PONFERRADA

My feet are remarkably ok when I get up, the bandages and plasters were still on from the previous day, well why waste a good bandage.

Up at 6:00, check feet, wash, brush teeth and out for 6:45. The Camino as I have said before was right past the Hotel Novo where I was staying. Nipped around the back and I was on the path to Camponaraya, a good ten kilometres I had worked out. Wrong.

I made my way through the countryside, again in the darkness, really actually enjoying the walk. I had felt like I had crossed some sort of threshold. Taking my time to enjoy the scenery and taking more in than before.

About half an hour in I came across the strangest little café at a crossroads leading to what seemed to be some sort of industrial area. I only say that because it was only a very small road but at the crossroads there seemed to be a lot of traffic coming behind me and all turning left down the same road. I couldn’t actually see any factory or anything but I imagined there must be some sort of early start for these people 7:30 – 8:00 or so.

I went into the café for a quick coffee and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, everywhere has these amazing juicers. The style may change slightly but the result is the same – beautifully sweet juice which had no preservatives or sugars in it.

I was really amazed to find two elderly gents sitting at the bar/counter drinking coffee while a young man was getting cigarettes from a machine. Four Euro fifty for twenty for those addicts who always want to know the prices. Around 2 Euro fifty for a pint of C&L. Not too bad I would say.

Finish my coffee and juice, backpack on and off on my walk again.

Just outside this little village I came across a walled off area with a gate cutting off one of the corners. I could see through the gates, which were locked, glass doors with flowers hanging from them. The size of the doors, around 3 ft. wide by about 2 ft. deep, and the flowers gave away the fact this was a graveyard. These windowed accommodations went down one side of this enclosed block and on the other side were box-like structures which resembled beach-huts, except in stone.

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As I walked on past this weird looking place I was reminded of Jacque Tati in the scene from Monsoir Hulot’s Holiday where he mistakenly goes to a funeral – but only for the front gates of this place.

The road went down the side of the graveyard and the backs of the beach-huts for the deceased were just the concrete wall with the peaks of the roofs creating a jagged top. It almost looked like a community dumping area in the outskirts of a town at home.

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As I said before, I cajoned-up. Camponaraya jumped out at me from around a corner, six kilometres registered on my Runkeeper app. By the time I reached the B&B I was going to be staying at I had worked out that I could walk about 1.5 kilometres extra, turn around and walk back to the B&B and that would make up around 10 km.

Headed out the road which I would be taking the next morning for a bit and found a dirt path heading off up a hill into a wooded area above the town. This would suit to clock up the extra kms.

Walked up about 1 km and came across, what looked like, an abandoned building built into the hillside. It had a flat circular roof and the place was fenced off, although part of the fence was broken down. I went in and climbed up on the roof, only about a 2 ft. high step up from the back of the building. It gave a good view down over Camponaraya and I took some photos.

It was still only around 9 o’clock in the morning as I headed back down the hill.

Just on the outskirts of the town was the bottling and sales part of the local vineyard co-operative Viñas del Bierzo.

Wine sample and pincho €1.50. Well, even at 9:00 o’clock, you still have to go for it. Free grapes and a lovely sobrano ham pincho washed down with the white was really quite nice.

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Got back into the town when I heard an American accent I recognised shouting “Hey there Campbell”. It was Brad, from Fort Worth and is friend Liz from New York. I joined them for a coffee and we started talking again like we were the oldest friends.

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That’s what this thing does to you, I’ve got dozens of new friends who all know the same pains and pleasures we have found along the way.

I know that if I ever meet them again, no matter where in the world, we could instantly re-bond, instantly take up the route, instantly be transported to damp albergues in the mountains or warm sunshine at cafés where we all slumped down into plastic chairs, creaking at the weight of us and our rucksacks, walking poles rested against the wall taking their own, well-deserved break.

Brad and Liz headed onward and I went to my B&B.

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HASTA LUEGO ASTORGA

Astorga, forever marred by the dreadful news of the murder of that poor American lady.

The terrible coincidence of me being in that town at the time they found her body will remain as one of the not so nice memories of this journey that sometimes I may omit in the relating.

