Getting Outta Dodge

The lights came on at 5:45 am, can you believe it? I managed to get 4 hours sleep but at least it was a full 4 hours! lol Thanks Marie for introducing me to silicone ear plugs, they really work. I find it difficult to go to sleep at 9:00 or even 10:00 pm as it is still bright out.

I had intended to stay in Leon for another day but the city life is a little too much for this pilgrim. The traffic, the noise and the exhaust is overwhelming when you have been walking in the country. I decided to join Marie and Jeannette on the next stage and as my friend Yordie would say, “Get outta Dodge!”

Getting out of the city takes quite a while and is one ugly, loud, grey walk. Marie is a fast walker and we said goodbye to her as she left the city’s limits. Jeannette is a fast walker too but she always turned and waited for me when it was time for coffee or a bite to eat but mostly I walked alone. Buen Camino is the saying as you pass fellow pilgrims and sometimes you mistakenly say it to a local when you mean Buenos Dias! lol

I did get some lovely morning shots of the cathedral in Leon, the Palace of Justice and this famous pilgrim.

Jeannette and I found this lovely cafe where the barista made us a beautiful cafe con leche with a heart. It warmed our hearts.

There are some interesting signs and even the directional arrows can be confusing. For example this sign says 298 km to Santiago but 5 minites up the road another sign says 322 km. Still far but nice to be in the 300’s! Those that know me as a meat-eater and maiden name “Murphy” this one made me howl!

And this photo op couldn’t be passed up LOL:

IMG_4987Jeannette and I walked the 22 km to Villadonga de Paramo and found a bed at the municipal albergue for 5 euro +2 euro for the pillow and bed covers + 7 euro for the pilgrim dinner – everything is a la carte but quite reasonable. A bottle of vino tinto 3 euro. 😁

We had a room to ourselves and boy did I have a terrific sleep. Ready for a great day, I started out strong and even found myself keeping up with Jeannette for the first hour until I fell into my rhythm. We made it to Hospital de Obrigo around 15 km when my right toe decided to act up. Annoying when you have the energy but the body doesn’t want to cooperate. I sent dad a picture of my toe.’He didn’t quite realize it was my toe, it is pretty mangled.

It was decision time. Should I have rest or continue on. Let’s have a cafe con leche and sit outside overlooking the beautiful bridge and watch the handsome cyclists strut by clicking their hard bike shoes against the terrazo tiling. Oh yes and eat tortilla! Just what is needed to make a decision.

The decision has been made: Jeannette will move on and I will stay back at a parroquial albergue with a beautiful courtyard. It was a lovely refuge. Disappointed but not a loss at all.  I met a flock of sheep, witnessed a funeral and was blessed by the local priest. A busy day even when not walking. I discovered I lost my converter back in Leon. I will wait until Astorga to buy one. Being unplugged is a good thing however I use the phone to record my thoughts and of course keep in touch with home and you all.

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Leon

I was the last to leave the hostal this morning. I debated sending my backpack ahead and walking or checking out the bus situation to Sagahun or Leon. In went down to the cafe and found a few ladies I knew having breakfast. We discussed the possibilities and considering the weather the bus was the preference vs. 27.6 km on the meseta.

Heading down to the bar at the entrance of town I went to the counter and fumbled my way through ordering my bus ticket. Here is how the conversation went:

Donna – Me gustaría comprar un billete de autobús por favor. (I would like to buy a bus ticket please)

Lady – You want a bus ticket?”

Donna – Yes please, one ticket to Sagahun

Lady – ¿Quieres ir a Sagahun? (You want to go to Sagahun?)

Donna – Si, gracias. ¿¡Cuanto es lo justo!? (yes thank you, how much is the fare?)

Lady – no ticket to Sagahun only Leon!

Donna – How much?

Lady – Catorce euros (14 euros)

Donna – Compraré el boleto a León (I will buy the ticket to Leon.

Lady – You want a ticket to Leon?

Donna – Yes please

The lady kept switching back and forth between English and Spanish and repeating the destination I just requested. I was disappointed that I couldn’t go to Sagahun but happy to be sitting with a ticket. Then, two ladies from Panama came in after me and ordered 2 tickets to Sagahun and got them. Sitting there with disbelief but a ticket to Leon in my hand, I decided that the journey not the destination was the lesson. Look out Leon,  I’m coming!

