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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Roughing it.

It was about a 27.5km day from our albergue in Terradillos to Calzadilla de Los Hermanillos. We didn’t expect much from a town of probably 50 people but didn’t relish the idea of walking another 17.5km to the next town.

We turned into the Muni albergue with 16 beds separated by boys and girls on two different sides of the room. It was an old schoolhouse that was converted at some point. The Señora “Amor” was an older woman but no stranger to the pilgrims. It was freezing when we arrived at 2pm, we knew it would be colder for bedtime. The showers were a quick two minute dance of cold and lukewarm water. She liked having windows open because otherwise the steam would cause mold.

After a brisk shower and change of clothes we went to the other albergues restaurant for lunch. It was warm and cozy and had a friendly atmosphere. We should’ve stayed there. What was done was done though. We had a nice lunch with our fellow pilgrim, Judith, from Vancouver Island.

After some moments freezing back in the albergue, the señora reappeared and helped us start a fire in the fireplace. I think she had a mixture of cardboard and wet wood and a chimney that probably hadn’t been swept since the Romans came through. All creating a nice cloud of smoke lingering over us in the albergue. It died down eventually. Judith who had lived in and worked a lighthouse for many years said it just reminded her a bit of “Vancouver eh?”.

We wore all our layers to bed and slept pretty poorly but were eager to get going today. It was a long 17.5km to the first town we could have a cafe con leche and bocadillo before finishing off in Mansilla another. 7km later. I started out strong but was slowed down by my nemesis, the potato rocks. I might have mentioned earlier but this kind of rocky path is murder on my feet. You stare at the ground looking for the least rocky point to place your foot otherwise you roll or squish your foot onto a hot spot or blister as the potato sized rocks feel like they are hammered under your feet. I do not love the potato rocks. I will have to do a photo survey of the various terrains for better understanding. You spend a lot of time looking at the ground if it’s not a smooth or gentle road.

Today it misted and then rained on us all day but aside from snowing overnight a couple nights ahead, we may have some better weather during the daytime. We are heading into Leon tomorrow and leaving the Senda which I will only miss the flats but not the potato rocks or crazy weather.

Sidenote Tom and Lorraine: you may not be up for a walk after our experience, but we’ve decided you should cruise the Camino by horse! We followed two peregrinos on beautiful white horses for two days. Not sure where they are stabled, sleep and how long it takes but it looked a bit more magical than me tip-toeing over rocks.

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Stop sign in Spain is the same as in the US only–it’s hammer time.
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Jonathan getting some much needed exercise in the park.
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110km/hr winds. Enough said.

9km left to go from here. Cafe con leche with the wind zombies.

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Small squall.

Oh Camino. You make it hard to love you.

We enjoyed our two days of sun but we didn’t think we’d have to pay for it with 110km+/hr winds all day. As I sit in our albergue room the wind is blowing the curtain over the closed window and the wind coming through the vents sounds like a Van Halen song. The wind is so strong that I expect to wake up to planks of the roof being pulled off or a window blown out. Thankfully, this construction is somewhat new and I’m trying not to worry too much. I’m sure this has happened before.

Albergue Los Templarios is a haven just before you enter the town of Terradillos de Los Templarios. There were few places to stop over the 27km we walked today. We walked head on against the wind all day except for maybe 3km. I was using the pole to keep me from blowing off the road-literally. I would start on the left side and with one step I’d get blown all the way to the right before I jabbed my pole into the ground. If it wasn’t so windy I would’ve stopped to take a photo of people walking ahead of me. It looked like one of those optical illusions where the road is flat but you are actually standing at an angle. Only, it wasn’t optical trickery. No one escaped the wind today. We stopped maybe 5 minutes so I could MacGuyver a strap across my pack cover so it wouldn’t blow away.

We then stopped about 17km in at a bar/hostel for a coffee and wind refuge. Everyone was beat down by the previous three hours. This picture was taken while we sat there and watched their chairs blow down the street. As we were leaving we saw two beautiful white horses roll up with two peregrinos (maybe?). They were suited up with sleeping gear. The horses did not look thrilled but I think they had a little break. I wanted to ask for a ride.

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The upside to the fierce wind was that it distracted me from my feet. I didn’t change socks or take off shoes once all day. The threat of being blown off the planet encouraged me to keep a pretty swift pace even against the wind and we finished by 130pm which is early by my standards.

As we sat in the common room with other pilgrims and the fireplace we watched some of the news that reported winds of 113-153km/hr!! It’s still going too. We even saw a plane landing with its nose angled at a 45 degree angle. At least we got most of the rain near the end.

