Najera – population 8500 – 18kms
After enjoying a hearty breakfast we left Naverette for the 18km walk to Najera. With the morning sun shinning and a cool breeze the weather was perfect. It seemed the really hot days had abated making walking conditions more tolerable. As we walked out of town the streets were lined with replicas of ancient water containers that pilgrims of yesteryear carried.
Walking through vineyards with vines full of grapes we were lucky enough to come across a farmer wandering through his vines who offered Ian a bunch of plump grapes, yum.
Leaving the vineyards behind the track lead us to a busy highway. The fast pace of the traffic was rather unsettling as we had become accustomed to the serenity and tranquility of the countryside.
Putting one foot in front of the other we eventually arrived on the outskirts of Najera. A long walk through the old part of town eventually had us arriving into the busy newer section of town. After spending a considerable amount of time on the telephone trying to locate our accommodation, the language barrier was overcome and we eventually walked through the front door of Pension Calle Major. Trudging up 4 levels of stairs we collapsed through the door landing on the bed grumbling about our room always being on the 4th or 5th level!!! A very basic room with shared bathroom with the convenience of a laundry and kitchen was a bonus. With clothes washed and hung out to flap in the the breeze we headed off to explore the town. Gift shops, clothing shops and outdoor shops had our attention before wandering off in search of a cafe. With great views of the parkland and river frontage we enjoyed a relaxed lunch.
Finding a supermarket we shopped to stock up on a few supplies as heading into the weekend there would be limited shops open. Later we met up with Dorothy and Ken and enjoyed a very peaceful time in the gardens over looking the river.
Taking advantage of the kitchen facilities at the accommodation, Ian cooked a scrumptious dinner. Dining on the on the balcony we watched the sun slip away for the day, what away to finish the day. However not everything was peaceful as the bathroom was shared between guests and with no lock on the door and the shower head falling off its stand, a few anxious moments were experienced!!! Having survived, I was soon tucked under the covers looking forward to a solid nights sleep. Well that was short lived as around 2am our sleep was disturbed. Peering out the window a large group of people were marching through the streets banging on drums for about an hour, we have no idea what it was all about.
Santo Domingo Calzada – population 6600 – 20kms
With head torches throwing light we left the town before the sun was up. As we trekked through farmlands the fields were being prepared for planting. The acreage was huge and surprisingly no fences or farm houses. We assumed the farmers lived in the towns.
For awhile I walked with Jill who was walking the Camino with her husband Andrew. Originally from New Zealand they moved to Queensland a few years ago. Being a nurse, Jill and I had plenty to chat about as we continued along.
Arriving at our accommodation I was most relieved to have an ensuite, no need to be anxious about a stranger walking in!!! Once sorted we wandered into the cafe hub and enjoyed afternoon tea with Ev and Gary, pastors from a church in Melbourne.
Heading off to the cathedral we were intrigued by the story that related to the significance of two live chickens that are penned within the church. The story is a long one so best to google ‘Saint Domingo Calzada cathedral’ and read all about it. The historical artifacts where amazing to look at, such artistic flare by people of centuries ago. The actual intricate carvings on the ceilings and pillars were beautiful.
Before heading back to our accommodation, hotel El Corregdor we went in search of a restaurant to dine in for dinner. Plenty of people were seated at a pizza venue so we pulled up a chair. Olivia and Cathy from USA were seated on the next table and were on for a good chat with plenty of questions about the land downunder. Olivia was walking with her 27 yr old autistic nephew, Brown. Brown was loving the walk but had Olivia on her toes to keep up with his pace. With dinner enjoyed we wandered back to the hotel for some shut eye as another days walking awaited us.
Belorado – population 2000 – 20kms
Stepping outside a much cooler overcast day greeted us. We made our way to the cafe for breakfast before venturing into a small church in the courtyard. In comparison to the elaborate cathedral that we visited the day before this church was beautifully simple. After some time on our knees in prayer we departed the town and very quickly found ourselves walking through farmlands and a few small villages. Down the track we bumped into Ev and Gary. Unfortunately for Ev she was carrying a few nasty blisters that had required medical attention. With no time to undertake some significant training in her new walking shoes prior to departing Australia, Ev was suffering the consequences and was hobbling along at snails pace.
Down the track a busker was perched roadside strumming his guitar and singing a few Elvis tunes. As it turned out he was busking his way along the Camino. His tambourine looked to have enough coins in it to ensure he would be fed and have a bed for the night.
Continuing along country roads it pretty much was one foot in front of the other. There was a section of highway walking with with trucks and cars flying past. In the distance we could see glimpses of Belorado. Approaching the edge of town a local, driving his big tractor had a stand off with a group of walkers who had no intention of moving off the road. In the end the tractor won as the driver held his ground right to the end which had the walkers jumping into the side cutting.
Our accommodation was right on the edge of town so no searching for ‘A Santiago Hotel’. Private rooms, albergue dormitory rooms, cafe, mini mart, laundry facility, outdoor area and swimming pool, it was all here. I settled nicely into the room with no intentions to be undertaking any further walking but Ian was eager to head off and explore the village and historic castle ruins.
The evening meal was shared with Heidi, a solo walker from Sweden.. With blessings from her husband and children Heidi set out on her journey seeking direction for the next stage in her life. For us the next stage of our life was back to our room to get organized before collapsing into bed for hopefully a good nights sleep.
