Sunday, March 31, 2013

Day 10: Logroño - Najera (30 kms)

This is my longest walking day so far, and the first day that my sister, Sonya, starts her Camino.  I forget to put on the alarm and we sleep so soundly in our comfortable twin room.  It is 8:15 by the time we wake up -- time is changed to DST or Daylight Saving Time.  We hurry so as not to start too late -- go for breakfast at the town center and start our walk at 9:30 am.  We see some event happening right at Plaza Mercados in front of the Cathedral.  It is the Tour Rioja, and a group of cyclists are just getting ready to begin the race.

The sun is out, the skies are blue, the weather is just right -- about 18 degrees. A great day for our walk.  On the trail through a park right outside Logrono, we pass a limping pilgrim-- a Swiss guy, Yves, who has tendinitis.  We stop a while to talk with him.  He is studying alternative medicine -- and I remember that I brought some arnica homeopathy pills.  I dig around in my backpack and give him some of the little round white pills -- great for all around pain, bruising, swelling-- and he is really happy to get them, as we are happy to be able to help.

It takes a while to go through this huge Logroño park, then we pass through flatlands and a bit of uphill, reaching Navarette at 1300.  We pass by the church, where we stamp our credencial. There is an Easter mass just beginning.  It is still a long way to go -- about 17 kms.  We have a great lunch of 7 different kinds of tapas and a cafe con leche, of course. Lunch takes a leisurely hour out in the Riojan sun.

Next comes a gradual uphill through vineyards to Ventosa by 1430. Then we really have to hurry for the last 14 kms over flat plains to Najera.  We change into our Teva sandals as our feet really start expanding and getting sore in our boots.  We arrive at 6:20 pm and snag the last 2 beds at Puerta de Najera -- a really nice private pilgrim hostel. After washing up, we have our 12 euro pilgrim dinner from 7 to 9:30 pm at Las Parillas in town, chatting with Helen, a London based architect.  We both have the wonderful trout main dish, and wash it down with Riojan red wine.  

Tour de Rioja -- Logrono leg starts from the Cathedral

Walking through the large Logrono park

Sonya's first day on the Camino -- maybe 30 kilometers was a little too much?

Ruins right outside Navarette

Riojan vineyards
Great tapas in Navarette!


Boots and walking sticks in Puerto de Najera Albergue

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Day 9: Logroño

Today, I stay for a day in Logroño. I am looking forward to to my sister's arrival and this rest day. I hope my ankle bruise gets better so I can wear my boots again the rest of the way.

I sit a bit at the Check-in hostel lounge after all the pilgrims have left at 8 am.  The hospitaleros are cleaning up, but they are very nice and let me stay on.  At 10 am, I have to go as they close up the place and open again at 1300 when they expect the first pilgrims to arrive. At these places, whether the municipal public or private pilgrim houses, beds are reserved for Camino pilgrims. One needs to show their credencial and have this pilgrim passport stamped and dated. One can only stay a night and needs to move on the next day, usually by 8 am,  with the exception only when one is hurt or sick and cannot walk on.  So far, they have cost from as low as 5 euros per night for the municipal pilgrim houses to as much as 15 euros for the private ones. All of them have common sleeping areas with bunk beds -- one had even a triple layer.  Snores or smells are part of the pilgrim experience.

Sometimes, when we stop to think of how it must have been for the pilgrims of yore, we are thankful for all the conveniences we now enjoy. Such as wifi, for example, which allows me to tell realtime about my experiences.  All of them are generally clean and the hospitaleros, as they call the people taking care of the pilgrim houses, some voluntarily, are very kind and helpful.

It is raining in the morning and cold but the sun comes out at 10 am as I leave the pilgrim hostel.  I pass an open church, the Iglesia de San Bartolome where I say a rosary, something I have been in the habit of doing these past few days on the Way.

Several times, I have been asked by other pilgrims why I am here and I answer that I do not know. When I ask them back, they say the same thing. But we are one in believing that it will be revealed to us on the way. Or if not, we will discover things about ourselves we have not known before. For now, we all walk towards our goal -- Santiago de Compostela.

Tapas are terrific! Calle San Juan has so many of them. Had a hard time choosing. At 1 pm, they are all pretty full with people standing at the counter, drinking wine or beer and having tapas.  I think this is what Spanish people usually have for lunch.  I have a callos tapa for lunch -- the waiter makes sure I know what I am asking for and queries -- tripas de cordero? (tripe of sheep?)  Si, I answer. Callos reminds me of home. My Mom makes great callos.  It is a Spanish dish which we have adapted in the Philippines.

