Just Another Day on the Camino.Astorga to Rabinal del Camino 20.6 km. 

8:15 am departure, this was not an albuergue!


Ok, not much happened today. We recovered nicely from any residual guilt feelings about hopping over Leon by bus and looked forward expectantly to a walking day. The morning desayuno was the typical cafe con leche, zumo de naranja, and tostadas con manzanilla, today was slightly pricier at 5 euro, but the juice was fresh squeezed…delicious. We hit the cobblestones by 8:15, before the sun was up; it’s starting to be shorter days…winters coming! 

Iglesia S. Bartolome

Lunch shopping at a carneceria.


The meseta is now behind us and the walk has entered rolling hills with scrubby oak trees, a little like central Texas. The villages are significantly different than the meseta which reminded us of Mexico with its dry, flat expanses and adobe houses. Here, red rock is in abundance and these folks know how to make some excellent stacked walls. 

Santa Catalina de Somoza

Today was a 20+ km day which we banged out pretty good in the morning. However, John’s shin splints flared up again in the afternoon and we slowed down and enjoyed the passing scenery. So all goes well.

Resting some hot feet!


Tomorrow we climb to the highest point of the journey; 1,515 meters or 4,970′. Of course, what goes up must come down, and John’s shin splints may protest! -k

The best time of the day, cerveza time!

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Astorga, via el autobus rapido. Zero km

The Bus Barn!

The world going by too swiftly for a pilgrim


Well, here we are 60km down the trail thanks to our guilty pleasure of a bus jump. After over 450 km of ceaseless walking, I found the elusive bus barn and we were magically transported to Astorga. 

Baroque cathedral magnifica


Originally this was the main Roman city of northern Spain, at the junction of four important military and economic roads. Founded in 14 BC after the Galicians had been subdued and conscripted into service, the Romans built a fortified city with hot and cold thermal baths, and a sewer system still used today. 

Roman home from 1st century


The home as it once stood


After a few hundred years of various sackings by the Visigoth and Moors, the walls were rebuilt by the Catholics around 1200, and are still standing now. The Baroque cathedral is of course extravagant, and even the famous Gaudi has a neogothic unfinished building in Astorga.

Astorga city walls

Neogothic Gaudi, 19th century


Spanish flags everywhere amidst the angst of tomorrow’s possible announcement of independence by Catalonia

And did I mention that chocolate production was introduced to Europe by the returning conquistidor Cortez here in the 1500’s? Lots to see and learn here , but unfortunately it’s Monday and all the museums are closed. Oh well, the Camino calls again tomorrow and we must repent, i.e. walk till we drop. 


Adios, Astorga. 

John

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Pilgrims on Wheels. Calzadilla de los Hermanillos 24 km. 

Albergue Via Trajana


We opted not to take the train out of Sahagun and continued walking. As John says, “that’s what we know how to do.” For the past two days, we have continued to discuss our priorities coupled with the time we have left. When we started this little sojourn, we thought we had all the time in the world and I was determined to take every step of the 790 km. As it turns out, time is not on our side. 

GPS navigation.


The wide open spaces of the meseta have been amazing, beautiful in the morning, a bit hellish in the afternoon, golden in the evenings. But now we have walked the meseta, a Camino portion many pilgrims “skip” over, and are on the fringes of Leon, a large city with miles of suburbs and sidewalks and traffic.

Roadside foot care.


In order to give ourselves the time to enjoy the remainder of the walk, visit my brother in Ponferrada, and maybe even squeeze in a continuation to Finisterre and the ocean, we are catching a bus tomorrow to go through Leon and continue to Astorga. Curiously, 60 minutes on the bus will save us about 3 1/2 days walking. 

A second meeting with Jesus from Cuba.

From Astorga, we continue the Camino. Taking the bus is a bit of a defeat, but following the long held advice, “always make decisions in light of new information”, we swallow our pride and become bus pilgrims for a morning. I hope the guru is not reading this. -k

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Jamon y Libertad. Sahagun to Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, 16 km. 

Palencia: Dust and straw are poor building materials

I wanted to write about jamon iberico vs serano, and the concept of liberty in Spain, where they have just announced a referendum for independence by Catalonia by a 90% majority. This disturbs me on two levels: first because the jamon is excellent either way, and, the rest of Spain needs Catalonia like Alabama needs California. Comprende? It’s a country, right?

Morning departure from our Hostal

We have had some interesting conversations with the locals and learned a lot, but what we don’t know about Spanish politics would fill the Iberian peninsula. Suffice it to say that everyone here is concerned about the recent referendum. Old men are talking excitedly at the bars and the bakers will let loose on you in the morning. Now I just say, “viva Espania!”. (And also “not my president “, if they find out we’re American).

Morning provisioning at la Tienda

Did I mention the jamon? High quality Iberia wild pigs eat only acorns and have black hooves, while serano pigs have white hooves and live further north, where we happen to be walking every day. Enter the hunters. When jamon sells for 20 up to 100 Euro per kilo, a wild pig becomes golden.

Today we met the hunters and they were a serious and well armed bunch. Friendly enough, with high powered scopes and long barreled rifles, they reassured us of our safety “seguro”, as we walked along the edge of the kill zone. Kathleen noted the comm devices in their ears and asked “are you in contact with the other hunters?” “Si”, he said. We scurried along the way out of the acorn rich pig territory, and the other hunters at the end of the jamon zone waved at us over their rifles. At lunch we heard the boom boom of future jamon serano. Fortunately I felt safe because I had my red shirt on. 

It was a great day of walking, followed by a pilgrims menu at the albergue. Food, wine, and fun people; what’s not to like?

Mi llamo John. 

