Villafranca del Bierzo/O Cereibro

Villafranca del Bierzo/O Cereibro
Up at 6 am – Direction O Cereibro

Arrived at 1o.30
Watched my « mochila » safely installed as the taxi overtook us. Was a bit concerned about it. The cost was Euros 4. The view all the way was breathtaking.
I did not think it was the hardest climb. I also thought it would have taken longer than that to reach it. I almost regretted to have « sent » the « mochila’ by Taxi.:)
Walking along the rural area was an eye-opener. I loved the simplicity of it, everything was in harmony with nature, – how ingenious their reticulation system was, how self-sufficient they were, the colours of the landscape, all blending in –
Everything in that part of Spain is used to conserve energy. Sometimes, I thought it was a bit too much.
For example, you go to the toilets – you don’t even have time to sit down and the light goes off – then you find yourself doing gymnastics with your hands, trying to connect again 🙂 The lack of toilet paper as well used to be a bit annoying. I made sure I checked before I closing the door.
I also learned to check the shower prior to having it, to see what I could bring in or not. My clothes got wet on a few occasions (I noticed that after a few days of walking) The distribution of water can be restricted. In some instances, you have to push the button, lather yourself with soap – and whoosh… the water supply has already disappeared. I thought of holding the soap in my mouth, juggling around with one hand and trying to pick up the soap with the other one, still did not work. Those were the quickest showers I have ever had and I can be pretty good with that as I am conscious of saving energy. I have never fully discussed that with the others to see how they managed the situation, Perhaps, I should have… I wonder..I also did not appreciate on a couple of occasions, not having shower curtains or a door on the shower. It was all in the open. I know we are all the same – well almost – 🙂 I still have a sense of decorum. I like to be able to decide on that aspect myself. I don’t like people imposing it . I know it is less work. It was in the women’s bathrooms..just to reassure you, I slang my towel around and in a controlled flick of the hand I put it across the rail. Privacy was ensured.:)
The Albergue was on the hill. Because we arrived early, the Albergue was not opened until 1.30pm Already a queue was forming and tempers became frayed amongst some of the people. Gary had left his small bag in front and we went back to get our mochilas which had been delivered to a Mason whatever. When we came back, we put our 6 mochilas next to his small bag. That did not go down too well with some people. It resulted that the place got filled in no time the last person that got in lucky was a Japanese. The others had to keep going. It was the first time I have seen this. I had the feeling the end of the Camino is getting closer as well more people were travelling on the road.

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Rabanal del Camino/Ponferrada/Villafranca del Bierzo/

Rabanal del Camino/Ponferrada/Villafranca del Bierzo/

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Left at 6.30. During the night there was a huge thunderstorm, rain was falling on the roof with hail.
There was no one in attendance to let us out.
There are oak trees and heather along the way.It is difficult to walk at times, it is slippery and you have to step over big muddy areas with water still running on the side.It is hilly and there is a lot of grass growing.It is also very narrow .We rejoined the road and saw that beautiful medieval bridge (puente de los Peregrinos) on the Meruelo river.(originally built by the Romans)
Had a stopover for breakfast again, an apple cake – the owner of the restaurant was French – Withdrew some money, walked to the Civic Centre and try to juggle over the pool of water. I did not want my shoes to get wet.
The walk continue and Ponferrada is just in sight, we stopped at the Tourist station to ask the direction for the Albergue, it is very close from there.
On arrival, we were welcomed. warmly by volunteers who are running the Albergue and we were allowed to leave our mochilas at the Albergue and walked to the Castle.
« In 1175,the knights for the order of the Temple settle down in Ponferrada to protect the pilgrims and built a fortress »
Ponferrada means Iron bridge.
At the castle, we meet some American cyclists that became friends of Yolanda and Hildegarde.
Glenis , Gary and I walked for quite sometimes trying to find a place to eat. We finally decided to go Italian.
We then headed back to the Albergue.

Glenis and Gary were having a snooze and I went out. Outside the garden in the gardens, a lady stopped me and asked me if I wanted to answer a survey about the Camino. I said yes. Filled up the form and left. My camera had stopped working and I wanted to see if I could get a recharger. So I walked past the Ponferrada bridge and walked and walked and walked. I was so hot, I was wearing some flip flop shoes and they were giving me some problem rubbing inside in between the toes. I thought of walking barefoot for a while would be much better. I located a Chemist – Yes again – My body was covered with strange things and I was itching and scratching and scratching . The blood was coming out. She gave me some cream to ease the itch and showed me where to go to find a camera shop.

On the Camino, I took mainly pictures from the landscape. My camera stopped working because I forgot to take the recharger with me :). I tried to get one in Leon as I could see I was running low on battery,they did not have any.
SO, I walked and walked, Ponferrada is a big place believe me !:)Finally, I found the shop, unfortunately, the man did not have my camera ‘s type -the only solution was for me to buy a new camera- I just say thank you and left. I just had to be patient and wait for a few days. … until Mauricio (a Brazilian) came to the rescue. He had an Universal recharger. I missed not having my camera for a few days that’s all.
A few people asked to take a picture of me on a few occasions, I was a bit reluctant and walking I thought about that. It was another hangover I had from the past. Someone said one day they wanted to take a picture of the family and I immediately came along.I was told No – only the Family – Funny, I thought I was part of the family. So I cleared that up now and learning not to be so touchy. I have never seen so many pictures of me lately!

I returned back to the Albergue and went with Glenis, Gary and Jane for a drink into the centre of the City.
We sat outside watching the passers-by.It was really nice just letting your mind go and do nothing but watching. The rain came again and we waited for a while until it nearly disappeared before walking back to our quarters.
I had a full day and I was pretty tired.

