About Us

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I’m over due in introducing ourselves to you all. Marla and I are from Orange County California. We are both in our 50’s and have been planning to walk The Camino de Sanitago in Spain for a year now. We saw the movie The Way, with Martin Sheen, and decided it would be a unique 4 week adventure for us.

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The Camino is an old pilgrim route across Northern Spain. We will be staying in hostels for the most part. The hostels are private, state and church operated. There may be hostel with 12 beds or 180 beds in a Monastery. I’m sure we will hit a hotel or two also. For the most part it will be small villages and towns.

Some of the “big” towns will be Pamploma, Leon, Burgos and Santiago.
We are flying to London and then on to Barcelona. From there a train and a taxi to St. Jean Pied de Port, France near the border of Spain.

Yes, no, or it depends…

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By request I’ve been asked to write some thoughts and tips for walking the Camino.

FEET: Get the thin moleskin, not the padded foam kind. The padded mole skin had so much “give” to it that it tended to slip off during the day. We also discovered Compeed. This is a wonderful product available at any pharmacy on the Camino. Compeed is great stuff, pre-cut for all your various foot parts and it adheres well. I could leave it on for 2 days at a time and it was still firmly stuck.

I packed a tube of Super Glue. I then wrapped about 3 feet of duct tape around the tube for additional foot repairs, but never used either for my feet. Compeed rules! We did use the duct tape to repair a trekking pole and the Super Glue to repair some mesh on Marla’s back pack.

DEVICES: Marla used her Iphone 4S for a camera, email and to blog. I brought a phone, a 7″ Tab and a camera. I would just bring my camera next time for it’s zoom and picture quality and the 7″ Galaxy tab. I loaded the Tab with books, used it to journal and to email. It was much lighter than one book.

Make it your own Camino. We saw many solo women walkers. The Camino is safe and well marked with plenty of fellow travelers around. Everyone, just do it, but allow a few weeks. It’s 33 stages from SJPDP. With travel and rest days that’s an easy 5 weeks or 6 weeks. I wish we had taken 6 weeks to walk it. We had to make choices on what to skip to stay within our schedule. We talked with plenty of walkers who did the same, or let a transport take their bags for a few days, or give in for a taxi rather than destroying their feet and soul trying to make it to the next town. I felt better after a lady who had walked it 4 times said to “make it yours”. That and after seeing a host of hobbling pilgrims at a bus station at Logrono.

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RAIN: Are you dressed for it? Sea to Summit water proof bags and a pack rain fly will give you the warm and fuzzy about staying warm and fuzzy. Rain jacket or Poncho? Ponchos looked great until it got windy. We went with Marmot Pre-Cip Jackets, (very light) and were fine.

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ACCOMODATIONS: Take the stress out of finding a room or bed at the end of the day and book one the day before. There are phone numbers in the guidebook of the albergues and hotels. We saw many pilgrims being turned away when we arrived without reservations. At the end of the day you will be tired, fatigued and “trail drunk”. It’s nice to have a room or bed reserved for you. On a side note, we had most of our laughs at the end of the day just being silly with fatigue making jokes. Don’t forget your hiking poles outside the market or your sense of humor. Several times a day we would ask out loud ” Hey, where are we at?” “We are in Spain!”. Look around, enjoy the moment, it’s awesome.

About 20% of the walk is along un-photogenic roads, or entering and leaving a town. There are many beautiful sights, but be ready for the reality check of a big city.

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Making a list, and checking it thrice:
I made several “donations” along the walk. I never wore my Long Sleeve thermal tee. Marla did though, plenty of times. I still had enough shirts to layer for the weather. After the last mountain crossing, I donated my thermal at the hotel.

Camera case and James Bond mini tripod were donated. The camera stayed in the Fanny pack, ( yay 1980’s), and there was always someone to take our photo when needed. We offered to do the same and met many people that way.The Universal sign language for this is to hold both hands in front of you and move your index finger up and down. You can squint one eye for added effect. It’s a great ice breaker.

I brought too much sunscreen. If you hit the trail before dawn, walk with the sun at your back all day, wear your hat and I seldom needed it for my delicate Irish skin. 3 oz of sunscreen lasted for the whole trip. I donated the rest.

