Category Archives: From the Road

Mt. Whitney or Bust!

Relax. Jonathan and I are not climbing Mt. Whitney. Although, we plan on finding inspiration from my Aunt Lorraine and Uncle Tom as they set their sights on the summit this weekend.

Go Lorraine and Tom!!! You can do it. Remember, just put one foot in front of the other and repeat.

Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the contiguous US. (14,497 ft / 4418,69 m). I’m not sure which route they are taking but I saw something about 36 miles! I’m impressed that they even are attempting this “hike”.

I’m hoping for a safe journey and more marmot sightings than bears. Take lots of photos.

Buen Camino!

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The lady of the house.

There’s a new lady of the house and she really knows how to run the place.

Meet Maddie Poggibonsi Cheetoh Hull Moskow.

You may be thinking that’s quite a long name for such a little dog, but this little lady has earned her namesake. Maddie, because it wasn’t too far from her previous name of “Sheppy”, but far prettier. Poggibonsi, because this was the name of a town we visited in Italy that we thought just sounded so cute we wanted to use it as an adjective for anything adorable. Cheetoh, because of her coloring and my love for the Cheetoh. And then our surnames, because she completes our family.

Originally, we were told by the rescue that she was 7 months old and 29 lbs. We later discovered that she was 39 lbs. and 6 months old, so our little pup still has some growing to do. She came with a swollen lymph node, but were told that it would go away eventually. After a few days it increased in size and she looked half chipmunk. Once lab tests came in from our vet, it was confirmed that she had an infection and antibiotics would help. A few days of scratching and with a little help from the vet, the abscess reduced dramatically and we saw signs a new pup had taken over. The once mellow and extremely behaved dog had been taken over by this rambunctious little puppy! Poor thing, must have been feeling so sick.

Aside from the occasional nip, fear of baths, and over excitement at seeing other dogs, she is about 95% potty trained, knows sit and (sometimes) down, she loves her chew toys. Especially, Dino-bone and the cube that hides treats inside, from one of her grandmothers. Once she’s healed up, we will be taking her to puppy school so she can learn how to be top of the class, and be a proper lady.

I think she’s almost as happy to be here as we are happy to have her. We look forward to the years of lint rolling fur off our clothes and furniture.

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You like walking. I like walking. What a small world. Next chapter.

This was the subject line from my first email to Jonathan and today marks the 7 year anniversary of my first date with him. Queue awwwws.

He’d say ‘it feels longer‘. I’d say (echoing my mother) ‘no takebacks‘.

I think after the Camino, we’d walk through pretty much anything together. Here’s to many more walks. With fewer “potato rocks” and less rain please.

We walked the Camino and all I got was this piece of paper.

We sure didn’t walk for the fame, the glory and definitely not fortune. That would be very un-Camino.

While I questioned my reasons for walking at times, I never questioned the desire to see it to the end. I cherish this simple piece of paper. Jonathan liked to point out that there is no Latin translation of Lindsay so he feels his compostela is better than mine. Not to mention the fact that he didn’t leave me by the roadside, means that he gets “an extra special place in heaven”. Oh, sweet husband. Whatevs, my awesomeness needs no documentation. This paper is a testament to never giving up and finishing what you start. I always can use the reminder.

It’s been fun to go through photos we took on the Camino. I realized taking pictures while you’re walking doesn’t result in very sharp photos, so there may be some blurry ones. I couldn’t stop. Jonathan wouldn’t let me out of fear I would never start back up again. I’ll have to get more descriptive on each, so I remember where they were taken, but that’s more time than I’m willing to devote at the moment. If you want to see a link to an abbreviated “best of” photos you can find them here.

I also put together a list of all the places we stayed. The pilgrim credentials were helpful since we got stamps at each place. I like to point out that my credentials wear the Camino well with the watermarked pages which I think happen to be symbolic of our rain-soaked Camino, aka “Rafting Trip 2012”.

Some people believe true pilgrims only stay in albergues and that somehow makes your pilgrimage more authentic. Kudos, if you are one of these pilgrims and choose to do it this way. This wasn’t our Way. We had some good stays and some not so good stays. In the end we were most successful with the private rooms in private albergues. I think the weather we endured could’ve earned us 5 star accommodations the entire way in my opinion. While I think it is important to experience the albergues, I think it’s more important to sleep well so you can make it through the next day successfully and maybe even enjoy some of it. Plus, with all the crazy things I had to do with my feet private rooms were more appropriate. I also think had it been nicer weather where you could spend more downtime outside, the albergue experience would’ve been dramatically different. We can count on one hand the number of times the weather allowed us outside at the end of the day to drink cervezas with pilgrims or enjoy a cafe con leche in the morning sun.

I won’t write descriptions for each (email me if you want more specific info), but this is where we stayed:

  1. St. Jean: Hotel Ramuntcho
  2. Roncevalles: Albergue (it’s huge, but not sure of the official name)
    The newly remodeled albergue is a must stay for any pilgrim. Just don’t expect the rest to be as nice. Bunk bed cubicles in groups of four. Hot showers. A little noisy, but nice.
  3. Zubiri: Zaldiko (Priv. Albergue)
  4. Cizur Menor: Albergue Roncal(Priv. Albergue)
    This is where magical Marabel lives. She runs this albergue and is a magician with feet. She showed me the best way to care for blisters which I’ll post on later. I’m glad we stayed here instead of Pamplona. On a nice day everyone was outside reading or doing laundry. Decent facilities but the highlight was the turtle pond.  
  5. Puente la Reina: Hotel Jakue
    Spent two days here to heal feet some. Worth it for the buffet alone. Nice stay. 
  6. Estella: Juvenil Oncineda (Muni. Albergue)
  7. Los Arcos: Casa de Abuela (Priv. Albergue)
    Great private room on the top floor. Nice kitchen. Near the church which is pretty incredible inside.
  8. Viana: Andres Muñoz (Muni. Albergue)
    Winner of the worst albergue we stayed in on the Camino. Bed bugs, gross laundry room, triple decker bunk beds, stuffy room, screaming neighbors, rude hospitalero.  
  9. Navarrete: (Priv. Albergue)
  10. Azofra: (Muni. Albergue)
    2 bed cubicles were a treat. Seemed newish. Co-ed bathroom. Laundry. During summer, the courtyard would be really nice with the fountain. Nice people running it.
  11. Castildelgado: Hostal El Chocolatero
  12. Villafranca: Hotel San Anton Abad
    Nice bathrooms. Private room through the bunk room which was a little awkward. Really nice pilgrim’s meal. The ladies running the place were so incredibly nice and accommodating. Geese outside.
  13. San Juan de Ortega: Alojamiento Rural-La Henera (Casa Rural)
  14. Burgos: Hotel Velada
    Where Martin Sheen stayed part of the time when filming The Way. Really great deal on a nice room. We had to do laundry here and they had it done in 2 hours!
  15. Hontanas: El Puntido (Priv. Albergue)
  16. Boadilla: En El Camino (Priv. Albergue)
    Family run operation. You can tell they enjoy what they do. Great family style dinner and breakfast. Again, in summer it would be nice with the little pool they had in the garden area.  
  17. Carrion de los Condes: Hostal la Corte
  18. Terradillos de los Templarios: Albergue de los Templarios (Priv. Albergue)
  19. Hermanillos de la Calzada: (Muni. Albergue)
  20. Mansilla de Las Mulas: El Postigo (Hostal)
  21. Leon: Hotel Paris
    Nicest room we stayed in on the Camino, after Hotel Compostela at the end. Slept great here. Good location too. 
  22. Villar de Mazarife: San Antonio de Padua (Priv. albergue)
  23. Astorga: La Peseta (Hotel)
  24. Foncebadon: Convento de Foncebadon (Priv. Albergue)
    This place was nice and clean. A little surly on the staff side but we ate the vegetarian meal at the wildly popular Monte Irago a couple doors up the hill. They were super nice there and the meal was amazing. Judith even got an hour massage for 20 euros! 
  25. Ponferrada: Hotel El Castillo
  26. Villafranca del Bierzo: Albergue de La Piedra (Priv. Albergue)
  27. La Faba: Parroquia de San Andres (Muni. Albergue)
    German run parish house. Nice man that was running it at the time. If the weather was nice, being outside would’ve helped. It was next door to a 15th century church. Worst beds though. And only 2 restrooms for 35+ pilgrims (women/men). Let’s just say we were happy that we were one of the first to arrive. After the muddy and wet day, there wasn’t any surface that didn’t have someone’s clothes hanging on it to dry. Lots of men’s bikini briefs and women’s granny panties. 
  28. Triacastela: Complexo Xacobeo (Priv. Albergue)
    Probably the best private room albergue. After a hellish day coming down O’Cebreiro this was a treat.  We had a private room on the top floor which had windows facing the hills and a small patio and spacious bathroom. Great restaurant too.
  29. Sarria: Albergue Ultreia
  30. Palas de Rei: Casa Benilde (Hotel)
  31. Arzua: Meson do Peregrino (Hostel)
  32. Arca/Pedrouzo: Albergue o’ Burgo (Network Hostel)
  33. Santiago: Hotel Compostela
    Great location and value for a nicer end hotel. The AC didn’t work in the first room we had and with the doors open we didn’t sleep with the partying going on until 5am. They upgraded us to another room with a private balcony which was even better. Only 5 minute walk to the Cathedral and steps from the historic district.  
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Trading boots for flippers.

Now this is what I’m talking about. Rooftop pool in sunny Barcelona. Not as crowded as the beach. (sorry Reagan)
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Buenas noches Santiago.

