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LIVE from the Camino My first Camino: reflecting on my journey so far.

LuisaR

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances
I thought I’d give an update from the Camino Frances. I’m currently in Boadilla del Camino, heading for Santiago, and reflecting on the last few weeks.
As a bit of background, I’m a 41 year old woman travelling solo (an experienced Camino friend came with me for the first 3 days (St Jean to Pamplona) to get me on my way but since then I have been solo).

So far, the Camino has been an exceptional experience for me. I didn’t have a specific reason for coming, but it has been something that has lurked for many years in the background and I have felt a huge pull to do it. I knew at some point in my life I would go, and a fairly snap decision found me in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in July.

I have a very busy and sometimes stressful job in London which I dedicate my entire life to, but very fortunately, I have an extensive summer break. The busyness of the job meant that I didn’t prepare very well for this trip: I bought everything apart from my shoes online and I barely trained. I came with the attitude of giving the Camino a try, and if it didn’t workout, I could go home, and perhaps try again another time, if I wanted to.

Pre-departure: London Kings Cross, Paris, Bayonne, St-Jean-Pied-de-Port

To get to St-Jean, we stayed overnight in a hotel in London Kings Cross to catch an early morning Eurostar to Paris. We hung out in Paris for a few hours, and then caught a train to Bayonne on the same afternoon. We stayed overnight in Bayonne, and then the next afternoon, caught a train to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. We had booked everything in advance for the journey (tickets and accommodation) and we had a really smooth run.

Having carried my rucksack from London to Bayonne, I realised it wasn’t a great fit. It was pinching and wasn’t sitting on my hips correctly. After readjusting it a million times and trying to make it work, I made the decision to buy another one. It felt like a huge waste as it was a brand new rucksack, but I couldn’t start my Camino in this state. I had a wonderful rucksack at home and knew how it should fit, but unfortunately it was too big to bring.

So, with only 90 mins to spare for the train from Bayonne to St Jean, we found a sports shop in Bayonne. As we approached, they were closing the shutters for their siesta, but they must have noticed the despairing look on my face as they opened up again and were so kind and helpful. They allowed me to try so many rucksacks and we spent time weighting each and every one. Despite it being their siesta time, they didn’t rush me at all, and I will be forever grateful to the staff at Peytavin Sport in Bayonne! I cried when we walked out - out of relief that I was going to be OK, but also because of their kindness. I left the staff with my old, but pretty much brand new woman’s Osprey rucksack - I hope they can put it to good use, either for their benefit or for someone else’s.

We walked straight to the train station and soon found ourselves in St-Jean. At this point, we were in the middle of the heatwave (over 40 degrees) and when arriving at 3:30pm it was unbearably hot. I was anxious about the heat, and vowed to my friend that we would avoid walking in these temperatures at all costs!

I will update more on my first Camino day from St-Jean soon!
 
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Currently in Albergue Parroquial Santa Maria in Carrión de los Condes waiting for the washing machine to finish….

So, to Day 1 of my journey from St-Jean….

I hardly slept at all the night before; I was worried about pretty much everything I could possibly conjure up. The main ones being: lack of training, using a new rucksack, not totally happy with my walking shoes, the heatwave, and lots more….I did a huge amount of reading online that evening about the difficulty level of walking from St Jean to Roncesvalles and I was desperate to find bloggers who had said it wasn’t too difficult (didn’t have much luck) and also trying to find some hints and tips on how to get through it.

As I couldn’t sleep, I decided to watch ‘The Way’ as I hadn’t seen it. Not the best film I’ve watched, but I did find it quite motivational. The soundtrack included music by the Galician folk band Berrogüetto which I really enjoyed, so I subsequently downloaded some of their music to listen to on my journey.

Eventually I fell asleep, and we woke at around 4.30am for a 5.15am start. The temperatures were so high that day - going into the late 30’s, so we needed to make an early start to avoid as much of the heat as we could.

The walk was magnificent and one I’ll never forget; my nerves and adrenaline got me through. When we arrived at Orrison I was delirious and emotional. The sun had just risen, and sitting on the wooden decking having a drink and a sandwich, looking at the stunning view was magical.
The day before, the lovely man in the pilgrim office in St-Jean, I thought, had implied that after Orrison it got easier. For me, it definitely didn’t! I think I wasn’t mentally prepared for many more steep uphills, and as the day wore on and it got hotter, I did find it challenging, but totally bearable. I took it really slowly, stopping regularly on ascents for a minute to catch my breath and have some water.

The food truck was a welcome sight as I had run out of water, and also because I knew we had reached the top!

Descending into Ronscevalles was frustratingly long for me and my feet were really swelling in the heat and I felt like they were suddenly too big for my shoes. My hands and feet suffer in both hot and cold weather, and that day was no exception.

My lovely friend had booked us a wonderful hotel in Roncesvalles (on his previous camino 13 years before, he had stayed in donation only hostels, so he wanted to do it differently until Pamplona). We washed our clothes, had a delicious meal and went to the pilgrims mass. There’s lots of standing up and sitting down in these services, and I let out involuntary groans every time the priest indicated that we had to move.

I slept really well that night - not without anxiety as I knew that just because Day 1 was down, everything wouldn’t necessarily be OK, but I was certainly relieved it was over!
 
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Thanks for sharing, looking forward to more, peregrina!
 
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
Currently in Albergue Parroquial Santa Maria in Carrión de los Condes waiting for the washing machine to finish….

So, to Day 1 of my journey from St-Jean….

I hardly slept at all the night before; I was worried about pretty much everything I could possibly conjure up. The main ones being: lack of training, using a new rucksack, not totally happy with my walking shoes, the heatwave, and lots more….I did a huge amount of reading online that evening about the difficulty level of walking from St Jean to Roncesvalles and I was desperate to find bloggers who had said it wasn’t too difficult (didn’t have much luck) and also trying to find some hints and tips on how to get through it.

As I couldn’t sleep, I decided to watch ‘The Way’ as I hadn’t seen it. Not the best film I’ve watched, but I did find it quite motivational. The soundtrack included music by the Galician folk band Berrogüetto which I really enjoyed, so I subsequently downloaded some of their music to listen to on my journey.

Eventually I fell asleep, and we woke at around 4.30am for a 5.15am start. The temperatures were so high that day - going into the late 30’s, so we needed to make an early start to avoid as much of the heat as we could.

The walk was magnificent and one I’ll never forget; my nerves and adrenaline got me through. When we arrived at Orrison I was delirious and emotional. The sun had just risen, and sitting on the wooden decking having a drink and a sandwich, looking at the stunning view was magical.
The day before, the lovely man in the pilgrim office in St-Jean, I thought, had implied that after Orrison it got easier. For me, it definitely didn’t! I think I wasn’t mentally prepared for many more steep uphills, and as the day wore on and it got hotter, I did find it challenging, but totally bearable. I took it really slowly, stopping regularly on ascents for a minute to catch my breath and have some water.

The food truck was a welcome sight as I had run out of water, and also because I knew we had reached the top!

Descending into Ronscevalles was frustratingly long for me and my feet were really swelling in the heat and I felt like they were suddenly too big for my shoes. My hands and feet suffer in both hot and cold weather, and that day was no exception.

My lovely friend had booked us a wonderful hotel in Roncesvalles (on his previous camino 13 years before, he had stayed in donation only hostels, so he wanted to do it differently until Pamplona). We washed our clothes, had a delicious meal and went to the pilgrims mass. There’s lots of standing up and sitting down in these services, and I let out involuntary groans every time the priest indicated that we had to move.

I slept really well that night - not without anxiety as I knew that just because Day 1 was down, everything wouldn’t necessarily be OK, but I was certainly relieved it was over!
Thanks LuisaR, I’m greatly enjoying your story and am looking forward to following your journey. The Camino has been a life-changing experience for me; perhaps it will be for you, too.

Buen Camino!
 
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
I’m currently in Calzadilla de la Cueza: some of you might recall the bar-less, fountain-less and shade-less 17km of Camino I have just walked!

@Kanga : I’ll attach a photo of my rucksack. It’s a mens Osprey Exos 38L.

I’m going to post about Day 2 & Day 3 in this thread, as they kind of blur together into two days of pain!

Day 2: Roncesvalles - Zubiri
I slept so soundly and we woke at 5am to get an early start and beat the heat. We didn’t bother with breakfast as we knew that it wouldn’t be too long before the first bar stop - this has been a routine that I have maintained so far on my Camino journey.
I felt pretty good physically - a little sore but not too bad, and putting my shoes on (Men’s Merrell’s Moab 2 Ventilator) wasn’t as horrendous as I thought it was going to be. We walked out into the pitch black, and I remember thinking that this was all totally bonkers but utterly brilliant.
It wasn’t long before my feet started to swell and ache again. I was also very annoyed that there were more inclines - I thought we’d done all of that yesterday?
The next thing I remember was being at the food truck where you’re supposed to leave your underwear (I didn’t) and bracing myself for the steep decent into Zubiri. I was already anxious about it as my apps had said that it was challenging, and I still maintain that this has been, for me, the most technically demanding and challenging part of my Camino so far.
I honestly can’t comprehend how people can do it when it’s wet - the smooth slate-like stones are impossible to grip into. So, I have to admit I wasn’t in the best of moods, and was so relieved when we crossed the bridge into Zubiri.
My friend, Willem, had again booked a wonderful hotel with a lovely owner and the happiest baby we had ever seen.
Whilst I showered, Willem went to the bar and came back with gigantic cheese and bacon rolls, we had a nap, wandered around the very small town, dipped our feet in the river and went to the supermarket for our dinner. We sat in the hotel garden with our gazpacho, bread and beer and had an early night.
Just before going to bed, I showed Willem the soles of my feet and said ‘do I have any blisters?’. The look on his face said it all…..my painful feet were due to epic blisters on both my little toes. They were being squished inside my shoe, and in exactly the same place on both, there were gigantic, multiple blisters. They were huge, and one of them was filled with blood. Willem persuaded me to pop them - he offered to do it but I didn’t trust him, so I got out my needle and I hacked away. They were agony, and I was devastated that my feet were in this sorry state and really worried about getting through the next day.

Day 3: Zubiri - Pamplona
I really can’t remember much about this walk: I recall being furious (again) that there were more inclines, and finding the final 10km really challenging because of my mangled feet. As usual, we took every opportunity to stop at a bar for a rest and a drink. I had covered my little toes in compede, and for a while this helped with the pain management.
Upon approaching Pamplona, I was using my sticks to take so much of the weight off of them, and just as we hit the outskirts of the city, we sat on a bench and I ditched the shoes and put on my flip flops. A few other weary pilgrims eventually gathered at the same spot, and I have to admit that there’s a little bit of relief and comfort when other people are in an equally terrible state as you!
I flip-flopped into the city and our first stop was pinchos and beer on Calle de la Estafeta. Willem had booked an apartment, amazingly enough on the very same street, so we went to meet the owner outside our accommodation.
Whilst waiting for the owner to arrive I was slumped against the wall, exhausted, and looking up towards the very tall, narrow building I said to Willem ‘we’d better not be on the top floor, and if we are, there had better be a lift in there’. Around 30 seconds later, the owner turned up and cheerfully informed us we were on the top floor and there wasn’t a lift….
After moaning and swearing up the substantial staircase (5 floors), we were pleased to be in a lovely one bedroom apartment. Willem, being the generous and kind man that he is, agreed to take the sofa bed in the lounge. Then followed the usual routine of clothes washing, a quick nap, and then out into the city to sort my feet.
The first stop was Caminoteca - a shop dedicated to everything a pilgrim might need. The guy must make a fortune from us underprepared and damaged pilgrims who have massacred our bodies for the past 3 days.
I knew I couldn’t wear my Merrell’s for a while and was adamant that I wanted some open-toe walking sandals. I showed the owner my feet and explained what the problem was - I could tell it was something that he’d seen countless times before! It was perfect timing to try shoes as my feet were still very swollen and the blisters were pure agony when my toes were constrained. This scenario would have been impossible to replicate when I was fitting my Merrells in Cotswold Camping back in the UK!
I settled on some open-toe mens Teva sandals, two sizes larger than my usual size. I also bought some toecaps for my little toes (not worn them since buying as haven’t needed to) and some bandages & tape for my blisters (given these to pilgrims in need over the last couple of weeks).
Buying these sandals was a turning point in my journey, as I have been blister and pain free since!
Although I was pleased with the sandals, I wasn’t so happy about the extra money I had spent, both with the €180 new rucksack I’d bought a few days before, and now the €100 Teva’s - thank goodness I had brought my credit card! But I felt like part of the journey, especially as a first timer, was finding the perfect external tools that almost become an extension of your body.
We then had a trip to the chemist; I had read on Google reviews that Farmacia Central had a super helpful pharmacist who spoke excellent English and this turned out to be true. I stocked up on more compede, antiseptic spray, mosquito repellent, mosquito relief cream and more sun cream (most of this I have barely used since buying and just gave me extra weight to carry).
So in a much happier mood, we wandered around the city and ate many more pinchos washed down with a lot more vino blanco!
Once back at the apartment and a little inebriated, I let Willem loose with the scissors and he got all of the compede off of my toes so I could give them the ventilation that they very much needed.
Willem was flying out of Pamplona the next day to start his Pilgrimage in Italy, and I was devastated (and terrified) that I would be losing my wonderful travel companion.75A97AC5-9D45-4743-9BA8-6515B32EC0EB.jpeg
 
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I’m currently in Sahagún, having walked through the half-way point between Roncesvalles - Santiago, and collecting a certificate (just in case I don’t make it to Santiago!).

Day 4: Rest day in Pamplona and lots of tears.
I had been dreading this day as it was time to say goodbye to my wonderful friend, Willem. Willem and I have known each other for around 5 years, have become closer in the last 2, and the last 3 days of the Camino had brought us even closer. Willem is an experienced walker (he was flying out of Pamplona to start a Camino in Italy), and he did everything he possibly could to help me through the first three days of my Camino Frances. He was so patient, kind, caring and generous, as well as wonderful company, and I was utterly devastated that he was leaving me. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to survive without him and felt very anxious about how I’d be able to continue alone.
After a Mexican breakfast in a bar, we walked to the bus station and I waved goodbye, sobbing.
Then survival mode kicked in.
Although I have travelled extensively, many times alone, I had never taken on this kind of adventure as a solo traveller. I was having a huge crisis of confidence about my walking ability, my new sandals, my blistered feet, the walking distances, accommodation along the camino, walking alone, whether I would find common ground with people……and more….

I had booked a hotel room in Pamplona and I spent hours working out my plan of action.
I decided that for a week I’d take it really easy and do shorter distances: I wanted to ease in the new Teva sandals, and it would also help build my confidence in my walking ability. Although Willem and I had just completed 3 days of quite extensive walking, I didn’t want to continue immediately with these distances on my own. My goal was (and still is) to get to Santiago, so I made a decision to be very careful and cautious in how I was going to achieve this.
I received a text from my mother who was really concerned about the heat: there were red warnings for a heatwave in the UK - schools were closing and all over the news was ‘risk of death’ warnings…..but it was even hotter in Pamplona. The weather the following day was to reach 44 Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) and my gut instinct was not to walk. I wasn’t too keen on having another day off in Pamplona as I had the urge to get going, but I also wanted to stay alive!
I remember reading on this forum that a walking guide advised not to walk in that heat, so quite frankly I was scared.
If I was going to walk the following day I’d need to leave ridiculously early (like 4am!) to avoid the obscene temperatures, but I was then anxious about walking out of Pamplona as a solo female in the pitch dark. I saw that exiting the city went through a city park which I wasn’t keen on. Would I walk through a city park at night in London? Absolutely not, so I wasn’t going to do the same in Pamplona.
In the midst of the hours of angst, I had a brain wave: as a compromise, I would walk to Cizur Menor the following day (just 5KM out of Pamplona) and stay there that night, which at least got me out of the city and on my way to my next stop, which I had decided would be Uterga.
Having a plan in place calmed me somewhat, so I went out to explore more of Pamplona and paid a visit to the cathedral.
 
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I’m really enjoying your updates! Having experienced similar little toe problems in 2019 as a similarly Ill-prepared-‘busy’-but-keen Londoner, I’m keen to hear how you’ve faired!
We head off again on Sunday and I already have my tevas on standby!
 
I’m currently enjoying a beer in Calzadilla de los Hermanillos feeling very fresh after only a short walk from Sahagún.

Day 5: Heatwave - Pamplona - Cizur Menor

I woke up motivated and ready to execute my plan: phone to double-check that the Order of Malta Hostel was open (I’d read some conflicting things online), have some breakfast and then walk 5KM up the hill to Cizur Menor for 12pm.

The hostel verified that they were indeed open, so I packed up my bag and went for a late breakfast in Pamplona.

My new Teva sandals were feeling good and my feet had healed well. Following the advice of the Caminoteca owner, I wore them with my merino wool socks. I couldn’t care less what I looked like - all I cared about was being healthy and happy, but my foot attire really did get some funny looks in Pamplona, firstly because it did look ridiculous, and secondly, because it was SO hot.

As I was eating my breakfast, a lady came out of a hotel and spotted me and my shell dressed rucksack. She came over to wish me a ‘Buon Camino’ and asked about my plans. I told her that I was feeling anxious about the heatwave, and also because I was suddenly travelling solo. She then told me that her Camino journey had ended. She had tried to walk out of Pamplona and hadn’t been able to cope with the heat, carrying her rucksack, and staying in accommodation which was so hot. She was going to fly to Scotland to do some walking, and come back to Spain and attempt the Camino when it was cooler. Although it was lovely chatting to her, it didn’t help me with my anxiety!

So at about 11am, I left Pamplona and began the hours walk up to Cizur Menor. The temperature was already in the late 30’s by then, so I was really glad that I hadn’t attempted my first long, solo walk that day.

The hospilatero at the Order of Malta Hostel was very welcoming and I was relieved to be out of Pamplona and on my way, even by just this short distance. There were already other arrivals, and more came in throughout the day. It was soon lunchtime, and I found a really decent restaurant in Cizur Menor. A local chatted to me in perfect English - I couldn’t believe that he was Spanish as he barely had an accent, but after suspecting that he might be the village drunk and all he wanted to do was to tell me how I should be living my life, I went back to the hostel.

The hostel is attached to the church, and as it was so hot, all of the pilgrims ended up congregating in the church to keep cool.
We mostly sat in silence and it was a really special moment for me. At one point, a French pilgrim sang a sacred hymn or song, and it was incredibly moving.

Since the start of the Camino, I have often found myself overcome with emotion and on the verge of tears, and this was another of those occasions.

That evening, a few of us sat outside to drink and eat together. I met some very special people, most of whom I haven’t seen since that day, but the memory of them has remained with me since.

Later on in the evening, a blind Italian couple turned up with their young guide. They had been walking for the entire day in the scorching temperatures, and I had nothing but admiration for them. Again, the tears welled!

We all discussed our plans for the following morning and every single one of us wanted to leave really early to avoid the heat. We agreed 5.30am, only to discover that the hostel locked the doors at night and wouldn’t open them again until 6.30am! I was a bit perturbed by this - with reports of forest fires not massively far away, being locked in an unstaffed hostel next to a field didn’t impress me. We enquired about sleeping in the church, but again, we would be locked in.
An experienced Spanish peregrino advised us not to argue about this - he had witnessed a huge fight breaking out in a different hostel regarding the same issue.

I had the best nights sleep in my first mixed dorm! I found it quite funny that every time the man in the bunk above me turned over, so did I, involuntarily! One peregrino was ousted as a prolific snorer and funnily enough, his name was brought up a couple of weeks ago, but surprisingly and luckily, I didn’t hear a thing.
 
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I’m currently in Calzadilla de la Cueza: some of you might recall the bar-less, fountain-less and shade-less 17km of Camino I have just walked!

@Kanga : I’ll attach a photo of my rucksack. It’s a mens Osprey Exos 38L.

I’m going to post about Day 2 & Day 3 in this thread, as they kind of blur together into two days of pain!

Day 2: Roncesvalles - Zubiri
I slept so soundly and we woke at 5am to get an early start and beat the heat. We didn’t bother with breakfast as we knew that it wouldn’t be too long before the first bar stop - this has been a routine that I have maintained so far on my Camino journey.
I felt pretty good physically - a little sore but not too bad, and putting my shoes on (Men’s Merrell’s Moab 2 Ventilator) wasn’t as horrendous as I thought it was going to be. We walked out into the pitch black, and I remember thinking that this was all totally bonkers but utterly brilliant.
It wasn’t long before my feet started to swell and ache again. I was also very annoyed that there were more inclines - I thought we’d done all of that yesterday?
The next thing I remember was being at the food truck where you’re supposed to leave your underwear (I didn’t) and bracing myself for the steep decent into Zubiri. I was already anxious about it as my apps had said that it was challenging, and I still maintain that this has been, for me, the most technically demanding and challenging part of my Camino so far.
I honestly can’t comprehend how people can do it when it’s wet - the smooth slate-like stones are impossible to grip into. So, I have to admit I wasn’t in the best of moods, and was so relieved when we crossed the bridge into Zubiri.
My friend, Willem, had again booked a wonderful hotel with a lovely owner and the happiest baby we had ever seen.
Whilst I showered, Willem went to the bar and came back with gigantic cheese and bacon rolls, we had a nap, wandered around the very small town, dipped our feet in the river and went to the supermarket for our dinner. We sat in the hotel garden with our gazpacho, bread and beer and had an early night.
Just before going to bed, I showed Willem the soles of my feet and said ‘do I have any blisters?’. The look on his face said it all…..my painful feet were due to epic blisters on both my little toes. They were being squished inside my shoe, and in exactly the same place on both, there were gigantic, multiple blisters. They were huge, and one of them was filled with blood. Willem persuaded me to pop them - he offered to do it but I didn’t trust him, so I got out my needle and I hacked away. They were agony, and I was devastated that my feet were in this sorry state and really worried about getting through the next day.

Day 3: Zubiri - Pamplona
I really can’t remember much about this walk: I recall being furious (again) that there were more inclines, and finding the final 10km really challenging because of my mangled feet. As usual, we took every opportunity to stop at a bar for a rest and a drink. I had covered my little toes in compede, and for a while this helped with the pain management.
Upon approaching Pamplona, I was using my sticks to take so much of the weight off of them, and just as we hit the outskirts of the city, we sat on a bench and I ditched the shoes and put on my flip flops. A few other weary pilgrims eventually gathered at the same spot, and I have to admit that there’s a little bit of relief and comfort when other people are in an equally terrible state as you!
I flip-flopped into the city and our first stop was pinchos and beer on Calle de la Estafeta. Willem had booked an apartment, amazingly enough on the very same street, so we went to meet the owner outside our accommodation.
Whilst waiting for the owner to arrive I was slumped against the wall, exhausted, and looking up towards the very tall, narrow building I said to Willem ‘we’d better not be on the top floor, and if we are, there had better be a lift in there’. Around 30 seconds later, the owner turned up and cheerfully informed us we were on the top floor and there wasn’t a lift….
After moaning and swearing up the substantial staircase (5 floors), we were pleased to be in a lovely one bedroom apartment. Willem, being the generous and kind man that he is, agreed to take the sofa bed in the lounge. Then followed the usual routine of clothes washing, a quick nap, and then out into the city to sort my feet.
The first stop was Caminoteca - a shop dedicated to everything a pilgrim might need. The guy must make a fortune from us underprepared and damaged pilgrims who have massacred our bodies for the past 3 days.
I knew I couldn’t wear my Merrell’s for a while and was adamant that I wanted some open-toe walking sandals. I showed the owner my feet and explained what the problem was - I could tell it was something that he’d seen countless times before! It was perfect timing to try shoes as my feet were still very swollen and the blisters were pure agony when my toes were constrained. This scenario would have been impossible to replicate when I was fitting my Merrells in Cotswold Camping back in the UK!
I settled on some open-toe mens Teva sandals, two sizes larger than my usual size. I also bought some toecaps for my little toes (not worn them since buying as haven’t needed to) and some bandages & tape for my blisters (given these to pilgrims in need over the last couple of weeks).
Buying these sandals was a turning point in my journey, as I have been blister and pain free since!
Although I was pleased with the sandals, I wasn’t so happy about the extra money I had spent, both with the €180 new rucksack I’d bought a few days before, and now the €100 Teva’s - thank goodness I had brought my credit card! But I felt like part of the journey, especially as a first timer, was finding the perfect external tools that almost become an extension of your body.
We then had a trip to the chemist; I had read on Google reviews that Farmacia Central had a super helpful pharmacist who spoke excellent English and this turned out to be true. I stocked up on more compede, antiseptic spray, mosquito repellent, mosquito relief cream and more sun cream (most of this I have barely used since buying and just gave me extra weight to carry).
So in a much happier mood, we wandered around the city and ate many more pinchos washed down with a lot more vino blanco!
Once back at the apartment and a little inebriated, I let Willem loose with the scissors and he got all of the compede off of my toes so I could give them the ventilation that they very much needed.
Willem was flying out of Pamplona the next day to start his Pilgrimage in Italy, and I was devastated (and terrified) that I would be losing my wonderful travel companion.View attachment 130549
We stayed in that same hotel in Zubiri! Wonderful! Weren’t smart enough to go get food so we starved till dinner!
 
Be part of the Camino Cleanup team! Help us pick up litter from Ponferrada to Sarria.
I’m currently enjoying a beer in Calzadilla de los Hermanillos feeling very fresh after only a short walk from Sahagún.

Day 5: Heatwave - Pamplona - Cizur Menor

I woke up motivated and ready to execute my plan: phone to double-check that the Order of Malta Hostel was open (I’d read some conflicting things online), have some breakfast and then walk 5KM up the hill to Cizur Menor for 12pm.

The hostel verified that they were indeed open, so I packed up my bag and went for a late breakfast in Pamplona.

My new Teva sandals were feeling good and my feet had healed well. Following the advice of the Caminoteca owner, I wore them with my merino wool socks. I couldn’t care less what I looked like - all I cared about was being healthy and happy, but my foot attire really did get some funny looks in Pamplona, firstly because it did look ridiculous, and secondly, because it was SO hot.

As I was eating my breakfast, a lady came out of a hotel and spotted me and my shell dressed rucksack. She came over to wish me a ‘Buon Camino’ and asked about my plans. I told her that I was feeling anxious about the heatwave, and also because I was suddenly travelling solo. She then told me that her Camino journey had ended. She had tried to walk out of Pamplona and hadn’t been able to cope with the heat, carrying her rucksack, and staying in accommodation which was so hot. She was going to fly to Scotland to do some walking, and come back to Spain and attempt the Camino when it was cooler. Although it was lovely chatting to her, it didn’t help me with my anxiety!

So at about 11am, I left Pamplona and began the hours walk up to Cizur Menor. The temperature was already in the late 30’s by then, so I was really glad that I hadn’t attempted my first long, solo walk that day.

The hospilatero at the Order of Malta Hostel was very welcoming and I was relieved to be out of Pamplona and on my way, even by just this short distance. There were already other arrivals, and more came in throughout the day. It was soon lunchtime, and I found a really decent restaurant in Cizur Menor. A local chatted to me in perfect English - I couldn’t believe that he was Spanish as he barely had an accent, but after suspecting that he might be the village drunk and all he wanted to do was to tell me how I should be living my life, I went back to the hostel.

The hostel is attached to the church, and as it was so hot, all of the pilgrims ended up congregating in the church to keep cool.
We mostly sat in silence and it was a really special moment for me. At one point, a French pilgrim sang a sacred hymn or song, and it was incredibly moving.

Since the start of the Camino, I have often found myself overcome with emotion and on the verge of tears, and this was another of those occasions.

That evening, a few of us sat outside to drink and eat together. I met some very special people, most of whom I haven’t seen since that day, but the memory of them has remained with me since.

Later on in the evening, a blind Italian couple turned up with their young guide. They had been walking for the entire day in the scorching temperatures, and I had nothing but admiration for them. Again, the tears welled!

We all discussed our plans for the following morning and every single one of us wanted to leave really early to avoid the heat. We agreed 5.30am, only to discover that the hostel locked the doors at night and wouldn’t open them again until 6.30am! I was a bit perturbed by this - with reports of forest fires not massively far away, being locked in an unstaffed hostel next to a field didn’t impress me. We enquired about sleeping in the church, but again, we would be locked in.
An experienced Spanish peregrino advised us not to argue about this - he had witnessed a huge fight breaking out in a different hostel regarding the same issue.

I had the best nights sleep in my first mixed dorm! I found it quite funny that every time the man in the bunk above me turned over, so did I, involuntarily! One peregrino was ousted as a prolific snorer and funnily enough, his name was brought up a couple of weeks ago, but surprisingly and luckily, I didn’t hear a thing.
Just want you to know that I am enjoying reading your Camino. You write very well and I am looking forward to reading your journey. Thank you for sharing.
 
I’ve been in Mansilla de las Mulas for a few hours and have had a look around. It’s Sunday, so it’s really quiet here.

Day 6: Cizur Menor to Uterga 12.02km

I did say that I was going to take it easy from Pamplona with the distances! I had planned to do 17km from Pamplona, but I’d made a head start by staying in Cizur Menor.

I didn’t do a great job packing my bag the night before because we were enjoying ourselves far too much outside! By the time we came in it was 10pm and some pilgrims were asleep, so I didn’t want to start rustling around with my bag.

At 5.30am, nearly all of us in my room, bar 1 or 2 were getting going to leave before the 40C heat kicked in, so I moved my bag into a different room to pack. There was nobody in this room, nor was there anybody in the adjoining room (I triple checked!) so I switched the light on, only for a peregrino to come charging in to tell me to turn the light off as he thought I’d wake people. Not wanting an argument, I obediently switched it off only for someone else to walk past and switch it on again so I was waiting for a row to kick-off!

I was the first in the group to set off. It was still dark but I took comfort in knowing that there were people a short distance behind me. It wasn’t too long before an Italian man who I had been talking to the night before was walking with me.

This man was really brave – he had suffered a stroke on a previous Camino so obviously didn’t complete it, and now he was back to do the whole Camino again - incredible! Despite being at least two decades older than me, he walked a brisk pace.

As the sun rose, I revelled in the beauty of my surroundings. The walk leading up to Alto de Perdón is a stunning one, and I was introduced to the beautiful spectacle of fields of sunflowers which have become a near daily occurrence since.

We soon reached Zariquiegui but it was far too early for anything to be open. Before ascending Alto de Perdón, I got attacked by a hornet whilst I swapped my shoes from my Teva’s to Merrell’s as I wasn’t yet sure how me and my Teva’s would fair on strenuous climbs. My feet had healed now, and with lovely big fat callous’ under each little toe, my feet had moulded into the shape they needed to be for my Merrell’s.

I took the ascent slowly and I encouraged my Italian friend to carry on ahead. He seemed a little reluctant to be on his own, and I wondered whether he was afraid of a repeat occurrence from his last Camino, or perhaps he just enjoyed company!

I had been worried about this ascent - looking back, I’m not sure why - it was easy, enjoyable and quick! I couldn’t believe it when I saw the monument at the top! I felt really proud of myself, and suddenly realised that after the descent, I’d be in Uterga and it wasn’t even 9am! Having lots of time meant that I could sit and enjoy the views, environment, and essence of my surroundings. It was a beautiful morning, and I sat and watched other pilgrims come and go. I was delighted when my pilgrim friends from Cizur Menor arrived; we sat and chatted, shared dates and oranges, and I felt really grateful and fortunate to be there, in that moment.

