Wednesday 30 May 2012

Day 34 Samos (~22km)

Pre sunrise start and down, down, down, roadside and treed paths to breakfast at Fonfria. There was a frost this morning which turned the patches of dandelions into little frozen globes like those frosted glass christmas decorations we were always breaking when decorating the Christmas tree as children. These too could be broken with the slightest touch of a walking pole. Very cool.

Apart from some shity on road bits the remainder pf today was beautiful and all pretty much as the couple of pictures below suggest. There are loads of little towns but few with accommodation or food but they do look nice. Finally arrived in Samos with the first signs being a look out over the huge monastery (pic below).

Checked into Hotel A Vegia and had a beautifully tender steak off the indoor barbecue (a rare treat to get a great piece of meat)

Siesta over its Gin Y Tonica time ....again.

Day 32 Vega de Valcarce (~24km)

Tried an alpine start but the hostal guy didn't have record of us paying the night before so that debacle cost some time.

8ls to breakfast in Villafranca del Bierzo . Lovely town and had bacon and eggs in the plaza.

The rest of the day winds it's way up a long valley and you walk on or beside the road the whole way var a couple of little town diversions for sustenance

It was baking got by 10am so we staggered into Vega del Valcarce about 3pm and collapsed in a pension which was pretty average with cold shower but ok beds. This town lies under one of the many really high (100m) motorway bridges that seem to be all over ethos mountainous region.

Day 33 Alto do Poio (~21km)

Passed the 600km mark this morning.

Earlier than alpine start on country roads past more high motorway bridges (see photo). Where the flock they got the money for these i dont know and they appear to only support a few trucks every now and again.

From here on it was up up up through beautiful little paths/roads with switch backs an tunneled with vegetation. Breaky and a coffee stop only and arrived at Alto do Poio by 1pm. This place is situated on a small pass and has two alburgues and that's it. It was nice to sit and knock back a beer and an empanada whilst watching pilgrims gasp their way up the last of the climb. All the time with chickens pecking around our feet.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Day 31 Cacabelos (~23km)

8k before breakfast at Ponferrada right in front of the towns main attraction the Knights Templar castle (see pictures). Was surprised to see the cafe/bakery was completely decked out in Kartel ghost chairs and lamps for what was basically pilgrim cafe ie they were all scratched. Not sure where the money for them came from as this was by no means an expensive breakfast.

Remainder of the day was spent on roads passing through town/outer suburbs and market garden type areas.
The day heated up around 11:00 so it was head down and plod to Cacabelos with one stop for coffee.

Cacabelos is a nice medium sized town and being Sunday everyone is dressed up from church and hooking into a late lunch. Mmmm, I think I'll join them.

Day 30 Moulinaseca (~26km)

Alpine start and 6km to breakfast at Foncebadon a little alpine looking village with the best chocolate croissants ever. All the towns today experience snow over winter so all look a little more "Heidi-ish". Very pretty. Purple heather covers the mountains here and makes them all look a bit Scottish. The trail climbs gradually gaining 800m before reaching the highest point on the camino which is not marked. However just prior there is La Crux de Ferro which is an anticlimax little iron cross on a pole surrounded be 5m high pile of stones placed by pilgrims. (some bringing the stone especially from their home for this purpose) unfortunately this means hundreds of pilgrims all queuing to get there photo taken at the top of the pile. Bugger that I just by passed them and got the second last room in the town after which dorms we're the only Orion.

From the cross you drop to a tiny place called Manjurin (see photo) which consists of a shop/alburge/shrine with no running water or electricity. It is run by a guy and what looks like his wizened wife. He gets around in knight Templar outfit and is apparently a camino classic character.

The track then climbs to the highest point on the camino before dropping down, down through more little towns until you arrive at Moulinaseca. This down hill section has revealed more irritating blister capabilities of the new shoes.

