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Athens, Greece (Under your Skin)

Click here to read the very last blog instalment of our Greek adventure!

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Camino – León (Day 19)

Date: Sat 25th May
Distance: 58 km
Temperature: Morning Cold/Afternoon Warm
Mood: Excellent
Left: Sahagún 8:45am
Arrived: León 3:00pm
Santiago de Composela: 317 km
Highlight: Seeing the sights of León

Whilst many of you will be sipping on your Sunday lattés as you check your emails and possibly catch up on this blog, we will be tucked up sound asleep (hopefully) in a comfy hotel in León recharging our batteries for the final cycling leg of our middle stage that will get us to Astorga for another rest day! (Hardly need a rest, but was thrown in for logistics of returning bikes and waiting on backpacks to reappear from their own trip from Burgos – crossing our fingers they do arrive!)

Well day 18 started in true pilgrim fashion after packing our panniers and saddling up our mechanical donkey’s we headed off hours later than most at 8:45am. Again, blessed with clear blue skies, but sub 7 deg registering on our donkey doodles (bike computers?).

We are absolutely enjoying the freedom on our mechanical donkeys as just like the true donkey, it takes the load off our backs, but with the advent of smooth road surfaces (many years after the Romans invented them). We can roll effortlessly when flat or going down hill with some effort required when faced with an uphill. One of us prefers to walk their mechanical donkey when faced with a hill cos their donkey doesn’t seem to like them.

The scenery didn’t disappoint with the snow capped mountains, always to the North as a dramatic backdrop to the rural fields. As always with the Camino, the final 10km or so into a City is a culture shock and we were surprised that even on our bikes we were still affected! Again, navigating is always difficult as the markers seem to only take you to the municipal Albergue, which in this case is not in the city centre. We had booked the night before into a hotel (Conde Luna) based on availability and its central location. Our reception was a little disappointing and we got the impression that Pilgrims were not that welcome to their establishment! Another pilgrim that came in shortly afterwards shared the same experience.

The old city of León is like all the Spanish cities along the Camino – Beautiful, but with its own unique personality. We both immediately liked this city once we had recovered from the cultural shock and settled into our accommodation for the evening.

Unfortunately the Cathedral closed at 7:00pm, just as we got to it, so will now need to re-jig our itinerary so we can visit it first thing in morning as it opens at 9:30am. Having said that, it will be Sunday, so who knows!

We enjoyed our evening meal at a very decent restaurant and watched the locals pour in around 9:30 just as the sun was setting! Being a Saturday evening made our experience of exploring the city even more enjoyable as there were so many locals out and about, which created a lively bustling atmosphere.

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Camino – Sahagún (Day 18)

Date: Fri 24th May
Distance: 60 km
Temperature: Morning Cold/Afternoon Warm
Mood: Excellent
Left: Frómista 8:45am
Arrived: Sahagún 3:15 pm
Santiago de Composela: 375 km
Highlight: Glorious weather

We awoke with a perfect blue sky (a rarity to date). Temperature was under 8 deg as we headed off. Today we were spoilt with flat roads. Most of the ride was spent on the quiet back roads running parallel with the Camino trail. This meant that there was far less effort in the ride and we could give the Pilgrims a break from being harassed by pesky cyclists!

We are now in true Meseta country with very little in the way of hills. The villages aren’t as picturesque as the Medieval villages that we had passed through yesterday, but always a welcome stop for a Cafe con leche or a hot chocolate. Now we need to set the record straight when it comes to hot chocolates on the Camino. The hot chocolates served are not “real” hot chocolates, but rather we are served hot milk with a sachet of chocolate powder on the side, such as Nestle chocolate quick! We have to empty contents into hot milk and stir! Still, we enjoy the warmth and a change from coffee.

Coffee? When it comes to coffee in Spain it is fairly consistent and we haven’t really had a problem with it compared to Paris (consistency) and its hard to complain when you are paying on average 1.2€ per cup. But is still sub-par to Coffee in Melbourne (Australia).

We have enjoyed the accommodation in the last 2 towns and and happy to recommend to anyone planning to stop in these towns and like hotel style over the rugged Albergue type (each to there own).

Last night we stayed in the San Martin Hotel right opposite the Romanesque Church of same name in Frómista. They also server the evening meal and breakfast all very reasonably priced.

