Stay-at-Home COVID Camino: Part 1

Stay-at-Home COVID Camino: Part 1

St. Jean Pied de Port to Burgos, 284.6 km

The “Camino for Good Virtual Camino” kicked off on January 15, 2021. It is a virtual 780 km walk along the ancient Camino Frances pilgrimage route from St. Jean Pied de Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Details can be found HERE.

Dave and I thought doing this Virtual Camino would be a great motivator to get us out walking on a regular basis, and it sure has been! Even though a snowfall kept us trapped indoors for a couple of days, we still managed to walk an average of over 8 km a day since January 15th and have had a lot of fun doing it.

It has also been great connecting with people from around the world at the “Camino For Good Cafe.” Photos of actual and virtual Caminos are shared by people walking in various parts of Australia, Canada, U.S.A., South Africa, Britain, Spain, etc. With the camaraderie increasing as it is, maybe we’ll connect with them in person one day on the actual Camino! Who knows!?

As we walk our Virtual Camino here at home and log our distances onto the map of Spain, we reminisce about our actual journeys in 2015 and 2019. For example, although today we “actually” walked here at home, we magically and “virtually” arrived in Burgos, Spain, and are more than one-third of the way to Santiago de Compostela with 495.3 km to go. Maybe we’ll arrive sometime in April, but we’re not in a rush. The journey is the destination, after all. Here is how our Virtual Camino Frances has gone, starting from St. Jean Pied de Port, France.

January 15-17 St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles
We’re off to a decent start! Over the last three days we virtually climbed 24.5 km over the Pyrenees from France into Spain. We carried no backpacks and the elevation gain was only 561 metres – half the elevation of the actual climb. At least the kilometres we walked were enough to get us to Roncesvalles.

During the last three days we walked once to Sidney and twice in John Dean Provincial Park, a park that is practically on our doorstep. There is a myriad of trails in the park so our daily hike can be tailored to whatever we feel like doing. Weather will provide variety as well as seasonal changes between now and sometime in April when we hope to arrive in Santiago de Compostela. Ultreia!

With no accommodations between Orisson and Roncesvalles (17 km) we had no alternative but to sleep on the flanks of the Pyrenees with the horses on our second night. (Just kidding!) That’s the good thing about walking a Virtual Camino, unlike an actual one: No worries about where you are going to sleep. You simply go home to your comfy bed. Life is good!

On September 11, 2015 we spent the night, cozy and warm in our sleeping bags in a cubicle in the albergue administered by the collegiate church in Roncesvalles. The hospitaleros woke us up bright and early the next morning singing their beautiful rendition of “Hallelujah.” We had to be gone by 8 AM so they can prepare for the next influx of pilgrims.

January 18: Roncesvalles to Viscarret
What a spectacular day for walking the Camino! Dave and I circled Elk and Beaver Lakes in the morning and then my friend, Maggie, and I walked at Island View Beach in the afternoon.

Even though it rained off and on thoughout the morning between Roncesvalles and Viscarret on September 12, 2015, it was still pleasant. The route took us on quiet paths through farmland and woodland areas.

We came to a bubbling brook where a few pilgrims had their boots off and were washing their feet and doctoring blisters, making us realize how fortunate we are that our feet are hanging in quite nicely. The only things that weren’t hanging in were the pants hanging in someone’s garden and Dave’s rain poncho!

January 19-22 – Viscarret to Pamplona
These four days were once again spent hiking here in Dean Park and miraculously ending up in Pamplona!

When I was in Pamplona on my solo journey in April, 2019, Carolina, a fellow pilgrim and resident of Pamplona showed some of us fellow pilgrims around her city. We followed the route the bulls run during the July festival and then went bar hopping, Spanish style. The pintxos we ate lived up to their reputation – “deliciosos!” Even the mysterious wormy things some of us had were good!

After visiting Ernest Hemmingway’s favourite hangout, Cafe Iruna, Monette encountered a little trouble with the bulls.

January 23- 25 – Pamplona to Puente la Reina
The light rain and muddy trails here at home for the past three days were no different from some days on the Camino. We virtually made it from Pamplona, over the Alto del Perdon (Hill of Foregiveness), to Puente la Reina without taking the two kilometre detour from Maruzubal to the Iglesia de Santa Maria de Eunate as we did in 2015.

The church has been linked with the Knights Templar who long defended the pilgrim on the route to Santiago. It might also have been a burial place for pilgrims who had sadly succumbed to the gruelling physical hardships experienced along the route. Gruelling? What are we in for?

