Often found growing along roadside ditches and other humble places, these flowers have enchanted poets for centuries. I found these poppies growing along the side of the Camino Francis in northern Spain, the ditches in many places were lined with them.
The first day walking the Camino Francis, one of the popular routes to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, involves walking through the Pyrenees Mountains. St Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles 24km, and is said to take 7 to 9 hours. We have made this trip twice now, our first days were both days were were at least 8 hours on the road.
During the day we climbed from St Jean Pied de Port at 200 metres above sea level to just above 1,400 meters then descend steeply back down again into Roncesvalles at 900 metres, which can be hard going on your knees and shins. Pack a lunch, while there is often a coffee truck on the road the options for food and water are limited.
We have arrived
Our final day, we left O Pedrouzo about 6:30am, it was 20C and the humidity was 94%! By the time we arrived at the cathedral it was 31C and the humidity was downto 54%!
The 5 hour walk was hot and muggy, the final hills in no way seemed as hard as what we had done since leaving St. Jean Pied de Port but with the heat they were not easy either.
One of the great things about doing the Camino a second time has been all the memories that have been jarred loose, things long forgotten suddenly remembered with the visual clue if being there once again.
We are looking forward to visiting some favourite sites in Santiago de Compostela.
According to the Camino office we were among the 1514 people to register and receive the Compostela for completing their Camino. Approximately 15% walked the 799 km from St. Jean Pied de Port as we did, others were either on different routes, or started at one of the many cities along the Camino Francis.
We left Melida just before 7 am to walk the 14k to Aruza; despite the short distance we aheaded out early as the days are getting hot, temperatures of 31C were expected.
We walked down beautiful country lanes.
But most magical of all was passing through the eucalyptus forest. As the trees grow it sheds a layer of bark, ribbons of bark fall away revealing the smooth new layer below, and the soft smell of eucalyptus hung in the air.
We walked past the Church of Santa Marina, past this wonderful mural and on to Portomarin today, 24k, 6.5 hrs, 36,500 steps. One if our longer days. The Galician countryside is beautiful, most beautiful were the stone bridges.
We have seen considerable more people on the walk. When I checked the statistics last night over 1700 people registered at the Camino office in Santiago de Compostela as having completed their walk on Sunday June 11th; 22% of those started their walk in Sarria, while 14% started in St. Jean Pied de Port. We are 6 days from arriving in Santiago de Compostela, I will let you know how many people arrive with us!
ASTORGA – RABANAL del CAMINO 20.6
Rabanal del Camino to El Acebo 16.5
El Acebo to Ponferrada 15.6 k
A tougher stretch of road then we have had for a while. While the guide books suggest this section can be walked in two days we planned on a three days to complete it, and we were happy we did!
This section is characterized by the wild and rocky Cantabrian Mountains tiny stone villages nestled in the mountains.
We climb to the historic site of the Cruz Ferro and the high point of the Irago Mountains before the steep descent down to Ponferrada. Typical Maragato mountain villages with slate-roofed houses like El Acebo. On a clear day, the mountain views are superb. The guide books all warn to be prepared for the possibility of cold, rain and wind, one day our day began with fog.
We have left Astotga and walked on to Ponferrada, I will write more about that paŕt of the Camino and our journey little later.
For now I wanted to show you some photos from our visit to Astorga.
First the 15th century Catedral de Santa María de Astorga, with a Baroque façade and a Renaissance retablos completed by a disciple of Michelangelo and Raphael (Gaspar Becerra). While it is not as elaborate or as large as the Burgos Cathedral, nor does it have the magnificent stained glass of the Leon Cathedral but it is one of the oldest cathedrals in Spain. Once inside our eyes are drawn up and there is an amazing sense of height, and it is inspiring in its simplicity as the columns and pillars are designed without ornamentation.
Our next stop was the Plaza Mayor, Tuesday is market day and the plaza along with many of the side streets were filled with market stalls. The vendors each seemed to have their specialty, fruits and veggies, plants, flowers, bread, cheese, food trucks, stalls of cloths, shoes, toys, books, stationary, purses, bags. I did not see any antique or junk dealers, so no old cameras for me, probably a good thing since the backpack is full!
Confusing and almost miss directed…..those who walk the camino follow the yellow arrows with a certain faith/knowledge that we will get to the next place on the map by following the yellow arrows. Walking into Hospital de Orbigo we were faced with arrows pointing in two different directions. In 2012 when we walked the Camino Francis the first time, we made the choice to go left rather than straight through, thus was a mistake, we knew that turning left would take us out to the highway not into town where we wanted to go.
It is clear that some of the arrows have been painted out and there has been an effort to misdirect walkers. Following the arrows to your left and you will, as we did in 2012 walk through an industrial section, along the highway, walking this direction will add an hour to your travel time to get into the town.
On other sections of the Camino we have been able to trust the arrows, this one is confusing and a guide book or a good map is essential. I use the kindle app on my phone to access two different books for information. Using a digital copies if the two books means the information is always available with no extra weight. We also use the Mapme app on the smartphone, it uses GPS and the information we need is accessible when when we are off line.
It has been more than a week since we left Burgos; most of the people we have met and walked with turning the first weeks have moved on while we took an extra rest days in Sahagun. I usually post a photo a day with a mini update on Instagram. If you want to have a look.
During this trip I have been shooting photos with a pinhole cap on my digital camera. There were so many poppies this week, they filled the ditches and the fields. The pinhole creates a dreamy affect and the sunflare streaks through the frame in as wonderful way. I woukd love to hear your thought on my exploration into pinhole photography.
For other photos from this Camino and our previous walk can be found on this link….