Logrono to Navarrete.
At 12 kilometers,
Day 1 on The Camino
could also be titled:
Let’s Ease Into This, Shall We?
We didn’t wake up early in Logrono.
It was probably around 10am when we walked out of our little flat in Logrono and stepped onto the Camino.
We knew we were starting with a short day, so we had decided the night before to take it easy. We didn’t have far to go, so we could afford a gentle start.
We immediately saw two other pilgrims who waved at us (and confirmed for us that we were setting off in the right direction).
They got ahead of us when we stopped at a fruit stand. We bought apples and bananas to supplement our coffee.
I almost started crying less than five minutes into Day One when a stranger wished us our first Buen Camino, the traditional greeting for pilgrims walking on The Way.
Gracias, I said to him, looking straight into his eyes. Thank you so much.
Later, on our final day of walking, I would feel bothered by a stranger coming over to wish us Buen Camino and ask us where we were from, but today, on this first hour of walking, I felt christened by the simple blessing.
Here we go.
The road out of Logrono went through the town and then into a park. Lots of folks were running and walking in the park. I thought how much fun it would be for a portion of the Camino de Santiago to be part of your regular exercise routine. I have often said I would like to spend a season in one of the villages located along the Camino, working in a Pilgrim’s hostel and welcoming travelers.
Towards the edge of town, we came to a lake. Though rain was predicted, it was almost sunny, or at least a very light gray sky. From the lake, we could see where we were headed.
I wonder if we’ll climb those hills?
After passing the lake, we entered a forest, at the edge of which were several picnic tables. A man with a pocketful of walnuts was feeding squirrels at one of the tables. The two hikers we had seen walking out of town were talking to the man and feeding the squirrels as well.
We watched for a while and when they walked on, the man with the nuts beckoned us over to have a go. We hadn’t even been walking that long, and we were already stopped and laughing at little pointy squirrel ears. I love this about walking the Camino with friends. Especially at the beginning of a journey, I’m enamored with everything around me. I can’t feel the miles on my legs yet, so I’m just taking it all in.
Kandace said the squirrels in Spain look just like the ones in France. Same crazy little mohawked squirrels.
After we used up most of the gentleman’s walnuts feeding the squirrels, we thanked him and said goodbye.
We walked through a forest for a while and when we came out of the trees, we could see rolling vineyards in almost every direction. The trail continued through the vineyards. There were still grapes on some of the vines, but the leaves had all turned red and gold.
I’ve never seen vines that have changed to fall colors before. They were gorgeous. This region of Spain, called the Rioja, makes most of the wines we drink from Spain. I’ll never see a bottle with a Rioja label without remembering walking in Spain with Kandace.
Again, since it was our first day, we stopped loads to take photos and to ooh and ahh over the beauty all around us.
Also (and we didn’t appreciate this fact nearly enough at the time) this day was one of the only days we didn’t walk in the rain or wind. The temperature was cool, but it still felt like a soft fall day, the kind of air that is lingering from summer rather than heralding winter’s coming.
We had all the time in the world, and we filled it catching up with each other. Telling the stories of the last several months of our lives. We had both moved since we had last hiked together, and Kandace’s move had taken her across an ocean.
Soon we could see the small town of Navarette, our destination. We could actually see it almost an hour before we arrived there. It was a little after noon when we walked into the center of town and into the church. We stopped there first to get stamps in our Pilgrims’ Passports and to offer thanks for our first perfect day of walking.
If felt just like I wanted our first day to feel…like we could have gone further but were glad to already have arrived for the day. After the church we wandered around looking for an open place to eat lunch or an open albergue. It was a while before we found either. We came across several places that were already shuttered for the winter. While we were looking we ran into the same couple that we’d already seen twice that day, and the guy suggested that we all have lunch together, if we could find something open.
