I woke at crap o’clock (4.30am) in the municipal in Los Arcos. I spent the next 30 mins reading all the notes and pictures that were graffitied on the bunk above me. At 5 am I decided that as I’m awake I may as well get dressed, brush my teeth and think about an early start. Don’t you find that it’s more difficult to be quiet when you are really trying hard to be a mouse?
DISTANCE – 28km / 17 miles.
My squirrelling technique has been working really well (at least until my power pack fell onto the tiled floor at 5.20am!). At least it stopped the snorers for a few mins!
Nescafé vanilla latte x 2, and Nellie was packed and ready to go. It was still pitch black as I left the Albergue on my own at 6 am. “How bad can it be”? I thought to myself…It’s only 4.7 miles to the next town (which is one lap of Salcey Forrest)…easy!
Thankfully, I’d purchased a head torch in Estella (phew!) and with my naff bike light on my back, in flashing mode, I glowed inside and out!
As Ed Sheeran’s sweet voice flooded my ears, the vision of zombies was no-where to be seen this time!
Where have the arrows gone?
Along the Camino, you are guided by yellow arrows or a symbol of a shell. These are easy to spot in daylight, but a tad more difficult in the dark (especially if you are not concentrating because you are singing a duet with Ed Sheeran!). I missed one arrow and walked for 5 mins in the wrong direction before noticing. Oops!
The night's sky was clear and the stars were so bright, I kept stopping to gaze up. I am sure I went wrong a few times. I ended up walking on the main road for the last 1.5 miles as I could not find the Camino path anywhere. Luckily I have my fabulous Geocaching app. When launched it tells you exactly where you are, and the map shows OS features, so I knew that if I followed the main road then the next town would put me on the right track. I had my flashing bike light on the back of Nellie, and a big head torch facing forward, so I felt quite safe.
After 5 miles of leaving Los Arcos in the dark, I entered the small town of Torres Del Rio. There was not much open so I walked through the town and considered carrying on to the next town which was a good 6 miles away. I reached a crossroads and I could not see any arrows anywhere. There were no arrows on the walls, none on the road, I had gone wrong again! I trundled back up the hill and spotted Jon Claire through a door that led to a cafe. Someone was looking after me today. Decision made, I would stop here for breakfast.
The best breakfast yet!
The breakfast was the best yet! €6 for coffee, toast, cheese, meats, yoghurt, an apple and a Danish pastry! Jon introduced me to two new Camino friends. I took more photos and printed them out whilst enjoying a leisurely breakfast – people are still fascinated by my little printer. (see luxury items entry at the bottom of this blog), and I am still fascinated by their stories and luxury items.
I left the cafe at 8.15am (ish) and the sun was now in the sky. As I opened the door and took my first steps into daylight, there was a whole array of yellow arrows painted on the floor. I'm talking HUGE painted yellow arrows that I'm sure would actually glow in the dark! How on earth could I have missed them previously? As I say, I think someone was looking after me and forced me to have a break and some breakfast!
A spiritual journey
I had a real spring in my step today. There was plenty of thinking time and lots of out of tune singing time! The scenery kept changing. From wheat fields to vineyards, to Forrest trails and lovely Spanish villages. I loved it! On a few occasions, I would pull over to the right as I could hear someone walking behind me. That click clack sound of the walking sticks is quite a distinctive on the Camino. I would look over my left shoulder to see who it was and there would be no-one there. I could not tell you how many times this happened to me but it was quite surreal. In the end, I had a full conversation with these imaginary people. “Hello” I would say. “It's friggin hot isn't it?”. “Are you walking all the way to Logrono?”. Each time I heard the noise my conversations would get longer! (Did I really tell the whole world about me having strange conversations with myself? Oh well, you know you are getting the full story!).
The Camino is a very spiritual place. Millions of people have walked this path for over 1000 years. You can not walk a path like this without experiencing some type of emotion. You will pass many memorials on the trail where other pilgrims have died whilst walking the Camino. Then you will stumble upon prayer hills (i'm not sure what you would call them?). See the video below.
Is that a stone in your pocket?
My next cafe break was in the beautiful town of Viana. I was originally planning to stop here, but as I reached the town it was only 10 am, so I made the decision to carry on to Logrono. Little did I know that this was another fantastic decision as I was soon to be reunited with my walking pal, Lou!
