Yes! Its another Camino!

“Another year is ending but something is pending.”

Ernest Agyemang Yeboa

Well here I am again back in this blog which mysteriously went silent a couple of years ago and remained unfinished. I have some deep regrets about that but things became too difficult and I eventually stopped the blog.

However, I did not stop my Camino! We arrived at Santiago on the appointed day and then continued on to Finisterre and Muxia approximately 900 km in all. It was the most challenging and amazing adventure of my life. Now, we are doing it all again but a different Camino – the Camino del Norte across the top of Spain starting in San Sebastian and finishing, of course, in Santiago. We will then continue on to Finisterre and possibly Muxia.

Before beginning our walk, Cheryl and I will fly to Morocco for a 9 day adventure trek before flying to Madrid, then train to San Sebastian where we will meet Kym and two Simones to begin the trek. I am training hard and can’t wait to begin!

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More Magic Maseta days: 19, 20 & 21

My soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring
and carried aloft on the wings of the breeze;
For above and around me the wild wind is roaring,
arousing to rapture the earth and the seas

Day 19: Carrion de Los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza – 17 km

Today was marked by four things:

  • The lovely accommodation in the monastery overnight and the delicious breakfast
  • The long long straight Roman road we followed
  • The wild head wind that buffeted us as we walked along, making the day exhausting but exhilarating.
  • The bar man at the accommodation that night who was absolutely the most congenial and funny host we had had yet. He had a joke and wink for everyone and made the afternoon and evening at Calzadilla de la Cueza fun for everyone

That afternoon in the bar, I met Jean and Hugo, two young people from Sth Korea who had met each other and formed a relationship on the Camino. What a lovely pair they were. Jean took a photo of me at the table in the bar with my camera and also with hers. After that, I really discovered how good Vino Tinto is! I drank 5 glasses of it and woke up with absolutely no after effects! If I had done that with Australian wine I would have been comatose with a headache and probably throwing  up!

Wake! For the sun, who scattered into flight
The stars before him from the Field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav’n,
and strikes
The Sultan’s Turret with a shaft of light – Omar Khayyam, The Ruba’iyat of Omar Kayyam

Day 20: Calzadilla de la Cueza to Sahagun – 22 km

Today began with another magnificent sunrise. I just love leaving early and catching it. This one was truly spectacular and we stopped a while to watch it change.

Most of the rest of the day I spent walking by myself in silent contemplation, trying not to think about sore feet and spending some of it catching up with  other pilgrims we had met previously. There was Åsa, a Lutheran Minister from Sweden who was such a beautiful lady, then a younger girl from Sydney who spoke perfect Spanish and perfect English, so I presumed she was an Australian of Spanish descent. She worked with homeless youth. She walked a while with Åsa and me and then sped off at the rate of knots hurrying to get a bed in an Albergue.

Even though it was fairly flat, there was such a lot to see and much for me to reflect on. Close to Sahagun, the track took a sharp detour to the right and my heart sank as my feet were becoming very sore and I was so close to Sahagun, however, when I saw why, I was very happy. It came to a little church which was set off the track and was quite beautiful. I spent a little time in there, resting my poor feet and thinking about things before heading up the track to our quite posh hotel in Sahagun.

I did have a small language and hearing miscommunication with the chap who was signing me in. I thought he was telling me that my actual room was in another part of the hotel further into town. When he he showed me on the map, I was dismayed as it was quite a distance. Happily for me, Cheryl appeared and the misundstanding was sorted  out. The little chap came tearing out of the hotel to stop me from leaving but luckily for me, I had waited for Cheryl and was sitting outside. It appears that he was telling me where to go to get a sello, or stamp, on my credential to mark the exact halfway point of the journey from St Jean to Santiago!

