Jan 18, 2015: Alda to Genevilla 17.9 K

The sign to where we did not want to go, but went anyhow!

Today was a bit of a crazy day. Our intention was to walk from San Vicente de Arana to Santa Cruz de Campezo via Orbiso. This stage has two different route options that both lead to Santa Cruz de Campezo and then on to Genevilla. Our host, Guy, was happy to drive us back to San Vicente to begin our wak, so off we went. The day was cold (32 F), but thankfully calm. A gunmetal sky threatened snow but only a few flakes drifted down as we started out. Upon arrival at San Vicente we thanked Guy for the ride, got our bearings (we thought) and set out for the Camino trail. Today’s shortened walk was part of a broader plan to join Guy and his wife Mirabel for a nice Sunday lunch. He has been so kind picking us up at Alda and shuttling us around that we wanted to treat them to a nice meal. The restaurant reservation was for 3:00, and it was quite a way out of town, so we agreed that we would walk to Santa Cruz where Guy would pick us up and drive us back home to Genevilla so we could clean up a bit before lunch.

Leaving San Vicente

As we were only going to walk perhaps 10 K we got a little lax with our navigation, and took the wrong path. We had intended to walk the shorter path to Santa Cruz, but wound up on the longer one instead. This became obvious when we pulled up the map and saw the town of Oteo (which we were looking at) firmly planted on the route we had wanted to avoid. As lunch was the controlling event for the day, and as it was clear that the only way we would make it was to walk a local road directly back to Santa Cruz, so that is what we did. We did see a few kilometers of today’s trail, but that was all. We hope to be back in form for tomorrow’s 27 K day to La Guardia.

An interesting note for those considering this Camino is the lack of lodging options in this area. We were lucky to find Guy’s casa rural, Usategieta, open, as he is closing for vacation next week and will not reopen until sometime in March. He said there was one other casa rural in Santa Cruz, but that is it. So there is no place to stay in Alda, or anywhere else between Alda and Santa Cruz. Prior planning is absolutely necessary to find a bed for the night, and a ride to it. I know there are at least a couple more situations like this, further down the Camino, where stage breaks occur in very rural towns with no services.

Camino cow path
Typical Camino marker
Oteo, the town we did not want to see, but did.
Our “Camino” path for most of our walk today
Approaching San Vicente

 

Jan 19, 2015: Genevilla to Laguardia 27 K

Our hosts in Genevilla

Today was definitely pay back day for being so lazy yesterday. We did have a very nice Sunday lunch with our hosts Guy and Mirabel. We returned from the restaurant in the early evening and by 7:30 I was in bed. Robin read for a bit but it was lights out for me until 6:00 am. We awoke to a light coating of snow over Genevilla. Temps were in the mid 30’s and the sky was not telling us much one way or the other, but Guy assured us that the weather would be clear going over the pass that leads to a town called Lapoblacion on the other side of the the mountains. So after exchanging photos and best wishes, and packing two very nice bocadillos that Mirabel had prepared, we were off (at 9:15) slip sliding down the icy streets of Genevilla to find the trail head.

Leaving Genevilla

Once on the Camino we set a pace we thought we could maintain all day and got to work. We wound along the perimeter of several fields listening to a guidebook that Robin had recorded (easier than trying to read it off a phone in the snow glare). I checked the gps track and eventually we made it to the point where were climbing for the pass, about a thousand feet above us. The sun was now firmly out and turning our climb into another gorgeous snow scene. Everything was glittering, crisp, and cold. As we ascended the trail became more of a track with 10 inches of snow to shuffle through. Up we went slowly and carefully, reading trail marks, marveling at the beautiful scenery, and taking lots of photos. We reached Lapoblacion around noon (8.7 K in just under 3 hours).

