Camino de Santiago Day 35-37

Camino to Fisterra

Day 35 

Santiago to Vilaserío

33 km / 21 miles

A bit of a depressing morning. I gathered my things and left the camino family Air Bnb around 6:45 am. I left Santiago in the dark, with a bit of morning fog hugging the cathedral leaving only an ominous silhouette in the distance.

Nothing too exciting to share. I walked through farms and fields and had a good amount of incline. The climbs were actually nice; I like the challenge and feeling of climbing hills and mountains.

It was crazy how few pilgrims were on the camino compared to this past week. And while I didn’t like the crowds, it was a bit depressing. Most people’s Caminos had ended. They were flying home, already home, returning to their normal lives, while I hiked on. It didn’t feel the same. I experienced a bit of loneliness and emptiness. Why was I still walking while so many others had stopped after the big goal of Santiago? I told myself in the beginning I would finish in Fisterra. And my father finished in Fisterra. It will be my birthday and it will be worth it. Whether it is happy or sad or all the emotions, it is part of the journey, part of the way.

I arrived in Vilaserío around 3pm. Tonights albergue, Casa Vella, is super charming. An old stone building with beautiful wooden beams, a giant fireplace, and nice garden. It’s homey and cute and I’m happy to stay here tonight.

Spent:

€2.40 Breakfast

€1.40 Coffee

€24 Albergue/Dinner

Total €28

Day 36

Vilaserío to Hospital

25 km / 16 miles

I went to bed at 10 pm after a lovely communal dinner. I slept until 7, a great night’s sleep, and set off at 7:30 am. Pretty soon into my day, I ran into Anja and Martin, the only other two of my Camino family that kept walking from Santiago. Today was a bit better of a walking day, as I spent time with Anja and Martin, and kind of tapped back into the Camino life. We stopped a few time along the way for food and drinks and even ran into Christian! The four of us continued on to Hospital, sharing stories, laughs, and feeling a bit better to have company. The three days are like a brand new Camino, definitely feeling a bit different than the past 35 days. But grateful to have these gusy to share the last few steps with.

We had dinner with some fellow English pilgrims and went to bed somewhat early for our last day of walking.

Spent:

€10 Kalimocho

€32 Albergue/Drinks/Dinner

Day 37

Friday, May 13

Hospital to Fisterra/Cape Finisterre

31 km / 19 miles

Happy Birthday meeeee! And our final walking day! It also happens to be the final 31 kilometers on my 31st birthday!

I set off early, wanting to enjoy the final morning and my birthday with myself, some time to reflect on what an amazing experience it has been, what a challenging few years it has been, and to set some clear intentions for this new year. And I was able to witness a stunning sunrise. Nature always provides the best and most beautiful backdrops for life moments: the final sunrise of the Camino on my birthday just feels a bit more powerful, meaningful, and beautiful.

We made our way to Fisterra, finally seeing the Atlantic Ocean after 36 days of walking across northern Spain. When we arrived in Fisterra, our Camino family was waiting for us (minus Graham who had an early flight home to catch that day). We enjoyed a wonderful birthday lunch of fresh seafood and delicious local white wine. It was the best lunch I can remember. After, we said goodbye to most of the family, as they had to catch the afternoon bus back to Santiago. It was now just Anja, Martin, Elena, Christian, and I left. After a very, very emotional goodbye, we walked our last steps up to the lighthouse, and more importantly, kilometer marker zero.

On the rocky cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, we each took some time alone to reflect on the past few weeks: the first, apprehensive steps leaving St. Jean Pied de Port, the daunting Pyrenes Mountains on the first day, the morning egg tortillas, the ups, the downs, the pains, the foot creams, the tapas and pintxos, the different albergues, the sharing of stories with pilgrims I may never see again, the laughter, the tears, and the family I’ve created the has made this experience the most special. I sat staring out at the Atlantic, also reflecting on the fact that my father had been in this same spot, and most places along the Camino that I had just walked, eight years ago. It felt incredibly satisfying and full circle to have completed the Camino where my father had finished as well. The sense of accomplishment, pride, and closeness to my dad quite literally brought me to tears.

After a good while taking it all in, we made our way back down from the lighthouse to town, stopping at a local beach inlet. Everyone bought me champagne and cakes to celebrate my birthday. They lit a candle and sang to me before we all ran into the Atlantic Ocean for a (not-so-clothed) swim, a tradition for many pilgrims.

What an incredible final day on the Camino de Santiago and 31st birthday, one I’ll never forget.

Some final reflections to come.

Michael

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Camino de Santiago Day 33

Monday, May 9

Lavacolla to Santiago de Compostela

10 km / 6 miles

Happy Birthday Graham!

Oof. Todays the day. The entire room of maybe 50 pilgrims woke around the same time this morning. The energy today is different. Everything is heightened. Everyone’s interaction with each other is more deliberate, more special.

As people finished getting ready, they trickled out to the back patio, awaiting the rest of their walking group. Again, the energy was contagious. Excitement. Sadness. Hesitation. Relief. Accomplishment. I just can’t describe it fully.

We left at 7 am. It felt like a final march. After over a million steps the last 33 days, today, every step mattered. Every farm we passed mattered. Every tree, building, bird might be the last. But we walked on. I cried a bit, truly not wanting this to end. 33 days of high highs and low lows, and now it’s coming to a screeching halt. It’s been an unreal, crazy experience.

We entered Santiago to Chris’ beautiful fiddle playing. We slowly marched through the streets, seeing bits and pieces of the Cathedral every now and then. We filmed each other, capturing these final moments of the Camino forever. And we walked under an archway and turned into the main square. And we made it.

