Saturday, 30 April 2011

Day 16 - 31k - Hontunas

Burgos is a very civilized place. The big tourist attraction is its Cathedral. We were staying beside it so we went in for a gawk early yesterday. It has had a major restoration in the last few years so it presented itself well for our visit. Went for a walk around the old city looking for apple tart and failed so I  put the feet up for the afternoon. Had some tapas and a couple of beers to replace my fluids and called it a day. Headed off at 7 am and had our biggest day do far with 31 kilometers. Gaby has a bad blister on her small toe so she tried the boots for the first 12 Kms. She then put on the sandals and took off like a March hare. Made good progress through good countryside and arrived at a tiny village called Hontunas. Did the usual ablutions and laundry and had a lovely meal across the road from the Albergue. No Internet here so I have to switch on the Data Roaming on the iPhone.  O Mother of Jesus! The only unusual thin that happened was that some auld fella keeled over trying to get into his car. Three of us ran to help him. Finally got him to his feet; he jumped into his car and drove off. I think he was delighted that 3 pilgrims saw him rather than the locals as he tooted us from his chariot as he sped away. I don't need to mention that there was a whiff of drink off him I suppose.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Day 15 - 23k - Burgos

Had my first paella in Spain for dinner which was very good. Nicked into the pub next door to watch the match. Dani Alves should get an Oscar for his performance. Left after the sending-off as I thought I would get locked out of the Albergue after 10pm. Missed Messi's goals. Had an early start with breakfast. The walk into Burgos was brutal and mainly industrial. The old city of Burgos is beautiful so I am going to have to restrain myself today by not walking every square inch of it on our day off. Have walked now for 14 days on the trot and have a few spare days left for contingencies. Met a few of the other pilgrims last night for tapas and a couple of beers. Most of them are a day ahead of us. It's not as crowded now on the Camino with Easter finished. I'm listening to a good book on Cicero called Imperium written by Robert Harris. He also wrote that book The Ghost Writer that Polanski made into a half-decent film.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Day 14 - 27k - Ages - All My Pizzas Are Very Good

Did well with the sleeping quarters again. We booked into a room for 8 people and we were the only people there. Walked into town for a couple of beers. Headed back to the Albergue and had the pilgrim´s meal and then settled in to watch the match. The result was good so I was happy enough. The big match is on tonight between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Headed off after 7am this morning without breakfast. Walked through 2 or 3 villages before we found breakfast. Walked through a very large forest which went on for nearly 10 miles. There was a memorial to the Spanish Civil War (Republican) at the beginning of it. The countryside has changed again and is also wonderful. Pulled into Ages after a long hike so we are on schedule to hit Burgos tomorrow afternoon where we will take our first day off. Gaby came up with her first blister today on her small toe. She has pierced it to ease the pressure and expects to walk in the sandals tomorrow. We are having paella here for dinner and then I´ll disappear next door to watch the match.

We met a woman on the walk from South Africa called Deirdre Spies. Her son Pierre plays number 8 for the Springboks. Her son-in-law is no slouch on a rugby pitch as well as he has spent the last couple of years in France playing professionally for one of their clubs. Anyway, Deirdre was in a bad way with her feet which were covered with blisters after 7 days. Was going well before that. Haven´t seen her for a few days but she said she was going to take it handy as she has lots of time to complete the walk to Santiago.

On Palm Sunday over a week ago we arrived in a place called Larasonna. The whole place was closed and didn´t look like it was going to open for the rest of the evening. It looked like Pringles for dinner until we heard that a small shop was due to open at 5pm. This was a minor improvement until we discovered that it sold cans of beer as well. We were in the clover when we heard that pizzas were served from 6pm so we all booked in at 6, 7 or 8pm. There were plenty of hungry and tired pilgrims walkng the town at this stage. When we were ordering dinner the woman behind the counter wasn´t too worried whether we ordered Tuna or Mozarella or whatever saying ¨All ny pizzas are very good¨. We arrived for our pizza at 7pm and tore into them but discovered that they were all frozen pizzas from the supermarket. Anyway, she charged 8 Euros for what must have cost her EUR1.50 down in Ray O´Donnells. She must have cleaned up.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Day 13 - 16k - Berolado - The Snorers´ Policeman

