Archives

Blog 2008-11

Latest weather

BUBO Listing www.bubo.org

Nature Blogs

UK & Eire Natural History Bloggers

Subscribe

It's easy to subscribe to email updates, just enter your email address below and then whenever my blog is updated you'll receive an email. Rest assured that it's just as easy to unsubscribe if you get fed up with my ramblings!

Recent Comments

Hebridean Imaging

Hebridean Imaging

25th September, Camino de Santiago, Azofra to Santo Domingo de Calzada, 15.2km

A pleasant but felt like a long walk to the very bizarre small town of Cirueña – the first cafe stop of the day. Cirueña seems to be made up of deserted housing developments which surround the Rioja Alta Campo de golf, where precisely one person was on the golf course.

Met Walter from Tasmania at the bar. He has cystic fibrosis and is raising funds as he walks the Camino.

Sarah and I had decided against the detour to Cañas which would have taken up one whole extra day. On reaching Santo Domingo de Calzada we enquired at the Abadía Cisterciense albergue and they had spare beds so we checked in. It’s located in the old part of town and run by Cistercian nuns, a donation of €5 and we have a room with 3 beds.

Wandered around the town, it has been declared a site of historic interest, there are some lovely buildings.

Camino de Santiago

Spanish shepherd

Camino de Santiago

One of my favourite views along the Way

Santo Domingo de Calzada, Camino de Santiago

Santo Domingo de Calzada

Santo Domingo de Calzada, Camino de Santiago

Fab stonework at Santo Domingo de Calzada

 

 

 

 

24th September, Camino de Santiago, Ventosa to Azofra, 16.9km

Woken at 6am to the sound of Grogorian chant music – better than a harsh alarm clock anyway! Ready to leave as it was getting light, Sarah had already left and it took me a while to catch up with her. Very pleasant walking through more vineyards and we reached the outskirts of Nájera quite early. We flopped at the first cafe/bar we found. No other peregrinos only locals.

The first highlight of our day was a huge supermarket. We were almost overwhelmed by the size and choice! I think my rucksack is 2kg heavier after the visit but at least I won’t be stuck for something to eat for a few days :-)

The path wound around the town, I think the local authorities purposely take the poor unsuspecting pilgrims on the “scenic route”.

Another hot day and I was happy to see the small town of Azofra appearing before me. The municipal hostel had beds for the night so we checked in there. It’s very pleasant with two beds per room and a COLD pool for soaking your poor weary feet in!

The second highlight of the day was the Lamborghini LOVE tractor parked outside the bar. It looked pretty ancient, a bit like it’s owner really.

We sat at the bar for at least an hour, 2 cafe solos, 1 agua con gas, 1 vino tinto. Perfect. Back to the hostel, a little lunch from the stash obtained from the giant supermarket (may as well lighten my load a little).

Wandered around town. Met a little old man who chatted with me in Spanish, welcomed me to Rioja and said it was a beautiful place and good wine, asked me where I was from and then wished me “Buen Camino”. How lovely :-)

Back at the hostel chatted with some guys from kent, one of which had walked the Butt to Barra and had loved it. Feeling very chilled out.

graffiti, Nájera, Camino de Santiago

Graffiti just outside Nájera

I believe the rough translation of this graffiti poem is:-

Dust and mud, sun and rain,
Such is the way to Santiago.
Thousands of pilgrims
And more than a thousand of years.
Pilgrim: who calls you?
What hidden power attracts you?
It’s not the field of stars
Nor the great cathedrals.

It is not the beauty of Navarra
Nor the wine of Rioja
Nor the seafood of Galicia
Nor the fields of Castilla

Pilgrim, who is it who calls you?
What unseen power attracts you?

Not the people of the camino
Nor their rural customs.
It is not the history nor the culture
Not the rooster of the Calzada
Nor the palace of Gaudi
Nor the castle of Ponferrada.

All that is seen in passing,
And it is a joy to see it all,
Is still less than the voice that calls
The feeling that is yet so much deeper.

