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DAY 15 Tuesday, June 9, 2015. Molinaseca to Cacabelos ( 24 km)

Before reflecting on this day we wish to mention a special experience at Cruz de Ferro. We are carrying messages and prayers from many of you to the Cathedral in Santiago. Some of you also included prayers for us as we walk the Camino. Yesterday, sitting outside the little ermitage by the cross we read your prayers for us. These prayers were unexpected and humbling. They made us feel very loved. Thank you.
Maxine and David ( our minister and her husband) included some beautiful prayers for sharing with other pilgrims. You do not know what a gift this is!  When a group of pilgrims gather in a restaurant sometimes we are asked to identify ourselves by country and then do something representative of our country. This can be a dreaded moment as you can only sing “O Canada” so many times, and besides some other Canadian pilgrim will most likely be before you. The prayers you included have a universality that are perfect for the Camino. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

The Camino is 800 km long. Today we passed the 600 km mark.  We did 360 last year and came here to complete the pilgrimage by walking the last 440. In fact we know by our GPS distance counter that we walk at least 10% more every day, so the final total will be well over 900 km. obviously these boots didn't have an extended warranty!
The Camino is 800 km long. Today we passed the 600 km mark. We did 360 last year and came here to complete the pilgrimage by walking the last 440. In fact we know by our GPS distance counter that we walk at least 10% more every day, so the final total will be well over 900 km. obviously these boots didn’t have an extended warranty!” 

Leaving Molinaseca we met a young family from France who were cycling the Camino. What was unique is that their child is two years old and travels in a bike seat on her father’s bicycle. We are daily amazed by fellow pilgrims.
On the outskirts of town we had a special local approach us—-one of the town storks who was monitoring our path. When he/she took flight we realized that these are much larger birds than we had thought.
An interesting coffee stop was in Ponferrada across from El Castillo de Ponferrada. This was a Templar castle built in the 12th century and at that time functioned as a self sufficient town within a town. Some people believe that there are hidden messages within the castle’s 3 walls and 12 towers related to the Knight’s Templar association with the Holy Grail and the Arc of the Covenant.
Ponferrada is an interesting town of 66,000 people and the capital of El Bierzo. It’s economy is based on coal mining, engineering,glass making, metal working, agriculture and wine making.
It was a treat to be able to walk through the riverside park to reach the outskirts.—much nicer than the desolate industrial areas or rundown sections we have traversed in other cities.
One of the delights today for Delana was finding poppy pods ripe for picking. We have had poppy companions throughout our walk this year, but back on the Meseta they had not yet gone to seed.
As you may have noticed we take breaks whenever we are able😊.In Spain when you purchase a coffee you always receive a complimentary piece of cake or a cookie. If you purchase any other drink— we especially like KAS Limon on a hot day, it comes with a free tapas with each drink. In this part of Spain, hospitality is genuine and generous..
Another interesting custom: the “Farmscia” is a very integral part of the community. The one that is open on weekends or at night leaves its green sign flashing to identify it. The Farmacia carries an assortment of skin/ beauty care products, foot care supplies, infant needs, and a wide range of medications— many of which are not over the counter medications back home. They function almost as a walk in clinic and the “farmaceutico” seems to be the first health care provider for many conditions. It is an interesting system and seems to work very well in the smaller villages that have no doctors.
Today was a good walk— we met a teacher from Singapore, two couples from Australia and a young man from South Africa—all very nice people. As you can see the closer we get to Santiago, the more pilgrims we encounter.
Upon arriving in Cacabelos we were concerned that our little casa rural looked just a little too rural but once past the dilapidated portion, it was beautiful. The room was immaculate and decorated with interesting antiques of the locale. The outside dining area had a roof of entwined live grapevines which gave the feel of being in the woods. Cacabelos has many bodegas (wine cellars) and produces a red wine from the Mencia grape which was ostensibly brought to the region by a French pilgrim.The white wine is from the La Godello grape. In this area if you identify yourself as a pilgrim, you are given a free glass of wine and a tapas. Ahhh…perhaps, that is why there is an increased number of pilgrims 😊.

Here was the family with a two year old, doing the full Camino... On bikes - most riders do 60 km a day.
Here was the family with a two year old, doing the full Camino… On bikes – most riders do 60 km a day.
This guy is the first stork that we have seen actually walking the Camino!
This guy is the first stork that we have seen actually walking the Camino!
The 7 am view from our hotel balcony.  Note the number of pilgrims already on their way.... For some it is because they are planning long days, for others it is fear of not getting accomodation at the end of their day
The 7 am view from our hotel balcony. Note the number of pilgrims already on their way…. For some it is because they are planning long days, for others it is fear of not getting accomodation at the end of their day
Wine country. The vineyards are so well maintained.
Wine country. The vineyards are so well maintained.
Delana has been waiting to find poppy seeds.  This was the day.... Hopefully next year we will have these same poppies at Forever House!
Delana has been waiting to find poppy seeds. This was the day…. Hopefully next year we will have these same poppies at Forever House!
There is a
There is a “notch” in the tree line on the furthest / highest hill on the skyline. That is the location of the Cruz de Ferro that marks the high point of the Camino. This gives you an idea of the distance of yesterday’s descent.
12 century Templar castle. I cannot imagine standing at the bottom of those walls having been told that we are going to storm them!
12 century Templar castle. I cannot imagine standing at the bottom of those walls having been told that we are going to storm them!

