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Mr V's Camino
  1. Day 43 – O Pedrousa to Santiago de Compostela – 19.8km

    May 26, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 43 elevation profile

    Day 43 elevation profile

    We wake full of excitement, energy and mixed feelings. We know it is only a relatively short walk to our goal. But we are also walking towards the end of the most wonderful experienced anyone could have. So, we embark into the beautiful day, but not without a false start – we have to back track after a couple of minutes to retrieve my poles which I left at our accommodation – oops.

    The day is beautiful, clear but cool, and promises so much. The first few kilometres takes us through forest tracks that remind up us of home – gum trees, wattle, gum leaves, but no koalas, however. Our guide, the cuckoo, follows us and reminds us we are still in Spain.

    Gum leaves on the track Blacbutt Reserve or Spain?

    Gum leaves on the track – Blackbutt Reserve or Spain?

    My foot is nearly healed and presents no problems,  however the knees begin their last protest on some of the downhills, but the goal is to close to let them be heard. The emotions begin to play a bigger part in the mind and we sit to rest after about 10km. We connect with other pilgrims at the same stage of their journeys and it is evident that they are feeling the same as us, excitement, interpretation, fatigue, thanksgiving, love – the list would go on forever, but would be very similar.

    With less than 10km to go, we set off again. Our pace us brisk – much faster than the last 10 days since “B” Day. The anticipation is filling us with adrenaline, too much to handle. As we pass Santiago airport we watch as planes take off, probably filled with pilgrims who have completed their journeys – maybe some of them are friends we have made along the way – only 5km to go. We enter the outskirts of Santiago de Compostella. I can say I have never felt this way before.

    Almost there.

    Almost there.

    We we are so close to the goal – The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the tomb of St James is located. We know there are people at the Cathedral to meet us so our pace quickens again, the heart begins to race and the tears are harder to fight back. Our walk reaches the “old” part of town and we catch a glimpse of our destination and we know we must be close.

    Our goal is so close.

    Our goal is so close.

    We pass pilgrims who have already reached their goal and receive encouragement and the wonderful call of “Buen Camino”.

    Our final approach to the Cathedral square is through the arch and tunnel on the east side of the Cathedral – I didn’t realise I was such a sook as the tears well up and and I am choked with emotion. A bagpipe player is busking in the tunnel as we pass, feeling like it was a special greeting for all pilgrims passing by. As we enter the square, we are greeted by our friends from California, Cathy and David,  running across the Plaza, playing the Australian national anthem on their  iPhone, giving us an enormous hug, making us feel as though this was where we were meant to be (thanks y’all).

    We made it.

    We made it.

    Lifting one burden from our lives.

    Lifting one burden from our lives.

    The emotions cannot be contained any more and Narelle and I embrace (me sobbing) in one final moment of completion. I could not believe I could feel this way – so fulfilled, so changed, so completely exhausted, so emotionally drained, so wonderfully happy, so perfectly placed in the world. I believe I have walked humbly with my God, learned a lot about myself, about others, about life in general.

    Achievement recorded.

    Achievement recorded.

    We gather ourselves, then trot off to the pilgrims office to collect our material rewards – our Compostela. Whilst everyone enjoys receiving a certificate for acknowledging one’s success, it will never be better than knowing the inner successes achieved . The rest of the day is spent celebrating with special friends and soaking up the euphoria.

    Special friends, Cathy and David.

    Special friends, Cathy and David.

    Celebrating with special people.

    Celebrating with special people.

     

    Celebrating with special friends.

    Celebrating with special friends.


  2. Day 42 – Arzua to O Pedrousa – 19.6km

    May 25, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 42 elevation profile

    Day 42 elevation profile

    We wake up full of excitement and anticipation again today. It is hard to concentrate on the day ahead when we know the final goal is so close. But we set out full of energy, even after nearly 700km. My foot is getting much better and it is good to feel the weight of my pack on my back for the last few days. My knees, however, don’t agree with that sentiment. But, they will just have to put up with it for two more days.

    The sunrise out of town is special, the second last one we will experience whilst walking west. These have always been behind us and have been a beautiful send off each day – signalling a time to move forward, but,  we are looking forward to having the new day break in front of us calling us to experience nice a new day.

    God's gift to send us on our way for the day.

