Backpacking Teacher

Travel, teaching and things in between. Saigon is the focus for now.

Day 24: Santiso to Santiago. 300km and a long walk finished.

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Today’s walk took us through Australia. The towering Eucalyptus forest was like a small slice of Oz. Thin trees, shedding bark coming off in pieces like shaved Parmesan, curling towards the ground, the floor covered in a carpet of spear shaped leaves, some dead, some dying, the air filled with the light scent, sweet sharpness of eucalyptus oil. We slept in a little the plan for the day to walk until we rejoined the Camino then walk onto Monte de Gozo.

The day’s walk was beautifully reflective. The sun shone and we both walked well. Cheeky’s knees still ached but she put that aside as she enjoyed the walk. The walk gave me time to reflect and it surprised me how different the Camino was for me compared to last time. For one I walked 800km compared to 300km this time. Last time I was physically challenged as i walked hard each day this time I didn’t find it anywhere near as physically challenging. This time my body held up well, only a few aches and no blisters. Last time I had massive blisters and many aches & pains. This time I shared the Camino with Cheeky and that added a sweetness lacking in my last walk. It’s true then the saying that each Camino is unique. I wished we could have walked more but, saying that, we would have missed out on staying longer in key towns and experiencing them in a way I failed to last time. This time the Camino felt more like a holiday (albeit with 300km’s of walking shoehorned in) compared to the last walk which felt far more challenging. This Camino was in some ways harder though as I saw Cheeky struggle through her pain. I felt both sorry for her and, somewhat strangely, guilty. Guilty that I was not feeling any real pain and even jealous, jealous of the pain because a Camino without pain seems a Camino only half deserved.

These and many other thoughts ran through my mind as we walked. It is truly one of the joys of the walking is that you have time to think and let your thoughts run in whichever direction they will for hours on end as your body just walks on and on. It’s a unique experience and mentally it’s fantastically refreshing.

A few hours of walking later and we found ourselves at Lavacolla where i quickly washed my hands in a ritual going back a thousand years and then, before we knew it we were on Monte de Gozo. The hill that overlooks Santiago de Compostela.it was here that we decided just to push onto Santiago a mere 4km away. And so we strode off into our very last section of the walk.

As we arrived near the Cathedral, where the Camino ends, we took a few minutes to sit around the corner, a mirror of my last Camino, and enjoy a laugh in the sun and think about our long walk. Then we hobbled, appropriately enough, to the plaza in front of the Cathedral and, with many other peregrinos just sat. It was a satisfying moment and I took pleasure in sharing Cheeky’s achievement. This had been a hard journey for her and yet she had pushed through and completed it. I revelled in her achievements as we sat in awe in the sun at the front of the Cathedral.

Then we walked on. Got our compostela from the peregrino’s office and then went to find the nice hotel we had booked for the next few nights. The next part of the holiday will be in France. Only half planned but part of it will be in Paris the rest in the South of France. Only this time we’ll be going by car – it’s time to rest Cheeky’s knees.


— Posted from my phone

Location:Rúa das Fontes do Sar,Santiago de Compostela,Spain

Written by backpackingteacher

July 26, 2011 at 12:11 am

Posted in expat

Day 23: Arzua to Santiso. A day of rain and a detour from the Camino

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The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain is the ages old English elocution lesson. The rain in Spain stays mainly in Galicia (pronounced with a lisp, as in GaliTHia) doesn’t quiet have the same eloquence but it does adequately describe the day we had today.

We had a miserable night’s sleep due to some particularly inconsiderate members of a group of 12 twenty somethings who kept everyone awake with their late night whispers and then woke the whole dorm at 4:30am as they noisily left the Albergue. This section of the Camino is beautiful from a nature perspective and ugly from a respect your fellow peregrino experience. Oh well. At least it forced Cheeky and I to get out early. By 6am we were breakfasting and before 7am on the road. The initial plan a walk of about 16km.

We walked out ok even if the sky was dark and the rain set in. I rarely had rain last time I walked so it’s seems we’re getting more than our share this time. The rain didn’t dampen our spirits too much in any case. We walked well and started to plan a slightly longer day ending in Arca a 20km walk.

We wandered through the farms, admired more of the fruit and fantastically coloured flowers and generally had a good day’s walking over the gentle, green, undulating hills of Galica.

