The Magnificent Mountains

El Acebo to Salas de Barrios
Tuesday 25 November

Another very short walking day today. I was leaving the official Camino for my planned detour. My American friend and I set out early, stopping for breakfast at the end of the town, where I again saw my Dutch friend. I wished him Buen Camino, as he left. I hope we will meet again, but I get the feeling it won’t be for some days. However, we do have our planned dinner date to compensate for the dreadful meal in Astroga.

My American friend wanted to walk on the road again, while I continued along the Camino path. We had planned to meet up in Molinseca. I caught up with an English girl and her American friend, walking together for a while. We talked of arranged marriages, and the western perception of love. The Camino often presents stimulating conversation. We parted and I waited for my friend. When she arrived we stopped for a quick second breakfast before continuing to Campo, where it had been arranged that we meet the Spanish man from the previous evening who owned the alburgue.

He picked us up in his car. I couldn’t help feeling I was cheating. I haven’t been in a car for weeks. I did forgive myself, as I was officially leaving the Camino for a day. He dropped us at the alburgue, a rambling homely stone mansion full of antiques, crystal chandeliers and art. We had a choice of rooms, a simple one for ten euros, or one with a magnificent view, and an attached bathroom with bath for fifteen. A small splurge was in order.

Our host left, and said he would return later, so we went in search of lunch. There was a small Resturant under the house, a separate business, but we thought we would look around the town first to see if there was a small bar. The tour of the town took only a few minutes, and there was nothing, so we returned to the resturant. We were unprepared for the magnificent cellar room. A huge stone vault with long tables, almost medieval. We asked for something without meat, and it seemed we were going to have fried eggs and chips. I was prepared to be disappointed. The food took a very long time for such a simple dish, but soon a wonderful salad arrived with quince jelly, goats cheese and nuts. The best salad I’ve had in Spain. Then the egg and chips were presented in a casserole dish with roasted green chilies. I never knew egg and chips could be such a gourmet meal. Dessert was a layered chocolate torte. One of the better meals.

Upstairs our host had retuned, and explained our tour for the afternoon. We would leave visiting the gold mine until tomorrow, but would visit a remote monastery ruin, and some small mountain villages this afternoon. We drove up the mountain winding our way along the narrow pass, passing small stoney villages. The steep cliffs appeared inflamed by the autumn leaves. A small stream flowed by the road. The colours glowed as the late afternoon light dimmed. We climbed higher and higher, twisting and turning. We could see the huge Montes de Valdezda monastery in the distance. As the light was fading we arrived to find the structure engulfed, Angkor-like, in tree roots. I half expected to see Lara Croft. We wandered around the outside, then returned to the car for our next destination.

Climbing even further up the mountain, my ears popped and my water bottle started hissing from the pressure. We must be high. It was now dark, but we could still make out the magnificent scenery in the moonlight. We entered the next village and parked the car. The air was cold, and we could see snow not too far in the distance. The village created the impression that it had organically grown out of the ground. It was completely made of stone, the paved roads, the houses, the slate roofs. It was remote and almost deserted. Romantic in its isolation. I began to fantasize of buying one of the several houses for sale and hibernating for the winter. It would have to have good internet.

Back in the car, we climbed and climbed the fog surrounded and it was hard to make out the road. At one point we lost the road completely, we were on grass. Our host had to get out of the car to look for the road again. We began our descent, stopping at a small apple orchard. Behind the orchard was a huge old tree. Centuries old. Magnificent. We circled it three times for luck. We returned to our mansion alburgue, agreeing that it had been an incredible afternoon. Our host promised that it would be better tomorrow.

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A Change of Plans

Foncebadon to El Acebo
Monday 24 November

I awoke and noticed there was no one in the next bed. I sat up, and saw that there was no one in any bed. I looked at the time – eight fourty five! I had slept in. I had had the best nights sleep on the Camino. No one had woken me to ask me to leave. I packed up, and went downstairs. There were still a couple of stragglers having breakfast, so I joined them. I was only planing on about twenty kilometers today, so no need to rush. I didn’t have to leave until eleven.

