I hiked in the dark this morning with 5 other people who spoke French but that doesn’t mean they were from France. What I love about the Camino is you choose the language that most people speak and that’s what you speak. The other day I was speaking with an Italian who spoke French so that’s what we spoke together. I STRONGLY suggest you learn Spanish before you get to the Camino. Meeting so many people from different lands has inspired me to learn at least two more languages. Eventually, the guys in front took off and the older people were at the back so I ended up hiking down the mountain essentially by myself. Which was perfect and serene. I found the guys in the next town and I had coffee with them and then walked with them (fastest I’ve walked so far) to Ponferrada where I wanted to slow down a bit. I took it easy walking out of Ponferrada and threw on the head phones. I danced and sang at the top of my lungs the last 5Km. To be honest, when I do that under the sun by myself I feel so alive and in my essence. I love it. I’m in a little albergue in a room with two bunks and me and another red head named Katie from the USA are occupying the bottom bunks. We’re going to leave together tomorrow around 6:30am. We had some good discussion tonight about the USA political state. Very interesting. Also, Monica and Jörg found me and we all had dinner together. Tomorrow it’s a short day to Villafranca del Bierzo (15km and I’ll carry my pack tomorrow for the first time in a few days) where my package was delivered 2+ weeks ago and where I’ll find the love of my life around 6:30pm. Tomorrow is the last day I walk alone and then I will be in a team of two. I’m ready.
Day 33 – Camponaraya to Villafrance de Bierzo
First day of carrying my pack again. I haven’t had any discomfort and it was a smaller distance so I figured let’s go for it. I walked with Katie from the states. 24 years old. I really liked her. We started at 6:30am (dark until 8) and chatted the whole way to Villafranca where we parted ways around 11am. I love leaving early when it’s cool but I still have a fear of walking in the dark by myself so I usually asked if I could tag along with those who left early. Wow! Villafranca! What a great little town. I got the box I shipped a couple of weeks from the albergue I shipped it too. Took out what I needed/wanted and shipped it back to Switzerland 🇨🇭. I did laundry in a proper machine (had to be clean for when I saw Luc!) and then headed over to the hotel/hostel that I booked. It was a proper room with my own bathroom. It’s been a while since I’ve had my own room (hospital?) I had a lovely shower and then relaxed on the bed for a couple of hours. I maybe should have discovered the town but I was more content resting and enjoying the room alone. Then I headed for a drink and off to meet Luc at his bus stop at 6:30pm. It was hard to wait all day!! But oh man, so incredible that he’s here now. I feel this safeness, security and love wash over me. I guess that’s who he is for me. ❤️ We went back to the hotel room for him to shower and park his bag and then headed off for dinner. It was. nice to get reacquainted with him and share my experiences I’ve had. Also, the things I’ve learned about myself. I’m not the same person who started this journey. I’m more the person I want to be. They say the Camino is a metaphor for your life in many different aspects. From the people who I have talked to, my journey may have been the most challenging that they have heard. I also know that these challenges I’ve faced have created something new in me. I experience the upset less intense but the contentment and pure joy in my life is more accessible. Love is a constant and to have the love of my life by my side, is the most incredible gift.
Day 34 – Villafrance de Bierzo to Las Herrerias
First day hiking with Luc. It was a very flat, on the road kind of day. I’d say a perfect introduction to the Camino. I only wish it was so easy for me. 👍🏻 the weather was overcast (what?) I loved walking with him and hearing about violette and how she’s adapting to school in Switzerland and with her grandparents and making new friends. Luc was so curious about the plants and fruit and the cute towns. I realize that I had missed this along the way or I had forgotten and to see it through his eyes was beautiful. He asked a lot of questions about how things are and what I’ve experienced and I really enjoyed being able to share my experience. We stopped in Las Herrerias, this cute little town that had a tree where you could tie your dreams onto. And a beautiful little river where I cooled off my feet. Luc’s first experience in a bunk bed room and I have to say it was a pretty clean nice place. Although… there wasn’t a window and typically what happens is the door gets shut. So with 10 people in the room I woke up at 11:45 sweating and had to get out of the room. I sat on the stairs and shortly a man cane down from upstairs. I didn’t want to scare him but inevitably I did. He was heading outside to get some fresh air and smoke a joint which he invited me to partake in. I politely declined. I’m so enjoying Luc with me my pack is still heavier than his but that’s my choice. Tomorrow up and over the last mountain O Cebreiro and into Galicia.
