Albeit last night’s loud sleepless party village of Nàjera, we arose early to start walking at 8:00 to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. This seems early for us, however the majority of pilgrims are gone just before sunrise at 7:15. Some wish to escape the midday heat while others are racing to the next destination to secure a bed for the night. We’ve been booking private accommodations well in advance, feeling no need to rush in the morning. We have even heard there are pilgrims up and out at 5:00. The later departure works out better as we can enjoy ourselves by stopping in each village or pretty site along the way…… confident that we have a comfortable place to rest our heads at night.
Today was a particularly easy and peaceful day, with evenly split up village stops. The initial ascent and descent out of Nàjera was a great way to get our blood pumping. Over the mountain down the hill led us to an endless land of more Rioja vineyards. This would be the last day through the Rioja region, as tomorrow’s walk to Belorado would lead us into the dry lands of Castille & Leon. After a brisk 6km walk we took a breakfast and coffee break in Azofra, a village with less than 350 inhabitants.
Several more stunning vineyards carved out our way 9 kilometers to Cirueña. The entrance into the town was quite unexpected as we passed through a golf course, swimming center and tennis courts. The buildings were fairly new but most appeared to be abandoned with window shades down. After walking one kilometer the Camino continued across the main road into fields. The other option was to go 200 meters uphill to the actual old town of Cirueña. We were hungry so we continued uphill to a local bar, where we snacked on salad and tortilla before descending back down to the Camino. We found out the new development was built during Spain’s housing boom.
The remaining 7 kilometers to Santo Domingo de la Calzada descended through dry desolate farm land. After reaching the peak of the initial ascent we spotted the village in the distance which was still more than a hour away. As we descended onto the town a strong headwind forcefully swayed pilgrims around the road. After walking through an industrial factory area we came to a small plaza with an iron pilgrim tribute holding a staff and camino shell.
Shortly after, we went into the Convent Albergue where I had a nun stamp our pilgrim credential. It was only 14:00 and the convent was already full, so it must be a popular place for pilgrim’s to stay. Famished from all the walking, we stopped for a pilgrim’s menu near the 12th century Romanesque/Gothic Cathedral Santo Domingo. Inside is the tomb of Santo Domingo Calzada (Saint Dominic of the Road), who founded the village in the early 12th century. He dedicated his life to attracting new Christian pilgrims into the Muslim dominated region. He built many hostels, roads and bridges to help pilgrims.
Above Santo Domingo’s tomb are cock and hen figures commemorating a special local legend: Santo Domingo Chickens. The legend goes something like this…. A young pilgrim and his parents were traveling on the Camino and stayed in Santo Domingo on their way to Santiago de Compostela. One of the town’s women went goo-goo eyed over the son and his distinct baby blue eyes. He was not interested and rejected her advances. The embarrassed and angered woman wanted revenge for her rejection, so she hid a silver object into the boy’s bag. She then accused the boy of being a thief. The authorities found the silver, which could not be explained by the pilgrim. He was hung in the square for his crimes. His parent went to Santiago praying to St. James for their son. On their way back, they stopped in Santo Domingo to find their son was still hanging in the town square. With closer inspection their son was alive. When they went to see the judge to explain, he laughed and said if he was innocent then the chicken he was eating would come alive and fly off his plate. Immediately, the birds on his plate arose and bite him on the nose. The town’s has had a saying ever since… “Donde la gallina cantò despuès de asada” (Where the hen crowed after being roasted).
After lunch we were on our way to our Hostal Rey Pedro when we randomly ran into Katherine and Emily. We were happy they caught back up to us and both seemed in good spirits considering a few mishaps they encountered on the road. Katherine found a new pack and donated her old backpack to the albergue in Pamplona. Upon arriving in Puente de la Reina the following day, she discovered she left photocopies of all her credit cards and identification in a compartment within the donated backpack. Not being able to communicate in Spanish over the phone, they took a bus all the way back to Pamplona to the albergue. They had a difficult time indicating what she needed but luckily a woman came along who spoke a bit of English. Finally they recovered the old pack, finding her documentation. Happily they made their way back on the Camino. Katherine said she’s learned a great deal from the Camino in terms of too much planning can many times backfire on you. She’s had to let go of habitual behaviors these past 10 days and it teaches you how to think another way in life. We can relate as whenever we tried to plan our travels over this past year, something was always bound to go wrong.
Now we’re off to another 23km windy stroll to Beldorado!
See our Photo Album:
El Camino: Day 10 (Nàjera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada