Saturday, June 30, 2012

Moulin Rouge

In my next phase of aimless wandering, I got shat on my a passing pigeon, on my new Moissac t-shirt that is supposed to make me look more like a tourist and less like a pilgrim.

Then I was shopping in a very good cheese shop in Rue Le Pic for some cheese for Liliane, when someone stopped outside with a walking tour group to say it was the best cheese shop around.

And now I have stumbled upon the Moulin Rouge. Sometimes I think I should have a Proper Guidebook instead of a simple hotel map, but I much prefer being Random!

Saturday morning in Paris

This morning I have taken a wander up to Sacre Coeur, where you get a fantastic view back down across the city. I took the stairs up instead of the funicular, silly me!

They manage to keep it pretty calm inside the church, thanks to the vigilance of a doorman who takes no nonsense. There was a couple kissing kissing and canoodling in the pews that are intended pretty much for people praying. The doorman went up and just held out his hand to show the exit door. Then a woman got her friend to take a 'model' pose photo of her with the mosaic dome as backdrop: she was made to delete the photo, and he wasn't putting up with her pretending she didn't know what he meant!

Next I wandered the touristy 'village' of Montmatre. It was all pretty calm and non-touristy at that hour. I went into the parish church here too- and it was an interesting building with Romanesque origins and changes down the centuries. Quieter than Sacre Coeur with few visitors, but well worth viewing.

I did a 'Margaret wander' back down the hill and managed to avoid getting lost. Saw some young Australians filming outside a fruit shop. "locals come here for the fruit, but tourists come here for the famous person who lived here." Have to admit my ignorance of who the famous person was!

Back down the hill at the more modern parish church of St Jean, I read something that told me the unassuming street I had just walked up was where Ignatius and his companions had resolved to form the Jesuits...

Now, time for a little more exploration then lunch, then meeting my old Camino friends Liliane et Robert to go out to their place....

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Church detail

Detail on a doorway of the church of St Jean de Montmatre.

St Jean de Montmartre

Across the road from the Abbesses metro is this modern parish church/ built at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. Sunshine in Paris as you can see!


Nearest metro station to my hotel is Abbesses with this entry.

Moissac cloister

Back to Paris

Back to Paris

You'd think that with all the walking I've done recently I'd be quite content to sit still on a train for a few hours. But each time I saw something that looked like a possible walking track somewhere in the countryside, I was itching to be out there striding it out. Just with a day pack on though, that would be quite sufficient.

My hotel in Paris is simple but clean and in a great spot, right in the middle of a very lively part of Montmatre. Bottom of funicular is not far away though I haven't found it yet. That's tomorrow morning's job.

Had convo drinks and dinner with some old and new pilgrim friends this evening. Very Parisian, in a cafe on the Boulevard St Michel.

And tomorrow in Paris there are two events on: the ordination of 12 men in Notre Dame - and the Gay Pride march. Quite a combo!!!

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Roses in Moissac

I am back in Moissac for a couple of days, and Rom's roses are looking beautiful in the sunshine. Very warm here at present- I am making the most of it before I return home to winter!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Les Landes- grey skies!

Well, I am back in the south of France, after an all night bus trip across northern Spain. Surprisingly, the skies here in Les Landes are grey and misty, after all the blue skies in Santiago!

And as a fellow-Camino-ite on the bus commented, that was even worse than a night in an albergue! The bus itself was supremely comfortable and the driver excellent, but there's nothing worse than listening to other people snoring away in their seats while you remain wide awake!!! Finally I dropped off for an hour or so near Bilbao.

St Jacques was looking after me for the onward train connection. The bus arrived at 7am at Irun, and the first train left from Hendaye at 7.33am. I went from the bus stop to the Irun international train counter. No departures imminent for France. Asked at info counter how to get to Hendaye. Man gave me map. Turns out it was for a wee train that went across the border. Next wee train departure 7.18am. Not looking good for that Bordeaux train. But wee train only took 5 minutes. No queue at Hendaye ticket counter. Lady looked rather taken aback that I was wanting a ticket for that TGV already on the platform, leaving in 7 minutes. Ticket in hand with five minutes to spare! It was full and supposedly I would be standing in the corridor. But as I got on at the first station, I scored a little fold down seat for the trip.

Now I just need to make sure I don't fall asleep and miss the Bordeaux stop and end up in Paris!!!
PS got off in Bordeaux OK. Have set alarm to wake me before Agen!

Looooong Bus

This is the very looooooong bus I am leaving Santiago on- heading through some places I haven't seen in daylight and along the northern coastal route.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Test nomad blog?

Test only

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Day 2- Post Camino

Day 2- Post Camino

Well this little blog is coming to a close, as I will soon be leaving Santiago.

Today I visited two museums, and spent time just absorbing all the Santiago street life on a sun-filled day.

First up I saw the Cathedral museum, and my favourite thing here was seeing the old manuscripts, especially the pages with carefully coloured illustrations. I could imagine some medieval monks working away on them. I also liked being able to go out on the top floor terrace to gaze at the people down below in the square.

