Camino Day 8 ~ Travel to the beat of a different drum

The 2-way radio comes alive: 

BLIP…Hurry up and get here.  We are having SO much fun!!  Ireland is here, the Dr. and his fiance are here, Switzerland is here, Spain is here, drummers are here…  (Apparently, everyone but us are there)

We hear the clicks of our walking sticks pick up the pace as we try and catch up to the fun.

We arrived too late for the fun, but did catch some drumming on video.  We see evidence on the bar from the previous crowd:

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Ireland and Switzerland are still lingering on the steps of the bar enjoying the first consistent rays of sunshine that we have seen in days.  Oh, well.  Guess Randy and I aren’t having the MOST fun on the trail today.  We missed most of the festivities at the bar, including unique stamping techniques, but it is still a wonderful day to be alive!  Can’t complain.

Back on the road again.

Spain-1040024dmvThe sheep munch on the tender, sweet blades of new spring grass.

Spain-1040025dmvSome lucky critters will get a treat today!

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Yep, tail’s still there.

Spain-1040028dmvAlone and together at the same time… That kind of sums up the Camino for most of us, I think. Plenty of time for private reflection, but still try to watch out for one another.

Spain-1040037dmvTwenty kilometers to go to fulfill our goal!

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What does this say?

Although everyone, Nolle-guamos (tall branching leaves of trees used to shade coffee plants), bodies in souls become oars all.

Is it something to do with the fluid movements of our walking sticks as we flow down the Camino path of life?

May need to phone a friend and use a lifeline on this one.

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Clothesline in the old lean-to. Why not?

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This garden is way ahead of mine.

Spain-1040047kpsh50We see quite a few gardens with these tall plants.  Collard greens?

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Tall, tall trees remind me of what I envision of the California Redwoods.  I’m guessing these trees would appear dwarfed next to the Redwoods.

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It helps to look at things from a different angle, from time to time.

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Another one bites the dust… Memorial to an Irish pilgrim. By the grace of God…

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E.T., phone home?  Not sure what this is, but it may have something to do with the tub at the bottom.

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Busy traffic as we near our albergue for the night.

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This pilgrim from Chicago has decorated his backpack with the traditional shell, practical umbrella and the common yellow flowers we see along

the way.

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We find a nice albergue in Arco do Pino.  Large room full of bunk beds, nice hot showers and food/bar across the street.

A-h-h-h-h… a little bit of heaven here on earth.

Only one more day of walking… after laundry and sleep.

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Camino Day 8 ~ Meet South Korea, poultry and more.

It’s the afternoon of Camino day eight and we continue down the path.

Spain-1030952dmvOur new friends this afternoon are from South Korea. (From now on referred to as Korea) One is a software engineer for Samsung (My tablet is a Samsung) and the other works at the Seoul airport. They requested a photo with us so we reciprocated.  They started the Camino at the border of France and have been walking for 37 days.  I don’t know how they did the Pyrenees during the winter let alone O Cebreiro.  Tough cookies!

Spain-1030964dmvGrapevines are found on many of the fences. Homemade wine, perhaps?

Spain-1030968dmvSmall, elevated buildings appear in this region. A horreo holds grain and some are quite elaborate with crosses on the top.

Spain-1030973dmvFamiliar scene for those of us from the farm.

Spain-1030977dmvSomehow this character trying to entice me into the bar creeps me out.  Looks like something out of a horror movie!

Spain-1030980dmvYep, still creepy.

Spain-1030983dmvAre you sure this is the way?

Spain-1030988dmvLeft or right?  Hmmm…

Spain-1030989dmvA quick shower of rain, but the temps aren’t too bad. The path winds through old, old buildings in a small hamlet.

Spain-1030993dmvI’m surprised to find so many trees and flowers blooming this early in the spring.

Spain-1030996dmvI tried to find information on Outeiro, Spain but all the pilgrims must be too tired, at this point, to care.

Spain-1030999dmvIt may not be raining right now, but creeks are still running at full speed.

Spain-1040004dmvcrPretty poultry brighten our Camino experience.

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My grandma would say that the Bontons live here. Must be an affluent resident to have a palm tree growing in the yard, landscaping, security fencing and a nicer house than the neighbors.

Randy and I are lagging behind the rest of the group, as usual.  Randy checks in with the 2-way radio.

Randy to Hot Cross Buns… bleep!  Nothing

Again he tries to make contact:

Randy to Hot Cross Buns…bleep! 

Contact is made:  Garble, mumble, rumble, waa-waa-waa…boom,boom-boom, boom… RANDY!!!!

Randy looks at me with a puzzled look,  It sounds like a bar…

Camino Day 4: I walk slowly but I never walk backward.

