Camino Day 34: Lavacolla to Santiago (6 miles)
The last day of the Camino Santiago!!! We were anxious to get to Santiago after yesterday. We actually talked about doing a night walk into Santiago, but we agreed it was best to be patient. We left Lavacolla at 6:00 am. It was completely dark, but we brought light headgear to wear in this situation. It was actually kind of fun, the first time we wore them...haha. We walked about 6 miles and over Monte del Gozo, the last mountain before the city of Santiago. Today it seemed like 6 miles went so fast. We walked another mile or so into the heart of Santiago de Compostella and the grand Cathedral. It was somewhat eerie because there were only a couple of pilgrims there with us. David and I kissed and hugged each other in amazement in what we just accomplished, 500 miles!!! We of course took many pictures before moving along to the official Pilgrims office to get our compostellas, certificates of completion. At the office we were asked a few questions about where we started the Camino and were asked to see our credentials. Our credentials were a small book we carried with us on the Camino de Santiago in which at each stop we collected stamps to prove where we had traveled. After reviewing our credentials they gave both David and I our official Compostella in Latin. We also received another one in Spanish that proves how many miles we walked. Then we headed to the hotel to clean up and drop our backpacks. We returned to the Cathedral and attended the pilgrims mass at noon. It was so crowded, it was crazy. Once the mass ended we were starving so we walked around to find a place to eat. We sat at a café and ate Sushi, paella and wine while we watched fellow pilgrims come into Santiago. But we saved the grand finale celebration for dinner. We celebrated with a very nice German couple we met along the Camino. We went to a restaurant called Don Quixote where we ate fantastic food, 2 bottles of wine, pancakes with Grand Marnier and Café Liquor. It was a great ending to our journey. What an adventure!!! First, we would like to thank everyone for your support. It really made the difference in us completing this adventure. As you can imagine, over 34 days, we had some physical and emotional challenges. Your words of support and encouragement helped us to keep pushing on. The Camino was an amazing experience. I'm sure one that will continue to have affects on us for many years to come. We met so many great people and saw Northern Spain from a whole different prospective. The Camino pushed our limits beyond what we felt we could do. Rebekah and I shared this wonderful experience together and we have many stories to tell. Thanks for being part of this experience with us!!!
Camino Day 33: Arzua to Lavacolla (18 miles)
Only one day left!! Today we left Arzua at 6:15 am when it was still dark. We had to use the flashlight app on our phone in order to see the trail for the first 30 minutes or so. It was so much darker this morning because of the gray clouds today. We left early again to get ahead of the rush of pilgrims, yesterday was much better. We also left early because we knew we had a long day ahead of us, 18 miles. We planned to go farther than what our guidebook suggested so that tomorrow morning we will have a short day, only 6 miles, so we can arrive early into Santiago de Compostella. The first leg of the day we walked 4 miles in the rain until we stopped in Calzada for a quick breakfast. One thing I will miss from the Camino is the freshly squeezed orange juice. For some reason it tastes so good here, we have thoroughly enjoyed it. It didn't seem so crowded today on the trail, maybe because of the rain. It rained pretty much all morning and the trail was very muddy. We left Calzada and walked another 6 miles to O Emplame where we took another quick break for coffee and a little snack. The day was quite peaceful with the rain and David and I had a long time to reflect back on how far and long our journey has been. Our feet and legs are so tired but we are so excited to get to Santiago tomorrow. We walked another 4.5 miles until we stopped for lunch at Hotel Amenal. That was the first time on this trip that the food was cafeteria style, a little different but good. Then finally, we made the last push into Lavacolla, almost 4 miles. One of the pictures above was taken close to Lavacolla. The man and his two dogs were on the trail. The man was kind enough to pose for a photo with his two dogs who were both wearing packs. Good stuff!!! Both David and I have agreed that tonight will be difficult to sleep due to the anticipation about arriving into Santiago de Compostella. So excited!!!
Camino Day 32: Palas de Rei to Arzua (18 miles)
Only 2 Days until we reach Santiago de Compostella!!! As we said yesterday, each day we get closer and closer to Santiago, there are more and more people on the trail. So this morning we tried to get out a little bit earlier in order to get ahead of the crowd. We left the Pension about 6:15 am and it was still quite dark and very foggy. It was a little scary to be honest as we were walking in the woods. But, we accomplished our goal and got a head start on the masses of people. We walked about 5 miles, both uphill then downhill to the first café for breakfast. Both David and I are tired of the same food for breakfast almost everyday. We are looking forward to being back in the U.S. and eating different foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We left the café intending to walk about 5 to 7 miles before another break. For whatever reason, we went strong and walked 4 hours nonstop, 11 miles, a personal record on this Camino, before we took a break. We walked all the way to Ribadiso where we ate lunch. The terrain today was up and down hills all day. Our legs are so tired from so many days of walking, and the hills are always leg burners. David and I feel a bond with the other pilgrims that we have seen every day on the Camino since we left France. And we all are feeling so excited to reach Santiago de Compostella. After lunch we walked a quick 2 miles to Arzua where we stayed the night. Tomorrow we have another long day as we are trying to walk more so that our walk into Santiago in shorter the last day. So we laid low tonight. We ate dinner, drank a little wine and went to sleep.
