17 April 2016


If a man travels with two bears can he be said to be alone? Our view is no, but yours may be different. The other day our BBF was talking to us, as he sat on his bed, he asked if we had earned the right to a piece of chocolate! Christine a Swiss pilgrim, who was standing in the room at the time said, "Pardon, could you say that again?" Alan had to say, "don't mind me, I'm just an old man talking to his bears!" No idea what she thought since she made no reply!

We have been 14 days now on the Via de la Plata and have only walked in company on two occasions and shared a room with Hans-Peter three times. Hans-Peter, as you know was poorly and had to return home. So on all the other 12 days we have walked without any other human company. When in the various Albegues we were not always with the same people. New humans seem to have appeared out of the woodwork. One consistent has been, but is no longer, the fact that Chris (English), Brian (Canadian) and Alan (Canadian) have been the first to pass us on the road in that order. Sadly AB and C parted company a couple of days ago and C is now well ahead as he walked some 30 odd kilometres on one day, when we did not.

Alan has lamented that this Camino does not have the same religious and spiritual feeling about it that Hanna's Camino did. In the Albergue in Torremeja, a few days ago, we shared a room with Chris and our BBF and Chris had, for Alan, the first conversation about religion, on this Camino. The two humans shared their experiences on the Camino Franc`es and even mentioned passages from the Bible to each other. They each have a version as an App on their phone. The humans agreed that it was sad that it was so, but hoped it would change the closer they got to Santiago.

The next day, as we were enjoying a brief rest on a rock in the sun in a beautiful part of the countryside, Chris came by and stopped for a minute. He asked if Alan had ever replaced the cross that he had lost on the Camino Franc`es. This was one of the stories that Alan had confided to him the day before. Alan said no he hadn't. Well now, Chris gave  Alan a little wooden cross which his Munkey (the spelling is Chris's) had been wearing around his neck! Alan was almost speechless at the Christian generosity but was able to wish God's Blessing on Chris as he went on his way again. We have not seen him since sadly.

Alan now proudly wears the cross out side his shirt while he is on the Camino.

In the Albergue we stayed in Villafrance de los Barros were quite a number of pilgrims that we had come to know and see along the way. We shared a room with two South Korean couples. The other pilgrims decided to cook in the Albergue and share a meal. Sadly no one spoke to us about it, so Alan went off for a meal by himself yet again. When he came back, Peter (Canadian) invited him to join them for a glass of wine, which he did. This was briefly the first time he felt a part of a community.

 The next morning the Koreans had us up at 06:00 hrs so we were out the door earlier than usual. All was OK until we hit the end of town and the street lights ended. It was pitch dark and we could not see the road ahead, but had to follow a main road for a bit, until it crossed another highway and then went off across fields. We told our human to use his head lamp so that he would see the arrow way markers and be seen by on coming cars. His reply is worth printing. "It goes against all my training! I am trained to move silently and unobserved in the dark. Not go around with a search light on my head!!!" We said don't be daft, you are a civilian and an old man on a long walk. We want to be seen and to see the way markers. He relented, turned the lamp light from red, which he always has on in the Albergues not to ruin his night vision or to disturb others when he gets up to go to the loo in the night, to white and had to agree that it was quite a good idea, but low and behold at the hint of first light he turned it out. Now we whinged, but he said, "I can see the road ahead for at least 100 metres and it is winding more or less straight between vineyards. We will see any cars long before they see us and I can always turn the light on again if you want me to." We regret we will never turn him into a proper civilian, once a soldier always a soldier!

There were days when the track was pure mud and this mud stuck to the boots making Alan two inches taller and the boots heavier by at least two kilos, he said. 

At the first possible opportunity he cleaned the boots. The next day we were rewarded for this effort with an easy passage and sunshine.

The Roman Dam at Prosperina which we crossed.

In the Albergue in Aljucen Alan was invited to partake of a meal with Goichi (Japan), Christine (Swiss), Young Soon (SKorean now German), Frans (Dutch), Robert (Dutch) and for the second time felt he was part of a community.

Young Soon managed to get someone to come and open the church for us.

Alan sang the Pilgrims hymn here.

The next day the South Koreans, though in a next room to us were up at 05:00hrs, so most people were stirring soon there after. We were out the door by 06:30 hrs and off into the dark, but no headlamp as Alan said he could see the road. We passed the Koreans having a picnic on the way. In Alcuescar we stayed in the monastery but got there long before it was open. So Alan went off to find a cash machine to get money. The monastery though basic had plenty of toilets and showers for every one. All unisex. They did not have Wifi so we went off to a bar for that and of course Alan's isotonic drink. The monastery offered an evening meal after a tour and talk as well as Mass. The tour was all in Spanish and though Leonard (Dutch) made feeble attempts at translation, was mildly boring. It was given with great enthusiasm by a Tanzanian Monk though.  After the Mass we were to receive a Pilgrim's Blessing. Alan misunderstood the Spanish in the Service and thought we had been given it at the end. So when nearly every one left he stood up to sing the Pilgrim's Hymn only to realise as he got to the third verse that he was holding up the proceedings! The Hospitalero did thank him later for the good singing!

The little Windows right at the top are where we were housed.

The chapel where the Mass and Pigrim's Blessing were held.

We were all ready for the evening meal.

A sausage casserole followed a rice heavy paella type soup. No Vino Tinto to our humans dismay!!

Alan with the South Korean couples.

If these two Bulls had not been in opposite fields they would have gone head to head!

And then it rained and rained and rained.

Another fine Roman bridge.

In some places there were still the original Roman mile stones.

A boon on a rainy day. We stopped here and shared it with a young South Korean couple Kim and Song.

Then it rained some more.

It turns the track into a flowing stream and one could tell if one was going up or down by the direction of the flow.

We arrived sodden and weary in the tiny one horse town of Valdesalor with a very basic Albergue, but at least we had a bed.

A woman came and occupied the bunk above us and Alan was heard to remark to her, "since we will be sleeping together, I think I should know your name!" She was called Jullien (France).

There are days when moral is a little low and the going seems tough. In a pervese way our humans moral rises in adverse proportion to the weather. The worse the weather the more he gets on and copes with it without moaning. He has been known to shout out at the rain clouds, "you can't crack me, I'm a rubber duck!" 
on other occasion he motivates himself by singing a couple of marching songs he knows. The German one goes,
"Links, Links wenn der Hauptmann kommt dann stinks!" Or the English one,
"By the left, by the right, by the centre, may the cheeks of your a..e never fester!"

This would be quite a nice walk were it not for the rain in Spain. For there is much to see and admire in the countryside. The cuckoo has followed us as has the Hoopoe, though we have yet to catch sight of him again.

When it's wet and his boots fill up with water, Alan's arthritic toes do not like it. His knees don't either and they are the joints which dictate the pace. He try's to ignor the hurt from the blister which is slowly getting better.

We are now in Caceres which is a lovely Medieval town. 

There are so many storks in Spain we bears were wondering if that is because this is where all the babies come from! Our human said don't be daft storks don't bring babies, but what does he know. He has not figured out yet how we bears keep multiplying on him! Little does he know that bears only go to humans that treat them with love and kindness.

We are sadly alone again because we are in a hostel with our own room. Maybe tomorrow we will catch up with the some of those we know again.

Buen Camino.

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