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2014 Walking the Way

Day 16: The Path Less Walked Day Boadillo del Camino to Carrion de los Condos – 31K

Had the best sleep of the Walk yet. When I napped in the afternoon the bed had welcomed and cuddled me in and last night it gave me the warmest deepest sleep in a long time. It was delicious. 

We stopped by the Albergue of the night before and had a large cup of good coffee. The place was almost empty, most pilgrims already on their way. Barb wanted another but it never showed up so we took off into a lovely early summer day. 

The path soon led us by a small canal which we followed to the next town. Here we stopped for a coffee and a snack. Our new routine is to stop for a break every 5K and eat something every 10K. This way we’re nourishing our bodies on a regular basis and breaking up the walk in segments making the whole journey more enjoyable. 

The route took us again along the main highway. To my surprise there were other pilgrims now both ahead and behind us. Wow, I thought, the Camino is getting busier and I started projecting out into the future that the long quiet hikes of the Way, seeing only an occasional pilgrim, were a thing of the past for me. At that moment a couple of women were ahead of me talking and feeling frustrated I decided to listen to music I’d downloaded to my phone, the first time I’ve done so on this trip. I’d asked several friends for suggestions for upbeat tunes and my friend Kathryn had given me a number of great choices that I began to listen to. Immediately I felt happier and got my joyful step back into my feet. It also put me in touch with her spirit and I was so glad to experience her presence with me on the Way. I realized how much I missed her. 

Soon we came to a sign showing an alternate route available. The direction we had been heading would have continued to follow the highway to Carrion de los Condos about 18K from where we were. The other choice took us along a small river and though it would add a little extra time we opted for this way. 

The walk was one of the sweetest to date. The path meandered along with the stream not only giving us shade from the trees that lined the route but also a symphony of sound from the birds, insects and frogs. The frogs got my attention and as I looked down amongst the reeds I could see frogs happily swimming and playing in the water below. There were two literally playing leap frog with one another, these I named Bill and Lil, then another showed up and she was Jill. Barb and I had fun laughing with the frogs, our namesakes and we thought of Kathryn’s sister Jill having fun with us in our silly way. 

We sauntered along until the next little town which had a playground and shelter for us to rest in. We filled our water containers and had a snack break. There were two pilgrims in sleeping bags snoozing in the shade. These were the only two we’d seen since talking the alternate path. Though, soon one more pilgrim showed up also in search of a rest stop. He was from Germany and wore shoes with toes. I asked him how he liked them and he replied that once he got used to them he thought they gave better support than his conventional boots. I’ve been curious about this new kind of footwear and may try it on a future trek. We both liked his gentle spirit and were glad to make a connection with him. 

The next stage of our day’s journey continued along the river and we had it all to ourselves. When we reached the next break it was time to leave it behind and take to the blacktop again. However, by now we only had 7K to our destination and had enjoyed a quiet and tranquil country walk without any distractions. I thought well even if the Way is getting busier, magical moments, as today’s walk showed me, are always possible. 

The last 6K into Carrion de los Condos were hard. We had already done over 25K and by now it was 3:00 and the heat was at a peak. It had been warm and sunny but once by the highway again it became hot and a bit oppressive. Barb’s right foot which has been bothering her all day was getting more painful and we debated going on. However, being the trooper she is, she bucked up and did what she had to, and as she said to me, she is good at it! I put on my sunglasses for the first time as the glare was intense. My feet were getting tired and I put my earphones in again listening to Leonard Cohen’s music as I slogged the last k’s into town. 

When we arrived we saw a number of pilgrims, some walking around the town others sitting at cafes having a beer after their day’s exertions. We no longer had our guide book to consult so we followed signs for hostels and hotels. We tried several and found them to be full. Our wandering took us through town and almost out again when we saw one hostel but were not drawn to staying there. Back we went towards the town center hoping to find something better. We did find a small one star hotel but it too was full. I asked the porter for suggestions on another place and he directed us back to the hostel we had just turned our noses up at. We of course laughed at the irony of it and I said now we were returning as beggars not choosers. 

Once there I rang the buzzer and waited for a response of “sorry, we are full.” However, not only did they have a room for us, but it turned out to be one of the nicer accommodations we have had to date, complete with a large lovely tub for soaking. We were so happy to have a room for the night as we had begun to wonder what we would do if all the inns were full. One further anecdote was that the porter who directed us here had followed us to make sure we did secure a place for the night. The kindness we have encountered on the Way has been wonderful and greatly appreciated. 

We settled into our ritual of bathing, washing clothes and stretching. The simple tasks at the end of a day of walking are a delight and comfort in and of themselves. We take our time and when finished it offers a sense of completeness for the day. 

Barb’s foot was now such that she couldn’t walk comfortably on it. We limited our evenings excursion to the nearby vicinity of our hostel, where we found a small grocery and a restaurant. We had a table outside looking out on the town square and though getting cooler the temp was still pleasant. We ordered a mixed salad with delicious asparagus, pimento peppers, red ripe tomatoes, tuna and sadly of course iceberg lettuce, the bane of our existence when wanting real greens. Along with our salad we enjoyed a dish of sauted mushrooms and a small pepperoni pizza. I had a beer and Barb red wine with the meal. We were delighted with the fare and left for our hostel full and happy. 

Back at our cozy suite we conferred about the next day. One of our reasons for coming to Carrion de los Condos was to hear the Benedictine nuns at one of the Albergues sing, which they do every evening at 5:00. We had arrived too late today to hear them and Barb wished greatly to have that experience. Furthermore, her foot needed a good rest and we had not taken a rest day since we were in St. Millan, so we decided to stay on tomorrow and hear the nuns in the afternoon. As we prepared for bed we again looked back on our day with wonderment on how our day unfolded and how lovely it is to trust that all we need is coming our way on the Way. 

With that we turned out the lights and said to our readers: 

Hasta Manana Amigos!

       

Spanish colors on the Way. St. J. de Compestella. Store’s nest. 

          

End of a fine meal. Dinner in Spain. 

       

Barb at rest. 


2014 Walking the Way

Day 15: Finding joy in agony day Castrojeriz – Baodilla del Camino 18 K

Though I had my own room, I slept fitfully. Was up at 4:00 and read until 5:00 when I was able to sleep again until 7:00. Got up and finished yesterday’s blog and by 9:00 we were on our way. 

The CR didn’t serve breakfast so we went to a cafe to have a coffee. Neither of us wanted bread today so we settled for a piece of fruit. It seems since Burgos our appetite has abated a bit and we aren’t as ravenous at as we were the first two weeks on the Way. We both want lighter meals and today we had only nuts and fruits, both fresh and dried, until we had dinner at our destination. 

Our walk soon took us to a long climb up a steep hill that ended on a plateau which is common here on the Maseta. It was a good steady 20 minute hike up a 12% grade and it took focusing to keep a steady pace. At the top we were rewarded with a magnificent view of the surrounding landscape. There were a number of pilgrims on the Way this morning and when I reached the hill top there were more there too. Usually Barb and I miss the crowds in the morning. 

The path took us across the flat land for a short while before descending again into a beautiful green valley. This time it was an 18% grade decline. From the top looking at the path winding its way through the valley below, brought the image of a “Hobbit Hiway” to my mind. We followed the Hobbit Hiway as it snaked through fields of ripening green wheat. There were pilgrims ahead and pilgrims behind and I felt a bit cramped for the first time on either of my Camino treks. 

When we reached the end of the valley there was a place to rest. Again here was a gaggle of pilgrims as well as some locals offering fruit, drinks and snacks for a donation. I got us a couple of oranges and a banana. The oranges here been particularly delicious: Valencias, sweet and tart. 

