Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rest Day.

Dear Blog Readers,

September 28, 2010

Rest Day in Burgos - wow I´ve taken so many photos of the Cathedral I´ve stunned myself!

Anyway, want to take the time to write you a retrospective of the Camino to date -

Brief History - After Jesus died, the Apostel James went to spread the word, like St. Peter to Rome, St. Paul to Corinth, St. James tried Spain - travelling through France to enter Spain over the Pyrenees.  This is why the trail starts in France, from St. Jean Pied de Port, translates ´St. James on foot at the door´into Spain.

The Camino - For the most part the trail is well marked with yellow arrows pointing the way to Santiago or a blue tile with a shell - in some hamlets it is through the whole town, but in large cities, you can easily get lost so have to keep a sharp eye out on the sidewalks or up overhead on signs for the yellow arrow or shell symbol. The way is sometimes through wide fields, or narrow sheep tracks, washed out riverbeds, over dirt, stones, pebbles, hard sand, large rocks, and even cement and rock paths placed by well meaning city governments ( some of these are very hard to walk on for 8 - 10 kms at a time - legs and feet feel heavy and tired).

The French and Spaniard - Did not spend a long time in France, long enough to enjoy a croissant and tea and purchase my Camino walking stick (thank God I did, I´ve patted thanks to that stick many a days), so really don´t have a huge opinion of the French, those I met were friendly and wished me well.  The Spanish are for the most part welcoming. We, the pilgrim, have literally taken over their country and they have allowed us in.  The pilgrims are vital to the economy in many hamlets, villages and towns - not as much in the cities.

Culture - The little I was exposed to, showed the French culture as quaint, with  lovely little villages filled with flowers.  The Spanish culture is culture shock to most pilgrims.  Each day we leave before the sun is up, so not much is open.  Pilgrims must purchase water and food the night before to stock up on food for the first thing in the morning. If we are lucky, there is a hamlet, village or town up ahead with a smart bar owner open to let us in to purchase coffee, tea, hot chocolate and sweet cakes . they have croissants filled with melted chocolate - yum!
However, after walking for 5 - 7 hours and getting to the next town to spend the night, there is nothing open to save your life - it is of course siesta.  Doors are closed, windows shuttered, dogs put away and quietened.  Only the odd stray cat can be seen dashing from one abandoned building to the next.  So everything is closed until 5 p.m. lots of pilgrims take a nap as there is only ´tapas´on at the restaurants or bars, these a nibbles to peck at, nothing to fill the stomach.  Dinner is at 8 p.m. those pilgrims staying at Albergues (inexpensive hostels with up to 100 in a room) must get back before the doors close at the Albergue - sometimes by 9 or 10 p.m.  This set up of eating late makes for an uneasy night´s sleep, as the pilgrims are usually on the road by 7 a.m.

Accommodations - I made the decision to stay at small to medium hotels as I´d heard stories about the horrors in the Albergues - mainly loudly snoring pilgrims, or having to share a room and bathroom with 100 other people.  After the first day meeting a young German man who could not finish his beer due to his ´bed bug bites´and meeting a Montreal woman on the third day who counted 85 bed bug bites - I am now happy with my decision of spending the money to stay in hotels - the pilgrims do pay to stay in the Albergue - 5 - 10 Euros.

Walking the Camino - My wish to walk the Camino was not an easy one.  I wanted to do something for myself.  I know there were a few who did not think I, who had never done anything too challenging, could actually make this trek.  I´m born under Taurus, the bull, which means I´m ´bullish´and of course my nature is to be determined.  If I decide to do something I do it to the best of my ability - no matter what that is.  So as not to fail, I also added the challenge of raising money for Raise a Reader, a program I organize in the South Okanagan.  That first day, what got me going after I hurt myself, was the thought of disappointing all those who did believe in me and sponsored me - I want to say a huge thank you for having faith in my ability to accomplish such a task.  I wish to tell you this is not an easy trek I have undertaken, but it will make me stronger in body and mind.  I have never doubted I could finish what I started, now I continue to pray for good health, strong feet and legs and a steady mind to take me to Santiago.

The future - I have nothing, no treks for the future, once I finish this Camino.  This was my 60th birthday wish for myself - now I´ve been thinking when I turn 70 I will like to buy an open ticket on Via Rail, and travel across Canada, stopping in places I´ve like to visit - Who knows, maybe I´ll ask the grandchildren to go with me!

Thanks again to everyone for the super support - I´m hanging in and accomplishing more than I imagined.  Keep the wishes coming, they are appreciated.

And, thanks for the advice on my lost photos, here in Burgos I went into a camera shop and the kind man found all my ´lost´photos, they are now stored on a CD set to travel home with me.

