Day 24 – Foncebadon to Ponferrada 

26.4kms today and all those muscles I thought I had found and lost again reared their ugly heads as I walked up and down mountains today.  Mainly downhill and very rough

My day started very early with breakfast included in the price so for the first time I had muesli for breakfast.  

The mad csubba that I partied with last night had a massive hangover this morning but we left to walk back up to the lookout to see the sun rise.  The trouble was that we got there at 7.10am and the sun doesn’t come up until 8.27am by 8.10am I was cold and itching to walk so I left but it was quite beautiful 


I left him with his go-pro, camera and iPhone and headed off.

Passed Le Cruz de Ferro which was the cross on the hill we visited last night and of course by this time it was packed with pilgrims taking photos.  The story behind the cross is that you carry a stone or something from your life and leave it at the cross and all your problems will go away.  


Today I am back into beautiful mountains and green.  Have missed that after the very dry flat meseta


I then headed up the hill to the highest part of the Camino at 1515 metres and then I had to walk down the other side and it was rocky, uneven, and extremely hard on the legs and it was all downhill and there was no respite for over 20kms. 


What I am loving about this walk is that in the middle of nowhere there will be a caravan with a person selling coffee fruit drinks snacks.  Very enterprising as there are tables and chairs for the pilgrims to sit down and rest at. 


As you can see at the side of the photo I ran into my German friends Oswin and Kian and we walked together for the rest of the day. 

Today was extremely hot again and the walk down hill was particularly trying.  

Lots and lots of lovely old villages to pass through


We eventually got down the hill and into Molinesca and I was thinking I should stop as I was extremely tired due to the downhill walk today but after a grande cerveza I was sufficiently rejuvenated to carry on.  


Big mistake as I said it was really hot and we had another 6kms to walk. By the time we had left town my feet were burning but only tired not blistered or anything bad. Sheer guts and determination got me up the hill and down the next one into Ponferrada and what an amazing town. 

In the middle is a heritage listed knights Templar medieval castle


It had a moat around it and was amazing


Today visiting the castle was free so off we went but it was so hot we couldn’t take to much of it.  Well over 30 today.   

It was time to sit down as my feet were really tired.  The boys and I found a bar in the plaza and before we knew it we were joined by 2 other pilgrims we had walked with today then Celia my danish friend and Anna and Cecile also from Denmark and we had dinner and it was just good fun to talk and laugh, talk about the day and enjoy all the new found friendships. 


No pilgrims menu for me tonight.  Most people did as all restaurants serve a pilgrim menu but I had paella washed down with a few rose’s and I was ready for my bed so I am sitting in the foyer of our albergue madly finishing this so I can go and rest my weary body.  

Buenos Noches me Amigos 

Day 23 – Astorga to Foncebadon

26kms today from Astorga and I am almost at the highest point on the way.  Tomorrow I will climb to 1,515m and I intend to be up there to see the sun rise tomorrow morning.  

Most people stopped at Rabunal but I got there and it was only 11am and felt I had a few more kms in me so set off up the hill for Foncebadon.
Had an interesting encounter on my way this morning.  Turned a corner to head towards Rabanul and here was a man dressed in medieval gear with this beautiful falcon


He had a inlaid box on the table with a sign in all different languages telling you to open the box to see the most beautiful thing in the world.  I opened it and guess what. It was a mirror hahaha. Very charming man!

The countryside has changed yet again and starting to do a few hills



It is still really hot. Averaging about 26-28 degrees everyday and not much shade.  I do not know how anyone could walk this way in the summer.  

Got to Rabanal and even though it was only 11am I had to have a beer as I was very hot.  

Took it outside and sat with some lovely people.  Everyone you meet on the way is lovely.  I met about 4 English people who were cycling the way.  Don’t envy the hills on he bikes. I also met a father and son who were from Denmark and they were cycling as well.  Yet again we sat in the shade and discussed the problems of the world and how we could fix them.  As we were all leaving I asked them why they were cycling and not walking as it is a pilgrimage the son turned to me and told me he had walked it 7 times!!! 

Don’t know whether I could do that!

I only had another 6kms to Foncebadon but it was all uphill and very steep and rocky path 


Wandered into Foncebadon at about 1.30 and that was it for me 



I have been walking with a lovely German guy over the last couple of days, Rolf, and we hit town together so I followed him into the albergue.  Well I want you all to know this is my lucky night.  I am the only woman in the albergue and I am tonight sleeping with 8 men!!!

After all the washing and showering was done sitting in the courtyard with another lovely Hungarian called Chubba.  Spelt csuba. We are going to walk 2 kms this evening to the top of the hill to see the sun set from the highest point on the Camino.  

So I am sitting here with my jug of sangria


Surrounded by men and enjoying life to the fullest.  


Well what a fun night I have had.  Tomorrow I reach the highest part of the Camino and as it is only 2kms out of town a few of us – me and the boys – took a bottle of wine after dinner and walked up to the spot and took photos as the sun was setting and then went and sat in the park opposite and had our wine, laughed ourselves silly and all with an almost full moon above us 






There is stefan from Texas, csubba from Hungary, Rolf from Germany and Barry from Murwillumbah.  

So now a really late night – it is after 10 and we are home in our beds and will be up in the morning to return to see the sun come up on our way to Ponferrada.

Buenos noches señors y senoras 

Day 22 – Villavante to Astorga 

Hola from hot, sunny, beautiful Spain.  I fall more and more in love with this country everyday.  

Today started with the most beautiful sunrise.  I had to keep turning around to see it as the sun comes up behind me in the northern hemisphere

As I was walking out of town this morning I saw another UFO only this time it turned out to be a train.


Had a lovely group at the albergue last night from all over the world.  

As I had done a big walk yesterday I decided I would only go as far as Astorga today and that was far enough.  Another very hot day but now I am pleased to say the countryside has changed and I am back into green rolling hills and a few big hills to climb.  

Walked into Hospital de Orbigo for breakfast and what a lovely town. This has one of the longest and best preserved medieval bridges in Spain dating back to the 13th century and built over an earlier roman bridge which formed one of the great historical landmarks on the Camino.   This bridge was also the the place of famous jousting competitions that took place in the Holy Year 1434. Apparently was the inspiration for Cervantes Don Quixote and also witnessed the battle of 452 when the Visigoths slaughtered the Swabians. Now there is a bit of history for you!!!



When I left hospital de Orbigo It was out into hilly countryside and greenery 



I have to defer here and relate a little story. About a month prior to me coming away my friend Barbara from the central coast rang me and said there was a documentary on at the Avoca cinema about the Camino.  To cut a long story short I went up and spent the weekend and we went to see the movie.  It was about different people and how the Camino had affected them. There was this group of guys who decided to stay and set up camp in a disused adobe hut on the Camino just out of Astorga. Well would you believe walking along today and here they were. Providing fruit and drinks for pilgrims for a donation 




It was then down the road a bit further to the wonderful city of Astorga 

Astorga was originally a powerful asturian community and equally an important roman city because it was the junction of several major routes.

The convergence of routes gave rise to over 20 pilgrim hospitals in medieval times.  

Astorga was amazing from a distance with the cathedral in the distance very prominent 


When I arrived in Astorga the plaza’s and the gaudi palace were amazing.  


The Gaudi palace reminded me of fantasyland from Disneyland 


I met Alison in town today and we are now sitting in the plaza having the Astorga delicacy of Stew


I also met a lovely Swedish couple as I walked into town today and we have had a few beers in the plaza together this evening and no doubt will walk with them again over the next couple of days 


So it is the end of a very hot day I have had a lovely dinner with Alison drinks with Anna and Leonard and would you believe ran into Oswin, Kiam and Celia as well


So me amigos it is buenos noches from me and hasta mañana 

M xx

Day 21 –  Leon to Villavante

It was Saturday night in Leon and the fiesta didn’t end outside our window until 5.30 this morning so a few cross people this morning.  Didn’t worry me I am totally in another space now and little upsets me.  My head is in a totally different space. 

So as I left town this morning at 7.15am I was witness to all the young people of Leon spilling out of clubs and going home.  They were all sober and as I followed a couple of them down dark streets I did wonder how it would turn out but they all said buenos Diaz and carried on.  Hate to say this but wouldn’t happen in sydney!!

It was quite a walk out of town and eventually made it to La Virgen Del Camino and who should be sitting at the cafe but Alison.  I decided it was too early for me to stop so kept going. 


The last week or so have been travelling through the meseta and very flat and right beside the road which is pretty draining. Well today there was an alternative path that took me out of La Virgen Del Camino and headed into the countryside away from the main road.  It was still marked as the Camino but took you right away from the highway.  Through Fresno del Camino and on to Oncina where a man was waiting on his bicycle to take us, if we wanted to, to his little ‘cafe’. He had set it up in the front of his house and there was a dome tent sort of on one side that was the toilet and another one on the other side for your wifi and then in the middle he had tables and chairs and he then proceeded to pour you fresh orange juice, coffee (best I have had to date) and a little muffin/cake. The fun bit was this


The lovely man only asked for a donation for all his hospitality so a few coins in the jar and I was off.  

I am still in the heart of the wheat and corn growing area of Spain so again very flat.  A little overcast today which gave a well needed respite from the sun as not much shade.



Made my way into Vilar de Mazarife and thought I would stay there for the night but it was only 11.30 and felt like I had a few more kms in me so after sitting on a bench in the street and eating a nectarine and taking my shoes off and giving my feet a bit of love I headed off out of town

Well big mistake.  I thought I wasn’t going to make it.  It was another 14kms down the road and there was nothing in between.   My feet started to hurt and I could feel the pain.  

But what could I do – grin and bear it as there were no taxis, buses or transport of any kind where I was.   

I eventually got to Villavante and virtually threw myself in the door of the albergue and collapsed on my bed. 

It is amazing how you are so tired and yet you take your shoes and socks off and have a shower and you instantly feel rejuvenated.  

Once I had my house in order it was down to the bar for the mandatory cerveza.  I had passed and chatted to a South African, Peter and a Scotsman, Tom who I had met before and when I told them I was off to the pub they immediately followed me down and the 3 of us sat in the front bar and solved the problems of the world.  

Thank goodness out pilgrim meal was early tonight – 6pm as I was hungry and tired.

It is now 8.00pm and I am in bed.  How exciting am I!!! 

I am putting this picture up on my blog so you can get an idea of what the walk will be like over the next couple of weeks as I get very close to Santiago.   


I am actually on day 23 tomorrow as I will be passing through Astorga so you can see the next week will be some very big hills to climb.  I am quite used to climbing hills now but coming down the other side is a killer on your knees. Thank goodness for walking poles.  

I see you all got daylight saving last night which means I am now 9 hours behind you all.  

Enjoy your day off tomorrow and think of me as I wander across the Camino a world away from you all. 

Buenos noches

The Day 20 – Puente Villarente to Leon

I made it. It took 3 weeks to get here but I am sitting in the sun in a bustling cathedral plaza having a cerveza and it is market day. 

 The whole plaza is taken up with fruit and vegetable stalls, caravans selling meat and sausage, fish and cheese.  

Then around on the side entrance to the cathedral amongst all the market sellers there is a wedding. It is so vibrant and alive this place. Great atmosphere. 



In every plaza in town, and there are a few, there is a market. This main one for food another one for ceramics another one for tools and old wares and another one for jewellery and that is only 4 I have walked through.  


This photo reminded me of Mexico. 

UIt started as an overcast day but the sun is out, it is Saturday and everyone is out.  

Leon is a huge town of approx 130,000 people which may be small in our eyes but it is really spread out and lots of little streets off streets.  


It was a very easy 12km walk into Leon this morning. Stopped at the first cafe for brekky and all they had was coffee. Very disappointing but met a fellow Australian while I was there.  
Walked on into Leon and as always the way took me right to the old part of town.  

Great cafe on the sidewalk so I could eat my regular breakfast and people watch.  

Followed the arrows and the Camino sign and came around the corner into the main square with the amazing cathedral. 


I had to find accommodation and dump the pack as I ran into a few people from the walk and they were telling me everything was full. I asked a few people for directions to the albergue and ended up back where I started from when I first walked into town. Must have passed it twice but I am staying in the monastery albergue for €8 and the pilgrims meal is €8. They have prayers at 7pm and a pilgrims blessing at 8 when the nuns come and take you away for reflection. I won’t be able to attend as I will be meeting a friend for a drink at that time.  


Leon was a roman military garrison and base for its VIIth Legion hence the name Leon from Legion. It later became the capital of the old kingdoms of Asturias and Leon. 

Underneath the cathedral there are ruins of Roman baths and roman gates into the city. I went down to have a look. They were from the first century. I just stood there with my mouth open. So old and I was in awe of such history.  


I was a bit tempted to buy a few things at a couple of the markets today but with a little backpack I cannot carry it.  

As it was Saturday there was fiestas and all sorts of things happening in town today.  There was some sort of medieval festival




But it was a glorious day so I wandered all around this fabulous town and took it all in. 

Went into the cathedral which took only 50 years to build and mostly stained glass windows. 




Then went into the museum behind the cathedral and OMG. They had taken a lot of the original statues from the church and put them in the  cloisters because of deterioration. There was a bible written in 920.



So I wandered some more and had a sangria and was sitting having my pilgrims meal in town, most restaurants serve a pilgrims meal, when who should wander by but Alison from my work


All in all a wonderful day in Leon and tomorrow I head closer to Santiago.

Hasta mañana me Amigos 

Day 19 – Bercianos del real Camino to Puente Villarente

Very big day today.  I walked 32.5kms and I am hot, tired and won’t do that again!!!

I am still amazed as to how hot it is.  Most days have been 27ish and cloudless skies but I love it.  

Last nights albergue was very ritzy and I had the best nights sleep I had had in ages as no snorers.  Had a straight 8 hours and felt fabulous.  

Met some lovely people from Slovakia at the albergue.  It certainly is multinational. 

Awoke so refreshed this morning so on the road by 7.10am.  

This part of the walk has been a bit boring because most of the way over the last few days has been walking beside the road which isn’t much fun.  The landscape is also very flat and dry and in the middle of the wheatbelt so lots of tractors ploughing fields and so lots of dust.  


I could be out in the west of NSW.

Another thing I have noticed the amount of houses/sheds not quite sure that are built into the hill

My shoes are permanently white from the white dust and When you touch them or pick them up you end up with a handful of dust.  

As I was walking down the way this morning I swear I saw a UFO.  There were 2 stars in the sky right in front of me, and let me say that I have been out at this time most mornings and watching the sky, but I had never noticed these 2 stars before.   They were very bright in a straight line above each other and then just like that it was if someone turned the light out and they were gone.   Ooohhhh. Spooky!!!

It was 7.3kms to the first town of El Burgo Ranero and the first bar I saw it was breakfast time with the usual.  


What I have noticed is that in the bell towers and rooftops of the churches are massive birds nests.  I am not sure what birds they are for as they are empty but someone has suggested they are storks nests and they only come back to roost once a year.  Probably out delivering babies



On from brekky and it was another 13kms to the next town Reliegos.  Absolutely nothing in between so it was just a wander along the side of the road.  At least there was some shade.   


As I was walking I noticed a man walking on the road rather than the path and a car came around the corner and pulled out to avoid him just as another car came around the corner on the other side.  There was nearly an accident and car horns were beeping and this guy didn’t even move off the road.  

Wouldn’t you know I caught up to him and was about to pass him and it was my Brazilian friend Gil from Orrison and Roncesvalles.  

We walked together for a while and caught up then I left him and headed off into the sunset.  Only because the sun is constantly in my back.

Arrived in Mansilla de las Mulas and I was hot and my feet were starting to hurt so having walked through town turned right into the first bar and ditched the pack and got myself a beer


It was the cutest little bar and the barman was lovely in that he made me sit down and he bought the beer over to me



After a good rest put the shoes back on and headed out of town. 

I am now very close to Leon and will have a day off there.  I wanted to get a bit closer so walked another 6.5kms to this little oasis in the middle of nowhere called Puente Villarente which is about 12kms from Leon.

 


Single beds in the albergue tonight. No bunks. Fantastic. 

So can get up tomorrow and be there by 9.30ish and will have a day wandering around town without a pack on my back. 

The albergue is lovely and would you believe I walked in to the room and there was my Canadian friend Donna that I had been walking with up to Burgos.  She has had a few foot issues but on the mend so will walk into Leon with her tomorrow 

I have had a lot of requests for a picture of a pilgrims meal. There are 3 courses and there are usually 3 choices for each course 

First is usually mixed salad which has lettuce tomato cucumber asparagus egg and tuna. Then there may be pasta usually with just a tomato sauce over it and then just a plain salad without the tuna

Then for main course there is steak, pork, chicken or pasta with meatballs

And then for desert there is ice cream, a flan, fruit or some custard or chocolate pudding.  All washed down with unlimited bottles of red wine and water. 

Tonight I had mixed salad


Followed by chicken


Then ice cream 


Of course there is always bread and unlimited wine



And then here is the communal table that all my fellow pilgrims have eaten together


So buenos noches me Amigos 

Day 18 – Ledigos to Bercianos del real Camino 

I can’t believe how hot it is.  Not that I am complaining because I love the heat and it is not humid but when you have, to walk 26kms with no shade it is very draining. Hence my addiction to cerveza’s con limon to quench my thirst. Not to mention the 2 litres of water I am drinking a day from my water camel in my backpack.  Again thankyou Cherene.

So I set out this morning just as the sky was getting light


Such beautiful mornings and perfect time of the day.  

It was a bit of a strange walk today. Lots of towns within 2-3 kms from each other then a long stretch before the last town. 

Walked from Ledigos to Terradillos de Los Templarios which was only 2.6 kms down the road. Thought I could go a lot further than that so headed of to Moratinos which was 3.2kms on and again I had my stride in so went on to San Nicolas and it was brekky time.  Found a lovely bar and had my usual.  Cafe con leche grande, Zumo de naranjo and tortilla.  Because I am now fluent in Spanish I will translate   Coffee with milk, orange juice and frittata.  Fluent!!!


It was then onto Sahagun which is a seat of great ecclesiastical power.  Of course that went right over my head!!

Little remains of the famous abbey of San Benito founded in the 10th century and rose to become one of the most important Benedictine monasteries in Spain. Charlemagne was also linked with the town which from the earliest times has always given shelter to pilgrims of which I am one.  

 

When you are walking on your own as I did today the things that go through your head is crazy. I was walking on total flat land most of today and couldn’t stop singing ‘climb every mountain ‘. Then out of the blue I started singing the abba song I do, I do, I do’.  Go figure. 

The flies here are about as bad as at home.  Where is your cork hat when you need it.  So I have swallowed a fly today – perhaps I’ll die!!! 

Mainly because as you walk and you are walking on your own you sing, you talk to yourself and as all of you know I have great difficulty keeping my mouth closed so it was inevitable that I should swallow a fly.  I felt like I was at home!!! 

As I was walking on my own I didn’t really stop today and as I said it was hot and dusty so by the time I got to Bercianos del real Camino my body was flashing saying stop stop stop.  




This church was on the outskirts of town and so different to the ornate churches I have seen on this journey 

There was only one Albergue in the book in this town so was concerned I may not get a bed but I don’t know why I worried as I walked into town here was a very luxurious albergue right at the start of town.  It turns out it only opened a month ago and it was lovely so in I went and would you believe half an hour later in walks my friends Oswin, Kian and Celia as well as Jean-Pierre, Anna and Melanie from the other day and other Albergue so here we all are in the lovely garden on a warm Spanish evening with some other people from Slovenia and it is so communal and friendly.  


So my friends as we sit here on a mild Spanish night having our pilgrims meal with unlimited wine I must sign off again on another perfect day. 

Buenos noches me Amigos 

😘