Scenes from the trail

From Lapoblacion the day’s walk leads you around the base of the mountain range, and drops you into Laguardia 18.3 K away. We walked steadily until 2:00 when we broke for lunch, and 15 minutes later we walked for another 3 hours to get to Laguardia. We were walking in snow for about 5 hours in total. It was hard walking in those conditions. You just consume a lot more energy to cover the same distance. The weather on the other side of the mountains was all over the place with a mix of sleet, heavy snow showers and quite warm sun breaks. The final stroke was when we were 30 minutes out from Laguardia a serious snow shower swooped down off the mountains and turned Robin and I into a couple of Christmas displays (flocked pilgrims?). But our hotel was almost in sight and spirits were running high as a hot shower was only minutes away. We are now close to Rioja and from what we can see the wine business in this town dominates the landscape. It is definitely all about wine. Might just have a glass after I post this. In short a great, but long day. All is well.

This is the mountain we had to cross
Robin leaning into it
Lapoblacion
The valley on the other side of the mountain
Afternoon trail
First vineyards spotted
Descending down out of the snow
Laguardia still many kilometers away
The peak on the far right is Lapoblacion
Our hotel…we made it!

 

 

Jan 20, 2015: Laguardia to Navarrete 19.6 K

The view from Javier’s tower

Our stay in Laguardia was perfect. Our hotel host, Javier, had fired up the heating system anticipating our arrival. Our room was a haven of warmth for two, chilled to the bone, pilgrims. He also kept the heat going all night (a major plus). We had dinner at the hotel and went to bed immediately afterwards, thoroughly done in. This morning at breakfast Javier said he thought we would encounter some snow today on the way to Navarrete. As it turned out we had a cold, but dry day for today’s walk. We took a bit of time this morning to allow Javier to show us the tower of his castle (small one) now hotel.

Robin on the castle tower

Robin and I clambered up and up the spiral staircase and out onto a crenelated flat roof. The view was unrestricted but the 30 F air temperature kept photo opportunities to a minimum. Back down from the tower we made our farewells and set off for the Calle Mayor and the Camino path out of town. One interesting piece of information that I picked up from Javier is that Laguardia is well known for its extravagant wineries. They are called “wine temples.” I noticed one was done by Frank Gehry, and not surprisingly it looked like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Even Javier had bottles of wine hung like family portraits in his tower. Everyone is mad for wine in this area. Things could be worse.

Back down to earth

We passed through the city wall shortly after 9:00 and set out across the vineyards towards Navarrete. The Camino marking on today’s stage was pretty thin. I mostly relied on the gps track to lead the way, and it was well that I did for there were some intersections that were not clearly defined in the written route description. It was mostly a slight downhill trend to the point where we crossed the Rio Ebro, the boundary between Euskadi (Basque Country in Basque) and Rioja. At this point it was a gentle climb to the hill on which sits the town of Navarrete. We were puffing past the church at a few minutes past 1:00, and found the Hotel Rey Sancho (our home for the night) just beyond the church. We checked in an headed down into the plaza to find the Restaurante El Molino (thanks for the tip Margaret) for a great lunch. So now it is the usual laundry and sorting things out for tomorrow’s walk to Logroño, and perhaps a few kilometers beyond. I am still, trying to work out how to reduce the 30 K stage after Logroño to something more manageable, especially when it is only 13 K from Navarrete to Logroño. It will probably involve a bus or taxi back to Logroño where we will spend the night, and then a bus or taxi back to where we stopped to resume our walk. We will get it all sorted tomorrow. Now it is time for a siesta. Bye for now.

Calle Mayor in Laguardia
Passing through the city gate
Bodega in the foreground
Waving farewell to Laguardia
The hill in the middle is Navarrete
Rio Ebro crossing

 

 

Jan 21, 2015: Navarrete to Logroño 13 K

Navarrete about to wake up

We had a nice stay in Navarrete. We enjoyed a bit of a siesta after lunch, and then (around 7:15) we followed the tolling church bells to evening mass. At first we thought the mass might be in the main church but that is usually not the case (too few attendees to light and heat the church). Our uncertainty was resolved when we noticed an older lady making her way towards an adjacent building and slipping through an open door. We followed suit and found ourselves in a small upstairs chapel. The priest was kind enough to include a pilgrim blessing for us at the end of mass. Shortly after mass Robin and I were back in bed where I slept soundly until 5:00. Robin didn’t fare so well and had a restless night. You would think that after a full day’s walk that sleep would come easily. Not always the case. Once daylight crept into the plaza below our hotel I was very pleased to see dry streets and patches of clear sky. Today’s walk might just be in the dry (and in fact it was).

