My Camino Route in 2016

My Camino Route in 2016
This year, I will be walking Camino Madrid from El Escorial through Segovia and Valladolid to Sahagun. I will have a few more days of walking and am currently thinking I might then walk from Astorga to Zamora on the portion of the Via de la Plata that I did not walk in 2014. In all it w=should be about 18 days and somewhere between 250 and 300 miles of walking.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fromista


Now in the province of Palencia. While it is still on the meseta, the farmland is flatter, with better soil, some irrigation, and much more productive. Too cold in the winter for orchards, it is still wheat, sugar beet, alfalfa area. This area was the breadbasket of the Roman empire.


An old roman bridge.

16 relatively easy miles. There was just one steep ascent and descent on a meseta outside of Castrojeriz. By midmorning, I entered the province of Palencia. The farmland here is much nicer- flatter with very few rocks in the soil and much of it irrigated, which has not been the case until now. I walked most of the day alone, but did talk briefly to German Peter along the way. I also saw Sean in Fromista, but he decided to go on to the next town. I was one of the first in the albergue here so it will be interesting to see who else shows up.

By the way, I did find some pepper seeds in Belorado, a few days ago. They are not padron and the shopkeeper told me that I would be able to find padron seeds closer to Santiago.

I had one of my blog followers email to say that I must be carrying a computer and a large battery pack to be posting most every day. Actually, the equipment is very light, but does the job. I am using my iPod touch, which can do most anything on the internet if you can find a wi fi signal that is not password protected. Most wi fi's are password protected, but I find that a bit of walking around town and scanning the available networks almost always reveals an unsecured signal, sometimes more than one. I then hitchhike that signal to mostly check email and post to my blog. I figure the small amount of badwidth that I need will not even be noticed. Last night I even downloaded three free podcasts from WGBH Boston's classical music series, which I can listen on the itoch when I want. I also have the Amazon Kidle reader on the itouch, so have my reading material on here too. A few days ago, I bought Dan Brown's latest, The Lost Symbol. It took about a minute to download and I am now reading it. The itouch weighs only a few ounces, the charging equipment just a few more ounces. Since the itouch battery needs frequent charging, I also have a battery pack that uses four AA batteries and can recharge the itouch 3 times, in case I can not charge it directly. Another few ounces. I have a lightweight charger for the AA batteries. I also use AA's in my digital camera and minimag flashlight. All in all everything is well under two pounds, but does the job. The biggest problem is that I have not yet been able to get photos on my blog. I have had access to a regular computer a few times, but they always block the needed USB ports or require administrator privileges. Also, entering text on the itouch is slower than on a regular computer, but I am getting faster at it. So the marvels on modern technology are enabling me to stay in touch a half world away. Now I just need to figure out Spanish phone cards and pay phones so I can call Kathy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Castrojeriz


The camino road into Hontanas.


Walking into Castrojeriz. The 8th century Moslem fort in on the hill.


Spaniards like their agricultural yard art, too.


Bandaging my toe in my bunk in the albergue.


A very good peregrino meal (try not to notice all the wine bottles!) From left, David the Australian, the couple from Sweden, Shawn from Australia, and me.


Another 13 miles of meseta today and it is mid afternoon in Castrojeriz. This is bit larger town of 1000 people. I walked most of today's walk with Sean. Now that I am checked into the albergue and have my daily chores done, I am off to explore the town. Several churches and the ruins of ninth century fortress.

Two hours later:
I did walk around a bit but everything is closed till 5 pm or later. I also stupidly tripped on a step while looking at something else and stubbed the big toe that I am losing my nail on! I cleaned and bandaged the toe but now I have that to have to heal up, too.

Later yet: Okay, now it is about 9 pm. Just finished a dinner with two Australian couples, a Frenchman, a Swedish couple, and the omnipresent Sean. Why are there so many Australians on the Camino? Anyway, this was one of the best peregrino menus that we had yet! The first plate was garbanzo bean soup in some kind of grain which I thought was millet along with cabbage-heavenly! Then was a five meat dish including chorizo, blood sausage, spareribs, and two other meats that I could not identify, and one of which was good. Plus 5 bottles of vino tinto for 9 people. Good food and good conversation. Fabulous and almost enough to help me forget my throbbing toe. Anyway, time to head back to the albergue to rest up for a planned 16 miles of walking tomorrow.

Hornillos del Camino


A few km. outside of Burgos, getting ready to climb up the first of the meseta buttes.


On top of one of the meseta buttes, getting ready to head downhill.


Meseta country.


Digging potatoes just outside of Hornillos. How do they know which ones are potatoes and which ones are the ever present rocks?


A typical afternoon scene in one of the small camino villages. The village church is in the background center, the albergue is to the right, the local bar to the left. Peter, the dreadlocked German is sitting with his back to the camera.

This post is made on 29 Sept., but is really for yesterday, the 28th of Sept. 13 miles of walking meant this sleepy little village of about 100 people. There was a good albergue here and also one bar/restaurant that served a decent menu del peregrino. But no Internet in either the albergue or the bar and not a single wifi that I could detect. Hence my delayed report. It is hard to believe that I was in such a deserted place only 13 miles from Burgos. It kind of reminded me of the town of Yolo.

The countryside here is the meseta. Wide open flat topped buttes. Few trees. Lots of wheat fields and a bit of sunflowers and alfalfa hay. It doesn't quite look like North Dakota, but did remind me of the high plains grain growing areas of Wyoming or Montana. There is some climbing, but also a lot of relatively level walking. It has been fairly easy.

The dinner was shared with Rudolph, a German speaking Swiss musician, Barry and Sioban, a couple from Ireland, and Sean, the Australian. I had a good ensalada mixta and albdonigas (meat balls in sauce), and flan for dessert. And of course the omnipresent vino tinto. I also met up again with Peter, the German who owns the hostel in Ecuador- I thought he was way ahead but it turned out he spent two days in Logroño , so is moving at about the same pace.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Burgos 2


The Burgos cathedral in all its Gothic splendor from the west side.


View of the Burgos cathedral from the fortress on the hill above.

Slept in this morning past 8:30, guess the rest was needed. It was nice not to sleep with earplugs and a horde of people getting up at 6:30. After taking it easy, I went to the Museo Burgos, both archaeological stuff and paintings and other mostly religious art from eleventh century to modern times. After viewing all this religious art it is almost unsettling how much torture, mutilation, beheadings, and other horrible deaths seem to be the history of the church. And a good part of it was done by Christian against Christian!

As I walked out of the museum, I saw Sean the Australian. We looked through another church, the remains of the castle and another time through the cathedral. I think his friend Peter is imaginery. He was supposedly a day behind on the camino, but today he said he took a bus to Burgos yesterday but then is walking ahead today. If they were friends they would be travelling together, right? I have yet to meet Peter. Very strange!

A few hours later: Well, I did meet Sean for dinner, a menu del peregrino near the cathedral. I had trout, which was good. He is still talking about Peter. Who knows? I will be leaving for my day's walk early. He wants to go to the Correo (post office), which does not open till 10 am. I may or may not see him again. Most of the peregrinos that I got acquainted with before Burgos went on without a rest day, so from here on, I will be meeting a new group of people.

The weather is nice, but cool and definitely fall like in the mornings. The weather has been pleasant and very good for walking. I do not really want it much cooler than this, but I suppose it will be soon.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Burgos 1


Buffalo Jesus.


The Devil flycatcher.


One of my favorite parts of any cathedral is the carved choir stalls.

Today I walked about 13 miles into the large (200000 pop.) city of Burgos. I am staying in a pension located a few blocks from the cathedral. I am staying two nights so that I will have a rest day tomorrow. I have covered 300 km of the 800 km to Santiago and figure I am about 37% of the way done. So a rest day is in order. I arrived in the city center about 12:30, visited the tourist office, and got the recommendation for the pension.

My body is getting more used to the 13 to 18 miles mile per day walks, but a rest day will be good. Not that I do nothing once the pack is off. I am always walking around in my sandals exploring each town, putting on more mileage after the official walk is over. My toes are fine, just need to bandage the three blisters to protect them and one blister on my heel, also bandaged to help it along. The compression knee brace is keeping my knee in order and I even forgot to take any ibuprofen this morning. I think I can finish and hope so, but who knows what can happen? I have learned the only words a pilgrim can say when asked about the goals for his journey, "God willing".

The Cathedral in Burgos is one of the largest and most impressive in Spain. After my daily chores of shower and clothes washing, I walked over to the cathedral and went through it. The immense size, quality of all the work, and all the details are amazing. There are a few other churches and museums to check out tomorrow and I may just go through the cathedral again. One interesting side altar at the cathedral is Jesus on the cross covered with a green thing that looks like a dyed cowhide. It is aptly nicknamed ¨buffalo Jesus¨. When it absorbs moisture, it drips from the Jesus-something that was explained as a miracle to the medieval pilgrims. And if you turn around 180 degrees from buffalo Jesus and look up to the high ceiling is a clock like a cuckoo clock, but a devil´s face. When the hour comes around, the devil´s tongue sticks in and out once for each hour. This one is the ¨devil flycatcher¨. But those two novelties are not the main reason for coming here. All the work that went into making this cathedral over the centuries is unimaginable. Every possible surface is covered with paintings, statues, and other works of art.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ages


A typical scene with other pilgrims entering a village on the camino.


Shawn and I

Arrived in the small village Ages after 17.5 miles of walking, much uphill, some steep, but mostly not too bad. This is a very small village not much to see or do, but everyone seems to be resting up for arrival tomorrow in Burgos, with it's large cathedral and big city. Sorry for not posting more, but it is cool and very windy. At least I was able to find a wi-fi signal.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Belorado


Working the wheat ground. It is too rocky to use a disc, so a chisel is used instead.


A good photo of me on my day's walk

I arrived here in Belorado about 1 pm and checked into a new privately run albergue- only 22 beds with 6 showers and 4 toilets - a very good ratio. After showering and washing clothes, I wandered around town, but everything is closed up for the afternoon. Also, I could not locate an unsecured Wi-fi siganl anywhere and no computer in the albergue and no internet cafe. In desperation, I went to the municipal library when it reopened at 4 pm and was able to get free use of a computer for an hour. I tried to transfer and upload some photos but this computer won´t let me do it. Sorry!

The walk today was 15 miles, more uphill than down. I have two new small blisters, but am keeping them covered and they are not a problem. Tomorrows walk is also going to be 15 miles, but will be even more uphill, so might be a challenge.

By the way, Santo Domingo de la Calzada made many road improvements and built bridges in the area back in the 1100´s for the use of the pilgrims. Calzada means ¨causeway¨. He is apparently a patron saint for engineers in Spain.

Finally the weather is sunny and maybe about 80 degrees. Yesterday, I even took a picture of my shadow, since I had not yet seen it here in Spain.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Santo Domingo de la Calzada


Finally, sunny enough to see my shadow.


The chickens in the cathedral.

Arrived here about noon, just when the albergue in the Cistercian convent opened and checked in, showered, washed clothes, ate lunch, then bought groceries for tomorrow's breakfast and lunch. The walk was about 13 miles. Looking ahead, I see that there will be a lot of climbing the next few days in order to reach the meseta, the high and relatively flat plains that make up much of the Iberian peninsula.

By the time I got all my chores done, I walked over to the cathedral to see it and the chickens. But it is closed until 5 pm, so I will go back later. There is a long story why a rooster and hen are kept there. Back in the middle ages, an innkeepers daughter tried to seduce a young pilgrim. When he resisted she hid a silver cup in his belongings then said he stole it. He was arrested and hanged. His parents went on to Compostela. On their return, they noticed he was alive but still on the gallows. when they reported it to the local sheriff , he said the boy was no more alive than the cooked hen and rooster on his dinner table, whereupon both the hen and rooster jumped up and moved around. The joyous parents then retrieved the living son and the miracle, of course, attributed to Santiago. Ever since, a hen and rooster are kept caged in the cathedral.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nájera


Najera.

An eighteen mile day today to Najera. Initially I thought I might stop at Ventosa which would be 6 miles less walking. But it was only noon when I got there and I felt pretty good. By 2 pm, I arrived in Najera. The old town section is pretty small. I decided not to stay at the 90 bed municipal albergue and found a 10 bed private one. The owner also has a restaurant with pilgrim menu.

I hope my body is starting to get used to this amount of walking most everyday. My knee did not bother me today and is just a little tender yet. For the medicas out there, I only took one regular ibuprofen and it was plenty.

I shared our evening menu del diá with a Canadian couple from Alberta, Dan and Donna, French man named Marcel, and Shawn the Australian. Dan is just turning 60, too. They were interested in how walnuts were grown and, of course, with Arnold. What's the big deal with a third rate governor?

Tomorrow's walk will be 13 miles, but a steep climb to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, where they keep a hen and a rooster in the church at all times - more details next time. Today completes the first week of walking and the first 100 miles. I feel that I am on the schedule that I wanted to be.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Logroño




The wine harvest is just starting.

Well another 17 mile day, but this camino is humiliating me enough to make me realize that I need to take it a little more slowly sometimes. Especially downhill which is very hard on all leg joints. My knee is much better today, though not 100 percent yet. I checked into the municipal albergue about 3 pm. It was full by 4 pm and turning pilgrims away. Logroño does not have many pilgrim facilities for the size of the city.

I walked the first few kilometers this morning with Peter, a 37 year old German, who owns a hostel with his brother in Equador. The hostal caters to English speakers, so he is fluent in German, English, and Spanish. We discussed political problems in Germany, USA, and California, as well as environment and health care. It seems like all of the Germans that I have talked with are fascinated with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Loroño , which is the Capitol of La Rioja, is having a wine festival this week to celebrate the start of the harvest. There were some signs of the festival in the main plaza and I can hear a marching band now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Los Arcos





Thirteen miles today to Los Arcos, a small town of 1300 people. The walk did not have too many steep ascents or descents today, which is good since my left knee has been bothering me on steep descents. I did wrap it with an Ace bandage and also bought a walking stick and I think both helped. So the day was fairly uneventful, no rain, but it threatened a few times. I got in Los Arcos about 1 pm and the lady who runs this albergue was gone most of the afternoon, so I ended up answering questions from fellow peregrinos without really knowing what to tell them.

I wanted to go to the pilgrim´s mass and blessing at the local church but finally a local told me that their would be no mass tonight as "el padre¨was traveling. Then I waited around till the local restaurant began serving meals at 7:30. I met up with Shawn from Australia who I had dinner with in Puente la Reina two days earlier. He had met a married Japanese woman who was making the camino, so we all had dinner together. The funny thing is that she understood very little English, but spoke Spanish very well. He understood very little Spanish, and I could hardly understand his Australian accent. Plus it was very noisy in the restaurant and you know how hard of hearing I am. Anyway, Kathy and Julia, you would be proud of me, with my limited Spanish ability, translating back and forth between English and Spanish for the two of them. You would have been proud. The meal was okay, lots of vino tinto, so we all had an enjoyable visit.

Tom and Kerry- I am entering the La Rioja region of Spain tomorrow- so far all the meals have been served with red wine without even asking. Passed many vineyards today and their harvest seems not to have started yet. Also passed a lot of puny looking walnut trees. I can see why we are exporting walnuts to Spain.

Anyway, time to go to bed for tomorrow´s walk.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Estella


A little village surrounded by vineyards.


There are occasional crossing of the modern autovia (freeway).


This is part of the old Roman Road built 2000 years ago. Will the autovia last that long?


A nice camino track along the autovia.




Definitely in Basque country.

About 13 miles today to Estella. Six hours of walking. No big climbs, but lots of up and down. Spain is not a flat country! My legs are not so sore anymore, but toes are sore, I wrapped the two bad ones this morning and they don´t seem any worse this afternoon.

I had a good menu del peregrino last night- white beans with ham, chicken, and some padron peppers. I am waiting till 5 pm to explore the town, everything is pretty slow until siesta hours are over.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Puente de la Reina


Leaving the Pamplona suburbs and getting back out in the farmland.


Beautiful scenery, even in the rain.


Not enough gravel on the camino path to keep the mud off your shoes.


One wet pilgrim! At the summit of Alto Perdon. Note the pilgrim sculptures in the background.


Eolicos (Wind generators) are all over Spain, but you usually can not get this close to them.


And back down the other side of the hill.


The beautiful medieval bridge at Puente de la Reina (which means Bridge of the Queen).


It was about a 13 mile walk today. I pulled my stiff and sore body out of Pamplona about 8 am. The first part was easy, through the suburbs and past the University of Navarre. Light drizzle. Once we were in the country, though, it was all climbing for a few miles, getting steeper and steeper until we reached Alto de Perdon ( Pass of Pardon). It was switching between raining a bit heavier and lighter. The path up the hill was clayey mud with little gravel to keep the mud from clumping up on the shoes. Downhill was almost worse as they were doing some tractor work to "improve" the road, but it made it even soggier. I could just imagine the medieval pilgrims earning their indulgences in heaven or the criminal sent on the Camino as their jail sentence definitely earned their pardon too. In a few words, I was wet, tired, it was a miserable walk most of the day.

I arrived at the albergue in Puenta de la Reina about 2 pm, showered and washed my muddy clothes, so feel better now. And there are only about 12 people per room.

Sorry about not posting any photos yet. I have been posting either from my iTouch or from the 1euro per 20 minute computer in the albergue, which has only a keyboard and screen exposed, but nowhere that I can plug into to download photos.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pamplona



I only walked ten miles today, which was enough to get me into old town Pamplona. Got in about 11 am and was lucky to find an inexpensive but nice pension. After sleeping in one room with 60 other pilgrims last night, the privacy will be welcome. It is raining now (8 pm) but hope it will clear tomorrow. It drizzled a little during today's walk.

Some pilgrims seem intent on getting out and covering as much ground as possible without looking around. I am glad I was able to visit the cathedral, other churches, and the Museo Navarre today. This is very much Basque country and there was even a small demonstration in front of the auntamiento (city hall) today.