DAY 14 Monday, June 8, 2015. Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca ( 24 km)

After a great rest in a very comfy hotel rural we felt ready for today’s climb. Concerned over yesterday’s episode, Rod felt Delana should not carry a pack today. Delana insisted she was fine and could certainly carry her own pack…reluctantly she finally let Rod put her pack in his. We started out earlier than usual and it was a perfect morning, which somewhat allayed our anxiety about our upcoming walk. Other pilgrims ahead of us had warned of the trail ‘s difficulty. The first hour was almost sensory overload. The Leon Mts.were incredibly beautiful garbed in golden broom, emerald pine, and burgundy Spanish heather. Clouds and sunlight played dapple on the mountain sides creating subtle shading alternating with bursts of colour. The crisp, cool air was perfumed with the fragrance of broom. Little birds known as “verdecillas” (little green birds) hopped from bush to bush, warbling joyfully. It was lovely. The ascent was moderate even though we were climbing to the highest point on the Camino. Part way up one of the hills we caught up to a French fellow, about our age, pulling a travois contraption he had fashioned out of parts of a wheel barrow, some aluminum piping and straps. He had trekked almost 2/3 of the Camino when he injured a knee and could no longer carry his pack. Determination to complete his walk resulted in this man building something on which he could push or pull his belongings. Encountering him was another inspiration along our Camino way.

So many of the villages along the climb have literally fallen to ruin over the centuries. They were mostly stone and mud, but with slate roofs not the terra cotta tiles throughout the rest of the Camino. This is a remote alpine farming area, isolated in the winter months. The passage of pilgrims has given new life to these villages and small seasonal accommodation and restaurants have begun to appear. We reached the Cruz de Ferro (1490m or 4,888 ft) with little problem as our ascent from our village was only 450m or 1500ft. Cruz de Ferro is an iron cross atop a 5 metre wooden pole and is one of the most emblematic monuments on the Camino. Pilgrims bring a stone from home and place it at the base with the many thousands already there. Leaving a stone is a way of leaving behind a burden, letting go of something in your life, or simply a symbolic gesture of reverence. It is an emotional few minutes despite the fact that pilgrims have begun leaving all sorts of items not only rocks, resulting in a bit of a trash pile. We left our wishing stones found on the beach at Forever House. At Cruz de Ferro there was a young man who is a paraplegic pilgrim. He is doing his Camino riding a special tricycle with a place on the back for his wheelchair. This courageous human being was truly another Camino inspiration. Soon after beginning the descent (925 m or 3,035 ft) we called upon these examples of courage and determination. The way down was tortuous. It was like a goat trail of loose, large rocks with huge outcroppings of slippery, broken shale. Every foot step had to be placed extremely carefully so it was slow going as the day heated up. We looked at one another in askance wondering just what we were doing here—but there was no turning back.This part of the Camino is fraught with disaster. That afternoon a young Australian pilgrim fell and was taken off the mountain to the hospital. Somehow, we both made it to Molinaseca in one piece and we gave thanks.

Near the top,  we will descend to the bottom of those valleys before we get to take our boots off! In fact rod made a huge mistake: travelling with three kinds of foot wear, he wore his Tevas and was not carrying any back ups in his back pack. We had not been warned of this treacherous  descent. Not the right footwear!
Near the top: we will descend to the bottom of those valleys before we get to take our boots off! In fact Rod made a huge mistake: travelling with three kinds of foot wear, he wore his Tevas and was not carrying any back ups in his back pack. Not the right footwear—not a good thing.
It all started out as a beautiful day .... A walk in the park!
It all started out as a beautiful day …. A walk in the park!
At the 4888 foot summit - the Cruz de Ferro ( Iron Cross)
At the 4888 foot summit – the Cruz de Ferro ( Iron Cross)
Until the recent resurgence of interest in the Camino ( last year over 225,000 registered to do some portion of it) this area was in economic ruin. These stone walls are all that is left of centuries old buildings.
Until the recent resurgence of interest in the Camino ( last year over 225,000 registered to do some portion of it) this area was in economic ruin. These stone walls are all that is left of centuries old buildings.
A Camino inspiration, home made cart, bandaged led and a whole lot of determination.
A Camino inspiration, home made cart ( a travois ) a bandaged knee and a whole lot of determination.
Get the idea..... Not fun but once done, you feel a sense of real accomplishment.
Get the idea….. Not fun but once done, you feel a sense of real accomplishment.

