Monthly Archives: September 2014

Day 14. Logroño to Ventosa

What a shocker stuck in a Latin sauna with a bunch of MAMILS.
I couldn’t charge the phone either.
Stirring began at 6 but I had already been up earlier to beat the bathroom rush and had fallen asleep again.
I packed up and turned the light on at 7 so I could see what I was doing. Lots of Italian nods that having light was better. Someone had also opened the window too refreshing the atmosphere considerably. I wandered down to the second landing where there was a power outlet in the wall under an extinguisher and plugged the phone in then arranged my pack around it. Then I went and retrieved my still damp laundry which I proceeded to pin the the back of my pack, in vain as it turned out.
I stood and journaled and posted for a bit but as it drew towards eight I rain coverpacked up and headed out the from door.
It was raining a light misty rain.
I walked on for a bit testing the strength but eventually stopped to break out the pack’s rain cover.
Its a long haul out of Logoño but as I pull up at a crossing a pilgrim says he saw me yesterday and how was I doing?
Luc from Montreal and partner have been on the road for 41 days from Le Puy in France and would have already covered over a1000 k’s.
I go ahead as they stop to adjust something. The Camino takes me on a cook’s tour of the outer industrial zone but eventually there is a tar road then a shortcut and I breakout into a park with what looks like a senda or concrete pilgrim highway.
I spot a water fountain and fill up as Luc goes by and while I’m at it a banana and some chocolate will do.
The senda is concrete over tar and not my favourite surface. I walk for 90 minutes mostly alone in the drizzle until I get to a reservoir and stop for a break. I have been carrying a can of coke since Sansol so I relieve it of the contents, open a packet of almonds and add some chocolate. Everything feels good today so I keep going. In the next bit the path begins to climb. In quick succession I see my Malagan friend from breakfast and then the MAMILS. They give a cheer as they pump their cycles slowly bye and the chubby one gives me a big “Buen Camino” and high-five all sticks and handlebars before puffing on to catch his mates.
Eventually I top the hill and can see Navarrete in the distance. I’m damp, a bit cold and my feet are sore from the paved roads.
I pass by an old hospice ruin and take a photo. An old lady engages me in Spanish and we have a sort-of conversation about the ruin which is dated 12th century.
It’s another steep climb into the village and I’m bushed when I get there. Utah John is chatting to a pom and the French lady says hi how am I doing. The Maltese faction from Sansol are also here. I but a Tortilla and Aquarius, a bit like a powerade, and proceed to eat. A young Tassie couple plonk beside. They are on a gap year and decided to do the Camino on a whim.
I call Ali a little after 12.
By a quarter past I’m on my way again as this is a long section. The afternoon is broken only by meeting a gentleman who is convinced the shell sign is wrong. It isn’t.
It’s a long shuffle uphill for two hours and when the sign to Ventosa shows up I take the diversion. At the bar I ask for a salad and a beer and they taste wonderful.
It’s about 10 k to Najera and downhill. At my pace it will probably take me till 5.30 or 6 to finish but my feet are very sore so I head to the Alburgue.
The first face I see is Lainie shortly followed by Connie and Utah John.
I made the right decision and after a shower and a chat with Brian Sheridan of Dublin I start to feel human again.
It’s off to do laundry standing on cold wet tiles in my bare feet and by the time I get a machine and get back to the bed I’m shivering.
Also in my room are the Tassie whimsters and Bill and Shirley from Scotland.
I sit in the foyer journaling and manage to introduce everyone to each other as they converge.
I have arranged to dine with Brian and Billy and Shirly at 7. We are joined by Stephanie from Franfurt and duly saunter up and over the hill to the cantina for a simple meal, mine being paella, pork loin and chips and rice pudding interspersed with Rioja vino tinto. They are sailors although the dinner topics range far and wide. There is no visibility of what is happening in Australia.
It’s after nine by the time we return and my laundry is all dry. It will be a good start for tomorrow.
I sit in the downstairs parlour. Stephanie is also quietly journaling and there is some classical music playing and a nice log fire.
I didn’t take a lot of photos today but there should be some nice ones.
Buen Camino

