TREKKING — DAY 25

FONCEBADON to MOLINASECA — 12.5 Miles

I had slept 15 hours and was finally ready to get up.  My foot still hurt and the stomach problems persisted.  It was raining outside, I was still weak and I knew I could not make that 3 mile walk up the mountain to Foncebadon.  I never thought I’d do this but I had Dick drive me those 3 miles uphill and then I got out and started walking.  The wind was blowing, it was still raining and it was a chilly 40 degrees.  Why walk when I felt so awful?  Because walking made me feel better.  The surroundings were so beautiful and once I got going my foot hardly hurt at all.  And the runs?  I never needed to go when I was walking because I had skipped dinner the night before and ate no breakfast.

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The first thing I came to was Cruz de Ferro, a monument where people leave a stone they’ve brought from home as a token of love and blessing for their journey.  It’s a very meaningful place for many pilgrims but I hadn’t brought a rock so I didn’t stop there for long.

I think I was supposed to get on the Camino path from there but there were other trekkers on the road so I continued to follow them instead of taking the path.

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I had told Dick I wanted to meet him in The next available place because I knew the farthest I could walk without a break would probably be 3 miles. The road continued downhill, which was quite easy for me.  Especially when I spotted the path and it looked like this.

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As soon as “Map My Walk” had told me I had walked 3 miles, there was Dick waiting by the side of the road.  It felt so good to just get in the car and sit for a few minutes, even though my raincoat was soaking wet.  It was a nice break for a few minutes and then I got out and continued on.

I was passing by a funky little village when a French woman came up to me and said, “You see this dog?  It has been following me since Foncebadon and I can’t get rid of it!”  I didn’t know what to tell her.  The dog was big and beautiful and seemed well fed.  Then she said, “I told it to go away in Spanish but it won’t listen.”  I didn’t know quite what to say so the two of us just started walking and thank goodness the dog followed faithfully behind her — not me.

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Even though the rain continued I was in awe of the vast beauty of the countryside.

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In another 3 miles I reached the village of Acebo and there was Dick waiting for me.  We went into a darling Bar and I ordered tea and a potato tortilla.  The place was warm and there was a big fire in the fireplace.

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They served the potato tortilla with 3 pieces of bread with tomato rubbed on them and then drizzled with olive oil.  It tasted so good.  The tortilla was fabulous but I could only eat a few bites of it.

Continuing on, I stayed on the highway most of the time.  If I came to an area where the path was, I avoided it and you can see why.

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I did have to get back on the path at one point because Dick texted me to meet him at a little village for another break.  He said to walk through the village and go to the church at the end.

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I never did see the church but the Camino path veered off to the right so I texted him that I was just going to follow the path.  Bad idea!

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The path was a steep downhill full of mud, rocks, water and thorny bushes.  At times my feet went deep into water and at one point I was trying to jump across a stream when I landed in the mud, went slipping and sliding and fell down.  I didn’t hurt myself and wanted to burst into tears — but I didn’t.  Instead I pushed both hands into the mud, hoisted myself up, wiped the mud off on some grass and continued on.

It wasn’t long before the path reached the highway and I saw Dick.  He was waiting for me at a little stand that a man had set up with food and things for Pilgrims.  He didn’t charge any money but took donations because he said some pilgrims could not afford to pay and he would give them anything they wanted for free.  He looked at the mud on me and said, “Eez not so bad.  Thee Camino Eez like life, eet have some good parts and some not so good.”

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After a nice break it started to rain again and I walked the rest of the way to Molinaseca.  It was a pretty little town by a river and I hoped Dick had gotten us a place with a view.

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As I walked into town he was standing at the side of the street talking to another Pilgrim and she looked to be about my age with long curly gray hair.  She told us how lucky we were to be able to have private rooms with bathrooms because she always stayed in Albergues in group rooms.  And I knew that she was absolutely right.  We were extremely lucky and I was lucky to have Camino Concierge guiding me along The Way.

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Our hotel is the yellow building. No view because we were on the first floor.  But we had the sound of the rushing river outside our window.  And our room was as small as yesterday.

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Dick borrowed a blow dryer from the hospitalero and I was able to shower and wash my hair.  Then there was the task of washing my clothes and especially trying to get the mud out.

I skipped dinner because my stomach was still a little upset and I still had the runs.  I stayed in bed while Dick went out and got a Pizza and a couple glasses of wine.  Then he and the owner of the Hotel, the sweetest 69 year old man you’d ever want to meet, sat just outside my window talking for hours — in English, of course!

As I laid in bed I thought about this intestinal thing and how I thought it would run (literally) its course and then I’d be well.  But that wasn’t happening.  I was tired of feeling weak, not wanting to eat, a little nauseated and constantly having the runs.  So I made a decision.  I opened the window, interrupted Dick in his conversation and said, “I need some help.”

I’ll continue what happened next in tomorrow’s Blog.

TREKKING — DAY 24

MURIAS de RECHIVALDO to RABANAL — 10.4 Mile

The first thing I need to explain is about the Meseta.  The Meseta stretches from Burgos (where I started this time), up until where I was today.  All the books say the Meseta is flat, brown and boring and recommend that trekkers may want to skip it.  Well, I think you can see from my write-ups and photos that all the books lied.  I thoroughly enjoyed walking the Meseta and would do it again in a heartbeat.  But now I was out of it and would be starting into the mountains.

It rained all night long and was still raining when I awakened at 6am.  I had been sleeping for the last 14 hours and still didn’t want to get up.  This bed and this place just felt so right.  After yesterday’s muddy walk, the foot pains, the blisters and the runs, I really was hesitant about walking.  But I thought I’d get up and see how I felt.  I joined Dick and Leslie in the breakfast room and sat with them and other Trekkers while they ate.  I couldn’t even stomach a cup of coffee.  

Leslie seemed ready to hit the trail and I thought I’d give it a try — I had Camino Concierge Dick who I could text at any moment if I needed him to come pick me up.  Leslie said she was going to walk farther than Rabanal because she was on a tight schedule to get to Santiago. I told her I couldn’t go any farther than that.  We put on all of our rain gear, I popped some Camino Candy and we were off.  

Usually Leslie and I walked at the same pace but I just couldn’t do it today.  I felt tired and weak because I hadn’t eaten and when we first started out I was limping on my foot.  But after a block or so the pain started to disminish in my foot and it actually felt better and sometimes had no pain at all.

