Day 17- Najera to Cirueña

Walked Today: 9.6mi/Camino 2022: 110mi

Our walk began in the dark. We didn’t unpack our headlamps, because even in the dark the first few miles are straight-forward and we know our way. Jim calls the initial half-mile “Proud Mary hill” because the first time we climbed Alto Najera, Linda turned up the volume on her phone and played the Tina Turner classic to help us get to the top.

Leaving Najera street lights at 6:30 a.m. and heading up Alto Najera
The view when we reached the top of Alto Najera and headed back down. The small light at center photo is headlamps from a group of pilgrims several hundred yards ahead of us.
clouds muting sun’s rays at 8:15
Approaching Asofra

Some 3.5 miles into the walk we stopped at the only village with services, Asofra, and had breakfast.

While eating breakfast on Calle Mayor in Asofra, we noticed a “tricky” water fountain.
…. looking closely at the signs, the water in the fountain is NOT drinkable, but the water spigot in back is, with disinfectant added!!! The pilgrim on right is filling his water bottle with “safe-drinking” water.
leaving Asofra

The walk from Asofra to Cirueña has little shade and winds among endless grain fields and vineyards. The following photos show the similarity of the view and terrain for most of the walk.

1 mile past Asofra
2 miles past Asofra
2.5 miles past Asofra
3 miles past Asofra
4.5 miles past Asofra
5 miles past Asofra

The last mile into Cirueña was a very steep grade and slowed all pilgrims down… the young, the not so young and those in the middle. It was particularly difficult, because it came at the end of a nine mile walk.

The entrance into Cirueña is shared with a very nice golf course. The pro shop snackbar has become a favorite stopping point for us before completing the last half mile to Casa Victoria, our traditional stop for the night.

Arriving early enough to hit a bucket of golf balls before our tee time…. NOT.
… but right on time at the 19th hole for a supplemental breakfast after a 9 mile morning stroll.
Our lodging in Cirueña… for the 4th time (2014, 2017, 2019, 2022)
our room
home for the day and night

Our Casa Victoria hostess offered to wash and dry our clothing for 6€, which we accepted without hesitation. She also reserved a place for us at their nearby Casa Victoria Albergue pilgrim’s dinner… 12€ each. So, with much of our afternoon tasks taken care of, we headed out for lunch at the only bar in Cirueña and relaxed with our remaining tasks while awaiting dinner at 7:00.

Lunch was at the only eatery in the village of Cirueña, pop. 131… but still tasty… vegetable pizza for Linda and a BLT on a baguette for Jim.

We had a nice dinner with 14 other pilgrims. Our table included a couple from Ireland and three ladies from France. We chatted about a variety of experiences on the Camino and elsewhere. It was fun and stimulating and a nice way to end the day.

Day 16 – Navarrete to Najera

Walked Today: 6.7mi/Camino 2022: 100mi.

When we got up this morning, Linda looked out our room window and was surprised how beautiful the view was with street lights still on at first light….

A prearranged taxi met us at our hotel door at 7:00 to take us to Ventosa. Najera is 10 miles away and we decided last night that we’re building our distance stamina at a good rate but not at the 10 mile level yet. The taxi ride chopped off just under 4 miles leaving us a more reasonable walk into Najera… continuing our paced Camino 2022.

The Camino just outside Ventosa with a new shelter and stone benches, added since 2019.
The rocky walk up this section required us to slow down and watch our step!
The Alto de Alesón leveled off as we began to head down toward Najera, with vineyards on both sides of the path.
Our first view if the valley below Alto de Alesón
Vineyards will be in harvest mode before long.
Olive orchards were also seen frequently among the vineyards.
It’s a little early for harvesting olives but these trees were loaded with fruit.
Approaching the Poyo de Roldan, surrounded by grapes and olives.

The area surrounding the Poyo de Roldan is always a beautiful sight. The Poyo was the watchtower from which Charlemagne’s knights, led by Roldan, sighted the castile of Ferragut, the Syrian lord of Najera. Ferragut was over 9 feet tall and weighed over 500 lbs, and challenged the knights to a duel… and if any knight were to succeed, the Moors would give of their holdings in Northern Spain. None of Charlemagne’s knights had succeeded in defeating Ferragut, however, when Roldan had his turn, the duel went on for two days, with Ferragut falling onto Roldan, attempting to squish him. Roldan, according to one of the legends, pulled his dagger free and stabbed Ferragut in his achilles belly button, killing him instantantly. The Moors, as a result, abandoned Najera and headed south, leaving northern Spain to the victorious Christains.

