This will be a very short blog. I’m exhausted from today’s 21.5 kilometer hike over the highest point on the Camino which is the Iron Cross (La Cruz de Ferro). It is here that the pilgrim will place a stone or object that they have been carrying with them on the Camino which could also symbolize something they’ve been carrying with them for a long time before the Camino. The pilgrim places this object at the foot of the cross immediately lightening one’s weight they’ve been carrying. Pilgrims have been doing this for centuries. Heike, Nancy, Andrea and I were able to take part in this very moving tradition today.

We made it to to top of the Camino’s path today and placed our objects at the foot of the Cross.  We then had to negotiate a steep descent along the path to get to today’s destination. Nancy’s knees held up remarkably well.  Heike and Andrea seemed to get stronger throughout the day. I was the “soft egg” today as I became physically worn out by the time we stopped for the day.

Last comments are that the beauty of the landscape we walked through today was absolutely breath taking. How fortunate are we to see such beautiful country that few people are able to take in! I was also surprised by the emotions evoked while at the cross today. I will close with a few photos taken today. I plan to explain at a later blog.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

 

 

 

We had breakfast this morning at the excellent Hostel La Coruna, a family run business by a very energetic, attentive and friendly staff.  “Visi” who speaks excellent english checked us in yesterday with a big smile.  Her sister, Maria, also ensured that we would have a place to stay for today,  Visi’s twin brother, Santiago, gave us professional and friendly service as he was our waiter last evening. The rooms were very clean and well maintained.  Visi asked me to say hi to Cristina at the Hosteria El Refugio in Rabanal. More on that later.

Since leaving Burgos on May 17th, we have not had a single warm morning.  Everyday has started out very cold.  The Camino teaches us something new everyday and each day presents a new challenge.  Last night we all felt confident in making the 21.4 km (13,3 miles) walk today.  We were all feeling good.  We were strong  today.  Then we walked the Camino.  Leaving Astorga this morning was another typical Camino morning walking in the cold.  As we left the  city and started on the rural path the wind started.  It’s one thing walking more than 21 kilometers on a steady incline as we approach the mountainous region bordering the Leon province and Galicia. However, just as we were expecting an “easy” walk today, a cold biting, relentless wind right into our faces started that did not end all day.  It was constant.  It never seemed to lessen.  It was another reminder that the Camino has something new and unexpected for us every day.

For the first time in a week I felt great!  No pain in my feet.  My legs, calves, knees, lower back all felt fine.  The pace I set for myself today was the fastest yet,  I was doing over 8 kilometers an hour which may not sound like much but it was a pace in which I was passing many fellow pilgrims.

There are many pilgrims now.  It seems that the closer we get to Santiago, the more pilgrims we see on the Camino.   I’ve heard that there are at least 14,000 pilgrims currently walking the Camino.  All I know is that it is now at the point that I feel compelled to book reservations each day for the next destination.  If I were traveling alone I feel intrigued by the idea of “letting the Camino come to me.”  With my very serviceable Spanish, I feel confident I could find  at least a mattress on a church floor in these villages.  However, traveling with Nancy, Andrea and Heike, it seems more likely that we may not find 4 beds or a combination of 2 rooms that accommodate us if we arrive at our destination each day by 2pm.  Many of the villages we’ve stayed at are fully booked by 4 or 5pm.  We’re finding that 20 – 25 kilometers a day are pretty much our max distance.  30 to 40 kilometers renders us nearly useless the next day,  Therefore, reaching a village at the end of the day only to find that we need to walk another 7 to 10 kilometers to find an available bed doesn’t sound very appealing.  That’s not a chance I’m willing to take.  Maybe I’m not walking the Camino as a “purist” but I keep going back to my belief that each of us must experience the Camino in our own way,  If it means making reservations in advance when we can or taking a bus for a short distance to save our legs for the mountains ahead then that’s OK. The idea, at least for me, is to experience this Camino as fully as I can with my wife, daughter, and now our dear Camino friend Heike.  The idea is to finish in Santiago.  Blowing out a knee, wearing out our legs, twisting an ankle, injuring ourselves in a seemingly endless array of possibilities rendering ourselves incapable of reaching Santiago doesn’t make sense to me.

