Saturday 18/5/13 – Los Arcos to Logroño
29.18km / 680m Ascent / 783m Descent
And so to our final day for this trip, a lengthy stretch of some 18 miles from Los Arcos to the sizeable city of Logroño on the edge of the Rioja region.
I may have given the impression in previous postings that the route was without charm or attraction. Not so: but what it sometimes lacked in pure scenic beauty it more than made up for in interest and charisma. Over the course of seven days we had crossed the Pyrenees, explored the Basque country, traversed the Navarre region, experienced Pamplona and walked in the world famous wine region of La Rioja. Pretty good value for one week, I’d say.
|Setting off in the rain|
Yesterday's changeable conditions had solidified overnight into a persistent rain, with the threat of more to come. We exited the main square shrouded in waterproofs, and set off across more open countryside towards Sansol.
In many ways it was an unremarkable morning, as is often the case when it is just you and the rain. We were caught briefly by Heinrich, who bade us “Buen Camino!” before speeding off into the distance, eager to avoid the rain as much as possible. Then, with few other pilgrims in sight either fore or aft, we were left to several kilometres of contemplative walking.
Beyond Sansol, there was a steep descent to the river before a short climb brought us into Torres del Rio. We stopped at a tiny cafe for coffee and cake – and Wi Fi! With a long day ahead, it was good to have the chance to dry out a bit and take a decent break in comfort. But before long we were back out on the trail, and although the rain had stopped the air was damp, and it seemed only a matter of time before we endured another soaking.
However, in some way we have yet to determine, we managed to avoid the worst of the weather, although the distant mountains, shrouded in cloud and capped with newly fallen snow, reminded us that luck was playing it’s part.
|New snow on distant mountains|
But despite overcast and gloomy skies, we found the eleven-kilometre section between Torres del Rio and Viana to be some of the most enjoyable walking of the whole week: an undulating route (with some quite steep sections) through lovely countryside, culminating in the descent of a gorgeous valley peppered with vineyards and olive groves.
|Old house, hedgerows and vines|
In contrast, the final few kilometres into Viana were almost all along or beside the road. A few twists and turns soon brought us out on to the main street, and we looked around for a suitable place for a break. We popped into a bar and bought sandwiches and beer. The weather had improved, so we sat outside at a high table watching the world go by.
Part of that world included a guy from Ireland, who was doing the Camino by bicycle. I'm not sure how many days he been on the bike or how many kilometres he cycled per day, but whatever the amount he certainly seemed to be in a hurry. We did see him sometime later, head down against the wind, cycling the long straight road to Logroño.
We travelled along quieter lanes, and caught up with a couple of ladies we had seen a time or two before who had opted for another mode of transport.
|Modes of transport|
With a population of some 120,000 (similar to that of Blackburn or Cambridge), Logroño is another quite sizeable city. Of course, this means it has quite sizeable outskirts as well, and for much of the remaining distance we were threading a route between major roads, underpasses and flyovers. It wasn’t especially pretty, but the Camino was clear on the ground and well signed – although perhaps not in the conventional way.
We rounded a hillside, and could at last see the buildings of the old centre clearly: not far to go now, which was a good job considering the imminent weather.
A surprisingly pleasant lane brought us out by the Rio Ebro, from where it was but a short walk across the Puente de Piedra to the edge of the old town and our hotel. Although we were tired after around 18 miles of walking, a strange mix of emotions was competing for our attention: relief at having reached the end of a long day, the satisfaction of having completed the week, and melancholy that tomorrow morning we would be heading for the bus station, not the trail.
Thoughts of a quiet evening were put on hold when an e-mail from Emmet revealed he was also in town. By using some of the various means at his disposal (credit card, local bus service) he was now rested and repaired and back on schedule. We arranged to meet for dinner, hit the wine bars and catch up on each other’s news. It has to be said, Logroño is quite a buzzing city on a Saturday night, and we are looking forward to the day we return, to sample some more of the night life before resuming our Camino.