Val-deri, val-dera

I love to go a-wandering
Along the mountain track
And as I go, I love to sing
My knapsack on my back
– Florenz Friedrich Sigismund (1788-1857)/Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller.

Camino Day 8, Lunes 14th September. 192 klms.

“So, Peter, how did you celebrate your 63rd birthday?”
“Well, I spent 8 hours walking 30 kilometres across northern Spain, with my 10kg knapsack on my back. Val-deri, val-dera.”

Actually, I have to thank trekking buddy Alistair from Melbourne for the inspiration for today’s theme. His birthday message on FB to me was “Have a happy wanderer birthday”, and you can see where that led.

Anyway, it was indeed happy wanderer birthday. We were up and about fairly early today; breakfast at the hotel in Logrono at 7am, then to the panaderia (bread shop) a little after 7:30am; and on the road by about 7:45am. Pleasantly cool morning to off-set the roughly 5 klm walk out of the city. It was a lovely walk mostly, a lot of it through the manicured gardens of the Parque de San Miguel and not all that long after the Parque de la Grajera. That said, the first few kilometres were a bit of a drag, and I think I’ve figured that after a rest day the legs take a bit of waking up and getting organised.

There were basically three stages to today’s walk. From start to Navarrette was a 12.7 klm stage. We got there after around 2 1/2 hours; and stopped for a coffee and a bit of a look around. Some photos follow:
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The next stop was Ventosa. We almost missed it, as we sort of followed the sheep and walked past the turnoff. We enjoyed our delightful lunch in a sort of Camino park near the intersection of the A12 and the road into Ventosa, and were going to continue on to Najera when I said I’d like to see Ventosa. So we did a bit of a deviation and doubled back to Ventosa and ended up at the café, where, coincidentally we bumped into Steve and Clare and so stopped for a chat. We may see them again in Burgos.
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Ventosa is a lovely little town, see the few photos below:
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The towns aside, we wandered through the spectacular Rioja countryside for much of today. The photos don’t do it justice. We walked for many kilometres past the famed vines of the region. The beautiful purple-black tempranillo grapes are just days off being ready for harvest. They contrast the greens of their vines, which in turn contrast the very rich red-browns of the Rioja soil. All this against the blues of the sky with the criss-cross patterns of the planes way overhead and the general hues of the distance broken up periodically by the rich oranges and ochres of the villages scattered across the wider scene. Really stunning scenery. A few photos follow, but they won’t do justice to what the eye could see.
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The strangest scene for the day awaited us an hour or so from Najera. As we wandered along an otherwise deserted road a strange looking vehicle approached. I said “I wonder if that’s a Google Maps car”. Sure enough that’s exactly what it was. I wasn’t quick enough to capture a decent photo, but I couldn’t help notice the irony of walking a mediaeval path being filmed, for almost the whole modern world to see, by a super smart (and invasive) 21st century technology. I guess that at some stage our dusty bodies and blurred out faces will feature on Google Street View for the Camino, a few kilometres east of Najera!!
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We arrived in Najera around 5pm. Allowing for the three stops along the way we’d taken around 8 hours to get here. A big day. It takes at least 30 minutes to walk into Najera from its outskirts. It’s not an impressive town. Light/medium industrial at the edges, it seemed particularly run down in places. There are lots of what appear to be housing estates, but with few people. The police were patrolling; the first time I’d seen that. That said, our hostal is lovely. The room is old(ish); but very adequate. The bathroom has been recently renovated. The staff are lovely. They have three interconnected establishments; the residential hostal, the bar across the road and the adjoining restaurant. It’s a bit of a “go figure”; but what the heck, I had a lovely birthday dinner, and they even brought me a piece of cake and a candle. Couldn’t really ask for anything more.
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And of course I can’t let this post end without at least a passing comment on the political upheaval at home. Yes, the pollies have acted largely in self-interest in installing Malcolm Turnbull as leader and PM, but at least we now have a person of great intellect with seemingly moderate and progressive views leading us. Like our encounter with the Google Maps car, Australia has hopefully just stepped out of the mediaeval and into 21st century.

Easy day tomorrow. 21 klms to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Val-deri, val-dera.

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