El Camino de Santiago || Week Two

Camino de Santiago, Personal, Travel

|| WEEK ONE || WEEK THREE  ||

Welcome friends! In case you’re new around here, allow me to introduce this crazy adventure! Last summer I did the craziest thing of my life so far and walked 500 miles across Northern Spain with my 18 yr-old brother as a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago. It took us five full weeks to get from St. Jean Pied-de-Port France to Santiago on foot and I’m so excited to finally be sharing the photos and stories of our journey! I have committed to a five-week series where each Friday I post the next installment of our journey. Be sure to follow the links above if you’ve missed any of the other installments and hit the subscribe button to be the first to know when the next installment goes live!

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WEEK TWO

DAY EIGHT: Torres del Rio to Logroño || ≈ 19.9km (12.3 mi)

Bright and early on July 5th, we woke up, packed our backpacks and started our daily hike. Our day started with a rather dramatic sky against the early morning sunlight as we walked through the wheat fields that surrounded Torres del Rio. The wheat fields turned into vineyards as we approached Logroño, the winemaking capital of the Spanish region of La Rioja. 

Our first views of the vineyards: 

We only walked through one town during this day, but it was home to one of the most beautiful churches (in my opinion) that we saw on the entire Camino, La Iglesia de Santa María de la Asunción. (We made a point of going into every Church we could along the Way). 

After passing through the town of Viana we were in a pretty flat stretch until we entered the outskirts of Logroño (the second city of our Camino trip so far). According to our guide book, this was an important bird migration area and well known for bird-watching but I don’t recall us seeing any birds. It was honestly just very hot and seemed to take forever.  

You cross the Rio Ebro to enter the city of Logroño and I was surprised by how red/orange the water was!

This was the view from the communal kitchen in this albergue, one of the many churches in the city and the courtyard for the pilgrims to rest and dry their laundry:  

DAY NINE: Logroño to Navarrete ||  ≈ 12.6km (7.8 mi)

So this day ended up being another shorter “rest” day because of a rather unfortunate incident. My number one fear before leaving on this trip was getting bed bugs…and unfortunately somewhere one of the nights around day 6-8, I got them. I denied it initially but in Logroño, I had to come to terms with the fact that I had indeed been bitten by bedbugs and I very likely had them now in my stuff. After panicking, I googled what to do about bedbugs on the Camino and was told by numerous sources that my best course of action was to take a short day the next morning and arrive early at an albergue and tell them my problem and ask them for help. Often the volunteers at the albergues will be very grateful that you were honest and told them about it so that you don’t infect their albergue, and they will be happy to tell you what to do to get rid of the problem. I didn’t really see how we had any other choice so the on Day Nine we woke up and simply walked the 12.6km to the next town. We arrived about an hour before the albergue opened and so we waited in the town square and we were the first to walk in when the doors opened. The man volunteering at this particular albergue spoke basically zero English and well, I can really only understand the bare minimum of Spanish and I can really hardly speak a lick of it (I really should know so much more but alas this is the truth). Despite our language barrier, this man understood my problem immediately and somehow I understood his instructions. He ended up taking care of everything for me and completed the whole process of debugging my stuff including multiple loads of laundry at the end of the process. He was so kind and just kept thanking me for telling him and then telling me that it was ok and to stay calm. I really am so incredibly grateful for the way he handled this situation and the peace that he brought me! 

JP and I were both frustrated that we had to take an unexpectedly short day so soon after our first rest day but as it turns out, stopping in Navarrete meant that a few days later we ended up meeting most of the people that would become our “Camino family”, aka, the pilgrims that became friends who we saw on a daily basis for basically the rest of the Camino. We wouldn’t have crossed paths the way we did if we had stayed on our original schedule and for that reason alone I am very grateful we were forced to take a shorter day.  (I’m not sure I can say I’m grateful for the bedbugs…because that is one experience I hope I never have to relive, but, I do know that every part of our trip was in God’s hands, and as always, He made all things work out for good, even bedbugs). 

The photo below on the left was the view from my bunk that night, and the photo on the right was taken while we were waiting for the albergue to open. 

The Church in Navarrete has an incredibly impressive Baroque retablo (apparently it’s one of the most impressive in Spain) and it was definitely quite a sight. A little overwhelming for me to be honest. But impressive. This Church had a Pilgrim Mass that evening so we got to end the day with Mass.

