Ok this will be shorter than usual seeing as I just typed for over an hour and then lost the whole bloody thing. Darn it!!!
July 25 & 26 are travel by bus days with Alex & Katherina. We arrived in Astorga as planned in late afternoon on the 26th. Then we walked a bit and found an awesome little Albergue just out of town and we were the only 3 there. Great sleep – no snoring =D
The morning of July 27th started awesome at 6:30 on the road but when we stopped a few Kms down the road for breakfast it became clear that whatever had been bothering my young Austrian companion Alex, was not going to let him continue. He needed some rest, and maybe we’ll see each other later, but a very sad goodbye to Alex & Ka Thi. :/
July 27th: after parting ways I motored on determined to see the big cross and leave my rock I had brought from home. It was 28 Kms down the road and I was moving. I was so pumped as I seemed to be virtually by myself as I went. I saw very few and no one was close. As I climbed the second big mountain of the Camino (600-700 meters up), I was in visioning having the cross more or less to myself. Time for some private thoughts, a few words, a selfie or two, brilliant. Then as I finally was nearing the top and the narrow winding path finally opened up… What did I see but buses, cars, cops directing traffic, tents, vendors, parishioners, bands, what the… There is a road here, you can drive here, you’re kidding, haha. Also, although I had lost track of days, Spain had not, Sunday morning, gees, and one if the most important of the summer it seems. You just have to laugh, the movie made it seem so isolated, so, hard to get to. Being the annoyingly positive guy I am, I chose to imagine that the whole thing was to welcome me and fellow pilgrims to the top. Lol
It was then that I met Aileen from Ireland who was kind enough to take some pics of me in the proximity of the mob at the cross, then CanAm and I had a private little ceremony at the bottom. We left our rock from home in honour of me and my family, and I had snabbed a quartz rock at the bottom of the mountain to leave in honour of friends from home who are living this Camino vicariously through me and for all those I have met and travelled with on my Camino who would not be able to visit the cross this time.
My plan was to then get a bed ASAP and rest, but after touring the festivities, buying an ice cream and chatting with the locals it became clear that I had a ways to go to find an Albergue. So off I went and eventually bumped into Aileen and then we finally arrived in El Acibo about 35 Kms from where I started. Tired? You bet!
Found an awesome Albergue though, a church run one (the best), run by a German host with the appropriate proficiency. Donations, dinner at 8:00 (a delicious bean and sausage soup with rice pudding with cinnamon for desert, bread, water…), guided tour of the town and sunset stop at 9:30, all we’re told to be up exactly at 6:00 (not before or after), breakfast at 6:30. Perfect. Love these ones!
July 28: after arising and breakfasting as ordered, hit the road with myself and my iPod tunes (more James Taylor and friends, nod from the movie).
After a while I caught up with 3 young lads I met at dinner, the Dane, the Cheq, and the Brazilian living in Florida, and we walked a while and then I hear: Scott!!!! It was Slava, that crazy strong Russian lad I had met on like day three when he was carrying two packs and his girlfriend Polina up a damn mountain haha.
What an awesome day, he was so genuinely happy to see me and me him =D. Like long lost family.
We travelled as a pack for a while and the lads moved on but Slava who was travelling 40+ a day especially after Polina had returned home when her time ran out, stayed with me. He couldn’t believe he saw me again. Of course my bus trick enabled that, lol.
Although I tried to find a place at about 27 Kms, that didn’t happen so Slava and I trekked another 6 Kms till I found a place in Cacabella. He wasn’t done of course so we said our goodbyes – again – and off he went. What a fantastic young man, sure hope he becomes the fine doctor he is training to be. =D
July 29th: after the 35 and 33 km days, I planned a shorter march, just 24 Kms especially since that would position me at the bottom of the 3rd and last big mountain of the journey. My tunes and I made excellent time, we enjoyed some great vistas and my tired ass arrived in Vega de Valcarce as planned by 1:00 for some much needed rest. Found a 5 Euro Albergue, met Dan from Australia, and Lily from England a “Camino” couple who met on their day 2, and will sadly split at the end, also met a few of the 17 Canadian Monks/Lay men who are doing the Camino. Yeah, I know, haha.
