23 June:San Roman to Melide

20140623-145042-53442904.jpgFor most of the group we are walking with, Santiago is the end….and Santiago is in sight. Well, not literally. Actually, speaking of “not literally”…..yesterday Ella-Rose was disappointed that we had a gentle uphill walk the whole day – after the last big climb the other day she had heard someone say, “It’s all downhill from here to Santiago!”

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So Santiago draws near and everyone is winding down. It would be so easy to stop and celebrate with them…and not start up again! But Santiago will be just one more night like the others for us. The next morning we will get up again, put on our walking clothes and keep going. Our goal is the 1,000km mark for the girls, then we’ll walk back to Santiago to celebrate!

20140623-145459-53699544.jpg We had been planning a little cross-country jaunt to join our friends on the Norte route today at the monastery in Sobrado. BUT I sensed that we needed (psychologically, at least) to move towards our ultimate goal, and not detour away from it. So we stayed on the Primitivo route….not only did we stay on it, but we got to the very end of it.

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20140623-150037-54037939.jpgAfter a cool misty start largely on wooded paths, the sun came out and heated things up. Excited energy emerged, too. In spite of the rays beating down, we bounced into Melide.
Unlike the rest of the Primitivo walkers, who had been muttering for a few days about getting back to the busy, crowded, noisy Frances route, we were happy to be here. As well as marking the end of one stage, it is the beginning of the next, which seems to give a lift in spirits – so does walking with memories of having been here before. We spent the day reminiscing.

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I remember seeing these grain stores last time.
I remember the empanadas and biscuits daddy bought at the bakery next to the albergue.
Do you remember how we arrived just after shops were shut and you ran round the market getting strawberries and tomatoes as the stall owners packed up?
Do you remember how it was raining and we watched the raindrops slide down the window? (Little did we realise at that point that by 4:30 we would be being pelted with hailstones, some the size of golf balls, and that the rain would follow!)
I remember how cold it was in the dining room, we all wore our jackets – oh it will be nice to be cold in there this time!

20140623-152640-55600227.jpg And here we are. (Do you see Melide in the distnace?)
Back to telling our story, back to people counting the kids, back to meeting lots of new people, back to hearing English, back to listening to how amazingly far and fast an American has come (sorry to all the nice Americans, but there is always one skiting about his distance – usually an ex-military bloke, and today he found me within fifteen minutes of arriving!)…although some of our Primitivo-ites are here too, and there is a strange comfort in the camaraderie that exists between us.

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Destination: Melide
Distance: 28.4km (for once, shorter than the guide said)
Cumulative Distance: 1,160/860km
140km for the girls to go to get to their 1,000 – eagerly urged on by their brothers
Weather: apparently 25 degrees, but it felt hotter!
Dinner:

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22 June: Lugo to San Roman

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How’s that for a great painting?
You should see the one inside by the front door:

20140622-153834-56314233.jpg Can you work out what is real and what is not? As I type, I’m sitting inside that very building. There are tables and chairs and even an inviting corner of comfy armchairs arranged around a fireplace. These kind of spacious communal spaces are generally few and far between in albergues where every spare nook and cranny is crammed full of bunks. And at the end of a long day, if you get the last bed, you are happy that they squeezed one more in the corner!
Actually, the albergue where we are staying tonight is just through the trees from here – we’ll not be sleeping in this fancy private one. We’re sleeping under a slate roof and big wooden beams riddled with borer. It is one rectangular room with three bunks at each end and a small kitchen in the middle. While there is sleeping space for twelve, there are only five stools at the bench. On a day like today it is no problem – we all sat outside in the shade of a tree on a low stone wall and ate potato chips.