The “beehive” monument is the legendary site where Ferragut was killed by Roldan, in the esplanade between Najera and Poyo de Roldan seen in the left background.
the path flattened out and became much less picturesque as we neared the outskirts of Najera.
Finally, the Camino path becomes a Najera street.
Our normal breakfast stop… another apparent casualty of the pandemic
Our new alternative breakfast stop
Tasty breakfast

We arrived around 10:00 at Pension San Lorenzo, but were informed (emphatically) that they would not deviate from their standard 1:00 check-in time. Bummer!

Our “habitacion” in Najera.

So we passed the next three hours….

Sitting on a bench in a nearby park and enjoying the nice breeze and shade.
Ordering something to drink and deciding what to do for lunch and when and where to do it.
Having a lunch that would serve as our meal of the day at a pilgrim friendly restaurant that had someone manning the cocina (kitchen).

Finally, at 1:30, we checked into our room with a light meal of sandwiches in hand. With “the evening meal” taken care of, we spent the afternoon and evening in our room doing chores, reading, blogging and preparing for tomorrow’s walk and having our evening meal ensuite.

Brand new room in brand new apartment with ensuite bathroom with large shower.
the view outside our window of the buildings across the street, which are literally built into the mountain… that we’ll walk up and over tomorrow morning.

Day 15 – Logroño to Navarrete

Walked Today: 7.7mi/Camino 2022: 93mi

Today was literally a walk in the park. We initially walked through Logroño on well marked sidewalks for about 1.5 miles.

Plenty of markers for keeping pilgrims on track through Logroño

We then entered a park/green area between several apartment complexes for another mile.

A huge residential park went on and on

As we left the residential park, we entered a park consisting of benches along a tree-lined concrete path for walkers& runners and a parallel bike path that extended another couple of miles,

walkers and runners straight ahead, bikers to the left

…..then entered a camping ground/park that meandered for another mile or so.

A nice lake is part of the camping park
leaving the parks and heading into the vineyards

We finally exited the parks for a narrow paved road that worked its way through an experimental vineyard focused on white tempanillo grapes, adjacent to a winery.

After climbing up and out of the vineyard, , we began walking on a paved path that was parallel to an expressway for another 2 plus miles until reaching the outskirts of the village of Navarrete, pop. 2952.

Fences along the Camino are favorite places for pilgrim crosses
walking parallel to the expressway the final few miles to Navarrete
Approaching Navarrete

Our normal breakfast bar where we stopped the previous three Caminos, is no more… a probable casualty of the pandemic. Sadly we continued walking to the town center plaza to have a our standard breakfast. It was early, so we took our time eating and Jim scouted out potential lunch, dinner and snack spots and verified opening/closing times.

The Hostal Villa de Navarrete was only a few steps from the plaza and we were able to check-in at 11:00 and began our daily chores.

Our Hostal

About 5 pm we walked a few steps from our hotel to a nice little bar with a patio covered with shady trees. The bar’s specialty is tapas, in particular, marinated mushrooms. Linda sampled these tasty morsels in 2019, which made such a favorable impression, it’s a primary reason we chose to stay in Navarrete.

Navarrete’s top tapas bar
Paella for Jim

Linda ordered the mushrooms again and was not disappointed!

Linda’s favorite tapas

Day 14- Viana to Logroño

Walked Today: 6.3mi/Camino2022: 86 mi

There’s not a whole lot to say about today.