Camino Day 31: Portomarin to Palas de Rei (16 miles)
3 days left!! I can't believe we are almost in Santiago de Compostella. Today we left Portomarin around 6:30 am in an attempt to get ahead of the crowd. There are so many people on the trail now. We headed out and walked almost 5 miles up a pretty steep hill before stopping for breakfast in Ganar. There must have been around 100 people at the cafe where we stopped. The atmosphere on the Camino has changed drastically. It seems so commercial now, with a lot of businesses taking advantage of the amount of people. After breakfast we walked another 7 miles. For the last few days we have been in a mountain range. So we have been walking up the hills and then down. It was very foggy all morning so we didn't have any good views until the sun burned off around noon. We ate a very light breakfast so we stopped around noon and ate lunch before walking the last 4 miles downhill to Palas de Rei.
Camino Day 30: Sarria to Portomarin (14 miles)
Only 4 days left until we reach Santiago de Compostella!! Today was very interesting because a lot of people start the Camino in Sarria as only 100 kilometers is required to earn a certificate. So this morning as we left Sarria for Portomarin there were SO many new people walking the trail. It was crazy, but it kept us entertained as we walked and the day went by very quickly. The first leg we walked 4 miles uphill to Baxan and stopped for our breakfast. With the crowds today, the group in front of me ordered 15 cafes con leche. A first on this trip. We walked another 4.5 miles uphill to Ferreiros then stopped for some cold water. Then we finished the day with 5.5 miles to Portomarin. As we entered the town we crossed a large bridge over the Rio Mino and reservoir Belesar. After the bridge we had to climb 2 steep staircases into the center of the town. The picture of us above was taken after the 1st staircase. The river and reservoir in the background. David and I had to wait a little bit for our room so we ate lunch at a restaurant in the town.
Camino Day 29: Fonfria to Sarria (17 miles)
Last night we slept pretty well, but every time I turned over I could smell the cows across the street. It was very interesting. As we left the Albergue at 6:30 am, the cows were grazing on their breakfast in the fields. We headed out early today to get as far as possible before the temperature heated up. Our first leg was 5.5 miles and straight down. Since we climbed up yesterday, seemed reasonable today we would climb down. Some of the grades were extremely steep so David and I went slowly down the trails. We are fascinated with the young people on the Camino at how fast they go downhill, today one young lady literally ran down the trail!! No fear!! We stopped in Triacastela and ate a big breakfast before continuing on. Our next leg was 8 miles and straight up another mountain for the first 3. But today seemed simple after yesterday. We stopped in Pintin for one last cold drink and cafe con leche before finishing the days walk. It was 4 miles mostly downhill into the city of Sarria, population around 13,500. The altitude in Sarria was 440 meters. Last night we were in Fonfria at 1,250 meters. We walked to the Centro for dinner and I had the menu del dia. David had the steak and salad. We enjoyed ourselves by having our new after dinner drink, liquor de café. We have now walked 417 miles. We have 68 miles to go to Santiago!!!
Camino Day 28: Las Herrerias de Valcarce to Fonfria (12.5 miles)
Today was a very hard day. Our day began with a 5 mile hike up to O Cebreiro. The first half mile was great. Then the trail turned off the asphalt road onto a dirt path and headed straight up the mountain for 4.5 miles. We started at 600 meters and ended at 1,335 meters. It was exhausting, my legs were so burned out when we got to the top. We rested a while and ate breakfast. The sacrifice we made climbing this mountain was rewarded with spectacular views. The pictures in today's photo album don't give justice to this beautiful countryside. David and I both agreed that today was probably the most difficult day of the trip due to unbelievably steep climbs for LONG periods of time. Once we arrived in O Cebreiro, which is in Galicia, a new region, we thought we were done with the uphill climb for the day. Boy were we surprised to learn that we had a lot more to climb. Our second leg was 3 miles to. Then finally our last leg was 4 miles literally straight up to Fonfria, a tiny village in the mountains. There we stayed at Albergue Reboleira, literally across the narrow street from several barns filled with cows, horses and roosters. We have been walking through farmland that is also in the mountains. We had a good steak tonight and some wine. We talked for a while with a father and daughter we have seen numerous times on the Camino. Come to find out the daughter just graduated from the same high school that I attended in Washington. What a small world! When we went to bed the fog was rolling in and covered the mountains. Very beautiful here.
Camino Day 27: Villafrano de Bierzo to Las Herrerias de Valcarce (12 miles)
Last night we closed down the town of Villafranca del Bierzo. We were some of the last people to leave the plaza and go to bed. However, we were a bit sluggish this morning. We stayed for the breakfast at the hotel and got out on the Camino this morning about 8:00 am. We were at the base of a mountain range, so the morning was mostly shaded which was great. We left Villafranca and walked almost 6 miles gradually uphill to Trabadelo. There we took our break in a village that dates back to the 9th century. From there, we walked another 6.5 miles along the Rio Valcarce into Las Herrerias for the night. Herrerias is a very small village but we stayed at a great little hotel El Capricho de Josana where David and I ate one of the best meals of the trip. I ordered the Ox cheeks and David had the hamburger. This was the first time I ate the ox and it was delicious. And David's burger was about the biggest he has ever eaten and tasted great! We found a diamond in the rough. We laid low tonight to rest up for the big uphill climb tomorrow.
