Camino del Norte – Asturias

Camino del Norte – Asturias

San Vincente de la Barquera

San Vincente de la Barquera last stop before Astirias.

I walked this stretch of the Camino in July which was fine for weather but very, very busy.  I wonder what it was about me in July last year that has left me with few memories of the two weeks I spent in Asturias. It was hard going, that I do remember. Every footstep was a struggle. Life, we often hear, is a pilgrimage and Asturias was for me the doldrums, like walking through a giant bowl of porridge.

Playas y playas.

So many beaches : this might be Llanes.

So many beaches : this might be Llanes.

I now can’t recall which beaches were which. What is certain is that they are all clean. A mixture of ferocious storms and cool water ensure that the North of Spain is fresh all summer and spared the excesses of the Mediterranean tourist saturation.

A wet day and an empty beach.

A wet day and an empty beach.

None of the beaches are huge like on the Portuguese Atlantic coast. They each have their own personality bravely formed over millenia of chipping away at the landmass while the sea’s horizon looks vigilantly on in a blank monotony.

Playa Ballota

Playa Ballota

The beaches are charming and inviting yet only part of this Camino.

Big Industry.

For all its mountains and greenery Asturias has been one of the most contaminating regions of Spain.

Between Oviedo and Aviles

Between Oviedo and Aviles

Heavy engineering and chemical plants fueled by coal from local mines placed Asturias alongside Vizcaya and Barcelona as the source of almost all the Peninsular’s pollution.

Steel works near Aviles.

Steel works near Aviles.

For 20 km between Gijon and Aviles, the Camino passes between huge industrial landscapes which seem to belong to past centuries or, in my case, my childhood.

Fertiliser factory

Fertiliser factory

I rather enjoyed this part of the Camino. It is a break from the mystical ecstacy of raw nature.

The sheer bigness of it all is preposterously sublime.

Asturias is green.

  1. All year round Asturias is green.

    All year round Asturias is green.

    Asturian green is different from Basque, Cantabrian or Galician green. Cantabrian green is flatter and lighter. Basque green is dark and solid: it is night time green. Galicia green smells strongly of cow manure and granite. Asturian green caresses our eyes in verdant kisses and enters the pores of every object we look at.

  2. Green boat

    Green boat

    Inside the forests, trees and plants and bushes compete; chanting green in contrapuntal harmony. The rain falls in green droplets.

     

  3. Everywhere, Asturian green.

    Everywhere, Asturian green.

    So that’s what I can recall of Asturias: beaches, huge factories and green.

 

 

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Camino del Norte – Cantabria

Camino del Norte – Cantabria

A Coastal stroll for some.

A Coastal stroll for some.

From Bilbao to Santander.

Many pilgrims begin their Camino in Bilbao because it has a well-served airport and many attractions to visit on the afternoon or evening they arrive.  Starting in Bilbao also avoids the very taxing mountain paths in the Basque country which, hospitaleros have told me, account for a high drop-out rate.  This they attribute not simply to the steep ups and downs but also to their observation that many pilgrims walk the first few stages too quickly which, combined with the demands of the mountains, causes physical damage to muscles and tendons.  The section from Bilbao to Santander is much more gentle but not without its hazards.

Portugalete

Portugalete

Bed bugs.

This was my first personal experience of bed bugs on hundreds of nights on the Caminos.  Moreover it was in a fairly costly convent – in Laredo with its sweeping beach and ferry-boat to Santoña which is on the pilgrim route.

Laredo beach

Laredo beach

Bed bugs give horrible bites and they last several days. They are more common in summer because that is when they are able to torture most. A few drops of sweat ignite their fire.  Anti-histamine can help a little but regular showering in fresh water helped me most.  In 2015 they abounded on the Camino between Guernika and Ribadeo.  It was a pilgrim favourite at meal time.

Don’t expect much help from the medical services.  I visited three pharmacies and the health centre in Santoña and not one could identify the bites which, generally are on legs, arms and trunk: the usually are in a straight line and they become huge.  If you want a spray for your luggage go to a vet: they know all about bed bugs.

Beaches for resting.

La Arena, the Bilbao beach.

La Arena, the Bilbao beach.

Beaches call out for leisurely stops if the day is warm and sunny.  Only the very disciplined pilgrim can manage to linger anywhere for an hour or so between albergues.  Sand in a rucksack is a menace and in the buttocks, too. In the North of Spain they weather is often just too chilly or wet to be a great temptation even in Summer and beg bug bites sting in salt water.

