Friday, September 30, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Astorga To Foncebadón

It was a beautiful day when I hiked to Foncebadón.  A little chilly but sunny.  I took a few pictures along the way naturally.

Entering Santa Catalina de Somoza where I stopped for my first rest of the day.
A Camino marker in the morning light.
Mesón Cowboy in El Ganzo.  "Of the good, the better."
Up the tree lined trail to Rabanal del Camino.
Crosses and a Santiago shell along the Camino.
Where I'm going ...
... and where I came from.
A typical building in Foncebadón ... with yellow arrows.
These and other pictures have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Astorga To Foncebadón

This was going to be a long stage so I paced myself.  My blister and ankle felt fine since my treatment, my education in Mansillas de las Mulas, and my rest on the bus.

Outside of Astoga I stopped at a small chapel that was, to my surprise, open so early in the morning. The Chapel of the Ecce Homo had a small water fountain outside for the pilgrims labeled in nine languages with the phrase "The faith, fountain of health."  Inside the 17th century chapel a little elderly lady stamped your pilgrim's credential and asked you to sign the chapel's log book.  I received a card with a prayer as a parting gift though I got the wrong one - I got the one with the female Virgen Pilgrim on it.

At the one third spot I reached the town of Santa Catalina de Somoza.  I sat down at a table outside of a bar.  I forced myself to rest here as I ate an apple and a little bit of the dark chocolate bar I'd bought in Astorga.  A flea bitten dog was circling warily as I ate.  I tried to feed her some apple but she wouldn't come close enough.

The next town was El Ganso (The Goose) home of the famous Mesón COWBOY.  The little bar was filled with western paraphernalia ... not necessarily western American but it was close.  There was a crowd in the bar as everyone was stopping for their morning coffees and shots of something the bar tender was handing out.  I failed to get a stamp here, an oversight on my part, but I did buy my earliest ice cream here (9:30 AM - my rule was ice cream only after 10:00 AM).  This is where I first saw the Spaniard (not the same Spaniard from Roncesvalles ... I was in Spain so there were lots of Spaniards).  He was travelling with a couple friends (I know the name of one of his friends, PB, but not that of the Spaniard himself).  I would meet the Spaniard for most of the rest of the way to Santiago de Compostela.

At the two thirds spot there was no real place to rest.  I ended up sitting on a guard rail as I ate another apple and some more dark chocolate.  This turned out to be a good place to rest as the Camino left the road it had been following since El Ganzo and went up a dirt trail - emphasis on the 'up'.  A chain link fence separated the Camino from farm land.  Like in the Logroño to Navarrete stage people had filled the fence with crosses and in one case a nice representation of the shell.

The next town was Rabanal del Camino.  This is where many pilgrims stop.  There is an albergue run by the English here.  I know this because AL and JT once volunteered to be hospitaleros here and he'd told me all about it.  My destination was still 3.73 miles (6 km) away.

Rabanal del Camino was built on a hill and that pretty much set the pace for the rest of the day.  The Camino really started going up after you left town.  To my surprise I felt great.  I didn't need to stop once as I walked up the hill humming to myself.  I was a hill climbing machine. Passed by the rest area (similar to the one on the desert) without stopping except to take a picture of where I'd been and where I was going.

This stage has nearly as much up as the first day in the Pyrenees but most people don't mention this fact.  I think it's because, by the time you reach this hill, you are in much better shape.

Up ahead I saw the puddle.  It looked wet and it filled the entire Camino.  I tried to avoid it but couldn't.  Both feet sunk up to the bottom of the laces.  My first concern was that all my hard earned Camino dust would be washed away but as it dried it made my boots look totally awesome.  It also helped that my boots were water proof and my feet stayed dry.

I reached the top of the hill and saw my destination.  It was on an even higher hill about a mile up ahead.  By the time I got there, hill climbing machine or not, I was tired.  There isn't much in Foncebadón.  Much of the town looks like it's in ruins.  There are three albergues in Foncebadón, a tiny municipal, a small private, and a larger private located in an old convent.  I suspect that the population of the town triples when the albergues are full.

I ended up in the small private albergue run by, what I would characterize as, hippies.  The inside was covered in Buddhist literature and pictures.  The hospitaleros were nice enough  and they cooked dinner for everyone at the albergue.  There were bunk beds on the second floor but they were all taken by people who had reserved ahead (you can reserve beds in private albergues).  The third floor was more an attic with mattresses on the floor.  I picked one in the corner, bought a ham sandwich for lunch from the hospitaleros, and went out to wait in the sun for GV who arrived about an hour or so after I did.

