My Camino Route in 2017

My Camino Route in 2017
This year (2017), I will be walking most of the Camino Levante from Albacete to Zamora I've alloted three weeks in September and October, but may have time at the end for more walking.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Negreira  September 29

Looking back over Santiago and the cathedral as the sun rises on our walk.

The picturesque medieval bridge at Ponte Maceira.

El mejor!


Well, we got to sleep in just past 7 am, a good night's sleep without a bunch of people getting up at 5 am making noise. Although Greg said that I was snoring a couple of times. Sorry!

We walked out of Santiago and were soon out in the countryside. Our plan is to take a relatively easy four day walk to Muxia on the Atlantic Ocean, a total of 90 km or 55 miles. Then another day's walk to Finisterra. Today we walked about 22 km (13.5 miles) to Negeira. Much of it was through eucalyptus forest, some gravel path, but some paved road. We had rain showers for a while when we started, but they were light and required only a pack cover and hat. The sun is shining and it's nice and warm now.

We saw our Camino Primitivo friends one last time last night in Santiago. Most were headed back home today and back to work. We passed on the 9:30 pm dinner invitation- I'll bet they were celebrating till 3 am.

I was going to get a 4 euro Albarino wine for this evening's snacks, but Greg convinced me that we deserved the 12 euro Vina Pomal Reserva 2004. He was right, it was the best along with some olives, fresh bread, and aged blue cheese.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Santiago or Old Guys Rule!   September 28

This was our afternoon meal at Galeon Raina: ensalada mixta, tortilla, empanada de atun (tuna), pimentos de Padron, and calamari.

Greg and I in front of the cathedral.

Hospedaje San Roque where we stayed.

This bike pilgrim and her husband got a lot of attention in the cathedral square with their baby who was also a part of their camino.

We walked into Santiago this morning, after over four weeks of walking and over 800 km or 500 miles. Not bad for two old (69 and 62 years) guys! Just shows what positive attitude, proper equipment, good training regimen, and persistence can accomplish. Neither of us has any injuries or problems, besides maybe a little sore and tired, Greg is taking a nap while I write this up. 

Today's walk started with light rain and we needed the raincoats the entire walk of 18 km or 11 miles. Tomorrow we will start the minimum four day, 120 km walk to Muxia and Finisterra.

We checked into an hospedaje (pension) about 11:30. After showers and clothes wash, it was off to the area around the cathedral to do sone exploring. Hunger soon got the best of us so we went to my all time favorite Spanish resstaurant, Cafeteria Galeon Raina. Our afternoon comida included a large ensalada mixta, pimentos de Padrón, calamares, empanadas de atún (tuna), and tortilla. Empanadas were great and the tortilla was the best ever-not overcooked so it was moist and flavorful. A couple glasses of Albariño wine helped, too. By the way, a few of the peppers were hot, but that happens. Eating that meal was like dying and going to heaven!

We are resting up now, but will be out again later. By the way, our Spanish friends have new names for us. Roboyohn for me because of my fast walking pace and Biutiful Boy for Greg because of his haircuts and beard trims.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pedrouzo September 27

First, I need to update you on last night. A group of fifteen of us who completed the Camino Primitivo got together yesterday afternoon in a bar to celebrate with gin and tonics. All were Spanish, except for Greg, I, Kristina, the Hungarian woman, and Ernst, the German man. We didn't get a lot of the conversation, but one of the Spanish women works as a multi-lingual interpreter, so that helped. All were much younger than Greg and I and I think they were surprised that we were able to complete the camino as well as we did, finishing more rapidly than them on many days. They called Greg and I the smiling men, they said we always had smiles on our faces. I told them in my poor Spanish that they spoke so rapidly that when we could not understand, we just smiled. Anyway, afterwards, we went back to the pulperia and had several plates of pulpo (octopus), shrimp in garlic, beef ribs with potatoes, and finally, boiled pigs ears with potatoes. We tried the pigs ears, but have to admit that Greg and I did not like them. They were kind of greasy and slippery without much taste. Anyway a good afternoon and evening to cap off the Camino Primitivo. We saw some of them on the walk today, but the group will only be together now in memories.

Walking today was like being in a cattle drive, with all the Camino Francés pilgrims, must be hundreds of them. And so many of them poorly prepared for long distance walking with swollen legs, bandaged feet, walking in flip flops, just limping slowly along. It was quite a contrast to the disciplined and experienced walkers we have encountered on the Norte and Primitivo.

Our walk today was 33 km or 20 miles, but the path was easy without any serious elevation changes. I think we will walk into Santiago tomorrow as it is only 18 km, then on the next day to Muxia and Finisterra. We are staying in a private albergue here tonight, the same one I stayed in two years ago, it has a bit more room than the public ones plus wifi.

Another contrast with the Camino Francés, is the number of older walkers such as us. Also many English and German speakers, plus many Asians. The Caminos Norte and Primitivo had primarily younger and Spanish speaking pilgrims.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Melide    September 26

Lots of wind generators (eolicos) in Spain. This area was not an exception. They are always on the ridges, where the wind is strongest.

