October 7 and 8

Today I  walked to  Rabanal del Camino and had my bag transported to relieve my feet.  Of course, when you do this you have to choose where you’re going to stay the next night, both town and for sleeping.  I  chose the Albergue of Sra. Pilar, just because one of my DCF colleagues is Pilar, and she is a wonderful person.  Not a good tactic for choosing an albergue!

This place looks like some sort of western movie Mexican hacienda, and it’s very large.  I score a bottom bunk, but it’s next to both the door and the electrical outlets.  At least half of the residents are young, many of whom smoke.  There is a constant parade of people in and out seemingly all night.

Earlier in the day, I met a young woman from Denmark just coming out of Astorga.  Lara.  She wanted to walk with me, but she was so much faster than me.  I told her it just wouldn’t work.  But she was at Pilar’s, so we had the chance to catch up a bit.

I told another woman I met there about the storm.  She remembered and asked me the 20161008_083856.jpgnext day what happened.  Just that small touch made me feel better.  Thankfully, I only lost a large oak in the backyard, and it didn’t hit any structures!  Life is good.

The next day I stopped at the church run by the monks.  Of all the churches I’ve seen so far, this was the starkest, and the one I liked the best.

 

So this day I was on my way to the Cruz de Ferro, where one is to leave their rock or other momento that signifies one’s burden or thing one wants to leave behind.  But it’s a tough climb, so I stop in a little hamlet that was abandoned at one point, but that is now coming back to life to serve pilgrims.  I  stay at the home of Miquel and Jose, in a lovely upstairs room that smells like the fir trees in the PA mountains.  There is literally nothing to do here, so I blog, read and sleep before heading outside to snap a few pictures of this place.

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The men run a store and a restaurant, so I have dinner with them, dining with two British women, and a Danish man and woman.  Their food is quite good, and I go to bed content.

Mañana,  the cruz de ferro.

October 6

So I was worried about the hurricane and feeling out of place with no one near me to share the concerns.  But the day is beautiful and I am walking to Astorga.   As has been true for a few days now, the tomatoes are still ripe on the vine and the corn, for animal feed, is drying on the stalks in the fields.  The hills are rolling and I pass an operation raising cows.  A couple of calves are in pens just beside the trail and  I spend a little time visiting with one.  It enjoys being petted.

My friends Nancy and Kerry are a little faster than me, but given stops, we visit often on the trail.  Kerry takes a pic of Nancy and me, and I give her my email address, but I have not heard from them since.

I stop at “the garden of the gods,” a place run as a donativo by David and his partner.  They have different juices, fruits, rice cakes, PB and jams.  I make some oj/pineapple juice and talk a bit with them both.  They live in a make shift structure that looks like a bedouin tent of sorts, without even running water.  David talks about having two teenage sons who live with their mother with whom he seems not to get along.  After many years apart, he’s thinking of leaving his “garden” and going back to wherever in Spain to be there for his sons.

I think about both David and Christine as I walk, wondering how people can be so full of love for others,  and so giving, yet leave their own families behind.  To be fair, Christine’s situation is quite different, in that she owns her albergue, so this is an investment for her family, her children are grown, and her husband is on-board with the arrangement.  But David seems to have abandoned his sons to be of service to others.  I cannot square this away, but I am still extremely affected by the love I have felt from these two individuals.   At one point, I’m in tears.

Coming down from the hills, I can see Astorga, but it’s a long way off.  I stop at a church to eat an apple and drink some water,  and to change into my sandals.   The recurring theme is that my feet are simply uncooperative.

Astorga is a town that is surrounded by a wall, and the approach is ridiculously steep.  All of us walking are huffing and puffing.  But once I get to the top, I see my hotel.  Oh my gosh-  booking.com has done me well.  For a small amount of money I have lucked into a modern, luxurious hotel with a spa.  For a reduced rate, I use their pool, sauna, etc.  And the bath products in the room are quality,  too.  My hair is so happy to be moisturized!

There is a TV and I spend too many minutes watching BBC to follow the storm,  which is going to hit my neighborhood within a day or so.  I am not sure I need any dinner, but decide to go out and see if I can find anything.  I can’t and then, because I foolishly left home without a map, I get lost to the tune of over 4 miles and hours of time wandering around.  I did get to go to the cathedral, though,  and buy some penny candy and gellato.  As I’m about to despair, I go back to the outer wall,  guided by the moon, and find my way back.

