26 days to go…

26 days until Camino numero siete. I can’t wait…no, literally! This feeling doesn’t get old.

And naturally enough, I want to bring you along with me…well, not carry you, but you know what I mean! I hope to write about my 2 weeks away and I hope it will be useful to most of you. But I won’t be doing that while in Spain. No, I plan to start writing when I touch back home in Dublin. The blog will be barren for a number of weeks from the start of September, but I hope you understand. The goal is to journal (write with a pen!!) while abroad and use those thoughts as part of my posts. So I don’t want to keep you out of the loop! No, quite the opposite!!

I will be posting quite a few photos of interest while on the Camino on Instagram (@clearskiescamino) and the occasional post on my Facebook group page. So if you want to follow me while I walk and you use either Instagram or Facebook, add me on either. Or even both if you wish :). If not, I hope you don’t mind sticking around until the 16th of September when I start to process my thoughts.

I’ll write more until I go on the 4th. Until then, Buen Camino!

Indecision…

My 2017 Camino has come in many different shapes and sizes. First, I was to walk from Porto to Santiago. Then, I decided on the Camino Ingles from Ferrol. And finally I returned to familiarity and the Camino Frances. I suppose I have a special friendship with the French Way, but in time, I will dip my toes in other routes.

After deciding on a start from Astorga, I longed for the meseta and moved my starting position to Logrono. Yes!..Logrono was to be my final starting place. No more changes. I’ll stick to my guns. Weeeelll, that didn’t last long as I have pushed forward my first steps to Burgos. With the 11-12 days I have, I should see Astorga, or even further depending on the weather. Once I made my mind up, I cancelled my bus to Logrono from Barajas T4 and booked a bus to Burgos. I’ve reserved a litera in Albergue Hostel Burgos, on Calle Miranda, literally less than a minute away from the estación de autobuses. Day One will begin early the following day as I make way for Hontanas, another favourite stop of mine.

The countdown continues in earnest, but I just hope I don’t change my mind again!

Astorga becomes Logrono….

I’m not naturally unpredictable but after a few days thinking, I have thrown a curveball at my plans for September. Alas, I have decided to shift the starting point of September Camino to La Rioja and Logrono. Logrono is a lovely city and like Astorga, there is plenty to see and do. I will have ten days of walking and I hope to reach Sahagun by the tenth day. From there, I will take a train to Santiago where I will meet my good friend, St. James. I have walked through the provinces of La Rioja and Castilla y Leon on a number of occasions and have really enjoyed my times there. So much so that I will postpone my walking through Galicia for another time. My flight to Madrid on the 4th of September still stands, and from there I catch an ALSA bus to Logrono. I’m half-tempted to walk to Navarette once I arrive but for the time being, I have reserved a bunk-bed in Albergue Albas

I get to pass through favourite towns of mine – Belorado (with it’s highly recommended Cuatro Cantones albergue), Azofra, Burgos, Boadilla del Camino, and Villalcázar de Sirga. The meseta has only been good to me when I walked through it, so I look forward to September. Many dislike this stretch, so much so that they catch a bus to Leon or Astorga. I’m not sure why. I suppose living so close to the Camino allows me to make these sudden changes and I’m grateful for that. I do apologise to any of my readers who were looking forward to my posts from Galicia but I will make it up to you.

Buen Camino amigos!

Ps – My post on my recent walk around the Bog of Frogs last Saturday has been posted on Camino Society Ireland’s new website.

Thinking ahead…

September will see me on the Camino Frances for a seventh time. Eek! If you told me back in 2011 I would return to Spain for the following six years, I would look at you with wild disbelief! But yet, here I am and my mind is set on a return; this time walking from the Gaudi town of Astorga to Compostela.

With every year and every upcoming Camino, I spend a little time thinking of how I’d like to approach this trip and how I can make it a little different or unique to the last. Sometimes, these ideas just fade away once I find the first yellow arrow (and cerveza!), but other times I end up sticking to what I had planned. Each of my times on the Camino have been different in some shape or form, which is a good thing I suppose.

 

So, for September, here’s how I hope my time will go:

  • Sarria – There are many books written about the amount of pilgrims on the trail on reaching Sarria, which is the last point where you can start your Camino in order to obtain a compostela. Due to the increased numbers, there is always a strain on accommodation. So, I have decided to pre-book albergues in a number of towns before Santiago. I have never been one to pre-book and if I was walking from, let’s say, St. Jean to Burgos, I wouldn’t do so. But I feel that if I am to enjoy my walk this time around, I may as well reserve. I now will have a little bit of weight taken off my shoulders and I can take my time. Booking.com is a great website to make these reservations. I haven’t made any bookings from Astorga to Sarria as there is no need!
  • Less is more – In September 2016, while walking to Finistere, my pack weighed 7 kg. I reckon I can bring that down a little more. I have bought an Osprey 30 litre pack and am pretty happy with it. The less I bring, the less I have to worry about and my back won’t have any niggling pains! Now if only I could leave the smartphone at home!
  • Brierley’s end stages – So many people religiously follow Brierley’s guidebook, thereby missing the great towns in between. Towns like Cacabelos, El Acebo, Las Herrerias, and Ribadiso are all passed daily by legions of pilgrims. I aim to stay in these towns. It will be a welcome change as I haven’t stayed there before, save for stopping for a cerveza. Oh, and I’m leaving a guidebook at home 🙂 The arrows can guide me.
  • Pacerpoles – For the last few years I’ve walked with either a wooden stick bought before I start, or with a single carbon pole. I’ve always found them a hinderance however as I like to have my hands free to take photos, and reach for water etc. However, this year I will be making the climb to O Cebreiro so I’ve decided to bring along a set of pacerpoles that I bought before Christmas. It will make things a little easier and I won’t have those niggling back pains that I usually have (I hope!).  I have tried them a few times here in Ireland and they are pretty easy to get used to. I reckon they will be a help. Plus, I have been recommended them by a number of camigos! That said, I am usually the one who complains about the click-clacking of poles!
  • Take my time – In years gone by, I have been told by a number of people that I am a “speedster”..whatever that is!? My typical day starts at 6am and I like to check into an albergue before 1pm. That leaves me with the majority of the day to wash, rest, have some food in the evening and get to meet my fellow pilgrims! Sometimes, I don’t realise how fast I walk. In September, I hope to stretch the day out, slow down, start a little later, stop a little more, have numerous coffee breaks. Who knows, this may be the last time I walk the Camino Frances for some time! I’m in no hurry.
  • Visit local churches – It’s very easy to forget that the Camino is a pilgrimage. I’m not particularly religious but I’ve always wanted to set aside 20 minutes a day while on the Camino to drop into a church and say a quick prayer. However, after walking 25kms each day, it is difficult to find the time.
  • Use my knowledge of Spanish a little more – Creo que tengo buen español. Me gustaría hablar más a la gente local, sólo un poco! I guess this comes with confidence. Ordering a cafe con leche is second nature; speaking to someone from Spain is a challenge, but I’m up for it.

So, there is my wish-list for my September Camino. I may stick with the above, but then again, I may choose to do what I have done all along….let the Camino tell me what to do!

April becomes September..

So I posted before before Christmas that I had planned to walk from Leon to Santiago. I couldn’t wait to heal up after my broken wrist, so I booked my flights and bought any other gear that I needed. There was much anticipation which is usually the case when I think about returning to Spain. I had decided on April as a good time as it’s not too warm and it’s not that busy at that time of the year.

Unfortunately, due to a number of reasons, I felt it would be better to postpone and cut short my Camino. I have a number of things that I need to give my attention to over the next 3-4 months and unfortunately, a trip to Spain isn’t high on that list. So I am putting it aside until September 4th when I fly to Madrid and catch a bus to Astorga. I have made a booking in Hotel Gaudi which I am looking forward to. The next morning I hope to march on to who knows where! I had to grin and bear the charge for changing flights but that’s a small sacrifice! I look forward to the Leon hills, the Cruz de Ferro, the Bierzo valley and of course, the climb to O Cebreiro!

 

Looking Back – Camino Frances 2012 #2

Day two. Astorga.

I remember being woken suddenly by super-eager peregrinos in the albergue in Astorga. It was as if a fire had started and they needed to leave. Gah! The sun hadn’t even risen yet. I suppose it’s par of the course in albergue life however..sigh! After gathering my things together, I made my way out of the albergue and walked westwards. It was just after 7am. After a number of hours, I met Louisa from Spain. We got talking until we hit Santa Catalina de la Somoza. I stopped here for a second breakfast. The sun was out now and it was getting warm. After 2o minutes or so, I walked on. I reached El Ganso and it’s one-bar-town. The Cowboy Bar really intrigued me.

The walking wasn’t difficult and the scenery wasn’t anything to write home about. However, it wasn’t flat like it was the previous day. I enjoyed walking solo, just me and my music. Another few hours passed and I reached the climb to Rabanal del Camino. It was tough going, I suppose I could have done with a pole. The decorations on the fence walking up made it all more worthwhile. Rabanal del Camino was in the distance. I had walked 21 kms in 5 hours. Just a little too fast I suppose. Time for a rest. The heat had got to me and I was out of water. I checked in at Albergue NS Pilar and had a choice of bunks. I showered and rested in the sun with a cerveza. Rabanal was a fantastic little town.

The following day was the Cruz de Ferro and the Leon Hills. I was a little apprehensive and unsure if I was going to manage it. Maybe it was just my mind. I went to vespers in the Benadictine church which was an amazing experience. I’m not particularly religious but this music and harmony blew me away. Afterwards, I met a guy from Denmark and we had dinner in El Refugio. Nice place. I had an early night and got ready for a steep climb the next morning.

More from the throwback series can be found here.

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