A Pilgrim’s Journey; starts in Andalucia.

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macasas
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Day 23 Salamanca – El cubo del tierra de vino

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:55 am

When I said that yesterday would be the last day of moaning about the boots, I lied. If you could ask my feet what kind of day they have had the reply would be shocking, even to those of you that have heard it all before. I have started all over again. Just when my old boots were starting to get comfortable on the inside I have been forced to replace them because of the outside. My one or two nearly recovered blisters have been replaced with a completely new set that now covers the entire heel, side and one of the old ones has revived itself and come back to life. It was so bad that with 8km to go, I took my boots off and walked in my Crocks, and they felt like slippers!

Andy had given me the rest of her Compeed plasters and my heel now had 3 of them covering all my new blisters. I put them on as soon as the sensation starts but by the end of the day I had a reservoir underneath them. The problem I have found with Compeed is they only stick to the bit of skin that is no longer attached to you, the blister bit. The rest of it peels off as you walk, forms a sausage roll and causes more blisters. It says not to take them off but they are already half off, the problem comes when you try to take the rest off, the blister skin splits, pulls away, juice squirts everywhere and you are left with some nice fresh skin that is red raw and juicy. We are not talking steaks here, although the stinging sensation is close to my favourite sirloin being fried in the pan, juices constantly oozing, and pouring the antiseptic fluid on is the flambé of heat as I caught my breath and swore rather too quietly. I would have to wait until morning to see if the skin had hardened enough and I could put my boots on, let alone walk in them.

I had spent most of the day walking with Petra and Danielle. It is difficult to walk at someone else’s speed and as a couple they walk at different speeds; she is out front striding ahead, navigating with their accurate German guide and he is 50m behind. This is not a massive difference over 30km but with his damaged knee wrapped in a support bandage it appears as if he is struggling more than she is. As the day progressed I could tell she was the driving force behind the partnership, as is so often the case. He was proud that she was the navigator, making the decisions, always pushing them forward, she was secure in the knowledge that there was a good man behind her; she even carried his bag when his knee gave in, now that is love! Danielle was a fit man, but the camino has the ability to reduce everyone to the same level, his knee had forced them to take two days rest. They were a beautiful couple, who no doubt had their problems when the outside world forced its way into their lives, and they were struggling with decisions to change the way they lived to be closer to friends and family, juggling with work. I am sure they will find their solution because the camino gives you plenty of time to consider all your options. When we reached El Cubo Petra and me stopped at the sign, she said we started the day together and we should finish it together, she was talking about her and Danielle, and as we waited for him to catch us up I was thinking about Dora, the sort of girl who would be waiting for me to catch her up, or perhaps we would be walking together!

At 8 o’clock I sat on my bed in the Albergue and decided I wanted to be in bed by 10; so that was 2 hours to either find a solution or accept the pain and shut up about it. I decided to have a shower only to find out the whole town had been cut off. Perhaps I should just go to bed!
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macasas
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Day 24 El Cubo – Zamora

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:56 am

I woke up with only one thing in mind; I was going to get to Zamora today. I looked at my heel and realised I had to come up with a plan. I opened the first aid kit and studied what I had left and what I could do with it. I was running low on just about everything so I slowly did my stretches and got dressed.

In the front of my rucksack I pulled out 2 pieces of high density foam the chiropodist had given me to put under my heels. I had used one piece on my walk from Galisteo to Carcaboso when I had to take out the insole to make room for the bandage. I cut 1 piece into the shape of a ‘U’, cut some dressing to fit the centre hole and peeled of the protective paper to allow the self adhesive side to stick to my heel. It was my only option, to try and push the heel away from the boot and stop it rubbing altogether. The rest of my feet looked like a war zone, but I had done all I could and was ready to go, what else was I going to do?

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6 o’clock mist on leaving El Cubo

The first 2 hours were surprisingly pain free but I stopped short of congratulating myself on a job well done, things change very fast on the camino as I had learnt to my cost. So far so good would do for now. As the day wore on Zamora came into sight but it was still an hour and a half away. Petra was right in some respects when she said that it is better to not see the next town coming, and to turn a corner and it just be there. When you can see it coming in the distance it takes absolutely ages to arrive, each time you rise to the crest of the next hill it never seems to have gotten any closer. Zamora kept moving further away!

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How far to Zamora?

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Fron time to time I could see Filipe’s footprints in the soft sand. He had a huge stride. It was only his second day so no doubt he would have arrived already, full of energy and full of enthusiasm. I hope he doesn’t start too fast too soon but who am I to advise, these were my problems not his, and just like the rest of us he just has to cope with what is presented to him in his own way. He looks fit and has been in the army so I have no doubt he will be okay.

Seven and a half hours of walking on raw skin and blister juice is not the most pleasant experience I have ever had, but as I reached the outskirts of town and started looking for a place to sit down and take my boots off, there was no self-congratulations, but a small reflexive pat on the back to remind me that the goal had been reached, despite the constant stabbing pain that had come with each step to encourage me to stop. Take off the first 2 hours, that left about 20km at roughly half a meter per step giving 40000 knife stabs into my Achilles heel, not a bad day in all! Just goes to show what can be done if you put your mind to it, or in this case take your mind off it!

