Horseback riding on the Camino Santiago

Today we went on a little horse ride up a  mountain trail on the Camino.

Elizabeth was still suffering from a blister on one of her toes,  and although we tried all the recommended therapies it was necessary to give her foot a rest so it could heal.  We decided to skip hiking for a day and to ride horses along the Camino trail instead.

Our next area to walk was up to the mountain hamlet known as  O’Cebreiro in Galicia and I found a horse stable called Al-Paso that caters to Pilgrims.  Al-Paso is located directly on the Camino in Herrerias and has twice daily trips up the mountain for about 30 euros each.  The manager’s name is Victor, and he was a wealth of information about the horses and the Camino.   Elizabeth was the youngest rider but luckily there was another young person about 18 years old for her to chum around with.  Our group consisted of about 8 riders,  2 guides and the rest Pilgrims from Italy, New Zealand and the USA.

The horses well-cared care for and were given a lot of attention and love by Victor and his staff.   There were a lot of flies swarming around the horses’ heads and they were not wearing fly masks,  but the assistant assured me that horses were used to it and it didn’t bother them.  Still,  I spent a lot of the time swatting the pesky insects off of my poor animal’s head during our ride.

Our group rode straight up the mountain and passed many Pilgrims and runners along the way. The ride was smooth but we moved at a quick enough pass that it was fun and exciting.  The farmlands and valley views were spectacular and we both really enjoyed this experience.

We only stopped once so the horses could have a drink from a water trough in the center of a small village about  3/4 of the way up.  Once we arrived at the top and dismounted we took some photos and then headed to the center of the ancient but tiny village  called O’Cebreiro,  where we  enjoyed local music, some tapas and liquid refreshments.

O’Cebreiro weather is startlingly different from the other parts of the Camino we had walked in.  It had a thick mist surrounding it and was much cooler and comfortable out.  There are lots of things  to see  in a small space which has been described as a hobbit’s hamlet. The round stone buildings with thatched roofs are called pallazas and they appear to be right out of a fairy tale.   I bought several tee shirts and the prices were very affordable.  This is a cool place to spend an afternoon.

Buen Camino

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Herrerias, Spain on the Camino Santiago de Compestela
Bridge above Herrerias, Spain
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Elizabeth about to ride to O’Ceb.
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We’re off
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Camino Santiago
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Camino Santiago
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Camino Santiago on Horseback
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Side of the trail
Horses at the top of O'Ceb on Camino Santiago
O’Ceb, Camino Santiago de Compestela
Mother and Daughter on top of the O'Ceb.
O’Cebreiro, Spain
The crew on top of O'Cebreiro, Spain
After completing our horseback ride we took a group photo with Victor.

 

 

 

Mother & Daughter Bonding in Galicia

The next few days rushed by and I hardly had time to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the Camino way.   We completed walking in the Leon Province and then entered the hypnotizing countryside and vineyards of the Galicia Region.

Elizabeth and I were eating, sleeping and most importantly walking together, day after day, with no breaks from each other or the schedule.  To pass the time,  sometimes we discussed history, politics, how talented she was twirling her walking stick and how difficult middle school was.   We took care of each other, me by ensuring her toe blister was cared for and her by handing me her walking stick each time we descended steep hills,  so I did not kill myself in a tumble.   We were both entirely committed to each other’s success here and in life.    She seemed to mature right before my eyes and my stress levels vanished to a non-existent level.   The life I had was perfect at this time, as we wandered up and down the hilly pathways and inched closer to Santiago.

Departing Ponferrada,  we enjoyed the path out of town because this flat Camino section runs parallel to a river or creek that was partially visible with our head lights.  But just when I thought it was going to be an easy day, we were faced with a monstrous stone staircase that needed to be climbed.  It was only 6:00 am, and I was already overheated and panting climbing these killers.  But once we arrived at the top, it was satisfying to know that we were able to do it without stopping to rest.   Our bodies and our mother-daughter bond were getting stronger by the day.    After the stairs, we were rewarded with a lovely stroll through the edge of town.  We then entered the bountiful and green,  wine producing region of NW Spain known as Galicia.

Spain is the worldwide leader in exporting wine, ahead of even Italy and France, and its wine production dates back 2,000 years.  Galicia is well known for its lush landscape, white wines, and seafood.    At one point on the Camino, we approached a large wine production factory that bottled wines called Vinas de Bierzoso.  It was opened to the public and although there was a wine tasting area,  this was a real wine factory with its workers in protective clothing and hairnets. I wanted to buy a bottle but did not want to carry it, so we continued on.  It was so nice to walk in and out of different grape vineyards  during this wonderful day and we sat down regularly to enjoy the pretty scenery.

The heat wave continued to haunt us and that night while staying in the lovely town of Villa Franca del Bierzo  we found some relief.  The town has a picturesque river flowing through it with a beach area for swimming and sun bathing. This place seemed different from the others to me in that it wasn’t a  typical Camino type stop with tourist stores everywhere but a real town with restaurants, stores and  locals who were out and about, working and socializing. I liked it here.

After checking into our Refugio, we went for a swim in the crystal clear, fresh water river.  I expected to see many pilgrims cooling off  but didn’t any.  It did not matter because we had a ball.      Elizabeth was thrilled to be swimming and devouring ice cream at the foot of Leon mountains we had just walked over.  The icy cold water was the perfect remedy for my aching legs and Elizabeth’s sore foot.

