Category Archives: Backpacker Guides

A Backpacker’s Guide to Mzoli’s Meat in Cape Town

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

Imagine this.

You’re in a scant South African township in the far outskirts of Cape Town. You and a few of your friends go there to attend a braai (bbq) in the middle of the township. Only this braai isn’t your typical braai. There, you eat boxes and bowls full of deliciously grilled and sauced up meat with your bare hands while deep South African house and marimba music jam out in the background to mobs of vibrant dancing and celebrating. The libations and springbok shots are aplenty. The music is pumping. The meat is plentiful. And the guests there are a mix of locals and international tourists from all around the world, together under one large red tent simply having a good time.

It’s called Mzoli’s and it’s happening somewhere special in Cape Town. And after personally experiencing it on a handful of joccasions, I have outlined for you the best guide to experiencing this the proper Mzoli way.

What is Mzoli’s? 

Some pronounce it as em-zoh-leez, fewer as miz-oh-lies, but I, along with most other people pronounce it as miz-oh-leez. 

A man named Mzoli Ngcawuzele began the tradition more than a decade ago in the township of Gugulethu in Cape Town, South Africa. Basically, it’s a South African BBQ (braai), but turned up quite a few notches. Mzoli’s restaurant is all about the people, the rhythmic South African house music, the drinks, and most importantly the “Tshisa Nyama” (braai meat)! It has become so popular throughout the years that international tourists in addition to Capetonian locals began popping up year after year to be a part of this unique experience.

When To Go

First and foremost, plan on going only on a Sunday.That is the day when Mzoli’s is most alive. I went there on a Wednesday once and it was absolutely dead. Sunday is the day to attend, year round. It’s still very possible to go during the day during the week but then you’ll be missing out on the true experience.

Mzoli’s Butchery is open every day from 9am to 6pm. However, the tent stays open later.

I usually get there around noon in order to make sure I have a table ready for my friends and I before it becomes packed with guests. It’s first come, first serve here. I normally leave no later than 6pm. Since you are a tourist in the middle of a township, it’s the safest idea to leave before it gets dark.


Getting There

Getting to Mzoli’s is simple. It’s about a 30-minute drive from Cape Town.Simply take a taxi or better yet, an Uber. Taxi drivers are used to taking passenger’s there, as well as Ubers. When using the Uber app, Mzoli’s in Gugulethu pops up as a drop-off location on the map. I personally wouldn’t drive myself there. There isn’t anywhere suitable to park. Plus, it can be a tad dangerous leaving your car parked in the middle of a township.

Leaving Mzoli’s is another story. If you have data service, requesting an Uber is simple, but without service, you must simply find a taxi service. Taxis are usually located nearby the premises. Like I mentioned earlier, its best to leave the area well before it gets dark. Another option is to ask your previous taxi or Uber driver to pick you up from there at a certain time. You’d be surprised how willing they are to help.

Cost and Fees

The cost to enter Mzoli’s is 20 Rand (as of 2017).

You pay this fee in the meat shop directly next door to the main tent. The cashier will give you a receipt. Take this receipt to the security guy at the front of the tent entrance and he will stamp your hand for admittance. Now, you are free to come and go in and outside the tent as much as you please. Just show your stamp upon re-entry each time.

Mainly mixed drinks and shooters are served at the two small bars located inside the tent, but it is allowed to bring your own drinks from outside. There is a small bottle shop about three minutes walk just a block or two from the main tent. Ask someone nearby for easy directions (I also provides a map below), but know that they may want to escort you there and then ask for a tip at the end. It’s safe just to go on your own. Just mind your belongings.

I typically go to the bottle shop and buy a couple bottles of red along with packs of beer to save some money.

Now you need some ice to keep your beer or even your wine cold. Next door to the meat butchery is a convenience store. There you can buy bags of ice, along with other snacks and goodies if you wish. Ask for an extra bag to store your ice or even better yet, you can ask for a cardboard box from the aforementioned bottle shop. You may even see some locals on the corner selling cardboard boxes if you wish. It may be worth it in order to store your ice and booze comfortably.

I found the maps on Google pertaining to Mzoli’s to be a tad outdated, so I customized it to make it current:

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 4.53.34 PM.png

1= Actual location of Mzoli’s

2=Convenience store

3=Local bottle shop to pick up cheap booze in bulk. You cannot actually enter the store. Instead, tell the woman inside at the counter what you would like and she will fetch it for you.


Note: In between 1 and 2 is another small bar where you could pick up beer and wine which is just a touch more expensive.

Right outside of the Mzoli’s tent is a stand selling modified glass bottles customized into cool drinking chalices. There you can buy a glass for your wine. The prices start at R10 and go slightly up from there.

