Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sept. 24, 2010 - Astorga to Rabanel del Camino

Left around 7:30, walked 21 km, arrived around 1:00.

It was a beautiful walk. It was cool. There were so many colours. The mountains up ahead had a purplish tinge to them. There were dark clouds over the mountains and the sun was shining from behind.

The last 2.5 km to Rabanel de Camino was a well worn uphill trail. It was almost like walking up a staircase made of stones and tree roots. It was a very pleasant walk, but my feet hurt.

Stayed at Refugio Gaulchelmo. It is cold but very nice. Kept meeting up with Steve from Texas and Heidie from Hawaii. Had dinner with Steve, Dora from Denmark and another couple from Denmark.

Talked for quite awhile with the hospitalaros about why we were walking the camino. They are volunteers from Costa Rica. Very nice couple.

Sept. 23, 2010 - Villadangos del Paramo to Astorga

Walked 23 km to Astorga. Must have walked extremely slow. Left at 6:45 but didn´t get there till around 3:00. Guide book suggested staying at San Javier Albergue. Had to walk almost through Astorga to find it. It is one of the nicer Albergues. It is next to the cathedral and Gaudi´s castle.

There is a lot to see in Astorga! However I just walked around Gaudi's castle but did not buy a ticket to go inside. Did not go into the big Cathedral either. I just was not in the mood for exploring, went for a snooze instead.

Went to 7:00 mass, which was very nice. The nuns sang most of the service (even played the organ). Then went for dinner with Jolinda & Al from California and a Japanese man who did not speak English. It was a nice evening, although for pilgrims we were a little late getting back. The vouchers we got from the albergue for dinner were for the Gaudi hotel, which was quite a step up in class compared to what pilgrims usually get (almost on par with the parador, only much friendlier).

Sept. 22, 2010 - Leon to Villadangos del Paramo

Didn´t get away from Leon till 9:00. That is late. I felt like I should have been 10 km down the road. It felt good to be walking and once again in camino world.

I am glad I stayed at the parador. It was very interesting and a good experience. I thought about it quite a lot as I walked. Last night (around 9:00) I was sitting in the lounge sipping wine, eating calamarie, listening to soft relaxing music, and watching the people come and go. They didn´t look anything like the pilgrims I had been spending my evenings with for the past 3 weeks (all good pilgrims would probably have been in bed). From the looks I was getting from the other hotel guests, it was obvious I really didn´t belong there in my walking clothes and flip flops (that didn´t stop me from enjoying it though).

I had read somewhere that pilgrims are to detach from the material world. I have definitely experienced that in the last 3 weeks, however, I am having a hard time letting go of the material comforts. The contrast between sleeping a house made of mud and straw to staying in a luxurious parador boggles the mind. It is interesting to note though, that in the mud and straw house there was much laughter and camaraderie, more excepting of the people around you (even those that snored). At the Parador everyone looked so sad and preoccupied. I did not talk to one single person other than the waitress who was not very friendly and only talked to me because she had to.

I thought, how is it that this place which was originally built as a refuge for paupers and pilgrims in need was turned into a place for only the wealthy and elite?

Walked 19 km to Villadangos del Paramo. Arrived around 2:00. After showering and sitting for awhile I wished I would have gone further.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sept. 21, 2010 - Puente de Vilarente to Leon

Left around 7:30, arrived at Leon around 10:30 (13 km). Not a very pleasant walk, lots of noisy traffic and sometimes you really had to pay attention not to get hit.

Took my time walking through Leon. Went to the Cathedral, which was suppose to be incredible, but didn´t feel anything so kept going. Ran into Jolinda & Al and chatted for a bit.

Had planned on going at least another 7 km today, however, while in Spain I wanted to stay in at least at one Parador. On the way out of Leon, walked passed Parador de San Marcos. Mass had just started in the chapel, so I went in. After mass I walked around the Cloister, It is so beautiful and peaceful. It is so quiet, I don´t want to leave.

It used to be called The Hospital de San Marcos and it was a hospice from the 12th to 15th centuries and served as a monastery and head quarters of the Knights of Santiago. It is now a luxury parador and much of the furniture is antique.

I really wanted to stay here so I asked how much (Paradors are usually really expensive). This one was 110 €, so I thought, I may never be this way again, so I am staying here. (It is without a doubt the most luxurious place I have ever stayed). I checked in about 1:00 and did not leave the grounds. There was so much to explore. This truly is an amazing place. Again, I feel like I have stepped back in time by about 500 years. I wish I had the words to explain how, as I sit in the garden in the Cloister, you can feel the presence of the people who have been here hundreds of years ago.;jsessionid=2F8E16F6987ACE61AF61406AE455412F?parador=102&LANG=en&SM=true&fechaDesde=&fechaHasta=

pdf about the Parador in  Leon

Sept. 20, 2010 - El Burgo ranero to Puente de Vilarente

Had a great sleep, was on the road by 7:30. Walked 13 km, took a half hour break in Reliegos, walked another 6 km to Mansilla de las Mulas. Had originally planned on staying here, but the next place is only 6 km and I still felt ok to walk. Stopped at a bar to take a break. All tables in the shade were full except one that had a couple of people sitting at it. I asked if I could join them. They said of course. After talking for a few minutes, the guy said, ¨you sound like you are from Canada¨. Turned out to be Don & Mary Kay from Ottawa. Several people have asked me if I´ve meet them. We chatted for about half an hour then I carried on.

