Thursday, 28 October 2010


As is my custom now, I set off a little later this morning, but not on the Camino. Not yet at least. I planned to get a morning of typing in, at the local cyber cafe. The internet at the Albergue being painfully slow, and the library computers were broken. They are supposed to be getting them fixed, sometime before next year !!!
The cyber cafe was not very expensive but you do have to put up with the Spanish kids jostling you whilst they played their internet games, and making a huge racket. So headphones on, and a mamouth 3 hour typing shedule ahead. At about 2.30 pm, happy with the progress of my story, I left Fuente de cantos on a huge 6 km hike, to Calzadilla de los Barros. I had heard that there was a hostel there, on the main road passing the town. Sometimes strange things happen when you make plans. Often they happen even if you don`t make any !!!
The walk was easy for a change, no great pains or pressure to arrive or keep the pace going. I had by now realised it was Saturday, the amount of kids in the Internet cafe, meaning there was no school. I passed into the village during siesta time and out the other side, in the direction of the hostal. Hostal los Rodriguez was closed but boy was I happy to arrive there and find a nice shady terrace. By the look of the place, they were not going to be open for business today or in the near future. There was some work being done inside, by the look of the interior. So what now ? I was close to the bus stop. I could go back to Fuente, or forward to Zafra. This would depend also on whether a bus was running today, and when. I set a couple of plastic terrace chairs opposite each other, sat down and had a little prayer with the Universe before taking a snooze.
Soon, a car pulled up infront and the owner got out. That is the owner of the hostal. I asked him if there was any chance of me staying over, if I could have a bed for the night. No, was the simple answer ! He didn`t seem keen to talk, or entertain my questions. Ok I get it. You`re closed for reformations and don`t want or need my money or to give me any assitance whatsoever. Fine !! Fair enough !!
I set off back to the heart of the village, surely there would be someone nice here.
Something about the way the road to the left of the church seemed brighter, left me feeling this the way to go. Sure enough, as I walked alongside the church, as I had suspected, a lady called out to me from her window. Now I am not accustomed to being called out to from strange women, but the tone of the woman was kind and sincere. It became apparent that she was the person I needed to see to get the keys to the youth hostel/Albergue. She was the person sent by the universe to assist me. Thankyou universe..
Matea, a lovely grandmotherly lady, soon whisked me into her home and said that she would happily house me here if I prefered. Of course I prefered.... We agreed a contribution, and she began showing me around the place. Soon her husband returned and I was introduced to Antonio. It appeared that they ran the local bar in the centre of the village, behind the village hall. Antonio was also a very welcoming gentleman. we sat together for a while watching old western movies and later a bullfight, being televised from a local town. Oh yeah the bull got the first Matador, right in the leg, and he had to leave for the hospital once he had killed the bull. Shame !!!
Various grandchildren and cousins, popped in whilst Antonio and I snoozed on the couch. Soon Matea informed me that she needed to return to work, the bar opened at 7pm. I showered and set off to find the bar, where she was setting a place for me to eat. It was a delightful meal, too filling infact, I couldn`t manage a desert.
Back in my room, (they had just given me the keys to their house) I found the night passed quickly. The room was cool, like a tomb, with no windows. I noticed the depth of the walls was almost one and a half meteres thick. I thought that I was in a bank vault. I soon fell asleep, dreaming of finding true love, living my dream to be a writer and of reaching Santiago de compostela. Oh and helping to change the world !!!!!

Sunday, 17 October 2010


I woke to find the room was a mess, my bag turned out, stuff everywhere. I had been unable to unpack with any orderliness, as I had been feeling so poorly. Of course after yesterdays early exit, I had no intention of repeating the same, and I was running out of fresh underwear ! But the queasiness was not yet over, so I hung quietly in my descision to leave in a hurry. The brandy had helped, considerably. If I was sick, at least I couldn`t remember it ! The walk, a mamoth 20km`s was enough to scare me, but only because of my fragility. The previous week or so ago, I had been doing crippling 40km hikes. Oh yes, I do remember well that stupidity. Finally at around 9 am, I had fought to rise, pack and consider a coffee.