This has been our Camino. Rain, snow, hail, wind, mud, freezing temperatures, blisters and colds. A hard one to love but hard to forget I guess. Jonathan blames me since all he remembers of his first Camino is wearing shorts everyday, sunburns, friendly people, and walking long distances.

If you were ever considering walking the Camino hopefully you stopped reading this blog on day two.

Either way, we continue on. A mad woman’s quest to finish what she started. Why we push ourselves to our limits I can’t tell you, but maybe it’s a twisted way of trying to prove to your body that your mind is stronger, even though we know that isn’t necessarily true.

Tomorrow we have another 27km day to Calzadilla de Los Hermanillos. I wish it was a bit fairer outside because we could visit the church in town. I don’t think we’ll be getting a respite from the weather anytime soon. Another pilgrim emailed us since they bussed ahead and are where we’ll be in about a week. She said it’s freezing cold. I think we’ll have to start wearing our sleeping bags.

If you were looking for a dairy cow, Sudoku seems like a winner.

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We have officially made it to our halfway point to Santiago. I think it’s another 390 kilometers. So take that Camino!

Think happy little clouds, sunshine and ponies for the second half for us.

Ready for the Buen Camino.

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Senda on our way.

It’s a siesta not quite a fiesta here in Carrión de Los Condes. 26.5 km and I actually kept a decent pace thanks to the super flat Senda and good weather. Until the last 7km that is. My witching hour, when my feet try to take off early and call it a day. I think my pace is cut in half at this point. But this morning I was cruising! We even had time to rest in a town square for a while in the sun.

Last night we stayed in the big albergue in Boadilla. It even had a pool. Had it not been 45 or 50 degrees and crazy winds it might have been open. Most people stopped here instead of going on another 6km to Fromista. It was family run and you could tell how much they actually enjoyed running the place.

It was packed. After a rough start and many stops along the way from Hontanas, it was a grueling slog into Boadilla. Nothing seemed to be going right and I was in agony most of the day. I barely remember looking up much because I was doing the dance around these potato sized rocks that just are murder on your feet. Combined with a steep 12% climb up this hill and an 18% descent my feet were “hamburger” as Jonathan refers to them by day’s end.

So after spending a few hours resting we came down to the comedor for the pilgrim feeding. It was family style and we sat next to some familiar faces from towns prior which was nice. We even attempted conversation with this Korean couple that didn’t speak Spanish or English. It involved a lot of hand gestures but they were nice. Jonathan wowed them with his two sayings, ‘bring me a beer please’ and ‘i love you’.

We had garlic soup and a lentil soup. The second course was either fish or beef stew. And helado, or ice cream for dessert. Jonathan and I have decided to become vegetarian when we get home. You know we’re eating lots of meat and bread when Jonathan is looking forward to a kale smoothie.

Yesterday was a rough one. It seemed everyone was having a great time and walking with ease in comparison to me. People twice my age were passing me and people commented on how wonderful the journey was. Meanwhile I was seeing dark clouds and wincing with each step, ending the day in tears. I felt defeated and was imagining buses in my future. When is enough enough? My feet are clearly not made for this and it the hope that they would improve enough to moderate levels of discomfort seems unlikely.

We talked about options but agreed I was too emotional and tired to make any big decisions. We decided to shift some of my bag weight into Jonathan’s pack. I can’t say enough about what a trooper my husband is. From waiting on me and always being so patient to always putting my needs before his. Even when he, himself, is feeling under the weather. I’m so lucky to have him.

I had many conversations with God yesterday and I asked for some guidance to how or if we should continue on. After today’s success and beauty I actually could enjoy I know to push on further. This can change tomorrow for all I know, but one thing the Camjno has taught me is to live more in the present. I can’t control everything. Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat.

So that’s what we’re going to do. Tomorrow is another 26.8km day to Terradillos de Los Templarios. No stops for 17k which will be rough. Where does one make a pit stop on the Meseta with no trees or bushes in heavy pilgrim traffic? We’ll find out. Stay tuned.

A hostel along the way. They had Bob Marley paintings, five dogs and teepees you could sleep in. Welcome to the Camino.
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This pumpkin was belted to a post in a
Bar/cafe in CastroJerriz. The owner was wearing an orange sweater so there must be a story there.
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At the top of the 12% climb looking back. Applause in the background.
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Lunch typico. Bocadillo and Aquarius. Flat family as honored guests.
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Sun leaving Boadilla!
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Miracle miles in the Meseta.

