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Welcome to Steve Taylor’s Camino De Santiago blog

CAMINO DE SANTIAGO JOURNAL

The long and winding road to Santiago De Compostela

In June 2019, I completed the last 115 km of the Camino De Santiago, from Sarria to Santiago De Compostela. As the Camino stretches for almost 800 kilometres, this was only the start of my journey.

Slight change to Camino plans

Well, the good news is that my Camino at the end of August has not been cancelled yet, though I’m still waiting for a shift in policy by the UK government over tourists returning to the country from Spain. However, I’m hopeful that there’ll be some movement over the next couple of months.

I have had to make a slight alteration to my travel plans, due to the cancellation of my EasyJet flight from Palma to Birmingham on 14 Sept, which was going to be the second part of my flight home from Santiago de Compostela.

As it was proving difficult to find a suitable alternative way to fly from Santiago to Birmingham (or even Manchester), I’ve decided to take a train from Ponferrada to Barcelona, spend three nights there and fly from Catalonia to Birmingham on 14 Sept. I’m looking forward to the 10-hour train journey, to be honest, as it will take me across quite a chunk of Spain during daylight hours. I might even get to see Lionel Messi play one last time for Barcelona on the Sunday before I leave.

I also decided to change some of my stages, as it was becoming difficult to reserve rooms at albergues and hotels, due, I suspect, to restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. It does mean that I’ll be stopping at Sagahun, one of the larger towns on that part of the Camino, so that’ll be a change from the small villages that will make up most of my pit stops.

Good news from Spain, waiting for UK to lift travel restrictions

There was good news from Spain the other day, when the government announced that British tourists will be welcomed back to the country from Mon 24 May. Not only that, but also there will be no need to take a Covid-19 test prior to departure, which will save some money.

However, the UK government still has Spain included on its ‘Amber’ list of countries from where travel is restricted, meaning that visitors from Spain currently have to quarantine for 10 days and take Covid tests on days two and eight of this quarantine, at a cost of at least £100 for the two.

I reckon that Spain will be taken off this list in the next few weeks, though I hope that it happens on or after 13 June, as that will allow me to claim a credit on the flight that I was supposed to be taking on 27 June from Madrid to Manchester. If it’s announced earlier, I’ll probably have to lose the £53.80 I paid for that flight. If so, it’ll be the first negative result I’ll have had since lockdown, so I can’t complain too much.

I’m hoping that the requirement for two tests will be removed by the end of August, but will probably pay the £100 if necessary.

My plans are more or less final now. I’ll fly from Birmingham to Bilbao via Barcelona on at Sat 28 Aug, start walking the next day and finish with three nights in Santiago de Compostela, before flying back to Birmingham, via Palma in Mallorca, on Tue 14 Sept.

As the cathedral was still under renovation when I last visited Santiago in 2019, I’m looking forward to seeing the place in all its glory this time, especially the Botafumeiro, which is the Galician word for ‘smoke expeller.’ It’s a huge metal container containing incense that is swing across the interior of the cathedral, originally designed to purify the smell coming off pilgrims who might not have been smelling too fragrant after a long trek across northern Spain.

Camino in June placed on hold until overseas travel returns

Wed 1 Apr 2021

First of all, this is not an April Fool joke but, earlier this week, EasyJet advised me that my flight from Manchester to Bilbao on 10 June had been cancelled, so I decided that, in the current circumstances, it would be best to cancel my trip to Spain to continue my Camino in June.

I had been looking forward to this holiday for months, so it’s a big blow, but the cancellation of this flight just about forced my hand.

As usual, the Booking. com reservations were easy to cancel at no cost. Unsurprisingly, Lastminute.com was not quite so straightforward, but I’ll wait and see whether they return my money or insist on a credit note.

I still have a flight in place with Iberia from Madrid to Manchester on 27 June. I can rearrange this for no charge, but I’m going to hang on, as they might cancel the flight, entitling me to a cash refund instead, which would be preferable.