People started to arrive for coffee who had walked from the last village. The English musician arrive, and someone handed him a ukulele and he sung a lovely little ditty that he had written. I was getting ready to leave when an older American woman arrived. We chatted and I found her very interesting. She was seventy five, was an architect, had worked for UNESCO, and now ran a B & B in the Champagne region of France. She asked if I would like to walk with her for a while. I would. This was her tenth Camino. I asked if she had ever met our older Canadian friend, also on his tenth Camino, but she hadn’t. She told me that she was going to divert from the Camino for the next couple of days to visit an ancient Roman gold mine that was nearby and was a UNESCO World Heritage site. I thought that sounded interesting, and she said she would really like some company, so I agreed to join her. She was only walking to the next village today where she planned to stay the night. I was happy to shorten my planned walk to prolong my stay in this beautiful mountain area.

Today was the day we passed the Cruz de Ferro, the Iron Cross, an important landmark on the Camino. I had carefully chosen, and bought from home a small stone from Mt Batur, a holy mountainin Bail, with the intention of leaving it here, alongside many others who had done the same. The pile of stones reached several meters. Thousands of hopes, wishes, dreams, abandoned and discarded anguish, heartache and fears. I contemplated for a moment what my stone meant to me before casting it high, adding to mound.

I continued along the way chatting together with my older American friend for a while, then she pointed me in the direction along the Camino, as she found it easier to walk along the road.

I arrived at the bar we had arranged to meet, and she soon joined me. We ordered the menu del dia, and booked into the alburgue upstairs. It was warm, but the wifi was only available in the downstairs bar. So after showers and laundry, we retired there for the evening, both to write.

Not long later, my Dutch friend arrived. I was surprised to see him, and he me. He was staying in the other alburgue, but had come for a drink and dinner. He looked much happier than the last few days, and I was glad to learn he was feeling a lot better.

A couple of Spanish men and a Dutch girl arrived. My American friend chatted to the Spaniards, and the Dutch chatted. I was happily antisocial, writing. My American friend reported that one of the Spanish men owned an alburgue on our planned detour, and she had arrange that we stay there. The Dutch girl worked there doing massage. The Dutch girl and Spaniards left, and my American friend retired to bed. I stayed for a while conversing with my friend before we bid each other good night.

The Bare Necessities

Astroga to Foncebadon
Sunday 23 November

We had to leave early from the alburgue. I was hungry, and wandered the town looking for an open bar. There were not a lot of options, as it was early Sunday morning, but the first one open served churros and chocolate, which I had not yet had in Spain. It has been years since I’d eaten this, and soon remembered why… I didn’t really like it. Too sweet and greasy for breakfast. I felt a little ill.

My Dutch friend walked ahead and my Camino Angel also wanted to walk alone. I wanted to visit the Cathedral and the Gaudi Museum, but didn’t want to wait until twelve when they opened. My Camino Angel had told me about a church she had visited that had a female on the crucifix, and another pregnant virgin. I was keen to see this and wondered had it anything to do with a Mary Magdalen cult I had read about? Unfortunately the church was locked. I sat by the cathedral and contemplated where I would walk to today. A group of men I had recently met walked past, so I decided to join them and walk. One, a young German was whistling a familiar tune, Redemption Song by Bob Marley. On the essential Camino playlist. His friend, a young Israeli, said he only has two songs. That and ‘The Bear Necessities’ from the Jungle Book. The bare necessities.

I chatted to the young German. He had just left school, unsure of what to study. He was smart and charming, but worried about making the wrong decision and studding something he would be stuck doing for the rest of his life. He was interested to hear I had changed careers several times, and that I knew of several people who had successfully also changed professions, usually with better outcomes. I thought about my friends kids who are the same age. I haven’t seen most of them for a few years. I guess they too, have grown to confident young adults. We parted, as I stopped for a coffee, as he wanted to continue.

