Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rest Day in Madrid

Dear Blog Readers
October 28, 2010
Rest Day in Madrid
Sleep in and have a lovely breakfast before heading out to explore Madrid.
Like a pilgrim, we decide to walk to the Madrid Prado Museum, about 15 blocks away.  The Museum is huge, no other word to describe it.  To better get a feel for it we hire a guide for an hour´s tour.  He covers several of the Spanish artists housed in the Museum.  We learn more than we would, had we been on our own, about Vasquez, Goya, Murillo, El Greco and others. 
While we are observing a room filled with Goya´s work, we run into one of the Korean ladies.  Lots of hugs later we inquire about the others and learn they are somewhere in the Museum.  Our guide does not find the interruption funny, and promptly inform us to focus on him and Goya and not the Korean lady.  Sadly, we do and don´t see the rest of the ladies during the remainder of our visit.
After our tour, we wander around on our own for hours - so much to see, learn and appreciate it is mind boggling.  They have a visiting Renoir room so we visit it, with much disappointment - no great pieces, plus the works appear to be prints framed behind glass, guess the originals are housed under lock and key in another European Museum.
After a quick snack at the Prado café I return to a room with some ´dark´ Goya works from later in his life.  Our guide had said he was in a deep depression when he did these works and it shows, very disturbing.
We walk back to the hotel and as if we didn´t have enough walking an hour later go in the other direction about 5 blocks to find a large mall to look around the shops. 
I think I´ll take the day off tomorrow and write - I´ve had an idea for a YA novel which came to me as I was walking through the forests of Galicia to Santiago.  Will get some of it down on paper tomorrow.
Blessings from Madrid,
p.s. Homeward bound Saturday so signing off for now - thanks for the comments - will be back to post photos and updates, plus answer any questions.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Off to Madrid

Dear Blog Readers
October 27, 2010
Leaving Santiago for Madrid
Woke up and had a leisurely breakfast, check emails and packed to leave Santiago.  A little nostalgic that the journey is about to be over.
Met two interesting American priests at the hotel´s computer room, one served in the armed forces. Both is street clothes.  Some interesting insights about the Camino and the mass for pilgrims at the Cathedral.  They were both off to serve during the noon mass on the altar at the Cathedral - pays to be a priest in Santiago.
Took a cab to the train station at noon - train to Madrid is at 1:55 p.m.  We get off okay and could not see any of the Camino as the train took a southern route, not towards the east.  A few pilgrims on the train - some of the Spaniards are going home.  One Washington State woman is going to Madrid to meet her husband and have a mini vacation after her trek.
Train trip took 7 hours to get to Madrid.  Two hours out at a stop, the train went into reverse and we travelled the next two hours going backwards at high speed - by now it was pitch dark and we could not see anything outside.  Stopped the purser to ask if this was normal - ´yes´he said and we went all the way to Madrid, backwards - in the dark - not a very nice feeling as we were all tired.
Got to Madrid besides the fact we got there back first.  At the hotel now and off to see two museums tomorrow - one is about 45 mins away so we´ll put our feet to work - should be there in no time after the kms on the Camino.
Blessings from Madrid,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Santiago Day 4

Dear Blog Readers

October 26, 2010

Santiago - Spain

Had a really quiet day today in Santiago.  Rick finally got to visit the statue of St. James, this we did before breakfast this moring, by 9: 15 a.m. as by 9:30 a.m. the line up is around the corner.  Rick also got to sneak his rock from home into the church and left it at the top of the stairs near the back of St. James´statue.  Rick also got a more leisurely walk through the Cathedral without the throngs of people.

All the rocks I hid, near the entrance doorway, which is now closed until it is repaired for the Pope´s visit, have disappeared - oh, well - they were placed and a pray was said for each person.

Took a long walk around the city today, visited a lovely park and stopped for hot chocolate at a café.  Got back to the hotel and had a ´siesta´sleep, just like the Spaniards - got up and went for late lunch.

After lunch I sat out in the square and people watched!  Lots of pilgrims still coming into the city each hour of each day - it is now my turn to watch their reactions.  Heart warming to see the range of emotions.

Took a walk to the other side of the hotel and back up to the square again.  A really lovely down day.

Tomorrow we leave for Madrid by train - we will be there for two day before heading home to Canada.  Don´t know if I will get to post another blog - but will be in touch when I get home to answer any questions you may have about the whole experience.

Blessing from Santiago,

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 3 - Santiago

Dear Blog Readers

October 25, 2010

Day 3 in Santiago

Woke up early to blue sky and sunshine - yeah Galicia, another a blessed day in the rainest part of Spain.  Have breakfast and head out to do some shopping.

We don´t get very far in the square outside our hotel which is the front of the Cathedral - and many of you blog readers will be happy to learn we run into the 4 Korean ladies (remember, they would stop and eat soup every hour or so on the Camino!) - well it is like home week, there is screaming and hugging and everyone chatting at the same time - wow, Henning and Barbara join in (this is a couple who we met several times in hotels along the way) they now live in France, he is German and she is French - most elegant woman on the Camino - anyway they had also walked with the Korean ladies, so more hugging and lots of photos.

Finally say good byes and away we go to find a store to ´spend money´!  Run into more people we´d met on the Camino - but continue to find the store - yeah success, I get new pants, blouse, scarf and shoes - I´ll need these as we are off to dinner with Henning and Barbara, didn´t want to wear the same outfit I´ve been wearing for the last 40 plus days.

On the way back we run into Matilda, the young girl who looks like Julia Roberts, she is not going home to Germany - Camino showed her she should stay in Spain and work on a farm - OKAY! - oh, to be young again and have the world by the tail.  Also run into Duras (Doris) I´d walked with her for part of the Camino and it is lovely to see she made it to Santiago.  More hugs and chatter.

Did some souvenir shopping again today - don´t know where I will put stuff as we only travelled with our knapsacks - one more day in Santiago and then the fast train to Madrid.  I´ll continue to send blogs until I leave to travel home on Saturday October 30th.

It is early evening and will now go and get dressed for late, late dinner - 8:30 p.m. with Henning and Barbara.  Enjoying seeing all those from the Camino - the square is filled with pilgrims coming in everyday - plus hundreds of tourists - it is the Holy Year after all.

