Sunday, November 16, 2008

Stanfield Hut

I joined a PNTMC tramp to Stanfield Hut today, just the three of us, in glorious weather, about 23C, warm but not too hot. They had a lovely new sign there at the beginning of the walk, and we could clearly see the little 'grunt' we faced at the beginning to climb up to Holmes Ridge.... nothing like the grunt to get up to the top of the ranges on the other side though! However, four months after getting home in a fit state, I was appalled to find that after winter laziness, I found it a real grunt up that hill!! (Mind you, it was quite steep and rugged underfoot, and I don't recall anything quite so tough on the Camino..... or maybe there was and I was fitter then!!!) No photos of the grunt.... I was too busy holding onto trees getting my breath back as I climbed!!

After climbing the grunty hill, we reached a 4WD road, then walked along the ridge top for a while, until it was time to descend again back down to the river. We had a short break before we tackled the river section, and there I distinguished myself by grabbing hold of some ongaonga- native stinging nettle- as I passed. Ouch!!! Not nice!!! I plunged my hand into the stream a few times to feel the cool water and try to reduce the stinging feel.

Twenty minutes or so later, we reached the hut and ate lunch in the sunshine. Too nice to sit in the hut. This native clematis was flowering near the long drop.

The return trip was via the river, and we walked along the river in the sunshine, and crossed the river numerous times.....numerous numerous numerous times.... as you do sometimes in Kiwiland. Water level was quite low though. Lots of debris still lying around from the 2004 floods when the water level would have looked completely different through here. Various plants starting to colonise the rocky areas.

At one point we had to negotiate our way under this massive fallen rimu tree.

And just to finish off, this is a shot of some ongaonga I saw as we were ending our tramp. Looks vicious doesn't it, with all those nasty looking spines. Next time someone warns me there is ongaonga nearby, I will try to remember their warning as I pass!!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Camino keeps following me!

One of the remarkable things about the Camino has been the re-discovery of contacts since I came home. While walking, I only shared my e-mail address with two people. But since I have come home, contact has been re-established with a whole bundle of people I walked with. People have tracked me down via other people, via photos on blogs, etc. The nature of the Camino was such that you sometimes walked with people for a few days, but then you never saw them again, as your pace of walking differed. But in those few days, you often came to know those people in a special way, as you walked together in the landscape, and/or shared evenings in the albergues/gites.

The latest 're-discovery' was yesterday. There was a French couple I met after three weeks of walking in France, "les DDs", who I saw often for the next month, but who 'disappeared' after Viana in Spain (near Logrono.) Three of us, who had often walked with them, wondered where they were, whether they had suffered an accident, or whether some event at home had meant they had to leave the Camino. It was their plan to walk from home to Santiago, then walk home again.

As it turns out, though we never saw them again after Viana, we only just missed them in Santiago, where they arrived on July 7th. That was the day we took the bus to Finisterre, then I left early the next morning to take the train to France. They had a fortnight's rest in Santiago, then began the return walk home, arriving back where they lived in France on October 31st, seven months after leaving home. I am proud of the 1500km I walked. But it pales into insignificance against their 3600km!!!

Trouble is, they only speak French, so I need to e-mail them in French, and I am already forgetting my French fast! Just as well there is such a thing as Babelfish these days!!!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Desert Rd

Last week I took a drive up the Desert Rd, and had spectacular views on the way north. First up here is Mt Ruapehu, which had its drama last year when the crater wall finally had an expected collapse, letting a lahar loose.

Mt Ngauruhoe was looking deceptively peaceful with its snow covered peak.

And just north of Taupo, I took a walk around the Craters of the Moon, which I had heard about from my cousins but never made time to see before. Lots of steam rising from the ground, and one dramatic large mudpool. Quite a reminder of the activity that always lurks close to the surface in this whole area!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

World Famous in Palmie

Palmerston North has quite a few events that are 'world famous' here in Palmie.... The Sakura springtime festival at IPC is one such event, and this year the weather has smiled for the cherry blossoms and the multicultural crowd drawn to see them.

And just like they do in the parks of Japan..... people pose to get their photos taken under the blossoms.
And tomorrow there is another legendary Palmie event... the St James Gala Day. Let's hope the sun shines for them as well......

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Walking from Le Puy to SJPP- YouTube

Here is a slide show of some of my photos taken while walking between Le-Puy-en-Velay and St Jean Pied de Port, along the Chemin de St Jacques. I left Le Puy mid-April, experiencing some snow in the early days, then 30+ degrees by the time I reached Conques a week later.... I was very happy when I arrived in SJPP late in May, and am still amazed I did it!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Camino in Spain -Youtube slideshow

I have been making various slideshows of my Camino photos, and this one is of the route I walked along the Camino Frances. It starts from St Jean Pied de Port in the south of France, across the Pyrenees, then along to Santiago in Galicia in north-west Spain.
The music you might find a bit repetitive and not all that interesting.... but I have been experimenting using Garageband and I am only a beginner ;-) (We all have to start somewhere!)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Moana Roa beach

One of the things I realised doing the Camino was that a major 'love of my life' is walking outdoors ;-) And I have just joined Forest & Bird to do some more of that.
This morning I joined a group to walk at Moana Roa, down Parewanui Rd from Bulls. We walked in the sandy area just inland from the beach, until we reached the estuary where the Rangitikei River arrives at the sea. The great thing about going with F&B is that there are real experts who tend to go with you. Today our leader, Viv, was someone who had a lot of knowledge about coastal plants. She pointed out the native convolvulus (pictured).

She also knew a lot about where katipo live. She searched under a few likely looking small logs, and pointed out some nests to us. Then someone, using what we had just learned about their habitat, turned over another small log.... and hey presto, we were viewing a real live katipo, complete with a bold red stripe on its back! You can find out more in this local DOC report, and on the Te Papa website

And Viv also had a photo of a banded dotterel so we could look out for them. It wasn't long before we saw one.... though they blended in superbly with the stones and dunes. You can see a wonderful photo of one on this website.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Back home!

With my combo of stand-by and waitlisting, I had a long wait in Singapore, but there were a few things that made it easier. I was able to take a shower in the transit hotel. Then there were a couple of 'rest areas' in Terminal 3 with big long stretch out chairs so I was able to lie there quietly for a while with my eyemask on, even though sleep still eluded me.

And they have some excellent services for stand-by passengers in Singapore, run through the Tourist Board. You can get a free shuttle to a couple of places in the city if you want. (I felt a bit too jaded for that one.) They also have a couple of free tours, and I took the "cultural" one at 4pm. They take you out through immigration, then onto an air-conditioned bus. We had an excellent guide who gave a real insight into Singapore's history. And it was amazing to be driven through Chinatown and Little India by bus. I had been to both places before, but in Singapore's heat, you tend to wander them slowly, not going too far away from the MRT station: in the bus we saw interesting parts of these areas that I hadn't passed through before.

Then when we got back to the airport, I didn't need to go airside straight away, and I was able to take advantage of the greater range of cheaper eating options in the basement of T3.

Finally it was time to board the flight back to Auckland. It was slightly shorter than the one from Europe and time seemed to pass a little more quickly, though sleep still eluded me! We had a strong tailwind across much of Australia and made good time. I found it strange that it was possible to cover more than 1000km in an hour when I had just taken many weeks to walk the same!!

