Saturday, October 16, 2010

Writing on a wall just before getting into Najera (Day 9 of my journey)

This writing sums up my camino very well.

        Dust, mud, sun and rain
        Is the Camino de Santiago
        Thousands of pilgrims
        And more than a thousand years

       Pilgrim, who calls you?
       What hidden force attracts you?
       Not the field of the stars
       Nor the grand cathedrals

       It is not the courage of Navarra
       Not the wine of the Riojas
       Nor the seafood of Galicia
       Nor the plains of Castile

       Pilgrim, who calls you?
       What hidden force attracts you?
       It is not the people of the Camino
       Nor the rural customs.

       It is not the history and culture
       It is not the cock of La Calzada
       Nor the palace of Gaudi
       Nor the Ponferrada Castle

       I see them all as I pass
       And it is a delight to see everything 
       But the voice that calls to me
       I feel much more deeply

       The force which pushes me
       The force which attracts me
       I cannot explain it
       Only He who is above knows it

Oct. 8, 2010 - Finisterre

Decided to spend one more day here. Our hostess served breakfast. There were 7 of us. I had met everyone before at one point along the way (except Nadine the German girl who was my room mate). It was a lively discussion with everyone talking about where we all met. After breakfast they all left to buy their bus tickets.

I went looking for my walking stick which I left somewhere the day before. Ran into Teresa from Austria. Sat and had cafe con leche with her. She also was feeling sad. I am glad I ran into her one more time to say good bye. I keep thinking I have seen everyone in the last couple of days that made up my camino, but I still keep running into people. Even though I walked most of the way by myself, I have met so many people who made a huge impact on my journey.

Sat on a rock watching the waves for a while when all of a sudden I got a panicky feeling that I should go. Just before I got to the marina it started pouring rain. There was a bar close by so I went in and sat at the table just in front of the open doorway. There was a street market just outside the bar and they were scrambling to cover their tables and racks with plastic tarps. The rain came down so hard and fast there was an inch of water in the street. The wind blew over a rack of clothes. Felt bad for the marketeers. In spite of the plastic tarps, everything was soaked and they all packed up and left.

Had an excellent view of the huge waves crashing into the breaker in the harbour. Actually sat there for 6 hours watching the rain and the ocean. At times the ocean looked so rough and turbulent that even the locals just stood in the doorway and watched. It was scary and exciting at the same time. I thought how could something so soothing and peaceful be so dark and rough and angry and frightening. I think that life is like that at times as well.

Never did find my stick. At first I was really upset. I carried that stick everyday for 37 days. It helped me climb up and down the hills and mountains, countless stairs, it saved me from many falls, it was a leaning post when I needed a rest, support for walking when my ankles hurt, and sometimes a pole to hang my coat when I stopped for a break. It had become a third arm and it served me well. Funny how as long as I was walking the camino I didn't even think about it, it was just always there. Yesterday, three times I had to go back for it because I kept leaving it behind. Guess I no longer needed it so it was time to let it go. I really wanted to keep it as a souvenir, however now I think of what a hassle it would be to take home. Maybe this is another life lesson. So many times I hang on to things that weigh me down that I should have let go of a long time ago.

Sitting and watching the ocean was mesmerizing. The waves got higher and the water kept coming closer. Felt like I had front row seats to the best movie in town. An emergency patrol vehicle kept driving by. At one point 4 men in orange fluorescent  suits got out and put rope blocking walkways where it was no longer safe to walk (not that anyone was out walking).

After a couple of hours a van pulled right up to the doors. I was annoyed because it obstructed my perfect view. An elderly man got out of the drivers side. He was using crutches and had a hard time walking. It took him 5 minutes to walk the 10 feet into the bar. I thought he must be some kind of celebrity because everyone in the bar stopped talking. Several men (it was at this point that I realized there were only men in the bar) jumped up to help him or offer him their chair. But no where was good enough. He wanted to sit at my table. Everyone looked at me. I said of course he could sit there (or rather I pointed to the chair beside me because I could not understand them and they could not understand me). He ordered a drink and  bought me a glass of wine. He shook my hand, told me his name, I told him mine, and then we sat for the next hour in silence just starring at the ocean.

I wondered if he was a fisherman at one time. He had such a far away look in his eyes as he was looking out to the ocean. Everyone who came into the bar nodded or squeezed his shoulder. At one point he fell asleep in the chair. He woke up and apologized for falling asleep. I said that was ok.

Another hour went by. I saw Renata walk by. I waved and she came in, ordered a glass of wine and sat and starred at the ocean with us (she decided not to go to Mosia Mosia because of the bad weather). The waves were getting higher and coming closer. If someone stood in front of us, the fisherman (I call him that because I did not understand what his name was) would say something and they immediately moved out of the way. The water had come so close the ground had become covered with crab like looking bugs that jumped. They started coming into the bar. The bar tender dumped soapy water in front of the door so they wouldn't come in, but the rain washed the soapy water away and they kept coming. Everyone was standing around looking at them and trying to catch them. Renata and I sat with our feet on the chair rungs just watching. The fisherman said something to one of the guys. The guy caught one of the bugs, brought it over and put it on our table so Renata and I could get a close-up look. The only thing I understood the fisherman say was "this was not normal". I had already gathered that.

Shortly after, the van came back to pick up the fisherman. Everyone in the bar stood up when he got up. Renata said "I think this was a special event". I thought so too.

I no longer felt lost and sad, but am feeling calm and peaceful and am now ready to say that my camino is finished even though I think it will take a long time to process the last 5 weeks.

Oct. 7, 2010 - Santiago to Finisterre

Slept longer than I intended (8:40). Was hoping to catch the 9:00 bus to Finisterre, however did catch the 10:00 bus in spite of the fact that, with my poor sense of direction (and no yellow arrows), I took a couple wrong turns to the bus depot. Ran into Rieta at the cafe at the bus depot also on her way to Finisterre. The views of the mountains and the ocean on the way was beautiful. I soooo felt like I should be walking.

Found a place to stay in someone's house. The people were really nice (even though we could not understand each other). Rieta had already left for Cabo Finisterre by the time I was settled (she was taking the 5:00 bus back to Santiago so didn't have time to wait for me).