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The walk wasn’t too strenuous today, not many hills, just mud — but we were used to that by now.  After about 2 miles of trying to keep up with Leslie I had to tell her to go ahead and I would (or wouldn’t) meet up with her later for coffee.  The rain continued and I slowed my pace until I could no longer see her ahead of me.

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I had walked about 5 miles and could tell there was a town ahead because of the prominent church steeple.  It was time for a break so I walked into what looked like a cowboy Bar from the 50’s.  And there was Leslie.

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I ordered a Potato Tortilla which was now my new favorite thing for breakfast, but was only able to eat a few bites.  My stomach was revolting against food.  When we started out again I didn’t want to say goodbye to Leslie because that seemed so permanent but I knew I’d probably never see her again.  

The rain continued as I walked along the highway and there were some uphill climbs that ordinarily wouldn’t have been so bad but today they were killing me.  

I was so happy to see Dick and finally be in Rabanal.   It was still raining and very cold when we walked into Albergue del Pilar.  Dick had reserved a private room with private bath but it seemed they didn’t have any such thing.  So a nice lady had us walk about a block away to someone’s house where we were taken to a room upstairs, with a bathroom across the hall.  She said it was our own private bathroom because there was no one else in the other 3 rooms.  The house was absolutely beautiful but when she showed us our room it couldn’t have been smaller.  The two twin beds and one night stand barely fit in the room.  And there was no floor space to put our things without tripping over them.

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Dick wanted to eat so we walked back over to the Albergue and he ordered a plate of pasta while I had a cup of tea.  The hospitalero who served us kept laughing and looking at Dick saying, “Solo Engles!”  Only English! Those were Dick’s famous first and last words in Spanish.  

While we were there Dick said he had driven ahead to see what tomorrow’s walk would look like and he said it was a horribly high mountain.  When we finished eating we drove up there and I saw that it was 3 miles of straight uphill.  And when we got to the top it said this was the highest point on the Camino.  I knew I couldn’t do it tomorrow.  I told Dick all I wanted to do now was go to bed.  It was about 2:30pm when I got in bed and except for frequent trips to the bathroom, I slept until the next morning.

TREKKING — DAY 23

HOSPITAL del ORBIGO to MURIAS de RECHIVALDO — 14 Miles    THE DAY FROM HELL!

When I was awakened at 5:30 this morning with a case of “Mexican Tourista,” I thought this would be the worst part of the day. Boy was I ever wrong. For the first couple of hours I wasn’t sure I’d be able to walk because of my need to be close to a bathroom. And my foot still hurt. But by the time we went to breakfast at 8am, things had settled down. Lots of people I’d met had been talking about “Camino Candy” (Ibuprofen) so I decided to take a little this morning.

I was looking forward to another easy day of just 10 miles but when we met Lesley for coffee she proposed the idea of walking a longer day today so that we could shave some time off tomorrow’s walk. That sounded OK to me — it was only going to be 4 more miles than we had originally planned. She also said she didn’t want to walk along the highway but would prefer the more rustic “original” Camino route.

It had been raining for the last 24 hours and although I didn’t like the highway and the noise of all the cars if I’d been by myself I would have chosen that route.  On our way out of town we met Carol, the 75 year old lady from Australia and she and the guy she was with were both going to go the highway route. I could kick myself for not following them because that’s when our troubles began. They turned left at a fork in the road and we turned right. We walked and walked, on muddy paths, through fields of barley and then realized we hadn’t seen a Camino marker for a long time. Just then we saw a guy and we asked for directions to the Camino. He quickly rattled off something in Spanish and pointed in the opposite direction than we were going.  So we started walking back the other way, but still weren’t seeing any Camino signs.  I did see a church steeple off in the distance and told Leslie that the Camino path usually went by the church in each little village.  So we started walking toward the church, which was way off in the distance.  As we got closer we saw a little old lady standing in a doorway and I asked her where the Camino was. She said, “Camino? Do you want to have some breakfast?” And I started laughing. Then we found a man who pointed us in the right direction. By that time we had gone a mile out of our way.

The path went up a big mountain and if we thought we were in mud before, we were in worse mud now.

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The going wasn’t easy and there were hardly any markers and I was never sure we were going the right way. We were in some industrial farming area.

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The mud and the steep hills continued, and in fact got a whole lot worse. There were only two other Trekkers that we could see and they were ahead of us by about a quarter of a mile. This was the worst walk ever! The road continued to get muddier and muddier and it was the only place anybody could walk.

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I was sinking deeper and deeper into it. Leslie got about 2 blocks ahead of me because with every step I couldn’t seem to get my feet out of the mud.  Every time I would put my foot down, it would sink 4 inches down into the muddy clay and I couldn’t pull it back out.  And when I did pull it out the clay clung to it in huge clumps.  At one point while trying to pull my foot up it actually came out of my shoe while the shoe stayed deep in the mud.  I almost fell over when I bent down to wedge my foot back into the tied shoe.  After a few more slow steps it was murder to keep my feet in my shoes.  So I carefully bent down and re-tied each shoe and then the mud got all over my hands and under my fingernails. I kept talking to myself and cussing under my breathe and wanting to just sit down and cry. But I couldn’t do that in this mud!  It continued on like this for the next 5 miles.

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I finally got to where the mud was only a couple inches deep but there were big pools of water in the path. And as if the mud weren’t  bad enough, those steep uphill climbs were killing me.

Then we came to this cute scarecrow or whatever it was and a little shrine to the Camino and that lifted our spirits.

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We trudged on for another 2 miles and when we reached the top of the mountain we could see the town of Astorga about 2 miles off in the distance. We were elated!

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When we were almost there we passed this statue of a pilgrim  with a water bottle.

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I can’t believe we look so happy in this photo!

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Appreciating the beauty of the walk into Astorga.

The clay on our feet was beginning to dry and every so often we would stop and try to kick it off.  When we got to the outskirts of Astorga we had to walk on winding streets up extremely steep hills before we reached the central plaza of town.

