Thursday, April 11: Los Arcos to Logroño, via Viana (28.6 km, 17.8 miles)

Does the title of this blog post say it all? (Or maybe you wish it did! Then there would be no need to read this.)

I’ll start with our pre-supper excursion into town. Did we go for tapas at a local bar? No. Did we check out the old churches in the nearby historic district? No. Did we pick up some food for tomorrow’s lunch or make it to an ATM (Ginny’s need, not mine)? No. We sought out a pharmacy. What else? We’re on the Camino. And trips to the pharmacy are part and parcel of the experience.

It seems that the topic of conversation in the hostels every night revolves around who has sustained what injury, who had to stay behind, seek a doctor, take a bus forward, or possibly call a halt to his/her Camino. Oh, most certainly, the vast majority of those of us who started on April 5 are still walking, and maybe even noticing that we are getting stronger. Still, what many of us were doing today could most appropriately be called “plodding along.”

The pharmacy? Well, I began to feel a scratchy throat last night. This morning I treated myself to one of the three packages of Emergenc-E I had packed. Picked up some Riccola drops tonight. They weren’t selling replacement backs at that particular pharmacy, so my bill was pretty low. The big spender was Ginny who began to notice some unhappiness in her right knee last night. Today’s walk of 18 miles, 140-some floors of climbing (rated an “easy day,” go figure!) did not help. The hostel has been very generous with bags of ice (for Ginny and others). A little ibuprofen here, some icy/hot gel rubbed on three times a day, starting with bedtime, the new brace in place before we head off in the morning, and all of our prayers–and yours– will, hopefully, be the ticket to a better day for her.

Are we getting used to the beautiful scenery and immune to the charm of the medieval villages, taking them for granted? No. No, the gratitude was still there. Is still there. But after yesterday’s spectacular day, we might be inclined to describe today as “long” rather than “beautiful.”

There were some highlights, however, so that’s what I’ll pass along now before heading for the bunk (yeah! a bottom one!)

  • I may sound like a broken record, but “mist in the mountains” and “villages in the distance” and the chirping of birds as we headed out a bit before 7:30 this morning worked their charm.
  • “Let’s just wait until the next village to have breakfast.” Which of us came up with that idea? It was almost 6 kilometers to town and then… just a small grocery store. Breakfast of cheese and an orange seemed a bit skimpy, but the delight of that stop was not what we ingested but what the store owner fed the dog (his?) who was hanging around outdoors in hopes of a hand-out. I couldn’t get my camera out in time to snap the shopkeeper as he slipped first one, then another hot dog into the dog’s awaiting mouth. “Basta por ahora. Luego te doy más.” (“That’s enough for now. Later I’ll give you more”)
  • Further down the road, another Romanesque church from the 12th century, the older by some 50 or 60 years of the two octagonal churches in Spain. By 1070 or so it was accommodating the needs of pilgrims on their way to or from Santiago. Impressive.
  • Also super-impressive: coming upon a “food or beverage in exchange for a donation” table in the middle of nowhere where the entrepreneur behind the food had entertained himself by building at least 40 rock towers or cairn-like decorations (see photos on Instagram or Facebook). “How long have you been working on that?” I asked. “For years?” “No, no. It took about a week,” he replied. (And what keeps young kids from having a little fun knocking them over, I wonder. More fun that Jenga….)
  • Lunch in Viana was a bit more substantial than breakfast, thanks especially to the folks at the table next to ours where three locals were enjoying some food we sure hadn’t seen on the menu. (Menu? I didn’t see one of them either). Ginny and I finished our wedge of potato omelette, our piece of bread, our lemonade, and were still a bit hungry. Ice cream or the nearest bakery? And then we noticed an interesting platter being set on the table next to us. The three no-longer-young gents occupying the table noticed the wandering of our eyes and indicated we should have a look at what they had. Before long we were sampling white asparagus on small wedges of the ever-abundant sliced bread. Good! The “white asparagus” season began a week or two ago and the woman behind the counter was eager to tell me how they peeled it, boiled it, served it in salads and other dishes. This was a fun stop. It is always an experience to interact with the locals. I got to thinking about how much more difficult it is to do that sort of thing when one travels on a “tour” with a large group.
  • The camaraderie at the hostels is always so friendly. We are recognizing more and more people. A smaller group at this particular hostel tonight for whatever reason,, but congenial. For 12 euros we got an excellent meal here with limitless wine (though my limit is about a glass and a half). The cook came to the table to ask how we liked our meal and when we told her it was delicious, she went to get the book in which she asks hostel-stayers to leave comments about her food. “Like my mother made it,” she explained about the fabulous chicken she prepared. I’ll tell you this: her mother was a grand cook!

Weather? Chilly. A bit of rain in the afternoon. Dribbles, mostly. We plodded through it. We plodded up the hills. Down the hills. Plodded. Plodded. And we got here. As they say: “Poco a poco se va haciendo” (Little by little the job gets done)

Now, to bed!