We parted in the early morning hours, her starting her Camino, myself grabbing a few bites to eat and chatting it up with a couple from Germany sharing their story about their worst night ever in a dormitory full of very drunken, very loud, and very snore-y Russians.
The clocks rang ten when I finally left town to walk along a river and through a park, full of geese, squirrels, ducks, and other wildlife, something I had not seen on the Camino until now. Guess eight months of traffic and a total of 200,000 pilgrims is detrimental to the environment.
Behind town, a massive metal bull staring down at me, I had to walk along a freeway again before turning into the fields and, minutes later, reaching Navarrete. Having left Navarre the day before, my prime goal was to sample as many Rijoa wines as I could get my grubby hands on, and it being almost noon I figured it was time to start in earnest. My lunch consisted of small boccadillos with ham and two tortilla slices, chased with a number of excellent wines. Thusly strengthened I returned, a little wobbly in the legs, to my Camino and sank into deep thought until passing the Poyo de Roldan, a hill from which, according to legend, Roland had thrown a rock at a giant’s castle, ending the giant’s reign of terror.
An hour later, a nearby church tower ringing six o’clock, I spied Nájera in the distance, the end of today’s leg. That late in the day it’d be hard to find a good place to crash, so I followed a few pilgrims who were, it seemed, looking for an albergue as well, arguing in Russian about where to go next. Almost as frustrated as the female in their group seemed to be, I tore myself away after four unsuccessful attempts and, seconds later, almost ran into a sign advertising one more. Mere minutes later I was checked in, stamped, and my clothes in the hands of a hospitalera promising to have them clean and folded by morning.
Early on, I had decided to give every albergue a superlative description in this diary. Casa Magica was just the greatest, all things considered, Suseia the friendliest and most comfortable. This one, whose name shall not be spoken lest it conjures evil spirits, was the creepiest. No, not dark and moldy, quite in the contrary. Light, airy, and painted in pastel colors, it reminded me of a deranged serial killer’s mock life-size doll house. Happy music was piped in from invisible speakers in the corners of the rooms, and expensive looking tea sets and paintings of St. James were kept in showcases behind thick glass.
Good thing I had the perfect holy water against such creepiness right next door – a bodega selling more of that great Rioja Red. Heavy with exhaustion from the day’s walk and tired from more sampling, I finally made it to bed at ten, sleeping even through most of my fellow pilgrims packing and leaving in the morning. I dreamed of fields of wheat and a giant throwing rocks at me.