Saturday 26 May 2012

Day 29 Rabanal del Camino (~20km)

Slight incline all day today as the camino climbs away from the plains of the Meseta into the mountains. Wild lavender has become the trail side companion and little forests provide variation to the scenery.

It was hot by 9am and just got hotter with very little shade on the trail itself.

The towns are appearing every 5km or so now and they are geared up for the pilgrim. In some instances to the point of tacky.

We are now in that part of the camino that can be completed within two weeks holiday so more pilgrims are appearing looking a tad too clean to be real pilgrims.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Day 28 Astorga. (~16km)

Last day of the Meseta. The whole walk today was along a road beside a road so on went the iTunes. See photo.

Passed the 500km point today. Not sure where it was.

Made Astorga in reasonable time but absolutely knackered for a walk of that short distance.

First stop a medical clinic to check out what I suspect is bed bug bites that Kathryn has been carrying for three days. Today they are blistering so help is required. The Dr reckons she has chicken pox. Not sure I trust him but Kathryn is drugged and quarantined for the next few days and has an excuse to feel really tired all the time as if 6hrs walking each day was not excuse enough. At least the hostels can't turn her away with this diagnosis. Where as bed bugs are a federal , I believe.

Astorga is fiercely hot today so will sleep untill cool enough to see the city wall, cathedral etc which looked particularly spectacular on the way in to town.

Gaudi plaza for drinks and pasta beautiful square with cathedral on one side and the muses de Los pilgrim in the Gaudi designed palace.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Day 27 Hospital de Orbigo (14.1k)

Easy day today as we recover ready for the mountainous home stretch to Santiago.

Hot again and no rest stops until Hospital de Orbigo. On entry to HdO there is a massively long bridge that apparently was needed until the river hear was dam'd further up steam. There is now a permanent Jousting field where the river once flowed. I guess that answers the question "what do you want with Jousting sticks?"

One more day of Meseta, yay.

Day 26 Villar de Mazarife (20km)

Managed to get drugs from English speaking Farmacia last night. All that crap they spin about no efidrine etc is just that, crap apparently pharmacists here can give you prescription drugs if they choose as they apparently ha training and powers almost like a GP. (picture attached for those who need the Spanish eqivalent of cold and flu meds, note they do not have night and day concept of these in spain)

So having now down graded the Ebola light to severe bird flu I decided to do a short walk today say 10km.

Pretty revolting exiting Leon scummy industrial and ghetto type scenery. Luckily I was walking in a bit of a daze anyway. Arriving at the 10k town guess what? That's right no accommodation none, zip, nada. Literally they don't provide accommodation at all. Brilliant, now it's a 20k day.

The heat had come up so plodded slowly on through quite dry Meseta landscape (see picture) to Villar de Mazarife. Managed to secure the last scraps of accommodation there and slept for 2hrs before dinner.

Monday 21 May 2012

Day 25 Rest day 2 Leon

Still feeling shit so rest day again today. Shops are open (as much as they do in Spain) so will try and send useless inov-8 shoes back to manufacturer and some superfluous stuff on to Santiago.

Did drag my sorry arse out of bed for breakfast this AM and had a little look around in yhe process. This is a very beautiful city and it's a pity I've not felt up-to exploring it properly. There's a modern art museum, very special cathedral, and loads of cool architecture. You might recognize the picture below from he film "The Way". It's the Parador (Hotel posh) where Martin sheen shouts every one a room. It is an old monastery with cloistered garden, museum and church. Parador seems to mean five star hotel chain that has bought out all the great monasteries and turned them into hotels. Only 139€ per twin room. Spain must be in a bad way if it's selling of its monasteries. I wonder of they have told the Vatican.

