I’m actually writing this the next day and I’m feeling a bit down. Found 2 bed bugs crawling on the wall beside my bed this morning and I’m feeling pretty lonely right now. I will continue. Yesterday morning I hopped on Angel and rode her for a really long time on the road. The sun was rising and I had so much joy in my heart. The photo with me on the bike was taken right after I had put out both my arms like I was flying and yelled out “woohoooooo!!!” I was feeling so good. The Meseta was a ton of fun, learning about myself, seeing old friends, singing with nuns. I’m so happy I did it that way. Every morning I passed many many people walking and I made it my job to spread the joy I was feeling by greeting them with a loud “Buen Camino” and a big smile. Almost everyone smiled back and it filled my heart and soul. I dropped off Angel after a big uphill and then downhill into Leon. I’m so grateful for the contribution she made to me over the last 4 days. I found my beautiful hostel and then roamed the streets looking for a beer and food. Leon is HUGE. I found out some other friends are staying in the same hostel and we planned to meet for dinner. So thrilled to see them one last time. What I knew would happen taking the bike is that the group of people I’ve been mingling with, I would leave behind and I would have to find some new friends. Even though I knew it, and just to acknowledge where I am right now, I’m feeling lonely. I’m about to explore this big city on my own today. I think I’m also missing my family a lot as well. I’ve been on this particular part of my journey now for 3 weeks. It’s a long time and I have even more than that to go. Jaedyn I won’t see until Christmas. 😭 so all of that is catching up with me. It is a beautiful day in Leon. I’m going to request to switch rooms (there’s no way I could sleep in that room again) and if I can’t, then I’m off to find a new place to sleep. Don’t worry everyone: not all days are going to be amazing. Some days will be down. I know this. I’m accepting it, giving myself extra care today and I know this is all part of what I’m meant to experience.
Day 23 – Leon (Day 1)
This was a day. Let me tell you. As you know, I spent the day feeling lonely but it was ok. I embraced the feeling of lonely as I don’t get to feel that very often. I went to mass in the big cathedral and sat and meditated. Then I walked over to the MUSAC museum (contemporary art). It was provocative. Then I hopped on a petit train that went around Leon. And on the way back had a glass of wine with two fellows I met on the meseta. Everything seems so normal right? Well I had an amazing conversation in there with my coach… I realize how much I’ve learned about myself in this journey and what I’m up to creating in the next three weeks. I spent a lot of time crying today both for sadness and utter joy. Deeply moved. So, fast forward: I go to bed. I’m lying there and my left side starts to hurt. And it gets worse-and worse. I sit up. I need to get out of bed. I call Luc. The thing that was the scare a week ago reminds me… there was blood in my urine. It hurts like when I had a kidney stone when I was 8 months preggo. I start to panick. How do I get to a hospital all alone? Luc looks up the hospital. I call on the two guys I had the wine with, pls call me a taxi. A French woman helps to find the number. Taxi called. I head downstairs and pop an ibuprofen. As I’m getting into the elevator Nadine from Germany is getting out. I ask her if she will wait with me (i met her 2 hours ago). Yes of course she says. We decide to walk to the hospital (3mins away). She speaks fluent Spanish so she helps me to translate everything. When I finally see the doc the pain has subsided and she waits for me in the waiting room. Then we get into a taxi to go to the pharmacy (it’s 11pm when all of this is going down). She translates everything in the taxi and when we get to the pharmacy. And then back in the cab to the hostel. I can’t believe it. This angel landed right in my hands when I needed her. Tears continue to run every time i think of this generous soul. I now have painkillers and need to wait for the kidney stone to pass 1-2 days. So I stay in Leon. As expected, plans change yet again. And that’s ok. I was ready to walk tomorrow but the universe has an other idea 4 me.
UPDATE: in the hospital in Leon. Going to be here over night I think. Going to see the urologist this afternoon. Woke up this morning in pain. It only got worse and worse. X-ray showed the stone high in my right kidney. They hooked me up to drugs and eventually the excruciating pain went away. And i slept a bit. Please send me love and strength. Your messages keep me company and help me to feel a little less alone. I’ve been talking to Luc a lot on WhatsApp. I have had a lot of feelings about wanting to go home and be with him and violette. We’ll see what happens today after the urologist.