    God’s gift to send us on our way for the day.

    Most of the walk is through some beautiful oak forests as well as our favourite eucalypt groves. We keep an eye out for the milestones and count down the kilometres. Our pace is quite quick, even though the doctor in Triacastela recommended resting every hour or so. But it is good practice for tomorrow as there will be nothing able to slow us down with the anticipated adrenaline rush towards the cathedral square.

    The bridges have been so beautiful - even as simple as this.

    The bridges have been so beautiful – even as simple as this.

    Arriving in O Pedrousa soon after lunch gives us an idea about what time we will arrive in Santiago the next day. I am not sure why that is important to know as I remember our host in Molinaseca telling us, “Go slow, Santiago will still be there whatever time you get there.” So many our our friends are already there, and Cathy and David are going to greet us with great fanfare when we arrive.

    Anyway, it is a time to relax, pick up a couple of souvenirs (we haven’t bought any before because we would have to carry them – put an 8 kilo pack on your back and every gram makes a difference).

    Getting close now.

    Getting close now.

    We notice the streets of O Pedrousa, and the track today, were much more congested with pilgrims as we are getting so close to the goal. A good hearty meal and an early bedtime should give us a good start tomorrow.

    This way - says our little yellow friend.

    This way – says our little yellow friend.

    I can’t wait.


  3. Day 41 – Melide to Arzua – 14.3km

    May 24, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 41 elevation profile

    Day 41 elevation profile

    We leave Melide with the anticipation that there will be less than 40km left at the end of the day – only two days walking. We are so excited. But, we must get through this day first. The first big thrill is passing the 50km mark. It is significant because it just is. Anything less than 50 seems so insignificant in comparison to what has been put behind us. The first fifty over the mountains seems so far away, 40 days ago. I am glad to be at this end of the walk, but, my thoughts go to those who are just beginning their journeys and are now experiencing their first fifty. I wish them well.

    Wow - almost there.

    Wow – almost there.

    Our walk today takes us through some lovely back paths through the dairy farms of the region. We are surprised at one stage to be walking through a eucalypt forest – we thought we were back in Blackbutt Reserve.

    A beautiful path to follow.

    A beautiful path to follow.

    Are we back in Australia?

    Are we back in Australia?

    An early arrival in Arzua gives us time to explore and reflect. It is a town more modern than what we are used to on our journey. The church does not seem to be the focus of the town and it is hard to fit it into the picture of the Spain we have encountered so far. There seems to be a lot more commercial opportunities for townsfolk – though the siesta hours still prevail.

    Today we passed a man with one leg who had completed the Camino many times, both on foot and bicycle. I go to sleep thinking of him and hope one day I will have his drive.

    A personal drive is most important.

    A personal drive is most important.

     


  4. Day 40 – Palas del Rei to Melide – 15.5km

    May 23, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 40 elevation profile

    Day 40 elevation profile

    We arise at our normal time of 6am and potter about getting ready to leave by 7am. Our morning routine now includes Narelle dressing my foot ready for the day. Without her help each day, it would have been very difficult.

    Narelle enjoying the morning stroll through one of the villages.

    Narelle enjoying the morning stroll through one of the villages.

    We begin our walk with the usual heart starter hill climb, but it is hardly a worry these days after 40 days on the path. The walk takes us through the farmlands of the area, keeping away from the roads. It makes for a much more pleasant day than yesterday.

    My friend, St James, comes in all sorts of images.

    My friend, St James, comes in all sorts of images.

    It is not a long walk today and we arrive in Melide full of energy. After a quick freshen up, we go out to explore the town. The local church again proves an interesting focal point. The wood carvings behind the altar are simply awesome – carved by artists depicting images from the life of Christ. This one has the Pentecost story.

    Another amazing altar decoration.

    Another amazing altar decoration.

    We continue our exploration and search for a restaurant that serves the local delicacy, Galatian Octopus- yum what a treat.

    The local treat - Galatian Octopus.

    The local treat – Galatian Octopus.