31.8 km today and I live to tell the tale.

We walked from Burgos to Hontanas which was 31.8km and change–not that I was counting. We broke it into 10k stages with two major stops or longer breaks and sock changes. The third leg I tried my new shoes which were spacious for the toes but slightly harder on the heals. Jury is still out on wearing them 100%. Until then I will be carrying two pairs. I ditched the sleeping pad in Burgos since I haven’t used it yet. I’m hoping I don’t regret this. Today saw a whole lot more Camino traffic and there may be more competition at the albergues moving forward.

The big bonus today: SUN!!! No rain at all. I think it’s our first official warm/no rain day. Combined with the flats of the Meseta, it was a welcome change.

It’s been pretty and amazing his close this is to Burgos. We left the city this morning walking through broken bottles and trash from the festivities after the Real Madrid v Barcelona game last night. Madrid won and the game ended around 10 pm but the partying continued until probably 5 or 6am. Loud drunken singing all night. Jonathan didn’t feel well the first half of the day but hit his stride and felt better by day’s end.

We arrived in this small town of Hontanas about 430 and already tons of pilgrims lined the streets drinking beers in the sun. I’m glad we have our private room in the albergue though. Jonathan even busted out the shorts for a couple hours.

I’m just hoping my feet recover quickly so I can do well with tomorrow’s 27km. And more sunshine please!!

Buen Camino.

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CheeseBurgos, CheeseBurgos, CheeseBurgos

We came to Burgos and ate cheeseburgers AND pizza. Not at the same time mind you. That would be so American of us. Burgos is a large and modern-ish city but we decided to take a siesta from Spanish cuisine. We managed to find okay cheeseburgers and pizza. It really didn’t matter as long as it was just not a bocadillo, tortilla or tapa. Oh and we did have a Doner Kebab. We love these especially since they are often the only places that don’t keep typical Spanish hours.

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We have been enjoying our spacious room at the Hotel Velada Burgos. We found out that Martin Sheen stayed here for a bit while filming The Way. If it’s good enough for Martin, it’s good for us. The albergue is closeby and we were hoping fellow pilgrims didn’t see us walk into our hotel. We’d feel bad. For a moment.

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We headed out to the gothic Cathedral at 930 am. Do you know who is out at 930am on Saturday in Burgos? Absolutely no one. Complete ghost town. Aside from pilgrims and the huge Filipino tour group that also was ready to visit the Cathedral.

It was freezing inside but enormous and opulent. There was so much gold and silver up in the joint. I walked over some grates in the aisle up to one of the alters and the ground was covered in coins even. The answer to Spain’s fiscal crisis can be solved by the country’s churches. We buy gold!

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This alter took 87 years to build and one of the Mary’s is solid silver.
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This was how the Cardinals rolled. Literally. Subtle.

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It was quite impressive. I can’t imagine all the time and effort that went into so many tiny details in something so grand. We don’t build anything like this anymore.

Trying to rest as much as possible for our 30k day tomorrow. I have a new pair if shoes I may try for a bit. Keeping my originals until I know for sure though. Hopefully, the Meseta brings warmer and dryer weather and flat easy paths. It’s back to albergue living.

Buen Camino!

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Over the hills and through the woods…

After our fancy stay in Villafranca’s albergue we headed upwards into the mountains. Only 950 meters to 1150 meters I think. It was a lot of ups and downs through one of the eeriest forests I’ve been in.

Maybe because it was early, cold, cloudy? It was kind of spooky and reminded me of the forest Snow White runs through away from the wicked witch. Near the summit we came to an obelisk monument that memorialized 300 people that were murdered there during the Spanish Civil War by Franco. That doubled the eerie feeling I already had and I imagined horrible events that the forest had witnessed in 1936. We moved along quickly through without seeing anyone until we neared San Juan.

My photos are on my camera still but I found this one that reminded me of how it felt.

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We met this Swede who walked with a huge wood stick. It must have been about 7 feet high and weighed about 4-5 pounds. I asked him where he found such a walking stick and he told us he brought it from Sweden. We laughed at the idea of checking that as luggage. He said they have become “friends” along the way. I’d imagine I’d want to leave that friend by the roadside after about 10 minutes.

Shortly after we walked into San Juan de Ortega, population 20–21 if you count the dog.
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We stayed here at a Casa rural instead of the albergue that is notorious for no hot water or heat. Jonathan was looking forward to an amazing meal consisting of various morcilla (blood sausage) but the menu at the one bar had changed after 8 years when he was last there. Still we had a nice lunch and the morcilla was delicious And I don’t even like blood sausage. It came with lomo and ensalada.

