The Road to Santiago.

October 13, 2002

Ruins of a 12th Century hospital/church on the outskirts of Navarrete

Logroño to Navarrete
(587 K or 364 Miles to Santiago)

Left by way of the old plaza and saw the Santa Maria Redondo church. I was bothered by the name. It means Saint Mary the Rounded but it's a square church. Then I saw a tour group in front of the church with a guide giving a very fast and animated lecture in Spanish. I approached from the side and slid into the group and listened as if I were a member. Still don't understand the name.

On the outskirts of Logroño I saw people walking — in singles, couples, and families. Looked off into the distance and saw one town in one direction and another in the opposite direction. Which one would be my destination? I stopped a man and asked him which village was Navarrete. He indicated neither and then pointed to a third direction and said over there, behind the mountain. Oh well, I thought, I need the exercise.

Embalsa de Ganjera.
Soon I came to a sign explaining that the walkway was a part of a nature reserve project around the embalsa de Ganjera (Ganjera reservoir). The land was allowed to revert to natural plants to encourage the return of wildlife. I could tell from the number of people walking on the pathways and picnicking at the tables that it is obviously a popular place for the people of Lagroño. Out in the lake I saw what looked like an eared grebe (as opposed to the horned grebe, for interested birdwatchers) and on the far side I saw a heron searching in the reeds. This sight made me homesick because I live on an island that includes a large wildlife refuge. Every day all summer long I can see snowy egrets and other water birds within yards of my house. Of course, about now they'd be leaving the area and flying south. In fact, about now I'd be seeing many, many flocks of birds traveling south on their journey to southern United States or even Mexico, Central America, or South America. Plum Island lies within a major migration flyway and there are hundreds of birds migrating through the area every fall. What a great place to live, huh!?

Besides birds, it was a day for spotting beasties. While taking a break sitting in the shade under an oak tree I watched a lizard scampering around the trunk. Later when I reached a section of the path that had been paved, I saw a sight that was fascinating but totally new to me. Centipedes! Hundreds of centipedes crossing the pavement. Every ten paces or so I saw other centipedes scurrying from south to north. (Don't laugh at me! I majored in biology in college and graduate school and find such natural phenomenon interesting.) Perhaps they were going to a centipede party. Then I came across a bunch of praying mantises. It was as if they were stalking the centipedes. Perhaps they were going to crash that party.
The bull.

Then in the distance I saw one of my favorite beasties: the big black bull. No, it's not a real bull, but a huge billboard in the silhouette of a black bull. It's an advertisement for Osborne Sherry and the bull is its logo. Some people new to this sight think it's really a bull on the hillside and start snapping photographs.

On the outskirts of Navarrete was a plaque indicating the site of the ruins of a 12th century hospital/church. The description in the guidebook said that it had been a beautiful, Romanesque style, round building; but it was in such disrepair, that over a hundred years ago, the remains were dismantled and sent to a museum. The plaque included a picture of the church's portal. I wondered how there could be such a recent picture if the building was destroyed so long ago. I found out later that the portal still exists — as the entrance to a local cemetery.

The albergue in Navarrete was very nice and comparatively new — in a renovated part of a very old building. The showers and baths were nice and the facilities included a small kitchenette complete with a clothes washer and dryer. The host was a volunteer from Italy and a couple of times a year he works for two-week stints at various albergues. Because of his ability to communicate with people of different nationalities, he was in great demand. (Here's a summer volunteer job for someone!!)

He didn't know much English, but our Spanish was compatible so we were able to understand each other. When he saw my laptop, he asked me why I would want to carry such a heavy pack. When I explained my project to him and how I was putting photos and commentary on the Internet, he seemed to understand. But when I mentioned that two years ago, I had heart surgery, he rolled his eyes and motioned me to approach a diagram hanging on the wall. It was a profile of the topography of the camino. When he pointed out the steep mountain coming up beyond Leon and Astorga, my eyes also rolled. That section made the first part of my trip look like a cakewalk.

Well, this set me off. I couldn't get over it. All during dinner I fretted and kept looking at the altitudes of the various locales, trying to figure out how steep the roads would be. I then decided that to heck with it. I would take it as it comes. If I had to, I could send my pack on or even mail the computer to myself in Santiago. After all, it would be the last week of the journey and I could use handwritten notes to telephone my reports home. The photographs would have to wait a bit. Then I finally remembered that my primary purpose was to promote walking among diabetics, not mountain climbing. If I had to skip over a mountainous section and take a bus a short distance, so be it. Even if they wouldn't give me a compostela (certificate of completion), I was sure that God would understand my motive and forgive my failure.

Later that night, I met Rudy, a 72-year old man from Switzerland. His foot was sore so he was taking the walk slowly. When I commented that he was doing pretty well for a man of 72, he said that his friend with him was 74 but that he was a laufer (German for a runner) and it was all Rudy could do to keep up with him. Rudy was determined to get to Santiago. I said to myself that if 72-year old Rudy, with a sore foot, could do it, then so could I.
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