From Torres de Rio, we walked just over 20k to the city of Logrono. (Crocs won that day). We were lucky and able to get the one of the last 10 spots in the 60+ person municipal albergue. It was full by 2 pm, as we managed to stumble into Logrono on the Saturday of it’s huge annual wine and harvest festival in honor of the cities patron saint San Mateo. After the going through the now routine motions of arrived at the albergue, unpack your sleeping bag, collapse on the bed for 5-50 minutes, realize you smell, and muster the energy to take a cold shower and wash and hang your clothes, we the hit the streets of busy Logrona to try to join in on the fiesta. We saw the family-friendly portion; there were street vendors and an adorable parade featuring many small children in clothes they did not pick for themselves. We had to be back in the albergue by closing time at 10 pm, so we missed the part of the fiesta with fireworks at 2 am and many drunk college students. We didn’t even have any wine with dinner, a first for our trip, as we all felt like we were coming down with a cold and wanted to be kind to our immune systems. Because of our sniffles, we made the decision to take our first official rest day the following day – though we still had to be out of the albergue by 8 am, no exceptions. The superbly mustached staff member was very helpful in giving us directions to the only open pharmacy and an alternative albergue. He also advised Mandie, who was having knee issues, to drink plenty of “Agua y vino”! (He was very firm that both components were necessary for healing).
Departing from the albergue that morning was one of the more interesting experiences I’ve had; apparently, the Logronians love San Mateo (and vino) so much they were still honoring him at 8 am. As a group of 3 sober American pilgrims, we were very interesting to everyone we encountered. One person stopped us to take a picture with him; another, upon finding out we were American, introduced himself and his friends as “Madonna, Christina Agulera, and Brittney Spears”. Madonna asked us why were we’re going to Santiago, since “Santiago IS DEAD!”. We explained it had something to do with personal challenge and self refection, though were frequently interrupted by his singing snippets of Michael Jackson songs. Madonna did not accept our answer. To further convince us of our folly, he shouted “Santiago is a BITCH” as we took our leave. He was wonderful.
After a trip to the pharmacy for a knee brace and a leisurely breakfast at a cafe (most delicious croissant yet -Iim starting to think the bars directly along the Camino know that pilgrims are hungry and will pretty much eat anything) we checked into our new albergue at noon and spent the day resting, reading, and finding more delicous food. “Heuvos y patatas” (fried eggs on top of french fries) is perhaps the tastiest bar food i’ve ever had. Move over, Paul’s Cheese Fries.
After our day of rest, we set out on Monday morning for our longest day yet; a full 30k to Najera. I gave my feet and boots a pep talk about having to get along, and they listened for the most part. Logrono is the capital of La Rioja, the heart of Spanish wine country. Our walk today was a mix of disheartening industrial buildings and some of the most beautiful agriculture I have ever seen. Even in wine country, the agriculture is much more diverse than back home. We walked through several vineyards hanging with swollen blue grapes. The majority of the vines were so old and thick at the base that they did not require fencing to hold them straight against the wind; and today was very windy! But it was sunny and cool. We have been incredibly lucky with the weather so far.
We made the first 20k of our trek today in a record 4 hours, including our 10 am “nut break” (trail mix) which this time including some serenading on the ukulele by Mandie. We stopped for lunch at a bar before pushing through to the last 10k. It felt wonderful to be walking again. There is something so stress free when your sole/soul (ha Im so punny) purpose is to wake up and walk. Besides food breaks, we spent most of our walk in quiet today. I had fleeting anxious thoughts about grad school applications, but decided now is not the time.
Once we arrived in our albergue in Najera, we promptly collapsed. I have a renewed respect for long-distance runners. We were exhausted after walking ~19 miles. I can’t imagine running 26.2. Though I supposed runners don’t have to carry 20 lb packs!
Tomorrow, we head just 21k to Santa Domingo. We are back on track with our guide book, having completed stage 8 of 33. 33! One foot in front of the other. Buen Camino!