It has to be said though, people are talking all the time about the safety of the peregrinos. I remember talking to a lady from America, I think it was Texas, who said a policeman friend of hers advised her to bring a tazer with her as she was travelling alone. I believe the Americans were all aware of the story of the missing lady and this may have been why he was giving her such drastic advice.

It’s odd to think that there are such people who could take advantage of someone on a pilgrimage, whether religious or spiritual.

As I left Astorga by bus I tried to get back into the mood. I found that trying to work out the small screen display in front of me took up a lot of time. The caballero beside me was watching The Big Bang Theory, obviously in Spanish and I found it on my display.

You’d think in this day and age there would be a better way to do this. I understand translations have to be done using people from the country the programme is being shown in but really, Sheldon Cooper with a voice like Barry White? You’re the first, you’re the last, Bazinga.

By the time I had worked out that I couldn’t get English subtitles we were almost halfway to Ponferrada. I put on my daughter Caitlin’s little set from Garry’s Barber Shop and listened to a proper accent, my accent – if a little sweeter.

Must say I had a little bit of a tear in my eye listening to her beautiful voice. I drifted into a little sleep with her lyrics whispering in my earphones.

Ponferrada came up earlier than I expected – got the mileage wrong again. Kilometres, miles. Spent the last few minutes dividing things by eight and multiplying by five. Did you know that the Proclaimers would walk 800 kilometres. Doesn’t quite scan though does it.

Ponferrada estación de autobus is as dull as most other bus stations in the world I’m sure. Didn’t even go inside. Jumped into a taxi and on to my hotel for the night.

Had decided to take one of those rest days again. It’s a luxury to have a bathroom you know. It’s very emotional when you arrive and see the bathroom IN the same room. Bidet!!! Feet can be soaked while supping C&L – another tear begins. Sorry Caitlin, I cry at anything now apparently. Bloody Camino!

Feet soaking in hot water with a few drops of Tea Tree oil – AMs idea. She says it disinfects. Who am I to argue. I know that I could actually smell something else other than myself.

It’s odd you know. You’d think that after a long sweaty walk you’d love a good shower. It doesn’t seem to work like that for me.

First I get my C&L, then I lie speadeagle on the bed – even if it’s only a single bed. I must confess I like a good scratch. I have found myself scratching to near ecstasy, you know like when you see a dog scratch behind his ear to the point it looks like he’s going to tear it off.

Scratching finished, some blogging done. Take advantage of the Wi-Fi – that’s another thing, just watch peregrinos put up with everything else but don’t take away our Wi-Fi, it’s like the second most important thing in the place you are staying next to the quantity of loo roll. Damn, there’s only three sheets left and there’s nowhere for another 5 km.

Settle down for an early night, not moving on tomorrow so alarm set for a bit later – 8:00.

When the alarm goes off I need to see the world again. Open the window and as I breath in the fresh Spanish morning I hear “Oh, I just wanna finish my jam, I love jam”, coming from beneath a tree below my window.

This was the voice of a peregrino who has been out in the sun too long the day before and had stolen all the little cartons of jam from the albergue she was staying at.

I listen for a while from my first floor window. I can’t see who it is yet but I know they’re sheltering from the early morning rain beneath a tree just below me, sounds like two of them. And they’re Irish.

After a bit I decided to shout down to them. “Is that an Irish accent I hear down there?”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph”, came the reply -“Irish indeed”, says I. Sorry started to sound like Michaeleen O’Flynn there for a second.

“No”, I said, “it’s just me up here on the first floor”.

“We can’t see you”, says one. “Come out from under that tree with your jammy hands” I shouted.

“How much were you listening to”, said one. “Enough”, I said.

“Move from under the tree towards the road, I’m up above you”, I said.

When they came out they were like two kids who had been caught doing something really naughty, all sheepish. Turns out they were from Enniskillen – that great jamless town in the west.

I wished them Buen Camino and they set off on their hunt for Jam Nirvana, or as its otherwise known Santiago de Compotela – did you see what I did there. True story.

As it was Sunday and I wasn’t for walking I decided to sit downstairs in the café, have I bite to eat and watch the MotoGP. What were you thinking Vale?

After that I put my coat on and ordered a taxi to the centre of town. Taxi came, charged me 11 Euro for the privilege if you don’t mind – it was 6 out. I queried it and he said because he had to come out to the hotel to pick me up the cost was more. Frantically looked for the word “Bollocks” on Google translate. “Cojones” is what it comes back with but that wasn’t quite the meaning I meant.