Melide was like a mirage in the distance. We first saw it about 10 or 12 km away, but it seemed to take forever to walk there.

In Galicia, many of the camino markers also have the distance in kilometers to the cathedral in Santiago.

Greg's lunch of pulpo (octopus). I tried some, too, and it was delicious!

First, Happy Birthday, Matt!

Like a cattle drive here! Crazy lots of pilgrims! After more than four weeks of walking the Camino del Norte and the Camino Primtivo, we rarely saw more than 20 pilgrims in a whole day. We arrived at the 140 bed albergue in Melide and pilgrims all over. Greg counted at least 45 walking past in the hour our mid day meal took. It is like culture shock for us. By the way, we went to a pulperia and Greg had the best pulpo ever (I had a taste). We watched as they cooked it fresh, then covered in olive oil and paprika. I opted for the menu of the day, which included caldo gallego.

We did walk 29 km today or about 18 miles. From here, it should be pretty easy going, just lots of foot traffic.

I was in favor of taking the bus from here to A Coruña to walk the Camino Ingles, but Greg wants to finish this path into Santiago, Wednesday morning we should arrive. I think we will keep on walking right through Santiago to do the camino to Muxia and Finisterra.

Our little group had an interesting get together last night as our hospiteleria made a flaming Galician drink with 95% alcohol, sugar, orange, and who knows what else. After he doused the flames, we enjoyed it till it was gone.

San Ramon da Retorta   September 25

Sometimes you just have to stop and wait for the cattle to walk by.

What to do on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of nowhere. I think the table speaks for itself. This is part of the Spanish bunch that we got to know. Greg is in the back on the left.

We had an easy 12 mile walk today, almost like a rest day. Tomorrow will be a longer and harder 18 miles. We are in a little village, in the middle of nowhere. No restaurant, but the albergue here has a take out menu that if you order yor meal by 1 pm, they run to Lugo, pick it up, and serve by 2:30. In the meantime, we visited with all the other pilgrims we have come to know, all Spanish speaking, except for the German man and Hungarian woman.

Tomorrow we will be in Melidé, which is where the Camino Primitivo meets the Camino Francés. It will be like joining a huge herd of driven cattle. We have been used to small albergues of capacity 10 - 20 persons. The albergue in Melidé has room for 130 people. On the bright side, Greg says he remembers a pulperia there that has a good octopus dinner for 8€.

We are still uncertain if we will take a bus from Melidé to A Coruna to walk the Camino Inglés or if we will just walk into Santiago then continue with the camino to Múxia then Finisterra.

Later, 7 pm:  Very quiet here. I got tired of reading, so spent the last hour listening to Bob Dylan and Neil Young.

This looks to be a rundown, maybe abandoned country property, that the new owner is cleaning up and renovating as a new private albergue. Hope they make it. I, of course, would suggest adding wi-fi. But that's just me.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lugo   September 24

Public art in Castroverde. I thought having the water fountain pouring over the umbrella was clever.

A 30 km (18 mile) walk today, but only one steep uphill and downhill today. We are pretty much out of the mountains today, so the walk was fairly easy. Lugo is a large city and the only problem was that I had a hard time finding the albergue in the old part of the city. Greg and I mostly walked separately today, but both of us got lost at the end. 

I finally had caldo gallego for my first dish at midday comida. Caldo Gallego is the regional soup with kale, potatoes, and ham hocks. Greg had a delicious paella.

Afterwards, we went to the cathedral. We asked the volunteer there if it was okay to take photos. He saw that we were pilgrims and offered to give us a personal tour of the various altars and other features of the cathedral, which dates from the 8th century. The tour lasted 45 minutes and was fabulous. Not the biggest cathedral in Spain, but one of the oldest with lots of interesting features, including one altar of the Virgin with the Large Eyes (Osos Grandes).

Back to the albergue, then grocery shopping for tomorrow. Afterwards, Greg and I went to a café on the main square with a German man and Hungarian woman for pulpo and beer (them) and a half bottle of Albariño wine (me). The pulpo (octopus) was the best I've had yet and the wine was fine, too. Gotta get this posted at the fee wifi that I found so I can gat back to the albergue before it locks the doors at 10 pm.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cadávo de Baleira      September 23

25 km (15 mile) today and it included some steep up and down. Still, not too bad as we are getting used to this type of terrain. I had read before how difficult the Camino Primitivo is. It certainly is more difficult than the Camino Francés, which most people take. But I didn't think it was so hard, especially compared to the first stages of the Camino del Norte in Basque country. We will have two more mountainous days on the Primitivo before it ends on the Francés at Melidé, then two days on the Francés into Santiago. By the way the Camino Primitivo is the first and oldest of the caminos. It has been in existence since around the year 900.