Got to Puente de Vilarente about 2:00. The refugio is nice - looks almost like a resort. However, it is adjacent to a pig farm and every once in a while the wind lets you know it is there. This is not one of my favourite villages, almost wish I would have stayed in Mansilla. Met Riete from Holland. We sat in the courtyard for most of the afternoon/evening just writing in our journals and looking at our maps and guides.

Still feeling sad. Today is Pat´s funeral, is actually probably happening as I am writing this.

Had dinner with 7 people from France who did not speak English. I did not feel much like socializing anyway so that was ok.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sept. 19, 2010 - Sahagun to El Burgo Ranero

Ate breakfast with Gabriella & Wolfgang. Was on the road by 7:30. Arrived at El Burgo Ranero around 12:00 (about 18 km).

Felt very sad today. Read my email last night and was informed that my cousin Pat passed away on Thursday. My thoughts for most of the day were of her and her kids. My heart goes out to Jeff and Carla and their families. I remember how hard it was when my mom died.

Today as I was walking into the village I had to walk through a flock of sheep. Was surprised at how big some of them were, and it did not seem to bother them at all that I was there.

The albergue that I am staying in is made of straw and mud. It is actually very nice. The hospitalaro is very kind, even though I don´t understand a word he says. He carried my backpack up the stairs to my bed. He is a volunteer. There is no cost to stay here, you give a donation as you see fit.

Splurged today and spent 3 euros to was my clothes in the washing machine instead of washing them by hand. They sure do smell nice and fresh - what a treat!!

Sept. 18, 2010 - Calzadilla de la Cueza to Sahagun

Didn´t get up till after 7:00 and took my time getting ready. What a luxury it is to be able to turn on the light and have the bathroom all to myself!

Had toast and cafe with Lill and her sister Karlin from Norway. They are taking a bus to Leon. They only have 2 weeks left and will have to average 30 km a day in order to make it to Santiago.

Started walking around 8:30. It was kind of nice not leaving with the masses. It was very quiet and I walked much slower than I normally do.

Stopped in Ledigo for cafe (7 km down the road) walked another 9 km and stopped for almost an hour and debated as to whether or not to stop for the day. The girl at the bar told me there was going to be a huge fiesta in the village tonight and the music will be quite loud until the early morning. I decided to go the extra 7.5 km to Sahgun. Arrived there about 3:00. Many of the farm buildings in this area are made of mud, straw and stones. Really feel like I have stepped back in time. A lot of people say this stretch is boring. I actually find it quite pleasant.

Ate dinner with a guy from California and Gabriella & Wolfgang from Germany. It was very nice. Have seen Gabriella & Wolfgang several times since the beginning of my journey so it was nice to spend the evening with them. We talked about some of the things that happen on the camino that is hard to explain. Some people call them miracles, some call them magic, but it is definitely not something you experience in your every day life.

It is almost 9:00 and I am ready for bed!

Sept. 17, 2010 - Carrion de los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza

Left by 6:30. Contemplated not going at all. However, would have to find someplace to wait till something opened up. It is just easier to walk to the next place, which just happened to be 18 km down the road.

It was a long walk. The weather was quite cool and it drizzled every now and then. Can´t imagine walking this in the hot sun. There was a group of Spanish people that were so noisy. Don´t think I was the only one who found them annoying. I am really tired, think I need a break, usually I can just ignore the  noisy people.

Got to Calzadilla de la Cueza about 10:30. Sat and had a cafe trying to decide whether or not to go on. Everyone said it was too early to stop, especially since it was only 6 km to the next place. The noisy Spanish group sat at the table next to me. I wanted to yell at them to shut up. That made my decision. I didn´t even walk back to the albergue (it would have been to early to get a bed there anyway). I rented a room in the Hostel (same place as the bar where I am having cafe con leche). Went to my room and slept for 3 hours. It is nice to have a room to myself (my own bathroom with a shower no less!). I really do not feel like talking to anyone about anything.

Went for a walk to visit the Church but it was not open today. Walked back to the hostel/bar, ordered something to eat. Renata from Germany joined me, shortly after Lill from Norway joined us. We chatted all afternoon (and probably had too much wine, it was only 50 cents a glass until a young man came on duty, then it was 1 euro a glass, but it was a much better quality).

We went for dinner at 7:30 and sat with a French man from Madagascar (he lent me his scarf to wrap around my neck because I was cold. This is the 2nd time he has done the camino. The first time he learnt just to trust God. This time he is just walking for pleasure.) Also in our group was a young man from France (whose eyes sparkled when he talked) and a French guy and his son from Quebec (who started walking from Le Puy). Had a very nice time.

It is amazing what a few hours of sleep can make. This morning if you offered me a ride home I would not have thought twice.

Now I am looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings. It is 10:00, a little late for camino bed time, but I will sleep in tomorrow, start later and walk slower.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sept. 16, 2010 - Fromista to Carrion de los Condes

Had a very good sleep last night. Ate breakfast and was on the road by 7:00. Walked 18.5 km today. Was a very pleasant walk. Took the route by the river which was a kilometre or so longer than walking along the highway (was worth the extra steps). They call this the flat lands. After living on the Prairies for so many years, this is not flat. Someone told me that tomorrow´s walk will be more like the desert.

