Thursday, April 30, 2009


Happy Birthday
Best wishes to Charlotte, Katie, and the Queen of the Netherlands for their April 30 birthdays (official day for the Queen).

First to the most important issue. Karen was stable but uncomfortable when I spoke with Stephen late last night. There is a tiny hole in her collapsed lung which will need to heal, or it may require surgery, and we will have more information today. My family are hopefully sleeping so I am unable to talk with them right now. I feel very fortunate for the friends whom have been in contact with me over the last twenty four hours, all wishing Karen a speedy recovery. Thank you all for your SMS messages and telephone calls.

My knees
Tanya offered me her knees but was certain that I would fall over using her bung leg. I am not sure if I mentioned that I fell off the bus when I arrived in Salamanca. I tripped on a step, grabbed an arm support to stop the fall, the arm rest went down and I twisted my left arm, for a couple of days I could not get my arm above shoulder height. This is great when you have to put on a backpack many times a day.

This morning Kees gave me a clue to help myself and I am putting the clue into practice. I am walking well without a stick and smiling as I walk. I am thinking positive thoughts of getting to Santiago with the legs/knees that I have and I am looking forward to the wonderful times ahead with friends.

Where is Rolf?
This could be Rolf´s Bar in Salamanca.

Last night I enjoyed dinner at Meson Don Pepe which has quickly become my favorite Cafe/Bar in Salamanca. I love the fact that Meson Don Pepe serve their entire Menu all day, this might be common in Salamanca but as all pilgrims know it is not the case throughout Spain. I have a passion for white asparagus and so Primeros was Esparagos con dos salsas (Asparagus with two sauces) one of which was mayo and the other a green/red pepper and onion salad. I have also discovered San Jacobus along the VdlP and do not know how I have missed it along Camino Frances (if it is offered up north). When ordering I asked for San Jacobus sin patatas (San Jacobus, no fries) because I have had enough fries to last me for the year. So my meal came with a little salad on the side, huh, I have found the trick to eliminating fries.

Like any country the food varies by the Cafe/Bar/restaurant but one can certainly enjoy a huge variety of Tappas. Along the way I started to see Hay Migas (we have Migas) signs on the Menu boards. I wondered what this could be so I ordered a small Tappas prepared to take what came. Turned out to be fried crumbed bread with chorizo y huevos (sausage, egg) and a few other things combined. Quite nice but it is not gluten free. The mussells are simply superb and the gambas (shrimp) are usually great. Kees taught me how to look for a good Tappas Bar in 2007 - by looking at how fresh the Tappas on display appears to be. I do not accept Tappas at just any Bar.

Throughout Spain Flan is the most popular dessert. It is a nice cold egg custard covered with a caramel sauce, ooh, and it goes down so easy even if you could not eat all your dinner. Light and lovely.

Eating times in Spain are tough for pilgrims. I have existed on Tortilla Francesa sin pan (omlette, no bread) for days when nothing else was available to order. Not being able to eat bread a bocadillo (sandwich)is out of the question. Jamon y queso (ham and cheese) are always on offer but when it is hot they make me all the more thirsty .... plus I am not supposed to eat cheese.

Most Comedor´s (Dining rooms) are only open for an hour or so around 2:00pm and again at 9:00pm, which is late for a walking pilgrim when albergues close by 10:00pm. And they do close. There were six of us nearly locked out of the Monastery (I believe it is Aljucen or nearby village) at 9:59pm, the monk was ready with the key at the door.

Small things make a pilgrim happy. Today I found in town (without having to go to the shopping center) new walking socks. I also found lined with fabric insoles for my boots. Up to this point I had to make do with unlined gel insoles, which smell. A lesson for Andree and other potential pilgrims .... do not take your insoles out of your boots to dry once they have firmly established themselves in place. I did this and then my left insole kept slipping down the boot, it would not grip, this could cause blisters or other foot problems. So with shopping done I am a happy camper.

The Festivities in Salamanca
I am off now to the Turismo (Tourist Bureau) to see if I can get a plan for what is happening in Salamanca over the next three days. If there is fireworks like there was in Caceres then I want to know. I do know that all shops are shut tomorrow but I am not sure about Saturday and Sunday. It would seem rather pointless to come for vacation/festivites in Salamanca if everything is closed. With all hotels Completo (full) there must be many people here over this weekend.

