Camino Frances 2018 – Viana to Ventosa

September 15th, 2018 – Day 4
Viana to Ventosa, 28km

Today I said goodbye to Navarra and hello to La Rioja as I ventured westward. It was due to be a hot day so I decided on an early start, just to be safe. I was pretty sure I made the right choice as the last few kilometres without shade made it harder.

I set off alone after 6am. The hospitaleros had set out a breakfast that I took advantage of. It’s essential that you have something to eat before you leave in the morning, and then you can have 2nd breakfast at your first stop, and so on! It was pitch black outside so I took it nice and slow. The next few kilometres to Logrono is far from attractive so I suppose early morning is the ideal time to walk it. I left with a full battery and with a full tank’s worth of coffee. The next town will top me up! I said goodbye to Viana and walked under its archway leading back on to the Camino.

 

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Instant darkness. I put the music away and turned the flashlight on full. I was urging the sun to rear her head over the horizon. I would have to wait another hour for that however. After the Camino brings you through some back roads, you are lead on to the main road. Here you can see the “Communidad de La Rioja” sign. I knew where I was now. But there is a good bit of industrial area to walk through before arriving at Logrono proper.

The sun rises in the background.  I stop for a moment or two. I say goodbye to Navarra and silently thank everyone whom I have met since I have been here. It’s this time of the day I cherish the most. Always happy to see another day.

 

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I arrive in the city close to an hour later. The party from the night before was just ending, the Fiesta de San Matteo. I spotted an Irish bar – Dublin Bar on Avenida Zaragoza. I know for next time. After the long walk up Calle Marqués de Murrieta, the Camino leads you to a number of parks and to the La Grajera where swans and other small animals are known to dwell. I have passed through here twice before so I look forward to seeing the swans. It is also the first time I see the Scottish pilgrim, Andrew. What strikes me is how fast he walks. He was out of sight in no time. I got to meet the Irish couple who were on the same flight as me. We agreed to meet up and talk again in Santo Domingo de la Calzada a few days later.

 

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Leaving the La Grajera park, you will pass a long-bearded man by the name of Marcellino who will offer you a sello. Be sure to take one, he is quite a famous peregrino! He was there that morning and was offering everyone a “Buen Camino”.  Once you leave Logrono, you arrive at the side of the main road and you are following that until you stop for the day. The sun was out and I could feel the heat on my neck already. But I had another 10 kilometres to go.

Navarrete was in the distance. Placed on a hill with many vineyards surrounding it, this town is a favourite for pilgrims. I stopped for a little while to soak up the atmosphere. All the cafes were full however so I declined a cafe con leche and had some fruit that I bought the day before, taking advantage of what little shade there was.

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Navarrete

This day was bringing back great memories of my Camino in 2013 when I walked from Logrono to Leon. I met so many good people that year, most I am in contact with to this day. I hoped this year would be just like 2013 but I didn’t want to compare. I wasn’t here to make friends, I was here for the experience.

The final 8kms to Ventosa were the toughest I have walked in a long time. The heat seemed to be increasing with each hour and this pale Irishman became this pink Irishman very quickly. There were pilgrims taking rests under trees and haystacks just to avoid the worst of the heat. I arrived at Ventosa at 1pm. It wasn’t opened yet but there was a queue. Patricia from Logrono had just walked her first day on her Camino and decided to finish here. She had good English but she was looking forward to her siesta!

After washing my clothes, I checked out the local restaurant and had the pilgrim meal. Not bad for €11. I met Madalina from Canada, the French part. She had walked from Logrono so I bought her a glass of wine for her efforts. I noticed she had a patch on her arm and asked: “Is this for Type 1, Diabetes?”. She said it was and I explained that I needed to carry a large supply of medication with me on Camino also. So it was nice to open up about our respective conditions. She said that she was aiming for Santo Domingo tomorrow, but there was no guarantee. After a few hours talking, we walked back to the albergue and prepared for the next day.

I met Karsten in the albergue that evening and myself, Patricia and Karsten arranged to walk tomorrow. Adelante!

 

Back to the Camino Frances

And I can’t wait…

It has been nearly three months since I returned from Santiago and the Portuguese Camino. I had a great time. It was short. Too short. I arrived back and immediately thought “I need to go back”. So I sat down and looked at flights back to Spain. My trips to Spain typically last 2-3 weeks each year so a 10-day trip left a lot to be desired.

So when I heard that a friend and her husband are walking the Camino around that time, I asked if I could join them for a few days. Luckily enough, the response was yes and I quickly booked my flights. So I fly into Bilbao on September 11th and arrive in Puente la Reina later that day after a short bus journey. I meet up with them in Estella the following day, then I hope to walk with them for a few days after that. Hopefully, I will have enough days to walk to Belorado, a town I have many memories of.

So that’s it. I hope to meet people who have just set off on their journey as opposed to finishing in Santiago. I also hope that I can just switch off and enjoy each step compared to the frenziness of Santiago.