Hand sanitizer- there was plenty of soap in the often newly remodeled, and very clean, bathrooms.
I also donated, a cup, a whistle, a clothesline, soap, shave soap, a razor, extra pole tips and my Cracker Jack magnifying glass. I left my de-coder ring at home.

These donations saved me another pound off the back pack weight bringing the pack down to 17 lbs.

I only needed my sleeping bag on 3 nights usually using only the sleeping bag liner. Both were sprayed with bug spray to ward off any bed bugs and that was comforting to have. I think you could go with just a bag liner in the Summer months and save weight and space in your pack. We also packed small pillow cases. We used leopard skin print to keep it real, and put our clothing in that for a pillow at night. This worked great to compensate for the thin pillows often provided for you at the albergues.

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I never used my spork. But, I kept it because it was a spork!

DUMB STUFF WE LEFT AT HOME: Heavy aluminum water bottles, small aluminum flashlights ( we had head lamps), cotton tees, plastic ponchos and heavy boots. I did look rather dashing in this Outback canvas hat that I returned to Pro Bass shop.

GIVE THEM THE BOOT: You do NOT need boots on the Camino. Trail shoes are fine and much lighter. You are taking 2,000 steps per mile, 1 extra pound on your feet is like hauling an extra ton per mile. Let the trucks haul that weight, not your feet. We both wore Merrill’s Moab shoe.

In summary, I would estimate that 80% of the packs we saw were 40-45 liters. We had 30 liter bags. It was a tight fit for our goodies, but it made us pack light. Ask yourself before packing an item, “do I really need this?”. Hike more, carry less.

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9/27/2013. The Reemergence into the Real World

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With the looming return to reality and the conclusion of our travels, at least for now, the sounding of the 6:00AM alarm for our 9:05AM flight came with more melancholy then excitement. It wasn’t the typical “return to work blues” that I was feeling, but rather a sense of loss in something I didn’t want to end. We had thoroughly enjoyed our walk here in Spain.

Needless to say, we felt fortuitous when we met another couple who were leaving at the same time for the same airport, at least we thought; and sharing a ride to split the taxi fee seemed like a great idea. We all looked forward to sharing our exploits one last time before returning home.

Everything was going quite well until we arrived at the airport and met with a VERY SLOW check in line ….. Who was this guy at the ticket counter?  Was this guy new I thought? …. and where were all the other employees? Perhaps I was a bit anxious and admittedly wasn’t feeling so “Camino Like”; certainly Saint James wouldn’t approve. Finally another employee showed up. Great! We would be able to check in on time and maybe get something to drink. We were soooo thirsty and perhaps some caffeine would get us going!! This was WONDERFUL!!!

Ahhhh what did that man just say????? We were at the WRONG airport?!  There are like 3 airports in Santiago?! How did this happen? After navigating buses, trains, automobiles and walking miles on end for the last 30 days…. How did we end up at the WRONG airport?! We were at the Santiago de Compostela Airport. Our flight was scheduled out of the La Corunna Airport which was another 50 miles in the opposite direction and they were unable to change our flight. So with incredible speed we got the ONLY taxi! Our amazing driver then got us to the CORRECT airport in time!!! And that was our reemergence into the real world.

9/26/2013. Last night in Santiago


After spending a few days in Santiago you inevitably begin to run into acquaintances you’ve met along the Way.

First we ran into Celanie from Montreal, Canada. She was looking great and had made friends with a group of young Spaniards. She would be leaving for home a few days.

Next we came across a couple from Squim, Washington by the names of Gayle and Bob. We had first met them at a rest stop on the way to Arzua. At that time we had exchanged ideas about booking ahead for beds. Ironically in Santiago, we had been booked at the same hotel….and they had been in the room next door!

We also ran into our amigos Lise and her son Fred from Montreal, Canada. She spoke of her son ending up in a hospital via ambulance for severe diarrhea. They told him he needed to rest for several days. He was back on the trail the following day. We also talked about another hiker who had suffered a similar demise. That pilgrim had severe dehydration as well as GI problems. Flight arrangements had been made to expedite his return home. We discussed other pilgrims whom have had a difficult time due to jet lag. It’s easy for one to be enthusiastic and start the Camino without allowing your body to adjust. This is especially true if you start your journey from SJPD. That first day can be quite demanding. We’ve found that regardless of training and preparation, the Camino can take its toll on the body.

