Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 31, 2014 -- Madrid, Spain

First, thanks to those of you who have posted comments or emailed me. I don't want to put my email address here in a form that a web crawler can catch and add to a spam list, but if anyone wants to write, convert this into a conventional email address. I think a human can figure out what to replace atter and dotter with: jack atter azroadcyclist dotter com.

I've committed myself to at least five more days of rest before resuming the Camino. My left leg is improving every day, but I don't want to get back to carrying a backpack day after day until it's completely healed. If I go back too soon, I'm afraid I will make it worse.

I did do some walking around the center of the city today, however. I visited the Plaza Mayor and the Plaza de la Villa and did some exploring of the neighboring streets.

I took the Metro to the Plaza del Sol and walked from there along the Calle Mayor or Main Street. I knew that the Plaza Mayor was off to the left, and if I hadn't been paying attention, I would have missed it. It has several entrances, and they all look similar to the one shown in this photo taken from the Calle Mayor.

Below is a shot taken inside the plaza, which is a bit of a disappointment, because behind the arches all around the plaza are shops and restaurants devoted to parting tourists from their money. There is not much of the historic plaza to be seen.

A short distance away, the much smaller Plaza de la Villa is more historic. The building that can be half seen on the right was once Madrid's city hall. Madrid's administration outgrew such a small building long ago, however.

Look down almost any street in that district, and you will see a number of marvelous old buildings. Below ks a shot I took down a side street while walking along the Calle Mayor.

Finally, for those of you who don't want to leave your hometown culinary delights behind, below is a picture of one of Madrid's upscale restaurants. I'm only half joking. In the U.S., people might eat at McDonald's, because it's cheap, even if the food is bad. In Spain McDonald's and other fast-food chains actually charge more than most other restaurants, and some people see the act of cramming down a Big Mac with fries as a high-status thing to do. I went into this McDonald's and paid 20 percent more for a cup of coffee than I would have paid down the street.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 30, 2014 -- Madrid, Spain

My big toe on the right foot is getting better, but my left leg is far from healed. I suspect that I'll be off the Camino for at least another week.

Three young German women moved into my dorm room yesterday, and I have never seen anyone travel with so much stuff. Normally, a person arrives at a youth hostel with only the possessions that can be easily carried in a backpack. These women are traveling by car, and the car is so crammed full of junk that the three of them hardly have a place to sit, not to mention the large quantity of stuff that they carried into the room: clothes, a guitar, jackets, a stack of magazines, several frying pans of various sizes, a collection of pots and pans, a full set of china including mixing bowls, and boxes of stuff of whose contents I am unaware. Why would someone take a full set of cookware and china plus a refrigerator to a youth hostel?

When I first entered the room after their arrival, a blue large plastic box was sitting on a chair, plugged into a wall socket, and humming away. Naturally, I had to ask what it was, and I was told it was to keep their food cold. In other words, they had brought a small refrigerator along!

Here they are rearranging a portion of their baggage in the room.

Before they started rearranging the stuff in the room, I saw them outside repacking what was left in the car including sleeping bags and mats, plastic boxes full of small items, a beach umbrella, folding chairs, and who knows what else. It wouldn't surprise me if the kitchen sink weren't buried in there somewhere.

My morning excursion was to the Plaza de España, which is the area where the government buildings are located. Here's what I first saw as I entered the plaza.

I had trouble taking the picture above, because soon after I got there, the fountain in the foreground shut off, and I wanted to wait for it to start up again. A group of squeegee men was working the intersection behind me, and every few minutes they would run into the plaza, drop their squeegees and bottles of soapy water behind a bench, and stand around looking innocent. I suppose that meant they had spotted the police. I couldn't distinguish what language they used among themselves, but each time they started back toward the intersection, one or more of them would ask me for money in a mixture of English and Spanish: "Change! Change! Por favor!"

The Plaza de España is where the famous bronze statue of don Quixote and Sancho Panza is located. Due to the bright sunshine, I couldn't see the screen of my cell phone when I took the following selfie, so I almost cut poor Sancho out of the picture.

The royal palace is located near the plaza. This is the first view I had of it as I approached.