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

Ordering Your Meat

Sorry vegetarians, meat is the only thing served here and it takes about 40 minutes to an hour to grill, if not a little longer depending on how busy it is. I found it more enjoyable to wait a little into the day, maybe around 3pm before going inside the meat shop to order the meat. Try not to forget! Then in about an hour, go back into the kitchen with your ticket to retrieve your bowl of your delicious barbecued meat!

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

Take it back to your spot in the tent and chow down! No utensils are necessary. Eat with your hands!

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

You have a variety of meats to choose from: sausages, chicken, steaks, ribs, and lamb fillets. Just point, mix and match if you want, and the butchers will weigh everything on a scale for pricing.

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

Once you receive your container of raw meats and sauce…


…take it to the back of the kitchen and deliver it to the hard-working grill masters. They’ll keep your order separate from the rest and prepare it especially for you. Keep the ticket they give you.

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

If you’re really hungry, order a little more than you think because drinking and dancing all day in the tent works up an appetite and there is nowhere else around to get more food. Plus, grilling will shrink the meat a bit. I always managed to order just enough or not quite enough to satisfy my craving. If you order too much, then other patrons you meet will be happy to share. I’m not exact on how much you pay per kilo, but for a box full of meat, we paid R350 to split between four of us hungry dudes and it was the perfect amount.

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu

More Useful Advice

The area on the patio (the narrow section to the back not covered by the tent) is a great place to bunker down when the weather is nice. There is a small under-utilized bar and a few tables to stand, drink, eat, and mingle with other patrons. Mind the sneaky local kids who sometimes put their grabby hands through the uncovered holes in the gate.

mzoli's meat south africa cape town gugulethu


–Avoid the man with the drum. My last few visits, there was always a local man walking in the tent carrying a bongo-style drum. He would then go up to groups of patrons, introduce himself, and tell a story about how he helps the community and then urges you to beat his drums. Then at the very end, he drops the bomb and persistently asks for money. I would just politely say “no thanks” right from the beginning. He claims the money would be used for the community, but my gut tells me otherwise.

Mind your belongings. I’ve never felt to be in any danger while at Mzoli’s but pickpockets are a thing there. On one visit, my friend felt a hand reach into his pocket, grabbing his phone. It happened so quickly that he wasn’t able to catch the culprit. However, out of the several times I’ve been, that was the only incident that occurred within my group while I was there.

There is a restroom facility inside the main tent. Don’t expect much. It gets the job done.

–The woman who sold bottles of wine from her home on the corner of Mzoli’s a few years ago is gone. Sad.

Get there early and stay there all day! Mingle with the locals and the tourists alike and have a fantastic time being a part of such a cool South African experience you can only find in Cape Town.


Mzoli’s is always evolving, so if there is any information I should add on here or modify, please do let me know!

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Walking Across Spain (El Camino de Santiago): Week 4


Continued from previous post Walking Across Spain (El Camino de Santiago): Week 3

7 June

Day 22: Astorga to Rabal

Easy 24 k day today. Weather was perfect, although it was a bit chilly in the morning. Passed by a dude dressed in medieval garb who had a pet falcon that I had to take a picture with; the highlight of the day since the rest of it was pretty uneventful. It’s getting down to the wire. A little more than a week left. We have the highest point to climb tomorrow; higher than any point so far on this camino. Have I changed since the beginning of the camino? I’m not sure. I don’t think so. If anything, I’m not wowed by much. I have no desire to see the cathedrals or the towns like everyone else. You’ve seen one cathedral, you’ve seen them all.”

What I Honestly Think of The Camino So Far: Random Blurbs

  • The first week was great! I really enjoyed that.
  • This is becoming a chore now.
  • Too many gross, old people.
  • A rare sort of them are very cool though. (Toronto Ladies)
  • Why am I not getting physically wrecked like everyone else?
  • Earplugs are my new best friend.
  • I would never do this again.
  • The other pilgrims are very odd…or maybe it’s just me.
  • The old, run down villages are very interesting to me
  • I will remain sober until Santiago (to keep costs down).
  • The camino is fine…I just wish there was more variety of scenery
  • Lots of Americans and Italians here




8 June

Day 23: Rabanal to Colombrianos

Today was mostly a great day! We reached the highest point of the entire camino, whilst walking through the awesome scenery. And for the first time in days, the three of us (Jon, Ethan, me) stayed together…up until we reached our destination, Ponferrada. Ethan had his lost baggage shipped to a donativo on the outskirts of the big town. I was sure if I followed the seashells, it will lead me to an albergue in the city center (they usually do). Instead, they led me straight out of Ponferrada and a couple of kilometers out into Colombriana, a much smaller village. No turning back now. I stayed the night there and told the others that I would meet them tomorrow in Villafranca. My blister bubble was bigger than ever!”



