20 October 2017
SONG: Life Is A Highway by the Cars

BOOK: A Bondswoman’s Tale – One of the verrrrry few novels written by a true slave in the 1800’s. It follows my read of The Underground Railroad by Colin Whitehead, which won a Pulitzer. I did not feel it deserved it and would not recommend it. This new one however was bought from a collection found in a library – one of those attic collections that gets found!!!!. It is just an incredible and remarkable discovery and a powerful contribution to history and literature. More than anything it supports the power of writing “what we know.”

THOUGHT: It is all about the people. There are so many ways and places to walk 500 miles, but the most unique and valuable facet of the Camino Frances is the people. While I can become exhausted from walking, physically, I never imagined that I could come to the end of a day and say to myself “I do not have the energy to meet another inspirational, bright, interesting person!” 

Concluding my historic reporting on St James, I have gone back through my photos of the statuary and paintings that include him during my walk. My observations are that he was a vertically challenged (short) person, but the general population in the region here is also short…so he fit right in.

Teacher Mode

 Based on the images, he was not the breathtakingly handsome sort. And just based on casual clinical observations, he most likely had Graves Disease or some other thyroid disorder. He had some seriously protruding eyes and it is a characteristic not all the other sculpted and painted guys shared. I don’t think it was an artistic trend.

He had a teaching phase, a pilgrim-wanderer phase 

At Pons with Marie Helene. The WAY actually goes thru there

Full on pilgrim mode

Sometimes you like wearing pilgrim-like lamé

Shadow over the man

Napping outside the Parador in Leon. It was probably “Completo “

Thyroid issues notwithstanding, teaching pilgrim’s gotta teach

Gilted garbs…

Out in front of the Leon Parador. Apparently, they wouldn’t give him a room!

and in his miraculous resurrected-from-the-dead phase he had the slayer phase. I am including a series of pics because I know you are breathlessly awaiting and thirsting for such info in photo form.

And this is where your fame rests???? I’m just sayin’…..

At the personal level, I have been able to add on another day to my stay in the Albergue Arribada here in Muxia. Skipping the last two walks allowed me to get dropped off in the sweetest end to the trip and chance to recuperate. The small fishing village has mostly pilgrim traffic coming and going. There are landmarks and it is in fact the outermost reach of land into the Atlantic that curves into the point of James entry into the region. It has a fishing industry that probably contributes to some of its economic strength, but the Albergues and restaurants are able to do a lively trade.

In between

View from the top

Today’s lottery winner

Looking out from morning coffee

The one I am in is the most well thought out of all the ones I have stayed in. There is a privacy curtain on each bunk. It has a generous kitchen and sitting area and a washer and dryer (very important for the last stop before you head back into civilization and need to have clean stuff.) I do pity the customs officer that picks a pilgrim’s bag for a search when we each return home. The boots alone could level him/her. It is for me a personal, mean-spirited hope that mine will be excepted…it will make me smile.

The buildings in Muxia are quite modern construction and architecture. A few old remains of walls are around and the old churches have been preserved. There is an unusual little boulder hill, but I have no idea how it was formed or why it is there. A friend and I decided to walk it and followed a set of arrows that had apparently were designed for very young, fit boulderers or goats. We got half way up and decided it was not a good day to die and literally, crawled back down. As we headed around the end of it, we came upon a well set, even walkway that wound to the top and was being traveled by the buses full of would be pilgrims who at least like to see the end points of the Way, up close and personal. 

Lighthouse at work

My warm and comfy bunk

Sally on the safe side

Not the safe climbing side of the mountain

Not the modern construction

Re the thought on meeting interesting people: this is the quintessential element that defines the Camino as more than a walk. There is some representation of just about every kind of human being imaginable. All ages, nationalities, spiritualities, athletically (or not) motivated people around – what is not out here in them that does not demand some level of awe!  



14 October 2017 – Winding Down

SONG: Ordinary Love by U2       

BOOK: Started and finished Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – a dense look at racism…a bit too much in some ways, but every point in some way, a truly legitimate issue.

THOUGHT: On NPR, I used to love the Swami Beyondananda and his wise words about how we look at doing “fasts” to cleanse our hearts and bodies. He was a much stronger supporter of doing “slows,” however and that is what I seem to be doing as I do these last days. 

END OF THE ROAD (Fin de la Tierra; Fin de la Route) This section of the walk is something of an add-on for most of the Pilgrims. You get your full on papers and certifications in Santiago for being a “true”pilgrim. If you walk all the way to Fisterre, you get another certificate…I Walked To The End Of The World papers.  I don’t get this one, because I took a bus AND a taxi…tsk!  But I’m on board for exploring it. 