I was going to take a peeps, as we call a call to nature, when I heard Barb call out to me…..”I’ve lost the guide book and my pack cover!” Oh…Oh! When I returned she said both had been in the side pocket of her pack where she’d kept both for the last two weeks without incident. We always check our packs prior to leaving any stop, making sure we have all important items accounted for. Both had been there when we left the CR this morning. Both were packed in tight, really impossible to fall out on their own. And if they had fallen out since we left, someone behind Barb would have seen it and retrieved it for us. We believe it was one of the mysterious disappearances that happen on the Way. It’s part of the process of learning to let go of an attachment. Both were items that Barb was particularly attached to. 

In my experience it is hard to loose something on the Way. I begin the journey with as few items as possible to lighten my load and what I do keep often has significance. When it goes missing there is a definite sense of frustration and questioning of myself. Why wasn’t I more conscious and careful? How did I miss that? Etc. Yet, usually there is a lesson to be gleaned not the least of which is to be kind and forgiving of myself. It also can lead me to a deeper level of trusting. Though to date only one sock on this trip has gone awol, I lost several items on the last pilgrimage and it was very challenging for me. 

Barb, though upset at first, soon found a place of peace around the loss of the guide book and her pack cover. The guide book could be replaced in Leon the next big city as can the pack cover. And the good news is the weather is not predicting rain for a while and we can borrow a guide from other pilgrims if needed. 

The rest of the afternoon was overcast and pleasant. The walking was mostly on flat ground as the Mesata stretched out before us in its verdant beauty. We stopped for lunch by a canal enjoying a break while more pilgrims continued to walk by. By 3:30 we had reached Boadilla del Camino our stop for the night. 

Barb had heard that the Albergue here was particularly good and worth checking out for a stay and a meal. When we arrived I was despairing of a place for us as it was jammed with pilgrims signing in for the night. Fortune was with us though, and we were able to get a double room at the CR that has recently been added to this Alburgue. It was a brand new facility and we were very happy with our accommodations. 

While Barb showered I feel asleep for an hour and a half. I hadn’t realized I was so tired and I felt much refreshed on waking. After I showered and washed my clothes we headed back to the Albergue proper with a lovely grassy lawn inside the courtyard. Barb lead us in yoga stretches and soon several other pilgrims joined us. Barb said she was sure she was a yoga teacher in some other reality. 

At 7:00 dinner was served in a large room with long tables. The place was full and we found the last two empty spots at one of the tables. To my left was a young man from Lithuania while to Barb’s right was a woman from Daytona Beach Florida. This was the man’s first pilgrimage and the woman’s third walk on the Way. We all agreed that there is something “addictive” about the Camino, it gets under your skin in a good way that keeps you wanting to keep coming back. Furthermore the Camino gets an increase of 10% more people walking every year. Again we heard from those who had walked this before that this year they saw more pilgrims than ever. 

The meal was good for pilgrims’ fare. Delicious lentil soup, fish with salad, and an ice cream bar for dessert. With wine it was only 9 Euros. Certainly is cheaper to walk in Spain than in France. 

After our meal we came back to our lovely abode. I wrote up the day’s adventure and Barb read as is our custom. Now I am looking forward to a deep sleep and wish you all: 

Buenas Noches Amigos! 

P.S. When I tried to send this entry to Kerry this morning it would not transmit, though another entry which I send by mistake did go though, and I wondered why this would be the case? What I have learned on the Way it that there seems to e a reason for everything so I had a sense that it would later become clear. Well half way through the walk this morning I discovered the reason why….I too had lost something important to me yesterday…..after Barb’s items went missing….a small pocket knife that I must have left behind when we had our lunch break by the canal. A pocket knife that I was attached to. Once discovered this I understood the reason for the entry not sending….the story was not complete.

       

So far away!. The Hobbit Hiway. Barb happy after tragedy. 

       

Pilgrim on top of hill.Pilgrim’s shoes at rest. 

       

Will and Barb at Albergue. 

       

Will and Barb at Albergue.


2014 Walking the Way

Day 14: First Summer Day on the Way Day : Hontonas to Castrojeriz 10K

Slept quite well last night. Woke up at 7:30 and Barb had already been up for half an hour. We went down to breakfast, which had been laid out for us in the dining room of the CR. The usual of bread and jam, coffee and this time small fried egg sandwiches. We met with Richard again, the guest of the night before. He said he was just going as far as the next town today, as he wanted to take an easier pace. 

We were packed up and on our way by 9:30. We anticipated a cool morning, but it was already warming up and soon I was just in a t-shirt. The first for this early in the day. 

The walk was quiet and lovely. I gave Barb a lesson on how to use her Pacer Poles more effectively and that seemed to help both her walking and her right foot which had been hurting the day before. 

Our first stop was the ruins of the old monastery of St. Anton, about 5k down the road from where we stayed the night. St. Anton was a hermit from France who had come to live in Spain and as happened with St. Millan a group of other renunciates followed him and a community of brothers was formed. This group of monks were known for their healing abilities especially to cure St. Anthony’s Fire, a skin disease that could eventually be fatal. They healed the sufferers malady through prayer and love. St. Anton was also known for being the patron saint of animals. 

On reaching the spot we saw the door to the old monastery was closed with a sign saying they would be back in 20 minutes. We were ready for a break anyway and had a snack while we waited. As we sat there our friend the troubadour came by saying he was going to stay here today and catch up on his laundry. Apparently this place was also a hostel for pilgrims. After a while a couple of elderly men came and opened up the place and we were able to go in and see what remained of the monastery. It had a lovely feeling and I enjoyed spending a bit of time there. 

The morning continued to warm up and by the time we reached our mid day stop at Castrojeriz it was sunny and in the upper 70s. This was a wonderful treat to have such great weather, especially when this time of year is known for being cooler and rainy. Our first summer day on the Way. 

This was also another sleepy Camino town. It seems the Spanish like to lay low until there is reason to party when they come alive with a passion. In need of some picnic food we bought some cheese and bread at a bar/store on the town square. I decided to have a beer with my lunch as I had seen other pilgrims do. It was delicious and didn’t seem to affect me adversely and my excuse was it would offer good calories for the hike. 

By 1:30 we were on our way out of town again. As we passed the sign for the Castillo, the castle that dominated the hill that looked over the town, we both stopped and said it would be neat to go visit it. As it was a fair distance up the hill we hadn’t thought it worth the effort with our heavy packs on. However, Barb, reading my mind, suggested we could stay in the town for the night and go exploring instead of moving on. I agreed and was thrilled that we were able to be so spontaneous. 

Heading back into town, retracing our steps, something pilgrims usually don’t do, we went looking for a place to stay. We’d seen a CR back in town we thought might be nice. On the way we saw a sign for another CR and while reading it a woman came out and invited us in. We took this as a sign and followed her into what would be our residence for the night. 

As the rates were very reasonable we decided to have the luxury of having our own rooms for the night. I had one upstairs with a skylight and a window overlooking the town’s roofs, while Barb’s room on the second floor came with balcony terrace. Barb wrote post cards and I took a brief nap before went for our hike up to the old Castille. 

The climb was steep and the views became more and and more spectacular. When we reached the old fortress we could see how this spot was useful in the days of constant warfare as it was well situated to defend the territory around it. The castle had once been a Roman fort and over many centuries had been added onto, the last time in the 15h century when cannon were added to the defenses. 

Barb and I explored the ruins ending up on the highest parapet with sweeping views over the countryside. In the distance we could see windmills, the modern kind that were taking advantage of the winds that blow across the Maseta. It was sunny and warm and we took a short nap before heading back to town again. 