The place I found to stop was right on the river, right opposite the cathedral. The water was cold, agghhhhhh, que bueno, the boots were straight off and I stood there in the shallows and did my stretches. I must have looked like a yoga class all by myself. I sent a text to Petra and Danielle and told them to turn left into the park when they arrived, and I got somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour siesta in. When they arrive we really did have a yoga class as Petra did the half blind dog, the cat and the cow. I might have the names wrong but the locals were impressed and so was my back, I can still feel it now.

So that was today, as I sit on my bed at 10:30 and listen to the bustle that is the Plaza Major below me, with Spanish families just starting their evenings and sitting down in the cafés and bars, I cannot imagine being anywhere else, my feet are still throbbing and my shoulders are aching, but tomorrow is another day and for a few hours I can forget the realities of my days.
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macasas

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macasas
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Day 25 Zamora

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:58 am

I have spent the morning sleeping, going to the library to try and find access to the internet and going to the post office to send back my boots. Zamora doesn’t have wifi so I have posted a quick note, the post office was extremely busy and took even longer because the old woman in front of me didn’t know her daughter-in-laws address, nor her surname, she had written Maria Jose, and then the name of the pueblo. The cashier was trying to explain it would be quicker if the postman knew where to take it, she just wanted to know how long it would be before she got it.

I have returned to the hotel as the clock strikes 12, I am overlooking the Plaza Major, the sun is shining bright and it is surprisingly quiet, except the obligatory banging in the building somewhere; there is always noise of some description in Spain. It is too late for to start the 4 hour walk planned for today, so I have decided it will be my rest day. For the next few hours all I have to do is buy another map, and people watch.

People watching is a very worthwhile pastime. Just as your own personality and character will always come out when you are involved in competitive sport, people never hide their true nature when they don’t think they are being watched. I am on the 2nd floor looking down, and everyone is going about their business unaware I am there. There is a young woman checking herself out in the reflection of the shop window, she just can’t get her hair right no matter how many times she pulls it straight, and brushes it behind her ear. She keeps looking up and down the row of shops, waiting for someone or just checking no-one is watching her. The middle aged man sitting on the steps of the church is rocking a push chair back and forward, he is sharing his gaze between the farmacia entrance and straight-hair’s backside, no doubt he doesn’t want to get caught looking at someone else’s culo, and sure enough his guilty reaction is clearly evident as a woman leaves the chemist and he jumps up to be by her side. There is a waiter with nothing to do, he is looking up and down the plaza stuffing his face with bocadillo, I hope he washes his hands afterwards but somehow I doubt he will bother. A young man in a new Alfa Romeo makes his way around the outside of the plaza, there is no parking but the is a space in between some trees which is good enough. In the UK a traffic warden would have been on him within seconds, here he just leaves it and talks to the waiter while he waits for his girlfriend to arrive, well she couldn’t walk too far in those shoes. The people watching goes on for some time, it is a relaxing pastime, so much so before I know it I have started my siesta without me realising it, this walking is a tiring business, more than I realise.

The day goes slowly, just what I needed, plenty of rest, plenty of lazing around, it will be my last until I reach Ourense. I am approaching the mountains which means I go up higher and down lower over shorter distances, everything gets steeper. I am studying my days ahead when I realise I should go and buy some water and fruit juice, the shops will close in an hour. As I am leaving the hotel there is a right old racket going on in front of the town hall. I go over to take a closer look, there is about 30 people, mostly old age pensioners with a few youngens thrown in with tape over their mouths and they are all banging saucepans, frying pans, shaking old cow bells, blowing whistles and one bloke has an air horn. No-one is in time, there is no pattern or rhythm, it is just a noise. Out comes a banner, Puente Si, Parking No. So they don’t mind having a bridge but they don’t want any parking, I suppose the council are going to knock down the bridge to build a car park and this lot don’t agree. A lone policeman emerges from the main door to have a look at the proceedings and then disappears. Two television station cars turn up and the camera man from each car runs around taking video from different directions. A spokeswoman appears from the rabble and the cameramen hone in and record whatever she has to say; this must be big news, or the only news, to have two stations covering it! The banging is loosing it’s intensity, they have been going for almost ten minutes and the oldens are already struggling, there is still no sign of anyone from the council coming out to talk to them, do they ever? So this is a genuine Spanish protest, not much to look at, not sure how the TV reporters are going to make this look interesting to their viewers and its not long before I too loose interest, and go back to my relaxing, I will no doubt see the result on the TV news later, there is never much on Spanish TV.
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mijasmagic
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Postby mijasmagic » Thu Jul 10, 2008 1:05 pm

Halfway! Congrats on that, macasas.

When you recounted the smile from the old boy in Morille, have you any thoughts as to what he knows that you (as yet) don´t? Is there a nightmare section ahead, or what?

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Postby dido72 » Thu Jul 10, 2008 9:25 pm

You must be so proud of yourself for doing this, it is amazing and your stories are fascinating, keep them coming and my thoughts are with you :D

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Postby Deborah » Sat Jul 12, 2008 6:47 pm

Go with the flow my Pilgrim friend.

I arrive in Santiago on the 19th and leave on the 22nd. So we will not meet. :cry: I re-read your post afterwards and realised that you were going via Ourense. That is a lovely city. If you have time check out the Roman thermal baths, boiling hot water springing out of the ground. If you dont get time to go there there is a fuente in the centre of town where the water is so hot you could make a cup of tea with it.