Had to show this: this is part of the 12 km steep descent – those rocks are up to 24 inches across, are loose and on grades up to 30 degrees.  Rather than our 5 km / hour good rate, this slowed to as little as 1.5 km in an hour. This day challenged tracking up and over the Pyrenees as our most difficult day on the Camino.

The scene near the top of the Leon Mountains. What a beautiful sight. Bet those cows don't climb it every day.
The scene near the top of the Leon Mountains.  Bet those cows don’t climb it every day.  What a beautiful sight…. That burgundy colour is Spanish Heather on the distant hills.

DAY 13 Sunday, June 7, 2015. Astorga to Rabanal del Camino ( 24 km )

Farewell to Astorga, a very nice town with lovely people. Today is their Corpus Christi celebration. Locals were decorating the main square with a design made of wild flower petals. Balcony rails and windows were draped with red and yellow banners and flags. Later a gilded cart adorned with flowers (like a small parade float), carrying a statue of Jesus, will be paraded from the cathedral through the town and back. Unfortunately, we had to get back to the Camino, but it was fun to see the preparations.
After our marathon of a walk two days ago we were not too concerned about doing 23 Km. The path was good ( light gravel and sand), not too near the road and there was purported to be shade. The temperature was very warm for walking (35 C), but dressed for the heat and carrying plenty of water and cooling scarves, we headed out. For 20 Km our frequent rest and hydration stops and a wonderful medley of birdsong, carried us through. Although there were now pine and oak forests dotted with bright purple Spanish heather, the path was not shaded. Rod began carrying his and Delana’s packs as she was feeling quite weak.
We managed the final 3 Km into Rabanal del Camino, to find that our hotel rural was at the top of the hill, of course. Just knowing that rest was nearby gave Delana a spurt of energy and we were soon there.
After showers and a rest we went downstairs for dinner. As neither of us was all that hungry we shared the Pilgrim’s Menu (always large portions).
There was a jolly group of pilgrims who launched into a rendition of “Amazing Grace” which we know we will carry in our heads tomorrow. Rather a fitting melody for the Camino.
The family running this hotel and restaurant work very hard and are so pleasant. Knowing it had been a hard day, when Delana’s cafe con leche arrived, there was a little Camino directional arrow in the foam— a sweet sign of encouragement for her.
Tomorrow we start climbing, so off to bed —buenas noches!

Covered in beautifully arranged fresh flowers, we caught this Corpus Christi parade entrant in the Cathedral.
Covered in beautifully arranged fresh flowers, we caught this Corpus Christi parade entrant in the Cathedral.
Pilgram's like to make cairns, inukshuks and leave rocks behind ( we are carrying a few  - from our beach and from St Jean, where we started the Camino, both to be placed at the trail's end in Santiago). More about that tradition later. Here anything that could be used to make a cross has been used - over 500 meters of fence hosts thousands of crosses.
Pilgrims like to make cairns, inukshuks and leave rocks behind ( we are carrying a few – from our beach and from St Jean, where we started the Camino, both to be placed at Cruz de Ferro and the trail’s end in Santiago). More about that tradition later. Here anything that could be used to make a cross has been used – over 500 meters of fence hosts thousands of crosses.
A special Pilgrims coffee.
A special Pilgrims coffee. ( Not where I wanted this picture to be!!)
It is absolutely amazing what a little bit oh imagination can do. The yellow is from broom, the purple from petunias and the green - simply cut evergreens.
Getting ready for Corpus Christi day. It is absolutely amazing what a little bit of imagination can do. The yellow is from broom, the purple from Spanish lavender and the green – simply cut evergreens.
Camino capitalism at work. Here an artist has set up a table, miles from anywhere, and is selling his Camino inspired hand made items.  Others set up a snack and drink stand, again strategically placed, just where a thirsty pilgram' really needs a break. But the Camino lesson: everything we have seen being sold on the Camino, is either by donation or at prices well below the already low Spanish prices.
Camino capitalism at work. Here an artist has set up a table, miles from anywhere, and is selling his Camino inspired hand made items. Others set up a snack and drink stand, again strategically placed, just where a thirsty pilgrim really needs a break. But the Camino lesson: everything we have seen being sold on the Camino, is either by donation ( see sign on his table)  or at prices well below the already low Spanish prices.
Typical of our accomodation along the way - for the most part family run hotels, with as many as 20+ rooms and serving great european breakfasts ( fruit, yogurt, cheeses, meats, breads, fresh OJ and coffee to put Starbucks to shame! Dinner featuring huge portions of good food, including desert and wine is optional: the pilgram's meal that I have just described costs from 10 - 12 euros ( $14 to $17 CA )
Typical of our accomodation along the way – for the most part family run hotels, with as many as 20+ rooms and serving great European  breakfasts ( fruit, yogurt, cheeses, meats, breads, fresh OJ and coffee to put Starbucks to shame!
Dinner featuring huge portions of good food, including desert and wine is optional: the pilgrim’s meal that I have just described costs from 10 – 12 euros ( $14 to $17 CA )
Every day we are treated to a chorus of songbirds, determined to lift our feet and spirits. Here is one little guy sitting atop some broom, just  determined to make us smile.
Every day we are treated to a chorus of songbirds, determined to lift our feet and spirits. Here is one little guy sitting atop some broom, just determined to make us smile. This little fellow has green wings, thus “verdecilla”.

