** let me start off by saying that I am writing these diary posts from my cell . So please excuse the format, look, possible grammatical errors, and feel of this presentation for normally I would have a laptop but wanted to disconnect is much as possible while walking the Camino de Santiago.
July 8, 2016: Viana – Navarrete
I woke up this morning feeling great! My left foot still was really sore and tender but a little better and the lighter bag had Lifted my spirits also!
The girls and Greg left early and James seem to be in a rush, so after we passed Greg, James went after Susanne and her daughters while I walked alone which was good for me. The morning weather was cool. It wasn’t great scenery at all & I often felt a little unsure of where I was going because the markings today were very few or difficult to find. However that had no effect on my joy!
We entered the Rioja region which is famous for its wine which made sense as I witnessed countless rows of grapes everywhere as far as the eye could see.
Finally I made it to Longrono, a big city, where I had caught up with James and the Irish family for my first meal. The city is nice but once past the old town you start entering through the suburbs and then across a gigantic City Park.
As I was walking out of town, I had a fun conversation with my horrible broken Spanish with a local Spaniard woman for about 8 blocks. When I initially met her, I noticed a cast from her shoulder to her wrist and tried to make some horrible Spanish joke about her karate. She immediately smiled and demanded taking me for a tour of the Camino as she headed to work.
After a long walk out of town, we finally made it to the small town of Navarrete which has a beautiful church. Here we rested the entire afternoon.
In reality it was nothing special about the walk today but for me it was a happy day!
July 9, 2016: Navarrete – Najera
For a while James and I walked to the vast countryside. However soon we met up with two new Irish characters: Denis & Brian. (The Damned Irish are everywhere on the Camino). But I enjoyed their company and their stories as they entertained us the entire time until we arrived in Najera.
The town is very nice and after leaving Denis and Brian, we checked into our Albergue where we met up with the Irish family.
There is a beautiful river that goes through this town. So, I found a bench beneath a tree along the river and enjoy one of my Cuban cigars as I watched the world go by.
July 10, 2016: Najera – Santo Domingo
Last night’s sleep was extremely rough for me. Between the heat of the night and the locals leaving the bars and discos from around the corner to head home, I hardly got a wink. But I woke up very happy and physically feeling even better than ever.
James and I walked through this extremely boring walk together. It was weird because the Camino was pretty busy today as all the pilgrims were racing to their destination before the heat overtook them.
There was nothing special or visually pretty going on this part of the Walk. Go figure it would be just my luck! I struggled a lot of the beautiful sections of the Pyrenees due to the pain in my legs and feet and now that I’m strong and full of energy, nothing to see!
I think a lot of us we’re starting to get a little weary of the walk. So we decided to bypass the albergues and upgrade to a pension. A pension is more like a dorm room with less beds and a private bathroom. But it was nice and much appreciated.
The town of Santo Domingo is beautiful. We walked briefly around the old town & explored the beautiful cathedral there. Later we sat for dinner at a street café as I smoked a phenomenal Montecristo Cuban cigar & we all sat watching the world pass us by. It was a great evening!
July 11, 2016: Santo Domingo – Beldorado
The Irish family left early while James and I left Santo Domingo at our regular 7 a.m. time. There wasn’t much to this walk as we passed countless wheat fields leaving the Rioja region and entering the region of Castilla y Leon.
For the first time the Camino was kind of ho hum to me. But that was fine as we entered the town of Beldorado at a really early time.
Susanne and her daughters had gotten in earlier and booked us into a great albergue that had a pool and a great dining hall. It was weird because usually I feel bad about not spending time exploring the towns we visit. But this time we all hung out and relaxed with beers and sangria and just decompressed.
July 12, 2016: Beldorado – Ages
The cold Drizzle day!
Today we needed to walk 30 kilometers, so we left really early. It was a cold day that drizzled on us off and on till 2 p.m…but that didn’t ruin my spirits!
The landscape of today’s route changed some which also kept me happy. One of the unique things is that there are several non religious monuments along Camino in this region. These monuments would share with us information about Spain’s tough Civil War or other battles from their history!
Later we stopped at San Juan Ortega and visited the monastery and church where the famous saint of the pilgrims himself is buried.
However James had walked this one section before and recommended that we continue on to a town called Ages.
It was a great plan and mother nature agreed as the sun came out. Ages is a small town with not much to it . However, the church totally amazed me. From the giant stork nest atop the steeple, to it’s history, to it’s quiet cold inside, Saint Eulalia church stopped me for a bit!
After visiting the church, we relaxed in the sun before dinner. Now dinner was a treat, because our hospitelero and his wife cooked us a fabulous dinner made to order. There’s no way to lose weight on the Camino with unbelievable food like this!
July 13, 2016: Ages – Burgos
Today started out really cold but it was a beautiful walk up the sheep path to Alto Cruciero. These hard walks uphill are becoming easier for me though my feet are still a little tender.
I started my walk with Athena, a slightly older woman from Washington DC who has lived a very colorful life of adventure around the world.
I then caught up with James and Susanne as we continue down the mountain into Burgos. It’s nice to stop from time to time at these little towns for tortilla and Cafe Con Leche. Perhaps I shouldn’t stop every five kilometers but it’s so addictive!
From Castaneres, we decided to walk through the park. According to our book it was the scenic route and a welcome relief. We would walk past countless old men strolling around while children would play by the riverside. However this park is enormous and it felt like we were walking forever.
Finally, after a million kilometers, we came into the city of Burgos. I had never heard of the city of Burgos before but it was great. Apparently Burgos is the city of El Cid! There is a massive Cathedral de Santa Maria in the center as the city sprawls in each direction around it. We checked into our albergue and then searched for food….Kebobs! It seemed weird to me not to eat menu de peregrino, tapas, pintxos, or Spanish food, but it was great.
Afterwards, James, Greg, Emelia, and myself took a tour of the city on a fun little tourist train! I’m not exactly sure what we saw, but the train was so relaxing that several of us dozed off.
Then I went to my first mass on the Camino. Now many of the town’s previously visited had offered a pilgrim mass but I didn’t go for various reasons. I guess I feel that my walk is my mass. But we all went as a group and it was very nice.
Tomorrow the Meseta!!!
July 14, 2016: Burgos – Hontanas
The walk out of Burgos was nice but a little cold. I had a horrible night freezing to death and was happy to leave even at 6 a.m.! But today was going to be another long walk, over 30 kilometers exclamation point
Now the meseta is a vast area along the way with very limited trees, towns, or any type of scenery. However to me it has its own type of beauty and I felt that the cold weather was a blessing. For Americans, the best way I can describe it, is that the Meseta is like walking across Nebraska. There’s just countless fields of wheat as far as the eye can see.
Finally we arrived at our Albergue in Hontanas. This town and Albergue were a great find! For about seven euros we felt like royalty. The Irish family went to the public pool while James and I sat around a beautiful courtyard beneath the church of Santa Brigida. Later I would take some time to explore this beautiful and simple Church.
Now the highlight for me of this night was our Pilgrim dinner as I ate family style with other pilgrims from Italy, Germany, Ireland, and Spain. The food was phenomenal as it was cooked fresh in the kitchen by our hospitelero. They started out with the traditional pilgrim’s garlic soup and another pot filled with lentils. Then I was served salmon over vegetables followed with rice pudding for dessert. We all went to bed with happy full bellies!