January 26-27 – Puente la Reina to Maneru
I didn’t need the sign I passed this morning to tell me the fire danger rating was low. There has been a fair amount of rain, but at least it held off during my walk home from Sidney via “The Flight Path” around the Victoria International Airport.

I am virtually somewhere around Maneru (lost maybe?) so will be camping out on a field tonight. Dave’s actual walk this morning involved picking up the car where I’d left it in Sidney but virtually he’s in Cirauqui.

January 28 – Maneru to Villatuerta
To celebrate our 54th wedding anniversary today, Dave and I walked 4.9 km of the Camino at Butchart Gardens and stopped for a “pilgrim afternoon tea.”

Although we are spending our anniversary together, I am virtually in Villatuerta and Dave is about 10.5 km ahead in Villamajor de Monjardin – well past the free wine fountain in Irache. (I hope he left me some!) It’s not so bad being back here in Villatuerta, though, because La Casa Magica Albergue offers massages. Imagine how that will feel after backpacking for two weeks!

January 29 – Villatuerta to Azqueta
Today I virtually arrived at the little town of Azqueta in fine form, unlike the shape I was in on the day I actually visited in April, 2019. I was doing the “pilgrim hobble” then, caused by two blisters that sprouted the previous day walking from Maruzubal to Estella – just the first of many. What a surprise! Never again will I see others doing the pilgrim hobble without feeling a whole lot of compassion and offering them whatever they need from my extra large first aid kit.

On a positive note, I was able to drown my misery at the lovely little Namaste Tea Room in Estella with a healthy veggie smoothie and soon after with my share of wine at the free wine fountain in Irache. The wine was not aged to perfection but beggars can’t be choosers!

Today’s walk to Sidney was, thankfully, pain-free!

January 30 – Azqueta to Villamayor de Monjardin
Today’s Virtual Camino was once again into Dean Park: Owl Hollow where there were no owls and Cougar Hollow where there were (thankfully) no cougars.

I virtually made it all the way to Villamayor de Monjardin, and what a beautiful walk it was! We are in a room for six here at Albergue Oasis Trails. We just finished a delicious communal vegetarian dinner and, if tomorrow’s buffet breakfast is as tasty, we are in for another treat!

I have full intentions to climb to St. Steven’s Castle on the peak behind the town tomorrow morning, in spite of my blisters. The castle is believed to have been built by the Romans, reinforced by the Arabs, and conquered by the Christians. It was once poetically compared to a stone ship that had run aground on the clouds.

That’s the plan for tomorrow before heading towards Los Argos. Now, though, I’m heading to the cozy, warm room next door for tea and meditation… Hasta la vista!

January 31 – Villamayor de Monjardin to Los Arcos
Before heading toward Los Arcos, a climb to St. Steven’s Castle on the peak above the town of Villamayor de Monjardin was in order. It was a beautiful start to a most beautiful day. “Un dia hermosisimo!”

When I wrote in my blog in April, 2019, that walking from Villamayor de Monjardin to Los Arcos was “one of the most stunning days I have ever experienced on the Camino,” I meant it. Since then I’ve repeated the statement countless times about other stages of various Caminos.

That’s the thing about walking the Camino: Places you visit, people you meet, and experiences you have every day stand out. Maybe it’s because when you are walking and have nothing complicated to occupy your mind, you can be more fully present.

On this particular stage, the temperature was perfect, the clouds were dramatic, the breeze made waves across endless fields of grain with their new feathery tops. Red poppies and yellow canola stood out amongst all the other wild flowers. Busy roads were nowhere to be seen or heard.

February 1 – Los Arcos to Torres del Rio
There wasn’t even a glimmer of sun here at home today, but at least the rain held off during my 10.5 km walk to town. If it was Spain, the town would have been Torres del Rio, not Sidney.

In 2019 when I walked this section of the Camino, I was wondering if a person could break a foot just by doing the “pilgrim hobble!” Limping because of a blistered left foot seemed to cause a stress fracture of the right foot two days later. At the rate I was going, I would be in desperate need of a donkey!

It was a whole different story when Dave and I walked this section from Los Arcos to Viana in 2015. It was the magical day when we transformed from “tourists” to “pilgrims.” It became clear why they say the Camino is a metaphor for life. We became “hooked” on the Camino on DAY 10 …and still are.