20140622-211231-76351263.jpg In the pouring rain, I’d be inclined to stay at this artistic place. It had been recommended to us, but when we arrived there was room at the cheaper establishment and our Korean and Canadian friends were there as well as a group of Italians who have joined our Primitivo-family. Others from our “family” who came later and are stopping in the creative building, wandered through the trees to visit us! Then we all gravitated to “the private”.
The hospitalero, who knew we were staying over at the public, invited us in, offered bread and cheese, and gave the kids the remote for the television. Even though we were not staying here we were warmly welcomed.
We did, however, eat dinner here. There’s a menu with the usual first plate, second plate, afters and bread and drink. You place your order and it arrives from Lugo at the designated time (thankfully early by Spanish standards – 7:30pm) We ordered and the hospitalero insisted the portions are enormous and we should only take four portions and share them – though of course he would do five desserts! We were grateful he was willing to forgo a little income as we would not have had a hope of eating five – as it is, we have a.mountain of cured ham left over for lunch and cheesecake for breakfast!

20140622-211922-76762383.jpgdinner arriving!

20140622-212246-76966975.jpgfirst plates….followed by ham and cheese stuffed crumbed schnitzel and turkey with fries….followed by

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Destination: San Roman (was supposed to be via Santa Eulalia with it’s fourth century Roman paintings…..but we missed the turn…..then heard tonight that someone else went there, but it was closed today in spite of what is written on the website and what the tourist office worker said yesterday)
Distance: 20.2km
Cumulative Distance: 1,132/832km
168km for the girls to go
Weather: early 20s, late afternoon showers

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20140622-213048-77448619.jpgafter-dinner-antics….very adult!

21 June: Castroverde to Lugo

20140621-180043-64843144.jpg We continue walking for water.

20140621-180132-64892175.jpg The girls reach 800km. The boys have stopped counting!

20140621-180304-64984419.jpg It’s another misty morning.

20140621-180415-65055231.jpgWe pass the older Italians from Genoa having their breakfast. Later we walk with them and one offers to take a photo of ALL of us.

20140621-180634-65194238.jpgFor almost two months life has consisted of walking, finding the albergue, registering, unpacking sleeping bag, taking a shower, doing washing by hand, finding food, eating, journalling, blogging, talking, looking at maps and sleeping. But life has gone on in the rest of the world. The All Blacks thrashed the Poms. Iraq is on the verge of a civil war. 183 are condemned to death in Egypt. Spain has a new king. And the rubbish collectors are on strike in Lugo.

20140621-181352-65632769.jpg Thunderclouds gather all over the globe as life goes on.

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Destination: Lugo (where Tessa had her arm put in a plaster cast on the last trip and we saw none of the old Roman city! This time we walked round the walls)
Distance: 23.4km
Cumulative Distance: 1,112/812km
188km for the girls to go to 1,000
Weather: cooled down to 25 degrees and another thunderstorm breaks when we are in the cathedral being awed by the paintings on the ceiling and listening to the organ

20140621-211800-76680949.jpgDinner: empanada and salad, rice pudding

20 June: A Fonsagrada to Castroverde

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It was to be a race today. A race against the weather – a thunderstorm was due to start any time from 1pm to 5pm depending which forecast you looked at. A race against people too. There were about sixty or seventy pilgrims in A Fonsagrada last night and we would be competing for 22 beds 25km away. We know that we are by no means the fastest in the pack, and so we had already resigned ourselves to probably going on an extra 8.8km to hopefully nab five of the 34 beds there. We had already heard people talking about taking a taxi if it rained or if they missed out at the first place, and so it really did feel like a race.
For the first couple of hours it looked like the storm was going to come sooner rather than later. Perhaps the mist would never clear and would just turn into storm.

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20140620-200803-72483173.jpg But we climbed above it all and Ella-Rose spotted a photo-opportunity:

20140620-201003-72603872.jpg Dropping down the other side we came across our Korean friend and he greeted us like long-lost relatives. He was actually a bit shaken up and seemed relieved to talk: he walked on 1.5km further than us yesterday to the next hamlet and as he approached the albergue witnessed a car versus truck accident. Unfortunately the driver of the car did not survive.

