Archive for June, 2009

East – the last word we want to hear on the camino. “Go west, young man,” is the calling on this trip. Any notions of east would be against the metaphysics of this entire trip. And yet, east has happened.

The march today was very good, perhaps the best I´ve felt in a while. And we covered much ground, many townes and even some good elevation. We stopped in San Juan de Urtega, an old monastery with very unfriendly nuns, but Mateo and I only stopped in to get a sandwich, a cold beer, and ready ourselves for the extra push to Atapuerca, two towns past what the guide book suggested. But we were cock-sure and ready for the extra 6km. Just two little towns and downward elevation. An extra 6km for our push to the large metropolis of Burgos.

But, to quote the great Scottish poet Burns – “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men / Gang aft agley” or something to that degree. The only albergue in Atapuerca was full and there wasn´t another for 6km in the foward direction. There, however, was two back in the previous town of Ages. Nicely, there was a gentleman to give us and our gear a ride back to the Ages, where the albergue was very nice, only four bunks to a room with a hot shower.


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The Spanish –

Last night was something else. Mateo and I are watching  the United States play Spain in the Confederation Cup. We find a bar near the Albergue and settle in, as the bar is already crowded, full of Spaniards, including a large group of pilgrims we´ve been traveling with. But Mateo and I haven´t really been very tight with these guys – they are loud, appearing to be a bit standoffish and not overly welcoming. But when they saw Mateo and I walk into the bar, we became their new best friends, and they became ours: Aurelio, Ignacio(nicknamed “Nacho”), Ignatcio (nicknamed”In-yanki”), Sylvia (the latter Ignacio´s wife), Pedro, and Xavi. Mateo speaks great Spanish with them, which is great, because they speak very little English. We order beers for each other, even after The States take a surprising 1-nil lead. We´re elated and the Spaniards are excited for us, despite their own side being down a goal.

Then down two goals! Mateo and I can´t celebrate, but some of the drunk Spaniards at the bar, including the bartender, pick up on our nationality and ask us why don´t stand with our hands over our hearts and sing our national anthem.

We were planning to leave after halftime and make curfew, but Aurelio, the wild, curly-haired ring-leader, has convinced the albergue señora to let us stay out, since there is a fiesta in the adjacent plaza. So the crew of Spanish guys and two Americans head out on the town. And they are all about some Hierbas, this dredful green absinthe liquor that reminds me all too much of jager. But who am I to spoil the fun. I just have to drink more beer to get the liquor´s taste out of my mouth. We turned in at 0030am, which is way too late for the camino, but we had a blast, and made some great friend, three of which (Aurelio, Xavi, and Pedro) are doing the whole camino.

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9:15pm – Estella

We strove into town like two c0nquering heroes today. We had been told Albergue Anfas was the place to go, and this place is amazing – it doubles as a hostel for pilgrims and a center for children who have mental handicaps, specifically down syndrome. The senora of the house had cold water and cherries for us as we fought our way into the albergues disco beads. The Senora shows us around the place, which is very spacious (over thirty sets of bunks) and implacably clean. There is a seperate room for bikes and dirty boots. I nap for a little while and then Tony shows up out of the shower wearing nothing but his small boxers.

Tony – We meet Tony in the town privious, Lorca. Mateo had seen a albergue where we might get a bit for lunch and to rest our feet. I shose it because it was playing good classical music. After a few moments of nibbling, Tony, a talkative Brit with a heavy Scouser accent, walks in. He, of course, knows we´re from the States and we begin to have a chat. He confesses to being a “Blue-nosed Evertonian”. Later we walk with him on the path from Lorca to Villatuerta. That this is his fourth camino in seven years, and he´s about to turn seventy, still amazes me., and that his “old lady at home” encourages him on these trips, this amazes me even more.

We parted at Villatuerta, where Mateo and I visit “Our Lady of the Assumption,” which is most impressive as they discovered XIIth century mosaics on the church walls a few years back while clean and have left them for all to see.

This evening Mateo and I explore the town of Estella, its churches and plazas, where Spaniards dance to live music. Many of these dancers are elderly Spanish women dancing with each other, and I sadly wonder what has happened to all their men. Little Spanish lads play their La Liga, often firing shots into crowds of tourist sipping on cafe con leche, or into the occasional mother with her troller. Little Spanish girls rider their scotters or rollerblades in the plaza as well.

