El Camino Day 11

Today was a little diversion day. Ron last night decided that he wanted to go and look at some local monasteries just outside of Nájera, 18kms away. It is a secondary pilgrimage route that can be taken but as we only found out about them last night we decided to take a cab out to them and then walk back to Nájera and stay another night before continuing onto our next stop Santo Domingo.

The monasteries of San Millan de la Cogolla are quite significant in their historical context. I’m not going to go into much detail but if you’d like to read more about it you can read Ron’s blog here or Wikipedia here. Sorry, it’s too much detail to go into here on my blog and I don’t have the energy to summarise all the info we took in today.

We caught a cab out just after breakfast which took just under half an hour. The monasteries are located up in the foothills of the mountains. The oldest of the two sits higher and dates back to the 6th Century where Millan de la Cogolla decided to become a hermit in the caves there and founded the monastic lifestyle here in Spain.

The upper monastery, The Monastery of Suso

This is where the caves are where that San Millan first inhabited and since then there’s been many additions through the centuries which can be seen in the style of the brickwork and architecture throughout.

The lower monastery Yuso on the right

We went on a tour of the two buildings in with a large group of Spanish speaking tourists so it was of course hard for us to follow what the tour guide was saying. We did end up with brochures and paraphernalia to read all about it so we could kind of follow what was going on and been said. The building itself is owned by the state now but there is another site nearby that houses an order of monks which means that there has been monastic life inhabiting the area for centuries.

The cloister of Yuso

The church of the monastery was very elaborate with much gold everywhere. All very big and grand.

This door we passed through to get into the church, looking back out from where we came from
The sacristy, just a little more elaborate than my local parish
The main altar
The choir and the organ top left
The back of the choir and its distinct lack of gold
Looking at the back of the choir straight on
The back of the choir and its distinct lack of gold
Looking at the back of the choir straight on

The photos don’t do the size and scale of the church any justice. These ornate carvings were just enormous, and gold everywhere.

The baptismal fonts, not much gold splashed about here
Ron standing against the pillar giving some perspective of the size and grandeur of this place
A new design for my bathroom ceiling
Some very, very, very old books

And that was that for the guided tour in Spanish. We left our tour group here as it was 1pm and we wanted to get walking back to Nájera in time before it got dark. Why we decided to walk back I don’t know but it was a nice enough day to do so and we didn’t have our big packs on so we thought we could hoof it back into town pretty quickly. There is a Camino path out to this place as it’s a secondary pilgrimage so we looked for arrows pointing the other way and fudged our way back as best as we could.

Blue skies!
We started of walking back through fields

I was a little concerned walking back into town as I didn’t want to be walking on the shoulder of the main road close to cars passing by. Luckily we found the path very quickly and were directed through some fields to the next town. From there it was through vineyards all the way and quite boggy in places. The local landscape around here seems to be a red brown mud and after the rain it was quite slippery and boggy underfoot.

Looking back to the mountains we’d just come from

We found it quite difficult to navigate ourselves back with the arrows for the way to the monastery pointing the other way. Coming to an intersection it was hard to tell which way to go and as the path isn’t used much there were no footprints in the dirt showing us which way pilgrims had come from. We did end up getting a little lost at one point but thankfully Google Maps has even these small dirts roads between the vines in the vineyards marked out so I was able to pull up Nájera and navigate our way out. Our boots were absolutely caked with red mud by this point.

Looking back

Google directed us to the top of this hill and we got a marvellous view looking back at the landscape and where we’d walking from. I was relieved at this point that Google was getting us out of this quagmire. The road eventually turned to asphalt which made the walking back into town a lot easier.

Home ahead

Nájera came into view and funnily enough we were directed down the road that we’ll be walking out of tomorrow morning as we continue our way on the Camino. It was a welcome site and the hotel we’re staying in wasn’t far ahead.

That’s it for me today folks. An interesting diversion to our Camino and a good days walk in the sunshine as well. Tomorrow we head to Santo Domingo and have about a 22km walk ahead of us. Tomorrow’s forecast is for some more sunshine. Yay!

Thanks for reading.

For stats and a map of today’s walk, you’ll find them here.

Buen Camino! 😊