DAY TEN: Navarrete to Azofra || ≈ 22.8km (14 mi)

So this day started out a little interesting…when the kind man at the albergue had debugged all my stuff and washed everything…that included my hiking shoes (in retrospect, I think my shoes were probably safe because they never had entered any of the bedrooms or really been in contact with my backpack…but what’s done is done). Despite going through the dryer on the highest setting 3-4 times they were still soaking wet the next morning. There was literally no way I could wear them and walk even a couple of miles let alone the 14 miles we planned to walk. My feet would have been covered in blisters. But yet again, God provided through this albergue and this wonderful man. Every albergue normally has a collection of things that former pilgrims have left behind and that any pilgrim is welcome to take if they need. At this particular albergue, there had been one pair of shoes left by a former pilgrim and miraculously they fit my feet perfectly (seriously what are the odds of that???) They were definitely not as comfortable as my hiking shoes but I managed to walk the majority of the day in them while my shoes swung from the back of my backpack and dried in the hot sun and other than my feet being a little sorer at the end of the day than usual, I was totally fine. Not a single blister from switching to brand new shoes or anything. Was God taking care of me or what?? 

Our very typical mid-morning breakfast was a slice of Spanish tortilla (a delicious cheesy egg & potato quiche-like dish). Several times a week, I splurged on a glass of freshly pressed OJ because oh my gosh this stuff was liquid gold. After all the stress of the past few days, this was one of the days that definitely called for splurging on a big glass of fresh orange juice. 

DAY ELEVEN: Azofra to Grañon || ≈ 22.3km (13.8 mi)

Our second Sunday on the Camino and our number one priority was making to Sunday Mass. The week before we had conveniently been in Pamplona on Saturday which gave us ample opportunities for Saturday Vigil Masses but the only church in the tiny town of Azofra hadn’t even been open, let alone having a Mass the night before. Between my very spotty wifi and the information the albergue had, we figured out that there should be Mass at 10:00 am in Santo Domingo…the only larger town we would be passing through this day. Unfortunately, Santo Domingo was 15km into our walk which meant we had to get a pretty early start to our day to make it in time. Thankfully all worked out and we made it to Mass and stopped for a leisurely lunch at one of the many restaurants that lined the cobblestone streets before continuing on to our final destination for the day: Grañon. 

Grañon happened to be one of our favorite stops along the whole trip because of the incredible albergue we stayed at. It was our first “donativo” albergue and our first true communal meal of the Camino. While we initially chose it because of the appeal of the cheaper cost, it ended up being an incredible community experience and one that made us eager to look for any change to stay at donativo albergues that offered communal meals for the rest of the trip. If you are making your own plans for the Camino, I cannot recommend enough that you ditch the guidebook suggestions and make it work to stop at Grañon and stay at the San Juan Bautista albergue. There were 22 of us pilgrims that stayed in this albergue that night representing 12 different countries (South Korea, New Zealand, Slovenia, Denmark, Mexico, Poland, Germany, and of course, the USA, just to name a few) and we all sat down at a huge L shaped table for a family-style dinner. Between Spanish and English everyone was able to understand each other and the room was filled with laughter as stories were swapped and more wine was poured. It was absolutely crazy to watch strangers become family over the course of an evening and one of the most memorable evenings of the entire trip. It was incredible that 22 strangers from all walks of life with probably vastly different beliefs and backgrounds could come together and authentically rejoice in the company and goodness of one another. 

We were some of the first pilgrims to check into our albergue that day and so we had several hours before dinner time. So after showering and washing my clothes, I headed to the cafe/bar that was across the street and got a glass of wine for 1,50€ and sat down outside in the afternoon sunshine for my daily Scripture and journal time. 

DAY TWELVE: Grañon to Tosantos || ≈ 22.5km (13.9 mi)

We passed through several quaint towns this day and ended our day in Tosantos. We chose Tosantos because it had another donativo albergue with a communal dinner and after such an amazing experience in Grañon we were eager to try it again. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that Tosantos was such an incredibly small town (honestly not even sure if you could call it a town). There was one bar/cafe that wasn’t even open the day we were there, there was no store, nothing. Even the church in town was closed and locked up. It was basically a ghost town other than the one albergue we were staying at. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal if we had known that and planned ahead of time, but because we assumed there would be somewhere to buy food, we hadn’t gotten any snacks along the way earlier in the day and we ended up being extremely hungry for several hours between the time we arrived in Tosantos and the time dinner was served. But on the flipside, it was another amazing communal experience. At least half of the pilgrims we had met the night before in Grañon made the same decision as us and stayed in Tosantos as well and the couple other new-comers were quickly welcomed into our midst. 