The second museum, Museo do Pobo Galego, about life in Galicia, had this amazing triple spiral staircase in it. It was also set in a beautiful park that I wandered in.

But 'street life' was the main item on today's menu. I think I must have seen at least six brides posing for photos in front of various buildings. And when one bride left her convertible parked outside the Parador while she skived off for photos, it was soon used as a photo prop by many plebs!

There were also musicians aplenty. There was the 'four hands' concert on a grand piano in the main square at 12.30pm. There was a superb violinist on a street corner that lots of toddlers stopped to listen to. There was a very spirited performance by some drummers this evening in another square.

And part of all the goings on was the steady stream of pilgrims arriving, their physical journey ended. I realised I did kind of speed up at the end when I saw a couple of people I'd met along the way who were just arriving. This evening there was someone in monk-style clothes in the square, greeting a whole lot of people he had obviously walked in with. He was an 'exception' in that he was meeting people where they were in the square outside, rather than just inside the Cathedral.

Oh, and I accidentally got to see the botafumiero fly again. I went into the Cathedral early evening, not realizing there was a Mass on. In fact it was nearly over, and I am such an 'old hand' now that I could see the action was ready to go.... It hardly seems fair really, since I was in the church for all of five minutes, but I got a great view!!

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Triple staircase

Shannon, the young woman I met from New York, told me to go to Museo do Pobo Galego- to see the amazing staircase in the building as much as the displays. There are three separate staircases twirling around each other- taking you to different places. Being a bit directionally challenged, I am not sure if I saw all the displays or not, but the staircase was superb!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 1 Post-Camino

Well, as befits the holder of a freshly minted Compostela, I never arose from my comfortable, quiet pension bed until after 9am. A great beginning to the rest of my life! Then I discovered breakfast and free wifi about 20m away up the road.

By 10am I had made it another 200m or so up another nearby street to the Museum of Pilgrimage, to which I was surprised to find I had free entry. This was fascinating. The first room had some superb photos of pilgrimage in different faiths. There was detailed info about the development of the legend of St James burial, and the development of both the Cathedral and the town of Santiago. There were some gold artifacts discovered in this area, pre-Roman. And there was a collection of pilgrim objects. My favourite was a book made in the 90s by a pilgrim who made watercolour pictures of the places he walked through. Simply amazing.

I toddled off to the pilgrims' Mass again to see who I could see, and yes I saw some more new arrivals I knew. The botafumiero never flew for them today though.

The day then followed a very Spanish routine. I had a late lunch followed by a siesta, before taking to the streets for a wander. Partly my wandering was 'aimless' meandering, just taking in the sights and appreciating the street life. And partly I was being a consumer doing my bit for the ailing economy. Have you any idea how hard it is to be sure you are actually buying deodorant in a smallish shop? Had to do some play acting with a female shop worker to be sure! And I gave up on buying new undies when I was twice presented with huge bloomers. Umm, no!

Just before 6pm I returned to the big plaza in front of the Cathedral to do a bit of a dance in front of the webcam. Hope my arm-waving was big enough Michele- cos it was a bit embarrassing- not that anyone else took any notice!

Finished the evening sitting in the main plaza again with a young woman pilgrim from New York that I had met up with along the way. Turns out she has just finished her studies to be an architect.

Time for bed here again- and I know I can send this in the morning from the same breakfast place I went to this morning. Two days in a row- breakfast in the same place.... The pilgrimage must be over!

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Me in Santiago

Here I am in front of the Cathedral. Notice it is still sunny!

Friday, June 22, 2012

In Santiago

In Santiago

I arrived in Santiago yesterday, and despite weather predictions, it was sunny all day. I am now ensconced in my own room in a pension, in the historic part of the city, only about 100m from the Cathedral. I am enjoying the space and the privacy after many nights of dorm living! And I probably won't get out of bed until at least 9am!!

After walking the last few kms into the city, I got my Compostela from the Pilgrim Office. Those of you who follow the Santiago Forum will know of Johnnie Walker. Well, he was the one who put the final stamps on my credentials, and who wrote out my Compostela and gave it to me. The timing for meeting him there was extraordinary. I had absolutely dawdled into town, thinking about those I had known last time I walked into Santiago, and I even diverted to the bus station en route. The initial queue had gone when I arrived at the Pilgrim Office, and I had no sooner walked up the stairs than who should bound in, but Johnnie Walker himself! If I had been any earlier I would have missed him.

Then I went to the Pilgrim Mass. They tell you to go early if you want a seat, so there ends up being this extraordinary time before Mass of people seeing others they met along the way, and greeting them or embracing them. In and around the Cathedral in the next few hours, I met nearly all the people I most wanted to see. And we all had reason to be thankful to a group of bus-a-grinos I think, as the botafumiero flew, and was spectacular. They put a huge amount of incense into it: the smell of olden-day pilgrims who didn't have albergues every night with showers must have needed quite some overpowering!

And as I sat in that Mass today, I was thinking about the heroism people had shown to get there. It did require a lot of perseverance at times, and I guess everyone had respect for the effort others had made. I also thought about everyone at home.