I want to stay another day, so I can actually sightsee in this town, both to go to the Roman museum and the chocolate museum, as well as to keep my sights on the hurricane, but it’s now the weekend, and the hotel is sold out.  Back on the road!

October 5: Mazarife toVillares de Orbigo

Today was another relatively easy day, although there were some hills.  First thing out of most villages is usually uphill, as the villages tend to be in river valleys.  My destination for today was not too far; I was back to carrying my pack and didn’t want things to be too difficult.  I was still not over my cold, and given to coughing spells, especially when taxing my lungs with uphill.

The route took me through the town of Hospital de Òrbigo, with its very long bridge.  I arrived here around 1:00 in time for lunch.  I met a few folks from the night before who stopped here,  but I had bigger plans.

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I had what was probably a mediocore paella for lunch, but it tasted good to me!  I also had a carafe of bartender-made sangria. While I didn’t finish the carafe, I had enough that strapping the pack back on was difficult.  But I am so glad I  travelled the additional few miles to the extremely small hamlet of Villares de Òrbigo.  Kerry and Nancy were also there, in the hacienda syle home of Christine, a German woman who had purchased this albergue a few years prior.

Christine is a model of energy and efficiency who has the vibe of being incredibly relaxed.  And boy, is she kind!  There weren’t too many of us staying there, and she could have put us all in one room.  But she spread us amongst her different rooms so we each had a bottom bunk and a modicum of privacy.  That in itself is worth writing home about.

Her additional strength is her passion for cooking.  Both dinner and breakfast were donativo, meaning we paid what we chose to.  Meals were communal, which helps foster camaraderie even with newly met pilgrims.  Dinner was a real treat,  as it is difficult to find true home-cooked food on the Way.  Pumpkin soup and a fabulous mixed salad with tomatoes from her own garden as starters.  For the main course, it was a base of mashed potatoes with spinach topped with two varities of local sausage.

The other thing about this home is that someone told Christine that this home looks very similar to that of Frida Kahlo.  There was a courtyard where we ate, lounged, and did laundry.  She had purchased a wringer,  a machine to spin our hand washing so it would dry more quickly.   Between that and the hot sun, it did indeed dry quickly.

It was an interesting crew at her albergue, too.  There were two Israeli women, an Italian vegetarian who is cycling,  a Dutch man,  a British guy who felt “obligated” to finish all the food, Rebecca, a young British woman who was hoping to quit smoking and Erika, a Dutch woman probably in her 50s who had been walking already for 2 months, having left from the border of Holland and France.  Like the Belgian chef I’d met earlier, she had carried a tent with her through France, but sent it home when she got to St. Jean.  She was beautiful and so down to earth about her walk.

Christine  also had two bathrooms upstairs, segregating by gender, which made sharing the rooms much easier.

The village was interesting.  At one end, there was an outdoor exercise station, with a large number of different pieces of equipment.   When I  was there, there was a group of abuelas (grandmothers) who were sitting, talking.   I joked with them about coming over and exercising, but they just laughed at me.  They probabaly had no idea what the crazy foreigner was saying!  Beyond that, there was a pool, clearly no longer used, divided into 3 parts where the local women used to do their laundry.  It was filled by diverting some of the water from the canal that ran through town.  So the way it worked, when it was kept clean, was that you’d do the washing at the far so the soap would run out without touching the clean clothes.   First rinse in the middle, and final rinse closest to the water source.  I’ve since seen this in other small towns, too.

Breakfast was lovely, too.  Christine had made yogurt, into which I put some of her homemade jam.  There were other things, too, but these were memorable.

I was so sorry to leave this place.  Kerry and Nancy and I thought we’d see one another in Astorga, but that was not to be, as it turned out.  But that is a story for tomorrow.

Leaving Leon: October 4

In hindsight, I probably should have gotten off the bus a few towns short of Leòn, but that was a done deal – the downside of making a spur of the moment decision.  I arrived at the cusp of another festival, so the city was jumping.  And perhaps I should have spent two days there, so I could have done some sightseeing.  But, to be honest, I have grown tired of seeing churches and other ostentatious buildings.  Speaking of – here’s a bit of one of Gaudi’s structures.

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The cathedral was closed, and I was not moved to take any pictures. But the next day there was a market by the cathedral, so I did take pictures of that.

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It was a long, long walk out of Leòn,  which went on for miles from city to industrial.   But I passed a group of medieval pilgrims on a school outing, and they were delighted to see me!

