CAMINO– DAY 15

CASTROJEREZ to FROMISTA  — 16.6 Miles

After a fairly good nights sleep I woke up knowing that today would be horrible.  I knew there was going to be a huge mountain to climb shortly after I started out.  On the topography map it looked like an upward spike on an EKG. Ugly!  My legs were so sore that I knew I’d have to take it more easily, but this mountain!  I decided to skip breakfast because I was anxious to get started and get this mountain over and done with.  Dick and I said our goodbyes and he chose not to walk me up the street.  It was a long way out of this 900 person town.

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As I was passing by this fountain I was getting annoyed because there was another Trekker behind me and all I could hear were his obnoxious trekking poles going click clack, click clack on the cobble stone road.  As I approached other Trekkers it was even worse because they all had poles.  That constant click clack sound was more than I could take.  So I walked fast and passed them all so I could have some peace and quiet.  I could see the mountain looming ahead of me and knew it was almost 3000 feet high.  The good thing was that the path didn’t go straight up, it went at an angle.  See it snaking across the mountain?

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It was a good 2 miles before I reached it’s base and started the upward climb.  I decided all I had to do was take 20 steps, then rest, then take another 20 steps and rest and on and on.  And that’s what I did.  The funny thing was, all the while I was doing that I couldn’t catch my breathe, my heart was pounding in my ears, I wanted to rip my backpack off and all the Trekkers with those dang poles were passing me!  I finally made it to the top and there was a little rest area there but it sounded like someone was throwing up behind it so I snapped a couple of quick photos and walked on.

View from the top. The town where I started was just beside that mountain in the distance.

This is the view from the top.  Castrojerez, the town where I started is way off in the distance at the foot of that little mountain.

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I started going down the other side and it was really steep even though it doesn’t look like it in the photo.  It had been paved with cement and I had to take small steps and walk pretty slowly.

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A little farther up the path I stopped at a rest area for a 5 minute break and to eat some trail mix.

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The path had leveled out and I was surrounded by lush green farmland.  I was feeling pretty good by this time because I knew I’d conquered “Mt Everest” and I was still alive!

After I’d walked about 6 miles I was needing a longer rest and some lady standing in the middle of the road gave me a flyer advertising a Bar (restaurant) just up the road so I decided I’d stop there for a coffee.  I entered the little village and was going to look for the Bar but I came to a fork in the road and didn’t know which way to go.  Just then a woman came up behind me and said she saw a little arrow going left.  We immediately started talking and realized we walked at the same speed.  She had short gray hair, was from Australia and her name was Debbie.  She was so funny and so interesting that when we came to the little Bar where I wanted to stop, I passed it right up so I could keep walking with her.  Debbie had 7 children, a knee replacement and was doing the Camino for the second time.  She was with her husband and daughter, and they all walked at different speeds and therefore didn’t walk together.  Each day they had their bags shipped to the next stop so they only carried day packs.  We laughed and talked for the next 8 miles and the time flew by.  We stopped for a cafe con leche and not long after we sat down Debbie’s husband walked in.  We chatted for a while and then we all got back to walking.

Just before reaching Fromista we came upon an 18th Century Canal with a little system of locks.  Back then it was designed to provide transportation of crops and power to turn the corn mills.  Today it is simply used for irrigation.

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When we entered Fromista there was Dick sitting in the car at the side of the road.  He knew I wouldn’t be able to find our hotel.  I said good bye to Debbie and Dick drove me a few blocks down a different road to our hotel.  I was immediately sorry I hadn’t gotten any contact information from her.

We checked into the Hostal Camino de Santiago which was another restored old place with darling rooms.

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I had to admit that I had really overdone it today.  My upper legs and hips were so sore it hurt to walk.  But we did go out to explore this little town and stop for drinks.

Later we were walking around again, looking for a place to eat dinner when I heard someone calling my name.  It was Debbie.  She and her husband and daughter were all sitting outside at a little cafe.  We were so elated to see each other again and the first thing I did was to get her contact info and tell her I hoped we would run into each other again on the Camino.

And by the way, when I walked all those miles with Debbie she used trekking poles the whole time!

 

TREKKING — DAY 14

HORNILLOS to CASTROJEREZ — 13.6 Miles

Last night I slept until midnight and was then wide awake until 4a.m. I knew it was supposed to rain today and that made me nervous.  Around 2 a.m. I heard it start, rain falling steadily against the large skylight in the room.  Now I had something to worry about.  I’d have to get out all my rain gear, my shoes would get wet, I’d have to walk slowly, the path would be muddy and I’d get cold and wet.

By the time I woke up the rain had stopped, the sky was partly cloudy and it was 38 degrees.  OK, I could do this.  We went downstairs for breakfast and I was disappointed.  It was cafe con leche, 2 pieces of toast and two croissants, with butter and jam — not my kind of meal.  I had a few sips of coffee and some toast and was off.

It was so cold that I had to put on my fleece gloves and knitted headband.  Dick walked with me for the first couple of blocks and then returned to the warmth of the hotel.  The path started out with 3 miles of kind of steep uphill which was not good for me.  Downhill rules but uphill kills me.  The road was pretty muddy in parts but I was always able to walk around it.

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Eventually the path leveled out, only to go downhill then uphill again.

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I was walking at a pace that was way too fast and I knew I’d pay for it later.  The last few miles of the path leveled out and followed a highway with a couple of interesting sites along the way.

 

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Finally I could see Castrojerez in the distance but knew it was still about 2 miles away.

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I stopped to take a rest break — my first of the day — when I received a text from Dick wanting to know where I was.  He was still on the road, running some errands and I texted him that I would be in Castrojerez in about 30 minutes.  Then when I read the text which had been auto corrected it said I’d be in “Castro Harry’s” in 30 minutes.  I didn’t correct it because Castrojerez is pronounced “Castro Harry’s” in Spanish!  I stopped at the side of the road and had a good laugh about it.