Now it was late afternoon and there were more people in the town square. We saw our friend Richard who was staying at another CR nearby. I stopped in a small store that sold a myriad of odds and ends for pilgrims and bought a pair of sunglasses. Though I don’t usually wear them as the brim of my hat will keep the sun from my eyes, the glare of the sun off the path was so intense the past two days that I thought I needed some extra protection. 

Our plan for dinner that evening was to have a picnic on the terrace outside of Barb’s bedroom and we went in search of a grocery store. On route we discovered this little sign that said “Hospital for the Soul” hanging outside a door on the main street. We looked inside and found an invitation to come in and spend time contemplating the meaning of Walking the Camino. A series of photographs entitled “Following Your Shadow,” showed different aspects of pilgrims learning about themselves on the Camino. There were also comfortable places to sit and rest and meditate quietly if you wished. The exhibition went on through several rooms in the house both up and downstairs. Out back there was a beautiful garden with chairs for relaxing. There were a couple of pilgrims enjoying the peace and quiet in late afternoon sun. Yet another piece of magic on the Way. 

After asking a few locals for directions we found the supermarket. While short of fresh vegetables, we did end up with some wonderful food to feast on including a great bottle of red wine from the Rioja region. Our walk back to the CR took us from the lower part of town through a series of stairs and alleys to the upper town where we stayed. These old Spanish villages are fun to explore. 

Our hosts were gracious and gave us plates, forks, and glasses for us to enjoy our meal with. There was a table on the patio and we set ourselves up with olives, artichokes, sardines, tuna fish, and a local dish of garbanzo beans with sausage for dinner, washing it down with our bottle of delicious red wine. I read a couple more of our blogs entries from our last trip in France. I was drinking the majority of the bottle and by the time it was gone I was almost too. 

It had been a great day. We were proud of our ability to be spontaneous and be in the rhythm of the Way. We have plenty of time to get to Santiago and beyond. Being present to what is in front of us and trusting what is being offered was a breakthrough for us both. I told Barb how glad I wasn’t able to make it to Santiago two years ago, because even if my feet had allowed, my schedule then would have rushed me through this part of the Camino and I would have missed the whole purpose of the journey. 

I bid Barb good night and went up to my room and took a nice long hot shower. I wrote for a while before succumbing to sleep myself and so will have to say to you all now: 

Hasta Manana Amigos!

       

Will and his buddy St. J. Will with a lunch beer. 

       

Castrojeriz and convent and castle. The hospital of the soul. 

       

Barb in reverie. Barb’s castle. 

       

Castle keep. Crest I’d St. Anton. View of village. 

       

Inside St. Anton’s. 

             

St. Anton’s 11th Century Monestary. 

       

Will over the plain in Spain. Two ancient pilgrims returning to their cloister. 


2014 Walking the Way

Day 13, Blessed Spanish Mother’s Day on the Way Day Tardajos to Hontanas 21K

Woke up several times last night. Felt a lot of energy and wasn’t able to sleep deeply. By 6:30 was wide awake reading until Barb awoke about 7:30. We did stretches until 8:15 then went down for breakfast. 

Christina, who served us, looked tired. She was busy last night and probably didn’t get much sleep. We had a simple meal of toast, jam, coffee and slices of cheese and ham with soft rolls. We ate the bread and jam with our coffee and took the cheese and ham for lunch. As we ate I read more of our French trip’s blog entries and we reflected back on how that trek differed from our current journey. 

Christina had washed our clothes the day before but they weren’t dry by the time we left. We had clean but damp clothes to pack up. Fortunately we had dry gear to wear and all was well. 

The day began cold and I had on a pair of silk long underwear when we left the old mill. However, soon I was stripping off layers as the day became warm and sunny. Sunday morning the small country villages were even quieter than usual. Barb remarked how she liked Sundays on the Camino. They had a special feeling for her, she said. 

As we left Tradajos the terrain began to change as we stepped onto the Maseta, the part of the Camino that passes through an unchanging landscape with fields of grain, wheat on better soil or barley and oats on rockier terrain, as far as the eye could see. Nothing breaking up the view with the exception of a few isolated trees scattered hither and yon. 

Some people find this part of the walk monotonous and boring. I love it as does Barb. To me this part of the Way holds a very special energy. Maybe my sleep was shallow last night because I was anticipating being here today. 

The weather was beautiful. Clear blue skies and no clouds in sight. A breeze that kept it temperate. Today’s walking was the best yet for me. I was coming into a rhythm and stride of walking the Way. For the first time my feet felt like they were floating on the earth, gliding from one kilometer to the next. Later I laughingly told Barb I’d completed my Camino training today and I was now ready to walk it. 

We passed other pilgrims, some we had seen before, most new to us. Stopping for lunch in one of the villages on the Mesata, near the church on the town’s little plaza, we saw other pilgrims eating or resting as we were. Watching them, Barb expressed her loved for them. 

While the pilgrims change through the ages, these villages have remained the same since the middle ages. Now, as then, they depend on the trade of the pilgrims for their survival. 

After lunch we walked for another 2.5 hours to our evenings destination of Hontanas. Being in my stride I was loving the experience of walking without feeling any pain anywhere. Another first! 

Though the Way was quiet and I saw few people on the path, I was also aware of a parallel reality where the Camino was packed with pilgrims not only those on foot but also those traveling with horses, donkeys and carts. It was a joyous atmosphere, this mass of humanity headed to the great church in Santiago. Having made it this far on their arduous journey they’d a sense their travails would soon be at an end. I saw myself wearing the robes of a monk, shorn in sandals and carrying a staff. 

From time to time in this present reality I’d hear footsteps behind me only to look and see nothing, or hear a voice and turn to look back into empty space. The guide book describes the Mesata as a quiet and even lonely part of the Way. I found it to be just the opposite! 

We reached Hontanas about 4:15. It is a lovely little village tucked into the folds of the Mesata. We didn’t see it until we came right upon it as we came over the hill. It seemed busy with Pilgrims milling about, lots of happy conversations at the various outdoor cafes. There were two Casa Ruals in town and we stopped at the first to inquire about rooms. In luck we were taken up to the top floor room where our windows looked out at the bell tower across the town square. We were delighted with it. 

After showering and doing our stretches we went out for a walk on the town. Our wanderings took us to a point with a great view of the village and the surrounding countryside. Across from us, happily eating grass, we spied the first pilgrim we’d met on the way out of Pamplona. A sweet little horse drawing a two wheeled cart with his master to Santiago. This was our third encounter with him. The second time being when we passed through San Juan de Ortega the day before hitting Burgos. While sitting there another pilgrim bid us hello first in Spanish and then in English. We’d also met him several days prior and being young, handsome and French he proceeded to charm Barb with his stories and manners. Of course I was immune to his charms as he wasn’t paying attention to me! When I’d first seen him several days prior, I’d named him the troubadour and now thought the appellation fit well. 

It was getting onto 7:00 and we were hungry. Bard didn’t much care which restaurant as she believed the fare would all be the same. We settled on the one in our CR and were both pleased with our meal of fried eggs, ham, and French fries. I had a beer and Barb wine. 

While eating we chatted with the only other guest who told us this was his third pilgrimage on the Camino Francaise, the route we were waking. Among other things we learned was that we must try the octopus when we get to Galacia, the specialty dish of the region. He also informed us that today was Mother’s Day in Spain. This made Barb feel happy especially when the proprietress brought her a bouquet of flowers at the meal’s end to honor her as a Mom. It had felt like a very blessed day and knowing it was Mother’s Day here on the Camino seemed to top it all off. 

Full and happy we came up to our room where I improvised a table to write the blog while Barb took a brief nap before reading a bit. Now she is fast asleep and it is time for me to say: 

Hasta Manana Amigos!

