I’m Walking the Camino de Santiago

This is the post excerpt.


So, I’m doing this! At least that’s the plan.

On April 29, 2017 I leave Portland. On April 30, 2017 I arrive in Madrid, Spain, take the train to Pamplona and then a taxi to Roncesvalles and then maybe a bus to St Jean Pied de Port, France. I’ll decide my starting point when I get there, but wherever it is, May 1, 2017 I start walking. I will continue to walk for 30-33 days covering 450-484 miles.

I plan to use this blog to post my thoughts, observations, adventures, pictures, joys, tears etc… I bet you’ll mostly see and hear about the food and wine I consume and how much physical and emotional pain I’m in, so have fun reading all about it!

I’ll link to Facebook often. Please message me, I know I could use all the well wishes and “you can do it” I can get.

Day 16 Astorga to Rabanal 

Day 16. 12.8 miles. 6 hours. Elevation gain 837 feet. 

The weather says rain, all day and all route long. I take my time leaving as I’m not excited about the sound of raindrops outside. Then it stops and I’m outta here! I decided to have the pack sent forward so I’m not cranky about having to carry my pack in the rain. See? I’ve crossed the threshold of sending the pack forward and I’m afraid I may never carry it again. Lazy! I have a small drawstring bag that hold food, water and other essentials. It will also fit under the rain jacket if it gets gross out there. 

So far the rain has subsided. This leg is taking me through lots of vineyards and I’m climbing higher into the mountains. Ok. Now it’s raining. Oh crap, definitely need the rain jacket. I awkwardly zip my jacket up over the day pack and it’s a little tight, buts it’s working. It’s coming down hard! 

First stop is in the village of Murias de Rechivaldo, where I sit outside under a large awning and take off my shoes, massage the feet and rest. I’m trying to get better about resting for longer periods of time so my feet hang in there. 

Back on the road. Parts of the trail are pretty water logged so I’m having to weave in between puddles. It’s pretty quiet out here today. The rain seems to have decided to give us a real break and the jacket comes off. 

I get to the town of Rabanal but have to climb a steep hill into the actual town. I arrive at the monastery I planned to stay and they are not open yet. Then I see a sign on the door that says they only provide lodging to “unassisted” pilgrims. Meaning, if you had to taxi into town for any reason or had your pack transported they might not be able to accommodate you. Judgey much? So I guess I’m not staying here. And I also bet they won’t accept my backpack here. Hmmm. Wonder where the backpack will be. Oh well, going to go find lodging first. 

I head toward the municipal albergue but spot a little oasis called albergue Pilar. I walk through the arch and am greeted warmly and checked in. €5! Guess what? My bag wa dropped off here! Seems as though I’m in the right place! I get settled in and a few hours later I head toward the courtyard with other pilgrims for wine and food and laundry. I meet Luis from the states over laundry, he has terrible blisters and is only a few days into his Camino. I can relate, and I provide some advice, but he’ll have to figure out on his own how he’ll proceed. Blisters are awful! Blisters on this scale are very difficult to explain but they don’t exist in normal life! Then I meet a couple ladies from Montreal and we have vino rosato. Oh how I love thee! Mary and Marcel show up and now it’s a party! We decide to eat dinner here at Pilar, get a table and order. Then a peregrina with a ukulele shows up. She passed out song books and we all sing along. The wine was flowing, so were emotions. I know I have an emotional day tomorrow as I climb to Cruz de Ferro and I’m already feeling it. Now too much wine has happened and I need bed! Lights out!

Day 15 San Martin to Astorga

Day 15. 14.8 Miles. 6 hours. 

Again, so much for shortening those distances! Today will be Rachel’s last day on the trail, so we decided to treat ourselves and have our backpacks transported to the next town. I’ve know about the JacoTrans service for a while but afraid to try it because I might not ever want to carry my backpack again. You leave your pack at your albergue with the JacoTrans envelope attached with the the name of the albergue and town you want it delivered to and €5 inside. Magic! 