9 June

Day 24: Colombrianos to Villafranca

I left around 6:10 with my bubble blister slightly paining. The walk today was easy, but I had a slight limp the last half of it. Still, I made it to Villafranca very early before Ethan and Jon arrived almost three hours later. Using Jon’s medical kit, I was able to pop the blister and seal it. Hopefully, it doesn’t cause me any more trouble, as I hear tomorrow is a lot tougher. Not sure why. There’s an old man who looks like Mick Jagger, but with ivory-white hair who always happens to be in my dorm. Problem is, he snores SO LOUD. Also, there is this guy from Texas who is super obnoxious and he’s stuck in our same dorm. He talks just for the sake of talking. My group decided to leave early the next morning. Should be our last hard day tomorrow. I must stick to a 25 euro per day budget to avoid going to the ATM again.”


Today, we met two other pilgrims in our albergue, Wyatt and Kyle, who would soon join our party, unbeknown to all of us. It just happened naturally.

10 June

Day 25: Villafranca to O Cebreiro

“Alright, today was on the more difficult side. I attribute that to the continuous inclines and the beating sun. We left around 5am up and down a mountain and along the side of a surprisingly peaceful highway. As usual, I was the first one to arrive at the destination. O Cebreiro is a cool community on top of a mountainous hill, so the efforts made today was worth the rewards. Our hostel was so-so, but it was the only hostel in town. Also, there is no wi-fi here, which may be a good thing. I’ve been keeping under my budget of 25 euro, even staying under 20 euros. No more hard days. Smooth sailing to the end. Also, my blister pain was absent today. Thank goodness or else it would have taken me forever to get up here.”



Yes, today was the first day that I actually absorbed my surroundings and chilled. It helped not to have any wifi and it also helped to be with fresh people, along with my usual crew.

More Random Thoughts

  • There is ice cream everywhere, but they’re always all the same.
  • The Francis Route is commercialized.
  • Red chairs in the distance are great for attracting weary travelers.
  • The beat down villages are cooler than the big towns IMO.
  • I recognize many people along the route, always saying hi, but I never know their names.
  • Northern Spain is super scenic. Most of it anyway.
  • The yellow arrows lead you in the right direction, but sometimes Google Maps takes you in a faster direction.
  • The one day I was without wi-fi, was the one day I just sat outside and enjoyed my surroundings (O Cebreiro).

11 June

Day 26: O Cebreiro to Triacastela

“Today was a great day. The weather was foggy, so we were never hot. We also joined groups with a few pilgrims we met a couple of days ago in Villafranca (Wyatt, Kyle, Zanny, and then Izzy). We got a nice albergue in Triacastela and enjoyed the relaxing day. Zanny made dinner for all of us at the albergue’s kitchen. Jonathan made plans to get an Airbnb for the seven of us at the end for Santiago. Might be a better option because then we will have no curfew and can celebrate freely. Sounds like a good idea.”

Current Party:

Me, Ethan, Jon, Wyatt, Kyle, Zanny, Izzy

12 June

Day 27: Triacastela to Sarria

“Today, another easy, yet foggy day. Our group of seven marched at their own pace as the sun came up to our early approach to Sarria. This town would be the starting point for many new pilgrims who start here to do the last 100 km of walking to Santiago. Sarria is a bigger town with plenty of amenities to pick up. The receptionist at out albergue suggested we reserve from now on. But a man who is on his fifth camino said that we should have no problems without reserving. I think we’ll just roll with it for now. It’s still relatively early in the season. I bought three bottles of vino tinto for 3 euros total and shared it with the others. Had a great night with shots supplied by the albergue, but I went to bed early.”





13 June

Day 28: Sarria to Portomarin

“I woke up a lil later because my earplugs work so darn well. I didn’t hear the others, sans Ethan, get up and leave. When I caught up with them, they thought I had planned to sleep in because normally I’m the first one up. It began to thunderstorm as we walked. I used my poncho for only the second time on this whole camino. We arrived easily to Portomarin and plopped into the coziest beds we’ve had thus far on this camino. There weren’t as many new pilgrims in sight, probably because we were still so early in the trek. The end is near and man am I looking forward to it. The others in our group, except for Ethan and Jon, don’t want it to end because they will have to go back home to real life. Me on the other-hand, I’m ready to be done because I have so many more countries to explore, new and old!”

14 June



Day 29: Portomarin to Palas de Rei

“Wyatt, Kyle, and I left early in the morning, with the others trickling in later on. We made it to our destination at eleven on the dot. Wyatt and Jon both suspect they have bed bugs, so proceeded to clean everything they have. I gave a passerby my walking stick earlier today. She needed it more than me and I was glad to get rid of it. I missed it for a few minutes, but I’m glad that my right hand is now free.”

15 June

Day 30: Palas de Rei to Arzua

“Today we meant to go to Rivadiso, but the albergues were full, so we went onwards about 2 km more to Arzua. It’s exciting knowing we only have two more days of walking! Frankly, I’m over getting up at 5:30 am every morning and walking miles upon miles. Another easy day checked off. We decided as a group that we really don’t care for the food on the camino. It’s all the same!  Boccadillos, pilgrim’s menu, salad, raciones. All day. Everyday. We are all looking forward to some other international cuisine! Almost done with this shit!”