DAY 12. Saturday, June 6 2015 Rest day in Astorga

Without even exploring Astorga, we knew we would like it—-because we are not walking today😊
The town has a long history. It was originally settled by the Romans and there are excavations dating to that time. Astorga was sacked by Moors in the 11th century and then rebuilt and endowed with the usual hospices and monasteries. As the pilgrimage lost popularity in the late Middle Ages, Astorga fell into decline. Now, once again it is a vibrant stop for pilgrims—their last opportunity before the mountains to rest and reprovision. It is also the capital of the Maragateria region.
The cathedral of Santa Maria is incongruously grand for a town of 12,000 people. It dates from the 15th century. Today the docents kindly allowed us to place Calla lilies for Bev on the cathedral altar.
Across the street from the cathedral is a Gaudi building initially built as the Bishop’s palace. Only two floors were completed by Gaudi but this is another of his magnificent fairy tale castles. The beauty of light filtering through the stained glass of the many churches, cathedrals and basilicas along the Camino give the feeling of being in a giant kaleidoscope.
Astorga is famous for pastries called “mantecadas” which are like a dry pound cake, “hojaldes” —sort of a flaky, honey pastry, quite good but very rich. The area is also known for chocolate which we have not gotten around to tasting yet. It does not travel well in a hot backpack.
Another favoured meal of the area is called”Cocida Maragato” which has an assortment of ingredients including pig snout, pig trotter, pig ear and goat’s blood sausage. We applaud the not wasting of the pig but decided to pass on this dish.
Astorga marks the end of the Meseta and the beginning of the foothills of the Leon Mountains.It is said that the Camino France’s may be divided into three distinct sections, each with its unique challenge. The first is from St.Jean Pied de Port, over the Pyrenees to Burgos. This section challenges the pilgrim physically. The second is from Burgos to Astorga, known as the Meseta or great plain. The Meseta offers the pilgrim a mental challenge. This is where ” Jerusalem Fever” may occur. Actually, a friend of ours who walked the Camino from Burgos to Santiago, said he felt the presence of, but did not see, an ancient pilgrim accompanying him all through the Meseta…. He is a very grounded person, not a man prone to exaggeration or fantasy….
The final portion of the Camino is from Astorga to Santiago through two mountain ranges into Galicia. This is believed to be the pilgrim’s spiritual challenge. We are very much looking forward to the next few weeks.

We enjoyed seeing the Spanish architect Gaudi's work so much in Barcelona last year, it was only natural for us to spend time viewing his Bishop's palace in Astorga
We enjoyed seeing the Spanish architect Gaudi’s work so much in Barcelona last year, it was only natural for us to spend time viewing his Bishop’s palace in Astorga
This shows the Cathedral on the left with Gaudi' building on the right. Look closely and you will see terraced planters with flowers in the foreground. We expect that you will see those again.... We love the idea and will try to copy the planter idea.
This shows the Cathedral on the left with Gaudi’s building on the right. Look closely and you will see terraced planters with flowers in the foreground. We expect that you will see those again…. Really just a series of smaller oval planters fitted on top of each other with a watering system working top down. We love the idea and will try to copy the planter idea.
One of many statues along the Camino
One of many statues along the Camino
Magnificent entry doors to Cathedral.
Magnificent entry doors to Cathedral.
Excavitation of Roman buildings which showed remarkable engineering: including heated water and heated floors, separate areas for spas, cooking and sleeping.
Excavation of Roman buildings in Astorgia which showed remarkable engineering: including heated water and heated floors, a sewer system, separate areas for spas, cooking and sleeping.
Engineering marvel so far ahead of his time  and yet functionally perfect and so artistically unique!
A Gaudi engineering  marvel — very controversial and so far ahead of it’s time,  yet functionally perfect and artistically unique!

DAY 11 June 5 2015 Villar de Mazarife to Astorga. A long and testing 34 km!!

Thank you for your patience   – the following is the narrative we were waiting for.  Interesting, it was sent from one IPad to another, about 5 feet apart. The email took almost 24 hours.

