Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday in Santiago- Finisterre

It´s rainy ( again) dismal, and dark at 8:30am. I´m looking over the map of Santiago and notice the bus station. Tour buses don´t run to Finisterre on Saturday, but maybe the regular bus does. I check with the concierge, and sure enough, they do ( much cheaper too). I grab my camera, water bottle, leftover pizza from last night and catch a city bus out to the bus staion. By 10am. I´m on my way to Finisterre.

I meet Maria (Austria) on the bus, and we grab some tea and then I follow her to the Ligthouse at Finisterre. We are together only a short time, her foot is slow. I walk on ahead of her in the fog, wind and spitting rain.

A car slows just to tell me I´m heading in the right direction. Some others are returning from the lighthouse and tell me I´m only 10 minutes away. Another car slows down, window rolled down, it´s Ron (Florida). He´s looking for the lighthouse too. I get in his rental car (out of the rain) and we find the lighthouse just a few minutes down the road.

It´s a bit disappointing, it´s so foggy you can´t even see the ocean. We go inside and look at pictures and get an idea of how beautiful the spot is in clear weather.

Ron is heading up the coast a bit further (to Muxia) so I go along with him. This is supposed to be where St. James landed by boat. We stop in for soup at a cafe, but never find exactly what he was looking for. We had a great talk on the way back to Santiago about what the Camino meant to us, he also shares a little more with me about his son who died in May. I was glad to meet up with him again. He dropped me back at my hotel about the same time the bus would have been leaving Finisterre- now I have time to hook back up with Sally and Katie, maybe for dinner tonight. Just when I thought my Camino was over, another experience. It turned out being a pleasant day, even with all the rain and fog.

I catch my train to Madrid tomorrow- looking forward to being home...


Friday, October 23, 2009

Thursday in Santiago

The finality of my pilgrimage begins to hit as I check into my hotel room and slip the key card into to door, click... the door closing on my journey. And yet, I feel it doesn´t have to be the end, but only the beginning. The beginning of stepping out of the box (more often), taking a leap of faith, doing something out of the ordinary. When one door closes, another opens.

Many people, once they reach Santiago, go on to Finisterre. In medieval times, it was considered the end of the world. Written on a rock, at Finisterre, you will find these words; ¨I will go beyond what dreams can reveal´.¨ Imagine, going even beyond your dreams!

I hope you have had a glimpse of what I have seen and experienced. Thank you for following along, looking forward to seeing you all.

btw, one advantage of all this weight bearing exercise is that I have probably put off any signs of osteoporosis for at least another 20 years!

See you soon...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Monte del Gozo to Santiago de Compostela

A quick correction on the Albergue ( compound) it is actually much bigger than I thought. 22 buildings each housing at least 150 pilgrims. It isn´t anywhere near full,I think only two building are full of pilgrims right now.

I´m happy to be packing my sleeping bag for the last time this morning.. a hotel for the last few days is on the horizon for me!

Everyone in my room is up very early today, so I am too. I leave much earlier than expected (7:30) and stop at a cafe for breakfast.

It isn´t long before I am walking over a bridge with speeding highway traffic below. I think this is a subtle reminder for me to not get caught up in the craziness of life when I return home, but to live in the moment of each day, every day.

The approach to Santiago is a little disappointing, so many buildings that you really can´t get a panoramic view of the cathedral. I´m here, at the end, but not quite sure if I´m really in the right place. I walk around a little, trying to figure out where to go to get my offical certificate ( written in Latin). I find two pilgrims who speak English and they point me in the right direction.

Two women begin following me, I sense they are not pilgrims, yet they also want to go to the credentialing office. As we climb the steps they tell me they are journalists, doing a story on the Camino. Now, I must backtrack a little to last night when I checked into the Albergue... Manuel checks me in and sees I am from the United States, and tells me that some Journalists, from Chicago just interviewed him for a story and went on to Santiago. They are looking for more Americans to interview ( there are very few on the Camino) He gives me the woman´s name and tells me where she is staying. I laugh to myself, even if I wanted to find them in Santiago, there is no way that I ever would.

So, as serendipity would have it, the two women who follow me into the office are part of the same group who interviewed Manuel. When they find out that I am American, AND from Champaign, they are thrilled. They follow me in to get my papers, take my picture, get my email and will be in touch. One of the women used to work for the Chicago tribune. She said she isn´t sure yet where the story will end up. I still can´t believe our paths crossed!

The pilgrim´s mass was packed, I´m guessing 1000 people, maybe. It was nice to see so many people I had met along the way, and disappointing to not see others ( I haven´t seen Sally or Katie yet). I think I´ll go each day (at noon) to see if any of the people I have met, come in the next few days while I am here.

This is getting long today, and so much more to say. I think I´ll save some posting for tomorrow.

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Arca to Monte del Gozo

It starts raining at 5am and continues until about 7. I don´t mind, I´m under a nice warm blanket! It´s cloudy, but not raining after I have tea and start out on the path. It´s a quiet and cloudy morning and there are pilgims within sight in front and behind me all morning.

I manage to get only a few sprinkles of rain, and duck into a bar just as the rain picks up. By the time I finish with lunch, the sun is trying to peek out from under the clouds.

I make it to the Albergue in de Gozo just as it begins to rain again. I´m now only 4.5km from Santiago. The Albergue is set up in the style of barracks and seem to be pretty clean. There are several buildings able to house 300 or more.

As promised: Why people walk the Camino.