Just as I entered town I knew I was lost in terms of finding our hotel.  This was a larger village with 900 inhabitants and it didn’t have just one main street.  I walked on a little farther and then just stood in the middle of the little one land road wondering what I should do.  A car was coming toward me so I moved off to the side and it started honking at me.  And then I realized it was Dick!  What perfect timing.  They say the Camino “always provides.”  I hopped in the car and we drove to the hotel which was only a couple of blocks away.

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This place, the La Cachava Hotel was hundreds of years old and beautifully restored.  Our room was again on the 3rd floor with 4 beds and an upstairs.

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As soon as we got into the room I knew I needed to sit down — all my muscles were hurting because I had walked too far, too fast.  And anyway Dick was eager to tell me about his adventures this morning.

And here’s what happened to Dick this morning after I left:  I had asked him to do one simple thing — buy me a pair of reading glasses because mine had broken.  Of course they didn’t have any in this little town so he planned to drive back to Burgos to get them.  And that’s when the problems began.  First of all he couldn’t find his car keys.  After searching the entire room and other parts of the hostel he emptied out his backpack and found them at the bottom.   Then he went out to the car and the battery was dead!  So he asked the proprietor if he had any jumper cables.  And of course he didn’t but he was kind enough to go up and down the street asking everyone in this 60 person town if they had any.  No one did.  Really?  Really??  So the only solution was to call a mechanic.  One and a half hours and 15 Euros later Dick was finally on his way to Burgos.  More problems — he didn’t know what kind of store would sell reading glasses in Spain.  He went to store after store, including pharmacies, but couldn’t find anyone who spoke English and he couldn’t speak Spanish.  He finally found his way to a Carrfour grocery store, bought the glasses and arrived back in Castrojerez (Castro Harry’s) just as I was lost and standing in the middle of the street.  He needed a couple glasses of wine after that one!

The good news about today was that it didn’t rain.  But my leg muscles were now so sore I could hardly move.  So I spent the afternoon showering and soaking in a nice warm tub.  I promised that tomorrow I’d treat myself like the Pampered Pilgrim I should be.  I’d eat, drink and take plenty of rest breaks.  Well, we’ll see what happens…

 

TREKKING — DAY 13

DAY 13  — ONE YEAR LATER

BURGOS TO HORNILLOS — 13 Miles

Last year I walked through day 12 of the Camino from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Burgos, Spain.  This year I’m starting where I left off with Day 13 of the Camino.

It was 7am by the time I finally woke up.  Dick was already up, it was light out and I thought, “Oh gosh, I’m late”!  I should have gotten out and started an hour ago, while it was still dark.  But wait!  I promised myself and others that I would take it slowly this time.  Last year I walked too far, too fast, barely ate anything and was dehydrated.  The result was muscle strain and tendonitis in my foot that resulted in my quitting the Camino.  So why would I want to go back?  Why would I want to try this all over again?  The only answer I have is that something was pulling at me, something was calling me back.  The Camino was in my blood and every fiber of my being told me I had to return.  And besides that, I had recently watched the movie “The Way” for the 4th time and I burst into tears the minute it started.

I got up and showered, purposely taking my time because Dick was going to make sure I took it easy and didn’t leave until later.  I arranged everything in my 18 pound backpack, gave Dick my iPad and charger, which reduced it by a pound, then added two pounds of water and a pound of Trail Mix, attached my camera and cell phone to one of the shoulder straps and put on my fanny pack.  And I didn’t do the math because at that point I didn’t want to know how much weight I had just added to myself.  I put on my trekking clothes and two layers of fleece jackets, my gloves, Smart Wool socks and running shoes and I was set.

A burst of cold air hit us as we walked out of the hotel.  It was 41 degrees with a pretty good breeze.  We walked a block and found a coffee shop by the river where we could get a cafe con leche.

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Not only was it coffee but it came with a shot of freshly squeezed orange juice and a cookie.  What a treat!

I was nervous about walking today.  Our hotel was by the river but the Camino path was someplace else and I had to find it. Dick had decided he wasn’t going to walk with me at all this year. He was still having problems with his feet so decided to rent a car for this first week of the Camino. I would walk to the designated village (where busses didn’t go) and he would drive there and meet me.We finished our coffee, I turned on “Map My Walk” and we were off.

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Dick walked the first couple of blocks with me before he turned around and went to get his rental car. It was 9am and I nervously walked along the river hoping to see other Trekkers but because it was so late in the morning and I wasn’t even on the Camino path, I didn’t see a one.

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After about a mile I spotted it — that beautiful clamshell sign signifying the Camino. I turned left, crossed the river and then started seeing more yellow Camino markers guiding the way and more Pilgrims and Bikers. I was elated, I picked up my pace and was finally passing other Trekkers (Pilgrims), saying”Buen Camino” to everyone I passed.

Hikers and Bikers
Hikers and Bikers

After about 4 miles I turned to say “Buen Camino” to two people and realized it was the little blond and her mother who we had met yesterday at the bus station. So I started walking with them, and Carol, the Mom told me how she had arranged the Camino. The first two weeks she was on it she walked with her son. Then her daughter came yesterday and the son left. She’ll walk with her daughter, Leah for the next two weeks, then she’ll walk alone for the next week, then for the last week her husband will come and walk with her until they reach Santiago, the end of the Camino. What a great family adventure.  I was kind of jealous of her and wished my family could have come, too.

In no time at all we had walked 7 miles. We came to a little village and Carol and Leah wanted to stop at a store and I wanted to find someplace to eat. So we said our good byes. I kept walking expecting to see a bar (what we think of as a restaurant) but before I knew it I was out of town. So I walked to the next town and found a cute little place where I ordered a Chorizo and Cheese Bocadillo and a Cafe con Leche. I love the way they serve food here — the Bocadillo (sandwich) came with a tiny cup of chicken soup and the coffee came with a little cookie. There were some very loud Pilgrims inside so even though it was cold I chose to sit outside where a nice German fellow joined me.