It occurred to me that I would lose my new found friends shortly, as they were continuing on after Uterga and it was unlikely that I would see them again. I have found that most people stick to the traditional stages, and as I go mostly off-piste with these, meeting and walking with different people has occurred on an almost daily basis.

The descent into Uterga required a bit of concentration, but certainly nothing like the Zubiri descent. As the descent eased, a topless man on horseback was racing up the field next to me in the opposite direction and it took my breath away; I felt like I was in a movie scene!

We had breakfast at Camino del Perdón, and I waved my friends off, hoping I’d see them again sometime soon (I didn’t!).

As soon as the hostel opened I was in there having a shower, washing my clothes and relaxing in the garden. I signed up for the pilgrims meal that evening and had a slightly awkward solo traveller experience: when I got to dinner, everyone was already seated at tables and there wasn’t any space for me to join them. Everyone was in families or couples so I felt a little lost, and someone directed me to a table on my own in an adjoining room. I’ve never had a problem eating on my own, but this was a slightly different scenario with all the pilgrims enjoying a communal meal and I’m just looking on! Fortunately, the hostel manager came to my rescue, and put me back in the main room, and a kind Peregrino helped to move a table so I could join everyone. I chatted to an English couple who shared so much common ground with me about where we lived, studied and worked, so it was lovely meeting them.

I went to bed in a very large dorm and once again, slept soundly and contently.
 
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The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
I’m currently in León, post shower, resting my legs before the cathedral opens this evening and I will meet a fellow Peregrina who was a day ahead of me.

Day 7: Uterga - Cirauqui: 14.72km

Another hot day and another short walk!

Up until now, I always left in the early mornings with fellow pilgrims; Willem was with me for 3 days, and after this in Cizur Menor, we all left at pretty much the same time….. but this morning was different. I didn’t have anyone to set off with in the dark and I was very anxious and nervous.
Generally, I prefer to walk on my own, but at this stage in my Camino journey, I wasn’t confident enough to set off into the dark mornings and wander through the Spanish countryside completely solo.
Another issue I have is that I made the wrong decision by not packing my glasses! At home I wear daily contact lenses but I didn’t want to bring these as it would take up too much space, so I only brought my prescription sunglasses and left my regular glasses at home, again to save space. What I failed to anticipate is that it doesn’t get light in Spain until 7am in the summer, and also, it would be so hot that I’d need to leave in the dark to arrive at my destination before midday (or when it was super hot, by 11am!). In the darkness of the early morning, I couldn’t wear my sunglasses (I do occasionally try, but funnily enough, it just makes everything darker!) so I couldn’t see the Camino signs to point me in the right direction.

As I hadn’t met anyone who was walking out early from Uterga, I started to hone my technique of loitering in hostel foyers, waiting for someone to leave so I can surreptitiously follow them!

A French couple were packing up at the same time as me - I had struck gold! They left, and I followed them soon after. They walked significantly slower than me, so I had to ease my pace to stay behind them.

Now that I’m writing all of this, I can’t believe I didn’t just say to them that I needed to follow them because of my bad eyesight; I’m sure they would’ve been really understanding!

Reflecting back, even when it got light, I wasn’t keen on walking completely alone at this point in my Camino. I would always feel better knowing that someone was not too far in front or behind, and whilst that’s still somewhat true, the fear has now gone (I walked for 4.5 hours yesterday along a Roman road without seeing a soul!).

I spoke briefly to the couple as we passed each other a few times, and they told me they were walking from Le Puy and had been with their donkey, but it was too difficult to maintain so the donkey had now gone. I think they implied that it had gone home, but how on earth did that happen? Did it just trot back home on its own? I said to the man ‘why did you bring a donkey?’ and he replied ‘why not?’. Fair enough!

Now, this might be complete paranoia, but I don’t think the man liked me trailing behind them; in hindsight, it probably was a bit unnerving!

I remember a highlight of this walk was leaving Muruzabel (I think!), and a wonderful view on an easy descent.

One thing I missed was the detour to St Mary of Eunate, and this is on my list of things I will do when I walk this Camino again (which, at the moment, I am wholly convinced will be happening!). Looking back, I could’ve easily done this detour, but at the time I wasn’t confident enough in my walking ability and blister potential.

I soon reached Puente La Reina and very much enjoyed walking through this beautiful town; again, on my next Camino I will stay here for a night so I have more time to explore.

The approach to my final stop: Cirauqui was wonderful. The town looked so picturesque from a distance, and it is indeed a beautiful place.

The trouble with leaving early and walking short distances is that you arrive at your stop at around 11am. The pros are that you miss the high temperatures, you have more time to explore the town, and more time to rest and recuperate, but the main con is you can be hanging out in a bar for a little bit too long, waiting for your hostel to open!

I walked up and down a steep road in Cirauqui far too many times, got my stamp under the arch by the town hall, and then sat in the one bar that seemed to be open and had a sandwich and beer. I met an American lady who was struggling with the heat, and as she had booked her Camino with a company, they were coming to her rescue and were picking her up to drive her to Estella.

I stayed at Casa Maralotx that evening, which is a wonderful Albergue in Cirauqui. It has a beautiful terrace, and a lot of care, attention and detail has gone into the decor of the entire Albergue. A French family who had been at the same hostel with me the night before were also staying, and I also met a Danish couple who were walking the Camino in the opposite direction to us all!

I thought that I had lucked out and had a bunk room to myself but at about 6pm, I heard a couple arrive and ask if there were any beds available….they had walked all the way from Pamplona - quite a feat!

We all had a delicious meal together at the Albergue - wonderful home cooked food which included lots of home grown and local vegetables!

Another night of great sleep, and in the morning I was surprised to see that the German couple had gone - I hadn’t heard a thing. Since that day, I have aspired to depart as silently as them!
 
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Your days 6 and 7 are almost exactly my planned days 1 and 2 for next year (the only difference being I will start day 1 in Pamplona). So I am enjoying the preview of my own walk through your eyes. I look forward to reading more,
 
I am currently in Villar de Mazarife. An emotional, enjoyable and easy walk from León.

Day 8: Cirauque to Estella 14.16km

I felt confident about leaving on my own today, but only because I knew that the masses would be walking through from Puente La Reina which was only a couple of towns behind me. It wasn’t necessary to leave super early as I was only walking a short distance, and I timed it perfectly to find the pilgrims from Puente La Reina were walking through Cirauqui as I left - I felt safe in the knowledge that there were people around.
I’m implying that there are crowds of people on the Camino but I’m exaggerating as it’s really not been that busy.
I find that the majority of people do stop at the main stages recommended in their guidebooks, but even these stops don’t seem overrun with pilgrims.
Having been the only solo traveller in Cirauqui, I was having doubts about not staying at these main stops. I was finding it difficult to meet other solo pilgrims; in my previous two stops, Cirauqui and Uterga, it seemed to be mostly couples, long-established friendship groups or families. I started to think that maybe I should be staying in the municipal hostels in the main stopping points with the hope that I’d meet more people.

I don’t remember a great deal about this walk: I definitely walked by myself, and although the temperatures were still in the late 30’s, there was a cool breeze which made it all very bearable and the walk far more enjoyable!
I stopped for a drink in Lorca, and I was amazed to see the blind Italian couple and their guide turning up! It felt like it had been so long since I had met them in Cizur Menor, but as I had only chatted to them briefly then, I felt too shy to go over and say hello.
Throughout the day feelings of loneliness were lurking - whilst having a drink, I sat next to a table with two girls chatting happily away, and I felt like I was missing connection.

I carried on to Estella, and at some point I passed the Italian couple and I did say to the man that it was nice to see him again, and he sounded really pleased that I’d said hi.

I enjoyed Estella very much - it’s a lively and bustling town. I checked in to my hostel and met an Australian lady who was of a similar age to me. Like me, she was travelling solo. She said that she normally stayed in the municipal hostels but had gotten such little sleep the night before because of a prolific snorer, she thought she’d try a private hostel to see if it was any better! She told me that she was feeling anxious to be separated from her Camino ‘family’ - the pilgrims she had met at her hostel in St Jean and had walked with since. She was feeling conflicted: although she liked having a great group to walk with, she said they were all very much younger than her and she didn’t have very much in common with them.
It was interesting to have this conversation when I was feeling a little lonely: I have always felt happier on my own rather than spending time with people whose company I don’t really enjoy, and I had this feeling more so on the Camino. I knew I was very fortunate to have this time to walk, and I didn’t want to compromise it my hanging out with people who I didn’t connect with.

The hostel didn’t have any hand-washing facilities but did offer a washing service so I shared the cost with the Australian lady. Annoyingly, I forgot to put my socks in, so I gave them a quick rinse in the bathroom and then carried them around the town wearing them like gloves so they would dry!

I spent the afternoon and evening exploring, and enjoyed watching the medieval festival that was taking place. Again, the feelings of loneliness kept coming back - I think it was the thought of everyone being in their pilgrim families and I was stuck out on the peripheries.
I went back to the hostel and sat in the foyer and was feeling a bit sorry for myself, but after a while something amazing happened: a few people came and sat in the foyer, we chatted, and I really enjoyed their company. We were talking about the wine fountain which we’d walk to the next day, and an English woman walked past and said she’d already been up there that evening but the fountain was empty. I talked to this lady, Jo, a bit more in our room, and along with the Australian lady who I met earlier, we all decided to get up at 5.30am and walk out together, as none of us wanted to walk alone in the dark.
Having felt quite perturbed by my loneliness, I was suddenly surrounded by lovely people who were in a similar situation to me and seemed to have the same anxieties as me. I went to bed feeling so much better: the Camino was working its magic!
 
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€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
Currently in Albergue Parroquial Santa Maria in Carrión de los Condes waiting for the washing machine to finish….

So, to Day 1 of my journey from St-Jean….

I hardly slept at all the night before; I was worried about pretty much everything I could possibly conjure up. The main ones being: lack of training, using a new rucksack, not totally happy with my walking shoes, the heatwave, and lots more….I did a huge amount of reading online that evening about the difficulty level of walking from St Jean to Roncesvalles and I was desperate to find bloggers who had said it wasn’t too difficult (didn’t have much luck) and also trying to find some hints and tips on how to get through it.

As I couldn’t sleep, I decided to watch ‘The Way’ as I hadn’t seen it. Not the best film I’ve watched, but I did find it quite motivational. The soundtrack included music by the Galician folk band Berrogüetto which I really enjoyed, so I subsequently downloaded some of their music to listen to on my journey.

Eventually I fell asleep, and we woke at around 4.30am for a 5.15am start. The temperatures were so high that day - going into the late 30’s, so we needed to make an early start to avoid as much of the heat as we could.

The walk was magnificent and one I’ll never forget; my nerves and adrenaline got me through. When we arrived at Orrison I was delirious and emotional. The sun had just risen, and sitting on the wooden decking having a drink and a sandwich, looking at the stunning view was magical.
The day before, the lovely man in the pilgrim office in St-Jean, I thought, had implied that after Orrison it got easier. For me, it definitely didn’t! I think I wasn’t mentally prepared for many more steep uphills, and as the day wore on and it got hotter, I did find it challenging, but totally bearable. I took it really slowly, stopping regularly on ascents for a minute to catch my breath and have some water.

The food truck was a welcome sight as I had run out of water, and also because I knew we had reached the top!

Descending into Ronscevalles was frustratingly long for me and my feet were really swelling in the heat and I felt like they were suddenly too big for my shoes. My hands and feet suffer in both hot and cold weather, and that day was no exception.

My lovely friend had booked us a wonderful hotel in Roncesvalles (on his previous camino 13 years before, he had stayed in donation only hostels, so he wanted to do it differently until Pamplona). We washed our clothes, had a delicious meal and went to the pilgrims mass. There’s lots of standing up and sitting down in these services, and I let out involuntary groans every time the priest indicated that we had to move.

I slept really well that night - not without anxiety as I knew that just because Day 1 was down, everything wouldn’t necessarily be OK, but I was certainly relieved it was over!
We call all the standing and kneeling at Mass Catholic Calisthenics. 😊
 
The first edition came out in 2003 and has become the go-to-guide for many pilgrims over the years. It is shipping with a Pilgrim Passport (Credential) from the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
I’m currently in Villares de Órbigo relaxing in a wonderful Albergue called El Encanto - highly recommended!
I had little sleep in Villar de Mazarife last night due to a nutter throwing stones at the Albergue and the police being called at 4am….I’ll write about that in a later blog!

Day 9 - Estella to Los Arcos 21.4km

I got up early to leave Estella when it was still dark with a couple of my room mates that I’d met the evening before in the hostel: Jo and the Australian lady (I’m only identifying people by their names if I have permission to do so!). We met downstairs in the foyer and I was concerned as Jo didn’t look like she was ready: she was dressed in some casual sandals, a linen dress which resembled a nightie and a small broken nylon bag which was held together with a piece of chord - it turned out that this was her walking attire - brilliant!

There were a few other peregrinos out walking at this time and we all got a a little lost finding the route, but we were soon back on track and found ourselves at the wine fountain in Irache. It was still dark when we arrived and the wine hadn’t yet been replenished from the day before, but I managed to get a droplet out of it! To be honest, I didn’t really fancy any wine at 6am, and the smell alone was off putting - it reminded be of being back in London and walking through Soho on a Sunday morning!

It soon became apparent that the Australian lady walked at a much faster pace than Jo and I, and she found herself reunited with her Camino family so we didn’t see her again!

Jo and I hit it off immediately - she was funny, bright, quirky and had a wicked sense of humour. She walked at a pace a tiny bit slower than me (although she was super speedier than me when going uphill!), but I didn’t mind at all. If you’re walking with someone, I prefer to walk with someone who is slightly slower rather than quicker!

We chatted endlessly and soon found ourselves at our first breakfast stop. We both ordered sandwiches, but Jo had massive food envy of mine (a tortilla sandwich), so she immediately ordered a second sandwich as soon as she’d eaten her first - I suddenly liked her even more!

Whilst having breakfast, I noticed that the hostel I had just stayed in in Estella had called me - this sent me into complete panic as surely I had left something there. I called them back immediately and they said that a peregrinas walking boots had disappeared and had I taken them? I had just swapped over from my Merrell’s to my Teva’s so I was sure I didn’t have them. Jo said ‘I hope I didn’t do that’ but she didn’t check….(you might guess what’s coming).

We left the bar and the owner came running out to tell Jo that she hadn’t paid for breakfast #2, and Jo was absolutely mortified. She’d told me when we paid for breakfast #1 that she always had to pay immediately otherwise she had potential to walk out without paying….she certainly proved her point! It took her a while to recover from this, but the walk soon calmed her down.

We were soon in Los Arcos and I helped Jo find her Albergue and then I sat in the square and visited the church (magnificent) while I waited for my Albergue to open. I had a missed call from Jo and I was worried that something had happened…I phoned her back and she was absolutely horrified to find someone else’s walking boots in her bag. She called the hostel immediately and they put her in touch with the rightful owner of the boots who was fortunately staying in the same hostel as Jo.

So Jo had done quite well that day: nearly stealing a breakfast and fully stealing someone’s boots.

I met up with Jo later in Los Arcos for dinner and afterwards we went hunting for a replacement bag for her. Due to a recent operation, Jo was having her luggage transported for her, but she was in urgent need of a rucksack. She’d bought a bag in Pamplona in a rush which was bright red and had a big bull on it which disturbed Jo as she felt it looked pro-bullfighting - as a staunch vegetarian and animal activist, she didn’t like it very much, as well as the fact that it was broken and things were falling out of it as she walked.

There aren’t many shops in Los Arcos and the only rucksack we could find in the entire town was a big pink schoolgirls rucksack with mermaids and glitter on it. Jo really didn’t have any other option but to buy it, and then get a new one once we hit a bigger town. I found the whole scenario hysterical, and what I really loved was that Jo couldn’t care less what she looked like!