So today with the wind blowing coldly, relentlessly and bitterly we kept walking.  This morning we were joined by a friendly German lady Gabby who has been walking alone.  A lot of people walk alone on the Camino but I find that even harder to do.  Especially days like today.  Fighting the cold and the wind that just wouldn’t end I was alone in my thoughts.  I prayed for those I know who are not doing well, I gave thanks for all that I’ve been given which is more than I’ve prayed for and much more than I’ve ever deserved.  Then for our first real, sit down break we stopped in the village of Santa Catalina de Somoza.  Just a few days ago as we entered the village of Vila de Manzarife and we were settling into having lunch at a very pilgrim friendly alberque, the two very  tired ladies came into the courtyard asking for directions to another alberque in this village. I could see the familial resemblance so I assumed that this was a mother-daughter couple experiencing the Camino.  Apparently, they had become lost, the older lady of the two had her backpack shipped to an alberque in this village in which they didn’t know where it was.  They also didn’t know if the alberque where the older lady’s backpacked had been transported had any available beds.  They also didn’t speak Spanish.  I offered to ask if there were any beds left in this alberque.  I also remembered where the alberque is in which her backpack was shipped.  No beds left at this alberque.  I then gave them directions to the alberque where the backpack was.  I felt so bad for them.  They looked weary and I sincerely hoped that they would find two beds at the other alberque.  I wasn’t sure if I’d ever see them again.

As is the way of the Camino, as we entered a restaurant for cafe con leche, I saw the two ladies sitting down to do the same.  I went to them and asked if they found beds that night.  They had, at the same alberque in which the backpack was shipped.  I sat and visited with them for a few minutes.  As it turns out, they are a mother and daughter from Glascow, Scotland walking the Camino together.  You already know about the miserable day we’re having with the relentless, cold, biting wind.  The rest of my day was made easy thanks to the conversation I had with these remarkable ladies.  Sharon, the mother, spoke in a soft, but strong Glascow accent.  She shared with me an incredible story of tragic losses in her family and personal health issues.  Yet, she spoke in such a gentle, peaceful manner in which the love she has for her daughter and family, that I was nearly moved to tears.  By this point, her daughter, Avril, arrived with their drinks.  I told her that her mother is an inspiration and that she must be very proud of her.  Avril smiled and responded that she tells her mother every day how proud she is of her.  As you look at their faces, you can see how beautiful they both are both physically but in spirit.  I will not forget these two ladies and I pray for their safe travels and return to their home in Scotland.  They will not be forgotten.

The wind never let up.  We crossed the Turienzo river over the Puente de Panote.  We followed a well marked dirt path with a moderately steep incline.  To our right was a fence separating us from so many trees that it blocked the wind.  For the first time in hours, we didn’t have that cold wind beating us.  Along this path with the trees blocking the wind was also silence.  It was still.  Comfortingly still,  Then I noticed the crosses,  Along this fence people had put on makeshift crosses interlacing the wood along the fence wires,  As far as one could see there were crosses of every shape and size all determined by whatever loose wood was available along the path.  Nancy stopped for a moment and made her own makeshift cross.  She said a prayer for all those in our family who have already passed before us.  How many years have these crosses been there?  How many pilgrims take the time to stop and put up their own cross?

We continued along this path for what seemed like another kilometer or so then we were led back to the road, away from the protection of the trees (and the crosses?) and the wind resumed until we reach our destination for the day, Rabanal del Camino.

It started to rain.  We walked through the village to the Hostel del Refugio where we are staying for the evening.  This is a beautiful property which reminds me of a fine Colorado Ski Lodge.  Christina who checked us in, like her friend Visi in Astorga, was extremely helpful and cheerful.