The Puerta del Sol, over which I had watched the sun setting last evening, was now in full swing, a huge local bar with patios full of people. I dared to to take coffee and orange juice, though the combination seemed somehow wrong, this morning. I mingled for a while, watching with keen interest the proffessionalism of the two bar staff. They seemed to intuit what the customers wanted. I saw no-one waiting for anything more than a brief moment. Smiling and cordial, they set the atmosphere for a relaxed breakfast, though no food passed my lips. I really hated being sick, especially with 20 km`s to walk.

Once out on the road, I soon found a rhythm even if it was slow. Fleece on, to avoid the chill, though the skies were relatively clear and the temperatures climbing. I twas a particularly lovely stretch along the riverside, between walls and fences of different forms. A s I mounted one of the early hills, I could see the town of Fuente de Cantos, out on the horizon. It looked so big, and so far away. I remember looking down over the city of Burgos, in a similar way last May. And, thinking as now, ´Yeah, I`ll do that in a couple of hours`. It took me, more like four. This terrain though hilly, did have a very open plan aspect. I rested on the hill for a while, realising that no-one, except me, cared if I stayed or walked, and so I stayed. Watching nature and letting my eyes and ears, readjust to her secret messages, the bugs and birds telling me strange things. An incredible feeling it is, not to have to go anywhere, or ring anyone. I walked on later and came to a river, that had quite a wide aspect in places, particularly where we needed to cross. There was not much in the way of crossing points for people (who wished to keep their feet dry) the cattle obviously didn`t have a worry over this. So I set my pack down, and set about rectifying this problem. Of course the pilgrims who passed this way ahead of me, had not found it to be a problem, no-one was camped out here awaiting my rescue. Even so, I had decided to try to construct something pilgrim friendly, for those to follow, so they could enjoy quick passage across the river.

I had a thought. The Camino is very much like this, about learning to build bridges. Between people, and nations. Whilst of course I realised a large percentage of pilgrims had some kind of religious viewpoint, mainly Catholic, the rest of us came for the wonderful peace and unity being laid down between peoples, who often found it difficult to communicate with one language. Being able to speak a relative amount of Spanish, gave me an advantage, but seemingly, everyone, even people from afar afield as Japan and Korea, found a way to get understood, despite few words of Spanish. Of course English, my native tongue, was the second most spoken language on the camino, but at times even that couldn`t beat, good old fashioned hand gestures.

I have made known before, just what I would wish for the world of ´Mankind`.  That the leaders, of the first world, come on the Camino frances, so they can themselves feel the spirit of unity and brotherhood seen here. We can do with much more feeling of brotherhood in our world at this time. So many attempts have been made. It has been such a long time since Bandaid, and still we haven`t brought about a workable solution to the poverty of the biggest part of the planet. All credit to Sir Bob Geldhof, Sir Bono, and Midge Ure and all the associated artist who helped in that venture, bringing shame of  the  situation to the worlds attention. Bad form, from the leaders of the world and the finacial institutions for not doing everything within their powers to put an end, once and for all to poverty. We don`t have to believe their words, when they say its not possible to end poverty, we know it is ! The planet, (Mother nature) produces enough food for more than the population now alive, and that is if we all ate like greedy people. The only real problem is, that we don`t share that food with each other. WHY ? So some big fat boss can have more of the huge profits, when keeping the prices artificially high. And then there is the tradgedy, that we would rather destroy this food, than give it away. Diabolical logic and reason, from a society that says we are civil. Shame on all of us  who support such unfairness!!!

But with my bridge (stepping stones) built, I felt as though I had begun my quest to do something positve in the world. I set off, pleased with my ingenuity. After another hour or so I passed a newly built villa, called ´Villa Camino de Santiago`. It looked like it should have been an Albergue, there was apool and lots of comfortable outdoor seating areas, in which to relax. It was locked of course, so not open for business, if in fact it was an accomodation and not just a lovely home. There were two signs at the gate, mounted on the wall. One pointed backwards towards Sevilla, at 114 km`s. The other, the less attractive one, pointed towards Santiago de Compostela at 889 km`s, still to go. A thoughtful touch !!! And a reminder of course, of just what a long way it was ´til the destination.

