The Way sets you free.

Day 13 – 29th September 2015, Logrono to Najerra.

Hello friends!

It’s about time for another nerdy fact alert isn’t it? Now that I had arrived in Logrono, (for some reason, this sounds like ‘the groin’ to me), it would appear that I have walked approximately 163 km or 101 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port. I only have 613.3 km, that’s 381.1 miles to go until I reach Santiago de Compostella, according to the Camino Frances (the Way of St. James’) guidebook. However, I am pretty sure that I have walked further then 163 km in reality, considering getting lost in Cizur Mayor and walking around cities and towns for sight seeing purposes or finding accommodation and a launderette etc. But that is by the by, it is still a long way to Santiago!

I didn’t really feel like sight seeing by the time I reached Logrono and Laurie and I checked into the Pension, so after the rather mediocre, luke warm pilgrim meal at the Cafe Moderna, I went back to the Pension and got ready for bed. The next morning, we got up in the dark and set off down the street in search of the very elusive Camino signs, e.g. shells and yellow arrows. Navarre, I thought to myself, had much better pilgrim signage, Rioja could learn a thing or two from its neighbour! It was a tad too early in the morning to be doing a ‘treasure hunt’, as it must have been about 6.30am, but Laurie was brilliant at spotting the Logrono Camino motif on the pavement. Phew! We made our way out of town and into a lovely park, called Parque Granjera, which had a lake. We stopped for a brief water and oreo break to watch the sun come up.

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As we picked up speed we began to meet other pilgrims en route, pilgrim rush hour, again. I fell into step with Ed, a teacher from Illinois, who was walking the Camino to mull over what he would do when he retires next year. Ed was a man on a mission, because he had a schedule to follow, including a flight booked back home. He told me, this meant he would need to walk over 30 km some days and then commented, “I have to make the Camino fit my schedule”, and then sped past me. Ultreia! He is not alone in that way of thinking, for I had met many pilgrims who were keeping to a tight schedule owing to the demands of work or family. I had a rough or tentative schedule mapped out for the coming weeks but no fixed deadline for going back to the UK and no return flight booked. I will do that when I reach Santiago and before, God willing, I continue on to Finisterre and Muxia.

The conversation gave me plenty of food for thought. I am not convinced the Camino fits anyone’s schedule as such. Yes, there are some markers in time, for example from the moment when the Camino calls someone to come, to participating in the daily rhythm of waking up, getting going, putting one foot in front of the other, eating, sleeping and doing it all over again, day after day. However, anything can happen and a person cannot know how she or he will feel until they are on The Way and walking the walk. A pilgrim told me recently, “You do not walk the Camino, the Camino walks you!” I am beginning to appreciate how true this is. I am learning something every day, while also having the space and time to work through things, not least coming to terms with the loss of my mum.

I found myself reflecting, whilst walking along, how the Camino or The Way has set me free in all sorts of ways. As I mentioned yesterday, I am learning about self-acceptance, which means I am beginning to set myself free from self-judgement, and likewise from self-limitation. In order to come on the Camino, I detached myself from my usual schedule and routine, and gave notice at work, so I am well and truly free from any structure or deadline or boss. This is highly liberating but also a tiny bit scary, in a good way of course. I think back to the times when my structure and schedules have been quite rigid e.g. school, piano and flute practice, university studies and employment. Out here on the road, I have no demands on my time other than to take care of myself in each present moment. I can structure each day as I wish and spend as little or as long as I like in each place and the important in-between bits. There is something very physical and tangible about the Camino, that brings me right back into my body in the present moment. I am reminded of Eckhart Tolle’s book “The Power of Now”, and I realise that then Camino de Santiago holds and carries with it, this power!

The trail took us out of the park and along past some ruins at St. Juan de Acre and across a busy main road, just outside Navarette. I caught a flash of colour out of the corner of my eye and turned. I noticed a brightly clothed pilgrim across the road, who seemed familiar. It was Christine, the lady I met on my first day in St. Jean Pied de Port, who had helped me with my backpack zip emergency! I crossed over the road and gave her a hug. She had just finished her Camino walk for this year and she was heading back to Logrono to catch her bus. She had enjoyed her walk immensely, during the last two weeks, which were a welcome respite from the daily demands of being a full time carer for her mum. I could relate to this from my recent experience caring for my mum at home, as there are no shifts, a carer is on ‘duty’, 24/7, out of love.

Christine recommended we pick up the leaflets for free tea and coffee at a local cafe, that a man was handing out on the road into Navarette. I wished Christine well as we parted company and a few minutes later up the road, the friendly man handed the leaflets to us and wished us ‘Buen Camino’. I know I fell for the cunning marketing ploy, but the offer of free tea and coffee lured me into the 1 Parada cafe for a cheap and cheerful breakfast. I would recommend the delicious, fresh orange juice and toasted boccadillos.

Fuelled up and ready to pop, it was time to leave the pretty town of Navarette and press on towards Najerra. I enjoyed walking past the numerous vineyards that covered the rolling hills and fields in green stripes, laden witha good harvest of black grapes (note to self, must try the local Rioja wine). On the way I chatted to another couple of pilgrims. John, a young man from Sydney, Australia was at a crossroads in his career and hoped that the Camino would help him to seek and define a new direction for his working life. Until now, he had been one of those crazy tour guides, who take tourists up the Sydney Harbour Bridge and he had a second job in IT. Later on, I talked with Loretta from Lithuania, who had a bounce in her step as she clearly enjoyed walking her Camino, especially out in the countryside.

I noticed the wooden way markers that had yellow stickers on them showing the number of kms still to walk to Santiago. The funny thing is the numbers are not in a consistent order, which is confusing. Perhaps its that weird quantum physics thing again and distances change and expand when a pilgrim looks at them, or some cheeky sod has swapped the yellow stickers around!

Anyway, it was a long, hot and dusty slog up a hill and down again before we reached Najerra. The approach into town was rather disconcerting as the town seemed quite drab and run down. The first albergue we came to was shut that day and one of the main hotels was boarded up. Not a good sign. The town seemed to go on and on and it split into two parts, separated by a river and nestled between some dramatic red cliffs. I noticed how one side of the town looked ominous and run down, while the other side looked as though it was more upbeat and thriving. We trudged on, my feet and knees were sore as I had walked about 28 km that day. We enquired at the Hostel Hispano, whether they had rooms. Unfortunately, the main hotel was full, but the owner’s mother ran a pension (really an apartment) round the corner, so we were able to get rooms at a good price. Hurrah! Next mission, I went in search of pizza across the river and ordered a veggie one, which was mostly ok, the pizza marguerita base was nice and hot and tasty but topped with cold veg! Oh well, can’t win them all….

And so endeth, a very long day!

Find out what happened next…

Peace, love and light,

Sarah xxx

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