    An early night and we will ready for the last three days – just over 50km to go. The anticipation is so strong in my heart and mind that the challenges of waliking the days ahead in sandals – just like St James would have – holds no worry in my mind. I have overcome the physical setback and work hard at clearing my mind for the emotions that will flood out in Santiago.
    image


  5. Day 39 – Portamarin to Palas del Rei – 24.7km

    May 22, 2015 by gerryv

    Leaving with the beautiful scene behind us

    Leaving with the beautiful scene behind us

    Day 39 - Portomarin-to-Palas-de-Rei-Elevation-Map

    We leave Portamarin with a beautiful backdrop and realise that we have only 5 more walking days to Santiago. The walk out of town is quite pretty, through the dairy villages and up another hill.

    The cows give way to no one.

    The cows give way to no one.

    As it flattens out, the trail follows beside the busy road for quite a while and the kilometres become a bit tedious rather than tiring. We meet another Australian fellow from Melbourne who has some interesting stories to share. He walks with a limp, but his pace is as steady as a clock. He had some knee problems early in his Camino – puts my blister into perspective. Everything and everyone makes you look at your own experiences in different ways.

    Giving way to the bicycles.

    Giving way to the bicycles.

    I am sure we will see him in Santiago in a couple of days, steadily marching into the Cathedral square. Buen Camino, Chris from Melbourne.

    Resting my foot - doctors orders.

    Resting my foot – doctors orders.

    We met Derek from Belgium at dinner. He has been riding a bike as his Camino. He had started in Bordeaux, France, and told us how different riding a bike on the Camino is. He did show us his arms and legs. The were covered in bites from bed bugs. I am glad we are staying in a comfortable hotel tonight.

    We have less than 70km to go. Four more walking days. Our anticipation is growing as we make plans with friends to meet in Santiago on Tuesday.


  6. Day 38 – Sarria to Portamarin – 22.1km

    May 21, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 38 elevation profile

    Day 38 elevation profile

    With a new pair of sandals and an expert bandaging job by Narelle, it’s off to Portamarin – only 22km away. The new sandals are great, comfortable and more supportive than my last pair. My boots have been stowed away and it will too soon if they come out again before we reach Santiago.

    My new sandals - great legs, shame about the face?

    My new sandals – great legs, shame about the face?

    It is a beautiful morning, still cool, and the first 10 km or so are gone before we realise. We are passing through some dairy farm land and the smell of fresh cows is different to what we have experienced so far – yet another facet of this beautiful journey.

    The cows have right of way in this part of Spain.

    The cows have right of way in this part of Spain.

    We stroll through ancient oak forests, along paths bordered by ancient stone fences. We pass many strange buildings that we have not seen on our journey. We thought they might be strange memorials for past loved ones.

    What are these strange buildings?

    What are these strange buildings?

    No they are drying ‘sheds’ for the fruit and grapes that are grown on the farms.

    The number of pilgrims seems to have increased exponentially. To receive your Compostela (certificate) one must only have to complete the last 100km of a Camino, and that is from Sarria. So there are many pilgrims who begin their Camino from here which increases the number on the road. After completing 700km,  it is hard not to look upon these pilgrims as “blow ins”. But, I have learned very early that every pilgrim has a story special only to themselves, and I am sure these pilgrims do as well. Many have come to complete a pilgrimage started in past years, for example – time might not have been on their side or injury may have forced them to suspend their journeys. The spirit of the Camino is present in all we meet, at least.

    Our day draws to an end as we cross the bridge, over the lake, leading into Portamarin. It has been a slower day than in the past and we have been taking the advice of our inn-keeper in Molinaseca and the doctor in Triacastela – take it slow, Santiago will still be there when you get there.

    Crossing the bridge into Portamarin.

    Crossing the bridge into Portamarin.

    It hard to believe that there are only five more walking days left for us on our Camino. Where has the time gone? Well spent at least.


  7. Day 37 – Triacastella to Sarria – 18.7km

    May 20, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 37 elevation profile

    Day 37 elevation profile

    This day is perhaps one of the most important for my Camino. If I can make it to Sarria, then, it is less than a week to go after that, around 100km. My resolve has been strengthened over the last few days from well wishes from other pilgrims and support from home. I have also decided to resume wearing my pack as I have felt something missing. So I stop sending it on. If I couldn’t do it with my pack today, then a major rethink was needed.

    I am glad to have my companion on my back again.

    I am glad to have my companion on my back again.

