The South

I arrived in Sevilla in the afternoon and checked in at Oasis Backpackers’ hostel Sevilla that is very close to the center, in a very convenient location. Sevilla is a beautiful city. I really love the atmosphere and the architecture. The hostel I was staying at is nice and the girl at the reception very friendly.

I spent the afternoon going a bit around town even though I didn’t get in at the main sites as I had already been there and didn’t have time for staying in eternal lines… But I still had a good tour of the main attractions. The following day I visited some more, had lunch at Venigatessen and then left direction Cordoba.

The trip in Blabla Car was nice and short. I was traveling with a guy the lives in Cordoba but works in Sevilla, another guy from Sevilla that studies singing in Cordoba and an Argentinian guy that is traveling Europe.

In Cordoba I checked in at Cordoba Bed and Be. Extremely friendly girl at the reception, nice building with a touch of history and free sangria at 8.00pm on the roof terrace. After dinner I met with Felix the Argentinian guy from Blabla Car and went for a couple of beers. The following day we took the free tour of the city and visited the famous cathedral, a spectacular building that was born as a mosque and turned into a cathedral keeping the same appearance of a mosque. A very unique, bizarre and amazing construction. For lunch I went to La Libelula Coffee shop, the only vegan place in town. I had a delicious burrito and after lunch I met my next Blabla Car driver that would take me to Malaga.

That afternoon I stared to notice that I wasn’t feeling very well. Something was wrong with my stomach but I didn’t feel like I wanted to throw up or need to go to the toilet. I was just feeling uneasy. In Malaga I was expected by Esteban that offered to host me through CS. Arrived in Esteban my uneasiness got worst and couldn’t eat anything. That morning I had breakfast and wasn’t able to eat anything else until the dinner the following day.

Esteban has a fantastic penthouse very close to the bus and train station with a view on the river. At the beginning I was planning to stay with him one night only but since I wasn’t feeling well I decided to stay one day longer. Esteban has been very patient and understanding with my situation and all considered I had a very nice time in Malaga. I was able visit again that beautiful city especially since Esteban’s place is in the center of the city. At 3pm of my third day in Malaga I went to the bus station and jumped (literally!!!) on the first bus out direction Almeria to stop at Motril and from there take a bus to Orgiva where I had booked a workaway for three weeks.

During this period in Portugal and South of Spain couchsurfing has been a big disappointment. A part from Esteban it has been impossible to find a host. It’s getting harder and harder to find someone willing to host. Apparently everybody is super busy or just don’t care. I really hope that this changes in the future. CS is a fantastic concept and a cool way of traveling and meeting new and interesting people. Maybe I’ve just been unlucky. I really hope so.

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Some thoughts

I was actually happy to leave behind the not so friendly people of Santiago. I guess they are fed up with tourists but again, if that’s so, change your job. Tourists are what make Santiago alive so they should not complain so much.

I took a train to Vigo on my way to Porto. I planned to stay in Vigo for some hours, visit the city and then take off. But arrived at the information office I am informed that the luggage deposit is ONLY at the bus stop. Which is of course on the other side of the city. No comment… So I take my backpack and walk a bit around the city but it’s hot and don’t feel like walking that much so I stop often, in the shade as the weather is very hot and see what I can, what’s not too far on walking distance. For lunch I found the only open vegetarian place called Veggie Burger El Sojita. When I arrived the had actually just closed but the girls working there I guess they felt sorry for me and prepare a hot dog and a salad to go. Delicious!

I arrive in Porto without a place to stay. I was waiting for an answer from a CSer that happily forgot about me so I think “what the heck, I will find a hostel”. As if… I check with one, fully booked. Second one, same story, and the third and forth. I actually thought it was a joke. But no, the city was under siege with tourists, for whatever reason. Luckily for me at the last hostel I checked the guy at the reception let me use the computer to check availability. My phone was almost dead and I was at my wit’s end.

I finally found a bed available at Oporto Music hostel that is a very fantastic place although a bit far from the center. So since I didn’t want to spend my time on the metro to go and come back from the center the following morning after a very good breakfast I booked a bed at Oporto Invictus hostel.

As I did the check in I asked the girl working there if it was possible stay 2 nights instead of one. Of course not. It was sold out for the following day… I started laughing!!!

So I left my stuff at the hostel and started to walk the city to visit again and little by little memories from my first visit came back to me. I guess what I really love about Portugal are the old beautiful buildings that are crumbling down all over the country.

Although it gives me a great pain to see all these beautiful buildings forgotten and almost destroyed it also fascinate me to see the pass of time on something that it was beautiful and it still is in a way. It’s like watching the face of a beautiful old lady and you can see she was beautiful but the time nonetheless has walked its way through the face (of the lady and of the building). I dunno I can’t really express what it causes in me, but I just know that I love (and feel great pain) watching these buildings falling to pieces…

I spent my third night at Porto Downtown hostel so far the less nice of the three but on a very good position and with breakfast included.

I left Porto for Coimbra where I booked at Olive Street house, a beautiful place very close to the train station. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to spend the night there as I had to go back to Spain to fix some admin issue and there was just one night train to Salamanca that same night.

I arrived in Salamanca at 5 am and the people at Room In were so nice to let me in and take my bed even though I booked only for one night (so the upcoming night not the one who was fading away). After fixing my admin issue I was able to visit the city and I was in awe of how beautiful Salamanca is. Super clean, all the buildings are in perfect condition, people are very nice and the city historical center is perfectly preserved. In Salamanca I met Alvaro a young medicine student who explained to me a bit of the history of the city and in the evening we had a couple of beers together.

The following day I was back on a bus to get to Lisbon. It’s been a long trip but not as horrible as I thought. In Lisbon I was supposed to have a CS host that once again disappeared on me so I booked at Brothers hostel of which are two. From the bus stop I took a Cabify as it was late and didn’t feel like walking at night with my backpack on.

After the check in I asked if I could extend my stay (old habits die hard) and the answer was no, of course. But the guy at the reception was so nice to find a place for me at the other place they have further up the hill. Fifteen minutes walks he said. More 25 I would say. But the place was so much better with more spacious rooms and a very nice garden. But, since it was very far from the center for the following day I booked one night at the Suave Lisboa hostel, very close to the center and although not as nice as the second “Brothers ” it was still a happy choice.

My last day in Lisbon I had lunch at a apparently very famous vegan buffet restaurant close to the center called Jardim das Cerejas. Delicious food and a lot of choice. The following morning I went to Sintra for a quick tour and returned to Lisbon in order to to catch a train to Faro for that same afternoon. Sintra was a big disappointment to me. It was just a tourist trap. Everything was an expense. You had to take the bus to get to the castle. You have to pay to visit the castle. Then again you have to catch a bus to go to Pena Palace and the entrance to the palace was 14€. I calculated that if you wanna visit everything there is to see and have lunch you can easily spend 100€ in one day. So I left as quickly as I could but bot after a nice walk up the hill in the middle of the forest just to make up a little bit for the Camino I didn’t walk.

At the train station in Faro I got an Uber. Once again it was late and didn’t feel like walking at night. I guess I’m getting old but what the heck!? As long as I can afford little treats like this I will take full advantage of the situation. The place I booked in Faro is called HI Hostel Faro – Pousada de Jouventude. I felt a bit silly to stay at a youth hostel but then I saw that there were hosts older than me so I relaxed.

In the morning I visited the city and it really doesn’t take you more than one morning to see what’s to see and had lunch at this vegetarian place right in city center called Gengibre e Canela. I was so happy with my choice. For 7.5€ you have a eat-all-you-can buffet and a pretry good choice.

At 2.30pm I met with my Bla Bla Car company and headed back to Spain.

I really enjoyed Portugal but I don’t think I’ll go back unless I have a special reason to. I’m glad to see that they have begum to take care of the buildings that were falling to pieces but other than that the situation form my previous visit around 6 years ago has not improved a lot. In Lisbon I had again that feeling that I wasn’t safe, every where there are boards inviting you to keep safe and don’t walk alone especially at night. In full daylight people harass you on the street to try and selling drugs. Cannot take more than 10 steps without having someone to try and sell you weed, coke, hashish. Your choice. When I was in the main square I actually got followed by a couple of guys that insisted to get me buy drugs. It’s very annoying and I never felt that uncomfortable before. So I guess Portugal is done for me. But still I’m happy I went back and visit again even though CSers there are not serious and don’t really have a sharing attitude.

My way

Oops! I did it again!

I did things my way (like Frank Sinatra!) in the end the Camino turned out to be more of an exploration of the North of Spain than anything else.