24km by bus. Every day that seems normal I am grateful for these days. Decided to take it easy today and rest the kidney. I hopped on a bus to Astorga after asking in broken Spanish where the bus stop was. Let me tell you: there’s no way you would know it’s a bus stop. Hop skip and a jump to Astorga. What took some people 6 hours, I was there in 20 mins. I visited the tourist info booth and got my bearings of the town. Super cute and not many people around. I headed to the albergue of choice, dropped my bag and set off for the chocolate factory. It was a little anticlimactic. Then to the palace of Gaudi. Gaudi seems to be a pretty regular name around these parts. An architect before his time that was taken out by a street car?! Seems so unfair. Did the slang term “gawdy” come from “Gaudi”? I wonder. Anyway, I took the side road back along the fortress wall. So quiet and peaceful and it ended up in a little park beside my albergue. I sat there for a couple of hours, eating, sorting out the next few days, watching Stephen Colbert (sometimes you just need a good laugh). I went back to the albergue and my kidney started aching again. Then I met up with Monica from Germany for dinner. We drank and ate and had a great conversation. I walked back and saw Pedro from yesterday in the park with Oscar. We had a wonderful conversation about the things we think we’ve learned along the way. I have a feeling I’ll be running into these guys again all the way to the end. Tomorrow I send my pack forward (first time) and I walk 19km. I am making sure I don’t do too much too quickly after passing the stone. Feeling good to be on my way to the finish line. I still amaze myself when I successfully navigate getting from place to place #thatswhatlucisfor Tomorrow Rabanal. #
Day 30 – Astorga to Rabanal
22 km. We packed up and took off around 7:30. Still dark. Guess who tripped and fell over a small raise in the sidewalk? Yep. Me. Landed on knees and hands and mouth. What hurts the most now is my lip. It’s puffy and turning a nice shade of purple. Sigh… I was thinking about SmashMouth earlier and the song “I get knocked down but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down…” definitely my theme song. just one more thing to add to the book I’m going to write. Luckily I sent my bag forward otherwise I’m sure with that weight I would have broken my nose. It was a nice walk today. Mostly flat. We passed a cowboy bar which was pretty neat. I’m seeing the same people over and over again. Got a new extended Camino family these days. I walked for a lot of the day with Monica and Jörg. We ended up in Rabanal. My kidney is aching still. Double sigh. I will send my pack forward again tomorrow and walk 20km to Riego de Ambros. 3 sleeps until I see Luc. I’m so excited! I’m done doing this alone and ready for some partnership and help. #
Day 31 – Rabal to Riego De Ambros
22km. Wow 30 days I’ve been out here doing this! Seems appropriate to visit the iron cross today. As you can see from the last photo it was an up and then down down down. Probably the worst down I’ve done. I walked with Monica and Jörg for a bit but then I left them at the iron cross and they are one town back. At the iron cross you leave a stone behind-it’s meant to represent whatever burden you want to release from carrying. I think I read somewhere to please only bring one rock. My rock was thrown out with the backpack so I got a new one to leave behind. I thought about if I wanted to share the burdens I released and I think I do. I’m not journaling anywhere else and I’m practicing vulnerability so I will. I sat in the sun and closed my eyes and held the rock. What came up for me was this: “I release the burden of suffering. I release the burden of shame. I release the burden of judgement both being judged and judging others. I release the burden of having to get it right. I release the burden of not being good enough. I release the burden of fear. I release the burden of the kidney stone. I release the burden of losing my backpack. I release the burden of my past.” As I walked down the hill, I felt an incredible peace and freedom come over me. I felt lighter and that I will remember this day as today was a day of peace and love and inner joy. Contentment. Today was a great day.
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.
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).
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. ♥️