Albergue night. Castrojeriz to Boadilla del Camino 21 km

Pasta paella perfecto

After a nice  vegetarian paella dinner with interesting people from Denmark, Korea and D.C., we went upstairs to begin the long dark of albergue nights. “Mas vino por favor” does not prepare you what happens next in a dormitory of ten pilgrims. 

My night view of 500 year old rafters


Despite my eyeshades and earplugs, the cacophony ensues and is unstoppable. Imagine trying to sleep in a cave with ten grizzly bears who have nasal congestion. The rattling of giant uvulas against the pharynx makes for a rhythmic resonating rumble that sometimes hesitates a few seconds before erupting into a cough and gasp that is quite nearly heart stopping for all concerned. This is not sleep but rather horizontal dark endurance testing.  Reliably though, morning always arrives eventually, and Kathleen nicely asks how did I sleep. Really? I’m just glad it’s finally time for coffee and that I’m another day further away from that Burgos cathedral. Fortunately, I have negotiated for alternate nights in Casa Rural Hostals which have a private room and therefore a solid nights sleep. Totally worth it. 

Morning climb to the Meseta


The Meseta stretches to forever


More Meseta today and tomorrow, where the farm fields stretch across the horizon between the sleepy feudal villages clinging to the occasional river valleys for life. Our town tonight was once population 2000 and is now 200, a few of which are cows, and there is no store. And so after a 3 euro bottle of wine from the nearby restaurant, we’re ready for another day on the Camino. 

​ Meseta Maximus

Buenas noches

John 

Advertisements
Posted in Camino 2017 | 8 Comments

Five Degrees of Separation. Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz 20.1 km. 

The inspiration for my Camino hike is my brother, Steven. In October 2014, he walked the entire Camino from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago and on to the “end of the world”, Finesterre. His daily blog posts were a fascinating tale and now, in retrospect, he made the journey sound like a cakewalk. You can read his account at winewoodtraveler.com Perhaps our five year age gap has come home to roost!


Other pilgrims have told us their inspiration was the movie The Way with Martin Sheen. I am looking forward to watching it again and reliving the journey; but I digress. Last night we stayed at the Sol de Sol Alburgue. This morning at breakfast our host, Samuel, told us a story of the poster displayed in the albuergue living room. In 2005, Martin Sheen and his grandson were walking the Camino. They reached our town of Hornillos, needed a place to stay and found a bed at Samuel’s mother’s house. During the course of their stay, Martin Sheen’s grandson fell in love with Samuel’s sister, Julia. They married in a three day celebration in the tiny town of Hornillos. In 2011, Martin Sheen returned to Hornillos with his son Emilio Estevez and made the movie The Way. Look closely at the poster and you can see Martin Sheen’s autograph. Hence the five degrees of separation…me to Samuel to his sister Julia to the grandson to Martin Sheen! The indirect illumination of fame!


So that is my story of the day. Below are the pictures of our continuing crossing of the meseta, the big open. -K




Posted in Camino 2017 | 5 Comments

Into the Meseta. Burgos to Hornillo 21 km

The Meseta

Checking our gps position


The Meseta. It’s like walking from Ft Worth to Midland, why? Flat and featureless with white rocky furrows left from the wheat and grass harvest, our way crossed the countryside so slowly I felt that time forgot us. Hundreds and thousands of steps passed by, punctuated only by the clicks of our walking sticks. The absence of good building materials and the exposure to the weather has led to loss of all the medieval architecture with the rare village being hidden in the river valleys and unseen until the last minute. And then, after hours of walking, out of water, out of patience, blue toed and long faced, we stumbled into Hornillo and the albergue Sol a Sol. Charlemagne’s army camped here and legend has it he baked bread for the troops by the river. What a guy. 

Finally, Hornillos appears

Sol al Sol albergue

Albergue with a kitchen is the best.


With a Mercado across the street we buy chorizo, cheese, beans and wine; wash clothes, meet fellow hikers from Canada, Australia, and Germany, make dinner and go to bed. 

