All posts by bekpower

Love, food, travel & friends.

El Camino de Santiago – Day 11 to 15

Granon >>> Villafranca (28km) >>> Ages (15.8km) >>> Burgos (22km) >>> Hontanas (31km) >>> Itero de la Vega (20.4 km)

= 117.2km (Overall: 314.3km)

The whole way into the little town called Ages, pronounced ‘ah kes’ in Spanish, the signs taunted us. It had rained all morning and we were walking, for the second day, into a really strong headwind. Tessa was having major issues with her Achilles and had to take it quite slow. It was freezing and we were soaked to the bones. When we came over a small hill and finally spotted the little town of Ages, we were beyond happy.

The albergue we stayed in was run by a brother and sister who had this funny sibling rivalry going on. They acted very grumpy and would push each other around but were very sweet to us and the albergue was lovely and warm. The shower had the hottest water and best pressure I’ve felt so far on this trip and we had a room for the five of us to ourselves. We played cards that night and Tessa was facing the hard decision of leaving the camino a couple of days earlier than shed’d planned. Jack was always going to be leaving us in Burgos (the next town) as he had limited time overseas and knew he would have to bus at least one part of the camino which is actually quite common. After weighing up all her options, Tessa decided that she would end her Camino in Burgos where she would catch a bus to Barcelona to spend a couple of days exploring before heading back to Australia.

For days leading up to our arrival in Burgos (a pretty major city on the Camino) we were watching riots that were happening there on the news. Images of people looting, fires, violence and police would be on the TV in every pub, cafe or albergue. It was a bit disconcerting but other peregrinos didn’t appear phased so we didn’t let it bother us.

As we were walking into Burgos through the outer suburbs you could feel an odd tension in the air. There was graffiti everywhere and as we kept moving we noticed that shop windows and ATM screens were smashed. Road works had been dug up and destroyed and there were big shipping containers and other large plastic containers that had been burnt. There were metal park benches all twisted up on the side of the road. Police were everywhere, news crews were doing interviews and setting up cameras and all of the shops were closed. We would have felt really worried if it wasn’t for all of the locals walking through with us. Some were pointing out to their children where the damage was. It was more exciting than scary, but we were a bit concerned that our albergue would be in the immediate vicinity. We needn’t have worried.

The kilometres stretched on and long into the centre of the city. As we started to get glimpses of the Burgos cathedral (one of the most famous in Spain), we noticed that the streets we were walking on had turned to cobblestone and the buildings were older and more beautiful. We were walking through the ‘old city’ which was worlds away from the first suburbs we’d come through. Our albergue, when we finally arrived, was 100 metres from the monstrous cathedral. We never can believe how the pilgrim accommodation in the city always gets the best real estate. Our accommodation in the municipal albergue cost us 5€ each and was in prime location. The church was absolutely spectacular from the outside, and the tour of the inside was interesting and informative. If you are a pilgrim everything seems to be discounted. The cost for entry is 3.5€ and that includes an audio-guide headset as well.



In Burgos we celebrated Tess and Jack’s last night with us in style. We stumbled upon a restaurant that was world famous for its tapas and sandwiches – it had won a michelin star! And we played cards whilst eating the delicious little morsels and sipping the best red wine I have had in Spain. When you spend 5€ on your accommodation you don’t mind forking out for 1.9€ wines and 1.8€ tapas. We got a little sentimental at dinner, talking about our highs and lows of the camino so far, giving Tessa advice about her next five days of solo travelling and organising catch ups with Jack back in Australia. The next morning we had breakfast together and said a tearful goodbye. Adam and I won’t see Tess for at least a year, potentially two, so it felt a bit emotional watching her and Jack walking towards the bus station – in the opposite direction to us.



Then it was just the three of us, and it would be until we arrived in Santiago de Compostella. We estimated we had about 20 days left on the Camino. We walked 31km to Hontanas from Burgos. The scenery was spectacular (even though it rained on us) and the albergue when we got there was warm. There we had a memorable pilgrim menu consisting of Castilian soup followed by blood sausage with rice (famous in the region of Burgos) and two fried eggs. I have found that when you are legitimately hungry and tired you will eat pretty much everything. And I have to say, that has been one of my favourite meals of the trip. From Hontanas we walked 21 km to Itera de la Vega. This was our 15th day on the Camino – not even halfway through.




