Coming out of Villafranca in the morning was up up up. And have I mentioned lately how much I love the up? Downs kill my feet/toes. Then there was this downhill like I’ve never seen. I thought I might start to fall to the bottom. I could hear some 20 nothing behind me sliding down the hill. “Buen Camino!” as he rolled past me. Then only to be met with another straight up. Spain loves their hills. It was 12.4 km until the first town. That was a lot. Luckily Feena shared her yogourt with me and I had a granola bar and apple. We stopped at the Oasis. Too bad it was Sunday as the breakfast board looked amazing. The oasis is this weird and delightful place on the side of the trail in the middle of nowhere. I finally got a cafe con lèche at about 10:30-11. I had a bit of a scare which sent me into another spiral wondering what I need to learn from the Camino again. The scare seems to be nothing so I soldiered on. But I definitely shed some tears and Feena helped me to do some self reflection. I adore Feena. Another angel on my journey. I have to say goodbye to her tomorrow. 😭 we walked together for most of yesterday. Then we got to this wonderful albergue and we got to share a room with Otto and Linda! I spent the afternoon drinking wine with Otto and chin wagging with Linda with my feet up of course. My feet: blisters are healing/no more to report for a while. Unfortunately I have more bed bug bites so I’m treating and drying my stuff in a dryer. Sigh… it’s not as bad as I thought (I HATE bugs) but they got my thighs and butt cheeks (tmi? Fml!). We had a nice pilgrims meal with the four of us and Frances and David. It was so wonderful to have everyone together. I felt so fortunate. I cried again (of course). Tomorrow BURGOS!! This is a big deal!
Day 17 – Atapuerca to Burgos:
Early morning (7am start) in the dark. I walked with Otto and Linda for a good portion of the day. They said I’m walking faster!! Must mean my feet problems are improving in more ways than one. Up up up as we like to do straight out of the gate to the top. There was the cross and a spiral path constructed with rocks at the top. The terrain up seemed like it must have been lava at one point. Very technical to walk. It was cool and windy which was a nice relief. We walked until coffee (about 6km) and had a wonderful breakfast (tortilla de patata). Onward we trudged and met Sylvan along the way: an emphatic biker who wanted us so desperately to make it to the river. He drew a picture in the gravel and when he left us he kissed me on the cheeks and Linda on the mouth! There’s two routes into Burgos: the industrial way when you walk for 6km through industry or the river way which is longer (some people said a half km others said 3km). We chose the river way. Soooo beautiful. Burgos really does feel like the end of an act-a transition so to speak. I understand there are still 2 acts left. It’s like the whole camino shifts now as we prepare for the meseta. The meseta (from what I understand) is 10-12 days of walking on flat, barren, no shade trail. It’s where people can’t be distracted by the beautiful sights and it’s a time to turn inward and where the deep inner learning takes place. I have chosen to bike this section. It will take me 4 days. Then I’ll have more time hopefully in Leon and Astorga to sight see a little and to heal my feet further. It also means that my bubble of friends will shift as I’ll fast forward in front of them. It’s an interesting feeling to be on your own again doing your own thing. I’m staying one more day in Burgos.
Day 18 – Burgos – REST DAY
I still woke up at 5:30am as the pilgrims still get up then to start their day and it’s hard to sleep past 6 when the lights come on in the municipal albergues. For the 17th time I left my walking sticks behind in the albergue and had to go back and get them. I had a breakfast with bacon, eggs and potatoes!!! I haven’t had a breakfast like this since I left Canada 🇨🇦. Feena and I did a walking tour of the cathedral. This cathedral is immense. And the ceilings are just incredible. The detail each chapel’s relief had is really astounding. You need to see it to appreciate it I think. After that we walked to our next place to sleep. We rented a hotel room for 39€. A pretty good deal. I bought some black garbage bags so I could treat my backpack in case there are any more bed bugs inside. And we sent all the laundry through the washer and dryer (most important part). Then we walked to the bike rental place to secure me a bike for the next 4 days. The bike is 100€ and comes with helmet, paniers, and a lock. Also bungees to secure my backpack to the top of the paniers. Picking it up at 9am today. I’m pretty excited and nervous! Then to have a bite to eat. After that we returned to the hotel… a seista, organized my washing and packed my backpack, chatted with some friends back home and then out for dinner with Otto, Linda and Feena. The food is really starting to be just the same over and over again. My travel bottle I bought from MEC has broken so my shampoo became unusable. So i had to buy travel size shampoo and i couldn’t resist it’s match – travel size conditioner so last night my hair actually felt nourished for the first time in 2.5 weeks. It’s the small things.