The we arrived in Arca. The place was crowded with walk in peregrino’s, bussed in peregrino’s, taxi takers and caragrino’s. The massive queue outside the one Albergue and the completo sign on the other should have been our clue. The town was full. We tried place after place to be told the same thing. Full, full, full. Finally one kindly soul rang around for us. Good news, there is a room, in a hotel so it’s more expensive. The bad news you ask? It was 4km further down the road 😛

So we walked and walked. We sped up, which hurt Cheeky’s knees, because Arca was full by 1.30pm and every spare room cliseby was rapidly being snapped up. 4km later we arrived. Only to be told – completo. Ouch! Luckily though a hotel a few km’s away but off the Camino had rooms and they drove us there. So here we are in a little town that has nothing but a hotel, a pension and 3 restaurants chilling out after a longer day than planned. Tomorrow we’ll walk out of this town and make our way back to the Camino and make our way to the horror that is the 500 bed Albergue at Monte de Gozo, the hill overlooking Santiago. One and a bit day’s left on the Camino 😦


– Posted from my phone

Location:Carretera de Curtis,O Pino,Spain

Written by backpackingteacher

July 22, 2011 at 1:49 am

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Day 22: Melide to Arzua. Raspberry picking and the village of flowers.

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Last time I walked 800km I didn’t once stop to pick fruit by the roadside. You’d think that in 31 days of walking I’d have at least picked fruit once. I didn’t even notice half the fruit and plants I now see around me. It’s as if my fruit sense has been switched on. The truth is, of course, that Cheeky has an amazing nose for fruit and an interest in all things horticultural. If she slows down I know there must be fruit in our vicinity. On this trip we have picked and eaten everything from apples to pears to a myriad assortment of plums to juicy cherries and, today’s delight, raspberries. There’s something sweeter about eating the fruit you’ve just plucked from bushes and trees around you. Without Cheeky I would have just bustled on by, vaguely aware, but mostly oblivious to, the fruit salad around me on the Camino.

Today we left the town of the Octopi heading for Arzua. Last time round I’d walked into Arzua in absolute agony as blisters on the soles of my feet and heel of my foot constantly tore open on the walk. I remember staggering into the town each step a point of agony. Today I felt fine, it’d been a shortish trip of 14 or 15 km’s and even Cheeky who grimaced on some stages walked into town with energy to spare. Nothing like the poor guy who walked ahead of us and winced with each step, clearly in pain but still moving ahead. Funny how the Camino works, it’s as if I was seeing myself two years ago.

Cheeky and I have been mixing our accommodation up. Last night in Melide it was a hotel today it’s an Albergue again. It’s nice to be amongst fellow peregrinos in an Albergue but, as always on the last stages from Sarria, it’s filled with overly large, overly loud Spanish groups walking for a few days. I’m sure it’ll be a noisy night but the upside if that is we’ll be awake early. That’s good because we have a longer walk tomorrow. Something Cheeky’s not really looking forward to but c’est la camino. In fact we now only have about 39km to go so we only have, after today, about two more nights on the Camino. We should reach Santiago by Saturday 🙂 that’ll give us a couple of days to enjoy the town and be there for the party ad the town gies all out to Celebrate Santiago’s Day on the 25th.


— Posted from my phone

Location:Carretera de Santiago a Guntín,Arzúa,Spain

Written by backpackingteacher

July 20, 2011 at 11:40 pm

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Day 21: Palas de Rei to Melide. Home of the killer Octopus

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A remember seeing a shlock movie recently called DinoShark vs KillerOctopus, or something equally as silly. I don’t recall much of the movie but I do recall this huge, super sized Octopus that I felt sure was CGI creation until of course that until Melide. The Octopus or, as they more melodiously call it here, Pulpo is freakin’ huge. So, of course we had to stop to eat some. And of course along with Killer Octopus tentacles we had to have bowls of red wine – why, you ask, well, i’m not sure but that’s just the way they serve it here.

It was a fitting meal after a shortish 14km’s or so. The day whizzed by reasonably fast but the few ups and downs made some sections more difficult for Cheeky and so it was hard for us to get into a walking rhythym. Having to walk 8km before breakfast is also not much fun however these minor things aside it was a good days walk through some more of the spectacular, if somewhat graffiti riddled, countryside that is Galicia. We tried to ignore the very large Spanish groups we dominate the Camino in terms of sound and rubbish and just focussed on the delightful little villages. What this blog can never quite convey is the smells of the Camino. The last few days it has been a myriad of smells including sheep shit, fresh tree sap, sweet fermenting wine, crushed berries and fresh coffee. A cornucopia of smells make the walking all that more delightful.


