Camino 5 - 2009


January 21, 2009

Leaving Again

Tomorrow I leave on my Fifth Camino!

As Sir Walter Raleigh wrote in the 16th century in His Pilgrimage

"GIVE me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope's true gage;
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage...."

.....Later in Comments Martha wrote...
.........Godspeed! I'm so glad you are back on your feet!


January 22, 2009

St Jean Pied de Port

Today I took the TGV from Paris to Bayonne and then the local train here. I am staying in the wonderful albergue run by Mme Jeannine. Entering the front door begins the new adventure!



January 23, 2009

Breakfast with Mme Jeannine

After an early breakfast this morning with Mme Jeannine I set off in the rain. It felt great to be walking again!

Although it had been cold last night I felt snug by folding a blanket in half and placing my sleeping bag on top of one half and the other half on top of it. It made cozy 'sandwich' for sleeping.


January 23, 2009


Today I walked about 14k to Valcarlos. This is a good stopping place before tomorrow's climb to Roncevalles. It rained all day and I was soaked! However efficient electric heating and a great hot shower made all the difference. Now it's toasty.

This is a brand new municipal albergue and guite differant from the old one where I stayed on earlier Caminos. It is a bargain at 10 euros. However you still access it via the town hall so that you must arrive during business hours.


January 24, 2009


At last I am at the almost mythic monastery of Roncesvalles. It has been quite a day! Walked 18 k in 5 hours through strong wind, heavy rain, sleet and eventually dence snow! Saw no other pilgrims and few people. Tourists in one car that passed took my picture and the Guardia Civile asked if I needed help or a ride. Now it is GREAT to be inside, seated and relatively warm. I am the only pilgrim.

The monk who stamped my Credential invited me to the evening benediction for pilgrims. It was lovely. The service was held in the ancient Romanesque church (now cozyily heated) in front of the magnificent silver sculpture of the Virgin. Three monks assisted and asked me to stand at the altar. ...In retrospect how special it was to be the single pilgrim where crowds have stood throughout time. ...Today I took no photos since the storm was too strong.


January 26, 2009


Yesterday I left Roncesvalles as dawn broke. Lots of snow covered the ground and surrounding mountains. Walking for safety on the N135 roadway and not the Camino, I trudged along. Down then up and down again; alone for 30k or 18 miles! Truly alone amidst the pines like some German storybook character. Also worried since my telephone had stopped working and I knew that Bill would be concerned not hearing from me.

Exhausted, by mid afternoon I arrived at Zubiri. Found the excellent Pension Usoa. Clean, warm and cozy; perfection! Called Bill and learned how to fix the portable. At last all was calm....Today it also snowed so I will stay in Zubiri again tonight.

.....Later in photo Comments...
........R Wealthy said...Great!
........and Bill Graham said...Superb! And judging from the reflection you shot it from inside the room which I hope was warm.


January 28, 2009

Trinidad de Arre

After spending a second full day in Zubiri I decided to leave this morning no matter what the weather. In fog and light rain I walked mainly on the road due to all the water and mud accumulated along the Camino. Other than one mad dash into the very wet grass for a 'loo' all was fine. The famous Arga River where Hemingway liked to fish was churning with high water.

Earlier I had worried about one area on today's route remembered from past Caminos. It mounts steeply up and then clings to a cliff for a stretch before leveling out. It could be dangerous in the rain! Even a search on the Net for alternative hiking routes into Trinidad was unsuccessful. Nervous I walked closer. Suddenly in the distance approaching me appeared a guy holding an umbrella.

At first I was leery since it was hardly weather for strolling! We greeted each other and chatted mixing Spanish, French and English. Best of all he knew another level path which would join that to Trinidad! We walked safely on together....Such chance encounters make up the Camino's serendipity.

.....Later in photo Comments Bill Graham wrote...
.........I like the composition here.


January 29, 2009


At the very moment last night as I wrote the word 'serendipity' in my blog and sent it off another pilgrim entered the albergue. Happily speaking Italian he was welcomed at the door by the two Spanish pilgrims. I was writing in the common room. The Italian entered, started to say 'buona sera' and then enthusiastically shouted 'Margaret'! Imagine my delight upon realizing that he was Mario whom I had last seen at Burguete in 2008 during Camino 4!! Another fortuitous chance encounter indeed.

We and a French pilgrim, Polo, had met on the little train going to St Jean Pied de Port. As Mario and I recollected those 'old times' we tentatively promised to meet again next year in 2010 on the Camino. May our lives be such that we míght.

.....Later in photo Comments Bill Graham wrote...
.........What an incredible coincidence! And how much your photos are improving with putting the center of interest slightly off center. That little cellphone camera serves well.


January 29, 2009

Cizor Menor

Today was an easy, but wet, walk across Pamplona to Cizor Menor. I revisited the magnificent Gothic cathedral where the cloister paving was treacherous from recent downpours. Besides its architectural style much of the art within the complex came from France. As such it exemplifies the close ecclesiastical/political bonds between Navarre and France throughout history.

Leaving the church in pouring rain I met a charming priest. He wore a beret and insisted on holding his huge umbrella over both of us. After wishing me 'buen Camino', he made the sign of the Cross. All this at a busy street corner in pouring rain!

Now I am at the comfortable private albergue run by the Roncal family. There are two Spanish guys also. They seem to have tons of stuff in huge backpacks. We all ate at the nearby El Tremento restaurant. Their Pilgrim Menu was delicious, copious and cheap!


January 30, 2009


Today I went off the Camino Frances and cut across country to Tiebas on the trail coming from the Somport pass. Both trails will join at Puente la Reina. It was an easy 16k ending in sunshine! How nice after a week of storms. As I was walking along the country road several times drivers stopped concerned that I was NOT on the main Camino!