Camino 2014 – Day 10 – Azofra to Redecilla del Camino

September 13th 2014 – Day 10
Azofra to Redecilla del Camino, 27km

Today was my penultimate day. And I had a choice whether to make it a long one or short one. Do I walk to Granon and finish up after 22km or continue to Redecilla del Camino and 27km? By walking a long-ish day today, I would have an easy day into Belorado tomorrow. I also had the choice of sticking around with the guys in this albergue and staying in Granon, where they had planned on staying or moving on to the unknown.

I woke up early as usual. I had a great sleep in probably the best albergues I had stayed in. Apart from the poor wifi, it was fine. No bunks as well..actual beds, so make sure you stop by here if you can! My German friend in the bed beside me was snoring to his heart’s content so I left him quietly and moved on out. I had bought some fruit the evening before so I was sorted. The next town after Azofra was Ciruena, about 9km onwards. It was 5,30 when I moved on, the sky was pitch black but there were a good number of pilgrims out and about. I was expecting some rain today, the first of this Camino. I didn’t mind it, as long as it wasn’t heavy.

It isn’t long before you are back on dirt tracks again once you leave Azofra, Last year, I walked with an extra kilo of mud on my feet due to heavy rain, but today I walked with a crisp under foot. My black boots were unrecognisable now as they had turned to a shade of dark red. I had walked much of the morning alone, and I didn’t mind. I had enjoyed the company over the last week but sometimes your own company is healthy. I walked 9km in just over an hour and a half. It’s amazing how fast you can go with some good music in your ears. I passed alot of people this morning, none whom I recognised. I also knew David, Leslie and Bob were staying in Ciruena, the next town, so I hoped to see them.

I reached Ciruena and it was still dark, but the sun was rising. No clouds in the sky. I remembered my time here last year passing the vast housing estate beside the golf course. As far away from a Camino town as you can go. I try to imagine living here but can’t. Finding the way out of this town is pretty difficult and I become lost again. I take a road out and lose all sight of arrows….I retrace my steps. Gps even fails. I can’t even see the albergue although I see a sign pointing me in it’s direction. Lost is not a great place to be hmm. But just as I walk backwards, I see a woman from England and she tells me “It’s that way”, pointing me in the right way. I thank her and move on. I notice she was carrying the Brierley guide. The same guide that is sitting inside my pack. How lazy of me!

Moving on I meet Liam from Belfast. A tall stocky guy. He had walked from St Jean, but a day after me. He is hobbling but determined. He tells me he was in British Army and had served in Afghanistan so the Camino is a walk in the park. I can well believe him. We talk for an hour or so until he tells me he needs to stop and look at a new blister that is bothering him. I can see Santo Domingo de la Calzada in the distance so hopefully I can find a cafe con leche somewhere. The sun is up now and it is approaching 8am. Santo Domingo is quiet when I arrive, all its pilgrims have moved on and the last few stragglers are checking out of the albergue as I pass it by. I’m delighted to meet Christina again. I haven’t seen her since Ventosa. She splashed out and stayed in the Parador the previous night. She, like me, was looking for an open cafe. I couldn’t find one unfortunately. Maybe as it is Sunday?

I leave Santo Domingo a little after half 8, after resting for a bit. I enjoyed my time there last year. I remember speaking to the hospitalera in the albergue who knew of my home town, even though she is from France. The church with the chicken and the hen was closed unfortunately. I walk alone for an hour or so until I reach Granon. It is still mid-morning and I had completed 22km. The first thing I see when I enter the town is it’s large church..and then a cafe! I walk right to the cafe and order a cafe con leche and an aquarius…as I do every morning. There was a large crowd sitting down outside the cafe, I didn’t know any of them. It felt good to be a stranger again. I kept looking for Liam from a few hours back, or even some of the crowd from the previous night in Azofra. I have David, Leslie and Bob in the back of my mind today also.

It wasn’t long before I hear Liam..”What about ye?!! in a northern Irish dulcet tone. He was glad to see a cafe, like myself, so he sat down and had a cafe con leche. I didn’t mind sitting down for a little longer. The blisters were bothering him and he was considering buying a new pair of shoes in Burgos. I definitely know what he means. I had the same problem back in 2012. About twenty minutes later, I see Bob and Dave wander into the town. Now I didn’t expect to see them again! They both sat down and sipped on a drink. I asked about Leslie and why she wasn’t with them? She had taken a bus to the next albergue as she had problems walking. Bummer!