Back at an albergue tonight- I like that. We have the same group of about 20  people that we have been with the last week or so, so stopping at the one cafe/bar late morning on the walk is getting to a real social occaision. As is this restaurant this afternoon, where over half of the pilgrims are gathered for the late afternoon meal.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Fonsagrada     September 22

The slate marker telling us that we were entering Galicia."Camino de Santiago, Encuentro Asturias-Galicia"

A short while later there was a bar/cafe in the valley between two mountain peaks. We stopped for a cafe con leche and most of the other pilgrims we have come to know day after day also stopped here.

We walked out of Asturias and into Galicia today. All of a sudden all the place names are in Gallego rather than Spanish. It was a longer walk at 28 km (17 miles) and still a lot of elevation changes as we are not out of the mountains yet. According to the distance markers on the camino, we have 159 km (100 miles) to the cathedral in Santiago.

The albergue is over a mile out of the city, so we are staying in a pension here. It is more convenient than walking back and forth a few times in the afternoon and evening.

I keep tightening the hip belt on my backpack tighter and tighter. I am afraid I may run out of slack as I continue to lose weight walking. I am eating a lot, just this afternoon had pasta with tomato sauce, 2 1/2 pork chops, fries, bread, and wine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Grandas de Salima September 21

Most mornings we started walking while it was still dark, It was not full daylight until 8-8:15 am.

Slate is a native building material in Galicia with many slate roofs. Here is a fence built of slate slabs.

Greg and I wnet to a really great ethnographic musem in Grandas de Salima. This is an enclosure built of rock and slate to keep bears out of the beehives.

And even a few old engines in the museum.

Today was an interesting walk as the terrain was different from that of the last few days. We started out with the usual dairy pastures as we climbed 250 m in the first 6 km. to arrive at a mountain ridge dotted with many wind turbines. From there it was a steep descent with a drop of 800 meters or 2500 feet in the next 7 km. Very hard on the knees. This was through mixed forest starting with pine at the higher elevations and descending through oak, birch, and chestnuts. The interesting thing was the clouds below us at the ridge, then walking through the cloud layer, and into the overcast conditions below. The overcast lasted most of the, but a wind picked up and it us mostly sunny now.

The bottom of the valley is a 35 km long resevoir (Embalse de Salima) and it's attendant dam and hydroelectric facility. We walked across the dam, then another ascent of 400 m in the last 6 km. Greg is now pretty well over his cold, so we both felt good today even though it was another difficult walk.

We were walking around town and looking for a place to eat when we ran across a German we had met several times over the past two weeks and also a Spaniard in his mid 60's who spent most of his life in South Africa and Canada. Had a mediocre lunch, but the conversation was interesting. The Spaniard left Spain at 16 years old so he would not have to be a soldier in Franco's army. He said the 1950's were known as the decade of famine because the country was so poor. He was in Spain visiting his sister but got bored with her and is now walking on his third camino.

Greg and I also went to the town's ethnographic museum. We were not expecting much, but there were a wealth of very well done displays depicting all aspects of Spanish rural life from the 1850's to the 1950's. It was very impressive and I got a lot of photos.

Anyway, the albergue here is decent, I have wifi from the bar down the street, and the supermercado opens at 4 pm. Life is good. Tomorrow we will walk from Asturias into Galicia.

Berducedo     September 20

It was a long steep climb, but here we are on the top.

And more up and down.

Up above the clouds in the valleys.

Another tough walk today. 18 km or 11 miles. The first 8 km were a continuous, sometimes steep, climb of 600 m. That put us at an elevation of almost 1200 m or 3600 ft. From there it was a steep decent, more climbing, then up and down for the rest of the day. We are crossing the Cordillera Cantabrica range. While not mostly as high as the Sierra Nevada, they are still steep. There are pine, oak, and eucalyptus forests and open pasture and farmland. Dairies rule here and it seems like Asturias supplies milk and dairy products to much of the rest of Spain. As I write, a cow just walked by on the street. Hmmm, I wonder if her owner knows what she is up to?

Berducedo is a little village with three bars, two of which are open, and none serves even sandwiches. Luckily one bar has a small grocery so Greg and I picked up fixings for pasta with meatballs and just cooked it. Not the greatest, but it will do. Also, no Internet here, so this posting will need to wait till later.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pola de Allande     September 19



This is dairy country, even though mountainous, there is a lot of productive farmland.


Today's walk was a grueling one. It was only 26 km or about 16 miles. But thre were two steep 300-350 meter ascents and one steep 350 meter descent at the end.  I stated walking at 8 am and arrived here at 1:30, so kept up a pretty good 5 km/hr or 3 mile/hr pace. I was the first to arrive at the albergue. I showered, washed clothes, then walked to the town center and tried to find Greg.  Didn't see him, so had menú del diá at one of the hotel restaurants. Three bowls of a soup with potatoes and green beans, then salmon filet with potatoes and fresh sliced tomatoes, postre was cheescake drizzled with strawberry sauce, cup of coffe, red wine, and bread all for 10€. Delicioso!! Greg walked in just as I was finishing. Greg felt that he should take another rest day for his cold- so took a taxi here. Turned out he had just had mid day comida at the other hotel with two Spanish pilgrims who spoke English.
There are few English speakers here on the Camino Primitivo. In fact, for the past few days, Greg and I have been the only ones. Most are Spanish, plus a few French speakers. I guess I've had a chance to speak more Spanish, but can not say that I am improving much. Pero, estoy de tratando!