There are two reasons that I came this way; in order to avoid the steep Alto de Perdon which I laboriously climbed twice before and this is the route for Eunate where I hope to be tomorrow. Here in Tiebas also at lunch in the one cafe were two French pilgrims who had crossed at Somport. We compared snowstorm stories.


January 31, 2009


Once again today I walked into perfection, the church of Santa Maria de Eunate. This small, circular structure is more than 1000 years old and may be based on the plan of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Nestled into the rolling countryside it is truly timeless. Protected within the dim interior one senses the deep peace of eternity. ...May my memory of such beauty and calm endure.

Although I have visited Eunate several times last year was the first time I stayed at the albergue.
Today I am the first pilgrim to stay in 2009! Jean, the French hospitalero, is still here and so very gracious. He invited me to join him and some friends for tea. We ate the most delicious goodies! What a wonderful day this has been.

.....Later in Comments Anon wrote...
.........Walked there in the summer of 1995. Deep respect for your undertaking as winter pilgrim. Eunate is indeed a magical place . Hope that during the coming days the weather will not affect your walking too much. Puenta de la Reina is nice. Keep warm. Ultreya

and in photo Comments Bill Graham said ...
.........If I recall correctly this is the tiny albergue just a few meters from the church. It is hard to believe there is room in that small building for a dining area AND beds. Your little cellphone camera sure does a fine job.


February 1, 2009

Puente la Reina

Before breakfast at Eunate Jean placed this lovely prayer beside my place at table.

"May the way open to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rain fall softly upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Indeed might this be so.
It was hard to leave. May Eunate last another 1000 years. ...

I quickly walked the few kilometers to Puente la Reina and settled into the albergue run by the Padres Reparadores. It is next to the Romanesque Church of the Crucifix. Pilgrims have been welcomed here for centuries. Four Spanish guys arrived. One had been walking since November. He had followed the Via del Plata from Seville to Santiago and now was walking the Camino in reverse. The others were going my way towards the west.


February 2, 2009


First thing this morning I had a tasty breakfast at a nice little cafe right on the Camino before the famous bridge. The freshly squeezed orange juice was a real treat. Once across the bridge a man told me that the Camino was far too muddy and suggested that I walk as far as Maneru on the road. He was briskly walking for his health and tried to do 10k every day.

At Maneru I rejoined the Camino and set out across vineyards and lots of mud.Eventually near Cirauqui the path follows antique Roman paving and uses two ancient bridges. By Spanish lunchtime or mid afternoon the three guys from the night before caught up with me. We all arrived at the Estella albergue together covered with mud and are the only pilgrims.


February 3, 2009

Villamayor de Monjardin

I left Estella just after sunrise. At long last the weather was wonderful with a clear azure sky and no wind. Perfect for walking! The landscape has changed with many more vineyards and on the far horizon snow-topped mountains. When passing the impressive monastery at Irache which I had visited on earlier Caminos, I didn't wait in the cold for the necessary hour when it would be open. Soon the three Spanish guys passed saying "adios". I'll miss their hearty presence.

Since the parish albergue in Villamayor de Monjardin is closed now I am staying in another pleasant albergue run by a Dutch group. The two hospitaleros are very gracious and friendly. They cooked a delicious 'ristafel' which we shared with much talk about our personal beliefs. The only problem is the heating system has just been installed and is not yet working correctly. This dorm is FREEZING!

...Later in photo Comments Don Pedro de Carrion de los Condes
......said Lovely shot! Keep on walking!

......and Bill Graham wrote Handsome composition, Meredith. Good work. Photos are getting better all the time. Hope the next albergue has a heated dorm. It must be hard to type on those little Nokia N82 keys in the cold!


February 4, 2009

Los Arcos

It was an easy walk of 12k
to Los Arcos. The weather and path were perfect; clear azure sky, bright sunshine (in fact I got quite rosey) and a wide, dry path with no mud. The type of day one dreams about. Mid route two pilgrims came up. One had been walking since Aix-le-Chapelle in Germany where Charlemagne was crowned. They said 'hello/goodbye' and sped on walking with the wind.

Here in Los Arcos although there are 3 albergues only 1 was open. Since I had unhappily stayed there last year I did not return. (I do NOT recomend the private albergue near the municipal one!) Now I am in a cozy room in the pension Mavi. The heat is great and the food very good.

.....Later in Comments Anon wrote...
.........Enjoy your next night in Torres de Rio. Great church as I remember. Hope the weather will not be too bad tomorrow. Ultreya !

and in photo Comments Don Pedro de Carrion de los Condes said...
.........Indeed you have great weather!


February 5, 2009

Torres del Rio

The weather changed drastically from yesterday. The sky was pewter and threatening rain. However I quickly walked the few kilometers to Torres del Rio while remembering the time when I slipped in the mud and drastically hurt my knee.

Torres which is a picturesque hill town has a wonderful circular Romanesque church similar to Eunate. At night the church is beautifully illuminated.

The municipal albergue is closed so I am in a homey private one, Casa Maria. The loos and showers are outside on the patio so it better not rain. There are five other pilgrims; two girls only going as far as Logrono, a Polish guy, and a Canadian couple. We are all squeezed into three bunk beds in a small dorm. At least we will keep each other warm!

.....Later in photo Comments Don Pedro de Carrion de los Condes wrote...
.........It 's a great church as I remember! Hope the weather is not too bad for you. Have a nice meal with wine and enjoy!


February 6, 2009


It was cold and wet walking to Logrono. The sky was dark and the land sodden with water and,of course, mud. Hence for safety until Viana I walked on the road. Just outside Logrono the Camino entered a new region, Rioja.

It is always a pleasure to stay in the Logrono albergue. The Amigos keep it immaculate and there is interesting art about. Tonight we are 5 pilgrims; 2 Canadians, 1 Polish, 1 Spanish biker and myself. Hopefully no one will snore.

.....Later in Comments Anon wrote...
.........Hope you will have an enjoyable walk in the region of the good wines!