I hit the road around 7-ish. I’m not sure how quick I’ll be today. My knee woke me up in the middle of the night reminding me that it’s still in a lot of pain. It’s some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. And that’s where the Camino turns you into a crazy person because I’m still walking almost 15 miles today!!

First stop was in the village of Hospital de Orbigo. I ordered a Coca Cola (this habit stays here!) and tortilla, and went into the back garden to relax and rest the feet. There are baby chickens walking around! I think they’re chickens, well they’re birds anyway and they’re super cute! 

Back on the road. This part of the walk is kinda ugly. I’m next to a highway and it’s really hot! I thought I’d be passing through more villages today. Crap, I’ve run out of water! How did I not fill up my water? I spot a gas station across the highway, run over get a super cold liter of water and fill up the camel back. That’s better! Back to the trail across the highway. Did I mention it’s hot? I come to a rest area just as the next village comes into view. There’s a man playing guitar and singing the same song over and over. It’s about a Peregrino. Well, when a woman goes by, his song becomes about a Peregrina. When I pass, I throw a euro into the guitar case and he asks where I’m from. “Los Estados Unidos” he asks for an American dollar, I tell him I have none. He asks for an American souvenir, I have nothing to offer and continue walking. The song turns into one about an Americana. 

This walk is taking a long time it feels like and I’m ready to be done for the day. Astorga finally appears on the horizon and I’m happy to see it. The only problem is that I’m seeing it for so long! I’m still seeing it! How am I not there yet?!?! Then I come to a ridiculously elaborate bridge that crosses a train track. This thing is excessive and cruel! 

Finally climb up a hill to the albergue just as JacoTrans gets there and I see my bag! Sweet! Walking without the pack was pretty awesome and I don’t think I would have made it this far today if I’d had to lug it along. Checked in just after Rachel and Mary so we got to room together along with Augusto from Italy. He says he talks I his sleep, should be fun. 

Out to lunch. Pasta. Laundry. Nap. Out to dinner. Salad. Pizza. Wine always. Sleep. 

Oh yeah, that long unattractive stretch by the highway? I took a wrong turn and was on an alternate route!!!


Day 14 Leon to San Martin

Day 14, 16.1 miles, 5 1/2 hours

So much for taking it easy when I got walking again! I knew I’d be walking on fresh legs my first day back so had planned to do 13 miles to Villadangos. Once I got that far I felt I had something left in me and Villadangos seemed odd to me so I forged ahead to San Martin. Found the municipal albergue, Rachel and Mary were checking in as I got there. €5! I love paying €5 for lodging. The man who ran the albergue told us there was a gathering in the plaza to celebrate something (I didn’t get the details, maybe San Martin?) and they were making paella and we should go. We did our laundry, went out for cerveza. Decided to check out the paella. I’m so happy we did!! We found the locals and their massive 4 foot wide paella pan serving it up. We paid for our meals and received a tray piled high with paella that had prawns, tiny clams, white fish, pig skin and probably some other stuff in it, and bread, and dessert! Dinner included cerzeza con limon or rosato. I hadn’t had paella or rose yet and Spanish roses are my fave. So I’m pretty much in heaven. We took our food and drinks inside where there were 2 super long tables to accommodate the town. We were the only pilgrims. We did our best to communicate as did our hosts. They seemed excited and impressed we showed up. We had so much fun, laughed a lot, confirmed we hated Trump and cleaned our plates. Then out came the liquor! They put the bottles right in front of us. They poured one for us, referred to as a digestivo, from a soda bottle so this appeared to be some homemade hooch. It smelled of feet and tasted of pure sugar and something else I just couldn’t put my finger on. Then came the other one. It was brown in color with maybe a hint of vanilla or almond, appeared to come from a real bottle but I have no idea what it was. We decided it was probably time to go before more liquor was offered. Everyone hugged and kissed us goodbye! 

This is my favorite day so far!

