Monday, July 23, 2012

Day 18 Camino de Santiago July 23, Fromistre

    I could not sleep, and I think that it was for no other reason than I told someone that I had been sleeping so well!  Yet, I actually woke up early, as in still dark.  I had a motivation.  The restaurant I had eaten in the night before, La Taberna, had great wifi connection on their outside patio so I thought maybe I could go there and write for 20 minutes or so.  I was right!!! I could go there!   I was wrong!  There was no wifi connection there!!  But I never would have taken this photo had I not gone.
     Knowing that there would be no cafe, bar, restaurant, Denny's open in the morning and a good two hour hike  to start, I bought an orange and big cookie to have for breakfast.  While eating on the terrace of the El Esteban Auberge, I scanned the horizon to see the one big hill.  The one big hill that we would climb as soon as we left the auberge.
      It was a "panter" as in "pant pant"  to say the least.  12% grade  going up for one k and 18% grade going down.  Rough on the knees.  Could have used my sticks!!  Could have used an escalator.

 I have only seen the trailer for the "The Way", and it seems like there is a bridge where Martin Sheen is sitting on the edge and something falls into the river below.  This bridge looked like it from my brief memory.  Is it?  If so, it was a beautiful spot.

    These hay balls remind me of me.  Everyone seems to follow the rules and then... yeah, I know, why is it so difficult?  Why do some farmers use hay balls and some use hay bales?  I wonder what the advantage of one over the other is?  The round ones seem easier to move but more difficult to store?   Ah Ha!!  I know why I am the odd ball?  I ask too many questions!  Just get in line Steve and quit asking questions.
    I liked the blue flowers with the sunflowers in the background.  The blue flowers are not nearly as pretty in a picture as they are in real life.  Maybe that's why Van Gogh went cookoo... he tried to paint them and lost his mind.

  In this part of Spain, they plant cottonwoods in rows.  Not sure why?  Ain't gonna ask though!!  Must be some sort of windbreak.  Or they could be  used for the straight trunks.  Maybe the farmers are tired of planting something that is just going to be cut down in a few months and enjoy seeing something growing for a longer period of time.

   This is a "you are now leaving the city limit" sign.  The line through it means that you are leaving the town of Itero de la Vega.    It "translates" to "No more Itero de la Vega".
     Gotta love sunflowers.  We could see this field from way back on top of the first hill we climbed.  Yet it was nearly 3 hours away.
     What do you see?  Don't say nothing!!  Marvel at the mundane, man!!  What you could see is nothing, or you could see a very happy farmer.  Yep.  This field represents success!  Imagine months ago, an anxious farmer planted wheat, then had to pray that it got enough rain but not too much, that good bugs would live there not bad bugs, that no storm or someone's careless cigarette would torch it.  Then he hoped that his reaper would work and that he would be able to harvest it, store it and then sell it at a fair price.  This picture represents all those scenarios happening!  Yes, it is a beautiful picture, no?!
   The area is getting dry enough for adobe to be used in building houses.  Either this guy's house was built a few degrees to far east or he left the bathtub running and it has washed away a lot of his home.
    This is what it should look like.  Wonder what self-induced flood insurance costs around here?

     Today's hike was very nice as we walked on a path that had been lined with cottonwoods.  They sure like cottonwoods.  Don't they know that people are allergic to them?
     Okay, this is on a different level than me.  This is not someone asking why.  This is someone on acid.  Lesson to be learned if you are farmer:  Do not drop acid if you are suppose to be stacking hay bales.  The two do not go together.

 By far one of the prettiest paths we've hiked.  I say we, though I've hiked the last two days alone and absolutely loved it.  I win every argument!!  This was The Canal de Castille and it goes on for over 120 miles.  It's over 150 years old and has several locks on it.

The locks helped boats descend over 40 feet or rise 40 feet as well.  Did you know that the Panama Canal has locks that can raise cruise ships, friggin cruise ships!!!... and the motor that opens the megagigantic lock doors... is no bigger than a lawn more engine!!  That has absolutely nothing to do with these canal doors, but it was interesting!!

   This view looking down the locks from the top (which is generally where you are if you are looking down), shows the different levels.

This view shows the side walls of the lock and seem to say, nay screaming... Holy New Orleans, will somebody call the Army Corp of Engineers!!  Actually, it's probably been leaking for a long time... yes, and that's what they said in New Orleans just before they screamed, "Swim!!!"


This is the view looking back up the locks and it makes the locks look small.  Well, compared to the Panama Canal...they are, but then, there aren't many cruise boats running this canal either.  Was a beautiful day!!  Loved the solitude.