       

Will with mill stone. Pilgrim on the Way. Pretty chapel on the Way. 

       

Spanish Poppy. Spanish town on the Mesta. Yellow on green on the Mesata. 

       

Three Village streets. 

       

Barb and our first pilgrim friend at Hontanas. Hontanas in the background. 

       

One more k to go! The Spanish Camino:the flair of Spain and the simplicity of the Way. Barb receives Mother’s day in Spain bouquet. 


2014 Walking the Way

Day 12: Happy to be back in the country Day Burgos to Tardajos – 11K

Didn’t have a great sleep last night. Maybe it was being self conscious about not hogging the bed with Barb sharing the other half, or not having enough rest between walking, writing and eating, but by 7:00 I was awake thinking I needed to get up and finish the previous day’s blog. As the table I used the night before would be taken with breakfast customers this morning I had to find a way to improvise to write. I settled on the little foot stool as a table top and sat cross legged in front of it to blog. Barb was still sleeping so I was writing in the dark. It surprised me how well I have learned to type for I couldn’t see the keyboard. 

Writing this blog has been both a wonderful gift and a challenge. I find writing to be a great creative practice and once engaged I can lose myself happily in it. However, the pressure of keeping up daily is trying at times. There are days when I can’t write for various reasons and when I have two entries to catch up on it can be very hard. I usually spend about 2-3 hours writing and editing each entry. Though this seems like a lot it’s almost half of the time it took me on the last pilgrimage when I was doing all the writing on my phone by thumb! 

I am always happy when an entry is completed and sent off to Kerry to publish, and am always feeling pressured when I have it hanging over me to complete. I sometimes feel resentment that I’ve got homework ahead of me after a long day of walking. Yet, I know if I let more than two entries get ahead of me I’m sunk. I won’t ever catch up. So this is my current “smoothing of stones” for this trip, that which creates the wearing down of my ego and opening to humility and grace. All things which a pilgrim can be grateful to learn on the journey. 

Speaking of humility Barb was the other day telling me the word humility comes from humus, the Latin for earth. By walking the earth we learn humility and come closer to our true natures. I liked this as it reminded me of a favorite Taoist saying: the goal of the sage is to be like water, the softest element, which always flows to the lowest place, and is yielding, yet nothing resists its force. To be humble is to be in the flow of life. 

After finishing the blog entry around 9:00 we went for breakfast at a local cafe. Our usual fare of coffee, croissant and Spanish omelet. I went back to our hotel and packed (Barb had already done so) while she went to buy food for the day. When I finished I noticed I was missing one of the socks I wore the night before. As I take off my socks prior to sleeping I knew I’d left them on the floor last night. However, after going through all my stuff twice I couldn’t find it. I have always had a hunch there was a sock elf, for often socks come up missing even when living a “normal” stay-at-home existence. I always attributed it to being eaten by the washing machine. Yet, now I had proof! When Barb came back I asked for her help and she too went through all my stuff, item by item and found nothing. Ok, it has been documented, I said. There does exist a sock elf! What a collection he must have. I also laughed because they were my “vanity” socks, ankle socks that I didn’t really need to bring but did so because they made my legs look good when wearing shorts! Oh well says Barb, that explains it, your vanity is being challenged on the Way. Another opportunity to shed a layer of the ego onion. 

We checkout of the hotel about 11:00. As we were leaving the young woman of yesterday and her mother were inquiring into staying there a night. It was the daughter’s birthday today and they were looking for someplace special to stay, preferably one with a bathtub. Our one star hotel didn’t offer tubs. 

We left to go see the Cathedral of Burgos. On the way there we stopped for cash at an ATM. We didn’t know when we would be in a large town again. Also on the look out for a store that sold artisan chocolate as we’d been spoiled by the chocolate bar that we’d bought in Santo Domingo and were in need of replenishment. We did find one store but the proprietress annoyed Barb with her admonishments to be mindful of our packs in her shop; Barb wanted to tell her to chill. We later laughed at that. 

The Cathedral required purchasing a ticket. As we were pilgrims we got a discount. Lockers were available for our packs and were able to visit the church unencumbered. It was an incredible structure and we had hand held sets that offered us a guided tour of the building. However, it was too much to take in and we soon abandoned the tour in favor of just walking around on our own. While both of us were struck with the beauty of the outside of the Cathedral, we thought the inside was too ornate and somewhat garish for our tastes. 

The church had first been the site of the royal palace of the king of Castile and Leon. In the 11th century the then king offered the land to the church to build the first cathedral. Later in the 15th century the old Romanesque structure was torn down and the present beautiful Gothic church replaced it. The architect who designed it studied the cathedrals in France and created a church that incorporated the best of all their elements. From then until the 18th century additions to the building were made so it now contains a mix of everything from Gothic to Baroque architecture. 

By the time we finished the tour we were both ready to be on our way. The tranquility of the Camino seemed to have faded after our city stay and we were eager to be in the peace and quiet of the Way again. It took another hour to reach the outskirts of town and when we got to the fields and dirt paths we breathed a deep sigh of relief. 

The sun had been intermittent and the wind steady so it was chilly walking. I was ready to blow out my carburetor and took off at a steady pace for an hour, happy to feel the earth under my feet again. We stopped for lunch, having a medley of vegetables with our bread and cheese. We had watercress greens from Barb’s shopping trip that morning, an avocado we’d been carrying for a few days and now ripened, and our second batch of sprouts that Barb had brilliantly thought to add to our diet on the Way. 

Because one of the drawbacks of the Way is getting enough veggies, especially on the Spanish Camino, Barb figured out a way to grow broccoli sprouts as we walked. With a small burlap bag she carries on her pack, she waters the seeds three times a day and by day four we have fresh sprouts to enjoy with our lunch meals. Rightly so she is very proud of her achievement and it gives us needed nutrition. 

After lunch we walked for another hour and a half. We hadn’t planned to go more than 10K today as we got a late start from Burgos. Though we had thought to stop at a village further up the road, Barb spied a sign for a hostel that she had a good feeling about. It was now around 4:00 and I was happy to be done for the day. 

The place was called La Fabrica which meant Mill. It once was an old flour and grain mill that had been converted to an Albergue. We received a wonderful reception from the owner Christina who was lovely herself. She and her family had bought the place when it was nothing but a ruin and shell of its former self and transformed it into a first class hostel. We had a comfortable room with two beds and terrific shower. Everything being new, as theyd opened for business only on April 5, not even a month before. 

We put in our order for dinner, Barb fish and veggies and me grilled steak. Then I went up to the room and took a delicious nap. Oh that was what I needed to set me right. Then we came downstairs and the place was packed with what I guessed to be friends, all drinking, talking and enjoying themselves immensely. Barb and I were seated in an adjacent room and served our meal. Once again another winner. Barb was delighted to finally have a plate of veggies with the best fillet of fish to date on this trip, melt in your mouth tender and sweet. My steak was superb and the wine excellent. We struck gold yet again! 

Barb had said it was her wish before going on the Camino to find places to stay that were not yet discovered and she had much luck on both her trips in France. Now her intuition came into play again and we scored. Lucky me! 

While we waited for our meal I read the blog entries from our walk on the French Chamin in 2012. Beginning from Day 1, “The never ending day” we continued reading through to Day 11, when our meal arrived. It was fun for us to relive the memories and experiences of our first pilgrimage together. We had such a great time then as we are now, though of course there were challenges then, as now, that flavored our experience. 

Looking back I have great compassion for myself on that trip and for the hard lessons I learned. Fortunately I’ve now benefited from those experiences and need not learn them again! 