My thoughts will now turn to a Camino in late August / early September, though I won’t book any flights until the UK government show signs of relaxing the rules on Brits travelling abroad.

Keeping positive…

An expected result

Well, COVID-19 rates in the UK appear to be improving, with daily deaths now regularly only in double figures and close to 30 million first vaccinations now completed.

Nevertheless, the British government has recommended that a £5,000 fine be the maximum penalty for travelling abroad, though at the same time it is still talking about a report on foreign travel that is due for presentation on 5 April.

I’m hoping that this will overturn this introduction of a huge fine just for leaving the country, especially as Spain appears to be opening up to tourists from abroad.

If so, I’m still on for a 10 June departure, though I’m ready to rearrange if necessary, with a load of hotel bookings able to be cancelled without penalty and flights that, at worst, can be rearranged.

As I’m working on my office these days, I had to do a Covid-19 test today at home, my first test since I caught the virus in early November. As expected, the result was negative, though not too keen on sticking the probe thing down my throat or up my nose.

Just got my first Covid-19 vaccine

Sun 21 Feb 2021

With travel arrangements still very much in the air, the chances of me continuing my Camino in June are still debatable, though I’m still hoping that it’ll go ahead as planned.

Reports in the media from Spain tend to be conflicting, with some ministers claiming that no one will be allowed into the country until 70 percent of Spanish residents are vaccinated, while others have talked about letting tourists into the country if they’ve been vaccinated.

With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a text message from my doctor’s surgery on Tue 16 Feb with an invitation to make an appointment for a Covid-19 vaccination, which I duly did for Sat 20 Feb at 12:30 p.m.

Whilst I was aware that most people over 70 had received a vaccination, I wasn’t aware that they’d got down to 58 year olds, though it’s possible that my surgery still has ne registered as a potential Type-2 Diabetic, though I haven’t been taking any medication for this condition, just watching my diet and taking exercise, like walking the Camino De Santiago.

The process of attending the vaccination centre was extremely efficient, with a free bus service from near my flat, which I used to get there, but chose to walk the four kilometres back home after I got the injection. I was in and out of the centre within 10 minutes and the actual jab didn’t hurt much at all.

Now that I’ve had my first vaccination, I have to wait for the second one in about 12 weeks, about three weeks before I plan to fly to Bilbao, so hopefully travel will be much easier by then.

Camino update

Thurs 14 Jan 2021

Well, as the Covid-19 death toll in England passed 100,000 today, any travel to the EU for British citizens is not going to happen in the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, as more people get vaccinated, I am hoping that my turn will come within the next three months, by which time i’m hoping that some kind of Covid-19 passport will be in place to allow Britons to travel to Spain again. At least I won’t be walking from one country to another this time.

The Next Stage…

September 2020

Within a couple of weeks of returning to the UK after completing my Camino from St Jean Pied De Port to Logroño, my thoughts turned to which section between Burgos and Sarria I should tackle next.

Originally, I had considered maintaining my previous schedule of about seven or eight days, covering about 150 km or so. However, after posting a message on the Camino message board, I decided that I will really need to complete my Camino in Santiago, even though I completed the final 100 km in June 2019.

Therefore, I’m going to fly to Bilbao on 10 June, 2021, stay there overnight and take a bus to Burgos and then start walking from Burgos on 12 June.

Over the next 12 days, I intend to walk to Ponferrada, with no rest days, though as quite a lot of the 284 km that make up this distance will cover the relatively flat plain known as the ‘Meseta’ I’m not too concerned about the challenge of attempting such a long distance. After spending the night in Ponferrada, I’ll get a train to Madrid for three nights to recover.

My trip will coincide with the European Championships, so it’ll be good to try and watch the games in bars or hotels during my trek.

UPDATE ON SUN 8 NOV 2020

The situation with Covid-19 in general throughout Europe has now escalated, with a second wave of the pandemic severely restricting movement around the continent.