Ponferrada/Villafranca del Bierzo

The journey started at 6 am. The moon was at 1/4 full ,walking along the countryside, crossed a few villages and stopped to have breakfast, a real chocolate (the thick one) without the « Churros ». How lucky!
The Pamplona’s bull race was on, lots of people in the cafe were cheering. Glenis did not appreciated that and thought it was cruel. Some pictures were disturbing, I have to admit. I watched for a short while and my attention got directed towards the newspaper lying on the bar. I picked it up, I wanted to check if there was anything mentioned about Olga. I was worried about that and I had a pang in my stomach. I asked the woman serving me to show me if there was some information about someone being lost on the Camino, she looked at the page she thought it would be and could not find anything. I put the paper down and started doing some breathing to chase that idea out of my head. During the walk, I thought about where all this was coming from. I was able to relate it with childhood’s anxieties. I felt more at peace that I was able to see that.

We went over a bridge and onto the path again, as I turned back I could see two policemen on horses following onto the track. When they approached, I asked them how many kilometres they did a day with the horse? » 20/25 kms depends – sometimes 30 kms – » which is roughly how much I was doing.(20/24 kms) per day walking for 6 hours and stopping on the way a few times. This was interesting. They continued along and I watched the horses ondulating onto the track, at their own rythme.

Walked more onto the alternative road – It took nearly longer than the first 18 kms –
It was time to have a break again, from a short distance, we could hear some loud music – ideal – We placed our order : « bocadillas con jamon y queso » and some tomatoes as well. The lady seemed surprised and presented us with two tomatoes on a plate with a knife on top of it. She brought the sandwich along and asked me to sit closer to the table. She opened the sandwich and added the tomato, poured some salt and olive oil in it.
Two more people arrived, they were relations. One of the lady took a liking to me, telling me she had an apartment in Madrid and her neighbour was French. She had lived in Cuba, been to Venezuela and was asked to visit her cousin in San Antonio in the US but needed knee surgery before she could go, her husband had died after a long illness. She kept striking my hair, ensuring I was happy, even told me to go to the loo before leaving – I followed the instructions as per the rule 🙂 – She was doing my hair and told me a miracle should happen for me on the Camino. I felt it was right there in front of my eyes. She was so kind. Prior to leaving, a song came out « Perfidia » She was so surprised I knew the words, we all ended up singing and dancing before going. It was so spontaneous and we did not have to rehearse it. I enjoyed that; Glenys was dancing away and I am not too sure was I was doing but hey, I was happy singing along from the top of my voice : »Mujer, si puedes tu con Dios hablar, preguntale si yo alguna vez te he dejado di adorar. » That made the rest of the Camino so much more pleasant…and Gary was too, he kept asking me everyday what was my miracle for the day, so there.

As for my itches. Looks like I have measles, big blotches coming out – very very itchy –
The country side is there to distract me from that thought. Absolutely gorgeous – going through vineyards and orchards.

We finally found the Privada Albergue – had to go to the end of the town – apparently, they are not allowed to advertise.

This has been a long walk – very hot – Yes! I will have a foot massage.
We gathered all our clothes and have them ready to have them washed and dried. They were not ready until late in the night – as a matter of fact, they brought them up for us, all folded at 10pm –

The foot massage – This time was different from the first one, a lady came and it was done in front of everyone, she pulled out a table located under a bed that opened up – and Bingo, the massage table is unfolding – I only wanted my feet done, so the preliminaries started :OOHLALA! I AM SCREAMING SHE IS CERTAINLY GETTING INTO THAT NITTY GRITTY OF THINGS! OH BOY ! IT »S PURE AGONY! Hildegarde is killing herself laughing, so am I…well – sort of – 🙂 She is next in line so, I made sure I waited and see what sort of performance this was going to be.
Well, it was hilarious! I thought I was assisting at a wrestling contest. She kept waving her hand and banging it onto the table, begging to stop. She was throwing the sponge! Yolanda was next, I went out after seeing a similar pattern developing.Mine… I thought, was quite timid compared with theirs 🙂 Splendid!

Gary, Glenis and Jane had gone out for a drink to join them. I went around a couple of places, they were not there.I had no idea where they were, not too far they said. I finally find them, sitting on the balcony of the pub, looking over the river « A view to a kill » Tapas were on their ways and not just olives. I had a craving for them all the way, so I always make sure I had my share or two.:)

We then went to the centre of the city to have dinner. I saw Barbara was there sitting on her own and she came over and talk with us. I had a stopover at the Pharmacy for my itchy bits… hee hee hee.

Then nite nite until the next morning, it was going to be a long hard walk along the scenic way but gee well worth it.

It’s a 6 am start – going the scenic way –
Turning past the bridge on a very high and steep climb.
Avoided three or four dogs barking and looking pretty savage. I am glad Gary lifted his baton otherwise, one of them was going to take a piece of me. Glenis had the same experience. They did look really nasty.
Climbing, climbing, climbing. it is a spectacular view. We came across some young people camping, still asleep. WOW! That’s the ticket!

Had a few stopovers, (Glenis had taken some biscuits and drinks and we shared them amongst ourselves and she gave some to a few passers-by as well who were really pleased about that) not only to admire the view but to take a breath. Running short of breath. Down below, I could see the road and some pilgrims walking, although I don’t like height that much – I was looking at the view making sure I was closer to the right handside, get the picture?:)

I am glad we went that way. When I arrived at the summit, it was glorious. I had the sensation, I had achieved something – I had climbed my mountain – the satisfaction was unbelievable. What appeared to be snow from a distance and I had been watching that for a couple of days, was some white rocks encrusted in the mountain. Just shows you how you can be mistaken about lots of things.

