Day 32, Molinaseca to Villafranca del Bierzo

Last night we were 7 for dinner, Dawn and Jim, Andy, Clive, George, myself and David from Ireland. Molinaseca was a beautiful small village, really cute and pretty. The place where Andy and Clive were staying looked great for dinner so we booked there.

The menu of the day was more expensive than most but it was really nice with different choices. I had a lovely goats cheese salad to start followed by garlic prawns as my main, both were really tasty, it felt like a relatively healthy dinner for once, although I followed by with cheesecake. The Spanish cheesecake seems to be very good, sort of like baked cheesecake.

This morning I set off around 8am and headed out of Molinaseca. In my way out I met a really nice girl from LA. We walked the first 5km together chatting about experiences so far. She is heading home on the 28th October, day before me, but is planning her stay day by day and has not yet decided whether to walk or bus to Finesterre, she is also contemplating visiting Porto. I have to say that this gives her a lot of flexibility. She was only walking 15km today though so after about 5km I was conscious that I had been walking quite slowly with her chatting but that I had 31km to walk today, so I headed on. Hopefully our paths will cross again.

The walk today went through the town of Ponferrada, many people yesterday walked onto here last night since it is a large town. It did however make the first 15km of the walk today a little boring in my view since we were on roads and through the town, however I think that is because I was so spoilt yesterday. The town did look interesting and had a large castle which is supposed to be good to visit.

After leaving Ponferrada I passed through a few small towns and stopped for a coffee after about 15km. I met a group of ladies who I had met the afternoon before, they had stayed last night in Ponferrada. After my coffee and briefly chatting I headed on. The scenery then changed and I headed off out of town into countryside. 

I stopped for a second breakfast at about 11am having walked about 20km. The spot was stunning and it was great to sit in the sun and have a little picnic with beautiful views.

The last 10km of the day were uphill, they felt quite hard for really the first time. Perhaps that is because yesterday was hills too, and also as I think many people had stopped after 20km or 25km today so there were very few people still walking. Still it was pretty and I enjoyed it even if my legs did feel a little lead like.

Arrived at my spot for the evening. Tonight will be the last time I see Dawn and Jim as they are staying here 2 nights and then heading home. I think it might be the last time I see Andy and Clive too as I have a shorter day tomorrow and then a rest day. George will catch up with me in my rest day though which will be good. 

The place this evening looks great, there are 7 rooms and it is very quaint. They are going to do my laundry for me which is wonderful so I have just passed them a bag of dirty laundry and now I am going out to explore!!

I now have less than 200km to go to Santiago!!

Day 31, Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca

Yesterday evening we went to the Vespers service at the local Church and the monks from the local monastery chanted. There was a reading about not judging each other and a sermon about how the camino is a chance to practice tolerance and love, both for each other and yourself. It was a very special service translated into 4 languages. 

We had received a recommendation for the food at the place I was staying to the four of us had dinner there, it was great. We ordered a la carte, which is rarely offered but when it is it is nice to move away from the traditional options of the set menus. I had a tomato and orange salad followed by lamb and then chocolate mousse. The food did live up to the recommendation, and after dinner I only had to walk upstairs which was even better.

This morning I headed out at about 7.55am. I have decided that this is the perfect time to leave almost in daylight and also experience the full sunrise.

Today’s walk was the most stunning yet. It is hard to describe the day actually, I have so many pictures and they just don’t do the scenery justice. The walking was 26km today but we climbed over 500m from Rabanal to the highest peak of the camino (higher than the Pyrenees). 

At the peak is La Cruz de Ferro marked by a simple iron cross on top of a weathered pole. This has become one of the main symbols of the Camino and the place to offer a stone as a symbol of the journey. I left my stones in the hope that they help me to focus on the purpose of this trip.

I have to say that I found the high point a little disappointing, I think it is all about expectations. At the summit, it feels a little contrived and there is no view at all. After the peak though the path climbs and drops for about another hour of the most spectacular views. This is what made the day. I had met Andy and Clive at the peak but let them go ahead and I had a picnic second breakfast with some of the most amazing views, I just wanted to prolong my time on the way down. The first 300m decent was just amazing.

Having descended about 500m I stopped for a coffee and met Andy and Clive again. We walked the rest of the descent together.

However the day did require a decent of over 1000m some of which was very steep, however my knee held up and I just lived the day. I would happily repeat today!!

