Day 5: Carrion de Los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza

OK, now we know why some people choose to bike or even skip the Meseta. I’m glad we didn’t, but it is, indeed, a long, hot stretch of nothing but crops, dust and flies. I am a big believer in the notion that you find what you’re looking for, so Donna and I made a point of looking for things that we could be grateful for.

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Day 4: Fromista to Carrion del Contes

Our walking notes warned us that this 20K section would be a straight shot along a highway, through vast fields of cut hay and dying sunflowers. Actually, the notes only mentioned the distance, the highway and “crops.” We would pass through three tiny villages called Campos de [Spanish word], and that would pretty much be the only break from crops and crops and highway.

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Days 2 and 3: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz AND Castrojeriz to Fromista

I made a decision today, Sept. 12, 2019, aka Day 3 on the Camino. It was our longest day so far (big deal, we’ve been walking three days): 25km [15 miles]. We didn’t get to our lodging until 5:30 p.m. and I was frustrated because I had looked forward to having some down time between shower and dinner to write. Specifically, to write this blog. I was already a day behind, and I really wanted to post every day.

Wait just a dang minute. Sounds like stress to me. Felt like stress to me. Layer that on top of aching limbs, flaming feet, a drippy, sweaty face and still several miles to go before I’d see a rooftop, let alone the reception desk of our lodging—that’s when I made my decision.

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Day 1: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (And Happy Birthday to ME!)

Starting our Camino on my birthday, Sept. 10, 2019 was special, but purely accidental. When Donna and I planned the trip we looked at our calendars and worked backwards more than forwards. I remember saying at one point, “Oh, cool. Our first day of walking will be my birthday.” ‘Nuf said about that.

And then, this morning, we made our way to the breakfast buffet at our hotel in Burgos, gathered our favorite source of caffeine and food stuffs, then sat down at a table in the hotel’s dining room.

Plop.

Donna puts a stack of envelopes and folded papers next to my plate. Birthday cards. I gulp, choke and almost sob an itty bit. This took advance planning and a decent amount of schlepping on Donna’s part.

Cards, artwork and best wishes from my family far across the sea made the start of my Camino—and birthday—the best ever.

You see, my mother spoiled me when it comes to birthdays. From as early as I can remember, the first words I would hear on my birthday were from her lips, “Happy Birthday!” She might have been waking me for school (in fourth grade my birthday was actually on the first day of school) or I could have been walking into the kitchen in search of a cup of tea on my way out the door to Cal State Long Beach.

This year, my 64th trip around the sun, this birthday is an exciting way to begin a new adventure in oh, so many ways.

We Begin

Each day, or at least each day last time on the Portuguese Camino, Donna and I would take a morning selfie. Today, we handed the camera to the receptionist at the hotel.

Ready to walk out the door, ready for projected rain, and yes, we bought the same raincoats.

Yesterday we found the Camino markers in the road outside our hotel and decided to take before and first day photos.

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It’s a Miracle. Already?

We were ahead of schedule. Alarm at 6 a.m. Check. Throw on the clothes we laid out the night before, call the bellman to bring down the luggage. Check. He arrived at 6:30 a.m. and asked if we needed a taxi. Yes, please. 

We checked out 6:40 a.m. and were in the cab with time to spare for the 8 a.m. train departing Madrid’s Chamartin station.

At 7:10 a.m. we hop out of the cab, open the hatch, and I gasp. “Donde esta nuestra equipaje?” [Where is our luggage?] 

“What luggage?” he said in Spanish. “Solo a mano.” [Only by hand, referring to our large purses.]

I managed to explain in Spanish that we needed to return to the hotel for our luggage, and did he think we would still have time to return and catch the 8 a.m. train. This was not the context in which I wanted to practice my Spanish, but I was grateful for every Pimsler lesson I listened to at that moment. 

“Iffy, iffy,” he said in English.

Rapido, rapido I said in Spanish. 

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Night and Day in Madrid

We landed in Madrid Saturday night, dropped our luggage off at the hotel and started walking through City Centre. We were on a mission for tapas and sangria.

San Miguel Market is the place to be on Saturday night. Iberian ham, seafood, sangria, cervezas, chocolate, fresh fruit and pimientos Padron (aka shishito peppers) are just the beginning.

The San Miguel Market, located behind Plaza Mayor, was the perfect spot. Something for everyone, including Padron peppers, which Donna and I discovered in Galicia on our previous Camino via the Portuguese coastal route.

Yummy, yummy, happy tummy with sangria and padron peppers. Mission accomplished.
One full day is not enough

Sunday morning we wanted to cover as much of the city as possible, given we only had this one full day to do so. (We leave Monday, Sept. 9 for Burgos at 8 a.m. via train.)

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Camino de Santiago, Here We Come Again, From a Different Angle

In May of 2017, my friend Donna Halker and I walked about 180 miles of the Camino de Santiago Portuguese Coastal Route. We had planned on walking the Camino Francigena from Luca to Rome, Italy, in 2018, but my breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, chemo and reconstruction surgeries got in the way. As in no way.

