Camino, Hiking, Retirement, Travel

Postcards From The Camino Trail 2017: Week Four

Day 18: Herrerias to Fonfria – 20 km.

.. I was a bit anxious about today’s hike. Our guidebook described the first eight kilometers as “it climbs steeply through the chestnut woods and offers no respite along the way”. After that, even our ‘non-judgemental’ map showed today’s walk to consist of relentless ups and downs. To top that off, despite my zealous foot-care, I had acquired two blisters (one on each heel), both of which had become quite cranky. The opening climb was tough, as promised, but the scenery was among the most stunning that we have seen so far. About six kilometers in, I must have looked in rough shape. A man walking a horse came by and asked if I needed a ride to the top. Needed? Absolutely! Ego willing to give in? Not quite yet! I continued walking. Despite the unending climbs, the views remained phenomenal throughout the day. Oh, and I would be neglectful not to mention the amazing pound cake that we had at the top of our first climb (O’Cebreiro). It was just like my Grandma Weissmann used to make. It tasted like home, childhood and family in every delicious bite!

Day 20 – Fonfria to San Mamed Del Camino – 25 km.

Just when we thought that nothing on the Camino could surpass yesterday’s views, today’s scenery was literally jaw-dropping all day long. (So much so, we made very slow progress because we were always stopping to take photos!) Today was a ‘perfect Camino day’ with so many things that we love about this trail combined into one. The weather was gorgeous and our paths were tree-lined and shady for much of the way. We had breakfast at a small, quaint restaurant. Our lunch was at a ‘help yourself to whatever we have’ spot (coffee, tea, juice, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, cookies…) all for whatever donation you would like to leave…with no one watching or judging. The concept is totally built on trust! We also stopped at a tranquil picnic spot for a snack. We ended the day at a picturesque auberge that was ideally suited to sheer relaxation! And if all that was not enough, we discovered that Jenny, Sven and Ida (the couple walking with the ten-month old baby) were staying here as well. We finally had the chance to ask them why they decided to hike the Camino. They answered, “We had five weeks off of work and thought about what we would like to do with all of this wonderful time together. We considered hiking the Alps, but then thought that the Camino would be a perfect choice.” How inspirational is that?

Day 21 –  San Mamed Del Camino to Portomarin – 27 km.

Today started exactly the way that we like our Saturdays to begin — SLOWLY! We slept in later than usual and had a leisurely breakfast before we began our walk. This was followed by many other casual stops along the way. At one spot, Richard lingered over coffee and the newspaper. He even tried to convince me that he can now read Spanish. He recounted (in detail) one story that he believed he had read. “It’s easy”, he exclaimed. “There are enough Spanish words that are similar to English that you can get the gist.” Or, he just totally made stuff up…which is the more likely version! Despite our relaxed beginning, we still covered more than 27 km. Quite accidentally, we ended up in a huge auberge with more than 100 beds in one room. Not as bad as you might think…but not without its challenges!

Day 22- Portomarin to Palas de Rei – 24.6 km

With just 70 kilometers left to reach Santiago de Compostela, we no longer wonder ‘where have all the pilgrims gone?’ They are now omnipresent and can be seen (and heard) almost everywhere. One of the reasons for this is that Sarria (a town that we passed yesterday) is one of the most common starting points for the Camino Frances as it offers the minimum distant that must be covered in order to receive the official ‘pilgrim certificate’ in Santiago. We love the excitement and energy of so many different types of walkers on the trail. But we do miss having long stretches of tranquil, stunning paths to ourselves (…if you don’t count the occasional cow). It was sheer luxury! Oh, and the cost of a bed has just doubled (Ten euros instead of five). That’s supply and demand for you!

Day 23 -Palais de Rei to Boente – 21 km.

.. A blogger that I follow, recently posted about the simple pleasures in life. This is also very true on the trail. With Herculean effort, I have endeavoured to keep my backpack both small and light. There have been many consequences to this. One major consequence is that my all-purpose trek towel (yup, the one I use after showering) is smaller than the average hand towel! I thought that I had been making do just fine. But, tonight, our auberge offered freshly laundered, ‘regular-sized’ bath towels for only one euro more. I tell you most solemnly…it was sheer heaven! Who knew that one small (make that ‘medium-sized’) towel could make such a difference? As an added bonus, I purchased two new pairs of trekking socks (for a fraction of the cost that they would be at home). The two pairs that I had with me, recently lost interest in this walk. The difference that fresh, new socks can make is truly magical! Richard, on the other hand, found his own ‘simple pleasure’. To each his own!