Ate Chinese (a rarity in these here parts) two nights running as it was close to hotel and we were so desperate for some flavor in our food. It was quite yummy even though the quality was equivalent to your ozzie small country town jade lantern type affair. The beauty of this place is you can pig out and an hour layer you've shat it all out due to the lashings of MSG they add, so low cal as well as tasty, brilliant.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Day 24 Rest day Leon

Fever and stayed in bed all day so have spared you the photos dear reader.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Day 23 Leon (20.4km)

Luxury late start today as it was raining and therefore no need to beat the heat. Plus the Leon accommodation was already booked ( so no amazing race factor.

More of the Meseta trudge again today until you start passing the towns leading into Leon. Tip for this bit, read the guide book carefully. The bridge at the entry to Puente de Villarente is indeed dangerous and I was nearly taken out (missed by that much) by a car trying to squeeze passed me and an oncoming truck (without slowing down of course). Kathryn was behind me had an even closer call so much so we had to stop to recover at the cafe right after the bridge. I wonder how much of their business is due to pilgrims needing to recover from shock. Now I know why they drink in the mornings.... just to calm their nerves.

Arrived at Leon around 3 I was feeling crap as the Ebola lite has gone to my head so off to bed.

Friday 18 May 2012

Señor chinchy

The baine of the perigrino. Señor chinchy (bed bug).

The first report of someone with bed bug bites has arrived second hand today. This news will travel up and down the camino pretty quickly I'm sure. The victim's reported to be covered in bites and only a trip to hospital for antihistamine calmed the bloody row.

Day 22 Mansillia de las Mulas (26.3km)

More of the same, however today one can see the mountains in the distance (photo not that clear sorry) which herald the end of the Messetta in a couple of days time. As much as I'm looking forward to this it also means the start of days trying to maintain 20-28km in the mountains. I can see a diversion from the suggested route plan coming up. However the trick will be to manage this and not rely on towns of 1-20 people to supply enough accommodation. As now we are close to the 100km to go point (the minimum distance to be eligible for the compostella). There will be an increase in the no of "minimus sprintus pilgrimus"and a corresponding decrease in decorum and civility not to mention accommodation.

Camino de Dia

More freakin hobit houses

Thursday 17 May 2012

Day 21 Bercanios del Real Camino (23.8km)

Clocked over the 400km mark today.

The morning ws a complete success finding a German run hostel that served muesli for breakfast. Wish we had stayed here last night. This town also sported some underground house hobbit style. I guess to avoid the heat.

Still same scenery of the Mesetta. Still the same hacking cough and blisters. The poppies and corn flowers that litter the side of the camino keep your spirits up as does the opportunity to randomly go through you entire itunes collection.

Bercianos is a two horse town with one Alburge and one Hostel. Nothing really to do here other than to wait until 7 for the sun to weaken then try one or two of their G&Ts. Man these are good. free pour triple with heaps of ice and lemon often served in a large wine glass which more resembles a fish bowl than a drinking vessel. All this for 4-6 euro clams. (Notes on weight loss expectations whilst on the Camino will follow once I have enough data. Let's say for now it's not looking good)

Hobbits seem to exist

First ever muesli seen in Spain
Meseta morning

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Day 20 Terradillios de Templarios (26km) or Half Way Fay

Bit of a dull day as the first town was 19 ks and no break fast open at 7. Long straight sections with hundreds of pilgrims silently plodding along.

Saw a special pilgrim ambulance today that drives at snails pace past all the pilgrims. I assume this is to allow you enough time to reconsider your situation, yield and ask for help. It's a bit like a sag wagon I guess and on this section because it so long.

Did manage a power kip in the heat of the day on a log outside a bar.

Oh and past the half way point today I think. Yay.
Camino de Dia

Said wasted Pilgrim

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Gear Rave

My favorite piece of kit is by far my walking poles - BlackDiamond Ultra Distance Z poles. These carbon fibre, light as a feather jobs make walking and keeping good posture so much easier. I have had a pair of poles in the past but never used them in anger but these are just so light and easy they become part of you. I will not walk without them from now on.

I must admit this has lead some amount of pole envy (something, dear reader I admit I'm very unaccustomed to). But in this case the European pole savey crowd have turned a shade of green when seeing how light these puppies are.