There is not an Internet café to be found anymore. Tonight I resorted to stealing the unsecured wifi signal outside a fancy hotel!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Larrasoaña

Only 800 km to Santiago!
One of the villages on the way.


I walked 17 miles today, mostly on wooded gravel paths. Lots of uphill and downhill, but nothing too bad. Still I am tired after about 7 hours of walking. Lots of pilgrims, this albergue will be full today, too.

The pilgrim menu at the local restaurant last night in Roncesvalles was a fixed menu with red wine, pasta, baked trout, french fries, and yogurt for dessert. Ten to twelve people to each table with lots of conversation (not from me though, I mostly listened and tried to understand).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Roncesvalles


Waiting in the bus station with the other pilgrims for the bus to Roncesvalles. It was full with 50+ pilgrims.


The temporary buildings we spent the night in.

Just arrived in Roncesvalles at 7:30 pm after riding buses and waiting in bus terminals all day. The main albergue is full to overflowing so they put us in some modular temporary buildings. That may be better anyway, there are only 8 people per temporary instead of 120 in one big dormitory. It will be nice to start walking tomorrow. Only a few minutes left on this connection, so will go for now.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Madrid

I made it into Madrid mid day Monday after an early Sunday start from San Francisco. I took the Metro (subway) to the city center and checked into a hostal for some rest to try and alleviate the jet lag. Tomorrow, I am off to Pamplona, then Roncesvalles in order to start walking. I also went to the Sofia Reina art museum in the evening. Too bad the Prado is closed on Mondays.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why am I doing this?

It is Saturday morning and I am in the process of packing and taking care of last minute details.

I do want to especially thank my wife, Kathy, and my son, Matt, who will remain here holding down the fort while I'm off on my adventure. Without their help, this trip would not be possible. I am indebted to them.

Some of you may be wondering why a person would undertake such an arduous journey as this? I can't say for sure why I am doing it. When Kathy and I were in Santiago in 2005, we were awed by the grandeur of the cathedral and by all the pilgrims who had just completed their pilgrimage walks. I didn't think too much about the possibility of doing it myself until more recently. About a year or so ago, I heard a program on WGBH's Sound and Spirit entitled "The Road to Santiago". It got me to thinking that maybe I could or should attempt it myself. After reading several books and much information on the Internet, I decided that I wanted to make the attempt.

But for what reason? Here are the possibilities:

Religious? I was raised Roman Catholic, but not real active anymore, so that is not the compelling reason.

Spiritual? Partly. I'll leave it at that for now.

Historical interest? Yes. Spain is a magnificent country with a long and interesting history. It will be interesting to walk my way through the historical sites and the beautiful vistas.

Physical challenge? Perhaps the biggest reason. I am used to three day backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Why not see if I can do a 500 mile walk? I think I can, so I want to try.


Want to learn more about the Camino Santiago?

Here is a 7 minute YouTube video for a quick introduction:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EppyMumKRHU

And here is the 60 minute Sound and Spirit program "The Road to Santiago", which I highly recommend:
http://www.wgbh.org/programs/programDetail.cfm?programid=226&featureid=5028&rssid=4

Several books on the Camino:
Gitlitz and Davidson's The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago - A comprehensive cultural guide to the Camino Frances. Even though it weighs in at around one pound, I plan to take this one with me.
Susan Alcorn's Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago - One couple's personal account of their Camino

In addition,Ralph and Susan Alcorn's website contains a wealth of information and many more references for additional resources. This is a good starting point for further research.
http://www.backpack45.com/camino2.html

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Training for the Camino



I have been been training for my Spanish camino by taking walks of 5 to 7 miles every other or every third day. Initially, I thought I would walk along the country roads in our area, but walking on asphalt and dodging cars or in rough ditches was not much fun.

Since we live on the north bank of Cache Creek, I started walking up and downstream taking various routes on both sides. I walk on either the top of the levee which is smooth gravel or the dirt toe road, depending on the shade, the neighboring dogs, or just when I want a change of scenery. The creek has been dry since May, so I have one good crossing on the creek bottom, plus a few bridges up and downstream.

The bottom photo is a view from east of our place. Our walnut trees are the green trees on the right, the toe road and the creek to the left. The top photo is about 1 1/2 miles downstream on the south side of the creek. The shade that those black walnuts provide is welcome when walking in the summer heat.

For the past few months, I have been walking with a loaded pack of about 25 lbs., which is the maximum weight that I want to carry in Spain. I find that I can cover about 3 to 3 1/4 miles per hour and do the entire walk without stopping for rests. As you can see, the terrain is relatively flat, which will not be the case in Spain.

Next post, I will leave you with more information on the Camino Santiago and why I want to do it.