Arriving into the small town of Molinaseca, it is absolutely beautiful too. We were very pleased that we were not booked to walk into the next main town like many others as this spot is so beautiful. 

We stopped for our obligatory finishing beer and Dawn and Jim joined us. They had guessed that this is where we would stop being the first bar into town! Clearly the routine is now totally predictable!! George had struggled today and called a cab after the first 500km descent, he still walked 16km of climb and descent though, but he leg is sore. This doesn’t bode well for the next few days as we have two 30km days next.

The guidebook thought of the day today is: On all the peaks lies peace. This feels very appropriate. Today has been really peaceful surrounded by just stunning scenery.

Can’t wait for tomorrow.

Day 30, Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

Had a great afternoon relaxing in the pool, this might be the only opportunity so I didn’t waste it and after a long day of walking it was just so refreshing to hop in the pool and just drift up and down. George has also been walking 31km today but had to hop a cab after 17km, I was pretty amazed that he had arrived to fast! He seems to have pulled a muscle in his quad.

Astorga has a lot of history. There is a great cathedral which is different again from both Burgos and Pamplona but just fascinating. The visit to the cathedral includes entry to the attached museum which includes relics and the cloister. 

Next door is the an amazing building designed by Gaudí known as the Bishops Palace, this was only built in the 1900’s. The wealth of the Church is staggering in some towns. This palace is now a museum which has a section on the camino. To be honest the camino section is very very small!

We ate in the Playa Mayor with the back drop of the town hall. It is so lovely to be able to eat outside although by 9pm now you do need a jumper. Tonight was the last night for John and Vivian who head home today. They have been so much fun but the did the last section last year and were just filling in the middle section. There were 10 of us for dinner which made for a lively night. John and Vivian; John and Anne, Dawn and Jim; Andy who is now joined by mate Clive, George and myself.

Setting off this morning for a shortish day 21km which is great following yesterday. However quite a bit of uphill as we start the trek towards the highest point in the Camino which is tomorrow. Tonight we arrive in Rabanal which is at 1155m. 

It was a really lovely walk. We have truly left the Meseta stage and the countryside is spectacular. This means we have completed to body and mind sections and are now in the spiritual section. To be honest, I can see why each section has its name but I think the whole walk works all three, you don’t stop working the body or mind in this section in my opinion. There were a couple of beautiful chapels along the way, open again now.

Anyhow, I really enjoyed the walk today, the climbs are slow and steady and it didn’t feel like we climbed a lot, although tomorrow is supposed to be different. 

I stopped for coffee after about 10km and met Andy and Clive just as they were leaving. George caught up and joined me as did a guy called Mike from Texas who I have been passing the last couple of days, so we had coffee together. I kept passing Robin today too, she is better now and back on the route, but she is travelling on further than Rabanal.

After coffee it was just another 11km meaning I arrived into Rabanal at just after 12.30pm, and joined Andy and Clive for a drink.

I have been looking forward to Rabanal as this town is home to a group of Benedictine Monks who sing at Vespers at 7pm and then offer a Pilgrim blessing at 9.30pm. I hope my expectations are not too high.

Andy has a recommendation for dinner at the place I am staying so we have agreed to all go to Vespers at 7pm and then have dinner. I received a message from Dawn that she and Jim have decided to stay an extra day in Astorga and skip Rabanal so it will just be the 4 of us for dinner tonight.

Rabanal, apart from the church and the Main Street is pretty small but very quaint. Off to explore now.

Day 29, Villar de Mazarife to Astorga

Knowing that today was 31km I set off straight after breakfast leaving at 7.50am, I wanted to make sure that I was not walking in the dark but I also wanted to arrive in Astorga at a decent hour.

This morning the sun rise was spectacular, the best yet I think. The sky started a deep red then went orange before yellow but in the middle the whole sky took on a pink glow it was just absolutely stunning. I kept having to stop to just watch the changes.

The walk today whilst long was one of my favourites. It was really beautiful scenery the whole way. We have definitely left the Meseta now and it is so much more enjoyable.

The first 14km was quiet, I was still walking the detour alternative route from yesterday and therefore there were far fewer people. I had planned to have a coffee on reaching the village after 14km but made a school girl error. I passed the first stop since there was no one there thinking that I would stop at the next place, there was nowhere else. I should have learnt by now, in a small town always take the first stop! I was a little gutted but having consulted my map realised that there was another small village 3km onwards so I kept going.