Today was hard in so many ways.  Walking in the strong, cold, relentless,  biting wind can wear on you both physically and emotionally.  Heike was really bothered by this.  However, her sister,m Nicole and best friend Yvonne along with her new Colorado family all encouraged her.  Were here for each other!  We’ve also now passed the midway point between Burgos and Santiago.  We are now 243 kilometers from Santiago!

Tomorrow morning we should walk over the highest point on the Camino, the Cruz de Ferro.  We plan to stay in the village of Riego de Ambros tomorrow.  Since we’ll still be in the mountains and in a small village, I don’t know if we’ll have wifi connection.  It may be another day before I can post another blog.

Buen Camino!

View this morning as we left Astorga and into the countryside.

View this morning as we left Astorga and into the countryside.

Two beautiful ladies from Glascow, Scotland. Avril and her mother Sharon.

Two beautiful ladies from Glascow, Scotland. Avril and her mother Sharon.

A German father sharing the wonderful gift of the Camino with his daughter and son.

A German father sharing the wonderful gift of the Camino with his daughter and son.

image

Nancy putting up her own cross on a fence line filled with crosses.

Nancy putting up her own cross on a fence line filled with crosses.

An example of the hundreds of makeshift crosses we saw today.

An example of the hundreds of makeshift crosses we saw today.

Our destination today. Rabanal del Camino.

Our destination today. Rabanal del Camino.

 

 

 

 

 

Today is actually the 12th day since we left Burgos on Friday, May 17th, 236 kilometers ago.  Although we have developed our “walking legs” we no longer are sporting that fresh look and skip in our step.  After this distance and this amount of walking, we are looking more like the peregrinos (spanish word for pilgrims) we saw in Burgos who had started in France.  Although this motley crew of 3 Americans and 1 German continue to laugh and smile, there is a weariness and limp in our step by the time we reach each day’s destined stop.  We are definitely blending in with the “veteran” peregrinos.  Last night was actually harder for Heike and me than the 40 kilometer walk we did a few days ago.  Nancy and Andrea having been walking without their backpacks for over a week (we’re transporting them through a spanish company that provides this service) plus their 4 day rest in Leon really showed yesterday.  Although Heike and I spent an extra day in Leon to rest, yesterday’s 30 kilometer walk proved challenging for us.  Nancy and  Andrea kept a healthy, brisk pace the entire day.  It was great to see because I was really concerned over Nancy’s knee and Andrea’s hips tightening.  I pray they continue to keep their energy and health.  Nancy’s now fighting a cold but that’s par for the course.  No one seems to get through the Camino unscathed. We left the vibrant and exciting city of Leon yesterday morning and when we passed the industrial part of the city, the camino quickly led us to wide open rural spaces.  What a contrast!  We made several stops along the way and had a very good lunch in the village of Vilar de Mazarife which had a little plaza with a interesting statue dedicated to St. James.  Knowing that there was not a taxi service in the village nor the remaining 14.5 kilometers to our day’s destination, Hospital de Orbigo, I was getting concerned about Nancy’s knees. As is becoming standard on the Camino, a taxi was parked right at the entrance of the village as the taxi man was picking up a fare.  I spoke to him and he gave me his business card in case I needed to call him.  I know that many people speak of the sweet spirit found on the Camino.  I also understand that most people walking the camino do not do so for religious reasons.  However, given the string of “coincidental signs” I’ve already seen, and my own personal faith, it looks more and more to me that there’s something more at play here.  It’s really amazing to witness if you have your eyes open. We reached Hospital de Orbigo around 6 in the evening.  Many hours after most pilgrims have checked in for the day.  We crossed the Puente de Orbigo which is one of the longest and most well preserved ancient bridges in all of Spain.  There was once a Roman bridge built on this site but in the 13th Century a “newer” bridge was built over it.  There is a very interesting historical significance to this bridge in medieval times.  Andrea and Nancy gracefully crossed the bridge while Heike and I hobbled behind them.  At least we treated ourselves at staying at a “posh” bed and breakfast (by most standards – not just camino standards) at the El Caminero. Astorga, today’s destination was obnly 18 kilometers from Hospital de Orbigo.  This is one of the larger cities on the Camino and another with many historical attributes.  The Plaza Catedral is absolutely marvelous.  The Bishop’s Palace is another work by the incomparable Gaudi.  We found a very active and packed market ongoing in the Plaza Mayor which has a 17th Century Baroque city hall (Ayuntamiento) with a famous clock which is struck by a male and female mechanical figure.  It reminded me a little bit of the Ratskeller in Munich.   Two more thoughts.  The pilgrims menu offered at nearly every restaurant and alberque along the Camino is too much to eat.  The typical menu is a choice of three different “primero” which is usually a full plate, followed by a choice of three different “secundo” which is also a full plate, then a choice of one of three different desserts.  You have the option of water (usually a bottle if there’s 3 or 4 of us) and/or a bottle of wine.  Too much food!  The other random thought is that in nearly every restaurant you’ll find a large flat screen TV.  It doesn’t usually have sports or news on, it’s regular programming.  TV shows one would normally see during the day on TV.  This is not something you’ll likely see in the States, nor in Germany, according to Heike. Tomorrow we start heading to the mountains in which we’ll walk a gradual 20 kilometer ascent to our next destination, Rabanal del Camino.  When we reach there, we will have passed the halfway point between Burgos and Santiago!  The day after tomorrow we’ll be challenged with the hike up highest point of the entire Camino, the Cruz de Ferro and the very steep descent down to Molinaseca. I will keep you posted as best I can!