    The walk out of Tracastela is beautiful, and surprisingly comfortable. The new treatment and dressing seems to have had an immediate effect. Cathy, our Californian friend, has scouted Sarria for us and has lined up an outdoor shoe shop for new boots for me. If we make it to Sarria, it will be something to consider – there is no way I could resume wearing my old boots.

    Following doctors orders - rest and air the foot.

    Following doctors orders – rest and air the foot.

    During our walk we come across the strangest thing. A vending machine in the middle of a paddock in the open air?..and it works.

    Water please.

    Water please.

    We reach Sarria without too much trouble and check out the shoe store. I can’t possibly get my foot into a shoe, and it us probably not wise to break in a new pair of shoe for the last 100km or so. So I opt for a new and more supportive pair of hiking sandals. Fingers crossed this will be OK. We shall find out tomorrow.


  8. Day 36 – Fonfria to Triacastella – 8.8km

    May 19, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 36 elevation profile

    Day 36 elevation profile

    Today is only a short hop, but with the way my foot feels, I am grateful. There is a medical clinic and pharmacy in Triacastela and I hope to get some better treatment for my blister. Narelle has dressed it as best she can and we set out hopeful for a nice day. Alas, the weather has closed in and we set off in a thick fog. Not too much discomfort though, and it certainly sets a mysterious atmosphere as we begin down the mountain. We are joined by a lady we shared dinner with last night. She tells us she forgot to bring her washing in from the line before she went to bed. This morning she had to search the local cow pastures for her clothes as the wind was quite strong last night.

    Heading into the mist

    Heading into the mist

    It is not long before we get below the clouds and are able to enjoy the beautiful views above us. We pass a Chestnut tree over 800 years old, from which pilgrims gathered the nuts and roasted over fires.

    Mmmmm- oh for some hot roasted chestnuts now.

    Mmmmm- oh for some hot roasted chestnuts now.

     

    The walk into Triacastela is beautiful and the town itself has a lovely charm. Before we can relax and enjoy the village we search out the medical clinic to have someone look at my foot. The doctor frowns as she removes the dressing and tells me it is not a blister any more, but a huge ulcer. Not the news I wanted to hear. She shows me how to treat it and prescribes an antibiotic cream rather than the antiseptic we have been using. She also suggests not walking for two days to rest my foot, a suggestion that is hard to swallow. We thank her and leave to consider our options.

    We go go to the pharmacy (this pharmacist deserves an award for being so helpful – not just for me, but also for the long queue of other pilgrims seeking treatment and advice behind us) and gather the required treatment supplies and wander off to explore the town. It is a sleepy little hamlet with lots of charm.

    A lovely place to enjoy our evening meal.

    A lovely place to enjoy our evening meal.

    We find a lovely little restaurant for dinner and enjoy a traditional pilgrims menu (always tasty and great value for money), and discuss our options. We decide we will push onto Sarria the next day and see how it goes.


  9. Day 35 – Las Herrerias to Fonfria – 20.1km

    May 18, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 35 elevation profile

    Day 35 elevation profile

    Today’s walk was going to be a real challenge, 20km and a serious hill to climb. The promised reward at the top was certainly worth the struggle. We walked up the hill tracking through mud and horse droppings. Being in sandals and socks wasn’t much fun. We stopped for a coffee half way up, changed socks ad dressing the proceeded through more beautiful wildflowers.

    A path this beautiful takes away all the troubles in the world and is easy to follow.

    A path this beautiful takes away all the troubles in the world and is easy to follow.

    The rewards for all the hard work is wonderful at the top of the mountain at O Cebrero. The mountains are covered, cloaked in cloud with only the tops poking out like islands in the sea.

    A mos

    A most satisfying reward.

    After stopping here some some refreshments, we push on to Fonfria as fast as we can. The foot isn’t too bad. I couldn’t resist the temptation to pull the rope of the church bell and it rings in the hour of 2pm. It seems other pilgrims behind us felt the same urge.

     Ask not for whom the bell tolls ...

    Ask not for whom the bell tolls …

    It got pretty windy at the top as St James can attest, but we made it into Fonfria just as the weather began to close in.

    Hold onto your hat James.

    Hold onto your hat, James.

    We shared a wonderful meal with about 40 other pilgrims of Galatian broth and beef stew at a long table and shared our stories of the day. This is an important part of the day. Thank you God for it.