The Last Supper in Santiago was at a restaurant called O Boteco. It’s a very unique place with tapas as their specialty. The walls were composed of stone. The floor had glass plates where you could view cave like holes below. Our table was situated directly above one of them . Our waiter told us these holes were used by the Romans to store grain. He also informed us that they actually date back older then the Cathedral de Santiago.

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Our last nights accomodation was spent at Hospederia San Martin Pinario. Our friends Gayle and Bob had recommended this place. It’s ideally situated across from the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.

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This 15th century remolded monastery is used as a hotel with several wings reserved as a Seminary. It also houses an albergue on the top two floors. There is also a cloister garden as well as a Hogwarts style restaurant. We really liked this place. We would have spent more time there if we had discovered it sooner. This was definitely a great place to end our Camino.

9/24/2013. Rest day in Santiago

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Rest day in Santiago. Today we had the opportunity to explore the Cathedral in Santiago as well as the Cathedral Museum at leisure. Just needed to make sure we were seated for the special 12:00pm pilgrims mass. The mass is performed in honor of all the current and past perigrinos who have walked the Camino de Santiago. During the service they announced the pilgrims countries represented from the Compostela Office within the last 24 hours. We were also fortunate enough to be present for the swinging of the Botafumeiro. The Botafumeiro (literally “smoke spreader” in Galician) is a large censer that swings up and down the Cathedral through a pulley system. It weighs 53kg and measures five feet. It is suspended from a height of 20 meters and reaches a speed of 70 miles per hour. It is used in the same way as a priest would use incense at the altar. In ancient days it would mask the scent of the weary traveled pilgrims.

They requested no pictures or filming during the mass. But when the eight men known as the Tiraboleiros prepared to swing the Botafumeiro , everyone started to sneak out their devices . We quickly pulled out the I phone and captured a great video !

9/25/2013. Bus ride to Rias Baixas

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Today we booked a bus tour to Rias Baixas. This region of Galacia is located along the Atlantic sea coast directly above Portugal and is composed of basically four flooded river valleys. The word Rias means estuaries and Rias Biaxas means lower estuaries.

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For 45 euros this full day tour included various stops. One of these stops out of O Grove explored a rias by boat. On this hour long cruise we learned of the Galacian mussel production . Mussels thrive in these estuaries which are farmed by means of over 3300 floating rafts. The mussel production in this region is not only the highest in Europe but one of the best in the world. In addition, the growth period for these shellfish takes up to an average of 16 months.

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We then partook in these tasty morsels. Large boxes of “all you can eat” steamed treats were delivered to our galley style tables. Naturally wine was provided . The mussels were excellent. We also tried some shrimp but had difficulty removing the shells. People on the boat were quite lively with singing and dancing. A man dancing bumped into a waiter causing a sampler to drop on Allan’s lap…. which was caught on video!

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Another stop was on a small island next to O Grove called the Isla de la Toja. On the island we visited the “Shell Church”. This church is a unique structure with its facade made of sea shells. Upon closer inspection you could see graffiti of people’s names. The Isla is also known for a famous spa and soap factory . They are popular due to the islands mineral salts and thermal waters.

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Finally we stopped at an old Celtic village by the name of Combarro. This town and the surrounding area is unlike any other place we visited in Spain. We found the village of Combarro to be richly intertwined with a Christian heritage as well as it’s original Pagan roots. In this area you’ll find the Meigas or Galacian witches, who are a part of everyday life. For example, fisherman may have their boats blessed by a Priest and then by a Meigas.

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We also saw many granaries. These are small raised wooden or stone structures used to store food to avoid rodents. Most will present with a cross or Christian symbol on one side and a pyramid or Pagan symbol on the opposite.