Days 11,12 and 13 Burgos and Leon

Day 11. A real break of no walking needed! Heard from Rachel and Mary they’d be getting into Burgos and staying for 2 nights. Booked a hotel and taking the bus from Santo Domingo to Burgos! Got in about 10am, walked from the bus station across the river, through a giant archway and into the plaza where a massive cathedral is. It’s huge!! Found my hotel, too early to check in, dropped off my bag and went off to explore. Bought a ticket to tour the cathedral. I was probably in there for 2 hours, so much to see, very very cool. My hotel was ready, checked in and flopped on bed. There’s a tv!! Went out for lunch, ran into more familiar faces who also decided to jump ahead, met up with Rachel and Mary at the bar across from the municipal albergue. So many pilgrims! Went to dinner, then caught the last part of pilgrim mass. 

Day 12. I don’t have to do anything!! I only slept in til 7. Met up with the girls for breakfast, laundry and trip planning. I have decided to take the bus to Leon tomorrow so I can shorten my walks and have plenty of time to get to Sarria to meet Erin. Went back to the hotel for lazy time then lunch then met up with some more pilgrims getting into Burgos today. The albergue Arcos from the municipal albergue has really great tapas! Walked around a lot. There is some sort of celebration honoring El Cid (favorite Chuck Heston movie) and a flower festival. There’s also a street with some Mary Poppin’s action, don’t know why but it’s happening. Back to the hotel, then out to dinner with the ladies and Marcel from Brazil. 

Day 12. Bus to Leon isn’t until 4:30pm. I went to the Museo de la Evolucion Humana. I love that this exists in a very Catholic place! Museum was really cool, lots of old fossils and reconstructed ancient humans. Those were actually kind of creepy, but cool. The girls and Marcel are also busing to Leon so I met up with the girls for late lunch before catching the bus to Leon. I eat a lot! Did you notice that? Bus ride was about 2 hours, got to see most of the section I missed walking. Everyone said if I was going to skip a part, this was the one to skip. I’m feeling good with my choices. Got to Leon, found my pencion, checked in, went out for groceries, had a lovely dinner of ham (can you believe it) and cheese and bread (not losing weight on this trip). I purposely booked a room with a bathtub as bathtubs are rare here and it sounds so luxurious! Tub is tiny but half of me fits at a time and I have bubbles and a glass of wine so it’s pretty effing great! 

Walking starts tomorrow!

I’m posting behind actual schedule but I want to get these on the blog chronologically, so I’ll keep adding as I find time. I can tell you this break has done wonders for me, physically and emotionally! I’ve learned so much about listening to my body, mind, and heart. What it means to actually listen and what it means to ignore. Tough, important and sometimes rewarding lessons for sure! 

Buen Camino!

Oh, and I totally want these shoes! 

Day 10 Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

13.2 miles. 7 hours. 

Not a lot between points A and B. Stopped after 5k for some coffee and tortilla. Continued on through vineyards and wet red clay. The clay dirt clings to the shoes and you can feel the extra pounds accumulating. Had to stop several times to remove the clay. The problem not having a lot between A and B is the need for the banos! I’m ok to go off trail, but this was flat farmland with no trees or anything to duck behind. According to the map, I’m promised a town soon. Well, I get to this town and there’s a golf course, a bunch of new row houses, a giant swimming pool, a school etc… but where are the people? Alien abduction? Zombie apocalypse? Everything was shuttered and not a soul was there. Apparently there are these ghost towns all around Spain. Development was at a high while Spain was prospering but then hit an economic crisis in 2008, and now these new towns sit empty. And since they’re empty, where is the bathroom?!?!? I guess right here, in the middle of this vacant block, with nothing to shield me except hope that no pilgrims come around the corner! That was close!

Finished my walk into Santo Domingo and there’s a festival going on. I’m still not totally sure what the festival was about but I think it had something to do with Santo Domingo. There were people everywhere, there was a cart full of children being pulled by two giant bulls, a brass band, priests and towns people doing a procession all through the town over and over. People were in matching costume of sorts and young girls had on giant head dresses with veils with a piece of bread on top, I have no idea. I checked into my albergue and soon realized the procession goes through the Garden of the albergue because that’s where the chickens live and apparently the chickens are really important for this festival. Did laundry went out for dinner and decided to call it a night. While lying in bed discovered the town would be up until at least 2 o’clock in the morning partying because I’m pretty sure Spain is full of professional partiers. At 5 o’clock in the morning I was awoken by the sound of a snare drum going through the garden of the albergue. This occurred five more times with priests and townfolk following the drummer. OK time to get up!

