Camino Day 25: A Night with a Knight

Manjarin to Ponferrada: 22.5 km/13.9 miles May 29, 2016 Yesterday evening before complete darkness had shaded any more of the simplicity and perhaps cleanliness of this hostel, we were shown the bunk room. Bare mattresses lined both sides of the attic. I was already calculating how to keep myself fully intact nor make contact with my mattress. This was an accommodation stretch even for my meager comfort levels. I would be hard pressed to find many friends who would have stayed here for the night. Hence the reason I treasured traveling with Kashi. We had shared some rougher travel adventures together; sleeping in a car in Portugal at a remote beach, getting waylaid overnight on a bus in the

Camino Day 24: Letting go...

Great night sleep in our little hotel. Nothing could lure me out of bed early today. The day was misty and overcast and full advantage was taken of having a private room. Laziness spilled over and a coffee was taken in the room versus downstairs. Yesterday’s challenges morphed into a softened memory. I embraced my deflated ego of plans gone wayside. We had all day to walk. We were entering the Maragateria region of the Leon Province. The culture of this district hung tight over the centuries due to the isolated, mountainous geography. The landscape was becoming more rolling and hilly. The air was brisk and foggy. The architecture looked alpine. The main thoroughfare of each village was cobbl

Camino Day 23: A Brawl with the Ego

Coffee only taken at the hostel and then headed out. Memories of the laid back night still danced in my head as we passed the funky Reliegos monument with bits of shared wisdom scrawled on its exterior walls by the inspired. “The world is changing, how bout you?” Or “Together, we walk alone”. The simple, local vino never dulled one’s head in the morning, compared to how a small glass of vino back home could knock hard at times. Guessing sans preservatives made all the difference. I had been corresponding back and forth with my good friend Doc whom would be passing through Madrid around this time. We had strategized rendezvousing if my Camino and his visit synced. Doc was one of my traveling

Camino Day 22: A Religious Night in Reliegos

The Romanian woman requested a second night stay at the hostel in order to rest her weary legs, since she had over-walked the past few days. This option is not always possible unless you have good reason, serving as a hinderance for people taking advantage of cheap accommodations or reducing the possibility they make their visit more a vacation than a pilgrimage. We departed before she received an answer. We had stocked up on water and snacks for today’s long, lone alternative trek. No villages or cafes were en route per our trusty guidebook. The terrain remained flat, mostly treeless and dusty. One would imagine more tumble weed blowing across such a desolate terrain. We took a rest at what

Camino Day 21: Extending the Olive Branch

Morning coffee taken at the standing room only bar at the hostel. We offered up a coffee to one of the Musketeers who was waiting around for his compadres and in the meantime attempting to stuff a sweatshirt into the top of his huge pack. Perhaps this coffee symbolized an extension of an ‘olive branch’ in guise of an attempt to find our own peace with this Musketeer Ensemble with their tendency to disrupt the Camino’s generally tranquil energy. Most walked for some sort of personal or spiritual reason, and thus that in itself transformed the Camino into a more sacred experience. Peacefulness and respect go along with these intentions. Despite my attempts to cultivate this Camino spirit, I f

Camino Day 20: Sunrise Shadows

Earliest day up thus far. Our hostel host called into the dorm room to inform us that coffee was ready. I reminded myself that most hostels albeit private ones have a required 0800 exit. Some of the hostels are more relaxed on this rule than others. This host volunteered his time as did many other hostel hosts for a two week period. Many of them had previously walked the Camino and due to the strong impact it had on their lives, they returned to ‘pay it forward’ to others. Their job description entailed ensuring that everyone was safe and settled at night. Duties followed up in the morning by getting them exited by 0800 so that the hostel could be cleaned for the next round, usually the jack

Camino Day 19: The Other Way

I preferred to linger in the luxury of a private room when taken. I savored the quiet peaceful wake to the day, absent of rustling of bags being packed or loud, early-bird exiting Pilgrims. Our walk seemed slow and infinite due to the flat, mostly treeless terrain. The wind was a more gentle friend today and the sky was that perfect mix of blue and clouds. It was a lovely country scene. We had a destination in mind today. Kashi wanted to visit a special church in Villacazar. We would spend the night there. We had only 20 kms to tread, so we dawdled. Today’s Camino section offered a diversional river walk off the main path. It added 0.9 km to one’s footwork and rejoined the main path by day’s

