Camino 2014 – Day 10 – Azofra to Redecilla del Camino

September 13th 2014 – Day 10
Azofra to Redecilla del Camino, 27km

Today was my penultimate day. And I had a choice whether to make it a long one or short one. Do I walk to Granon and finish up after 22km or continue to Redecilla del Camino and 27km? By walking a long-ish day today, I would have an easy day into Belorado tomorrow. I also had the choice of sticking around with the guys in this albergue and staying in Granon, where they had planned on staying or moving on to the unknown.

I woke up early as usual. I had a great sleep in probably the best albergues I had stayed in. Apart from the poor wifi, it was fine. No bunks as well..actual beds, so make sure you stop by here if you can! My German friend in the bed beside me was snoring to his heart’s content so I left him quietly and moved on out. I had bought some fruit the evening before so I was sorted. The next town after Azofra was Ciruena, about 9km onwards. It was 5,30 when I moved on, the sky was pitch black but there were a good number of pilgrims out and about. I was expecting some rain today, the first of this Camino. I didn’t mind it, as long as it wasn’t heavy.

It isn’t long before you are back on dirt tracks again once you leave Azofra, Last year, I walked with an extra kilo of mud on my feet due to heavy rain, but today I walked with a crisp under foot. My black boots were unrecognisable now as they had turned to a shade of dark red. I had walked much of the morning alone, and I didn’t mind. I had enjoyed the company over the last week but sometimes your own company is healthy. I walked 9km in just over an hour and a half. It’s amazing how fast you can go with some good music in your ears. I passed alot of people this morning, none whom I recognised. I also knew David, Leslie and Bob were staying in Ciruena, the next town, so I hoped to see them.

I reached Ciruena and it was still dark, but the sun was rising. No clouds in the sky. I remembered my time here last year passing the vast housing estate beside the golf course. As far away from a Camino town as you can go. I try to imagine living here but can’t. Finding the way out of this town is pretty difficult and I become lost again. I take a road out and lose all sight of arrows….I retrace my steps. Gps even fails. I can’t even see the albergue although I see a sign pointing me in it’s direction. Lost is not a great place to be hmm. But just as I walk backwards, I see a woman from England and she tells me “It’s that way”, pointing me in the right way. I thank her and move on. I notice she was carrying the Brierley guide. The same guide that is sitting inside my pack. How lazy of me!

Moving on I meet Liam from Belfast. A tall stocky guy. He had walked from St Jean, but a day after me. He is hobbling but determined. He tells me he was in British Army and had served in Afghanistan so the Camino is a walk in the park. I can well believe him. We talk for an hour or so until he tells me he needs to stop and look at a new blister that is bothering him. I can see Santo Domingo de la Calzada in the distance so hopefully I can find a cafe con leche somewhere. The sun is up now and it is approaching 8am. Santo Domingo is quiet when I arrive, all its pilgrims have moved on and the last few stragglers are checking out of the albergue as I pass it by. I’m delighted to meet Christina again. I haven’t seen her since Ventosa. She splashed out and stayed in the Parador the previous night. She, like me, was looking for an open cafe. I couldn’t find one unfortunately. Maybe as it is Sunday?

I leave Santo Domingo a little after half 8, after resting for a bit. I enjoyed my time there last year. I remember speaking to the hospitalera in the albergue who knew of my home town, even though she is from France. The church with the chicken and the hen was closed unfortunately. I walk alone for an hour or so until I reach Granon. It is still mid-morning and I had completed 22km. The first thing I see when I enter the town is it’s large church..and then a cafe! I walk right to the cafe and order a cafe con leche and an aquarius…as I do every morning. There was a large crowd sitting down outside the cafe, I didn’t know any of them. It felt good to be a stranger again. I kept looking for Liam from a few hours back, or even some of the crowd from the previous night in Azofra. I have David, Leslie and Bob in the back of my mind today also.

It wasn’t long before I hear Liam..”What about ye?!! in a northern Irish dulcet tone. He was glad to see a cafe, like myself, so he sat down and had a cafe con leche. I didn’t mind sitting down for a little longer. The blisters were bothering him and he was considering buying a new pair of shoes in Burgos. I definitely know what he means. I had the same problem back in 2012. About twenty minutes later, I see Bob and Dave wander into the town. Now I didn’t expect to see them again! They both sat down and sipped on a drink. I asked about Leslie and why she wasn’t with them? She had taken a bus to the next albergue as she had problems walking. Bummer!