I hadn`t seen a soul all day, and finally a tandem bicycle arrived just as I was approaching one of the many reserve gates. The lady on the rear of the bike, opened the gate to pass through, and I closed it behind us. Teamwork. I recognised immediately that they were not from the locality, but from somewhere in the U.S.A. The couple, Scott and his wife Barbara, were from Massachusetts. They were taking in the scenery, planning to do the journey over about a month. I enjoyed the chance to chat with someone in my own language, even if our meeting was brief. We swapped blog addresses, and said our goodbyes, I watched them cycle away.
As they sey of, I thought that they had made an error, they went on the track to the right. But they were already a long way off, so pointless shouting them. The cubes, with green tiles went to the left. I set off in that direction noticint the footprints of many others ahead of me. Soon I noticed that there were no longer any yellow arrows along this route. OOPS ! But sure enough the prints of pilgrims were on the track. What ? I knew that I was possibly the last person to have left Monestario this morning, so not expecting anyone to be following me today, so assumed that these were the prints of the spanish group and the Austrian girl. Eventually I concluded that an error had been made, so I cut diagonally across country to where I imagined I should have been by now. I found a gate in the corner of the reserve, and the familiar yellow arrows. Phew !!!
Saved, I breathed a sigh of relief. Later that evening, whilst eating in a restaurant with the Spanish group, they admitted that they had also made the same error, though they had gone all the way back to the previous signs, and added about 5 km`s to their day. I said to them, " No wonder that I got lost, I was following your footprints in the sand" !!!

By the time I found the Albergue, I was feeling less sick and nauseous. I needed a rest though, and this accomodation was one of the best I`ve seen so far, ever. It was super luxury for pilgrims. Like being at a 5 star hotel. set in the grounds of some old monastery the old buildings had been rejuvenated  to a very high standard, and helped travellers such as myself to unwind from the stresses of walking, getting lost and the heat.
So the day ended with my health being restored, and my determination to build more bridges, over the days and weeks to come.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


Having spent an extra day in El real de la Jara, meant that I could spend the whole day typing my story on to the blog, both morning and evening. How I suffer to bring you all news...!!
The town has a fantastic facility for the local people and it is also accesible to us pilgrims, all absolutely free !!
Hard to find, but if you ask a local young person, you`ll soon find it. Set behind the local DIA supermarket, on the way out of town to the west. It is a fully equiped Information and Technology suite provided for the community by their local council. A young guy by the name of Ricardo, was ultra helpful with my needs to use the terminals in the afternoon. I had to wait a little bit of time, ´til the local kids had done their facebook stuff. But well, fairs fair, it is their IT suite ! I managed typing with slow hands to get up a few of the chapters. I just hope it has been worth it. Are you still reading or have you fallen asleep yet ?
The trouble with "Live" stories, is that they have to reflect, (as far as possible) the actual timeframe of the journey. Where is my secretary when I need her ? Painting her nails , no doubt !!!!

My day began early for a change. I was the first pilgrim to leave, on the 20km hike. ( Wow, Breaking records too ) Ahead of the Spanish pilgrims, who were walking with Karin the Austrian girl. I even beat out the door, the two French women with who´m I had slept the night. Madeleine and Marianne teachers of Spanish who were doing just part of the Camino, who were up early, still had not gotten ready by the time I fled the Albergue. It was dark as I stepped out into the street, and I quickly realised that it would be the first day I would need a coat. Now a little rain doesn`t put me off, but the weather reports had forecast that almost the whole of Spain was to recieve its fair share of inclement weather today. A light drizzle at the begining, heavier later. I had to come back into the Albergue to retrieve my coat from the neatly packed rucksack, and that was when I noticed my book, ´this one`, on the table just inside the door. Damn, I must have left it their since last night when I had been catching up the story so far before bed. I must have gotten distracted.
What luck !!!
"What a pity", I hear you all saying.......!!!!

