Saturday, August 9, 2014

2014 Camino

As I'm finishing recalling and writing my blog about the 2012 Camino de Santiago, I'm planning to walk again in just over two weeks! There is something about this journey, I don't think I can put into words what it means to be there and how it effects you.

As I'm writing, I am finalizing my packing. I have added some items from last time and eliminated some. I have reduced my clothing and added my IPAD. Last time I walked, all I had in the line of electronics was an Ipod, phone calling card and camera. I still will use the calling card to keep in touch with home, along with trying to Skype.

This time, I'm going to slow down, enjoy the journey each minute and not be concerned about the destination each day or Santiago.

Most of my transportation is booked and paid for. Shuttle ride to and from airport, flights to Madrid, Spain, train ticket from Madrid to Pamplona, bus ticket from Pamplona to St. Jean Pied de Port. I have to wait about the transportation from Santiago to Madrid, I don't know when it will be exactly

I loaded and weighed my pack this morning and it is 7.7 kg or 17 lbs. It is a couple of pounds heavier than last time, but the IPAD is the difference. I sure hope that it is worth the extra weight!

Buen Camino!!

I'm going to try and keep up while I'm walking, but internet access and time in the evenings may be limited. I certainly don't wnt to wait 2 years to write about this Camino.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Day 29 O Pedrouzo (Arca) to Santiago de Compestela

Day 29. With just over 20 km or 12.5 miles left, it was bittersweet. There was an excitement about reaching the end along with knowing a great journey was ending. Along the Way, I had met many people from all over the world. Shared laughs, miles and meals with. Now, the final walk into Santiago, didn't seem so far now.

It was still dark, and I had just started walking down the hill from the albergue and entered a wooded path, it split 3 ways. A couple of other pilgrims and I were trying to find markers. An Englishman came up and said that he knew a sure way that he had seen the day before and retreated out of the woods. I looked at the paths themselves and looked for the one with the most wear from pilgrims feet. I took it, the other pilgrims took another one.
Well, fortunately, I chose correctly! lol. As I was walking it was still dark and I was passing the Santiago airport, I was looking at my guidebook when an Englishman caught up with me. We began to walk and talk, he introduced himself as Nigel and I told him I was Larry. After a few minutes, I told him, folks called me "Snake". He was excited! He cried out "Snake????" It turned out, it was Nigel that had stayed at the same albergue in St. Jean Pied de Port the night before we left. We had started this journey on the same day and now, we were going to finish together!!! WOW


First view of Santiago

Catherdral at Santiago
We walked into Santiago together, we remarked that we both did not expect to walk through so much city to get to the cathedral. It was a glorious sight to see such a magnificent structure!!

We saw and met folks we had walked with along the WAY!

I had just finished walking 789.1 km or 490.3 miles in 29 days, not counting walking around all the towns each day. This was not the end of my adventure, I still had to get back to Madrid to catch a flight home. It was uneventful with planes, trains and automobiles, lol.

Would I do it again? You bet!!! Arriving in Santiago was not and will not ever be the goal.

As in life, it is the Journey!!!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Day 28 Melide to O Pedrouzo (Arca)

Day 28, early start as usual. As I said before, the last 100 km was filling with pilgrims. It was fun to see their excitement as they wished you a Buen Camino! I hope they didn't take my lack of excitement negatively. It was after 400 plus miles and thousands of "Buen Caminos", it was becoming more of a going through the motion rather than an emotion.
It is really amazing how the scenery changes across all of Spain. The menus, housing and weather is a bit different as you walk.
Eucalyptus trees

Nice house with palm tree

Herding of sheep in town
The last several kilometers have a few hills, but not the major mountains encountered in the beginning leaving St Jean Pied de Port and approaching O'Cebreiro. The walk today was full of pilgrims. The last bit, is a combination of highway and wooded trails.

 As I approached O Pedrouzo (Arca) the albergues and town was to the left off of the Camino. It was a small climb into town, I stopped at the first albergue and had to wait an hour before it opened. It had 120 beds and was located next to a supermarket. This made it easy shopping to create my own dinner for the night.
Albergue in O' Pedrouzo
I had walked 33.3 km or 20.6 miles. I now had 20.1 km or 12.5 miles until I reached Santiago de Compestela!!!!!!!!

For the week, I had walked 229.7 km or 142 miles. I averaged 20.3 miles per day on the 4th week.

By the end of week 4, I had walked 769 km or 476.8 miles, averaging just a little over 17 miles per day.