Camino Day 18: Kapicitta or Monkey Mind

Only one early riser today. The more quiet, non-English speaking Czech woman headed out solo. Perhaps remnants from last night’s dinner table theatrics with the ‘Musketeers’. No details of the incident had been shared. The threat of rain haunted an early exit for most everyone else. Castrojeriz was the next village en route from the Monastery. Being Sunday, the day of rest, this peaceful little village was completely asleep, leaving us yearning for the usual morning coffee stop. One tiny shop was open which allowed us to purchase a tin of sardines and a tomato to add to our lunch bag. We held out hopes of finding a coffee as we continued walking down this seemingly long, endless villag

Camino Day 17: The Ol' Monastery

Jesus, our hostel host set out a quaint breakfast in the morning at this municipal albergue. A “muni” albergue is a basic hostel ran by the local authorities. These hostels were simple in style, which basically entailed a bunch of bunk beds in a room, less expensive than the private hostels, and perhaps more authentic to the old Camino ways. Five star hotels or private fancy hostels weren’t an option back in the days. There wasn’t a full kitchen here, so instant coffee was served with bread, butter and jam offered. A donation box sat at the entrance to cover expenses for the next run of guests. The landscape was changing with less trees noted. A few more hills to climb and then enter the Mes

Camino Day 16: La Luna

Unbeknownst at the time visited, Burgos Cathedral is one of Spain’s largest. Gothic in style, its pointed spires and intricate designs are awe-inspiring. My quick peek inside turned into nearly two hours. Kashi chose to sit on a bench and people watch. He is an observer. The late start out of Burgos leaned towards uncomfortable. The day was sunny with little shade respite. A considerable amount of time was spent getting out beyond the city limits, only to discover another Spanish building project gone woefully south. Vacant lines of streets and lampposts stretched out in this ghost-town-like scene. We sat on a bench by a small stream and pondered. What dreams were mislaid out here? A ‘virgin

Camino Day 15: Homo Antecessor: The Million-year-old Bones

Upon awakening I nearly stepped on the bunkmate who had been the occupant of the bed above. His friend had ‘hit the deck’ on my other side. I was trapped on my lower bunk oasis. Little English spoken, so unable to inquire about their alternate sleeping space choice. Later they were getting underway without picking up their bedding until some non-verbal, friendly pointing conveyed their oversight. Only one café was open in the village, serving up coffee and breakfast, which made for a steady migration of pilgrims. We hung out until the place had mostly cleared. The walk today commenced with a mild incline up to a hilltop with yet another vast, scenic view. Numerous wind turbines dotted the la

Camino Day 14: The Remains of War

The morning air had a chill owing to the rising elevation. Today’s walk commenced with a long, slow, uphill climb cresting into a coniferous forest. The cry of the wind through the pines left one with a hollow, empty feeling. To add to the somberness, at the 1100-foot summit, a pillar-shaped monument stood solitary, memorializing a mass grave of 104 of those executed during the Civil War. The Spanish Civil War, circa 1936 to 1939, pitted the rebel conservative Nationalists against the leftist Republicans holding power at the time. Some called it a war between democracy and fascism. If so, then Fascism won with Marco of the Nationalists, taking charge. Both sides were backed by outside countr

Camino Day 13: The Middle Way

Chance to lie in, as the doors would not open until 0700. Some Peregrinos wake as early as 0430 to start their day, packing and shuffling their gear without concern. If they were quieter, the noise could have been easily overlooked, but normally, they were not. A sense of competition was felt with this early exodus, and I was still trying to wrap my head around it. Silence prevailed this morning. The house ‘rules” here paralleled my own philosophy. Perhaps we were late in walking a more authentic Camino as Kashi had observed. This place seemed to comprehend the nuances of the Camino. Rolling fields of green were passed today, which a local shared would be brown by summer. One small village c

Camino Day 12: The Rooster in the Church

One does not step out quickly, when a private room is taken on the Camino. Perhaps assumed wrongly, the exit hour is not as enforced in the private hostels versus municipal/association. A second bath was savored. My legs rejoiced. The day was overcast again as we headed out. A morning coffee is a mutually shared ritual, so the first step of the day was to locate a bar or café that was open and with espresso maker. Only then does the day truly begin. The village of Santa Domingo de la Calzada is named after St. Dominic, who played an important role on the Camino in the 11th Century. He helped build up needed infrastructure projects and improved the Camino route by building roads and bridges.

