JHB – Dubai – Madrid – Leon and then on to Foncebadon our staring point

Home / Leon to Santiago / JHB – Dubai – Madrid – Leon and then on to Foncebadon our staring point

Cassidy got to see the SA Team depart for Texas. Her heart was happy for the time she had with her ¨besties¨ from Cape Town.

While strolling through duty-free I notice Tanika taking some chocolates off the shelf and I ask her what she is planning to do with the chocolates, Tanika responds ¨but you said it is free¨! Proper funny and it set the tone for the start of our journey!

Our Emirates flight to Madrid with a stop over in Dubai was awesome. The girls watched movies non stop and I enjoyed one or two myself. We hit Starbucks within seconds of landing in Dubai. The girls tried vanilla milkshakes with a tot of caramel and after the first sip they were hooked.

Vanilla Milkshakes - Starbucks @ Dubai Airport

Vanilla Milkshakes – Starbucks @ Dubai Airport

Our flight to Madrid seemed to take longer than I last experienced. The hours awake had slowly started to kick in and sadly no comfortable position to be found on the plane so pushed through with more movie time.

Last year when Shereez and I tried to get sim cards at Madrid airport we were told ¨sorry only in the city¨! So to my surprise when I saw a cellular kiosk I decided to get connected straight away. The two sales consultants were all over me like a rash promoting the best deals ever. After all my questions were answered satisfactorily I purchased 2 sim cards thinking I was going to be paying euro´s 50 for each of them as per my understanding of the discussion that took place. The package deal would give me access to voice, data, sms´s. These guys put the sim cards in my Samsung and iPad at the speed of lightning. Papers, passport, phone cover, you name it spread across the counter and then suddenly two invoices are presented to me, one with an amount euro 135.00 and the other euro 85.00. WHAT!! and I question and explain that this is not the deal we discussed and agreed upon, I am willing to pay the euro´s 50 x 2 as per our discussion, finito!! Oh my word have you seen two Spaniards flip and within seconds turn on you like a wild dog. I am in a state of panic as there is no ways I paying R2000 for cellular connection. By this time the queue behind was getting impatient. The communication between myself and the two sales consultants was perfect until this point and suddenly neither of them could understand English and only communicated to me in Spanish. WTF!! I was so peed off and the girls were getting a little scared as my temper was heading down hill fast. I stuck to my guns and was adamant that I am not paying for this as this is not what we discussed or even agreed upon. I have learnt those that shout the loudest get what they demand (I have first hand experience of this in the cellular industry back home) – well clearly those that shout the loudest in Spain get a blank stare and no reaction to ones demands. I was getting nowhere with these two idiots and swipe my credit card. In a huff and puff walk away trying to see the light in all of this by telling myself, well at least I won’t run out of data, voice or sms¨s and this will allow the girls to call Phil whenever they want to. We sort out our train tickets to Leon and grab some water from a cafeteria and while we patiently wait to board the train I decide to access the internet to check out the main tourist attractions for Leon. No signal. Ok, I am in the subway (metro) could be that, that is affecting the signal. We depart for Charmertin Station where we have a 3 hour wait to catch our train to Leon. At Charmertin I still don’t have signal and pop into the cellular shop at the station and kindly ask them to assist me, maybe I just need to change a setting or something. The sweetest lady behind the counter shakes her head and proceeds to get google translate going and lets me know that the sim cards I have bought don’t work in Spain, that Exactta is a company in the UK and that they have plenty of foreigners come in and complain that what they bought does not work. I am shaking I am so mad and embark on finding a cafe con leche. While sipping my coffee I phone the call centre again explaing that both sim cards are still not activated and in fact I no longer want these sim cards can they please cancel them and refund me my money. Bwahahaha, what a joke, I get told I have to email a specific email address and they will sort out the activation of the sim cards. The more I try and explain to them that I have no access to email as the sim cards are not working the more they tell me, sorry you must send an email. I kindly ask the consultant I am speaking to if she can send the email on my behalf. No, it cannot be done. It is almost time for us to get to the platform to board the train to Leon and I decide dam it I am just going to get sim cards from the sweet lady at the cellular shop. She kindly sorts out sim cards for all three our phones (included are the girls phones as the sim cards and airtime are so cheap). Within seconds we all have access to whatsapp, internet, sms, voice – absolutely amazeballs and we all happily leave for Leon. ….however I am not finished with Exactta!!

