Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 24 hospital de orbigo to astorga

~16k went to bed early last night feeling exhausted and was asleep before 9pm in the beautifully restored german alburgue, to be woken up at ~1.30 by biggish Spanish lady in tartan pyjamas, who was shining her torch and rummaging around with lots of plastic, oh the sound of the camino.

Lights on at 7.30am not so bad, i'm up packed and ready for my last day on this camino by 8am. Still dark of course and much to my dismay not a single place is open for cafe con leche, well never mind, I have a 12.50 bus to catch from astorga so on I go. The lights of the town help illuminate the way and it is dawn on the outskirts following a red earth stony path. The scenery is much improved over the last 2 days, rolling hills, the colours red and green with threatening clouds ahead, no moon and at first little sun, then none, drizzle followed by rain and I surrender and don the rain gear which is doreen's excellent rain jacket and a black garbage bag over the backpack from david secured by an s-binder works perfectly. As luck would have it on the camino there is a cafe open in the 2nd village I passed through and it was only a 5k walk for coffee this morning. The longest was 10k which was a little too much.

Reaching the brow of the hill as the drizzle turns to rain i see a large stone barn, falling apart, not an nusual sight in this landscape, as I get closer I see a complicated sign and peak in to find a stand covered with all manner of hearts, displaying a large bowl of fruit, thermos of coffee, selection of teas, walnuts, dates, cookies, juices and water, all avalble for donation. Out pops the caretaker who is wearing the stange combination of trousers, long skirt and ski
Jacket and hair tied in a top knot. He is happy to see me, since I am only the 3rd pilgrim for the day, asks if I am italian, now the most common nationaliy I am mistaken for. I have some white tea and he gives him his heart stamp and show me his motto written on a large board " todos posible" with a heart. Hmm we talk about this for a while, all is possible, I like it. Only 6k till astorga and they pass quickly. Astorga looks like an interesting town, but grey today and i make it to the main square with cathedral and gaudi museum 10 mins before the bus leaves. Exploring the city will have to wait until I can come back to fill gap. so lean my walking stick against gaudi's wall, take a minute, yes I will come back to fill the gap and hopefully introduce my girls to the camino. I make it to the bus with 5 mins to spare, I am travelling without walking for the first time in 24 days, feels strange. Urghhh i don't want to leave the camino and have promised myself to bring it with me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day 23 virgen del camino to hospital de orbigo

28. 8k and frustratingly my feet hurt like hell, for the last few days my feet have been aching earlier in the day and more and I don't know why since my legs don't ache anymore and the backpack doesn't feel heavy.

Anyway what about this virgin on the camino? Well the story goes that a shepherd in the early 16th century saw visions of the Virgin and she told him a church would be built on this spot and many miracles have been performed here but i don't have any specifics, and I went to the relatively modern church on the site just before evening mass yesterday. Compared to the many oppulent churches along the way this one was very simple. On the outside there is a bronze skulpture of the virgin flying above the 12 apostles.

Set off just after 8 in the morning which in this part of Spain means it is still dark. The sun rises ~8,30am and sets about 7pm making for wonderful evenings. There are busy roads to cross but eventually it is back to the rolling meseta not just beige, but some green, some trees and newly planted fields (barley) and sad empty villages.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 22 villarente to la virgen del camino

23.7k due to some unplanned detours and then for sure at least another 5k in Leon, going to the bus station and such.

Last night there were in fact 3 of us in a huge place, me, the Slovakian and the late arriving spaniard (i cannot decipher the name of either) who is walking 30 to 40k a day.

We all leave at the same time in the morning folowing strict instructions from the owner's daughter the night before to switch off all the lights and close the door. This place reminds me of a ranch in south america, due to it's sprawl, the stone floor, inner courtyards and numerous rooms and hallways. There are many photographs on the wall and it feels like it has been in the family for many years.

The walk to Leon is not as bad as I had anticipated, there is a footpath some distance from the busy n120 that has been a part of the camino far too much. The moon is much higher now and of course wanning and not as cold as the last few days, in fact in the afternoon it is almost hot. I stop to take photos especially of the bright blue camino walkway over the motorway and soon the spires of the cathedral of leon are visible. The soft spoken spaniard from Barcelona, is fading into the distance, he walks at a constant pace (a topic much discussed last night) stoping for nothing. The Slovak and I agree to have a parting pivo by the cathedral since I want to walk on and he wants to enjoy the sights and sounds of Leon. I have been there, done that and memories of last year and walking around the city in a jetlag fog come flooding back.

The Czech and the Slav get horribly lost in the outskirts of the city. The cathedral spires no longer visible, there is the bullring, the canal, no shells and no yellow arrows, but there is a postman and he points diagnally to the right. Okay!!! I had big plans and a tight schedule to attempt 36k today (inspired by the barcelonian last night) that are fast erroding. Eventually there is gaudi's casa de botines and it looks very much out of place and then plaza Regia and the cathedral exactly as I remember and I see the young German girl and Italian boy from 2 weeks ago or so and they are still walking together and they look happy and we wave to each other in comfortable recognition.