The next village I again stopped for a coffee and snack, and ran into my Dutch friend. He wasn’t having a good time. It seemed he was feeling trapped, as if he was no longer on his own journey. He wanted to reclaim his Camino. I suggested he stop for a day or two, maybe stay in some smaller towns with no one else. The bare necessities. I left continuing onto Rabanal del Camino where I had planned to spend the night.

What a wonderful walk. Fog. I love fog. I arrived in Rabanal del Camino. Indeed it was a lovely village, but I wasn’t done with walking today. I was having such a lovely time. My new shoes were comfortable and my painful blisters had started to heal. I would walk onto the next village. I was stopped by a group of three elderly women who were very interested in my journey. One had a little English, and we chatted for a while. They were from Madrid, and her son lived in Japan, sort of near Indonesia. They bid me Buen Camino, and I walked on in the fog.

The alburgue in Foncebadon had a reputation for having a wonderful atmosphere. They had food and yoga. Yoga, that would be good. I’d only done a few stretches here and there, not my usual twenty minutes a day. A class would be good. I entered the alburgue, and the hospitaliro was also an Australian. She asked did I live in Indonesia?, apparently my reputation had preceded me. The two dorms were very full, perhaps I should have stayed in the last town. There was only one shower, so I had to wait. The yoga class was starting, but I really wanted a shower, perhaps I could join later. I showered, went downstairs, but felt uncomfortable disturbing the class halfway through. I mentioned to the Australian girl that I would just go and do my own. She offered a room that I could do some yoga in, so I set up my IPad with a class, and had forty good minutes of yoga before dinner. I was sore after along days walk, but it was just what I needed.

I joined the others for dinner. A hearty paella. The wine flowed. I met new people. It was an enjoyable evening. By nine fifteen I was finding it hard to keep my eyelids from closing. I excused myself and went upstairs for an early night.

Dinner Date Disaster

Villar de Mazarife to Astroga
Saturday 22 November

After breakfast in the downstairs bar, my Dutch friend and I continued our Camino towards Astroga. We had a fairly long walk today, more than thirty kilometers. Our first coffee stop wasn’t the best, and there was no food available. We were a little peckish, but a nearby shop provided us with some very tasty homemade tuna pastry things. The landscape was improving, but the weather was not. It was rainy, but not too cool, which mean a little sweaty in our rain gear.

Our next stop was nearing lunchtime. I wanted a snack, but wasn’t that hungry. We stopped in a bar. I wanted something cold, not sweet and not alcoholic, so thought I would try the local non alcoholic beer. It wasn’t bad, and came with tapas, as drinks in this part of Spain do. A small plate of paella. Wonderful! The best paella I’d had so far. Spicy, lots of seafood, even in the tiny tapas dish, and just the right balance of flavours. I asked if I could order a whole plate. Alas, it was only available as tapas – so I ordered another drink. My Dutch friend was still sorting out his existential crisis, and wanted more space, so left me to walk alone.

Leaving the small town, an elderly gentleman stopped me in the street and asked me to wait. He went into his house, and returned with a handful of homemade biscuits for me, wishing me Buen Camino. I love the kindness I have encountered on my way.

It was still drizzling, but I was enjoying the walk. Rocky, craggy stunted trees, we were climbing in altitude, heading into more mountainous regions. A few hours later I caught up with my friend, and we walked into Astroga together.

The Municipal alburgue at the beginning of town looked nice, but again we wanted to avoid the crowds, so walked to the other end, unsure if the other alburgue was open. It was closed. We considered sharing a hotel room, and went to the Gaudi Hotel opposite the Cathedral to enquire. They had a room, the price was reasonable. We went outside to discuss. My Camino Angel was there. She said the Municipal Alburge was nice, and she was in a room with only four people. We thought that sounded fine, and we really didn’t need to spend the money on a hotel. Walking towards the alburgue, we met some other pilgrims, who we also staying there. They said they were in a room of twelve. Mmmm, not so good. We would see.