Day 19 Carrion de Los Condes (20.5)

Another alpine start today.

Definition: alpine start - Mountaineering term for when climbers begin a mountain ascent in the early hours of the morning, usually around 2 or 3 a.m, so that they can avoid falling ice and rocks when the sun heats the wall during daylight hours and so that they can maximize climbing time, particularly in a good spell of weather, and reach the peak summit and return to camp before nightfall.

Of course if I'd opened the shutters the head torch is not needed as of course it's daylight and the pilgrim train had long left the station. Any way it's an early start.

Short day today in fact shorter than expected. Due in the main Spanish mapping standards. My hypothesis is that the national school of cartography was destroyed in on of the civil wars and they never got around to rebuilding it. Ever since cartography has been less of a profession and more of a pass time. Consequentially maps vary in there measure of distance by up to say 15% and towns sizes and worthiness of being included are somewhat arbitrary.

The morning light was soft and there was frost on the wheat. No matter how early I rise I don't actually wake until 9 so quite a few of the arbitrarily dimensioned Kms passed in a semi sleep state. This was quite pleasant as sleep has evaded me for the last couple of nights due to constant coughing (last symptoms of the ebola lite).

Two coffee stops later and we arrive at the days destination well before midday. Carrion De Los carries has an outdoor gear shop (handy tip for those of you considering this pilgrimage) this is where I filled in the time between arrival and the habitacione (room) being habitable.

The town is quite active with a few locals out and about (ok hiding in bars) at all times. Couldn't face another figgin bocodillo (sandwich, foot long with cheese and ham) so passed on lunch and punched out a few hours siesta. Kathryn has, alternatively, disappeared for a pedicure something I considered but as Canadian Deb pointed out you need toes and nails for a pedicure. Also I didn't fancy I'd be that relaxed listening to the tune of the therapist dry retching.


Love this.

Spanish love their plastic grass but here it's used as some sort of symbol of aspiring affluence and it is woven into fences and gates.

Monday 14 May 2012

Day 18 Fromista - 25.5kms

Tried the self righteous pilgrim schedule today ie start before 7:00 (in my case one nanosecond before). So that's where they all are. There was a train of pilgrims all morning pouring into and progressively filling up towns and alburgue beds by lunch time. I was interested to see quite a few of these pilgrims without, or with only small, packs (Imposterous Pilgrimus) Also noted large packs in the hotel foyer with tickets for transport to the next nights accommodation. (Imposterous Pilgrimus Pretendus)

The Meseta continues not to live up to its guide book threats. Today was varied, flat, hills, baking bits, green fields and for the later half flowed along side a canal with trees providing intermittent shade. On the whole very picturesque.

Set a good pace today even though my little toe has been mutilated by the new Salomons that have a slight difference in profile between left and right shoes. I think it's a Swiss brand but they are punched out in a Chinese sweat shop according to the label. I was even congratulated on "setting a cracking pace" (stout man and all that shit) by an old retired British army major. He was a bit if a tosser though so won't read too much into that but it does beat collapsing.

It was much nicer walking in the cool of the morning as anything after about 1 pm is too punishing which is why the locals are all inside with shutters drawn.

Installed in accommodation by 2 is a novelty after 25ks and a welcome one. Will keep this rhythm during the Meseta at least...... Maybe.
Climb up to the plain first thing
Camino de dia
Dwarf village all doorways about 4ft high hobbits live

Sunday 13 May 2012

Day 17 Castrojeriz 10km

Having completed 10km of today's trip yesterday today was an easy walk in one of the Mesetas indentations to Castrojeriz. A largish town with plenty of accommodation, at midday anyway.

Walked with canadian Deborah today and learnt heaps about the history of the camino as she had actually read up on it.
Ruined church is a hostel for about 8 pilgrims they call them hospitals which is a bit decieving
Kms to go