Santo Domingo, Viloria de Rioja, and Villafranca Montes de Oca
Day 13 – Najara to Santo Domingo:
My feet are singing in my new shoes. I grabbed coffee from A place nearby and video chatted with Luc and vivi before vivi went to school. I headed out of town by myself. I did a lot of walking by myself yesterday. The weather was beautiful. Cool and a bit cloudy. I met Sidsel and Maria on the way. We talked for a while and took a coffee and breakfast at a cute little town. I had a ham and cheese sandwich for breakfast. Then I carried on up a massive hill and then there was a golf course and this really weird town with hardly any amenities but brand new condos/apartments. So strange. I stopped for a drink and to rest my feet before the crazy walk on the washed out road into Santo Domingo. I almost thought I might spend the night right in the middle of the trail. It was ankle breaking and toe crushing. Down down down through gravel with no rhyme or reason. And it’s the last 3km coming into town. I should mention right before that I was walking down this other hill in the fields: the sunlight was perfect, the clouds were fluffy against the blue sky, there were pilgrims up ahead and the most perfect music (thanks Justin Hewitt) was playing in my ear; I stopped in the middle of the road and started crying. It was a moment of sheer bliss, presence, and utter joy. I carried on into town, for situated in my albergue, washed my clothes and then met Otto and Linda for dinner. Later, Francis and David pulled me into the cathedral to check out the cock and hen (MIA) and attend mass (which ended up being a funeral). Every day is full of connection with new and old friends, being, learning about myself, and wonder. I couldn’t ask for more. Tomorrow Belorado.
Day 14 – Santo Domingo to Viloria de Rioja:
I lost a day of posting so had to catch up that’s why there’s 2 in one day. Woke up and left the massive albergue we slept in and set out. Every day it’s a wonder what will be the story with my feet. Feena and I slowly walked through town and my feet were not happy at all. Pain all around. I couldn’t believe it. The day before my feet were feeling so great. As we walked beside sunflower fields we chatted about the things that were in my pack that I didn’t really need or use. I was a bit upset about carrying yet more weight (my boots) and then I had a grand idea… when I get to the next town with a post office I’m going to mail forward a bunch of stuff I’m not using and then when I get there I can decide if I still want it for the rest of the trip or send it on the Switzerland 🇨🇭. Well once I figured that out I was so excited to not be carrying all this extra weight. We stopped for some breakfast and coffee and I realized my socks were quite wet from sweat. By this time my second pair of socks were almost dry from last night (things actually don’t dry as quickly as I thought they would) so I put them on and then – my god – my feet were so much more happy. I was motoring. We stopped again at another little village for a glass of wine and a foot relax. Then onto our tiny town with the albergue. We got there first and slowly started to do our daily routine: check for bed bugs, shower, wash clothes, find out what the plan is for tomorrow. It was a nice afternoon. The town, Viloria del Rioja, is so small there isn’t even a supermarket or Bar. I prefer staying in towns like this rather than big towns. At seven we got called in for dinner and we dined with a girl from Hungary 🇭🇺, a boy from Germany 🇩🇪, a man from Italy 🇮🇹 and us. We had a beautiful salad and a homemade paella – delish!!!! I’m a surprised about the younger people who walk the Camino. There’s quite a few of them. I packed my bag for tomorrow and then hit the hay. Tomorrow is 20km to Villafranca Montes de Oca.
Day 15 – Viloria de Rioja to Villafranca Montes de Oca:
I’ve been on the road for 2 weeks and clocked 245km. Wow! I’m killing my step bet and carrot app. Today saw my feet feeling pretty ok. I know now I need to stop around the 5-6km mark for a break for my feet. Dry them out. Today I walked alone. Feena was so amazing and she got to the albergue before me and she reserved a private two bedroom room for us in Villafranca Montes de Oca. She much faster than I am. I shipped forward 3kg/6.6lb of stuff. Now my pack is lighter. Feels good to be carrying less. It got quite hot in the later part of the walk and I was sweating my bag off. I had one of those moments where I wondered if I was ever going to get there. I actually went to the wrong albergue (totally my fault) which added on a pretty steep hill and probably 500 mts. I can honestly say after two weeks and many blisters: the uphills are where it’s at. I’ve learned to go at my own pace (slow) or I get hurt. I’ve learned I can’t control much. I’ve learned my mom and my aunt are wise (I knew this but having these two in my back pocket has been amazing). I so appreciate Feena for sorting out my accommodation before I get there. And so many people who look after and are concerned for my feet (both on the Camino and at home). I’m grateful for people who speak better Spanish than me. And for WhatsApp so I can keep in touch with my family and friends. Today I thought I might have contracted bites from bed bugs. After consulting with my albergue owner, she didn’t think so. Just to be extra cautious, everything went into the washer and dryer and I sprayed my pack. I’m grateful for beautiful sunrises. And for 80s music that plays all over Spain in English. And for women who love George Clooney pinups. I’m grateful for paella and tinto de verano. Tomorrow Atapuerca (if we can get a bed).