We arrived and asked if we could have a small room. We were asked if we were a couple, then we could have a room for two. We said no, but did this room have one ore two beds? It had two. We could be a couple for tonight! Please? I promised I wouldn’t touch him. The hospitaliro opened my credential, and was very impressed that I had started my Camino in Paris. I said it wasn’t as impressive as my friend who had started in Amsterdam. She was even more impressed, then led us to our room… The room with two beds! We high fived, and I did a little jig. No snorers. Well, for me anyway, my Dutch friend informed me I do snore. Just a little.

As we had saved on the temptation of a hotel room, we decided to celebrate with a nice dinner. We wandered the town in search of a resturant. There were several, but nothing appealed. I wasn’t that fussy, but my friend was getting hungry and a cranky that we hadn’t made a decision. We thought the hotel we had visited earlier may have a nice resturant, so walked in that direction. We passed another four star hotel, and settled on that. Bad decision. We had one of the worst meals, with bad service, for the highest price yet. We resolved that later in the Camino, if we meet again we would splash out on a very nice meal together.

Bursting at the Seams

Leon to Villar de Mazarife
Friday 21 November

I rose late, thanking the Franciscans for the ten o’clock check out. I needed it, I was felling a little seedy from the previous evenings indulgence. I crossed the road for breakfast and sent messages to my friends who had stayed longer in Leon, as I was looking forward to walking with someone today. My Camino Angel was already in the next town, and my Dutch friend didn’t reply. Although I would have enjoyed the company, I has happy to walk alone. As I was leaving Leon my Dutch friend sent me a message to join him for breakfast. I said I would wait for him in the next town.

I enjoyed walking out of Leon, it is a very beautiful city, even the ugly outer suburbs I found interesting. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with joy for seemingly no reason. I’m sure it’s some sort of brain imbalance. The endorphins were working overtime. Bursting at the seams. If I was a cartoon, flowers and hearts would be floating around my head. I noticed a heart shaped puddle on the footpath, then all the graffiti included hearts too, they jumped out at me. Busting at the seams.

My good mood had me arriving in the next town in seemingly no time at all. I visited the important church there, a sixties modern box. Impressive, but extremely cold, both in atmosphere and temperature. I quickly left to find a cafe to wait for my friend. I ordered a menu as it was getting close to lunchtime. He soon arrived and we were shortly walking again.

There was an alternative route today. We had wanted to walk the slightly longer one through the countryside, rather than alongside the highway. It was a little difficult to distinguish the correct path, and we were not sure we had arrived at the turnoff, when out of nowhere on our small deserted road a car turned up and pointed us in the right direction. The Camino magic continues. I enjoyed our conversation. I enjoyed the landscape. The weather was sunny and warm. Life is good.

We were both looking for a break from the ‘Summer Camp’ mentality, so decided we would stop in one of the smaller towns, and hopefully stay in a less crowded alburgue. Villar de Mazarife had three alburgues open, so settled on the one at the far end of town, in the hope that the other two would fill up sooner. Happily, we were the only guests. We enjoyed dinner in the bar, then settled down for a quiet night of watching comedy shows on YouTube, in our private alburgue.

Temples of the Soul

Leon
Thursday 20 November

We had to rise early, as breakfast was served at seven fifteen, and we had to be out the door by eight. Very efficient those Benedictines. I had arranged to meet my Irish and Italian friend for second breakfast, as they were walking today. We will catch up later in the Camino. I was still undecided whether I wanted a hotel or to stay in the other alburgue. My Camino angel was thinking of staying, perhaps I would share a hotel with her. I had several coffees, then thought it best to make a move. I stopped by the tourist office, and asked for a hotel recommendation, but they are unable to give recommendations. I left, and a Spainsh woman came after me to say she had done the Camino, and told me of another highly recommended alburgue. I went, and it looked great, but it was closed for winter.

I went to visit the Cathedral, as it was nearby. I could decide later. The Leon Cathedral was a mastery of Gothic architecture, beautifully light filled, I could hear the angels singing. I enjoyed the space, and was interested to see a statue of the pregnant virgin, not something I’ve seen before. The audio tour was interesting and informative.