Much Blessings from the Camino -

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 13

Monday September 27, 2010
Day 13 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
San Juan de Ortega to Burgos
Dear Blog Readers
Last night share a drink with the lovely couple, Elsa and Alfredo, who own the Casa Rural. This morning have a quick breakfast, leaving Belorado by 7:45 a.m.  by taxi back to San Juan de Ortega, where I left off yesterday.  Again share the taxi like the day before with a Swiss ex-military man and his younger companion, who has done the Camino before and is acting as his guide.  Forget to take their photo.
Morning is chilled, driving to San Juan the gauge reads -1 degrees, yikes, get the gloves out.  Set off at this temp and it does not warm up for most of the day even when the sun comes out.  Walk pass fields and rolling hills again. Up through the pine and oak forests with my breath misting in the chilly air.  It is a day of colours, first the lovely lonely bunches of poppies waving along the path. Next are some purple flowers growing right out of the dirt or small stones along the path - no stem, no leaves, just a lovely blossom emerging from the ground.  Try my best not to step on them as the push to feel the warmth of the sun.  Today when the sun finally shines on the flowers along the stone and dirt paths, I see periwinkle blue butterflies again.  Pass more wilting sunflower fields, ´poor pilgrims´!
Some trek uphills and several downhills on tough ground filled with large stones and rocks - making the Camino through this leg a hard walk.  Travel through several small hamlets, stop for a hot chocolate to warm my chilled bones.
Finally see Burgos from the top of a plateau.  This is one City I’ve been dreaming about because of the history, can´t wait.  Burgos is home of the great El Cid.  As a treat, staying near the Cathedral in a 5-star hotel called Mason del Cid.   However, even though I can see the City of 170,000 inhabitants, it takes about 3 hours to get to the edge.  Too tired to go another km. take a bus to the center, but must walk for another 30 mins. to the hotel.
Trek 26 plus kms. Today brings the total to 290.1 kms.  Will take a well deserved rest day tomorrow and tour the City and historical locations.  Also get caught up on the washing!  Will write a retrospective tomorrow on the trek to date.
Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts for today -  Even on a tough, rough day’s trek, flowers and butterflies bless the Camino - I am humbled!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 12

Sunday September 26, 2010
Day 12 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Belorado to San Juan de Ortega

Dear Blog Readers,
For the first time on the trek we stay the night at a Casa Rural - this is a house in a hamlet, village or town, privately owned and converted into a rooming house.  There are about 5 double rooms. The family live in the town not in the Casa Rural.  They check us in and leave for the night.
After breakfast I leave the hotel earlier, as it is a long hard day, with some steep climbs.  Trail is rocky.  Walk pass fields of dying sunflowers, who remind me of a pilgrim, with head bowed, arms hanging from carrying a heavy backpack - the sunflowers reflect the tired, weary pilgrim, with bowed face and hanging leaves.  Trek pass an ancient church built into the hillside (hundreds of years old) - someone says it is actually an Albergue, however I see no one as I stop to take photos. Bells are still hanging from the church´s towers, an odd site on the trail.
All day rain threatens. The clouds are dark and heavy - the wind is chilly, so scarf, gloves and jacket are the order of the day.  Pass several small villages on the way to Villa Franca, where I buy bread for my lunch, along with some salami and cheese purchased yesterday at the supermarket.
Out of Villa Franca the trek goes straight uphill, very steeply for about 3 kms.  Yikes, going is slow and many pilgrims are actually moaning, including me.  Finally make it up to the top, I can actually say I´ve walked on top of a mountain in Spain.  The plateau goes on for about 8 kms.  The path is lined with Heather, pass their bloom, so no smell. But then there is a large Pine forest for kms. and that brings back memories of British Columbia.  The path is wide so I think the pine has been planted for harvesting, as the area can accommodate large machines and trucks.
Come upon a monument for those murdered and buried in mass graves during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s under Franco rule.  A truly sad place, so stop to have lunch and chat with a young woman (Pia) from Austria, who is on the Camino looking for answers as to where she should go next in her life.  She is an interesting person to chat with, like so many others on the Camino.
As lunch ends, the wind picks up and the temp. drops about 10 degrees, sky darkens and a storm seems about to drop out of the sky.  I hurry on. I think the trek uphill is over, but there is another hard climb before it levels off again.  No rain, but the wind and chill persist.  Finally, San Juan de Ortega comes into view, but there is about 4 kms downhill before the church comes into view.  It is about 2 p.m. a long day indeed.  Take a taxi back to the same Casa Rural as the previous night.  There are no hotels now until Burgos. Will sleep then taxi back to San Juan de Ortega in the early morning to walk the next leg into Burgos and a long awaited rest day!
Wednesday is Raise a Reader fundraising day, thanks to all of you who have contributed to literacy through my trek - I cannot do this without help from all of you!