In Auckland the people at AirNZ made the necessary changes to my final flight, but it seemed like all the flights to PN were full and I had a long wait. Then suddenly mid-afternoon, I heard my name paged...... Someone hadn't turned up for a PN flight, and the lady in the ticketing/coordination area had remembered me from the morning. Sudddenly I found myself issued with a new boarding pass, and I was off on the final leg home! I was so impressed by this excellent bit of personal service, especially since by this stage I was so very tired.

And so I have had two sleeps (of the jetlagged wake-up-early variety!) back home. And this morning I am even feeling slightly 'normal' again.....

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The long way home!

Monday we journeyed to bus! It was a fitting end to the journey to walk to the lighthouse at the "end of the world".
And since then I have been "on the way home". I took two trains from Santiago back to Paris. The first, daytime, didn't take the same path as the Camino, but it traversed the same landscapes. First the lush green of hilly Galicia, then the flat more barren expanses of the Meseta, much drier than when we walked there a few weeks earlier. Lastly the climb up towards the edges of the Pyrenees, though this time it was often through tunnels when the going got steeper! I reached Hendaye after nearly 12 hours in the train, then slept in a couchette overnight to Paris.
My first job getting back to Paris was to visit Singapore Airlines to try and find an earlier flight home. I was very impressed by their service, but the flights out of Paris were very full and I remained wait-listed Thursday evening... I rested two days with ny friend at Bonnelles, a peaceful place outside of Paris, then headed to CDG to try and get a flight on stand-by. Success! And now I am at Singapore for 12 hours awaiting my onward flight to NZ. I will be tired at the end of all this, but eventually I will be home!!!

Sunday, July 06, 2008


We only intended going to Arzua from Melide, only 14km, but another 15km to the next albergue...But when we arrived and it was only 10.30am, and it wasn´t raining, and all these new pilgrim albergues were on the unattractive main street, we decided to continue....
Spent the night in a pleasant pension at Brea. Real sheets but the snorer #2 from hell- and again a woman! But that left us in striking distance of Santiago.
Next morning it was very humid for our last start, and before long it had turned to constant rain - not hard rain mostly, but more than drizzle. By the time we were getting closer to Santiago, it was very misty in the rain, and you could hardly see ahead at all.
So that led to an easy decision: we stopped at Monte de Gozo, five km from the Cathedral. I had heard about this place and it sounded like army barracks, but it was actually very pleasant. It is all divided up into well separated cubicles with room for eight in each, and the hospitalero was very friendly. Lots of people we had seen on the way also stopped here... Big can stay three nights, so we were able to make the last walk with only a day pack, and leave the big pack here at MdG, and come back on the bus!!!
This morning we left soon after 7am so we could get to the Cathedral Square while it was still quiet. We met several people we knew on the way...
Soon after 9am I found the Pilgrim´s Office and joined the queue to get my Compostelle. The French couple just ahead of me in the queue knew how far I had walked, and pushed me in ahead of them when it was their turn... The young woman who served me was very pleasant. All the people on the list just ahead of me were students who had started in Sarria. My two credentials were full on both sides and didn´t need much checking, and I now am the proud possessor of a Compostella with my name on it in Latin!
Went to the pilgrim Mass at 12...jam-packed.. and lots of people circulating while it was on..... young pilgrims were given some parts to play. Spied a man we had met sometime ago on the track... so lovely to see him again. He finished several days ago, but walked on to Finisterre. (I will take the bus on Monday!!) Had lunch with him and L and D. A celebration!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Lestedo and Melide

Well, interestingly, the day after Portomarin, the tracks didn´t seem quite so crazy-full of people. So I guess we just struck more than a few weekend groups on Sunday, and/or that the big crowd has now moved further ahead than us! We are still finding it easy to get accommodation, and it seems like we are here in a ´lull´before the big holiday crowds descend.

Yesterday we left soon after 6am again, and it was quite misty. We headed down the hill to where a footbridge crossed over the dammed river/lake, and crossed it while it was still darkish. The next bit of the walk headed uphill through some beautiful forest, and for the first time I used my little torch to light the way a little.

We planned about a 20km stretch to Lestedo, in the countryside, rather than head for the next biggish town. The day´s walk passed through what was evidently a very historic part of the Camino, and we passed several signs that indicated where former hostels and cemeteries for pilgrims were located, as well as several small churches and very old looking crosses. There was Celtic settlement here as well. (In fact, every time I have heard it, the local music has been very similar to Irish music.)

We were very happy when we reached Lestedo, to find that the spot was indeed very tranquil. There was room for just 10 in the small albergue; the bunks were comfortable and well spaced out; the shower room was huge; and there was a comfortable lounge to relax in, as well as a large garden. Perfect for not walking far! And the promised rain never started until it began drizzling a little in the evening.
Someone told me that a group of ten(!!!) New Zealanders were staying in a Casa Rural not too far away, but so far I haven´t met up with any of them. I haven´t met 10 fellow Kiwis in the whole time I have been walking so it is amazing that there should be that many within a few hundred metres of me.

This morning at about 5am I had my first taste of proper Galician rain, when it woke me up as it thundered on the roof. Thankfully, by 6am it had all eased off again, and though we walked under skies that were threatening at times, we only needed our raincoats for a short period.

It was lovely walking again, a lot of it on leafy lanes and past little hamlets, and to be sure there are rich rural aromas in places. We crossed several old bridges and saw many small churches, and that always gives a sense that many pilgrims have passed this way in bygone centuries.

Melide is quite a big centre, but the path into it was very pleasant, partly through a forest and a little village where we had our credentials stamped in the church. Even when we need to walk near roads in Galicia, they are usually very quiet ones, and the path for us is well separated off.

We are staying in the Galician albergue here in Melide, and I wasn´t sure I was going to stay here as I had heard bad things about how dirty it was last year. However, although the bunks are quite cramped, the new organisation managing the Galician albergues appear to have cleaned things up a bit. There is a Christian group outside singing, and they have made Paella for lunch etc. I haven´t had any though as I don´t want to be hauled into a witnessing-type convo..... chicken that I am!!! (Actually I am probably safe as I doubt any of them speak English though I might be wrong!)

Only 50km left to walk, and we are expecting to walk into Santiago on Saturday.... Then I will hopefully head to Paris on Tuesday. And I am longing for some blob-out time. Still don´t know how long it will be before I can get a flight home.... have heard nothing more about my wait-listed dates so far.... Am looking forward to some nice long rests on my own bed though!!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Yes... Spain won the European Soccer Cup! We went to bed early but the news was obvious when all the hooting and tooting started in the roads outside!

Started early today and it was cool to begin with. The last couple of hours getting into Portomarin have been quite warm though- but I gather we might be seeing some of the famous Galician rain tomorrow...
There were some lovely leafy walks down quiet country lanes again today. Coming into Portomarin there was less shade, then we came to a place with flags including a South African one... so Sil... I didn´t see Gordon but I enjoyed one of the cold drinks he provided and left him a note saying hi from you.

The nature of the trail has completely changed after Sarria, as many are just doing the last 100km for their Compostella. Track was crowded!!! And I found that a little hard to handle! However, we quickly found a quieter albergue with a cubicle for 3 that L D and I am sharing. Off for a shower in a minute.

Not sure when I am coming home. Tried to change my flight dates but things are full from Paris via Singapore to NZ all July. So time will tell! Might have to buy a little tent and go camping somewhere.....

Monday, June 30, 2008

In Sarria

Triacastelo was a little town with a street that had quite a few small private albergues and a couple of restaurants, and pilgrims tended to sit at bars and watch the world go by...

