Posted by: knitknigel | May 14, 2009

Let the Camino Be Your Guide

Two days ago I had a nice walk to Los Arcos. The weather was good, and the route was not too hilly. I had a good lunch in the pueblo and then relaxed with my knitting in the garden of the Albergue. All was good. Then, I decided to check my notes for the next stage of the walk to Logroño. I pulled out my pack, unzipped the pocket where I keep all my guide information and …. nothing. It wasn´t there. I panicked, but looked though the rest of my pack. NOTHING. Oh, my god! NOTHING. My camino bibles were gone, the book from the confraternity in England, my guide by the Vancouver couple, my book of maps, my extra maps of towns along the way, my guides to a couple of the cities, which Geordie had laboriously copied for me.

What to do? Well, like Elizabeth Smart, I sat down and wept. I had no idea what I could do now. I´m in the middle of northern Spain with no guide. Pulling myself together, I phoned Geordie, who didn´t answer his phone (he was sleeping!). Then I discovered that I was sitting outside the public library so I went in and took over a computer. I found the website where one can at least develop a daily itinerary of the route, and a contour map of the route with the elevations. Then, after lots of worry, and searching for the librarian, I finally was able to print the pages. And didn´t have to pay – aren´t libraries wonderful?

Geordie called and after some discussion we decided that I would continue on my route, looking for a book, and he would meet me in Burgos, four days away. Maybe I would take a bus and get there early.

So the next morning, I took off, with just my printed list of towns and distances and my contour map, and made it to Los Arcos. In the morning I had panicked myself because now I couldn´t find my wallet, but finally I realized I was sitting on it. But my pen was missing so I didn´t get to record my distances. Somebody in the Estella library now has a really nice pen to write notes with. I bought another in Logroño for 1 Euro.

But I made it, following the yellow arrows of the camino and the people ahead of me. I walked alone for lots of the time, but always the camino was with me – the yellow arrows beckoning me on.

Today I had a guide. I found a book in Logroño too with the route shown and described. I have a copy of the same book at home, but this is at least the 2007 edition. It worked fine. Phew.

I wish my feet were working so well. I had blisters on my heels which I pierced with my needle last night, but managed to upset my bottle of iodine and it took some doing to clean that up. I put some bandages on those blisters, and used Compeed on the small new blisters developing on the pads of flesh below my big toes. Walking today was a little like torture. I discovered that I preferred walking uphill. Walking downhill I put all my weight on those two blistered spots and it was agony. Even with 600 mg of Ibuprofen.

But, I walked 29.4 kilometers today – the longest day yet. It took seven hours and when I arrived at the albergue they weren´t even open. I arrived at 2:15 and they opened at 3:00 pm – a few unhappy pilgrims, since they all wanted showers and some food.

I walked for two hours with a woman from Madrid. She talked at me in Spanish for the whole time. I think I understood about 1/3 of it, but I nodded a lot. She was a great companion, we had a very similar pace although she was walking without a pack – she´d sent it on ahead in a taxi, because it was too big. She smoked too, like many of the pilgrims – how do they do it?

In Navarette we stopped and had a great caffe con leche, and we both bought bocadillas (sandwiches). Hers was ham and cheese, while mine was tortilla española, but we split them. They were delicious. And I had an extra coffee.

She was also very helpful, because I had found a telephone on the street in Logroño. I saw it spinning after it was nicked by a car, so I went into the street to pick it up. I couldn´t get any info from in about the owner, but when I showed it to Rosa, she took charge. There were several calls on the phone, but she couldn´t get it to work, but finally someone called and she was able to talk to her. Turns out it was the daughter of the owner. The owner lives in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, which is our next stop, but Rosa told her that she would leave the phone in the albergue here in Najéra. Problem solved.

My blisters have been lanced, I´ve had an interesting meal with two young handsome Brazilian men who speak excellent English and now I´m going out to knit a little more. But not before telling you about my afternoon meal. I started with seafood paella, not bad, but then we all three ordered the special lamb dish. The waitress said it was leg. It wasn´t, it was foot and stomach. Honest. The little knuckle bones were there, the tendons, but not a bit of meat. However, the lamb stomach was protein, and the sauce was very spicy. I liked that part most. The two Brazilians wheedled extra food from the waitress, for Felipe, grilled ribs and for Rafael, bacalao. And I got a taste of both. With that we had two bottles of fine Riojan wine – this is La Rioja from whence many fine red wines are produced. There were lots of vineyards along the way. The grapes are just miniscule right now, but they will make fine wine soon enough.

So my first day with my new guide, my big blisters, my new friends, my tired feet. I keep moving forward.


  1. Regarding our reliance on guides: When I first started travelling in Asia, circa 1988, there were very few decent guidebooks, and certainly NONE for China. Let alone computers and internet. I used to travel largely by word-of-mouth. It was different, challenging, and fun. In some ways more interesting than our modern instant-info-for-everything era.

    For my first trip into China, my mother and I were some of the very first independent travellers. Tourism there was young, and most people went with organized tours. We got our visas from a shady-looking Hong Kong travel agent, paid him about $10 for 3 pages of mimeographed traveller’s tips, and off we went. I now realize I missed, perhaps, the biggest opportunity of my life. I could have written the first guidebook to China. Oops!

    Walk safely, Nigel. And remember, it’s ok to let the feet heal. Hugs.

  2. Wow!!! What a day you had! Yes… you gotta love libraries! And… how fortuitous to be sitting right outside a library when one is weeping in despair! o:) I can just picture you drying your eyes, looking up, and seeing a library! You must be living right… You can’t get much luckier than that… hahaha…

  3. […] friend just recounted some adventures of losing his reliable guidebooks while walking the Caminos of Spain. That brought to mind my early experiences of travel — long before the Internet, and before […]

  4. Nigel,

    Something tells me you are not carrying a big stick. You would be amazed at how much weight it takes off your poor blistered feet and it makes clambering up slippery slopes a lot easier, too. Perhaps you could borrow one from a shepherd – a crook at the end would be great for hooking onto trees to help pull you up the hills. Do you have any idea as to how you lost you guides? were they stolen?
    anyway, keep up the good fight and soldier on. JJ

  5. First I was a bit worried and upset for you then I realized that your karma was all balancing out (if karma does that – I am no expert) –
    for lost guides you get wine and libraries and nice people;
    for Blisters you get Brazilians!
    … and so it goes on!
    As do you!
    more hugs

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