Monthly Archives: May 2014

Day 17: Agès to Burgos

Distance walked: 13.9 miles
Albums of the day: Blitzen Trapper (VII, American Goldwing, Furr, and Wild Mountain Nation)

Today’s plan was to walk all the way to Burgos. I was feeling good. My friends and I joked about the description of walking into Burgos from the Camino guide written by John Brierley. While the book is a wealth of information in a small package, some of his “mystical” reflections can be a bit too much for me, and he always seems to view cities in a melodramatically negative way (whereas we look forward to them as a place to enjoy Spanish urban culture). We have held dramatic readings of passages from the Brierley book: “Waymarking may be disturbed, so stay fully focused or you might lose your way- or your body. If nerves become frayed, you can always take refuge in [a smaller town].” It has become somewhat of a joke with us.

The weather was cold and rainy upon leaving Agès. Usually I don’t mind walking in the rain as long as I have a good rain jacket and my rain cover on my pack, and this was no different. I sloshed along through Atapuerca and up the rocky path of Sierra Atapuerca. At the top, I passed a cross and then saw a figure in the distance who appeared to be pacing back and forth. As I moved closer, I realized that the figure was Paivi, a Finnish woman who had shared a bunk with me in Belorado. She was not pacing but instead winding her way through a spiral labyrinth on the ground that someone had created out of rocks at the side of the Camino. “I walk from the outside all the way in, ” she shouted through the rain, “and now I go back out.”

Sounded like a good idea to me. Pilgrims passing by got a glimpse of two crazy women in rain gear, spiralling to nowhere in the wet grass.

I was content to be walking in the rain, even though it showed no signs of stopping. Somewhere at the halfway point, I looked ahead and saw the Camino detour sharply from the road, head down a bank, and continue through a narrow path in a wheat field to another road. It seemed like an unusual path, but I saw the brightly colored rain gear of other pilgrims trudging through the field ahead of me, so I followed.

When I reached the bank, I saw that it was much steeper and muddier than I had expected. I gingerly stepped downward, trying to stabilize myself on my trekking poles as much as possible. But it was too wet and slippery in the rain, even for the poles: my shoe started to slide down over the grass, and the next thing I knew I was falling down the hill, landing awkwardly on my side in the mud with my left arm outstretched above me, poles still in hand. Shaken and filthy but not hurt, I struggled to get up out of the mud. I slipped around but finally managed to get onto the muddy path through the wheat field. There was not much walking space, and the mud was so thick that the tips of my poles would stick, causing the metallic tubes to come apart when I pulled up, with only the internal cord holding the pole together.

It was then that I looked up and saw the road that went around the field. I wasn’t even on the Camino: my fall had happened during an unnecessary shortcut.

Son of a….

I let out a few choice words which (thankfully) went unheard in the rain, then continued on to join the main road… which was also 100% mud. Every step was a challenge, between concentrating on not slipping and trying to kick off the platters of mud which were quickly accumulating on the sides of my shoes. Have you ever seen Dick Tracy, where the mobsters kill Lips Manlis (yes, I remember fictional movie characters’ names, thank you) by filling boxes around his feet with cement and then throwing him into the river? That’s what the built-up mud around my shoes felt like.

Once the muddy part stopped, the walk was actually not too bad. I trekked past the Burgos airport and into a small suburb, where the road split into different options. One unpleasant-looking option stretched next to the highway into town; when I tried the other option, however, it led me to a secluded area that bordered what looked like a trailer park. I hadn’t seen another pilgrim in over an hour, and the overlying dark clouds made the woods ahead appear very ominous. I was getting the creeps, so I quickly turned around and headed back towards the highway.

The markings along the highway started to become somewhat scattered after a while, at times taking me past an area of abandoned buildings covered in graffiti parallel to the highway. This was the first time on the Camino that I ever felt unsafe, so I was relieved once I got into town. Even so, I think I may have somehow taken the wrong road, because I walked for what seemed like forever without seeng any type of yellow arrows. I stopped about four times for directions and then became aware that I was walking through a city wearing hiking clothes that were covered in dried mud; no wonder I was getting strange looks from passersby. I stupidly hadn’t eaten in a long while and so was getting that cranky, helpless, Becky-with-low-blood-sugar feeling.

I thought back to the Brierley guide and didn’t know whether to hysterically laugh or cry as I thought, “MY NERVES ARE FRAYED!!!!”

