May 31, 2011 Calzadilla de la Cuesa to Calzadilla de los Hermanillos

After breakfast walked in wet boots with Andreas, Catia, Bea, Alexandre (Brazil), to Sahagun. Many long conversations with Be a and Catia, learning about their lives. Catia has finished university and is waiting to start her student teaching. Be a is a sole dental assistant in a 2 dentist practice. Arrived Sahagun and left Andreas, Bea and Catia at the Cluny albergue. Walked on after cervesas with Sebastian to Calzada de Coto, then the extra kilometers along a deserted Roman road (alternative road) to Calzadilla de los Hermanillos. Stopped to enjoy some Cilantro with Sebastian at a rest area just shy of town. Saw Martin in town.

Dinner with a large group, including: Americans (Paulette and me), German (Sebastian), Russian, Sweed, English (Martin), New Zealand (Mervyn and Sheryl) Slept in cubicles of 4 with Sebastian and two French women.

May 30, 2011 Villacarzal de Sirga to Calzadilla de la Cueza

Was late getting up and didn’t meet Sebastian until 07:15ish. Walked with him to Carrion where met Andreas of Finland and Martin of UK. Walked long road from Carrion while singing national anthems of our countries. Sebastian was not proud to sing the German national anthem, but was talked into it then was silent for a time afterward. Stopped at rest area and put in custom insoles to new boots from Burgos. Walked, then stopped at 2nd rest area for lunch. Saw storm developing in distance and decided to risk walking. Rain/hail followed and all were drenched. Stopped at Calzadilla de los Cuesas at albergue with pool and enjoyed splashing/diving into pool with Nick, Case of Netherlands, and Andreas. Nick was here, along with Germans Bea and Catia, friends of Andreas.

Scene right now: backyard of albergue. Shined and shaved Sebastian checking laundry to see if dried on clothesline. Nick giving massage to Be a on grass. Koreans at table to themselves talking. Case reading. Andreas writing in diary. Korean clipping toenails. Spanish woman talking loudly on cell phone with feet in pool. Hospitalera playing Abba’s “Dancing Queen” endlessly. I’m starving, waiting for Menu del Peregrino at local bar. Sun is now shining. beautiful day on the camino.

May 29, 2011 Itero de la Vega to Villalcazar de Sirga

On the road to Villalcazar de Sirga

Last night’s stay was extraordinary. This is where I would return to be a hospitalero. I enjoyed David and the other hospitaleros and clearly they had had a good time too in their volunteer week. I was sad to leave the albergue in the morning, but it was a beautiful day.

Left alone, but soon joined Cloud, Tom and Alish. Had long, childlike discussions about favorite movies, etc. Left them just before Boadillo then was rejoined by them at Fromista. Church at Fromista once again closed so could not see inside. From outside it is a treasure.

Left Fromista alone and stayed that way through the end to Villalcazar de Sirga. Took the send route next to the road, so no real joy in it, except that I was eating up miles. Arrived at Villalcazar about 16:40 and immediately saw Sebastian! Joyful reunion and we began catching up as I unpacked my things at my bunk. Agreed to meet for dinner at 18:00. Showered and entered journal notes. Had Menu del Peregrino at restaurant, then a leg massage by German Nick, with whom I’d walked out of Boadilla. Very comfy and relaxing. He’s a rough/tough guy, but that made the massage all the better. Sebastian doesn’t like Nick much, but each on his own is a fun companion.

Would learn later that these two Germans were Bea (in the sculpture) and Catia (taking photo)

May 28, 2011 Rabe de las Calzadas to Itero de la Vega

Left Rabe at 06:45 after toast breakfast and walked nonstop to Hornillos del Camino. Met Luke and girls there as well as Philippe and Roberto. Happy reunion! Left Hornillos with rumors that Rocky had been there also that night. Luke and the girls heard she’d been there but hadn’t seen her.

Walked from Hornillos to Hontanas with Lila and had a great talk. Nonstop talk and lots of laughter.

Arrived Hontanas and enjoyed lunch with Luke, Lila, Gal and three Germans. Nick, David, and Lucas. Decided it was time to strike out on my own without Luke and crowd, so left with plan to overnight at Castrojeriz. Arrived hot and tired there. Passed first albergue at beginning of town because didn’t like its looks. Discovered next 2 albergues were completo. Decided to strike out for next village, 10 kms away, but stupidly did not buy water before I left town. I realized the next hill is huge and I began to hope that there was a lot of water in my camelbak. Sign said the climb was 1050 meters and it felt like it. At top of hill a group of Italian bikers was resting and they gave me water after I asked, with much kindness. Kept walking and saw that after hill was a desolate stretch of at least 10 km. Continued walking without shade and without water. Bikers passed me just as I spotted the fuente and asked if I was ok. Very nice. Stopped at the fuente for +/- 20 minutes to air out socks and rest my feet and drink drink drink.