As to the historic context and relationship to James’ (reason for the Camino) story and eventual sainthood, this is the point where his remains miraculously sailed back in from Rome, on a stone boat that was covered in scallop shells (giving them their place in the history and utilization in the pilgrimage.). It used to be that you got your shell once you arrived at Santiago and that was your verification once you got home, that you had actually finished the walk. Now you get shells whenever and you get papers at the end.

Story continues…assisted by good friends who thought he would like to be buried in Galicia in spite of his spectacular job failure in conversions here, an ignominious departure from Spain and his subsequent beheading by Herod on his return to Rome (being the zealous convert to Christianity that he was, Herod was not keeping him around!) they set his remains out in the stone boat which made it miraculously back to Fisterre. 

On arrival at this point however, the Gaelic governing body in Northern Spain at the time…a seemingly strong female-controlled community…let the bearers of the body know that he was not welcome there for burial. The queen told everyone clearly that if they did want a burial, it would have to happen at least 50 miles inland. So they headed inland and put him into the ground in what is now Santiago de Compostela…back then it was just a field of stars. 

 Not so much any more…refer to cathedral photos (previous blog post) and full on Catholic performance celebrations of the man who eventually rose up out of his grave to slay the Moors and get Christendom into its proper state of control. It was his way of redemption apparently from his miserable inability to convert folks on his initial try. In essence, this slaying thing was his do-over.

As for the current time and place in the Camino pilgrimage – Fisterre-Muxia Way – the intensity of the more interactive walk with other pilgrims, is less present. The physical demand is greater…the distances between stopping points is longer (more than 30km per stage; less well marked; fewer albergues in between.) Many decide not to do it. Many do a variation with the walking and the bus. I am in the latter group.

I took a bus to Muxia and set out immediately for Lires. It is the mid point between Muxia and Fisterre and I was planning to make Muxia my return point for departure back to Santiago for the trip home. 

Looking down to the sea from my albergue in Lires

Lires…mid point between Muxia and Fisterre along the outer northern coast of Galicia

Shopping for our supper in Lires. Very fresh!

 Lires is tiny but with a beautiful beach and a fresh water river that flows into it, with a biological co-mingling that is similar to the one we lived near in NJ. 

High tide

The walk between Muxia and Fisterre is mostly wooded and the tall pines have breaks that open out to views of the breaking sea. It makes it the true cathedral space I need. I have walked alone on these days and it has been delightful. There were a few points where I got 2k or so off the course, but I got re-directed by guys on tractors or ladies coming out of their gardens. 

Fisterre is a small harbor town and the fishing industry has a presence, but it looks like more of the boats in the mooring spaces are for shuttling tourists out into the bays during high season. 

Me and Gianni and the marina

Fisterre is also the official end point of it all – “0” km point marker. I walked up up to the physical site by myself the 2d day there and looked out from what has been everyone’s point of final reflection. Personally, I don’t think I could reflect on more than the fact that this was “it.”  Any profound awarenesses did not strike me.  Maybe one day there will be some light-up moment but right then it just seemed like a place to have cafe con lèche and the traditional shot of local liqueur – it was after all 11:00am. 


11 October, 2017Wishing for A Botafumerio

SONG: Alléluia – Any version will do but I love kd Lang’s best

BOOK: Finishing Stay With Me and it is a very well written and powerful story

THOUGHT: Whodathotit!

I got up, knowing I was heading into Santiago and would be there early enough in the day that I could find my Albergue and still get to the office to get my papers. Of course it was more convuluted than that…I was in Santiago long before I figured it out, and then of course my albergue was all the way across town and up a whole lot of stairs. It was one of those days for meeting a lot of people who did or did not know what I was saying, but did try to help keep me going towards my destination.

The hospitalière who welcomed me and signed me in when I finally arrived just put a huge dollop of love on top of everything with his really sweet welcome! I put my things in the lockers provided in the basement of the Monasterio Menor (which I think is still partially an operating monastery.) 

My digs for 2 nights in Santiago – Monasterio Menor

Everything’s in the locker. On to the Pilgrim’s office!

With many more directs and redirects, I got to the Pilgrim’s Office which is poorly marked and off the beaten path. I was not the only one to have the bad time…and sharing bad times is such a special thing!
It was 2 hours standing in line (much more painful than walking) before I arrived in front of the guy from Oregon who was volunteering for the week and making us, one by one, true and verified pilgrims.

He let me sneak this photo – normally not allowed

 I got two certifications and will be able to give one to Kim Nees and one to Mary Pieszko who now have more than a million steps banked for them to use whenever they need them! Lucy will get my Passport which will hopefully served as inspiration for her own adventures, however they take form. This will remind her that there always is A WAY!!!!!!

I ate fried calamari and had a most delicious glass of white wine to celebrate, and then made my way back to the albergue. I got completely lost, not once, but twice…so I circled Santiago almost 3 times in the same day…sad face emoji…

The next morning I headed back to the Cathedral center and the hope that there would be the giant incensing event with the Botifumiero that is so incredible. It is chance-y as it is only a guaranteed occurence on the high holy days and after that it is dependent on sponsorship by some group who is willing to pay for it…to the tune of $400 per event. There are groups that do sponsor it and my hope was for one to have done so for this very day…

Verifying my good seat

I got there early just to see the interior of the cathedral and got a nice seat in the general seating area. I was next to a Polish woman with a wheeled walker and she spoke a little English. We both agreed that we were truly excited.  

Well our hopes were met and tripled…someone pretty important was in town, as we got a High Mass, concellebrated by 24 priests and led by a Bishop/Cardinal…he actually had 2 hats and I was not sure which on was the higher ranking one. The little red silk cap I think trumped the bishops miter…so I am going for Cardinal. And very happily, the sponsoring important group had a full-on Bota…

Setting the incensor in motion

It takes seven guys to get this thing going

There’s a red silk beanie under that white hat…Cardinal? Bishop? Hmmmm??

I will try to attach the video but am not sure if that will work for the blog. Suffice it to say that I was a pretty happy pup and the Polish lady believed she was in fact in heaven. Since she had to go for her communion with her walker, the important folks let her sit in the front row for the Bota… Afterward, we had a heck of a hug…even if I had to go back to my regular seat for it. I had Grandma’s rosary out, sang in my best ever full alto voice and remembered the Latin (effectively mumbled what I was not sure of in a proper rhythm and tone).

All part of your everyday 500 mile walk!

Close to Santiago

8 October 2017
BOOK: Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss – not currently reading it, but it is one I have thought about a lot on this trip

SONG: Being Here sung by Van Morrison – this one comes up often in my songlist and my heart. There are so many times in any given day when it feels like one or all of you are here with me in some way. It is a warm feeling of the highest order!

THOUGHT: I am just a country girl…

That country girl thing of mine is well-served in this walk. I have spent most of it in wooded areas…Oak and Chestnut forests, Eucalyptus forests, and even a spread of something wildly similar to the Pine Barrens in So Jersey. 

Scrub pine in the middle of a lot of scrub cedar…not a place for tall people to hide

Oak and Chestnut crazy beautiful

Eucalyptus forest

I have to go through cities, but quite a while ago I realized that staying in them was not optimal. I do make many more acquaintances however and have refined my torturous Spanish. I stop at least every block and sometimes twice on a long one to verify that I am still on the Camino. 

He’s my best guide…he knows!!!

Fortunately it is Sunday morning and the city is not “teeming” here in Arzua

 I know that “directo” means straight ahead, but does not always account for the slight forks that happen. Old people are the best in directions. They really know the Camino and have time to explain exactly how you need to go. I had one shop-keeper leave her store and walk me to the end of the block and around the corner onto a tidy little forked turn. She crossed the street to assure that I would not take the wrong direction and clapped me on the back, wished me a buen Camino and went on back to work.

 I am grateful for a small village where there are only 10 to 20 buildings. The choices are pretty obvious. Cow crossing signs replace the Yield signs. 

My kind of “city”

Happily, I was eating the pork! I had the street side table at the only restaurant in town

Heading home from a hard day at work, making milk…

 Traffic is a completely different set of issues…stepping in cow pies is occasionally difficult to avoid, depending on how many cows are on the move at one time.

They pass by my restaurant and I pass by theirs…fair enough

Best ever signage…no relationship to speed of any sort

I am in my albergue and settled. Wash is done and almost dry. Before dinner “saunter” is done and there are only 15 minutes before dinner starts being served. Tomorrow will be a long day, but Tuesday I will go into Santiago at around noon and I will get my papers issued, hope for the Botifumero mass (the huge swinging incensor) and I will spend a day just being in this very big city.  

After that I leave for the sea…the “end of the earth” which I will see from both Finisterre and Muxia. I have enough time to walk them both and still have a full day at each one. If I love the places enough to want to stay a bit longer, I will take the bus back to Santiago. 

PS:  At 5:30pm this evening, I hit my millionth step walking through a Euclayptus forest.  I was counting!  It looks like I still have another 250,000 upcoming.

