Time walked – 6 hours with a coffee stop
Total distance walked – 12.9 miles (120.65 miles total)
Weather – Sunny and warm with little to no cloud cover or shade, high 70’s
Terrain – paved stone streets, wide dirt and pebble path, pavement
It was bound to happen and last night was the night. We had an awful stay in an albergue, not sleeping well at all. The stench of shoes that had been walked in all day was bad enough, but the snoring was pretty bad, too. There was also a group of people that had no respect for the pilgrams that had gone to bed before 10 p.m. and then we’re loud from the moment they got up at 6:30. The blatant rudeness irritated Ray and me equally, putting us in bad moods to start the day. Near my bunk, one of the guys had his gear so spread out that I couldn’t even get out of bed until he left. Once again, Ray and I were the last to leave.
Considering the moods we were in, it was probably a good thing that we had the trail to ourselves. Once leaving town, the path was relatively flat with very few trees and just a few wild flowers on either side. We passed a couple of girls that were taking several photos of plants and trees. They were having a great time talking and laughing and pointing out different plants. While they were enjoying their conversation, Ray and I discussed how crazy of an idea this walking 500 miles was. We questioned each other a couple of times as to whether or not we thought we could go the distance. We’re both too stubborn to admit that we might give up, however. Mostly, we were not amused by these two young girls that had more energy than we did. What we both noticed is that one of the girls had a rubber tip on one of her hiking poles and not on the other. The pole with the metal tip clicked along in an annoying way except for when she was dragging both of them. Her friend only had one hiking stick and would use it randomly. When they stopped to take photos, we would walk past them. If Ray and I stopped to adjust our packs or take a photo, they would get ahead of us. We jockeyed position like this all morning.
Ray and I followed them up a hill and stopped where several pilgrams were blocking the path. Here a make-shift shrine had been created out of rocks and pilgrams had written notes and prayers to leave under a stone. The afternoon before, Ray had been informed that his step-father had passed away. Ray asked me if I wanted to leave a note, and I said that I was about to ask him the same thing. We didn’t have anything to write on, so I said a prayer for the family and friends of Jim Gleeson. When I lowered my eyes, I saw pictures of loved ones that other people had left. Just as my eyes started to tear up, Ray grabbed me and said, “Let’s go. This is our chance to get in front of Pole Dragger.” It was a good point, so I quickly turned and followed him through the crowd.
Our moods changed for the better after passing the shrine. Our troubles from the night before vanished pretty soon after realizing how minuscule they really were. In just a matter of minutes, Pole Dragger caught up to us and even passed us because she was now running. Ray and I looked at each other and smiled. It didn’t matter anymore. Everyone walks their own Camino.
After coffee, the day drug on and we both were complaining about our feet. Twelve and a half miles wasn’t a particularly long day, but this week was predicted to be unusually hot, and it started today. Coupled with the lack of varied scenery and shade trees, we wondered if our poor sleeping conditions the night before contributed to our aches and pains.
So this is the part where I’ll talk about how the journey hasn’t been a bed of roses the whole time. Ray has been hacking and coughing with something he picked up on the plane nearly two weeks ago. I can ignore it for the most part and I’m highly appreciative when he makes sure he’s downwind from me when he alternates plugging one nostril and blowing out the other one. When he does that in nature it’s one thing, but when he cleared his nose on the city streets of Pamplona, I was not happy. Then there was the time in the hotel when I was taking a shower and thought that Ray had started washing the laundry, only to find him napping on the floor of the hotel room. Of course he gets equally irritated when I interrupt him because I think I know what he’s going to say, or when I’m not patient enough with him. However, if you add up the amount of time we’ve spent on this journey together, the unhappy moments are a tiny fraction of the total time. Even on days like today, this journey has been incredible, and for that we are grateful.
