Text messages home (just a little edited!) Wednesday 30 September – Tuesday 26 October 2015
[St Jean Pied de Port – Logrono walked 19th-27th June]
30 Sept Arrived safely (in Logrono), hotel fine but bed v short…. Weather forecast going downhill – Fri and Sun don’t look good. Earlier today in Bilbao – 25 degrees at 8pm! Still summer – just!
1 Oct Wonderful day for walking but a groin strain hasn’t helped – and it’s been a long long day. But the sun has shone brilliantly all day, and the wind blowing an almost gale. Friendly folk but no more than a few pathway chats. And the hostel (Najera) – all others full – crammed with beds and people! So a mixed day – and there’s rain to come tomorrow. Might just snug up in the next town in a hotel! BUT I’m on my way – and that’s what matters!
2 Oct Off at 7.45 arrived Santo Domingo de la Calzada 12.15, bright start, shower just after I arrived. Time now to recover! My bocadillo de jamon and cerveza have just arrived. Better hostel – last night 90 crammed in one room!
Carlos [small teddy bear, gift from Hazel] hid, like me he didn’t like the snoring both sides of me… Daytime he’s there peeking out – I see you’ve got a hitchhiker one guy said….
3 Oct Lovely sunrise this morning above Santo Domingo. Stomped along well all morning, at Belorado by 12.15, been chilling out, lunching, talking, writing … Only problem is – left my adaptor behind in the dormitory gloom this morning – should have enough charge to see me through to shops in Burgos, we’ll see!
4 Oct Bit of a miz day! Crosswinds and rain and we’re up at 3000 ft. In the oak forests it’s sheltered and rather lovely but in the open it’s a bit wildcats poncho v useful.
… ‘wildcats’? …. should read ‘wild and’! Carlos sought shelter in his rucksack pocket all day. San Juan de Ortega bleak so walked on to Ages, which is a little less bleak but nowt to do. I’m walking well, so that’s good. Tomorrow Burgos, and will be warmer! Glad I missed the rugby! [England beaten by Australia]
5 Oct Arrived in Burgos about 1pm, wet bedraggled and windswept, as was everyone else! Now in search of a USB lead for my phone …
6 Oct All the way to Hontanas today, with a detour to see a monastery, about 21 miles, much of it on the high meseta, up to 3000ft. Strong headwind but great when the sun took over late morning. In fact a brilliant day! Hontanas a lovely village, and a great little albergue. Supper at 7!
7 Oct 18 miles, something like that. Feet said – no further! Now in Boadilla – think that’s it! – texting in the sun cos it’s too cold everywhere else. There is a lounge with a heater… But this is Spain!! Walking over the meseta amazing, big landscapes and big skies, mostly sunny. Maybe warmer weather is on its way… Great hostel, inc garden, cafe, except for bunks which are muy basico!
8 Oct Wonderful day walking in big landscapes, and several wonderful churches. But cold out of the sun – reminded me of the high Andes! Now in Carrion, which has churches but no albergues with their own cafe/restaurants, and they’ve been great ways of meeting people. Now done nine days (eight walking, but I’ve gained a day on my schedule), almost 1/2 way if you count my days in June!
9 Oct Hard walking across endless hedgeless fields, big horizons, mountains far to the north. Bitterly cold but moon, Venus and Jupiter beautiful in the predawn sky… Got here at 1.30 after lunch – bocadillo de chorizo in a nearby village. ‘Here’ is Terradillos de los Templarios, halfway point on the Camino Frances! A black cat on the Camino today, walking the wrong way – all it wanted was attention, not one of your scraggy anthropophobic (good word that) cats!
…. Anthropophobic … Spellcheck having fun! Sitting here now with Swedish, German and English friends … Sun brilliant, but weather will be going downhill a bit tomorrow. Not following the news,
so wonderfully out of touch! Good conversation over supper – some inspiring people on the Camino.
10 Oct …. Phone call home [from Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, municipal albergue]
11 Oct Big contrast today, after lovely friendly communal meal in Calzadilla last night. Wet morning, walking about 16 miles across rough paths in the middle of nowhere, friends Tim and Sarah keeping me company. Crazy early lunch at the Bar Elvis in Reliegos, blues and R&B and bocadillos. Lovely albergue, small, playing Enya when we arrived… but town (Mansilla de las Mullas) in Sunday shutdown, and weather cold damp and dreary. So miserable afternoon – after I’d got my clothes washed. Hard even to find a decent place for a beer! Tomorrow Leon, which should be wonderful. Will probably take an extra day. Weather wet tomorrow am, maybe Tues too, but forecast looking v good after that.
12 Oct Chilly in Leon. Wet overnight, rain held off walking here – only just. Albergue crams in lots of people but as one of the first to arrive have a bottom bunk. Lovely people running last night’s albergue – got hugs from husband and wife on leaving! Leon cathedral wonderful – finest stained glass I’ve seen anywhere in the world – every wall has vast windows, full of colour, and three rose windows… Was planning to stay tomorrow in Leon, but weather won’t be good so think I’ll move on. Will be on my own for the first time in four days – looking forward to it! Think you have more sun and warmth than I have…
13 Oct. 3.30 and just settling in to my own room – ! – in Hospital de Orbiga. At least 24 miles by the country route from Leon, and I think I’m ahead of almost everyone else. So could choose. 15 euros. Rain? Stunning day … 5 degrees when I set off about 7.15, now mid 60s and a deep blue sky!