After asking around town, we found a place that served a pilgrims’ menu, which is a menu with a fixed price for those who are walking the Camino. Usually it consists of a first course, a main course, a dessert and wine. They cost between 11-15 euros. You often have a list of courses from which to choose, so I would frequently choose two first courses if the mains were all meat selections. (Side note: I thought it would be harder to be a vegetarian on the Camino but it was really not hard at all. There was always something I could eat.)
We all ordered our selections and then made introductions. They were from Switzerland (him) and South Korea (her), and had just met a few days earlier on the Camino. We sat at lunch for nearly two hours, talking about conspiracy theories, music, podcasts and our favorite spiritual writers. They were walking on, and so they packed up and left at 3pm, saying they were still going to go 22 more kilometers! Kandace and I were floored as that was nearly twice what we’d already walked that day and they would surely be walking a good bit of it in the dark.
Yes, but it will be romantic to walk in the dark, he said.
I doubted that, but we wished them well anyway. Kandace and I sat for another hour in the restaurant until the owner kicked us out to close for the afternoon, and so we went to find a place to stay for the night. We went to two or three more closed albergues before we found one that was open back at the beginning of town. I think we had circled the town about three times at this point, and it was starting to drizzle a little. Hmmm…romantic.
The albergue had a huge open sign, but the door was closed and no one answered when we rang, so we went around to a side door, that was unlocked. Kandace pulled the door and inside, just under a no smoking sign, there were four or five people smoking and playing cards at a big table.
Albergue? We inquired.
Si, si, si! A gal got up from the table to check us in.
We dug out our Pilgrims’ Credentials and passports and she gave us a key to a private room. In the hostels, it’s usually between 10-15 euros a night per person, but often 30-35 euros for a private room. So since there were two of us, it was often not that much more (or even the same price) for us to get a private room if one was available. Sometimes the bathrooms were still shared, as well as the kitchen and common areas. So we probably went about half and half on sleeping in our own room vs. sleeping in a room full of bunks.
She also asked us if we wanted to join the pilgrims’ dinner that night, to which we said yes. And she said they would be happy to make it vegetarian for us as well. Bueno.
So off we went to our room, where my main goal was to not fall asleep before dinner. We took showers and then took our journals and books back downstairs to sit in the common area. We sat outside for a minute, but the sun was quickly setting and it was getting cold so we went back inside and found a couch. The host brought us hot herbal teas because we looked cold, which was precious. We watched a few other folks wander in, including a gal we had seen on our bus who was meeting a friend who had been walking already. We met her and her friend, both from France.
Soon it was time for our family dinner around the table. The French couple joined us as well as a man from Belgium, and everyone else seemed to be part of the hostel staff. There were some other folks staying at the albergue, but presumably they went somewhere else for dinner that night. It was a small gathering, which was surprising since this was the only albergue open in town. I asked about that and one of the gals told me that this hostel would be closing in just a few days. We had almost missed having a place to stay! If they had been closed, Kandace and I too would have been having a (not) romantic walk in the dark to the next town.
We had a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and beets. And a pasta dish with vegetables. And wine glasses that never seemed to empty. Everyone ate quietly at first but then began laughing and talking more. Fragments of all different languages were spoken across the table: English, French, Spanish and Italian. The main host (from Italy) was so animated while he told stories that it didn’t matter that we missed most of what he actually said as he switched back and forth between Italian and Spanish. Kandace and I were barrel laughing even without being able to understand, and before the night was over, he had Kandace (who is an artist) sketching his portrait, which he promptly made into his new profile picture.
We finally excused ourselves from the party at about 10pm and went up to bed. Kandace fell asleep almost immediately, but my jet lag was catching up to me and I could feel the metal bed frame under the mattress. I kept getting up to go to the bathroom. After a while, I got up and pulled the mattress onto the floor. I was almost asleep when I started to hear noises next door. Our friends from lunch were not the only ones having a romantic night. I got up one last time to dig my earplugs out of my backpack and tried not to think about how tired I was going to feel the next day.