I had asked him to take me to the centre of the city, but again something must have got lost in translation. Dumped me at the first roundabout he came to. If you think that was dead, you should have seen the rest of the place.

After waking around in this ghost town for a while. Standing in the Plaza Major totally alone I sought out my two friends C&L. They never let me down. Found a great café, had a menú del dia for 10 Euro with a bottle of wine. Food was great. Weather was a bit chilly but I sat outside and updated my blog.

Finished around 8:00 and headed back to hotel to prepare for the next day.

Buenas noches mis amigos.

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OUT OF HOSPITAL

Great night’s sleep in Hospital.

The guy who runs the albergue I stayed in got up at 6:30 to make me sandwiches, fruit and water for my journey. I told him to just give me fruit and water and I’d be fine. Couple of somethings, could have been a sort of peach, and a frozen bottle of water packed into my bag and I was off.

Still dark and some spots of rain as I came through the town on my way out. Prepared my poncho for its first outing but the rain was going so I didn’t bother.

Saw two young girls coming out of an albergue on the outskirts of the town and the thought crossed my mind, how safe are young girls on their own on the Camino. Hadn’t heard any of the news at this point and as I walked along the lanes with ditches on either side I thought how easy it could be to be dumped in those ditches and never be seen.

The news later of the discovery a female body in the next area I was going to, shocked me. I could see the helicopters flying around but didn’t think anything of it.

It was the American girl who had been missing since April. She had been murdered by a local man from Astorga, my next stop. I only learned all this when I had arrived in Astorga.

The route was a very gentle climb of around 125 metres through some fields and a wooded area. Quite pleasant in the early morning.

I arrived at the most surreal place at the top of the climb where a hippy couple had set up home and were providing refreshments donitivo – by contribution.

They had all sorts of herbal teas and cartons of different juices and pieces of fruit. You just gave what you wanted.

Their “home” was the ruins of, what looked like an old adobe finca which had fallen down. Three walls were about one metre high and the back wall, presumably where a fireplace had been, were all that was left.

The couple, only around thirty or thirty-five, had transformed the inside of this shell into a peaceful garden-like area. White stones, like you would see in a garden centre show area, surrounded small clumps of flowers and there were two mattresses where you could rest, one just inside where the front door might have been and the other against the back wall under a small canopy.

Outside the front area, in a little outhouse, the girl was tending to a pot-belly stove, heating water for the tea. He was bare-foot with dreadlocks, she was tall and slender with a long hippy skirt. Both had the most contended look I have ever seen on their faces.

They had apparently been living there for the past six years, summer and winter. Exposed, save for the left-over mud bricks and no roof.

Didn’t take anything there and, thinking back, forgot to give them something for the pleasure of seeing such joy and contentment at just being there, helping peregrinos on their quest for that same contentment that they had, together up that hill.

A little further on came across a Cruceiro (cross) – de Santo Toribio. This was one of the types of places my memento for John might be placed. Not here though, didn’t get the feeling. That feeling that, as that Frenchman in Leon said – “You will know when it is right”.

Walked on. Gave a Euro to a guitar playing, scooter riding (not at the same time), guy who seemed to be trying to guess your nationality and then trying to start a conversation about your home. Norn Iron left him looking bemused. He asked me for a souvenir – seemed a bit odd. He pointed at a survival bracelet my daughter Bronagh had given me some time ago. That wasn’t happening.

Set off down the hill, bumped into Karl from Germany again and we walked into Astorga together.

We commented on the steel bridge over the railway line that zig-zaged back and forth to get you up and over the track. Bloody GPS was going mad.

As with most cities, you think you have arrived, only to find there is another two or three kilometres to go before you actually get to the centre. Astorga was no exception. Just as a final punishment we had to climb a really steep street which wound its way up to the first of the albergues in the city. Every peregrino used their own swearword from their country on seeing this.

Slowly we all stepped, trudging, bending, straining under our backpacks until we reached the top.

I couldn’t resist it. I am not ashamed. I have no guilt. When I got to the top of that hill the breeze beckoned me. I stood, with my legs apart, kilt spread, allowing the breeze to caress, nay pleasure me. I did actually let out a loud sigh to which my fellow peregrinos laughed and the locals stood, open-mouthed.