20140620-201249-72769275.jpg After sitting and chatting we remembered we were meant to be racing. Off we tripped through forests, up and down hills, back into the mist. A particularly stiff climb which slowed us considerably left us in no doubt that the storm which appeared to have been momentarily burnt off by fierce sun would eventually beat us to our destination.
The threat of storm was less daunting than the immediate heat, and a bar lured us in for iceblocks. We sat and enjoyed the moment, but future concerns took hold and we opted to move on. Not before I had bought a wooden spoon though! The bar owner had a selection of wooden objects for sale and I wanted to take home a practical souvenir. Mr Barman then decided my spoon should have a “Camino Primitivo” stamp on it. I didn’t actually want one, but it seemed rude to say so. He got on the phone and there was little I could do. At that moment I happened to look out to the road and saw a man in a wheelchair riding past. Another customer also saw him and called out to Mr Barman and Mr Wheelchairman simultaneously. The latter expertly turned his machine in the gravel and Mr Barman walked outside talking fast and handed him the spoon…..and promised me it would only take five minutes. Five supposedly precious minutes wasted for something I didn’t even want. I needed to get moving.
As Mr Wheelchair disappeared off down the street, Daniel and Johanne from Quebec and Aline from France came over the hill and took their places at the bar. The couple had a room booked at a hotel and so were in no hurry. Aline, without a reservation, wanted to get to O Cadavo with an urgency the Canadians did not share. She had fallen earlier today and was a bit shaken, so she asked to walk with us. Mr Spoon-Maker returned with the stamped object…..

20140620-203519-74119106.jpg….and we set off.
While Aline was in a hurry, her speed in no way matched ours. The kids shot ahead (we had, after all, discussed giving that 5km our best shot and racing to O Cadavo!) and I tried to find that balance between catching them up to explain we’d be slowing down and not leaving Aline behind.
But what about the storm? What about getting beds? We need to go further than her – she’s stopping at the first place.
Yes, yes, yes to all of that. But we sing a song:
We are pilgrims on a journey
We are family on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.
Do we really mean it? Or only when it suits?
So we walked slowly to O Cadavo. When we arrived the American high school teachers were there, Veronika from the Czech Republic was there, the Dutch and English gals were there, a man who followed two days behind us on the San Salvador route was there….and they all told us there were enough beds for us.
Dilemma. Go on so we could have a short day tomorrow and spend time in Lugo, but not be assured of getting a bed tonight, or stop here? The Dutch lass kindly pointed out that there was no water and lots of fungus on the walls. One of the American teachers pointed out the bunks were close together and he already had the end one so there were no good ones left. The others said we could cook together and pointed out it was hot and we should not be walking in that heat.
So we, of course, walked on.
It was hot. The first thunderclap sounded. And we ran out of water. After six kilometres there was a village and we were all set to ask anyone we could see for agua potable por favor, but it was clearly siesta time and everyone was fast asleep indoors. Eventually we spotted an elderly couple arranging seats in their garden and closing the gate to their home, so Tessa flew ahead to squeeze in a Spanish question before the gate clicked shut.

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And so we found ourselves talking with a Spanish family who work for Oxfam England and will soon be back in the Congo. Our common interest of fresh safe drinking water and the two little eight-year-old girls from each family provided points of connection. And they filled our bottles and gave us chocolate, too!
After another kilometre we were at the albergue, the first dormitory was full but we got the first beds in the second, and half an hour later the storm broke.
You wouldn’t read about it!

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Destination: Castroverde
Distance: 34.2km
Cumulative Distance: 1,089/789km
211km to go for the girls
Weather: fog-hot-thunderstorm
Dinner:

20140620-212528-77128429.jpgcan’t beat fresh veg and cheese!

