Up-to-date Packing List

It is quite normal to change your packing list if you are one to return to the Camino frequently. There may be items that just don’t work for you or a better item might be available for sale. So I’m just going to post what I have scribbled down for my Camino in September. I weighed this at 7kg last week, the lightest pack I have brought so far. This is without water and snacks.

Pack – 33 litre Osprey pack

Wearing:
North face microfleece 1/4 zip
Craghopper shirt
Craghopper trail trousers
Bridgedale socks
1 under armour underwear
Salomon trail shoes with superfeet insoles
1 baseball cap
1 buff
Small over the shoulder bag containing the following: Phone and Earphones, Passport, Flight details, Debit card, Small amount of money, Camino Society Ireland Credential

Within the backpack:
Vaude Backpack raincover
Silk liner
1 pair of Sandals
700ml Water bottle – attached to pack with carabiner
Small plastic folder containing: – Flight details – Prescription – E111 card

Top pocket of pack:
Craghopper Kiwi Classic Jacket – Hooded rain/wind jacket (replacing the Helly Hansen Loke Jacket)
Berghaus Rain trousers

Within a Compression sack:
1 pair of shorts
Helly hansen t shirt
Icebreaker coolmax t shirt
2 under armour underwear
2 pair of bridgedale socks

Within a dry sack:
First aid kit (ibuprofen, motillium, etc – includes blister kit, germoline, small swiss knife with scissors)

Within a dry sack:
Toiletry kit (Travel toothbrush/toothpaste, roll on deodorant, Lifeventure all purpose soap 100ml, disposable razor, hand sanitiser)
Quick-drying REI packable towel
Medication
Wet wipes

Within a dry sack:
Ear plugs
12 safety pins for drying clothes
Phone charger / lead / Adapter
Power bank for phone
(Still debating whether to bring my action camera with strap attachment)
Camino Shell (take out when I start walking)
Spork

Backpack Waist pockets
Headlamp / tiny torch
2 carabiners

If you have any questions about my packing list, please feel free to ask in the comments below.

Astorga becomes Logrono….

I’m not naturally unpredictable but after a few days thinking, I have thrown a curveball at my plans for September. Alas, I have decided to shift the starting point of September Camino to La Rioja and Logrono. Logrono is a lovely city and like Astorga, there is plenty to see and do. I will have ten days of walking and I hope to reach Sahagun by the tenth day. From there, I will take a train to Santiago where I will meet my good friend, St. James. I have walked through the provinces of La Rioja and Castilla y Leon on a number of occasions and have really enjoyed my times there. So much so that I will postpone my walking through Galicia for another time. My flight to Madrid on the 4th of September still stands, and from there I catch an ALSA bus to Logrono. I’m half-tempted to walk to Navarette once I arrive but for the time being, I have reserved a bunk-bed in Albergue Albas

I get to pass through favourite towns of mine – Belorado (with it’s highly recommended Cuatro Cantones albergue), Azofra, Burgos, Boadilla del Camino, and Villalcázar de Sirga. The meseta has only been good to me when I walked through it, so I look forward to September. Many dislike this stretch, so much so that they catch a bus to Leon or Astorga. I’m not sure why. I suppose living so close to the Camino allows me to make these sudden changes and I’m grateful for that. I do apologise to any of my readers who were looking forward to my posts from Galicia but I will make it up to you.

Buen Camino amigos!

Ps – My post on my recent walk around the Bog of Frogs last Saturday has been posted on Camino Society Ireland’s new website.

Towns Along The Way – Logroño & Los Arcos

So Logroño and Los Arcos are the last two towns beginning with “L” left to discuss. So far, it has been fun, but the Towns Along the Way series is nowhere near complete 🙂 Logroño is the first city you will meet in La Rioja while Los Arcos, is 10km beforehand and one of the last few towns you will encounter in Navarra.

Logroño (Map)

Logroño is the capital of the La Rioja province in northern Spain. The population of the city is just over 150,000 and is the largest city you will walk through after leaving Pamplona 3 to 4 days earlier. The city is a centre of the trade in Rioja wine and also produces wood, metal, and textile products. You should arrive in Logroño in 7 or 8 days if you follow Brierley’s guide.

Walking into Logroño is far from attactive as the Camino hugs the main road. Some choose to by-pass the city as a result and walk to Navarrete. You will spot the “Comunidad de La Rioja” sign and later on the “Puente de Piedra” bridge over the Ebro river. Logroño awaits you at this stage. I have started a Camino from here in 2013 and passed through the following year. I love the city but it is very easy to get lost.

There are plenty of places to stay (Gronze) also. Most people choose to stay in hotels or hostels here. That’s exactly what I did in 2013, choosing to stay in Pension Logrono before I started that year’s Camino. This hostal was perfect, however the owner (at the time) had limited English…no, scrap that, she had no English. Or maybe it was a case of I not knowing enough Spanish? Either way, there were communication problems! In 2014, I chose to stay in one of the many albergues.

240px-Façade_of_Santa_María_de_la_Redonda_in_LogroñoThere are over 50 “taperías” located near the town centre. The traditional tapas restaurants often serve only one tapa, meaning one serving, or media ración (half portion), a small plate of tapas. Calle de Laurel, known as “the path of the elephants” is the main street where restaurants and tapas bars offer some of the best pinchos and tapas in northern Spain. Calle Portales is the main street in the old town, where people like to walk and sit in the terraces to eat a meal or drink wine. Finally, make sure you visit the Con-catedral de Santa María de la Redonda close to Calle Portales. It is also in the old town and was designated a protected building in 1931. The cathedral, while not as large as Leon or Burgos, is a fine work of art.