Another day on the Camino, approaching halfway, I hope. 
John

Posted in Camino 2017 | 3 Comments

Zero Day in Burgos. 0 km. 

Burgos is a fine city for a zero day! Not only are there cathedrals, museums and tapas bars, but this weekend there is a medieval festival going on. A surprising number of the locals are wearing elaborate medieval outfits with leather and sword accouterments; against the backdrop of the Burgos cathedral, I feel like I’m in a time machine.  

But to add some science to the mythology, we start our day by visiting the Museo de la Evolucion. 

The entire museum is a twenty first modern tribute to the man who gave us natural selection and survival of the fittest (I think he must have walked the Camino), Mr. Charles Robert Darwin. 

The exhibit highlighted the recent finds of early European humans, 1.2 million years ago. The remains were fond in Atapuerca, one of our Camino stops. We are walking in the footsteps of our ancient ancestors. 




The internet here at the hostal is very poor so I don’t know if my pictures have uploaded or if the writing matches the pictures. So I will continue on in an electronic dark. After the incredibly pithy experience of the evolution museum, John had to fortify himself for the tour of the Burgos cathedral, hence the photo of him drinking beer at 1:00 in the afternoon.   I insisted we visit the cathedral, a total shock and awe experience. Even by today’s architectural standards the space is immense, lavish, and well…totally over the top. I believe that afterwards, I have included John back at the hostal meditating on the experience. When I have full wifi access again, I will include the final wind down of our Burgos zero day, a visit to San Lorenzo steet, a tapas bar extravaganza. The Spanish are out in force at 9pm with children in tow enjoying great wine, loud and engaged conversation and a comraderie that is enviable. Hasta luego. -k. (And if this is not a decipherable post, I will try again tomorrow. )



Posted in Camino 2017 | 6 Comments

Creationists beware. Atapuerca to Burgos 21 km

Morning countryside of Atapuerca

Alternative route with old way marks


After a few thousand years of recorded history along this route , including great civilizations such as the Greeks, the Basques, the Romans, the Visigoths, the Moors, and the Spanish, I wondered about the prehistory and then we found Atapuerca. 

Ancient monoliths of Atapuerca


While excavating for a mining operation just recently, the remains of an even more ancient occupation by man was uncovered at Atapuerca, where we stayed last night. Evidence of stone monoliths and human settlements have now been dated to be the oldest known in Europe at 1.2 million years. (That’s a lot of zeros, creationists). More to be learned about that at the Museum for Human Evolution in Burgos tomorrow. 

A medieval feeling


Meanwhile, we have arrived in Burgos, an amazing city of history and culture, with an active night life and a gargoyled cathedral of surreal proportions. Despite the church’s wealth they charge for entry and I will have to decide if it’s worthwhile for an atheist visit. 

Burgos makes us happy


The mornings are beautiful countryside, the afternoons are endless and difficult but the evenings quite enjoyable. Tomorrow is a zero day, so Kathleen can tell the story of Burgos. 

One third of the way done, and still walking. 
Hasta manana 

John

Posted in Camino 2017 | 2 Comments

Walking in her Footsteps. Villafranca Monte de Oca to Altapuerca 18.3 km. 

We managed an early start from the Albuergue “Truck Stop”, the whole hanging with the truckers was one of John’s favorites. The trail immediately started upward, away from the road into pine forest and pathway; a welcome change from the past two days of highway hiking. 

As I walk, I am thinking of my mother, she is 86 and lives in Arlington, Texas; she wishes she could hike the Camino. Mom is an amazing traveler, she’s been all over the world and was in one of the first tour groups into Mainland China after they opened their borders, she went with a nurses’ group who toured the Chinese maternity facilities. She is my inspiration as a traveler. 

She wishes she could be on the Camino and I have to say many of her skills are perfect for this walk; in particular, her wide ranging camping experiences. 