– Posted from my phone

Location:Melide, Spain

Written by backpackingteacher

July 20, 2011 at 2:37 am

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Day 20: Ventas de Naron to Palas de Rei. Grafitti and Mary stickers

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A good day’s walking. We found ourselves hopping in between a few groups, the first the tourigrinos and the other a large family with a few down syndrome kids. As you do on the Camino we leap frogged these groups a few times.

The day was drizzling lightly but pleasant enough. A shortish days walk along country paths, alongside moss covered walls forever following the yellow arrows and yellow scallop shells. The walk from Sarria is also noticeable for the preponderance of grafitti. It’s everywhere, on signs, rocks and walls and it runs the gamut from silly tags to outpourings of love to the inane ‘____ was here’. Today the graffiti was joined by stickers of Mary as some young lad ahead of us with an absolutely huge roll of stickers stickered everything in sight with these stickers. At least his need to place a mark on everything was less driven by personal ego, like all the graffiti before him, and more, perhaps driven by a need to explain his reason for walking.

Cheeky walked well for most of the day but found the last section a bit of a grind on her knees. She’s getting quite sick of taking ibuprofen and looking forward to having to stop take it.

I’m enjoying the walking and have no significant aches or pains. At times I find it hard to walk at the slow pace Cheeky’s knees force us to walk at. On my last Camino I thoroughly enjoyed the walking and would easily get my body into a rhythym whereby my feet and legs would just power away and allow my mind to soar and daydream. My body last time (except for feet that looked like mincemeat from over active blisters) just cruised and I usually walked much faster than everyone else. Like a car in fifth gear. This time round I feel like I rarely get into fourth gear and never get into fifth gear. We walk about half the speed I walked last time and i’m personally finding this a bit hard to come to terms with. My body cries out for a solid bit of walking but I have no intention of walking without Cheeky. I’d rather walk with Cheeky who hobbles along so bravely rather than speed ahead by myself. My camino this time is forcing me to slow down and by doing so i’m taking so much more in. We spend much longer in towns than I ever did before and so I have a much better understanding of the places we travel through. My body may be aching to travel in fifth gear but by travelling in third i’m getting to experience much more of the world around me.


— Posted from my phone

Written by backpackingteacher

July 19, 2011 at 8:02 pm

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Day 19: Portomarin to Ventas de Narón. The day of the touragrinos.

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Tourigrinos, like a pack of locusts, descend, devour, declaim and then
depart. I don’t have a problem with the whole busing around having
someone else carry your pack for you. It’s more the incessant chatter
on the phone as you grind up the hill with your backpack on. It’s the
ordering of ten thousand coffee’s for the entire bus load just before
the stop you’ve been walking for three hours to get to. It’s the using
all the toilet paper just when you need the toliet paper. You get the
idea. Sure, go ahead and enjoy the walk, have someone pick you up in
buses and carry your bags but please leave a little space for others.

Anyway today was the day of the touragrinos as we played leap frog
with a bus load of them. We slept in a little in Portomarin. Then went
into the overcast day. The first section took us down out of the town,
across the rickety iron pedestrian bridge and then up, up into the
hills. We hoped to stop for breakfast. Three hours later we hobbled
into the first place open for breakfast. I say hobbled because the
uphills did cheeky’s knees no favours.

Our breakfast break done we plowed on through more stone villages and
their animals, their grain stores on stilts and their garrulous
farmers. Finally we ended up at the little farmers hamlet of Ventas de
Narón. A few huts surrounded by fields, a cafe and an albergue. We
stopped. Rested, ate, wifi’ed and enjoyed an easy day. Tomorrow
another easy day. Oh, and cheeky lost her big toenail today. If we
make it to Santiago she’s really gonna deserve that compostela.

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Written by backpackingteacher

July 18, 2011 at 5:44 am

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Day 18: Sarria to Portomarin. Beautiful walks through rolling hills.

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It’s the little things you notice – like toilet seats left up. Coming from a much more female friendly environment, at least in the bathrooms, I’m used to toilet seats generally being left down. Here I notice toilet seats are often left up. Why? I don’t know I’ve just noticed it, as you do.