Well, here we are, the Universe yet again looking out for me.

Leaving the village, passing the Medi-evil castle was quite a spooky feeling. Then after another km or so there was a second, smaller and partly delapidated castle to my right. It was still dark, but daylight was just peeking into the world, a backlight to the ruins. I acted out, a scene from the ´Highlander` movie, where Sean Connery gets his head cut off by the Kurgan. Well I had to do something, there were noises all around me and I could hardly see anything. I considered using the strobe torch, but fought the fear bravely !
Anyway, why did an old castle have a satelite dish on its walls ? Ok. yeah, thats just some plants growing from the walls.
Something loud, very loud, suddenly moved, just behind the wall I was passing. I thought it was a wolf, or a bandit. Thankfully it was neither, and being still dark, my shorts didn`t reveal my shame !!!
What was I doing ? Previously I had been pontificating about the joys of walking alone for the benefit of great experience. But now I was begining to doubt the wisdom of that rhetoric.
Very soon, within two kilometres, I was out of Andalucia, and into, Extremadura. The road here was noticably flatter. A recently laid track, gave no problems to walking as the darkness finally lifted, and a beautiful wet morning emerged.
So what does a pilgrim do, when there is no-one to talk to, and the noises of the night creatures has not yet ceased ?
PRAY !!!
Oh yes, believe you me, I began praying !! And singing !!
The two things combined, soon had me out of my shell and fearless once more. And of course, there are things to be thankful for. My new niece, Grace. A recent addition to the family, what a cute smiley baby...
She had been born with a seemingly common, and treatable, hip placement condition. She will have to wear a velcro brace to keep her hips in the sockets as they mature. (It could be as short as two months or as long as eight months, before the brace can be removed ) Of course not a life threatening condition, thankfully, I spent some time remembering her cute face, and her tiny fingers, wrapped around my own sausage fingers. Was I getting broody ? I prayed that little Grace, would grow up healthy, able to enjoy all that life had to offer, as I, and the freedom to make her choices.
For the last few years, I had finally realised, that I could have choices. Or that the choice to do or not do, was actually mine to make. Why had it taken me so long, to figure it out ? Possibly my Asbergic nature, possibly stubbornness. I had religiously followed the laws and directions passed down to me, without ever really asking why I followed them. Why do I do, what I do ? What makes me tick ? How do I fit into this crazy puzzle of this topsy turvy world ? How do I make a difference ? And how, do I make my life count for something ?
Here walking the Camino, I had been getting a subtle clue, both last year on the Camino Frances, and now on my present Camino.
Relationships, sharing, and being true to myself !!!!

I know that in the past I have let myself down terribly, and often. Being an abuser, a thief, and a selfish man. But here and now, taking other, observably better choices, I was being born again. Free of the hypocrysy, from my former existence, times were not always easy, but they were far more rewarding.

As Gandhi once said, " Be the change you wish to see in the world."
What a great, yet simple truth.

John Lennon wrote, " IMAGINE, all the people, living for today."

Mohamed the prophet said, " The most excellent Jihad is that for the conquest of self."

Jesus, the best known historical figure of all time, is reported to have said, " No greater laws are there than these two. Love god with your whole soul, mind and vital force, and love your neighbour as yourself."

So whatever religion or faith, ideology we were born into, we, YES WE, are the pioneers of its continued truth.

