Sunday, August 17, 2014


When I decided to write an historical novel on el Camino de Santiago, set in the 12th century, I didn't realise that the biggest challenge would be to find sufficient research material for that era. 

If you don't read French or Spanish it can be daunting to find enough research material in English on the pilgrimage to the tomb of St James the Greater in Spain.
It is even more challenging if you live on the east coast of South Africa, a part of the country where English settlers only arrived in the 1820's and where the libraries have very little on the medieval pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.  One has to rely on the Internet and/or on books one can buy.  Thank heavens for the World Wide Web and for online book stores! 

Where does one start?

When I was starting my research for PILGRIM FOOTRPINTS ON THE SANDS OF TIME my creative writing teacher suggested I do research on the Doomsday book in order to find a suitable village where my main characters would come from.  I decided on the south of England and found a charming village with a wonderful website that included a lot of information on the history of their village, village life, their industries, houses, church and churchyard.  My main characters are people with the same name as a family buried in the churchyard.

For el Camino de Santiago specific research I bought the following books.

The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago - David M Gitlitz & Linda K Davidson
A Practical Guide for Pilgrims - Millán Bravo Lozano
The Pilgrim’s Guide: 12th Century Guide for the Pilgrim to St James of Compostela: translated from the Latin by James Hogarth
The Road to Santiago – Walter Starkie
The Pilgrimage to Santiago - Edwin Mullins
The Pilgrim Guide to Santiago de Compostela - Annie Shaver-Crandell and Paula Gerson
Being a Pilgrim – Art and Ritual on the Medieval Routes to Santiago – Kathleen Ashley and Marilyn Deegan
Jacobean Pilgrims from England to St James of Compostela - Constance Mary Storrs Walking to Santiago - Mary E Willkie
Pilgrim Stories - Nancy Louise Frey
Spanish Pilgrimage - A Canter to St James - Robin Hanbury-Tenison
Atlas of Medieval Europe – Matthew
London, The Biography – Peter Ackroyd
Paris Pilgrim: Hilary Hugh-Jones and Mark Hassall
Body and Soul, Hospitality Through the ages on the Roads to Compostela: CSJ Confraternity of St James Conference Proceedings.
Reading Medieval Studies: Volume XVI 1990 – Brian Kemp
1990 Conference Papers - British pilgrims to Santiago in Middle Ages.
The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer
Domesday Heritage – Towns and Villages of Norman England through 900 Years.
The Collins Guide to France – edited by John Ardagh
The Way of Saint James, Vol. I by Georgiana Goddard King
The Way of Saint James, Vol. II by Georgiana Goddard King
The Way of Saint James, Vol. III by Georgiana Goddard King

Good luck with your research!

Monday, June 23, 2014

22nd June: Fisterra

We had a long lie in and didn't get out of bed until nearly 8am.  What luxury! We were the first to breakfast, then John joined us, then Gail and Marlene. After breakfast I tried to sort out the Ryanair boarding passes but the pdf file downloaded in some strange format that couldn't be printed.  I decided to wait until we got back from Finisterre and do them then.
Penny came down to say goodbye and then John said goodbe as well. Bob didn't want to go to Fisterra so the 4 of us (Finn, Gail,  Marlene and I) walked down to where the taxis park next to the hospederia.  The last taxi in the queue had a lady driver and I asked her what the charge would be to Fisterra.  Because it was Sunday it was €120. We agreed on the price but she told us that we shouls ask the first taxi in the queue, or phone her and meet her elsewhere. She spoke English and looked like a lovely person so I took her card and we walked around the corner where I called her. Soon we were in her taxi and off to Fisterra.
I can't recommend Sonia Fernandez highly enough. On the way she stopped at Puente San Marino so that we could take photographs of the bridge and the rapids. One the way she pointed out places of interest so it was like having our own tour guide.
When we got to Corcubion she stopped at the albergue San Roque so that I could show the others where I had served in 2009. She also stopped at the statue of the pilgrim so that we could take photos.
We spent some time at the Faro and then had lunch at Finisterre.  It was Corpus Christi so the village was packed and there was a procession, lots of flowers and music.  We got back to Santiago feeling that we had made a new friend and arranged with Sonia to fetch us the next day at 7am to take us to the airport.
Taxi no. 137, tel: 696852320
I continued to struggle with the Ryanair boarding passes so ended up conracting Greg in South Africa to diwnload the pdf files and send them to tbe hospederia.  In 5 minutes all the boarding passes were done!

21st June - SANTIAGO!!!

After breakfast, Ignacio drove us back to the cafe-bar where we started walking to Santiago. Most of the walk was on pavements through residential areas. At one stage we could see the towers of the cathedral, one encased in scaffodling.
Finn was struggling today so we walked quite slowly but soon we approached the church of St Francis and and entered the Obradoiro Square with the parador on the right. Gail and I held the South African flag (my old sitting plastic) whilst John took a video of us walking in. Bob decided that he wasn't going to sit through the mass with his sore throat still bothering him.
We took our packs to the hospederia, left them there and then entered the cathedral through the side gate. Johnnie Walker happened to be sitting in the back aisle waiting to do the 10.30am service in the English chapel. He showed us where he had reserved seats for us in the front row of the short aisle. We arranged to meet again at 11.30am. The botafumeiro was hanging so we knew that it would swing at the 12pm mass.
We walked around the cathedral,  visited the crypt and hugged the saint. We went out past the portico del gloria and stood in the square looking at the cathedral. Then it was time to go back inside.
Johnnie showed us to our seats then he and a volunteer from the Pilgrim Office handed out our certificates,  Compostelas to the team members and a welcome certificate to me. We were all given a distance certificate and one Group certificate in the name of the Camino Caracoles 2014.
The mass was special as always and Finn got to see the botafumeiro for the first time. After the mass we decided to visit the pilgrim office (Marlene's distance certificate had Camino Frances instead of Camino Ingles on it.) On the way there Gail dropped her distance certificate.  We sorted them both out at the pilgrim office before going to The Casino where we had a celebratory lunch.
We went back to the Hospederia and checked in.  Our luggage had arrived so we took everything upstairs including the three boxes Ivar had delivered for me. We decided that we would try to have a queimada at 10.30pm at the Casino and would visit Fisterra tomorrow.
We met downstairs and Bob told us that he hadn't seen a medico yet. His voice was quite hoarse. Finn wasn't feeling great -side effects of the medication. We walked down to the park and sat at a cafe bar. It started to drizzle so we squashed up under an umbrella. Bob decided to go back to the Hospederia. Penny phoned to say that she had found a little pub to have something to eat and would join us 'in a bit'.
Suddenly a strong wind blew and the rain sheeted down.  People all tried to jam into the little bar to sit out a typical Santiago la tormenta.
When the rain let up we went back outside and soon Penny joined us. We thought we would try her bar for tapas but it was very small and quite crowded. So, we went back to the Casino but their kitchen was closed so we  couldn't have anything to eat.
The television was on with a soccer match blaring and when it was 10.30pm we asked if we could have the queimada the waiter told us only after the game, another half an hour to wait. We decided not to wait and so we drifted off back to the Hospederia leaving Gail and Penny and another bar to have a night cap.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