The albergue had a small store as there wasn't anything in the town.   I bought some fruit for the next day but was disappointed when they did not have principe cookies.  GV felt sorry for me and gave me a tube of Oreos that she'd bought and hadn't eaten.

The albergue put on a pretty good communal meal.  I met a few more people including three more Canadians (they're everywhere).   I ended up talking to an Australian lady, JN, who was on her second Camino.  She'd done it last year with her husband but he got sick and held her back so she was repeating it without him this year.  She said that 2011 was just as busy as 2010 which had been a holy year.  Usually the volume of pilgrims goes up during holy years and then drops back down.  Not this time apparently.  We talked about how the Camino changed people.  She suggested that the change doesn't happen on the Camino but happens in the weeks and months after you finish when you've had time to contemplate on your experiences.  Based on what I have been feeling over the last few months I think she is right.  I'm still trying to figure out what has changed in me.

Later RN and MO showed up to check out our albergue (They were in the convent.)  MO didn't seem as friendly as she was in Zubiri.  I suppose the miles can wear on you.

That night I went to sleep at the normal 9:00 PM.  A guy (who referred to the women he traveled with as his "harem" - that kind of guy) was talking to a woman.  He'd found a lighter along the Camino. *flick*  He didn't know if it worked or not. *flick* *flick* *flick* *flick* He didn't think it worked *flick* *flick* *flick* *flick* *flick* *flick* *flick* *flick* *flick* *flick* *flick* *flick* *flick*  Finally, without moving my head or raising my voice I said "It doesn't F***ing work." He said "Oh, yeah" and stopped.  GV and a couple pilgrims near me held back their laughter - all I could see was their sleeping bags shaking.

Day twenty-five ended well.  My feet felt awesome and my aching leg (which would not go away during my stay in Spain and persists to this day) was managed with pilgrim candy.  Without the pain my mood did a 180 and ... my adventure continued.

Total Distance: 16.44 Miles (26.46 km)
Total Time: 6 hours 29 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 4,397 ft (1,340.21 m)
Total Elevation Down: 2,643 ft ( 805.59 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Friends, Junk, and Continuing Aches

A few things have happened over the last week.  GeekHiker visited for a couple of days.  I let him do laundry and catch up on bills and stuff that inevitable come up during long trips.  We did the same hike I did a few weeks earlier.  On Friday GeekHiker, continuing on his journey of self-discovery, headed east.

On Saturday the Wife and I went to Brownville, NE for their biannual flea market.  We bought a few small things including a metal truck for the garden - an early birthday gift for the Wife.

On Sunday we drove west to the Loon Whisperer's home for the Junk Jaunt.  We picked her up and did a small part of the over 300 mile loop of flea markets/garage sales.  It was fun and the weather was perfect for it.  I didn't buy anything (I tried but did find anything that grabbed me) but the Wife and Loon Whisperer both found some inexpensive treasures including two folk art chickens made of seed (I use the word art very loosely here).  I did slip a bit and ate too many cookies and ice cream.  We failed to find pie for the Loon Whisperer ... maybe next time.

A close up of a folk art rooster made of seed.
Yesterday I went back to the Doctor as my aching leg has not improved.  He sent me to a physical therapist in the afternoon and I worked up a sweat stretching and strengthening muscles in my legs.  I'll be going back on Thursday and probably twice a week until I can get myself straighten out.  The physical therapist said it was okay to ride bike so I will probably restart my riding (I stopped thinking it might be hurting my leg - it wasn't).

That pretty much catches you up an what's been happening here at Homer's Travels.  I've been spending a lot of time massaging Camino posts , though all the junk related trips took me away from my writing.  I guess I'll have to catch back up this weekend.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Astorga

All my pictures on this leg were in Astorga.  I had no desire to take pictures out of the bus window.

The Episcopal Palace of Astorga designed by Gaudí.  The palace houses a Camino museum.
Closeup of an Episcopal Palace Angel.
Closeup of the Astorga Cathedral.
The Astorga albergue with its suitcase carrying pilgrim statue.
Early morning in Astorga as my Camino continues.
This and a few more pictures have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Camino De Santiago - León To Astorga ... By Bus

I got up, put my stuff together, and went down and sat in the entryway of the albergue to wait for GV.  We walked to a nearby cybercafe, checked email, and had breakfast ... I had orange juice.

