Camino de Santiago – Day 9
Walked from: Viloria de la Rioja
Walked to: San Juan de Ortega
The soles of my feet ache a bit today. Which, when I think about it, isn’t that surprising cos’ I’ve walked 260km in the past nine days. That’s quite a lot really. So much so that I’m two days ahead of where the guidebooks expect your typical Camino walker to be at this point in their journey. But I’ve met some nice people who also like giving their legs a good stretch every day too, and should have left the annoying Americans from a few days ago far behind by now, so it’s all good.
Today started, as is now normal, with a short walk in the dark along a moonlit path, followed by a blazing, multicoloured sunrise, breakfast (orange juice, hot chocolate and usually a slice of tortilla) around 8km in, and then a gradual delayering of the walking clothes, as the temperate rises from 3 degree C to the mid-20s by lunchtime.
Post-lunch in the magnificently named truck stop of Villafranca Montes de Oca, I stopped at the Monumento de Los Caídos, a high point in the local hills which marks the shallow graves of 30 locals who were executed and buried there during the civil war. It’s hard to comprehend that such an awful thing happened in such a seemingly peaceful place, but a very important thing to mark, nonetheless.
Home tonight is a 16th century hostel next to the beautiful church at San Juan de Ortega. Seventy dorm beds in three rooms suggests it’ll be another night for the ear plugs 🙂
Camino de Santiago – Day 8
Walked from: Azofra
Walked to: Viloria de la Rioja
After the wonderful hostel last night, I had a great walk today, mainly because of the incredible sunrise (see picture), the great lunch and then dinner (for the latter, again, see picture) and the excellent company (thank you Daria, Darco and Florian) as I we made our way through the Spanish countryside. Oh, and because I got to visit my favourite church in Spain again – the one in Santo Domingo La Calzada. Who wouldn’t love a church that has it’s very own henhouse?
What I’m learning on this trip is that it’s the tiny villages – practically hamlets – that give me the greatest pleasure. After nearly 20 years of living in London, there’s something utterly brilliant about rocking up for the afternoon/evening in a sleepy village with one place to sleep and one place to eat (sometimes the same place), and nothing to do but practice my rubbish Spanish on patient locals, enjoy a glass of the local red, and talk about the day of walking we’ve had, and the day to come, with fellow ‘pilgrims’ – a few of whom, to be honest, are a bit nuts…
Dinner tonight was a particular pleasure, and my favourite meal of the trip so far. The genial hosts at Parada Viloria in Viloria de la Rioja (which isn’t actually in Rioja at all – I left that province for Castilla y León earlier today) cooked up the most fantastic paella, accompanied by salad, a couple of bottles of local red wine, and the great company of a lovely family from near Alicante, who are walking the Camino, a week at a time, each year – and at one heck of a pace. After an afternoon where the hot afternoon sun bounced off the white stone pathway, the hostel was an absolute oasis. Just perfect… apart from the ubiquitous snorers in the dorm room, of course!
Camino de Santiago – Day 7
Walked from: Logroño
Walked to: Azofra
Yesterday was all about a long walk to get to good food. Today was about an even longer walk aimed specifically about escaping a couple of very annoying fellow ‘pilgrims’. Essentially, Daria and I ran away. Except we walked. And kept on walking until we’d left them for dust. We walked separately all day, but with the same aim – and within an hour or so of each other, we’d both rocked up at the fantastic municipal hostel in the very chilled out village of Azofra… where we were reunited with Darko and Florian, the two other ‘pilgrims’ who also started their walk on 2 October.
The favourite part of my walk today was the final 6km into Azofra; a quiet walk through vineyards and red/brown coloured fields, leading into a pretty little villages and what is a strong contender for hostel of the holiday.
No word of a lie – the municipal hostel in Azofra is hostel heaven. I arrived in the sun-drenched courtyard, complete with a pool of ice-cold water that was readymade for baking hot feet. Each room only had two beds in, there was a washing machine and tumble drier and the woman running the place was a total star. Azofra, Dolly Parton and Witney Houston said it best… I will always love you…
Camino de Santiago – Day 6
Walked from: Los Arcos
Walked to: Logroño
I headed out of the town of Los Arcos and into the dark alone this morning, walking for the first 8km of my day under a star-filled sky and along a moonlit path. It was wonderful.
