Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rain Day Sun Day

Wednesday was our first RAIN DAY. A full day of walking in the rain in a stylin poncho singing "singing in the rain" and sometimes shouting "I'm melting" like the wicked witch. Then Thursday was an overcast day, cold, damp with bits of rain all day. So when we woke up Friday to a clear blue sky and warmth in the air we were quick to shed our layers and walk comfortably in t-shirts. The day was absolutely beautiful. We spent 3/4 of the day walking up a mountain with mountains and rolling hills on either side of us. Every corner we seemed to meet an even more beautiful view. "When you turn a corner you really don't know what you're going to find" Alex remarked just after we encountered a medievil bar with pumpkin soup and cheese cake. Not having a sandwich/bocadillo on the menu is always a pleasant surprise. Then we came across a great mountain of rocks that was comprised of all the small rocks pilgirams have carried from home. It was such an amazing monument to see. All these rocks from all over the world with words and prayers and quotes all piled onto eachother. Alex and I did not bring rocks from Canada but I'm kind of glad I didn't have to carry yet another thing in my pack. The next corner brought us to a hippie hut. It had signs to so many places and the distances. Manchu pichu, Mexico, Santiago is only 222km away! We just stopped in for a look as everything was by donation but we weren't keen on sleeping in a house with 12 dogs and 6 cats and the day was still too nice to dare and stop. Moments after seeing some cows and being a few meters away and continuing our climb uphill we kept hearing long moo sounds. So we finally turn back and see about 30 cows running from all over a giant pasture to near the farm house where the farmer is laying out fresh food  that looked like hay, it was quite a sight to see. After many breathtaking views we finally start to make a slow descent down the mountain never more keen on finding a kitchen as we've been carrying food to cook for well over 40km. (Alex and I have started using km as a reference, as in: "that was so 15k ago") We stop at the opening of the town in a great little tienda/store and get fresh garlic, onions, tomatos, and vino/wine for our gluten-free pasta and tofu that we've been lugging. Only to find that the hospitilara of the only albergue that has a kitchen has closed the albergue because she's sick!!! We knew that there was another option 4k away so we pick our favorite songs and continue to sing down the mountain. We got to Riego de Ambros in record time and were really taken with the beauty and charm of this little town. Finding this Albergue also closed we went to a Pension where it was 17€ each and we had the whole house to ourselves, an amazing kitchen, and a dining room in which to watch the sunset over the mountains. Our meal was excellent. We had baths and slept in real beds with sheet and heating and windows facing a great view of mountains and the city lights of Ponferrada in the distance.


I can hardly believe that it has been ten days since my last post. I feel like so much has happened. Burgos was beautiful and since then I have come across many quaint towns with great meals and nice people. It seems everywhere we go we recognize someone. My Spanish has been a great help in finding little jems along the road. Just today I asked the store clerk if she had any dark leafy greens and was directed to Dora's house, the one up the street with the garden. After going up the street and finding a great garden but no Dora I asked a passer-by if Dora did live there. He said yes, and proceeded to shout to a woman up the street. We were then taken to the back of her house where she pulled a knife out of nowhere to cut us some fresh vegetables which I'm about to eat.

Other highlihts include...

A day alone. I took a different route than Alex and ended up walking about 20km out in the middle of nowhere and for the whole day saw a total of two people, three if you include a guy in a tractor far away. It was a great day and I watched the sunset over the land and the stars come up in the sky. When I wasn't quite sure if I was on the path I turned on my book light and found an arrow made of shoes and rocks.

Albergue Jesus. It was cold at night but the walls in this Albergue were covered in art and quotes from other pilgriams. My favorite quote was something like 'When you start it is the right time. When it's over it's over. Who you meet is exactly who you are ment to meet and whatever happens was the only thing that could have happened' My camera is being finicky so I have to paraphrase.

Bikes! At one Albergue we got to use bikes and it was really fun to ride around town if only for a little while. We stopped in a shop that 100 years ago used to be a sewing shop and still has all the original drawers and wood work.

Chocolate Museum in Astorga got us a chocolate taste test for 2€. One day we were ushered into a shop and given wine and cheese just because we were pilgriams. Today a shop keeper gave us shells that smell really pretty and very tastey tapas.

We walked on the bridge in Hospital de Orbigo that faces a feild where jousting tournaments took place and each alcove of the bridge is a different size. It was drizzling and an old woman crossing wished us luck by saying 'You picked a good day, there is only rain and snow and cold ahead... good luck'

We stop a lot for coffee and chats and have met a lot of great pilgriams. One woman is in her 80's doing 4-10km a day. She was a joy to meet! Lots of animals and of course I greet all of them, Alex is surprised I haven't got fleas yet. I finally got a teeny tiny blister so I feel like a real pilgriam now, one of my socks has a hole that i've been avoiding darning but the whole two pairs of socks has worked wonders for zero blisters.