Jo and I arranged to meet on the bridge at 5.15am and I was pretty certain that walking with her meant another day of fun and adventure!
 
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Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
I’m currently in Villares de Órbigo relaxing in a wonderful Albergue called El Encanto - highly recommended!
I had little sleep in Villar de Mazarife last night due to a nutter throwing stones at the Albergue and the police being called at 4am….I’ll write about that in a later blog!

Day 9 - Estella to Los Arcos 21.4km

I got up early to leave Estella when it was still dark with a couple of my room mates that I’d met the evening before in the hostel: Jo and the Australian lady (I’m only identifying people by their names if I have permission to do so!). We met downstairs in the foyer and I was concerned as Jo didn’t look like she was ready: she was dressed in some casual sandals, a linen dress which resembled a nightie and a small broken nylon bag which was held together with a piece of chord - it turned out that this was her walking attire - brilliant!

There were a few other peregrinos out walking at this time and we all got a a little lost finding the route, but we were soon back on track and found ourselves at the wine fountain in Irache. It was still dark when we arrived and the wine hadn’t yet been replenished from the day before, but I managed to get a droplet out of it! To be honest, I didn’t really fancy any wine at 6am, and the smell alone was off putting - it reminded be of being back in London and walking through Soho on a Sunday morning!

It soon became apparent that the Australian lady walked at a much faster pace than Jo and I, and she found herself reunited with her Camino family so we didn’t see her again!

Jo and I hit it off immediately - she was funny, bright, quirky and had a wicked sense of humour. She walked at a pace a tiny bit slower than me (although she was super speedier than me when going uphill!), but I didn’t mind at all. If you’re walking with someone, I prefer to walk with someone who is slightly slower rather than quicker!

We chatted endlessly and soon found ourselves at our first stop breakfast stop. We both ordered sandwiches, but Jo had massive food envy of mine (a tortilla sandwich), so she immediately ordered a second sandwich as soon as she’d eaten her first - I suddenly liked her even more!

Whilst having breakfast, I noticed that the hostel I had just stayed in in Estella had called me - this sent me into complete panic as surely I had left something there. I called them back immediately and they said that a peregrinas walking boots had disappeared and had I taken them? I had just swapped over from my Merrell’s to my Teva’s so I was sure I didn’t have them. Jo said ‘I hope I didn’t do that’ but she didn’t check….(you might guess what’s coming).

We left the bar and the owner came running out to tell Jo that she hadn’t paid for breakfast #2, and Jo was absolutely mortified. She’d told me when we paid for breakfast #1 that she always had to pay immediately otherwise she had potential to walk out without paying….she certainly proved her point! It took her a while to recover from this, but the walk soon calmed her down.

We were soon in Los Arcos and I helped Jo find her Albergue and then I sat in the square and visited the church (magnificent) while I waited for my Albergue to open. I had a missed call from Jo and I was worried that something had happened…I phoned her back and she was absolutely horrified to find someone else’s walking boots in her bag. She called the hostel immediately and they put her in touch with the rightful owner of the boots who was fortunately staying in the same hostel as Jo.

So Jo had done quite well that day: nearly stealing a breakfast and fully stealing someone’s boots.

I met up with Jo later in Los Arcos for dinner and afterwards we went hunting for a replacement bag for her. Due to a recent operation, Jo was having her luggage transported for her, but she was in urgent need of a rucksack. She’d bought a bag in Pamplona in a rush which was bright red and had a big bull on it which disturbed Jo as she felt it looked pro-bullfighting - as a staunch vegetarian and animal activist, she didn’t like it very much, as well as the fact that it was broken and things were falling out of it as she walked.

There aren’t many shops in Los Arcos and the only rucksack we could find in the entire town was a big pink schoolgirls rucksack with mermaids and glitter on it. Jo really didn’t have any other option but to buy it, and then get a new one once we hit a bigger town. I found the whole scenario hysterical, and what I really loved was that Jo couldn’t care less what she looked like!

Jo and I arranged to meet on the bridge at 5.15am and I was pretty certain that walking with her meant another day of fun and adventure!
Somehow, I have a feeling that Jo will keep things interesting! I would suggest a less identifiable backpack if she plans to borrow any more items!😉
 
I’m currently in Foncebadón and hugely enjoying this thriving village! Waiting for my dessert to arrive…

Day 10: Los Arcos to Víana 18.3km
Jo and I met at 5.15am on the bridge and walked in the dark for an hour and half. It’s a shame to walk in the dark as you literally can only see your feet (if you have a torch) but it also means you can take your time and enjoy villages later on in the walk. Walking as the sunrises is wonderful, but ideally I’d be leaving just before sunrise, not hours before!
The only reason to be starting at this ridiculous hour is because it’s just too hot after midday. Some people do walk after noon, but most are people from Northern Europe - the Spanish, French and Italians avoid it like the plague!

As I was walking out of Los Arcos in the dark, down a deserted track in the Spanish countryside, I felt very grateful to have Jo alongside!

Jo and I spent the day chatting away, but we avoided making the mistake we had done on the previous day: we were nattering away and something didn’t feel right so I checked my phone and we weren’t on the Camino! Unfortunately, we’d walked for 10mins downhill, so we had to turn around and climb back.

On arriving into Viana we checked in to the first hostel we saw. The plus point of the hostel was that it was very clean….but that’s all it had going for it. The owner was very odd and wouldn’t look at us, or give more than one word answers. There was one room with bunks and it was so clinical, it resembled some kind of detention centre (not that I’ve ever been in one, but this is exactly how I would imagine one to look!).

We ventured into town and a bull run was about to begin! The town was heaving, everyone was out and about in their white and red, and there was a real fiesta atmosphere. As lovely as it was to experience this, it was really hectic - the bars and restaurants were packed and we struggled to find anything to eat or drink.

I mentioned in yesterdays blog that Jo is an animal activist so she had no interest in seeing the bull run, and I wasn’t too keen. Many years ago, I lived in a small Spanish village called Gaucin where an annual bull run used to take place, so I knew the score. Having walked from Los Arcos that day, I wasn’t sure how I’d fair being chased by a bull!

We eventually managed to find a spot to sit and get some calamari and then went back to the hostel. I was packing up my belongings and suddenly realised my passport wasn’t in my shoulder bag. I tried to remain calm and went through all of my belongings and told Jo what had happened. I was so worried it had been stolen walking through the streets of Viana. It hadn’t - Jo had accidentally taken it when the hostel owner had checked us in! So in the past 24 hours, Jo had stolen someone’s boots, walked out of a restaurant without paying and stolen my passport. To be fair, I did need to take some responsibility for the passport error!

Sadly, Jo’s Camino time was limited and she needed to get to Santiago long before me. We spent the afternoon sitting in the hostel working out an itinerary to make sure she got to Santiago on time. She was going to walk with me to Logroño the following day, get the train to Burgos and spend a day there, and then a train to León and walk from there.

We later ventured into town again, post bull run, but it was still tricky to find anything to eat, so I bought a couple of slices of stale pizza and Jo bought some stale bread and plastic cheese in the local shop and we ate back at the hostel.

We were really giggly and slightly hysterical back at the detention centre, I mean hostel. We were surrounded by men who we decided were potential snorers, so cocooned ourselves in our bunk beds - Jo made a successful den out of towels and blankets.

Again, I slept really well and was looking forward to the super short walk into Logroño the following morning, but very sad that I was having to say goodbye to my new found friend!
 
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We knew a pilgrim friend that was ahead of us on the camino. He got gored by a bull in Los Arcos! He was gored under his butt and then trampled by the bull breaking ankle and wrist in several places. This was about two months ago. He spent 3 days in the hospital and then traveled home taking up two seats on the plane so he could put his leg across. Brutal!
 
We knew a pilgrim friend that was ahead of us on the camino. He got gored by a bull in Los Arcos! He was gored under his butt and then trampled by the bull breaking ankle and wrist in several places. This was about two months ago. He spent 3 days in the hospital and then traveled home taking up two seats on the plane so he could put his leg across. Brutal!
That’s absolutely horrendous - poor him. I hope he’s making a good recovery.
 
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We knew a pilgrim friend that was ahead of us on the camino. He got gored by a bull in Los Arcos! He was gored under his butt and then trampled by the bull breaking ankle and wrist in several places. This was about two months ago. He spent 3 days in the hospital and then traveled home taking up two seats on the plane so he could put his leg across. Brutal!
That is awful! 😩
 
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I’m currently in Molinaseca, sitting by the river, I have been immensely enjoying the Spanish mountain villages.

Day 11: Viana to Logroño 9.27km

What a treat to have a relaxed and later start to the day! The aim was to get to Logroño for breakfast at around 9am, so Jo and I set off at around 7am.
I decided it was actually a pretty good idea to start a little later and do a shorter walk when you’re visiting a significant stop, as it means you have more time in the city and you’re not too tired to look around!
Today was my final walk with Jo as she was going to catch a train to Leon the following day, and I would continue walking from Logroño.
Although I was absolutely gutted that Jo was leaving and I was really sad at the prospect of losing such good company, I could also see the positives: Jo and I could’ve easily stuck together until Santiago and this would have been immense fun, but I would have missed time on my own which I desperately needed and craved, and I would also have missed out on talking to lots of other people.

I can’t remember anything about this walk, only arriving at the bridge into the centre of Logroño.

As soon as we arrived we ate breakfast and really took our time. We relished in not having to think about going anywhere and doing anything for a couple of hours! We did however have a few jobs to do. We needed to get Jo some proper walking shoes. She no longer had any walking boots; she left them in Estella when she took someone else’s, but she didn’t even attempt to get her own boots back as she didn’t want them anymore as they had given her blisters! She had been walking in some sandals which had held out but wouldn’t last much longer. We found a good outdoor shop and Jo bought some Teva’s which she loved and has been wearing on the Camino ever since (no socks!).
We visited the cathedral and then found our hostels and rested for a while. I wanted to make sure that Jo was going to be fine with catching a train the next day so after a siesta, we walked up to the station which isn’t too far out of town, but even though it was later on in the evening, it was still scorching hot. Jo collected her train tickets from the machine and she was good to go for the following day.

We walked around the town and ate pinchos and thoroughly enjoyed our final evening together. Despite only knowing each other for 3 days, we had shared so many life stories and laughed hard and often.
Jo is now soon approaching Santiago, and it has been wonderful to keep in touch with her multiple times per day since we left each other in Logroño.
 
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I am currently in Cacabelos, wondering how I feel about sharing my room with a dog tonight.

Day 12: Los Arcos to Víana 18.3km
Back to being a solo traveller. Jo was on her way to Leon via Burgos on the train whilst I continued on the the Camino.

I hoped that I might meet someone in my hostel room who’d be walking out early, but everyone was ending their Camino in Logroño. Back to foyer loitering tactics….
I woke up at 5.30am, got ready and then waited in the foyer for a good 30 minutes or so. The foyer of the hostel had big glass windows onto the street, and lots of locals were walking past and waving on the way home from their Saturday night out; the Spanish know how to party!

Eventually an Italian peregrino joined me in the foyer, and I asked if I could walk out of the city with him (or near him!) until it got light enough for me to see. He was very happy to help, but did warn me that he walked quickly. He was small, slim and agile, (I wouldn’t describe myself as any of those 3 things) and he didn’t walk, he galloped.

I did an excellent job at keeping up with him and we had some nice chats. Logroño was still buzzing with late night/early morning drinkers, but they were all very nice, and many wished us a ‘Buen Canino’ We were following another Peregrino but I realised he had gone the wrong way. We tried calling him back but he had headphones in - my new walking companion tried to run after him, but he was too far ahead and power walking on. I wonder how long it took him to realise he’d taken a wrong turn?!

After around an hour, the path started to ascend, so I said goodbye and thank you to the kind man who had walked (ran) with me, as I needed to take the uphills a lot steadier than him. It was lighter by then and quite a few people out walking so I was perfectly happy to walk on my own.

Looking back to this point in my journey, even after 12 days, I still didn’t have faith in my walking ability and was very anxious about whether I could make it through each day. It was a funny state of mind to be in and I wish I could put my finger on why I was plagued with this worry. I wasn’t suffering with any blisters or injuries, so what was the issue?
Deep down, I knew I’d keep getting up each day to walk, and I had no doubt in my mind that there wasn’t anything else I’d rather be doing, but still, anxieties plagued me. Perhaps it was lack of experience: I still hadn’t quite worked out my pace so didn’t know how long I needed to make it to my next stop before the high heat, and I had no idea if my body would take the daily walking, despite the shorter stages.

Viana is a slight detour off the Camino, and many people choose to miss out on the town as it involves an ascent. I was pleased when the turning arrived, taking me off the path that had been hugging the busy highway.

The sun was blasting down as I walked up into the town, and I had to stop a couple of times in the shade to cool down for a minute or two.

I had a couple of hours to kill before my hostel opened so sat on a bar terrace, watching people come and go. I stayed at San Saturnino and shared a room with a mother and daughter from Croatia. I find it really special to see families walking the Camino together.

I really liked this Albergue - it was a beautiful place, with a welcoming, friendly and relaxed feel.

A group of pilgrims who seemed to already know each other went to dinner together, but I was more than happy to be alone that evening. Although we were all in the same bar, I sat and ate about 15 ham croquettes in peace.
 
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I’m currently in Molinaseca, sitting by the river, I have been immensely enjoying the Spanish mountain villages.

Day 11: Viana to Logroño 9.27km

What a treat to have a relaxed and later start to the day! The aim was to get to Logroño for breakfast at around 9am, so Jo and I set off at around 7am.
I decided it was actually a pretty good idea to start a little later and do a shorter walk when you’re visiting a significant stop, as it means you have more time in the city and you’re not too tired to look around!
Today was my final walk with Jo as she was going to catch a train to Leon the following day, and I would continue walking from Logroño.
Although I was absolutely gutted that Jo was leaving and I was really sad at the prospect of losing such good company, I could also see the positives: Jo and I could’ve easily stuck together until Santiago and this would have been immense fun, but I would have missed time on my own which I desperately needed and craved, and I would also have missed out on talking to lots of other people.

I can’t remember anything about this walk, only arriving at the bridge into the centre of Logroño.

As soon as we arrived we ate breakfast and really took our time. We relished in not having to think about going anywhere and doing anything for a couple of hours! We did however have a few jobs to do. We needed to get Jo some proper walking shoes. She no longer had any walking boots; she left them in Estella when she took someone else’s, but she didn’t even attempt to get her own boots back as she didn’t want them anymore as they had given her blisters! She had been walking in some sandals which had held out but wouldn’t last much longer. We found a good outdoor shop and Jo bought some Teva’s which she loved and has been wearing on the Camino ever since (no socks!).
We visited the cathedral and then found our hostels and rested for a while. I wanted to make sure that Jo was going to be fine with catching a train the next day so after a siesta, we walked up to the station which isn’t too far out of town, but even though it was later on in the evening, it was still scorching hot. Jo collected her train tickets from the machine and she was good to go for the following day.

We walked around the town and ate pinchos and thoroughly enjoyed our final evening together. Despite only knowing each other for 3 days, we had shared so many life stories and laughed hard and often.
Jo is now soon approaching Santiago, and it has been wonderful to keep in touch with her multiple times per day since we left each other in Logroño.
Yesterday someone told me that their custom, when they arrive at their daily destination, is to scout the route out of town while it’s still light, because it will be harder in the morning when it’s dark. Somehow that strategy has never occurred to me - probably because when I arrive at my destination, the only scouting I have energy for is the search for a cold beer! 🤔
 
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Yesterday someone told me that their custom, when they arrive at their daily destination, is to scout the route out of town while it’s still light, because it will be harder in the morning when it’s dark. Somehow that strategy has never occurred to me - probably because when I arrive at my destination, the only scouting I have energy for is the search for a cold beer! 🤔
Also it’s not exactly terra incognito. Get up, get coffee, walk away from the sun.
 