I was trying to create a song, out into the universe also, which would not only convey my personal view of how to change things, starting with myself, but also to win the heart of one special lady. And so I passed the few early hours of the way, until the Autostop motorway services. I had walked I guessed around about two hours, so possibly half the way to Monestario. I needed a toilet break and a refreshment. Following from here onward, was very much more as I remembered the other Camino, with tracks alongside the main roads, and often using roads left redundant because of the new hyways. It was raining harder now and I struggled  to keep focused into the distance. The smell of the Eucalytus trees reminded me of Gallicia in the northwest corner of Spain.
Following up, what I later realised was the hill climb into Monestaio, I gained a new pilgrim companion. A small white dog with a patch over one eye ( not an actual eye patch, like captain Hook). A Jack Russel type of dog, that made no threatening moves, but loved the fuss as I rubbed him behind the ears. I don`t know where he came from, but he was as welcome as anyone to accompany me for a while. He carried one of his front legs off the floor, unless he was sprinting, it appeared that one of his toes was broken. He seemed happy to both trot alongside me and also to sprint into the distance checking the way for me. Oh and he came back for plenty of tickling behind the ears. He was certainly living up to his creed, mans best friend.
"What´s your name little fella ?"  I asked.
He looked at me with a curious eye, his head cocked to one side.
"Emilio," was his reply, though his lips never moved. Then he trotted off ahead, and I wondered what had just happened.
Soon I spied a man, at a small Cortijo, he had began throwing rocks at my friend. I asked him what was the matter ? I could see he felt pretty stupid, as he asked if the dog was mine.  I explained that my friend was accompanying me along the road to Santiago, but was a free agent and could go where he pleased. He was amiable and not at all threatening, he had been a great companion. The man said that he thought that the dog would attack his goats. I was stunned by the lack of real understanding of some people. The farmer, a true simple man, of course was looking out for his goats and other animals. But the dog had not even raised an angry voice against the flock, nor approached them. The dog was scared to pass the man now, and stood on the track watching me as I climbed the hill. He observed me for a long time `til I finally waved him goodbye, passing the crest of the hill.
"Goodbye little friend," I called down to him.
I had notions of Santiago, and the pay attention to the omens comment from some days ago. The words continually running through my head. What was the omen here ?
Strangely, over quite a few months, I have not had any dreams. But here on the Camino I have been having some very vivid and lucid dreams, without any explanation. I could wake remembering great detail. yet understanding precious little. A gun, a betrayal, a reunion with an old relationship. What could it all mean ?
When I finally arrived at the Hostal, no Albergue available here, I was tired cold and wet, and seriously in need of a bath. I have to apologise here, to the very patient man running the hostel for not kicking me up the street. My manner was a little odd and I tried to be polite, but my diction was confused and disjointed, using all the wrong words to explain myself. He still showed me to a lovely room.
I woke later to the sound of more pilgrims arriving at the hostel. I had obviously been very tired, but was now feeling very strange indeed. I felt sick, possibly the rain had given me a chill, walking with only my coat over my wet tee shirt. Possibly the meal from the previous evening, hurriedly prepared at the Albergue. But I was feeling decidedly groggy. I needed some fresh air, but slowly. I was very cold even inside my sleeping bag. I dressed and set off in the direction of a local supermarket that I had passed on the way into Monestario. I needed some brandy to warm and settle my stomach. On my return, I sat in the plaza opposite the hostel, trying to get a bearing on what I should do. Bring it up or try to let the feeling just leave in due course. Finally I returned to the room, the clean, fresh air not recovering me suitably.

And so it was. Chatting with god all day, via song and prayer, I had the feeling that I was still awaiting an answer. So I decided the only option, was to give it one more try, using the big white telephone in the bathroom!!! Using my toothbrush to dial the number, soon got me my amswer.
And the brandy was a great way of recovering !!!!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


As Herman and I set off from Almadena, a coffee, juice and a few pieces of toast in our bellies, we quickly found a good pace for the walk. Whilst I totally recomend spending at least some time each day walking the Camino alone, I have realised this is not what I am ultimately made for. Complete solitude is of no great value to me as far as I can tell. I love people. You will meet some pilgrims, who clearly don`t want to walk or get involved with anyone, and whilst it seems a little odd to me as an observer, I totally respect their wishes. Fortunately the majority of us want, even need the company of others. Herman, like myself is a very sociable person who very much enjoys sharing his tales with others. Tales of the Camino and anecdotes from life in general. So when he began a story about  a new mattress his wife had bought, I listened with keen interest. Well I nearly wet myself laughing !!!!
There seems to be a word in his language that sounds similar to the word for a mattress, which is why he is in trouble when he gets home.
Still, all stereotypes aside, at least his grandfather didn`t bomb our chippy !!!