Wandered around the marina and ran into Don & Mary Kay. We had lunch (it was already 3:00 and we were pretty hungry). I then decided to walk up to Cabo Finisterre - "the end of the world". It was a 2-3 km walk. On the way there I met Rieta on her way back. We said  our good byes. We called ourselves 'camino sisters' because we always seemed to be on the same wave length.

Like the camino, the walk to the-end-of-world and back was far more spectacular than being there. Got back to Finisterre around 7:00 and just wandered aimlessly feeling lost and sad. Found a rock to sit and watch it get dark - was no sunset because it was cloudy and misty, but it felt good to just sit and watch and listen to the waves of the ocean.

Went back to the house around 9:00. Renata from Germany was sitting by the kitchen table sipping wine and planning her next move. She poured me a glass and we chatted about our caminos till after 10:00 when we realized our hostess was waiting for us to go to bed so she could also go to bed.

Oct. 6, 1920 - Santiago

Had to be out of my room by 9:30. Can't believe I slept till almost 9:00. I had to hustle.

Found my way back to the plaza by the Cathedral and the place where pilgrims can store their packs till I could find another place to stay. Had a quick breakfast then went to the Cathedral for 12:00 mass. Got there around 10:45 and found one of the last seats only because, with my pilgrim's pass, I didn't have to stand in the long line. Steve got there shortly after me and was able to squeeze in the bench. The one hour wait before service and the one hour of sitting through the service and not understanding anything was worth being able to go for communion and see the swinging of the botafumeiro one more time.

After mass we met Riete and Roger for lunch. We ran into Don and Mary Kay from Ottawa so all had lunch together. Kept seeing many of the people I had met in the last 5 weeks. It was so amazing to see everyone. Ran into Leona at the Cathedral. She did find her credential on the floor in the bar at the last place we stopped.

After lunch we all made plans to meet for dinner at 7:30 and went our own way. I found a hotel room close to the cathedral. It was nice to have a few minutes to myself and soak in the tub. Tried to sleep for a while but couldn't so I just walked around the shops looking at all the trinkets for sale.

Had a very nice dinner. Said goodbye to Steve again, which was very hard to do because this time I knew for sure I would never see him again.

Oct. 5, 2010 - Santa Irene to Santiago

We left just before 8:00, the 4 Spanish guys leading the way with their flash lights. About 2 km down the road Riete and I stopped for cafe con leche and toast. We walked most of the way in silence, excited about getting so close, yet still feeling some pain from yesterday's long walk.

We stopped in Lavacolle for a break. Leona and her husband were there. We chatted for a bit. Leona had her credential out. Her husband said to her that she should put it away. We joked about how awful it would be to walk all this way and loose it at the last place you stopped before reaching your destination. They left and we followed about 20 minutes later. After walking about 15 min., we saw them coming towards us. Leona did not have her credential and they were going back to look for it (not funny!).

The path was crowded today. There were some tour groups that were just walking for the day to get a feel of 'walking the camino'. One lady was video taping Rieta and I and asking us all kinds of questions.

We arrived in Santiago around 2:00. It was about an hours walk before reaching the cathedral. As we were crossing a bridge, shortly after we got into the city, the 4 Spanish guys were standing at the bottom of the hill cheering us on. They hi-fived us and we walked to the Cathedral together. When we got there we weren't sure where to go or what to do. It was a bit overwhelming and we were confused and tired.

Riete and I decided to go to a restaurant, sit for awhile, and then figure out what we should do. As we were eating, Roger (can't remember where he is from) walked by and saw Riete (they had walked together for a  few days a couple weeks earlier). He joined us and then became our guide (he had already been here for 3 days). We ran into Bart from Belgium. He told us he was staying at the seminary albergue which was only a 10 minute walk away so we decided to go there too. There was a mass at 6:00 which Roger wanted to go to. We thought if we hurried, we could go get our beds, dump our stuff and meet him.

On our way back to the Cathedral we ran into Jacques and Liz (from Quebec) who I had not seen in 3 weeks. I couldn't believe it. I was so excited to see them. I still think of them as my guardian angels. I met them on the 2nd day of my journey and saw them everyday for the first 2 weeks. Every time I needed help or was going the wrong way, they were there to help or point me in the right direction. They wanted to go for coffee but we only had 15 minutes before mass started.

When we got to the Cathedral there were so many people everywhere. Riete found a bench that had a couple seats. She saved the seats and I went to look for Roger and Bart. I was talking to Roger and a familiar voice behind me said "You're not suppose to talk in here". I turned around to see Steve from Texas.  It was so good to see him!

Was very surprised at the end of the service when they swung the botafumeiro (You Tube). It is a massive silver incense burner that is said to be the largest in the Catholic world. It takes 8 men to tie the knots and get the massive apparatus swinging across the cathedral. This botafumeiro dates back to 1851. Apparently the original was stolen by Napoleaon's troops when they looted the cathedral.  It was quite impressive. As it was swinging over the pews, it looked like it just skimmed the top of peoples heads and almost looked like it was going to hit the ceiling. They usually only do it at noon for the pilgram's mass, however someone told me if someone makes a donation they will do it at other services (it cost around 800 euros each time they swing it).

After mass, Riete, Roger, Bart, Steve & I went for dinner. It totally amazed me how we all found each other with hundreds of people around. We were done dinner by 8:30 and the Pilgrim's office was open till 9:00 so Rieta and I thought we would see if we could get our compostela (certificate proving we completed the pilgrimage). Can't believe how exciting it was and what a feeling of accomplishment. Roger and Steve took pictures of us. It really was a special moment and even more so to be able to share it with someone.

Was back at the albergue by 10:00 (had my own room). Even though I was emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted I had a really hard time falling asleep.

Oct. 4, 2010 - Melide to Santa Irene

Left the albergue in Melida shortly after 8:00. As I was walking past the municipal albergue, Riete was just coming out so we walked together. Another guy joined us. After a few minutes I picked up my pace because I really do like to walk the first hour or so in silence. Met up with Riete further up the road and we walked the rest of the way together.

