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Camino de Santiago Week 4: Walk Fast, Stop Often

This seems to be our unwritten rule for the Camino….when we walk, we walk at a pretty good pace. Usually around 5 kms/hr, but I swear we have gone as fast as 6 kms/hr when we were feeling real motivated. I know, it doesn’t sound fast, but trust us, we think we are pretty speedy.

However, although we make good time, especially in the morning hours before the sun kicks us around, we always are sure to hit our fair share of coffee stops for a cafe con leche or two…or three. After all, we do want to be certain that we have enjoyed each day as much as we possibly can, and not just feel as if it is a rush to the finish line. It doesn’t always work out that way, but we do what we can.

So, how far have we been walking and where the heck have we been for the past week?

August 28th – El Burgo Ranero to Puente de Villarente (26 kms) – it was a long hot day of walking, and we had to actually backtrack 4kms, to avoid staying in a greasy hostel behind a bar. In the end we stayed at the Albergue San Pelayo and loved it!
August 29th – Puente de Villarente to Leon (13 kms) – instead of having an actual non-walking day, we decided to have a a couple short walking days, in order to give us some time to enjoy Leon…our last “big city” before Santiago! We also decided to spoil ourselves, with a night at the Hotel Paris (woo hoo a 3-star!)
August 30th – Leon to La Virgen del Camino (7.5 kms) – told you we were having a couple of short-walk days.
August 31st – La Virgen del Camino to Villares de Orbigo (28.5 kms) – met up with an American mother/daughter duo, which made the walk go by quickly, and ended up in the newly renovated Albergue Villares de Orbigo…another place we would absolutely recommend. Thanks for the hospitality Pablo!

Leaving our very cool albergue in Villares de Orbigo in the early morning hours.

September 1st – Villares de Orbigo to Astorga (14kms) We meant to walk much further, but the rain started falling and stalled us in Astorga. Fortunately, this city is the birthplace of chocolate in Europe and there was no trouble convincing Shawna to slow things down for the day.
September 2nd – Astorga to Acebo (36 kms) – after a day incredible hiking through the mountains and string of incredible coffee stops, we were hoping to stop around 29kms. Unfortunately our only accommodation option was a cave, so we needed to push through another 7km, making this our second biggest day yet.
September 3rd – Acebo to Cacabelos (31.9 kms) – another long day, where we got caught in the sun a little at the end. We stayed in our own little double room outside an old church! An awesome way to finish off our 4th week!

Skott’s Thoughts

I can only tell you that this is one of the coolest things I have done in my entire life, and I would recommend it to nearly anybody! The challenge of being able to mentally prepare for your walk every day while battling fatigue, heat, and solitude is something I seem to relish. Don’t get me wrong, every second is not paradise. In fact there are usually a few times every day, that I question what we are doing and why we are doing it. But once you get to your destination for the day, have your shower and change your clothes, the only thing you seem to remember about the day is the good stuff.

“Congratulations on being a married couple on the Camino!”

That was a passing pilgrim’s farewell to us, after we had spent the better part of an hour chatting with her. I thought it was funny, but as we walked on I thought about it a little further… you really do learn a ton about a person, when you walk with them every day for 20-30kms. Even if they are your spouse and you have known them for over three years already.

Happy to be up before the sun

...but damm, my hands are cold!

I fully believe that Shawna and I have learned a ton more about each other, and I think that we work even better as a team, as we did before.

That being said, we do still have to remember, that although we are a team, we do have individual ideas, tastes, and well…levels of tolerance when it comes to where you will sleep for the night. :)

Middle of this week, we had hit our destination for the day, but had just begun walking through the mountains after a loooong stretch of flat, and we were feeling good, so we decided to continue. The next “small town” was only 5kms away.

Well, as luck would have it, the next town, wasn’t so much a town….but a cave…basically. I am serious. No showers. No water. No mattresses. Just this cat-filled, fly-infested shelter. Did I mention it was run by the Spanish Zac Galifianakis (bearded dude from The Hangover)? At least he offered us free biscuits.

The next place was further up, then down, the mountain….7kms away, under that friendly ******* Spanish sun.

Two weeks ago, this would have infuriated Shawna to tears
, but she was awesome, bit her lip and basically ran the next 90 minutes until we arrived in the next town. I was impressed.

Shawna's Dream Home in the mountains

It took three and a half weeks, but I finally found a few blisters on my feet. I read somewhere that you are not a real pilgrim, unless you get blisters. Wonderful. Now it has been authenticated. Super. Just super.

Contemplating life....or maybe just stalling

One of the cool things this week, is that we actually sat down and came up with a rough plan to finish our Camino in exactly 5 weeks (yup, one more to go!) It requires us putting in our biggest week yet, and if we don’t make it, not the end of the world, but we have a goal, and both of us are goal-driven enough for this to make us happy.