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The rest of the way was uneventful,  even after reaching farmland and then small villages.

I stopped in Mazarife and ran into Kerry and Nancy from Santa Barbara, whom I’d met at Orisson.   Neither the albergue nor the town were anything to write home about,  but it was fun seeing them.

It was on the road again the next day.  Later.

October 2: Another challenge

So I left Burgos on Saturday morning just as the El Cid festival got going.  The walk out of the city was quite pretty.   Made it to the town of Rabe de Las Calzadas.  There was only one albergue open in town.  Ultimately, I roomed with 6 men.  Boy, did that place smell rank by the morning!

The next day my walking started out pretty strong.  Then I reached the “meseta”, a plateau that is mostly wheat fields.  Miles and miles and miles of nothing but wheat in the blazing sun.     Continuing on grew more challenging, as a coughing fit took over.  Not to mention the sun was blazing.

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I think it was a mistake to stop at the next albergue,  between towns.  The positive:  it’s situated in a grove of trees with a very cold river running through.  It’s just beautiful.  The down: the albergue itself is extremely basic, with only one WC for all 12 beds.  And – there are no ladders for the upper bunks!  Not that I care, as I snagged a bottom.

Laid down after a rather cold shower and washing some clothes, and could not stop coughing.  I felt like I was choking.   I heard people talk about me as they came in. A little while ago, a younger guy gave me a nighttime Theraflu.  I know he did it for everyone.

So the big thing:  I bought a beer and was drinking it on the patio.  As I took a drink I felt a sudden pain.  Stung by a bee inside my lower lip.  Just short of panic, I tried telling the hospitalero, but she speaks limited English.  One officious little guy thought my pantomime was asking for wifi.  Dumb ass –  as if I don’t know how to say wifi!  Fortunately, I think the bee was already a bit drunk and couldn’t remember how to sting well.  It hurts and is swollen,  but I’ll live to see another day.

The waters of the river are said to be healing.  Maybe.  There was not even a refrigerator at this place, so no ice.  All I could do was to keep pouring this cold water over my lip.  Whatever the reason, the swelling was much less than I expected it to be.

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The river flows through the small concrete pool towards the left.

We had a wonderful communal dinner here of salad and chicken paella.  Monday morning I had a difficult time wanting to walk, as my lower face was now quite swollen and painful.

Walked to the town of Hornillos where I ran into two Danish women I met one of the early days.  They were going home, as one had a bad ankle that was getting worse.  They were waiting for a taxi to take them to a town in which they could get a bus to Leòn.  I  decided this was an opportunity and went with them.  We ended up back in Burgos at the bus station.  There was a long line, so I  decided to use the automated ticket machine.  Score!  Got the last ticket on the bus to Leòn leaving in 10 minutes.

I don’t feel at all badly jumping ahead.  The truth of the matter is that I was overly confident in thinking I could walk more than about 12 miles each day and was getting quite behind due to my speed and my physical issues.  Now that I’m a bit ahead of schedule, I hope to be able to walk the rest of the way to Santiago.  We’ll see.

 

Burgos – Sept. 30th Pics

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My first sight of the walled city center

 

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The streets are decked out for the festival of El Cid
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I stumbled upon the most amazing indoor perishable food market. There is a regular supermarket on the second floor.
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Olives and pickled veggies!
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I wish I’d gotten a good picture of the fish stalls. But this is different. And they seem to sell a lot of rabbit,

September 29 – Burgos

I caught the 9:30 bus to Burgos and was glad to have bypassed more mountains.  Had a bit of energy, so visited the cathedral first thing.  Glorious place with incredible engineering and architecture.   But whenever I visit churches like this, I ponder the rationale for such concentration of wealth in contrast to the poverty and misery of so many church goers.  I also think about how the artistic value of this wealth factors in.

I will try to add another post of pictures, but here is one of the arches.

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Went to my hotel next.  Oh, holy cow – this place is really ostentatious at only €50 for the night!  I have a bidet and a bathtub for the first time this trip, as well as a hair dryer.   I feel like a hippie or a rube in this city of sophisticated people, so I take a shower and use their fancy shampoo.

I must be feeling better because I hit the road again after that to visit this new, wonderful museum on evolution.  There was a major archeological discovery near here that this museum explains.  I took no pictures here, as I was immersed in the learning.