Tonight we are staying at Hostal Alfonso VI in Sahagún. This is a very neat little place right on the Camino route in town and you cannot go past a more hospitable pair for hosts. A real treat! Breakfast is the only meal offered, but then the town has numerous restaurants/Cafes on hand!

Whilst the bums and hands are now feeling the strain (or should that be pain?), we are hoping for another easy ride again tomorrow as we head into another large town on the Camino – Léon.

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Camino – Frómista (Day 17)

Date: Thu 23rd May
Distance: 65 km
Temperature: Morning Cold/Afternoon Warm
Mood: Excellent
Left: Burgos 9:15am
Arrived: Frómista 6:15 pm
Santiago de Compostela: 435 km
Highlight: View from Alto Mostelates

A late start to the day due to a totally different packing regime of bike panniers vs backpacks. Hopefully we will get more efficient at it. The day started off as a typical cold, dull overcast morning, but by late afternoon we recorded temperatures above 24 on our bike computers!

WHO SAID THE MESETA WAS FLAT! Unfortunately Jenny had been sold on the bike stage due to the Meseta being flat! Well it wasn’t! Throw in a 65km ride with very steep inclines and severely rutted earth tracks and it becomes a very long day. The longest so far. And we have another 60km planned for tomorrow! A quick bit of research on the next leg shows that there shouldn’t be anymore surprises, but who knows! Lucky for us we weren’t doing this ride 3 days ago as there is no way we would have made the distance due to the amount of mud there would have been with the rain earlier in the week.

Anyways, the scenery was magnificent, particularly at the top of Alto Mostelates, the highest peak we rode/walked. Due to the cold start to spring and plenty of rain, the Meseta so far is still very green. The ride down the other side was bone jarring on the uneven earth track with ruts and rocks. One of us was heard to say they thought their poo was being shaken out of them. Expect another load of washing tonight!

We probably bit off more than we could chew and this ride would have suited Deb and Mark on their fancy monster truck bikes! (We could definitely see them over here doing the Camino on bikes, probably do it 2 weeks!)

Scored another Motel with a bath and bumped into our Irish friends for dinner who have finished their walk for this year. They will tackle yet another stage next year. They broke out in song after dinner and sung us Waltz sing Matilda. Good note to finish off the day!

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Camino – Burgos (Day 16)

Date: Wed 22nd May
Distance: 0km
Temperature: Cold but Sunny
Mood: Great, itching to get back on the Camino
Santiago de Compostela: 501km
Highlight: Meeting an elderly Spanish gentleman/Monastery of Las Huelgas

Our official day off! We had an itinerary planned for the day but only had a 50% success rate due to the Spanish siesta! Everything is closed during the afternoon with the hours varying anywhere from 1:00pm until around 5:00pm. This plays complete havoc on trying to get around to see stuff and then when you do get there before closing, they have decided to close earlier! Very frustrating!

We were blessed with the sun shinning most of the day, but still cold! We took the bikes out on an excursion to test drive them. All working well, just need better engines! The riding over the next few days will definitely be a good thing for the feet and give the blisters a chance to heal ready for some more abuse for the final couple of hundred kilometres.

We also needed to attend to some logistics as we need to ship our backpacks along the way along with items not needed whilst we are riding. We have also taken a chance on not carrying our sleeping bags based on using Hotel type accommodation, but we still need to secure accommodation in a number of towns! We will need to cross our fingers in getting our kit at the other end in time as we will be there on the weekend, which means no deliveries on those days. Hoping it gets there before we head off on the final walking stage, as we an’t going anywhere without it!

We are still pigging out on all the delights that Burgos has to offer (and there are plenty!), so need to start burning some of this back off!

Our day included a visit of Cassa del Cordón (now a bank). A bit of shopping (needed more memory cards for camera, can you believe that!). Back to the Cathedral for some more photos with a blue sky! The Royal Monastery of Las Huelgas. Strictly no photos allowed and we had to join a tour group spoken entirely in Spanish! But a worth while visit. And finally, The Monastery of Miraflores. Unfortunately it had closed early, but a nice bike ride and were blessed by meeting a very educated senior local who spoke very good English and kept us entertained.

Now just need a decent dinner and good night sleep all in preparation for a 65km bike ride tomorrow following the Camino trail! Hope to catch up with some familiar faces along the way.

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