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The bus was late which is no surprise. The bar/cafe makes a load of money on pain au  chocolat, churros and hot chocolate and cafe con leche in the morning and I can only guess the amount of beer and wine in the afternoon. The bus ride was uneventful and I made it Leon in less than 2 hours.  When I got off the bus I naturally  fell into a group with Marie from Sweden and Jeannette from Holland. It was raining and we had a bit of a walk from the bus station to the albergue. Around and around the town we went looking for the convent and when you are tired and hungry, it can be interesting. Up and down cobblestones be streets go and past the Leon cathedral which is beautiful. Usually there are signs for albergues, but not this time. There is a ffilm company set up outside the cathedral which spoils the atmosphere. We finally find the convent, check in to find we have top bunks with no ladders!! Gymnastics to follow!

Shower and a change of clothes and we head out for a bite to eat. Marie wants pasta and we are good with that however we also want a drink. We find this place that has interesting appetizers and makes their own chorizo! Marie ordered roasted red peppers with Manchego cheese and anchovies, Jeannette ordered an egg, cheese and meat omelette and I ordered pulpo (octopus). The starter plates were huge and delicious! Needless to say, we didn’t go out for pasta.

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Next it was over to the cathedral for some pics. I was fairly tired and decided to head  back to the hostal. I got lost along the way and found it frustrating. The tourist office was closed due to siesta. I could embrace siesta but it is inconvenient for many.

I found my way back by walking into a bar and the men were very helpful. Back on track, I was home in 10 minutes. At 15 minutes to 7:00 pm, a bell rang and we were invited to evening vespers and a pilgrim blessing. Jeannette and I went and it was beautiful. The nuns were singing beautifully and the church itself was lovely with a domed ceiling and gold altar piece. After vespers, all the pilgrims stood up and went before the priest for a blessing. It was beautiful. I cried because I needed strength for tomorrow and the rest of this walk.

Back to the bunk, I practiced a couple of times getting up and down. It was hilarious and I am hoping I can avoid having to get up in the middle of the night. Imagine me doing the Fosbury Flop from a chair next to the bed. Not pretty, but effective.

Marie helped me buy silicone ear plugs and I will use this new technology tonight.

10:15 pm lights out, silicone ear plugs in and I’m snug in my sleeping bag liner. The symphony of snoring begins and the light from outside is shining in my eyes. I try not to move so as not to disturb the lady in the bottom bunk. I pull the liner over my head to avoid the light from outside and the moving blue glow from the cellular phones. I’m just about ready to fall asleep at midnight and guess what? I have to pee! Argh!

Fromista > Carrion De Los Condes

The walk to Fromista was lovely and a little shorter today for me. I’m glad as I need to find a farmacia to refill Zantac and ibuprofen medicine. I switched out my hiking boots for my HOKA shoes and OMG what a difference. The gravel pathways were starting to get a bit much for my feet with the hiking boots and the padding provided by this footwear made it easier.

IMG_4887IMG_4888IMG_4889IMG_4890Fromista was a welcome relief and on the outside of the town limits you cross the canal with a waterfall and irrigation system. The coolness from the waterfall was awesome after eating bugs and swatting mosquitos for the last 10km. The canal is moving but there is a lot of standing water, a breeding ground for the little biters. The sound of the cuckoo bird can be meditative or drive you “cuckoo”! It always surprises me when I hear one. Listen to this and imagine walking many kilometers to this sound.

At least today there was a lovely breeze. Arriving inside the town limits I find this little canopied area to sit and have a beer. San Miguel Selecta went down so easy!

I walked entirely alone today and loved the solitude but at he end of the day, it is wonderful spotting people from earlier stages and sharing stories. Derek and Suzie from Devon, England dropped by for a drink.

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Time to find lodging.  Being a slow walker makes it difficult to locate cheaper accommodations and today is no different. The municipal albergue is full at 1:30 pm. I decided to head to the hotel San Marin next door and it was lovely. A bath tub!!! I’m usually a shower girl but today, I am going to languish in a bath. Afterwards, it was drinks with the German girls Bianca, Stephanie and our Orleans, ON girl Sylvie at the hotel cafe and then dinner. Walking through the door for dinner I hear, “DONNA!!” and Marlo from Toronto comes running over to me to hug me. We met in Bayonne on the first day and she had been inquiring about me over the last few days. So sweet! We had a lovely conversation throughout dinner. I met Gwen (Australia), Evelyn and Jim (Baltimore – retired judges) and an adorable Frenchman (Pierre) who is finishing off his 5th leg of the Camino. No Ronaldo yet!!!

