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Time walked – 4.5 hours with a 45 minute coffee break

Total distance walked – 8.3 miles (159.55 miles total)

Weather – Overcast and cool, 65 degrees F

Terrain – pavement and smooth, dirt road

Ray and I left Pensión Miguel in Santo Domingo de la Calzada at the usual 8:00 a.m. Getting my shoe on over the blister on my right heel was not pleasant. I had decided that we would shorten up our distance for the day, anticipating that the blister would be painful. Eight miles seemed much more acceptable than twelve which would put us in Viloria de Rioja. A private albergue there had several positive comments on the internet, so I sent an email and was hoping to hear from them soon.

My right leg was more stiff than painful, so we were off like a herd of turtles, a phrase
I’ve borrowed from my cousin, Andrea. Thankfully the Camino started and continued for awhile on pavement. I was pretty sure that the evenness of the surface was helpful as I limped along. Once outside of the small city, however, the path turned to gravel road. Ray did his best to stay beside me or right behind me, but we got passed by many pilgrims. Just like the day before, the terrain was mostly flat and we could see the trail far in front of us.

Not knowing where we will be sleeping at night continues to be stressful, but knowing that we will pass through a couple of villages helps relieve some of the anxiety. I had emailed the place I would like to stay in Viloria de Rioja, but did not hear back before we started walking. I knew if they did not have any beds that there would be a couple of other options. I also knew that I would not be walking fast enough to beat the other pilgrims, adding to my stress.

We could see our first coffee stop ahead of us, the village of Grañón. I do seem to walk a little faster when I have a goal in mind, and morning coffee is still a motivator.

We followed the Camino route markers through Grañón when Ray and I spotted the sign for Panadería Jesus. We did not want to pass up the chance of buying fresh bread from a Jesus Bakery, so in we went. Almost daily we see people walking around with loaves of bread just purchased from a bakery. Sometimes we even see pilgrims with a loaf tied horizontally onto their backpack.

Ray paid the 1.20€ for the loaf, and I asked him how I should secure it to his pack to that it would stick out either side. He didn’t like that idea, but instead secured it vertically on my pack.

Ray and I left Grañón and the trail remained pavement for awhile, helping me to not notice the blister so much. A new type of marker lined the trail, and after we’d passed a few of them, realized they were marking each kilometer. They reminded me of the tenth-mile highway markers in the States. Sometimes I think counting the markers helps the distance go faster. At least I felt like I was making progress.

Ray was doing a good job of keeping me entertained and distracted. We see water fountains all along the way, and they are so common that I decided early on that I could not take pictures of them all. Ray had been talking about purchasing a plastic container to drink from since the beginning of our trip, but he hasn’t found one that he likes. We rarely have time to do any shopping, but we make lists of things we think we’d like to have while we are walking. We never stop to actually write the list, however, and often don’t remember what it was we wanted. After this fountain, Ray started talking about buying a cup again.

The Camino paralleled a highway for several miles. After being away from motorized vehicles for days, it’s astonishing how loud the cars and trucks can be. More than once I’ve thought there was a vehicle on the trail with us or I’ve jumped in surprise at the loud sounds.

I was thankful that the weather had turned cooler again since my foot was stinging a little. I was so focused on getting to our destination, that I wasn’t stopping to enjoy just how beautiful the views continue to be. I also wondered if that was the actual reason or if I was starting to take them for granted. Ray and I feel the same way about where we live in Panamá. We remind ourselves regularly how beautiful it is and how much we love the weather because we are afraid that we will stop appreciating it.

At some point in the morning, I received an email from Refugio Acacio and Orietta. They had beds available for us, but were closed until 1:30 in the afternoon. We arrived at the refugio about an hour early, and they had a great patio area for us to eat our lunch while waiting. The first thing I did was to get my shoes and socks off so the blister could breathe, while Ray grabbed us some cokes from a nearby restaurant.

A pilgrim from Germany was waiting as well. He had been ordered by a doctor to rest because of a severe case of shin splints. He had been walking with five others from Germany who started the Camino at different times, but eventually found each other and formed a group. Since he was injured, he would taxi ahead and secure the accommodations for the group and then wait for them all to arrive. The three of us ate our lunches together until the refugio opened. I was excited that we would be able to get settled early and hoped for some good rest. I loved the pots of pansies, thinking the were a good sign.

About mid afternoon the five other pilgrims arrived at the refugio. They all spoke English, which is somewhat embarrassing that we do not reciprocate. Our hosts offer to fix dinner for all the guests, served family style, and everyone agreed to participate. The conversation was lively as the Germans were very good at joking and laughing, making the evening fun for everyone. I had chosen this accommodation based on good reviews, but a review could not do it justice. Not only could you taste the love in the dinner, the hosts, having walked the Camino multiple times, knew just what was needed to make our stay the most comfortable of them all.

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