February 2 – Torres del Rio to Logrono (almost!)
Hooray! The sun came out for the first time in ages this afternoon on my walk from home to Sidney and back. And it was WARM! It was like someone flipped the happiness switch. There was more cheeriness in people’s greetings, and often it was more than just “Hello.”

One woman said she had to get outside as soon as she saw the sun, even if it was for just ten minutes. Dogs were loving it, too. I commented on the very “special stick” a black lab was carrying. His master said, “Yes! He’s the Branch Manager.” He was so quick with that response, I knew it wasn’t the first time. It must always draw a laugh.

If my 12.2 km walk was on the Camino Frances in Spain, I would have almost reached Logrono where in 2019 (drum roll please…) I couldn’t find my way back to the albergue and it was about to close for the night. I was so afraid I’d be sleeping out on the street! “Hasta manana!”

February 3 Logrono
Who knew it was possible to make a batch of sourdough bread while walking the Camino? You can when it’s a Virtual Camino. During the time the dough was resting this afternoon, Dave and I headed into Dean Park “actually” and to Logrono “virtually”.

It was the first day of the San Mateo wine harvest celebration on September 20, 2015 when Dave and I arrived in Logrono. The city is in the great wine-producing region of La Rioja, and the people there know how to celebrate – BIG TIME! The contrast between the liveliness of Logrono during the harvest and the peaceful Camino was dramatic, to say the least.

The highlight of my second visit to Logrono in April 2019 was that I got lost late in the evening – something that became an “adventure” only when looking back at it from a safe place in the future, not when it was happening. Anyway, that was then, and this is now.

Today Dave and I were sporting our new Camino for Good neck gaiters when we walked our local Camino. A very big “THANK YOU” for our gaiters and badges which we’ll be proud to wear and show off.

February 4 – Logrono to Navarrete
Finding something new to take a photo of on our repetitious walks to town can be challenging. That was true until we found signs of spring.

At the same time that Dave and I walked to Sidney, we virtually made it from Logrono to Navarrete – the same trail we walked in the autumn of 2015. Grapes alongside the trail were tempting to be picked – so I did.

When I returned to Spain in the spring of 2019, I resorted to travelling from Logrono to Navarette by bus – my first bus ride ever on the Camino. I had been doing the “pilgrim hobble” painfully for five days and was in desperate need of expert help at the farmacia in Navarette.

Soon after I arrived there, a Swiss pilgrim with a beautifully carved and decorated wooden hiking pole asked me if I had five minutes to spare. I said “Twenty to be exact,” the time it would take before the farmacia opened.

Why did he need five minutes? He and his friend were creating a video of the Camino for his friend’s father. His father loves the Camino and had walked it three times when he was able. Now the father can’t walk, so his son was creating a video of the Camino for him.

A Spanish man and I were to act as pilgrims (not too far-fetched), walking slowly in front of the church as the young man sang a beautiful song. My acting stint as a pilgrim performing the “pilgrim hobble” was well received, but my Academy Award must have got lost in the mail. 🙂

February 5-6 – Navarrete to Azofra (almost!)
What spectacular weather we are having now! My intention this afternoon was to walk the “Flight Path” around YYJ and catch up with Dave who was hiking in Dean Park, his second hike of the day. I was part way around when I caught sight of kite surfers at Patricia Bay.

Even though my detour led to a longer than usual hike, Dave maintains his lead (drats!) and virtually arrived in Azofra. I am 1.2 km behind and ready to call it a day. I’ll be sleeping between rows of grapevines, comforted in knowing I won’t go hungry!

February 7- Azofra (almost) to Ciruena
Today I caught up with Dave (yahoo!) in Ciruena after two hikes in Dean Park. It was a sunny Sunday so everyone and their dog were there, all keeping their distance, of course!

Ciruena is memorable for just one positive thing: a conversation with Glen from Illinois in 2019. We had both stopped for breakfast there at the same bar and got to talking about how beautiful the countryside is in the spring, particularly the yellow canola fields and the red poppies that grow wild. He thinks about the poppies whenever he experiences a storm on the Camino. Poppies with their delicate petals survive these storms no worse for the wear. Glen says to himself: “If the poppies can do it so can I!” He was on his eighth Camino so he must have weathered those storms very well!

February 8 – Ciruena to Santo Domingo
Dave and I virtually made it to Santo Domingo yesterday while hiking Mount Work, a distance of 5.8 km without adjustment for elevation gain. The mountain was named after John Wark and later changed from “Wark” to “Work” – a fitting name change! I wanted to turn around a few times when the going got tough but Dave was forging ahead like the Energizer bunny. We said “Ultreia,” but I was thinking “Never again!” 😞 That section of the Camino Frances between Ciruena and Santo Domingo is beautiful, no matter what the season.