Below is a view of the palace's front gate. I was surprised at the lax security. There was no fence but just some signs in front of the palace stating in Spanish and English that unauthorized persons were not allowed beyond that point. The only guard was a single police officer sitting in the squad car shown in the picture. While I was standing there, the gates opened and a car drove out from an inner courtyard. Then the lone police officer shut the gates by hand without appearing to lock them and went back to sitting in squad car.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 29, 2014 -- Madrid, Spain

Last night was the low point as far as my physical condition is concerned, but this afternoon things are looking up. Yesterday and this morning, my leg complained every time I walked on it, and during the night, my right big toe started throbbing. An examination by daylight revealed that the toe had turned an ugly shade of purple (when your toe turns purple, there is no pretty shade) and half of it was covered by the mother of all blisters. I have no idea where that came from, but I popped the blister, and now, several hours later, the toe has stopped hurting and seems to be returning to its normal color. My left leg is also starting to feel better, and I can see myself back on the Camino in a few days.

In the meantime, I can't force myself to sit around 24 hours a fay to rest my leg. This morning I visited the Prado museum, and that involved a lot of walking. Like the Louvre in Paris, the Prado museum of art is too immense to take in in one day.

There was a special exhibit of paintings by el Greco and his contemporaries, which took up a few hours of my time. After that, I headed over to the Goya section before taking a bus and the Metro back to the youth hostel.

Traveling on the Metro or subway in Madrid is a bit "intimate" to say the least. Here's a pictire that I snapped on my way back from the Prado.

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28, 2014 -- Madrid, Spain

I took the train from Sahagún to Madrid this morning and arrived in the city shortly before noon. I took the Metro (subway) to within a few blocks of the San Fermín youth hostel where I had booked a bunk in an 8-person mixed-gender dorm. However, up until now, I have the room to myself. I am astounded that there aren't more people staying here at the height of the European vacation season, but the hostel is almost empty.

I took the subway to the Puerta del Sol, Madrid's most famous public plaza, this afternoon. It is quite a different place than it was when I last visited it in the 1960s. At that time, the dictator Francisco Franco was in power, and Spain was a backward, poor, and relatively isolated country. The Puerta del Sol was then a neighborhood plaza full of gossiping local residents in the evening. Now it is the hub of a trendy tourist neighborhood, and it seems to be a place where the more attractive young hookers hang out. Yes, I was propositioned, but I kept walking and haven't the slightest idea what the price would have been.

One thing I discovered today is that my left leg causes me to walk with a painful limp, even when I am not carrying a backpack. Tomorrow I plan to visit the Prado art museum, and it will be interesting to see how the leg holds up.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27, 2014 -- Sahagún, Spain

The first bit of news is that I'm abandoning the Camino, at least for now. Even a stubborn person like me eventually realizes when he is doing himself harm. My injured left leg is getting no better, and if I keep going, I may be limping on it for three more weeks before I give it a chance to start healing. I'm taking the early morning train to Madrid tomorrow, where I've booked a bed in a youth hostel for four nights. After that, I'll decide what to do next. If my leg gets back to normal in the next month, I can still come back and resume the Camino here. If not, there is a lot of Spain and Portugal that I would like to see.

Today's hike, 22.7 kilometers or 14 miles, was almost all through featureless farmland with little shade and little to see. There were only a handful of guys (no women) in the new hostel in Caldadilla de la Cueza last night. Two of the guys told me that they wanted to be on the trail at 2 am, and when I got up before 5 am, there were only two others still in the hostel. 

I hit the trail in starlight (there was no moonlight) well before six to get as much ground covered as I could before the sun started beating down, because I knew there would be no shade. I arrived here at the hostel just before 2 pm.

Many of the pilgrims' hostels are in former churches or in present monasteries. This one on the upper floor of a  church. Here's what it looks like from the outside.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 26, 2014 -- Caldadilla de la Cueza, Spain

This will be a short entry, but if you haven't checked yesterday's entry since I added the picture, I suggest that you might like the photo of the two jackasses.

I walked 17.1 kilometers or 10.2 miles today, almost all of it through the countryside with no place to stop to fill my water bottle. I started the day with an extra large bottle of water, and I had finished both bottles of water before I arrived here. It was a tough day for me, although most of the people I have been walking with for the past week went on farther. It was flat and exposed to the sun with no change in scenery to take one's mind off walking.