Like the way I noticed the way our Camino has changed and how my reactions to it have changed since I last walked this way. Last time I had already walked 700km by this stage, compared to the 200km, we’ve walked now. I wouldn’t say I was jaded last time by the walking, far from it, but I was less enthused by the environment around me. I remember not enjoying this last section as much as previous sections and that was much to do with the abundance of tourigrinos and the less convivial feel to the journey as many newcomers joined in Sarria. This time the stop/start nature of our walks has given me a much deeper appreciation for each section we’ve walked. Today we walked out of Sarria and I thoroughly enjoyed every part of, what ended up being, a long day’s walk. The slightly overcast but not rainy weather. The stone villages, the cows, the apple trees, the abundance of cafe’s, the gentle, rolling, up and down paths, the fresh air, the greenery all around. Galicia really is a beautiful part of Spain and the walking here is truly spectacular. The paths are easy to walk, you walk through many villages, something I always prefer as I enjoy these little Spanish villages and the scenery is truly beautiful.

Cheeky and I had planned only a shortish day of about 11/12 km to a hamlet called Ferrerios but when we arrived there we found we had energy to spare and we were enjoying the day so much that we would just walk on. Cheeky’s knees are still sore but she seemed to be able to cope with the pain a bit better than previously and she was clearly having a good day’s walking. Before we knew it we were in Portomarin some 24 km from were we had left. A great day’s walk but tomorrow we plan to do only a 14km day. We’re in no rush. We have time to spare and are in no rush. Galicia has been good to us thus far. I hope our next few says of walking are as good as today’s.

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July 17, 2011 at 3:40 am

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Day 16 & Day 17: Astorga to Sarria. On the buses preparing for the Celtic walk.

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Waiting for a bus is never much fun. In Astorga however you get to wait in a cafe that looks out to the Roman walls, the Cathedral and Gaudi’s palace. That’s not a bad way to start a bus journey. The bus to Sarria has to go via the city of Lugo so the 3 1/2 hour bus journey becomes a 5 hour bus journey. Not too arduous especially considering some of the bus journeys from hell that I’ve been on in India and Nepal. I remember one particular twelve hour journey that went for 36 hours and felt like it lasted a week. A week on a train is fun and something I’ve done before (twice on the trans-Siberian which is another story) but day and a half bus journey’s through South Asia that feel like they go for a week are not fun. In contrast Spain’s buses are an absolute pleasure, comfortable, cheap, fast and the well located bus stations make for easy travel.

Sarria is a Camino town. The scallop shell can be found on everything from centuries old buildings to guard rails to garbage bins. It’s from here, approximately, 115km from Santiago that many people start their Camino. It’s this part that is recognised by as fulfilling the 1,000 year old pilgrimage. It’s also the start of one of the most beautiful legs of the Camino through the rolling hills, green fields and stony buildings of Celtic Galicia. In fact this is where the Celts originated.

Sarria is a medium sized town and we’re staying on the outskirts of it in a Hotel alongside the Camino. Tomorrow we start our walk again. Where we end up will depend on accommodation being available as this the busiest part of the Camino. We plan a day of about 10-15 km’s. Our plan is short knees so as not to strain Cheeky’s knees too much but also to try end up in Santiago before the 25th July. On this day Santiago celebrates as it is Saint James’s day and whom the city is named after as the last resting place of the Saint. If we can do all of this it will be a fitting end to our Camino.

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July 16, 2011 at 5:43 am

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Day 14: Villares de Orbigo to Astorga. Day 15: Astorga.Cheeky plants plum trees

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The Albergue in Villares offered a great respite on the way to Astorga. We made ourselves a great dinner in the little kitchen before a sleep interrupted by a rude couple who felt it ok to turn dorm lights on whenever it suited them.

We woke up to the sound of rain clattering down on the roof and the sound of thunder rolling in. It’s not the most inspiring of sounds when you know you have a day of walking ahead of you. We dragged ourselves out of bed and over breakfast cheered each other up. We were soon laughing as there seemed little point in starting our day’s hike in a despondent mood.

Raincoats on we sloshes through town, up rivers of water streaming down the path ( and through my shoes) past farms with cows and roads with cow manure and soon we were somewhat less perky than when we had started out. Cheeky’s knees didn’t like the cold and our pace began to slow but Cheeky persevered. Every now and then she’d spy a plum or apple tree and her face would break out in a grin of delight. Cheeky loves fruit, as you may have gathered, but she also plants plum trees. Everynow and then she’ll put a plum or plum pit in the ground for future peregrinos to enjoy the fruit of.