February 9 – Santo Domingo to Granon
We arrived in Granon today after a 6.4 km hike in Dean Park – yet another miracle!

Staying at the Iglesias S. Juan Bautista Albergue in Granon in 2019 was unforgettable. Everyone participated in preparing the communal meal and cleaning up afterwards. Then we gathered by candle light in the church choir loft. Thoughts, feelings, experiences, a song, tears and hugs were shared, bonds were made, and a Camino family came together. When it was my turn, I shared a story about a rock.

When our daughter, Tania, was in Granon in 2013, a Spanish man with a long pony tail and pinstriped pants placed a little brown rock in the palm of her hand, closed her fingers around it, and said, “When you need something, ask the rock.” Tania treasured this rock until it was stolen (another long story).

As I was approaching Granon, I remembered Tania’s little brown rock and decided to look for one. I found a brown one but it was a little too large and wasn’t as smooth as I would like. Its only redeeming feature was that it was warm from the sun. Then it occurred to me that even if my rock was the right size and perfectly smooth, it couldn’t possibly be as meaningful as Tania’s unless I received it in the same fashion Tania’s little brown rock was given to her.

Spoiler: Looking for a perfect brown rock back in 2015 was the cause of Dave and I losing each other as we approached Burgos.. 🙁

February 10-13 – Granon to Villafranca de Montes de Oca
For the previous three days Dave and I have been steadily and virtually making our way from Granon to Villafranca de Montes de Oca. The weather is putting a delay on our arrival in Burgos now, because on February 13th we woke up to snow, wind, and colder than -2C temperatures when including the wind-chill factor.

We are hanging our hats for awhile and keeping warm at the historical, beautiful San Anton Abad Hotel/Albergue in Villafranca de Montes de Oca where we stayed in 2015. This hotel was built in 1377 and was the most important hospital on the Camino de Santiago to serve pilgrims. The steep climb out of Villafranca can wait another day!

February 15 – Villafranca de Montes de Oca to San Juan de Ortega
Being housebound due to freezing temperatures, wind, snow, sleet for one or two days is tolerable, but not three! Desperate to get back on the Virtual Camino this afternoon, I trudged down through slushy snow to the “Flight Path” around YYJ, hoping the snow would have been cleared. The Camino Angels didn’t let me down.

The trail out of Villafranca Montes de Oca climbs through “mountains” with the high point at just over 1,000 meters. With the changes in elevation came changes in flora: an abundance of primulas followed by what looks like really big heather. There was also an abundance of those brown rocks that I was searching for on the way into Granon.

Far from the distractions of the modern world, there is a slower pace and time in the lovely little pilgrim village of San Juan de Ortega (St. John of the Nettle). I am so happy to finally spend a night here rather than just pass through like we did twice before.

February 16-17 – San Juan de Ortega to Burgos
Dave and I took advantage of the sunshine for the last two days, knowing rain is coming tomorrow. A day off while it rains might be well deserved, especially after walking 24 km in two days!

Our story about what happened “actually” on September 27, 2015 was all about lost and found – the day we lost each other. What would the Camino be without A LITTLE ADVENTURE?! Oddly enough, here we are again, virtually in the same area with one big exception: It is me who is 10 km ahead in Burgos while Dave is staying the night near Orbaneja Riopinco. Too funny!

What a fabulous city Burgos is! We found our direct ancestor “Lucy” in the Museum of Human Evolution and toured the Catedral de Santa Maria – truly a jaw-dropping masterpiece!

Stay tuned, because soon we’ll be on the high plains of the Meseta and eventually in Santiago de Compostela, 495.3 km away. Ultreia!

4 thoughts on “Stay-at-Home COVID Camino: Part 1

  1. Fabulous way to do the Camino. Highlighting our own wonderful backyard along with photos of Europe is a terrific idea. Good luck with your adventures ahead.

    1. Thanks so much, Marnie! Dave and I are having so much fun walking the Camino here at home. It’s nice to sleep in our own comfy beds at the end of the day, too. 🙂

  2. Most enjoyable and soon another adventure to the Camino is in the works I’m sure!
    Such beauty and peacefulness!

    1. Another adventure is something we are dreaming about which reminds me of this quote: “Dreams are reality in waiting!” We are hoping for the best. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *