Day 19, Hospital de Orbigo to Murias, Spain, Sept 27


12 miles, 600 feet ascent. 7:15 to 1:30 pm

My feet are killing me today. I am battling large blisters, draining them with a needle every night and putting blister pads on them.

Today is my day! In spite of my feet, I am joyous.
At 10 am there are church bells in the distance.
“Good speed is your speed.” is painted on a sign, surely an encouragement to pilgrims.

This morning I dwaddled over my tea in the kitchen, as it was still dark. Wilson quickly ate his breakfast, was ready to go and asked for my email address so we can stay in touch. He was thinking would not see me again. He left.

I took my, but it was pretty dark at 7:30 am, so I took the alternate and more direct trail along the road instead of wending through the woods.

Gorgeous sunrise over the rolling green countryside.
Passed a huge barn guarded by three barking black labradors while at least three German Shepards lazed in the sun. I was not even close to the barn, but the labradors were doing a great job this early.
By 9:30 am I stopped for coffee with milk and sugar at a small village.  Visited with two German women doing parts of the El Camino a second time.  Who should come in but my Brazlian friend, Wilson.  He stared at me and said TYLER, HOW did you get here?  After a few minutes he figured out I did not use the magic carpet as claimed, but took the shorter route along the highway.  We laughed and laughed.  Then I finished my coffee and left, somehow without seeing him or saying goodbye. Must have both been in the restroom.
Two hours later I am perched at top the steps to a cross over looking the valley and city of Astorga.  Airing my barefeet in the sunshine, enjoying the view when here come the two German women from the cafe.  They laugh as Wilson had seen them on the trail and asked where I was.  They told him she is up ahead, sticking out her tongue at you and saying nana-nana-boo-boo.
And who comes down the trail but Wilson, calling out Tyler, WHAT are you doing? WHY are you still ahead of me.  We laugh again. He goes on and I pull on my boots and head down into Astorga. 
This is a beautiful medieval town once surrounded by a wall, which  has a walk way and I stop for a snack, overlooking the country.  Walk down cobblestone streets to a palace and the cathedral. Large bus loads of tourists gather with guides.  In the cafe overlooking the palace, I use the restroom and order meatballs for lunch. What a beautiful town but I am not a tourist and my feet ache and I am not up for looking inside the buildings, so I pick up a chocolate bar with almonds for the road.
Just outside of town there is a tiny chapel where pilgrims have stopped, some to avoid the tourists at the cathedral, for a rest or holy moment.  Who is there but Wilson.  We laugh at meeting each other again and walk and talk for about an hour.
Stopping at a hacienda-type hostel, we go in for a soda, I got a Coke, and visit.  It is run by a Brazilian, they serve a Brazilian dinner and it is super clean and charming with a yard in the back for hanging laundry, a washboard as part of the sink and great big clean showers are restrooms.  The dormitory is also huge.  I stay and Wilson goes on. He refuses to say goodbye as he is sure we will meet again.
A French Pilgrim visits with me about my sore feet. He recommends boots two sizes larger and wiping out the salt sweat from the boots immediately after removing them.  In two days I will pass through a town large enough to have boots. It’s the first I have heard about wiping out boots, but it might be a good idea.
Dinner was lentils, rice and deviled eggs and no dessert. It was very plain with no spices. Wilson later told me this is very authentic Brazilian cooking.  It was good and filling. Dined with a young Spanish married couple bicycling the route.  He had good English and said it is not fun. They cycled 75 kilometers today and did 150 yesterday. Some roads are busy with traffic, off the walker’s route.  Some are cobblestone they share with us walkers and I can see their head bobbing as they tackle the stones.  He says it is crazy. It is cold when they go out in the morning, and they are not allowed into the hostels until 8 pm, giving all those walking first chance to get a bed. Plus bicyclists do not always give walkers warning on the trails and we have to get out of their way quickly as they speed by us. I was smugly satisfied to hear it was as miserable as it looked.
Hostel 7 Euros, dinner 9 Euros.

Day 18, Leon to Hospital de Orbigo, Spain Sept 26.