First, I´ll list the reasons I have heard so far.
(assume you see quotation marks, I can´t get it to work on this Spanish keyboard)

-I felt compelled
-I´m recently single and want to move to another state, walking to figure out where
-I just quit my job, what do I want to do now ( I heard this on more than one occasion)
-I just turned 50, my kids are all out of the house, what am I going to do with the next portion of my life
-For solitude
-Respite from spouse who has been ill for four years
-To come to terms with my past
-Life is too busy, it´s giving me time to slow down and think
-I just retired and want to do something else, walking to figure it out

I was sitting on the church steps in Portomarin when I had this conversation with a gentleman from Florida:
-I just lost my son (one of two) 5 months ago, I´m walking for him, lighting 100 candles in churches along the way.
This last one really stuck with me, I was celebrating my son´s wedding 5 months ago and gained a daughter, and this man lost his son. My heart went out to him. I can´t imagine what his walking must be like.

Some people, I think, know exactly why they are walking the Camino. Others feel compelled to do it, not fully understanding the reasons, but it becomes clear (or clearer) as they walk. And then, I think there are those who walk, and after they have completed their journey, the reasons start to emerge, maybe a week, months, or even years later.

So, those are just a few reasons people come to Spain for this journey.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ribadiso to Pedrouzo/Arca

The reasons for doing the Camino do not come up with everyone, but a lot of people ask each other. It´s very interesting to hear their reasons... Maybe tomorrow I´ll post about it.

last night was very cold-no heat in the Albergue. I curl up as tight as I can in my sleeping bag with my fleece jacket on top. Every time I move the warmth leaves me. So, I try to be still, it is a very long night.

It starts raining about midnight and continues on till about 7 this morning. There´s just barely a drizzle when I leave the Albergue at 8am, but I still cover up with rain jacket, pants and put my backpack cover on.

Light rain off and on all day, which isn´t too noticeable since I´m walking in a wooded area most of the morning. Then the rain picks up-while I´m out in the open, and we have a really good down pour. I finally find a sizeable tree to hide under during the heaviest part of the rain, then it´s back on the path.

I stop in at a bar for tea and something to eat, and while I´m eating the sun comes out (for the remainder of my walk).

Once again, I go farther than planned. 3.5km before my actual stopping point there is a sign for an Albergue. The path to it, is a tunnel which is covered in mud and water, so I must go on to Arca. The Albergue is very well equipped, my clothes are in the washing machine right now. There is also a nice warm blanket on my bunk- I´m looking forward to a warm night´s sleep!

I´m only 21km from Santiago, but I´m not planning on arriving until Thurdsay.

Until next time...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Palas de Rei to Ribadiso

I rested all afternoon yesterday and evening so my ankle/tendon feels fine today.

I walk out of the city with Carlos (Germany). We walk about 30 minutes together and he wants to take it slow today, so I walk on ahead of him, not going much faster.

I heard Marriane and Annaliegh (South Africa) talking this morning about transporting their packs on ahead, and walking without them. It sounded tempting, but somehow, I felt it would be cheating (for me). I´ve walked this far with my pack, I might as well finish the last 3-4 days with it as well.

I stop in Melide at a local supermarket (pasta sauce) and pharmacy (more ibuprofen, just in case). I also stop in at an internet cafe, that is for pilgrims (the first like it that I´ve seen) to check the weather for the next few days. Unfortunately, none of the small villages are recognized by , oh well.

I get to Ribadiso about 3pm, and stay at an Albergue that is located in a scenic spot by the river ( A converted pilgrim hospital). The walls are made of stone, the showers open air, which makes it a little breezy now that the wind has picked up. It´s definately going to rain. I was planning to make pasta tonight, but the kitchen looks ancient. It may be dinner at the bar, just steps away from the Albergue.

When I was reading on-line, preparing for this trip,it was mentioned several times that a walking stick was a good idea, for stability, but also for keeping dogs at a distance. Interestingly enough, I´ve passed numerous dogs, most German Shepherds, and haven´t felt threatened by any of them. I think it´s the cows you have to worry about!

23km today, I didn´t plan on walking that many (again). Tomorrow, though, 10 or less.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Portomarin to Palas de Rei

The river at Portomarin is very interesting. Someone told me it covers ruins of an ancient city. I could see some of the ruins as I crossed the bridge, but didn´t know at the time what I was looking at.

How do I feel about the last 100km? My body is saying ÿippie¨, my soul is saying; ¨what an incredible journey, I will be sad to see it end¨. I get tired from walking, but I never tire of walking. It´s not that I won´t be excited to see my family and friends, it´s ... kind of hard to explain. Every person I have talked to, who has been on their last day, has had tears in their eyes, emotional, that their pilgrimage is soon to be over. Hard to understand maybe, if you haven´t experienced it. (More in another post about why people walk the Camino)

Sunday: It´s foggy. I don my rain jacket and cover my pack with a rain cover, just in case. The air is filled with moisture and there isn´t much scenery visible, due to the fog. My hair is wet with dew just like the plants I´m passing along the way. With my green pack cover, I look like a walking plant!

After 2 hours of walking, I think the fog begins to clear. Actually, I´ve climbed in elevation and walked out of the fog.

I was so rattled by the cows yesterday, I forgot to write about the most enjoyable part of the day. I was walking along a path lined on both sides with a stone wall and greenery. The path was shaded by a canopy of trees. It sounded like I was walking through a bird sanctuary, and they were putting on a private concert just for me. (no ipod needed!)

