Current location: Navarrete, Rioja
Distance covered: 178.5 km
Distance to Santiago: about 600km
We have been walking on average 20 km a day for over a week. We usually start at about 6:30 – 7:00 and don’t stop until 2:30 – 3:00 in the afternoon. Any earlier and it’s too dark to recognise the Camino markings indicating the way. Any later and you will grill under the Spanish sun like a sweaty little chorizo.
Every day is singular in its colours, sounds, smells and tastes, yet similar in its pilgrim’s routine.
You wake up on a bunk bed surrounded by tired souls. The day breaks not with the sun, but with the eager shuffle of sleeping bags being stuffed into dusty backpacks.
The more serious walkers, some with tight deadlines, leave before dawn, the rest of us enjoy the extra hour of horizontal bliss.
Every morning you reinvent the wheel when it comes to the arrangement of your backpack… It is a science to pack it in such a way that the vital is accessible, the fragile safe and the “just washed last night and still damp” carefully hanging to dry on the side.
Most hostels offer breakfast which often consists of toast, jam, fruit and… The quintessential cafe con leche…
The day then unfolds in a soft sequence of stunning natural beauty, historically rich little villages, new acquaintances and the assured progressive swelling of your tired feet.
The Spanish sun is unforgivingly hot and quickly browns all exposed areas. The feet become sore and blisters abound. The legs and knees slowly get used to the new rhythm of the day, but still, each night the albergues’ (hostels) floors resonate with uneven and painful limps.
Some walk for 20km a day, some do up to 40… Whatever your strength, each Caminadore arrives at the hostel exhausted, limping, drenched in sweat and heading straight for the cold relief of a shower. Then lotions, potions, blister care and off to the garden to wash and put up your laundry. Limiting excess weight of your backpack demands minimum gear – especially clothes. So washing is done daily. The hot Spanish sun dries it all in a couple of hours.
Second to the shower in importance for the daily reward is the pilgrim’s dinner, often offered at a discount for about 10 euros at the hostel or in local restaurants. I knew the food would be good, but never expected such indulgence… All topped off with the best local wine!
Finally, at about 9 pm, with snore-reducing earplugs securely in, we drift off into vivid dreams and solid nights of sleep… You know, the kind you would imagine after 7-8 hours of walking in fresh air, surrounded by nature’s abundant gifts… In essence, a deep and restful night setting the ground for another day on the path to Santiago.
The most amazing feeling in the world must be that of finding yourself in a foreign land, surrounded by unbelievably beautiful scenery, inhaling the pure countryside air, at the break of dawn, when everyone else is still asleep, but you are off on a journey. And to top it all off, you don’t know what the next 20km hold, where you will sleep and who you will meet.
In essence, you follow a narrow path into the unknown, knowing only that you will love and forever remember every stretch of its mystery.
But save yourself the blisters and take the journey by having a look at some pics I took along the Way.
It is not a myth… There is a wine fountain on the Camino!