A day that demonstrated the value of keeping the faith – and I thought I didn’t have enough to justify doing this trip – because at one point it seemed hard going into the wind with much too far to go. But I got there. Maybe there’s more to me than the doubters, such as me, think.
I wandered round in the morning trying to find where to get my credencial stamped – the logbook that proves you’ve actually done the Camino – and find breakfast, failing initially on both. However, I eventually found a pain au chocolat, as we say in Spanish, and a cafe con leche, which set me up, and then discovered the hotel could stamp me. They’d also, kindly, set up my bike in the lobby for me. Or perhaps they just wanted me out.
Anyway, it was a glorious spring day, sun and no clouds, a flawless blue sky and refreshing breeze. I got to Viana for early lunch and explored the fine old town. I watched some kids playing pelota with a picnic that consisted largely of meringue.
Logroño, capital of La Rioja, seemed to take longer than necessary, with a long approach road for Camino-ers uphill and into the wind. It had a fine main square and felt quite large. Tourist info gave me a map of the Camino, which I followed along city streets and through a park into another park via a park. All of them were bustling with Sunday morning family strollers; buggies were wheel-to-wheel for kilometres on end.
The path wound out into country and eventually to a lakeside. There was no sign of Navarrete, which my frankly unreliable guidebook claimed was ‘4km’ from Logrono; 12km, reckoned my more cautious Confraternity booklet. Some of the tracks were gravelly, and I was glad to have mountain bike
Eventually, at long last, I got to Navarrete and explored the old town centre briefly. The magnificent church had an umissable reredos, according to my guidebook. It was wrong again: not only did I manage to miss it, but I never found out what a reredos is.
The way out was another grim battle: into the wind, uphill, trudging in next-lowest gear to try and reassure myself that I had one more ratio in hand.
I wasn’t even sure I was on the right route: the putative ‘N120’ glibly name-checked in my guidebook was nowhere to be seen, though might have transitioned into the A12, ie a motorway, in which case where was I going?
My road, whatever it was, it turned out to be a detour, but not a huge one. For safety’s sake I had a second lunch in a small village called Sotes where I was apparently the only thing happenibng on this sunny Sunday afternoon.
But things got a bit better. I reached Najera, and stood in gentle awe at the old town and monastery stuff in front of dramatic red sandstone cliff towering over the town’s riverside. What was all that clacking? Was my rear rack coming loose? Ah, storks! Loads of them, sitting in nooks on the red wall, maybe two dozen, chattering and flying out and feeding in the sun.
From there it was a dull run on a very busy main road, with lorries passing close, once when I had a large chunk of metal in my way; fortunately I managed to blast it aside, but I was rattled. More worryingly, the back wheel had begun to wobble. A dodgy spoke, perhaps? Bearings? I was put in mind of the Two Ronnies joke (‘Now for a sketch in a ball-bearing factory, where I play a man who loses his bearings…’) but before I had chance to supply the punchline (‘…and I play a man who loses his will to live’) I was close-passed by a lorry again.
It wasn’t until after six that I lumbered into Santa Domingo. The albergue for peregrinos was up the Calle Mayor, the old central street: a pleasant feature of the Camino is that it goes straight through the old towns, often on traffic-free streets and lanes, usually past the square and church and bakeries.
The albergue was OK with bikes – I’d heard that some could be sniffy about, even hostile to, cyclists – but with it locked in the shed, I scoped out my first bed of the trip in a pilgrim dosshouse. I was in a dorm of two dozen, and realised to my frustration that I’d forgotten my sheet sleeping bag. The bloodstained bottom sheets on the bed and thin sheetless top blanket meant it was clothes for pyjamas tonight. Still luxury compared to most pilgrims in history.
I went out for a brief stroll round the centre, which was mildly lively with locals doing their paseo. I bought a can of beer with the justification that I needed some change for the voluntary donation to the albergue. What was fair? I decided that the equivalent of eight beers was about right.
Miles today: 52
Miles since Pamplona: 96