It was very quiet today. All the new people that just started were nowhere in site. There was quite a storm last night. The entire path, for the next two days, was littered with bark and tree branches. In three places large trees had actually blown over and covered the path.

We walked 32 km. My longest day of walking. Didn't plan on walking that far but when we reached Arzua it was only 12:00 and we both felt we had enough energy to walk at least 2 more hours. So we stopped for a cheese bocadilla (Arzua is famous for it's cheese - it really is very good), then kept walking. Two hours later we were ready to stop but there were no albergues. We ended up walking till 5:00 and were pretty tired. Riete was having problems with her knees and my ankles hurt.

After we were settled we found out that in order to have dinner we had to walk back 1 km. So we did. We splurged on an expensive bottle of wine (6 euros) to celebrate our accomplishment today and because it was our last night before reaching Santiago. We laughed a lot talking about our experiences and the people we met over the past 5 weeks. There were 4 Spanish guys sitting 2 tables away from us. We joked around with them all evening (even though we could not understand them and they could not understand us). They were staying at the same place we were. It was a fun evening and much excitement about getting so close to our destination.

We had to rush to get back so we wouldn't get locked out. A late night for pilgrims.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oct. 3, 2010 - Palas de Rei to Melide

Left around 8:00. It was raining quite hard but that was ok, still felt like singing. The song "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" kept playing over and over in my head. A few days ago there were a couple of ladies walking behind me singing hymns in German. I recognized the songs but couldn't remember the words so I just hummed along. Several hours later (the ladies were long gone) I remembered a line from one of the songs, "Thank you, that I can know my worries can be cast on you". Now the song keeps coming back but I put in my own words.

I have always liked walking in the rain, especially through the forest and much of the walk was through the forest today. The colours and smells are so different in the rain. Some farm houses had wood stoves burning and I walked slower because I love that smell.

After walking for 3 hours I stopped for a break. Was surprised to see it was actually someone's house where they opened the front room for pilgrams to come in and have cake and something to drink. Riete from Holland and Leona from Australia were there (Leona's husband had joined her in Sarria to finish the last 100 km with her - she looked quite happy). It was so good to see familiar faces. It reminded me of Stephan's comment about how these familiar faces feel like home. We chatted for almost half an hour and sang a few lines from "Singing In Rain".

Walked the rest of the way to Melide with Riete. The mini rivers on the trail were becoming wider. In some places it looked like little lakes. Rieta joked that tomorrow we may need a canoe. I thought about the guy from Madrid who thought yesterday's walk was boring. He was having problems with blisters and  bought a pair of sandals. He said as long as he wore the sandals he was ok. I'm thinking he's probably not walking today.

Had planned on going as far as Azura, however, by the time we got to Melide I was soaked to the bone, my toes were squishing in my shoes, and I was worried that the contents of my pack were getting wet. I was done singing in the rain.

We found the Municipal albergue but it didn't open for another half hour. The private albergue beside it was open but cost 4 euros more. I was starting to feel chilled so paid the extra 4 euros so I could go get out of my wet clothes.

Only walked 15.5 km today. Spent the afternoon hanging around the albergue. Around 6:30 decided to go and explore. Walking past a bar, I recognized Riete's laugh so I went in and had a glass of vino tinto with her and 2 other ladies from Germany. Left there to find a pharmacy to buy some Halls. Didn't find a pharmacy but found the church where mass was just starting, so went there instead. On the way back to the albergue, I saw a Panaderia (bakery) that was open. Had a cup of decaffeinated loose leaf tea that tasted like cherries. Believe it or not, she also sold Halls.

Oct. 2, 2010 - Montras to Palas de Rei

Can't believe I slept till 7:00, especially since I slept for 2 hours before I ate dinner last night. I slept for 9 solid hours. Had breakfast at the bar (real toast with butter & jam with pineapple juice and cafe con leche - breakfast fit for a King!). I left just shortly after 7:30.

Sun wasn't up yet. Walking through the enchanted forest in the dark was kind of eerie, but it was invigorating. The sun rise was beautiful. In one direction the clouds were dark and it looked like it was about to rain, and in the other direction they were pink and orange. Cat Steven's song "Morning Has Broken" kept going through my mind. I felt like I should be whistling, but it didn't sound anything like it was suppose to, so I just hummed. The song stuck with me all day.

When I got to Portomarin  I totally wished I had my camera! The bridge walking into Portomarin was so high my stomach kept doing flip flops (I don't normally have a problem with heights). In the 1950's Portomarin was moved when they dammed the Mino River because they built a hydro electric dam and the original city was flooded. There was hardly any water and you could see the ruins of the city. I stood for a long time just spell bound.

After Portomarin the scenery changed but it was still a pleasant walk. About an hour before I reached where I am staying, I stopped at a bar for a break. There was a guy from Madrid who I have run into several times in the last couple of days. He just started walking 3 days ago. He said he thought the walk today was very boring. I didn't really know what to say other than I was enjoying it very much. I left there with the words to "Morning Has Broken" still going through my mind.

It was about 3:30 when I got to Pasas de Rei. I splurged and rented a "cabin" which was just a room that looked like a cabin inside. It is simple but clean so it is good.

Oct. 1, 2010 - Samos to Manras

Was awake by 5:00 and left at 6:00. Was amazed to see a bar open and really enjoyed a cafe con leche grande. Was on the road by 7:00.

I walked and walked and walked. Did 30.5 km. Am now in Galacia. Have been for 2 days. Of the whole camino, Galacia is my favourite region.

Felt like I was in a completely different country. There are a lot of hills and your can still see the mountains far in the distance. This is farming country, particularly dairy. It is very traditional. They still have haylofts and outdoor ovens for cooking. As you walk through the little hamlets you really have to watch were you step so you don't step in a cow pie. In one place I went through, I  had to share the 5 foot wide trail with a herd of cows coming toward me. As I got close to them they walked single file beside me. A little way up the road I stopped at a bar for cafe and sat at the table outside - beside the barn.

The fences are made of stones that have been there so long they are covered in moss. A good part of the trail has stone walls also covered in moss with chestnut and oak trees hanging over top like a canopy. It felt like I was in an enchanted forest.

The albergue where I stopped is beautiful. Both the bar and the place where we sleep are made of stone. They play Celtic music continually. I love it!