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What Would My Walking Guru Say? Calzadilla de la Cueza to Puerta de Sahagun 21.7 km. 

A decision must be made. We have been hiking for 23 days (including 2 zero days) and have reached the half way point; about 408.7 km/253 miles. The problem; we only have 22 days left before we have to set up for our Madrid flight home. So, we can walk faster; not a likely option even though John and I are more able to bang out a 20+km day with less pain and complaining than in our first weeks. 


We can walk two more days and then take a bus through the major industrial town of Leon, thereby avoiding a traffic, noise, industry intensive walk of almost two days. 


Or by good fortune, we are in a town that has a train direct to Leon, cutting off two days of walking in a swift 41 minutes or, we can even take a train, skip Leon, and go to Astorga, thereby gaining 4 to 5 days. Extra days to spend on leisurely days; days in Ponferrada hanging out with my brother and his friend, Bruno; days spent walking from Santiago to the “end of the world” Finisterre. These are the decisions modern day pilgrim can make.  


I have a hiking guru, who gives me amazing advice on the beauty of walking. Coincidentally, I received some of that advice just yesterday…really lovely and insightful. 

“Don’t get demoralized by the trash-strewn outskirts of towns, by the strip malls and poorly executed housing developments, or by the endless walks along roaring highways. Walking across a country isn’t about going for a stroll in a lovely park, or making a trip to a pristine alpine area- you are in the process of learning a landscape. Landscapes are not there for you to render judgement. As a walker, you need not decide how pleasant or unpleasant your surroundings are. You are on the move, these are just places you move through. Forested lane, busy street, rocky underpass, trashy creek, and quiet bluff- the long distance walker is given the blessing of connectivity. Only you will know what holds the country together. An understanding of connectivity is denied to those chums in cars with their paltry destinations and attractions. You the walker hold the knowledge of knowing what land is- it is something that you, you in your very own body, can move through. 

Maybe you are tired of hearing about blessings and sacredness. But to me, walking is sacred. It will give you everything you need. The thoughts that matter only come when I am walking. 

There is no point in complaining. No one is listening to you. Just keep going.”

So, at this crucial juncture, this difficult pilgrim decision, what would my walking guru say? -k

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Knights on a Roman Road. Villalcazar de Sirga to Calzadilla de la Cueza 24 km

Formidable Knights of Templar fortress

Knights and pilgrims passed through these doors

Breakfast with the Knights

Here we saw a command post of the Knights of Templar, a catholic military order established for the protection of pilgrims in the 11th century. They were the pope’s marines, the first wave in battle. After the original Knights of Templar demonstrated their value in the crusades as an armored phalanx on their warhorses, the pope granted them immunity from taxes and free passage through the world at that time. This gave them an economic opportunity to build an amazing network of fortresses acting as banks for the region and the pilgrims to secure their valuables while traveling to Jerusalem. They were the first multinational company, the first checking institution, and potentially a state within a state. Unfortunately, a couple hundred years later, 1307, fortunes changed along with the popes, and the Knights of Templar were falsely accused by the King Phillip of France (who owed them money), and they were summarily executed in Paris. Amazingly the church exonerated them all after the fact in 1600. A bit late, I think.
​​​

Looking down the Via Aquitana

Way mark for the Roman Road


We did a long 24 km walk today on the Roman road, Via Aquitana, whose substrate was laid two thousand years ago. I think little has changed along the way except the boots on the path and the trees along side. Now we have completed 387 km out of 777 km to Santiago, (that’s 240/482 miles), so that makes it about half way. Whew, that wasn’t easy.

Camino air conditioning

Time for a beer.
John

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Bubbles. Boadilla del Camino to Villalcazar de Sirga 20.2 km. 

One of the great parts of the Camino is meeting all of the interesting pilgrims from different countries. However, while sharing a meal and a glass of wine is a fascinating experience, sharing a sink and a toilet at 6:00 am is slightly less exotic. To cope with the constant intrusion on my privacy, I have created the concept of bubbles. 

When we are walking, we are never alone. There are always pilgrims ahead, pilgrims behind. Some walk quietly alone or in pairs, others walk in cacophonous groups that must be avoided. So I have instituted walking in “the bubble”. 


John sometimes tires of my insistence that we walk between groups, in our own quiet space. But the bubble allows me to hear the birds, see the butterflies and rationalize the benefits of constant walking. We do let people into our walking bubble. For instance, today we ran into Jesus again. He was having a coffee on the way, sitting cool in a black jacket and sunglasses. He expressed surprise that we had caught up with him since he claimed to have put in a 52km day, but then he acknowledged that he had rested to recover and partied for a few days. 


As for the albuergue bubble, it is much smaller than the walking bubble. Joy is having your own private, shower stall and a sink with some kind of ledge to put your stuff on. The bed bubble is quite small, oh, the size of your tiny bunk bed. You hold it dear, this is your space made quieter and more private with eyeshades and earplugs. Sacrosanct. I try to be a good pilgrim but….one early, early morning all the eager pilgrims are packing their bags and zippering their infernal zippers at 5:30 am. It’s ok, I am in my eyeshaded, earplugged bubble. I am practicing hard my pilgrim zen state, when suddenly I feel that my noisy, pre-dawn waking neighbor, from the top bunk has had the audacity to sit on my, TO SIT ON MY BED, to put his boots on. The bubble reaction was swift and unrestrained, I kicked him…hard…off the bed and shouted “get off my bed!” The satisfaction was intense and immediate, my bubble…defended. 

I will continue to work on my balance…on being a good pilgrim…on not judging my fellow pilgrims…but stay out of my bubble! -K

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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 

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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




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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

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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. )



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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

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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. 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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