Yesterday someone told me that their custom, when they arrive at their daily destination, is to scout the route out of town while it’s still light, because it will be harder in the morning when it’s dark. Somehow that strategy has never occurred to me - probably because when I arrive at my destination, the only scouting I have energy for is the search for a cold beer! 🤔
Hahaha! I have done that a couple of times on an evening, especially if my hostel isn’t directly on the Camino. Kind of over that now though!
 
I’m currently at the bottom of O Cebreiro, curious as to how I will find todays steep ascent.

Day 13: Ventosa to Azofra 16km
I have slept so well on the Camino; despite the shared rooms, hot temperatures and itchy mosquito bites, there has barely been a night where I have struggled to sleep. At home if I wake up at 2am, I can easily stay awake until my alarm goes off at 5am. On the Camino, I wake up, sometimes multiple times during the night, but easily drift back off to sleep again.

If there are very few perogrinos sharing a room, I always ask them what time they are planning to wake up in the hope they are early risers and we can put the light on and get out of the room without disturbing anyone. I was in luck in Ventosa, as the lovely mother and daughter from Croatia were getting up super early. I had spent some time chatting to the daughter the night before as her English was superb. She was planning to walk the Camino alone, but then thought if there’s one person she’d like to walk with, it was her mother.

When I went downstairs, others were also getting ready to go. I checked the map and I was the first to leave, but within about 20 seconds, I realised I’d gone in completely the wrong direction out of the albergue. I walked back to the albergue and ended up walking with my Croatian roommates and a German man. It was completely dark and a torch was vital, walking down the track back to the main road.

When it started to get light, I walked mostly alone, but kept seeing familiar faces from San Saturnino.

It was 10km until the first stop, and every Peregrino in sight was searching for coffee and breakfast in Najera. It was a public holiday and very early, so it took a while to find anything. Eventually we stumbled across a bar and whilst it was nice to get a coffee, that’s about all it had going for it. The lady who served us at the bar didn’t seem happy to see us, and the food was pretty grim - some dry tortilla and bread.

I sat and chatted to an English man who I had just met, and a German man who I’d chatted to in San Saturnino. They were doing quite a long stage that day and I definitely wasn’t, so they needed to push on. I took my time and after a while slowly made my way to Azofra.

I arrived in Azofra and I joined the peregrino’s I had sat with in Najera, and a couple of new faces, for another drink. One peregrino was really suffering from blisters and painful muscles, which soothed my doubting mind as to whether I should be walking further.

I have seen so many people with taped up legs, knee supports and blistered feet who I have a huge amount of sympathy for. I have the luxury of time, and I am convinced that this has allowed me to recover when I did have blisters, (a rest day in Pamplona and some shorter walks) and it has prevented me from any further damage or pain!

I have observed that it really doesn’t matter how young or fit you are, if you push yourself too far, you’re going to suffer. A wise 18 year old who was having severe knee issues explained it to me outside our albergue in Estella: he said that us older folk know our bodies and it’s limitations far better than the youngsters, so we know not to push ourselves so far that we may cause damage - I think there’s some truth in that!

I was looking forward to staying at the Albergue municipal in Azofra - a plunge pool and no bunks - only 2 single beds in each room! I was incredibly early to arrive into the town so had to sit around for a while, waiting for the albergue to open.

The hospitalera was super friendly and I settled in, showered and washed my clothes. A man checked in soon after me and I was worried that men and woman would be put into the same room: the rooms are quite small and with 2 single beds very close to each other, it felt quite intimate and I would’ve felt uncomfortable, but fortunately, male and females are separated.

A German girl who I had met a few days before in Viana arrived and she was my room mate that evening. She offered to share some food with me, but I decided to go into town for dinner and I’m glad I did as I had a really fun evening. I really enjoyed chatting to a couple of Danish and Swedish peregrino’s who were also staying at the municipal albergue, and just as I was leaving, a German Peregrina arrived and I had a lovely evening talking to her. I sat with her while she ordered a pizza from the bar, and we all joked that it had come from the freezer from next doors supermarket. The owner of the bar was a real character, playing with the kittens in the street and just being a bit bonkers!

I went to bed really happy and content, but soon needed to get ear plugs and an extra blanket out ….a snoring Peregrina and a chilly room!
 
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I’m in a bar, trying to dry off after a very wet climb up o Cebreiro and Alto de San Roque.

Day 14: Azofra to Granon 22km.
I’m getting bit braver with my distances and extending them for the first time since Willem left. I can feel that things are gently and slowly shifting. I have euphoric moments when I’m walking, sometimes they cause just a lump in my throat, other times the tears fall: I welcome these emotions fully.

Today was a day that I didn’t realise I had my backpack on my back. My legs felt like they had a life of their own and I glided. I listened to music for the first time whilst walking, and it only enhanced all of my other senses.

Scent has been something I have really noticed and appreciated on my Camino; it’s impossible to describe in words but inhaling the wonderful smells of fresh air, forest and flowers has given me an immense amount of pleasure.

Listening to powerful, emotive music (I’m a classical musician) whilst walking through the most spectacular scenery has left me sobbing at times.

Gratitude plays a big part in this: I am grateful that I can be here, grateful that my body allows me to do this, grateful that I am not in mental or physical anguish, grateful for the support of my friends and family, grateful that this Camino will be with me for the rest of my life.

I arrived in Santa Domingo de La Calzada and the first thing I did was went to see the legendary roosters in the cathedral! Willem had told me about them long before I was planning to walk the Camino, and it had stayed in my memory since.

Afterwards, I tried to buy a ‘ahorcaditos’ from the bakery but unfortunately they had sold out.

After some lunch, I continued on to Grañon where I had booked myself a private room - pure luxury! I visited the church and ate dinner at a Peruvian restaurant called ‘My Way’. I find it utterly incredibly when these gems spring up in tiny villages.

Sleeping in a double bed all to myself after such a remarkable day was the perfect ending to a very special day.
 
I'm really enjoying following your journey. I'm trying to summon the courage to walk the Camino alone. My biggest fear is loneliness on the way. Your story is encouraging! :)
 
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I am currently in Arzua, only 40km from Santiago. I have sprained my ankle but still managing to walk on it, but will be lying on my bed for the remainder of the day!

Day 15: Grañon to Belorado 15.83km
My Camino euphoria continued today and once again, was filled with the most wonderful energy. I have a bit of writers block about today as I have no recollection of any detail - only that I thoroughly enjoyed it!
I recall seeing my German friend who I had dinner with in Azofra - we saw each other a few times but we both preferred to walk alone, however, we both met at the entrance to Belorado and walked in together.

We stopped at the pilgrims hostel in Belorado as my German friend (who actually lives in Switzerland) wanted to stop for a chat with them as the hostel is run by Swiss volunteers. We got a stamp and went into the town centre.

I’m not sure what came over me at this point in the Camino, but I had a run of booking private rooms! I didn’t have a strong intention to do this - although a private room is lovely, I wasn’t averse to staying in bunk rooms. I think I just kept stumbling upon cheap private rooms and thought I’d just go for it whilst I still had some money!

I enjoyed wandering through the streets of Belorado, I ate some tapas and slept all afternoon. In the evening I ate at my hotel, sitting outside and had a great pilgrims menu - the fish was excellent! As I was pondering how I felt sitting and eating a meal on my own, a young Dutch/Spanish peregrino who I had met in Estella joined me. He was a very sweet boy (he’s 18, so I suppose he is a man), but to be perfectly honest, I was happier on my own.

I didn’t have many expectations about the Camino, but one thing I hadn’t realised is that there would be a huge amount of young people i.e late teens, early 20’s walking. It makes perfect sense that there are, as many are on summer break from school/university, but I’m just surprised that it’s something that they want to do! When I was their age, I hadn’t heard of the Camino, and if I had, I would’ve been far too busy sitting by a swimming pool in a holiday resort and drinking too much to even contemplate it!

Whilst I have the fullest respect and admiration for them, keeping up lengthy conversations over many days with people half my age was not enjoyable for me, and I’m sure not for them either!

After finishing my food I went to bed, knowing that I probably wouldn’t see anyone I had met in the past few days again, as I was walking a very short distance the following day.
 
Good to hear from you again. Its good to hear you are still able to walk, albeit shorter distance, despite the sprained ankle. Might be better to have a rest day or two. How did the sprained ankle happen ?
 
Good to hear from you again. Its good to hear you are still able to walk, albeit shorter distance, despite the sprained ankle. Might be better to have a rest day or two. How did the sprained ankle happen ?
Thanks! Only 2 more days and I’ll be in Santiago…although it’s very swollen, it’s not too painful to walk on so I’ll keep ploughing on. When I get to that part of my blog (I’m writing retrospectively) I will write about how I did it - but it wasn’t whilst walking….I had already finished for the day!!!
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
Trying to catch-up on this blog whilst resting my ankle in Arzua. Two more days and I will (hopefully) be in Santiago! I am writing this blog retrospectively…..day 16 was quite a while ago now!

Day 16: Belorado to Villafranca Montes de Oca 11.8km

The reason for this very short walk…..

Firstly, I had made up this ‘itinerary’ when Willem left me in Pamplona, and that was when I firmly believed I might not be able to walk the Camino. Part of my caution was based on fear, but the other part was trying to be strategic: take it easy, don’t push yourself too much as you really, really want to reach Santiago. I had time, and as a another Camino friend from home reminded me ‘slow and steady wins the race’.

Secondly, I had read about the very steep ascent as soon as I left Villafranca. I was incredibly fearful, and spent the evening reading the entire World Wide Web, trying to gauge how hard the ascent would be. I had very little faith in my ability, despite having made it over the Pyrenees without a huge amount of difficulty! So, I thought I’d stop for the night in Villafranca and be fresh for the ascent the following morning.

The walk from Belorado to Villafranca was again lovely, and I was very happy to just amble along. I was able to get up a little later and eat breakfast at the the hotel - both unusual occurrences, and I saw the (snoring) German lady who I’d shared a room with in Azofra, and also another German youngster who had sat at my table when I ate lunch in Santo Domingo de la Calzada.

The very final few meters of walking into Villafranca was tricky: the main road was very busy with huge lorries, and I had to walk along the edge of a very narrow footpath at the side of the road; I was pleased when I arrived! I ate a nice lunch in what seemed to be Villafranca’s only bar, and returned there for dinner.

Over lunch, I met a couple of peregrino’s who I kept spotting and chatting to over the next few days: a Spanish chef who lived in Sweden and an American writer from Tennessee.

I was still maintaining my run of private rooms, and spent the evening fretting about tomorrows ascent. This was the day that I first purchased ColaCao Energy! I read in someone’s blog that the drink gave them a spurt of energy to walk; I managed to track some down in the tiny shop in Villafranca which I could drink in the morning before my climb!
 
Day 17: Villafranca to Atapuerca 18.24km

I had a bit of a revelation on Day 17: stop worrying about ascents! From Day 1, I had worried far too much about what I read: crossing the Pyrenees (this was very challenging but perfectly doable), climbing Alto de Perdón (very straightforward) and last night I had really wound myself up about the climb up to San Juan de Ortega - well, it was a breeze. Take it steady, no need to rush, and you’ll always get there. I barely even noticed the ascent and felt like I had glided up - maybe it was the ColaCao?! I was done with reading about what lay ahead and fretting for hours - the mental exertion was harder than the physical exertion!

I really enjoyed the walk through forests and a lovely colourful oasis that an artistic pilgrim had designed.

Once in Atapuerca, I met the Spanish chef and American writer again at a bar and we ate lunch. I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to join them both, so sat at a table near enough to chat, but far enough away to withdraw if necessary!

I was staying at a new albergue that was still being built. I had read excellent things about it, but it didn’t quite live up to the reviews! The bunk beds were individual pods which I really like, but they were made out of plywood and it felt very squashed in there. I couldn’t get rid of the flies and although I wasn’t very comfortable, I did see the funny side. I took a photo and sent it to a friend and she asked why I was sleeping in a coffin that night…..

I took myself out for a pilgrims meal at an Albergue just behind where I was staying and I had some really good food. A couple turned up with a dog, but apart from that, I was the only one around.

I thought I’d lucked out and there would only be me and two others staying in the room, but at about 10pm, a family of 6 turned up who were on a road trip from France to Spain, which included two very excitable teenagers. I explained I was walking the Camino (they’d never heard of it) and made sure they knew I’d be getting up super early the following day. They took the hint and were very quiet and considerate!
 
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Day 18: Atapuerca to Burgos 19.83km

I set off early and hung around for a few minutes before descending into the dark countryside. Fortunately, a group of peregrino’s turned up and although I didn’t walk with them, they were close enough for me to follow them and use them as my guides!

I remember the walk being quite hilly at first but really scenic and beautiful. Again, I was on really good form, and the first breakfast stop was incredible! The food was amazing, and I had somehow managed to get there just before 20 peregrino’s piled in.

I took the scenic route into Burgos, walking through the park following a river, rather than along a road.
As I got closer to Burgos, I suddenly got really tired and had to stop to rest a few times to sit for a minute or two on the wall.

I had another ‘moment’ when entering Burgos and seeing the cathedral for the first time. Entering a cathedral city on foot, having trekked for many days to get there, is quite an overwhelming experience! I sat on a bench and admired the cathedral before finding my hostel (another individual room!) to sort myself out, and then went out to explore.

I bumped into a Dutch lady who I had chatted to the day before in Atapuerca, and also a German mother and daughter who I had first met many days before - it’s amazing how you can be in a big foreign city and turn a corner and see people you know!

Lots of people were ending their Camino in Burgos - it’s a natural end point if you have a limited amount of time, and I remember feeling so incredibly grateful that I was carrying on. Not one part of me wanted to stop walking.
 
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3rd Edition. More content, training & pack guides avoid common mistakes, bed bugs etc
Just devoured all 18 posts - you write so well and I just couldn't stop! Sounds like you are having just an amazing experience. It is very encouraging to others - like me! - who can get a bit anxious... Love how you were getting into a flow and that the ascents were not scary anymore.

I am an extrovert and while I also enjoy my own company, I have thought about how I might react on the Camino if I don't become part of a camino family - I think I might be a bit jealous or experience some FOMO! Definitely something I want to work on.

So sorry to hear about your ankle, wishing you a speedy recovery!
 
I am currently in O Pedrouzo. Tomorrow I will walk into Santiago. My sprained ankle is bandaged up and although painful, I managed todays walk without major issues.

Day 19: Burgos to Hornillos 20.87 km
It was time to stop with the really short distances as I needed to get my skates on. It suddenly dawned on me that I might not make it to Santiago if I continued at my tranquilo pace!

I didn’t need to start doing anything too strenuous, but really didn’t have the luxury of taking as much time as I had been.

I found a ‘slow’ itinerary online which I found really useful and I used as my guide - averaging 20km a day which was perfect for me - and this would get me into Santiago towards the end of August. I need to be back at work on 1st September, and really wanted a couple of days in Santiago and then a few days at home after the Camino to process everything. It also gave me a few days leeway in case of injury etc. I hadn’t booked a flight home, so thought I’d play it by ear and see how things panned out.

To be honest, I would have happily walked on to Finisterre, but I would have been pushed for time. I spoke to Willem and we decided that it would be wonderful for us to walk from Santiago to Finisterre together another time - he walked the first 3 days of my Camino with me, and then he would walk the final days as well: the perfect Camino sandwich!

I left Burgos when it was still dark but felt quite confident and energised. There were a few late night revellers still out who wished me a ‘buen Camino’ as I left the city.

The Camino was certainly busier now - not so much to bother me, but I did notice there were organised walking groups and very clean and fresh peregrino’s out and about!

I had a tendency to walk really quickly out of cities, wanting to get out of the suburbs as quickly as possible, but this made me tired after 5KM so needed to remember to pace myself in the future.