Don't know anyone here. I  guess most of the people I have been walking with didn't take the detour through Samos. The only people I saw today that I sort of knew were Jessica & Jeff, cyclists from Provence, France at one of the bars on the way and chatted with them for a bit. At first it felt kind of strange and lonely not to know anyone, but it was actually good for me to spend the day completely alone. There are quite a few people just starting their walk from Sarria (in order to get the Compestella certificate you have to at least walk the last 100 km, so after Sarria it gets busier). You can see instantly those who have  been walking for a while and those who just started. They have a different kind of energy.

It is very relaxing sitting here listening to the music, however it is almost 9:00 and I should make my way to bed.

Sept. 30, 2010 - Triacastela to Samos

Had planned to meet Heidi at her albergue for 8:00. However, was up at 5:30. Had a really good sleep and was wide awake. I am now sitting in the kitchen of Heidi's albergue waiting for her. Am telling myself to be patient because I am itching to get going. It is 7:30. We are only planning on going 10 km today so we have lots of time. We want to stay at the monastery at Samos.

Was another beautiful walk. It was not raining but there were clouds and mist covering the mountains. Most of the way you could hear the river and birds. Felt very peaceful today. Thought a lot about the service last night and the Service with the monk in La Faba the day before. At the service in La Faba the monk had 5 people come up front and sit on a bench  facing the congregation. (He also had people from the congregation interpret into several languages).

He talked about how Jesus washed the disciples feet to show that he came to be a servant to others. He washed and kissed the first person's foot then each person washed and kissed the person's foot beside them. It was very powerful. He talked about how people on the camino look after each other (especially their feet).

We arrived at Samos around 11:00. Just in time to get in on the last tour of the monastery before it closed for siesta. We decided to stay because we wanted to hear the monks sing at the 7:30 vespers. Thought we would finally hear the Gregorian chants.

Was a quiet day. Caught up on my blog a bit, but really felt like I should be walking. Mass that evening was disappointing. The monks did not chant. A couple people were crying so it was meaningful for some. I understood not a thing and did not feel anything. Heidi and I were sitting close to the front. We saw a mouse running around. It was entertaining to watch the looks on peoples faces when they first saw it. Then I remembered I was sleeping there tonight. Heidi laughed. She was staying at the albergue across the street.

After mass we had a picnic of crackers, cheese and olives that Heidi had bought earlier that day. It was a wonderful feast. Said good bye to Heidi as she planned to take her time the next day and I had to leave early (We actually had to be out of the albergue by 7:30).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sept. 29, 2010 - La Faba to Triacastela

Wow! It is 6:30 in the evening and I am trying to remember this morning and it seems like such a long time ago.

Walked 25.5 km today. A very, very challenging walk, however, it was worth every step. I love this place and can´t even begin to describe it.

It is getting harder to journal and find a computer to key into the blog and yet there is so much more to say.

Was going to go on to Samos today, but when I got to Triacastela my feet said no, and again, I am glad I stayed here. Found an albergue that is a little house made of stone. There are only 3 bunk beds and it is very clean. Was in the back yard doing my laundry and I looked up into the mountains. From the corner of my eye I could see someone waving from the 3rd floor window in the building up on the hill. Couldn´t make out who it was but waved anyway. When she yelled ¨I´ll be right down¨, I realized it was Heidi.

We went to the 7:00 mass for pilgrims. It was so different than the other masses I have been going to. It was actually fun. The priest was joking around a lot. Sat with Bart who understands French, German, Spanish and English. He interpreted everything for me. Heidi went up to the front to do the English readings. The message was something about how the camino is very much like our life. In addition to being funny it was very meaningful and lots of food for thought. I got so much more out of it because of Bart´s interpreting.

After mass Heidi & Bart went back to their albergues and I went back to mine. It was only 8:00, too early to go to bed and there was no where to sit and journal at my albergue (it had started to rain so I couldn´t sit outside), so I walked down to the bar. Was only sitting for 5 minutes and Renata and another guy from Germany asked to to join them. We chatted for about an hour. We were sitting under the awning, listening to the rain, eating bread and cheese and sipping wine, feeling like we were on top of the world and talking about how wonderful it was to be here. I enjoyed the company and conversation, however did not get any journaling done.

Sept. 28, 2010 - Villafranca del Bierzo to La Faba

Was very quiet, dark and warm in the albergue but still couldn´t fall asleep, too many things going around in my head. However, I did feel well rested and was ready to leave by 7:30.

It was a beautiful walk. Actually followed the Rio Valcarce (river) for the whole 23 km that I walked today. Was alone for the first hour. The river flowing downstream on one side and the wall of the mountain on the other side was awesome. Again, wish I had words to describe it. The only thing I could think of is this must be what heaven is like.

Walked and chatted with Dixie from Alaska for about 10 km. Told her I have always wanted to go to Alaska and she invited me to stay at her place. They stopped for a break but I kept going because I really wanted to get to O´Cebreiro today. Didn´t make it though. The last 4 km to La Faba was very steep. Couldn´t have taken another step if someone paid me. The hospitalaro said the next 5 km are even harder so it is better to start again after a good night´s rest.

Know quite a few people here, some of whom I haven´t seen for a couple of weeks. Ate dinner (at 5:00!) with Riette from Holland and Leona from Australia.

There was a monk in the village who is going to do vespers with us in the chapel beside the albergue at 8:00. Had to go get my laundry put away after dinner so the I could have an early night.

Sept. 27, 2010 - Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo

Slept later than usual but was still ready to go by 8:00. Steve was also ready but Heidi didn´t answer her door so we went for coffee. Steve then went to check the bus schedules and I started walking.

It was another beautiful walk through the vineyards in the mountains. Walked 26 km today.

Had a flyer for an albergue that was almost out of town. Halfway through the town, ran into Bart from Belgium. He was concerned that it was already after 3:00 and I wasn´t settled in anywhere yet. Told me he was staying at the municipal albergue and it was quite nice and I should go there. However, I wanted to check out the albergue on the flyer (besides the municipal albergue was a 20 minute walk back. Psychologically going back didn´t work for me). The albergue on the flyer turned out to be very nice ( 5 star for sure).