Playa Mioño

Playa Mioño

Entering Cantabria

The first town in Cantabria is the beautiful Castro Urdiales.  It comes into view shortly after leaving the beach of La Arena.  It looks near and the views on this stretch are full of land and sea and distance. The nearness is a mirage.  The Camino winds on and on, each new bend revealing another kilometre or so which had been hidden from view. When the exhausted pilgrim arrives in Castro Urdiales there is still another 3 kilometres to the albergue which is on the other side as you leave.

Castro Urdiales - still 8 km to go, but it seems nearer.

Castro Urdiales – still 8 km to go, but it seems nearer.

The famous albergue of Güemes.

I’ll revert to the first person here because I am not going to be flattering about the albergue in Güemes.  This albergue is run by by Padre Ernesto. It is well run and well designed: overall very comfortable.  In the evening there is a talk, not mandatory but the pilgrims were rounded up to attend.  The talk can be found here: Güemes history.  Something seemed not quite right to me. It is as if the history of the albergue and the man behind it were intruding on the Camino of the pilgrims. The history had nothing to do with the Camino to Santiago.  I would rather have spent the evening listening to the stories of my fellow pilgrims.

twin ospreys.

twin ospreys outside of Güemes.

Another Ferry – into Santander

 

Awaiting the ferry.

Awaiting the ferry.

This section of the Camino de Norte has two ferry trips, nine fabulous beaches and the sea is within sight nearly all of the time.  There is more to come in the next part through Asturias, but this one is unbroken beauty. Beauty cannot be spoiled by bed bugs.

 

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Fainthearted about doing the Camino?

Fainthearted about doing the Camino? 

John and Grace, Korean pilgrims: we shared food and songs.

John and Grace, Korean pilgrims: we shared food and songs.

An extraordinary coincidence became a common event in the early stages of my Camino last year.  I had begun walking with an arrhythmia in my heart.  I began to notice that when I spontaneously gave or received something the arrhythmia stopped.  On the first day I had passed Kathie a woman from the USA a little older than me and very much slower, which is quite an achievement.  Then I felt an urge to wait for her and walk with her at her pace.

The first day's walking was beautiful, descending from Roncevalles, but very difficult for the arthritic like Kathie and me.

The first day’s walking was beautiful, descending from Roncevalles, but very difficult for the arthritic like Kathie and me.

My heartrate steadied and slowed to normal and I put it down to simply easing off on my already light pace.  This was my first time on the Camino Francès and I soon discovered that I was having many unexpected and surprising gifts from other pilgrims who were helping my heart find a regular beat.  Some, like my Korean friends, one of whom sang like an angel, moved me to tears, others in a smile or a hug reached into my heart to still its erratic thumping.  Giving and receiving keep the heart healthy.

Brief Encounters.

12.30 on the dot.

12.30 on the dot.

On the Camino most of the people a pilgrim meets they will not ever see again, some will keep in touch and a few will remain friends for life.  Yet all will have an impact on us beyond the brief acquaintances we have in our everyday lives.  Fellow pilgrims can touch us deeply, as we can them.  I found that even the briefest of conversations could bring a peaceful rhythym back to my heart if it had gone out of synch.

Tom and Melissa, from Autralia.

Resting in the October sun.

It is hard for me to remember names but details come back with photos.  This boy is English but speaks fluent Spanish, his mum being from Madrid. I look at the photo and recall, with affection, moments of laughter mixed with moments of confluence when we know we are on the same Way.  All of it is healing.

Pure Joy

Tom and Melissa from Australia.

Tom and Melissa from Australia: some people have special effect

I find that sometimes a specially joyful relationship forms, as with Tom and Melissa, a young couple from Australia whom I met over a period of 10 days and almost 300km.  Travelling the camino as a couple has its special nuances and can be a concentrated spell of growth and discovery.  We met up in many different moods and moments, weathers and states of elation or fatigue.  Pure joy.

John, also from Australia and his son.

John, also from Australia and his son.

Another couple I met over hundreds of kilometres were John and his son (Daniel?).  John walked without a rucksack because he has a serious back injury, using the luggage transport service which operates daily between Albergues. The Camino has many pilgrims with a physical disability. There is a special sort of understanding all pilgrims have, that whatever we are carrying with us is full of our history, in body, heart and mind.  Ideas of image and perfection soon get trodden into the path and we struggle if we pretend we are other than we are.

