TREKKING — DAY 9

Najera to Santo Domingo — 14 Miles

4:30 a.m. — doors slamming, people talking, toilets flushing, lights turning on and off. This is life in an Albergue — a Pilgrim Hostel on the Camino de Santiago.

How could we even go back to sleep? Well, we didn’t. It was pitch dark outside so I thought it was too early to start walking, especially alone. I laid in bed for a while but with all the racket outside our door I finally got up and remembered to put some clothes on before I went down the hall to the co-ed bathroom. But the sounds coming from the bathroom stalls were more than I wanted to listen to so I was out of there in a flash. I always wondered what a bathroom in an Albergue looked like and this one was new and modern.  I would inagine it was probably the nicest, cleanest bathroom in an Albergue on the whole Camino.

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I got dressed, put on my backpack, stuck a day old cheese sandwich in my pocket and Dick walked me out the door at 5:45 a.m. It was still pitch dark and I had my headlamp in my hand so that I could shine it on the cobblestones and walls to see if I could see those familiar Camino markers. There were no other trekkers around and I felt a little afraid to be by myself when I didn’t know where I was going and it was so dark. Within a couple of blocks I was out of the little village of Najera and on a dirt and gravel road headed uphill into the woods.  With my little light in hand I kept scanning the sides of the road for markers but found none. I only hoped I was going the right way. Then I heard voices behind me — it sounded like 2 men speaking Spanish. They had to be fellow trekkers. Their voices were comforting as I walked uphill for another mile. The terrain flattened out and at mile two it was a little lighter outside and I could see 10 other trekkers on the road far ahead of me. I walked on and it was finally light and the sun was out when I came to the village of Azofra.

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Even the drainage ditch is pretty.

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I wanted to stop and rest but knew this would be another hot day so I just kept walking. One of the websites I had looked at said todays trek would go over a mountain but if you didn’t want to go over the mountain you could take a different route around it. Well, I was going to take that different route because I wanted to avoid as much uphill as possible.

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I walked and walked and looked everywhere for that alternate route and before I knew it I was going uphill over the mountain. I was really disappointed that I had missed the alternate route. After I’d walked 7 miles I was spent. I needed a cafe con leche, I needed a break, I needed to sit down. But that wasn’t possible. I was walking on a one lane dirt and gravel road through vineyards and wheat fields and there was nothing, not even a rock to sit on. So I went huffing and puffing up the mountain when suddenly appearing before my eyes was exactly what I needed. An unemployed guy had set up a little stand at the side of the road with fruit, chips, water and sodas. And he had 2 lawn chairs to sit on. I asked for orange juice and he cut and squeezed the oranges and gave me a cup overflowing with juice.

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The juice was a little sour so I drank it fast and left but it was just the pick-me-up that I needed. My cheese sandwich stayed in my pocket because even though I didn’t eat breakfast I still wasn’t hungry.

Finally I saw the little town of Santo Domingo and the tall steeple of the Cathedral. I thought I was almost there but had to walk another 3 miles before I entered the little cobblestone alleys of town. I hadn’t heard from Dick in a while but I had made reservations at an expensive hotel in the heart of the village. Then I saw him standing there in the middle of hoards of other people. Why were all these people crowding the streets and plazas?  We walked to the hotel located next to the cathedral where long lines of people were filing in. I had no idea what was going on but just wanted to get to the hotel. It was beautiful with medieval stone arches and ancient artifacts.  The room was large and beautiful with period furniture and all the amenities. (Yes, a blow dryer!)  This is a photo of the lobby of the hotel.

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I was sore, my legs ached, my feet were tired and burning and my shirt was drenched. I took it off, flopped down on the bed and couldn’t move for the next hour. After showering and doing “chores” we decided to go out and explore the town and have a bite to eat.

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The concierge  had told us that today was the celebration day for Santo Domingo.  This town was founded by St. Dominic (Santo Domingo) in the 10th century in order to help Pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The Cathedral next door to us was built in dedication to St. James (Santiago). The hotel we were in was the hostel dedicated to housing and helping pilgrims on their way. And today was the dedication day to St. Dominic or Santo Domingo.

The streets were so crowded we could barely walk. Men, women and children were dressed in their Sunday best — men in suits and ties, women adorned in jewelry and wearing beautiful dresses, and children all dressed up in cute little outfits. There was a procession going through the streets with a band, priests, dancers and people carrying a heavy wooden platform with a statue of St. Dominic on top of a silver structure.

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Church bells were endlessly ringing and everyone seemed to be in a great festive mood. What a day to arrive in this city while we were walking the Camino.
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Sent from Karen’s iPad