Anyway, before I accidentally erase this second draft… Cheers from the Camino folks =D
Ok this will be shorter than usual seeing as I just typed for over an hour and then lost the whole bloody thing. Darn it!!!
July 19th: After a one day rest in Naverrete, I was ready to rock and roll, well not exactly but I was walking anyway J. I had met a young lady from Germany on my day off as she arrived, Hannah, just 17 Continue Reading »
July 16: After that absolutely mind blowing experience at the church yesterday (it really moved me a lot more than I thought), I was in a fairly good place mentally, my body above my feet continues to impress the hell out of me, but my feet… they were becoming the real burden here. My left foot was the worst due to a large key fob size blister on the ball of my foot, dead centre under my toes. several small blisters were also evident on my toes, little one especially. The heel spurs I permanently have on both feet had also been aggravated into blisters… You get the picture.
Yes, I have tried everything, I broke in the hiking boots, have proper wicking socks, was vaselining my feet like I do on marathons, taping the friction spots, cushioning around the blisters, I even cut away an intend in my shoe insert to relieve the pressure on my worst blister. Alas, it was not good, and I knew it would be a long slow day today. It’s the combination of: my weight plus the pack (30 lbs or so), the rough terrain, the heat, the sweat, the moisture, and the Kms day after day that finally take their toll. Hence my decision to suffer alone, at my speed, for whatever I could do.
Oh, and did I mention that the high today without cloud would be a humid 38 degrees walking a stretch of Spain called the desert. haha, love it folks! this stretch has only two stopping options; Logrono about 10 Kms out, or Naverrete about 12 Kms further or 22 in all. My start after breakfast was also delayed a few minutes as I walked back to get my walking stick I had forgotten, lol.
As my first solo walking day of the whole trip, I finally cracked out the ipad and flipped on some tunes. Yes, for fans of the movie “The Way”, these include a fair share of James Taylor! I think the tunes really got me through it. When I arrived at Logrono, I was really torn as I felt great otherwise, and was happy to get some more distance in, but my fee were singing a different tune. So I thought about it, but frankly this was no small town, it was a city, and it just didn’t “feel” right. Too big, too far from the experience, so I decided to travel on.
Well I made it to Naverrete, just, in the heat and pain, at around 1:45. Another 22 Kms in the bag, but I was toast. After inspecting my feet and realizing that I needed to do something about them it began to dawn on me that I needed some medical attention and a rest day. My hostel was new and clean and bright with great beds and while I was having the in house meal (simple pasta and salad), I asked my host “Angel”, no really, that’s his name, if I would be able to stay a second day if needed. Of course was his reply although it is well known that this is generally not allowed, and then he promptly arranged for his dad to transport me to the local hospital to doctor my feet. Wow!!!
The doctor’s jaw dropped about 5 feet when he looked at the big blister which had now lost the skin (yuck), and the promptly called his nurses in to see also. We all had a good laugh about that until he started to clean and bandage it. Can you say “OUCH”. haha. It’s all good though, although a one day of rest was ordered!
And so, here I sit in Naverrete, blogging with my spare time with my feet bandaged and elevated and trying not to think about my fellow Perigrinos passing me by as I write. Very hard my friends, very hard.
FYI: unless I get another rest day, I may not Blog for a while. It’s hard to fit in and I find I am so mentally spent after a day on the trail, that I am not very entertaining in my posts (as in the last two on Day 14 & 15…
We’ll see! In the meantime, I am also adding blog style commentary to my numerous pictures I post on Instagram that also automatically populate Twitter & Facebook. Feel free to follow me there. Facebook name is: Scott J Patterson
Cheers all: Beun Camino =D
PS I’m only 170 Kms into this hike, just 630 Kms to go, lol
July 15th: Ok, so before I get started on today, I must complete yesterday. You may remember we were staying in Villamayor de Monjardin well, after dinner my Austrian companion managed to score a key to the mountain top castle and so we climbed the 600 metres in about 20 minutes (I know), but what a fantastic view, the castle was literally at the top of the mountain and we had a 360 degree panoramic view of Spain. Breathtaking and scary all at the same time we could see back to the Pyrenees in the west where we started and then you could see forward to the next set of mountains where we were heading – Yikes!
