France · 30 Days · 76 Moments · August 2017

Kim and Judy walk across Spain

28 September 2017

Day 29 and the end of our journey. I am writing this entry the day after we arrived and it still doesn't seem like we walked 776kms to get here (and yes I know there are buses). We completed the pilgrim journey by going to the pilgrim mass with thousands of other pilgrims and a few locals too I think. The nun doing the singing was amazing and had a beautiful voice. Judy and I did our journey for walking reasons (as in we like to walk) but I can see for those who do the journey for spiritual reasons that the mass must be the highlight for them. I have had a wonderful month walking across Spain seeing all kind of things you don't see from a bus, train or car and meeting people that you would only meet by walking or stopping overnight in hamlets and tiny villages. I loved the walking and the food and the countryside - this changed throughout the month with rolling hills, small rural paths and the flatness of the maseta. It has been an amazing experience and one I would recommend.

27 September 2017

Walked in this morning after a good nights sleep and 10km walking. After a peaceful month of walking, the queue to get our final pilgrim passport stamp and certificate was quite a shock - out of the building down into the garden. We queued for 2 1/2 hours and queued to get into mass too. The mass was spectacular with magnificent singing from a single nun and the swinging botafumeiro. It nearly hit the cathedral ceiling, I had my heart in my mouth. Funniest was the collection done by a guy who gave filthy looks to anyone who didn't drop something in the bag. It was quite emotional meeting our Italian friends there and others who we'd got to know along the way. We've met lovely people on this trip and experienced wonderful Spanish warmth and hospitality. It feels more of a lifestyle now than a journey. I'm lucky to have had Kim as my walking partner and enjoyed every minute, thanks Kim for being the best walking buddy and making it such fun!😊

26 September 2017

Day 28 and we are now 10kms from Santiago de Compostela - our final destination. We wanted to ensure we saw it in the morning and am able to get there in time for pilgrims mass in the Cathedral at 12 noon. The day started misty and we kept thinking it was raining but it was only the mist hitting the trees and falling. Lots of walking through trees and country lanes. When we get to the end of our journey each day there is a bit of a pattern - shower, (you need to do this first so you can do the next step given we don't have many clothes with us), wash your clothes (by hand), wander round and sight see, buy anything you need (normally fruit and chocolate) and then sit in the sun and drink vino and write blogs/read until it is time to eat. Today was a perfect example of this as it is a brilliant sunny day and the vino is a whole 1.5 euros a glass. So the 6-7 hours of walking (including food stops) is well compensated by the lolling around at the end of the day.
10 km from Santiago De Compostela and we've done 766 km in 28 days. Today began misty and cool but once that cleared away it was another warm Spanish day reaching 23 degrees. We walked through lots of woodlands today, oak and chestnut forest that has unfortunately been progressively taken over by eucalypts that were brought in for the pulp industry. Still very pretty to walk through. We're staying in a village called Lavacolla where pilgrims traditionally cleansed themselves before entering Santiago. So dutifully we have had a shower and washed our clothes. We're ready! It's been quite a journey, my legs won't know what's happening when they don't have to walk 27 odd km each day.

25 September 2017

Day 27 and after about 28kms of walking we have stopped for the night in Arzua. Only one more day of full walking and then 10kms into Santiago. Today was a mix of scenery with early morning mist, small spanish villages and hamlets, many country lanes lined with large trees and some non descript spanish towns. Again the number of people has increased although we did manage about an hour first thing this morning where we did not see anyone - until our first stop for breakfast. At a town called Melide firstly the Camino Norte now combines with the Camino Frances which brings more people together and secondly I had the famous pulpo (octopus) at morning tea time - different and too much of the same thing for me to finish myself. From what I can tell it is boiled and then chopped up and coated in olive oil, salt and paprika. The other thing that has been happening to us over the last couple of days is the need to avoid acorns and chesnuts falling on us.
There are so many people on the walk now but there's no longer the friendly camaraderie there was earlier in the walk or the feeling that we're all in this together. Its traditional to acknowledge others when you pass them on the track with a friendly 'hola' or 'buen Camino' but this is happening less. Two groups ignored my greeting completely today πŸ˜‚. However the countryside is still stunning. Today we passed through lots of woods, very pretty and cool to walk through. There are also more places to stop along the way. Stalls selling fruit, nuts and local cheese with quince paste, and novel ways to stamp your pilgrim passport, such as the man with a donkey giving donkey stamps, and another giving a genuine wax seal with a trinket of your choice embedded. It's intriguing! Tomorrow is our penultimate day of walking, and the last day we'll be walking a full day. We will be enjoying and appreciating every moment because it will soon be a sweet memory.