As I look back over this camino so far, it has been wonderful, I have enjoyed every minute of the journey that started in Alicante with Kees. I am a little sad at what I have missed by the need to get to Salamanca for this R&R break. The symbol for the Via de la Plata is Arco de Caparra and all the way markers have the Arco chiselled into the rock blocks, so it is something you get well used to seeing. This Roman arch is in a remote place and I have missed it, perhaps Caroline has a photo, I do not! I tried to take a photo off the web but using a PC is not one of my specialities, it is easier on a Mac (I have placed a link to a photo on this page). I also have missed walking past the half way point between Sevilla and Santiago de Compostela. No big deal but they are benchmarks for the pilgrimage.

I am still unable to interrogate my account. So if you want to email me privately please use my Yahoo account. This account was opened as but I noticed yesterday that I have a second address for it, However, tomorrow this place will be closed and I doubt that I will be able to email again until Astorga (around May 20).

Bye for now
Thanks again for your interest in my travels along the Via de la Plata. I am ready to walk on towards Zamora on Monday. The next section is the Meseta, a section I enjoyed in 2007.

I met Rolf on the first day of the Camino Frances Meseta section and we soon became camino friends. We shared a drink in the rain, under cover at the Bar (not yet a Rolf´s Bar). I stupidly walked on while he decided to sit the day out in that tiny place (pilgrims, it was that little church refugio). I got drenched to my socks and ended up with many blisters, lesson learned, keep out of the rain when you can. Ashley that was the day the lightening struck the tree.

Rolf is mending ... I have spoken with him a couple of times and he is feeling good.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Dear friends and followers,

This is not a good day for me as I have just received the news that my beautiful daughter-in-law has been taken to hospital with a collapsed lung. Hopefully Karen is in good hands and will recover quickly. Tomorrow is her daughter Charlotte´s 4th birthday, which is a very important day for the family. Tomorrow is also Katie´s birthday .... Happy Birthday Charlotte and Katie. Get Well Karen.

Caceres to Casar de Caceres
I will not trust my guidebook again, Cole/Davies, Walking the VdlP, it is full of errors and leads me wrong again. I believe it was Lillian who posted updates and I thank her for that. Cole/Davies write that the first 6 kms out of Caceres is the most horrible stretch of the Via de la Plata, walking along the busy highway. So I jumped in a taxi, lo and behold, there is a new path out of Caceres, a lovely wide sandy path that I could only look at as I sped by. Cars are not permitted to stop along the highway so I had to be let off at the roundabout. What should have been a beautiful walk was spoiled. However, the rest of the way into Casar de Caceres was spectacular especially along the tree lined boulevard. Torta de Caceres is a wonderful warm sheep cheese dish ... ooh, lovely.

I was given the key to the Albergue by the Barman at Restaurante Majuca and had first dibs at a bed, so chose back of the room on a lower bunk. It is a well appointed albergue and totally free, they will not take a donation. WOW! The Barman at R. Majuca is a happy cheerful man who likes to tease and be funny, made for a wonderful stay in this little village. Again I did my washing, with my one on, one off, I have to keep up with clean clothes. 20 pilgrims in the albergue this night. Also 4 cyclists who were at first refused beds, then at 6:30 were given mattresses for another room. I always feel sorry for the cyclists especially if they have come a long way and are deadbeat, just like walking pilgrims, however they must wait till all walking pilgrims are given a chance to arrive.

I met a lovely lass from California who is cycling the VdlP and will then cycle back to Granada. She simply decided that this is her time so she gave up her job, booked her ticket, and here she is in Spain. She was continuing on for another 50 kms or so (Galisteo).

Dinner at R. Majuca was excellent, although I am getting tired of patatas fritas as the only vegetable ... K8 you better get over here.

