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.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Belorado - 28 May

Hotel Jacobeo

This morning I had a breakfast but decided I wont have their breakfasts again.  They are always toasted slices of baguettes,  cake, jam and maybe a piece of fruit.
Anna was very kind and insisted on buttering and putting jam on the toast.  I don't usually have butter but didn't have the heart to tell her.
The bus to Belorado was at 12 so I went off in search of a Vodafone shop. "There is one down the road, 1st right and on the left side of the road" the man in the Farmacia told me. I saw Sharon from Oregon looking at the time tables at the bus station so she decuded to join me.
When I got to the road and asked a young lady where it was she told me that it had closed 3 months ago.  I then went to a little fruit an veg shop that advertised 'recargar' recharges.  "Lo siento" she said, they were off line.
We went back to the hotel and waited in the reception until it was time to go to the bus.
The waiting room looked like a casualty room at a hospital. There were hobbling pilgrims,  some nursing limb injuries, one in tears and on crutches. My arm in a slingvwas minor by contrast!
It was pouring with rain and we could see pilgrims trudging along the path which runs alongside the highway.  Not a very inspiring stage.  Sharon wanted to be dropped off on the roadside near Villoria but the bus driver said that he couldn't do that.  She ended up going to Belorado and getting a taxi vack to Villoria where she would meet up with Patty.
We parted ways in Belorado and Julie (a pilgrim from California) and I had a Cola Cao before she went off to find the albergue.
Kathy arrived soaked to the skin so she went up to the room to shower and change. We walked into the Plaza Mayor but everything was closed so we went back to the room and got under the covers while we checked emails and discussed the next day.
 At 5pm we went to the square and found a shop, much like Clicks, where Kathy bought a Sim card and I recharged my cell phone. We found a large supermarket and I bought cherries,  a few apricots and a small tray with baby carrots,  artichokes and mushrooms and a oacket of olives.
We went back to the hotel and had a dinner of leftover pizza,  vegetables and fruit.
I found out that the bus doesn't go to San Juan de Ortega so Ill have to take a taxi tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Santo Domingo de la Calzada - 27 May

The bus terminal was a 2 min walk from the hostal so after Kathy left,  I had a light breakfast in the hostal comedor. I caught up on the blog and sent emails home. There was a problem with the TIC insurance policy but this was subsequently resolved.
I got the 11am bus to Santo Domingo de la Calzada.  It was raining when we arrived but luckily the bus stop was across the square from the Hostal Pedro 1. This is a charming 9 roomed hostal run by Paco and Anna.  They do all the work - sharing the front desk duty in between cleaning rooms and making breakfast.
We had single rooms here and a lift so it was easy for me to take the bag upstairs.  I couldn't resist taking a photo of the shower which had a seat in the cubicle. Showering with an arm in a cast isn't easy especially on the right side so having a seat was a bonus!
Kathy arrived and said that it had been a rather long day with few places to stop for a drink. At about 4pm we went into the old quarter and found the pilgrims from Cape Town (Carla) and Oregon (Patty and Sharon) who I had met at Maria's table in Logrono,  at a cafe bar. We joined them and Sharon from Oregon said that she had a strained calf muscle so would take a bus the following day.   Lin and Sharon from Cape Town stopped to chat and then Kathy and I found a place to have pizza.
We walked to find the Correos - Post Office - as I had decided to send my backpack and extra clothing that I couldn't wear to Santiago the next day. Then we walked back to the hostal. In spite of the rain and cold,  the fields are full of flowers and the large European stork all have babies in their nests on top of church steeples and electricity pylons.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Bus and taxi pilgrim - Navarette to Najera

I thought I wouldn't sleep well but the pillows here are long and mine went right across the double bed so I could rest my arm on it next to my head whichever way I turned.
It takes twice as long to shower and dress and brushing teeth is a mission.
At 7.45 Kathy took the pink bag dowstairs and left for her walk to Najera.  The young man behind the desk gave me a Cola Cao and rang for a taxi to collect me at 10am.   The buses don't come to Navarette but one can walk a couple of km to the highway and get one there.
The taxi took me straight to the Hostal Hispano.  It is opposite the main park and I remembered having lunch in the Restaurant Hispano with Marion and Annelise in 2007. We also went back there with Finn on our car trip back to Pamplona.
Senor Alonso was most concerned about my arm and allowed me into my room earlier than normal check in time.  He gave me a map and marked on it where the bus stop, tourist office and clinic was.