24 September 2017

Day 26 and we have stopped in a tiny village called San Xulian do Camino which is a classical camino village not far from Palas de Rei (popn 3600 people - that is the town, not the village). We walked just over 28km today and now have walked over 700kms. The weather was warm and the expected rain stayed away until we got to our albergue - even then it was only a light drizzle for a bit. We arrived and after being asked if we were "good people" (to which of course we said yes) we got given a great room off the end of the building with just two beds and our own bathroom (a luxury). There are definitely more people walking now and at times it seems very busy - then all of a sudden the people disappear. This morning we started walking in the dark again (it doesn't get light until about 7.45am now) and when the sun came up we were walking past an area of trees that must have had a fire - made for some stunning sunrise photos.

23 September 2017

Day 25 - so many days now that I have to look back at the post from the day before to find what day it is. We only did just over 22kms today which must be the shortest leg yet. We are now in Portomarin. Except for a steep uphill first thing this morning, the days walking was pretty flat. Now that there are more pilgrims on the track, there are also more things to distract us. During the walk today we walked past two souvenir shops (hardly seen any of these on the previous 24 days) and there are more places to stop and eat and drink vino. The scenery today was very rural with country paths through trees and country lanes. The weather was good and warm. On arrival in Portomarin we walked over a bridge that is very high up. I am sure in NZ there would be a higher guardrail and all sorts of things to make sure you didn't fall off the bridge. For the second day in a row we had to walk up steps when we got into town - a final test?
Today we walked a paltry 22km! We are trying to stretch out our walking so we finish on the 27th but so we only walk 10km on the last day into Santiago. There are so many walkers now and today was the first time we couldn't get into our first choice of albergue. This wasn't helped by us stopping frequently at Cafes to catch election updates of course! It was another scenic walk today through beautiful countryside but with increasing numbers of cafes along the way to cater for the high number of pilgrims. We saw a novel form of Galician farm fencing using slabs of stone as fence posts and stringing wire between them.

22 September 2017

Day 24 and I am sitting on a sunny rooftop terrace in our albergue in Sarria writing this. I can now count the days left to go on one hand. We could probably do it quicker but we have the last two nights accomodation booked so we can do less walking each day for a bit. Today we noticed a lot more walkers - people have to start around now to get their certificate in Santiago. You can tell they are new walkers as often they walk slower and their backpacks are shiny and new. They also get quite tired whilst we only get tired if we drink vino in the sun! Here's hoping there are not too many walkers over the next few days - guess we can always walk around them. We did more down then up then down walking today. Some of the down was quite steep which is not so great for your knees. There was beautiful scenery today and some areas in particular that reminded us of NZ. It included rolling hills and grass and cows outside grazing not in a shed.
Galicia is a very scenic region. Rolling countryside with majestic oaks and chestnut trees and everywhere along the path there are trees dropping apples, pears and walnuts. Even better, the Galician cakes are delicious, a speciality of the region. Still better,we saw lots of cows outside in fields today ☺️. It's still warm and sunny, none of the Galician rain has materialised yet.

21 September 2017

Day 23 and now in another small Spanish village called Fonfria. There was quite a bit of up today but we are now over that last of the big hills so it is all down hill from here (in a positive sense). Last night we had a quiet night - we were one of the few people for dinner but had a great dinner of four cheese pasta, 2 fried eggs, bread and salad. This was a perfect meal to fill us with carbs and get up the hills today!! The vino tinto was also good but I am not sure if that actually helped the climbing. I had not finished the wine by bed time so I took a glass to bed and finished reading my book - not sure if I have ever done that before but it was great. This morning we started walking and lo and behold out of one albergue on the way came an Italian couple we keep running into and and then later another American woman we know came out of her albergue door when we walked past - these things seem to happen on the Camino. Talk to you tommorrow when we will be in Sarria.
Today was an uphill climb to the top of a 1300 metre hill and along the top to Fonfria where we are staying tonight. Spectacular views with little mountain villages along the way that are in snow in winter. It was nice to find a cafe (and souvenir shops ) at the top - it turns out the tourist buses come up here too. Tomorrow we reach Sarria. Sarria is just over 100km from Santiago and since you get a certificate if you walk at least 100kms of the Camino, apparently busloads of pilgrims turn up there. It might be about to get quite crowded!