As well as feeling terrible, I must have looked it, because the woman in the motorized wheelchair and her companion caught me and insisted that I put my backpack in the wheelchair. I had to plead with her companion to stop him from grabbing my backpack, because for some reason I felt that I had to carry it on my own.

PS/ After I made the entry above, a guy arrived who said he had walked all the way from Budapest, Hungary and is walking 50 kilometers or 31 miles a day, and here I am whining about my 10 to 12 miles a day.

Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25, 2014 (updated) -- Carrión de los Condes, Spain

I'm writing this a day late, because I didn't have a decent Internet connection in Carrión de los Condes yesterday. I hiked 12.7 miles to get there. Along the way I met someone who I was hoping would be the love of my life. I've pasted her picture below. I tried to get her to join me on the Camino and carry my pack, but when I told her that there were more than 250 miles left to walk, she said that anyone who would walk that far is a real jackass!

Tomorrow I only plan to do ten miles, which will be shorter than most of the people I've been seeing on the trail each day, so I'll be falling back into a new group.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 24, 2014 -- Frómista, Spain

I now have 220 miles behind me and 270 left to walk. As my leg is getting better, I think I'm at least halfway through as far as time is concerned, as long as I don't develop another injury.

I walked 15.2 miles or 25.2 kilometers today, which I believe is my longest day yet, even if it was not nearly as difficult as the day I crossed the Pyrenees. When I reached Boadilla, I was sure I was done for the day, but after sitting and chatting with two German women and downing a cup of coffee, I felt my energy returning, and I managed another six kilometers

I started in the dark, and the walk was mainly along dirt farm roads. One of the crops grown in this region is sunflowers, and as it got light, all of the sunflowers turned to face the rising sun behind me. which meant that they were also facing me.

Cyclists get more respect here than in the USA. In Arizona, drivers are required to give cyclists three feet of clearance when passing, although many of them don't. As this sign shows, here the requirement is 1.5 meters, which is just short of five feet.

There are some marvelous people doing this Camino. Two of the people staying in this hostel tonight are confined to wheelchairs. One is an Italian who can wheel himself around. I attempted to talk to him, but he seems only interested in communicating with the people he is traveling with, although I was just kind enough to lift the back of his wheelchair over a step so he could enter his dorm.

The other person os a young Spanish woman, or at least she is Spanish speaking. I have been running into her and her companion (brother, perhaps?) for several days, but we have never spoken. She is very handicapped and is not able to stand or get onto or out of bed without help. During the day she drives this vehicle along the Camino along gravel paths and up and down hill while her companion walks alongside.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July 23, 2014 -- Casrojeriz, Spain

It was a 12.6-mile (20.2 kilometer) hike to get here this morning. I arrived about noon. The first 10 kilometers went by quickly, and my swollen leg caused few problems. I felt that I could walk forever. However, a few kilometers farther, and my leg started complaining, and my pace slowed.

Before I reached Castrojeriz, I passed through  San Antón.  As I approached, I was hoping it was a real village with a place where I could get a caffeine fix to revive me, but it turned out to be no village at all but only the ruins of an ancient convent with an isolated pilgrim's hostel off to the side. There wasn't even a bench to sit on. I had to rest and sat on the ground until a dog behind a gate started barking at me and finally became annoying enough that I left.

Here are two shots that I took of San Antón as I approached.

Earlier, after the first 11 kilometers of walking, I had passed trough the medieval village pf Hontanas, which did have a place to sit down and buy a cup of coffee. After I left the cafe, I took this picture of the village's main drag.

When I did finally arrive here at Castrojeriz, I collapsed at the first cafe. Who should be sitting there but a Dutchman carrying a ukelele who had been the life of the party a few days earlier in the hostel at Villafranca where he had led a wine-inspired group in a singalong im the kitchen. He left with the intention of making the next town, when Susan and Heather from the USA arrived, whom I had been seeing daily along the Camino. Here's a picture of Susan that I took yesterday evening at the hostel in Hornillos del Camino. I apologize for the fact that it is a bit blurry.