    Let us give thanks.

    Let us give thanks.


  10. Day 34 – Vilafranca del Bierzo to Las Herrerias – 20.6km

    May 17, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 34 elevation profile

    Day 34 elevation profile

    D-day or should that be B-day (blister day). We wake up with a challenge ahead. How are we going to continue our Camino? We have decided to give it a go for a day and see how my foot is at the end. We decide that it would be best to walk without the added impact of weight so we send my pack onto the next stop in a taxi service . Hopefully walking without it will be easier.

    We set off at our usual time and I am surprised that I am able to struggle along without too much discomfort in just socks and sandals. It is helpful that most of the way today is alongside a road, on a level path.

    We we walk more than half the way with the road on one side of us and a most beautiful stream on the other. The river keeps my spirits high as I begin to struggle with the discomfort. All the fears of yesterday come back and I find myself sobbing again as we walk along. Narelle is a great strength and comfort for me as we stop to rest and have a snack after a couple of hours. We discuss our options and decide to take things slowly and enjoy the countryside. It is beautiful as always.

    You are never alone - thanks Narelle.

    You are never alone – thanks Narelle.

    I have learned the meaning of walking humbly with your God. During today’s walk I became dependent on the strength of others to get me through this adversity. God was with me today in Narelle, for whom I am forever grateful. I only made it to La Herrerias because of her encouragement, her understanding and her love. And by making it to Las Herrerias, I knew I would be able to continue all the way to Santiago.

    The locals greet us as we arrive in Las Herrerias.

    The locals greet us as we arrive in Las Herrerias.

    After settling into our room, we look for somewhere to buy some supplies to change the dressing on my foot. There are no pharmacies or supermarkets in Las Herrerias as we find it is a very small village with lots of dairy cows. Narelle finds the friendly owner of one of the alburgues with the needed supplies, so we redress the foot, go back to the hotel, enjoy the best BBQ steak in all of Spain, then hit the sack – thankful the day is over but not my Camino.

    A juicy steak to finish the day.

    A juicy steak to finish the day.


  11. Day 33 – Ponferada to Vilafranca del Beirzo – 23.3km

    May 16, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 33 elevation profile

    Day 33 elevation profile

    Today is meant to be a long walk, though the terrain is relatively easy. We make our way out of town following the marked path through the outskirts of this beautiful town. We did hear a story, however, of another Australian pilgrim who lost the path and was wandering around for two hours looking for it before he found his way out of town.  We, however, wander along the correct paths enjoying the urban sprawl and some unusual architecture.

    Is that the missing tetras shape?

    Is that the missing tetras shape?

    With only about an hour or so to go, disaster!! The peregrinos worst enemy strikes – the blister. I feel a sudden pian and then a liquid soaking my sock. I am sitting by the side of the road too afraid to remove my shoe. I draw enough courage to do so and am dismayed at the size of the blister on the back of my heel.  I was told it was best not to break the skin of a blister, but it was too late for that. It was truly ready to hobble this pilgrim. It looked so bad I was distraught at the thought that this might be the end of my Camino.

    Fortunately our friends from the Central Coast passed by and were able to offer some first aid. Narelle went back to the last Alburgue we had passed to get help and I sat on the side of road and sobbed in dismay. I could not believe that I could walk over 600km without any problems, then get a blister so bad that I thought the end was nigh. Gosh it hurt, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

    Whist I sat waiting for Narelle to return, I felt so despondent, so emotionally exhausted, I cried on the road side, alone. I find it hard to explain the thoughts that were running though my head. Extreme disappointment was the greatest feeling, panic another. Was this the end of my pilgrimage or not? I felt like the man in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, alone and helpless. Luckily there are plenty of Good Samaritans on the Camino. Many other pilgrims passed and gave me hope and offered assistance as I waited for Narelle to return. The genuine offers of support for a complete stranger were overwhelming. My emotions stabilised and I was able to think of options for continuing rather than accept defeat.

    We travelled the last few kilometres into Vilafranca by taxi to attend the local medical clinic. The nurses patched me up and sent me on my way. I still didn’t know how I was going to walk with this. After checking into our lodging I tried putting on a sock and my sandals. Whilst the pain was still strong, I was able to hobble along, slowly and with a limp, be as it may. We strolled along a quiet country path, past some cherry trees, from which we tasted – Yum – the pain wasn’t so bad any more.