We arrived in a small village and were looking for the cafe, a woman told us to follow her, we went across, cows were nearby inside the compound… the smell of it could have knocked you out.:) so powerful we turned right and the woman opened the cafe for us. It was lovely inside. Had morning tea and came out having a little chat with the locals. One of them was weaving what appeared to be a basket and further down, a man pointed out to us « O Cereibro ».

Caught up with Jane again. She was walking slowly as she had a sore knee. She said she had been bitten by a dog – the same one we had met on the outskirt of Villafranca del Bierzo –
Arriving in Trobella, I asked if there was a Doctor. No, to-day is a holiday and no Doctor was in attendance. There was a pharmacy though and it was open. Spoke with the chemist who called the Doctor in Villafranca at the Centro de Salud who then spoke with me and is telling me we have to come back to Villafranca as Jane needs to have a Tetanos Injection. I thought he meant we had to walk back initially, I was not looking forward to that. The chemist called a Taxi. Jane looked worried, the chemist had cleaned up the bite, it looked nasty. In the meantime, he also had a look at my scratches and suggested that since I was going with Jane,to have an anti-esthimine injection for my allergies.
When we left, the chemist gave us some lollies and a kiss:)

Arrived at the Hospital, they had a look and said it was really dirty, they gave Jane the injection and told her she needed to have another one in a month and in a year time. A report was also written.
As for me…I got my the bum 🙂

Meantime, the taxi driver was still waiting for us outside and we decided to head back to Vega which was only a few kilometres from Trobella. On the way, we passed Glenis and Gary, Hildegarde, Yolanda and Bill and we asked the taxi driver to sound his horn…and we waved to them:) then we just sat at a bar and waited for them to arrive. Had a drink together and then looked for a place to sleep. We found it at the Pension Fernandez. Had a shower, did the usual, washing, nap, etc

On the way over for dinner, Glenis spotted some beautiful hydrangeas and magnolia tree in a house and spoke with the people. They asked us in and we had a bit of a discussion about the beautiful flowers they had in their garden. I told them about the origin of the name of the Magnolia’s tree. They did not know it was named after the French Botanist Magnol. The man then asked us to follow him around, he wanted to show us something down the road. It was an old flour mill which had been used for generations (200 years) They were so proud to show us that marvel. The way they used the water was so astute with the water coming into what looked like a river wall. During winter, the water overflows (lots of rain and snow) They had three types of flour to make the bread with – fine and mixed – This flour mill is now being restored.
I could not help thinking at the time had not Glenis stopped to admire the flowers and I talking with them in Spanish, we could have missed all that.

To-day I also organised to have my « Mochilla » taken to O Cereibro. It is the second time I have done that.
Went to bed. The Pension was next to the river and you could hear the water running. Nice and calm. Ideal for a good sleep.


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Puente de Orbigo/Santibanez de Valdeiglesias/Astorga/Rabanal del Camino/Riego de Ambros

Puente de Orbigo/Santibanez de Valdeiglesias/Astorga/
We proceeded with our walk. Arriving in Santibanez de Valdeiglesias on time. The bread is being delivered in a van, beeping along for the customers to come and get it.
The Parish Refuge is next to a cafe, it is very hot and we have to wait before it opens. So, it is a good excuse to get a drink.

Went to have my Credenciale stamped in the Trinidad Church. There are some statues of St Jacques Matamore and Saint Roch as a pilgrim. Saint Roch was born in Montpellier. After the death of his parents he gave everything to the poors and went as a beggar pilgrim in Rome. He performed miracles during the plague epidemic and became ill , went to the forest and legend said that he was saved by a dog who licked his wounds. When he returned to Montpellier, he was sent to prison for several years and died on the 16.08.1327. A church was built in his name, the railway station in Montpellier is called Gare Saint Roch. Many other churches around the world are named after St Roch (in South America, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Poland, Croatia, US, etc,
During the Medieval period,after the mariage of Peter II of Aragon in 1213, with Marie de Montpellier, the city was in the hands of the Kings of Aragon.
There were people singing inside the church and I listened to it for a little while.

In the afternoon, I noticed Jane was drawing. I really admired the way she occupied her time. She told me she had a degree in Arts.
Had my shower and had a talk with Hildegarde an Australian woman who was teaching English in the pleasant garden filled with fruit trees and I spoke to her friends Glenys and her husband Gary from Sydney, there was also a Dutch woman, Yolanda who spoke English with a Manchester accent – her Dad was English – and she was also a teacher. Gary was a bank Manager and his wife a Physical Education Teacher.

Dinner time came, I enjoyed the meal – rissoto, mixed salad, potatoes and beef, tortillas con patatas and dessert. Glenis did not eat the rissoto as she was convinced there was garlic in it despite Hercule – the Italian who worked for the Communal Parish and the young Czek who was helping kept telling her there was none at all – I had two serves – hers and mine – I do like my food.:)
I stayed a short while talking after dinner then went onto my bed. I did not sleep well at all. The bed was too small and my feet were coming out of it. There was a lot of noise and what appeared to be a fight going on somewhere. Someone had put the alarm on for 5.30am so I decided to get up and get ready. I left at 6 am with the three Australians.

It was a beautiful morning and the scenery was out of this world.
We walked onto big rocks for quite sometimes.It was quite hilly and the scenery varied a lot.
I remember commenting that it would be nice if we could find a shop as we had been walking for quite a while and no signs of human life – and miracle – the most unusual shop appeared out of nowhere – It was run by David, a printer who had gone bust, lost his family , went on drugs and is now living in a dilapilated place , providing the pilgrims with organic drinks, tea, biscottes, Agave syrup to replace the sugar, cafe, fresh fruit, etc. He had been doing it for a year.
After that nice break, I walked with Jane ,Yolanda and Hildegarde on and of for a while.
Arriving in Astorga, there seemed to be a bit of confusion as to where to go, so I headed on my own straight to the Tourist Bureau, looking for a Hostal to stay.I felt like being on my own again, I am like that sometimes. I seemed to remember also that Barbara was telling me that because it was a Monday the Gaudi Museum would be closed. It was. I was really disappointed as I would have like to have a look at it. I took a few pictures of the Epispocal Palace and the Cathedral. Astorga is another place I would like to revisit again.
Astorga was quite an important and commercial town for the pilgrims. It was founded by St Jacques.
More than 20 hospitals were built, it was the second most important town after Burgos.