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This was an upscale town.  Hotel rooms were running about $160.00 a night.  So I  was kind of embarrassed when we walked into a little Bar with our mud caked feet.  But we were desperate for a break and this little Bar was crowded with patrons so I don’t think anyone noticed how muddy we were.  We had Cafe con Leche and Churros and they helped to revive us.  As we walked out of the Bar I noticed we had left clumps of clay all over the floor.

Astorga was a really cute and rather large town and its cathedrals were astoundingly beautiful and done by Gaudi.  We didn’t know this until we walked a little farther through the town and saw them.

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Then we passed what looked like a very ultra-modern church with a commeration to Pilgrims walking the Camino.

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By this point we should have been exhausted and ready to drop but unexpected beautiful surprises like these just took our breath away.

Our Camino Concierge, Dick, had driven ahead this morning and texted that he had booked us into private rooms at the Albergue Aguedas.  As we continued walking and got closer to it he texted that it was really “rustic.” I asked him what that meant and he said, “It is in the eyes of the beholder.” Uh oh. This place might be a real dump.

Dick met us at the beginning of Murias de Rechivaldo, this two block long village and he seemed to know everybody there as he walked us to our Albergue. After all, he’d been socializing with them all day. It was an absolutely darling place and we knew we’d have to take off our shoes and socks before we went in.

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You can see how high the mud went up Leslies trekking poles.

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Back view of mud high up our pants.

We got to our room and it was the cutest thing ever.  Dick had turned the radiator heat up really high so the room was nice and warm.

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I got out of my clothes and using the bathroom sink tried to rinse the mud off of everything, especially my shoes. What a mess!  There was mud all over the counters and dripping onto the floor.  When everything was rinsed out I asked Dick to take the pile of wet stuff to be washed and dried in a machine. He stuffed my shoes with newspapers, which soaked up a lot of water and then we put them on the radiator to dry.

Once he’d gone I stepped into the shower, turned on the water and stood there for 5 minutes waiting for it to get hot. Well, it didn’t. Dick had to go get the manager who came in while I stood there with a towel wrapped around myself. He turned the shower on for another 5 minutes and came out and said “The water’s cold.” No kidding! Then a lady came and told me I could use the shared bathroom upstairs so I gathered my stuff and with the towel still wrapped around me, I walked through the common sitting area and up the stairs to the other bathroom.

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I stood under the hot water for ages and tried to wash the clay off my discolored feet.  It felt so good to be clean and the greatest part was that there was a blow dryer under the sink.  I joined Dick and Leslie out on the patio for a late lunch.  Dick and I shared a cheese, tomato and chorizo sandwich and each had a glass of wine.

My foot was hurting (same foot that hurt last year) and on my other foot there was a blood blister underneath my big toe and another huge water and blood filled blister on the side of my big toe.  And my intestinal problem continued full force.  I just needed to go to bed.  So I snuggled down into the most comfortable bed I had ever been in.  I fell asleep at 4pm and the next thing I knew, Dick was waking me up telling me it was 7 and that I’d better get up.  I actually thought it was 7 the next morning.  But it was dinner time and Dick was going to go join Leslie for a vegetarian meal.  But when I got up to go I felt horrible, foot hurt like crazy along with awful stomach cramps so I just went back to bed and fell sound asleep.  I loved that bed and this place and wanted to stay forever.  The only drawback was that I couldn’t get on the Internet!

It was easy to go back to sleep and sleep well through the night despite frequent trips to the bathroom.   And every time I thought about walking tomorrow I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do it.

 

 

 

TREKKING — DAY 22

MAZARIFE to HOSPITAL del ORBIGO — 10.5 Miles

We went to sleep last night with rain falling and woke up to it again this morning.  My left foot was hurting when I walked so I decided to give Dick my backpack to take in the car and I carried a day pack under my raincoat.  Yesterday, in speaking to Lesley, I told her I had decided to shorten today’s walk to just 10 miles instead of the 20 miles we would do if we kept to the schedule in Brierley’s Book.  She said she wanted to do the same thing.  Everyone else we had come to know and love was doing the whole 20 miles today.  So we probably wouldn’t see any of them again.

We met up with Lesley in the Bar of her Albrgue, had a Cafe con Leche and were ready to head out in the rain.

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It was just sprinkling at first but quickly developed into a full blown rain.  This was the first time I had ever walked the Camino in rain and rain was something I had always dreaded.  The walk was really easy and there were only 2 uphill places the whole day.  But the rain!  It continued non-stop and the path got wetter and muddier with each step.

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And it wasn’t only the path.  WE also got wetter and muddier as we went along.  My shoes were not water proof and I was finding out that my “waterproof” rain jacket wasn’t either!  And Leslie was having trouble with her Gortex jacket because she was getting damp underneath it, too.

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We finally reached a town we both thought was Hospital del Orbigo.  But when we stopped in a little cafe we realized we were still 3 miles away from it.  We had a Cafe con Leche and a banana and started out again.

The rain hadn’t let up at all and after 2 more miles we came to a spot in the road where the yellow arrow pointed straight ahead but people had written all over it with words like “No No No No,” and “False,” with other little arrows pointing off to the left.  A bunch of other Trekkers stopped at this arrow and they didn’t know which way to go either.  Lesley and I chose to go left.  Well, that was the wrong decision because we ended up behind a big power plant, had to circle around it, then ask an old man for directions to get to the center of town.  Just then I received a text from Dick telling me we were going the wrong way.  So we turned right, where the man had told us to and I received a text from Dick that we were going the right way.

But we still didn’t know exactly where we were supposed to go to get to the Albergue.  Just then, Dick pulled up beside us in his car and told us we were about a half a mile away and to keep going straight.  A block later he pulled up and  followed beside us as we walked.  Then he drove away and stopped a few blocks down the road.  When we got to him again he told us to turn right and then turn left half way across the bridge.  What?!!  Were we supposed to jump in the water???

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But just like he had told us, there was a little road that went left part way across the bridge.  Dick was waiting for us at that point and told us how to get to the Albergue where he had booked private rooms for us.  He even told us which way to turn once we walked in the door.  At that point Lesley came up with the perfect name for Dick.  From now on we would refer to him as our “CAMINO CONCIERGE.”