Quote by Abraham Lincoln
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I literally crawl out of bed since my leg muscles are protesting the previous day’s events.  Steps are especially painful, but coffee gives me the incentive to go down the two flights of stairs to breakfast. We devour a filling breakfast of tostados, fresh squeezed orange juice, cafe Americano for me and a cafe con leche (with milk)  for Randy .

A 73 year old mother from Germany and her 2 daughters, who are also walking the Camino, were our breakfast companions this morning.  We share Camino experiences with each other since we feel so experienced having 3 full days under our belts.  We could have visited longer, but the day is not going to wait for us and the rest of the gang has left without us (Even Kathy with the bum knee is speedier than me!).  We strap on the backpacks and step outside.  Overcast but not raining.  O.K., …so far so good.

Spain-1030598dmvWe dodge puddles as we stroll down the quiet, Sunday morning streets of Cacabelos, Spain. The legs feel stiff and sore but seem to work just fine.

Spain-1030594dmvYour guess is as good as mine as to the meaning of this mural we see along the narrow street.  My guess is the gorilla in the upper left has something to do with evolution, Christ with the crown of thorns is in the lower right, and the soldier on top of the largest human could be Christians dominating the Moors.  What do you think?

Spain-1030596dmvWe remind ourselves to not get so wrapped up in the surroundings that we forget to follow the yellow arrows.  Follow the seashells…follow the yellow arrows.  All are determined to walk today so no taxi is needed.

Spain-1030599dmvThe plan is to meet the rest of the gang in Vega.  Too bad the town doesn’t have an “s” at the end of its name.  I could have had fun with that!

Spain-1030600dmvOn our way out-of-town we pass by a woman mopping and cleaning in front of a church.  It is Sunday so I don’t think anything of it since they probably have mass this morning.

Spain-1030601dmvActually, it’s an albergue.  Locals call Albergue de Peregrinos de la Augustina de Cacabelos  the Old Church, since the albergue was built around the church. Yes, around.  The rooms form a ring around the church, with a courtyard in between.  It has modern facilities including showers.  As nice as the heaters and cozy room were last night, it would be so cool to stay here.  Bonus points for only costing 5 Euro per person.  My socks and boots are dry right now, so I guess that means bonus points for  last night’s lodging, Hostal Gallega.

Spain-1030617dmvThe path turns to dirt and we enter wine country with the wet, muddy path winding through expansive vineyards.

Spain-1030609dmvcrAs I gaze across and ponder this panoramic view, I feel more of a desire to do the Camino de Santiago again someday…in September during grape harvest.

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Oh, no… it’s raining AGAIN!!   AARRGGHH!! 

At least today will be a shorter day than yesterday.  

Really?  Are you sure?  

Longest Day EVER!

camino-frances-24Day 3 continues…

After a quick lunch break at a cafe, we attempt to wind our way out of Ponferrada.  It is a busy city so we step lively as we cross streets to follow the Camino path.  Follow the sea shells, follow the arrows… and, if all else fails, ask someone.  It is obvious to the locals that we are walking the Camino de Santiago, so they are helpful if we appear lost.  Muchas gracias!

We walk and we walk and we walk…

Ponferrada is one of the larger cities we pass through on our walk with a population of  68,736 according to the GeoNames geographical database.

We walk and we walk and we walk…

We exit Ponferrada without getting lost.

We walk and we walk and we walk…

IMG_6595to ponferrada

This stage of the Camino is a good section to make up time due to the relatively flat terrain, but the rain does not help our cause.  It starts raining at the edge of Ponferrada and continues to rain thoughout the rest of the day.  (Which is also why I have very few photos today since the camera stayed dry inside my pouch).  Our rain ponchos keep us relatively dry, but water starts seeping into the boots.  The lotion/vaseline between my toes will only do so much to prevent blisters.  We can feel the hot spots on our feet as the blisters threaten to inflict their pain.

…and then we walk some more. 

It is 6:30 p.m. and we finally drag our wet, exhausted bodies and blistered feet into the town of Cacabelos, a city which dates back to the 10th century.

Am I dreaming? Do I really see a hotel?  We stop to inquire about hotel rooms and discover they do not have enough beds for us.  We must look quite sad and pathetic as the hotel clerk offers us free samples of wine and snacks.  She is such a wonderful person and recommends a hostal and even offers to call them for us.  They do have vacancies.  Hooray!  Away we go in search of Hostal La Gallega. Click on the link for more photos and info about our hostal tonight.