From Leon I took a bus to stop I’m Astorga. Another beautiful place that I would have never visited was it not for the decision I took to be a pilgrim. From Astorga I moved to Ponferrada where I visited it’s amazing old town with the impressive castle and from there I finally arrived in Lugo. And again I got a fantastic surprise visiting the old town (the new town sucks) with the Roman walls and amazing cathedral.

I spent the night in Lugo where I met Miguel, a couchsurfer, and his friends. I was surprised about the fact that in the north in general when you order a drink you receive a “pincho” and a “tapa” at the same time so basically you can actually eat just by ordering drinks that are extremely cheap. Comparing to the life in Barcelona, Lugo and the north of Spain are heaven. The salaries are the same as in Barcelona but everything is extremely cheaper. Miguel rents a two bedroom flat in the very center of the city just beside the cathedral and pays for the whole apartment less than I paid for ONE ROOM in Barcelona. Again, was it not for the dreadful weather I’d move to the North immediately.

In Lugo I had lunch at the only vegetarian place in the city called “Cafeteria Reina” where I was attended by a girl from Barcelona!!!

The following day I had luch at the “Legends Cafe” where they serve a delicious and impossible to eat without making a mess vegan burger.

After Lugo it was finally time to get to Santiago. So after 2 days I took a bus and arrived in Santiago de Compostela. I wasn’t even exited or anything. I was just happy I was there but when I arrived in the city center and saw the amount of tourists invading the town my enthusiasm was instantly killed.

I checked in at “Roots and boots hostel” very close to the center but far enough not to be in the middle of the swarming. The place is absolutely amazing with a fantastic garden at the back where you can chill drinking a beer in company of others guests but the management has a serious problem of bad temper. I made an innocent joke with the manager and his snapped saying the if I wasn’t happy I could just go and when I apologized he insisted to tell me that I was free to go and that he didn’t like my jokes. Same thing happened to Eszter I girl met there. She used the “wrong” toilet and the manager’s partner snapped at her saying that she didn’t have the right to use that toilet. Eszter apologize a few times and the lady kept on barking at her. I guess they are fed up with tourists but if that’s the case maybe they should consider changing their job.

A part from that I had an amazing time in Santiago but only because I spent my time with some beautiful people met at the hostel. The send day of my staying my and some other hosts after the visit to the cathedral (and the failed attempt to follow the soporific mass) decided to by some groceries and cook in the kitchen at the hostel. We had a blast and spent the afternoon sitting at the table in the garden eating and drinking and laughing and for a few hours we were each other best friends. And that’s what I like about traveling. We were from Spain, Italy, Hungary, Germany, Slovenia and the UK. We had nothing in common but at the same time we knew each other very well. That’s the magic of spending time traveling and sleeping in hostels. I already miss those guys!

Face the truth

So. The Camino was for me a flame that burned out very quickly. Unfortunately. I thought that since I’ve done the ABC the Camino would be a piece if cake but I was wrong. On my fourth day I had to acknowledge the fact that the long walk to Santiago was over for me. Until yesterday I was able to walk at least a couple of hours a day but today my knee hurts and I don’t want to force it anymore to make it worst so I decided that I will do the walk, but my way.

I’m on the train to Leon now. I switched from the Camino del Norte to the Francés. In the North it is too cold and if your not walking you’re just getting cold. Hopefully on the French Camino the temperature will be nicer and I will be able to enjoy at least what’s left for me. Two days ago a went from Santander to Santa Cruz de Bezana by walk. It took me two hours and I arrived exhausted. I spent the night at the Casa del Pelegrino run by this wonderful woman by the name of Nieves and her very quiet husband. The morning after I took a train to get to Santillana del Mar. One of the most beautiful village in the North of Spain. Unfortunately the weather was really bad and after visiting a little bit I sat myself in a cafe and sipped hot tea until I took the bus to Comillas. Another beautiful place in Cantabria but again the weather was not on my side.

I spent the night at the Casa del Pelegrino that was way less nice than the previous one but there I met a very funny German guy from Hamburg travelling with his dad. Together we had dinner at a pizzeria nearby “Pizza Italia” and I was so hungry and cold that I had a pizza (sans cheese of course!! 😉) and after that also a plate of spaghetti in tomato sauce. I don’t know if it was really good but to me it was delicious!