At the next village, I was straight into the first place I saw, I was not making the same mistake twice. I sat and had a coffee and some nuts and a banana since today will be long and I wanted to have a proper rest. 

The weather is just stunning at the moment. Cool in the mornings so I start the day in trousers but my mid morning at a coffee stop I swap into shorts. I am still experiencing the challenge of always walking in the same direction so my left side is getting all the sun! There is a marked difference despite layering in the sun tan lotion,

After about 25km I was starting to feel the impact of the day, the scenery was still stunning but I was tired, I have been spoilt with 22km days for the last 10 days. I stopped for a drink about 6km out of Astorga just to recharge before heading into town. 

I had to sympathise, I felt much the same way

On arrival, Astorga is a very attractive town. I was tempted to head out exploring but then at checkin it became clear that there was a spa in the hotel. That was actually a little grand but there was a tiny pool with a hot tub and a sauna so I dropped my things and headed straight for the pool. It was heavenly after a long day. As I walked in Dawn and Jim were just heading out. They had a relaxed day today and were enjoying the spa. 

I am now about to pop out an explore a little before meeting for dinner at 7.30pm.

Day 28, Leon to Villar de Mazarife

Today I left the City of Leon behind. I left late this morning, being a Saturday breakfast did not start until 8am, and then Dawn came in with Jim so I got to meet Jim. Dawn has decided not to try walking anymore but just to enjoy the holiday and come back another year to try to finish the walk, they are going to visit the cathedral this morning and then bus/cab to the hotel. 

It was nice to meet Jim, not sure whether he realises how much I know about him!! Anyway he seemed lovely and Dawn seemed much more relaxed which is great. I left them saying I would see them that afternoon when I arrived.

Leaving town it was clear that something was happening, the town and outskirts were packed at 9am, which is unheard of in Spain, it is usually deserted, and there were loads of people dressed in traditional dress. The fiesta that had started in Leon is now in full flow with a parade starting at 10am. There were bars set up along the streets and clearly later that day would be a full party. It was hard to navigate through the crowds!! 

The outskirts of Leon lasted about 8/9km, quite a way, but finally I made it out. The path then divided. The main path carries on along a main road for another good 30km however there is an alternative route which is more rural and means staying off the main route. I am taking this route and staying tonight in a small town along the alternative route.

I am quite pleased as Andy and Sian both said how dull the walk was since they did the traditional route yesterday. However it was important that I found and made the turnoff otherwise I would be somewhat off my path with nowhere to stay! It was not brilliantly signed and for some reason all my instructions are for the traditional route which is not very helpful, but I did find the path.

Once on the route it was lovely. Beautiful countryside and I only saw and passed a few people. Clearly most people have gone the traditional route which is a shame as they are missing out. I passed George who I think is staying at the same place as me tonight, as well as two other men but didn’t see anyone else.

More bodegas

I arrived at my albergue around 1.30pm. I had just missed Kari as she was getting picked up from my town but staying a few km out of town. My room is great though, and the place looks nice. The last chap I passed just arrived as I was checking in but they only had one top bunk left so he headed on. The place I am staying is mainly an albergue with bunk beds and a few private rooms. The noise levels through the afternoon were amazing. 

Dawn and Jim have just realised that they are in the town on the traditional route so I won’t see them tonight after all, but tomorrow we will all be in Astorga so I will see them tomorrow. George is staying here though which is good. There is really nothing else in town.

More Bodegas

My new shoes seem great which is good, I might keep my old ones for another day before I bin them just in case. The difference in the read or lack of it is amazing!!

New and old tread!

So I thought the thought for the day in my guidebook was interesting: solitude shows us what we should be; society shows us what we are. Still pondering this.

George and I are the only ones if our group here tonight so he and I had dinner together. He is such an interesting guy although loves to take the piss too. He is from Greece but now lives in Los Angeles and he is an actor, although in a small and specialist theatre. He has written the play that he will be performing in at the start of 2020, assuming he loses enough weight!

Tomorrow is a long day, 31km into Astorga but we have another big dinner as most of the group will be together for probably the last time.