The power that pushes me
The force that attracts me
I know not how to explain it.
Only He who is above understands it.

Nájera, Camino de Santiago

Nájera

menu del dia, Camino de Santiago

Still haven’t worked out what “Illustrated Salad” is yet…

Nájera, Camino de Santiago

Just outside Nájera. Not that far to go to Santiago then…

Azofra, Camino de Santiago

Municipal albergue, Azofra

Azofra, Camino de Santiago

Ah, bliss! Cool pool at the albergue

Azofra, Camino de Santiago

Room at Azofra, municipal albergue

Azofra, Camino de Santiago

Main street, Azofra

Azofra, Camino de Santiago, lamborghini LOVE tractor

Lamborghini LOVE tractor

Azofra, Camino de Santiago, tractor

Lamborghini LOVE tractor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23rd September, Camino de Santiago, Logroño to Ventosa, 20.4km

The walk out of Logroño was rather tedious, through the suburbs but after a while the route takes you through a lovely park with pine trees and a lake. Added both Great-crested and Little Grebes to my Camino bird list, plus Coot. Walked on my own for a while. Today was a little stressful walking – we wanted to stay in Ventosa and were unable to book so I didn’t stop in Navarette for coffee as I would have liked but headed onwards towards Ventosa.

Lovely scenery, through acres and acres of vineyards. Hot and Sunny! I eventually arrived at San Saturnino albergue at 12.20, a minute or so behind a French Canadian lady that i’d first met at Orisson. She was amazed to be the first person to arrive! The albergue didn’t open until 1pm so we sat in the street, removed our shoes and socks to let the air to our feet and ate. She still had cheese she’s bought from the van over the top of the Pyrenees.

San Saturnino is lovely and has a good cafe/bar around the corner where I ate later in the day for €6 – jamón, 2 types of chorizo and some cheese. Bought postcards. Sat in the garden in my shorts and relaxed.

Made a vow not to partake in the “race for a bed” again.

San Saturnino albergue, Ventosa, Camino de Santiago

The garden at San Saturnino albergue, Ventosa

 

22nd September, Camino de Santiago, Torres del Río to Logroño, 20.6km

Left the albergue just as it was getting light, it was forecast to be a hot day so I wanted to make good progress during the cooler part of the day. The scenery was, as it has been all the other days, stunning! A beautiful mosaic landscape of vineyards, olive groves and farmland. Met Philip the young German student who had such painfully bad feet when I last saw him in Zubiri – he was much better and striding along strongly – ah, the resilience of the young!

I wasn’t much looking forward to the walk into Logroño but it was, apart from a concreted stretch that was hard on the feet, very pleasant – unlike the way into Pamplona we didn’t have to walk through a busy suburban area.

Many vineyards on the outskirts – today I passed from Navarre into La Rioja region. The vines are festooned with grapes, an amazing sight :-)

Logroño was a couple of days into it’s annual wine harvest festival. Everywhere is buzzing. After Sarah and I checked into a hotel we went on a tapas and Rioja wine run – most excellent!

Over a glass of wine we calculated that our total walking is now over 100 miles :-)

Logroño, Camino de Santiago

Beautiful early morning light

Logroño, Camino de Santiago

Walking into the Rioja region

Yellow arrow, Logroño, Camino de Santiago

Yellow arrow, Logroño, Camino de Santiago

Logroño, Camino de Santiago

Logroño was buzzing, the wine festival was on. Lucky us! :-)

Logroño, Camino de Santiago

Logroño

 

 

 

 

21st september, Camino de Santiago, Los Arcos to Torres del Río, 8km

A rest day. We only walked 8km today. The walk to Sansol was very pleasant, the light was beautiful. A shepherd was moving his flock of sheep and goats. First coffee of the morning was at Sansol, chatting with an Irish guy who had achilles tendon problems and had been slowly and painfully hobbling along. For all his problems he seemed very happy and cheerful though.