Stopped for a short break at Ermita de las Virgen del Rio (an old abandoned church). Just sat and ate my apple, it was very quiet and very peaceful.

Stopped in Villalcazar de Sirga (about 1 km down the road) for a cafe con leche and to visit the church (you had to pay to get into this one).

Got to Carrion de los Condes about 12:30. As I walked into the city I saw Stephan2 waiting for the bus. We laughed, this is the 3rd time we have said good bye.

Found the Albergue Espiritu Santo, it is run by the nuns. It is nice (and clean). Wandered around the city, stopped for a hamburger (it actually tasted like home). It is now 3:00 and I have not showered or done laundry, so I better get busy or my clothes will not dry before bed. It is quite cool today, actually drizzled a bit, nice for walking.

After chores (shower and laundry) were done I slept for about an hour then found a supermecado to buy supplies for tomorrow. It will be 18 km with no place to stop. Bought my groceries and ran into Jessica, Randle & Otilia. Donna from Ottawa was with them (Nova Scotia is her home). People have been asking me for about a week now if I´ve met her. She said also that she has heard about me everywhere she went. They bought stuff to cook their own dinner. I have absolutely no desire to do my own cooking! so I will wait the half hour for the menu del dia to be served. Al and Jolinda from San Pedro California just stopped by and chatted for a few minutes, ran into them early this morning on the trail. Also ran into George from India at the chapel in Villacazar de Sirga. It was good to talk to him for a bit. His leg was still pretty sore but he still kept going.

I have been sitting in the plaza for about half an hour watching the people. It is thundering like you wouldn´t believe and it doesen´t seem to phase anyone.

Well, I ended up getting soaked! When the rain came, it came hard. Some kind soul moved my laundry, however I think it may still be wet in the morning.

Earlier I went to check out the chapel here in the city. They had the lessons for Sunday printed out in many languages, so I picked up the one in English. The 2nd lesson was from Hebrews 11. As I sit here and write this, I glanced at the verse at the bottom of the page in my journal, wouldn´t you know it, it was Hebrews 11:1 - ¨Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see¨. Out of all the verses in the Bible, what are the odds that it would be the same one, especially since it really fit with many of my thoughts as I walked today.

Sept. 15, 2010 - Castrojeriz to Fromista

Didn´t sleep well because, as I thought, it was cold. Stayed in bed longer than I intended because it was dark and I didn´t know what time it was. By the time others started moving it was 7:10 so I didn´t get away till 7:30.

Walked the 26 km to Fromista with three 15 min. breaks. Almost stopped at Boadilla del Camino because I was tired and didn´t think I could go on. However, one albergue was closed and the other one was full (neither looked like someplace I´d like to stay). The albergue I am staying in at Fromista is very nice. It only opened last year, it is very clean and has a beautiful garden to sit in. Stephan2, Jessica & Randle are also staying here.

Stephan2 is leaving tomorrow. He  has to work on Monday. Will miss  him very much, it seems he has become a part of my camino.

Dinner was very nice (Stephan2, Jessica & Randle, Otilia from Bulgaria and Maria from Mexico), it was very relaxing and the food was one of the best pilgrim meals I have had - also, we only had to walk to the next room to go to bed.

Sept. 14, 2010 - Rabe de las Calzada to Castrojeriz

Woke up at 4:30 and could not go back to sleep. Finally got up at 5:30 and was ready to go by 6:00, however signed up for breakfast at 6:30 so actually didn´t get on the road till 6:45.

Walked with George from India for about the first half hour. He wanted to know if I wanted to say the Rosary with him. Told him I wasn´t Catholic and I didn´t know it. He then wanted to know if I knew any songs to sing. Told him I could sing them in my head but when I opened my mouth to let the words out, it didn´t sound anything like what the song was suppose to. So I just said the words to ¨How Great Thou Art¨. That is the song that goes through my head in the morning when I leave before the sun comes up because there is one particular star in the sky that is so bright that you can still see it long after the other stars are gone. So the words ¨I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power through out the universe displayed ...¨. The only other song that keeps going through my head is ¨I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more....¨ by the Proclaimers - not quite what he had in mind.

Anyway, George had a sore leg and was walking pretty slow so I said ¨Buen Camino¨ and left him to sing by himself.

I walked about 18 km to Hontanas. It was only 11:00 and I thought it was way to early to stop. When I walked around the corner I saw Stephan2 sitting at the bar. I got a cafe con leche and joined him. We decided to walk on to the next village (9 km).

He is pretty tall and takes 1 step to my 2, so he reached Castrojeriz long before I did. The albergue he is staying at was full when I got there so I am staying in the camping albergue which looks like a gigantic shed that has 18 bunk beds. It is ok, but I think it will be pretty cold tonight.

Will meet Stephan2 at the Plaza Mayor at 7:00 to look for a place to have dinner.