Ray and I walked through Vianna and took some time to check out the Church of San Pedro. Any diversion can help the time pass more quickly. After leaving Vianna, Ray thought he recognized the words on a shirt of a fellow pilgram. As he was trying to catch up to the guy to get a better look, he realized that the guy might think he was strange so Ray asked him where he was from, a common question on the Camino. The young man answered that he was from Columbia, Missouri. His answer surprised us, and we told him that we were from Kansas City and that our son, Bryce, lived in Columbia. He was equally surprised. He introduced himself as T.I., and we walked together, chatting about how much we liked Columbia. I have a cousin who taught high school in Columbia, so I took a chance and asked if T.I. knew Mr. Overeem. Although he was as tired as we were, T.I. practically jumped up and down. Not only did he know my cousin, he had been one of his students and loved his class. Being able to share stories back and forth with T.I. was definitely the highlight of the day.
As we got closer to Logroño, we walked through a patch of tree lined trail. Both of us had remarked how tough this day had been on our bodies, and we were looking for anything that would give us some pleasure or relief. Normally I do not like graffiti of any kind, thinking of the property owner or simply that the original structure had been defaced. However, we approached a tunnel and I could see a “Buen Camino” message spray painted on the cement. Today I needed the hope; today I was grateful.
I could hear a woman’s voice ahead of us and eventually saw an adorable, local woman with a souvenir stand in front of her house. She was calling out to the passing pilgrams, encouraging them to stop. Ray and I could not resist her entrepreneurial spirit and stopped to purchase a couple of cheap bracelets. She was also had a basket of mushrooms that she was selling. Having briefly helped Margarita grow oyster mushrooms in Panamá, Ray asked the woman about her baskets of hongos. Excited, she showed us each of the five varieties she was selling. We showed her a photo of Margaritas mushrooms growing out of a bag, and she was familiar with the process but said that hers were grown in the ground. Even though we were beat, it was fun to stop and visit with a local.
Ray and I made our way into Longroño, a much bigger town than I had thought it would be, and found a private albergue with double rooms. A brother and sister were checking in before us and the desk clerk gave them an option of two beds nzd a shared bath for €20 or a double room with private bath for €30. Of course they chose the double, and as I watched the woman write their name in the last square on her page, I was afraid they had chosen the last private room. After she had given them their key, I asked for a habitación doble. The clerk flipped her page over and there was one more empty square. We had gotten the last private room, and I was thankful to God. We had to climb a couple of flights of stairs to get to our room. The tiles on the floor created a confusing optical illusion after a full day of walking, but we managed to get up and down them without falling.
After showers, we took our laundry to the office where they washed and dried it for €5. We had not had much to eat and were anxious to find food before the restaurants closed for siesta. The pilgrams meals are rarely served before 7:00 p.m. which is just too late for us. We found a pizza place near by and ordered a small pizza each, knowing that we could save some for breakfast. As we were finishing up, Steve and Ann from the albergue in Orisson walked by so we hollered out and asked them to join us. It was fun to catch up on their experiences and again, there is something very comforting about seeing someone you started with. The majority of our conversation revolved around the difficulty of getting beds each evening. Part of the allure of the Camino Frances is walking as far as your body will take you and then staying in a humble albergue, meeting your needs until the next day when it all repeats. This Camino, however, has gotten so popular that there are not an adequate number of beds to accommodate all the peregrinos. Ann was telling me that she had been using a popular booking website to secure rooms on their journey ahead. While I have made some reservations, I’m dissapointed that the spontaneity has been ruined. Another result of the popularity has been an increase in prices. My frugal budget has been blown, but this continues to be an inexpensive endeavor.
Ray spotted Jeri, also from Orisson, walking by, and she joined us as well. Although this was her second Camino, she told us that she was starting to feel a little lonely, and we were just the cure. After our mini-reunion, we all headed to our nightly accommodations to get rested up for the next day. As we were getting into our twin beds, Ray and I reflected on how badly our day had started and how great it had finished. We decided it would be worth going on, at least one more day.