We walked to the bus terminal and got on the bus minutes before it left.  Spanish mass transit is pretty comfortable.  It felt a little too comfortable to me.  It felt weird to be going so fast.  When the bus passed part of the Camino and you could see pilgrims walking I felt a little guilty but I ran the reasons I had through my head and I was sure I was doing the right thing.

We arrived in Astorga and started looking for the albergue.  We started off in the wrong direction but, with the help of the GPS, we headed in the right direction.  Along the way we followed a street with shoe stores and butchers, one after the other.  It was an odd street that should have been called meat and feet street.

We arrived at the municipal albergue at about the same time as the first pilgrims arrived.  After a brief wait we checked in and did our chores.  Not having walked we both felt pretty good so we went out and played tourist.  There was a street market outside the albergue selling everything from meat to underwear.  We waded through the stalls and admired all the goods.

Along the way we passed numerous candy stores.  These included a chocolate museum that was closed when we first passed it.  We told ourselves we would have to visit it later but never did.  When I got home I found out that the museum only costs €1 and includes a chocolate tasting.  Another reason to go back and do the Camino again I guess.  We stopped at one place where I had ice cream, bought a magnet, and bought my first dark chocolate bar of the Camino.  The street we were following took us near a park bordered by the Episcopal Palace and the Cathedral.

The Episcopal Palace houses a Camino museum.  It's a really cool building designed by Antoni Gaudí. We walked through the museum exhibits of pilgrims and Santiago.  The place had lots of stairs.  Too many.  I hadn't walked this day but my legs still felt the effort of going up and down those stairs.

When we came out it was almost 2:00 PM and things started closing.  We found an open grocery store and bought some food for lunch.  Deciding against another ham sandwich I bought some turkey (from Peru).  We ate our lunches on a bench in the sun.

We went back to the albergue to wait for things to reopen.  We washed clothes and relaxed in out bunks.

After 5:00 PM we returned to the park and went through the cathedral museum and the cathedral itself.  The cathedral was rather dreary, plain, and not very interesting.  I did buy another rosary for the Wife at the museum (number three).

We  walked around some more before returning to the grocery store buying supplies for the next day and some food for the dinner that night.  I ran into RN (first met in Grañon) shopping here.  She was walking with MO who I hadn't seen since Zubiri.  They were staying at a private albergue in Astorga.

GV made a good meal including the first real piece of meat I'd had since arriving in Spain.  I also had my first watermelon in Spain - very yummy.  While we ate in the kitchen we talked with a Canadian and his Japanese Girlfriend (I never asked their names, simply referring to them as the Canadian and his Japanese Girlfriend).  They were nice.  They'd been walking a lot longer than I had starting in Le Puy, France, I think.  I would see them along the rest of my Camino.

Day twenty-four was ... obviously easy.  My feet felt so much better.  I enjoyed touring Astorga.  I'd made the right decision.  As for catching up with the rest of the gang ...  except for RN we saw nobody else.  My best guess is they were between a half and a full day ahead of us at this point.

[Note:  No stage information or map for this one.]

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Mansilla De Las Mulas To León

I took a few pictures in León, though none on the way into town.

Not sure if this is really a Camino marker but it's still very cool.
A close up of the intricately carved Cathedral door in Leon.
Stained glass and columns.
Industrial ... art?!?  Note the fly in the background.
A cool lion sculpture in Leon.
The men's sleeping area in the Leon Parochial Albergue.
These pictures and more have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Mansilla De Las Mulas To León

I got up and tied my shoes as LA had explained to me the day before and left Mansilla de las Mulas.  While the ankle still bothered me it was not nearly as bad as before.

A lot of this day was semi-urban.  I was approaching the city of León and you could tell.  Near the town of Puente Villarente you cross a long bridge over a river.  When they built this bridge they did not take pilgrims into account.  As I got closer to the other side, the narrow strip of concrete I was walking on got narrower and narrower.  Add the cars, and especially the trucks, whizzing by and this bridge crossing became a harrowing ordeal.  I was just waiting for a truck mirror to smack me.  I was happy to get off that bridge.

From a crosswalk over a major highway I saw an Ice Cream distributor.  I wondered, if I stopped in, would they give me a free sample?  I may never know.