Entering The Final Stage

6 October 2017

Book: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo 

SONG: One More Hello, One More Goodbye by Kenny Rankin

THOUGHT: Every day has a Hello and a Good Bye in it and some are better than others…each one has touched me in some way and that is the realization that I think has made the deepest impression on me to this point…or at least that I can figure out when thinking about what I am doing.

Clearly, this is about walking. It is a sport. It is zen. It exhausts you. It stretches you. It inspires you. I love it for all of these reasons. I am moving to my millionth step in the next few days!

I have always avoided “crack-of-dawn” activities, but the most delightful moments in this trip have been just that.  Dawn is short lived and I still prefer the golden light of sunset, but on this trip I am generally headed to my bed just as sunset starts to creep in. 

Strange fire

Soft embracing light

The recent days since my last entry have been through mountains (not all that high, but they seem like it when you are on the way up – and likewise, when you are coming down.) Even when you think you just don’t even want to turn and look back, because you are too tired, you do and you see that you have been “down there,” you have gotten yourself “up here” and you are headed “down there” into a different place. 

The orange is Fall trees

There is a little village I left down there 4 hrs ago

Looking at clouds from both sides now

Top of Sarria in the Monastery of Magdalena

Wherever your bed is, you heave yourself onto it. You thank your lucky stars if you are on the bottom bunk. You really rejoice if last night’s snorer has decided to go further along and he is not in your dorm again. You realize that fit men snore rarely and chubby ones snore a lot. Women can snore like trucks, but generally they are a downgraded abrasive sound in contrast to their gender counterparts. 

Monastery dorm

Mine all mine for the night

Personal space has a new name

You wish the bathroom was not so far away when you know you will be getting up 2 – 3 times in the night. Those little bags of absorbent pellets I found on line have been a treasure, well worth the weight they put into my pack. But there is a strategy to getting into the secret stance, etc., and it does take some thought and planning. No corresponding photographs will be included.

And I am now in the last “leg” of the journey. I entered Sarria 2 days ago and from here to the arrival in Santiago is the defining activity for getting the actual certificate of completion – The final 100km. With the convergence of all the other Caminos in Sarria, the number of pilgrims has increased significantly. 

I dreamed this one

My walks take me thru clouds and fog and I feel like I am in a story

While this is still an energizing time, I think that getting to the Fisterre section to bring me back to the feeling I get in these small villages with low-volume traffic. It is just so peaceful. 

The sweetest breakfast stop ever

O Cebriero – our highest point

My incredible world for moment or two

All the wild animals

And since I left off several days from the middle section – the Meseta – which is a flat, repetitive part, I will have time to walk from Santiago to Fisterre and Muxia which are the outer limits of the journey. I will arrive at the Atlantic ocean on the northwestern coast of Spain. If I am really lucky it will not rain. I have a real feeling that it will be one of the highlights…but I won’t know that until I get there…I am still here, on a chilly evening, with my jacket on and Fall colors in the trees.


29 September 2017BOOK: …Eye for an Eye…as great as all the others…very suspenseful 

SONG: One More Hello…One More Goodbye by Kenny Rankin And along the Way, this is one of the delights and the sadnesses…it is a time when the passing through our lives of great, good and other people is something that requires as much in the embrace as in the letting go.

THOUGHT: There are two bars. One is up the hill. One is down. The dilemma is which will be the hardest work. I opt for my wine and pincho in the one at the top of the hill…I would rather be walking downward to get ‘home’ and into my bed. Tomorrow is a rest day, and so I will tour this village tomorrow. No need to stray far this evening.
In life, we like to go for an occasional re-branding.   Kelly, my delightfully funny youngest sister, has helped me to come up with one that really tweaked my interest and also made me laugh as I fleshed it out during the early parts of today’s lighter, touring walk through VillaFranca.

For starters, I caught on very quickly to pack-forwarding. For 5 Euros, I attach an envelope to my pack and address it to the Albergue I have selected as my arrival point for the day. It travels First Class with JacoTrans while I make the Second Class group, carrying my little pack with 2 liters of water and some food. As I peel off layers of clothing, they go into the pack and puff it up thru the day. There is also a foot repair kit and some rain gear.

As I was discussing this in some texting with Kelly, she suggested that I could keep on with the pack-sending part, but I could get the driver to strap me to the top of the van. This way I could experience the passing scenery and the wind in my hair thing. I thought that I could wear my scarf (sort of Isadora Duncan-ish) and my dark glasses. The primary effect of this would be the prevention of bugs on the teeth and in the eyes at the practical level.  But it also creates a sub drama of its own by appearing to disguise me. Perhaps I would be mistaken for Shirley MacClean. Kelly encouraged me to go ahead and sign autographs.  

Peter additionally suggested that I attach my watch to the rim of the hubcap so that it could still click off my steps  

We decided that I could create a new ‘handle’ and use ‘Mac’ as my code name for the Shirley MacClain fans. Kelly’s additional suggestion was to notch that up. And make that Mac-Mamma…I am keeping it.



And for the rest of the day I will wonder what my body will do with the raw bacon that came with my celebration of the day off with the American Breakfast Special at Meson de Ancares in the VillaFranca Plaza Mayor.

Ups and Downs

28 September 2017BOOK: The Girl Who Gets an Eye for an Eye – the next in the series with Lisbeth Salander. A good read and the new author has taken over well for Stieg Larssen

SONG: This Could be The First Day (This could be the last day, Try my new day on for size…) by Ritchie Havens. I don’t wear my headset for mostly safety reasons. In the cities, getting lost or run over being in the top items of consideration; on any patch of hiking that is up or down…preventing disasters of all manner are paramount and need full focus so no tunes then either.  Really, it is only on a few flat spaces that I use it, but I am delighted with the recommendations people gave me (I did not download the soundtrack from Hamilton) and the variety of genres is always a very nice surprise.

THOUGHT: Re Ritchie’s, “Last Day…” they are all last ones since we never get to do one again in the same way at all…and first days are always an adventure!!!!

My days are averaging in the 30,000 to 35,000 step range which comes out as 12 to 14 miles…or walking to Bear Moon Bakery in Boerne from our house to get coffee and a croissant. I have just come back into the part of the Camino that is mountainous – after that first shot out and up the mountain on Day 1, from St Jean when the walk started. We have had some gradual inclines but the past 2 days have been rigorous ascent and descent. The loose rocks on the descents are particularly trying.  But the slippery-when-dry smooth ones are killers and I cannot imagine what they might be like in the rain!! And that little black thing nested between the rocks in the first photo is not a bomb…other than that I have no idea what it might be.

And it went on for almost 3 hours

Kind of like a new, emerging mountain range birthing itself

In this last stage I also had the arrival at Cruz de Ferro which was one of the highlights I had been anticipating. I was able to leave some mementos there and the pics are testimony to everyone who does the same thing and brings the sacredness to the site…with all different senses of “sacred” at play.  And for some reason these photos got placed in reverse order…go 3-2-1

Signaling my Photographer assistant that I am about to come back down…

Placing a star and a stone with the heart of my prayer

I journal at the end of each day, just to make sure I don’t lose track of each place I stayed in and what it meant, while it is fresh. In Rabanal, the draw to the Benedectine Monastery was strong because they are known for the beauty of their chanting. There are only 3 monks residing there and the town is very small. The chant was exquisite and I was enlisted to do the first psalm reading in English. I had asked about the possibility of taking them up on an offer for a 2 day retreat that was mentioned in the book, but due to lack of a secular liaison, they no longer provide it. The chant and the silence and work within the structure still draws something out in me. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that the only language in use when speaking time is on us is the Latin and so I do not have to be mindful of what is really being said.

In honor of the Texas part of my life, I did have to get a picture en route of the Cowboy Bar.

There is a Cowboy Bar at the very heart of our existence!

As an add on of the physical sort, I apparently have become an attractive draw for an insect somewhere between a no-see-um, a gnat, a chigger and the devil incarnate. My greatest relief was that they were not bedbugs which seem to have been following along for some reason with more than usual tenacity. The Australian girl who talked me through them said they are Midges and another local man confirmed that they come up in September and are all done by the end of October. The welts are big and red and itchy and they blister. I got something off the shelf that subdues the itching but the one over my eye is just ugly. There was another suspect who might have been the culprit…when I took my hat off coming into the hostel tonight a little spider came along out of the headband. I crushed the life out of him with pure pleasure.

Other than this bout, I have taken so little ibuprofen that I am actually in awe. While my body is tired at the end of the day, there is nothing inflamed, tender or in need of medication. Walking seems to suit me well. And there is much to be said for Forrest Gump holding on to his running for so long…it’s just something about the mechanics I guess…it is not something I can identify clearly at t his point. But I do love it.

Oh, and I did have pink-eye for the first 10 days…that was pretty. The Farmacia gave me some magical drops that kept the goo-eye at a minimum.

There is a washing machine at this hostel…washed everything I had and in the mountain air, it dried in about an hour. I was able to pass through 2 cities with no temptation to stop in either of them. Columbriano is a tiny village. I will stop in Villafrance del Bierza tomorrow and spend an extra day regrouping before I hit the entry into the pass that goes up to O Cebriero – our highest point. Because I am keeping a fairly good pace, I will be able to at least get a bus one way out to Fisterre and Muxia – the outermost points of the coast where James drifted back to Spain from Rome, miraculously, on his stone ship.