 There is no Way to happiness...  Happiness is the Way!

Merzouga, Morocco June 2012

Our second day in the desert took us to the Morocco’s eastern border with Algeria and more importantly, to a campsite at the bottom of a 500 foot sand dune.  Talk about feeling humbled!!  But to get there required... a camel ride, and for me a camel walk.  This walk was much more difficult that Zagora.  Zagora was a hard pack desert for the most part.  That means that when I walked, my feet didn’t sink 6 inches into the sand.  At Merzouga, my feet would sink 9 inches into the sand, especially when climbing or descending small dunes.  It was also a three hour hike. 
    The amazing thing was that it rained on us as we walked through the Sahara!!! The Brits, who were from Manchester, were astonished.  They joked how only someone from Manchester, the rainiest city in England could bring rain to the desert.  I told them how lucky they were to see rain in the Sahara.  
You could do this trip a hundred times and never get a sniff of rain.  We were very lucky!


Our guide let me lead the camels and he walked along side.  He was a good guy.  Funny, in a Berber sort of way.  
    We got to the campsite and had tea and heard the “Berber Whiskey” joke for the umpteenth time...but laughed as if it were our first time to hear it. 
“Ooohhhh!   That’s a real neat slapper!  Yee haw!!”   (rule #1 - always please the cook!)

The dune, Erg Chebbai, is a monster.  We climbed it and sweated gallons of water to get to the top.  Walk six steps, slide back five.  This is the view of our campsite from about 1/2 way up.  

    This is the view from near the top.  The campsite looked like ants.  Small ants, at that.  It was getting dark and we knew that we had to get back down before it got too dark.  Rolling down a 500 feet sand dune is not fun.  Well it is for the first 15 feet, but the remaining 485 feet is a real bear!

At the top, just as we were about to leave, we looked to the east and could see a desert oasis in Algeria. Then the muezzin began to call out the prayers and combined with the flickering lights, cool breeze and thought of being stuck on a sand dune all night, it was magical.

When we saw the scarab beetle all of us had the same thought - The Mummy!  Way cool.   At night, we were all going to sleep outside but two things changed the Brits’ minds: 1)  one of the girls got bit/stung by something while sitting on the blankets that we were going to sleep on; and 2) someone saw a huge tarantula.  The problem was that the tents had blankets in them and they were incredibly hot and stuffy.  I told the group that I was still going to sleep outside because: 1) tarantulas don’t want to bite you, 2) it was too hot inside the tents where the tarantula may have come from; 3) This wasn’t the Mummy and scarabs don’t bite either.   Everyone decided to sleep outside on the blankets because they knew that I lived in a desert and they actually believed that I knew what I was talking about. 

Never worry if you get separated from your camel caravan... okay, this is an exaggeration.  You should be VERY worried if you get separated from your camel caravan, but for the sake of this would SEEM that you could find your caravan by following the camel droppings.  

At the end of the desert trip, our guides did what you'd expect any Moroccan living on peanuts to do... sell!  They called us over and sold us some cute little trinkets.  I bought a fossil that had been polished to the point of looking phony, but I know it wasn't because it said, "made in China"!!!  (just kidding) and a necklace that looks like it was made in China.  So what?  It was a souvenir and if it helped spread the wealth in Obama's home country... I'm just kidding guys... (shhhh...he was born in Kenya!!) then good.  Glad I could help these guys out.  I can't imagine how little they have and I can imagine how much I have, so I wear the necklace with joy and even though I may skip the flat fossil across a pond somewhere rather than carry it in a backpack, it made them happy.  

Wait!   Is that a diamond ring??  Cripes, I've been taken.....again!!

Time is non-refundable - spend it wisely!

Day 17 Camino de Santiago July 22, Castrojeriz

Day 17 Castrojerez

Once again, I was the last to leave the auberge, at about 7:10 AM.  I'm not complaining, I'd have stayed later, but we all have to be out by 8:00 AM... Daddy said so!!

That’s my bed right by the window.  The church was about 20 meters from the auberge and loud.  This auberge was clean and comfortable with a very nice manager that got me a bottom bunk.  Halleluja!  My left knee does not bend at the end of the day and climbing a top bunk is not so bad, but getting down in the middle of the night is dangerous.   


 This is Raj, who is standing in front of the cathedral with bells that ring until 10:00.  He is very happy because he just got word that he has won a scholarship.  

We sat in the shade during the siesta and watched a family of sparrow-like birds going in and out of a hole in the wall.  
I think that the birds were probably telling their bird friends, "yeah during siesta... we were watching these two dopey gringos sitting in the shade!"


