October 1-4, to Logrono to Santo Domingo
We arose the next morning to an almost deserted Albergue; staff wouldn’t arrive until after we had left. We had some time to kill with Planeta Aqua not opening until 9:30, so we dawdled a bit over the breakfast items we’d purchased at the market the day before. At the last minute I had some second thoughts about the daypack idea, wondering if it might not be just as easy to completely empty my pack and carry it with little or no weight. No sooner did I ruminate on this then the front door unlocked and the Jacotrans employee popped in and took our bags.
The River Through Lagrono
Right around 9am we walked over to the store and then down the block, stopping in at a cafeteria (a combo bar and food outlet) for a couple of coffee’s con Leche and some long forgotten food item to split. Soon thereafter we walked down to Planeta Aqua and in no time at all looked at and selected a 20 liter daypack from a company I’d not heard of, Trangoworld, for 79 euros, a shade under $100 so not a bad buy given the circumstances
The New Daypack
We quickly transferred the things I’d carry and took off on the Camino heading out of town. Once we cleared the city limits it was very pleasant going, a flat paved path with benches regularly spaced along the way, allowing us to stop occasionally and do a really good stretch that often breaks the tension in my lower back.
We walked through a local park that surrounds a reservoir, absolutely lovely, and not long after stopped for a couple of quick coffees con Leche and snacks from the daypack, and then pushed on, this short day of just 8 miles getting us into Navarrete early in the afternoon.
A St James Rose on the Way Out of Town
Our lodging that night was at La Casa de Peregrin, an albergue at the start of town. This would not be our most attractive location, and the innkeeper, although informative enough gave off a slight aroma of John Cleese playing Basil Fawlty.
A Bull On The Way Into Town
We roamed the town early, finally figuring out how to buy postage stamps (the post office is only open in the morning) at a shop, posted a birthday card to Jessica and returned to the albergue to relax before venturing out for what would turn out to be a long search for dinner.
Don Jacobo Winery
We eventually landed at a tapas bar (no full meal shops open) and this in the end turned out to be a very good decision. We got a couple of glasses of wine apiece, one a Don Jacobo Rioja (a winery we passed on the way into town) and a selection of some really good tapas, or as they are known here pinchos.
Outstanding was a small dish of pulpo (octopus) cerviche and a combo plate of chorizo, meatballs, a pork skewer and zucchini and cheese toasted on a piece of bread. We finished off with a small plate of that night’s paella; all in all a delightful and filling meal to end the day.
The Combo Plate
Our hiking and albergue routine is simple. For me, up at 6:00 am (I almost always wake up just prior to that time, maybe its anticipation?) and spend an hour or so stretching and taking care of bathroom activities. Then spend about 30 minutes packing up and head out, maybe breakfast at the albergue, maybe picking it up down the roWe had ours there, simple but filling (coffee, bread, jam, and yoghurt) and hit the trail.
A Glass of White and the Don Jacobo with the Paella
This would be a bit longer at 11 miles than the day before and as soon as we started walking my back began to act up. It’s getting colder in the mornings now, still warm enough to wear shorts to start though as the day heats up. Our destination was Najera, where we hoped we’d be able to buy a larger duffel bag than the one we currently owned to allowed us to condense our two bags (the duffel and my pack) into one bigger bag, thus saving us the 5 euro transport fee for the second bag. It was uphill most of the first part of the day as we ascended from 500 meters (1,500 feet) to 715 meters (2,200 feet) to summit at Alto de Sank Anton.
Just After Sunrise
After that it was a gorgeous day of walking through rolling country side filled with vineyards, grapes ripe on the vine waiting to be picked. Later in the day we could see Najera in the distance, a mirage of sorts as it took quite some time to transverse the remaining distance there. We hit the edge of town and walked on the main city street to reach our albergue for the night, Puerta de Najera.
Ripe Grapes on The Vine
Najera is situated in a striking location, nestled against red cliffs reminiscent of the American southwest (Colorado, Utah, Arizona) with cave openings similar to what one might see at Mesa Verde or any other cliff dwelling site. The clerk checking us in was extremely friendly and helpful, guiding us up to our beds in what was a large and very crowded albergue. Our small room held three bunks and we were very fortunate that no one snored that night.
River on the Way into Town
She also told us where we could find an outdoor shop, closed at the time for the traditional Spanish siesta break but opening again at 5pm. We popped across the street for a quick snack, a bocadillo, beer for me and an attempt at an iced coffee for Joanna. We asked for a coffee con helado and got the strangest look from the woman tending the bar. She made the coffee and set it next to a glass full of ice, but just couldn’t bring herself to mix them together. None-the-less, it was an iced coffee.
The Red Cliffs of Najera
At the appointed hour we walked over to the outdoor shop and found just the right sized duffel bag, hereafter referred to as the “beast” for 25 euros. We brought it back to the albergue and made sure that it would hold all that we wanted to send down the road; a tight fit that worked out fine.
Later we went back across the street for a pilgrims dinner at a place we’d spotted earlier. For 24 euros we had an enjoyable meal of red beans with sausage, green beans with ham, pork cutlets and sea bass for Joanna. It was a good solid meal, nothing extraordinary and yet one we had no complaint with. When you eat out almost every meal, a dream come true for some folks, they all start to run together. It gives one a glimpse as to what it must be like to be a movie for food critic.
Pork Cutlets and the Sea Bass
For breakfast we ate some yoghurt we’d purchased and drank a coffee each from the machine in the lobby. Coffee machines are ubiquitous here (also in Italy, France, and Greece) and often for a euro or less you get a truly decent cup. It got us on the road, the temperatures turning decidedly chilly and from the start my back gave me no relief. It would be a long and miserable day.
Sunrise Outside of Najera
One highlight of the day occurred three quarters of the way in route as we crested a short climb (it didn’t see so short at the time) to enter the town of Ciruena. Home to a high end golf club (you could tell by the impressive number of expensive vehicles in the parking lot, including a Maserati SUV (a first for me). The rest of the town is a almost spooky ghost suburb of new housing, lots of it, sitting vacant (for sale signs on nearly every building) a victim of the Spanish housing bubble that crashed in 2008, the same time as ours did.
Long Shadows in the Morning Light
From here it was a long walk over rolling hills, stopping every 100 paces to stretch, until we reached Santo Domingo. We’d decided to spend the night in a pension, one I could get for just 32 euros and assess our options as it was becoming very clear that walking further was not in the cards, at least in the short term. For moments at a time I wondered if indeed my Camino had come to an end. As we walked through the narrow streets of town heading for Pension Miguel, my prospects didn’t seem so bright.
La Casa de Peregrino: https://alberguenavarrete.wordpress.com
Puerta de Najera: https://alberguedenajera.com