Tomorrow, I walk into Santiago de Compestela!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Day 27 Gonzar to Melide

Day 27, I started to smell Santiago de Compestela! An old saying in America, " smelling the barn door". Like a work animal, smelling the end of the day and the barn door.  Thomas, wanted to start later and said he would catch up with me. I had no doubt he would. I started at 5:30. I wasn't the only one up, 3 Czechs were up and ready to go. They shared some coke (as in cola) and pastry. We started out together. They did not speak much English and my Czech was rusty! We all got confused by the markings and using sign language, map pointing, we found the correct path in the dark.

Cemeterio de Peregrinos

Cemeterio de Peregrinos
 Hoerreos are used to store grain like corn for livestock. They allow air circulation and note the shape of the legs to prevent rats from getting into the grain.
12th century church at San Xulian

Puente Furelos
 By 10 am, Thomas had caught me, passed me and I wouldn't see him until Santiago. I entered into Melinde, found an albergue. It seemed the last few kilometers were getting longer! lol

I walked 33.1 km or 20.5 miles. I am now 54 km or 34 miles from Santiago!!!!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 26 Sarria to Gonzar

Day 26, the rain was done. I started out early about 5:30. I walked and somewhere after a half an hour, I lost the familiar yellow arrows. I looked at my map and realized a road ran parallel to the camino. If I could get on it, I would intersect with it. I found the road, and started walking. All of a sudden, the road looked familiar! lol A left turn up a side street and there was the albergue I had stayed at the night before. I felt like a real pioneer, walking in circles! lol

I walked the way again, and careful to follow the arrows, when I saw a faint blue light in the distance. As I approached, it was a young German college student. His light had quit working. This is where I met Thomas. He asked could he walk with me. He was much faster than me, but, I had the light! We had a great conversation during the day. He chose to stay with me, even when it became daylight. One burning question I had, was what he was taught in school about Hitler and WWII. It seemed that he was taught very close to what we teach.
Thomas (using my water soaked camera)

100 km from Santiago marker
Old bridge in Portomarin

Steps going into Potomarin

Church of San Nicolas 12th century
It was in Portomarin, Thomas needed a new flashlight. So we went downtown and found a small store. The old storekeeper showed Thomas a small flashlight and demonstrated it. Thomas bought it. The store keeper gave him one out of the display, not the one he demonstrated. I had a lot of fun with Thomas telling him, the store keeper only had one light that worked and he would use it to demonstrate the light and then sell ones that did not work. I really think the kid believed me, lol.

Thomas was also worried of not getting a bed. It really stressed him. It seems, there was one night back, where he had to sleep outside. He was not accustomed to camping so it was upsetting to him. He kept worrying and hoping we could get a bed. We walked on to Gonzar, where we got in the Albergue Gonzar. We got the first 2 beds. We went to eat, and when we came back, the albergue was full! You see,  from Sarria to Santiago, the last 100 km is all anyone has to walk to get the Compestela. A lot of people do only the last 100 km, it is something in Spain that most people feel obligated to do once in their life. There was a bus parked in front of the albergue. It seems that travel agencies book pilgrimages for people, pick them up along the way and bus them to albergues. I hope they don't knock people who walk the entire way out of a bed, but I'm afraid the almighty euro talks.

I walked 30.2 km or 18.7 miles.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Day 25 O'Cebreiro to Sarria

Day 25 proved to be the worst day on the Camino of the entire trip. I awoke at 5 am and ready to walk by 5:30. I quietly exited the albergue along with a French couple. As we went outside, the weather was horrific!!!!!! Fog, windy, rainy and cold. After about 50 meters, the French couple turned around and went back to the albergue. During the next 4 hours, I had second thoughts as to my decision. I had only a small headlight, as I walked down the steep mountain, the wind was unlike any I have ever walked in. More than once, it unfastened my poncho and tried to rip it off of me. I kept telling myself, if I can get off the mountain and get to daylight, I would be ok. Not many pictures on this day. My camera was in my pocket. It proved not to be that protected, as it got water in it. It dried out, but I had come cloudy images for a day or so.