My sister finally arrives at 4:30 pm at our pre-planned meeting place, the Hostel Estresueños, a hostel in the center of town, where we already booked a twin room.  She walked from the bus station and is starving.  We leave her stuff and directly go for some tapas and calamares.  We also walk around Logroño.

Later at 9 pm, we go to the easter vigil, a mass at the Iglesia San Bartolome -- a beautiful Romanesque structure.

Stamps on my credencial or pilgrim passport
Lunch hour at a bar at Calle San Juan
A serving of callos -- We usually have it as a main dish in the Philippines, with rice

Street musician playing Vivaldi's The Four Seasons -- lovely!
Logroño Cathedral
Logrono bridge
More tapas

Iglesia San Bartolome, Logroño

Friday, March 29, 2013

Day 8: Viana - Logroño (10 kms)

Today is a short walk as I wait for my sister who arrives tomorrow.  The day is a bit cloudy. Everyday, we need to leave the pilgrim house by 8 am. People start moving around and preparing by 6 am so there is pretty much no choice but to get up.

I have breakfast with Andrea.  Breakfast is cafe con leche and a roll with fruit bits.  We see and talk a little with Enrique, the Mexican pilgrim we both first met in Zubiri. He has a fever and has had to take a taxi to Viana.  I start walking with Andrea at 9 am in my Teva sandals while she walks in her Crocs.  We are now leaving the Navarra region and moving to La Rioja known for its red wines.

Approaching Logroño
Beautiful Spanish family in front of their colorful home

The landscape is flat with lots of vineyards. Andrea insists that we talk in German to help me improve in the language and teaches me things like Ach du scheizer or Mein schatz, wie ist deine Laune?  My German seems to be getting much better here, what with all the German pilgrims I meet and talk to on the road. So is is my conversational Spanish, which impresses my pilgrim friends.

We are in Logroño by 12 noon and sit and have a cafe con leche and eat at a cafe on the Plaza de Abastos.  Later at 2 pm, we say our goodbyes and Buen Caminos.  It starts drizzling.  Andrea and Daniela, another German pilgrim, plan to walk on to Navarrete, while I go to a pilgrim hostel, the Check-in Rioja, to stay in Logroño for a day.  Maybe we meet again on the Way.

Soon in Logroño
Great lunch!
Clowning around in Logroño. Hope we meet again!

It is Holy Week, and Vierne Santo or Good Friday today. I go to 6 pm mass at the Iglesia Santa Maria -- it is supposed to be a pilgrim mass but the priest says that there is not one today. He talks to me after mass (yes, in Spanish) and gives me a blessing (I think) and wishes me a Buen Camino.  There is supposed to be a procession at 7:30 pm so I walk towards the Plaza del Mercado. On the way, I see crowds outside the Iglesia de Santiago Real. I take a look and find out from a woman that there will be no procession because of the rains. One of the statues, Christ carrying his cross, is inside the church, hoisted onto the shoulders of men garbed in purple robes. They sway in rhythm to the sound of drums. A majestic sight.

At the Iglesia de Santiago Real

I then walk over to the main church, the Concatedral Santa Maria de la Magdalena. Here are even more crowds, waiting for the Maria Magdalena statue and float. I jostle among the crowds and am rewarded with a place in front. At 8:30 pm, the float emerges from the church, decorated in flowers and candlelight. Deep booming drums herald its arrival. It stops just in front of the church and for about half an hour, is serenaded by different women in their soprano voices, as about 50 men and women sway while carrying the weight of the float on their shoulders. An overwhelming and magical sight.

Float of the Maria Magdalena
Crowds in the Logroño Town Square

Afterwards, I go to the El Rey de Tortilla bar, have some tapas and 2 glasses of Vino Tinto for dinner,  then hurry back before the 10 pm pilgrim house curfew.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 7: Los Arcos- Viana (17.9 kms)

I start late again from Los Arcos at 8:20 am after a very nice breakfast at the pilgrim hostel.  The skies are grey and cloudy but it does not rain.

It is a slight uphill walk to Sansol then to Torres del Rio.  I stop there together with some pilgrims for a cafe con leche, a banana and freshly squeezed orange juice at 11 am after which I am raring to go on.

I walk down the earth-packed trail at noon as blue skies start to peek out, and I feel great!  I think to myself, the Way is difficult but there are just so many good vibes around that it does not feel so tough. Everyone is exactly where they want to be.  I am where I want to be.

As the blue skies take over and the sun begins to shine along the gradual downhill winding gravel path to Viana, I find myself belting out the song "Corner of the sky" that I used to sing with my college friends. Then as now, we search for our corner of the sky. "Rivers belong where they can ramble, eagles belong where they can fly. I got to be where my spirits can run free, gotta find my corner of the sky..."