19 June: Grandas de Salime to A Fonsagrada

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Tired of misty morning photos? Me too. So early on today I decided to write about “every day we learn something new”.
But how can I excite you about the wonder of big fat black slugs crawling up slender green stalks? I never realised they could. And are you really interested in knowing that yesterday I realised HEAT was the culprit for an antagonistic afternoon’s walking, so today we were up before 6. However, our departure was delayed as breakfast took a very long time to stomach – today I learnt that serving up AllBran is a sure way to set everyone off on the wrong foot 😉

Not particularly captivating lessons are they? So I decided to drop the learning theme and introduce you to our Primitivo Family instead.

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20140619-170646-61606111.jpg Jorge and Leticia from Venezuela, and Johanne and Daniel from Quebec who are travelling with Aline from France, have been with us from the first night. Some days we walk to a different destination, but then the next day we end up together. If anyone asks, we certainly did not let the South American couple into an albergue when they turned up late and there were no beds left in the village and the last bus had gone. I don’t think we would have suggested they throw their mattress rolls on the floor;-)
Actually, that night Ella-Rose and I top-and-tailed in a bunk (never again, by the way) – and that brings me to another family member. He’s a young guy from Korea, here to push himself. He gets up at five and is as quiet as a mouse. Not only is he considerate in the morning, but that night he gave up his bunk so that us top-and-tailers could be on the bottom and not risk clattering from the top to the floor. Our paths crossed at breakfast-time today (he had a can of coke while we had our AllBran), but not again after I decided on bloggy introductions, so there’s no picture.
There are other guys, who we have not seen at all today. Two older men from Italy, and two younger ones. One of the younger ones is called Mr Green Sheet because he has his own green silk sheet and pillowcase. We first became acquainted with him at one of those places where the bunks are arranged side-by-side….as in a double bed. He and I shared and it became the source of much hilarity the following night in the after-dinner-discussions. But I think you either had to be there – or maybe it was the red wine consumed with dinner!
Actually, at that dinner were some more family members. Jorda and Holly, who shared deeply about their reasons for walking and living. Darryl and Carol, who happen to live about ten minutes away from us in NZ! They keep turning up all over the place, because they get left behind and then take taxis to catch up – their main requirement is to walk more of the route than Darryl’s son did a couple of years ago. On-road reports suggest that this couple shares cherries with whoever they meet!

20140619-200134-72094469.jpgHere you see an English woman who just had a significant birthday this week and a Dutch girl, who, of course, loves cheese. They met at the beginning of their walk and have walked together ever since. Tonight they cooked together and made enough to feed an army. Unfortunately we were doing the very same – had we waited, we could have just eaten their leftovers! Instead, we all shared with others!

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Veronika from the Czech Republic became part of our family early on. She will always be remembered as the lady who bought the kids iceblocks the day they made it to 1,000km! She has also been an active supporter of our charity:water campaign, sharing the cause with her circle of family and friends.

20140619-185921-68361248.jpg Alberto, mentioned previously on this blog as Mr Jingle Bells, comes from Madrid. When he and Canadian Daniel get together with the kids, there’s no stopping the joking and laughter and seriously silly behaviour. They are a load of fun.
Alberto is a fast walker. There has been some good-natured competitive banter between him and some competitive boys in the family. Today we got a head start and it was quite some time before he caught us, because our AllBran was powering us up the hill at the remarkable-for-us pace of over 5km/hr.

20140619-190720-68840136.jpg When Alberto caught us this morning, he very graciously did not zoom past, but slowed his pace to match ours and walked with us for quite a few miles. He even gave Spanish lessons on the go and drew the youngest out of her longlasting AllBran meltdown. I am forever grateful to him!

20140619-191136-69096287.jpg There are others who as yet are “extended family” but with another day or so may become “immediate family”. The Belgian couple, who we met for the first time yesterday and shared snacks and conversation with, are in our dorm tonight. At dinner tonight were a couple of American guys (at least one of them a high school teacher) – the common tongue makes it possible we will talk again if our paths continue to cross.

