Fog City Boy #29

Fog City Boy on the Route Napoleón

Pamplona, España – September 4, 2017

The flights from Glasgow to Paris and  on to Biarritz were comfortable and uneventful. The  city bus from the airport to the Bayonne SNCF station – a  block from my hotel, cost all of €1,00 and I had a nice talk with an American couple who were about to launch on their long-planned and greatly anticipated first Camino.

I decided to sleep in that night since  peregrinos are generally ousted from their albergue lodgings by 0830 each morning. The sleep was good but the  logistics turned out not to be great. I had intended  to take a 1215 train to St. Jean but considered that getting on The Way earlier than mid-afternoon would be a good
idea. So I asked the hotel to call me a taxi. I inquired of the driver of the cost to take me to St. Jean. €100,00 was the response.

Yikes!

That was decidedly more than a poor pilgrim should spend on
the first day of the Camino.

So I apologized to the driver for the inconvenience – observing that I didn’t even have €100,00 – and walked a block to the railroad station. (And stayed on the outlook for an ATM.)  The  ticket to St. Jean cost €7,60, a bus was substituted for the rail service that day, and I didn´t arrive until about 1330.

Upon arrival in St. Jean, I proceeded to the Pilgrim Office, received a sello (stamp) in my Credencial del Peregrino – my Pilgrim Passport that verified my status as a pilgrim and that would verify my peregrenacion upon arrival in Santiago.

I was ahead of the crowd arriving at  the Pilgrim Office. When I left, a long line had formed.

I headed for the Porte D’Espagne, the ancient gateway into Spain, purchasing what would be the first of many bocadillos – Spanish for “sandwich” – that keep body and soul together midday on The Way. Bocadillos generally consist of a couple of thin slices of ham slapped inside a crusty roll without benefit of mustard, mayo, lettuce or tomato.

They keep body and soul together, but would not be confused with a culinary triumph.

St. Jean Pied-de-Port translates as “St. John at the Foot of the Pass.” The pass in question is a gap in the Pyrenees through which the Camino path proceeds, and through which Napoleón withdrew his forces in 1812 toward the end of the Iberian Peninsular War
(retreating back to France in the face of the assault by Anglo-Portuguese forces). Local signage identifies the path as the Route Napoleón. Since this is Basque country, all official signage is in both French and Basque.

The gentle reader may recall from my post from Pamplona on April 7, 2015 (republished on April 14) (FCB ·12.1) that I had intended to walk the Napoleón Route to Roncesvalles when I intially walked the Camino Frances, but was warned off by the hospitaleros at the Pilgrim Office who reported that the mountain was closed because of snow, and that pilgrims had sometimes become lost in the snow, and died on the mountain. (This is a premise of Martin Sheen´s movie, The Way.) So in 2015 I walked the alternative route through Valcarlos.

This year, I came back to take on the challenge of the Napoleón Route.

The time was 1420, definitely later that I had hoped to start, when I started  the climb – and what a climb it was. Up. Followed by more Up. Followed by more Up. No undulating pathways (until the very end of the hike that day).

But there were beautiful views along the way.

I arrived at Albergue Orisson at 1715. I was very glad to be there. I got the last bed in the albergue, fortunately having made a
reservation three months in advance of my hike.

The shower felt very good, indeed, though the automatic clock shut off the water at exactly five minutes. Thankfully, I had been forewarned!

As is always the case, the peregrino commaradarie is palpable. Dinner at Orisson that night was communal – a rich vegetable soup, roast chicken, mixed (albeit stewed too long) vegetables, bread, water, wine, and an assortment of small deserts. Yum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way up to Orisson, I passed a group of Spaniards who were walking as a group. Two of them were blind – each walking with one stick and holding to the backpack of a colleague. The gentleman toward the  end of the table with the dark glasses was one.

The Camino attracts all manner of pilgrims. Some are quite courageous. These gentlemen are among that number. Their bravery recalled for me another pilgrim I met along the Camino
Frances in 2015. She was an older woman with no legs. She had a fifth wheel bolted to her wheelchair and was using her arms to “crank” her way to Santiago.
 
The bunk was comfortable and the other nine peregrinos in the bunkroom were considerate. Unfortunately, two  of the younger but lamentably overweight men in the room snored loudly until about 0300. No one else slept until the snoring stopped. There were quiet hushed conversations to this effect at day brake. This is not unusual in the albergues, and accounts for my determination to proceed as an “en suite peregrino” whenever posible. It´s darn hard to hike if you haven’t had a good night’s sleep.

Dawn from Orisson. A beautiful vista, but rain clouds on the horizon!

After a characteristically inadequate Continental breakfast the next morning, we all set out to complete the 14 km trek up the mountain and through the pass. I shared part of The Way with an American couple.  We would cross paths several times over the next days.

We were met with more beautiful vistas, and a statue of the Virgin Mary at Pic de Orisson atop an outcropping of rock along  the way.

Further along there was a simple shrine to a peregrino who died on The Way.

The rain came later that morning and obscured most photo opportunities.

A fellow peregrino took this picture of  me just on the “other side” of the pass.

From here, the trail was generally level or slightly undulating,
eventually crossing a cattle guard that was strategically placed at the border between France and Spain. Pilgrims welcomed. Cattle, sheep, and goats, not! There were no other formalties.  A bit farther along, The Way passes the ruins of a customs house long ago abandoned.

The total meters ascended over the two days was 1390! The highest point – Col de Lepoeder – is 1450 meters above sea level.

I overnighted at Roncesvalles at a hotel there. Good thing I had a reservation – all 120 spaces in the albergue were taken and there were no vacancies at any of the other facilities. The number of expectant pilgrims overwhelmed the capacity of the entire town.

Dinner was good and I slept well, “en suite peregrino” that I am.