A peek into what the inside of the albergue looked like. In both Grañon and Tosantos, the “bunks” were actually just sleeping mats on the floor but they were actually incredibly comfortable and after my bedbug incident, I somehow felt less freaked out by a matt on the floor than a mattress on a bed (not sure that there’s any logic behind this…but there ya have it). 

Undoubtedly, the coolest part about staying in Tosantos was the fact that the host at our albergue was able to give us a tour to the Ermita Virgen de la Peña (“Our Lady of the Cliff”). It is a small chapel dedicated to Our Lady that was built into the side of the cliffs just outside the town. No one really knows exactly how old this chapel is, but it is believed to have been work of the Moors and to date to at least the 11th century if not earlier. We were able to go inside and look around a bit (but I don’t have any good pictures of the inside because it was so dark). 

DAY THIRTEEN: Tosantos to Agés || ≈ 22.8km (14.1 mi)

Our landscape shifted a little bit on this day as we inched ever closer to Santiago. There was also a 12.2km gap between any sign of civilization which happened to fall during the hottest portion of the day (although it was mostly through wooded hills, very steep hills, so it wasn’t too bad). Also, there was one sign of civilization that we passed on that portion: a very hippy “rest” area for pilgrims. But it seemed very, very strange (if I remember correctly they were offering free massages and looked like they were probably high on something and they had just set up this makeshift area surrounding their hippy van) so we politely nodded hello and kept on going without stopping. Haha, oh the things you will encounter on the Camino. 

Do you see that white oddly shaped structure on the side of the hill across the wheat fields in the photo below? That was our view of the Ermita Virgen de la Peña as we walked away from Tosantos. 

So excited to see the sign in Agés that told us we had only 518km (or 321miles) to go! 

DAY FOURTEEN: Agés to Burgos || ≈ 22.3km (13.9 mi)

Our last day of week two took us to the third city of our trip and felt like another major marking point in our journey. The day started off with beautiful blue skies as we walked through gorgeous fields of wheat and our trail was lined with more wildflowers than I’d ever seen in my life. (I was obsessed). About an hour and a half outside of Burgos, however, the skies dramatically darkened and we realized that a colossal summer thunderstorm was heading our way and although we quickened our pace quite a bit, we ended up getting stuck in the storm and spent the last 20-30 min of our hike walking in pouring rain and thunder. This was not the first time we had encountered rain, but besides a few sprinkles, the rain had always been in the evening. So this was the first day we got stuck walking in a true downpour and it was our first real test of how waterproof our waterproof measures really were (my preventative measures held up! More details on that when I share our packing lists). 

All the poppies growing amidst the yellow wheat….some of my favorite views of the trip. 

We ended up stopping for a good 10-15 minutes under a tunnel in the outskirts of Burgos because it was raining so hard. I’m so happy I took a photo of this moment because it was a very real-life snapshot of the adventure that is the Camino. 

Our first glimpse of the Cathedral of Burgos. We couldn’t wait to arrive and change into dry clothes! 

We stayed in the main municipal albergue which was located right down the street from the impressive Cathedral and this was the view from our room: 

A few hours after arriving in Burgos the sun came back out and we wandered around the downtown area in search of food. One of my regrets of the trip is that we decided to skip paying to go into the main Cathedral because there was a pilgrim Mass that night in one of the side Chapels of the Cathedral. I assumed we would be able to see most of the Cathedral when we went in for Mass but that was sadly not the case. To be honest, I think one of the reasons we didn’t pay to get inside was because it just feels wrong to me to have to pay money to go inside a Church…but with our pilgrim passports it literally would have only been a couple of euros (which at the time seemed like a big deal because we were on such a tight budget) but now I kinda wish we had just done it. But hey, that just means I have new things to see the next time I do this! 

And that’s a wrap for Week Two! We walked another 90 miles and we were now officially 2/3 of the way done! 

Stay tuned for Week Three coming next Friday! 

Xoxo, 
Mary Kate

  1. Sarah says:

    I have never seen anything like the sky in the outskirts of Burgos photo. It is truly amazing. All of these photos are absolutely stunning!!

  2. Ashley Brunell says:

    This is such an amazing experience!  I had never heard of this, beautiful!!

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