The Camino crosses another bridge, el Puente de Castro, and passes what looked like a pile of rocks surrounded by a fence.  A plaque said it was some ruins.  To me it just looked like a pile of rocks.  I decided the way to tell the difference between a pile of rocks and an old ruin was that the ruin had a fence around it.

I reached a junction and had to decide between the municipal and the parochial albergues.  I decided I would head for the municipal.  As I got closer I realized I was not in a very nice neighborhood.  It was old and run down and there weren't very many stores.  Then I reached the albergue.  I swear it looked like a prison.  Turns out it was an old army barracks.  I looked at it for a  minute or two and decided it was not the right place for me.  I backtracked a bit and followed the sign toward the Parochial albergue.

Before I reached the albergue I ran into GV.  She was waiting for me on a corner.  We'd been exchanging emails and I knew she had been delayed in Carrión de las Condes by ATM issues and I knew she was thinking about spending another day in León due to new blister issues.  These two delays had allowed me to catch up to her.  I have to say seeing a familiar face made me feel a lot better.  The rest of the gang was still a couple days ahead but at least I had someone I knew I could talk to.

I followed GV to the albergue.  As we were waiting for it to open PR and LS show up.  LS had taken a bus from Mansillas de las Mulas due to a bad little toe.  Turned out it was an infected blister under the nail similar to my big toe blister.  She went to the health center and got it all fixed up.

We checked into the albergue and did our chores.  This was one of those rare albergues where the men and women had separated sleeping quarters.  It was run by an old Sister who kept strict but fair .. rules.

As GV had already been in León a day, she played tour guide.  We started with lunch as Gsaid I looked a little gaunt when I walked into León.  I'm not surprised considering how little I ate on the Meseta.  We went to see the cathedral which had some awesome stained glass windows.  I bought another rosary for the Wife here.  We walked around the city passing modern art and another church.  She showed me the McDonalds that she'd eaten in the day before.  I fought the urge - American fast food would be reserved for the end of my Camino - a twisted kind of reward.

We stopped at an outfitter and I bought a replacement for the first casualty of the Camino - my towel.  My other towel had started to become holey ... literally.  My new towel was a more durable microfiber and just as absorbent and quick drying as my old one.  GV bought some new sandals which she loved.

We walked around a lot of León.  The one thing I failed to do is buy a magnet there.  That will have to be corrected someday.  We eventually got hungry and we went in a restaurant where we ran int  MA and his wife.   They invited us to join them and we had a good dinner (one of the best I had on the Camino - fall off the bone fried chicken) with more good conversation. - a conversation of mixed English, French, and Frenclish.

After dinner we went to a prayer service offered by the Sister who ran the Albergue for pilgrims .  It started out a little too hard core for us so GV and I left and found the albergue locked.  We waited in the cool air with several other pilgrims until the prayer service was over and they reopened the albergue.

By this point I'd suggested in emails to home that I might take a bus.  This generated a negative reaction from the family.  They all thought I should avoid the bus.  At the beginning of my Camino that was my attitude as well.  I wanted to walk the whole thing.  By the time I got to León my attitude had changed.  I think I've said this before but I will repeat myself: The Camino is a spectrum with Walking at one end and Social at the other.  Each pilgrim falls somewhere on this spectrum.  When I started I was near the Walking end but by Grañon I'd slid way over toward the Social side.  I think I said it best in one of my emails home:
"I do want to be able to say I walked the whole thing but I also want this to be an enjoyable adventure and crossing the finish line without friends around you is not very satisfying."
Talking with GV, we decided to take the bus to Astorga and essentially skip two days ahead.  I had two reasons - to catch up with others from the gang and to give my ankle and blister some time to heal.  GV had these reasons plus she had a time crunch.  (Looking back at what I did after León, I too had a time crunch and I couldn't have done all that I did if I hadn't jumped ahead.  I didn't realize this when I was in León though)

Day twenty-three turned out to be a turning point on my Camino.  I was once again with a member of the gang.  My feet were getting better.  The Meseta was behind me.  My mood was improving.  And the adventure continued ... by bus.



Total Distance: 11.97 Miles (19.26 km)
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 1,487 ft (456.29 m)
Total Elevation Down: 1,438 ft (438.30 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

Friday, September 23, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Bercianos Del Real Camino To Mansilla De Las Mulas

I took very few pictures this leg (a total of nine).  Only two met the interestingness threshold for posting and a few had people in them (and I have posted one of those in my Facebook Camino album).
A Camino marker with the sword-like Santiago Cross.
A  pilgrim sculpture in Mansilla de las Mulas.
These two pictures and no more have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Bercianos Del Real Camino To Mansilla De Las Mulas

This day started off terribly.  I could hardly walk.  My ankle was painful.  I was walking without any blister padding and that was bothering me a bit as well.  At one point I was concerned I wouldn't reach my goal for that day.  My feet eventually numbed up a little and I was able to continue but I was limping because of the ankle.