Who knows what may lie around the next corner? There may be a window somewhere ahead. It may look out on a field of sunflowers. – Joe Hill

Day 21: Sahagun to El Burgo Ranero – 17 km

Sahagun, is an intriguing town with plenty of old buildings still in existence. “It was once the seat of ecclesiastical power, largely courtesy  of the influence of Alphonso VI who, along with his various wives, is buried in the Benedictine Convento de Santa Cruz” (Brierley, 2016) There is a wonderful old church way up on a hill where you can get a sello (stamp) for being the halfway point of your walk to Santiago, however, after we had toiled all the way up, we found it closed. We wandered through an amazing arch and had our photos taken in the bronze pilgrim footsteps there, before setting out once more on the track which would take us to El Burgo Ranero.

That day is unfortunately memorable for the fact that the terrain was flat and open and I was in dire need of a pit stop! That was the day I found the “Retreating Village” which, in my heightened state of stress appeared to get further away as we approached it! I missed the sign, but Cheryl did not have the heart to to tell me it said 3 km to go! You will be pleased to know that I managed to hold on until we got to a cafe and was able to relieve the situation!

The weather had been a lot colder for the past few days and I was not unhappy about this as I did not really enjoy the extreme heat we had been having. The major storm we walked though a few days back certainly changed the weather pattern and I was happy to start the day in a jacket and be able to take it off in half an hour or so of starting the day’s walk. I appeared to be alone in this as others were cold for most of the way!

We came across a paddock of beautiful sunflowers that were NOT past their prime and I took many photos of them as they made me feel happy. The way was again straight as an arrow in many places – the Romans certainly knew how to build a straight road! We reached our destination pretty early as it was a short walk, and settled down to drink and chat with various people we had met earlier – a group of Australian and New Zealand women and Judith from Alaska. It was  a merry gathering with lots of laughter and cheeky banter.

 

 

 

Day 18: Fromista to Carrion de Los Condes – 20 km

Summer ends now; now barbarous in beauty, the
Stookes arise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! What lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! Has wilder wilful-waiver
Meal-drift molded ever and melted across skies?
Hurrahing in harvest, Gerard Manly Hopkins

Again today, the rolling paddocks of golden stubble and slender oat stalks  along  the walking track made a pleasant sight as we journeyed. Again too, it was a flat landscape on the meseta but I found it lovely with the golden stubble and oats juxtaposed every now and again with delicate blue and purple wildflowers clinging on to the last vestiges of Summer sun. Cheryl and I walked mostly in companionable silence, savouring the opportunity for the inward journey as well as appreciating the beauty around us on the outward one.

We crossed the Rio Palencia via a lovely little bridge, passing through Revenga de Campos. AT  Villamentero de Campos, we came across a little oasis of a bar/cafe which had ducks, geese and chooks roaming freely amongst the patrons so we had to stop there for a coffee and muffin. We also found a donkey. I got some pictures of Coral and the chooks.

On we went to Villa de Sirgar where we spied a lovely church – Santa Maria la Blanca XXIII where we sat a while and rested our feet, tending our outer  needs as well as our spiritual ones. Moving on, we decided to sit and eat our apples but as we were close to our destination, we decided not to stop for lunch but move on the Carrion de Los Condes and buy a picnic lunch there.

We found a Panaderia and bought a long crusty roll, then at a supermarcado we found a tomato and cheese to put in it. We headed towards the river looking for a good spot to sit. We found one, and sat on the lawn in the shade right in sight of our accommodation,  the Monasterio San Zoilo, which, as its name suggests, was an old monastery which has been turned into a hotel. After thoroughly enjoying our lunch, we approached the monastery and settled in. What a lovely place! It managed to keep all the attributes of the old monastery  including the beautiful cloisters while tastefully modernising the rest. I showered then could not wait to get down to the bar for a refreshing cold drink.