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After close to 12 hours of walking our prayers are answered.  Hostal, restaurant and bar are all inside under one roof for 17 Euro each.   Hallelujah!!  Praise the Lord!  God sure knows what we need at the end of a tough day.  Now it’s time to start drying our boots and socks while we hydrate and refuel our bodies for another day.  The hostal even has a pulperia which means a small grocery store.

Spain-1030590dmvMeet our neighbors.  (Backyard view from our hostal balcony)

Oh, my sore feet and stiff legs! 

Time to say our prayers and go to bed after walking over 20 miles today.

Maybe it won’t rain tomorrow… z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z

Manjarin, Spain ~ Commerce on the Mountain

camino-frances-23_Rabanal to MolinasecaDay two continued…

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A short walk of about 2.5 kilometers downhill from Cruz Ferro, we find the closest thing to a shopping mall for pilgrims in the deserted looking village of Manjarin.

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There are signs of Roman mining activity in this area, but the city of Manjarin has its origins linked to the 9th century.  The Manjarin economy was based for centuries on the livestock, the benefits of trade due to road and subsistence agriculture. During the mid 20th century, like many other mountain villages, the city was depopulated, until in 1993 a hermit named Tomas Martinez, resumed the work of “hospitaleros” Camino de Santiago.  ~ Wikipedia

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I’m assuming Tomas is in the photo above.  One of the Camino Forum posts said this, “It is said to be about the most basic albergue on the Camino. No showers, only cold water from the fountain outside, and you sleep on some boards which are more or less loosely just above the main room. There were some foam pieces, not really mattresses.”   Another post mentioned there was no plumbing so you use an outhouse, which would be quite inconvenient when you need to climb a ladder down from the upstairs of the shed.

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We donate to the cause and pour a cup of hot coffee, look around to absorb the rustic ambiance. Randy does consider buying a shell but decides he doesn’t want to carry it and will wait until the end.

Spain-1030478dmvAnother customer (India) is contemplating his purchase.

Spain-1030475dmvcr Disappointed that it is too early in the day to find lodging, we finish our break and move on with only 222 kilometers to go…

Spain-1030490dmvWe leave Manjarin and find our path to be quite muddy going down the mountain.  (Note to self ~ waterproof spray the boots next time.)

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The path may be muddy but the views are spectacular today!

Spain-1030492kpWe often find crosses in random places.  Did another unfortunate pilgrim die here?

Spain-1030498dmvGoing down the mountain proves to be treacherous as we carefully place each foot forward, trying not to cause an injury.  The above image shows our path as it snakes its way down and we get a glimpse of what is ahead. Our goal is still Molinaseca, but it is taking longer getting down the mountain than anticipated.  We soon find that the mountain descent threatens to claim a victim among the members of our group.

Camino de Santiago Day Two ~ We’re movin’ on up…

The elevation map below shows our climb so far since beginning our walk in Astorga.
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It’s 6 a.m. and our hostel is dark and quiet except for the quiet buzz of a person snoring nearby. We think about getting an early start today but it may be rude to make noise and shine our flashlights while trying to locate our belongings. O.K., just lie here a little longer until someone else makes a move. Finally, the lights go on and it was all systems go as everyone starts bustling around to pack up.

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Today’s hike will take us to the highest point of our journey so we fuel our bodies with a 3 Euro breakfast prepared by Isabella, our hostel mom this morning. She has a ready smile that speaks for itself in any language.

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Our tostadas with jam and coffee/tea hit the spot.

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All of us receive a hug and kiss before we leave and her departing words are, “Buen Camino!” to which we reply, “Muchas gracias!”  Isabella is a gem and one of those people you can’t help but love.

Spain-1030393dmvThe old stone walls continue to border our road until we reach the edge of Rabanal where we now can see the mountains in the distance.  Our terrain and vegetation will change as we leave the plains behind us.

Spain-1030408kppop50crIt was a beautiful day for walking and the temperatures are on the cool side. The terrain is more difficult, but the change of scenery today makes the views more interesting.

Spain-1030405popThe damp climate provides plenty of moisture for moss type growths on these trees.

Spain-1030411dmvcrWe discover part of our group taking a break at a rest area.  You can see the dirt path behind them.

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We are still in the province of Leon. The village of Foncebadon flourished during the Middle Ages, offering shelter and hospitality to the pilgrims that passed through on their way to Santiago.  According to local tradition, the village was granted a tax exemption in return for planting 800 stakes in the ground to mark the path.   ~ Wikipedia

Spain-1030419dmvcrAs we walk into Foncebadon, Randy visits with a  friend we met yesterday who was also at the hostal last night. He is from India and is walking the Camino with a friend from Poland.  We tend to name people based on their country, so we refer to the couple as India and Poland.