27km by bus 🚌. Today was one of the hardest and most grateful days. I woke up and one of my blisters was infected. It’s not just that it was painful but it meant a whole lot more: 1) I wouldn’t be able to walk today. 2) I would need to find a doctor. 3) do you know how hard it is to find a doctor, food, bandages when it hurts to walk? 4) I would need to take a day off. 5) I might need to bus which I didn’t want to do. I called Luc and vivi and vivi told me she was mad at me because she missed me. I cried and cried. I was all alone in the albergue and was getting kicked out. So I walked to the front door where some German friends were. I got a hug 🤗 from all three of them. One of them cried. We walked slowly to the town square. I saw Alan and another friend from Bulgaria. I continued to cry and get hugs. Then my angel Ozzie friend Antoinette who I literally just met said “I’m going to Logroño to go to the doctor there if you want to join me.” In that moment I knew that her and I were placed together for a reason. I said “yes pls”. We bussed to Logroño and found our albergue right across the street from the hospital. We headed to the hospital and no one spoke English. Annie and I got poked and jabbed and antiseptic and dressed and they didn’t charge us at all. Thank you camino. I walked back to the albergue and called Luc where I cried some more. Then I rested. My friends from a few days ago came by and visited! So special that they did that. #forevergreatful. Then Annie and I went for a slow walk to look at sandals, bank and get some food. While we were sitting there in the square we ran into people we walked with, ate with and slept alongside throughout our journey. What amazes me is how quickly you become friends and then how amazing it is when you see these gorgeous souls again. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Tomorrow I’m going to try and walk to Navarrete 13km away. I found a couple of women that are walking there tomorrow slowly so I’ll try to meet up with them in the morning. Many tears, disappointments, fears, frustrations, putting the ego aside, finding angels, smiles, love and connection were had today. ♥️🙏❣️🚶♀️⛰
Day 11 – Logrono to Navarette:
Decided to take it slow and see how my feet were doing. Not too bad. Things started to hurt about 3km from the destination. I threw on some music and danced and sang my way through the vineyards. I’ve decided to leave 1 thing behind from my pack at every albergue. My pack has always been too heavy so this helps that AND it signifies me leaving my fears behind. Today was a better day emotionally. I’m sleeping in an albergue where there is room for 40 people but there’s only 4 of us. Most excellent! I’m going to walk 16km tomorrow. A little increase from today. I met Fina, Dave and Francis today from Ireland. Love that accent. And I met up with Linda and Otto again!! I love seeing those two. I can’t get over how special it is to run in to people after not seeing them for a few days. We had a drink and talked about the last few days. We talked about the struggle and how the struggle is necessary to go to heaven. I’m going to meet them early to walk with them in the dark while it’s still cool. Supposed to be rain tomorrow. That would be the first day walking in the rain if it happens. Tomorrow Najera.
Day 12 – Navarette to Najara:
So here we go again. I started out at 6:20am with Otto and Linda and headed out of town in the dark. We meandered among the vineyards for most of the day. We had a wonderful breakfast while the rains poured down. It was my first time walking in the rain. It really only lasted for about 30mins. After that I walked alone for the better part of the day. I walked into Najera with a couple of Canadian women which was nice because my feet were killing me. I had started to get yet another blister on my pinky toe almost just after leaving the albergue. By the time I got to my next albergue my feet were in so much pain. I decided I was going to buy new bigger trail shoes (which I did). I headed out for dinner and drinks with Otto, Linda and Feena. I retired to my bed. This albergue has sooo many beds and people don’t like to sleep with the window open so it gets stuffy with all that breathing so in the middle of the night I got up to go pee and I sat in the hallway for a while texting my mom and aunt and falling asleep in the chair. Eventually I went back to bed. People here are reporting bed bugs. It is a way of life on the Camino but it doesn’t mean it’s not my worst nightmare. I wake up at night every night wondering if tonight will be the night I fall prey. Tomorrow Santo Domingo.
