Day 14 – To Najera

Navarrete to Najera – 16 Kms, 23,811 steps

I bid Navarrete farewell this morning and headed out around 7:45 AM. It was cool, about 53-degrees F, but that was comfortable for me. It was Sunday and nothing was open. My pension didn’t even offer breakfast, so I was operating on no coffee.

There were other pilgrims already on the street, though, and together we made our way on The Way out of town.

A full moon showed me the way

Several times now, I’ve seen pilgrims go the “wrong” way, and I saw one do so this morning. He or she was way too far ahead to call to or whistle at. Did they miss seeing the yellow arrows and stele indicating a left turn? Or, did they know what they were doing and deliberately go “off” the Camino path?

Sometimes the Camino authorities send us on a longer route, just to keep us off the highway shoulder. It’s a safety issue when there are a lot of pilgrims. But, if you know this and have a good map or app, you can save yourself some steps by creating your own shortcut. Perhaps the pilgrim I saw miss the turn this morning was doing just that.

In fact, later this morning I had a chance to do the same thing but, because I wanted some coffee, I chose to take an optional path to the town of Ventosa, adding 1 Km to my walk.

Ventosa’s “1 Km of Art” sign post

Interestingly, the Ventosa folks decided to reward pilgrims who walked that extra distance with a one kilometer roadside art display. The road featured periodic large-scale pictures, paintings, and sculptures. Pretty cool! There’s also a nice website supporting it.

Ventosa roadside art

And there was a really nice cafe, open and fully-operating on Sunday at 9:30 AM, in town where I satisfied my coffee jones. Worth every extra step!

Even highway overpasses are into the Camino

The day was sunny and getting warmer as morning wore on. The lack of shade compared to previous days was offset by a nice cooling breeze.

I was definitely passing through Rioja wine country, surrounded by hundreds of acres of vines.

A view across the vineyards
Vines bursting with grapes…
… ready for harvesting

It wasn’t long before I came across pickers harvesting the grapes. It’s done by hand and looks like hot, difficult work. All the pickers looked like immigrants. Seeing this takes away a little of the romance of the finished product.

A basket of grapes goes into the truck

Nonetheless, seeing those grapes made my mouth water a bit. I knew what I was going to drink with lunch!

Outside of town, I came across a chozo, an ancient grape pickers’ shelter:

Chozo anyone?

The process of walking on the Camino can be complicated. On level, paved streets, it’s like walking anywhere. But on rocky hill paths and farm roads, it’s much more demanding. You have to be aware of where your boots are coming down, where large or loose rocks are, you may be taking shorter steps going up- or downhill, and you may be using your hiking poles. In addition, you may be passing or being passed by other pilgrims or bicyclists. And, oh yes, don’t forget to take in the view and maybe snap a few pictures!

Sadly, the Camino is already derailing the plans of some pilgrims. I’ve seen a sprouting of knee and ankle braces this week and, at lunch, overheard a discussion about taking a bus to the next big town due to foot injuries.

So far, so good for me. We may get some rain in the coming week and I’m not eager to see how that red Rioja clay sticks to boots as mud. Tomorrow starts my third week on the Camino, as I head for Santo Domingo de la Calzada, 21 Kms away.

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