This most surely is an amazing journey. And now it is time for supper…I love you all.

Leon and On

24 Sept 2017Santinabez, Spain

Lest anyone who is following my schedule should be feeling impressed with my progress, I don’t think I mentioned that I decided to credit myself with the solitude of desert walks I completed throughout my training in the neighborhood around Pipe Creek (in 80 to 90 degree weather) + time walked in Big Bend over the many vacations we have spent camping and hiking there. Setting that against the need to walk the section of the Camino that is called the Meseta – it is flat…much like getting up and taking a walk from El Paso to Amarillo, I hopped on my second bus for a ride through it and arrived in Leon (from Burgos.) It put me ahead of schedule but meant that I finally decided to cancel my Parador and dinner date with Cory. Since she was not able to come before the 26th, I recognized that there is just not enough Leon to really fill that length of time (almost 6 days) in any circumstance.

Old against the new: Roman walls and new urban construction

Jacque napping in front of the Parador

Entrance to the Parador…from garden under work-over

Against that rationalization, yesterday was one of the most joyful along this entire adventure. My walk was just a simple wonder for me. I was rising in the face of all my greatest fears of being lost and I boldly chose to do an “alternate route” that would keep me off the edge of the highway, and move me out through what I realized 1/3 of the way along that I was continuing on the fringe of Meseta-like land, and I was walking as if I was on my Bumpgate Road practice walk…without the fences and longhorns. I was completely at home in my world.

Actually a bit like looking out the window in Bakersfield to the Mtns

My pack got dropped off for transport at the Parador (something of me got to stay for a while in the luxury of the Parador) and I lurked outside the main entrance where peregrinos passed on the route out of town. When I realized there was a little cafe across the plaza where I could get my “git-er-dun” cup of Cafe con Leche, I headed over and waited out the glimmer of safety most of us find in first light when we don’t have to wear headlamps to walk. As I went back to latch onto the hem of a group headed in my direction, I remembered Anne’s directive that if all else failed, follow Germans as they are hardwired for good gps sense. As I followed one couple, we came to the point where one eats some protein-carb item (ham/cheese/bread sandwich or potato/egg frittata like thing called a tortilla). Mine is always the tortilla as it requires the least amount of chewing. And it goes well with the 2d café con lèche. Unfailingly served with a large hunk of baguette.

Unfailing support…and not who is supporting the mapping of Leon

In order to be in the shade, I had taken a space next to someone who was also in search of the alternate and while not being German, he was close enough for me. He was Belgian. We pondered a plan and the bar owner came over and gave us a printed map and flier from his good friend’s albergue in the place we were headed. Confidence enshrouded us both.

We headed out and covered 11k and a vast number of important and unimportant issues, surprisingly finding ourselves at yet another bar, just in time for lunch. From there it was a breeze. He decided to walk on and I signed in to my reserved space at Albergue de Jesus.

You just never know what it will be…only 4 women tonight

 I arranged my bunk, washed my clothes and body in the same shower (take all your clothes off, soap up and as you rinse off, add a little extra shampoo to the clothes you are standing on and it causes washing action. Step up and down on them a few extra times and then rinse everything well). I walked some more steps and met a couple of friends at their albergue where the evening meal would be held.

Pool and all – in the middle of nowhere

 We also walked around town….all 30 buildings, not including the church. Storks nests sat on top of the pillars on the bell tower. 

Bell tower and storks nests

 Supper was good, sunset was great and they bought me an extra beer to celebrate the 500,000th step I had taken as Henry and I crossed the street to head into the wilderness trail cum Pipe Creek.

This is, for me thus far, not mystical or magical. It has been hard work and steady improvement in attitude and outcomes. What I realized on this day however was that it was most definitely a journey and a recognition of the beauty of walking and seeing the place and hearing the sounds and moving forward…chirping birds, crunching stones and gravel, another peregrino about to pass you, signaled by his/her approaching shadow and the sound of the click of walking sticks. Knowing for the most part that your pack would be faithfully delivered ahead of you for Jaco-Trans small fee of $5 and expert delivery skills and you would get the bed you had called ahead for and reserved in your best effort at speaking Spanish on the phone and understanding the return fire, unhesitating rapid-fire commentary from the guy at the other end (It closes out with me spelling my name in the Spanish – just K-I-M) – all this gives me a warm wash of feel-good.  