Gwen’s room was next to mine with thin walls. She said she broke out laughing when she heard me get into the bathtub and was groaning with delight!

All rested up and ready to go! I have my allergy meds, ibuprofen and feet all ready to go. Heading out on the trail the innkeeper points me in the right direction. I take the scenic route along the canal and it is lovely. I meet some Aussie girls and then a mother and daughter from New York. Walking for a while we shared our stories and parted ways shortly thereafter only to be reunited in Carrion de Los Condes. That is the way of the Camino.

At the next coffee stop, I’m fascinated by the poplar tree pollen falling. It is like a winter snow fall and bubbles in a bath.

 

Sitting on a concrete bench was a young 29 year old Irishman (Gavin) from Cork who was explaining his foot issue to me. His wife (Thayna) is nursing her wounds around the corner. We end up walking together where Thayna shares their love story. I’m enchanted with these two. Gavin would always add an extra bit to the story and Thayna would just smile. Just like an Irishman. I connected with Gavin as he has taught English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in England and as I share that interest was picking his brains about it.

We stopped in a little village of Villamentero de Campos for a picnic lunch. There was a beautiful church and a cool water pump with cool, clean water. We found some shade and enjoyed a lovely lunch. My brother Kevin came to mind as the bees were buzzing above our heads and two mating bees just missed my head as they fell to the ground. I don’t think Kevin would have enjoyed this place very much!!! Bzzzzzz lol

Gavin filled up his water bottle at every pump along the way and finally dunked his entire head in the water to cool off.

Gavin and his love Thayna made this section of the meseta very enjoyable, although the last 6-8 km were dreadful for all of us. Heat, straight path and nothing of interest! Gavin walked on the opposite side of the road dancing and playing Beatles music and Thayna and I just chatted about whatever came up…life in Ireland, life in Brazil and how their families reacted to them getting married at such a young age. It was a happy time.

As the town of Carrion de Los Condes appears on the horizon, it is like a mirage…it never seemed to get closer. Sweat dripping off my chin, gnats pasted to my skin and bees buzzing everywhere. Not such a happy time in those last few kilometers. Once inside the town walls, the bed scramble began. The monastery was full, but we did manage to find a hostal not on the map. Opened for 2 weeks, you could still smell the fresh paint. Gavin and Thayna went to their room and I headed to mine for laundry and a shower. Chores done, time for a drink. I knocked on the couple’s door and after applying first aid to Gavin’s blister we headed across the Plaza Mayor to a bar for a beer. It tasted so good!! Gavin entertained me with his accents and then fellow pilgrims joined the table until we broke for dinner. Gavin and Thayna went back to their room so Gavin could prepare  a meal for them while Derek, Suzie and I headed out for a non-pilgrim meal which was delicious!!!

Teetering back home (1 block) I got ready for bed, slipped under the covers and stretched out under fresh sheets. My window was open to let in the life from the streets and fresh air and the bells sounded every 30 minutes just in case you forgot what time it was. So much for sleep! lol

Mother’s Day on the Camino

Lars (Sweden) and I had breakfast together. I am dying for an egg breakfast but no it is tostada with jam and cafe con leche. We grabbed some cakes for a snack later and I can as able to get a banana for the road.

Heading out of Castrojeriz was lovely and in front of me was Alto Mostelares at 900 metres. My butt is getting a work out for certain. I remember a wise soul who told me to listen to the mountain, and that is exactly what I did. I went slow but kept moving. On the way up I met Betty from Ottawa. She was struggling and sonI told her Inwould stay with her and did until she reached the top. I felt awesome today and it was nice to share that positivity with her. We made it to the top together and she was thrilled.

There was a beverage and fruit stand at the tip where for a donation you could have a drink or bite to eat. It was a lovely reward after that climb. As they say, what goes up, must come down and the descent is a killer on my knees. Even with the poles!!

It takes me a little longer on the way down but overall not too bad. As I hit the bottom a handsomen gentleman smiles and wishes me a buen Camino and then the look of recognition. It is the Italian man from Roncesvalles. We had s nice chat and he moved on. That is what it is like on the Camino. Yesterday, I didn’t mention Sylvie from Orleans who had a meltdown in Hornhillos because she couldn’t find a bed. She had received some bad news which I’m sure exacerbated the situation. She ended up in Castrojeriz also and we bumped into each other at the top of the hill. We ended up  walking together for the remainder of the day.

