Ventosa to Ciruena - 25.7 km

May 14
Lat: 42.410278 Lon: -2.895833

The music started to play in the albergue at 6 a.m., but everyone was slow to get up. I'd been awake since 5 a.m. Finally everyone got up and started to pack. It was going to be a slow day as we were going to eat before we left. The only drawback was that the restaurant didn't open until 7 a.m. The other problem was that when we got there at 7 a.m., it still wasn't open and we lost an hour of hiking time while it was cool and still didn't get to eat. We hiked out of town and headed to Najera 10 km away to eat. Najera is a historic town and was the capital of the Kingdom of Navarre in the 11th and 12th Centuries. We got there at 10 a.m. and found a nice little bar. I got coffee and what I thought was a pastry with apple in a flaky roll, but when I bit into it, I discovered it was ham and a melted cheese inside. It was good, but boy was I disappointed in the taste.

Today the trail was very easy with no major ups or downs and the temperatures were good. It was cool this morning with temps in the mid-40s, but warmed up nicely to almost hot in the lower 70s in the afternoon. We decided to eat lunch in the next town of Azofra, which was 5.8 km away and we got there about noon for a sandwich. After eating, we still had 9.2 km to get to Ciruena. The final 2 km were pretty much up hill.

We had to hike through a failed timeshare golf community so most of it was brand new condos with no one living there. After walking through it, we finally found the Casa Victoria where we are staying. The price is very good; it costs 20 euros and I've got my own room with a private bath. It's a deal as I talked to Chuck and Zake and they are in the Al Segue and had to pay 13 euros for a bunk bed. The dinners in the bar/restaurant are really getting good. I had a steak, fries, and salad with a cup of coffee for only 10 euros. I'm finding that it's costing me on the average about 40 euros a day, which isn't too much.

One thing to remember, all the albergues, pensions, and hotels, don't let you control the heat in your room. Generally they turn the heat on about four hours a day and then turn it off until morning. It's all steam heat. When I got back in my room after dinner it was nice and toasty warm, but in a little bit it will start to cool down.

Tomorrow's weather is supposed to turn bad. A cold front is coming in along with rain. I'm planning a fairly large day but we'll see.

I will let you know tomorrow night. More to follow. Buen Camino!

Logrono to Ventosa - 20 Km

May 13
Lat: 42.404167 Long: -2.625278

We got up at 6 a.m., packed, and was on the street by 6:15 a.m. It was too early to get anything to eat or drink so we walked out of town without anything. It was a cold start at 43 degrees but it eventually warmed to the mid-50s by mid-afternoon. Today I hiked ahead of Hawk and Christine with plans to meet in Ventosa. We've been keeping the mileage down so Christine's feet can heal. I went ahead of them to get to the only albergue, which has 42 beds and fills up fast.

I went through a park with a small lake. There were a lot of older men there fishing and as I passed by, one of them caught a large carp. I stopped and he let me take his picture with the fish. After leaving the park, the trail started to climb until it reached the summit of Alto Grajeda. When I reached Alto Grajeda, man had set up a small table with fruit and other snacks. He had some good-looking oranges so I bought one. He was only taking donations from pilgrims, but I gave him a euro anyway. I took the orange with me and hiked on.

He had told me that there were two Americans ahead so I wanted to catch up with them and talk to them. I soon managed to catch up and found out that one (Chuck) was from Minnesota, and the other one (Zack) was from Missouri. Zack has a Master’s degree in design engineering, and a Ph.D. in chemistry. He and Chuck are really fun and interesting to be around. We stayed together for the rest of the day and stopped in Navarette for breakfast.

We then hiked on to Ventosa to the albergue, San Saturnino, which was great. It was only 9.5 euros. At 7 p.m. a group of us went to dinner at the only local restaurant. The group consisted of Zack and Chuck, Hawk and Christine, the two Brits,a woman from Canada, a man from South Africa, and of course, myself. The food was really good. I had chicken and fries with a salad and fruit for dessert. The meals are all pilgrim’s meals, which are all really nice and a cheaper price, usually between 10 and 11 euros. After dinner we all returned to the albegue and went to bed.

It was a great day and tomorrow will be better. More to follow. Buen Camino!  

Viana to Logrono - 10 km

May 12
Lat: 42.466111 Long: -2.444722

I slept in this morning until 6:30 a.m., had hot tea in the kitchen of the pension, and finally got on the trail by 8 a.m. It was cold this morning with temperatures in the lower 40s and I needed my gloves to keep my hands warm. We planned a shorter day today (10 Km) so that Christine “Little Pony” could give her feet another day to break in.

The walk today was mostly through the grape vineyards and wheat fields, none the less still beautiful, just the same views. It was still cool with temperatures in the lower 40s and then only warming up to the mid-50s in the afternoon.

It was a good day to get to Logrono as it is a cathdral town and is the capital of La Rioja, which is the next region of Spain that we are approaching. The cathedral is huge and we were able to walk through it in between the many masses that were held today (Sunday).

This city is large with a population of 145,000. They have many alberguea and hotels and some really great restaurants to eat in. We are in another pension. The price is 20 euros for a single and is right on the plaza across from the church. I looked at the albergue one block away and it was 19 euros for a bed in a multi-bed room. Here I have my own room and bathroom. There is municipal albergue on the outskirts of town for 9 euros, but it's a 42-bed lodging.

Tonight was a great dinner with some new friends from England and Germany. We dined and chatted for over two hours and planned our strategy for tomorrow's walk. The plan is to meet up about 20 km up the trail...we will see.

Until then... more to follow. Buen Camino!