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The church was built in the 12th century which blows my mind that it still stands. Which is more than I can say for this house.

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Today we walked 26k to Burgos. I started out strong but the hills, rocks and my shoes made the last 7k mind numbingly painful. Another gold star for Jonathan being patient today.

We walked through Atapuerca where they found remains of the oldest human in the world. 900,000 years old. They knew they were cannibals too which made the restaurant nearby named, Comosapiens that much funnier. (Comer=to eat)

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We’re taking tomorrow off and enjoying our 4 star hotel for 80 dollars. Hopefully my feet will allow us to explore Burgos a bit more. We may even stay out late enough to watch the Real Madrid v. Barcelona football match tomorrow night.

Rap at ‘cha later before we head off into the Meseta.

Buen Camino.

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Rock me like a hurricane.

We had our first day without being rained on at any point during the walk. Hooray! Of course that meant that we’d have to contend with gale force winds instead. Six glorious hours of wind at our side or head on. We call it the Jonathan Effect where the wind is never at your back regardless of the direction you walk. I couldn’t walk a straight line at all. And at times the gusts were so strong that if I held out my pole loosely the wind blew it parallel to the ground. It was fierce. And not in a Project Runway awesome sort of fierce.

I have repeated to myself many times in the last week my high school graduation motto:

If you walk only on sunny days, you will never reach your destination.

This is true for pretty much everything in life right?

The silver lining is that my feet are toughening up some. They look atrocious but thanks to some cushier socks donated by my Camino expert husband and several changes and stops throughout the day I am getting on a little better. There still is one problem child but it’s healing.

We even made it some longer distances than we had planned thanks to flatter terrain and less rain. We stayed in Azofra at this muni albergue that had little cubicles or private rooms for two. Imagine what it would look like in a sleeper car on a train and it was kind of like that. Nice facilities and even free washer and dryer. I had to tell this Spaniard three times gratis!. He was so excited as he was always handwashing something when I saw him.

Had it been over 45 degrees we could’ve enjoyed the nice courtyard and fountain. I’ll have to insert names and links to these places later. Most are in the John Brierly guidebook recommended previously.

From Azofra we thought I’d only make it to grañon but I pushed on another 5k to Castildelgado thanks to some sun and good paths. It was our biggest day I think–29k roughly. Our feet were pretty tired. We stayed at a truck stop hostel with own bathroom. El Chocolatero was the name and i think I was one of three women in that tiny town. It was clean at least.

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After a good rest we pushed on today to Villafranca. We planned this so we’d have a light day into San Juan de Ortega which is in the mountains and at the highest point take us to 1100 meters. Snow has been falling at 800 meters recently. The weather says rain and cold but clearing in the middle of the day tomorrow–so we’re hoping for the best. Only 12 k so we’ll finish early and rest in a Casa rural. Options are slim at the top but we didn’t want to get stuck in a storm without hot water and exhausted after a big climb.

So we’re staying in Villafranca tonight at Hotel San Antón Abad–in the albergue. We got a private room and bath for 43 euros. This place is pretty nice though. The hotel rooms looked actually kind of fancy. We had a nice lunch in the restaurant too. We were happy to not be eating bocadillos like we did yesterday for lunch and dinner since nothing was open and we couldn’t stay up past 9pm to eat with the locals.

Camino Tip for Future Pilgrims:
Bring a ziplock bag of almonds/cranberries or other good protein snack that will hold up. It’s saved me many times from Long stretches without cafes or stores open. Or buy fruit when available.

I’ve never eaten so much bread, tortilla, or jamón. Quite a reversal from being gluten free and dairy free for two years. I think I can make up for it in 6 weeks.

Now it’s siesta and I’m resting the feet–the usual. Jonathan is wandering about a little later looking for some goods for tomorrow. You know it’s cold when even he is thinking about buying gloves and wearing multiple layers.

Since I’ve slowed us down some with my feet and because of weather, we are losing some of our extra days we had at the end of the Camino. We plan to take a day off on Friday and will spend two nights at a hotel in Burgos. This is a fancier version of the Camino since we’re not spending every night in the albergues. I have no problem with this because I think we’ve had to do what works for us. I need to tend to my feet which can be a lengthy and disgusting process and didn’t really find it comfortable to do so in some of the albergues. With the weather being so shunworthy, the people haven’t been too terribly social either unfortunately. We’ve met some good people but often you lose them in a day or two because of different pacing and stops.