I reckon I spent the bones of an hour sitting in the same chair at the cafe in Granon. Soaking up the atmosphere, drinking and saying hello to everyone going by. Time meant nothing to me! I was due to finish up the following day and I didn’t want it to end. I was hoping the remaining day and a bit would drag out. We left Granon; Bob, Dave, Liam and myself. The next 3 or 4 kms were uninteresting. We were walking alongside a road and the terrain was flat. It was great to be chatting to the lads again however. Liam fell behind after a while before we reached the border to Castille y Leon, which is the largest province of Spain. The first town we encountered was Redecilla del Camino, which is just off a main road. It literally is a road which consists of a restaurant, a hotel, an albergue and a church. A number of houses lie off the main road. The albergue “Albergue municipal San Lázaro” has 52 bunk beds and is a steal at €5. It wasn’t open when I arrived so myself Bob and Dave waited outside the bar and had a drink and a snack. One last Coca Cola before my last day tomorrow.

Eventually the albergue opened at 1pm and I said goodbye to the lads. They had beds booked in Viloria de Rioja, the next town. I’m quite happy to “ad-lib” the Camino. Some people like to book in advance, but I prefer to let the Camino provide for me. I was very lucky with the weather also, as just as I entered the albergue, the heavens opened. I had dinner in the bar down the road and more good people, new people. The next day is my final day, 12km to Belorado.

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Photos from The Way

I have another two or three posts to write before I complete my Camino from September but I before I did that, I wanted to tell you about one of my Camino family member’s photos.

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Anna, who walked to Logrono with us, has quite a talent in photography and some of her shots are superb. We were blessed to have good weather also so the sun brought out the best in the hills, valleys and trails. You can check out her photos on her Flickr site here. Some of her photos make mine look plain ordinary 😉

Camino 2014 – Day 8 – Logrono to Navarrete

September 11th 2014 – Day 8
Logrono to Navarrete, 12.5km

A short day but different to the previous week. No more would I be walking with the same crew, and I felt a little down knowing this. But this would be a great chance to meet some new people. After dinner, the night before, I bumped into the three Irish men who I had met first in Roncesvalles. One of them (called Tom) wanted to have a slow day and was hoping to stop in Navarrete, which was my stopping point. So I made plans with him to walk the short distance, around 12km. We agreed on 7.30 the next morning. I might not be walking alone after all.

The next morning came, and I was the last to leave. Tom had stayed in an albergue on the outskirts of the city but I forgot to take note of where it was. After 15 mins waiting, I moved on eastwards. I might see him further on, or he might catch up with me, time will tell. I wondered where Bob, David and Leslie were while making their way to Ventosa. Also, Philippe was going further, possibly to Najera, and Anna..I wondered what she would be doing today. I don’t mind walking by myself but it lets the mind wander. And mine was wandering today.

I have walked this stretch before in May 2013. You can read about it here. Walking out of Logrono, you don’t have the same experience as walking out of Leon or Burgos or Pamplona. You are greeted by a large park once you leave the main city. Murals cover the walls, while dog-walkers and morning-runners pass me. I’m in no great hurry and for the first time this Camino I switch on some music on my phone and my earphones go in. A Spotify playlist I have created blasts out “There is a Light that never goes out” by The Smiths. I start to sing under my breath…”Take me out tonight…”!! It’s one of those songs you want to sing at the top of your voice and I was in that mood! I reach the large reservoir “Planta de Granjera”, and I wait if I could see some fish. The famous pilgrim “Marcelino Lobato” was giving stamps in a stall just by the lake. He has walked the Camino 50 times. On my credencial he wrote “Cada peregrino hace su Camino” which translates to “Each pilgrim does their pilgrimage”. Very true!

Leaving Planta de Granjera, I am back in wine country, with vineyards to each side of me. Walking around this area is great in the autumn when you see the grapes ready for harvest.  It is different in May where the grapes are not ready to be picked. I don’t meet many people today. I’m baffled by this as in the last week, the Camino has been crowded. After an hour, I see the medieval town of Navarrete in the distance, but it is still a while away. It sits tall on a hill. It is not even 9am, I am far too early. Navarrete is a small town based around a hill with a church spire being the highest point, like most towns in Spain.  I walk in looking for the pension which I had booked before I left. It is called Hostal Villa de Navarrete and is located at the far end of the town, across the road from the main municipal albergue. I might as well have been the only pilgrim to have walked into the town that day based on the looks I was getting from locals. But not to worry. I checked in and had to wait an hour before my room was ready. I had some breakfast while I waited. The only food I had today was some fruit and yoghurt.

My room was standard fare, but 5-star compared to the albergues I had stayed in over the last week. I usually book one room in advance and this year I chose this small town. No idea why. After a rest, I took a wander around. I wanted to check out Naverrete’s church which is decorated with gold. I took a minute out here before checking if I knew anyone in the municipal albergue. I didn’t recognise anyone. I guess everyone who started with me on day one was ahead of me.

After the town’s siesta I came out later and had a meal in the restaurant with some folks I had got talking to. The weather gods were very kind again to us today with no rain and only a few clouds. We were expecting rain however, either the following day or the day after. Overall a short day, and one where I got used to walking by myself.

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