I had decided that the alburgue would be fine. I wasn’t desperate for a hotel, I had actually had a reasonable sleep the previous night. Perhaps later in the trip. The San Franciscan alburgue was in a modern ugly building, and was set up like a hotel. Four beds per room with an adjoining bathroom. It was warm, and the host was friendly. They had a free laundry, so I went to wash my clothes before further exploring the city.

I was hungry, so sent a message to my Dutch friend to see if he wanted lunch. I hadn’t spoken to him for a few days, and enjoyed his company. He wasn’t far away, so we went in search of a menu. He had been after a day of solitude, but it seemed we had similar plans for the afternoon, as we had both wanted to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, and perhaps see some music this evening. We decided we may meet later at the gallery, but would go to out to see a ballet performance of Carmen later. A day of culture, a break from churches, an opportunity to feed my true spiritual soul.

I subscribe to a dictionary word of the day. Every morning at 8am a word pops up on my phone. Sometimes I take notice, mostly I ignore it. Today’s word was ‘apocryphal’ – I took notice, and wondered why that word had been presented to me today. Later at the gallery the main exhibition was titled Colonial Apocrypha – images of colonial Spain. It was a collection of interesting juxtaposed images of religious colonialism, violence, anthropology and orientalism. I found it absorbing and thought provoking.

Later my Dutch friend arrived and we went in search of the concert hall to buy tickets to the ballet, as we had arranged. I was looking forward to it, I don’t get the opportunity where I live to see ballet. We arrived at the box office to find the performance had been cancelled. The other music options had already started, so we decided another evening of wine and tapas would fit the bill.

As we walked back towards the city centre, we saw the luxury Parador Hotel, a former pilgrims hospital which had been converted into a five star hotel. A perfect place to drown our sorrows. Unfortunately, being a five star hotel our budgets were only enough to dampen them, so me moved back into the city centre to finish the task. The clock was close to striking midnight, my generous curfew for tonight. Rushing back to my alburgue. I was happy to discover I had the room to myself. Five euros for a private room, not bad.

The Destination, Not the Journey

Reliegos to Leon
Wednesday 19 November

There was nothing open when I left the albergue today. I didn’t feel like emergency cheese for breakfast, and it was only six kilometers to the next town. I would find a bar for breakfast soon. The way markers weren’t as clear today as they had been, and I had to keep an eye out for the usually obliquitous yellow arrows. I could see the town ahead, and was following the path, but it seemed to veer left and go alongside the town, instead of through it. I continued, but soon realised I was going the wrong way. I backtracked and found an arrow on the road, I was supposed to go over the bridge. That coffee was getting nearer. I entered the town, found a bar, and sat down for a long breakfast.

It was drizzling. I was wearing my slippers, but they are not really weatherproof, but then it wasn’t really raining either. The walk was mostly alongside a major road, passing car yards, and outer suburbia. Not interesting at all. I was keen to arrive in Leon, and looking forward to seeing my friends, and the town. I plodded on. I had developed yet another blister, this time under one that had already healed on the sole of my foot. I tried to walk on the asphalt of the road edge, it’s softer than the hard cement footpath. I was becoming very aware of every surface I trod on. My poor sore feet can now distinguish between all sorts of paths. Mud is my favourite. Buying some soft comfortable waterproof shoes is high on my list of priorities when I arrive in Leon.

As I neared I thought I would pop into a small convenience store. I was hungry, but wanted to wait until I arrived in Leon for lunch. I bought a gooey chocolate bar, something I haven’t had for years. Two million calories. It was great, and perked me up to continue the journey. I followed the Camino until the Cathedral, then sent a message to my friends to see where they were staying. My Dutch friend, and my Irish friend we staying in two different albergues one run by the Benedictines, the other by the San Franciscans. I considered booking into a hotel, so I could have a sleep in, but wanted to see the others. I went to find the hostels, and on the way saw a few of them sitting in a bar – my Dutch friend, one of my Italian friends, and my Camino Angel. How did she get here so fast? I joined them for a late lunch, and they convinced me to say in the Benedictine alburgue they were in, as it was nearby, and they said they were the only guests.