Astorga is a beautiful place, clean and full of life.
I saw the young boy from San Francisco lying on a bench, I asked him if he was all right. He was without his brother and his mum. I met them earlier and his mum had a problem with her knee and she doubted that she would continue her walk.
I had an interesting experience in one of the Albergue. It was the first time I shared the washing with somebody else. The price of washing was quite expensive – it varied between 3 Euros the average and the demoniac 5 Euros. and the same for drying. Most of the time you could dry your clothes outside so that was not too much of the problem. One of the problem was that a lot of the places did not have washing powder??? Fortunately, I carried some liquid powder and I used that when the powder was not available. It was a saviour. Anyway, that lady from San Francisco asked me if I minded if she put her washing in with mine as the machine was quite big and there was plenty of room left. She said she would put the money and I the powder. We had a deal. Coming back to get my clothes , I found them all folded. How nice! Then I did the same with the people I was walking with – we all shared – I thought it was a good arrangement .
The cost of using a computer was also different. It varied between o.50 cents for 1/2 hour to 1 Euro, and 1 Euro 50.

Anyhow, I am still in Astorga, having a leisure day, looked around , went to the supermarket, watched a bit of TV, slept , called my neighbours who advised me that the outside windows of the building had been painted and the balcony was all done. I asked Ghyslaine how she was as she has had problems with her heart and needed to have an operation. She was fine she said.

The next morning I went downstairs at 6.15 am to pay my bill. Everything was closed and I started wondering how I was going to pay my bill as I did not want to wait for too long. At 6.30 am on the dot, the curtain lifted and the owner appeared. What a relief! I paid and took the short cut as indicated by the owner. I was on the road once more. Beautiful morning, nice and fresh. Lots and lots of people walking as well.
Had a stop and met with the Aussies again. Ate my cherries whilst they munched on their cinnamon toasted bread. Walked with Glenis, Gary was ahead – They had given their « mochilas » to a Taxi for the day. Went through the next village and another one. We had a drink and Gary said : »I’ll carry your mochila »
How sweet! My left shoulder was bothering me. It was the miracle of the day again. I certainly appreciated that.

El Ganson''s cowboy bar

Rabanal del Camino - Mara leaving with her horse -

Walking along a forest of poplars, brook, we are climbing up through small road passing through Santa Catalina de Somoza which has had pilgrims since the XV century. We stopped for a drink in the cowboy bar in el Ganso (the Goose), Santiago church. Stayed at Rabanal del Camino (Altitude 1156m)- 22 kms – Well done – Arrived safe. I ‘ve worked out the essentials for the day – Pharmacy in check ! Everything is Okay – Washing is in.
Waiting time : 45 mns – Had a nice spaghetti bolognese – What else could one ask for?
Came back and sat outside. there was a sleeping bag lying.- Bed bugs – They have arrived.
A pilgrim was showing the effects of bed bugs on your body. Not a pretty sight. Had all his clothes desinfected and was hoping to leave to-morrow.
The temperature was soaring. It was still 36 degrees at 17.00. I asked the Lady who was running the Albergue if she lived across the road as she went to check the temperature there (on the wall) .No, she lives in a small village a few kms away.
Saw Mara, a girl who was travelling with her horse. She was so good with him, checking and feeding him before leaving.Must have been difficult to find places for the horses. She had encountered some difficulties at times.

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Dario interviewing Mara outside the Santa Maria Church in Rabanal del Camino

Went to mass. Done in Latin with texts read in English, Italian (by a Polish Franciscan monk) French and Spanish.
Saw Dario again. He said it was hard to carry a camera and load.
Had dinner. Did not like it. The chicken looked like it was 3 months old and bathing in oil.
Coming out from the restaurant, Paddy – an Irishman – 🙂 was having a conversation about people having their « mochilas » taken by a taxi. He did not like that.
I had booked mine onto a taxi for to-morrow. Was it a premonition?
Did not sleep very well. Had cramps in my stomach and feeling like vomiting.
Got waken up at at 4.30 am by some young women who left and put the lights on in the hall.
Rabanal del Camino – Riego de Ambros

A green caterpillar ..on the "road"

Left at 6.15 feeling all washy washy ..without the « mochila » This must have been the hardest walk ever!
Arrived in the afternoon,

The young woman told me she was born in Lyon and lived there for four years but she does not speak French.
There is a washing machine. Good!
Headed straight for the shower, back into the room, I looked at my foot and found one blister – it’s a heart shaped one – I had to take a picture of it. Yolanda took one as well, she said mine was not too good.
We went to the Hotel for a drink. It happened that the owner of the Albergue is the son of the owner of the Hotel as well. Reception was ordinary.We asked what was on the Menu for the night and the woman refused to tell us. Seemed like television was more interesting than the customers. She could not keep her eyes from it. So we decided to leave and not order anything.
Hildegarde and Yolanda came to join us and Hildegarde said the Police stopped them and showed them a photograph of a Lady whose husband had not heard for a few days. Her name was Olga, I felt strange, only a few days ago I was walking with her.
We then left.We were told there was another pension above and they might give us some food. We went and found a 97 years old lady- as bright as a button – who kindly called her daughter to come and talk with us. She was fluent in French and a daughter who lives in France and a son in Melbourne. She told us to eat the cherries from the trees. So tasty!
From the house, the view was Magnificent! – a millionaire view –
She could not do anything for us but called a restaurant a few kms away and the lady came and picked us up and brought us back to the Albergue. How about that?