We booked into the La Encina Albergue.  We had a private room downstairs and Leslie had one going through another locked door but up on the 3rd floor.  It wasn’t until we were actually in the room that I realized I was totally wet from the outside in.  My rain coat, fleece coat, pants, shirt, fanny pack, under pants, bra, and shoes and socks were all saturated!  The room was really cold but I quickly stripped out of everything.  As I stood there naked I said to Dick, “Where are my things?”  He said he left them all in the car.  And did I want him to get them?  Duh! So I stood there naked and shivering while he went back out in the rain to get everything.  Some Concierge he was!

I hung my wet clothes all over the room plus emptied everything out of my sopping wet fanny pack and spread it out to dry.  After a nice hot shower I got dressed in dry clothes and thankfully I had a rain poncho to put on over everything.  Dick told me I should throw the raincoat away!  We didn’t know which room Lesley was in or even how to get in touch with her but just before we each checked into our rooms I handed her my Pilgrim business card that Dick had made especially for the Camino.  It had my email address on it.

We headed out to find something to eat but the rain was so miserable that we kept going around the block and back to the bar at our Albergue.  The first thing we did was ask the hospitalero (manager) if we could get some heat in our room.  They normally don’t turn heat on until nighttime, if at all.  But all Dick had to do was put his ice cold hands on her cheeks (her face cheeks that is) and she knew our room needed heat.

It was toastie warm inside the bar and the food was fantastic.  As we were sitting there I got an email from Lesley telling us about her fabulous “suite” upstairs and asking us what our plans were.  I emailed her and told her we were downstairs in the bar.  A few minutes later she joined us.  She told us she had a great studio apartment upstairs with a living room, kitchen, bedroom, microwave and a space heater.  WOW. All we had was a cold room with two twin beds, a desk and a bathroom!  And we were paying more for our room than she was for hers!  It was so nice of Camino Concierge Dick to book that room for her!!!

When we got back to the room it was beginning to warm up because they had actually turned the radiators on.  I took a bunch of stuff like my fanny pack and socks and draped them over the radiators to dry.  I couldn’t believe the efficiency of those radiators.  It was great.

At six o”clock we met Leslie in the bar again and we all shared a dinner of Calamari, Patatas Bravas. French Fries and of course lots of wine.  When we were finished eating, the bar tender brought over some tiny glasses of a yellow liquor.  Whew, was it strong.  But the kind that would make me fall into dreamland as soon as I got back to the room.

 

 

TREKKING — DAY 21

LEON to MAZARIFE — 14 miles

During the middle of the night I was so cold even though I was under a warm down comforter.  My body was warm on the outside but it felt so cold inside.  Finally about 3am I took an Ibuprofen and was able to go back to sleep.  

When I was ready to leave I wasn’t sure how to get back on the Camino.  So when we checked out of the hotel I asked the desk clerk where the Camino was.  He said, “Do you want the long way or the direct way?”  And I told him I wanted the direct way.  He then got out a map and showed me both routes.  The regular route (how it showed to go in Brierley’s book) went North, circled around, then wound through little streets before heading West.  The direct route headed directly West.  That was a no brainier.  We had cafe con leche and a pastry and I headed off, passing this beautiful Parador (the one where Martin Sheen stayed in the movie “The Way).

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The path was not well marked and I was walking through the busy streets of Leon, with lots of noise and traffic.  So I decided to slow down, not pass anyone and just follow the other Trekkers.  We were walking single file along the sidewalk.

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I ran into that guy who pulled his things in a cart.  He was stopped on a street corner and was explaining to other curious Trekkers how the cart was attached to the harness around his waist.

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It was 2 or 3 miles of a gradual incline and several hills before we were able to get away from the sounds of the city.

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This area had a bunch of dwellings or cave like structures dug into the side of the hill.  

Just as I thought I was out of Leon I entered another town.  I was walking by a cute sidewalk cafe when I spotted Brian and Lesley.

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They were just finishing their coffee so we all walked together until Lesley spotted this unusual looking building with huge bronze statues across the front facade.  It was actually a church, and the shrine of the “Virgin of the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.”

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The facade represents the mysteries of the Rosary.  The statues below are to the left of the door and have an actual rosary hanging around their necks.  And next to the building is one of the tallest crosses I’ve ever seen.

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We went into the church and it was beautiful with stained glass windows and a stunning alter area.  There was also a priest inside who stamped our pilgrim passports.  

Back on the Camino we came to a choice — walk along the highway to Villadangos or through the countryside to Mazarife.  We chose Mazarife.  The terrain took us up and down hills, by beautiful fields and through mud, muck and water.  In one spot my left foot got fully emmersed in water because there was no place else to step.  When Brian spotted other Pilgrims he wanted to have his picture taken with all of them.

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A little farther up the road Dick was waiting for me so we could have coffee but nothing was open in what seemed like a little ghost town.  Once again Brian (Mr. Congeniality) called to every Trekker passing by to come have their photo taken with us.  Dick was the photographer and every person there handed their camera or cell phone to him to get a picture of their own.

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I decided I’d split from Lesley and Brian because I just wanted to walk, not stop to take so many photos, and I was good with walking alone.  The terrain went up and down with quite a few hills and crops of barley and the yellow plant that canola oil is made from.

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I was hot and sweaty by the time I reached the town that I thought was Mazarife.  It seemed like a big enough place but as usual did not have any signs saying which town it was.  It was really old and had some historic looking buildings.

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I was wondering where Dick was, he usually would come to meet me but I couldn’t find him anywhere.  I walked through town on the Camino path then got off the path and searched everywhere for him.  No Dick!  So I texted him and said, “Where am I???”  I was so deflated when he told me I was 3 miles away.  So I kept walking, and walking and got farther out of town but there were no Camino signs.  Then I came to a fork in the road — no Camino signs.  So I retraced my steps and found someone who told me the Camino was way back where I had first come into town.  So back I went, got on the right path and walked 3 more miles until I saw Dick walking towards me.  

Once we were at the hostel I flopped down on a lounge chair on the front lawn and stayed there for the next hour.  Dick had bought me a liter bottle of Nestea so I asked the manager for ice and a glass.  Well, all she heard was ice because a few minutes later she brought me a huge block of ice wrapped in a towel.   I started laughing and told her “ice in a glass.”  So she went back, chipped some off the huge slab and brought it in a glass.  After I had downed 4 glasses of Nestea I went in and showered and came back out to sit some more.

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Walking around and exploring this little village we spotted some stork nests on top of the church tower.