I crossed the river and found that the tourist office was closed on Mondays.  I found the bus terminus and took a photo of the bus time table on the wall.  I bumped into the two pilgrims from Cape Town and spent some time chatting to them.
I went back tobthe hostal and Senor's daughter and new baby were visiting so I was introduced and had to recount the accident.  He went off duty and Anna, his other daughter arrived to do a shift at the desk.  I asked her if they ciuld scan or fax the doctor's reports for me but their printer, fax macine was out of order.
Kathy arrived and helped carrying the pink bag to our rooms. Anna suggested I try the library or post office to do the fax for me.  After 20 minutes in the post office they were unable to fax the documents to TIC.
Anna told me about a photocopy place around the corner so Kathy and I found that place and I was able to email the docs to my Mweb address.  Back at the hostal i sent them to TIC.
We ate in the room again and I had an early night.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Logrono to Navarette- 25 May

Hostal villa de Navarette
 Kathy and I decided not to leave too early as we only had 13km to walk to Navarette and she needed to buy a Sim card.  We walked back towards the station where I had been to the Phone Shop the day before.  Nothing was open so we continued onto the Camino path out of the city.  The graffiti through the tunnel has undergone a great improvement with silhouettes of pilgrims painted on the walls.

It started to drizzle as we climbed the path to the recreational park above the city and stopped at Marcelino Lebato's table. I was going to buy a walking stick but they were all too long.  We watched as a man fed walnuts to red squirrels and had a Cola Cao in the restaurant in the park.

We continued past fields of red poppies and the drizzle stopped.  I took my arms out of the Altus raincoat sleeves and keeping it over the backpack,  tied the sleeves around my waist. We approached Navarette and I told Kathy to stop so that I could take her photograph.  I took 2 steps back and stood on the bottom of the raincoat.  I fell down hard backward, holding the camera in my right hand I put out my left hand to break the fall.
Kathy came to me straight away and tried to take my hands to pull me up but my left hand was screaming!
"Let me sit here a moment" I said and started feeling hips, arms, hands. My left wrist was swelling and I had to turn over using my right hand so that she could help me up.
We continued walking to the village cradling my left hand. We checked into our hostal and the young man directed us to the medico.  Even though it was a Sunday,  the doctor was on duty.  He looked at the wrist and said that I would have to go to the hospital in Logrono for an Xray.
The young man at the hostal called for a taxi and we went back to Logrono and the Hospital San Pedro.  2 hours later we left the hospital with my arm in a half cast. I sustained a clean fracture of the radius.   The doctor's advice was that I see an orthopaedic specialist in Burgos to check if the fracture had displaced or go home and see my orthopaedic specialist in South Africa.
I called home to tell them the news and we agreed that I would not go home but would visit a hospital in Burgos. Kathy and I decided that she would walk alone and I would get a bus from one place to the next.

Tourist in Spain 1 -21 May . Pamplona to Viscarret, St Jean and Zubiri

I arrived in Pamplona on Wednesday after a long flight from Durban -actually it was 4 flights that took us 7 hours east of Africa to Qatar and then 7 hours back west to Madrid with a short flight north to Pamplona.  When I arrived at the Hotel where I would stay the following night the AmaWalkers group were just arriving.  It was great to meet most of them and have a chat with Julie the group leader.
I packed 3 bottles of Amarula cream, two boxes of chocolates and two boxes of Rooibos tea into a bag and at 5.30pm Istvan, from Pension Corazon Puro picked me up from the bus station and took me to his Pension in Viscarette.   I met pilgrims there and we shared a commumal meal prepared by Istvan and Barbara.   I shared a room with a pilgrim from Canada.