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On this bus tour we befriended a couple from Venezuela by the names of Sylvia and Jorge. It turns out that Sylvia’s brother has lived near us in Orange County for the last 40 years. Sylvia wanted to practice her English while I wanted to practice my Spanish. We must have spent an hour of her talking to me in English while I responded back in Spanglish. It was great fun.

We also met another couple while exploring the village of Combarro. Their names were Ann and Frank. He was from New Jersey while she was originally from Spain . It’s always nice meeting fellow Americans being directly off the Camino. We discussed the beauty of the slower Spanish life style and the 1 1/2 lunches. They were considering relocating here.

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9/23/2013. Travel day to Finsterre

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Today we traveled to what the Romans referred to as the “End of the World” . We went to Finisterre. This town is ground 0.00km for the Camino de Santiago. The weather was rainy & foggy. Along the Camino route we saw large burnt areas from a recent arson fire. No structures appeared to have been destroyed.

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What the Guide Books don’t tell you

 

What the Guide Books don’t tell you.

1. ACCOMMODATION:

Day 1-3 albergues/ hostels: Such a wonderful communal experience. Friendships forged for life. Sharing meals with such beautiful like minded souls! Praise The Lord! What an incredible blessed experience!

Day 4: Who the FUCK are all these NAKED PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!

2. TRANSPORTATION:

Week 1: Taxi!!!! Don’t take one!!!! You shall burn in the eternal infernal of Hell!!!! And your children’s children will be plagued with the most miserable death…. Forever wandering the ends of the earth alone and soulless. And your body shall be festered with boils until you shrivel up into an infectious pile of pus!!!

Week 2: Hmmmm taxi?!

Week 3: What happens on the Camino stays on the Camino!

3. SNACKS :

Week 1: Packing snacks for your daily hike is of the up most importance. One should strive to create healthy yet nutritious food choices . We’ve found that a good balance of proteins and carbohydrates to be not only wonderful for your spirit, but will help increase your stamina on those long days. For example, we would pack fresh baked breads from the panaderia. Next we would choose locally grown fruits as well as fresh cheese from one of the neighboring dairies. The water we found to be quite fresh and of excellent quality.

Week 2: Oreo cookies, Almond Joy and a Diet Coke.

Week 3: cerveza

4. MEALS :

Week 1: Special meals are prepared for the hungry pilgrims. They are often referred to as the “Menu del Dia” or “Menu del Perigrino”. We’ve become so fond of these delightfully glutinous experiences. Typically these feasts consist of three sometimes four courses. They include your choice of entre such as fish, pork or beef. Upon request they will also provide you with fresh vegetables which are typical of the region you are in . Oh and of course , let’s not forget that wonderful bottle of wine! Special areas of most restaurants are set aside for the honored pilgrims. Often the tables are set with linen and fine china. We believe this may be in homage to Saint James who had graced this Camino so many centuries before.

Week 2: Fuck this shit . Pizza.

5. MILAGE:

1 km= 0.6 miles
1 trail km= 1.0 miles
End of day km = 1.6 miles

6. ESSENTIAL SPANISH for MEN:

Beer= cerveza
Wine= vino
Bar= bar
Bacon= Bacon!

7. ESSENTIAL SPANISH for WOMEN:

Donde esta…….?

9/22/2013. Arcos do Pino to Santiago 21km

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Today our final hike into Santiago was tough. Even though it was only 21km it seemed like FOREVER. Between Allan’s left shin hurting and my left heel/achilles aching we were a sight. Our goal was to make it to Santiago by 12:00pm for the special pilgrims mass…. No way was that happening! Instead we limped our way into town like true pilgrims around 2:30pm.

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We started out early with a pack of walkers but around 11:00am no one was around! They just disappeared! We even questioned whether we had strayed off the trail. Did we miss the memo about a short cut? Maybe they all took taxis?? Hmmmm? Just saying …. It will forever remain a mystery!

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After crawling into the old section of Santiago we checked into Hotel Suso. A small family run hotel. We will be spending a few nights here. Perfect location with old world charm. We had a fourth floor with no elevator! Oh what the heck! Room good and only 45euros.

Soon after our post resurrection aka siesta we navigated our way down to the Pilgrims Office. Here we finally received our Compostellas!!

