Published: July 10th 2012May 1st 2012
Epic communal dinner! Sat opposite Gandalf the Blonde!
The Way of St James.
This is the start of my third, most recent and also most challenging adventure to date. Unfortunately due to time restrictions, we weren't able to start in ST Jean pied de port. I do regret this, however the trip was regardless, amazing.
The start of this trip, was a coming together of months of planning, practise and excitement, me and my partner Serina, flew into Santander from Frankfurt Hahn where we had been relaxing ahead of the trip. From there we caught a coach to Logrono, where naturally, we feasted in celebration of the trips beginning, in the capital of Spanish tapas.
We awoke the next day, around 4am. Our idea was to walk during the cool of the morning, in hope of not being completely boiled by the midday sun. The first day, is one which I can remember quite vividly, all the preperation goes out the window as soon you start something like this, because you can never know how your body will react.
Now, I will state now, my parner Serina has much more travel experience then me, additionally she had practised so much more for this trip then
Me and Serina watching the rising sun. I think just after Azofra
I had, by at least 10 times. However, I think she will agree not even this was enough. Having aimed to complete 20Km a day, the first 10 or so went quite smoothly, however it was after this, that surprisingly, Serina started to struggle. Her feet around this time, began to develop several blisters a piece, which would unfortunately plague her for the entire trip. I coped with relative ease, however, I am built for long distance walking and I do have good experience in (good shoes help as well). However I didn't get off scot free for the entire trip.
We managed the full 20 km this day, ending up in a lovely little village called Ventosa where we had a comfy night, although we were disappointed when we were awoken early by Peregrinos, despite the people running the Albergue requesting that we wait till 5am, when we would be awoken by chants from recorded monks. Now in general, we preferred to up early then this, however we believed in standing by our hosts rules, to ensure their ease and all around us.
The Next day had us walking to an amazing little village called Aforza. This
Hard walking good people
If only Roger was in this, it would of been perfect. I think it was before we met him
was a shorter, yet so much harder walk, because now, Serina's feet were so painful, she was in utter agony within the last kilometer, with the town in sight. We were greeted in a street cafe, by a lovely Japanese man called Takechi we met the day before, although we hadn't spoken properly until now. He too was planning to stay here this night. I think this was one of my favourite albergues, you slept in two person rooms, which was naturally nice. Additionally it had the most amazing foot pool, which I can say now, we spent a lot of time in, simply relaxing our feet from the hard walk.
With spent the rest of the day with him, with this we also met Laurie and Jenna, two German girls who were also walking on the camino, though had started off seperately - two ways to tell a German, they always drink coffee with milk and on the camino, they always come in packs!
We decided with our new found group, we would leave early morning about 3am, so we went bed early and got up earlier. This was one of my favourite walks on the camino,
Group photo in Belorado.
Just before we all split up, but we all found our way back!
all the way to Granon. We laughed joked and practically skipped to a mid way town. where we met Roge. an older British man, who was walking the camino in stages, this being his second. as I write this, I can imagine he is planning his next stage. When we arrived in Granon, we found out we would be sleeping in an old church. And that we would be cooking a community meal. This was a really amazing night, 40 of us ate, drank ( a lot ) and had a good time in the grounds. We drank far too much and the next day was really not good for us. I am quickly coming back to this to add a little something from a man who I call Gandalf the blonde. (see the photo and read the next to see why). He taught me, that the camino provides. Now again, I am not spiritual, but I have come to believe in, especially considering all that happened in the trip. He is an old pilgrim, who travels all year up and down the camino, he works in hostels and given free food and accommadation. He is even given the choice of the lost and found. He believes he was given this luck all by god. He carrys on him no money, the camino provides all. But he does work for it. The camino provides.
The next day began with the mother of all hangovers for us all! It was a fairly sad day to be truthful, because the short lived group ended up splitting with myself and Serina staying in Belorado. A little town a mere 15km from Granon, between Serina's feet and hangover, we were never going to make it further. This was one of the first days we almost considered packing it in, Serina's feet hurt too much!
Now, truth be told, I do not remember the next village or town we spent the next night in. I have a inkling that it may of been San Juan de Ortega, but I am not totally sure. Actually it was probably Atapeurca. But either way, it was a long old slog of a walk at about 30km. However, I cannot describe to you the beauty we saw on the way. High hilly roads and tall established forests surrounding us. Quite possibly the most beautiful site on the whole camino for me.
I spent the day with Serina and a multitude of other random people. two Italian guys, one I am sure was called Simone and his friend. A Norweigan, who's name, I am afraid is impossible for me to write or say. And happily we bumped into Roger and the two German girls. However the German girls were looking somewhat worse for wear. Everyone beside the German girls stayed in, I am going to assume Aterpuerca. We had a nice meal all of us and plenty of drinks.
It was here that we also met, a rather odd group of travellers, three Germans, who all more or less hated each other, with a young English guy, who merely woke up one morning and booked the trip and left the next day. And another older Brit, who Roger would subsequently refer to in his memoirs as the devil. (Because no one walks the camino, without courting the devil) While I am not spiritual, I saw why Roger saw this man in this light. He was flippant, tempting and yet gave a vibe which was not entirely trust worthy. I struggle really to describe, for me he was a normal person, but not necessarily one I would meet again. But hell. what do I know, maybe I met the devil and passed?
The next morning we left for Burgos, considering our start, we were in total awe of making even this far, for the most part I was fine, although, this was about to change. Serina was in a very bad way though.
Something was right the moment we left the next morning, it was an surprisingly cold night in our rather cramped room of about 10 people, I think this caused my tendons to contract or something to cause additional damage to the walking with an unseen problem - I will bring this up again later.
My knee hurt, it hurt a lot, but I thought little of it, I was stiff and was walking a fair amount, I assumed it would walk off. Also walking with my friends and chatter and laughter aleviated most of the pain, so I didn't really notice. The walk to Burgos was 22km of the hottest weather we had so far in scenery, which could not of been of more different to the ones we had experienced the day before. In short, this may of been either my lowest or second lowest day on the entire camino, I think if it weren't for the company it surely would be top by a country mile.
The walk into Burgos, is atrocious, 2km of hot, industrial city. So bad, many camino veterans actually bus this part, and will often preach to the newcomers that they should do the same. Which if you have been on the camino, the idea of using any form of transport unless necessary is the worst thing you can do. So maybe this gives you an idea of how bad this part of the walk actual is. I myself passed the time with Serina and two Italians. I spoke football to one and Serina practised her Italian to the other.
So here we are, in Burgos. I guess this part of the story is finished. But I guess I should fill you in on what we did in Burgos, well me and Serina checked into a pension for two nights, so we could have our room, to err, relax! Our little group was once more reunited, Takechi, Roger, Laurie and Jennie, Serina and myself, all had a nice day to catch up. Although, this would prove to be the last time we saw Laurie and Roger, as they with Jenna, left the day after arriving. Roger and Laurie never finished. But I imagine they will one day. Takechi stayed one more day like ourselves. It was a happy and sad two days. I am happy to say we saw Jenna again. But that in itself is a miracle of the camino, because, if we thought getting to Burgos was bad. Leaving it was going to be even worse.
So, please bare with me as I finish my travel in the camino, I have since returned from a month epic in Eastern Europe and I cannot decide as to whether my time would be best served finishing this story, or writing the other as it is fresh in my mind.
So watch this space!
The world is a book and those who do not travel, only read the first page - Saint Augustine