Day 8 Los Arcos to Logrono
Today would be our longest day of walking so far so we decided to wake up early to avoid too much of the midday sun, except that when we woke up, Hyungbai had disappeared and all the other pilgrims had left earlier than us. We rushed to get ready and leave the albergue into the darkness. Although very long, the beginning wasn't so difficult and we even stopped at a small cafe along the way to get a coffee and croissant- a routine these days. We continued on towards Viana which was a long way through vineyards and hills and once we reached there, we stopped for lunch and a beer. We met some of the other pilgrims there and then set off again on the last leg of 11km to Logroño. The heat was starting to set in but I was so thankful to have some good beats on my phone to keep me occupied. My feet started to hurt towards the last stretch but I somehow hobbled towards the city and eventually reached the parish albergue with Allande. Here we reunited with Hyungbai and the other Korean guys and not long after the rest of our friends arrived. The albergue only had 36 beds so they had the choice to sleep on mats on the top floor which they accepted and which seemed more appealing than the beds in the first place. Tonight we will prepare a communal dinner together with the owners, go to a pilgrim mass in Spanish and then eat dinner together after this at the albergue. I don't think I've been to church this much since I was a child. I didnt know then, but this evening would go down in our camino history, and give us many laughs about the priest that hated me.
Day 9 Logrono to Najera
Today our Korean friends woke up at 4:30am and headed off on the almost 30km hike to Najera. We woke up at 5:15 and we set off around 6am along with most of the others from the albergue. Walking out of Logroño city the directions were hard to come by and we noticed the yellow arrows we were used to seeing on random trees and footpaths, weren't around. We followed the more official signs which weren't so obvious but finally we got on track and left the city through a park and lake area. We walked a surprisingly quick 12km to Navarette where we sat and had our usual breakfast with our friends who were either there or just arrived. After breakfast we walked another 12km or so on long dusty roads passed vineyards. The scenery wasn't anything too spectacular but the vineyards were peaceful. We stopped at a picnic area and ate our home made sandwich from the cafe and snacks but were out of water with no fountain in sight. After testing one tired feet and readjusting our shoes, socks, bandaids, sandals and applying tiger balm, we continued for the last leg to Najera. When we finally entered the area it seemed like we were close it to realise it was a long long road into the city and to the albergue. The town was pretty with a river running through it, a bridge and bright green grass on which people lay. After checking in to the cosy hostel, we did our laundry (much needed) and went out for some food. I'll never forget going for a kebab with Hyungbai and him getting so dissatisfied when he got the kebab he ordered with extra meat but with no salad (or vegetables as he called it) he couldn't understand that he had asked for that. His humour made my day every day even when he didn't realise it. We socialized with new friends and 'old' friends by the river before retiring back to the hostel and planned to sleep in tomorrow for the first time because afterall we ONLY had 20km to do. You know you're getting stronger when you say things like that.
Day 10 Najera to Santo Domingo 20km
Today, to me was the easiest day of the journey so far, for many reasons. Firstly the weather was in our favour, blowing a soft wind with a cool temperature, secondly, the terrain was basically just a long dirt road the whole way with not many ascents or descents and thirdly because today was 'only' a 20km distance. You know you're killing it when you say things like 'only 20km' To be honest after 20km my feet start to kill me but up until then, I'm darting along. We all went at our own pace and took two relatively long breaks for breakfast and a liquid lunch (which is common among us pilgrims in Spain).
Day 11 Santo Domingo to Bellorado
Today the scenery was quite impressive as we left the La Rioja region. At the first village everything was closed except a delicious cookie bakery which we of course had to try out. The view today was beautiful as the sun rose behind us and as we and the rolling green hills dotted with sunflowers. We had a quick lunch and met the rest of the group who weren't far behind. After another quick break at a playground (so fun), we took the last 5km to Belorado where we checked in to a super cool albergue with a lush garden and pool. The afternoon was spent sun bathing and enjoying each others company while catchy music played around us. This was one of my best days so far, but I say that every time. That evening we had a lovely meal together and talked about the days adventures and reflections. I absolutely loved the people around me and was so thankful for their presence every day.
Day 12 Bellorado to Ages 25km
Today we had a big communal breakfast at our albergue to start us up for the day. We had planned to walk to San Juan de Ortega and then decide whether to walk further to the next town or not. We stopped for a quick juice along the way at our 'second breakfast' stop as we came to know it now. Later we continued uphill through a beautiful forest until we came to a hippy community set up, selling food and drinks by donation. They had hammocks which everyone chilled in and a relaxed atmosphere which was so welcomed by us. From there we came to San Juan de Ortega where I had a 70c glass of wine (couldn't believe it) and then decided to continue a few Kms more to Ages which meant we had less to walk to the city of Burgos tomorrow. Here we stayed at a lovely albergue and had a delcious communal dinner once again al fresco.
Day 13 Ages to Burgos 23km
Today I saved a cat's life (his head was stuck through a fence), ate the best Spanish tortilla and donated my beloved hiking boots which were weighing me down (practicing non attachment, which didnt last very long as i took them back eventually). 'The way' began slightly uphill along a dirt path and the rest of the way was a mix of picturesque country roads, gravel paths and eventually a never ending promenade entering Burgos. The view of the magnificent cathedral in Burgos was enough to make me forget my tired and pained feet (for a moment) and the feeling of a fresh shower and fresh laundry reminded me never to take anything for granted. We have now walked over 300km I can't get my head around it.... Here we would begin to meet some new pilgrims who would start in Burgos. Along the way we would go on to meet more new pilgrims beginning in some of the major cities further along the camino.
Day 14 Burgos to Hontanos
Today proved to be a different day to the rest, a more challenging one for me. By the end of the day it left me thinking about the struggles we go through in life and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, just one of the lessons the Camino teaches us. Yes I was frustrated, my feet were in terrible pain, I cursed a lot and hated being in that moment wondering why I had chosen to do this but at the end, it's all worth it and it's all in the mind afterall. The first half of the day was perfect, slow and steady, passing by sunflowers and eventually leaving Burgos city. We stopped after 10km for a quick breakfast and continued on to Hornillos de Camino where we had a delicious lunch at a restaurant run by a Northern Irish lady we had met handing out cherries along the trail. We had a very different type of pilgrim menu even consisting of various vegetarian options, which me Christin and Vicente were happy about. It was here that we debated whether to stay in this town or continue on for 10km more. We decided to continue, not thinking about the intense heat of the day and the lack of shelter, and basically the reality of 10kms more. The struggle was real walking in the afternoon heat with no shade and a neverending path leading into nowhere. Finally we made it to Hontanas where Andrea greeted us and this also meant that we are almost halfway to Santiago.