Monday, August 12th

The Germans are obviously not precision packing the night before anymore, as it took 'em from 5:00, when their precision alarms went off, 'til 5:50 to actually leave the dorm. Wrapping, crickling, snapping, velcrosing, shoving sleeping bags into other bags; thirteen torches flashing in whatever direction makes for quite a light show. Fifty minutes. I hope I kept them all awake last night with my apparently thunderous snoring.

It's dark outside. I only have 10kms today, so it's pointless leaving now, rather wait 'til light so I can actually see the countryside I'm passing through.

Already here, although the cleaner at the refugio won't let me dump my backpack until "una, una". Four hours. Oh well.
Spent the morning's walk largely in the company of an older Spanish gentleman, who was a veritable font of knowledge. Spanish politics, the Basque, Spanish history dating back to Neandertal times, the archaeological finds, just "over there", the Spanish wines "these grapes won't be ripe until the 25th", everything Spanish. He knew that we would meet Felicia, at the first house in Logrono. An old woman who stamps credentials, and sells scallop-shaped nougat cookies. Quite yummy.
A really intelligent man. A doctor, but who lives in Florida, but walks sections of the Camino whenever he can, not necessarily heading for Compostelle, as he's already been there. Advised me, when I get there, to buy a big book and keep my "pardon" in it, and to find a particular shop in Santiago that sells little spoons, but with a black opal shell-shaped spoon.

A good walk, the 10kms just flashing by. The mountains in the distance in the morning were so pale, just a slightly darker blue, then becoming more defined as the sun rose. The road flat, mostly, through forested areas then through the industrial part. The Spanish gentleman mentioning the paper factory, as we were passing it, that uses the eucalyptus trees planted a generation ago, the trees planted when the multinational companies bought up all the small farms, destroyed the native forests of birch and fir, and has been an enormous disaster. Eucalypts are self-seeding, getting rid of them is almost impossible.

Finally managed to leave the backpack in the foyer of the refugio.
Visiting the cathedral. The Baroque retablo is overdone, and they have an original Michelangelo. Ho hum.

a little later
The bar/cafe, El Reya's del Jamon.
Found the Post Office, down from the Cathedral, kind of by accident, but look and point, to get told that no, those sized enveloped can't be sent to Australia. Strange, they were the same size as the French ones that could be. Ended up with a padded post bag. Express. Cost 19 euros, bejaysus, everything else in Spain is cheap, but not sending mail.

Being hassled by beggars, one inside the Cathedral itself. An open hand, then pointing to his mouth. Yeah, right. Keep repeating that I don't understand Spanish. He gives up, goes in search of another victim. Maybe the beggars could just hijack the Michelangelo from the Cathedral, hold it to ransom. "Feed me, or the painting gets it!" type of thing.

Met Mariana and David. Last saw them near the Cathedral.

about 4:30pm

Under the arch to the refugio. It's cômplet. Had a coke. Then walked on. I think I stopped being angry here.

And on the way, walking past a woodyard, with its wire cyclone fence, has thousands of crosses twisted into the wire. Would've liked to have added one, but I'm not making any commitments. I might be on the Pilgrimage, but somehow I'm still the sceptical pagan.

If I hadn't just showered, washed my stuff, got enough food from the strange little shop inside the tabac, and had a beer, I'd be venting my spleen. Think I will anyway.

Today I met the best of men, the gentleman I walked with this morning. Then the worst of men, the "hospitalero" at the Logrono refugio. He turned me away. The vile, cigar-smoking, little bastard.

Just to backtrack a moment. Wandered Logrono, found an ATM, found a boot repairers but the split in my right boot apparently can' be fixed. Back to the refugio. Waited. Linda's there, we're the first in the queue. Waited ages, until one. It opens, the queue begins shuffling forward, only to be told that I couldn't stay, as this evil bastard has decided that only walking from Viana isn't far enough. I can't stay. I remember getting loud. And angry. I manage to retrieve my pack.
On the way out, Textwoman and her friend, who also 'only' walked from Viana, are being allowed to register. The bastard. I suspect chick pilgrims get preferential treatment. Maybe Textwoman and who friend have promised him a menage-de-trois.
I'm angry that some obnoxious little prick, this motherfecker, can make arbitrary decisions and rules about other people's pilgrimages, and can decide what The Way shall or shall not be.

Still, I get tapped on the shoulder, and a German guy, tells me not to worry, we'll just go. We leave together, and end up walking another 16kms to Ventros. Turned out quite well, actually.

Anyway, walked to the next refugio, in Navarette, to be told it's cômplet. Well, of course it's feckin' cômplet, it's 4:30 in the afternoon and everything's cômplet. If I'd known about the bastard, I wouldn't have feckin' wasted four feckin' hours in feckin' Logrono. Still, the Navarette hospitalero telephones ahead, to Ventros, and yes, there's places there. The hospitalero there can collect us if we'd like, but no, Martin (the German guy) and I decide to walk the 6kms.

Martin's fluent in English, and his Spanish is certainly better than mine. Lives in Berlin, but he's actually from Münster. Talked a little, about The Way, although we spent the last 6kms devising our 'Desert Island Discs', the top three:

Martin's : Pink Floyd Ummugumma
  Cream The Live albums
  Dave Grohl's band sorry, Martin, didn't quite catch the title
Mine : Alan Stivell Celtic Symphony
  REM Automatic for the People
  Waterboys Fisherman's Blues

Ventros is a small town. One bar, one shop, but the feeling of space all around. The hospitalero here is a true hospitalero in every sense of the word. he understands that the individual pilgrimage is determined by some inner sense of rightness, not by the 'tourist package'. He's another good man.

Just spent the last hour or so talking with Hartmutt. Who turns out to be a priest from Hawthorn, Melbourne. Travel tales, Way tales, he's just extraordinary. Maybe this was the reason for ending up here, maybe there is such a thing as fate. I have a suspicion I was meant to meet this man. I'm certain I was meant to meet Martin.

much later
Three bowls of noodles, made from the groceries we bought at the shop. The woman who runs it telling us that we definitely need this, and this, and that too. We bought huge amounts. Noodles, fruit, chocolate. Met Andrea at tea, who only wanted a 'small' glass of wine, but whose English got better with each 'small' glass. Had three myself, but my Spanish is pretty much the same.

Odd though, there's three German girls also staying here, and, over dinner, I was describing the change from walking in France, where all the pilgrims seemed to know each other, the sudden explosion in pilgrim numbers on the Spanish side was a shock. They all laughed at the word "shock". Does this have another meaning in German?

But his place has been great, truly great.