16 June

Day 31: Arzua to O Podrouza

“Quite possibly, the easier day on the whole camino. Kyle, Jon, and I were ahead of the pack. I walked fast again and ended up splitting off the camino way, but I ended up taking a faster route along with a stray dog that followed me all the way to O Podrouza. Eventually, the others caught up, sans Zanny and Izzy, who went further ahead. We stayed in the IKEA of albergues. How am I feeling now? Great because this thing is over tomorrow! Spain’s great, but I’m over the crap food, the walking, and the commercialized camino. Bye Spain bye.”



17 June

Day 32: O Podrouza to Santiago!

I didn’t write anything this day.



I didn’t write anything that day. I think we were too busy celebrating and I was mentally checked out. From what I recall, it went something like this. We all went our own pace and one by one arrived in Santiago! We got our final stamps in our passport and received our Compostella, a certificate indicating that we successfully walked 799 km and completed our pilgrimage. We spent a couple more days in the city, reuniting with other pilgrims we came across along the way. It felt almost like a high school reunion and we all just graduated. One by one, I said my goodbyes to Jon, Wyatt, Kyle, Izzy, Zanny, a few of the other pilgrims including Christina and of course to Ethan as we all went our separate ways. Some were going back home, and like me, some were continuing their trip.

As I’m writing this, it’s already October. So I had plenty of time to reflect on my experience on the camino. And while typing up what I wrote in my journal, I realized “Wow, I’m complaining a lot about the camino”. But now that I had time to let it soak in, it really wasn’t all that bad and I’m glad that I did it. But would I do it again? Heck no!

Many pilgrims say that the camino changed their lives and changed them for the better. As for me, I wouldn’t say the camino changed my life, but I will say it helped me learn how to be a little more patient. Walking with Ethan almost every day helped me deal with that, as he and I have almost completely opposite personalities and opinions on life, but I learned about him more as the camino went on and I can say that I definitely ‘get’ him tons better than I did before the camino began. He has become a good friend of mine and we are already making plans for our next trek somewhere in South America in the future.

I do recommend the camino if anyone is remotely interested. It is a unique experience and I think if I came straight from home to Spain, and went straight home afterward, it would have been a bit more special for me. Don’t go with a group initially. Go alone or with maybe one other person and then meet all sorts of random personalities along the way.




On another note, if I seemed uninterested in seeing the sights like the cathedrals and the towns…well, it’s because I was. And it showed. The others thought I may have seemed bored but I will tell you, I’m over cathedrals and temples.  I’ve seen hundreds. Just like how the safaris I went on in Africa, completely ruined zoos for me. Traveling everywhere all the time kinda does that to you.

Rant over.

I flew back to England, back to Lucy, to chill there and retrieve the rest of my belongings. Plans have changed. I meant to continue backpacking through Europe, but instead, I decided to return back to Nepal for a little r & r.

Walking Across Spain (El Camino de Santiago): Week 3


Continued from previous post Walking Across Spain (El Camino de Santiago): Week 2


31 May

Day 15: Honturas to Frómista (32 km)

I left early again, not on purpose, but because Ethan decided to sleep in. The first half of the 30 km+ day was great. I felt as powerful as ever! Soon, I began to feel my blister coming in. Also, I didn’t eat anything for breakfast so I was struggling on the last 5 km to Fromista. Ethan arrived at the municipal about two hours later, and Jon about an hour after that. I took a majority of the day to rest in bed. I did not like the way I felt on the last part of the walk. We’re halfway there, body; just hold up a little longer, then you can relax back in Nepal for two months!”




I had to wear a buff over my face for part of the day because it was getting mighty buggy!

1 June

Day 16: Frómista to Carron (18 km)

Today I woke up and ate an apple and a donut for breakfast, which seemed to help this time. The back of my left leg was still a bit sore, but I was able to power through the 18 km day. The sun was relentless and I had sweat dripping down my back and out of my armpits. I’m gonna have to figure out how to deal with the heat tomorrow as it’s a 37 km day in the sun! I made a dinner from scratch: rice with caramelized onions and green peppers along with a cheesy chicken on top. I thought I did quite well. Gotta rest for tomorrows haul. It may be the hardest day yet!”






2 June

Day 17: Carron to Sahagun (37 km)

Today was long and hot! 37 km! I stuck my stick so that it was sticking up out of my bag and hung my rain jacket from it. It was like a canopy that protected me from the direct sunlight. I was also able to read an entire novel as the path was straightforward and without many hazards. My group of three also got split up. I made it to Saharan while Jon stayed in Terradillos (it was too hot for him) while Ethan stayed in a town (don’t remember the name) about 18 km back! He stayed behind for unknown reasons. No worries, we shall regroup once we get to Leon in a couple days. This may be good for Ethan to get a couple days on his own, actually.”