The day never really lightened up and the rain began to lash down harder 3km into Astorga. So we stooped in a bar for the best tortilla we’ve had in Spain and the obligatory cafe con leche. Then, spirits lifted, we ambled into Astorga looking forward to staying in a nice hotel room.

And a beautiful room it is to. It overlooks the main square and from our balcony we can see bundles of activity everywhere. Just before the hour people face towards the 18th century Town Hall and wait for the two figurines on the bell tower to strike the hours. The male and female figure rotate to strike the bell and have been doing so since 1748. Our view in Astorga can not be beaten. We’ve been very lucky with our hotel rooms in Spain getting to enjoy sone unique, cosy establishments in great parts of the towns we’ve stayed in.

Astorga’s a beautiful little town. It’s fantasy Gaudi designed palace juxtapposed against the 17th century Cathedral and flanked by Roman walls makes for a intriguing architectural mix. The little town square, meandering calle’s and chocolate shops makes for a pleasant stroll. It’s easy to see why this is a popular starting point for the Camino de Santiago.

Our plans from here. Head to Sarria for a couple of days and then walk the 115km from Sarria in Santiago de Compostela. Cheeky’s knees ache but we will break the last section into easy stages and hopefully we’ll be able to finish the walk and claim our Compostela’s. Cheeky especially will deserve this as she’s just had to grind it out at times. If we finish this will mean our total km’s walked will be around 300km no mean feat 🙂

Onto Sarria tomorrow. Can’t wait for Galicia – the walking there, while crowded, is quite beautiful.

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July 14, 2011 at 4:03 am

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Day 13: Villadangos del Paramo to Villarres de Orbigo. We walk through Cheeky’s jigsaw puzzle.

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The early morning expectation, bags packed, feet vaselined and/or taped – whatever method has been chosen by that particular peregrino to escape the scourge of blisters. Knee braces applied, legs strapped. Nervous energy being walked off as peregrinos wait for walking partners. Some peregrinos louder than others, forgetting that some choose to try sleep in, the morning bustles with expectation as we all get ready to walk into the day about to form. We left early, about 6:30, after a poor sleep that is often a feature of overcrowded Municipal Albergues. Our destination of Villarres de Orbigo was 16km away.

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Today we walked through Cheeky’s jigsaw puzzle. Cheeky’s favourite iPad app is a puzzle game in which the puzzles are the artwork of Manet. Many of his artworks feature fields of wildflowers and today we walked through wild flower fields reminiscent of Manet’s work. It felt like walking through Cheeky’s jigsaws.

You can add cherry thief to my crimes after today’s walk. I’ve begun to detect a pattern here I think. Cheeky spots fruit, she has an uncanny knack for this, i’m then persuaded to collect such fruit, Cheeky then consumes the fruit. Today’s bounty was cherries. I don’t think there’s any fruit that grows on trees here that I haven’t yet plucked, except perhaps for the still ripening grapes and figs we see.

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The day’s walk took us through the picturesque town Hospital de Orbigo with it’s ultra long medieval bridge and it’s adjoining jousting fields. The town made famous by the undefeated Knight who fought fellow Knights from all over Europe on this little field, remaining undefeated and only retiring after 60 odd days of jousting in a row.

Our obligatory coffee over the jousting fields done we marched into our last stage of the day. The weather was hot and whilst the walk was pleasant through barley fields and rows of budding cornfields Cheeky’s knees began to feel the pain. We arrived in the paved and mudwalled town of Villarres de Orbigo to find a gloriously clean, small, friendly and off the beaten path Albergue. A fine end to a good day’s walking. Tomorrow we walk into the chocolate town of Astorga about 14km away. That will be the finish of our 45km test of Cheeky’s knees. We’ve booked a hotel there and will stay for two days before heading onto Sarria by bus for the final 115km stretch.

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Written by backpackingteacher

July 11, 2011 at 10:59 pm

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Day 12: Back to walking the Camino – this time along the Hobbit House Walk

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Yay! Back to walking we go, hi ho, hi ho, hi ho. Hi ho, hi ho it’s off to walk we go, with stick and a shuffle, hi ho, hi ho, hi ho. As you can see I have little people on the mind. There is a reason for this, which I’ll get to in a minute. Firstly though, we’re back to walking the Camino initially to test Cheeky’s still aching, but potentially walkable, knees.