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Up until this point the Camino had been pretty easy — in and out of some wooded areas and lots of flat very green farmland.

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But now we were going uphill, which was the worst for me, and it lasted for the next 4 miles. When I reached the summit it was a very steep downhill and I could see the town of Hornillos, my final destination for the day.

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Boy did I truck down that mountain. And just as I was entering town there stood Dick. He had come to meet me and show me where we were going to stay. What a nice surprise! I was tired after walking 13 miles and couldn’t wait to take a rest.

We walked through town to the Hostel called de Sol a Sol. The rental car was parked across the street so Dick got his backpack out of it and we went into the Hostel.

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The man inside told us our room was on the third floor, then he took Dick’s backpack and carried it up for him. What? I just walked 13 miles with my backpack, Dick just walked across the street with his backpack and the guy carries Dick’s backpack up the stairs while I trudge behind??? Hmmmmmmm.

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We had an attic room which was clean and comfortable but sparsely decorated.  There were no windows but there was a large skylight in the ceiling so we got a lot of natural light.  And we paid the same price for this room as we paid for our beautiful room last night in Burgos.

After a short rest we went out and toured the village which had a population of 60.  We ran into Carol and Leah and just said quick hellos.  We found a cute place for dinner. They offered a set menu (Menu Del Dia) of appetizer, main course, dessert, bread and all the wine you could drink for 9 Euros each. Dinner was fabulous. We started with big fat white asparagus with aioli and pasta with chorizo in a red sauce, followed by thinly sliced steak and French fries, then dessert of chocolate mousse topped with mounds of whipped cream. We ate it all.

I think I’m going to get fat on this Camino!

 

STARTING WHERE WE LEFT OFF

A year ago when I left the Camino because of a foot injury, I promised I’d be back.  And here we are, in Burgos, Spain, back for another try at the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.  I walked almost 200 miles last time and have another 300 miles to go before I finish.

Things have gone much more smoothly this time.  To get to Spain we were flying standby and easily made all of our flights — in fact we were upgraded to Business Class thanks to our lovely daughter-in-law Tracy.

During our layover in Newark I saw another woman with a huge backpack and immediately knew she was doing the Camino.  She was about my age, was from Carlsbad (not far from where we live) and this would be her first time on the Camino.  She had decided to avoid that awful first day from St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles.  Smart lady!  We talked for about 45 minutes but I never got her name.

After landing in Madrid we made a mad dash outside to catch a shuttle bus that would take us to Terminal 4 where we were told we could catch a bus to Burgos.  On the shuttle bus we started talking to a young blond girl with a huge backpack.  (We Trekkers are so obvious to spot!).  She was also doing the Camino and starting in Burgos where she would meet her mother, who was already trekking. She seemed kind of lost and couldn’t speak Spanish so I was able to ask someone where we should go and the 3 of us made it over to the ALSA busses. She had a ticket but we didn’t and we had to go back inside the terminal and get in a long line of people. Dick noticed other people were walking up and crowding in the line. We only had a few minutes before the bus was going to leave so Dick shouted out “Burgos” and the cashier called us up to the front of the line. We made it to the bus with minutes to spare and boarded it with the blonde girl. When we arrived in Burgos her mother was so excited to see her and was clicking photos of her as she got off the bus.  We all said brief hellos but never got each other’s names.

By now it was 2 p.m. We checked into the beautifully restored, early 19th Century Hotel Fernan Gonzalez.  The room was huge and beautifully decorated with period furniture. The cost — $45.00 a night.

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Dick laid down and slept for the next 2 hours. We were starving when he woke up so we went to find a restaurant in Old Town.

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And guess what! They were all closed. Siesta time is from 3 pm until 7 pm. So we went into one little bar that was open and advertised that they had food. I had a glass of wine and Dick had a beer and the cost astounded us. It was 3 Euros. The same thing had cost us $30.00 on our layover in the Newark Airport. We asked the guy if we could get some food and he said the restaurant would open at 9 pm! We were ravenous because we hadn’t eaten since dinner on the plane the night before. We walked all over Old Town but couldn’t find anything open except for bars and coffee shops — and none had food.

Finally at 7 pm we went to a great place where we had eaten twice before last year.  And to our surprise the waiter showed us some things on the menu that we could actually order.  The food was  scrumptious, a huge Caesar salad with bacon, cheese and tomatoes and an Ox Tail Burger smothered in gravy, with French fries, and of course wine.

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It was almost 8:30 by the time we got back to the hotel. I fell into bed and was sound asleep in 2 seconds. Dick fell asleep shortly afterwards. Being jet lagged I woke up at 1 am, wide awake and two minutes later my laptop started jingle jangling. It was our son Ricky, Face Timing us from Denver. He didn’t realize the time in Spain and we ended up talking to him and his daughter Ali for the next 30 minutes. We went back to bed and Dick started snoring about 20 minutes later. But I couldn’t go back to sleep.  I laid awake worrying that I had to start my trek in a few hours and how I’d be able to do it with so little sleep. At 4 am I finally drifted off to sleep wondering what adventures lay in store when I would awaken in a few hours.

 

 

NOT TREKKING

Thank you all for your care and concern about my foot.  It was extremely painful  for the first 3 days and is a bit better now.

Dick and I have come to the Northern Coast of Spain to a little apartment on the beach for 5 days of R & R, so that I can stay off of my foot.  Today is our last day here.  My foot still hurts and I can’t walk normally on it.  So with the utmost regret I think I will have to postpone the remainder of the trek until the healing is complete and I have the alloted time to return to Spain.  I’ll be forever grateful to Dr. David for his diagnosis, support and advice about caring for my foot.  And also to my supportive husband Dick, who has been with me every step of the way.