25th July is Saint James Feast Day in Santiago so fiesta there if you arrive then.

Check out the Tuna Band in the Plaza de Obradoiro (cathedral square) Most Pilgrims meet up there. They are usually on from about 10pm.

Enjoy your pilgrimage. It is something special.

One of the things that you will find after you have finished is that you will need to acustomise yourself to civilization again. It is very hard for some to get back into the "real" world. It is very hatd for me sometimes. I am not ready to finish walking the Camino, emotionally. It is a very strange thing. And not one that is easy to write about.

spaindirect@telefonica.net get in touch when you get back. It would be nice to share experiences. I have many.

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Postby Kathy » Tue Jul 15, 2008 3:06 pm

You havent posted for a few days everything ok?

macasas
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Still going!

Postby macasas » Tue Jul 15, 2008 10:07 pm

Hi everyone, yes I am still going, it is just hard work trying to get a WIFI connection in Spain. I have passed the 3 quarters mark and have entered Galicia, only 233km to go. Thanks for all the support!
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macasas
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Day 26 Zamora – Riego del Camino

Postby macasas » Tue Jul 15, 2008 10:13 pm

I was awake and up before my alarm, the church bells and the dogs, but I didn’t beat the smell coming from the drains which was certainly enough to put you off your breakfast. The foot protection took longer than usual but it wasn’t long before I was packed and heading out the door. I left the old town as I passed under the historic walls and turned up the main dual carriageway leading north, past the commercial center on my way out of town. It took quite a while to reach the city limit. From there I was heading to Roales de Pan, then Montemarta, which is where I should have been yesterday, so today I would keep going past the old Roman ruins of Catrotorafe and end up in Riego del Camino.

Castillo y Leon is not exactly boring but the flat plains and endless corn fields are getting a little repetitive. I decided that if I found myself back on the road I would just head up it and get there as quickly as I could. The camino was tracking the road about 30 meters to the left and it was very stony, not good for the blister recovery process. After Montemarta I found myself back on the main road and started to stomp north. The road was extremely busy with lorry after lorry cooling me down with it’s draft of air. Now you have seen the photos and some say I have lost weight, but even so I am still not exactly wafer thin, so you can imagine my surprise when one particular lorry, that looked like all the others, physically blew me off my feet and plonked me in the hedgerow. I found myself laughing, wondering whether the driver had known and done it on purpose, whether he had been checking his mirror to see the effects of his efforts; there was no harm done, just had to walk those 2 meters again, but I would be even more careful in future.

The monotony of the view was suddenly interrupted as I came around a bend and was presented with this…

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I made my way around the shore and found the only spot with some shade, took my boots off, ate my lunch and had a siesta; well why not! The road was no more than 50 meters behind me, but I could not hear it. I could hear the occasional fish jumping out the water and when I finally saw one do it I could see it was a fairly big fish, at least 2 foot long and it was skimming the surface in arcs in its attempt to find food.

Restarting after a rest is always a pain, quite literally. Usually the muscles have seized up and I walk with a limp for a couple of kilometres before they warm up and stretch allowing normal movement. Today however, my blisters are joining in and after the siesta the going is so painful I decide to get to the road and once again the walk is finished in my Crocks. I am so glad I bought them!

Riego del Camino is a funny little place. When I arrived I went straight into the bar on the main road. The only man in there was sitting at a table, he grunted and carried on eating. I took off my rucksack, did some neck rolls, took out my guide book and sat at the bar. I looked at him a few times and decided he must be a customer, but there didn’t appear to be anyone else there. After ten minutes I thought I might as well go and find the Albergue, as I picked up my bag to leave he got up and asked what I wanted. I was so tired I couldn’t be bothered so I replied ‘nada’. Now he couldn’t do enough for me, telling me where the Albergue was and telling me to come back later for some food, of course mate, if I have some time to waste. Adios.

I was looking for Calle Espana, number 32, that was the Albergue but the key was with Dorita at number 7. The problem was, none of the roads had street names, and there was absolutely no-one about, it was 4 o’clock, siesta time. Eventually I found the only street with a sign, Calle Espana, I found 32, it was locked, I found number 7, there was no answer, so I went to the church, it was locked. The only thing open was the bar, and he was eating so I sat under a tree and thought about my day. A woman walked past with a wheelbarrow, I asked her if the Albergue was in Calle Espana, she didn’t know, I asked if Dorita lived in Calle Espana, yes she did, but she didn’t know which number, it was at the end! This time I would find it, I wasn’t walking on to the next village now!

At 7 o’clock I still hadn’t found Dorita’s house, and so without a key to the Albergue I reluctantly returned to the bar, this time the wife was in charge, I ordered a drink and set about replacing my bandages for the walk to the next village; it was only 7km, just under 2 hours! As I finished the last plaster and was knocking back my drink the barman returned and sat down on the next table to a torrent of abuse from his wife behind the bar. I looked at him and his face just said ‘situation normal’; he took his chair and walked out of the bar. As I was leaving he came back in and told me he would take me to see Dorita, thinking he probably just wanted an excuse to be away from his missus for a bit longer I asked if he was sure she was there, or whether he was just looking, because I had had enough walking and was ready to leave.

