Day 7: Los Arcos to Logroño
Each day I walked into a new world. Although my day was filled with repetition, new experiences were revealed in every moment. – Michelle Lessard
Today’s journey offers over 28 kilometers (17.5 miles) of many challenging steep hills, and the trip will likely take us almost eight hours. It is a challenging day; not because of the distance or steepness, but more because I have been walking for a week now and my body is still adjusting to intense physical activity with a 20 pound (9 kilo) pack on my back. I knew it was going to be a long haul today, so, I make sure to take my time, break often, and remove off my shoes on breaks to let my feet breathe. I have a few new blisters on the sides of my heals but continue forward. I swallow the pain and receive just enough strength to make it through. My body may break down by the end of the day, but after a good meal and night’s sleep, it is healed and stronger the next morning. Absolutely amazing!
I believe my feet are flattening more than I anticipated from the long walks and weight of my pack, thus I am simply growing out of my shoes.
Lesson (Camino Shoes): My hiking boots are a half size bigger, but I think they should have been a full size bigger.
When I see a town or village in the distance, it is like seeing a light at the end of a tunnel, and I rally myself to push just a bit further. I then pick a new reaching point and repeat. To give my feet a break during the last few hours of the day, I switch to my Tevas, if the terrain and weather permits.
The day started with a light, refreshing drizzle as I walk along the countryside roads. I crank some good tunes and groove down the street. Locals wave and honk while driving by, encourage me on my adventure. These small interactions, cause me to smile and push me forward – they mean the world to me.
I am seeing the same faces on the Camino, as well as new ones. Because everyone does not walk the same pace, I begin to meet those who started a few days before me, or those who began a few days after. My favorite Canadian couples decide to walk a few more days, so I join them for a few hours, which greatly lifted my spirits.
At one point during today’s journey while walking alone, once again I encounter a shepherd herding his flock. Standing quietly to not spook the sheep, I greet the man with, “Hola!” He replies with, “Buen Camino,” as we exchange smiles.
I caught up to Marilee later in the day, and when entering Logroño across a medieval bridge, we meet a grieving family leaving a funeral home. Tip (Camino Etiquette): We pause and bow as they walk by embracing each other. One looks up and notices our respect; she smiles at our thoughtfulness. These small moments of human interaction on the Camino clutch my heart and remind me, we are all the same around the world. We are all human with the same joys, fears, and sorrows.
Closer in town we walk through a few more tunnels and enjoy more amazing, Camino graffiti. I notice one that was very elaborate and stated, “Buen Camino,” to celebrate us and what we are doing. I had to take a picture for my memories.
I am tired and my feet are in quite a bit of pain, but am still cherishing every moment on the Way. I am learning to simply give up. Not to give up going forward, but to give up control, and blindly follow the Camino signs and arrows. I do not know what is around the next corner or hill, but I walk forward and wait in anticipation. The Camino continues to be a collection of moments, the steps I take, and the breaths I exhale. My faith drives me, as does the beautiful spirits and souls I meet on the path. My heart is beginning to open: to give and to receive.
In Logroño, we settle for the evening in a modern hostel/hotel located right on the main plaza, thus a fantastic location near all the local festivities. After the daily chores of showering and cleaning clothes, I join a few pilgrims downstairs and chill in the common area. I snuggle on a leather sofa and catch up on email and other Internet tasks.
Marilee and I decide to check out the city and figure out a place for dinner. Logroño is a university town that offers a wonderful pedestrian-only main street (c./ de Portales) through the town center, lined with bars, cafés, restaurants, and stores. It’s a vibrant city, and we know a great evening is before us. We walk up and down the main street peering in window shops, scoping out the restaurants, and enjoying the modern-day life. I truly appreciate the architecture of Lagroño, which portrays a blend of medieval and modern times. After traversing through the endless country and farming villages, this town is a breath of fresh air. It’s actually a place I would like to come back and visit.
Each time we bump into a pilgrim, we would invite them to dinner and plan to rendezvous at a meeting point at 7:00 pm. I am looking forward to a non-pilgrim meal full of local Spanish flavors.
Lesson (Camino Food): Logroño is also located in the region of La Rioja, which is famously known for its wine. According to my guidebook, this wine enticed kings and noblemen to walk the Camino through Logroño centuries ago.
Our large group meets at 7:00 pm and we find a wonderful restaurant that provides outdoor tables along the main street. We celebrate our day’s accomplishments and enjoy a feast of delicious food and local wine. Other pilgrims would walk by and join our party in to the late evening. By the end of the night, we collect almost a dozen friends. (Marilee, Jim from Calgary, Donna & Wayne, Robyn & John from Canada, Me, Jeantine from the Netherlands, Professor Shin (travel professor in Korea), and Russ our Lucky Leprechaun). The hard days seem to always be rewarded by the fun evenings here on the Camino.
Sadly, we need to say goodbye and hit the hay, to rest and mend our bodies for tomorrow’s adventure. I take my final picture with my favorite Canadian couples. Yes, this is definitely their last day on the Camino. We hug and shed tears, but know true friendships never die on the Camino. They shout their last, “Buen Camino,” as Marilee and I walk into our albergue and settle in.
Good night sweet friends & family…