Camino Frances 2017 – Day 9 – Villavante to Santibañez de Valdeiglesias

Camino 2017 – Day 9 – Villavante to Santibañez de Valdeiglesias – September 13th
Penultimate day from one small town to another..

Second to last day of walking. It would be a short day as well. I had already began thinking of returning to work, which is a no-no while on Camino. Sigh. Anyway, moving on. I had yet to reach one of my favourite towns, Astorga, and of course, make my journey to Santiago.

The evening before I had no idea where the following day would end. Hospital de Orbigo was only 5km away. The next town after, Villares de Órbigo is just 8km while Astorga is a whopping 24km. Note my sarcasm there 🙂 So I would walk until my feet told me not to.

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I woke in Santa Lucia at 6.30am…a late start for me! I left the albergue at 7am, after some breakfast. Last night’s sleep was poor. I woke a number of times and at one stage, someone had the cheek to pinch my 5th toe, possibly due to my snoring. The one toe that had a blister on it! The blister didn’t cause me any bother walking however. I was joined by a German couple on leaving the albergue and despite their lack of English (or my lack of German) we still managed a conversation. The sun was rising as we left the small village and aimed for Hospital de Orbigo. En route to Orbigo, you cross train tracks, walk over a motorway before seeing the water tower at the entrance of the town. It was quiet enough at this time of the morning, however. I said goodbye to the German couple here as I wanted to see more of the town. Nothing was open, as expected. Even Albergue Verde, one place that was on my list of must-sees. Another time. I crossed the bridge and moved through the town. It is one long road but seems to go on forever. I’ve walked through here on three occasions; 2012, 2015 and this year. It never changes, that’s the beauty of it.

I arrived at the exit of Orbigo and saw Robert from Germany who I first met in Arcahueja. It was a surprise to see him again however I knew he was having shin-splint problems. I was quite happy to walk at his pace for the day. We chose to take the road to the right, avoiding the main road. Now, we were back on a meseta-type trail until arriving at Astorga. We arrived at Villares de Órbigo at 8.30am and were greeted by a Danish lady who had started her Camino in St Jean. All three of us continued slowly to Santibañez and arrived at 9am. We stopped for a cafe con leche and took in the morning until Robert and our new friend parted company. Their destination this day was Astorga. My destination would be the albergue attached to this bar I was resting at – Albergue Camino Frances, with 14 beds. €20 with 3 course meal included. It wouldn’t open until 11am however so I had another hour to spare. It made sense to stop here. If I continued to Astorga, I would need to find a bed for an extra night as my bus to Santiago was to leave the following day.

This albergue was one of the smaller albergues I have stayed in, but well run. It looked like it was family-run. While waiting for it to open, Riley from the US and her friend from South Africa passed by. I was delighted to see them again. They were also aiming for Astorga and were looking forward to the change of scenery after the meseta.

Checking in was quick and I had my clothes washed and hung out to dry in no time. With temps of 25c, it was a perfect time for it. Dinner was at 7pm and I ate by myself, although I had been keeping in touch with a number of pilgrim friends by email. I was looked forward to moving on the following day.

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May is just a few months away..

Just a quick update on my plans for next year.

I would like to go back to Spain and walk the 800 km from St Jean to Santiago. Over the last 3 years, I have walked the majority of the Camino Frances in sections and I have completed Logrono to Santiago. The only part I have not walked is from St Jean to Logrono which is more or less 7 days of walking. I can’t see myself going back to do the 7 days only…I want to stay much longer.

So that brings me back to the start of the post. I have 25 days leave approved for 2014. Any leave you request over 14 days needs to be approved which is understandable. So, including weekends, I will have 33 days to work with in Spain.

Of course, this whole return depends on a lot of other things, for example, my mortgage which will be thrown on me once I find the right house / apartment.

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But..I have one tick on the diary in my head. What happens next is anyone’s guess? I will always regret not doing this last year. It took me two years and 500 km to convince myself that this is the only right way for me to walk the Camino and not in stages.  I’ve had far too many excuses – fitness, time, etc.

Even then, I can’t see the bug being shaken off me.

More updates to come.

Camino 2013 – Day 12 – Mansilla de las Mulas to Leon

Well here I am, sitting in a hotel room and I’ve come to the end of my camino. Logrono to Leon, 12 days long. I knew this day would come but I’ve not thought about it. Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve been taking each day as it comes and sticking to the same routine. I think I’ll be awake at 5am every day for the next while until I re-adjust. The thought of using a washing machine to clean my clothes will be considered a luxury and I won’t need a sleeping bag for a while just yet.
But no matter how little I lived on over the last while and how basic my life has been, I enjoyed it. A small backpack, boots and a fit body were all I needed and it is so easy for anyone to do the same. I saw people of all ages, the retired, elderly, students and middle aged people like myself take part. It’s not rocket science and all you need is a few weeks to spare.