This morning it was misty and I wondered how it was on the top of the mountain: was it clear and sunny with a view down to the misty valleys like yesterday when I walked? Or was it misty up there today as well?

It was a bit of a climb this morning and then a bit of a descent. But I was in love with the walk the whole way: this part of Galicia is certainly very leafy and green. And although the mist may have hidden some of the early views...... it kept things cooler which I am always glad about! The walk was partly on very quiet roads and partly on farm tracks. At one stage I came out of a small village bar where I had had a second breakfast, to find that the cows were being herded along the ´main street´. I took a photo as the Freisan dairy cows passed by....

The mist began to lift around 10.30am, and by 11am it was starting to be a bit sunnier, and soon Sarria appeared in the distance below. I thought that I might perhaps continue onto the next village where there was a small albergue, since it was cool enough still. Sarria looked quite large and I was a bit worried about getting lost.... but shells soon appeared in the footpath....

I was heading up the main historic street to pass on out of Sarria, passing several albergues, when I heard my Quebec friends call out... we had been in different places for a few days. So I forgot my plans to go on. They had certainly picked out a comfortable albergue: Don Alvaro. The atmosphere here is lovely, and so are the facilities. There is a foot bath outside with jets of cold water. There are sun loungers where I spent an hour relaxing. I feel I could easily stay here another day on holiday!!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

In Triacastela

I am glad I decided to stay on in O´Cebreiro for the night. The weather stayed clear all day (though a cool breeze got up later) and the views were magnificent all day. A woman at the restaurant told me they had been having a lot of misty days with no views, so I struck it lucky. It was great to feel like I was on top of the world for an afternoon.

This morning I rose early and the glow of dawn was visible over the mountaintops. A special moment. There was a bit more climbing to do, to a couple more peaks... I was surprised to see heavy mist nestled down in a few valleys well into the day, as I was walking in such clear sunshine.

It got a bit wam near the highest peak, but a lot of today´s walk was shaded by banks with trees, or under shady pathways. The path passed through several farming villages where people were hard at work. The hills were beautiful and the green reminded me of home....

And now I am in Triacastela, and am about to have lunch then go exploring....

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Two Mountains- one misty, one sunny!

A while since my last catch-up! Skip San Javier if you are in Astorga: bunks are crowded under the roof area and the dorm was really hot!

However, the next day was a great one, with the joy of heading towards mountains again. There was thunder and lightning as we left Astorga, but it never rained where we were. (Heard the next day that they had huge hail in Molinaseca that caused huge damage.) We walked on a path that had many wildflowers. At one stage we had the company of an elderly Spanish man, whose opening comment was that nature was so precious.... Lyne gave me her Quebec badge from her hat today, so I am an honorary Quebecois pilgrim now!

Monday evening I stopped in Rabanal, run by the London-based Confraternity of St James, and their albergue is the most welcoming I have been to in Spain. I got to meet Brendan, from the Santiago forum, and his wife, and another Irish couple. All four were hospitaleros for a fortnight, and they made everyone so welcome, chatting outside for a large part of the afternoon and evening. Rabanal is a lovely village that you see as you start climbing towards the mountain with the Cruz de Ferro.

Next morning was the climb to the Cruz de Ferro. It wasn´t long before I was in mist, and it was not to be a day of views. But it meant it was not too hot for walking or climbing either! It was an easy climb, a few hundred metres spread over quite a few kilometres. The cross itself is known to be a place where pilgrims leave stones for sins etc.... I chose not to leave anything. My friends L and D had been looking forward to this spot but were disappointed by the mess some people had left there. I was surprised by how small this cross was....

I had decided that I was not going to push on another five km to the next village anywhere I didn´t have to, if it was too hot. But the mist fooled me. It rose just after I left the last village before Molinaseca, so I ended up walking in the heat anyhow!

Next day I stayed in Cacabelos. The best thing here was that they had massages on offer in the evening at the albergue. So I booked in for a leg massage, and it was wonderful timing for me. My leg muscles have been feeling very over-used... and the massage released all the tightness and the pain. So good walking now!

Yesterday I followed my new heat rule and stopped walking in a little village called Trabadelo after 20km. The municipal albergue here was lovely and so very clean. There were only five of us here and I was the only woman, so I got a room to myself, and I was the only one using the women´s toilets and shower room!!! I also used the washing machine and dryer to wash all my gear: I had a whole lot of bites on my back after the night in Cacabelos, not sure if they were bedbugs or a mosquito.... but am trying to eliminate the chance of carrying anything on....

Today was the last significant climb of the whole journey, to O´Cebreiro. I was a bit concerned my shorter day yesterday would end up with me climbing in too much heat, but I actually enjoyed the climb very much. I am quite fit now, and just take these things at my own pace. The views were gorgeous on the way up. I was sweating like a pig, but so was everyone else. The bars along the way were doing a roaring trade!!! And I have decided to stay the night here in O´Cebreiro in the new revamped albergue. The village here is historic and looks very interesting. So I am about to go and have a spot of lunch then go exploring. I haven´t even had a shower yet- that´s what internet addiction will do to you when you have a new fix after several days!- But I figure I will only get sweaty again anyhow!!

Only 150km to go now folks. Seems amazing but everyone is now counting down the days until we finish walking!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The heat has arrived!!!

Ok I know all you Kiwis are going to kill me now.... but the heat has arrived here! I was glad to get nearly right across the Meseta before it did though. It has been around 30C the last few days, though it is a lovely dry heat at present, not humid. Have been starting walking at around 6am which is as soon as it gets light here, with sunrise around 6.30am. That way I get in a couple of hours of lovely cool walking. But this morning it was already very warm by 10am.
Left Mansilla de las Mulas with very good memories. The hospitaleros there were lovely. There is an older man who has nurtured a huge number of geraniums that are in pots all around the courtyard, making it a lovely place to sit and talk to others. There was a younger woman hospitalero who was great as well, and she did an excellent job of helping people fix up their foot problems, with a huge amount of good humour. (Lots of people seem to have got blisters with the increased heat: I haven´t yet, touch wood.) Met Tom and Tania, young Kiwis, there. Discovered I went to school with Tom´s aunty, and that he was at FDMC where my nephews have been.....
We left Mansilla on what started as another very flat walk into Leon. The full moon was hanging in the sky as it lightened for dawn. A magic walking moment. And we needed to treasure it, as later that morning we started a lot of highway walking that lasted until this morning. At one point we had to cross the highway into Leon at what seemed like an incredibly dangerous spot, just around a bend where oncoming cars could not see us crossing, and we could not see if they were coming or not. Seven of us crossed at once....
Leon was an amazing city with many beautiful buildings. I will have to come back another time as a tourist though to see them properly. For now, I feel the need to complete this walk before it gets too hot. So no holidays like I had in France! My favourite place in Leon was San Isadora where they had a library that had many original manuscripts. I had visions of the monks working hard on them!
Yesterday there were quite a few kilometres to walk to clear Leon, then a lot of the walk was beside the highway. Not the most interesting day. But I stopped at San Martin de Camino in a friendly municipal albergue. It looked a bit rundown from the outside, but it had a lovely cool dorm, shady trees and a shady porch, and there were only ten of us but we enjoyed each other´s company.
This morning it was hot by 10am, but a lot of the second part of the walk I took the back country option and passed through some villages and farmland again...much more fun than the highway, even if it was hot!
Have arrived in Astorga on Sunday afternoon when a lot of the interesting buildings are closed again!!! In another life I will be a tourist. Tomorrow we begin the first real bit of climbing for some time as we head up some mountains. It is supposed to rain!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mansilla de las Mulas

