186 miles walked, 314 to go.
Day 13: Today was a walk and talk day. As I was having breakfast in Grañón, I ran into Craig again, the pagan prison chaplain. He told me the sad news that a 62 year old Pilgrim from Holland died the day before not far from where we were. It was a sobering reminder of how rough on the body this pilgrimage could be.
We finished breakfast and I headed out with Craig in his full Camino kilt outfit.
We chatted as we walked together the first half of the day, and soon my face hurt from laughing. He’s a larger than life person and also sort of a Camino celebrity. When we stopped to get water, all the Pilgrims were taking turns to get their picture taken with him. I also snapped a pic of him filling up his water bottle.
We talked about his religion, homophobia, his life in Birmingham, and I shared some of the more colorful Spanish cuss words and some unfortunate and embarrassing mistakes I made when learning Spanish.
Some pictures of the views as we walked and from when we stopped in at a local church.
When we stopped in the next town, I was ready for lunch, but Craig wanted to push onto the next town as he’d heard there was a monastery where you could eat and pray with the monks, so I said goodbye and met David, a Spaniard, and Joe, from Germany.
After lunch, I carried on with Joe for the next 4 hours or so to the town of Villafranca, and we talked about the different people we’d met along the way, politics, and because he majored in economics and works in finance, we talked about the changing global markets as well as the effects of Trump locally and globally. His English was quite good, and he also said he really liked American stand up and like Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock, Louis C. K, Bill Burr, and other comics I also really liked (I’d seen the first 3 live). Being able to understand humor and comediennes is definitely a higher level of language proficiency with the play on words, slang, and pop culture references. I’m pretty sure a comedienne talking in Spanish would go right over my head. The surrounding views continued to be beautiful.
We arrived in Villafranca, and I stayed in my first albergue with single beds (non bunk beds) with half-wall partitions between the beds and a locker to stow the backpack.
I set my bed up (laid out my sleep sack and grabbed a blanket), showered and headed to the patio where Joe was having a beer with another guy from Germany, Herman. That’s right, Herman the German.
Soon we were chatting with an Aussie couple and an English guy that they had met before on the Camino and were walking it again together.
We all then went to dinner as a group, and it was fun getting to know more people.
Day 14: I slept late (7am), and was one of the last Pilgrims in the dorm room when I woke up. My big toe on my right foot hurt, and I really didn’t want to put my feet back into the hiking shoes. My best friend Rob, also a fellow teacher at Skyline, was meeting me in Santiago on June 5th, and we had talked about him hopping on a bus and coming to meet me on the Camino and walking the last 2-3 days with me. But a few days ago, we had talked about it again, and we both felt like it might be strange to have somebody just join in for the last few days with a bunch of pilgrims who had been walking a lot longer, and suffered a lot more, and he would be jumping in with his new shiny shoes and arriving at the finale with everyone. We decided instead that he and I would walk from Santiago to Finisterre. The Camino officially ends in Santiago, but many choose to carry on and walk all the way to the ocean. “Fin” in Spanish means “end” and “tierra” means land, so the name Finisterre means end of the land or earth. Before Columbus sailed out and found there was more land and more people in the Americas, the Spaniards believed that this was the literal end of the world. So my bestie Rob and I would be walking to the ends of the earth together! However this meant that I needed to cut out 3 days somewhere out of the middle of my Camino, so I could add those 3 days on to the end to walk with Rob. The important thing to me was to walk the 500 miles across Spain, which was my goal, so I would still be walking the same amount of miles, but instead my walk would now end with my feet in the ocean. With this in mind, I decided this day, Day 14, would be one of my “skip” days. So I packed my things, and took a $3 thirty-minute bus ride to Burgos, one of the bigger cities on the Camino de Santiago with over a hundred thousand people. I treated myself to an individual room in a hostel in the historic City Center of Burgos for $35. Even though this was supposed to be a rest day, I ended up walking all over the beautiful city, but in my flip flops to let my tired feet breathe, heal and recover.
After waking around in morning, I checked into my hostal at 2pm and did something I hadn’t done in two weeks, I took a 2-hour bath and soaked my tired muscles, and it was wonderful. In the early evening, I headed back out into the city and the streets were now filled with Spaniards hanging out with their friends and families. I had enjoyed hanging out all that morning by myself, but now I found myself looking around to try to find my fellow Pilgrims. But because it was a big city, the Pilgrims had been swallowed up by the city, and it felt like just me and the Spaniards. Have you ever felt alone in a crowd? That’s how I felt. As I walked around, I felt very solitary and even melancholy. The city was incredibly scenic all the same.
Just as I was feeling like the only person by themselves in the city center, I got a text from one of the women I met on the Camino asking which city I was in, followed right away by a message from another of the really cool women I had met who was a few days behind but just checking in to say hi, and then I got an email from Joe the German I had walked with the day before. My Camino family was reaching out when I needed it most.
None were in Burgos, so I sat at an outdoor cafe to have dinner and saw nachos on the menu. When I had lived in Madrid for a year in the 90s, the thing I missed the most was Mexican food, which at the time didn’t really exist there. Seeing nachos on the menu, I decided I would give it a try.
The chips were fine covered in chopped tomato, onion, beef, and white cheese (not typical), but the tiny bit of sour cream on the side wasn’t enough for more than a few chips, the other little side was BBQ sauce(?), and the green stuff I think was supposed to be guacamole but it was inedible. I appreciated the attempt though :). As I sat there, I saw again the criss-cross of airplane trails in the sky overhead which I had seen quite a few times and had started looking at it as a symbol for the Camino because even though thousands were walking it, I kept running across the same friends.