 

Buen Camino

 

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Galicia Grape Orchard
Elizabeth walking through among the grape vines
Elizabeth on the Camino
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Wine liters for sale in Galicia
Elizabeth and her map on Camino
Elizabeth on the Camino in Galicia, Spain
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Swim Spot on the Camino
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Villa Franca del Beirzo, Spain
Enjoying the ice cold mountain water in Spain
Elizabeth enjoying the river on Camino Santiago

 

Tieks Ballet Flats for next trip to Europe

I just purchased a ridiculously expensive pair of burgundy ballet flats and will be wearing them everyday next week while on an 9 day tour of Portugal.  The shoes are called Tieks by Gavrielli and I paid $175 for my first pair.  I sure hope they are worth it.

If you haven’t heard about this line yet,  the shoes all have a signature  light blue sole on the bottom and stripe up the back,  but that is not why I bought my pair.  Supposedly they will be extraordinarily comfortable and perfect for the walking traveler.     The shoes are made of Italian leather and the backs of the shoes are constructed with a cushioned back as opposed to the regular ballet shoes’s elastic back. They are fold-able and will fit in  purse for a quick shoe change when dressier shoes are starting to hurt  and  can be worn all day and night.

I will let you know what I think and if I will be buying more Tieks or donating to a worthy charity.   As far as I can tell the only way to buy real Tieks is through their website at:

https://tieks.com/.

The website says free shipping and returns but I needed them fast so I paid extra.

Stay tuned for an honest review.

 

 

Tieks Ballet Flats
Notice the blue non-slip rubber sole.

 

Real Pilgrims

As Elizabeth and I continued our pilgrimage towards Santiago, we started to feel like real pilgrims.  We seemed to recognize the others everywhere we went and felt comfortable eating and socializing with them.

Just like the other pilgrims, we washed our sweat soaked clothes in a sink each day and then immediately tried to air dry them,  because we would be wearing them the following morning.  We took a glorious siesta every day after our walk by falling into a deep sleep for a couple of hours around 4:00 pm.  This allowed us to recharge and recover from the brutal heat and the steep hills, both up and down.   The best part of all was all the stress and concerns from our life back home ceased to exist for us.  Camino related concerns were the only thing we worried about, and they were minimal at best.  Life was definitely good.

After Cruz de Ferro we walked several kilometers through mostly mountain trails.  At one point we saw a paved street abutting the Camino.    Parked in a small pullout area was a food truck complete with 5 or 6 plastic tables with umbrellas.  This truck stop/rest area was clearly popular because it was the first place to buy anything in a long while.  We stopped and had some refreshments including my first beer of this trip.  I hardly ever drink beer, but this drink was the best cold one I have ever had in my life.  I was so depleted from the heat and the Estrella Galicia beer was so cold and delicious, that I did not care that I was drinking a beer at 10:30 in the morning in front of my daughter.  After that day I made a rule that I would reward myself with one delicious Estrella every day until we left Spain.

While at the rest stop we were speaking with a Spanish pilgrim and she explained there were 2 Camino routes available to get to the next town of El Acerbo.  One was on the paved road we were on and the entry to the more difficult route was across the street back into a mountain trail.    Up to this point we had been walking on loose rock-filled dirt trails and you had to be extra cautious of where you were placing your feet because the rocks were so unstable.  My feet were killing me, it was hotter than hell out and I had no desire to fight pesky unstable rocks anymore that day, so we decided to walk on the side of the asphalt road to the next town.

When I grew up, many years ago,  the kids in my neighborhood use to race barefoot and I was quite good at it.    After walking about 20 minutes on the asphalt route, I removed my hiking boots and walked for the next 45 minutes with just my socks on my feet.  Having shed the heavy boots for a period proved to be the most comfortable my feet felt the entire time we were in Spain.  My daughter removed her hiking boots as well and walked the same distance in her flip-flops.  We were happy campers.

After about an hour we re-entered the other route and started hiking in the mountains again. The trail was treacherous and I fell once, but soon enough we were back in our grove.   We passed through El Acerbo and the picturesque village of Molinaseca and spent the night in the city of Ponferrada, which has a population of about 65,000.

At this point, Elizabeth complained of a blister on her toe.  On the Camino blisters are a big deal and the pain can dash a pilgrim’s hope of finishing the pilgrimage, so off to the pharmacy we went.  In Spain, you don’t have to go to the Emergency Room for some basic medical care instead people go to the local pharmacy. The pharmacist listened to our blister problem and then provided expert treatment recommendations.  I then purchased every kind of blister remedy she suggested and then some.

We then walked around this fairly large city and visited a few of the cultural and religious sites,  including the exquisite Basilica of Our Lady of Encina.

Here is the website if you want to learn more:  http://www.basilicadelaencina.es

After strolling through a couple of the pretty plazas within Ponferrada and having a quick supper, we retired to our rooms and collapsed for the evening.

Buen Camino

 

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A picture of the trail  before El Acebo, Spain
Trail in El Acebo area in Spain
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Elizabeth on the Camino
Is this trail ever going to end?
Is this trail ever going to end?
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Elizabeth outside of El Acebo, Spain
Estrella Galicia Cerveza
My new best friend