I was at the point where I was just wandering around aimlessly because I didn’t even know exactly where I wanted to go when an older man approached me. “Albergue?,” he asked. “Si,” I replied, not having the energy to do anything else. I learned from him that all of the municipal albergues were full, so he took me to a group of privately owned rooms called Hostal Lar, where I paid, got my credencial stamped, had the hostel owner take a photo of my mud-covered ensemble, and then promptly passed out for the next few hours on my bed.

When I woke up, I got an email informing me that Colin, Lukas, Chris, and Jasmin were also staying in the same hostal, but a few floors down. And then it was time to enjoy Burgos with my friends.











Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 6 Comments

Day 16: Villafranca to Ages

Distance walked: 9.9 miles
Music of the day: Jimmy Fallon’s History of Rap (multiple volumes)

Since Jacotrans had carried my bag from Belorado to Villafranca for me, I just arranged to to have it taken forward another day to rest my legs.

The hike over the three hills outside of Villafranca, the Montes de Oca, was nowhere near as strenuous as I had anticipated, although I was happy to have waited another day to climb them since today’s weather was sunnier and warmer than yesterday. The hills took us down a long path through pine forests. It was quiet except for the whooshing of the nearby wind turbines and the chirping of birds.

We passed through San Juan de Ortega, my intended destination from the day before. I have to say that I’m glad that I hadn’t stayed there: it didn’t seem like there was much to see or do there.

The five of us checked into El Pajar, “The Hay Loft,” a private albergue in the town of Ages. Other than a delicious dinner at the neighboring Taberna de Ages that included a big plate of blood sausage (which is quickly becoming one of my major food groups in Spain), there is not much else to add. We finished up our evening huddled around my iPad in the common room of the hostel, watching Jimmy Fallon videos on YouTube. Everyone needs a lazy night in sometimes ;).














Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 1 Comment

Day 15: Belorado to Villafranca

Distance walked: 7.4 miles
Artist of the Day: Enya, Enya, and more Enya

This morning, the hostel was playing Enya on repeat. When I awoke, I decided to repeat the initial stress-relieving decision that I had made in St. Jean: I would send my pack ahead to San Juan de Ortega, the town just past the series of three hills shown on my map. This would reduce the strain on my hip and feet. I also made a hotel reservation via Skype for a private room in a casa rural in town there, thus eliminating another stay in a cold monastery. Good. It was done. I packed my daypack, left my big pack on the hostel lobby floor for pickup, then set out.

I ran into Colin, Kris, and Jasmin at a local fruit market in the square: they were only planning to walk as far as Villafranca, the town located before the hilly section. I was kind of bummed that I would be missing them yet another day.

Leaving town alone, I could not get out of my funk. I was lonely and grumpy and tired, even though I had slept well in the hostel. And not even an hour’s walk out of Belorado, my left hip muscle started acting up again. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I groaned. I looked at the map: I still had over 12 miles to go to get to San Juan. Not gonna happen. I realized that I would have to stay in an intermediate town, but that would mean trying to track down my bag, which was already destined for San Juan. Then there was my hotel reservation. As I entered the next town, I looked for a bar or albergue with wifi so that I could call on Skype to change my plans.

Of the three establishments in town, all were closed. Happy Monday!

I grumbled, but was within hearing distance of Isobel and Roger, a very nice couple from England. They offered to help me, but we would need to get to the next town, only a short walk away. I explained to them my situation; it turned out that they, too, had planned to walk to San Juan that day but were worried because they had not been able to find a room. Hmmm, I thought. I might be of use here. We walked together to the next town, Villambistia, and found a cafe; I logged into the wifi and called my hostel, where the hospitalero informed me that my bag had already been picked up. Shoot. Over the next half hour, I was able to track down my bag, have it rerouted (for a price, but hey, a girl needs her toothbrush!) to Villafranca, which was a walkable distance even with my hip, and transfer my reservation in San Juan to Isobel and Roger. All in Spanish :). The couple were very relieved to have a place to stay, so they kindly treated me to a cafe con leche. And while I was sipping it, who came strolling into town but Kris, Jasmin, Colin, and Lukas.

I was so happy.

Within minutes, we were joking around as usual, and I instantly felt better. We walked together into Villafranca, where we stayed at a private albergue attached to a hotel, drank lots of sangria while listening to a bizarre amount of Enya in the hotel lounge, and enjoyed a great menu del dia at the hotel restaurant.

I had really missed my friends.