As it was only a short day today we arrived at our destination, Torres del Río, quite early. We checked in at a private albergue, Casa Mari, and were given a room with just two bunk beds in, sharing with a Canadian and a Dutch lady. Roland also turned up, his feet are much better :-) We also chatted with a Czech guy who was walking the Camino with his jack russel and covering 40km a day!

We headed to the bar where a giant paella was being cooked. A local arrived with a big bag of ripe figs and instructed us to share them with the other peregrinos. How very kind.

Lovely views from the upper balcony of the albergue, out across the fields, vineyards and olive groves. A quiet peaceful place.

Camino de Santiago

Moving the sheep and goats

Torres del Río, Camino de Santiago

Torres del Río

Santo Sepulchro, at Torres del Río, Camino de Santiago

The 12th century church, Santo Sepulchro, at Torres del Río

 

 

20th September, Camino de Santiago, Villatuerta to Los Arcos, 24.7km

Sadly we had to leave Casa Mágica. Near Estella it was cloudy and beginning to sprinkle so I broke out my waterproof jacket for the first time. The light shower lasted all of 5 minutes!

I reached the wine fountain at Irache to find that it was empty! :-( Thankfully last night Simone had given us pilgrims a bottle to share so we had, at least, tasted it.

At Irache the path splits – the choices are (i) a longer, flatter route to Los Arcos or (ii) a shorter, more scenic route. I decided on the scenic route. Sarah decided on the longer route as her feet were still painful and she didn’t fancy the up and down of the scenic route. It would also give her the choice of stopping short and staying in Villamayor de Monjardín if she was in too much pain to carry on.

The scenic route took me up through the woods and I enjoyed walking on my own for ages. The path followed farm tracks through lovely fields with views to the hills. Not for the first time I found myself wandering along with a rather silly smile on my face, feeling happy and light, enjoying each moment, each sight, sound and smell as it came along. Once again the wayside flowers and butterflies were beautiful.

I found a bar in the middle of nowhere, a place called Luquín, the couple of pilgrims at the bar easily outnumbered by locals :-) A good sit down, coffee and water and I felt much refreshed and continued on my way. The day warmed considerably as it went on. The farm tracks wound through the fields and it’s really great to be away from the roads and traffic. I sat by a sign that said Los Arcos 5.7km, had a drink and took my shoes off to give my feet some fresh air. Bliss :-) After a while I trudged onwards. A praying mantis stepped out in front of me and we stared at each other for a while.

Rather worryingly I could see no sign of Los Arcos in the distance but I seemed to be on the right path. By the time I saw the Los Arcos town sign my feet were hot and aching but thankfully there were chairs and tables outside a vending machine stop. Enjoyed an ice cold Coke Zero. I texted Sarah to tell her I had arrived. She replied to say that she had taken the scenic route after all and wasn’t far behind me. After a while I gathered all my energy and put my pack back on and headed into town. I stopped at the first albergue, an Austrian run establishment to see if they had two beds. Yes. Thank goodness. I must have looked knackered, the kind hospitalera removed the pack from my back and showed me to the room.

Later on in the evening after Sarah and I had rested and done some washing we walked the short distance to the town square. There were lots of pilgrims and it was lovely to meet up with some of our first night, Orisson buddies. Brent and Sylvie, Steve and Elena, and the three older American guys. Glasses of wine, coffee and a long chat.

Camino de Santiago, wine fountain, Irache

The (empty) wine fountain at Irache.

Camino de Santiago

Definitely the scenic route!

Camino de Santiago

Looking towards Monjardín

Camino de Santiago

Walking through the farmland

Camino de Santiago

Just keep following the yellow arrows…

 

 

 

 

19th September, Camino de Santiago, Obanos to Villatuerta, 20.5km

A cool start to the morning and an easy walk, 2.3km, to the Puente la Reina (Queen’s Bridge) where we crossed the impressive six arch bridge across the rio Arga. The days walk was undulating but through some gorgeous countryside – farmland, small fields, olive groves and vineyards. the small towns were so beautiful. One such being Cirauqui, which I could see from quite some distance is a medieval hilltop village with narrow streets and a pleasure to walk through.