In reading the blog I saw that I had trouble with my feet beginning from day one, something I had forgotten. I am so grateful that my feet, while sore at times at day’s end, have not pained me to any degree near what I suffered on the last pilgrimage. Loosing a sock seems like a very minor thing in contrast, thought the journey is only a third through. Remember Humus not Hubris! 

Well it is now 11:15 and I have been writing for 2 hours and editing for 1, happily I may add. Yet, tomorrow is another day and will come all too quickly so I must wind up for the night dear readers. Therefore I bid you: 

Buenas Noches Amigos!

       

Mill stones. Barb and St.James. Barb at breakfast. 

      

La Fabrica. 


2014 Walking the Way

Day 11: Big City Day on the Way Day Ajes to Borgos – 25K

Wonderful deep sleep last night. Harmonious group of pilgrims in our attic. No waking from someone snoring, a first for me on either trip when staying at a hostel. Barb was up a few minutes afore me around 6:45. Some folks were still sleeping and others had already quietly left not waking us. We packed up for the day and went downstairs for a “real” breakfast of fried eggs and bacon for me and eggs and croissant for Barb. The food was great with the exception of the croissant: it was the worst yet on either journey. We of course had a good laugh about it for we are croissant snobs. 

We were joined at breakfast by a pilgrim from Austria, Robert, who’d just arrived from San Juan de Ortega, the Albergue up the hill where he’d spent the night. He told us staying there was by far the worst hostel experience he’d had after pilgrimaging 2500K of agthe Way. (3 years ago, from his front door in Austria, he started the journey and has walked consecutive parts of the Camino each year.) He told us when he awoke that morning the mattress was cold, damp and wet. He also complained of the “old women, which Barb and I wondered about. The proprietress of our Albergue and restaurant was a sweet buxom country woman and as Robert was talking she teasingly and lovingly held his head her arms comforting him saying it wasn’t all that bad. Though she didn’t speak English, she understood it and spoke to him in Spanish which I was able to translate. Later in the morning when I thought back on the interaction, I realized that the “old women” he spoke of may have been the spirits of the nuns who once lived there. Maybe they were having a bit of fun with him? 

Robert also showed us some pictures he’d taken that morning on the way down the mountain and they were amazing shots of crop circles! They hadn’t been there the evening before when we walked down the hill. Very interesting and special! 

We left Ajes by 8:00 one of our earlier starts. The sky was blue with lots of high clouds. It was nippy yet looked like it would become a beautiful sunny day later. As we walked we joined a stream of pilgrims heading west. Early morning is the time of day when we are most in mass together. The Spanish family of 6 were walking too and we said hi to one another as we walked. 

We climbed one more big hill before getting to Bergos. On the way we passed large prehistoric monolithic stones standing together by the path. There were signs telling of the people, who looked aboriginal that had once lived there. The land and the large hill we climbed felt special to us. 

On the hill top we had a magnificent view of Burgos in the distance and the beginning of the Mesada, the large plateau that makes up two thirds of the Iberian peninsula. Our walk tomorrow would start the second stage of the Camino, the long flat trek on the Mesda, the emotionally and mentally challenging part of the walk or so we were told. On the hilltop was a large cross that had been erected as well as a lovely labyrinth, the first we had seen here. Barb walked to the middle of it where I took her picture. 

We had expected the weather to warm up as the morning progressed but instead it became colder and I had to put on more layers. It was intermittently sunny but the wind was blowing hard. It felt the most like a winter day that we’d yet experienced. 

The rest of walk to Burgos was long. As we approached the city we started to see more and more graffiti on buildings and walls, sure sign of civilization. We had hoped to find the suggested route that bypassed the industrial and urban part of the town but it wasn’t in the cards. We ended up going through them both which gave us a full on sense of Bugos. 

On route we met a young woman from the Albergue the night before. She was traveling with her mother and they had taken different paths into town and so she walked with us. A chatty Cathy she talked Barb’s ear off while I went ahead scoping out the yellow arrows that pointed to direction of the Way. It took several hours to reach the city center and the old part of town. By now it was about 2:30 and the streets were getting empty as people in Spain take their afternoon siestas. 

We said goodbye to our young friend, she was going to stay at the municipal Albergue near the Cathedral while we went in search of a hotel. After trying several who told us they were “completo” or full we found one that still had one double. The only catch was that it was a double bed and we’d have to share it. Oh well, we’d slept together on the last Camino and needed a place for the night. 

The room was small but sufficient. We showered, washed our clothes and stretched. I then went to the breakfast area in the hotel which had tables where I could comfortably write. I caught up with one day’s blog though had a technical issue with the keyboard halfway through it. The “c’s”, “v’s”, “x’s,” and “z’s” would no longer type! I puzzled over this for awhile wondering how Kerry would be able to edit the writing when those letters were missing. Fortunately later I discovered that the key board on the phone screen also worked and I could manually type in the missing characters. Yeah problem solved. 

It was getting onto 8:00 when we left to eat. On exiting the hotel we were accosted by the energy of the busy crowds that were now filling the streets. Where it had been empty when we checked in it was now packed with busy shoppers and people enjoying a Friday night on the town. For pilgrims used to the solace of the Way it was quite a shock and I remembered how it took me some time to readjust to city life after my last walk two years prior. 

The receptionist at our hotel recommended a restaurant nearby and showed us the route on a city map. We were proud of ourselves for finding it. On the way we passed the Cathedral of Burgos which must be the most beautiful of any I’ve ever seen. 

The restaurant was packed. Downstairs was the bar with some tables while the dining room was above. Directed up the stairs we left our name, Guillermo (William) and went back down to wait for them to call us which they did in about 10 minutes. 

The dining room was a bustle of talking and activity. Lots of passion in the Spanish culture and it shows up everywhere; something we have enjoyed being a part of. Seated at a long table with another Spanish couple we tackled the menu. Some of it I could understand while much was unintelligible to me. However, with my handy translator on the phone, the kindness of our table-mates, who let us taste one of their dishes, and the limited English of our waitress we succeeded in ordering a feast. 

Starting with the best fried calamari ever to cross our taste buds, we proceeded to a salmon dish that was incredible accompanied by a salad that was as delicious as it was varied in its ingredients, one of which I believe was eel. Though Barb didn’t want to believe that, for though tasty, she couldn’t imagine eating eel. So we pretended it was something else. I had a beer with my food while Barb had Sangria which was fabulous. We finished our amazing meal with an equally amazing dessert that our waitress recommended. A sweet creamy custard of a flavor I’d never experienced before. The custard was complimented by a small chocolate cake and cookie that was a perfect foil to the sweet cream. And the whole meal was only 33 Euros, about a third of what it would have cost us in the States. 

It was 10:00 when we finally left to head back to the hotel. We were full and happy and grateful that our day’s adventures had led us to that restaurant which was a highlight of this trip so far. 

Back at the hotel I went to write some more of the blog while Barb read. I finished around 12:00 and came back to find Barb sleeping and soon I joined her, our third time sleeping together in 20 years of friendship! 

Buenas Noches Amigos!

       

The Way. Albergue sign. 

            

Cathederal at Burgos. 

         

Barb in Labyrinth.The yellow rose of the Way. 

           

Burgos in distance. Vista Of Burgos. The Queen in her colors. Pilgrim’s foot warn through. 


2014 Walking the Way

Day 10: May Day on the Way Day Borlorado to Ajes – 26K

A fitful sleep last night. The hotel didn’t have any heat on and I awoke with a chill. Not wanting to leave the covers to get my hat for I feared getting even colder, I snuggled my head under the covers and to my amazement I was able to comfortably fit my full long self inside! The bed had elongated to accommodate me! 

The beds on the Way, in France and Spain, are small twin beds no longer than 6 feet. I’m 6’2″ and usually there is some of me sticking off somewhere. That I could be fully stretched out under the covers comfortably without sticking a foot off was amazing to me. With a smile I fell back asleep. 