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Destination: A Fonsagrada
Distance: 26.7km
Cumulative Distance: 1,055/755km
245km for the girls to go
Weather: hot, but we had arrived by then!
Dinner:

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18 June: Berducedo to Grandas de Salime

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Random comments from today:
“The hum of flies was as loud as walking through a beehive.”

20140618-184732-67652627.jpg(see some flies in the photo?)

“Do you think we’ll walk up near those wind turbines?”

20140618-183304-66784229.jpgTurns out we did.

“Look! There’s a cow running down the road towards us!”
And indeed there was.

“Those flowers look like pompoms on a lollipop stick.”

“Mum, I’ve dropped one of my toe socks. It came off my pack.”

“Have we gone eleventeen kilometres already?”

“Do you think we will be walking downhill forever?”

20140618-184112-67272401.jpgAlmost!!

“Are you sure there’s a dam?”

20140618-190301-68581815.jpg There it is!

“Wooooow!” (said in the same way Samuel from Paris says it) “That’s the biggest slug yet.”

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“Woooooow!” (yes, said just like Samuel – he might be three days ahead of us, but his presence accompanies us still) “Look how big they are!”

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“Would you like a scoop of this icecream?”

“If you don’t like walking in the heat, you need to go to sleep before 10:30 so we can get up early and walk while it’s cool.”

“Would it help to have a break in the shade?”

“If you don’t want to keep walking I can ring Mrs G and ask her to change our tickets and we can go home as soon as she does it. We’ve made it to 1,000km and I’m not walking with fighting grumping children.”
(I daresay I might have hopped in a taxi at that moment, had one come past!)

“Do you have beds for five?”
(conversation obviously in espanol!)
“Yes, only five are left. Come and see them.”
“No, no, it’s OK. Five beds is good.”
“There’s a problem. There are four in one room and only one in the dormitory. Come and see.”
So I went – four beds in one room is in no way a problem! One child separated from the rest is also a blessing. We would have taken five beds on the floor or in the attic or in a barn or under the church steeple. In fact, five beds is more than we had last night (we shared four and you would not believe how much room the smallest child can take up!) and two more than the night before.

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And one not at all random comment:
“When you take the socks off your pack, you might like to pay careful attention to how I attached them.”

Destination: Grandas de Salime (where there is a museum I told other pilgrims about – they visited and confirmed it was great – I had to accept that travelling with kids sometimes means you can’t do the things you’d like to!)
Distance: 24.6km
Cumulative Total: 1,028/728km
272km for the girls to get to 1,000
Weather: who can remember what the morning was like, the afternoon was so hot!
Dinner: ham roll with tomato, onion and pepper-stuffed olive salad. Lemon cookies and plums to finish.

17 June: Borres to Berducedo (Hospitales route)

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The 1,000km day. What was it going to be like?
If I were writing the script I would not have made it so perfect – it was an unbelievable day of wonder and miracles.
It was also a day of reminiscing over this journey so far. So many things happened that reminded us of something earlier on in the walk. From the cuckoo call that accompanied us up a hill to the cowbells. From the misty start to the hot belting afternoon sun. The early morning long wet grass, the stony paths, and rocky ones too…the dust…the wide expansive views…seeing the path wind up ahead…carrying a heavy bag loaded with food and three litres of water…having people stop us to take our photo…seeing animals with their babies (in today’s case, horses and cows, and a rabbit that ran straight towards us for a good twenty metres before realising we were standing there watching it)…tadpoles in a stream…watching big black birds soar on thermals (only today they were below us instead of high above)…wind turbines…lunch of baguette, chorizo, cheese, olives and chocolate….We have been caught by surprise a number of times on this journey and today was no exception. We went to open the container of peppers high on a hillside for lunch – only to discover this particular brand did not come in a plastic bag inside the cardboard box, but a metal tin without a pulltab and so I carried them all day. When we walked with not a soul in sight, we were reminded of the solitary on the early routes. When we found ourselves walking with others and catching up with camino friends we were reminded of the social nature of the Camino Frances. We remembered the windy days, only today was the strongest we have ever experienced – on one ridge I really wondered if we would be blown right off and we stayed close together as if that would somehow provide protection (the adrenaline of that half hour is done no justice in a one sentence summary). We remembered Ella-Rose tumbling down a hill a week ago when she fell flat on her face on today’s steep descent.

