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Monday, September 30, 2013

One thing leads to another...

It was drizzly at 7am as we prepared to leave our Albergue in Agès when I realised my medicine was locked in the Albergue fridge. No one who works at the Albergue was around, as Friday night was a drinking night for the locals (keeping us pilgrims up). After a few frustrating minutes trying to call the phone  number and pacing around the place wringing my hands I eventually popped the padlock of the fridge to discover my medicine bag wasn't in there... It was in the little fridge next to it, which was not locked...
So we finally left about 715am in a drizzle. The first cafe where we took shelter provided us with coffee, but their food was slow to come and it was crowded due to the rain. Some of us purchased some fruit and coffee and decided to go to the next town. The rain looked liked it had stopped but it got worse as i climbed up some long slow hills losing the team. There were a few unclear intersections where I thought I took the most obvious direction. 

The next village I came to had one cafe, according to what people were telling me. The next town was only a couple of clicks further. The team was not to be seen here. I changed into proper rain gear and finished my fruit, assuming the rest of us would be lunching in the next town. On the way I noticed a little bar with locals, but no peregrine backpacks there. Heidi from Denmark walked with me, till I had to get out of my wet weather gear as the sun came out again (umbrellas I swear  scare the rain clouds away). Then Annie from Belgium  walked with me, as my sugar levels got lower I lost them all. I ate my nuts supply and other bits and pieces, but I needed to have lunch! Prompto!

Then I passed the airport and saw a little village past it, where I could have something to eat. The Camino took me in the wrong direction and I decided to walk back and into that little place. Three Irish ladies (notice there are all women on this Camino, and a serious lack of men somehow) also got off the trail, also needing lunch. There was little to no choice, and learning of my diabetic issue they promptly fed me home made energy chocolate bar and a banana and explained they were told to follow the river and keep it to their right. My phone led us to the river but there was no path to follow there, so we backtracked back on the Camino and along the highway into the industrial part of Burgos.

We passed a cycle path and walkway along the river which my map clearly said took us straight into town, but the Camino seemed to point the other way. We followed it till the Irish and myself all collapsed  into the same café. I stood at the bar trembling with low sugar levels and was refused service (just how things work in Spain). The ladies got served (slowly), other people coming to the bar were too, but not me. In the end I yelled for Coffee con Leche and pointed wildly at the tapas dishes under glass. The barman gave me a rude look but eventually realised something was up. Even after giving me my coffee and sandwich he was trying to figure out what else I needed. Still unable to even conjure up a Spanish postcard with my CF story I repeated Gracias a few times and gave the thumbs up to the now concerned man.

In the mean time Kathleen who had been in Burgos for a week texted me from her Spanish phone to say the girls had 'arrived' and i should contact them. I had no idea if they had arrived at the location where we had to pick up the key to the apartment, the actual apartment which was a taxi ride away at an unknown location, or whether they were in Burgos having sangria with Kath and Carlene. My texts to the team went unanswered. Turns out they weren't receiving my texts, but in the end we found each other after I got a shower at Kath and Carlene's hotel.

Of all days this was our most frustrating one. The team had waited for me for half an hour at the cafe without pilgrims. Rebecca hadn't received the text from my new Spanish number, which I had texted her the day before - assuming she got it as I heard an electronic bleep in the Alberge after I send it and we'd forgotten about checking it...

We had a couple of nights, one full day, in Burgos and saw the massive cathedral and lots of cool brass statues and other things. No massages on Sunday (I've been so hanging out for them and apart from seeing them advertised occasionally just can't seem to get them happening), no shopping on Sundays, no dinner before 8pm,... All the usual Spanish things. Bars close for siestas when the bar staff has to find a way to amuse themselves for three hours which is not enough for them to go home, nor are the shops open for them to do any shopping... Us peregrines find another bar, eat more tapas and drink more gin and tonics - which come in vase size glasses at moderate prices and outrageous amounts of alcohol - and sangria which is made from ingredients that don't look appealing (sugar, soft drink, rum,...) but which tastes fantastic with lots of ice.

And so we survived another rest day. Bonus for this rest day was finding Sarah currently from Melbourne who just swapped from the Northern Camino to our Jacobean Camino, the Way of St James, or the way of CF as we call it. We may have to adopt her into the extended peregrine family. Most o four extended family had a nice peregrine meal for the usual €10 complete with rare hamburger and bony fish, seriously delicious with the plate of salad and ample red wine which doesn't give us hangovers either. One miracle of this pilgrimage is the lack of hangovers, and the surprising lack of drunk and vomiting crowds that you'd expect with never ending wine supplies.