I do plan to finish this walk.  It has not gotten the best of me.  I’ve done 12 days and have 21 left to go.  And as Arnold Schwarzenegger says, “I’ll be back!”

TREKKING — DAY 12

Southeast of Ages to Burgos — 14 Ugly Miles

I had no idea where we were, nor did I have any idea how to get back on the Camino.  Yesterday, the hotel driver took us to a hotel in the middle of nowhere with nothing around it except Highway N 120.

Now that it was early morning I knew I couldn’t leave before it was light out if I didn’t know where I was going.  I was ready to go, with backpack on by 6 a.m.  They were just turning the lights on in the hotel dining room when Dick convinced me to go in and have a cup of Cafe con Leche.  By the time we finished maybe it would be  a little lighter outside.  When I asked the bartender for directions to the Camino he told me I could go right outside the door and follow highway N 120 all the way to Burgos or I could go back to the village of Ages and go the traditional Camino route. It was 2.5 kilometers back to Ages and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go that route.

When we walked out the door of the hotel a chilling wind hit me in the face and I knew I had to go back inside and put my wind breaker on over my fleece jacket.  It was 40 degrees.  Looks like I’m pregnant but that’s my fleece jacket wadded up under the wind breaker.

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Once outside we saw a man who Dick had met previously and he told us he was waiting for a driver to take him and another man back to Ages so that they could be on the Camino trail with all the other trekkers.  I asked if maybe I could get a ride with them and when he asked, the driver said, “No, there’s not enough room.”  So I guess the decision was made for me.  I would walk beside the N 120 all the way to Burgos.  People had said this was an alternate Camino route but I had my doubts until I saw the Camino markers at the beginning of the path.  By then, I could see without a light so I said goodbye to Dick and off I went.

Several people said this way would be ugly and they were absolutely right.

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Walking alongside the highway and seeing frequent Camino markers like this one reassured me that I was at least headed in the right direction.  The bad part was, except for cars and trucks,  there wasn’t another soul around.  Not one other person on the Camino trail for the next nine miles.  And then I saw them.  Two trekkers who had rounded a corner and were walking in front of me.   I hadn’t yet taken a rest of any kind and I was exhausted but I couldn’t stop now.  I wasn’t going to let these guys out of my sight.

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I followed them for another mile or so and suddenly they turned off.  I decided not to follow them, thinking they might be going into one of the businesses off the road.  Bad idea.  Now I was lost.  There were no more Camino markers and I was in an ugly industrial area.  I ended up asking 3 different groups of people and they all pointed me in one direction or another.  I was on some trashy alley in the outskirts of Burgos.

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But the one thing everyone I asked had in agreement was that when I got to the river I was to turn right.  Well, where was that dang river?  I walked and walked and still couldn’t find the river so I stopped 3 men who were walking a dog and asked them.  They were so nice that they actually walked me to the river and pointed me in the right direction.

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As I walked along one side of the river I could actually see the trekkers I had been following.  They were walking the same way I was, but on the other side of the river.  Why didn’t I just follow them in the first place?

After walking 13 miles I had to take a break and sit down.  I had really overdone it today.  There was a shooting pain going into the top of my left foot and it was difficult to walk at times.  There were no benches so I sat on a stone wall and rested for about 5 minutes.

After I started walking again (which was very painful) I saw a Canadian woman who I had walked with yesterday.  She was turning right into the city so I decided to walk with her.  She was going to stay in Burgos for a few hours and then continue walking another 10 kilometers later in the afternoon.  Yesterday, while we were walking,  I had told her stories of all the people Dick had met who had quit the camino — especially the ones with blisters.  When I asked her if she had any blisters she looked at me and said, “Of course.”  The way she said it was like — well everyone has blisters, don’t they?  I thought that was odd because I certainly didn’t have any but I didn’t tell her that.  After she looked at her map and we got our bearings in the city, we parted ways.  As for me, I was cold.  It had never warmed up, the wind had never stopped blowing and I just wanted to get to a nice warm hotel room.  I walked around in circles until I finally found our hotel.  Then I hobbled up the stairs to our room.

And now, the biggest thing I had been dreading on this whole Camino walk happened.  I got to the room, pulled off my socks and shoes, examined my feet and there it was!  A blister on a callous on the bottom of my foot!  And I had been wearing my double layer, wool, guaranteed no blister socks.  How did that happen?  And to make matters worse, that wasn’t even the part of my foot that hurt.

Dick arrived about 20 minutes after I got to the room.  He said this morning he had stood at the side of Highway N 120 and waited for an hour for a bus to pass by.  He was waiting with 6 other trekkers and they had to flag down the bus in order for it to stop in the middle of the highway.  There were about 45 to 50 other trekkers on the bus and about 15 people who were not trekkers.  They all got off the bus here in Burgos.  Really!  I wished I could have talked to each of them to find out what their story was.

Dick had gotten a text from Liza and her father, David, the orthopedic surgeon, saying they would be in Burgos later in the afternoon.  They wanted to know if we all wanted to have dinner together and we gladly accepted their invitation.  We had enjoyed being with them so much before.

Walking was becoming more difficult and painful as we left the hotel to join them.  David said he noticed I was limping.  Right out on the street he examined my foot and talked about what could be causing the pain.  We had a lovely dinner at a nearby restaurant with Liza, David and Jo from Australia, who was also trekking the Camino.

