Please note this a typed version of the personal diary kept by Catherine during our Camino 2009 experience.
Travel day to St Jean Pied de Port (12th May 2009)
Didn’t sleep very well last night (we were at Ian’s cousins in Stroud, Gloucestershire, England) – kept thinking about what we were about to do! Got up at 5 and left at 5.20. Got to Stansted at 9. Gave the hire car back and then had to wait until 12.15 for flight out to Biarritz. Weather has been really good. Got to Biarritz by 3.15 and caught bus to Bayonne and then couple of hours wait until the train to St Jean Pied de Port. Arrived 7.35pm. Met a woman from Sydney who is travelling alone. Found the Registration Office very easily, then found accommodation at an Albergue nearby. Our room had 2 double beds one for us and one for a German couple. Our host is Christiana, who has strict rules – no shoes on in the house, not allowed to get up until 7, respect others – it’s her family home and she has a couple of kids. We went out for a walk and finally found a restaurant that agreed to feed us – it was about 9pm by now. Struggled big time with the language – it was quite fun though! We slept really well, thanks to the ear plugs, and woke around 6.30 ready to start the trek.
Day 1 (Wednesday 13th May)
Got away at around 7.30 and walked 50 metres up the road to a Patisserie. We bought some bread and 2 pastries and a kit kat. You could get very fat here in France, due to the pastries! How delicious they are – plump and fruity and light as a feather. Saved them for later in the day and munched on the bread for brekky. The walk on day 1 is very difficult – straight up through thePyrenees. It was very misty, but every now & then the sun broke through and we were rewarded with magnificent views of rural France. I just can’t believe I’m here and will always be grateful that we got here. It’s so lush and beautiful and exudes a feeling of wealth and prosperity – I think it’s just the look of the villages and houses. We could hear the jangle of cow bells and see the sheep dotted around the hills. We had to walk 27kms to Roncesvalles and arrived, shattered, at around 5pm. Decided to spend the night in a hotel rather than the monastery. The accommodation for the Pilgrims was 1 room, 150 beds, 2 showers that are open for an hour each night. I didn’t fancy it … so we spent ten times more than we planned to but had a lovely room with our own facilities. Pilgrims dinner was 9 Euros and we had leek and potato soup with bread, followed by trout and French fries, then dessert was a container of yoghurt. We also had a bottle of red on the table, which was quite nice. At 8pm we attended Mass because they bless all the Pilgrims. It was good – they called out all the countries that the pilgrims come from that day. There are about eight Australians in the group that set off when we did. Went to bed. Ian slept like a log but I didn’t. Very big storm in the night and torrential rain. Woke up feeling like shite – bags down to my chin and a huge lump in my throat because I felt so bad.
Day 2 (Thursday 14th May)
Left at 6.30am and walked into Roncesvalles and bought some bits & pieces for breakfast, snacks and then found a lovely café for coffee. I was so excited because we managed to order the coffees in Spanish and then understood how much it was! Coffee was damned good, although I’m saying that about everything that I’m getting after I’ve been deprived of it for a while. For example, we stopped at a privately run Albergue for lunch yesterday (Orisson) and had arguably the best bowl of vegetable soup I’ve ever eaten. The ham baguettes are fabulous too! Anyway, it was raining quite steadily so we faffed around putting our wet weather gear on and finally got on our way. There were some really dodgy sections on this stage and it was very muddy. We saw several people slip over and get so filthy with mud. Luckily we made sure we were very careful and we had no mishaps – we are both really sore today – Ian around the shoulders and me – both feet are aching. The rest of the body is fine though. My bad ankle has started to give me a few niggles and at the end of each day is really painful. We walked about 23kms today and decided against going through to Larasoanne (a further 5kms) and so are staying at Zubri. We are in a room with 24 beds. Showers are great and we are about to go to pub for a drink. Unfortunately, I have a “NZ” blister, so we are monitoring it closely. Ian checked his feet too and they look worse than mine – he has about 6 large blisters, which he didn’t even know about until he took his boots off. So tired, we just bought some cheese and crackers and ate that before going to bed – early night!
Day 3 (Friday 15th May)
Pretty ordinary night, but all things considered, we’re feeling OK. We were quietly getting organised pre-dawn, with about 3/4 of the people in the hostel – remember, same room – 24 beds – and a French woman and her husband in the bunk beneath ours suddenly got irritated and put all the lights on! She woke everyone up – such selfish behaviour. Was stunned at her aggressive behaviour. Anyway, started walking in drizzly conditions – 22kms in front of us – heading for Pamplona. It was quite a good day in the end – got out sunny as we started to get away from the mountains. Bought a bread roll with butter and jam and a coffee for breakfast. This was an exciting moment – not only did the shop keeper under my “Dos cafe con leche, por favore”, but I understood how much! Great when this happens. Walked with only a few breaks and arrived here at around 2pm. Did some washing and showered then went for a wander. What a fabulous place. We’re staying at the Church again in dormitories – 6 in each area. Had nice dinner and a drink and now back on our beds for a nice rest. Have been meeting some great people – it’s surprising the cross section of people doing the walk. From 20 years olds to 70 years olds. Everyone in agony … like us! On day 1 we met 3 German men who spoke a fair bit of English and then we didn’t see them for while. Caught up with them in the city square but the 3rd man had pulled out. He was really struggling on Day 1 – a bit overweight and was constantly having to rest. The guys said he was already back in Germany. There is another lovely man who keeps chatting at us in French – of course we don’t understand a thing he’s saying, but he’s so nice! We just nod and smile and hope he doesn’t think we’re rude. We keep telling him we don’t speak French but he just keeps chatting! Anyway, Good night!
Day 4 (Saturday 16th May)
Woke early again. Not such a bad night, although Ian said the cacophony of snoring was awful and said he thought he heard someone scream in frustration. But I didn’t hear anything much, just our French mate who really needs to get himself checked – he sounded as though he was dying. Ian is sore from neck to toes but is happy that his shoulder pain is easing off. We started to walk about 7am and found a lovely coffee and cake shop where we bought some bread, pastries and coffees for breakfast and snacks. A beautiful day, which took us right up (yes, up again!) to the huge windmills and monument to the pilgrims. We had 360 degree views of the area -Pamplona, medieval villages/churches and through wheat fields. Our feet are by now throbbing like mad, so we decided to change back into boots, which helped me but not Ian. His feet are really sore, so he’s sending his boots back to the UK and just wearing the trekking shoes. Down hill is a killer and there was plenty of that today but we took the lead of some others and tried zig-zagging, which is much easier for short spurts. We stopped for lunch at a great Pilgrims cafe and had a wonderful feast – chorizo, fried potatoes, jamon and tomato roll and a salad, coke and 2 coffees. I was again rewarded when I ordered it and the shopkeeper understood. A bit different to this morning when I ended up doing charades for dos cafe con leche – “to go”. The poor girl was panic stricken and had to go and get someone to help her. We arrived in Puente La Reina at about 4.30 – not bad – 26kms, booked into the church Albergue – 5 Euros each, showered, washed clothes and then proceeded to work out what we could live without. We’ve sorted it out ready to post back to the UK on Monday. We must have reduced 5 or 6kgs. We are really going to be down the bare necessities but it’s worthwhile. We just had dinner – the jamon & tomato roll we couldn’t eat at lunch time and the chorizo which was left over. Ian has nipped into the village to get some supplies for tomorrow – it’s Sunday tomorrow and we’re not sure if anything will be open, so better to be ready. We have washing on the line and I’m just waiting for Ian until he comes back and then we’ll turn in for the night. We’re again … exhausted!
Day 5 (Sunday 17th May)
Walked from Puente to Estella – about 22kms – we both have blisters and are sore but to be expected. We see the sights and the different lifestyle and that’s fantastic because you forget you are sore. It was a hard day – we got the ipods out for the first time and it was such an indescribable delight to hear the music. We both immediately lifted our feet and picked up the pace. We walked through a fabulous medieval village which appeared in the distance, perched on top of a hill as we made our way through wheat fields, vineyards and olive groves. I was listening to the Spanish opera at the time, so Ian took a photo and I sent it to my cousin Mezzie as she had given me that music before we left home! On the way out of the village, we walked down a “great example of a well preserved Roman road”. It made you reflect on how many feet had travelled down that road. The village was circa 12th Century. So beautiful. The rest of the way was a steady incline and we were both struggling towards the end. Finally got to Estella and booked in to the Pilgrims Albergue which was very ordinary. 30 people in each dorm (took about 110) with only 2 top bunks left. There were 2 showers and 2 toilets between 30 people. We went for a walk and spent some time in the town square then went to a hotel and bought the Pilgrims meal – spag bol followed by salad and calamari for me and Ian had salad and chicken. Dessert was yoghurt. I also had a glass of red wine which was very nice and Ian had a San Miguel beer. Went to bed at about 8.30ish, ear plugs and all! Decided that we would have an easy day tomorrow – get up a bit later and take our excess to the post office and send back to England. Then we would just walk to Villamajor, which is 8kms away.
Day 6 (Monday 18th May)
Left the hostel about 7.15am and went to the square where we had coffee and croissants and fresh orange juice for brekky. We took our time and had a lovely chat with a French couple that had been walking for a month through France and were busy doing the Camino. Went to the post office and posted back 7 or 8kgs of excess gear. What a relief! We then set off for Villamajor. We bought some fruit for the trip and started to see some different faces because most people had left early or had gone through to Villamajor de Montjaroin yesterday. The walk today took us through some lovely country – mostly wineries. We stopped at the Fuente de Bodega and had a drink of wine from the fountain, which is a gift from the people of Bodega to the pilgrims and has been for hundreds of years. It was again a lovely walk and this time we only saw a handful of people. Got to Villamajor at around 1pm and booked straight into the private Albergue where we actually got two bottom bunks! We have also booked for a communal dinner, and should be quite interesting since we’re the only 2 English speaking pilgrims here. Mostly Germans, but some do speak a little English. Had a fantastic dinner – salad, spag bol – delicious – and fruit and yoghurt. Everyone mixed and spoke and we met a nice man who knew people in Keysborough (in Melbourne) and had visited there in 2007. He asked if we would hand deliver a letter to them and we said yes. This was a really nice night! Got to bed around 9pm.
Day 7 (Tuesday 19th May)
Another ordinary night’s sleep for us both, but got up at 6ish and got ready for breakfast, which was provided by the Albergue at a minor cost. Delicious, and got us primed ready for the day. Left around 7.30am and made good time to Los Arcos, where we had a coffee and bought some lunch. Baguette, cheese, ham and a tomato and 2 apples and chocolate. Had quite a good rest here at Sansol and then only had to go 1km to Torres del Rio where we booked into the Villa Maria Albergue. We were quite lucky to get a bed here – they have people sleeping outside on the roof, in the courtyard and had to even send many people on to Logrono. Had a nice rest – both of us had aching legs and feet, did our washing, had a shower and then socialised with some lovely people – 1 from Port Campbell in Victoria, the other from Armenia. We had a wander around the village and bought supplies for tomorrow, which is a long 20km on quite open, unprotected roads. Met 2 young men, one from Ireland, the other from Germany, who are going to walk all night because there are no beds anywhere. We had dinner in the one and only restaurant, which was very nice, and then came back, got ourselves organised for bed.
Day 8 (Wednesday 20th May)
GLENN’S 22ND BIRTHDAY!! Left the Albergue at about 6.15am. Rang Glenn at 7 to wish him a happy birthday. Was great to talk to him. Watched the sun come up behind Torres del Rio- it looked lovely. Continued to plod along to Viana where we stopped for morning tea and had coffee and massive croissants. Our German friends joined us and we said a final goodbye to them because that was their last day – they’ve clocked up 160kms. They are father and son walking together because the son has been relocated to Switzerland and wanted to spend time with his Dad. Got our Pilgrim’s passports stamped in the magnificent Church of St Peter. Continued on our way until we got to Cruce, where we stopped for lunch by the side of the road. Aired our tooties and then went on to Logrono, which is a lovely city – 130,000 people live there. Stayed at the Albergue which worked out well – had a top and bottom bunk. Went out for a wander and bought some new sandals for our tortured feet. As we were walking back through the square, we saw the 3 Australians from Brisbane- at least, 2 are Australians and one is from London. We ended up having a drink with them. They are really nice people and we hope to catch up again. After we parted company, we had a look around a little market, bought some VERY expensive sweeties and then an ice cream. Didn’t feel like dinner, so we went back to the room. Had a shower, got into bed and tried my best not to stare at the 6’8″ fat man who insisted on wandering around in his undies.
Day 9 (Thursday 21st May)
Finally – a good night’s sleep! Got up feeling human. Had control of the window, so it was open all night. Left at 6.30 – we have a huge day ahead – 30kms. Stopped while Ian shot over to find a shop for some supplies. Came back with bread, cheese, juice and croissants – sat and ate them in a nice big park. Can’t write too much about today, except it was very humid, boring and on hard surfaces. 30kms of it which has really knocked the stuffing out of us. Decided we needed some privacy so checked into a little hotel in Najero (57 Euros). Whilst waiting for reception to finish sorting another couple out, I sat on the stairs and announced that I couldn’t move. This was the truth. I couldn’t walk another step. Unfortunately, no lift in the hotel so had to stagger up two flights of stairs with our packs. The final blow! Anyway, did all our washing, had a nice private shower and a snooze. Went out and bought a very ordinary pilgrims meal and came back to our room at 8.45pm and fixed up our blisters etc. Shattered! Much easier day tomorrow – 20kms.
Day 10 (Friday 22nd May)
Best night’s sleep for ages! No ear plugs required, could get up for a wee without worrying about anyone else, no big fatty strutting around in his black undies! No one else using the loo except us! Got away at about 6.30 and had coffee & croissants for breakfast. Will never get sick of the croissants! Didn’t like Najero – it had a bit of a dark feel to it and lots of people we spoke to later felt the same. We did pretty well today but very tired after about 15kms and had all sorts of twinges and niggles as well as the usual ones! Got to Santa Domingo at about 2.30 and registered at the almost new Albergue, which is fantastic. Some really sore and stressed people on the trail today but occasionally catching up with some great people we met earlier on in the walk. Had a call from John & Tina, which was lovely and also a message from Mum – really good to hear people’s voices. We had a bit of a rest and then went hobbling out to the town for a wander, then had dinner and came back here. Sat in lounge room for ages chatting to people, particularly nice guy from Ireland. But anyway ….. It’s about 9 and I’m ready for bed.
Day 11 (Saturday 23rd May)
Took ages to get to sleep last night – I was in a lot of pain with my toes and ankle. Woken up in the early hours by a storm. We managed to get away quite early to walk about 21kms. We got caught in a heavy downpour and got pretty much soaked to the skin, but the “skins” dry very quickly so when the sun came out we dried off in no time. Ian’s knee is twice its normal size and his feet are bruised. He isn’t saying very much but has put the knee support on. We passed through 3 or 4 villages today and not one had anywhere open to buy a coffee or tea. But we found a wonderful bakery which was pointed out to us by a couple of delightful French women. We bought churros and a baguette. It was a tiny kitchen where a little old lady made it all herself and served the customers through a little window. It was delicious! We pressed on to Belorado and booked into the first Albergue we saw, which is privately owned. It’s all new too. We staggered into our room, which accommodates 8 people, lay down for a while then took the opportunity to shower while it was all still lovely and clean. We got here at about 1pm which was really good timing, considering how hard it was! We’ve done all our washing and it’s madly flapping around on the line. We are both feeling quite tired and have several aches and pains. I’m worried we can’t continue like this. My back and ankle are playing up and Ian’s knee is a worry. There is concern that we are doing ourselves long term damage. We will look at rescheduling to see what we can come up with to lessen the likelihood of more injury. Enjoyed the sun for most of the late afternoon and had dinner at around 6, which was the Pilgrim’s menu. I had Paella and it was quite good, although I’m sure it’s better if not on the Pilgrim’s menu, followed by pork. Ian had mixed salad, followed by fish! Dessert was fruit salad and yoghurt. You also get a little bottle of red to go with it, included in the price. We watched a video on the big screen in the restaurant, which were photos and info about the Camino. It was quite well done – someone had simply put their photos into a really schmick powerpoint presentation and put it all to music. Got to bed around 9.
Day 12 (Sunday 24th May)
Ian has come up with a good plan for our remaining time. We will shorten the days to 12-15 kms giving us the flexibility of seeing how we feel each day. This will reduce the stress on our weary bodies. It’s a strange thing, the Camino. It’s not the 800kms which makes up the Camino, it’s the part you want to do in that journey. In other words, the end result is the 100kms into Santiago. We have already completed one third of the whole 800kms, which is fantastic, and we might have to skip some stages for health reasons, but it doesn’t mean we haven’t achieved. Speaking to various people you realise that not many do the whole 800 – mostly they have a timeframe and finish in certain places for certain reasons. You can’t afford to get caught up with competitiveness, failure or anything negative – you learn to be opened minded and accepting of who YOU are, YOUR capabilities and YOUR achievements. I suppose it’s called self-awareness. Ian tells me he couldn’t sleep with the pain in his legs last night and ended up taking a pain killer which helped. Today we are both feeling good. No “new” pains! Blisters on Ian’s feet are healing as are mine on my right foot, but my left one’s are a bit ugly. We will walk 12kms today and tackle the three small peaks on Monday. We have met a lovely lady called “L” – she’s from Ireland, and an American called “C”, who are both struggling. L mentally and C physically. The weather today started out badly – a thunder storm which has bounced around us all day and heavy rain the likes of which we haven’t see for years at home! We waited at the Albergue for it to ease off then got going around 8.30. We took it steadily – very muddy – and just made it to a bar in time to take shelter from another heavy downpour. Well timed! We had a coffee and a chat with all the others in the bar and then headed off again. Got here at 1pm and have been resting ever since! It cost us 3 Euros each to stay here. We are going out to a restaurant tonight with L & C. It would be great to have some dark green leafy vegies on the plate for a change. It seems the only vegies are French fries with the Pilgrim meals. That’s why we tend to go for salads. Lunch, we usually have a baguette and cheese and some fruit and brekky is usually coffee and a croissant. We also buy some chocolate for on the walk. I can’t believe it – just saw a man come in on crutches! Went to a tiny little bar for dinner for the Pilgrim’s meal. It was a good night – got back at around 9 and went to bed. Contemplating catching bus to Burgos tomorrow or next day.
Day 13 (Monday 25th May)
Left quite early but forgot to buy any food and there are no villages between here and San Juan de Ortega, which is where we are headed – 12 kms. Got there at about 10.30am and had a coffee and some cake. Also bought chocolate and some biscuits. Decided to go on to Ages, which sounds nice and will decide whether we stay there or go on another few kms. Got to Ages at lunch time and it looked good, so we checked in to the municipal Albergue – 7 Euros each. We were here first, so got the choice of a bunk. Got the washing out and had a shower. Exhausted as usual! The weather today has been showery and cool with a few storms. The way today was through lovely forest but long tracks and it takes its toll on your body. Will work out a plan to skip on to Leon due to the need to rest. Nearly had our own “international incident” over the window being open or closed. We like it open in the hostels, some like it closed! Anyway we compromised – I had it open about 3″ but the international wasn’t happy. Sulky little cow. Ages was one of the longest days of our lives – there was absolutely nothing open. It’s a small village, so once you’ve had a look around, taken your photos and had a rest , there’s nothing left! Had the pilgrim’s menu for dinner. Sat with 6 French men, 1 Swiss woman and an Italian man. Only the Swiss woman could speak English, which was fantastic. She also spoke French, Italian and Spanish so poor thing spent the entire time translating for everyone. It was great fun though. Went to bed at around 9. We’ve decided to get the bus from Burgos to Leon and have 2 days off. This will be in an hotel. It suits Ian too due to the Champions League final – Man U vs Barcelona! The bus leaves at 10am tomorrow from Zalduendo which is about a 3km walk away. Can both certainly use the rest.
Day 14 (Tuesday 26th May)
Couldn’t get away from Ages quick enough. Nice people but boring place. We intended to take our time but you really can’t just lie around in the Albergue, with everyone packing up and leaving so early. We had a coffee and pastry and headed off around 7.50, which meant we got to the bus stop at 8.30and had a freezing cold wait of an hour and a half for the bus. We saw some wild venison I think, on the way to the bus. As usual nothing was open yet at Zalduendo, where we had to wait in a little bus shelter – I’m sure it was only about 5 degrees. We had all our clothes on, gloves, beanie, everything. About half an hour before the bus was due, 6 others turned up who were doing the same as us. Lovely people, all had injuries and one had caught a throat infection so he needed to rest and get well before continuing. Got to Leon without a problem and checked into the Hotel Alfonso – very nice place where we’ll stay for two nights. We did all our washing and relaxed a bit before going out to buy a few supplies. It seems to be a stylish “little” city – lots of lovely shops and an upbeat feel to it. We bought some fruit & yoghurt and stuff for dinner. We had dinner then I ran a nice, warm bath and went to bed and watched TV. Ian also had a bath and put some stuff like Voltaren on his legs, which ache like toothache. We were transfixed on a program that was televising bull fighting – they even showed the kill and kept repeating it in slow motion – it was quite disturbing when you don’t understand the sport at all. The stadium was packed with people watching it, drinking their soft drinks and munching their snacks. Tomorrow we plan to go and sightsee and maybe do a bit of shopping, but I think we’ll spend most of the day taking it easy. We would like to continue on our way on Thursday.
Day 15 (Wednesday 27th May)
Spent the day wandering the streets of Leon. Such a lovely city. Also had a siesta and then went out again to do some retail therapy! Ian’s legs feel slightly better and we got rid of an extra few kilos, so pack even lighter! Watching the Champions League final tonight. Had a nice dinner and a humungous ice cream! Not looking forward to Albergues again but can look forward to another break in a couple of weeks. Have really loved the last couple of days. Man U lost. Lots of celebration in the streets right outside our hotel. Ian was a poor loser and wouldn’t go outside with me to join in!
Day 16 (Thursday 28th May)
Initial intention was to walk 15kms maximum, but we felt good, so kept going and ended up completing a full stage, which puts us a day in front of our revised schedule. The first part of our journey took us through the outskirts of Leon and it took about an hour & a half. We got some pain killers with codeine at a pharmacy. Arrived in Mazarife at 2.30 and booked into a private Albergue, which was really nice. Some noisy Aussies and Canadians spoiled things a bit, but there you go. This is a nice little village. Dinner was pretty good too. Hope to start early tomorrow to beat the heat.
Day 17 (Friday 29th May)
We left at around 6.30am. Hard slog at first on the bitumen. We were glad to get to the village and have a coffee or two. After this it was a really nice path through rural areas. Arrived in Hospital de Ortiga at around 11 and had an early lunch. Lovely medieval village, famous for jousting. Felt good so kept going. We had another long break in a little village and had a call from Adam, which was lovely. Chatted to Amanda too and then Lisa. In the heat of the day we staggered on and finally got here -San Justo. Astorga tomorrow (3kms) Bought some fruit, yoghurt and a cake each for dinner. Fed up with what’s dished up for Pilgrim’s meals. Sore toes!
Day 18 (Saturday 30th May)
Fitful night’s sleep – was very tired but got up around 7 and left by 7.30. Wandered off to Astorga and found it to be a lovely town – beautiful cathedrals and plazas. We had breakfast and had a good look around, taking lots of video. Set off for our next stop – Santa Catalino de Somoza. Today will be an easy day – about 15kms all up, if you include our wandering in Astorga. Very warm again today, on a very exposed track. Got here just after lunch and checked into the first Albergue we came across. Ian had a look at the second one and thought this one looked better. Got a room on our own again, which is a luxury but well deserved. Nice shower and relaxed, bought some lunch and a coke in the bar and spent an hour on the internet. Went for a walk but (as usual) nothing open! Came back to the room for a rest and Ian went out for a walk. Another easy day planned for tomorrow.
Day 19 (Sunday 31st May)
Easy day my arse! Ended up walking nearly 30kms again! We got to the village that we had planned to stay in overnight, at about 11.30, so felt that was way too early, plus there wasn’t anything to do. We kept going … and going … and going, until we arrived at Rabanal where we limped in sore and tired at about 4pm, after starting out at 6.30! We booked into the first place we came to, which turned out to be a lovely room – we had the whole floor plus a bathroom. We were charged 55 Euros, which included breakfast. Since we are ahead of our schedule we feel we can justify the extra money – also it’s much better because we can lay all our gear out and get ready without disturbing others. After showering we went to the local pub and had a gin & tonic (for me) and a beer (for Ian). The Australians and American turned up – Australians are J and C (brother and sister) and the American is C. We had dinner together – best meal for ages, and got to bed around 9.30. Very definitely having an easy day tomorrow!
Day 20 (Monday 1st June)
Woke around 6.30 and got ready. Had a good brekky – cereal and toast and tea. Set off for Ponferrada at about 7.30. Got to Molinaseca – what a lovely place! Sat and had coffee for ages in the shade then hit the road again. Plan to do 17kms today and stay at Ponferrada 2 nights. Checked into the German run hostel, which is good (10 Euros for 2 of us) and had a shower, did the washing and now plan to go out and back into Molinaseca in a couple of minutes. Bought 1.5kg cherries from an elderly man and ate them on the way. They were delicious! You could see a trail of cherry pips along the way for ages! Cherry trees everywhere. The walk into Ponferrado was awful – industrial and residential areas and on the concrete pavements in the heat of the day. Decided to stay on 1 night and keep going to Villafranca del Beiza. Got my feet dressed by a Spanish medico (not a doctor) who actually looked like a red indian. Long black hair to his waist and spoke no English – he was careful (very sore) and told us what to buy (Hell he kept saying – yes I said, it’s been hell!) Then realised he meant me to buy the Gel for my feet!). Had Pizza at 4pm and watermelon at 8pm, then went to bed.
Day 21 (Tuesday 2nd June)
Up early – very hot night and we shared a room with 2 lovely German people. Got away around 6.30 – told it was going to be hotter today, so wanted to beat the heat. Good walk out of town – feel good – both of us. Went through some beautiful vineyards and cherry groves. Scenery is lovely. Made sure we had lots of breaks – nice longish ones. Got to Villafranca at about 2pm and have checked into hotel for 2 nights. We both need a recovery day. Had a nice paella for lunch and then dinner with the noisy Aussies, loud American and nice Swiss woman and a Latvian woman. It was pleasant night. Ian and I went for a walk and got back to the room at about 8.45. Have done our washing and now going to relax and enjoy.
Day 22 (Wednesday 3rd June)
Woke up around 7! Late for us. Good night’s sleep and my feet and ankle have improved greatly. Going to have salt foot baths today on Monica’s advice, and explore the town, which looks nice. Marilyn is going to call at 11am and we did a few texts and rang Mum for a nice, long chat. Family is saying give the walk the flick because we’ve achieved so much but we are close to finishing so it would be a shame. Hanging out for the finish so my feet and ankle get better and we both feel half normal again! Relaxed today – sent an email to Jacinta with “steps total” for the Global Walking Challenge. Had nice long lunch, watching the people in the square then came back to the room and had one of 3 salt foot baths and then read for a while. We both had a siesta, which was good. This evening we went out for a drink and ran into the 2 German people we shared a room with on our very first night at St Jean Pied de Port! They don’t speak much English at all but it was so nice to see them. Had a bit of “chat”. They noticed my poor feet and pointed and said in horror “Kaput!” Went for a drink and met the lovely Irish guy from a week or so ago. Had a drink with him then went and bought some groceries for tomorrow’s walk. Will pick up bread in the morning. Went for a little wander and now back in the room preparing for tomorrow. Hope to do about 17kms tomorrow. There are 2 mountains to climb over which are supposed to be quite strenuous. Ian’s cough is improving and we both feel as fit as fiddles!
Day 23 (Thursday 4th June)
By the time we faffed around trying to find the bakery, we didn’t get away until about 8am. Decided to take the path over the mountain as we didn’t like the idea of walking along the roadside for 8kms or thereabouts. Of course this is the “very difficult” route. Lovely path through chestnut forests and pine forests with the lovely wild lavender and yellow broom covering the ground. Some walking on the road after the mountain crossing unfortunately and we got caught in a thunder storm which scared the daylights out of me when the thunder clapped, because we were walking under a bridge and I thought it was collapsing! First instinct … RUN! Arrived at Ruitlean at around 3.30 – very tired. The Albergue is a little shabby and our beds are in the loft. We had a lovely meal of soup, salad, spaghetti carbonara and custard. It was a communal meal with several Spanish people, Bavarian, French, us and a cute little lady from Taiwan and a Mexican. Only a few spoke English and for the first time we found ourselves translating! Bed at about 9pm – but first had to do a little walk around the village due to the huge dinner we were given! Another big climb tomorrow. Fell asleep to the sound of Pavarotti’s singing being piped through.
Day 24 (Friday 5th June)
Good rest – woken to the strains of Ave Maria at 6am. Breakfast- toast, cereal and little sponge cakes that you dip in your coffee. Headed off for Alto do Poio. Walked through some really lovely forest areas – very good walking and had quite a long break in O’Cebreiro. Started to rain as we were having lunch, so we waited for the storm to pass watching the two women in the restaurant cooking octopus and salivating at the cheeses and cakes on display. Arrived at our destination at around 3pm. Got a room of our own with bathroom – 40 Euros. Had dinner with the Canadians – J-P and M. Dinner was very nice, but apart from a few beans in the soup, still no vegies! Met another Australian couple called P & M and had a drink with them and JF, who is a very funny Irish man, who we have crossed paths with several times. Got to bed at about 11 but couldn’t sleep because the sheets were thread-bare and you could feel the lumps in the mattress etc, so ended up in our sleeping bags. Woke feeling tired and sore!
Day 25 (Saturday 6th June)
Set off at about 7.30 – heading for Samas – 22kms. Rain, rain and more rain and also a bit chilly. Ended up tired and fed up at Triacastela and decided to stay there. Booked into a little hotel – have our own room which is tiny but nice and sharing a bathroom. Also met another Aussie called P, who is a lot older. He seems lonely and hung around us a bit but he went on to do the extra 10kms to Samas. We slept nearly all afternoon. The rain hasn’t stopped all day. Hoping tomorrow improves because we have a big day of 25kms.
Day 26 (Sunday 7th June)
Long rest yesterday but didn’t feel fresh. We both felt “heavy”. Took alternative route which knocked off 6kms – it was lovely – very picturesque and we only had a few light rain showers. It was quite a remote walk but despite this, there were a lot of people on the track. Caught up with JF about 6kms out of Sarria. He seems a nice chap. Got to Sarria in record time – 1pm and found a brand new Albergue – “Albergue International”. The lady who runs it seemed to take a shine to us both – she was very helpful and nice – spoke good English too. She did our washing and dried it all – 10 Euros – which seems horribly expensive but well worth it. We had dinner here too and it was absolutely lovely. She was also the cook and we complimented her on the meal and service, so she gave us a shot of galliano “to settle our stomachs”. We staggered up the stairs and here we are! Tomorrow we head for Portomarin – let’s hope the rain stops.
Day 27 (Monday 8th June)
By the time we had breakfast and got ourselves organised it was 8am before we got going. It had poured down all night and blown a gale, so we were a bit concerned. Sure enough it started raining very early on, so the raincoats came out. We had an extremely long day – 23 kms which felt even longer, due to the weather. The cyclists really got on our nerves today – they aren’t all the same, but some of them are extremely selfish and arrogant. They get onto the walking track (which they aren’t supposed to) and when they finally get to a bit where they go downhill and get some speed up, they yell for the walkers to move out of the way! At one point they yelled to us to move and were negotiating an extremely muddied section, so Ian just said “I’m afraid not” and she had to get off and push her bike through in her white lycra. Also a couple had a break around the same time we did when we started walking. I moved to the left so they could ride their cycles on the right side of the path and the stupid woman was trying to pass me on my inside. I didn’t know she was there until she nearly went into me. I said to Ian very loudly “I thought they were supposed to drive on the right side of the road” but they just rode off. The third incident occurred when 3 cyclists went racing down the squelchy, muddy path and one sprayed me with mud and crap and I swore till the air was blue, so the others at least braked when they heard and eased past! When we had a break, the couple in the white lycra were trying to repair their brakes, which pleased me greatly. Anyway, a miserable day weather wise and got worse because our boots got wet inside. I hate that! We arrived in Portomarin, which was a really pretty walk in, if you were in the mood to appreciate it, at around 2.30pm, and got a nice room with shared bathroom for 30 Euros. We had a nice shower and rest then had pizza for tea which was delish. We wandered down to the supermarket for some fruit and bits for breakfast and snacks and lunch for Tuesday. We also bought a pair of waterproof pants each because the forecast is so awful for the next few days and we’d sent ours back to the UK. Ian’s got a bad pain on the top of his spine, so put heat pack on it. Bed early, ready for long day tomorrow – 26kms!
Day 28 (Tuesday 9th June)
Very noisy people in the other rooms made it a restless night. Finally got to sleep but woke up tired. Had breakfast of banana, apple and coffee and took a few shots of the town and got away at around 8 again. No rain! Was very cool but really nice temperature for walking and we have 26kms ahead of us. We plan to do 2 big days then 2 x 20km days which will see us finish on Friday! Very pleased. Fairly uneventful day – took a break at the 1km mark and had a coffee & cake (Santiago cake) then stopped at 11.30 for an early lunch. Exhausted when we got to Palas de Rei and checked into an expensive hotel – 60 Euros for 1 night but nice little room and the heating is on so we should get the washing dry! Also Ian put the colour on my roots so hopefully the colour will take and the hair will be in order! Tomorrow we plan to go to Arzua, which is 26kms again! We can shorten it if we like – we’ll see how we feel.
Day 29 (Wednesday 10th June)
Well, the colour took – we are pleased about that! Can’t see the back so fingers crossed! We left early and went through to Arzua, which was a long walk. We got absolutely drenched again. It didn’t stop raining all night again and continued on through the day. It was hard work – the rain makes it so much worse as well. We were fed up! By the time we got to Arzua we’d had enough but unfortunately couldn’t find accommodation at any of the main hotels and pensions. We finally got a room in what we decided was the red light district! The room reeked of cigarettes, despite the walls being plastered with “no smoking” signs. Went out for dinner early but there was nowhere serving until 7.30pm. This is quite common here, although inconsistent, due to the siesta. Got a coffee and cake and took our time with that and then went to the really nice hostel that our very little-English speaking German friends wanted us to stay in with them, but no room. Saw a couple from Ireland- J&T that we’d met earlier in the walk. We ended up having dinner with them and really “clicked” with them. He’s retired after 30 years with the Fire Service (it’s compulsory to retire after 30 years) and he’s 53. T is 56 and this is her first walk, so she’s doing really well, considering they started roughly the same time as us and average about 30kms per day! He is a fitness fanatic, so I guess T feels under a bit of pressure but she must be fit because she’s managing really well. They gave us their contact details and want us to come and see them if ever in Northern Ireland. Got to bed at around 11 – much easier day planned for tomorrow – 17kms.
Day 30 (Thursday 11th June)
We didn’t have a great sleep last night, due to us being located right next to the Church which chimed the hour on the hour! What a long night! Got ready fast and left at around 7.15 both knackered before we started! No rain today and the forecast looks as though things are on the improve. The path was really lovely again, although almost impassable in some places. My toes on the left foot have taken a turn for the worst, just when they were improving. I think it’s because they got wet again. They are infected and look awful. We had several lengthy breaks and chats with others today – everyone that started at St Jean Pied de Port is fed up because there has been a noticeable change in the culture since Sarria, where hundreds of people join the path to do the requisite 100kms and they have their packs sent on to accommodation and walk with day packs as big as a kleenex box. Very annoying are those that talk at the tops of their voices when you just want the peace and sheer tranquility of where you are. There is a bun fight each morning whilst many take off like rockets to get ahead, with little regard for others. Met a man from the north of England who is pushing a thing like a wheelbarrow. He must be at least 70! Great accent! Got to Arca and were refused a room in the hotel – “Completo” he announced after looking us up & down, which I felt was a lie, because it was only 12.30! Didn’t matter anyway because we got a lovely little unit with everything one could possibly want, set in lovely gardens. Did our washing and got it on the line fast and settled in to rest and recover for the remaining 19kms tomorrow! Very pleased and also excited at the prospect of finishing and attending the Pilgrim’s Mass. The weather this afternoon is stunning!
Day 31 (Friday 12th June)
Had a good night’s rest and got up at 5.45 and left by 6.15, so walked for about half an hour in the semi-darkness. As usual, there were people already on the trail, all keen to get to the Mass at 12. We were so exhausted last night that we couldn’t be faffed going into the village to get some snacks and breakfast for this morning. The problem was though, that there was absolutely nothing open for 12kms! We got through though on a couple of manky old sweeties I found lurking in the bottom of my pack and some water. We finally got to a little cafe and had the worst cup of coffee since we got to Spain but did enjoy a kit kat! Got to Santiago and went straight to the Cathedral – it was 11.20 and we got a seat 3 rows from the back. The Cathedral is stunning inside and out and the first view of the Cathedral is from the streets of one of the outer suburbs. It was so exciting to see the spire and we increased our pace, spurred on with the prospect of finishing! The Mass was overwhelming – our first major one. It was very moving, even though we couldn’t understand what was being said. The crowning glory was when they swing the incense burner – it is really spectacular. After the mass, we found great accommodation about 50 metres from the Cathedral. We will be there for 2 or 3 nights. We freshened up and went off to get our Compostellas which took nearly 2 hours in a queue, but once again it was hard to keep the smiles off our faces, especially with the entertaining crowd around us, that cheered every time someone came out waving their certificate! We met J&C & P from Australia for dinner and went to a fantastic Tapas bar. Got to bed about 11 because we bumped into some other people that we’d met on the way and had drinks with them! A fabulous day!
Day 32 (Saturday 13th June)
Had a great time in Santiago. We organised our airline tickets, checked out the bus to Finesterre for tomorrow and did some souvenir shopping. On Sunday we went to Finesterre, which takes nearly 3 hours on the bus. It’s about a 3km walk to the lighthouse at the “end of the earth”. We sat quietly on the rocks and took some photos and just enjoyed the sunshine and also basking in the knowledge and appreciation of what we’d just done. We had lunch in the lighthouse and then headed back to catch the bus. Got back to Santiago around 7 and went out for dinner at an Italian restaurant. Had another amazing meal. Exhausted, we showered and went to bed. In the morning, we re-packed our bags ready to travel back to the UK tonight. Finished shopping and wandered around Santiago again. Amazingly, we bumped into every single one of the people we met on day 1 and then in the early days of the trip! It was wonderful. We were just feeling a bit sad we didn’t see 2 young Americans that we’d spoken to several times quite early on in the walk and were having a cold drink while we waited for our taxi, and they walked in! We were so pleased to see them and sat and caught up on their news until our cab arrived.
The cab arrived at 4pm and we were at the airport in 10 minutes. Our flight left after a few hours and we were back in London at 9 pm and safely tucked up at our bed and breakfast by 10.30pm
Its all over – so much to remember.