St Magnus Way – shops, cafes, pubs

Resources: shops, pubs, cafes

I am walking the St Magnus Way on Orkney, and this is one of the blog series – 21-30 May 2018. Below, you can find links to all the others (introduction, transport, accommodation, resources etc). The overall walk is 55 miles (88.5 kms) over 5 days plus a visit to the island of Egilsay where St Magnus was said to have been murdered and, initially, buried.

Stromness

I was in Stromness for less than 24 hours. The places I have visited there are:

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Betty’s Reading Room – free, open and full of useful and interesting things for backpackers.

Tingwall

  • Tingwall – Betty’s Reading Room (always open, tea and biscuits, books, comfy place to sit and charge your phone). Kiersty who put me up in Evie, showed me this wonderful place which is very close to the ferry terminal. It was erected in memory of a member of the local community and is a peaceful place to sit and read – tea and biscuits are available. Occasional readings or other events happen there. The main thing is that the door is open – you can just step inside and make yourself comfortable.
  • (In other words, there was no need for me to walk all the way to the Fernvalley Wildlife Centre and find that it was shut, and then walk all the way back and into Evie along the busy road, only to find that the Eviedale Cafe was also shut – all in order to charge my phone and find the address where I was staying that night!)
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Kiersty shows me Betty’s Reading Room, Tingwall, Orkney.

Egilsay

  • there are no shops nor anywhere to stay on the island

Evie

  • Mistra is a perfect wee post office cum shop (10am to 5pm)
  • Eviedale Bistro (Weds – Sun 11am – 3.30pm). It wasn’t open when I was there
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The Palace Stores, Birsay. Also shut when I arrived.

Birsay

  • The Palace Stores where you can buy drinks (opens at 10am (12noon on Sundays) and shuts at 5pm)
  • Tearoom (10.30-5pm. Shut Tues / Weds)
  • Barony Hotel (about 20 minutes walk from campsite. Good food, but book in advance as it has erratic opening times)

Dounby

  • a good co-op which sold a disposable thing I not seen before to plug into your phone to charge it. Cost £2.50 (did not work well on my phone because it was not working properly)
  • cafe at the Smithfield Hotel
  • pharmacy
  • post office and more

Finstown

  • Baikies Stores where you can buy almost anything and get drinks from a machine (fantastic place, helpful staff)
  • hairdressers (Creation Cuts is fab)
  • very kindly staff at the post office
  • pubs (the Pomona Inn owner was very friendly, doesn’t serve food, but said I could eat my own in there)

Orphir

Kirkwall

  • there are 100s of shops, pubs, cafes and places to stay
  • I went to Judith Glue’s café
  • and looked at The Reel cafe near St Magnus Cathedral, which often has live music
  • there’s a Tourist iCentre (Tourist Information Bureau) which I visited and where I bought some gifts. The wifi didn’t work well
  • I didn’t see a mobile phone shop until Kirkwall

Links:

Introduction

Transport – how I got there

Egilsay

Accommodation – where I stayed

Day 2 – Evie to Birsay

Day 3 – Birsay to Dounby

Day 4 – Dounby to Finstown

Day 5 – Finstown to Orphir

Day 6 – Orphir to Kirkwall

Resources – shops, cafes, pubs etc

Finding your way

Reflection

Tábara to Santa Marta de Tera, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino – Day 22 (Tábara to Santa Marta de Tera). Wednesday 11 April 2018. 22 kms.

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The red earthed path of the Via de la Plata, Castille y Léon, Spain.

‘And what’s best is that you are always received without fuss, welcomed, as if they had been expecting you to come. ‘  From Ursula le Guinn’s Left Hand of Darkness

Not in Oliva de Plasencia! I was reading le Guinn on my Kindle while I travelled because it was the Leith Bookworms book and my friends were reading it at the same time. I liked to keep up even if I couldn’t attend the meetings. It can be a good challenge to follow the list because I read books I wouldn’t usually choose for myself, move out of my comfort zone. In this case I had never read sci-fi before but I knew that le Guinn was extremely well thought of (after all she is used as an important part of the plot in the decidedly mainstream Jane Austen Book Club film!)

