Sometimes I like to think back to this time last year/month/week and remember what I was doing. It’s hard to believe it, but this time last year, I was walking across Spain on the Camino Frances. My friend Steph and I were about one week into our journey and had already made some new life-long friends. These were the innocent days, before I got attacked (firstly by unidentified bugs and, shortly thereafter, by my own body trying to deal with the crazy looking bites). Ah yes, when all we had to worry about was being tired and a bit sore, the summer heat, blisters and washing our clothes by hand.
It has been nice to have a look back at my posts from this time. Such great days – beautiful places and people. And wine.
In case you’d like to reminisce about the Camino, or if you’re planning your own Camino adventure, I recommend this documentary by Drew Robinson: A Journey of the Mind. It brings back a lot of memories for me – undoubtedly, walking the Camino was one of the best things I’ve ever done. More for the people than for the bugs. But then the bugs showed me a different side of the people (myself included), so it really was all good.
The doco runs for 40 minutes, so maybe grab some sangria and tapas (bug spray is optional) before you settle down to watch it. Buen Camino!
It’s honestly so difficult to remember what happens and where we go every day, but hopefully this post will catch us up to today! I mean, the ‘what happens’ every day is clearly a whole lot of walking, but we are travelling through different landscapes, meeting lots of interesting new people and seeing so many amazing things that it’s hard to keep track.
The heat and fatigue mean that when we reach our destination, we focus on finding a place to stay, then a much needed shower to freshen up, then fixing our medical probs (blisters, sore muscles, aching feet), then washing our dusty, sweaty clothes. The routine is actually pretty nice.
We generally arrive at about 2pm, as we stop during the day for morning tea and then lunch – and to fill our water bottles from the fountains we pass along the way.
Day 5 saw us leave the cute little town of Cirauqui by moonlight and start a long walking day. We visited the famous wine fountain past Estella, which provides free red wine for passing pilgrims, from what looks like a normal water fountain tap. Definitely a Camino ‘experience’ and a nice drink to have with our picnic lunch in the park. Our albergue in Villamayor de Monjardin was run by Dutch volunteers and we were lucky to have a room for our gang of five, complete with our own private balcony with an amazing view…
Day 6 was a walk to Viana – a good walking day and another perfectly sunny (but quite cool) summer day in Spain. We passed through Los Arcos, greeted by a strange small farm and comprehensive sign about the town’s attributes. The hostel in Viana was interesting – three-tiered bunks and we all got sent to the tops of our bunks, which was quite the gymnastic feat, I tell you.
Day 7 was the day that a French girl had told us would be so great that our bodies would feel fantastic and we could skip along the path. No such luck and we’re all pretty tired and sore today, so settled for a town 22km along, rather than pushing on closer to 30km. A good move to take it easy and enjoy a nice afternoon and then tapas dinner in Navarette. Today we passed through the beautiful Logrono – including a massive park and very friendly people. And a giant sort of Snakes & Ladders, Camino-version. We met up with our funny German pal, Andy, but otherwise we’re seeing lots of new pilgrims as more people start on the way to Santiago. Now it’s 10pm – time for bed!
Our third day started by moonlight (let’s just presume they all do from here on in – we leave at 6.30am). A big change today as we walked through urban areas and saw people & cars instead of cows & sheep that we’d been sharing the path with so far.
We passed through the bustling city of Pamplona, with some very cute streets & buildings and some very scary giant baby head sculptures.
Stayed the night at a hostel run by the Knights of Malta, where we met Janet & Fred, a couple from the USA walking the Camino to celebrate Janet’s recent 75th birthday. Amazing.
The next morning was overcast and a little cooler, thankfully, and saw us reach the wind farms and wrought iron pilgrims of Alto del Perdon. Our guide book suggested a 19km day, but we said boo to that and walked 26km. Passed through some beautiful olive groves and vineyards along the way to the cute hilltop town of Cirauqui. Where the church bells toll every half an hour – right through the night. And our hostel was right across the square, so no danger of losing track of time!
Here’s an update on the Camino, day 1. We started in the beautiful little French village of St Jean Pied de Port, on the French side of the Pyrenees. A great atmosphere in the busy town – it’s the popular starting point of the Camino Frances. We met some lovely people in our hostel and got some time to wander around the town before heading off early the next morning (around 7am, so still a bit dark) to begin our first day.
And what a day it was – I found it incredibly tough, as did a lot of the people we spoke to after we’d made it through alive. Nothing like an extreme physical challenge to form strong bonds with fantastic people from all over the world! The strangeness of the backpack + the very steep mountain climbs (and equally difficult – or maybe more so – declines) + ferocious winds + long distance and then the summer sun made for quite a challenge. But the breathtaking views, cows & sheep & horses provided a good distraction from the pain!
So satisfying to finish the day & share a beer with new friends in Ronvesvalles. A fantastic modern hostel in another great little village.