Started our day at 6:15am an took off directly up hill for the sun rise. 2.4km. A beautiful sunrise. And then down down down on a river of balls as my mother describes this part (she’s not wrong). Then a nice easy walk. We stopped in a town for 2 tinto des verano (my new fave drink). And the carried on 2.6 km to this wonderful place. It was flat then up and so steep I wasn’t sure if I would fall backwards. I’m still with the lovely Sherri and Leena for another day. So incredibly grateful for them. I have 6 blisters that I drain at the end of the day with thread. I like this technique. I’m surprised actually how far you can walk with blisters on your feet. The pilgrims dinner was the BEST YET. lentil soup, a big green salad from the hosts garden and the a cod dish (see photo) that is a speciality in the area. I’m feeling good mentally and spiritually. Physically my toes and parts of my feet are hurting but otherwise all is good. The hardest part by far is the uphill in the hot afternoon Spanish sun. Tomorrow Azqueta.
Day 8 – Cirauqui/Zirauki to Estella:
Today was about self love and slowing down. We got up early and started walking. It was clear to me from the get go my feet were not happy. I remember Eric in SJPDP say “listen to your body”, Michael in Puenta De Reina say “take care of your feet” and Iona say “take it easy the first 10 days. After that you’ll be able to walk more”. So I told Sherri and Leena (who clearly could walk faster than I as they would wait for me) to go and I’ll meet up with them later. If I didn’t then Buen Camino. And then I was alone again. And it was ok. I talked with Luc and Violette for about an hour while I walked and listened to an audiobook. Then I decided, it’s day 7, I’m going to practice fierce self love and get my own room in Estella. Which is where I sit now. I’m so grateful to be able to splurge and look after my body and soul.
Day 9 – Estella to Los Arcos:
I chose to leave a bit later today (8am) which had some significant consequences (walking in the heat of the day). I immediately forgot my walking sticks (walk back 200m). My toes are not happy. So it was slow going. I walked alone and up to villa mayor. Not before stoping in at the wine fountain! We Stopped for some breakfast at 10am with some awesome people who I saw in Orisson. Then it was 12.4km until I saw another town. And down. You would think that it would have been easy. But no, it was 12:30 and we walked until 5pm. It was as HOT. My toes were killing. But I had Alan, a 72 year old Brit who told me fascinating stories of his life when he was younger. Very occasionally there was a breeze and I was so grateful for this small mercy on the blazing Spanish sun. Every little piece of shade we saw from the trees we hunkered under until we finally made it to this albergue. I peeled off my socks and bandages, popped my blisters, and the Camino provided to me tape to deal with my blisters. We headed out for dinner to the square. Right now there seems to be a lot of German’s in my company. They are all so happy, pleasant and kind. I love to hear about all the journeys why people are walking the Camino. Tomorrow will be a rest day for me. I need to heal my toes and blisters a bit more. My feet are more important than doing the distance. It pains me to say that but I need to look after my little digits. ♥️
Today was hard. Not gonna lie. I started off alone listening to music walking through the beautiful countryside. At km 11 I stopped for a coffee and met up with Linda and Otto and walked with them the rest of the way. It got hot. And someone had told me that it was only down from Roncesvalles. They were so wrong. Up down upppppp dowwwwwwn. Up up up down down down. It was one of the hardest hikes I’ve done. My feet ached. Calves are tight. Shoulders ache. Blisters on pinkie toes. Now I’m in an Albergue In Zubiri. There is the most insane electrical storm I’ve ever seen. For the last hour the sky has been lighting up constantly. I haven’t seen any lightening really. And I think I can hear a low rolling thunder. Massive quantities or rain and hail. Insane. Tomorrow Pamplona.
Day 5 – Zubiri to Pamplona:
Another 23km day. Today was much cooler and easier. Although… I have 4-5 blisters on my feet and my feet REALLY hurt by the end of the day.
I walked with Sherri and Leena today. We got a good early start on the day (6:30am). We stopped for breakfast at a little cafe with the other pilgrims around 9. Then ups and downs couple of times and a few kms later we’re in Pamplona with hurting feet. I drained my blisters with a needle and thread (thanks mom for the tips). We FaceTimed with Luc and Vivi (in Switzerland 🇨🇭), my mom and Jaedyn (in Canada 🇨🇦) and me (in Spain 🇪🇸). Then we had delicious tapas and wine with Alex. One of my friends has some serious blister stuff going on (worse than me) so we’re going to take it easier tomorrow and see how we feel. I’m feeling in good spirits. 23kms seems like too much for my feet (I get quiet and I suffer for the last 5kms) so I’m hoping a couple of infiltrations with padding will help tomorrow. I also got a new hat!! I’m feeling pretty good. Miss my family like crazy. Tomorrow is a new day. I’m grateful for cooler weather, Camino friends, draining blisters, amazing food/wine, seeing my family, talking to friends and love all around.