On the trail, I meet Andrea, the German girl I had met 3 days earlier in Zubiri. She is wearing her Crocs as her boots hurt. My feet are also hurting in my boots and she urges me to change to my Teva sandals. It works and I almost skip along to Viana.  I walk along with Andrea and we arrive there at 3 pm.

It is Holy Thursday and a group plans to go to mass at 7 pm then have a pilgrim dinner after.

Looking back at Los Arcos


Skies and earth

Bikers on the Way

Blue skies this time
Cairns left by pilgrims

Torres del Rio coffee stop

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Torres del Rio

Wow - what a sky!

Anyone need boots?

Arriving at the Albergueria Andres Munoz in Viana

Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Asuncion de Viana

Viana Church Ruins

Dinner with other pilgrims at Viana

Inside the Viana Iglesia

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Day 6: Estella - Los Arcos (22 kms)

I leave a bit late -- about 8:30 am.  I first have a coffee and cream pastry, then start my walk.  It is drizzling again, that continuous light unending rain -- the tsirimiri.  It continues on up the gradual uphill to Irache where the wine fountain is. Although sadly, since I get there about 10 am, not a drop is left.

The uphill continues on to Villamayor de Monjardin where I have another cafe con leche and a media bocadillo franceza (scrambled eggs on a half baguette) for lunch at 12 noon.  The Tres Amigos from South Korea are also there and we chat a bit.  From there, the rains continue on through country roads and lush green fields and hills, vineyards and olive tree groves under grey and cloudy skies.  Achingly beautiful scenery.

My feet are getting very sore and a pressure point on my right ankle is bothering me. I am in a trance-like state. I hear and feel the rain pitter-pattering on my raincoat.  I see the drops falling down my cap hood.  I feel my solitariness yet my belonging to the whole scheme of things.  My thoughts are wandering all over the place.  Endless hills are on sight, as well as the unending trail. The phrase der Weg ist die Ziel in German, or roughly, "the way is the goal," keeps on playing in my mind, like a mantra.

Finally at 4 pm, a city appears. It is Los Arcos, my goal for the day. I check in at a private pilgrim house, Casa de la Abuela -- the owner and hospitalero is very kind and welcoming as is the place.

I go with a group of pilgrims to mass at the church where a pilgrim blessing is given at the end.  Later we have dinner at Restaurant Mavi recommended by the hostel owner. I have a great sopa cocido, stewed chicken, and flan plus red wine, the pilgrim menu all for 11 euros.  As we walk back to the hostel, it starts raining again.

Wine fountain at Irache.  Tip: get there early.  Tip for the early: leave some for the latecomers. :-)

Grimacing cat, not so happy with the rain...

Grey clouds on the Way

Villamayor de Monjardin

Church at Los Arcos

Leaving Los Arcos 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Day 5: Puente la Reina - Estella (22 kms)

I start early today, about 7:50 am and am thinking of just snacking along the way, but I am immediately sidetracked right outside the albergue by a warm and welcoming cafe.  I go in for a cup of cafe con leche, a pan neapolitana (a chocolate croissant, pan chocalat in France) and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Great breakfast!  I cross over the Puente de las Peregrinos on the way out of Puente la Reina.

From there the trails pass through olive trees and vineyards up to Maneru, then to Ciraqui.  I stop for an hour at noon for a lunch of tortillas con jamon and tortas patatas in Lorca.  From here, I continue walking, this time with 2 British pilgrims, Caroline and Joanna, to Estella.  They are friends who first met as English teachers in Japan and live now in different places, but who come together for a trip every so often.  We arrive in Estella around 3 pm and check in at the  Albergue Municipal.  Happiness!-- we get bottom bunks!  It is not raining when we get there but it starts raining about 4:30 pm. It is a nice small town.

I join the 2 British girls for dinner.  We get some groceries at a nearby store and cook at the albergue kitchen -- fusilli pasta with a bottled tomato sauce and canned mushrooms, washed down with 2 cans each of Spanish San Miguel beer.  All of this cost us only 3 euros each. Early to bed.


Puente de la Reina
Blue and copper door

Olive tree orchard

Fountain at Lorca
Nearing Estella

Once in a while, you see scrawled political messages showing Basque unrest -- Estella's Basque name is Lizarra
Buen Pan, Excelente Agua y Vino, Carne y Pescado, Llena de Toda Felicidad (Good Bread, Excellent Water and Wine, Meat and Fish, All Full of Happiness)
Iglesia de San Miguel, Estella