Free wine!

Today was the first day after my parents left and we had a lot of kilometres to catch up on. We figured out we needed to do about 33 a day in order to make it to santiago on time.

The day started out really well, the guide book mentioned a small restaurant in Cacabelos that would give pilgrims a free glass of wine and snack if they walked in and said “¿Tiene un vaso de vino por un peregrino que esta muriendo de sed?” which means Do you have a glass of wine for a pilgrim who is dying of thirst? Well seems like they did!

After our surprisingly large free snack we headed off into the nearest town to stick up on dinner supplies before camping. Unfortunately when we got to town the store was closed for siesta so we stopped in to a bar for a quick drink to wait out both the rain and the siesta. Man did we walk into a great little bar with wonderful tapas and a lot of locals. It’s nice to get off the Camino sometimes. Prices also seem to drop…

In the end we managed to do our shopping and headed up on the alternative route for the Camino, one that goes through the mountains instead of the valley and what a great choice! We were surrounded by fields of yellow and purple and camped hidden amongst the flowers that night.

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Ponferrada and the end of the mini Camino

So today was my parents last day on trail. I think they did an absolutely incredible job just jumping on trail and then keeping up with me and AJ!

We had a late start to the day as my parents wanted to explore the town a bit and we wanted to explore the breakfast buffet so it was closer to 10am when we left, but we weren’t worried, out was only a 16km day. Thankfully!

The walk into Ponferrada turned out to be mostly on road and pavement and insanely hot weather! We took lots of breaks and enjoyed the shade whenever we could!

After our late breakfast we weren’t hungry again until about 14:00 and ended up having a picnic on the side of the road under a massive tree. The only tree. For miles. In any direction. So hot!

Thankfully at this point we were close to town and after one final slog we made it to the centre and promptly found a suitable looking bar for a beer. After an ice cold drink and the use of the internet we found another amazing hostel, just around the corner from where we were. My parents have been spoiling us with private rooms and this place was no different. The room was enormous, so much so that it even had a couch in it!

To say thank you to my parents we decided to take them out for dinner but all the restaurants only opened at 8pm! To solve this issue we bought our own little apero from the grocery store and took full advantage of our enormous room to host a mini pay before heading off to a pizza dinner! (It’s very hard to find vegetarian options in Spain, let alone vegan….)

The Camino will test you

But never more than what you can handle. Or maybe we can handle a lot more than we think we can.

Since we had my parents with us we wanted to do a shorter day, our options seemed to be 16km or 27km and we decided 16km would be better for a first full day of hiking. However, the Camino was not having it. We couldn’t find any private rooms in 16km and my parents didn’t have sleeping bags or any kind of linen! So now we had the choice of a really short day of 11km or a massive day. Kudos to my parents for choosing the 27km day! And what a day it turned into. It’s the day we climb to the highest point on the Camino frances and get to the Cruz de Ferro, a very meaningful place for a lot of people. My parents managed like troupers! Not a single complaint all day and probably one of the hottest days we’ve experienced on the Camino.

20 by 12, no problem…

Today my parents are joining us for a few days on the Camino. They’ve flown from south Africa to visit Italy and are taking a brief detour to see us and since we’re hiking, they’re going to hike too. They’re arriving at the train station in Astorga which is 20km from where we slept last night. Wee thought that we’d be safe hiking 20km before their train arrived at 12:30, and if we’d left camp at 8, that would’ve been fine, except we didn’t, we left somewhere closer to 9 and I only realised the problem around 10, when we still had 15km to go! I was still determined to make it to the station to meet them so I upped my peace and set off with the air of someone who refuses to fail! Thankfully most of the walking was flat or downhill so I was able to make good time. AJ kept up with me for a bit, feel behind, then caught up and then fell behind again when he spotted these long trains of caterpillars walking across the path and stopped to have a look.

By 12 I could see the town of astorga and was making an insanely hurried descent into town. Unfortunately the train station, although not far from the trail, had no direct road to it so I ended up having to weave my way through a maze of streets. In the end I got to the station just before 1pm and there were no parents! I thought they’d got tired of waiting so I went across the road to a bar to try get WiFi and see if they’d sent me a message to let me know they’d gone somewhere for a drink or some lunch.

I ordered my beer, got the WiFi code and nothing. No messages. By this tone I thought maybe AJ had arrived in town so I got hold of him only to find out he’s at the train station and has found my parents! Turns out their train was 30 minutes late and he haired to arrive a few minutes after their train arrived! Well at least we were all reunited.

Aftera fantastic lunch I got my parents straight onto the trail and we hiked 8km to our first night. AJ and I got spoilt when my parents paid for us to have our own double room too, such luxury!

Back on the Camino!

So after our brief break AJ and I are back on the Camino. Because I have to be somewhere at the end of the month we had to jump ahead on the trail to make sure we’d make it to Santiago.

We caught a train yesterday from Barcelona to Leon, a delightful 7 hours but at least AJ and I had each other for company!

So last night we spent the night in Leon, in a really nice hostel though we’re convinced the man in the bed near us was a meth addict, he slept in the afternoon a few hours, went out at 10pm, arrived back at 5am, slept 2 hours and then went out again! Other than this dodgy character we had a wonderful night. Across the road was a massive grocery store and AJ and I both managed to buy enough food to cook gourmet meals for ourselves (his with meat and mine vegan). Baked potato smothered in vegan creamed spinach and mushrooms with tofu! Yum! AJ had breakfast for dinner.

This morning we stopped in at the tryp hotel just off the Camino because we heard they did great breakfasts and we were not disappointed! After this late start we finally got hiking in earnest. It was such a pleasure to be hiking in the sunshine with not a cloud in the sky!