9/21/2013. Arzua to Arca do Pino 22km

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Arzua to Arca do Pinp 22km. Good walk today with lots of shaded fern grottos and groves of eucalyptus trees. About 20% of the hike was on the roadway. The guide book says we crossed over three shallow river valleys…huh??…ok?! Lots of rest stops along the way.

We came across a cool bar which reminded of Cooks Corner back home. Instead of bikers though it was filled with hikers!

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Met a couple by the names of Jack and Catrina from Houston. Over the last two years they’ve been doing the Camino in stages. The first year they did the Camino from Saint John Pied de Port to Burgos. This year it’s Burgos to Santiago. We also considered that an option. It seems to be working well for them.

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We arrived around 2:00pm to our albergue O Burgo. This was a small private albergue with 14 bed spaces/7 bunks in one large room. There was an additional 3 private rooms for 35 euros a piece. The property faced a busy street.

Shortly after checking in we got sad news that two German pilgrims had died the previous day. They were hit by a truck crossing the same highway we had just come from. We also found that intersection to be busy. It’s kind of tragic to hike almost 800km and then meet your demise one days walk from Santiago. Very sad indeed. Many of the drivers we’ve encountered drive aggressively. In retrospect its surprising there hasn’t been more reported fatalities. So heart breaking for all involved.

 

9/19/2013. Portomarin to Palis del Rey 25km


Portomarin to Palis del Rey 25km. Left at 07:30am sunrise. Long day. Arrived at Albergue Buen Camino. We had reserved two beds but were fortunate enough to finagle a private room with bunk beds. Total cost 20 euros. The bathrooms were shared of course. That’s really not so bad. It’s kind of like being at home… except that the man standing next to you shaving isn’t your husband. No he’s been replaced by a Greek God…. chiseled…. with a six pack. I tend to keep my contacts out for these fantasies!

Albergue did have a great bar downstairs. We spent a lot of time capturing wifi while ordering diet cokes and cervezas!!

Town not so exciting. Farmers market selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

9/20/2013. Palis del Rey to Arzua 31km

Palis del Rey to Arzua 31km. Weather was cool and overcast. The landscape consisted of more ferns… everywhere….with aspen and pine trees.

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Lots of cool tree tunnels. Ok it was another beautiful walk where you couldn’t take a bad picture!!

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We checked into our albergue Santiago Apostle around 1:30pm. Rates for a private room couldn’t be beat at 25 euros with shared bath. The room was quite nice once you found it. We’ve found so many of these albergues to be like little mazes. This one is no exception. You just have to remember HOW to get to your room. More importantly you should practice navigating the route to the bathroom….in the dark….in case you need to make that midnight run!

To do laundry you have to walk down several flights of stairs….Outside to the street….turn right….then another right…. walk through the back of a restaurant….through the restaurant/bar area…to the outside patio where the washers and dryers are located. If your lucky you get one that works. That’s of course after you realize you don’t know how to work them!!! I mean how complicated could it be?! So you go through the albergue on the other end… Down two flights of stairs with a few twists and turns while praying for the hospitalero to be there…then you lay down your best Spanglish HELP ME!!!!!…. Thank you Rosetta Stone… Well I can continue with this saga but I won’t!! The the moral of the story is to just fucking HAND WASH!!!!

At the albergue we met Rick, Mike, Dave and their other friend Dave. They’ve been on the Camino with bikes for about the last three weeks now. Originally they were doing a 40km a day. They found that to be too long and they said they were old! Hence they adjusted the ride to around 25km a day. We discussed how trail km and ACTUAL km are two VERY different things. Rick said they’ve been riding approximately 70% on the Camino trail with the rest on the road. We talked about needing two maps when riding bikes. One for the Camino trail while the other is for the road. We also learned that for around $400.00 you can rent a bike in SJPD and ride it to Santiago. Typically pilgrims on bikes can’t check into the albergues early. Priority goes to the walkers. Rick said that at the private albergues they haven’t had any problems.

Latter in the evening ran into the 4 bike guys in town. Mikes house had been broken into and his wife’s jewelry had been stolen. He was busy trying to communicate with his wife and take care of the problem back home. On the other hand several days prior Mike had left his jacket with his money and passport on a chair in one of the villages….the previous hostel found it and had it taxied with the entire contents. That’s one of the differences between life here on the Camino versus life back home.