 

 

Day 17: Castrojeriz to Fromista -25 km

After all, the wrong road always leads somewhere – George Bernard Shaw

I will return to the quote in a little while……

The Roosters (Sharon and Kym) who stayed at an Albergue, left before light. Cheryl and I  (The gazelles),  did the same but a little later. Looking ahead, we saw the huge hill in front of us and the track winding its way up with a few pilgrims toiling their way upwards ahead of us. It is a testament to how much fitness and strength I have developed on this walk that the climb did not seem so very difficult. Had this been at the start of our journey, I would have felt exhausted. However, we were rewarded by the view on the way up and the magnificent sunrise which dazzled us all.

Down the other side of the hill we went, noting the dark storm clouds that were gathering. We paused in Itero de la Vega for a snack and a rest. I saw Tamara, my sister Jo ‘s friend having lunch with some other pilgrims and we had our photos taken to show Jo we had met again. Then the others in our group arrived and joined us for lunch.

Still mindful of the darkening sky, Cheryl and I set off again at a rate of knots. The storm front ahead was incredible to see and it appeared to be heading straight for us. The wind rose to a strong gale force and then the dust storm began. We were right out in the open and very exposed so we set our backs to the wind and waited until the dust storm had passed, only to be followed by heavy rain and the continuing strong head winds. It almost blew me to a standstill several times but it was exhilarating to be out there in it and I was yahooing and yelling my enjoyment whilst at the same time being only able to look at the ground in front of me as the ran was hitting me in the face. Another pilgrim passed me walking very quickly so I settled in behind her and matched my steps to hers. I had no idea I could walk that fast. The 8 km we had to go to the next town was just eaten up in no time. We must have been doing over 5 km an hour. I would never have been able to keep up that speed if I had not been paced by the long-legged girl in front of me. Amazing what the Camino can bring out in you when the need arises!


Now back to the George Bernard Shaw quote above….We finally reached the next town and thankfully settled into a cafe for a sustaining hot chocolate. The rain petered out while we were inside, so we set off again. This time, we missed a marker and headed down the wrong road. We had only gone a few hundred yards when we came upon a mob of sheep at the far end of a paddock. We both baa-ed frantically at them then one by one they began to move towards us until they were right up against the fence and we could pat and stroke them. Cheryl did a bit of sheep whispering which I caught on video but am unable to upload here. We spent at least 15 minutes talking to the sheep then moved on. We had gone perhaps a km and a half when we noticed there were no markers guiding us. We decided to go on  a little more then realised that we definitely were on the wrong track and turned back. We retraced our steps to the sheep who all rushed back to the fence again and there was another round of sheep whispering and patting. We soon got ourselves back on track and surprised the rest of the group who had been quite a way behind us, by walking up behind them. We then all walked pretty-much together over the lock and into Fromista. Had we not taken the wrong road, we would never have had the lovely experience with the sheep. As has been said to me several times on this walk –  “There are no wrong turns on the Camino.”

 

Day 16: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz 21 km

Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness  lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things. – Elise Boulding

I am beginning to appreciate the pure simplicity of getting up, walking with little in my backpack, eating, resting, reflecting and then sleeping, day after day. There is a gentle rhythm to that which I love. No stress, no worry, no responsibilities and no anxiety. I could really get used to this!

We again walked the meseta on our slow journey to Castrojeriz. Several things stand out for me on this day. Firstly, the lovely sunrise as we toiled up the hill out of Hornillos. It reminds me to not only look ahead in this journey but also to look back to appreciate the loveliness behind me then move forward again. So it is in life.

The second standout was coming upon the ruins of a mighty abbey right on the trail. It was time for a pit stop so we walked around the back of the ruins to discover some good Samaritans had set up a little Albergue and rest stop for weary pilgrims. We chatted to them for a while and drank some water they offered us then moved back onto the track and stopped again to buy a drink from the rest and refreshment place a few feet away.

The abbey was originally under the order of St Anthony and the monks provided a hospital which tended to the sick with St Anthony’s fire caused by eating rotting grain that had a fungus. The order was later  disbanded and the abbey fell into ruin. We sat and had a cool drink and used the facilities then were delighted by the generosity of the jovial chap behind the counter who gave everyone a large cool piece of watermelon. Such little acts of kindness make such a difference. I must remember this when I get home.