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After dinner David examined my foot again and his diagnosis was that I had a stress fracture.  And I thought the worst thing that could happen to me on the Camino was blisters…

 

TREKKING — DAY 11

Belorado to San Juan de Ortega and then to Ages — 17.5 miles

It was a blustery day with a strong headwind and pitch dark.  This was what I walked into as the hotel door slammed shut and locked behind me.  Dick had stayed in the room and we had said good-bye there.  Our hotel was in the center of town and not on the Camino path.  Last night, the receptionist had given me directions to get to the Camino but it was 5:30 in the morning and I could hardly see anything in front of me.  And to make matters worse, I was all alone.  I had my headlamp in my hand, trying to light the way and see if I could make out any arrows or Camino markers.  I walked on and on, crossing the street a few times to see if I could see any markers on the other side, but there was nothing.  I was a little afraid this morning, mainly because it was so dark and I was alone.  I turned my cell phone light on, too, just to give a little more light.  There was a path going off to the left, but no Camino marker.  I walked on and heard water rushing in the river.  This had to be it.  This had to be where I could get on the Camino path.  I stood there, afraid to proceed into the woods when out of nowhere 4 French women came up behind me.  We all shinned our lights around and there it was, that familiar Camino clamshell marker.

I was so relieved to be on the right path and so relieved there were 4 other women there, too.  I followed them into the woods and they walked very slowly.  I decided I would walk slowly, too but that only lasted a minute.  They stopped to shine their light on something so I quickly passed them and was on my way.  I wasn’t quite as afraid now but a few things did spook me.  OMG, is that a snake on the path?  O.K. no, it’s just a branch.  And what’s that thing running around in the middle of the path ahead of me?  Is it a rabbit or some animal that’s going to attack me?  Maybe it was a rabbit because it eventually ran off into the woods.  I kept my headlamp on for the next 45 minutes until it started to lighten up just enough to see in front of me.

Well, you all know that I didn’t like walking at all yesterday.  It wasn’t fun, not one little bit, and today was supposed to be worse.  The author of one Camino article said that today’s walk was her least favorite of all on the entire Camino.  Most of the terrain would be uphill and there was a big mountain to go over.  I was dreading it and was sure it would be an awful day.  Last night in texting with Joanne Joseph she asked me if I was having fun yet, and my immediate answer was “NO!”  It was an adventure, it was different, it was a challenge.  It was a lot of other  adjectives — but fun?  Not so much.  The fun part only started when I would meet Dick at the end of walking and we could share a meal, explore a village and tell stories of the day.  I really needed to get a better attitude about this whole thing.

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There wasn’t one other Pilgrim on the trail for the next 4 miles.  The wind started to increase and it was quite strong and gusty.  The air was a little cool, I had a light jacket on and I thought about putting my wind breaker on if it got any colder.

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The trail went up, down and flat as I passed through several little villages that again, all seemed like ghost towns.

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As I continued walking I had to cross the highway several times to get to the path on the other side.

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This was one of the water sources where Pilgrims could refill their water bottles.  This one said it was treated water so it should have been fine to drink, but because of stomach problems I now just used bottled water.  The headwind became much worse and I was walking against it but because I’d been through much worse than this on day one, it didn’t seem to bother me.

Finally after 7 miles of walking I came to a little village that had a bar (cafe) that was open.  I vowed I would take it easy today and give myself some breaks because I thought it would be an awful day.  There were some women trekkers sitting outside the cafe complaining about how expensive everything was and the lack of ATM machines on the Camino.    I decided I didn’t need to listen to their negative attitudes so I went inside (where all the men were) and ordered a cafe con leche.  Boy, was it ever good.  I had taken my backpack off and decided I really needed to enjoy this break.  And I did.

My attitude seemed to be changing a bit, I had actually enjoyed the walk so far.  The scenery was so varied and changed constantly.  Also, it wasn’t so hot — my shirt wasn’t even wet yet — and I think I was actually enjoying myself.  Was this me, with these positive thoughts in my head?  I left the bar and started what was to be the worst part of today’s walk.  But it was so pretty!

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The path continued uphill for the next two miles and I had to stop and catch my breath a few times but really I think my stamina had improved because it didn’t bother me as much.  It was pretty steep uphill at times and then steep downhill and then the same thing over again.

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Finally it leveled off for a while and I was in awe of how great a walk this was.  Isn’t the path below just beautiful?

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I was loving this walk.  I ate my 2 day old quarter of a cheese sandwich and felt like I had energy to spare.

After more uphill I finally reached the summit of the mountain and the wind was pretty fierce up there.  I was glad when the terrain went downhill a little and then flattened out.  At that point the winds weren’t bad at all.

For the next 4 miles the terrain was flat with not much shade but the walking was easy.  There were Camino signs every so often but someone had taken black spray paint and obliterated them.  How sad.

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But then I noticed that Camino Pilgrims had put their own sign in the middle of the road, and that made me smile.

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After 15 miles I was finally in San Juan.  This was a tiny little village where we knew we did not want to stay.  All the write-ups said the Bar and Hotel were owned by the same family and the food was awful.  And there was no WiFi.  This was the only choice in the whole village.  I was to meet Dick here and then someone from the hotel we had booked, which was off the Camino, was to come pick us up and drive us to the hotel.  While I was waiting for Dick to arrive in a taxi I went in the church, which was under construction.

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Then I waited at the little Bar where the rest of the Pilgrims were.

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Dick finally arrived and called the hotel that was to come pick us up.  While we were waiting I decided I actually felt great.  I didn’t want to ride in a car to the hotel.  I knew the name of the hotel was Sierra de Atapuerca and I knew it was only another 4 miles to Atapuerca and after walking 15 miles I felt like walking some more.  So I abruptly got up and said to Dick, “I’m walking to Atapuerca.  I’ll see you at the hotel.”  And off I went.

Well ….. I was about a mile down the road when I got a call from Dick.  He told me I was going the wrong way.  I said, “No, I’m not, I’m on the Camino headed for Atapuerca and I’m walking with other Pilgrims so I know I’m going the right way.”  Then he put the guy from the hotel on the phone and he told me that the hotel wasn’t in Atapuerca at all, it was in a completely different town.  I told him the next town I would come to was Ages and asked if he could drive there and pick me up and take me to the hotel.  He was so nice and agreed to do that.  Finally after 2.5 more miles I arrived in Ages and sat at a little Bar to wait for Dick and the driver.