.....In photo Comments Don Pedro de Carrion de los Condes said ...Hope you will enjoy the good wines of Rioja!
.....and Margriet van Tulder, The Netherlands, said...Great to see that you are doing fine on your pilgrimage. I will certainly keep following your travel en enjoying your photos. Good luck!


February 7, 2009


This morning I left the Logrono albergue before dawn broke. After crossing much of the city finally I found a bar open for breakfast. As usual the freshly squeezed orange juice was great!
Unfortunately it started to snow. What a mess! The sidewalks turned slippery and it was difficult to see.
Nevertheless in the big recreational area on the west of the city there were several hardy souls. One jogger was even wearing shorts!

It was good to finally stop and get warm. Since the municipal albergue here in Navarrete is closed the Canadians and I are staying in a very comfortable private albergue, El Cantaro. We also had a truly delicious lunch at a nearby bar, El Molino. Now happily warm, dry, clean and full I will sleep!

.....Later in Photo Comments Don Pedro de Carrion de los Condes wrote...
.........Great impression ! Ultreya as they say !


February 8, 2009

Najerra on Sunday

Today the sky was cloudy and the wind cold hiking to Najera. Innumerable vineyards were planted in heavy, deep red soil. Truly terra cotta. It can be exhausting to walk through this stuff which really sticks to your boots! My legs ache.

Tonight there several 'new' pilgrims with the Canadians and me; 3 Spanish guys and 2 Spanish women. The historic albergue used to be in the famous monastery, Santa Maria la Real, built against the imposing red sandstone cliff. Now handsomely restored the monastery has become a museum. The present albergue located on the riverbank seems to have been recently assembled from prefabricated units, but tonight there is neither much heat nor any blankets. I'll wear my wool hat to bed and try to keep warm!

.....Later in Comments Anon wrote...
.........Much respect for your undertakings... Take care. Ultreya


February 9, 2009

Santo Domingo de la Calzada

It was a hard push walking 25 k to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Much of the way is up and out of the vineyards. There is nowhere to sit, not even a big rock. The distant snow-capped mountains are beautiful, however, especially when lit with early sunlight.

After gently climbing for at least 2 hours in such natural beauty it is a shock to finally arrive on top and find a new golf course and huge housing estate! Much is unsold and may never be sold, but the landscape is marred forever.

As I began the descent towards Santo Domingo suddenly I saw the Austrian hospitalero from Ventoso, a nearby village where I stayed 2 years ago. She still assists there but now has her own albergue in Cireuena. She is a wonderful hostess. Either spot (both are now closed for winter) would be a good stop.

When I arrived at the parish albergue in Santo Domingo that hospitalero said that the cathedral was closed for work. I asked where the famous chickens were. Usually they live in a splendid coop WITHIN the church. He took me by the hand into the albergue garden. There in an ordinary coop the chickens are spending the winter! (For a full discussion of WHY there are chickens in the church and much other history regarding the Camino read my earlier blogs for 2004-2008.)


February 10, 2009


Last night after I crawled into my sleeping bag in the dorm I had to get out and move due to the incessant LOUD snores of the Spanish guy. What a racket! In desperation I slept on the floor of the 'dining' room. It was wonderfully silent until the chickens crowed before dawn!

Today was a rest day with only a short walk of 6 k to Granon. It is always a pleasure to arrive at this albergue! The hospitality is authentic although the hospitaleros change. The sign at the door simply reads 'Welcome pilgrim, make this your home'.

The handsomely renovated space is set within one of the church towers. A fireplace has even been installed. All is very relaxing. Delicious meals are offered by the hospitaleros. Although the only pilgrim I was joined at both lunch and dinner by two workers who are restoring the church interior.

Lack of heat is the only problem! We all ate dinner wearing our coats. Now I will again wear my woolly hat to bed, or, to be precise, to mat. Here pilgrims sleep on mats on the floor of an added mezanine.

.....Later in photo Comments Don Pedro de Carrion de los Condes wrote...
.........It is a great place!


February 11, 2009


Today I got up early and was walking as the dawn broke. Brown hills, blue sky and a biting wind from the west composed the scene. Shortly after the Camino entered the region of Castille and Leon I stopped for a while in the village of Viloria de la Rioja, the birthplace of Santo Domingo, the 'engineer' saint of Calzada fame. Today there is a very pleasant private albergue, Refugio Acacio & Orietta, run by a Brazilian and his wife. Their hospitality is gracious and their library outstanding! Next time I'll stay longer.

When I finally reached Belorado only one private albergue was open. Painted orange it is huge with many dorms each having 20 bunks. All is spotless and anonymous. I was alone with wonderful HEAT. However 5 Spanish guys have just arrived exhausted, cold and wet. They have walked 50k on their first day! I wonder if they will even attempt a second.

......Later in Comments Acacio wrote
.........Thanks. Orietta and I stay here at the Refugio Acacio&Orietta to help all peregrinos all the year...Next year I hope you will stay too one day...Buen camino !!! Acacio & Orietta


February 12, 2009

Villafranca Montes de Oca

Today was not the best. The sky was dark, the hills brown, and the mud thick as I trudged along. Unfortunately I also had the 'trots' which made everything more depressing.

It was a GREAT relief to arrive at the Villafranca Monte de Oca albergue. In an old school the door is always open. I always feel at home here after spending 3 snowy nights during the 2006 blizzard (Camino 2).

After a hot shower I ate a delicious 'menu de dia' including paella and trout stuffed with ham at the El Pajaro a nearby restaurant popular with truckers. A long siesta followed. Now two Spanish bikers have just arrived; we three are the only pilgrims.


February 13, 2009

crossing the Montes de Oca to Ages

Today the weather was perfect with a clear blue sky, frosted vegetation and generally frozen mud. Walking 16k through pine forest crossing the Montes Oca to Ages was relatively easy. I never saw anyone until San Juan Ortega.