The novel I read was called A Girl On a Train, the only book in English I could find in the albergue’s. I read a couple chapters the day before and read the rest on this day, under my mobile canopy.






3 June

Day 18: Sahagun to Mansilla (35 km)

Today hurt like no other day. I was moving at a brisk pace when suddenly my left leg (which has been sore for the last few days) said “no more’’. I took a pause in Regioso to eat and rest up so I could finish the 35 km day. Only about 6 km to go! I had a renewed, God given, strength and regained a pep in my step as I quickly made it to the municipal in Mansilla. There, I reunited with two pilgrims I met yesterday, Jake and Dan, who arrived shortly after. I made us all a pasta dinner and then hit the hay. My body needs rest. Tomorrow I will have an easy 18km day and will meet up again with Ethan and Jon. After speaking to Dan, it’s my left Achilles that’s paining me. He taught me how to stretch it out. Hopefully, it will help.”

Today was the first day that I spent the night apart from everyone in my group. Weird at first, but a good change of pace for a moment. I’m sure the others could have used the separation as well.

4 June

Day 19: Mansilla to Léon (18 km)

Jake and I had an easy 18 km walk to the big city of Leon. There, I reunited with Ethan and Jon, and we went tapas crawling. Many pubs served tapas when you ordered a drink. Our albergue reminded me of a military war hospital. And it just so happened that the loudest snorers on Earth were in our room. The city of Leon itself was much better than Burgos, but it was still no Pamplona. At 9pm, our group went to the albergue’s monastery for a special pilgrims blessing. Most of the sermon was in Spanish, but the list of it was a blessing for us pilgrims for our continued perseverance and guidance for the rest of our walk.”

I’m not a very religious person by no means, but I felt that going to at least one blessing along this camino would be neat to experience.



5 June

Day 20: Léon to Hospital (24 km)

Jake and I walked 24 km to San Martin, our intended destination for the day, but instead went further to Hospital; an outstanding medical town that was much better than the previous cities. However, the walk today was the ugliest in the whole camino so far—industrial pretty much the whole way. Once I got to Hospital, I messaged Ethan and Jon letting them know that I went an extra town further. They persisted and joined me later on. I made a dinner for the five of us (Ethan, Jon, Jake, and other Dan), a special pasta with veggies, a creamy carbonara sauce and lots of grilled chicken breast. I think I may have outdone myself this time. The total day was about 30 km.”




6 June

Day 21: Hospital to Astorga (20 km)

I hate to admit this, but I’m ready to be done! They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, but I’m just about over walking and never plan on walking again. I shall invest in a Segway after this. Today’s walk was a short 14 km into a rather larger city: Astorga. Found a comfortable hostel near the cathedral and just planned on doing nothing all day. Just relax, Youtube, and nap. No matter how much the others wanted to ‘do something’’, Today was my day to do absolutely nothing. I had no desire to see the city. My only desire was to get to Santiago, get outta Spain and continue the rest of my trip to far more interesting endeavors (Nepal, Germany, Africa, etc). Had done kebob for dinner. Met twins from England.”






6 June

Astorga Thoughts

So. Everyone that told me they’ve done the camino before, told me it was one of the best decisions they’ve ever made. Mainly because of the people they’ve met along the way that has made their camino extra special. It’s day 21 and I gave up hope on meeting those special people. TBH, most of the pilgrims I’ve come across are rather odd or just too old with nothing in common with me. Besides a handful of gems, my small group, I haven’t really bonded well with the people here as I usually do on my other backpacking trips. It could just be bad luck or bad timing on my part. Or maybe because most of these pilgrims are first time travelers and I just can’t be bothered with their noobness. I’ve met amazing people during all my travels, but no one here really wowed me, save for those gems I mentioned. Also, waay too many old people who have no shame when it comes to walking around in their tighty-whities, farting, snorting, snoring, etc. I’ll reserve my final opinion until I actually reach Santiago. So far, it’s been mediocre.

Just being honest. Keeping an open mind.

One more camino post!

Walking Across Spain (El Camino de Santiago): Week 2


Continued from previous post…Walking Across Spain (El Camino de Santiago): Week 1


24 May

Day 8: Logroño to Najarre (30km)

My group, sans Ethan, left early at 5am to avoid the nasty afternoon heat. Our efforts paid off when we arrived at about noon to Najarre, being one of the earlier pilgrims of the day. Nic and Jon were so beat that they stayed @ the first albergue that was offered. At the price of fifteen euros, it was def a bit more expensive than most albergues. Speaking of…The others are not on a strict budget and are spending a lot more than necessary. I still have the rest of the world to see after this camino and have been under more control with my spending habits. It’s difficult when your teammates splurge constantly. I may have to disband from them soon so that I stay within my budget. The other pilgrims outside of my group are using the 30 Euros per day method that I am. For now, I’ll continue waiting. Nic’s knees and feet were paining him.”