After a cool start to the day's walk (46 degrees), it stayed overcast all day, which was really very good walking weather. Now the sun is out and it is nice, probably in the upper 70's. Hopefully decent weather will prevail the next few days as we cross the mountains into Galicia. The next four days will be pretty strenuous with a lot of elevation change. Even in this town, there is no flat area. Everything is up and down on the hillsides.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tineo    September 18

Here is one of the effects of the economic slowdown in Spain- A half finished freeway, with all work on it stopped.

The lattter half of our walk today was in the rain.

Tineo is not a flat city



The first two hours of walking today was a continuous upgrade of 500 km in 8 km of walking. Not all of it horribly steep but all of it up. And there was a cold wind blowing near the tops of the mountains. I guess there should have been a wind as all the eolicos (wind generator turbines) on the ridges were spinning. Our stop at a bar/café in La Espina was a welcome break for our morning pick-me-ups of café con leche and tortilla.

We were just back on the trail when a light drizzle started, so we stopped to put on our pack covers. Twenty minutes later, the rain increased to a steady shower, so another stop to take off the pack cover and cover up completely with the rain parka. It rained off and on for the rest of the walk and the parka never cane off again.

We also got our wish for country paths, which we were on for 95% of the walk. Only problem is that this is dairy country and all those country paths are also used to move the cattle. The wet ground and not much gravel made for muddy walking and our clothes were a mess when we arrived at the albergue around 2 pm.  After a shower and clothes washing, we are feeling better, but the next problem will be drying those clothes in the still cool and damp conditions. It is just under 60 degrees right now.

We are not complaining. We knew that the northern and mountainous camino routes would be cooler and wetter. And so they are! We had an afternoon menu del dia at the hotel restaurant. It is now 4 pm and most people here are reading or relaxing, many including Greg are taking naps.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Salas    September 17

Signs like this help to keep us on track

Salas is a beautiful town in the mountains.

These colds really knocked us on our butts, but I think we are ready to get moving again. I walked 22 km or about 13 miles to Salas today. Greg took the bus there as he was still feeling the effects from his cold. We are both doing much better though and will continue walking tomorrow. Tomorrow will be 20 km with a 500 m elevation gain. I think we can handle it.

It is nice to be back in an albergue again. This is a relatively small one with 14 beds. We had our menu of the day at a close by restaurant: chicken noodle soup, then Greg had chicken and I had fish.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Grado     September 16


Wet and Rainy Grado


I'm feeling pretty good now. Greg is still coughing a lot and feels a lack of energy, so we are staying another night here in Grado. We will see how he feels in the morning. Grado is a small city of not much historical import, so there is not much to do here besides walking up and down the streets, reading, or resting up. Boring to say the least. I am anxious to be walking again!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Grado   September 15



The countryside between Oviedo and Grado


After I had a chance to view the photos of my newborn grandson, Henry  John, we walked out of Oviedo. The suburbs were only a few km and soon we were on country lanes. We had some elevation change, but not too bad yet. We saw about 10 or 12 other pilgrims at various times during the day, so there seem to be many others choosing the Camino Primitivo. 

We walked about 24 km (16 miles) to the city of Grado. It would have been 3 km beyond and a steep climb to the next albergue, we were tired, so decided to stay at a pension catering to pilgrims. Probably that was a good thing as it started to thunder and rain shortly after. I am feeling pretty good and pretty well over my cold, but Greg still has a cough, so we will have to decide in the morning if we will take another rest day. Our first plate at 2 pm comida was scrambled eggs with shrimp and other seafood items (yummy) and second plate was fish with potaoes and salad. When we can do it, the afternoon meals work out better than an 8 or 9 pm meal.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Photos!

I finally was able to use a computer to download and post some photos to the different postings. Take a look!

Oviedo September 14



Cathedral in Oviedo

For those not already aware, there is great news! My daughter, Julia, just gave birth to a baby boy yesterday! Mother and son are doing fine. I hope to give them a call later today. I am a first time grandpa now.

We are resting up as much as possible today. We slept in past 8 am, almost unheard of for us. After our morning coffee, we viewed the cathedral. Not the biggest, but I think the retablos (the gilded facades behind the altars) are some of the best I've seen. Unfortunately, they were in the dark so it was difficult to fully appreciate them. Sorry, no photos since they were not allowed in the church.

We meandered around the old town streets for a while, many beautiful old buildings. There is a big festival coming up here on the 19th, "Diá de Americas" (to celebrate all that new world gold that went into those retablos?). Sound stages and vendor's booths are being set up all over, it looks like it will be a huge festival.