After that huge breakfast we had no desire to stop for lunch but around 4pm we were getting tired so we found a bar to have a drink. Pretty soon we were joined by other hikers and ended up spending 2 hours sitting chatting. However all good things must come to an end and off we set to find a spot to camp.

Oh on a side note AJ has been complaining about his foot hurting but one of the guys we were chatting to showed us his foot which was bandaged up with open wounds from infected blisters and AJ admitted to me that perhaps he was being a bit of a baby…

At least we found a campsite after our first day over 20 miles on the Camino!

Catalonia

Right now I’m sitting on a balcony, pizza and glass of wine in front of me, roof over my head and no where I have to walk!

AJ and I have gone south to escape the rain and after a 4 hour train journey we’re still in the rain but at least with a roof over our heads. Yup the rain followed us here. We’ve found this fantastic air BnB and have a whole flat to ourselves just 2 minutes from the beach. It’s almost perfect. We have 2 days here before we’re going to try hike in garraf wilderness just south of Barcelona and hopefully wild camp and then one night in Barcelona itself before we head back up to the Camino.

Seafood paella, now we feel Spanish!

Hiatus

So it’s raining again and windy and completely miserable. AJ and I thought a lot about what we want and hiking the Camino in this weather is not what we want. Bad weather is predicted until Tuesday, it’s only Wednesday so we’ve decided that when we get into town tonight we’re getting off the Camino until the weather clears.

This morning had me in high spirits because the thought of not walking in the rain again was just too delightful! For the most part the trail was pretty decent, dirt roads and not too flooded. It even lightened up a bit so we could see the views.

I almost began to wonder if maybe we could continue the Camino, this wasn’t so bad actually. The rain was merely a light drizzle now, we almost didn’t notice it. Then the wind started. Blowing us almost sidewards. We had a long gap between towns so we stopped under some pine trees to try get out of the wind for a bit. It worked, until it started raining… This all leant to cementing my resolve to get off the Camino for a few days.

We stumbled into the next town and had a drink to try warm up again, and to just get out of the weather for a bit. It was tough leaving that little cafe! I think the only reason I managed was knowing that in the next town a train station awaited us, offering promises of warmer climates. AJ had also called a hostel and organized a double room for us with a private bathroom! Luxury again!

After a final slog along painful tar roads we finally made it into town and dumped our stuff in the hostel. After a quick shower it was time to celebrate with wine and tapas. We are after all Rioja, the best wine producing region in Spain!

Tomorrow we head south to Catalonia and hopefully warmer weather and beaches!

So it’s still raining…

Days 4 and 5 have just been almost non stop rain. It’s so discouraging when it rains constantly. When you walk passed beautiful parks with benches in the shade and really all you can think of is getting into town to find a cafe to escape the rain!

Day 3 was punctuated with highs and lows, we walked in the rain all morning and discussed that instead of camping (as planned) we might get a hostel instead. We even got as far as calling one up to find out if they still had space.

For lunch that day we stopped at a grocery store and the lady there recommended a church to eat at where we could be under cover. Just 200m off a really muddy trail we found the church and indeed far a covered and protected meal.

When we came out it was putting with rain and windy again so we were determined to find a hostel. Unfortunately in the end we couldn’t even find the place (when we asked we were told “on the Camino, on the Camino” which really is an 800km route so really, that was unhelpful. In the end we couldn’t find the hostel so we decided to camp. We had to go a bit further than we’d wanted to, our feet are giving us issues but we found a good spot in the end and it didn’t rain as predicted!

We also came across the magic wine fountain and even though it was late in the day both AJ and I managed to fill up the flasks Shelly gave us. Camping was starting to look better already.

We managed to find a camp site under some trees in the forest but I was cold all night! The next morning I was more than excited to get to a town.

We found a wonderful sweet town 6km later where we spent a good deal of time drinking coffee and eating cake! Cake for breakfast! No parents around to say no to that one! I think we spent 2 hours drinking coffee and warming up in that little cafe. It ended up being a great place to sit and people watch. Most of the turn must’ve come in in those couple of hours and a lot of them were drinking wine (at 10am!)

Finally we managed to extract ourselves from the cafe and brave the rain again. We decided we would spoil ourselves to a double room with a bathroom, that way we could let everything completely dry overnight. In hostel rooms there’s too much humidity from all the breathing and damp clothes so nothing really ever gets dry.

We stayed in the Los Arcos pension which was incredibly nice by pilgrim standards but the restaurants left much to be desired, they were all serving pilgrim menus, €12 for 2 courses and nothing vegetarian let alone vegan. In the end I couldn’t do it so we went to the grocery store, bought a random mix of foods and had a picnic on our hotel floor!

Day 3 and we’re still going

Today went so much better than yesterday. The morning started with the rain and us still being damp from the day before. The hostel had a lot of people drying out their clothes so the room was crazy humid!

We stopped in Pamplona for a bit but because it was Sunday everything was shut. We managed to buy some groceries and have a few pastries for breakfast before we left the town. We planned to do about 30km since we only left Pamplona (5km into the day) at 11, I wasn’t sure we’d make it. The rain has really been slowing us down.

However we got so lucky, as we started the acsent out of town the rain stopped and spent the sun came out!

The rest of the afternoon was fantastic as we walked in mixed cloud and sunshine and I finally had dry feet! Both AJ and I managed to walk so much faster in the sunshine.

Around 5pm we made it into Porte le Reina, our town for the night. We’re such in a room with some quite loud Americans which is just encouraging us to camp tomorrow night. I think I’m getting too old for hostel life! Uh oh!