I checked into the alburgue, then went in search of shoes. Hopefully they are an improvement. I met my Irish and other Italian friend in the city, and we went for wine and tapas, later joined by our other friends. We had to rush back for our ten o’clock curfew, our friends staying with San Franciscans didn’t have to be back until midnight, and could sleep in too. I had made the wrong choice. When we returned the place was packed. There would be a snoring symphony.

I hadn’t seen any of the city, so decided I would stay another day to explore. I was considering a hotel, but had heard good things about the San Franciscan alburgue. I would decide in the morning.

The Magical Camino

Sahagun to Reliegos
Tuesday 18 November

My Camino angel was keen to visit the monastery that had a statue of Mary as a pilgrim, but it didn’t open until ten. I wanted to get on the road, as we had wanted to walk thirty kilometers today so we could meet up with our other friends, perhaps in Leon. I said I would have a long lunch, so we would probably walk together in the afternoon.

The day was clear, and I couldn’t bring myself to put on my boots, so thought I would try and walk in my slippers. What a good decision. I was walking on clouds. There was an alternative route today. I came to the direction sign and was trying to work out which path I wanted to take, when a little old lady appeared out of nowhere and showed my the way. This happens a lot on the Camino.

My pace was fast and I soon caught up with an Australian couple I had met the previous evening. I hadn’t met any other Australians on the Camino, and neither had they, the conversation flowed. It was relaxing to not have to explain every little colloquialism. We laughed and joked the morning away. They had cycled from England to Bordeaux in France, then had started the Camino in Saint Jean. They were going slower than I, were having shorter days and longer stops. We soon arrived in El Burgos Ranero, where they were stopping for the night. I had another twelve kilometers for my planned destination, but decide to continue our conversation over a long lunch.

I walked on to Reliegos, and received a message from my Camino Angel – she had met up with our Italian friend, and some others and would be staying in El Burgos Ranero. I had somehow lost Miss Venezuela, and wasn’t sure if she had stopped there also. I happily walked alone, looking forward to a quiet night. I love company, but sometimes a night of solitude is perfect.

Along the path I began to think about all the coincidences and magic that had happened to me on this journey so far. When I need something, it appears. When I get lost, someone shows me the correct path. I thought about all the feet over all the centuries that had carried their wishes, their prayers, their joys, their sorrows, their longing, their questions and wondered had the spiritual path somehow transplanted itself on the physical path. Had it created magic? I am an old hippy sometimes, but I do hope those that are sharing the Camino with me find the answer, the truth or some peace.

There were two alburgues open in town. The first one I came to was a private one, which I usually prefer as they don’t have the curfews of the municipal ones, but I didn’t have a good feeling when I walked in, so went to find the municipal. There was no one at the desk, so I went inside. There was only one other person staying, a Korean girl with very little English. I asked where we paid, and she took me to a house in the next street where the caretaker lived. I paid, and returned to the hostel. She said the shower was good. I took her good advice, and when I returned, she was asleep.

I wasn’t that hungry after my big lunch, but it was cold in the alburgue, so went to find a warm bar. I stumbled upon another relic from the hippy traveller generation, again covered in graffiti. The host was friendly, and played great music. I ordered a vino, which was accompanied with a hunk of cheese, the next one had bread and cheese, and the next a slice of homemade pizza. I didn’t need dinner. The music included all my favorites, and I was enjoying my night alone, but had to get back to the alburgue by the ten o’clock curfew. I returned but the door was already locked. Oh oh. I went to the caretaker’s house, and luckily they still had the lights on, and happily unlocked the door for me.

Dire Warnings

Caldadilla de la Cueza to Sahagun
Monday 17 November

I didn’t sleep well, my feet hurt, but my heart hurt more, I couldn’t stop thinking about my Camino Angel’s pain. I wished I could take it away.