20th June - Sigueiro

Ignacio took us back to Sigueiro and we started off across the river Tambre. Soon we turned left and passed a modern church on the right. We carried on up the road and a car stopped us telling us that we should have turned at the church. We marched back down the hill. There is no yellow arrow indicating a right turn but on the wall halfway up the driveway was a scallop shell on the wall. We walked the 4.5 km to the Hotel and stopped for a drink before continuing on our way. We decided to walk 11km to a Cafe bar where Ignacio could collect us. It was a pleasant walk through forests and farms.
Ignacio picked us up and took us back to town where Bob visited the farmacia about his sore throat. They wouldn't give him anything unless he had a prescription. We had lunch and then Gail and I decided to take Finn to a medical clinic as the spots on his forehead were looking really angry. We invited Bob to come with us but he declined.
The lady in the farmacia told us to walk up to a round about and turn left. We couldn't see a clinic so asked a man with his dogs for directions. It was on the opposite side of the road so we traipsed down the road and asked again. The clinic was next to the swimming pool. We saw a lady doctor who gave us a report for a dermatologist at the hospital in Santiago.
We took a taxi from Sigueiro to the general hospital in Santiago and after a long wait in a very crowded waiting room we saw two dermatologists who diagnosed shingles.  In Spanish they call it Herpes, which doesn't sound so good! They gave him a prescription and we got a taxi to a farmacia to get his pills and then back to Hotel San Vicente.
What a group we are! Me with an arm in a cast, Finn with Shingles, Bob with a bad throat, Marlene with blistered feet and Penny with an aching heel.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

19th - Sigueiro and the Hotel San Vicente

Some wanted to stay for breakfast and some not, so Juan gave us fruit to take with us when we set off at 7h30.
We knew that it would be the longest walk for some so we got the numbers of 2 taxis in case they needed to be rescued.
Gail, Finn and I set off about half an hour before Penny, Marlene,  Bob and John. It was a very pretty walk through shady forests,  across streams and a few small hamlets.
After 5km we reached the Cafe Bar Cruceiro but it was closed. After another 5km we reached the bus stop at A Bruta.  Then came a 4km long, flat, tiring trek through a man made forest with hardly a bird and no creatures to be seen or heard.
At the end of the forest we came to a bus stop at Oroso. This was the 14km mark where we'd planned to call the hotel San Vicente to fetch us. After a short  rest we decided to walk the last 2 km into Sigueiro. Gail sent a message to the other group and we started walking again.
Besides one wrong turn at a busy intersection where we had to retrace our steps, the signs and waymarks were excellent today.  Soon we arrived at the swimming pool in Sigueiro and stopped at the cafe bar for cold drinks and ice cream.
We let the others know where we were and decided to wait for them before calling the hotel to fetch us. Marlene, Bob and John arrived about an hour after we'd arrived. Penny, who had decided not to walk the extra 2 km, phoned to say that she was on her way in the hotel taxi to fetch us. They arrived a few minutes later and we were taken to the hotel.
After we had checked in we walked to the cafe bar close by and had cold drinks and tapas. Then we went back to the hotel to rest with plans to meet at 6pm in the bar. We had the hotel's 3 course meal (€14) and arranged to meet downstairs at 7am for breakfast and thereafter, a lift back to Sigueiro so that we can start walking our penultimate day to Santiago.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

18th June - Buscas (Ordes)

I thought that the Casa Dona Maria was in Ordes but its not. It's about 4km from Ordes and that meant that we only walked 8 km today and have to make up 4 km somewhere in the next 3 days.
We met downstairs after breakfast and turned left at the first road after the Meson do Novo. After taking a wrong turn,  Penny checked the map on her iPad and guided us to another road which lead us to the right path.
It was en easy walk today and before we knew it we were in Buscas. The Casa Dona Maria was closed so we sat at the Cafe Bar across the road and had cold drinks. Soon after Juan arrived and invited us into the Casa. What a beautiful place! Built in 2009 it is tastefully decorated with double rooms and self-contained apartments.  At €55 per room with breakfast, it's not over priced.
Our room was up a wooden staircase with a fanned bend and Finn almost came tumbling down when his foot slipped off the narrow edge and he fell but managed to hold onto the railing.  He lost a bit of skin on his left arm and was quite shaken.
I needed to add luggage to our Ryanair flight from Santiago to Barcelona on Monday so sat downstairs working on the tablet while some played table tennis or sat in the beautuful garden. I also worked out a new walking schedule with 14km tomorrow, 12km on Friday and 10km on the last day.
Juan and Maria made our dinner, a wonderful ensalada mixta with walnuts, apple and orange segments for starters, one with and one without tuna. Second course was steak and chips for the meat eaters and a vegetable canneloni bake for the vegetarians. It smelled so good that everyone wanted to taste it. Then they brought crepes with a custard filling and strawberries.  Wine, water, beer or cold drinks were included. We all agreed that it was one of the better meals we'd had - and then we got the bill! €25 per person! Pshew - we wished we'd asked before we'd said yes to dinner!
Gail, Finn and I decided that we wouldn't wait until 8am for breakfast but would get an early start for the 14km day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

17th June - Bar Julia to Meson do Novo.