 

9/18/2013. Sarria to Portomarin 22km

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Sarria to Portomarin 22km. The town of Sarria is a very popular starting point on the Camino de Santiago. In order to earn ones Compostella you must walk the last 100km to Santiago. Sarria to Santiago is approximately 100km.

We left before sunrise at 7:00am. A young Canadian women from Montreal asked to walk with us. Her name was Celanie. Her headlamp was a welcome addition. We really hit off with non stop conversation. Celanie is a 31 year old Mechanical Building Engineer. She spoke of her difficulties getting 4 weeks off to do the Camino. We also talked about her new boyfriend/ work/ friends/ family/ hiking gear/ diets/ music etc…

Weather was misty. It made for a beautiful hike through the lush vegetation of fern groves and moss covered walls. We’re glad that our rain gear had worked well.

Zoo day on the Camino! First we came across ranchers herding their cattle across the road. That can take you by surprise. Also took a short video of an ostrich and a friendly horse! Pretty scary stuff!

We checked into our albergue El Caminante around 2:15pm. For a private room with bath it was 42 euros. There was also a great wifi and an elevator.

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Celanie on the other hand was staying at the local municipal albergue. She said it wasn’t full which was unusual. Perhaps it’s more common for people to leave on a Saturday or Sunday.

Latter we met Celanie for dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Minho River. From the restaurant we could see the ancient remains of a roman bridge. The town of Portomarin was constructed next to this roman bridge which had been rebuilt in the Middle Ages.

9/17/2013 Riego de Ambros to Ponferrada 20km (foot). Ponferrada to Sarria 95km (taxi)

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Left before sunrise to walk the first 5km into Molineseca. The trail took us through a vineyard. Blackberries were also growing abundantly along the way. We watched as a fellow French pilgrim grazed off the plants. After arriving in Molineseca we were able to get breakfast and gather provisions.

We continued on to Puente Mascaron Opcion. Here we explored the 12th century Templar Castle or Castillo de Los Templarios. This national monument had recently been reopened after renovations. We explored the grounds but didn’t go inside. Long day ahead.

After walking 20km we reached Ponferada. In order to stay on schedule we needed to locate the bus station for transport into Sarria. With a lot of donde estas??? we finally reached the bus station. The map was a BIT misleading. Unfortunately there were NO direct bus routes. We would first have to buy bus tickets to Lugo. That bus wouldn’t be leaving for another 2 1/2 hours. We would then need to make a bus change in Lugo. We also had no schedule for bus departures in Lugo. So we decided to take a more direct approach. We summoned a taxi and went straight to Sarria for a cost of 113 euros for 95km. Travel time approximately approximately 1 1/4 hours.

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We arrived in Sarria around 1:30pm. We stayed at Albergue Internacional. Again we booked a private room for a cost of 45 euros. Single beds were going for 10 euros. Our room was located in the attic. It had a skylight. This came in handy when we did laundry. Like hillibilies we hung our clothes out the skylight to dry. Of course there was a clothes line outside, but that would involve trekking up and down three flights to our room. The best thing about this albergue was the wifi. Good opportunity to catch up on blog!

Just follow the yellow arrows!!!

9/16/2013 Rabanal del Camino to Riego de Ambros 20km

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Rabanal del Camino to Riego de Ambros 20km. Good nights sleep. Our room was pitch black and silent. Weird waking up. You know where your at and wait for your eyes to adjust… but they don’t because there is NO light. You try to hear but there is NO sound. Very eirie sensation. You just lay there grappling for your I phone wondering what time it is.

Left the albergue with the sunrise around 7:30am. We briefly used our headlamps. Good idea since part of the trail was along the road allowing onward traffic to see us.

During the hike we came across the Cruz de Ferro or Iron Cross. It’s a simple iron cross that is a symbol to many of the Camino de Santiago. It’s also the highest point on the Camino. We watched as people would leave small stones or trinkets representative of something special. Many people appeared deeply moved to be here. Other people just seemed glad to have made it this far.