    I hope the local farmer doesn't mind me tasting his fruit.

    I hope the local farmer doesn’t mind me tasting his fruit.

    We returned to our hotel, had a tasty paella for dinner and called it a day. Maybe tomorrow will be better – only 20km or so – ouch. I have learned some very important lessons today.

    The offending site.

    The offending site.


  12. Day 32 – Molinaseca to Ponferada – 7.7km

    May 15, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 32 elevation profile

    Day 32 elevation profile

    Today’s short distance might seem a bit wimpish – but believe me, it was most appreciated. My knees were still recovering after yesterday’s walk down the mountain.

    We rose at our usual time but decided to have breakfast before we left. We were treated to a simple breakfast of toast and ham or jam cooked while we sat a chatted to our host. He had completed 27 Caminos, himself, over the years and now runs the hotel we stayed at. As we chatted he gave us some very useful advice – don’t drink the water from the fountains (it will make you ill), it is better to drink the wine and lastly, and most importantly, go slow.

    So, we toddled off at a slow pace and really enjoyed the spectacular roses in the gardens along the way. We watched one pilgrim in front of us smell every rose bush we passed, he was certainly taking it slow.

    Always take time to smell the roses

    Always take time to smell the roses

    Before long we were in Ponferada, known for its mighty castle. We checked into our lodging before lunch and spent the rest of the day exploring the town- including the castle. It was very special, lots of history and interesting stories about the Knights Templar. Who are these men? They keep popping up everywhere we go.

     What a stronghold for the early Christian church.

    What a stronghold for the early Christian church.

    We took the opportunity for an early night, to be ready for a much longer walk tomorrow.


  13. Day 31 – Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca – 25.6km

    May 14, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 31 elevation profile

    Day 31 elevation profile

    This is the day that has been stalking us for the last few days. We are at the bottom of the mountain and our destination is up and over. We know what it will be like as it brings back memories of our first day – a big challenge but achievable. The trek up the hill starts with the cold weather gear coming out very quickly. It is quite brisk and the wind chill adds to the bite in the air. The climb up is not t o bad, the wildflowers on the mountain are spectacular, lots of pink, yellow, blue, red and white. The track is not too steep and the views are spectacular. Not too steep? Or is that just because we have already walked nearly 600km and are used to it?

    An avenue of God' gift to lift the spirits of weary walkers.

    An avenue of God’ gift to lift the spirits of weary walkers.

    Our first goal was to reach La Cruz de Ferro (the cross of iron). At the cross pilgrims stop leave a part of themselves on the Camino. Pilgrims have carried a stone from their homeland and toss it onto a heap at the base of the cross. My stone represents my family and I say a prayer for them as I toss my stone and become one of the huge group that have searched for meaning on the Camino and found it. I thank God I have been given such a humbling experience.

    I am but one with all others.

    I am but one with all others.

    After spending some time at the highest point of the Camino (1705m), we begin the descent from the the grandest altar to be found on the Camino, far grander than can be found in any church.

    Hope I am not spoiling the view.

    Hope I am not spoiling the view.

    However the walk down the mountain is not easy. It is steep treacherous and slow going. We pause with friends to recharge with best ham and salad roll on the Camino, and continue down the challenge. As difficult as it is, we are rewarded with the special village of Molinaseca, our destination, after 9 hours in our shoes. The village is sitting on a beautiful stream and the afternoon wind down is very special.

    Mission accomplished.

    Mission accomplished.


  14. Day 30 – Astorga to Rabanal del Camino – 20.6km

    May 13, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 30 elevation profile

    Day 30 elevation profile

    The morning begins a little cooler than the last three. It calls for a brisk pace out of the beautiful city of Astorga to warm up. Past the city limits we are back into the countryside. As hard as it would be to throw something completely different at us, Spain does not disappoint. Whilst we are back into rolling hills, there are no fields of crops. Instead, we are walking past forest groves of small trees, with with glades of wild flowers of purple, yellow and white.

    The kilometres seem to pass quickly as we walk through ancient villages which supported the pilgrims of old. These little villages are empty, it seems, except for the passing pilgrims and the cafe owners. We often find ourselves asking the question “Where are the people?” We do find a nice little albergue with cafe and enjoy a delicious plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and salad for breakfast.