Enjoyed the albergue yesterday evening. Lots of sunshine and it was pleasantly warm sitting outside in the shade. Restaurants just over the road for dinner.
Have reached the last town before Leon today. Flat walk and quite warm. Trees have been planted along the side of the path ever since we crossed into the Leon province. In a few years they will be giving very welcome afternoon shade. We have stopped here after 19km, leaving a 20km walk into Leon tomorrow. Finally it is getting a bit warmer now, and we were glad to stop at lunchtime to relax!
The albergue has a very friendly atmosphere. It has a large courtyard area and someone has planted a whole heap of geraniums that are in pots all around the walls. They look glorious in the sunshine.
It has warmed up quite a bit today and must be high 20s. So it will be early to rise and lunchtime to finish for the last 20km into Leon tomorrow. I am so glad I got across most of the Meseta before the heat came. And perverse as I am, I don´t mind if summer leaves again next week, though I don´t know what my chances are!

El Burgo Ranero

Yesterday afternoon I became a car tourist with Rebekah and her husband, and saw a little of Saghun that I would see again walking this morning. But it was great to see it yesterday, as the Camino trail did not reveal any of Saghun´s treasures. There was a church that had been built by Moorish builders, and a museum that held the Holy Week items that are taken in procession around the town. These are very explicit and very Spanish.

Back in Moratinos, Rebekah took me on a walk around her tiny village, which really is tiny. We saw their bodega, which was a lovely cold place where they used to make and store wine. Her husband cooked a delicious dinner while we were out... And I retired to a comfortable real bed with real sheets for the night, having dried myself with a real towel after my shower. These are luxuries I do look forward to enjoying again!!!

This morning I let myself out early -6am-ish, as I thought it was about to turn hot. First few kms of the morning from Moratinos I had the trail all to myself, and looked back to see a beautiful sunrise sky. Well away from the road on this bit of the trail, I loved the landscape. At the next village I saw the storks on the church starting off their days, and caught up with three Mexicans just leaving from that albergue.

Quite a bit of the next bit of the trail was in hearing distance of the road. I somehow imagined the Meseta was going to be more isolated than this. They are harvesting rye here at present so there is a little bit of an idea of how barren some of the land might become over summer.

It was flat easy walking, and the sun came out, but did not get to much above 24C, so made for nice walking. I had intended to stop after 20km, but decided to keep going the next 8km as the next two days promise to be a bit hotter, getting into Leon. Leon seemed so far away when I entered Spain, and I am nearly there.....

Today I am in the Albergue at El Burgo Ranero. There is a bar-restaurant over the road with pilgrims sitting outside... time I went to join them. L and D want to know all about my adventures yesterday when I left them and took a ride in a vehicle!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Moratinos- or how I skipped 12km of the Meseta!

Really enjoyed staying with the Augustinian sisters in Carrion - they had some shared singing at 7pm, on the seats and in the stairwell, and that was a great event for those of us who joined in. Left soon after 6am this morning as I was expecting a long walk, nearly 30km, longer than my usual day, to get to Rebekah´s in Moratinos.

The Meseta hasn´t been as I had expected, mainly as it has been so green rather than barren, but also because it hasn´t been as isolated. It has passed through quite a few villages, and has often been near to the road. Today started off near the road, but after a few kilometres it moved off away from highway noise. It was quite a long stretch from Carrion to the next village, 17km. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere someone had had the enterprise to set up a bar with drinks and food available, and the smell of a bbq taunting those who never chose to stop! I was one of those carrying on as I had so far to walk today........

In a quiet section of the track, when it felt like Lyne, Denis and I were the only ones around for miles, and the churchtower of the 17km village loomed ahead, we stopped to strip off outerlayers and put on sunscreen. We saw a car appearing in the distance so needed to move off to the side. The car continued towards us slowly, then stopped. The person on the driver´s side asked L&D if they had seen a New Zealand pilgrim called Margaret. Lo and behold, there I was on the other side of the car! Rebekah Scott, had come to collect me! And thus I skipped 12km or so of the Meseta, never ever to walk them, and climbed into a car.

Rebekah is the first fellow blogger I have met in real life. She was a fellow member of the Santiago forum I was a member of before I left for the Camino, and I have read her blog. She lives in Moratinos, which is a small village on the Meseta. Moratinos seemed so awfully far from anywhere when I saw it on a map before coming into Spain. Now somehow, it marks a point nearly halfway along the Camino Frances, and does not seem like it is so far from everywhere!

Rebekah and her husband were on the way to pick up rubbish in a picnic area known to get messy. When we got there I took a rubbbish bag as well to help soothe my car-guilt! (Not real guilt: after 1100+km I feel no guilt!) What amazed me was how many pilgrims we passed as we drove back along the track. It had seemed like L&D& me were the only ones for miles!

And I have been enjoying Rebekah´s hospitality here in Moratinos. We talked for a while, then had lunch. I have only just woken from my siesta in a proper bed with sheets! And my bedsheet and a few other clothes have had a wash in a real washing machine! I felt like I could have slept the whole day through....but it is a lovely afternoon here now and it is time to explore the village a little....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Carrion de los Condes

Yesterday evening in Fromista they opened the Romanesque church that sits in the same square as the albergue. It has been largely restored, and is absolutely a gem. Pilgrim price =student price... there has got to be some payback for all this walking!!! Then I spent some quiet evening time under the plane trees nearby that have been pruned and trained to make a ¨roof¨ in summer. Again lots of birdlife zipping around.

I wasn´t all that impressed with the boring males in the albergue yesterday who seemed to sleep all afternoon and go to bed really early. Boring lot! And they were matched a bit by the boring walk today - flat, flat, flat, and all along the roadside. Not too busy a road, but I guess we all prefer the quiet of the countryside. The weather wasn´t boring today though- quite changeable with the raincoat on an off.

Arrived in Carrion de los Condes to the parish albergue run by some Augustinian sisters. They were so welcoming at the door. And there is singing this evening that we can attend and I am sure I will enjoy that.

Tomorrow I am getting up to leave at 6am as I plan a longer haul than usual if I can - hope to meet Rebekah in Moratinos. I followed her blog before I even left home.... Moratinos seemed so very far from anywhere and now I am only about 30km away from it!!

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Really enjoyed the Iterga albergue yesterday, in the centre of the village, and the people running it were natural and friendly. Only 6 of us were there, and we two women had a non-snorers night in a different room from the four men! Just around the corner by the church was the municipal albergue, which looked quite nice as well, with only 12 single beds spread around the edges of a large room. Only four people staying there. Not so many walkers seem to be on the Camino here, and many of those we see are walking 30km or more days: it seems like many others have left out the Meseta. Quite a few of the young hard-out walkers have serious blister problems, but they don´t seem able to slow their pace to let them heal. I noticed a pilgrim health poster in English and the top thing on it was to walk at your own pace and not someone else´s.

The most wonderful stork´s nest was on top of the Iterga church - quite the biggest we have seen and seemed to have two babies in it.

Last night Spain was playing soccer. At half time when our meal was being served, body language from our host expressed the fact that she was sad, and the Spanish team were lazy. Just before the end of the game, we heard the loud cheer from the bar just down the road: Spain had scored in the last minute to win the game! Our host was then all smiles again. Reminds me of home!

