Day 9: Najera to Santa Domingo de la Calzada and the best Abergue ever
I am a hamster on a wheel. With the sun at my back and walking ever westwards I walk against the Earth’s revolution, like a hamster for ever destined to spin. Eventually I’ll stop but with 600km to go my little hamster legs have a lot of walking to do yet.
Last night was horrendous. A large dormitory of sneezing, shuffling, snoring people and a knee that ached so badly I got little sleep. However my hamster legs were back on the wheel by 5:30 and off I strode through the old town of Najera and into the hills beyond.
“We learn from going where we have to go”, she said to me, quoting part of a poem that had resonance for what we do on the Camino. I found myself walking with a Lithuanian women whom I’d shared a beer with yesterday. We talked and walked into Azofra where we stopped for breakfast. From there it was a pleasant walk through fields of yellow filled with bales of hay both square and round. Outside the village of Ciruena we stopped in a golf club (great bathrooms… clean) for a break and a coffee. My knee was killing me and I hobbled round like a cripple but pushed on.
Pushed on through a pleasant day’s walk on a mainly flat path. Pushed on through the spinach sprinklers, a patch of the path surrounded by spinach field’s watering system which served to douse the passing peregrino. With a laugh we were on our way and before we knew it we were on the outskirts of our destination Santa Domingo de la Calzada.
A short walk in the Spanish kush, with apologies to Eric Newby. Today was a mere bagatelle, just 21km and over by 11am. The reward, the most fantastic Albergue yet seen. Like a hotel with dorm rooms, bright clean kitchen, lounge area fantastic bathrooms we are all in seventh heaven. Today, despite all the pain, was a good day.
Santa Domingo de la Calzada is an extra special town. For one, it is named after, and was home to, a man who, during the 11th century did all he could to make the trek of the peregrino easier. He built roads and bridges, cleared forests and put up accommodation for people who were making this same trip I make today but over 1000 years ago. This explains why the cofraternity overseeing this Albergue (they’re all volunteers) have created a place so welcoming, wonderful and hotel like that we peregrinos feel very comfortable in. The town is equally as welcoming, friendly people, beautiful centuries old buildings and wide open plazas ringed by cafes and bars, streets of stone worn smooth over centuries, lovingly maintained. This is one of the many pearls to be found in Northern Spain.