Camino del Santiago Day Twenty-Three: Valverde del Virgen to Villares de Orbigo- The Gamble

22 04 2018

I think that if I’d started the Camino in Leon I would have given up by now. This long flat slog is so rough. Today it was as if we’d been asked to walk along the New Jersey Turnpike. I think if this were my second day I’d be back in Leon renting an apartment for a few weeks and doing a food tour of the city instead.

Don’t get me wrong, I started the day with a great attitude! What was to be a rainy day started with a perfectly mottled slight sun that eventually became full sun with a bit of humidity.

We had a very restful stay at the Casa del Camino and were excited to set out on another “easy” day going only about 13 miles. Granted I was a little concerned about how short our day was going to be but the next stop would have been Astorga which was just too far. We figured we will just pick up time later.

We did not opt for the breakfast option at the Albergue because it’s usually just bread and jam and Suzy doesn’t eat too much gluten so we headed out and there is really nothing else in the town. Luckily when we hit the outskirts of San Miguel del Camino we happened upon an adorable coffee shop and snack bar. Owner Jonathan has been in business about a year I think and has created an adorable space where you can get food, coffee or sundries to support you on your journey. And there’s a spotless bathroom! It’s his own business and he’s put such care into the details.

Just to note, I’ve not seen a dirty bathroom so far, most are impeccable. Why can’t the US have the same care for their services? I really was expecting at least a few issues but other than the occasional lack of paper or soap.

We headed along and walked and walked again remarking at how glad we’d not walked this far the day before… Especially when we happened upon the hotel we’d called that quoted us a high rate and turned out to be a truck stop. Let’s just say it was not a scenic area.

In Villadangos we came across crazy numbers of ravens in the trees. We went on and on through very sleepy towns with not much activity in any save the constant rush of cars past us. On a stretch of highway it seemed almost scary as cars and motorcycles passed on another. We were relieved to get onto a senda with a swift rushing canal of water rushing past us (it’s the stagnant water that produces he bugs…) We marveled at the incredible skill it took to make this water move along the very flat plain we were walking on. We met a sheep. We almost ran past a particularly stinky field covered with manure and perhaps some other unmentionable additives. We blew dandelions, anything to pass the time. We finally reached San Martin del Camino to grab some lunch.

We started walking again and it was hot. Full sun, no shade. We tried to step into the brush only to find a tree stump teeming with ants. No where to run no where to hide, no respite here and no where to stop and take a rest.

We finally got to Hospital de Orbigo but it was siesta time and it seemed to be shuttered, it was Sunday of course. So we kept on without another break through the heat across some dry and dusty track.

Finally we make it to Albergue El Encanto, a brand new Albergue open only 15 days! Immediately we were greeted by Marta with a warm smile. The place is stunning. Setbariujd a courtyard it was a run down building and barn for animals and hay. Marta had the vision to leave Leon, buy the building and convert it into an Albergue with her brother doing much of the construction. The best is that she has converted this 108 year old building into a comfortable Albergue with all the amenities but the bones of the old structure including the original wood beams and earthen walls, the old huge wood door… but it’s beautifully appointed. The showers and everything were brand new, and it happened that Suzy and I were her only guests!

We enjoyed full reign over the whole dorm room taking lower bunks on opposite sides and each of us “took” one bathroom, no men had even used the men’s room yet. Marta let us get settled and then came by the bar where she recommended we have dinner, well it was really our only option since it was Sunday and the store was closed.

The bar, called Arnal, was really loud because about 25 men were in there playing cards and dominoes. I asked Marta if she knew everyone in the town and was struck by her reply. She has only been in town 15 days, since the day this new Albergue opened!

Marta introduced us to Aranche and Eloy owners of the restaurant. Aranche is a chef who also teaches cooking. They set up a quiet place for us to eat in an upstairs dining room. Turns out we were not only the only pilgrims at our Albergue but probably the only ones in the town that night!

The food for 10 Euro plus wine was insanely good. We had a soup of local vegetables that also had olive oil and goat cheese melted in served piping hot. Then the main was a veal chop perfectly prepared.

Aranche explained that a lot of pilgrim menus just focus on what is cheap but she wants her menus to reflect what is local so that pilgrims can get a sense of the region rather than traveling across Spain just eating burgers and spaghetti. I loved he passion and drive she had. I have a feeling that this town is poised to become a destination on the Camino, I think the pioneer attitude here is great. This region is a challenge as there are a lot of towns that perhaps have seen better days but these folks are making investments in the future, throwing down the dice to see if they can make something happen. I’d implore you to visit Juan Carlos and Sandra (Casa de Camino), Jonathan (the snack bar), Marta (Albergue el Encanto) and Aranche and Eloy (Restaurant Arnal) if you make it here, it’s worth it to reward these people for their passion and commitment to follow their dreams!