Tonight is our last night in Santiago. We board a flying machine tomorrow morning to Barcelona for one night more then we are homeward bound Wednesday.

We had an easy day and a late breakfast with fellow pilgrim, Judith before she left. We then went back to the cathedral for mass. We asked one of the priests if they would be using the botofumiero today and were told not until Thursday. There was no talk of a refund.

We did get to see the Arbol de Jesé where you can see the imprint of the hand from so many people touching the same place. It was roped off but at least unobscured this time. The photo is on my camera unfortunately. I will have to post a best of photos gallery when I get home.

We also visited the university of Santiago courtyard which was quite beautiful. They have a nice little gift shop and two small art galleries with really talented artists.

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Also we came across these two opera singers in the street. They had quite the voices and were singing the greatest hits operettas. WordPress isn’t letting me post the video yet so you’ll have to use your imagination. Trust me. They rocked.

We will wave at the peregrinos on the Camino as we fly over them tomorrow. Buen Camino!

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The spirit of The Camino lives on.

It’s now two days since we completed the Camino and I find myself missing a few things. It’s not the three course pilgrim menus, nor the questionably safe bunk beds in albergues. I miss the spirit. Sure I wrote about a lot of instances when good spirit was lacking but if you looked a little further you’d find it again. Maybe it was a familiar face that you walked with or met many towns before that said hello or asked how you were doing. Or a store owner who was proud to help pilgrims or point them in the right direction. A local that watched you pass and wished you a Buen Camino.

Whether you walked the Camino or not, we all look for the light or an air of good tidings that reminds you of the good in humanity not the selfish ‘every man for himself’ mentality. I am reminded that I may have to look a little harder to find the good at times. And to not get irritated at the little things, like 20 people rushing the door to get on a bus pushing people out of their way. That would be adults pushing others. Sigh.

I also miss the walking. Now I say this cautiously. I do not miss taping and treating my feet as a result of the walking. But I miss the fresh air and the movement. It must be the years of being trapped behind a computer. I hope I still can move like that when I’m 70 years old. I was so impressed by the strength of people much older than me.

Today we went to Finisterre “lands end”, which was a two hour bus ride from Santiago. This was our first time in a moving vehicle in over a month. The miracle of wheels. It was a perfect sunny day that was probably 80 degrees. We unfortunately forgot the sunscreen and got sunburned! Go figure, I was almost hypothermic a week ago.

After the bus dropped us off in town we hiked up the hill maybe 2-3km to el Faro (the lighthouse). Jonathan had matches and fire starters for our ceremonial boot burning. We took some photos and went down the hill behind the lighthouse which looked like a pilgrim’s belongings cemetery. Burned shoes. Abandoned shoes, clothing and bags. Even abandoned ladie’s underwear. Not really my symbolic choice for ending the Camino but…

I think I envisioned just singeing the boots some but Jonathan put in enough fire starter for a bonfire that could be seen across the Atlantic. One pilgrim had just finished burning his boots and came over to take pictures of ours. Soon we had quite a crowd.

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I felt a little guilty being so bad for the environment and all and put most of it out with my Aquarius drink. But then these two German girls (really, it’s comical at this point) jumped right in and put their socks right on top of our shoes that were smoldering trying to light theirs on fire. The fire that they just watched me try to put out. There was no exchange like “hello, can we add to?” or “nice fire” or “hey”. As far as they were concerned it was theirs. It was meant to be kind of a private moment but like moths to a flame. We ended up helping them while we waited for our shoes to cool so we could throw them away. I’m not sure if their socks ever fully burned but we left them.

It’s weird I didn’t think I would feel bad about burning those boots and tossing them but I do. A week ago they were the source of so much disdain and discomfort. I cursed them. But in the end I was grateful that they got me to the end. I think I felt like they had become a part of me. But as a pilgrim must learn on the Camino, we have to let go of such things.

Now a new pair of shoes await me. And a new chapter in life.

Tomorrow we are going to try the mass again. We went Saturday but they didn’t swing the botofumiero (the incense ball) that cleanses the pilgrims. I think they’ve done it at a few evening masses. I hope to see it. I will post more on that part later along with the Compostela and stamps.

We saw this RV parked near the edge of a cliff. I’m sure it was safe. Better be careful going out the door in the middle ofthe night.
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Boots off!!!

We have made it!

500 rain soaked miles behind us. The boots are off. We are going to clean up, go get our Compostela and go shopping. New clothes please. Then lunch.

Party time.

More updates to come.

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Someday came today.

I have a someday list. A list where wishes, dreams and aspirations go to die. Maybe you have your own someday list?