The next day, I embarked again on The Way From Roncesvalles  it proceeds through a gentle Wood.  Rain was falling.

As the wood opens into a nearby village, it passes a cross,  one of many to be encountered on The Way.

A nearby post had been annotated by a supporter of Basque independence.

Murals greet the passing peregrinos welcoming them to the village of Burguete Auritz.

The early morning rain created challenges along The Way. But nothing great enough to stop or discourage an enthusiastic peregrino.

A memorial shrine at the top of a long climb was a welcome discovery.


There were some tough climbs in the  rain. Eventually the sky cleared, permitting this vista to be captured. The ruins are of
a former pilgrim inn, Venta de Puerto.

The large cohort of peregrinos who had descended on Roncesvalles on the previous day did not bode well for finding accommodation at Zubiri, the next town of any size to speak off. There had been speculation among those of us who had not reserved in Zubiri about what we would find when we got there. As it turned out, our fears were wholly justified. The whole town was sold out.

The several albergues in the town had beds for 142 pilgrims plus a few in private rooms.  The five pensions and two hotels also were sold out.  Yikes!

What to do? A cohort of four peregrinos – three American women and a gentleman from Cape Town, South Africa with whom I had been hiking in tandem, arrived ahead of me in Zubiri. The proprietress of a pension in town had located a small albergue out of town that could accommodate them. Fortunately, it also was
available to me.

Xavier, the hospitalero, drove to Zubiri, collected us, and brought us to the private albergue  he and his wife operated in Ilarratz, about
three kilometers farther along The Way from Zubiri. He also provided at no charge a lift to a nearby restaurant which offered a very good pilgrim menú for €12,00.

The albergue is so new that it is not listed in the several guides to the Camino.  Here is contact information. 

Albergue Ezpeleku

Ilarratz

+34 (country code for Spain) 948 30 47 21

A view of The Way from Albergue Ezpeleku.

Two Australian women found the facility on their own, hiking out of Zubiri before we had arrived. We enjoyed overnighting with them at the albergue, having walked in tandem with them on and off during the day.

Peregrinos refilling their water bottles at a fonte near the alberque.

A little farther along, a 12th Century Abbey stands in remarkably good repair.

The Basques do not shrink from declaring their national identity.

Along the way, peregrinos had arranged the rocks to make a waymark for those who followed.

The Way follows the River Arga all the way to Pamplona.

The Way passes another memorial to a peregrina whose peregrenacion ended before she reached Santiago.

Noisy geese guard a privately owned manor house and chapel in Arleta.

The entry to Pamplona is scenic, but along a noisy motorway.

An ancient bridge over the River Arga. (I remember it well from 2015!)

It was good to make it back to Pamplona.  It is a fun city, and upon reflection, the one I enjoyed the most during my 2015 peregrenacion on the Camino Frances.

A walk along the battlements of old yielded a view of the suburbs of Pamplona . . . of new!

Many cyclists cycle The Way. They are acknowledged with emplacements through the old town in Pamplona.

(This is another one for you, Stephen! Buen Camino!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, inevitably, political graffiti, the meaning of which is not clear to this peregrino.

The running of the bulls is celebrated even when they aren´t  running.  As is Ernest Hemingway.

The cathedral in Pamplona is grand and inspiring.  A magnet for Camino walkers and responds.  There is a wonderful plaque before the entrance.  It captures the many ways to say “Buen Camino!”

Having had a day to contemplate the completion of the Napoleon Route, I am glad I did it.  I´m sore and tired.  The baby steps I take on gravel trails meandering up and down mountain passes – to guard against falls – are hard on the calf muscles and the feet too!  But it was a worthwhile endeavor.

And Jim was with me every day.

Tomorrow I am off by bus to Oviedo, and then on to Tineo and Campiello to complete the peregrenacion along the Camino Primitivo that I began last year.

I´ll post again from Lugo.

With that, I´m off!

Knute Michael

 

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Fog City Boy #28

Fog City Boy on the West Highland Way

Glasgow, Scotland – August 29, 2017

The transit from San Francisco to Aberdeen was quite comfortable – Aer Lingus provided wonderful service and the best airline food in memory.

We enjoyed elegant and cordial hospitality at the Royal Northern and University Club in Aberdeen, and had a good cruise around the Aberdeen harbor and its approach. The bottle nosed dolphins were playful and entertaining.

No maritime pilots to be seen, though we did see two pilot boats moored in the harbor. These pilots, skilled I am sure, have a transit of but minutes from boarding on before docking their vessels in the harbor. Not quite the same challenge as those faced by San Francisco Bar Pilots! The vessels tied up in the harbor did not resemble the ones I know from my time on the waterfront in San Francisco. But then, those ships in the Bay don’t service drilling rigs in the North Sea.

We were fortunate to have great stalls at His Majesty’s Theatre for a performance of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.”  The theatre itself is worth the price of admission – wonderful design and how wonderful that it has been preserved.  The show was great and we recommend it to all!

We did a quick hop from Aberdeen to Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands. We spent a day and a half with local guides – a half-day city tour, followed by an out-trip to archeological sites of merit. Among them the spectacular Ring of Brogdar, a neolithic stone circle and henge monument, with the Loch of Harray in the background.

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And the excavated village at Scara Brae.

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Helen Woodsford-Dean and Mark Dean (reachable at http://www.spiritualorkney.co.uk) were our guides for both days. They are archeologists, formally trained as guides (required for licensing there), knowledgable, cordial, and accommodating. They went out of their way to search a windswept field to locate the very rare Orkney Primrose for us to see! We recommend them highly when you visit Orkney.

However, the Fog City Boy’s most memorable experience in Orkney was renting a right-hand drive Ford which the Fog City Boy managed to navigate around the island under Helen’s watchful eye. Somehow, I managed not to collide with anything or run off the narrow two-lane roads with no shoulder. I think the experience took 10 years off the lives of all aboard. And Helen has a new job description to add to her portfolio – coaching an experienced albeit orientationally-confused wrong way driver.

The Cullen Skink (a fish stew of potatoes, onion, and smoked haddock) we had for lunch was delicious. I tried haggis and found it palatable. After all, haggis is simply sausage without a casing.

And our visit to the Highland Park distillery was quite worthwhile. Learned a lot, and enjoyed a wee dram at the conclusion of the tour. I stand by my approval of their 12-year-old single malt offering. (The others are good, too!)

There are many takeaways from our Orkney visit:  Orkney is quite a ways North.  There is a lot of flat and a lot of wind.  Hey, get used to it!

And, as the Orkney folk are proud of pointing out – the nearest major railroad station is in Oslo, Norway! I think many yearn to be Vikings again! 

From Orkney we hopped to Edinburgh. We arrived as The Fringe was well underway. The Fringe is an annual festival in Edinburgh each August that increases the population from 800,000 to 1.2 to 2.0 million, depending on the day. There are perhaps 400 entertainment venues. Comedy seems to dominate but all genres are to be found. The most celebrated event is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo performed most evenings adjacent to the Edinburgh castle – itself worth a visit. Alas, we were too late to book seats for the Tattoo. I suggest booking in April or May if you want to enjoy the stellar event.

 

Arthur’s Seat – Prequel to the West Highland Way.

Whilst in Edinburgh (the Brits do like their “st’s”) I decided to walk to the top of a local mountain styled “Arthur’s Seat.” The name derives from a Victorian assessment that the majestic peak would have been an appropriate location for King Arthur’s castle and seat of power, had he made it that far north. He did not, but the name stuck.

The hike is within a large public park – Holyrood Park – a rare example of unimproved grassland, effectively unchanged since its enclosure as a Royal Park in the 16th century.  From the starting point – the grounds of building housing the Scottish Legislature, one of the most architecturally ill-conceived buildings in Christendom – the 2.75 mile trail climbs 823 feet to the summit.

Some have scoffed that Arthur’s Seat is a hill, not a mountain.  However, (Bohemian) Robert Louis Stevenson described it as “a hill for magnitude [but] a mountain in virtue of its bold design.”

But no matter, the Way up, though steep and occasionally rocky, boasts dramatic and rewarding views of Edinburgh, the harbor, and the surrounding countryside.  I spent a couple of hours on the climb.

 

 

 

The way down was much shorter than the way up – or so it seemed. The climber finds waving grasses and a profusion of lovely Rosebay Willowherb as the trail unites with the road circling the mount.

The Willowherb accompanied me throughout my travel in Scotland.

A view of the mountain as dusk approaches.

We took ScotRail to Glasgow the next day. The West Highland Way followed soon thereafter.

 

The West Highland Way.

The West Highland Way was the first official long-distance footpath in Scotland. The idea was conceived in the 1960s but it took until 1980 for the Way finally to be declared open. The delay was necessitated by planning, gaining permissions from landowners through which the Way would pass, engineering and construction. The Way is well waymarked and getting lost would be difficult. However, though most of the Way passes through enjoyable, moderately challenging but not difficult territory, a number of segments are quite demanding indeed!

Fording streams with swift currents, ascending and descending steep inclines and staircases, persevering in the rain (did you know that it rains in Scotland? Frequently?) – all are part of the West Highland Way experience. Much of the Way is laid out on gravel paths, sometimes doubling as drainage troughs.

The thistle is the national flower of Scotland.  It is stylistically emblazoned on the waymarks along the West Highland Way.  This one is adorns the official start point in Milngavie.

Here’s one I found along the Way.  Someone annotated the waymark at its base!

And real thistles accompany the walker along the Way.

In the spirit of full disclosure, the Fog City Boy cannot claim to have walked the entire West Highland Way. On a single day, I combined two extremely strenuous stages (Rowardennan to Inversnaid, and Inversnaid to Inverarnan) which amounted to a mere 13 1/2 miles in total, but which were far more demanding than anything I had encountered on any of the Caminos I have walked. The challenge was mile after mile of unending ups and downs (politely called an “undulating” path) that required steep climbs up rocky outcroppings, back down and across streams with nothing but gravel and large stones offered as footfalls.

And, unlike most Camino paths, there are few opportunities to “set a spell,” enjoy a bar, grab a cafe con leche, with a place to rest one’s weary feet, or bail out if it is just too much for this day.  (Peregrinos reading – recall the many taxi phone numbers tacked to trees and posts along the Way!  You won’t find them on the West Highland Way!)

The next day was necessarily a recovery day. I would urge any future trekkers on the West Highland Way not to combine the available stages. Take it slow, don’t fall, have a pint when you get in, and get a good night’s rest before heading out again.

And then there was the night that the fire alarm went off at 2:45 am at Bridge of Orchy Hotel. It was nice getting to know all the other residents for 45 minutes while we were standing around in our sleeping costumes and waited for the false alarm to be shut off. Hiking the next day was not in the cards.

So, all in, all done, I walked about 2/3 of the 96 miles, including several sidetrips. But for the prepaid, non-refundable hotel reservations, the full distance was certainly achievable. Ahhh, the tyranny of the prepaid reservation.  No opportunity to chill, recover, and go again.  You just have to keep going.

That said, here are some images my walks along the West Highland Way.

Rivulets and waterfalls are ubiquitous along the Way.  I crossed literally hundreds of them.  So are wildflowers.  Here are a few.

 

Common Ragwort.

Ling Heather.

 Orchids growing wild along the roadside.

Steep hikes are rewarded with beautiful vistas.  This one is just outside Balmaha.

