Category Archives: Hiking the Camino de Santiago (maybe!)

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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TREKKING — DAY 7

Los Arcos to Logrono — 19 miles  

Today is Mother’s Day and Dick and I had decided yesterday that we would take the day off.  I woke up at 7 a.m. and it was so nice lounging in bed, knowing I did not have to get up and walk.  Dick was already up, in this cute little room, and we discussed our plans to take the bus 19 miles to Logrono.  

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After walking for 6 days I had decided I just wanted a day of rest.  This was to be a long day — 19 miles and I just didn’t want to do it.  But the longer I laid there and thought about it I started having feelings of guilt.  Guilt?  I was having feelings of guilt?  How could that be?  I hadn’t even enjoyed walking so far and now I felt guilty about NOT walking?  It was getting later and later and I had already gotten dressed in my non-trekking clothes when I suddenly decided — I have to walk!  It was a hot day and too late to walk all 19 miles so I decided I would take the bus with Dick, half way there and then I’d get off and walk the rest of the way to Logrono.  Now I felt really good about my decision.  We loaded up our backpacks and went to a little place down the street for breakfast.  

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I drank some cafe con leche and freshly squeezed orange juice and then choked down a couple of bites of a chorizo and egg bocadillo.  Dick had gotten another medication for his stomach but it was still bothering him — especially after he ate.  He decided to have coffee, orange juice and a croissant.  I went out and bought him a pack of Oreos and he ate those, too!  Then his stomach started revolting.  

The bus stop was right outside the restaurant and there were tons of Pilgrims waiting for it.  I was glad to see we weren’t the only ones.  I recognized many of them from previous days on the Camino but didn’t know why they were now catching the bus.  The Brazilian man next to Dick said he was taking it because he had tendonitis in his legs, 5 blisters on his feet and three toenails that had blood blisters under them.  With a syringe he had poked the needle under his toenails, extracted the blood, then put the needle back in and filled the space with Betadyne.  Ouch!  He was going to Logrono to try to get a bicycle to finish his trek.  I don’t know how he could even walk with all those problems!  

The bus let me off half way to Logrono and I waved good-bye to Dick.  I didn’t know where the Camino was from where the bus had let me off in the middle town.  So I asked someone, then asked someone again until I thought I was going in the right direction.  I walked with a German kid for a while and then we each started walking at our own pace.  The walk was pretty easy but the sun was blazing hot.  After a while I had to stop to put on my goofy looking wide brimmed hat.  It’s not a trekking hat.  I bought it at Ross Dress for Less because I thought it was cute but when I put it on I felt like I was dressed for going to a Garden Party in trekking clothes. I mean, really ugly!  The path went into the Rioja region of Spain where their famous wine comes from.  

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I passed many vineyards and groves of Olive Trees but there was hardly any shade from the sun.  After just a few hours I was in the outskirts of Logrono and then the path got hilly.  We were walking uphill and I was struggling to walk and breathe when this old lady who had been following me, passed me!  

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By now I was wet with sweat dripping down my forehead and back.  But it was O.K. because I knew I was not far from where Dick was waiting for me.  

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This place looked like a really big city — not the quaint little villages we were used to.  

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I got a text from Dick that said to walk across the bridge and he would meet me.  

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He said he could see me a mile away with my silly looking hat.  No kidding!  

We checked into a lovely hotel and I showered and did my usualy chores.  No naps this afternoon.  We went out and explored this centuries old Medieval Town.  The streets were narrow and cobblestoned with beautiful ornate architecture and churches on every corner with bells ringing.  

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We sat in a central plaza watching people of all ages out for a Sunday stroll.  Children played kick ball and made paper airplanes out of newspaper, then laughed with delight as they tried sailing them through the air.  All the Spaniards sitting around us were smoking, laughing and socializing.  But Dick and I were the only ones on our cell phones.  I started talking to the people next to us (a young couple from Canada) who were holding an 8 month old baby.  They were walking the Camino, had started it the day before we had and had pushed their baby the whole way in a stroller.  WOW!  I was in awe of them and couldn’t believe how they could possibly do this with a baby.  Now I know I don’t have any room to complain about how hard this trek has been for me.  (But I don’t think that will stop me!)

TREKKING — DAY 6

Estella to Los Arcos — 14.2 Miles  

First of all I’d like to thank all of you for the comments you have made to this blog.  When I read them it makes me smile and even laugh out loud.  I wish I could answer each of them personally but just want you to know that they are the pat on my back that keeps me walking each day.  