Camino Day 26: Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo (14 miles)
Today we left the mountains are entered a new region of wine country, Bierzo. The last several nights we have been enjoyed ourselves and stayed out late at night soaking up the nightlife of the centros. So this morning we were a bit tired, especially from the tough downhill yesterday. But we headed out on the Camino for Day 26. We walked 5 miles to complete our first leg of the morning, through the suburbs of Ponferrada. As we approach Santiago de Compostella the Camino is getting busier. This morning was very noticeable, a lot of new peregrinos. We stopped and had our usual café con leche and Coke light, before continuing on for another 3.5 miles to Pierros. At this point the path went straight up for the next 5 miles into Villafranca del Bierzo, a nice little village. When we first arrived into town we stopped and ate lunch before checking into the hotel. If we don't eat lunch around 2 or 3 in the afternoon all the restaurants close and we have to eat pinchos or bocadillas. We rested for a bit at the hotel and headed out into the centro in search of white wine. We had been told previously that the white wine in this region was excellent. So we found a bar to try a bottle of the Gotella. It was very good, smooth and not too sweet. Then of course we ran into our Camino people and stayed out late, again.
Camino Day 25: Foncebadon to Ponferrada (18 miles)
Yesterday we went up and up and up. Today we went down, down, down...the ROCKS! For 10 miles. This morning we left Foncebadon at daylight around 6:30am and headed uphill for the first 2 miles to the Cruz de Ferro. The Cruz de Ferro was the highest peak of the entire Camino at 1,515m(3,500ft). It is tradition to leave something of personal importance or a rock from the path. It was kind of a frenzy up there. Many peregrinos trying to take their selfies one by one with the cross. David and I each placed some personal items on the huge mound of rocks and took a few moments to reflect on the trip thus far. It is said that items left at the Cruz de Ferro release your burdens. Then we began the descent down the mountains that we climbed up yesterday and today. The first leg down was almost 5 miles straight down to Acebo where we had our first meal of the day. The rocks on the trail today were so massive and steep it was extremely difficult. We had to walk very carefully and slowly. We stopped at a café that made these really good ham and cheese sandwiches that were grilled. They were a nice change from the traditional bocadillos. The downhill trails put a lot of stress on the legs, and seem much harder than the uphill paths. We continued walking steep grades downhill for another 5 miles to Molinaseca, where the Camino finally leveled out. After another period of rest and a couple of drinks we finished the final leg into Ponferrada of 6 miles. We had a lovely evening in the historical center of the city. We ate at the Kebab King in the Plaza, which was really good. We are really tired of eating the same food day after day, so the Kebabs were a welcomed change. We visited with several other people we have met on the trail and enjoyed watching the local children cool off in the fountain.
Camino Day 24: Astora to Foncebadon (16 miles)
We began today feeling rejuvenated in spirit and in body. After today, assuming everything goes as planned, we only have 10 days left on the Camino. We reminded ourselves to enjoy each day for whatever it may bring, as it will be over before we know it. From Astorga we began the morning with a 6 mile ascent into the mountains before stopping for a snack and a drink. Today's walk was predominantly uphill so the weather was very pleasant, sunny with nice breezes from time to time. The views today were beautiful as we climbed up and up and up! Tomorrow we will reach the highest point of the entire trip and the Cruz de Ferro. The second leg of the day was a 6.5 mile trek to Rabanal del Camino, where we ate lunch and rested up for the last 3.5 miles of the day to Foncebadon. The last 3.5 miles were the most difficult of the day, very steep and very rocky. No one warns you that the Camino has a LOT of ROCKS!! And they are very difficult to walk on. Especially at the end of the day, our feet feel every one of them. Foncebadon was almost at the top of the mountain, so the views were amazing.
Camino Day 23: Villadangos del Paramo to Astorga (19 miles)
We headed out early this morning at 6:00 am because we had a long day ahead of us. We were not sure what the exact mileage was going to be, but we knew we had to walk at least 18 miles today. When we left the hotel and stepped out on the Camino it was still dark and a bit cold this morning. David and I wore shorts this morning and we were a bit cold until after we stopped for breakfast in San Martin del Camino about 4 miles from Villadangos. After a big breakfast we were ready for the next leg of the day, 8 miles. It was a nice walk today, our path took us away from the highway and the scenery was much nicer. We walked mostly through cornfields parallel to a canal and we could hear the bullfrogs calling each other. It was kind of cool, they were quite loud. We stopped and rested for a while at a small café until we felt ready to continue for the last leg of the day which was 7 miles. It was a very long day, about 7 hours and 45 minutes of walking, but it was a good day. We are now back in the mountains, so we climb up and then down. The uphill climbs are hard but the views are beautiful. We splurged today and stayed at a Hotel/Spa tonight in Astorga, and it was a well deserved treat after walking 19 miles today. Our room rate included access to the spa which had an assortment of saunas and therapeutic massage chairs and pools. It was wonderful!! After 23 days our bodies are beat up, so many aches and pains. One of the best hotels we have stayed at on this trip. When we ate Mexican food in Leon, the man who owned the restaurant recommended we eat at Casa Maragato. A few days ago we learned that Maragato is a traditional style of Spanish food with Moorish influences. This restaurant just happened to be directly across the street from our hotel. It was served family style, in 2 or 3 courses, usually consisting of various cuts of meat, garbanzo beans and fideo soup. And of course wine and dessert.