“And when Mr. Mertle asked how long he had to keep the dog chained up like a slave, the police chief said, ‘FOR-EV-ER. FOR-EV-ER.'”








Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 3 Comments

Day 14: Grañon to Belorado

Distance walked: 9.8 miles
Song of the day: None: nowhere to charge Ipod

This morning, after a simple breakfast of coffee and bread, I was packing my backpack when I heard an altercation outside. I looked out the window: a bearded man in shorts, surrounded by two dogs, was screaming up at the wall of the monastery, and screamed responses were following from somewhere above me in the building. As the man in the courtyard continued to bellow, the sound of the upper man’s voice gradually became muffled, then clearer but farther away: I then saw my Spanish cyclist roommate marching out of the monastery doorway below and making a beeline for the first man, who now held a can of dog poo in his hand and a cigarette in the other. They shrieked at each other in heated Spanish, faces inches apart and red in anger. I’m not entirely sure about the specific details of their argument, but I think my roommate had made a snide comment about the other man’s dogs defecating in the courtyard of the monastery, and then that man had threatened to throw the poo in his face. Or something like that.

“Oh Santi,” I cooed to the kitten who was falling asleep in my lap. “Your daddy is a hothead, isn’t he?”

My departure from the hospital was postponed slightly because Santiago chose to settle down and nap in the middle of my backpack on the floor while I was brushing my teeth. That cat. So damn cute.

What a miserable morning. Wet and gloomy, and so cold that you could see your breath in front of you. Most of the landscape was covered by a thick fog, so not a great time for photos. I was able to get a photo near the marker which showed that we were passing from the wine region of La Rioja into Castilla Y Leon, the region which will make up the greatest part of the Camino.

I had planned to walk all the way to one of the smaller villages closer to the base of the Montes de Oca, but pain intervened. I was walking along when I felt a stabbing pain in my left hip flexor. I kept going, because so often little pains come and go; this one eventually subsided as well.

Drinking large amounts of water to stay hydrated on the Camino can sometimes be a problem because my bladder is approximately the size of a walnut and bathroom facilities – or sufficiently private natural areas- can be hard to find. This was one of those situations where the road was long and shrubless and next to a highway and there was NOWHERE TO GO and I was dying. Then I saw an upcoming clump of bushes at the side of the path. I looked ahead: pilgrims far ahead. I looked back: pilgrims far away. No approaching cars. I threw myself behind the bushes, flung off my backpack, and was done before the upcoming cars knew what was happening.

And then when the backpack came back on, so did the hip pain. With a vengeance. Sigh. There was no way that I’d make it past Belorado today. I limped into Belorado and towards the most loudly advertised hostel I’ve ever seen. It was like the Disneyland of hostels. I stopped for lunch there but decided to stay elsewhere.

My hostel, Cuatro Cantones, was new and had a great restaurant. I shared a dinner table with a group of travelers from several different countries, but I was not in the greatest mood. I was frustrated with all my injuries, annoyed that my walk was so limited today, and just cranky in general. Even the piece of blood sausage in my soup could not cheer me up. I had no choice but to just sleep it off and hope that I would come up with a better plan tomorrow.

















Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 5 Comments

Day 13: Azofra to Grañon

Distance walked: 13.9 miles
Song of the day: a shuffled playlist on my dying iPod, which randomly included Thom Yorke, Timbaland, Blitzen Trapper, and OutKast. Oh, and earlier, the sugar beet song.

This morning I ate a big portion of leftover risotto for breakfast and then headed to the nearby cafe to check my email and get a coffee. As I sat, I looked at the subject of a forwarded email in disbelief:

“Found lost camera with photos- can you identify subject?”

What followed was a description of a found camera in Ipswich, MA. The camera was found by the side of the road near Crane Beach by a couple walking there. They guessed that the camera had been there since September since that was the date of the last photos taken on the memory card. The camera itself was in bad shape, but they were able to view all of the photos, which included numerous travel and baby photos. They only clue that they could find as to the owner of the camera was from a photo of a female cyclist who completed the NYC Century Bike Tour: her race number was clearly visible on her bib. This couple emailed the race director from the NYC Century ride to see if she could track down the rider with that bib number.