Last night I tossed and turned all night long, unable to sleep.  Even under heavy blankets I couldn’t seem to get warm but the bottoms of my feet were burning hot and aching.  Finally I got up at 6 and found that Dick had been up for hours.  I dreaded walking today and knew I´d be tired with not much energy. Neither of us wanted to eat breakfast.  I think his stomach is getting worse.  Yesterday we went to a pharmacy and got some medication but it hasn´t helped him at all.  Today he´ll try to get something else.  

Dick walked me out onto the street where the Camino started and we said our goodbyes.  It was now 7 a.m. and the sun was just coming up.  The sky was clear blue and it was supposed to be hot today.  I turned on ¨Map My Walk¨ which I love using.  Every mile a voice comes out of my phone loud and clear to tell me how far I´ve gone in miles and it really makes me think I´m making progress.  For the first two miles the road was all uphill.  I was hating it, was immediately breathing hard and wondering when it would end.  By mile 3, I had come to a famous landmark on the Camino.  It was the Fountains of Irache — one spout puts out water and the other puts out wine.  It was one of the highlights of this trip that I was really looking forward to.  You can see this site on the web in real time and see trekkers getting little containers of wine.  But today the wine tap was dry. So I walked on.

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Last night Eliza had told me that today, instead of going up the mountain, down a little bit and then up the mountain again, that there was a way around the mountain instead.  It was located a little past the Wine Fountain of Irache.  I walked about a quarter mile more and the Camino signs pointed to the left.  However, there was a group of people gathered around a sign posted in Spanish.  I couldn’t really understand what the sign said but I heard a guy say in Spanish that if you went to the right the path would be more level.  So I followed that group to the right and it was the best decision I made all day.  

After walking 3 miles I was spent.  So I sat down on a rock and forced myself to eat a little chocolate covered donut that I’d bought the night before.  My stomach didn’t want it and it took about 15 minutes for me to eat all 4 bites.  But I knew it would give me some energy.  At the 5 mile mark I was in a little village where there was a cafe so I sat on their patio and had a cafe con leche.  

While I was sipping the coffee, sitting in the sun looking at the beautiful scenery I overheard the lady at the next table talking about the awful blisters on her feet.  Then I thought about what Dick told me yesterday.  He had taken the bus with a girl from Holland who was ending her Camino after just a short time because she had a huge blister on her heel.  She had put Compeed on it — a substance that Camino books highly recommend for blisters.  I have read, however, that it is the worst thing you can put on a blister.  Anyway, she had used Compeed and her blister had gotten horribly infected with using it.  At the hospital they told her not to wear shoes and that she needed to end her Camino experience.

Were these shoes left behind because they caused blisters??
Were these shoes left behind because they caused blisters??

After walking uphill some more I found myself in another village, standing by a church.  Several trekkers were milling around and one of them ran up to me.  It was Kristina, the young girl from Italy who I had walked with out of Pamplona.  We hugged and were so glad to see each other again.  I asked the Italian fellow she was walking with if he would take our photo and he did, first with her cell phone and then with mine.  Then another trekkers asked him to take her picture, too.  She handed him her camera and as he was ready to take her picture he dropped her camera and it went clunk, clunk, clunk, landing on the hard bricks covering the ground.  I don’t know if her camera was broken or not but I was sure glad my cell phone was still intact.

Kristina and me in front of the church
Kristina and me in front of the church

The next 8 miles were a breeze.  It was just a little uphill and a little downhill but mostly level ground.  This has been the easiest day, terrain wise, so far.

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Dick sent me a text that he had reserved a room in Los Arcos and that he would meet me on the path.

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True to his word, after entering Los Arcos and walking a few blocks here he came, walking toward me.  Instead of wanting to get to the hotel to crash, I actually felt fine so we sat at a little outdoor cafe while I sipped lemonade and he had a beer.

The hotel Dick had selected was brand new and the first thing I asked the receptionist was if there was a hair dryer in the bathroom.  She apologized and said “No.”  But the guy who was helping her said he would get me one.  While we were still in reception he came running back, apologizing in Spanish, saying he had gone to his mother’s house to borrow her hair dryer but she wasn’t home and her door was locked and he didn’t have a key.  Oh, do I love these small villages.  They told me not to worry, that they would borrow one from someone else and bring it to our room.  And true to their word, they did.  This was a truly great day!  

After showering and using the blow dryer I washed my clothes and again hung them on the balcony to dry.  It was late afternoon and we decided to go have a bite to eat.  At an outdoor cafe we ordered a small pizza and Patatas Bravas (crisp fried potatoes smothered in aioli (homemade mayonnaise).  Dick ate one tiny piece of pizza and I ate two bites of potatoes and we were both full.  It is now 11 p.m. and I’m craving those Patatas Bravas.  I think my appetite is returning!

 

 

TREKKING — DAY 5

Puente la Reina to Estella — 15.5 miles

Both Dick and I still have queasy stomachs that we’ve had for a few days now and we simply don’t want to eat. Dick’s stomach is worse than mine because his is cramping quite a bit. Last night for dinner in the hotel all we wanted was a bowl of soup but we were not allowed to have one unless we purchased the full 3 course Pilgrim meal for 15 Euros each. We paid the price and ate a few bites of food from the buffet. The waiter insisted on bringing me the main course which he said was chicken. I pushed it around on my plate and ate two bites of what I thought was thigh meat. It actually tasted wonderful, but the thigh meat, instead of being dark meat was pure white. I later found out it was rabbit! The staff at this hotel, Hotel Jakue, had not been accommodating or friendly and this was the frosting on the cake!

Waking up this morning I lay in bed thinking how much I did not want to walk. My legs were sore and it was still hard to walk when I got out of bed. The plan now was that I would walk the Camino and Dick would take a bus to the next destination and have a hotel room waiting when I got there. That worked well for both of us.

We didn’t eat any breakfast and Dick walked me out of the hotel at 8 a.m. I started walking the Camino which was very well marked. No problems with getting lost today. The sun was already out and the sky was clear blue. It was windy and cool but I knew it would soon be hot with no clouds or shade on the path. The distant views of the mountains and adjacent fields were beautiful but the path was mostly in open areas with not many large trees for shade. I was walking through the hills and the path seemed to consistently go up a hill then down a hill, then up a mountain or two then down and up again. I stopped one time for a 5 minute rest but wasn’t having much fun on the path today so I just wanted to keep walking and get to that hotel room. Dick texted me that he had a room and he would meet me on the path. Relief!

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I had been walking for over 14 miles up and down mountains and hills, still on an empty stomach and just couldn’t figure out how much farther I had to go. Finally, I got another text from Dick saying I was almost to the river. Well what did THAT mean? I was too exhausted to even text back and ask. I passed the river, walked another mile and every corner I went around I expected to see a town or to see Dick. But NO! I was getting really irritated because I was so tired and I just wanted the walking to end. Finally, after I entered the narrow cobblestone streets of Estella and walked quite a ways and still didn’t see him I texted him and asked where he was. He texted back and said to go to “Find My Friends” and look at the dot where he was. Well, that did it!! Like I could even tell where he was from a dot on a map!  I texted him back and said, “I don’t care about any f…ing dot, WHERE ARE YOU? At that point I had walked 15.5 miles with no food and I felt like I couldn’t make it one step more. I sat down on a bench to rest for a few minutes, then started walking farther through the cobblestone streets of that darling town. Finally I saw Dick walking toward me. I took my backpack off and gave it to him to carry and we walked the rest of the way to the hotel. Once there I ripped off my stinky t-shirt, flopped down on the bed and slept for 2 hours.

When I finally awakened I knew I had chores to do. I had to shower, put on semi-clean clothes and then wash all the clothes I had worn that day. Having to do the wash by hand every day was a chore that just zapped my energy. But it had to be done. After a cold shower (yes, COLD) I washed my clothes in the bathroom sink, wrung them out, rolled them in a towel, stomped on the towel to absorb more water then hung them on the balcony to dry. Our room overlooked the cobblestone street and I didn’t even care that my bra and underpants were waving in the wind.

Just to backtrack a moment, at breakfast the day before, in Pamplona, Dick had met David and Eliza, a father and daughter who were doing the Camino together but they each walked separately during the day and sometimes didn’t even stay at the same place at night. David wanted to stay in hotels and Eliza wanted to stay in Albergues where she could meet young people her own age (23). David was an Orthopedic Surgeon and wanted to know all about Dick’s foot problems. Dick thought he and his daughter were just great, very personable and fun to talk to. So anyway, we ran into them in the hotel dining room the night before at Hotel Jakue and it was great chatting with them for a while.

O.K. getting back to the hotel where we were tonight in Estella. After getting all my “chores” done I asked Dick about the WiFi and when he went to the front desk he found out there wasn’t any. This hotel was in the old section of town and when Dick was looking for a room it was one of the last hotels that even had a vacancy. They told him he’d have to go to a restaurant that had WiFi if we wanted to use our computers. It was approaching 6 p.m. so we went out and walked around a couple of darling plazas where people were sitting outside eating. And who should we run into but Eliza. She was having drinks with a couple of other trekker guys. She and her father joined us later and we ended up having dinner with them, sitting outside on the plaza, talking until the sun went down and it was dark and time to call it a day.