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The kids laughed about me standing in the mud puddle back in a cow paddock over a month ago when I submerged my shoe again today. We remembered the many icecreams we have eaten when we chanced across a bar with some at the 999.8km mark. Of course, we ate.
We had decided to take a photo wherever we were when Mrs Strava told us we had made it. We just happened to be barely ten metres from a camino marker:

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The plan had been to upload to Facebook immediately (this mama is getting quite technologically advanced, you know), but there was “NO SERVICE”. So we climbed another hill and tried again. Success! We were not to know at that stage that there would be no further phone access until the following night, hence this post going up a day late!
Everyone felt like the day should be over, but we had to keep walking; we had to find a bed. Hopes for five of the only-twelve at the Berducedo Municipal Albergue were slim and chances were estimated to be one in a million. We were fully expecting to have to walk on a further 4.5km, but poked our noses in to see if maybe, just maybe…..four beds were free we were told. And all the others were taken by various members of “our Primitivo family”. We had arrived just in the nick of time. Not ten minutes after dropping our packs another couple appeared looking desperately for somewhere to sleep.
“It’s a miracle we got these beds,” one of the kids mentioned. Maybe it was – why they weren’t taken by the thirty or so people in front of us is at least quite remarkable.
“It’s a miracle Ella-Rose didn’t tumble further down the hill,” another added.
I do think they were right. I was a mere three metres above her (but might as well have been on Mars for all the help I could offer from that short but too-far-to-do-anything distance) when I saw her topple. She went down forwards, her head hit the ground and the momentum of her pack riding up her back pulled her legs from under her – she looked like she was about to flip over in a full somersault. Had she started, there would have been no stopping her. How she stopped I still can’t fathom; there is no doubt it was a miracle.
Then Alberto from Madrid, aka Mr Jingle Bells because he walks with four bells on his pack, observed, “It’s a miracle anyone made it today!”
Perhaps it wasn’t quite that supernatural, but certainly it was a good day’s walk.

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Destination: Berducedo
Distance: 25.4km
Cumulative Distance: 1,003/703km

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297km for the girls to go to 1,000
Weather: a brilliantly clear day affording then most amazing views of rows and rows of mountains
Dinner: mashed potato and rehydrated chilli con carne