El Camino de Santiago – Day 6 to 10

Estella >>> SanSol (29.1km) >>> Logronos (20km) >>> Najera (31km) >>> San Domingo (20km) >>> Granon (7km)

= 107.1

Our ‘rest day’ was exactly what the doctor ordered. Tess elevated her ankles and lay in bed all day. Jane, Meg and I explored the little town of Estella and its epic cathedrals, cobblestoned streets and cosy cafes. I am in love with Spanish hot chocolates. They are so thick and rich, whenever a place sells it I always order it -even over coffee (shocking for me). So after a bit of exploring we headed back to the hostel, had a nice quiet night and woke up bright and early for our massive 29km hike to Sansol where the little rural hotel would be waiting for us.

It was a good day. We made it to Los Acros (a town 6km from our destination) relatively unscathed. By this point we’d walked about 23kms. We were in a bit of pain but much better than we felt at days 3 & 4. We had just under 6km to go and we were feeling good. We knew the place we had organised for the next night had a kitchen so we loaded up on groceries and eggs, we LOVE our eggs. Whenever we have a kitchen, we boil up as many eggs as we can and eat them for the next couple of days.



The walk into Sansol from Los Acros was hard because we could literally see the town in front of us on a small hill but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer and instead of the road leading straight up to it, we were winding around -the long way! But just when we felt we couldn’t go any further we made it up to the top of the hill that the little town sits on. Our hotel was actually a house and it was next to the church waiting for us. The Casa de Olivia, named after the gorgeous little olive tree in its garden, felt like home. The owner had turned the heaters on a few hours earlier so it was toasty warm, the washing machine was there for us to use which was a god-send as we hadn’t washed our clothes since our second day in. She also had breakfast laid out ready for the next morning with peculated coffee, yoghurt, muffins, pastries and oranges. We had found ourselves, once again, in heaven. We spent the rest of the afternoon/night having steaming hot showers, played 500 for hours and ate an amazing and very much needed vegetable and tuna stir-fry with loads of comforting hot rice. The next morning, after a restful sleep we went through the ritual of packing our bags, eating breakfast and suiting up for our walk to Logronos. The sunrise was to die for!


The best part of walking the Camino is how much pleasure everyone takes in the little things. It could be a hot shower, a soft blanket, a glass of red wine, a biscuit, you name it, after you walk for hours and hours, kilometres and kilometres any luxury, no matter how small it is, can make you feel elated. While we are walking, some of us will have lollies and chocolate that we forget about and then when we discover a packet, everyone feels so happy – until the sugar-high wears off. Coffees that we have in little towns along the way turn into ‘the best coffee I’ve ever had’.


We have discovered the Camino is a small world. People, like everywhere, talk. You would hear about the people walking behind you and the ones ahead of you. We have all started at different points on the trail, have different needs and agendas. So you might be staying at the same albergues over and over again, or you might meet them once and not see them for the rest of the walk. Jack, our favourite Australian, told us about ‘the Alaskans’ who he had run into on the first couple of days of his walk. He said they were loose canons who were drinking their way through the Camino – which they were walking backwards (from Santiago to the beginning – crazy!). Apparently one had shattered his patella before they’d started the walk but was numbing it with whisky. Mucho mucho crazy!

When we arrived in Lorgronos we met two brothers from Minnesota. They had started their Camino in Pamplona and had walked their last day when we met them. Peter, the older one, had a blister the size of his pinky toe on his pinky toe! And Matt (who had some pretty nasty blisters himself) bonded with him over the best way to bust/pop/drain the blister. Needless to say we had a hilarious night drinking 80 cent red wines and eating the most delicious tapas with them and the two Spanish men they had been walking with. The Spanish men had adopted the two boys as their sons and were full of funny stories and dirty jokes. The Minnesotan boys had also met the Alaskans Jack had told us about. They told us that the Alaskans had talked about the four Australian sisters who they had heard were walking the Camino. Needless to say we found this quite amusing.


We walked more than 50 kms over the next two days to Santa Domingo where we would say goodbye to Meggy and Matty and reunite with the Australian, Jack. The walk was hard but rewarding. On Meg and Matt’s final day of walking we even indulged in some wine at lunch time. Saying goodbye to two members of our group was hard but we gained Jack who was going to stay with us for another 4 days until Burgos. And we were only walking 7km to the next little town which was said to have the ‘best albergue on the Camino’.



El Camino de Santiago – Day 1 to 5

Start: Roncesvalles >>> Zubiri (22km) >>> Pamplona (20km) >>> Puente La Reina (24km) >>> Ayegui (23.5km) >>> Estella (0.5km)

= a total of 90 kilometres

All of us were pretty anxious the night before we began walking El Camino de Santiago. We caught a bus from Madrid to Pamplona but when we got there we found out that we had missed the last bus to Roncsevalles which was the little town in the mountains where we would begin our walk. Unfortunately this meant that we had to get two taxis (there were no maxi cabs available) making the beginning of our walk a little more expensive than planned. We also had no idea what the address of the albergue we would be staying at was. Luckily, our taxi driver had done the camino by bicycle before and knew where he was going. When we arrived, the albergue looked like a cold, deserted old convent, with large arches and walls. But within minutes, we had met our first fellow pilgrim – a young man from Korea who was wearing his thermals underneath board shorts. He pointed us in the direction of the office and we paid 6€ to sleep there for the night and 2€ for our precious pilgrim passports which the man stamped promptly. We were pointed towards a little bar/restaurant down the road where we reserved the ‘pilgrim menu’ for 6. The meal was incredible. First course was vegetable soup and fresh crusty baguette, second course consisted of a whole slow cooked lamb shank and potato that melted in your mouth and finally when we thought we couldn’t fit another mouthful in we were served rice pudding that rivalled my mother’s recipe. All of this was, of course, accompanied by a couple of bottles of the most delicious red wine and at the crazy price of 9€ each, we weren’t complaining.


On our first morning I felt a niggle in the back of my throat. My sister Jane was suffering from flu-like symptoms and I was hoping it wasn’t the beginning of a rough couple of days. A couple of hours in, my throat had swelled up and was absolutely raging. Weirdly enough I had no fever or headache, it was just my throat. Swallowing was painful, the sound of my voice had changed and I could barely speak. The weather wasn’t helping as it was very cold and very wet. I didn’t realise at the time but I hadn’t touched my water and was feeling weaker and weaker as we kept walking, even eating hurt so I did little of that. It was really worrying for me as the rest of the group was travelling fine and feeling good and I didn’t want to be the person having to visit the hospital on the first day of our walk. I also have chronic asthma and whilst I have it under control with ventolin and my preventative when I get sick it tends to flare up badly. Anyway, the kilometres dragged on and I kept my head down and tried focusing on every step. Adam was worried about me, I could tell because he stayed back despite the fact that he was feeling good and going strong. About 17kms in, I managed to get out in a hoarse voice that I needed to see a doctor. Everyone agreed we would look for one in the town we were planning to stay in, Zubiri.

Once we arrived we asked for a doctor, but there wasn’t one. By chance we came across a chemist with a lovely pharmacist who spoke fluent English. She really listened to my symptoms and came out with a natural antibiotic and super-strong ibuprofen. We were skeptical about the antibiotic but I was grateful for the pain relief.

Our next challenge was finding accommodation. Pilgrims walking El Camino usually stay in albergues which are basic pilgrim accommodation with dorm rooms, amenities and varying facilities. What we knew we would have to face is the fact that most of the albergues close during winter as there are fewer pilgrims and the weather can be menacing. Some stay open all year round but you have to do your research as it can mean you can walk for kilometres without finding an open albergue. Albergues, in our experience so far, have been hit or miss. Some have heating, smaller rooms, comfy bedding, wifi and restaurants or vending machines (with beer!) attached and some are cold, basic and throw everyone in a room together (I’m talking smelly 50 pilgrims on bunk beds). The people we have met range from weird and competitive to down right amazing. Everyone is doing the walk for different reasons, as cliche as that sounds, but one thing that we all have in common is the physical suffering that goes part in parcel with walking the Camino de Santiago.

Generally we aren’t as strict on our accommodation options as most of the hardcore pilgrims are. We are open to cheap pensions (private hotels), hostels or other accommodation options. Where it is an option we will stay in an albergue of course, the basic facilities and cold nights don’t scare us. But we have found ourselves in a couple of situations where we haven’t had a choice. The first situation being Zubiri.

Even though the pain in my throat had subsided, I was too dehydrated and sick to walk any further so we had to set up camp in Zubiri. None of the albergues were open much to our dismay. It took us an hour after trying a few different pensions (all of which were closed) before we found one. And it was the most beautiful pension (or so it seemed at the time) run by a little Spanish woman who looked after us and was very kind. It had a kitchen, heating, separate rooms, comfy beds, hot water, couches, wifi and so on. We felt like we had stumbled on a five star resort -it’s amazing what walking 22kms in the cold rain will do to you. We had a wonderful night cooking up chicken noodle soup and steaming hot pasta. We slept like babies and got up early ready to walk another 20 kilometres to Pamplona.

I felt on top of the world on the walk to Pamplona. The ibuprofen had kicked in, the honey antibiotic thingys were working (much to our surprise) and I had got almost 12 hours of solid sleep. It was a day that I imagined my first day walking the camino should have been. About an hour or two before we reached Pamplona it started raining and dropped about 4 degrees. When we arrived we were soaking, freezing and ready to get ourselves checked into an albergue. But then we made a mistake. We walked off the camino path (it is clearly signed the entire way, through cities, towns, the countryside etc) and every albergue we came across was closed. It was very disheartening. We split up looking for a hostel to stay in and I, by chance, found a hotel that had a contact who let out apartments in Pamplona. I thought for sure it would be too expensive but she told me it would be 120€ for a three bedroom apartment I knew we’d struck gold. Sure enough, when we arrived it was BEAUTIFUL, clean, warm, with a large kitchen and right in the centre of the old city in Pamplona. There we had another amazing night ready for another day of walking.


Days 3 and 4 were by far the hardest on us physically. We made it to Puerte La Reina and stayed in the albergue there. We met another Australian, Jack, who we all got along with instantly. It was really nice to have another member in our group and I’m sure Matt and Adam enjoyed another guy to banter with – travelling with 4 sisters can be a bit tiring at times I am sure.


We were lucky enough to be there on the night of the three kings which is like Christmas Eve in Spain and the day is a holiday followed by another holiday (which is tough when you want to buy dinner, lunch and brekky). But it was awesome seeing the parade of the three kings through the streets while little children ran after the three floats which had each king on one who had helpers throwing lollies out to the crowd.



By day 4 we were wrecked. Matty joked that we only had 9 good knees between the (now) seven of us and he wasn’t too far off. Jack and Tessa were suffering quite badly with their achilles and Jane and I had knee issues. Matty took the prize for the most epic blisters and Meg and Adam were probably the least injured but still struggling with sore feet and toes. A few of us were in tears as we hobbled through the small but very beautiful town Estella towards our albergue which was still 1.5km away in Ayegui. We spent that night in the albergue and decided that we needed a rest day before someone did a serious injury. Our plan was to see if there were any accommodation options in the town 6km along the Camino or we would walk back into Estella and find a pension or hostel. Not surprisingly, nothing was open in the town further along so we walked into Estella this morning and found an affordable hostel where we set up camp for the day, rubbed deep heat into sore muscles and just rested (and ate!). The owner of the hostel has taken a bit of a liking to us and recommended a casa de rural (a rural hotel) for us to stay in tomorrow night. It means a 26km walk tomorrow over a couple of steep hills which is making us a little nervous but it is also nice to know we have somewhere to stay. It was also very lucky as he called and made the reservation for us, haggled with the woman over the price and secured us breakfast as well. Jane spoke to the woman on the phone too and said she sounded lovely, so it’s a good feeling to know we will be looked after when we get there.




I hope I haven’t sounded too negative or whiney in this post. Believe me, we are all in very high spirits and have been all the way. The camino has certainly not disappointed us by any means. And hey, I am told that on tomorrow’s leg of the journey there is a town that has a stainless steel fountain that pours wine. Yes, a fountain of free flowing, free wine.