Casar de Caceres to Lago Tajo
Walked on the next day to Lago Tajo and stayed at Hostal LindaMar. Linda and Martin are ex KLM flight attendents who started this nice private albergue. Good thing about private albergues is that they allow reservations so you can walk that day knowing that you have a bed for the night. This 22 kms did me in, the first 15 kms were okay, mostly along a sandy path with up and downs, beautiful views, cuckoo´s, birds of prey, fragrant wildflowers, and the big blue sky. Then comes hell. 7 kms along the road or the alternative, steep, rocky, up and downs beside the N630 (the main highway the VdlP follows). About 1 kms before the camino comes down to meet the highway I wanted of the rocky stretch so took the opportunity when I saw a small path to the road. Walking along the road is hot and horrible but at least the pavement is flat. I saw the others on top of the hill and called out to them. They dropped their packs and started running to help me ... I felt so bad causing them to panic. Oops, I yelled that I was on the road, it was a relief as they thought I had fallen. Dinner at Hostal LindaMar was a wonderful soup but followed by a not so nice brocolli-cheese dish, then yoghurt for dessert. After dinner we sat outside until it was too cold. So much for the HOT Extremadura.

I have a hole in my sock, worn away by my sandals, uh oh. My USA socks shrank in Teresa´s washing machine to kiddo size, small, so small that I could not get them on. So, I am down to two pairs, now really only one. I will get socks in Spain. My best walking socks, as Garry knows, came from Ponferrada. For non pilgrims what do I do, well I simply put tape on my foot where the hole is until I get a new pair of socks. Problem solved.

Lago Tajo to Canaveral
I could not walk so Martin drove me to Canaveral and we took the others packs in the car. It gave them a nice day of walking. It is only a short walk but with a very steep climb, 11-12 kms depending on the book. Here, on the advice of my book, the Internet, and Caroline, we all had reservations at Hostal Malaga which proved to be an experience. Caroline tells me that Lillian named Alfonso, the manager of H. Malaga, Mr Grumpy, and it is easy to see why. He scowls around the place grumping all the time. He plops your order (food or drink) in front of you, maybe without knife, fork, or napkin, then he comes back and just plops those in front of you. The Bar is dark and dirty but the dining room and rooms are clean, sparse one star stuff but clean.

The four German women and I decided to take the bus to Salamanca the next day. I knew that I needed to get to a clinic for treatment. Carolina needed treatment and the other three simply needed to rest for awhile to give their various ailments a break. The four men are walking to Salamanca and going well, they should be here on Friday night.

While waiting for the bus Mr Grumpy came out and accused me of not paying for my accommodation, food, or drinks. Excuse me Alfonso, but you are not the only person who takes the money at your establishment. He puffed off swearing that I was getting away with it ... but folks, I did pay my bill and would not hand over more money and double up, not me.

May 1, 2, and 3 happens to be a holiday weekend in Salamanca (if not the country) and there are Fiestas (celebrations) planned. All two and three star accomodation is taken and only four star accommodation is available. However, we want to see the festivities so are sharing expenses and will be here to enjoy the celebrations.

I went to the Clinica San Marcos yesterday and was treated with injections in both knees so hopefully this will help, along with the break from walking with a pack. I want to walk ... I will walk!

I am still having trouble with getting into my email, but will respond to any emails as soon as I can. My next chance at Internet could be tomorrow. Then the next city with Internet will probably be Astorga (where we meet Andree on May 20).

Thanks again for the comments, the SMS messages, the email that I can´t read, and the telephone calls. All these communicatons give me encouragement, thanks.

Thanks also for following me and please put Karen in your thoughts and prayers.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

First Internet in Caceres

Many, many thanks to Caroline for updating the Blog for my family and friends. Caroline and I have been Camino Internet friends for ten years and met in London to chat about all things camino. Caroline has walked this way many times and I thank you Caroline for your advice on my upcoming daily walks. Also, thanks for sharing your photos on my Blog so guests can get a view of where I am, a wonderful touch.

I am in Caceres (city)and have the tough section of the Via de le Plata ahead of me. I am walking through the knee pain and have sucessfully treated my only blister with REIKI. Thanks Kees. By this time, 300 kms, on Camino Frances I would be loaded with blisters (perhaps would have eight by now). This time I am using a different technique, boots two sizes bigger, socks one size smaller, and I creme my feet with Flexitol every day. Kees is going back to Alicante for awhile as he has some Fairs to work on and he will rejoin us along the way.