The stretch beyond Leon leading to the little chocolate town of Astorga is perhaps not, except for the bit around Hospital de Orbigo, the prettiest of walks but it is pretty flat and at only 45 km from Leon to Astorga a good test of walking ability. The plan was to break that 45km into 4 easy stretches over 4 days. If Cheeky’s knees do ok here then we will move onto Sarria, which at about 114km is the final, most important stretch, that is recognised by the Catholic church as fulfilling the requirements for the pilgrimage to Santiago. Cheeky really wants to do this section. I know from last time that it’s a beautiful, albeit relatively crowded walk, but it does contain a few ups and downs that will test Cheeky’s knees and her resolve.

So today we started with the intention to walk about 10km. The walk out of Leon is slightly dull but flat. So we walked and walked expecting to find many a coffee shop open. This was Leon we reckoned, a major town, not a sleepy rural village where nothing ever seemed open. Hah! At 8am nothing stirred, at 9am nothing stirred, at 10am one coffee shop stirred but I suspect the owner was breaking an unwritten rule. The one that forbids people doing business. I love Spain, and I especially love that it has a work/life balance the only thing is it often seems this country has forgotten the idea of ‘balance’ in favour of life. Not a bad proposition personally but perhaps not so sound economically. Shops don’t deign to open before 10am and even then don’t seem to care to much about matching the opening time on theirs doors. Post siesta they open again for a few hours but in reality shops seems open for very few hours a day. On the Camino a couple of hundred thirsty, hungry peregrinos pass a day. In Vietnam there’d be a thousand businesses taking advantage of the money walking by. Here in Spain you’re sometimes hard pressed to find a place to sell you coffee. I imagine big cities like Madrid and Barcelona are not like this but walking through rural Spain I’m not overly surprised by Spain’s current economic malaise.

However Spain’s economic malaise is not on my thoughts for long. What I do think about is that the Hobbit House Walk’s hobbit houses have been spruced up a bit since I last walked by. It actually looks like they’re lived in now – perhaps Bilbo’s back in town. In any case I enjoy the little cluster of hobbit houses as they break up the dull suburbia through which we walk.

A few hours walking and we find ourselves in Villa Virgen del Camino – one of our potential first night stops. It’s taken just less than 2 hours to get here. Our pace is good and so we stop for a fantastically large coffee, thankfully I remember the Spanish word for large, thanks to Starbucks we all know it, it’s grande.

At our coffee stop Cheeky declares she feels good so we decide to press on for another 4km’s or do to the next town and Albergue. We’re both feeling good and walking well. I’m especially revelling in the sun shining on my back and doing some excercise with a pack on my back. We finally arrive at the next town to find no one in the Albergue. We think about a hostal or pension but Cheeky says she’s ok to walk on. The next town is 9km on and would make our day a 22km day. An easy enough day on the Camino but double the test we wanted to put Cheeky’s knees to.

We put on some tunes, sunlotioned up, cocked our hats at the appropriate angle (slightly jaunty angle, facing down if you must ask) and strode off toward Villadango del Paramos. The walk was sort of along the roadside si relatively flat. It wasn’t completely unappealing as we managed to purloin some more plums and apples along the way. The plum trees especially seem to grow wild here. And then it happened … Cheeky began to grimace. Then she stopped, rubbed the knee and hobbled on. She stopped again, bit her lip, rubbed the knee and hobbled on. Stop, bite, hobble, you get the idea, this went on for a few km’s and then Cheeky just put the pain aside and walked. And so we arrived in this full little Albergue with it’s very loud American (from the USA so as not to diss all the other North and South Americans out there) peregrino’s. Cheeky says she’s ok. The knees ache but after a little snooze she’s feeling ok. Tomorrow we plan to walk to the picturesque town of Hospital de Orbigo. 12km’s of flat walking. That should be ok for the knee’s – let’s see.
As for me in terms of body – i’m ok, a few muscles aches and a sore’ish right knee but nothing major. I kinda like feeling a bit sore, it makes me realise i’m doing something not overly easy. So far we’ve walked close to 150km I I have no blisters (touch wood). I think that’s due in part to the budding but also because my huge blisters last time caused me to spend sometime researching. Moisture it seems is the key problem. So I used light shoes with ventilation (Geox), light runner’s socks not made of cotton and tons of Vaseline each morning before the walk. It works a wonder – the feet are dry at the end of the day and, so far, blister free.