The routine is pretty secure, less frantic and the absence of Anne’s snoring has not yet been replaced with anything nearly as strong, loud and unrelenting. There is a heavy Spanish guy who followed me in however tonight so the challenge might be on to replace her honors. Fortunately he is 4 beds away from me.

A little time off

21 Sept, 2017BOOK: Presumed Innocent. By Scott Turow…Detective story of the mindless ilk…not all that exciting, but fills in to move me from fatigue to sleep

SONG: There are several and they will be included in another post before I leave Leon. They relate to incidents and people of interest, in places that blur together too much to try and separate them…so I linked them to my music for another post. 

THOUGHT: I think I ‘get’ what walking meditation is…and I am growing to really love it.

Anne on her Way

Softest welcoming light as we head up the mountain

Part of the mystique of the Camino before I started (and probably the same for others who are between the idea of their Camino and the reality of it) was the notion of deeply interactive conversations about spirituality and humanity and that sort of thing. Then there came the reality.

Arriving and getting started at the beginning in St Jean, was a multilevel lesson in chaotic thought. Getting priorities in place was difficult. My underpants were at an equal level of importance with what I was carrying in my lunch bag. Hopefully not a mismatched connection at the physical level. 

 Where it all went was obvious…somewhere hanging off my body, but it needed to obviously (or not), be on the right place on the body. Access to each thing became the focus, as in, what might I need most. Rain gear always won since wet everything was fairly high on the catastrophe scale. Snack and water access came next…camelback wins such high applause and gratitude for Tony and his pre-trip input. And so on down the line. Because of the fatigue at the end of the day, the anxiety was higher in the beginning as to what needed to be done and in what order in the midst of the fatigue fog. At this point in time, I’m happy to report that there is more of the automatic part going on. My two surviving brain cells that still fire regularly, are often missing by suppertime. Time and practice have lead me to the point-checks that are becoming instincts I can trust. Several items have been left behind in the process and while it lightened my pack, it was not voluntary.

The ideas about sitting down and writing at the end of the day and taking pictures along the way proved to be just that…good ideas. While walking promotes ideas in the beginning of the day, it crushes them out of existence as the hours go on in the initial segment of getting adjusted. Because I have stopped to take a few days off the path and rest in Leon, I have got time to both think and write and sleep in a place where there is just one bed and it is for me…and the bathroom is not shared with anyone!!

So, here are some moments that have filtered through, starting with a summary of how a normal walk-day goes.

Staying in the Albergues is a time constrained thing. 12 and 2pm for checking in. You have to be out at the latest by 8am and in some places, 7:45am. Quiet time is from 10pm to 6am (snoring apparently not factored in as noise)

0 DARK THIRTY: Quiet time ends at 6am, when either a few individuals brave it and turn on their headlamps or the Hospitalera flips on the main switch and fluorescence bathes the room. Occasionally there is music to inspire the waking process. In one place it was Gregorian Chant and in another it was Spanish ‘step-it-up’ dance music. 

 Coffee was served in the first Albergues before we left, but that was short lived and now I need to walk to first coffee. I usually have a bite of something with protein to kick my start.

During this brief period between 6am and 7:45, one must:

  Stuff everything into the appropriate places

  Lean out the door or window to verify chill factor or rain conditions just to make sure the stuff process was going to relate to those first steps out the door

Compete for toilet and sink space – whether or not you are having a bad-hair day is totally irrelevant  

  Perform foot rituals (more sacred than all else) Occasionally care requires requesting someone else’s assistance in covering the unreachable open places. Knee bracing is also included in this step.

Beloved socks; outer set


You might want to add a little paper tape to that

Next is finding the boots and your sticks then donning the boots and tying them reverentially to the hoped for perfect tension. 

With all this in order, it is time to step out the door and into the day, ferreal!

For the next 4 to 6 hours, the rhythm is generally: Walk; Pass; Be Passed – all the while wishing the passee, Buen Camino. At about 2 hr intervals there are stop points, and the first is generally Stand-Up-Spoon Spanish coffee with milk. I eat the version of the camino tortilla that has potatoes, eggs and bread.

 Next stop is boot removal time and wound inspection, coupled with a meal or substantial snack.  

And the last segment leads, for most, to the day’s stop point. Albergue beds fill up quickly and reserving space is done much more often. (A day ahead usually you know more about how much you will be able to do.) At this point, I send my pack ahead on the first class transport and if I get to it and still have energy later in the day, I pick it up, throw it on my back and head to a next place. Failing to have a reservation and arriving to a full house, means you HAVE to walk on, sometimes another 10k. At that point, most exhausted pilgrims taxi on to the next place.