Day 27, Sightseeing in Leon

Last night we had a lovey reunion dinner. Andy had arranged it as he and Sian had arrived the day before, there were 8 of us for dinner and it was great to catch up. We ate in the main square and just shared a whole mix of meals. There is a fiesta on at the moment so there was live music in the background and a great atmosphere. Sian and Andy head on again. We probably won’t see Sian again but a few of us will be meeting again in Astorga for dinner in another 2 nights time.

I had a lovely lie in and lazy breakfast today. Such a treat. Then it was out and just a relaxed day wandering around the City of Leon.

I started my morning with a Thai massage, based on advice from Sian, what a place. It is safe to say that without a recommendation I would not have gone in, but it was amazing. I have been folded and stretched into positions that I didn’t think possible. My Thai masseuse walked up and down me and used her feet, knees and elbows, sometimes it felt like all at once. She was stood in my back and asked if the pressure was OK, there was no way to get air into my lungs so she just got a gasp, which I think she took as fine! I think every part of me is now fully stretched out. I wandered out feeling very slippery and a bit like spaghetti only to find Kari waiting to go in!!

It is safe to say that this was more enjoyable than the physio appointment I had. It will be interesting to see if I get as much benefit from it. She certainly got my knee to bend more than I thought possible and gave my bruised thigh another going over. What she did to my calves I don’t know but I went in with rocks and they feel a little more normal now!!

I then headed to the cathedral. Quite spectacular, and somehow very different from Burgos. This cathedral apparently was completely built with 50 years. The stained glass is amazing, I think they said over 1,500 square meters. Where as Burgos was full of chapels, all with different architects and stories, Leon is mainly one large space. French gothic style but just amazing. Much more managed to look round.

I then sat in the square to have a salad, such a treat, and watched the world go by.

Gaudi’s Casa Botines, quite spectacular, built as a house and later used by a bank, Gaudí designed this to replicate the architecture of the Leon Cathedral in a family home. It is now a museum.

I wandered round the old town and the old walls and just tried to get a feel of the place. Whilst stunning I think I preferred Burgos overall although the cathedral here with the glass is stunning.

Tonight, Dawn was waiting at the hotel as her husband arrives for the next two weeks. John and Vivian stayed in at their hotel for dinner but Kari, George and I met in the main square for a few drinks and then went on for dinner.

It was lovely walking back after dinner. The Spanish towns come alive at night, the weather is so lovely you only need a t-shirt and there is something about being in a new town where you have just worked out your way around and just wandering back to a hotel after dinner. It is a great feeling.

I am ready to head on tomorrow.

Arriving at the hotel I had a great surprise, I had ordered new trainers to be delivered but yesterday had been advised that they were delayed until Monday and so I had arranged for the hotel to return them. When I got back I found they had arrived so I have new shoes for tomorrow. Very exciting, fingers crossed these don’t give me any blisters, last time they didn’t!

Day 26, Mansilla de las Mulas to Leon

Yesterday was one of the best spots we have stayed, it was such a lovely place. We had pre dinner drinks in the courtyard and then the 5 of us who were staying grabbed the large table in the dining room. The restaurant was known for its food so a number of other pilgrims we knew came into eat. 

Dinner was great, they are known for vegetarian dishes which is most unusual, Dawn was OK for once. I started with paprika cauliflower, it was fabulous, then I had dorada (fish) and a salad followed by cheesecake, just so good, all this and red wine for €12.

The Couple from New Zealand who fished the Canadian out of the river were there for dinner.  I was chatting to them after dinner. They had been commenting how none of us looked tired or sore, I think that is because as a group we are loud and enjoying the food and wine, however when everyone got up and started to hobble off they realised that in fact we are all as sore as them!! It is entertaining as everyone assumes everyone else is finding it easy, and I think there are very few people who find this whole walk easy!

Today the walk was into Leon, it was described as terrible and even the guidebook recommends a bus! I didn’t find it that bad apart from the last hour which is to be expected given it is a big city. In fact I found the walk better then a couple of the last days. We had a couple of small hills which provided a bit of variety and Kari, George and I found a great spot for morning coffee.

It was a small bakery and cafe, full of locals, Kari and I popped in to order our coffee and they gave us two huge pieces of cake to go with the coffees, we obviously looked hungry!! It was fab. When George arrived we recommended it since we had free cake. He had skipped dinner last night as he has a cold and is not feeling great, so he came out with a huge apple tart, although he had paid for that!!