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Written by backpackingteacher

July 11, 2011 at 2:03 am

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Day 10 & Day 11: Burgos to Leon. On the buses and chinese food Spanish style

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The fields whizz by and the terrain gradually flattens as we leave Burgos. The two hour bus journey makes light of the Camino across the mesetas. I remember two years ago struggling across the wide, hot, wheat fielded expanse. These are the sections of the Camino that test the body’s spirit to keep going. We had no such ardour to endure – I think I may even have slept on the bus. Oh the life of a touragrino, not quite tourist, not quite peregrino. At least we had the decency not to take hard won beds in Albergues.

Leon is a great city with a distinctly different feel to Burgos. The Cathedral, though perhaps not as grandious, feels suitably imposing and yet peaceful. The small streets pull away from the cathedral in numerous directions like strands of wool pulled away by errant kittens. The streets are a strange, eclectic but ultimately workable mix of old and new buildings. We stop to view the world passing and enjoy more Vino Tinto. Watching the world pass by i’m reminded of the guy in the van we met while on our first day’s arduous hike through the Pyrenees. When I’d asked him why he worked on the mountain he said look at the view, at which we both laughed as the rain and mist obscured everything beyond a five metre radius. He then went onto say that when he went to work the world passed by his door and as if to prove his point he pointed to his van door enscribed with that day’s peregrino’s … French and Koreans lead the count but at least 24 other nationalities had passed his door that day.

Leon also saw us try Spanish Chinese dim sum. Nice, slightly familiar but somewhat strange – like a Chinese meal in a David Lynch film. Twin Peaks dim sum if you wil. We enjoyed Leon and our eclectic little hotel Quindos on the edge of the historical area was a pleasant place to fritter away the siesta hours.

Next stop somewhere on the Camino. The plan is to try a little walking towards Astorga, 45km away. Cheeky’s knees are still dodgy but she feels ready to try again thanks to Dr’s Panadol & Ibuprofen.

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July 11, 2011 at 12:28 am

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Day 8: Logroño to Burgos. Day 9: Burgos. Rest, recuperate, pinchos y vino tinto

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The early morning walk to the bus station in Logrono was just a hobble. Cheeky’s knees are still taking sometime to heal so in the meantime we hobble.
Taking a bus through Spain is quite a simple proposition. Find the bus station (the iPhone helps with this) buy ticket, wait for bus, board bus, watch beautiful scenery whizz by. On this particular bus journey we watched the Camino whizz by. Vineyards and rolling hills, wheatfields and straight paths. And then we heard it … Kkrrr… kkrrr… CrunCH! … Kkrrr… kkrrr… CrunCH! … Kkrrr… kkrrr… CrunCH! … Kkrrr… kkrrr… CrunCH! … Kkrrr… kkrrr… CrunCH! This went on for a good hour as the thoughtless couple two sears behind did an impression of birds cracking open sunflower seads on concrete floors. No amount of dirty looks from fellow passengers dissuaded them from their task of getting through that 300kg bag of birdseed in one hour’s bus journey. Aaah, thank god for the iPod.
Finally arrived at Burgos and, after commiserating with the seed eater for how hungry they must have felt (they didn’t get my sense of humour – go figure), we headed into town. We’d booked the 19th century Hotel Norte y Londres on the edge of the old town of Burgos. An inspired choice thanks to tripadvisor. The hotel’s creaky wooden floors and character filled rooms made us feel right at home. Our room looked over the calle heading toward the Cathedral and was the perfect European hotel.

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We rested awhile then went out for pinchos. Fantastic food and bellies filled with beer and wine. Sun shining warmly we headed off to visit the cathedral. Perhaps the most stupendous of churches in Europe each of the nooks or crannies in the enormous cathedral could be a fine church in their own right.

That’s how we spent the two days in Burgos. Wining, dining and me pining, if only a little, for the Camino. We’re enjoying our relaxed sojourn through Northern Spain and I’m certainly enjoying seeing more of the cities that I had little time in two years ago.