Halfway to my destination I stopped, sat on a bench, took off my backpack and shoes, rubbed anti-inflammatory cream on my ankle, and slowly ate a snack (apple and principes if I recall correctly ... maybe some bread).  After a longer than normal break for me (11 minutes according to my GPS) I got up, geared up, and discovered the pain was gone.  It came back as I walked but it was not nearly as bad as it was that morning.

In the town of Reliegos I did something I rarely did - I stopped for food.  Bought some Tortilla Española and took a twenty-two minute break (according to my GPS).

I reached Mansillas de las Mulas feeling better than when I left Bercianos del Real Camino.  That's a plus in my book.  I entered the albergue to check in.  The hospitalero was busy so I pulled out a little note pad out of my pack and recorded my GPS data for the day.  The other hospitalera, LA, standing near by, started calling me Mr. GPS after that.  She was a pistol.

After checking in, LA noticed me limping around and told me to stop by later and she would look at my feet.  I mentioned I had tendinitis and she said, "OK, I'll cut off your foot."  Ha!

I did my chores and took a nap most of the afternoon.  I got up, ran  into PR and LS and we chatted a bit while we looked for a store that was open.  I found a pharmacy and, eventually an open store where I bought some food.  It was Sunday and not much else was open ... as usual.

Once again I ate very little.  I had a small sandwich, yogurt, and some fruit.  I wasn't doing my body any good I think.

I ran into LA and asked about my feet.  She sat me down and gave my blister some professional care.  I swear they felt better almost immediately.  She also explained how I should lace my boots to avoid tendonitis - Lace up all hooks when you are going up, lace up only the middle hooks when you are going down, and don't lace up any hooks when you are walking on a flat trail.  This turned out to be the secret.  I told her she should move to the beginning of the Camino so that pilgrims could be educated earlier.  So, was LA a doctor or just an experience hospitalera?  A few days later I learned from KSam that LA is a ... veterinarian. HA!  My hooves felt much better.

Day twenty-two ended with delightful conversation in the courtyard with PR, LS, LA, and two girls doing only a part of the Camino -  a Quebecois, and a Belgian.  I went to bed content and for the first time in a while I was ready for the adventure to continue.


Total Distance: 16.57 Miles (26.67 km)
Total Time: 6 hours 12 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 1,556 ft (474.27 m)
Total Elevation Down: 1,685 ft (513.59 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

GeekHiker Sighting!

My friend GeekHiker,  who has gone through a few things over the past year and a half or so, is roadtripping around North America visiting parks, family, and blog friends.  This week it's our turn to house the wanderer.

Not sure Omaha can match up with the gorgeous national parks GH has visited in the past few weeks but I hope he has a couple of days of comfort while he's here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Terradillos De Los Templarios To Bercianos Del Real Camino

This stage was a tough one for me.  Tendonitis during the walk and an aching leg at the albergue.  I still took pictures though.

The Virgin of the Bridge outside Sahagún.
Cross and bridge in Sahagún.
The mosaic floor of the 18th Century albergue in Bercianos del Real Camino.
Pilgrim footwear ... most of them the same color: Camino dust brown.
Paella made by the hospitaleros at the Bercianos del Real Camino albergue.
These and a few more pictures have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Terradillos De Los Templarios To Bercianos Del Real Camino

Today's stage was dominated by tendonitis on my left foot.  It progressively got worse as I walked on.  At one point I was having pain that felt like a knife being jabbed into my lower calf.  It was worse than anything I'd felt in my right ankle.  I had to stop several times to take weight off my ankle.

Today was the half-way point for my entire Camino (not just to Santiago de Compostela).  I still had a long way to go but at the time I didn't know this.  I wasn't keeping close track - how unlike me.

There are two things along the Camino that it's incapable of avoiding.  The first I've mentioned before and those are hills.  The other are old churches.  On this stage the Camino jogged a quarter mile to pass by a nice little church/sanctuary called the Virgin of the Bridge.  It was closed for renovation but it was still a nice little 13th century church.  The Camino then jogged back to the main road.