V
Walking out of Navarrete

Breakfast was at 8:00, and in true pilgrim fashion we ate everything that made it to the table. By 8:45 we were strolling down the hill to find the Camino Frances route which we would walk in reverse to Logroño. Temps were in the mid 30’s and the air was calm. We set out in a gentle climb to the summit where a large sign in the shape of a bull dominates the landscape. This is a very familiar sight to this pilgrims walking the Camino Frances. From the summit it is all downhill via a series of gravel and paved paths that lead the walker to the approaches to the city. We arrived in the city center at 11:30, found our hotel and checked in.

Heading for the bull

As we were checking in we asked about transportation from the end of tomorrow’s walk, Alcanadre, to the end of the following day’s walk Calahora. There is one train departing Alcanadre at 2:15 for Calahora. If we miss that the next one isn’t until 8:30 pm. All this shuttling around is necessary as there isn’t any place to stay in Alcanadre. We will backtrack the following day to Alcanadre to complete the stage from Alcanadre to Calahora. I must admit it is all a bit confusing, and a pain, but it is what it is.

We decided to have a short day today as we had some transportation issues to resolve, laundry to do (not sink washing), an Orange SIM card issue (we can’t call anywhere), and Robin needed a few things from the shops. So it just seemed to be a good time to get all these things resolved before pushing back off into the hinterlands. So far we are ticking things nicely off the list. We even found a great Japanese restaurant for lunch. Hope to go to mass again tonight, grab some pintxos and call it a night. Tomorrow should prove interesting as we try to manage all the moving parts of this part of our walk. What could possibly go wrong?? I wonder…

Navarrete adieu
Walking the Camino in reverse
More bull
First view of Logroño

 

 

Jan 22, 2015: Logroño to Alcanadre 30.6 K

The weather changing for the worse

We returned to our hotel last night accompanied by the howl of emergency sirens. Lots of police cars were following us home. As we turned into the street where our hotel was located we could see thick black smoke pouring from a garage entrance directly across from our hotel. The police we on scene and just minutes later the fire department arrived. There was a large block of apartments directly above the fire but no alarms were sounding and no occupants were pouring out into the street. But, the firemen were very organized and entered the garage only moments after they arrived. Still no apartment lights on above the fire, no people looking out windows and no police going door to door to raise the alarm. It all worked out but it seemed a bit casual with regard to the apartment dwellers above the fire. That was our excitement for the night.

The next morning Robin and I decided to take a taxi to the village of Recajo (10.6 K from Logroño) and begin our day’s walk from there. Making our train schedule in Alcanadre was the principal consideration but by doing this we also avoided a long walk out through the suburbs of Logroño. At 8:50 a cab pulled up for us just as a large Audi sedan emerged from the garage that had the fire the night before. It was covered in ash. (must be off to the car wash). By 9:15 we were waving goodbye to our driver and plodding along a busy highway, the N 232. We misjudged our drop off point and had about a mile to walk as large trucks roared past a bit too close for comfort. Relief came from a small paved road that allowed our escape from the motorway and down onto a rural road that was our part of our Camino path for this part of our walk.

East meets west

We started our walk in a cold rain that only increased as the day drew on. Temperatures were just under 40 but felt colder. Luckily the wind was from the NW, putting it at our back. We settled into what was going to be a 20 K day once the cab ride was subtracted. We felt we had ample time to arrive in Alcanadre before the 2:34 arrival of the train to Calahorra where we’re spending the night. We popped our umbrellas and enjoyed a cozy lee from the wind and rain. Just keep on walking. So far we had been walking on paved surfaces, and the rain caused us no bother. Upon reaching the village of Arrubal (with 12.6 K left to reach Alcanadre) we left the pavement for gravel and then muddy tracks. We squished along not quite walking as fast as we had intended but still with time enough to make our train.

Getting into the mud

As we plodded through the mud a car approached from the direction of Arrubal. One fellow rolled down his window and let us know that the Camino de Santiago was in the opposite direction from where we were heading. We explained (in very broken Spanish that we were walking the Camino Ignaciano to Manresa, much further to the east). They seemed relieved and turned around and headed back from where they had come. Robin felt, and I agree, that these guys had seen us, apparently heading in the “wrong” direction when we passed through Arrubal, and set out to find and alert us to our apparent error. Very kind off them to do that.