I do love the fact that in Spain there is no such thing as take away. If you want a coffee, you sit down and have it in a cup! It helps that the coffee is so good but it has changed my perspective on having coffee.

It is evident today that yesterday I burnt my lips, not sure whether it was wind or sun but either way, it is not a good look!! Note to self, use the sunfactor lip balm going forward.

I headed on after that and soon entered the outskirts of town. I then found Ricardo looking panicky. We confirmed that we were at the same hotel. Through a form of mime since my Spanish cannot keep up with him and he doesn’t speak any English he explained that he cannot find where he was on the map. I had to disappoint him since we were still 50 minutes away and not even on his map. I don’t think he believed me but decided to walk with me.

As we got closed we found a desk with a tourist guide and stamp for pilgrims, clearly everyone gets lost heading into Leon. Ricardo spoke to the guide who told him another 25 minutes and advised that he was still not on his city map. Ricardo was shocked and then stuck to me like glue. It was reassuring though, since my City map reading is not always the best and Ricardo asked almost every local we passed to ensure that we were in the right track, he didn’t even know me but clearly had no faith in my ability to navigate!! For once though I was spot on, he was very grateful.

We arrived around 12.30pm. Dawn was just checking in having taken a cab again. Her knees are not getting better and to be honest she was very down. For the first time she said that she just wants to go home. It is very hard but her husband arrives tomorrow so I am sure that will give her some support, to be honest I am not sure that her knees are going to recover but I didn’t want to say that.

Once arrived I sorted myself and headed straight to the laundromat, Andy had sent me the address after he found it yesterday, so now I am enjoying a quick beer and tortilla while my laundry washes itself! The tortilla was still warm, lovely.

Now off for a quick wander round and to plan my sightseeing day tomorrow. I am really looking forward to it. There is a fiesta in Leon so tons of stalls and band areas being set up. I haven’t yet worked out what it is for but it looks like it will be a fun evening.

Day 25, El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas

Last night Dawn and I were back at the same hotel for a second night. It felt odd to have a table for two after the last week or so, but they were so friendly and the food was good, if you eat meat! Dawn carefully opted for the salad which does of course come with tuna but at least no meat!! I had a lovely courgette soup and then hake and salad. Every time I have had fish it has been good.

It was a lovely welcome quiet night actually, which I think we both enjoyed.

Again, I cannot fault the organisation on the camino, the cab arrived dead on 8am to take us back to where we left off. Dawn panicked this morning since her knees are still not good so we arranged for the cab to take her direct to our next stop. She is very disappointed not to be walking.

Sun rising as I left El Burgo Ranero

Ricardo and I were dropped back in El Burgo Ranero. As we arrived there were a steady stream of pilgrims all heading out of town, it was quite funny to watch. We were dropped almost in front of John and Vivian.

I love the variety of markers along the route

I chatted for a short while and then headed on. This morning I passed Kari and then George in my first stint. The only coffee break was after 12km. The walking again today was just flat and fairly tedious. I think most of us have found the walking relatively easy but tedious and monotonous. Often the path is alongside a road with just fields off to each side. One more day of this until Leon and then after this the scenery changes again. I am ready!!

We all stopped for coffee after 12km, all keen just to take a break. Most are still struggling with feet, everyone seemed to have their feet out today, the state of some is enough to put you right off your coffee!! John has requested first aid help again again this evening, so the lambs wool will be back out! Vivian is a retired nurse but as she says, he never listens to her!

After the break I passed this mother and son. We have passed them most days on the route. They are Swiss German and walking the whole way carrying everything. The son is about 8 or 9, always cheerful and being home schooled. I have to say though that I worry about the impact this walking is having in his joints since he is still growing. I am not sure this can be good for him, but it is certainly a life experience.

I pushed on and arrived at our hotel about 12.30pm again. Having spotted the hotel I moved on to find a bar for a beer and spotted another couple from Canada, John and Anne who I have chatted to a few times. I joined them for a beer whilst everyone else arrived. It was fun to chat with them. Their daughter has just moved to London working with Deliveroo, and they were chatting about how different London is now from when they did their master degrees there.