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TREKKING, DAY 4

Pamplona to Puente la Reina — 15 1/2 Miles

We awoke again with queazy stomachs — just not wanting to put anything in them. Dick felt good about his decision not to walk today. He was going to check into renting a car or taking the bus to our next destination. I took some stuff out of my backpack and gave it to him to carry so my load would be a little lighter. I love my backpack and didn’t want to be without it. I’ve rigged it so that my camera is attached to one side of the front strap and my water bottle is attached to the other side. When I want a drink it is right there at mouth level and I don’t have to stop to take a drink.

Dick said he would walk me to the start of the Camino route because I wasn’t sure of my way out of Old Town. It was very close but we still weren’t sure which way to go. We asked a policeman and he pointed the way, then Dick and I said goodbye. I started walking alone and was immediately lost. Two streets came together and I wasn’t sure which one to take and I didn’t see any Camino signs. So I turned around and there was the policeman — who had followed me — and again he pointed me in the right direction. It was then that I started to see the Camino signs — little clam shells embedded in the sidewalk every 20 feet. It was so reassuring to see them.

I walked through Pamplona and along beautiful tree lined parks, passing another young girl who was also walking the Camino. I called out “Buen Camino” and she answered with the same. Then I thought, “Gee, she is young and I’m walking faster than she is.” After about a mile I started getting worried. Where were the Camino signs? Why had they stopped? I looked everywhere and didn’t see any. Then a woman came by, looked at me and said, “Camino?” When I said “Si” this sweet lady told me I had to go back a block and turn left. Just then the young girl arrived and so did a fellow on a bicycle who I had run into several times on the Camino. I told both of them we were all going the wrong way. We all backtracked and were on the right track again.

The young girl, Kristina, and I started walking together again. Our strides were about the same and it was great walking with someone else. Kristina was from Italy and had just graduated with an engineering degree and was doing the Camino as a reward before starting work. We talked non-stop and were soon out of Pamplona and onto a real path instead of roads. The terrain started gradually going uphill and I was breathing hard at times and it was difficult to talk because I couldn’t breathe and talk at the same time. Kristina, on the other hand, had no trouble. Whereas I would have stopped to catch my breath I kept going to just keep up with Kristina. After about 7 miles I had had it. We were going more steeply uphill and I knew I had to stop. She, however was not even winded. I said my goodbyes and that I’d probably see her in another village.

I was finally able to stop for a minute or two to catch my breath and then the terrain went up to the top of the mountain. It was two more miles up. I passed a couple of little villages but walked right through them because I just wanted to get to the summit. Finally after 3 1/2 hours and 9 miles I was there. This was Alto del Perdon and placed at this summit were several huge metal sculptures of Pilgrims from the past. There were a bunch of other trekkers there who had stopped for a break. I stopped just long enough to snap a couple photos and was off again. For the first mile it was a dangerously steep downhill with large rocks and gravel that could easily slip out from under your feet. I made it O.K. without falling and then the terrain went gradually downhill with just a little uphill.

All day as I passed other trekkers I heard them talking about the blisters on their feet.  I was so thankful that to this point I had no blisters and my feet felt great.  Walking on I passed through several cute little villages but the problem was that they didn’t post signs saying their names. In one village I found a place to sit in the shade and finally stopped for a break. I still hadn’t eaten and wasn’t hungry but was trying to drink a lot of water. I checked my phone and had a text from Dick telling me he was catching a bus and where he had made reservations for the night. After this 15 minute break I got up to start walking again and all the muscles in my legs were killing me. This was always what happened when I sat down for a break. For me, it was better to remain standing and keep walking. I knew I should be getting close to Puente la Reina but had no idea where I really was. The path went into a central square in a village and I wasn’t sure I had walked out of it in the right direction. There were no Camino signs and I saw no other trekkers. Then I saw two women sitting at the side of the path and asked them if this was the Camino and they waved me on.

By this time I was getting really exhausted. I was using Map My Walk so I knew how many miles I had walked but wasn’t exactly sure how much farther I had to go. I was about ready to drop when the path abruptly came out of the woods and there right in front of me was the hotel that Dick had booked. I was so relieved. I checked in and found out I had beat him there. Once in the room I stripped off my smelly shirt and flopped down on the bed. Dick arrived a short time later and we both slept for the next couple of hours.

After showering, using that wonderful blow dryer in the bathroom and washing my clothes we went to the patio downstairs for a drink. There was a German man sitting next to us who told us many stories and also said how far he walked each day. What took me two days to walk, he did in one day. He had also walked from Frankfort, to France and then through Spain. This was his second time doing the Camino. I asked him why he did this and he almost got tears in his eyes and said it was a life changing experience. That walking it had completely changed him — gave him a new life and also a new meaning to life.  But then he was quick to say that each person has to walk the Camino alone, on his own time and at his own pace.  Well, that´s certainly what Dick and I were doing.
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