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16 June: Bodenaya to Borres

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“Even though we’ve not worried about getting a bed other nights, somehow it’s nice to know it’s not a concern on the Primitivo.”
I had spoken too soon. We arrived and there were only three beds left. In fact, we didn’t even get up the hill to the albergue. A guy who has been walking the same stages as us and hence staying in the same places told us not to bother going up and suggested we go to the bar up the next hill in the village and ring for a taxi to take us back to whence we had just come.
Kind thought, but we don’t give up so easily. The kids suggested walking on (even though it would be another 8.8km and we’d already done 31.4). I suggested going in to see if we could top and tail or find some other arrangement.
A very kind Dutch gentleman took control of the situation and urged us to at least nab the three remaining beds before someone else turned up! He then found a couple of mattresses stacked up against the wall and urged us further to get up to the bar as quickly as we could to register. The kids fair ran up the hill!
There we met our first laid-back don’t-follow-the-rules Spanish lady. She even told us we didn’t need to fill in the pilgrim book and could stay for free seeing as there were not enough beds. We paid anyway – we’ll get a mattress on the floor, a shower, use of the microwave and a roof over our heads, won’t we? When Ella-Rose and Levi went to the bar later on an errand, she gave them each a big bar of chocolate!
These were not the only kind people we met today.
As we were peacefully ambling along a forested path, the almost-silence was broken by the revving of a tractor coming straight towards us. As the path was not wide we bashed the long grass with our poles to alert any snakes and then jumped into it and out of the farmer’s way. But the farmer slowed his machine and then turned the key and when all went quiet, he spoke.
Hello. How are you?
Hello. Very well thank you. And you? (Levi was quick off the mark with good manners and impeccable Spanish!)
Very well. Are they all your children?
Yes. Four.
Hmm, four. Where are you going? To TIneo?
Yes. And Santiago.
That’s a long way. Tineo is three kilometers.
Thank you. (coz what else do you say to someone who has stopped their work to share a kind word with you?)
Adios!
Adios!
Then when we got to Tineo and found a panaderia where we could buy two loaves of bread, the lady gave each of the children a biscuit and threw an extra in the bag for me. She also rapped on the window and pointed out that we had turned the wrong way out of her shop and missed the camino sign.
On the other side of town – when we had not stumbled across a supermercado or even a little grocery store – I asked a guy where I would find one. He must have been thinking about the fact that we wouldn’t possibly want to backtrack, because his directions were for the next town, 12km away! We, however, were rather keen to pick up provisions to eat on the way and so we followed instinct back into town!
Food purchased and toilets used, we had only to refill our water bottles, and that we did at the fountain at the edge of town. As we were filling and sampling the delicious spring water, an elderly man shuffled up with his bottle to fill. He would have been born before this town got a piped water supply (1929 I seem to recall the sign said) – it is not inconceivable that he has been filling bottles from this spring his whole life. He, too, wanted to know where we were walking. The answer seemed to astound him. It’s actually only a couple of hundred kilometers from here. It made me wonder if perhaps he has not travelled very far in his lifetime.
And so the day continued with chance encounters and conversations, both we people we have never met before and others, like the Venezuelan couple or Veronica from the Czech Republic or the Italian guys, who are becoming camino-friends. We talked, too, about mutual camino-acquaintances – the kiwi couple we met last night (who lives only ten minutes away from us in NZ!), the French lady who advised us where to stay on this route, the big group of Russians we’ve all got ahead of.
It was a day of immense beauty in the landscape and kindness in encounters.

Destination: Borres
Distance: 31.4km (although I forgot to turn strava off and noticed it was up to 34.5km after a bit more wandering around!)
Cumulative total: 978/678km
That means 22km to go until the boys and I reach 1,000!! Anticipation really started growing this afternoon, and they were almost as excited as before we even left home!
So we decided we need to do something special. We expect to reach the goal sometime between noon and 2pm local time (it depends how quickly we walk – everyone is saying tomorrow is he hardest day on this camino so maybe we will slow down). We will be in the middle of nowhere, but IF we have a phone connection we will try to post a photo on facebook. So if you love us and live in NZ, you’ll have to stay up til midnight to jump about as excitedly as the boys at the exact moment that we are! Grandpa is excused, because he’ll be on a plane winging his way to India!
Weather: 10 degree start, brilliant sun by mid-morning and cooling breeze – todo perfecto!
Dinner: microwaved pizza, then bread and jam – adequate, even if not healthy or tasty

15 June: San Juan de Villapanada to Bodenaya

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Destination: Bodenaya
Distance: 29.4km mostly uphill
Cumulative Distance: 947/647km
53/353km to go to 1,000km
Weather: HOT HOT HOT from fog to sun
Dinner: Hospitalero is cooking – and he did the washing too

PS Yes this is a cop-out post;-) We’re too busy sitting round chatting in English, waiting for dinner to be cooked and the washing to dry

