Walking West – Rise

Day 9 – Navarrete to Azofra, 15.21 miles

Sun slowly rising over miles and miles of Riojan vineyards.

If you didn’t get the clue from the pictures above, I loved this morning’s walk through the vineyards of La Rioja. It seems the sun rises slower on mornings like this, and I kept looking over my shoulder as I walked away from it, waiting for the perfect picture.

The guidebooks for the Camino establish etapas, or stages, for a reasonable walk. These range in distance from 20 to 25 kilometers and end in a town/city/village that is well-equipped with lodging and food. On my first walk in 2017, I followed the playbook and stayed mostly at the prescribed stages. There were a few days I stayed off-stage in little villages either right before or right after the prescribed end of a stage. I made it a goal this time around to spend most of my nights off-stage, because of the Holy Year crowds and I wanted more exposure to the small-town culture. In my 31 days of being a vagabond in 2022, I spent 19 of those nights in small, off-stage towns. And it was awesome, and Azofra was one of the best!

Albergue de Peregrinos Municipal de Azofra: This was a great albergue. Efficient design, no bunk beds, big common area, and a small pool filled with ice-cold water for tired feet!

Bar Restaurante El Descanso del Peregrino: I had 3 meals here, lunch, dinner, and breakfast. It was pretty good food for a tiny town. What made it a special place was the old couple that ran this place. Like most of their counterparts along the way, the one or two people involved do EVERYTHING – take your order, cook the food, deliver the food, pour the beer, bus the tables, and eventually bring the bill. This little bar seemed an extension of the couple’s home, they invited us in and hustled to show hospitality!

Ahorro Supermercado Carneceria Rosa: I don’t like Big Box stores, Super Centers (where you can bank, get a haircut, oil change, and buy a can of Pringles), or even large, well-organized Grocery Stores. I’ll take a small, family-owned marked any day of the week, and this place was the epitome of small, family-owned. They had as many items as a Super Center but in a space about 10 feet wide by 30 feet deep. Merchandise was arranged by space available and in no particular order. The two aisles were so tight, you had to sidle up and down, and take special care if you needed to turn around lest you knock something over. I loved it, my favorite market on the Camino!

It was a very good day – from the beautiful beginning to the small village ending in Azofra.

It wasn’t all peaches and cream, though. Near Nájera, two young Frenchmen stopped on the side of the path to sing a song. Pilgrims clustered around to listen and record. One accompanied the song with a ukulele as they sang along, their harmony was fantastic. Taking a break in Nájera, I reviewed the video and found that it was a mess – one of my fingers covered the corner of the camera and took the minstrels out of focus and with one of my other fingers covered the mic, thus muting the beautiful song. What a dope…or really, it was my new phone, I’m not accustomed to it yet. Thanks, Joe, for sharing a clip of your video:

A snippet of the song I failed to capture…

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