Can't wait to leave the big smoke behind though and go to the nice small villages where life is simpler. My sugar levels are better again and I'm boosting the vitamins as I feel I'm coming down with something.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Not Agèn...


Yep, another 7am start. We had breakfast at 9am. Today was a long but comfortable walk with a few steep hills, but also some good downhill stretches.



We met 3 ladies who rented bicycles for the day to get to Burgos, our destination for tomorrow. They discovered biking is not all  that easy either.

Another mother/daughter team, from Minnesota, passed me steadily, doing 35+ kilometres per day. Both marathon runners, and equipped with sandals, runners and barefoot runners they were hurrying along so they could get a week on a Portugal beach...

About 3pm we reached the small town of Agès...
Look, we even came across crop circles...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Belorado

We enjoyed our night in Santa Domingo, and had a nice meal as well. i missed out on the nuns choir, the museum (advertised as a 'church') with the live cock in it, and the Pilgrim simulation; an interactive display of what it was like to be a pilgrim a thousand years ago or so. by the tine you get to a place, settled in, did some laundry, shower etc, you cruise around town and find a little terrace to sit on. playing tourist is not a high priority, nor is paying to see a church (which turned out to be a museum). 

Anyways, it was to be a very leisurely day today. We knew it was going to be a little longer than usual so we took our time. Starting with a couple of coffees for me in town before leaving Santa Domingo. 

We ran into lots of our Camino amigos at the town cafés everywhere, we made good distance in the cool morning and enjoyed strolling in the heat of the day despite the long stretches parallel to the highway. 
In the morning I came across this sullen pilgrim pictured above, from Germany, who had walked from München to Santiago and was now on her way home. Take photo of dog in return for donation. I obliged. She must've known I wasn't going to give her €100 so the smile wasn't included.

Maybe you get immune to these lovely towns that we walk through and don't take as many photos as we should, but they sure are nice to come across. Shady and often with a cafe.

One playground provided us with a very inaccurate set of scales. It showed my backpack to be very heavy. Good thing I don't carry my meds as well! I can't believe my pack is that heavy, I expect about 12kg, but others tell me it surely weighs more. It doesn't feel too bad really, and I don't think it causes me to slow down on the hills.

And around lunch time we arrived at Belorado. Lovely town, lots of nice places to stay and eat, old castles and churches, small and friendly. The Alberge had a massage sign, but it turned out to be a false alarm. I had one a few days ago, my first one, and it was very therapeutic. I like to try a relaxing one next, but they aren't commonly available. If I come across reasonably priced massages I tend to be tempted, but it has only happened once so far.

Today I took an anti-inflammatory pill (neurofin I think), as my gout foot gets very sore at night now. Lets see if it helps. I could kind of feel my knee too lately, and today with the 600mg pill I didn't notice it. Keep fingers crossed. It is also why I am tempted to have the occasional massage.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Have merci

Lord have merci. The French peregrines in our peaceful Puerte de Najera decided to get up at an ungodly time. Though we had a bit of a late night we were out of the door by 645am when we left the Refugio under darkness. For some reason young camouflaged clad cut lunch commando style people were still drinking in large groups and some kind of fireworks (missiles to us) were exploding in the distance, but we marched West, up the hill. An hour later we came to Azofra where we descended on a local cafe for breakfast of sorts. Sure enough all our Camino Amigos slowly streamed in too. Some had spend the night there and were having a civilised morning.

Still cool, but now in early daylight we twiddled along the road, passing vineyards and hay stacks on our way to Cirueña, our next cafe. 

Cirueña turned out to be weird. As the awesome foursome got to the top of the hill where the local golf club was situated (first one along the Camino), I was still coughing and sweating with Ron. By the time the girls had finished Rhein coffee I arrived. Unfortunately the totally slack staff at this golf club did not serve me promptly enough, I patiently waited for 2x 10 in buttes without luck. By now the rest of the team was ready to go and I was utterly frustrated by the slow staff who would slowly serve once customer before disappearing behind a door for 5 minutes (possibly attending to their Facebook/email). After passing the golf club townhouses/burbs the Camino led us on a little loop through town for no reason before continuing into the fields.
The signs pointing us along the way are slowly counting down to Santiago! I swapped my shoes for the Vibram five fingers when I stopped at the gypsy who so,d drinks from the back of his car - with signs saying something about the government and how he does this instead of stealing from people.


Barely lunch time when we arrived safely at the Sisters Monastery in Santi Domingo where the team had booked me in and I booked myself in as well (the nun on duty was not quite on the ball, nor was I). Rebecca who saw me walk in also failed to mention I was already checked in. Once that was all sorted I was put into a separate room with only two other people (a Spanish couple whom I trust won't be too amorous tonight). A shower and some laundry later we checked out town.

Finding one of the many Internet cafes we consumed sangria, cerveza and snacks whilst the phones kept our focus from our sore feet. Though I am not sporting any blisters yet my gout affected toe joint is hurting plenty - not helped by the complimentary red wine we drink each night.

The girls bought Dan a little chocolate cock to eat.




Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rebecca feeling the pain...


Yes, that is right, it was Rebecca's turn to age another year today. To celebrate it we left Navarette  extra early and did a quick walk to Najera, a mere 17kms up the road.

But anyways, just coming back to Navarette, below is a photo of Kelly and crazy boyfriend Dan helping me look for a geocache. Kelly did not want to give up and Dan eventually found it for us. It is my first successful geocache in Spain. Thanks Dan and Kelly! As it took much longer than expected dinner was also delayed and I got to bed late, meaning I could hardly do any nebs as everyone was asleep when I came into the room. With 15 or more people trying to sleep I sat there with my headlight strapped on.... Fortunately most of the pilgrims in the room know me. On Dutch Danish woman who is riding an electric bike, Tom and his wife from Ohio, the spunky Ann from Wortel in Belgium doing a quick solo Camino, Wendy and Deedee,...

An early start with skimpy breaky in a bar, and off we went. well, i had to go back to the Alberge to get some forgotten medicine from my medicine bag first,... and receive my left shorts from Katerine from germany who found them and presumed they were mine (as I'm the liability of the team :)  the medicine bag was still sitting there awaiting the transport to Najera.  Jacotrans transports my medicine bag to the next town faithfully for €7/day. Bargain really.

The walk to Najera was relatively simple, a fairly long gentle uphill and a nice downhill into town. A town with a cafe in the middle, and all our pilgrim amigos everywhere along the track. The private hostel where we are now, the Puerto de Najera, is well located and a lot of fun. We have Wendy and daughter Deedee staying here as well as Kelly and Dan. It's a small world. I went and had a therapeutic massage by a strong matador  in the afternoon and hope my legs will be back to normal tomorrow.

Dinner was a 730pm at the albergue recommended restaurant where a candle was lit to commiserate Rebecca's extra year.

Here's a pic of Dan and Kelly...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rest days

2 of the camino Trekkers succumbed to injuries, so are having some much needed r&r in beautiful Burgos, a city of approx 175,000, and showcasing some beautiful majestic architecture. We remember Charlton Heston playing the historical El Cid; Burgos is his hometown. Here we have the most beautiful 13th century Catedral of Santa Maria, photo after siesta.

Sent from my iPhone

A walk in the park.....

Today we started our walk with Lagroña in sight. Our mission was to go in, drink coffee, walk out and find Navarette. Sounds simple. Getting out of bed is always an important part of the day, a good start a good day. One look at the sliced white bread and jam on the Refugio's table convinced us not to have breaks here. So under the moonlight at 7am we wondered up to the old town where everything was still closed, bar the baker. We bought a stick of brown saltless bread and put one of my old cream cheese portions on it. Then into the fancy hotel where the others were staying. They didn't seem to serve breakfast for non-guests but coffee and one croissant was available. With the team assembled save for Kath and Carlene who were already n Lagroño, we headed into the city down in the valley.
Mostly downhill into town. Quick church visit, buck for a beggar, photo with a pilgrim statue, and a pharmacy stop before the much needed coffee and snacks. Kath made an appearance and updated us on the Carlene's health status and the festival that was happening here before we continued up the hill, around the pond and into the town of Najera.


Not a bad walk today. Another church to see, this time a coin operated one. Put money in the slot and the lights to the altar light up. Innovative! Tapas and beer and a quick geocache with crazy Dan and Kelly from Canadia.



 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Predawn walking!

I never thought I'd be able to leave this early anywhere, but this morning we left before dawn!

Last night was a rush for me as I got back at the Alberge after the others had gone to bed. this was because I snuck into the 8pm church service after dinner. Being on a pilgrimage it only seemed the right thing to do on behalf of our team. Sure enough I was not the only one in this massive gold and statue covered church, and I even knew half a dozen people sitting around me on the back seats on first name basis - anyone who knows me knows that for me to just remember names is already remarkable. So in any case, the team was asleep when I finally started my abridged nebulising routine. 

