiming for Santo Domingo. They were part of the 40k club. They could do big distances each day. I’m not sure I could join them. After our coffees had been finished and our tostadas had been eaten, we sauntered on. Azofra, 6km ahead, would be our next stop.

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Patricia & Karsten in Najera

The distance ahead was pretty straightforward but now the sun was front and centre.  The trail rambled over hills with rocks to one side and vineyards to the other. This is a winemakers heaven here! Plenty of arrows sprayed on the rocks, just in case we don’t take a wrong turn. Azofra is a one street town but it is pretty great. There are a number of cafes and we decided to stop for a bit because Patricia was struggling. I offered some bandage for a new blister. I told her about the municipal albergue here in Azofra, which has a swimming pool. She decided to stay at the cafe, when myself and Karsten reached for our packs. We didn’t meet again.

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It was now coming close to midday and having walked 17km, we had a further 15km to go to our destination. The sun was relentless and there was little shade. The trail now changed from one with a lot of turns, to none. A walk for a long as your eye can see. It was time to dig deep. Karsten pushed ahead, just the motivation I needed. We barely talked until Ciruena but if you need an example in ‘let’s just get through this’, Karsten had it.

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The long walk under the sun to Ciruena

Ciruena is in the unfortunate position to be beside a ghost town that was built beside a golf course. Both Karsten and I stopped for a cold drink here and we met my Irish buddy from the flight. His wife had picked up some nasty blisters and had taxied ahead. That’s the Camino unfortunately. I hoped to meet him later. Leaving Ciruena is like trying to escape from a bank. It can be tricky, to say the least. We eventually found the exit (even though I have passed through here before).

One long stretch, one hill, and one tricky descent before we could see Santo Domingo. I didn’t think I could make it. Karsten wanted to check into the albergue and see the two hens in the Catedral. I’m not sure the viewing of two hens is worth a couple of euro. I’m happier to meet other pilgrims.

With that, I saw Doug. He was talking to a Danish pilgrim who I hadn’t met before. I heard a loud shout “Irish Dave” across the hive of peregrinos – I think the Estrellas were talking! I knew I would catch up with him but not this early. There you go! I better check in and find a bed first.

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The municipal albergue hadn’t changed since I was in it first in 2013 – well, maybe the price! My bed was in “Azofra” on the 2nd floor – more steps to climb. While Karsten checked out the Catedral, I grabbed a mini siesta and then headed out for some money. I met Jan and Andrew whom we met in Najera, and they were with other folks. So I joined them. There were pilgrims from Australia, Sweden, Canada, Spain and another from Ireland. This Irish pilgrim was walking to Santiago and having a great time. Maybe one year, I’ll be able to do the same.

After numerous drinks and tapas, we started to think about a pilgrim meal. It was close to 7pm and everywhere looked full. Who is going to serve a group of 12? Luckily enough we found a great restaurant beside the Parador that provides pilgrim meals. It was a great evening but I have no photos to remember the night due to the battery dying. That is the Camino! Shout out to Andrew for organising the table!

As is the Camino, not everyone were going to walk the same distance the following day. I hoped to walk to Belorado and Cuatro Cantones albergue, while others hoped to walk to Villafranca and Tosantos. While this happens all the time, everyone meets up in the end and a big city like Burgos brings everyone back together again.

Until tomorrow.

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