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We went into a bar to have a drink and spotted Brian and the 2 Brits on the patio.  Leslie showed up later and we all agreed to meet back at 7pm for dinner.  In the meantime we toured the inside of the 16th century church, gave a donation and a sweet lady tried to explain things to us in very broken English.

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At 7pm we all met back at the bar for the “Menu Del Dia.”  We were joined by Rod from Sacramento and Carol from Australia, who was 75 years old and walking the Camino alone.  There were 9 of us in all and as we sat  in a covered part of the patio it started to rain.  None of us had brought rain gear to the bar.  Then out of the blue Brians eyes lit up and he said “Let’s photo bomb the bar!”  So we all got up and went in the restaurant part — made the people in there get up and we got this fabulous photo.

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And here’s how we finished our get-together.  Leslie had borrowed my hat today because her ears were getting sunburned.  She loved the hat and said she needed to buy one like it.  Well I knew she wouldn’t be able to because we were in a bunch of small towns and they wouldn’t be selling that kind of hat.  Then Dick told me when he checked in they gave him some kind of package and he didn’t know what was in it.  So I went back in the room and opened it and there were 3 things inside.  A lanyard — no need for that.  A plastic case to put a passport in — too small, the passport won’t fit into it — no need for that.  And a hat — just like the one Leslie had borrowed from me.  OMG — I gave the hat to Lesley at dinner and she was thrilled.  She kept holding the hat and stroking it like it was the best gift anyone had ever given to her.  

There is a saying here that people use over and over again and that is:  “The Camino Always Provides,” and this was yet another example of that happening.  

Dick, Carol and I were delighted as we ran the 4 blocks back to our hostel in the pouring rain.

 

 

TREKKING — DAY 20

MANSILLA to LEON — 12 miles

Today started off with a little mishap.  After I got up and ready to go I picked up my backpack from the floor and found that the water bottle was still attached to it and had been leaking all night.  The backpack was sitting in a pool of water and was soaking wet on the backside — which went against my back, and the shoulder straps were also dripping with water.  There was no way I could wear it today.  So I had to switch to my day pack, where nothing was accessible.  My fingernails were ragged and kept catching on my clothes, I couldn’t find the plastic bag for my pajamas, even though it was right there, I should have washed my hair 3 days ago and Dick didn’t offer to get me any coffee this morning.  All of this added up to put me in a funk.  The good news was that Dick was able to take my backpack with him in the car.

It was after 8am by the time I left and after a half a block the first person I passed was Matt who was sitting on the sidewalk having a smoke.  I found the Camino trail and quickly proceeded out of town.  Immediately the Camino put me right next to a busy highway.

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The diesel fumes and noise of the traffic just added to my irritation.  However, there was one pretty part.

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And it lasted all of 2 blocks.  Then I was back by the highway with noise and fumes.  I listened to my MP3 player to try and block out the noise but it didn’t.  And then it died because I hadn’t charged the batteries.  I tried to switch to music on my phone but didn’t know how to do it so I had to text Dick.  He got me all straightened out.  Then the path ended and we were up on the highway walking alongside the cars and trucks.  

After about 6 miles of easy but noisy walking I decided to stop for a break.  I wanted an outside cafe because the weather was so beautiful but there were none.  I passed up a Cafe with pastries in the window and then turned around and went back to it because I wasn’t sure there would be another.  When I got inside, who was there but Leslie and Brian and his buddie.  They were just finishing their break so I had a little coffee with them and told them to go on ahead.  I took my time drinking and resting, not in any hurry to leave.  

Back on the road the traffic continued and the terrain started to get hilly.  I felt like a slakker pilgrim in my day pack as everyone else had their full packs.  I passed Carol and Leah but didn’t stop to talk as they were trudging up the hill in their full packs.

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There were a couple of cute parts like this donkey with “Buen Camino” painted on it’s side.

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Then the path continued alongside the highway again.  Dick kept texting me that he would meet me for coffee at some point but there was never a place to do it.

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Finally off in the distance I saw a big city and couldn’t believe it was Leon.

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It was another 3 miles of noisy highway before I entered town and met Dick outside the hotel.  There was no place to park so I carried his backpack, my wet backpack and my daypack into the hotel while he looked for a place to park.  The hotel was called the Conde Luna and was a big American type hotel with a view of the Leon Cathedral off in the distance.

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I wasn’t tired after the 12 mile walk so we went out to see the sights of Leon and have a bite to eat.

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We walked around for ages before we found a place to eat.  There were lots of “Bars,” “Cafeterias” and ice cream and dessert places but when we looked at the posted menus we couldn’t understand what any of the food was.  The words were so different from the Spanish I knew.  We finally found one that had an English menu.

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Calamari and Croquettes

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“Little pocket filled with mushrooms, prawns and tomato”

We had planned to stay in Leon for 2 days of rest and relaxation but even though it was beautiful here neither of us felt comfortable being in the big city with the noise, traffic and all the congestion.  And besides that, the whole time we were out walking around we didn’t see one person we knew!

 

 

TREKKING — DAY 19

EL BURGO RANERO to MANSILLA — 12 Miles

Lying in our huge room with 3 beds, it was tempting just to stay there all day.  I thought I would be really sore after yesterday’s 20 mile trek but once I was out of bed I felt fine.  I knew this would be an easy day, just 12 miles, and that made it all the better.  I didn’t know how Leslie felt but I didn’t think I could keep up the fast walk I did with her yesterday.  

It was 8:30 by the time I left and found my way to the Camino path.  It was long and straight and ran next to a secondary road.  

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There was hardly any traffic on the road so it was really peaceful and quiet. The thing that differentiated this path from others was that there were benches and picnic areas placed intermittently along the way so if you were tired you could always find a nice place to sit.  

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Some people just didn’t want to carry a backpack so they put a harness around their wastes and pulled a cart with all their belongings.  I can’t imagine doing that on some of the mountains we’ve had to pass.

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The first mile seemed to be the longest and I never thought I’d get it over with.  There was no one on the trail that I knew this morning so I was happy listening to music, which put a spring in my step.  Most of the terrain was flat, there were some hills to climb but they weren’t too bad.  After I’d gone about 6 miles I found a cement bench to sit on for about 5 minutes.  It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the birds were chirping.  I had never in my life heard a coo coo bird but now I was hearing them every morning as I walked.  And they sounded exactly like a coo coo clock!  