We have an option here to continue on the Camino del Norte or to do the Camino Primitivo, a little shorter, but higher mountains to cross. Even though elevation change is greater, it looks like the spacing of the stages may be better with most stages between 20 and 30 km and only one 31 km stage. We made the decision to take the Primitivo, hopefully that will work out okay.

We returned to our pension about noon and both of us had naps. I rarely take a nap, this is very unusual. I have the feeling that we are like two big batteries that the colds and the walking  discharged beyond a comfortable margin. It is like we are storing up the energy to continue our pace of walking tomorrow and beyond. 

We'll take off about 2 pm to post this blog, have our big meal of the day, and then phone calls and picture posting at the locutorio.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oviedo   September 13



Gregs soup at lunch


We both slept poorly because of our colds. I started coughing so got some cough syrup this morning. We walked about 11 or 12 miles today, mostly on quiet country roads, only the last few miles were the usual large city dreary suburb apartments and industrial tracts.

We are going to take a two night stay here to rest up and try to shake these colds. We found a hostal near the cathedral. We went out about 2 pmfor our midday meal. Ensalada mixta, soup eitj ham, potatoes, and spinach, bacalao (white)fish, and almond torte for dessert. We are wandering around a little, then back to take naps. Sightseeing tomorrow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pola de Siero September 12


This is the marker that the German pilgrim missed.


The pension last night was nice, but the disco music from the festival outside wasn't. Greg had more trouble sleeping than I. I think I was tired enough plus the non-caffeinated cold pill plus the Tylenol pm did the trick. Anyway, we were out of there at 8 and found a cafe at a hotel down the street that was opened for our morning tostada and café con leche. There were two British couples there trying to order a breakfast, not realizing that scrambled eggs are a sometimes dinner rather than breakfast item in Spain. They kept eyeing us and our backpacks, so I told them we off to Santiago as we left. There was also a German pilgrim who told Greg he was planning to take the coastal route to Gijón instead of the inland route to Oviedo as we were planning. We saw him about two hours later looking intently at his guide book. We had to inform him that he missed the markers at the split and had gone 3 km on the wrong route. "Zurück," he said and started walking back.

 We ate lunch in Vega de Sariego at12:30. No sardines or calamari today. Today it was cheese and sausage in our sandwiches.  Vega de Sariego was to be our original stopping point. But we decided to continue on 10 km  more to Pola de Siero, which seems to be a suburb of Oviedo. We both felt fine on the walk, perhaps a bit more slow than usual. This way we have only 16 km instead of 27 into Oviedo tomorrow. Still cold symptoms but we are over the worst part.  We got in about 3 pm and are staying in a very nice new albergue here that just opened last year. It's 4:30 and we are the only ones here so far. This place is not yet listed in most of the camino guides-is that why? 

Bonus!! 9 pm
While grocery shopping this afternoon, I happened to find my favorite tempranillo wine, Viña Pomal from Haro in La Rioja region. Of course I bought it and Greg and I finished it off in the shade behind the albergue along with some dried nuts and olives stuffed with anchovies. A young (31 years old) Polish pilgrim helped us drink it. After walking 16 miles today, it was heavenly. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

VIllaviciosa 11 September

Greg woke up this morning pretty achy and I was just a bit better. He was talking about getting a bus to Oviedo and waiting for me to walk there. But we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday morning, so nothing was running. Not much else to do but start walking and see what happened. We had a. 25 km stage today with relatively less steepness than other stages. We took it slowly and kept walking steadily to reach the albergue around 12:45. 

Unfotunately, there was a sign taped to the door "Cerrado-No agua" (Closed No water). Even though we were tired, we were still out in nowhereland so the only option was to hoof it to Villaviciosa, another 6 km down thr road. So we ended up walking 31 km or 19 miles today.

We both were fine on the walk, but are achy and tired tonight. I think most of the ache is from the colds, but some is the walking. On the plus side, my feet are doing well. No blisters at all. Big toenail is loose but secure for now, so I haven't lost any nails yet either. And my custom orthotics are a dream with next to no heel pain from my plantar fascitis. Thank you, Dr. Scarlett Kroenke, for a fitting job well done.

We are still on cold meds. In the farmacia yesterday, I looked carefully at the ingredient listings to make sure caffeine was not listed. Most of them had caffeine. Both of us took the new medications and both had a hard time falling asleep. I am certain caffeine was in it even though not listed. Why would they need to put caffeine in a cold med, anyway?

Villaviciosa has no albergue, so we are in a two bedroom shared bath pension tonight. I guess it is a bit easier with our colds, tomorrow hopefully back in an albergue. Tomorrow's stage will be about 16 km, but includes one ascent of 420 meters (1300 feet). Two more days to Oviedo. We are thinking of making a rest day there, but are afraid Big Puppy might catch up. We are still mad about catching his cold, even though he said he would pray for both of us. Like I said yesterday, I would rather find some Nyquil!

La Vega September 10



The view from our room in La Vega


It was another shorter day due to our colds. 20 km or 12 miles. Also, Greg preferred to stay in a pension another night, so we found one in the little beach village of Vega. We can hear the surf and see the sandy beach from the open window of our room, like maybe in Hawaii. But it is a tourist area. It does not feel like the camino.

