Monday, April 1, 2013

Day 11: Najera - Santo Domingo de la Calzada (21.2 kms)

We are up at 7:30 am  and after a hearty breakfast of 2 eggs, bacon, fresh orange juice and coffee at a nearby cafe, start our walk at 9 am.

The day is sunny with blue skies but there is a strong headwind of between 20 to 30 kph blowing since the start of our walk.  It is a gradual uphill following a packed trail.  After 2 hours, we arrive in Azofra and have a short break for a cafe and an orange juice.

The wind continues blowing through the green rolling hills and another uphill through packed trails to Ciruena which we reach at 1 pm.  We decide to skip lunch, take handfulls of dried cranberries and roasted sugar almonds (from Logroño)  and continue on.  The wind intensifies to 50 kph, still a headwind. Pretty tiring, but the view is fantastic.  Green fields, grass bending with the wind, blue skies, fluffy clouds through which the sun occasionally peeks through, snow-capped peaks in the distance, so we lean into the wind and trudge on.

We finally spot Santo Domingo de la Calzada in the distance, except there are 2 more hills to go through, the unletting wind still blows directly on our faces forcing us to use twice the effort. We are exhausted, soles of our feet hurting, and we give up on our plan to go to the next town, Grañon, still 5.8 kms away, and stop for the night at Santo Domingo de la Calzada. We check in at a donativo (donations) albergue , the Casa del Santo, close to the Catedral.  We are given top bunks in a 20 bed room. It is nice and clean, looks newly renovated and quite big -- able to house 220 pilgrims. We directly have an early dinner at a nearby restaurant, a pilgrim menu at 4 pm for 12 euros-- a paella starter, a main dish, an ice cream dessert and a full bottle of red rioja wine. We do laundry, relax and walk a bit around town.

At 8 pm, we go to mass at a small church by the Catedral and again encounter Enrique.  After mass, we talk to the priest Fr. Arturo, who is excited to hear we are Filipinos and tells us about his uncle Gregorio Espiga who lived in the Philippines for 64 years, arriving when he was 22 years old and staying until his death at 84 years old in 1992.  Fr. Espiga became bishop of Palawan and founded the Colegio de San Agustin in both San Carlos, Cebu and in Manila. He was called the flying bishop as he was always flying in his plane to different islands in Palawan. Fr. Arturo tells us he is writing a book, a biography, about his uncle. When he finds out we have not yet seen the Cathedral, he brings us there and shows us the tomb of Sto Domingo de la Calzada. He tells us that in the olden times, canonical and civil law were not separate in Spain and that prisoners could atone for their sins by walking the Camino and that until now, Belgian law allows for prisoners to do penance or pay for their sins by walking the Way. For those who are sick, going to the tomb of Sto Domingo is enough to get the Compostela.

Later, at 9 pm, we join a tour of the Basilica for 6 euros.  It is a bit late and we are a bit worried about making our 10 pm albergue curfew, but it is an experience not to be missed.  There is a light and sound multimedia presentation where the altar is successively lit up in parts by multicolor lights, and descriptions of the carvings and sculptures described and discussed.  We walk around the church and stop in front of a group of large oil paintings depicting the life of Santo Domingo.  We find out that Sto Domingo de la Calzada was a pilgrim declared a saint by the people of the place.  The story behind this was that a boy was hanged because he was accused of taking a vase from a family he stayed with.  Actually, the vase was hidden in his bag by a daughter of the family whom he stayed with. This was because he had not taken any notice of the daughter. The boy was saved by Sto. Domingo, holding him up by his feet as he was hanged.  When the family of the boy told the judge that the boy was still alive, the judge said he would only believe it if the roast chicken served for his dinner would stand up alive.  And it did. A miracle.

We marvel at serendipitous moments that lead us to meeting a priest whose uncle has served in our country.  Everyday is a pleasant surprise.

 We run back to the hostel just in time as doors close at 10 pm.

582 kms to go -- on the hill right after Najera

We meet Dandan, a Chinese girl who is studying in Madrid -- she looks a bit like a friend of ours from home, and we ask to take a picture with her

The Way stretches on

Yellow arrow pointing to Santo Domingo de la Calzada
The tomb of Santo Domingo de la Calzada

The original altar of the Santo Domingo Cathedral

The plaza of Santo Domingo de la Calzada

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