I see parallels in my life with my seasonal business The Hungry Minnow out on Nantucket. I miss it. Last year was my first year. I know how hard it is. I cannot wait to get back to it and really make it what I know it can be and follow my dream. As far as the Camino I’m gambling on my feet and hoping they’ll be able to carry me a long 23 miles tomorrow. But I think it’s in the cards. My lucky number is 23, Albergue el Encanto is #23, today was our 23rd day and tomorrow is April 23 and we walk 23 miles so if I were at the roulette table you’d better believe that’s where my money would be.

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Camino de Santiago Day Twenty-Two: Arcahueja to Valverde del Virgen-Hope

22 04 2018

It’s hard to believe we have walked so far, and it’s scary to think we have so much farther to go! Despite being up almost all night worrying about our next big jump, we realized in the morning that we would be best off having a reservation at our next stop. The further Albergue wasn’t answering the phone so we made A reservation at Casa de Camino in Valverde instead, and it was a good thing to do for many reasons. We were so thankful that we were steered in that direction.

The walk out of Arcahueja gave we the hill I’d been craving along with some industrial parts and eventually a woodsy entry into Leon. We entered the town early and found a Moneygram where we were hopeful Suzy might pick up some money from home, but the guy there said that they had no money. He said to come back later when maybe I guess he’d have sold enough of the wilted cilantro and brown spotted bananas to give her some money? So the saga continues.

As we walked we entered the city through the Moneda aka money gate, ah the irony! We’d thought we would just sip through Leon that it would be just another big city but we quickly realized that it had a lot more to offer. Luckily our walk was now not as ambitious so we had some time to hang out. We browsed the Saturday flea market checking out some old photos of Mexican Pancho Villa (when I was young my father Roman had restaurants in New York called Pancho Villa’s… these same reproduction photos were on the walls of the restaurant…my father is no longer living, maybe a funny message from him?) This seller also had old food ration tickets which were interesting to see, they were perforated and listed the items you’d be able to get… like una cebolla (one onion).

After a while browsing and musing about being unable to buy anything we headed on to find some lunch. We browsed around the historic sites and saw the outside of the Gaudi building but didn’t really have time to delve into historical tours. Leon would be a great spot to spend some significant time, a great place to start the Camino we thought.

We zipped into a few shops and even found a historic apothecary with gorgeous woodwork inside.

We ran into a pilgrim we’d met in Hontanas who was taking a rest day and then a pilgrim from the Camigas group came to say hello to us with her mother! Nina had been reading the blog in anticipation of her own walk that starts Sunday. It was great to meet a reader in the flesh and even better she told us that the farmers market was going on!

The market was amazing. Rows and rows of produce, plant starters and a row of cured meat and cheese trucks. How great it would be to have a chance to cook with all this great food. This area of town near the main cathedral also boasted a plethora of gourmet food stores. I wanted to take it all home. Our mouths watering we kept desperately looking for food.

We quickly realized that the tapas bars we were seeking were just starting to pull out their tables. There were plenty of really swanky restaurants already open but outside this oilgrim’s budget. I would have loved to do a gintonic tour of this city… We opted to stop walking for a moment and gather ourselves at a swanky bar and have a beer and we’re once again surprised to receive a free slice of tortilla. Basically this is the thing in this region and is so amazingly satisfying. So that was essentially breakfast for us. We waited until just about 1 and we went to be first tapas bar I’d read about on a blog called restlessfoodblog.com.

El Tizon was our first stop, when we got there just before 1 there was only one older guy there at the bar drinking rose. Suzy ordered a gluten free beer and a glass of Verdejo for me and we each got a tapa! She got two gambas and I got two boquerones and they were served with green olives and pickled garlic cloves. So delicious! We also got a plate of calamares fritos. The food there looked great they had a case of seafood and there were scallops in there but being on a budget and also wanting to try MA y things we decided to do tapas rather than raciones (entrees).

When we were done we went out to see the street teeming with people. The market must have ended at 1pm and now the bars were filing up. Almost all the outside seating was taken which was ok because we found a place where I could charge my phone and they had Manzanilla sherry! We ordered a plate of gambas and then they came over to tell us we got two additional small tapas for ordering the drinks!! I love this town! Suzy was in the restroom so I ordered a shrimp cake and the most amazing bunuelo of morcilla, like a beignet filled with a blood sausage gravy. Sadly we could not stay forever because when we exited that bar the Saturday scene was going full throttle. Absolute hoards of people were descending upon this district known as Barrio Humedo or “wet district” meaning place to get alcohol! This was clearly the place to be and be seen. Many groups were dressed in matching outfits which we learned were bachelor and bachelorette parties. We hated to leave but headed out of town, said hello to some chickens and roosters roaming a park and saw the famed statue of a pilgrim resting his feet. We really did not get our fill of Leon.