Arrived at San Nicolas de Puentetitero (Hospital de Pelegrinos) and was turned away by the hospitalero. I must’ve looked very downcast as in a few minutes he told me I could stay! Said I could sleep on mat on floor — which was just fine — and sent me to the showers to give me time to get ready for dinner. Had a foot washing ceremony followed by a lovely dinner and wine drinking contest and grand/funny Italian toast. Met 3 French women: Claire, Flora and Cecile. Also Finnish woman with excellent French and English named Sukkar. Very quiet setting on quiet side of river from Itero de la Vega. Cloud and Tom here along with Michelle and Robert. Very satisfying meal and general “feel” of albergue. Everyone is happy and satisfied. The pilgrim hospital (albergue) is small and quaint. A beautiful camino experience for all the normal reasons, plus the general ambience that is about joy, faith, and love. This all felt more genuine as they had relented from sending me away!

As David the hospitalero left he put me in charge of the albergue. If a pilgrim comes along I am to let him/her in. The door is never locked, David says, and breakfast is at 06:30. Long walk of 38 kms today, but ended in joy.

May 27, 2011 Burgos to Rabe de las Calzadas


Nave of Burgos cathedral.

Short day. Stayed at Burgos to enjoy cathedral tour along with Monique. Spectacular. Definitely on eof the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen. Left town about noon and walked 10 km to Rabe de las Calzadas. Stayed at lovely albergue along with Merila, Natalie, Susan and Monique. Great dinner of tortilla and good conversation. Getting the feeling afterward that Susan and Natalie no longer approve of me. Agree with Monique that I will go on ahead as I walked quite a bit faster.

May 26, 2011 Atapuerca to Burgos

Had dinner last night with Natalie and Susan of Spokane and Matlan of Costa Rica. Great conversation. Natalie is a pancreatic cancer survivor and a fun lady. Talked lots about Luke and girls.

Left albergue at 06:15 after very hot night in top bunk. Walked uphill after Atapuerca and attacked by mosquitoes at cross atop hill. Then walked downhill to many small farming suburb/villages before taking the righthand option at the airport. Bad choice. Ten km of desolation and trucks. Never saw a plan take off or land by the airport I walked next to for an hour.

Arrived at Meson del Cid hotel at almost exactly same time as Michelle and Robert, who had taken the left option into Burgos. They declared their walk “tres jolie,” a reminder that I’d chosen the wrong path. In Burgos by 11:30 so walked around to shops looking for boots. Went via taxi to the Decathlon store. Huge disappointment as carried only discount Spanish brands. Saw Cloud and Tom and Alish at McDonald’s adjacent to store. They told me about the bus back to Burgos. Met up with Luke, Gal, Lila and Swiss Monique for pizza dinner — couldn’t find anything else that was vegetarian. Luke wants to walk with the girls until the last moment, rather than heading to Barcelona. Am thinking that’s ok, except leaves me with only options of hanging with Rocky or being alone. Will have to think that through. Most likely option is for me to begin 30+ km days and get to Santiago quickly so can do other things afterward, including Barcelona.

Night at Meson del Cid, planned to see cathedral in morning with Monique, then short walking day.

May 25, 2011 Tosantos to Atapuerca

Slept to 07:00, then breakfast of toast and cafe con leche at albergue’s comedor. Walked quickly to following towns and dodged trucks at Villafranca del Montes de Oca. Enjoyed the exercise of climb up to top of Montes de Oca, then the hot sun and endless forest became tedious. Finally came to San Juan de Ortega. Sheila of SF was behind me and looked for chair for her. Tried to borrow extra chair from solitary man and he said, “no.” Must’ve been angry because my immediate response was not nice. He must’ve understood English slang — I could see it in his face. Immediately felt guilty and began to examine my state of mind.

Then off to Ages and finally Atapuerca. I had entertained the idea of walking directly to Burgos, but was drained after a day in the sun. A cervesa at the bar followed by shower and washing of clothes at private albergue.

Had photo taken by French couple from Tosantos — Michelle and Robert of Limoges. They are very nice, but somehow my French fails when I talk to them. They have no English but many smiles and they enjoyed the chapel service last night at Tosantos very much.

Sitting now at shady portion of albergue yard, listening to birds and to pilgrims talking in Spanish. Hospitalera sitting near, reading Hape Kerkeling in Spanish. Next big task: eating a (hopefully) huge dinner.

May 24, 2011, Santo Domingo to Tosantos

Left hotel at 07:00 to meet Monique and stopped with her at cafe then ATM. Walked to Granon, then on to Redecilla, Viloria and Villamayhor where said goodbye to Monique, only to see her again when catching email at Belorado. Would learn later that Rocky was in Belorado at the same time, but didn’t see her as I passed through town. Quick walk to Tosantos in blazing sun to see albergue there just as I left it in 2008. Laundry, shower, and journal writing. Very tired after cervesa and olives at local bar. Looking for good place to lay down, but sun is hot and yard is rough.

