WiFi in Spain – Camino Edition

International Symbol of Service!
International Symbol of Service!

We generally found WiFi to be available at many – close to most, but not quite all – peregrino (pilgrim) places along the Camino (see separate notes for the rest of Spain). Many people we met along The Way relied SOLELY on WiFi for “keeping in touch,” mostly via e-mail (text messaging generally requires mobile phone service – see separate article on how we handled that kind of service).

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More “Rolling” Hills

We actually had a couple of days of easy level walking, largely because we were walking alongside the highway. There may have been hills to the left, and hills to the right, but we were on a nice level path. Now, however, we are back into the mountains, the Catabrian or Irago mountains.  We are staying the night in Foncebadon. If you have read “The Camino” by Shirly MacLaine, you may remember that when she went through here this was, for all practical purposes, a ghost town populated mainly by feral dogs.  Paulo Coelho also used this town as a setting for an encounter with a large dog in his book, “The Pilgrimage”.

Tomorrow morning we will reach the high point where the Cruz Ferro aka Cruz Hierro is located. The custom is that pilgrims bring with them a stone from home that symbolizes something that they want to honor or that they want to release or let go of. They add that stone to the huge pile of stones at the base of the cross.

Last night, we stayed in El Ganso, the goose! The sole albergue there houses 30 pilgrims, which is equal to the population of the town.

 

Purple!

“Listen, God love everything you love – and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration.

You saying God vain? I ast.

Naw, she say. Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.

What it do when it pissed off? I ast.

Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”
― Alice Walker, The Color Purple

imageI love being out in the countryside. I love the flowers and the trees, the fields of sunflowers, the vineyards, the views and the sky above. But when I catch sight of the town that we are heading into, i get a little rush of excitement. I’m usually good for about 14 kilometers. After that, my feet start to hurt, my legs start to ache, and I’m ready to be done walking. Next morning, (after a little coffee and breakfast) I am ready to hit the trail again. And I am really liking measuring the distances in kilometers. They go by so much faster than the miles do!

Fighting Our Way to Utegra

Damn near killed Pony on our first day out. 🙁

I insisted – wisely – that we get the phone set-up (and Pony’s iPad – has cellular service in it and she wanted to be able to consult with Google Maps and the Camino blogs if she needed to know something)(I wanted my iPhone set-up with Spanish service in the event that we needed to call someone – I thought it would be me – an ambulance). Continue reading “Fighting Our Way to Utegra”

Pamplona

We arrived in Pamplona at the city’s central bus terminal, located UNDER their scenic and historic citadel, pretty much the center of town. Which also means you arrive disoriented. It being overcast didn’t help our direction-finding skills.

Pony booked us into the Hostel (it had been my understanding it was “Hotel”) Hemingway. While the American author Ernest Hemingway made the town of Pamplona famous, there isn’t really any other reason the place is so-named. No reason is given for their choice of name on their Website, which DOES mention the place was opened in 2009 and was remodeled in 2013.

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Another Day on the Camino

Today we walked just 10 km to Logroño, a larger city with lots of shops, restaurants and tourists. We checked in to our albergue, a collection of rooms up several flights of dimly lit stairs. The building is very old, a little run down, but in a very desirable location. It seems to me that it was once a very grand building, lovely wood and ironwork banisters, and ornate Spanish tiles. For 30 euros we got a private room with its own bathroom and plenty of hot water for the shower. It is a tiny room with bunk beds, but it feels quite luxurious.

Last night for 26 euros we had a bunk bed in a room shared with an older French couple, a bathroom shared with about a dozen people, and a communal breakfast of toasted white bread with butter and jam, coffee with milk, and juice. Tonight’s lodging does not include breakfast, but there are plenty of eateries close by. After getting checked in and depositing our backpacks in the room, we went out for second breakfast and had chocolate and churros. The churros were made to order, and the chocolate came in demitasse cups and was thick and rich, and flavored with cinnamon. Delightful!

Untrained, but Unbroken

I am kind of lazy. I have always hated the idea of exercising for the sake of exercising. I don’t mind hard work, but I prefer productive effort. I love the type of exercise that comes as a by-product of exploration or creativity. I love to walk, if I have somewhere to go. I love the squats and the muscular strain that comes with growing a garden. I love what living up a flight of stairs does for my behind. Jogging or walking an established path, or working out in a gym (or my living room) just bores me. I need to have my mind and spirit as engaged as my body is. So I thought that walking the Camino de Santiago just might be a great way for me to get in shape. I can spend weeks walking from village to village, marveling at new sights all along the way. It is a magical land full of medieval castles, gothic cathedrals, Roman bridges, vineyards, olive orchards and quaint villages, where storks build gigantic nests atop smokestacks and bell towers.

The guidebooks and the pilgrims forums all emphasize the physical difficulty of the Camino and the importance of training for it. I meant to train properly. I really did, but I never managed to go more than 6 or 7 miles. So, here I am on the Camino carrying a 17 pound backpack and walking distances that I have never walked before. How are we doing? Only time will tell. Our plan calls for averaging 10 miles per day (16 km).

On day one we walked from Pamplona to Uterga, about 16.9 km. Day two we took it easy and only walked to Puente La Reina, a distance of just 6.6 km. Day three we pushed through to Lorca, for a total of13.7 km. On day four we did 17.5 km ending in Villamayor de Monjardin. On day five we made it to Los Arcos. That would be an easy day of 12 km, but for the blisters I had gotten the day before. My feet and legs are sore, but the blisters are healing, today we walked 18 km from Los Arcos to Viana. And we arrived just in time to see the running of the bulls!

None of this has been easy walking, lots of uphill and downhill slopes, much of it quite steep and very rocky. However, it has been most rewarding. I am meeting good-hearted people from all around the world. I am learning more about myself and what I am capable of doing. I am learning to appreciate Trog ever more, he is so helpful and patient with me when I am struggling.

I spend my days surrounded by natural beauty and historic sites. In Villamayor de Monjardin, I slept in an ancient building, situated next to a medieval church, perched on the slopes of a castle-topped hill and overlooking a magnificent sparsely populated agricultural valley. Life is good!