    On our way again and our constant companion, the cuckoo, reminds us that he, and maybe a higher being, are keeping an eye on our well-being. However,  he still hasn’t learned how to tell the time. His call is constant – I am sure it is not 100 o’clock. They must have to go to cuckoo school to get a job in a clock.

    Getting some relief for aching feet.

    Getting some relief for aching feet.

    A slight  foot problem develops after about the 17km mark and I welcome a small stream, just outside the town, where I take off my boots and socks and plant my aching feet into the cool mountain water. It is a real relief, so we are able to finish our day without too much more worry.

    We check into our lodging and are looking forward the Gregorian chants at vespers, reconciliation and pilgrims’ blessing tonight after dinner. A good relax this afternoon to recover before tackling the mountains again tomorrow.

    As I reflect on tomorrow I think about  my pilgrim friends who have been struggling. Placing a stone at the foot of the Cruce Ferro is meant to be a significant part of the Camino. Pilgrims have carried a stone from home to place there. It would be such a shame if people we have met could not do this because of something that has happened to them along the way. Tonight I will be praying for Cathy and David from California, Sharon and Helen from the Central Coast in Australia, Stacey from Italy, Tony from Holland- all who have been struggling with something – that they achieve what they have set out to achieve on their Camino and get the chance to place their stone like we will tomorrow.


  15. Day 29 – Hospital de Orbigo to Astorga – 17km

    May 12, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 29 elevation profile

    Day 29 elevation profile

    After a beautiful walk in the warm sunshine yesterday, we are looking forward to the same forecast today. We are in luck, the sky is clear and the sun is rising on cue and  a beautiful day is unfolding. The guide book promises us a picturesque walk back into the hill country. We are not disappointed. After spending the last few days walking through the flat lands, the gentle hills are a friendly reminder that our heart will need to work a bit harder in the future as we hit the mountains in two days time.

    Meeting on of the locals.

    Meeting one of the locals.

    At the  top of our small climb for the day we meet David. He has set up a mini “hippie” centre  – la Casa de Los Dioses. He is excited as we approach and greets us with a big Spanish hug. He has lots of goodies to share and we enjoy a fresh lemonade and a piece of fruit – payment is just a donation. Characters such as David are scattered all through the Camino. We feel blessed to share a moment with him and his friends.

    Our Spanish "hippie" friend, David, with Narelle.

    Our Spanish “hippie” friend, David, with Narelle.

    Astorga is close now and we stop to take in the view of the city from the top of the hill – the Cathedral dominates the skyline. We catch up to Alan, Janette and Eileen and share a cola on the outskirts of town before we go our separate ways. We all have our own agendas and whilst it is wonderful to share them with others, it is also good to be able to journey on our own. We will all probably meet up again when God sees the need for us to do so.

    Astorga is a lovely city, its Cathedral and palace are a unique gift from the past. We enjoy a tour of them both soaking up the history and art. As hunger starts to gnaw us, we look for a place to enjoy a meal together. We sit in the Plaza Mayor and enjoy a delicious paella – yum.

    image

    Another perfect ending to another perfect day. Someone once said, “yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery and today a gift. That is why it is called the present”. Today certainly was.


  16. Day 28 – Villar Mazarife to Hospital de Orbrigo – 13.4km

    May 11, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 28 elevation profile

    Day 28 elevation profile

    With only a short walk ahead, we treat ourselves to a sleep in and breakfast before we leave. It is a beautiful day ahead and the weather hasn’t let us down. As we get out of the town, we are back into the farmlands. One thing we do notice is the mountain range that has been stalking us on our walk in the distant north of our way. It is now directly in front of us. I think it is a subtle notice of intent of what is ahead in a couple of days time.

    An ominous warning of what is to come.

    An ominous warning of what is to come.

    We put the future out of our minds and look to enjoy the day at hand. It is a flat and featureless walk through the grazing lands and we enjoy the ease of the day. When we are close to our destination we come across the most amazing bridge.

    The story of the bridge, built many centuries ago, is about a knight who was rejected by lady he loved. He vowed not to let anyone cross the bridge unless they defeated him in a joust, to redeem his honour. He defended the bridge for 30 days (300 lances) and was then able to travel to Santiago to proclaim God’s glory for his success. This is the story that inspires the stories of Don Quixote and The Man From La Mancha.