It was about 7:30 when we headed back down to our hostel and it was still well over 30 degrees with not many clouds in the sky, and humid as well. What a day.
Now, finally the July 15th. Today we decided to rise early and go as far as we could. It would be Arius, Berndt & I. We knew it would be even hotter today (37 degrees), with no clouds so we left at around 5:30. Everything was going pretty well, the morning was still a little cooler, the sun was rising ever so nicely over the Pyrenees, and me feet were holding on… for now.
By the time afternoon hit, and we had been walking through what the Spaniards call the “desert”, I was really wishing I had stopped one town sooner. But onward we went and I basically crawled into Viana Spain after 33 kms. Phew, what a day.
Looking for a hostel, we had a choice of 3, a private one (fancy – $15 Euros, a public one very nice $9 Euros, and our choice: The Church – Donations only! I really wanted to get the true authentic Perigrino experience.
The Perigrino has traditionally been humble (not necessarily poor), simple traveller on a religious pilgrimage following the traditional Frances Camino de Santiago (the most popular of several routes) from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago Spain. 1,000’s of Perigrinos travel this way every day of the year, with the most populous being in the summer of course. This is the trail that Saint James is said to have travelled originally.
The 800 kilometre route is fairly well marked with several traditional markers, some are the red & white stripe (I believe this signifies the church), but more recently, it has come to be designated with the sea shell, in yellow when drawn, but often in white or silver when embedded in the rocks, stones, and pavement. Yellow arrows (sometimes with a blue background) are also often seen to help navigate town intersections, paths through the woods, etc. Many water fountains are set up along the “Way” as it is also know, so that travellers can stay hydrated. One even has a wine option J I am told that the markers, and fountains and the Way in general is in part maintained by the local benefitting communities, but also the European Union pledges cash towards it as it is a Unesco world heritage site, and generates considerable travel to Europe.
Today, only about 30-50 percent of Perigrinos are actually on a religious pilgrimage as it has become a very popular spiritual experience while for others it’s the challenge of the gruelling kilometres. Almost every country has now been offered an inspirational book from a local writer that has inspired their countrymen to come and travel it. Whatever the reason, they are here, in droves from all countries. To date I have met Canadians, Americans, Norwegians, Swedish, Irish, Brits, Australians, New Zealanders, South Koreans, Japanese, Italians, French, Spanish, Austrians, Hungarians, Lithuanians, Russians, Slovenians, Germans, you name it :)
On the Way, though, we are family; we walk, live, sleep, eat, laugh, limp, suffer, and celebrate together. Men, women, children, teachers, students, labourers, managers, retired, unemployed, we are all the same, and we would do whatever we can to help each other.
OK, back to the church and the true Perigrino experience: The church is the Santa Maria and it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. As such it is unusual as it is mostly adorned with statues, pictures, etc. of women. Quite refreshing J The accommodation is simple, a room with 11 others with a mat (gym style) for a bed, no sheets, pillow, just the mat. No worries, as a properly adorned Perigrino I have my own bed roll with a pad, sleeping bag (unique, sheet one side, bag on the other, made for hostel and warm weather camping, but very light – from MEC), and a blow up pillow. I also keep a pillowcase around it all that I can stuff with laundry etc. and this acts as a great pillow.
We have some time to kill so I make good use of it and head to the local Farmacia for some blister meds as Mass will be at eight, dinner included at 8:40 following mass, and there is a breakfast also at 6:30 am, also included. I decided to go to the Mass as although it was optional, I felt I should honour those who were honouring me with such a wonderful experience. The mass of course was in Spanish, and while I really did not understand a word, I naturally understood everything as it is all truly universal. Even got the singing pipes out and hummed along :)
After Mass, it was dinner time. Awesome is all I can say about that. Arriving after mass, I pitched in cutting up a few loaves of bread while others did other things, and then with our usual collection of countries in attendance (Germany, Hungary, Norway, Austria, Lithuania, France, and Canada, plus Spain & Italy – our hosts), the mood was excellent, the chatter (mostly English), and the laughter was abundant. As was the food!!!! The ever present water & wine were on the table, with the bread, and then the first course arrived. The most delicious Spanish potato salad with spuds, tomatoes, olives, and I’m not sure what, but it was great! Then a hot pasta casserole for the second course, and there was more of each of these servings than we could even eat (though I tried on the salad, haha).
