April - May 2018
  • Day40

    The end.

    May 17, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    My Spanish friends wanted to know how many kms I had walked in my 32 days. I had no idea so I did the math and it looks like 948. If I had known that I would have pushed to make it to Zamora to get to a round 1000.

    I’m on the plane in Madrid. Coming home. End of Camino 2018. I’ll give it a few weeks before I start planning camino 2019.Read more

  • Explore, what other travelers do in:
  • Day39

    In Madrid

    May 16, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    It’s hard to believe that only two days ago I was walking into Salamanca. I left the little pension in San Pedro early so I could meet up with @Charrito in Salamanca. It was a short and very straightforward walk except got a few last encounters with cattle. Why do herds that have enormous fields to enjoy always place themselves right on the Camino?!

    But by noon I was in the Plaza Mayor enjoying a cafe con leche with @Charrito, a Camino de Invierno fan who lives in this lovely city. My electric coil had finally stopped working, so I had to walk 24 km before any coffee.

    Then around 2pm I went to the fancy hotel where another camino amiga had snagged very cheap rates for three of us. Me, walking into Salamanca, Jill bussing in from Grimaldo, and Clare bussing up from Cañaveral. It was a great meet up and we gabbed and gabbed till way past pilgrim bedtime. The hotel lobby lights were turned off and finally we headed to bed after midnight. And would you believe that Clare had decided she was not going to join The Electric Coil Club after all and asked me if I wanted hers? How is that for synchronicity?!

    Yesterday we had a few morning hours for coffee in the Plaza Mayor, and a quick walk through the old part to see the cathedral, hunt for the frog on the skull’s head, etc.

    At 10:50 Clare and I were on the fast train. By 12:30 we were in Madrid where we said goodbye, Clare heading to a hotel and me to Soto del Real to spend some time with my closest Spanish friends and their kids. And what better way to spend the afternoon than to take a 15 km walk up through the Guadarrama foothills that start outside their front door?

    Today some more walks are planned and then tomorrow the flight home. I know that some year will be my last Camino but I surely hope there are more in my future!
    Read more

  • Day36

    One day out of Salamanca

    May 13, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    Yesterday the communal dinner had the typical mixing of languages and conversations. The most fun for me was talking to a young Austrian woman who is walking this route “backwards.” That means she never sees the same people twice and is always totally alone.

    Lights went out early because breakfast is served at 6:30. Everyone was quite toasty because of the wood stove in the room. By 9:30, I think everyone was enjoying what turned out to be a short four hours of sleep. Suddenly the door burst open and in came a very inebriated man shouting and cursing and telling us all to get out and that he was in charge. My bed was closest to the door and thus closest to him. I was a little unnerved. No one did anything for what seemed to be an eternity, and he just kept going on and on and on. Finally a Japanese pilgrim hopped out of bed and did a few martial arts jumps while yelling in Japanese. The guy quickly went out of the room, only to pick up where he left off out in the courtyard. This went on essentially the rest of the night. He came back in two or three times but was always met immediately by two or three men who would push him back out. He finally disappeared around 5.

    We learned at breakfast that this guy has been given a place to stay by the priest who runs the Albergue. It is of course very charitable for him to do that, but it doesn’t seem like a long term arrangement made in heaven.

    This morning I was out of the albergue before 7, first time I had seen the pilgrim conga line —6 or 7 ahead and a few behind. We soon spread out and it was a great 15 km to the high point and halfway point. Snow-covered Gredos mountains all around us, lots of Roman road, milestones, and then the pigs, cows, horses, and even a bull ranch. Beautiful sky and sun. The only problem was the temperature. People disagree as to whether it was 1, 0, or -1 when we left but it was cold. Actually it was not as bad as I had feared and by 9 I had taken off one pair of pants and my rain jacket. There was a short ascent to windmills, and then a rocky descent. The last 12 kms or so were near a deserted road but over in the grass and very comfortable.