I´m feeling great as I walk today, until I reach 17km. I plan to stop at the next town 3.5km away, however, the Albergue was closed for the season. I must walk on 4km more to Palas de Rei. I pass Marriana and Annaleigh (only because they are sitting down) they notice that I´m walking very slowly, obviously in pain. We meet at the Albergue and end up being in the same room. They take great care of me with icy-hot, codeine, and ibuprofen. They even put in my laundry with their own. ( Ït´s like having your mother take care of you!) What a wonderful help! It´s probably tendonitis, ibuprofen should take care of it.

More thoughts on burdens/packs:
I was laughing to myself today when I thought about what I must have looked like (when I fell) lying on my back unable to move. Much like a turtle that has been flipped on it´s back. You can picture that, right? It didn´t even occur to me, at the time, that I could just undo my pack, leave it on the ground, and get up! No, I had to keep it strapped on. It also occured to me that when we carry burdens, it´s so much more likely that we will fall ( and fall hard) when we stumble. If I hadn´t had my pack on my back the other day, my guess is, I would have stumbled, but not fallen to the ground. Just food for thought.

I´d like to take it easy tomorrow (for my ankle), but they´re calling for rain tues-thurs. So, I´m tempted to cover as much ground as possible before the rain hits. We´ll see....

Until next time...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sarria to Portomarin - and cows

First, an answer to a question: All the hikers here are pilgrims. They have different starting points ( france, Switzerland, most here in Spain), but all are making the pilgrimage.

I don´t always know where I´ll be the next day... I´m planning on about 17km tomorrow. I don´t have my book with me right now, so I´m not sure where that puts me.

Another cool morning with dew on the ground. I follow two men from Italy, I find out down the road a ways that they´re names are Roberto and Hermano. We take turns passing each other all day. We all stop at the same bar/cafe for tea (they have coffee). I get back on the path before they do, but immediately see the effects of the caffiene they have just consumed as they speed by me.

I catch up to them again as they have stopped to eat some apples from a nearby tree.
As we walk together, Roberto tells me that the 100km marker is about 2km ahead and we can take pictures there. I was expecting a grand marker, and walked right by it. Roberto calls me back and we take pictures. Wow, only 100km to go!

I walk on and feel it´s about time for lunch, knowing again that the right spot will be ahead. Sure enough, a stone chair is waiting for me underneath an acorn tree with a view of the hill I have just descended. Seven pilgrims pass me as I eat my lunch (not that I´m counting!)

Cows: Thursday,(my very long day) on two separate occassions, I met farmers herding their cattle up a hill. I´ve never realized how beautiful cows are. Many here, are a beautiful golden brown color and they have the biggest, most gentle looking eyes.

The first encounter was uneventful. I had plenty of room to step aside and let them pass. ( I know who has the right-of-way between me and a cow!) The second encounter was on a very narrow path. I got over as far as I could as the cows were coming up single file. No problem... until one cow decides to get in a hurry and make it a two-lane path. ( I know what you´re thinking; the cows name must have been Terri. I was thinking more along the lines of Alexis!):) We´ll call her Terri Alexis Cow. So, Terri Alexis is coming right at me, horns and all. I have no where to go, I´m up against a rock and dirt wall and her horns are headed straight for my mid-section.
I reach out and guide her horn away from me. I´m so glad she didn´t mind the gentle nudge.

So, as I´m walking today, and thinking about posting this encounter with cows , I look up and what´s coming down the road? More cows! I´m thinking, NOT AGAIN! This time, however, I´m on a paved road wide enough for a car, no sweat. There are several of them, and they are taking the entire road so I just simply move over to the edge, step up slightly and grab a post wrapped with barb wire. I´m thinking, this is so much better... until Terri Alexis sees me.... and starts coming towards me. She has the entire road, but comes at me. She doesn´t just pass by, but slows down and turns her head (with horns) towards me. I´m not sure what to do at this point, which is when Roberto comes to my rescue. He has come up behind me and stands between me and the cow. He hits his walking stick on the ground and she moves on. Meanwhile, Hermano is walking right down the middle of the road, between all the cows. Not something I will try!

I don´t know what the fascination is between cows and me, but I´v had enough encounters with them!

Until next time...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Triacestela to Sarria

I have a book that counts down the km for me and tells me how many km between each city/village.

Last night I made pasta for me and Terri (Australia), I´m exhausted and go to bed as soon as we finish dinner (9pm).

We have no deadline for being out of the Albergue today so I get up a little later and leave about 8:40. My feet are feeling pretty good-actually the rest of my body is too.. until we hit the first inclines. My legs are completely spent from yesterday´s climbing. I move at a snail´s pace!

Often, you have a choice (I´d rather not have one) as to which path you want to take. Usually, only 2 choices, you don´t make your own way through Spain- at least not until today! I missed a marker somewhere along the way and came to a T in the road. To the right, was Sarria, where I eventually need to be. I go right. It´s a nice road, quiet, fairly level, but no way markers and not a single person in sight. I decide that the road leads to Sarria and there´s no way that I am back tracking.

I wave down a car and ask if this is the Camino. I decipher his Spanish, and decide that if I stay on the road, I will end up where I need to be. About 3km later, someone emerges from the woods ( a pilgrim), crosses the road to a path. Perfect! I´m in the right place, and I think my way was much easier on my feet and knees. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, even though it was accidental.

I guess you could say I (inadvertantly) took the ¨road less traveled¨.

A new feeling today, probably from pushing the limits yesterday, I took off my pack and literally, felt like I was floating. No kidding!