Blessings from the Camino.
My thoughts for today - Some guide books actually take into account the ups and downs when giving the kms. Trek today 24.3 for a total to date of 263.1 kms - with the added kms for ups and downs it is more like 27 kms today.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 11

Saturday September 25, 2010
Day 11 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Santo Domingo de Calzada to Belorado
Dear Blog Readers,
Go to bed at 9 p.m. and wake up this morning at 7:50 a.m. Guess the body needs the rest.  Trust the nuns, pilgrims dine on bread and jam with a cup of tea for breakfast - not a piece of ham in sight!
Leave Santo Domingo in light rain, which remains for most of the walk.  Long day today as the villages and towns with available hotel rooms are getting fewer.  Sunday tomorrow but Cannot take it off.  There is no place to stay except at an Albergue with hundreds of other pilgrims and bed bugs!.  So will walk, turing around to spend a second night in Belorado.  Trek travels through every hamlets, uphill and downhill in and out.  One place is so small, nowhere to buy a coke.  The Camino takes us into the village where the locals are sitting outside, guess on Saturdays one thing to do is pilgrim watch.  Well, I think all the pilgrims on the road this morning have had enough of the in and out of places, adding kms. to their walk.  As I leave this one town, down the hill I see pilgrims cutting across a farmer´s plough field, taking some of the kms. off their trek. Rain continues.
Walk pass more potato fields being harvested.  At the entrance of one small hamlet, it seems like Saturday is the day to prepare for winter. A man labours over an oil can cut like a bbq, with wood chips at the bottom, and a grill at the top, he is roasting large red peppers.  I stop and ask to take his photo but he would not let me, just a photo of the peppers roasting. In the background sit three other people washing the peppers.  He says they store the roasted peppers in ceramic containers with water and then use them all winter for up to five years.  They put them in meat dishes or soups etc.  Wonderful to see this happening, one man is in the family´s garden picking the peppers, the rest of the family washes while the shy man roasts.  Pass several others doing the same thing.  It is roasting peppers day!  Rain persist, with that nasty cold wind again - pilgrims are exhausted by the end of the day. Finally get to Belorado for the night.  Trek today - 23.9 kms. no steps.  Off to St. Juan de Ortego tomorrow, another long day with some steep climbs. Then back by car to this town.  Thanks for your comments and prayers!

Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts today - As before, I continue to feel the Camino can break your spirits if you let it.  I have picked up my walking stick, only using it on occasions if I have to cross a wet or slippery track.  At times it is like the pilgrims attack the Camino, poking their walking sticks into her trail.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 10 - only 30 more to go!

Friday September 24, 2010
Day 10 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Dear Blog Readers,
Still unable to access the blog.  Sending blogs home to Richa for posting.  Can’t sign in, they think I’m an impostor trying to hack into my own blog.
Leave the hotel around 8 a.m. this morning after a quick breakfast. Making sure I get breakfast now.  Last Monday walked the whole day without any food, only dried fruits, nuts and water because the town where I had to stop, was closed up tight, so all the Pilgrims walked on without getting anything to eat.
Steep steady climb out of the city pass the red clay cliffs, the history of these hamlets, villages, towns and cities are mind boggling - the visit to the Templars’ Cloister built right into the clay cliffs, with its jaw dropping interior and gold gilded altars are a sight to see.  Trek pass several vineyards again, however today Camino leaves the Rioja region and continue to the next province in the area.  After several hours pass the first potato field being harvested by a farmer.  Vineyards are left behind.  All morning rain threatens, but make it to the next town, 9 kms away without a drop of rain.  Stop to get a sandwich but first pass a golf course where an entire community is built to support the course, however not one of the more than 50 plus high rise buildings are filled with tenants - a very ghost like area and sad to see, maybe the failed economy got to here too.  Finally as I leave the cafe after lunch the heavens open up - not only rain but a nasty cold, biting wind.  Travel through this for about an hour before the sun decides to beat back the dark clouds.  See Santo Domingo de Calzada long before I get there.  Have to walk pass a potato co-op.  Yuck nothing like rotting potatoes to greet the Pilgrims.  Made it to the city by 2:30 p.m. - Lovely place so going out to check the churches and restaurants.  Trek 21.2 kms - give up on checking the steps.  The knee brace work well and my trek is without pain.  Check into a Hospice run by nuns - go a laundry mart to do the wash, yeah for small mercies!  Hurray, finish my first 10 days, now only 30 to go - to date I have walked 215.8 kms.  Thanks everyone for the well wishes and thoughts of how to get my lost photos!
Blessings from the Camino,
My thoughts for today - Giving thanks to my secret agent AF for the gift of scallop shells, they are doing a great job on our backpacks.  And to Lorraine, super thanks for gifting me Psalm 23 and a pocket cross. I carry both with me everyday.

