Saturday 26 August 2023 – What a day it’s been! The fierce heat of the past days has subsided to the extent we almost got rained on, what I thought would be an unexceptional walk provided some interesting moments and the destination was unexpectedly awesome.
The Posada Ignatius somewhat let itself down with a very disappointing breakfast experience. We’d asked for breakfast at 0730, but the restaurant staff clearly didn’t get the memo. Someone turned up several minutes after we did and rustled up some “toast” that was still soggy (from being frozen) in one corner, with a little butter and jam – and we provided our own tea bags. A shame, after such a stellar lunch the day before.
No matter; we were on our way at 0800 in cool, cloudy weather – about 19°C and a hint of rain in the air.
After the fan-oven experiences of the previous days, this was very welcome, and the whole walk, some 16km, was conducted in comfortable temperatures. In fact, we did the whole thing in one hit; there was a possible detour for a refreshment break, but we both favoured keeping going. The path was decent for almost all of it, and there were almost no gradients steeper than gentle. I was a bit surprised by this, as the course profile looked like this:
so I had my poles at the ready from the start, but really only got any benefit from them for about 100m in the middle.
Items of interest on the way included: the (presumably reconstructed) portal of the San Juan de Acre church whose excavated site we saw yesterday, now being used for a cemetery;
a different, and much older-looking style of marker post for the Camino;
several rows of vines with their grapes lying on the ground;
(this puzzled us, particularly in light of other rows which had obviously been picked by machine but with no discarded grapes.
The mystery was solved by a friend who explained that production has limits placed on it, to maintain supply/demand/prices, so overproduction is simply discarded and left to rot);
some decent views, although often the scenery was Too Big To Photograph;
a formal viewpoint, accessed by steps
but still clearly a Work In Progress, as they hadn’t provided the info board;
Guardaviñas de Alesón, a shelter, originally built for vine farmers or guards
but now finding more regular use as a general shelter for pilgrims;
Poyo de Roldan, a platform marking a “David v Goliath” style battle between the knight Roldan (possibly Roland, leader of the Franks?) and the giant Ferregut
now doing service as a platform for a telecoms aerial; a poem on a wall;
(“Pilgrim, who calls you?” – put your phone on silent, I say); a couple of charming offerings to pigrims, one from Paulino
and the other having, as a backdrop, the very considerable industrial outskirts of our destination town, Nájera. The cadence of the town’s name is the same as the word “knackered”, not that we were.
This shows that we were nearing our destination, which at first blush is not a prepossessing sight
but the modern exterior soon gives way to the old town at a very clear boundary.
We crossed the river, and this gave us a nice view of the distinctive red stone cliffs which form the backdrop to Nájera.
More of the cliffs later.
Our hotel is the Hotel Duques de Nájera. Our room wasn’t ready for us, which gave us a good excuse to go and find coffee and a sandwich. Yes, and a beer for me. Well, two, actually. I wanted to make sure I staved off dehydration from not having had any water during the walk today. Yes, really.
Having taken possession of our (nice, large air-conditioned) room, we found that, for the second day running, we had managed to synchronise our need for A Nice Lunch with the local restaurant ecosystem’s circadian rhythms. At our first restaurant, we arrived at exactly the same time as another couple. Not wanting to be impolite and rush in, we let them go first – and they took the only remaining table. Hah! Fortunately, by the riverside, there are lots of cafés and restaurants so we still had a good meal. Then we went for a walk. Obviously.
Once away from the humdrum outskirts, Nájera is a quirky place.
They also have this
which the Powers That Be label thus
but I think there’s tree of them. Thank you. Thank you for listening to my joke.
Jane, as ever reading around and ahead, had identified two sites of interest – the monastery, Monasterio Santa Maria la Real, and a cave city in the cliffs.
The Cave City, constructed by an ancient civilisation as a defence capability, consists of a series of linked caves in the red stone cliffs behind the town.
It is only possible to visit them on a special guided tour, meaning we couldn’t get close. But I had my drone back in the hotel room, didn’t I? So I went and got it.
Since I had it with me, I also took some aerial footage of the monastery.
The monastery, as well as being huge and as impressive inside as it is outside, also has considerable historical importance in its role in the development of the various kingdoms of Spain. The first construction on the site dates back to the 11th century, it has had various bits fall off and be redeveloped, and was declared a national monument in 1889, since when its fortunes have been assured. Wiki has good information about it.
As you can see from the video, there are several areas, prime among them being the cloisters
and the church, which is lavishly appointed.
The church extends back into the cliffs, with a cave, in which was discovered an image of the Virgin Mary
which was fully restored in 1948. There are many other exquisite things in the monastery, too; too many, really, to share to do it justice. You’ll just have to visit yourself – it’s worth it. If you’re into that kind of thing, of course.
That just about sums up the day – another good one. After a start which saw us walking alone with no other pilgrims in sight, we have started once again to note some familiar faces in the pilgrims we do encounter. We chatted briefly to a Dutch chap called Henk, who joined us in our post-walk refreshment before moving on to his destination.
Generally, the superpower I have whilst cycling seems to have manifested itself whilst walking, too. On a bicycle, all I have to do is to note to myself that I haven’t been overtaken for a while, at which point a faster cyclist materialises behind me. I mentioned to Jane as we walked out through Logroño’s outskirts that no-one had wished us “Buen Camino”, at which point the next three people we met did just that; and today I ventured to remark that there were no other peregrinos around, and one materialised behind us immediately. It’s uncanny.
Today’s stats are that we covered 16.4km, bringing our total to 194.5km, just about 120 miles. Tomorrow continues in the vein of ever-longer walks. We have to get to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, some 22km away, via an overall uphill route which I’m sanguine shouldn’t be too arduous. Accuweather, which seems to have been pretty much on the money here, asserts that the temperature will peak at 21°C, with the possibility of rain after 2pm. Oh, and thunderstorms. It’ll be a longish day and I hope we can avoid the rain.
Let’s see how it turns out, shall we?