I didn´t plan on walking all the way to Sarria today and I promise myself that I will make tomorrow a shorter day.

Until next time...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vega de valcarce to Triacestelo- 33km( OUCH)

I have newfound energy after a great nights rest in my own bed, no sounds all night ( not the slightest hint of snoring). I feel that I could wakk forever today. Cold again, but I warm up quickly as I start walking.

Today, as I put on my pack, I start thinking about all the weight I am carrying. It´s much heavier than when I started. I´ve add a few essentials, like food and hair conditioner. I carry this pack ( burden) every day, and it´s to the point that I don´t notice it that much. Sure, sometimes it gets uncomfortable, or I get numb across my hip, but then I just adjust it and it feels okay again. Almost like another appendage that belongs on my body. I´ve even added some foam sponges to the front to make it more comfortable.

In life, too, we carry burdens, baggage ( whatever you want to call it). We get used to it, think we can´t put it down, even make adjustments to make it more comfortable. Pretty crazy when you think about it!

In all actuality, I could do this trip with only my passport, money and clothes on my back. I´m sure I´d clear out a few Albergues-they might smell me coming... but it could be done.
And so, life, can be done without the burdens ( from the past or the ones we accumulate on a daily basis). It´s just figuring out how to put them down, and not pick them back up again. You may think you don´t have any of those burdens, maybe you´ve just gotten used to carrying them, and you don´t notice anymore.

Wow! lots of climbing today, the inclines never stop and I don´t want to, for fear of losing my momentum.
I get to the top , pass a stream and see a shirt, jacket and pants on a rock drying in the sun. No one in sight, not even a pack. He must be in the bushes, waiting for his clothes to dry watching me pass by.

More and more climbing... I hear panting ( lamaz breathing) coming up behind me on this never-ending hill. I´m not sure if someone is climbing or having a baby! He finally passes me- I guess lamaze (sp?) isn´t just for birthing anymore!

Sorry for the long post, but it was a 33km day! I really didn´t plan it that way, thought it was more like 28. Those who know me, know that math is not my strong point!

I could keep going, but won´´t, I´m absolutely beat. That will be my last 33km day!

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Casebelos to Vega de Valcarce

First, an answer to Georgeann´s question. I am not carring a laptop. Most Albergues have internet access. 20-30 min for 1 euro. Today, however, I am staying in a private place with my own room! I´m at an information center- using the internet for free! Typical Spain though, the sign said open at 4pm. Someone came to let me in to the computer room at 4:50. ( after he was called here by the janitor)

Last night was very cold, the room had no heat. Finally at 1a.m., I gave in and grabbed the blanket provided by the albergue to use as a second covering. Hopefully it is free of bedbugs! Several people have already been introduced to them. So far, I have not, and want to keep it that way!

It´s another cold morning and I leave my fleece on till afternoon. I actually prefer the cold to heat. The walk begins with several steep climbs up rocky dirt roads. At one point, I think I´ll never get to the top of the hill, especially when I set my sights there. So, I look down at the road and just take one step at a time and I finally reach the top. I actually prefer the ascents to the descents, it´s easier on my feet.

After the city of Villa Franca, I start walking up and through the mountain pass. It´s amazing to see the mountains around you, and know that after a while you will have walked through and over them. The mountains go straight up on both sides, I feel very small and insignificant. It´s very quiet, with a stream to my left most of the day, that I can hear, but not always see.

I have chosen the slightly higer mountain route today. It´s a beautiful and quiet walk, but slightly longer and more strenuous- I still enjoy it.

I walk with no particular destination in mind today, just until I decide to stop. I´m not sure where Sally and Katie end up today. I end up walking 26.5 km, I don´t think they have gone that far. I decide to stay in a place with a private room. My own bed and shower across the hall- complete with toilet paper! I can even sit up on my bed without hitting my head on a bunk above me. Simple pleasures!

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Moleneseca to Casabelos

It´s dark this morning, moon shining brightly, as we leave the Albergue (7:50). It´s cold outside too, the first day I need to wear my gloves.

The walk to Ponferada (8km) goes quickly. The city is in a valley surrounded by mountains. As I begin the descent into the valley I witness the the distant mountains slowly being painted orange by the rising sun. Beautiful!

Once in the city center, we stop into a cafe for pastries and tea ( breakfast). We are warmed up again and continue on the day´s journey. It isn´t long before I am ahead of Sally and Katie. The walk, so far, has been fairly level so it goes quickly.

At 11:45 I am walking through Fuentes Nuevas and roosters are crowing as I am walking down a quiet road. I thought they did that at sunrise. I decide they must be teenage roosters!

In Componaraya I stop at a cash machine and then a market for a chocolate bar.Cash and chocolate, what more do you need?

It´s 12:30 and my feet are telling me that I need a break- I´m well out of town, and something tells me that further down the path there is a bench to sit, have lunch, rest my feet and write in my journal. Sure enough, 40 minutes later, there it is. It´s peaceful as I eat my lunch and a few pilgrims pass (some that I´have just met in the last couple of days).

I arrive at the Alberbue after 23km of walking, more than ready to stop for the day. The rooms are built in a semi-circle around the church- two beds per room. It was a nice surprise to come back from my shower and see Katie ( Austraila) as my bunk mate.
The Albergue has no kitchen, so it looks like we´ll be going out ( later than I like- nothing opens back up till seven).

I think it will be another chilly day tomorrow and much more climbing.