Day 6 – Pamplona to Zariquiegui:
Today we walked from Pamplona to Zariquiegui – a tiny town along the way. Today was hot again. More hills again. I have mantras now as I walk up the hills that I recite in my head to take my attention off the suffering and difficulty of the hill. “Kill the hill”, “it’s just a hill, get over it” are a couple. My feet hurt today. My blisters on my toes are getting worse. We will start tomorrow at 6:30am to catch the sunrise at the top of the hill. 2.4km up out our door tomorrow morning. I might be parting ways with my friends. They have a much shorter time to get to Santiago than I so I can afford to go a bit slower. We’ll see how we’re feeling.
France, Cannes to Saint Jean Pied-de-Port, Orisson, and Roncesvalles
Day 1 – France, Cannes to Saint Jean Pied-de-Port:
First day on my own. It was an early wake up call. We cleaned the studio and left for the airport. I cried. We got to the airport. I cried. Vivi cried. It was hard to say goodbye to her and Luc. Then through security where I sat and wondered what the hell I was doing. Onto the plane. Then into the airport in SJPDP. I waited for Express Bouricot to find me. Then Linda from California found me. Then Lori and Jeff. And two people from Australia. Then our driver. Into the van and off to SJPDP. Linda, Lori and I visited the pilgrims office, our places we are staying, the citadelle, an ATM and then we parted ways. And then I was alone. I checked into my alberge where Eric the host was talking. See below for his words of wisdom. It’s absolutely perfect for my first moment alone on my first day. I put the covers on my bed and pillow case and then I was alone. Like really alone. What was I feeling: nervous, afraid, weird, excited. I’m here. I’m sleeping in a room with 4 bunk beds. I’m really here. Tomorrow I walk to Orrison.
“The more you love yourself the more you will love the other person. It’s not Important to get to Santiago, what’s important is your journey. Listen to your body and stop when it tell you too. You will stop at the right moment and get exactly what you need not what you want. Just be humble. The first gift on the way. You do not have any control. Leave it to the way. The way will tell you something important. Live intensely each moment. You have the right to choose to be happy. Walk with your heart not with your head. It’s magic. 1. Stop when your body tells you to stop 2. Drink. All the time.”
Day 2 – Saint Jean Pied-de-Port to Orisson:
Wow what am amazing day climbing up up up. I understand that this first day can be quite foggy… definitely not for me. The views were stunning. Walked from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Orisson. It was a hard quick walk. Stopped at a lovely little place along the way for a coffee and rest. I’m meeting so many new people and learning about why they are doing the Camino. Today I even met a new friend from Victoria. Wow small world. Every person I meet I’m learning something from. Cheryl taught me about bed bugs and being “home free”. Tomorrow Roncesvalles.
Day 3 – Orisson, and Roncesvalles:
Epic day. Over the Pyrenees and down to Roncesvalles. Not gonna lie… it was hard. But I did it and I’m super proud of myself. I also understand that I’m pretty lucky as the weather can be pretty shitty doing up and over. It was simply amazing today. I woke up to the most incredible sunrise. Then breakfast and we hit the road. I walked with Leena and Sherri today. The sun was incredible in the morning. There was a truck selling fruit, drinks and snacks. So we grabbed something and took a break before a massive hill. We left the road and walked through beautiful shaded trail until we hit a super cold fountain where I changed my socks. Then a little further and another break for our prepacked sandwich. Then the last killer hill and a stop at the top. You could go the straight down route or a milder meandering route. I chose the latter to save my knees. We found our albergue and did some laundry. Vivis first day of school today. She did great!! Then a pilgrim dinner (meh) and off to mass at the church for a pilgrim blessing. Tomorrow Zubiri.
They say the first 2 days of the walk are the hardest. It’s the first 3 days (tomorrow as well) that make you wonder why you’re doing what you’re doing.
I’m back from the Camino, Germany, Austria and Turkey. I’m back in Switzerland and I can say that I’m not the same person that was here over 2 months ago.
This is just a quick hello to let you know what’s coming…
I’m going to be writing a book of my experience on the Camino. I tell people that it the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life and the worst. I had many physical challenges which helped me to grow both emotionally and spiritually on my journey. It was touch an go at one point whether I would complete the Camino.
Over then next few weeks, I’ll be posting the journey on here for those of you who I’m not friends with on Facebook or Instagram.
I’m excited to be reliving the experience again as I post and reflect the 42 days I was on the way.