The walk to Logroño was not easy or difficult, the views were nothing new and even the sunrise was nice, but not spectacular.

looking back at Viana
a paved section of Camino between Viana and Logroño
a short walk through some woods, for a change
leaving Navarre … entering La Rioja
the view as we approached Logroño
Puente de Piedra crossing the Rio Ebro into Logroño
Santiago El Real church… along the Camino in Logroño
interior of Santiago El Real

We arrived at our hotel at 9:45. Our room was ready and for the first time, we got to our destination about 30 minutes before our transported backpacks.

our Logroño hotel

Like most days, finding a place to get a full meal at a time we would prefer, can be difficult… especially if its not nearby… since we don’t normally need to add extra walking in search of one. Today, however, the lady at reception spoke good English and was able to direct us to the one restaurant in this city of 150,000 residents, that offered a dinner before 8:00p.m. She also guided us to nearby pintcho/tapas bars, a Logroño drawing card. This allowed us to have a tapas lunch and a “normal” 6:00 dinner.

one of several streets in Logroño with nothing but tapas bars.
tapas bars with so many variations, make it hard to decide what to order
Our tapas lunch: roasted veggies and chicken satay for Linda… pulpo patata and fois gras for Jim and dos vino tintos to drink

After 14 days of walking, we’ve established a rhythm that works for us…. allowing us to walk a little further, deal with the physical challenges we encounter and absorb more of what the Camino has to offer.

Day 13- Los Arcos to Viana

Walked- Today: 5.4mi/Camino 2022: 79 mi

From Los Arcos for the first 3 miles

We began again at daybreak, and walked in a straight line with only slight variations in elevation. The scenery also did not vary. The dirt path finally made a few curves before merging with the pavement as we walked into Sansol, pop. 100.

It’s easy to forget to look behind us for beautiful skies like this
Finally, a break from walking in a straight line
…. then, on pavement for a mile or so, to Sansol

On the outskirts of Sansol, we were saddened to see a favorite stopping place had become one of the many casualties of the pandemic too frequently observed thus far for Camino 2022.

a favorite breakfast stop in 2017 and 2019, an apparent casualty of pandemic.

We continued on to the next small village of Torres del Rio, pop. 122, where we got breakfast and concluded our walk for the day.

approaching Torres del Rio and the steep climb through the village

The 6 mile stretch from Torres del Rio is know as the “ knee wrecker”. It is aptly named, based on our personal experience walking it in 2014 and 2017. We used a taxi to bypass it in 2019 and we plan to use a bus to skip it today. We used La Pata de Oca albergue as our base, while waiting for the 11:35 bus to transport us into Viana, where we will spend the night.

We stayed here in 2017, and used it as a breakfast stop while waiting for the 11:35 bus to Viana.
an interesting pilgrim, pulling a cart and walking with her canine partner
Linda, lounging by the “pool” waiting for the bus

At the bus stop, we met two other pilgrims (Phillip, from Texas and Lora, from Germany) who had similar ideas about the “knee wrecker”. They both had previous experiences walking the Camino. Phillip was nursing some blisters and Lora was recovering from heat stroke, suffered a few days earlier. We rode the bus to Viana together, then parted with Phillip going on to Logroño and Lora meeting some other German friends in Viana or Logtoño.

with our new Texas and German friends waiting for the bus to Viana.

We walked a short distance from the Viana bus stop to our guesthouse, San Pedro, checked in and return to the Viana Calle Mayor (main street) to have a pilgrim menu for lunch before beginning our routine afternoon chores. We were entertained by hundreds of Viana locals enjoying Sunday afternoon socializing, spontaneous outbursts of music and song, plus the constant flow of pilgrims either joining in or moving on to Logroño

Santa Maria de la Asunción, built 1250-1312, rises up majestically on the main street of Viana, a town of 3,500 inhabitants on the border with La Rioja. Standing up on a hill to defend Navarre against Castile, it is the last town on the Camino Frances in Navarre.
first course, pilgrim dinner
second coarse, pilgrim (forgot to take photo before “ digging” in!)
Sunday socializing among Viana locals and pilgrims … on the Camino.

We returned to our room, doing our usual, then returned at 6:00 to the now, abandoned streets to grab a couple of pintxos and wine for a snack meal, then calling it another day on the Camino 2022.

Day 12- Villamayor de Monjardin to Los Arcos

Walked- Today: 7.8mi/Camino 2022: 74mi

We left Villamayor de Monjardin at 6:45 with the stars still out and the temperature, a delightfully refreshing 52F. The nearly 8 miles walk to Los Arcos is without any services, ie., no water, no food and no rest areas.

There were a few hills that broke the monotony of the mostly flat, dirt road that carved its way among an occasional green patch of grapevines, olive trees or asparagus plants.