We stopped at a farmacia today to find a different and hopefully better cold medication. It is difficult to find one without caffeine in it. Why can't they just have Nyquil and Dayquil! My cold is not as bad today, but Greg is still feeling lousy. Hopefully with the rest of today for resting, we will be moving at a normal pace again tomorrow.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Nueva de Llanes September 9




The festival in Llanes yesterday was the culmination of the two week festival of the Virgin. Quite spectacular with many people in folk costumes, parades, bands, marching, dancing and on and on. There were some fireworks, but at least the festivities didn't last until 5 in the morning like they did last year in Ponte de Lima, Portugal. Remember that, Marge?

Today is day 16 of our camino. We are just past the halfway point to Santiago de Compostela, with just under 400 km or 250 miles to go. Nueva is between the cities of Llanes and Ribadesella.

Since both Greg and I now have full blown colds with sniffles and sneezes, we decided to take it easy for a few days. Today we only walked 20 km or 12 miles. Tomorrow we plan about a 16 km day, then we will ramp it up again. We are taking cold medication from the farmacia-not sure what's in it but it is helping. Also helping is that there were no really steep stages on today's walk. And a lot of it on dirt and gravel paths, too.

There is no albergue here, so we are treating ourselves to a room in a pension with private bath and shower. Luxury (compared to an albergue) for only 30€ a night. We both took naps this afternoon, so you nursies out there can stop worrying if we are taking care of ourselves.

Thankfully, Big Puppy decided to take a full day of rest in Llanes, so we were able to walk without having someone two steps behind all the
way. He was going to spend the day praying in the church there and was going to pray for Greg and I, too. He has 7 more weeks to find his
way to Santiago, so should be able to do it without us.

9 pm. I forgot to mention Greg's lunch of canned calamares ren su tinta (calamari in it's own ink). I tried some but continued with my usual sardines. For dinner tonight I had the fabadas asturianas, large white beans with blood sausage, chorizo, bacon, and ham.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Llanes    September 8



Street dancers in folk costumes


Well, I guess we got our wish today for off roadway paths as at least 75% of our walk was on gravel and dirt. Some of it was along high ridges with great views of the ocean and the mountains. It reminds me much of Calfornia's north coast, but the colors are more vivid since it is not overcast and the vegetation is still green.

There was a festival going on as we walked into Llanes, a celebration of La Virgen de la Guía. Many school kids and adults in regional attire. The streets were packed for the parade. Now the restaurants are packed. It looks like stages are being set up for music this evening.

Greg and I went out this afternoon for my birthday to eat instead of this evening. I did have two glasses of a good Rioja wine and an ice cream cone to top it off. We also had calamari again.

We both seem to have caught Big Puppy's cold as we both have the sniffles. I am not happy about that.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Columbres September 7





Some of the spectacular scenrty we are enjoying.

After two long days of walking, we were hoping to keep it a bit shorter today. But the spacing of the albergues is such that we had to walk over 27 km (about 16 miles) today in order to have a shorter 22 km walk tomorrow. Today's walk was on some country tracks of dirt and gravel but still mostly on harder surfaces. Still, we were off the main highways for the most part, though we crossed the autopista (freeway) three times. The scenery was just as stunning with pastoral farm views (and, occaisionally, smells) plus vistas of the ocean and the mountains. 

We finally ate the green bananas that I bought two days ago. They were semi ripe. Greg says not to buy any more bananas unless they are ripe. For our roadside lunch today, we had canned albondigas, the first time for this camino.

We walked past the road leading to Potes at the base of the Picos de Europa. Kathy and I spent a delightful night and two days there in 2005, even though I was afraid to take the aerial tram to the top. I also remember the white bean stew with five different kinds of ham and sausage in it. Yummy!

Shortly before our walk ended today, we left Cantabria and entered Asturias.

Comillas   6 September


During the days walk


Calamari with our drinks


We walked 4 km into Santanilla del Mar, a nicely kept up city dating from medieval times. Then a 2 km walk to the Altamira museum, featuring cave art from 10,000-15000 years ago. Except it was not the real caves, just a replica inside the museum building. Disneyland eould have done a much better job. Afterwards, we tried to find a shortcut back to the camino, but I think we walked farther than if we had just gone back to Santillana. Oh well, I think we must have walked at least 27 km or over 16 miles today, arriving at the albergue in Comillas shortly before the 4 pm opening. We have walked about 340 km do far, with around 460 to go.

The weather today was good. The storm system passed and we had a nice sunny day. One thing I have found is that so much of the Camino del Norte is on asphalt. This is not only tedious but hard on the feet and legs. Even the parts off the main higway are mostly on asphalt or concrete roadways. We are seriously considering switching to thr Camino Primitivo at Oviedo, a difficult walk, but not as much roadway.

Big Puppy has a cold, hope we don't get it.

