Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Camino Frances in Summer

Basque hills ablaze with blooms
Monday 9 July: I'd really like to walk the camino norte, the northern coastal route to Santiago favoured by the British, so I need to get a bus back east to the trailhead at Irun. My Spainish is not good and printed on my ticket is 'Iruna - Pamplona' so presumably it stops in Irun before continuing on to Pamplona? But, no, Iruna is the Basque name for Pamplona and this is where I find myself - so what do I do now? I know, I may as well take advantage of the situation and walk the camino Frances again - it's summer and the scenery will be different, I'll stay at different places, meet different people and, where I can, I'll take different routes. Yes, this will work.
Wednesday 11: St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles - 16 miles (25km). Rain and mist crossing the Pyrenees so I'm glad to be in the warmth and comfort of the abbey complex. I decide to dine at La Posada where the pilgrim's menu turns out to be better than the abbey fare - tomato pasta, trout with fries, bread, wine and yogurt (€9). Here I meet Kevin & Steph from Canada.
Albergue de Peregrinos (€10), in the abbey building - modern with comfortable built-in bunks in cosy four-bed compartments with power points and free wifi. Hot water and showers, but no blankets provided, it's a chilly mountain night.
Thursday 12: Roncesvales to Zubiri - 14 miles (22km). The sun is shining and I enjoy the walk very much. I bump into Kevin & Steph at the albergue and in the evening I picnic with Paul, a kilted Glaswegian, and two Belgian guys, leaving them drinking on the riverbank I have an early night.
Zaldiko albergue (10), run by Maria, free wifi and internet. Hot water and showers.
Friday 13: Zubiri to Cizur Menor - 16 miles (26km). Pamplona is lively with revellers in dazzling red and white fiesta dress.
Roncal Maribel albergue (10), with sturdy, non-squeaky, bunk-beds and free wifi, hot showers but no hot tap water.
Saturday 14: Cizur Menor to Lorca - 18 miles (25km). Enjoyable day.
De Lorca Jose Ramon albergue (€7), cosy albergue with small rooms and kitchen above a little bar, hot water and showers. Luckily I get a single room, bargain.
Sunday 15: Lorca to Estella - 6 miles (9km). A short day and, once again, I stay near the wine fountain at Ayegui - free wine.
Albergue San Cipriano, Ayegul (€6), beds, rather than bunks, in a sports centre.
Monday 16: Estella to Los Arcos - 13 miles (21km). At a little breakfast bar in Azqueta I run into Kevin & Steph again and we walk together to Los Arcos where we meet American girls, husky raven-haired Jackie, Brook, and German guy Yan.
Case de Austria - Fuente de Los Arcos (€10), German beer served in a cosy patio garden.
Tuesday 17: Los Arcos to Logrono - 17 miles (27km). Kevin, Steph and Yan are soaking their feet in a fountain above the Rio Ebro where I join them before we cross the bridge into Logrono. In the evening it's a tapas bar crawl - great till l inadvertently choose the tripe dish.
Albergue Check-in (€11), new airy and comfortable.
Wednesday 18: Logrono to Najera - 19 miles (30km). Walklng with Jackie for a while, then alone into Najera where Steph is waiting for me on the bridge. She and Kevin are apparently not a couple, Kevin is due to meet his wife in Leon. Later I meet Jackie at the lido - it's a warm day and the chilly pool is, well, refreshing.
Albergue Calle Major (€10), new B&B albergue.
Thursday 19: Najera to Santo Domingo de Calzada - 13 miles (21km). I join up with Steph & Kevin, Yan and three pretty Irish girls for dinner, it's menu del dia (menu of the day) for €12, as shown on the restaurant's chalk board, but when the bill arrives it's €22 each. The waiter explains that the daily menu is over and we have had menu del noche (menu of the night). We protest strongly, the daily menu is still on show but eventually a compromise is reached, €20 each, ripped-off in Santo Domingo.
Monasterio albergue (€5), yes it's the nunnery again.
Friday 20: Santo Domingo to Belorado - 14 miles (23km). I meet Kevin & Steph again on the outskirts of Belorado and we choose Cuatro Cantones albergue as it has a sun-heated pool in the garden and a very good communal dinner with wine for just €10. Over dinner we meet a loud American couple and the guy baits me (we had just been talking about a German table nearby):
American guy to all: "What do you think this table is, American or Canadian?"