At one point, about 5 miles into the walk, as we were dragging up one of the steeper hills we observed a small rock in the middle of the path … which urged us onward.

Inspirational pilgrim “rock graffiti”

We walked past a “hay stack“, which is typical of the area, but still awesome, every time we see one.

Huge stacks of huge bales of hay

The challenge of today’s walk was to not get discouraged by the seemingly endless distances ahead of us most of the way.

Never ending path through the hay fields
At this point we pondered, as in Caminos past, the idea of walking the diagonal (hypotenuse) across the hay field rather than follow the two legs of the road… but opted again to stick to the road.
Walking into Arcos

We got to Los Arcos about 10:30 and found an empty table in the village square and rested our bodies a few minutes, before having some breakfast. Check-in time for our room was noon, so we hung out in the square until then,

a late breakfast in a Los Arcos plaza

To occupy some of the “ wait” time, we visited the church on the square, the Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Asunción. It’s one of our favorite churches on the Camino.

Iglesia de Santa Maria de Asunción
Sanctuary and Retablo
Santiago ( Saint James, the Apostle)

We checked-in to our room at 12:30 , then shortly after returned to the plaza for lunch… since all other restaurants won’t be serving meals until 7:30. We returned to our room, did our chores, blogged, read and had our “ backup” sandwiches ( prepared last night in our kitchen) for a light supper before retiring for the evening.

Day 11- Estella to Villamayor de Monjardin

Walked Today: 6.2mi/Camino 2022: 66.2mi

Working our way out of Estella on city streets
The unique Wine Fountain at the Bodega Irache
Unusual mountain range

Shortly after the Wine Fountain we began walking with Tim from Washington, DC. We walked together until we reached Villamayor de Monjardin, and he continued on toward Los Arcos.

Photo taken by Tim with King Sancho I castle on mountain top above Villamajor de Monjardin in background.

Tim recently retired from diplomatic service and shared some extraordinary experiences he had during his career. He recently attended his daughter’s graduation from college in Barcelona then traveled to several European locations, before deciding to walk the Camino on rather short notice. We shared some of our Camino experiences and answered questions he had about the days ahead. We really enjoyed chatting with him, so much so, that the today’s walk, which has a lot of uphill sections, seem to be much easier and we were surprised how soon we reached our destination.

Jim and Tim passing the gothic fountain with a cistern, just before arriving at Villamayor de Monjardin.

We arrived at our destination at 11:00 and were given immediate access to Markiola by the owner, who also operates the small market next door. We were the only occupants for the day, giving us sole access to all the facilities.

Our “ habitacion for the night
Our accommodations were outstanding at Markiola. Two floors of living and sleeping space, a full size kitchen, a refrigerator filled with drinks, sandwich meat & cheese, coffee fixins’, bread, snacks, etc., all included.

We had lunch (turkey sandwiches, wine), dinner ( spaghetti with tomato sauce, wine and bread) and prepared a “backup” lunch (ham, egg and cheese baguette) for tomorrow all from the Markiola “ kitchen”!

Today was full of nice surprises, our stamina is building and it’s great to be back on the Camino Frances.

Day 10 – Lorca to Estella

Walked Today: 6.0mi/Camino 2022: 60mi

Today was fairly easy and uneventful. We had walked about 2.5 miles when we stopped for breakfast at Villatuerte at 8:00.

Soon after leaving Lorca we began walking along a few vineyards and then mostly along already harvested grain fields.
Having our usual at a favorite bread/pastry shop.
A well preserved bridge in the middle of town left by the Romans a couple of thousand years ago!!!

We arrived at Estella around 9:30 and found the Plaza de Iglesia del San Juan Bautista completely occupied with a market. We walked among the shoppers and were awed by the variety and colors of goods offered.

Dried fruit and nuts
garlic “ropes”

Jim took a chance and knocked on the door of Hotel Cristina at 10:00 and was not only admitted but presented with the keys to our room!

Hotel Cristina

After attending to our chores, we found a small American style diner, which at 12:30 was the only eatery offering food, other than pintxos, until after 7 p.m. tonight.

