Days Six – Ten: Camino Recap Part II

DAY 6:
Estella – Los Arcos
The walk from Estella to Los Arcos is a popular one, mostly because of one much-beloved attraction: el Fuente de Vino. In Irache, the famous fountain holds both water and wine for pilgrims- at least, it’s supposed to. Unfortunately, when we passed through, the wine component was either broken or empty [all the pictures of the fountain are on my camera, but I’ll be updating this within a few weeks!]. We had warm weather for walking, but luckily the wind kept the temperature bearable. It was also a short day- just 13 miles! Once in Los Arcos, we walked through town to the municipal albergue, but ended up turning around in favor of a more central one. Saying we had an INCREDIBLE experience in this town would probably be an understatement. We did laundry, swam in a free (if freezing) public pool, and had a great dinner.
Accommodation: Our private albergue in Los Arcos was called Casa de la Abuela, and it was a great decision! It cost €9, but exceeded its value with €0.50 laundry. That’s the best bargain we’ve found along the entire Camino- laundry washed and hung to dry for less than a euro (many places charge upwards of €6). An all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet of coffee and apple cake rounded out our wonderful stay!

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Day 7
Los Arcos – Logroño
This was our first really long day on the Camino- about 30 km. We also got lost for the first time! Luckily, we were only a bit turned around and found the Way again easily with the help of a few locals.
Accommodation: The municipal albergue was full when we arrived, so we stayed at a donativo run by the Church. At first, this felt like a great decisiom; room seemed quiet, it was affordable, and it included dinner. Dinner, in fact, was great- bread, lentil stew, salad, and rice pudding. We also attended a short but special multilingual service in the choir of the adjoining cathedral. Sleeping in Longroño, unfortunately, became practically impossible. There weren’t any blankets, all windows were left open, and the temperature dropped like crazy! It was a rather rough end to an otherwise nice day.

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Day 8
Logroño – Nájera
Day 8 replaced the last as our longest Camino day thus far (I think we walked around 32km). We had a fairly early start, due mostly to our inability to sleep the night before. The skies threatened to pour on us the whole way to Nájera, but luckily it just misted. It was also unbelievably cold! I really began to question whether or not we were actually doing a “summer” Camino!
Accommodation: We stayed in another donativo in Nájera, but this one had a completely different atmosphere. The albergue housed 90 pilgrims, all packed very tightly and efficiently into one medium-sized room. They did this by basically creating double beds with sets of bunks. As a result, you were essentially sleeping in the same space as your bunkmate. It was a strange setup and I was quite happy I came with a friend!

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Day 9
Nájera – Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Although the kilometer count today was pretty short, this was an exhausting day. The most tiring but most eventful part of the day was the giant mud field we walked through right out of Nájera. Our guidebook warned of the red, sticky mud that plagues pilgrims on wet days, and it wasn’t kidding! Without waterproof shoes, walking in my boots would have been impossible, so I plowed through the mud in my Teva sandals. In some places, it was inches deep and it climbed to anything that it came in contact with. At one point, Katherine’s shoe sunk so deeply, we actually had to pull it out together.
Santo Domingo is an interesting city and is very connected to its namesake Dominic de la Calzada, a great 11th c. advocate of the Camino. Chickens motifs are spread throughout the city snd are especially prominent in its cathedral. According to Catholic tradition, Santo Domingo once saved a young pilgrim from a hanging after he was wrongly accused of theft. His parents rushed to tell the local constable, who then declared: “Your son is as dead as the (roasted) chicken on my plate.” At that point, the chicken sprang back to life, feathers and all, and the boy went free. Descendants of this original miracle chicken are still housed in the cathedral today.
Accommodation: The Confraternity of Santo Domingo runs a private donativo in the city. The albergue had a different feel than most donativos, though. The volunteers stressed the financial responsibilities that “well-off” pilgrims owed the albergue. They also requested the donation up-front and watched you put your money into the box (after telling stories of pilgrims who only put in a euro or two). I thought the facilities were nice, but not quite worth the “recommended” €12.

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Day 10
Santo Domingo – Belorado
My journal entry from June 23 was short and to the point: “Today stunk, but only only in the sense that it literally smelled.” All day long, the scent of sheep and cattle farms followed us along an otherwise nice walk. There were a few hills here and there, and even though it was a little damp, we thankfully left the extreme mud of Day 9 behind us.
Accommodation: Our albergue was a cute family-run albergue called Cuatro Cantones. Due to some clever advertising on the owner’s part (passing out labeled water bottles along the way), the albergue was nearly full when we arrived. Luckily, for only an extra euro or two, we were able to get beds in a four-person room. One of nicest things about Cuatro Cantones was the communal (but not free) dinner they host for peregrinos. They seat groups by language and prepare a traditional pilgrim menu with three courses. Great food and great company!

For more day-by day recaps see:
The First Five Days: A Camino Recap

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