May 20, 2011 Viana to Navarette

Agreed to meet at 07:30 with Monique to walk and talk about why she had cried at Mass last night in Viana. She described it as a snake shedding its skin, which is painful and also the next important and beautiful part of its life. We walked to Logrono and at the house of Feliza we met Sebastian, the fun German from Cologne. When we got to Logrono we sat for coffee at the cafe/bar by the legislative building and there had a nice chat also with Sebastian. Soon it was time to say goodbye to Monique, who was very sad to part. I felt it was a blessing to have Sebastian with me (also Flaurent, the French who had walked from Vezelay) and we came to Navarette together.

Navarette held no memories for me whatsoever. Am wondering if I somehow had skipped this town in 2008 by walking on the road or something. Rocky had bused there and was waiting at the front door of the albergue with about 20 others who promptly pushed and shoved to get ahead of their fellow pilgrims. There were plenty of beds and I was assigned a cot in the attic. In the room were Nikki of Australia and Flaurent of France as well. Flaurent and i had a long conversation about the Chemin de Vezelay and he gave me his heavy Vezelay guidebook materials. Am wondering now what to do with them … all in French and also very detailed… and heavy.

Had a good sleep after a dinner with Rocky and Sebastian.

May 27, 2008 Viana to Logroño

As I left Viana I took stock of my condition and realized I was hurting badly because of blisters. After several days of rain and mud my hiking shoes were still wet and my feet showed the resulting damage. I’d learned to push through the pain each day, knowing that the pain would go away after the first half hour or so. But the pain returned after breakfast or lunch or a break for another half hour at a time whenever I started anew.

So rather than plan a long walk I decided instead to walk only the 8 km between Viana and Logroño. This short day would give me a rest, and a hotel stay would give me a comfy bed, a good shower, and hopefully an Internet kiosk where I could make my plans for surprising Gail in Copehagen.

I left Viana and trudged my way toward Logroño. As I came down the last hill into town I followed the directions of the Brierley guidebook and stopped at the delightful home of Feliza. This wonderful woman has hosted pilgrims for many years, offering toast and jam and cafe to all who come by, giving a kind word and a sello (credential stamp) from the cool confines of her living room. In spite of blisters I felt cheerful as I left her house and I walked through old Logroño with its charming buildings and found a comfy, modern hotel in the newer section of town.

After my shower I looked out the window to see that a massive storm of rain and hail was happening outside. I was stunned to see the gutters filling with hailstones, thick as snow, and I was thankful not to be walking outside in this weather.

I laid out my grimy pilgrim possessions on the floor of my spotless hotel room. After one week my hiking shoes were a mess, my socks were stained with red mud, everything was damp.  I looked at my feet and they were a mess. Some of my blisters now had blisters on them. Even so, I was proud that I’d now covered 136 of the 800 km of this walk, and I knew I would make it all the way.

After the storm I headed out of the hotel to find a barber shop and get my hair cut. The hailstones had piled up to one foot depth in the lower portions of the main plaza of the old city. Nearby I found a hair salon and, while he cut m hair, I had a great conversation with a Spaniard who’d lived in America.

Before dinner in the hotel dining room I made reservations on the train from Burgos to Bilbao and flight reservations from Bilbao to Copenhagen and back. My plan now was to walk as far as I could over the next couple of days then catch a bus or taxi to Burgos, from which I’d connect to Copenhagen to surprise Gail. I went to bed, warm and comfortable with visions of seeing Gail in Copenhagen and feeling a little guilty about all those other pilgrims who’d had to weather the storms of the day and try their best to dry out in their cramped and crowded albergues.

May 26, 2008 Villamayor de Monjardin to Viana

That night at Villamayor I announced to Stefan and Trevor my plan: my wife would be in Copenhagen to give a speech on the upcoming weekend and I would surprise her there. That meant I’d need to leave the camino for 3-4 days and make my way to Copenhagen. I determined that I’d make reservations at my next big-city stop, but as I described the plan to other pilgrims I began to understand the true cost of it. Yes, all the pilgrim women agreed it was very romantic to surprise my wife. But others realized that the detour would put me 3-4 days behind the friends I’d made. I’d already said goodbye to the faster American girls. Soon I would be saying good bye to my current crop of friends, Stefan and Trevor being at the top of the list.

After Villamayor I walked on and off with the two South Africans, coming to Los Arcos on my own. And who should be sitting at a cafe near the church but Stefan and Trevor? Along with them were other friends from Villamayor — a Spanish woman, two Scottish women, and Daniel of Ireland. We shared a long, early lunch together as I heard the sad news that Trevor’s tendonitis was making his walking very difficult. It was unclear whether or not he’d be able to continue and Stefan asked me privately what I thought he should do. As I said good bye to Trevor and continued on I wasn’t sure I’d ever see him again. Ultimately Trevor shadowed Stefan by bus, but then after several days flew back to South Africa.

I arrived at Torres del Rio on my own as Stefan held back to care for Trevor. Just after Torres I heard an odd sound ahead and soon was nearly overwhelmed by a vast flock of sheep and, amid them, a small sprinkling of goats. A solitary shepherd kept the sheep together and they all seemed content as they moved from one pasture, across the camino trail, to another one somewhere nearby.

I stayed briefly to write in my journal at a lookout high above the town of Viana, then picked my way downhill, found the municipal albergue with its 3-high bunks, and looked for a place for dinner. I dined with a man from the Canary Islands whom I’d met a few days before. Then I headed back to the albergue for a night’s sleep in the top level of the triple-level bunks.