It turns out that his granfather was Russian, so the soviet connection meaning that he wasn`t responsible. He went on to tell me an all too familiar war story about his aunt. She had apparently been shot and killed by the French army whilst trying to take some potatoes from a German train that had been abandoned. I say all too familiar, because I am sure we all know at least one story about someone killed over a turf war. This was one of my true hopes from the Camino, that people of all nations, could experience and find a way to live with one another. I, for example, had been invited by the Kings of Leon to share with them a lovely yet inexpensive meal, whilst walking the Camino Frances. People who`s backgrounds, could have ment a continued hatred and divide, were pulling together. Being as one brotherhood, sharing love, not seeking a divisive continuance of hatred. I had met many Japonese pilgrims who were happy to walk with people from the United States and other nations despite the events of imeanse injustice some 60 years ago, meted out against their people by the Americans. It was great to see that people of all nations were infact seeking ways to live together peacefully. I`ll make a note to mention it to the Pope, if I see him in Santiago. I mean, he should be able to pull a few strings in the upper eschalons of society.
There were still a lot of pigs to be seen, almost free range. Meaning that they were able to roam freely in huge reserves, where us pilgrims had to cross cattlegrids. There were many pigletts and lambs on this farm we crossed, an occaisional dog keeping an eye on us too.
We passed a memorial to a Senor Salvador Salvador, who it seemed had spent a great effort to keep this part of the Camino marked with arrows and way markers, for us pilgrims who travelled without any guide books. Well done Senor, I say. Never enough arrows...
As we entered the village of El Real de la Jara, the Albergue was the first building on our left. I supposed it was here, so that our snoring did´`t keep the village awake all night. But with a field of goats and several cockerals opposite, we pilgrims were drowned out well and truley. The French couple dutifully directed us to the town hall building where we had to find the tourist office. It was they that gave the stamp and keys to the rooms in the Albergue. A small twist on the regularly occuring theme of  self service accomodation. I had been looking out for the nearst petrol station.....
Fortunately we had been able to leave our bags in the entrance hall, as other pilgrims were already there. If you were the first you would have had to carry your pack all the way to the town centre and back again, a distance of some 2 km`s. The Albergue was very characterful. It seemed to have been a storage facility, a bodega perhaps, with curved ceilings and very low adjoining doorways. Four beds per room three rooms only. The headroom was difficult passing doorways, and they seemed to put the light switches inside the darkened rooms, rather than on the approach to them. Ouch !!!!!
If you have ever walked long distances, especially in the hot sun, you will know that a shower is the highlight of your arrival. Boy did I jump ! The water was so powerful and, uh oh !!! What water ???? Standing naked, I was laughing at my good fortune, a few drips landing on my cheeks. Or were they tears ??
The local council it seemed, were laying new water pipes in this street. Jose and Paco had dug their power chisel through the mains pipe, some time during our arrival. (#*@+s) After Siesta I hoped upon Fransisco to get it fixed. ( God bless that man, he did finally get it back on ) When I did finally get my shower, the water was so hot it took my skin off !!! That`ll teach me for complaining. Us pilgrims seem to spend half the day, looking at the treasures of the Universe for free, and the other half moaning. Too hot, too cold, too hard, too soft. Not enough bars open, too many kilometres between rest stops, not enough arrows. Tut tut, the life of a pilgrim was tough ! ( Some pilgrims, I observed, spent more like 95 % of their day moaning. Why did they bother coming ?)
Fed, watered, showered, Herman and I shared a beer and some snacks in the late evening, just before bed. This was to be the last supper. I have my own rhythm, and a following of you who need to know what I am up to, so would be staying over another day here.