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José / Almeida

There was a photo session at the front door with José / Almeida (his pen name), the hospitalero who had looked after us so well, and then I set off with my friend Marie Noëlle and her pals Sascha (Luxembourg) and Maria (Switzerland) under a white sky. Sometimes we all three walked alongside each other, but more often I held back and took a quieter way, meeting up at intervals for coffee and wee chats.

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Sascha, Maria and Marie Noëlle.

We left the town of ridged terracotta rooves and telephone poles behind, and headed quickly into open country. There is an alternative way to regain the camino by retracing your steps back the way you came, perhaps for shopping before leaving. For me, it was too early for them to be open and I was keen to get off the tarmac asap.

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Looking back at Tabara.

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As I walked I reflected on the things I wished I had brought with me: my swimming costume which I left on the line in Caldzada, a pair of flipflops to protect my feet from dirty floors and ideal for wet and dry (though uncomfortable with socks), clothes pegs (there are often a few at the hostels but not enough to go round), a plastic tupperware pot to put food in (although I was able to buy one for a few euros), and ointment for bites.

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The beautiful contrasts between the orange houses, silver-dry grass and Spanish sky.

I was keeping a list of topics for the teaching I had been engaged to do later in April. It was for the Shiatsu Society whose biennial congress was being held in Edinburgh. Topic: people watching – most apt given how many new people I am meeting and walking behind every day, and how lovely it is to sit in Spanish cafes with tired feet and gawp at passers by.

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April blooms.
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The Galician hills in the distance.
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A blanket of blossom like snow.
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Just in case it rains.
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Sparkling over the rocks and tempting for hot feet.
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The Rio (river) Tera, Spain reflecting the sumptious sky.

 

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There’s a ssort of charm in the delapidation.
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The others walked by without noticing these houses with their distinctive yellow walls, built into the hill – grass rooves with chimneys poking through.

 

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Flat expanses of farmland, Spain.
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There are almost never any pavements. Cotton wool balls of clouds.
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From the bridge at Santa Croya de Tera (the last small village before our destination) where the Casa Anita private hostel is situated. Castille y Léon, Spain.
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The Rio Tera, Castille y Léon, Spain.
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The Rio Tera, Castille y Léon, Spain.
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The Romanesque church, Santa Marta de Tera.
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Map showing Zamora (two days back) and northwards.
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The Church of Santa Marta de Tera.
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Will you look at the colour of that sky!
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St James looking distinguished if a little ungrounded.
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Next to San Pedro (rather bleached by the sun).
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Wine and notebooks at the end of each day – cool enough to need a jacket inside!

I stayed in the municipal hostel in Santa Marta de Tera for 5 euros.

 

St Magnus Way – what I took with me

What I took with me

I am walking the St Magnus Way on Orkney, and this is one of the blog series – 21-30 May 2018. Below, you can find links to all the others (introduction, transport, accommodation, resources etc). The overall walk is 55 miles (88.5 kms) over 5 days plus a visit to the island of Egilsay where St Magnus was said to have been murdered and, initially, buried.

There is a companion blog post here: What to pack in your rucksack. That is a list for Spain (and elsewhere on mainland Europe).

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The same rucksack I took to Spain in 2016.

Each time I leave for a walk, I make a rather last, last-minute trip for necessaries, and this time was no exception. I purchased a blow-up-itself mattress (an orange one, I am very fond of it), a one-person tent (although I do not know how a large man could possibly fit in), an Ordnance Survey map of Orkney (also orange), solid fuel stove and blocks.

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The shadow of me, my baton, my trusty John Lewis carrier bag and boots!

This is what I took with me:

  • Walking boots (the Austrian ones are still going strong (thanks S) and walking sandals (thanks Alice). Plasters
  • Rucksack, bum bag (also known as fanny bag), hard wearing John Lewis carrier bag, my coquille Saint Jaques shell to show I had walked the Camino
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Self-blow-up orange mat – elegant and reduced at Mountain Warehouse on Princes Street, Edinburgh.
  • Baton or walking stick to steady yourself when tottering on the edge of cliffs or falling down holes!
  • Tent (I didn’t take a mallet and was OK with stones and my hands to push in the tent pins), sleeping bag, ground mat, said orange mat which luckily had a repair kit, saucepan (see photo below), 2 water bottles, stove frame and blocks
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Solid Fuel Stove from Go Outdoors. £3.99. Tablets £2.50 for 4. It packs up for carrying but gets really messy so you need a bag or keep the box. I have never used one of these before and it took some getting used to. The blocks were hard to light in the Orkney wind. Once alight it took 2#two blocks to not-quite-boil the pasta. When inside the toilet building, on the other hand, it was all as easy as it said on the packet.
  • Matches (see below), spork, camping knife, cup (plastic ones are light but be careful if you have it tied to the outside of the rucksack and then repeatedly thrown that rucksack over barbed wire fences as it will break. It can, however, be replaced by a lovely new red one at Baikies Stores in Finstown), blow-up neck cushion
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My new tent – it was fab.
  • Passport (I took it just in case. In fact I didn’t need it – but who knows for how long?), bank card, money
  • Travel towel (a quick-dry one) and by a stroke of luck also a travel flannel which I popped in at the last minute not knowing why. It transpired that it was invaluable for drying the tent (wet from dew or rain) before packing it up
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Travel Towel bag. Handy because it is light and dries quickly. On the other hand the zip broke almost as soon as I got it which is a nuisance.
  • Knickers x 2, bra x 2, quick-dry trousers that can be made into shorts x 1, quick-dry walking T-shirt, vest top, blouse (ie long sleeved cotton top to protect from sun, made of light material, for the evenings, used for layers), one pair of light trousers with elasticated waist and butterflies on them (bought in Seville with Jésus – I love them but my daughter says they look like pyjamas), leggings, socks x 2 pairs plus 1 single double-layered one (the other one disappeared off the drying rack in Salamanca).

I needed it: When I dropped one of my pair of walking socks down the loo on day 4 in Orkney, I realised why I had packed that one double-layered sock. It seemed such a silly thing to take but that was because I couldn’t see into the future. Or did I in fact know? Was this in fact, as the Quantum physicists are discovering, an example of time being layered rather than linear?

 

  • Hoodie (fleece), 3 hats (1 for sleeping, 1 for warm weather and another for the sun), scarf (for warming, as a pillow, to sit on etc), gloves
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My hoodie / fleece before I took the price tag off, and rucksack beside me in preparation.
  • I used my phone torch and of course, being May, it was very bright until late at night
  • Needle and thread for blisters and mending, pegs for hanging wet things on guylines
  • Soap for washing clothes and self, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, disposable razor, foot cream, suntan lotion (also doubles as moisturiser), panty liners (they keep knickers cleaner if you cannot find a way to dry them after washing but aren’t good for the environment)
  • Rain trousers and jacket, rain cover for the rucksack
  • Specs and sunglasses with cleaning cloth (and carrying case?), phone, charger, wrist watch (which I did need because my phone kept running out of battery but which I immediately lost on Egilsay), notebook and pens, reading material (not the Kindle this time due to the short length of the walk and being sure I would find a replacement to the book I took with me en route and finished part way through. In fact there aren’t any bookshops outside Stromness or Kirkwall as far as I could tell, though see Betty’s Reading Room)
  • Ordnance survey map 463 (doesn’t include Kirkwall). See the Finding Your Way section (published 3.8.18)

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What was lent to me while I was there – thank you Kiersty:

  • Thermal vest and long-sleeved top (M&S underwear)
  • One of those bright neon yellow jerkins for being seen in the dark. I used it once. I needed it in Spain in April when the weather was dreadful and I was walking beside the road in the weak daylight and during thunderstorms – which could happen on Orkney of course too
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My trusty pan – good for cooking and heating water, and it also stores food for carrying. It is not completely leak proof though!

Bought on the island:

  • Antiseptic cream (the accident happened on the first day of walking), mini vaseline (Orkney is windy and my lips got dry with that and the sun), newspaper (inspiring to read, useful for sitting on and soaking up the wetness if it rains), food and water, more plasters
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A very basic, old ground mat I brought before the first ever camping trip with the kids, when? 16 years ago maybe, still going strong.