I reached the town of Sahagún and I looked for a pharmacy but it was too early and most stores were still closed.  I took a pilgrim's picture in front of a church (I didn't turn down the request for a picture after that time on my way to Frómista).

This town was also the half way point of the stage so I reached around and tried to pull an apple out of my backpack pocket.  I tugged and out popped the apple.  Unfortunately I was on a steep hill and the apple, being a round fruit, did what round fruit does when it's on a hill - it rolled.  I ran after that apple for half a block before I was able to catch up with it.  I picked it up, looked at it closely, and decided to heck with it, rubbed it on my shirt (yeah, that would kill all the germs, Heh) and ate it.

As I got closer to my destination my tendonitis got worse and I had to stop more frequently.  I arrived in the town and ran into PR and LS who were looking for the albergue.  We searched together and found it on the other side of the small town.

This albergue, located in an 18th century building with a very cool mosaic floor, is a donativo.  It is run by volunteers and the albergue does not have a fee but is run totally on donations.  Grañon was a donativo as well.  I always tended to pay private albergue prices at donativos as they were always so down home feeling and they needed all the help they could get.  I never saw anyone put money in the donation box but then I assume most people put money in as they left ... at least I hope they did.  Some considered the Camino a cheap vacation and were a little stingy with their donations.

I spent a lot of time in my bunk here.  My leg was bothering but it bothered less once I removed my blister padding.  I wondered if the padding was making the tendonitis worse?  I decided to walk the next stage without any blister padding.

The two brothers who were volunteering to run the albergue when I was there served a communal meal of paella.  Unfortunately the dinner was served at 8:00 PM.  By the time food was served I was exhausted and my right leg started to ache (I think this is when my right leg really started to feel the effect of the twisted pelvis).  PR laughed when he saw me nodding off at the table.  The paella was good but the ache in my leg made me excuse myself early to take some acetaminophen and go to bed.

You know when you are just falling to sleep and your leg jerks?  Why is it that the leg to jerk is the one with tendonitis?  Hurts like heck.

Day twenty-one was a painful day.  I was concerned my adventure was becoming an ordeal.  It didn't help that I wasn't synching with anyone around me.  Thank you PR and LS for keeping me from going too far over the edge.


Total Distance: 14.61 Miles (23.51 km)
Total Time: 4 hours 41 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 1,685 ft (513.59 m)
Total Elevation Down: 1,765 ft (537.97 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Carrión De Los Condes To Terradillo De Los Templarios

This leg was long and had little scenery to distract your wandering mind.

Our Lady of Belén church (XV-XVI century) in Carrión de los Condes.
A marker with an alternate Camino route.  The shorter dashed route is the desert.
The Camino through the desert is straight and flat.
If you look closely where the road hits the horizon you can see another pilgrim.
(He's the little black dot.)
Yellow Iris along the Camino.
These pictures and more have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Carrión De Los Condes To Terradillo De Los Templarios

I often described my mood on the Camino as manic.  My mood would swing from one extreme to another.  Last night it was at an all time low.  This morning I woke up and felt ... all right.  Not sure what the difference was but my mood was definitely better.  I guess when you hit rock bottom, up is the only place you can go.

After leaving Carrión de los Condes I entered a stretch of the Meseta known fondly as the desert.  Up until now you ran into towns along the way.  From Carrión de los Condes to the next town, Calzadilla de la Cueza, you walk a straight, flat, grain field lined dirt road 10.75 miles (17.3 km) long.  This stretch was three hours of nothing.  This is where your mind wanders.  Some people enter imaginary worlds.  Others ponder their life issues.  The isolation of the desert brings different things to different people.  Me ... I thought about music.

I can't play a note of music and I do the world a favor when I don't try to sing, but I have always had an interest in music.  When I compose posts I more often than not have music playing.  I have music on as I write this.  When I was walking the Camino I was often humming to myself and running songs through my head.  The music kept my mind occupied as I plodded along the dirt road.  I was surprised what music came to mind along the Camino.  It was not necessarily my favorite stuff.  Here is a sample, by no means complete, of the songs in my head:

America, "Horse With No Name", "Sister Golden Hair", and "Lonely People".   Sadly Dan Peek, a member of America died in July.  "Horse With No Name" fit the desert perfectly.  "Lonely People" fit my mood at times.

John Denver, "Country Roads", "Looking For Space", and "Calypso" (Just replace Calypso with Camino and the chorus still works ... try it.)  All three songs gave me a pick me up.