I watched a Rugby game in Leon! The All Blacks vs France. I dare say I'll be supporting the Canada Rugby team now that I know they exist and what a fun sport rugby is. That was the day after my massive long alone day walk so a few of us jumped in a taxi the 13km to make it in time for the game. We had two rest days in a row and stayed at a nunnery in Leon. I stumbled into two very random art galleries. It was nice to walk around town and not have to carry a heavy pack. Also played Spainsh scrabble with Alex at a fun coffee shop where we just threw aside the crazy tiles of LL, RR, Ñ etc.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Feeling free in Burgos

The majority of yesterday and today was spent in Burgos exploring the Cathedral, the museum of human evolution and the camping store (MEC meets COSTCO kinda place). Great destinations if you happen to be headed to Burgos.
It's been a little more difficult to access internet lately but honestly I don't really miss it. Yesterday I had a moment of walking around Burgos with no real adgenda and so many days to spare I felt quite free.

The day before yesterday was a day of solo walking through an enchanting forest then a steep uphill over very rugged terrain and meeting up at a wonderful alburgue where I spent most of the evening traslating between the Spanish and English. It happens to be my newfound job which I accept with enthusiasm. It was the nicest Albergue we have stayed in with the best dinner we've shared. There, we met two Australians who we've been pleased to walk with. Alex's map had a special detour to the city of Burgos which we've gladly shared with many other pilgriams. Apparently the walk to Burgos through industrial sprawl is the worst stretch of the whole Camino. We got to walk through a nice forested park along a popular river. I put my feet in the water and caught a mini lobster (photo proof to come). It was a great walk and a great time around Burgos.

I'm pretty tired now so that's all for today! A week of flat terrain to come!

Most exciting news: I have given myself the award of super-fast-backpack-packer along with smallest pack. I was really happy when I figured out how to fold my sleeping bag so it could fit into my pack.
Note* this is not to be confused with lightest pack, we have come to realize size does not mean weight!

Monday, October 10, 2011

How 25km became 16km...

We only made 16km today but as they say:
"You never know what you'll encounter
on the camino"
Today the temperature went past 30degrees and it was a completely cloudless sky. We encountered Milu agian today and upon mentioning a hurt toe her owner became El Doctor. Being an avid hiker he has come across many a foot injury and before we knew it Alex was whispering to me "I never thought a Spanish man would be massaging my foot in a park"

"You never know what you'll encounter
on the camino"

I was a translating expert by the end of it all and we left Milu and El Doctor (we don't actually know his name, I figured out Milu by her tag. Names aren't often exchanged on the camino, guess we're all just Pilgrims) to finish drying his clothes in the park. (Alex stubbed her toe in Paris and the walk has caused some painful inflamation but we we're assured it's normal and with tylonol and proper bandages will heal nicely)

I stopped at the Correos/PostOffice today to send my extra sleeping pad to Almuñecar along with my cribbage board. Lost almost 1 kilo! Then ate some good food in a park in Nejera. Leaving Nejera was Beautiful. We walked beside red mountain sides. There was a big group of butterflies of all colours. Then we past the butterflies and came across annoying flies and came up with the "What am I?!? A..." go back and forth listing all things flies swarm around... 1km of enjoyment and laughs. (I'm sure you can think of a few) Then we got distracted by some animal sounds. At first we couldn´t tell if they were sheep or cows or a person but deduced that it was indeed a barn. We walked up close to it and as we slowly slinked away. The large door rolled open slowly and loudly...

"You never know what you'll encounter
on the camino"

A dog and 250 sheep poured out along with a sheep herder. So after a few snaps of our camera and gawking as the inexperienced herder tried to gather his flock we quickly became sheep heardresses. For just under a kilometer I chatted with the newbie herder as we marched with his flock. They were headed to a nearby farm to eat potaoes. We were very happy with the divine timing and were pretty much beside ourselves. A lady passed us a bit later...
Lady "So, you´re not hearding sheep anymore?"
Me "No, but that was such amazing timing!!"
Lady"Well it was crap timing on my part. I had to walk and try to dodge all their sh*t"
 I could not stop laughing as she walked on past, poor lady...

The camino really is different for everyone.

Other animals we have seeon on the road:
-Giant black slugs, some with a red underbelly
-Horses and their babies (one white horse came out of nowhere and majestically came to greet us)
-Goats, kids
-Sheep (obviously)
-Cats, kittens
-Barbarians (those really loud obnoxious people who ruin my morning)
-Birds (Sparrows, Vultures, Swans, Ducks)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

DAY 7 - 125 km

I am currently in the only bar in Ventosa. It is lime green, with wood paneling, brightly lit, with five groups of four ranging from age 50-80 all giving looks to me and Alex as we use free internet on ancient computers. I´m surprised I can even type this out...