I did make it to the bottom of that mountain and daylight, but more uphill and rain would come. The storm subsided, but intermittent rain throughout the day. My feet were soaked and I knew I had a large blister.
800 year old chestnut tree in Fonfria
I am the type of person, once I get into a miserable situation, complaining does not help. I seem to thrive off of the misery and it seems to motivates and drive me more. While I was alone, wet, cold I just kept walking until I got to Sarria. Population of about 13,000 people. I found a private albergue for 10 euros. They had a place to dry your shoes. If I haven't mentioned it by now, a pilgrim must pull off their shoes before entering the sleeping area. I guess it aids in the housekeeping. The albergues must be cleaned each day before the next group of pilgrims arrive. This albergue had a washing machine. Anytime I had an opportunity to wash my clothes with a washing machine, I took advantage of it and washed all my clothes. You don't know when the next washing machine will be.

I ate dinner and crashed early, I was tired, cold and wet to the bone!

I had walked 2 of the recommended stages today. I walked 40 km or 24.8 miles in the rain.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Day 24 Villafranca del Bierzo to O'Cebreiro

Day 24, no rain but cloudy. We set out early and the pace that Greg and the girls were setting, I could not keep up. I'm a slow walker, like a turtle, but I get there. The terrain as I mentioned earlier had changed. I was getting closer to the west coast of Spain, more mountains and weather patterns (i.e. rain) from the Atlantic Ocean. I walked alone for quite a while, one thing kept bothering me. A girl from a European country like Belgium was dragging her walking poles on the pavement. It was really annoying. I tried to walk faster, with no luck. I tried slowing down, no luck. Finally, we got separated somehow. If you have walking poles, you use them, pack them on your back, DO NOT DRAG THEM! lol.
A very tall overpass

Hilly village

water running out of hillside

totally different type of trail

lady herding her cattle in

mountains ahead
The walk was so different. The scenery had changed so much, so wet. Finally entered the town of O'Cebreiro. Basically made out of all stone.

O'Cebreiro Iglesia oldest church still on the Camino
9th century
Stayed in the municipal albergue, very nice 5 euros. Greg and the girls were waiting on me there. This is where I met Gary, a retired State Department employee. He and I would later dine on pulpo in Santiago, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I had planned an early morning start, but Greg and the girls were not in for it. I would be leaving alone in the morning.

I walked 30.1 km or 18.7 miles today.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Day 23 Molinaseca to Villafranca del Bierzo

Day 23. As I got up, packed, ate a snack, I was waiting on Greg and the girls, I went outside to check the weather. It was beginning to rain. I went back inside and broke out my poncho. This is the first rain (except the small shower in Azofra) since I started September 1. The showers were intermittent as we made our way to into Ponferrada. Ponferrada is also noted for its Castillo de los Templarios, a Templar castle which covers approximately 16,000 square meters. In 1178, Ferdinand II of León donated the city to the Templar order for protecting the pilgrims on the Way of St. James who passed through El Bierzo in their road to Santiago de Compostela.

It was obvious by now, I could not keep up with the Olympic class rower, Greg and the girls ran off and left me. By end of the day, the rain had all but quit. It started to rain just as I checked in the Albergue de la Piedra. Greg and the girls were already there and had saved me a bed.
Vineyards along the way

Entering Villafranca del Bierzo

Villafranca del Bierzo

Greg and typical albergue
We had a great dinner, I was needing cash but the ATM's would not work. All over town. I needed some aspirin so, I went to the Farmacia. I got some aspirin with codeine in them. You could buy things in Spain over the counter that needs a prescription in the US. The pharmacist told me to wait until bed to take. I went back to the albergue aand took 2. I laid down and within 15 minutes I was sound asleep! lol.

Today I walked 30.9 km or 19.2 miles.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Day 22 El Ganso to Molinaseca

Day 22 started early, by now, it is obvious, I like to walk early and get the mileage during the cool of the morning and get to where I'm going and get ready for the next day, then check out the town I'm staying in. The early mornings, did get old after a couple of weeks, but, it proved to be the best for me since I am a slow walker.
The countryside and terrain was beginning to change. Instead of dry dusty flat mesas, I was walking into wooded hillsides and mountains. It was like a new country. The housing and food began to change. The house roofs were no longer terra tiles but black slate. Reminded me of alpine villages.
 Along "The Way" there is a place called Cruz de Ferro or Iron Cross. It is a place, where the pilgrim reflects on the purpose of their journey and leave a stone or other token of love. As you can see from the stack of stones, many others have been here before me!
I stopped in a small village, Acebo. Had a bocadillo and soft drink. Ran into Christine again, she and I walked into Molinaseca together.

Which way?