20 September 2017

Day 22 and an update from me, Kim. The scenery today was like a game of two halves. This morning was a beautiful walk through vineyards - at one stage there was a 360 degree view of only vines. Some of the vines are on wires but many of the wines were not on wires. On this stretch we also picked some figs for morning tea from one of the many random fig trees on the side of the road. Then this afternoon we were walking along roads and underneath major motorways. Not such enjoyable scenery but it was flat and the way to go was quite obvious. We are now in a tiny village called La Portela de Valcarce. We have our own room as there do not seem to be that many guests and there is a resident donkey across the road who makes donkey noises every now and then. We went for a wander into the village and a nice lady opened up the church for us - it was beautiful and also nice and cool. We also spotted some very large pumpkins - they would make a lot of soup.
Time is flying by and so are the miles. Less than 170kms to Santiago now. This morning we walked through a wine growing region and the hillsides were full of vineyards, fruit and olive trees. Another stunning Spanish morning walking in paradise. Then through the idyllic Villafranca with its quizzillion ancient churches and Palace of the Marquees. We also heard a murder of crows overhead, what a racket. No wonder they call them a 'murder' (learnt that's what a group of crows is in the 5 minute quiz at work). We met a group of seminarians walking the Camino too but I don't know what a group of them is called. They weren't making a racket but had a ukulele and were playing happy music as they walked☺️

19 September 2017

Day 21 and we are now in a town called Camponaraya with less than 200km to go - aagh. Today's walk started at 7am (late for us) and it was a bit chilly for a few hours but by the time we got to Ponferrada where we did a bit of castle sight seeing it had warmed up. When we wandered out to get money just after 5.30 pm it was 30 degrees. I am glad the sun has come back - the downside of this is your pack is heavier as your clothes are in your bag rather than on you! Today I have been reflecting on the fact that unless we go through towns we don't actually see many local people and particularly don't see many children. Possibly a mix of getting up early when most sensible Spaniards are in bed, people having to leave the villages to go to school and work and perhaps they are avoiding smelly pilgrims!! A lot of the villages we walk through have a tiny number of residents eg 50, 200, 800. They are stunningly beautiful though and its totally amazing how long they have been there.
Summer has returned, the sun is out and it's 30 degrees. Today we passed through Ponferrada, quite a big city that was the last stronghold of the Templar Knights before they were all murdered because of orders from the Vatican. Their castle is still there so we had a wander through, it's the first real castle I've visited and it's quite impressive. We ate lunch in their pretty little town square then walked on to Camponaraya where we are now in yet another pretty little albergue that has a garden with tables and umbrellas. This region is known for its vineyards and down the road is a Bodega that offers vino and tapas to all pilgrims who walk past for 1.5 euros. Unfortunately we'll be walking past too early tomorrow to sample any.

18 September 2017

Day 20 which means only single digit number of days left. Today felt like walking in the mountains in NZ - it was drizzling and misty and we were walking in the hills with bracken and trees - not quite the "bush" we would see at home but a bit like it. Today we went over the highest part of the Camino (thus the mist I expect) at 1515m. We started climbing to that height from Astorga which was at 900m. The first day of walking was only to 1450m but we started in St Jean Pied de Port at 200m. The last few days we have seen some interesting contrasts in the villages we have been through. Some where all their buildings are beautifully restored and others where the buildings are crumbling. It was good to go through one village that is currently in the process of having a number of buildings restored and see that walkers like us are helping this happen. We are tonight in Acebo in a modern (and a bit lifeless) albergue but we have the most stunning views from our room.
The clouds rolled in today and made our journey over the highest point of the Camino very misty and chilly! It was like walking over the Tararuas in the winter. We came across this little house at the top of the mountain inhabited by the self proclaimed last of the Knights of the Templar. He stamped our pilgrim passports and sold souvenirs. An eccentric but friendly old man, a bit like the Christchurch wizard. The sun is out now and it's expected to warm up again soon.