After a bit of celebration, we got our Compostelas and checked into our Air Bnb. We’ll have two days here together before we begin to part ways.

Spent:

€50 Lunch

€15 Haircut

€70 Drinks

Camino de Santiago Day 32

Sunday, May 8

Os Penedos to Lavacolla

25 Km / 16 miles

In order to avoid the heat today, we agreed to wake up around 6:30 am. Rhiannon was already gone. And as we began to get ready, Darrel went around giving good morning hugs. This group is so special.

I took off at 7, turning back every so often to watch the sunrise over the farms. It was stunning. We had breakfast together and enjoyed the day together.

I don’t have much specifics, because in all honesty, I’ve been trying to stay present during my final days of the camino.

I’m sorry I just haven’t been as good at taking notes throughout the day. But it’s all because I am really trying to savor every last moment. Here are some pictures…

Spent:

€7 Lunch

€13 Albergue

€30 Dinner/Drinks

Total €50

Camino de Santiago Day 31

Saturday, May 7

Ponte Campaña to Os Penedos

28 km / 17 miles

We all slept in until 7:15 am. Not like me. But after yesterday, I’m just listening to the camino and letting go of control for a little.

I got two compliments this morning that felt nice. And told me I’m exactly on track, right where I’m supposed to be. The first was from Mimoon, a charismatic guy from Andorra. Through a rough translation from a friend, he said I’m like a small piece of bread, I’m cute, and my face is pure and he can tell I am a good person. And then a little bit into the walk, Graham shared how he was excited we were reunited and I radiate good energy. I really am where I need to be.

We made several stops throughout the day, for coffee twice, and then some beers. These people just get me. However, as the day got hotter, the heat began to take its toll. I was exhausted and tired and the sun was awful. We made it to our albergue around 5pm. I got myself a beer and a giant bag of chips and just laid in the hammock for a while. I didn’t even care to shower. I just needed to lay in the shade and decompress. Today was rough.

Dinner was amazing. It was pretty much just us, and two others. Mimoon from the night before also showed up as well as a Spanish gentleman. We enjoyed so many laughs and fun times; it was a dinner to remember. And Graham even made a cute speech saying goodbye to Chris’ friend Rhiannon. She flies back to Alicante tomorrow.

And of course, bedtime wouldn’t be complete without Martins lullaby! These small, special moments is what makes the camino so magical.

Spent:

€22 Lunch/Beer

€12 Albergue

€12 dinner

Total €46

Camino de Santiago Day 30

Friday, May 6

Portomarín to Ponte Compaña

29 km / 18 miles

Good morning! I think this was the first night I completely slept undisturbed. I went to bed around 9:30 pm and woke up at 6:30 am! I didn’t wake up once!

This morning was quite reflective for me.

Release the handbrake

⁃ after only knowing me for 20 minutes, a fellow pilgrim friend in León recognized some apprehension and my observant nature in new situations. She referred to me as always on the handbrake. And that I needed to let go. And I haven’t stopped thinking about that since.

Stop taking things personally

Stop caring what others think

Being alive… I need to just put myself out there.

⁃ before I left New York, I saw Company on Broadway. It’s a show about Bobbi, who has missed out on relationships, love, and life for various reasons. And I was surprised how much it resonated with me.

Struggling with loneliness this morning.

⁃ I’m trying to keep in mind that I am walking my own Camino and others are walking their own as well. Friends will come and go and I need to let that happen without being upset or sad.

Well. Since I’ve been experiencing all these emotions this morning, I decided I was going to get a bottle of wine, some meat and cheese, and relax on a hillside towards the end of the day.

BUT! After a few hours of hiking, I turned a corner, and ran into the other group! Chris, Kiva, Darrel, Graham, Elena, and Martin and Anja! So that’s what you get for planning your day out… the camino brings you right back to where you need to be! They ran to me, crowding me in hugs in the middle of the street. It was so sweet, everything I needed this morning. I can’t tell you how excited I was to see everyone and be reunited. Another group I didn’t think I’d see again! Thank you, Camino.

We enjoyed beers, meats, cheeses, and kalimocha (red wine and coke) at a few spots along the way. How nice it’s been to reunite with just about every person I met in the first two weeks of the camino. We stayed at a beautiful, rustic farmhouse called Casa Domingo. And some of my other Camino group stayed there two.

We relaxed all afternoon and had a big dinner with everyone: pumpkin and butternut squash soup. Salad. Paella! Beer and wine! And then after dinner,Martin brought out his guitar and played songs outside! We all cuddled up with each other as it got a bit chilly. But it was so so beautiful to sing and be all together. And then, as we all went to bed and the lights went out, Martin played us a bedtime lullaby! Some of the group had told me about this lullaby but I just didn’t understand it. Until his soft whisper blessed the dark room, explaining how he’d be playing us a lullaby that his dad always sang to him as a child called, “Close Your Eyes.” I can’t even begin to explain how moving and special it was. It was like he shared his soul with us. I thought I might cry. But instead, I slowly drifted to sleep.

Spent:

€5 Breakfast

€34 Dinner/Hostel

€10 Drinks

Total €49

Camino de Santiago Day 29

Thursday, May 5

Samos to Pontomarin

37 km / 23 miles

So I went to bed pretty early last night, around 8:30 pm. So naturally, I woke up early. 5 am to be exact. A great night’s sleep, albeit pretty cold in the stone-walled monastery. I enjoyed a few moments more of warm blankets before going to the bathroom and getting ready for the day. I left by 6:30 am, in the hazy cold, and set off for a long day.