In the morning I visited the village and the weather started to improve. I took a bus to San Vicente de la Barquera where I stopped the time to have a quick salad in the park and then I took a bus destination Oviedo.

I arrived in Oviedo under a beautiful sun and I went straight to the Casa del Pelegrino to assure a place. After leaving my backpack I headed back to town to do some sightseeing. Oviedo is a very beautiful city. You can tell is rich, very cared for, magnificent building and a lot of statues in the streets everywhere.

The night at the hostel was the worst I had so far. In a room of ten beds, at least 7 people decided to give a night concert. Never had that! There is always one person snoring in the room, by now I have learned to accept this fact, but the entire room snoring at the same time is a novelty. And I really hope I won’t have to experience that again!!!

My knee today is hurting like hell so I’m on a train to visit Leon, moving from the North way to the French in a blink of an eye. Tomorrow I will visit some other villages in between and probably in two days I’ll be in Santiago.

It won’t be the trip I thought for so long but I’m happy I did it anyway. I’ve visited beautiful places and met beautiful people. It’s still a nice experience and I will have it in my heart forever. After all there’s always a silver lining in everything.

And now it’s time for a break…

As we say in Italy: il diavolo fa le pentole ma non i coperchi (devil makes the pans but not the lids) meaning that you can make all your plannings but there’s always something that can go wrong.

On my fourth day of Camino something went wrong. The day started on a gloomy note. It was raining and rumor had it that it was the hardest part of the Camino what laid ahead. I woke up early and I was on the road at 8. It was drizzling so I put on my raincoat and embraced the idea that I just has to walk on. As I walked I started to actually enjoying the walk and the foggy landscape that surrounded me. I finally was fully immersed in Nature. No one and nothing around. According to Gronze website I had to walk 7 hours to get to the next stop Markina.

By 12.30pm I was there. I was super happy and with Milena, and Austrian girl I met along the way, we stopped in a restaurant on the main square an had a sandwich. Of course I had to have it custom made because of my diet and imagine my surprise when the cook came into the restaurant with an entire baguette all for me!!!

After food I decided to carry on until Guernica. I felt good, a little pain on my back and a funny knee but it was a beautiful sunny day (after the rain it always come the sun) and so far the view had been fantastic. So I left Milena behind and carried on planning to arrive in Guernica around 7 pm.

It was almost 6 when I arrived at Marmiz that I knew it was one hour walk from Guernica on the main road. I figured it would be a little longer for the pilgrims but I was still perfectly on time. I started to walk up the mountain and up and up and it looked like it was never going down. I started to feel there was something wrong. The supposed 5 km to Guernica started to feel like 6, 7… and the fatigue of the long walk started to wear on me. At every turn of the way I expected a descent but I was always disappointed. After 45 minutes walking up the mountain I was desperate. My back was hurting like hell. There was this muscle that I was pretty sure it was not there the day before, that was giving me hell and the left knee was more than a nuisance now. I wanted to cry and I started to scream cursing Santiago and myself to make the decision to do the walk. It was almost one hour after I started to mount up that it was clear that the walk was finally moving downward. I felt relieved and started to accelerate the pace. I was in pain and tired and wanted to get to Guernica as soon as possible.

Almost at the end of the walk I started to hear the cars passing by and I felt relieved. I passed by a country house and the owner stopped me and asked me if I was walking the Camino. I said yes and he replied: I’m sorry to say but you took the wrong one. My heart dropped and I felt I would die. I couldn’t even think of walking any extra steps. I thought I would stop right there and then and would left myself die. Luckily the man who gave me the bad news also offered to drive me to Guernica. I couldn’t believe at my luck. Had I arrived two minutes later I would have missed him. He said that I was not the only one that got lost. Apparently the walk is badly signalled and many pilgrims go astray.

So, I spent the night in Bilbao at Iker’s and now I’m in Santander ready to try and took my Camino back. A few lessons I’ve learned from these few days:

  • I’m not as trained as I thought
  • Never over estimate your strength
  • Take a rest every now and then when you are tired
  • Listen to your body
  • Distances on papers are shorter than in real life
  • Don’t always follow the yellow arrow (it’s not always well signalled as it should be)
  • On the way up take quick short steps
  • Zig zag your way down (it won’t strain your knees)
  • When you can’t walk anymore take a day of rest and if necessary take a bus to your next stop
  • You don’t have to destroy yourself Do what you can, this is not a marathon
  • Walk in a way that gives you the time to appreciate the view
  • Pack light (and I mean LIGHT!!!

