Time walked – 7 1/2 hours with one break for coffee
Total distance walked – 17 miles (137.65 miles total)
Weather – Sunny and hot, upper 70’s to mid 80’s, with humidity
Terrain – well-worn pavement; dry, dusty, rocky trail; smooth, small rock trail
The original schedule planned for us to have a long day walking to Najera, but Jeri was planning to stop at Naverette, just outside of Logroño, and Steve and Ann had reservations in Ventosa. I told Ray that I thought we should try stopping in Ventosa as well and we sent a message to the albergue requesting a bed.
I had no expectations of Logroño, but I really liked it. The city wasn’t quite as big as Pamplona, and the local residents were very friendly. We received several well wishes and “Buen Caminos” from the people we passed as we walked along the city streets trying to find our way. We also noticed several people pointing the way for us. There seem to be fewer markers now, only the occasional arrow painted with yellow spray paint. The arrows can be on the side of a building, the street, the sidewalk or an object like a light post. For a Monday morning, I was impressed with the number of people out walking for fitness as well as walking with children in strollers.
As we wound our way through the city, we saw a familiar pilgrim ahead of us. It was T.I. from the day before. I wanted to catch up to him to let him know that I had sent my cousin a message about meeting him on the Camino and the nice things he had to say about T.I. He saw Ray and I as well and kindly slowed down to greet us. The three of us walked along talking about what a small world it truly is. The city streets turned into a beautiful city park where there were far more locals using the Camino than peregrinos. Again, we received many greetings. We passed four older gentlemen having a lively conversation as they walked along. There were two men starting up a fixed, cement barbecue grill. Ray, T.I. and I all laughed about sticking around to see if we could join in on the picnic. There were people running and biking as well as walking. It occurred to me that I was not seeing these exercisers wearing any type of headphones or earbuds. Just like the three of us were interacting, these people were leaving themselves available to interact with others. I love that the Latin community seems to place such high importance on their relationships.
Ray and I fully expected T.I. to ditch us old folks, but the path was wide and we were having great conversation. Of course we talked in great length about the Camino, what we had seen, what we had learned, what we had expected, and who we had met along the way. We got some good laughs about the irony of how many people we had met in common in the last week and a half. There are hundreds of pilgrims currently walking the Camino Frances and we had encountered several of the same people even though T.I. started the day after Ray and I. To my surprise, my Fitbit buzzed on my arm indicating that we had already reached the five mile mark for the day. We were all pleased that our conversation had be enjoyable and distracting, making the journey go by quickly.
Ray and T.I. talked about fishing in Missouri and Kansas after passing by a small lake. In fact, we all remarked how much this area reminded us of Midwest farm ground in the spring. T.I. and I talked about religion, relationships and living life to the fullest. I was inspired by his wisdom at his young age. Ray got ahead of us as we rambled, catching up to another pilgram, who I couldn’t recognize. We were all approaching another small town, and as we got closer, I realized Ray had caught up to Jeri.
The four of us entered the village of Navarrete about 11:30 a.m. I was ready for some food, and of course, coffee. T.I. and Jeri slowed down at the first bar restaurant, but Ray never likes to stop at the first place. Occasionally it has caused us to backtrack if there is only one option for coffee, but often there is a smaller crowd at the next place. Our restaurant ended up being near the center of town, right next to the cathedral. Ray and I have figured out that if we get lost or can’t find the arrows, just head toward the next cathedral as that was the route of the original pilgrims.
While every town has a cathedral, not all are open when we are passing through. This one was, so I ducked in while waiting for our coffee. I think they are all beautiful, but this one was exceptional. They had an information area for peregrinos and a guest book, which I signed. When sitting with Steve and Ann in Logroño, Steve mentioned the book, “Pillars of the Earth,” which I’ve heard of but never read. Something he had said about the building of the cathedrals made we want to read the book, so I’ll have to get on that when our journey is over.
So far, all of our coffee stops have provided outdoor seating. We leave our backpacks and hiking poles nearby while enjoying the break. As we were gathering our things, we looked up and saw T.I. walking toward us. I motioned him to check out the cathedral just as the noon church bells started ringing. The bells rang for at least a full minute, creating a magnificent, melodious sound. I loved that we were there at that moment.
Just as the bells were finishing, Jeri joined us once again, looking for her albergue. We found a marking for the Camino and started out of Navarrete. Looking confused at the next intersection, a local gentlemen approached us to help guide us to the path. At the same time, an older woman hanging her laundry out of a window above us starting shouting directions. T.I., being the most fluent of the four of us in Spanish, carried on a conversation with them both and managed to get directions to Jeri’s albergue. For a few moments, I felt as if I were on a movie set.
Jeri’s albergue was on the Camino, so we walked her there, giving her hugs. She was missing her normal life in Utah, but assured us that she went through this her first Camino as well and would be fine. So the three of us went on and soon, T.I. was ready to pick up his pace since he was planning to walk about 4 more miles than we were to finish his day. We wished him well and he disappeared on the trail in front of us.
Ray and I were still feeling pretty good when we got to the trail veering off to Ventosa. The sun was overhead and hot, but not unbearable. There were five or six pilgrims at an information sign for Ventosa, about a kilometer to the left. One couple had called one of the two albergues in Ventosa and were in the process of calling the other one. The first was full and didn’t think there were any beds available at the second either. Other people were stopping to get information as well. Ray and I decided we should push on to Najera, continuing on the same trail, since that had been our original plan. Four more miles didn’t seem too bad at the time.
The markers for the trail had changed and now we were seeing a wooden post every kilometer. Not only did they point the way, many of them were covered with messages from the pilgrims who had passed this way before us. The distance between markers seemed close to me, and I was encouraged as we passed each one.
While most of the day had been on pavement and dirt trail, all of the sudden we found ourselves going uphill on large, bumpy rocks. Having to navigate this uneven terrain toward the end of a day’s hike was difficult for me. The bumps were brutal on the bottom of my feet and felt the bones in my feet aching. Now the heat was getting to me as well. It’s funny how one irritant will exasperate into others. Funny was probably a poor choice of words, miserable and grueling were the words coming to mind as I slowly stepped on the downhill side.
My left foot was hurting a little more than normal aching, I got ahead of Ray trying to find a place to stop. There were no benches or large rocks like we have seen previously, providing a comfortable place to sit. I finally found a small area in the brush where it appeared someone else had stopped, depressing the grass. I was removing my shoe, looking for a rock, when I looked up and saw Ray smiling and a familiar figure right behind him. It was T.I! I knew we had not passed through any villages for him to have stopped while we passed, and then I knew what had happened. He had taken the trail to the left to Ventosa, an extra two mile detour. I felt so bad for him, but was happy to have him back with us as well. We could see Najera in the distance before us as well as a snow-capped mountain to the left.
The three of us entered Najera from the east and needed to walk through most of the city to find the accommodations. None of us had made a reservation, so Ray and I were glad to be with T.I. and his Spanish skills. I found a private albergue on a map app and thought we would go there first. We would pass another albergue on the route, but the reviews were not stellar. T.I. remarked that it looked as though we were walking through East Saint Louis. We wanted to laugh at his joke, but there were abandoned buildings and for sale signs everywhere. We happily approach most of the places we know we’ll say, but this was different. This place was depressed, dirty and sad.
We found our way through town and closer to the albergue. There was a restaurant with a few people dining at the tables outside, so the area started looking a little more alive. But a few turns later, the buildings were once again abandoned. We followed the app dot down a small street that ended at a cafe. We asked a server for directions to the albergue, and she pointed us in the direction, but said she wasn’t for sure if it was still open. I was confident that it would be since I have the 2017 version of the guidebook. Two turns later, however, the three of us were entering a hostel next to the empty albergue. This was our farthest walking day yet, so we asked for beds even though they were twice as much as we had been paying. At least we got sheets, a blanket and a towel. We asked for the wifi password as the clerk was putting the “Completo” sign on the front door. He gave us the information but wasn’t sure how good it was working. We climbed the stairs to the third floor where there were nine twin beds and one shared bath in what had been the attic. After walking for 17 miles, a record for me, I was just happy that we got the last available beds.
I took my shoes and sock off to find a blister starting on my left heel where I thought a rock had been. I was too tired to do anything but shower, wash our clothes in the sink and find some food. T.I. received a message that he was a candidate for a scholarship that he had given up on. The scholarship was to be awarded three weeks prior, but he had not heard anything at that time. After a long day, it was exciting to hear the news, even though we had known him for such a brief time. It was a great way to end the day. With no wifi, I jotted a few notes about the day and fell asleep.