Camino Day 22: Leon to Villadangos del Paramo (11.5 miles)
We have walked a total of 310.5 miles! Wow! We now are feeling that the end is near. At the end of today, we only have 12 days left until we reach Santiago de Compostella. And after a well deserved rest day it was a little hard to get back on the Camino this morning. We started the day with a great breakfast buffet at the hotel, then headed out a little later than usual. It took us about 4 miles to walk through the city of Leon and another 3.5 miles to pass through several suburbs of Leon. In the last 4 miles to Villadangos del Paramo we followed the highway. Truthfully there wasn't much to see today besides the cars whizzing by on the highway. The most interesting things we saw involved animals. We saw some birds and their big nests on top of an old church, some sheep grazing, and we passed a little rabbit on the trail. Most of the time on this adventure on the Camino de Santiago we tried to stay at a hotel if there was one in the village or city. But they are not always like our hotels in the U.S. Today was an interesting example. The door to the hotel was locked when we arrived and no one was in the lobby. There was a note on the door that we had to use the buzzer to call someone. So of course we did. When they asked us our name, they buzzed us into the building and explained that the key to the room was on the counter. And that was it! There was no one working at the hotel.
Camino Day 21: Leon (Rest Day)
Today we were on vacation in Leon, a rest day to tour the city. We slept in this morning and had a wonderful buffet breakfast, with eggs. Then we headed out to explore the city. We did a little shopping for miscellaneous necessities, then sat and relaxed at a café and people watched by the fountain in the Plaza San Marcelo. Next we went through the Plaza Mayor to see the grand Santa Maria Cathedral, the pride of the city. We actually found a Mexican restaurant and ate lunch there. It was so good! A much needed break from Spanish food, very different. Then we spent the rest of the day relaxing at the hotel, catching up on laundry and other things. We ate dinner at the hotel and prepared to return to the Camino de Santiago. Only 12 days left!!
Camino Day 20: Reliegos to Leon (15 miles)
Last night was another tough night in terms of sleep. We stayed at a very small private Albergue, capacity was only 14 people. The albergue was really pleasant in several ways. The owner and his wife were very friendly and attentive to our needs. But the room was very small, had no air conditioning, and no breeze coming through the window. We have stayed at many places on this journey with no air conditioning, but they usually cool off nicely at night with the windows open. Due to the heat, we only slept a few hours. We got out early today because we were anxious to get to Leon, around 6:00 am. Our first leg this morning was 4 miles to Mansilla de las Mullas where we ate a very good breakfast at Albergue El Jardin. The walk this morning was very pretty and the weather was perfect. Our next leg was 7 miles to Arcahueja, a suburb of Leon. We stopped here to get our last rest before making the push to Leon, another 4 miles. Our walk into Leon was very interesting as we were walking through the suburbs into the big city. Leon has a population of 130,000 people. Once we arrived to the center of Leon we stopped and ate lunch before continuing on to our hotel, the infamous Parador de Leon, a former pilgrim hospital. We had been looking forward to this day for much of our trip as we planned to stay 2 nights in Leon, with one being a true rest day. After resting a bit, we cleaned up from the day and ate dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was delicious, one of the best meals of the whole trip. And then, had a wonderful nights rest!!
Camino Day 19: Sahagun to Reliegos (19 miles)
Today was a very long, warm, hard day. We walked 19 miles. The temperature here has gone back up so it was crucial for us to get out very early this morning. We stepped out onto the street this morning at 6:00 am sharp and began our first leg of the day. David and I enjoy the mornings because they are very peaceful. Often it is still dark, which it was today, and the streets are empty. The first leg to Bercianos de Real Camino was 6 miles, where we stopped and ate our breakfast. Today's breakfast was bocadillos (sandwiches), I had bacon and cheese, David had jamon and cheese. For whatever reason I was so hungry this morning so I gobbled mine up quickly...haha. The second leg for today was short, only 4.5 miles. There we stopped again for a cold drink at a café where we also loaded up on water before our third and longest, hottest section of the day. There at the café we also spent some time visiting with fellow pilgrims. We talked with a young Spanish family we met yesterday at the convent, and met 2 other young girls, one from Ohio and one from Germany. Finally, we started on the last leg of the day, 8 miles with no facilities or villages to roam through. It took us about 3 hours to complete 8 miles, and arrived at the Albergue Vive Tu Camino, pictured above. Needless to say we were exhausted and hungry. Again!! Tomorrow we are heading to Leon which we have been looking forward to, as we have a scheduled rest day there.