Revisiting that beautiful monastery church was sad. The priest who had been so active there revitalizing the Camino died one year ago. How lucky I had been to sample his famous garlic soup served to pilgrims after evening mass during my first Camino. ...May he be in peace.

At Ages many of the albergues are closed. So I am staying at a charming private place, the House of the Snail, where I also stayed last year. The gracious hospitalero is named Paz. The only problem is the lack of any heat other than the wood burning kitchen stove. This dorm is truly FREEZING; another night of wearing my knitted hat to bed!


February 15, 2009


It has been a busy 2 days. Walking from Ages to Burgos was an exhausting 26k over hill and dale. Passed through Altapuerta where the oldest human skeletons have been found in Europe and then saw strange flat stone circles on a hill which I assume were laid by those early men. After such bucollic musing the junction of the Camino with Highway 1 was a jolt! At least there was a sidewalk.

Finally I arrived at the wonderful new Burgos municipal albergue. Close to the cathedral in a handsome historic townhouse with ingenious new interior spaces it is a bargain at 3 euros! I asked to stay 2 nights in order to get a bit of heated rest.

When I arrived exhausted the hospitalero was going to lunch and invited me to tag along. We ate in a Senior center and had paella, liver, and yogurt for 5 euros each. Another bargain.

Today I had to be out on the street by 8am. It was cold looking for an open cafe for breakfast. Next I revisited the magnificent cathedral. Within its priceless collection are two of my favorite images of Santiago; one as a pilgrim, the other as a warrior. The first is a small standing figure with wonderful curly gold hair and beard. His broad brimmed hat boasts a shell and he holds a staff with water gourd. The other is Santiago Matamoros where he is riding a rearing horse and slaying Moors.

Now it's time to sleep and to gain strength for tomorrow's route.

.....Later in Comments Elly wrote...
.........Your web diary has gotten me off the fence in respect to making my decision to return to the Camino. I fly into Barcelona from Broome, Australia on the 9th of March!! I did the Camino in 04, but had huge trouble with my archilles tendons -too ambitious too early on. Now I return to complete it, hopefully walking into Santiago on Good Friday and turning 40 in Paris on the 14th April. I hope to see you there somewhere? And wish you a happy 70th.


February 16, 2009

near Hornillos del Camino

Left Burgos at dawn for a long trek across the city and eventually starting to climb the baren Mesquita on the west. Walked about 26k in all.

Just outside Burgos the Camino passes a large prison with an old- fashioned panopticon plan where one guard could stand in the center and survey all. It appears to still be in use. One can imagine the frustration and bitterness of the prisoners towards the hoards of pilgrims free to walk at liberty on the Camino just beyond that fence!

Since the albergue in Hornillos is closed for renovation tonight I am off the Camino at a Casa Rurale called El Molino in nearby Vilviestre de Muno. This handsome bed and breakfast is a renovated water mill. After I telephoned the owner picked me up from the Camino to spend the night at the mill and will return me after breakfast tomorrow to the same spot on the Camino. A proper bed with sheets will be a nice change!


February 17, 2009


Yesterday at the Casa Rural I never had dinner, but ate a picnic in my room instead. In the night other guests arrived. We all met at breakfast this morning. They are also pilgrims, a father and adult son from Korea taking time out 'to get to know each other'. Eventually our host drove the three of us back to Hornillos to continue following the Camino.

We set off; the guys in front since I like to walk slowly. After one or two kilometers suddenly there was a spurt of patting their pockets followed by looks of disillusion. Something was missing! Indeed the father had left his Credential and wallet on the breakfast table now located 8 kilometers away!! He asked me to telephone the Casa Rural for help.

It was quite a conversation with me speaking French and English and the staff Spanish. Nevertheless all was somehow understood and they kindly brought his forgotten items to him.

Now 24k later we 3 are in the pleasant municipal albergue in Castrojeriz. There are also an Irish guy and a Spanish couple. The Spanish are traveling with a DONKEY which is noisily eating outside the window! He also seems to snort a lot. ...What a world!

......Later in Comments Anon said...
.........Great account!......and Kerry Bail wrote... Watching and reading your progress, well done. Keep going and keep up with the interesting blogs and photos. Hope all is ok.

......Later in photo Comments Don Pedro de Carrion de los Condes said:
.........Aha, a snoring donkey! Big fun !!


February 19, 2009

Leaving Castrojeriz

Yesterday was another lovely morning with a pale blue sky and gentle sunshine. Gerry, the Irish pilgrim, and I had breakfast near the albergue at the Taverna a bar which has a Brazilian connection. They are always very welcoming to pilgrims. The owner, a true diplomat, said "Hola Americana!" as I entered! What a memory! After copious servings of toast and fresh orange juice the two of us set off.

It was a steep climb up the next mesa but the view from 'the top of the world' was worth it. One could see widely for many kilometers; to the east the path we had taken and to the west the path we would take. It was a brief, perfect moment.

Then suddenly perfection was smashed. My phone rang with a text message/bill from the French service provider. The sum was HUGE! Services I had believed to be included in the basic plan were all charged individually by the minute because I was in Spain. What a jolt!

Gerry and I continued walking down into the region of Palentia and the village Itero de le Vega where we stayed in a private albergue at the entrance to town. Two Spanish guys joined us. Unfortunately Gerry and I were sick in the night.

Thus today we slowly walked to Fromista. Now I am in a cozy room in a nice pension, Casa Marisa, where I stayed on earlier Caminos. The food is good too. Hopefully by tomorrow all will be ok.


February 20, 2009

Carrion de Los Condes

Spending last night in the comfortable pension was a true rest. This morning Gerry and I continued meeting a German couple and a Danish girl 'en route'. The chill was brisk with thin ice on the puddles, but the blue sky was clear with milky sunshine. After 19 k we all arrived in Carrion de Los Condes and are staying in the Espiritu Santo convent.