Afterwards I found a local restaurant for a lunch menu that included delicious Gallego soup and even a plate of shellfish. Then I wandered, just enjoying the sights and sounds of the city in the sunshine. I saw pilgrims out shopping, in the process of turning back into 'ordinary' folk. At 4pm I saw a Virtual tour of the Portico of Glory, which is mostly still covered up in the painstaking process of restoration. And at 6pm I stumbled on a concert in one of the squares adjoining the Cathedral. The city came alive in the early evening, full of people out in the streets.

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In Santiago

In Santiago

I have reached Santiago. It is sunny! Dawdled into town thinking about my 2008 Camino buddies. Got to Pilgrim Office at same time as Johnnie Walker who gave me my Compostela. Amazingly, saw all those I especially wanted to see in and around the Cathedral.

Booked in for a free tour of the Portica de Gloria soon. More later!

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Monte de Gozo

Monte de Gozo

Had such a relaxing evening at Pousada de Salceda- everyone was just sitting outside in the sunshine or shade, chilling out.

And it was so quiet in the dorm this morning. I woke at 6.20am and it was dead silent!! So I was the first one to get up and I tried hard to be quiet.

I had about 8kms to walk to reach Arca. The track played tag with the highway a bit, which meant I at least found a bar for some breakfast. I was amazed to find I had the Camino pretty much to myself until lunchtime- as I arrived in Arca after most of that crowd had left for Santiago, and it was ages before the faster walkers from Arzua caught me up...

I remember last time taking photos with Lyne and Denis at the 16km marker, then having to bury the camera in the pack when it started pouring with rain. This time the rain held off, with just a smidgen of drizzle nearing Monte de Gozo. The skies look leaden and full of wet stuff that wants to fall though, so I hope it isn't too wet an arrival into Santiago in the morning!!!

Quite a bit of the route from Arca was in forest, but at the end was the interminable road to Monte de Gozo. At least I could see what was near that road this time though: last time the mist was very thick.

Ahhh my laundry has nearly finished and the rain has arrived....

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Doing Laundry

In the olden days pilgrims used to clean themselves up at Lavacolla- using river water I think- before they entered the holy city of Santiago. In my case I am using the laundry machines at Monte de Gozo. And so I can wash both my walking shorts and my after-walking trousers, I am wearing long johns. I am also sitting on the laundry floor as there are no seats. Very glamorous indeed. Fortunately, glamour is not a requirement to get a Compostela in the morning. And neither are clean clothes, but I will feel better!

It tells me laundry detergent is automatically added to this machine. I hope so. Last time I used a machine I forgot to add any!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Nearing Santiago

Nearing Santiago

Less than 30km to go now for Santiago. Enjoyed today's pleasant walk very much, largely through forest. Arrived early in Arzua and soon passed through. Was hoping I wouldn't have to walk all the way to Arca, and was lucky. Found a hotel just off the Camino that has a small albergue. Real Towel provided. Heaven. I was a bit lucky to get the last albergue bed, as most people 'in the know' have reserved to stay here. Sun is shining and there is even a goldfish pond to enjoy.

People are all anticipating their arrival in Santiago with excitement. Rain is forecast: will I need to buy an umbrella?

Wasn't sure what would happen in Santiago as the place seems quite full on my arrival, but found a flyer on the track, and the kind lady here has reserved three nights for me.

So, tomorrow it's the last long walk to Monte de Gozo. Will do my laundry I hope, then walk into the Cathedral the next morning, the 21st.

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Pousada de Salceda

Today I am staying in a wonderful place in Salceda where they have even given us Real Towels in the Albergue! It's mainly a hotel. And the lady has kindly rung up and reserved three nights in Santiago for me, so that seems all sorted!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In Melide

It was a fairly simple walk today, and yeah, the rain stayed away!!! It was a very peaceful night in the small albergue at Eirexe, with some people in bed very early, and everyone considerate of other people's need for sleep. The rooster started its crowing at just after 5am, but wasn't too loud as it seemed to be inside a shed. I arose just after 6am and was on the road by 6.30am.

Reached Palas de Rei 8km later and had breakfast in a nice cafe-bar on the route. There was also a shoe shop that carried some pilgrim goods, and she was doing a roaring trade in rain ponchos: I guess a few people must have got a good drenching yesterday afternoon.

The route today involved a few bits on quiet roads, but was often through forest that was very pleasant. Good easy walking mostly and I made good time, and was pleased that the gel I used seemed to be working well on my leg. I might make it through to Santiago on the 21st yet... if I can manage a long day tomorrow...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A misty morning

I had a comfy bunk and slept well while I could, in between the

10.30pm'ers who came in and turned the lights on despite most others

being asleep... and the 5.30amers who started rustling plastic bags!

