October 17

Finally, my feet were good enough to carry me today.  I didn’t go far, only about 9 miles, but it was good.

It was raining when I awoke,  so I took my time in leaving.   Besides, I wanted to wait for the Farmacia to open to restock my blister provisions.   And I stopped for a bit of desayuna:  cafe con leche, fresh OJ, and toast. Good thing I ate, as there were no bars along the way today.

It felt good to have the pack on, too.  The first couple of miles were along the road, but soon we veered off to a country trail.  A number of fairly steep ups and downs, through 3 small hamlets.  Along the way,  the sky cleared and it warmed up a bit.  The trail followed a river.  And most of the countryside today was given over to livestock.  I saw many cows and sheep.

The nut trees are ready for harvest now, too.  There are so many chestnuts and walnuts on the ground.   I still have no idea why there are no squirrels!

I  misread the guide book and got to a point where I thought I still had another 3 miles to go.  I was disappointed,  as my foot had been uncomfortable,  but I thought “I can do this.”  Fortunately,  after a short while,  there was an overlook with the monastery in full view.  Gorgeous, and such a welcome sight!   Of course, there was another steep descent.

Decided to stay at a place I hadn’t read about.  A young woman from Colorado walked the Camino last year, and decided to rent and operate an inn.  Very glad I’m staying.  Her mom and her mom’s best friend are here helping out.  There is a pilgrims lounge, for tea, coffee and conversation.   I stopped in tonight and the landlord was here.  He is an interesting older man, who makes his own wine and walnut liquor.  Yum!  GrwT conversation ensued – one of the daily Camino gifts.

I went to the only true hotel in the town for my meal today.  I had more caldo Gallego,  which I love so much, then a plate of baby fried trouts.  I knew they were to be eaten like sardines, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat the heads.  Thankfully,  no one does.  For “postre”, I had a lovely lemon mousse.  All this, bread and a bottle of wine on the table, for only € 12.  And the food was so good!

Later on I went to tour the monastery.   What a rip!  This place is huge, and filled with incredible murals.  But the young monk took us through so fast, there was no time to appreciate the art or the architecture.   No sign that anyone lived there, either.

Anyway, that’s been the day today.  When I return home, I’ll try to update the posts with pictures.   But for now, perhaps because my wifi signal is weak, they won’t upload.

Tomorrow, Sarria.

 

 

October 14 – 16

Jumping ahead to the present.  I have not walked yesterday or today, instead taxiing ahead to tbe towns I intended to walk to each day, if it weren’t for my foot.  A number of days ago I got a new blister on the ball of my foot.  I listened to someone about treating it, but that advice didn’t work for me.   I ended up with the skin ripped off and infection began to set in.  I stubbornly kept walking, but as the terrain turned mountainous I was damaging myself too much.  On Friday I walked as far as the village of Vega de Valcarce and was limping so badly, I was down to a pace less than 2 mph.  There was no way I could make it to La Faba, and I have a schedule to keep.

I checked in at a bar, and the lovely young woman there called a taxi for me.  I don’t think the driver particularly wanted to head up the mountain, and I waited over an hour for him to arrive.  Nonetheless I was still grateful to get where I was going.

Friday night I stayed in an albergue run by German volunteers, Roland and Luna (I think.)  They were gentle rule enforcers.  This place had a functioning kitchen, and I ran into the Savannah couple, Barbara and Daniel,  I’d been seeing off and on, and also Marilyn from Chicago, whom I last saw at La Casa Magica.  There was a small church next door, as well, also cared for by the volunteers.  They played beautiful music in the church, mostly a modern and ethereal chanting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you know Germans, which is my heritage, you know that rules are very important. And the rule was they close at 8:30, and everyone must leave.  They were helpful,  however, and called a taxi for me.  So yesterday I saw the incredibly long climb up that my friends made, mostly in the mist.  I was dropped off at Fonfria, high up in the mountains, to stay with Angela and her family at A Reboleira.

Making the climb, I crossed into the region of Galicia, which has celtic roots.  Because of the cold and rain,  I sadly took no pictures,  not even inside.  But check out the dining building from their website, where we were served caldo gallega, a wonderful vegetable soup, and rice with beef, mushrooms and peppers, with torta de Santiago  for dessert.  http://www.booking.com/hotel/es/albergue-a-reboleira.en-gb.html?aid=356984;label=gog235jc-hotel-XX-es-albergueNaNreboleira-unspec-es-tab-L%3Aen-O%3Aandroid-B%3AandroidSwebkit-N%3AXX-S%3Abo-U%3AXX;sid=467be98c44dbf1662b23bd69a32df84f;dist=0&sb_price_type=total&type=total&

This morning, Angela called a taxi for me to share with a couple who were headed to the next big town, Sarria, to buy new hiking shoes, since someone earlier in gbe morning had mistakenly walked off with his.  So now I’m in another small village, Triacastela, with none if the 3 castles extant.  It’s Sunday and the town is on lock down.   But I  did find a bank to get some funds, as the Camino is largely a cash based economy.   And I had another fabulous dinner.  For only € 10, I had a large bowl of caldo, a good sized fried trout, local I’m sure, a bottle of vino tinto (only drank about 1/3), and a wonderful local soft cheese with honey for dessert.

I should be able to walk tomorrow,  and plan on a short day to Samos, with one of the oldest and largest monasteries in the western world, founded in the 6th century.  I’ll wait to leave until the Farmacia opens, to replenish my foot supplies.  Luckily,  the monastery has guided tours after the day’s siesta, so I’ll be able to visit.  Hopefully I’ll be able to walk again tomorrow.

 

 

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.