The different way. The VdlP is known as a tough walk with long distances between villages and no water possibilities along the way. Two litres of water is a heavy load to carry. Hence I have lightened my pack considerably by sending along all things not used so far. Also I am using the one on, one off, rule. I pray it does not rain and that I will always have a change of clothes. Andree, take notes ...

The way has been scenic and the wild flowers are beautiful and fragrant. Coming out of Sevilla the smell of orange blossom was very strong. The road has been rocky, sandy, grass, tarmac, mud (yuk, sticks to the boots). Many up hill and down dale walks, yes even steep with the steepest climb on the VdlP just ahead.

There are many more storks along VdlP than Camino Frances and for the first time they have been low enough for me to hear the clacking sound they make. There are also many different birds but I keep my eyes on the swallows. For, if the swallows fly low then rain will follow. No snakes, YET. Rabbits, cows, sheep, goats. dogs .... what one would expect to see along the way. Even had one sheep yesterday that was frightened of me and kept running ahead, stopping, looking back and as I would get closer it would run again. But it got stopped by the cattle grid, looked at me and bolted past bleating as it went.

Of course the food has been great and the best coffee. However, this comes at a price as in all Bars there is always a television, sometimes three on different channels. I have seen enough bull fighting to last me a year. It has been explained that the Spanish men come to the Bars to watch the soccer or the bull fighting because of the giant screen televisions .... I guess it is the Spanish equivalent of a USA Sports Bar.

Semana Santa (Easter) preparations in Sevilla were beautiful but we were out of town before the processions began. The Bar televisions were always tuned to the procession station so yes, I saw them. The Roman ruins in Italica and Merida were spectacular.

I want to close here as I do not have much more time and I want to read your comments. Thank you for following me along the way. All goes well ....

I thank you for your comments and for the SMS messages and telephone calls. My buddy Rolf is doing well and it was wonderful to hear him and Christina last week. Roland is gearing up to meet us and it will be wonderful to see him again, thanks for the Easter cal Roland. Dawnie has called, and I have needed the services of Nurse Katie, thanks K8.

Please excuse unedited Blog

Monday, April 13, 2009

Castilleblanco to Zafra.

Since the last posting, Luiza has walked as far as Zafra, where she is taking a day of today. There has been no internet access so she has asked me to transcribe her SMS messages over the last week.

I have listed them in chronological order and her replies are in blue.

The refuge at Castillblanco

7th April 11:37

Now we are 4.2kms in El Berrocal sitting at a stream on a break. Fernando/Barcelona fell on a cattle grid yesterday, broke his arm, had a cast pt on, returned to Castillblanco and we are walking together with his wife, Alicia.

The entrance to El Berrocal

There is a ridge before reaching Almaden such that you cannot see the village:-

7th April 16:18

Enjoying hot celery soup and coffee before at the base of steep climb. Sunny, few clouds, strong cold wind. Last night 32 pilgrims in town.

The ridge before Almaden

Luiza has a camping stove with her to make hot drinks because there are no bars during the day.

Then later:-

What a climb and down, like Alto del Perdon and down to Zubiri. Saw buzzards, grouse, pigs. Cold wind made for a nice walk on a cloudless day.

The refuge at Almaden

I then asked Luiza if she had stayed in the refuge in Almaden and she said no. Some of her new companions (that she has met on the way) were staying there and apparently the upstairs roms have been sadly neglected. But downstairs was fine.


8th April 12:08

Am 5kms from El Real de la Jara having picnic lunch. It is a journey!

El Real De La Jara

I asked her more about the refuge state in Almaden and she replied:-

I did not go in but Siginde said the upstairs room was horrible. She was happy to be downstairs. Pork last night was delicious.

I reminded her that the best restaurant in El Real was called La Cochera and was around the corner from the private refuge at No 70.

8th April 15:52

Eating at restaurant, La Cochera now. Seems to be excellent. Fernando made a reservation at Alojamiento Turisticos "M" Carmen. Albergue was closed when I walked by.

C/70 is clean and good but I knew Fernando was making a reservation at below. C/Cordobaa 2 is very good 20 Euros per person. Bano Privado.

I mentioned about internet in a back strret of Monasterio the next day and Luiza replied:-

I will look but probably Merida before I get internet opportunity. Will report along the way. SMS messages arrive even when blackberry is turned off. Let's me know when I am in range. :)

The next day was a walk to Monasterio which goes through countryside at first but then crosses over the N630 where they have been doing rebuilding work for the new motorway for years and the route markings are confusing there.