I had bought a new Canon point-and-shoot in August 2013. Within a few days, I took it with me on my trip to Washington D.C. and New York City, where I stayed with friends and family along the way. I did the NYC Century Ride (or, 40 miles of it, sick as a dog and in a Sudafed-enabled haze) the weekend after Labor Day. And I hiked at Crane Beach with my friends the following weekend. When I returned home, there was no sign of my new camera. I was devastated. I searched all over for it. It was not just the loss of a new camera (which – although expensive- could still be replaced). On it were photos of hiking with my friends and their baby girl in D.C.; of my cousin Judy and me walking her daughters to the school bus in Virginia; of my German friend sitting in Prospect Park with her newborn baby in the sunset. It broke my heart to know that those captured memories were gone. So to hear after eight months that someone had found it… well, I sat there in the cafe in Azofra, sobbing with joy into my cafe con leche.

The Camino provides.

The blister surgery that Lynn provided last night did the trick. It was the first night in a long time that I could sleep without pain from accidentally bumping my heels against the mattress. Along with some ibuprofen and making sure to drink a lot of water, my feet felt better today than they have in days.

In the morning, I walked quite a ways with Gian Carlo from Italy. We spoke in a mixture of his iffy English and my iffy Italian. We passed through fields of greens. “Zucchero. Azucar” he said. “But not the top. Under.”

“Oh!” I answered. “Yes: sugar beets.”

And then this was stuck in my head for the next two hours:

We stopped for a snack break at a “rest stop” with surprisingly comfortable cement chaise lounge chairs. Gian Carlo declined my offer of dinosaur cookies because he had a carrot to eat. He was cracking me up because he kept saying the Italian version of “What’s up, Doc?” while gnawing on his carrot.

The road to Santo Domingo de la Calzada floated in a sea of green wheat fields that stretched as far as the eye could see. After a lunch stop in Santo Domingo, I pushed myself to make it to the next small town, Grañon, where I heard that the monastery offered a really interesting place to stay. I came upon it none too soon, since the sky was darkening and rain was beginning to fall.

The place, I learned from Mike, the American volunteer there, wasn’t an albergue, but instead a hospital, which not only offers a place to sleep (30 or so mattresses on the floor of a large room) for pilgrims, but historically has fed them and – being attached to the local church- catered to their spiritual needs. It is donation-only.

I threw my backpack down onto one of the many mattresses in the main room and began the process of unloading my belongings for the night. A tiny orange and white striped kitten came out from beneath a table and headed in my direction. Thinking that he belonged to the monastery, I was surprised that he bounded right up to the air bed on my neighbor’s mattress and began to play. Like I’ve said in previous posts, I’ve never considred myself an animal person, but this little guy was so cute.

My neighbor soon returned, a Spaniard who was completing the Camino by bike, having started in his home town of Girona. Here, he had found the kitten abandoned at the beginning of the journey and had been carrying him along on his bike for the last week.

The kitten had been named Santiago.

Other than a very warm and friendly group dinner provided by the hospital in their main room (pilgrims from each nationality were asked to sing a song from their country for the rest of the group), most of my time was spent playing with little Santi, who amazingly in the last week had been trained to take care of his business on the Spaniard’s sleeping bag. When I returned from dinner, I found Santi mewing in terror on the mattress. I didn’t realize what was happening until he squatted down and produced an enormous pile of you-know-what right in the middle of the bag. He then tried to drag the sides of the mat to cover his work. I scooped up the mess with a plastic bag-covered hand and tried to explain to the Spaniard what had happened when he returned, “Uh, señor, tu gato uso el baño en tu saco de dormir.” Completely nonplussed, he thanked me, wiped up any remnants with a wet cloth, then threw Santi into the sleeping bag, where he created a wandering lump beneath the covers for the next few hours.

Getting the cat to actually sleep when the rest of us slept was another issue. Pilgrim bedtime = kitten playtime. Santiago would scamper around the room, climbing into people’s bags and then ripping Kleenex into shreds with glee. The Spaniard basically had to throw him into a headlock under his arm to keep him in place. I covered myself with all the clothes I owned (monasteries do not make for the warmest bedrooms), tried to ignore the cat’s shuffling beside me, and went to sleep.























Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 2 Comments

Day 12: Ventosa to Azofra

Distance walked: 10.5 miles
Song of the day: Ummm…chanting? iPod not charged

We were awakened this morning at 6am by the sound of soft Gregorian chanting. That may sound cheesy, but you have no idea how much nicer it is to wake up to something soothing like that than to the jarring military-like approach of “lights on!” at six in the morning.