Robin rigged for rain

We had been following pretty good waymarks but also verified our position with gps from time to time. As we drew closer to Alcanadre the mud got worse and eventually down I went shin deep in a mud puddle. No harm done just pretty dirty, but after a quick brush off we redoubled our efforts to make the train to Calahorra. We arrived at the train station just minutes after 2:00 and joyfully welcomed the train as it glided to a halt to pick us up. 13 minutes later we were in Calahorra walking up the hill to our hotel for the night. We will head back to Alcanadre in the morning and walk back to Calahorra. All in all not a bad day. So far in this trip the scenery has gone from breathtaking to pedestrian as we now find ourselves out in the agricultural flats interspersed with large industrial plants. But, dealing with the good and not so good is all part of any Camino. Today was just another piece that needed to be added to bring us just that much closer to Manresa our final destination, and that is a good thing. Sometimes as pilgrims we need to be reminded that we are not on a tour. The beauty that truly matters is what the journey helps us find within.

Our oath alongside the railway
Not an Ansel Adams moment
Camino following the Rio Ebro
A bit of a mud bath
No mud on her
Alcanadre station
Albergue in the Alcanadre station

 

Jan 23, 2015: Alcanadre to Calahorra 20.6 K

Departing Alcanadre

Today dawned dry and mostly clear, and that made my day. Robin and I had committed to backtracking to Alcanadre to walk the section from there to Calahorra. If the weather had been miserable I probably could have been talked into a lay day and just skipping that stage. But as it’s turned out we had a beautiful day, so off we went. A taxi picked us up at our hotel and for 26 euros drove us to Alcanadre. We hopped out of the taxi at 10:00, slung our packs (which were quite light as much had been left behind at our hotel to which we were returning), and set off along the orange stripe my gps has for the Camino Ignaciano. We followed a side street and then a gravel path as we enjoyed a gentle climb out of town and down towards the freeway (the AP-68). We crossed the freeway and swung back to parallel it heading east on a gravel service road. The way markings today were very sparse, and my gps, once again, brought clarity at several junctions that were poorly marked. Our walk today was quite flat and straight apart from the occasional turn to navigate around a freeway or railroad. The paths were mostly gravel, hard packed, and mud free (hooray). In truth today was just about walking. The scenery was pleasant, but not distracting, and the navigation was pretty straightforward (thank you gps). So with all that aside now it was just a matter of walking the kilometers required to return to our hotel. Days like this can be challenging to some people. An unrequited hunger for stimuli can be disturbing, putting some folks off balance, and making them crave companionship, at any cost. Solitude should not be shaped into some version of loneliness. Solitude is simply a space where one finds a rare opportunity to peer within one’s heart. This should not be so complicated a process that it requires a follow up treatise to explain it. It should simply be a moment of interior reflection that helps guide you along your path to peace (or to wherever you are heading). Robin and I find these kinds of days, not boring, but tailor made for reflection. Anyhow, that was our day. We offered quiet prayers, enjoyed a variety of discussions, took in the scenery, clicked a few photos, and just kept walking. At 2:04 we stepped through the door of our hotel. Another great day’s walk completed, and another stage closer to Manresa.

Climbing out of Alcanadre
Day begins
Nice day
Plenty of vineyards today
The service road
I’m always trying to catch up
Tunnel vision
Miles to go
A whimsical bodega along the way
Back to our hotel
Street scene in Calahorra
The lavandería (muy importante)

 

Jan 24, 2015: Calahorra to Alfaro 24.0 K

Calahorra in morning sun

We awoke to a chilly (36 F) morning.The sky was partly cloudy, and the forecast was for a dry day. The temperatures were going to creep up close to 50 today, so we could be shedding jackets a bit later on. Today’s walk would be quite similar to yesterday’s. It would prove to be a long flat trek through agricultural areas that stayed close by the east-west rail line. It was a truly unremarkable, but pleasant day. We chugged along looking for waymarks and checking the gps when none appeared (which was frequently). We had set out at 9:00, and by noon we were having a coffee in Rincón de Soto which was about half way for today. All morning we just headed east squinting into the sun. At 12:20 we pulled out of Rincón, picked up the Camino path out of town, and resumed squinting into the sun (even though the sun was a little higher in the sky and more to our right).