Stopping at an albergue in Itero de la Vega we found a bed and settled in for the afternoon. I met some new people. 2 German sisters (Bianca and Stephanie), Maria (Sweden) and Derek and Suzie from South England.  We bought a bottle of wine and enjoyed the 23 degree sunshine and company.

The pilgrim meal is not good tonight and I’m craving home cooked meals. As we get closer to Galicia we are all looking forward to pulpo (octopus). I’m tired of stale bread and lentil soup which didn’t hide well for those in close quarters. The ensalada mixta and tortilla patata are still the best bets.

We had some terrific laughs today and many were receiving Mother’s Day messages from home or trying to get in touch with their mothers. I was beaming when Inheatd from Phil and Joel! I attempted a FaceTime with Joel but ended up having a call with him instead. I also had a Facetime with Julie and was pleasantly surprised to see Torie, Ryan and Nikki along with my brother Kevin. The reception as poor and Julie and I made frozen faces which was hilarious! It was so nice to see them all.

It was time for bed and there I was laying in bed at 9:00 pm wide awake. My other roommates weren’t feeling well so they went to bed early. Nothing much to do in this place so might as well sleep.

It was a lovely Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms following this blog.

 

The Bed Race

The pension in Burgos I stayed in was on the opposite side of where the Camino trail begins and 6:30 am I am on the road with a 21 km trek ahead of me. Nothing is open so no breakfast and it is 7.5 km to the next town for coffee. The city has good Camino markings and finding my way out was simple enough however adding an additional 1.5 km to the day.

Walking past Burgos University was lovely and along the way I bumped into Berthold from Belgium. We caught up on the locations of the others from our original Camino family. Overall, it was an uneventful walk this morning. Arriving in Tardajos Cruceiro, there was a line up at the Panaderia (bread shop) where many peregrinos were purchasing boccadillos, chocolate and fruit for the day. After washing down a tortilla patata with a cafe con leche. I headed back to the Panaderia for my daily supplies.

Back on the road, I hit the Meseta which is long and boring walk through terrain similar to Saskatchewan with nothing to see on either side except fields.  I understand I will be on it for the next 3 days. This is where some spiritual enlightenment may occur. I don’t really think too much except that I need to pee and that my feet hurt. Maybe I’m not the spiritual type. I did have an experience with a nun outside of a chapel by Tardajos Cruceiro that brought me to tears. She put my face in her hands and told me the blessed virgin was watching over me. If that happened in Mississauga, I would have been dialing 911!

I made it to Hornillos del Camino by 1:00 pm – 6 hours; a 900 metre gradual climb to find there were no beds. There were 10 of us with no where to sleep. After a lovely lunch and a couple of San Miguel, I decided to taxi two towns over to Castrojeriz as word on the camino was there were no beds between Hornillos and there. I’m so glad I did. I stayed in the lovely Hotel La Posada and met some lovely peregrinos from Sweden, US. UK,  and Italy.

The wines of Castillo y Leon are lovely. I checked in to the hotel and had a shower. The room was lovely and clean. I thought I would head to the bar to see what time dinner was and if I needed a reservations. The owner said I had a couple of hours. Dinner was st 7:30 pm. The Americans arrived and the next thing you know we are drinking bottles of vino tinto. There weren’t a lot of seats so I  sat at the bar. Apparently, I am now the local hooker because of my pink shawl and painted toes. The local drunk at the bar was winking at me and based on my poor knowledge of Spanish called me a sinner which I confirmed with the bartender who apologized profusely. “Lo siento señora!”

We had a lovely pilgrim meal of garlic soup (they have an annual garlic festival) which was delicious, garlic chicken and creme caramel. Of course all complimented by the delicious red wines.

I made a decision today that I will not participate in the rush for a bed nor phone ahead at least until Sarria. I will continue to walk 20 km average and let things come as they may. It has worked so far and the best experiences have been unplanned. There are a lot of peregrinos on the Camino and more than in previous years.

Burgos

Maria and I were chatting about what will be possible with the time left. I will have to skip from Logroño to Burgos. Today I took a bus to Burgos which was fun. I bought a ticket for the 11:45 am bus and met a couple of Italian peregrinas travelling to Burgos also. I had the first seat which was enjoyable with the lovely elderly Spanish lady sitting to my right by the window. She pointed out areas of interest and tried her best to communicate with me in Spanish. She pointed out a church clinging to the side of a mountain. She poked me in the side with her elbow and curled her fingers to say it was clinging. I winced and then nodded and said gracias señora. Those little old ladies are strong.  At the end of the trip she wished me a buen Camino when we arrived at 2:00 pm. 7.70 euros for a 2 hour bus trip. The bus makes a few stops along the way through the towns and villages I would have walked through. It was nice to skip the walk today  because the wind was a ripping and the cold rain was falling. I thought of my Camino family and hoped they were okay.