Arrived in Riego de Ambros around 3:00pm. The town was very quiet. Too quiet. Many of the buildings were delapitated. Most were boarded up. Some were for sale. We didn’t see any markets or bakeries. Almost decided to continue another 5km to the next town of Molinaseca. Since it was late we stayed with our original plan and checked into our accommodations called Pension Riego de Ambros. It was 40 euros, modern, clean and had a private bath.

In the evening we found the only restaurant in town. It opened at 7:00pm and closed at 10:00pm. There was only one waiter who was also running the bar. Bought crackers for our morning escape!

9/14/2013 Leon to Hospital de Orbigo 51.8km (bus) and Hospital de Orbigo to Astorga 16km (foot)

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Feeling fatigued from lack of sleep. Lots of revelry and merriment from the bars below. What time does Spain’s bars close? I don’t know. I only know that someone was still singing at 5:00am.

We took a bus from Leon to Hospital de Orbigo approximately 51.8km. Then walked the remainder of 16km to Astorga. We needed to keep the walk short after our four day sabbatical.

The hike to Astorga was uneventful. The Camino paralleled the highway. Eventually we crossed by some corn fields.

We arrived in Astorga around 1:30pm. Couldn’t believe our luck. Once again the small boutique hotel we booked couldn’t have been in a better location. It was called the Gaudi Hotel and was located across the street from the Gaudi Palace. For 65 euros we were given a two room suite overlooking the impressive Gaudi structure. Ironically our room number was 209 which was the same room number we had in Leon. The Palace is lit up only one night a week due to the energy crisis. This night it was lit up and very beautiful.

We waited to tour the Gaudi Palace until around 4:00pm. As usual establishments including museums close for siesta between 1:30pm and 4:00pm.

9/15/2013 Astorga to Rabanal del Camino 21.4km

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Astorga to Rabanal del Camino 21.4km. We had a relatively flat hike today with a gradual elevation gain of 400m over the last 2km. The terrain consisted mostly of chaparral and sage brush with increasing pine trees as we approached the village.

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Outside a rest stop we came across three women from the US. After exchanging the usual information on blisters and footwear we found out that two of them were from California…. more specifically Hunington Beach and Big Bear. Also discovered that we had the same flight home.

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Arrived into Rabanal around 1:15pm. We had reserved a private room at a place called Albergue del Pilar. Nice room. It’s good to find that many of the private albergues offer rooms as well as beds. We paid 30 euros for the night. In contrast a bed was going for 5 euros.

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There was also a quaint patio area with a bar where you could get a meal. Really loved this albergue although it wouldn’t have passed any US building codes.

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Clothes were hand washed outside. Multiple drying racks were provided in the patio area. We finished our laundry early enough to eat while watching other pilgrims scramble around to do theirs. Ahhhhh the simple life!!

The town was very charming with a total population of 50. Probably the smallest town that we have stayed in to date. It was very sweet to see many elderly people walking around in their Sunday finest.

9/13/2013 Rest day in Leon

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Today was a rest day in Leon. This city derived its name from the Roman military garrison and base for its legion, hence Leon. The city is large with a population of 130,000.

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Our main goal for today was to explore the Leon Cathedral or Catedral de Santa Maria de Regla de Leon. Entrance fee for the Cathedral was only 5 euros. Headphones were provided. The Cathedral was built in the 13th century over the ruins of the ancient Roman baths. However, the building was not completed until the 19th century when it was restored due to its structural integrity. The inside is representative of a French Gothic style. You will also find some 125 medieval stained glass windows.

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After exploring the Cathedral we stumbled into the Cathedral Museum or Museo Catedralicio Diocesano de Leon. This is located next to the Cathedral and is composed of two cloisters which contain over 1500 artifacts. It seems a shame that this museum wasn’t readily advertised. We could have easily passed it by. For an additional 3 euros you are privately escorted to the first of two cloisters. You are then given the usual instructions not to take pictures. The “gate keeper” then locks you in. Your free to explore three floors of the museum by yourself…. Literally by yourself….no one else is in the cloister with you. When you are ready to leave you stand by the door. The surveillance camera picks you up and the “nice lady” unlocks the door.