Day 9, April 13: Navarrete to Azofra (24.8 km, 15.4 miles)

Today was the first of what will no doubt be many cloudless days. There will be more mist, more threatening skies, more fascinating clouds, and that will be fine. But today’s sky took all the guesswork out of it: it was not going to rain and sunscreen would need to be applied along with Vaseline or feet lubricant of choice.

Sunscreen on my face, at least. The rest of me remained well protected by wool and fleece and whatever synthetic material my rain jacket (worn for warmth!) is made out of. The forecasted high suggested 70 degrees, but it was a chilly morning as we made our way out of Navarrete.

It wasn’t long before we were walking quite close to a national road and it felt like we were in a wind tunnel. Had the opportunity to take a “detour” or alternate route and grabbed it. Always good to get away from traffic and “up into the hills” again. Plus, this detour into Ventosa would give us the opportunity for a food stop and bathroom break.

Food is, you will have guessed, a highlight of every day, and it is hard to actually count the number of times we feel justified searching for something to put in our mouths. Today was no exception, as you’ll see in my recount of our day’s delicacies:

  1. 1st breakfast, 7:30 am, in the hostel’s lounge/dining area; an orange I picked up at the grocery store yesterday and a squished muffin that had ridden in my pack from Logroño.
  2. 2nd breakfast, 8:00 am, in a “bar”/”cafe” just down the street from the hostel we’d had to vacate by 8:00. Cappuccino for Ginny, a ham-cheese croissant to share.
  3. Mid-morning meal on our detour into Ventosa, around 10:30 or 11:00: continuing with the splitting motif, half a bocadillo and half a banana for each of us.
  4. Lunch in Nájera around 1:30. Like meal #3, this one was enjoyed at an outdoor table: our tapas choices consisted of toast rounds topped with goat cheese, peppers, and a walnut (that’s one tapa) and, shared, a puff-pastry rectangle stuffed with spinach.
  5. It was a really long stretch to dinner here in Azofra, six kilometers beyond Nájera, but by 7:30 we were seated in a bar/restaurant where we passed up the meat and potato choices and went for a bowl of vegetable stew and then a bowl of lentil soup. Bread, wine, and flan rounded out the meal. We will not go to bed hungry.

Day 9 highlights beyond the aforementioned food

  • Our bodies agreed to cooperate, though they continue to ask for a lot of TLC. When Ginny isn’t busy with icing and stretching and rubbing analgesic cream on her knee, she is patching my blisters. (What did I do to deserve her?)
  • For most of the day today we had views of a distant mountain range. “At a distance”: that’s exactly where snow should be in relationship to us! Hope it stays that way….
  • “Looks like Sedona,” Ginny commented as we left Nájera. Indeed, tall red-rock cliffs met us as we exited the town. The photos didn’t capture the colors, but they were quite striking.
  • My eyes lingered as we passed through Nájera, at least once we got to the historic center of the city. “Let it go,” I remind myself; you can’t have everything.” With Ginny a block or so ahead of me, I snapped away furiously, hoping to retain some memories of this town I would love to have lingered in longer. I especially enjoyed some murals painted on old walls as someone combined themes of the famed painter Velázquez with a much more modern style.
  • Vineyards. Row after row. Hillside after hillside, awaiting their annual rebirthing.
  • A hostel with paper-thin walls (I can hear the snoring already), but one consisting of very small rooms with only two beds. Hurray! No climbing over a dozen others to assemble our packs in the morning; it’s just me and the cuz.
  • Perhaps most memorable: meeting a new companion as we sat down to Ginny’s birthday dinner. Eventually we came to learn that this was Fernando, a psychologist from Madrid who has been spending a week on the Camino for the last 15 years. He was just about to leave the restaurant as we were placing our order, and we gestured for him to join us. Fernando had very good English and almost no translating was necessary. His presence definitely enhanced our evening. Fernando gave us some advice for a couple of the upcoming stages, and went on his way while we finished up dessert and talked a bit about tomorrow.

So…. what did we decide about tomorrow? That we’d see how we were doing. The one thing we know is that we have to be out of here by 8:30 am. We learned that rule when we returned from dinner at 9:33 pm and read the sign that said the hostel locks its doors at 9:30! So grateful that someone was late turning the latch tonight and our tardiness was neither noticed nor of any consequence.

I entertained hopes of sending off some individual emails this afternoon or this evening. And having a good WhatsApp chat with home. That was before I realized that not only is the WiFi connection here very weak, but my phone wouldn’t catch the signal at all. I’ll turn data on long enough to post this missive, but photos of the “Velázquez wannabe” and of a few other sights for the day will have to wait until I have a better signal.

I’ll say again that we are grateful for thoughts and prayers and well wishes. They mean a lot.

Oh, and a Barb update: she is now a couple of days ahead of us, walking like a pilgrim being chased by the devil.  When we do our daily check-in, she gives us the occasional tip about what to expect “down the road.” Missing her, but know she has done the right thing by going ahead at her own (remarkable) pace.