By the way, we got our first views of the Picos de Europa mountIn range today.

Greg and I had fried calamari with wine and beer before we found the library computer this afternoon. Later on, we had menu del diá-he had asparagus and sardines and I had ensalada mixta and croquetas de jamón.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Quevada 5 September

After a nice breakfast with the other pilgrims, we started walking about 8 am under partly cloudy skies in a beautiful country setting. We intended to cover the 13 km to Somo along the beach. A light drizzle started, so out with the rain gear. We got to the next village and thought we found the path to the beach. Then it started pouring rain. Greg is the weatherman and he predicted clearing weather. He was wrong. I am the navigator,so when we came to an option point, I chose the wrong one. My excuse was the downpour, but instead of going to the beach, we were headed for the hills, then somehow ended up making a big circle to end up where we were 45 minutes earlier. I have no idea how it happened as I am rarely directionally challenged, but it happened this time. Anyway, once back on the highway, we decided to follow it all the way to Somo where there is a ferry acrross the bay to the largest city on the northern coast, Santander.

We walked up to the ferry just as it was leaving and were able to relax and enjoy the views on the way across. We arrived in the bustle of Santander at noon and stopped in the public market to have a quick llunch of ham tortilla. There was free wi fi so I was able to post yesterdays blog and one quick email.

Our plan now was to make our way to the bus or tain staion to see if we could find a way to the town of Mogro without having to walk there. There were three good reasons for doing this: 1) the walk out of Santander is many km of suburb and industrial tracts that are not scenic and not fun, 2) there is not an albergue that would be in convenient walking distance, and 3) to avoid a long 10 km detour, we would have to walk a dangerous and not recommended railroad bridge between Boo and Mogro. There was no local bus to Mogro, so we went to the train staion and saw the lineup of taxis. After checking the rates, we determined that splitting the cost of a taxi three ways would be a quick and cost effective means.

We had the driver drop us off in front of a supermarket so we could stock up on food for tomorrow (and a bottle of Campo Viejo for tonight). By 1:30, we were walking the camino again.

Now before any followers of this blog castigate us for taking a means of transport besides our feet, I want to point out that we walked another 17 km in the afternoon, arriving at Albergue Arco Iris just after 5 pm. We walked 30 km or about 18 miles today. So if we arrive in Santiago a little sooner than planned, we will just spent more time walking a different camino before heading home.

Arco Iris is another country albergue offering both dinner and breakfast. That was great, since we did not want to do any more walking. In fact, I think I wore out both Greg and Big Puppy today as they both went to bed before 9 pm and are snoring as I compose this posting. This is a 60 bed albergue, but there are only 4 of us here. By the way, the chicken noodle soup and patatas caseras were excellent.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Güemes 4 September


Not much fun to walk in the rain!

The day started overcast like many of the past few mornings did. The walk started out pretty level out of Santoña and past a few seaside villages of mostly vacation and retirement homes. Then we started our climb of the day, the Alto de El Brusco, which is a steep hill separating two sandy beaches. It is less than 2 km between the beaches, but involves a steep ascent of 120 m. then a descent just as steep. It was drizzling slightly so we put our backpack covers on. Halfway up it started raining steadily and heavily. In minutes, the steep trail went from picturesque and scenic to muddy, slippery, and treachorous. There was no way to switch over to rain parkas for more protection, either. So we slogged our way up, hoping we would not slip over the edge into the ocean. The way down on the other side was no easier as the storm became more intense. Once we reached the other beach, it was a difficult walk through soft and wet sand. Shoes were soaking wet by this time and it was about another two km before we were able to find shelter in an open bar/café that had a covered terrace.  I was able to change my socks and get some of the water out of my shoes, but my feet and shoes were wet for the rest of the walk. It kept raining for another two hours, but was not so bad after I was able to put on my rain parka and gaiters.

We found some cover in the courtyard of a church to eat lunch around 11 am. The overcast did not clear, but there was only a little drizzle the rest of the way. We continued on to the albergue near Güemes, completing the 25 km (18 miles) right at 2 pm.

What a welcome we received there! No sooner had we walked in, but they offered cool water, signed us in, and invited us to the most delicious meal we had yet. The first course was a beef and potato soup, delicately flavored with Spanish paprika. The second course was thin beef filets very flavorful, ensalada normal (lettuce, fresh onion, and tomatoes), and my favorite, fresh cooked peppers. The peppers were not Padrons, but more like the ones I grow in our garden. They were sauteed in olive oil and salt and done perfectly.

I hsve to say that this albergue is in the country over a kilometer from the village and there is not much in the village. So this is the reason meals are offered along with the lodging. There is an association of 70 volunteers who rins this albergue and there is no set chage for staying hete; it is all up to each personstayong here to donate an amount they want. 

The rest of the afternoon and early evening was devoted to individual activity- clothes washing, showers, reading, visiting. At 7:30, we had a meeting where they explained how the alberguecwas started by it's founder, then an explanation of the various route options for the next two days. Afterwards was a dinner with fish or garlic/egg soup and pasta.