Train trip to Leon from Madrid - girls were whacked

Train trip to Leon from Madrid – girls were whacked

The train ride to Leon was long and the lack of sleep was catching up to all of us fast. By this time we were all in need of a hot bath and a comfy bed. The closer we got to Leon the more snow we could see on the mountain tops. Oh golly, we are not geared up for snow. We have warm clothes and are prepared for light rain, but we are not prepared for snow. Come on it is Spring!! The snow lay think and solid on the mountain tops and we are heading for the highest point on the Camino tomorrow. No turning back now……..

It was getting dark quick when we arrived in Leon and even though the hotel was close to the train station we opted to take a taxi as I had no idea how safe the area would be that we needed to walk through. Just as well as the hotel was a good 7 minute drive from the station. (Internet sites are very misleading). The hotel was a good choice and we were delighted to see three beds with fresh white linen waiting for us to enjoy a good nights sleep after travelling for 30 odd hours.

Leon was great and very different from being there in the middle of summer. No tables and chairs were outside the bars (coffee shops are called bars) and hardly any people were to be seen on the streets. It was the wierdiest feeling after the buzz of last year. I remember enjoying margarita´s galore with Shereez, Jessica and Debbie. In fact I am not 100% sure how we found our way back to the albergue that night, but I do remember having a smashing time with them. We ate so many olives as these you get free with every drink you order.

Hello Leon

Hello Leon

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Tanika making sure we have the basics covered

Tanika making sure we have the basics covered

So excited

So excited

Our first yellow arrow

Our first yellow arrow

Girls having fun

Girls having fun

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After plenty of fun and sightseeing it was time to head on to Foncebadon our starting point of the Camino. We took a bus to Astorga, toured around Astorga which is a great village and then took a taxi drive up to Foncebadon. While sitting in the coffee shop chatting to some pilgrims who had docked in for the night in Astorga I was led to believe that it is snowing up in the mountains and weather is predicted at 3 degrees tomorrow. I had to keep it together for the girl’s sake and explained that we would be fine even though I was trying to think of a plan B but any plan would not allow for them to see Cruz de Ferro which was their wish and they had brought all their stones and hearts along to lay at the base of the iron cross. I decided if the weather is too crazy we would walk back to Foncebadon from the iron cross (which is 3.5km walk from the village we were staying in) and take a taxi to the first village at the bottom of the mountain and walk from there.

Albergue is Astorga

Albergue is Astorga

Thank goodness I am not carrying this back pack!!

Thank goodness I am not carrying this back pack!!

On the plaza in Astorga - empty and quiet last year June/July this area was pumping with pilgrims

On the plaza in Astorga – empty and quiet last year June/July this area was pumping with pilgrims

Last hot chocolate before we hit the road to Foncebadon

Last hot chocolate before we hit the road to Foncebadon

Our taxi arrived and we were off to Foncebadon. We get dropped off in front of the hotel we are booked in and the taxi driver is off with a dash of speed. Everything looks locked up and there is no one in sight. We eventually find a side door and there the hotel owner is working away on some woodwork project. I introduce myself and show him our hotel voucher and he goes on to explain that the hotel is closed and only opening the following day and he has so much work still to do before tomorrow, therefore we cannot stay. I must have turned whiter than a sheet thinking what do I do, please understand that this little village consists of about 20 people in total and 5 or 6 homes of which are all in desperate need of renovations. There was an albergue which we could have gone to but seriously I was in no mood for a dormitory. I show the hotel owner my voucher again explaining but we booked to spend the night here and there is a reference number. He points at the date on the voucher and it is valid for the 22 March and it was the 21 March. Shitballs!! Thank goodness his wife arrived and after hearing the entire story opens the hotel for us to spend the night. I have no idea how I got it wrong. One day ahead of schedule and the knock on effect with all the other confirmed hotel bookings needed a plan B and quickly.

The only thing on my mind was to get the girls showered and to bed knowing we had a long walk ahead of us in icy cold weather the following day…..

We all dozed off and I put it out to the universe to guide me on what to do!

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  • gerry

    Oh mich….what a differece a day makes. As for those theiving cellular guys aaarrrgggg. What is your new number as I can’t get through on the one you posted a few days ago. G

  • Annelize Littlefair

    Love reading your account, keep it up Michelle, I am sure you and the girls will have a lovely time.

  • Rob Nell

    Eish! Hectic start Sparks! All the best girls, looking forward to more of the journey.

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