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This was a great day and I could have kept walking for a whole lot more miles.  But I got picked up and taken to a hotel on the highway in the middle of nowhere.

By the time we arrived I was starved, so Dick and I checked into our room and then went to the dining room to eat.  Dick said he didn’t want anything but I ordered the Pilgrim 3 course meal.  It started with pasta with tomato sauce and chorizo.  Then for the main course I ordered pork cheeks and french fries.  It all tasted out of this world.  I encouraged Dick to eat it with me and he ended up eating half of it and loving every bite.  The food was great and for the first time in a long time Dick’s stomach felt fine afterwards.  With my better attitude and Dick’s better appetite I think we’re at a turning point on the Camino.

TREKKING — DAY 10

Santo Domingo to Belorado — 14.5 miles

Loaded with my backpack, 2 pounds of water and a quarter of a cheese sandwich in my pocket, Dick walked me out of Parador Santo Domingo de la Calzada at 05:45 a.m. Like yesterday, it was pitch dark and I had my headlamp in my hand. As soon as I got on the Camino path I saw another trekker ahead of me so I thought I’d be o.k. I passed him and quickly caught up with 4 guys from Australia. The path was gravel and dirt and I couldn’t see the ground but just hoped I wouldn’t trip or fall into a hole. No one else was using a light so I didn’t want to turn mine on and be the sissy of the group!

After a mile of following them uphill they crossed the highway and stopped. The Way was not well marked — there were 3 different ways you could go — straight ahead, all the way to the right or at a diagonal in between. There were groups going in all 3 of those directions. Well, the Aussies chose the diagonal, I followed them and then everyone else turned around and followed them, too. We were now on the correct path but that could have been a big mistake in the dark if everyone had been by themselves.

I chose to stay behind the Aussies for the next 5 miles until they stopped for a bathroom break and coffee. I tried to get coffee there, too but couldn’t get waited on quickly enough so I decided to just keep walking. Most of today’s walk paralleled the highway on one side with green hills on the other side. It went up and down and up and down and there was really no diversion except for the occasional smell of exhaust fumes from big rigs passing by.

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This was the only place to get coffee that I saw for the entire walk.  The other little villages looked like ghost towns.

 

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This is what most of the Camino looked like today.

I ate the cheese sandwich while walking but was exhausted after 10 miles. The Beatles song “Help” started playing in my head again and I was so sick of it that I started thinking about how I felt and here’s how it went: I’m hot, I’m tired and my shirt is wet. I’m hot and tired — are we there yet? My feet hurt, they’re fiery hot, I feel like I’m stepping on a lot of rocks. My legs ache and my hips hurt and did I mention I was wearing a wet t-shirt?  And to add to those ailments, did I tell you that my nose runs constantly — it never stops — like a dripping faucet?  I am not liking today at all.  It is tedious and never-ending.

I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking.

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I finally walked into Belorado. Dick had texted that he was already there when I suddenly got a message from him that said, “STOP.” I had gone a little too far and he was coming to try and find me. He was tracking me on “Find My Friends” and he knew I was already through the town and on my way out. I stayed where I was and he found me a few minutes later.

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The hotel room wasn’t ready so we sat outside for a coffee and some of that sweet, fresh squeezed orange juice. I peeled off my shoes and socks, let my feet soak up the sun, leaned back in the patio chair and almost fell asleep.

Later in the afternoon we tried to make reservations for the next night but everything, and I mean “everything” in every little mountain town along the Camino was full. We finally found a hotel farther than I wanted to walk the next day and it was a few kilometers off the Camino path, but it was the only thing available for tomorrow night.  We made reservations there because we had no other choice. These are such small towns that busses don’t even go to them.  Dick will have to take a very expensive taxi to meet me tomorrow.

They’re dropping like flies!  People are quitting the Camino and going home.  Each night Dick has told me stories about people he has met during the day and while taking the bus.  There are so many of them who have decided to quit the Camino.  A young girl, 23 years old, had hips so sore that she could hardly walk.  She was returning home to Nebraska.  He has met numerous people with blisters covering their entire heel and the tops of their toes.  One woman from the U.S. had been sitting in Najera for 4 days waiting for her blisters to heal before she continued on.  A teacher from Spain had shin splints so bad that he took the bus with Dick for 3 days.  Today was the first day he would try to continue walking.  On day 3, one 40 year old girl and a woman in her 50’s, who were from Holland, were quitting the Camino because of painful blisters on their feet.

And now let’s get to the people who are taking the bus with Dick each day.  On day 2, from Roncesvalles there were only 2 pilgrims who took the bus to the next town — Dick and another guy who had crashed his bike.  A couple days later, in Pamplona, there were about 15 trekkers boarding the bus.  A few days after that there were 21 trekkers on the bus with Dick.  The number increases each day with the highest being 46 as of yesterday.  And remember, busses travel from town to town several times a day.  Dick is only counting the trekkers who are on his bus.  I am also noticing there are less Pilgrims on the Camino.  There used to be several in front of or behind me at any one time but now I only see one or two at a time.  And, a lot of Pilgrims are simply choosing to take the bus from town to town, instead of walking — and they have no ailments at all.

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We’re sharing a pizza in the central square in Belorado.  First of all, notice Dick’s beard.  He hasn’t shaved since we left home.  But, notice also that there are no other Pilgrims around.  It’s 8 p.m. in Spain — dinner time.  Where is everyone?  Where are all the trekkers?  They are simply disappearing day by day.

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TREKKING — DAY 9

Najera to Santo Domingo — 14 Miles

4:30 a.m. — doors slamming, people talking, toilets flushing, lights turning on and off. This is life in an Albergue — a Pilgrim Hostel on the Camino de Santiago.

