I feel I should write a little about the last 6 weeks even though Rachel has done such a good job on the blog; thank you darling you are a star!
I must begin by thanking Paul for walking with me for the first 10 days; we have not walked together or been in each others’ company for more than the duration of a round of golf before, so there was potential for tension being together for 24 hours a day. I need not have worried; it was great. I could not have had a better mate to be with, so cheers Paul, the next round of golf and drinks are on me!
The first few days in France were excellent, slight hiccup in Arroue and no food in Ostabat but otherwise good and the Pyrenees were visible all the way, getting closer all the time! We met a Dutch lady Johanna, who we subsequently met again in St Jean Pied de Port and stayed in the same albergue on several occasions together with other pilgrims: Marty from Northern Ireland, John from Liverpool, John from Colorado, Roberto (Italy), Hank (Holland) Ukke & Aiya (Finland), some of whom I was destined to see again further along the way. The big climb over the Pyrenees was accomplished without too much pain and the next few days to Estella were uneventful – except that there was some disappointment at the wine fountain near Zubiri as it was not working when we arrived. 8.30 am is a bit early for a tipple even for hardened drinkers!
The major problems for me came in Estella when Paul left to go home and then again in Viana when the others (see above) left because they walked quicker than I did. While there I also met Christina from Germany, who made a very generous donation to the charity, thank you so much Christina. I walked on but hardly recognised anybody and suddenly felt very alone and emotionally very fragile. Phone calls to Eileen and Rachel got me through a very bad patch and I soldiered on.
Things picked up a little in Ventosa at a lovely albergue where I met Hugh & Noel from Ireland, Eric & Simon (French Canadian), Claude (French) and Gertrude (German). A great communal meal was prepared and too much wine drunk but it raised my spirits a little, thanks to you all. The next few days I stayed at the same albergues as Claude & Gertrude and they were lovely people and great company.
Probably the best albergue on the whole trip was at Viloria del Rioja, run by an Italian lady and a Brazilian man. Only myself ,Claude and Gertrude were there. The lovely food was prepared by the hospitaleros and because of their multilingual skills we had great conversation, a real highlight made better by the fact that they would not allow in any pilgrims who wanted to leave before 7.30am. BLISS!
The next day proved to be quite significant as I met Tommy and Monica from Sweden, two lovely people with whom I had some wonderful conversations, lots of meals and drinks and saw on many occasions along the way. I saw and celebrated with Tommy in Santiago, but Monica had gone on to Finistere, sorry I missed you Monica, bless you both.
My plan for the Burgos area was to get close to the city and then walk straight through and out the other side, I don’t like the cities and had seen Burgos previously in 2008. Alas it was not to be, the planned stop at Cardenuela was scuppered as the albergue did not open until June. The two young German girls I was with at the time were devastated as we faced a 12 or 13 km walk to Burgos and their feet were not up to it; we managed 5 k to Vilafria but faced with 35euros for a hotel or 85cents for the bus, we caught the bus into Burgos. It was the only time in 900km I used transport, and it was disappointing but the only sensible thing to do under the circumstances. Both Nicola & Antje recovered and made it to Santiago, as I saw Nicola there and she told me Antje made it also, well done girls!