A couple from the USA, both in their 80's, resting after a very steep climb.

A couple from the USA, both in their 80’s, resting after a very steep climb.

The Camino of the heart.

There is no doubt that this Camino Francés helped me to manage my arrhythmias.  One year after finishing it, as I write this piece, I am finding that I have to be cautious about too much physical exertion.  Yet, in the end I managed to complete, in several bites, the Camino del Norte.  I  am very grateful to all those pilgrims who walk the Camino open-heartedly, leaving behind them both ego and competitiveness, filled with generosity and kindness: to the hospitaleros who are patient and tolerant and to those whose gifts of humour and song bring light heartedness others. I must mention, especially, the hundreds of “Buen caminos” from lorry drivers, policemen, bakers, farmers and fishermen (not all of them women, either) who say these words with genuine energy and freshness as if each pilgrim were the first they had ever set eyes on.

This year I met two people with advanced cancers walking the final 100km.  Others I have met have lost their children tragically, many know that their lives are changing profoundly, others are penniless.  Will the Camino cure what ails you? Possibly not but there is a good chance that the people you meet on the Way will touch your heart – and you theirs.  In that giving and receiving is all the Hope we need.

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Camino del Norte: The Basque Country.

Camino del Norte: The Basque Country.

A typical Basque home in the forest with a Lada Niva.

A typical Basque home in the forest with a Lada Niva.

Bilbao.

When I first visited Bilbao in the early 70’s I thought it should have been twinned with Glasgow.  Both invisible through the smog, the only difference was that instead of smoky black fog Bilbao hid under a blanket of exotic red pollution: and both, down river,  have beautiful seaside resorts.  In those days Largs still claimed my heart.

Las Arenas, Bilbao's local beach.

Las Arenas, Bilbao’s local beach.

 

 The Basques.

The people here speak a language isolate, which means that they speak a language almost totally unrelated to any other in the world.  This confers a clear identity on the Basque people which few can dispute unlike the Catalans whose language is a Latin derivative with much in common with French and Spanish.  They don’t make any fuss about it and mix in, naturally, words and phrases in Castellano as we, in Britain, absorb Americanisms. Perhaps we are both resigned to the inevitability that xenophobia is not the way forward.

Portugalete

Portugalete

 

I have loved the Basque country ever since my student days when I spent my summers with a wonderful British/Basque family in Lekeitio. I could never confuse the Basques with Spaniards unlike many who find it easy to call Scots, English, even though Basques are Spaniards – and Scots are not English.

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Bilbao

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Bilbao: 43.251204, -2.958069

I have no doubt that my alcoholism began in Lekeitio in its superb fiesta at the beginning of September.  I learned 24 hour drinking and relished it without a thought that it would change my life. I held the firm conviction that I was not at all an addictive type.  Yet I feel I have a lot to thank the Basques for.

A Basque bar in a village which has men imprisoned for terrorism. They continue campaigning for them to be imprisoned in the Basuqe country rather than being held in jails far from their families.

A Basque bar in a village which has men imprisoned for terrorism. They continue campaigning for them to be imprisoned in the Basque country rather than being held in jails far from their families.

 

These people feel that they were treated unjustly by Franco, the dictator who died in 1975.  Some distrust and dislike survives between the Basques and the central government in Madrid.  Injustices ripple on through lives and generations.  Yet we seem slow to understand that when we fight and die and inflict suffering and loss it is always about issues or property or ideals which, with time, fade into insignificance.

A long pilgrimage opens up space in the heart and soul where resentment and grudges seem to evaporate leaving only compassion and love which unite rather than divide. Injustice and suffering are part of a much bigger process in life.  On the long Caminos, so much falls away as unimportant. Compassion can dissolve injustice in a teardrop.

Iker, Erica and Luaca

Iker, Erica and Luaca: a Basque boy, a German girl and a dog in shoes.

I met many young Basques on this Camino who impressed me with their intense integrity and comprehensive humour. They have a maturity which is perhaps a reflection of the special autonomy granted to the region when democracy came to Spain.  They are doing well.

A busy Camino.

Returning in July to this Camino, I found that the number of pilgrims had doubled and increased every day.  There is plenty of private accommodation soaking up the overspill from the public albergues which fill up early in the afternoon.  Many joined the Camino in Bilbao which, today, is a beautiful city.

Riverside Bilbao.