I knew almost everyone there. The albergue is built on the side of a rock and the rock spills over into the building, very unique. It was a 10 minute walk to the beach, so after getting settled I decided to check it out. It is very different from our beaches. It is on the river. There was a mini damn so that enough water could be held so a person could actually swim. The bottom was concrete. Soaked my feet for a bit. The water was cold, but felt good. Sat there for about an hour and a half before going to meet Dixie from Alaska and her friends Mary & Joe for dinner at 7:00.

Enjoyed dinner very much. Dixie, Mary & Joe all turned 70 this year and decided to celebrate by walking the camino. We chatted till almost 9:30 then had to rush back so we wouldn´t get locked out. Almost everyone was sleeping when we got back.

Another late night for a pilgrim.

Sept. 26, 2010 - El Acebo to Ponferrada

It was an entertaining night. It was quite noisy. There were a couple people who snored and the beds were extremely squeaky. One girl in the next room started giggling. Then a lady screamed in her sleep. There was a tall German guy in the lower bunk next to mine. When the lady screamed, he sat up very quickly and bumped his head on the top bunk. He said something that sounded like ´Gut Got in himmel´. I started laughing and I couldn´t stop. I covered my mouth with my sleeve so as not to make any sound, but I was shaking so hard my bed squeaked. I was sure the German guy was going to swear at me too. I laughed so hard I was sobbing. I did however, eventually fall asleep.

Forgot to look at the time when we left and forgot to look at the time when we arrived. Walked 17 km today with Heidi and Steve. Dora from Denmark walked part way with us.

Was up and ready to go before the hospitalaro got there with the cafe. He opens the door at 6:30. Heidi didn´t stay at the parochial albergue with us but she was going to meet us at 6:30. When the hospitalaro opened the door, Heidi just about gave him a heart attack. She was sitting on the bench beside the door waiting for us (she had her eyes closed and her head resting on the wall). The hospitalaro thought she had been sitting there all night and was frozen (gets pretty cold in the mountains at night). Poor guy, however it was quite funny. He invited her in to have breakfast with us and we left shortly after.

Really enjoyed the walk, even though it is more challenging, the mountains are my favourite place.

As we were walking past a vineyard on our way into Ponferrada, some people were harvesting grapes. A guy standing by a row of crates held up a bunch of grapes and waved us over. He gave us 4 bunches (one for each of us - red and white). They were sweet and juicy, the best grapes I have ever tasted. It was a very simple thing, but the picnic of grapes on the trail made our day.

Heidi, Steve, and I each got a room at a hotel instead of going to the albergue. We went to see the Knights Templar´s castle, then back to our rooms for a snooze before going to 6:30 mass and dinner.

Randi from Norway joined us for dinner. It was kind of sad, we are all going our separate ways tomorrow and it just didn´t seem possible that we may never see each other again. How strange it is to know someone for 2 days and you feel like you´ve known them all your life.

It was another late night for a pilgrim.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sept. 25, 2010 - Rabenal del Camino to El Acebo

Left around 7:00 arrived in El Acebo around 12:00 - walked 18 km

Was a beautiful walk, uphill, very steep, very invigorating. One of my most emotional days on the camino.

Walked all morning with Steve from Texas. We stopped for quite a while at Cruz de Ferro, a cross on top of a huge pile of stones. People bring stones from home to put on the pile of stones.

Stopped in Manjarin to give Julies´s book to Tomas & Antonio. Even though I could not understand them, I could tell they knew right away who Julie was and they were very happy to receive the book. It was so worth the weight of carrying it (actually was not all that heavy).

Walked on. The view of the mountains was breath taking, I wanted to stay on the mountain forever. Actually picked up a rock to bring home. It has been very hard up till now not to pick up any rocks (saw many that I would have liked to take), but the thought of carrying them made me leave them where they were. However, once I delivered the book I thought I could carry a little rock and besides this mountain has become a special place for me and I have to take a tiny piece of it back with me.

Stopped at the parochial albergue in El Acebo. The hospitalaro and his wife are volunteers from France. Chatted with him a few times through the afternoon and evening. He knows so much about the history of Spain and France. Heidi was really interested in the Knights Templars and he answered question after question. This is a beautiful little village on the side of the mountain. I think so far it is my favourite place.

We had a communal dinner at the albergue. Sat with Teresa - Austria, Riete - Holland, Steve - Texas, Enzo - Italy, Bart - Belgium. It was very nice. The hospitalaro had dinner half an hour early so we could go watch the sun set.

Late night for a pilgrim but a very meaningful day. This day has been a turning point on my camino.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sept. 24, 2010 - Astorga to Rabanel del Camino

Left around 7:30, walked 21 km, arrived around 1:00.

It was a beautiful walk. It was cool. There were so many colours. The mountains up ahead had a purplish tinge to them. There were dark clouds over the mountains and the sun was shining from behind.

The last 2.5 km to Rabanel de Camino was a well worn uphill trail. It was almost like walking up a staircase made of stones and tree roots. It was a very pleasant walk, but my feet hurt.

Stayed at Refugio Gaulchelmo. It is cold but very nice. Kept meeting up with Steve from Texas and Heidie from Hawaii. Had dinner with Steve, Dora from Denmark and another couple from Denmark.

Talked for quite awhile with the hospitalaros about why we were walking the camino. They are volunteers from Costa Rica. Very nice couple.

Sept. 23, 2010 - Villadangos del Paramo to Astorga

Walked 23 km to Astorga. Must have walked extremely slow. Left at 6:45 but didn´t get there till around 3:00. Guide book suggested staying at San Javier Albergue. Had to walk almost through Astorga to find it. It is one of the nicer Albergues. It is next to the cathedral and Gaudi´s castle.

There is a lot to see in Astorga! However I just walked around Gaudi's castle but did not buy a ticket to go inside. Did not go into the big Cathedral either. I just was not in the mood for exploring, went for a snooze instead.

Went to 7:00 mass, which was very nice. The nuns sang most of the service (even played the organ). Then went for dinner with Jolinda & Al from California and a Japanese man who did not speak English. It was a nice evening, although for pilgrims we were a little late getting back. The vouchers we got from the albergue for dinner were for the Gaudi hotel, which was quite a step up in class compared to what pilgrims usually get (almost on par with the parador, only much friendlier).