Twenty minutes later I had met Dorita, she lived at number 3, the entrance was round the back, I had seen the arrows outside the door, 3 of them all pointing in different directions, as clear as mud. She proceeded to have an argument with the barman about how unclear the signs were to her Albergue. The barman’s wife shouted at him, he shouted at everyone else! I stopped him mid sentences, something he wasn’t used to and told him it was unclear, I had been here 3 hours and was just about to leave. Dorita’s face hit the floor, 3 hours, just about to leave, she launched a new attack at the barman who withdrew for a moment not sure where the new torrent was coming from, but he soon recovered and there was a full blown Spanish argument going on, both of them at full volume, what a scene!

Dorita was a classic example of daughter being called the same as grandparent, which effectively means the same as mum, because it happened to her too. So Dorita’s mum would be called Dora, and she was Dora too, but everyone called her Dorita. ‘ita’ meaning little was very appropriate in this case, she could only have been just over 5 foot, and surprisingly for a Spanish woman in her fifties she was reasonable thin, ish!

There is something about the Spanish diet that makes most women, and to be honest most men, grow larger than they should around the tops of their legs and above. In some cases the *beep* is so big it has trouble keeping up with the rest of the body; and I have seen stomachs enter the room 10 minutes before the owner actually arrived. In the UK the advertisers are constantly telling us to eat olive oil because its good for us, just look at the Mediterraneans, well I did and I have been looking at their fellow countrymen all the way from Sevilla and I can tell you there are a lot of overweight Spaniards to go along with the overweight English. Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming olive oil on its own, it’s the whole diet, all of which is, of course, is ‘muy bueno’, any Spaniard will tell you so.

Eventually I was given a key, told where the shop was and that it was a good time to go now, when I arrived it was closed. I had walked past it 3 times already, it didn’t look like a shop, it didn’t have any signs on it to say it was a shop, and as far as I was concerned if it was closed it was as good as not a shop! I went back three times, at 8 o’clock it still wasn’t open, even a local thought it was strange but no-one knew why. Back at the Albergue Dorita told me it was my bad luck, yep, it wasn’t the fact that this village was closed, that I had only seen 4 people since 4 o’clock, that Franco could have conquered the whole of Spain and this lot would still have been asleep, that no-one wanted to do any business, nope, it was just my bad luck, bad luck that I had picked this place as my stop over!

I will have to go to the bar, no point going yet there won’t be any food until 9, but at least I could get some water, breakfast will have to wait until I get to Granja. Dorita told me the food is good, and there will be a band, or at least singing. Let’s hope it isn’t karaoke!

When I arrive at the bar there is nothing much going on, just like the rest of the town. A few old men sit outside with the barman, a single woman sits inside among numerous farmers and workers in blue overalls. At least there are some people but that just makes it is difficult to see them because of the smoke; in fact it is almost impossible to see whether the sign on the wall says Smoking Prohibited or Smoking Allowed because of the smoke. I cannot stay long, as a human I need oxygen, the Spaniards will no doubt stay all night.

In every situation there is always one; when everyone agrees to turn left there is always one that wants to turn right; when everyone agrees to vote Green, there is always someone who wants to vote Labour. So where is the one Spaniard who doesn’t smoke? There has to be at least one, but so far I have failed to spot him on my travels. Everyone I have met, seen or heard has been smoking. Spain bought in the no smoking laws like every other country in Europe, only with a small difference; the bar or establishment could choose whether it wanted to be a smoking or a non-smoking bar, they just had to put up a sign, so nothing really changed and there is no reason to be able to see the sign in this bar because it will say Smoking Allowed, they all do! If anyone has seen, or knows of a Spaniard that doesn’t smoke please let me know.
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macasas
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Day 27 - Riego del Camino – Tábara

Postby macasas » Tue Jul 15, 2008 10:14 pm

I woke up hungry, the first time I had since starting the camino. I told myself it was all in the mind, and that because I had nothing to eat I wanted something to eat. Well I didn’t have anything so I drank a detox mixture to stop the stomach grumblings. It took a long time to sort out my feet, there were a lot of plasters. I started with what I thought were the worst ones and kept going until I thought I had better be going, it was 6:30.

The clarity of the arrows continued on the way out of town with lampposts housing clusters all facing different directions. I wanted to go and get the barman and ask him what exactly he was shouting so loud about, it wasn’t something to be proud of. I ended up going in a horseshoe and then being returned to the main road about 200 meters out of town, unlike other pueblos, it hadn’t even taken me past the church.

I plodded the road halfway to Granja. I could see the camino and left the road to join it. It was no longer made of stones and the going was good until I reached the church in Granja, and then I must have missed an arrow because everything that was in my guide book didn’t happen. Granja was important, very important! It was the place I would change direction, something I had been looking forward to for a week or more. A change in direction is a good thing, whether it is because you are going the wrong way, fancy a change of scenery or because it is part of the plan. If I continued north I would join the Camino Frances, if I turned left I would go via Oursense. I left the town and went up the hill just like the guide told me. It said to go past Bar Peregrino and then follow the route, I never found Bar Peregrino! Instead I kept walking and found my plan B, the ZA123 to Tábara, I would follow it until I reach the river Elsa and then rejoin the camino.

