Camino Postcard 10: Cirueña to Castildelgado

22nd June 2019
Correction: After writing this and Camino Postcard 11 I realised (thank you Ellena!) that we didn’t stay in Castildelgado but Redecilla del Camino.

20.4.19. We left the strict hippie at 7:45am and hit the road. As you can see below, our path took us into the countryside and along never ending paths that cut through green fields. We passed through Santo Domingo, which marked the end of the Brierley Nájera-Santo Domingo stage and headed on to a little village called Grañón.

We left Cirueña with Tony but lost him underneath a bridge when he stopped to tend to a dreadful looking blister on his foot. It had left what seemed like a large part of his skin flapping. I don’t know how he was able to walk on it. He did have one advantage: a nurse for a sister who was able to give him advice from home.

We found Grañón at the top of an incline. Thankfully, one of the first things we saw after reaching the top was a café. We ordered beer/cold drinks and sat down at a table on the grass to enjoy them.

Presently, Tony rejoined us. Like my mother, he could make friends with a brick wall so it wasn’t long before we were chatting to pilgrims we had never met before before we all went on our separate ways.

The path out of Grañón threaded its way down a slope. As we walked, something very alarming happened: Ellena suddenly fell over. She landed on her knee. Fortunately, after getting up again, she was able to continue.

What had happened? Her kneecap had popped out. This wasn’t a surprise – she had mentioned that it might happen just a few days ago.

How could she bear to walk? She had fallen onto the dislocated kneecap, knocking it back into place.

Just writing the above makes me squeamish and think that if it happened to me, I wouldn’t be able to move again, but though she will disagree, Ellena is made of tougher stuff – much tougher stuff. Yes, she was in pain, but she endured. We continued, and after passing through Redecilla we decided to stop for the day in a small town called Castildelgado.

Here, all our fears about not being able to find a bed were washed away – we came to a lovely little albergue which was almost empty. It cost five euros and you could see why, but it was comfortable and in a beautiful location.

Next door to the albergue was a bar, and it was here that we drank large beers for the first time in Spain. It was just like being back home! And it was such a momentous occasion that the beer man took a photo of us for posterity.

Tony, me, Ellena and Carolin and four beer ‘grandes’

What a happy moment! It makes me happy now remembering it. I wish I was back there…

The skies were blue and the weather hot so we took our beers outside and sat down at a table next to a church that had one carving on its wall: a skull.

Presently, Tony left to have a lie down. Ellena, Carolin and I kept drinking (slowly, obvs.). We met some interesting people, including a Canadian guy who had just had two knee replacements and had already done the Camino ten times, and a young man from Germany named Lars. He was 18 and was walking with a thirty something woman whom he had met in Pamplona. They met on the day that her walking partner had returned home. The woman (I call her that because I’m afraid I can’t remember her name) wanted to continue but not by herself – what to do? Enter Lars. Cometh the hour, cometh the man with a backpack full of beer. They got on like a house on fire and were great company. That’s the Camino for you.

After we arrived in Castildelgado, 20th April 2019 became a day that I didn’t want to end; sadly, however, it did. After a nice meal in a tiny restaurant in the back of the bar, we returned to our seats outside and continued drinking. I was the last of our company standing, returning to the albergue at 9:30pm (getting no judgement from the hospitalera, Strict Hippie please note) before climbing into bed.

Camino Postcard 9: Navarrete to Cirueña

A day of ups and downs – the Camino can be like that

19.4.19. If you decide to walk the Camino one of the best things you can do to prepare is accept that, if you sleep in albergues, you will have to put up with people snoring. By the same token, if you snore, one of the best things you can do to prepare is resolve not to have a go at other people for talking when you have kept them up at night with your snoring. Especially when the talking is happening in the morning when talking is a perfectly legitimate activity. This happened to Ellena and Carolin this morning and I hope the snorer in question later realised his folly and repented. If not, may he accidentally snort up salt one day and sneeze it out for the next ten minutes.

After the Incident With The Snorer, our day did and didn’t improve. The clouds were low but we avoided being caught in a heavy rainfall thanks to being in a café at the time. We met Tony again but my right thigh got sore. I really wanted to make today the first that I didn’t take any Ibuprofen but it was not to be. We managed to reach our destination, Nájera, but something about the place was off so we decided to move on.

Before leaving, however, we stopped in in a café-bar for lunch. I ate a meat dish (above) that was mmm fantastic. I’ve no idea what it was but boy I’d go back to that café for it.

The way out of Nájera was uphill, which with my dodgy leg was a bit of a trial but it could have been a lot worse.

We walked to Azofra, five or so kilometres away. Given its proximity to the larger Nájera – just five or so kilometres away – we felt confident about getting a bed for the night: other pilgrims would surely either have stopped in Nájera or gone further on.

Big mistake. 19th April 2019 was Good Friday; the start of the Easter holiday weekend. We arrived at the albergue and discovered that it was full: pre-booked by Spanish groups taking children on a weekend break. I was not impressed.

Good came from the bad: the hospitalera at Azofra called an albergue a few miles away in Cirueña to see if they had any beds available. They did! She then kindly called a taxi for us. Cirueña was ten miles up the road. We could have walked but by the time we reached Azofra we were much too stiff and tired to continue on foot so we very gratefully piled into the taxi and drove off.

Being in the taxi after a week of walking was an interesting experience. It helped me realise just how much we miss by driving – gravel under foot, the breeze and rain, good aches and bad, climbs uphill and dips afterwards, they all vanish inside that metal box with its perfect suspension and regulated temperature.

If we had walked the ten miles, the journey would have taken until evening to complete. The car, however, did it in it in seemingly no time at all. Being driven, therefore, was on one level a great blessing but also, so far as being a pilgrim was concerned, a very destructive one because of the smoothness and easiness of it.

Anyway, we arrived in Cirueña. The albergue was named after Our Lady of Guadalupe, which boded well. As it turned out, however, the hospitalero was an ageing hippy who took his religious inspiration from east as well as west (or, strictly speaking, the Near/Middle-East).

That was fine. His albergue, which was pretty much his house, was a very homely place – the walls were decorated with his paintings and religious artefacts and bric-a-brac picked up, no doubt, from many years of travelling. The dining area was small and comprised of just one table so the pilgrims all ate together. This was great for community. Everyone chatted and there were even songs – led by one of the two pilgrims from Scotland. The meal was first class.

The only downside to the albergue was that the hospitalero turned out to be very strict about bed time. I shared a room today with one of the Scotsmen and Tony. Ellena had joined us and was summarily kicked out by the hospitalero at 9:20pm. What, were we actually in boarding school? No, we were paying guests, so deserved, I think, a little more respect.

Well, be that as it may, at least at the start of the Easter weekend we had a bed. How would it go for the next two or three days? That’s what we had to think about now.

The view from our albergue room the next morning. Please forgive the slightly wonky picture!