I reckon I spent the bones of an hour sitting in the same chair at the cafe in Granon. Soaking up the atmosphere, drinking and saying hello to everyone going by. Time meant nothing to me! I was due to finish up the following day and I didn’t want it to end. I was hoping the remaining day and a bit would drag out. We left Granon; Bob, Dave, Liam and myself. The next 3 or 4 kms were uninteresting. We were walking alongside a road and the terrain was flat. It was great to be chatting to the lads again however. Liam fell behind after a while before we reached the border to Castille y Leon, which is the largest province of Spain. The first town we encountered was Redecilla del Camino, which is just off a main road. It literally is a road which consists of a restaurant, a hotel, an albergue and a church. A number of houses lie off the main road. The albergue “Albergue municipal San Lázaro” has 52 bunk beds and is a steal at €5. It wasn’t open when I arrived so myself Bob and Dave waited outside the bar and had a drink and a snack. One last Coca Cola before my last day tomorrow.

Eventually the albergue opened at 1pm and I said goodbye to the lads. They had beds booked in Viloria de Rioja, the next town. I’m quite happy to “ad-lib” the Camino. Some people like to book in advance, but I prefer to let the Camino provide for me. I was very lucky with the weather also, as just as I entered the albergue, the heavens opened. I had dinner in the bar down the road and more good people, new people. The next day is my final day, 12km to Belorado.

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Camino 2014 – Day 5 – Puente la Reina to Ayegui

September 8th 2014 – Day 5
Puente la Reina to Ayegui, 24km

Another early day was on the cards as we were forecast sun, and most importantly, humidity. I was beginning to get used to the heat and started to wear a scarf around my neck. It didn’t stop my bald spot on my head turning a bright shade of red however!! But we were doing a good proportion of our walking in the early morning so there was no need for panic. We left shortly after 6am today. We being Dave, Anna and myself. Bob and Leslie would follow us. Our agreed stopping point was Ayegui, which is just beyond Estella. A large municipal albergue awaits us which many people speak highly of. On the plus side, we were off the dreaded recommended stages but on the negative side, I had passed through two major Camino towns without properly investigating them.

I actually had a good sleep in Puente la Reina and we were the first to leave. The rains had stopped shortly after midnight and there was little sign of the downpours on the roads when we left. Again, we chose to wait until our first stop for some breakfast. It was pitch black, save for the stars in the sky. There were a few other peregrinos out and about and you could see them by the bobbing light of their respective flashlights. The terrain was set to be tricky today. All the towns we pass through are based on hills, so once you climb up and into the town, you need to make a big descent to leave it. The first town we pass was Maneru which was still sleeping. It was 7am and nothing was moving. The lights were on in the town and showed us the way out.

Another 45 minutes down the line after a descent and another climb, we reach Cirauqui. I had read a lot of this town and it’s Roman bridge which is actually part of the Camino. It is worn out after a thousand years of trampling on but it was great to see a piece of history. Unfortunately, this had to be the day the battery on my phone died and I was unable to take some photos but here is a link (http://static.panoramio.com/photos/large/65997854.jpg). I had hoped on staying there but I will leave that for another time.

Throughout, the morning and early afternoon, we passed mile after mile of vineyards. We were not quite in La Rioja yet, but you could tell that we were in wine country in Spain. Dave, who works in the wine industry in Australia, could tell you the exact type of wine by looking at the grape. “Vino Tinto” was good enough for me! Lorca was the next town, a further 5km onwards. It was close to 9am at this stage and the sun was up a good while. Due to the tough climb into Lorca, we stopped off for a bit to relax. Luckily enough, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so there wasn’t going to be a repeat of last night’s downpour.

Villatuerta is the next town, a further 5km onward. Villatuerta has a very popular albergue “La Casa Magica” which is privately owned and while we had no plans on staying there, there were people outside already. It is close to 11am at this stage. Villatuerta is, for a change, situated in a valley, and there is a nice steady climb once you leave it. My hip started to act up on me at this point. Time for some Camino candy (ibuprofen, if you haven’t walked the Camino before!!)