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Day 13. Sansol to Logroño

Utah John was gone before breakfast but after most of the others. I had an included breakfast of orange juice, plain yoghurt and American coffee.
I met a Malagan who had already walked from Los Arcos this morning and had dropped in for breakfast. He commented that Malaga was full of English, German and now Russian tourists. Captain Obvious pointed out that it was very cold in Russia and it’s probably the heat that was attracting them.
I bid farewell to Jenni and Lilliana and set off. After Gregs comment about the camera I was determined to stop and take a lot of photos. The camera has a setting where it puts a few seconds from each shot into a movie of the day.
You descend a steep path out of Sansol before crossing a restored arch bridge and rising through the steep streets of Torres del Rio.
Once out of town the path tended to drop into and climb out of a series a valleys and the descents were steep with one marked at 10%.
This is very much wine country with lots of vine planting on the slopes.
At one point I come upon an area of little rock piles with objects and messages from pilgrims.
Near the top of one steep ascent was a large group of peregrinos resting on a flat glassy area. One called out to stop and rest but I said there was an even bigger hill ahead that was mine.
At the top I could finally see Viana and the path joined the tar road into town. I came up on Lilliana hobbling along and we chatted a bit but I pushed on.
I walked non-stop to Viana and made it into town a little after 11.30 taking three hours even and though my knee was tender both my feet and hips were Ok.
I stopped at a cafe in the town square and a lady said ” I know you, you’re John.” It was Catherine who was last in company with Connie et.al. She was concerned for me but I assured her I was Ok. A little while later Canadian Nurse Jennie and Lilliana arrived and looked inside but Jennie was after a salad which seemed in short supply and off they went.
I cruised the length of Main Street but nothing took my fancy and then at the end I glanced left and saw a sign so went to investigate.
The man in front if the bar jumped up and said “Menu Peregino?” And I nodded, so he ushered me inside.
After decombobulating I sat and he sat beside me with notepad and smile. I was the only seated customer. I said “Me sin gluten”. “Si” he nodded. I ordered salad and then said “arroz”. “Paella” he offered. “Si. “. In the postres I heard “melon” so repeated it. Then a drink to which I said “Coca-Cola”. His smile slipped a bit because I didn’t take the vino tinto.
The coke arrived and it was a biggie.
Then the chef bought the salad and it was a meal in itself. Tuna, asparagus, tomatoe olives and cheese with lettuce and onion and a beautiful dressing.
I was well fed and by the time I was finished a large group of pilgrims turned up stumbling Spanish. I told them the meal was fantastic so they sat down. When paying I left a one Euro tip and the manager reached above his head and rang a cowbell and yelled in English, “for ze chef”.
The bar was called “El Villano”
Outside I called Ali because there wasn’t any reception inside.
It was then time to take on the long walk to Logroño. This time it was pretty flat all the way. Just outside town I bumped into Catherine and her German friend. They went by while I was coating up in the light rain. I followed them for a long while but surprisingly overtook them after 2 hours and then pulled ahead. Once I crossed into La Rioja on the outskirts of Logroño the path turned into a brownish-reddish tar road. I could here pilgrims coming up and then Valerie and Agatha from Norway slowed for a chat. They knew me but I can’t remember from where. This was their third Camino and they were about to finish and go home. We said farewell and they took off.
I could see the cathedral now and pulled up at a little stall run by and old lady where I bought a cold coke for one Euro. Had a chat to Tom from Germany who liked visiting Perth.
Off again for the finish and I crossed the bridge and made it to the Albergue. On the way up the stairs a familiar face helped me with my pack and I saw a few others too.
I’m in with a bunch of Italian MAMILS.
Did my laundry and journaling and now to check out the town.
My Malagan friend just stopped for a chat.
I headed out to find dinner but it’s raining heavily. I’m looking for a restaurant I saw on Google but suddenly I’m in backstreets full of Africans. There’s a long line and a policeman standing there. I walk on and veer away eventually finding friendlier locales. There’s a cafe with umbrella’d tables but it’s all gluten so I back to the right and find a wide pedestrian mall. There’s a guy sitting in a kebab shop window that looks western and as I approach it turns out to be Utah John so we shake and I take the recommendation and now I’m full of kebab’d chicken and apple drink.
The hospitalieros have bought my clothes in so I just need something to wash away the salt and it’s beddy bye for me.
Tomorrow is a 30 k stage.
Buen Camino.

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Day 12. Villamajor de Monjardin to Sansol.