By this time I was very hungry, as I had only eaten last night’s leftovers.  I stopped in at what was an expensive place and had a fabulous multi-course lunch of different fish dishes.   First came a cold fish salad with large chunks of tasty I don’t know what.   Then I had 6 small whole sautéed shrimp.  Then a plate of calamari fried in tempura batter, then the main course of more salad and an incredibly good, thick white fish.  I wish I knew what it was.  This was all so filling that I didn’t have the dessert that comes with, nor could I finish the 2/3 bottle of wine they brought me.  I finished with an espresso, which is what is keeping me up long enough to do some writing.

With that, I’m in for the night.  I’m now taking some weird oral med to clear out my lungs.  Had a long soak in the tub to ease my back muscles that are sore from coughing.  Will go to sleep soon and hope I’m well enough to start walking again.  I am tired of all this aloneness,  but don’t want to stay in an albergue unless I’m walking and not coughing so much.

So, I await the new day with hope.

Sick in Spain:Sept.26 – 29

I am beset by  challenges.  After saying goodbye to my friend of 3 days, Nuria, at the bus station in Burgos, I began to sneeze and cough.  I can’t seem to catch a day when everything works relatively well.   I don’t know what I am to learn from this, but I suspect this will keep happening until I  figure it out.  Perhaps it’s just all the stress I’ve carried working itself out.

This is a beautiful tree I saw – and this is by no means a tropical climate.

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Spent some time Monday in Logroño visiting churches and walking the streets first of the old town and then to get back to the bus station in the newer part of town.  Am on the bus again, Tuesday to Santo Domingo de la Calzada.  Sto. Domingo is a lovely small town with the bus stop right by a farmacia and a supermercado.  I got a hotel in the block, got some meds, and some food and drink for later.  Walked the strip and had a pizza and lots of water for lunch.  Then, slept.

Wednesday morning I dragged myself out of bed to head downstairs to pay for another night.  Slept all morning.  Went out for a true lunch of seafood soup and lamb chops and, of course, local wine.  Then ent to the cathedral.   I should have takens pictures of the architecture and art, but figured I would find those in books if I ever want to see it again.  But there are 2 things that tickled me.

The first is the rooster that lives in tbe church.  There is a legend behind this as well as a belief that if the cock crows while you’re in the church you’ll have good luck.  Needless to say,  the bird preened but failed to utter a peep!

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Second:  outside in the courtyard, there was a tent with a Playskool diorama of tge Camino.  Tee hee!  This is a depiction of the beginning for many people in the Pyrenees.

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Took another nap after this and made it out for tapas for dinner.  I think I should be able to move on tomorrow, if only by bus.

 

September 26: Nuria

In Azqueta I stayed at La Perla Negra – an albergue that my new friend Nuria, whom I met at La Casa Magica, had talked about.  I was the first of 5 guests to arrive that day, and on arrival there was a pack waiting that had been shipped ahead.  Later, Nuria is there!   I was very happy to see her.  I felt like we really bonded during our two days together in Villatuerta.

And while this is off subject, let me just say how wonderful the vegetarian dinner was at La Perla.  Elena, the owner, made us a hot green soup, the best tomatoes so ripe and lush, fried peppers, and tostado – a Spanish omelet with potatoes and lots of olive oil.

Monday morning I left before Nuria knowing she’d catch up to me.  She did.

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We walked together to Los Arcos.  It was a beautiful walk for much of the way, through harvested wheat fields, and then vineyards interspersed with asparagus.

At the base of that tree was an elderly couple playing Those Were the Days on violin and accordian.  What a wonderful treat!  The sky was just phenomenal there, too.20160926_092258.jpg

We got to Los Arcos and were very early for the bus to Logroño,  so we had lunch.  It was very good, including fresh trout.

Sadly, the bus didn’t take very long.  Nuria left for the train station, while I started walking into the city center to find lodging for the night.  Accompanying me was a German woman we’d met in Villatuerta.   I hate to say this, but I was glad she decided to stay elsewhere.

I was able to get a solo room for cheap, and proceeded to sneeze almost incessantly.   Uh oh!  This was late in the afternoon,  so I  settled in, washed some clothes, etc.

Couldn’t decide on food that evening, so went to bed feeling miserable.  Fortunately,  I was able to do some sightseeing, mostly at churches, before heading back to the bus station on Tuesday about noon.

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By now I have a bad cough – no denying that I’ve got a cold.

On to Santo Domingo de La Calzada.