Today is Day 7 and that marks one week on the Camino.
The camino has so far been many different colours and sizes taking us over all different types of landscapes. There has been white roads, orangy red, black, grey and purple. (Yesterday was purple rocks, loved it!) Dirt trails through bits of forest and short stretches on actual road. Sometimes the path is wide enough for one car and sometimes it´s so narrow only one can pass at a time. We follow yellow arrows and shells in yellow on blue. The arrows can be stickers, spray paint or a collection of rocks pointing the way. We wake up each morning and have faith that we´ll be shown the way. The arrows can be smaller than my hand or as long as my leg. The arrows and shells can be up high, down low, painted on the side of a rock, meshed into a fence, in the stone on the ground, all types. Each province has it´s own version of the shell and guiding signs. For a laugh we usually shout out "please, I need a sign!!" and then we find one a minute later. (hehehe) What really keeps us on our toes are the albergues and bars that want you to stop at them instead of following the path and they paint yellow arrows to direct you towards them.
We´ve walked under forest cover, near brooks and streams. There have been dirt trails with gravel and rocks leading up giant hill/mountain sides with big drops bellow. We have walked by viniards and eaten the best grapes I´ve ever tasted.
Sometimes we walk with others, and always notice their packs before their gender or nationality. The common questions "What do you do?" "Where did you go to school?" and "What´s your name?"  have been replaced by:
"Where are you going?" (we´re going to Finistere)
"Where are you walking tonight?" (How many k and what town)
"Where did you start?" (Some people do the walk in chuncks over many years)

We have met many people, a bonus of having a longer time to complete and a slower pace than most.

Sometimes there are stretches where no one is around as far as the eye can see and we shout realy loudly and let our voices become food for the wind. It has been so hot and sunny and so cool and windy. And this is just the first week.

Almost forgot to mention the food!!!! Alex and I eat sooooo well. We have a great big breakfast then a bunch of snacks then a great lunch, snacks and dinner. Sometimes second dinner... Today we sat on some castle ruins to eat our spinach, chickpea, vegetable salad with envious eyes from other pilgriams. We´ve found a lot of gluten free options that we carry with us from big cities and I have been eating a lot of eggs and tuna. One night there was no kitchen available or store...

The conversation went like this:
Sam "I don´t know if I can do this"
Alex "Well do what feels right..."
Sam "Does chicken usually have veins in it"
Alex "Well, it´s not a perfectly shaped breast, yup there's a bone..."
Sam slowly takes first bite
Sam "Wow, this is so good!"

The restaurant menu was pork, chicken or beef so yes everyone... I ate chicken. It was grown in the owners friends´ backyard, so a ´happy hen´. We also got some pears from his backyard.I´ve been gearing myself up for this for a few months but no, this does not mean I´m going full on meat eater.

Tomorrow marks our first day of 25k!!

Write comments so I know I have more than 5 readers!! Please :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011


So this morning we woke up in Lorca. We made our goal of leaving the Albergue before first light. Seeing the stars and not having an intense heat on us was great. We realized though that without light we had no idea if we were on the right path. At a crossroad with no arrows visible through the darkness we just unrolled a tarp and had breakfast as we watched the sun rise over some Spanish hills. It was a beautiful way to start the day. When the sun was up high enough to see we walked back and found where we had missed a little tiny trail branching off the main one.
Later on in the day we passed a once in a lifetime spot, a free wine fountain. There´s a Spanish rhyme telling you to fill your cup and enjoy but filling up your bottle you´ll have to pay. The fountain has two taps, one for water, one for wine. Another pilgriam group happened to have two extra cups to share with us. So we filled up and made the rest of our day a little slower.

Last night´s stay at Jose Ramon´s Albergue in Lorca was our favorite so far. We had a private room with a balcony and a great sleep. He was so helpful with everything. In Lorca there were three places to choose from. As we passed by the first with a line full of people we already find annoying we found Milu!! Milu is a Shnauszer we´ve come to love. We really didn´t think we´d see her again but there she was! She´s been a great treat to see everyday. Milu was going on to the next town but we were done walking with 17k under our belts. The sign advertising the Albergue said free internet, laundry and smiles, keep your humour handy! So that´s what made the decision for us.