Until next time...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rabanal to Molinaseca

Thank you for your many comments and good wishes. No falls today, however I met bob from Canada who took a fall and another woman left in a taxi (as we were resting in a small town) to her next Albergue ( because of a fall).

We left this morning early since it was going to be a long day (7:30) It´s another beautiful day, clear blue sky, no clouds. I have slowed my pace today, and I guess you could say I´m so far behing Sally and Katie, that I´m ahead of them. :)

The path narrows in places for only one person to travel ( this is where Bob falls). There are shrubs on both side, very peaceful and quiet. I hear birds and the sound of my own feet hitting the dirt, nothing else.

About 11/2 hours after walking I take a short break ( people pass me and it´s okay).
I keep hearing voices below me, there must be a road, but I can´t see it. The voices are sounding familiar, I´m pretty sure it´s the three Amigas ( they never stop talking)! Sure enough, they emerge from the road and join me on the path and I soon pass them.

I stop again for almost 30 minutes and wait for Sally and Katie to catch up. I´m am at the highest point of the Camino (4970 ft). It´s a great place for a picture with my newly found friends. We travel on and the descent is very steep, but the toughest part about it is how rocky it is. I´m moving very slowy and deliberately, this is not a place I want to fall. I make it through without even a stumble and am grateful.

We arrive in a small village, Reijo de Ambros, and check in to the Albergue. There are four of us. Sally, katie, me and another Katie ( from Austraila). It doesn´t take us long to decide that the Albergue is not in good shape. I take one look at the shower and know theré is no way I will stay. Only one problem. It´s another 6km to the next town and it´s already after 3pm. We´ve been walking since 7:30. So, we walk up to the local bar, get a drink and call a taxi. Not one of us feels one bit guilty either!

This Albergue is very clean, wonderful. I´m anticipating a good nights rest.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Astorga to Rabanal and a few stumbles

Pizza again last night (sat) for dinnner, this time I remember to bring it along for my lunch. The Albergue´s each have a closing time in the morning, anywhere from 7:30 to 9 in the morning. Most are by 8.

I meet Franchesca, Susan and Semolita (I refer to them now as the 3 amigas)in the kitchen this morining, they are about to leave and I am having tea, it´s 7am. Franchesca continues her dialogue with me as if I understand everything she says. I always pass them on the way each morning even though they leave an hour before me.

Ít´s another beautiful day walking. I´ts Sunday, so I spend much of the time walking thinking about all the ways to worship God (Not just meeting in a church building).

The walk is most enjoyable and I´m wondering what it is I am to learn today-maybe, just to enjoy the day!

I walk 3 hours and have told myself that I must stop and eat, but have not found a good place yet. I also still have this mentality that if I stop, people will pass me ( I don´t know why that matters ). Finally I find a spot under some pine trees-nice and cool. Twenty minutes later I´m on my way again. I soon see a sign for Rabanal that says 2.2km. It´s the steepest climb of the day, very rocky. My legs are tired, and I´m careful with my steps, but catch the corner of a few rocks with my boot. One too many, and I go down. It´s steep, so I catch myself and don´t fall too far.

The rocks taper off, but now there are tree roots everywhere, and some hidden by brush growing in the path- I stumble again and think I have slowed my pace, but not enough. Again, I catch my boot on a hidden stump and go down hard and fast with the weight of my pack. I cannot move. Two pilgrims rush to my aide- one ahead of me comes running back, and one behind me runs as well. It takes both of them to get me on my feet again. They don´t speak English, but I think I convey that I am fine, only a few broken blood vessels in my hand.

So, my lesson for the day has come, but it takes two spills for me to get it!
We think that we determine our pace, but sometimes the path determines it for us. I thought I was moving slowly and carefully enough. Even after stumbling a few times I slowed down even more, not enough ,I guess.

So, for tomorrow, ( this will be a challenge) I have decided to follow Sally and Katie. They usually come into town about 1 1/2 to 2 hours after me. We´ll see what the day brings! I wonder how much more enjoyable life would be if we would just slow down from time to time.

Until next time...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Orbigo to Astorga

Dinner Friday night is a vegetable pizza for me ( absolutely wonderful). I only wish I would have remembered to get the leftovers out of the frig. this morning, it was going to be my lunch on the way to Astorga.

We leave Orbigo at 7:45. It is a 17km walk to Astorga. We talk of the last (almost) two weeks and all of the climbing challenges we have faced. We discover that the difficult and most challenging obstacles in our walk (life) are often the times of the fewest mis-steps. Your walking must be so careful, calculated, deliberate and with such concentration that you usually don´t stumlbe during these climbs. It´s the even, mundane simple roads with little challlenge that often take you off guard. You step in a hole, stumble on an unseen stone, or trip on slightly raised pavement.
We sometimes groan at the challenge ahead, yet are more careful in our walking, our choices. Maybe in some ways, safer.

I walk a portion of the way today with Bonnie, ( Canada) she now lives in Spain. She has waited 30 years to do her pilgrimage! Wow, I can´t imagine waiting that long.

I arrive in Astorga early 11;40, plenty of time to look around and stock up on food for the next two days. Sunday and Monday ( a holiday) will be difficult finding open stores.

Until next time...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Virgen del Camino - Hospital de Orbigo

We must leave the Albergue at 7:15 this morning, still quite dark so we are careful not to miss the way markings. It isn´t too long before I am quite a way ahead of Sally and katie ( theit two steps to my one).

