6: Torres del Rio – Navarrete (33)

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6 March 2011. Sunday.

This night I had a horrible nightmare. I saw a woman lying on the ground, legs burning with heavy flames. A firefighter stood next to her trying to extinguish the fire, while the woman complained, “And I who had such beautiful legs.” The dream continued with a scene where I ended up in a bed, unable to move.

I woke up with a gasp. The woman in the dream reminded me of my grandmother, who got gangrene in her legs just before she passed away. “Was the dream a warning?”, I thought and felt my right lower leg pounding with pain. The swollen part looked dark red. It took me a while to go back to sleep. The next time I woke up it was time to get out of bed. The others were already busy with their morning routines. My dream lingered as a shadow in my mind, but I pushed it away and went out on the terrace to fetch the clothes from the line. The blisters on my feet ached as I limped around barefoot. I swallowed a couple of Voltaren and hoped for the best. Someone told me that I should use gel instead of pills. It’s better to treat only the part of the body that causes pain, and not subdue the body’s natural pain reflexed all over. Later, when I was ready to leave Casa Mari it was very clear to me that yesterday’s easy trek and rapid progress would not be repeated today.

You wash and dry your clothes every day

You wash and dry your clothes every day

Jürgen and Erik disappeared with their usual high speed over the first hill out of Torres del Rio. But instead of getting angry at myself not to be able to follow them, I got captivated by the beauty of the landscape. It was an exceptionally beautiful morning. I walked alone through the vineyards. Almond trees were in bloom, the sun was shining and the birds sang. This was exactly what I had imagined when I travelled to Spain. I enjoyed the solitude and I the need to cut the ties to my hiking companions grew stronger.

Also an image from el Camino

Also an image from el Camino

About ten kilometers later I walked into the small town of Viana. The contrasts of el camino became clear when the yellow arrows directed me over the car parks of residential buildings, driveways and backyards. In the town centre, it became clear that Viana was a rather beautiful city with a large cathedral along the narrow main street. Since it was Sunday and time for the morning service the town streets were much busier than in any smaller town I had passed so far. Old women in black dresser, as taken from a different time, hurried as best they could along the streets. Others were queueing peacefully in the bakeries along the street and took the opportunity to gossip a little. Out of one of those bakery came Philip and Laura. They had bought baguettes and cheese and was going to have some breakfast before attending the morning service in the cathedral. Philip asked if I wanted to join them.

View towards Viana

View towards Viana

Now, in retrospect, nothing would have been nicer than having breakfast with Philip and Laura, and it would have been interesting to see the sunday mass . But the stress in my body drove me  to push on. I didn’t even have patience to stand still long enough in the bakery to buy something to eat, even though I was starving and really needed an exstensive break.

A historical person has his final resting place in Viana’s Cathedral. Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI was buried here in 1507. The man who is  said to be the model for Machiavelli’s “The Prince” and a prominent figure in the mighty and Mafia-like medieval Borgia family. ‘Resting place’ is a bit of a misleading term, though. At a time in history the dead Borgia fell out of favor with the ruling clergy of the church. They moved his remains out of the cathedral and buried them in unhallowed ground under the main street. The very same I was walking on now, so the people of Viana’s  would trample on his grave as an added insult. As a result, the townspeople that was avoiding particular part of the street on the anniversaries of Borgia’s death lest the spirit of the man would not take revenge on them. A few years ago, Cesare Borgia was absolved by the present day city council, and the remains of his body was moved back into the church.

But I had my own deteriorating body to worry about. The road took me relatively fast forward another 10 kilometers, the next big city, Logroño, which also marks the entry into the famous wine district Rioja. I could see Jenny a bit further on and when we approached the town, I caught up with her. Erik texted and told us that he and Jürgen had  taken a break in a coffee shop if we wanted to join them. We continued along the river Ebro. I thought of my grandmother’s brother Georg, who travelled to Spain as a volunteer soldier in 1938 to fight against Franco’s forces in the Spanish Civil War. It was somewhere here at Ebro he had been shot, already in his first day of battle. My ailments suddenly felt very small.

Entering the Rioja district

Entering the Rioja district

The Camino route wasn’t marked as clearly here in Logroño compared to Pamplona. The yellow arrows were pretty hard to find. At last we found Eric left behind at the cafe while Jürgen had continued towards the goal of today – Navarrete. My initial enthusiasm for the spanish potato omelette – tortilla con patatas – had worn off a bit, but still I ordered it for lunch. We broke up from the café very quickly and I continued to walk alone out of Logroño

The Ebro river and Logroño

The Ebro river and Logroño

The way out of Logroño was a strange stretch of the Camino. The road went straight through a popular park area. Apparently, an EU project was aiming at bringing pilgrims closer to the locals, for a reason I didn’t quite understand. On a warm Sunday afternoon like this, the project was just too successful. The road had been paved with concrete, that made a toothache-like pain cut though the body with every step. We mercilessly had to trample on with our backpacks, surrounded by cyclists, young people on skateboards and more relaxed Sunday walkers.

We probably were supposed to add an exotic touch. Like some kind of mobile garden gnomes in the Logroño city park.

Painful walk on concrete.

Painful walk on concrete.

It felt more like a walk on the Via Dolorosa. And it lasted a for hours. The park turned into a recreation area around an artificial lake where people were fishing. The road continued through large picnic areas with rows of barbecues made of bricks. Finally, after almost two hours, the road regained it’s normal calmness, when it lead us out across the Rioja vineyards and along the main road towards Navarrete. There, a wire fence ran between the camino and the traffic. Previous pilgrims had made small wooden crossed by inserting wooden sticks i the fence netting. They cross pattern lasted for at least a kilometer. On the hill beside ti road, a row of old wooden telegraph poles also looked like crossed witch added to the Calvary-like atmosphere.

Giant bull between Logroño and Navarrete

Giant bull between Logroño and Navarrete

When I entered the town of Navarrete I was almost staggering along the cobbled streets. My right leg was  aching so badly I almost wanted to sit down and give up. Jenny caught up with me. Erik and Jürgen had texted the address of their shelter. It was a bit tricky to find it as it was located in an ordinary flat a few floors up in an apartment building. The rooms were filled with the characteristic red metal bunk beds. As we took our beds in one of the larger rooms it was clear that the atmosphere among us was becoming a bit tense. The others were bickering about who snored and who didn’t. Still, we went out on the town together in search of somewhere to have dinner. Every step I took hurt. Both in all the blisters that I suspected was infected, as well as in my swollen shinbone. By now I was used to the feeling of not knowing in the evening if I would be able to walk the next morning. Our search for food first lead us to a small sport bar which was good enough for me, but the others wanted something better. We had a beer and ate some tapas before we continued our search for a better restaurant. A woman on the street pointed in the direction of what apparently was the best restaurant in town. It was called ‘Molin’. The food was okay, but the atmosphere between us was still feeling tired and a bit strained. I felt that I was not walking my own Camino at all and i realized that sadly this was the right time to say goodbye to my Camino friends. I didn’t tell them about my decision that evening, but my mind was made up.

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