How could we even go back to sleep? Well, we didn’t. It was pitch dark outside so I thought it was too early to start walking, especially alone. I laid in bed for a while but with all the racket outside our door I finally got up and remembered to put some clothes on before I went down the hall to the co-ed bathroom. But the sounds coming from the bathroom stalls were more than I wanted to listen to so I was out of there in a flash. I always wondered what a bathroom in an Albergue looked like and this one was new and modern.  I would inagine it was probably the nicest, cleanest bathroom in an Albergue on the whole Camino.

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I got dressed, put on my backpack, stuck a day old cheese sandwich in my pocket and Dick walked me out the door at 5:45 a.m. It was still pitch dark and I had my headlamp in my hand so that I could shine it on the cobblestones and walls to see if I could see those familiar Camino markers. There were no other trekkers around and I felt a little afraid to be by myself when I didn’t know where I was going and it was so dark. Within a couple of blocks I was out of the little village of Najera and on a dirt and gravel road headed uphill into the woods.  With my little light in hand I kept scanning the sides of the road for markers but found none. I only hoped I was going the right way. Then I heard voices behind me — it sounded like 2 men speaking Spanish. They had to be fellow trekkers. Their voices were comforting as I walked uphill for another mile. The terrain flattened out and at mile two it was a little lighter outside and I could see 10 other trekkers on the road far ahead of me. I walked on and it was finally light and the sun was out when I came to the village of Azofra.

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Even the drainage ditch is pretty.

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I wanted to stop and rest but knew this would be another hot day so I just kept walking. One of the websites I had looked at said todays trek would go over a mountain but if you didn’t want to go over the mountain you could take a different route around it. Well, I was going to take that different route because I wanted to avoid as much uphill as possible.

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I walked and walked and looked everywhere for that alternate route and before I knew it I was going uphill over the mountain. I was really disappointed that I had missed the alternate route. After I’d walked 7 miles I was spent. I needed a cafe con leche, I needed a break, I needed to sit down. But that wasn’t possible. I was walking on a one lane dirt and gravel road through vineyards and wheat fields and there was nothing, not even a rock to sit on. So I went huffing and puffing up the mountain when suddenly appearing before my eyes was exactly what I needed. An unemployed guy had set up a little stand at the side of the road with fruit, chips, water and sodas. And he had 2 lawn chairs to sit on. I asked for orange juice and he cut and squeezed the oranges and gave me a cup overflowing with juice.

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The juice was a little sour so I drank it fast and left but it was just the pick-me-up that I needed. My cheese sandwich stayed in my pocket because even though I didn’t eat breakfast I still wasn’t hungry.

Finally I saw the little town of Santo Domingo and the tall steeple of the Cathedral. I thought I was almost there but had to walk another 3 miles before I entered the little cobblestone alleys of town. I hadn’t heard from Dick in a while but I had made reservations at an expensive hotel in the heart of the village. Then I saw him standing there in the middle of hoards of other people. Why were all these people crowding the streets and plazas?  We walked to the hotel located next to the cathedral where long lines of people were filing in. I had no idea what was going on but just wanted to get to the hotel. It was beautiful with medieval stone arches and ancient artifacts.  The room was large and beautiful with period furniture and all the amenities. (Yes, a blow dryer!)  This is a photo of the lobby of the hotel.

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I was sore, my legs ached, my feet were tired and burning and my shirt was drenched. I took it off, flopped down on the bed and couldn’t move for the next hour. After showering and doing “chores” we decided to go out and explore the town and have a bite to eat.

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The concierge  had told us that today was the celebration day for Santo Domingo.  This town was founded by St. Dominic (Santo Domingo) in the 10th century in order to help Pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The Cathedral next door to us was built in dedication to St. James (Santiago). The hotel we were in was the hostel dedicated to housing and helping pilgrims on their way. And today was the dedication day to St. Dominic or Santo Domingo.

The streets were so crowded we could barely walk. Men, women and children were dressed in their Sunday best — men in suits and ties, women adorned in jewelry and wearing beautiful dresses, and children all dressed up in cute little outfits. There was a procession going through the streets with a band, priests, dancers and people carrying a heavy wooden platform with a statue of St. Dominic on top of a silver structure.

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Church bells were endlessly ringing and everyone seemed to be in a great festive mood. What a day to arrive in this city while we were walking the Camino.
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TREKKING — DAY 8

O.K.  Guys:  I just read your comments and again they made me smile and LOL.  I love reading them and they really do keep me going.

I also need to give a great big “Thank You” to Joanne Joseph and my husband Dick for teaching me this Blog Site.  Without Dick teaching me the basics of this program the day before we left, I wouldn’t be writing it. And without Joanne and her patience texting back and forth with me, trying to teach me how to get photos into the Blog, there would be none.  Thank you both from the bottom of my heart.

Now about the photo where you said I looked good sitting in that plaza having a glass of wine.  I have a confession to make!  Remember Day One — that awful day of climbing the Pyrenees.  And remember when I said I didn’t bring a hair dryer or curling iron?  Well that was true.  I didn’t.  I thought if we stayed in a hotel with a blow dryer that’s all I would need.  But I knew I needed more than just a blow dryer to style my hair, and I knew  I had nothing.  Well, on that horrible 1st day when I was sitting up at Orisson, waiting 2 hours for Dick to come, I went to throw something in the trash.  The trash can was this big barrel outside that was 3/4 full of trash.  And low and behold, what to my surprise, sitting right on top of that trash was a round, styling hairbrush that looked brand new.  It didn’t even have any hair in it!  I didn’t even have to think about it — I grabbed it and shoved it in my backpack and hoped nobody was looking. I was elated, now I could style my hair.  Stealing that round brush from the garbage was the best thing I did on Day 1 of trekking.  See why?