We had dinner with Jessica & Randle, a couple from Australia. It was fun. After a couple hours we hobbled out of there (Jessica called it ¨The Camino shuffle¨). Jessica & Randle were staying at the same place I was, which is a good thing because it was at least a kilometer back to camp and it was dark out. I still hadn´t taken in my laundry so I was groping around in the dark, also the lights in the shed were already out so it was a challenge getting ready for bed without making any noise.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sept. 13, 2010 - Burgos to Rabe de las Calzadas

Woke up at 6:30 and thought, ¨I can sleep in if I want¨, so went back to sleep for another hour. Got up at 7:30, took my time getting ready, had cafe con leche and was on the road by 9:00. Walked very slow today. Stopped for a hamburger at Tardajos (8.5 km), walked another 1.5 km to Rabe de las Calzada and decided to call it a day. It is only 12:00 but I am tired and my ankle hurts. (In one of the albergues a while back there was a sign on the wall ¨Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional¨)

The albergue in Rabe de las Calzada is very nice, it looks new, it is not even in my guide book. Laid down and fell asleep instantly, slept for a whole hour before finding a shower and doing my laundry. (starting to get hot spots on my hands from ringing the water out of my clothes).

Sarah from Calgary is one of my room mates. She started her camino in Le Puy and has been walking since Aug. 2nd. She also agrees this is definitely a 5 star albergue. She says that after 3 weeks you can average 30 km a day.

Walked around the village (beautiful, quiet little village), sat outside in the little plaza for quite awhile, very relaxing, very peaceful).

Found the internet cafe (it was free and very up-to-date computers - you don´t see this very often).

Ate dinner tonight with George from India, 2 guys from the Netherlands and 2 girls from Germany.

It is only 8:15 and I am ready for bed!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sept. 12, 2010 - Atapeurca to Burgos

Did not sleep well. Don´t know why. It was quiet and it was a nice albergue. Got up at 5:00 and was gone by 6:00. Walked all the way to Burgos without a break until we reached the outskirts of Burgos (20 km). Got to the Cathedral (a further 5 km through the city) around 10:30.

Went to the 11:00 Mass. Didn´t enjoy it as much as going to mass in the smaller villages. Maybe it was because I was tired and my feet were protesting very loudly about the 25 km in 4 and a half hours. Won´t do that again!

Had a coke with Bruce and Don and then decided to move on. However, as I was crossing the Cathedral plaza, I saw Stephan2 sitting on a bench. It was good to see him. We sat and chatted for awhile and I decided to get a Hotel room and stay in Burgos.

Found a room, dumped my stuff then met Stephan2 for lunch. Toured the Cathedral. It is massive! Construction of the cathedral started in the beginning of the 13th century and took 22 years to complete, however additions were made over the next few centuries. Again, the thought of how much it must have cost to build and maintain is astounding.

Went back to my hotel room and soaked in the tub for about an hour. Will meet Stephan1 and Stephan2 in the Plaza around 8:00.

Was tempted to not go out because I was really tired, however I did anyway. Sure glad I did. It just amazes me at how alive the city gets after 8:00 on a Sunday evening. There are people of all ages walking through the street, standing and visiting, all the bars and restaurants are packed. We walked around for awhile just taking in the feeling excitement in the air, then went for a pizza and beer. It was a great evening.

Won´t get up too early tomorrow, won´t even pack up my stuff tonight.

Sept. 11, 2010 - Villafranca Montes de Oca to Atapeurca

Had a good night´s sleep, have grown accustomed to the snoring and it no longer keeps me awake. Slept soundly till 7:00, was on the road by 7:15. Enjoyed the walk up the mountain in spite of the 2 km steep incline. Took 2 hours 45 min. to do the 12 km to San Juan de Ortega. Took a 45 min. break, sat in the chapel for a while that was built in the 12th century. The sculptures, carvings, paintings and architecture are incredibly beautiful. Can´t help but think about what it cost to build and maintain these cathedrals.

Walked for an hour (4 km) to Ages and stopped for a cafe Americana, it was a nice treat, tasted just like regular coffee from the Human Bean.

Walked another 2 km to Atapuerca and decided to stop (about 12:00). Only did 18 km today. Figured out that if I am going to make it to Finistair in 40 days I will have to start averaging about 22 km a day (I know, I have already concluded that it is about the journey, not whether or not I get there and how long it takes).

Spent the afternoon with Bruce and Don. Went to an archaeological museum. Apparently, very close to here they  found human remains that are 800,000 years old.

Ate dinner with Nichole from Germany, Anna, Karen & Monica from Sweden.

It was a good day. Want to leave tomorrow by 6:00. Don said he will wake me at 5:00. I will start with them but if I cannot keep up they can go on ahead. We want to get to Burgos for 12:00 Mass at the cathedral - it´s about 25 km.

Sept. 10, 2010 - Belorado to Villafranca Montes de Oca

Was up by 6:00 and gone by 6:30. It was dark so I followed a group of people who looked like they knew where they were going. After about 45 minutes it was getting light. I got an awful feeling that something was not right. Came to a turn in the road and there was no marker. We all stopped (there were about 10 of us). There was only 1 guy and 2 other girls who spoke English. The 2 girls turned around and started going back. I was undecided. They guy who spoke English said I should stay with them, at least that way we would all be lost together. That did not make me feel better. I decided to turn back, they kept going. 45 minutes later (8:00) I was right back where I started at 6:30. I saw right away where we made the wrong turn. I carried on but only went 12 km. I was tired and discouraged.

