Day 26, Ponferrada to Pieros, 18k
April 26, 2016
Last night was one of the nicest group of hostel volunteers. Anne (from Ohio) joined us yesterday and we three shared a room.
I’m really showing signs of wearing down–too tired to eat dinner last night. I’ve gotten some chalky anti-acid tablets (Euro Tums) and using them to settle my stomach in the mornings. I also have a blister on the second toe on my right foot. I don’t know what was rubbing and didn’t even know it was there until I too off my sock. It looks like my toe is trying to grow another toe!
Linkin (from Denmark) joined us for this leg of the journey. We met her at an earlier hostel. We all four stayed at El Serbal y la Luna, and excellent albergue with very good vegetarian food. Since there was no wifi, I showered, hand washed a few items and took a two hour nap before dinner. Everyone seemed surprised, but I had no trouble falling asleep again after dinner.
Day 27, Pieros to la Portela de Valcarce, 21k
April 27, 2016
A tough day–mostly flat, but almost entirely road/sidewalk walking. Those hard surfaces really took it out on all off us and after our showers we are all flat on our backs. Anne got a private room. She is a light sleeper and suffering from a bad nighttime cough.
The first 7k this morning were especially beautiful with many vineyards. The grapevines are in perfect rows and the severely pruned plants are just beginning to show some green leaves. This is the Bierzo area, a micro-climate with excellent wines. The next 7 were completely along the highway, but had the advantage of being relatively flat, following a river that had cut a path between substantial hills. One of the alternative routes would have taken us straight up those hills. Not me! Did I mention that my original trail name was Flatlander? The last 5k began the assent of what will be out last major hill, O’Cebreiro, which we face tomorrow. It’s about a 1,000 meter climb (3,000feet) and I’m not looking forward to it!
On the plus side, we’ve dropped below the 200k mark–a bit over 100miles left to do. Since I don’t have to be in Madrid until the week of May 15, that gives me plenty of time to get to Santiago and take a bus to see Finisterra.
Camino, Day 10. Ages to Burgos, 21.8km (about 13 miles)
Ages–the city’s claim to fame is as the place where King Don Garcia was killed by his brother, Ferdinand I, in 1054. I left the very clean municipal hostel before 8am in search of caffeine. I’d skipped the albergue desayouno (hostel breakfast) since it’s always heavy on sweetbreads and light on coffee. I noticed a couple deer standing stark still, in the brush not far from the road. They were barely even breathing, well camouflaged, except for their white tails. They must be different from the deer I grew up with.
2.5 Atapuerca. A stop for coffee brought me to a cafe with several pilgrims I’ve been seeing over the last few days, including one of the lovely Irishmen for two digits before. This city’s claim to fame are some caves of some of the earliest hominids, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Information gleaned from these sites seems to confirm our earliest ancestors in Europe were cannibals! Since it was early Sunday morning (and the park is 3km off the Camino) I walked on by.
5.3. Cardenuel there was a substantial hill along the way. At the top a huge cross. I was grateful for a nice conversation with a couple form just outside Chicago, Susan and Paul. They are well traveled, funny and interesting folks who kept up a brisk pace, even uphill. Lessor conversationalists could not have kept me moving so quickly up that steep path. They did a long section of the Camino last year and have a daughter who has completed the entire French Way. The dirt path to the top and beyond was studded with sheep droppings, though the sheep we saw were contained by a fence. The wind was quite strong and got worse as the day continued. We stopped at Cardenuel for a “second breakfast” of vegetable omelet and cafe con leche (coffee with milk).
14.0 Burgos. The remaining walk was mostly cold, windy and uninteresting–Sidewalk trudge through the manufacturing outskirts of Burgos. Not very photo worthy. The old town of Burgos is beyond description, however, and the huge municipal albergue is clean and only 5euros a night. I rested my feet and explored the nearby cathedral.
I managed to run first into an Hungarian man I’ve seen periodically since the second day. A powerfully built man, I’d helped him get his pack untangled from his rain poncho one windy day. It was all I could do to hold his pack off the ground, but he picked it up with one hand as though it were nothing. He seems to be a religious man, good humored and unconcerned with hardships. I wish we shared a language so I could learn more about him.
I also met two of the Irishmen from a couple nights ago. They are each near 70, but can out hike me easily. Mick took the long, stone stairs two at time in the rain without even breathing hard. John Lenin (yes, he’s heard every Beatles joke. Imagine!) has been married for 50 years, and reminds me of a wise, but mischievous child. Their Irish expressions and the lilt of their speech improved the roast chicken. The two “blew me” dinner (paid for my meal) and the “crack was mighty” (it was great fun)! Another very special evening with new friends.
When I hiked the AT, I made a point to learn the plants and flowers I saw. Ita a bit more difficult here, on a new continent. I suppose I’ve been familiar with nettles all my life, so a few days ago, i spotted a patch. They were taller, darker and sturdier than what a saw on the farm, but I was fairly certain of the identification. Quite by accident, I brushed a finger and thumb into one of the nettles and felt the familiar sting. But these were stronger than any nettles I’ve encounter. There was still some pain the next afternoon! Stay away from Spanish nettles.