The road was long and winding, but within the hour the river emerged from behind a bend in the road, and then in front of me was the bridge that would take me across; the old one, built by the Romans has fallen down, so not everything they constructed was built to last. As I cross the bridge I am overtaken by a group of cyclists, I meet them on the other side as they take photos and eat some oat bars. I am offered a bar and I accept, breakfast has been lacking today.

At the end of the bridge the camino divides, the road is for the cyclists, the path follows the river back up stream to the old bridge, and it says it isn’t suitable for bikes. Not suitable, I should say so, my mountain goat training was pushed to its limits as the path cut its way through the trees and bushes, over rocks and down into gullies; this was mountaineering with a rucksack on. Even with my bag as light as it had ever been, there wasn’t any food in it for a start, it was constantly trying to pull me off balance and down into the river below; this path wasn’t suitable for walkers either. Eventually I reached the old bridge and the path veered off up the hill and away from the river, so now it added steep climbing to the already dodgy progress. Up and up I went, at times the steepness of the climb combined with the weight of my bag threatened to pull me back down the hill, it was tough going and the top never seemed to get any closer, each time I looked up to check my progress I started to topple backwards so it was safer to keep my head down; I would get to the top when I got to the top.

Eventually, out of breath and with burning thighs I reached some form of plateaux, at last the ground levelled out, but then the path had disappeared too. Had I lost it by keeping my head down, or had it actually disappeared? I wandered about looking for a sign, any sign of the camino, just a tiny yellow arrow would do. I started seeing yellow arrows in everything I saw, discoloured rocks, trees that were covered in moss, but eventually I saw a pile of rocks that someone had made, when I got closer there was a small path next to it, a little further on and the path became a track and I was back on course. Then and only then was there an arrow painted on a tree; well that was lucky!

Once again the path wound its way through the countryside until a few hours later I stopped in Fara de Tábara for a break, to fill up the water levels and to have a tinto verano. As usual the locals were disinterested which is okay because it lets you relax. Within the hour I was on my way, Tábara was my destination for the day and it was just over an hour away.

When I arrived in Tábara I was met by Daniel, he was waiting for the keys to the Albergue, one in the tabac shop and the other in the town hall. Both were closed. Petra and Filipe were waiting at the Albergue, it was a long way out of town and the walk was considered too much, Daniel had lost the toss. We waited together in the bar until the ajuntamiento opened, got our passports stamped and collected the key. We were the only ones in the Albergue, but only for about 10 minutes. I had just got settled and was waiting for the shower when in came Conxi, pronounced con chee, a bundle of energy from Madrid who had walked from Zamora, today, that’s 50km. Okay, so she stayed on the carreterrra and so the going would have been easier but that was still 5km/h for 10 hours with just an hour for stops. I didn’t know what was in her water but I would have to buy a couple of litres in the morning, she didn’t even look tired which made me feel very old and what had been a good days walking 10 minutes before was now looking like a poor days crawling. I told myself that the camino is nothing if it isn’t my own personal experience and this is true of everyone. It had been a good days walking, yes it had!

That evening I took the opportunity to practice my Spanish, we all went to the plaza to have some food and Conxi was more than happy to have some company as she was used to doing the Camino Frances where you apparently don’t stop meeting people and talking all day; the Via de la Plata was a completely different baby, and like the rest of us she had days in complete solitude, not something she was used to. It was a good evening of good cheap food and wine, I hoped I would sleep well tonight.
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macasas

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macasas
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Day 28 Tábara - Calzadilla de Tera

Postby macasas » Tue Jul 15, 2008 10:15 pm

The day started at about 3 o’clock when I was woken up by a chorus of snorers. There were 3 other men in the room and 2 woman, Daniel led the field with a rhythmic nasal noise followed closely by Xabi, the older Spaniard who was trying to sing an old ballard or something. As usual the women were silent. Once again I could not get back to sleep and ended up leaving the room and heading for the kitchen, but this time I had no air bed and the only thing that looked remotely inviting was the kitchen table, so that was that, it wasn’t comfortable but it had to do. Needless to say the rest of the night didn’t go well.

In the morning Daniel mentioned that he couldn’t sleep because of the noise made by Xabi, I had to laugh, he must have woken himself up with his own snoring and then couldn’t get back to sleep either, touché!

Filipe left first, as usual, closely followed by Petra and Daniel. I was still putting my bandages on when Xabi waved his goodbyes and it was just me at the kitchen table. They had all slept better than me, woken up when they wanted, got ready and were gone. I was so knackered that I was just sat there sticking plasters to my feet, bag half packed and not even close to leaving. Conxi was a late riser, not surprised after all that walking, it soon catches up and sometimes overtakes you. I was gone by 7.

For the first time there were too many people walking the camino in front of me. It was weird to turn a corner and find myself catching other peregrinos, it had not happened very often unlike the Camino Frances, where there is apparently always someone around. Today people were intruding on my solitary walk. At the first village, Bericianos de Valverde there was the usual church and bar, in the bar was the whole gang, it was like some kind of reunion, very strange!

