Camino Postcard 8: Logroño to Navarrete

Evil hates being laughed at so we should make it a priority

18.4.19. Today’s walk was just 13 kilometres. As we had now been walking for a week, we decided to have a short day today in lieu of a rest day.

Six feet, one Camino

The weather was not our friend. Rain was coming down when we left Logroño and it was still wet when we arrived in Navarrete.

Today was also not a good day for my right thigh. We were not yet completely out of Logroño when it started hurting. Thank goodness once more for Ibuprofen.

I took my tablets when we stopped at a park café for breakfast. There, we met the same Frank whom I had met on the way from Roncesvalles to Zubiri. Today, he was busy using duct tape to make his shoes waterproof.

Fortunately for my leg, today’s walk was pretty flat. There were no climbs of any significance. Along the way, we saw a huge sculpture of a bull on top of a hill and many crosses entwined with a wire mesh fence. As far as I recall, the stretch of path where we saw them was not religiously significant – I imagine one pilgrim had the idea and many decided to copy him.

Reading my journal, it looks like I sold myself short. In today’s entry, I note that Ellena ‘has been talking about the three of us getting Camino tattoos’ for the last couple of days. I write that, ‘If I have any money left I will definitely be down for that!’.

That, however, is not the full story, for in my journal today I wrote, ‘I can’t believe [Ellena and Carolin will] want to walk with me all the way to Santiago so I must try to appreciate it while we are together.’ Sad to say that that rather sums me up – if something good happens, I can’t simply enjoy it, or live in its moment; no, I end up considering that I am unworthy of it and that as a result it will surely end.

A great aid to prayer

I may have been down for a tattoo, therefore, but in my worried, insecure heart, I didn’t believe that I would still be with Ellena and Carolin when we arrived at the end.

We arrived in Navarrete in the early afternoon. There, we found a lovely little albergue (the Albergue la Casa del Peregrino) halfway up a steady incline). We stepped into the dinning room area which was decorated with so many postcards and even a completed credencial before climbing the stairs to the second floor dorm.

After claiming our beds, we went back down the road to a café where we ate and drank beer. That evening, we had a lovely meal prepared by the hospitalero. The pilgrims sat at two long benches which was great for the atmosphere. I met one who would become a very firm part of our circle of friends – Lilian from Canada but who now lives in Thailand. Cats came and went. Spain is a dog country and I loved them whenever I saw them but cats will also come first for me.

After the meal – back to the dorm. This evening, I was surrounded by German pilgrims. We met so many during the Camino that I felt sure that Germany must be empty. Up in the dorm, Ellena and I had this conversation.

Ellena: So, how does it feel to be surrounded by Germans?
MJM: (Thinks to self: Don’t say ‘Like Dunkirk’; Don’t say ‘Like Dunkirk’; Don’t say…’ etc) I… many thoughts are going through my head…
Ellena: … and all of them inappropriate?!
MJM: (Indignantly) … my head is full of pro-European thoughts!

Nah. All of them were Dunkirk. I didn’t fool her.

That’s the great thing about Ellena – I could tell her my funny anecdote about the Favourite Nazi spreadsheet* and she wouldn’t mind. When I did tell her, she laughed. In the 90s, I lived for a while with a German girl who was lovely but who once apologised for the war as if it was her fault. Ellena, on the other hand, could laugh at a video of Adolf Hitler dancing in a bar. Remind me to tell you about that when we reach Sarria.

*See my Roncesvalles to Zubiri post here for more details

Outside the albergue in Navarrete

Camino Postcard 7: Los Arcos to Logroño

All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well

17.4.19. Last night, the most pressing matter had been bed bugs. They came up in conversation and from that moment I was concerned that I might get bitten. An American gentleman very kindly lent me his anti-bed bug spray but of course, me being me, I wondered afterwards if I had sprayed the bed adequately.

This morning, all thoughts of bed bugs disappeared: a Frenchman in the next dorm discovered that his mobile phone was missing: it wasn’t in his backpack; it wasn’t under the bed: it was gone. Then, someone else noticed that theirs had also vanished. Now, two girls in our dorm realised that not only had their phones been taken, but so had €500 that one of the girls had worked all summer for.

What had happened? I remembered yesterday seeing a pilgrim wondering over to the bed of the girl who had lost the €500 and leaning down as if to pick something up. Had he come back in the night and stolen the cash? Maybe he had just seen some dirt on the bed and picked it up. Welcome to the culture of suspicion – perhaps a worse thing than the crime itself.