17 September 2017

DAY 19 and now an unbelievable 2/3rds of the way through our walk. We will soon get to the point where we are nearly there and then it will feel quite odd. Having said that I think I could get used to just sitting still for a bit - for a few hours at least! Today we walked through Astorga and stopped to look at a beautiful building that Gaudi designed - this is the second of his buildings we have seen in the last 2-3 days. As expected it was a stunning building with amazing engineering and architecture. It also has a section devoted to the Santiago pilgrims (ie us!! but years ago). All the statues are of male pilgrims which makes me wonder when the first female pilgrims walked the Camino - dont know the answer to that yet. Am now in a delightful albergue in a delightful spanish village called Santa Catalina de Somoza. Just over 26kms today which is about what we need to do each day until the end.
We have left the Meseta! There were some long stretches of monotonous scenery yesterday but now we have left it behind and the countryside is more rolling with winding roads and different things to see. This morning we came across a little rest stop run by a man in an isolated part of the trail. He had all sorts of fresh fruit and nuts including amazing fresh figs, as well as a little wood burner and comfy seats to warm us on these increasingly cold mornings. All for free though donations were gratefully accepted. Only a 19 degree high today but it's meant to get warmer. We stopped to be tourists in Astorga and had a look at Gaudi's Bishops Palace. What a treat, it was spectacular and full of art works from the 12th century onwards. The cathedral was closed for mass which was just about to start so we couldn't look at that even though it looked amazing. We obviously didn't look religious or the guy at the ticket office would have allowed us in!

16 September 2017

Day 18 and we are now in Hospital De Orbega at a great albergue where they grow their own vegetables, will cook a vegetarian dinner and where we are going to attempt some yoga soon - I don't think my legs will stretch much in any direction. This morning we left Leon as Friday night party goers were stumbling to bed and people were setting up for a vegetable market in Plaza Mayor (pretty much every town/city no matter the size has a Plaza Mayor). When we left the temperature was 5degrees - that is bit of a shock to the system early in the morning so now the first coffee is really appreciated - not only to drink but also to warm my hands. It got to about 16 degrees today so not tropical at the moment. We took the "green route" today to keep us away from walking next to a main motorway all day - this was good and really good for our feet but the scenery didnt change that much. Some evidence that it is now autumn can be seen in the trees.

15 September 2017

Day 17 and now in Leon after a nice night at our last Albergue in Reliegos. It was a great little place with a nice garden for sitting in and hanging your washing. Washing here drys quickly as it is warm and a light breeze. This morning was a very cold start - we started at 630am and didnt warm up until about 10am. The sun comes up but is very low in the sky and takes awhile to add the heat the further west we go. The walk into Leon was not as bad as I was expecting given it is a big city. We got to Leon just after noon so have plenty of time today to be tourist and buy exciting things we need like postcards and soap. We went to a tapas bar for lunch. Judy had chocolate tart (which is more like what we would call Γ  pudding) and tea and I had vino blanco and pulpo (octopus) - it was way bigger than I was expecting so had to leave some. Now waiting for the shops to open after siesta (any time between 4pm and 530pm they will open again). Only 310 kilometres to go!
In the big city of Leon, in the old town with pretty, narrow streets like Venice crowded with all sorts of shops, cafes and bars with amazing looking food. We will be spoilt for choice looking for somewhere to eat tonight - I'm hoping for some vegetarian paella. It is such a beautiful city. We visited the cathedral and took some photos but they don't show the size and awesomeness of a the place. It has such an atmosphere with the light from the thousand square metres of stained glass and the stunning gothic paintings and statues. It's fun being a tourist today, only walked 24km and got here by 12pm so there's plenty of time for looking around. We'll look through the Gaudi Casa Botines after siesta.

14 September 2017

Day 16. The day started at 6am (a couple of times we have got up earlier). Normally we wake ourselves up but this morning a very jolly man (for that time of the morning) woke us all up - he is the man who runs the albergue that left us in charge yesterday. So up we got and off we went into the dark. We have noticed that the further west we go, the more stars there are - not sure what this is about. It will be interesting to see how that goes tommorrow morning as we walk to Leon, a bigger city. Anyway off we went in the dark with our torches following those yellow arrows - we didn't see any for ages but seemed to be heading in the right direction - except we weren't quite!! We were on a random side road which luckily then had a sign to turn right to the town we were meant to be going to. All sorted eventually and a nice breakfast of cafe con leche, yogurt and muffin (haven't had one of those for a few weeks) awaited.
Someone asked about the cost of accommodation and food here - it varies between 5 and 10 euros for a bed ($8 - $17). A pilgrim meal (3 courses that are nice but not super flash, wine included ) is 10 euros. Breakfast with tea 2 or 3 euros and a sandwich 3 or 4 euros. A glass of wine is usually 1 euro. I wouldn't usually spend more than 30 euros a day