As for the Camino? Cheeky is keen to do the last 100km from Sarria. We have decided to test her knees after a few days in Leon (our next stop) by walking slowly from Leon to Astorga. It’s not the prettiest of walks but it’s level and a good place to test if we can still walk. From Astorga, if the legs are good we will bus through several stage before setting out from Sarria. The first 100km and the last 100km. That would encompass the hardest part of the Camino and the most important part of the Camino. Bookmarks to our more relaxed bussed Camino in the middle.

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July 8, 2011 at 1:16 am

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Day 7: Estella to Logroño. A day of fraud a day a day of fun

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I palpable wave of sadness washed through my body a few minutes after the bus moved off. I looked at the side of the road for the camino and it’s walkers and felt my whole body fill with a sense of loss. Walking to the bus, having breakfast planning our next move, buying stuff for lunch had all been fine until the moment I started to head toward Santiago by bus. I felt like I’d given up, that somehow I was cheating, that I wouldn’t get to feel the intense experience that comes with walking the camino. I tried to reconcile matters by saying we had no choice in the matter but it was hard to shake this feeling of loss.

As the bus drove on I found myself searching the countryside for signs of the Camino but also dreading seeing it. Like an addict having to give up an addiction I was finding this bus ride hard. It became harder still when some German peregrino’s we’d met in Orbanos boarded the bus. I didn’t begrudge them taking the bus, how could I when we were, but they seemed to take the bus so easily, as if it were an easy matter not to walk. Then they joked about staying in the albergue when they arrived in Logroño, perhaps even taking the last beds before tired walkers arrived. I know they were joking but I found it hard to take. I dreaded meeting fellow peregrinos. I felt fake taking the bus, somehow sullied by not walking. Very strange to feel this way because I don’t begrudge anyone taking a bus or bicycle, car or even doing the Camino with a tour guide – it’s just that for me the Camino was always about walking.

Be that as it may I tried to put a brave face on it. The Camino was not an option for the time being. Instead Cheeky and I would get the opportunity to bus through done beautiful parts of Spain, staying in little Pensions in ages old cities. As this idea began to seep in I began to reconcile myself with our new style of Camino and I began to enjoy the day.

In Logroño we found a little Pension in the old city with wide open windows looking onto the busy Calle’s below. We headed out for pinchos (tapas) and vino tinto (red wine) and generally just enjoyed the day in each other’s company. Cheeky was in good spirits although her knees still bothered her and the steps of the Pension proved challenging.

We spent the afternoon walking the old town thoroughly enjoying our European experience. I’d obviously been the Europe before but for Cheeky all this was new and I was seeing it all anew through her eyes. Today was a really enjoyable day. I still miss not walking but that hasn’t, and won’t, stop me from enjoying the trip.

Logrono’s old town is quite small but the little Calle’s are filled with great tapas bars which are washed down with the excellent local Riojan wine. How could I not enjoy holidaying here?

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July 6, 2011 at 6:25 am

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Day 6: Cirauqui to Estella. Our Camino changes nature, c’est la camino

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I’m bitterly dissapointed. Cheeky’s knee did not hold up well this morning. It took us three hours to make the 6km journey from Cirauqui to Lorca and Cheeky just hobbled along in pain for most of it. At Curauqui it was time to make the obvious, but difficult call, we needed to stop walking. I’m really gutted by this decision for several reasons, I so looked forward to walking the Camino again, I also so looked forward to sharing this unique experience with Cheeky and now that we’ve stopped walking I miss it already.

That said this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of our Camino. We’re now in Estella after a Camino Angel, so called, but actually just friendly souls who help others in their time of need, gave us a lift into Estella. He’s a tour guide looking after cyclists and was nice enough to help out in a time when we really needed it.

So we’re in Estella and, after having walked via the Church and stolen mulberries from it’s trees we are now ensconced in Hostal Cristal in the old quarter of this delightfully charming old world town. We’ll relax for the rest of the day and decide what to do next.

I’m a bit unsure of our next move but that’s not such a bad thing as it will make life interesting. The key thing is to get Cheeky’s knee back in order. We may bus the rest of the Camino and, if knees allow, walk the last section from Sarria that will still ensure Cheeky receives her Compostela. Other alternatives are to hire a car and turn this into a driving holiday or perhaps just go to France earlier than planned. It’s all up in the air. I’m sad and dissapointed both for myself and Cheeky but these things happen when you decide to go for long walks. We’ve done a 100km in just a few days, that, in itself is an accomplishment.

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July 4, 2011 at 9:53 pm

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