I was now entering the Meseta, and Willem had warned me that I might find it mentally challenging. Some people take a bus through the Meseta to skip it out, but unless I was ill or injured, I knew I would be walking every step of the way. I had read on an online blog that ‘the first stage from St. Jean Pied de Port to Burgos is called “Life”. From Burgos to León is called “Death” (The Meseta), and from León to Santiago is called “Rebirth”.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about entering the death stage, but I thought I’d give it a go!

Once out of Burgos, I enjoyed the scenery immensely. I noticed that it started to change, and all I can describe it as is very yellow! But the contrast of the blue sky and yellow land, I thought, was beautiful!

As I approached Hornillos, I saw the American author literally sprinting into town. I had no need to rush as I had a booking in Hornillos Meeting Point (back to a bunk bed!) but sometimes you get caught up in a vacuum of everyone rushing - I guess this was the ‘bed race’ that I heard about!

I was able to check in to by albergue straight away, have a shower, visit the church and have some lunch in a bar opposite.

In the afternoon I sat in the albergue garden and did feet admin! I noticed that my little toes were starting to heal after the blister extravaganza from Pamplona, and they were growing a whole new layer of very thick skin. They didn’t hurt at all and I was so tempted to tidy them up a bit, but I knew that might cause trouble! They looked like some kind of alien specie, certainly not my toes!

In the evening I went to bar Origen which is right at the very end of town.
As you walk into a town, unless you have done your research, the tendency is to stop at the first bar you see. You’re never sure if there will be another bar open further along, and when you’re really hot and tired, you don’t want to take the risk of walking further to find that there isn’t another bar and then need to backtrack.
So I felt a bit sorry for the owner of Origen, being at the exit of Hornillos. He was the most lovely man, had walked the Camino, and this bar was his dream. He told me that he wasn’t breaking even, and since May, business had been slow. He was trying to entice the crowds in by putting on some karaoke, and that night there was some live music: 2 older Spanish men singing. I can’t vouch for the quality, but nevertheless I really enjoyed listening to it and the authentic experience!
I felt really bad as I left a very insignificant and embarrassingly small amount of money in the donation box for the musicians, so I have vowed to myself that I will post something to Origen on my day off in Santiago!
 
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Writing from O Pedrouzo…

Day 20: Hornillios to Castrojeriz 20km

Day 20 was amazing! I felt great and the walk was fascinating. Lots of things to read about and see along the way!

I stopped to change my shoes outside the ruins of San Anton, and vowed that if I ever walk this Camino route again (likely), I would stay there.

As I walked into Castrojeriz, I had a burst of energy, probably stimulated by the familiar feelings of gratitude, and the beautiful, scenic approach into town. In front of me was a lady who I had overheard talking in a bar at breakfast earlier in the day, and I had noticed that she was Irish. She walked soooo fast, and although I was further back, I enjoyed picking up my pace a bit and moving at the same speed as her!

I needed to post a card to my brother in the UK, so my first stop in Castrojeriz was the post office.
I hiked all the way up to the top of the town, only to discover it is only open for one hour per day, however, I was in luck! There was a Peregrino shop a few doors down run by a older Spanish man who was so nice. He sold me a stamp and I am pleased to report that the card landed in the UK exactly 1 week later!

I walked back down the hill to find my Albergue and I really lucked out on this occasion. I was staying in Albergue Orion. Owned by two people who had walked the Camino: a South Korean lady and a Spanish man - they weren’t romantically together but met on the Camino and fulfilled their dream of opening up an albergue.

Whilst I was looking at the lunch menu on the wall of the albergue, an English lady, Sam from Liverpool appeared from the kitchen to ask me if I wanted something not on the menu: a feta (I think) pesto, avocado and tomato sandwich - I nearly bit her hand off! I have enjoyed eating Spanish food, but having a sandwich which didn’t contain, ham, cheese or tortilla was total luxury!
I spent hours chatting with Sam; she had walked the Camino a few years ago, had volunteered in an albergue afterwards and was now working in Albergue Orion. I remember getting very tearful when we talked about how special the Camino was and how it makes you feel. She was a really kind, genuine and memorable person who I met along the way and who I won’t forget soon!

Sam introduced me to the Irish lady who I had followed into Castrojeriz who was also staying at Orion, and we really hit it off!

Dinner that evening was a communal meal and we enjoyed a traditional South Korean dish. There were some South Korean Peregrino’s staying at the hostel – I think it’s quite a famous stop for them! Also at the table was myself, the Irish lady, a Brazilian man of around my age who was currently living in Sweden, and his Camino friend who was an 18-year-old Spanish girl. We had such a great night! At one point the South Korean man sitting next to me started singing karaoke using a backing track on his phone, and sang in perfect Spanish.We were amazed to see that he was reading from the South Korean alphabet but he told us the Spanish words were spelt phonetically, so his pronunciation was perfect. It was very well rehearsed, and I wondered if he’d learnt it especially for the Camino?!
I think we encouraged him a bit too much because he decided to sing a second song which went on for a little bit too long - after a while we all just started talking over him whilst he continued to sing –I found the experience completely surreal and very funny!

The Irish lady and I arranged to walk out of Castrojeriz together the next morning. She had exactly the same anxieties as me about walking in the dark so we were both really pleased to have met each other!

That night I had my first sleepless experience on the Camino…..the South Korean karaoke man snored like I have never heard snoring before….. my earplugs were wedged so far down my ear canals they were nearly coming out of my mouth, but that didn’t cancel out the noise. Needless to say, I didn’t feel particularly refreshed in the morning……
 
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€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
I've really enjoyed your reports so far. You have reminded me of my anxiety about walking on my first Camino. I was on the Camino Protuguese and never believed it was possible that I could walk so far until I arrived at the Cathedral!
Good luck with your ankle.
 
I made it! Writing from Santiago…..

Day 21: Castrojeriz to Boadilla 19.1km

My alarm went off at 5am, and so did the man whose snoring had kept me awake for most of the night. I’m going to be very honest: I was really annoyed with him. So when he started talking at a completely normal level to me with no apparent consideration for anyone else who was asleep in the room, I scowled at him with my finger against my lips.
I moved my bag outside and bumped into my Irish friend in the corridor who I was walking out with that morning. We were both going downstairs into the entrance area to pack-up our bags, but when we turned the light on, there was a man who had removed his mattress from the bedroom and was sleeping downstairs on the floor: we apologised for waking him and he didn’t mind at all - he seemed as annoyed with the snorer as me saying in Spanish ‘there’s a monster upstairs!’.

I went back upstairs to use the bathroom, and I overheard the snorer telling someone how tired he was - my levels of annoyance reached an all time high!
My new friend and I left in the dark and had lots to talk about: the morality of being a prolific snorer and staying in shared rooms!

We had a lovely walk together - I was thoroughly enjoying the meseta: leaving early avoided the intense heat so there were no issues there, and I was really happy to be following a 20km ish a day schedule.

We found our first breakfast stop and the bar owner was about 90 years old, so slow, and the poor man had pilgrims arriving who were in need of breakfast. I had a very dry, but very big bocadillo which he had to make himself. Some people walked out as it was taking sooo long to be served.

We were joined by the Brazilian man and Spanish lady who we met at dinner on the previous night. The snoring chat continued!

The Spanish lady was fascinating. She was only 18 years old and was a completely free spirit. She was walking with a large cart, towing her belongings along behind her, rather than a rucksack. She was an extraordinary human being, and I would love to know what becomes of her! I helped her with her blisters, and felt like I was returning the blister aid kindness that Willem gave me in Pamplona!

As my friends were walking the traditional stage from Castrojeriz to Fromista, they were keen to get going, but I could be a bit more relaxed so they left without me. As much as I loved their company and wondered whether I’d see them again, I was pleased to have an excuse to walk alone.

Once I reached Boadilla, I got to my hotel and chatted with two French peregrinas, continued to avoid the American author and Spanish chef who were also there, and then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening to myself.

That evening it rained for about 5 mins - the first rain I’d seen since my Camino began.
 
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Prepare for your next Camino on Santa Catalina Island, March 17-20
I made it! Writing from Santiago…..

Day 21: Castrojeriz to Boadilla 19.1km

My alarm went off at 5am, and so did the man whose snoring had kept me awake for most of the night. I’m going to be very honest: I was really annoyed with him. So when he started talking at a completely normal level to me with no apparent consideration for anyone else who was asleep in the room, I scowled at him with my finger against my lips.
I moved my bag outside and bumped into my Irish friend in the corridor who I was walking out with that morning. We were both going downstairs into the entrance area to pack-up our bags, but when we turned the light on, there was a man who had removed his mattress from the bedroom and was sleeping downstairs on the floor: we apologised for waking him and he didn’t mind at all - he seemed as annoyed with the snorer as me saying in Spanish ‘there’s a monster upstairs!’.

I went back upstairs to use the bathroom, and I overheard the snorer telling someone how tired he was - my levels of annoyance reached an all time high!
My new friend and I left in the dark and had lots to talk about: the morality of being a prolific snorer and staying in shared rooms!

We had a lovely walk together - I was thoroughly enjoying the meseta: leaving early avoided the intense heat so there were no issues there, and I was really happy to be following a 20km ish a day schedule.

We found our first breakfast stop and the bar owner was about 90 years old, so slow, and the poor man had pilgrims arriving who were in need of breakfast. I had a very dry, but very big bocadillo which he had to make himself. Some people walked out as it was taking sooo long to be served.

We were joined by the Brazilian man and Spanish lady who we met at dinner on the previous night. The snoring chat continued!

The Spanish lady was fascinating. She was only 18 years old and was a completely free spirit. She was walking with a large cart, towing her belongings along behind her, rather than a rucksack. She was an extraordinary human being, and I would love to know what becomes of her! I helped her with her blisters, and felt like I was returning the blister aid kindness that Willem gave me in Pamplona!

As my friends were walking the traditional stage from Castrojeriz to Fromista, they were keen to get going, but I could be a bit more relaxed so they left without me. As much as I loved their company and wondered whether I’d see them again, I was pleased to have an excuse to walk alone.

Once I reached Boadilla, I got to my hotel and chatted with two French peregrinas, continued to avoid the American author and Spanish chef who were also there, and then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening to myself.

That evening it rained for about 5 mins - the first rain I’d seen since my Camino began.
I forget. Why are you avoiding American author and Spanish chef?
 
Day 22: Boadilla del Camino to Carrion de los Condes 24.73km

I was only planning to walk as far as Villalcázar, but then a German lady who I had bumped into a few times along the way reminded me of the singing nuns in Carrion de los Condes, so I knew that I’d be pushing on a further 6km to stay at Albergue Santa Maria.

I left in the dark, and was pleased that an Italian lady was outside the hotel just about to begin her walk, but she was struggling to find her way back onto the Camino. We soon spotted the yellow arrows, but quickly separated as she walked a lot slower than me. I walked along a canal in the darkness, and in the distance, a lightening storm was in full swing. Being struck by lightening wasn’t on my list of anxieties until then, so I made a mental note to add it on. Whilst walking, I googled ‘how to prevent being struck my lightening’: don’t be outside, don’t be near trees and don’t be near water. I failed all three of those criteria, so I got a move on, hoping I’d find some shelter somewhere if necessary.

My walk that morning didn’t get much better: as it got lighter, I was attacked by mosquitos. There was a stretch of road which was close to water and combined with the thundery atmosphere, there were hundreds of them around.
As I walked along the road, I would look down and there were at least 4 or 5 mosquitos attached to me. I kept brushing them away and was getting so frustrated and angry! I thought I must have looked like a maniac, violently slapping myself walking along the highway.
To top it all off, I had thrown away some mosquito repellent that I had bought in Pamplona to lighten my load, as up until that moment I hadn’t had any use for it!

Out of desperation, I eventually stopped and sprayed antiseptic spray all over me hoping it would deter them, which I think it did somewhat!

I passed through 2 villages and there wasn’t a breakfast stop open and I was getting a bit miserable, but eventually found one after a couple of hours - the lady made me fried eggs on toast and my equilibrium was restored!

I carried on walking and came across a young-ish man who was in so much pain because of blisters. I advised him to get rid of his trainers and buy some sandals, as I waltzed past - in retrospect, I hope I didn’t sound too smug…

I bumped into some friends in the village before Carrion de los Condes and we were all staying in the albergue to see the singing nuns! I carried on ahead so I had a chance of getting a bottom bunk (not a fan of top bunk beds - I’m too inflexible in mind and body!) and on arrival, I was greeted by such warm and friendly volunteers.

We were offered tea before we checked-in, and as I was sitting there relaxing, the American author bulldozed through the door, wanting to checkin immediately, pushing past anyone who was waiting. He had checked in to a different albergue, but when he realised that everyone was headed to Santa Maria, he quickly changed his accommodation. I had been unsure about him, and it was starting to become obvious that he wasn’t going to grow on me.

His Camino friend, the Spanish chef, was staying in a hotel that night, as American author had got drunk the previous night and had become offensive, so that added to my dislike of him.

On a happier note, I was delighted to find that my Irish friend was also staying there, having not seen her for a couple of days. The last time I saw her we had the awful snoring drama….now she was sleeping a few beds away from me; when I was unpacking my belongings, a man lying in the bed next to me started to loudly snore his way through his siesta, we both looked at each other and burst out laughing.

At 6pm the nuns invited us to sing with them and it was a really special experience. They asked us to introduce ourselves and to say why we were on the Camino - public speaking is my worst nightmare, so I felt really uncomfortable but did it anyway. One man told such a sad story which had many of us in tears.
Afterwards we all sang together, which had us in tears for other reasons.

We then walked to church for mass and at the end, we were invited for a pilgrims blessing. This was a deeply moving and personal experience, and again, many of us sobbed our way through!

Afterwards I sat in the garden of the albergue to eat some bread and cheese and I ended up on a table with American author, and it just didn’t go well. He could only talk about himself, and I couldn’t bring myself to give him the stage that he desperately wanted to perform on. I really struggled to be around him, so went to bed. My bunk mate was the German girl who had reminded me about this albergue; I’d started to grow really fond of her,and she sat on my bed and we chatted for a while before we went to sleep.

Miraculously, I had a great nights sleep, unlike some of my friends….
 
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Absolutely loving your updates… especially this sentence… “He could only talk about himself, and I couldn’t bring myself to give him the stage that he desperately wanted to perform on.” I must remember this for future situations.
 
Day 23: Carrión de los Condes - Calzadilla de la Cueza: 17km.

I had a shorter day today as I had pushed on a little further the previous day. I was still very much enjoying my distances of 20km ish a day. If I walked further each day I’d get to Santiago earlier and I definitely didn’t want that to happen - I didn’t want this experience to end! I felt like I had found a good pace, a schedule which worked for me but also allowed flexibility if desired.

I slept well that night but did wake up very early. My Irish friend and I were walking together again. We both wanted to leave early when it was still dark - neither of us wanted to do this alone and we very much enjoyed each other’s company.

I was awake long before my alarm was due to go off, and I looked over to the other side of the room and saw that my Irish friend was awake and looking at her phone.

She also clocked that I was awake so eventually came over and suggested that we just got up and left, which I was very much up for.

Today was an interesting walk as it was 17 km without any water fountains or food stops. Out of sheer panic, I packed enough food and water to last me for about 40km!

I had forgotten how fast my Irish friend walked – she was a very small and slight lady and walked as fast as my slow jogging pace! I didn’t mind walking fast on occasion – I was perfectly capable of it and knew it was really good for my fitness, especially as I wasn’t doing a particularly long walk that day.

Quite early on in the walk there was a truck stop where we could have had breakfast – if I had been on my own I would’ve done, but my friend was really keen to carry on. She was walking quite a lot further than me that day so didn’t have the gift of time.

Before I came on the Camino I fantasised that I would ‘be in the moment’ every step of the way, but this definitely wasn’t always the case! The road today was just long, flat and without shade, and we were very keen to reach the end! We laughed at how we kept checking on Google maps to see how many more km to go!