Kansas, "Dust in the Wind".  This was one of the song mangled at the albergue sing-a-long.  It's still a good Camino walking song.  Kansas got me through my freshman year of college.

Notting Hillbiliies, "Weapon of Prayer".  Not sure why I like this song.  I don't much like country but then there is a song like this that grabs on and won't let go.  Maybe I'm a closet country fan.

Hollies, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" ... kind of fits the Camino ... especially if your brother is a backpack.

Early on I hummed several marching songs like "Over There", "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", and "The Army Goes Rolling Along" (i.e. Over Hill Over Dale ...)  I guess I had some odd military streak running through my mind when I sung these in my head.

Kenny Rogers, "Gambler".  I have no idea where this came from as I'm not much a Kenny Rogers fan (though in college I did see him in concert so I guess I was a fan once).  After hearing the mangled lyrics sung in Carrión de los Condes I found myself putting together Camino lyrics of my own.  "Gambler" was one of first where I changed the lyrics to make it about pilgrims.  I don't think it would be too hard to change the whole song.  I already have the chorus:


OldNew
You got to know when to hold em
Know when to fold em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money when you're sitting at the table
There'll be time enough for counting when the dealings done.
You got to know when to Wa·alk
Know when you Sto·op
Know when to turn left
Know when to turn right
You never count your kilometers when you're walking the Camino
There'll be time enough for counting at the Al·ber·gue.


Stealers Wheel, "Stuck in the Middle With You" with altered lyrics.


OldNew
Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you,
Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you,
Stuck in the middle with you.
Pilgrims in front of me,
Pilgrims at my back, here I am,
Walking the Camino with you,
Yes I'm walking the Camino with you,
Walking the Camino with you.


Certain songs made an appearance especially when I was struggling:

Boston, "A Man I'll Never Be"  The only song here that I know all the words to.  It's also a song that fits my pessimism like a glove.  The line: "I can't get any stronger / I can't climb any higher" seemed to be written for the hills along the Camino.

Notting Hillbillies, "That's Where I belong" and "Feel Like Going Home".  I used to hum these song when I worked on intractable problems on ships.  "Feel Like Going Home" is one of the most depressing songs I know and was reserved for the most dire problems that might result in me staying on travel longer than I wanted.  It surfaced when I was near the bottom along the Camino and, strangely, lifted my spirits.

Oh, and the list wouldn't be complete without The Proclaimers "I'm Going To Be (500 Miles)" (Thank you KSam for sharing this link - totally awesome).  It went through my mind at least once along the Camino.

The music in my head got me to Terradillos de los Templarios at near record speed - 3.3 MPH (5.31 km/hr) (I was slightly faster the day before - my fastest walking day of the Camino).  I stopped at a private albergue and snagged me a bottom bunk.  After my chores I ended up running into a few people I knew.  PR and LS were here and to my surprise I ran into MA and his wife (who joined him in Burgos).  Strangely I didn't see him after that first meeting.  He may have gone to the other albergue if this one was full or our paths simply did not cross.  I also ran into a South African lady that had been in Grañon.  

There wasn't much in this small town so I spent all my time in the albergue and out in the courtyard.  I ate a ham sandwich for lunch and bought some stuff in the small store attached to the albergue.  I know I didn't buy enough.  I was losing weight.  I had to keep cinching my belt tighter to keep my pants up and my backpack properly aligned.  I just didn't have an appetite.

I must have been in a good mood as I once again started to look into ways to catch up.  This time I would catch up by the time I got to Santiago de Compostela.  I wasn't as optimistic as I was in Burgos because today I had this niggling ache in my left ankle that felt suspiciously like the beginnings of the tendonitis I'd had in my right ankle.  I hoped I was just imagining it.

Day twenty was coming to an end.  The desert was behind me.  Besides the music in my head, another feeling emerged while I was on the desert.  Despite all the pain, deep down, I was loving this.  I felt alive.  It was still an adventure.  I decided right there and then I would do the Camino again someday.  I was ready to move on.  Oh, and that niggling in my ankle ... not my imagination.