Can you tell I am a little 'over' dorm life?- but not long to go


I was hoping to make it some 24km to Palas de Rei today, but have

stopped here in the little village of Ligonde instead. My leg felt

good after the gel I applied yesterday, and I was able to walk really

well for about 15km, much of it climbing. But then it started

complaining again so I have called a halt for the day at lunchtime,

after about 17km. I was feeling like a wimp, but the little 18 bed

albergue has already more than half filled up within half an hour of

opening, so I guess I am not the only wimp. There is nothing much to

do around here other than rest, so I guess that is what I will be

doing quite soon. Then I will aim for Melide tomorrow, and take some

shorter stages to arrive in Santiago maybe just a day later than I had


I knew there was a big climb out of Portomarin this morning so I was

ready for it! It was quite lovely up through forest. What else was

able to be seen I am not at all sure as there was very thick mist that

lasted until about 10.30am. It added to the 'mystery' in this ancient

land where the Celts wandered.

At one stage I passed the body of a dead fox on the track, which was a

little sad. There are signs about the wildlife in some of the areas we

are passing through, but this was the first wild animal other than a

rabbit that I have spied.

Anyhow, time is nearly up- I am off to put my feet up!

To Portomarin

Sarria to Portomarin today. Managed to ignore somebody´s 5.30am alarm clock and rose more like an hour later: there aren't hot temperatures making an early start desirable at present. Headed to the Italian restarant just up the road for its buffet breakfast that included muesli and it was a great spread. Unfortunately my body has had a train wreck day, and part one was that yesterday's sensitive tooth decided to be too painful to eat on this morning. (Fran I'll be e-mailing to get that dentist appointment a few days earlier!!)

Left Sarria under grey skies that soon turned to drizzle, to 'soft rain' and finally to persistent quite heavy rain that gave everybody a good drenching for a few kilometres. I felt especially sorry for the two Spaniards from my Sarria dorm just starting out on Day 1, but I guess the rain is the reason Galicia is so lush and green. Sort of like home really.

Stopped at a cafe for a drink, and somebody arrived who spoke English and I told him I had toothache. Magically he produced these aspirin powders from his bag, that you don't need water for- and they worked very quickly to give huge relief,. So maybe instead of the abscess I imagined, I just had a tooth being majorly sensitive. Time will tell. Anyhow, I bought some aspirin tablets from the pharmacy this arvo- part one of dealing with the 'train wreck', but they never had the powder form.

Amazingly the rain pretty much stopped after that cafe and it became quite sunny and warmish- low 20s so fine for walking. Beautiful countryside, lots of trees and stone walls and every so often a farming hamlet. And bars where you can drink a lemon drink, eat a tortilla, and carry on again refreshed, These days even the rural bars might well have a wifi code they can give you.

Part two of the train wreck scenario was a sore shin after yesterday, first time I have had this. But I had another encounter with Shannon from NY, under the shade of a leafy deciduous tree, and she produced anti-inflammatory gel from her backpack and that helped. So, the pharmacy also sold me some of that this arvo. I guess I will still make to to Santiago, but might make shorter days than planned, and a couple more of them, and be doped up on gel and aspirin when I arrive! Last part of the train wreck involves some insect bites I got on my feet that are looking nasty after two days walking, but hopefully they will soon look a bit better as well...

So, the sun is shining this evening- but who knows what the weather will bring tomorrow in Galicia...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Samos & Sarria

Samos & Sarria

I thought today was going to be a fairly straightforward easy one of 21km, but it turned out to be a more challenging 26km or so...

Last time I took the quicker forest route through to Sarria. It had its hills and challenges but was mostly very pretty. But Lyne, Denis and Francis all raved about the monastery at Samos so I thought I had better go that way this time!

My guide for this trip is just the small Michelin one that I chose for its lightness. It's fine for most purposes but only ever gives one route. And today the only route it gave for the second part of the journey was the quick route along the road. That wasn't where the yellow arrows took me!

My first 'mistake' of the day was not having a proper breakfast before I left Triacastela: there wasn't another bar until Samos, 9km away.

The first three km of the route was via the roadside edge. The road wasn't too busy though, and it was along a river gorge, so you got to hear the water flowing as you walked.

But then the first unexpected treat of the day came along: the Camino headed off the road and along a forest path that was just beautiful. And every so often you passed through small farming villages. Again, it was mostly beside a flowing river and the sound was lovely to listen to.

The best thing about this path was that it arrived to give you a viewpoint of the whole monastery complex from above. Stunning.

It took me about three hours to reach Samos, at about 9.30am, just in time for some breakfast before the monastery opened at 10am. Except there was a muck- up and the food never arrived...

The monastery was stunning. Guided tour was all in Spanish so had to look with the eyes. Still a 'living' monastery with monks in residence so we just saw part of it.

Then I headed off along the road for Sarria. 11km the sign said. And my little guide showed the Camino heading that way. But the yellow arrows and Camino signs pointed another way, which I've since learned was 16km- making a day of some 26km I hadn't properly prepared for in terms of food or water....

However the route was beautiful- some forest and some past farms. And the Galician deciduous forest is so lush and green at present. The hamlets were tiny and I couldn't find any on my map. I was clearly on the less travelled route. I alternated between thinking I should enjoy every moment of this peace and calm as it would no longer exist after Sarria; and worrying that I was getting dehydrated with no water fountains to fill up from.

I have always carried two water bottles before, and today was the first time I had decided that was unnecessary as there were so many fountains. I ended up with a sore calf for the first time so I am making sure I drink heaps this evening. There's no way I want tendonitis at this stage!

Eventually the route joined up with the main route directly from Triacastela. And then I came to a bar with some angels running it. Had a cold drink then potato omelet done the real way in the kitchen, and served hot by the elderly lady who cooked and served it with a gracious smile. My angel for today.

So then it was 4km into Sarria, and I knew it was a bit of a haul up the hill but was ready for it, and there was a bed and a shower at Don Alvaro where I stayed last time. Huge number of people here who I have seen before. Funny how we are choosing the same albergues! There's also a nice Spanish couple here who are starting tomorrow so are unsure what lies ahead. All of their gear looks new and clean, unlike for the rest of us!!!

Oh and good news for tomorrow. The Italian place up the road serves a buffet breakfast from 6.30am that includes muesli. I'll be there!

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Descent to Triacastela

Descent to Triacastela

It was a night for the snoring symphony: the person who invented earplugs deserves a Nobel Prize. Then it was the Early Morning Ruckus in our dorm- so at 5.46am I gave up and got up!

That meant I did walk with the sky pink with the dawn. The weather was quite fine to start with and the views beautiful,

I did know this time that yesterday didn't mean the end of the climbing. There were two more steep little grunts- the biggest one up to Alto de Poio. I think it was easier that I knew it was coming.

Once up to Alto de Poio, we became more exposed to the weather. The wind had come up and it was quite cold; and it was trying hard to rain but mainly it was drizzle. It was time for the warm layers in my pack to be pressed into use again. I love walking in these conditions much more than in the heat- reminds me of home.

In fact the whole hilly Galician landscape reminds me of home, except we don't have the stone walls.

It was a pleasant day's walk and the sun even managed to shine as I descended lower. Passed through several farming villages, and saw many grey stone houses with slate roofs.

Starting to re-see a lot more people who are walking at the same pace as me which is nice.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Climbing O'Cebreiro

Climbing O'Cebreiro

Today was the day for the last 'mountain' climb, and I am now in Galicia.

The last few days have been drizzly, but the weather today was just superb- sunny and warm, but not too hot.

I left Trabadelo early- around 6am- to get the last of the roadside walking behind me. I thought I had about 8km of it to do, but was pleased to find that after about 5kms the most tiresome part was behind me. There was still a bit of relatively flat walking through a couple more villages, but by quieter roads.

It gets light a bit later here on the western end of Spain, so the dawn chorus was in full swing as I began. And for quite a long way the route passed close to the rio Valcarce, so there was a delightful sound of running water.

Basically you climb some 700m in altitude over some 9km. The steepest bits mostly come on the 3km of ascent to La Faba, but the track passes through lovely forest. It was a trifle muddy today after recent rain, but not too bad.

After La Faba the track looks out on beautiful views as it climbs higher. I saw a large bird of prey gliding high in the sky as I neared the top.

I met quite a few people on the climb today that I have met along the way, so that was grand!

I was pretty pleased to find I felt quite fit with the climb. Compared to a few of my Cluny route climbs, it wasn't too taxing at all, and I enjoyed it all.

Like last time I decided to stop here in O'Cebreiro to spend some time enjoying the views, and I am in the Xunta albergue. On a top bunk. Arrrgh!

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Climbing O'Cebreiro

Getting closer to the top- climbing O'Cebreiro on a beautiful day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Ahhhhh it really was bliss in the hotel last night- so comfy and tranquil- and Rom has suggested I am now a posh-a-grino! But I am back in a municipal albergue in Trabadelo tonight- very nice albergue it is though, with a lovely downstairs lounge and kitchen area, and separate showers for the women.

Took the back route from Cacabelos once the turn-off came. I know I liked it last time, past vineyards etc. Don´t have my map book here but next place was Villafranca I think, and that looks like such an interesting town, well worth exploring, but the pilgrim feet kept moving on as O'Cebreiro is calling. Lyne and Denis, I had a cold lemon drink on the terrace of the bar by the river, and thought of you there!

Pilgrim  feet had a hard surface for most of the rest of the walk, on a hard shoulder beside the road- but thankfully there is a dividing barrier from the road. Road isn't too busy either, as most traffic seems to be on the nearby motorway, which makes its presence felt occasionally, more by the sight of big overbridges than anything. There was occasional light rain along the valley but nothing too heavy.The very nicest bit of the valley walk was that you were right next to the river most of the time, and could hear it rushing by.

I had thought I might walk on another 5km to the next albergue, but in the end the hard surface this morning, and good memories of this albergue from last time won out. So I'll just have to be up early to walk those few extra kms in the morning before I start the climb of O'Cebreiro...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hotel in Cacabelos!

Hotel in Cacabelos!