Day 9

Thursday September 23, 2010
Day 9 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Navarrete to Najera
Dear Blog Readers,
I did not get to a computer yesterday - so this blog is one day late.
After a quick tea and croissant at the hotel bar, I take a photo of the beautiful church doors as I leave Navarrete heading to Najera.  It is a short walk today, only 17 kms. and at the end maybe a little rest.
Not too many steep up or down hills today - stop for a hot tea 6 kms along the trail. A steady climb uphill now.  This is the Rioja region - Spain’s wine country, so still passing lots of vineyards on the path today.  Grapes are on the ground, not from pruning, but actually cut off and dropped on the ground, even though the vines are heavy with more grapes. Seems like there is a glut of grapes on the market. Have I mentioned how inexpensive wine is here?  
Walk part of the trail with a giant French pilgrim who ambles along the Camino and still gets there at about the same time as all the other pilgrims.  He takes long strides - one of his is three of mine. Feet holding up well, but for a few days my left knee has been painful when going uphill, will get a knee brace in Najera tonight and try it tomorrow.  Steading downhill into Najera, which is visible for miles before I get there.  Strange city built into the ´red clay´hillside.  There are actually look outs in the hills, seems back in the 1930s people actually hid in the hills during the Franco reign and Civil War.  Here too there are stories of Charlamagne and the Knight Roland.  Pilgrims pass a large rock said to have been thrown by Roland as he killed the giant, Ferragut, a descendant of Goliath.
Arrive at 1:30 p.m. - early but laundry to do so it dries for the morning.  There is a Templars cloister build into one of these clay banks.  Teresa and I check it out after laundry.  The church has a fantastic statue on one of the altars of St. James.  Gosh he was so young!  Trek 17 kms. my steps still not working, I think it has quit the Camino.  My clothes are beginning to slip off, I think I’ve lost weight.
Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts for today - I am surprised at the Knight’s Templar churches and crosses used across Spain.  A Spanish King asked and got permission from the Catholic Church to killed the last Templar and take his land and wealth, yet Spain seems to have embraced everything Templar, a little hypocritical in my view! 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 8

Wednesday September 22, 2010
Day 8 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Viana to Navarrete
Dear Blog Readers,
After eating a light breakfast at the hotel, leave Viana at about 8:10 a.m.  Pack a sandwich and apple lunch for on the road.
Today it is very overcast and clouds hang low, trekking across the country with no burning sunshine and heat is good.  Make good time over the up and downhills on the way to the City of Logroño, pop. 150,000.  Trek for about two hours before making it to the outer industrial area of Logroño.
The City is huge. Camino travels through the older part of the City, where there is a lovely Church of Santiago dedicated to the pilgrims.  The churches here are out of this universe, ornate, gilded and large with jaw dropping interiors and art work, making our own churches at home look rather lame.
This should have been an easy trek day, but once in the City the going gets very tough.  Travel though the streets are hard, feet, legs and knees hurt like mad.  Had not realized just how much I appreciate the dirt tracks in comparison to the paved sidewalks.
Most of the other Pilgrims complain about the trek.  Everyone is exhausted.  We walk through a park which goes on for kms. and kms. At the end of the park I sit and have my sandwich lunch.  Outside the city is a very polluted lake, no one seems able to appreciate the scenery.  Finally out of the park and on to the next town, 10 kms. away.  I jump out of my skin as I walk passed a vineyard being harvested. A cannon in a vineyard explodes as I walk by.  Boy, did that bring back memories of being in the Okanagan!
Another factor to add to the Pilgrims misery - the sun comes out with a vengeance!  It gets hot and sticky. Finally arrive in Navarrete around 2:30 p.m. Trek 22.4 kms Steps didn´t work today.  Off to Najera tomorrow, only 17 kms or so, praise the Lord, a short day - (I hope)!
Blessings from the Camino,
p.s. The 29th. is Raise a Reader Day - thanks to all the volunteers!
My personal thoughts for today -An interesting thing, on the dirt Camino path alongside the highway to Navarrete there is a fence for about 2 kms. covered in hand made crosses.  Pilgrims of yesterdays used whatever was available and made crosses and stuck them into the wine fence.  I add my cross to the thousands.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 7

Tuesday September 21, 2010
Day 7 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Los Arcos to Vianna
Dear Blog Readers,
Leave Los Arcos around 8 a.m. after stopping for tea and a croissant.  On the way out of town realize I forgot my ring and earrings at the hotel.  Hurry back in the hopes of not losing them, but telling myself that like the photos of the first 4 days trekking, I cannot find on my camera that if I don’t find the ring and earrings than so be it, they are just material things.  However, they are on the night table where I left them.  So, head out of town again.
Today it is very hot, no shade trees along the paths.  This makes for a tiring endless day with many steep uphills and just as steep downhills.
Travel through one hamlet called Sansol - in the town square there are trees and benches.  The two Americans, Stan and Eugene, who answers everything `yes mam` are in the square with the other young people trekking together today, among them is Vanessa from Quebec, Lars from Holland and Kathrine from England (near Windsor she says).  We met her the first night in Roncesvalles.
Lots of grapes being harvested along the vineyards and pilgrims help themselves to the bunches of grapes in the open vineyards. We are now in wine country.
Long before arriving in Viana, it can be seen in the distance, which makes the last 5 kms. take forever.  An American said it best the other day in the square, where many pilgrims sat having a beer - Walking the Camino is the most grueling thing a person can do to their body - by trekking 20 - 24 kms. every day for 34 - 44 days.  In a person´s lifetime they never subject themselves to this type of physical endurance.  I do understand now what happens to the Iron men and women during the race in Penticton.
Arrive in Viana around 2 p.m. stopping at the first bar with other pilgrims to have something cold - Coke never tasted so good. Trek today 20.5 kms.  Steps 20,766 (those uphills and downhills). 
Blessings from the Camino,
p.s. Remember Raise a Reader Day is Sept. 29th.
My personal thoughts for today - I think the worst part of walking the Camino appears to be the last 5 kms.  After six or seven hours walking, when the body and mind are exhausted, the last push seems unconquerable.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 6 - need your help!

Monday, September 20, 2010
Day 6 on the Camino de Santiago de Campostela
Estella to Los Arcos
Dear Blog Readers
After the day of rest in Estella, my feet and body feel wonderful, ready for today’s trek Los Arcos.  Leave Estella early, 7:50 a.m. so no breakfast at the restaurant at Hotel Yerri.  It is still dark, sun still out of sight in the east. It is chilly.
Travel uphill to the west out of the City with other pilgrims.  About a hundred metres up there is a Fuente del Vino (a wine fountain attached to a winery). Pilgrims line up for a free drink of wine to start their day - yuk!  There is a live webcam for you to wave at friends and family back home.  I just walk on by and by the time the sun comes up I am an hour away.  Lovely walk today along gravel trail, not too many mountains so going up and down much faster.  The scenery is beautiful, pass plough hay fields, pilgrims’ stone creations, vineyards and olive groves. Lots of butterflies and of course my newest friends, snails!
We do not find a town with a bread shop open to have breakfast - so make do with cookies, nuts, bananas and water - made it to Los Arcos by 1 p.m. I have lots of time to ask if someone has a Mac computer to help me download my photos for the blog site. Run into Eugene, a young man from New York we met the first night in Roncesvalles, who with his friend Stanley (we didn’t meet) are making a documentary on their Camino trek.  Stan has his Mac, yeah!
However, to my horror, all those internet cafes I visited asking to help, must have done some harm to my camera disk, as when I finally get to the photos, it seems I no longer can find photos of my first 4 days on the Camino.  I am hoping someone can help me discover if they are still there. At the last internet place the man moved the lock on the disk, only today did I realize he had locked the disk - I unlocked it but when I went to view the photos only the ones from yesterday morning and today are on there.  Help! Does anyone out there know how I can retrieve my lost photos?
Feeling good. Trek 23 kms today.  Steps work - only 18,459 steps, much longer strides today on the level tracks. Off to Viana tomorrow, 20kms away.
Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts today -Needless to say I’m sick to my heart - all my photos of the first days are in limbo somewhere, my hope is the man at the last cafe, did not somehow erase them.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 5...

Saturday Sept. 18, 2010
Day 5 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Puenta la Reina to Estella
Dear Blog Readers,
Today is a good day!! It is not raining! But, Rick who has been my rock, has decided not to walk today - he is feeling the effects of yesterday’s climbs.  He will take the bus to Estella.
I get on the trail late, after sleeping in - set out at 9 a.m. Walk out of the City across the Puenta de Reina bridge, take lots of photos with 3 of the 4 Korean ladies.  Fourth one is up ahead somewhere. However, the ladies are into eating and stop a few steps outside the city limits for a snack.  With a full tummy from breakfast I continue without them. By the way, staying at some of the hotels is a good thing.  Not only do they offer dinner for the price of the room, breakfast is also included and most pilgrims staying at the hotel are treated to a cold breakfast, which includes ham, cheese, all manner of bread, cereal, yoghurt, fruit and cookies or small cakes.  These cello wrapped items always make their way into pilgrims backpacks for a snack later on the trail.
I trek up and down mountains today feeling a lot better.  Could it be the body is adjusting to the daily 8 hours walking?  I am developing a good pace and can keep it up unless the climb is too steep, then I slow down.  I have decided the Camino can break your spirit if you plan too much or fight the trek.
Meet some Irish women today on the Camino and walk part of the trail with them, then off they go and I continue at my pace.  The sun is shinning today, no rain, thank goodness for some mercies, as several parts of the trail could have been dangerous today. Pass lots of vineyards and plough fields.  In a small community (Cirauqui) as I eat my lunch (a ham and cheese sandwich thanks to the hotel´s breakfast table) I witness a lovely Basque ceremony for young boys making their first communion - parents, grandparents and boy wear white pants and shirts with a red Basque kerchief tied around the neck.  The boys carry a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a small baguette in the other.  The town´s church bells peal for about 5 minutes inviting the families into the church.  Absolutely lovely. Korean ladies are stopped again having lunch.  I use their cell to call Rick and he will meet me in the next village.  On the trail I meet one of the two Irish men who passed me in the forest when I had my pulled muscle.  We stop to admire a Roman ruin up on top one of the climbs.  His backpack is all wrong and I adjust it for him.  He is grateful.
Pilgrims on bikes are a bit of a problem, they speed by downhill at such past paces that you have to hope they don´t take your pack as they zoom by at breakneck speeds.  They do shout ´buen camino´ as they go by so one can´t be too mad, they are after all on the Camino too.
By the way, we are all known as ´peregrinos´ the Spanish word for pilgrims.  In many places there are pilgrims meals, which usually comes with an excellent bottle of Spanish wine.  No, I don´t drink the whole bottle myself, other pilgrims share the table and one bottle of water and one bottle of wine is placed on each table.
Meet with Rick in Lorca, feeling okay, so continue on as he returns to Estella by bus.  I make it to Estella, after 8 hours on the trail.  The Korean ladies are already there and I ask how come - ha, they took a taxi from where they were having lunch.
Trek is 24 kms - steps worked today = 31,213 - my strides are longer today due to no rain.  After 5 days on the trek, tomorrow is Sunday and I´ve earned a day off - so like a good Christian I´m ´resting´ on the sixth day - feet are sore, but body is doing well.
Tomorrow I will attend mass and give thanks for the toes, feet, legs, body and mind for staying in good heath this far.  I will also pray for all those I offered to pray for on my trek.  I´ve completed over 100 of the 890 kms. in 5 days. I am happy with what I´ve done so far!
Blessings from the Camino,
My personal thoughts for today - Walk into Estella today with a couple I first met in Roncesvalles, Dr. Bob and his wife, Teresa - they are both fabulous and I think they are going to become lifetime Camino friends.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 4.....

Friday September 17, 2010
Day 4 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Pamplona to Puenta la Reina
Dear Blog Readers,

Day begins at 8 a.m. after eating breakfast, leave the City in a light drizzle, which becomes a constant downfall as the day progresses.
In Cizur Menor witness a man slip on the wet pavement, banging his head on the way down, he is out cold and blood stains the sidewalk.  Pilgrims continue on leaving the wounded man behind.
Up a very steep climb, which passes rolling hills and more farmers’ fields and ancient abandoned structures.  Rain makes stones slippery, climbing is difficult for most times.  With the wet claylike soil sticking to my trekking boots, they get heavy and life becomes miserable.
Climbed through Cuendulain and Zariquiegui, climbing all the way to Alto de Perdon, which normally has lovely views of the surrounding areas. However today with the constant rain, we are in a heavy mist and strong winds, so cannot see anything, but it does feel like the top of the world.
Loud sounds come from the mountain top wind turbines - the Spanish have adopted wind power.  Must go down, since I climb up. Descent travels down steeply over wet slick stones.  Trek through Uterga, Muruzabal and Obanos, before reaching Puente la Reina around 3:30 p.m.
I´m convinced the Spanish Government has made a deal with all the hamlets, villages, towns and cities along the Camino because even though we go through each on the way and the kms. seem to stay the same for eons.  I am tired and exhausted, but make it with just  sore feet and aching muscles.  Trek 23 kms today.  Total to date 91.5 kms in 4 days.  Steps did not work today so just image the steps I did for today.
Heading to Estella tomorrow, 23 kms away. Once there, I will take my first day off trekking the Camino and rest.

Blessing from the Camino,
My personal thoughts today - Signs are very deceiving along the Camino - walk pass a sign saying 14 kms to go and after an hour trekking, a sign up ahead says 14 kms to go!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 3!

September 16, 2010
Day 3 on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Zubiri to Pamplona 
Begin the morning with usual breakfast, bread, butter and jam with tea, leaving by 8 a.m. with a slight drizzle in the darkened predawn.  Rain gear seems to be the order of the day.  Just when I think the hills and mountains are a thing of the past, the very first 5 mins. are straight uphill in the light rain.  Again, I am taking it slow. No snails on the path today, not like day one - but still I take it slow.
Trekking through forests and farmers’ fields today. Have to step on the roadway for some of the trek and the traffic feels like the Autobahn. Vehicles zoom by close, spraying water at the pilgrims.
Pass several little villages.  Stop at one cafe´ for a hot tea, just to get out of the rain, this is where the owner takes great fun in verbally abusing us all - `hurry up and order so I can throw you out of my cafe´ - he yells in Spanish, and I’m the only one understanding his words.  He is quite a character.  My Spanish is helping me some - I´ve been translating for some pilgrims - but this is mostly Castellian Spanish, not a form of Spanish I am comfortable with even though I understand.
Sit on the side of a home is a hamlet to have lunch, ham sandwich with coke.  Other pilgrims use the wooden benches too.
A long, exhausting day, I am wet and cold. Don´t think I´ll get the clothes dried by morning.  Three cities come together to make Pamplona, finally after what seems to be an endless day walking, make it up to the old city of Pamplona - just beautiful.  Row upon row of three or four story buildings joined together, each fighting for its own identity by their decorative fronts.  Colours and flowers abound in windows and on balconies. Visit the City Square for a beer and tapas.  Visit a church for a quick ‘thank you’ to St. James.
Trek today - 21. 5 kms = 37,966 Yazie steps.  Off to Puenta la Reina tomorrow.
Blessings from the Camino -
p.s. Don´t forget Raise a Reader and donations, please contact Cherie Morgan at the Penticton Herald to donate to my walk, you have only until Sept. 29th.
My personal thoughts for today - There are now pilgrims from previous days and we are forming a kind of community.  

Day 2!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Day 2 on the Camino de Santiago
Roncesvalles to Zubiri
Up early, feel okay. Give quick thanks to the ‘Silver Virgin’ at the church for my feet free of blisters.  Leave Roncesvalles at 8 a.m. after a quick breakfast.  The sign for the Camino de Santiago, across the roadway from St. Jean Pied de Port says it is 790 kms. to Santiago.  The guide books says 788 kms.  I’m beginning to be confused about just how far I have to walk to reach Santiago.
The trail starts off with several uphills like the previous day.  Not to have a repeat to my leg muscles, I take the trails slowly - using up time for each climb.  Lovely countryside with forests and rivers. Today seems to be the day to meet other pilgrims from different countries - 4 funny ladies from Korea, a Finnish couple who are both doctors, loads of Spaniards, some on foot some on bikes, French, Germans, two teachers from Canada - one from Peterborough and one from Quebec. For each uphill is a treacherous downhill with loose gravel making balance difficult.  Make it to Zubiri - 21.8 kms = 30,611 steps for me. Very exhausted - due to the many climbs up and down this section takes close to nine hours.  No blisters. Tomorrow off to Pamplona. 
Blessings from the Camino,
p.s. Remember - Raise a Reader is Sept. 29th.  Please donate!
My personal thought for today - Can’t wait for dinner, Spaniards eat supper at 9 or 9:30, so I feel like a real pilgrim, eating supper in my room - bread, cheese and salami wash down with a coke.  Off to bed early! 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 1!

Day 1 on the Camino de Santiago - 
St. Jean Pied de Port (France) to Roncesvalles (Spain)
Sept. 14, 2010
Hello Blog Readers,
I’m writing this blog on the 15th as I am having problems finding internet cafes to send the daily blogs - so here is what happened yesterday - the first day of walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.  I will have to wait until I find a compatible computer to download the photos.
Take a taxi to St. Jean de Pied de Port at 7 this morning - St. Jean is a lovely French village - with lots of ´Bonjours´ everywhere. Get the Camino Passport book stamp and go in search of a Camino walking stick. Buy a pilgrim walking stick, which says St. Jean de Pied de Port and the symbol of the Basque Region, looks like a fleur du lis. Find out the trek is over 25 kms. not 19.5 like the guide book states!  Most pilgrims take the Napoleon Route over this Pyrenees.  I decide on the trail less traveled as I want to see the field where King Charlemagne of France camped on his return campaign from sacking Pamplona during the Moors occupation. 
After a steady climb from St. Jean up the Pyrenean Mountains, pass fields and picturesque villages, get to Valcarlos (Valley of Charlemagne), the Spanish side overlooking the valley where the King camped, while, his cousin Roland, a most heroic knight, was being attacked and killed closer to Roncesvalles.  Some of you may remember the epic poem about this story- of Roland blowing his horn - Here the countryside is beautiful, with majestic mountains, rolling hills and green plateaus, bleating sheep and cows with tinkling bells around their neck. 
All is well until the last 5 kms. (later found out it was more like 8 kms.).  For some reason in all my training for the pilgrimage walk, I had only blood blisters under my toe-nails, but here on the trek, I pull a muscle in my right leg, which spasms upwards!  I want to die!
Out in the middle of a lovely beech tree forest, with the sounds of water, from the river way down below in the valley, I come to a standstill.  I see white lights and I really want to die on the spot! No place to stand level - the terrain is either straight uphill or keel over and tumble down where I just climbed.
I want to thank all those who have sponsored the RAR walk I´m on and all my friends who are ill and for whom I´m walking and praying - Thank You - if not for you I would have stopped right there and prayed for someone to find and rescue me off the Pyrenean Mountains.
All day long, snails cross my path, beautiful big black snails and slugs - I believe trekking the Santiago Road, gives you life lessons - I use this lesson to go on with my pain.  I become the snail.  I stop often - every 10 yards, say a prayer, and continue up, in pain all the way. I reach the mountain where Roland was killed.  Now it is all downhill. I finish the day’s trek, still hurting and I do a little painful happy-dance - in front of the Roncesvalles church, where each night they host the most beautiful mass on the Camino for the pilgrims.
To have you understand what I did this first day - 25.5 kms (as mentioned the guide books did not tell the truth) is farther than I expected. For those of you who use a ‘step o matic’ my walk measures 33,743 steps.  
I celebrate with the other pilgrims at the pilgrims dinner - grilled lake trout, french fries and yoghurt.  I shed a few tears writing this blog, cannot believe what I did today.
Blessings from the Camino de Santiago!
p.s. Raise a Reader day is September 29th.  Please donate on or before that day!
My personal thoughts for today - I did not know who St. James was when I began this trek - however, today while I was in pain I prayed to St. James to help me complete this day for myself - not for RAR or to prove to anyone I could do this - but just for myself - my thanks to the Apostle for making me strong this first day!

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 13, 2010

September 13, 2010

Hi All,

Arrived in Roncesvalles - will travel to St. Jean de Pied de Port at 7 a.m. and begin the first leg of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

Here I go!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On my way - leaving Penticton for Madrid

