It has been about 100 kilometers since I last updated the blog. Oof. One day goes by, and then two. Then you have to do a huge load of laundry and get exhausted and push it another day. Then you have to spend an hour and a half hand-stitching up your boots and another day is gone. Today I knew I had to just make the time to sit down and write as much as I could. I’m pretty wiped out but I’m here. Last night, I was so tired while I was trying to eat dinner that I couldn’t even finish my food OR MY WINE. When I’m too tired to finish my glass of wine, you know that I’m tired, for real. So where did I leave off? Let’s think here…
Frómista evening was funny. We arrived at the albergue and they told us it was “closed” so we had to book private triple rooms, which ended up being about 5 Euro more per person. But I was happy to share the room with two other non-snoring solo lady hikers, so all was good! A filling meal of chicken, salad and soup, and off to bed to gain some energy for a relatively easy hike the next day.
We’re definitely into cooler weather now, and the fall foliage is in full swing. Every morning has been significantly brisker, and some misty mornings have gotten my face, jacket and pack wet with morning dew. The hike into Carrión de los Condes was lovely, along part of the old Roman road and along a detour which helped to avoid the highway. I arrived to the donativo albergue in town, run by the local nuns, and joined throngs of other pilgrims in the communal bunk area. I don’t like that they often give me a top bunk, but I’ll say my blessings and gratitude that they consider me “young.” After a shower and some laundry, I walked around the corner and ran into my trail buddy who I had said goodbye to a few days back. It was a huge surprise to see some of the people I thought would be a day behind me the rest of the way! After my routine chores (laundry, foot care, a trip to the Farmacia) I went out with some pilgrim buddies, old and new, to celebrate another day on the Camino with some vino tinto. We found the cutest little retro bar where some of the locals were playing a gambling game for small change and just being generally adorable. From there, I did a 35 minute Facebook Live and was able to check in with friends and family on screen. We continued on to dinner and when we came back to the albergue, a huge crew of Italians were having a little ukulele and percussion concert. Guys, the pilgrims are pretty special. I feel very much in the right place out here.
The next morning was an early start in the dark, a little fuzzy from the vino tinto and friend reunion. I was walking along the camino with my friend, and we kept getting startled by sounds in the trees. We started to imagine what a great setting the Camino would be for a horror film and that kept us distracted enough to miss a turn in the dark and go about 2km out of the way on the highway. Thank goodness for my cell phone plan! We looked up the map and GPS and found a through road that connected us back to the Camino, but it turned our 25km day into about 30km instead. By the end I was feeling pretty rough. My hip has been starting to ache badly and I could see my toes starting to poke through my boots. This is a tough walk! We finally arrived in Terradillos de los Templarios, got an awesome private room assignment, and enjoyed some down time in the albergue courtyard. It was an early night in after such a full day, and I was rewarded with the best night of sleep I had to date along the Camino.
The next day was another early morning walk. Along the first part of the path, we came across the mysterious hobbit-home-like dwellings built into the hill. We learned that they are called bodegas and were originally used for wine and food storage. Fascinating little bodegas, with little chimneys poking out the tops of hills, have been all over the place in this region. Apparently some of them have been renovated into places you can stay or go in for a drink! A few kilometers later we came to the city of Sahagún and spotted an Irish bar serving Guinness of tap. After walking 12 kilometers and only having a little piece of leftover pizza for breakfast, a pint of Guinness sounded perfect! We decided to take it easy in the town, stopped at a Farmacia for me to get new insoles, going to grocery store, eating a burger for lunch and then checking out to open-air Saturday market. We ended up killing nearly three hours in this town and then realizing we would be getting in very late to our destination. The last half of the walk was tremendously difficult for me. It was along the old Roman road, into powerful and chilly headwinds. Lucky for me, my walking partner has been an awesome buddy for me and we keep each other motivated when we need it, and silent when we need quiet time to think! We eventually made it into town, even stopping to enjoy a swing set for a few minutes. Something I am learning the last week is that it is okay not being the first one to arrive to the albergue. The reason that I am here is to be present for the Camino, not to sit in my bunk bed stressing out about whether or not I’m writing enough words every day. So we took our time in that last stretch. But as we walked along, with a couple fun Kiwis we met, I felt that chilly headwind blowing at me, I looked at my ripping boots, and I told them that all I really wanted once we arrived to the albergue was a cozy fireplace with a chair where I could rest.
The Camino provides.
The first albergue we came to in town told us they were full. When we arrived at the second (and last) albergue, they saw our group of four and grimaced – they had barely enough room but they would make it work of course. Thank God, the next town was 18 kilometers! And after they welcomed us inside, I saw a bunch of old pilgrim friends, and a roaring wood stove fireplace with a cozy chair next to it. Thank you, Camino. So I sat by the fire for about an hour and a half, hand-stitching all the tears in my boots. I think they will be fine but I know it’s not ideal. Leaving to do this Camino so last minute, I had to take the boots I had that were already broken in, but they are more of summer hiking shoes than waterproof, leather Camino boots! After finishing my chores, I went out for a walk around the town with some friends and encountered some fascinating Roman ruins and the CUTEST dog I have ever seen! This thing was some kind of terrier/mutt, was filthy with dreds, but was the happiest creature I have ever encountered. He ran around with us, smiling ear to ear and radiating such joy I have never experienced. I was exactly what I needed to energize me and remind me how lucky I am to be here! The night was rounded out by an awesome dinner at the local hotel and then to bed early.
Today was a 24km walk along the Roman road to Mansilla de las Mulas. We headed out in the dark into a frozen tundra (seriously!) and experienced the most beautiful sunrise I have seen so far. I have a hard time even being able to describe the allure, the mystery, the charm and magic of the Camino at dawn. And today the Roman road was pronounced with stones that have clearly been there for thousands of years, stepped on by millions of pilgrims and soldiers before me. To walk along the same path as Julius Caesar and Charlemagne is pretty wild. Today’s walk was 18km of nothing but road surrounded by fields and birds, then one small town that boasted a tremendously eclectic cafe run by a man who called himself Elvis (where I sampled a “craft beer”, an IPA) and then a few more miles of isolation before landing in Mansilla. Drew and I were the first ones to our albergue and we treated ourselves with a load of laundry in the washing machine. This afternoon I have been catching up on writing, postcards, and the blog of course. I am eager to go downstairs and join in some social time and figure out what the dinner plans are. Tomorrow we have a short walk into Leon and then can explore the city.
I am feeling pretty a-okay with this, both physically and mentally. I am just over halfway there, two days ago was my “Tirty-Tree-and-a-Tird” birthday, and two weeks from today I will be walking into Santiago de Compostela. I am sorting through my thoughts daily and gaining perspective. I am not saying that the Camino is a magical conduit of revelation, but so far it has been a great place for me to reflect on where I am at age 33 and where I want to be tomorrow, next year, in ten years and in 33 more years. And I cannot begin to express how blessed I feel. Especially by the support and love I have received from my family and friends, thank you.
Thank you so much to my sponsors! Day 16 was sponsored by my amazing and lovely Grandma, Dee H., as well as by Dan and Leslie M., who I love dearly and am so thankful to have in my life. Day 17 was sponsored by one of my lovely Theta ladies and best UCSB pals, Maureen B. (Weenie) as well as by Jon and Eileen K., who I will thank over homebrew back in Astoria next month! Day 18 was sponsored by two of my favorite people, Tracy and Mike S., as well as by Matthew P., one of old Astoria Bier and Cheese buddies and neighbor. And lastly, thank you to my Day 19 sponsor, Bill B., who I have known for 15 years now – that is crazy! So much love to you all, thank you!!!