After receiving messages from Kari and Dawn I found everyone else having a beer at our hotel. It has a really nice little courtyard with grapes hanging overhead. It is a tiny place with only 4 rooms. I have one, so does Dawn, Kari and John and Vivian. Obviously George booked later than us and he is elsewhere and a little miffed but planning to join us for dinner!

I had a good chuckle as as we were shown our rooms, eagle eyed Vivian spotted a hairdryer and I soon had a knock on my door as she passed me our treat!! I think it is 8 days since I have seen a hairdryer so it does feel like a luxury.

Looking round the town I came across the first Church in about 6 days that is open. In the first couple of weeks, every Church was open and there was mass pretty much every night. Since we started the Meseta stage almost every church has been closed and I have not seen mass. It is such a contrast. The other contrast is the painted interior of the Church, which is very different. Apparently this changes again after Leon.

I have just wandered around town, it is another very small town but bigger than the last few that we have been in. As usual, between 2-5pm nothing is open and the town is deserted other than a few pilgrims wandering around, trying to work out where they are staying.

I am looking forward to arriving in Leon and having a rest day. Andy and Sian have just arrived and Sian has decided to stay 2 nights too which she was not going to, so we are planning a dinner all together tomorrow night which will be fun. On the other hand, I can’t believe that I am almost in Leon, the time seems to be going very fast now.

Day 24, Sahagún to El Burgo Ranero

Well the physio was fantastic value and effective, but a very painful experience!! I had 30 minutes of very painful manipulation and massage, then 15 minutes with electromagnetic pulses and then 15 minutes of ice. There was moaning from both sides of me and as my physio said, with a grin, this is the pain room! Many of the towns along the route rely on pilgrim spending and therefore there are physio’s, osteo’s, masseuse’s all available and you can pretty much just walk in and get an appointment and since the are so used to pilgrims they seem to know exactly they impact of walking day in and day out on the body, and how to get everything moving again.

Just as I was heading back from Physio, Keri dropped me a note to let me know what bar she was in, so I stopped by on my way. After a bit of coordination everyone turned up and then we headed back to the Albergue where, Dawn, George and I are staying. Dinner here starts at 7pm, in other places it was 8.30pm. Our Albergue is family owned and just great fun. We had a lovely 3 course meal as usual with wine for €12. Dawn was not quite so impressed as the vegetable stew starter had meat in!! I found some pork in mine but hoped it was a one off and kept quiet until Dawn found some in hers. She received the classic Spanish response, well it is only a little meat for flavour, with that brilliant shrug, which says, served you right, what is vegetarian anyway!!!

Today, learning from yesterday I set off after a leisurely breakfast at around 8.20am, a lovely time to set off, the sun was up, none of this needing a torch to work out where I was going. 

I headed out with George for the first km or so, warming up my knee and then set off at my pace. Today was another flat day of just fields with some sections along the road. These last few days have really not been very exciting walking but they have been short and flat. The wind today was really strong, typical of this area, so everyone was walking with earphones or hoods to protect their ears.

I kept going for the first 11km before there was anywhere to stop for a coffee but then I spotted Kari who as usual had set off at the crack of dawn. She had finished her coffee but stayed with me whilst I had mine since she was enjoying the break.

My knee is feeling so much better after the physio yesterday afternoon. My thigh is physically bruised, George could not believe I paid to be made black and blue, but my knee is way happier which is great. Dawn had chosen to rest her knees again since we had two days in the same place so she was not walking today.

My instructions for collection today was at 5pm which given that I had arrived at 12.30 was clearly way too late. However, Roberto the Spanish guy from Valencia arrived, he speaks Spanish and a little French but since he often stays in the same places as us we all chat away although none of us really understand. He was checking that the cafe was the meeting point and happily I realised he was also getting a cab back although not to exactly the same place as me. His instructions said 4pm. Conveniently though since he is Spanish he chatted to the cafe owner and got her to make a call to have us collected at 2.30pm which was great.

Right on 2.30pm a taxi pulled up which was very impressive, both my name and Roberto’s appeared to be on the list so we both hopped in and I was dropped back at the Albergue to my relief with the comment that he would collect me the next morning at 8am. As I arrived Dawn and the Albergue owner looked delighted to see me. I think Dawn was concerned that when she cancelled her transportation she may have cancelled mine too, so she was very relieved to see me turn up. 

The town we are in is officially the half way point to Santiago and there is a Peregrina Museum which issues certificates to mark the half way point. I had not had time yesterday to get this so Dawn and I headed off to get these today.