September 8th, 2010 - at the Pentciton Airport for 9:10 a.m. flight. 
Will travel to Vancouver, to Toronto then Madrid - however, Air traffic Controllers on 'work to rule' in Toronto - watching our flight path on my TV, I am surprised to see our path over Toronto take on the look of a French horn with our plane circling high above the clouds - worry about the connections to Madrid.
We make it in time, hurrying all the way to our gate.  I notice two women in the waiting line have back packs too, and learn they are on their way to walk a different route of the pilgrimage.  Theirs will take then along the coastline of northern Spain.
Even though I was once a flight attendant I have become a nervous traveller. Once on board, I take a little pill to help me get over my apprehension and maybe get some sleep to ward off jet lag.  It works - and I sleep.  Arrive in Madrid by 11:10 a.m. local time on the 9th. - below are wonderful views of large olive groves from my window seat.
Grab my Raise a Reader sign for the Metro ride from the Madrid airport to the hotel - shower and get a few hours sleep then out to visit the streets of Madrid in search of dinner.
Will rest in the south of Spain (Marbella) for a few days to climatize - jet lag is plaguing me - still on Penticton time and I am awake for long periods in the middle of the night.  Take the fast train (Renfe) to the south on September 10 - will return north to Pamplona on Sept.13 - then by bus to Roncesvalles to spend two nights - this is actually the first stop along the Camino, but will spend a night then travel by bus to St. Jean de Pied de Port early morning on the 14 to begin walk - I will walk the 19.5 kms across the Pyrenees back to Roncesvalles to spend the second night at the same hotel.
Wish me luck! 

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Raise a Reader (Herald Article)

Where in the world is Yasmin John Thorpe?
By KEELY COVO/Special to The Herald
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

During September and October, Penticton‘s Yasmin John Thorpe will be trekking

across Northern Spain to raise money for Raise a Reader.
Her route is 780 kilometres – 30 km less than driving from Penticton to Edmonton
– and she hopes to complete it in 40 days.
John Thorpe just turned 60, and that was a big part of what inspired her
“It‘s the one big thing I want to do from my bucket list,” she said. “I feel good and
I wanted to do something strenuous.”
The added pressure of doing it for a cause will hopefully give her the push she
will need when the journey gets tough, she said.
John Thorpe has visited several schools in the Okanagan, and she hopes that
students from every one of those schools will help her now raise money for Raise
a Reader.
She plans to write to the schools, suggesting that the principals keep a can on
their desks so that, every morning, kids can drop in a few pennies or whatever
change they have.
Students and volunteers will also hawk newspapers on the morning of Sept. 29
as the primary Raise a Reader fundraiser.
For her part, John Thorpe is donating a dollar for every kilometre of her trek. She
said she will give it in advance, just in case something happens and she doesn‘t
complete all 780 clicks.
However, John Thorpe would like more than just change from kids. She said
she‘ll need lots of encouraging messages on her blog, which she will update
every night from Internet cafes along the way.
“I‘m sure I‘m going to question myself after the third or fourth day,” she said.
“That‘s when I‘ll need encouragement and motivation.”
For a year now, John Thorpe has been training herself for this pilgrimage, called
the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, starting in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port in
She is up to 18 km a day. By the time she goes, she‘ll be at 23 km a day. Once in
Spain, her stages can vary from as short as 19 km to as long as 39 km.
Through training, John Thorpe met a young woman who had done the same
pilgrimage before. The young woman offered many words of advice, as well as a
scallop shell that travellers attach to their backpacks to identify them as pilgrims
to Spanish separatists.
What she finds especially interesting is how many people have travelled the
same path. The shell that she has may have been on this journey several times
before. She said tens of thousands of people do this pilgrimage every year.
It is named after Saint James, an apostle who travelled it trying to convert people
to Christianity, and it has a deep spiritual and religious effect on many who travel
“They say the journey changes you,” John Thorpe said. “That‘s what I‘m looking
for in my life. I‘m looking for some sort of spiritual change.”
Her blog site isn‘t set up yet, but the Herald will publish it on the first day of John
Thorpe‘s trek, which will be 19 km over the Pyrenees Mountains.

Count Down to Santiago

Hi All,

Getting close now - count down has begun - everything that could go wrong has not spared me but instead has paid me a visit.

Practicing my up and down hill climbs in preparation for the Pyrenees I trained a little too hard. Got blood blisters under my two big toe nails - podiatrist says I gave myself a typical tri-athlete's injury - yeah me! I was not even training for the Ironman, but got an Ironman injury.

Nails continued to plague me - and I wondered if I should get larger hiking boots to accommodate swelling of my feet - took the plunge and although I had been following all the best instructions about breaking in the boots I would eventually use - I got new (one size larger) hiking boots. Nails are still yukky - in fact ugly, but no pain, so I may still lose them on my trek, but for now they are being kind again - taking all the pounding I give them.

Next to go awry, even with my best interest in mind, I had opted for a small back pack - wanted to take no more than 10 - 15 pounds - as every book or person who has done the Camino says they took too much or they unloaded 'stuff' along the way - however, even though I had been training with weights in my back pack, this past week when I actually laid out my essentials - half didn't fit in my back pack - wow, what a wake up call so off to the store I headed.

Along the way I met with someone who had already traveled the Camino who was kind and offered to a loaned me a pack which had already conquered the Camino - now all the gear fits and it only weights 11 pounds without my water bladder filled.

Just two sleeps left and one none sleep via Air Canada and I'll be in Spain - Ole'.

Three prayers for the Camino -
1) To be safe
2) To be injury free
3) To finish that day's walk - taking one day at a time.

Hasta Luego - or until soon,