Me: "No, no, no - it's British! You are just our naughty children from across the water, and anyway, I still think your flag looks like a pair of French clowns pantaloons unfurled."
The Canadian's laugh out loud but the yanks are stunned to silence, well, at least for a while. 
Cuatro Cantones albergue (€5).
Saturday 20: Belorado to Ages - 18 miles (28km). When I arrive at the albergue, Kevin, Steph and Yan have already booked in and it's full but Maria, the hospitalario, shows me to the spacious attic room. It's very atmospheric and has mats on the floor rather than bunk beds, this is great and it's half the dorm rate. Soon I'm joined by the three Irish girls, Jo, Dee and Gill, then later Scottish Paul arrives together with a blond pretty-faced but plump German girl, Melonie, who takes the mat next to mine.
Early in the evening we gather in the front garden for a beer. It's Saturday and it's the Irish girl's last night, they want to party. As I stand up the rickety bench moves and I go over on my ankle, bugger, I'm not even walking on the trail. This is painful.
At dinner the wine flows and then we adjourn to a nearby bar for more wine and song. It's turning into a wild night and Maria has said she'll keep the albergue doors open until midnight. 
Finally, we arrive back in the attic room but only the safety lights are working when we slip into our sleeping bags. In the half light I trip on a mat, go over on my ankle again and land with a heavy thud on the floor. Then there's another thud - bang! "Ya fuck*** bast***.",  Paul's hit his head on a beam.
Later, I'm woken by yet another bang:
"Yea ya fuck*** bast***." (Irish girls and I giggling).
"Where's my fuck*** kilt."
Bang! "Yea ya fuck*** bast***." (Irish girls and I giggling even more).
Finally he disappears to the loo minus his kilt. Unusually the ablergue does not have the room signs on the doors but above them and we find out next day that naked Paul, much to the alarm of the occupants, has gone into all the little dorms downstairs looking for the loo.
All I hear that night is bang! "Yea ya fuck*** bast***." (Irish girls and I giggling again) when he returns.
San Rafael albergue (€5), good food and comfortable attic.
Sunday 22: Ages  to Burgos - 14 miles (22km). Walking with the Irish girls today they ask if, apart from Paul, I heard anything last night. Not that I remember. Reluctantly they tell me that 'jiggy-jiggy' was happening on the mat next to mine - Kevin was in a sleeping bag with Melonie. Not only that, early this morning he was back downstairs in bed with Steph. By now they are both on the bus to Leon to met his wife. Bad boy.
Municipal albergue (€5).
Monday 23: Burgos to Rabe de las Calzados - 8 miles (13km). Short day as my ankle is still painful. In the evening I meet an English girl who has just started the camino in Burgos. She tells me of a wild party in Ages where a pissed English guy fell over and broke his ankle, a Scottish drunk was running around everywhere naked and multiple couples were bonking in a dormitory. Chinese whispers on the camino, she had been talking to American Brook who got it second-hand from German Yan who spoke to the Irish girls before they left.
Rabe to Castrojeriz - 18 miles (28km). My ankle is no better so I book into a hotel for a couple of nights, comfort.
Le Mason Hostal (22), en-suite.
Thursday 26: Castrojeriz to Boadilla del Camino - 17 miles (27km). Ankle much better.
El en Camino albergue (6), with pretty enclosed garden and pool, my favourite.
Boadilla to Carrion de los Condes - 17 miles (27km).
Hostal Santiago (15), bed in 4-bed en-suite room with bath tub, free laundry service.
Carrion to Terradillos de Templarios - 17 miles (27km).
Jacques de Malay albergue (10), single bed in 5-bed dorm.
Terradillos to Sahagun - 7 miles (10km). Here I receive the news I've been awaiting but dreading. I need to return to Britain on grave family matters, cancer has ended my cousin's life prematurely.
Monasterio Santa Cruz (13), dinner B&B.
Sahagun to Mansilla de las Mullas - 23 miles (38km).
El Jardin del Camino (6).
Mansilla to Leon - 12 miles (19km). Bus to overnight in Santander, flight to Stansted and the kind hospitality of my good friends Stef & Dudley in Bishop's Stortford.
