Thursday, September 15, 2011


On April 25, 2011, Peter took us to the airport and we flew to Washington, DC, and then to Madrid. Jim got searched very closely at the airport -- apparently a random selection but very time consuming. We arrived in Madrid the next day (April 26) -- took a bus to Soria (a little boy barfed on the bus making for a smelly situation).

We changed buses to get to Pamplona, where we stayed in the Hostel de Nararre. We took a walk after supper to see the bull fighting arena, Heminway's statue, and ofter old stuff. Major jet lag!!!

Each year on July 7, Pamplona celebrates its patron, San Fermin, by running bulls through the streets and holding bullfights. We saw the red gate where these bulls entered the arena.

We began the next day -- hiking the Camino de Santago!

On the flat lands outside of Pamplona, Charlemagne and the Muslim chief Aigoland fought -- the two armies faced each other on the two sides of the Camino in 734; Charlemagne had visions of Santiago and, as a result, fought against the Muslims and defeated them.

We walked along ancient roman roads -- could see towns off in the distance and trudged on until we eventually came to them.

We walked to Puente La Reina - 21.8 km. It was a beautiful day -- we passed a Japanese man walking very slowing and a hiker who wished us "buen camino" for the first time. Tears came to Karen's eyes.

As the afternoon wore on, Karen walked more and more slowly - her feet hurt with every step. Her toes were jammed into the boots when she walked downhill.

We climbed the Alto de Perdon (Hill of Forgiveness) all morning - passed a long line of widmills on the crest. It was so windy!!! We had our photo taken with the iron pilgrim cutouts at the top.

Then at the end of the day we arrived at the Santiago Apostal Alburgue - We had a private room with bunkbeds but all the noises of the alburgue surrounded us -- it was a 100 bed hostel with many, many people. Karen used her earplugs! There were no English speaking people. We ate with some French women who ignored us. Jim spoke with a Spanish guy. We ate chicken, salad, fried pototoes and had San Miguel beer.

Thursday, April 28 - After a breakfast of bread, juice and coffee, we made our way down the hill. Karen's toes hurt immediately - not good!

Walked 13.5 KM - to Lorea - stayed at the Alburgue La Bodega del Camino, did some laundry - had supper with Danes Lily and Johann and an Australian mom, Rose, and her daughter, Kate. Nice to speak English! supper: Chicken, fried potatoes, ice cream bar. We learn that we will be eating fried potatoes every day!

Friday, April 29 -William and Kate - British royalty - got married - much media attention.

Our one goal: compete the short walk to Estella, a city big enough to have a shoe store. We've decided that Karen's feet will not improve - she needs bigger shoes.

We left the Aburgue at 6:30 AM - walked to the next town - had some breakfast - Karen wants an egg sandwich -- but that isn't the way it goes here -- they have pan (bread) - fresh loaf, no butter, no jam, but wonderful cafe con leche (coffee with milk). Villatuerta is a lovely town - still sleeping. We walk through.

We stop at a hermitage -right off the path - it is empty except for a alter where many pilgrims have placed rocks and left messages, flowers, notes with prayers.

By 10 AM we were in Estella - saw tourist trinkets - hanging stuff -- we stayed at a guesthouse - Hostal Cristina - that's where we had a great dinner. Paella with mussels and crayfish. Karen had the world's rarest veal chop with red peppers.

In Estella, Karen got her new shoes --we watched the Royal Wedding of Guillermo y Kate with Spanish commentary. Karen kept her feet elevated as much as possible.

We walked down to the square in the evening - the weather was beautiful and people were out strolling with children on scooters, skates, and bikes - babies in prams and strollers - while Spanish music played - glorious!

Saturday April 30.
Karen writes, "I dreamed I was at a bullfight all night but it turned out I was hearing the Friday night party in the plaza below our room - it lasted all night - well into the wee hours. The beautiful clean plaza was trashed but at 6 AM , the noisy street cleaning trucks set out to remedy the problem. All was set right by 7 AM.

