September 20, 2002

9/20/02 Nájera

28 km

My god, we keep leaving earlier and earlier. Angela and I left under cover of darkness at 6:45am. At least the whole Camino out of town was paved specifically for the pilgrims. We finally left the city when we passed the Pantana de la Grajera, a reservoir with eight separate ecological zones surrounding it.

One of our subjects last night at dinner was about the refugios in Spain completely ignoring 'Spanish time'. Since most of the pilgrims historically along the route were French (this route is called Camino Frances) and not Spanish, the refugios adopted a schedule more to their liking. So, by tradition it continues, to bed by 10pm and out of the refugio by 8am.

Walking toward Navarrete

Yesterday we left the province of Navarra and we are now in the wine country of Riajo. This morning, as we climbed out of the river valley, we passed several vineyards already beginning the fall harvest. Before we knew it, we were in Navarrete some 14 kilometres later.

Marta & Luigina [Italy]

Carlos [España]

Near the refugio was a bar and already several pilgrims were having some morning coffee. Bixen was there, along with Marta and her mother from Italy. Had a café con leche and a great sticky pastry with a bocadillo to go. The Spanish version of a sandwich, called a bocadillo, is about 12 inches of French bread with a choice of toppings, usually jamon (ham), chorizo (sausage), queso (cheese), tortilla (omelette), or any combination of these. A little farther through town I was lucky that the Iglesia de la Asunción was open. Inside this very dark church was a 17th century Baroque retablo that was lit up golden. Simply magnificent, reputed to be one of the best in Spain.

Today turned out to be tough because of several factors. One, it was another long day, 28 kilometres. And second, the entire way didn't have a square inch of shade. I stupidly forgot to refill my water bottle in Navarette and ran out about halfway to Nájera. One highlight though was a long stretch of the Camino that had hundreds of cairns made by other pilgrims that lined the trail.

With great relief, we finally arrived in Nájera. The refugio is in the Franciscan monastery of Santa Maria Real, directly underneath a sandstone cliff. The word 'Nájera' in Arabic means 'between cliffs'. The refugio maintained the 16th century façade but inside it was a very modern hostel.

A ton of boots

At the end of a great lunch with Bixen, Carlos, Angela and Paco, the guys all thought that Angela needed to try some Pacharan, a sweet potent liqueur here in Spain, so they ordered a full round of glasses for all. Afterward, we headed back to the refugio as it started to rain. Had a reunion of sorts with Josué who is walking a few short days with his friend Marina. But I also found out that Leif had kept going on today.

Believe it or not, after that big lunch, Bixen and Carlos decided we needed a group dinner too. So, while Carlos was hard at work in the kitchen making tortillas de patata (potato omelettes), I got a chance to visit with Marina. She had come up here from Madrid to walk with Josué for a few days. He's been on the road over three months and she just wanted to see for herself that he is OK.