13 September 2017

Day 15 and we are definately over half way. We went past a church outside Sahagun which is the official half way point. We walked about 27kms today on what seemed quite an easy walk. We are now in Calzadilla de la Cueza which is a tiny place - to access the wifi you need to sit in the park which in a way is quite nice as it is outside. However the seat in the shade where you can see what you are typing is not in the wifi zone so we will need to move to send the journal. The albergue is run by volunteers and when Judy and I got here about 1.15pm we were first in and the volunteer went off for lunch and left us in charge of allocating beds which is manageable in Spanish but was problematic when some Italians turned up - however as per normal somehow it worked. He came back after his 30 minute break which took an hour and a half! We did get a glass of vino tinto for helping though! Tonight we will go to the one restaurante in town for dinner.
Walked the Meseta again today, very flat land, more wheat and sunflower fields and long straight Roman roads. We walked a few kms more than expected due to pilgrim inattention and getting lost! The village where we are staying today is down a dip off the flat plain of the Meseta and when we were getting near and still couldn't see it we were wondering if we were lost again. Then we noticed someone had scrawled on a sign along the way ' "where is the village!" πŸ˜„ Someone else tired and ready to find a bed. Tomorrow we reach the exciting city of Leon. We have a slightly shorter walk so that we can do some tourist stuff. Today our albergue is vegetarian- the Spanish are singularly carnivores so this is quite unusual. It is very pretty with a little courtyard and such a nice hospiteralos who is going to cook us quinoa and veges. I'm pretty excited.
We have reached half way! An exciting milestone. Today we resumed our walk through fields of cut wheat intercepted by little villages. When we're arriving at a village we first see the church steeple, whether we're walking uphill, downhill or on the flat. Every village has at least one magnificent old church, sometimes more. It's always a welcome sign because it means food and toilet break and perhaps some interesting and beautiful buildings. The bodegas (wine cellars) in this town today were set into the hills like hobbit houses! Each family once had their own bodega cut into the hillside. We still seem to be walking parallel to the Italians and the Hungarians, we are FB friends now πŸ˜„ Sadly cows are kept in sheds here. We saw some today, their heads poking out of their stainless steel stalls To feed, like battery hens. Don't buy Spanish meat πŸ˜’

12 September 2017

Well today is day 14. I really can't believe we have been walking for 14 days straight and by the end of tommorrow will be more than half way through our days (we are walking for 29 days) and am currently about half way through our kilometres. Today we did over 36 kilometres as there was about a 17km distance from the last nearest town. After we left that town - Carrion de los Condes - it was pretty much a tarsealed road and then straight dirt path all the way to Calzadilla de la Cueza which is where we are now. There was nothing much to take pictures of except paths, fields and the odd bit of agricultural equipment. I passed the time by listening to music and also continuing to listen to the spanish language recordings I have. We have planned our days until the end of the week so we can stay in Leon Friday night - have also booked some accomodation so we can have a room without others - I have got used to that but a break will be nice!

11 September 2017

Day 13 and only a short walk today around 23kms. This meant we had plenty of time to stop and play tourist and drink coffee. We unexpectedly found a great cafe in one of the villages on the way to our end destination - Fromista. We stopped to look at a church (each tiny village has at least one) and spotted a cafe in a garden. Every person who had mentioned the maseta to us or from what we have read in books, suggests that it is all the same and repetitive. It was not today - you might find me saying something different over the next couple of days. Today we saw a beautiful sunrise, an amazing canal including gates etc at the Fromista end, felt the Wellington breeze (ok perhaps a warmer version of it) and saw and heard 4 small jet planes fly overhead - the sound was way behind the planes. We also for the first time in a long time saw actual real animals (sheep) - they were being sent down the road by the farmer and dog - the dog looked a bit confused when he saw us.
Today I'll tell you about what we're eating on the Camino. We don't want to carry food with us because it's heavy so we buy as we go. Also because toilets are only available at Cafes we need to buy stuff to use the bathrooms. We usually stop for breakfast at the first village we come to in the morning that has something open. This morning we had to walk 10km before we found something but usually it's closer. Kim usually has croissants and a coffee, and I have toast or Spanish omelette and tea. Lunch is a sandwich and dinner is often a pilgrim menu or whatever we can find,that's 'vegetariano.' Pilgrim menu is usually salad and pasta plus dessert for a vegetariano. Kim eats fish and chicken so has a few more options. We were told we would lose weight doing this walk but this hasn't been the case so far! We're longing for some vogels but haven't seen any wholemeal bread so far. At least the bread is crusty and not spongy.