Camino Day 18: Ledigos to Sahagun (10 miles)
Today was somewhat of a rest day for us even though we walked 10 miles this morning. We reached Sahagun before noon so we had the whole afternoon and evening to enjoy the town. Last night we stayed at a nice little Albergue that was clean, recently remodeled, and had a friendly atmosphere. Since we knew we had a shorter day ahead of us we decided to eat breakfast first at 7:00am before heading out on the Camino. The first leg this morning was 6 miles to San Nicolas del Real Camino. This morning was a little cool but not as chilly as it has been the last week as it is warming up again. There we stopped for our usual drink before finishing the last 4 miles to Sahagun. The guidebook suggests staying the night in Sahagun in order to see some of the historical sites. Sahagun is a bigger town than most we pass through with a population of around 3,000 people. This afternoon we ate lunch like a king, a popular saying around here. It is common here to eat a 3 or 4 course meal for lunch and then eat very lite for dinner. So making the most of our rest day we ate lunch at Restaurant Luis in the Plaza Mayor. David ate the roasted lamb and Castillian soup and I ate a big steak, and of course a bottle of wine accompanies the meal! After lunch we walked up town to the Iglesia Senora la Peregrina, an old convent dedicated to the pilgrims of the Camino. Here we received official certificates of completion for half the Camino de Santiago. Interestingly, Sahagun is the geological center of the Camino. After the church we walked back to our room where we took a siesta...just like the locals...haha! The rest of our day was spent preparing for tomorrow, a 19-20 mile day!!! The picture above was taken outside the church. See more pictures in the Sahagun photo album.
Camino Day 17: Carrion de los Condres to Ledigos (15 miles)
We left the Hotel Real Monasterio San Zoilo this morning a little after 6:00 am. We headed out along the Camino for our first leg of 6 miles without breakfast. Honestly, that was for the best because there were no facilities(bathroom) to use for 10 miles. There was a mobile café set up along the Camino where we ate breakfast quickly. David and I each ate a BBQ chorizo sausage sandwich and a very small drink, since we had to walk 4 more miles before we could use a bathroom. We continued on the gravel road for another 4 miles until we reached an Albergue with facilities in Calzadilla de la Cueza. There was not much to see this morning besides peregrinos racing to get to the finish line. Both David and I it feel like most people are rushing each day to get to whatever town they plan to stay. David calls them "AC's" (Aggressive Caminos). They walk as fast as they can and keep their heads down. They don't seem to look around and appreciate their surroundings. For example, there are scenic paths and detours that can be taken to arrive into the same cities. No one seems to take them except David and I. When we left Calzadilla de la Cueza there was a scenic route into Ledigos, which went further away from the highway and provided more shade. It was just slightly longer, less than one quarter mile. We were the only people to take this path, everyone else continued beside the highway. Today's scenic route was quite nice. We felt like we were in a butterfly sanctuary, there were so many and they were flying everywhere. It was pretty cool. This last leg was 4 miles into Ledigos where we stopped for the night at Albergue La Morena.
Camino Day 16: Fromista to Carrion de los Condes (14 miles)
Another nice day today. We left Fromista this morning at 6:30 am and it was pretty cold, somewhere in the 40's. Most days we don't eat breakfast before we get out on the trail because they don't serve breakfast where we are staying until around 7:00 or even 8:00. So as usual, we walked a couple of miles before stopping to eat breakfast. Today we were lucky to stop at a café that served fried eggs, our favorite. It was great to start the day with a hearty breakfast, not just bread, which has been the case most of the time. After breakfast we were ready to walk 7 miles to the next town of Villalcazar de Sirga. There was a nice man selling macramé bracelets who suggested we take the trail along the river. We took his advise and it was a very peaceful walk this morning. We could hear the river running to our right, and the leaves rustling all around, and of course the birds singing. We stopped and had our usually drink and snack at a café right in front of the local church before continuing on to Carrion de los Condes. Tonight we stayed at another old monastery converted into a hotel. Carrion de los Condes a town of about 2,200 people.
Camino Day 15: Castrojeriz to Formista (16 miles)
The weather today was perfect! This morning was cool as we made our way up the slopes of Mostalares at the high point for the day at 900 meters (2953 ft). Some of these hills we climb are serious leg burners and we are sweating bullets by the time we get to the top. It continued to warm up through the afternoon as we made our way to Boadilla del Camino. Today was our third day on the Meseta. Both David and I commented to each other that the walk was a bit boring and seemed long because the view for the last three days has been the same. We walked about 12.5 miles by lunchtime at Albergue Titas. From there we continued on to Fromista following along the Canal de Castilla, an 18th century canal system still in use for irrigation purposes. It was quite lovely and peaceful. We followed the tree lined path all the way to the locks, pictured above, until the entrance into Fromista. Here we splurged a little and stayed at Hotel Dona Mayor and ate an authentic Castillian dinner in the Plaza San Fermo. See more photos from Fromista and the canal in the Fromista photo album.
Camino Day 14: Tardajos to Castrojeriz (20 miles)
Today we reached another milestone. 210 Miles!!! On our guestbook we were asked how many miles we are walking on the Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago is 466 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago de Compostella, Spain. At this point in our journey we have completed about 50%. Today was a very long day of walking, 19.5 miles. We are now in the section they call the "Meseta." It is the flattest portion of the walk. We left Tardajos this morning around 6:30 am at sunrise and began the first stage for the day, 6.5 miles to Hornillos. The morning was very quiet and peaceful as we walked along rolling hills filled with hay fields. Our second stage was another 6.5 miles to Hontanas. There we were treated to a delicious lunch at Café El Puntido, cheeseburgers and fries! Something very rare along the Camino. David and I were so hungry after walking 13 miles, they tasted sooo good. We ate lunch with a young man from Florida that we have met along the way. After resting during lunchtime we were slow to get back on the trail, however we had to continue on. We were trying to get to our final village for the day before it rained, the forecast for today was showers all day. As it turned out, the weather cooperated and sprinkled just a little bit. Our last stage was 6.5 miles to Castrojeriz. Needless to say, after 2 long days of walking we were exhausted and thrilled to reach our hotel. We elevated our feet upon arrival, washed our clothes, ate our pilgrims dinner, and went to bed! You can see more photos from today in the photo album for Castrojeriz. Again, a great big thank you to everyone who has signed the guestbook. Your support is very meaningful to us. We love you all!
