Towns Along the Way – Navarra #2

We continue on our journey…

Uterga (map) – 710 kms to Santiago.

utergaUterga is the first town you arrive at after descending the Alto de Perdón. The descent can be perilous at times, especially during bad weather. I remember walking into the village in September 2014 and initially spotting its large town hall. It must be the tidiest village I have seen. It is home to 2 albergues and a hostal (Gronze). Albergue Camino del Perdón is perfect for a stop off after the tough climb and descent. However, many choose to walk on to Puente la Reina, another fine town.

 

Villatuerta (map) – 685 kms to Santiago

Villatuerta is a town of just under 1000 residents located 4 km outside of Estella. Although probably of Roman origin, the greatest development of Villatuerta occurred in medieval times and, as a consequence of the Camino de Santiago. Since then it has retained its Romanesque bridge over the river Iranzu, the river that that divides the town into two neighbourhoods. The parish church, dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption, also of Roman origin, it had to be rebuilt in the 15th century. There is the one albergue here, Casa Magica (Gronze), which is well recommended.

Villamayor de Monjardín (map) – 653 kms to Santiago

VillamayorDMonjardinIn 2014 I encountered this village in Navarra. I had stayed just outside of Estella the previous night and had left early that morning. Unfortunately, there were no cafes open in Villamayor when I passed so I had to make do with the wine I picked up in Irache earlier. I wasn’t complaining :). Villamayor de Monjardín is a small town located at the foot of the Castle of San Esteban of Deyo. The fortress walls are well conserved. The main site visited is the Romanesque church of San Andrés, from the 12th century. You should have no problem finding somewhere to stay here (Gronze).

Torres del Río (map) – 636 kms to Santiago

TorresdelRio

Torres del Rio is one of the final towns you will pass before entering La Rioja. This small village, located at the side of a hill, hosts of one of the most characteristic monuments of Romanesque architecture in Navarre, an octagonal church of the Santo Sepulcro. I was unlucky not to witness the inside of this church as it was closed the day I passed through Torres del Río. There are three albergues here (Gronze). I really enjoyed my stay in Casa Mariela. The following clip shows you the church of the Santo Sepulcro.

 

Viana (map) – 625 kms to Santiago

Viana is a town that will surprise pilgrims for its rich architecture, wine cellars and, above all, for its extensive history. The last town in Navarre is situated just seven kilometres from Logroño. It has a fortified square, surrounded by a medieval wall, which served as a defensive stronghold during the Middle Ages against the ancient Kingdom of Castile. Its narrow streets, many monuments, and the majestic church of Santa Maria are highlights. The importance of the Camino on the evolution of Viana is evident by the six refuges for pilgrims, of which several traces still remain. Viana often hosts fiestas and is known to have a ‘running of the bulls’.

Outside-the-Iglesia-de-Santa-María-Viana-Spain-Camino-de-Santiago

Outside the Iglesia de Santa Maria in Viana

Leaving Viana brings us to Logrono and the new province of La Rioja…

 

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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Camino 2014 – Day 6 – Ayegui to Torres del Rio

September 9th 2014 – Day 6
Ayegui to Torres del Rio, 28km

During dinner the evening before, we agreed to keep staying away from the towns recommended by Brierley to finish your day. The next end town was Los Arcos and after that was Torres del Rio, at further 10km. So the plan was to aim for Torres del Rio, which is in or around 30km if you take ascents into account. I also started to notice that the majority of people were phoning ahead an pre-booking albergues for the next day, which I avoid doing. I kinda prefer to let the Camino do it’s work and if an albergue is booked out, I move on to the next, however, I didn’t want to loose my buddies I had met and asked that I be included in the booking in Torres del Rio. That was that..the first time I booked an albergue in advance..felt kinda strange!

That morning, we (Dave, myself and Anna) started out early, as it was going to be a hot sunny day again in Navarre. It was pitch black and I believe it was close to 5am. Easily a record for earliest start in my books! Walking out of Ayegui, you need to venture to the main road and again, you need to be careful as failure to spot a sign means you are lost. And guess what!? We missed a sign! Hmm..we turned back until we saw the sign for the turn off to “Bodegas Irache”, the free flowing wine fountain. I heard about this place ages ago, almost on the same day I heard about the actual Camino. Imagine waking up, being still asleep and before having breakfast, sipping on free wine. Nice, eh? It was 5.30am, we sure were the first ones there that morning. Pity I hadn’t an extra bottle, I would have filled it up for the rest of the day.

We moved on after a while through wooded forests, plenty of trees and it wasn’t long before the climb to Villamayor de Monjardin began. We had a 150m climb ahead of us over a few kms. We have walked worse however. The sun was starting to gradually rise as we were climbing. There wasn’t a cloud in the young sky. We reached Villamayor before 7am after a nice climb, it’s large church greeted us. There was nothing open when we arrived and we looked right through the town hoping that a cafe or an albergue was serving breakfast. It wasn’t to be. Damn! Now we had a nice 10km stretch ahead of us to Los Arcos with no towns. I have walked longer without food, but it is breakfast..c’mon! 🙂 Brierley even mentions “Take food with you during this difficult section!!”

Walking from Villamayor is all downhill for 6km or so and then the terrain becomes flat. We walk through field after field of vineyards. Nothing else. We passed owners looking after their crop, with the sun looking down on us. We pass a Spanish man beside his van, who was either opening up or closing down. After a quick conversation, we found out he was closing his mobile cafe. A highlight of the day came on the stretch leading to Los Arcos. Myself and Dave were talking for quite a while and didn’t notice Anna in the background. She ran up to us with large branch each of grapes from the fields. A great though and it quenched the thirst until Los Arcos.

We arrived into Los Arcos close to 11am and we went straight for the local cafe. There were two there. I bought a roll and a cafe con leche and took my shoes off. I honestly wanted to finish up there, but purely because it was so warm. We had another 8km to go before we reached Torres del Rio. We came across our German friends, whom we hadn’t seen in a few days and I met another Irish friend that I last saw in Roncesvalles. Local men were playing cards in the main square as the bells chimed for 11am in the Church of Santa Maria. I didn’t visit the church unfortunately. I hope to stay here the next time I visit. I remember thinking to myself that we were so far ahead of anyone at this stage that there was no need to book the albergue in Torres. Ugh..I hate races!

The next 8km was mostly flat but this was broken by a steep climb into Sansol, a small town before Torres del Rio. I often wonder who gave the go ahead to build these towns so close to each other. On reaching Sansol, you turn a corner and you reach Torres del Rio. It is a fab town, it’s main attraction is the sepulcher church. It was quiet, and as it was after midday, it was reaching the start of it’s siesta. I needed one after that day. We checked in, got the clothes washed and had some lunch. Anna was super-thoughtful again and bought a melon in Los Arcos. We along with the other folks staying in Casa Mariela ate it all, with help from 2 cats. There was a good crowd staying here, alot of people we hadn’t met before, including 2 English men. They were great fun. Phillipe found us also, along with Bob and Leslie. The other two private albergues were booked solid by 3pm so it was turning out to be a busy September! We went for dinner later on that evening and I had an early night afterwards. The sun took a bit out of me but I survived. Just.

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