My friend and I had really great chats; unfortunately she was going through a relationship break up so we talked a lot about heartache and what a dreadful illness it is! We also discussed the American author a lot.
Like me, she found him very difficult, especially as she had overheard him say, rude misogynistic comments a couple of nights ago when he was drunk.
We talked about how it’s obvious that he’s in a lot of pain and self-loathing and how in an ideal universe we would only have compassion for him, but how difficult it is to overlook his behaviour.

The first stop was my final stop: Calzadilla de La Cueza, and we were there by about 9 am! There was a really good breakfast bar, and my friend and I sat and watched everyone arriving. After that long stretch of road, every single person stopped for food and drink! Our Brazilian friend turned up and he wasn’t in a very good mood…..
The American author had kept him awake all night with really loud snoring. He felt the same way I had a few nights ago: although he was annoyed, we also did see the funny side. We sat outside and really enjoyed chatting, eating and drinking.

The American author turned up and sat with us. The atmosphere changed – people weren’t really keen to have him around anymore and I think he sensed it. He made an extra special effort to try to be nice to everyone but I think it may have been too late. He was trying to convince me that he was taking his time on the camino, taking each day as it came, staying in villages if he “liked the vibe “. But the reality was that he had a flight booked back to America so was in a hurry, couldn’t bear to walk on his own, was highly anxious, and very uncomfortable company. As you may have guessed, he really got under my skin! Fortunately, I didn’t see him again, but me and my Irish friend did challenge and question our attitude towards him a few days later….

I was staying in a hotel that evening so went to check-in, had a Pilgrims menu and a siesta. I think I drank too much wine with my lunch as I can recall very little about the rest of that day!
 
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Day 24: Calzadilla de la Cueza to Sahagún, 22.4km

Another great nights sleep (my own room!) and off to Sahagún - I liked the name of the town so I was interested to see what it was like!

I was also excited as I’d be passing the half-way point and would be able to collect a certificate!

I can’t recall much of this walk but my memory is always jogged by food and drink stops! I remember a great bar stop and sitting with a couple of French ladies who I had met before and liked very much. As they were leaving, my German bunk friend from Carrion arrived so I stayed and chatted to her for a while.

Eventually I arrived at the half-way point and popped into the church where a lovely lady explained the churches of Sahagún on a map, and was very warm and friendly.

On leaving, I passed through the halfway pillars and felt a sense of accomplishment, but that was soon thwarted by realising I had left my walking sticks outside the church and having to walk back to get them.

On arrival in Sahagún, I went to the tourist office to collect my certificate - I only wanted it in case I didn’t make it to Santiago so had something to show for my Camino!

I saw my Brazilian and Spanish friends sitting outside a cafe so stopped to chat to them, and unbeknown to me, that would be the last time I saw them.

I found a really cheap and good Italian restaurant in town so had some pasta and wine, and then checked into a hotel. I really needed to stop staying in hotels as I didn’t want to come home to a huge amount of credit card debt…although hotel rooms are relatively cheap on the Camino, I certainly couldn’t afford to do it every night.

Passing the halfway point was a time for reflection. My body was doing fantastically well. One thing that I noticed on the Camino is that aches and pains always pass. My leg muscles were always tight in the morning but that soon disappeared, I had suffered from hip pain for a couple of days (I wasn’t sure if the cause was my rucksack or walking), I had backache for a couple of days which I think was a pulled muscle. Sometimes when I was walking I’d get a short sharp pain somewhere, usually on my achilles or knee and there would be a moment of panic but then within a minute it would just disappear. After a while, I learnt to not even take any notice of any aches and pains as I knew they’d be gone soon enough.

I went back to the Italian for dinner - my made up excuse is that I’m half-Italian and needed to fuel up!
I was taking the alternative Roman road route the following day and started to feel anxious about not taking the popular route, but I managed to bury my nerves somewhere and slept soundly.
 
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Day 23: Carrión de los Condes - Calzadilla de la Cueza: 17km.

I had a shorter day today as I had pushed on a little further the previous day. I was still very much enjoying my distances of 20km ish a day. If I walked further each day I’d get to Santiago earlier and I definitely didn’t want that to happen - I didn’t want this experience to end! I felt like I had found a good pace, a schedule which worked for me but also allowed flexibility if desired.

I slept well that night but did wake up very early. My Irish friend and I were walking together again. We both wanted to leave early when it was still dark - neither of us wanted to do this alone and we very much enjoyed each other’s company.

I was awake long before my alarm was due to go off, and I looked over to the other side of the room and saw that my Irish friend was awake and looking at her phone.

She also clocked that I was awake so eventually came over and suggested that we just got up and left, which I was very much up for.

Today was an interesting walk as it was 17 km without any water fountains or food stops. Out of sheer panic, I packed enough food and water to last me for about 40km!

I had forgotten how fast my Irish friend walked – she was a very small and slight lady and walked as fast as my slow jogging pace! I didn’t mind walking fast on occasion – I was perfectly capable of it and knew it was really good for my fitness, especially as I wasn’t doing a particularly long walk that day.

Quite early on in the walk there was a truck stop where we could have had breakfast – if I had been on my own I would’ve done, but my friend was really keen to carry on. She was walking quite a lot further than me that day so didn’t have the gift of time.

Before I came on the Camino I fantasised that I would ‘be in the moment’ every step of the way, but this definitely wasn’t always the case! The road today was just long, flat and without shade, and we were very keen to reach the end! We laughed at how we kept checking on Google maps to see how many more km to go!

My friend and I had really great chats; unfortunately she was going through a relationship break up so we talked a lot about heartache and what a dreadful illness it is! We also discussed the American author a lot.
Like me, she found him very difficult, especially as she had overheard him say, rude misogynistic comments a couple of nights ago when he was drunk.
We talked about how it’s obvious that he’s in a lot of pain and self-loathing and how in an ideal universe we would only have compassion for him, but how difficult it is to overlook his behaviour.

The first stop was my final stop: Calzadilla de La Cueza, and we were there by about 9 am! There was a really good breakfast bar, and my friend and I sat and watched everyone arriving. After that long stretch of road, every single person stopped for food and drink! Our Brazilian friend turned up and he wasn’t in a very good mood…..
The American author had kept him awake all night with really loud snoring. He felt the same way I had a few nights ago: although he was annoyed, we also did see the funny side. We sat outside and really enjoyed chatting, eating and drinking.

The American author turned up and sat with us. The atmosphere changed – people weren’t really keen to have him around anymore and I think he sensed it. He made an extra special effort to try to be nice to everyone but I think it may have been too late. He was trying to convince me that he was taking his time on the camino, taking each day as it came, staying in villages if he “liked the vibe “. But the reality was that he had a flight booked back to America so was in a hurry, couldn’t bear to walk on his own, was highly anxious, and very uncomfortable company. As you may have guessed, he really got under my skin! Fortunately, I didn’t see him again, but me and my Irish friend did challenge and question our attitude towards him a few days later….

I was staying in a hotel that evening so went to check-in, had a Pilgrims menu and a siesta. I think I drank too much wine with my lunch as I can recall very little about the rest of that day!
Your reaction to the American author reminded me of my reaction to some of the characters in The Way the first time I saw it. I found some of them to be so annoying and rude that I thought that if I encountered them on the Camino, I would do everything I could to avoid them. As the plot unfolded I began to get some insight into what they behaved poorly and even though it was a bit “Hollywoodish”, it was nice to see some of the characters evolve. Then I felt a little shallow for judging them so harshly at first. That said, I may be the only person on this forum who really didn’t like that movie too much!
 
Day 25: Sahagún to Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, 13.6km

I was keen to walk a longer distance today, but as I was taking the alternative route to Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, it wasn’t easy to go further than that in one day: once leaving Calzadilla, you’re facing a 17.8km stretch of Roman Road, which can be quite challenging terrain with no shade, bar stops or fountains - I didn’t really fancy this on a hot afternoon!

Due to the shorter distance, I tried really hard to leave Sahagún a little later than usual but was unsuccessful; I’m naturally an early riser and my instinct on the Camino was always to get up and get going, which usually resulted in arriving to my final destination very early!
I did manage to leave when it was actually light for a change, and was greeted by drunk night-owls wishing me a ‘Buen Camino’.

I noticed that I was trailing behind an American man who had been staying in the same accommodations as me for the past couple of nights, but who I hadn’t really spoken to.

On the way out of Sahagún, I heard some singing coming from a church so popped in briefly to hear a few nuns rehearsing some sacred song. The quality wasn’t great but it was still moving to see!

There was only one stop before my final destination today and I planned to have a leisurely breakfast, but when I reached Calzada Del Coto - a rather sterile, modern and deserted town - nothing was open.

I noticed that I was the only one turning off onto the alternative route to Calzadilla de los Hermanillos which made me rather anxious! By taking this route, I would be walking along one of the best preserved stretch of Roman Road in Spain on the following day, but that didn’t seem to appeal to the masses!

I walked along a dusty, bumpy shadeless path for over an hour without seeing anyone which gave me a good taste of what was to come tomorrow.

On arriving into Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, I sat on a bench outside the one and only village shop which was tiny and only allowed 2 people in at a time. I watched people come and go, and eventually went in to buy a drink and some food. I wasn’t sure about the town - it was in the middle of nowhere, not particularly picturesque, and it was hard to fathom how people could live there!

I was sitting outside the municipal albergue and chatted to an American lady who was volunteering there - she said she was disappointed with how few pilgrims stay - I think she felt a little redundant!

I later met another volunteer from the Albergue and we chatted for a while. She said that there wasn’t any water as some maintenance was happening just behind the building - I was suddenly glad I wasn’t staying there….

I had booked myself into somewhere very extravagant and my most expensive stay on the Camino: Casa El Cura.

It was a magnificent building, resembling a Canadian ranch. The owners were a man and wife - he was a chef and she ran the place - the most warm, funny and friendly people. I was the only one staying, so had their undivided attention! The decor was steeped in the ladies local family history: old farming tools, and so many old family photographs - it was like going back in time and absolutely fascinating.

I chatted to the lady a lot about the village - apparently some people aren’t keen on pilgrims. There’s a wonderful bar and quite upmarket restaurant in the village where I’d had a beer that afternoon and I’d noticed the owner was a bit surly. The lady told me that he once caught a pilgrim with their feet in the restaurant bathroom sink and went crazy! I think that’s a story that the whole population of the village know….

The food at the hotel was glorious - the best I had on the whole camino - and there was a lot of it!
The chef continuously brought me their homegrown food and topped up my wine glass far too many times.

I had a bath in my room so was able to have a good soak and a wonderful nights sleep.

If you are able to have one splurge on the Camino, Casa El Cura comes highly recommended!
 
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Day 26: Calzadilla de los Hermanillos to Mansilla de las Mulas, 23.6km

Due to my very generous hosts and my inability to say ‘no’, I was slightly hungover this morning. This wasn’t a great way to be in when it was just me and a long, lonely, hot road ahead with no bar stops for an Aquarius to give me a much needed pick-up.

A few days previously, I had posted a question on this forum about the Roman road route that I was taking today, and in the replies had received mixed reviews - some said it was fantastic, another said it was the worst part of their entire Camino!

I left when it was still dark, and really hoped that someone who was staying in the municipal might be out and about - it felt like I was heading into the Australian outback alone and I didn’t like it! To top it off, I had lost my 2nd head torch, and I hated using the torch on my phone: it’s not bright enough and couldn’t use my sticks at the same time.

After a little bit of loitering, nobody appeared so I took a deep breath, gave myself a talking to and off I went.
At first, the road was paved and easy, and I wondered if everyone had got it wrong and todays walk was going to be a breeze, but before long, it turned into the old Roman road with varying sizes of pebbles and stones embedded into the dirt track. You have to continuously try to find the least bumpy part of the road, as walking on the stones is too much for the soles of the feet after a while.

I didn’t see a single person for about 3 and a half hours. During the last hour of the walk, I decided to eat my packed breakfast that the owners of the previous nights hotel had made for me. There wasn’t anywhere appropriate to sit and eat, so I ended up at the side of the track in a small dip. It wasn’t particularly comfortable but good to rest my legs, until I looked down and saw an army of giant ants marching towards me and my rucksack: I looked around and I was surrounded, so I ended up finishing my breakfast standing against a Camino pillar - not the most restful and relaxing of food stops! I saw someone walking towards me in the distance and I hoped it wasn’t a crazed axe murderer, as I was very much isolated - I think I’ve watched too many crime documentaries on Netflix, as unsurprisingly, it was a peregrino.

Before leaving for the Camino, I was curious as to what I would think about whilst out walking - would I reflect on the past, contemplate the future, or simply be in the moment - and being alone on this Roman road for many hours, I wondered if I’d have any life epiphanies!

It’s only since I’ve finished my Camino that I have been able to reflect and realise what I have learnt about myself (more on that in a future post!).
One thing that I was very aware of whilst walking is how the Camino is a very condensed version of life’s journey. People come and go, your physical and mental state can change in an instant, the landscape can change so suddenly, and each day was so different : staying in a new village, town and city, eating new food and sleeping in a different bed.
It was the daily unknown that I enjoyed so much. I was fearful of it, but also relished it.

When I was about 30mins outside of Reliegos, my first stop, my cousin phoned me to see how I was getting on. I was doing fine until then, but found talking on the phone too much of a challenge - I had to stop using one of my sticks which I relied on heavily and had sweat and suncream dripping into my eyes which was really painful! It was one of my most frustrating parts of the whole Camino and I vowed not to take another phone call whilst walking!

After 17km I reached Reliegos and was looking forward to a long break with lots of Aquarius, but it was Sunday and there was nothing open. I was mortified!

It was another 6km to Mansilla de las Mulas so I ploughed on. I was hot, tired and thirsty - my hydration pack was empty - the last time I had run out of water was on Day 1! When I arrived I ordered an Aquarius, coke and water, and gulped them all down one after the other.

I stayed in a small and cheap hotel - I was relieved that I’d booked somewhere as the municipal was closed and people were struggling to find somewhere to sleep. I would have struggled to carry on to the next town.

I noticed that the owner had an aerosol can and was spraying it a lot - I wasn’t sure whether it was an air freshener or some kind of anti-Covid spray (does that exist?!), but I found it funny how he sprayed it behind a peregrino’s back as soon as he had finished conversing with them, hoping they wouldn’t notice.

I had a really decent pilgrims menu that night in town, and was looking forward to walking into León the following day and meeting up with my Irish friend who I hadn’t seen for a few days.
 
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A selection of Camino Jewellery
I thought I’d give an update from the Camino Frances. I’m currently in Boadilla del Camino, heading for Santiago, and reflecting on the last few weeks.
As a bit of background, I’m a 41 year old woman travelling solo (an experienced Camino friend came with me for the first 3 days (St Jean to Pamplona) to get me on my way but since then I have been solo).

So far, the Camino has been an exceptional experience for me. I didn’t have a specific reason for coming, but it has been something that has lurked for many years in the background and I have felt a huge pull to do it. I knew at some point in my life I would go, and a fairly snap decision found me in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in July.

I have a very busy and sometimes stressful job in London which I dedicate my entire life to, but very fortunately, I have an extensive summer break. The busyness of the job meant that I didn’t prepare very well for this trip: I bought everything apart from my shoes online and I barely trained. I came with the attitude of giving the Camino a try, and if it didn’t workout, I could go home, and perhaps try again another time, if I wanted to.

Pre-departure: London Kings Cross, Paris, Bayonne, St-Jean-Pied-de-Port

To get to St-Jean, we stayed overnight in a hotel in London Kings Cross to catch an early morning Eurostar to Paris. We hung out in Paris for a few hours, and then caught a train to Bayonne on the same afternoon. We stayed overnight in Bayonne, and then the next afternoon, caught a train to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. We had booked everything in advance for the journey (tickets and accommodation) and we had a really smooth run.