Apologies St. James.

Wandered around for a bit, met the Danish girl again, had two grande C&Ls, bought a phone charger (which is why I don’t have any photos of journey in), found a great peregrino menu in quite a plush looking hotel for ten Euro, which was a three course meal with a full bottle of wine.

Met up with Norbert from Germany and Mike from Surrey again who joined me at my table. We talked for ages while I waited for my bus time to Ponferrada. Mel from London joined us just before I had to leave and the four Scotsmen came to the same restaurant and we hurled abuse at each other. Celts together.

Said my goodbyes to Mel and went for the bus.

Astorga, like most cities my kilt has been to, haven’t really got the whole thing of a man in a skirt.

One older lady actually stopped, looked me up and down before saying “embarazoso”. Think she was saying I was embarrassing. No accounting for taste.

Just to finish, while sitting with the Danish girl, a German lady and an Englishman (not a joke), a local lady, who was pretending to have her photo taken with a huge stuffed bull, after she had it taken, pretended to take a photo of her boyfriend, who was behind me. When I looked round at him and then quickly back to her, she had her camera down below knee height trying to capture my under kilt status. That’s one picture going on Instagram.

I’ll give you a break now. Talk soon.

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HAD TO GO TO HOSPITAL

On my way to Hospital
Mazarife still in my mind, I was on my way to Hospital. Hospital de Orbigo to be exact.

The road from Mazarife was pretty boring, with a straight road for 6 km which, as I said in my last post, was helped by Radio Ulster and their wonderful newsreaders.

It really is quite nice walking in the early morning darkness. Ahead of me I could vaguely see another peregrino, their head light bobbing along the road, occasionally, darting to one side to try to see what the rustling was among the corn fields.

My light was doing the same, now and then it would sweep right round to see another peregrino, way in the distance, no head light but I’m sure he saw mine brighten. I don’t know how he did that, walk in the dark, I was paranoid about stepping in a pothole or on a stone and twisting my ankle. I have my mother’s ankles apparently.

Luckily I have my mother’s good looks which gets me by. She is the most beautiful woman you have ever seen. She has done more than one Camino in her life. St. James take note.

Villavante comes up quickly after the long straight road and into Santa Lucia store. “Hola!” screams a voice from a cage. No not some sort of Camino sex slave waiting to serve your every need – a parrot. Only word the bloody thing new apparently. Couldn’t get my order in for café cortado for “Hola”, freaking “Hola”. You tend to want to answer when you hear “Hola”.

Quick repairs to feet, fleece drying over the roundabout sign – had the good sense to use the back of the sign, not that thick. Don, one of the Scotsmen who was driving their sections of the Camino – don’t ask – arrived to park and have a coffee before walking back to meet his three friends and walk in with them.

Everywhere in the world you have them. You know, no sooner have you parked in an empty space when someone comes up to tell you that you can’t park there. There wasn’t another car in the whole village but no, I think he actually had a pot of yellow paint up his coat for that very occasion.

Don moved his car, had his coffee and set off, back down the Camino I had just come up. Talked to him later and he said it was odd, people passing him going the wrong direction wishing them “Buen Camino”. Weird these Scots you know.

Villavante to Hospital was a quite easy, if boring again, 4.5km. Found the pension I was staying at, dumped the gear in the room and set off to find the elusive peregrinos who were secreted around this smallish town.

Couldn’t find anyone so settled myself in the best vantage point to see everyone come in across the spectacular bridge – the terrace of an albergue with a great view of the bridge.

People found me sitting in the shade with my usual companion who we will furthermore call C&L.

Canadians first, then the four Scotsmen. A few beers later and we had to split up to go to our respective accommodation. The Canadian husband and wife finished their lunch – a bottle of wine – and headed off to finish their 45km section. Yes, 45km. They were doing the whole thing for the fourth time in 27 days. Wow!

Went back across the bridge to my pension and had the most fantastic peregrino menú del dia for 9 euros, met Stefan, a German, who had begun his Camino from his front door 6 years ago. Had done different sections throughout the years and was so enthusiastic he reminded me of the Danish girl, Trina, who I had met in Leon and had done the Cathedral tour along with me. She was nearly bursting with excitement on her first day of El Camino she just had to run up to someone to tell them “I’m on the Camino”. Ah! That first time.