Sept. 22, 2010 - Leon to Villadangos del Paramo

Didn´t get away from Leon till 9:00. That is late. I felt like I should have been 10 km down the road. It felt good to be walking and once again in camino world.

I am glad I stayed at the parador. It was very interesting and a good experience. I thought about it quite a lot as I walked. Last night (around 9:00) I was sitting in the lounge sipping wine, eating calamarie, listening to soft relaxing music, and watching the people come and go. They didn´t look anything like the pilgrims I had been spending my evenings with for the past 3 weeks (all good pilgrims would probably have been in bed). From the looks I was getting from the other hotel guests, it was obvious I really didn´t belong there in my walking clothes and flip flops (that didn´t stop me from enjoying it though).

I had read somewhere that pilgrims are to detach from the material world. I have definitely experienced that in the last 3 weeks, however, I am having a hard time letting go of the material comforts. The contrast between sleeping a house made of mud and straw to staying in a luxurious parador boggles the mind. It is interesting to note though, that in the mud and straw house there was much laughter and camaraderie, more excepting of the people around you (even those that snored). At the Parador everyone looked so sad and preoccupied. I did not talk to one single person other than the waitress who was not very friendly and only talked to me because she had to.

I thought, how is it that this place which was originally built as a refuge for paupers and pilgrims in need was turned into a place for only the wealthy and elite?

Walked 19 km to Villadangos del Paramo. Arrived around 2:00. After showering and sitting for awhile I wished I would have gone further.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sept. 21, 2010 - Puente de Vilarente to Leon

Left around 7:30, arrived at Leon around 10:30 (13 km). Not a very pleasant walk, lots of noisy traffic and sometimes you really had to pay attention not to get hit.

Took my time walking through Leon. Went to the Cathedral, which was suppose to be incredible, but didn´t feel anything so kept going. Ran into Jolinda & Al and chatted for a bit.

Had planned on going at least another 7 km today, however, while in Spain I wanted to stay in at least at one Parador. On the way out of Leon, walked passed Parador de San Marcos. Mass had just started in the chapel, so I went in. After mass I walked around the Cloister, It is so beautiful and peaceful. It is so quiet, I don´t want to leave.

It used to be called The Hospital de San Marcos and it was a hospice from the 12th to 15th centuries and served as a monastery and head quarters of the Knights of Santiago. It is now a luxury parador and much of the furniture is antique.

I really wanted to stay here so I asked how much (Paradors are usually really expensive). This one was 110 €, so I thought, I may never be this way again, so I am staying here. (It is without a doubt the most luxurious place I have ever stayed). I checked in about 1:00 and did not leave the grounds. There was so much to explore. This truly is an amazing place. Again, I feel like I have stepped back in time by about 500 years. I wish I had the words to explain how, as I sit in the garden in the Cloister, you can feel the presence of the people who have been here hundreds of years ago.;jsessionid=2F8E16F6987ACE61AF61406AE455412F?parador=102&LANG=en&SM=true&fechaDesde=&fechaHasta=

pdf about the Parador in  Leon

Sept. 20, 2010 - El Burgo ranero to Puente de Vilarente

Had a great sleep, was on the road by 7:30. Walked 13 km, took a half hour break in Reliegos, walked another 6 km to Mansilla de las Mulas. Had originally planned on staying here, but the next place is only 6 km and I still felt ok to walk. Stopped at a bar to take a break. All tables in the shade were full except one that had a couple of people sitting at it. I asked if I could join them. They said of course. After talking for a few minutes, the guy said, ¨you sound like you are from Canada¨. Turned out to be Don & Mary Kay from Ottawa. Several people have asked me if I´ve meet them. We chatted for about half an hour then I carried on.

Got to Puente de Vilarente about 2:00. The refugio is nice - looks almost like a resort. However, it is adjacent to a pig farm and every once in a while the wind lets you know it is there. This is not one of my favourite villages, almost wish I would have stayed in Mansilla. Met Riete from Holland. We sat in the courtyard for most of the afternoon/evening just writing in our journals and looking at our maps and guides.

Still feeling sad. Today is Pat´s funeral, is actually probably happening as I am writing this.

Had dinner with 7 people from France who did not speak English. I did not feel much like socializing anyway so that was ok.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sept. 19, 2010 - Sahagun to El Burgo Ranero

Ate breakfast with Gabriella & Wolfgang. Was on the road by 7:30. Arrived at El Burgo Ranero around 12:00 (about 18 km).

Felt very sad today. Read my email last night and was informed that my cousin Pat passed away on Thursday. My thoughts for most of the day were of her and her kids. My heart goes out to Jeff and Carla and their families. I remember how hard it was when my mom died.

Today as I was walking into the village I had to walk through a flock of sheep. Was surprised at how big some of them were, and it did not seem to bother them at all that I was there.

The albergue that I am staying in is made of straw and mud. It is actually very nice. The hospitalaro is very kind, even though I don´t understand a word he says. He carried my backpack up the stairs to my bed. He is a volunteer. There is no cost to stay here, you give a donation as you see fit.

Splurged today and spent 3 euros to was my clothes in the washing machine instead of washing them by hand. They sure do smell nice and fresh - what a treat!!

Sept. 18, 2010 - Calzadilla de la Cueza to Sahagun

Didn´t get up till after 7:00 and took my time getting ready. What a luxury it is to be able to turn on the light and have the bathroom all to myself!

Had toast and cafe with Lill and her sister Karlin from Norway. They are taking a bus to Leon. They only have 2 weeks left and will have to average 30 km a day in order to make it to Santiago.

Started walking around 8:30. It was kind of nice not leaving with the masses. It was very quiet and I walked much slower than I normally do.

Stopped in Ledigo for cafe (7 km down the road) walked another 9 km and stopped for almost an hour and debated as to whether or not to stop for the day. The girl at the bar told me there was going to be a huge fiesta in the village tonight and the music will be quite loud until the early morning. I decided to go the extra 7.5 km to Sahgun. Arrived there about 3:00. Many of the farm buildings in this area are made of mud, straw and stones. Really feel like I have stepped back in time. A lot of people say this stretch is boring. I actually find it quite pleasant.

