Friday, 24 October 2014

Camino Portraits: Slava & Irena

There were not many Slovenes we met on our way to Santiago. Only three of them to be exact. Actually since Slovenia is a pretty small country with a total population of only 2 million people, we were not expecting to run into many Slovene pilgrims anyway.

Slava and Irena are two friends who felt Camino might bring some variety into their retirement. They were also quite amused by responses from their loved ones. Everyone back home thought they have gone crazy and will not be able to make it to Santiago. This only fired them up more and off they went...

Apart from coming from Slovenia, there was one more thing we had in common - tendinitis. None of us was willing to quit the trip because of it and we just kept limping towards Santiago.

We ran into each-other for a few times within our second week and were always glad to hear our native language. Hopefully they were able to enjoy the rest of the way at least as much as we did.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The hardest day of the Camino

Actually I do not remember much of this day. It is probably better this way... it was pretty much all suffering.

This was day 11 of our almost one month long Camino de Santiago adventure. Click on the Camino de Santiago label to see all related posts.

The day began with moderate pain in my right leg. It seemed pretty much the same as the day before. A long evening walk we did around the centre of Burgos did not seem like such a good idea any more.

Since getting into the centre of Burgos took us forever the day before, we were expecting a similar exercise on the way out of the city. Luckily the suburban area on the western side of the city was not so huge. We were out in the countryside pretty quickly.

We definitely preferred walking down a country road when compared to hard asphalt surfaces of Burgos' suburbs. It is interesting how you start noticing different hardness levels of surfaces after a week of constant walking.

Once we got into the flat countryside the views stayed pretty much the same for the whole day. All was flat, with wheat fields all around us as far as we could see.

As kilometres went by my tendinitis problem was also getting worse with every step and soon enough all I was thinking about was: "Left, right, left and right again". I just kept repeating it... till the late afternoon. It seemed like forever.

I was walking pretty slow and stopping did not help either. It only made me suffer more once I started walking again. The whole walking procedure was draining so much energy I totally lost interest in taking photos. Visualizing a photo and taking it seemed pretty much impossible. The result is no photos from the walk.

Our plan for the day was to walk from Burgos to Hontanas. That makes just over 33 kilometres and for me it was one of the hardest hikes I have ever did. It was almost totally flat but it did not help a bit.

The final kilometres were really devastating. Since the landscape was pretty flat we could see really far. At some point we even started wondering if we were on the right track. When we came close to some traffic signs we just looked in disbelief. On one of the signs it was written: Hontanas 0,5.

No matter how hard we looked around us, we could see no sign of a town or even a building. Since it is pretty obvious one should see a town from half a kilometre away we did not know what to think. After a while we just kept walking and 200 metres down the road a basin with a small village appeared right in front of us. Hontanas does not look like much but for us at that moment it was the most beautiful place on the planet.

After we found a place to sleep in the first albergue in the village of Hontanas, we took even more time than usually for our daily stretching-shower-massage-laundry routine. I further extended it with a half an hour of ice massage. Massaging my leg with ice was quite painful but since I knew it would help, it was a no-brainer.

Before dinner I even found enough energy to snap a photo of the village church from outside of our room.

During a talk with one of the pilgrims we kept running into we found out arranging backpack transportation was really easy. All you have to do is ask the hospitalero at the albergue you are staying in about it and they will arrange everything.

You get an empty envelope, on which you write your information and the destination where you would like to pick up the backpack on the following day. You need to put 7 Euro inside the envelope and attach it to your backpack. The hospitalero in our case arranged everything else i.e. called the company and arranged the pick-up early next morning.

We were hoping this would help my leg recover a bit faster. At the same time we could both put all our heavy stuff inside my to-be-transported backpack and have an easier walk in the morning.

It seems like a bunch of companies offer this kind of service. Obviously there is quite a demand for it.
After I used the service for a day, I started noticing many pilgrims with suspiciously small backpacks. Some might even call it cheating but in the end it is all about how you see your own Camino.


Monday, 20 October 2014

Endless suburbs of Burgos

This was day 10 of our almost one month long Camino de Santiago adventure. Click on the Camino de Santiago label to see all related posts.

I got out of bed with a feeling of anticipation and also a little bit of fear. The first few steps were accompanied with "Ouch, ouch, ouch..." whispered through my teeth. After a while it got better and I had to admit the pain was just a little bit more bearable compared to the previous day.

It seemed like this new friend of mine called Tendinitis would not go away easily. I knew that if it was going to get at least a bit better every day, I would be able to get through it. I was just hoping it would keep getting better.

We ventured into another cold and cloudy day pretty early. The winding path soon started climbing up a hill and into the fog. I started raining again.

For a while we were walking next to a barb wire fence that seemed to be built around an army base of some kind.

The walk was pretty uneventful and because of the steady rain I kept my photo gear dry inside my backpack. When we got closer to Burgos the scenery turned from bad to worse. Endless suburbs with many industrial complexes. Gloomy weather also did not help and dull shades of grey seemed even greyer.

Our hiking boots were letting moisture in again. Nevertheless it was not as bad as on the second day. We were glad we have bought ourselves quality hiking boots that did not cause blister problems even when wet. Nowadays you can get quality hiking boots almost in any supermarket as well as in specialised sport stores.

Considering the situation we decided to do another short walking day and give my leg an opportunity to recover faster. This also meant we will be able to spend more time in Burgos. Stopping there for the night gave us a whole afternoon to check out the city centre. We could have easily spent a few days there but unfortunately our tight schedule did not allow it.

It is only 24 kilometres from Agés to Burgos, but bad weather and endless suburbs of Burgos in addition to my leg problems, resulted in another long and tiring day.

It was a long walk to the historic centre but the good thing was that once we got there the rain stopped and we were able to search for an albergue without our rain ponchos. For a change we were still early and at first we tried our luck with a couple of smaller options. Since they were both already fully booked, we went for the newly opened Albergue Municipal de Peregrinos de Burgos with 150 posts. It is located just a stone-throw from the cathedral and costs only 5 Euro.
The only thing it lacks is a bit of character, but I guess that was not the main thing they had in mind during the construction.

We were happy to finally get out of our wet hiking shoes. As we learned during many previous wet days our Goretex hiking shoes endured 2-3 hours of rain, after that water started leaking through.

After settling in, our daily routine followed. When we were finished with our stretching-shower-massage-laundry procedure we went exploring the city. In our sandals, as usually.

We took time to admire the magnificent cathedral but decided to skip the tour of interior due to the entrance fee. Nevertheless we managed to take a quick peek inside and liked what we saw.

We decided to take a slow stroll around the centre and look for a place to eat. We found a perfect place with great food. We did pay 2 Euro more for the pilgrim menu than usually, but it was well worth it. You can feast your eyes on the below photo of the delicious dessert.

We would love to explore the centre some more but were already pretty tired when we were finished with our dinner. I was positively surprised that the pain in my leg was perfectly bearable when I carried no backpack.
However, instead of wandering the streets some more, we went back to the albergue to chat with our 3 Slovene room mates. These three pilgrims were the only Slovenes we met on the Camino.

Burgos is definitely another one of the places on the Camino Francés where we could easily spend a couple of extra days. Unfortunately due to our tight schedule we had to move on.

Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.

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