23 October A Fonsagrada to Castroverde

“Where’s the boy? Have you lost him? Did you count one, two, three, four oh that’s enough!”
It was the Canary Islands family quizzing us outside a bar – a bar, which incidentally, we all remembered stopping at last time….and all of us thought it was very early on in the day – turned out to be after 12km walking!! We have found frequently that something we see reminds us that something else is coming up, and we think it is going to be soon, but there are often five or six kilometres of forgotten walking in between!!We finally reached the bar today and there were the canaries sitting outside eating toast with tomato. We went inside for hot drinks to warm up and when we emerged, they wanted to know about the boy. They were right – he wasn’t with us. He was still feeling energy-less this morning and so together we decided a 30+km day full of lots of ups and downs was not the best idea. And it seemed fortuitous that we should be in a town where he could catch a bus straight to the place we were heading to. So we found the bus timetable online and the bus stop in real life, and gave him his passport, some money, Rob’s phone, the cowbell and a bag of spare food (because he didn’t eat much yesterday we had leftovers!!)Knowing we had a long day ahead of us, we set off before dawn. Just four of us.

Last time we walked this there was thick fog and we saw next to nothing (and got a wee bit lost and had to backtrack). Today we had a perfectly clear day and enjoyed beautiful rural vistas stretching up to distant mountains. That and forests. With the occasional hamlet. That sums up the day. In and out of forests and dark and light playing games. Oh, and crunching through leaves – it was the first day the leaves were really crunchy.See the four of us there? No Micki. He, meanwhile, was on the bus, covering 40km in 44 minutes. As we walked I got to thinking about being the weakest link. It’s fine when you’re so weak you go by bus, but usually I’m the weakest one. And I’m walking. Going uphill I’m last. Going downhill I’m more cautious than everyone else (which also translates as “slower”). On the flat I’m usually trying to catch up. For a few kilometers today I decided to stick with the group no matter what and with my poles going in time with my legs I felt like the Energizer Bunny. It was nice to not be holding anyone back, but I know I can’t sprint all the time! This all led to me thinking about how different it is to be walking with others rather than on my own. Expectations vary.
Quiet or music.
Quiet or chatter.
Take a break or it’s too cold to stop.
Take a break or let’s push on to the top of the hill first.
Not caring about time taken or noticing how slow the latest kilometre was.
Wanting to stop to admire the view or watching as you walk.
Eating as you walk or taking a break to sit down.
Walking together means give and take.The youngest is usually in front. So she gets to take breaks on mojons while the rest of us catch up. Micki and Tessa often walk behind, but if they fancy, they can put on a burst of speed that sees them overtake everyone in a very short space of time. I never fancy, so I’ve never tried it, but I doubt I’d have the ability even if I wanted to!! Towards the top of the last climb today Rob (who had just powered up the hill while the rest of us plodded steadily) nonchalantly mentioned he felt so good that if he could drop his backpack he could happily run ten kilometers (he’d already walked close to 30 at this stage). This provided Tessa with the opportunity to prove what I had just been contemplating (namely what I have just written – that if she felt so inclined she could run). And she did.
In fact, Rob (not knowing I was thinking about writing about this on the blog) took a video of her doing exactly that. But in the end that was not the exciting thing about the video. It just so happened that as he was filming, a fox ran onto the path, took fright and retreated into the brush. If you know it’s there, you can see it at the beginning of the video;-) National Geographic videographers sit for hours waiting for that kind of opportunity!placeholder://That excitement put a spring in everyone’s step for a few kilometers, but it must be said that the last three or four seemed to take forever!However, we finally arrived, having walked 10km farther than the Hospitales Day and having climbed only a tiny bit less (but steeper).
It’s fascinating that when we walked up to town to buy food for dinner later we did another three km but it didn’t feel like anything!

