Azofra, Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, Logrono, pilgrimage, Spain

September 9th, Day 8: Logrono to Azofra: We Cross Too Many Rivers Without Touching the Water

The path leaving Logrono.

I have plans to meet Tammy and Gill at 6:45 on the outskirts of town so we can walk together. I stand outside my albergue until 7:10 and wait for them to pass. I fear I’ve missed them and send an email asking them to let let me know where they end up for the day. I start walking but don’t get far. At the end of the road, they are walking down a perpendicular street, towards me.

We head to a small cafe for a cortado and attempt to make arrangements for somewhere to sleep for the night. The camino is busy and everyone seems to be heading to Najera today but we are unable to get through to any of the albergues. I’m not too terribly concerned. Despite not having a bed the other night, I feel as if booking ahead sort of takes away from the spontaneity of the Camino. Even though I have a general idea of where I may stop at night when I start out in the morning, I never know if I may want to stop sooner because I like the feel of a place, or if I will have the energy to keep going.

We head out and on the outskirts of town, Gill, Tammy and I run into Ramon and Lynne. They are the couple I have been crossing paths with over the past few days, but have yet to talk to. They all know each other though, from Sansol, and I am introduced and we link up and leave town together.

It’s a beautiful morning walk out of town on a flat path lined with cypress trees, and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. I’m reminded of a message I received from a former colleague before starting on the Camino. She told me to look look at the sky everyday because it’s bluer on the Camino than anywhere else she has ever seen. She is right. The sky is a vivid blue. We share the path with locals out running, biking and walking their dogs. Everyone we pass wishes us a buen camino.

Free fruit and snacks provided by this kind man.

We come upon a large lake, make a right and we’re back in wine country. Not long after this, we pass a small wooden shack, where a man with long white hair sits. He has set up an offering for pilgrims- oranges, biscuits and camino shells. He asks for nothing in return for what he’s providing. We stop and have a small snack, make a donation and move on.

We have all found our pace, Gill and Ramon are ahead, Tammy, Lynne and I are together, but Lynne picks up the pace and moves ahead. We cross paths with the Israelis again, Dima, Keren and Moran. We say hello and they tell me of their terrible night in the garage that flooded in Los Arcos. I feel fortunate that although I had to sleep on a floor too, at least it was a dry floor!

Tammy and Gill calling ahead for accommodation.
Note socks and shoes scattered around.

We continue on for another 13km before stopping in Navarette. Tammy and I reconnect with Gill here and make another phonecall to Najera, but we’re still out of luck on the accommodation front. It’s getting hot now. Each afternoon is creeping up to 28-30 degrees celsius (82-86 F), and the combination of heat, the long distances we are covering and the weight of our packs can be draining at times. We leave Navarette and I’m thinking it will be a long walk to Ventosa, but it passes in minutes. Tammy and I are deep in conversation about my world travels.

Snacking on grapes en route to Najera.

We all reconvene and have a sandwich together in Ventosa. We have covered 20 km since Logrono and we’ve no idea where we will sleep tonight. We push on as a group – Tammy, Gill, Ramon, Lynne and myself. We all take turns dropping back or moving ahead so we all have time to walk and talk with each other. I am walking with Gill as we cross a bridge, and I comment on how nice it would be to stop and put our feet in for a bit. We still have nowhere to stay, but none of us seem to be in much of a hurry to get anywhere. So Gill says, profoundly, “We pass too many rivers, without touching the water.” It is so true, so we take the time to stop and savor the ice cold water.

Dipping my feet in the river, just outside Najera.

I look to my left, and Gill is laying down, fully clothed in the river, which I laugh out loud about, but when I look to my left, Tammy has tears in her eyes. The ice cold water feels like shards of ice to her feet and the pain is unbearable. Fortunately, it passes quickly, and we are all feeling good as we make our way into Najera. Once we arrive, we head to a cafe on the far side of town. We order cold beers, chat with fellow pilgrims and our suspicions are confirmed – there are no rooms left in town. Rumors of an overflow gymnasium opening up are circulating, but we all agree that we can rest our feet and cover the next 6 km to a smaller village, Azofra.

The crew walking ahead, just after our break at the river.

After resting for 1 1/2 hours, we dig deep for the last part of the journey. Tammy and I walk together and I don’t know what powers us up the hill out of town! We get into a deep conversation about our work lives, and I think back to my corporate days in Manhattan and many of the feelings of self doubt and anxiety that plagued me from being in a place and situation that wasn’t healthy for me, a situation that I continued to try and convince myself was the right one and the one I wanted for too long. I realize that I haven’t really spoken to anyone about the specifics of my experience since leaving New York four years ago. It’s a cathartic conversation.

The albergue in Azofra.
The oldest albergue on the Camino

The others are further up ahead. It is still hot, but it is reaching end of day, and the light above the surrounding vineyards is soft. Azofra is becoming clearer in the distance, and I am so relieved to arrive. We have covered 37 km, and I make a beeline for the municipal albergue. They have space for us, but Ramon doesn’t want to stay at the municipal one and wants to look for other accommodation. I feel frustrated by this. My boots are off and I’ve already checked out the rooms that look clean and semi-private. When Ramon and Lynne show back up, we realize there’s no longer room for all of us, and the volunteer at the municipal albergue decides to move us into the overflow albergue. Now, I’m really frustrated. I put my shoes back on, heave my pack up and head over to the other side of the main street. We are shown to a small room with 4 bunkbeds in an old albergue. There are two other rooms, but no one else checks in. We have the place to ourselves and we learn that this is the oldest albergue on the Camino, dating back to 1168. I’m now realizing my frustration was totally out of line and that we are privileged to be staying together in such a historic spot.

We ditch our packs and walk around outside. Town is comprised of one main street, two cafes, two shops and approximately 250 people, if that. A group of elderly people sit outside their
homes near the albergue. One of the ladies takes my empty water bottle out of my hands, leaves and returns moments later with it filled. They are rambling on in Spanish, and I can only make out a few things they are asking and saying. I wish I understood, because the lines on their faces indicate they have some good stories to tell.

Bar Sevila, in Azofra.

We head to a small shop next door and stock up on some supplies- snacks and vino for after dinner, and then we head to Bar Sevilla for dinner. Given our long day, we are quite late to arrive for dinner, but Pico is accommodating, and seats us in the back of the restaurant.

The vino is flowing – which we feel we deserve after our 37 km and food has never tasted better. It is one of those nights where I want to hit pause. Despite feeling physically exhausted, our spirits have never been higher and there is a strong bond growing amongst the five of us.

We laugh our way through dinner, and instead of returning to the albergue to rest in preparation for the next day, we open another bottle of wine, which we pour into a porron. We pass it around the table, each taking turns to pour the wine into our mouths, with our arms extended high above our heads.

When the five of us finally huddle into our room and climb into our bunks, we’re delirious. Gill breaks out his harmonica and plays us a tune, while Ramon serenades us with song. We are all in a fit of laughter, but it’s not long before sleep finds us all.

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