An hour later I arrived at Santa Croya, this was the days destination for the others as they had decided to stay in Casa Anita’s, a well advertised private Albergue where the woman owner spoke German and there was high hopes she would cook them a German sausage meal. I had already decided I was going on to Calzadilla de Tera, and my desire to get away and find some solitude, even some sleep was strong enough to walk the extra 2 hours. I bought some food in Santa Croya and sat in the shaded park to have lunch, Petra and Daniel waved as they walked past on their way to see Anita and then suddenly Conxi was sitting down and opening up her lunch. I thought she would have been there by now, the speed she went, but apparently it was a slow day for her.

Conxi was easier to understand than most of the locals, she was from Madrid and her accent was soft and clear. This was a good opportunity to get some Spanish practise; she spoke some French but no English. My problem is in understanding what is being said, lucky for me she loved to talk, problem was I had to concentrate because while she was talking and I was listening the chances of missing an arrow was very high. We walked to Santi Maria and found the oldest statue of Santiago hidden behind a church, the church was 12th Century, the staute was 11th century, when they moved the statue they cut the feet off because it wouldn’t fit, which was ironic because you could have cut my feet off at this point due to the pain.

From Santa Marta to Calzadilla was a 2 hour walk. By the time we arrived I had definitely had enough, enough walking and enough talking Spanish, my head hurt and everything I said was coming out wrong, I was using the wrong endings for everything and not only did I say La Hombre, the female man, but I inadvertently asked her if she was a lesbian. Lucky for me she thought it was funny!

We were the only one’s staying at this Albergue, we went to the shop and then to the bar, that was it, there was nothing else to do so we went back for an early night. Hopefully she wouldn’t snore, she didn’t, she sniffed all night.
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macasas

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macasas
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Day 29 Calzadilla de Tera – Mombuey

Postby macasas » Tue Jul 15, 2008 10:16 pm

The day started late, I forgot to put my alarm on because I was so used to just waking up, but a combination of being almost alone and having had no sleep the night before left me sleeping until 7. Conxi went off to have breakfast in the bar muttering that I took longer to get ready than a girl but it wasn’t enough for her to walk on her own today, she obviously enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed listening to her talk, I’m not sur my Spanish was improving much, in fact the more I tried I think the worse it got!

When my feet were done I trundled off to the bar, where I had missed some homemade marmalade and toast. Once again she was waiting for me to arrive so off we went. This wasn’t the lazy, mañana Spanish approach I was used to. The Spanish lesson began almost straight away, only interrupted by the occasional necessity to check exactly which way we were going. We made good progress and were soon crossing a reservoir with spectacular views all around us. Conxi kept throwing adjectives at me describing how beautiful everything was, I heard them all, but like going to a comedy night and forgetting all the jokes the next day, I cannot remember any of them. I must do some revision and try to make some of them stick in that sieve I call a brain. Breakfast for me was beside the reservoir, oranges and yogurt, and Conxi bounced around pretending to be okay but I could see she was itching to be on the move again. It is at times like this I appreciate how much I have also enjoyed my own camino, walking at my own pace, stopping when I want and for as long as I want; on the other hand I couldn’t buy a Spanish lesson like this for love nor money. It turned out she was meeting a friend in San Salvador, 14km further on from my destination, fair enough, she would have 2 or more hours walking after I had stopped in Mombuey so we set off again. Her friend wanted to know what the camino was like so she was coming up from Madrid to do just one days walking, about 20km, she wasn’t bringing much and she was probably going to moan about it all the way, I was pleased to be stopping beforehand and getting back to my own camino.

When we arrived in Mombuey Conxi insisted on helping me find the Albergue, and then the keys to the Albergue, and when the door opened and we both saw what a dump the place was, she stood there asking me if I was going to stay and checking I was going to be okay. All I could think about was my aching feet so I told her I would rest a while and then decide, and that she should be going. Even though there was a chance we would meet again tomorrow she looked sad to be leaving, she gave me a hug and held my hand like an old friend leaving for the last time. She had kept comparing this walk to the Camino Frances where there were so many more people and I guess she had been lonely for about a week walking on her own before we met in Tábara. After she had disappeared around the corner I sat down and kicked off my boots, then realised how quiet it was!

The Albergue was a complete dump in a single room with 11 beds, there was food all over the floor from the previous occupants so of course there was plenty of flies, and not one of the beds looked inviting. I sat on a bench for a long time eating an orange and finally decided to investigate the hostal on the corner. I packed my things up and gingerly put my boots back on, like putting a sweat soaked t-shirt back on after a long run, it wasn’t comfortable. As I left the Albergue I dropped the key into the owners mailbox, that was it, I was off. The first hostal was full, it had no spare beds, b****cks! The only other hotel was quite a walk back the way we had come in, but there was nothing for it, with my left ankle now threatening to go the same way as the right one had, and the heat building up nicely, I walked to 2km back out to the hotel; it was full, b****cks, b****cks, b****cks!!!!

The only option I had left was to go back to the Albergue, at least there were beds and I would just have to make the most of it and hope no-one else turned up to make the place feel even smaller, and to stop me from sleeping again. I had to hope the old woman was still at home to get the key again, when I arrived she was sat just inside her doorway, she had a smile on her face as if to say, ‘so you want to come back’. I asked for the key and she kept nodding her head as if to say, what do you expect for nothing and she was right, you get what you pay for, this place was free, and it showed.