Thanks for being a part of my Camino,
Blessings from Santiago -

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Santiago - Day 2

Dear Blog Readers
October 24, 2010
Santiago - day 2

Up early for breakfast - 7 a.m. to get the bus to Finnsterra by 9 a.m.
Roberta joins us and we set off to tour several small towns along the Alantic coast of Galicia.  Rain finally comes to Galicia and we get to use the rain ponchos we bought.
We visit several churches and local markets - with the rain still blessing us. We arrive in Finnsterra for lunch - a fishing town noted for being the most westerly point in Europe.  Have fish for lunch.
Later travel to the Cape Finnsterra for a final ritual of the pilgrims - a cross hanging over the Atlantic where most burn some item - I just take photos in the rain and thick mist.
We return by 5:30 p.m. and do a bit of souvenir shopping for the family.  Will try to shop for clothes one last time tomorrow and them maybe have a quite visit in a church, with the hope the crowds have all returned home.
Still have not as yet realized I´ve walked the Camino for 36 days and 780 kms.  It seems like someone else did that.
Blessings from Santiago,

Post trek update

Dear Blog Readers
October 23, 2010
Santiago - Pilgrims Mass Day at the Cathedral
Wow, must be tired - slept in until 9:15 a.m. - have a quick breakfast and off to find a seat at the Cathedral - get there at 10:15 but earlier mass is still on - church is filled - as soon as mass is over get a seat and put my bag down to save a spot for Rick - Roberta joins me but we soon lose the struggle and the pew is filled - it is about 1 1/2 hours until our noon mass and there is already no room in the church.
People begin to jossel each other for standing room - young novice priests continuously beg for silence in the cathedral - more pushing, shoving and down right nasty behaviour from those trying to get a spot to stand.  One man prompty refuses when asked by a church volunteer to move - he plants his Camino stick into the stone floor and begins to give the man a piece of his mind - all this while a priest takes the congregation through a song we will repeat during mass.
When the mass begins the whole situation gets worst - now people are rushing into areas where they were asked not to stand - those in the back like us, are now looking at the back of people standing in front of us - to see the altar you must peek between the heads of those in front.
I concentrate on the altar or what I could see of it.  There is a large statue of St. James´upper body - all the while the mass goes on, people are going around the back of the alter to hug St. James, they pat his face which faces the front of the church where we can all see what those behind are doing - this is no longer a solumn service, for me this has turned into a circus act - and I cannot even say a prayer!
Poor Rick who has lost his seat, decides he would much prefer to be on the Camino and leaves the mass - Roberta and I stick it out, but find ourselves talking about all the mini disagreements happening around us.  I am most disappointed when I don´t hear Canada during the mass for the Canadian pilgrims - several of us are in the church - we get lumped in with ´Norte Americanos´.  The priests does remember to name every village, town and city in Spain where pilgrims had come from - for me this is nonsense, since most of these people had only walked the final 100 kms.  See I´m no longer charitable in church, I´m not petty!
Anyway, left the church after the mass - have two of the young people, Vanessa from Quebec and Eugene from Florida join us for lunch back at the hotel.  After, we three, Rick, Roberta and me go to a large mall looking for some new clothes - no luck, we could not give our money away.
Return to have tea and do some local souvenir shopping. 
Off to Finnsterra - ´the end of the world´ tomorrow by bus.
Blessings from Santiago,

Some more photos courtesy of Roberta!

There are crosses in her eyes.  Look closely.

Final Pilgrim's Cross.  Look at the boots.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 36 - Victorious!

Friday October 22, 2010
Day 36 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Santisos to Santiago
Dear Blog Readers,

Begin the day at kms. 12 marker from Santiago around 8:20 a.m. after the usual breakfast at the hotel.  Stop to take photos standing before a large rock with SANTIAGO  printed on it, signally we are now in Santiago territory.  I place a kiss on the cool rock and burst into tears.  I bawl like a little child all the way down the hill, pass the Santiago airport, up the other side of the hill, and through the forest. 
I don´t know exactly why or for what reason I am weeping - but I can only presume that in my wildest dream I did not think I would actually make it unscathed - no blisters, not accidents, no injuries to speak of.  Rick takes my hand and admits he is sorry he had to take the bus one day as he would have like to feel he had walked the whole route.
Needless to say I cannot recall mush of the next three hours.  I know we trek up and down again and that I stop at Monte do Gozo, to see a large monument left by Pope John Paul II dedicated to the pilgrims.  This stop is a bit of a zoo atmosphere. We must pass three parked buses with their loads of tourists jockeying for photos of the monument. I quickly take my photos and continue down the last mountain into the lower region of Santiago.  As I walk down a street, I see my friend Roberta waiting, camera in hand.  She presents me with a lovely pair of gold Camino shell earrings.  More tears threaten.
Rick joins us and together we walk up the Camino, through the Arch into on of Santiago’s Squares.  To our left is the Parador Hotel in a large Monastery and before us is the Cathedral with a huge St. James statue high above.  Loud noises fill the square as across from the Cathedral, they are constructing a large stage next to the City Hall for the Pope´s visit in November.  We soon find the same is happening all over the city including inside the Cathedral.  
Several Camino friends rush over and there are lots of hugs, kisses and tears.  I am happy to see Marcella, who is about to leave Santiago, and Tanya from Ireland and the two Slovakian sisters (one who knew everything about Canadian hockey). We have completed the Camino and we rejoice.  Tomorrow Roberta, Rick and I will attend mass in the Cathedral.  We say good bye to those leaving and go in search of the crowded building to receive our Compostela - a scroll given to all those who complete the pilgrimage.  I am surprised to see my name written in Latin on my scroll.  I have succeeded in my quest to walk a 788 pilgrimage!
Blessing from Santiago,
My personal thoughts for today - I want to say ‘Thank You’ to all who offered me encouragement along the trek - also super thanks to all of you who sponsored my Camino with a donation to Raise a Reader.  Thank you, thank you.  I have placed the rocks given to me at the portal of the Cathedral - may all your prayers and mine be answered.  I entered the door of pardon to hug St. James (from behind) he faces the pews in the Cathedral and pilgrims approach from behind the altar.  I whisper my tearful thanks to Him for keeping me safe and uninjured for the trek.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day 35

Thursday October 21, 2010
Day 35 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Arzua to Arca (No - to Santisos)
Dear Blog Readers,

Well, what a day on the Camino today - it is supposed to be a short 17 kms. to Arca.  I don´t know exactly what happens but we miscalculate and we walk about 22 plus kms - for a time we are a little lost on the Camino.  After I get home I realized I take very few photos today so will ask others to contribute if they have referring to today’s trek.
Set out at about 8:15 a.m. in the dark after a quick (the usual) breakfast - joined by my friend Roberta.  She takes a photo of us heading out with headlights.  We wave and away we disappeared into the darkened forest.  If I thought yesterday the Camino had a lot of pilgrims, today was almost shoulder to shoulder on some climbs and descents.  Not having a lot of quite time as we near Santiago.  Up and down mountains and valleys again, through a lot more eucalyptus forests.  The scent is quite strong - especially when the pine and eucalyptus are opposite each other as you trek through the forests.  Lots of ins and outs of hamlets - chat with some sheep and goats (one little pesky goat thought a chicken got too close and head butted her).  There is a class of young school boys with their teacher, singing an English song at the top of their voices - yikes, no more quite time on the Camino.
Up a climb in the hamlet of Armenal, we have a lovely surprise.  We run into young Eugene, the America we met on our very first day.  We find out the other young people are all on the Camino behind us and it seems we will all walk in tomorrow to Santiago.  This is another nice surprise as we thought they had already completed the Camino.  We make a date to try to have lunch with them in Santiago before everyone heads home.
On the Camino again it is soon clear we are not having a short day’s trek.  We find out Arca is behind us so where is the hotel?  We had automatically thought it was in Arca.  I phone the hotel only to find out we are still several kms. away.  Just continue walking they say.  Two hours later we are still walking, this time we are going in the opposite direction to Santiago.  When we booked we had not asked in what town was the hotel.  The first place we phoned in Arca was filled, so we automatically thought the second hotel was close by.  Ha, this is a typical a little Camino trick, and it is all at our expense.  I have to have help getting through the barbed wire fence to cross a busy highway at a large roundabout.  Stop to have a bite to eat at 3 p.m.  The hotel owner finally comes to rescue us as we are quite lost. She is lovely and the hotel is one of the cleanest on the Camino.  The owner even does our laundry.  Even though we are off the Camino and will have to travel back, we are not complaining.  Trek - maybe 20 - 25 kms today too tired to count.  Just 13 kms to Santiago the sign says but we will see - I’m not believing anything until I’m in Santiago!

Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts for today - Today I experience on of those rare Camino moments.  Meeting Eugene is such a good feeling.  To see someone from the early days on the Camino makes me realize how much of a community those of us on the pilgrimage have become.  Eugene and I both shared the moment of family closeness as we hug and hug in front of the café where he had stopped for a beer. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day 34

Wednesday October 20, 2010
Day 34 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Melide to Arzua
Dear Blog Readers,

In the bathroom this morning I find out quite by accident, after I see a knob on the cold heater and I turn it to on and voila, heat - that we are responsible for getting the heat in our room by turning on the silly little knob at the wall heater - dah!  We have been freezing our butts off for the last three nights, with me even sleeping in my fleece clothes and all the time we could have been toasty warm - now I´m looking for the knob at each hotel over the next two days.
Leave the hotel by 8:15 a.m. after a quick croissant, with butter, jam and hot tea. The sunrise is peeking over the mountain to the east but there are still stars overhead.  Morning is chilly and full of mist again.
Yet another day of ups and downs again, up mountains and down into valleys.  A day of beautiful scenery.  More naked indio trees - actually Eucalyptus trees planted by Franco after he destroyed the oak trees - however, the eucalyptus has become a very invasive tree to the area - so from the locals point of view, another dark mark on the Franco years!
I have a fond memory today for E.B. White´s story, Charlotte´s Web - as thousands of tiny spiders launch into the unknown - all us pilgrims see are floating silver threads sailing by - once in a while you can walk through one strand strung across two branches - I have discovered these tiny insects have a ‘big bite’.  I have the spot to prove it after I walk into a thread and the spider got attached to my jacket - ‘attack the monster’ who is holding me hostage!.  We do not encounter as many weekend pilgrims today on the Camino - don´t know where they are.  Pilgrim must walk the last 100 kms into Santiago without taking rides to get a pilgrim’s certificate.  But, in each hamlet, there are many transports waiting, which means a lot of people may not playing by the rules - opps, cannot judge!
Arrive in Arzúa by 12:30 a.m. - get the washing done, hopefully the finally wash day before Santiago - will take a rest this afternoon.  My Penticton friend Roberta, who was going to walk the Camino with me but broke her ankle a few months before the start of the trek, and could not go with me. Instead she has had a lovely rest in Paris and has just drove all the way from Paris to Arzúa.  She has arrived at our hotel, as I’m writing my blog.  Tomorrow, she will drive to Santiago and wait for us.  As you know my husband, Rick, took her place and has been my trekking partner for all the Camino.  After seeing some of the mountains we had to climb he’s been lugging my backpack, while sending his forward on the transport.  He has also been my private travel agent, booking hotels ahead each night. Yeah Rick!  Excuse me, now I´m off to celebrate a little with my hubby and my best friend.   just 19 kms. tomorrow and the final 20 kms. on Friday into Santiago.

Blessing from the Camino -
My personal thoughts for today - I had a good laugh today when I saw a Sponge Bob tee-shirt in a store window, and I took a photo for my grandson, Eben, a huge fan of ‘boba esponga’ as the Spaniards say.  My laugh was because even the character Sponge Bob was a pilgrim holding a walking stick, trekking the Camino.  Must purchase a tee for Eben, he too will find it funny. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day 33

Tuesday October 19, 2010
Day 33 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Palas de Rei to Melide
Dear Blog Readers,

Gosh, spent another night in an hotel without heat - last night I slept in my fleece clothes as it was the only way to keep warm - asked the front desk for heat and the answer was - use the blankets!!  However, with the thought of bed bugs ever on my mind - I do not take anything out of the cupboard to use - I have no way of knowing when it was last cleaned.
We sleep in a little later as it is a shorter day - only 17 kms.  When did I begin to think 17 kms. is a short day?  The Camino does bring life into focus.  Have a croissant, fresh orange juice and tea for breakfast and on the Camino by 8:45 a.m.  Outside of the town is a steady climb up into the mountain and the forests beyond.  Early on the walk a Spanish woman ahead of me, gets her boot caught on a stone on the path and takes a tumble - she is shaken but okay.  As much as you want to check the scenery, the trail demands your full attention.
Trek up and down the Camino, in and out of forests - more Pine, Chestnuts and Oak trees - actually see a couple of Eucalyptus trees and they appear to be so out of place along the path.  The forest´s floor is covered in ferns - farmers are harvesting corn for animal feed too. No mist or fog today but frost is on the ground and it is cold.
Walk a little with Catherine Ross another children´s author from London, Ontario - she has bad hips so is taking it real slow up and down the paths.  We discuss books - ha what else.  We´ve decided we must reread all the books on the Camino again.  Stop for a hot chocolate on top of a mountain in a German café.  A large group of Spaniards are on the Camino, they are loud and full of cheer, but they create a spiritual cord as we pass them on the trek standing in a circle reading a bible passage - when they stop for a break at the café they have a beer - oh well it is 10 a.m.!
Come upon an ancient bridge over a gushing river - stop to take a photo and see three cows down below having a drink from the flowing water - horror of horrors as they take in the chilly water, they are also going at the other ends - yuk! Cows are really stupid - oh, must not judge - this is the Camino after all!  Come into the hamlet and the farmer is herding the cows (from the river) down the Camino - pilgrims get out of the way - the poor cows (now I´m sorry for them) are hobbled at the front right hoof to the front right horn - the farmer stop and open other barn doors along the way and other hobbled cows join in the parade - however, I want to use my Camino walking stick on the farmer as he begins to whack the cows with a whip on their hump when the take too long - would like to hobble the farmer to see how quickly he would walk - oops again, this is the Camino, cannot whip anyone or judge.
Make it into Melide by 1 p.m. - the town of 7,000 is famous for its dish of Octopus - a cook shows off his catch and invite pilgrims in to have lunch.  They boil the whole octopus then chop it up and add olive oil and hot peppers - it takes a few bites, using a tooth pick to get into it - most locals are eating it with chunks of artesian bread - well when in Melide - live like the locals.
Trek 17 kms today - have 52 kms to Santiago.  Should be there in three days - by Friday.  Another short day tomorrow, then two 20 kms days and I should be there, providing all goes well.