Camino Day 12: Villafranca Montes de Oca to Olmos de Atapuerca (14 miles)
Each day we have been on the Camino has been an adventure. We never know where the day will take us. Today was no exception. The weather here has taken a serious turn, and now it is cold!! The temperature in the morning was around 40 degrees and the high was in the mid 60's, and very strong wind today. We headed out this morning at 6:00am and it was still dark due to the cloud cover. I was a little bit scared because almost immediately we headed into a wooded area and it was very dark, and very steep. Once we got to the high point, there was more daylight. But the day was pretty gray, as it rained on us for most of the way to San Juan de Ortega, about 8 miles. From there we continued on to Atapuerca, another 4 miles. Interestingly, Atapuerca is famous for an archeological site where they recently found the remains of a homo sapien (Heidelberg) from 2 million years ago. On our schedule today, I had planned for us to walk to the site, however due to the rain we decided against it. So we continued another mile to Olmos de Atapuerca, where we checked into a bioenergy Casa Rural. Now here is where today's adventure began. In most of these small villages we travel through, they only except cash, no debit or credit cards. So we were extremely low on euros, every time we get to a larger town, the banks are closed. So we haven't been able to exchange our dollars. We explained this to the man who gave us the keys to the Casa Rural. He was very helpful and offered to take us to the next town, where he had a "friend" who could exchange money for us. So we got our wallet and jumped into his van, and he drove us back to Atapuerca. (For a brief moment I thought we might be getting robbed...haha) As we were driving there, he told us there was a bus that could take us to the archeological site, again, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We exchanged our money, ran into other pilgrims we had met previously, and all of us got on the bus to see the caves where they discovered the remains. In the picture above, you can see the caves in which they lived and found the fossils. The local people here are so nice, it seems that they are happy to go out of their way to help us peregrinos. The bus driver actually parked the bus after his shift and drove us back to our place in his own car. We keep trying to tip them, and they refuse to take our money. They are truly happy to help.
Camino Day 13: Olmos de Atapuerca to Tardajos (19 miles)
The Euro drama continues... For the last several days we have been told we could exchange money in Burgos. We arrived in Burgos, a major city, and discovered June 29th is a huge holiday in Burgos and everything is CLOSED....haha! However we were able to use an ATM machinge, thank goodness. We left Olmos de Atapuerca and walked around 4 miles before taking our first coffee break. SO cold and windy today! From there we walked 8 miles to Burgos, the largest city we have been to. The city was preparing for a holiday parade and a full day of fiestas. Everyone was dressed in either very colorful outfits or traditional dresses. We stopped here for lunch in the main square and watched the parade through the streets. However our day of walking was not finished. So we left for our last leg of 7 miles to Tardajos, our final resting place for the night. Here we were treated to a very good menu del dia, menu of the day, for 10 euros.
Camino Day 11: Villafranca Montes de Oca (17 miles)
It was amazing the difference in the landscape between today and yesterday. Yesterday we were on the other side of the hill pictured above, walking through grapevines growing in thick red clay. No matter where we turned all we could see were grape vines for miles and miles. There were thunderstorms last night so the trail was muddy. As we came around the hill today the landscape completely changed. The grape vines were replaced with trees. It felt as if we were in the middle of a forest. We rejoined the main path today, left La Rioja behind us and entered a new region, Castilla y Leon. Tonight we stayed at Hotel San Abad in Villafranca Montes de Oca. The Camino Santiago is most certainly centered around many hours of walking, but it is also a very social event. Everyday we meet different people from all over the world. Today we helped some fellow "peregrinos" from South Korea find their way to the Albergue. Shortly after that, we had a nice conversation with a gentleman in the bar from Spain who taught us some interesting history about Spain.
Camino Day 10: Najera to San Millan de Cogolla (16 miles)
Today was most definitely an exercise in trust. David had to trust that I was not going to get us lost somewhere in the middle of Spain. Today, for me, was the most interesting day of the trip. We left Najera as soon as there was light and headed completely off the grid. In our guidebook, there was a detour off the main Camino trail that ran along the red cliffs into the hills to 2 Benedictine monasteries. This trail was part of the original Camino de Santiago and it was used during medieval times. It's no longer part of the current Camino trail. The Yuso and Suso Monastaries, a UNESCO world heritage site. What was interesting about this detour, was that we were the only "peregrinos" that took this trail so we were completely alone. The trail was extremely remote and the way marks were far and few between. Due to the remoteness, our walk was very peaceful and beautiful. There were several points along the trail where we truly did not know if we were going the right way. An uneasy feeling, especially because NO one else went this way. The first part of the path led us halfway to the small town of Badaran. From there we went the rest of the way to San Millan de Cogolla. A section of the monastery houses a very nice hotel which was where we stayed the night. We really feel like we were rewarded for taking such an adventure. Here we had the best meal of the entire trip!! After lunch, we took a guided tour of the Yuso Monastery. The monastery is famous for the birthplace of the written Castilian language, as well as the first poet Gonzalo Berceo. The hotel was very quaint and the views of the green hills from our hotel room were beautiful. The entire day was very relaxing and peaceful even with the todays long walk. Our favorite day so far. See more photos of the monastery in the photo album from San Millan de Cogolla. Monks currently live in this monastery and have done so for sixteen centuries.