I beat myself up all the way, I should have known better than to just follow. Finally once I reached Villafranca Montes de Oca I told myself to let it go. I need to slow down and if I don´t finish it is ok. I need to just pay more attention to what is around me and not just get from one place to another. Got a bed in a Hotel that had a section for pilgrims. It is very nice. Showered, washed clothes, and walked around town. Am now sitting on the hotel patio that is encased in stone walls and has a large beautiful garden. Chatted with a lady and her daughter from Denmark, a lady from Californica and a lady from Ottawa. We talked for quite awhile about our reasons for doing the Camino and where we came from.

In spite of my ¨not so great¨ morning, I am feeling very relaxed and am glad I ended up here. Actually feel like I am on holiday´s in a resort.

Two guys from New Zealand joined us, Bruce & Don. They have already been walking 25 days (from Le Puy in France). They took a train part of the way because they are meeting up with Don´s wife in Burgos. They were quite entertaining with their stories about their experiences in France. They walk between 30-40 km  a day (both guys are in their mid 60´s).

Visited the church and just sat for awhile. They had an amazingly huge shell for the baptismal font.

Dinner was fun (mother & daughter from Denmark, lady from California, 2 guys from New Zealand). The hotel dining room was very classy (Louis Armstrong was the background music - ¨It´s  A Beautiful World¨)

Was a good day. 9:00 to bed.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sept. 9, 2010 - Santo Domingo de Calzado to Belorado

Left around 6:30. There were several small villages along the way, stopped for a bit in each one. Got to Belorado around 1:30 (7 hours to do 23 km). I think I need to take a break, my feet are tired. Maybe I´ll spend an extra day in Burgos (that´s 2 days away - 25 km), I´ll see.

Walked on and off most of the day with Stephan1 & Stephan2. Chatted for awhile with Maria from Mexico and Gothar from Sweden (Gothar slept in the bed next to mine last night). Kept passing a guy from Switzerland who had 2 bad knees and could hardly walk. I thanked God for my good knees and wondered if I would continue if I was in his condition.

Had an interesting conversation with Stephan1 yesterday which I pondered a lot today. On the camino you feel like gypsies, always on the move and don´t have a place to call home. He says that to him the presence of certain people he continually meets everyday on the camino is to him his home. I was touched to be included in the circle of people he considered home. I knew exactly what he meant. Even though you meet many people and everyone is so friendly and helpful, there are a select few that you feel comfortable enough with to share what is on your mind, or you can sit or walk with for an hour or so and not feel you have to make conversation.

Think I´ll do the menu del dia at 7:00 (served in the albergue I am staying at), go for mass at 8:00 and to bed by 9:00 (Don´t know why I enjoy going to the mass so much - totally don´t understand a thing that is said)

Had dinner with Jolinda and Al from San Pedro California and Andrew from Germany who has been walking for 2 months from his home in Germany. Really enjoyed mass. They had a mass for pilgrims after the regular mass and actually attempted to translate it into several languages. I did the reading in English that talked about 3 reasons why people do the pilgrimage.

  1. One of the reasons given was to give thanks for all their blessings. This definitely can be one of my reasons because I have so very much to be thankful for!
  2. i)  Second reason talked about how sometimes we have to make a major decision in our life and walking the camino helps to sort out our options.
    ii)  Also included in this is that sometimes people don't know why they are called to walk the camino. They just know it is something they have to do (this also definitely fits with one of my reasons for doing the camino).
  3. Third reason was a little harder to understand. Camino de Santiago de Compostela - My understanding is that 'de Compostela' is field of stars (the route to Santiago follows the Milky Way - which is millions of stars). So according to the reading, each pilgrim is also one of the stars on the way to Santiago. When we are done the camino we are to go out into the world and let our lite shine for others.

 Also included in the readings was Psalm 121. This is my favorite Psalm and the one I have chosen to be read at my funeral.

Sept. 8, 2010 - Azorfa to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Woke up at 7:10. Can´t believe I slept so long and so soundly. It was very dark and very quiet. Rachelle, my room mate has to take a day off. She went to the Pharmacia yesterday because her knee was pretty swollen. They said no walking for 2 days.

It will be a short day for me (16 km ). Only going as far as Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Quite cool today, makes for easier walking.

Took a one hour break in Cirinuela with Stephan1 & Stephan2. The more modern village seemed like a ghost town. Just about every house was for sale. Due to hard economic times these new houses are not selling.

Arrived in Santo Domingo de la Cazada around 12:30. We are staying at a monastery that was built in 1610. The Chaplains house is where the pilgrims sleep.

After a little snooze, shower, and washing clothes I took a stroll to the cathedral that housed the famous chickens. The Cathedral, built in 1098 was quite impressive, it has several chapels. I then actually paid an extra € to climb to the top of the 243 foot tower (with each step I thought ¨what on earth possessed me to do this!¨). Can´t even say the view was worth it because I just saw the same thing that I saw when I was walking all morning!

Went to vespers at 6:30 (sung by the cistersion nuns), went to mass at 7:00 and to bed by 8:00.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sept. 7, 2010 - Navarrete to Azofra

Left Navarrete at 6:10. It started raining shortly after ( I love my huge pancho that looks like a tent). Took a wrong turn and walked at least 20 min. before realizing it. Stopped for about 1/2 hour in Ventosa (7 km). By the time I left there it had stopped raining. The 10 km to Najera was a pleasant walk through vineyards. The rain made all the colours of the earth, plants and trees so vibrant. Ate some grapes from the vine, they were really good! Also couldn´t help but pick a couple figs off a fig tree that was in my path.