We breakfasted in the cafe of the hotel. Good croissants and coffee. Our waiter of the night before served us and was again warm and friendly in his quiet way. We paid up and just after 9:00 headed out to a cool morning. 

The day began misty and chilly. Barb and I usually start our day with our Marino wool sweaters and our wind/rain breakers on. Barb’s sweater is steel gray with a hood. She likes wearing the hood for not only does it keep her warm and snug against the spring chills of the Camino, wearing it honors all of her, she says. When I see her in her hood, I see a Spanish knight with a hood of chain mail riding over the majestic Spanish hills and plains protecting the pilgrims as they walk the Way to Santiago. 

Our first stop this morning was a small Albergue cafe in hopes of purchasing our daily bread. They didn’t sell it, the nearest place was 6K on, they said. Departing the village we spied a pair of ladies we’d briefly said hello to the day before, on the way to Bolorado. From Germany, one was probably in her 50’s while the second was at least in her 70’s, guessing by her snow white hair. The younger woman carried a pilgrim’s full backpack while the older lady was pulling a cart with two wheels holding what looked like a pack. Most of note was that the elder of the two ladies was blind. She held the arm of her friend or daughter as she walked. 

When Barb and I saw them the day before, they had a steady pace but not as fast as we. So when we saw them leaving this town, which was farther ahead from where we spent the night, we were surprised and somewhat awed by their accomplishment. It is yet another tribute the beauty and magic of the Way; when one surrenders to its flow, it then takes care of you in all ways. Though Barb and I both have experienced this ourselves, seeing these two taking the journey was still inspiring. 

By 1:00 we had traversed 10K to Villafranco where we bought more food and stopped for lunch outside the church. While I went back to the store for more cheese, our lunch staple, Barb helped out a Mother and Son from Germany, he currently living in Ukraine, with directions. The mother, also white haired, may have been in her late seventies. Her son was carrying most of the gear, and even had two full umbrellas. They wanted to go by bus to somewhere near the next Albergue and avoid the trek up the hill. They’d been told it wasn’t possible, but with Barb’s help they found a way for we met up with them there later. 

The afternoon walk was a delight. It began with a long ascent which was fine as the weather was still cool and the path was lined with small pine trees and bushes resplendent with flowers which waved at us when the breeze stirred. Their purple violet beautifully contrasted the deep green of the evergreens standing behind them. I tried to capture it on my camera but really won’t know if successful until the pics are up on a big screen. 

Along this 12K part of the Way we walked by a family of 8. Five boys and a girl and their Mom and Dad. All ages from 16 to 6 would be my guess. We passed each other several times that day and they stayed in the same town as we. After a couple of hours we took a chocolate break. Sometimes we just hit a wall on the walk and we have to stop and eat some chocolate. It’s wonderful how it can give us a second wind. 

We arrived at San Juan de Ortega about 4:00, what I had anticipated, 4K per hour. Today we both took it easier on ourselves walking slower and more measured, yet we made the same time. Interesting! There we’d hoped to find a Casa Rual with space for two weary pilgrims. No, the inn was full. There was an Albergue, an old converted convent, but the guide book said it was drafty and neither of us was drawn to staying there. We did see the Mother and Son though and they seemed happy eating their snacks in the afternoon sun. 

On we went to the next village about 4K away. It was getting later in the day and it had warmed up and the walking was pleasant. The last part of our day’s journey lead us out of the pine forest and down the mountain. It was a happy feeling to be out in the big vista again, the horizon stretching our in front of us. We had both remarked how we liked the walk through the woods and how it reminded us of our Way in France and also how glad we were to be in Spain with the wide open spaces it offered. 

Down we walked to Ajes a little village that had a few Albergues but no Casa Ruals. We stopped at the first one hoping to get a room for two as they sometimes have them. No luck, but they did have two beds in the attic. We were beat and couldn’t go any further today. We liked the energy of the place and the owner too so we decided to stay. 

Up past the upper chambers to the attic where almost all the beds were occupied by other pilgrim’s or their gear. Two beds under the eves were available and we settled in there. Taking a shower was a challenge but the water was hot and soon we were clean and happy. After our stretches we headed downstairs to the restaurant for dinner. 

Our dinner companion was very interesting too. She was returning from a two year stint as a nurse helping pregnant mothers prevent transmission of HIV to their babies in Zambia. She had also walked the Pacific Crest Trail in the past, taking over 5 months to complete it. We both remarked that walking the Camino would seem tame after the PCT. She laughed and told us it was 5 years ago (she might have been in her early 40’s) and now she could feel 30K at the end of a day. 

The food was again yummy. I had the local specialty garlic soup while Barb had a salad. Our main course was paella, traditional fare in Spain. For dessert Barb had what she thought would be a bowl of fresh fruit but turned out to be canned fruit cocktail. We all laughed at that! I had the local specialty of sheep’s milk curds with honey. It was tasty. 

By now it was getting late and we headed up to our beds. As there was no place to write and because I was tired, I forwent writing the blog. By 10:00 every one was asleep and I too turned out the light and was soon gone to the land of Nod. 

Hasta Manana Amigos!

          

Chuch on a misty morning. Fields of yellow. Pretty bush.

        

Barb and her matching colors. 


2014 Walking the Way

Day 9: We’ve come a long way today day – St.Millan to Belorado 26K

Last night’s sleep was restive. Waking on and off. At 7:00 got up and read til 8:00 when Barb began to stir. She’d had a hard night of anxious dreams. 

As we finished packing I looked in my wallet playfully wondering if St. Millan may have left us a little money for our coffee this morning. To my great surprise there was a 5 Euro note that wasn’t there the day before when we were counting our remaining funds. Yeah! We now had enough to have two Spanish omelet’s and two Americanos! 

Saying goodbye to our shelter of the past two days we were on our way by 8:45. We passed a woman at the bus stop and asked her if there was a bus to Santo Domingo? No she replied, only to Nareja or Lorgorno. Shucks we said to ourselves, we didn’t really want to walk 16K to catch up with the Camino again but we hadn’t enough for a taxi and there were no buses. So on we walked. 

The morning was overcast and cool. We wound our way out of the valley of the monasteries on the country road and back to the big hill that we had descended down on our way in, about 3K from San Millan. Several times prior we’d stuck out our thumbs in hopes of hitching a ride but to no avail, when I said to Barb, now is when I we need a ride up this hill. Just then Barb put out her thumb and a handsome man in handsome black car pulled over asking us if we wanted a ride. He was going through Santo Domingo and would be glad to drop us off there! 

Happy Day! We put our packs and poles in the trunk, climbed in the back seat and enjoyed a comfortable ride up the long hill and all the way to Santo Domingo where we connected again with the Camino, a journey that would taken us 3 hours if walked. We had a nice chat with the driver and I was happy to have studied Spanish in Nicaragua for it has helped me here in Spain. 

Once in Santo Domingo we found a restaurant and had…yes you guessed it again…Spanish omelets and coffee. It was near the cathedral and we wandered over there after our meal. However, there was a ticket needed for admission and we decided not to pursue seeing the church. Instead we found a cash machine and withdrew our respective maximums, Barb’s bank allowing more than mine. 

About three days into the Camino I felt a tooth begin to hurt. It would feel better and then feel worse. I tried to heal it myself energetically and I think I was somewhat successful, yet the pain still lingered. So I told Barb about it and she suggested going to a pharmacy of which there are many here in Spain as there were in France. Even the smallest villages here have one. So after we had money again we went to a pharmacy nearby. 