We have chosen the road way to Hospital Orbigo (24km) it is 10km shorter than the walker´s way but not as scenic. I am anywhere from 400 to 4m away from a 2 lane highway much of the day. Two lane roadway, cornfields on both sides and clusters of trees here and there. I could be walking in Champaign ( except for the mountains in the distance).

I walk 41/2 hours without a break, except for a minor adjustment to my backpack. Finally, I give in to hunger and fatigue and find a place on the ground to sit and eat. I notice huge black ants all over, I fear they may carry off my tuna, so I move about 100m down the road to a cement stucture and have lunch.

Today isn´t the climb I thought it would be, that´s tomorrow.
About 2km from Orbigo I spot a rather long caterpillar. Think ¨stretch limo¨. This was a stretch caterpillar, at least 3x longer than any I´ve ever seen. I take a picture of it next to my boot ( just for Kobe).

I cross a long, beautiful cobblestone bridge just before coming into town that crosses the Orbigo river and find a place to write and wait for Sally and katie.

More thoughts on ¨time with God¨.

What constitutes having time with God? A 30 or 50 minute reading of the Bible and a prayer? Imagine if you reduced your relationship/time with your spouse or child to a 30 minute reading (of something they wrote), thanking them for what they did yesterday, and then giving them a list of things you need for today.
That doesn´t sound like much of a relationsip. So, for me, my relationship with, time with God, has to be so much more than that. Just a few thoughts...

Until next time...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Santo Domingo-Burgos-Leon-Virgen del Camino

Thurs. a.m.: Pilgrims are waking early today. At least 28 bunks in the room and all are full. Someone is up at 6 a.m.. I think he has packed everything in plastic bags and goes through every one of them. There´s no way to do that quietly.

Catching the bus today at 9:15 ( 74km trip to Burgos) We have plenty of time for tea and a pastry, and still wait over an hour for the bus.

It seems a good day to be taking a transport- it starts raining as we board the bus. I´ve been fortunate with the weather so far. I´m sure cooler temps await me through the region of Galicia and possibly rain too. Another new experience!

It is a short 1 hour ride to Burgos. We plan to see some of the city ( mainly the cathedral) but the bus to Leon is in 35 minutes, so, it´s off to Leon. this is a rest day ( no walking) and I feel restless. I think it will be difficult, once home, not to walk at least an hour , maybe two each day.

Brom Burgos to Leon it is flat and very dry. We arrive in Leon around 3pm, and I persuade Sally and Katie to walk the 7km to Virgen del Camino. We stop for a quick bite to eat and arrive at our Albergue in only an hour of walking.

Here, I meet Franchesca, Susan, and Lolemita, all from Brazil. Franchesca calls me ¨Cherry¨. I repeat it for her 3 times, but ¨Cherry has stuck with her¨.

A 22km day tomorrow- we start climbing, I can´t wait!

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Answering some questions

Wed. p.m.: A few of you have asked about my time with God while here. It´s quite different from what some may consider ¨time with God¨. I´d say it´s very much öutside the box¨. For example, I didn´t bring a Bible..( I know some of you are gasping for breath :)). I love the Bible, and love reading it, however, I feel I have been with God every day- all day. Or, maybe it´s better to say God has been with me.

Today I was actually thinking about this very thing, how Enoch walked God, and Adam too, in the garden, walked with God.I see it much like a parent walking down a long deserted road with a oung child, holding his hand. That´s how I felt today. It was a long gravel road, only me, hills on both sides, and God walking with me; walking hand in hand. I started to sing ( I don´t remember the song now) but I couldn´t finish, tears were running down my face. I was just enjoying the beauty God had created, and enjoying it with him by my side. So, times with God are pretty amazing! I think I do more listening ( easy for me to do) than anything else. I want to hear what God has to teach me through this pilgrimage.

My roommate from last night, Lynn, says people are never the same after doing the Camino, it changes you. I think she is right. :)

Tomorrow is a bus ride to Burgos and another tomorrow evening to Leon. I will cover a lot of ground by bus, mostly flat, dry ( many say boring) land.

Until next time...

Azofra-Santo Domingo de la Calzada

The Albergue in Azofra is nice with very small rooms with only two beds. I´m sharing a room with Lynn, from Norway. She has also just quit her job of 15 years teaching Kindergarten. She tells me about a ceremony that she will be volunteering for in Africa after the Camino. It is called ¨For The One Dance¨.

Sally, Katie and I head out to find some dinner, fish (Hake) a salad, ( my first ¨real¨salad while here), and flan for dessert. We share a bottle of wine and I feel a siesta coming on. I will probably forgo the siesta for fear of not being able to sleep tonight.

After dinner we head off to Mass,( I have yet to see inside a church, they are always closed when I arrive). No Mass, but we do get inside the church. Here we meet Jim, from Florida. He can´t believe I am from Champaign- he lived in champ/Urbana for 5 years (1985) and worked at the Krannert center. Amazing!

Wed a.m.: There is a full moon in the sky upon leaving Azofra this morning at 7:45, it looks more like an evening sky. Once again I am at a crossroad with no way marking ( often the Albergues are not on the main path). I wait only a minute and a gentleman drives by in a truck and points me in the right direction.

Today is only a 15.2 km day, with an acrued ascent of 1198 ft.( all in one hill I believe). This will be the last of the shorter hikes. Probably 22km at least from here on out. The walk today was overcast again and peaceful, it´s fun to see pilgrims pass you, and you them, that you have met along the way. Lunch is early today, 10:00 am, I have already gone through 2 ganola bars and my tuna salad ( I must be getting my appetite back).