Today, we started from the Albergue at Mansilla and we decided to take it easy. We left the albergue at close to 7am today and I don’t think I’ve walked as slow since I started. The 5 of us talked about anything and everything while reminding each other that today is a slow day should we rush off. I’ve done that plenty of times before. I took plenty of pictures; more than I’ve taken in the last week. It wasn’t long before we crested a large hill and saw the whole of Leon from a height. It’s a beautiful city and you can see it’s cathedral clearly on the right hand side.
The walk into Leon isn’t attractive at all and a few folks take the bus in from the outskirts. But I wasn’t going to do that. Even though I was finishing today, I wanted to get to the cathedral. Seeing it from afar made me want to get their sooner.
We arrived eventually after another high climb and ran to a donut shop..it was like sugar to a bee. A donut and one smoothie please. Nice! After that I walked with the guys to their Albergue for the night, the Benedictine monastery. I don’t think this compares with the last few albergues.
I walk to my own pension that I have pre booked before I left Dublin. It made sense to do so as the Albergue needs people to leave at 8am at the earliest. My bus is at 3pm tomorrow. A great sense of sadness came over me at that stage. There was no quick shower, washing clothes, and getting to talk to other pilgrims about their day. I sat in my room and wished I had arranged two or three more days walking. I sat there for 10 minutes at least and thought about the last 2 weeks and the people I have met. Sigh.
I needed to visit the cathedral to get some sort of completion. I paid the fee and walked around the monument taking in its stained glass windows, history and detailed craftwork. I also caught an impromptu performance by an American choir. The sound filled the cathedral. I finished up here and walked around the city before meeting Franco, Michel, Tanya and Carlos. Carlos has very limited English but I understood him fine with the Spanish I knew. He wished me a Buen Camino back home in Ireland before walking back to the albergue. The remainder took in the sights and had a MacDonald’s also. Wow that tasted good. We decided to meet up later on that evening for some food and drinks.
Later on, we found a great restaurant just beside the Cathedral which still served Menu del Peregrinos. It was getting close to 7pm at this stage and the Spanish people were coming out to eat so most restaurants there tend to finish serving pilgrims around 7pm. The price was €15 for a three course meal which is kind of steep for us but we sat down regardless. I really enjoyed this dinner. We talked about the last two week and I told them what parts to stay in after Leon. I was incredibly jealous of them heading off but tried not to show it. I gave them a keyring that I bought in Santiago last year and wanted them to place it on the Cruz de Ferro. I will buy another and keep it until next year hoping to do the same.
Until next year.

Camino 2013 – Day 11 – Bercianos de Real Camino to Mansilla de las Mulas

Today was a tough day.
The heat was a little too much and walking for more than 25km, made the feet sore. Still no blisters though. Happy days!
I woke up earlier than anyone else in the room, around 5.15am. We were told the evening before that the albergue would not open until 6am so there was no hurry. I got my pack ready and headed out the door. Not before the Italian sister gave us a traditional Italian goodbye.
Today, the 5 of us, Franco, Michel, Tanya, Femke and myself left the albergue at the same time. The sun was rising and a glowing red lit the sky. My snoring from last night was brought up, much to my denial and bemusement.
The pace was slow, we took it easy. Over the next hour, we were met by Gary and his partner from Canada who were taking things much easier than us. Six of us headed on to El Burgo Ranero, the first town that we passed today. It is another small town who are dependant on the Camino. Again, this town was sleepy and only had one bar open at the time. Most folks walked to this town yesterday as it is a recommended stop off point in a few manuals.
I stopped off for a drink and stayed for a few minutes with the girls and the Canadian couple. Franco and Michel walked ahead and it would be a while before I caught up with them.
From then on, around 9am, I walked by myself and the heat was getting a little too much for my liking. I had plenty of water though. The scenery was still amazing but had not changed from the time we stepped into the meseta. Fields and fields of freshly cut grass and the same fields turning into gold.
I’ve also learnt that I’m a very fast walker when I’m alone and it wasn’t long before I was overtaking people while wishing them a Buen Camino. I met a chap from Wexford who was on his way to Finisterre. He had met all the Irish people I had met previously and he had stories to tell from his weeks on the trail. He was taking his time as he had this time to take. Unfortunately I need to be in Leon for a certain date.
I moved on and after half hour or so, I met Franco and Michel closer to Mansilla de Los Mulas. We walked into the town and attempted to find the Albergue. The municipal is recommended but did not open until 12.30, we has an hour to spare.
We checked in, paid the €5 and grabbed the showers. After some time, the girls walked in after taking it slow. Maybe it’s best to do that. I will be doing that tomorrow.
Last day jitters.

Camino 2013 – Day 10 – Terradillos de Templarios to Bercanios de Real Camino

We decided the evening before to leave before 6am and we did just that.
A quick breakfast and some milk was enough to get us ready. Michel left first while I was still gathering my things. Myself and Femke left shortly after, while the sun was rising. I was pretty tired at this stage and it took a whole hour for my limbs to wake up.
It wasn’t long before I met Michel and walked through Moratinos, a small hamlet isolated in the meseta. It was still asleep as we passed through it and I was amazed by a Hobbit-Like house being built. I guess it wasn’t more than 8am at this stage. We talked about the strange Australian man who we met the previous night. He had run into us in the past and was hoping to be part of the group. Not to be.
We pass more towns without stopping and we hear Franco and his cart running behind us. Now that was quick. I don’t know how he does it.
Getting to Sahagun takes forever but for a town with a population of over 10,000, it looked sparse and sleepy. We passed through it in 10 minutes, before taking pictures of the town church ruins and statutes. They litter the camino but they are so old.

We walk in pairs for a while as the path turns from a gravel path into a senda at the side of the road. There is a whole 10km of this before we reach Bercanios de Real Camino at around midday. The municipal Albergue didn’t open until 1.30 so the four of us had an hour and half to kill before we got to our beds. A perfect time to wash and dry clothes!
The Albergue in Bercianos is one you should try to go to. It is a run by a religious order, and is donativo. A lot of people over see it to walk to El Burgo Ranero but it is a gem.
Tomorrow is a long day and is my penultimate day. We are making it long so we have a lot of time in Leon on Thursday.

I’m having a lot of difficulty in finding wifi and all the places I stay don’t have it. So my posts will be a little scattered. When I find wifi I will fill in the gaps.

Camino 2013 – Day 8 – Boadilla del Camino to Carrion de los Condes

While the Albergue in Boadilla is renowned to be one of the best of the Camino, I didn’t have a particularly good night there. I, along with 3 others had a dose of food poisoning. It was just a minor setback however as I felt fine for the remainder of the trip. I also picked up an ‘Irishman’s tan’ , two burnt legs due to not wearing the correct sun cream. It hurt walking at times.
We left Boadilla at 6.30am after we availed of their breakfast which was filling. There was a good crowd that I knew at this Albergue and most headed out at the same time.
I spent the morning with Anya and walked along the the Canal de Castilla. This canal along with many was built on the turn of the century however they were put beyond use with the introduction of trains. These canals are there for fishing and for walking along. At 7am, there were many people fishing for shrimp and crab. They were pretty successful judging by their buckets.
We walk quickly through Fromista before I see Michel and Franco behind me. I decide to walk with them for a while and I end up doing so for the day. We pass through little towns dotted in the countryside but the majority of this day was walking by a main road. It was kind of ugly to say the least and it was a day I did not enjoy. We pass Villalcazar de Sirga and we watched a race from the camino. For a town of 200 people, there was a great crowd topped off with a man at an announce table with a microphone. There was not much silence today.
With Franco and Michel a good kilometre ahead of me at this stage, I decide to take it show and hope some of the girls catch up. There is 6km left to the next town and it is hardly 11am.
It is close to 12am when I reach Carrion de Los Condes, a modest sized town but with one large church and a monastery. We arrived on the feast day of Corpus Christi and there were celebrations in the main square. The streets were covered in grass, flowers and leaves. Large tapestries were made from these while people walked around them. I had no idea where Franco and Michel were at this stage so I looked around before I checked the celebrations out. Eventually I see Franco waving at me to join the queue in to Santa Maria Parochial Albergue. I was ready for sleep now, weary and burnt.
The remainder of the guys checked into another Albergue and came over to ours for dinner later on that night.
I later discovered that the people of the town would walk over the decorations and march to the main square for food and drinks. Unfortunately my battery on my phone was down so I have no photos but it shows how serious Spanish people take their feast days.
Next day is to a town called Terradillos de Los Templarios and another long walk in the sun.