The hostels often offer a meager “continental” breakfast, usually for 4Euros. It’s really a first breakfast. Sweet breads or croissants., fruit and something to drink. Too often, there’s been no coffee of tea, so it doesn’t seem worth it to me. I’ve started buying a package of whole grain, breakfast cookies and making “sun tea” (minus the sun” in a wide moth, collapsible water container. This holds me until I can find coffee and eggs down the trail.
Day 6. Logrono to Navarrete, 13km
Hiking alone now and with no guidebook. I have a photo of the next two maps, so I know the next town of any size is Navarrete. As I type this, I’m at a cafe by a nice lake. I left a few minutes after 7a and walked for 2 hours. I’ve come perhaps 6km (4miles). My spirits are very low and I’ve lost any passion for this hike. I feel very foolish to think that four people who didn’t know each other could hike together successfully. But there isn’t much to do but hike on to the next town. I will try to find a guidebook there, plus a few small items I’m lacking. I would like a better knee brace. I’m not having pain, but needed it on the AT. The one I have simply isn’t that good.
My blisters are better–taping each toe seems to have done the trick. But my feet are swollen, so it might be best to make it a short day. I may consider taking a bus further down the trail so I can take it slower. One only has to walk the last 100 km to get the Credential and I am not a purest.
LATER: I’m in an Albergue in Navarreta. (10Euro a night). I was able to get lunch, a very brief guide map (in Spanish) and change some money as well. Also got a better knee brace, just in case. I’ve found a possible bus service for tomorrow to move me down the trail a bit on a rainy day. Only 13km today (about 8 miles) of fairly flat trail. If I take the bus tomorrow, a 30 minute ride will gain me 36km to Santa Domingo de la Calzada (21.6 miles).
I am still mortified by my snoring. I will lose weight and I won’t drink more than a half glass of wine a night to improve the situation (you can’t believe the amount of wine we drink here!). These are major contributor to the snoring and would help me hike farther, faster. It could also save my knees.
I did get a nice note from Tim today saying that he missed me. He added that I had caused him no trouble and he enjoyed hiking with me. He is the best hiking partner I’ve ever had.
Day 7. Navarrete to Santa Domingo de la Calzada (35km by bus) then 6.7 km to Gronon on foot.
What a difference a day makes. I am alone and got a bus in the spitting rain to Santo Domingo de Calzada. I easily found the tourist office (not open until 10) and an outfitters (not open until 9:30) I am having coffee while I wait. Since I’m now alone, I need a good guidebook in order to plan ahead. I can’t stay safe without planning and these books aren’t available everywhere. I also wanted a rain jacket. The poncho is very helpful, but a light rain jacket is still needed. (I was able to find both).
Walked just 6.7km to next town since rain looked imminent. Am in a lovely small private hostel, Ave de Paso. (10 Euro for a bed, 7 for dinner)
Forecast for tonight is rain changing to snow then back to rain tomorrow. Yikes! Colder than I’d expected.
I’ve gotten communication about the rest of our former group. Seems everyone is hiking alone but still moving forward, so that’s something.
Another difficult day with light rain and our highest mileage yet. Lots of rainbows, though. All photos are thanks to Tim.
Kathy decided to stay in Viana for the night. She is not enjoying the hostels and may choose to taxi to some towns and/or have her pack carried ahead for her. I simply don’t have the financial resources to stay in the nicer places. Also, they all have indicated my snoring makes it impossible for them to sleep near me. I’m mortified and depressed.
It is a very low point for me. All the joy has been sucked from the trip. I plan to hike alone starting tomorrow.
Mileage from Los Arcos
+7.8 Torres del Rio
+ 2.7 NS del Poyo (10.5)
+ 7.9 Viana. (18.4)
+ 3.9 NS de Las Cuevas (22.3)
+ 2.6 Cross roads (24.9)
+ 3.8 Logrono (28.7)
This was a tough day. It wasn’t the miles, it was the rain. Kathy is now an experienced backpacker–having endured rain, miles and a less than perfect hostel. Congratulations to her!
The hostel, La Perla Negra, was the worst so far, but still better than most on the AT. It was a chilly night and the heat and wifi was turned off by 10p. Breakfast was minimal.
Shortly after we began hiking, the rain started and didn’t quit. It became clear that my rain jacket–the same one I used on the AT–is no longer waterproof. I had puddles of water at my elbow and by the time we hit town, there was not a dry inch on my body. It didn’t get above 50F and was very windy. On the AT this would be a dangerous situation, but here in Spain, only and uncomfortable day. We were in Los Arcos by noon and had found each other and a hostel before 1p. I got someone to open the one outfitters so I could buy a poncho. The forecast is better for tomorrow, but I am more secure with rain gear.
According to the guidebook, this is our mileage today:
Villamayor 1.9 (and it was straight up!)
+3.4 Cruce (5.3) which we never saw! Has this town gone away?
+2.7 Cafe Movil. (8) Summer only? We didn’t see it.
+6.1 Los Arcos (14.1)