Antonio drove us back to Bar Julia this morning. It is a narrow, winding road and we rocked and rolled as he took the corners, forever descending into the valley. We felt quite nervous about having to hike all the way back up to the top of the ridge.
Bob and John started walking first and Gail, Marlene, Finn and I followed. Penny was dropped at the top of the hill so she had a head start.
It took us an hour to hike up the 3km to the top. The first bit isnt too bad. Then there is a steep section, a slightly flatter bit on the tarred road,  followed by a steeper section on a forest path.
We were all proud of ourselves to make it without feeling too shattered.  John and Bob - who said he didnt think it was nearly as bad as people said it would be - were waiting for us at a picnic site but we decided to carry on and find another stop further down the road.
Eventually we arrived at a hamlet with a few houses,  one which was locked and shuttered. It had a wide, shady verandah which we thought would make a perfect place to stop.   I knocked on the door of the house across the road where a woman was mopping her front steps.  She told us that we co8uld have a rest there with pleasure so we spread our sitting plastics on the front steps and made cheese rolls with Membrillo.
Gail and Marlene dont like to pee in the bush so tbey always find a house with a kind owner and beg to use their loos. They used the loo across the road and we continued on our way.
Soon we arrived at Bruma and walked through the village to the albergue. It wasnt going to open till one but we thought it would be nice to get a sello here as none of the churches we had passed had been open for sellos. We gave our credenciales to John and Marlene and headed off in the direction of Meson do Vento, about 1.5km away. There are no arrows on this section so we made arrows out of stones for John and Marlene to follow.
When John and Marlene arrived about half an hour later they told us that the hospitalero had become very agitated and angry when he realised that we weren't staying in the albergue and refused to stamp the credenciales. He practically chased them away and had to be calmed down by a Spanish pilgrim. So, no albergue stamp for us on this route.
Bob had lunch at the hotel across the road, Finn and I walked to the Farmacia where I bought new sunglasses, and to the ferreteria to buy batteries.
After finding out that the hotel restaurant only served dinner at 8:30pm, we decided to stay at the meson and have a light meal there. We shared 2 bowls of salad, patata tortilla, bowls of tuna, platter of sliced ham and a plate of cheese. It was wonderful and she was very chuffed when we told her that it was the best meal we'd had so far on the Camino.

Monday, June 16, 2014

16th -17th June - Meson do Vento

Today we got a taxi back to Cos and started walking from there. It was a lovely day's walking through rural hamlets and forests. There were one or two short hills and a tricky little dirt path up to the ridge before going down to the road and Casa Julia.
We stopped gor a drink at the bar and I explained to the young man behind the bar that I had spent 2 hours here in 2009 waiting for Antonio from Meson Novo to fetch us (which he never did!). He called his mother,  Amelia, who wad in the kitchen and rembered the incident well.
This time Antonio fetched us and 20 min later we were in our rooms at Meson do Novo. There is no restaurant here so we had a late lunch at a place at the other end of the town. There is a farmacia, a couple of banks (incl ATMs) and two small supermecados. Tomorrow Antonio will take us back to Casa Julia and we will walk to Bruma from there.
It is quite a leap of faith for us to hang our washing on a line just a few meters from a busy road! We couldnt help thinking that if this was home, the clothes would be gone in next to no time!
Antonio's mother offered to make supper and some of the group shared salad and tortilla.
It is still daylight after 10pm so we have to roll down blinds and draw curtains when we go to bed. In one place the light on the tv kept flashing, in another the 'Salida' (exit) light was brighter than the bedside light, and in some places we've hung clothing or towels over the lights to darken the room when we go to sleep.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

15th June - Cos and Abegondo

Today we found our way back to the Camino path and walked 7km to Cos.
There is a steep climb out of Betanzos,  almost as steep as the one out of Pontedeume.
When we reached Cos we stopped at the church for a while  for a snack. I asked a woman in a nearby house to direct us to Abegondo and soon we were on the hot main road for a 4km walk to our night's accommodation, Casa Manolo, a really nice 'motel' (€30) about a km down from the cross-road into town.
Vincent was a kind and perfect host. The Casa is modern, clean and quiet as it is set off the main road. We had a meal in the comedor. Its a pity that this is off the Camino route as it is a perfect stop between Betanzos and Meson do Vento.
An hour or so after we had gone to bed, we heard Gail's friend John arrive.  He had hitched a lift to Betanzos and walked to Abegondo. So the next day our little group would number 7 prregrinos.

Friday, June 13, 2014

13th June - Betanzos

We met downstairs and left before Monty was awake, walking back towards Mino on the main road for about 500m. After crossing a bridge we took a side road on the right and found our way back onto the Camino.
The hills were quite tough, especially the one after the golf course, but we arrived in Betanzos around 1pm (+- 10km) and stayed in town for a while before checking into the Hotel Palacete. (€40 - €50)
We did our washing and had a rest and then met in the square to find a place for dinner.  Nothing was going to open until around 8pm so we went back towards our hotel and had dinner at a little place across the road.
Some bikers had rolled into town while we were having dinner and when we saw them parking in the hotel parking we thought we might be in gor a noisy night. Our room was on the other side of the hotel but Gail and Marlene's room ovrrlooked the parking.

13th June - Mino

We walked around the Ria and over a 116 arch bridge into Pontedeume. Bob's daypack was falling apart so we found a Chinese Bazaar (our preferred stores for cheap goods) where he bought a new pack. Then it was up, up, up to the church of Santiago which was closed, but we were able to get a sello.
Up, up and up we went again until we crested the ridge above the town.
Our destination today was Mino, about 9 km away. We knew about the hill out of Pontedeume but didn't expect another Kilimanjaro beyond the golf course. It seems that the Camino paths have to go as high as they can before they drop down again to virtually sea-level.
One thing we have learned is to be prepared with food and drink as there might not be anywhere to stop for either between places. This is not like the Camino Frances with cafe bars almost every 5km.
Marlene had developed ugly blisters but I think the Compeed I bought her in Cabanas might be doing their bit and she coped with the long ups and equally long down hills.
We stopped for a picnic in the playground opposite the church and were a bit perturbed to find condoms in the playground!
When we artived in Mino we discovered that the Hostal Brisa was 2.2 km out of town up hill on the N165. We decided to take a taxi. The Hostal owner, Monty, reminded us of 'Ramon' in the movie The Way, eccentric, forgetful and, as the afternoon progressed, he became completely drunk!
On first indpection the rooms looked comfortable but the net curtains were in tatters, the bath towels threadbare and the hook for the towel in our room fell off as soon as Finn hung it up.
We ordered dinner for 7pm and at 8:30 pm Carmen (the wife) arrived back from the supermarket and started cooking! I gave up and went to bed. The others ate after 9pm.  Finn woke me at mid-night with painful reflux. I wasn't surprised after having eaten a large potato tortilla before going to bed.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