Primitivo Day 9
Distance: 33.5 + 3.2 (205.8km)
Elevation gain: 924m (5996m)
Temperature: 9-19 deg (it’s forecast to snow in the town we left this morning – on Sunday!)
Other pilgrims: the Canaries, a huge bunch of Spaniards, a whole lot more new French (including one lady)…..the friendly Canadians who we had a lovely chat with last night (and incidentally one of them turned out to be the same racial heritage as Rob and had so many things in common it was uncanny) couldn’t contemplate doing such a long day so we left them behind. Funnily, one of them popped out of a pharmacy this morning just as Micaiah was standing at the bus stop.

“Are you doing the same thing as us, getting breakfast?” he asked, about to head into the bakery with his companions.
“No, I’m catching the bus.”
“From here?”
“Yep, it should be stopping here.”
He was surprised that Micki should be travelling alone – but we had evaluated the risks (next to nothing), and M was not actually sick, just lacking energy, so he was not about to collapse or anything! It was good for him.

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Don’t be put off!

“Well I’m never doing a Camino after reading your blog!”

“I don’t want to go any more. You were far too real on your blog.”img_8257

These two  comments have been haunting me since they were uttered soon after we got back! Did I really make it seem *that* bad? I didn’t mean to. Truly! And actually we mostly had a great time. And even the hard bits we’d do again.

Would I change anything? Yes, I’d take a fleece vest to wear when walking. If we’d been a little bit warmer in those long days in the rain we would have been much more comfortable. Wet is one thing. Wet and cold possibly coloured my writing (I’ll have to go back and have a look at what I said!)img_7030

I still wouldn’t take a bus – but you could! If that would be the difference between you trying a Camino and staying home, then you could take a bus – or a lot of busses for that matter.

I still wouldn’t opt out of the snoring dormitories. Even though I am quite the introvert, I do enjoy the evening shenanigans with fellow pilgrims. If I were to walk without kids in my care I might invest in ear plugs, but with kids I rest better if I know I’m aware of what’s going on with them (especially after a guy came into the big open room that was called the ladies’ shower – no cubicles, no curtains – not once, which would be accidental although the way he had to struggle with the locked door might have suggested something to him, but twice in about three minutes……but hang on, I’m meant to be allaying your fears, not adding to them!)img_8736

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“You’re brave,” people have told me. I’m not. Especially when standing starkers in a shower! I do, however, know how to employ a loud voice. And the Camino is not a scary place.  In fact, people look after each other. I got a text about eight one evening asking if a particular Korean girl was staying with us. She had said she was going on to the next town and typically would have arrived long before. When she didn’t turn up people started talking and tracking her known movements. Before our conversations were complete she staggered in, having taken a long break in some shade mid-afternoon because it was too hot to walk….so you see, people look out for each other.

You’re brave to travel with all those kids. Firstly, remember four is not the daunting number to me that it might be to someone who is not used to caring for eight! Secondly, those kids are not babies. They look after all their own gear (or lose it, as the case may be, but it’s not my responsibility – except for money and passports). They do all their own washing. They cook dinner most nights while I do the work of blogging! No bravery required.img_8666

That said, I have spoken with someone who doesn’t like to travel and who finds it very stressful. Perhaps it is important to acknowledge we are all wired differently. I thrive on the challenges that come with travel, I enjoy the new sights and smells and sounds, I love new food and am stimulated by trying to communicate in a foreign tongue. These things are positives for me – they may not be for someone else, and for some people, to walk a Camino would require bravery. But if you *wanted* to (and not everyone will, of course), could I give you the confidence that you CAN do it?

If it’s the snakes that are bothering you, remember the only live ones we saw slithered *away* from us. All the photographed ones were dead.img_8229

The cows are quite docile if you don’t take an octogenarian grandfather who insists on chasing them!img_7796

The bedbugs. Fair enough, they’re a pain. But you could spray your silk sleeping bag liner with permethrin (we didn’t) or be That Annoying Pilgrim with a can of bug spray (sometimes we were).img_7845

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Big Beauty At Our House 

 The little blankie – inspired by the wild flowers and wild weather of our Via de la Plata walk – has turned into a bigger blankie as I use up leftovers from the first Camino Blanket I made. Very Satisfying.

 Gobstopper matches the blanket – both in size and colour. Smallest Child thanks Eldest Sister  and Brother-in-law for such an A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Birthday Present! Very Satisfying!