Spain-1030422dmvRandy finds out that India is in the Air Force of India so they immediately have something in common.  They talk airplanes and bombers since India can speak English quite well and knows what Randy’s Air Force job involved as an air frame repair specialist. What a nice guy. People like this wander in and out of our lives during the walk and we never know if we’ll encounter them again.

Spain-1030424dmvFoncebadon is a rustic little village and I notice that the building in the background has quite colorful patches on its roof. The sign under the cross is telling us not to leave stones on this cross.  Save your rock, you’ll need it later.

Spain-1030427Even in the most remote village we find a tavern. As usual, Randy is patiently waiting for me to take a picture.  I often drop my poles to change camera angles.

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Cocina casera means home cooking and I see that they also have the Pilgrim recommendation seal of approval.  The tavern was open and India and Poland went in and were joined later by the rest of our group who stopped there for coffee.  It is too early in the day for us, so we plod on by without stopping. Too bad it isn’t later in the day since I’m curious and would like to  try their home cooking… Oh, well.

Spain-1030431dmvcrRoad work ahead.  The man with the wheelbarrow is patching holes in the village street since summer will soon be here and the number of pilgrims will greatly increase.

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We continue to climb in elevation toward Cruz de Ferro which means Iron Cross.

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After leaving Foncebadon we look back and see this scenic view overlooking the town. We are now making our way to the highest point in elevation of our journey and our legs are feeling the strain. C’mon legs, keep walking.  I begin to feel like the train engine in the book by Watty Piper (which was a pen name of Arnold Munk), The Little Engine that Could which is used to teach optimism and hard work to young children.   I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can…

Astorga to Rabanal ~ Camino Day #1

The rain falls gently in a slow drizzle. This isn’t so bad and the March temps in the mid 40 degree F are mild by Minnesota standards since it isn’t snowing, there is very little wind and our constant movement means we aren’t shivering. We don’t stop for long, though, for then the chill begins.  We slowly climb in elevation from Astorga to Rabanal. With this stage we enter a  transitional area between the plains and the area of El Bierzo, with its reddish earth covered with trees and heather.

Spain-1030327dmvWe are still in the province of Leon during this leg of the hike and the tree lined streets of Murias de Rechivaldo are quiet except for the click, click, click, click from the walking sticks of the occasional Pilgrim passing through.

We had the opportunity to walk, for a while, with a group of Spanish doctors  that were walking around 30 kilometers per day for 8 days.  They walk different sections of the Camino de Santiago – French Way each year with the ultimate goal of eventually completing all of it.

Spain-1030429dmvHand painted, yellow arrows help guide us down the right path.  I’m glad some joker didn’t decide to play tricks on us and point us the wrong way.  (Note to self ~ carry a detailed map next time.)

Spain-1030399dmvRabanal del Camino  continues a centuries old tradition of caring for the pilgrims before they take the steep path up and over Monte Hago (Mount Rabanal).
Aymeric Picaud was a 12th century scholar, monk and pilgrim who wrote the first travel guidebook for the Way of St. James. This was the IXth stage of Aymeric Picaud’s classic itinerary and the Knights Templar are thought to have had a presence here as early as the 12th century ensuring the safe passage of pilgrims over this remote terrain – the Church of Santa Maria (steeple is visible in the above photo)  was possibly built by them.

After 21 kilometers and a day of walking in the rain while carrying backpacks that weigh around 16-18 pounds, we are relieved to arrive at our destination.  We are hoping to find an Albergue with a nice bed and shower.  Many hostels and albergues are closed this time of year so you take what you can get.  We see a promising view ahead…

Spain-1030390dmvAt this point we are just happy to be inside a dry building.  Our standards of what we consider luxury seem to be adjusting.  Hmmm…

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Our house mother, Isabella, stamps our Pilgrim Passports and checks us in.  We need two Pilgrim stamps per day and they can be obtained at a cafe, bar, restaurant, albergue, hotel or hostel. We each pay 5 Euro for the night and settle into our home away from home called the Albergue del Pilar.

Spain-1030341dmvOur sleeping quarters include one room with 32 beds (29 of them filled this night).  The room was approximately 20 feet by 40 feet with two long rows of bunk beds leaving a narrow aisle in the middle.  A mixture of ages and genders will all sleep together in this cozy room including a father/son from Korea, a group of bicyclists from southern Spain (Malaga), a young man in his 20’s originally from Iowa but lives in New York now, a young couple from Poland and India along with our group of lovelies. (AKA ~ Randy and the Hot Cross Buns).  I told you we were friendly!!

We put our wet clothing on the heaters available, take showers, and look forward to finding beverages and food to medicate and fuel our sore and tired bodies. Little did we know that we would soon meet Spain’s most eligible bachelor.  To be continued…