The Devils Staircase is about 800 feet of switchbacks.  There was a light rain that day.  Tiring but manageable.  Here and elsewhere, entrepreneurs seize the moment!

Walkers have constructed a cairn at the top of the Staircase.

And the vista is worth the climb.

We overnighted at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel, a charming four-star inn.  The stone bridge was constructed as part of a military road constructed in the 18th century.

The final day was challenging and rainy.  But the vistas, albeit under cloudy skies, were wonderful.

The Way passes the ruins of a farmhouse built long ago.

A thoughtful lady from England offered to take my picture along The Way.  Earlier, a walker from Canada asked my name.  I told her it was “Michael” and she thanked me.  “We wanted to know your name.  We have been calling you ‘the man in the hat’ for several days.”

Walkers on the West Highland Way, as with peregrinos on the Camino, are a friendly and supportive lot. 

Recurring companions on the Way were swarms of tiny insects known locally as “midges.” They are barely visible but they swarm and they bite. The bite itself is not painful, but it will raise a welt and remain for several days.

A good insect repellant might not keep the midges off of the walker, but it will dispatch most of the midges before they have you for lunch.

That said, the midges ought not be a deterant if you are considering walking the West Highland Way.  Take an insect repellant with you, and an itch cream to deal with the midges that get through your perimeter defense!

A final suggestion to prospective walkers of the Way – or any other trek – walk with two (not one) walking sticks. They will save you from many nasty falls, especially over rough terrain.

The official end of the Way is in the center of Fort William. I spent the night in Fort William, a pleasant town with a small harbor.

The official end of the West Highland Way in Fort William.  Note the sculpture on the bench – a walker examining his feet at the end of the trail!

 ScotRail the next morning brought me back to Glasgow and preparation for the Camino walks. I’ll post again from Pamplona.

With that, I’m off.

Knute Michael

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Fog City Boy #27

Fog City Boy Returns to the Camino Primitivo – With a Warmup Hike through Scotland and over the Pyrenees.

San Francisco, California – August 3, 2017

In two days’ time, the Fog City Boy and Ginna, the Fog City Boy’s consort (and wife), will depart San Francisco for Scotland. We will visit Aberdeen, the Orkney Islands, and Edinburgh before the Fog City Boy sets out to walk the West Highland Way.

This Way begins in a suburb of Glasgow named Milngavie – but pronounced “Mulgai” – and proceeds 96 miles to the town of Fort William.

There are campgrounds and sleeping barns along the route, but no hostels or pilgrim albergues such as are found on the Camino.

A travel agency in Glasgow – Mac’s Adventure – has made reservations at small hotels and bed and breakfast locations along the route. The trek is 96 miles and will last 10 days. I will be joined along parts of the Way by John and Linda, friends of ours from Half Moon Bay, California. I’ll post again after completing the West Highland Way in late August.

A few days after the West Highland Way, the Fog City Boy will journey by air and by rail to St. Jean Pied de Port, a traditional starting point for the Camino Frances. I commenced my Camino Frances there in 2015 but was not able to pursue the “Napoleon Route” which climbs up and over the Pyrenees before descending to Roncesvalles (Spain), and then onward to Pamplona. In April, 2015, the snow was blowing on top of the mountain, often obscuring the waymarks, thus causing pilgrims to become lost, and sometimes perish. I took the alternate route around the mountain. So I’ll go back this time and climb the mountain – no snow expected in September!

From Pamplona, I will travel to Tineo, a major town on the Camino Primitivo which I began in 2016, about one year ago. From there I will repeat some of my days from last year’s Camino, ultimately covering new territory and completing the Camino in Santiago. Here’s a video from 2016 taken just outside Oviedo, the traditional starting point for the Camino Primitivo.

I’m looking forward to all three treks! And I hope you will continue to follow my postings. If you are not yet on my blog’s “mailing list” you may click on the button marked “Follow” in the lower right corner of your monitor to sign up. This option may not be available on cell phones.

With that, I’m not quite yet off but will be soon!

 

Knute Michael

 

Fog City Boy #26

Fog City Boy on the Camino Primitivo

San Francisco, California – October 17, 2016

I was up timely at the small hotel in Embalsa de Salime, downed the characteristically inadequate continental breakfast, but with an extra cup of café con leche, and headed toward Grandas de Salime. Long needle pine trees were abundant and left a lovely orange carpet at their base. It was a pleasant walk, mostly up hill, and the forecast rain did not immediately appear.

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My guidebook advertised the availability of internet at the local library in Grandas. The folks at the town hall drew me a map but cautioned that the library was not open until 4:00 that afternoon. So I gave up – again – the idea of making immediate progress on this blog.

I had hoped to check into a hotel at Grandas to assure myself of lodging for the night and then strike out on The Way and make as much progress as I could, returning to Grandas by taxi in the afternoon. Alas, the hotel was full! The owner suggested that I try the pension around the corner. When I knocked on the door there, the owner appeared at a third floor window and simply said, “completo.” They were full, too. So I returned to the hotel and the kindly owner agreed to get me a reservation for the night at A Fonsagrada, about 25 km away, and a taxi to get me there. Walking the 25 km would have made the total for the day about 20 miles – something I have been known to do, but not something I relish. And the skies were threatening.

So, off I went with a pleasant taxi driver. Shortly after leaving Grandas, the heavens opened up. And I watched sheepishly as we passed a half dozen peregrinos I had been with at Berducedo. I have walked many days in the rain and generally it is not much of a deterrent. But this rain was a different rain. It was driving and cold. And the wind and wind chill that accompanied it was biting. I had hoped to walk some distance once reaching A Fonsagrada, but the wind chill was prohibitive. So, I found the local cultural center and its library where, happily, I had a good internet connection. I made progress on the blog.