Camino Day 9: Logrono to Najera (19 miles)
Slow and steady has been our motto from the beginning, as well as one day at a time. This was what we reminded ourselves as we headed out of Logrono this morning knowing we had 19 miles to walk today. As we began the day it seemed a bit overwhelming. We stepped out of our hotel at 6:00am, still dark, assuming to see only other "peregrinos" or pilgrims like us heading out toward Najera. Interestingly, there were many groups of young people in the streets, just finishing their night of bar hopping and attempting to make their way home. They were quite loud as well. We broke our day up into smaller chunks. Due to the weather, we have been trying to finish a large chunk of our day before noon. The weather today was beautiful, almost cold in the morning. And the terrain was very manageable. So we were able to walk 8 miles in the first leg and reach Navarette by 9:00am. Here we stopped for a great breakfast, a fried egg sandwich with ham. Honestly, a luxury here in Spain. The people here do not usually eat eggs for breakfast. At home, David and I eat eggs almost every day for breakfast!! Walking all these miles with simply bread in our systems is not ideal, but we do our best. Our second leg took us through more wine country to Ventosa, another 4 miles, where we stopped for a cold drink and to change shoes and socks. We have been changing our shoes everyday about halfway through, which seems to help our feet feel better and prevent blisters. Neither one of us has had any trouble with blisters...knock on wood. Then for the last leg of the day, we walked 7 miles to Najera. Honestly, because the weather was so much cooler than a few days ago, it was a good walk. We were so hungry when we arrived into town, that we stopped at a bar and had Spanish paella and a couple of cold beers. It was delicious. Then off to the hostal to rest up for tomorrow.
Camino Day 8: Torres del Rio to Logrono (13.5 miles)
105 total miles walked to date!! Today we walked 13.5 miles starting from Torres del Rio. We headed out early this morning about 6:00am for our first leg of 6.5 miles through the vineyards to Vianna. The weather today was the coolest it has been since we arrived in Spain, which meant excellent conditions for walking. We arrived in Vianna around 8:30 and stopped for breakfast in front of a beautiful Church, La Iglesia de Santa Maria where Cesare Borgia remains are interred. Breakfast along the Camino is typically a bocadillo (sandwich) of Spanish ham and cheese, or croissants, or tortilla(omelette) with Spanish ham and cheese. And of course café con leche or juice. After a long break we continued for another 7 miles to Logrono. We literally strolled into the suburbs of Logrono during the last mile, taking in the beautiful city. The picture above is the bridge into the city center. Check out the photo album for more pictures of Logrono.
Camino Day 7: Estella to Torres Del Rio (17 miles)
Today was a much more enjoyable walk. For starters, the weather has cooled a bit. So this morning we were able to get out early when it was nice and cool. And even in the hot afternoon, we had a cool breeze which made the whole day much easier and we were able to walk 17 miles. We are now entering Spain's wine country, so most of our walk today was through various vineyards and farms. We had one steep climb to the top of Villamayor de Monjardin early in the day, then after that the path leveled out. There are random mobil cafés scattered about, and we look forward to them. We always enjoy our breaks with a cold beverage and a little snack. Today's mobile café was Café Eduardo. We continued on through Los Arcos and walked our last 5 miles into Torres del Rio where we were excited to learn that our hostal tonight had a swimming pool. What a wonderful surprise! The hostal has an Albergue on the bottom, and more of a hotel on the upper floors. Tonight"s Menu del Dia was very good, always inludes wine!! Tomorrow we head to Logrono, very well known for their wine.
Camino Day 6: Puente la Reina to Estella (15.5 miles)
The picture above was taken at 6:45 am this morning as we headed out of Puente la Reina for Estella. The heat here is incredibly hot and humid, and has forced us to head out earlier in the morning to avoid the scorching afternoon sun. Yesterday we did not arrive into Puente la Reina until late afternoon, almost 5:00pm. So Hot!! I have heat rash on my legs pretty bad from yesterday and David has heat rash on his forearms. Today both David and I covered up more since the sun here is extremely strong. We walked 5.5 miles during our first leg today to Cirauqui where we stopped for a cold drink and some Pan with Jamon, very popular here. Baguette bread with Spanish ham and cheese. Our pace today was a little faster, about 25 minutes a mile. For the second leg we walked uphill to Villatuerta another 6.7 miles. After a short rest there, another cold drink and croissant, we finished the last leg, 3.15 miles, and arrived around 2:45pm in Estella. For today a total of 15.35 miles. We are now about to head out and find some food and drink after a much needed rest.