After about 8 miles I came into a village called Rellegos and was going to take a break.  I didn’t want to stop at the first place I saw but just after I walked past it I heard someone calling my name.  It was Lesley.  We hugged and were so happy to see each other.  She had just finished her tea and was getting ready to leave but since I was there she decided to stay with me.  We were just sitting down at a table outside when Debbie and a guy named Brian showed up.  I was so happy to run into my two favorite walking partners.  They introduced me to Brian, who was from Ireland and seemed like Mr. Congeniality.  Brian bought us all coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice.  We had a great break sitting outside in the sun and of course laughing and telling funny stories.  Leslie said she had had a terrible night after that 20 mile walk we had done the day before — she woke up freezing and shaking uncontrollably and could not get back to sleep.  She thought it might have been a combination of walking so far mixed with a little sun poisoning.  Her face was really red.

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The 4 of us then set out walking together with Leslie and Brian (the fast ones) in front and Debbie and I (the decidedly slower ones) several yards behind.  When Brian saw a group of Trekkers standing at the side of the path he insisted we have our picture taken with them.

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The next 4 miles flew by and we had reached Mansilla.  Dick had texted me that our Hostel was called El Jardin (the garden) and although I had seen a sign for it I still hadn’t found it.  Just when I thought I had passed it, here came Dick walking toward us.  He took us right to it and that’s when we said goodbye to Brian and Debbie.  They were both staying elsewhere in Albergues.  

Although Lesley always stays in group rooms in Albergues she said she still wasn’t feeling up to par and wanted a private room for the night.  El Jardin was so cute and quaint with a huge yard in front with tables, chairs and umbrellas.  Dick had done a great job when he booked us there.  Leslie liked it too and we tried to get her a room there but they were full so she found one at a hostel right next door.  Dick had already paid for our room but when we went to check in they told us they were putting us at another place about a block away.  So all of us were staying in completely different places and no one was staying at El Jardin.  Our hostel was new and modern but didn’t have any of the quaint charm that we had learned to love.

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This is the view from our balcony.  After we got settled in the room we went back over to El Jardin so we could sit in the garden and have some lunch.  The first person we ran into was Matt, who is an artist.  He showed us his book of drawings of conquistadors and saints all having to do with the Camino.  We were so impressed.  He was a fabulous artist.  He had just done his wash and was spreading it all over tables and chairs to dry.  Another Trekker was in shorts (or under pants) and a sports bra, sunning herself.  Dick and I sat down at a table and ordered, beer, wine, a salad and Patatas Bravas.  Everything was fabulous.

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Just as we were finishing, Lesley walked in.  She had come for lunch so she sat with us while she ate and we drank more wine and beer.  Then just as she was finishing her meal, Debbie and her husband Jim came walking in.

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They sat with us and ate while we all continued to drink wine and beer.  Then just as they were finishing who shows up but Carol.  Then Brian and his friend wandered in and joined us.  And wait, just after that Debbie and Jim’s daughter Elizabeth walked in.  OMG this was one big happy family.  I’m not quite sure how we were all drawn together like that.  

We had been there the entire afternoon and it was now 5 o’clock.  Debbie and her family left and I told Dick we needed to go, too.  Lesley, Carol and Brian were all still there drinking when we went back to our room.  

At 8 o’clock Dick and I decided to go back and get a bite to eat.  Well what a shock — Leslie, Carol and Brian were all still there.  They had never left!  And they had been drinking all day!  Also, Carol’s daughter Leah was there.  Remember Leah?  She was the little blonde we had first met at the airport in Madrid.  They were sitting at a big long table with a bunch of other trekkers eating dinner.  So we pulled up chairs and joined them.  

It just amazed me how certain of us were always being drawn together along The Way.

 

 

 

 

 

TREKKING — DAY 18

TERRADILLOS de los TEMPLARIOS to EL BURGO RANERO — 20 MILES

This morning came all too quickly and I just wanted to stay in bed.  I knew it would be another long day but I wasn’t anxious to leave in the dark again.  I skipped  breakfast because I’m never hungry in the mornings and here on the Camino what they consider to be breakfast is coffee, toast and jam.  

Dick walked me out the door at 7 am.  It was cold but light out and I was glad I had bundled up again.  The path ran right in front of our Albergue and other Trekkers were there so I felt confident about where I was going. Once on the path I passed an Asian woman and said “Buen Camino” and she said “Oh, you backpack, it so pretty — pretty color, like it, nice nice, everything match, backpack, jacket, you gloves, too.”  I started laughing and thanked her and then she locked arms with me as we walked along.  I loved how friendly she was.  The locked arm thing only lasted a few minutes and then we were walking together at a good speed.  She was from Taiwan and traveling with 2 other people.  The guy in front of us was one of them and she said he set the pace and she had to keep up with him.  Her English was not too bad and we had a good time talking for the next 2 miles.  Then the other guy she was with called to her and she told me to go on ahead.  

For the next 5 miles there were a lot of hills and ups and downs as the path traversed through some wooded areas but mostly ran alongside a secondary road.  I was happy to be walking alone again and decided I wanted to listen to music.  The first song I heard was by the Gypsie Kings called “Caminando por la Calle,” (walking along the highway) and I couldn’t believe how appropriate it was.  Then I passed 3 women trekking together and they commented on my backpack.  They loved the decals and said, “Oh I want to put decals on my backpack, too.”   They were from California — Mission Viejo and San Diego.  I passed them up and kept walking and the next song that came on was “California Dreamin.”

I was finally getting close to the big town of Sahagun and Dick had texted me that we should meet there for coffee.  I could see Sahagun up ahead on my left but the path was taking me way out of the way to the right.  I ended up in a little area with some Camino statues, and a bridge that went over a little stream.

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The path then went back the other way toward Sahagun and I was a little miffed that it took me so far out of the way when I could have continued along the highway and been there already.  I finally veered off the path to enter Sahagun through some back streets.  Dick texted me to meet him at a really tall building that I should have been able to see, but couldn’t.  I was really tired and ready for a break so texted him that I was at the backside of a hotel and that he HAD to come and get me.  Two minutes later, there he was.  I hopped in the car with my face pressed up against the windshield because I hadn’t taken off my backpack and 4 blocks later we arrived in the middle of town and at a cute little bar.  We sat outside at a table and ordered cafe con leche and an almond croissant (which was the best croissant I had ever eaten!).