On the way at Villalcazar de Sirga the famous Templar church was closed. However another of my favorite Camino sculptures was in plain view in front of a restaurant. Here is a chubby life-sized pilgrim complete with shell, water-gourd and staff seated at a table set with plate and mug. Next to him is an empty seat for you the passing pilgrim. 'Buen Proveche/Bon Appetite!'


February 22, 2009


Yesterday's Camino basically followed an old Roman route to Calzadilla de la Cueza. It was an exhausting 20k. I walked with Stine a Danish pilgrim who resembled the aviatrix Amelia Earheart wearing a chic black walking suit and tìght cap. Gerry could not walk; he was too sick.

There was one Spanish pilgrim in the albergue and the same hospitalero as two years ago who cooked dinner for us. He certainly kept the place warm; in fact it was tropical!... In the evening across the hills there was a surreal moonrise which resembled painted theatrical scenery. Magic.

Today I walked alone about 23k to Sahagun. The municipal albergue is closed for renovation so I am in a simple hostal across the street. Somewhere mid-morning the halfway point to Santiago from St Jean Pied de Port was crossed. Hence now I am on the 'other side' of my mental map.

At San Nicolas del Real Camino I ate Sunday lunch at the Casa Barrunta where I always stop. The food is good and they are pilgrim friendly. During the past five years nothing has changed except the waiter looks a little older, but so do I!

...Later in photo Comments Don Pedro de Carrion de los Condes said......Lovely! and BaxeeHun said......Its the most interesting scene I have seen!!!


February 23, 2009

El Burgo Ranero

The albergue here in El Burgo Raneros is closed for repairs so I am in a hostal across the way. All these unavailable albergues 'under repair' is denting my budget, since any alternative to pilgrim lodging is usually far more expensive!

Walked 18 k this morning in sunshine with a constant matinal companion - my shadow. Always there slightly to my right since the morning sun is behind me, it is an uncomplaining, intimate presence. ... Shades of Peter Pan! However, it does seems to slouch a bit!

Although I do get weary I love walking! Hearing the continual crunch of one's footsteps is very reassuring. You know that you can do it and can continue to do it as long as you have the energy. Ultreia!

...Later in Comments B said...
......Great photos. Glad to hear you have good weather. All is well here.


February 24, 2009

Mansilla de las Mulas

Today was another beautiful one for walking. I did the 18 k to the walled town of Mansilla de las Mulas by lunch and since the albergue door wasn't open went to the restaurant next door for the Menu de Dia. The owner, when asked what time the albergue opened, simply shrugged and hadn't a clue! Although the two buildings share a party wall their inhabitants share no words!

Eventually the albergue did open and the pleasant hospitalero remembered me from past Caminos. Polyglot and very pilgrim friendly she always keeps this place immaculate. She mentioned that tomorrow it, too, would be 'closed for repairs'. Such repairs are not ordinary renovation but FUMIGATION! It seems that many albergues were attacked by an infestation of either fleas or bedbugs last autumn. Although generally killed by winter cold professional intervention will really do the job.

Tonight there are 5 other pilgrims; 2 Spanish guys, the Danish girl, a young German fellow who has been walking since October starting near Leipzig and a French man who previously has treked to Rome. Tired and quite rosey from a day in the sun, sitting around the kitchen table all of us shared our tales.


February 26, 2009


I walked 17k into Leon yesterday under a cobalt sky and brilliant sun. It was actually hot!
Just before the Camino entered the city it crossed a major highway. Dashing across those several lanes of traffic is always unnerving and dangerous. What a relief to arrive on the other side in one sweaty piece!

I am staying two nights at the Benedictine convent near the cathedral. Very pleasant; it is comfortable, clean, heated and serves a good free breakfast. The Mother Superior said that she remembered me from past years! I think it is my age, glasses, white hair, and tan as well as the fact that I always wear the same navy blue clothes that people remember. How to create an image at 69!

Mid morning I sampled one of the delicious gastronomic specialties of Leon; hot chocolate so thick that the spoon almost stood up in the cup. This was served with freshly made cruellers. What a delicious, caloric treat! Fuel for tomorrow's trek.

Later in photo Comments Don Pedro de Carrion de los Condes said... ......You're more than halfway !


February 27, 2009

Villadangos del Paramo

I left Leon in milky sunshine and started toward the distant snow-capped mountains wondering as I walked where exactly the Camino would cross and my route would lie for the next few days.

At the town of Virgen del Camino I revisted the splendid contemporary church built for the Dominicans late last century by Francisco Coello a follower of the Brutalist style of Le Corbusier. Located in the midst of chaotic suburb it is a superbly maintained architectural gem as well as a haven of peace. Perfection.

As I continued it actually got hot! Cold Coke instead of my usual hot tea tasted great. By Spanish lunchtime I had covered 22k and was dripping with sweat. At Villadangos del Paramo I staggered into a truck stop near the albergue. What a way to make an impact! The place was packed; about 80 very macho men and I enjoyed the daily special. They all seemed curious about what I chose for dessert!

Now at the albergue which is as FRIGID as last year there are three other pilgrims; a Spanish girl who has only just begun and a French man with a teenage boy. The man has volunteered to walk with delinquent youth to try and redirect them towards a better life style. He and the boy have been walking for 2 months. Starting in Seville they followed the Via de Plata north to Santiago and now are returning to St Jean Pied de Port by walking the Camino 'in reverse'. Their journey of potential rehabilitation will end in another month. ...May it be a success!


February 28, 2009

Hospital de Orbigo

This morning we four ate a quick early breakfast together in the still frigid albergue. Then the two French guys left going east towards Leon while the Spanish girl, named Mayte, and I continued west. The way was easy and the path wide, but the weather has changed to cloudy and grey with a hint of rain.

At San Martino del Camino Mayte and I stopped at a private albergue for a delicious and copious second breakfast. It was also a bargain! Huge cups of tea, lots of hot toast, muffins and special homemade jam for 3 euros each. Our hostess remembered me from stops during earlier Caminos.