Someday I will:
• learn to play the violin
• finish that painting
• learn to speak Japanese
• create photo books of my travels
• hike Patagonia
• volunteer abroad
• run a 10k
walk the Camino de Santiago with Jonathan

Well, someday came today for the last one. I may not get to everything on my list but I know I can do anything I choose and dedicate myself to. I could not have finished the Camino successfully without Jonathan and his enduring spirit, compassion and patience. I am the luckiest woman to be married to him. It’s because of him and his first Camino experience that made me want to add this to my list in the first place. Of course Camino 1 could not be duplicated. This Camino did everything it could do to distinguish itself from Camino 1. Why the nerve…

I have to tally up the days but I think it was 34 days of walking. All of them in rain except maybe three. Coupled with painful feet and blisters the first three weeks, it was a tough adventure to love. While it was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life, I’m so glad that I did it. Now that it’s over, I can look back and reflect-and ponder over the good times. During…well you’ve probably read the blog.

Another pilgrim we met named Jay put it this way. He said that to understand the Camino to the fullest you need to be in it the good part of a month at least. He said it’s similar to the army.

The first part or week from St. Jean through the Pyrenees is tough physically. The camino breaks you down. You’re toughening your feet and strengthening your legs, etc. Long days of walking with blisters or bad knees and bad weather will take its toll.

The second or middle part through the Meseta is where you are pushed mentally. Walking mile after mile in a straight line with scenery that barely changes. You are in it and the end is still a ways away so you find yourself trying to mentally prepare for the second half hoping it will improve somehow.

The last stage is still a little bit of the first two but it’s mostly spiritual. You’ve made your peace with whatever you’ve been carrying emotionally or physically and you let it go. Like the rock on Cruz de Ferro. And now you are free to be welcomed into Santiago. Whether you’re religious or not, you can’t help but be humbled and moved by forces greater than yourself. All of which made themselves evident on the Camino. I have great respect for all those who triumphed to the end through the last month. I have an even greater sense of gratitude not only to my husband for helping me get here, but to be able to even have the opportunity to embark on such a journey.

As another reader mentioned, I have not fully conveyed my experience and observations yet so I will share more later. it’s off to get our Compostela and dinner with friends tonight!

No more ‘fixing feet’ in the morning! My feet ponied up the last week or two. So much better. Aside from the poor visual.

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Breaking records and taking names.

We heard on the news today that the sun today broke a rain record. It was the second coldest April and the eighth wettest since 1960 in Santiago. They were interviewing pilgrims that finished the Camino without having one day without rain. We feel you peregrinos. Yet we are pleased to announce our first full day without rain. I think it misted for a minute and was otherwise humid but no downpours or showers the whole day. It was even hot! We busted out the sunglasses and hat even. We hope it continues. We do see sun and warmer temps for Saturday and Sunday, which bodes well for a trip to Finisterre Sunday.

It’s amazing what a dry day will do. I cranked through the kilometers and wasn’t too beat up by the end of our 29km day. Thursday will be 19km and Friday will be 20km into Santiago. Woo woo!

We stayed at Hotel Benilde in Palas de Rei past night. It was a great find and I’d highly recommend it. The place was spotless. Being a dirty pilgrim, we tracked in a little mud and someone was cleaning it up five minutes later. The concierge was so friendly and spoke slowly enough for us to understand. He pointed out places to eat and the super mercado on a map and when the room was ready insisted on carrying my heavy pack to the room. Everyone was so nice.

Today was scenic with the sun and all the green rolling hills and little towns we’d pass through. We crossed a bunch of rivers and saw plenty of cows, horses, dogs and rude pilgrims. I think we have had our fill of mean people. How hard is it to muster an “hola” when someone says hello? Or do you have to scowl at people when walking by?

Jonathan and I are naturally fast walkers. This isn’t new to the Camino. Jonathan is even crazier because he’s one of those people that walks faster on the hills going up. I take the slow and steady approach, and I don’t mind that he zooms up the hills. He’s usually waiting at the top for me. We tend to pass a lot of people not because we want to race them but mostly because they just have a slower pace than us (or they’re smoking and we don’t want to breathe it).

An older German man caught up to me as I paused mid hill and pointed at Jonathan ahead and said, “speed is not good”. Not in a joking kind of way but in a matter of disapproval. Caught off guard, I just said that was his normal speed on hills. He walked by Jonathan a the top and said “speed is not alright” and walked past him. Was it really necessary to make such a comment? What if we said “your poor packing job is bad for your back?”. To each his own. Everyone is allowed their own approach to the Camino and should do what works for them. If it’s slack-packing (van transport of bags) or taking a taxi, so be it. There is no one right way.

In another instance today, we passed two more Germans (no love for the Germans today unfortunately) whom we’ve wished Buen Camino to before and received a harrumph in reply. We always pass anyone with a smile and hello or Buen Camino at least. These guys gave us the dirtiest looks. Then after we passed they sped up and walked right behind me as if they wanted to pass us out of spite. They eventually backed off. It was like road rage but on a hiking path. It was so odd.

Whatever. We try to look beyond the negative and mean people and embrace the true spirit of the Camino. We have met some really great people along the way. If you can’t find that spirit within on the Camino of all places, then best of luck to you in the world amigos.

I can’t believe the end is near! St. Jean seems so long ago and many of the days blur together. In spite of the oppressive weather and the weeks of horrible feet, I’m still glad we did this together. It has been unforgettable and pushed me well out of my comfort zone which I easily get stuck in. It has been a journey.

One I look forward to completing Friday and will post more on later. Thanks for all the well wishes and support along the way.

Pulpo and cathedral in Portomarin.
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Our first cafe con leche outside in partial sun! Day 33.

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Verde!

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Buen Camino!

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A little help from our friends.

This piece of paper is the only thing preventing pilgrims from hanging up their underwear and socks to dry on the fireplace.

FYI: this is in a bar.

do not place clothes here to dry

Gracias.

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Cows. Dogs. Hill. Repeat.

Galicia has an amazing air about itself. Eau de Vaca permeates every little village we walk through. I guess it just adds to the ambience. We do enjoy seeing these cows though. We say “hola” to pretty much every animal we see along the way.

Like Norman, the baby laying down. He was not amused by us taking pictures. Norman #2, we saw earlier (not as cute) wanted to walk with us to Santiago but his mother had other plans for him. Sorry Norm.
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The best was this one huge dog that stood and waited for us to walk into his town. He was white and had muddy paws that looked like boots. He continued to walk with us through the little town and thought he’d stop like most of them do, but he kept going. We tried ignoring him but he sped up ahead of us. He had done this before. We thought maybe he was escorting pilgrims to his hometown. About 20 minutes later he pauses and then trots on over to the side of the road where his buddy (another dog) was waiting for him. We thought it was a romance but the they were two males and were out playing together. They were so cute. It was just funny the other dog was sitting waiting for him.
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The day we walked to Sarria was really scenic and beautiful, even in the rain. Rolling green hills, cows grazing in pastures, and old stone houses. Sarria was an okay town. We probably didn’t see it in all it’s glory because it was Sunday and everything is closed. Lots of new pilgrims start here because it’s 100km from Santiago and that’s the minimum distance required to walk to get your Compostela. It’s definitely getting crowded and we are having to plan out where to stay the rest of the week. Big tour groups are booking up the albergues and hostels and we already met another pilgrim who’s been walking as long as us, get turned away because of this. Usually you can’t reserve spaces in albergues except private rooms so this really upset the guy who was there early and before the group.

It’s kind of frustrating for so many pilgrims who have been walking for so long and try to treat themselves at the end to a nicer albergue, hostel or hotel and they can’t because of the new groups. We see tons of taxis and bag carrying vans too. And it’s amusing to hear them talk about their hard day walking when they took a taxi over the hardest parts. But as our guidebook reminds us, we should try not to judge, or resent these new additions. As long as it goes both ways. the albergues get bigger this week and more new people who don’t respect others and know the etiquette encourages us to spend lots of time finding alternatives. Let’s just say that the concept of the inside voice is foreign to many Europeans.

Tonight we are in Portomarin. It was a hilly day of walking and both our shoes are hanging by a thread. There is little or no support anymore. Jonathan has his wrapped with duct tape. After O’Cebreiro, my joints have yet to fully recover. I can feel my legs shutting down. What should be easy days of walking are starting to drag and I’m having to increase ibuprofen intake.

Our nice hotel in Santiago, new clothes and shoes, burning the boots and the idea of not having to “fix my feet” every morning is motivating me to plug ahead. If we could, we’d run there.

Tomorrow we will be in Palas de Rei. We have 90-ish kilometers left!

Buen Camino

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Aseos: restroom guides. (Julia Roberts would be thrilled I’m sure)
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If I had a boat.

Welcome to Galicia.
Will you be continuing on via boat or Ark?

Just when you think you have the upper hand on the Camino and figured things out, someone lets you know otherwise. I really didn’t think it was possible, but we had our wettest day yet. I can’t comprehend how the clouds can hold so much rain.

We slept like a baby at an ACDC concert in La Faba and tried to leave early but it was too dark. We left around 720am under heavy rain. When you’re soaked 20 minutes in from starting you know it’s going to be a long day. It was about 5km to O’Cebreiro which is about 4300 feet in elevation. It was pretty steep over rocks and mud but we kept thinking still not as intense as St. Jean. Someone must of heard those thoughts because we got smacked down today.

We couldn’t see the amazing views from O’Cebreiro because of the fog and rain unfortunately. Instead we stopped for a coffee and toast and an attempt to dry out. The dry people that stayed there the night before did not look enthused to start their day after seeing us.

We left as the first wave from La Faba started to arrive. The rain just kept coming. A steady stream or river flowed down the path and when it stopped it left pools of mud. Our feet and shoes were so wet that water came out of our shoes with each step. After a while soap bubbles from the laundry detergent were foaming through even. There was no point in changing socks or clothes. I kept trying to rally mentally thinking I could power through 19 km more without stopping. Finally in Biduedo, about 6.6 km from Triacastela I had to stop. I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to warm up since I was soaked and couldn’t change. We even were hit with snow pellets for a stretch. We went into the bar and I stood near the fireplace trying to thaw out. When I could feel my hands and arms we left. Into another downpour. I was so cold. This was the second other moment during the Camino that I seriously considered taking a taxi or bus. If one rolled by and opened the door I would’ve gladly jumped in. I can say now (warm and dry in the albergue) that I’m relieved I didn’t give in. It may be stubborn, it may not have been wise, but I’m determined to finish this sans automobile. I don’t know why that is so important to me but it is.

Maybe it was the fear of hypothermia, or the hot coffee we just had but I got a second wind and channeled the inner fuerte and finished that last 6.6km like nobody’s business. I usually don’t end the days with such vigor but I wanted off the mountain and out of the rain. At one point I yelled into the heavens for mercy. It then answered with more wind and rain.

About 2km from town the sun came out. I said that when we were close to or in Triacastela it would rain again. Sure enough it did. Today felt like It was kind of this cruel joke. I can relish the fact that we survived and were humbled by it all now. At about 11am today, not so much. I don’t know how Jonathan stayed so positive.

Anyway, with all that hullabaloo my feet weren’t that bad. It looked like I had been soaking in a bathtub all day but no new blisters. We have a private room in albergue Complexo Xacbeo. At the top floor with beautiful views of the mountains we are so grateful not to be in anymore. The rain stops and starts every 20 minutes. Each time I think that I’m so happy to be inside.

The good news is that we are now in Galicia which means: pulpo (octopus), caldo (galecian stew), lots of x’s and z’s, and that much closer to Santiago. Jonathan says the forecast in Santiago for this Thursday is sun and 80 degrees! We arrive on Friday so we’ll assume snow of course. No seriously. I expect sun and warm weather in Santiago or I’m asking for a refund.

We are going to venture out again for dinner and some supplies. Tomorrow is an easy 18km to Sarria. Even if the weather is like today, at least it will be short.

I didn’t take many pictures today mostly because I was afraid to take the phone out of the Baggie.

These are from our albergue. The sunny one lasted about five minutes. Most of the day looked like the cloudy one though.

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Seventh inning stretch.

Santiago de Compostela awaits us one week from today. We can’t wait either. Tonight we are sleeping at the German albergue in La Faba. Helmut, is the hospitalero here for three weeks and was a nice guy with his broken English. I think Jonathan and i are the only ones that aren’t German. I would guesstimate that over half of the pilgrims we have met have been German or Austrian. Who knew the Germans loved the Camino so much?

We are right next to this tiny church built in 1665. It was very dark inside but looks like it is still used regularly. The albergue holds 35 in one room and has one toilet and one shower each for men and the women. This should be interesting. We were one of the first to arrive and I got the first shower in the women’s bathroom thankfully. The sleeping room is spacious though and we are surrounded by trees listening to the rain come down. We’ve had a bad streak in regards to sleeping and tonight doesn’t leave me feeling optimistic either.
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It was a mostly easy walk today from Villafranca. Road walking on one side of a crash barrier most of the way. We walked through tiny hamlets where the sheep probably outnumbered the people. There are lots more cows, sheep, chickens and baby animals which make the day more entertaining. Some of the towns people must think we’re loons taking pictures of cows or baby chicks. They seem to roam wherever they want and the grass is thick and lush from all the rain so the living is easy.
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I do feel bad for the dogs and cats that sleep and live outside though. The dogs usually are limping and fur matted. They look cold and tired all the time. We saw three cats huddled together this morning who didn’t even flinch when we took their photo. “hola gatos!” Country living.

The last 3km into La Faba were steep and through mud. The rain was coming down and made it that much more challenging. Many people carried on to the remaining 4km to O’Cebreiro which was more of the challenging climb. I’m glad we split it up. Tomorrow we will be rested for the toughest part and will be “muy fuerte” (stronger). Maybe the rain will let up some. I won’t hold my breath.

We will be at the top early for coffee at least. We figured out Jonathan walked the Dragonte route (in green) last time which looked like a roller coaster of hilly fun. We took the flatter route. They are continually improving routes and alternatives so we didn’t have to suffer that mess today. Such a relief.
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Tomorrow we land in Tricastella where Jonathan “gave mass” the last Camino. Shouldn’t be too bad except
for a steep decline at the end. After that the walking is pretty easy. My feet are doing great. Still mutant looking, but mobile at least!

Leaving Villafranca early.
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Someone told me that there is a Japanese pilgrim that makes and leaves behind origami everywhere he stays. This was one of the most impressive ones.
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Not sure what “the human condition is too legit” means but we like the continued MC Hammer references on the Camino. Too legit to quit!
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It’s raining trout.

I’m not sure there was much of a difference between the floor and the hotel bed we slept on last night. I woke up sore and fatigued from tossing and turning.