Total Distance: 16.67 Miles (26.83 km)
Total Time: 5 hours 5 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 2,242 ft (683.36 m)
Total Elevation Down: 2,114 ft (644.35 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

Friday, September 16, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Frómista To Carrión De Los Condes

As my mood was a little down this day, I took only a few memorable pictures.
There was no confusion that you were on the right path with these markers.
I'm getting closer.
The markers in the sidewalk in Carrión De Los Condes.
Statue of Mary not far from the Saint Mary albergue in Carrión De Los Condes.
My bag is the first in line.  Has it's own mat.
The Sisters entertaining the pilgrims in Carrión De Los Condes.
These and a few more pictures have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Frómista To Carrión De Los Condes

Today I reached the halfway point to Santiago de Compostela.  Since the Camino has so many different starting points there really isn't any true half way point, and none is marked along the Camino, but my personal one was between Frómista and Carrión de los Condes.

I took an alternate route on this leg.  It wasn't totally intentional and technically I was still on the Camino so I wasn't lost.  After passing through the village of Villovieco I reached an intersection where I could turn left toward the town of Villarmentero de Campos or go straight along a canal.  There were pilgrims along both paths.  I chose to go straight.  I think I should have gone through the village.  There were Camino markers/signs along this way but it felt wrong.  Eventually I caught up with the pilgrim I'd been following and he sounded mad at himself.  This alternate path wasn't so bad and it rejoined the main Camino in the town of Villalcázar de Sirga.  It may have added a a little over three quarter miles (1.3 km) to the length.  Nothing terrible.

After leaving Villalcázar de Sirga the Camino went up some more along a fairly busy road.  The wind was whipping and at times I was afraid that my hat would blow off into traffic.  This would not do as that hat makes my shadow look like Indiana Jones so I took it off and held it in my hand until I finally reached Carrión de los Condes.

I reached the Saint Mary albergue, a parochial one run by three Dominican nuns.  I was first in line.  As I waited for the albergue to open AL and JT showed up.  They introduced me to another Canadian couple GO and ED.

The door open and I went in.  The nun assigned me bed number six which turned out to be an upper bunk.  My blister didn't like that fact but I could manage to climb up if I kept my flip-flops on.

I spent the afternoon finding someplace to get food.  Just about everywhere was closed but I did find a bar that served tortilla española.  I ended up eating a lot of tortilla in Spain ... right up there with ham sandwiches.

I spent a lot of time in my bunk.  The little bit of good mood I had after leaving the health center in Frómista was nowhere to be seen.  I was in a terrible place in my head.  My mood sunk as time passed.  I crawled out of my bunk and hobbled down the stairs and went looking for a grocery store.  I bought some ham and bread, some fruit, and supplies for the next day.  I made a sandwich at the albergue and that was my little meal for the day.

The Saint Mary albergue was famous for its singing nuns.  At six the pilgrims gathered in the small entryway of the albergue and we listened as the nuns played guitar and led sing-a-longs.  The sisters asked for volunteers to sing.  AL volunteered to sing and play the guitar.  This is going to sound petty, and I think this was a result of the bad mood I was in, but I thought he was terrible.  He took good songs and mangled them including a few where he changed the words to be more Camino specific.  Sadly his new lyrics really didn't go with the melody very well.  I was happy when he handed the guitar back to the nuns.

All this was sweet and all, but I was sinking more and more into depression as they sang.  I felt alone.  I wanted to share this with someone I cared about.  The Wife would have loved this.  The gang would have loved this.  The Nuns said that pilgrims needed two thing to get to Santiago de Compostela.  They needed something to guide them in the right direction and they needed strength to complete the long walk.  The sisters handed out paper stars and said that these stars represents the light that guides us along the Camino.  Then one of the Sisters, as music was played, went to each pilgrim, placed her hands on our heads and said a prayer to give us the strength we needed to carry on.  You hear stories of people sitting on the side of the Camino along the Meseta crying.  All this quiet contemplation can bring up hidden issues.  As I was receiving my blessing I came very close to crying - more out of emotional despair - than anytime on the Camino.  I reached an emotional low that night - a near break down.  I went to bed early.

As I tried to sleep AL and JT were talking to GO and ED.  AL was telling them how JT had a device that allowed her to pee standing up.  OK ...  WTF!!!  This is what irritated me abut AL.  He was a know-it-all that shared way too much information and played bad guitar, but damn it, he was a nice guy too.  Irritated the heck out of me.

Day nineteen ended with me being depressed and irritated.  Yay.


Total Distance: 12.75 Miles (20.52 km)
Total Time: 3 hours 48 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 1,927 ft (587.35 m)
Total Elevation Down: 1,729 ft (526.00 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]