9th April 13:10

Sitting amonst the mess now at tienda for meat factory. 11kms down, 10 to go. Now in Extremadura. Thanks for the info.

Then shortly afterwards:

3km to Monasterio. It is hot with cool breeze at my back. Kim's Irish wish works!

She didnt elaborate about what Kim's wish was! I mentioned the steep climb up to a picnic area just before Monasterio.

9th April 17:07

Yep, a wee steep climb. Now enjoying Mejihones mussels and a Cuba Libre. Well deserved. :)

Being told about the Spanish player with The Lakers and also about the Houston Rockets. :)

Hotel Moya, Monasterio is 19 Euros for one. Menus Diarios 7.80 Euros. Clean and comfy.

The refuge at Monasterio in the Red Cross (Cruz Roja) Building

The next day was a long walk to a place called Fuente De Cantos.

10th April 18:25

A long hard slog, walking injured. Started with rain then a frigid wind from the NW lasted ALL day. Many steep hills on the flat Extremadura.

I asked her if she had left a note in the video box at the pilgrim cross:-

I was too full of self pity to see the cross let alone a little cassette box. I also think we got a liittle lost. Left at 8:30 arrived La Fabrica at 16:30.

The pilgrim cross on the way to Fuente De Cantos

La Fabrica was a hotel I recommended. I have stayed there several times now even though there is a new refuge there. I thought that 8 hours was probably quite normal for that particular section and said so.

The Hotel - La Fabrica

10th April 18:54

BTW it is my problematic right knee causing problems becuase of the cold. Supposed to be hot in Extremadura.

I suggested a long hot bath to relax and to help the knee.

11th April 00:32

A long hot bath. An excellent dinner at La Fabrica and a late start tomorrow. Thinking about walking 7km to Calzadilla. OK or no? Blackberry off till morning.

She obviously did walk only to Calzadilla De Los Barros:-

11 April 15:18

Enjoy lunch (?) Tripe, Ensalada y pan, vino blanco at only bar open in Calzadilla. Woman at bar is getting key for albergue. Everything shut for Easter. Did get pan y bisoltos at Panaderia.

11 April 17:00

Finally in albergue juvenil. Happy easter all. Spanish family with dog in other room.

The Albergue Juvenil at Calzadilla

11 April 19:16

Washing done and dry on this sunny and windy day. Have provisions for dinner and a camping stove.

The next day was an even longer walk to Zafra but walking to Calzadilla shortened it somewhat. Still it was a long way.

12th April 18:07

Stayed Albergue Juvenile in Calzadilla, a long way out of town. Only pilgrms there. Hotel Rodriguez looked very closed. In Zafra now and am shattered (she used another word, but I don't want to use it here).

I was telling her about the nice refuge there and the parador and the shops. I had mentioned that I often stay there two days, as it is a good place to have a rest day.

12th April 20:17

We will stay here 2 days. We have not had a rest day. I will look for internet tomorrow. Shower then dinner. Was so hungry coming into Zafra had pizza and melocoton - was exhausted.

13th April 15:25

Rest day is beautiful. Walked all over Zafra did not see internet. Oh well, Merida.

I asked her how it felt to have no access to the internet where she was staying and her reply was:-

Actually it is OK being internet free. I am lucky I have you and Blackberry is easy to type on. Hotel Victoria, Plaza de Espana, with restaurant Gabi directly accross street.

For non vegetarians restaurant Gabi has the BEST jamon in Spain! A delicious presa (steak and fries) last night and for lunch today. Torta de Casa whch turned out to be a cooked cheese, oh it was wonderful. Highly recommended.

Great rest day. Reiki on the knee and then kept it warm like friend, Nurse Katie, suggested.

Which brings us up to date to Monday night.


Monday, April 06, 2009


So far I have that wonderful camino feeling.

Although the heat at the beginning is different, I am more used to heat after Alto del Pardon.

Should have started March 1st. Camino Frances is rain, rain, rain and VDLP is sun, sun, sun (hot).

Have lost count of different pilgrims but must be near 20.

Mas Tranquillo.


(transcribed by caroline from an SMS)