Well, after all the beauty and drama of yesterday's mountain walk, today's was more 'ordinary'. Quite a bit of it was through Ponferrada and other built up areas. I can't complain too much though, as I skillfully avoided the built-up parts of both Leon and Burgos with my bus jumps!

Saw quite a few more stork nests along the way, and the chicks are quite large now and you can often see them poking up. Also we are back in an area with quite a few vineyards.

And tonight I am even in a 3-star hotel in Cacabelos! There were big billboards up along the way advertising this hotel- Hotel Villa de Cacabelos- and finally one with a special pilgrim price for a single. The idea seemed very attractive, especially as it was raining on and off for the whole day's walk, and I knew the albergue here had a fairly 'outdoor' layout. So, I have been luxuriating on my very own bed- not bunk- for the whole afternoon, and enjoyed a lovely long shower in my very own bathroom with real towels. Plus I have sent my laundry to be done at a very reasonable rate. And best of all, nobody can wake me with their snoring or their 4.30am start tomorrow. I could get used to this lifestyle!

I think some are a bit mystified by my shoes, which are looking decidedly worn out, though I've only been walking in Spain for just less than two weeks. But today when I asked for a sello for my credential in a bar, the bar owner was most impressed with it: it had all the stamps from the Cluny end that he had never seen before. I was given a very genuine Buen Camino as I left,

Today was also the day that twice i had my photo taken with someone because I was a Kiwi. First up was an Italian man who is making a slideshow with photos of him and pilgrims from various countries. I was the only Kiwi he'd met- though I've heard there is a Kiwi just behind and two others not far ahead. Then a Frenchman who is a rabid All Blacks fan wanted my photo.

Ahhh well it is now close to 6pm. Time for this fraudulent pilgrim to venture out to see the shops nearby, and work out where to eat my dinner!

Another jump along the way tomorrow, then next day it will be time to climb O'Cebreiro.

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Cruz de Ferro

This morning it was time to climb to the Cruz de Ferro. Last time the mist was so thick I could barely see it, but today there was just some drizzly rain. It´s at about 1500m, so quite high altitude really. Once I got there we were exposed to the wind, so I grabbed out my little woollen hat and pulled on my polyprops. Carrying them wasn't a waste after all!

I loved the whole mountain walk today. Lots of schist underfoot, and many beautiful alpine plants. Though there was some mist around, I also got to see many of the surrounding mountains this time. Actually felt quite at home, as the conditions were very much like typical New Zealand tramping weather. And given that we were at 1500m, the conditions were quite benign really.

Slipped in some loose shingle at the entrance to the village of El Acebo- foot went right under me- amazing I never broke it really. St Jacques looking after me again.

Weather quite different after our 1000m descent- sunny and needed my sunhat here in Molinaseca. Time for dinner now. Am ravenous after that 26km of mountain exertion!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Astorga- Gaudi

Today I visited Gaudi's episcopal palace here in Astorga. I am trying hard to look like an ordinary tourist instead of a pilgrim, but the clothes are a bit if a dead give-away.


Well, after my day on the buses yesterday, I am a ´real´ pilgrim again today. I was quite glad the day never started too early though. I was in an 'overflow' room I think, with beds rather than bunks, and there were only three of us in it. One was a quiet woman and the other was a man who snored, so I had put my ear plugs in early in the night. So I never heard any of the 'early leavers' at all. It was 6.15 before I woke, and that is 'late' by pilgrim standards.

Today there was a choice at the end of Hospital de Orbigo: either you took the highway route or the back country route, and I knew that last time I loved the back country route. I loved it again today: it never disappointed!

I had breakfast at the café in Villares de Orbigo, then headed off towards the next village. The route was even prettier than I remembered from last time, and there was even quite a bit of forest I had forgotten. I loved the bit when the last uphill climb led to a red mud building ahead on the flat at the top. Last time it was scorching hot by the time I got there, but today I had my jersey on until I had nearly arrived in Astorga- amazing to have it so cold after all the very hot days we have had!

I am in the public albergue you reach once you get to the top of the hill at the end of the interminable slog into Astorga- and it is beautiful and clean. There are Japanese hospitaleros here who all seem to be multilingual- they speak Spanish and some English.

I have had a little 'explore' in the city. Saw the Roman museum and was amazed by the underground tunnel construction. Discovered that modern Astorga is a real centre for chocolate manufacturing- such a shame I don´t carry a refrigerator in my pack. Got to see Gaudi´s episcopal palace this time, and once again was amazed by his genius and the way he uses space. Bought a couple of rehydration sachets for the next time it´s very hot- so watch it be cold all the way to Santiago now!!!

Scary Dude

I took the 'back country' route from Hospital de Orbigo this morning. Only very slightly longer than the 'highway' route, and a beautiful section of the Camino. I feel quite sorry for those who miss it. Anyhow, you pass this 'scarecrow' dude- at least that's what I thought he was last time. Today I went closer and saw he was a sculpture.