Onward through more industrial areas, lining the highway and it was a bit warm and humid but luckily not too sunny. Boring walk honestly. My feet were griping and that last sherry was probably not in retrospect the best idea, but man were we glad we didn’t go further today. We meandered around and around some fields and eventually were in Virgen de Camino and then a long slog to Valverde where thankfully at the very entrance to the town lay our adorable Albergue Casa de Camino. The place is so adorable and we were warmly welcomed by Carolina with a fun purple bob haircut, Sandra, and Juan Carlos the owners. They take turns helping check people in and cooking dinner in the open kitchen. The place is so great and has 20 pod like beds which really makes you feel much more comfortable and offers privacy and less noise.

The showers were awesome, big and roomy with huge rain shower heads. After our showers we were able to do laundry which was 7 Euros. I am so grateful for every piece of clothing I brought because I was able to wear my swim shorts, swimsuit top and purple long sleeve and wash everything else because literally everything else was filthy.

When we were settled we hung out in the comfy living room while their team prepped the dinner and checked in more guests and we were offered an aperitif for free, I had a white wine. Carolina spent some time chatting with us, she’s originally from Venezuela and we enjoyed hearing about her son and sharing photos of our pets. We ran into some pilgrims we had met before and heard that they’d opted to taxi through the last slog of the day because they had started in Mansilla de las Mulas that day! This is always an option, but I’d prefer to go the whole way on foot.

Dinner was incredible, we were served wine and bread and a huge hit plate of spaghetti more than I’d ever eat at home. This was the first course, and amazingly I found I myself eating the whole thing. Then we were served an amazing chicken, super tender and marinated in something giving it tons of flavor. Juan Carlos then offered us a choice of Orujo (Spanish grappa) plain, herbal or cream. The alcohol helped lubricate our language. I spoke to the men at the table in a combination of French, Spanish and English and sometimes they spoke to me in Italian. It was quite a jumble of language and very fun to switch back and forth. One had done the Camino before by bike. He said he arrived in Santiago in just four days but had sped through swing only highways and asphalt. He had gazed at the wonder in the walking pilgrims eyes as they saw the cathedral and wondered what he was missing, so this time he is on foot. We did our songs for the group and I had a request for Joan Baez so I muddled through Deportee. Suzy brought out her massager and gave the hardworking team neck and back massages.

I hope to feel the wonder, I hope that I will get there in time, I hope my feet hold up, I hope I’m doing the right thing following my path.

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Camino de Santiago Day Twenty-One Burgo de Ranero to Arcahueja Stamina (Three Weeks Walking)

20 04 2018

I hit the bed like a rock last night, Suzy said I was speaking a combo of German and Spanish or maybe just an alien language in my sleep, but it was comfortable. It was one of those nights I literally fell into bed, but come morning I enjoyed a hot shower and spreading my clothes all over the room and while Suzy was eating breakfast I was able to dress freely without having to shimmy into clothes in a wet shower stall. Really luxurious actually!

Suzy noticed a bunch of pilgrims getting into an air conditioned coach bus clearly to bypass this next leg, but reinvigorated by a coffee we began our journey onward. There were hardly any pilgrims along the long “senda” or pilgrim track parallel to the road but we felt a lighter energy than the day before. We saw plenty of birds in including a huge stork.

The weather was better today, less hot and with an almost constant breeze. We had a great stop at Reliegos at Bar Gil II for a beer and some churros and the owner also gave us some slices of the best “tortilla” that I’ve had so far. “Tortilla” is the frittata like egg cake most bars make with potatoes and egg. This one was lighter and had maybe some leek or onion in it.

We had another quick stop in Mansilla de las Mulas where we enjoyed some time in the gorgeous grass at a neat place called Le Jardin. With our beers we were presented two more delicious tapas, jamon, chorizo and cheese on bread. We ran into Nessie and later our Aussie vineyard owner and another guy we’d seen a lot of on the trails, a great town but we couldn’t stay as Suzy’s bag was being delivered to Arcahueja (we hoped!)

It was basically another day of “Nothing to see here” but our spirits were high, our energy strong and we kept on going. Not much to see save a very grand bridge and then a terrible stretch going through Villarente right on the road amidst gas stations, repair stations and small strip malls.