    I am ecstatic to be in a private room. A great little hostal VII Carreras, where pilgrims get a great price.
    Tomorrow I will walk into Salamanca where I will meet a peregrino who has been an enormous help with the Camino Invierno guide. A meet-up with two peregrinas is also in the works. And then figuring out about getting to Madrid to see my very closest Spanish friends. I cannot wait to see them! Home on the 17th. Maybe I’ll wait a few days before starting to plan Camino 2019.
    Read more

  • Day35


    May 12, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Yesterday afternoon two cyclists arrived at the Casa rural. They were having a hard time, because the metal structure supporting the panniers had snapped on one of the bikes. The makeshift solution was on its last legs. They had taken a 12 km detour to a large town, but could find no one to help. They were thinking their camino was over. The woman who checked them in suggested they go see Ernesto, a retired welder/iron worker. And what do you know, in less than two hours, he had totally fixed the problem. Adamantly refusing payment, he told the cyclist to give Santiago a hug on his behalf when he got there. And on the way out of town this morning, Ernesto’s metal Santiago bade us a Buen Camino. .

    With the shortest walk of my whole trip (about 20 km), I stretched it out as long as I could, but even so got to Fuenterroble before noon. Imagine my surprise when I recognized the French hospitalera who greeted me as one I had stayed with before TWICE—once in Miraz more than 10 years ago and once in Rabanal a few years after that.

    This Albergue is probably the most well known on the Vdlp. Started by a priest, Don Blas, it is one of the few remaining “donativo” albergues. They give you a bed, supper, and breakfast, and leave it up to you to decide how much to give. It’s staffed by volunteers and connected to the workshop where several workers are busy restoring old wooden donkey carts. Blas takes a group of them (donkeys, carts, food, tents, children, adults) every year for a pilgrimage in all different parts of the world. The albergue walls are decorated with the backs of carts that have been used on past pilgrimages.

    Last time I was here a big US flag was flying in the courtyard to remind everyone that the US pilgrims association had given a donation. I thought it was in pretty bad taste. This year the flag is gone but the big cement stand for the pole remains. I learned that the flag blew off one night during a huge storm, ironically when some officers of the US association were visiting.

    Lows for tonight are predicted to be -1 or -2 C. That will make for some very cold pilgrims tomorrow. My only solution for the legs is to wear both pairs of pants. Unfortunately they are both very lightweight.
    Read more

  • Day34

    More snow in the mountains

    May 11, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    I told myself when I went to bed last night that I would decide today after the first 20 km whether to continue another 20 or stop in Calzada de Bejar. Who was I kidding? I slept till 7, sat chatting in the albergue over coffee till almost 8 and at that point the decision was essentially made. No way could I start at 8 and have an enjoyable 40 km walk.

    Aside from a few early morning kms on the side of the highway, virtually all the rest was off road and very very nice. In forests, alongside pastures and rivers, going up gradually and then descending. I had a lot of time and stopped a lot to talk. Interesting to hear a lot of local opinion about the Catalán “issue.” There seems to be no reasonable solution in sight.

    The Guardia Civil patrol a portion of today’s walk because it is also part of a system of local trails. They were in no hurry to get anywhere and spent ten or fifteen minutes interrogating me about walking alone, etc. They have never had an incident on the camino and have never heard of one in their area. The bigger problem seems to be a bit of illegal dumping!

    I am in a very nice Casa Rural, Calzada Romana. 20 € for private room with bath and breakfast. The owners will also cook dinner, an offer I happily seized upon because there is no store and no restaurant.

    Three more days walking! How crazy is that?!
    Read more

  • Day33

    Two more cattle calls

    May 10, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Yesterday after lunch I went to the park and chatted with the señoras. The women sit in the park, the men in benches along the road. Just as the women had given me instructions on how to get to the church with several Roman milestones on display, one of the Japanese peregrinos came up, so we went off together. We had a limited conversation, given my non-existent Japanese and his limited English. He told me how he had had to end his first camino early because he got really sick from losing too much weight. He explained that eating in Japan is just as much about the visuals as the taste. If it’s not beautiful, he won’t eat it. Except on the Camino. I thought of Osamu’s words later that night as I looked at my sautéed chicken breast and French fries.