12th June - Cabanas

We met downstairs before 8am to leave the bags and have for breakfast. Today would be a longer day so we wanted to have an earlier start.  We ended up leaving at about 8h4
Today we passed lavederos, horreos, and many typical Galician crosses. We walked through some shady forests, and up and down hills with the 'water' of the rias visible at times.
Gail had been dreaming of sitting on the beach in Cabanas or swimming in the Hotel Sarga swimming pool. She and Marlene went ahead of us to get to Cabanas while it was still hot.
When we arrived we found that our hotel was on the town side of the rail line so we went under the train subway and soon arrived at the Hotel.
Finn and I walked down to the beach,  found Gail and had a drink at the beach hut. Finn did a double take when a young lady with pert breasts strolled past, naked but for a teeny g-string. At dinner he teased Bob abiut what he had missed!
 I only had long sleeve tops and was suffering in the hot weather so Gail and I went to the Chinese Bazaar in the main street where I bought a new t-shirt with short sleeves.
During dinner we watched the opening ceremony of the Soccer World Cup.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

2014 Camino Caracoles - el Ferrol to Neda

We met in the cafeteria at 8am after leaving our luggage and paying for the accommodation. We were all sending extra baggage ahead and I had booked Jacotrans to transfer 5 bags each day.  Finn and I were supposed to share the pink suitcase, Marlene would have the khaki kit bag, Gail her suitcase, Bob a duffle bag and Penny a suitcase. They quoted me €5 per bag per day.
When Finn and I packed the pink bag (which Kathy and I had shared and was now half empty) Finn found that he couldn't get all his stuff into it. We decided that we should buy another bag for him but he would share the khaki bag with Marlene for one day.  I emailed Jacotrans to let them know that we would have an extra bag from Thursday and that I would put another €40 in an envelope for them. They replied that they wouldn't charge us extra for the 6th bag. So, we got one bag for free!
At breakfast I read some of the first day's stage from Johnnie Walker's notes. I asked each one why the were Caracoles. Penny - because she was very slow: Bob because he will be 90 years old in 3 month's time: Finn because he has peripheral neuropathy,  Gail because she has 'funny' feet, Marlene because of her childhood polio and me because I'm walking with my broken arm in a cast. What an odd group we are!
We were all a little nervous starting out and we took a photo of the first Camino sign we saw. Johnnie's signs and route descriptions were easy to follow. When we had gone about 5 km we stopped at a cafeteria for a drink and Mercedes, the waitress, was so delighted to see us she brought us free Madelena cake and little chocolates. Our first Camino angel.
There was a Chinese Bazaar across the road so Gail, Marlene and I went to look for a bag. Marlene ended up buying a new suitcase on wheels which she and Gail carried between them for a while. Then Gail took over caring for Penny by carring her pack and Finn carried the suitcase.
It took us almost 7 hours to walk to Neda and by the time we got there - about 11km - we were all hot, tired and ready to stop.
For about 2km you can see where you have come from and wish you had a boat to save you all that mileage!
The Hostal Maragoto is run by a friendly mother and daughter and the rooms are comfortable but ours was 51 steps up! After checking in and lugging the cases upstairs,  I went down to ask for the wifi password.  Back up again we did some washing then went down to ask about dinner. Back up again and so it went on. Straight after dinner I was prone on the bed!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Astorga and el Ferrol - 10 June

After Kathy left I updated the blog, sent a few emails and sorted out my ticket to Astorga and el Ferrol. I had to drag the pink bag over the river pebble bridge, picking it up to carry it over the worst of the stones. 

I got to the bus stop on the main road in time for the 10 am bus. It was a 20 min ride to Astorga and i decided to walk around the cathedral rather than drag the case up the steps between the Gaudi Palace and the cathedral.
I visited the tourist office and sat down at the outdoor cafe next to the cathedral for breakfast. It costs more to eat at outside than inside but I wanted to be visible for Kathy when she arrived. Janet from the Uk saw me and stopped for a chat.  Just then Kathy arrived.u
She had toast and coffee and then we walked to the bus station.  Who should we bump into there but Patty from Portland and Sharon. Patty had to rest a couple of days so they are playing catch up and will tak a bus.
The bus was 20 mins late and each time an Alsa bus pulled in I asked the driver if this was the bus to Ferrol. Eventually my bus arrived and I said good-bye and Buen Camino to Kathy.  Her bus to Villafranca was leaving after 2pm so she didn't have long to wait.
The bus was half empty. Soon we passed  Villafranca and I recognized the castle from the road. We had a 20min stop at Ponferrada where many people got off.
We stopped at Lugo and I was able to take a photograph of the walls through the window.
 We made up time and arrived in Ferrol on time at 17h30. I got a taxi to the hotel - just around the corner but I didnt want to drag the pink case up a flight of steps and along the road.
When I got out of the taxi I saw Finn and Uncle Bob sitting in the hotel cafeteria,  then I saw Gail, Marlene and Penelope. We had a happy reunion and Penny, who speaks excellent Spanish, asked the hotel to recommend places to eat. Finn took me to our room, a hot, stuffy, almost windowless room. It is one of those where the electricty switches off when you remove the card to leave the room. After unpacking and rearranging some stuff for tomorrow we went out to eat.
We found a nice little restaurant (that didn't offer a peregrino menu) and then returned to the hotel.

Hospital D'Orbigo - 9th June

Last night we invited Jurgen, a pilgrim from Hamburg who is also staying at the Hostal Central, to join our table at dinner. During the conversation he told us that he walked to La Virgin del Camino then later on got a bus back to Leon. He spent some time there and was going to wait for one of the afternoon buses but decided to take a taxi instead. (He was also overcharged but queried it and the taxi driver relented and charged him €20)
"But there are no buses during the day on a Sunday", I said, fresh and confident from my internet search of the ALSA website.  "There were many buses," he said, "many going both ways".
We had a lovely meal and found we'd met many of the same people on the way. We discussed them as though they were old mutual friends. There is also the "Camino grape-vine and word goes up and down about different pilgrims. I have met pilgrims who have said, "so, you are the lady who broke her arm. We heard about you last week. " Then someone says, "Pete has had to go ahead - he hurt his leg and had to rest a couple of days so now he is playing catch-up".
Back in the room I checked the ALSA website for the bus time table today and guess what? On Monday there are only evening buses from 20h30 onwards.  On Tuesday they start from 6am and run almost hourly.
I wanted to post another box to Santiago and found that the Correos was in a road parallel to the main road. I posted a copy of my book to Isa and a box of stuff to Santiago. Then I decided to wait at tbe bus stop across the road for Tuesday's 9h40 bus to Hospital.