Ate dinner with a guy from California and Gabriella & Wolfgang from Germany. It was very nice. Have seen Gabriella & Wolfgang several times since the beginning of my journey so it was nice to spend the evening with them. We talked about some of the things that happen on the camino that is hard to explain. Some people call them miracles, some call them magic, but it is definitely not something you experience in your every day life.

It is almost 9:00 and I am ready for bed!

Sept. 17, 2010 - Carrion de los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza

Left by 6:30. Contemplated not going at all. However, would have to find someplace to wait till something opened up. It is just easier to walk to the next place, which just happened to be 18 km down the road.

It was a long walk. The weather was quite cool and it drizzled every now and then. Can´t imagine walking this in the hot sun. There was a group of Spanish people that were so noisy. Don´t think I was the only one who found them annoying. I am really tired, think I need a break, usually I can just ignore the  noisy people.

Got to Calzadilla de la Cueza about 10:30. Sat and had a cafe trying to decide whether or not to go on. Everyone said it was too early to stop, especially since it was only 6 km to the next place. The noisy Spanish group sat at the table next to me. I wanted to yell at them to shut up. That made my decision. I didn´t even walk back to the albergue (it would have been to early to get a bed there anyway). I rented a room in the Hostel (same place as the bar where I am having cafe con leche). Went to my room and slept for 3 hours. It is nice to have a room to myself (my own bathroom with a shower no less!). I really do not feel like talking to anyone about anything.

Went for a walk to visit the Church but it was not open today. Walked back to the hostel/bar, ordered something to eat. Renata from Germany joined me, shortly after Lill from Norway joined us. We chatted all afternoon (and probably had too much wine, it was only 50 cents a glass until a young man came on duty, then it was 1 euro a glass, but it was a much better quality).

We went for dinner at 7:30 and sat with a French man from Madagascar (he lent me his scarf to wrap around my neck because I was cold. This is the 2nd time he has done the camino. The first time he learnt just to trust God. This time he is just walking for pleasure.) Also in our group was a young man from France (whose eyes sparkled when he talked) and a French guy and his son from Quebec (who started walking from Le Puy). Had a very nice time.

It is amazing what a few hours of sleep can make. This morning if you offered me a ride home I would not have thought twice.

Now I am looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings. It is 10:00, a little late for camino bed time, but I will sleep in tomorrow, start later and walk slower.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sept. 16, 2010 - Fromista to Carrion de los Condes

Had a very good sleep last night. Ate breakfast and was on the road by 7:00. Walked 18.5 km today. Was a very pleasant walk. Took the route by the river which was a kilometre or so longer than walking along the highway (was worth the extra steps). They call this the flat lands. After living on the Prairies for so many years, this is not flat. Someone told me that tomorrow´s walk will be more like the desert.

Stopped for a short break at Ermita de las Virgen del Rio (an old abandoned church). Just sat and ate my apple, it was very quiet and very peaceful.

Stopped in Villalcazar de Sirga (about 1 km down the road) for a cafe con leche and to visit the church (you had to pay to get into this one).

Got to Carrion de los Condes about 12:30. As I walked into the city I saw Stephan2 waiting for the bus. We laughed, this is the 3rd time we have said good bye.

Found the Albergue Espiritu Santo, it is run by the nuns. It is nice (and clean). Wandered around the city, stopped for a hamburger (it actually tasted like home). It is now 3:00 and I have not showered or done laundry, so I better get busy or my clothes will not dry before bed. It is quite cool today, actually drizzled a bit, nice for walking.

After chores (shower and laundry) were done I slept for about an hour then found a supermecado to buy supplies for tomorrow. It will be 18 km with no place to stop. Bought my groceries and ran into Jessica, Randle & Otilia. Donna from Ottawa was with them (Nova Scotia is her home). People have been asking me for about a week now if I´ve met her. She said also that she has heard about me everywhere she went. They bought stuff to cook their own dinner. I have absolutely no desire to do my own cooking! so I will wait the half hour for the menu del dia to be served. Al and Jolinda from San Pedro California just stopped by and chatted for a few minutes, ran into them early this morning on the trail. Also ran into George from India at the chapel in Villacazar de Sirga. It was good to talk to him for a bit. His leg was still pretty sore but he still kept going.

I have been sitting in the plaza for about half an hour watching the people. It is thundering like you wouldn´t believe and it doesen´t seem to phase anyone.

Well, I ended up getting soaked! When the rain came, it came hard. Some kind soul moved my laundry, however I think it may still be wet in the morning.

Earlier I went to check out the chapel here in the city. They had the lessons for Sunday printed out in many languages, so I picked up the one in English. The 2nd lesson was from Hebrews 11. As I sit here and write this, I glanced at the verse at the bottom of the page in my journal, wouldn´t you know it, it was Hebrews 11:1 - ¨Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see¨. Out of all the verses in the Bible, what are the odds that it would be the same one, especially since it really fit with many of my thoughts as I walked today.

Sept. 15, 2010 - Castrojeriz to Fromista

Didn´t sleep well because, as I thought, it was cold. Stayed in bed longer than I intended because it was dark and I didn´t know what time it was. By the time others started moving it was 7:10 so I didn´t get away till 7:30.

Walked the 26 km to Fromista with three 15 min. breaks. Almost stopped at Boadilla del Camino because I was tired and didn´t think I could go on. However, one albergue was closed and the other one was full (neither looked like someplace I´d like to stay). The albergue I am staying in at Fromista is very nice. It only opened last year, it is very clean and has a beautiful garden to sit in. Stephan2, Jessica & Randle are also staying here.

Stephan2 is leaving tomorrow. He  has to work on Monday. Will miss  him very much, it seems he has become a part of my camino.

Dinner was very nice (Stephan2, Jessica & Randle, Otilia from Bulgaria and Maria from Mexico), it was very relaxing and the food was one of the best pilgrim meals I have had - also, we only had to walk to the next room to go to bed.