And with that…I’ll pass the mic on to Shawna….see you in a week, hopefully from Santiago!!!

Shawna’s Thoughts

In this fourth week, which we hoped to be our second last on the Camino, it seemed that we had found our groove. We stayed in some really cool albergues, enjoyed meeting some new people and took a little extra time to do some touring-in Leon and Astorga.

The original Pilgrim's Hostal in Leon-we wished they still hosted pilgrims here!

Leon was one of our last bigger cities along the Camino so we treated ourselves to a hotel and made time to tour the city for a day and a half. To our delight, the budget hotel we chose had a hydro spa so we took full advantage of that! We also took advantage of a little creperie restaurant we found, nearly hidden in between a few traditional Spanish restaurants. We had grown a little tired of the Spanish foods-there is a lot of pork, white bread, tuna, eggs and octopus. A chocolate and banana crepe was the perfect treat to mix things up!

This is the real Spanish Omlette-a HUGE egg with potatoes in it.

After Leon we were really excited to get moving into the mountains. We were officially out of the desert and the whole week was absolutely beautiful. The kilometres definitely go by a little quicker and a little easier when you have amazing scenery to take in. Often the scenery was very similar to BC in Canada…this made me think of fun times we’ve had in Vernon with Mom and Dad.

My low point of the week was the terrible “refugio” that Skott mentioned above in his thoughts. It’s hilarious now but at the time, when there were 7km more to go to find a decent place to stay, I had to put my ipod on full blast in order to avoid throwing a tantrum. haha

The high point of the week was our day in Astorga. Sometimes the greatest surprises can happen when you aren’t expecting anything. We are quite lucky because the day we walked into Astorga was the only really rainy day we’ve had so far on the Camino. We were all bundled up with garbage bags on our backpacks and ponchos with the hoods up but it was getting hard to stay dry. Out of no where, we passed an old abandoned barn that had been taken over by a long haired hippie who had a wonderful spread of free juice, hot coffee and tea, granola bars and….PEANUT BUTTER!!! The hot coffee was amazing and I was shocked to have peanut butter-we haven’t seen it anywhere in Spain.

Once we got to Astorga we were soaked and chilled to the bone. Even though we had only walked 14km, we decided to call it a day and book into the San Javier Albergue. We peeled off all of our wet stuff, had ridiculously long, hot showers and threw all of our stuff in the dryer. Then we headed to the chocolate museum (Astorga is the birthplace of chocolate in Europe) which also made me feel much warmer. We finished the day with a tour of the Gaudi Palace and the huge cathedral. All in all, this spontaneous stop was the perfect day and we are glad we had a chance to spend a little extra time in Astorga.

Palace de Gaudi in Astorga

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4 Responses to “Camino de Santiago Week 4: Walk Fast, Stop Often”

  1. Collette September 8, 2011 at 10:35 pm #

    I love your stories! So excited to read about your journey! I am now in full scheming mode about having some sort of grand physical adventure some day. The Yukon trip I took this summer was good, and a start, but it was only 4 days of actual paddling. I’d like to go on a two week trip sometime, either paddling or cycling…. Cycling around PEI has been a dream of mine for quite a few years now….

    Thanks for making me think :) MIss you guys!

    • Skott and Shawna September 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

      Hey Collette – so awesome to hear from you!!!

      Yeah, it has been a ridiculous ride, this crazy Camino… if you really wanted to get into some sort of physical adventure, and don’t mind the idea of putting one foot in front of the other for 30 or so days, it just might be for you!!!

      We have talked to others who have been on canoe trips in the Yukon, I can’t even imagine how awesome that would be!
      How long would it take you to cycle around PEI??? Are you sure Sandy will give you that time off work?? :)

      Talk soon….

  2. Mike Lenzen | Traveled Earth September 13, 2011 at 12:30 am #

    Wow, 4 weeks all ready. It’s a good thing you got blisters now Skott, or you’d have to do it all over again…

    As me and Ashley have followed you along, we’ve been talking more and more about our own walk. Problem is, we’re still having a hard time with 4-5 hours of walking in a day. I guess we’ve got all the time in the world to get up to snuff though.

    I can attest to learning a lot about your wife when you spend every waking moment together for weeks(months) on end. I think once the 1 month mark is hit, you’ve pretty much figured out how to get along. Forever.

    Hasta Mongolia
    Mike Lenzen | Traveled Earth recently posted..Goodbye San Pedro, Hello Xela!

    • Skott September 16, 2011 at 8:44 am #

      Hey Mike – I was going to email you guys and actually suggest the Camino to you…I know you planned walk was longer, but the infrastructure etc on the Camino is so good….maybe you consider this a ‘practice walk’??? Anyways, definitely let us know if you have ANY questions about anything Camino-related… hope you are still loving Guatemala!

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