A short while later we enter the outskirts of Castrojeriz and my third memorable moment came when I spied the ruins of the Castilla on the top of a pointed hill above the town. It too, was in ruins but must have presented an impregnable and impressive sight in its day. I believe it dates originally from the 9th Century Roman times and has been rebuilt several times. Allegedly, Eleanor of Castille was murdered there in 1359.

The town appeared to be built long and thin as the road to our accommodation seemed never ending, but finally we reached hotel La Posada and thankfully freshened up before heading to the bar across the street for a well-earned drink. We met up with a group of Australian women and some Kiwis we have met several times and spent some time chatting to them as well as people from various other countries.

Day 15: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino 21 km

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do – Eleanor Roosevelt

An excellent quote for me to reflect on as I walk.

After the the noise and bustle of the city, walking out of Burgos and into the quiet of the meseta was a joy. So this dreaded meseta I have heard about. It is long, flat, boring and many people take a bus to avoid it. What on earth can they be thinking? I found it anything but flat, lots to see, a great place to walk and reflect and it also in places reminded me of north western New South Wales Australia, where I grew up so I felt right at home. It is late Summer into Autumn so paddocks of stubbled wheat on the better soils and barley and oats on the poorer soils were seemingly endless. Stack after stack of golden hay rose like giant art installations in the paddocks. Farmers are such creative creatures. One stack reminded me of a crenallated castle with its carefully placed bales pointing skyward.

Thoughts turn inwards as the day after a rest day seems to be physically harder somehow. Long hard slog days with nothing but thoughts to keep you going. Still not sure why I am here, what lies ahead for me here and also in life. What thousands of ancient feet have trod this sacred path and how privileged am I to be able to walk in their footsteps. I think about how past pilgrims must have had to live off the land or on the goodwill of the local people with no albergues or hotels to rest their weary feet at night. The Way always leads past churches and cathedrals so perhaps in the past, monks may have ministered to the weary both physically and spiritually.

We crossed the fast-moving River Arlanzon and headed towards Villabilla, Tardajos and Rabe de las Calzadas where we stopped for a rest and something to eat. The final part of the trip took us up the Alto Meseta to a height of 950 metres before rolling gently down to HOrnillos deal Camino. Cheryl and I were way ahead of the others and sat on the footpath in the shade to rest our feet and have a cool drink as all seats were taken. After some time, we decided to go ahead with the original plan and call our place of accommodation which was 3 km out of Hornellos. It had been arranged that the hotel owner would pick us up and take us there. He duly arrived and we were taken to a small village called Isar where he ran the local pub which seemed to only have 4 rooms. So 2 people had to stay in another of his lodgings up the road. Cheryl and I decided it was fair for us to take the alternative accommodation and let the other four have the convenience of  the pub. The owner drove us up the road to a house with two bedrooms and two bathrooms so we settled in. The bathrooms were tiny with the shower cubicles even tinier. It was a huge source of amusement for me trying to fit myself into the tiny space. Cheryl, being taller had even more trouble. However, the beds were comfortable and we had a nice view from our rooms. One down side was the complete lack of wifi so no blogging that night!

We walked back down to the pub for a drink with the others who by now had arrived and also for dinner. The bar was tiny – just two tables, one of which was taken up by 5 local men engrossed in a noisy game of cards. Cheryl suggested they may never have moved from the last time she was here two years ago!

Next morning we packed up and walked back down to the pub for a standard pilgrim breakfast of rolls, ham, cheese, orange juice and coffee.

 

Day 14: Burgos – Day of rest

A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

My day of rest was spent organising washing, exploring the cathedral which was an amazing experience, exploring some of the older parts of the city, watching a couple of weddings and of course resting and trying to catch up on blogging as there was finally wifi that worked. Here are  some pictures of that day. I must confess that most of them are of the magnificent cathedral as I spent a large part of the day in there ;0