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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Drinking in Spain

Why do pilgrims drink so much wine? When in Spain…

We walk, generally, about 14 Km’s per day. This takes about 3 1/2 – 5 hours, depending on the terrain. We usually have breakfast before we set out. Breakfast includes one cup of coffee, and sometimes a glass of fresh-squeezed Orange juice.  After a couple of hours of walking we are ready for second breakfast, so we look for a bar that is open and serving coffee. A cup of coffee with steamed milk costs around 1 euro. Sometimes it comes with a little tidbit like a cookie or a mini donut, sometimes not.  By the time we arrive at our destination, we are ready to eat again. Lunch  is usually a picnic of cheese and crackers, nuts, juice boxes, olives and cookies or chocolate. We drink water throughout the day.

When we go to dinner, the included beverage is a choice of water or wine. Soft drinks, milk, or juices cost extra. The wines in most of Spain are excellent. The restaurants always serve the local varietal, and they are quite proud of it.  So, how could we not have wine every night?

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!

Speaking the Language

Estamos in España!

I don’t know a lot of Spanish. I probably know just enough to get myself in trouble. As my tongue trips over itself trying to make the unfamiliar sounds, what I hear coming out of my mouth is often not the same as the sounds that my brain is telling it to make. I especially have trouble with the Letter R, and the double R. My fat, lazy, American tongue seems incapable of making that lovely trilling sound. Still, I am managing to communicate, in a very limited fashion, with the Spaniards.

I took a year of Spanish in junior high school, and another year in college. For those of you who don’t know, that was a very, very long time ago. More recently, I had 2 weeks of private lessons in Guatemala a couple of years ago. While I have never been anywhere close to fluent, and can speak only in the present tense,and my grammar is atrocious, a surprising amount of vocabulary is coming back to me. Enough anyway, that I have been able to confidently order food and drink, rent a bed or a room for the night, and buy bus tickets. I even walked up to a stranger and got directions to a restaurant where we could buy breakfast. It is all very rudimentary, but traveling is easier when you know at least a little of the language.

Señor, más sangría, por favor!