After a quick coffee and croissant, I was off. The morning was mostly sunny and cold, but in the distance dark clouds were visible. As I looked out over the valley ahead, I could see the wall of rain approaching. It started full force, and soon my pants were completely saturated. I was grateful for the wind, because it helped to dry the pants out! I looked to the right while passing through an industrial area and noticed an Italian man taking shelter in one of the pipes. He grinned and waved me on. A ray of hope was a building on a distant hill that shone white in the sun. Hooray! The rain wouldn’t last long.

The sun came out shortly before I arrived in Nájera. I bought a coffee and some snacks (including dinosaur cookies! I haven’t seen those in 20 years!) and continued on through the town, which had a picturesque bridge over a river with imposing red cliffs on the opposite side. I decided to visit the cathedral of Santa Maria la Real. The legend goes that a Spanish king was out hunting with his falcon, which chased a partridge into a cave. Inside the cave, the king saw a vision of the Virgin. He later had a monastery built on the site as an offering to her; this later became a Benedictine monastery. I checked out the cloisters and crypt with Daniela, another Italian pilgrim. It was incredible, and I’m glad I took time out of the day to make the visit.

The afternoon was windy and sunny heading out of Najera. I noted the presence of “To Santiago” kilometer markings, erected by the local La Rioja government. Kris and Jasmine like these, but I found them almost discouraging. It’s much better for me to walk ignorant of my distance than to continue on and on and then say, “Are you kidding me??? That was only 4 kilometers?”

My daily trek ended in the town of Azofra, which had a municipal hostel consisting of cubicle-like rooms with two beds apiece: what a luxury! Not so luxurious: tepid shower water and lack of heat. Mid-afternoon, I was shivering so much in my room that I started to think, “I’m freezing my Az-of, ra-mind me why I decided to stay here?” There was also the blanket incident. I reached up into my cubicle’s upper shelf to grab a heavy wool blanket that was stored up there. Along with it came down a pair of women’s dirty underwear. Ewwww. Upon cursory inspection of the blanket, I found what would best be described as a crust of something. Ew ew ew. I flung the blanket back up. Not impressed with this place.

The town, like several others we have passed through, seemed only to survive because the Camino runs through it. Half of the buildings looked closed or for sale, and most of the businesses we saw were either bar-restaurants or grocery stores catering to pilgrims. I suppose many of the people who live there are out working the fields or vineyards during the day, but the place felt deserted.

Unenthused by the prospect of another meat-and-bread-based pilgrim menu, my new Australian friend Vanessa and I decided to make use of the ample hostel kitchen and cook our dinner. We stopped to buy groceries from a small market with the nicest and most practical owner imaginable. Vanessa and I were cooking for 3, maybe four people. We did not need an entire bottle of oil, a whole package of rice, or a 12-pack of chicken bouillon, nor did we have the desire to carry the leftovers in our pack. The friendly shopkeeper let us open packages and buy only the amount that we needed. So smart!

The result of two hours of painstaking stirring was an awesome vegetable and chickpea risotto with herbs that Vanessa had found along the path that day. (This sounded gross at first until I realized that they were probably both fresher and cleaner than anything I could get at a supermarket). Along with her husband John, we ate heartily, and less expensively than at any restaurant.

The evening ended with a massacre at The Twins. I can’t say that it was Red Wedding caliber, but Big Mama met her final demise, both of the offending parties on my heels were impaled, and any remaining blisters were cut down. Lynn did a magnificent job of dressing the wounded. I would have to inspect the carnage the next morning.

(Can you tell how much I am missing Game of Thrones?)





















Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

Day 11: Logroño to Ventosa

Distance walked: 12.7 miles
Song of the Day: “When the Levee Breaks,” Led Zeppelin

After returning from karaoke the night before, Big Mama went under the knife. (Not literally my knife, but I made sure that the blister wouldn’t be reforming any time soon). When I woke up in the morning, I already knew that my foot was going to feel better. I took my time leaving my private room in Logroño. Sleeping in is so delicious when you are used to over-enthusiastic pilgrims bounding out of bed at 5:30am. I didn’t leave town until about 9:15. Crazy!