While we ate we observed the plaza as the market vendors began disassembling there displays and packing up their products. Our tummies filled with fried eggs, fries and chicken, we retired to our room and napped, read and blogged until about 5:30, when we ventured out again hoping to find some pintxos to serve as dinner. The plaza was completely cleared, with no evidence of the morning market. “Church of Saint John the Baptist” in the background.

Plaza de la Iglesia del San Juan Bautista

We again had no luck finding a restaurant or bar offering any kind of food, so we had to settle for some prepared sandwiches offered by a small grocery store. We retired to our room, ate and called it a day.

Day 9 – Mańeru to Lorca

Walked Today: 5.5mi/Camino 2022: 54mi

shortly after leaving Mańeru this morning
just outside Cirauqui
A well preserved section of Roman road as we left Cirauqui
the remains of a Romain bridge outside Cirauqui
on the way to Lorca
reaching the entrance to the village of Lorca
We call this Linda’s bench because on our first Camino (2014), after completing the tough climb up the hill into Lorca, Linda saw and claimed this bench for a much needed rest and on subsequent Camino’s, including today, the mental image of this bench has helped spur her on to make it up the hill!!
Linda, today, claiming her “ prize” one more time.

We arrived very early (9:45) at Bodega del Camino and ordered a late breakfast. After we finished, Jim asked if we could check-in early and we were pleasantly surprised to hear “Si”. Michael, the albergue manager, is from southern Germany. His boss recently acquired the albergue, which had been closed for 2 years during the pandemic. Michael’s staff is a family (father, mother & daughter) who escaped from Mariupol, Ukraine soon after the Russian invasion. They made their way to Georgia, then Austria and ultimately to Spain and Lorca.

We have stayed at the Bodega del Camino previously in 2014, 2017, 2019 and now 2022. We are glad it has reopened. It among our top favorite albergues on the Camino Frances.

We took advantage of the common areas including a wash basin and clothes drying lines… with clothes pins!!! We got showers, examined our feet for any issues needing treatment and chilled in our comfortable room with twin beds and ensuite bathroom (59€). Shortly after noon we had a tasty lunch in the bar.

the dining area of Bodega del Camino bar
Andalusian version of Gazpacho with hard boiled eggs and ham… lunch for Jim
Ensalada mixta and tortilla… lunch for Linda

We also placed our orders to have the pilgrim dinner tonight at 7 in the albergue bar.

Our pilgrim dinner was with a gentleman from Germany who enjoys walking long distances. He walked here from SJPDP in three days… 64 miles. Two french ladies were walking together. A young man also from France was walking for a week, taking some time off from his job.

We were served a ensalada mixta, baked chicken in a brown sauce, rice and roasted vegetables and chocolate cake and ice cream with a cherry sauce.

A delicious meal, interesting, multilingual conversation and gracious hosts provided a nice conclusion to another day on the Camino Frances.

Day 8 – Obaños to Mańeru

Walked- Today:3.00 mi Camino 2022: 48.5 mi

sunrise outside our Casa Raichu window this morning

We walked through Puente la Reina this morning on our way to Mańeru.

Crossing the Puente la Reina bridge
looking back at the “Queen’s bridge“

We’ve never stayed in Mańeru before but have passed by the El Cantero albergue three times. Staying here tonight cuts what would be a long 8 miles into two easy days… consistent with our Camino 2022 plan.

the flat walk from Puente la Reina before climbing the mountain into Mańeru.
a break in the shade… sun bearing down unmercifully by 10:30
getting a breather in the shade halfway up the mountain
very steep climb at the summit
walking into Mańeru

Most albergues will not open to guests before 1:00. Today, El Cantero was no exception. We arrived at 11:16 a.m. and had to wait until 1:00 p.m. to check-in and have access to our reserved room.

waiting to check-in

Jim approached the “time keeper” and pointed to his watch that it was 1 o’clock. The guy looked around, frantically and said 10 more minutes. Jim came back at 1:10 and with the apparent owner and the lady who confirmed our reservation via telephone yesterday, present, the check-in process began. Our double room with private bath is 45€.

Home at last… until tomorrow morning.

Tonight we skipped a pilgrim dinner offered by El Cantero, opting instead for our late-lunch bogadilla leftovers and assorted fruit drinks and cookies purchased at a local market.