I arrive in Santo Domingo de la Calzada about 11:35 and write in my journal while I wait for Sally and Katie to catch up. We arrive at a very nice Albergue, very modern, and early enough, that I get a bottom bunk. I notice, however, as the pilgrims begin arriving that the women are sorely out-numbered. I fear a night of many deep meditations!

We (me, Sally, Katie) have already been to the market and picked up a few things for cooking our own dinner. Pasta and grilled vegetables with a bottle of local wine.

Tomorrow we catch a bus to Burgos at 9:15 in the morning, do some sights and then another bus to Leon- making up some lost time.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

read both posts

Make sure you read both posts today, for Monday and Tuesday.

Ventosa to Azorfa

Tuesday ( today) I am awakened by classical music playing throughout the Albergue. wonderful! I set out at 7:50, it is still fairly dark, and I have only one regret: I did not say goodbye to Johanus ( he will walk farther than me today).

It is another beautiful and peaceful day, walking through vineyards with mountains surrounding me in the distance. I pass through Najera, a city of both old and new, I prefer the old. In only 4 hours, I come to Ventos where I will stop for the day (respecting the limits!). I stop at a cafe and am pleased to see Johanus, he passed me while I stopped at a market in Najera. I say goodbye to him as he walks on, but he is sure we will meet again.

I sit down to rest my feet and meet a couple from Germany, Willie and Gertrude. They have only two weeks holiday and will be stopping in Burgos ( they will return next year to finish). We have a nice chat for 20 minutes or so and I get up to leave after Willie has gone inside the cafe. Gertrude calls me back, Willie has ordered coffee for all three of us. I return and enjoy a cup of coffee with them. Willie has actually inspired me to learn Spanish when I return home. He taught himself English, not essential for his business, but for traveling on holidays.

Another very nice Albergue with a small pool for resting tired feet. Sally and Katie (from Oregon) are here as well. We are traveling separately, yet together. It´s quite nice.

Until next time...

catching up:Logrono-Navarrette-Ventosa

I was a day with out internet so am catching up today.

Monday: I say goodbye to Pierre, he may not be going on unless he receives a cortisone shot for his knee. I am amazed by what he accomplishes at the age of 70!

The walk from Logrono to Naverrett is cool , overcast and peaceful, 13km in only 2 1/2 hours. My body is saying go on, but my feet are saying ¨no¨. The body wins out after lunch ( yogurt and o.j.). This region, La Rioja, is well known for its many vineyards and wine. The walk continues through vineyards and hills, with now city in sight, yet I know my next stopping place is only a few km away. I am following the way markings so I smile to myself, knowing that I will end up exactly where I need to be ( and I do).

Upon leaving Navarrette I ask a woman where the Camino way is ( I see no markings). She expains in much detail the way for me ( in Spanish). There are no words that I recognize, so I just follow what I think are her directions and again am on the right path. I guess I know more Spanish than I think I do!

I arrive in Ventose an hour before the Albergue opens so I begin exploring the town.
Women are walking around with bread and vegetables but I have yet to find the market where they are buying them. ( this is a very small village) The Albergue opens and is absolutely beautiful, recently restored and updated. Yuma ( she runs the Albergue) says there is no market or internet in the village. She has a very small ¨store¨ of items that can be purchased for making your own dinner.

I meet Dietmr, from Austria. He is a very gentle old man, and I sense very wise as well. He tells me I should visit Austria some day, that it is very beautiful. He comments that he only covered 20km today because he is an old man ( I´m not sure what that says about me). He says that we need to respect the limits of our bodies, something I am learning too. He says, ¨sometimes when you see less, you see more¨. i love that ! Something I will carry with me the rest of my journey.

Sally and I invite Johanus, and Elizabeth to join us for dinner. Elizebeth invites, Tina and Ramon, who in turn invite Dietmr. Somehow Tina and Johanus end up cooking a dinner that we have invited them to come to! Not sure how that happened, but we laugh about it. We have a delightful meal with America, Spain, Germany, and Austria represented at the table. Dietmr speaks German, English and Spanish, so he does much of the translation for the three Americans.

At dinner the topic of snoring comes, since we are all sharing a room together. Dietmr explains that pilgrims don´t snore, they only meditate very deeply. We all have a good laugh, knowing there will be some meditating tonight! Lucky for me, I still have the earplugs that Johanus gave me on my second night!

thank to you all for your comments, they are very uplifting!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Aviana to Logrono

It´s a very enjoyable day exploring Aviana. I also enjoy a two hour cup of tea with Sally ( Oregon). We have so much in common and can´t believe our paths have crossed, we even fly out of Madrid on the same day.

Closer to evening time I meet Libby and Gary from Austraila. They invite me to join them for dinner after they go to Mass. (8pm). Much too late for me since I´ve only had a granola bar, small crossiant and a few almonds all day. If you don´t arrive in the small villages at the right time your´re out of luck as far as finding food.
I will be packing salami and cheese from the market from now on to eat along the way.

The Albergue in Aviana has dorm rooms with 3 tier bunks, luckily I am early and get a bottom bunk. This is the first night of sharing a room with those who snore. 7 women and 5 men. I picked out 3 different snorers ( if that´s a word). Unfortunately I couldn´t find my ear plugs.

SUnday morning: At 6:30 am a bell rings and shortly after we are seranaded by a goup of about 40 singers. Absolutely beautiful voices. They sing just for the pilgrims. I don´t recognize the melody, but the music is very moving. What a way to wake up on a Sunday morning! I wish they would stay longer, but they move on to the next Albergue.