Blessings from the Camino,

My personal thoughts for today - I am increasingly aware of my thoughts now.  The Camino has a way of making you rethink thoughts or judgements.  There is a purer, more simple way about everything.  I hope this feeling last beyond the end of the Camino.  It is wholesome and gives me warm and fuzzy feelings. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day 32

Monday October 18, 2010
Day 32 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Portomarin to Palas de Rei
Dear Blog Readers,

Before getting into Galicia, the most north westerly province of Spain, the daily weather television forecasts were horrific for this area - storms off the Atlantic, rain, wind, lightening, thunder and floods.  However, since crossing the mountain at El O´Cebreiro into Galicia, the Camino has been ‘charmed’.  We have been blessed with blue sky, sunshine and just a little chill each morning. I say a quiet ‘thanks’ to the Powers for the fine weather.
Today is no different from the past few mornings.  Thick fog greets the pilgrims this morning - after a cold buffet breakfast at the hotel.  I make a ham and cheese sandwich for the road as it is a longer day. The outside is chilly and mitts, scarf, fleece and jacket are the order for the morning.
There are now tons of pilgrims on the path - it is hard to find space to walk on some roadways.  The sun finally breaks through the fog about an hour out on the Camino - the trek is up and down mountains and valleys again. Chestnut burrs and acorn nuts crunch underfoot as the trail enters one forest after another.  I am knocked on the hat by a chestnut burr and a little further up the path a couple of acorns nuts choose my head to drop upon.   I have been listening to the Camino, if I see a slug, or snail I understand to take it slow - now the nuts are maybe hinting on sending my manuscript on nuts out to a publisher, and if they don´t send it, then maybe I need to self-publish it and get it into schools to help teach children about nuts. I am learning to take the hints given by the Camino.
The Camino travels through some hamlets, and pass some corn fields where the farmer is harvesting for animal feed.  For the first time I see some locals collecting chestnuts.  I take a good look at the nuts on the path, and realize they look a lot like a nut we get at home in Trinidad.  My family reading the blog will understand when I say the nuts look a lot like ´shatine´.  Come to think of it, when I´ve had chestnuts they do taste a little like this nut from home - wonder if they come from the same family?
Did I mention the people of Galicia has a history of elves, fairies etc.?  The rocks from the area actually have a fleck of something shiny - so I´ve been calling it pixie rocks and angel dust.  As the sun breaks through the tree tops in the forest, these sparkles shine along the path - it is magical.  Actually stop and pick up a small rock to place in Santiago in the name of my grandson, Eben.  He is on my mind today, so I dedicate my walk today to him.  Stop around 1 p.m. to have my sandwich and take stock of my feet and legs - I decide to make a bathroom stop at the café, but it is not in the cleanest condition - so decide to ask my bladder to be good for 7 more kms.  Meet a lot of first time pilgrims - chat and trek with a young German girl, who meets up with her friends and we trek for some kms.   Next is a Spanish trekker with his trekking group from Merída - finally with a Englishman, who is a history teacher, trekking for the first time.  He has biked the Camino twice before and now he is walking.  Only he´s brought the wrong boots and is paying for his stupidity with multiple blisters.  Arrive at 3:40 p.m. after leaving Portomarin at 8:30 a.m.  Trek almost 30 kms. today.  A shorter trek tomorrow, maybe about 17 kms.

Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts for today - About 72 kms. left to Santiago.  I am getting excited as many on the Camino, who’ve done this before, say it is a wonderful experience. There is a large statue of St. James at the Santiago Cathedral, which pilgrims hug - I want to give him a huge hug - and maybe get to kiss his feet.  He’s kept me safe, injury free and has helped me to finish each day on the Camino. (I am disappointed later in Santiago, as it is only a bust of St. James, wearing a jeweled collar, gifted by one of Spain’s queens upon her death.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day 31

Sunday October 17, 2010
Day 31 on the Camino de Santiago
Barbadello to Portomarin
Dear Blog Readers,

Today is the birthday of my brother Talim (Sam) and brother-in-law, Tom.  Happy Birthday to both of you!

I´m a little euphoric from my lovely stay with the sisters last night. It is not a very long day today so sleep-in to 8 a.m. and down for breakfast by 8:30 a.m. Teresa points to the sunrise and the mountain top far away on the other side of the valley - El O´Cebreiro she says - what?  That was where we crossed into Galicia two days ago?   I´ll never be afraid to climb a mountain again - I stand outside in the chilly morning watching the sunrise with my mouth hanging open. I´ve done things I never thought to do in this lifetime!
Breakfast is not the usual with Teresa in the kitchen - today it is homemade marmalade - salami, rye bread and a yellow spongy cake, which I think is the Galicia cake - the Santiago cake is an Almond cake, which I have not had yet.  Leave around 9 a.m. with lots of hugs and thank yous.  I think my friend Roberta would love these sisters and their Casa Rural - I think Roberta and her experience as a chef, would do a grand job with a B & B.  She could entertain and cook like the sisters!!
Well, what´s new?  The guide books have not given true accounts of the Camino - today is not different.  We have lots of ups and downs mountains and valleys.  Love these giant chestnut forests and this morning more giant oak forests - I´m understanding more and more why the locals talk about elves etc.  Hurray - at 10:30 a.m. we cross the 100 kms left to Santiago marker - stop to take a photo.  See the wonderful Jamie, from Vancouver, still collecting garbage along the Camino.  Take her photo for my collection.  The pilgrims have been told that from marker 100 kms we will see more pilgrims on the trail - this is beginning to come true - today for the first time we see many pilgrims we’ve not see before - including two Spanish families with small children.  As it is a holy year for the Camino, by walking this year, Spaniards are taking the opportunity to walk to have their sins forgiven.
Arrive in Portomarin by 2:30 p.m. - trek only 17 kms today.  About 5 days to go to Santiago.  It will be a little longer trek tomorrow.   
Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts for today - Cannot believe I´ve walked almost all the way across the northern part of Spain - about 699 kms. in 31 days - I gave myself 40 days to trek the 788 kms. I maybe able to finish before day 40.  So far, I´ve only taken 3 rest days.