10 September 2017

Day 12 and fairly flat today as we started on the Meseta (spanish for plateau). This apparently goes on for a few more days - this is good as we walk along at quite a pace but bad as the scenery is pretty similar. The mornings are now chilly but it started to warm up about 10am and by the time we got to our destination at Castrojeriz it was quite warm. We are staying in a Municipal albergue above what I am pretty sure are the local Council offices!! No action here today as it is Sunday - not sure what happens in a Council office in Spain and I don't know enough spanish to find out. This is more like a town than a village with quite a few restaurants. My spanish is improving and I am now having whole conversations with people which involve whole sentences. Judy and I have been planning so we can get to Leon and spend the night - it means 4 ok length days and one quite long one - it will be flat anyway. It will be good though to spend time there.
The beginning of the Meseta! Wheat fields for miles around on slightly undulating land with bigger gaps between villages now. The wheat has been cut, straw has been baled and all that's left is the stalks and occasionally a field of sunflowers with withered petals. It's Autumn. The weather is lovely for walking, warm but not too hot. I think this week we'll get tired of seeing fields of wheat stalks pretty quickly but the guide book assures me its meditative. We'll see about that πŸ˜„! When we got to the village where we're staying the night (Castrojeriz) there was a festival going on. A statue that looked like Jesus was being carried through the town with a band and dancing girls in traditional dress with castanets. Our route was the same as theirs so we had to follow and try to find a way through. Now everyone seems to have retired for siesta, as have we until dinner time when we'll find a place to eat.

9 September 2017

Day 11 which was a mixed bag of weather and experiences. It rained twice (quickly stop and retrieve wet weather gear including new bag cover) and in between it got so hot we were only wearing short sleeve tshirts. We went through Burgos which included sections of industrial areas including a nice Bridgestone tyre factory and also a visit to the spectacular Burgos cathedral. I still can't work out if I am awed by the opulence or put off by all that expense. It was interesting being in a big city again and walking on hard pavement instead of dirt tracks. We only did about 23-24kms today as it was raining and we saw a nice looking albergue. It felt like we hardly walked at all - probably also felt like that as we played tourist for a bit in Burgos. We are planning to do 30kms tommorrow to make up for it!
Today has been extra special because it's Kim's birthday, a slightly shorter walk and a bit of tourism! The day started by giving assistance to a lost pilgrim, we then took a wrong turn at Burgos and entered via the industrial roadway rather than the scenic route. Both sun and rain today. Once in Burgos we took time out from walking to take a look at the magnificent Santa Maria Cathedral. What a spectacle, it's more like a palace than a church, it's splendour is probably only matched by the Vatican. A reflection of the wealth and power of the church in days gone by. The albergue we have arrived at (a renovated four mill) was full so we took a Room instead since it's also a hotel. What luxury! Twin beds in our own room, with bathroom attached complete with fluffy white towels!. A fitting way to celebrate Kim's birthday. We even managed to vote with the help of our hosteros printing out the voting papers for us.

8 September 2017

Wow and today we are on day ten. We are fairly trekking across country and spending the first hour and a half in the dark now as the days get shorter. I think we are getting fitter each day. We walked through more pretty villages today but also walked through a forest/park and also past a military zone on the top of a hill - it looked like rubble and scrub to us but that might be a good cover up. When we left at the standard 6am this morning it was very cold - I had 4 layers of clothing on until about 10am. When the sun came up/out it got hot again. The moon was still up when the sun came up. We are about 15kms from the middle of Burgos but you would not know it from the sleepy little village we are in. Tommorrow we walk through Burgos - all that noise and activity will be a huge contrast to the last 4-5 days of sleepy villages and countryside. We have been running into the same people over the last 3-4 days and all staying in the same place.
One very different thing about Spain is that there are no public toilets. But every village no matter how tiny has a cafe, often serving as a cafe, bar, restaurant, sometimes convenience store and sometimes albergue as well. And there's always a toilet for desperate pilgrims on the road to Santiago. We are staying in a very small village today before going through a big city tomorrow called Burgos then on to another small village. Today's albergue has a small swimming pool. We have fallen into step with an Italian couple and a Hungarian couple and seem to meet them each evening at the albergues. We use sign language but otherwise can't understand a word each other says! They are so nice. 29km today and it went fast, our legs are getting very used to walking each day.