Gaudi's famous Casa de Botines in Leon, Sunday night

Gaudi’s famous Casa de Botines in Leon, Sunday night

Country scene somewhere between Leon and Vilar de Mazarife.

Country scene somewhere between Leon and Vilar de Mazarife.

Statue honoring pilgrims in Vilar de Mazarife.

Statue honoring pilgrims in Vilar de Mazarife.

Andrea and Heike

Andrea and Heike out for a walk.

The medieval Puente de Orbigo.

The medieval Puente de Orbigo.

Another impressive example of Gaudi's work, the Bishop's Palace in Astorga.

Another impressive example of Gaudi’s work, the Bishop’s Palace in Astorga.

The irrepressible Danes, Henrik and Heide, who have already walked over 1,000 kilometers from their French home.

The irrepressible Danes, Henrik and Heide, who have already walked over 1,000 kilometers from their French home.

This will be a very short post with no pictures.  I hope to do much better tomorrow!  We left Leon this morning and nearly 30 Kilometers later, we find ourselves in the village of Hospital del Orbigo.  We walked over an ancient, cobblestone bridge to get to this town which has a rich medieval history of knights of the templar and jousting, etc.  Tomorrow we arrive in Astorga.  The mountains we’ll start climbing this Wednesday are already in view!  Tomorrow should be relatively easy, only 18 kilometers (about 10 miles) then we have two consecutive days of hiking to the highest point on the Camino Frances.  By this Wednesday we’ll have traveled more than half  way from Burgos to Santiago – more than 250 kilometers!

The extra days in Leon really helped Nancy and Andrea as they kept a healthy, steady pace today for the entire distance.  Heike and I are the two with very weary and painful feet.  I’m hobbling around right now like an old man.  Heike remains in the Champions League.  I’ve been pushed down to the Bundesliga!  She’s tough and still walking strong.

We had a very good meal this evening but are absolutely exhausted.  The wifi connection where we are staying is also dodgy at best.  Therefore, I won’t try to load any photos.  However, with a little luck in Astorga tomorrow, I hope to post a proper blog with photos.

We are all doing well.  We now believe that at the pace we’re going, we should be in Santiago by June 11.  We’ll see.

Thanks to all of you following this website and all the encouraging comments and prayers we’re receiving.  It really helps us and encourages us.