The first 15 kilometers were through small towns; I’m talking a few buildings, most deserted, and maybe two people. In between towns were dirt roads through what seemed like rainforest, although I’m sure it was the early morning mist that made it feel this way. It was pretty eery, but still very beautiful.

I made it 15 kilometers to Sarria around 10 am, where I met up with Kevin and Nicholas! Today is Kevins birthday! They were staying in Sarria an extra night, as Kevin’s husband was flying in to begin his leg of the camino with them tomorrow. For me, just a brief birthday breakfast with them before continuing on another 22 kilometers to Portomarín. 15 kilometers and 10 am was just too short of a day.

Sarria is also the city where most people begin their Camino. In order to receive your Compostela in Santiago, you must have walked at least 100 km to Santiago. Sarria is just over 100 km, making it the perfect starting point for a lot of pilgrims, some who only want to do a small portion, or some with only a short amount of time. With that being said, a lot of people began their Camino today. It’s always easy to spot them because they’re taking pictures of yellow arrows, shells, signs, and things that I have seen thousands of already. It gave me a bit of anxiety, as now there are so many more people on trail. It feels weird that people are just starting while I’m on day 29 and 700 km in. I’m just trying to remind myself to stay kind and compassionate and that everyone walks their own camino.

I kept a good pace today, partly because I knew I had 37 km to cover, and partly to avoid the groups of new pilgrims. Maybe tomorrow I’ll make friends with them.

I passed that 100 km marker today! I’m under 100 km until Santiago. It feels awesome to have come so far but I think now I’m gonna start pumping the brakes. As much as my body wants this to end, I’m having such a great time meeting people from all over, sharing this bond, and waking up every day with only one thing to do: walk. I know I’m going to miss it.

I made it to Portomarín at 3 pm, after 8 hours of hiking. And as I entered town, I see two ladies I met in León having wine with Graham! When I say I screamed and squealed, I did. I thought Graham had been at least a day ahead with the others!

And just two bars down, I again screamed and squealed as I saw Greta, Ida, Christian, Adam, and Felix! I thought they were two days ahead! Oh my god, it felt so good to be reunited with old friends from the earlier stages of the camino. I didn’t think I’d see them again after my leg pain and rest days. It made my day to be reunited with them. And I know there’s another group of friends just a few towns further that I hope to run into the next (final) days!

I explored town just a bit, had some wine, went to the market, and made my favorite dinner… a bag of mixed greens, sardines, and packaged guacamole. Okay maybe not my favorite, but an easy, nutrient dense, healthy meal that doesn’t include bread, fatty meats, or cheese.

Spent:

€8 Breakfast

€9 Lunch

€8 Albergue

€8 Groceries/Dinner

Total €33

Camino de Santiago Day 28

Wednesday, May 4

OCebreiro to Samos

31 km / 19 miles

Hooray! I woke up not hungover.

I left OCebreiro at 7 am, with incredible views all around; low clouds hugged the mountains, only leaving their tips to jut out into the sky. And behind a distant mountain, the sun ever so slowly rose. The sky changed from dark blue to purple, link, then orange. It was one of the best sunrises so far.

Much of the morning was through winding roads in the mountains, thick clouds blanketing whatever was below. After a steep ascent, I was greeted with a restaurant that sat perched on the cliff with more amazing views. Some friends caught up and we all enjoyed breakfast together. Not going to lie, after that straight up climb up the mountain, my head began to throb. I guess I hadn’t escaped my hangover after all. Nothing a large coffee and Spanish tortilla couldn’t fix, though!

And as always, after a long climb comes the descent. In this case, it was the rest of the day to Samos. And again, it was so beautiful. Small towns dotted the trail down, separated by peaceful fields and wild flowers.

I made it into Samos around 3 pm, after 37 km (23 miles). Oof, a long day.

Fernando, Choi, and I all stayed in the Monasteria de San Julian. The grounds were so beautiful, with chickens roaming freely and a river running right through. And the monastery was so stunning, almost a palace as it was huge and regal. This is where we would be sleeping!?

Kind of. We followed the route around to the back, where we entered a high ceilinged long room, lined with bunk beds. It was made of stone, with some painted murals, but otherwise very minimal and freezing cold. Not quite like the majestic outside, but we were sleeping in the monastery nonetheless.

Spent:

€5 Breakfast

€3 Lunch

€6 Lunch

€8 Dinner/Groceries

€* Donativo

Total €22*

Camino de Santiago Day 27

Tuesday, May 3

Trabadelo to OCebreiro

18 km / 12 miles

Okay. So. I’ve made it 26 days with fairly decent sleep (given the circumstances), but last night was bad. There were 6 of us crammed into a tiny room, and 3 of those people were awful snorers. Like loud. I didn’t sleep great; I woke up twice in the night and had trouble falling back asleep amid the symphony of snores. But I did pass out early around 9, so I guess that made up for it.

I got out of bed at 6 am, made coffee and relaxed. Today is Fernando’s birthday, but he’s 10 km behind in Villafranca so I’m going to take it slow today so I can meet up with him! After an enjoyable morning, I left around 7 am!

I’m learning to trust the way. I always try to plan, days and days ahead. But I’m learning to just let the camino take control and enjoy the way.

And update: My body feels good. At the end of the day I might be sore and hurting and sometimes limping, but in the morning, I feel like new. I think it’s this new cream and spray painkiller I’ve been using. I massage them into my legs three times a day, and I haven’t been having nearly as much pain!