Had a nice few Spanish moment with hospitalero here, who was eating lunch when I arrived. Told him this was my second camino, that I was a Methodist priest and that I had returned in order to revisit the albergue.

Just finished cooking in the albergue while singing Taize songs with the hospitalero. Very fun, but everyone though we were totally weird. Dinner as  a group with many languages (all fast). Chapel afterward and hospitalero asked me to do a benediction.

May 23, 2011 Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Text from Luke saying he would meet me in Santo Domingo because he needs $s. Had warm croissant for breakfast and went to look for shoe repair for my boot soles to see if that might help my toe blister. Should buy sewing kit to thread my toe blister to help it dry out. Will have a very quiet day.

Met Renee at cafe near cathedral and had a talk, but her “high ‘I'” introvert meant she had little to share in return. A little frustrated that it was hard to draw her out. One thing I determined was that I would adjust to spend a little more time in solitude myself. Renee has clearly benefitted from more time alone.

My boots are an obstacle now, with wear on the outboard portion of each foot. This is pushing especially the toes of my right foot into the boot, causing the large blister. I had bought these boots in Burgos in 2008 and they already had 500 miles not hem. I will shop for new boots in Burgos again this year.

Over the last 24 hours have been thinking about drop-in program Sheila described at St. Boniface church in SF. People come to church from 06:30, have opportunity just to hang out. Mass at noon, then church closes for the day. They have 2 staffers during this time and 2 volunteers each day M-F. The idea of having the FH at our church used in this way is appealing. Could have nursing staff and case managers and visits from human service agencies for services. Perhaps mats on the floor for day rest for people?

Sitting in bar at Santo Domingo waiting for Luke I met Ann of South Africa. She showed pictures, told of her children and grandchildren and described her branch of Christnity start by Rudolph Steiner. Focus is on mysteries that have been suppressed by the church over the centuries, especially Holy Grail, etc. She also shared story of working with Winne Mandela in preparation of house for Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. She was wearing apron, serving Winnie at Soweto the day he came home after his release from prison. She noted how white woman was serving a black family. Also told story of her struggling farm and desire for God to help in midst of her lawsuit.

There is a lot to be learned from just sitting by the side of the road and hearing stories of pilgrims.

Wen to get some vaseline, came back and who should be there but Monique. Returned to the cafe/bar and had long conversation with her. Then got credentials and toured the church ,museum, and tower. Got phone call from Luke that he was in town at the albergue so arranged rendezvous at 20:00 with him, the girls, and Monique and others. Long dinner at restaurant on main drag and recited history of Israel with Gal and Lila. Monique was sleeping in their room at the albergue, so I deposited them all at the door of the albergue at 22:00 then off to Parador for a quiet night with Rocky.

May 22, 2011 Azofra to Santo Domingo

The landscape that became a painting that became a landscape.

Slept in late at Sebastian’s request and met Jahn at door of albergue at 09:00. Had a lovely, long talk with Jahn and Sebastian all the way to Ciruena. Met Kim and Janey just before Ciruena at a rest stop atop a large hill. Janey had bought new boots in Logrono and was now much happier with her camino.

Arrived Ciruena at 10:55 to sound of church bells so let Jahn and Sebastian and spent next 1/2 hour at simple mass in parish church. Exuberant singing from female congregants in front. Group of 10 seemingly Spanish men sat silently in rear of church. Many “Buen caminos” to me on the way out. Bar for tortilla and cafe con leche then on to Santo Domingo.

Outside Ciruena found camino landscape from my painting efforts. Too several photos and realized I had the unusual experience of walking through a painting. On way out of valley realized that Sheila was ahead and slowly caught up to her. Had nice conversation about church and singing. Had realized that “Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore” had been sung as closing song at mass. Sheila explained this was an important song in her spiritual development. “While smiling have spoken my name…” was key line for her.

Arrived Santo Domingo de la Calzada to see a smiling Sebastian and find Rocky waiting for me at the Parador. Nice room overlooking a small courtyard. Excellent bathroom. Scheduled for dinner at 18:00. Mass in cathedral at 20:00. Sitting under cloudy skies in modern main street. Weather cool.

Realizing now that there are reveal approaches to spirituality on the camino:

  • Ordeal — struggle through aches/pains and blisters to cover difficult miles to completion
  • Sacrament — the way is full of natural beauty
  • Community — the highlight is other people. They are precious and conversation is most important
  • Religion — going to mass, viewing churches
  • Cultural/Language — the joy of immersing oneself in a different people
  • Exercise — “Hey, look how tough I am. I did 37 km today”
  • Adventure — What is over the next hill? What amazing things will I see?

Sat at table on camino and enjoyed passing parade of pilgrims. Some new faces: Guido of Italy; Carmen of Slovenia, Odd of France. Dinner at restaurant off small square with Rocky, Sheila, Janey, Kim, Joanne, Sebastian. After dinner decided to rest my blister with one more night at the Parador so said goodbye to Sebastian and Jahn at door of cathedral.