The Burgos cathedral is unbelievably beautiful. The front steps were decorated with flowers as this was La Fiesta de Las Flores. The cathedral towers over the city and I can’t wait to see inside it later.

Heading for the municipal albergue, I arrive 15 minutes later to find it is full. As I was leaving 2 gentlemen (1 Spanish and 1 American) offer to show me where they were staying. They said perhaps there would be a room available. Weaving in and out of streets using google maps we find the pension. The guys were sharing a room (room 6) and the lady said she had 1 more room with a double bed for 26 euro. SOLD! Room 9 – simple and clean! I have 3 keys. One for the main front door, one for the 2nd level door and one for my room.  Locking and unlocking doors in Spain is interesting. You insert key and turn it to the left for 2 full rotations. That unlocks it; then you enter your room and insert key and make 2 full rotations again to lock yourself in. You can’t do this in a hurry and if you are lucky, the hall lights will stay on long enough for you to get in the room. In some hotels, you have to insert your door key into a slot to turn on the lights. Interesting learning how things are done here.

I quickly freshen up and head to the cathedral for a tour. It is quite the architectural work of art. I’m glad I had a chance to see it. I got ripped off on the price but didn’t find out until later. I did get a stamp for my pilgrim passport.

On my way back to the pension, the Spaniard in room 6 spotted me on the street and we chatted for a while. He has done the Camino Frances 5 times along with the Camino Norte 2 times along with the one from Sevilla to Santiago. Unbelievably we can communicate and he doesn’t speak a word of English. Besides being handsome (imagine Dos Equis man – The Most Interesting Man) he has tanned, strong legs. He asked me for coffee but I declined with thanks. I had to find my way back and as it turned out I got lost and it was windy and cold. Should have gone for the coffee. Everything is basically closed until dinner time. Perhaps we will see each other at dinner.

I’ve decided I’m not hanging here for another night. The sun is supposed to come out at 7:00 am tomorrow and so the plan is to head to Hornillos del Camino 21.0 km. I wonder what the Camino has in store for me and who will become my new camino family? It’s exciting not knowing.

490.4 kilometres to Santiago.

Logroño- Pinxtos and Vino

Getting ready for me this morning was so slow. Diana and Iris headed out separately and after doctoring my feet I believe I was the second to last pilgrim to leave the albergue after breakfast. Even my South Korean roommates were able to get out ahead of me. Today would be a shorter walk, and the plan is to explore Logroño for a day or possibly two.

Today is overcast and it looked like it would threaten rain.  I was coming down a hill when I recognized a familiar stride. It was Maria from Bolivia. I was finding my own stride so gaining on her was easy today. She seemed to be limping. We hugged each other and were companions all the way to Logroño. The entrance to the city is quite lovely past a power generating plant with a waterfall, a beautiful bridge with arches that reflected into the water. In the distance you can see the steeple of the cathedral. Gorgeous!

After a stop in the Oficina de Turismo to pick up a pilgrim passport for Maria’s cousin who will be joining her for the pilgrimage to Burgos we headed for the main square. Her cousin was arriving from Alicante which is on the Mediterranean coast by a car ride share and would be here by 6:00 pm.

We sat in a cafe for lunch and I held another Facebook Live to share the cathedral square. The sun was shining and I feel so wonderful. It was terrific connecting with family and friends back home.

Today would be a hotel splurge night and I was able to find a room at Hotel Murrieta for 65 euros. Basic but clean and no sleeping bag tonight…also a tub. Heaven!

Maria, Sandra and I met at 7:30 for pinxtos and vino. A thunderstorm passed through wetting everything, and I saw the most beautiful rainbow peek between the buildings. The air was a little chilled but fresh.

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I Skyped dad from the cathedral and lit a candle for mom, dad and my family. The cathedral was gorgeous. They all are.

The first bar we entered had an array of pinxtos (tapas) and we gorged ourselves. You are only supposed to eat the house specialty and 1 drink and move on. We were so hungry. I couldn’t get the song O Sole Mio out of my head as on the pinxtos board was an item called sollomillo. Sandra burst out laughing when I sang O Solo Me-yo because the board was speaking to the side of a cow. “Mio” vs “Mee-yo”. That dang double “ll”.