14 June: Escamplero to San Juan de Villapanada

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Confession time – rather appropriate on a Catholic pilgrimage, don’t you think?
As we trudged up the hill to San Juan de Villapanada, we noticed three pilgrims striding up behind us. First the man powered past, and a few minutes later one of the women flew by without so much as an Hola or Buen Camino in reply to our greetings.
We reached the albergue, and standing on the front step, looked round for a half a second to see if there was somewhere to leave our shoes and poles near the entrance….and the third woman slithered between us like the snake we had stopped to video on the path earlier in the day. My thoughts towards her were not charitable. I guess she was not to know that we always offer others the first choice of beds, but honestly, did she think we were going to claim all the bottom bunks or leave her with just a mattress on the floor? At least she was friendlier than her compatriots and managed a smile when I Hola-ed at her.
As the supposedly mature and responsible adult in this party, I ought to be able to say my time in the confession box was now up. But, no!
As the three first-comers raced to claim their beds and grab toiletries so that they would be first in the shower, I did what all considerate pilgrims would do and calmly collected my own things and got in line to wait my turn. NOT!
I peeled off my socks and made no effort to argue with them when they walked out to the washing tub beside the building. If I remember correctly (and this occurred all of half an hour ago, so chances are quite good that I have my facts straight) I invited my merino gloves that have been worn for six weeks straight without a washing and my spare socks to accompany us in order to make sure I would still be scrubbing and rinsing when the first peregrina appeared with her pile of washing. I experienced a perverse sense of satisfaction when she stopped dead in her tracks to the tub. I know, so immature.

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And before I leave the confessional, there’s an almost-white-lie to mention. In the early stages of today’s walk Micaiah asked, “Why do people ask you if you’re Catholic when they hear you have lots of children?” After a moment’s thought about all the directions this conversation could go, I bailed out with, “Many Catholics have lots of kids.”
Which reminds me of one more white lie (by crikey, it’s not been too good a day, has it!)……standing outside her house, a lady watched the kids file past and then asked me if they were a) walking and b) mine. Only language inability stopped a sarcastic answer to the first question, and the second received a reply that was only partially true. When I said, “Si”, she crossed herself and muttered something that prevented me from coming out with the whole truth!

On a more positive note, we met Domingo.
Last week A French pilgrim, Anna, had told us it was really worth staying here just to meet the hospitalero, Domingo. So we decided to. But we didn’t have to go to the albergue to meet him. I had left the kids sitting in the shade of a supermarket while I went in to find a box of icecreams that would charge us for the hill climb. I came out to a commotion. Five or six men surrounded the kids and were all talking at once. The ringleader turned to me and rattled off an explanation. Somewhat miraculously, I understood. A French lady had told him about us, the family from New Zealand.
“Anna?” I questioned.
“Si, si, si”
“Anna say me albergue Villapanada good,” I faltered in Spanish.
“I’m the hospitalero there,” the ringleader continued.
“Domingo?”
“Yes, I’m Domingo, that’s me,” he confirmed.
This was starting to feel less sinister!
Then he took the icecreams from my hand.
“Children don’t like icecream,” he told the onlooking men. They all nodded in agreement, but thankfully the kids know how to say, “Me gusta helado” and that did the trick! They got their already-melting helado.
They also got yellow arrow badges, kindly given by Domingo with an instruction not to get them wet.
Domingo’s little red van was sitting parked at the side of the road and he offered to take our backpacks in it to the albergue. Halfway up the hill we would be regretting turning down his offer!
Halfway up the hill he drove up beside us and asked Ella-Rose if she was sure she wouldn’t like him to take hers. Unfortunately she didn’t understand and he was raving about how strong she was!
After giving specific directions of how to get to the church on a not-too-distant hill and telling us to make ourselves at home when we arrived, he drove off, leaving us feeling like we had a new friend. Another quarter of an hour or so later, the little red van appeared again. Domingo leaned out and handed over a big blue bottle of fridge-cold water. What hospitality!
Sins met with hospitality, no penance!

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Destination: San Juan de Villapanada (doesn’t that just roll off your tongue!)
Distance: 21km
Cumulative Distance: 918/618km

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82/382km to go to 1,000
Weather: 26 degrees in the shade with a light breeze (so washing dried in under an hour!)
Dinner: hasn’t happened yet! will update later