San Juan de Ortega – population 20 – 25kms
As we expected the walk out of town was long as we weaved our way through the quiet streets, far to early for the locals to be up and about. On the outskirts of town some major road works where being done causing quite a bit of confusion as no Camino signage was in place. Ian was able to navigate the way much to the relief of many walkers following behind. Nothing eventful about the walk as the track continued through the peaceful countryside. Arriving at Villafranca we were amused by a woman wandering around the streets with a parrot on a lead!!! Stumbling on a very nice restaurant we took shelter from the heat of the day and enjoyed lunch. Heidi wasn’t far behind and joined us.
We chatted to a young couple with a toddler in a pram, they were undertaking a two week stint on the Camino. The thought of pushing a stroller over some of the rough terrain that we had walked exhausted me just thinking about it.
Leaving Heidi to wander into town to find accommodation for the night we skirted around the town walking into a forest along a challenging undulating gravel road. Pausing, Ian read the monument in remembrance of the people executed in the Spanish civil war.
Feeling rather sapped of energy and looking for a break we came across a woman set up with cold drinks and fruit for sale, as they say the Camino provides. Sitting on a log in the shade of the trees we certainly enjoyed the refreshments and the delicious home grown peaches.
Walking out of the forest into arid and very rocky landscape made the last kilometers exhausting as there was no shelter from the sun. We were very glad to see Casa La Henera appear. All that existed was the Casa, an albergue, cafe/bar and church. Many of these smaller villages along the Camino route cater very well for the Camino walker. After booking in for dinner at the cafe we wandered over to the church. With the service in progress we slipped into the back pews. The church was a simple structure with the priest delivering heartfelt message. On completion of the service the priest invited us all to the alter where he prayed over crosses. Upon placing the cross around each individuals neck he prayed for each person in turn. He then directed us to light a white candle for purity and a purple candle for grace. Yes all very symbolic but very deep and meaningful leaving us feeling spiritually uplifted. Wandering over to the courtyard we engaged with others sharing tales that had been encountered along the way.
With 7 pm ticking around we were ushered into the cafe. Seated with Heather and Mick who we had first met in Puente la Reina and Olivia and Cathie who we met a few days ago we were eager to tuck into a wholesome meal. The waiter instructed us of a thirty minute time limit to eat and be left by 7.30 pm in readiness for the 7.30pm sitting. There was no menu just a set 3 course menu, too bad if it wasn’t to your tasting. It was actually rather hilarious.
Burgos – population 180,000 – 27kms
After a solid nights sleep we woke early for the 26km hike into Burgos, with a rest day scheduled in Burgos we were eager to reach our destination. Burgos is known for the history of El Cid, the 11th century military commander with his tomb resting in the chapel of St. Marys cathedral.
Continuing on through arid landscape over undulating terrain certainly had some challenging moments. We were saddened to come across a cow that had slipped in between the bars of a cattle grid. Two farmers were desperately attempting to free the beast, whether they were successful or not we don’t know but it was awful to witness the distress of the beast.
Walking into the village of Ages we stopped at the cafe. Ian left me seated outside whilst he went in to place the order. He returned laughing informing me we might be lucky to receive any food as the couple behind the counter were in the midst of a disagreement and didn’t stopped arguing despite Ian waiting to be served. The woman then went on to inform Ian of the terrible man her husband was before taking his order. Regardless the food was delicious.
Cathie and Olivia arrived terrible upset regarding the cow situation with Heather and Mick arriving soon after. Mick who had undergone surgery for a knee replacement a few months earlier had organized to catch a bus from the next town into Burgos. On hearing this Cathie decided to join Mick on the bus as she was in agony with her sore feet. A few kms down the track we waved Mick and Cathie farewell as the bus pulled out, I think we all wished we were on the bus bound for Burgos. The rest of us stragglers continued on. Olivia’s nephew, Brown was well ahead and Olivia only hoped he stopped at Burgos. Many people got to know Brown and kept a watchful eye on him.
Walking into Atapuerca we read about an excavation site of ancient human skeletal bones which are displayed at the Burgos museum. Stopping at Cruz de Matagrande where a labyrinth of stones laid we all added a stone before continuing on slowly, yes we were tired. Entering the beautiful parkland we followed the river into the city centre. Bidding Heather farewell as she went off in search of Mick whilst Olivia made phone calls to Brown and Cathie. Luckily our accommodation was easily found. After a shower, believe me the water cascading over my tired body was heavenly, we headed off in search of a laundry. We just had a quick look around town before enjoying a meal at a lovely restaurant then it was into bed for a well earned sleep. It had been a challenging day emotionally and physically.
On waking it was ‘Happy birthday to Ian’……61, what away to spend a birthday. After our hectic time on the track we enjoyed a sleep in before wandering around this big city with a population of 180,000. Whilst out and about Heidi walked into town, amazing how you could bump into someone in the midst of thousands of people. A family of 4 walking the Camino wandered into the city. Mum and Dad with two children under 12yrs. Apart from all carrying backpacks they had a buggy that was well loaded up.
Back at the accommodation we sorted our messy backpacks out and made some changes to our itinerary that would have us walking a few extra 30 km days. With all that sorted all that was left to do was go out to celebrate Ian’s birthday.
The yellow arrow to continue…..
Bernadette and Ian