This is the first night it has been cool and the dampness means our clothes and shoes are not dry yet. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Santoña    3 September




Walking on the beach at Laredo. Hard packed sand is the best!


We walked farther than I thought we would today. Originaly we were going to walk 20 km to Laredo. Since most of the walk was on the N-634 highway, the walking went quickly even though it was tedious and hard on the feet, not to mention a bit dangerous from passing cars. Finally after about two and a half hours, we found a restaurant that had just opened in Liendo. That café con leche was good but even better were the egg and sausage sandwiches and the fresh hot tortilla that seemed to melt in your mouth. We had the regular potato tortilla, but they also had fresh fig tortilla. I kind of wish now that we had tried that!

We did reach Laredo, a resort city. It is located on a finger of land 5.5 km long with beach on both sides. Seems like many retirees and tourists staying here. We walked several km. on packed beach sand, which was nice after the hard pavement. After we got to the tip, we took  a boat crossing to Santoña. There is some kind of a festival going on, lots if food and other booths. We walked through that and most of the town to the youth hostel for 8.8€, breakfast included, plus 5€ more for dinner. Not bad. Total walk for the day was 26 km or close to 16 miles.

Anyway, we are doing fine, including Big Puppy who keeps following us. He came over with a rosary instead of a guidebook. Now he is never more than two steps behind either Greg or I. I suppose he is afraid of getting lost. It's starting to creep me out. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Islares   2 September



25 km today or about 16 miles. Some highway and some rustic country tracks with magnificent vistas of the sea. Also steep climbs and declines. The mountains here are right up to the sea in mant places.

We also went through the largish resort town of Castro Urdiales, which I thought was more picturesque than San Sebastian. Still there were rows of frying bodies lined up on the beach getting ever more brown, but that is my litle rant for today- getting a sunburn is not my idea of fun. I suppose we looked out of place with our packs, hiking boots, and floppy sun hats.

Shortly into our hike today we left the Basque state and are now walking in Cantabria. As I sit here writing this in late afternoon, it is partly sunny with the fog just starting to cover the tops of the mountain. Our weather has been good, usually around 80-85 degrees for a high. Sometimes a little humid in mid afternoon until a breeze starts blowing in off the sea. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Muskiz    1 September



We walked about 17 miles today from the outskirts of Bilbao to Muskiz, a small seaside village between Bilbao and Castro Urdiales. It was a long walk but the albergue In Portugalete is closed for the year. Also this stage was not as steep as earlier stages. The Guggenheim was good, but we did not do much else in Bilbao as the albergue was nearly out of town. 

We seem to have a mostly new group of walkers since some stopped and others just started. Greg got a cell phone today, but I think I will stick with the iTouch and take my chances with wi-fi. 

I have a blood blister under my big toenail and the nail is loosening up, so it will come off in a week or two-at least it is not painful. Enough of the gory details.

Last night, there were only some small bars in the neighborhood, so we asked a local about the food. She marched us over to her favorite, saying "muy barato, muy barato" as she must have had us sized up as the cheap pilgrims that we are. Anyway, she stayed there with her friends and we had the best toasted ham and cheese sandwiches with fresh bread and a bottle of wine. We spent the afternoon here socializing with our new acquantances over a bottle of Viura wine and olives stuffed with anchovies. It is almost 8 pm, so we will soon go around the corner to sample the peregrino menu in this little town. We already made reservations at an albergue 26 km down the road for tomorrow night- Greg's new phone is proving to be quite useful.

Bilbao. 31 August



Today is our day of rest. It was only an eight mile walk into Bilbao, still it was a 1000 foot elevation gain and dscent. Once we reached the river, we followed it around to the museum. We probably put in another few miles inside the museum, then about two miles walk out of the city center to the albergue.

This is our seventh walking day. We have covered about 160 km or 100 miles. Our goal is at least 100 miles per week, so we are right on track.

What can I say about the Guggenheim? One goes to it as much to see the building as to see the art. It is all curves and angles, nothing straight or perpendicular. To get an idea of it, google "Guggenheim Bilbao". I asked one of our fellow pilgrims, who happens to be an architect, how one even starts to design such a non-linear space. She said the joke among architects is that Gehry crumpled up a piece of paper and threw it on the table for his inspiration. It is indeed s marvel to look in any direction and wonder how they did it.

The art is very modern, mostly changing exhibits. Some pieces quite large and taking up entire rooms. I guess I don't understand how a pile of twisted metal studs or a plastic bucket half full of dried mortar is art- I can find that out in my junk pile. I suppose it is in the sales pitch and how you can convince someone else that a pile of old paint cans is "art".

Still, many of the works are quite stunning and thought provoking. And required much skill and imagination to make. If it makes you start thinking, is it art? Greg H?

Since it is our rest day, we are doing that right now (4 pm). It is too far to walk back into the city center so we will explore this neighborhood later, hopefully to find s grocery, a place to eat, and, if lucky, wi-fi to post this.