Finally we escaped the chaos of the busy road winding up through a park and into the hills to Arcahueja.

Around a bend as I was losing momentum Suzy was first to spot the herd, they were Merino sheep! She’d done some research on them. The wool they provide of course is like gold to a pilgrim. It wicks away moisture, resists water, dries quickly and amazingly doesn’t smell… and is not itchy! My favorite items are my 100% Merino wool socks and what I like to call my magic shirt, a long-sleeved Merino wool shirt, all made by Smartwool (and no they haven’t sponsored me to say that). Apparently these sheep were so prized for their special wool that they were carefully guarded. In fact in Spain before the 18th century exporting of Merino sheep was a crime punishable by death, so the Spaniards had a monopoly on the industry for many years. The shepherd confirmed for Suzy that she was right, these sheep were Merino and definitely not for consumption. They gave us the boost we needed to get up the hill to our comfortable Albergue La Torre. We took advantage of the bed plus pilgrims dinner and breakfast option for 20 Euros and had a great dinner with two female pilgrims from Holland and Germany. In fact the German lives in Umbria, Italy and runs a hotel there so plans were started for a spring 2019 visit to Italy. We played them a few songs and then off to bed where I’m now finishing my blog. Lots of snoring tonight.

Today was another big day. 18.7 miles. Yesterday was 19.1 in the heat. I’m not sure about the next walk but I think we need to keep eating these miles up to make it on time so I can fly home from Barcelona. We have come so far but there’s so much left to go!

I’m still here for 15 days and at times I’m just want to fly home. It’s hard being away from your comfort zone for so long, from your people and your life. From creature comforts like having your own bed, clean clothes and privacy. Hooks for towels, toilet paper and soap, things like this become luxury items.

One of the ladies last night was considering stopping in Leon. This is her third and final leg of the Camino completing the whole trip but pshe was going to go to Santiago a second time. She too is homesick. After we wrapped up our songs, finished the wine she said, “I’ve just decided to keep going.”

This is a long haul. I will keep on and we will make it to Santiago de Compostela.

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Camino de Santiago Day Twenty Teradillos de Templarios to Burgo de Ranero Perserverence

20 04 2018

The rustle started early in our room of four with headlamps or maybe even a camping light involved. There was a huge plasticky sound like perhaps something being pushed through that metallic stuff through one of those plastic blister packs like a medication, but it was almost ear splitting to me at 6:30am.

We lay there waiting for them to leave and crept out of bed once the litany of spitting, hacking, coughing and other unmentionable sounds ceased their eruption from the bathroom next door.

After a coffee and a banana we eased on down the road. The weather was perfect, just a soft slightly up and down road with actual turns! Vistas and towns opened up to us, so refreshing after the featureless landscape yesterday.

Sadly we got word from Heino that after a day of trying to walk he woke up both literally and physically to the realization that he cannot continue and began making his exit plans to return to Germany. We shed some tears in the first mile of the walk thinking of what a brightly burning positive energy he has. Funny that the only time we really walked together was on the way into Burgos. Heino wanted to go right at the fork along the industrial route and we opted to go left along the river route. We said “See you later!” Truly we believed we would as the Camino tends to reconnect you with the people you need to be connected to… but now I’m not as sure. I hope somehow our paths will cross again and he’ll always hold a special spot in my heart, but how realistic is it to think that we’d actually see each other again in the real world. But who knows, it’s really a metaphor for life people cross paths, maybe walk together for awhile and then take different courses. Anyway our thoughts go out to Heino and we hope he realizes this is not a failure just a setback.

Our walk was a little more interesting as it went through a few cute towns. One town had adorable sweaters knit around the trees in the square. We tried to manifest seeing a bird we haven’t seen before, maybe a condor or a cuckoo (we’ve heard so many but they’re elusive), by saying that we were going to see a new bird and soon we came across a tiny tree planted for Reverend Wren who passed away on The Way…

We came across some cool cellars called monasterios that are built into the mountains initially used to cellar wine.

On the way to San Nicolas del Real Camino we saw a sign for The 2nd Bar saying it was cool so we went there and sat outside the really cute bar. It had a John Deere sign inside and was playing an amazing music list you can find on Spotify at flip220 called Mananas. It was like a mix of alt country and Middle Eastern beats totally bizarre but so cool. We had a fresh squeezed orange juice (zumo de naranja) and I don’t understand why we don’t have these machines in every cafe in the U.S. As we were leaving the town we saw a barn filled with John Deere tractors seems maybe the guy was the local Deere repairman as he was tinkering away on one with his dog nearby.