I think campers deal with the Camino better than most. Campers are used to being grubby, washing their dusty clothes out in sinks and hanging them out to dry. Campers know how to surreptitiously pee behind a tree without a fuss. Campers carry their own simple food and know how to heat it on a variety of warming devices. Campers carry their own bed gear and they don’t mind wearing the same thing two days in a row…or three or four. Campers are ok with living outside 18 hours a day in the sun, in the rain, in the wind. And campers love the end of the day, in the cool and the twilight, the magical time of day. 

Mom would have been an amazing Camino hiker and I think of her every day. 

Posted in Camino 2017 | 11 Comments

Castilian Truck Stop. Belorado to Villafranca Montes de Oca, 13 km

Morning stretch to begin the day

Ancient monastery of Mozarabic origins


Walking the Camino today we passed the remnants of a 9th century monastery reminding me of the monks scribbling their way through the dark ages after the fall of Rome. Here then, in this particular area of northern Spain, the Castilian dialect of Spanish first emerged from Latin and became the worlds now second most common language after Mandarin Chinese. Amazing that they did this and preserved the Roman techniques for winemaking during the same few centuries. Thanks monks. 

Our home for the night


White bean stew, our favorite


A short day of 13 km, partly because the next stop was completely booked and is isolated on a mountain pass. So we stopped here at a Casa Rural instead of an Albergue, which is a step up in privacy to get our own bedroom with a shared bath for 36 Euro. And there’s a small kitchen below for all ten guests. After siesta, meaning the only store is closed for the afternoon, we will buy groceries for dinner and tomorrow meals to get us over the mountain. One of the “features” of this town, is its popularity as a truck stop. (The route of the Camino is a complex topic of tourism economics, best left for a rant on another day.)  This evening’s activity will be to get a beer at the trucker bar and compare observations to Buc-ee’s on Interstate 10. Hope that goes well. 

Still truckin’ 
John 

Kathleen rocks the trucker bar


Sweet truck stop view

Posted in Camino 2017 | 7 Comments

We Met Jesus Today. Carrasquedo to Belorado 16.7 km

After a great night, where we enjoyed the absolute luxury of having a bed and bath to ourselves, 30 euro, we headed out at a decadent 9:30 am.

Albuergue Carrasquedo

We expected to be the last pilgrims on the road, but we rounded a corner into the church square to the din of a pilgrim cafe. The 3.50 euro desayuno menu lured us in and we chowed down on omellette patatas, naranja, cafe con leche, and fresh bread, I would include a picture but we ate it all before the moment was captured. As we headed out of town, a fellow pilgrim was sitting on the road playing with a batch of kittens. We stopped to watch and I commented that, “you have to love a country that has so many cats”. He agreed and we kept walking. The day was already hot and the path led next to a truck highway, not the nicest. As we walked, the kitten pilgrim caught up with us and John asked if he had a kitten in his backpack, he said “no”, but slowed to walk with us. He was originally from Cuba but now lived in Florida, a state “full of ridiculous people who kept voting against their best interests.” But he didn’t rail on politics, instead he talked about his walk and how walking had changed his outlook. He said he used to be a happy person, but over time he had become angry, and he had started this walk angry. But crossing the Pyrenees mountains in the rain and the wind, a Japanese woman told him the walk was the best way to solve his problems, better than therapy. And if he wasn’t going to be positive, just get off the trail. 


The man said he started looking at the walk as a series of fortuitous meetings with strangers and he had decided to extend his visa and continue traveling for another 6 months. He liked our stories of Hawaii and said that was a place he’d have to check out. He complemented our perseverance and the fact we were walking together as a couple; he wished he had someone to walk with. The hours and miles passed pleasantly and eventually we said goodbye and that we would see him down the trail. Before he left, he asked our names, and then I asked his… he said “Jesus”. You meet all sorts of interesting people on the Camino. -K

Posted in Camino 2017 | 6 Comments

Azofra to Carrasquedo 24 km



Another day another 24 km of track behind us. (35800 steps!) Morning starts slowly with long shadows in front of us and cool cloudy skies overhead. We met a couple of Spanish kittens, who interestingly purr just like American cats, and then walk on, gradually loosening up the sore muscles climbing hills up to the completely empty village of Ciruena. Row upon row of unsold apartment blocks with deserted streets. Eerie.  