The museum is part of an old convent, it was the other side of town and the 15 minute journey took Dawn about 40 minutes to walk as she is still struggling but we walked slowly there and back and got our certificates. It was very interesting, the legend about this area gives rise to the saying, 

‘the Pilgrim never walks alone’ 

The legend is that an old pilgrim whose strength had failed was often tempted to stop and spend the night in the open despite the dangers of the time. However on the hardest days when he was most weary, a smiling girl would appear and encourage him to follow her, sharing stories and good humour. In reaching town she would disappear. On reaching Sahagún he went to mass and realised that the girl who had accompanied him each day was identical to the statue of the virgin at the church. So he gave thanks for not having to walk the road alone.

My half way certificate

Day 23, Calzadilla de la Cueza to Sahagún

So I was a little enthusiastic this morning. Breakfast was earlier than usual at 7am and I had listened to others talking about how it was going to be hot and they wanted to get the distance done before it got too hot. Forgetting myself, I got swept up and headed out as soon as I finished my breakfast which meant that I was on my way just before 7.30am. It was still dark! Note to self, it is no fun walking in the dark and I walk faster than others too so there is absolutely no need to leave before 8am if not 8.30am. 

This morning, not only was it dark but it was damp and misty. This damp mist lasted until about 10.30am when the sun did burn through. 

I reached the first town with coffee just before 9am!! Kari had already arrived and ordered her coffee. When I headed in for mine it took a while as the guy serving was busy doing shots with a group of local men! It is a different world. Anyhow after toasting and downing his shot (apparently a local coffee liqueur) he got my coffee before returning to his mates. John and Vivian arrived just as Kari was leaving so we had a brief chat before I headed on.

As a reached the very small town that Andy and Sian had stayed in I saw a local church. It was closed, but it has been a day and a half since I have seen a church and given that we are in Spain that is a record, usually every small village has at least one. Normal service resumed!

It was still misty when I found another stop. By this stage I was ahead of both Kari and John and Vivian, they arrived just as I was heading out so I agreed to see them later. The sun was just starting to burn through.

Leaving the village I spotted some hobbit houses. I was disappointed to learn that in fact these are not hobbit houses but Bodegas. They were used to store and make wine and store food. Families in the village would make enough wine for their families and store it here. Nowadays they are used for parties and still occasionally to store food. How cool is that?

I headed on, after running back to the cafe for my walking poles. Second time I have left these behind!!

Today, I have passed the half way point between St Jean Pied de Port and Santiago, I can’t believe it! I am only a few days outside of Leon and have just entered the province.

I enjoyed the walking today and made it into town around 1pm, to be honest far too early really, reiterating that I should leave a little later. However, there are some pluses to being early. I asked at the hostal about a laundry in town, and the owner said she would do my laundry for €8 and have it back within 2 hours!! Result, same price as taking it to a launderette myself but I only had to hand her my bag of stinky laundry!!

I then dropped Dawn a note to see how she was doing. She was on her way back from the physio and raving about feeling better already! Apparently all her pain is down to very tight ligaments after days of heavy walking, so no permanent issues and after a painful massage she is in a better space which is great news. I decided that it would not hurt for a little more treatment since there is someone good in town so I now have an appointment for 4pm. A physio here is €25 so worth another quick treatment.

City gate in Sahagún

I have to say though that I feel way better today. Yesterday I was reserving judgement on the taping as my knee was screaming at me after a flat 18km. However today was 22km and whilst sore, I definitely could have kept going and it is not yet screaming. Hopefully another treatment and I will be well on my way.

Having arrived in Sahagún, I am staying in the same place for 2 nights. Tomorrow there was no room in town so I am being bused back to this hotel after walking tomorrow and then bused back the following morning. Anyhow the plus is that I don’t have to pack up my bag tomorrow morning which is very nice.

I am now sitting in the square having sorted my physio appointment and celebrating with a beer. John and Vivian have just gone by, they seem to manage to just keep going. Tonight, I think we are all in the same town but different places. Dawn and I are both in the same spot, and plans have been made for a dinner all together in Leon and then Astorga which will be great.

I have to say I am loving the weather. Once the sun breaks through it is just clear blue skies and a very pleasant 26 degrees. Just wonderful I could get used to this.