One thing I can share with those who are considering the Camino.  It is a deeply rich experience.  However, what I have learned so far is that reading about it is one thing, actually doing it is something altogether.  It will challenge you physically, emotionally and spiritually..

Nancy, Andrea and I capped our Saturday evening by joining Heike to watch the European Cup Championship between Dortmund and Bayern Muenchen.  Bayern won a close and well played match 2-1.  There were also many other activities going on this weekend in Leon.  Many children were celebrating their first Communion.  There were many young Spanish girls wearing their communion dresses with the families and friends.  After the football match we walked to 11th Century San Isidoro Basilica Church where they had a wonderful show in which the history of Leon was illuminated on the church walls stirring music in the background.  We all had a very good time. Nancy, Andrea and I started our Sunday in Leon by going to Mass at one of the chapels adjoining the magnificent 13th Century Gothic Cathedral Pulchra Leonina in the Plaza Regal.   Of course, the Mass was in Spanish but the liturgy is the same regardless of the language.  We were able to worship in a church today that is older than any found in the USA.  At the Plaza we saw other fellow pilgrims that we’ve been running into the last week. We took a picture of our small group of camino friends in which the UK, Japan, Italy, India, Basque, Germany and the US are represented.  Typical gathering for the Camino!   This evening was a quite gathering in which we stopped for a beer in an Irish Pub in the Plaza Mayor then had Pizza and Chianti at an Italian Restaurant near the Cathedral.  Helene from Switzerland, Renate and Heike from Germany, Britta from Denmark and Joe, Nancy and Andrea from Colorado made up the group. Tomorrow we’re back on the Camino with Hospital de Orbigo our goal.  We really needed this weekend in Leon to recuperate as we have many more kilometers in front of us. I hope to make another blog tomorrow. Buen Camino!

The magnificent cathedral in Leon.

The magnificent cathedral in Leon.

 

Britta from Denmark walking her 3rd Camino!

Britta from Denmark walking her 3rd Camino!

Camino friends continuing to meet along the way.

Camino friends continuing to meet along the way.