Riverside Bilbao.

I skipped around the city, choosing instead the industrial route past the airport which was a few kilometres shorter. So I missed out on the Culture but saw how thriving, humming and working Bilbao is, relishing the hissing of steam valves opening and the metalic thud of moving newly forged steel.

Dockside cranes, Bilbao.

Dockside cranes, Bilbao.

I don’t like cities anymore but I do relish walking through them and the Camino del Norte offers San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santander, Gijón and Aviles.  Only San Sebastian lacks heavy industry. I marvel at ants, at nesting birds and goats in trees and just as much marvel at our own industry and ingenuity, our co-operation with each other in giant projects and the harmony within which millions of people can live so closely packed into cities.

Requejada, leaving Santander.

Requejada, leaving Santander.

The Camino del Norte in July became so packed, however, that sleeping on the floor was commonplace. The ratio of loos to people worsened until, on my final day, in Luiña, we had two toilets for seventy of us. I was not able to sleep outside in the rain because I had left my bivy bag behind in an albergue before Santander, so I decided to take yet another break in this Camino until the summer flood descended.

Each Camino is different.

Passed its sell-by date.

Passed its sell-by date.

This became the Camino I couldn’t complete – so far.  My body is worn out and I can’t seem to manage more than ten days at a time.  I had chosen a busy route at a busy time of year.  The long pilgrimage became a series of short ones, solitude was found only in rare moments and places and the difficulty of the terrain demanded a concentration which seemed to eat away at those prolonged hours of contemplation which I had so enjoyed on my earlier Caminos.

Still useful

Still useful

 

 Every Camino is different, especially in a Country which is unique.

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Camino del Norte: Irun to Gernika

Camino del Norte: Irun to Gernika

Playa San Sebastian - Donostia

Playa San Sebastian – Donostia

What is Time?

I met an Irishman on the Camino who told me the story of the farm boy who was driving a pig through a village.  It was taking forever since the pig had a mind of its own and would go everyway but forward.

“Seamus, why have you not tied a rope through that ring in its nose and be pulling it after you?” came the suggestion from one of the many bystanders.

“Now, why should I be doing that”, asked Seamus.

“Because of all the time its taking the pig to move forwards,” was the reply.

Seamus looked puzzled and said, thoughtfully, “Now, what’s time to a pig?”

A pilgrim zooming past me.

A pilgrim zooming past me.

 Relatively slow.

I am already a slow walker but the Camino del Norte in the Basque country has slowed me down, not just in km/hour which dropped from my usual average of over 3 to less than one at times, but has changed me from being a pilgrim being led on to a destination to being a wanderer very much like Seamus’ pig.  The first part of this Camino from Irun to Gernika has been full of discontinuities, deviations and mud at close quarters.

Torrential rain on the mountain path to Markina threated mud-slides.

Torrential rain on the mountain path to Markina threated mud-slides.

Timelessness

On my first day from Irun, some 40 pilgrims set out from the Albergue, nearly all of us starting on our first day at the crack of dawn.  The pace was set by the fact that the Camino leaves Irun swiftly without passing shops and only a few bars and, after that, there is nothing to sustain the pilgrim other than the simple breakfast offered in the albergue, until Pasajes some 18km later.  The Camino climbs steeply like an airplane at take-off and I felt as if I were being lifted out of the busy, noisy world of one of Europe’s most important transport corridors which squeezes itself like a pulsating artery inside the armpit of the Bay of Biscay, between the Pyrenees and the Atlantic Ocean.

Hendaye/Irun, the armpit of the Bay of Biscay.

Hendaye/Irun, the armpit of the Bay of Biscay.

Several of the hospitaleros told me, in the following days, that many pilgrims give up on these first stages of the Camino, often setting off at far too taxing a pace on the first few days.  I didn’t fall into that trap. leaving all notion of time and distance at sea-level, yet, on my tenth day I decided that the physical effort which this Camino required was such that I needed a pause.  Twice I woke up with my tachycardia which has been well under control for several months.

Mud and a precipitous descent of 250 metres - one hour of concentration on each foothold.

Mud and a precipitous descent of 250 metres – one hour of concentration on each foothold.

I feel I have had a very intimate experience with the Basque Country, thanks, mainly to the mud and the steep descents, often in unusual postures, being embraced and man-handled by hidden bog and unfaithful stepping stones.  Hands and knees, backwards, became my favourite position, if you are interested in detail.  So time, too, became a mere detail, all the more since these were the longest days of the year.