Around lunchtime we arrived at Hospital de Orbigo where I fell in 2004. The parish albergue which is in part of the manse has been handsomely refurbished with new bedding, kitchen and showers. The townspeople are very welcoming and the priest most gracious and VERY talkative. Two other pilgrims arrived later; a German boy and a Spanish man. We are all sleeping in the same small dorm which is HEATED. It is very cozy!


March 1, 2009


In the rain and wearing our ponchos Mayte and I set off early this morning for Astorga. Although the path was very muddy and quite slippery, the dense colors of the landscape were lovely. All was terra cotta, umber, and deepest green.

One wandering puppy walked with us for the longest time as if he were our guide. Once the towers of the cathedral could be seen in the fog on the distant horizon, the puppy turned and left. His job was done; we could see our goal.

Now we are staying in the very comfortable albergue, Siervas de Maria, on the eastern edge of the city. There are about 10 other pilgrims, all guys. Once a convent this is a recently renovated multi-level space. It has many dorms and good facilities. Most important for the moment is HEAT! I am tired of wearing my wooly hat to bed trying to keep warm!

Late tonight the city will celebrate the end of Carnival with nearby fireworks. Hopefully I will be warm, asleep and oblivious to any noise.


March 2, 2009

Santa Catalina de Somoza

Left the albergue early for breakfast on the Plaza Mayor. Many of the other pilgrims joined me; then we went our separate ways. After buying some basic food and getting euro bills in small denominations (try using a 50 euro bill in a remote village) I set out towards
the mountains.

While crossing the highway a brown UPS delivery truck zoomed past. How strange to see that familiar color and logo in English here in very rural Spain! Mentally I associate such trucks with childhood parcels from Macy's delivered sixty years ago. How times have changed!

Now I am in the tiny mountain village of Santa Catalina de Somoza staying in a private albergue over a bar, the San Blas. It is cheap, very friendly and extremely clean. Hope the heat works!

Later in Comments French pilgrims wrote...Hello! We are the two French pilgrims at Tiebas. We are happy and surprised to find your blog. You were the first pilgrim that we met after 4 days of Camino and it was a pleasure to eat with you. Just after we went to Eunate. You were right it's a one of the best places of the Camino, always in our mind. Unluckly the albergue was closed and we went on to Puente la Reina. Later, we also met Mario THE Italiano (in Villafranca, after Santo Domingo de la Calzada) : a very sympathic guy! We came back to Dijon two weeks ago and you are lucky to still be on the Camino. Ultreia! Buen Camino!


March 3, 2009

Rabinal del Camino

Today was glorious with a cobalt sky and bright sun. As Mayte and I walked the easy 12k up towards the picturesque village of Rabinal del Camino the once distant mountains became close.

We were the first to arrive at the private albergue de Pillar; now there are about 20 pilgrims including many guys with bad blisters and one young Japanese girl. On arrival our hostess hugged me tight while recalling my earlier visits.

In the cold dusk some attended evening mass in a small 18th century chapel; the service was sung by two monks from the local monastery. Both gilded and painted in pastel tones the glorious Rococo retable had at its top a charming statue of Santiago dressed in his usual pilgrim garb. ....Leaving the service the sky was heavy with clouds and it felt like it might snow.


March 5, 2009


Before dawn yesterday morning a continuous brisk noise resounded within the dorm. Could someone be stuffing plastic bags? No, sleet was hitting the roof. The weather had changed, drastically!

Nevertheless we pilgrims set off to cross the mountain. Our path grew more and more slippery. Snow began to fall; pretty at first, then stinging and very cold with an incessant wind. Walking with great difficulty on the snow-covered road after 6 k I arrived at the tiny village of Foncebadon. During my first Camino it had been a ruin.

Luckily a private albergue, Monte Irago, has been created and was OPEN. After delicious hot tea and toast Mayte and decided to stay in this warm and cozy spot. ... Now a full day later the snow outside is deep and still falling and the wind still howling. What a storm! We may be here until the spring thaw!


March 6, 2009

Foncebadon continued

Our third day here has begun. The main room now resembles descriptions of Mt Everest base camp! Several new pilgrims who were stuck at Rabinal have made it here since the storm seems to have broken. Supposedly the road is being plowed so if no change for the worse occurs tomorrow I will try to continue. Outside there are at least 75 centimeters on the ground with much deeper drifts.

Psychologically the mood this morning is a mix of Sartre's No Exit and some 1930's social realism written by Clifford Odets.
Instead of being greatly relieved to find physical warmth, clean beds and good food available in the middle of a snowstorm on the side of a mountain, some pilgrims complain about the prices! Indeed, they are slightly higher than in Astorga but the stuff has to be brought in.

.....Later in Comments Joan wrote...Hi! What an epic journey! So glad to get your accounts. I hope the weather warms up for you.


March 7, 2009

El Acebo

Today Mayte and I finally left Foncebadon walking up the plowed, dry road to the mythic Cruz de Ferro. Giving thanks for being able to come this far, I tossed a stone carried from our French garden onto the immense pile at the base of the famous iron cross. Pilgrims have made this same gesture since the middle ages; today the scene resembled a medieval landscape painting with deep white snow covering the ground and thick white fog swirling above. ...All seemed timeless.

Now we are in El Acebo, a charming mountain village. Little has been 'gussied up'; much is authentic. Slate from the mountains covers the roofs; second floor porch galleries open onto the single street, the Camino. A friendy bar/restaurant, Meson El Acebo, has an albergue dorm upstairs. Eight other pilgrims are here tonight. Hope the heat works!

...Later in Comments Joan wrote...Hi,I have been following you since Jan everyday, then you disappeared after Santa Catalina until today.I am so glad you are back. My friends and I leave Vancouver at the end of the month to start our Camino at Cahors Apr 1st. Your blog has been a great help.I now have many "must sees" on my list. Thanks.