Some people that I have spoken to along the road have uttered the phrase, “The Camino provides.” Kind of like, whatever you need will end up finding its way to you. I was walking down the street and realized that I was down to about a half-sheet of Kleenex. I had tried to shop for it the day before, but every time I asked for “Kleenex individual,” I would be pointed to the family-size packs of ten or twenty tissue packages. I could just imagine trying to schlep one of those huge things in my backpack. Don’t Spaniards have to blow their noses on the go? I was getting frustrated because my allergies have been acting up and I didn’t want to be That Snot-Nosed Pilgrim sniffling all day. (I do have my hanky… but that’s for important things like drying my hands in public restrooms and cleaning the avocado and cheese off my Swiss Army knife 😉 ). I walked up to a newsstand and asked the woman behind the counter if she had individual Kleenex packets. She began to say no, but then, thinking better of it, reached into her own purse and pulled out a new packet for me. She refused any payment for it. The Camino provides!

The morning was somewhat gloomy, but the path that led out of Logroño into the surrounding suburbs was beautiful. There were a ton of local people going for walks, and almost every one of them shouted out, “Buen camino!” as I passed. The city path turned into a separate route that wound through a metropark, complete with a pond, playground, a clean public bathrooms. (Yay!)

As I neared Navarette, a slight drizzle began to fall. OK, I thought, I can make it there without having to stop to put my rain gear on. I continued to walk… and then the rain got harder. Sigh. I hauled off my pack, dug out my rain jacket and rain cover so that I could finish the final – seriously- five minute walk into town.

I stopped at a bar for lunch. I don’t know how I manage to find hard rock dive bars on the Camino, but I do. This place was pretty sweet: a spinning record player was embedded under heavy glass under the threshold of the place, and guitars and Metallica posters hung from the walls. Awesome. I ran into Kris and Jasmine there, who had decided that they were going to end their day’s trek in Ventosa. I wasn’t going to attempt to walk any farther than that either: Big Mama was doing well, but The Twins had increased in size and were acting up. Ouch.

I trudged along in the light rain, listening to my hard rock mix. “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin came on, and as if on cue, the rain began to pour down hard.

If it keeps on rainin’, the levee’s going to break
If it keeps on rainin’, the levee’s going to break.
When the levee breaks, I’ll have no place to stay.

Oh crap, I thought. I hope that’s not an omen that the albergue is full.

It wasn’t. I checked into the San Saturnino albergue in Ventosa, which was to this day the nicest place I have seen on the Camino. Clean, warm, extremely friendly, and really beautifully decorated. When I asked if I could rent a blanket, the owner smiled and answered in Spanish, “No, i will give you one.” Wifi, a quaint courtyard, a laundry area, and a kitchen with a coffee machine. Gloriously hot showers with clean floors. They played soft chanting music overhead and lit incense. It was like staying in a really comfy church. (Much better than some other hostels, which can feel more like prisons). Lynn and Garrett had also found their way there, so we ate dinner together at a local restaurant.

I was more than ready for bed when “lights off” came at 10pm.


















Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 1 Comment

Day 10: Logroño

I did NOT sleep well my first night in Logroño. My friends who were sharing the room with me stayed out past 11pm, our hostel’s curfew. When I heard the front door knock at 11:05 but did not see anyone enter the dorm room, I worried that they had been kicked out or something. (I have no idea how these curfews are enforced, but the record has shown that I tend to get a little paranoid when I’m tired). Then there was the presence of the “emergency” light which actually shone very brightly over my top bunk. I gave myself an hour of restlessness before I got out of bed to dig out an eye mask from my backpack. I slept briefly, then woke up abruptly to the sounds of pitter-pats. It was raining. Shoot. It was raining, and my laundry was hanging outside in the courtyard to dry. I scurried to bring the damp stuff in and, without much of a choice, threw it over my backpack on the floor and climbed back into bed. I struggled to find a good position for my feet: I couldn’t comfortably rest them while sleeping on my back because The Twins – what I now call my heel blisters- would get too much pressure.

By the time I woke up in the morning, my friends had magically appeared in their bunks, but I was exhausted. If there was any question about staying another day in Logroño, this was my answer. I made a plan to meet up with Colin and Lukas later on in the day, found a private room in a pension close to the main square (25 Euro and so worth it), and slept for the rest of the morning.

I love rest days. I walked around a bit, got some Roquefort-cheese-and-nut gelato, finished some journal writing, took another nap. I met up with Colin and Lukas and also ended up seeing Lynn and Garrett, who joined us for an evening of tapas and the sharing of gruesome blister photos. We talked about the different paths that people take on the Camino.

My path on the Camino includes karaoke.