OK, the jury is in on the matresses thrown together on the ground. It´s like sleeping on concrete. As a result I didn´t get much sleep. The Albergue is run by volunteers; we were hosted by an Italian couple who were on for 15 days working. There wasn´t much else in the town apart from the Albergue. The evening meal was served to over 30 people and it was very good. The parish priest who owns the Albergue joined us for dinner. Payment for our bed and board was by donation. The conversation around the table was like the League Of Nations. There was a girl there from Granada called Helga who has been living in Co. Leitrim near the Sligo border for 12 years. She loves Ireland. Soon after Franco died in Spain they eased the film censorship. Her mother went to see a German film called Helga which was about a woman´s childbirth. She was so impressed by the film that she called her daughter Helga. A cute story which she enjoyed telling. Back to the matresses. Snoring is an issue on the Camino so ear plugs are ´de rigeur´. Last night it started like a chorus and there was this chap there who started crawling on the floor at night pushing the snorer to get them to stop. Once one would stop another would start. It was like a chorus there for a while. I learned a new Spanish word, ´ah idiotas´. He was making more noise himself than the punters sleeping. I couldn´t sleep myself but I was glad of the entertainment.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Day 12 - 23k - Granon

The La Rijoa region is famous for its wine. Plenty of vinyards on the road. If the bottle of wine we had with dinner last night was anything to go by their reputation is well deserved. Had a lovely 3-course meal for 10 euros. 4 courses if you include the wine. The same place was open for breakfast as well so it was a good start to the day at 7am. Plenty of clouds this morning so we wrapped the wet gear around us again. It threatened rain all day but none fell. All my stars must be aligned. The big news today was the muck that we had to walk through this morning for several miles. I didn´t feel too bad when 3 people came past in white trousers and runners. They had to hose each other down at the end of the day no doubt. Had lunch in Santa Domingo in a pastry shop which was very welcome. Gaby did the tourist bit and visited an old Cathedral cum Museum. I don´t feel too much like the tourist thing; prefer to keep all in reserve for the hoofing on the next day. We are staying in an Albergue in an old church. I just did the washing in a place akin to something out of Macbeth. It´s all very communal, with guitars and a piano but it´s all a bit of a racket as far as I can make out. The sleeping quarters are matresses thrown side-by-side but it´s clean with a friendly atmosphere. We have to get our Credencial (Camino passport) stamped across the road in the Bar which suited me fine. They also have Internet which is always a plus. Touch wood, no blisters of injuries to report.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Day 11 - 23k - Asofra - When the Rain Comes

It rained heavily overnight. Thought it was going to stop just before we started our walk which it did for the first half hour. Then it started and kept going all day. First day to test out the wet gear. Everything seems to have worked except that the pack cover wasn´t covering everything so a coupe of leaks got in. Most of my stuff was in plastic bags so no real damage. Will put everything in plastic bags from now on. I thought that the expensive rain-jacket was a dud but I was just sweating like a lunatic and dry apart from that. The ALbergue here is quite goo for EUR 6.00 a night. There are little rooms with 2 beds in each. All very civilised. I´d murder a pint now.

Day 10 - 21k - Navarrete

Had a nice breakfast in a hotel in Los Arcos for EUR2.90 at 7am; the coffee was very good as well. Had lunch in Logrono which seems like a decent town. The Pilgrims´Tourist Office managed to find us a couple of beds in an Albergue in the next town which was a bit of luck as everything was booked out. There was some shin-dig going on in Logrono for the Easter. The walk out of Logrono is through a huge public park which must have stretched for a couple of miles. It was well patronised by the locals and a fine public space. Beginning to loosen up a bit which is good. Had a pilgrim´s evening meal in in the hotel and watched Real Madrid thrash Valencia. Wasn´t a great game.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Day 9 - 19k - Viana - Good Friday

An easy day today. Meant to head to Logrono which is another 10k away but Gaby's ankle was acting up. Finished 8 days' walking now so a short day is good. This is a lovely town we are in. The wireless internet in this bar is very good. The only downside is the Euro Pop that We have to listen to. Will need to wait for Galicia before I can check out some decent music. The big news from yesterday was that the Casa del Austria managed to lose a pair of my Bridgedale socks in the laundry. If that's the worst thing that happens I'll be doin' well. They were very expensive socks though.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Day 8 - 20km - Los Arcos

