Camino is addictive
A lot of pilgrims warned us last year about Camino de Santiago’s addictive nature. Back then we planned 17 days for St.James way. So we started from León to make sure we get to Santiago (because who knows if and when we’ll be able to come back). Long before we received our compostelas (certificates for completion) we knew we’ll be back.
Exactly one year later, on the very same day April 23, we started our second Camino.
The journey included some “The Amazing Race” style racing through Madrid airport terminals, missing buses, receiving misleading information, visiting Zaragoza for 20 minutes, wandering around in Pamplona in search for an albergue with free beds, dinner at a central square, a drunk but funny waiter.
It all started in St. Jean Pied de Port…
So this year we decided to head to this town in France and start from the beginning. Our taxi dropped us just nearby the Citadelle which was our official starting point of Camino Francés 2017. We took a couple of selfies, got our first stamp in our pilgrims’ credentials and a map or two. That was the easy part. What was next? Crossing the Pyrenees in one day.
It was a sunny day, way too sunny for crossing a mountain! This stage gave us mesmerizing views and sunburn and took us 10 hours. “We’ll have to open the 3rd floor” – the words of a hospitalera who greeted us in Roncesvalles, well-known for the Battle of Roncesvalles. We have won our first battle – we survived crossing the Pyrenees and nobody reported injuries or blisters. Something was different though.
There are many more people on the way than last year.
The second day is usually the hardest for me. After we climbed and went down the mountain a bit, that day we had to do mostly downhill. Weather almost convinced us to give up the last 5 km. At least we tested the waterproof gear we had with us. During a break, the RTV Spain shoot us massaging each other, stamping our credentials and so on. They also promised to include us in a documentary they are preparing. Looking forward to becoming movie stars!
We found the best shop owner in Navarra – he treated with his best wines, consulted on the best products for our pasta. It was a fantastic dinner!
Avoiding to sleep in typical stage finish places
The weather got better, selfies too. A bar offered a smartphone for selfies of its clients. We passed Pamplona – this time as part of the Camino. I did some flip-flop and trousers shopping. Old ones just got ruined and smelled pretty bad. We finished our day in an albergue with a beautiful garden, and the weather allowed us to enjoy it for a while.
The windy day
We had some windy days along the Camino, but that day was marked by the wind at every stage. Wind in the morning, climbing the Alto de Perdón where we crossed paths with the wind – el camino del viento. This hill is a milestone for many who say that they find passing over it way harder than climbing the Pyrenees. Downhill was painful. Then we had windy lunch, just before we got into an albergue with a nice garden to again, wind, to dry up our towels.
More people, more soup
Did I mention this year our crew is made of 5 people? We are the most remarkable group on the road – we were that many before we started the Camino, all from Bulgaria. Some people are naturally attracted to us, some are intimidated. We meet interesting people every day, some ask for lessons in Bulgarian. And as we need a lot of energy, we also need a lot of food. That night we shopped too much – so everyone had to eat a liter of soup!
Wine and sunflower seeds
Walking can be so much fun with sunflowers seeds to work on! The region of Navarra surprised us with its endless vineyards and mostly with the wine fountain! (It is completely free of charge.) The best fountain ever! The sunflower crew from Bulgaria says hi!
Reaching new dimensions
Did I mention how we indulged in green? Everywhere, green fields are prospering along the Camino. Such a beauty! And that wind, which sometimes we hate, actually caresses the wheat fields…magical!
A lot of other things happen on the road, too. We applauded some athletes just finishing a triathlon in Viana. Then a storm came but we continued walking. We ended in Logroño, to sleep in a parish albergue where the hospitaleros prepared an amazing dinner for all the pilgrims. We also attended a pilgrim blessing in the church, opened in the evening especially and only for us.
Monday, May 1st. A festive day, but my knee needs some medical attention. Nace and I go to the hospital, the three girls continue on the Camino – we’ll meet in Nájera. The doctor says I need 3-5 days of rest. We hop on the bus to get to Nájera, where everyone is in a festive mood and there’s a Medieval festival. We get together in the afternoon to share how the day went. Al Capone is preparing burgers for us. Rioja wine is not to be missed!
Today I’m riding the bus and meeting the other 4 in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. He’s famous for bringing people and roosters back to life. The bus to cover that stage takes 20 minutes and 1.32 euro so I explore Santo Domingo’s benches and bars slowly, even managing to check few emails and follow up on them. The crew arrives tired – they walked really fast today. We go out to celebrate our meeting with beer and patatas bravas.
The big reunion
I meet a fellow-pilgrim on the bus to Belorado – she’s badly injured. We try to find some doctor to look at her, but they want to charge her 76 euros (she’s Australian). We sit at the town’s central cafe to chat. A lot of pilgrims come and pass, we remain there. Out of the blue, two very special pilgrims pass, too. A mother and a daughter. We met the mother on our first day of the Camino last year – she had a birthday, turning 82. She was a great motivator for us to not complain and just walk. Today the daughter had a birthday. I saw the sign – I had to start walking again. I bought walking sticks and as soon as the crew arrived, we hit the road for another 5km to the village of Tosantos. I knew that I’ll be able to walk even more.
We stayed in what used to be a pilgrims hospital, together we cooked the best paella ever. We ended up with a blessing and sleeping on mattresses. This day was a serious candidate for the best day on the Camino 2017.
From misty hills to red houses
Until now, we were lacking some mist in the weather palette. Well, now we have it. But the mood was so positive, with all those donation food stalls, music, and smiling faces along the way. We picked the village of Ages for the end of the day and almost couldn’t find accommodation. We were lucky to be offered to stay in a renovated old-school red house. We tried calling for reservation in the next village – it was booked. Camino is becoming less friendly to people who don’t want to plan every stop carefully.
It was Friday so we were hoping that another Camino miracle will present itself to us – the bus who passes Atapuerca on Fridays only. We wanted to skip the long boring entering of Burgos to have more time to enjoy it and then sleep in a smaller village after it. Well, that miracle was on vacation so eventually, we took a taxi. We passed the center of Burgos, the cathedral right before some rain, again. When we got to Rabé de las Calzadas, we managed to dry up quickly and enjoy a home-made dinner. The hospitalera even gave us some good luck charms.
A long, long day
The video from this day is just twice longer than those from other days. We overslept a bit, then found the perfect place for breakfast with an Italian chef, then met a Bulgarian in a restaurant for lunch. We tried to reserve somewhere to sleep in Castrojeriz, as we walked quite a bit that day, everything was full! Completo! So before going to a random hotel and paying lots of money, we heard about a donativo albergue that may have spots – so we filled the last 5 beds. What a day!
Relax on the road
As it was the last full walking day for the most of us, we decided to stop earlier than the usual end of the stage and this was the perfect decision – we entered the world of sunshine, happiness, relax, chill, lying on the grass, and San Miguel beer.
A very small village but this albergue was just perfect for our last night together!
Time to say goodbye
It was time to go back home. We didn’t want to, of course. But we had to. So we walked just 6 km to Fromista, from where we worked on some sunflower seeds before we hopped on a train. Iva will continue to Santiago and Finisterre and Muxia, the other 4 of us continue to Valladolid and Madrid for our flight back home.
My walking sticks were confiscated by some rude and arrogant airport security staff. No explanation why. Hope they will be used by a pilgrim someday!