 

By the cathedral in Calahorra

Today’s agricultural report includes the news flash that Rincón and the surrounding area is a major pear growing area (who would know?). The orchards were quite evident as we left town, even trumping the vineyards for planted acreage (for a wee bit). Tearing our eyes away from the rows of pear trees we returned our focus to the rifle barrel straight gravel path ahead (and behind). We stayed close aboard the rail line and after much crunching of gravel started up a very long avenue that would swing left and drop us off in Alfaro, and as a nice bonus, right at the front door of our hotel. We swung through the door at 2:40 foot sore and thirsty. We are doing the usual pilgrim chores, and ablutions and will head into town for the Saturday vigil mass, at 7:00 pm, at the Sam Miguel Collegiate (which also claims, at over 100 nests, the highest concentration of white stork nests over one building in the world…top that!). We also passed the ruins of a Roman Ninphaeum (now you don’t pass one of those every day). Apparently it was a place where the local Romans worshiped the nymphs of Alhama (?) until the 4th century. It is now a national monument. Well that covers the points of interest and the archaeological highlights. I just knew there was a reason we were meant to be here.

We are off tomorrow, via the gravel path next to the rail line once again, to the town of Tudela. This is all new ground for Robin and I so each day holds the potential for wonders anew (nymphs, storks, pears In Rioja???). Feet and legs are holding up well enough (discounting the usual aches and pains). No blisters (big smile). Still very pleased, and blessed, to be on the road to Manresa. St. Ignatius pray for us.

Cathedral in Calahorra
Morning scenery
Just follow the train tracks
Ask about our pears
A Roman Nymphaeum. There goes the neighborhood

 

 

 

Jan 25, 2015: Alfaro to Tudela 24.6 K

This interrupted the flat terrain

Today was going to be an early start. Robin and I were determined to be on the road before 9:00. Breakfast at our hotel started at 7:00 so that helped us along. As we were enjoying our first cup of coffee in the breakfast room a man walked in carrying a long case. My first thought was that we would soon be enjoying a string sonata with our coffee, but then no that was not to be. Upon closer inspection it was not an instrument case but a gun case. I thought what an odd thing to bring to breakfast, but perhaps gun owners suffer from separation anxiety as well. Anyhow it just goes to show you what can run through your mind as you are trying to roll the shell off a hard boiled egg. We finished, paid our bill, and headed out into the cold morning half light watching the trees swaying in the strong NW’ly wind that was making the day feel a lot colder than the 35 F our weather app quoted. We wound our way through the quiet streets and finally got lined up on a street that would take us to the next town 4 K away. Away we went. Almost immediately the bark of rifle fire could be heard. Whatever the locals were after the hunt was definitely on. For most of the morning gunshots broke the silence of our walk. I started thinking I had better keep my hiking poles down. I wouldn’t want to go for a big stretch, raise my poles, and be mistaken for a black horned “pilgabeast” inviting a volley of “Hail Mary” fire from afar. So poles down, crouching forward we moved cautiously along. Eventually the rifle shots faded and the crunch of our boots on the gravel path was the only sound we heard (apart from the howl of the wind).

From whence we came

We hauled into the hard scrabble town of Castejón around 9:15. This is a town built close aboard the rail line that seems to offer nothing more than that. We quickly moved through the Sunday morning silent streets until we picked up our path out of town (and alongside the rail line once again) and resumed our heading eastbound. The wind was really the weather story for today. Yes, it was cold, but the wind just kept pushing and shoving us around like passengers on a crowded subway. Over the course of the day it gradually grew in strength and by early afternoon it was blowing a steady 25 mph with gusts considerably higher. Our track today being mostly eastward put the wind on our right hand quarter. Most of the time it just shoved us along with a bit of side to side stuff thrown in for good measure. At one point just outside of Tudela we had to alter course towards the southwest, and the wind had some fun with us. We were head down and leaning into it as our progress ground to dead slow ahead. We held this course for about a 100 meters, but it seemed like a lifetime as we fought to find one step and then another. When we finally were able to swing back to the southeast it dawned on us how challenging a day’s walk would be heading westbound to Santiago in these winds.