We discussed our options - we needed to get out trip back on schedule. Karen's injured toes had put us behind. We walked to the bus station across from the plaza and bought tickets to the next big town - Logrono. Then from there we caught a bus to Burgos. We had the afternoon to see the Catedral de Burgos.

We stayed at the tiny Hostal Garcia - we asked for a double bed but got a really small one! There was only one toilet for 10 rooms!

We walked through a beautiful plaza and the Arch of Santa Maria to reach the Catedral. The Paseo de la Ista is lined with garly trees that make a wonderful arch - and we see the second largest cathedral in Spain -- chapel after chapel gold and ornate carvings and artwork. Altars so hugh that it is hard to see the top. A choir with misericords (now we know what those are). Our photos did not begin to capture what we saw.

In the late afternoon, it was raining - the stores were closed - we went back to our room to get raincoats and set out to find a supermarket (supermercado) and a place to eat. Ham and cheese and mustard for tomorrow's sandwiches. Yoghurt, a big orange for breakfast. We found a bar for egg and potato tortillas -our supper. Sleeping in the small bed was hard - but then we are on the trail again.

Sunday -May 1 - first test of the new shoes. We walk through the city of Burgos - then into the meseta. The sky is overcast - Before long there is thunder - we put on our raingear.

Buefore noon we hear the pealing of church bells - The Rabe de las Calzadas - finally -- a church is open on Sunday!! (most are closed). we duck in to admire the alter as mass is about to begin - Karen starts to weep- she has the makings of a mystic!

We reach the Hornillas de Camino at 2 PM - but it's full!! The owner assigns us two bunks in a room with 12 people with one toilet -- the shower is in another building. We are packed in cheek to jawe - and it is pouring rain - no chance to do laundry tonight! We eat supper with a Slovenia (who speaks English) and a man from Alamaegre (sp) who does not speak German or English. Drinking wine help everyone understand each other. There was a little church next to the Alburgue - we went in after supper to sit. Karen pickup up the handout with the hymns -and saw the Communion hymn "Yo soy el pan de vida" (I am the bread of life...and I will raise him up on the last day). How is that for concidence?

It was cooller than usual and foggy - walking in the fog gives everything a surreal quality - with other hiking coming up behind without warning - we walked 10 KM and as we reached a cafe, the sun came through. We sat in the sun - drinking our cafe con leches and eating a egg, potato, and cheese thing on big crusty bread.


Monday, May 2 -- our goal for the day - Castrojeriz - we passed the ruins of the Convent of San Anton and stopped there for lunch. Our book described a long meandering town with several alburgues and hotels -- and we walked past them all -- had to turn around! A little pricey, but nice. We did laundry in the bathtub. Dinner was wonderful. egg and pasta soup, a crispy baked chicken leg and mushrooms, pepper, and vegetables. We sat with an Italian couple - she talked Italian non-stop but not to us.

Tuesday,. May 3 - We went up a big hill - then walked through the mesa for hours. No trees, no shade - but not hard walking. We end up staying at an alburgue in Brodilla el Camino - the Begona family is everything promised - warm, personable -with a grown son who speaks English and many other languages. We were too late to get a private room but we ended up in a room without anyone else - so it was good. We shared dinner with Sachi from Japan, Selma and Rudolphe from Brazil, and a school teacher from the Netherlands. Everyone spoke some English so dinner was lively as well as delicious - lentil soup, fish, sald, custard for dessert. And, as always wine (but not for Karen). Sachi quite her job in Tokyo in March and started walking the Camino in France. Why? She wants to change her life. Selma is an anesthesiologist and Rudolphe isa knee surgeon, who are too busy to spend much time together. The Camino is a break for them and their marriage. The school teacher made a midlife change from business to teaching - his wife did the Camino last year. Sachi is a marketing analyst but wants to become a farmer.

Wed. May 4 - We got an early start out of the Alburgue -and walked the 5 km to Fromista where we had breakfast - cafe con leche and tuna pie. (!)