Los Arcos to Viana - 18. 9 km

May 11
Lat: 42.514722 Long: -2.373333

Today began early… got up at 5:30 a.m. and went downstairs to find the owner starting breakfast for all. Breakfast in the albergues is generally coffee and bread and sometimes cheese and ham, but never more. It's enough to get you started. We were out by 7 a.m. and on the trail. We walked for 5 km to the sleepy little village of Sansol where I found a “tienda” to sit and have a cup of coffee while I waited on Hawk and Little Pony.

About a kilometer after Sansol, we came into Torres del Rio, which had a nice little bar/restaurant, but we chose not to stop. They had an old church, but they wanted a euro to go in and I thought there were enough churches for free so I passed on that one. The trail continued on passing through two more villages (N.S. del Poyo, and Rio Cornava) of no considerable size. However, water was available in all the towns and several fountains along the way.

From there, I pretty much paralleled the roadway into the town of Viana and that's where we had reservations at Casa Armendariz. It's a good place. Again I had my own room and a bath, and we had a kitchen to use. Every bit of this was for only 13 euros.

We cleaned up and headed up the hill to the center of town where we ate dinner. All in all we had a good day. It did seem to get colder as the day went on. We began the day at 45 degrees and it only reached the mid-50s. It's now 8:45 and the sun is dropping below the mountains in the distance. I’ll go to bed shortly and start again tomorrow.

More to follow. Buen Camino!

Estella to Los Arcos - 21.9 km

May 10
Lat: 42.569167 Long: -2.191667

Woke up at 6:00, ate breakfast at the bakery, and was on the move by 7:00. After leaving town, we walked about 2 km to the Fuente de vino, a winery. They have a tap where you can fill your bottle with wine if you want.

Today’s weather was light clouds, then clearing with blue skies all day. The temperature was 54 degrees early and only in the upper 50's later. Water was abundant too.

This stretch of trail doesn’t have many towns but around noon we did come to the little town of Villamayor de Monjardin where we had lunch. I finally got a chance to have a salad; it was good. The rest of the day was walking across fields (no towns) until we got to Los Arcos and into Albergue de la Abuela, which is a really nice place. It has 32 beds.

After we got cleaned up, we went “out on the town” so to speak, saw the church, and then went to dinner. The restaurant was a nice restaurant, but still had a "Peregrinos" meal. I had chicken, potatoes and a mixed salad with cake for desert, all for 10 euros. It was a good night.

More to follow tomorrow. Buen Camino!

Puente La Renia to Estella - 21.9 km

May 9
Lat: 42.671667 Long: -2.031667

I woke up at 5:50 a.m. and was ready to leave by 7 a.m. We were supposed to pick up our picnic breakfast in the lobby, but when we went to the lobby, no one was there so we just went up the street to a panaderia (bakery) and had a cup of coffee and pastry before heading out into the drizzle.

During the day we passed through a number of villages with populations ranging from 400 to 500. All of them had little bars/restaurants. We ate lunch in the village of Cirququi. After we finished eating and packed up, the skies opened up and the rain came down. I had to wear rain gear until just about Estella. Also, I wanted to mention that there is no need to carry much water. I've carried only a pint (1/2 liter) the entire trip since there are plenty of fountains to get water. I will advise as I progress.

We wandered around looking for a hotel for the night. We found an old hotel straight out of 50s. We checked it out and found it was clean but plain. My room even came with a pink bathroom including a bidet, which I have no idea how to use or any desire to learn.

After we cleaned up we went out to find something to eat but again dinner is only served after 7 p.m. The “Peregrinos” meals are your best value as they run about 9 to 11 euros, which includes a three-course meal ( appetizer, main course, and desert) along with a bottle of wine and bread. This was another good day in Spain.

More to follow as I head West toward Santiago. Buen Camino!

Cizur Menor to De Puente la Reina - 21 Km

May 8
Lat: 42.671944 Long: -1.813611

I woke up this morning at 5:50 am, but didn't get up until 6 when the church bells began to ring. All the towns seem to have the church bells ring at 6 a.m., which is good because everyone gets up and starts getting packed to leave. We left the albergue by 6:30 a.m., had breakfast at the restaurant across the street and was on the trail by 7 a.m. The weather was a little overcast with light sprinkles during the day but nothing to require rain gear. It was in the upper 50s in the mornings and low to mid 70s by the afternoon.

The really only uphill for the day was up to Alto del Perdon known as the "Hill of forgiveness." The summit has many iron representations of medieval pilgrims and a good photo opportunity with 360 degree views of the valleys below. (My guidebook describes it as a difficult climb, but in reality, it's not that difficult.) After the climb and the descent, we were heading on to the little town of Uterga where we were going to get a cup of "cafe con leche," (coffee with cream). From there Hawk and I separated from Little Pony and headed off to the Eunate church; Little Pony went on directly to Puente la Reina where she was going to secure lodging for the night.

The Eunate church is where the Knights Templer, who were linked with the church, would defend the pilgrims on their journey to Santiago. It is a 12th Century Romanesque Church of Santa Maria de Eunate. This requires a 2.8 Km detour but is well worth the time and distance.

After visiting the church we headed the last 4.4 Km to Puente La Reina and found Little Pony where she had secured us rooms at the Hostel Bidean. It is much like a hotel in that you have your own room, but isn't a four-star hotel with the 50 euros price. It's about 35 euros and generally includes dinner and sometimes breakfast. The albergue usually charges 10 to 12 euros per night, and the hostel usually has a price around 35 to 40 euros, but provides dinner and breakfast the next morning.

We got cleaned up and went to see what the town had to offer. At the end of the street is a river where you can cross the famous Puente de Arga, which was renamed “The Queens Bridge” in honor of Dona Mayor, wife of Sancho III. At 7 p.m. we went to dinner, which was included in the cost of the room. It was a nice clean place to stay.

It was a good day of walking with a lot of good views.

More to follow. Buen Camino!

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Spain Blog 2013

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