We made our way out of Ponferada and walked through lots of vineyards and busy roads. Some merlot vines all looking incredibly old.
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It was humid and misty most of the day and then the last 8km it was a downpour. We walked into Villafranca de Bierzo past two albergues to get to one that was advertised in our book and on the trail. Viña Fermita apparently burned to the ground in February, so staying there would’ve been a challenge. The last albergue on the way out of town “Albergue Piedra” was open and took us in. It was only 5 euro more for a private room too. We unloaded all our stinky laundry here which was nice. I always feel bad that they have to actually touch it but figure they are used to it. This place has a golden lab, named Conan too so I’m sure that adds extra points for charm. Jonathan discovered Conan enjoys burnt toast. What a barbarian.

It’s a cute town, from what we saw during the downpour nestled in the mountain valley. We had lunch up the street in a nicer restaurant. I was wearing the random clean “summer” clothes so I looked kind of silly but people don’t expect much from pilgrims.

I had the “trucha” or trout. I didn’t expect I would be served two! It was really good though.

Tomorrow hopefully dries out some as we head partway up the mountain to O’Cebreiro. Until then…I will nap.

Buen Camino!

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What goes up, must come down.

We left Foncebadon under a blanket of thick fog this morning. The hospitalero said we should take the carretera (road) instead of the Camino path because it would be too wet. We walked the 2-ish kilometers to the Cruces de Ferro where pilgrims ceremoniously (or not) leave behind their rock. No one was there for a few minutes and we took photos and I said my goodbyes to that rock from St. Jean.

Quite different from the blue skied and sunny version from Jonathan’s first Camino but I thought it was kind of cool.

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At the summit looking through the fog at snow covered peaks. I think we were at about 5000 feet and getting ready for the descent. It reminded me a lot of Colorado.
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We walked through a really small village of Manjarin, that looked abandoned except for the cat that jumped from the hill and led us to a little pilgrim stop by the road. It was funny, he kept looking behind to see if we were following him. We admired the craziness but continued on when three dogs appeared to defend the manor.

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We left earlier than most so we didn’t see anyone for much of the day aside from some interesting “characters” walking the opposite direction. There are some pretty odd people out here. It was most of the day going down steep hills with lots of rocks. Murder on the knees and smushed toes but we made it to Ponferada eventually. We rested some and I felt good enough to tour the Templar castle down the street. It reminded me of some of the Legos my nephews would build. It just blows my mind that it still stands (restored) from the 12th century. What from my generation will still stand hundreds of years from now?

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This is what no makeup, hairstyling and post 27km looks like. Party time.
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We saw lots of these huge round rocks inside the castle. Probably used for lawn bowling or other recreational activities I’m sure.
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Tomorrow it’s a light 24ish km day to Villafranca and the weather should be decent. Feet still holding. After Fridays O’cebreiero push the days will be easier and hopefully smooth sailing putting us in Santiago a week from Friday. The party will be on!

Like this guy:

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Buen Camino!

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Pony yoga.

Have you ever seen a pony do downward dog (yoga pose)? I now have and feel life is complete. Unfortunately, ye olde iPhone was not holstered and ready to capture the little pony in action. Instead you get to see the pony post yoga. Doesn’t he look relaxed? He must have yawned five times while we took pictures. It was early and he is Spanish after all. He was very friendly much to our past pony knowledge. (cough~Tony the Pony).
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We left Astorga before the town awoke- well rested again and ready to dominate the Camino to Foncebadon 27km away. We walked past Gaudi’s Palacia y museo de Camino on the way out of town. It would’ve been nice to tour inside but my feet were being high maintenance the day before. I really love Gaudi’s architecture and creativity.
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It was really cold this morning–I think I saw 2 degrees Celsius as we left town. Even some puddles had frozen over. We made our way past the pony into the town of Murias de Rechivaldo. It was small and charming. We stopped at this woman’s bar and cafe for a cafe con leche. She really put some effort into the place. There were fresh lilacs in the corner and tons of food options beautifully displayed. Music played over the speakers even. Many cafes we stumble into at 8 or 830am (if any are open) barely have a packaged croissant available. I was impressed and she obviously took pride in her business and serving pilgrims. They even had rice milk and chocolate rice milk. Perfect for my nephew Jack!
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We walked upwards into the hills and into fog which blanketed us for a couple hours. It wasn’t too bad though. I think we missed some vistas but it was kind of a mystical feeling. The path was nice and mostly smooth most of today too. Thanks Murry! I’m really enjoying the change in scenery from the first few weeks. Stone ruins of 12th century villages, trees and new flowers. We also are getting more vegetables as we near Galecia.
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And the highlight today is for Grandpa Wally. We found the first cowboy bar on the Camino. It was in a “town” called Ganso. The owner was friendly enough even though he slightly mocked us when we asked for a fork for our empanadas. “Usa los manos!” motioning to us to use our hands. We didn’t stay long because outside was warmer but we sat by his nice fireplace. I’m sure he has some stories to tell. Judging by the memorabilia on the walls I think many caballeros have stopped by this watering hole. Our friend Judith said a pilgrim had asked for a shot of brandy and the owner gave a generous pour that filled up an entire glass!