We knew today’s journey would be a challenge. We were walking our greatest distance across very familiar and sometimes, tedious terrain. (This was our 10th day in the Meseta.). Today was also the day a celebration of life was being held for a beloved friend. Our hearts were not really into the walk ahead, they were back home in Canada with the Girling family.
Inspiration sometimes arises from the most unlikely sources. We were about 3 Km into our walk when we came upon what appeared to be a snail crossing….? For whatever reason these slow, heavy laden creatures were traversing from one side of the road to the other. Their journey was perilous and many would not make their destination…but they persevered.
The trek of the lowly little snails made us see that we could do today’ s walk by pacing ourselves (not quite at a snail’s pace😊) and we could also, carry our grief more easily by enjoying things along the way that our friend, Bev would also enjoy.
As we walked our final stretch of the Meseta we were serenaded by bull frogs and songbirds—all good. Passing a fairly vertical, sandy hillside we saw sand martins fluttering in and out of their nesting burrows. Here the sand martins are called “butterfly birds” because of the way they use their wings. Bev would have found this delightful.
After a pretty good 15 Km start the day was growing warmer but the land was also transforming into a calming verdancy. The corn and hop fields accompanied forests of oak,sumac and pine trees. We stopped frequently today to drink lots and rest our feet. At the village of Hospital de Orbigo they were preparing for their Medieval Festival. The set up was very realistic, the whole town was transformed back to the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, we were passing through a day early. We did enjoy a tasty bocadillo ( sandwich) by the three tired medieval bridge.
A few kilometres from our destination of Astorga, we realized the once again the distances on our map, our GPS and the Camino road signs all differed. This has happened fairly often but the discrepancies are usually a kilometre or two. Today we had to walk not 29 Km but 34 Km!! Yike! It is a good thing we did not realize this earlier…..we might have just stayed in bed😊
We did finally make it to Astorga. How wonderful tomorrow is a day of rest!

 

Pretty easy for you to see from what follows that the electronic gremlins of Word Press have been up to no good – despite my best and lengthy efforts to put the pictures in order, they refuse to sequence as I want them to. Sorry….k

 

 

And across the street - more storks!
And across the street – more storks! ( these entries obviously got reversed…. Grrrrrrrr
A typical Camino monument, this one just six long and wet km from our destination.  Note all the stones carefully placed at the bottom. - many picked up days before and left with the thoughts and prayers of the pilgram's.
A typical Camino monument, this one just six long and wet km from our destination. Note all the stones carefully placed at the bottom. – many picked up days before and left with the thoughts and prayers of the pilgrim’s
Later in the afternoon the storm clouds gathered ... It would be our first rain on the Camino. We were already exhausted and really didn't want it at that time!
Later in the afternoon the storm clouds gathered … It would be our first rain on the Camino. We were already exhausted and really didn’t want it at that time!

 

 

Over a thousand feet of walking to get safely across 10 feet of tracks!
Over a thousand feet of walking to get safely across 10 feet of tracks!
The town of readying itself for the ancient jousting celebrations.
The town of Hospital de Orbigo readying itself for  ancient jousting celebrations.
And it did finally pour down!
And it did finally pour down!
I love this picture, and Delana's analogy - the snail to the pilgram.
I love this picture, and Delana’s analogy – the snail to the pilgrim.

 

This was our ,  plain but so clean and very friendly.  Some rooms were for as many as eight! We were lucky to have the only private bath.
This was our Albergue/hostel, plain but so clean and very friendly. Some rooms were for as many as eight! We were lucky to have the only private bath. There is a sign on the front: Santiago 297 km!

DAY 10 June 4 2015 Leon to Villar de Mazarife ( 24 km)

Another hot day on the Meseta. The temperature was only 30 C but it was muggy and the heat felt smothering at times. Other than a dirty, noisy trek to reach the outskirts of Leon we had a good walk. There were two routes and we did take the one less travelled which was a good choice this time. The path still skirted dry land farming areas (for some reason there is very little irrigation here) but there were gentle hills and more trees and bushes. About 8 km from our destination we came upon a pilgrim under a tree—she appeared to be resting but something just did not seem right. Asking a few more questions, Delana realized the woman was suffering from heat stroke. We gave her half of our water and found her partners who had gone on ahead. It turns out they are 4 retired nurses from Germany! Somehow they were all ill prepared for the heat of the Meseta and thought their friend was just tired and weak from pain medication she had taken in the morning. It is interesting how we can lose our perspective when we are in a different situation. Just before entering Villar de Mazarife, we saw a large flock of sheep being herded by several dogs and a shepherd astride a donkey ( our friend, Martin, we are certain😊). The shepherd was holding an umbrella ! We were prepared for our accommodation tonight to be ” rural” as it is the only hotel in town. It is but it is just fine—our bathroom even has a mini tub. As if we had not had enough excitement today, no sooner had Delana said. “It is a miracle that our luggage always arrives”, that we discovered Delana’s had but Rod’s suitcase had not. Mmm…… After numerous phone calls in various languages and a thorough search of the hotel, the luggage appeared in the room next door. It is very nice to have a happy ending to this story!! Tomorrow we are on to Astorga and the end of the Meseta. It is our longest walk (29km) so we will be starting earlier to avoid the heat. Because this is a long, hard walk we have a rest day in Astorga following it😊