This part of the camino is totally flat - it runs on a wide path beside the highway. We were part of a parade of fellow pilgrims - a stream of lemmings - all heading in the same direction. There was an alternate route which we took -- it went along a river with shade, birds, frogs (very loud)... delightful ...very few people, probably because it added .4 km to the route.

We reached Villaleazan de Sirga by noon -saw the Iglesia de Santa Maria la Blance before it closed for siesta time... very dark inside -- but we paid the euro which made the alter lights come on for minute or so. The outside of the church was being refurbished and had scaffolding all round. As it was still early, we pushed on to Carrion de los Condes - arriving by 2:30 PM. Karen had a blister on her heel - and two sore pinkie toes. A girl from Romania directed us to a hotel where they wash clothes for free -- but it turned out they don't use soap - and no drying is included -- so our clothes ended up gray and still smelled.

We had supper at a nice restaurant full of peregrinos -we sat with an old German couple and 3 old Italians - they ignored us and made no attempt to communicate. We had fish soup - full of bones - Karen ordered fish as the main course -- also full of bones. "With a little practice, I'll get better at this," she said.

Thur. May 5 -- Karen woke up with sore feet -- and we had 18.5 km to walk. The path was fairly featureless. flat - fields on either side. There is a 2000 Roman road - in good condition - Those Roman knew how to build roads!

We arrived at calzadilla de la Cueraza aroundnoon - got a room at the Camino Real Hostal -and were given keys to someone else's room! Finally - we got into an empty room - Karen was totally exhausted.

On TV they said something about President Obama and Bin Laden (he had been killed, it seems). The Brits and Assies we met were not that interested in this and it was had to find out news.

At dinner we met Sef, a Pakistani guy, and Peter from the Chech Republic. We also saw the Americans from Oregon. We ate huge bowl of peas, 3 nasty chicken wings and fried potatoes (this menu is important because we will see it again).

Friday, May 6 - what a day! As soon as we left the hostal, it started to rain. Karen's blister got really bad - Jim lanced it again. Then, later in the morning, Karen threw up everything in her stomach in a spectacular manner. Would we be able to get to Sahagun? What choices did we have? Karen finished throwing up and said that she could continue walking (although she didn't look good - she began walking).

And eventually, around noon, we came to a small town -- and found a small bar -- and inside, they said we could arrange a taxi -- which turned out to be fairly reasonable -- and off we went - on to Sahagun - where we found a small hotel.

Karen needed something to help her stomach - Jim went off for Pepto Bismo or something like that from the Farmacia -- but they said I needed to take Karen to a doctor. After searching around, he found a clinic - came back -- got Karen ready and off we went -- to the Urgent Care center.

A thunderstorm began while all this was going on -- an hailstones, big ones, fell - filling the streets with ice! We walked to Urgent Care where the nurse was surprised -- we had no umbrella! Without waiting very long, Karen was seen by a doctor (probably a doctor) -- who hooked her up to an IV line - gave her anti-nausea medicine to replenish fluids and reduce stomach cramps - they checked her temperature (slightly elivated), blood pressure, and sugar. The doctor said Karen had a byrus (virus) and prescribed Gatorade stuff to replenish her electrolytes.

Jim was sick but didn't ask for any treatment -- we planned to hang around this town until we recovered.

Saturday, May 7 - Karen was feeling better - we went out and ate some yogurt and fruit - found an internet connection at an Alburgue -walked around to look at the monuments listed in our guidebook - ruins - looked at a street fair/market in town, stands selling vegetables, clothing, fruit. Karen bought some underwear to replace what she lost.

Karen's blister was not much better - she had to stay off it most of the day. Jim went out to walk around - brought home roasted chicken - good!!!

Karen watched Spanish TV - read the last of her book. South Park, Sponge Bob, lots of Westerns - with Spanished dubbed. In the evening, we found a channel without dubbing - watched Two and a Half Men - in English!

Sunday, May 8 - The revelers were out last night until 3 Am - very noisy. People party on Saturday night here!

Karen is better - wants to walk! This is somewhat of a miracle! SO -- we are off to Calzadilla de los Hermannillos. We take the Roman road - accross the countryside - it seems as if we are the only ones who take this path. It is colder - windy - threat of rain - we pass a train track and fields as far as the eye can see. We stay at a lovely hostal in a deserted town (typical for the Camino - the economy is not doing well - people must leave these towns to seek work elsewhere) Our hostel: Casa el Cura - and Karen seeks a cure for her blister.

The other two guests at our hostel - Ogden and Sindra - from Oregon, USA. Sindra has had foot problems - now they are not so hot on the idea of walking the whole way. We share a late dinner - Their son became a Muslim after being in the Peace Corp -meeting a Muslim girl - getting married to her.

Monday May 9th. We are back on the Roman road - going toward Leon. Not so many people on the Camino today. very few waymarkers - but there is only one road. Karen twists her ankle - her blister is bad again.

We eat ham, cheese, tomato - bocadillas prepared by the hostel. We hobble to a small town - an alburgue with 20 bunks to a room. Supper - not so hot - spaghetti, fried eggs. Jim had potato croquettes.

The menu of the day - this works against weight loss --each meal is carb loaded - every night we have ice cream. But we want/need the calories, it seems.

Alburgue and good night's sleep do not go together - Everyone's bed springs creak loudly with the slightest movement. Karen was up half the night.

The good news: Karen found a book in English -actually it is half a book -- torn in half to save weight. But this is something.

Tuesday -May 10 -We left by 6 AM - no coffee -- gotta get away.

Karen has a new blister plaster on. We are off to Mansilla de las Mulas where we intend to catch a bus to the large city of Leon. We do this to miss the city walking of Leon - spending many hours walking through the city.

We made good time - Karen figured out a way of walking with less pain. So we had a cafe con leche - get on the bus!

We ride past the hundreds of pilgrims - walking along the city streets. then we arrive - in the historic part of town. And there is the Catheral -- not far from our hostal - Hostal Guzman y Gueno. We had a double bed and our own bath!

Good city - we found an International newstand - bought an International Herald Tribute - read some - went to the Cathedral. It is called the Cathedral of Light - it has more stained glass than any other cathedral. We viewed the many chapels through iron bars - although the light was supposedly coming in the overall effect was somewhat dark. Burgos seemed to win -- if there was a cathedral contest.

The newspaper even had a crossword puzzle!

Wednesday, May 11 - Jim got another Herald Tribune - we had orange juice, ham, cheese - in bed while reading the news.

Then we were off for Iglesia de San Isador - we sat quietly in the sanctuary for a while -- but the church was filling up with people - a German tour group. We went to the museum -saw old stuff. Burial vault in the cloister - 12th century paintings on the ceiling - old library - choirbooks notated in plainsong for chanting, illustrated Bibles.

After siesta, we went out for empanadas de carne and shared a beer.

Thursday, May 12 - We were out the door by 7 AM and on our way to the bus station-we want to avoid the city walk out of town- had to walk around a bit -searching for the right place to catch the city bus. We looked with perpelexity at the city map and were surrounded by people offering assistance - One lady stopped a city bus and inquired for us - not the right bus -- but eventually, the right bus came - Virgin del Camino bus. But until that happened - each bus came - yes -this is the one, we hoped.. - no - people said - not the one. But the Virgin del Camino bus -that was the one - and after slow ride - we arrived at Virgin del Camino and were back on the trail. We took the scenic route on the trail - going through meadows and fields.

Halfway there - we ran in the Oregon people - Sandra's feet were better, she said. We ended up on a road way - 5 km into town - Villar de Mazariffe - the alburgue : San Antonio de Padua- whose owner is a graduae Physiotherapist. They had a garden - we got a private room for 2. This alburgue was run by vegetarians -a concept little understood by carnivour Spain. We were treated to a gourment salad, vegetable soup, veggie paella, awarm crepe drizzled in dark chocalate -- mmmmm.