We had been invited to spend a while in the home of Greta, a German lady who was married to a Spaniard and resident of this little village. She had prepared us a breakfast of such glorious delights, and also offered to escort us, in her car, to a point further along the Camino, where the Tarmac finished and the track set off into the Oak forest. The problem was, that Herman was not too keen to walk the 16km`s along the tarmac hyway. When we saw the road, I could hardly blame him. It was like a rollercoaster, the whole way. I was also only planning to walk about 20km`s myself which would have left me somewhere in the middle of the forest with no accomodation. After Arcos I was not intending to overdo the milage, so this option seemed to fit my idea of sound thinking. With about 15km`s to walk I felt happy that I would be avoiding more pain and suffering, than was needed, on the way to Almaden de la Plata. Though I hate missing parts of the Camino, there are days when sense has to overcome the desire not to cheat. It made perfect sense and besides, I always walk throughout the towns and villages during the afternoons, which adds a lot of extra km`s over a few weeks.
Penance served, we surely enjoyed the new and challenging terrains. Lots more hills and gates to negotiate. We soon found ourselves passing the ranger station for the forestry commission. A while later we got our first sight of pork, there were pigs everywhere. Iberican black pigs to be precise. A delicacy of the area, and farmed in such large herds, we seemed to be tripping over them with almost every step.
A few more kilometres into the forest and we passed a grand house. Set in the forest with lush greenery and trees of many varieties, the Hacienda was a veritable oasis. I began hoping that this was our Albergue. No such luck. A huge pig was guarding the gate, so that no-one could enter. As we continued onwards it seemed as though we had gained some pilgrims, the pigs were following us along the route.
After a couple of hours we eventually mounted the peak of the high sierras, with awesome views of the way we had come, and a sweet and precious panorama of the town below us, just down the hill. Herman and I took some time to enjoy the respite from climbing, with eagles above us and the sun setting in the distance, bringing evening with it. On the way down the hill we joked about putting a loo roll holder on a tree, with a sign saying, "two sheets per pilgrim, 10 cents" and an arrow pointing into the bushes.
As we came to an iron cross, mounted upon a small hillock, I noticed that it was surrounded by a fenced area, filled with livestock with curly horns.
"Hey look, they are the holy goats !"  I joked.
As you can tell, walking long distances in the sun, can have odd effects on your behaviour and humour.
We soon reached the village and found the Albergue to be set in the northwest edge of the village. A note pinned to the door, informed us that we would have to find a woman in a neighbouring street who kept the keys to the accomodation. Again, the place was lovely, and hot showers revived us, though as we left to eat still only four pilgrims had arrived. We ate at Casa de Conchi which was really pleasant, and had our first taste of the local pork dishes. When we finally arrived back at the Albergue, we were surprised to find the place almost full of cyclists, camped out everywhere.
The evenings were cooler now, since only a few days ago when I had been in the south of Spain, but my tiredness soon kicked in, and I was away with the fairies. Not even a dozen or so Spanish cyclists could keep my eyes open. Sweet dreams of Andalucia and black pig pilgrims....

Monday, 4 October 2010


Peaceful Warrior x

Road to Castill Blanco de los Arroyos.

