Last night I had a little bit of camino magic happen. I was feeling less ill but still with crazily throbbing toes, when I saw an advert in the entrance of my hostel. For 35 euros this chap would hire me a mountain bike, then wherever I got to by the end of the day, deliver me my backpack and take the bike back. After a few text messages I met up with the lovely Jorge who sorted me out with a bike, a secure resting place for it overnight, and a backpack pickup for this morning. I got the impression that Jorge had better things to be doing with his time (he is guiding a group a few towns away) but did it anyway just because he is nice. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers.
One of the (many) 'mystical' things people say is that the camino will provide whatever it is you need. Well, today it provided Jorge!
Before leaving this morning I revisited the nurse, who rewrapped my toe, approved my plan, confirmed Jorge is a sweetheart, and told me that her 7-yr old daughter says she is going to marry Jorge's son. She also gave me instructions and a paper to obtain further nursing attention in Santo Domingo tomorrow morning. Hurrah for Salud Rioja, they seem amazingly efficient.
The toe, in case you're wondering, is still there. It's hard to judge change as everything is dyed yellow with iodine and the boot-pressure-factor is totally confounded by big white foam dressings. I'm not massively worried, but I'm also not going to be breaking Camino speed records any time soon.
Even aside from the relief of being back on the road, cycling was simply lovely. And on flat / downhill parts - so fast! (The uphills on gravel were killing, however).
The first section was through red-soiled Rioja vineyards with views of big snow-capped mountains to the south west. These mountains must be seriously high, they've been looming at us for several days (and laughing at us on roastingly hot afternoons).
Morning coffee and pain au chocolat stop was on the pretty riverfront in Najera, next to a sign saying 'Fish without killing!' - nicely put.
Travelling at several times walking speed (downhill at least) gave me a chance to see how many pilgrims are actually walking each stage. My best guess at the moment would be about 15-20 per day. To me this seems a reasonable number - I definitely wouldn't want to do this in high season when I believe there can be several hundred (the albergue here, for example, sleeps 220).
Santo Domingo de la Calzada has a whole load of beautiful and historic buildings, albeit after several kms of industrial slog on the way in. I reached here in time for a very nice beer and salad in the sun. There are rainstorms forecast but, as yet, none emerging.
The accommodation options tonight are limited to a large monastery-based albergue or private hotels. There are a *lot* of people in this dorm... Overdue a bad night's sleep I guess.