7 September 2017

Day 9 and it seems to be getting easier but that might be because it was quite flat today and also we are getting used to the day going past by walking. Get up, eat some fruit, walk an hour or so and stop for breakfast and some cafe con leche. Walk some more, stop when hungry and then walk to albergue. Simple Today we were finished just after 1pm so have been laying around eating ice cream, drinking vino and talking to people. We are at a small albergue where there are Italian and Hungarian people we have met before and some new people. The lady running it is so lovely and keeps giving us free tapas with the vino. Apparently her cooking is great - one person booked in here based on that information. We will see at 7pm. The place we are in is a small hamlet with a population of about 60. So far we have had tractors down the main street and a van coming past with a load hailer - we think he was advertising his brick building services.
We passed through loads of pretty little medieval villages today and are staying in one now! Thanks to Kim's impressive Spanish skills we are managing to make ourselves understood. I know a few essential phrases now too such as ' is it vegetarian' and 'can I have hot water'. πŸ˜„ The walk today seemed easy partly due to me discarding a few items and sending them to Molly and buying a decent back pack. Also the scenery was so pretty with not many hills and we are getting fitter every day. We did about 27 or 28kms today, it's warm, sunny and we are sitting on the balcony in the sunshine drinking vino and eating olives. It's a luxurious albergue, but still only 15 euro for bed dinner and breakfast inclusive. We see benches in each village that say on them 'seating for Catholics only' - I'm not sure what they say but that's what it looks like πŸ˜‚

6 September 2017

Day 8 and we have now been walking for more than a week. There are parts of my body that understand that completely especially my legs. We are now in Santo Domingo and arrived here after about a 32km walk - that did not feel too bad so I might be getting used to it - it was also cooler today so I think that helped. We are currently sitting in a lovely garden in an old nunnery where we are staying. We are in long trousers and warm tops as it is a bit breezy - that might help the washing dry and least I am finding a use for the warm top I have been carrying for the last 3-4 days without using. Today we walked through vineyards and farms where fields were being ploughed by American branded tractors. There was a bit of uphill but it wasn't steep - more undulating. For a couple of days we have been walking with walkers, cyclists and some people doing the Camino on horseback. Also after 7 days we met some other NZers on the track. They were from Christchurch.

5 September 2017

Day 7 and it was hot walking today. We did nearly 30kms and am now in a small village called Ventosa. The temperature got up to around 29 degrees. It is definitely good to start walking early when it is dark and cool. About 10am it starts warming up and just gets warmer from there on in. We went through Logrono today - again it seems odd to be walking through large cities when we are used to country lanes and small villages. Have a blister today which is annoying but I guess not bad going after 7 days of walking. I am hoping it will go away. We are now in the La Roija area and a weird thing Judy and I have noticed is that the road bridges here are blue. In the last area they were red! Besides the heat the walking today was fairly easy with the uphill being not too bad - either that or I am getting used to it.
Today we saw a squirrel! A little red brown thing scampering around just like in children's books. Most of the walking is through country lanes lined with trees with wheat fields, vineyards and olive trees. It's extraordinarily beautiful. Today we also went through a city, but even that was pretty with a church in the centre surrounded by a cafe lined plaza. The afternoon was very hot and I found the last few kilometres draining but I have recovered now after a shower and a vino. Kim is incentivising me to drink more vino (not that I need much incentivising when it's 1 euro a glass) and I am getting her to eat more fruit. I think I'm getting most advantage! Kim is clearly fitter than me still walking at Kim pace in 30 degrees in the Spanish sun. I have a couple of small blisters but nothing to bother me yet. We are staying at another lovely albergue with a little courtyard where we can sit and enjoy the siesta time.

4 September 2017

Day 6. From now I think I will have to put the day number as I will start forgetting. Its mad that this now seems to be life as I know it - at least until the end(ish) of September. Today was a long hot day in the sun - we have taken to leaving at around 6am in the morning so we can walk whilst its not so hot - the last couple of days we still only need a short sleeve t-shirt on at 6am. The other thing we have found is we are not so good at navigating out of small Spanish villages at that time of the morning. We are meeting a few spanish dogs and cats in the process. Today we walked past fields of what was once wheat we think and vineyards. Tonight we are at Viana and can see Logrono from here from the garden outside our albergue - it is in an old monastery and is a stunning building. We had an impromptu dinner with other Camino friends tonight - people from all over the world. One of the things I thought I would like about this trip is meeting new people and we are doing that.
On day six we have arrived in Viana after a 30km walk. We've got quite a routine now - wake up early get walking before dark when it's cool with a piece of fruit to keep us going. Eat breakfast at the first village. When we get to our destination in the afternoon we shower do our washing then go look at the sights and find a place to eat. It's a hard life. Tonight we had a pilgrim meal with other pilgrims we met along the way from the Netherlands, the USA, Germany, Canada, U.K., Switzerland. Viana is a beautiful town and everyone is really friendly. Tomorrow we pass through Logrono then onto a place beginning with V πŸ˜„

3 September 2017

Day five and it seems to be quite normal now. A mix of almost spitting and really hot weather today. The last few days the morning has been cloudy and then sunny in the afternoon. We have got a bit of a tan now and loving the heat. We found the Fuente de vino today which is the fountain with free red vino. They give 100 litres of free wine a day - we didn't drink all of it. It was funny whilst we were there that a bloke came past and just put his mouth under the vino tap, turned it in and drunk!! The vino before lunch and the sun might explain why we only managed 24kms today - also the next stop with a bed is 11kms away!! Again we went through some beautiful small spanish towns and also a bigger town which was a bit of a shock after all the villages.