The  cloister of the former monastery in Leon. Now one of the most beautiful of the Parador chain of hotels - all former monasteries
The cloister of the former monastery in Leon. Now one of the most beautiful of the Parador chain of hotels – all former monasteries.
Looking almost like a western movie prop, here the facade of an ancient church has been restored and kept with a new building behind.
Looking almost like a western movie prop, here the facade of an ancient church has been restored and kept with a new building behind. Note the stork community once again!
We are leaving the flat land grain area known as the Mesatta, suddenly in hilly deciduous forests, even oak trees!
We are leaving the flat land grain area known as the Mesatta, suddenly in hilly deciduous forests, even oak trees!
The Camino is celebrated in so many ways by almost every small community along the way.
The Camino is celebrated in so many ways by almost every small community along the way, like this picnic area beside the trail.
been waiting to post this one: - a Camino Classic. Just before the town of Mazarife.  This shepherd, along with
been waiting to post this one: – a Camino Classic. Just before the town of Mazarife. This shepherd, along with “Martin” our old friend and his three sheep herding dogs were tending a large flock of up to two hundred sheep. Love the umbrella!

DAY 9 June 3 2015 Rest Day in Leon

 

Dinner was very late last night. It seems the fancier the hotel, the later meals are served. Kindly, there were English translations on the menu. One dish that made us smile was ” wild mushrooms attacked by asparagus”. We can only imagine how hilarious our attempts at Spanish must be.😊
Being a rest day, we had the pleasure of sleeping in. Then after finding a laundromat we decided to be tourists for a few hours.
Leon dates from 69 BC when it was an outpost of the Roman Legion. Later Visigoths and Moors controlled this area and the town over the centuries. At one point the town was burned by the Moors and depopulated by the Plague. In the 10th century the whole Meseta was repopulated and Leon became the capital of the kingdom.Leon played vital part in the “Reconquista” -718-1492 securing her place in Christian Spain.
Now Leon is a very nice city of 135,000 people. It is a mixture of the very old and the very knew. Renowned structures are the Gothic Santa Maria de Leon cathedral. Its 1800 sqm of stained glass have earned it the name of “House of Light”. You can imagine the incredible beauty—many of the windows are original. Also, not to be missed in Leon is the Basilica San Isidora. It is a combination of Roman, Gothic and Renaissance styles and is the medieval pantheon for the Kings of Leon. Significantly, in 1188 the “Cortes de Leon” was held in the Basilica, and is recognized as the first modern parliament in Western Europe. Another interesting building is the Casa de Botines designed by the renowned Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudi. This is a modernistic building but without the surrealism of some of Gaudi’s more famous work.
Now our rest day is over and we are preparing for another stretch of the Meseta tomorrow…..😎
Sent from my iPad

Which is the real pilgrim... Both pooped after a long day!
Which is the real pilgrim… Both pooped after a long day!
Our hotel, one of the famous Parador chain, this was originally a monastery founded in the twelfth century to provide lodging for the pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. This is considered one of the most beautiful Renaissance building in Spain.
Our hotel, one of the famous Parador chain, this was originally a monastery founded in the twelfth century to provide lodging
for the pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. This is considered one of the most beautiful Renaissance buildings in Spain.
Square in front of the Basilica San Isidora.
Square in front of the Basilica San Isidora.
The Cathedral of Leon, started almost a thousand years ago with a stained glass rose window of modelled after Notre Dame de Paris
The Cathedral of Leon, built almost a thousand years ago has a stained glass rose window modelled after Notre Dame de Paris
The Casa  de Botines designed by Antoni Gaudi - very con entail by his later standards
The Casa de Botines designed by Antoni Gaudi – very conservative by his later standards

 

 

DAY 8 June 2 2015 Mansilla de las Mulas to Leon (22 km)

Other pilgrims had warned us that this was a very tiresome stretch—same old, same old, but with traffic alongside much of the way, and the industrial part of Leon to traverse. We set out, grateful for the good weather and determined that we would make our walk enjoyable. We had some challenging philosophical topics to discuss ( challenging because we are often hold differing views 😊) and knew that these would help make the day seem to pass more quickly. At first we were pleasantly surprised—although the countryside was much drier, major irrigation set ups kept the fields of corn and red peppers green. Again attempts have been made to provide shade for Camino pilgrims by the planting of vine maples along the path.
Off to the side there were copses of reforestation with cottonwood and poplar trees planted in rows like sentinels. Wild flowers were now wild oat, fox tail, dandelion, a lovely purple mini hollyhock type flower, hillsides of Spanish lavender and the occasional splash of poppies.
This also became “stork” day. Almost every church we passed had a resident stork family. This was fascinating to us as storks in Canada are rare—in North America they may be seen at Pelee Pt.,Ontario, the southernmost spot in Canada, some southern states and Mexico. They are considered mute but do communicate by clacking their bills which can be quite raucous. Their nests are large and used year after year by the same storks. The ones we are seeing are white storks, although there are also black storks in Spain which are now on the endangered species list. Storks in a Spanish village are considered good luck😊
Despite our stork diversion and good conversation, we found we were weary upon reaching Leon. The final 2 Km were very hard.
Arriving at our accommodation (a Parador, which is an historic building like a monastery converted to a luxury hotel) we were taken aback at our lodging and most likely the concierge was, too at his bedraggled looking guests. The hotel is very nice–no shortage of amenities and the furniture and paintings in the Hostal San Marcos are worthy of a museum.
Our friend, Lisa from England joined us in the evening as she will finish her Camino before ours is done, and we know not if ever again our paths will cross. Our two pilgrim friends have each been blessings on our walk. We will miss them.

