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.
On Day 32 of the Camino, we left Trabadelo about 8:10 light rain falling and still dark. Before long we realized we would need our ponchos. It was warm and muggy, and wearing the poncho was a little like wearing a portable steam bath! Lucky the rain did not last long, but mist hung in the air, and it continues to be muggy through the day, in fact as we walked and climbed to O Cebreiro we climbed into the clouds. One might say that we spent the day with our heads in the clouds!!!! Okay, that was corny, it was a great day and give that we had 17.5 k to cover with a 630-meter elevation gain I was happy that it wasn’t 25 C today.
Part of the walk today was on Tarmac, but a steep rocky climb for the last 9k made just a little more treacherous buy the mist and rain. You can see from the pictures this is an area that sees a lot of rain; everything is green and lush.
I was surprised when we crossed in the Galicia, there is a big stone marker that indicates we have less than 151k left to walk to reach Santiago Spain. My map book puts the distance at 158k, it will be difficult to know which one is right, but it dawned on me today that our journey will soon be over. Tomorrow we head down the hill, a 650-meter descent, to Triacastela Spain so I will have a few more stories to tell.
We started the morning at Foncebadon leaving before sunrise and arrived at Cruz de Ferro to see the sun come up. That is Bill standing on the on the pile of rocks taking a picture. (The elevation at Cruz de Ferro 1550 meters above sea level.) There is a very interesting history of the Cruz de Ferro, it started with the Celtics who leave a rock in the mountain pass and ask their god for safe passage. The Romans continued the tradition, leaving a rock to Mercury their god of travel. As the tradition continued with the Christian pilgrims the Church planted a cross at the site to make the tradition more acceptable.
Rocky pathway, 17 kilometers downhill from Al Acebo to Molenaseca.
The elevation change between the two town was about 1030 meters of slate and shale rocky pathways, everyone comments on how difficult to the trail was. We did find a couple of beautiful places to rest. About 1 hr out of Molinaseca, there is a grove of oak trees, it has been reported that pilgrims have been resting under these beautiful trees for over 1000 years. Given the size of trees, I would believe they area very old.
We arrived in Astorga Spain after a 21k walk, it was a beautiful day, perfect for walking with temperatures between about 10 degrees C and 22 degrees C. sunshine and a slight breeze. At Astorga, the Camino route we have been traveling meets up with a route from Seville Spain, and the accommodations are getting harder to get. We have been staying in private albergues or pensions and it looks like we will have to start booking 2 or 3 days in advance to ensure a place to sleep.
Each day along the walk we have been treated to public art related to the Camino, peregrines and the way of St. James, and at Astorga, we visited the Cathedral, the Cathedral Museum, and the Gaudi’s Palace Gardens.
We arrived in Leon late yesterday afternoon, ready for a day off the Camino for some rest and sight-seeing! the temperatures have been considerably cooler this week than the first week or so of our Camino
A few days ago we were in Fromista, (Palencia) one of the many stops on the Camino de Santiago, where we had an opportunity to visit the Saint Martin Church, constructed about 1066, which had fallen into disrepair.
Reconstruction and restoration completed in the early 1900s. The painted frescoes are gone, but the gorgeous Romanesque capitals remain. The floor plan corresponds to the basilica type with three longitudinal naves ending by three apes; there is a beautiful octagonal dome.
The decoration in the church is composed of 309 figures including vegetable, geometric animals and monstrous and human representations. According to information provided by the church that in an effort to teach Christian Doctrine to the people there was no problem in using pagan iconography in the decorations, Ecclesiastics knew that the people were familiar with the fables and legions of the symbolism and this would help the people to understand the scene related to biblical passages.
Later today we will visit the Leon Cathedral, and the central area of Leon.
We left our hostel this morning just before 7 am, and were looking for a breakfast place before we left town, one of the bar’s opened its door and gentleman said “cafe con leche?”(coffee with steamed milk) “Desayuno?” (breakfast) we thought we would try our luck. He also gave us fresh squeezed orange juice and gilled buttered croissants. Probably the best breakfast we have had the entire trip so far, and a great way to start the day! After leaving the bar, we headed out of town, the Camino took us past the Santa Maria de Real, it was all lit up, and sky just beginning to lighten in the morning light and looked lovely. We had visited the cathedral the day before. The monastery is built in o the side of the mountain, quite spectacular to visit it you get the chance.
We had walked about 15 minutes out of Najera Spain when we happened to look back, the sun was cresting the hill, all in all, it was a beautiful way to start the day.
Today we walked from Najera to Santa Domingo de la Calzada, about 21k, hilly, but nothing extreme like the hills that have challenged us before! We stopped in the middle of a field and laid down one of the rain poncho’s for a 10-minute juice and snack break about 10 am. We arrived in Santa Domingo de la Calzada about 1 pm, we found our accommodations and had a nap! all in all, a good day, soon we will be headed out for dinner.
We hope your day was as lovely as ours. Buen Camino.
a brief update from the last couple of days, we were held up in Navarrete and the hotel did not have wi-fi.
On September 17, 2012, I woke up ill, slight fever, and stomach pains, flu-like symptoms, and figured I had too much sun, and in no condition for walking. We bused it Logrono and then cabbed it to Navarrete where we had a hotel booked. I slept most of the day, and then went to visit the pharmacist, he did not speak English but thanks to current technology we sat down at the computer and he found a Spanish = English translation page, he confirmed I had a fever and stomach pains, then gave me some medication. He also typed in the instructions for taking the medication, so we were very clear on all the details!
Today I feel much better, heat exhaustion is something many travelers/pilgrims suffer from, and I knew that given the heat it was a risk. I thought I was taken all the necessary precautions, lots of water – 1.5 to 2 liters mixed with electrolyte powder; hat and sunscreen. But we will have to make some adjustments to our routine. Maybe leave earlier – get out of the heat earlier, and I think I need to take more rest stops. It is not unusual for Bill and I to walk 2 hours between stops, preferring to push through and get the hard part of the day done, so I think we will stop more often.
Today Sept 19, 2012, we traveled, by foot, from Navarrete to Najera 16 k, in about 5 hrs, all is well. We had one backpack loaded up with almost everything and transported ahead to our hostel, leaving us with fewer things to carry. It was much cooler today, 16 – 18 degrees C. with a few showers. Without the heat, I was fine, tomorrow even better.
We have met some great people: one gentleman is 82 years old, Harold, he is traveling with his daughter, they have said they keep their days short, about 15 k and will cab or bus pass the steep inclines and descents. It is always fun to catch up to them every couple of days and know they are doing well.
A couple of days ago we were marching down the path, through a little town called Murzabal, as we came out of town, we continued down the highway. We didn’t get very far when a car coming towards us started honking, arms waving out the window, yelling “Camino, Camino” and pointing back up the road, yes we had missed a sign and were on the wrong road. “Si, Si,” we said “Gracias” and headed back up the road. Luckily we had only gone about 100 meters past our marker. The driver pulled up to the marker and waited to make sure we got back onto the Camino path, honked, waved and drove on.
I had heard stories of wayward travelers being helped and directed back to the path, and as you can tell from my stories we too have been the recipients of wonderful hospitality and assistance. It is worth the trip, the exhaustion and the sore feet just to experience it.
This afternoon we are resting and I will try to post some new photos from around Navarrette and Najera.