Camino Day 5: Pomplona to Puente de Reina (14 Miles)
Last night we stayed at a Marriott in Pamplona, it was wonderful, they had air conditioning! We headed out a bit earlier since we had a long walk ahead of us today. The first part of our walk took us through the city of Pamplona and up into the hills with the windmills overlooking the city. Much of our walk is uphill then downhill. The picture above is when we reached the top and you can see Pamplona behind us. The windmills are to our left. We have met people from all over the world, most of them from Europe. Today we went met several Americans, from Florida, Minnesota and a guy from California. Interestingly, the downhill sections are often more difficult than the uphill. The last couple of days the descents are extremely rocky and we have to be very careful with each step. It was a long, hot walk today. When we reached the hotel we both realized we had heat rashes. I had a big heat rash on the back of my legs and David on his forearms. Many of the hotels or hostals have a set menu for dinner, only offering a few selections. The menu tonight was very good! Also, thank you all for the words of encouragement on the guestbook. We appreciate it so much!!!
Camino Day 4: Zubiri to Pamplona (15 miles)
Last night was pretty rough. We stayed at a Pension, similar to a bed and breakfast. The room was very small, and there was no air conditioning. The last few days we have been going to bed around 9 or 10 pm because we are exhausted from walking. This is about the time the Spaniards eat their dinner. So, we opened the window from the second floor in order to get some cooler air into the room so we could sleep. I think every family went outside and hung out in the street below our window! We were so hot and the noise was so loud we slept horribly. Today we woke up around 5 am so we could get an early start and beat the heat. We left Zubiri and headed for Pamplona. The walk today was quite pleasant, much easier than the 2 days before. We saw a lot of different things today. There was a small village of cats. We stopped and talked to the geese. Passed a field of Appaloosa horses. Watched a sheep dog get a herd of sheep from one field to another across the street...FAST! After 14 miles of walking, we finally arrived in Pamplona. Famous for Ernest Hemingway and the Festival of San Fermin, more commonly known as the running of the bulls. The picture above is one of the streets where the bulls run from the Plaza de Toros.
Camino Day 3: Burguete to Zubiri (12 miles)
Another difficult day hiking the Pyrenees mountains. As we were planning our trip on the Camino from back home, we planned on walking about 3 miles per hour. These last 2 days have been eye opening, on average we are walking closer to 30 minutes a mile due to the difficult terrain. Today we walked close to 12 miles from Burguete to Zubiri. As we left Burguete this morning we walked past a herd of cows that were grazing along our path, and the path was level. As we left the farmland we began to ascend back into the mountains which meant steep hills to climb. Today was very much up and then down. We made it to the high point which was 955 meters, 3122 feet. We celebrated with a short break at the mobile café before making our descent into Zubiri, only 2.5 miles. The descent was unbelievable difficult. The path was extremely steep, basically a riverbed scattered with large, jagged, slick rocks. David and I had to be careful with each step, ensuring that we didn't slip and break an ankle on the loose rocks. We made it safely down to the town of Zubiri. Whew! As a side note, they are having a heat wave here in Spain this week. Today was 89 degrees!
Camino Day 2: Arneguy, France to Burguete, Spain (12 miles)
The Pyrenees Mountains brought it's full force today and if these mountains could talk, they would say," Welcome to the Camino Pellegrinos!!! If you want to finish the Camino, you need to go through me." This leg of the Camino is advertised as one of the most difficult and this description does the Pyrenees Mountains no justice. This day was unbelievably difficult and long. We started the day with some gradual assents and descents. With approximately five miles left before reaching the top of the mountain, we began the most difficult assent. We ascended over 3200 feet during the last part of this leg. I'm really not sure how we made it. We were running really low on water during the end, so Rebekah rationed the water by giving me cap water shots every 1/4 mile. We can laugh about it now, but as you can imagine I was not a happy camper! (The photo below from day 1 shows the mountain we survived).
Camino Day 1: Saint Jean Pied de Port, France to Arneguy, France (6 miles)
First day walking El Camino de Santiago. A day we have been preparing for, for about a year! We were so excited this morning but also nervous about our long journey ahead. We left the Hotel Ramuntcho in St. Jean Pied de Port this morning a little after 9:00. We planned to walk about 5.5 miles to Arneguy, France. With the time change and jet lag, we wanted to slowly work our way into walking 15-20 miles each day. As soon as we hit the outskirts of St. Jean Pied de Port we began the steep incline up to Arneguy. The path took us parallel to the highway through the French countryside and beautiful green Pyrenees mountains scattered with farms, horses and sheep. We encountered several strong French dogs that let us know to stay away, they were so funny!! We walked approximately 4 miles along this VERY steep path until we reached a shopping mall. We stopped there at a Café for a much needed break. We continued along the river path for another 1.5 miles until we reached Arneguy, a very small village.
Arriving in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France
This morning we left Pamplona, Spain on an hour ride through the Pyrenees Mountains and crossed into France. The scenery through the mountains was beautiful, so green. At the high point we reached Roncesvalles where we encountered dense fog and drastic temperature change from Pamplona. From there we rode another 20 minutes to St. Jean Pied de Port. The weather today was so nice compared to the desert! Check out some other photos on the photo album.