I realize now that 15 euros seems small, but on the camino, it’s considered expensive when most albergue’s range from free (donativos) to ten euros. However, it was the most comfortable albergue we stayed in thus far.


25 May

Day 9: Najarre to Santo Domingo (21km)

A good chunk of pilgrims that left St. Jean when we did are doing a double day today, which means we most likely won’t see them again. Jon and I walked to Santo while Nic took the bus to give his leg a rest. We were quite speedy and rejoined Ethan and Nic who were waiting outside of our albergue. They both seemed to be a bit better physically. I’ve developed a short routine when arriving to our destination. As soon as I get a bed, I shower, do laundry, and take a siesta. I like to call it, SLS. I’ve done it everyday since Roncevalles. The siestas are absolutely necessary for my body to recover after hours of walking. As great as this is, the scenery is starting to become redundant. Crops, pavement hugging the highways, and more crops. It’s still beautiful nonetheless.”

camino de santiago adventure born



Today, was the first and only time Ethan and I had an argument. Basically, there were one too many cooks in the kitchen and when that happens, fire ensues! But we both settled down over some more cheap Spanish wine, later that same evening. The wine in Spain works wonders!

26 May

Day 10: Santo Domingo to Belorado (23km)

I left at 5am alone from the others. The reason being to avoid the hot sun, jam out to my music and also to listen and recite Spanish lessons on the way. My Spanish is far from perfect, but it has come in handy as of recent. Leaving before dawn meant less traffic and witnessing blazing orange sunrises. I also saw some deer and brown foxes in the fields. I arrived in Belorado way early, around 9:30am. Albergues don’t open until 12:30! Eventually, the others arrived and we had non-alcoholic drinks at a cafe in the empty plaza center. In our albergue, I made dinner for us which proves to be the most cost-effective way of eating. Pasta with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and an array of oils and seasoning, also a spill of red wine for extra flavor. I’m not a cook by any means and I’m enjoying experimenting while walking the camino.”



That “spill of red wine” wasn’t my idea. An elderly pilgrim took it upon herself to monitor and critique my cooking skills (or lack thereof) and added her own red wine to my pasta dish for extra flavor without telling me first; I was annoyed, yet pleased at the same time.

27 May

Day 11: Belorado to Atapuerca

Today was a bit of a doozy. On our way to our intended destination of San Juan, I realized that most people were walked to Ages, the next town after San Juan and for good reason—San Juan was a shitty town. I persuaded the others to continue walking, but they needed a break to take lunch. I was still full of momentum, so I walked ahead to Ages to secure an albergue. An hour after the others arrived, I informed them that only donatives were left, which they decided against. The next town, Atapuerca, was 2 km away and had beds. And so we walked some more and finally secured beds. On the bright side, our walk to Burgos tomorrow will be a few km shorter. Today is also Nic’s last day of walking with us. He only planned for two weeks and will travel to Madrid tomorrow before his flight back to Germany. He will be missed. We are a tad more than a third of the way done with this camino! Lots more to go.”



Today was Nic’s last day hiking with us before he set off to Burgos in the morning to catch a flight to Madrid. He was always in a cheery mood and was missed. He plans on continuing where he left off someday in the near future.

28 May

Day 12: Atapuerca to Burgos (20km)

I left early again without the others, not because I wanted solitude, but because of yesterdays affairs. We had to walk to two extra towns to find a bed because they were all full. The walk was easy, but also one of the ugliest days yet—around an airport and on the outskirts of the big city of Burgos. At the municipal, I wasn’t able to reserve a bed for Ethan, so he would have to fend for himself. Jon got a hotel room for himself, somewhere in the city. We initially proposed that we would have our rest day here in Burgos, but I had doubts. Burgos is a large city with everything one may need, but I wasn’t “feeling it”. Nor did I want to rest here. Ethan was adamant about staying. I told him if he finds me missing from my bed when he wakes up, then I have left, but I will wait for him in the next town/village. I haven’t made up my mind as of yet. Deep down, I knew I’d most likely stay, for the sole purpose of not leaving the others behind.”







There was nothing inherently wrong with Burgos, it’s just that big cities aren’t usually my thing.

29 May

Day 13: Burgos to Tabajo (9km)

I woke up ready to walk, not wanting to rest in this big city. Ethan was full-on ready to stay, but I was able to persuade him to walk about 9 km, just to the next town, to shave off some kms from tomorrows haul. He agreed and we went on a slow pace. There was no rush. Italy joined us and we settled into a nice albergue in the small, quiet town of Tabajo. We chilled out for the rest of the day which was needed. It so happened to be Memorial’s Day. Ethan and I chilled with plenty of cheap wine and shandy at our albergue and did what we said we’d do: RELAX! It was great and strengthened my focus for the coming day’s walk. We drank a lot of wine today.”