This morning the forecast was for 65% chance of rain: seemed hard to believe as we sat under blue skies yesterday evening. But it did rain... though mostly not too hard. Meseta remains very green with all this rain! Not wet enough for mud though. Second part of morning´s walk was alongside an irrigation canal, and I could heard birds and frogs.....

I am stopping here for the night even though it is only 14-15km for the day. It is too far for me to the next stop after Carrion tomorrow, so no sense going on a few kms more today to a little place where I might not get to eat on a Sunday!

Itero de la Vega

Found lots of people to talk to in the sunshine under blue skies- finally- at Hontanas yesterday. Seems like a few of the ¨slower¨people like myself have skipped the Meseta: since Burgos I have met up with many more people doing 30km+ days. Some of them are managing fine, and some of them are absolutely crippled with blisters and tender feet. I think they are missing out on a lot of the human contacts and sights that you see when you go a little slower, but each to their own!
The Meseta is not as hot and barren as I expected. It has been such a wet cool spring that things are still very green and there are plenty of wildflowers around. Today it was warmish by the time I finished, but probably not much above 22C.
From Hontanas it never took too long to reach Castojeriz, and it was a very pleasant walk in the cool of the morning. There were a couple of bars along the way to stop and talk to others at. I was hoping to shop there, but only found a hairdresser open. However, as I had no shampoo left, that was my most urgent purchase made! Catrojeriz had many interesting buildings. One day I will come back in another life as a tourist and visit them when they are open!
It was a 10km stretch across the Meseta next. Started off with a climb and then got a superb view back over where we had come from. Saw the next village in the distance and then descended and never saw it again until nearly upon it. Lots of birdlife. I suppose the most isolated parts of the Meseta might yet be to come, but I was suprised that it did not feel particularly desolate as I had been expecting. I suppose in summertime when it is all dry and barren it feels like that. At present there is a real tapestry of different greens and it is amazing.
Passed San Nicholas chapel around lunchtime. Some Italians were in there eating, and I was able to go in as well. It has been superbly restored to its medieval beauty. Beautiful stamp for the credential.
Am staying the night in Itero de la Vega in a friendly albergue in the middle of town. Feels very ¨Spanish¨and I feel quite at home. Time to go have that siesta time in the sun again!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Burgos, Rabe de Las Calzadas, Hontanas

Left Ages early and wandered slowly through Atapuerca. Couldnt visit archeological site, but thought about early humans who lived there....
Long walk into Burgos and young Canadian with me made me walk all of it and not cheat and take the bus the last 8km. Then had to walk to municipal albergue in a park near the edge of town... but all my old buddies turned up there too so that was grand. Caught a bus back into town later to see the magnificent cathedral of Burgos. But it was almost too much to see all that richness after walking past so many wheatfields and vineyards and staying in simple villages...
Yesterday instead of a rest day, L and D and me just walked 10kms for a rest. Cant believe I describe 10kms as a rest. Stayed in Rabe de las Calzadas in a place that only took 8 pilgrims, and gave a very personal welcome. Both the husband and wife have done the Camino many times over the last 22 years, and the husband had collected up many Camino souvenirs, statues, artworks etc into an amazing museum.
Today have walked on to Hontanas. The Meseta began early this morning with a bit of a climb. It is all very green and not too hot at present =only about 21 degrees maximum= so I found todays walk very pleasant. Walked past lots of wheatfields. Lots of birdlife. Saw one small dead snake by the roadside. Now going to sit in the sun for a while. Catch you soon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Granon, Tosantos, Ages

A few days since I posted......

Headed for Santa Domingo on Sunday and was hoping to hit the time for the main Mass. But when I got there at about 11.30am, the church was firmly closed, with no signs of any bells ringing, and it was raining. It looked like a really interesting town, with lots of historic buildings, but things tend to be closed on Sundays, and I decided to move on a few kms to Granon. Good move - had one of my most enjoyable evenings of all. I stayed in the parish albergue, which was up behind the church: you got to climb up the steps that headed up towards the belltower. The hospitalero who was there for two weeks was from Leon and he was a really lovely guy. He made everyone welcome, and cooked a wonderful evening meal for us all. He also acquired some firewood, and a fire really added to the atmosphere, with people taking turns to sit in the seats around there. The whole place had a really comfortable feel to it. This was yet another day when I wished I had kept my windjacket as it was bitter outside!

Next day headed for Belorado. Cultivation in the fields changed from mainly vineyards and wheat, to more potatoes as well as wheat. It was fairly muddy underfoot in places. I had thought I might stay in Belorado, but when I arrived there was heavy machinery working in the street near the church, adding to the muddy feeling I already had, so I decided to move on a little further to Tosantos, mainly to shorten what looked like a long walk over a mountain for today.

Tosantos was a christian-run albergue. The hospitalero was another wonderful cook and we had a great meal to set us up for the ´mountain´. In the end, the ´mountain´today wasn´t as bad as it looked on the altitude chart! There was a climb of several hundred metres, but it wasn´t too steep. Then what I wasn´t expecting was a loooooooong flat stretch at the top. The mud was less than I had feared. We walked mainly on what seemed to be a forestry access path. Finally the path emerged at a monastery, San Juan de Ortega. They had beds there, but I decided to move a little further, to Ages, so as to make tomorrow´s trek into Burgos a little shorter. I am not sure whether I will take the bus 8km through the industrial suburbs or not! But if I do it will let me have more time to see the cathedral etc. We will see. I am really near here to Atapuerca, where there is a fascinating archeological site I have read about before - where they have found some of the earliest human remains in Europe. I would quite like to stop off and have a nosey, but have only seen info about guided tours in Spanish that you need to book... so I guess I will end up in Burgos tomorrow, though you never know!!

My ankles are quite sore today. Need to learn how to stretch my achilles properly. And now I am off to do just that!

Sunday, June 08, 2008


I had a lovely night´s sleep in the Albergue at Navarrete. There were just four bunks - eight people- in quite a large room, so we had plenty of space, and the window was open by general agreement so we never got too hot. By the time I went upstairs from the concert at 9.15pm, most people were already settled for sleep, and people didn´t begin stirring until after 6am. It was more like the better sleep that I tended to get in French gites..... It is not yet hot in Spain so there is usually no need to get up so early as some tend to do.....
This morning´s walk was mostly past vineyards: Rioja is clearly an area with many vineyards and we passed two big wineries. We reached Najera in time for lunch, after passing through quite a long industrial area on its outskirts. It was quite a poor looking town. We found a beautiful spot by the river to sit down and eat some lunch, then hoisted our packs for the next 6km to Azofra, which is also quite a poor looking town. It is almost embarrassing to find that the albergue is in one of the flashest buildings in town. It is just five years old, purpose built. No Bunks. I am sharing a two bedded room with a Dutch woman I first came across at Orisson when she passed through doing a one-day stint across the Pyrenees.
It is surprisingly cool here in Spain, cooler than in southern France. It never rained today, though many times it seemed close. I could have worn the jacket I have posted home for much of the walk!!! But I was warm with my rainjacket on.
OK time to go buy some food: I have felt ravenous all day though I have actually eaten heaps!!!

