I am reluctant to go backward, but I also don’t want to miss an accounting of some earlier days, and I’ll try to catch up more quickly in the next few days, so here goes:
Tuesday, September 10, 2013 Torres del Rio to Logroño to Navarette
Today I have an errand agenda – twofold. I am concerned that I will not get to Burgos by the date I have put on the package I sent to myself from St. Jean Pied-de-Port. The next real city is Logroño, 20 km. from Torres del Rio, and the other errand precludes me from walking . . . my boots are not cooperating with any consistency, and I would like to buy some hiking sandals as a “foot relief” purchase. I see at the reception for my albergue that there is a bus from Torres del Rio to Logroño at 9:00 a.m. Perfect!
The bus was very efficient, and full of pilgrims who are only walking a few patches of the Camino. I sit in the first row, since I am notoriously motion sick, and immediately hear, “HEY, JOANNE!”
If you are reading this, you know how much I hate being called Joanne, since my name is Joannah. I ignore the call, until it comes again. I turn around and see a woman I vaguely recognize from a few days ago. She must have recognized my Tilly hat. Sigh. I wave and settle in again, facing front. The bus takes about 30 minutes to get to Logroño and delivers all of its passengers (and backpacks) to the central bus terminal in the middle of the city.
Soon armed with a map, marked for the main post office as well as a shoe store, I set off. At the Post Office, I am amused (and relieved) to see a young couple struggling with their enormous packs, trying to fill a postal box with some of their belongings to send home to Germany. Americans (and oldish ones, at that) are not the only ones who bring too much. The only English-speaking postal worker is gracious and tremendously helpful. Someone calls the Burgos Correos (P.O) and tells me that Burgos will hold the package until September 21. No matter how slowly I go, I’ll be there before then. I leave, relieved.
On the way to the shoe store, I see an actual mini-omelette for sale at a bar. Yes, it is encased in the requisite half baguette, but still . . . eggs! I step in and with the plate and a cafe con leche, I find a table outside on the sidewalk and revel in the first real breakfast I’ve had in two weeks.
Then on to the shoe shopping, though after three stores, I am unsuccessful. The last store is a discount one, and I am afraid to buy a 20 Euro pair of sandals for this walk. The young employee says that if I have time, I might visit Planeta Aqua, and she shows me where it is on the map. She even calls the store, tells them what I am looking for, and asks whether they have a selection in my size. This is definitely above and beyond the call of duty. I thank her profusely, sorry I can’t purchase something from her shop.
The Planeta Aqua store is wonderful, as is the English-speaking young man who apparently answered the phone 20 minutes before. After a very efficient exchange, I purchase some red Teva hiking sandals, tie my hiking boots to my full pack and wear the new sandals out the door, over my 1000 Mile Fusion Socks, which I would NOT be without!
It is time to set off from Logroño to Navarette, where I am to have a reservation. I know this because the wonderful young man at the Planeta Aqua shoe store called the Albergue El Cantaro while I stood next to him, showing him the correct phone number. This is not always a guarantee, apparently. But more on this when I arrive in Navarette.
I begin my walk through the streets of Logroño, winding gently into and out of lovely city parks, all the way out of town. For several kilometers into the countryside, this park-like concrete path offers both stability (unlike the patches of old Roman Road) and a hellish effect on the body. Each type of path is a mixed bag, but for now, I’d rather have meandering concrete than this:
The Camino walkers are moving from Basque/Nararra country to La Rioja, a famous wine district, so the occasional small vineyards become large ones, with evidence of lovely winery buildings spread among the vineyard properties.
I can see the various ages of the vines, from the stringy brand new ones waiting to get up their courage, to the middle-aged plants, strung on metal stem and wire as we are used to seeing them, with their lovely wide green leaves touching one another arm in arm like a vineyard solidarity parade. And then there are the old vines in two stages, as far as I can see. Old and decrepitly spectacular. The trunks are actual woody stumps carefully trimmed back so that just the best leaves, the most compact grape clusters push the best fruit, to make better wine. Neil could describe this much better than I.
I finally can resist the temptation no longer and reach over to pluck a not-quite ripe purple, juicy marble of a grape. Delicious! I can nearly taste the wine in my glass, though I don’t know what wine these grapes will ultimately make.
The segment to Navarette is easy and uneventful, but about 5 km before my destination town, I am joined by Frankie and Eugie, “The Flans”, i.e. the Flanagan brothers. Irish, of course, and delightful company. Eugie has the less trim frame and a blondish, disheveled pony tail. Frankie’s hair is cropped quite short and is the thinner of the brothers. They have a third traveling partner who took the bus to Navarette because of a pulled muscle or some other sort of injury. The friend has saved The Flans two spaces at the same Albergue at which the Planeta Aqua guy reserved my room. As we walk, Eugie is looking for a big black metal bull standing on top of a hill somewhere. We finally do see it, and it’s a photo-op moment, of course. Then we go merrily down a small hill to our Albergue El Cantaro, ready to shower and settle in. At least I am. I think these Irish brothers will have a bit of partying in mind with their friend.
Except that when we all arrive, there is no reservation for me and there are no more beds. “Completo.” The owners, an older couple, have no English, and there is a young woman in the reception area who tries to translate for us, saying that the man in Logroño called this albergue while I was standing next to him with the number. But no, no reservation,
The owner finally says that since the last two people who have reservations have not shown up yet and it’s 5:30, he will give me one of the beds. I take it gratefully, and it is even a bottom bunk!
It is very tired out tonight, and after a solo meal down a long courtyard and alley, I crawl into my bed. A Dutch couple, Elma and Matthé are also in the room, and I will share a bunk room with them several more times.
The Flans are nowhere to be seen, but by 10:00, closing time for most albergues, they come in and try to be quiet in the dark. At about 2:00 a.m. there is a sound in the room, like an entire bottle of water spilling to the floor from a top bunk. At first I thought someone was drunk and peeing off the high bed, but no bladder could hold that much liquid. Finally those of us who awakened for this impromptu “glug-glug” concert can hear the “POP!” of an empty plastic bottle hitting the floor and then silence.
Welcome to albergue living. We all go back to sleep.