And here is Logrono in 5 minutes:

 

Los Arcos (Map)

Los Arcos (meaning The Arches in English) is a town in Navarra, much smaller than Logroño, with over 1,000 inhabitants. It is situated between Estella and Logroño. It has a number of albergues, all of which have received good reviews (Gronze). I haven’t stayed in Los Arcos myself, choosing to walk to Torres del Rio a further 8km away.

arcos

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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Camino 2014 – Day 7 – Torres del Rio to Logrono

September 10th 2014 – Day 7
Torres del Rio to Logrono, 20km

We had another early start today but a short day was planned as decided to finish up in Logrono. It was Anna’s final day also. She has walked with us since Pamplona and was part of the family. But we had another few hours of walking to go before saying our goodbyes. I was also looking forward to getting back to Logrono as I had started my previous Camino there last year.

The weather was perfect again but it was cold in the morning. We were getting close to the La Rioja / Navarra border, which is just as you enter Logrono. La Rioja includes Logrono, Najera, Santo Domingo de la Calzada and ends just after Granon..which is another 4 days away. Navarra has been very kind to us since we crossed into it at Roncesvalles. But it has some of the toughest terrains on the Camino. Wine Country awaits. The bad thing about leaving Torres del Rio at crazy o clock is there is a pretty tough climb just as you open the door of the albergue. We have a nice 100metres ascent over 2kms. I find climbs no problem at this stage and reached the top of the hill (Alto NS del Poyo) in no time. There is a Spanish couple giving refreshments for a donation at the top and I take a can of Coke to cool me down. It is only 7am at this stage and I watch the sun rise while I sip on my drink. I’m joined by a Belgian girl called Cap. She stayed in the same albergue as us last night. She is in university at present and can afford the time to have a long Camino. Oh I wish I was in her position again! I’ve also noticed over the last week that I had been drinking a lot of cans of Coke. Back in Ireland, I never drink it, but here I was a 1-or-2-a-day-man. I hope I don’t bring the habit home with me.

After the climb, comes the descent and I let Dave and Anna walk ahead as I navigate cautiously. The ground below me is made of dry red silt as there has been no rain here in a week. The descent is around bends and is tricky. You can tell I’m not a descent kind-of-guy! I had noticed, along with my blister at the back of my foot, that I had been getting pain in my left hip. It only seemed to affect me on descents but a few Camino candy sorted me out for the day.

We arrive at Viana, 12km from Torres del Rio. The Camino cuts through the old town, which is asleep. The only movement is coming from the main plaza. About half a dozen men are putting together a bull ring so I can only assume the town is holding “a running of the bulls”. There are no advertisements for it however. We walk on after a few minutes. Our next stop is La Rioja and Logrono. I’m not a fan of walking into large cities. Last year, the walk into Burgos was depressing and in 2011, the walk into Santiago was one I wish I could avoid. But they are part of the Camino as a whole and must be done unfortunately. The final 6kms into Logrono passes through suburbs, under tunnels and along main roads. A large green sign post with “Communidad de la Rioja” tells you exactly where you are. Just before that, we passed Felisa who sells trinkets and gives a stamp for a donation. She and her family have been doing this all her life. It is a great place to grab a rest as there are a few seats. I recognised Logrono’s main bridge (Puente de Piedra) over the Rio Ebro but many of it’s streets were in darkness when I arrived last year.

Logrono is a large town, with over 140,000 people living there. It is a recommended end stage also, and many pilgrims stay here. It has 7 albergues also, and it is next to impossible to not find a bed here. We stayed in one of the many private albergues here and after settling in, Anna decided that we meet to say our goodbyes. It was great to see Phillipe later on as it meant he could wish Anna well also. I slept for a few hours and met in the main plaza while the town was waking up. The meal as always was fab and I drank far too much wine yet again. Saying goodbyes are never my forte and saying goodbye on the Camino is much harder. You open yourself up to people whom you would consider strangers days before and friendships are formed. Anna also kindly gave each of us a bracelet with a shell attached to it, the symbol of the Camino.

I had decided before reaching Logrono to start walking by myself for a while. Prior to the Camino, I booked a room in a pension in Navarrette so I had tomorrow’s walk set out for me. Dave, Bob and Leslie were walking to Ventosa which is further on so it was unlikely I would see them again. I hoped I did as I wanted to wish them goodbye. Tomorrow would be another short day which I looked forward to. It would be on familiar ground after walking it in 2013.

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Some of my favourite photos from the last two weeks..

I will post my photos and clips on my Picasa account later this week, but here are some photos that stand out for me.

An eerie quiet Logrono street as I start out

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This little creature appeared everywhere

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Emilio Estevez’ foot and hand prints in Belorado

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El Cid and friends in Burgos

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Different emotions leaving Burgos

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The long and winding road into the meseta

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And Hontanas appears from nowhere

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Looking down over Castrojeriz

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Some of my Camino friends in Boadilla Del Camino

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Spitting pips at Bercianos de Real Camino

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Leon’s famous cathedral

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Our final meal

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Dueling in Leon

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