After a disturbed night people began stirring in the cramped stuffy room shortly after 6 and the dim light went on at 7. I stirred out at 7.30 and dressed and packed by about 8. I sat for a while charging and journaling and generally waiting for the sun to come up. I eventually dragged everything outside and got my shoes on on started down to the store.
It wasn’t opening for another half hour and as far a I knew there was nothing till Los Arcos, 12 k away.
I felt great and really stepped it out over country paths and then roads leading down from the mountain into the heavily farmed valley.
After an hour I could see some walkers in the distance that I was catching. This couldn’t be! Yep and as I got closer I could see it was Connie and Lennie.
I followed them for a while and when they stopped I mentioned that I saw a sign there was a bar ahead soon. They had there own food so I kept going and around the next bend was a van. Hallelujah!
Breakfast of tortilla and fresh orange juice and a nice rest in a chair.
I’m weary now and the euphoria of the early walk is gone and my hip and knee are aching a bit do I have backed off a bit. The walk is fairly solitary now and I only meet a few pilgrims. I round a corner and the path leaves the road and travels beside a small creek. There are two picnic tables but amazingly both occupied so I keep going and very shortly it’s back to gravel road.
After cresting a hill I can finally see some buildings in the distance and I catch up with Connie et al and proceed to shuffle the traditional long canyon that tends to be the Main Street of old Spanish towns.
At last I make the town square next to the cathedral and I find a table and spread out in the shade. It’s 11.30 and I’ve covered 12 k in 3 hours, a very respectable speed.
The waiter turns up and I order risotto fungi and a coke for 8 euro.
After 12 , I call Ali and she’s out with Mell destroying a Moore’s Creek. It’s Saturday night and the girls are partying!
I manage to post yesterday but cannot add pics or do Facebook because the wi-fi is too feeble.
I go sit in the Cathedral for a while. There is an old priest with a laser pointer giving a talk to a young Spanish couple. His voice has more gravel than the roads I walked today.
It’s time to go and I’m not looking forward to it but I’ve been watered and fed. After adjusting my shoes I head up a rise of lane way and at the crest in the distance I can see a pile if blocks with a centre spire way over on the other side of a shallow dry dusty valley. Could this be my target? If so it’s the first time I’ve been able to see where I’m going. The walk is long and tiring. At one point the path leaves the road heading away to the right and maybe I’m mistaken but I come out on a tar road and follow the arrows straight back to the target trudging up and over the hill to the Albergue Sansol.
For 21 euro I’ve got bed, meal, GF breakfast, laundry, wifi and a great hot shower.
I’m bunked showered laundry’d and resting in two upps.
I’m bunking next to John, fit 50 y.o. from Utah who is in the sound business.
For Greg, the brands are RBH Sound and statusacoustics.com. Check out the vocefina.
John is engineering granite speakers with four different materials of insulation. Aluminium, a tarry substance, silicone and foam. I’m sorry Greg but most if it’s going over my head.
Utah John is a 20 mile a day man so he has taken one week less than me to get here.
By the book we have travelled 144 k.
I dined with John and Jenny, a nurse from Vancouver and her Camino pal Lilliana from Mexico. Dinner for me was potato salad, meatballs and chips and rice pudding with a beer.
Afterwards John and I went up to the shops to provision tomorrow which I hear will be raining. I’m not sure I’ll be ably to go all the way to Logroño so I’ll just have to put one step in front of the other.
We have a nice chat on the architecture of the impressive garden wall amongst other things and I was able to recall more early Australian history that I imagined.
It was a good day but I’m not looking forward to the rain tomorrow.
Buen Camino
Typical large haystack as in the movie.

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Lunching in Los Arcos village square

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Looking back at Los Arcos

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Sansol on the horizon

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The view from my bunk window back to Los Arcos

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Day11. Estella to Villamayor de Montjardin.

It is my earliest start and my weakest. Up early and packing after a seemingly good sleep I stop downstairs to use the wi-fi. I bump into Chris and Lisa again and I’m not far behind them out the door but by the time I get to the gate they are out of sight.
The pull out if Estella is a long uphill one on concrete back lanes but eventually there is a steep descent and I am in farmland. It is very chilly and I’m sweating so it’s a bit uncomfortable.
One hour in and there is a picnic area with concrete tables and benches so I stop for breakfast number one which consists of a banana, some salty tinned nuts and water. I’m sitting in the weak sun trying to absorb some rays. I can hear Spanish tractors out tilling Spanish soil in company with the birdsong.

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Back on the track and Oscar and Ciello go by for the second time. There are a few more walkers out as I go by the Hotel Irache. Somehow I’ve made the 5 k mark in good time but I feel weak and my knee is troubling me.
I cross a road and on the other side is a concrete block so I stop for breakfast number 2, more nuts and water. Once I start again I emerge from the overgrowth and there is a ploughed field in front of me but the path turns left. I follow a pilgrim on a shortcut across the field and halfway across I can hear footsteps behind me so I step aside to let them pass and lo and behold it is Jo an Bee my Korean friends. And looking over their shoulder is the most breathtaking view to the north over vast valleys to a range of white cliffs. Photo op!