Another side note: Now that I’m not constantly worrying about pain with every single step, my mind is wandering quite a bit. I am 1000% having an incredible time, but there are a few things I am looking forward to post-Camino. First, wearing the same clothes every day, sometimes smelly or still wet, is taking a small toll. I certainly don’t feel cute or excited to out the same outfit on for the 27th morning in a row. And since I’m hand washing and air drying, nothing feels completely clean. And my hiking shoes are dirty, muddy, and so smelly. I am looking forward to wearing new and different shoes. And not be paranoid about if people can smell them or not. And I can’t wait for a haircut. Aside from that I really am so so happy out here.

The 6 km climb into OCebreiro was just incredible. Finally, a day with some challenging incline but rewarding views the entire way. It was just breathtaking being up in the mountains and seeing off into the far distant valleys, towns, and other mountains.

OCebreiro is a cute mountain town. Literally above the clouds. I made it into town around 2 pm, and Fernando and Choi mad e it in shortly after. We went to the local tiendo (store) for a lunch of wine, cheese, meat, and bread. And we stayed there until 9 pm. Drinking bottle after bottle of wine, joined by locals and fellow pilgrims just stopping by the store. I think everyone that joined throughout the day bought a bottle to drink. It was such a fun afternoon, relaxing and celebrating Fernando. We even sand happy birthday to him in 4 or 5 different languages. Definitely one of my favorite days on the Camino!

They were all still drinking by the time I left at 9. Fingers crossed I’m not to hungover tomorrow morning!

Spent:

€1.5 Coffee

€13 Fernando Birthday Cake

€10 Lunch

€ 8 Albergue

€ 15 Drinks/Snacks

Total €47.50

Camino de Santiago Day 26

Monday, May 2

Ponferrada to Trabadelo

34 km / 21 miles

Hellooo!

I woke up at 5:30 am this morning to pee, and decided to just start getting ready. At check-in yesterday, they told me they play music at 6 am to get everyone awake and moving, so I thought I’d beat the crowds for the 2 toilets and 2 sinks.

They ended up not playing music and I ended up waking the 3 other guys in my room while I was getting ready. Woops.

I left Ponferrada at 6:30 am, walked past the castle, nicely lit up in front of the still-dark blue sky. I followed the Camino along a river and through a public park, past an energy museum, and then through suburban neighborhoods. And of course, without fail, through fields and vineyards; the only difference now, all the vines were growing leaves and buds!

I stopped at multiple points today, just to breathe in the rolling hills, vineyards, and gentle warm breeze around me. “This is it,” I thought to myself. This is the simple beauty and peace I came here for. It is just so beautiful. Minus the power lines.

I passed through Villafranca del Buerzo, a cute town in the valley of the mountains with a river running through. There is a church of Santiago in Villafranca, the only other one besides the Cathedral of Santiago in Santiago, to offer pilgrims their Jubilee blessings if too sick or injured to continue on to Santiago.

Another 10 km along a busy highway and stage same rushing river, and I made it to Trabadelo. I was exhausted after a 34 km day, and my legs were hurting the last hour or so.

A few thoughts of the day:

I don’t want roots, I want wings

Forgiveness is your weapon.

Spent:

Breakfast €5

€5 Albergue

€8.50 Lunch

€5 Dinner

Total €23.50

Camino de Santiago Day 25

Sunday, May 1

Foncebadon to Ponferrada

28 km / 17 miles

6:30 wake up! I had an okay sleep, woke up a few times in the night to pee, and just could not fall back asleep right away.

Community breakfast began at 7 am and consisted of granola, fruit, yogurt, bread, and coffee. I left at 7:10, and set out on a big day, the pilgrims passageway of Cruz de Ferro.

I began hiking up through town just before sunrise. Looking back, bright pink colors illuminated the dark sky. I knew it was going to be better than the past few days of hazy sunrises already. I climbed a bit of a mountain to a bright red sun cresting over the distant mountains. If the universe was ever speaking to me, it was in this moment. I cried a bit, both at the beauty and the coming moments.

Cruz de Ferro, or Iron Cross, is an iconic moment along the Camino, being the highest point on trail at 1,504 meters, and sitting on top of a pile of left-behind stones. There are many myths of how and why the cross and stone pile came to be: to mark the way during snow and storms, to honor one’s deity (specifically Mercury, protector of travelers), or even bringing stones to help build churches along the way of St. James. But today, pilgrims bring a stone on their camino, usually from home, and leave it at Cruz de Ferro, symbolizing a release of one’s burdens, forgiveness, liberation from one’s past, gratitude, and a new beginning.

The stone I brought is particularly special. My mother passed away 12 years ago. She was the best human I’ve ever known and the best friend I’ve ever had. She was a special education school teacher and loved her job. After she passed, her school dedicated a tree to her memory, and a plaque commemorating her legacy, on the school’s front lawn. One day, a lawn mower chipped the plaque, and a piece of the stone plaque was cut off. My father passed it on to me.

Well, I brought that stone all the way from New York and along the first 585 km of the camino. I left it at Cruz de Ferro today.

gratitude. forgiveness. liberation. peace.

The journey onward was a bit surreal. I walked among beautiful nature atop the mountains, listening to the birds chirping, feeling the gentle breeze, admiring the pine forest and the different blue, purple, yellow, red flowers. Butterflies softly glided across the trail and bees buzzed between flowers. The views were breathtaking, a stark contrast from the cities, highways, and industrial areas I had been getting used to. The beautiful nature today so perfectly reflected the profoundness of Cruz de Ferro. The universe, and our loves ones, are always communicating with us, if only we open our hearts to it.