I’m hoping this changes the second half of the Camino. It would be nice to socialize a bit more in a communal setting like being outside. We will see. We clearly aren’t in control here and as a fellow pilgrim says, “we go where the universe wants us to go”.

Here’s to sunnier days and happy feet.
Buen Camino!

Some photos of our habitacion privado in Villafranca (fanciest bathroom yet!):

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Sunday Bloody Sunday

Don’t worry. I’ll spare the details. Feet today=thumbs down. Still have all 10 toes but am demoting a couple of them until they get their act together.

After last night’s sleep in the muni alburgue from hell (aka Andre Muñoz) in Viana I had a hunch today’s podiatric performance would be poor. Starting out the day my feet were already at a 9. It was rough. Many breaks, re-tapings, distracting music listening, yogic breathing and ibuprofen later we made it to Navarette. The terrain was easy, the mileage short, and the rain was light which made it bearable. Crazy cold winds blew and we could see snow covering the mountains nearby though.

We walked through sleepy Logroño today. It seemed Like a nice city of about 200 thousand people. There’s a university there too and we passed a lot of people on the nature paths leaving the city. Loads of runners. Many passed us by wishing us “Buen Camino”. Little spirit boosters.

We are in Rioja, wine country And passed many vineyards. Still too cold to have any growth but super old vines. We discovered they grew Tempranillo Blanco which I didn’t know about. I’m sure our winemaker friend Stein Family Wines would mock us for not knowing since he makes a pretty killer Tempranillo himself.

We are treating ourselves with a stay in a private hostel. The Villa de Navarette rocks. Own bed and bath. And clean! There’s soap in the bathroom! I know times are tough Spain but what’s up with no toilet paper or soap in restrooms? Even in nicer establishments. Yuck. Thankfully, I’m married to Jonathan-king of the Wet Ones towelettes.

We had the pilgrim’s lunch which had an actual salad (iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, corn, olives) pork cutlet, pimento (red pepper) and fries.

And for dessert…I chose helado.

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Sorry,still no Dairy Queens to report to you Tom.

Tomorrow is another light day to Najera but it will be raining most of the way and in the 40s-50s. Springtime.

Feet up and siesta-ing!
Buen Camino.

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Pilgrims behaving badly.

We had another day of rain that left my feet in ill repair. Unhappy feet. We had that moment of elation once Viana came into view. Most pilgrims walked on towards Logroño another 9km but my feet just couldn’t make it. I was feeling defeated. We ended up at the Andres Muñoz alburgue (one of two in town I think) and quickly learned what kind of night we have ahead of us. I can sum it up in four words:

Triple decker bunk beds.

I’m cursing my feet. Jonathan has been so patient with me. I know he is ready to go and could easily walk 30k days. I hope I can get there eventually. If we could get one solid day of no rain that might help.

I’m trying not to complain too much because, who likes Debbie Downer? This is the mental test i knew i would have to face. Just as I was trying to see the light and do some much needed laundry I met that pilgrim. Not the magical pilgrim you hear about meeting that makes the journey that much more special in some way, but instead the one that depresses you and lose faith in humanity. Okay maybe not so dramatic, but it was the not-needed-icing on the cake of today.

As I was about to open the door to the newly laundered clothing and put in the dryer directly above this German man who I had just spoke with 10 minutes earlier about the alburgue as he was checking in, jumped in front of me putting his dirty wet clothes in the only dryer! I said that I was just about to put our clothes in there and he shrugged and said “sorry”. I was so in shock at the level of rudeness and selfishness I left the room. He went on about his way speaking to a friend in German about something as Jonathan helped me lay everything out on a drying rack. In the damp and smelly laundry room. I don’t know why but people like this get to me at the core. This wasn’t a case of ‘lost in translation’ either as he spoke perfect English. I just can’t understand this poor behavior. Jonathan said that from his perspective he probably was thinking, ” I won! Beat her to it.” and not as directly being rude. Either way, he scores major wanker points and reinforces stereotypes. Not only did we see him at lunch, but we get to share a room with him. He tried to make nice and say he would make sure no one jumped ahead of us after he was done. We respectfully said don’t bother and that we’d figure it out.

Whatever. Not good Camino spirit and I have to let it go and try and be the better person, because there are considerate and good people here. Those at the true pilgrims.

For some reason once we were about 8 or 9km outside of Viana the trail became littered with garbage. Tissues, plastic bottles, food and even human waste right on the road. It’s so sad that people can treat such beauty with such disregard. I’m hoping it improves and maybe we hit a bad stretch.

Hoping for happier trails and dryer days (pun intended).

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