Photos of the Camino Frances in Summer.

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Bilbao's West Highland Terrier
Sunday 8 July: I would like to stay longer in Spain as it gives me easy and quick access back to Great Britain, so l've decided to walk the camino norte along Spain's north coast. Working my way by train and bus eastwards, back to start in Irun, I stop off in Bilbao for a day. I like the riverside city. Jeff Koon's floral sculpture of a terrier puppy graces the entrance of  Frank Gehrey's stunningly designed Guggenheim Museum and other architectural splendors abound.
Photos of Bilbao.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Santiago to Fisterra

Fisterra harbourside
Monday 2 July: Santiago to Maronas - 27 miles (44km). This is not a religious pilgrimage for me so I'm not dwelling in Santiago but continuing to the Atlantic Ocean at Fisterra. At Negreira I see Julie sitting in an albergue doorway, she's crying.
Me: "Are you okay?"
Julie: "No."
Me: "What's the matter?"
Julie: "There's been storms and power cuts at home and our house has been burglarized - there's a trail of stuff and our television is in the front yard."
Me: "Don't worry, it's probably not that bad, does your dad know?"
Julie: "Dad's flying home right now so I can't contact him. I'm not worried but it's our cat, she's missing - my little sister will be so upset."
Me: "Don't worry. I'm sure they wouldn't steal a cat, she'll turn up. Cat's have a habit of surviving."
I comfort her for a while then continue as the day is still young.
Casa Pepa en Santa Marinas (12).
Tuesday 3: Maronas to Fisterra - 26 miles (43km). Up and over misty mountains and eventually I reach the ocean at the fishing village of Cee. The weather brightens up so I continue along the coast to Fisterra. This is nice. Just as I'm entering my sandal comes apart and I see Mechteld who caught the bus here yesterday.
In the evening we meet Adam & Joanna and find a little sangria bar with a table football machine to celebrate. It's a fun evening and one snippet of conversation goes something like this:
Me: "It was a good day today."
Adam: "Yes, but I think it's going to be a harsh winter. Blackbirds are building their nests with . . ."
Mechteld: (laughing but looking at me accusingly) "You told him!"
Later we go skinny-dipping before staggering home.
Albergue de Pas (10).
Wednesday 4: Bump into Natasha & Garry, they're fine. Julie's cat has returned home unharmed. Even Leah is here, suffering badly from tendinitis. I spend the afternoon sunbathing with Mechteld before we catch the afternoon bus to La Coruna for one last tapas dinner before she flies back home. My pilgrimage is over, what next?
Photos of the Camino de Santiago: Santiago to Fisterra. I've now walked  483 miles (780km). 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Portomarin to Santiago

Catedral de Santiago
Thursday 28 June: Portmarin to Palas de Rei - 16 miles (25km). Fairly uneventful day.
Albergue Buen Camino (10).
Friday 29: Palas de Rei to Boente - 13 miles (21km).
Another quiet day before arriving at the pretty church and comfortable hostel in Boente.
Albergue Boente (11). 
Saturday 30: Boente to Monte del Gozo - 27 miles (44km). A long day to reach the massive hostel complex at Monte del Gozo that can accommodate more than 2,000 pilgrims.
Municipal albergue (€5).
Sunday 1 July: Monte del Gozo to Santiago de Compostela - 3 miles (5km). Meet Adam & Julie who have stopped at the hostel for, you guessed it, coffee. They go on ahead while I order breakfast. As soon as I arrive in Santiago I take my stamped credentials (pilgrims passport) to the pilgrim office to get the cathedral's certificate of pilgrimage, the Compostela, it's dated and my first name is scribed in Latin - Davidem. In the afternoon I meet Adam & Joanna again and later see Mechteld in the cathedral who is now with an Aussie guy from Melbourne. Nevertheless we agree to have dinner and in the early evening I'm surprised to run into Mike who has been here for several days. Dave & Julie are also here so it's a happy reunion.
Over dinner I'm completely embarrassed when Swedish Johanna appears in the restaurant, l don't think she saw me. We walk to Praza Roxa where the world cup final is on a big screen - Italy v Spain. The crowd erupts when Spain wins.
Roots & Boots (15).
Photos of the Camino de Santiago: Portomarin to Santiago. I've now walked  430 miles (693km).