When we all thought we could eat no more, to simple flour cakes were brought out and we ate some more. The leftover cake (there was a lot0 was then portioned into Perigrino road packs for us to take on the road the next day. I know, really. The dinner conversation was great also. We asked our hosts if all this was usual and they told us they did not know for sure as this was their first day! It seems that alumni Perigrinos are encouraged to volunteer to return to the church and host for 2 weeks in a future summer if they wish. The two ladies we had (a young lady from Italy and a one from Barcelona) were just as excited to be there helping as we were. Brilliant idea :)
Sleep came quickly, even on the mat after the 33 Kms of the day, and while my travelling companions were making an early start before breakfast, I chose to stay and have the breakfast. Partly because I’m Scottish and it was included, but mostly because I knew my feet would not allow me to keep that pace and distance with them in the morning. As it turned out both Berndt & Arius left alone at different times as well. The breakfast was the usual on the trail, some bread, jam, yogurt, etc., so I had my oatmeal & tea as usual plus a yogurt. Great stuff!
Talk again tomorrow :)
July 14th: After saying Adios to Kristen at 7:00 (it was very hard actually, it’s funny how attached you get to your travelling mates), John, Lan & I set out for a long haul. We hooped to do about 30 Kms, but it was quickly obvious that Lann was very slow and not up to it. John wanted to stay and see some churches alum the way so when Carmela from Ireland came up on us, we decided to go on ahead. we had a great chat about Ireland and families and such and also ate a groceria bought lunch in a park and it was grand. eventually, she was stopping and I was going on, and then john arrived as Lann had stopped and he wanted to motor on. we latched on to the Russian duo who I had seen a few days ago (Paulina & Slava) so we motored on and put in about 35 Kms over 9 hours and landed in Villatuerta. That’s were John & I turned in, but the Russians were going on further.
My feet were toast.
July 13: We planned our departure to miss the gridlock of the bull run in Pamplona and arrive just afterward at about 9:00. Everywhere you looked in the streets it was the same: white and red outfits, drunk or the hangover revellers, broken glass/plastic cups, wine, san gria, and the smell of urine. Yuck.
Most streets were also in the process of being cleaned though with great sewer cleaner type trucks spraying water and soap down the cobblestones. Party clean up crew :). After our 40 km 20 km days back to back, we were rather exhausted so we only covered about 15 kms today stopping in Zariquiegue for the night. Well actually just Kristen & I as June decided to join a new friend she met there who was also from South Korea and wasn’t feeling well.
This is when we also learned that Kristen plans had changed as her meeting with her suitor had been moved up, two days and that she was heading to meet him by bus in the morning.
Sad day but that is the Camino, people keep weaving in and out of your journey, leapfrogging by you then ending up behind you, its funny really.
After a really nice dinner of beef stew (very different meaning here, like beef and vegetables cooked separately then served together) that was said to be beef from the bull killed in Pamplona that morning (grain of salt applied here, lol), we met up, with some folks we hadn’t seen since the first night in Orisson. Plans were then hatched for me to join John from New Zealand and Lan from Japan in the am, brilliant.
July 12th: After a great night in Zambiri we faced a rainy day and set out for Pamplona. About 25 km. It would be Kristen, June & I. It’s hard to describe the beauty even in the rain, but also the rough terrain is hard to describe. Wet, slippery, uneven, rocky, really hard on the feet.
Every town we came upon we could see all the locals getting ready for festival in Pamplona. Traditional white tops & pants are accentuated with red scarves and belts. Torro =D
As we continue we learn that the festival runs all week with a running of the bulls every morning at 8:00. Streets get closed at 6:30 am and we also learn that all rooms and beds have been booked long ago so we reset our sights on the town before at Ari. We are very fortunate to get the last few beds in the basement of a church hostel dating back to like 1100.
There is no door to the inner courtyard yet it is cozy enough. None of us are really sleeping that well between noises, fear of bugs (Kristen) and what not, haha. As always though we all wake up early and are ready to get on the road.
All in all an interesting day of rain, 20 km hike, creepy church basements, and great sights.
Sorry, a little quick due to memory, and being behind on my blog issues.