Together, Susan, Heather, and I found this hostel. It took forever to register. The guy running it or hospitalero took about ten minutes to register each person. First, he would talk to the person. Then he would go into an adjacent room to fetch his stamp in order to stamp the new arrival's pilgrim's passport. Then he would take the stamp back into the adjacent room before returning to collect money. That, of course, required another trip to the other room to leave the money. On his return, he would carry the pilgrim's backpack to the dorm while explaining to the pilgrim all of the hostel's facilities. Finally he would return to the reception desk to begin the process anew with the next person in line.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22, 2014 -- Hornillos del Camino, Spain

480 kilometers or 298 miles left to hike!

Today's walk was somewhat more than 12 miles or 21 kilometers. I can't be precise, because the Camino was detoured around a big highway construction project on the outskirts of Burgos. About half the walk was through Burgos and its surroundings. Several people passing me on the way asked about my limp, so I suppose it's noticeable, although I was trying to hide it.

After the big, modern city of Burgos with its trendy pedestrian shopping districts, I'm now in a village that dates back to medieval times, and the architecture shows it. Here's a shot looking up the main street.

Every little village in Spain has an elaborately constructed church, and Hornillos is no exception. The church and the king, or later the church and dictator Francisco Franco, once together controlled this country with an iron fist.Today the Spanish are very secular, and the church has lost its influence. As a result, many of these old churches, including this one, are falling into disrepair, because there is no money to maintain them.

Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21, 2014 -- Burgos, Spain

I had been told that Burgos is an unattractive industrial city, but I have found most parts of the city to be very attractive. 

I walked 19.5 kilometers or 12.3 miles to get here today, and by the end my left leg was complaining and starting to swell again. The weather was quite chilly and windy when I started out, and if the path hadn't started uphill almost from the start, I would have needed my jacket. It's amazing the amount of body heat one can generate while lugging a backpack uphill.

The scenic part was near the beginning, when it was still too dark to see much (I was on the trail well before sunup).  The later half was through the suburbs of Burgos and then through Burgos itself. 

The hostel is a huge seven-story building with hundreds of beds arranged on each floor in cubicles. My cubicle has four beds, and I believe most of the others are the same.

The neighboring cathedral is a beautiful ornate building. I have only seen the outside, because during the day you had to buy a ticket to get in. There was a pilgrim's mass inside a while ago, but I missed it and thereby may have also missed my chance to see the inside of the cathedral for free.

The following photo shows as much of the outside as I could get in the shot using the primitive camera app on my cell phone.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 20, 2014 -- Atapuerca, Spain

The leg is still swollen but not as sore. I hobbled 18.5 kilometers or 11.5 miles on it today to Atapuerca. Tomorrow I hope to make Burgos, which is a slightly longer distance to walk. I have 331 miles left to walk, and I've done 159 miles so far or just under 1/3 the distance. The hardest place was from Villafranca Montes de Oca to San Juan de Ortega, 12.4 kilometers with, given the cold and wet conditions, no place to sit down for a rest and three hills to go over. It was in San Juan that I finally got my morning cup of coffee.  Here's the welcome view of that village as it finally came into sight.

I was lucky as far as the weather was concerned. It had rained during the night, so the morning was wet, windy, and cold, and the sky was dark until almost noon, but except for one light shower, there was no rain until I was safely indoors here in Atapuerca.

I have been unable to ascertain the origin of the name Atapuerca, which seems to imply tying a sow, but I can tell you that just outside of town there is an important geological site where ancient human remains were found at the bottom of a shaft. The remains are judged to be 800 thousand years old, making them the oldest ever discovered in Europe.

It's raining again this afternoon, but the forecast calls for the rain showers to end during the night and for sunshine the next few days with a warming trend.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

July 19, 2014 -- Villafranca de Montes de Orca, Spain

I only walked 11.9 kilometers or 7.4 miles to reach Villafranca today, and I arrived in mid-morning. I would have liked to have gone on, but this is the last place to stop before San Juan de Ortega, which is another 12.4 kilometers farther on over hilly ground. My left leg is gradually improving, but it is still swollen, and I thought it wise to give it another afternoon's rest.