We found a karaoke bar within walking distance of the center of town. We were the only ones there. Lukas was very shy at first about singing, but he soon developed a true enthusiasm for it. I think I may have freaked Lynn and Garrett out a bit when I sang, “Enter Sandman.” (“Wow. That was kind of dark,” Garrett commented when I finished).

There’s nothing like a night of singing to prepare you for a long day’s walk ;).






The view from my room’s balcony



This blood sausage is for Dad 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 1 Comment

A quintessential Camino scene

Thanks to Lynn for sending this!


Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 9: Torres del Rio to Logroño

Distance walked: 12.8 miles
Album of the Day: iPod still remains uncharged

As I sat in the bar of the albergue eating my breakfast toast and coffee, the woman who worked the bar asked me if I had forgotten my scarf. It was not mine, but I recognized it as Kira’s, so I ran back up to the dorm to see if she was still there. I returned the scarf to her, and on the way back downstairs, I saw my towel that I had left to “dry” the night before. Even though it was now soaking wet after the night’s rain, I was so lucky to have come across it before I left. It’s so easy to forget things, and when you’re not carrying much, the loss of an item can be somewhat stressful. Maybe I’m putting too much value on my possessions, but when I’m dying for a shower after a long, sweaty day of walking, a missing towel would not seem like an insignificant loss.

I left Torres del Rio at around 8am. Groups of dark clouds would roll overhead, threaten rain, and then pass on. Last night’s rain was evaporating, making the air humid and still. The wind turbines stood motionless in the distance. This would be the last day walking in Navarra: today the Camino enters the La Rioja region. On the bad side: gone are the hilly, lush green landscapes; the land is becoming flatter and more arrid with each passing day. On the good side: great wine!

Walking into Viana, a large town along the Camino, I noticed sequential rows of low apartment buildings in the distance. Usually the presence of large-scale man-made structures after miles of walking through the countryside can be kind of jarring, but with their beige fronts and brown roofs, these buildings just sort of the blended into the nearby patchwork of growing and fallow fields and vineyards. I wonder if that was done purposely.

I ran into Lukas and Colin in Viana, and we bought sandwich fixings and sat near the cathedral for an early lunch. We are all suffering from grotesque blisters. Our California friends Garrett and Lynn took a photo of what they termed the quintessential pilgrim scene: Lukas and Colin with their homemade baguette sandwiches, and me sans socks and boots, inspecting my bandaged feet.

My right big toe is disgusting. Despite frequent (and hygienic!) lancings and covering with Compeed to prevent further friction, a quarter-sized blister continues to return on the side of my foot, making walking really difficult at times. Some of my other blisters have toughened up a bit, but I have two pretty new ones – symmetrical twins- on the back of either heel. Yay. I have heard about every blister prevention and treatment theory imaginable, most of them contradictory and almost all of them completely useless.

I walked mostly alone all day. I like to meet up with friends at stopping points, but I think I get the most out of walking when I’m by myself. I ran into a Finnish man who had stayed in the same small gite with me over a week ago in St. Jean. I couldn’t remember his name, but he could remember the only words that I know in Finnish: “Hölkyn kölkyn!” (a nonsense form of “Cheers!”), he shouted to me in greeting. I also walked a bit with Olivia, an American from North Carolina whose family is Mexican. We walked for over an hour together, talking mostly in Spanish. Sometimes I get better Spanish practice talking to other pilgrims; Spain Spanish is really fast!

Charlene, Lukas, Colin, Anthony, Kira, and I checked into the same hostel. We met up with our friends Jean and Ann from Seattle and Kris and Jasmine from Germany for coffees/beers and then one last dinner together. Jean and Ann would be leaving for Paris the next day; Anthony, Kira, and Charlene planned to continue walking the next day, while the rest of us decided to stay in Logroño for another night, either because of love for the town (me) or out of need to give the blisters some rest time (also me). We ate in one of the main plazas and watched nearby families read to their kids at cafe tables, dance with them to the music of the accordion players, or teach them to rollerblade in front of the church.

On the walk back (well, at least for me, since I was tired and wanted to go to bed!) we heard the sounds of music coming from a nearby building. I knew what it was and bolted up the adjacent steps to take a look. A flamenco class was going on, and through the window you could see a studio of women in black tanks with red fans in hand twisting and stomping to the music. I love flamenco, and it brought back memories of 2002 when I sat in a bar in Granada, Spain, dripping with sweat and sipping a sangria, and watched my first flamenco performance. I went to bed happy.



















Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 4 Comments

Blog at