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I burst out laughing when I saw these signs on the bathroom doors.  While we were sitting outside luxuriating in the sunshine along came the California women and the people from Taiwan.  Then, sitting at the table next to us were Matilda and Leslie who I had met and have photos of in yesterday’s blog.  Matilda was leaving to go back to Italy to work and they said long tearful goodbyes to each other.  They had just met a week ago on the Camino.

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During the break we discussed which town I would walk to today — the well travelled path to El Burgo Ranero, which ran next to the road and was a lot longer, or take the shorter, rustic path to Hermanillos, which ran through dense bush.  I told Dick I wanted the rustic path.  

After that nice rest break I gathered up my things and was ready to leave when I discovered the Camino path was right beside us.  There were some pretty sights walking through Sahagun.

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I was a couple miles out of town when Dick texted me that he had driven to Hermanillos and there were no private rooms available anywhere in that little village.  So the decision was made — I would walk the longer route to El Burgo RANERO.  I wanted to make sure I was on the right path so I was standing, looking at some map signs when Leslie, from Britain, showed up.  There were two other guys there from Britain and we all finally decided we were on the right path.  

Leslie and I took off and found we both liked to walk fast and we talked non-stop and laughed for the next 6 miles.  She was just as much fun as Debbie.  Actually, Leslie walked a little faster than I would have liked, and why not?  She was 13 years younger than I.  At one point I asked her if her legs hurt after she walked and she had to think about it and finally said, “Well, not really.”  Oh boy, I was in bad shape!  

Dick texted me off and on while we were walking and said he would meet me at the next little village.  By then we had walked 15 miles and I was really tired — and I mean “really” tired.  As we entered the village we met Dick, who was sitting outside at a little bar.  The first thing he said to us was that he could hear us laughing and talking when we were still 2 blocks away!  After using “the facilities” we sat down with Dick.  Leslie had tea and treated Dick to a beer while I chugged down a pint — of water, that is.  The two British guys showed up and tried to get reservations in this little place but everything was fully booked.  So, they were going to have to walk on to El Burgo Ranero, too.  

The break was nice and I thought I could do another 5 miles and it would be a piece of cake.  So, Leslie and I took off.  Well, after the first mile I was really tired.  After the second mile I wasn’t liking the walk.  After the third mile Leslie and I were no longer talking.  After the 4th mile I wanted to sit down and give up.  But somehow we sped up and were walking faster than before because we just wanted to get there.  

As we entered town we parted ways because we were both staying at different places.  Leslie knew her Albergue was straight ahead but I didn’t know where Dick and I were staying.  Just then Dick texted that he could see me on “Map My Walk and told me to turn right at the next street.  I did that.  Then he texted, go left at the fork in the road, turn right again, then turn left again, and then, OK now go right.  But there was a lag time and the app didn’t “really” show where I was.  He had me going around in circles when actually I was just 1 block away from him.  OMG, I was sooooo glad to finally see him.  By then I had walked 20 miles!

When we entered our room on the second floor I stripped out of all my clothes and collapsed on the bed.  I didn’t want to move again — ever!  

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Well that only lasted 15 minutes.  I hadn’t eaten all day so I had to get up off that bed and hobble over to my backpack and get dressed,  My thigh and hip muscles were miserably sore.  But we made it downstairs and to a  nice table outside in the sun.  We each ordered a bowl of soup  and a glass of wine.  Well, they brought the soup and put a full bottle of wine on the table.  Really?  We could have as much wine out of that bottle as we wanted?  OK, no problem.  

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This is Sopa Castellano.  It is basically called Bread Soup and has an egg in the center.  It looks good but tasted like bread and water with an egg in the center.  

Just as we were finishing our soup, who comes walking up but Leslie and the two British guys.  I don’t know how they ended up at the same place we were because they were all staying at a different Albergue in another part of town.  Anyway, they sat down with us, ordered wine and beer and we all ended up sitting out there in the sun for the next 3 hours.  We were also joined by a Trekker named Matt and he seemed to know everybody on the Camino.  

We all met that night for dinner at our hostel and you could tell it had been a hard day for everyone.  No one even protested when they put one bottle of wine on the table for all 5 of us to share!

This had been the longest day ever and I vowed never to do it again.

TREKKING — DAY 17

CARRION de los CONDES to TERRADILLOS de los TEMPLARIOS — 16.25 Miles

I knew today would be a long day so I wanted to get an early start.  Besides that the books all said there were no services for the first 10 miles — no food, no water, no toilets — nothing.  I stuck a stale cheese and chorizo sandwich in my pocket and told Dick I wouldn’t be having any coffee this morning.  It was 6am so I pulled out my headlamp only to find the batteries were dead.  Luckily Dick had brought extras so he changed them out and I was good to go.  I put on my double fleece jackets, neck scarf, knitted headband, gloves, backpack, camera, phone, fanny pack and plenty of water.

When we stepped out the door at 6:15am it was 34 degrees and pitch dark.  I had no idea which way to go to get to the Camino path so I was glad Dick was with me.  He lead me to where he thought it was but the Camino signs were very poor and we were never sure we were going the right way.  No businesses were open and there wasn’t another Trekker anywhere in sight.  Finally after three quarters of a mile we came to a round-about with a monument and a Camino sign off to the right.

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A quick kiss goodbye and I headed off into the darkness alone.  Needless to say, I was a little spooked.  Where were the other Trekkers?  Why weren’t any of them walking yet?  I was on a one lane flat gravel road with bushes and fields on either side and that also made me a little nervous.  Could someone be hiding in the bushes?  I kept straining my eyes to see as far ahead as I could and I thought I saw a sign that looked like it had some yellow on it.  Or was that a person?  I kept walking thinking I would pass it but it always seemed to stay about 2 blocks ahead of me.  OK that’s got to be a person.  And that person better be a Trekker!  After about 45 minutes it was light enough that I could tell it really was a Trekker.  I kept turning around to see if I could see any Trekkers behind me but I never did.  A few miles farther and I wanted to sit for a bit but there were ice crystals all over these cement tables and benches.