It is cold and windy today. It seems strange that one would want to wear a jacket in Spain in July, but it's that chilly. A possible thunderstorm is forecast for this afternoon with a chance of showers tomorrow. I expect to be hiking through a sea of mud tomorrow.

Before I write about Villafranca, here is a photo I took of Belorado yesterday afternoon from the ruins of an old castle above the town.

For the benefit of those pilgrims reading this blog who know him, Australian Jack entered Villafranca at the same time I did today, and he continued on toward San Juan de Ortega.

The hostel where I am staying is part of the luxury hotel Antón Abad, which is built on the site of an old pilgrims' stopping place dating to the years of the Roman Occupation. The hotel's bartender showed me around and explained the hotel's history.

The original pilgrims' hostel and church on this site were built in 1283. In 2009, the buildings were rebuilt and restored into the present hotel and hostel. I am paying five euros (about US $6.75) for a bunk in a dorm at the same place where ordinary tourists pay a steep price for a hotel room. Here is what it looks like from the outside.

There is a more modern church here now, constructed in the 1700's. Below is a photo.

It is alleged that there are some ancient relics inside the church, but I walked all around the outside and couldn't get in. All of the doors were locked.

Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18, 2014 -- Belorado, Spain

I hobbled the 18.8 kilometers or 7.3 miles to get here this morning before deciding to get off my swollen left knee and give it a chance to rest. It is still as badly swollen as ever, but it doesn't hurt nearly as much when I walk on it. I would like to think that it is getting better and that it isn't just due to the pain-killing effects of the ibuprofen.

Yesterday we had a community meal in the refuge, but only three of us participated. One of the participants, a Frenchman, spoke only French, so that was the language of our dinner conversation, which meant that I understood about half of what was being said. I really need to improve my French.

After checking in here at the municipal hostel, I went to a pharmacy for more ibuprofen and then to a store to buy a few items I wanted. The elderly lady running the store was quite a saleslady.  No matter what I chose to buy, she assured me that I had made the best choice.

Then I took the two cans of beer that she had talked me into buying to the park, where I sat in the shade with the other old men as I drank them.

Later, on the Camino route through town, I found the following hand and boot prints. If you click on the photo to zoom in, you will see that they are purportedly from the actor Martin Sheen in 2009. I wonder if that means that he, too, did the Camino.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17, 2014 -- Crippled in Redecilla

I woke up this morning with a sore left knee, and I knew I wasn't going to walk very far on it. I was limping, and every step was painful. Unlike many of the others I have been hiking with, I never had as much as a a blister, let alone serious leg problems. I hobbled along for about ten kilometers, just more than six miles, then I stopped here in Redecilla, even though it was only mid-morning.

I think you can see in the following photograph how my left knee and the area above the knee are swollen compared with the right leg.

I'm taking ibuprofen, and I'm trying not to walk too much. I don't want to stop completely, but I plan to spend the next few days walking only a few miles in the early morning and then sitting around and reading the rest of the day until this leg starts to heal. I seldom have leg problems, bit when I do, it always seems to be the left leg that is affected.

I sat at a sidewalk cafe after deciding to stop, and many of the people with whom I have been sharing the Camino the past days, and even weeks, came walking by. I think I saw them for the last time, because I will now fall several days behind. However, I know that some of them check this blog from time to time, and I hope that they will someday get back in touch

By the way, I have564 kilometers or 350.5 miles ywt to walk until I reach Santiago de Compostela.That sounds better than the 490 miles that were ahead of me when I started this hike more than two weeks ago.

I did pass a milestone today. I crossed from the region of La Rioja into Castilla y León. Here's the sign that greated me at the border.

July 17, 2014 -- Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Spain

I walked 13 miles or 21 kilometers to get here today, and I was pretty exhausted when I reached Santo Domingo.  This is one of the works of art that I saw along the way. Believe it or not, this is a community water fountain at which pilgrims can refill their water jugs.

Here in the province of La Rioja at almost every kilometer along the route there is one of these kilometer markers

I find these markers a bit annoying. I walk and walk and think that I've covered a lot of ground until I come upon another marker and find put that I've only walked a kilometer.

I am staying at a hostel that is part of a convent, and I am on a room with two other gentlemen, both of whom are friars. They are walking the Camino waring long, brown robes that almost touch the ground. They are hiking in sandals, and they both have full beards. 