There have been many questions about my John Deere hat, and sadly no I am not sponsored by the company but hey if they’re interested have them contact me! I’ve always loved farms and farm stuff. Carhaart jackets and The John Deere logo. My great grandfather “Pop” had a farm in Factoryville, PA and I loved the old wooden structures, hay bales all of it. Later in life I wrote a song about him although my Great Aunt Connie, his daughter, upon listening said she liked the song but that Pop was more “Fancy man” than farmer. Still I just dig farms. Bought a John Deere t-shirt last time I got to go to the cowboy/feed store place in Richland, WA, so… so this summer my friend gave my his John Deere hat in exchange for The Hungry Minnow hat I gave him. So I love this hat. I had to decide which hat to bring and at the last minute this was he one. He had my back all summer helping me not lose my mind at the restaurant and helping out however he could. He has also had my back quite literally due to his Boy Scout training by helping me fit my backpack properly. I have to say it didn’t feel so good at first but learning that he pack needs to sit on the hips and the waist needs to be cinched is vital. This is so important as your hips need to carry the weight not your back or you’ll inadvertently do damage to your back. I can feel that it’s right and see the bruises on my hips showing that my core is carrying the weight. So anyway long story, love the logo, love the hat and grateful it has been shading me these hot days.

So as the day languished on our energy FB became less. We stopped for a light lunch but it was so hot we weren’t very hungry. We tried to stay up and hydrated but the heat or maybe also the long “senda” or track along the road was draining our energy. There was no singing, no joking, no dancing after tractor town. Each section seemed to go on forever with no purpose. Ugh. We stopped briefly in Bercianos for a drink and more water and then on basically stopping every 20 minutes if we could find a teeny bit of shade. There was hardly any.

Finally at our destination a town where a lot of tractors seemed to be stopped, Burgo de Ranero. Well, no room at the Albergue Domenico Laffi. We’d read that the other two albergues were “filthy” on Trip Advisor so I began to panic… oh and also Suzy’s bag did not arrive. I zipped into Albergue de Pelegrino and they had a simple room with a bath and two beds for 45 Euro, seemed pricey but I was terrified we would not get anything and we literally couldn’t walk another step. Luckily the place is great. I was healed with a glass of Verdejo and the bartender gave me a piece of tortilla (eggs with potato) and a tapa of jamon for free. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner for 11 Euro including wine and the family that runs the place is super sweet. We even ran into our friend who was a bit overzealous talking about ethanol having no flavor the other night and he apologized in case he was boorish. He’s a great guy and we enjoyed chatting with him again. Suzy is hoping the bag will be delivered today at our next destination!

The pain and heat and length of today and all the trials and tribulations made me think about my life. I’m very lucky to have it easy. People are living with chronic pain out there and I cannot imagine how hard that must be. I know someone who has the best attitude about that, they take each day as a gift and instead of wallowing in sadness make the effort to be happy because what is the alternative? I also knew someone living in chronic pain who made the terrible choice to end his life. He was that same kind of person. He never let anyone see his pain. These people I have known too many… and whether that pain is mental or physical sometimes we cannot see it. Today my intention is to walk for those that are hurting without letting the world see. I pray that they can find some relief.





Camino de Santiago Day Nineteen: Carrion de Condes to Terrasilla de Templarios Gratitude

18 04 2018

I slept pretty well in my comfy bed but got a little cold at about 4 am and I was too lazy to grab a blanket. The places now are on the no heat program since it’s basically not freezing out so although there is heat they’re not turning it on. The place was peaceful and waking was very chill, no crazy rustling. We grabbed a quick coffee and some pastries with Jessie at a shop around the corner and loaded up on water for the long haul. On the way we saw the local fishmonger selling his fish to the market next door. He honked at us about an hour and a half down the road in a different city making the rounds…

This stretch is 11 miles with NO facilities at all! We were a bit turned around getting out of Carrion but headed out of town and onto a very long long boring trail. It had little water collection troughs on either side and since there’s been so much rain there was a lot of stagnant water around thus tons of gnats. Luckily they didn’t bite but they were so irritating. They fly into your ears, nose and eyes and are just generally annoying.

“Keep on going! Nothing to see here!” Suzy chirped and we kept going. Many songs came to me during the walk and I felt pretty energetic. We stopped at km 13 at an area with rest tables but little else and are our Jamon and truffled rice cakes and a mandarine and drank some water and a woman asked us for water and Suzy offered her some of hers and an egg.

It was really nice out, not a cloud in the sky and about 72 degrees, quite warm when you’re walking and with a heavy pack on even more so, something to consider as my pack was much heavier due to wearing less clothes and the extra food and water.