Walking into Santo Domingo we repeat the slow motion city outskirts experience of trashy backstreet warehouses followed by gas station suburbs until suddenly it’s shady cobblestone streets and alleys with nice shops, bakeries, and a cathedral. First order of business is to find an ATM, not easy, and try again to get cash, not always guaranteed, but all goes well and we buy our picnic lunch. 

Pilgrims have a trash problem

Central Santo Domingo is charming


The afternoons are always hardest for me in the heat and especially if the track runs along the busy highway in the sun. 

Kathleen drags me along albeit reluctantly

This is how I feel in the afternoon

Eventually however we turned off the pilgrim route and went cross country on dirt roads following our gps right to a lovely isolated Hostal Carrasquedo. All’s well that ends well. 

Hasta manana. 

John

This is how I feel in the evening

Posted in Camino 2017 | 5 Comments

Yes, Another Day. Ventosa to Azofra 16.5 km. 

Today was a good day, filled with small moments. The early morning albergue is filled with the usual suspects who snore, make noise at 5:30 am, and in general trythe patience of their fellow pilgrims, namely me. But the sunrise walk through the red dirt vineyards of the rioja is lovely. A shell sign reminds us that we still have 593 km left to go to Santiago; but the good news is that we have walked 197.9 km or a substantial 123 miles! We’re rocking the Camino! The grapes are hanging heavy on the vine and the harvest has begun. 

As we walk, we continue to munch on the Tempranillo grapes, it is just too tempting to pick them off the vine, although I still check to see if anyone is watching. Walking through the vineyards, we pass a shepherd with his sheep and trusty sheepdog, who doesn’t appear to be paying attention to either the sheep or the shepherd. The sun beats down and we are sweatingly, happy to see the small town of Azofra appear in the shimmering distance. As we approach, John remarks that he feels like we are in the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Cue that great music. Tonight we are staying at a municipal albuergue, cost 10 euro each and we get a small two bed tiny room…heaven! And a big bonus, the albuergue has a cold foot pool where everyone soaks their charred tootsies. 

While most of the pilgrims opt to eat in town at a pilgrims’ cafe, we choose to make a white bean stew with chorizo and partake a hyper-local wine, Senorio de Azofra, a crianza. Muy bueno! – K

Posted in Camino 2017 | 4 Comments

Barracks to beans. Logronos to Ventosa 19 km. 


Waking in my bunk among many others in the barracks, I dream I am a conscript in some strange army of zealots marching toward some unknown destination. But after coffee in the mess area I meet a couple of nice flight attendants getting ready for their walk and realized it’s mainly a regular crowd, except I’m generationally older than most. And rationalization is a self reinforcing coping mechanism. 


After last nights harvest parade through Logronos where each vineyard had a competing brass band, we left in the early morning walking through streets washed down by city workers already up before us. Crossing streets with light signals for bikes and pedestrians, it seemed a bit urban for hiking. But perhaps the nature of our trip is more migratory than recreational. At least that’s how it seems because we’re always moving on each day. 



At days end we stopped at the albergue San Saturnino in the village of Ventosa, where so few people live that there is no market and only one bar for dinner. The hostelario, however had a well stocked pantry with prices on each item and encouraged us to get “inspired.”  With his house wine at 4 Euro a bottle, we launched into creating a bean chorizo stew and had a wonderful evening talking with our fellow hikers from everywhere. It’s now 10 pm and lights out until the mandatory checkout at 8am. All is well. 

Buenas noches. 

John

Posted in Camino 2017 | 5 Comments

Two Sides of the Camino…Torres del Rio to Logrono 20km. 