Jane, Hildegarde, Glenis, Yolanda and the owner of the restaurant

Another miracle for the day!
Gary did not come with us, he went back to the Albergue.
The next day I learned that the Police had come. The owner had put a complain about us saying we were disruptive and the Police came and spoke with Gary, asking for his passport.

The heart-shaped blister of the "Camino"

Leaving Rabanal del Camino

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Leon/Villar de Mazarife/Puente de Orbigo

Usually when I wake-up in the morning it is with a song in my head. This morning was no exception. « I feel good » was my song . Where is this coming from? I have no idea.
As I was putting my « mochila » on, I found myself smiling. I was feeling like the Fool on the Tarot card with his bundle over his shoulders.

Leaving Leon

I went down the Hotel Reception to pay my bill and asked the man at the desk to show me the quickest way to leave. He gave me a map which was straight forward and that saved me to have to go back to the Cathedral.

The Leon Hospital

I went passed the Asylum and met a young man from Bilbao – with a Basque name – Gaskon, He was a University student and was used to climbing mountains. He said he was pleased to talk with someone It was his first day on the Camino and it is always good to have company for a while.
When he said he was from Bilbao, I told him I went there when I was young. My best friend was from Algorta and her family invited me to stay with her.
We walked together for a while I stopped for breakfast and Gaskon continued on. I met the Korean young man from Burgos again and he told me that he had given the message to Sylvia and Elyseo. I thought that was really nice of him to do that. I thanked him, had my breakfast and left.

I arrived at an intersection. There were two ways to go. Asked a man which was the best way. He suggested left, so left I went. It was the one that avoided walking on the road. Onto the Camino, I met with Jane, an Englishwoman and walked with her until Villar de Mazarife.

We stayed at the « Tio Pepe Private » -the name amused me -There were two beds in the room, a bathroom outside, nice. No need to use the sleeping bag phew! that is good, Everything looks pretty clean in the bedroom. Jane had a sore knee, so I said I’ll go up 🙂 . I had never done that before..When I tried to go up, it was so silly – I just could not do it – I did not know which way to manoeuver.. I was laughing just thinking about the situation I found myself in. – My co-ordination was all out of whack ! – I put both hands onto the top…my body was not following.! I tried again and again – Jane was out of the room so that was Okay. I could rehearse as long as I liked – I then used the bedside table, so I just put my leg up and Hoppety, hoppety hop,. I thought that would be easier…still not working. Anyhow, it must have taken me a good 10 minutes to finally arrived at destination… Once I was up there, I did not want to kidding. I then had to devise a plan to get down now. Laurel and Hardy would have loved that!
I remember thinking hard about that one because the bedside table was quite low in comparison with the height of the bunk. That’ll teach me! I stayed up for quite a while pondering about the situation. Finally, I had the courage to get down…without a parachute – and I thumped my foot onto the table who probably was wondering what was happening as well. I hit it really hard and landed onto safe ground at last.
Went out to get some fruit, posted some cards I had written a few days ago.
The lady in the shop was telling me that there was no pharmacy here (medications is brought up from the nearest village).
I saw some people sitting on a bench near the church, I went and had a chat with them. Sergio, the young boy, was playing up. He was pouting. He was staying with his grandma for a holiday. Whilst his grandma went away, he was listening to the lady who was telling him his behaviour was not very nice. He was taking it all in. Grandma came back with a little friend, he gave her a kiss and forgot all about it, running around with a robot toy.
The man took me inside the church and I had a little prayer. He had the keys as the priest was also living in the other village and did not come every day. They were telling me that the young people no longer wanted to stay in the village , they wanted to move out into the city.
I bide good bye to them and went across back to « Tio Pepe Private ».
Had a meal.I met with Barbara(from Ireland) again. Barbara was a good source of information. She had already done the Camino and had some good advices about Albergues.
That night Spain was playing against Paraguay and won. The young locals came to watch the game on the big screen outside in the courtyard with their young children.A few of the men got a bottle out of a well and were holding the bottle with their right hand as high as possible and pouring the content into a glass they were holding with the other hand – there was quite a lot of skill involved in that without pouring any of the liquid out – and handing it over to their wives or for themselves. I asked one of them what was inside. »Cider » he said.
I watched for a while the children playing with each other, then went and thank the owner, the lady that served us who was really top. So full of attention towards us.
and? did I forget something? Yes… the climb was a lot easier on the bunk !:)

The next morning, I left on my own again I stopped for breakfast and a drink (tortillas sandwich). Barbara came in we had a bit of a chat, then she disappeared in no time.
Further down I met the Brasilian’s couple I saw at « Tio Pepe » (Loved that name) who were a bit confused as to which road to take. There are two ways you can go once again. I decided after the crossing of the bridge to go left to the town -along the road- I could see nearby, they opted for a different way. I had a bit of difficulty finding my way also. I asked a couple of people and they were not very helpful. My intuition was telling me I was going the wrong way, so I decided to come back to a crossing, I then asked a person who was most obliging and pointed me into the right direction, walking along the canal.

Puente de Orbigo


on the bridge Puente de Orbigo

I could see pilgrims and bikes and there I was in Puente de Orbigo. The longest medieval bridge with its 20 archs and 204 m long. It was undergoing renovations. I stopped for a while to admire it. I could see there were flags near the river bed and a Spanish couple were telling me that every year Medieval games are replayed about the Legend of Don Suero de Quinones and 9 Knights in 1434 who were fighting anyone who tried to cross the bridge to save the honour of a Lady. They fought with French Germans Italians Spanish and Portuguese for nearly a month. Then went onto Santiago de Compostella.
Hospital de Orbigo was built by soldiers-monks from the order of St Jean of Jerusalem.
I saw Jane coming onto the bridge. I was not too sure whether to stop or continue, It was a really very attractive place. Jane and I decided to go for a drink before making-up our mind to continue further, it was still quite early in the morning. I hope one day I have the opportunity to go back there again.

