Day 10: 16.5KM
Navarette – Nájera
Today was a very easy walk. With that said we got up waay too early and were in Nájera by 1030 am.
We were however treated to an amazing sunrise when we looked back from whence we came. As such we could not check into the municipal albergue until 2pm. No worries, café con leches all around. Jerry however asks for a diet Coke. He is served a tall glass filled with ice and a very small amount of Coke. Perplexed and annoyed, he points to the glass and asks, “That’s a diet Coke?”. The clerk nods in the affirmative. We all laugh. Yup Jerry, it’s a diet Coke if you only drink a little. With time to spare and tummies rumbling, Paul and I head off to the market, after putting our packs “in line”, to forage for lunchables while Sue and Jerry keep a watchful eye on our gear. Upon return, we break open our goodies, making sandwiches (bocadillos) accompanied by a couple cans of local beer. Other pelegrinos look on and drool. Even smarter ones divide and conquer, as did we, and also dine whilst waiting for the albergue’s doors to open. As we lunched outside, an older gentleman toddled over and spoke to us briefly. We nodded and smiled, not understanding a word he cheerfully said. Then without notice the albergue’s doors swing wide open. It is 1330. How nice of them to open up early we say. No sooner than the doors open, and faster than we can retrieve our packs that have been purposely placed ” in line ” as per pelegrino protocol indicating order of arrival, we are hopped by at least 20 “pelegrinos”. Now I realize it’s early in The Camino, so maybe learning or accruing the virtues of patience and thoughtfulness may occur to them… eventually. (Hopefully sooner than later.)
We wait in line now for one of the finite number of beds.
As we were early enough, we were able to successfully secure bottom bunks (which we prefer), as the acrobatics required to descend from the upper bunks requires more agility than ascending. We laugh about how we would fight for the upper bunks when we were kids, but now it’s just the opposite.
As we leave the now full albergue to check out the sites of Nájera (that include a Jesuit Monastery), we are serenaded by the same gentleman who talked to us earlier.
I notice an article pinned to the albergue wall. The man pictured is remarkably similar to a younger version of the elderly man seated before us. I ask him if the article is about him. “Si” he proudly exclaims. “Mi canar. Mi canar por la Popa” he proudly exclaims. Can you sing for me, I ask ( in Spanish…I’m learning). We are treated to a sweet serenade, that I videoed, however the video would not load… So I will load it later when I get home for your viewing pleasure.
He, apparently, is one of the benefactors of this albergue which runs on donations, and was/is a somewhat famous singer who has sung for the bishops and even the Pope(s). He is quite the character, and it appears that no one but us has put two and two together or has even given this man the time of day. I wish I was fluent in Spanish. Oh the stories he could have told us. We wander about the town. It is quaint and an archaeologist’s dream land. There are ancient cave dwellings and nearby archeological digs dating some finds back to the 2nd century. While in Nájera, we run into Milie from Florida. We met her on day one in St. Jean. We share stories of our travels and she turns us onto a new app in which to find/secure places to stay ahead of time so that we don’t have to get up so early and “race” to the next albergue. This will definitely help to make our journey less stressful and even more enjoyable. Milie is also fluent in Spanish, and I accompany her to the local museum and monastery and learn about the town’s historical significance, that includes something about a king who was hunting and wandered into a cave (enclosed in the monastery) and saw the Blessed Mother…so he had a church built here.
America’s history is embryonic compared to what I am treated to today. We attend a pilgrim’s mass en Espanol (of course) with the homily being something about the “Cross” of Christianity being the “Light” for the world. Not being full fledged Catholic, I go up for a “blessing” from the priest during communion as I do at home. (I figure it can’t hurt and I need all the help I can get). Apparently crossing of the arms doesn’t fly around here, and the Eucharist is shoved in my mouth. I hear Paul giggle behind me. Sue smiles. “Well that does it. I guess your Catholic now”, Paul quietly exclaims as he pats me on the back and we sit back in the pew for the closing of mass. When mass is over, us few pelegrinos (7) are directed to the front of the church. We are given a special blessing… en Espanol, and are directed to ring a special bell three times. A figurine of St. James is atop of it. Once for the Cross. Once for the Blessed Mother, and once for St. James.
But wait there’s more…we are now led to the priests office (the sacristy) where he excitedly stamps our pelegrino passports, hands us prayer cards and tells us about his “order” (Opus Dei). He then exclaims that it is time to enjoy some wine and shepherds us to a door. Thinking we are pretty special (as only 7 out if at least 90 “pelegrinos” that are at the albergue have attended mass), we now think we are going to have drinks with the priest. We file through the door. The door closes behind us, and we find ourselves in the street…alone. We all look at each other and begin to laugh. Ah, he meant it was time for HIM to have some wine…and us to go home. Go figure.
Be Strong! Austin Strong!