I descended 1,000 meters over the course of the next 20 kilometers. At some points, it was steep, and many points, loose rock and gravel. It definitely hurt the knees and the legs a lot going down. And required focus and care with each step. One wrong move and you could twist your ankle so easily. After a while, it was exhausting. Beautiful to descend the mountains and see Ponferrada in the distance. But it seemed so far away and it only got hotter as the day went on. And there was no shade.

I definitely got a bit cranky as the sun beat down me. But I just kept reminding myself of strength and gratitude.

I got to Ponferrada at 2 pm, after 7 hours of emotionally and physically hiking. I showered and relaxed. Bertina, my hysterical friend from the Netherlands, surprised me at the albergue. She has pain similar to what I have been experiencing, but worse it seems. Her left leg/foot is swollen and shes decided she can’t continue her camino. So she’s leaving tomorrow for El Coruña, beach town just north of Santiago, in the final days of her vacation. I was so sad to hear, but true to Bertina, her spirits were up, and she was still smiling and laughing.

I explored the Ponferrada castle, which was cool. But I could not take any more walking or sun. I enjoyed what I could, but got back to the albergue to relax and have dinner… a mod podge of what I found at the only open market (almost everything is closed on Sundays in Spain). But it was delicious.

Fun fact: I’ve now walked over 1 million steps in 28 days on the camino!

Spent:

€5 Donativo

€11 Groceries

€4 Castle

Total €20

Camino de Santiago Day 24

Saturday, April 30

Astorga to Foncebadon

26 km / 16 miles

I navigated my way out of Astorga in the early morning, around 6:30am. I love walking through empty cities at this hour; there’s something mysterical and magical being awake before the city.

It was a steady climb out of town on a dirt path. The sunrise was less than a spectacular, covered in a thick haze. It was literally a white ball of light, no color in the sky at all. I enjoyed breakfast maybe two hours in with Darrel! He’s struggling a bit too with the same leg pain. Geez. Everyone has this leg/muscle strain on the camino. I have to say, mine has improved quite a bit. Yesterday, a friend recommended a pain killer “spray” and massaging it into the legs. Which I did. And to my surprise this morning, I felt good.

On the boring, monotonous parts of the trail, I try to focus my intentions for the day and for my camino. Some of those have included:

Less anxiety

Being present

Slowing down

Saying yes

Heart open

Radiating sunshine from my heart center

Well today, I passed a little stone with a message that read:

“But if you travel far enough, one day you will recognize yourself coming down to meet yourself. And you will say yes.” Marion Woodman

Wow. If that isn’t the universe telling me I’m exactly where I should be.

I had lunch in a small town before Foncebadon with Choi and Fernando. Fernando surprised us with a few beers. The sun was shining, we only had an hour to go, why not?

There was a bit of an incline into town, up into a pine forest, hiking on cracked shale and loose rocks. We were surrounded by beautiful purple, yellow, blue, and orange flowers.

We made it to Foncebadon around 1. It was a cute mountaintop town, with beautiful views. I showered and enjoyed some drinks in town. All around good vibes; maybe it was the music that flowed onto the streets, or the many dogs that ran around, basking in the sun, or maybe the two pride flags in town blowing high in the wind. Whatever it was, a few glasses of wine and local cider made it even better.

Spent:

€22 Albergue/Dinner/Breakfast

€8 Drinks

Total €30

Camino de Santiago Day 23

Friday, April 29

Villavante to Astorga

22.6 km / 14 miles

6 am alarm today!

When I wake up, the first thing I do is take inventory of my body. Are my legs better? Are my feet throbbing? Are they even still attached? I slowly bend them up and down to see. Sometimes pleasantly surprised, other times disappointed that yesterday icing efforts did not help.

Today everything felt good, perhaps because I iced my legs for an hour yesterday and slept with my legs and feet elevated on two blankets.

Okay never mind. 15 minutes in to my walk today and my left leg began hurting again. Luckily, I sent my backpack forward and hoped for a little relief and healing since it was a shorter day, only 23 km.

It was a hazy morning. Usually, I climb a hill or look back at the town I just left, only to witness a beautifully peaceful sunrise, illuminating the farms, villages, and sky. But today, just a layer of haze and a fuzzy white sun. I suppose that’s because the beginning of today was through a less than exciting industrial area. It even smelt awful. But once I passed through Villares de Orbigo, I returned to a hill dirt road through fields. The hills were nice actually, adding a bit of variety to the day. And I might regret saying this, but I loved the inclines; my legs felt good going uphill for some reason.

I love passing people along the way. Most of the time I overhear them comparing injuries, what hurts, what helps. It’s usually the same pain in their leg (also the left) that I have. Im not sure why that is or if it makes me feel better, but I guess injuries are extremely common among pilgrims walking 800+ kilometers.

Maybe 16 km in, there was an awesome rest area, with coffees, teas, fruits, breads. It was all for pilgrims, and donation-based, providing a cute midday refuge to rest and refuel.

I arrived to Astorga around 12:30pm. After checking in, I explored the Astorga Chocolate Museum, since Astorga is famous for its introduction of chocolate to Europe and its influence over the trade routes. And they even provided a little local chocolate tasting at the end. Yum!

After that, I explored town some more, walking through lively plazas and alleys, and visiting the Palace of Gaudi. Originally designed for the bishop, it is now a beautiful museum and one of Gaudi’s only architectural masterpieces outside of Catalina. I was able to visit another in León.