What I wished I had taken in retrospect (always a glorious thing):

  • There were two particularly important things: a warmer sleeping bag (it gets really cold at night, even when the day-time temperature is very warm); and I definitely should have printed off the route descriptions and maps for each day before I left home instead of relying on my phone which once again let me down – do not depend on technology!
  • a winter jacket; a light cardigan
  • a lighter instead of matches because they got wet and so I could not have my morning tea that day; a head torch (which I could not find before I left but did immediately on my return – isn’t it always like that?
  • hot water bottle (there are kettles at the campsites), thermal underwear
  • maybe a silk sheet to go inside the sleeping bag – I have never used one but I imagine it would make it much warmer
  • a pair of earings, but in fact I found the 2 which I picked up in a hostel in Spain in April which were still in my bag! Not, of course, absolutely necessary, just a nod to some sort of self-decoration
  • A compass. I got a new one for my birthday so that will be in my luggage from now on, whichever direction I go in!
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Thanks to Sarah for my mini blow-up pillow. Handy for the bus and train as well as for camping.

Washing and drying:

  • It was not warm enough to dry things outside most of the time and because the route is not long I admit that I didn’t wash my clothes. You will be glad to hear, however, that I did go to some trouble to clean myself in washrooms and public toilet facilities all around the island. This meant that I frequently entered a cafe in walking gear with my carrier bag, ordered a cup of tea, sought out their (toilet), and emerged 10 minutes later differently dressed! I expect there are launderettes in some places, but in order to wash in a machine you either need to take more clothes with you, or you have to wash and immediately dry one set at a time which is not practical, or go naked for the time it takes to wash and dry….
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Sleeping Bag – warm enough for hostels but not for camping on Orkney in May (even though it was warm during the day).

What I didn’t need:

  • The washing line. I did use it to tie up various things, but it was too long
  • The extra mobile phone because it had a Spanish SIM card in it!
  • Passport
  • The extra water bottle (It is not necessary to have two if you are careful to fill up whenever possible)

Other:

Credential: All the Spanish Caminos provide a credential. Thisis a card which is stamped at every stop. By the end you have a record of where you have been and proof that you have been there (which in the case of Spain means you can get a compostella (certificate) in Santiago). It would be nice to have a similar thing in Orkney.

The shell: I was pleasantly surprised to find that, on presentation at the cathedral in Kirkwall, I was given a similar shell with a St Magnus Way sticker on it (warning: look after it carefully so that the sticker doesn’t come off).

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The St Magnus Way website: The St M Way team have set up bluetooth sites and launched an app with all sorts of good things on it. Unfortunately neither were available when I was there, but they have since been reinstated. You can download and use many of the resources offline (ie when you don’t have wifi / signal).

Links:

Introduction

Transport – how I got there

Accommodation – where I stayed

Day 2 – Evie to Birsay

Day 3 – Birsay to Dounby

Day 4 – Dounby to Finstown

Day 5 – Finstown to Orphir

Day 6 – Orphir to Kirkwall

Resources – what I took with me

Finding your way

The Last Day

Resources – shops, cafes, pubs etc

Reflection

Montamarta to Tábara, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino – Day 21 (Montamarta to Tábara). Tuesday 10 April 2018. 27.5 kms.

I took the Camino Sanabrés rather than passing back through places on the Camino Francés (Astorga etc) which I had visited the year before.

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The best view of the day – unless you count the sight of the albergue in Tábara when I eventually got there.
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Telling you all about Montamarta – not somewhere I ever want to go back to I must say.
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Just like yesterday, except duller.
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Yep, under another motorway tunnel.
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I took the right, turned back and went straight on, then retraced my steps and went around the motorway flyover.
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Kilometer after kilometer on the tarmac with road works as a view.
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Spring primroses amongst the rubble and stones.

There was a small village strung out along the road, not so far from Tábara, with a cafe.  I sat on the bridge and sunbathed – it was glorious.

Once I got going again it started to rain and I stopped, de-rucksacked and covered up. Then there was a rumble and a thunder and it got dark. The lorries were roaring past and spraying and I was ducking in and out of the ditch at the side of the road to avoid it when there was a fork of lightning at my left shoulder. I have never been so close. I wondered what I should do. Looking around there was nothing and nobody – just trees. I did think perhaps the metal batons weren’t such a good idea, but I couldn’t exactly abandon them and they had rubber handles and tips to earth me. I hoped. (Two days afterwards I met up with the American women and one of them did throw her sticks into the fields because she said she was so scared of being struck.)

Then the hail started and brought about a total landscape transformation.

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In two seconds flat the road was covered in white, the traffic had completely ceased and a hush came over the world. I walked on, telling myself ‘it will be over soon’.