After breakfast Istvan drove me to St Jean Pied de Port.  I went to visit Pierre at Gite Compostela but he wasnt there and they didn't know when he would be back.  It was too early for lunch with Tim Proctor but I decided to walk up the Ru de la Citadelle and knock on his door anyway.  Luisa answered the door and told me that Tim was ill.  I told her that I would cancel the lunch and after having a cup of tea with her,  she called a taxi and I wrnt to Zubiri to visit Jose and Rosa at Pension Amets.
Although my Spanish isn't great, I understood when he told me that the Pension used to be their home but when he lost his job, they moved into a converted apartment with his wife's parents and turned their home into a pension.  I first met Jose in May 2011 when walking over the bridge into Zubiri was offered a business card for his new pension.  Our groups have stayed there ever since and they have been very good to all of our pilgrims.
(To be continued.)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tourist in Spain 4 - 24 May. Logrono, Maria, Viana

I left the hotel at 9am and followed the Camino path out of the town towards Maria's table. Many pilgrims passed me going into town. As I approached her table she recognized me and we hugged, doing a little jigg on the path! We sat inside talking about her daughter and grand children, her knees where she'd had operations in 2012 and her eye with the cataract which was now clear.  Pilgrims came in and she held up a credencial for me to see - a South African credencial.  The pilgrim was from Cape Town and was having a miserable time, not enjoying the Camino at all. She was walking with two American pilgrims and when I mentioned my name, Patty from Oregon asked if I was Sillydoll from the forum and knew Annie who had led groups in 2012.  We had our photos taken and they went on their way.
Back outside at the table, a car pulled up and I recognized Acacio from Villoria.  I was thrilled to see him because I had an envelope for Tomas of Manjarin that I was going to leave at his albergue on the way to Belorado. He told me that he had received a message and photo from Tomas that morning telling him that it was snowing at Manjarin.   I thought of the pilgrims walking in those cold mountains and hoped it would clear before our group arrives there in a few days time.
I said goodbye to Maria and walked back to the city. I packed the last box of chocolates in my backpack and got the bus to Viana.

I phoned Jose and we met in the square where a fiesta celebrating ethnic Basque dancing was in progress.  Jose left to direct some pilgrims to the apartment and I sat with his 8 year-old watching the dancing.  When Jose came back he invited me to have lunch with them at their home.  His wife, Pili, made us pasta and salad and I played computer games with the son.
I kept looking at my watch because the last bus was at 3.30 but Jose told me to 'tanqilla' -he would drive me back which he did, right to the hotel. Many pensions and hostals (different from hostels) are owned by families and the people are friendly and kind and make one feel at home.
Kathy was arriving at 7pm so I walked back to the station to meet her.  We stopped at the Carefore supermarket on the way back to the hotel so that she could by a yoghurt for her breakfast.
We shared pita and cheese sandwiches for dinner and had an early night.  Not much good it did with Spain playing 2 football matches and the bar across the road packed with screaming fans until 4am.

Friday, May 23, 2014

TOURIST IN SPAIN 2 - 22 May Pamplona

I checked into the hotel in Pamplona and soon there was a knock on the door. Tom and Nancy had arrived with one friend but her husband was missing.  He had taken the bus to Pamplona earlier in the day and they expected him to be at the hotel when they arrived.  After a few hours he arrived with the police having shown him the way.   He had got the wrong hotel name and his cell phone wasn't working so he had no way of contacting anyone.
I showed them the way to Cortes Ingles where they went shopping, I bought a new sim card for my tablet and we all had a drink in the cafeteria upstairs. On the way back to the hotel I showed them the Plaza del Toros and the large sculptures of the running of the bulls.
We had a lovely dinner at La Tagliatelle in the square to celebrate Nancy's birthday. After discussing the best plan for their walk the next day we agreed to meet downstairs at 8am.

Tourist in Spain 3 - 23 May. Pamplona to Logrono

We met downstairs and I showed them the way to the cathedral. We had breakfast at a cafe bar and then I left them to go to the Bus station. This time I carried three boxes of Amarula chocolates - one for Marian in the tourist office in Estella and one for Jose in Viana and one for Maria outside Logrono.
When the bus stopped at Puente la Reina,  I saw Sharon Kalidene from our May group in the queue. She sat next to me and told me that she hasn't been walking because of a painful knee.  I thought she was very brave to get buses on her own from town to town - not my idea of fun.