Spent:

€3.5 Breakfast

€6 Lunch

€7 Albergue

€11 Pain Spray

€10 Groceries

€1.5 Wine

Total €39

Camino de Santiago Day 22

Thursday, April 28

León to Villavante

31 km / 19 Miles

Good morning from a noisy albergue in León. From maybe 5 am on, there was been a lot of rustling in the dark, talking, and packing backpacks. But I wanted to get an early start today, so I guess it’s fine. I’m just surprised sometimes at how disrespectful and loud people can be.

After one rest day in León, my leg still hurt. But I walked slowly and carefully today. I navigated my way through León, departing around 7 am. Leaving cities is always a challenge; there are so many side streets and alleys and arrows are so small and hard to find. It is very easy to get lost.

I met Sara this morning on my way out. She is from England, now living in Ireland. Today is her first day as she is continuing her Camino from a few years ago, this time from León to Sarria. I helped guide her along, pointing out arrows and shells. We shared laughs and stories and had a nice morning despite lackluster highways and industrial areas outside the city.

The Camino then took us through rolling hills and farms (shocking, I know) the rest of the day. A lot of the pilgrims I meet have similar leg/foot problems; I’m not sure if that is comforting or not. But I pushed on, 31 km (19 miles) to Villavante. I wanted to get some extra miles in today, as tomorrow is going to be 75• and sunny and I want to avoid the heat. Today was a beautiful 67 and sunny and I still got super hot at times, as there is no shade in many parts. So I wanted to make tomorrow as short as possible so as not to suffer in the hot sun.

Villavante has almost nothing. There are a homes but one meat store and one albergue, nothing else. So I did some laundry, iced my foot, and relaxed for a bit. (Side note: I can’t wait to properly wash my laundry. I’ve been doing it by hand in a sink with Dr. Bronners or individual detergent packets, and it is not fun nor fully effective. There are some laundry machines along the way but they cost money and I get everything dirty and sweaty the next day hiking anyway. Once I’m finished, everything’s getting a proper wash.) Otherwise, it was a fairly uneventful evening, as it was a small town and there were a few others along the way where I’m assuming most other pilgrims stayed.

Spent:

€3 Breakfast (Tortilla & Coffee)

€10 Albergue

€12 Dinner

Total €25

Camino de Santiago Day 21

Wednesday, April 27

León Rest Day

Finally. A rest day. I slept in today, in a proper bed with sheets and blankets. I could hear my friends packing their backpacks for the day and head out around 8 am. But I went right back to sleep. Finally, a relaxing, peaceful morning.

I got up around 9 am and make my way straight for the Air BnB’s espresso machine. And I immediately took it right back to bed, laid under my blankets, and iced my legs a bit. How great it felt to relax in the morning, and not have to scramble to pack my bag in the dark in a 40+ person albergue. I leisurely showered and checked out of the Air Bnb around 10, only to check into tonight’s albergue at 11.

I stopped by a local farmers market and then explored the city a bit more. I toured the incredible León Cathedral, which was even more impressive in the interior than it’s incredible exterior: Towering columns and cross-hatched ceilings, amazing stone work, and breathtaking stained glass. I’m not one to tour every church along the way, but this one was particularly impressive. I also visited the MUSAC, the Museo de Arte Contemporario, where I ran into Fernando! He’s becoming my Camino bestie.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a day in Spain without wine and tapas. Fernando and I headed back to towards the center of León, where alleys and plazas were lined with tapas bars. With every drink you order, they serve you tapas bites. I love it. We bounced around, bar to bar, plaza to plaza, until we ended up at the Plaza del Graño right outside our hostel. We met a Spanish couple who were walking the Camino as their honeymoon. They were so fun and full of life. We shared many limonadas with them under the hot sun. It was actually so hot, we took a dip in the plaza fountain. Things got a little crazy, those limonadas get you! There’s a chance the León police showed up, but if they did, no one got arrested or anything. 😅

It was a wonderful “rest” day with not as much rest as I would’ve liked. But León is such an amazing city and I’m glad I stayed an extra day to explore and enjoy.

Spent:

€7 Cathedral

€3 Museum

€10 Food/Drink

€8 Groceries

Total €28

Camino de Santiago Day 20

Tuesday, April 26

Mansillas de Los Mulas to León!

18 km / 12 miles

Okay last night was the first night in the Camino that I slept terribly. Not bad for 20 days in though! The bunk beds were shaky and noisy, there were maybe 40 people in one room, definitely some snorers, no thin sheets in the mattresses, and I just couldn’t get comfortable. And the guy below me also had a hard time sleeping because I could feel him tossing and turning throughout the night. Oh well, that’s the Camino for you.

I left Mansillas de Los Mulas around 7:30 with Fernando and L, but they quickly took off ahead. My left leg is hurting again (no surprise there after the past two long days), so I took it super slow. And my slow pace allowed me to meet Patrick and Joan from Utah, USA, who were just a lovely retired couple on their second camino. We had a lovely conversation and start to our day together. They certainly had some amazing stories to share, including personally defending a case to the US Supreme Court.

In the next town, I met up with some friends for breakfast: Christian (LA, USA), L (Korea), Fernando (Madrid), Nadja (Denmark). We enjoyed chorizo tortillas and coffees. 🙂

All of these small towns smell of campfires and I love it; it reminds me of my travels in Thailand and Cambodia. It gives the vibe of a small, local town with rustic, simple appeal. I don’t know. I just love the smell.

I made it to León around 12 noon. My leg hurt most of the day, but we all saw that coming, didn’t we? As I couldn’t check into our Air Bnb until 1, I found a small bar and relaxed for a bit. León has tons of plazas and alleys lined with bars. I love it; it makes for a lively fun energy.

After we checked into our Air BnB, I met up with Express Bouricot to send extra weight that I didn’t need ahead to Santiago! I’m hoping a lighter pack will help with my leg issues.