Friday, June 08, 2012

In Hospital de Orbigo

Well, everything went very smoothly on my bus-a-grino day. There was quite a collection of peregrinos waiting for various buses in Santa Domingo de la Calzada. First bus took just over an hour to Burgos. Next bus left from same bus station and it was an easy matter to buy a ticket. So I discovered how pilgrims who skip the Meseta do it so easily: Bus took three hours to Léon. Wasn´t sure what my transport options were from there and was hoping I could get/ understand the info I needed at the bus station without heading into town to the Tourist Info place.  Even better as it turned out, there was a bus with a clear label on the front at a nearby departure point, just about ready to leave, and it was one I could just pay cash for. So on I hopped and after not much more than half an hour I was at Hospital de Orbigo.

And I would have to say, I was soooooo glad I took this last bus option. Last time we suffered walking by the busy main highway in scorching heat all the way to San Martin del Camino. That is a penance you only need to suffer once in a lifetime as far as I am concerned!!!!! I am not being too loud about it here in the albergue though where I am sure there are more than a few tired pilgrims who walked it today.

I wasn't sure if I would be able to get into the albergue straight away as I hadn´t walked today: But there was ample room and I had no problem. My credential was full of stamps, and the guy seemed to like the fact the last one was at Santo Domingo, so in I waltzed, a bus pilgrim for the day!

Tomorrow I will go to Astorga. There has been a very pleasant drop off in the heat level today, so I am hoping it is not as hot when I arrive there to explore tomorrow as it was last time. Gaudi´s building should be open for viewing on a Friday too I hope. And I hope to make it to Santiago by the 22nd or 23rd...

Thursday, June 07, 2012



Today I am a bus-a-grino. I am taking buses to Burgos then Leon then hopefully Hospital de Orbigo. Hope to reach Santiago around June 22nd. Then head back to France before my flight home!

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People and places

People and places

Last night it felt a bit strange at the albergue, beautiful place that it was. I don't seem to have fallen in with a 'lower speed' cohort on this Camino. Most others I meet seem to be doing 30km+ days so each night I am with different people. I realized this morning that maybe my 'slowies' are all staying in the bigger centers that I have been missing.

Then I ended up walking a while this morning with two lovely young women. First one was from Denmark. She had been walking with the same crowd, staying in the same places. But she had just done a long day to get ahead of the bunch as she wanted some space walking alone to think- that was what she had come on the Camino for.

Next I met a young Irish woman who walked the Camino five years back. She'd also just stepped ahead of a party central crowd. She was only walking a week or so, and some of them were saying she was not a true peregrina, walking for such a short time. But she knew what I've discovered, that when you've been there once, you soon slip right back into pilgrim mode. You notice every detail of the natural world around you. And you have memories of people you walked with, in the places you met them.

So Lyne, Denis and Francis were all my mind today. I still recognized the place where Francis caught up to us and began walking with us for a while. And Lyne and Denis, I still remembered the place where you took a rest stop with a bad knee at the top of the hill leading down to Santo Domingo, and then I never saw you again until Burgos... And today was the day when Francis and I both spent the night at Granon. All special memories of people with places.

And today finally I got to see those hens and rooster in the cathedral here in Santo Domingo. Last time I was here, the place was all closed up until Sunday Mass. And it was raining and I walked on until Granon...

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012


Today I am in the same town and albergue I was in in 2008, for the first time in Spain... It´s a lovely albergue in Azofra with rooms that just have two beds in them. But last time I was here, on nearly the same date, it was bitterly cold! There is a foot pool outside that last time must have been like ice, but this time I will wait a bit until the heat has gone out of the sun somewhat before I gratefully use it!

Had a really pleasant evening in Ventosa yesterday. There were some lovely ladies from various countries in the dorm, and the garden outside led to some very communal chats, all with the background sound of the little waterfall feature.

As promised, the music went on in the albergue at 6am for us to wake up. I arose then, and by the time I headed off outside, the sun was just rising. One of the great things about staying in village albergues is that you are immediately out in the countryside for the start of the day´s walk, and that helps give a great sense of wellbeing.

Today´s walk was an especially wonderful one, past many vineyards, and with mountains in the distance. There was a bit of a climb to start with that soon opened up to a view of the basin below where Najera lay with a little mist in places. There were lots of mountains and hills surrounding the basin, including some very flat-topped plateau ones. The sun was shining, and the world was just a delicious place to be! A Swiss woman from the albergue joined me for a while, and it was like we shared a bit of heaven.

In Najera, the sun made the cliffs behind the town look very red, and I saw a few storks´ nests up high. Most of the remaining vineyards for the morning´s walk also had the same red soil, and the colours in the landscape were again just superb.

I arrived in Azofra before lunch, and had to decide whether to walk on another 10km in the midday heat, or have a ´slow´day and stay here. Not a hard choice really when you are me! Soon had my 'evening' change of clothes out on the laundry line, and will put them on to wash my walking set soon. Have had a delicious lunch in the local restaurant, and can now go have my siesta.