Day 24- Boente to Santa Irene – 25 km.

Today was the second last day for most walkers to reach the Camino’s official end point in Santiago (and the last day for most bike riders). The energy, excitement and uplifted spirits were palpable. When we were relaxing outside a small cafe in Calzada, a brass band rolled by, on a truck, and played some very funky, upbeat music. Instantly, everyone abandoned their coffees (and other refreshments) and began dancing on the trail. Very fun! We are now in Santa Irene, less than 25 kilometers from Santiago. Irene is my sister’s name (now deceased). I have thought about her often during this walk. That is inevitably one of the key attributes of the Camino. It strips away the ‘busyness’ of our daily lives and helps clear our minds to reflect on what is most important to us.

29 thoughts on “Postcards From The Camino Trail 2017: Week Four”

    1. Hi, Jill – Yes, that horse ride was tempting, At the start of our walk, Richard and I made a pact. Unless we were ill or injured, we would not take a car, bus or taxi during our trek. We never did specify ‘horses’. I should have thought of that! Thanks for following. I greatly appreciate it!


  1. I’m loving these postcards – your pictures and descriptions make me feel as if I’m right there (minus the blisters – ouch!). I love the picture of Richard chillaxing by the pool… he certainly deserves that cooling respite.

    I wonder if that couple with the baby is just using her as an excuse to have a perambulator carry their things 😄 ?


    1. Hi, Janis – Thank you for your kind comments. That picture of Richard at the pool cracks me up too. Actually, I was just finishing writing that day’s post and I was going in a different direction with the ending, when I suddenly spied Richard in that hilarious pose. It was just too good to pass up! Oh, and about Jenny and Sven. Through the many tough mountain climbs and steep downhills, Jenny carries Ida while Sven drags the humongous stroller up and down the mountain. That man is STRONG!


  2. I’m in awe of covering 25-30km every day! Your descriptions of the trail and photos *almost* make me want to tackle the Camino one day … but then you show us a photo of an auberge with 100 beds in an open room. I can’t imagine getting even 10 minutes of real sleep!!
    Congratulations and well-done!


    1. Hi, Joanne – From what I’ve learned about you from your blog, and comments, I think that you would greatly enjoy the Camino . There are a huge variety of different accommodation options readily available (small and large auberges, hostels, pensions, bed and breakfasts, hotels, camping…..). Tonight there are just three of us in our room…still just 10 euros per bed. The funny thing is that at home , I typically get five hours of sleep each night — always have. On the Camino, I typically sleep soundly for nine+ hours each night! Thanks for following, and commenting!


    1. Hi, Kate – The coffee shops here are amazing. They have made a nice perk to each day….and have provided that extra bit of energy when we needed it most!


  3. 100 beds in a room – yikes! I’d be worried I got up to use the facilities in the night and climbed back into the wrong bed…..

    Looks gorgeous, I’m full of admiration and hope your blisters recovered.


    1. Too funny, Anabel! I was assigned Bed #58 – which was easy for me to remember because it is the year I was born. My bed was also directly across from the (loud) female high school soccer players who had arrived and left by bus. You truly couldn’t miss it!


  4. Well congratulations for achieving your goal! I loved the part where you luxuriated in a nice towel and new socks. Deprivation of some things makes one appreciated even the simplest of things. Well done!


    1. Hi, Fran – Thanks so much for following — I greatly appreciate it. The trail was excellent for making me extra cognizant of all of my blessings and reminding me of the importance of gratitude!


  5. Brings back so many wonderful memories – it’s such a special experience. For a tip on blisters – and although I didn’t sprout one on the Camino, I got 3 in my last 2 days in Shikoku: if you have a needle and cotton, you make a lose stitch in the blister and leave the cotton and tie it off so that it’s a very lose stitch and keeps the blister from sealing and filling up. Do the night before!


    1. Hi, Madeleine – Yes, that blister tip works incredibly well. I sewed a small piece of thread into each blister the night that I first got them, and they both healed quite quickly. Thanks for following. Wishing you a great start to your new school year!


    1. Hi, Natalie – Thanks for following and commenting. We did a completely self-guided Camino, so did not use a tour company at all. I would highly recommend doing it this way and using the on-line Camino Forum to help you prepare and plan for your trip. The small, map guidebook that we used and loved is written by John Brierly. I would highly recommend that (you can get copies at many places on the Camino or order on-line). We also originally had a slightly larger guidebook by Ramis, but we found that book a bit negative so ended up sticking with Brierly. Let me know if there is anything else that I can help answer for you.


  6. I’m in love with Jenny, Sven and Ida. What a fun younger couple with lots more sense than I had at their ages. Also, magical socks, purchased inexpensively, sound divine. I’m really grooving on your walk, like the armchair traveller that I am. Carry on, my wayward friend. 😉


    1. Hi, Ally – I greatly appreciate you following and commenting. You are right about Jenny, Sven and Ida–I’m totally in ❤️ with them too. Richard and I are in Santiago now, taking a rest day before the five+ day grind to Finisterre. We were hoping that it would be more like a ‘stroll’ but we have just been assured it is more like ‘grind’. Jenny, Sven and Ida have already headed to Finisterre. They didn’t even take a rest day. They are totally amazing…and as nice as can be!


  7. What an impressive achievement, and a marvellous way to celebrate a significant birthday. I’ve just finished reading a book titled The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50. You and Richard have it all going on. Congratulations.


    1. Thanks so much, Karen – I will definitely look for that book as soon as we are off of the trail. Only one week to go. Definitely bittersweet!


  8. Hi Donna, I have just binge read your postcards from the Camino trail. This is what happens when you get behind on your emails. LOL. I read the one from week one and then skipped over many emails and clicked on week two, three and now four! I suppose I should get to my other emails now but had to stop and comment here to let you know I am totally impressed both with your (and Richard’s) stamina and drive to do this long trek. Your writing about it is excellent as well. Along with the pictures, it is easy to get the gist of what it is like being there. I want to thank you for allowing me a peek at what you discover on the Camino since it is a certainty that I will never make that trip myself. The funds are just not there nor is the willing partner to go on an adventure of such a grand scale. Alas, I will just have to live vicariously through your blog posts. Congratulations on all you have accomplished and thanks again! 😀


    1. Hi, Susan – I greatly appreciate your kind and thoughtful comments. I am so glad to hear that the posts and photos have given you a sense of the trail. Thank you also for going back and binge-reading all of the Camino Post-Card posts. I hope that didn’t put you too far behind in your email catch-up!😊


  9. A nice view is always a good reward for a tough climb. But, cake!? I never have that waiting for me when hiking in the mountains or hills. I think Europe is better set up for that. 🙂

    You had me smile when you talked about your simple pleasures and showed Richard’s in a photo! Once back home, you will cherish the showers, space, comfy chairs and bed, big towels and privacy!!

    I like your closing statement of this blog, Donna. Each time I read your Camino posts, I think about how wonderful the all-around experience must be. Just walk, rest and explore new towns, alone with your thoughts and the views, sitting at cafes, meeting new and interesting people… Keeping life simple and pure.

    Did you book any beds/rooms in advance? Or, do you always just show up and manage to get a bed? I assume not booking in advance gives you more freedom to cover the distance you desire every day…


    1. Hi, Liesbet – I always look forward to (and greatly appreciate) your sage comments, questions and advice! We have not booked any of our beds in advance…and have not been turned away yet. We have loved the freedom of stopping or continuing as our energy levels allow!


    1. Hi, Sue – Thank you so much for following this series…and for your kind comments!It’s unfortunate that I will miss seeing you in Spain by such a short period of time. It would have been wonderful to meet up with you here!


  10. Donna, your determination is admirable. Doing a difficult day of climbing and walking with two painful blisters and writing about it in such a positive tone — well, I am quite sure that I would have declared a rest day, or at the very least whined a little. Hopefully the new socks will be good for your feet.



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