To thence we go

One other thing of note was the change of terrain. This morning’s walk played out in the same flat agricultural fields we have been walking through for the last few days. By the afternoon we were seeing river valley (Ebro River) terrain with raised mesas. In any event it was a pleasant change as we followed the swollen (and hard running Ebro River) towards Tudela. We made our final approach to the city on a gravel road where the gusting winds spun cyclones of dust around our feet and the river rushes waved frantically in the wind as if applauding our arrival. It was in this celebratory mood that we arrived cold and dusty at 1:30. Our hotel, the Hotel Santamaría, is very close to the Camino, and has great heat (very important for converting the room into a laundry, which we did). Robin and I are now planning tomorrow’s walk over a glass of wine. I know I am not up for 36 K in conditions similar to today’s. We shall probably catch a taxi out off town to give us a jump start on our walk to Gallur, our next stop. We shall see what the weather is like in the morning, and make our decision then, but that is where the smart money is tending at the moment. Beautiful day.

The terrain begins to change
My girl
Rio Ebro bank full
Camino Ignaciano orange arrow
Approaching Tudela

 

 

Jan 26, 2015: Tudela to Gallur 36 K

Rio Ebro at dawn in Tudela

Today’s forecast was pretty much the same as yesterday’s so we opted for a taxi to the town of Ribaforada 11.2 K from Tudela. This jump gave us a much more pilgrim friendly day’s walk at 24.8 K. Our taxi dropped us off at the rail line (big surprise), and we pushed off at 9:30 with the sun in our eyes and a gusty wind at our backs. We could see far down the track to a windmill farm that was our goal for the moment. Crunch…crunch…crunch…countless steps along a gravel path that conjured infinity. As I have mentioned before Robin and I don’t get too weird with these long straight stages. It really does provide time for busy minds to wind down. The only excitement was an occasional passing train heading east to Zaragoza or westbound to Logroño. The terrain was flat (very flat) offering views of orderly fields, and distant mesas. The trail itself was a service road, paralleling the rail line, for much of the morning until it wasn’t. At this point we hugged the rail line, pounded through some scrub brush, scrambled along some rock ballast, and eventually saw another service road that allowed us to resume our crunch…crunch…crunch eastwards towards Gallur. About halfway we passed through the agricultural towns of Cortes and Mallén. In these towns the streets are busy with John Deere tractors rather than BMW’s. We learned to listen for the tractors, and hug the walls as tall as a man tires rolled closely by. Cortes did offer a nice 12th century castle (small but interesting). We went inside as the gate was open but it was just a courtyard with no access to the castle tower. We pushed on. As we cleared Mallén, only 3 K from Cortes, the scenery slowly improved. We eventually found ourselves walking along a beautiful gravel path/road that bordered a well constructed irrigation canal. We walked the bank of this canal, buffeted by strong tail winds, all the way to Gallur where we arrived at 2:45.

Orderly fields

As we had not been able to find lodging in Gallur we booked a small hotel in Taustes 5 K to the north of Gallur. As we shuffled into Gallur trying to find a landmark which we could give to our hotelier, who was going to pick us up, we spotted a hotel/restaurant, El Colono, in a street just below us. This hotel had been shown as booked full when we did a booking.com search. We coaxed our now stiff legs down a flight of concrete stairs and entered the warm dining room of El Colono. We were uncertain about dining in Taustes so we decided to eat here and then call our ride. We had a nice meal and as we were finishing the owner started inquiring if we needed a room ad she had vacancies. We explained that booking.com had shown her hotel as full for today so we booked elsewhere. She seemed to understand and was quite cordial. In fact she offered to call our host in Taustes and arrange our pick up, which see did. As it turns out El Colono would have been much more convenient stop (and I would recommend it), but other arrangements had been made. Our host for the night, Manolo, and his son picked us up at El Colono, and whisked us away to Taustes. They were both very kind and solicitous. Manolo gave us a swing through the town before pulling up to his hotel. It is a nice place, simple but nice. However, it feels a bit empty as we are the only guests. But, the heat is on and Monolo says he will be back to serve breakfast at 7:30, after which he will drive us back to Gallur so we can pick up the Camino once again. Robin and I have settled in for the night, and look forward to good night’s sleep. It is strange, but we seem to feel more tired at the end of a day of walking on the flat compared to the same distance in the mountains. Not sure why, but there it is. Time for some sleep. Buenas noches.

Crunch…crunch…crunch…
Our familiar rail line
Approaching Cortes
The castle in Cortes
Hello!
Canal path

 

 

Jan 27, 2015: Gallur to Alagón 21.2 K

Good morning

This morning our host in Taustes, Manolo, arrived as promised and prepared breakfast. He then drove us back the 5K into Gallur where we picked up the Camino bound for Alagón. On our way into Gallur Manolo pointed out various things including a “pig house.” As it turns out our hotelier is also a hog rancher. He said he had 2000 pigs to look after. I’ll look for pork on today’s lunch menu to pay Manolo back for the trip from Gallur to Tauste and back. He was a very pleasant guy, full of energy, and joy. We were pleased to make his acquaintance. But, the Camino called, so we made our goodbyes, and headed east, once again. Today we were not squinting as the sun had climbed behind a curtain of cloud that made walking into it a lot more pleasant. It was cool (45 F) not cold, and the wind was fairly docile and at our backs. So Robin and I settled in to our usual 4.5 to 5.0 kph pace. I was thinking this morning that this settling in was just like setting out on a long road trip by car. You know there are hours of driving ahead so you don’t rush things you just get acclimated to a reasonable pace and enjoy the day. So we enjoyed the day. We passed through a few small towns, enjoyed being close to the Rio Ebro, and before we knew it were were approaching Alagón. One thing about today’s walk that is never good on any Camino is walking on busy highways. Today, some of that was unavoidable, about 2.5 hours worth. We just did our best to squeeze to the shoulder, of which there was precious little, as the cars and trucks raced by. We also found that most of today’s walk was on some sort of paved road rural or otherwise. Also, not so good.

Goodbye Gallur

One interesting occurrence prompted some discussion about the dignity of work. Many of us have been brought up understanding there is dignity in all work, but we still feel that certain jobs, and career paths, have greater value to society than others thereby creating a hierarchy of value, and a corresponding scale of dignity. In short, perceived low value jobs are seen as offering less dignity to the laborer. Right? Wrong!

The shepherd

Case in point, today we were following a trail of animal droppings (slow news day), nothing large, but plentiful. At one point I spotted the culprits, a flock of sheep being ushered along by a man and a dog, and then I lost them in a bend in the road. As Robin and I walked the bend we came upon the sheep quietly grazing in a field alongside the road. The shepherd was standing as still as a statue, and his dog just as still at his side. Both man and dog were intently watching the sheep. He made no move to acknowledge our passing by, he just stood his ground and silently took in all that was going on around his flock. Some how this struck me as a memorable moment. This shepherd seemed to know when to be quiet, and presumably when to act should action would be required. I thought what dignity he projected. How many of us are that comfortable in our skins that we could so silent, so still.

It is probably worth mentioning that we booked our lodging through booking.com many weeks before leaving on this Camino. We knew from our research that some stage breaks offered no beds, or would only open to service a large number of guests (10 or above). It was very hard to discover every little hostel option in many of these towns where we needed a bed, so hence the booking.com solution. However, we have found out that in some cases where booking.com offered no beds there were in fact beds available. The Camino Ignaciano people need to prepare a more comprehensive list of lodging so that an accurate picture is drawn as to what types are available and what services are offered.

So long story short, we could not find a room in Alagón, so we booked further ahead in Utebo. When we arrived today we stopped into the Bar Baraka, where the owner pushed a couple of cold beers across the bar and kindly agreed to call us a taxi to Utebo. We chatted a bit as to why we were moving onto to Utebo. Having heard our story, he offered that he had rooms available right here and now. Unfortunately, our other booking could not be canceled at this late hour without penalty. So off to Utebo we went.

Robin rigged and ready
Rio Ebro
Cabañas de Ebro
Bar Baraka in Alagón