Next installment will be about my much needed rest days in Burgos. Stay tuned!!

Day 9 Navarette to Najera

10.9 miles. 4 hours. 

I have officially walked over 100 miles!

Found this lovely little fella along the way…

The hardest part about being behind on my original plan is losing the group I started with. The last 2 days were a little lonely. Today I met a lovely new crop of pilgrims. Shared stories and strategies. I think this will keep happening as I continue. I’m planning an ambitious 13 miles tomorrow.  Going to start early so I can take a really long break in the middle. Feet and knees are hanging in there but sore and tired. I’ll have to get a bus at some point to catch up on my schedule as Erin is meeting me for the last 100k. Still trying to figure out when and where that will be, tough decision! 

Went out for the usual vino tinto. This is a new one for me. Bartender hands me a bottle of wine and says “if you drink one glass you owe me one euro, 2 glasses 2 euro…” 

Najera is super cute. 
Went to the Farmacia for ibuprofen, 600 mg tablets!! Bought some airborne, there’s been a few colds around and I’m sleeping in dorm rooms. Must not get a cold on top of the issues I’m already having!!

There’s a lot of people that smoke who do this. I have no idea how. That seems really hard and gross.  

Chilling now at the albergue before heading out to dinner. I got a top bunk tonight 😦 but has nice rails on it, feels like I’m in a crib. 

Happy Birthday Mom!!

Buen Camino!

Days 7 and 8 Viana to Nogrono to Navarette 

Day 7. Viana to Nogrono. 5.8 miles. 2 hours. 

This is my first day of rest. Since this would be a short walk, I had the luxury of “sleeping” in. Sleep doesn’t really happen here. I’m relying on collective hours of sleep. At home there is no way I would function on the little amounts of sleep I’m getting here, but something about this walk allows for all sorts of exceptions. I started walking about 8 and got into Logrono at 10. Stopped for a cafe con leche and then set out to find an albergue. I ran into Wolf, the German, who reported that the American made it and was checking into a private room. The American is Rebecca, whom I’ve been traveling and commiserating with the last couple days. We’re both in bad shape, but I think I may be faring better than she. Checked into the albergue early, nice place, modern looking and clean. Napped, drank wine, had pintxos, napped, went for wine again and then dinner! Why didn’t I plan rest days? Today was awesome! I’m now behind schedule on my original plan which means I’ll have to bus at some point to catch up. Am I mad about it? No. I am grateful. I’m learning a lot about this crazy trek. 

Day 8. Nogrono to Navarette. 7.9 miles. 3 hours. 

This is my second day of rest. Left just before 8 and arrived in Navarette about 11. This was a fairly easy trail, a little elevation gain but I like the uphill, the knee hates the downhill. The albergue didn’t open til 1:30 so I went in search of a place to rest. Found Bocateria Move open next to the giant cathedral. Ordered a beer and sat outside. Then ordered a salad that was giant and tasty. I’m trying to eat vegetables when I see them available. As I predicted, my diet is mainly ham, cheese and bread. Checked into the albergue, €7, nothing fancy. The guy bunking next to me took a nap and will be keeping everyone awake tonight. I’m actually stoked because part of why I don’t sleep well is I’m afraid I’m going to be the worst snorer. I know this guy has me beat. Guess who’s sleeping several hours in a row tonight?! Went for a walk, the cathedral is one of the most elaborate I’ve ever seen, I’ll see if a picture will post. Having a glass of wine then heading to dinner. Oh yeah, this glass is the cheapest one yet, €.8!!

Don’t I sound much better today? Listen to your bodies people!

Buen Camino!