Camino Day 11: Paella and Picnics

When the large group of Spanish students was seen settling in the main hostel room last night, I presumed that I would be in for a less than peaceful sleep. My impression stood corrected. They were so well disciplined that I had to share my admiration with their leader who seemed to be chill, cool and well liked by the students. I also don’t recall any cell phones LCD screens glowing in the dark. Duly impressed. We were nearly the last to leave the hostel this am, which would basically be our modus operandi for most days. Kashi was not much of a morning person and I just didn’t like to move quickly. The day was overcast and threatening rain. Sundays made towns look empty and deserted since m

Camino Day 10: Ten More Klicks...

Stretched out lazily in bed after sleeping in, sans early pilgrim exodus and a set check out time of 0800; completely luxurious feeling, with a shameful touch of elitism while I nestled under the covers. “Guten Morgen Kashi”, exemplified the extent of my Germanic vocabulary, stuttered out of my mouth. I have been lightly chastised for not expanding my Deutsch verbiage, but I align it to trying to teach a fish to fly. In all likelihood, my bi-lingual mastery will not happen in this lifetime as is for most Americans. Europeans must frown upon our lack of communication skills beyond our borders. The day’s plan had yet to be discussed, whether to move forward or to remain in Logrono as a rest da

Camino Day 9: The Rendezvous: Waiting for Kashi

Recognizing quickly that the main Peregrino fold advanced from town to town per guidebook suggestions, this pattern was dodged quickly. My preference was to hit the in-between towns, avoid the bigger town bustle and crowds and find those diamond-in-the-rough hostels. I had landed in one of the bigger, suggested itinerary Camino towns, Logrono, for meeting up with my friend, who was arriving via rail. I woke again early at the municipal hostel. Not wanting to venture out in the dark, I entered the kitchen to hang for a while. There was a handful of folks opening and digging into plastic bags that held grocery staples. Some were cooking up breakfast while others boiled water for hot drinks. No

Camino Day 8: Illuminating Ava Maria

The aching in my legs along with the stirring of bunkmates were the root causes of an early rousing. Decision made to pack up and head out with the main herd. Coffee and tortilla taken at the sole shop opened at this ungodly hour. The tortilla looked more like a quiche than it’s name, but was yummy and filling. Lingering until most Peregrinos (Pilgrims) departed, I then got underway. My preference to commence my day solo was recognized. Focus, set daily intention and silence. Ideally every day should be started this way, whether or not on the Camino. The Lebanese poet, Kahil Gibran wrote, “Your daily life is your temple and religion.” Later, on this overcast day, I linked up briefly with a

Camino Day 7: I'll take the High Road

I stumbled upon a quote by Lord Cecil, “Solitude shows us what we should be; Society shows us what we are.” Following this thread, the higher elevation ‘alternativo’ path was chosen for today. Few Peregrinos stray beyond the yellow brick road to take these detours, especially if it involves elevation gains. The majority of the pack focuses on completing their day’s journey by early afternoon. The turn off for this route was just past the Fuente de Vino (Fountain of Wine) where a bodega offered one to fill a cup or flask of their vintage from a complimentary tap. Snacks and extra water were packed per guidebook recommendation due to limited access to facilities en route. No encounter was made

Camino Day 6: Building Gratitude

Shockingly, I arose before dawn. Breakfast had been laid out the night before, so I partook while still dark outside. Decision made to investigate what the majority of Pilgrims did regularly and commenced my day unseasonably early. The soulfulness and solitude for the first few pre-dawn klicks were sublime. Perchance the Peregrino “jackrabbits” discerned this tranquility and hence the early storm out of the hostel. Perhaps these were the hours of attainable enlightenment on the Camino. Most Pilgrims had some sort of expectation that a gain of wisdom and peace would result from this eternal treading on the earth, and I was no exception. Was it high hopes to have an experience like Saul on his

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A good traveler has no fixed plan and is not intent on arriving.

-Lao Tzu




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