Today the team broke into three. The keen ones, Rebecca, Lynda and Jo had a very early breakfast and headed off to a hotel in Viana at 7am, Karina and I had a slightly later breakfast and left 715am for an Alberge. The third shift was Kath and Carlene who are bussing to Logroño where they'll have a couple of nights to help Carlene's heel heal - she had it medically attended to and received an injection and an unconditional order to give it a rest.

When we left at 715am it was still dark, a full moon beaming down on us and it was nice and fresh. I coughed and coughed up the hill out of town till Jos from Holland, a Reiki Master, put his hand somewhere on my back and i could not only walk up the hill without coughing, but without panting as much as i normally do. I will need to find out more about Reiki!

The first two hours we marched fast and furious and easily caught up to the others. Then I missed a turn and followed a highway for a while before backtracking and finding my way back on track. 

As I walked into Viana, 20kms along, and not much after 11am, the local shepherd crossed my way. Love animals. And then I found the sign to Albergue Izar where I found Karina. Together we went into the old town and had tapas and sangria with the others.

Just while I got your attention, I thought it worthwhile to mention that free wifi is almost everywhere and most albergues have power points around the place, but lights.... It seems the Spanish are very conservative with lights. All lights either work on fast timers or sensors. This means you find yourself on the loo or in the shower in the dark. Also, many places have showers with buttons you push for water. You practically need to keep your spine attached to them to keep the shower going and the water often goes right against the wall. So showering is not always comfortable. Water has always been warm! Sometimes there's not too many toilets/showers, and rarely on the same floor as where we stay. Still, mostly everything is clean and comfy wherever we go and often we know the people we are sharing with which creates a nice atmosphere.



Estella

Los Arcos (above) turned out to be quite a nice spot. I tried to find a shop to sell me some phone credit but was pointed to the phone shop where people take hours to discuss phones. Impatient as always I walked into a pharmacy and asked if there was a news agency or supermarket nearby. They pointed me to another shop to get credit. Low and behold they also sell phones in one corner and the one sales assistant was absorbed in this potential sale. Other customers pointed me to a nearby lolly shop. There they pointed me to a tobacconist where I eventually got a €10 credit applied to my Movistar spanish phone. Then I went into a pharmacy to get something for my chaffing and was done in 3 minutes.
Breakfast at the Refugio Juvenil was absolutely magnificent with muesli, proper coffee, fresh fruit, even lactose free milk! After that breakfast I was in a daze and took a wrong turn somewhere, suddenly seeing my mates way down below where I was. No big deal, I caught up fairly quickly to meet Karina waiting for me at the Wine Well, where wine flows freely out of wall tap on demand. The others did not like wine at 830am and had moved on. See the photo below with Rebecca, Jo and Lynda hurrying along the Camino.


The track took us up a long hill with magnificent views before coming to hot farmland. It was hot but mostly downhill, and past several stacks of huge haystacks.

We found our Alberge without a problem and settled in again on the second floor. We like this town with €6 jugs of Sangria. Even our laundry was done for €0.50 which seemed a bargain till we got it all back wet... Dinner time!





Saturday, September 21, 2013

Estella Juvenile

Hostel Jake in Puenta La Reina wasn't stuffy despite there being no windows in the crowded accommodation caves and we all had a pretty good sleep. A quick breaky and we were off into the hills. Well, all of us except Kath and Carlene as Carlene woke up not being able to stand on her heel. Kath joined her in a cab to Estella,  our next destination, where they found a hotel and masseur.... 


And so the five of us left over marched off with delirious enthusiasm. The hills got in my way and every time a hill popped up all my new Camino friends would appear out of nowhere and pass me and say Gidday. I would also make new Camino Amigos and on top of each hill, after catching my breath, I hand out the Way of CF postcards to the new mates before flying along the straights and downhills where I have the advantage again.

Eventually we all meet up at  strategically placed cafés along the way where most peregrines buy coffee and snacks. Some of us just have bread, cheese and chorizo with a Coke or Cafés con Leche. These stops are very social where you meet all your new mates, meet old ones and new ones. This El Camino experience is not a place for solitude - yet.

In fact I have my phone loaded with cool podcasts that I like to listen to, but just do not get a chance. Just talking to my mother on the phone in Dutch a Dutchman thinks I'm talking to him. Mum tells him Buen Camino too. 