Upon returning to my hotel, I found several of my fellow peregrinos there. They didn’t hold it against me that I had arrived by cab rather than on foot. Peregrinos are a charitable lot! I joined the Irish couple and we had a nice dinner together. The hotel offered a special entre which I enthusiastically selected:

Pulpo!

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The next day brought more rain and wind. I determined to finish the blog entry I was composing (so back to the library I went) and later that day I published. I had a nice lunch at a local bar – hamburguesa con patatas fritas – and actually set out to walk a few kilometers forward.  The weather did not relent.  I returned to my hotel and threw myself on the mercy of the hotelkeeper who made me a reservation at the next significant town on The Way, Cadavo Baleira. Again, I traveled by taxi, not on foot. But fortunately, by the time I got to Cadavo, the weather had cleared and the prospects for the next day were for sunshine. Again, I met up with my fellow peregrinos. The four French women were there, as was the Irish couple and the two young Americans. We organized a large table and enjoyed a nice dinner together.

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The next morning, I was up timely, had an inadequate continental breakfast, and headed back along The Way, leaving my backpack at the hotel. I would overnight there for two nights. From Cadavo, The Way traverses a succession of farm roads, passing through a number of hamlets, some of which had small churches.  The weather was a pleasant light rain for an hour or so.

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I stopped at one of the churches, took a break, and devoured a can of sardines and an orange – my “field expedient” cure for an inadequate continental breakfast.

I pressed on, passing a cross guarding a field of pumpkins.

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In time I came to another hamlet with a lovely church and across the street the town’s tiny plaza with seating that gave me another opportunity enjoy a quiet solitude before going on.

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Eventually The Way arrives at Vilabade with a handsome church dedicated to Santa Maria. It dates from 1457 and is home to wonderful religious statuary and other art. It is a national historic artistic monument.

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An enterprising gentleman has set up shop adjacent to the church. I paused and enjoyed a bottle of agua con gas. He was disappointed that I didn’t augment my hydration with one of his cakes and other pastries.

img_2252A manor house next door, Casa Grande de Vilabade, was built in the 17th century by Diego Osorio Escobar, Spain’s viceroy to Mexico. It has been restored and is available for public functions.

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I had been dodging this tractor all morning!  The driver was a man with a mission.

I continued on along the comfortable paved streets of Vilabade, passing a comfortable home with handsome wayside cross near the entrance.

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Wayside crosses are more common in Galicia than they were earlier on the Camino Primitivo route in Asturias.

I arrived at Castroverde a short time later. The town is one of some substance and appears to be a favorite of local tourists. The parish church and plaza are well maintained.

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And a charming fountain graces the plaza. The sculpture is of five children sheltering under an umbrella in the rain.  And the rain is integral to the sculpture.

I had considered Castroverde as a likely place to find a taxi to return me to Cadavo. But the day was still young, the weather favorable, and I was eager to move ahead. I walked a short distance through the town and The Way brought me again into agricultural country.

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I continued as far as Santa Maria de Gondar, a small village wholly devoted to agriculture.

img_2274There I discovered a taxi whose driver was heading out for his day. This was pure serendipity. I had feared that I would end up walking all the way to Lugo before finding a taxi. I hailed the taxi and returned to Cadavo. The driver was somewhat incredulous that he had landed a fare in that tiny hamlet. 

He got me swiftly to Cadavo and I indulged in a hot shower back at my hotel. After a bocadillo at a neighborhood bar, I set out to explore the town in the late afternoon.

Not all fountains in Spain and Portugal date from hundreds of years ago. This one was completed in the 1980s.

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I came upon the town’s alberque which is a new one, but has only 20 beds and, at that time of year, many more peregrinos hoping for a place to spend the night than it has beds. I saw a half dozen dejected looking peregrinos heading toward my hotel in hopes of a vacancy. I don’t know how they fared.

I stopped in at a a small bar/restaurant a short distance from the alberque and learned that the hotel keeper was building a private alberque immediately adjacent to her establishment. It will have 40 beds! That is a very large private alberque, and it will provide capacity that will be greatly welcomed by future peregrinos.

I had a nice, but solitary, dinner that evening. All my peregrino pals had by this time arrived in Lugo. I would follow the next day, taking a taxi from Cadavo to Gondar and picking up The Way where I had left it the day before.

There I met a young American peregrino from the Midwest.  He had completed his degree at an American university and was walking the Camino before continuing his studies at the London School of Economics.  Wow!  We walked together for a time and I let him go on ahead.  He had a tight schedule ahead of him.

And one more interesting thing about this very respectful young man.  His given name was, “Miller.”  I had never before met anyone with my surname as his given name.  You never know what you will discover on The Way.

As one approaches Lugo, the environment becomes more suburban, but agricultural pursuits are still prominent.

Crossing the A-6 highway on the approach to Lugo, I found this admonition to future peregrinos passing by, followed by a pointed response:

After traversing the residential neighborhoods on the outskirts of Lugo, the peregrino crosses a river and the railroad, eventually climbing up and into the center of Lugo, the old town.  The Camino has long been a part of Lugo and its public infrastructure reflects that long history.

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Historically, Lugo was a walled city originally built by the Romans, but one that changed hands a number of times over the centuries. The wall which surrounds the old town is the largest of the surviving Roman walls – 2 km long, 8.5 meters high, and featuring 85 rounded towers.

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I had arrived on a Saturday and the town was festive. There were many tourists and quite a number of peregrinos just starting their journey on The Way. Lugo is a bit over 100 km from Santiago – which permits a pilgrim to begin in Lugo and qualify for a Compostela (a certificate of completion of the pilgrimage) upon arrival in Santiago.