The sun rose as I headed out of the village of Torres del Rio, and I spent much of the next hour just in front of a trio of men, one of whom wore a flowing, arabic style robe, and played a ukulele as he walked, singing along with his friend. It was surreal, and yet… it felt very much a Camino experience. This kind of stuff doesn’t tend to happen on Britain’s long distance trails, but in the Camino de Santiago it’s not just long distance walking types who are drawn to the trail. My fellow ‘peligrinos’ come from all over the world, some with interesting tales to tell, a tiny handful with tales SO talk they make the person delivering them look a little small.
The first few hours of my Camino journey aside (which were in France), I’ve spent the last six days walking through the Navarre province of northern Spain. It’s a beautiful place, full of seeping views and picture-perfect villages, and I feel very lucky to be here. That said, I kind of swept through many of those places today on a one woman mission to get to the culinary delights of Lognoño. Turns out Daria felt the same – we met 6km out of the city, having walked at one heck of a pace to be the first arrivals at the municipal hostel. So quickly in fact that we had to wait 25 minutes for it to open at 1pm. Got the coveted ‘first beds’ and then we were off to one of the top Trip Advisor-rated tapas bars in the city. Not sure if I’m on a walking holiday or a tapas crawl… but I’m enjoying myself, whatever it is!
Camino de Santiago – Day 5
Walked from: Villatuerta
Walked to: Los Arcos
There’s a free wine fountain next to the Monastery in Irache. I kid you not. Everyday they fill it with 100 litres of red wine. Sounds awesome. But the last time I was there it was still empty from the night before, and this time it wasn’t quite 9am in the morning, so while there was free booze on tap, I settled for taking a photo of all the other ‘pilgrims’ taking photos too. I know – I surprised myself too…
Then I skipped off on an alternative route which was a bit hillier and a bit greener than going on the main Camino, joining again at the exact point where an enterprising retiree was playing violin and hopefully touting for donations. I’d rather enjoyed heading up the path towards the unexpected string music, so paid up before heading on my way.
Because I’ve walked a bit further on most days than the guidebooks suggest, I’ve now bumped into a lot of people who left St Jean the day before me. A whole host of new characters to talk to, although as a lot of them seem wedded to 20km days, probably not for long…
The home for tonight is Los Arcos, a small but pretty little cross roads town with a splendid looking church and a €6 a night municipal hostel which I can honestly say is worth every cent I’m paying. And not a penny more!
Camino de Santiago – Day 4
Walked from: Zariquiegui
Walked to: Villatuerta
I’m staying at a place called La Casa Magica tonight. It really does feel magic – for a start it had beds for me and my walking buddies from today (Darko, the Croatian I already mentioned, Florian, German, and, as we approached the hostel in Villatuera, Daria, from South Korea) which the town I’d planned to stay in (Lorca – four km less walk away than what I ended up doing) didn’t have. But it also has single beds instead of rickety bunks, a washing machine AND tumble drier, a drinks machine that sells beer, and is full of old tile stairways and oak beamed ceiling. Basically, this place is hostel heaven. Except without the religious stuff… almost odd, when you think it’s on a pilgrimage route. But then this trip is full of people making their own, very personal pilgrimages – and for many of us it’s not about religion at all.
I really enjoyed the walk today. We’re still in beautiful countryside, we’ve hit the vineyard section of the walk (although, alas, I suspect the grapes were harvested a few weeks ago), and the walking itself, short but stiff climb out of Zariquiegui and into Lorca aside, was pretty easy, if a bit hot and sweaty at times.
Camino de Santiago – Day 3
Walked from: Larrasoaña
Walked to: Zariquiegui
I spent a great deal of time today in the Orange shop in Pamplona buying a new mobile phone. Two and a half sodding hours in fact, because after waiting to be served for half an hour, it took two hours to download the operating systems and my account (via some randomly assigned apple ‘cloud’) to the phone. WiFi is so slow wherever I go that it could be weeks before all my apps download… but hey, I’ve just started my gap year (don’t like to mention it 😉 ) so who cares if Linked In doesn’t work for a while…)
On the plus side, my enforced wait in Pamplona had me practically marching the next 6km up the hill to Cizur Menor – where a very amusing Italian fellow ‘pilgrim’ (Marco) bought me a beer in exchange for me reserving him a dorm bed in the next (lovely) sleepy village of Zariquiegui. Job done, he turned up several hours after me but very happy to have a bed after a long day. I loved my stay there – the people running the place were great, my fellow ‘pilgrims’ were lovely or interesting or both (and no one snored in the dorm room) and the food was delicious. Oh, and the views… well, that was today’s picture 🙂