Today the weather was better, and the three of us were in a chatty mood. We breakfasted in the same bar we had had dinner. As we were leaving, the barmaid, who seemed overly paranoid, gave us all sorts of warnings – that gangs of thieves pretending to be pilgrims roam the Camino, that woman shouldn’t walk alone, and that we will be photographed doing a bush wee. We thought the warnings were unlikely in winter… and what would be done with the photos? I suggested there may be a website ‘pissing on the Camino dot com’. We would have to look that up later.

We were all in a good mood, and had planned a shorter walk today. We were hoping to catch up with the rest of our friends in a day or two. Around lunch time we stopped in Moratinos at the first bar we encountered. It was like walking into an Ikea showroom. Clean smart and new, out of place in this crumbling old little town, where many of the houses were underground with chimneys and antennas poking out of the ground. We ate a delicious lunch which included a Santiago cake, a traditional almond dessert.

We continued on, chatting together. The day passed quickly, and we soon arrived in Sahagun. We were all sore and tired, and wanted to find an Alburgue. The lovely looking old municipal Alburgue had moved to it’s winter home, a boring looking suburban house, by my Camino Angel wanted to stay with the nuns in the convent, but it was also closed for the winter. Our only option was the municipal. When we entered, it was actually very nice, five rooms with three beds in each. We left our bags, and decided to find a bar. Miss Venezuela started to put on makeup, we berated her, saying we wanted to go and there would only be old men to impress. How right we were. The Alburgue was near an old peoples home and the closest bar was full of its inmates. The pensioners were surprised to see us, but after the initial excitement, went back to their poker game.

We had read that there was a pilgrims blessing in the town at seven. We were hungry, but decide to feed our souls before we fed our stomachs, so left to find it. The church bells were ringing, but the only church we could find was a ruin. Our Spanish speaking friend asked around, and there was a service in the chapel at the old peoples home. We went, but it was only a regular mass, not a pilgrims blessing. Not blessed again.

We dined, then returned for a good sleep.

A Long and Not So Winding Road

Villarmentero de Campos to Caldadilla de la Cuezaom
Sunday 16 November

Rain. Wind. Cold. Rain. The straight path continued in front of us. My angel, Miss Venezuela and I set off early, we walked apart, separately and silently. The rain was stinging my face, I love this kind of weather, it makes me feel alive. The seventies disco hit ‘Born to be Alive’ was the soundtrack in my head today. The others were not so impressed. We had a long walk today with no towns in sight. We stopped for a mid morning snack and agreed it was OK to have a vino, as it would be late when we arrived with no other towns to break up the straight monotonous journey.

On the way out of town, I stopped in at a church, and later a monastery. The monastery had an exhibition of photographs of people walking the Camino. Most had been taken in Summer, and it seemed a very different experience to the one I was having. I think I have chosen the best time. There were many photos of people’s reaction arriving at Santiago de Compostela. I wondered what my reaction might be. Will I burst into tears? (Most likely). Will I fall to my knees?

I enjoyed the walk, but was wet and getting cold when I arrived in Caldadilla de la Cuezaom. There were two alburgues open side by side. The host of one came out to great me, and was so friendly, I didn’t even look at the other slightly cheaper option. The heating was on, the showers were hot, he could do my laundry. I was happy while I waited for the others to arrive.

After they arrived, I went to the local (empty) bar, and waited. My young Irish friend sent me a message – he had caught up with my Dutch and Italian friend, and they had eaten in the bar I was in for lunch. He sent me a photo of the lively group, I sent him a photo of the empty bar. A couple of days previously my brother had suggested I read The Canterbury Tales. There was a book sitting on the table, it was The Canterbury Tales. It was too heavy to take with me, but I flicked open to a random page hoping to find a reference to owls.

Soon my Camino Angel arrived. Miss Venezuela had fallen asleep. We ordered the menu from our very genial host. A wonderful warming chicken soup, and a chicken stew. Hearty country style.

Although we had been in each other’s company, we hadn’t really talked for a few days. Tonight we talked, and my Camino Angel shared her sadness. Her story was unimaginable sad for me. I really hoped she could find some peace on her Camino.

Cycling and Walking the Camino de Santiago