    A spectacular way to enter a town.

    A spectacular way to enter a town.

    The bridge was so beautiful, I think I crossed it with the lady I love about 7 times this afternoon in our wander around the town. We were greeted by our pilgrim friends each time we crossed – especially by Eileen from the USA, with whom we look forward to sharing some more time. The connections made on the Camino are very special.

    We are never to far from special people.

    We are never to far from special people.

    We are also hopeful of catching up with Cathy and David from California, hopeful that Cathy’s injury isn’t too bad to continue after we left them in Leon.


  17. Day 27 – Leon to Villar Mazarife – 22.3km

    May 10, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 27 elevation profile

    Day 27 elevation profile

    After two wonderful days of relaxing in Leon, we wake up on Mother’s Day to our Pilgrim’s Wake Up alarm of 6am. Sorry Narelle, no sleep in or breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day. After looking at all the Camino sites yesterday we don’t feel the need to retrace the Camino route through the old part of the city and head straight for the river on the direct road. The bridge we cross to leave the city is beautiful but it takes us into the outer suburbs and industrial areas of Leon, a far cry from what we had just visited.

    Mother's Day 2015

    Mother’s Day 2015

    Our guide book suggests we make a slight detour to bypass the industry, so we do and for the first time don’t agree with the suggestion. Only thing that was added to our walk today was an extra half a kilometre. Never mind, nothing lost.

    After a quick snack in Fresno (I thought that was in California) we quickly put the kilometres behind us. A stamp and supplies at a small stall in Oncina gives me a chance to shake some pebbles out of my boots and grab an apple for later.

    The rest of the walk takes us through the countryside and the crops of canola and wheat are with us again. The patches of windflowers of purple, yellow white and red add to the colourful path.  Our constant companion since San Juan, the cuckoo bird, calls to us and we feel a sense of comfort and relaxation knowing we are leaving the city bustle behind. The country side reminds me now of the farmlands on the Hay plain in western NSW – though the salt bush has been replaced by small daisy bushes in the paddocks.

    Adding some colour to our day.

    Adding some colour to our day.

    We arrive in Villar de Mazarife early in the afternoon. We dump our gear in our lodgings, give my feet and knees a good soaking under the cold tap and wander around for an hour or so to check out the small village. It’s a nice place to be.

    I don't think the Spanish realise how big we Australians can get.

    I don’t think the Spanish realise how big we Australians can get.

     


  18. Day 26 – Leon – 0km (rest day)

    May 9, 2015 by gerryv


  19. Day 25 – Mansilla de las Mullas to Leon – 18.2km

    May 8, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 25 elevation profile

    Day 25 elevation profile

    Whilst a relatively short walk into Leon, it is not meant to be of great highlight. The walks into the larger cities can be a little tedious as the traffic and the city industrial areas another not very attractive. Walking most of the morning with a headache didn’t help. So it seemed like a lot longer walk than it should have – the rain didn’t help either.

    Narelle enjoys her walk in the rain.

    Narelle enjoys her walk in the rain.

    Once in Leon the headaches and glumness soon evaporated. What a beautiful city. Once we were settled and got our bearings we sat outside our hostel and watched the people go by. We were amazed at the number of people we knew who waved, sat and said g’day in their own languages or just smiled as they passed us by. It was like we were locals.

    We spent the afternoon looking at the Cathedral. What a amazing construction. Whilst not as big as Burgos, the stained glass windows were so exceptionally beautiful. We were amazed by the number and the different light it provided inside the Cathedral.

    A grand display.

    A grand display.

    A pilgrims’ dinner and a couple of quiet glasses of wine finiished the day nicely – even though it had started poorly. Someone is looking after us. Because we had been walking for 10 days, Leon was a rest time and we had treated ourselves to a special place for a two night stopover to recuperate. So, we were able to recover from our efforts before bed with a sauna, spa and swim in the hotel pool – LUXURY on the Camino – but no guilt felt.

    Getting ready to relax.

    Getting ready to relax.


  20. Day 24 – El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mullas – 18.6km

    May 7, 2015 by gerryv

    Day 24 elevation profile

    Day 24 elevation profile

     


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