It's just 12 so I suppose a small beer in the chic cafe Europa with lounge music is okay. The Slovak and I part and I decide to sit in the sunshine in the square for a while and contemplate, I would like to go to the bus station to finalize travel plans for Friday, but also want to walk the camino path in Leon which so far has mostly eluded me. I eat the rest of the cheese bought in Burgos and figure out a plan that will lead to almost an hour long walk through the city, but i'm here for walking. As I set off I bump into Ike (of blue kerchief from some days ago) and we also say adios, since he will be staying in Leon.

The walk out of the city is not charming, but the sun us shining, it is warm and I have spotted 2 beautiful alfas and find a nice place to stay and once again it is laundry day on the camino and the young lady in the pristine alburge makes it easy. Tomorrow I have a long walk, earlish to bed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"the young people"

Actually they are close to 30 but as we have discussed on the camino, everybody (except the 49 year old Italian alp ski resort manager and the 60 year old basque) looks 8-10 years younger on the the camino.

In order of appearance (sorry Michael and uwve am stealling your idea).

Mathias met in a cafe in lorca (day 6) the first words I heard him utter were oh f*** since the shop with cheap heiniken was closed, he is a 26 year old German, a vegan since december cooking his way through the camino. Had much trouble with his feet at the begining due to too heavy walking boots and I even saw him walking barefoot one day. Now he is walking in "sports shoes" with no problems. He has a sweet smile, claims to know everyone on the camino especially the girls. He is an ex IT guy that will be a student again. He was completely attacked by bedbugs in vianna and the marks still remain. We cooked together in carrion, salad, beetroots, muchos aceteunas, piementos stuffed with mashed chickpeas and tomato garlic sauce with bread and vino tinto of course. There was sea salt available and I showed him how easy it is to crush garlic with salt which he perfected last evening.

Maggie from austria almost 30 (in 4 days or so) met in the Austrian alburgue in Los arcos (day 7), for the last 2 weeks had her confused with katerina also from Austria who I also met the same evening, but katrerina finished her walk last Sunday. Maggie is a material scientist that would like to do something more femine so she has taken a catee break and is walking to Santiago, she has taken beautiful pictures of Spanish village life that I hope she will send me and she loved the walk yesterday.

Time for bed hopefully to be continued.

Day 21 calzadilla de Los hermanillos to villarente

30.2 k whooohoo and my feet feel it, but legs, back and energy level fine. Today was the longest stretch of 24.5 k without a cafe!!!! Left the small town with long name following the shiny bronze shells in the road. As the guide says, once on the ancient rocky roman road with once again the moon ahead, the sun behind, the mountains on the left and the railway on the right, there are no asphalt roads, no senda, no farmyard, no houses, no water fonts and very fre trees, it is a beige, beige, beige vista for much of the day. I just keep on walking, there is a heavy frost in the morning and it doesn't really warm up until lunchtime, despite bright sunshine, the air is chilly. This is the exact path that emperor augustus took now called the calzada romana, apparently 20 centuries old, the original road from rome to Leon used by armies of Islam and Christianity and millions of pilgrims. What I feel today is peace and surrenity.

Sadly as this stage ends on the outskirts of mansilla de las mulas, this historic path disintegrates into an unkept badly marked track through scrubland and much litter. Most towns and villages along the camino have lovely shell waymarks but this one had none, just the odd yellow arrow sprayed on the ground. Although I had been planning to stay here I decide to walk another 6 k or so to the next town. Now the mountains are ahead, dried corn on the left, busy road on the right (one nice silver alfa spotted) and dust behind (yeah right). I find a beautiful old restored alburgue with a gracious host, this place sleeps 64 people and there is only one other person here and he is from Slovakia. We each have our own room for 24!!!

I miss "the young people" I have spent the last 3 evenings with, but look forward to a quiet relaxing evening by the log fire catching up on my blogg.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 20 part 2

It is a brown brown day on the meseta, but the sky is blue and I do not recognize the pilgrim ahead as the sprite frenchman since his white cap has been replaced with a black woolly hat and his front pack is not visible from behind and he is as happy as ever.

Day 20 terradillos de Los templarios to hermanillos de la hermanillos de las calzada

26.9k I am distressed in the morning because I can't find my red leather heart purse and it has a special gold chain in it. I alert everyone in the alburgue, people all remember it since I have been wearing it clipped to my waistband and we all search high and low to no avail. To add to the distress the Dutch patient from last night is testing his legs by prominading around in far too skimpy underwear. i set off after leaving my email address with the hospiteleria. Once again the moon is ahead and the sun behind and I catch up with the model of the perfect pilgrim from Burgos, who started his walk in st. Jean, Ruben wears a black beret, carries an extremely tall walking stick and explains that it is the traditional way and why (similar to the walking stick instructions I received from my personal camino guide almost 3 weeks ago), he also carries a traditional leather pouch strapped to his belt, he walks with a bounce in his step and a twinkle in his eye and is a very proud spaniard who points out the mountains of palencia on the horizon on the left and tells me that some days ago a tourist filmed him without his knowledge and asked him many questions and he was not happy about it.

My thoughts remain on my lost purse and I reconstruct the events of last night, stopping at the first cafe I proceed to unpack my backpack and low and behold I find my special purse, I am so happy and so is Ruben, we celebrate with a cafe con leche para mi and a cortardo for Ruben.