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We continue on in company for a while but on a steep descent the girls pull ahead and I can see them in the distance climbing into the village of Azqueta.
When I get there I bump into Chris and Lisa again and then head into the bar for a breakfast number 3 of tortilla, fresh orange juice and the remaining nuts.
Outside again with the girls I can see the castle atop Montjardin and zoom in to show them.

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We are off again and after a fairly gentle climb up the side of the mountain I make it into Villamayor de Montjardin. It’s 11.30 and I sit on the bus stop bench watching people go by. After 20 minutes I walk to the back of the church and sit on the stone wall waiting for the midday bells. They are loud this close.
Time to call Ali for a long chat.
I decide I’ve had enough walking today and will stop here today.
I wander up the hill to an Alburgue run by Dutch Christians which I discover later.
There is a group waiting and I bump into Missourian Troy who is blessed with a strong voice and opinions to go with it. He has had a tough journey having just lost his restaurant lease and is on a regime of pills.
We are booked in one by one and it’s 18 Euro for a bed and a meal.
When I get to my bed I lie down for a bit but then do some laundry and sit on the parapet chatting. I go for siesta.
About 4pm, I shower and change and do the rest of my laundry then sit downstairs charging the phone and writing. While I’m there, the host comes in and start re-arranging things. A Philipino nurse from Calgary has asked to sleep downstairs because she can’t make the stairs so there goes my sitting room.
Texan Connie and sister have also booked here but I don’t see their Canadian friend.
Dinner is at 6 pm and I’m next to Troy and John and wife from Calgary. It’s a very noisy affair beginning with prayer, a salad and then chicken teriyaki and rice. I gratefully accept a second serve.
Desert is a pudding cup. A very nice meal for 2 Euro.
The hosts then offer us a little book of Johns’ Gospel in our own language as a gift to take with us on our journey.
Afterwards I stroll through town and find the path to the castle which I ascend partly, coming upon a flat area with a big log for appreciating the view so it’s selfie time.

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The hosts offer a reflection time in the stable at 8 pm so I go and meditate and afterwards there is mint tea and I have a nice chat with the host’ daughter. This is their third season and it is very quiet and cold in winter. She offers me a blessing for me and my family and I depart to bed where the lights are out. Tonight is one of snorer’s hell and they are already in full swing. I don’t sleep well. I hope tomorrow will see me energised.
Buen Camino.

Day 10. Puenta La Reina to Estella.

Distance so far 114.5 km.
The church bell’s gentle tolling tells me it’s 6 am. I’m felling better so up for a shower at 7 and pack. No breakfast yet so I’m on the road a little after 8.
The pilgrim bridge is closed for repairs so I stop to take a photo and re-pack as it’s not sitting well on my back.
The bridge at Puenta La Reina

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All sorted and I’m off and soon on a track past farms.
After a bit I get to a very steep hill and it goes on for a long time. I stop for a rest then keep going and the top appears so I walk it off and a big stone shows up so its time for a rest and some water. A few go buy so it’s time to go.
After a quick climb I make it into Circauqui and stop for a breakfast of orange juice and tortilla. Chat to some Aussie ladies then hit the road again. At a corner store I venture an apple juice, some drinking yogurt and chocolate and have the yogurt there and then. It gives me a strange sensation most of the day but it stays down and I’m sure my bones need the calcium.
It’s a tough descent so when we cross the highway I choose it instead of the Camino all the way to Lorca. It’s a long slog but a much more even surface and when I stop in the square, Dave from Tuscon and his Argentinian show up but don’t stay. There are a bunch of young poms seemingly on effortless holiday.
I trudge on but pass some Korean girls and say hi.
Some gentle country roads and tracks and a tunnel lead me to Villatuerta and another rest. I could stay here but Estella is my target and so I go on. I catch up with the Koreans one of whom is in a bit of trouble with her knee. I offer half a paracetomol which is accepted and off I go again. Nearing Estella a couple of German pilgrims go by on horses.
The Koreans overtake me and I need to sit and rest for 5.
My target is the Oncineda and so another long shuffle is required at the end of the day. I eventually catch up with a young group that has previously passed me and walk into the Albergue and who should be at the counter but the Koreans. I book in and go looking for my room. I’m in with the Koreans and a European couple that passed me a few times today.
The Koreans, Jo and Bee invite me to dinner which involves a long walk through the streets of Estella but I feel refreshed after the shower.
We shop and I pick up some orange juice, and a peach for tomorrow.
At dinner I order Paella with chicken and seafood. It’s too much but no problem because Jo and Bee dive right in. I think I know what they will order next time.
Jo and Bee outside the Cathedral

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On return, we sit in the foyer wi-fi-ing and I hear a “Mr Jones”. It’s Chris and Lisa Wicker so we stop for a long chat and I think how remarkable that the Camino brings us together in such an unremarkable way. They are also finding it tough which lifts my spirits by comparison.
It’s nearly time to go up. I just have laundry to do and then bed. Ah glorious bed! Oscar and Ciello our Spanish roommates have just walked in.
Buen Camino.