23 miles, pretty flat. On the trail at 7:10 am, wandering through Leon with Jan, in search of the trail out of town. I decided to take a detour along the river. It is pitch dark and I am so glad Jan is with me, but I do wish she would stop cursing when I lose the way!!

By the time it is light, about 8:30 am, and we are out of town, she is very slow from the huge blisters all over her feet. She tells me to go on ahead, which I do, whistling off to find some coffee in a cafe in the first village.

Meet my first Leon Mastiffs, looking down an embankment at them. Three of them are guarding a large corral of cows. They look like St. Banairds, but the coloring is like a yellow labrador. Is all their loud barking at me?

Pass fields of cut grain, corn or maze fields, beans, potatos, sugar beets and apple orchards. Bamboo grows along the irrigating ditches. A small pond near a village has two ducks floating in the middle. I stop for a closer look, then realize they are wooden and tethered. It is a funny joke on me.

My hostel tonight is in the home of a local priest, 4 euros.
The architecture has changed. All the homes are now quarried stone in old villages, which are not separate home at all. The village is lined with walls that have doors and windows. But it is impossible to tell where one home ends and the other begins. Entering the priest’s, the first place is an inner courtyard with the old water well, a nice flower garden. It is enclosed with a two-story window structure that overlooks the courtyard. The balcony overhangs, providing a sheltered area around the perimeter. The back of the courtyard opens into a small field, where they have built a dorimitory for pilgrims, a washing area, clothes lines, showers and toilets. There is a kitchen for us and a computer with DSL for free. This is very nice.

I do the usual, shower, wash my clothes, take a siesta. And who comes in but Wilson. We laugh and laugh that we keep running into each others. Dinner is communal in the garden area picnic tables with Italians, French, a Canadian, a Brazilian, and I am the only American.

Day 17, Mansilla to Leon, Spail, Sept. 25, 2008

17 miles, 300 feet ascent. Feel good.

“Free Leonese Country” is spray painted on advertising signs.
Yesterday I crossed the border into the Leonese region of Spain.
Fall tint of red and yellow in leaves.

Checked into the Benedictine Convent and was warmly greeted by a nun. Payment is on a donation basis. They separate the women from the men. It doesn’t matter, as I am sure the women snore as much and as loudly as the men. I have only woken myself up once snoring, so I am part of the chorus. The bathrooms are big, clean and have hot water and a washboard type sink for washing clothes, which are hung in the courtyard to dry. The metal bunk beds are all white as are the threadbare sheets on them. It looks like an olden hospital ward or lunatic asylum.

With Jan, the Canadian woman, I explored the cathedral, crypt, and a museum chock full of medieval, leather bound, vellum books. Some were open for display. It was incredible.

We happened upon a massage office and went up for a massage from a handsome Spanish man. He was in his 30’s, stocky, curly black hair and a nice big smile. Jan went first as she was having shoulder problems, thinking her backpack is too heavy, perhaps. After her 30-minute for 30 euro massage, he worked on my feet.

I told him of my blisters and that they ached at night. He said when people walk on the flat, hard surfaces, their feet spread. It is more, and was more, comfortable walking in the mountains. Plus I had walked 84 miles across England before coming to Spain. But the terrain was often soft fields and fewer miles each day. His recommendation was to soak my feet in hot water with two aspirins dissolved in it. Then he put a hand on each foot, bowed his head and God only knows what he was doing for a moment of silence over my feet. Oh well, it did feel better. Upon leaving, I thanked him and extended my hand. He came closer and kissed each cheek. I love Spain!

Dinner with Jan and Wilson in the town square.
Evening prayer with the nuns at 9:30 pm. They lock the doors at 9:30 pm, so you had better be in by then. The chapel, the nuns singing and praying was beautiful. The oldest nun prayed for us, the pilgrims, at the end and it was translated into English. It was very touching and I would never have been able to see the chapel and nuns without staying at this convent.

Day 16, Sahagun to Mansilla, Sept. 24, Spain

22 miles, flat. 8 am to 3:30 pm.

Fabulous fall day with blue sky and light breeze.
Plains of Spain are covered with yellow fields of grain stubble.
Sunflowers in the fields look at the ground, at the end of their bloom.
Mountain to the north, along the coast, are visible.
Picnic lunch of salami, cheese and bread, peach and chocolate and almond bar.
Storks nest on church steeples.
Walk on a nice dirt road, shaded by long rows of young beeches. They look planted just for giving the pilgrims shade.