Dinner companions -mostly German -a woman with plebitis (wearing dark stockings). We met Yolanda, who just started the camino today. Michael from Galway -he and his wife are doing the third section of the camino, they have done the beginning and the end -- now they do the middle.

Friday May 13 -we are the last ones out of the alburgue - leaving at 7:45 AM. We liked our room! Karen's feet hurt - what else is new? path - flat - weather - sunny. For Karen, every step hurts. The thing to see in Hospital de Orbigo is a really long stone bridge, which a knight defended against all comers-- he did this after being rejected by his lady love. Unfortunately for the touristas, the bridge is being refurbished - so there is much scaffolding - but it is a long bridge - very old.

There was only one main hotel - one with a great view of the bridge - so we take many photos -We had lunch in bed -Karen kept off her feet all afternoon. we had a great dinner - white asparagus, ham, pimentos, fish soup, lasagna.

This bridge was the scene of a great medieval tournament. In 1434, the knight Suero de Quinones helf forth on this bridge against all comers - he had been scorned by his lady and wore an iron collar around his neck as a sign that he considered himself bound to her. He resolved to challenge the best lances of Europe to meet him on the Orbigo Bridge. So along the side of the river, a great tournament was held -- and on July 11, 1434, it began with great music, church masses, bells ringing, jousting for several weeks, dancing in the flickering torchlight -- Suero defeated many -- even the greater Catalan challenger and on July 20 Suero and his close companions stood off 9 kinghts of Gutierre de Quijada -- who rode off swearing vengence. By breaking 300 lances at the jouistss, Suero completed his vow and continued his pilgrimage to the catherdral in Compostela.

Twenty-four years later, after takign part in many battles in the 15th century civil wars, Suero happened to meet Sutierre de Quijada in an open field. The two men dropped their visors and charged at each other and, a few moments later, Wuero de Quinones lay dead.

Saturday, May 14 - beautiful sunrise - sun over the bridge. We slept in until 7. Karen's feet are a real problem - much anxiety over this. We will have to take more days off, probably.


Saturday, May 14 - (cont.) this is our last day on the meseta - and we have some climbing to do. Karen's feet limber up a bit - we talked to a guy from Croatia -and approached Astorga. It's a big place - several plazas. They have a church where traditionally dressed statues strike a bell on the hour - a crowd gathers to watch - it is the show in town!

We had pizzas for dinner (a veggie pizza with white asparagus and whole olives) -We found a supermercado and go breakfast for tomorrow- no restaurants open on Sunday morning. Tomorrow we will try to do 21 KM to Rabanal.
Sunday, May 15 -walking through Astorga - past the Bishop's house and the Catheral - it is open for only 2 hours on Sunday. We went past the city limits - saw a small hermitage - with its doors open -- the Ecce Homo --We went in a sat for a time.
Most of the way was peregrino autopista. We got a cup of coffee at a place with a fireplace and had breakfast - spoke with a Danish woman who sends her pack ahead each day - cost: 7 euros. We are thinking of this when there is a climb planned. Karen kept up a good pace - even passed an old grandmother - uphill.

We got our telephone to work - finally - and got a room reserved. The proprietor took us to a rural casa and gave us a key. A small bedroom- a living room to ourselves. Very old stone house. We went to see Gregtorian chanting at 7 PM in an old hermitage. A small group of monks chant and we went for Vespers-- the place packed with pilgrims, the space filled with incense. We had dinner with Ogden and Sindra - vegetable soup and veal chop - very nice.

Monday, May 16 _ We head upward - climb 600 metere to the highest elevation of the camino- a beautiful clear day. a deserted town - Foncebadon - coming back a little due to the camino. Then on to the highest point - there is a cross and a pole. You are supposed to place a stone on the pile here - brought from your home - or merely pick up a rock, perhaps, and bring it. You carry it to the summit and drop it here to represent the cleansing of your sins.

we stopped at Manjarin - serves coffee and cookies while monks chant in the background.