Walked the last 2 km into Najera with Maria from Mexico. Talked about why we are doing this and neither of us know why exactly. Just before we got into Najera there was a writing on the wall. That fit exactly what we were just talking about.
        Dust, mud, sun and rain
        Is the Camino de Santiago
        Thousands of pilgrims
        And more than a thousand years

       Pilgrim, who calls you?
       What hidden force attracts you?
       Not the field of the stars
       Nor the grand cathedrals

       It is not the courage of Navarra
       Not the wine of the Riohas
       Nor the seafood of Galicia
       Nor the plains of Castile

       Pilgrim, who calls you?
       What hidden force attracts you?
       It is not the people of the Camino
       Nor the rural customs.

       It is not the history and culture
       It is not the cock of La Calzada
       Nor the palace of Gaudi
       Nor the Ponferrada Castle

       I see them all as I pass
       And it is a delight to see everything
       But the voice that calls to me
       I feel much more deeply

       The force which pushes me
       The force which attracts me
       I cannot explain it
       Only He who is above knows it

It never ceases to amaze me how, since I have started this camino, the people who cross my path seem to be there just at the right time. They maybe there for a day or 2 or just a km or 2, but it all seems to be pieces of a puzzle, which I have no idea what it will look like when I am finished.

The albergue in Azofra is very nice. There are rooms with only 2 beds in each room (no bunk beds). There is a large patio with tables and a pool to soak your feet.

Had dinner with Stephan1 and Stephan2. I really do enjoy their company. Also still keep running into Liz & Jacques.
9:00 bed time.

Sept. 6, 2010 - Vania to Navarrete

Woke up around 6:00. Did not have a good sleep, was stiff and sore. Had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and left around 7:00.

Walked for two hours. Just before Logrono a lady was stamping passports and handing out figs from her fig tree - was a real treat!

Stopped in Logrono with Stephan1 and Stephan2 (both Stephan's are from Germany, but Stephan1 lives in England and Staphan2 lives in Austria) for a cafe con leche grande. Walked for another 45 min. then stopped for another 1/2 hour break.

It was hard walking although it should have been easier because it was a paved path most of the way. I think it had to do with the lack of sleep and lack of shade. Walking through a vineyard out of Vania was beautiful and peaceful. The sun was rising and I was by myself, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Got to Navarrete about 1:30 totally whipped. The albergue didn´t open till 2:00, so I laid down on a bench to wait. When it did open, the hospitalaro was not very friendly. He was rude to a guy from Norway who was in front of me. I did not get a good feeling about this place so I went looking for the other albergue in town. It was double the price, but it was worth every cent. Compared to last night I feel like I am at the Ritz.

Giselle from New Caledonia (Island off Australia) is sleeping in the bed beside me, the guy from Norway is sleeping in the bunk above me.

Went for dinner with Liz & Jacques and Johnny from Ireland. After dinner Johnny and I visited with a few people who slept in the park all day (one of the guys was the young Irish lad whose name I now know is Brian). They decided to walk all night because they slept all day. Johnny & I then explored the cathedral and when they booted us out because they wanted to lock up, we sat on the steps and chatted (we did not have a curfew, we actually had keys to our rooms to let ourselves in whenever we wanted).

Was another late night for a pilgrim.

Sept. 5, 2010 - Los Arcos to Viana

Up at 6:00, gone by 6:45. Walked the first 8 km to Torres del Rio with Kieran. He is going as far as Lagronno today and I am taking it easy and only going as far as Viana so he picked up his pace and I slowed down.

Walked about a km then stopped and sat on the steps of an old church for about an hour pondering something Stephan said yesterday about how it is more important to ask the right questions because the answers will come if you know the question.

Got to Viana at 12:30 - 6 hours - actually walked 4.5 hours, did 18.5 km.

The refugio has 2 rooms with mats on the floor, a small bathroom that has a small shower and sink where you also wash your clothes. Only one person fits in it at a time. This totally made me aware of how we are definitely accustomed to comfort. Will be interesting. There are 9 people in a row on mats on the floor.

It is 3:30 and I am hungry. They are serving a meal for pilgrims at 8:00 so I will go for tapas.

When I first walked into town at 12:30 the street was croweded. Now there is hardly anyone around. It is siesta. I purchased some tapas and cafe con leche at the bar by the church and walked outside. Olga from Germany asked me to join her table. The tables are in the street and people walk from one bar to another visiting as they go. It feels more like a street party, but is is a way of life.

I have learnt that these are plazas. They are usually created around a large stone-concrete church and the buildings in the street are also stone-concrete and tall to keep out the sun. Went for a walk to the end of the street and through an archway. It was incredibly hot. It reminded me again of why there is siesta.

Dinner was fun, we laughed alot. Sat around the dinner table till almost 10:00.  Trying to sleep was a challenge. Michael from Australia was beside me. A bunch of young boys were playing some kind of ball game in the court yard under our window till midnight. Our host kept coming in and counting everyone (I think when Katrina the German girl left, she didn´t tell then she was leaving). Anyway, Micheal said he felt like he was in prison. The girl beside him (from Quebec) said she worked in a prison. We started laughing and it was awhile before I could quite.

