Logroño to Nájera, 28.9km
We hit the trail with fresh legs this morning! The first few kilometers through outskirts of Logroño were very uninteresting, like walking through any big city anywhere. Closer to the edge of town it opens up into a parklike setting and turned out to be a nice walk. We stopped for breakfast at a place called Café Cabaña del Tio Juarvi, there were great views here.
The peregrina in this photo was one of the inspiring, irrational souls we met along the way. For her 60th birthday in early April, she walked out of the front door of her home in Germany and had been walking since. Her goal was Santiago de Compostela.
We crossed from border of the Navarra and La Rioja regions just before entering Logroño. Navarra is known as the Basque region of Spain and La Rioja is the wine region. Today was our first full day in La Rioja, there are vineyards everywhere.
The approach to Navarrete is not quite as stunning as the view outside of Cirauqui experienced a few days prior but it was beautiful. The most stunning part of Navarrete is in the middle of the town, it would be easy to walk right by it without noticing.
The Camino winds its way through all of these little towns and almost always takes you past the local church. We had seen several fantastic and imposing churches so far. From the outside, Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Church of the Assumption) is unassuming, nice but not as striking as some of the others we had seen. Inside was a different sight. The altar is brilliant, one of the most amazing things I have seen. We sat in silence, soaking it in. I expected a “multitude of the heavenly hosts” to appear above the altar singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Thinking back on this moment months later, it was one of my favorite of the Camino.
Now that my body had adjusted to the fact that it was going to be walking miles and miles (or kilometers and kilometers) every day, I vowed to add a spiritual component to the hike. I would use a phrase, a question(s), or a word to guide my meditations as I walked. For today, “Father, where are you?” and “How can I find you?” I would pray these questions, ponder, and repeat. About an hour away from Navarrete and the “holy” church, I came across this graffiti along the Way:
I walked alone for most of the second half of the day from Navarrete to Nájera. On the Camino, you can be as social or anti-social as you choose to be. I plugged in my earbuds and listened to an audiobook as I plodded down towards Nájera.
The Camino is fairly well marked. There are a few spots in some of the cities and in the woods or wilderness in which you have to pay close attention. As I walked towards Nájera, head down and engrossed in the audiobook, I took the wrong fork in the trail. Thirty minutes into my pursuit of the wrong fork, I noticed there were no footprints, no bicycle tracks, and no pilgrims to be seen in any direction. It was just me in the middle of thousands of acres of Riojan vineyards.
I wasn’t worried at all, knowing that if I continued heading west, I would eventually run into Nájera, Santiago, or the Atlantic Ocean. I was more than a little frustrated though, by the time I backtracked and got onto the proper fork, I had added over 3 miles to this already long day…
Jimmy and I reconvened for an Estrella on the outskirts of Nájera. After refreshments, we wandered the rest of the way into town to try and find a place to sleep. We settled on a decent hostel a few blocks off the Camino.
After we settled into our room, we went down to the lobby to have a drink. I started with a nice, dark version of Estrella, probably the Bock Damm.
A couple of things of note, 1) I am a considerate guy and don’t want to create unnecessary work for anyone, and 2) La Rioja is the wine region of Spain. As such, they take their wine very seriously.
After polishing off the Bock Damm, I decided on a Rioja wine for the nightcap. Since #1 above is true, I told the hostess that she could use the same glass I had used for the beer. Usually, these places are run by one or two people and I didn’t want to create extra work because #1 is true (#3, I am humble…). She gave me a strange look and said, “Bien.” Concurrent with her “Bien” was the entrance of an elderly Riojan lady. She shot out of the back room intent on stopping this looming international incident.
She lectured me on the impropriety of drinking fine Rioja wine out of a used beer mug (pearls before swine) and how Rioja was the treasure of the vineyard; the miracle of the sun, soil, water, and seed.
I humbly accepted my Rioja in a clean vessel designed for the purpose. It was amazing.. what was I thinking?