I had a nice dinner in the old town that evening. Pemientos padron,dos pinxos, and vino blanco were a treat!

img_2287The next morning, I made my way to the Lugo railroad station and bought my ticket to Madrid. My reservation was for the next day, but I was there in time to observe a train departing Lugo en route to Madrid. (The video that follows is over two minutes in length. You may wish to skip it unless you are a dyed in the wool rail fan.)

I returned to the old town and visited the cathedral.

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I walked the wall and noted the many varying structures immediately adjacent to it. Some were well kept.

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And some were in a state of profound decay – an opportunity for substantial reconstruction.

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One wall sported a curious political statement.

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After circumnavigating the wall, I stopped at the cathedral and reflected on my journey. 

In time, I collected a rock, and made this selfie:

My perigrenacion is not compete. It is interrupted – but to be continued. As I reported previously, I have run out of time to complete the Camino Primitivo as I had intended.  I’ll be back next year, walk the stages I had to skip this time, and complete my third Camino de Santiago.

At the insistence of Darlin’ Daughter – Elizabeth the Adventuresome – I plan to combine completing the Camino Primitivo adding a hike  with a hike somewhere in the U.K. Perhaps a coast to coast walk in England. Or perhaps the West Highland Way in Scotland. Or something else. Time will tell.

And with that, I’m not off, but I’ll be back!

To be continued.  I’ll post again next year.

 

Knute Michael

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Fog City Boy #25

Fog City Boy on the Camino Primitivo

San Francisco, California – October 6, 2016

A friendly taxi driver returned me to Tineo from Pola de Allande shortly before noon that day. My lodging had been booked before I went to the festival, just as my lodging in Pola two days hence was booked before I left. So, what to do with the afternoon? As it turned out, there was a library in town and, like most libraries these days, it had a room full of computers with internet connectivity. I used the afternoon to clear my email and to make progress with my blog, and got to bed early.

The next day, I was up timely and resumed my perigrenacion. The route was moderately strenuous, but the views were breathtaking!

A panorama that includes Tineo:

Other views along The Way:

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I arrived in Campiello in the early afternoon. There are two private albergues in that farming village. One is run by a charming and solicitous entrepreneur named Herminia. She actively manages a restaurant/bar, a grocery store, an albergue, and several single rooms that she rents. Also a sports club and a farm supply business.  A very nice young lady from Holland showed me to my lodging and helped me with more than one reservation for future evenings along The Way.  Her English was excellent!  She is a student of languages and working in Spain to develop her fluency in Spanish.

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I enjoyed a good menu del peregrino that evening and met several interesting peregrinos in the process. Two were from England. One had just passed his exams and was about to be frocked as a solicitor. He and his friend were celebrating by walking the Camino Primitivo. They were on a tight schedule and were committed to making at least 30 km (20 miles) each day until they arrived at Santiago. We had a light breakfast the next morning and they were on their way.

There were four women from France who had taken what I think of as a novel approach to any Camino. Each day, three of them walked and one drove to their next destination. The next day, the driver walked and the driving duties were devolved on another member of the group. We walked in tandem for several days.

And, I met two young Americans. She was in the State Department and posted to the American embassy in Afghanistan. She had some interesting stories to tell, as you can imagine. Her friend, who lives in Northern Virginia, is a security consultant. He had interesting stories to tell, as well. We walked in tandem for several days.

The road from Campiello starts out flat, but doesn’t stay flat. A few kilometers after Camiello, The Way splits, offering the peregrino choices.

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One route takes the pilgrim on a 20 plus km hike with beautiful views but no civilization of any kind for 16.5 km (about 10 miles) – no food, no water until reaching Montefurado. The alternative is longer but takes the pilgrim through Pola where one can rest before pressing ahead. I opted for the route through Pola.

The Way to Pola involved multiple climbs and descents.

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I rested much better the second time I visited Pola de Allende than the first.  But, the fiesta memories are nonetheless good ones.  I continued on the next morning and encountered a lengthy climb that took me up and down ravines as the adjacent highway wound its way ever upward.

The most dramatic climb was the assent to Puerto del Palo (elevation 1146 meters). Fortunately, the weather was cooperative. Lovely little flowers along The Way cheered the passing peregrinos.

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I met up with the two Americans at the crest of the mountain. The Way down was beautiful but treacherous.

The Way passes through the tiny village of Montefurado.

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The Way actually passes through a cow pasture and then continues through dense mountain foliage.

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Eventually The Way winds itself down into Berduceo. I had a reservation at Camin Antiguo (which I believe to be Camino Primativo in the Asturian language) – a private albergue that could provide a private room with an en suite bath. The shower felt very good. The albergue, located in the basement of a private home, sported a “two star” rating as an albergue. This was the first time that I had encountered a rating system for albergues. The private rooms were on the second floor.

After my shower, I walked back to the center of this very small town where I found a number of other peregrinos gathered at a café/bar enjoying various refreshments. What an international gathering it was! A couple from England – he was Polish and she from Argentina. A couple from Ireland and another Irishman who would have been my contemporary. And the two young Americans. They had been very fortunate to get the last room at the pension in town. Berduceo, it seems, was sold out that night!

I noticed two Asian peregrinos – a young couple from South Korea.  They had just received that bad news that the pension in town was sold out and the albergues all were full.  Their faces betrayed a high level of anxiety.  I approached them and suggested they try for a room at the Camin Antiguo. Their English was good enough that they were able to follow my directions.  Luck was with them.  They got a room, and were greatly relieved to have a roof over their heads – especially because rain was forecast for the next day.

Meanwhile, the peregrino happy hour had continued to expand. Eventually we ran out of space at our table and moved to a larger one across the road that also was serviced by the café/bar.

And then came a remarkable, but very Camino-like, experience.

