Wow – three weeks into our Camino, and what an experience…it continues to test us, challenge us, and sometimes push us to the brink…but at the same time it has rewarded us immensely. We passed the halfway mark this week! Ah, yes the number of kilometers ‘to go’ are now smaller than the kilometers we have walked….this feels like an achievement in its own right.
We have another two weeks until we reach Santiago however, so the good luck messages and support from family, friends, and of course fellow pilgrims, means the world to us…..so please, keep ‘em coming!!
And so, just a quick summary of how we spent our time over the last week.
August 21st – Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (20 kms) – staying near an old church, in an albergue in the centre of this small town.
August 22nd – Hornillos del Camino to Itero de la Vega (30.6 kms) – staying in a pretty average hostel on the edge of this one-horse town after a long day of walking (especially with our short detour).
August 23rd – Itero de la Vega to Fromista (14.4 kms) – sadly, from one shithole to another I am afraid.
August 24th – Fromista to Carrion de los Condes (19 kms) – we started late so the walk was short. However we could not have ended up in a better place, hanging out with nuns (real ones!) at the Albergue Parroquial de Santa María! Skott got a bit of the flu however, so….
August 25th – it was a sick day for us in Carrion de los Condes, where Shawna and the nuns did a ridiculous job of nursing Skott back to health….
August 26th – Carrion de los Condes to Terradillos de los Templarios (25.8 kms) – where we were thrilled to stay at the Albergue Los Templarios, and Skott became the nurse (it could happen!) who brought Shawna back to health, as she was a bit under the weather.
August 27th – Terradillos de los Templarios to El Burgo Ranero (31.7 kms) – after a long day of walking ended up in a cool albergue within a…you guessed it…pretty tiny town (which as we mentioned last week is always risky on a Sunday!)
Walked To Date: 400.3 kms
This week started off great! I felt awesome and refreshed after a three day break in Burgos. Definitely excited to walk again. Our night in Hornillos allowed us to meet another Canadian traveller (surprisingly few of them here), and in the morning Shawna and I walked towards our next destination in the middle of a morning storm, the first rain we have experienced so far, and it was a blast!
We have definitely learned that it’s about the journey, not the destination. I know that sounds like, and probably IS, the title of some really lame country song….but in the case of the Camino it is true. You can easily walk for 25-30kms in a day, and end up in…. some miniscule, tiny Spanish town where most of the homes have fallen apart and no one lives there any more.
Instead, all there is, is a hostel or two, a bar, and sometimes a tiny shop. As much as I try to envision them as something else, they are old dead, has-been towns…. nothing more. And I am actually fine with this. It is what it is, and I suspect that if the Camino ever gets really popular this might change drastically, and people would then be begging for “authentic, rural Spain”. For me, it really is just about the walk. Nothing spectacular needs to happen while I am walking… just the act of walking is fine for me. It’s a pretty simple life, and I suppose there is no point in complicating it any further. Just follow the arrows marking your path, and off you go. A parallel between the simplicity of the Camino and the potential simplicity of our real lives could probably be drawn here, as well I suppose….but I will leave that for another soapbox.
As much as I just moaned about the small towns, it is still nice to have several of them to walk through during the day. It breaks things up, knowing that every 3, 4, or 7 kms there is another possible coffee stop, or at least a brief break in the scenery.
We have begun to be a little pickier as to where we spend our nights. Earlier, we would just check into the first albergue or hostel we walked past. Now we are really striving to find something that has character, looks like a place which is a bit more conducive to interacting with other pilgrims, and ideally has a kitchen. This way, even if the town is lame, at least we can have some fun cooking up a meal!
All in all, I was really happy with week 3…there were some really amazing highlights, particularly with the albergues that we stayed at that left me feeling rested and full of good energy. Speaking of albergue experiences, this is a HUGE lesson that we’ve learned since starting this journey-the albergues you stay at make a big impact on your Camino experience and not all pilgrim albergues are equal. Take for example, our amazing stay at Santa Maria in Carrion de los Condes. Upon arriving to check in at this albergue attached to the Santa Maria church, the volunteer went through the “timetable” with me: at 6pm they had a sing-song with the nuns if we would like to join; at 7pm we were invited to come to Mass; at 7:30pm there was a group dinner prepared by the nuns; and at 9:00pm a farewell message would be delivered before we headed for lights out at 10:00.
I was so excited that they had things to do that would bring the pilrgrims together because in some of the one-horse towns that we’ve found ourselves in, we struggle to make any kind of connection with the local people and even the pilgrims end of spread out as they wander to a bar or cafe to try to find something to eat. The group dinner reminded me of our time at Le Esprit de Chemin. There’s something really wonderful about sharing a meal with peopleand getting to know how their Camino is going and what motivated them to take on such a journey.
Unfortunately Skott had to spend the evening in bed with a bit of a flu but I joined the group for everything on the “timetable” and I had an outstanding evening. The nuns were quite laid-back and all smiles when they sang their songs…attempting to select a few in French and English in addition to Spanish in order to try to get as many pilgrims sing along as possible.
Mass was even a pretty cool experience because the Priest invited all the pilgrims to the front and did a little blessing for us and did the cross on each of our foreheads. I’m not Catholic, but I still think there is a really cool energy that comes simply from human touch and from someone passing on positive vibes from their heart to yours. Dinner was a lovely soup and pasta meal with lots of random bits a bops that the pilgrims added to the mix-my favourite (favourite in the sense that it was interesting, not that it tasted good) was the canned pulpo-canned octopus!
While the nuns left me with a heart full of hope and energy, a few more friends helped me sort out how to fix my feet. As we mentioned in our blog last week, foot care is a major concern for pilgrims. My main issue has been blisters forming on the rim of my heel. Most people use a product called Compeed to cover them-it’s a thick, sticky silicon product that covers them. However, a Danish friend introduced me to the idea of “sewing” your feet. Essentially, after sterilizing a needle and thread, you sew a thread through your blister and leave it in there. This lets the fluid out in a more gentle way then popping them and since you’ve left the thread in there, if allows the blister to let out any fluid as you are walking. It looks weird but it works and after additionally investing in two brand new pairs of socks, I am cautiously predicting that the majority of my foot troubles are behind me.
A lot of people had warned us that this week of the Camino would be the hottest, driest and ugliest. Skott and I were kind of giggling though because after a couple of days, we both commented that we quite liked the flat, wheat fields we were walking through….because it reminded us of Saskatchewan. I guess beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. We were lucky to have a few days that were overcast so we probably never really did experience the full strength of the Meseta. We continued with our early morning starts to avoid afternoon walking and actually some mornings it was cold enough that we wore socks on our hands.
We are excited to pass Leon as that will be the final third of our journey and I believe it really will feel like every step becomes one step closer to Santiago as opposed to just a few more kms away from our starting point.
Sidenote: We have been lucky enough to have been featured in two other travel blogging posts recently. First, our friend Phil, asked us to contribute to how we recommend you stay healthy on the road. (hint: it’s red and you drink it!)
Second, as a new travelling couple, Elise wanted to know how we are able to work together while travelling. We loved contributing to both of these posts, so if you have a free second, check them out!