I missed another post, I’ll explain. With Nancy and Andrea safely off to Leon this past Thursday morning, Heike and I started the short 14 kilometer hike to Sahagun.  Our strategy was that we knew Friday would be our longest hiking attempt so far – 30 kilometers, so we figured an easy walk on Thursday, get good rest for the two longer days ahead.  As it is with Camino friends that last at least a few day, one gets to know of the life of the other.  We have discussed nearly every topic imaginable.  One of the topics has to do with the German language.  Heike has been able to help me a lot with improving my German and helping me understand a lot of the nuances of the German language.  One example is that in German, a man who is not very “manly” is known as a “soft egg” or a man “who can only take warm showers.” We arrived in Sahagun late Thursday morning and registered at the Monasterio de Santa Cruz which is a convent of Benectine nuns.  It is run by volunteers of a Madrid association. This is a large, beautiful old building which is very clean.  However, I quickly found that it was very cold.  One thing I’m also quickly finding is the uncanny spirit that I’m finding on the Camino.  I don’t think it’s coincidental all the little “signs” I’ve been seeing along the way.  A few days ago when walking on the Roman Road for more than 15 kilometers of wilderness we approached the village of Caldadilla de la Cueza which appeared to be a ghost town.  By the way, that’s typical of the many villages we walk through.  No sounds and no one in sight.  It looks like a movie set.  Anyway, Nancy, Andrea, Heike and I are walking through this village needing to stop for a cafe con leche and some rest.  Heike ask’s “where is there a bar in this town?”  and just as she asks that we notice for the first time on the Camino we see writing on the street that doesn’t become apparent for a few more steps.  It has the words painted “B A R” with an arrow pointing to turn left! So the routine has been when you check into your alberque or hostel or hotel, you bath, wash your clothes and rest or sightsee in the village.  My room in the monastery, though immaculate is like walking into a refrigerator.  I get into the bath tub to take my shower and wouldn’t you know…   there’s no hot water!  I start laughing and thinking of what Heike shared with me only hours before….. “real men take cold showers”.  The Camino!  It teaches and teaches!  Well, the challenge was on.  I wet my  body, soaped up, and rinsed.  Just as I was finishing rinsing, the water became warm!  However, I proved that I was not a   soft egg or a man who only takes warm showers! Friday morning Heike and I started on our long day’s trek to Reliegos which is 30 kilometers away.  There are options to get to this village.  One way, which is easier on the feet and knees is along the Roman Road instead of walking parallel with the highway.  We opted for the Roman Road.  We veered away from the path most people were taking and went toward the village Calzada de Coto.  Another ghost town with not a soul, cat or dog in sight.  We then found a fork on the road.  No yellow arrows or scallop seashell waymarkers which is extremely rare along the Camino.  One sign leading left said “Camino Frances” while the other pointed to a place that was not on our map.  We ARE on the Camino Frances so we went left.  We walked and walked and walked.  No yellow arrows.  We then saw a sign on the ground pointing left again toward a bridge that would put us  back on the highway path we were trying to avoid.  We continued forward and walked and walked.  The  dirt path we were on lead right to a dead end in front of a forest!  Oops!  Not good!  We turned around and started backtracking.  We stopped and looked at our map again.  On the map, it shows that the Roman Road has a bridge that goes over railroad tracks.  We scanned the horizon.  At a distance along the horizon we saw what looked like a bridge but was it over railroad tracks?  We looked all around trying to decide if we should back track to the village we left a while ago with the fork on the road.  If so, how sure were we that the bridge we saw was really over railroad tracks.  Just then, we saw a passenger train streaming along the horizon heading right toward the bridge!  The spirit of the Camino really is alive! Heading back to the village with the confusing fork we saw 3 people coming along the same path as us.  They too used the same rationale as us.  They turned out to be Germans.  Heike explained to them that this road led to a dead end.  We all then decided to take the sure path and walked toward the road that took us back to the highway.  The path is is much harder on the feet and knees. We took our first break at Bercianos del Real Camino for a cafe con leche.  Refreshed, we headed to El Burgo Ranero for lunch.  A mere 7.6 kilometers away.  At El Burgo we had an excellent lunch.  We left for Reliegos thinking it was only 12 kilometers away.  We were dead wrong.  By now, we’re developing a good sense of how long it takes to walk 4 to 5 kilometers.  We’ve now been walking 8 days in a row.  Every crest we went over, every turn around a bend in the road, we were expecting Reliegos.  No Reliegos.  We kept walking,  Fortunately, the weather was spectacular.  Not a cloud in the sky, gorgeous blue heaven, and snow capped mountains framing the northern horizon.  We stopped.  Drank water, ate a few bites of chocolate and almonds and walked on.  We finally passed a landmark that was on our map.  An airfield to the south.  By now we were very tired, Heike’s blistered feet was causing pain.  My knee started to bother me.  We kept on.  We encouraged each other, making each other laugh.  Reminding ourselves that all the pilgrims who stopped for the day at the previous village are a bunch of “soft eggs” and that only champions hike to Reliegos,  Out of no where we saw two Spanish workers putting together an irrigation canal.  I asked how far are we to Reliegos?  The both responded in unison, “4 to 5 more kilometers.”  They had to be joking!  We’ve already walked what seemed like 30 kilometers already.  As we walked away, Heike said, “I hope those men don’t have a good sense of distance.”  We laughed again and talked about gallows humor.  Germans have that too! 5 kilometers away we reached Reliegos.  Exhausted.  Feet aching.  Knees swollen.  We checked into the La Parada Alberque.  It is a very new alberque.  We checked into the room and went to the patio to rest a bit before we found a place to eat. More than 30 years ago while serving in the US Air Force I was assigned to Hahn Air Base, Germany.  Since I was a boy I always wanted to visit Germany.  I have been fascinated with the richness of German culture and its contributions to science, music, literature and theology.  My three years in Germany was a wonderful experience in which Nancy and I made good friends and lasting, positive memories.  Most Germans may not be as quickly, demonstrably affectionate as Latins but I can assure you, my experience in Germany taught me that when you make friends in Germany they are as caring and generous as anyone you’ll ever find. We went to the patio to rest our weary feet.  There were a group of Germans sitting together.  We didn’t know them except that we had seen them along the Camino.  One of them, Horst, walked up to us and asked if we’d like a bowl of noodle soup.  We said yes. Within a few minutes they had us at their table sharing the food the made for the day and the wine they bought.  It was a wonderful way to recover from our long day’s walk.  After talking to them we realized that we had walked 40 kilometers that day!  That’s nearly 25 miles!  I hope I can recall their names but these wonderful, generous and friendly Germans reminded me of the Germany I knew.  Thank you Horst for your generous offer of soup when we needed it most.  Thank you Renate, Natasha, Dieter and Volker for your hospitality! Heike and I took our bathes walked to the nearest Alberque/Restaurant that was still open and as we were entering the Alberque, we saw standing at one of the balconies, Liz and her daughter, Celina from Naples, Florida.  We met them a few days ago and have been meeting up with them, by chance?, the last few days.  They had already eaten but joined us as we ate. It was a very nice finish to a very long day. We arrived at Leon today at 1130.  Meeting Nancy and Andrea at the hotel we’re staying at was an absolute treat.  I missed them very much.  We’ll stay in Leon for an extra day of rest before resuming our Camino. We hope to join Heike this evening to watch the European Championship Cub between Dortmund and Bayern Muenchen.  First time two teams from the same country playing for the title! We’ve reached Leon!  164 kilometers done. 336 to go! Buen Camino!