A peregrina from Holland, who likely is my contemporary or perhaps bit younger, strode up to the group and, in English, asked to address us.

She said that she knew that we were pilgrims and she wanted us to know about a telephone call she had just received from one of her sons who had called from Holland. He told her that his brother, her other son, who is in the Dutch Army and was part of the Dutch forces in Afghanistan, had been in a firefight with the Taliban. He was unhurt, but apparently, the emotional aftermath was such that he was being repatriated to Holland. The son who called would meet his brother at the airport. She just wanted to share that with us, she said.

We were all supportive of her, of course. The young American woman and I exchanged glances, but she did not volunteer her posting to Afghanistan. Later she and I talked and agreed that the young soldier undoubtedly was experiencing PTSD.

The Camino truly brings out the best in people. Peregrinos help each other in many ways. We helped the peregrina from Holland by listening, and hearing. She needed to unburden herself and trusted us to be there for her. And we were.

Peregrinos are trusting of one another. I observed this phenomenon on both of my other Caminos. There is a commonality of experience and purpose that supports an openness that none of us would allow in our regular, non-Camino lives.

There was heavy rain that night.  My room included a continental breakfast in the morning prepared by the matron of the house.  We had no language in common, but when she looked out the window and said, “malo!” I didn’t need a Spanish-English dictionary to translate her observation.

The day brought interesting countryside and a long descent through a pine forest, eventually arriving at Embalse de Salime where I spent the night. It was, indeed, a rainy day, but I had my poncho and my Tilley (hat) and my walking poles, so the day was manageable, if damp.

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The Way passes through severl tiny villages, farm land, and past a charming little chapel dedicated to Santa Maria de Buspol.

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I noted that roofing materials had shifted from terracota tiles to slates. The mountain I would descend boasted frequent shale outcroppings.

img_2236img_2237img_2238The descent from Buspol was almost 6 km in length and required almost three hours.  Finally I reached bottom of the path and was pleased to encounter firm footing for the next kilometer or so!

The road led to Embalse de Salime, mostly a ghost town.  But one with a very decent small hotel and restaurant.

Embalse translates as reservoir.  And, indeed, there was a dam, a power station, and a hillside of buildings constructed to support the building of the dam in 1954.

img_2239Upon reaching the hotel, I called it a day, had a nice late lunch – a large one in the Spanish tradition – took a shower, and took a long nap. 

I’ll post again in a few days.

 

With that, I’m off.

Knute Michael

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Fog City Boy #24

Fog City Boy on the Camino Primitivo

San Francisco, California – September 30, 2016

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Prior to departing for Spain, I had learned of a festival in the town of Pola de Allande through which the Original Way passes and through which I calculated I would pass on September 8th – the day the festival concludes. I was quite keen to experience this fiesta, and made a hotel reservation before I left San Francisco. Alas, arriving in Tineo on September 7th, I was too far behind in my perigrenacion to make it to Pola in time for the festival. Pola would be a two day walk from Tineo. 

What to do? What to do?

The answer was remarkably straightforward. Spend the night in Tineo and hire a cab to take me to Pola, about 25 km away, enjoy the festival, use my hotel reservation, and return to Tineo to continue on The Way. Taxis are remarkably affordable in that part of the world.  The rate is about 1 Euro per kilometer.

I was joined by a delightful young peregrina, originally from Portugal, but presently living in Montreal. She was deep into contemplation of challenges she was facing. She also was near-fluent in Spanish. I inquired of her about her fluency, and she confessed that she thinks in Portuguese and then gives those thoughts a Spanish pronunciation. It worked well for her.

When we arrived in Pola we met up with the young fellow from Ireland I had met at Hotel Soto in Salas. The three of us explored the town.

The municipal “city hall” was decked out for the fiesta.

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Though it was a Thursday, all businesses except restaurants, cafes and hotels were closed.  The town was quiet, except for the recurring launches of pyrotechnics.

A pleasant river runs through the middle of town.

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We visited a small chapel on the hill above the town center and were treated to the preparations for the annual procession honoring Nuestra Senora del Avellano, the patron saint of Pola de Allande.

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The aerial explosions continued off and on through the late morning and early afternoon.

At mid-afternoon, after much of the town had finished a large and satisfying dinner, a procession wound its way from the chapel, through the town, and ultimately to the parish church in the town center. The procession was led by altar boys and men of the town carried the statue of Nuestra Senora, followed by a large delegation of townsfolk. It was quite a show.

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It was mid-afternoon after the procession reached the church and my fellow peregrinos decided to press ahead and stay at the alberque 3 km further along the Camino at Penaseita. I accompanied them to that tiny village, bid them buen Camino! and returned by taxi to Pola to take in the continuing festivities.  The peregrina and I gave each other a big hug as I headed to the taxi.  I hope she found answers to her questions as she pursued her perigrenacion.

The plaza had become the temporary home of “carny” games, trampolines, and other amusements.  And the pyrotechnics got bigger and better!

And later in the evening, two rock bands entertained the crowds.

The music continued until 3:30 the next morning when it abruptly stopped! I think city officials pulled the plug! I had returned to my hotel about 11:30 and drifted off – not asleep, not awake.  Despite my best efforts, getting up early the next morning was not an option. However, eventually I emerged from my room, had a light breakfast, and returned by taxi to Tineo to rejoin the Camino Primitivo.

I’ll post again in a few days.

 

With that, I’m off!

Knute Michael

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Fog City Boy #23

Fog City Boy on the Camino Primitivo

Lugo, Galicia, Spain – September 18, 2016

As promised, I am continuing to compose and publish blog entries. Thank you for your patience!

I departed Oviedo timely, though a bit later that morning than I intended. The late departure allowed me to have a good (hot) breakfast which is always a good thing. A continental breakfast (bread, butter, cheese, and jam) isn’t enough to sustain a peregrino for long, as I have previously commented.