Our dinner yesterday was so great. We went to the local supermarket and being tired were pretty appauled that they didn´t sell vegetables but we realized on our walk back that everyone has their own personal vegetable garden. So the owners gave us a perplexed look when we asked. We did get from the shop, local (4km away) sheep cheese, eggs and wine. They ran to the back and gave us garlic from their own kitchen. We also picked up some tomatoe sauce and mushrooms that we added to the gluten free pasta made out of corn that Alex has been carrying since Pamplona. (when you cary everything on your back, even pasta matters)

no time to edit!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pamplona Albergue

A man with a flashlight at his chin lighting his face came over to our beds and said "Feliz Cumpliaños, Feliz Cupliaños, Feliz Cumpliaños" to wake up his friend in the bottom bunk. Poor Alex did not realize that ment ´Happy Birthday´ He did not seem to care that it was still shy of 6am. (I don´t think I´ve ever really heard her swear so much) Ear plugs were my saviour for a great nights sleep but they could not keep out that kind of wake up call. Alex saw them later, maybe 6:15am, dancing around and realized they were the crazy perky morning people. My sleeping bag was a great investment, I was toasty warm.

We got to Pamplona about 5pm yesterday to a very nice albergue. It´s huge, fits about 100 people. It´s nice and clean with internet and free laundry. Alex and I stumbled upon the kitchen area early and nievily thought we were the only ones who cared about it. After a great dinner alone up there we came back a few hours later for tea and were assalted by a diverse mix of cultures preparing dinners. There was an asian group at the back doing their thing, communal sharing of greens and meat. The Spanish table ready with tablecoth, wine, water in a coca cola bottle, bread basket. They didn´t find those things in the kitchen so they have to be carrying that on their backs. Then two girls about our age who looked as though this is the first meal they had to prepare on their own. We did not get a relaxing tea but found ourselves huddled in a corner sharing a spoon as different noisy people ran back and forth. 

Our Pilgrims credential passport will say we started in Pamplona but we actually started before Huarta. We initially wanted to start at St. Jean Pied de port but when I found out my cousin Maribel lived right on the camino just a few km outside of Roncesvalles we jumped on the chance to start up there. Since we are going to Finistere (the once end of the world) we will be doing over 800km even with starting a bit later on the trail.

Being at Maribel & Jose´s house was such a great way to start the trail, Jose actually grew up near Santiago and was able to share so many neat facts and beliefs about it. He said that once we finish the camino and walk under the cathedral and do our confession and take the bread, then we basically get a pass direct to heaven. Not having had my communion I´m technically not allowed to take the bread so, no pass to heaven even with all the walking... shucks.

Maribel made us a great dinner after taking us for a walk around San Sebastian (it was like summer and I got to wet my feet in the Atlantic). Then Oct 3rd Jose helped with mailing our luggage to Alumñecar. The whole 20kilos of mostly mine and some of alex´s stuff only cost us 13,90€ and my computer was less than 30€ on priority post. After dealing with Canada post I figured I was in for $100 expense.
Jose also helped with the final push out of the car, we were both eager to start the walk and only got slightly lost twice so far. Blister-free and gearing up for day two.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

On the train

So, as it turns out Paris is not so conducive to sleeping. Since I've gotten here my longest sleep has maybe been 6hrs. I'm currently over tired and on a train to Spain with Alex by my side eating 'happiness seeds' from 'Smile-inducing British snacks'
We had a great time in Paris although sadly Nuit Blanch Paris was an epic fail. The teeny tiny streets were just packed solid of people. I guess that's what happens when every hotel in Paris is booked full. (A fun fact we found out by booking the last somewhat reasonably priced room just the night before.)

Apparently it is common in french to say 'nuit blanche' meaning sleepless night

Which I feel confident to say today as Alex and I stayed up till the wee hours packing our Camino packs. WOW! I think ignorance was playing a major part in making this journey happen. Looking at the 20km broken down each day and the severity of leaving everything behind for 40days save the pack we carry on our back seems a little daunting.

- cell phone
- laptop/daily internet
- make-up
- anything more than 2/3 changes of clothes
- regular shampoo (we have an all-in-one soap for handwash, hair and the rest)
- pillow
- movies, tv, music
- social engagements
- planning
- loved ones
- distractions from ourselves
- favorite foods
- smoothies, supplements etc.
- and probably things we didn't even realize

Looking at what you are about to pack and having someone ask to make sure you need everything you're taking makes you see your insecurities and your comforts.

I'm getting a bit of tightness in my chest realizing that the journey starts tomorrow after a good nights rest tonight. We hope we like it but we acknowledge its going to be hard.

Some of the things that are not essential that I'm bringing are:
- voice recorder
- pencil crayons (mini set)
- cribbage board
- kobo book reader

I'm happy with the size of my pack but its still heavy Alex and I both weigh in at 10kilos