The great joy of walking the Camino is being able to walk by yourself for a while, or if you want to have company, you can have it. It is your choice. I walked the final stretch into Estella by myself, over mostly flatlands. Estella has a good few suburbs to pass through but not as many as Pamplona. The Rio Ega cuts the town in half and there are many bridges you need to cross. Some are wooden, some are made of stone. The first bridge is wooden and after the previous night’s rains, it was slippy. I knew there would be an accident if I wasn’t careful and yes! I was the first to realise it when my ass hit the deck. It was painful but the only thing dented was my ego as I watched pilgrims pass me by.

We arrive into Estella (it is also called Lizarra in Navarra) and are greeted by it’s church of San Pedro. Camino tourists litter the pathways taking photos of the sights. I spot Natty from Canada, the first time I see her in 3 days. She looks lost and is behind schedule she says. I wish her a Buen Camino and move on. I wonder how she got on. We pass through Estella and on to Ayegui, 2km westwards. It’s albergue hasn’t opened yet and we are in plenty of time. When I arrive with Dave, Anna is there with a Belgian called Phillipe. Phillipe has walked from Le Puy in France. He has very little English but great Spanish and we have enough to communicate, although my Spanish has been found out big time during the 5 or so days here. Anna and Phillipe are first in the queue of 2!! Bob and Leslie arrive shortly after. We didn’t see many other familiar faces after the usual crew. It’s a large albergue and I’m just glad to have found somewhere to sit down. I automatically think of food..like I do most days! This place serves meals but we wanted to visit the town and check out San Pedro church closer.

After washing my clothes, and powering up my phone, I am ready to see Estella. The food was top class and it was very cheap. 10pm was closing time in the albergue and we were 10 minutes short from being locked out. The run back was fun!

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Returning from Spain..

I am back home in Dublin about 5 hours as I write this. I have returned from walking about 11 days of the Camino and the last few weeks have yet to sink in. It will take me a few days to update my blog to tell you about my time there but at this moment in time, I’m feeling sad that I’ve left an incredible place. I am also happy knowing it is just a matter of time before I will be back.

I have walked from St Jean Pied de Port to Belorado from September 4th to 13th, just over 230km. I had the intention to walk to Burgos, another 40km, but it was too hot to walk more than 6 hours a day. I was going to blog en route but I didn’t want to commit to something that I may not maintain. I met many people from all over the world; from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Estonia, Spain and many from back in Ireland. So stick with me as I update this blog over the next few weeks.

Something to keep an eye on in Iceland…

Iceland raises Bardarbunga volcano alert to orange

At the time of writing, I have 15 days or so before I head back to Spain and the natural feeling one has is “Ah sure, it will fly in, nothing will go wrong..you’ll be on the trail before you know it!” But I’m keeping my eye on this piece of news that cropped up on the radar on Monday. If you cast your mind back to 2010, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted causing a massive ashcloud to hover over Europe for over 2 weeks. This caused the groundings of many flights and caused delays to thousands of tourists not only in Europe but in the US. I have all my fingers crossed that something like this doesn’t happen again, but hey! if it does, I just have to go with it.

We’ll hear lots more about the Bardarbunga volcano in the near future. One thing is it flows off the tongue a little easier than it’s predecessor! 🙂

Another late addition to the kit…

Another late addition to the kit...

I just hope I’m not too late buying these.
My current trail shoe (the amazing Columbia Peakfreak Enduro) won’t be joining me in September. The reason for this is the shoe is too tight and I need a little more width. They are the best pair of trail shoes I have bought in a while and will continue to wear them out but they aren’t suitable for walking more than 20k. My toes will thank me!
I ventured back to Great Outdoors (my favourite store in Dublin!) and got some great advice. This pair, Jack Wolfskin Mountain Attack shoe, felt great when I tested it in the store. I was told it is totally waterproof, breathable and there is plenty of room around the toes. The assistant owns a pair so that was enough for me.
Now I just need to break them in, and I hope three months is enough time. If not, I will go back to my previous pair and hope my toes are fine!

May becomes September…

Just thought I’d update you all on my plans for next week’s Camino.

I’m postponing it unfortunately. I’ve pushed it back until the start of September which takes me past the busy period in Spain. My toe, while getting better, is not 100% and I don’t want to leave anything to chance if I go. While I am disappointed, it leaves me with 3 months to dot the “i”‘s and cross the “t”s. Plus I can start planning my trip to the Camino Portuguese in May 15. Hopefully, I can bring one or two folks along with me then.