June 9, 2011 Villafranca del Bierzo to O Cebreiro

Up at 07:00 for 07:30 breakfast at hotel. Felt weird to be a relatively ragged pilgrim in the midst of beautiful Spanish businessmen and businesswomen who are nicely dressed for a day’s work. My dirty clothes from yesterday have been transformed into nice-smelling, machine-washed laundry.

Out the door at 8:30 and up long hill to O Cebreiro. Decided that since I’d done the Camino Duro (the upper path above the road out of Villafranca) back in 2008 there was no need to do it this time. So I walked along the road, which was very quiet and had a much easier grade. Walked alone for first bit, then with Stefan of Quebec, Steve of Australia, and John of NY. Then caught up to Andreas followed by Nikki. Long talk with Daniel who turns out to be former Catholic priest, also with his friend Paula, a Russian from Australia. Had long talk about meaning of the camino.

Walked more with Andreas, then Mishael of Israel. Thought for sure he was Italian and indeed he is of Italian background. Hope to see him again and talk more Israeli politics. At La Faba caught up with Alexandre and arrived 16:30 with him at O Cebreiro. Went to pulperia and found Joy and Karl Heinz there. Room at home of owners, shower and quick bowl of Caldo Gallego prior to meeting Joy and Karl Heinz for dinner.

Dinner with them and their Swedish friend but before met 2 Bostonians — Christina and Margarita — here with their small guitars to make music. Christina’s Spanish reminds me how far I’ve come with my own.

Back to room for sleep, trying to stay warm. Fortunately 2 blankets in closet. Slept straight from 20:00 to next morning at 07:00. Would discover later that Sebastian and Catia were in town at the albergue, but totally missed them overnight and wouldn’t see them until Palas de Rei.

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.