When I told the pharmacist that I had a sore tooth she immediately handed me a box with gel capsules and told me to take one every 8 hours, but only if the pain was present. I was amazed that she knew what to do so quickly and I intuitively felt sure that she was right, though I had no idea of what the medicine was. I took one and right away within minutes I could feel the swelling in my gum, and the pain in my tooth, begin to recede. It is now almost 11 hours later and the pain is still gone and I haven’t taken another. Yeah! Miracles of the Way! 

Our next stops were the bakery for bread, the green grocer for veggies and cheese and the candy store for delicious artisan dark chocolate. Now we were ready for the road and our 23K hike to our evening’s destination at Belorado. 

Nice to be on the Camino again and back in the company of our fellow pilgrims. There were a number of towns between Santo Domingo and Belorado and passing through them broke up the long afternoon walk offering places of respite for refilling water bottles and eating our lunch. 

One of the pilgrims we talked to in passing told us she was having a hard time with walking due to bad blisters on her feet. She said she had tried everything but they would not heal. Later at our lunch break we saw her again talking and crying into her cell phone and we imagined what her conversation was about. We both felt a deep sense of compassion for her and sent love her way. 

Though we’ve been blessed not to have blisters (so far anyway), I’ve had my own physical challenges and known the agony of wanting to complete the walk and yet not knowing if I’d be capable of it. 

I faced this a number of times on my last pilgrimage walk in France, when some days walking was like being Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid, whose every step felt like knives were sticking through her feet. For me this was due to plantar fasciitis on one foot and a neuroma in the other. Oh…Ouch….Oh…..Ouch….. 

Blisters are part of the experience of the Way. On both journeys I have heard the same stories about debilitating blisters and most pilgrims boast or cry about them at some point. I think one of the most important things one can do to prevent them is to have shoes that fit (I like to have shoes at least a size bigger so my feet have room to spread) and to have double lined socks so the sweat of the feet is absorbed by the inner lining while the outer lining buffers the shoe and the foot. I found great socks made by Wrightsocks and have had no problem with chaffing or blisters at all (so far anyway). 

The path paralleled the highway today with cars and trucks passing by. I’d heard this was the case sometimes in Spain and had imagined it to be an unpleasant part of the walk. However, though sometimes noisy, the beauty of the surrounding countryside distracted any negative energy from the traffic and the Way was very enjoyable. 

By 5:30 we were on the outskirts of Belorado having walked 23K in six hours. We wanted to stay in a Pension, an inn that offered both dinner and breakfast. There were two in town and we searched them both out. It took some asking of directions to find them and when we finally did the first one was full while the second didn’t answer their bell. 

It was now getting onto 6:30 and having walked through town we were tired and ready to stop. The guide book showed there was still a hotel on the edge of village and as we were headed there we met a pilgrim also staying there who gave it a thumbs up. We’d seen the hotel advertised several places on the route today but hadn’t thought about staying here. Once we were here though, we were very happy. The room was sunny and clean, with a wonderful bathroom. It just made you happy to be in it. After our yoga stretches which are so important for our continued wellbeing, and a lukewarm bath (that was our only complaint- the water wasn’t hot) we went downstairs and stumbled onto the hotel dining room. 

By this point Barb was feeling a chill and she needed something hot to warm her. We thought we would have to go out to find a restaurant but when she opened the “wrong” door which led to the dining room we were warmly invited in by the waiter. It was a lovely big room with many windows facing west and the late afternoon sun was shining in and the blue skies, fluffy with white clouds, made a nice backdrop to our meal. Save for us and one lone pilgrim dining, later to be joined by another, the place was empty. 

Once again the food was amazingly good. Such a surprise! After the soup Barb had a delicate fish dish and I had chicken in a wonderful sauce. Both were fabulous. Of course we had another great red wine. We’ve now tried the wines of three regions: Navarre, Rioja, and today Castille and Leon, the province we crossed into this afternoon. The waiter was very friendly and the service was excellent. They didn’t even bring us the check so we can pay when we check out in the morning. 

After dinner we came up to our room happy and full. Nice to be stuffed again! Barb had earlier noticed a rash on her legs, perhaps from nettles she might have brushed against when we had to peeps on the Way, and her legs were now hurting her. I cleared the energy from the rash and massaged her legs and feet. The rash receded greatly and she felt much better. 

With that we were ready for our nightly ritual of Barb’s reading while I wrote today’s blog. Now she is asleep and I am coming to the end of the entry. When we did our yoga practice today we began with offering thanks for all the blessings we have experienced today and for all those we’ve experienced on the Way. In the spirit of San Millan and Santiago Barb and I send you all blessings of the Way and wish you many little miracles in your day. 

Hasta Manana Amigos!

       

Barb and the Jesus bakery. Barb on the way to Belorado. Camino do Sol.

         

Electric candles in church in Granon. Pack, poles and water. The boundary line of Rioja and Castilla and Leon. 


2014 Walking the Way

Day 8: Time out of Time Day

Today begins the first day of our second week on the Way. One week ago we were in Pamplona getting ready to launch the next part of our pilgrimage. Today, 90K down the road, we are once again in the flow of the Way: grateful to be alive as we walk in Beauty, settling into a place of allowing and trust, and delighting in and learning from our companions and friends on the path, both new and old. Last night was wonderful. My earplugs have had a spell of silence cast upon them and I am grateful to the faery spirit that blessed me thus. I first awoke at 7:00 and then turned over and slept till 9:00. Yum! When I awoke, Barb was reading in bed. We were happy for a day of rest. The sun was out and out we went to explore the Monasteries of Suso and of Yuso. 

When we arrived at the office they told us that we could get on the 11:25 bus that went to the old Monastery of Suso. The tickets were 4 Euro but no credit cards taken. There went 8 Euros of our breakfast! We had over an hour to wait and went looking for a restaurant preferably one that took cc. Those few places that were closed yesterday were opened today, yet they all only took cash. Well we said, today we will be food poor and fuller in spirit and spent our remaining funds on our eruditions by going to monasteries instead of eating. We did, however, have enough left over for a coffee and a slice of ….yes you guessed it….Spanish Omelet. Oh boy did they both taste good! 

The bus ride up to Suso was quick. This monetary was originally began as a cave in the rock cliffs where a shepherd came in 4th century, decided to stay and become a hermit who led a contemplative life. He was soon followed by others and a community of hermits became established. This shepherd later know as San Millan was to have lived a hundred years and during the course of his life “handed out miracles as others handed out charity bread.” St. Millan later became the patron saint of Castile and Navarre. 

The old monastery only allowed 25 persons at a time to visit. It was located in a beautiful place, tucked away in side of a hill/mountain. When we went in we could see the different periods of architecture going back to the caves themselves. I didn’t feel good in there. If I’d been a monk there in another lifetime it certainly wasn’t one of my favorites. 

What was of great interest to me was that it was at this monastery that the current Spanish language was born. The first Spanish, and interestingly too, the first Basque words were written down by a monk who lived here in the 5th century. 

The tour was quickly over and back down the hill we went to the town. The church bells struck noon as we headed back to our place. The sun was warm at our backs and though a bit hungry we were happy. 

Back in our room we took stock of our food store and concluded we had plenty for a hearty meal of cheese, the piece of bread we’d saved from our omelet, some chocolate, and trail mix. A veritable feast! We would even had 5 Euros left after purchasing the afternoons ticket to the other Monastery, enough to enjoy a coffee and yes maybe a Spanish omelet in the morning. 

With that important matter settled we snuggled up in our respective beds and read for awhile before falling asleep in a long two hour nap. When I awoke Barb had taken in our sun dried clothes, now ready for tomorrow’s journey. We left for the Monastery around 4:00 and as we approached the restaurant that did take cc we smelled the aroma of food wafting our way and delightedly we thought the restaurant would be open that evening and we would dine like the kings and queens we were. Oh we smiled as we thought of the upcoming culinary adventure. 