I stopped for coffee at Lorca where there are two albergues and sat and had coffee. The wind was getting up but the sun was shining. There is still a fair trail of walking wounded and as I sat and enjoyed my coffee a taxi arrived to ferry two footsore pilgrims away to the nearest town. Sarah and I considered staying the night here but the highly recommended Casa Mágica drew us forward.

Villatuerta is a quiet town and I found Casa Mágica easily. It looked quite ordinary from the outside but on entering the ancient doorway I received a very warm welcome from the lovely owner Simone. She told me that parts of this house are over 600 years old! The stone floor is incredible and all the ceilings have beams. The room Sarah and I are in has just 5 beds. There are no bunks here. Outside on the terrace are hammocks for relaxing in. Bliss! This place is amazing, I could stay a week! We were both delighted when Roland and Heidi arrived too. Great place to stay, good company. What more can one ask in life?!

Camino de Santiago, Puente la Reina

Puente la Reina

Camino de Santiago, Cirauqui

Cirauqui

Camino de Santiago!

Grapes growing in the vineyards we passed along the Way

Casa Mágica, Villatuerta, the very best albergue on the Camino de Santiago!

Casa Mágica, Villatuerta, the very best albergue on the Camino de Santiago!

 

 

 

18th September, Camino de Santiago, Pamplona to Obanos, 21.7km

We bid farewell to our comfy hotel room at 7.30am. It was just beginning to get light outside and we shouldered our rucksacks and headed out of town – joining the steady stream of peregrinos doing the same.

We saw familiar faces along the Way, the German couple and the three older American guys, they had all had two nights in Pamplona. Jaw-dropping sight of the day was a young woman pilgrim with a very small child (i would guess around 3 years old). I guess Sara could have walked 10km a day at that age but it would take an awfully long time to get to Santiago! But, still, I suppose if you have plenty of time it doesn’t really matter. The figs are growing but I haven’t seen any ripe ones yet. The wayside flowers are beautiful and full of butterflies. There are very many Elderberries, i wonder if the Spanish make wine from them?

The going was pretty easy – whether that was because of the rest day or whether i’m getting accustomed to the backpack.

A coffee stop at the albergue at Zariquiegui was most welcome. Cetti’s Warbler was added to my Camino bird list at a small lake. Continued to the top of the Alto de Perdón where the view was amazing – the Pyrenees and the sprawl of Pamplona behind us and in front of us the towns we’ll be walking through soon.

The iron sculpture of medieval pilgrims was great to see in real life – it was one of the most frequent images I found when doing my preparation.

At the albergue in Uterga we could hear the babble of peregrinos and the chink of coffee cups. Excellent, a bar/restaurant so we stopped for coffee. After that the walking was easy and I arrived in Obanos and found the albergue Usda which is a private hostel. It says in the guide book (Brierley) that there are 36 beds in 3 rooms. What it doesn’t tell you is that the 3 rooms have been knocked into 1 large room. But the owner is very friendly and everything is very clean. There is a lovely walled garden and patio area out the back and I sat in the sunshine to eat my food. As is my habit I don’t eat until i’ve finished walking for the day.

Opposite the albergue is a shop with a bar. After exploring the small village I returned to the bar and spotted a fellow pilgrim having coffee so I joined him and enquired after his feet – when i’d seen him arrive earlier he looked like he was in quite some pain. His name was Roland and he was German, planning to walk into Santiago in October on his 50th birthday. Yes, his feet were very sore but he would persevere. Our conversation was partly in spanish and partly in English. My German being about non-existent. A wee while later another pilgrim joined us. Heidi from Denmark, a lovely young lass who was between jobs and who had decided on the spur of the moment to do the Camino.

Later on the church in the village opened up and Sarah and I went inside. It looked quite plain from the outside but inside was amazingly light and beautiful. I paid 20cents to light a candle for Ben. It rather amused me that in these days of strict health and safety (which amazingly enough had reached this part of Spain) that the candles were electronic. You pop your coin in and an LED candle lights up. Whatever next?!

Sarah, Heidi, Roland and I went along to a local bar for the “menu del dia” – menu of the day, a pilgrim meal €9.50 for three courses, wine and bread.

An early night.

Obanos, Camino de Santiago

Obanos church

Obanos, Camino de santiago

The private albergue in Obanos

Obanos, Camino de santiago

Inside of the albergue at Obanos

Obanos, Camino de santiago

Brass shells, set into the pavement on the way into Obanos.

Alto de Perdon, Camino de santiago

Me at the Alto de Perdon

Camino de Santiago, The Way

Pilgrims, strung out along The Way

17th September, Pamplona, rest day!

Woke at 9am feeling much refreshed. Legs and feet still ache a little. Walking with “the Camino shuffle” for at least ten minutes after getting out of bed :-) Lazed about for a couple of hours then headed into the city. First stop was for coffee at the famous Iruña cafe/bar with it’s wonderful art deco decor inside. As we sat drinking our coffee we spotted Steve and Elena (we first met them on our first Camino night in Orisson) and they joined us to chat and exchange Camino news. They told us we could get our credencials stamped at the cathedral.

Next stop was Gauchos for pinchos (tapas) – after that I lost count of the places we stopped for pinchos, there were very many!

We visited the cathedral and museum, paying the special pilgrim price of €3. Well worth the money, we spent at least an hour and a half looking around. The cathedral was stunning and the museum fascinating – especially the machine you stand in front of and it superimposes a costume on you, Sarah and I had great fun with this :-)

Late afternoon and into the evening: more pinchos and wine…

I love Pamplona and I WILL be back!

Camino de Santiago, Day 4, Zubiri to Pamplona, 21.2km

Left the albergue at Zubiri after a reasonable nights sleep. The guy next to me only snored when he was on his back which wasn’t too often, and when he was i resisted the temptation to give him a shove ;-)

The sun was rising and looking beautiful. The route went past Larrasoaña but we didn’t venture over the bridge into the town. The walk was pleasant and passed through many wooded areas and pastureland. I imagine it would be even more beautiful in springtime. I rounded a corner in Irotz and heard voices and saw many backpacks propped against the walls. A cafe! A very welcome place to stop for my first coffee of the day and to answer the call of nature. The place was called El Horno de iroz and had a large outdoor oven, the coffee was, as ever in Spain, excellent.

As Sarah and I walk at a different pace we hadn’t walked together very much but today the going was fairly easy and we strolled along and chatted together. Along a quiet wooded path we were rather disconcerted to see, walking towards us, a man wearing only a t-shirt. Yup no trousers or underpants, just a t-shirt. I was really pleased that we were walking together, I would have been pretty freaked out to have encountered this individual on my own! (Someone later told me that is what my walking poles are for – “give them a jab with the pointy end“).

Trinidad de Arre was lovely, the river and bridge beautiful. We had entered the outskirts of the city of Pamplona and spent the next 4.6km heading through the city to the centre. After the last few quiet days there seemed so many people, so much traffic and noise! there were lots of pilgrims all heading the same way – even a pilgrim on his unicycle – failed to get my camera out quick enough!

We arrived in the old part of the city. Beautiful! The municiple albergue only had one bed left so Sarah used their free wifi and found us a hotel room. We decided to stay two nights.

Our feet and legs ached! We made our way to the hotel. Luxury! a hot bath was so fantastic I can’t tell you how welcome that was! And one bathroom to share between just two people instead of 30! I had two more tiny blisters, one on each little toe. Sarah said that her feet felt like they were bruised to the bone. We popped out to a nearby shop for some food supplies and headed back to our room. Lying on our comfy beds, determined not to move until morning. We would have had wine but the supermarket didn’t have a corkscrew – one essential item missing from our rucksacks.

I woke up a couple of times during the night with cramp in my legs :-(

(Click on one of the images below to view larger versions of todays photos).