And eventually, some more hills and steep little climbs later we enter Estella where we are greeted with the usual watering point and a little road sign that advises us that our booked Alberge Juvenil is 1500m further away.... and this also turned out to be uphill. Fortunately there was a lift to the second floor where we have a room to ourselves complete with free wifi.

Estella is pretty big, but despite that the Camino social life continuous with frequent meetings of fellow peregrines in the various bell ringing squares with plenty f licensed premises serving iced Sangria, paella, pizza, beer,...




Friday, September 20, 2013

Windmill farming blowing us away

After a rest day in Pamplona we felt a million dollars,... NOT! Well, we seriously did feel a fair bit better and with only slight regret we left our by now much appreciated hotels to begin our day of 20+kms. The kind alberqe manager of the previous night drove my medicine back the same night we arrived in Pamplona, so I didn't have to go without meds!!!

The first hour of walking was through suburbia, following a well laid out path marked clearly with blue scallop shell signs and shiny scallop signs laid into the walkways. Eventually we sighted the windmills on the horizon and the path headed up. By now we'd run into many familiar faces already, which makes the walk so much more pleasant.
The windmill farms grew bigger and bigger, creating the impression we were getting closer quick. Little did we realise they were all 40m tall with 20m wingspans. When we finally did come closer. We appreciated the sheer size of them, and we realised all the ridges  we could see were lined with them. Dare I say thousands! Definitely hundreds. They were buzzing and whirring away nicely in the strong (and cool) winds up on the ridge.
These El Camino metal silhouettes that we recognised from the books we've read and the movies we've seen proved very popular with all the Peregrines. Cameras being passed from one group/couple to the next. There were dogs and bicycles, but no donkeys (who read the Spanish Steps'?). From here on it was mostly down hill (which in reality never seems that way).
The above statue was at the church where this nobleman killed his sister, then in repentance walked to Santiago, returned here and renounced his noble titles for a life of religious devotion - from what I remember. I took the opportunity with this nice prop to show off my devotion to my Vibram five finger barefoot shoes in which I walk 10kms with every afternoon. They are light and comfortable and provide a good change for my feet, the rest of the team already has signs of blisters, and knee, hip and feet aches! If only I can stop coughing!!! In fact I feel like I might be catching something. I know others on the trail are showing symptoms.

Anyways, by hook or by crook we all eventually arrived in Puenta La Reina between 2-5pm. We were booked into a private hostel with a great buffet dinner. The accommodation is hot, windowless and crowded, not so good for me, but hey,... Too late to worry. Food, shower and bar were perfect! I'm taking a phernergan! Word is I'm snoring! Tell me it isn't so!!!








Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Roncesvalles to Pamplona

Above is the view of the monastery at Roncesvalles where we stayed. It is run by a Dutch voluntary association, and so I felt right at home here. Anyways, we left early in the morning towards the next town with breakfast. We were treated to our first road sign to Santiago de Compostella, a good start to Carlene's birthday!

A supermarkado provided us with yoghurt, bread, cheese etc, and numerous cafés along the way with coffee and snacks. We made our way up and down 20+kms West to Zubiri where we had booked the nice and new Alberque El Palo next to the pub. Luxury with Wifi downstairs and only a dozen or so pilgrims to each room.  To celebrate Carlene's birthday we had a pub dinner next door! Pilgrim dinners, even in the pub it seems, come in two sittings; a 630pm and an 8pm one. We didn't all fit in the first one :(


Quick nasty breakfast and we were off in a hurry towards Pamplona where we had booked hotels for 2 nights so we could have a rest day. Alberques are great except for the fact they throw you out at 8am each day. We were told it would be all flat, which of course it wasn't.
At least we saw some nice orchids, berries and other nice scenery, but darn it our feet and legs are suffering now!
We are also running in many regular faces now. Everywhere we sit down we recognise Pete and as we leave other pilgrims we know enter. It is a real social affaire.  

The path in places is real slippery, but reasonably well signposted. Occasionally we make a wrong turn, but someone yells out generally. It is rare to walk completely alone.
This Korean couple regularly show up, we think it is a mother and son team. There are also two cute as buttons Yung Korean girls with identical gear which keep on popping up. Koreans seem to be the Asian representative on the El Camino so far.
And then we entered Pamplona! It was an hours worth of urban walking before we got to the bridge where the backpack fell in the river in the movie 'The Way', shortly after we entered the old town. After getting our stamp we caught a cab to our modern hotel in the new part of Pamplona where I realised I'd left my refrigerated medicine in Zubiri.... 








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