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.......