We joked about Carrion de Condes, literally translating to carrion of the condor and at one point Suzy posed for a funny photo shoot. At times it felt like the condors might circle you out there if you were to run out of water! Sometimes on the long flats you just have to entertain yourselves anyway you can.

I actually felt pretty great. Ros-i-toe, my name for my new little toe, is much improved. I really believe there was something special and healing about staying with the sisters at the convent. It makes all the difference in the world so our pace was fast. I tried to estimate it using the bpm (beats per minute) feature on a guitar app I have. I’ve heard in songwriting classes that everyone has their own rhythm and sometimes your songs naturally fit into that time stamp. At any rate it seemed like 97 was mine for this walk. Pole-step step, pole-step step. I saw people on the road weaving and meandering around the trail, to each their own, but I find it much more enjoyable to catch that rhythm. Suzy and I are luckily very much in sync. Still it was the kind of walk where we each departed into our own place for awhile. After about an hour of sing alongs (Rocky Mountain High, Jessie’s Girl, and my medley of show tunes from Pippin and Dreamgirls) we peeled away from each other while still walking in tandem. Suzy turned on her iPod and I just entered a contemplative state. The song Corner of the Sky from Pippin had come to me but I could not remember the lyrics until about another half hour they came flooding back as if the walking had allowed me to peel back layers of dusty newspaper off my brain to access this small treasure of a memory carefully wrapped in faded tissue like a Christmas ornament.

Finally an oasis from the long haul a bar! The men near us commented first in German and then in uneasy English as we raced forward, “You look like two horses that see the barn!”

It felt so good to sit in some shade as there is no shade on that strip. We were able to finish our water and get more and chat with some pilgrims we’d seen around. One Italian has been walking since Milan. He took a bus midway through Italy as they’ve got limited pilgrim infrastructure but then started up again. He has no money basically, hasn’t had a job for six months before he left in February. He has a 20 kilo pack which is hard in his body so he was on a rest… he has camping gear in there. He said some of the municipal and parochial Albergues donate a stay and food to him. He even got a rain jacket at one when he was desperate and he left them with a sweatshirt for someone to come. This network of hospitality is really incredible. If there is something you need all you have to do is ask. This young man is walking to Lisbon after Finisterre (Fisterre) to stay with family and hopefully find a job since there are few prospects he says back in Italy.

After our rest we caught up to Sina and Friedrich and walked for awhile. We spoke a bit about money as this for me was a factor that almost made me decide not to walk… could I afford it? Could I afford NOT to go? But Nantucket is so seasonal I Aldo thought that although I’m missing some work there’s really not that much happening there yet. Spain is very affordable, the food is pretty inexpensive and wine is cheaper than beer, sometimes less than 1 Euro for a glass! As we descended into the town I told her I hope that this investment in my own sanity, mental health and development will pay off one day or maybe I’ll just have to become a hospitalero in an Albergue. A few minutes later the four of us came across a man walking the other direction. He showed us his pilgrim passport and his Compostela from Santiago. He was headed in the other direction to work in an Albergue but had no money for food and lodging for tonight. Suzy had change and Friedrich donated as well.

After another leisurely stop in the next town to catch our breath and chat with an Aussie vineyard owner from Margaret River we made the last leg into Terradillos de Templarios. Someone said this is the actual halfway point of the Camino. We stayed at Jacques de Molay a cute spot with a lively outside patio and opted for the beds rather than bunks for 10 Euro. Good spot although upon entering our room one roommate informed us of his sleep disorder and the fact that was why he was trying to sleep at 5pm. We tried to be respectful but it was hard to get settled with someone sleeping there. Dinner was great and the scene very peaceful. This Albergue also has tons of toilet paper and even soap and paper towels in the bathroom! This is luxury.

Tomorrow we’ve decided on a big day…19 miles. Today was only 16.8, but we need to make a jump to give us a few extra days at the end so I can go home! That word home, omg. It’s crazy how lonely you can feel when you’re surrounded by people all the time. It’s a weird sensation.

i want to express my gratitude to the many many people out there supporting me on my journey. Special thanks to Nova Cadamatre who kindly sponsored my gray hiking pants, my Smartwool “magic” sweater, super comfy and vital silk sleep sack and my hiking poles that are so so necessary! Thanks to my husband Michael for providing me the time to do this and who is not only dealing with taxes for us but also supporting my jobs back at home and generally helping me feel like everything is going to be ok no matter what. He’s also taking care of my dear terrier Chamuco. Thank you to all the folks who helped with my practice hikes both east and west… Peter Palmer (Marin Headlands), Beccy Breeze (Big Sur), Kimberly Charles (SF Lands End), Grant & Ema Johnson (Nantucket). Thanks to Paul Berard for teaching me how to fit my pack and how to weight it properly. Thanks to Cliff Munkres and Mayumi and to Jonny Soto and Rani for your encouragement to make the walk. To Jodi Bronchtein for reminding me that I wanted to do this and telling me that the option wasn’t an option, I’d been chosen.