Hallelujah - the bus was on time, not completo, I bought a ticket on the bus for €1.90 and 20 min later I was deposited on the main road outside Hospital D'Orbigo.  It took about 10 min to walk to the famous bridge and once on it, I saw the Albergue La Encina in a side road about halfway along the bridge. As I walked along the bridge I recognized Pete, striding along the cobblestone bridge. He wasn't staying here but just passing through.
It was too early to check in so I took a walk into the old part of the village, had a drink at the Hostal bar at the start of the bridge and met up with a few pilgrims I've seen regularly along the way.  Dan asked if he could take a photograph of me and I asked if I should smile or look sad? "We haven't seen you without a smile" said his wife, Esther. So I smiled and he took a photo of me and my broken arm.
I went back to La Encina and could check in.  This is the most spacious room I've had to date, large enough to fit 4 beds if needed.
Kathy arrived at 2pm. The lady who checked her in thought she was checking in with a man who had arrived with her at the same time. When I told Kathy she said, "Oh NO, gracias, no hombre!" I suggested to the woman that perhaps she had found Kathy a man and should offer them a matrimonial bed!
It had been a long walk for her, 30km according to her GPS watch.  Much too far for our amaWalkers pilgrims to walk. There are 2 routes to here,  one mostly alongside the road and the other (longer route) with less next-to-the-road walking. We might have to let them decide which they prefer to do.
After a rest we walked accross the long bridge to see if there was another way out for me in the moring. I'm going to have to roll the pink bag along the stony bridge and onto the main road (about 15min) to town to reach the bus stop. There are 4 storks nests on the church tower, all with large babies in them. We watched as a stork swooped over the river, probably looking for frogs.
We had drinks at the Hostal overlooking the bridge and we visited the two albergues in town (the parochial albergue still has the waterfall and forest mural on the wall in the courtyard that I first saw in 2002) and the San Miguel albergue where I met Marcelo the hospitalero from Brazil.
Cathy bought a few provisions at the tienda and we went back to Albergue Encina for a pilgrim menu.  I couldnt get the blind to come down in my room so had bright daylight until after 10pm. I should've kept the eye masks that Qatar airline gave us.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

La Virgin del Camino - 8 June

7am: I checked the bus time table from Leon to La Virgin del Camino and there is only one on Sundays at 20h30. So, another taxi is on the cards for me today!
My bag is being transported each day by Jacotrans. They will drop it off at the Hotel Coruna in Astorga on Tuesday as I am getting the bus to Ferrol and Kathy to Villafranca.  In the middle of the night I suddenly thought, 'What if they don't get it there on time for my bus?' So, I've decided to take the bag with me on the bus from Hospital D'Orbigo to Astorga on Tuesday.  When I get to Leon,  I'll buy a small carry bag for Kathy to continue sending her few extras ahead until she gets to Sarria.
1pm: ☆Never ending Story☆
The taxi from Mansilla to Leon (about 18km) was €20. From Leon to Virgin del Camino (about 6km) was €25.  I nearly queried it but he stopped right outside where people were sitting at the pavement tables watching me get out of the taxi.
My never-ending bus story continues.
I was dropped off at the bus station.  I went straight to the ALSA window and was relieved to be the only one there. I had tree bus tickets to buy and wanted to get it right. I smiled at the guy behind the glass and showed him my short list of bus destinations and times.  He didnt smile back. He mumbled something and pointed upwards, like he was giving me the middle-finger but with his index finger. "Perdon?" I asked. He spoke more loudly and half standing gesticulated to a sign above his window. "Yonzyboosh" he said. I looked at him blankly. "YONZYBOOOOSH!" He shouted, as though I must be deaf. I stepped back and tried to read the sign. I felt as though I was in the twilight zone.  You have to buy the tickets 'on-the-bus' of course, that is what he was trying to say, 'Yon-zy-boosh' (On the bus).  "En el autobus?" I asked in my best Spanish accent. His head went up and down like those toy dogs we used to put in front of the back windscreen of our cars in the 1950's.
Just to piss him off I asked "what if the booos is completo?" "Nunca!" He muttered (never). Little does he know. He only works for ALSA. He hasn't seen desperate pilgrims crying because they couldn't get a seat on an ALSA bus that is full before it even reaches your village. So, from now on I cant buy a ticket at the station, I have to buy one yon-zy-boosh. I'll let you know how that works out!

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Mansilla de las Mulas

So much for Acuweather's prediction of mostly clear skies. This was the view from my truck stop hotel window this morning at 7am. The rain woke me at 5am and the only thing moving outside was a joyful wagtail, tip-toeing through the puddles.
It was still raining when Kathy came to collect the bag at 7h15 so I gave her the Altus to take with her.
I phoned Jacotrans to ask for a taxi to Mansilla but he said he was 'completo ' so I asked the fellow at the cafeteria to phone for a taxi. He called a Roberto and told me he would be there in 10 min. I had to rush upstairs to get my things together and go back downstairs. Kathy was still there so we waited together for the taxi which would get me to Mansilla in 15 min, while it would take her another 4 or 5 hours in the rain.
Its a funny thing 'time'. One could hire a car in Pamplona and drive the 700km to Santiago in a day.  Pilgrims take a month or more. Both are covering the same distance but for the pilgrims time is stretched out from dawn to almost sun down every day.
Then there is our place in time. You are very concious of being a modern day pilgrim on this ancient pilgrimage road which goes back 1200 years in time.  Roman roads stretch back even further and the archaeological sites at Atapuerca remind us that humankind habitated this land over a million years ago.
For the pilgrim, time past is irrelevant.  They forget where they were just two days ago and don't know where they will in three days time. There is only today, moving like caracoles across the different landscapes of the Camino time is suspended. When they reach Santiago,  or the land of the Dark Star (as Walter Starkie described land's end at Finisterre) they will be bewildered to find that for them everything has changed but nothing is different. (The Road to Santiago )
Roberto dropped me at the Hostal San Martin and although it was very early, Ana, the owner let me in and I sat at the table in the bar/entrance and read emails etc. Most of the places have free WiFi (pronounced wee-fee in Spanish) so the first thing we do is connect to the WiFi and read and/or send messages home. 

The sun came out so I took a walk into the old town, still surrounded by some impressive walls, into the main plaza. I'd forgotten that it was Sabado - Saturday - and everything was closed. I saw a sign for the Estacion de AutoBuses which is open 24 hours a day.  I would be able to buy tickets for the next 4 days without having to go into Leon.  YAY!
I went back to the hostal and Ana showed me to my room. This is the smallest of all the rooms we have stayed in but at €25 a night, with a double bed and an en suite shower it was good value. Also they have a bar, large diningroom and outdoor terrace with a bar.
Kathy arrived and we decided to explore the 'town' -which took about 30 min. We visited 2 churches, both 18th c  not very impressive.  Then we walked to the 24 hour bus station to buy my tickets.  What was I thinking? There was a large waiting-room bar with a number of Saturday afternoon bar flies propping up the counter, but no ticket office. The barman told me you have to buy the ticket on the bus! "Are you sure? I ask him, rather suspiciously which makes him answer impatiently.  "What time is the bus to Leon tomorrow? I ask. He shows me the timetable on the wall - one bus only at 17h50 - which confirms my information. So, tomorrow I will rake a taxi to Leon where I hope to purchase tickets for the remaining 4 places on this reconnaissance walk.

Friday, June 06, 2014

El Burgo Ranero

I said goodbye to Kathy then walked down to the station and bought my ticket to El Burgo Ranero,  train leaving at 14hr37.  I am amazed at the exactitude of the timetables here. The bus is at 11:51. Not 11:50 or 11:55 , but 11:51.  The train will depart at 14h37 - not 14h35 but exactly 14h37.
I asked if I could also buy a ticket from El Burgo to Mansilla the next day.  "No hay". He said. The train doesn't go to Mansilla, I must take the bus. But sir, where do I get the bus ticket? "No se". I don't know.  (There's a hole in the bucket, dear Lisa, dear Lisa, there's a hole in the bucket,  dear Lisa,  a hole).
I went back to the hostal and tried finding a bus from El Burgo to Mansilla but kept coming up with nothing on the tablet search.  I asked if I could use the Internet in their reception.
Turns out that there is no bus on Saturday. We are back to the weekend story. No bus and no train. I will have to get a taxi tomorrow to Mansilla. I was planning on getting one of the almost hourly buses available to La Virgin on Sunday. HA! No way, Jose. There are hourly buses Lunes to Viernes, but none on Domingo (Sunday).  I will get a taxi to Leon bus station and, hopefully, will be able to buy tickets from there to La Virgin,  Hospital d'Orbigo and to Astorga.
I left a message on the ALSA Facebook page about the problems I'm having with getting bus tickets. Can't buy them on the bus,  or in the towns, or online if you have a foreign credit card. "Try booking on Movelia" they replied.
I went on the Movelia website. It seems that one can book with them, even if you have a foreign credit card,  and if you don't have a printer.  You take down the booking reference number.   I'd like to try that. I might book a one-way ticket just to see if it works.
At 13h30 I walked back into town and a peregrina from  Italy asked me where the bus stop was. She wanted to go to El Burgo Ranero.  Providence? 'Honey you have stopped just the right person' I think,  and tell her no bus without a ticket,  nowhere to buy the ticket,  best to take the train. "Donde estacion el tren? She asks. "Come with me," I say, and we make our way to the station.
Luciana is originally from Brazil but now lives and works in Venice, Italy.  We manage to converse in Spanish and we get on the train together.  El Burgo is an 11 minute ride. I think it will take Kathy over 4 hours. We arrive at 14h48. Its a dusty,  tired looking place and a small stream of pilgrims follow us to the town. How do I know where to go?  I dont, I just head for a church tower and soon pick up the yellow arrows.
I say goodbye to Luciana and she kisses my hand. Sweet peregrina. I turn left towards the large service station truck stop hotel, Castillo Burgo, where Kathy is waiting for me.
I shower, wash a few clothes and set up a makeshift washline near the open window then Kathy I go downstairs to the large cafeteria. I have a mixed salad (no tuna) and she has beef steak, eggs and chips. She is burning up energy walking +20km each day and I am burning out trying  to get from one town to the next.
At 7pm we are ready to retire to our smart, truck stop rooms.

Thursday, June 05, 2014


I had a tin of fruit salad in the room and at 7.45am took the pink bag to the reception. I moved my stuff to the cafeteria so that they could clean my room.
About an hour later Julia joined me. We sat and had a drink and she told me a bit about her work as a teacher.
She wanted to get to Sahagun so that she could start walking to Calzadilla but she didn't have a bus ticket. "Would you consider sharing a taxi with me?" She asked. I had a bus ticket. The  bus was at 12.35pm. It was 10.45. The taxi would have us there by 11.15. I gave the bus ticket to a pilgrim sitting outside the albergue and shared a taxi (€13) to Sahagun.
The owner of Hostal Alfonso V1 confirmed that the only way to get a bus ticket for tomorrow was to book one online.  He suggested I get the train at 2.30pm.  There is nothing in El Burgo Ranero so I will get the train tomorrow. At least there's a train station where I can buy a ticket.
Kathy sent an sms to say that she was in her room. We had a drink and some cookies she had bought on her way in. She went off to update her blog and I had a half - bath in the sitting bath. I gave some washing to the hostal and had a rest before we both went out to explore the town.
This is all that is left of one of the most powerful Benedictine monasteries in Spain.

When we go to the plaza Mayor we found the Aussie family snd Pat, the NY policeman,  sitting in the plaza. We joined them and had bocadillos and cold drinks.
Kathy joined them to walk to the church on the hill where one could get a halff way sello. I found a small corner shop selling fruit, water, Aquarius and yoghurt for tomorrow.
Kathy back very chuffed as she had earned  half-way certificate, much like the new Compostela. It was almost 9pm and time for bed.

4 June - Trradillos los Templarios

Kathy left quite early as it was going to be a 26km day to Terradillos. I decided to buy some groceries to take to Rebekah so walked to the Spar and the big supermercado DIA. I vacated the room at 10 and sat in the foyer doing emails and the blog.
The bus was at 11.51 so at 11.30 I strolled down to the bus stop outside the cafe bar.  I sat with Grace from Texas and who should come along but Patty and Sharon from Portland. When you reconnect with people who you've met further back on the trail, you are like long lost relatives!  (Fr Jeffrey, if you read this post Patty sends her love).
A German pilgrim came out of the bar in a state. She was due to fly home from Leon and had been told the bus was fully booked. I went into the bar and asked to buy a ticket to Terradillos.  "No, es completo" answered the bar man. They did not sell tickets on the bus so all tickets had to be pre-booked. We had found the same thing in Italy but so far in Spain this had not been the case. I told Grace I would have to take a taxi again today and an Italian pilgrim with a sore leg asked if he could share the taxi to Terradillos.  I went back to the barman and bought a ticket for the bus from Terradillos
to Sahgun tomorrow.
So, at 12pm Alberto and I shared a taxi (€30) to Terradillos. When I checked in I recognised the woman at the desk and told her that I had stayed here in 2007. The albergue was new then and she hadn't seen pilgrims from South Africa. We gave her one of the wire Santiago crosses I'd had made by a wire worker outside the Post Office. She pointed to the noticeboard behind her and there was the little cross, still hanging there
after 7 years amongst other gifts from pilgrims. I told her about AmaWalkers and she took me on a tour of the place.
Kathy arrived at about 1.30 so I phoned Rebekah and arranged for her to pick us up after 2pm.
When Reb arrived I felt a bit star-struck! I had seen her name on the Forums since Santiagobis days and subsequentky had followed her blog since she and Paddy moved to Moratinos. She gas written books, numerous articles on the Camino and is considered an authority on the Camino.
In 2008 Reb compiled an online Hospitaleros training course which I did as a pilot training exercise.   It wasn't accepted by HOSVOL (Hospitaleros Voluntarios) but on the strength of that, I was accepted to serve in an albergue in 2009. When I returned to South Africa, I became a Hosvol trainer and many South African trained volunteers have served in albergues in Spain.
Reb took us to a restaurant in Moratinos where we confused the owner with Kathy being allergic to fish and me being a vegetarian and not drinking wine. I'm sure he felt sorry for Reb with her high maintenance friends.

After lunch we walked around the edge of the village to see the many bodegas - like little Hobbit houses in the hillside.
Reb told us that she had two South African ladies staying the night and we were thrilled to find Sharon and Lin there. We ended up sitting around the table chatting until almost 7pm.
Reb drove us back to the albergue stopping at the memorial tree she planted for Philip,  the "Methodist Pilgrim" from the forum who died in May last year.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

3 June-Carrion de los Condes

Elisa has the only taxi in Fromista. The pilgrim trade is a big part of her business but it is seasonal and in the late autumn and winter she doesnt have many passengers.
She picked me up at 9am and we travelled along the Camino route to Carrion de los Condes,  passing streams of pilgrims on the asphalt path alongside the road. Kathy walked a detour section which she said was much nicer.
The Hostal la Corte is a family run, 16 room hostal with a
large, popular restaurant. It is opposite the church of Santa Maria (who else has so many churches named after them?). It was too early to check in so I visited the tourism kiosk and had a chat to Angel. There are many Angels in Spain, some are Jose Angel, Javier Angel or Luis Angel, but he is simply Angel.  He marked the supermarket on the map and pointed to where I woulg get the bus across the road tomorrow.
I walked through town on the Camino route until I saw the sign for the Monasterio San Zoilo. About a km past the monastery is where I left a gift for Pieter Panvenis in 2007, at the base of a tree on the Camino path. I'd also left a memorial for his Camino perro - Don Trigo Carrión de los Condes.  The memorial disappeared years ago but I wanted to see if the box I buried was still there.
I walked back to town and the room was ready. In 2002 I had stayed at the municipal albergue and in 2002 at the convent with the nuns. Staying in a smart hostal in a decirated room, double bed and an en suite bathroom with shampoo and bath gel sachets were what dreams were made of then!
Kathy arrived and I introduced her to Jose and Rosa. Her room was downstairs off the courtyard. We agreed to meet downstairs at 4.30pm.
We visited the church and followed the Camino signs out of town, looking for Don Trigo's memorial site. I recognized the tree right away and there was a remnant of a yellow arrow on the tree. I began to dig using a stick and soon started digging up pebbles, stones and chunks of plastic but no hidden box with a brass scallop shell, buried there 7 years ago.  We dug up plastic with packing tape on it but the gift was no longer there.  I would email Pieter in Holland to let him know.

We visited the monastery museum and then walked back to the hostal where we had a great vegetable platter in the crowded restaurant.
Tomorrow I will get the 11.51 bus to Terradillos.  Its a long walk for Kathy - 26km - so she might not get there till 2pm.

Monday, June 02, 2014

1 June - Castrojeriz

I had to get a taxi here as there are no buses from Hornillos.
 Tomorrow there is a bus but only at 6pm.  I don't fancy spending another long day here so will have to cough up and pay for another taxi to Fomista. Thereafter,  I will be able to take Alsa buses all the way to Astorga.
It was too early to check in so I strolled around this sleepy village, even more sleepy being a Sunday.  Even the few bored dogs I saw didn't lift their heads when I passed them.
The town is a waren of narrow,  stony alleys and steps wrapped around the base of the hill.  At the top is the ruin of an old castle. In 2007 Marion and I climbed to the top to see the castle and the stunning views.  But, I wasn't going to risk going up there on my own. If I tripped or fell I could die of hyperthermia before anyone found me!
I walked back to the Meson and my room was ready and my pink case waiting for me.

 In 2002 when I walked with Georgette and Clare, we stayed in an awful albergue in concrete cubby-holes with
thin vinyl mattresses. You couldn'nt sit up and we nearly froze to death. In 2004 Joy and I stayed in this Meson and in 2007 Marion, Annelise and i stayed in the San Esteban albergue then a few weeks later, after Finn joined us to walk from Sarria we hired a car and I drove us here from Oviedo.
I walked downstairs and saw Kathy checking in.  The sun was out and it was quite warm. We decided to have a mixed salad for lunch in the terrace area but it had been reserved for a first Communion celebration so we were seated inside the dining room.
After lunch I tried out the sitting bath but had to stand and shower. I was afraid that if I sat down I wouldn't be able to get up and would need rescuing!
I decided to take a walk to the shop which, according to their sign, would open at 4.30pm.   Kathy was also looking for it but only a bar was open. I bought some dates and an iced tea and we went back to our rooms.
There are two things pilgrims search for when arriving in a village or town - a place to sleep and the for food. I'm sure the bakeries, cheese makers, ham producers and breweries survive through the pilgrim trade.
We went in search of an open shop and found others doing the same.  The film producer of the documentary on the cellist - 'Walk to Fisterra' - was looking for peanut butter to feed his crew in the morning. Dane Johansen is playing here tonight.

On the way back we stopped and chatted to the couple from Belgium and outside the Meson we ran into the Aussie family and talked about Comrades (which was run today).
It doesn't get dark until about 10 pm so when you go to bed you have to close the shutters or roll down the blinds.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

31 May - Hornillos del Camino

Even though we had bed covers and blankets it was cold when we woke this morning.  The temperature was about 4oC and there was a 30% chance of light rain. We took the pink case downstairs at 7.45 and I said goodbye to Kathy. At about 9am I left the hotel. The cold wind still got through my layers of jackets, scarf and chill cheater.
I knew that there was nothing in Hornillos so I decided to have a Cola Cao and then do a self- guided audio tour of the cathedral.  I first visited the cathedral in 2002 and the many gilt chapels - some decorated with gold brought back to Spain by the Conquistadors,  made me feel claustrophobic.  I haven't been back in it since. But, this morning I paid €6 to visit the cathedral again.

Afterwards I walked towards the bus station where the taxis park. The digital clock and temperature reading at the farmacia showed that it was only 10oC at 11.35

I took a taxi to Hornillos del Camino. I was able to hold a decent conversation with the driver, mainly because he spoke quite slowly. The Hostal Sol de Sol is a lovey place with 7 comfortable rooms, a living room, fully equipped kitchen and an attractive outdoor seating area at the back.  

 There seem to be at least 3 albergues in this tiny place and two Casa Rural hostales. Sol and Casa Abuelo.

I knocked on the door of the Hostal Sol and a young man opened it. He said the room would be ready in about 20 minutes so I sat on a bench outside chatting to pilgrims from Colarado.  
It was getting colder so I took a walk along the almost medieval street to the bar then turned back and saw Kathy arriving. We checked in, then went to the bar where I had potato tortilla for lunch and she had an apple, custard slice. A couple from Belgium joined us and once again I could converse with them in Afrikaans. 
There was a notice in the bar that a young musician- Dane Johansen - who was walking the Camino carrying his Cello,  would be playing in the church at 5pm.  We went back to the rooms to shower and rest until 4.30pm.
Every shower in every place is different and in Somerset County places I feel mechanically challenged by the workings of the showers. Last night the shower was like an upright jacuzzi with shwer jets coming at you from all angles. The one in Hostal Sol has an unusual tap. You have to push the head up to get water and then turn it keft for hot and right for cold water.  There is a seat, a mirror (who needs to see oneself so closely in a shower?) as well as a radio!

At 4.30pm we walked to the church and took our seats on the benches. There were notices outside that a documentary crew would be filming and by going inside we accepted that we might be filmed but would not be entitled to any compensation. 
The music was wonderful and for an hour we forgot about the cold and enjoyed Bach and a Spanish composition Santa Maria del Manzano.

We decided to eat what we had left in our rooms so my dinner was a not-so-healthy cheese roll, half a slice of Santiago tart and Rooibos tea. Tomorrow I'll have to take a taxi to Castrojeriz as there are no buses over the weekends. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

All good in Burgos

Hotel Entrearcos
The taxi collected me at 8am. It was the Caminofacil luggage transport and we stopped at many small places along the way picking up bags and packs.  It was a bit like travelling on the old milk train between Durban and Johannesburg in the 1950's.
The driver dropped me off at the emergency door of the hospital in Burgos.  
I saw a very nice young doctor from Peru who spoke fairly good English.  Had to have Xrays and then go back to him. He said I needed a full cast and I asked him not to make it too thick.
(I took this self ie in the bathroom!)
He told me that he would have to apply traction to the fingers and that he might hurt me but it wasnt too bad. I just thought of my son, Mark, and turned my head away!  He cut the old cast off and I was surprised at how purple and yellow the arm was almost to the elbow.
I had to lie on an examination bed and to apply traction,  he first rolled a 'sausage' bandage on the arm down to the elbow. Then he made three loops with thin bandages and looped them over my thumb, index and middle fingers. He tied the long ends of the bandages around his waist.
 He and a nurse tied my upper arm into a sling that was attached to the top of the bed. He then began to pull away and it felt like the fingers might detach from my hand! While it was tight he applied the plaster cast. It is quite flat underneath - not a big round cast.  When it was done I had to go for more Xrays to make sure that the bone was still in the same position.
I asked him if I could walk and he said only in 4 or 5 days,  when the cast had cured and was dry.  I told him I wouldnt walk until I meet my husband abd small group in Ferrol and he suggested I have another Xray there. I got a taxi to the hotel. 
Everyone has been very kind and helpful.
Kathy arrived later than expected after missing the turn to the alternate route alongside the river and walking the long, hard slog into the city. We decided to go on the Chuchu tourist train and spent 40 minutes seeing the sights that way.

 Then we walked back along the Camino route to the Renfe train ticket office where Kathy bought her ticket from Sarria to Madrid.
On the way back to the hotel we went to the bus station to get a timetable for my buses for the next few days.  Because it is the weekend,  there are no buses to Hornilos del Camino tomorrow or from there to Castrojeriz on Sunday.  I'll have to take taxis both days.Kathy went out to find dinner and I tried to negotiate the jacuzzi type shower without getting my new cast wet.
 It is cold in Burgos.  Night temperatures are down to 3 and 4o and daytime not higher than 14oC. 

Sent from Samsung tablet

Thursday, May 29, 2014

San Juan de Ortega - 29 may

La Henera
Kathy left quite early and I stayed in the room until about 9am.   I went downstairs for a hot drink but the Cola Cao was tepid - not enjoyable. I booked a taxi for 11am and sat in the cafe updating this blog.
The Caminofacil taxi collected me on time, together with bags and packs to be taken to places along the way.  I arranged with the driver to pick me up at 8am and take me to the hospital in Burgos.
We arrived in San Juan at about 11.45, too early to check in so I sat in the bar, out of the wind and chatted to the young man behind the bar. The table I sat at faced the door and many pilgrims asked me for a stamp in their credenciales,  or to use the toilet!
I decided to wait for Kathy before checking in and when she arrived we went behind the old church tonthe beautiful new La Henera 'hotel'.  It has 10 double rooms (one for disbled people) and is fully accessible.
There is nothing at San Juan and once you have visited the church there is nothing to do but sit outside the bar and chat to pilgrims, a nice way to relax. There is a population of 20 people here and it seems that when an old house starts to fall down, you stake it up and build anew one next to it!
Dinner is served in the tiny bar in sittings so we got there early and sat with 2 German pilgrims. Dinner is 'platos combinados' and there are photos of the 3 plates of food on the back of the menu, no changes or substitution allowed.
After dinner we went back to  our room where the heating had warmed the room and bathroom. Mass is only held three nights a week so we had an early night.