Coro Sinfonico de La Rioja

Once before I had an experience where I was in a Cathedral and it seemed like I was in heaven. It was Notre Dame in Paris, and Palm Sunday; I was standing opposite the rose window and the light was streaming in, and the organ was playing......
Well yesterday evening it seemed like I was in heaven again. The Coro Sinfonico de La Rioja were performaing at 8pm in the church in Navarrete. This church has been enough to convince me I must forget my prejudices about Baroque architecture! The whole front around the altar has been restored, and the gold colour is absolutely gleaming, and all the statues have been cleaned to reveal beautiful decoration and colours.
It was Mass at 8pm and the choir sang seven different sacred songs during the Mass. When they began the entrance song, Gloria Laus (J Prieto), I was transported into a different place. Their voices were strong and powerful and the acoustics in the church were superb. There were many men in the choir, unlike at home. With the sounds reverberating around the church, and the gleaming altar to regard, I felt like I was in heaven. L and D were there and felt the same. After Mass they sang eight more songs, shifting their staging up the front. It was a wonderful wonderful concert and I feel so blessed to have heard it.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


I wasn´t looking forward to today especially, as you could see the spread out nature of Logrono, and its industrial area, as we approached Viana yesterday. But it turned out fine! There was some industrial area to cross, and motorway to walk beside, but it wasn´t as bad as I had feared!

The track from Viana went past a church in the countryside with lots of picnic seating and water nearby, which must be very welcome in summertime for those striding out to Logrono on a hot afternoon. Then it passed a lake where you could watch birds. On another day I might have stopped and only walked a shorter distance, but I am aware that summer is coming and I need to move as far as I can now before it gets too hot!

The track descended into Logrono, and entered the old part of the city, taking a route past various old buildings. Then came the trek through the city but it wasn´t as bad as I had feared. It was well marked. And though those on the outskirts of Pamplona had seemed to look aghast at my appearance - with mud-covered shoes etc!- the Logrono locals were smiling. When I looked a little confused at one intersection, a lady quickly pointed out the correct route.

It wasn´t too long before city streets were cleared, and the track took its way through a long park, where many locals were also out walking. I had company for all the route from Logrono, and with pleasant conversation the time passed quickly. It was cloudy and a little cool, but never came to much in the way of rain.

We later had to pass close to the motorway, and a wire netting fence was keeping us in. It was here that there were many, many pilgrim crosses in the fence. I had seen photos before, but never realised their extent. I didn´t like it so much, as it seemed that what is a sacred symbol for some had become trivialised. But maybe I misjudge motives.

The municipal albergue is lovely here in Navarrete, in yet another historically important building, and there is a very friendly kind hospitalero who speaks quite a few languages. I am amazed at the quality of so many of the facilities provided for us at so little cost. The downside of the dorms though is that I have not been getting as much sleep in Spain as in France. This afternoon I thought I would indulge in the Spanish siesta habit. But wouldn´t you know it, there is building going on outside, with a drill hammering its way through concrete! At least I got some rest!

Time to go explore as the town is coming to life again. The church is huge and there are many interesting buildings in the centre of town. Catch you later!

Friday, June 06, 2008


Yesterday evening was very pleasant. The man who came to give the foot-leg massage was lovely, and my calf muscles have felt very relaxed today. He told me I was actually dehydrated and needed to drink more, so I have been working on that today, and certainly needed to find a wee private spot more than a few times this morning!
After the massage I visited the Los Arcos church, which is very splendid indeed. Usually I find Baroque too over the top, but the carvings etc in this church were very special. Lots of figures on the various altars, and two special statues of Our Lady, including one Black Virgin. There was a carving of the Last Supper on one wall that I loved. The choir stalls upstairs also had very special carvings. The church in all its magnificence stands out from the town which appears very ordinary compared to others I have passed through.
Then I enjoyed dinner with the Irish guys, Mick from Oz, and Marco from Austria - the rose amongst the thorns. It was a feast- what wonders were done with pasta. Then I even went to Mass, with some great singing from the Spanish locals, and a pilgrim blessing afterwards from the priest who spoke quite a bit of a few languages, and who gave out prayer cards in various languages with a choir stall photo on the front.
Again there was very early rising in the dorm, as many people planned on going right through to Logrono, quite a long day. (For the Irish guys it was the end of their week.) I was just planning to reach Viana, a more sedate 21km or so away. I was pleased to find my legs managed much better today. It never got hot either, was spitting lightly quite a bit, and I even needed my jersey most of the day!
It has cooled down significantly here in Viana, but wouldn´t you know it, I posted home my good windjacket just two days ago in Estella. The story with my jacket is, that I am not really sure what kind of post I have paid for. I am hoping it has gone air-mail so I can wear it when I get home to winter. But if it is anything like the things I posted from the Channel Islands in 2006, it might take nine weeks for it to arrive!
Viana is an interesting little town. The albergue itself is right next to a couple of historic buildings, and we have superb views from our room. There are triple bunks. But we had less far distance to come than some, and got here early enough for bottom ones: the woman on reception was obviously choosing older woman to give out bottom bed numbers to0 and gave the young early ones the top bunks! -hurrah!
I have been out and bought earplugs for tonight. I haven´t seen her, but someone has told me that the snorer-from-hell is in the other half of our room. I thought I would easily out-walk her distance-wise, but lo and behold, she is bus-taxi assisted and is keeping pace!!
Siesta is over, the town is waking up again. Time to go and buy groceries for dinner and breakfast. Need energy to cross the big city of Logrono tomorrow!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Los Arcos

Today the weather changed! And we have had a hint of the heat that Spain is famous for.
I thought there was another big climb this afternoon, but discovered I had finished it already when I reached Villamayor de Monjardin, where there was a beautiful Romanesque church. (I love the sparsely decorated rounded architecture.) I thought the descent would be ´no sweat´, but as can happen on the Camino, I found the going tougher then!
There were lots of beautiful wildflowers out all along the way this morning, and we passed vineyards and wheat fields. After Villamayor there were still those, but it was over 12km to the next town (Los Arcos) and it seemed to take forever, much of it flat and spreading out without any signs of habitation. And finally the sun shone. I had a ´crisis of confidence´ ie how will I ever manage to walk in Spain when it gets hot? I am still not sure that I will, and a bus to Leon is a possibility! But once I had lunch, and a talk with some friendly Irish guys, I felt better!
The sun is shining this afternoon, great for getting some washing dry and the lines are full. Have my name down for a foot massage soon. And at 6 the church will be open for us to have a look...apparently it is magnificent. Then at 7 the Irish have invited me to the meal the Oz Mick is cooking for them. Actually, he is giving directions as he has his arm strapped up, and it might be like Ramsay´s Kitchen, so they have told me to come to eat not to see the cooking! What a full calendar I have!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Mud was a theme again today! But oh it was worth it, as the road missed some precious pilgrim places. We left Puente la Reina a little later than usual (7.45am) and crossed over the famous pilgrim bridge. That was the first of quite a few bridges during the day that were reminders of all the medieval pilgrims who have passed this way over the centuries. And - news flash- it didn´t rain all day today, so I even got photos of many of them!
The best pilgrim sight of old would have to have been the approach to Cirauqui. There was some real mud to contend with as we approached this hilltop village. But the view of it on the hill as we drew nearer was something very special.
At Lorca lots of people stopped for lunch. Met up with Mick from Oz again, minus his pack as he has dislocated his shoulder. He slipped in the mud a day or so ago, in the same place where two other men slipped and hurt themselves. The mud really is quite treacherous in places at present, but today´s sun and wind will have helped to dry it out a little.
The plan was to stop at a hotel-restaurant, with meals and a dorm, near Villatuarta, and make a slightly shorter (18km) day. But we never saw a sign to it, and had passed it by. So Estella it is for the evening, in the municipal albergue together with many others I know from recent days. Have had a wander to the PO to post home my big jacket, so saw many historic buildings on the way. Spain is awash with glorious buildings.
Had another wander and saw the cloister behing St Peter´s church: Lots to treasure in this town.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Puente la Reina

Enjoyed my night in the Jesus y Maria Albergue, with no great snorers nearby! Set off earlyish as wanted to do 25km to Puente la Reina if I could, and knew there was a bit of a ´mountain´to climb and descend. It was great to look out this morning and see that it wasn´t actually raining.