The trek into Molinaseca was very steep and treacherous due to the loose and jagged rocks protruding from the trail. I imagined what it would be like, if the weather had been wet. Up until now, 22 days with no rain except a small shower while we were in Azofra. 
Treacherous footing
Entering into Molinaseca, Christine decided to check into a hotel, she wanted a private room for a bath. I walked to the other side of town and stayed in the next to the last albergue in town. Albergue de Santa Maria. There I met an Englishman named Greg and two girls from New Zealand. One of the girls had just missed the NZ Olympic rowing team.


Today, walked 33.6 km or about 20.8 miles. As it was getting dark, I told the Englishman Greg, get your rain gear ready, the clouds look like rain. He asked me how I knew, I told him, I was raised on a farm.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day 20/21 Leon to Villavante/El Ganso

Day 20/21 started waiting on Peter, it was a very cool morning as we started out in the dark. As we were leaving the city, it was getting light. Peter stopped at  la Iglesia de la Virgen del Camino to pray before we left Leon.
 la Iglesia de la Virgen del Camino
As we walked out of Leon, the sun was coming up. This day would prove to be one of the hottest days, dustiest and long as we have had.
Peter and me

Peter and me cooling the wheels a bit in Chozas de Abajo

 We had planned to stop in Villar de Mazarife for a meal, but it was siesta time. One thing about Spain, everything shuts down from about 2 pm to 5 pm, then most reopens and everyone eats dinner later. We walked through the town with nothing open, so on the outskirts, we found one one tree in a field, where we put all our snacks together and shared. I once again fertilized a Spanish field. lol
Al and Peter sharing under the only shade around

Long hot trek
 We had already past the recommended end of a stage so, we pressed on hoping for a place in the village of Hospital de Orbigo, but it was 14 km or 8.7 miles more. We came up on a village called Villavante, The guidebook did not show anyplace to stay. But, remember, I said the Camino provides, there was a new albergue there, had just opened the last month! WOW! We saw some friends from South Africa and they were bragging on the place and telling us we had to stay. Well, it did not take much persuasion for us to stay. Al and I got a room with two beds for just a little more than getting a bed in the dorm. They had internet access and was very clean.
Later that night, Al had been updating his blog on the computer, and when he came back to the room, he and I got into an argument. I was totally at fault and over reacted. I packed my gear and left at 2 am. This would be the last time I saw Al or Peter. Since, we have communicated via Facebook and email.

I walked in the dark for about an hour until my head light started to die. I had given my small spare light away to a young girl with no light. I sat down in a vineyard and changed 3 AAA batteries out in the dark! lol Don't try that at home, I am a trained professional. I took about a half hour nap in a row of the vineyard and then I pressed on. I passed through a settlement, I think it was private, and at the top of the hill there were about 10 dogs sleeping, none were tied hey barked a bit, but none seemed aggressive. I passed through them without incident.

I passed through Hospital de Orbigo and crossed over the longest and best preserved medieval bridge, unfortunately it was dark.
Puente de Orbigo
Just about daylight, I was approaching Astorga, above the city is the Cruceiro de Santo Toribio, A stone cross commemorating the 5th century Bishop Toribio of Astorga who supposedly fell to his knees as a final farewell after he was banished from the town.
Cruceiro de Santo Toribio

Overlooking Astorga
As I entered Astorga, I decided to continue on past Astorga. As I passed through, I saw the Cathedral.

I pushed on, lots of open land and dusty trail.
Long stretch

Bells of Iglesia de Santa Catalina de Somoza in distance

Santa Cantalina de Somoza

Continued through Santa Catalina de Somoza through more rural settings.

Horse wallowing in dirt as I enter El Ganso

Entered the small town of El Ganso, stayed at the Albergue Gabino. The town is one of the towns where people are moving away, leaving just a few people. The buildings are in need of repairs and only one place in town to eat dinner. The albergue, was nice enough, with a kitchen where you could prepare your own breakfast. Clothes had to be washed out by hand, as with a lot of places. The courtyard was crowded with wet laundry from all the pilgrims. I ran into Christine again and some others we had met along the way and had dinner together. That is one thing about the Camino. For days you may walk with someone and then, they disappear. Then, a few days later, you run into them again.

Due to leaving in the middle of the night, I walked 31.8 km or 19.7 miles to Villavante, got up walked another 35.9 km or 22.3 miles.

The total for both (days) was 67.7 km or about 42 miles.

This ends the 3rd week. So far, I have walked 511 km or 316 miles.

Week 3, I walked 162 km or 124 miles. Averaging 17. 8 miles per day.