March 8, 2009


Today's long walk down to industrial Ponferrada was lovely; eventually it was hot with bright sunshine and a cobalt blue sky. Happily I removed my gloves, hat and jacket. Spring has arrived. What a difference from just 48 hours ago! On the hills almond trees were blooming as well as daffodils in suburban gardens.

Unfortunately the albergue is not so pleasant; it seems crowded with about 25 pilgrims jammed into 6 small dorms. We all use the same toilet/shower facilities. Thus the waiting lines are often very long! However, the free Internet is great.

I am always amazed by the amount of stuff that some pilgrims lug with them. First of all their backpacks are too big plus being filled with far too much. A good 'rule' to follow is to carry no more than 10 % of one's weight; I weigh 65 kilos and my pack loaded, but without food, is 6.5 kilos. (All my winter kit is listed in Camino 2/2006.)

Many winter pilgrims also wear clothing that is far too bulky. It doesn't need to be thick in order to be warm! I wear a long sleeve runner's shirt over a short sleeve technical tee shirt. My jacket is a lightweight windbreaker. All is polyester. After 5 minutes walking briskly I have always felt warm, except when in sleet. For my next Camino lightweight, truly waterproof gloves would be a BIG improvement.


March 9, 2009

Villafranca del Biezro

Today Mayte and I began walking back up into the mountains, but now on the west of Ponferrada. It took a long while to cross and get out of the city. Next came endless acres of rolling vineyards for the famous (and delicious) Bierzo wine. It grew more and more difficult to find the Camino's yellow arrows which mark the route. After passing through the 'lost' town of Pieros, hot and exhausted we arrived here at Villafranca del Biezro.

Since the munipal albergue is closed we are staying in the truly unique, private albergue, Ave Felix. About 20 pilgrims are crowded into one of the dorms. Over many years this place has slowly evolved as has its reputation. Everyone seems to know NOT to drink the water nor eat here!

A nearby restaurant serving delicious food and wonderful Biezro wine is the Puerta del Pardon. I ate there happily on my last two Caminos. It is named after the famous door on the local Santiago chapel where pilgrims too ill to continue once were given repentance. Unfortunately the restaurant is closed on Monday and today is Monday. We need to find an alternative fast!


March 10, 2009


Today was another beautiful one hiking in bright sunshine up the Valcarce River valley to this tiny village, Ruitelan. After last night's crowded conditions such a small albergue is a haven of cleanliness and peace.

Called Pequeno Potala it is run by two gracious Spanish Buddist men. A small bell tinkles when you enter. Soothing music is playing in the background. The food is copious and delicious. Massages are available. Six other pilgrims and I are enjoying this special spot.

Some are repacking in order to be ready early tomorrow. Always curious how others do it, I'm a 'bag lady'. Separate categories of my kit, ie. clothes, toiletries, sandals and sleeping bag travel in sturdy plastic bags within the backpack. Thus all is relatively waterproof as well as easier to locate than if 'lost' within the pack. For pure aesthetic pleasure the opaque plastic bags are colored burgundy red. They are simple book bags from Gagliani, the oldest international bookstore in Paris. Surely they would be surprised with their bags reuse as a matched set of Camino luggage!


March 11, 2009

O Cebriero

After breakfast today Mayte and I began the long, hard walk up to O Cebriero. It took us about 6 hours to arrive at the top. What a view! I believe we could even glimpse the distant sea.

Long ago I realized that the usual footpath was far too steep for me, so I walk on the old N VI highway. It is longer, but a gentler way. However, I always wear my backpack while many pilgrims send their pack up in a taxi. To each his own! What matters is to DO IT!

This is another mystic and mythic stop on the Camino. During the middle ages due to the strong faith of one simple parishoner the wine and bread of the mass are said to have truly changed into Christ's blood and flesh. The church became famous and royalty sent priceless gifts. Today this small church is kept immaculate; it and the tiny village form a protected historic site.

Late last century a recent priest, Elas Valña, was one of the three religious 're-founders' of the Camino. He is buried in the adjacent cemetery; many plaques and stones commemorate him and his work.

As I write sitting in the almost luxurious comfort of this newly renovated albergue the stars are shining above the mountains, mountains which Valña deeply loved.
How and what might he feel in summer when hoards of casual tourists tramp along 'his' path?


March 12, 2009


Today Mayte and I left O Cebreiro and started walking further into the province of Galicia. It was another glorious sunny day, the kind you dream about.

We stopped for a welcome second breakfast at the bar atop the Alto de Poio, the last high mountain pass of the Camino. The owner and her daughter recognized me from past Caminos. One year I stayed with them when the nearby albergue was closed. It is always a pleasure to be greated as an old friend, but especially so on the Camino!

After the Alto the route descended through a series of switchbacks and easy tree-lined paths down to Triacastela. Now the scenery has changed; low stone walls divide vast meadows into smaller plots.

Tired and extremely rosey from the almost hot sun we staggered into town.
It was a pleasant surprise to find a Spanish translation of Rudyard Kipling's famous poem "If" prominantly posted in the main square. Although written to inspire men to fight during World War One, many of the verses are appropriate for the Camino or even ordinary situations.

Tonight we two are the only pilgrims in a pleasant private albergue, Le Berso do Camino, where I have stayed 3 times. All is spotless. Now for a HOT shower and sleep!


March 15, 2009


For the past 3 days Mayte and I have been almost continually descending through a picturesque spring landscape mixing
narrow paths, low stone walls, melodious brooks, frolicking newborn animals, birdsong, huge trees, tiny wildflowers, cold morning fog and hot mid-day sun. What a wonderful brew!

We passed through Samos and saw the exterior of the imposing Benedictine abbey. After peeking inside the albergue, which I remember as being frigid a few Caminos ago, we didn't stay.

