I think that we last mailed from Najera? We walked through the most beautiful countryside between Najera and Azofra - very much like the Cape wine lands with deep green vineyards stretching as far as the eye could see to low hills in the distance. In between are fields of sunflowers, many now dark faced. Some pilgrims have artistically picked out the seeds to make eyes and mouths on the larger blooms and every now and then we have a sunflower with a wide smile or a turned down frown!
From Najera we climbed very steeply into the hills and were accompanied by dozens - maybe hundreds - of vultures flying overhead. Someone said that they circle the pilgrim road waiting for one to fall! The municipal albergue in Azofra - 5 euro - was like a large university campus with showers for men and women, two beds to a room and a large refectory with a fairly well equipped kitchen. We decided to club in and pay to have our washing done in the machine - what bliss to have really clean smelling clothes again!
We found a supermecado and bought pasta, veges, eggs and ham and made a delicious dinner in the kitchen. After supper we went to mass - the third mass so far and, personally, one of the best. The mass in Roncesvalles is very beautiful and is a special pilgrim's mass. The mass in Logrono was a simple mumbled mass with no music or singing. This mass was a Friday night mass with an organist and hymns sung (and no collection!).
We made good time from Aofra to Santo Domingo de la Calzada and visited the cathedral that has the rooster and the hen in a gilded cage in the back of the church. They are there due to a miracle that occurred in the 15th Century when the Mayor's lunch of two chickens sprang to life after St James saved an innocent pilgrim from hanging.
The walk to Granon was through vineyards and acres of beans. Granon is a little hilltop village with a refuge inside the bell tower of an ancient church. It was renovated by a local friend of St James group and now has two rooms where pilgrims sleep on thin mattresses on the floor, cheek by jowl with backpacks at the foot of your mattress. We climbed up a narrow stone staircase and the 'Hospitalero' told us that we could register, have a shower, a group dinner at 8pm but that we would have to vacate the rooms by 21h45 because there was to be a play in the church and the actors needed the rooms to change in.
Dinner was amazing. 26 people sitting at a U shaped tables being served soup, salad, lamb and fruit - all for a donation. The donation box has a notice saying "Give what you can - take what you need." Amazing place with very kind, caring volunteers looking after the pilgrims. We sorted out our beds on the floor and I opened a small side door to see where it leads. Imagine my amazement when I saw that we were sleeping high up above the church interior, just a wall between my head and the nave! For the first time I felt like a medieval pilgrim!
Anneliese decided to watch the play (we were warned that it was all in Spanish and once you were inside you would not be allowed out) but M and I decided to sit outside, have a hot chocolate and wait for 11.45 when we could go back inside. Our room was packed and there was a large Canadian woman who snored like a truck all night! Breakfast was also provided for a donativo and we left this morning at about 7h30.
The scenery started changing from vineyards to wheat fields yesterday and today we passed from La Rijoa into Castilla Y Leon. From here we will start climbing until we reach the high platteau of the Meseta, which we will walk between Burgos (which we reach on Tuesday) and Leon.
Anneliese and I are still wearing sandals. Blisters are healing but not dry enough to try boots just yet. Thankfully the paths have been good gravel, dirt and asphalt with little rock climbing. Happy birthday to Joy for tomorrow (our OLDE friend)!
We will stay in Tosantos tonight, a refuge with no beds, mattresses on the floor, run by Francescan monks, with a donoativo dinner and breakfast. We are just hoping that our snorer will not be there!