I was concerned I would get lost somewhere in Pamplona, but the signs leading you out of the city are very large and well positioned so made it safely out. Passed lots of interesting parks and buildings that would be well worth a day or two of exploration, but maybe that can happen another time: for now I need to get as far as I can across northern Spain before it gets too hot! The inner city was basically still asleep as we left town just after 7am, so it was peaceful walking there. When we reached the outskirts of the city, there was a sign saying you could get your credentials stamped at the university (where they do Jacobean studies), and several of us did that. Then followed a walk beside a busy road until we reached Cizur Minor, with the morning ´rush hour´of pilgrims before and behind me. (Before long they are usually mostly ´before´!)

On today´s agenda there was a climb up to near some windpower turbines, then up to a sculpture at Alto del Perdon of some pilgrims, where everybody inserts themselves and takes photos! So I was hoping for some sunshine to get a photo of myself there, It has been a fond dream. And now it is a reality! It was a bit of a climb up to the top, that would have been very easy compared to the Pyrenees climb, except for the mud. Mud mud mud. The views at the top were great and I got to eat lunch up there with quite a few others. Then came the descent. Rained a bit for that. Had a snack at Uterga in renewed sunshine, with quite a few others, then walked on to reach Puente la Reina. Haven´t explored yet.¨Raining again! Storks are nesting on top of the nearby church steeple - young quite large now. But haven´t got a photo of them, as they disappeared with the rain!

Monday, June 02, 2008


Wet, wet wet! Strangely enough I don´t mind the rain as much as some others do, as I have walked a few wet days in New Zealand bush in my lifetime! But the mud does get fairly tricky and you need to concentrate.

Met a group of young Spaniards en route today and we shared a few snacks under the shelter of a church porch. Like most Spanish churches, the church itself was closed, but the shelter in a little village suited us fine. They were impressed by my few words of Spanish and I was impressed by their good humour and sharing.

Walked most of the morning beside the river which was very high after all the rain, spreading out to cover tree trunks that would usually be on the banks, and it was very full and fast-flowing.

Am suffering from city-shock this afternoon, with arrival in Pamplona! I realise that over the last two weeks, I have been in many small villages where pilgrims were quite a ´normal´part of the landscape, then in the mountains. When I arrived on the outskirts of Pamplona with my muddy boots on, lots of people were out taking their Sunday walk. I got the feeling that I looked like some kind of alien from outer space!!!!

However, the walk into the city of Pamplona for pilgrims has been very well planned, and I felt very much like a pilgrim of old. We crossed two old bridges, and when I entered the city walls via the Francia Gate, complete with drawbridge, I felt very much part of something centuries old. I used my minimal Spanish to get someone to take a photograph of me as I entered.

Then followed a slightly manic walk through the city streets, part of which I realised was through what must be a night-time clubbing district. Lots of people, including huge groups of children, are out on the streets. It is a shock to my spirit which I guess is still residing somewhere in those beautiful mountains I crossed!
The Cathedral is closed at present as it is Sunday, but I think there is rosary at 7.30 so I guess I can go and get a lookie then. Tomorrow morning I have another shorter mountain to climb so will need to leave earlyish.
PS Did get to the rosary, which was followed by a procession around the church, complete with some very beautiful Spanish singing. So at least had a lookie.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Snorer from Hell!!!!!

OK OK OK I have become used to snorers in the dorms. Mostly I have discovered that I sleep anyhow, as they only snore a little while then stop. And I am usually happy when I end up in a room full of women as that means no snorers.
BUT last night I met the snorer from hell...... and she was a woman!!!!
It amazes me how the snorers always seem to go to sleep very quickly. In the dorm the bunks were arranged with two almost right together, like a double bed. I had copped a male snorer right next to me in Roncesvalles, so was relieved to find there was a woman this time. Hmmmmm. Wrong!
She began very quickly. I bumped her and she stopped. She must have changed to the top bunk as a result while I went to sleep.Then it began and continued........
At 3am there was a procession of people to the toilet, which was in an outside building. I doubt that most really needed the toilet, but the conversation in the toilets was about the snorer from hell!!! The guy on the other side of her had bumped her with his pillow. The young English woman next to her on the top had had no sleep. At 3.30am she moved over to the toilet block for a break.
At 5.45am, much earlier than I had intended to rise, I got up and had breakfast outside. Now I am ready to depart, and the snorer from hell, who must have had a great night´s sleep, has arisen. If only we spoke the same language, I would ask her which albergue she is planning to sleep in tonight!!!!
OK guys, I am off to Pamplona, and the tracks are bound to be very very muddy!!!
Catch you later... plenty of internet in Spain!

Roncesvalles to Zubiri

Stayed in the refugio in Roncesvalles last night and it was amazing. The thought of 120 people in one dorm seemed almost overwhelming, but I had seen pictures of the beautiful inside of the building, and others had said that you had to stay there for the atmosphere. It was wonderful. There were kind Dutch hospitaleros who greeted you and helped with any queries. They also played various appropriate kinds of music that seemed to calm what could have been a riotous room! At 9.45pm some of the lights went off and bedtime music ensued: At10pm all was calm. At 6am the lights all came on, and gentle wakey wakey music ensued.
I attended the Mass and blessing for pilgrims in the Church at 8pm which was a special time even though it was all in Spanish!
I was quick enough off the mark getting out of bed, but then saw the rain pouring down outside. How lucky that we crossed the moutains in the previous two days. This morning cloud was down low and the rain was heavy, so perhaps people crossing would have had to take the lower road route rather than the beautiful Napoleon Route we took.
Had breakfast in Berguete with everyone else. The adjoining gymnasium seemed to be pressed into service for wet packs and coats etc. Lovely countryside again, descending. Reminded me of the West Coast with hills and mist.
Slow walker as usual. Didn´t want to end up in the Municipal refugio here in Zubiri as I heard someone recently here had bedbugs: But the other albergue is full and I haven´t easily found the pension alternatives and am too stingy for an expensive hotel. So I have checked out my bed thoroughly and hope it is OK. If not I guess I will be doing remedial stuff in Pamplona tomorrow!
Had my first tumble today but am fine. I had descended all the way down a tricky hill, slippery with mud and slippery stones. Was on the concrete path at the bottom then I slipped! Took heavy tumble onto my front. Thought I would have smashed my camera on waistband but it seems fine and I am fine. Lucky I had my longjohns on for the rain as they gave protection.

PS No bedbugs... the other person must have struck one bad bed. But the snorer from hell was there.......

