A Travellerspoint blog

Day 18 Hospital de Orbigo – Astorga 16km

My feet smell like butter. This morning, following the advice of the Frenchies, I cover my feet with butter (because I don't have any Vaseline) which makes them slippery and ensures my socks and shoes wont rub and I wont get blisters. I buy Vaseline the next time I'm at a pharmacy and it really works – I only wish I'd known this before I started walking. On this trip I have soaked my feet in vinegar and salt to help wounds, covered them with olive oil and butter in the mornings and I've even been told to put egg whites on them! I'm not sure whether I'm preparing my feet for walking or to be my lunch.

At about 9 o'clock today I walk innocently into an old red brick town, where nobody is around. I am in the middle of thinking how beautiful and old it is when I come to the town square, where six bulls are strolling towards me. This is fairly scary. These little towns have been having running of the bulls festivals over the last few weeks and I wonder quickly if I'm standing somewhere I shouldn't be... I stand up against a wall and watch as a boy on a bicycle rides up and herds the bulls along. Phew. Thank you boy-on-bike.

When I get to Astorga I decide to stop for the day. It's only a 16km day but I think my feet need some recovery time and my whole body feels heavy and tired. And, as though a sign from Santiago himself that I should stay in Astorga, there is a chocolate festival on! This little Spanish town, world-renowned for it's chocolate, is actually having a chocolate festival today. Joy, glee, great happiness melting in large white tents. I wander around tasting 90% chocolate, toffee chocolate, biscuits, nuts, fondue – everything. I also see the Gaudi cathedral, which is cool, and kind of like a Disney castle as one American points out. There are stained glass windows doubled up with stained glass windows in the cold grey cathedral walls. When I finally do fall into bed I sleep for about 14 hours, and feel so refreshed and good in the morning.

Posted by CharliePepper 09:47 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

Day 17 La Virgen del Camino – Hospital de Orbigo 28km

Today there is another alternate route, and this one I would recommend even if it does cost your feet a whole 6km in tiredness and possible blisters. It's beautiful, green, and the normal route follows a highway which sounds boring. The landscape is amazing, more greens than in a Derwent colour pack. Tracks of vineyards and village after village are tucked away in the cleavage of the country. It's actually impossible to buy a bad bottle of red wine here, (I've tried), they are all good and all cheap, oh Spain!

When I stop today my feet are swollen and sore. The one with the blister is bright red and the other resembles a small elephant more than a human limb. Thankfully there is a French comedian (goldmine!) staying in the hostel so I spend more time laughing than thinking about my feet. “Une blague, une blague s'il te plaît!”
“A boy, Christopher, and his mother are in the kitchen. He says 'Mum, I want some chocolate.'
'The chocolate is in the cupboard.'
'But mum, I don't have any arms.'
'Well Christopher, no arms, no chocolate.'”

Another favourite is “Have you ever seen an elephant hiding behind a nut? No? That's because they hide them very well.” :) So many people don't get this but it's brilliant. The secret is in the elephant's rebellious defiance of quantum physics. I can't stop smiling here, I am so happy all of the time. Just to get up and walk everyday, sometimes to talk to people and sometimes not. It's like being in another world. I know very little about news, television, events. There was flooding in Madrid recently which is close, but I didn't hear about it for a week. It's like being in a Camino bubble.

Posted by CharliePepper 09:44 Comments (0)

Day 16 Mansilla de las Mulas – La Virgen del Camino 28km

I know I've said this before but there are just so many amazing coincidences on the Camino. One girl I met from Australia had done the Camino before, and this year she decided to do a different route called the Villa de la Plata. She arrived, checked into her first albergue and randomly bumped into a girl she had met when doing her first Camino. This is unbelievable, they both decided to start another walk in the same year on the same day from the same town and the same albergue. But she brushes this off, “you know, it's a magic path, you can't expect nothing amazing to happen when you're walking the same route pilgrims have walked for hundreds of years.”

Another lady I met decided to walk a little known path through Germany. She had heard about a friend of a friend who had done it and looked at his photos on a blog. She thought it was beautiful and so four years later, when planning her holidays, she decided to do this walk. She started, and three days later a car pulled up beside her while she was hiking. A man got out and introduced himself and asked her if she was walking to Santiago, “yes!” she said, astonished, “and I know you!” It was the man from the photos, who happened to be driving through this little town in Germany. “This place is very special” she says to me, “it's a small world but it's smaller on the Camino.”

Posted by CharliePepper 09:43 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

Day 15 Calzadilla de los Hermanillos – Mansilla de las Mulas

Today I am walking on a stony old Roman Road, which is v. romantic but irritatingly hard on my feet. I'm sure it was amazingly smooth however many hundred years ago but right now it's rocky – architecture and engineering are only half the battle, what happened to maintenance? Come on Romans! You should have foreseen this.

I struggle along my morning without towns, blisters hurting, singing songs to myself. Look out for lizards in the shrubs, especially on the outskirts of towns (when you finally get there). There are huge ones, elbow-to-fingertip type big, brilliant lizard-green with yellow and black spots on their backs. When you get to Leon they are everywhere. The other cool thing about Leon is the albergue; it's run by nuns in an old monastery. I didn't stay here but the bars and night-life are apparently great. La Cocina has the best tostadas ever and there's an ice-cream place called Holy Cow where they'll stamp your pilgrim passport with a little pink cow. Wow, I say, eating my first ever Spanish ice-cream, “la vie, c'est mieux avec la glace.” Life is better with ice-cream. My French friend laughs; “Charlie, si tu n'existais pas, ça serait nécessaire de t'inventer”. If you didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent you.

Remember, if there's anything important you want to see in Spain everything has a siesta. Even churches and cathedrals because God too needs an afternoon nap. I missed out on the cathedral of Leon because of this. The Spanish siesta can be anywhere from 12.00 – 6.00 and usually last about two hours. So, supermarkets, pharmacies, in fact all shops, many bars and cafés, will be closed. Cerrado means closed and abierto means open.

I find out, walking along to Mansilla, that the Spanish cucumbers are now part of a Europe wide ecoli epidemic, and that several more people have died. Apparently though, (the Spanish assure me), the outbreak wasn't in Spain but occurred afterwards, in Germany, while the cucumbers were being processed and transported.

Another impressive place to stay on the Camino is the ruins of San Anton. It's an old monastery on top of a hill, where you sleep in the open air surrounded by old rocks. It is a historic stop for pellegrinos. I stop here to eat an orange and look up at the ruins, and I spot a little book perched high up on a ledge. I reach up and get it, “book crossing” it says on the front, “pick me up.” It's a copy of Graham Green's The Power and the Glory which has been left by someone on the Camino as part of a worldwide free-book-circulation-library-type thing. You take the book, read it, log it's code onto a website and review it, then leave it somewhere for somebody else. This is so cool! I look around for someone to show it to but I'm surrounded by Germans who look at me really strangely, because I'm standing there waving a book at them babbling something they don't understand. OK Charlie – it's cool, just tell someone at the next albergue.

I learn the word manzana at the supermarket in Mansilla, which is Spanish for apple. Remember – 'z' and 'c' are pronounced 'th'. I stop at the albergue and check in, “where are you from?” asks the hospitalero. “Australia” I say, “Ah! Australia” he says “Koalas, no?” and starts hopping around behind the desk. Well, that's a new interpretation, I think.

Posted by CharliePepper 09:40 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

Day 14 Calzadilla de la Cueza – Calzadilla de los Hermanillo

Finally, my friends, it has happened. I am lost. I have taken completely the wrong route, lost the Camino Frances and ended up in Calzadilla de los Hermanillos. After lunch I was supposed to have a short 5km afternoon walk to Bercianos del Real Camino – a nice donativo albergue with a communal meal, but I accidentally took an old Roman route from Calzada del Coto and got lost! I was walking along in the heat getting so frustrated thinking “there is no fucking way this is 5km!” And it wasn't. (And, if you know me, you know I never swear, so I was really, really frustrated.) My feet are so sore and I've walked so far, and now I'm in the wrong town on the wrong route. Still, I must be meant to be here, or something. My map (fat lot of good it did me) didn't show this alternate Roman route at all – so I had no idea that I even needed to look out for it. What's worse is that in Calzada del Coto an old man on a bicycle rode up to me and led me to the start of this path!!! He actually guided me away from the Camino Frances, spoke a bunch of Spanish to me, and pointed me this way! I stupidly followed his advice, what an insane day! I feel like I've been shaken around and turned upside down. When I finally get to Calzadilla de los Hermanillos (a name I will never forget) I am really cross and grumpy. A German couple I have walked with a few times call out to me; “wow! Welcome miss Australia! You are late!” Thanks I think. Helpful. “The albergue is full!” They add happily. Great. I put my bag down and talk to them for a bit, explain that I got lost and ask them if they meant to take this alternate route. “Yes” they respond “of course we meant to come this way! We know how to read a map!” Arghhh. I'm so annoyed. I walk around the little town and find another private albergue with beautifully comfortable bed and a beautifully soft pillow that I scream into. Then I have the best hot shower I've had in two weeks (I sit underneath it for about 20 minutes). OK, now I can smile again, and hopefully my room-mates wont think I'm such a freak.

I head back to albergue number one to cook a meal and talk to the pellegrinos. My German friends greet me and feed me dinner (instantly forgiven). Then they tell me there's an unavoidable stretch of Camino tomorrow morning of 24km without towns, food or water. Arghahahahaygbaahhh. It's a challenge, let's think of it that way. I drink several glasses of wine and start to enjoy myself again. We talk about all the usual Camino things, why we're here, what life questions we're looking to answer. One pellegrino says that the Camino is a lot like drinking wine, you walk and think and walk and think and become more confused but strangely less confused at the same time. Things become clearer as they become less clear when you drink, in vino veritas. I like this. One other fun thing happened today. I turned the map around! (Actually, this is probably why I got lost). Hooray, I'm more than half way to Santiago.

Posted by CharliePepper 09:38 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

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