If you look closely you can see the detail of the rock work in this home. Took a lot of loving craftsmanship!
If you look closely you can see the detail of the rock work in this home. Took a lot of loving craftsmanship!
A portion of the wall circling the combined Roman and medieval town of Mansilla de las Mulas
A portion of the wall circling the combined Roman and medieval town of Mansilla de las MUlas. Most of he wall is over 30 feet tall and 10 -12 feet thick at the base, it was started over 1200 years ago!
Lavender, lavender.... Everywhere!
Lavender, lavender…. Everywhere!
Here is one of the thousands of the aqueduct gravity driven
Here is one of the thousands of the aqueduct gravity driven “pumping stations”. To cross roads and other obstacles, wanted is piped under the obstacle and then brought up – to a lower level, for distribution downstream. Well engineered and sometimes very complicated systems distribute water over miles of otherwise arid land.
Spain is a major producer of fruits, vegitables, wine, grains and beef, all which require water. Most of Spain suffers from drought conditions and so crops can only be produced where there is irrigation. We have never seen a countryside so irrigated by miles and miles of aqueducts.  60% of all the farms in Spain make up only 5% of the farm land, while 50% of the land is held by only 1% of the farm owners.
Spain is a major producer of fruits, vegitables, wine, grains and beef, all which require water. Most of Spain suffers from drought conditions and so crops can only be produced where there is irrigation. We have never seen a countryside so irrigated by miles and miles of aqueducts.

We figured that this home took a lot of work too. Turns out that these storks migrate here from North Africa , short hops as compared to some found in Denmark who fly in from South Africa!
We figured that this ‘high rise condo development’ took a lot of work too, referring to the picture of the stone house above that suddenly moved up a few spaces on me! Turns out that these storks migrate here from North Africa , short hops as compared to some found in Denmark who fly in from South Africa!
Here a bridge over 500 years old with over 20 spans, most now spanning arid land - a sign of changing water conditions in The country.
Here a bridge over 500 years old with over 20 spans, most now spanning arid land – a sign of changing water conditions in The country.
A new 'low rise' condo development.
A new ‘low rise’ condo development.

DAY 7 June 1 2015 El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas (20 km)

Our lodging last night was one of the best we have experienced. It was in a small, family run, rural pension—well appointed (TUB), very clean, with home cooking and the most considerate posadero. We slept well and did not hear the frogs.😊
Today we once again followed the path across the plains. It was 29 C with no breeze until mid afternoon. However, the overcast skies helped lessen the heat. The government has planted London Plane trees along the way but they are not yet mature enough to provide shade.
Although not difficult, walking across the Meseta is tedious and mind numbing. You feel like you are on a treadmill in the middle of the Canadian prairies.There was only one village to break up the tedium of the landscape and whether you looked ahead or behind the road appeared endless. It was also very dusty—-the backs of our legs were coated almost to our knees with a fine silt—it seeps in everywhere.
The village of Mansilla de Las Mulas is a walled village built in the Middle Ages. The name means “hand saddle of the mule” and refers to a famous horse fair that used to be held here. On entering we took a wrong turn and found ourselves face to face with a sweet little donkey (or mule)– we are sure he was Martin as he seemed to recognize us😊
We are looking forward to trying the “famous” Mansilla tomatoes. They are said to be medium sized, bright red and very juicy. The story is that the farmers are allowed to only use heritage seeds.
Our room is fine—the decor is antique-eclectic. The religious art adorning the walls is a reminder that the Camino began as a Catholic religious pilgrimage. Fortunately there is only one painting that alarms our Protestant sensibilities.
We are beginning to feel the physical effects of daily long walks. First, we feel very healthy but by day’s end we are weary and both of us have some aches and soreness. It is amazing the therapeutic effect of a hot shower!
Emotionally and spiritually it does not take long for the Camino to embrace willing pilgrims.. It may be something as simple as looking at a flowering weed and seeing the intricacies of Nature’s design; or an exchange of thoughts with another pilgrim who until that moment was a stranger—their words may have been simple but their effect on you may be profound. Each day we are reminded of the wonder of our world and our fellow beings.

