Friday, January 20, 2012

Pilgrimage Day 10: Navarette - Nájera

It is day 10 of my pilgrimage from St.Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostella. I feel my foot in the morning and see that the wound is clean. I see that the ankle is no longer warm and red. But it is still painful. I put on a thick pad on the wound and use an elastic bandage around my ankle. I then decide to go ahead with the journey and take one day at a time and see how it develops. The weather is pleasant and I'll try to walk only 16 km today to Najera. The first part of the road is along an asphalt road. A lot of truck traffic here so I must be careful. Funny that many cars and trucks honk their horns and wave to me. It seems like their wishing me a safe journey. I come to the village Ventosa and begin an easy climb to Alto de San Anton located 1400 meters over sealevel.

It is amazing to visit these long and rather deserted areas and suddenly run into a big stone church. What on earth is it there for? It probably has a story to tell. Perhaps there was a monastery here before. I don't know. But it is strange. It must have cost a small fortune to build such a church as in the picture. Who paid for it? Most likely, poor farmers nearby having been imposed a church tax which has paid for the church. It's a bit disturbing. I go on with many weird thoughts in my head.

My thoughts are quickly interrupted and I have to focus on my sore feet and the path I walk on. The trail has been transformed into a lunar landscape with rocks everywhere. This is pain staking to walk on. Probably local farmers use the pilgrimage route to move their cattle from the farm to the pasture and back again every day. The gravel is almost gone and only stones left. Fortunately, the pilgrims who have walked this path before me and made small towers of stone along the way. Looking closely at the picture you can see some of these towers. They are not large, but they catch my eye and it gives me inspiration to go on. Somebody has been here before me and transformed these evil stones into funny looking little towers.  

The landscape changes rapidly and now I enter a vally of grapes. Grapes all over the place. They seem immature, but the color is so beautiful. At last I come to the town of Nájera. The name is Arabic and means "a place between the cliffs." The old part of town is really old. I have not found out how old but I see a sign that the city was reconquered by the Moors in the year 923 The city was the capital of the region Narvarra until the year 1076. It's really a lot to look at while I'm walking through the city searching for a local hostel for the night.  

I find a hostel driven by the municipality but come so early that I have to wait outside for a few hours before they open. But it suits me fine. I need all the rest I can get. The building does not look particularly big from the outside. It's an abandoned school that is built into a hostel by the municipality. The staff is very friendly. The price is a modest 3 euros, and there is an opportunity to shower and cook here. The laundry is washed outside. But I am surprised when I come in and see all the bunk beds. There is room for 100 persons here. We are about 50 who are here tonight. I do not know if you've ever spend the night in the same room with 50 persons before, but it's really weird. Everybody is very nice and it's fun to get to know people. But most people are weary and want to go to bed early. That's when it all starts. Snoring. People snore in the oddest ways. Everything from whistling to roaring. I snore also but I've actually never heard myself snore. Listening to all the snoring kept me awake for some hours but finally I also fell asleep (and snored). All of the pilgrimage hostels, whether they are private, municipal or church driven, have arrangements for putting hiking shoes outside the bedroom. There was a separate room here next to  the entrance where the door outside remained open all night so that "smelly shoes" got some fresh air.  
I got help from one of the municipal hostel employees to look at my foot, and he obviously had a lot of experience with sore feet. He was encouraging and said that this was typical injuries for many pilgrims. He said that my ankle inflammation was gone, but I had to be careful not to provoke it again. If I stopped often, took off my shoes when I'm rested, resting my foot raised, and not to mention to drink much more water than I had till now, it would go very well to continue. That was good news. Drinking enough water was the most important thing. He said water was underestimated as a health drink. If the body gets too little water it becomes very prone to inflammation. In his opinion, this was one of my problems - I drank too little water. Instead of drinking one liter of water a day, I should drink 3-4 liters of water every day. One should drink so much water that ones urine is clear. This sounded reasonable, and I decided to follow the advice of the knowledgeable local staff hostel assistant. He tended to my wound, and said that he sees wounds like this almost daily. I had done a good job keeping the wound clean, and applying ointment and changing the dressing frequently -and this was important to keep on doing. This was encouraging. So now I look forward to tomorrow!

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