The police were called. They were not fast in the coming. When they did turn up, there did not seem to be any urgency in their actions. They talked, listened, and spoke all in a very laid back way. We waited to see what would happen next. Ellena said that in Germany the police would tell everyone to empty their backpacks and check their passports but there was none of that here. Eventually, Ellena, Carolin and I simply left. No one told us we could. But when we walked out, no one ordered us back, either.

Ellena and Carolin in the early morning sun

As for me, I had got lucky: last night, as per normal, I had left my phone was beside my pillow; it would have been the easiest thing for the thief to lift it. Ellena had been lucky, too; or had she? She usually left her phone by the socket to recharge. Last night, however, she decided to keep it with her: no reason; gut instinct just told her it was the right thing to do. She wasn’t celebrating, though: how could she when an intruder had stood just inches from her bed? – She slept next to the girl who had lost her phone and money.

I’m happy to report that this story has a happy ending. A few days later, we met a pilgrim at a bus stop who was on his way back to Los Arcos: the police had caught the criminal and recovered the mobile phones. If I recall correctly, he was Romanian and may have sneaked into the albergue in the early hours – perhaps after someone went out to smoke and forgotten to lock the door? It was a very opportunistic crime but also one that was, perhaps, connected to a gang – around the time of the Los Arcos thefts, phones were also stolen from albergues in Puenta la Reina and Logroño.

The walk from Los Arcos to Logroño was a long one – 28km. I don’t remember much about it. My journal tells me that it involved a steep climb but adds, rather bravely, that it wasn’t too bad. It also reminds me that my bad toe took a turn for the worse by developing a blister. This toe (left foot, second from left) was already suffering from bruising caused by being pressed against my boot during steep descents. The blister that appeared there would be the only one on my feet during the whole Camino. Fortunately, and despite the fact that at first I only put a normal plaster on it instead of a special anti-blister one, it never caused me any great pain. Why, MJM, why? You had plenty of Compeed!

Nearly a page of my journal entry for today is taken up with concern over money. I was spending too much. I had been spending too much since the start. Unfortunately, this was inevitable as by setting my daily budget at 30 euros, I had set it too low. To be sure, walking the Camino on 30 euros is perfectly doable, but pretty much only if you limit your spending to the cost of the albergue, breakfast and dinner. If you buy anything else – lunch or a beer etc – you risk breaking the budget cap. And don’t even think about being sociable. All of these things is what I was doing.

I suppose I could have gone without lunch and a beer at the end of the walk but then I would have been very hungry and that would have taken a toll as well. I suppose too that I could have been unsociable but what kind of Camino would that have been? No more than an exercise in walking point to point and being lonely. No, that’s not good enough. I’d rather come back home penniless and blessed by the ways in which I spent my money – whether on myself or other people. Happily, that’s exactly what happened but unhappily, I still worried. If I had to come home early because of my eye or leg, that was one thing; it couldn’t be helped, but I couldn’t bear to have to return ahead of time because I spent my money too fast.

Happy Birthday Russell!

Don’t worry! Ellena said, We’ll help you if need be. Along the way, she did; we all helped each other. Doing so, whatever the (literal or figurative) cost was one of the greatest blessings that the Camino gave me.

Ellena said Don’t Worry. Unfortunately, it took me a little time to stop worrying so much. If you are thinking of doing the Camino, and if it is possible, I would certainly recommend that you set your budget at 30-40 euros per day. That will give you the space you need to treat yourself during the day, something which on difficult days you will definitely want – and should – do.

After a good day’s walking, we walked into Logroño – our second big city after Pamplona. We met a young American family whose daughter had become friends with Ellena and Carolin. She was 5 (or thereabouts) going on adult when walking alongside them. On our way through the city, we passed a man made stream made for tired pilgrim feet to bathe in.

By the way, was it today that Ellena said for the first time that when we get to Santiago we would all get Camino tattoos and then go to Finisterre to enjoy the sea before returning home? I agreed even though tattoos were not on my agenda. That was fine, I thought to myself, we are a month away from Santiago – plenty of time for Ellena to forget about the idea and for me to run out of money.

We arrived in Logroño on Holy Wednesday. That evening, a special Holy Week procession took place at the nearby church (cathedral?). Some friends that we had made went to watch it but Ellena, Carolin and I were too tired. With our phones in our sleeping bags, we fell into a deep sleep; we didn’t eve wake up when reveller pilgrims rolled into the albergue (this one remained open 24 hours) at three in the morning.

The Art of the Way
  • Be sure to read Ellena’s account of what happened from Los Arcos to Logroño here!