Day 9. Obaños to Puente la Reina

Very bad night with food poisoning. I couldn’t get a taxi of bus so I had to walk to Puenta La Reina. I stopped to buy a can of lemonade but could only get lemon. The flavour was a bit acidic but I sat quietly on a bench next to shop and drank it all interspersed with water.
I made Puenta La Reina in about a hour, found a bench as sat for a bit pondering my options.
The guide said there was a hotel down the street so I found it, booked in and slept the day.
I arose showered and changed and went down for dinner at 8. Didn’t eat much but it felt ok.
Back to the room, a little laundry and bed. A very tough start to the day but finding this room has been very good.
Tomorrow is another day.
God bless.

Day 8. Cizur Menor to Obaños

The church bells gentle tolling tells me it is 6 o’clock. I’ve been awake but had a good sleep. The mountain I need to cross today is the last of the big climbs for a while. At the top are some wind generators I saw when I was coming in yesterday and feature in the movie.
Because I slept late yesterday arvo, I showered this morning and did my laundry as well because this refuge has a dryer.
There isn’t anything in the vending machine that appeals for breakfast but I have the cheese and chorizo I bought yesterday to sustain me. I must hunt out another peach.
By 8 am nearly everyone has left and as soon as the clothes finish so will I.
I stop at the little shop and buy a big peach for 0.65.
I head off and am soon on a rocky muddy path through the fields. Met more Koreans. Me Cheong went out of his way to introduce himself and gave me a formal bow which I fumbles the return of.
I stop for breakfast and mix a paracetamol a little after which I can feel the effect of.
I’m thinking of my daughter Laura who has been accepted in the Disney internship and will be in Florida next January. I know how excited she must be.
I start climbing up the side of the mountain huffing and puffing and get passed by Dave from Tucson retiree on no particular timetable other than to avoid being left behind by his woman.
At Zariquiegui there is a group of pilgrims busying breakfast and I enter lolling for a suitable snack. I spy a banana ANC ask and the lady provides but then waves me off for payment. I gratefully accept and leave.
Outside I meet two Australian ladies from Perth. I head on up the hill by going down first to catch the side street. The path is rocky, narrow and muddy and it takes a lot of perseverance to push on but I know that at the top I will get to the pilgrim monument, a memorable scene in the film. The path is not particularly steep but it is arduous and the closer to the top the windier and noisier it gets from the massive wind turbines.
I make and collapse on the corner of a plinth. Water! That’s better!
I call Ali but no responses. After a bit I get a text message. I call back and congratulate Laura but she’s out with friends.
Aussie John from Brunswick obliges a photo and I return the favour. After bidding “gidday” to Dave and Co
I start the descent which comes with a warning and so it should. It’s a gully of boulders up to the size of a softball and it’s really testing my knee but I take it real slow and manage to get down. I spy a bench and stop for lunch of cheese.
A few Bon appetites go by.
On the track again and eventually get to Uterga. There’s a bunch of perigringos at the Albergue. I stand there considering staying but moved on anyway.
It’s one of those decisions you immediately question but having stepped forward there’s no stepping back. It gets tough.
I struggle into Muruzábal and rest on a bench and polish off the chorizo and the rest of the cheese.
I’m refreshed and can actually see Orbanos across the valley.
It’s a nice path and halfway across the trees start singing to me.
Under a tunnel with more messages about this not being Spain but Basque Country and a long concrete road ascent to Obaños. Around the cement mixer and follow the shells to the Albergue.
It’s 4 pm and I think I’m the first customer and after pegging out the clothes I go to sleep. I’m exhausted and aching all over. I wake about 6.30 shivering as usual.
I hear mass is a 7 so I get up and go running into Texan Connie on the way. The mass lasts 30 minutes and I’m able to follow a bit better than Sunday. For a small village the church is spectacular with multiple retablos.
The cantina serves diner at 8. I head down a little after and join Phyllis and Bill from Tuscon. They don’t know Dave and Co. Later joined by Connie from Texas and sister Lenni and friend Catherine from Canada.
Off to the cantina for dinner with Conni Lenni and Catherine as well as
Phyllis and Bill from Tucson. Later young Steve from London turns up.
I’ve had a little too much wine and Steve notes that it’s door shutting time so off the bed. It will not be a good night.
Buen Camino.

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