Day 30

Saturday October 16, 2010
Day 30 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Samos to Barbadello
Dear Blog Readers,

Have to tell you I went a little crazy taking photos yesterday at the Samos Monastery.  Walls all the way around the second storey is filled with jaw dropping frescos.  Today is only supposed to be a short day, so leave Samos about 9 a.m. to head out - low mist fills the valley and the pilgrims trek into the misty forests.  The province of Galicia is filled with tales of fairies, elves and dragons - seems if you look at the stones and trees you are bound to see a mystical character.  However, no time to look for elves as it is soon evident this is not going to be an easy trek.
The Camino moves from one side of the roadway to the other, or in and out of forests with a lot of ups and downs the mountains.  Some trails are better than others - forests are filled with giant chestnut and oak trees - some so old you can see what the locals talk about with mystical shapes and faces.
Pilgrims travel in and out of hamlets - lots of cows and sheep again - in one hamlet we come upon a feisty black dog herding a flock of sheep and goats up a path to a meadow - he is on the job as one ´hard´ taskmaster, when one goat decides to hop a stone fence for a morsel to eat - he barks and nudges until the flock get the message and continue up the path. 
On the approach to Barbadello, where we will spend the night, fire crackers burst overhead - wow, says Rick, this is a quite a welcome for us - as we approach the church, where the fire crackers are being set off - we see a large tent and lots of people.  I ask if it is a wedding - no - just another local festival - this one is to ´celebrate´ food!!
We can see the sign for the Casa Rural where we are staying but all we see are giant chestnut trees - no building - nothing.  Weary from all the climbing I phone to ask - please tell me where your Casa is?? Wait right there I´m told and in about 2 minutes a car with two sisters arrives to collect us.  We drive around the mountain top and come out on the other side and there is a large, beautiful farmhouse and a view of the valley and mountains (where we’ve come from).  The two women are sisters, Teresa and Julia - the farm is the family home and the room where we’re staying date back to the 16th Century - humbling to say the least. 
The sisters leave a platter of salami, bread, cheese and cold beers and head down the mountain to the food festival.  They ask what time would we like dinner and we say since we´ve not had lunch would 6 p.m. be okay - okay they say - wow, first time I can eat on Canadian time - not Spanish time.  This is a gem of a place and when the ladies return actually ask what I would like for dinner - and I asked for anything from Galicia.  Their farm produces lamb - I´m in heaven - I ask if I can have rice instead of fries with the lamb - yes, it will be there pleasure - yeah!  If I die during the night I´ll be in heaven - lamb with rice - they make a wonderful salad and peach custard for dinner - they say ´mi casa es su casa´- so after dinner, the brother-in-law light the fireplace and we watch television.  We’re in bed by 8:30 p.m.
Trek - 20 kms, but it feels like 25 kms - and takes almost 5 hours - how I wish for the Mesetas, where I could trek 5 kms in an hour. There are 107 kms to go to Santiago.

Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts for today -Those who set out the markers on the Camino have a wicked sense of humour - after trekking for many kms. you get to a town of Sarria and to continue on the pilgrims must climb 8 sets of stairs - each have 6 or 8 or 10 steps with the final one set at 14 steps straight up - to the church, of course - this so tires the pilgrim they don´t even stop at the church - instead they just head for the nearest café or bar before continuing on the way.

Day 29

Friday October 15, 2010
Day 29 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Alto do Poio to Samos
Dear Blog Readers,

Did I mention in the previous blog that Alto do Poio was cold - well, I froze last night as there was absolutely no heat at the hotel - stayed in one spot on the narrow bed and dared not more for fear the chill in the room would get under the thin sheets. The tip of my nose froze as I did not want to put my face under the covers - if I don´t get ill from this night on the Camino - I should be okay for the rest of the trek.  My dreams are filled with a mommy polar bear and her cub whom I feed shaved ice to - can you tell what was happening to my poor body and mind to bring on such dreams!
For the first time on the Camino, I dress without showering.  My toes curl on the chilly tiled floor.  We hurry out of the hotel after just a cup of tea - it is dark and we use the lights gifted by friends (thanks Ron and Linda). It is 8 a.m. but the raising sun to the east gives a golden promise.
The path is downhill, but filled with large rocks and cow droppings.  As I gingerly make my way through, as if to offer a reward, tiny purple crocuses line the Camino.  It is again tip-toe through the hamlets - with the thought of having to wash the bottom of my boots as soon as I get to the hotel.
First two hamlets have no café open for breakfast - but finally there is a most clean and wonderful place for a hot chocolate and ham sandwich.
The Camino continues through the forests and on the roadway for some kms.  Again it is slow going for most of the way. Must take an alternate Camino route on the left, as the town ahead has no hotel rooms available - I think there is another festival this weekend. Arrive at Samos around 3 p.m. It is another long day for a short trek of 20 kms.  At this point there are only 129 kms left - about 5 days if all goes well, to Santiago.  Cannot believe it is almost over. Take a photo of my aching feet - veins are pulsating.

Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts for today - Samos has a large Monestary so I´ll get my unwashed body showered - yeah, and get over there to get some photos.  The standing joke on the Camino is - what do pilgrims do when they get where they are going for the day?  The answer - they walk!

Day 28 - all is fine, just no computer to post blogs!

Thursday October 14, 2010
Day 28 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Vega de Valcarce to Alto do Poio
Dear Blog Readers,

Up early today to have a quick breakfast at the panaderia across from the Casa Rural where we spent the night.  Low hanging fog fills the morning - but must get going as today is the big ‘climb’ to the peak of El O´Cebreiro which takes the pilgrims into Galicia, the final province on the Camino.  It is quite chilly for the first 2.7 kms. - trekking becomes difficult as Camino trail is steep, filled with large rocks.  But I stop often for the breathtaking scenery - very like Switzerland - rolling green meadows filled with sheep and cows wearing bells.  Clank, clank rings over the mountainside.  The Camino again travels through several small hamlets - now filled with sheep pellets and cow patties - the smell is overwhelming and the going is not only tough with the steep climbs but now pilgrims must dodge the cow patties.  Gosh for the first time I understand the job of dung-beetles - do they ever do a good job on cow patties!
Again the guide books lie - after the peak at El O´Cebreiro, trek is supposed to be downhill - cow patty - it climbs and climbs - cross into Galicia and continues to climb. Now in the hamlets Celtic music fills the streets - very unusual. Their roots must go back to some olden times when the Celts came to invade or trade.  We are above the clouds. Finally, after one horrendous steep climb, as the poor pilgrims on the trail huff and puff up the narrow track, we arrive at the top of Alto do Poio.  The hotel where we will spend the night is across the road.  An Englishman (Dick) says we are at 4, 440 ft - it is actually cold but the sunset is jaw dropping at this height.  Lulu and Joan arrive, but continue on down to the next town. Trek has taken 7 hrs. for 20 kms. but adjusted for the numerous climbs it is more like 28 kms.  There are about 149 kms. to Santiago.
Blessing from the Camino,
My personal thoughts for today - As I journal today’s walk I check the guide book.  It states there is nothing in the history of Galicia to point to the Celts ever being here.  Most strange - so where did they get the music and magical folklore?  Fairies, elves, witches and wizards abound in every store.   