I paid my bill, started walking across the square and heard my name, and there was Erika, the German woman who was traveling with Ben, who I’d already run into several times at very different parts of the Camino!
Ben soon arrived but it was getting late, so we made plans to meet in the same town and stay in the same albergue the next day.
Day 15: I headed out and 20 minutes into the walk, I saw Erika standing on the side of the road talking to two Brazilian friends. These were friends she met on her first day of the Camino weeks before and hadn’t seen since, and they were heading home that day. Camino criss-crossing again. Erika’s Brazilian friend taking her picture.
We made it about 20 more minutes down the road and we ran into Joe from Germany! He had been in Burgos as well, but my email reply had gone into his spam folder, so we didn’t connect, but we found him anyway.
We all carried on together, and Joe decided to join us in the same albergue in the town Hornillos de Camino.
Views along the way:
We stopped in a church, and a lovely nun gave us blessings and necklaces of a saint who would protect us on the Camino and in life.
We stopped for food and we all took our shoes off to air out our feet. When I put mine back on, my big toe on my right foot was really hurting. Joe gave me a gel plaster to put on it, and we carried on, but about 20 minutes down the road, I was severely limping and I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep going. Erika lent me her sandals, since my big toe could no longer take any pressure on it at all, and I was able to make it the rest of the way, but I certainly wasn’t making any fashion statement with my wrapped toes in oversized shoes.
We made it to our albergue, I unwrapped my toes, took a shower, and I met everyone on the back patio. Joe looked at my big toe and said, “I think you have a chicken-eye.” I handed him my phone and asked him to use Google Translate for the German word he was translating into English. He put the word in and it came back “corn.” What kind of old-timey affliction had the Camino given me?? I suddenly had turned from almost 50 to nearly 100! My toe hurt so badly. When I even lightly touched it, it sent shoots of pain throughout my entire body, and I realized I wouldn’t be able to put an enclosed shoe on it again anytime soon. I knew I needed to buy Tevas, the rugged sport sandal that I could hike in but would not put pressure on my toe. However, we were in a tiny village with no stores that sold shoes. My options were to take a cab back to Burgos to try to buy the shoes, or to walk for about 5 hours in flip-flops to the next town the next day that did have a shoe store. I couldn’t face going backwards after all the work it had taken to come that far, so I decided I would walk one day in flip-flops. Having made that decision, I pulled out the playing cards and Joe and I played card games and drank beers until we all went to dinner.
The Germans joked that hanging out with them, I had been Germanized and would soon be like them rocking the socks and sandals look.
Day 16: Things started out great. I left town on my own as Joe had left earlier that morning to cover more miles that day, and Erica was having stomach problems, so she and Ben were walking a lot more slowly behind. I started off for the first several hours listening to an audible book, but soon as I was passing two guys, they started talking to me in English, so I put away my headphones and I met David from Israel and Mason from San Jose. David soon stopped to adjust his pack, and Mason and I carried on and chatted all the rest of the day to the town we both happened to be staying in Castrojeriz. Mason was the first person I had met who lived the closest to SF. He was a super interesting guy who had been in the Navy and had served on a submarine for four years and he said for 85% of the time he was under water. We talked about all kinds of things from Sci-Fi movies and TV shows to relationships and he gave some very interesting insights into young people, he was 28, dating in the online swiping right and left era.
The weather was getting a bit warm, but again the surroundings were beautiful.
Everything had been going good all day with my flip-flops, but in the last hour I was feeling severe pain. I had worn these same shoes while traveling a lot and had walked at least 5-6 hours or more for many days and even more recently when I went to Rio de Janeiro in February a few months before. Since it was their summer, I pretty much lived in these flip flops for 2 weeks. However, I think the dusty and rocky terrain of the Camino, was having a different effect.
I stopped and slid my shoes off and saw that between my toes was getting raw, and I had blisters on the bottoms of my feet on the top pads of each foot and on the heels. Mason had a leg cramp, and we both pretty much limped into town.
I found a shop that sold Tevas and bought a pair, but felt worried that even with the different shoes, my feet would hurt too much to walk a full day again. I asked about a bus, but the only bus came the next day at 6:30 p.m. I didn’t want to waste a whole day, so I decided I would walk again and hopefully my feet would be better, chicken-eye and all.
I settled into my albergue and at 7:30 p.m. went to the Pilgrim’s dinner. There was a long table of us and everyone was very friendly and having fun.
Across from me was a woman from Texas, Deah, who had also been in my albergue the night before. We got to talking about travel and so far, the typical Pilgrim I had met was also an avid traveler, but Deah beat all records! She was in her early 40s and had already been to 122 countries! Amazing. She had been to not only an incredible list of places but places I wouldn’t even think one could go to like North Korea. She gave me the link to her travel blog to check out: https://palmtreemusings.com/about-2/. After dinner, our host called our attention to an enormous wine press above us and here’s Deah and David, an Israeli working as a chef in Paris, turning it:
Afterwards, we went down underneath where we were eating into a subterranean ancient wine cellar. Our host gave us a tour and we got to taste the wine made there.
Afterwards, David, the Israeli, and I each bought a bottle to share with the group and we all chatted and hung out back upstairs until 10pm when it was time for lights out.