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Sunday, 10 November 2013

El Camino de Santiago - Levante Route: 18 days from Rielves to Zamora

The spare room with all the pre-Camino equipment
and prep
It's hard to believe that just over a year ago I was doing my first practice walks and by November was well on my way to my target destination of Toledo.  As I hung out the laundry one day during the month before starting out on the next stage of my Camino, the weather was perfect Camino walking weather and I was glad that I had chosen October to walk.  Although still in September, the everything about that morning was a perfect reminder of everything I love about October hiking.

It is my favourite walking month.  Generally the days are like the one I mention here - the sun is warm, but not too hot, the autumn has taken the intensity out of its rays and the breeze has a

cooling edge to it.  The damp of the early
mornings brings the scent of the hay that is being collected off the fields and the light is of that perfect golden quality that enhances everything it touches.  While I pegged clothes to the line that day it filled me with longing to get started again - it was a day for walking, yet we were still a month away from leaving.

Bed ready to use!
For then, the task was preparing everything we needed for the walk, not just for ourselves including the ability to "camp out" in the car and to cater and accommodate three dogs.  I also had the task of booking all the accommodation in advance, at least as far as Ávila and further if possible.   Most of the suggested accommodation does not have a website and it requires phone calls to make reservations.  I realised during this process how far my Spanish had come in the twelve months since I last battled my way through booking by phone!  Now I could actually hold a conversation with people where they wanted to chat (mostly although occasionally an accent would have me totally lost) and I could generally answer their questions.  Mostly I had chosen where I wanted to stay in advance (on my return last year) which made the booking process a little smoother.  I knew where I planned to finish each day and had planned for a two day break in a couple of places of historic interest both to look around and to have a bit of a rest.  I also built in a couple of extra days in case I (or the dogs) needed to rest up for any reason.  With everything prepared, the week before I was due to leave I had "vertigo"...?!

Dog bed and living area separated off from human
bed.  Their food and water, our extra luggage was
placed at the foot of the bed, under seats and
in storage spaces.  There is also a roof rack for use.

Yes, you read that right - vertigo!  I thought initially I had got the translation wrong when the Spanish doctor told me (I was feeling so terrible I actually had a house call!) - but it was from having worked with a strong dog the week before and related to a twisting movement that I had been making in order to keep him from pushing through me.  My knee was very sore from twisting and I had rested this up for a couple of days, but I did not expect this to then move up to my back and give me the symptoms of vertigo!  Fortunately, one injection and various pain killers later, along with a trip to the physio - I was feeling myself again and ready to leave on the day planned - October 11th.

We had invested in a plug in cooler box so that we could take breakfast with us and keep the makings for lunch fresh if we needed to (it's not always easy to find places open when it is a Sunday or holiday especially very early in the morning) and we had arranged the dog "cargo net" so that they had their living and sleeping quarters at the back and Michael could have his rest and sleep place behind the front seats and away from the dogs.  This would hopefully mean better nights of sleep than last year when Kaishi in particular used to like sticking her feet in his face!  In my bookings I had tried to arrange for pet friendly accommodation around every 3 days and if this was not possible then at least a double booking so that Michael could get extra rest and the use of a good hot shower.

With everything packed and ready and a new foster dog (Cressa) coming with us for the trip, we were ready to leave.  My friend Jayne would be house sitting and cat sitting for the first week and sister in law Val doing the same as well as looking after a guest dog during the second week.  She would then stay on a bit longer to see us.  Organising this transition and making sure all instructions and information about the house were in place was a task in itself!  We would not be here to see them in or show them around and neither had visited the house before!  Thanks to our wonderful neighbours Andrea and Rob, we were able to do it and they were our wonderful back up and key holders while we were away.  They were also the "emergency team" as Jayne managed to blow a tyre on her arrival and Rob helped her to get that sorted out and escort her to the house.

At 07.30 on 11th we set off - with the plan to walk the first 10km to Rielves from our previous finishing point that day.

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