I grabbed a coffee with three Brazilians (and I had conversations with real people, not imaginary ones). A cheeky chappie (Thiago) who was around 25 years old, his ex-girlfriend, Elena (I know!), and his mother, Roberta, (who liked to walk in a bikini top). I met them yesterday and they were full of life. Thiago was wearing Dunlop trainers, shorts and a t-shirt. He was carrying his mother's rucksack for her. I think Elena adored this guy, and was totally smitten. As I joined them for a coffee and took their photo for my little book, she could not wait to tell me that he used to be her boyfriend when they were 12 years old. He dumped her apparently, but they are still good friends.
Perhaps it's my age (46), but the next bit shocked me a little. I'm sitting outside the cafe with the three people from Brazil. The market was open and the place was flooded with people. The cafe is opposite the church (which is stunning). I'm printing their photos and I ask the question “what is your special item that you have in your backpack?”. Thiago digs into his shorts pocket and pulls out a stone (or at least that's what I thought it was). “Ah, a stone,” I say “why is that special to you?”. He looks at me as if I am stupid, and then brings the small stone nearer to me so I can have a better look at it. The penny drops as I realise that it is not a stone at all, it was a lump of marijuana. At least I knew why he had that silly look on his face. You meet all sorts on the Camino 🙂
An Indian Supper
6 miles (11km) to go and I would be in Logrono. I was having a great day and I didn't need marijuana to get me to a high. I was already high on life. This is another part of the trail that I had not walked before as the last time I was with Rachel and we got the bus from Viana to Logrono. This was new turf for me and I loved it. The cute little Forrest trails. The railway bridges that I had to climb and the quaint Spanish side stall sellers kept me entertained on the route.
I arrived at the main Albergue after crossing the Ebro River and followed the arrows right up to the door. There were three old Spanish men, who were busy watching the news. Catalonia was being declared as an independent country today so they were all very distracted. I was trying check in when I heard a little scream behind me and who should walk in the door but my good pal Lou. I had really missed her these last few days and we embraced like long lost friends.
Sometimes it the simple things in life which mean the most. Our new Camino family friends Sanju & Kamal cooked an Indian rice dish which was absolutely fabulous. I have no idea what was in it, but it went down so well that I had a double helping! The wine flowed and the conversation on the table went from talking about Basecamp at Everest to Indian arranged marriages to politics. We were joined by a number of other pilgrims (including my good friend Lou). I can’t explain it in words, but the atmosphere was buzzing. After the meal I go to bed, my heart bursting with happiness, my gut bursting with food.
Lou would be moving on tomorrow, and we would have to say another goodbye in the morning after breakfast. I hate goodbyes.
Tomorrow I would spend some time exploring this wonderful city and I couldn't wait. I had met Erik in the city centre earlier today and he had planned a cycle tour of the city for 10 am tomorrow morning, followed by a wine tour at 5.30pm – yippee!
WEATHER – as I started early I missed the very hot weather. I’m not good in the sun! A blister started on my nose yesterday and I’m sure it is sun related. Today was hot but a nice gentle breeze. Perfect walking weather!
MY MOOD AND FEELINGS – I’m tired and sore but I feel alive and full of life. I miss my family, and I also miss my job. I hadn’t realised how much I loved the industry I worked in until two people I walked with yesterday started talking about social media. I’m very lucky!
THE ALBERGUE IN LOGRONO – a bit smeggy! This one has metal beds and it feels like I’m in a double bed with my neighbour. The showers were cold and I had to change in the open communal area (like the school showers!). Tomorrow I will treat myself to a hotel room as it’s my last night.
Today’s Luxury items / People
Each day I am taking photos of the people on the Camino and asking them “what is their luxury item that they have in their backpack”.
- Marie from France – I met this lady this morning when I stopped for breakfast in Torres De Rio. She had befriended Thomas from Germany and they obviously got on really well. I printed two copies of their photo and gave one to them as a present. I asked her what her special item was and she frowned a little as she was trying to think of an item. Then she looked in her rucksack and pulled out a ziplock bag full of almond nuts. She explained that her gift to the Camino was to collect things on route from the path and feed them to the pilgrims. She had collected chestnuts over the Pyrenees and had cooked them in the Albergue in Roncesvalles. She was doing this each step of the journey. I'm not sure if this was a wonderful gift or just a bit weird. At the hostel in Logrono later that evening, I spotted a bowl full of almonds with a note saying “free for pilgrims”, and I knew it was Marie who had deposited them.
- Thomas from Germany. His luxury item did put a smile on my face. He loved his old walking shoes that much that he wanted to bring them with him on the Camino but the soles were falling off. In his pack, he has shoe glue! So each evening adds more glue to keep his shoes together!
Tomorrow, I’ll spend the day exploring Logrono.