We could have hit a few spots but the ladies were walking early in the morning.  My fave was the mushroom place.  3 gigantico mushrooms marinated in garlic and topped with a shrimp for 1 euro plus of course a vinto tinto from La Rioja. I held another Facebook Live to show everyone the life in the street tonight and 3 students wanted to participate. They were so cute.

I bid adieu to the girls and retired to my hotel and the coolness of cotton sheets and open windows. On my way back I walked past this beautiful fountain.

No snoring tonight unless it was me but no witnesses! lol

Wishing Maria and Sandra a buen Camino and look forward to visiting you both in Alicante down the road. Salud mis amigas!

A Day of Gratitude – Viana

Experiencing a trip like this with so many cultural differences and hosted by such a beautiful country made me feel so grateful.  I decided today I would be purposeful and look for things to be grateful about.

For the first time, I jumped out of bed early and got myself out on the road by 6:30 am. I saw locals out walking their dogs and this cute little guy reminded me of a cement lion in front of a mansion.

IMG_4604.JPGIt is so cool that most people (locals and fellow peregrinos) wish you a buen Camino. Even those that are biking the trail roll on by wishing the walkers a buen Camino. It is really lovely. This is a real community. You connect quickly with your Camino family and then meet so many others along the way.

Being alone and inside your head is an interesting experience. At home, I spend a lot of time by myself so this isn’t anything new. What I do find is that I enjoy the solitude with a mix of a little crazy.  Today, I would be alone with my thoughts and wow was it beautiful.

The walk was not as severe as previous days. There were some hills but not as frequent and the weather was perfect. A light wind with beautiful sunshine. I am getting some colour but more of a “farmer tan” variety.

I have a pack full of meat, cheese, bread fruit and water to keep my energy up. The goal is Logroño – 27.2 km. This would be the furthest I have walked in a day.

It is difficult to describe the emotions of today. I don’t know why but I’m thinking a lot about my family.  All beautiful thoughts. I am grateful for my father who has been a true friend and loving support for many years and still going strong of which I thank God every day. My brothers, sister-in-laws and their families that are so different but not really. My children Philip and Joel and their partners who make me so proud to be a mother and my 3 grandchildren who light up my life. Over the years, our family has morphed as people grew older, passed away,  happy arrivals, moved away, grew closer and further apart. Interests are shared and some are totally different but the foundation of our family is love…quirks and all. Walking today I said a prayer for all of you and not because I’m very religious but it struck me that my own judgements could prevent me from an even stronger relationship with you all. Nothing rocket science just a thought that passed across my mind as the kilometres grew.

I came across a pine forested area that smelled like northern Ontario. The ground was reddish brown with fallen needles and an entrepreneur set up a stand with fresh fruit and a hammock if you wanted to rest for a donation (donativo).

Continuing down the path, I eat my banana, drink my water and stay present. The occasional peregrino passes by and waves, smiles and marches on. Everyone has an story and it has been fun asking people about theirs.

As I am wandering through vineyards and olive groves the sun is shining on my left side and I can feel its warmth. I wonder if the rain has subsided in Ontario. They are calling for rain tomorrow in Logroño.  I happen across this area where people have left tributes. I cried when I read some of them who lost parents, children and friends and those with declarations of love and faith.  This one made wonder about the person who left this note.

Time for lunch and I find this cool outcrop of rock high in the hills overlooking the vineyards. The next portion is a 10% downhill trek so time to rest the tootsies. I pull out the last of my bread, Iberian jamon and cheese. As I move my pack off to the side my water bottle cap came off and I lost all but a mouthful of water. With over 3 hours plus left this was sort of a worry, but not really.   I could ask a fellow peregrino but you know me and germs, that was the last resort! lol.

Continuing on my way,  the walk was lovely except for the circling vultures looking for carrion. Would I be their next victim? Of course not! I am still writing, but I was getting thirsty and it was starting to get warm. As I was coming over the hill on my right a pop-up bar appeared. I just smiled and thought to myself, “The camino does provide.” The proprietor set up shop with 2 tables, 8 chairs and cold beer and agua. I had both. I had just finished cracking a San Miguel when Diana appeared and the two of us took refuge in the shade while relishing the cold drink.

We decided that Viana would be our destination today. That is the beauty of this trip. You walk as far as you are able or push on. No reservations and carrying all your belongings on your back gives you flexibility. I sure appreciate my belongings in my pack and realize how much “stuff” I don’t need to be happy.  This is an important lesson on the Camino.

