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!

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