 It was actually cool to cold on the trail today, with a steady wind blowing from the back...which would be from the East.  It was one of the easier days hiking as the terrain was hilly but nothing extreme.  Felt good to wear a jacket.

     About 4k outside of the final destination today, the path became a road and flat.  No complaints about that!  Beautiful quaking cottonwoods lined the street for awhile.  
     Later we came to an old 1000 year old convent that is now in ruins.  It used to be a hospital for people suffering from Ergotism, or St. Anthony’s Fire.  SAF is a disease caused by a fungus in rye.  People with SAF have a burning sensation in extremities.  The old treatment in this convent was amputation.  Then the “treated” would leave wooden or wax models of their arms/legs, in hopes of being cured.    Hmmmm....I’m no doctor, but isn’t it a bit late to talk about "cures" once you’ve whacked off an arm?  

    What I did like was the giant “T” carved in the window frame, which was the symbol of the Knights of the Templar.  Good nights who protected folks on the Camino and those enroute to the Crusades.  Also carved into the convent around the doorway were hundreds of tiny 10” statues...almost all with their heads missing.  Reminded me of when Zack was little, we’d find 100’s of Lego me, minus their heads.  Hmmm...

     The entrance to Castrojerez is really pretty, as first you pass by the church which is dedicated to the apple, and Santa Maria del Manzano, or St. Mary of the Apples.  She is the patron saint of the city.  
     I am staying in the St Esteban Auberge tonight.  I’ve got a bottom bunk!!! Yeah!!  I even have an outlet next to my bed so that I can charge my phone.  Hopefully, there will be WiFi in town somewhere.

The auberges treat bicyclist differently.  If there is any doubt that there will be a shortage of beds, auberges won’t let bikers check in until after about six.  This is to give the walking Pelegrinos a chance.  Yes, even on the Camino, there is some snobbery.  Some folks who walk look down on bikers as if they are cheating.  Really??  I personally think the original pilgrims would have taken a 747 if it had been available.  

Day 16 Camino de Santiago July 21, Hornillos

Saturday - Hornillos de la Camino
   The night in Burgos was wonderful because Raj and I met Tina, (the girl who got me when Kevin sliced opened his arm), and she told us of a street in Burgos called Calle San Lorenzo and that it was a lot of fun.  It sounded like the street in Pamplona, narrow and full of tapas bars.   This is inside of our favorite tapas bar.  This one had the best food, but the worst sangria.  The next tapas bar had the coldest beer, but the worst tapas.  Eventually...I had the best cafe con leche and the best dessert.  Twas a great night!

     Walking out of Burgos did not take as long as walking into Burgos.  The walk in was sheer torture, but the walk out was nice, along a river through a park. 
 I honestly think that I could walk 50k in a day through a park.  I want to be able to make my mind see “park”, even when it sees “industrial park”, like on the way in.  It helps if I am walking alone because I can remove myself.  But if I am walking with someone who is constantly saying, “Dang it’s hot!”  or “How much farther?”, that brings me screeching back into the moment.  Raj was good about not mentioning the heat or distance.

  After I got through the park, I came across what would be the ultimate test of mind over matter - being in prison.  I’m not 100% sure that this is a prison but the barbed wire fencing, guard towers, and imposing walls tell me that they want to either keep someone in or someone out.  Sounds like a prison to me. 


 I haven’t seen a sickle in a long time.  Right!  Communism is the answer.  I’m still waiting for someone to show me one communist country that is worth living in.  
   “How about China?”
    China???  They are about as communist as Donald Trump.


Remember me saying that when we enter a town, there is no one around?  Where are they?  Twilight Zoned, that’s where!


These two people were turned to bronze!  One still had a cigarette in his mouth. There’s some weird stuff going on around here!!!  As they say in North North (Frayser), “People be gettin’ metalized up in here!”  


  Oh look!  Friggin’ trees!  I’m not even tired, but I’ll be darn if I don’t sit under the shade for a few minutes.  The land is getting more and more treeless as I roam west.  It’s still beautiful, but most of the Pelegrinos (Pilgrims) are not excited about it. they say that it is too hot and desolate.  I like it because my laundry will dry faster, my appetite is curbed, and it causes me to practice several self-discipline traits, like mind over matter.  What’s not to like??!!!


I came across this shepherd in the road a few k before getting to Hornillos.  Friendly guy.  Introduced me to his wife and children... just kidding.  Wish I could have seen his dogs in action.  Perhaps I should have stampeded the herd.  Yeah, and then run away screaming, "Im not American!  I’m Canadian!  I’m Canadian!”  (not the CCES Canadian! Ha inside joke that I can only tell in person!)