We have our own cafe con leche in a small cafe around 5pm. It wasn´t crowded. Mateo talks about the dew on the beer taps and how it entices him to want a cana, but we stick with our cafes. For dinner we find a little plac with a pilgrim´s menu, and there we run into Robert.

Robert – We also met Robert in the same albergue in Lorca. He is French-Canadian, French being his main tongue, but speaks English with us just fine. Mateo order for us, as the waitress is thankful that he speaks Spanish. A gentleman, whom we saw panhandling for change in the plaza earlier, is playing the slot-machine, and he is being closely eyed by two very sleezy chaps sitting next to us. We are also joined by Jean-Deit(rich), a Dutch man, who has been biking from Holland, through Belgium, through France, and now west on the camino. He looks like Hemingway.

I grab the bottle from dinner, just in case the two gentlemen next to us at dinner are actually waiting for us. We make the albergue by curfew. Tony is there, telling us about the places on the road to Los Arcos that we need to see, including a monestary that makes its own wine, and at its gates has two taps for peregrinos : one for water and one for wine.

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Today was difficult – there is no way around that nugget, and no real need for elaboration, given a) it´s our first day, b) no sleep, c) complete lack of fitness and shape for this type of Pyrenes manuvering. Perhaps it is the late 10am start where we felt we´d use our adrineline to fight through the heat, the lack of sleep, and show this camino who´s boss. Well, El Camino showed me and Matt what was what. I´m not sure what was worse – the steep uphills, or the slippery/descents (it had rained earlier). The milage markers were quite off. After a days worth of sweating and running out of water, we enter Zubiri like two conquered heroes.

After a brief nap, Mateo and I handwash a few clothes, walk up to the local grocer to pick up a bagette, jamon, cheese, and two peaches for dessert – 11.6€

Tomorrow, we make the 13(?) mile push to Pamplona, as to make up for the 65€ cabride to Roncesvalles. We will stop in each town and hydrate/relax a little more tomorrow. We will take our time and watch our pace.


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We are currently waiting for the office in the abbey to open (10am), as well a place for breakfast (?am). We arrived in the coach to Pamplona around 530am, proceeded via cab (via 65C), which brought us here around 615a. The only complany we´ve seen or spoken to is a sullen Spaniard on a camino bike and two French girls, waiting for a trip into town to get new boots for the camino. They are only doing the journey for a week.

In Roncesvalles there is a monastery, an 11th century stone chapel, an abbey, and two restaurants. That´s really it. The abbey is were we will get our credincial, or pilgrim´s passport, to be signed at various stations on the camino.

In Roncesvalles, there are two bed and breakfast hosts, if you’re willing to pay 40€ for the bed, shower, etc. The abbey provides a mattress and a meal for 6€. To each her own.


Mateo and I were able to have a cafe con leche and a pre-packaged muffin for just over 5€ total, which we agree would be fantastic if we can find this on a daily basis. We’ve also decided to begin each day by walking and waiting to have breppie later in the morning.

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DSCN0303The capital and New York City of Spain, we arrived around 730pm, took a series of subways to he place named Sol, the center of the city. In total we walked Madrid and its great, wideopen plazas for four hours before arriving here at the bustop. Our bus departs at 1am and we travel for about five hours to the northeast. So far we have been traveling for thirty-plus hours straight.
I am well good and tired, having to catch some rest on the trip to Pamplona. Mateo and I did find a cafe that sold small glasses of beer and solid sandwiches of jamon (HAMon) for 1C (euro) each. I also got a plate of jamon and melon – all this did total 16.90C, but good luck shown and we received a 10C tip for change.

Tonight rained for the last few hours of sunlight, but the sun does not set in parts of Spain until 10pm. Mateo tells me the late sunlight is a result of Spain´s western most location in its timezone. Tonight´s rain brought a good lot of black Africans selling knock-off Burberry umbrellas to touristas. As for me, I liked the rain – it gets you clean from today´s sweat and stagnation.

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1638. [= F., Sp. talisman, It. talismano, ad. MGr. τέλεσμαν = Gr.  τέλεσμα]

I. A stone, ring, or other object engraven with figures or characters, to which are attributed the occult powers of the planetary influences and celestial configurations under which it was made; usu. worn as an amulet to avert evil from or bring fortune to the wearer ;  also, used medicinally to impart healing virtue; hence, any object held to be endowed with magic virtue; a charm.

2.  fig. Anything that acts as a charm or by which extraordinary results are achieved (1784)



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