Chatted for a while then off to my room to prepare for the next leg.
Just typed “leg” and predictive text put “keg” – how clever is that?

I’ll leave it there for now. More updates tomorrow.

Good night.

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THE FIELDS OF MAZARIFE

What an albergue!
After the arduous journey I had taken to get to Mazarife (ok, by bus) is it any wonder I was in need of some refreshments. I got it in spades.

As if the welcome that I got from the French lady and the Korean girl, when they got a glimpse of this fine figure of a man, strolling past them and up onto the veranda with the kilt a swinging wasn’t enough, the place was beautiful.

The house was on two levels. When you went in through the door to the sleeping area on the ground floor, there were about twenty or so bunk beds well laid out. Of course I wasn’t staying there with all the snoring and farting – it wouldn’t have been fair to put them through all that. No I had pre-booked my SOLO room. Basically a double room which, if you pay extra, means you can have all to yourself. Luxury, I hear the four Yorkshiremen say – bloody right I say.

Not that I don’t love my fellow peregrinos, but there are some things I like to keep private – although I am about to tell you now what goes on behind those closed doors to the solo room so that doesn’t count.

The sheer relief of being able to take all your clothes off and scratch the parts that even that fine beer wouldn’t dare go, take of your socks and examine what is left of the soles of your feet – yes I know I came by bus today, but let’s pretend I have walked 15km today for the sake of the story.

I’m telling you I may be scum, but I’m considerate scum. I’m saving the peregrinos from having to watch all that and then burn their eyes out with red hot pokers. Just as an aside, when I try to type scum into may mobile, it changes it to Scunthorpe

Anyway, I digress. My room was on the lower floor of this stepped house. About eight rooms in all down there and lovely they were too.

Didn’t even take time to scratch, scrub up, or even break wind, there were real people up their to talk to.

Up to the garden, bottle of beer and can of lemon Kas in hand, the cocktail known as Cerveza con Limon, or Shandy, as we call it at home.

Let the show begin.

As the veranda was, obviously, slightly higher than the garden, I did forget my Debrett’s method of sitting on its floor. French/Korean war 1866 relived. Martine representing the French and Henna representing the Korean.

Managed to save my dignity before they had lost theirs.

French, Italian, Hungarian, Dutch, German, Irish and Scotsmen and women were all represented in that little patch of pure green among the sun-bleached fields of Mazarife.

The United Nations couldn’t have organised it better.

We talked, we sat in silence, we sighed and we laughed together on that field of green.

Bottles of wine were being ordered and then served by our host. A lovely man who, for some reason, I forgot to get his name.

Henna the Korean girl was really excited about the dinner we were about to have. Knowing now what we had she had every right to be excited. We all sat downstairs at the communal table and dined on great food cooked by our very own chef. Muy Bien.

Six o’clock came all too early, but up, washed, packed, bag organised for transport, dressed and out – still dark, so head light switched on and off into the early morning darkness like someone who has stayed out too late and is sneaking home from somewhere they shouldn’t have been. So I’ve been told.

Fifteen kilometres today to do. No problem this time, BBC Radio iPlayer tuned in to Radio Ulster and Ann-Marie’s hourly news reading to keep me company, and it was easy. I wish she was beside me and I then wouldn’t even bother switching on Keith Burnside.

Have to leave this now as I’m really tired. Catch you tomorrow.

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MARVELLOUS MAZARIFE

Post Leon
Left Leon with two emotions and some opinions of El Camino.

I am a peregrino, I have discovered, who doesn’t like non-peregrinos.

I love cities when on holiday for short stays, for the buzz of everything that goes on. You look around anywhere and there are people, people who are doing their own thing, at their pace, with not too much attention to anyone else.
Cities are the places where you people watch, not people meet.

There have been a very few times in my life when there has been an instant love of strangers. It’s so hard to explain.

As I climbed onto the bus the Frenchman shouted, “You will know what to do for your brother”, a lump swoll in my throat and I had to fight back the tears – not so successful with that one.

I had been talking to him about Finisterre and how the American girl Summer and I had been talking about the piling of the stones along the way. She and I discussed the best place to leave the stone for my brother John.