    As usually happens when I get a good night sleep in a private room, I was awake at 5. Finally got up at 5:30, and after coffee, yoghurt and fruit, I resisted the urge to leave before 6:30. There was a little daylight then and I wanted to get started because it was a long day, and the temps are pushing 80. Right at the exit of town I saw a headlamp and a backpack— a confused young Brit I hadn’t yet met was starting out on the wrong path. It was a good coincidence because it’s always nicer to start out in the dark with someone else. In the hour or so that we walked together, I learned that everything he owns (except for one small box in Switzerland) is in that pack and that he has essentially been walking for the last two years. He also told me that I should have just walked right through that herd of cattle yesterday, just making sure not too get to close to a calf.

    The early morning walk was just gorgeous with those oaks, meadows, flowers. There were so many different gates to open and close that it was impossible to know if I was going into a cattle pasture, out of one, or just from one to another. But soon enough it happened again— off to the right a little ahead of me I saw a big group of them walking towards the camino. And lots of little babies!!! I decided that the best strategy was to try to get ahead of them. So I turned left and ran ahead. BUT... the reason these meadows are so green and so resplendent with wildflowers of all colors is because the ground is essentially an over soaked sponge. With totally soaked feet I made it back to the Camino ahead of where they eventually crossed it. Luckily the second encounter was with a bunch of lazy cows, so I passed them easily.

    Aside from the cows, the clear highlight of this stage was the 1st century Arch of Caparra, where I took a long break. Amazing. A group of Germans thought I was more amazing and spent more time talking to me than seeing the ruins.

    The afternoon kms were mainly off-road and very nice. I will probably take s very short day tomorrow. Can’t believe that I have only four days left!!!
    Read more

  • Day32

    Close cattle encounter

    May 9, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    It’s funny how different parts of one day can be so very different. First a long lovely stroll through more dehesa. By now, we must be near the end of that area—how I will miss the wet meadows, boulders, oaks, all sprinkled with the white Jara flower.

    I left the albergue before 7 but it was close to daybreak. I coincided with one of the Japanese peregrinos and we walked together till it was clearly light. Then came many kms alone, in fact I saw no one else for the rest of the 32 kms.

    This is a part of the Via de la Plata where there have been re-routings, law suits, just general treachery. Finally the regional government stepped in, backed by a big EU grant and found a four km or so path around the problem area. Very good so far, but when the huge bunch of cattle started coming uphill toward me, I wasn’t so sure I liked the new route.

    Now I KNOW these guys won’t hurt me, and I KNOW that I should just keep walking and minding my own business as they walk past me, but when I see these two big eyes staring at me with two big horns on top, I get a bit nervous. My solution was to backtrack to a really wide part of the path and to stay pinned over on one side. Slowly most of them walked by me. Then, after about 25 minutes, with all but about three past me, up came the cowherd on a moped. He shouted what I knew he would shout —“no hacen nada.” (They won’t do anything). That’s what all the owners of huge barking dogs also say to me when I stand there terrorized. But I am getting a little braver, always repeating the wisdom of a wise peregrina—what owner is going to leave vicious animals running around on their own?

    Anyway, the rest of the walk was a piece of cake. First through the little walled town of Galisteo, and then 11long boring kms on the side of a very untraveled road to my day’s destination of Carcaboso. It’s not exactly a beautiful or happening place but I’m in a very clean hostal and will get a good sleep before my last 40 km stage this year!
    Read more

  • Day31

    From the Embalse to Grimaldo

    May 8, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Last night close to sunset the sky opened up. I heard a lot of thunder but didn’t see any lightening. I was glad to be watching it from inside!

    My room of three women last night was great—lots of space, no noise — and since it was such a short day today I didn’t even get up till 7. Unheard of! The price of the albergue included a breakfast of sorts, but by the time we three women got there it was pretty much all gone. Not a big loss.

    The peregrinos are mainly German and Dutch. Last night there were three Japanese men, and they told us that they have all walked many Caminos and have never coincided with more than one other Japanese. One is from Hiroshima, one has a daughter who got her masters at Northwestern, and one has climbed all of Japan’s 100 peaks twice. And that is all I know about each of them!

    This was another day with very little asphalt —it’s really amazing how little there is on the Vdlp. Two parts were especially nice — one through a pine forest and another through meadows with cork trees. The Jara flower was everywhere. Some bushes have white flowers with five bright red spots, while others have all white. Very pretty.

    There is an albergue here in Grimaldo, but I remembered it being very small and cramped. So I opted for the luxury option — a Casa rural that gives pilgrims a special rate of 20€ if you share or 30€ for private. The owner Cesar is an architect who, like many, lost his job with the housing crash in 2008. He bought this house in ruins and is renovating it little by little and with no bank loans. It is spotless and lovely, with a little garden, and a kitchen.

    The restaurant in town is also excellent with a 10€ menú del día. After a good lunch I spent about an hour with Cesar, as he showed me his labor of love— large organic garden, fruit trees, the work to get the upstairs ready for habitation. All in all, a great little pueblo and a great Casa Rural for pilgrims and non-pilgrims alike!
    Read more

  • Day30

    At the Albergue on the reservoir

    May 7, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    The reservoir where the Spaniards dam up the Tajo River before it gets to Portugal, that is. As you might imagine, this causes a lot of political disputes.

    Today’s walk had two bad asphalt stretches bookending two lovely off-road segments. The first three kms out of Caceres are on the shoulder of a minor but very busy road. When I got to it at about 7:15, the cars were roaring by. The scariest part is always when you see a car coming towards you, and the one behind it pulls out to pass. At that moment I desperately hope for a safe passing maneuver and that the passing car has accurately judged the distances. So far so good.

    From Casar de Cáceres (home of a runny smelly cheese that I can’t find a way to like) there are several hours through ranging land. No cars, no people. Though the scenery is getting more wide open, there were some amazing boulders ringed by wildflowers of all colors. And on that stretch I passed what seemed to be a junkyard of Roman milestones!

    To get close to the reservoir we had to weave under and around the construction of the fast train from Madrid to Lisbon. Only thing is, the Portuguese seem to have backed out of their part of the deal and for now the train will stop at the border.

    That part of the walk was also off-road up and down through rocky fields of wildflowers. I came upon two nice workers, whose job it is to maintain this short stretch of trail. Just some of the many people who make these Caminos possible, many thanks to them.

    Then the last four or five kms, all on the side of a road ringing the reservoir but thankfully with much less traffic.

    So here I am at an Albergue made of cement block in a modern style. It’s very clean and the rooms are for five only. Separate room for the three women—hooray!
    Read more

  • Day29

    Enjoying Caceres

    May 6, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    First guy to leave the Albergue left at 5. The remaining 6 of us started moving around at 6:20 or so. By the time I left the Albergue it was pretty light, another beautiful day (though the forecast shows some rain in the next few days).

    The 24 km were almost all off asphalt. Even though the Camino essentially hugged the national highway, there were very few cars on it because of the autovía (divided highway) being so close. There were tons of cyclists, some on the road, some on the Camino. I think every single one I saw was male. This is the way it always seems to be here, not sure why.

    I got a room in a small hotel and after the obligatory post-walking routine had a couple of hours to wander the old city, which is just beautiful. Lots of 15 and 16 C buildings. I made it to the museum finally (this is probably my fourth or fifth time here) and saw the Moorish aljibe (cistern).

    I only have eight days left to walk and I think I will reach Salamanca.
    Read more