Pilgrims on bicycles zip by me on the road adjacent to the nice trail. I think unpilgrim-like thoughts about them.
About 3 pm a woman on a bicycle, coming from a garden, gave me six big ripe tomatoes! I ate one immediately and shared the others at the hostal. They were delicious. Nothing like this would happen to a bicyclist. They go too fast.
Pass an open warehouse with a front loader filled with old bread loaves.

Walking in town past a bar window, I see the cyclists inside sipping beer. Unpilgrim-like thoughts return, but then I spitefully remember my fresh tomatoes and they don’t have any.

Checked into the old hostal, with charming slanting well-worn wooden floors. Hand-washed my hiking clothes, hung them to dry in the courtyard, which was enclosed. The walls and windows sported baskets of red geraniums. It was lovely. Took a short siesta, visited with a roommate, a young man from Korea who was also resting. Three English women were chatting, but left so others could doze.

Then I went out to explore the little town. Passing through the old stone walls coming in, I decided it needed further investigation. Much of the wall is left, although not intact. The stones are all round brownish-gold river rocks. The town has spread beyond the walls, which is bordered by a walking path and lit at night.

I went in a spectacular Ethnological Museum, at a special pilgrim price of 1 euro. There were no other pilgrims there. Thankfully, each display had an English version. Local traditions, farm implements, peasant clothing for dress and everyday work, musical instruments, pictures of old farm structures, videos of traditional dances and music were treated as though they were jewels, being dispayed in glass cases. My favorite part was the display and photos of the four different ethnological groups of people in northern Spain. In some villages I noticed the people looked distincly alike and it gave an explantion why and where some originated from.

Hostal 4 Euros and dinner was 10 Euros.

Day 15, Calzadillo to Sahagun, Spain

13 miles, fairly flat terrain. 7:30 to 11:30 am.

Highlights of the day:
*Hovering kestrel hawk over the harvested grain field.
*Blue sky, light breeze, cool. Delightful path through open country.
*Caffe con latte with sugar and crossiant mid-morning. Things I NEVER have at home. Coffee upsets my stomach, sugar is bad and a crossiant is way too bad.
*Medieval leper hospital has picnic tables on the lawn, a good resting place for a picnic lunch. A Roman built bridge takes us to the ancient hospital,  now closed.
Hostal in Sahagun is a 16th century chapel, for 4 Euros. Dinner across the street for 10 Euros, with a Spanish pilgrim.

Day 14, Formista to Caleadilla, Spain



22 miles, flat. 7:30 to 4 pm.

Lovely walk through the country side.
Birds flocking and chirping.
Fields of maze, sunflowers and harvested grain.
Stop for a snack on the lawn of an old Abbey.
Two motorized wheel chairs whip by me on the stone road. Now that would be a rough ride.
Lunch in the village of Carrion. Potato tortilla, red pepper and anchovies, beer and get a chocolate bar for the road.
Dinner, surprisingly good at the only restaurant in town, who are feeding a large group tonight. The server is from Marrakech, Morocco. Dined with three German men, a young Russian bicyclist on his own, my Brazilian friend Wilson and the Scotsman Robert. I was pretty close to heaven.

Day 13, Castrojeruz to Formista, Spain, Sept. 21, 2008






15 miles, 400 ft. ascent and descent.