The Original Way from Oviedo begins, appropriately, at the cathedral. There isn’t much to go on in terms of waymarks. All yellow arrows, if there ever were any, have been exised – perhaps in the name of quiet enjoyment of the cathedral plaza and adjacent streets. Camino supporters with yellow spraycans occasionally become overly enthusiastic. I wandered for a while because not only were there no waymarks, the streets were not identified. Eventually my guidebook as augmented by Maps App got me on the right track. Brass conchas lead the way.

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It was a Sunday morning and Oviedo hadn’t awakened yet. I had the streets mostly to myself. As I approached the residential neighborhoods through which the Original Way passes, I felt good to be on my way. The Way passes by a park dedicated to the Camino and to the pilgrims who persue it.

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And, predictably, a peregrino with a sense of humor left his mark:

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The Way meanders into semi-rural countryside and eventually comes upon the Capilla del Carmen, a small chapel welcoming peregrinos with a place to rest and a sello for the pilgrim’s credencial. Inside a priest was saying mass. 

Pressing on, the Way continues through lovely countryside and small villages.

img 2121At the top of a steep climb, I doffed my mochilla, and luxuriated in the confort of a bus shelter. A few minutes later a young German peregrina arrived and she, too, took the opportunity to luxuriate in the recovery provided by the bus shelter.

Bus shelters on the Camino are almost as important as yellow arrows!

We chatted a bit and I learned that she was a social worker in Germany on holiday from her duties overseeing and counseling unaccompanied immigrants ages 14-18. She spoke passionately of the hardships they have endured whense they came, and the challenges they face in their new country. I concluded that she alternatively served as “mommy, auntie, sister, and teacher.” She added one more role, “policeman.” Sometimes she must enforce the rules, it seems.

We walked on and discovered a bar/restaurant that provided not only shade from the sun, but also refreshments. We took a table and shortly thereafter were joined by three more German pilgrims. Although my German is passable for simple communication, predictably, everyone else´s English was better than my German. So we spoke English. Nice folks.

I pressed ahead, crossing a Romanesque bridge en route,  and eventually reached Grado about 1800 that evening. I had a reservation for a private room at the Hotel Autobar, a hostlery that is popular with peregrinos. When I arrived I was greeted warmly and sent to a room with two bunkbeds. Shades of an alberque! I took a shower and went down to the bar/comedor and asked for the pilgrim menú, a simple three course dinner generally availabale to pilgrims on the Camino. It comes with water or wine and bread. The cost, generally no more than €10.

And then, the Germans arrived! The house was almost full, but accommodations were made, and I ended up with two of the Germans as bunkmates. The nice young social worker and one of the guys. Shades of an alberque!

The social worker teasingly pointed out that my blog was about a “Monkey Camino” because I had consistently misspelled “Primitivo.” I had spelled it, “Primativo.” Yikes! And a shout out to my social worker friend.  I think I have made the necessary corrections!

The Germans were up early the next morning and out the door while I was still nursing a café con leche. I have not seen them since. The day from Grado to Cornellana was not a long day, but it was hot and there were mountains to climb. I arrived dripping with perspiration and feeling grimy. I was somewhat surprised that the hotel keeper actually rented me a room in her very nice Hotel **. Her comment to me upon arrival: “Mucho calor.” No kidding.

The town hosts a partially ruined monistary which I passed on The Way next morning.

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The day was another hot day and it was enervating. There were things along the way to see. Fontes and ancient structures.

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But my most pressing need was for a place to recover, cool off, and contemplate. The guidebook identifed a bar/alberque just ahead. But when I got there, my worst fears were confirmed.

img 2129It was a Monday, and apparently the entrepreneur/hospitalero had taken the day off.

What to do? Simple, sit on a ledge of the church across the road, break out a can of sardines and some bread I had saved from breakfast, and settle in to a mid-afternoon feast! Not perfect, but enough of a recovery to facilitate the last push that would take me to Salas, a good sized town with all facilities with a gentle river running through town.

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There was only so much forward movement of which I was willingly capable. I called a halt at Salas, only 12 km from Grado. I made my way to Hotel Soto * hopeful of a place to stay. I was fortunate. A kindly hotel keeper showed me a very clean and satisfactory room and I happily moved in. She also showed me, and an Irish peregrino also staying there, a patio with a clothes line and plenty of clothes pins. Apparently she had met peregrinos before and knew we would be doing our laundry, with or without benefit of a place to dry our clothes.

The town is the home of a handsome 16th century church and adjacent tower fortification. Both were worth a look. The tower is open to the public for a nominal fee.

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The next day took me to Tineo. The weather was moderating. The countryside continued to be lovely. But I had fallen behind in my intended itinerary. It became apparent to the Fog City Boy that he wasn’t going to be able to make it to Santiago in time to get the flight from Paris to SFO. I had contemplated not buying a return ticket before leaving San Francisco.  But I didn’t follow my own advice. 

So, what to do?

I contemplated this challenge as I proceeded from Salas to Tineo.

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Reality had collided with enthusiasm. I decided to adjust my expectations and shoot for Lugo (where I am composing this post) as an achievable destination for this part of my peregrenacion. I decided to walk the Camino Primitivo in two segments. I’m on a train tomorrow morning to Madrid, and from there to Paris CDG. I’ll return next year and complete the Camino Primitivo. I will finish what I started.

I’ll coninue blog entries in a few days.

With that, I´m off!

Knute Michael

boots_mountain_trail[If you are a new reader of this blog, you may wish to become a follower.  If so, click on ¨follow¨at the lower right side of your viewing screen.  You will receive entries as they are posted.  This option may not be available on cell phones.]

Fog City Boy on the Camino Primativo