I am only going to be walking one more day in this part of Spain, to Santo Domingo de la Calzada tomorrow. Then the plan is to catch buses on to Leon. I finally worked out my 'dates' last night and realised I really only have two more walking weeks left, and decided that a straight through walk from Leon to Santiago was the best option. It's funny, but it is as if I feel the tug of all the preceding millions of pilgrims along the Camino to arrive there. It's like a strong current I can't ignore- though when I arrived in Spain, I wasn't at all sure if I would go to Santiago at all.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Sometimes you just gotta sit

This afternoon I am in Ventosa. It seems like lots of people from Logrono have walked on to Najera for a 31 km day- but. not me. And while they are still slaving away in the heat I am resting in the beautiful back garden in the albergue here in Ventosa.

There is a little waterfall feature that is so restful to listen to, and I'm in a shady spot under the sun umbrella. And the village is so small I can't even explore very far. So I can just relax in the warmth. Eat your hearts out Kiwis!

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Torres del Rio

Here I am doing my pose in front of the remarkable chapel in Torres del Rio. The formation of the arches inside to make the dome is just remarkable.


The colours of the wheatfields and hills and vineyards and earth and sky have been magnificent! 32C might be hard work in the afternoons but the colours are so vibrant. I love it!

Villamayor de Jardin

My view from the albergue at Villamayor de Jardin. I'm sitting on the doorstep in a shady part of the terrace. The very old parish church is below me, and it's definitely the coolest place in town: its thick walls keep it that way!

Torres del Rio

Torres del Rio or similar name today: Hot again but maybe a little less withj some cloud. Supposed to rain today later and get cooler tomorrow. I can then do a Kiwi rain dance!

Had lovely dinner at Villamayor de Monjardin, then left after hearty breakfast this morning. Made good time in the cooler morning to Los Arcos, and never felt ´lost´in the 13km of crops and fields like last time. Then headed on a very straight piece of Camino towards Torres del Rio- not sure if I have the name right. Met a Kiwi who I saw in Moissac while sitting having a lemonade in Los Arcos, and of course she wanted to know how come I was ahead of her. She isn´t in same albergue as she spooted some people come in here who woke her getting up at 4.30am this morning. Arrrrgh hope they don´t repeat the performance as I am in the same room as them.

Marvellous church here that opens for viewing at 4.30pm.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Lorca to Villamayor de Monjardin

Lorca to Villamayor de Monjardin

Enjoyed the albergue at Lorca very much- Hose was such a friendly and hard-working hospitalero with a wonderful sense of humour. He cooked us a great walkers' menu in the evening and there were four Italian cyclists at the table. Communication became much easier when we realized French was a common second language.

Saw the same cyclists again this morning when I was taking a break on a seat at the far end of Estella. I'd walked a good ten km by then as I'd left at 6am to avoid the heat. I think they were surprised to see me, but we passed some friendly greetings.

I pulled into the Bodegas Irache fountain at the same time as two French tourists in a van. They were surprised to see me fill up my water bottle instead of using the wine tap. But then a group of cyclists came along and they all went big time for the water tap as well!

I knew the next 9 km to Villamayor would be harder in the heat, but it wasn't too bad as some sections were shaded by bush. And even the final climb in the open wasn't too bad as I knew it was the end for the day. Earliest albergue arrival yet at around 12.30, but it's another day of 32C. At least it's a dry heat. The locals say it isn't usually this hot yet. There is supposed to be a storm later tomorrow then a bit cooler on Sunday. I hope so!

Am in the albergue at Villamayor run by some very friendly people. It's jumping with Italian voices again. I think their guidebooks must aim for in-between places like I am. It's the first place I've been to where people were pouring in at lunchtime, but I think quite a few people are doing shorter stages in the heat.

There used to be a parish albergue here too but it closed two years ago when part of a roof collapsed, so if you want to stay here if is probably best not to arrive too late in the day.

An exhausted looking man has just arrived (4.30pm) to find it completo. He can sleep on the terrace here but he was still thinking about going on to Los Arcos. 'I can handle it' he said. One of the bar staff and I seem to have talked him out of it in English. He has already walked 30km in today's heat, and the man at the bar just told him it would be dangerous to continue: there is no shade and no houses etc in next 13km or so. His desperation for a shower seemed to be driving him- and I think he was already affected by the heat as well as very sunburned.

So, what do you do in the afternoon in this heat? You can siesta. Or you can go visit the very old church: its thick walls make it the coolest place in town!

Oh and I realize I have been so busy talking about the heat I haven't told you that this is a very beautiful stage again- lots of hills and mountains to view, and plenty of vineyards. And nothing beats walking in the early morning with the birdsong, and then the sun gradually spreading its light over the plants and the landscape.

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Friday, June 01, 2012


This is the albergue in Lorca I gratefully arrived at, after several hours of walking in the heat. Lovely hospitalero took one look at the sweat dropping off me and offered to take me straight upstairs so I could have a shower before checking in Have since learned it was 32C here today, so I guess I can be excused for feeling the effects of it all.

Cold lemonade

This is the seat in the albergue in Lorca where I gratefully sat to have an ice-cold lemonade!