Camino de Santiago – Week 2

Day 8

Logrono to Najera, 18 miles. Betsy and I ate breakfast of yesterday’s food the albergue then headed out through the busy streets of town with a brief stop for coffee. Yellow arrows and scallop shell paving stones marked the route. We were almost always in sight if other hikers. At a lake (the first one of the trip) in a park, we saw our first non-domesticated mammal, a rabbit. The walk through to Najera gained 1,000 feet of elevation with pretty easy walking. Vineyards replaced the barley and wheat fields of the past few days. La Rioja state in Spain, into which we passed just before Logrono is the big wine region in Spain.

Day 9

Najera to Santo Domingo, 13 miles. Last night’s festival in town generated lots of street noise until 11 pm. Betsy and I headed uphill and out of town passing by caves excavated in a vertical sandstone wall. Did ancient hermits live there? After passing through. Planted pine forest, we walked by grain fields on gravel paths. No vineyards maybe reflecting deeper and better soils. Gentle sloping terrain in these parts. On a hill in the town of Ciruena we saw a golf course, which we didn’t expect. Onward toward Santa Domingo now past irrigated grain fields. When we arrived at the Casa de Confradia albergue a few minutes after it opened at 1 pm, a line of about 25 pilgrims qued up to register. We registered, got our beds, showered, and bought food for dinner and breakfast at a supermarket. We ate huge dinners.

Day 10

Santa Domingo to Belorado, 13.9 miles. we started our day as usual with granola, yogurt, and banana. The forecast called for rain, which arrived half an hour after we started walking. Out came the rain coats. We walked on a good gravel road near Hwy N-120. We walked through hamlets of Granon, Redecilla del Camino, Castildrlgado, and Vilorindr de Rioja. We got food in the last hamlet to pacify my stomach. Onward for the last 6 miles as the sun peaked out and brightened the landscape of blue-green barley and yellow-green wheat. In Belarado, we checked into the Cuarta Cantones albergue about 1:30 then showers , hand-washing clothes. Lots of the hikers spent lots of time on their phones finding places to stay for the next few days. The communal dinner was excellent.

Day 11

Last night, one of the six people in the room snored loud and long. At 6:55, Betsy and I packed and ate breakfast (ham and cheese on white bread, OJ, banana, two plastic-wrapped pastries). On the route we walked on a gravel path near busy Hwy N-120 past grain fields to Tosantos, Villambistia, and Espinosa de Camino where we stopped for coffee with lots of other hikers. At Villafranca we bought food for today’s lunch and PM snack. Seven miles in the books thus far. The landscape changed dramatically as we gained elevation into an oak forest. The trees were still in bud and few wildflowers bloomed. We ate lunch on a picnic table with Kim from Saskatchewan then descended and quickly regained the lost elevation through more oak forest and planted pine forests. After dropping down, we found the hamlet San Juan de Ortega. A tour bus discharged a group of tourists although I couldn’t see the attraction of the small town . We left the official Camino on an alternate and in 2 miles reached Santovenia and an albergue that had beds for us. After 16.8 miles, we were happy to shower and rest. After our dinner, I walked up to the church on the hilltop. The evening sun highlighted the tan sandstone walls.

Day 12

When Betsy awoke, she said she would’ve walk to Burgos because her left knee hurt. We made a plan: I leave immediately and walk to Burgos and meetBetsy at Hostel Lar. She would call a taxi for a ride to Burgos. I left and continued on the alternate Camino to Hwy N-120 to the southern suburbs of the city. I met other hikers who figured out where to go when the way markets disappeared. We rejoined the official Camino on a forested path along the Rio Arlanzon. In Burgos, I asked locals about the location of Plaza Lesmes, which was one block from the hostel. When I walked into the hostel, there was Betsy. It turned out that she could not get a taxi or w as ok to the bus stop. Instead, she walked a half mile to Hwy N-120 and hitched to Burgos, scoring a ride with an off-duty taxi driver. He too her to the hostel. After checking in, showering, and buying food, we walked to the cathedral, an amazing architectural and aesthetic masterpiece. Lots of people strolled the streets. Back at the hostel, Betsy iced her knee and we ate in our room. The day turned out well,

Day 13

We intended to get up early so I could walk to Hornillos 13 miles away and get there early enough to get two beds at the municipal albergue. Beds in municipal albergue can be reserved in advance but municipal one cannot. Betsy’s knee felt better so we started walking together. We passed by the cathedral bathed in the morning light then walked to a boulevard along a busy street. Past the city, the route crossed major highways before crossing the clear-water Rio Arlanzon, which may harbor river otters and trout. We walked on a gravel path along a paved road the hamlets of Tardajor and Rabe de las Calzadas. Betsy stopped for coffee and a snack, while I motored on to Hornillos to get us beds for the night. I headed uphill to a meseta, a plateau with grain fields and few trees. This would have been miserable in the summer. I took a short break in a grove of trees that had a water tap. Continuing upward, I passed by long piles of limestone rocks pulled from the fields over the centuries. At the western edge of the meseta, the path descended steeply requiring my complete attention to avoid slipping and falling on loose gravel. The path continued to flat ground at Hornillos. As I walked into town, I passed by two albergues with “Completo” signs on the front doors, The third one had a similar sign, but I asked if any beds were available. Yes, three of them. Just as I registered for two of them, Betsy arrived. To my surprise, she had walked at her usual pace. We were delighted to get beds and celebrated with showers and clothes washing. More knee icing and chatting with other hikers.

Day 14

A short day of 12 miles meant no need to get up early. At 6:30, we ate a modest breakfast of coffee, OJ, white bread toast, and cellophane-wrapped mini-muffins. Off we went ascending gradually a meseta covered with wheat fields. Cool weather and blue skies this morning. The gravel path descended steeply to San Bol, which consisted of one building, an albergue. Upward again to a meseta that we traversed for 3 miles until a steep drop to Hontas. Betsy and I stopped at a bar for coffee and a sandwich that we split. After walking through town, we paralleled a paved road then walked on the road rather than on the adjacent freshly graveled path. A mile later we stopped at San Anton, the ruins of a convent that dated from 1150 (!) that was being restored. Onward to Castrojeriz and the impressive church and the ruins of a castle on the hilltop that dominated the view of town. Our walking day ended at the Orion albergue run by a Korean by a woman. Six Korean hikers registered here today. After we checked in, Betsy iced her knee, while I walked to a market to buy food. A communal dinner at 7 this evening.

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