Wine really does fix anything. 🙂

30 May

Day 14: Tabajo to Honturas (18km)

We set off early, at 5:45am, to Honturas. We went at a slow pace through one of the most peaceful walks thus far. Plains and hills as far as the eye could see. Ethan began paining again and slopped on more ibuprofen gel. Hopefully, these temporary fixes won’t come back to bite him in the ass in the long run. We arrived in a neat village called Honturas, which popped out of nowhere. Italy arrived 40 mins later. She left at 7:30am. Man we’re so slow! We reunited with Jon soon. Also Christina popped up. We had a community paella dinner @ 7pm which was donative, but regarded as the best paella on the camino. I’m not sure  if it was the best, but it was pretty good…once I took out the prawns.









The paella meal was donation only and boy did that family work for it. The father of the family took it upon himself to sing to all of his guests after dinner was over. Ethan and I had the same mindset; wanting to get the heck outta there and go to bed!

Week 2 done. Onto the next one…

Walking Across Spain (El Camino de Santiago): Week 1


Why the hell would anyone in their rightful mind want to walk across an entire country?!

Some are doing it for spiritual reasons, some for religious reasons, some just to get away from real life for a moment. As for people like me? I’m doing it solely for the challenge.

It’s called El Camino de Santiago — an 800 kilometer walk from the France/Spain border to nearly the Atlantic coast.

I’ve planned to do this walk since a little over a year ago. A friend from Manchester told me about it—said it was one of the most amazing experiences of her life. It immediately piqued my interest. I’ve never heard of it before and it sounded truly fascinating. Walking 800 kilometers from the France/Spain border to Santiago, a city in Spain, near the Atlantic Coast. I’ve never attempted anything quite like this before. A perfect addition to my quest to the seven continents.

During my quest, I thought very little of the camino. It was still far off and it wasn’t until just a few days before, when I did my research about what to pack.

Things that were recommended to bring, I didn’t have:

  • a sleeping bag
    a few small odds and ends

Things that I did have that I brought:

  • three t-shirts
    a light rain jacket
    a poncho
    trekking shoes
    a pair of cargo shorts
    two pairs of synthetic pants (they can unzip and become shorts if necessary)
    two pairs of synthetic/wool socks
    one pair of regular cotton socks
    four pairs of underwear
    a buff
    light travel towel
    my iPhone
    my Canon DSLR

Everything besides the trekking shoes and the electronics were lightweight. My camera was the heaviest.

Thankfully, my darling Lucy had all of that and then-some that she happily lent to me. I left the majority of my belongings with her in England for the time being. Suddenly, my 85-liter backpack weighed about a tenth of my weight; just like the guides recommended. I was now officially a pilgrim! A pilgrim is what us trekkers are referred to during the camino.

But first…

I had to meet a friend and fellow pilgrim in Paris. I went overland through England, across an overnight ferry to France, and trained it to Paris. I settled into a hostel and met my friend Ethan there the next day, who has just flown all the way from North Carolina. I met Ethan last September while volunteering in Fiji. He volunteered with the construction program and we were roommates for the majority of my stay.

Upon first glance, I would describe Ethan as your typical frat guy (he hates when I say that, but that’s the most generic description I could give). He was the dude bro in Fiji that always enjoyed a beer, wanted to party, and more importantly, wanted everyone to party with him. Not a bad person to have in the house. Still, I was nervous having him around for the camino. He and I would be together, 24/7 for about a month! We are bound to butt heads, if not anything worse. Not to mention, we still don’t know each other very well. I was only in Fiji with him for a little over a month. I was set on doing this alone, but when I mentioned I was doing the camino later in the spring, his eyes lit up. Besides, it wouldn’t hurt to have a companion.

My new underlying mission alongside this 800 km walk across an entire country:
Don’t Kill Ethan.

We casually walked around Paris before we went for our bus that would be overnighting to Bayonne, in the south of France. At the bus, we randomly met Christina, a girl from Texas. By the way Ethan and I were dressed and geared up, she could tell that we were pilgrims on our way to Spain. Thus, the three of us decided to stick together for a while. Once we arrived in Bayonne, we went to the train station and booked a journey to St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, the official starting point of El Camino de Santiago!

We, along with a crap ton of other pilgrims, went to the pilgrim office to receive our special pilgrim passport. With this passport, we would gain access to the many albergues scattered across the entire camino. An albergue is essentially a hostel, but exclusive only to pilgrims. At each albergue, we would get a unique stamp in our passport, as proof that we actually walked the distance.


I also bought a small journal to keep tabs of my daily observations that I will share with you all here — unedited and from the heart, each followed by my after-thoughts of each day.