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We weaved our way through the hills, past Rabanal and up some steeper climbs that gave views to the snow covered mountains across the valley. We are at about 4700 feet and it started to snow flurry about 1km away from Foncebadon where we planned to end our day. Foncebadon is an abandoned 12th century village that is on the rebound thanks to the Camino. There are three or four albergues here and that’s about it. Keeping with the sleeping trend, we went for another private room in the Convento which is one of the newer structures. Totally fine and clean with our own bathroom. We went a few doors up the street to another albergue that advertised vegetarian meals. That’s where we ran into Judith again. She raved about lunch so we ate there. Best salad of the Camino, with real vegetables and even sprouts! We also had a great vegetable soup that went over a paella type dish. They topped it off with some freshly shaved jamón and chorizo and queso. With wine and bread we were set. While we sat there we watched pilgrim after pilgrim check in. It was definitely the place to stay. They filled up and had to start turning pilgrims away. Judith went to her 20 euro hour long massage and we retreated back to our room for siesta.

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The town dog LeElla wanted to escort us back. She was this big gentle dog. Jonathan of course tried to get her to pose with him for a picture but she got tired and laid down.

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My feet held out today-better than Astorga. Tomorrow is another 27km to Ponferrada, a medieval city where there is a Templar castle which looks pretty impressive. About 2km out of Foncebadon is the Cruce de Ferro- the monument with the big pole and the mound of rocks. This is where we become an ounce lighter as we leave behind the rock we’ve been carrying since St. Jean. It’s good we will see it early and hopefully before the tour buses get there.

Staying warm until then!
Buen Camino!

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Astorga. What took you so long?

We left Villar de Mazarife early this morning. Our fellow newbie pilgrims don’t quite know albergue protocol and for some reason were getting up every hour it seemed through the night. We get up earlier than most so we try to jam everything into our bags the night before so we can pack in another room without disturbing too much. We also use headlamps. The newbies? They just turn on the overhead lights on their side of the room while talking at normal levels, or not closing the bathroom doors while people are still sleeping. Again, newbs.

At least we had a nice vegetarian paella dinner the night before with them.
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Anyway, with clear skies finally, we didn’t mind too much. It was dark when we left but the sun quickly rose.

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Since we slept so poorly we never really hit our stride today. And right on queue, someone added in the dreaded potato rocks the last 7 km with some hills. After 31km the road into Astorga was long and slow.

Before Astorga we walked over a 13th century bridge that the Templars defended ruthlessly via duels (on horse). They have the dueling posts and stands next to it (non original I’m assuming).

Here’s Jonathan taking a quick pose. Please note, sun and sunglasses. We even got a little sunburned today.
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Unfortunately, my feet were too tired for me to explore Astorga. We will see one of Gaudi’s buildings on the way out tomorrow morning as we venture 27km to Foncebadon.

About 6km before Astorga these hippy looking guys had set up a nice little refreshment stand. They called it La Casa de Los Dioses or (house of the gods). We didn’t get their story but it looked like they were living in this abandoned house. They set up a stove outside and had two couches and tapestries arranged under a tree. I was having Boulder flashbacks for a minute. But they had this little cart that had the most elaborate health food display I have seen since being in Spain. Maybe 15 different fruit juices, cashew and nut butters, muesli, fruit, etc. They said to have anything we wanted and to leave a donation if inclined. We didn’t feel like lingering too long so we just had some juice and dropped a couple euros. It was interesting and nice for the pilgrims.

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Oh, hello stranger.

What is that bright thing in the sky? Hello sun!

We left Leon behind and masses of new peregrinos joined us today. Shiny new boots, spotless clothing, wearing shorts, smelling nice and happy to start their Camino with an easy day of sun and partly cloudy weather. Newbs. Leon is a common starting point for those who can only take two weeks off. We welcome them as long as they keep bringing the sun.

We’ll try not to scare them away with our horror stories of the first half. I am optimistic. I don’t want to jinx anything but I’m hoping we have turned the corner. No new blisters and just tending to old ones.

We had a nice lunch at Tio Pepe “in town” and watched everyone come out of church and wander into the bar for a drink and “racione” or small bite before lunch. Back to the albergue after this where we siesta and prepare for our 31km day into Astorga.

I think they build these churches just for the storks. There are always these huge nests on top of them. They are quite impressive.

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It gets better.

Slept great on a nice bed last night. We’re feeling refreshed for today’s 20km day. Feet still holding.

12 more days until Santiago and Jonathan says Galicia was his favorite part. The end is near.

Getting excited!

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