Statue in Leon


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El Burgo Ranero/Mansilla de las Mulas/Leon

El Burgo Ranero/Mansilla de las Mulas/Leon

I started walking on my own the next day at 6,30 am.Listening to the frogs walking along the railways that takes you to Leon and the roadway .

It was then that I met Olga from Slovenia, Ljubljana « Veronika’s country »:).I had some difficulty understanding her English. I think she was an Economist and worked at the medical centre as well as in a Gymnasium. Told me Slovenia had 2 millions people and a President who was democratically elected every four years. Her husband worked in the medical profession, he was a professor and was joining her in Santiago on the 17th. She spoke with him on the phone as we were walking.

She also mentioned that Slovenia had one of the best neuro-surgeons in the world.
Olga had heard that the European Commission was giving 25 Euros I think per day per pilgrim to Spain for the Camino – some of which to go for the plants – Trees which, in my mind,are lacking for a good part of the Camino – That was encouraging!
This particular section we were walking had plenty of trees that were planted but were not grown enough to give some shade and on that day…. we could have done with some believe me!
Stopped to a bar to have breakfast. Olga met with Theo (a Dutchman) who walked all the way from Holland and I continued with my walk, drinking water and crossing the Meseta. I have walked along the Meseta for a while.
Both the Camino Real (Frances) and La Calzada are joining in Reliegos. I arrived in Mansilla de las Mulas.

Mansilla de las Mulas


Mansilla de las Mulas

During the Middle Age there were 3 or 4 Hospitals and 7 churches.It was a meeting place for farmers.The fortifications made out of lime and rocks are still there. Only the Eastern door is intact.
I stopped to have a drink . It was quite early and I spoke with Frederique and Amalia his wife who had lived in France until the age of 17. She was telling me how difficult it had been for her to settle in Spain as she had spent all her youth in France. I decided to stay.
Olga and Jean made a quick appearance for some refreshments and went further on.
Lunch was really nice with a soup of lentils, chicken and a flan. I went to have a look at the town with Frederique and Amalia, got some fruit at the shop. Met some French people I had seen previously.
Went to bed early.

Mansilla de las Mulas early in the morning

Left the Albergue, it was still dark. Walked really well, my new silicone soles did the trick. I caught up later on with the three young Spaniards I stayed with in Belorado. This was their last day of walking. As they go to France on a regular basis, they promise they’ll come and visit.

The three amigos

entering Leon
I bought a stick before I left. I hardly used it at all. Most of the time. I was holding it with my hands behind my back. Later on, I was told I should have bought two instead of one.:)
As we entered Leon, at the intersection I saw Olga with Theo entering heading towards the Albergue. I decided not to go there and went to stay at a Hotel for the night. Had a bath and went to visit the Cathedral and have a look around.
I had read some of the history of the Cathedral, built in 1222 which was the first one and most important Gothic one.Dedicated to Santa Maria de la Regla Inside there was so much wealth displayed and plenty of light as well. On the door there is the representation of St James.
Originally, Leon was a military Camp.

Cathedral Leon

I came back to the Hotel, soaked my feet in cold water then did the ritual, unpacking and packing my « mochila » and leaving a few things behind. I watched a bit of TV – going through all the channels available – so as to get an overview of what the TV programs were. I had not watched TV for such a long time. Since I came back to France, I only watched a couple of times. I took two books with me one was a Guide for my trip, the other one « Le pelerin de Compostelle » by Paulo Coelho and I read some of it. A few people , on occasion had mentioned Paulo Coelho was the reason why they were doing the Camino. Some of them said they had never heard of him which really surprised me. Some of them went to buy his book after too.


I don’t know why occasionally people were offering me books to read and I just could not put my head down, which was quite unusual because I like to read anything at any time. I noticed people were looking into their Guide’s books – some of them in great depth – To me, it did not matter so much because I had no idea where I would be going the next day except to leave from point A and get to another place when I had enough to walk. Don’t get me wrong, I did read the book and had an idea of what the « terrain » was going to be like but it was not that important to me. I guess because every day was different and I just wanted to absorb its content and discover it without needing any great details before I started. I thought it was more exciting like that perhaps, who knows? I also noticed that these Books Guide were all different, some of them had the numbers of kms marked onto the map, mine had not. Interesting.

Cathedral Leon


Cathedral Leon

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San Nicolas del Real Camino/El Burgo Ranero

Started my walk from San Nicolas del Camino at 6.30am.
Arrived in Shahagun early and the first thing I did was to find a fruit shop. It is open. Good.
The next thing is to get some money out. Getting money is another problem, I encountered. Not all places have banks. Credit cards are not always accepted.

The city of Shahagun was destroyed in the IX century by Almanzor.
It became a prosperous town and hosted a number of people from different countries, English, Germans, Lombards, Toulousains, Bretons, Provencaux, etc in the late 1080.
Interesting about the Benedictine Pedro Ponce de Leon (1515-1584) Who was one of the first to teach deaf and mute.
The church of Trinidad built in the XVI century was used for the pilgrims.

Further down, on the outskirts of Shahagun, I met with Ann (from England) a training teacher for one of the University who does not get paid for holidays???
At the intersection, there were two paths, La Calzada de los Peregrinos and the Camino Real Frances also called the Royal Camino, we bid each other farewell, I took the West path and arrived after a few pauses, following a road filled with small trees and places to rest, and a few snacks:)in the heat of the day .. in El Burgo Ranero.