Next came Sarria. The municipal albergue has recently been renovated and looked great with stone interior walls and slate floors. However, it was far too crowded for comfort. We stayed further up the historic hill in a private albergue, O Durnimento where I stayed before. Very clean and very comfortable with fresh duvets on the beds, it was almost empty.

Today Mayte decided to try walking alone; I'll certainly miss her companionship. Tonight I am in Ferreiros exactly 100 k from Santiago! This is a perfect small albergue with only 22 beds amidst a beautiful landscape. Nearby down the hill next to the local church is a very good and very friendly restaurant/bar, Meson Mirabilos. My truly delicious Sunday lunch was fresh clam soup, breaded veal cutlet with cream sauce, cheese tart, thick country bread, water, wine and coffee for 10 euros! What a bargain! (As I wrote in my 2008 blog this is NOT the place next to the albergue which is neither friendly nor good.)


March 17, 2009

Palas de Rei

Summer has arrived! Yesterday and today were really hot! Early morning fog west of Sarria evolved by noon into brilliant sunshine. Sweat dripped off my face as I staggered into the tiny settlement of Gonzar.

Although there was a municipal albergue I stayed in a very comfortable private one, Casa Garcia, which also served meals. It was a very attractive rehabilitation of old stone farm buildings. All the floors were black slate. Brownstone was the basic material of the walls so the mortar was tinted beige with ocher. Natural wood bunks had crisp white cotton SHEETS topped with camel colored polar blankets. No brilliant color broke the subtle aesthetics. What a pleasant surprise.

After another beautiful hot walk through pine forests and tiny villages tonight I am just east of Palas de Rei in a spots complex. The is a new albergue where I also stayed last year. It is quite crowded with Spanish pilgrims dashing to Santiago. Here one gets a thin paper cover for the mattress, but it doesn't really fit and slides about. However, the nearby restaurant, La Cabana, has excellant food. Now to sleep.

...Later in photo Comments Saturn-es wrote ...seria un honor ter a tua foto engadida ao grupo/it would be an honour to have your photo added to the Galicia group. Blopsmen said ...This is magic! Lovely image. Milutxo wrote...Fantasmas en la niebla, preciosa foto!!


March 19, 2009


It has been exceptionally hot for the past two days! Some pilgrims are wearing amazing combinations of clothing in order to cope, ie wet tee shirts as sun hats! This morning 2 German girls and I got up very early in order to be on the Camino by 8 am to try to escape the midday heat! What a difference from 2 months ago at St Jean Pied de Porte when all was still dark (and cold) at 8 in the morning!

Now the Camino has become a narrow forest path crossing numerous hills covered with endless groves of tall eucalyptus trees. At least there is some shade!

Last night in the Melide albergue was not the best; about 12 pilgrims were jammed into one airless small dorm. For some unknown reason the heating was also on full blast! The effect was tropical so I moved into the spacious, unheated lounge and unrolled my sleeping bag across 4 chairs. It was firm, but I slept.

Tonight in the Arzua albergue is very clean and comfortable. I have always enjoyed staying here; it is a most handsome rehabilitation. Best of all the showers are spacious, hot and spray you and not the walls! Bliss.


March 22, 2009


Ouf! Wow! Eureka!
In glorious sunshine after morning fog I arrived in Santiago yesterday! Weeping with mixed emotions I received my fifth Compostella. While checking the records the polyglot clerk smiled and whispered "See you again next year". ...May it be.

Re-entry seems difficult already! It was a jolt to suddenly hear a jet landing at Lavacolla airport while walking the last kilometers through the eucalyptus. Named for the nearby place where during the Middle Ages pilgrims washed before entering the cathedral city today time zones collide here; the hidden ghosts and weight of history within the forest versus contemporary reality on the landing strip!

I will be in Santiago for another night before continuing on to the sea at Finisterra. Over the years I have always enjoyed staying at the hostal Libredon Barbantes in the shadow of the cathedral. My tiny private room in the attic with shower and toilet is a bargain at 23 euros a night. From the velux window in the roof you can see the cathedral towers. More importantly you can hear the giant bells strike the hours. I love it and feel like Quasimodo at Notre Dame. Now this is MY cathedral!

Another spot which is always a pleasure is the Cafe Casino on the rua Vilar. It has existed since 1873. They do breakfast, drinks and a very good, almost elegant, daily lunch for 10 euros. The old-fashioned decor (but with WiFi) reminds me of the Algonquin in NYC. ...Now for a siesta with bells.

...Later in Comments Kerry Bail wrote...
Congratulations Meredith. I have watched/read your journey and cheered you on from Melbourne. Your are an inspiration.

Gerry said...Well done Meredith. Delighted to hear you made it safe and sound. You're an inspiraton to us all. Same time next year?

and in photo Comments Don Pedro de Carrion de los Condes said Great!


March 27, 2009


Since Monday, March 23, I have been slowly walking towards the sea and today reached landsend at Finisterre, kilometer 0. The weather continues to be magnificent and there have been several new long distance walkers.

Mentally I was saying adieu to 'my' Camino. This week each step taken, each hill climbed was very special for being close to the last.

Going along I silently gave thanks for all that has passed during these nine weeks of walking; for my own extraordinary good luck, growing strength and intense determination to endure, for strangers' gracious offers of help and other kindnesses, and for fellow pilgrims' shared conversations and meals. What a mixture!

Of course I hope for another Camino in 2010 (during my 71st year!), but if that can not be at least these precious memories shall endure as long as I. ...


...Later in Comments Liz (Australia) wrote...
...Wonderful effort. I have enjoyed your diary. Thanks for sharing it. It is inspiring me - I am 40 and starting my first Camino in September (and I know it will not be my last)

Karine et Belin from Dijon wrote ...Congratulation for this Camino, one more! See you again in 2010!

and Stine wrote ...Hi,Lovely to find your blog and to know that you arrived safely in Finesterra. Funny how you write exactly the way you speak, it is almost as if you are in the room with me when I read your blog!I am very glad to have met you and wish you all the best!

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