Another 20 km down! We are getting slightly earlier starts and taking advantage of the cooler morning hours to make some distance. The walk today was referred to as the “knee crusher” because of the routes multiple ups and downs through the dry brown hills and cultivated valleys. To break up the day, we stopped frequently to crack and eat almonds from the trees and pick Tempranillo grapes off the vine sucking the juice and spitting the red seeds and skin onto the trail. Storm clouds out of Torres del Rio.

 Harvesting almonds.

Our lunch stop was particularly relaxing, enjoying a picnic lunch of chorizo, queso, and olive-anchovy pinchos on the steps of a 12th century church ruin. Following the advice of our hiking guru, Julia, John opted for a 10 minute meditation laying flat in the grass…I call it a nap. 

The afternoon portion of the walk is always the hardest; we are tired, the Way is hot, and the road seems longer. Looking back at the blog, I notice that our pictures are of the scenic, the medieval, the romantic; and for the most part that is a fair rendition of the walk. But there are portions, particularly coming into the urban areas like today’s Logrono, that are far less than scenic. The path may be along roadways, by gas stations, through graffiti tunnels. The “dark side” of the Way and a very hard way to end the day. 


 But all’s well that ends well; we have found our Albuergue Albas, taken hot showers and short naps and are ready to hit the town for rioja wine and 2 euro pinchos. -K

Posted in Camino 2017 | 2 Comments

Hostelario del KoolAid.  Villamayor to Torres del Rio, 20 km.


We awoke in the unfortunate choice of albergue for last night. (Note: Here comes the rant). Run by the Jim Jones of the Camino, proselytizing Christianity for profit to a hungry captive audience crammed into his dining room, he proceeded to force feed his propaganda and philosophy ad nauseum until we ran outside afterward. It was an offensive abuse. (Rant over).

After breakfast in a bag, substandard and overpriced (rant recurrence), we began the day anew with an early start, making 10 km before lunch.


Along the way through vineyards and fresh haystacks, we could tell the harvest celebrations must be imminent in these small communities. While snacking at the impromptu mobile cappuccino stand, Eduardo’s, he played loud energetic music just right for hikers and everyone was dancing away happily. 

Afterwards we stopped in Los Arcos to see the 12th century Iglesia de Santa Maria cathedral, known for its sculpture of a black Mary with blue eyes, inscribed in Latin “I am black but beautiful “. Unfortunately, in 1947 they refurbished the statue in white?!?


After a long afternoon in the sun, we approached our weekly indulgence in a Hostal. Wonderful private room with cold beer and a balcony upon which to hang our laundry, such luxury!

Hasta luego,

John

Posted in Camino 2017 | 3 Comments

A Short Day by Camino Standards. Villatuerta to Villamayor de Monjardin 13.2 km

After our most excellent paella dinner with “mas vino, por favor”, we had a late morning start, actually we were the last pilgrims to depart. The plan was for a short day in hopes that John’s ankle strain would continue to improve.

With that thought in mind, we started our walk without a reservation for the night. To reserve or not to reserve is an ongoing question. On one hand, if you reserve ahead, there is no worry about finding a bed for the night. The problem is a reservation commits us to a certain number of miles which may either be too many or not enough. However, no reservation is a problem when we pull into town at 5:00 or 6:00 pm and hope to find an opening. 


Today, in our continuing attempt to hit a happy medium, we left with no reservation but a plan to stop at 1:00 pm at a small town with a 25 bed albergue located in an old monastery. We arrived at 1:30 and a line of hot, sweaty pilgrims sat outside of the closed albergue. 

The instructions told us to line our packs up and the door would open at 3:00. Since the next town was about six miles, we opted for the line up. By 3:00, there were more pilgrims than there were beds. Fortunately, the bedless were offered spots at the next village, complete with a car shuttle. Nice! 

So we have spent our afternoon, washing clothes, chatting with the fellow pilgrims, and drinking our free wine that we picked up from the Monasterio Irache! What a country! 

Tomorrow, we will confront the mileage, reservation, bed conundrum again and head out for another Camino day. -K

Posted in Camino 2017 | 4 Comments

All roads lead to Rome unless you’re going the other way. Obanos to Villatuerta 20.2 km


Leaving Obanos, we pass through Puente la Reina named for its 12th century bridge over the river Arga, and walk on. Mostly pastoral countryside today where the village homes still have armorial crests the Knights of Templar crusades era of influence and protection in this region. The path along the Roman road is marked by olives, almonds, and grapes, which we sample surreptitiously.

Note: olives need to be rinsed nine times and brined before they taste marvelous, therefore not so good off the tree. Almonds, however taste like nothing ever before experienced; it was amazing to pull them, crack them with a rock, and bite into an explosion of bitter vanilla clove and cinnamon all at once that might have numbed my mouth. Possibly dangerous but these are the simple entertainments for a walking traveler.


Jamon y queso, Roman style. 



Evidently the Romans didn’t have bicycles. 


Struggling into Villaruerta, we have accumulated 100 km thus far with another 700 to go. It still seems like a long way and I am now familiar with shin splints as well as fatigue. But after a fine giant paella dinner with interesting people at our albergue, La Casa Magica, renewed enthusiasm may spur us forward tomorrow. Until then, hasta luego. 

John


Posted in Camino 2017 | 4 Comments

Hard to Get Back the Rhythm…Pamplona to Obanos 19.8 km

Early morning rain spattered down on Pamplona’s cobblestone streets, so John and I had another coffee at the alburgue. Annabelle, our hosteleria, wished us a buen Camino as we finally departed at 9:00 am. 

The old portion of Pamplona was fascinating but the modern suburbs with its roaring traffic was not so interesting. Walking out of a large city takes time, and in this instance sapped some of our enthusiasm for the day or maybe it was taking the zero day made us lazy wishing for more tapas and wine. At any rate, we found the 19.9 km walk challenging. 

Today, was a significant climb up and then back down with about 1000′ elevation gain. The top of the ridge had huge windmills as well as the iconic pilgrim sculpture featured in Camino movies, particularly The Way. In that movie, Martin Sheen undertook the Camino when his son died during the traverse of the Pyrenees. As it turns out, crossing those mountains is not without its real dangers. 


News travels fast along the Way, and at our Pamplona stop, I heard about a woman who fell coming down the slippery trail between Orisson and Roncesvalles; she broke her leg in four places. As I walked today, I chatted with a woman from England who added that one group had to be rescued off that same portion of the trail when they became disoriented and cold in the dark; another lady had fallen and hit her head and had to be evacuated to a hospital. Legs get wobbly after hours of hiking down rocky, slippery slopes and John and I take it very slow on those portions. 

Today we stopped short of the main town of Puente de la Reina and are staying in a brand new albuergue in Obanos. The little cubicles look comfortable and I anticipate that the hot showers, actually separated into men’s and women’s, will be fabulous. Our only problem is that the town is so small, we are not sure we will find an open cafe. Well, worst case we drink the aubergue’s San Miguel cerveza and eat our chorizo and manchego cheese from lunch. Actually, not so bad! -K

Posted in Camino 2017 | 2 Comments

Pamplona, a day of rest



Our first zero day, we stay over another night in Pamplona to see the sights and soothe the sore muscles. It is a medieval walled and cobblestone street city with a vibrant center full of locals and tourists enjoying the pinxtos (elaborate sandwiches) at the tapas bars late into the night.  We made an earnest effort to participate, although our albergue sleeping pods beckon us back.

Known for its running of the bulls into the Plaza de Toros, I’m reminded of Kathleen and Penny traveling here as twenty somethings years ago.  Steve and I have spent many evenings listening to them recount their adventures before our times.  Fortunately for all of us, they watched this terrifying spectacle from the sidelines. 



After more pinxtos tonight, we resume the walk in the morning. 

John 

Posted in Camino 2017 | 3 Comments

Day three…how many more to go? Zubiri to Pamplona 21 km

The Zubiri auberge, Suseia, was amazing if only because of Alex’s incredible dinner.  For 23 euro, we received a bed, dinner and breakfast (plus the requisite hot shower). But calling the meal “dinner” is understating the event. Alex, a cute Spaniard 20-something, made an incredible 5 course extravaganza of beet gazpacho, goat cheese salad, basque quiche, pineapple panna cotta, and hand made chocolate.  This was our first auberge dinner, where all the pilgrims, Irish, Spanish, American, Danish sat down together for dinner. A lovely affair.

The next morning we awoke late, because some fellow pilgrim had closed the shutters and we had no idea the sun was up, and set out on our 21 km walk to Pamplona. While the aubergues in town are full, the path itself is quite empty. Granted we passed the occasional fellow pilgrim long the way, but for the most part we were alone on the trails by running rivers and flowered meadows. Where did they all go?


As we neared Pamplona, the largest town on our journey, we chose an alternate route to avoid the busy streets of the city.  As we walked the river path, local Spaniards would wish us “buen Camino” and “buen viejo”.


Tired and foot sore, we arrived through the gates of old Pamplona, another stage of the journey completed. -K


Posted in Camino 2017 | 2 Comments

Roman road for Roland…Roncevalles to Zubiri 21.9 km

Walking today from Roncevalles to Zubiri on remnants of a Roman road, where Roland was attacked by the Basques after sacking Pamplona with his uncle Charlemagne in 778, we listened for the sound of his horn in the woods calling to his uncle for help. Alas, Roland and the entire rear guard was lost in Charlemagne’s only defeat.


Nothing so dramatic unfolded for us as we forced our sore walking muscles into action for day two and another 21 kilometers. Coming down the last slope into Zubiri, my unprofessional opinion was of ancient cartwheel ruts in the stone pathway ahead.

 After a nice meal at the aubuerge Susiea, we searched for our bunks with the youthful crowd upstairs. Hasta manana, and on to Pamplona. 

John

Posted in Camino 2017 | Leave a comment

And so we begin…St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles 25.1 km

The starting point for the Camino Frances is the medieval town of St. Jean Pied de Port. Our first night was at the aubergue Le Chemin Vers L’Etoile; the owner an ex-Parisian that walked the Camino 9 years ago offered his sage advice, “the Camino will provide what you need but maybe not what you want”. This was a bit of foreshadowing for our overnight in his 500 year old peregrinos hostel. 


For 18 euro, we got a hot shower (John’s was cold), a bunk room with 12 other pilgrims, and a piece of French bread and jam for breakfast.  

Starting at around 4:30 am, some of our fellow pilgrims thought getting an early start was a good idea and starting digging through their packs and clomping around in their boots at that ridiculously premature hour. So John and I rolled out of bed at 5:00, and hit the pavement by 7:00 am; it was still dark outside. We were excited to finally be on our way … until we started up hill. 

Today was a classic Douglas “death march”. Over the years, our family has been involved in a number of death marches, hikes or walks driven by some unwavering need to get there. No one can fall behind; no matter the distance, the heat, the cold, the elevation, the blisters. Today was such a day. The climb was 3,000′ elevation gain over a total distance of 24.8 kilometers or 15.4 miles. The hike is said to have lovely views of the Pyrenees but today was cold (upper40’s), and windy, and rainy. Ten long hours after we started, we walked into Roncesvalles, our stop for the night. 

Despite the tribulations of weather, the hike was awesome. We chatted with fellow pilgrims from Canada, Germany, Japan, England, and Wisconsin (not actually a country) and everyone had a story and a smile. 

We saw herds of Basque mountain horses and long wooled Latxa sheep. The mist rolled across the desolate highlands and occasionally the distant villages peaked out of the fog. An amazing first day. -K

Posted in Camino 2017 | 8 Comments