Distance walked: 22.7km
I left Viana and its resident population of 3,500 in the early hours the next morning.
After a short walk the previous day and an afternoon of rest, I felt physically stronger. My new shoes allowed my feet to feel wonderfully cushioned, and my clothes were newly washed and dried. I felt good to go!
My fellow pilgrim and I walked in the early morning light, with the sound of the gravel trail crunching beneath our feet. There wasn’t much to say in the early hours and neither of us had eaten yet, so we enjoyed the quiet. I kept pace with her for most of the 10km to Logroño and there, we stopped in a café bar for breakfast, while the cathedral bells beside us rang out for early morning mass.
We feasted on several rounds of coffee and tea, and gorged ourselves on sticky pastries and savoury tapas, draped in roasted, sweet peppers. Wonderfully, the guy behind the bar offered us glasses of wine at the early hour of 11am. The two of us were in a giddy mood and would have loved the chance to sit drinking vino, while people bustled their way to work. We were tempted, but we playfully declined.
Walking the Camino sort of normalises early-morning drinking. Back in the “real world” you’d look like an alcoholic to open a bottle of wine at 10am but on Camino, the attitude is different. When you’re up at 6am and have walked a few hours already, a beer or wine at 10-11am seems entirely reasonable!
Personally, I liked to wait until 12 or 1pm to have my wine. It was probably a psychological ploy to convince myself that drinking in the afternoon was less shocking than drinking in the morning – but you know, the results would probably have been the same either way!
On the far side of town, we bumped into 2 Canadian ladies we hadn’t seen since Zabaldika. One of them had just bought a new pair of hiking shoes and like me, was breaking them in while she walked.
She’d travelled to Spain with a pair of sturdy hiking boots – a pair she’d owned for less than a year and had already broken in. The boots had been the correct size to begin with, but her feet had swollen in the heat and with the exertion of daily walking.
This is normal for Camino.
The steep descent of the Pyrenees had caused her toes to press against the front of her boots for hours on end. This had led to bruising and blisters so by the time she reached Logroño, her toe nails were starting to fall off.
She’d just purchased a pair of lightweight walking shoes and had abandoned her boots back in the city.
“My husband will kill me!” she said, knowing the €200 boots would never be seen again.
She didn’t care at all – those boots were killing her toenails and they were too heavy to mail home: let some other pilgrim make use of them.
And she practically skipped her way out of the city, along the tree-lined pavements, and out into the open countryside!
I gently separated myself from the group to walk on ahead, alone, for a few hours. That afternoon, I passed through miles of vineyards where the soil was truly reddish-brown, and gave its name to the regional wine: Rioja. Funny how I’ve drunk it for years without ever really considering its origins. Only then, walking through the region and watching the red soil cover my fresh new shoes and socks, I realised that all of these things I consume each day, have an origin.
I know this, of course. I buy organic vegetables in farmer’s markets and I read the labels on things. I know where my food comes from.
But I don’t really consider what that place looks like or smells like.
I don’t really consider just how far my food travels before it appears on my supermarket shelf, and just how exotic it is to have global food available at arm’s reach.
When I bought Rioja wine at home, I never imagined that I would one day walk through that very region – maybe even the very vineyards that produced the bottled goodness.
And yet, there I was – happily plodding along, putting one foot in front of the other, and breathing in the smell of earth, vines, and live, growing grapes. How utterly exotic and yet, from a Spanish perspective, how utterly normal.
Truly, a gift experience.
When I arrived in Navarette later that day, I was thrilled to get a bed in the main albergue. It holds only 40 pilgrims and was the only albergue in town to run on a first-come, first-serve basis. All the others were privately owned and were probably already booked up.
Getting a bed in the main albergue, early in the day, felt like a new pattern for me.
Unlike previous days, I’d covered quite a bit of distance without feeling defeated by the effort. The new shoes had transformed my walking experience and I was in an unusual position:
I’d just walked nearly 23km but felt like I could go on further.
I booked myself into the hostel and asked the staff if they could reserve a bed for my fellow pilgrim, who was somewhere behind me on the trail. They spoke no English and I had only a spattering of Spanish but we managed to come to some agreement:
They would keep a bed for her, but only for another 2 hours. If she didn’t arrive by then, they’d have to give the bed to someone else.
Fair enough, I thought, that sounds like a reasonable deal.
I paid my fee, they stamped my pilgrim passport, and I made my way upstairs to find a bed.