Sevilla to Zafra (April 5 - April 11)

Being a newbie at age 65 in a strange country, where you are pushed to the limit every day, can be ... interesting - Rain, blisters, getting lost, fearing that the next albergue will be "completo" (full) and being intimidated by the Italians, Germans and French who seem to always be in better shape, better prepared and far faster than you.

My experiences from the early days on the VdlP will be forever etched in my memory: Slogging through the rain and mud to Guillena on the first day; the story of me, the German and my underpants; cold, wet Montesario and the kindness of the German couple; crawling into Almadén de la Plata amazed that I had made it that far; and listening to Maya sing "Bill is on His Way".

Pictures from this stage.

My first email to friends on the VdlP:


On My Way

April 5, 2013 (email to friends)

Just a brief note that I arrived safe and sound in Sevilla, spent two days being a tourist, and just completed the first day on the Camino. It was a rainy muddy trek broken up with a long slog along a narrow two lane highway. The region has received 400% of the normal rainfall this Spring and one of the creeks on this first stage was so high we had to divert to the highway for about 8 miles. Nothing so relaxing as a semi-truck racing by in the rain at 60 mph only 8 feet away from you.

Hopefully, my next message will be in a week from Montesario or places beyond.


The third day on the Camino was a high point - a bucket list moment. Even if I hadn't made it all the way to Santiago I wanted to prove to myself that I could make it from Castilblanco de los Arroyos to Almadén de la Plata. It's a 29.2 kilometer stage, which was a challenge so early in the pilgrimage. Two thirds of the walk is along N-630, a two lane highway that we followed for much of the VdlP. The last portion is through a beautiful park. There are no towns between Castilblanco de los Arroyos and Almadén de la Plata, so you have to carry all your water and food for the day.

The kicker is that at the end of the stage, as Ray and I staggered toward Almadén de la Plata consuming the last sources of water and food in our packs, we faced Mount Calvary. It's a very steep 100 meter climb, which normally wouldn't be a big deal, except we were spent. It took awhile, but somehow we made it to the top.

When I started the VdlP I had my doubts I'd ever make it that far. So it became a bucket list moment.

The next day we were in cold and damp Montesario:


Ray and I on top of Mount Calvary with Almadén de la Plata in the background.

I’ve Made It to Montesario

April 9, 2013 (email to freinds)

The good stuff first - I am a lean, mean (okay leaner, less sullen) trekking machine. I made the 20km hike from El Real de la Jara to Monesterio in 5 hours this morning. That's 4 km an hour, which is flying for me. I may actually be able to make this work!

As for the other stuff - the first five days have been hard. It feels like the Camino needs to break me down before it builds me back up. Been doing a lot of soul searching and there is tremendous promise. It just means enduring some rough days.

I left Sevilla in a "bubble" of 58 pilgrims. Normally there only 10 or 20 pilgrims leaving Sevilla this time of year. Most of the pilgrims are German, French and Italian (there is only one other English speaking person in the group), so there were major language problems. Plus all three nationalities are excellent hikers and view the Camino as an extended day hike. Me - I'm still trying to figure out how to properly pack my gear and swallow my pride when they fly by me on the trail.

Most people in a "bubble" try to get out of it by hiking 40 km in a day to get beyond the crowd or take an early rest day to let the bubble pass. Me - I figured the gods put me in the bubble for a reason, so I'm going with the flow and learning to trust that there will always be room in the next town.

One of my first lessons is in acceptance. And keeping a sense of humor. And being able to sleep in a room with 20 people all of whom are snoring at the same time. And as a very wise person told me on the first night in Sevilla, "Let the heavy things go and let the lighter things fill in."

I've also learned other lessons. For example, when we next meet and we have five minutes to waste, ask me to tell you the story of me, the German and my underpants.

I've uploaded pictures at (see the dropbox photos). I need to spend less time on the computer, so my next email should be in a week or 10 days.

Thanks again for all you blessings and support.

Pictures from this stage.

Next Stage - Zafra to Merida