From a personal point of view, I tested positive for Covid-19 last week, after noticing a raised temperature that would normally signal a heavy clod or mild flu. The result came as something of a shock, as I have tried to be careful when leaving my house. However, I have been to a few pubs over the past few weeks, so it’s possible that I caught the virus on one of those outings.

The symptoms initially were not particularly pleasant, but were really only a high fever and aching muscles. Almost one week since my first symptoms, I am feeling much better and, with a week off booked for annual leave anyway, hope that this week will see my condition improve, but, as has been reported in many cases of Covid, you never know how this virus will behave, so I am not going to allow my guard to drop at all.

On a positive note, I was pleased to see that the United States have elected Joe Biden as its new President-Elect, not particularly because I think he’s the right man for the job, but more for the fact that he is not Donald Trump. Having said that, Biden is a veteran politician, who should know what he is doing and, assuming he doesn’t stand again in four years’ time, Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris appears to be a very worthy replacement.

Day 10 Los Arcos to Logroño [17 Aug ’20]

Mon 17 Aug 2020 – Los Arcos to Logroño

Los Arcos to Logroño

Today was the longest and final part of this leg of my Camino, though the 28-kilometres were covered without too much stress.

Having said that, never mind irritating caterpillars,beautiful butterflies or scuttling geckos, I didn’t expect to see a snake on the Camino.

Snakes alive!

After my encounter with Sid The Snake, I stopped at Sansol for a coffee and was joined by Camilla about 20 minutes later. We walked the rest of the stage together and met a Dutch guy called Jeffrey, who was making a documentary as he walked the Camino.

He was driven by a near-death experience a few years ago, when he fell off a roof and ended up in a wheelchair and almost lost his left arm. He had a passion for the Camino that I hadn’t encountered much in this stage of my Camino, and it was refreshing to spend some time with him.

On arriving in the lively town of Viana, we stopped for a beer (for me) and the obligatory tortilla. There were a few other pilgrims there, and it was great to see them again, though I was aware that I wouldn’t be seeing them again, but that’s all part of the experience.

When we arrived in Logroño, we headed to the cathedral and then the tourist office, so I was able to match up with the place where I set out for Burgos last September.

Arriving at Logroño Tourist Office

My pension was located in a great spot, close to the cathedral, though the fan in the room wasn’t up to much. I wasn’t too worried, as there was no more walking and sleep could be made up on my flight to Alicante the next day.

As I was in Logroño, a stroll down Calle Del Laurel was essential and I stopped at one place for a beer and pincho (small fish thing) and another place, Bar Muro, which I had visited last time. Bar Muro’s speciality is the Cojonudo, a pincho consisting of a small bread roll filled with blood sausage (very popular in this area) and topped with a quail’s egg. Very tasty, believe me. The wine was good too, and only €1 a glass.

Cojonudo and wine

Including last year’s Camino stages, I’ve now walked 400km, so I’m halfway through the entire Camino, with the stretch from Burgos (Castilla y León) to Sarria (Galicia) left to complete, though, given the current circumstances, I don’t know when that will happen.

Total Steps: 40,721

Today’s Playlist

iPhone Shuffle Mode

D’Yer Maker-Led Zeppelin/Vordhosbn-Leila/Summertime-Fabulous Flee-Rakkers/Is Vic There-Department S/Slippery People-Talking Heads/Twentieth Century Fox-The Doors/Boy, Boy, Boy-Underworld/In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country-Mira Calix With Oliver Coates/My Same-Adele/Friday’s Dust-Doves/Trust In Time-Dodgy/Can You Feel The Love Tonight?-Elton John/The Sun Shines Down On Me-Daniel Johnston/Jack The Lad-Dodgy/Kebabtraüme-D.A.F./Train In The Distance-Paul Simon/Suzuki Heights-JR East Melodies/Congratulations-MGMT/Can’t Buy Me Love-The Beatles/Some Might Say-Oasis/Move To Newlyn-The Subways/Tapestry From An Asteroid-Sun Ra/Yourself-Manic Street Preachers/Strange Overtones-Brian Eno & David Byrne

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