Nancy, Andrea, Monse, Celina, Liz, and Heike

Nancy, Andrea, Monse, Celina, Liz, and Heike

My room in the Monastery in Sahagun.

My room in the Monastery in Sahagun.

Pilgrims experiencing the Camino on bicycles,

Pilgrims experiencing the Camino on bicycles,

The beautiful Spanish Meseta with snow capped mountains along the northern horizon.

The beautiful Spanish Meseta with snow capped mountains along the northern horizon.

The friendly and generous Germans who perfectly capped our long 40 km day - Volker, Johann, Natasha, Renata, and Horst.

The friendly and generous Germans who perfectly capped our long 40 km day – Volker, Dieter, Natasha, Renata, and Horst.

A very affectionate dog wishing Heike a  Buen Camino as we leave Reliegos

A very affectionate dog wishing Heike a
Buen Camino as we leave Reliegos

A modern statue paying homage to weary pilgrims on the Camino.

A modern statue paying homage to weary pilgrims on the Camino.

Yesterday was the first day I missed making a post since we started our walk last Friday.  The wifi connection at the Alberque we stayed at was simply too slow

Yesterday was to be our first true “test run” of walking a longer distance since we’ve been trying to gradually break into a rhythm that will allow us to average about 13 miles a day.  Because this particular stage had us walking on the ancient Roman Road known as the  Via Aquitana, there was a considerably long stretch of hiking in the Meseta wilderness.  The landscape remains beautiful with the expansive farmland seen to the horizon in all directions.  We left at 0800 in the morning in the fog.  It was very cold.  So, the weather has not been kind.  We’ve dealt with freezing cold, rain, wind, and warmth.  Some of the Alberques have no heat. Therefore, some nights, we’ve slept with our clothes on wrapped in blankets.  The Camino is not for the weak of heart!

Yesterday Nancy and Andrea had an excellent rhythm  going. We had a steady pace at about 2.5 – 3.0 miles per hour. We stopped a few times to eat, drink water and rest our legs.  To ease Nancy and Andrea’s load, I’ve been using the service which transports your backpack to the next destination.  Walking with no backpack makes a huge difference.  I’m still carrying mine.  Not easy.