By the way, knowing the propensity of people in mixed-gender dorms, I was afraid that I might be forced to sleep with a nun. I voiced my concern and was told to stop worrying. It would be OK for me to sleep with a nun as long as I didn't get into the habit.

July 15, 2014 -- Nájera, Spain

I’m writing this in the municipal hostel in Nájera, but I won’t be able to upload it until sometime later. This hostel operates on voluntary donations instead of charging a fee to stay here, but for some reason it charges an expensive fee by the minute for using WiFi.

After I wrote yesterday’s blog entry, we had a communal supper at the hostel. Here we are seared around the table enjoying some red wine after the meal. I am missing, because I took the picture.

I walked 17.4 kilometers or 10.8 miles. The sun is shining today, and I wanted to get here in time to wash some clothes and dry them in the sun. Along the way I met many of the people I have been seeing along the way, and most of them are staying here at the municipal hostel including Lydia, the young petite lady from Tucson, who is also staying at this hostel. I have to be careful what I write about my fellow pilgrims now, because some of the have started reading my blog.

I can’t stop without mentioning the sleeping arrangements here, which are the most intimate I have experienced. Not only do men and women sleep in the same dorm but the beds are jammed together two by two, so you are effectively sleeping in a double bed with a stranger, who may or may not be of your gender.

Monday, July 14, 2014

July 14, 2014 -- Navarette, Spain

388 miles left to walk. I had 490 miles to walk when I started in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, so I've walked just a bit more than 100 miles or 20 percent of the total distance.

After breakfast in the hostel in Viana, I was on the road by 6:30 this morning. My intention was to make a short day of it and stop in Logroño, but when I got there it was just before noon, and the city seemed too busy and too noisy, so I kept walking. The hike through the city was unpleasant due to the heavy traffic and the poorly marked Camino. However, once outside the main part of town, the path went through a long park with manicured lawns and finally turned into a wooded area.

In all I walked 22.4 kilometers or 14.1 miles, and I was dead tired when I arrived here early this afternoon. After two beers, a cup of coffee, and a short walk around the town, I felt somewhat better.

I met the young woman from Tucson on the path today. I'm wearing ,y Arizona T-shirt, and as I was out exploring the town, another passing pilgrim stopped me to say he was also from Tucson.

Since writing the previous sentence, I watched the final 40 kilometers of the Tour de France. Way to go, Nibili!

Here are two pictures that I took today. The first proves that I have finally left the region of Navarre behind and am now in the wine-producing area of La Rioja. Of course, I am of Irish descent, and it is well known that the Irish don't drink, so it won't do me much good.

If you click on the following picture to enlarge it, perhaps you can see the stork sitting on its nest at the top of the tower.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13, 2014 -- Viana, Spain

Today I walked 18.6 km (11.6) miles from Los Arcos to here. I arrived before noon and had lots of time to go on, but after about 10 miles of carrying my pack, my legs start to feel tired, and I begin to think it is time to put down the pack and do some sightseeing. Viana is an interesting place, large enough to qualify as a genuine town. It is apparently out of the Basque Country, because today I say only signs in Spanish and none in Basque, and the only flag I saw today was the flag of Spain.

I am also on the edge of the province of Navarre. Tomorrow I pass into the province of La Rioja, famous for its wines.

It was chilly when I started before daybreak this morning, but the sky was clear, and the sun had some warmth in it. Now, at about 2:30 pm, the temperature is about 70F, and people are complaining about the heat. To me it seems perfect.

The rules say that you may do the Camino on foot, on a bicycle, or on horseback. Until yesterday, I didn't see anyone doing it on horseback until two young women came riding up on these steeds, which promptly started munching the hostel lawn.

The cyclists who do the Camino generally ride either mountain or touring bikes on the rural roads, which have low traffic. On Sundays the local mountain bikers ride the trails, and they tend to become a nuisance. They favor the steepest, narrowest, and most rugged parts of the trail, and we have to step off the trail to let them pass. They are mostly polite and say "gracias" and "buen camino" as they pass, and we are polite enough not to respond with what is going through our minds. The two bikes in the following picture were parked at the hostel at Los Arcos last night.