Good old 'Martin' - here he was giving us directions once again
Good old ‘Martin’ – here he was giving us directions once again
More on the ancient but so very effective irrigation system later, but here is a modern water tower with greetings to the pilgrams!
More on the ancient but so very effective irrigation system later, but here is a modern water tower with greetings to the pilgrams!
Looking like a miniature blue hollyhock, these weeds bring even more colour to the route. Note the line of plane trees ... There are miles and miles of thers trees, and remarkably, they are ALL WATERED by a watering system!
Looking like a miniature blue hollyhock, these weeds bring even more colour to the route. Note the line of plane trees … There are miles and miles of these trees, and remarkably, they are ALL WATERED by a watering system!
The re intents of a medieval grain storage building made of Adobe
The remains of a medieval grain storage building made of adobe.
We are seeing so much of the result of the economic situation in Spain. Overall unemployment is 25% with the rate for Utah at 51 %
We are seeing so much of the result of the economic situation in Spain. Overall unemployment is 25% with the rate for youth at 51 %
 This picture was to go with the overgrown soccer field.  The message: the small villages are empty save for the few elderly who remain. The only hope in this area: the economic benifit of the Camino. And that is limited to a corridor 1 km or so wide, pilgrams do not want to walk a couple of extra km for a coffee or accommodation.

This picture was to go with the overgrown soccer field. The message: the small villages are empty save for the few elderly who remain. The only hope in this area: the economic benifit of the Camino. That  is limited to a corridor 1 km or so wide, pilgrams do not want to walk a couple of extra km for a coffee or accommodation.

DAY 6 31 May 2015 Sahagun to El Burgo Ranero (18 km)

Being a Sunday morning before Mass, the town of Sahagun was still asleep when we were searching for a morning coffee to get us on our way. Rod helped a restauranteur put out his tables and chairs in exchange for brewing some coffee for us. We must have looked desperate.
Fortified with our cafe con leches we departed passing a grove of poplar trees called “The Field of Charlemagne’s Lances”. Some historians believe Sahagun was founded by Charlemagne….. others do not….?
Not far out of Sahagun, an extraordinary road for pilgrims has been built along the highway. This finely gravelled path runs for over 30 km and is banked on one side by alternating plantings of ash, maple and poplar trees. This makes for a safer walk but unfortunately the trees are too immature to provide much shade.yet. We are now into a drier portion of the Meseta but it is irrigated and the grain crops look healthy. It seems the wildflowers that have so cheered our way are being replaced by broom. Even on the west coast we do not recall seeing such huge bushes of broom. As long as you don’t suffer from allergies, they look quite pretty and their perfume fills the air.
El Burgos Ranero has several slough like lakes surrounding it and is known as the village of the frogs, presumably because of the frogs in these bodies of water. We will await the croaking tonight😊
In autumn storks congregate here before beginning their southward flight. Coming into town we saw a nesting stork at the top of some sort of tower.
Our Irish friend was here to greet us and we are looking forward to having dinner with her. She is a wonderful raconteur. A few days ago on a lonely and sort of boring portion of the road, Delana was singing as we walked. Part of her repertoire was several verses of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”. That evening we met our friend, Marian who is from Tipperary! Ahhh….the Camino.and its magic.

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Kind of looks like  I am coming out of a broom closet…. Bad pun!

When you come to think of it, there aren’t too many ‘bad’ people who set out to walk 800 plus km with other pilgrims!

So here are some El Camino statistics:

Walkers:

Women: 98.008 (45,40%)
Men: 117.872 (54,60%)
On foot: 188.191 (87,17%)
By bike: 26.646 (12,34%)

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By horse: 977 (0,45%)

Storks: unknown … They seem so just sit around most of the time!
In a wheelchair: 66 (0,03%)

Walkers by age:

Under 30: 61.114 (28,31%)
30 to 60: 121.305 (56,19%)image
Over 60: 33.461 (15,50%)
Top Nationalities:

Spain: 105.891 (49,05%)
Germany 16.203 (14,73%)
Italy 15.621 (14,20%)
Portugal 10.698 (9,73%)
USA 10.125 (9,21%)
France: 8.305 (7,55%)
Ireland: 5.012 (4,56%)
UK: 4.207 (3,82%)Canada:
Canada: 3.373 (3,07%)

Anyone allergic to Broom cannot walk the Camino at this time of year,!

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Liked this – it shows the old with the new. That’s a centuries old adobe grain storage building with a modern stainless one in the background.

A great lunch party was held fresh olives, cheese, local croissants, almonds and raisins. All good pilgrim stuff!

This site is terrible, I have been working on it for almost three hours just to get the pictures and the narrative to go with each, in some kind of order. So why is the stork nest sitting atop a church steeple  in the middle of the Camino stats???

Guess it really doesn’t matter does it… You will figure out that one stork registered…..