It did stop eventually and on and on I went, every part of every mile seeming an age. I was very wet, too sopping to be able to get the map book out. Then again, there was only the one road to choose from.

There was a service station on the outskirts of Tábara and I stumbled in to get some cover and ask for directions to the albergue. There was pandemonium in there because the electric storm had shut down the till and no-one could pay for their petrol. I waited with heaviness on my back and realised how exhausted and hungry I was. And I waited.

In the end, I did something I have never done before: I took a chocolate bar off the shelf, sunk to the ground, sat with my legs splayed out in front of me like a rag doll, and devoured it without paying for it first. It was wholly necessary.

To my horror it was a further 30 minutes walk to the hostel and I had thought I was at the complete end of my energy. Hey, I simply had to find more.

It was uphill and a very long road, and just as I was despairing that it would not end, there was a shriek and who should I see coming towards me but Marie-Noelle and her smile, someone I had not seen for several days. She gave me a big and welcome hug on her way to the bar.

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The hospitalero made me a cup of tea when I needed it most, and proceeded to cook for us all that evening. He describes himself as a ‘spiritual author’, is resident at the hostel all year round, and something of a Camino VIP.

There were 10 people round the table drinking wine and eating simple fare. Some I had met before, some I had not, each of us from a different country, and of course we made ourselves understood – a true camino experience at the end of a most trying day.

 

 

 

Zamora to Montamarta, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino – Day 20 (Zamora to Montamarta). Monday 9 April 2018. 19 kms.

There was a deal of road walking on this leg of the journey.

Here are predominantly photos as the notes app on my phone failed and all were lost despite it promising to back-up. Aim: to find a way to reinstate it!

Walkers, be careful soon after leaving Zamora, because there are arrows off to the left to the Portuguese camino!

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The tracks of the dog who went before me on the path.
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Cars stacked up beside the road. There are many car dealers in this area. The camino is not all beautiful countryside and olive groves.
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In fact, this part has long straight tracks of red earth between arable fields. Cloudy skies herald more rain.
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On the cross is a quote from Pablo Neruda: amar es vivir la existencia desde el corazón del otro which means something like, we live to love and be loved by others, to be in each other’s hearts.

 

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These statues of fairy tale characters were in someone’s front garden in Roales del Pan as I walked through.
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St James watches over the children’s playpark.
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Big puddles on the chemin, and a row of diddy little trees.
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Gobble, gobble, gobble, gob.

The owners of the private hostel Tio Bartolo also have a bar and work at the Covitan supermarket where you get the keys. It looks good in the photos and was recommended by the hospitaliere in Zamora, but I picked up some sort of infection walking barefoot on their floors. There were two American women and myself in the large dormitory under the roof, and we huddled in our beds and in our sleeping bags (there were blankets available). The weak, free-standing heaters which the landlady found us because all our clothes were wet, shorted the electric circuit and anyway, when the husband discovered she had given them to us (because he had to come and switch things back on) he shouted and swore and took them away. There were people in the small rooms downstairs who paid much more than we did (15 euros including breakfast which was left in the cupboards by the long-suffering wife and was not up to much at all).

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The hostel was on this street and I would absolutely not recommend it. Run by a kind woman and her angry husband, the rain came in downstairs and it was extremely cold.

Hostels and facilities

There are many facilities in Montamarta including a municipal albergue which had been shut for a while and opened the night I was there, but I had been told it was closed so didn’t try to find it. It is now rennovated and had good reports from the people I spoke to the day afterwards. There were two others mentioned in my book – El Bruñedo and El Asturiano – neither of which were open.

I had decided to go to Montamarta because otherwise it was a very long day (33 kms I think) and the pains I had been having in my feet dissuaded me from such a trek. I found a bar that wasn’t owned by the proprietor, on the main road, and charged my phone. The waitress was very kind, but it wasn’t somewhere I could stay long.

That was a really low few hours, and I used Facebook to send out a message to my friends, ‘Should I just go home?’ Some said yes, some no! I kept on going. And you know what? It got a whole lot worse the next day – in a different sort of way!!

 

‘But my business is unlearning, not learning, and I’ll change with the world but I won’t change it.’ from Ursula le Guinn’s Left Hand of Darkness.