Arriving in Viana around 4:00 pm I found a spot at Albergue Izar for 10 euro plus pilgrim dinner and breakfast 17 euro in total. Comparee to Los Arcos, this place was so clean and had a nice vibe. I found my way up 3 flights of stairs to room 6 and opened the door to find a lovely South Korean family with 3 boys who don’t  speak a word of English. The boys are adorable and the father keeps bowing at me. I just smile and go about my business of showering and laundry.

Once all cleaned up, I head downstairs to the main area and chat with some Italians from Milan and wait for dinner. Suddenly a beer is plunked down in front me causing me to jump. It’s Iris, and she says, “Drink!” Okay, then. lol  Happy hour in the albergue. Diana comes down the stairs and joins us and then the Brazilian ladies appear. We are all staying here but in different areas. I smiled broadly as I felt this was my new Camino family together again. A feeling of belonging.

Simone was helping the hospitalera make dinner. As the afternoon progressed the weather took a turn and more people decided to stay in for dinner. The Austrian  hair stylist (Andreas), the German (Andrew) and the Irishman (Andy) sat at our table. Last to join was Maria (Italy) and Uma and Vera (Brazil). Pasta, pork, chicken and something mysterious was served with bottles of wine that just never seemed to empty. Of course there was bread and oranges for dessert.

Some decided to keep the party going but this girl headed to her room and fell into her bed by 8:00 pm.  I didn’t hear a thing and enjoyed the giggling of the little boys in the background. I felt truly at peace and grateful to be alive.

 

To Estella > Los Arcos

662.6 kilometres to Santiago

Hot, sweaty and tired! Today was a grind for me. I finally found my way to Estella by 4:30 pm and 21.9 km later.  The last 2 km never seemed to end. My knees are sore but my energy is still up even with this chest cold.

I wanted to stay in the convent but one more step was an effort so I found my way to the municipal albergue.  As I entered, the señora said sorry we are full. The disheartened look on my face must have said it all. I turned my back with slumped shoulders and headed to a bench across the street. I sat there for 5 minutes working through a plan. Maybe the lady could call around for me. As I re-entered the señora said , “Una cama! (1 bed)?” I said, “Si por favor” and she apologized for making an error. The tears were burning my eyes as I was so grateful to have a bed. She showed me to my bunk and it was a lower bunk to boot! Things were looking up. Need to rest the feet but still need to get to shower and laundry and supplies for tomorrow.

Returning from my shower I find that there is no time for laundry. It will have to wait until tomorrow. The life of a stinky pilgrim. The boot room is starting to smell rancid now. My outfits are working out. I usually can get by for two days but it is nice to carry clean vs dirty clothes. I sort of giggle wondering if some of my girlfriends would handle this experience.

As I walk through the dormitory door into the courtyard I am greeted by Christina and Monica from Romania. Christina was performing some medical procedure on her blisters. Christina’s feet are looking a grade above meatloaf. Monica and I head to the store for supplies for the next day. Ham, cheese, bread and fruit after a San Miguel beer which just seems to make everything better.

We had a nice walk and chat before heading back to the albergue. We were so tired we didn’t even eat dinner.

I had higher hopes of Estella with my mom’s name being Estelle. It was a little disappointing for me. Mind you I slept through most of it.

Lights out at 10:00 pm and off to sleep I went.  5:45 am the noise begins, the rustling of plastic bags and whisperedbtines in languages that sound German. I groan and roll over but the lights still come on at 6:00 am. Doesn’t matter if you are sleeping or not. I manage to get myself together and dig my poles into the ground as Intake my first step towards Los Arcos. Christina and Monica had already left and so today I will walk alone.

Leaving Estella was not difficult. I did get a little turned around at Sancosl but recovered well. I was alone with my thoughts and I guess time went by quickly because before aI knew it, it was time for a cafe con leche and breakfast. I ran into Iris (German) who doing very well as her blisters were healing. She is fun to be around and we seem to bump into each other regularly. She is one of my fave drinking partners. I also bump into Diana (The Netherlands) who has a groin injury. We are the walking wounded but seem to make it just fine.

Just when you think you can’t go any further, something catches your attention and you forget about pain and the next hill. These poppies did it for me.

There is a group of ladies from Brazil that I have fallen in love with. We were sitting in a cafe having lunch with the most divine breeze bathing our bodies with coolness. As we ate our ensalada mixta we were washed in the beautiful tones of Pavarotti singing. One of the ladies was swaying side to side with love of the ensalada and music and  drew a simulated tear falling down her cheek. It reminded her of a lost love and for me it brought me back home to dad. That ladies at so full of spirit. They are a walking group and who came together for their leader Simone who’s mother has cancer.