We got off in Estella and walked to the tourist office.  Marian recognised me and we had an emotional reunion.  We left our packs with her and visited San Pedro de la Rua across the road.  It was the first time in 12 years that I had been able to get inside the church which features prominently in my novel.

We had tea with Marian and her coworker. They offered us Rooibos tea. I asked about Maria who worked in the tourist office with her and she told us that due to cutbacks, Maria had been retrenched.  This is the story for many people in Spain,  factories closing, offices moving, people losing jobs.
Sharon and I walked to Hostal Cristina and then I left her to go to the bus station.
I decided not to stop at Viana and continued to Logrono.  I had my map and a fair idea where the hotel was close to the cathedral but still I got lost and walked up and down trying to find it. It is in a side street right opposite the cathedral and I must've passed it 10 times! The hotel Numantina is clean and the rooms are comfortable but it is 7 flights of stairs to the hotel floor and the walls are so thin i could hear the person in the next room coughing.
I checked in, left my bags in the room and found a supermarket to buy food for dinner and breakfast. I ate in the room and although I could hear the TV in the room next door I slept dead until the morning.

Monday, May 12, 2014

'Complete Your Camino' recce walk

amaWalkers Camino offer 22-day walks on three sections of the Camino Frances.  When we first planned the sections in 2010, most people wanted to start in St Jean and finish in Santiago so that they could earn a Compostela.  This meant splitting the 775km route into three sections.  We decided on walking 9 days from St Jean to Logrono, getting a bus to Burgos, Leon and Astorga then walking in the Irago Mountains and Bierzo Valley to Villafranca del Bierzo or Ambasmestas before being taxied over the Cebreiro hill to Samos and walking the last 130km to Santiago. This means walking almost half of the Camino Frances.

Over the last 3 years, many of those who have walked the amaWalkers Camino 22-day walk have asked if we could offer them a walk to 'Complete' their Camino by walking the sections they missed.  When I sent a suggested route to them - from Logrono to Astorga and Ambasmestas to Sarria - many asked if they could either continue walking to Santiago on a different route or walk to Finisterre from Santiago.  We agreed to offer both short routes as possible endings to their 'Complete Your Camino' walks in 2015.

Although I have walked the Camino Frances a few times, and have done the Camino Ingles and Finisterre route, I didn't stay in hotels and walked as little or for as long as I felt like doing each day.  When you plan for a group walk, you need consistent daily distances of about 20km and accommodation in pensions, hostales, hotels etc.  So, we need to walk the route again and check out the accommodation along the way.

From 25th May my friend Kathy and I  will do a reconnaissance walk of the new routes.  We will both walk the section from Logrono to Astorga, crossing the beautiful meseta.   Kathy will then get a bus to Villafranca del Bierzo and walk from there to Sarria.  I will get a bus to Ferrol and walk the Camino Ingles to Santiago. 

When I put this plan on Facebook, a few people asked if they could join me on the Camino Ingles walk, so now there are 6 of us, including 90 year-old 'Uncle Bob' from California, my husband, cousin, sister-in-law and Penelope from Oregon.  We will walk ± 10km per day from Ferrol to Santiago in 11 days.  Accommodation has been booked ahead and we will use luggage transfers.

In September, amaWalkers co-director and Group Leader Jenny Rooks, will do a 4 day recce walk from Santiago to Finisterre.   Once we have walked all of these sections, estimated daily stages, transport possibilities and checked the accommodations we will offer the walks in May 2015.

I am leaving in 8 days time and will arrive in Spain on 21st May. Before Kathy arrives I will be visiting friends we have made of hotel, pension, B&B and Gite owners in St Jean, Viscarret, Zubiri, Estella and Logroño. 

I am not well prepared for this walk.  A month ago I got Shingles on my face and scalp which knocked the stuffing out of me. Then I had to go on a diabolical drug to reduce a swelling in my right retina.  The side effects include dizziness, nausea and reflux, diarrhea and pins and needles in the tongue and fingers.  I haven't been able to do any long walks for over 5 weeks.  I will finish this medication 3 days before I fly from Durban and I'm hoping and praying that most of it will be out of my system before I go.