Sept. 4, 2010 - Estella to Los Arcos

Woke up at 2:30, was wide awake and felt ready to go, however forced myself to go back to sleep. Woke up again at 6:00 and woke everyone else up when I walked into a metal ladder that clanged against the metal bed rail (it wasn´t there when I went to bed and I couldn´t see it in the dark). Stayed for breakfast which was served at 7:00 - cornflakes and granola, what a treat.

Left Estella 7:15, arrived in Los Arcos around 12:45 (took two 15 min. breaks), 5 hours to walk 21 km.

4 km outside of Estella there is a wine fountain - Bodegas de Irache - were pilgrims can drink their fill - can view webcam

I filled one of my water bottles half full. Walked a couple km to the next village and realized it was not a good idea because it was 14 km to the next place to get water and I really needed my water bottle for water. As I was about to dump it, the young Irish lad happened to come along and was obliged to drink it. He said when you are Irish you can drink anytime.

The path was fairly flat, but the sun was hot and by the time I got to Los Arcos I was more than ready to stop. Walked a bit with Mary from Dublin, she has travelled quite abit, even crossed Canada by train.

The albergue where I stopped today is an Austrian Albergue. It is quite nice. Am sitting on a couch in the court yard with Liz & Jacques writing this and watching people ring out their clothes with the top of an old ringer washing machine. Sure does bring back memories of laundry day when we stayed at Grandma and Grandpa Meisner´s on the farm. Most of the young people don´t have a clue what it is. It is very entertaining.

The computer was free so I worked on the blog for about an hour. Explored the town and went for tapas (realized it was almost 5:00 and hadn´t had anything to eat since breakfast.

Went to 8:00 mass with Mary. At the end when the priest called all the pilgrims up for a blessing, there were between 30-40 people. This priest talked to each person individually. Mary said, at this point, in Ireland someone would say ¨we have time to go for a pint¨. The bar was just across the street from the church and there were tables and chairs in the church yard where people sat and visited after the service.

Back at the albergue a bunch of people sat in the court yard talking and drinking wine. We actually stayed out there till just after 10:00, which is quite late for pilgrims, but the commaraderie was nice and no one wanted to end it till we had to turn lights out.

Chatted with Stephan from Germany who lives in England and Sho from Sooth Korea who is a student in Spain but was taking a vacation and walking the camino.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sept. 3, 2010 - Puente le Reina to Estella

Left Puente le Reina at 6:15, arrived in Estella around 2:00 (7.75 hours to walk 23 km).

 Took a 15 min. break in Cirauqui, had coffee from a machine. Took about a half hour break in Lorca, 6 km down the road (nice place, if I do this again, will definately plan to spend a night in Lorca). There was a cafe across the street from the bar. This is the first cafe I´ve actually seen, usually they are bars. Henry from Austria came up to me and asked what I would like. I said ¨cafe!¨ He said ¨let me help you with your pack¨and actually took it off my back. We went into the cafe and he ordered cafe no con leche. We talked while I finished the cafe then I asked for another cafe con leche this time (I didn´t want to leave, it felt good to talk to someone in English). This is the 3rd time Henry has done the camino. This time he brought a tent and is sleeping mostly outside. He was helping out at the cafe just because he wanted to. He assured me it will get easier.

Walked part of the way with Kieran from Iraland and met Katrina from Holland and Gil from Paris.

Was very tired when I arrived in Estella. There are 4 albergues to choose from. I decided to go to the Parochial albergai. Turns out this is a by donation only so you give what you want and it includes a bed, pilgram mass at 7:00, meal at 8:00, ¨silencio by 10 plus 30¨, breakfast at 7:00, and out by 8:00.

The mass was great (even though I did not understand a word), went for communion. It felt very peacefull.

Dinner was also very nice. There were 14 people in all (Italian, German, French, Spanish, Austrian, Hungarian, and me).

It has been a good day except for (Adam hold your breath) I broke my shock proof camera when I dropped it on a rock.

It is 9:00 and I am ready for bed!

Sept. 2, 2010 - Cizur Menor to Puente la Reina

Had a good sleep (in spite of the fact that women also snore). Heard the church bells ringing around 5 a.m. Got up shortly after and was on the road by 6:15.

Left with Hari from Finland. Walked with him for about 3 hours. He wouldn´t stop talking. It was very energy draining. We walked past a long row of windmills. He talked for about an hour about wind power, nuclear power, solar power and how he thought maybe they should experiment with water power. That was enough for me. I told him I enjoyed his company but I really needed to go on alone.

There was a light rain for most of the morning, but wasn´t to bad for walking. Stopped for a short break at Uterga with the Australian couple whose names I now know are Diane and Shane. They have been together for 29 years and are both retired military. Also at our table was Christine and her husband from California. The husband (didn´t get his name) had a huge black eye and cut on his forehead. In Pamplona yesterday he tripped over a curb. Couldn´t get his balance because of his heavy pack and fell head first into the curb (says he is telling people it happened at the bar last night).