Hard to get warm here, and only one bar open! Also much much quieter than Leon. Main feature the wonderful bridge. Feet aching but only a short distance tomorrow, and the sun will be shining! I didn’t stay in the Parador in Leon – thought about it, but v expensive. Looked amazing in the half-light this morning! For another time?? Could you send your electric blanket over?
14 Oct Shorter walk to Astorga, some beautiful woodland en route and the city on its hilltop, a bit like Orvieto, is impressive. Weather sunny – and chilly. But a little lonely – friends have all moved on or gone back home – so Achilles’ tendons permitting I’ll move on tomorrow rather than stay here. Still an amazing adventure! Up to 5000ft the day after tomorrow… Now more than two weeks since leaving home.
15 Oct Will phone after Vespers at 7. Wonderful day! [Rabanal. Sated at the Albergue Gaucelmo, run by Confraternity of St James, and v English!]
16 Oct Wonderful walking and up to Cruz de Ferro with my friends, but since then on my own. I go faster! Much of the walk at 5000ft but now down at 2000ft and warming up – but still autumnal. Will speed up if I can [cover three days in two] – loving it but think I want to get to Santiago a bit more quickly. Rabanal yesterday was a special place. Big country! [Today Molinaseca, another municipal albergue, but beds not bunks!]
17 Oct Wonderful day. Started over an hour before sunrise, with head torch on. Checked out a still functioning Roman cistern at 8am, in the dark! Ponferrado – light rain, by Cacabelos sun was coming out, and afternoon was walking through vineyards, hills all around, mountains beyond, blue sky and warm sun. I loved it – happiest moments yet. Bounce in my step! 20 miles…. Hope tomorrow can compare. Now to explore Villafranca del Bierzo. [Family-run Albergue Leo, best yet.] Have maybe an hour. We must try the Bierzo wines.
18 Oct Strange but good (I think!) day. Took mountain route out of Villafranca, went slightly wrong (Pradela if it’s on your map), then all the way to O’Cebreiro. BUT drizzle turned to light rain and I’m over 4000ft and in cloud and there’s a cold wind, and O’C is a primitive stone village. So I took a room, bit basic [damp sheets], but v hot shower, and now 5pm and into my menu peregrino. Forecast tomorrow bad, but after that looking good. Max 7 maybe 6 days to Santiago. Over 20 miles and prob 4000 ft of climbing today. My feet amazingly are holding out well! … Vast plate of meat has arrived. Now for the vino.
19 Oct I’ve just arrived in Triacastela, after walking in steady rain for 5 1/2hrs. I’m very wet but will survive!
20 Oct A complete change, glorious weather, sky so blue could have been in the high Alps. Took a tour of the great monastery at Samos, and still walked 18 miles or so – now about 3 miles beyond Sarria. Met up with friends en route but no-one’s made it to Barbadelo, where I am now. A swimming pool here – with a cold wind no surprise that no-one’s in there swimming.
21 Oct I’ve slowed right down in the last hour – bruised heel. Will have to see how I go. Now Portomarin, heading for Palas de Rei – but may not get there tonight! [Stayed in the Casa Molar albergue in Ventas de Naron]
22 Oct Heel (where it joins the sole) swollen this morning, got out of bed and couldn’t walk. Was thinking – crisis, taxis etc. But we Colliers don’t give in. Started walking with a limp – and 16 miles later I was going quite well, arriving in Melide. Went much more slowly esp this morning, and enjoyed it. Day made in heaven, that helps. And God would have thought he’d done pretty well with the Galician countryside as well. Two days out from Santiago. Only question – how will the foot be in the morning? Have I pushed it too much today?
Meal tonight polpo – octopus – local speciality! Walked back with a slow limp. Yet, somehow, I will be walking tomorrow!
23 Oct For a bear with a sore foot today was ridiculous – walked all the way from Melide to Pedrouzo, over 20 miles. Didn’t want to walk so far but in the end no choice. Only 12 or so miles tomorrow. But after 4 days of wonderful weather looks like tomorrow may be damp even wet. But will be special to reach Santiago. Tonight not in an albergue but a small ‘hostel’, v cheap – but my own room.
24 Oct ARRIVED IN SANTIAGO !!! just over 2 hrs ago, missed the midday pilgrim mass by a few minutes – I’d been walking over 4 hrs, but hotel is snug and v close to cathedral. I have my certificate. Big anti-gov political rally going in plaza in front of cathedral when I arrived, so not quite the right mood! Will return later and reflect. 400 miles since 1 Oct, av 17 a day… But in 4 words WOW I MADE IT!
25 Oct Wonderful day here, hobbling at first but kept bumping into friends from way back on the trail all day, hugs and goodbyes. I’ve been a lone walker – and yet I’ve made great friends! Warm sunny day – drizzling now. Midday mass was wonderful, with the great botafumeiro censor swinging its vast arc at the end of the service. Originally intended to fumigate pilgrims – I’m ok but not sure about all my clothes. BUT I’m a-comin’ home tomorrow, all being well flight into Heathrow early evening. Almost four weeks away….