On arriving at the second monastery of Yuso (Suso is Latin for above, Yuso below) our hosts told us that a guided English translated tour was just in process and took us to join them. There were perhaps 10 others and a guide and translator. It was helpful to hear about the building and history in English. 

Long story short: this monastery was first built in 1067 as an addition to the existing Suso on the hill. Later in the 16th century the original Romanesque stonework disappeared and the current Renaissance construction replaced it, which is what we saw today. It was a magnificent structure and at one time housed 120 monks, now it has 12. I liked the energy of this monastery much better. 

After the tour was over we sat for a while talking about world history, giving me a chance to impress Barb with my wide knowledge of the subject and she being so sweet as to make me feel important for knowing interesting facts. I think that is one of the gifts of walking with Barb: her appreciation of me, and I of her, as I enjoy her erudition on topics of interest. 

As we approached the restaurant on our way back I optimistically said, Oh, I can smell something good.” Barb, however, smelled nothing and as we reached the door it was as closed at it was the other day. Alas, it was stale bread and goat cheese for dinner tonight! 

Yet, when we did eat our meal it was satisfying and filling. We will sleep fine and tomorrow we will find a cash machine in Santo Domingo only 16K away. We may even hitchhike as we see no reason to walk over ground we have already covered. If we had any money we’d take a taxi! 

Well friends I’m happy to be caught up with the blog and not have past entries hanging over me like the sword of Damocles. Off to bed and wishing you all 

Buenas Noches!

       

The monastery at Yuso. Then Yuso from Suso.

      

Suso the older monastery up the hill. 


2014 Walking the Way

Day 6: Mush Day – Navarette to Azofra 23.2K

The bed was comfortable but I didn’t sleep enough. The blog and pics were emailed by 12:30 and I’d set my alarm to wake up at 7:15 for us to make it to breakfast. No need though, I was awake at 6:30 and there was no sleeping again for me. When the alarm did go off, dear Barb was awoken out of dreams of former times and wasn’t ready to get up either. I think this set the tone for mush day for both of us. 

We breakfasted with our co-guests, two couples, one from Australia one from England. Both of the wives were having a harder time than their husbands with the walk so far. Each had started from St. Jean de Port, the usual spot for pilgrims starting the Camino Francaise, the part of the Way that goes over the Pyrenees and ends in Santiago de Compestela: St. James of the Field of Stars. Neither woman was in particularly good shape yet here they were on this great adventure with their more athletic husbands going far beyond their usual comfort zones. What is it about the Way that calls out the greater parts of ourselves, I wondered?

We left Navarette around 8:30 stopping by the church hoping to have another visit before moving on. Sadly it was closed as have been most of the churches in the towns we’ve passed through. Unlike France where I could drop in for a meditative moment and light a candle for Mary or St. James at any time, ironically here on the most famous part of the Way that once saw thousands of deeply religious pilgrims fill these churches, now has few attendees at Mass and where only 20% of the population are still practicing Catholics. Amazing as Spain once was Europe’s most Catholic country! 

The day was beautiful. Clear blue skies brushed with wispy white clouds softening the airscape. A western wind, however, was insistent on getting our attention and for most of the day’s walk the temperature was in the 50’s with the wind chill factor even though it was sunny and bright. There were more pilgrims on the Way than the previous morning. We walked to the next village, about 7K, and had a second breakfast of coffee and Spanish omelet. Our first repast was simple fare lacking staying power so we fueled up again at Vendosa. 

The next town of Najera, 12.4K away, was once the capital of Navarre. This route traversed vineyards and wheat fields with the snow-capped Dalmanda mountain range in the distance. We were making our best time yet, about 4K an hour. 

Despite making good time, or maybe because of it, today was the hardest day yet on both of us physically and for me emotionally as well. From the start of the day my body didn’t feel congruent nor happy, maybe too much good food and wine, excitement, lack of sleep, and hard exercise all contributed to it. By mid-day I was grumpy; the first time I’ve felt such on this journey. Interesting to witness this aspect of my personality as I walk on the Way. Moving out of a place of graciousness and spaciousness to a place of tightness and self centeredness. I began to realize that my body and my personality were asking me to pay attention to their needs. Maybe we needed a rest day? There was no hurry and we had plenty of time to “spare” for time outs on our journey. 

I also had the insight that there is a group psyche that accompanies the pilgrims on the Camino, part of which is a sense of hurrying to get to the next destination. Unlike the more solitary walking that both Barb and I experienced when traveling together or alone in France, here in Spain there is a community of individuals on the move and it is easy to get swept up in that momentum. I think between being tired and the energy of “keep going” (UTREA) I needed a time out to assuage the inner grumpy monster. 

Another interesting perspective on the Way was presented when one of the pilgrims we met mentioned that there were three personal stages to the Way that corresponded to three geographic sections of the Camino. The first section began with the ascension of the Pyrenees going on to the town of Burgos, about 10 days of walking. On this part of the Way the pilgrim faces physical challenges, most of his/her concerns are aches and pains and making it through to walk another day. The second part of the Camino, from Burgos to Galacia is the portion of the path where the pilgrim comes to face her/his emotional and mental demons. This is the portion of the Way that is flattest and least interesting visually yet most lends itself to walking meditation and contemplation. It’s been said this is where some pilgrims leave the Way for a while taking a bus to bypass this section. The third section which ends at Santiago is the part of the Way where the pilgrim connects with his/her spirit self and finds unity of Self by the end of the journey. 

Thinking back on the women we met that morning who were having a harder time with the physical aspects of the Camino, I wondered in 10 days from now, when they were walking stage two, how different their experiences might be from their husbands, and who then might be having a harder time? As for myself perhaps I was having an early taste of that stage today, with the emotional and mental demons paying me an early visit. 

By 1:00 we arrived in Najera and languished on the banks by the sparkling river that ran through the town. It was warm and sunny and we enjoyed our bread, cheese and fruit while cannons were being fired off and church bells rang and a marching band passed by. We laughed that the town knew of our arrival and as it was the former seat of Navarrian Kings and Queens, it was only natural that they would give us a warm welcome. While we ate our meal we saw a stream of pilgrims go by and we knew we would be the last on the road that day. 

Mush on, we said to our sore tired bodies, please get us the last 5.9K to Azofra where we can spend the night at an Albergue for pilgrims. We arrived about 3:30 and were the last to check in. The building was divided into room units of two beds each so we had a private space as such, though quite tight. After showering and washing clothes we did a long yoga practice and took naps. By this point I was in full grumpy mode and just wanted to sleep and be left alone. I did felt much better for the rest. 

One of the great things about traveling with Barb is that unlike me she is not a moody brood. Consistently even keeled she doesn’t take umbrance at my grumpiness. Rather she finds humor in it and helps me to remember to take it lightly. Far more than any dark moods, though, we spend a great deal of our time laughing. In fact we both attribute our sore stomach muscles to the wonderful belly laughs that we share every day. 

Feeling refreshed we went in search of food. There were two bar/restaurants in the village. We chose the quieter of the two. Once inside we met our Swedish friends from the night before and joined them as they were finishing their meal. Our meal was tasty and filling. After several glasses of wine and good conversation with our new friends all in the world seemed right again. 

Barb went to bed and I retired to the common area downstairs and wrote the day’s entry until the lights were turned out at 10:00, sending me to bed earlier than usual and leaving the entry to be finished tomorrow. 

Hasta Manana Amigos!

       

Barb the wayfarer.William’s taxi company. The Way en Espania.

      

Will at rest on a quiet Sunday morn. Las Damantas mountains.