2 September 2017

Well this morning we had suddenly become those pilgrims that are up and ready by 6am. An hour later we stopped for breakfast and across the road where we pilgrims were having cafe con leche and tostadas the party goers from the night before were still going!! Today we walked 31.6 kms and are staying in this amazing little village which is on the top of a hill with amazing buildings and a population of 500 people (I dont think that includes us!!). It is called Cirauqui. Today was a moving feast for pilgrims with heaps of food growing on the side of the path including walnuts, almonds, blackberries, blue berries and figs. All there to help yourself - a great food day.
Today was a festival day and as we passed through one village a parade of giant rotating figures accompanied by a band came through! At the next village there was a wedding. It's exciting walking on a Saturday. We're staying in a medieval hill top village today in the cutest albergue. We have a great view from the laundry through arches, the best view I've ever seen from a laundry. Today the countryside has been views of ploughed fields vineyards and olive groves, so pretty.

1 September 2017

A mere 15kms today so we could spend some time in Pamplona. Although to see anything of the city we need to do more walking - however this was interrupted by stops for ice cream and coffee. Up before the sun and it was great to see it come up. We still get plenty of sleep as most people are asleep by 10pm at the latest. Luckily the bulls are not running as I dont think I could run much at present. This is a beautiful city and later we are going to try some local tapas. Off on a longer walk tommorrow to make for the dilly dallying today
Today we walked a shorter distance so we could stay in Pamplona, a beautiful walled city. We're in an albergue which has been converted from an old cathedral and have been wandering round Pamplona soaking up the atmosphere. I keep pinching myself I still can't believe I'm here. Thanks for all your comments and questions everyone, it's not possible to answer on this blog but we do appreciate hearing from you all! Tomorrow is another steep climb with apparently beautiful views over the Arga valley

31 August 2017

Wow and there goes day two. Judy and I decided to walk 30kms today so we only have about 15kms to walk tommorrow to Pamplona and can spend some time sight seeing. The walk itself today was not that hard but after the large hill effort yesterday it was interesting. Animal of the day was the horse as that was pretty much all we saw in the paddock. We are currently in a town called Larrasoana and staying in an alberge that apparently is above a Council building. There is some irony in this and no Council activity going on as far as we can tell only washing and emailing and cooking. Buenos dias. Es muy bueno aqui.
What a stunning walk today through Basque Country. Green wooded areas, little villages with ancient stone buildings and everywhere beautiful gardens and apple laden trees. Soft coloured brown horses dot the country side but hardly a cow in sight! No intensification here. We were walking at Kim pace this morning when an old Spanish guy we passed said 'Santiago today?' πŸ˜‚ We are making sure we stop and enjoy the moment too. Today we stopped by a river for lunch. Kim has been teaching me Spanish and I know how to say "I would like a banana"πŸ˜€. I'll see how that goes tomorrow when I try it out. Tomorrow we'll do a shorter day and explore Pamplona. The walk is so far more beautiful than I imagined.

30 August 2017

WOW Judy and I made it over the Pyrenees without getting attacked by bears. A journey of 24kms (or 20kms depending on which book you believe) took 7 hours which is about average. It was amazing and just the beginning. At the highest point of 1740m there was a coffee cart - just what I needed. It also sold vino but I resisted!! We are now in a hostel with about 180 other people!! It is in a beautiful old monastery which is probably older than NZ. A huge thanks to those at home that are making this trip that I have been thinking about for ages, possible
Yes made it over the Pyrenees, plenty of pilgrims but no bears! It was quite a climb not helped by the bag of wet washing in my pack. Note to self don't try to dry your washing in a room with 100% humidity the night before walking the Camino. Problem solved by wearing wet washing. It was so pretty and the track was beautiful!

29 August 2017

Our journey has begun! Today we spent a sunny morning in Toulouse practising our French and enjoying the ambience of beautiful old buildings, food and culture. France is beautiful. Today we saw a gorgeous old merry go round in Toulouse and an amazing fountain.