Having carried my rucksack from London to Bayonne, I realised it wasn’t a great fit. It was pinching and wasn’t sitting on my hips correctly. After readjusting it a million times and trying to make it work, I made the decision to buy another one. It felt like a huge waste as it was a brand new rucksack, but I couldn’t start my Camino in this state. I had a wonderful rucksack at home and knew how it should fit, but unfortunately it was too big to bring.

So, with only 90 mins to spare for the train from Bayonne to St Jean, we found a sports shop in Bayonne. As we approached, they were closing the shutters for their siesta, but they must have noticed the despairing look on my face as they opened up again and were so kind and helpful. They allowed me to try so many rucksacks and we spent time weighting each and every one. Despite it being their siesta time, they didn’t rush me at all, and I will be forever grateful to the staff at Peytavin Sport in Bayonne! I cried when we walked out - out of relief that I was going to be OK, but also because of their kindness. I left the staff with my old, but pretty much brand new woman’s Osprey rucksack - I hope they can put it to good use, either for their benefit or for someone else’s.

We walked straight to the train station and soon found ourselves in St-Jean. At this point, we were in the middle of the heatwave (over 40 degrees) and when arriving at 3:30pm it was unbearably hot. I was anxious about the heat, and vowed to my friend that we would avoid walking in these temperatures at all costs!

I will update more on my first Camino day from St-Jean soon!
That walk is still on my bucket list ,but I’m a lot older that you ,but fit and healthy ,so I will be interested in your journey .I will be doing it Solo..Good luck with your walk ..
 
Ideal pocket guides for during and after your Camino. Each weighs just 40g (1.4 oz).
I thought I’d give an update from the Camino Frances. I’m currently in Boadilla del Camino, heading for Santiago, and reflecting on the last few weeks.
As a bit of background, I’m a 41 year old woman travelling solo (an experienced Camino friend came with me for the first 3 days (St Jean to Pamplona) to get me on my way but since then I have been solo).

So far, the Camino has been an exceptional experience for me. I didn’t have a specific reason for coming, but it has been something that has lurked for many years in the background and I have felt a huge pull to do it. I knew at some point in my life I would go, and a fairly snap decision found me in St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in July.

I have a very busy and sometimes stressful job in London which I dedicate my entire life to, but very fortunately, I have an extensive summer break. The busyness of the job meant that I didn’t prepare very well for this trip: I bought everything apart from my shoes online and I barely trained. I came with the attitude of giving the Camino a try, and if it didn’t workout, I could go home, and perhaps try again another time, if I wanted to.

Pre-departure: London Kings Cross, Paris, Bayonne, St-Jean-Pied-de-Port

To get to St-Jean, we stayed overnight in a hotel in London Kings Cross to catch an early morning Eurostar to Paris. We hung out in Paris for a few hours, and then caught a train to Bayonne on the same afternoon. We stayed overnight in Bayonne, and then the next afternoon, caught a train to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. We had booked everything in advance for the journey (tickets and accommodation) and we had a really smooth run.

Having carried my rucksack from London to Bayonne, I realised it wasn’t a great fit. It was pinching and wasn’t sitting on my hips correctly. After readjusting it a million times and trying to make it work, I made the decision to buy another one. It felt like a huge waste as it was a brand new rucksack, but I couldn’t start my Camino in this state. I had a wonderful rucksack at home and knew how it should fit, but unfortunately it was too big to bring.

So, with only 90 mins to spare for the train from Bayonne to St Jean, we found a sports shop in Bayonne. As we approached, they were closing the shutters for their siesta, but they must have noticed the despairing look on my face as they opened up again and were so kind and helpful. They allowed me to try so many rucksacks and we spent time weighting each and every one. Despite it being their siesta time, they didn’t rush me at all, and I will be forever grateful to the staff at Peytavin Sport in Bayonne! I cried when we walked out - out of relief that I was going to be OK, but also because of their kindness. I left the staff with my old, but pretty much brand new woman’s Osprey rucksack - I hope they can put it to good use, either for their benefit or for someone else’s.

We walked straight to the train station and soon found ourselves in St-Jean. At this point, we were in the middle of the heatwave (over 40 degrees) and when arriving at 3:30pm it was unbearably hot. I was anxious about the heat, and vowed to my friend that we would avoid walking in these temperatures at all costs!

I will update more on my first Camino day from St-Jean soon!
That walk is still on my bucket list ,but I’m a lot older that you ,but fit and healthy ,so I will be interested in your journey .I will be doing it Solo..Good luck with your walk ..
Ah yes..."Catholic aerobics." Very painful after walking a full marathon... 😉
h
Ha Ha ..love that .!
 
Day 26: Calzadilla de los Hermanillos to Mansilla de las Mulas, 23.6km

Due to my very generous hosts and my inability to say ‘no’, I was slightly hungover this morning. This wasn’t a great way to be in when it was just me and a long, lonely, hot road ahead with no bar stops for an Aquarius to give me a much needed pick-up.

A few days previously, I had posted a question on this forum about the Roman road route that I was taking today, and in the replies had received mixed reviews - some said it was fantastic, another said it was the worst part of their entire Camino!

I left when it was still dark, and really hoped that someone who was staying in the municipal might be out and about - it felt like I was heading into the Australian outback alone and I didn’t like it! To top it off, I had lost my 2nd head torch, and I hated using the torch on my phone: it’s not bright enough and couldn’t use my sticks at the same time.

After a little bit of loitering, nobody appeared so I took a deep breath, gave myself a talking to and off I went.
At first, the road was paved and easy, and I wondered if everyone had got it wrong and todays walk was going to be a breeze, but before long, it turned into the old Roman road with varying sizes of pebbles and stones embedded into the dirt track. You have to continuously try to find the least bumpy part of the road, as walking on the stones is too much for the soles of the feet after a while.

I didn’t see a single person for about 3 and a half hours. During the last hour of the walk, I decided to eat my packed breakfast that the owners of the previous nights hotel had made for me. There wasn’t anywhere appropriate to sit and eat, so I ended up at the side of the track in a small dip. It wasn’t particularly comfortable but good to rest my legs, until I looked down and saw an army of giant ants marching towards me and my rucksack: I looked around and I was surrounded, so I ended up finishing my breakfast standing against a Camino pillar - not the most restful and relaxing of food stops! I saw someone walking towards me in the distance and I hoped it wasn’t a crazed axe murderer, as I was very much isolated - I think I’ve watched too many crime documentaries on Netflix, as unsurprisingly, it was a peregrino.

Before leaving for the Camino, I was curious as to what I would think about whilst out walking - would I reflect on the past, contemplate the future, or simply be in the moment - and being alone on this Roman road for many hours, I wondered if I’d have any life epiphanies!

It’s only since I’ve finished my Camino that I have been able to reflect and realise what I have learnt about myself (more on that in a future post!).
One thing that I was very aware of whilst walking is how the Camino is a very condensed version of life’s journey. People come and go, your physical and mental state can change in an instant, the landscape can change so suddenly, and each day was so different : staying in a new village, town and city, eating new food and sleeping in a different bed.
It was the daily unknown that I enjoyed so much. I was fearful of it, but also relished it.

When I was about 30mins outside of Reliegos, my first stop, my cousin phoned me to see how I was getting on. I was doing fine until then, but found talking on the phone too much of a challenge - I had to stop using one of my sticks which I relied on heavily and had sweat and suncream dripping into my eyes which was really painful! It was one of my most frustrating parts of the whole Camino and I vowed not to take another phone call whilst walking!

After 17km I reached Reliegos and was looking forward to a long break with lots of Aquarius, but it was Sunday and there was nothing open. I was mortified!

It was another 6km to Mansilla de las Mulas so I ploughed on. I was hot, tired and thirsty - my hydration pack was empty - the last time I had run out of water was on Day 1! When I arrived I ordered an Aquarius, coke and water, and gulped them all down one after the other.

I stayed in a small and cheap hotel - I was relieved that I’d booked somewhere as the municipal was closed and people were struggling to find somewhere to sleep. I would have struggled to carry on to the next town.

I noticed that the owner had an aerosol can and was spraying it a lot - I wasn’t sure whether it was an air freshener or some kind of anti-Covid spray (does that exist?!), but I found it funny how he sprayed it behind a peregrino’s back as soon as he had finished conversing with them, hoping they wouldn’t notice.

I had a really decent pilgrims menu that night in town, and was looking forward to walking into León the following day and meeting up with my Irish friend who I hadn’t seen for a few days.
Hi Luisa, is this the latest of your blogs (day26)? Like a few on here, I am inspired to do the Camino after reading your blogs, which are so well written, interesting and educational. I dying to read the next stages (days) of your journey! Many thanks, Pete
 
Day 27: Mansilla de las Mulas to León, 17.9km

The walk into a big city is always an exciting one, and I was really looking forward to reaching Leon. Although I had enjoyed the Meseta, I was pleased that I would be entering a new stage on my Camino.

I had overheard people saying that the Camino would get mountainous again after Leon, but for the first time, it didn’t scare me!

Once again, I left in the dark that morning and walked alone by the side of a busy highway

At my first village breakfast stop I met a Scottish man in a coffee shop; he was struggling to order his coffee and toast in Spanish, and then struggled to pay in euros because of the unfamiliar currency and bad eyesight, so I helped him out with both ordering and paying.

I chatted to him for a while over our breakfast (separated by a few tables) and he said that he’d caught Covid early on in his Camino and had been really unwell with it. He had quarantined himself in a hotel room for a week and said that he’d really struggled both mentally and physically.

He was an interesting character and seemed like a nice man, but I struggled with him wanting to talk a lot about how quickly and how far he could walk for each day. He was a religious man so I was surprised that that he portrayed his Camino being about speed and distance.

I left the breakfast village and completely lost my sense of direction, but some other peregrino’s pointed me in the right direction, and there were a few of us walking together but not together, if you know what I mean!

The Scottish man caught up and wanted to talk…a lot. It was nice to chat, but he was loud, would suddenly start singing on top of his voice, talked continuously……although somewhat refreshing, it was just a bit too much! He tried to convince me to stop for a coffee with him, but I was relieved to be able to leave him behind and carry on alone.

Once again, I was incredibly emotional walking into a major city. I took a wrong turn but knew I was heading in the right direction (hard to get lost when you’re aiming for a massive cathdral), and as I was walking down a narrow, cobbled street and the cathedral came into view, tears streamed down my face.

I sat in the square and was just still for a while.

I had reached Leon long before my hostel was due to open, so I went for breakfast and wandered around the streets. I was meeting my Irish Peregrina friend who I actually saw racing down a street from a distance, but I didn’t have the energy to chase after her! I knew I was seeing her later so all was well.

I was staying in a beautiful, quirky hostel in the town centre (Covent Garden - highly recommended!) and there was only one other man in my room. I have to admit that I felt slightly uncomfortable when it was just me and one other male in the room - it just felt odd!

After resting my legs, I went out to explore Leon and to meet my Irish friend. I bumped into Spanish chef (American authors Camino friend) and Scottish Peregrino sitting together in a bar. I sat down to chat with them but didn’t get a drink as I knew I wouldn’t hang around for long. As soon as my Irish friend turned up, I left and went for a couple of drinks with her.

We sat and chatted for hours before we went our separate ways. As that was the end of her Camino, I knew I wouldn’t see her again, but we have sent each other a few text messages and she remains a very happy memory of my Camino.

I just couldn’t be bothered to go out for dinner that night, so I picked up a cold, stale slice of pizza in carrefour and ate it as I walked back to my hostel.

Despite leaving the large balcony doors open all night and lots of partying going on just below them, I slept really soundly.
 
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Technical backpack for day trips with backpack cover and internal compartment for the hydration bladder. Ideal daypack for excursions where we need a medium capacity backpack. The back with Air Flow System creates large air channels that will keep our back as cool as possible.

€83,-
Day 27: Mansilla de las Mulas to León, 17.9km

The walk into a big city is always an exciting one, and I was really looking forward to reaching Leon. Although I had enjoyed the Meseta, I was pleased that I would be entering a new stage on my Camino.

I had overheard people saying that the Camino would get mountainous again after Leon, but for the first time, it didn’t scare me!

Once again, I left in the dark that morning and walked alone by the side of a busy highway

At my first village breakfast stop I met a Scottish man in a coffee shop; he was struggling to order his coffee and toast in Spanish, and then struggled to pay in euros because of the unfamiliar currency and bad eyesight, so I helped him out with both ordering and paying.

I chatted to him for a while over our breakfast (separated by a few tables) and he said that he’d caught Covid early on in his Camino and had been really unwell with it. He had quarantined himself in a hotel room for a week and said that he’d really struggled both mentally and physically.

He was an interesting character and seemed like a nice man, but I struggled with him wanting to talk a lot about how quickly and how far he could walk for each day. He was a religious man so I was surprised that that he portrayed his Camino being about speed and distance.

I left the breakfast village and completely lost my sense of direction, but some other peregrino’s pointed me in the right direction, and there were a few of us walking together but not together, if you know what I mean!

The Scottish man caught up and wanted to talk…a lot. It was nice to chat, but he was loud, would suddenly start singing on top of his voice, talked continuously……although somewhat refreshing, it was just a bit too much! He tried to convince me to stop for a coffee with him, but I was relieved to be able to leave him behind and carry on alone.

Once again, I was incredibly emotional walking into a major city. I took a wrong turn but knew I was heading in the right direction (hard to get lost when you’re aiming for a massive cathdral), and as I was walking down a narrow, cobbled street and the cathedral came into view, tears streamed down my face.

I sat in the square and was just still for a while.

I had reached Leon long before my hostel was due to open, so I went for breakfast and wandered around the streets. I was meeting my Irish Peregrina friend who I actually saw racing down a street from a distance, but I didn’t have the energy to chase after her! I knew I was seeing her later so all was well.

I was staying in a beautiful, quirky hostel in the town centre (Covent Garden - highly recommended!) and there was only one other man in my room. I have to admit that I felt slightly uncomfortable when it was just me and one other male in the room - it just felt odd!

After resting my legs, I went out to explore Leon and to meet my Irish friend. I bumped into Spanish chef (American authors Camino friend) and Scottish Peregrino sitting together in a bar. I sat down to chat with them but didn’t get a drink as I knew I wouldn’t hang around for long. As soon as my Irish friend turned up, I left and went for a couple of drinks with her.

We sat and chatted for hours before we went our separate ways. As that was the end of her Camino, I knew I wouldn’t see her again, but we have sent each other a few text messages and she remains a very happy memory of my Camino.

I just couldn’t be bothered to go out for dinner that night, so I picked up a cold, stale slice of pizza in carrefour and ate it as I walked back to my hostel.

Despite leaving the large balcony doors open all night and lots of partying going on just below them, I slept really soundly.
Hi Luisa, great blog! Well done...are you continuing with the blog up to arriving in Santiago? Thanks for taking the time to write this, om sure it's inspiring a lot to do the Camino, including myself! Best regards.
 
Hello Luisa;
I am enjoying your posts and reliving my Francis Camino from April 15- June 1, 2022.

I am a woman, 74 years old, and primarily walked solo. I had been preparing for this pilgrimage for years (ever since The Way 2010. I smiled at your comment as I have seen it now at least seven times and it gets better each viewing).

I began planning my Camino in earnest in July 2021. By February I had booked all my reservations from St Jean to Finisterre allowing for a rest day in Leon and Santiago. Averaging 20km a day. it was spring and I was grateful for the weather. Yes, I had snow and rain and cold but I live at 7300 feet in the mountains of New Mexico and have trained for years at altitude and in all weather. The Camino provided and i met perigrinos from all over the world and stayed at different places and levels of accommodations from Albuergues to Paradors. I interspaced with variety so I met a diversity of pilgrims. The way exceed my expectations and I am still checking the forum just to keep an eye on this special place in the world. Thank you Luisa for bringing it all home to me again.

Buen Camino,
Carla
 

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