If I do the Camino again, it will be on a touring bike.

Below is a "selfie"that I took this morning as I approached Sansol. The village doesn't show up well in the background, but I am using my cell phone as a camera.

I wore my "slacker" T-shirt today for an Irish guy that I've seen every day for the past week. He is writing a weekly column on his Camino for an Irish newspaper. I met him again a few minutes ago as he was walking into town, and he got his picture. I don't know if that means that Slacker Quinn will be famous in Ireland.

However, I do seem to be getting a reputation on the Camino. Gossip travels with the pilgrims, and when I am wearing my slacker T-shirt, I will frequently meet somebody who says, "I've heard about you." I also finally met the woman from Tucson today, whom I've been hearing about for days.

And to finish up, below are some pictures I took this afternoon while walking around Viana. The first is a picture of one of the town gates. I will walk through that gate and a second one one the other side of town when I leave im the morning. Notice the yellow stylized drawing of a clam shell above the arch. That symbol and yellow arrows are the most common methods used to mark the Camino for pilgrims. You have to look for one or the other, usually both, at every crossroads and side trail to make sure you stay on the route. I learned that lesson the hard way.

Here is a picture taken near the cathedral. The bare legs under the shade tree belong to young women pilgrims who are taking a break before pushing onto Logroño, which I should hike through tomorrow.

And finally, here's a group that was roaming through the town center this afternoon, stopping every block or two to sing a few songs. When I snapped this picture, they had just finished singing No volveré, a song that I associate with Mexico and Pedro Infante.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July 12, 2014 -- Los Arcos, Spain

I had this entry almost completed when I accidentally tapped the Ctrl key on this tablet's onscreen keyboard. As luck would have it, the next key I hit was an A, which selected the entire blog entry, and the next key I hit overwrote everything, leaving me with a blank screen. Finally, blogger auto-saved the blank entry, thereby also deleting the backup copy of what I had written. What I wouldn't give for a real, touch-type keyboard!

Well, to start over, I had planned to hike much farther today, but by the time I reached Los Arcos after having walked only 11.5 kilometers (7.1 miles for the metrically challenged) my legs were tellimg me that it was time for an easy day, so I stopped here shortly after 11 am. That means that I missed today's goal of getting within 400 miles of Santiago de Compostela. I still have 406 miles left to walk.

Los Arcos has well over 1,000 inhabitants, which qualifies it as at least a village if not as a small town. In either case, it's much larger than most of the hamlets where I have been staying.

I am staying in the municipal hostel, which is managed by a Belgian confraternity. The elderly couple running it at present are native Flemish speakers, but they also speak French, basic English, and enough Spanish to get by. The wife greeted me in English when I arrived, her husband spoke French to me as I was registering, and the wife showed me around the hostel in English.

The hostel is just across the "river" (more like a small stream, really) from the gate to the old part of town. Here's a shot of the gate taken from the bridge. The gate has been restored several time through the centuries with the latest restoration haven taken place in 2007.

The place where many pilgrims stop to get their bearings after entering town is the central plaza, shown below. It has several cafés and is a good place to grab a sandwich and a beer or café americano.

The church is beside the plaza. Here is the photo I took of its steeple.

July 11, 2014 -- Villamayor de Monjardin, Spain

Today I only walked 13.7 kilometers (8.5 miles). I'm not making as much time as I might like, but I have all of the time in the world to finish this Camino. Today I marched through the town of Estella, and just leaving that town I found this Fuente de Vino or Wine Fountain where pilgrims are invited to refresh themselves for free. Needless to say I partook despite the early hour.

Sometimes the Camino is a narrow track through tall grass or bushes; occasionally it is a path alongside a paved road, but today it went through mostly open farm land and is well maintained, as you can see below. Note the clouds. As I have been complaining on this blog from time to time, the weather since I started has been cloudy, chilly, windy, and occasionally rainy with very few glimpses of the sun.  

The young woman who runs the hostel here is American, although she speaks excellent Spanish. She's a member of a religious order that helps along the Camino among other things.  The hostel itself is very basic, but it's situated on a hillside overlooking a quaint village. The view over the valley is spectacular. Here is a picture I took around subset when there was a rare break in the clouds.