Imprinted on the Soul.

A rock which appears to have a bootprint  impressed upon it.

A rock which appears to have a bootprint impressed upon it.

This First part of the Camino del Norte was a tremendous physical struggle for me and demanded such concentration in nearly every step that I felt I was missing out on my more usual Camino experience of silence and contemplation when the rhythm of walking seems to free the mind of its usual chatter: the challenge of this Camino seemed like constant chatter and distraction.  However, as I am learning, work is going on within me, at the heart of my being, even in such times of preoccupation or discomfort.  In the days after I stopped walking, once I had arrived in Gernika, the profound peace of the Basque country, its rolling hills and vertical ascents and descents, its green and its green and its green, its people and its language, its self-confidence and authenticity, its integrity and its beauty have imprinted their soul on mine.

Pasajes, maritime, industrial perfection.

Pasajes, maritime, industrial perfection.

Back to go onwards.

On Wednesday, that will be July 1st, I am returning to Gernika for another bite at this Camino. 10 days ago I gave up exhausted with storms and mud: the whole of Spain is now in a heatwave and I’ve not read the Pope’s encyclical on climate change.  I’ve not had time.

Arriving in Gernika, the Camino rises to offer a rich cocktail of sea, sky and land, looking down towards Bermeo.

Ariving in Gernika, the Camino rises to offer a rich cocktail of sea, sky and land, looking down towards Bermeo.

 

Photos from Irun to Gernika ;

http://www.the-raft-of-corks.com/blog/photos1/?wppa-occur=1&wppa-album=15&wppa-photo=444

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Camino de Santiago: Letting go and seeking simplicity.

Two Gifts of the Camino de Santiago: Letting go and seeking simplicity.

One of the many huge vistas on the Ruta de La Lana, Gudalajarra.

One of the many huge vistas on the Ruta de La Lana, Guadalajara.

 

Gifts of the Camino de Santiago: Letting go and seeking simplicity.

Two great benefits of walking the Camino de Santiago are the experience of letting go of obsessions, addictions, anxieties, beliefs, resentments and all those niggling insecurities which inhabit our minds; and also the experience of how wonderful it is to find that living very simply can be a joy.

 

Simple lodging, no heating or hot water, but very welcome on a very wet day. Quintanarraya, Ruta de La Lana

Simple lodging, no heating or hot water, but  welcome on a very wet day.
Quintanarraya, Ruta de La Lana

 

This year, 2015, I have started two Caminos and in neither did I make it as far as I had intended.  It was not my arthritic ankle which stopped me but my moderately benign heart arrhythmia quite common in men of my age.  Often my average speed drops to 1 km per hour because I need to stop and wait for my heart to calm down.

A challenging descent to Antequera, CAmino Mozarabe from Malaga.

A challenging descent to Antequera, Camino Mozarabe from Malaga.

On returning from a 10 day walk from Seville to Zafra, on the Via de La Plata, my doctor said that the only solution is to exert myself much less.  Caminos do not seem too much exertion to me, but my heart obviously feels it is.  So I have been faced with accepting that my lifestyle must adjust to this reality.

The Camino is our teacher.

What I have learned is that fundamental, paradigm shifts in perspective come more frequently with age.  My experiences of five years walking Caminos is that personal change is not to be avoided but embraced and welcomed.  So I am sure that whether I walk more slowly and much shorter distances, or not walk Caminos at all,  the pilgrimage will continue.  Some day I will no longer be able to walk it: I will let it go.

New directions.

New directions.

Learning from Simplicity.

I am sure that the necessary simplicity of life on the Camino has helped me to learn to “let go.”   Pilgrims let go of keeping up appearances, they ditch the surplus attire or accessories they set out with, they let go of privacy and luxury and all will say how good it is to live more simply, at least for a while. Very few complain of these privations and I often hear people say that on the Camino they feel a lightening of the burdens they have been carrying in life.

Albergue municipal, Murias de Rechevaldo, simple and welcoming, run by Pedro.

Albergue municipal, Murias de Rechevaldo, simple and welcoming, run by Pedro.