So. At this point I know I won’t walk the whole 800 km and it’s fine. I will do only the easiest parts in order not to fuck up completely my knee. I only have two and I’d like to keep them healthy as long as I can. Also, I don’t have THAT much time so I have to make it quicker than I thought. Lesson learned. Now I’m off to bed.

Tomorrow is another day to visit Santander and walk the 9 km to get to Santa Cruz de Besana.

The legend and the truth

To travel is amazing. Is cool. Is exciting. But to travel is also tiring and exhausting. Now that I’ve been back for a month, I realize how tiring traveling can be. The fact of moving constantly, the fact that you have to readapt every other day and face new realities and new people can be tiresome. I don’t how many times I had to repeat my story. Where I’m from, where I’m going, why I’m traveling and so on. Over and over again. Everybody goes “Wow! I wish I could do the same!” and maybe they really mean it, but then they don’t do it. Maybe because they know deep down inside that to travel is actually a “job”, it takes a toll on you, like every other job. Maybe they know that it can be lonely, and that sometimes you feel lost and abandoned. That traveling is not just about money and meeting people and see cool stuff. Traveling is also getting to know yourself, testing your limits. And sometimes it is scary. Sometimes you don’t know if you’ll make it, you don’t know what you’re going to eat that day, or if you’re even eating at all, you don’t know where you will sleep and who you’ll meet. Of course it’s all part of the adventure and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world, but sometimes we all need to stop and make home even if for a couple of days. We all need a little consistency, for some peace of mind. And then your feet start to itch again and you’re ready for your next adventure, for your next connection, your next flight. Now that I’ve been back for a month, I feel the urge to move, to pack my bag and go. I’m nervously checking the flights and I’m already thinking about my next trip. I have this need to meet new people, see new places, eat different things. I need to feel free, to be out in this world, the travel bug had infested my body and there’s no cure. I just need to travel. I can’t explain the adrenaline that rushes through your veins when you arrive in a new place, when to talk to someone new, when you have to face a new problem in a strange land and you manage to solve it. I really miss all that, and even though I love my family and I like to spend time with them, the call of the wild is stronger. I left this instinct sleep for a few years but now that it’s awaken again there’s no way to put it back to sleep. I watch the pictures from my trip and I’m back there, with the sounds, the smells, the breeze and my heart starts to long. I have to be patient and wait just a little longer and I know it’s for a reason. But it’s really hard, I’d take the first plane out if I could, but I’ll try to calm myself and use this time to organize better my next trip. I’m like the scorpion from the tale, it’s beyond my control.

Summing it up: India 

Some LOVE it,  some HATE it and someone like me loved some aspects of it and hate some other.  But when I left (and I was looking forward to leave) I was sad and felt I wanted to stay longer.  India is a strange and magic place.  When I got my request for visa approved I was almost disappointed.  I had read so many bad things about it that I was almost terrified to go there.  And since I had no expectations whatsoever I was able to actually enjoy it after I realized that it was not so scary after all.  My experience in India has been some kind of an adventure.  There were moments that I asked myself what I was doing there and others that I couldn’t get enough and I wanted more.

Indians with their barefeet, their obsession with hair, with their constant talking, their clumsiness, their naivety, with their contrast of poor covered in gold,  their attitude of Jack of all trades , their constant trying to get more money from you, with their despise of stray dogs,  their togetherness,  their faulty legs (mainly men), their loud music in the buses, their habit of spitting, their food served in newspaper pages and most of all their inquisitive bobbing heads are the most annoying but at the same time charming people I’ve ever met.  

With the hindsight I realize that India should have been a trip by itself.  By the time I got there I was already tired and extremely annoyed by anything that was not working in a western way.  I could not really make the best of my time in India for this reason but at the same time, especially towards the last days when my homecoming was approaching I realized that I wanted more,  that I wished I had stayed longer.  Now that I’m back home I miss the mess that is India.  I miss the colors (not the smells…),  the smiles,  the friendliness,  the carelessness that characterizes life in India.  I miss the easy going attitude,  the chats in the streets or wherever as a matter of fact, their way of seeing life,  the it’s OK attitude.  I’m already thinking of going back some day.  Don’t know yet when.  But I feel I have left something behind and wanna find out what it is.