Day 24/25: Leon (Day 2 and 3)
Day 24 passed without much incident. No pain. I even got a hair cut! I had to move albergues but I think the new one was meant to happen because the man who runs it was exactly who I needed for today. Another angel sent to me to help me along this journey. He’s done the Camino 17 times. He has so much incredible love in his heart and wants to help everyone. And he speaks great English. Yesterday he checked on me while I was resting, brought me ice cream and was always so caring. So today (Day 24) when I woke up in pain, i knew who to turn to. I was in agony and about to puke and he hugged me and sat with me while I cried and moaned. Eventually I puked (this would not be the only time). When I finally decided to go back to the hospital he wasn’t around so I left my number and walked the 5 mins. When I got there, wow, there’s a story there. Essentially let go of all expectations of how a hospital operates. At my lowest point I was sitting in emergency in a wheel chair with a garbage pail in my lap, sobbing and in agony about to puke. And Australian woman was telling me it would be ok and rubbing my back. I got an X-ray and then a lot of drugs through IV. Here at the hospital is another angel named Samantha. She works here and speaks almost perfect English. She’s helped me understand everything all along the way. She’s so kind and patient and is trying to work with our insurance to pay for tomorrow’s procedure. So what they want to do is blast the stone with sound waves. The procedure is estimated at 10,000 euros. Hence why we need our travel insurance to kick in. They moved me upstairs and now I’m in my own room with my own bathroom!! Woot woot! And no bed bugs I’m sure! I’m overcome with all the beautiful messages of love and strength. It means so much to me. Thank you. The stone is about 7.3mm. I had an ultrasound tonight and my kidney looks good. Juan came and visited 2xs and he even came back and brought me my tooth brush. He said tomorrow night I can stay for free at the albergue. I’m overwhelmed by all the kindness that people are showing me. I even got a chance to talk to my work peeps today. ♥️
As you can see I got my bike! Ok let’s back up… I woke up this morning and had to say goodbye for the last time to Feena. I think I’ve only known Feena for 6 short days but her and I got along fabulously. She makes me laugh all the time and her Irish accent is beyond cute (sorry Feena!) definitely NEVER say “top o the morning to ya” to an Irish person. It’s incredible the friendships you make along the way. Nothing I ever could have imagined. Now I absolutely must get to Ireland to visit this beautiful soul again. After parting ways, i got my bike! Fat tires and a heavy back end. I was nervous to ride it and you should have seen me ripping up the trail later in the day. The morning I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. I was having so much fun! The wind in my hair, it was cool out, I was using different muscles, everything was a little different. My butt and wrists are sore but she’s my Angel. That’s her name. Today was HOT. 30+ degrees slogging away on the trail. I walked up some hills (it actually felt better) and I walked down some hills (they were incredibly steep). I stopped in at a place 10km before my end stop for my daily tinto de verano to give me one more push to the end. I found my albergue, showered and rested. I was exhausted!! We had a beautiful pilgrims meal with all the pilgrims: green salad, homemade bread, houmous, chicken legs and a paella with noodles instead of rice and a chocolate mousse. Now I’m freaking out about bed bugs as I just looked down and noticed the base boards are falling apart. Usually where they hide until 2am. Please no! I’m going to put on some essential oils to keep them away and climb into my silk bed liner (my mom says they don’t like silk. Hope she’s right).
Day 20 – Castrojeriz to Carrión de los Condes
Nothing like getting woken up at 5am when you don’t have to leave until 8am. I had ear plugs and something for my eyes too. Didn’t help. Anyway, after a great albergue breakfast I grabbed Angel and we took off for the alternate route around the massive up and over. There I was, in the middle of no where, no cars, no towns, no houses, no people. All alone on the road. It was peaceful for about 5 mins with the wind in my hair until I started getting weirded out by it. Then I wondered if I was going the wrong way. So I checked my google maps and called Luc to keep me company. After some confusion I was back on track and cruising along on the Camino again. Not gonna lie: my crotch hurts. And as you can see by the photo, my hand is bruised (too many bumps I think). I had some snacks in the shade. Then for the last 19km the Camino was tight beside the road so i picked the smooth road of course. Arrived at my destination at 1pm. I met some old friends on the trail and they suggested to stay at Albergue Santa Maria. And there I found more old friends!! So cool. This albergue is so cool. More on that in a minute. The bonus to riding is that your feet aren’t exhausted so I spent a good portion of the afternoon exploring the beautiful town. Then I came back for the nun’s singing. We went around the circle and said our name, where were from and why were doing to Camino. So beautiful. I had my daily tinto de verano with Maria and then headed to mass. Afterwards there was a very special pilgrims blessing where they gave us all stars to represent light. It was so beautiful. The nun that is glowing in the photo had such a beautiful loving energy about her.
Day 21 – Carrión de los Condes to Bercianos del Real Camino
Another beautiful day in Spain 🇪🇸. For up, talked to Luc and Vivi and took off on my bike. This morning the first stop was 17kms away. The longest stretch without a town on the Camino so far (dare I say the entire walk?). On a bike it’s not too bad at all. I forgot to mention yesterday that it was my first day without bandaids on my feet in 2.5 weeks! That’s big!! After the 17k the trail was again right beside the road so to save my saddle I rode the smooth road. I flew down the hills. I had my music on and I sang at the top of my lungs while I stood on my pedals. The meseta has been so much joy and fun for me on Angel. I have to part with her tomorrow. By 11am I was at my destination. So I opted for going another 10kms so I could reduce my ride tomorrow. I need to be in Leon by 1:30pm to return my bike. I found this tiny albergue (see the hole in the wall) that went to a wonderful garden area, nice big bathroom, and only two bunks to a room. Heaven. Albergue Santa Clara. So the annoying thing is this: I signed up for something called Step Bet where you pay $40 and if you make the 6 week goals then you have a crack at the pot. I thought “no problem, waking the Camino will be a breeze and I’ll get rich at the same time”. Well after the bike ride yesterday and today I was only at 2000 steps of 13,653. So yesterday it wasn’t so bad as my feet aren’t tired after biking (bonus) and the town was super cute to explore (double bonus). Today though the town is so strange. On my walking tour I took a lot of photos of doors. And I walked around and around while I talked to Brianna on WhatsApp. Seems strange to ride almost 50km and then walk almost 8km. Anyway the pot is $40k and week 3 of 6 so we’ll see what happens… Today I think I’m at 413km accomplished. Over half way. That feels good. I’m so looking forward to Luc joining me in less than 2 weeks. Can’t wait.
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).