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 27

Wednesday October 13, 2010
Day 27 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Villafranca del Bierzo to Vega de Valcarce
Dear Blog Readers,
Today is only an 18 kms walk, so get a later start after the usual breakfast, leaving after 9 a.m..  The sun is showing promise and the weather forecast is for a few clouds and sunny - a lot different from one week ago, so I´m thankful for small mercies - no rain.  Just outside of Villafranca the Camino breaks into 3 routes.  The first is recommended for ‘fit’ hikers only and is on the left - ha, since neither Rick nor I are one of those that route is ruled out, even though it is called the ‘Dragon’ and snakes up and down mountains and through forests offering the best views of the valley below.  The second route goes right, also offers views but it has three mountains to hike up before it joins the third route 10 kms up the valley.  We must climb El O´Cebiero tomorrow and since it is the highest direct hike up on the Camino, I vote to take route three, straight ahead, which follows a secondary road to the hamlet where we’ll spend the night.
Most of the novels I read on the Camino talk about this route being dangerous as it travels along the roadway with no shoulders for pilgrims.  However, since the last book, the Spanish Government has opened up much of the north by building a super highways - so commercial trucks and most of the traffic now use the freeway and this secondary road is less used.
The Camino stays along the road with a lovely swift flowing river below.  This helps to dull the noise of the odd traffic using the secondary road.  The trek goes through several hamlets - some so small if you blink you miss it - however to get to one hamlet, the road meanders through a forest of giant chestnut trees, now bursting at the seams - prickly burrs and fallen leaves blanket the trail.  Just pass the chestnut forest, there is a birch forest, also with giant trees being harvested - logs line the Camino and soon the track passes the mill,where they are taking care of tree business.
The sun is up and hot, my several layers of warmer clothes are removed.  Up overhead the sky is so blue, it is like a Saskatchewan sky - a plane high overhead looks like a silver bullet set on slow motion mode - it is a great moment on the Camino.
Soon the hamlet comes into view - however before we see the Casa Rural hotel, where we are to spend the night, my whole vista is filled with the highest, bridge I have ever seen - this is the highway spanning two mountains, with the hamlet in the valley below.  You can hear the far off clump-clump sounds of trucks driving overhead along the super highway.  You will have to see a photo of this bridge to believe it - I cannot even guess how high up it is.  
Like all Casas Rural - the key is somewhere else as the owners don’t live in the house.  Key for this one is at the ‘panaderia’ the bread shop across the road, in the lower level of a beautiful house.  We learn the owners live above the bread shop, when we collect the key and have a sandwich for lunch.  Head for the house to play catch up on the laundry.  There is actually a washing machine to use - no dryer - but clothes lines are strung across the side yard.  The pilgrims, still on the road,  wave as they go by while I hang socks.  I take photos of the inside of the Casa Rural and the bridge overhead.
Later, the lady at the bread shop, where I´m using internet to blog, says the bridge is 80 metres high.  Also learn we are sharing the house with Lulu and Joan.  The Casa has a kitchen but we are not allowed to use it, so will wait for the ladies and head off to dinner in the center of the hamlet.
Trek 18 kms today - about 180 kms to get to Santiago.
Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts today - Trekking today seemed so easy compared to my first days on the Camino.  My body and mind are now used to the routine, from the usual breakfasts to the end of day laundry and blogging.  This daily routine is not taxing on my body, so leaves my mind free to travel inwards and think about my life, family and friends.  What a wonderful gift to my soul.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 26

Tuesday October 12, 2010
Day 26 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Ponferrada to Villafranca
Dear Blog Readers, 

I am up early to have breakfast and get a taxi back the 8 kms. to Ponferrada to start today’s walk.  The weather forecast is for a little sun and clouds, but no rain.  Taxi drives to the other side of Ponferrada and we begin to walk.  A little chilly so I wear my mitts and a fleece top.  The guide book says flat, however it is up and down hills all the way.  Track is rocky, but it is not too hard, as there is still no rain.  The two lovely things today are - the birds, who are out and singing.  They sit without fear low in the trees and I can see they look like red breasted finches.  They sing a  lovely song.  I stop and tell them they are lovely singers - the other thing is that on either side of the trail are rolling vineyards growing the old fashioned way, not trellises.  There are markers saying the fields grow Cab Franc - so Rioja is not the only region growing Spain´s grapes!
Just pass a village, I have to stop to take a photo of a house built right across a river - just bizarre!  As the Camino travels along a secondary road, there is honking from behind and a parade of tiny cars come up the hill, drivers and passengers wave at the pilgrims on foot - seems the cars are also on their way from St. Jean to Santiago - must be a car club - look like small box type European cars! Rain spits for a few minutes but no downpour.
At the top of the hill before descending into Villafranca, we visit a lovely old church (Iglesia de Santiago) with a wonderful statue of St. James dressed as an ancient pilgrim.  Lots of pilgrims are in the church, lighting candles in tribute to St. James - I do too, getting a bit emotional about the fact I have less than 200 kms. to walk to Santiago.
Trek 23 kms today - off to Vega de Valcarce tomorrow, only 16.5 kms.

Blessings from Santiago,
My personal thoughts for today - At the Romanesque Iglesia de Santiago there is a Puerto del Perdon (a door of pardon) for any pilgrim unable to make it Santiago, due to injury or illness.  This is heart warming, as I can just imagine the disappointment of any pilgrim unable to make it all the way.

Day 25

Monday October 11, 2010
Day 25 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Molinaseca to Ponferrada
Dear Blog Readers,

Well, after the epic day of walking yesterday, take it easy today, even though I feel great and the feet, legs and body are holding up just wonderfully.  Sleep in to 8 a.m. Have breakfast (the usual) and set off for Ponferrada, 8 kms. away.  There is a Knights’ Templar Castle in the city I want to visit - it has been restored after being burnt with all the Templars inside.  Not much along the path, surprised to see vineyards here in this region of the mountains.  Scenery is very like British Columbia, vineyards along the side of the mountains, where I presume they get the most of the limited sun.  Maybe a bit of micro climate area. Step over many Maple Leafs on the Camino.  Make it into the city only to learn it is Monday and the Templar´s Castle is closed on Mondays and won´t be open until 11 a.m. Tuesday - long after I´m on the road again.
Stop to have a hot chocolate and take a photo of what pilgrims do best on the Camino - have a coke! Visit the Basilica instead and wonder a bit about the Catholic religion - Rome issued the orders to kill all the Templars and take their wealth, and here in the Basilica all the crosses are Templars (even the Masons’ symbols are on the floor at the entrance) and a statue of Mary Magdalene is at the feet of the crucified Christ - guess Church uses the symbols  to their advantage when money is the name of the game - remember it is church that titled Mary Mag. a prostitute!
It is a national holiday tomorrow, Tuesday, so we get some supplies at the supermarket and take a cab back to Molinaseca and the hotel.  Invite Lulu and Joan to have dinner at the hotel tonight.  We are all feeling like chicken in lieu of Thanksgiving turkey.
Trek only 8 kms. today.  Off to Villafranca tomorrow, 23 kms. away. Almost down to the last 200 kms. to Santiago.

Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts for today - As a Catholic, I am truly puzzled at the Catholic Church - their preaching of the interpretation of the Bible seems to go out of the door here in Spain - it is do as I say not as I do!  I have discovered over the years I’m becoming more spiritual, than religious. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 24- Happy Thanksgiving Day, Canada

Sunday October 10, 2010
Day 24 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Astorga to Rabinal but make it to Molinaseca
Dear Blog Readers,
Blog is one day late.
Well, this turns into an interesting day on the Camino - hold on to your hat if you’re wearing one - you will not believe what happens today. The day begins like the other days on the Camino - up early in for  breakfast, but it is Sunday so there is no toast, I get a croissant instead.  We have to get a taxi back to Astorga to walk to Rabanal about 22 kms. away. Get to Astorga and begin to walk the Camino, a steady climb up from the Meseta.  The temps are changing as it grows cooler.  Stop for a hot chocolate at an Albergue. On either side of the Camino heather is in full bloom - guess they like the cooler temps.  Pilgrims are leaning into the steady climb.  I hold my Camino stick up, thinking this is because in the beginning of my trek I was actually attacking the Camino.  Now, I’m walking the Camino.
The last 3 kms. climb into Rabanal is up a steep, rocky climb - several pilgrims use the cool forest to take a lunch break - we plough on and arrive in the hamlet by 12:45 p.m.  Now it becomes interesting - we stop at the only place open - an Albergue - ask for a taxi to take me forward to the next town, Molinaseca - there were no hotels due to the holiday.  Well, here the Camino steps in on a well planned day - Sunday, NO TAXI - not to go back or forward!
I walk 22 kms. not counting the climbs - and there are about 25 kms. to Molinaseca.  Nothing in between to talk about - no towns with hotels, only two stops with Alberques, and a steady climb up to the highest mountain pass on the Camino.  I am feeling great - so does Rick.  The sun is shining so we decide to take up the Camino’s challenge.  I have a small bite to eat, drink a coke, purchase a sandwich for the road and continue.  Well, I don´t have a clue what happened next.  Maybe the coke kick in - or my work on the previous Camino treks come into play - but I go into first gear and never stop.  I want to thank Ursela for the mountain climbing advice - I don’t need it, or my Camino walking stick - I climb up and up in high gear - never out of breath or tired.  Someone hangs a swing ‘time to stop and play’ the sign says and I do.  I believe the climb is about 5,000ft - the guide book says- 4,934 ft above sea level.  Just know I climb several mountains this day and feel on top of the world, literally.  We leave Lulu, Joan and Tanya in Manjardin at the final Albergue no rooms at the hotel and continue on.
The decision to go on has one sad point.  The climb takes us pass the Iron Cross, where Pilgrims can leave stones for themselves and loved ones. Unfortunately, since I am not supposed to walk this path until tomorrow, the stones given to me by friends and family in Canada, Arizona, France and Spain, plus those I had collected for loved ones along the way are all in the bag sent forward to the hotel in Molinaseca.  So as I crest the mountain and spy the cross, I improvise.  I stop to pick up pebbles for each person on my list plus a few more for those I do not know. I place each on the huge rock pile, calling out their name as I add them to the pile.  I will carry the rocks I have all the way to Santiago and find a place to leave them with prayers for all who asked me. Call the hotel and the owner says we are about three hours away.   The rest of the walk according to the guide books, is a steady downhill - again these books lied.  For all the down, there were more climbs.  We are now in no men´s land. Leaving the cross the only other person is a strange hermit looking man with a black dog ahead - who stops at the only Albergue, which comes into view and it is so dilapidated - and scary looking we do not stop.  Hurrying downhill the foliage becomes thicker and I notice the hermit is now behind with his dog - yikes, I say a silent prayer for protection and ask Rick to stop to take a drink and let the man pass.  At the next mountain top the hermit turns around and heads back - to the Albergue I guess and we continue to walk.  We cross to the other side of the mountain range and need to put on rain gear.  We watch a dark cloud crashes into the mountain top and the weather turns.  We are in the clouds and the rain, which was absent all day finally comes.  The going is tough.  Here again the guide books lie - the steep downhill is filled with ROCKS, not small stones.  I am literally running down - again without using my stick, I traverse the descent without mishap while Rick runs into problems, twisting his ankles and having problems with the entire Camino.  And still it goes on down - We are now on the road for five hours - two pass what the hotel owner told me and still we go down.  We break through the top of yet another mountain range and see far below in the distance a large city.  As we go down so does the sun.  We make it to Acebo a small mountain town about 10 kms. from our hotel - we should stop and get a taxi but my feet, legs and body are holding up, so I continue down the mountain.  Rick is at this time in agony.  Several kms. later when the sun sets Rick cannot go on. I finally call the hotel and ask them to sent us a taxi.  We wait on the side of the road - it is about 2 - 3 kms from the hotel.  Arrive at 8:45 p.m. after beginning to walk at 8:30 a.m.  Trek is over 48 kms. - might have been 50 kms but call it quits 2 kms. short due to the sun setting and it the darkness descending.
An absolutely crazy Camino day - will take it easy tomorrow, as I have no idea how I will feel in the morning, after walking almost 50 kms.  Cannot believe I just accomplished that!

Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts for today - I have to believe for the first time in my life my brains released endorphins into my body.  It is the only way to explain my actions. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 23

Saturday October 9, 2010
Day 23 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Hospital de Orbigo to Astorga

Wake early to get a start on the day.  There are no hotel rooms available in Astorga so must travel back to Hospital after the days’ trek.  Quick breakfast of toast, jam and tea - and off I go.  Dark clouds overhead, forecast is for wind and rain. The pilgrims are off in a hurry to complete the trek before the heavens open up. No such luck before long the dark clouds burst. Heavy rain forces everyone to find rain gear.  The problem is dodging the puddles and small ponds on the trail.  I am so happy for waterproof hiking boots, pants and jacket, and a rain poncho too.  Several kms. later, I need to concentrate walking through a hamlet.  The terra cotta water from the rain comes rushing down the hill with all the manure from the cow farms up above - yuk, there is no tip toeing though the tulips with this stuff - wonder about the hamlet´s drinking water as the stuff continues down into the main streets.  Walk as gingerly as I can. I take some time to make a detour to pat a little calf in a pen drinking milk from a small bucket.  We have it all today, wind, rain, mud, puddles, ponds, small lakes, and finally sunshine - oh for the silver lining in every dark cloud.  Meet a Vancouver woman, Jamie, who she is trekking along the Camino, picking up pilgrims’ garbage as she walks.  She gets about 3 bags per daily walk.  She says she is giving back to the Camino - life sure gives you some wonderful people on the path. Make it to Astorga in time to see a wedding in the city square. Fall is definitely in the air - it is cooler and the birch trees show signs of the foliage changing colours.  Air is also cooler.  Thinking of Thanksgiving tomorrow in Canada - no turkey here!  Trek 17 kms. today - the entire area is in a festival mode, reason why there are no hotel rooms in any town forward for the next four days - take a taxi back to Hospital.  Tomorrow will taxi back to Astorga and hike for about 22 kms. then have to take a taxi forward to the next town - then backwards the following day to hike to the same town again - the National Holiday on Tuesday is to celebrate Columbus discovering America - in America everyone goes shopping on Columbus Day - here everything comes to a stop so the nation can celebrate!

Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts for today -With the hood up and the rain playing a pit-pat tune upon my head I let my boots find the path of least resistance along the small rivers running downhill. I use the time to pray for all who need some prayers at this moment.  It is a wonderful experience.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 22

Friday October 8, 2010
Day 22 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
León to Hospital de Orbigo
Dear Blog Readers,

Sorry it is actually day 22. 
Have a fabulously delicious breakfast - you have no idea how fantastic it is to eat eggs, ham, fruit, juice, cheese etc. for breakfast instead of stale toasted baguette, jam and tea.  Staying at the 5 star hotel for my day off really pays off.
Take a taxi to get to the outside of León as most of the guide books talk about taking your life in your hands if you try to walk out of the city because of the Camino competing with the roadway for a few kms.  Leave the hotel at about 8 a.m. and begin the trek close to 8:30 a.m. at a village, La Virgin del Camino.  An old abandoned church steeple has attracted storks to build nests.  The Camino is filled with small rocks and splits into three routes.  Decide to stay in the center or original route to the next stop.  This route travels along a secondary roadway, which over the past three days had been quiet - not so day!  It feels like walking along the 401 in Toronto - voom, voom! I have no time to enjoy the fields along the Camino - with rain threatening all day - a small sliver of blue remains in the distant sky and I focus on it when I cannot find a washroom in the first town.   To make matters worst, the Camino crosses the roadway several times - it is like taking your life in your own hands?  One thing about Spanish drivers - they slow down for no one.  Pilgrims are just a speck on the roadway - these drivers are too busy looking to pass the big transport trucks. Finally, find an Albergue for lunch and a washroom break. 
The trek is supposed to be 25 kms. but at the hotel, the correct number is 29 kms.  Wow, no wonder I hurt when I climb into the tub to soak my aching feet. Have dinner with a lovely Spanish family, from the north coast, walking the Camino.  Tomorrow I will leave the Mesetas and climb into the mountains of Galica - most say it is a beautiful, green province, but the TV warns it receives the most rainfall in Spain.  On one of the mountain tops pilgrims are invited to place rocks as an iron cross symbol to have sins forgiven.  I will place several rocks I brought for myself and friends from home when I climb there two days from now.  I will add others for anyone needing help with health issues or just some good luck. 
Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts for today - I accomplish a milestone today - trek 29 kms.  I am pooped, but elated.  Just 283 kms to go.  Hope to be in Santiago, without any health problems, by Oct. 23, 2010.  You may hear me hollering from your homes - when I finish this trek!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rest Day Reflection

Thursday October 7, 2010
Rest Day on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Dear Blog Readers,

Retrospective to date -
Camino History Cont. :- St. James found he was having a hard time convincing the local Spaniards in the Northern Provinces to convert to Christianity - neither Myth nor legend can decide how far he walked, but what is spoken of, is St. James grew despondent at his lack of success and travelled back to Jerusalem, where he was promptly caught and beheaded by Caliph as (most of the apostles where either beheaded or crucified after the death of Jesus). It is said some of the Apostles stole St. James body and took it across the land to the Bay of Biscay to launch it off into the sunset, and the end of the world, which in those days everyone thought the world was square. However, the tide took the coffin unto the shores of northern Spain, north of Finnisterra (End of the World).  The coffin was found on the shores awash with scallop shells, hence the shells worn on the pilgrims’ backpacks to this day is a signal to identify pilgrims.  Seems like someone recognized the body in the coffin as St. James and took it inland and buried it in what is now called Santiago - later a hermit discovered the coffee and the body entombed under the huge Cathedral de Santiago, the site where Christians from all over Europe and the East began to trek towards Santiago - St. Francis of Assisi even made the trip. Pilgrims learn about the Templars, who at one time guarded the pilgrims making the journey to visit the shrine of St. James in Santiago.  

The Camino :- The path, which exists now has been worn across the land through the past two thousand years by pilgrims walking to Santiago.  The Spanish Government has the Camino path traveling into each and every hamlet, village, town and city in the area.  Twice now I´ve had to take a bus across areas noted in the guide books as highly dangerous for pilgrims to walk, as it is actually along the road or highway, where you compete with the traffic for space to walk.

The Spanish People and Culture :-  As mentioned before, most Spaniards are welcoming, giving the pilgrims a ´Buen Camino´ greeting as we go by.  The most difficult thing remains finding the food to eat when you are hungry.  Pilgrims must adhere to the strict Spanish siesta, so if you get into a town between 3 - 5 p.m. you are out of luck.  Between 5 - 7 p.m. the whole town comes to the nearest café for a shot of coffee (your spoon could stand up in it) or a glass of some aperitif. Here is something Canadians would not understand.  The Spaniard stands or sits at the bar - opens the packages of sugar for their coffee, and promptly drop the empty containers on the floor.  If you go up to the bar you have to wade through a garbage heap of paper to get close.  I asked the bartender the other day why the people do it and he just shrugged  - a Spanish girl at the next table told me it is just that Spanish people are dirty - which made me ask - ´but do they do that at home?´ And she too just shrugged. Everyone also smokes - everywhere, my clothes, hair, even my skin smell when I return to my room from using the cafe’s computer to post my blog.  However it is the 8 or 9 p.m. dinner schedule, which has been hardest to deal with for all the pilgrims. Most just head to the grocery for a baguette and some cheese or, buy some tapas (usually some ham and cheese or egg/potato pie), and head off to bed for an early start the next day.  One part of the Spanish culture also giving me a hard time is the stray cats in each hamlet, village, town or city.  The poor dogs are left in lots by themselves tied to a fence.  When the dogs here you coming they bark and when you see them their tails are wagging, but you have to just wave and keep going.  Along the trail there is a lot of garbage created by the pilgrims - unlike me taking along all my used tissues and empty bottles, many just drop it on the trail.  I´m sure at sometime someone comes along to clean it up, but it is discouraging to pass so many places covered with litter.

I want to note here I still have not been able to use the farmers’ fields as my bathroom like so many pilgrims - my bladder is doing a great job at holding it until the next town or hotel.  I think there are 312 kms. left to reach Santiago.  I´m going to try to do that in about 14 -16 days, with no more rest days, depending on health, the weather and the mountain passes of course.  Up ahead the  weather looks threatening, rain and cold.
Today in León take in the sites, the wonderful stain glass windows at the Cathedral and even go shopping for a fleece top and rain coat - after the rain yesterday not looking forward to a repeat soaking.

Hope everyone is well.

Blessings from the Camino -