We walked a good distance on the Via Aquitana.  What is truly amazing to me is that it is over 2,000 years old and it’s still being used!

The sun finally came out strong so the afternoon was very warm.  I took off my fleece.  We’ve been traveling with a very kind and generous person, Heike, whom I’ve previously mentioned. She really hit it off with Nancy, Andrea and me.  We don’t know how long we’ll keep walking together but so far, it’s been really nice having her share the Camino with us.

At about 5 or 6 kilometers from our goal, Nancy’s knee seemed to have given out.  She started limping noticeably and was clearly  in pain.  There is no place out in the Camino to get help when in an area as remote as this.  The next town was about 2 kms away.  Nancy took some of her pain medication which seemed to help.  She literally limped into the tiny town of Ledigos.  We stopped for a rest and refreshments.  No cab or bus service.  Nancy said she could walk/limp to the next town.  She did.  It was another 3.3 kms away.  I pushed ahead as quickly as I could to ensure we had a place to stay that evening.  Although I made reservations the night before, the person running the Alberque stated that we needed to check in by  2pm.  It was already after 3pm.

I got to the Alberque Jacques de Molay in Terradillos de los Templarios at around 3:30pm. They still had our room held for us.  This is a town of about 80 people.  It was once considered a stronghold of the Knights Templar.  You can no longer tell that now.

Nancy and Andrea arrived about 20 minutes later.  We took a close look at her knee.  It was swollen.  Andrea had also been complaining of her hips getting stiff.  Since last Friday, we’ve now walked over 100 kilometers.  Yesterday was the longest walk from Carrion de los Condes to Terradillos de Templarios.  26.8  kilometers (16.7 miles).  The evening was also bitter cold especially since we had no heating.  Sleeping with your clothes on in sleeping bags and blankets has become the norm.  So far, all of us are suffering from very sore feet.  Although my feet and lower back are sore and no blisters so far, I’ve caught a bad cold in which I can’t seem to keep warm, my throat is sore, one of my ears is sensitive to the touch and I’ve got a very runny nose and at times, it seems that I can’t stop coughing.  I can’t seem to get warm.  However, my ailments pale in comparison to Nancy’s knee.  Therefore, this morning I arranged a taxi to take Nancy and Andrea to Sahagun and from there catch a train to Leon.  They will be staying in a nice hotel there and have three days to recuperate and spend some quality mother daughter time together while I continue hiking.  I should arrive in Leon this Saturday afternoon.  My plan is to walk 30 kilometers tomorrow (18.6 miles) to a village called Reliegos.  Saturday will be a 27 km walk to Leon.  I think I’ll be OK if I could just get rid of this cold.  Since yesterday was our longest day so far, Heike and I walked only to Sahagun today which is now considered an “easy” walk of only 14 kilometers.  Tomorrow will be different.  My feet ache each night and my lower back remains stiff.  However, I feel good each morning and I think my walking legs are starting to develop.  We’ll see.

If I arrive in Leon this Saturday as planned, we’ll assess how Nancy and Andrea are doing walking wise.   As it is in life, not one single day is promised to us. Neither is the Camino.

Nancy starting her walk yesterday morning.  Very cold and foggy morning.

Nancy starting her walk yesterday morning. Very cold and foggy morning.

Here we are by a very old marker identifying the 2,000 year old Via Aquitana

Here we are by a very old marker identifying the 2,000 year old Via Aquitana

Nancy is so tough! Still smiling after walking nearly 17 miles today on a bum knee.

Nancy is so tough! Still smiling after walking nearly 17 miles today on a bum knee.

Common scene at the Alberque's after a long day's hike.

Common scene at the Alberque’s after a long day’s hike.

Young pilgrims from all over the world gathering to listen to two people strumming their guitars and singing in the garden/courtyard at the Jacque de Molay Alberque

Young pilgrims from all over the world gathering to listen to two people strumming their guitars and singing in the garden/courtyard at the Jacque de Molay Alberque