Went out for a meal last night and met the three chaps fram Carlow. Today is their last day walking, they head for Bilbao tomorrow and will have a rest day as they fly out on Saturday. I told them I´d catch up with them in Aldi´s in Carlow in a few weeks. Given their "rest day" is Good Friday it might be quiet for them. Left Estrella before 7am this morning. Walked through some beautiful and fertile countryside. Wheat, wine, olives and asparagus all being produced in this region. It was all reasonably flat but I´m still knackered. Arrived in the Casa del Austria albergue. Lucky that there were a few beds left because I took it handy today. They serve Franciskaner wheat beer here which makes this place the best albergue by a mile so far. All I need now is someone to tell me that they serve Apfelstrudel by the slab and I´m as  right as rain.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Day 7 - 21k - Estrella

Hit the road this morning at 7am and not too cold now that we are down from the mountains. Went through a couple of lovely villages  along the way. Stopped at the recommended Albergue which was good because I was knackered. It wasn´t a tough day today but I found the going a bit tough. It must be the accumulation of the days´efforts that is affecting me. Also celebrating my first little blister which is not sore. Finished off listening to Paulo Coehlo´s book The Pilgrim last night which is his experience of the Camino walk to Santiago. I´m not so sure why I perservered with it as it was a croc of manure. Must´ve wanted to see what he did when he  got to Santiago. He ended the book thankfully.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Day 6 - 25k - Puenta la Reina

Had a late start  and a bit of a steep climb and descent. Had our first bit of rain today. Whipped out the wet weather gear but it was hardly a drizzle. The rucksack has a cover built into it. As handy as a pocket in a shirt as Dennis Cahillane´s uncle used to say down in Cork. The bridge in Puente la Reina is a bit of an icon of the Camino walk to Santiago. The refugio is packed with great facilities. The town is also great as well as the beer and tapas.

Day 5 - 16k - Pamplona

A bit of a long hike today. Wasn´t helped by the fact that we had to walk for ages before we found breakfast. Stayed at a refugio called the Ernest Hemingway. Cost 15 Euro a night including breakfast. Not too decadent. It was up the road from the bull ring which is a very impressive structure. Must be the same one that Hemingway was banging on about although I don´t think they have bull fights there anymore. Pamplona is a beautiful city with lots of public spaces. Had my first go at a tapas bar which was very good.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Day 4 - 28k - Larassona

A bit knackered today. Walked 28Ks which was a bit beyond the plan. A short walk tomorrow to Pamplona of only 16k. Met three chaps from Carlow this evening. They are only doing a bit more than a week of the walk. A few aches and pains today but not too bad given that we have done a quite a bit over the average. Pamplona is quite a big town but there are no bulls running up and down the main drag tomorrow which is a plus. There is a chap from Cologne that gave all an impromptu yoga lesson by the river to help us all wind down after the Camino. Tony and I were fascinated while we drank our beer.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Day 3 - 19k - Roncesvalles

19k walk today with a steep climb and then a sharp descent to Roncesvalles. The walking poles are coming in handy. Had to put on sun cream today, a good sign. We were expecting our first basic Refugio today but the place has all been renovated, the Hilton for pilgrims. There must be 300 pilgrims staying here. Went to the pilgrim's mass at 6pm which was very interesting. The place was packed so I think the collection must have been healthy. Found a coffee machine that serves up a decent coffee for 60 pence. That's breakfast sorted anyway. Had a pint of JFK´s favourite beer after dinner which was good. Will leave the luxury accommodation behind today.

Day 2 - 8k - Orisson

A short walk 8k to start from St Jean to Orisson. Weather was great and expected to stay that for a few days. Very good place to stay. Did the washing, very exciting. Had a great with all the punters (pilgrims).

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Day 1 - St Jean Pied de Port

The bus from Bilbao was a hoot.
This is a good link that breaks down the walk by daily sections:

Day 0 - Planning

Carry 10% of your body weight is what the experts say. That's the hard bit done; now carry it 500 miles. Will travel to St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees from Melbourne via Munich to Bilbao and then by bus to SJPdP by Friday afternoon, the 15th April.

Feb - March - Spanish Classes

Just finished my Spanish For Travellers classess which ran for 8 weeks. 'Comer' is the Spanish word 'to eat' so that at least is easy to remember.