#Camino Day Five: I am a tortoise, not a hare

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After yesterday’s knee pain I was a bit nervous to start today’s long stage from Logroño to Najera, complete with two mountains and only one rest stop…

But I armed myself with ibuprofen gel, a knee support and some very snazzy walking poles (which apparently double as a camera tripod) and got ready to start. I wasn’t the only one suffering. Poor Elke’s toe is losing a battle with an angry blister and that was getting her down today too.

But pilgrims must walk and “el Camino nos llama” (the Camino calls us) so once again we hit the road before sunrise, putting our best walking pole forward.

As we walked out of Logroño, through the city’s extensive parks, I realised I was going to have to walk more slowly now to support my knees. I told Elke the story of the tortoise and the hare (the have a different version in Germany with cheating hedgehogs). I said, “I want to finish the race. From now on, I’m a tortoise”.

Then we met Phil. Phil is 78 and a serial long-distance hiker, having previously walked the Appalachian Trail. He warned us not to walk with him in case he was too slow, saying “I’m a tortoise not a hare”. But of course that’s great. Because I’m a tortoise now too.

The three of us edged towards Navarette together, with poor blistered Elke out in front and me holding up the rear singing whatever came into my head. This is common practice for pilgrims, there’s even a pilgrimage song “Ultreïa” which means “Keep going”.

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We did keep going until Navarette and filled up on delicious sandwiches and coffee at a tiny café. We also visited a beautiful church which had a pin board for pilgrims to add their name and home town. It’s a good illustration of just how much this walk draws in people from all over the world and brings us all together. Even as I write this I can hear German, Polish and Spanish being spoken.

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After Navarette there was a very long walk in the rain. Our group spread out a bit, going at our own separate tortoise paces. There were some beautiful vineyards and impressive mountains to walk past, walking over them was a bit more challenging.

When we finally saw Najera in the distance I was so relieved, though it was still a long way off. The town toyed with us for a bit, seeming to move further away as we got closer (there’s a Spanish expression for this too).

Still, we did get there eventually and we fell into the first bar we found for the most delicious beer I’ve ever had.

After that, we found our hostel and I pretty much collapsed with exhaustion! After a shower, stretching and some extremely sugary tea, I’m feeling revived. A big bunch of my new Camino friends will be heading out for dinner soon.

We may be tired, but we have each other and the spirit of the Camino!

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