Started out just before it got light. Left the village on a dirt road between two barns, going into the countryside. A Scotsman, Robert, joined me at we headed out of town. He was chatty and good walking company for a few days. Not as fast as Peter was yesterday, but I don’t need to walk that fast every day.
The road headed up a ridge and I could see several pilgrims going up, about 400 feet, through the farm lands of harvested grain. Several fields had big round bales of straw, waiting to be picked up and hauled away to storage. It was getting lighter every step.
Upon reaching the top of the ridge, the sun began coming over the eastern horizon, beyond the hill with the castle ruins.  Several of us pilgrims had reached this spot to watch the spectacle of the sunrise.  Bright red and yellow sun rays spilled out from beyond the distant mountain range to coat the castle ruins, then illuminate the valley.  When it was all light, I finally turned to back to the trail, now downhill.
Stopped for mid-morning coffee and a stroll through a tiny village. There were many round dove lofts, or dove cottages, falling into ruin.  Along the stream was a huge shelter with red Spanish tile roof, open sides with arches and all painted white.  Upon investigation, it contained a several cement wash boards, with a stream running through it. This is where community happened!  Later I saw a plainer wash house version in cement dated 1987 etched across the top. Oh, perhaps that is why the world regarded Spain as backward for so many years.
Strangely enough, there was helicopter over head. When I lived in Billings, Montana, that always meant a rescue, as the helicopter picked up an injured person and flew them to the hospital.  A few days later we learned from a pilgrim, who happened to be a nurse, that as she got to the top of the ridge, took in the view of the castle and country, then turned to go another pilgrim, a middle-age man who stopped to rest, fell down dead.  She tried to revive him, but could not.  That helicopter was for him. It was very sad.
Nearing Formista, the walk is along a canal and poplars line the path. Stopped for a beer at lunch and then walked more. 
Every day has beautiful weather, chilly in the morning, but warming by about 9 am. No rain, yet. I love walking every day an eat everything for dinner, which is usually three courses. Lots of potatoes are on the menu and I get the french fries and flan for dessert. The calorie burn is so great!

Day 12, Tardajos to Castrojeriz, Spain



18 miles, 750 feet of ascent. 7:15 am to 2:30 pm.

Spent the day walking and talking with Peter, who started walking from his home in Nuremburg, Germany on July 2. He has walked across part of Germany, all across Switzerland and France. He is a fast walker and we had lots of fun talking all day.  “Good companions make short miles.”  In his late 30’s he is a contract employee of a software firm and is between contracts, so he has this time. His wife, Amy, is at home working.
We part at 2 pm, over a beer. Peter is walking six more miles, but I have had enough for today.
Get checked in, wash my clothes, take a siesta and stroll up to the castle ruins on the hill overlooking the town. The restaurant has many old farm implements on display.

Day 11, Atapuerca to Tardajos, Spain





15 miles, 450 ft. ascent. 7:30 am to 4:45 pm.

*Walk into Burgos with Canadian woman, Jan. Chatting with her made the trek through the industrial and ugly apartments on the outskirts just bearable. Looking back, this two and half hour stretch was the worst. Everyone else said it was hard for them too. Perhaps it was because we had come out of the glorious countryside, through a lovely forest on nice dirt roads. The hard, flat sidewalk, four lanes of truck traffic and industry was a mental test, as one pilgrim put it.
*El Cid’s tomb and the cathedral at Burgos are thrilling. It is a World Heritage site. Toured the cathedral, walked around the outside. Truly spectacular.
*Late afternoon I walked on, along the river bottom to a tiny town, Tardjos. The hostel was on a donation basis.
*John Deere tractors in the fields and main street of the small towns.
*Moorish influence in the arched doorways and “Hand of Fatima” door knockers.
*Iron rings in the stone walls, once used to tie up horses.
Dinner with Anne, a Danish woman and several Canadians.

Day 10, September 18, Belorado to Atapuera, Spain


18 miles. 1,300 ft. ascent. 8 am to 3:30 pm.

Walk up and through Montes de Oca.
Pine forests to rolling countryside. Peaceful.
Bells jingle on cows.
Lunch with Spanish friends, a local dish of blood and rice and sausage. It was very good! They are leaving tomorrow and I will not see them again.
Met Jan Bryant on the trail. She is also from Eugene and works at Sacred Heart as a traveling nurse. She had heard of my business, Walk With Me.
Hostel in Atapuera is 7 Euros in a new pre-fab building. It is nice and clean. 
Walked to the local archeological museum and a Pre-historic Park. There is a famous dig quite near where early human bones are preserved. The park reproduces the cave drawings found near here. Once a rhino lived here, as well as the wild bulls. It is all very interesting and educational, making it fun to walk through the country side and imagine wild bulls behind the trees.
Dinner with my new friends Dayon, a young woman from Nigeria studying in Germany to be a German teacher, and Wilson, a 35-year old man from Brazil.