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Trekking Day 8 — Logrono to Najera — 19.5 miles

The sun had not yet come up when Dick walked me out of the hotel and pointed me in the direction of the Camino. It was 6:30 a.m. and I was getting an early start because I knew this would be the longest walk I had ever done — over 19 miles. When I woke up this morning I told Dick I might not make it all the way to Najera and that I would text him if I couldn’t. He had already made reservations there and I would need to tell him to cancel them. What other village we would stay in I didn’t know because they were few and far between on today’s walk.

I’m so glad Dick was taking the bus. He woke up with another ailment this morning — one of his ankles was red and swollen — and he hasn’t even been walking. That, along with his foot and stomach problem means he just keeps getting worse. Last night he ate some chicken wings while I had about a third of a dish of Patatas Bravas and he said the protein made him feel better.

The minute I started walking down the cobblestone alley the Beatles song “Help” popped into my head, especially the part about, “Help me get my feet back on the ground” and then “Won’t you please, please help me…” That has never been one of my favorite songs and if you asked me to sing it right now, I wouldn’t be able to remember the words. But this morning I couldn’t shake it. In fact it played over and over and over in my head all day long until I was a mile away from Najera and then it left.

The alleys were dimly lit and I couldn’t see any familiar Camino Clamshells or yellow arrows so I had to stop people a few times to ask for directions. There were also no other trekkers around and that worried me a little, too. After walking through the city for 2 miles I finally spotted one trekker, then another and another. O.K. now I knew I was on the right track.

The next several miles were beautiful and the walking was easy, on pretty flat terrain. The air was slightly cool but I knew it was going to turn into a really hot day so the one thing I had to be sure of was that I always had plenty of water. I made a quick stop in a bar, refilled my water bottle and then was gone again. I did not want to take time to rest.

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It was around 10:30 as I was walking by a church in a little village. The side door was open, which was very unusual because all the churches in other villages had always been locked. It was Monday morning and I had no idea why this door would be open. Although I was raised Catholic I no longer attend church. But for some reason I felt an overwhelming urge to go in. The minute I stepped inside I felt like I was in another realm. It was a huge church and very dark inside.  The air was cool with the scent of incense and I was all alone.  There was no one else in sight.  Coming from somewhere high above were soft, beautiful voices which sounded like a choir of angels singing. I looked toward the alter and even though it was dark inside I could tell that it was ornate with inlaid gold from floor to ceiling. But oddly enough there was a statue of the Virgin Mary that was the only thing lit up in the whole church. The strangest feeling came over me, almost like I wanted to cry so I sat down in one of the pews to compose myself. I could have stayed there all day to soak in more of this serene feeling but I finally had to make myself get up and continue on.

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Just after leaving the church I passed by a little cafe and sitting outside on the patio were the people we had met last night — the Canadian couple with the 8 month old baby. They were sitting there having a bite to eat and giving the baby a bottle. Wow, had they ever made good time this morning. If they hadn’t stopped to eat they would have been way ahead of me.

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As I was walking along, munching on a little cheese sandwich that I had in my pocket there were these 3 Spanish guys ahead of me. One of them started singing and when I passed them I told them I liked the singing and to sing some more. So they all burst out singing “Cantare.” And for a minute or two I was able to get that Beatles song “Help” out of my mind.

I’d walked about 14 miles, the sun was hot, lots of vineyards, the scenery was beautiful and sweat was dripping into my eyes.

This shows the pretty scenery.

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And the not so pretty scenery below.

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I stopped in one little spot where there was shade and who should come up behind me but Kristine from Italy (the young girl I had walked out of Pamplona with.) She was still walking with that Italian guy (the guy that dropped the camera). We were happy to see each other and her Italian friend said to me, “Theeese girl, she walk so fast.” I agreed and we all laughed. Then they took off walking down the road hand in hand. Excuse me but I think they had just met a couple days ago. Was this a budding Camino romance in the making?

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At 16 miles I was spent, when what should appear in the middle of nowhere but a food cart. Normally I would not have stopped but I was hot and tired so I ordered some orange juice. The guy cut and squeezed the oranges and made the juice in front of me and that little glass of juice was the best thing I had ever tasted. Pure sweet perfection.  Somehow I had gotten ahead of Kristine and her new “boyfriend” and they showed up and ordered that nectar of the Gods for themselves. Her boyfriend said, “Theeese ez like an oasis een thee dessert. You don’t believe eet ez here.” Oh, he’s so cute. With that accent who wouldn’t be attracted to him.

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Finally “Map my Walk” told me I had walked 19 miles so I knew I was close. My legs were tired, my feet were burning, I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to sit down. At 19.5 miles there was Dick. I had made it all the way to Najera and it had taken about six and a half hours, with about 4, five minute rest stops.  I really shouldn’t push myself like this.

I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel Dick had booked but when we got there I realized it was not a hotel, it was an Albergue or Pilgrim Hostel and there was a long line of trekkers waiting outside to get in.  I had to take off my shoes upon entering and then we carried our stuff up 2 flights of stairs to a tiny little room with a double bed in it. At least we had a private room, not a room with 60 other people in it.  The bathroom was down the hall and shared with four other rooms. I slept for an hour, then when I went to shower I had to make 3 trips from our room to the bathroom because I kept forgetting the things I needed to take in there with me. When I turned the shower water on it was nice and hot. But it was like one of those sink nozzles in public places where you push it and water comes out for a few seconds and then stops. So I just kept pushing the nozzle until I was good and clean.

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This place actually had a washer and dryer and I told Dick I wanted to wash “all” of the clothes I had brought with me. Great idea but then what would I wear? We were actually getting hungry and wanted to go out to eat and the washing machine was free. But what would I wear if all of my clothes were being washed? The only solution was to put my pajamas on and off we went. If anyone knew I was wearing PJ’s they never said a word. We each ordered wine and split a slice of lasagne and a small dinner salad at an outdoor cafe by the river.

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It was 89 degrees and I was so relieved to be here, even if I was dining in pajamas.

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Hiking the Camino de Santiago (maybe!)