17 May
Day 1: St. Jean-Pied-de-Port to Roncevalles (25km)

“Supposedly the hardest day of the hike, because of the ascent (1,400m). Our group of three expanded into six with the addition of Jon (California), Nicolas (Frankfurt), and a girl from Italy (not sure of her name). The day was super scenic, extremely windy, and cool. I felt bad for Christina and carried her heavy bag up most of the way. We arrived before 3pm. Good Day!”











Yeah, Christina over-packed and so we switched bags for the day. Good exercise. The Pyrenees were stunning. It was extremely breezy, but it helped keep us cool. I heard that this day was one of the hardest days, but I found it to be more enjoyable than anything. I loved that day!

18 May
Day 2: Roncevalles to Zubiri (20km)

“Cold, wet, and gloomy day. Beginning to realize it’s cheaper to get our breakfast and dinners outside the albergue’s, but sometimes we have no choice. Wore my poncho most of the day.”


Complete opposite of the day before. It was coooold. We were soaked by the time we reached our destination.

19 May
Day 3: Zubiri to Pamplona (22km)

“Our group of six enjoyed a nice, cool day towards Pamplona. Ethan began to get feet full of blisters, which slowed us down a bit. It’s only day 3 and his feet are already hit! Nic bandaged him up. Our group couldn’t decide whether to stay an extra night in Pamplona. I’m hoping we don’t. We shall see.”








Pamplona was one of the larger cities during our camino and a pretty extravagant one at that. I didn’t know that this area was famous for the Running of the Bull tradition they hold every year. We had lots of cheap red wine this night.

20 May
Day 4: Pamplona to Puente de Reina (24km)

“Socks didn’t completely dry overnight, so I stayed back while the others went on. Eventually caught up and pressed on. Beginning to realize that I am spending too much. One, because when I’m hungry, I buy lots of food. Two, Ethan always wants to drink and I always give in. Italy quietly left our group. Jon began to blister up. I have been fine thus far, so I hope it remains. Warm, sunny day through cornfields, small villages, and rocky slopes.”





I washed and hung my clothes to dry the day before, but my wool socks didn’t completely dry overnight. It’s not wise to do long treks in wet socks so I had to improvise; I hung my socks over a toaster oven. It did the trick! I managed to catch up with the others who stopped along the way to wait.

21 May
Day 5: Puente de Reina to Estella (22km)

“My team is starting to physically break down. Ethan’s knees, Christina’s limp, Jon’s feet, and Nic’s illness. Fortunately, I am still completely able, but it’s only the fifth day. Since my pace is naturally a bit quick, I went ahead of the group and reached Estella two hours before they did. I enjoyed walking alone for a change, chatting with other pilgrims along the way. Tomorrow, I will try and walk slower with the others. Hopefully, their conditions don’t worsen. I made the day cheap for us by booking a cheap albergue and cooking dinner.”




I was already growing tired of having bocadillos (sandwiches) all the time so I took it upon myself to make dinner for the group. Saved money and it’s also great practice for me since I’m no cook. Most albergues have kitchens in them for pilgrims to cook their own food in.

22 May
Day 6: Estella to Torres del Rio (30km)

“Instead of stopping in our planned destination of Los Arcos, we (and many other pilgrims on our route) decided to press on further to Torres del Rio. We heard it was a cheaper, better city…but it really wasn’t. The day started off cool. We saw the public wine fountain and then walked through a cloudless heat. By far the hottest day yet! I stayed with the group most of the way, but walked faster once it grew hotter. Ethan’s knees have gotten worse and is unsure how he’ll perform tomorrow. We suggested that he sends his bags to the next town, to ease the load on his legs. We shall see. Christina quietly fell behind in our group. As of now, it remains just us four guys. However, if injuries persist, then I may be walking alone. So far I am in great shape!”



I didn’t anticipate the albergues to be able to accommodate so many people! Thank goodness for the ear plugs Lucy gave me. They have worked wonders. The best item I brought with me. But if you forget anything, you can buy your necessities in virtually every big town you come across.


23 May
Day 7: Torres del Rio to Logroño (20km)

“Ethan’s knee pain was too unbearable and so he decided to take a taxi to Logroño, while Jon, Nic, and I would continue our walk. An easy 20k day. Once we reached Logroño, Jon opted to stay in a 75 Euro hotel! Nic and I met Ethan at an albergue nearby. His knee wasn’t really getting better, so he decided to rest another day and he will meet us in Santo Domingo via bus in a few days. I’ve been in great shape since the beginning and felt stronger than ever! No blisters, no aches, no pains, or anything. I hope it keeps up! It’s only been a week. Something is bound to happen.”


The distances indicated for each day are close estimates. If you ask any pilgrim, they will all tell you different answers, but usually they are always around the same ballpark.

Week 1 done. If we continue on this pace, we should reach Santiago in about three more weeks!