I told him that I was wondering what to actually do with this memento and this is what led him later to call out to me as I stepped onto the bus.

Makes you wonder, with all the crap that is going on in the world, why a total stranger would feel the need to give me his advice, advice he meant from his heart to mine. Hit hard that did as I clambered aboard the bus. I sat mid-way up the bus and he and his wife were still watching and gave a simple wave as the bus pulled out.

The next town was only 35 minutes away and, as I looked out of the window, I could see peregrinos on the long, long walk up the arrow-straight road leading to Vilar de Mazarife with the sun beating down relentlessly on them. This was one of the routes to take to Mazarife, this was the one the peregrino who was doing it for penance would take I think.

I arrived in Mazarife around 4:15 pm and was dropped at the other side of the village from the albergue I had pre-booked.

When I arrived at albergue San Antonio de Padua I felt part of the family again.

As I walked through the beautiful garden where peregrinos where relaxing in the sun I almost got a wolf-whistle for my kilt. I may have to start wearing this for good. Would shock the punters in George’s bar back home. Still, who cares, they wouldn’t get it.

Back later, dinner calls ……

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ADIÓS LEON

Time to leave Leon.
Well, rested and ready to move on. Waiting at bus station for bus to Villar del Mazarife.

Met a lovely couple from France who were on their fourth Camino and talked as if we had known each other for years. Really wonderful the way that happens here.

Stayed at a great albergue right in the heart of the city. It was in an old townhouse and was very clean and well run.

The guys who ran it basically left you to yourself, with free tea, coffee, WiFi and computer access. I went for the individual room for the extra privacy and, apart from the bed collapsing a couple of times it was perfect.

The guys were really helpful and spoke perfect English, which helped when trying to explain about the bed. It wasn’t me, it had happened before. Once when a circus was in town and the other when a troop of Russian lady shotputters were staying apparently.

I went to see the Catedral de Santa Maria on the first night when it was lit up against an electric-blue, starless sky.

One of the peregrinos I had spoken to before Leon had recommended doing a night-time walk as the skies out in the wilderness are supposed to be breathtaking. As I need every breath I have I will decline this offer for now, but maybe someday.

Sat watching the chic people promenading at night like peacocks. You get the same in every city. You know the sort, yellow slip-on shoes, silk socks, pale pink or green, or even yellow trousers, contrasting shirt with jacket and the sunglasses and watch which probably cost as much as everything I possessed in the world at this moment in time.

Wandered round the dingier back streets and came across tiny little squares, hidden away as if the city was ashamed of them. Shame on them, this is the life blood of any city, not the fake Armani wearing strutters who probably don’t even know these places exist. I love these places.

Sat and had a pizza and a couple of bears and spotted a girl, obviously peregrino, ordering by herself, a few tables away. I indicated to her my scallop shell (now there’s a novel way to pick girls up) and she nodded. I asked her to join me and she did. Wow! I’ve still got it.

We shared our Camino stories and compared blisters, I used all my best lines, she was camphorated Vaseline in my hands.

Her name was Summer. Quick as a flash I said “we don’t see much of you in Ireland”. Biff!!! another ace line. I was on form.

Then I told her that my beautiful wife was joining me in Sarria. Any other man would have known when to shut up. Not me. Babbled on about Ann-Marie and we got to discussing religion. Well you all know how religious I am, so the conversation just turned into a rant by me.

It ended with me telling her she must watch Father Ted, which she had never seen and she noted it down. Again, a lesser mortal would have exchanged telephone nos. or email addresses, not me.

We wished each other Buen Camino and went our separate ways – honestly Ann-Marie, that’s what happened, I swear.

The next morning I did some sightseeing and generally missed the peregrinos I had met and bonded so well with.

I will temporarily stop here as my bus is coming but will finish this later and add pics.

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LEON

I am now in Leon. Wow! I hear you say, that was one quick walk.

Well, toe tell you the truth……

No honestly, after struggling again yesterday with my toe, I decided to move on again, this time to the beautiful city of Leon.

I say beautiful but that’s just going by the taxi ride from the train station to the albergue, right in the heart of the action.

Maybe it’s the name Leon but looking down on the street from the balcony of my room I am reminded of another balcony, in another time in Paris. Street sounds rising, laughter from a girl in a café somewhere, the sort of background sounds that Tati would have loved.

I haven’t actually been out in the city yet but I can feel it’s activity calling me.

“Come down to play with us Campbell, you’ll love it.”

On the boring side I have to wait until my trousers dry, slight accident in the bathroom. NO, not that sort of accident. It was the exploding washing liquid sachet for my clothes, but you try explaining that when you’re as chic as I am walking into that café downstairs with a perfectly positioned stain. Fairy Liquid I hear them say,  “No, and just because I am wearing bright red trousers and a luminous yellow shirt there’s no need to cast homophobic insults around”.

Just got to go now cause wife on Skype.

Will be back later.

Back again. Just walked a little bit round the area close to the albergue looking for replacement shoes for starting walking again. Found a pair that seemed to suit. Bought them and walked round the corner to find the very shop I had been looking for, for days. Found another, better pair, bought them and asked the lady if she thought I could get a refund from the first shop, she said something I didn’t understand but worked out it was “good luck”. Went back to the first shop and argued my case. When they said it was against the “reglas” – rules. I said it wasn’t against the policia rules. Well what do you know – got a refund. Paddy Barr’s style of negotiating seems to work.

Am sitting people watching with two friends – cerveza y limon.

Am moving now to buy some tapas or pinchos, whatever they call them here.

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Good night all. Will blog tomorrow with some pics of Leon when I get a chance to look around.

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BURGOS III – THIS TIME …….

Well tackled the first part of the Meseta today.
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Set off from Burgos municipal albergue at 7:00 a.m. to deliver my rucksack down to the Hotel Nortes y Londres for transportation to Hornillos del Camino.
Hadn’t taken three steps when I thought “this is the end”.
My, supposedly healed, toe was agony. I was crippled with pain.
I queried whether to send the bag on or not. I didn’t know what to do.
I decided to send it on and wait until the shops opened to buy another pair of walking shoes or sandals.
Went back up to Café Babia to think things through. Had a coffee and croissant and a zumo naranja.
Decided to try to modify my trainers by cutting the area where it was hurting my toe the most.
Bandaged myself up and stood up. “Bloody hell”, I thought, “Cobblers, who needs them”.
So I set off in, what I thought was a 15km stage through the Meseta bit which turned out to be 21km.
Only the most feared place on earth, according to Robert the Canadian.
“No shade, unbearable heat, no people except lonely shepherds” he said.
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Well it did get a bit hot but I managed to find shade. But my toe started again.
Walked though some lovely countryside, through Tarjados and Rabé de les Calzados and onward to Hornilllos.
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Shifting my weight (sizeable as it is) only brought on pain in my other foot. Blisters started burning. I needed to sit down and tend to these.
As I came to the top of the shallow but long incline coming into Hornillos I could see it looming what seemed miles away. I started down the steep stoney hill and nearly gave up.
I sat down and took off my shoes and socks and, halfway down the hill, again tended to my feet. About 1 hour later I struggled up and was shuffling down the hill when Ann-Marie phoned me.
Honestly, her voice at that moment distracted me enough to hobble on down the hill, eventually after I had to tell her I couldn’t hold the phone and my walking sticks and concentrate, we hung up and I managed to limp wearily into this small village. Found a bar, sat and had fantastic chat with group of Canadians, Americans, French and English peregrinos.
Left a little wobbly from the beers and retired for the night to my albergue.
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Met two guys from Brazil and one from Uruguay who gave me some bread and wine to have with the soup I made.
We chatted and then I met Pat and his wife Trish who was originally from Newry. After talking to them for a while I went to my room and Skyped my family and told them how much I loved and missed them – and I do.
The End.
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THE REAL BURGOS

This is the real Burgos.

I have found the real Burgos. It was here right under my nose.

It reminds me a little of Palma. The town houses with their windowed balconies. The Plazas at every corner. Very trendy looking people.

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Met a lovely couple who listened to me talking for ages.

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Had some beautiful pinchos in Café Babia and Alvaro and Laura were fantastic. 

https://www.facebook.com/babiadeburgos

Alvaro downloaded a lot of his playlists from the bar.

Would come back to this city again. If it was up to the likes of the staff at Hotel Las Terrazas to promote this city it would have closed down years ago.

Going to put my head down for a while and rest for tomorrow.

Hasta luego.

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