And the rest of the day, I spent bouncing around León, having drinks and sharing good times with my Camino friends. My favorite part about León is that every time you order a drink, they serve you a light tapas. So essentially free delicious food with every drink wherever you go!

And I’m spending a rest day here tomorrow too, so we are going out on the town tonight!

Spent:

€3 Breakfast

€20 Express Bouricot

€10 Lunch

€10 Air BnB

€17 Dinner/Drinks

Total €60

Camino de Santiago Day 19

Monday, April 25

Sahagún to El Burgo Rañero

Jk Mansillas de Los Mulas

18 km / 12 miles 37 km / 23 miles

My body woke me up today, needing to pee thinking it was still the middle of the night. And then a minute later, at 6:30, my alarm went off. My body has officially adjusted to Camino time and early mornings. We had a lovely communal breakfast with fellow pilgrims: bread, jam, cheese, meat, fruit, and lots of coffee.

I decided last night on a shorter day today, 18 km / 12 miles to El Burgo Rañero. And just to be safe, I sent my bag there too. Yesterday was insanely long, almost 40 km, and I thought a shorter day would do me good.

Well. Maybe not.

Leaving town at 8, I passed a cool sculpture, marking Shagún as the center of the Camino, the halfway mark!

Today was a flat, long road. Easy terrain. So easy that I made it to El Burgo Rañero at 11:30, just 3 and a half hours of walking. You know what comes next right?

I picked up my bag from the albergue I was planning to stay at, had a quick bite to eat (pulpo/octopus and potatoes!) and of course, kept walking. My body felt good, with the normal foot pains of course, so I hiked on!

I spent a good bit of time waking with Cornelia from Germany, who was out here for 3 weeks. She has two kids, one of which is her daughter who will meet her in Santiago upon her arrival, and 4 grandchildren! We had great conversation until I needed a break to rest, and she powered on!

The meseta is the high plains of Spain, often notorious in the Camino. It’s been a few days of a never-ending, straight on path. Every ten feet is perfectly planted tree and nothing but fields all around. For us this spring, it is nice; but in the popular summer months on the Camino, the heat is brutal and there is zero shade. So as boring as the meseta can be for us, I can imagine how much worse it is in the summer.

I made it 13 km more (8 miles) to Reliegos, where I thought I would definitely stop for the day. But of course, we all know what happens now. My body still felt alright, it was only 3 pm, and I had some friends in the next town just 6 km (4 miles) away. So, true to my stubborn self, I kept on. My legs felt okay, as long as I kept a slower pace. But my feet hurt and I began chaffing pretty badly. But as long as my legs were okay, I was happy. And after another hour and a half, totaling 8 and a half hours for the day, I made it 37 km (23 miles) to Mansilla de Las Mulas, a town I swore multiple times I would not even attempt to get to today. That’s 76 km (47 miles) in two days. Coming off an injury. I’m dumb. But again, I feel good, I feel strong. And also dumb.

But the best part, I caught up with friends from the beginning of the Camino that I thought I’d never see again! After literally and figuratively catching up and having dinner, it’s time to relax, ice, and rest. And wine. Leon tomorrow! Good night!

Spent:

€5 Backpack

€1 Breakfast

€3 Pulpo and Potato

€10 albergue

€10 Groceries/Dinner

Total € 29

Camino de Santiago Day 18

Sunday, April 24

Carrión de Los Condes to Sahagún

39 km / 25 miles

Wow. What a difference a private room can make; I feel rejuvenated after a relaxing evening. A long, hot shower, blankets and bedding on a non-bunk bed, and just my own space and privacy to be with myself. I am ready for a new day! Except for my very first blister. Noooo!

I left Carrión de Los Condes at 7 am after arranging for my backpack to be sent ahead 26 km (16 miles) to Terradillos de Los Templarios. I made my way out of town and onto a dirt path through farms and fields. What I didn’t know is that I would be on this same straight, never-ending path for most of the day. It was a beautiful day, contrary to yesterday, so I could appreciate the sunshine, blue sky, and green fields. In the northern distance, I could see the Cantabrian Mountains, huge peaks covered in snow, probably fresh from the past few days of storms.

I did surprisingly well today. I made it 26.6 km (16.5 miles) to my destination, Terradillos de Los Templarios by 12:30, only a four and a half hour day. And I felt good. I went to the albergue where I had my backpack shipped. I stared at it. And I decided to keep going. The next town was only 3 km away, and I knew I had to get used to carrying my pack again anyway. I know it’s too heavy (I’m going to send things ahead to Santiago once I get to León), but I thought a few kilometers should be fine.

Well. I made it to the next town, Moratinos (3 km/2 miles). I had a delicious bocadilla (sandwich) and got a cool wax stamp for my credentials. And then I just got up, put my backpack on, and kept walking. This time I made it another 2.5 km (1.5 miles) to San Nicolás del Real Camino. And I still felt good. And I guess the town wasn’t too interesting because I just kept walking. Fernando was with me for a bit of this and we had nice conversation. And we made it another 7 km (4.3 miles) to Sahagún.

I don’t know if you’ve been able to follow along, so I’ll help you out. I pushed myself to walk nearly 40 km (25 miles) over the course of 9 hours. I know I’m still recovering, but my body felt strong and the beautiful sunny weather made for a perfect day to enjoy, especially after the past 4 days in the cold rain.

Fernando and I got in around 4:30, checked in at Albergue de Santa Cruz for €6 a night, and walked around town just a bit (I know, the last thing I want to do or should do is walk more once we get to town). We are officially halfway to Santiago!!!

