And so you may be surprised that the very non-religious Ms Pacifica did the Camino. Well some of it, and clearly not roughing it, or staying in Albergues (dorms!). But some walking was done, and some cycling too, and some pilgrim menus were eaten for lunch…. very handy as they don’t have lunch until 2pm by which time we had almost always arrived in our individual hotel rooms, had a nice hot shower and changed and were ready for a 3 course lunch with wine! for 9-10Euros.
I met friend Jan and her son Brad just out of Leon at possibly our most unlovely accommodation ever, (truckies seemed to stay there) but anyway we were up pre dawn and heading out walking at 7am and that became our routine. We would walk for an hour or 90minutes until we reached a cute town and then stop and have our breakfast with a few kms behind us and before it was too hot. Jan, (who had already being doing this lark for a month) had got the plan down pat, walking 15-20kms a day was sustainable and so we did that.
Our first night we stayed in a little town almost not on the map called Hospital de Orbigo with this cute bridge and they were having some kind of celebration with a brass band.
Next day we pushed on to the bigger town of Astorga and stayed right in the main square.
After another cute little town on a hill (whose name escapes me) we then arrived in Ponferrada, famous for it’s templar castle. Jan and I did a tour – to see if I remembered it form my last visit (in the middle ages!)
They were having a Templar knights parade event that evening but it didn’t really start until 11.30pm so only Brad made it. After that we decided to do a few days on e-bikes and so we hired them and they dropped them off at the hotel and we set off. Our plan was to do 50kms a day and so we did, but even with the bikes it was quite slow going, either you are on off-road tracks, or you are having to ask walkers to let you pass, but sometimes there is a bit on the small country roads and you can speed along. The issue really is that the battery doesn’t last all day on off-road uphills and so whilst it sounds easy, it is not and the first day we literally dragged our asses into our hotel in Las Herrerias. Fortunately in this tiny town we lucked in and booked a place with amazing food. No-one else seemed to know about it so we dined alone and it was great. Haute cuisine on the side of the road.
We did have a few bike problems. Day 1; I got a flat tyre, which we were struggling with until a man with a collection of bicycles at home stopped and helped out. For the record e-bikes are a lot more complex to change and even get a wheel off than the last time I changed a bike tyre (which was probably when I was 15 on my new 10-speed.) Day 2; Brad had a spectacular chain problem which took 3 spanish cyclists with tools to fix on the side of the road in the rain. Thankfully I speak spanish so when they say, necesitan ayudar? (do you need help) I say SI!
There were some hills which were a challenge even with electrics, but worth it at the top!
Jan and Brad carried on for an extra day and then walked the last 20kms into Santiago, I slept in and caught the bus. Enough it enough!
I was unimpressed; if you have walked 800kms to get here, surely they can let you in through the front door, but no it’s being renovated and so everyone comes in the side door! (except the Queen mother)
Summary: No injuries, and not too hard physically. Easy to arrange accommodation and you can text a guy Juan to come and pick up your luggage and drop it to the next hotel. (We loved seeing his van fly by as we were walking and also arriving into a hotel and seeing your suitcase there waiting) But for me anyway, although I enjoyed the countryside, I’m done, no desire to come back and redo it all.
Footnote: the day Jan and Brad arrived in Santiago was the morning after Spain had been knocked out of the world cup. They were shocked and quiet, so we didn’t think ordering champagne would go down well!
Next stop for me Bilboa (on a little Canary islands airline flight) and I can see that my luggage is one of about 6 bags on the trolley!