After a good siesta I went shopping and bought some goodies. I was sat in the Albergue thinking about how poor my Spanish really was when put to the test when I realised I was thinking more about Conxi than our Spanish lessons. It wasn’t really Conxi I was thinking about either, it was the way I had spent the past couple of days, laughing and joking about whatever had just happened, a kind of playful banter that had made us both feel comfortable in each others company almost from the start. Perhaps it was the absence of any sexual connotation or expectations, or perhaps it was just because we both met a need in the other person, she needed company and someone to talk to, I needed to listen to Spanish to help me understand it, whatever it was we got on together extremely well and I think that is why she looked sad to be leaving, the experience was there to be enjoyed, and just as it had began it was going to end, short and sweet!

My thoughts are interrupted by the church at the end of the street jumping into life with the ringing of bells. They sounded awful, like tin cans, and then I realised it was a recording and was being played through the most awful sounding speakers tied to the church tower. The worst was yet to come, the sound of a microphone being dropped and then the worst music I have ever heard played at full volume for over half an hour, then back to the continual banging of the tin bells. No wonder no-one goes to church anymore, this isn’t calling in the flock its sending them running, I would run with them if I had somewhere to go and some energy to move my legs! Then suddenly it stopped.

My thoughts returned to Dora, not Dorita’s mother or grandmother, but my own Dora, the person who I could spend my days with, the sort of company that gels, moulds itself into something else greater than the two people that create it. At times I have left my cave, I have had girlfriends since and I am not trying to compare or match the new with the old, I am looking for something different, something even better. I know it can be done, it happened once before so I know for sure it is possible. This makes it difficult to accept the ordinary, the mundane, the standard relationship that just about covers the basics of talking and sex and complaining about the other person when they leave the room, this is not what I am looking for, this is not happiness, not for me! But what is? Have I discovered what will make it special after all the analysis and endless nights sipping Rioja and telling myself that hope is not just a word? I am looking for an understanding of who I am, how I am and why I am. I am looking for someone who wants to be understood in the same way. I know it is difficult to recognise it when it is masked by the memories of the previous relationship, something everyone struggles with, the desire to treat the new as you were treated by the old, the inability to move on without retribution, without justice. I have seen this in girlfriends since, a bitterness directed at the past as if it were me, a sour note in their voice when describing the future as if it were the past, it may be understandable, it just isn’t for me, now is my time to move on!

Like a duet on a trampoline I see happiness in the rhythm, in the understanding of the emotional ups and downs, the mood swings that make up all our daily lives. I don’t have the need to control this rhythm in myself or in others, just to recognise and accept it, just as they recognise and accept mine. It is better if the bounce on the trampoline can be roughly the same, because going too high or too low too fast or too slow can upset the whole show, and before you know it one or other has bounced off the side and has fallen through the safety net. For me it is that simple, which is perhaps why it is so difficult to recognise it when it is staring me in the face, all the rest is just details, but the details have a habit of taking over, of controlling my decisions and a desire to just make sure I am not missing something. On the camino the details come and go, they may be on the horizon and take all day to reach, or they may be just around the corner, but they come and go, and some are missed altogether. The camino however is always there, and the rhythm is my own. I have noticed my rhythm change when surrounded by others, followed by my desire for solitude, an attempt to regain my own rhythm.

Tonight I am back on my own, tomorrow I am back to walking on my own and I am looking forward to regaining my own rhythm, my Dora is out there waiting for me to recognise her, and I know I will recognise her by her rhythm, it will be easy to recognise, it will be my own. The details can work themselves out! Hasta Mañana!
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macasas

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macasas
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Day 30 Mombuey – Puebla de Sanabria

Postby macasas » Tue Jul 15, 2008 10:18 pm

I woke up at 4, my left leg was threatening to cramp up due to the size of the bed, my right leg was already locked with cramp and had my hands wrapped around it rubbing like mad. I rolled out of a poor excuse for a bed and leant against the wall in a desperate attempt to relieve the pain. I stayed there for what seemed like ages as I slowly woke myself up and went over what was happening, just to make sure. I spent a good half an hour stretching my legs, then I started on my back and shoulders. I still had a litre of water and a litre of orange juice from the night before, but it was gone in an instant and I was still thirsty. The rucksack waterbottle came out and was emptied as well. Only then did I start to feel better. I thought it might be dehydration but I had drunk over 5 litres the day before, and hadn’t felt thirsty at any time. Whether it was the bed or a lack of water, I wasn’t going back to sleep now, so I got my stuff together and prepared my feet for another days walking. It felt good to close the door on this Albergue, I hadn’t got my passport stamped and it didn’t bother me, Mombuey was history.

The camino today was divided into fairly short sections due to number of villages it passed through. It didn’t shorten the 33km to Puebla de Sanabria, but it somehow made it look like an easier day. By 8 I was in San Salvador eating my breakfast, and by 9:30 I was in Asturianos finishing of the apples I had bought 2 days ago. As I was getting ready to leave I saw Conxi and her friend appear on the main road and head straight for the restaurant. It was Sunday, and no doubt this was the first place they had seen open for breakfast. Just goes to show how bad my Spanish is, I could have sworn she said a girl friend was walking with her, but from this distance it looked like a man, perhaps my sight was failing as well! They hadn’t seen me so I decided to keep going and leave them to their day, I had other things to think about, did I mention my feet, and I didn’t want to spend the day talking Spanish.