CaminoWays.com was understanding and generous. They applied our deposit to a 2019 trip, which we decided would be the “real” Camino, aka The French Way. Except for the Pyrenees. We’re going to skip that part and start our 300-mile trek across Northern Spain in Burgos, aka the beginning of the Meseta. I know. A lot of people hate the Meseta for a boatload of reasons that include it’s hot, boring and flat. I’ve heard that some Pilgrims actually bike the section between Burgos and Leon.

Nope. Not Donna and I. Meseta means plateau in Spanish, and we think that’s a peachy way to kick off 22 days of walking. We’ll each be carrying a daypack that weighs about 10 pounds or so, or at least they did in “rehearsal.” Daypack is the operative word in the preceding sentence. Camino Ways has made arrangements to move a suitcase from lodging to lodging. They also have made room reservations for us each and every night.

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We Arrive. June 5, 2017

We left early (7:30 am for us) and arrived in the square around 10 a.m. Short walking day. High emotions.

We were happy. We were in awe of the energy. We were grateful and prayerful.

Here are some pix from our last day.

We left our lodging in Teo before the other pilgrims were up and moving. (Breakfast was supposed to be served at 8, but we asked for 7 am so that we get get going early.)

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Where did my Camino go? One more sleep to Santiago.

I see that my last post was Day 7. Egad. A week has gone by? I’ve been posting on Facebook…snippets and photos that help me remember what happened when. Today is Day 14, Sunday, June 4.

Here comes the ramble.

Day 7 we walked into Baiona and wondered if we had made a mistake in designating our day off in the next city, Vigo. The blessing of Baiona was that the hotel had a jacuzzi, and gluten-free muffins in the morning.

Ready for the jacuzzi, which we had to reserve in advance.

The fort at Baiona was well guarded. We posed before donning our backpacks for the day.

What is it? We wondered and wondered. Almost every home in so many villages we passed had one.  Eventually I asked a local woman, “Que es eso?” She rattled off something in Spanish, and I asked her to slow down. In Spanish, I asked, “Is to honor God?” “Ha! No!” She laughed. Turns out it’s for storing corn. As in a corn crib!

As we were walking to Vigo, we discovered that we had hit a major Camino milestone. In order to receive your Compostella, you must walk at least 100K and prove it by getting two stamps a day on your pilgrim’s passport along the way. At this point, we had already walked more than 100K, but it’s the last 100K that count!

Winner of the best scarecrow EVER.

Jules Verne, 20 Leagues Under the Sea, lived and wrote in Vigo.

Our Day Off Morning Selfie with Jules.

Vigo is a huge city. Reminded us of Paris, New York, but on the sea. We hiked and climbed (yes, on our day off) to the top of a park that gave us an amazing view of the islands off Vigo (and visible from Baiona) and up the river that empties into the bay.

Leaving Vigo, Day 10, we were also leaving the Coastal Route. We were headed to Redondella, inland, where intersect the main Portuguese Route to Santiago (Central route).

Our selfie on the way to Redondela. Graffiti saved by the Camino arrow.

Snack time in the forest, by a waterfall, in the shade. Perfect.

Wifi is fading, and photo loading is frustrating, so I will have to say adios for now.

Tomorrow morning, Monday, June 5, we will walk a short 12K into Santiago. There is anticipated joy, and a sadness at the same time. Each day has had its physical and mental challenges. Yet the simplicity of waking each morning know that the only thing on your To Do list is to walk–well, there is peace in that alone.

Day 7: Oia to Baiona 20K Where We Meet a Friend

When we booked our Camino we had the option of splitting up a long day into two segments. Day 6 and 7 were such days. Instead of walking from Aguarda to Baiona, we stopped in Oia. This means that our Day 7 to Baiona was a reasonable 13 miles instead of a very long 20+ mile day the day before.

Thank goodness we did. We followed the coast for some time, but then it was mountain crossing again, and I would have not liked to be doing those crossings at the end of a day instead of in the middle of one.

As we left the coast to cross a major highway, up into the hills, we noticed a lone young man hanging out by the crosswalk. He said Hello and then walked the rest of the way into Baiona with us.

His name is Ho, from China, and he was finishing his Master’s degree in Management at a University in Lisbon. He decided to come up to Porto and spend a week on the Camino before returning to China.

His English was excellent, and we had wonderful conversations about the U.S. and his world in China.

My favorite moment:  As Donna and I were resting a bit before a steep climb, we took swigs of water from our respective Camelback water bladders inside our backpacks.

“Is that oxygen you’re taking!?” Ho asked, obviously worried.

We laughed and told him it was water. He must have thought we were little old ladies.

We arrived in Baiona before the pouring rain and said our farewells to Ho. He wanted to walk an hour more. We were too embarrassed to tell him that our hotel (not hostel) was off the route and waiting for us.

Here are some pix.

We start every day with a selfie of some kind to mark the beginning of a new day. On this day we met some locals who happily snapped our Sunday morning shot with a field of flowers and the sea as background.

Ho threw on some sneakers, his Dickies long pants, his University book bag as a backpack and headed out. He carried odds and ends in his baseball cap, and collect trash along the way.

Up, up, up we go after our gulp of water/oxygen.

Sometimes the yellow arrows come with emphasis.

Caballo on the Camino!

Hasta Luego Ho!

Hello hotel! And rain, in Spain, but not on the plain!

Thank you for your patience. I write this on Day 10, but will catch up when I can. I am already excited about writing more when I get home and can share more thoughts and insights.