Najera to St. Juan de Ortega (Days 12, 13, and 14 on the Camino)

Note: Sorry for the gap between postings. For the past few days I have not had a good enough Internet connection to update the blog. I have been able to receive and send emails, but there hasn’t been enough bandwidth and speed to let me upload photos. Hopefully I will be able to get caught up a bit today since I have a very good connection here in Castrogeriz.

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imageToday marks two full weeks that Clint and I have been on the Camino. So far, we have covered 262km (about 165 miles). We have now moved out of the province of La Rioja and into one of Spain’s largest provinces – Castilla y Leon. The miles and miles of vineyards have given way to immense rolling fields of wheat, barley, and oats. Today we also encountered some fairly large hills (almost 1000 feet elevation gain) which reminded me a bit of our time in the Pyrenees mountains. But we also had quite a bit of shade, especially in the upper elevations, and the temperature was not as hot as it has been in recent days.

Following up on yesterday’s post on daily life, I would point out that our trek today covered 24.3 km (15.1 miles.) By doing some quick math I was able to come to an interesting conclusion. We know that 24.3 km is 24,300 meters. The length of our standard walking pace is a bit less than a meter (especially when going upward). So, I think it is a safe assumption that we took around 25,000 to 30,000 steps today! Not that anyone’s counting.

imageTwo days ago, on Friday, we got lost for the first time. But as with much on the Camino, we were not alone. Like a bunch of lemmings we had just followed the crowd and within a mile or so we all realized that we were no longer on the Camino. As a group, we figured out where we went wrong and changed direction to find our way back onto the correct path. In all, we only drifted about a half mile off course. But, the interesting thing for me was the number of us that made the same mistake. At the moment we realized what was happening, I counted 24 other pilgrims – lost like us – within about a span of 100 yards! We are definitely not hiking the Camino alone! It was a happy moment as we started seeing those yellow arrows again. We have now learned that you do not make a turn, regardless of who may already be doing it, unless you can see that arrow.

imageThe path toward our destination for the day, Santo Domingo de Calzada, wended its way among vineyard after vineyard. At an intermediary town, Ciruena, we passed an eerily spooky site. Apparently developers had decided this would be a great place to build a planned city. So, several blocks of apartment buildings, open grassy park areas, and wide streets were constructed. The only problem was that due to the economic situation in Spain, no one could afford to purchase the homes. So, what remains is a very pretty few blocks of totally empty homes and no cars on the street. It looked like a strange movie set waiting for the actors to arrive. Very strange.

imageIn Santo Domingo I climbed the Cathedral’s bell tower and then toured the amazing collection of religious art maintained by the Cathedral. One item especially caught my attention. It was a portrait of San Diego de Alcala, the saint from whom the city of San Diego gets its name. But the real treat for the day – another Camino grace, I suppose, was the happy coincidence that this city was also celebrating a festival and that there would be another running of the bulls! This was the second time in two days we have seen this. In fact, this time one of the pilgrims hiking with us chose to climb the fence and run with them. He came real close to getting hurt when he slipped while trying to evade a charging bull and got butted but not gored, thank goodness! It was all very exciting and a good time was had by all.

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San Diego de Alcala

San Diego de Alcala

imageYesterday we travelled to the city of Belorado. During the day we entered Castilla y Leon and bade farewell to the vineyards. There was not much to report from the day. Much of the route ran alongside a busy highway and we missed the quiet rural paths from recent days. Perhaps the highlight of the day was found in a small village church in the town of Redecilla del Camino. Within the church was a fine example of a 12th baptismal font – one of the finest in Spain – and, it is still in use today.

imageToday we had one of our longer days, hiking 24.3 km (15.1 miles) to the tiny village of St. Juan de Ortega, which has been a pilgrim hostel location since medieval times. We had a few pretty good hills to climb, but arrived around 2:00 pm and checked into the albergue operated by the local parish. Tonight we are planning on attending the pilgrim mass. Traditionally, the mass is followed by bread and garlic soup which is served to all of the pilgrims in attendance. This place is a nice, quiet change from albergues we have been staying in located in busy towns. Tomorrow we head off to the city of Burgos (population of 170,000). It will be another long day, but we are happy to be making progress toward Santiago – only 526 km away!

¡Buen Camino!

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