When I reached Remesal at 23km I just had to stop. Both my little toes were screaming and a new area of pain was building under the left ball. The small blister on the side of the ball this morning was now the size of a 50 pence piece, and another blister had started under the big toe, all on my left foot which up until now had been fine. If wasn’t careful I would soon have 2 ingrown toenails and having had plenty of experience with this type of pain in the past I reckoned that would be game over. With just over 260km to go that would be a bitter pill to swallow. I patched myself up, made a note to visit the chemist at my next stop, and just as I was about to set off saw Conxi and her friend turn the corner and then disappear again. I was surprised they were still behind me as my current speed was practically nill, but off I hobbled once again, determined to get to Puebla at a good time of day.

Within 15 minutes I could hear voices behind me and turned to find Conxi and a male friend. Now I was confused, the man in front of me did have man-boobs, but there was no way he would pass for a woman. Apparently the girl was so slow they had left her behind with another friend, they were going to do some walking, then drive to Puebla and meet her and Jose, man-boobs man, then drive back the San Salvador for some reason and then come back later. Personally I would have trouble understanding this in English, so after being swomped in Spanish I just nodded, in reality I didn’t care! So off we went.

By the time we reached Puebla de Sanabria I had had enough for the day, or possibly the week. All I wanted to do was take my boots off. There were three options, a municipal Albergue in the town hall, it was in the old town up the hill, there was a set of very steep steps leading up or alternatively a winding road. There was a hotel at 40 euros, a special rate for peregrinos, or there was a private Albergue right opposite where we stood, but it wasn’t open until 4. For me there was no option, I would wait in the bar and cross the road at 4, job done!

Compared to last night the Albergue is a palace, and I can stretch out my legs in the bed, breakfast is included and there is a place to wash and dry my clothes. All I have to wait for now is the chemist to open so I can restock my blister treatment pack. It isn’t long before Conxi returns from wherever and plonks herself in my room, it’s funny because it doesn’t feel awkward in any way, nor do we get in each others way, it’s like I have just met my sister for the first time. She has been told that the old town in Puebla de Sanabria is something not to be missed so off we go, via the chemist of course. The steps we saw earlier are exactly 250 in number, and they are steeper than they look, with each one more than a step up; I was so glad I hadn’t climbed them with my rucksack in search of the municipal Albergue, which I had since found out had been closed anyway. How’s that for a bit of luck. We walked around the town with Conxi explaining everything as we went, then went into the church; it was the first one that had been open in a long while. There was Santiago in all his glory, and Christ depicted in Semana Santa, and when we got to the Virgin Mary Conxi exaplined that her name was a shortened version of Concepción, or even Inmaculada Concepción. I didn’t know that every female name in Spain is apparently linked to a virgin, or nearly all, Maria, Maria Jose, Pilar, Gemma, Guadalupe, Monserat. Well I didn’t know that!
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macasas

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Marina
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Postby Marina » Tue Jul 15, 2008 10:31 pm

I am finding these blisters really difficult and they're not even on my feet! :shock: I am so impressed that you are managing to keep going. I can't imagine how you are doing it!

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Postby Kathy » Tue Jul 15, 2008 10:53 pm

great read

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Chrissie
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A Pilgrim's Journey

Postby Chrissie » Tue Jul 15, 2008 11:14 pm

A wonderful vivid read Macasas. I'm on tenterhooks waiting for the next episode, and by the way, I feel your pain too :cry:
The past cannot be changed, but the present can be spoilt by worrying about the future

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Postby Matty » Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:24 pm

Hello Macasas,

Good to know you are still on track, literally.

Just to let you know that all my family and friends are all reading this with baited breath!

Good luck with your last quarter and make sure you do rest those feet.

Can you post another photo of you at the moment i want to see if you are losing weight.

Its also good to know you are again looking for you Dorita, and you know who she is going to be.

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Postby Jool » Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:41 pm

Are you going to publish this afterwards? I don´t know how you can keep going with blisters............but thanks for this

Kathy
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Postby Kathy » Wed Jul 16, 2008 8:17 pm

Can we see a photo of your feet, or would it be too OTT??????
Perhaps we could see one of Conchi too?

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Postby StoneyM » Wed Jul 16, 2008 11:20 pm

Hi Macacas
Great to hear you are still on the road, despite the boots and blisters. Enjoy reading your forum very much. I feel like I can almost see Santiago de Compostella on the far, far horizon, through the heat haze - you're nearly there....
Hope you like the poem.

Feet Of Endurance.
Yes I'm
Still on the road, with heavy load,
And decisions to make; - which tracks to take?
Where shall I eat, or rest up my feet ?
Early wake up, -or lost sleep to make up ?
Snoring males, in every room,
Menace lurking, in the gloom,
Steeper roads, that never end,
Enormous blisters - never mend.
Muscles melting, in the heat,
Boots disintegrating, on my feet.
The going's tough, I've had enough,
Were pilgrims made of stronger stuff ?
Was my preparation lacking ?
Is determination cracking ?
My limits of endurance tested -
weeks of heart and soul invested;
No...
- Forget the pain, the hills, the heat,
Just need to buy new pair of feet.
Kindly folk along the way,
Smiling, helpful - make my day.
Yep, I'm still the determined fella,
On the way to Santiago de Compostella ! :arrow:


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