Reaching Los Arcos around 4:30 pm I headed for the municipal albergue but it was full. Next on my list is Albergue Alberto (not recommended)!! It had brown bedspreads and wasn’t the cleanest. Brings back memories of Yordie and I running from that motel in Newfoundland. This place was maybe a step up from that. One German couple were thinking of leaving. We did an inspection and no critters. My room was the garage shared with 8 others. My chest cold is better today, but still a little goopy. Not much to see here.

Safety regulations are not consistent in Spain. There are steps on places you would not expect them and not present when you think there would. I have been extra vigilant when taking a step and in this place I pray I don’t have to get up on the middle of the night. Terrazo tile ramp leading out of the garage then 3 steps up, then 3 steps down, a little walk; then 3 steps down and dont forget to step onto the baño. 3 stubbed toes to date Another difference are the lights. Always remember to check where the light switch is as you could be left trying to find your way in the dark or waving your hands frantically as you attempt to activate the motion detector. I pray no one is filming me!

Tonight I befriended Maurilio from Brazil. He is 23 and extremely handsome and reminded me of Phil and Joel. He had just walked 40 km and was kind to help me find a workaround for my phone.

As I was heading to the garden to hang up my laundry, the girls from Romanianwere across the way. You just never know who you will bump into or meet. I was feeling like a home-cooked meal tonight. We picked up fixings and I would cook for the 3 of us. Well it turned out that Maurilio did t have plans tonight either, so a 16 euro dinner turned into 4 euro split 4 ways. We had wine, pasta primavera and chorizo. We played some music and had some laughs before crawling into our sleeping sacks.

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Lights out at 10:00 pm

Alto del Perdon >Puente la Reina

684 kilometres to Santiago

After a hearty breakfast of tortilla and cafe con leche, it was time to conquer Alton de Perdon.

Like a major project, tackling some of these hills requires breaking the exercise into smaller tasks.

I have been finding the uphill climbs easier but the downhills are punishing on my knees. Alto del Perdon “Mount of Forgiveness” turned out to be easier broken into two tasks and when I was on top, the feeling of elation was awesome! This is a definite iconic photo op for peregrinos. Upon arrival you find the iron sculptures of pilgrims braving the wind as they continue on their path. The inscription translated: “where the path of the wind meets the path of the stars”  Oh yes and a coffee truck! Progress!!

Little did I know that the praying for forgiveness comes on the descent over rocks and gravel. Along the path, I met a lady from Bolivia who called me an angel for sticking with her. It was a difficult task but Maria and I made it down safely.

I believe the 2nd or maybe it was the 3rd round of wine last night might account for some shakiness but we made it. Once on level ground again it was much easier and off we went.

The rest stop in Uterga was like an oasis and here I indulged in a burger and a beer.

Reaching Puente la Reina (Bridge of Queen) was successful. It is getting harder to find accommodation when you arrive in town. I try and head to the municipal albergue but today it was all full. I had to splurge 30 euro for a private room. I kept thinking of that horror movie Hostal and prayed that where I end up will be better than those fellows. The owner of the bar yelled at me to come with him me he hadn’t stamped my pilgrim passport or recorded my name. He was just reaching for my money. I told him, “cello first.” Afterwards he led me and this greasy guy down a series of streets and alleys until finally we arrive at Hostal Plaza. Through a dark entrance way, there was a fountain spitting water out of its mouth and a dark stairwell leading upwards. Finally at my room 23 he hands me a key. Inside my private room wee 2 single beds, a 9″ TV, a desk and the. A bathroom with toilet and shower. My room overlooked the back alley and I’m sure some lecherous person was staring at me. You could jump across the alley to the next building it was that close. Down went my shutters and I locked the balcony door.

Time to find food. I made my way through the alley to the church which was gorgeous and gilded with gold. I sat in a pew and said a prayer for my family and friends before heading down the street. Suddenly I hear hey you, Canada come sit with us. The table was full of New Zealanders and a couple from B.C. who reminded me of Nikki and Ryan. We shared some food, wine and laughed at the terrible service. One of the ladies suggested we head to the mercado for more wine and food and meet at the bridge. That was the plan…I joined them by the bridge and hoped to do a call with dad, but it didn’t work out. I’ll try again tomorrow.. This is a where I was transmitting from.IMG_4493