On the Camino pilgrims largely make do with only what is necessary.  This simplicity can be, in itself, a revelation.  So much of what we have and what we want is unnecessary. Moreover, a long pilgrimage on foot exposes many hidden, inner treasures; usually when bits of the ego get worn away like the soles of our shoes.  Walking, contemplation, prayer, space and silence strip us bare and we find we are just fine, naked.  At least, so it seems to me.  This is the secret of wealth, openly declared by the world’s great spiritual traditions: walk in the direction of material wealth and you have a serious risk of living in financial insecurity no matter how much you acquire. Go trustingly in the opposite direction and you will be filled with gratitude for all you have.

The Canal de Castilla, near Fromista.

The Canal de Castilla, near Fromista.

 

But I will miss the Camino if I find I can’t walk it.

 

 

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Via de La Plata – a domestic safari between Almaden de la Plata and Real de la Jara.

Via de La Plata – a safari between Almaden de la Plata and Real de la Jara.

Horses are plentiful in Seville.

Horses are plentiful in Seville.

The walk from Almaden de La Plata to Real de La Jara is about 16 km.  Many pilgrims find this too short for a day on the Camino and continue to Monesterio which is a further 20km. When I first passed here in 2010, I continued walking and suffered the worst blisters on any of my caminos.  So this time I decided to take the day very slowly and stop and have conversations en route – with the animals.

The storks in Almaden were  courting each other noisily on the Church tower in Almaden de la Plata

The storks in Almaden were courting each other noisily on the Church tower in Almaden de la Plata

The week before this Camino I had been at a fiesta in Ciudad Rodrigo, a Carnival with the day punctuated by the running of bulls and bullfights in the evening.  With bullfighting I am faced with armies of contradictions and paradoxes, fifty shades of grey perhaps – in a very different context.  I am not “either/or” when it comes to bullfighting: it is not, for me black or white.  I loved bullfights as a child and for decades it has been the door which opens for me the reality of living with opposites, with questions without answers and faces me with my own inner contradictions.  Death is out in the open. I have slaughtered animals myself when I kept goats, holding them in my arms as their life drained away with their blood.  Who knows what happens at that moment when the life within leaves only corpse?  Meat-eating man is a killer of animals.  When bullfighting ceases, as it surely will soon, let us build abattoirs constructed of glass in public places so we can keep before our eyes our complicity in killing other mammals.

The killing of a bull. Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca, Spain.

The killing of a bull. Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca, Spain.

If the distance between these two little villages in Seville is short, so too is the distance short between life and death: and maybe the distance man imagines as separating himself from other animals is nothing at all. This is certainly how I felt as I passed through this final stretch of the Sierra de Norte in the Province of Seville.

A very wooly sheep guarding the Camino.

A very woolly sheep guarding the Camino.

The sheep, in the morning sun, blocked my path.  They were waiting for one, just one, to move and I wove past a few before a large ewe reluctantly levered itself onto its legs, followed by most of the others.  Some defiantly stayed put.

Goats are a different kettle of fish.

Goats are a different kettle of fish.

The goats were nearly all standing up as I approached a generous herd.  They were probably awaiting their milking.  I could smell my memories of the goats I had kept.  I feel a deep affinity with these intelligent and playful animals but these, not being used to me, refused to dance even when I asked them to.

Bemused.

Bemused.

My goats all had names: Rosie, Paloma, Chocolatina, Brandy and Pico are some I recall.  I loved them but wasn’t much of a goat herd often leaving them to kind and more competent neighbours when I went off on my travels.  When I started walking my first Camino I had had to sell them.  Animals need constant attention and my vagabond heart is not suited to animal farming.

Pigs at a watering hole.

Pigs at a watering hole.

One hillside was home to a huge herd of black pigs enjoying a bath.  These animals are large and curious.  They came right up to me so I expect that other pilgrims feed them. They looked well fed.  The famous hams of Spain, the “pata negra”, the Iberica bellota, fattened on the acorns from the sparsely wooded landscapes (dehesas) come from these herds.

http://youtu.be/k0fPQJIj7dE

When the raw ham is served with a few drops of local olive oil and crusty andalucian bread in homes, markets, bars and restaurants, it seems to come from some anonymous source. In nature, however, at close quarters each animal seems to have its own identity, even in a herd.

A beauty.

A beauty.

Over the next few days I met other pilgrims enchanted by this part of the Camino.  Perhaps we were privileged with the brightness of springtime and the lack of flies and intense heat. What is certain is that if we stop eating meat these animals will disappear.  Apart from the horses……and donkeys…

A donkey - just outside Real de la Jara.

A donkey – just outside Real de la Jara.

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