Day 14: Navarette to Najera

Today started like many other mornings. I planned to wake up at 5 AM to avoid the heat. But instead, me not waking up at 5 AM and leaving the hostel later than planned. I ended up leaving the house around 7 AM. I wanted to leave much earlier. I was going to see if I could do a longer walk because my feet felt good right before bed. 

However, I didn’t sleep very well because the skin irritation on my neck was burning all night. 😓

The skin on my neck has slowly become more and more bumpy, irritated, and raised since my pool session in Torres del Rio. I made multiple mistakes that day. First, I went into the pool with the sports bra I wore all day during the walk, and after the pool, I didn’t wash off, and then I sat in the sun. 🙁 Then I had a beer and went to dinner and was too lazy to shower until late that night. By the following day, my neck was sensitive but had no raised skin. However, three days later, the skin on my neck is just so inflamed and so itchy. 

Last night, even after putting the hydrocortisone cream from the pharmacy on my neck, it was still hurting. So, I left this morning feeling much discomfort in my neck. It was very physically frustrating to have my neck itching, especially when walking in extreme heat under the sun.

I should have known better and shower after the pool and moisturize my skin because my neck is sensitive to something. But I did not pay attention because I was so exhausted from the walk.

Back to the walk: Despite the planned 100-degree weather for the day, the morning was very cool! When I left, I didn’t see anyone on the road but me. 

There was nothing extraordinary about the beginning of the walk. There were a few abandoned buildings (which I love). There was a beautiful graveyard with these grand trees. Oddly, I find cemeteries beautiful places; I appreciate the landscape, architecture, and historical significance.  This one was closed, but I would have stopped in to observe a few headstones if it wasn’t. I find them informative, and it gives me insight into the many people that came before me. 

I think, dealing with the deaths of many loved ones in my life, I’ve had to accept the impermanence of life and understand my mortality, but also my vitality to live. So I always find graveyards morbidly fascinating. But, I think this walk also reminds me that I am alive!

This morning, I focused on just believing in myself and that I could walk every day, which is more complicated than it sounds.

I walked past rows and rows of vineyards that were beautiful under the morning sun. The first hour of the walk was a little difficult for me emotionally. Not because I felt physically tired, but because the walk brought up things that I thought I resolved but perhaps haven’t. 

The Camino reminded me of my struggles with the concept of home and place on this planet. I feel a little untethered but also very grounded and connected to myself and earth. 

I was feeling kind of down, and I looked to my left, and to my surprise, I saw a substantial lavender bush. It was a random wild bush, and there were no other lavender bushes around it. I was thrilled because I hadn’t seen any lavender bushes since I saw the huge field of lavender that had bees buzzing around it. This time I decided to take a couple of stalks to keep with me. The smell of lavender is calming for me. Some of the rooms I stay in need a “nice scent.” 

I look forward to putting what I foraged under my pillow. I felt like that was another little sign for me to keep going and see the brightness of this experience. 

I enjoyed the five kilometers before Ventosa. I had no idea that there were two alternative Camino routes. A couple of people I saw when I got to Najera said that they took a shorter way where they did not pass through Ventosa. 

I just followed the Camino Ninja app, and I ended up going past Ventosa, which I was pleased about! 

If I didn’t have an excess of energy, I probably would have stopped at Ventosa, but I got to the town at 8 AM and was ready to walk more. I liked Ventosa a lot because it’s nestled in a sea of vineyards, so it’s very green surrounding the town. 

They also had this fantastic concept called “1 kilometer of art”, and with each kilometer leading up to the town, an art piece several feet tall was displayed by a local artist. The art pieces were quite beautiful and touching. I enjoyed my walk before the town because it was picturesque between the vineyards and the large art pieces at every kilometer. It was an excellent interactive experience for the pilgrim walking on the Camino. 

I felt that Ventosa put a lot of intention into the town and welcoming pilgrims. There was a lovely cafe that had breakfast, lunch, and dinner all day. I was hungry to sit down and eat, but I already had food, so I decided to gobble down this amazing cake that I bought in Logroño. 

Btw please go to the Victorian bakery in Logroño from my previous post; her desserts are delicious. I wish I had two pieces of this cake. After I had the cake, I realized that I think a few of my mood swings were due to hunger 😕. I didn’t have my oatmeal that morning because I couldn’t find hot water. 

While eating on a bench outside Ventosa, I just relaxed and listened to music. 

After this break, the intensity of the walk picked up! It was hotter, the paths were more boring and long, and the ground sucked in some parts! 

There were some paths filled with sand, which got me so dusty and could be slippery, haha

There were some paths with huge craters, and the surface was made up of lots of pebbles. And as I’ve said many times before, pebbles are not my best friend, just like going uphill is not my best friend.

So the paths that were combinations of pebbles and incline were difficult for me. But I’ve learned to take things slow and take out my hiking poles if need be. I saw more pilgrims than I have in a while. I noticed that most people seemed to be having issues with the sun, and were taking shade frequently, which was a good idea. I took a break once or twice along the way to enjoy the shade and grab some water.

There’s a nice little bridge path that leads into this park right before you get to the outskirts of Najera. I love bridges, and my pace was slow over the shaded bridge. But I always love movement over water. 

I ended up seeing the father/daughter duo from yesterday. The little girl was having a tough time because she had blisters on her feet, and she wanted to go home. So, I ended up walking the last couple kilometers into the city with her. 

There are NO water fountains during this whole walk, until literally the last 30 minutes of the walk. So, it was essential to have plenty of regular and electrolyte water on me. 

Locals set up a donation-based water station, I am assuming. A dog was roaming around that seemed nice. However, a funny sign next to the dog said otherwise. Haha, It says, “Be careful with the dog.” 

Entering Najera was not as pretty as other towns. It seemed as if many new developments reminded me of apartment building types in the United States. However, once you get past that, the city is quite big and pretty. 

I was so hungry, and I saw a Chinese restaurant.  I was so happy because, as a New Yorker, I love Chinese food. So, I ordered a feast for myself, and the food was delicious. I was impressed. 

I had big plans for the day, and I wanted to go to the church and the river, but unfortunately, I was having a bad emotional day. I was dealing with some personal stuff so that I couldn’t leave my room again. 

The front desk lady Anna at my hotel, Hotel Hispano, is phenomenal. First, she went through the map of the town and outlined where I should go. I’ve never had a receptionist do that to me before. Then, she circled different places I should eat and different paths to go down to see the river – in one direction, I could soak my feet, and in the other, I could swim. She’s from the city, so she had the inside scoop. She also told me about the ancient caves, which are especially beautiful to view in the sunrise. In July, Najera has historical performances/medieval plays outside. I would go, but the shows are very late, like 10 PM. 

Najera has a beautiful square. In the old part of town, there is also a fresh food market. The church is a must-see, and from Google seems like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will try to see if I can go there tonight. I was told there is a large community pool for 4E and that the city has many outdoor spaces and recreational spaces. 

As of right now, I plan on walking to Granon tomorrow. My soul feels like it needs to roam and work out some emotions with walking, but I may wake up in the morning and decide to stay here because this seems like a special place worth exploring. I see myself coming back here!

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