I booked my room and 3 German women are in, lying down. Later on came a Spaniard, another German and a Swiss.
The Spaniard,, as soon as he arrived sprayed all over his bed a content that inconvenienced the Germans. I asked him what it was , he said : « to avoid nasty things …and he was not bothered about the protest. » At that precise moment, the window was fully open.

I fell asleep and when I awoke I saw that young frailed looking man who was on the upper bank. I liked him straight away. We engaged in conversation, he had a good sense of humour. Jean was from Zurich , doing Engineering in Physics, had double nationality – his Dad was French, his Mum Swiss (from the Italian side) –
We spoke about watches. How some of them can cost Euros 1.500.000. A lot of French people work in the watch industry I did not know that. Jean said they were well sought after. A lot of them cross the boarder daily.
He then told me that the « Proletarian Bugatti » – mini in Gold – can cost more than the real thing. ..WOW! I think I might order half a dozen this Christmas…
I asked him if there was such a thing as a « poor Swiss »? His reply was there was a joke going on in Switzerland :
-« What is the difference between a rich Swiss and a poor?… the poor ones washes his Mercedes on a Sunday morning. » Handy to know, I’ll keep an eye on, if I ever go to Switzerland on a Sunday morning…:)

The Spaniard lend me some cream from my feet. I then decided to take action about that ongoing problem. I bought some silicone soles from the Pharmacy with a few bits and pieces. It was costing me a fortune in pharmaceutical items and I had enough of that… talk about being slow 🙂 The chemist gave me some samples for my face « Eau Thermale d’Avene » .. This brought back memories, it is not far from where I used to live when I was little.

I them went outside, there were celebrations all around, they had been going since Burgos. It was the Fiesta de San Pedro.
I sat outside the Albergue and watched the children playing musical chairs. It was really nice. You could see how happy they were when they won and their disappointment when they were loosing. As I was watching, a man came and sat next to me. He was French, from Bordeaux and he asked me where I was going, etc, what was the purpose of my Camino. He was working on a voluntary basis at the Albergue and was waiting for his friend to arrive to finish the Camino with him. Quite a few people do that actually. I asked him what was the role of the Albergue in all that, he said to ensure that people were doing okay, to attend to their problems if any, to ensure that no one was controlling anyone and to try to defuse it, if it was. I am sure that he was quite genuine in his comments, however, I was not too sure about that. It was, in any case, the first time I was approached in this manner. I was pleased to hear it.

I had dinner at 7.30pm – By then, I was getting rather sick and tired of the Peregrinos Menu – it was always the same – This was quite strange because normally I have been known to eat the same thing over and over. So, I noticed some changes in that regard, that must be a good thing I thought.
The Fiesta went on most of the night, right under our windows. « Volare, cantare » could be heard in the street until the small wee hours of the morning.

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Burgos to Castrojeriz/Fromista/Carrion del Terradillos de Templarios/San Nicolas del Camino

Chapter 3 –

If you are wondering why there is nothing about that particular walk, here is what happened.
I just had no desires to continue.
I got up in the morning, thinking I should pick-up my gear and leave. Sylvia and Elyseo had left.
I met with Helen a Danish woman downstairs. I heard her saying that she was going on the bus. I asked if I could go with her. She said « Yes » She was waiting for an American friend to come down. So, I waited. We went on a reconnaissance trip to the Bus Station, walked for a fair bit around the city only to find that had we crossed the bridge it would have taken us straight away there.
Arriving at the bus station, we could not get our tickets until one hour prior to leaving. So we came back to the town and sat in a coffee shop, having our breakfast. The young woman that served us was so cute. Miss
Personality Plus. She was really funny, full of mimics. Nothing was a problem for her.
After a while, a Swedish young woman and a German man who was working for the Government wanted also to come down with us on the bus. There was a robust conversation going on regarding health matters and education. The American in particular was quite interested in knowing about the image the USA had around the world?..I had a bit to say…:)
Anyhow, time passed and it was time to leave for the bus, so, we walked back, went into a market nearby and got some fruit, ham and cheese and a drink, purchase our ticket and off we went.
Sitting inside the bus, I was feeling kind of strange. I could not decide whether I was doing the right thing or not. I had mixed feeling. The trip took less than 1/2 and it was quite bizarre to see the distance covered in 1/2 hour by bus compared to the one walking. We arrived at the place and the American and the Swedish woman had booked into a Hotel.
So I had a shower in the Albergue in Castrojeriz.I was still feeling pretty tired . We went for a drink and then onto a restaurant for dinner.
When I came back onto the dormitory, I lay awake for quite sometimes, thinking about what I had done. Then, I remember the reasons why I was doing it. It was symbolic, I knew, however it meant a lot to me.
That break allowed me to carry on. I am glad I did it. I needed that.I just had to scrape 40kms or so from my trip that was all.
I had made the right decision. I felt good about that and that was all that matters. I never discussed this during my trip with anyone else, although this came up at different times. It was my own decision and had nothing to do with anybody else.

Hosts - If I had a hammer -

on the road again

I got up at 7.15am the next day, feeling good. The hosts were fabulous gave us a »sign » as a complimentary gift .I took it as a « SIGN ».
It was a beautiful morning. Pretty steep again… Here she goes, hi! hee!hi !oh!
Walked with Pia, Helen, Pietr for a while then on my own. Climb was very difficult again, up and down and up and down, the last kms were flat – thanks for that –
Weather was just right, neither warm or cold to start with,then it got really hot. And it bothered me – Yes! –
Found a 50 cents piece on the road.

Castilla's Canal built in the xviii century

Arriving at the place in Fromista -meaning wheat in Latin – put my washing on, had a shower and lied down on the grass. Clouds are gathering.