I have many more thanks upcoming…don’t worry I haven’t forgotten you all!





Camino de Santiago Day Eighteen: Fromista to Carrion de Condes Faith

17 04 2018

Despite the initial stench of the room at the municipal the air cleared and we were able to get a restful sleep. I was terrified to get down from the bunk in the morning with wobbly legs but did ok and we went next door to the Bar San Martin for a quick breakfast. We were excited to hit the road a little earlier and to see our long shadows leading us along.

I have to say my foot and right toe hurt quite a bit. It seemed like it was just not right in the shoe no matter what I did. Incredibly though once I’d take about 30 steps I could tune it out and ignore it but if I stopped at all it hurt again. Luckily there was really no where to stop. We passed by a new Albergue that we think would have been a good stop maybe instead of the municipal.

The path started along the highway then gave us an option for an alternate route alongside farmland which was pretty, but no towns save Villavieco and it’s abandoned playground and bar.

An old man pulled up to us in his car to give us candy in Villamentero. We stopped after about three and a half hours in Villacazar de Sirga for a rest.

We set out again for Carrion Des Condes and happened upon a woman from Germany we had yet to see. Quickly our paces all matched and the next stretch all the way to the town went so fast! She’d stayed there before as in this very stretch had an injury that was almost insurmountable requiring her to stay here for four days to heal at the Albergue run by the Hijas de San Vincente de Paul, nuns. It was of course where Suzy and I had already sent her bag. We had such a great and emotional talk and are so glad to have made a connection with someone who has so much spirit! Her name is Jessie. It’s funny because we were just asking for some more stories of why people were here more inspiration… we’d found some people maybe weren’t ready to share and others didn’t know, so it felt like we were meant to connect at just that moment.

The nuns checked us in, the first we met was named Guadalupe she told me when I showed her the Virgen de Guadalupe necklace in my pouch. We were presented with a Virgin Mary pendant and the cost to stay is 5 Euros! That place is airy and bright and spotless although they’re doing a lot of construction outside. All the beds are on one level if the high ceilinged rooms, formerly a girl’s school. I showered and dealt with some more toe surgery… seems like my nail is raised and split and causing the problems. I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ve cut off enough nail and skin to fix it.

We all settled in and then set out to get some food, I’d really been craving Gambas a La Plancha and of course the universe provides and we found an amazing place with Gambones and Langoustinas, bothbtranslated on the menu as “prawns”…so we got both although surprisingly the Langoustinas were the smaller ones. They were a bit more salty and the Gambones a bit sweeter and more meaty. Both delicious! Then onto the well equipped grocery in town to stock up on snacks. We were warned that this next stretch has absolutely nothing (no water, food, facilities) for 17.2 miles.

A group of us decided to go to mass, only to find that there are at least five churches in the town. We got directions from another church worker and headed up through the town. I’m the only one of this group to really speak Spanish but at times it seems like more than that… I honestly feel like I’ve been in these towns before. I never feel lost.

We made it there not too far into the mass and as soon as it was done lights were put out and the pastor immediately departed. We wondered about the etiquette again, Jessie went right after the pastor to ask if we could receive a special pilgrim blessing. For some reason it made me cry when the father blessed us.

Back at the Albergue we gathered our clothes that had been drying on the line and set out our fun foods on the table for our snacking pilgrim feast. Everyone shared and other pilgrims even gave us extra wine they didn’t need. Friedrich and Sina are staying here too which is nice. There’s also a girl stuck here now two days so far with shin splints. This seems to be a good place to be “stuck” though.

At 10 they locked us in and at 10:15 the nuns came and put us to bed shutting out the lights. I feel like a Spanish version of Madeleine here in these rows of beds with the nuns caring for us so sweetly.

“Good night little girls! Thank the Lord you are well, now go to sleep.” Said Miss Clavel.

-Ludwig Bemelmans





Camino de Santiago Day Seventeen: Itero de la Vega to Fromista Patience

17 04 2018

When we woke up today we both were still exhausted. These last 16 days have been no joke and while other pilgrims have been spending time to recuperate our “slow” days are 15 miles! So today we decided to walk much closer, only to Fromista, to get ourselves back on the right track since the next few legs are big and have very few cities in between. We didn’t want to get stuck in the same situation as yesterday with a not so big town with few beds.