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After I’d walked about 5 miles I saw a car crossing our path about a mile up ahead.  Then it stopped at the side of the road by a big barn and someone dressed in black got out and was standing in the middle of the road.  My antennas went up immediately.  I was still a good half mile away and it was still just that other Trekker and me.  But I kept my eye on that car and that man wondering what he was doing and why.  Now I was getting a little scared.  But the other Trekker was still 2 blocks ahead of me so I thought if that man was out to get us, he’d get the other Trekker first.  As I got a little closer I suddenly thought, “Wait a minute!  OMG!  It can’t be! Is it?  IS IT!?  YES!  That’s Dick standing in the middle of the road!!!  Relief!  He had been following me on “Find my Friends” and had come so I could take a break and sit down in the warm car for a while. 

Just then, off to my right I saw some tables set up and someone was barbecuing.  I turned in, Dick joined me and we had a nice break with barbecued sausage sandwiches and cafe con Leche.  Finally other Trekkers showed up and many of them joined us for a break.

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I felt so refreshed after I got back on the road and there were finally other Trekkers ahead of me.  

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It was such a beautiful day and I decided I’d get out my MP3 player and listen to some music.  The sun was out, the sky was blue, the fields were green and the music really put a spring in my step.  Then the Bruno Mars song came on, “This is gonna be the best day of my life,” and I wanted to throw my arms up in the air and laugh and skip and dance down the road.  I was so filled with emotion I got a big lump in my throat just thinking how lucky I was to be here and to be fulfilling my dream of walking the Camino.  

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I loved being alone and I loved all the music I was listening to.  I was silently mouthing the words to all the songs when I passed by someone and said, “Buen Camino,” and he said “Bonjoir.”  So I asked him how he was, using the only other French I knew.  He spoke just a tiny bit of English but we walked together, with him speaking in half English and half French and me pretending I understood every word he was saying.  One thing I did understand was when he told me he walked 40 kilometers or more each day and I was so impressed.  

We kept up a good pace and came upon a lady using walking sticks and the closer we got the more familiar she seemed to me.  I called out her name and she turned around — it was Debbie, my favorite walking partner.  The three of us walked together for a while, then Frenchie took off ahead of us.  Debbie and I walked, talked and laughed for another 8 miles.  At one point we were passing some other Trekkers who were resting and one of them said, “You two are the happiest Trekkers on this whole Camino.”  

The next village we came upon we decided to take a break.  There were two other women there who Debbie had met previously, Leslie from Britian and Matilda  from Italy.  We all sat around and talked for a while, then Debbie’s husband showed up.  I think he is her guardian angel, just Ike Dick is mine.

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Matilda and Leslie standing.  Me and Debbie sitting.

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While we were sitting there Debbie said she hoped I didn’t get offended but she had written in her blog that she had met a really nice American woman named Karen and had fun walking with her.  But afterwards she was so exhausted she had to flop down and couldn’t move for the next half hour!  And I said, “I thought I was keeping pace with you.”  And she said, “Well I thought I was keeping pace with you!”  

We resumed our walk but this time there were a few  uphill climbs so we had to slow it down just a bit.  Finally, after a little over 16 miles we reached our Albergue, where Dick was sitting outside waiting for me.  Debbie continued on because her Albergue was another mile up the road.  And yes, I said Albergue — you know, the place I said I’d never stay — no no, not for me!  Well, this was a nice one.  We had a private room and private bathroom.  They even washed and dried all our clothes for us.  Other people did their own wash and hung it out on the lines to dry.

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We decided to have a small dinner and shared some pasta and salad.  And of course, wine — which we did NOT share!

 

 

 

TREKKING — DAY 16

FROMISTA to CARRION de los CONDES — 13 miles

Even though I didn’t sleep well last night my muscles felt fine and I was ready for another day of walking.  After a quick cup of coffee I was out the door.  It was already 8:30am.

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These people had huge, heavy backpacks.   So big you couldn’t even see their heads.  And the girl had some serious stuff hanging off of hers.  I call her a back loader.  As for me, I’m a front loader — all my stuff hangs off the front.

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And nothing off the back.  Just sewn on decals.

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Passing out of the first little village I saw some people who I was sure we’re the ones Debbie had told me about yesterday.  A Japenese girl and an American man met on the Camino two years ago.  They got married, had a baby and now they were back with the baby and a Japenese friend to walk the Camino again.  Now that’s brave!

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I wanted to get off the highway so I decided to take an alternate, but longer route which would go through the countryside.  It was so much prettier than the highway.

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The path continued along the river until I had walked about 7 miles.  I was getting tired, hungry, really needed to go to the bathroom and I was dying to sit down and take a break.  But there was no place to do any of that.  And I wasn’t going to sit in the grass because I thought there might be snakes in it! And as for finding a place to pee, there were other Trekkers on the path and no privacy.  I finally came out of the woods and back onto a highway, walked 2 more miles on mostly flat land but with a couple of hills and met Dick at a bar in the next village.  I was spent!  Nine miles with no break.

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Debbie’s husband, Jim was there and we chatted with him for a while.  When it was time to go it was really hard to move because my muscles were so sore.  That’s what happens every time I take a break.  It hurts less if I just keep walking.

It was 4 more miles before I reached the outskirts of Carrion.  I was wondering where our hotel was when off in the distance I saw Dick walking toward me.  What a great guide he is.  He seems to always know where I am through an app called “Find My Friends.”

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The lady at our last hotel chewed us out because we didn’t have reservations for tonight.  This was a big holiday weekend and she said everything would be sold out.  So she called and got us the last room at a place called the Hostel Santiago.  As always, we had to walk up 3 flights of stairs to a room in the attic, with a little porch in the front that was big enough for a midget. It had 3 beds and a chair that made into a 4th bed.

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We went out to explore, had a pizza in the central plaza but unless you were in the sun it was cold.  We walked around town and went into the cathedral which was beautiful but old and musty smelling.  Then we ran into Debbie and Jim who said they were staying in an Albergue run by some Nuns.  They have stayed in Albergues this whole time.  I don’t think I could do it — I mean sleep in bunk beds in a room with 10 to 90 other people and use communal bathrooms.  And at night you listen to their snoring and whatever else they do in their sleep!  Nope, not for me.