We started out from Logrono, and it was difficult to find the route out. The peaches we had for breakfast got us going. The first half hour was tough because we were riding across motorway type roads with plenty of traffic. A long steady climb but my legs felt like pudding. We spotted a motorway café and in my pathetic Spanish I ordered dos tortillas atun, patapas bravas, una café con leche y una café Americano. The café grandes came in glasses, without handles, which made them tough to drink out of. We scoffed it all down, con pan, and when I went to pay the waitress she said, “Thank you very much, enjoy your trip”. She’d tortured me just for fun!
Outside the café was a giant metal cut out black bull, like you see on wine bottles. There was plenty of up and down riding along the N120 which slowly made its way from six lanes to a more comfortable two. At a 4 lane junction we saw traffic cops on motorbikes on the hard shoulder and feared they may be about to tell us not to cycle on the motorway but with a cheery ‘hola’ they waved us on.
We smugly greeted walkers along the path with ‘hola’ and one who had dropped back from his group turned away from the traffic on the other side of the road only to set about putting talc on his important bits and pieces. We laughed so hard he heard us and after an initial look of shock he shrugged his shoulders and laughed back – ‘hola’ and we were off into the distance.
There was an alarming number of furniture shops en route, but as we entered Najera we realised that it was the self proclaimed ‘furniture capital of Spain’ with manufacturers lining the road. We stopped off at a bar on the outskirts of town and I couldn’t resist having a vino tinto after riding through all those vineyards. I did my best to read the sports paper, most of it seemed to be about David Beckham.
Najera didn’t look too promising, but had a lovely historic centre. Lou went into the tourist office to get a pretty stamp and to find out where the monastery was – it was 3 paces up the road. We mooched into the monastery but it didn’t open until 2. There seemed to be a major service planned with lots of seats outside and flags flying. We bought scallop shells to mark us out as pilgrims. I kind of hoped folk would give us a smidge more room on the road.
We had a series of climbs and got excited about a petrol station with shade and water, but it was closed, and a construction site so we couldn’t even shelter from the sun. It was absurdly hot and there was nothing roadside to offer any shade.
The countryside has changed to be a bit flatter and vines have replaced the woods. We eventually dropped the bikes and took five minutes shelter under a tree by a ditch. It was painful to shelter there though because the ground was covered in dry spiky grass.
We carried on and it didn’t get cooler but it did get steeper. At the top of a long climb, just as we were running low on water and getting dangerously hot I saw another petrol station and really put heart and soul into getting to it, only to see a closed sign, saying next one 5km. I really wanted to cry, but had insufficient body water to summon up tears. There was another station opposite it on the brow of the hill, but with no cars outside it didn’t look promising. I rode over and it was open. Woohoo. I stood by the road to wave Lou down so she was sure where I was. When she finally waved back (unable to cycle and wave at the same time), I ran into the store and got yogurt fruit drinks and water so we could re hydrate.
We horsed into a bag of cashews to replace some of the lost salt. After thirty minutes Lou had warmed up (!) and we’d bath stopped shaking so we set off refreshed, downhill to Santo Domingo. We stopped at the alburgue for a stamp and decided to stay as it was a convent. It’s very clean and the nuns are nice but we are in a bunkhouse. To Lou’s outrage there is a Parador here. The convent cost us 10€, as we paid over the odds as a donation. The Parador would be 110€. We stopped in for a sherry – 4€ for two – not bad. It was a wonderful building, formerly a convent with beautiful tapestries on the walls. Probably the best thing from our point of view was the stone floors which were nice and cool on our feet. I had to drag Lou kicking and screaming back to our unconverted convent.
The town is beautiful with an outstanding Cathedral, Santo Domingo. We lit some candles. There were some amazing gilded sculptures and a cage with two live chickens! There is a legend about a pilgrim who was hanged. A rich girl liked him, he didn’t like her back so she framed him for stealing church silver. Santo Domingo raised him from the dead! When his parents came back to tell the bishop he said “he’s as dead as the roast chicken on my table”. At that the chicken got up and flapped about, and so they keep live white chickens in the cathedral, changing them once a month so they stay fresh and happy looking.
Downstairs in the crypt is the tomb of Santo Domingo. Walk twelve times around it, say a Hail Mary, an Our Father and a Glory Be and Bobs your uncle, your sins are absolved and you win a total indulgence. Bus loads of people arrived and ran round at hyper speed before hopping, sin free, back onto their buses. I suggested to Lou that she could go home now, but after some thought she was happy to carry on.
Dinner was unpleasant semi frozen lasagne and a tuna sandwich with patapas bravas, which in this case was chips with cheap and nasty ketchup. It was the first meal so far that I didn’t declare to be the best food on earth. It took a whole bottle of rosada to make it go away.
Back to the alburgue and a chat with a Spanish guy who started at Roncevalles – four years ago! He’d got to Logrono and had to stop because he was ill, so he’d started again from there at a heck of a rate, 35-40km a day on foot, I figure he’ll be giving up again sick this time too. I also met a German chap, he was probably in his 60’s and he’d done the Camino three years ago at an average of five miles a day, and was now down to four a day, goodness knows how long he’ll take to get there.
Our room was, shall we say, basic. Three cots and a window, just above my head so if I sat up in the night I would slice my head open. There was no door, but we were in relative luxury, most rooms had six beds and not all had windows, I was glad ours had only three saggy squeaky ones.
Bed time came and the Spanish guy was occupying the third bed in our room. The Italians in the room opposite who had shared a rowdy dinner downstairs simply would not shut up with one girl giggling loudly for what seemed like hours. I could hear her even with wax earplugs in. The Spanish bloke shouted something very loud and I’m guessing, very rude, and everyone gradually quietened down.