We got good news that Heino is on the mend and thinks he can restart the Camino soon. He bussed back to Hornillos we are hoping to cross paths with him again and we are also hopeful he doesn’t overdo it.

We ran into the guy from Holland on the way out of Itero de la Vega and the mangey white cat was there to say goodbye. We had no options for breakfast so we just started walking. Another Meseta lesson… we packed our extra food so we’d have something just in case… a good idea.

Out of Itero de l Vega there is a long track that heads to the next town Boadilla. We joked and called it Breakfast town, then as the hours went on it became Bocadilla like the word for sandwich because despite leaving Itero de la Vega at 9 we didn’t reach Boadilla until 11:15. We were excited to get a coffee and some eggs or just a sandwich and it looked like a good sign that the stray cats in this town were better cared for.

I met a horse and we headed to a little bar Tita and they had no food no eggs luckily some coffee and only two lame little sandwiches sitting on the counter. What kind of sandwich town is this?!??

We dove into our snack bag and finished off the meat and cheese.

Not much other reason to hang around we set out and started walking a very long flat path to Fromista alongside the Canal Castillo. The path is sandy and steady and generally easy but seems to go on forever. Luckily we were distracted by a flash of brown weaseling across the road. I thought there’d be no way to catch up to it but saw a rustle in the grass and there it was! It was some sort of ermine, mink, ferret who knows but it was laying in the grass with its head hidden as if it thought that if it couldn’t see us we would not see him. I tried getting out a hazelnut but it wasn’t interested in it. But it did then come writhing out of the grass closer to us. As I tried to get in to take a photo I gave Suzy one of my poles… just in case. I could envision the creature who looked so harmless lurching out of the weeds and attaching to my neck. Suzy would be grasping for the tail as it went for my jugular… but luckily that didn’t happen. We watched him for a while cleaning his fur, he was super cute and an entertaining diversion on the boring road.

On along the canal which was pretty and we got to the dam/dike at the entry to Fromista. Over the narrow bridge and onward.

Fromista was cute but smaller than expected. When we got in we found the Municipal Albergue, Suzy opted to ship the bag there so we could go wherever. It wasn’t open yet so we had some lunch at the Hotel San Martin. I had some delicious calamares fritos and a glass of Montecillo Rioja. We decided to just go ahead and stay at the municipal, the woman there was so nice, Carmen, and it was 9 Euro and the bag was there so… it seemed clean enough. She also had some incense burning which was soothing.

It was siesta time so the grocers were closed but I was able to get some cash. I headed back to the Albergue to shower up and there was really only two bathroom stalls and two showers and the showers had very little space to change so I had my clothes over the top of the door and on a windowsill and had my towel around me and reached out one by one for my clothing. There were also two urinals in this coed space which was a little awkward, not exactly what I want next to me while brushing my teeth. There was a lot of testosterone up in that place only three women in our room of 12 beds… and it seems some men just think it’s fine to just let it all hang out in these places. Some clearly didn’t realize that there was a coed situation going on in the bathroom as Suzy went in to use the toilet only to find a half naked man there in the doorway looking at himself in the mirror.

Anyway I got clean and took a brief nap after a precarious climb onto the top bunk. It was cold as there is no heat this time of year, and the windows were open in the rooms, but they did have a wood stove going in a room where you can hang out and eat. We were able to get more snacks at the grocer later. We left our laundry with Carmen, for 9 Euros she washed and dried our stuff leaving just a few light weight items for us to dry on the line. I was so grateful as my stuff was filthy. The black pants were stiff with mud and the magic shirt was losing its magic… we headed into town for dinner and ran into Sina and Friedrich who were eating at a cute spot. We went in and had an amazing meal, a rack of pork ribs with potatoes, wine, bottled water and dessert for 10 Euro.

Back at the ranch our clothes were in a basket in a room filled with people, the communal room was toasty and comfortable but people were in little cliques it wasn’t the same camaraderie as we’d felt before. We folded our laundry and it felt so good to have clean things.

Upon re-entering the room we were struck by an intense odor of well I don’t even want to speculate. It was not traditional BO, feet, perhaps, just so gross. But we both scrambled up into our beds and made the best of it dabbing some of my essential oil on my wrists to offset the intensity. I slept well, not a ton of snoring and gassiness despite the number of men… and it was warm enough in my silk sleep sack with puffy blanket. Getting (climbing) down from the top bunk was stressful. This morning we had to be out at 8am… at 7:30 the manager came in to clean which consisted of shaking out the mattresses, smoothing the bedsheets around the mattresses and fluffing the pillows. Nothing changed out… just an FYI!

Onward we march across the Meseta!