I leave Aviana about 8 am after filling up my water at the fountain. It is again a beautiful, cool morning, very peaceful.

Not too far down the path I hear footsteps getting closer,a pilgrim I have not met before, Alejandro. He is a pilot from Spàin but lives now in London. We walk together all the way to Longrono and cover a variety of topics: God, creation, evolution, life after death, happiness. The time passes very quickly, especially for him since this is his last 10km. He is sad about having to go back to London.

Arriving In Longrono, I walk all the way through the city and realize I have gone too far. I back track, which is very difficult to do. An older spanish couple notice that I am perplexed and I manage to tell them with my limited Spanish that I want to sleep in Longrono tonight. They walk me (15 min) back through the city and take me right to the Albergue. Francisco and his wife, a very sweet couple.

After getting my bunk, Pierre walks into the room. A nice surprise to see him again, since he was so helpful to me on my first day.

Enjoying the pilgrimage more and more every day, I am learning to slow down, listen to my body (which my feet greatly appreciate) and live completely in the moment.

Until next time..

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Los Arcos to Aviana

Today is a much shorter day and my toes are thanking me! I cover about 17km today and it´s very slow going, changing from boots to crocs half way throug the morning, I left at 745 and arrive in Aviana at 1245.

Starting earlier is not wise as it is still very dark even at 7:15 am. The sky is full of stars and looks like a sky at 10pm at home.

I meet Gurn, from Austria today. He´s an architech, taking a long holiday ( may have even just quit his job) He says he spends so much time working he doesn´t have any time to think about life. He started traveling through Europe, learned about the Camino from a friend and bought the equipment needed for the pilgrimage and started walking- to figure out what he will do with his future.

Haven´t had time to explore Aviana just yet, but it looks like a beatiful town. Many people were out in the streets when I arrived, enjoying their siesta time, I guess. Everything closes down about 1pm for siesta and opens again around 5 or 5:30 (or whenever the shop owner gets there).

Along the way today a pilgrim was ( I thought) building a rock alter ( they are all over, built by pilgrims). He was actually cracking open fresh almonds from a small orchard along the path. He knocked several down from the tree with his walking stick, Gurn and I enjoyed an unexpected and wonderful mid-morning snack.

Until next time...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Beautiful day!

Left Villatuerta this morning light headed and dizzy, but one step into the cool morning breathes new life into me. It is overcast and cloudy ( all day) which is wonderful because there is a nice breeze. Just two blocks away from the Albergue I am at a crossroads with no waymarking, but again someone comes to my aid. A car drives by, I signal questioningly, straight on, and he gives me the okay nod. If everything in life were only that simple, always someone to tell you which way to go ( and it´s always the right way!) but then, we would not grow from the detours and wrong turns.

I meet up with Tom and June (from Ireland) about 7km from Los Arcos (where I plan to stop for the day). June looks at my feet while I´m giving them a rest and notices some hot spots, my toes are killing me. She does a quick bandage job, hopefully it will keep me from getting blisters on the tips of my toes.

The scenery is beautiful, and I´m actually able to enjoy it and not consentrate on getting a bike up a hill or manuevering around large rocks. Much more enjoyable day!

Mountains all around and walking right alongside several vineyards. Tom breaks off some grapes for me to try, I wouldn´t have helepd myself, but now I have to eat them, don´t want them to go to waste. Very sweet, 3 to 4 seeds in each small grape, they are wonderful!

Several times today, looking at the beauty around me I smile and say, Ï am in Spain!¨
(thank you Peirre).

One last thing, there are water fountains in each town, some even between towns for the pilgrims. Came across one today that had two spickets- one for water and one for wine. ( No joking, as much as you want to take) I have a picture to prove it for you doubters!

Until next time...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

More on thursday 1st

I´ve walked 5km since posting, and am staying in a very nice albergue, complete with washing machine. Still only one other pilgrim here, Johanas, from Germany.

My thoghts may ramble, so bear with me. I´d really like some sleep tonight, the albergue last night was by a church with bells going off ever 1/4 hour. I don´t think I would have slept anyway, haven´t yet adjusted to the time.

The walk after leaving my bike was much more enjoyable. Pierre, from Denmark, kept saying to me to relax, enjoy the Camino, don´t worry. As we walked today, he would periodically say ¨you´re Spain!¨ Tomorrow will be much easier to remember that without a bike to push up a mountain!

It´s not reaching the end (Compestela) but enjoying the journey. I´m not sure yet how leaving my bike will effect my walking, but I will enjoy the journey.

Until the next time...
I´m a day behind on blogging, picked up my bike yesterday after walking from 1 to 7pm. Many hills, only missed the way markings once. Stayed in an Albergue in Obanos, only one other person there. A wonderful gentleman from Denmark. He was very encouraging, just what I needed. We walked together 2km today until i picked up my bike, haven´t seen him since. He is 70 and this is his 4th camino. Reminds me of Sean Connery.

The terrain is impossible. i walked my bike as much as road, steep inclines and decents, rocky, words don´t describe it. It didn´´t take long for me to decide to call the bike company and have them pick it up. A bar across from the Albergue will keep it for 3 days until it´s picked up, again, exactly what I need when I need it. So, I will be walking form here on out. I´am learning its not about reaching the destination, but enjoying the journey. Today was not so enjoyable, couldn´t look at the countryside for fear of ending up in a ditch. Haven´t decided if i´m walking on today or stopping.

Overlook my spelling etc, keyboards are a little different.

Until next time...