Day 8: Logroño to Najera
Running on pure pilgrim power, I stumbled on. – Tim Moore
Marilee from Colorado, and I begin our day very early since we can navigate through the Logroño city lights. Knowing it is going to be another long day’s walk, we decide to depart early and get a head start. We are always grateful to navigate the Camino together, for each of us find the signs or arrows just in the nick of time.
Logroño is a lovely city and one I definitely want to visit again. Its amazing park system seems endless, as we walk across a bridge, and basically follow a park path until the next town. Our spectacular morning sunrise reflects purple and pink on the clouds, and serves as a gorgeous backdrop behind us. Along this path, we see some of the most beautiful granite sculptures, directing our way on the Camino.
After an hour and half, we come across a lake filled with swans, and hosting a coffee shop along the shoreline. I am suffering from some new blisters that have formed by compensating for my strained toes. Unfortunately at this early time in the day I have to tend to my feet and switch to my Tevas.
Today’s walk is long, draining and very difficult for me for several reasons: My body and feet are tired from yesterday’s long journey, today is a much warmer day, we have to battle a constant head wind or side wind, and the country roads are lined with large gravel. I find the gravel taxing on the soles of my feet, and I ache for smooth roads again. TIP (Camino Gear): Make sure your shoes have thick soles. Although you frequently walk along paved roads, you also trek hundreds of miles along country dirt and large graveled roads. What motivates me is the glimpse of a town in the distance, or a fellow pilgrim I might catch up to or walk by.
We are mesmerized by the views while we travel through vineyard after vineyard with grapes dripping off the vines waiting to be picked. Some of the farmers are harvesting their grapes to be used in the famous and delicious vino tinto (red wine). As we walk by, a kind farmer offers a fellow pilgrim grapes and would not take any money for them. In the traditional Camino spirit, the pilgrim shares the delicious grapes with us. The juice is sweet and the grapes melt in our mouths as the hot sun beams on our backs.
At the halfway point of today’s stage, we stop to explore a village church and its lavish interior. The route to Santiago de Compostela isn’t always the shortest path. Since the Camino is a pilgrimage, the trail usually winds through villages, and specifically by the town churches for the pilgrims to pay homage. TIP (Camino Travel Time): Unfortunately by mid to late October, many of the churches begin to close. If one is open, pilgrims try to spend a few moments exploring the gorgeous churches along the Camino. They use this time to pray, reflect or simply just take a break and enjoy the beauty. A pilgrim does not have to be Catholic to frequent these houses of worship; they welcome all pilgrims with open arms.
Near another village, we approach a cross symbolizing a lost Pilgrim. It is unfortunate, but pilgrims have lost their lives while walking the Camino, usually due to not paying attention near the roads. Regrettably, there are times when we have to cross busy roads and highways. The Camino was here first, but modern civilization has grown around it, forcing pilgrims to traverse through some tricky situations at time. We had heard two pilgrims were recently killed further on the path when crossing a busy road. TIP (Camino Safety): Pilgrims need to remember they are not the only ones out here. With a pack on their back, they cannot cross roads as quickly as they think. Dear family and friends, please do not worry, the Camino is safe. I always remember to look both ways before crossing streets, and have no interest in playing “chicken” with a moving vehicle.
It was time for an afternoon snack and rest, so many of us stop in a small village along the Camino path. Here almost twenty of us pilgrims gather, drink some Spanish refreshments (aka beer), take off our shoes and socialize. Marilee and I have now caught up to our Korean friends, Katie and Qwon. By now, there is about 25-30 of us that are part of core group who are synchronized and ending each day in the same towns and hostels. In addition, we are meeting new pilgrims and adopting them in our group: those that are faster and have caught up to us, or those slower than their starting day group or needed a days rest, and have fallen behind. Everyone is welcomed and included!
We met one such new pilgrim on our way into town today, Martin from Germany. He encourages us to stop with him, sit under the shade of the vines and drink from a fresh fountain. I have to say, this is the first time I have eaten figs right from the tree. Martin, in his staunch German accent, informs us he is known as the loudest snorer not he Camino. Marilee and I laugh at his sense of humor, and know we will enjoy being around him for the rest of our journey.
There are times when you can be alone and think on the Camino, or join a group of pilgrims and chat along the way. Sometime you may need to walk alone to concentrate on the trail, for it can be grueling and extremely hard. Today I pray many times that I make it to the next town, or push myself to put one foot in front of the other. Just when I think I cannot go farther, a new friend, like Martin, comes by to lift my spirits and get my mind off it all.
By the end of the day, we are so thankful to arrive in Najera. Our lengthy 31 kilometer journey took us over some challenging hills and the path was most entirely on gravel roads. I am extremely exhausted; however, am amazed, after a short shower, how quickly I rally for dinner. Tonight eleven of us gather at a restaurant to feast on the traditional pilgrims’ meal, accompanied by plenty of vino tinto (red wine). One of our new friends, Sabine, speaks many languages, including her native French, and is wonderfully fluent in Spanish. She promptly orders for all of us. I soon learn Sabine started the Camino many weeks before us, from the middle of France. She shars how it has been an adjustment joining all the pilgrims from St. Jean Pied-de-Port, for before then she was usually alone.
We thoroughly enjoy dinner, discuss our Camino adventures thus far, and laugh with Martin about those who snore or talk in their sleep at night. TIP (Camino Supplies & Electronics): I made sure to bring my ear plugs and pack a second set just in case! Also, if my bed is near an electrical outlet, I can charge my mobile phone all night and sleep with me earbuds on, listening to soothing music to drown out the noise. Hostels remind me of a coed summer camp, but amongst adult friends, who are now becoming my brothers and sisters. I am amused every night by what I encounter, but unfortunately usually shattered in the morning for not getting enough sleep. I think am due for a hotel or private room soon for a good night’s rest.
Lights are out promptly at 10:00 pm, as we settle in our bunks and welcome the sleep, to prepare for the next day’s adventure.
Good night sweet family & friends!