I am definitely going to sleep well tonight. And hope my body doesn’t hate me too much tomorrow morning. But at least I’m proud of myself for crushing 40 km!

Spent:

€5 Backpack Transport

€2 Coffee

€5.5 Bocadilla

€6 Albergue

€9 Groceries

Total €27.5

Camino de Santiago Day 17

Saturday, April 23

Boadilla del Camino to Carrión de Los Condes

29 km / 18 miles

Ooof.

Okay. Today was a really rough one. Like the hardest day yet.

I woke up at 6:30, legs feeling good. I’m always apprehensive about that though, because I never know if 10 minutes in, they start to hurt again. And it only gets worse after that. But I set off at 7:30, fully decked in my “rain gear” as there was 100% chance of rain today. I ambitiously sent my backpack to Carrión de Los Condes, 29 km/18 miles away, knowing that I could always take a bus/taxi if I absolutely had to. But in the back of my mind, that wasn’t really an option. I would get there.

Well. An hour into the day, it began raining. Light, gentle sprinkles. Nice ambience as I walked along a cute canal. Then as I passed through Fromista, a bit more rain. Not as cute. There were also significantly more pilgrims on the road today than I’ve been used to seeing. Maybe a late start. Maybe because I stopped a town early yesterday.

The camino followed a main highway most of the way there, also on a steady incline. And it seemed the further along I went, the windier and rainier and colder it got. Until it literally could not get worse. I’m talking low 40 degree weather, then factor in 28+ mph winds (nearly knocking me over), and then factor in ice cold rain. I mean, it literally was painful every time the rain hit my face. Turns out none of my “rain gear” is waterproof. Simply, water “resistant.” There’s a difference. My pants clung to me, sunctioned to my ice cold legs with each rain drop. My hands froze, exposed to the rain and icy air. And the wind just made it all comical. Alone, I was serious, convincing myself everything would be fine and I’d be there soon. But everytime I passed someone or someone passed me, I laughed “Buen Camino.” What else could we do? Rain or shine, we were there to walk. As tough and miserable as it was, it was also hysterical: here I am, Michael, walking 19 miles across Spain for an adventure, freezing in the pouring rain and wind. Gratitude.

After what seemed like forever along the stretch of highway, and some mild pain in my feet, I desperately made it into Carrión de Los Condes around 1 pm. I forwent the usual albergue hunt and went straight for the nearest hotel/hostel sign I could find. Hostel La Corte’s at the towns entrance. I went inside, and desperately asked for a single room. €40 later, way more than I’d want to spend on a single night of the camino, I had my own private room, full bed with sheets and pillows, and most importantly, a steaming hot shower to myself. Today, this was much deserved and much needed. And on that note, I’m signing off and enjoying my luxurious evening.

I feel like I have frostbite.

€5 Backpack

€5.4 Breakfast

€40 Room

€11 Dinner

Total €61.4

Camino de Santiago Day 16

Friday, April 22

Castrojeriz to… Boadilla del Camino

20 km / 13 miles

I woke up at 6 am today. Our albergue provided coffee and bread for a light breakfast before I set off at 7 am. Today, I carried my backpack for the first time in two days. And there was also rain in the forecast. Yay.

It was another beautiful sunrise as I left the town. And of course, right out of town, I began my ascent up the meseta, to beautiful views of Castrojeriz below. Fernando caught up with me and we began to walk towards Fromista. Rain began around 9 am and I slowed down a bit; my leg began to hurt again. I carefully and slowly trudged on, as Fernando went ahead. Between my leg pain coming back and the cold rain, my spirits began to sink. I always try to remind myself to be grateful when I get down, but today was hard.

The more I hurt, the more I knew I would not make it to Fromista. I limped into the nearest town, Boadilla del Camino, maybe 5 km before Fromista. Today, I totaled 20 km (13 miles). I think my backpack really made things worse. I still need to rest and take it as easy as I can so that I can recover. I spent the rest of the day icing and elevating my leg. And hoping I wake up tomorrow better. I have all the time in the world to finish my Camino but it’s hard to stay put, watching my friends hike on. It’s possible I will not see them again.

Camino de Santiago Day 15

Thursday, April 21

Hornillos to Castrojeriz

20.5 km / 13 miles

Okay. Good morning. I went to sleep with every intent to bus back to Burgos to see a physiotherapist and get some medication. BUT. I got out of bed, walked around, and didn’t really feel any irritation. After a few more laps around the room, I felt a bit more comfortable and confident. I decided to attempt today’s 20 km / 12 miles, but send my pack forward. So I didn’t have any added weight, but I was forced to make it the 20 km to Castrojeriz, where my bag would await me. And a special thank you to Fernando for staying with me yesterday to make sure I was okay!

I walked the meseta slowly and carefully. Any slip, rock, or hole could be enough to cause pain in my already fragile left leg. But after 4 hours, I made it to Castrojeriz at 12:15 without much pain at all besides the expected foot pain.

Remains of an old pilgrim albergue.
Castrojeriz in the distance.
Lunch.

Fernando and I hung out at the municipal albergue before roaming town a tiny bit. We visited the “Casa Del Silencio,” a dark house lit with various candles, each room with abstract art, nature, and chill ambience. It was a great place to relax and reflect for a while.

I had a pizza for dinner and went to bed around 9 for a 25 km day tomorrow, where I’ll be trying to carry my backpack again.

Fernando, an angel for staying with me. 🙏🏼

€14 Groceries

€5 Backpack Service

€11.5 Dinner

€7 Albergue

Total €37.50