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Crossing the Pyrenees -Wow

I have just had two magical days. Left SJPP yesterday morning for the uphill climb to Orisson, the first stage of crossing the Pyrenees. After days of rainy walking, this day dawned sunny. The climb passed through beautiful mountain countryside, reminding me very much of home. The first grunt out of SJPP was very steep, but then it became less steep until a sign saying there was 4km to Orisson, when the gradient increased. I was pleased to find that after weeks of walking I was able to take it in my stride, just kept going at my rhythm, and before morning tea time I had arrived at Orisson. That was after stopping to enjoy the view of eagles swooping about in the sky, alongside a young Spaniard. How absolutely magnificent. I tried not to feel guilty as others kept going past Orisson the whole way over the mountains. A lemonade on the terrace enjoying the view in the sunshine certainly helped with getting over the guilt feelings!

In the evening after dinner the most amazing rainbow I have ever seen crossed the sky over the mountains, with a faint double also visible. There was a Canadian father and his daughter nearby enjoying their first evening on the Camino: what a special moment to share. Lyne and I sang a little towards the mountains.

Today for the main part of the climb and the Pyrenees crossing, the weather could not have been more ideal. It was sunny but not too hot. And the views were just spectacular. We were all just so lucky to walk in such conditions. It clouded over a little as we reached the highest point, about 1400m, but stayed calm and warm enough. Then as I descended the Abbey appeared in the valley below, below a hillside covered in trees.

Tonight I am staying in the big dormitory here at the Abbey, that can take 120! So I am not sure how much sleep will be had, but I have seen a photo of inside the building itself and it is magnificent, with stone walls and a high rounded ceiling. Have booked for the pilgrim´s meal at 7pm and there is a Mass and pilgrim´s blessing at 8pm. So I am in Spain... a new part of the adventure begins.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

St Jean Pied de Port

It has been lovely the last few days getting closer to the Pyrenees, getting occasional glimpses of them. I really enjoyed an evening at Aroue in the gite communal with about ten others. It was raining most of the afternoon and we all stayed inside. I got some laundry done and dried in ther dryer so that was good! But in the evening it cleared, and some of us walked to the church, which had some interesting modern stained glass as well as a twelfth century portal over a door. Then in the porch I sat and watched as the mountains emerged from the clouds, and the last sun of the day moved along them. I found that quite magical, and hauled all the others outside into the cold to look!

Next day there was quite a bit of rain again, but amazingly it cleared very quickly to give an afternoon of brilliant blue skies with white wispy clouds. At the gite there was a big terrace and lots of outdoor seating, so everyone was outside sitting in the sunshine enjoying the views. It was also the first day to meet some of those who have walked two other paths through France. In my room were three other ladies, one of whom had started in Bretagne, and the other two had taken the Vezelay route. They met in Bordeaux and became a threesome. The woman from Bretagne was an inspiration as she has very sore feet now but shows untold determination. One of the other women has very limited sight and is being unobtrusively supported by her friend.

Yesterday I walked from Ostabat to St Jean Pied de Port. There has been quite a bit of rain lately so the beginning of the track was quite muddy. I was tempted to change onto the road which was more direct and shorter, but am pleased I resisted that thought. The Chemin took a tranqil path through the countryside, passing through a few villages. It was a time to be thankful for all the places I have had the opportunity to walk over the last six weeks on the Chemin.

When I arrived at the Porte de St Jacques, it was a proud moment for me. I am not sure exactly how far I have walked, as figures vary, but somewhere around 750km. I got someone to take a photo of me at the gate. They were glad to oblige, then wished me "Happy Holidays". If they only knew how hard it was some days!!!!!!!

I am staying in Esprit du Chemin for two nights and it is lovely there. Last night there was a mixture of people who have been walking for a while, and others who are just beginning or re-starting. A lovely German woman was in my room and she is climbing for Orisson, part way up the mountain, now. She asked me to ring and reconfirm her reservation as my French was so good. It has been funny lately as a few people have used me for translation! After six weeks talking to many French people in the gites, my French has improved.

Anyhow, the sun is shining and I am going to go walkabout in SJPP. Next time you hear from me I will hopefully be in Spain!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Getting close to Spain!

I feel like I am getting near to a big plughole that is about to scoop me up and deposit me in Spain! But it won't actually be like that: I have a big mountain pass ahead of me to climb. Today we saw the line of the Pyrenees for a while from Arthez. Had lunch on some seats near the church overlooking the magnificent and somewhat scary view of how steeply they arose from lower down. Fortunately I have managed to reserve at Orisson, part way up the climb, so that should make life a little easier. I am also having a rest day in St Jean Pied de Port which I need; so that is great. I am at Esprit du Chemin there: they keep a proportion of their beds each day for people walking through from Ostabat so I qualify for that.

This week getting accommodation was very hard as several big groups seemed to be around at the same time. I got the last bed in Arzacq: it was a single room, not very expensive, but with my very own shower, toilet and basin - what luxury! Last night I was in the gite in the village of Uzan, in a house opposite a farm that ran it. Unlike NZ, the farms had their houses clustered in this village - there were cows in a barn right next to the kitchen- but then the various fields are scattered about. They had 32 cows, half of which were milked, and the other half were young ones. The husband is busy ploughing and planting at present, something we have seen a lot of in this area.

I had to carry my food to Uzan, as there are no shops there. I was still hungry. Then today my pack felt like it weighed a ton. I discovered tonight that I had more food that had slipped to the bottom that I had forgotten I had!

Weather has been pretty good for walking lately, neither too hot nor cold, nor wet. But it did rain all morning today; though it was warm enough. Then it cleared at lunchtime for a sunshine view of the Pyrenees. I wonder what the weather will be like for the climb!

Tonight I am in a very rural gite again at Cambarrat, and it is just lovely here. My Quebecois friends, Lyne and Denis, are also here, and we are climbing the mountain the same day and staying at Orisson together. I have booked for my next few days - Navarrenx, Oroue, Ostabat then two days in SJPP before the climb.
Dinnertime -catch you again!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In Aire sur l'Adour

Well, I am a slow poke compared to many others, but I am gradually getting closer to Spain! Today marks five weeks since I left Le Puy.

From Eauze I moved to Nogoro; which has easily been the least inspiring town I have stayed in. No real heart to it, after staying in so many towns that still have their medieval squares at their heart. Plus I stayed at an odd gite, that was in a beautiful house, but the service didn't "feel right". Only an English couple and me there and they agreed. Could be a great gite run by someone else. (First two from England I have met- and I can add them to my English speakers score to make eight in five weeks!)

Last night I stayed in the countryside at gite duBarry. They are building a new gite, and meanwhile we found ourselves in a house. It was very relaxing there and we all felt very much 'at home.' I was with some new people, and three I have walked with often now, including Lyne and Denis from Quebec. We had a lovely meal with lots of scrummy veges.

Today I have arrived in Aire sur l'Adour after quite a short walk. There are a lot of pilgrims on the road in this area now, including lots of groups. I am staying in a lovely new gite set up by two former pilgrims, but Lyne and Denis found it hard to get a place; and the lady in the Tourist Office stayed for 20 minutes of her lunch hour ringing around to find them a place. My next job is to go and use the telephone cabine to try and make some more reservations, but I keep getting answerphones, which is tricky as they can't ring me back. (In another life I would definitely buy a portable phone in Paris to do this trek!)

There is a welcoming place set up for pilgrims in the Cathedral here so am about to go along there too; plus they have a blessing of pilgrims at 6pm. As we walked this morning we passed a little place that someone had set up for us to rest at. These efforts are always appreciated as you walk.

I am very well, though the mossies that are thriving in the muddy places under the trees seem to find me far too quickly! I hope to be in Spain by May 30th, but not sure what impact tight accommodation will have. Until next time!