As per normal, tired and unincouraged by the late arrival of the day, I arose at about 8am to find that the bar had been open for some time, serving breakfast to the nation. A coffee and orange juice went down well, and Herman was himself just rousing. It seemed a good timing, that left us free to walk together the day ahead. Only 17km`s to cover, so we should be able to do it in about three and a half hours. The day was welcomely overcast, and we set off together glad that we would not have to walk in temperatures back in the 30`s. The way we found easily, well marked, in keeping with Camino tradition. And we soon were off the tarmac roads, finding our way through wondefully lush olive groves.
Herman, due to a back injury and possibly his age, was suffering from a condition, that his doctor had told him meant he shouldn`t carry a heavy backpack. To this end he had designed and built a trolley that carried his pack and other items, via a harness, worn over the shoulders. He told me that he had seen something similar on the market, for about 500 euros. So he had put his skills to work and bought items and made the trolley himself, with lightweight and inexpensive parts, easily found in hardware shops. The actual connection from harness to trolley was simply two seatbelt clips. It looked a little odd, but he assured me it was comfortable and only felt like carrying about 5 kilos across his shoulders. The wheels seemed to cope with pretty well any surface, even the rougher terrains, and he had no problems keeping a rhythm to match my own. I partly envied Herman, because of the way my load had seemed to become increasingly heavier, during the trip thusfar. I was fighting the desire to throw it all away and walk only with the clothes on my back. But I kept telling myself that at some point I was going to need the coat, fleece and spare socks.
Since my previous Camino, where I regularly carried 15 kg on a daily basis, I had been able to be more strict with myself. Though the present load with water was approaching around 11 kg`s. I had taken good advice and reduced the weight of the essential items, such as sleeping bag, coat and drinking pouch, and changes of clothes. This new bag, properly designed and manufactured by Berghaus was almost 2kg`s lighter than the previous one. This was very good news, however I knew I still had to be strict with myself, else the pack would soon fill up, with items better left at home. In some ways, this gleening of nessecities was a Cathartic experience. I began to realise just what I could do without. Everything else seemed to find greater worth on my way to new horizons. I am sure that pilgrims of old carried far less than I am, but then again their hygene was not very high on the agenda, not what we now expect as civil.
The scenery was as ever breathtaking. We managed a fairly good pace for a guy with a trolley and an overweight Englishman. By mid day we arrived to some steeper climbs and were constantly being met by downhill mountainbikers. They seemed used to, suddenly meeting pilgrims coming in the other direction, and fortunately no incidents occured. The rains from an earlier storm had torn great rivulets into some parts of the track. Steadily Herman managed to negotiate them all, as too the cyclists rushing by. Oddly enough we also met local people walking towards us, we assumed they were visiting some of the many Cortijos that we were passing.
Herman and I found great humour in discussing all of the light topics for conversation, based on the normal stereotypical nationalistic ideologies. Topics such as, the holocaust, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Herman had spent the biggest part of his life in the German army, as an Engineering, Chief Officer. Working for the joint Nato forces in many destinations and opperations. He therefore had lots of very interesting and varied stories to share with me. This is of course another of the great reasons to walk the Camino, it brings a wonderful variety of opportunities to us. The chance to spend time with people from not only different backgrounds, nations and cultures, but people with great stories to tell. For me, a great source of understanding has come from open and frank discussions with people, that I would not have the chance to meet in  my ordinary day to day life.
I found Herman to be both well educated and an inquirer of knowledge. We managed to pass away the rest of the afternoon, talking about everything from religion to women. Which happens to be my favorite subject. (The latter not the former)
He told me a story about a, ´friend` of his who had said, he wanted to come on the Camino and pay a woman, preferably young fit and healthy, to carry his rucksack all the way to Santiago..... and walk ten paces infront all day.....
Of course neither of us saw the fairness of such an idea. I mean, women are not our slaves are they?
I wonder though, if the idea might catch on !!!!!

As we arrived into the village I had to laugh. It seems that to access the Albergue here, you have to go to the local petrol station, where you get the stamp for the Credencia and the code to a padlock on the front door of the accomadation. I had never dreamt that Repsol would be the spiritual guardians of the Pilgrims hostels..
The accomodation was very nice and reasonably tidy, though the shower head was cracked. It did help me to give the bathroom a quick clean in the process of me showering.
We soon met up at the bar across the road, and ate like kings. With our fingers, throwing the bones over our shoulders.........
Suddenly, whilst in the middle of dessert course, another of the pilgrims came over with bad news, that the ´control` had arrived. I thought that we had done something wrong, before realising that at some of the hostels and Albergues, the local authorities needed to keep strict records of visitors to their establishments. After we returned to the bar to pay and have a night cap, it was again time for bed. Herman and I had somehow been invited to a breakfast at the home of a German lady that also welcomed pilgrims. For this reason neither of us had any intentions in getting up super early.