SAn Martin's church Fromista (Roman style)

San Martin's church Fromista - also linked up with Cathedral of Compostella

On my way way over to dinner, I met Dario again – an Italian – who was making a documentary on the Camino and was interviewing people. He carried all the equipment with him – quite a heavy load considering he was such a feather-looking person. I met him on another occasion and noticed some people were helping him with the load. I was happy for him. He was in front of the church San Martin (Roman art).
At dinner, Marc (a mountaineering Guide from Ireland and Andreas from Switzerland) came to join us at the table. John (from Toronto who had connections in Spain and spoke Spanish as well), a young German girl (16 or 17 years old fluent in French, English), Helen and Pia (from Denmark) and Toni (from Florida).
It was a most entertaining night with Marc leading the conversation – about the problems facing Ireland – in a manner only Irish people can do – the articulate way –
Restaurant in Fromista - on the right Willow from Australia
Left at 6,15 am the next day. I travelled on my own. I wanted to keep away from the people. I had business to look after -Myself- I got emotional thinking about my Dad and my son.

Leaving Fromista early in the morning

Trip was uneventful, following the Highway, on a straight line.
Arrived into town, passed the Convent of Santa Clara built in the XIII century where St Francis of Assisis stayed when he did his pilgrimage.
I headed straight for the Pharmacy again – this was part of my daily routine, I had forgotten to mention it –
« Compeed » here I come! get some strips for my toes. Feet were on FIRE! I did not like the idea of spending so much money onto « Compeed » strips, they are very expensive and there are so few in the box.
It’s the Camino rip off! A pharmacist told me he did not stock them because of that. Although I only have had one blister , I wanted to ensure I did not get anymore. My nails were starting to get all black as well. I counted 2 on one foot and 3 on the other one from the friction I was putting when going down with my shoes.
I also brought/bought the Alkileine – for tired and hot feet – phew! 🙂 Betadine , repairing foot and heal cream, the Ibufen, the Cicaderma, the medicamento homeopatico, the Dermo feet, the this, the that, ..the Pharmacists love the Peregrinos that’s for sure.
The only inconvenience – the weight –

I then went to the Hostal Santiago – Cost : 10 Euros. Went upstairs, had a look, there were only men in that room. I was the only woman and I was perched on the top Gallery. Did not like that 😦
So, I went downstairs again. Was offered another room at a price 25 Euros. BIG NO NO. I refused, then was offered another one for 13 Euros. I asked to see the room then, it was pretty good with a bath in it. I was the only person in – a room on my own – There were five beds.then… was told that the room had already been booked. SO, I asked for my money back. After another phone call, it was OKay to stay 🙂 Weird! SO, I took all my gear upstairs. Had a lovely bath and fell onto Morpheus’ arms in no time.Slept until 5 pm.
My washing was being taken care of – included in the price – I watched the owner of the Hostal, she was painting a bridge and adding the final touches – putting all the lights onto the reflections –

a Zen'snail

Corrion's church
Went to the church. Prayed. then onto the « Dia Supermercado » to purchase some fruit. href= » »>
Went to have a look around and sat in a cafe. I ordered a Hamburger – I did not like it at all – Could not eat it, the blood was running out of it. Left and came back to the Hostal. Picked up my laundry – was in a bad mood –

In the room were three men and another woman, three Spaniards and one Frenchman who had already walked 1,100kms. He had just came back from France. There had been some floods in the area he lived and he went back to assess the damages. It was his second Camino de Santiago.
The Spaniards were very young and very switched on. I enjoyed their company and had a good laugh with them. I felt much better after that and soon forgot about my Hamburger.

Carrion Terradillos de Templarios – San Nicolas del Camino

Woke up at 5am and left before 5.30. Daniel, the Frenchman was already in the Hall. I walked with him the first hour, averaging 5 1/2 kms per hour. My own personal best! He was running late he said… normally he does 6 kms per hour!


"Here comes the sun"

5.30 am moon in sight

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It was night still. I could see the full moon and I saw the sun coming up. Glorious !Daniel used his torch as we walked across onto the Camino . The whole world was coming alive as we went along. .Heard the rooster , the cows ,the pigs and the dogs barking, the birds chirping. It was just magic! I really felt fortunate to be witnessing that.
The 6kms per hour man..leaving me behind
I asked him what he got out of the Camino the first time, he said he did not know. That’s why he was doing it again. As he was saying that, I could not help thinking about that saying « You have the watch, I have the time. »
I am not saying this in a derogatory way, I think it was quite a valid answer he gave because the first time, from my own experience , it is difficult to absorb the whole thing, tiredness is one factor, the weight of your backpack another one,plus the (for me) extra load you are carrying internally . There were times all I wanted to do was going to bed straight away…and in any case everybody is different.
He soon vanished out of my sight. I resumed my own walk at a much slower pace.

I am on my own the whole time. There are a few people going back the other way, we exchanged a few words as we passed each other. It is pretty hot, my hat is wet with perspiration. « Water unsuitable for drinking » signs are found. I am not worried because I have water with me and there are quite a few villages not too far from one and another. I was later told that you can drink the water, a bit of politics going around from what I could gather.
I nearly got lost. I have to retrace my steps, the signs are not well indicated. So I go back and as I am about to go onto that right turn I can see someone coming towards me. So I decided to come back to where I was and wait until that person passes so that I can check. Just as well, the person- a German -tells me that the village is not too far. So, I continue along, singing to myself and talking with myself as I normally do.
At the Albergue I met with Willow again and Jan both Australians from Queensland) and John (Tasmania). Willow wants to establish some kind of Health Center along the Camino and suggested because I have lived in Australia, I might be able to help with getting some Australians coming to France in Montpellier in particular as it is part of the Camino, to do some walking along the Camino there with them to give them an idea of what it is like before they start in Spain.
I am in the same room as Jan and two French people have joined us.

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