Took the 3 km detour to see the church at Eunate. It was worth the additional 6 km! It was much smaller than I thought it would be. According to my guide book, it´s octagon shape suggests it is linked to the Knights Templar, one of the earliest Christian military orders that was formed to protect pilgrims on their journeys. While I was there a group of people came and sat in the pews. They started singing in Latin-Spanish (I´m not sure which). The acoustics were unbelievable. It sent shivers down my spine. A girl standing close to me started crying. It was really something that is hard to describe with words (for me anyway).

Got to Puente la Reina at 2:15. Walked for eight hours taking only about 1 hour break total. I was exhausted. Had to lie down before I could even take a shower. Found a Maytag washer with instructions in English (didn´t even need the instructions, I know how to work this one!).

I as sitting in the bar eating a piece of quiche and having a glass of wine while I write this. My clothes should be finished washing. I better go get them just in case someone else needs to use the washer.

Can you believe it! Left toilet paper in my pocket!! My clothes are a mess! Again, should have washed by hand (on the bright side - they do smell nice).

Cannot key this into my blog because computer ¨No Functiona¨. Will go have a glass of Sangria (yes Tammy, the real stuff - with fruit no less) then to bed by 8:30.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sept. 1, 2010 - Lorasonna to Cizor Menor

The albergue in Lorrasona was very noisy. There were 14 bunk beds and everyone of them squeaked. Between the squeaky beds, snoring people and barking dogs outside the window, did not get much sleep.

Left Larasonna around 6:00, got to Pamplona around 11:30. After walking for about an hour, we walked through a hamlet where a lady was selling coffee and fruit from her driveway. It was a refreshing break (she was playing lively music that made you want to dance). Walked most of the way to Trinadad de Arre with Liz & Jacques and a couple from Australia.

Walked with Harri from Finland from Trinadad to Cizur Menor. We stopped at a supermarket in Pamplona on the way and brought stuff to have a picnic in the park. Cizor Menor was only 2 km away from Pamplona. I like Pamplona, it is a bustling little city but I felt like I was in another time zone.

The albergue in Cizor Menor is the best albergue I have seen yet. A lady runs it in her yard that has a huge garden. There are only 5 bunk beds in each room and she separates the men from the women (she says she does this so we are not kept awake by the men snoring) It has a kitchen so I bought some eggs and will have hard boiled eggs for supper. It would be really nice to stay here for a couple of days, however that is against the camino rules.

Liz and Jacques just got back from the supermarket and bought some rice pilaf to go with my hard boiled eggs.

Dinner was interesting, what we thought was a microwave turned out not to be a microwave. We ate cold rice pilaf. Everything here is an adventure.

Chatted for a while with a couple guys from Ireland, love the accent could listen to them all day. One of the guys name is Kieren.

It was a good day. A little easier than the previous days.  Rumor has it tomorrow is rain and thunderstorms.
9:00 - time to turn in.

August 31, 2010 - Viskarret to Larrasoana

Took awhile to fall asleep. No more espresso before bed!! Got up at 6:30 and left around 7:00. Got to Zubiri at 10:50. Took me almost 4 hours to go 10.5 km, made 2 wrong turns. Probably walked at least an extra km. Have to be more careful and watch for the yellow arrows. Stopped at a bar and had a bocadillo and cafe.

Left Zubiri at 12:00. Arrived at Larrasona at 2:00, took me 2 hours to walk 5.5 km. Got a bed at the municipal albergue. By the time I got to the room there was only a top bunk left. This should be interesting, as soon as I stepped on the first rung I got a cramp in my foot!

Just wanted to go to sleep, but I remembered having to to shower in cold water. Took me till 4:00 to shower and wash my clothes and hang them out to dry.

Walked to the bar to buy juice and nuts for breakfast. Met up with Liz and Jacques. They bought me a beer and we chatted about how far we planned to go tomorrow.

Went back to the refugio to work on the blog. Was booked for the pilgram´s meal at 7:00. Ate at a table with 7 other French people. Even though I could not understand most of what they said I felt included in the conversation. To bed by 9:00

August 30, 2010 - Roncevallas to Viskarret

Between the cold and the 2 guys that snored all night, I didn´t get much sleep. Left there around 7:30. My clothes did not dry by morning. Because they were still wet, they were heavy in my backpack. My pack is way too heavy. I keep trying to think of what I can ditch, but I actually do use everything I brought.

I can hardly move, every step is excruciating. I feel like someone took a sledge hammer to my legs. I tell myself, the good thing about leaving from Orisson yesterday is that I don´t have to do it today.

Only did 11.5 km today. Stopped in Viskarret about 12:00 and got a room at Casa La Posada Nueva. It was built in 1860. Beautiful building and very well kept. I actually had my own room and the use of a large bathroom which had a tub. I slept for 3 hours, got up and soaked in the tub for half an hour which felt very good.

Dinner was at 8:30. It is hard to get used to eating so late and then going to bed right after that.  Ate dinner with Liz and Jacques from Quebec who spoke mostly French. Our server was Bulgarian who only spoke Bulgar and Russian. We laughed alot trying to make ourselves understood. I told them about the guy on the mountain who didn´t think Quebec was part of Canada. They also thought it was funny. It was a fun evening, we drank a bottle of wine and then had a cup of espresso. Turned in around 10:30. Wonder how I will sleep.