Once you have that assigned bed and your pilgrim passport stamped, you remove the boots and put them in the boot/stick place; fall onto the bed (or climb up onto it if you got the short straw and the bunk on top is yours. 

Chilly day

Warm day

 This is only a brief lull however, because there is the washing of the socks and underwear – drying time always precarious, but if they are still wet in the am, they are pinned to the outside of the pack.  

Showering is dependent on a few factors, but if your companion says you need one, you need one. Sniffing your own armpits is not a qualifying standard.

You may arrive around 3 or 4pm but that is dead on into the Spanish tradition for Siesta. Everything in the village is closed and nothing reopens until 7pm. I snack-plan around this factor. 

Only 200 population and we won’t see them til 7

 Dinner with the pilgrims always has some form of communality, even when there is not a common dinner in the Albergue. 

One of the first communal suppers at Orrison

 For me participation is either WITH the firing of the 2 brain cells because the walk just wasn’t as bad as I might have expected…or it is a nutritional barrier I have to push my way through just to get to my bed where I can sleep. As I have continued to get a rhythm in my walking, the end of day has become a happier place.

If I am on the upper bunk, I do strategic planning for the 2 pee times I will need to be ready for…and that includes getting up and down the ladder and remembering where the bathroom is…occasionally it is a flight down stairs…and that is pretty sucky.

As I climb into my sleep sac and open my book, I pray fervently to the snoring god that he has chosen another dorm to go to. Input my titanium ear plugs in and sleep comes on in. 

So re: those real conversations that open themselves to sharing, happen less for me on the actual walking path because I am so very slow and most people want their hustle. Language also limits much of the conversation. Some days, I hear a lot of English, but on others, it is a mix of lots of others and so Buen Camino suffices. There are times like I found today, when the conversation clicks quickly into the wonderful realm of soul sharing and I expect that will happen more often as the settling in has opened me up as well. But then, I am in the midst of time off. We will see how it goes as I get back on Tuesday. 

Puenta la Reina to Viana

As Anne planned for travel back to Barcelona, I had a mid level panic attack, realizing that she has just got such a strong sense of direction and precision, and she was leaving me to my own personal…can’t-find-my-way-out-of-the-paper-bag sense of reality. She knew when we left (at 7:50 and the best guess from me was 8ish.) I was going to be one my own. No one would be waiting to tell me that the unmarked turn was supposed to be left when my thought would revert immediately to needing to go right.  I imagined me wandering off to remote places heretofore unheard of and circling sites that meant little or nothing to anyone. She sat with me after supper and helped me go through a mapping and scheduling. In turn I gave her words to use in Spanish…she has zero language awareness. 

I went to bed slightly nauseous and got up with an emerging migraine. I wondered if I would have to stay another night in this formidable hostel. Instead I hugged her goodbye and asked a Belgian woman if she would mind walking with me for just an hour to make sure I wasn’t going to collapse. The meds kicked in and at the end of the hour I was walking amiably and thinking that it might just keep going…without catastrophe and disaster at every turn

And so it has. Deanna hugged me at my stop and went on to hers. I had a truly wonderful day today that culminated in me covering 16miles in 8hours for an edge-tipping 40,700 steps – all by myself. Tomorrow I will do a short day – 18k and a stop in a nice small city. Anne is rejoining me Thursday for a few more days. I will be so happy to have her blue shirt and beige pants and hat in front of me. We will laugh at things and have a great time finding food and shelter like every elder should do every once in a while.

The Casa Magica in Villatuerte, just south of Estella was my stop point. Cannot arrive in an urban setting at the end of a day. Brain dead and unable to remember my own name let alone where to turn. The private Auberge is as magical as an albergue could be and the Paella dinner was delicious.

Vegetarian Paella and wine of course

Made it easily through Estella and my plan had been to stop halfway to Los Arcos, but my energy was great at that mid-point so I picked up my pack and stepped my way into Los Arcos. I got a bed easily and had met Dan and Dee who really did make the miles pass quickly. 

Leaving Los Arcos this morning was less energetic and the day became hot very quickly. I got to stop by 1pm and it was a very good decision as the temps climbed thru the afternoon. The stop point was Vianna and the hostel was comfortable and modern. My walk-mate for this was Rebecca from Vermont and she was a complete delight. We did our showers and rested for a bit before we walked into town center…up a hill!…

Anticipating the parade

Don’t know who is who but they were the prelude to the festival

While preparations were being made for a highly anticipated bull fight that neither of us could contemplate, the town’s pre-game entertainment was wonderful. Everyone was dressed for it, eating and playing in the plaza. A huge parade…almost all of the 1400 towns people were in attendance. I was to honor Our Lady of the Snow…google that if you are so inclined.