Seville is a beautiful city. It took us 3.5 hours to drive there from Monachil and we had to leave early in the morning as daylight is fleeting here in Europe.

We arrived and the first thing we thought was how spacious the main streets were. Our agenda for the day was to visit the Cathedral and the Alcazar before enjoying some tapas and then driving home. It sounds almost not worth it considering how long we had to drive to get there but it definitely was.

We found an underground car park close to the Cathedral thanks to my sister Meg’s boyfriend Matt who had brought his TomTom which has proved to be invaluable whilst trying to navigate the streets of Spain. And we walked up towards the Cathedral which was very hard to miss. The architects of this amazing building said in 1402, ‘we are going to construct a church so large, future generations will think we were mad.’ And they weren’t exaggerating. The cathedral, which took a century to finish, reminded me of those sand castles you would build at the beach dripping wet sand to form steeples. When you entered the main part of the church, the sheer height of the ceiling and the size of the pillars quite literally take your breath away. We climbed up to the highest bell tower which resulted in most of us breaking a sweat and looked out over the city of Seville. It was quite hard to imagine what it would have looked like 500 years ago before the cathedral was built.


Next we visited Seville’s Alcazar which was built in the early 1300’s. We spent a couple of hours exploring the beautifully decorated rooms and gardens and Adam got lost at one point which was hilarious. It was similar to Alhambra in it’s design and Islamic influence but unique in its own way as well.


At this stage our stomachs were rumbling and we made our way through the narrow streets into central Seville to find a restaurant famous for its tapas.

And we weren’t disappointed. The place we decided on was called Vineira San Telmo and it was amazing. It invented the rascocielo, which is a tower of roasted tomatoes, eggplant, goats cheese and smoked salmon which was a highlight and came out in very generous portions. We decided to order two tapa each and some of us shared whilst some of us didn’t. Some of the selections included foie gras with caramelised peanuts, squid ink pasta with scallops, slow cooked duck breast, seared Japanese-style tuna and the list goes on. We walked out very full and extremely satisfied. Price-wise it wasn’t the cheapest we’d experienced in Spain but at 15 Euro each (including drinks) we couldn’t complain.





What an introduction to Spain!!! My father picked us up late at night from Granada bus station and we drove up into the town of Monachil which rests in a valley in the mountains behind Granada. Our little hire car wound through the narrow streets until we arrived at our villa, Cortijo La Mata. At night we could barely make out the rows of identical white brick houses built into the sides of the dry, arid hills and rocky outcrops. In the morning we ventured out into the freezing cold air and we could see the unique landscape stretching out below us.

The villa, where do I start? Imagine a rustic white-washed Spanish villa built into the side of a rocky outcrop on a small mountain hill with olive groves and grape vines lining the narrow road that leads up to it. The courtyard out the front of the villa is paved with terracotta tiles, and is covered with dried leaves left over from Autumn. There is a pool that looks like it would be an amazing comfort in summer but only gives you the shivers at this time of the year. The villa has 10 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 lounge rooms and 2 kitchens. So it accommodates the 8 of us easily. The central heating comes on for 5 hours twice a day and allows us to walk around the villa in clothes suitable for an Australian winter which is laughable in the face of the weather here at the moment.


The little town Monachil is full of character. I swear our first few visits to the local grocer weren’t well received as we are a clumsy group of loud Australians. But eventually the owner warmed to us and now she gives us regalos with each purchase such as blocks of chocolate or an extra bread stick. When we feel like venturing outside the haven that our villa is, we head down to our little local where we sit and drink beers, red wine and (if it is really cold) ‘fire water’ which is Monachil’s winter liquor made from wild plums that are about the size of cherries. It is a deliciously warming drink that tastes of cherry and liquorice. Granada is the only province in Spain to serve free tapas with drink purchases. Slices of fresh baguette with pate, prosciutto and other delicacies would be placed in front of you while you sip your beverage. We could be sitting there for hours and not even realise as we have full bellies and are feeling nicely tipsy.

The Sierra Nevada mountains behind Granada have some pretty impressive ski slopes and amazing views. We made two day trips up into the mountains and had fun tobogganing, playing in the snow and drinking mulled wine in the little ski town overlooking the mountain. It was the first time my youngest sister Tessa had ever seen snow so it was very exciting for her. Driving on snow covered roads proved to be quite stressful and it was amazing to see how the snow ploughs would come through and clear the road in a matter of seconds.


One thing we made sure to do whilst in the area was to visit Alhambra – a Moorish fortress that is famous for its Islamic architecture and art. Apparently 6000 people visit per day in summer so we felt grateful to have time to walk through at a leisurely pace. It really was breathtaking and unlike any temple or palace I have visited before. Islamic art and decor is geometric and simple with no depictions of animals or people, but the attention to detail and the beauty in that kind of simplicity blew our minds. One thing I am loving about Spain is that you can stop anywhere for a red wine or a beer and a bocadillo (sandwich) filled with cured meat and sharp cheese. So that’s exactly what we did in one of the courtyards in Alhambra.

Spanish people are fascinating. I feel like they have the work-life balance right. Everyone wakes up late, eats their main meals together and have siestas in the afternoon. They party on into the night and aren’t afraid of speaking their minds. Our Christmas Eve was a highlight. We made our way into Monachil from our villa to celebrate Christmas Eve with a few afternoon drinks. We didn’t realise that the whole town would be doing the same. We found another little ‘pub’ that had tables and chairs up on the roof with fires in kerosene tins that we could sit around. It was perfect as we had a view of the streets in the main part of town. The festive spirit was certainly in the air with children (and grown men)letting off fireworks, people standing around smoking, drinking and dancing. There was a man with an accordion who was just walking around playing it. People coming up to the little verandah bar we were perched on had tambourines and were sitting in groups singing and dancing flamenco style. It was a wonderful night and set a very festive tone for the rest of our Christmas.

Seven Kilos

Seven and a half kilos is what the scales told me when I last weighed my backpack. Adam looked at me incredulously and most people I have told have done the same.

How can you go away for 2 years with only seven kilos?

The thing is, it is quite easy when you decide to only take the bare minimum.

We arrive in Europe in the middle of winter and will be in Europe for spring, summer and most of autumn. We are travelling through as many countries as we can, through various types of terrain and all sorts of weather. So we had to make sure that we took all of that into consideration when we were looking at what to take.

When we chose our bags, Adam and I had very different ideas about what would be the perfect bag to take over. The only thing we agreed on was how big we wanted them: 40 +10 Litres. Because we are planning on doing a few walks over there, we needed to make sure we didn’t have too much weight to carry.

In the end I settled on the Dueter Aircontact which I chose for its access panel in addition to being a top loader. Its actually hard to find smaller back packs that have a side access panel.


After we had our bags sorted, we had to start thinking seriously about what we were going to put in them.


SO what made the list?

– gortex hybrid shoes
– gortex jacket
– merino wool thermals
– underwear
– zip off hiking pants
– merino wool hiking shoes
– 2 pairs of jeans
– two long sleeve shirts
– 2 gym singlets
– swimmers
– two ‘going out tops’
– 1 skirt
– 2 party dresses
– toiletries
– foldable ballet flats
– small towel
– head torch
– journal
– Kathmandu pathfinder sleeping bag
– silk liner
– dry bags
– thongs

My day bag is pretty awesome. It folds down to the size of a small wallet for when I don’t need it and holds 5L for when I do – plus it’s pink!!!



Electronic equipment-wise I decided to buy an iPad mini with a logitech keyboard. I am also taking my iPhone as a back up device. Adam is taking a MacBook Air, a go-pro, an iphone and all of the necessary plugs, chargers etc. He also bought a waterproof, shock proof hard drive to back up all of our photos etc. Speaking of photos, our new camera is amazing. We opted for the Sony RX100 and are really happy with its picture quality.

So that’s it. We’re all set and we are boarding in a few hours. We arrive in Madrid on Wednesday the 18th. But our travel time doesn’t end there. From Madrid we catch a bus to Granada where my parents will pick us up in the hire car and take us to the villa.

Words can’t express how excited we are. Let’s hope we’ve packed everything that we need.