At a Glance:
Day 7:Logroño to Nájera (28.9km)
Day 8: Nájera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada (21.3km)
Day 9: Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Tosantos (27.6km, including alternate route into Granon)
Day 10: Tosantos to Atapuerca (25.5km)
Day 11: Atapuerca to Burgos (19.7km, including alternate routes south of airport and through riverside park)
Day Seven: While weaving our way through city streets to exit Logroño in the morning, I noticed that Michael was lagging and looking unwell. When I asked how he was doing, he responded that he was feeling tired and feverish. We stopped for him to rest and eat a couple of times early in the morning with plans to reassess how he was feeling when we got to the first town, Navarette, at around 13km. Much of the first 10km was through a park and around a lake bordering Logroño.
After a hot chocolate and pastry in Navarette, Michael was feeling better and we decided to continue on. The second half of the day passed through farm land and vineyards before a couple short climbs on the way into Nájera. On our way into Nájera, Michael started feeling tired and unwell again. We briefly searched for a hotel with a private room, but with no luck we continued on to an albergue. The main albergue in Nájera is run on a donation basis (although they request that you give a minimum of 5 euro) and is attended by volunteers who were especially welcoming and helpful. While Michael slept for the entire afternoon, I walked back to the town’s large grocery store (purchasing a bit much as I was super hungry) and cooked dinner in the albergue. Unfortunately, the town’s cathedral was closed by the time we finished dinner and Michael felt well enough to walk about.
Day Eight: Michael felt a bit feverish again in the morning, but quickly started to feel better as we tackled our first incline. Today we passed through a couple small towns that have recently had declining populations and which now exist largely due to the Camino. Perhaps because of this, in one of the towns (Cirueña), the local golf shop had finally opened its doors to peregrinos interested in a meal or drink. According to our guidebook, the population of Cirueña is now 100, although there were easily that many townhouses in town (many of which appeared deserted). Such a strange feeling.
We had a relatively short day today and ended after about 21km in Santo Domingo de Calzada. We stayed at a great albergue run by nuns, with a huge fireplace in the kitchen (with a wood fire!) and a lovely back yard. The town is named after Santo Domingo, who became a hermit in the 11th century after being rejected from the local monastery and subsequently dedicated his life to serving pilgrims. The cathedral in Santo Domingo is unique in one important respect. One of the miracles ascribed to Santo Domingo involves a family traveling on the Camino that stopped at a tavern in what is now the town of Santo Domingo de Calzada. The innkeeper’s daughter, apparently upset that the family’s son had rejected her advances, hid a silver goblet in the son’s bag and then accused him of theft. After being discovered, the son was hung as a thief and his parents continued to Santiago without him. On their return, the parents found their son still hanging and miraculously alive. They rushed to the sheriff’s house to ask that their son be cut down. The sheriff responded that their son was as alive as the cooked rooster that he was about to eat — at which point, the rooster stood up on his plate and crowed. In honor of this miracle, the cathedral in Santo Domingo has special dispensation to permanently house a chicken and rooster inside! For dinner, we joined a few other peregrinos from Slovenia and Canada who had found that they had cooked too much — so we added wine and ice cream to the mix and had a lovely meal.
Day Nine: Much of today’s walk was on pathways directly next to busy highways. We were able to escape a bit of it by taking an alternate, unmarked “green” route described in our book as we headed into Grañón. The route was peaceful and unmarred by the pilgrim masses that we’ve been seeing, but unfortunately it was only a small part of our day. During today’s walk we passed from the Rioja region (like the wine) to the region of Castilla y Leon, in which we will spend the majority of the Camino.
The end of today’s stage (according to our Brierley book) was supposed to be after 22km in Beldorado — and we had heard that two of the albergues in town even had pools! Despite the pools’ great attraction (it was really hot today), we continued on another 5km or so to Tosantos because I had read that the parish albergue there was known for its warm welcome and communal meal. I had hoped that this would be a nice change from the larger, less personal albergues that we had been staying in. So we passed up the pools. When we arrived in Tosantos, we were (not warmly) greeted at the albergue and were told all of the albergue’s rules before we registered. Amongst the normal rules (curfew, etc.) we were told that pilgrims were not permitted to leave before 7am in the morning. We had been leaving at around 6:30am most mornings and had already decided that we wanted to leave even earlier the next morning in hope of escaping the mid-day heat. This meant that 7am was a problem. Additionally, it appeared that the communal meal also involved extensive communal preparation — which was a problem, because I woke up this morning sneezing like crazy (I’ll blame Michael, who now feels fine, even though he never sneezed). So we ended up going to the other (private) albergue in (the very, very small) town instead. The facilities there ended up being great and we enjoyed good company hanging out on the front patio area. I did discover my first mini-blister on my big toe — it’s tiny and I only found it based on visual inspection. Hopefully it doesn’t develop into anything further.
Day Ten: We made it out of the albergue a bit earlier than usual this morning (around 6am) and enjoyed walking for a short while prior to dawn. We’ll take waking up early to walk in the cool morning over the hot afternoons any day! We stopped briefly to eat our breakfast in the small town of Villafranca Montes de Oca. We had also hoped that because the town was along the road and is frequented by truckers we would be able to find an ATM, but no luck. We were told that the next ATM on the Camino is in Burgos (about 40km down the road, and we didn’t see an ATM along the Camino yesterday either) — which meant that unless we could find a place that accepted credit cards, we’d have to be very careful about our food purchases until then.
Following Villafranca Montes de Oca (not to be confused with the other “Villafranca” later on the Camino), we started our ascent for the day. As we climbed, I heard the familiar sounds of a cockoo clock coming from the surrounding forrest. I never realized how accurately the clock captured the sound of the birds (who, incidentally, don’t stop after 12 cockoos)! At the top of the climb, we passed the Monumento de los Caidos, which marks the shallow graves of unidentified individuals executed during the Spanish civil war. Over the next few kilometers, we were assaulted by a huge mass of flying black bugs that looked like a cross between a giant mosquito and wasp. They were so bad that we couldn’t talk or otherwise open our mouths for fear that they would fly in!
Later, as we passed through San Juan de Ortega, we caught our first glimpse of a dog walking along the Camino. We decided that the dog was a “perrogrino” — a combo between “perogrino” (for pilgrim) and “perro” (for dog). We caught up with the dog and owner a bit further down the road and learned that they were indeed planning on walking all the way to Santiago, but are taking it slowly. Because we started early and didn’t stop much during the day, we arrived in our destination of Atapuerca before noon and had to wait for the albergue to open. During this time, I solved our cash shortage by finding a bar/restaurant nearby that accepted credit cards (so what if we ended up with frozen pizzas, it was a nice change of pace) — it’s crazy what a cash economy the Camino is!
Day Eleven: Today we had a short(ish) walk into Burgos. Last night, we booked a hotel in Burgos for tonight in order to avoid standing in line for the municipal albergue (since we’d likely arrive before it opened) and because of predictions of rain. And rain it did. At first lightly and then it poured as we passed the airport on an alternate route into the city. Our shoes and shorts were quickly soaked (we only have rain jackets and pack covers). The heavy rain continued as we took a second alternate route through a riverside park in order to avoid walking through the city outskirts. This park was much less groomed and more wild/natural than the park approach into Pamplona, although was still popular amongst runners and local bike groups (even in the rain). Luckily, the rain let up and the sun even came out by the time we entered the historic center of Burgos. We were largely dry by the time that we got to our hotel and parted ways with the Seattle couple and Aussie that we’d been walking and chatting with off and on throughout the day. First stop in Burgos was a cafe with amazing hot chocolate (the super thick kind you eat with a spoon) before heading toward the cathedral. We were greeted at the cathedral by speakers blaring “I Will Survive” — apparently the plaza was being used in connection with the race that we’d seen while entering the city. There’s nothing quite like walking past a race and having the runners yell “buen camino” at you! The cathedral itself was beautiful, but was unfortunately accompanied by the most boring audioguide that went into extraneous and honestly uninteresting details about the origins of each side chapel.
Later in the afternoon, we visited the Evolution Museum (where we got a discount for being a pilgrim — don’t think too hard about that one!). The museum houses many of the important artifacts found at an archeological site near Atapuerca (where we stayed last night). These human remains and artifacts have been used to place homo sapiens in Europe much earlier than originally predicted. The portion of the museum addressing these local sites was very interesting and well displayed. Unfortunately, by the end of the visit, my ankle was acting up and all of a sudden walking became extremely painful for no apparent reason (just what I do not need to accompany my cold). Fingers crossed that it will feel much better in the morning!