Sept. 14, 2010 - Rabe de las Calzada to Castrojeriz

Woke up at 4:30 and could not go back to sleep. Finally got up at 5:30 and was ready to go by 6:00, however signed up for breakfast at 6:30 so actually didn´t get on the road till 6:45.

Walked with George from India for about the first half hour. He wanted to know if I wanted to say the Rosary with him. Told him I wasn´t Catholic and I didn´t know it. He then wanted to know if I knew any songs to sing. Told him I could sing them in my head but when I opened my mouth to let the words out, it didn´t sound anything like what the song was suppose to. So I just said the words to ¨How Great Thou Art¨. That is the song that goes through my head in the morning when I leave before the sun comes up because there is one particular star in the sky that is so bright that you can still see it long after the other stars are gone. So the words ¨I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power through out the universe displayed ...¨. The only other song that keeps going through my head is ¨I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more....¨ by the Proclaimers - not quite what he had in mind.

Anyway, George had a sore leg and was walking pretty slow so I said ¨Buen Camino¨ and left him to sing by himself.

I walked about 18 km to Hontanas. It was only 11:00 and I thought it was way to early to stop. When I walked around the corner I saw Stephan2 sitting at the bar. I got a cafe con leche and joined him. We decided to walk on to the next village (9 km).

He is pretty tall and takes 1 step to my 2, so he reached Castrojeriz long before I did. The albergue he is staying at was full when I got there so I am staying in the camping albergue which looks like a gigantic shed that has 18 bunk beds. It is ok, but I think it will be pretty cold tonight.

Will meet Stephan2 at the Plaza Mayor at 7:00 to look for a place to have dinner.

We had dinner with Jessica & Randle, a couple from Australia. It was fun. After a couple hours we hobbled out of there (Jessica called it ¨The Camino shuffle¨). Jessica & Randle were staying at the same place I was, which is a good thing because it was at least a kilometer back to camp and it was dark out. I still hadn´t taken in my laundry so I was groping around in the dark, also the lights in the shed were already out so it was a challenge getting ready for bed without making any noise.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sept. 13, 2010 - Burgos to Rabe de las Calzadas

Woke up at 6:30 and thought, ¨I can sleep in if I want¨, so went back to sleep for another hour. Got up at 7:30, took my time getting ready, had cafe con leche and was on the road by 9:00. Walked very slow today. Stopped for a hamburger at Tardajos (8.5 km), walked another 1.5 km to Rabe de las Calzada and decided to call it a day. It is only 12:00 but I am tired and my ankle hurts. (In one of the albergues a while back there was a sign on the wall ¨Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional¨)

The albergue in Rabe de las Calzada is very nice, it looks new, it is not even in my guide book. Laid down and fell asleep instantly, slept for a whole hour before finding a shower and doing my laundry. (starting to get hot spots on my hands from ringing the water out of my clothes).

Sarah from Calgary is one of my room mates. She started her camino in Le Puy and has been walking since Aug. 2nd. She also agrees this is definitely a 5 star albergue. She says that after 3 weeks you can average 30 km a day.

Walked around the village (beautiful, quiet little village), sat outside in the little plaza for quite awhile, very relaxing, very peaceful).

Found the internet cafe (it was free and very up-to-date computers - you don´t see this very often).

Ate dinner tonight with George from India, 2 guys from the Netherlands and 2 girls from Germany.

It is only 8:15 and I am ready for bed!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sept. 12, 2010 - Atapeurca to Burgos

Did not sleep well. Don´t know why. It was quiet and it was a nice albergue. Got up at 5:00 and was gone by 6:00. Walked all the way to Burgos without a break until we reached the outskirts of Burgos (20 km). Got to the Cathedral (a further 5 km through the city) around 10:30.

Went to the 11:00 Mass. Didn´t enjoy it as much as going to mass in the smaller villages. Maybe it was because I was tired and my feet were protesting very loudly about the 25 km in 4 and a half hours. Won´t do that again!

Had a coke with Bruce and Don and then decided to move on. However, as I was crossing the Cathedral plaza, I saw Stephan2 sitting on a bench. It was good to see him. We sat and chatted for awhile and I decided to get a Hotel room and stay in Burgos.

Found a room, dumped my stuff then met Stephan2 for lunch. Toured the Cathedral. It is massive! Construction of the cathedral started in the beginning of the 13th century and took 22 years to complete, however additions were made over the next few centuries. Again, the thought of how much it must have cost to build and maintain is astounding.

Went back to my hotel room and soaked in the tub for about an hour. Will meet Stephan1 and Stephan2 in the Plaza around 8:00.

Was tempted to not go out because I was really tired, however I did anyway. Sure glad I did. It just amazes me at how alive the city gets after 8:00 on a Sunday evening. There are people of all ages walking through the street, standing and visiting, all the bars and restaurants are packed. We walked around for awhile just taking in the feeling excitement in the air, then went for a pizza and beer. It was a great evening.

Won´t get up too early tomorrow, won´t even pack up my stuff tonight.

Sept. 11, 2010 - Villafranca Montes de Oca to Atapeurca

Had a good night´s sleep, have grown accustomed to the snoring and it no longer keeps me awake. Slept soundly till 7:00, was on the road by 7:15. Enjoyed the walk up the mountain in spite of the 2 km steep incline. Took 2 hours 45 min. to do the 12 km to San Juan de Ortega. Took a 45 min. break, sat in the chapel for a while that was built in the 12th century. The sculptures, carvings, paintings and architecture are incredibly beautiful. Can´t help but think about what it cost to build and maintain these cathedrals.

Walked for an hour (4 km) to Ages and stopped for a cafe Americana, it was a nice treat, tasted just like regular coffee from the Human Bean.

Walked another 2 km to Atapuerca and decided to stop (about 12:00). Only did 18 km today. Figured out that if I am going to make it to Finistair in 40 days I will have to start averaging about 22 km a day (I know, I have already concluded that it is about the journey, not whether or not I get there and how long it takes).

Spent the afternoon with Bruce and Don. Went to an archaeological museum. Apparently, very close to here they  found human remains that are 800,000 years old.

Ate dinner with Nichole from Germany, Anna, Karen & Monica from Sweden.

It was a good day. Want to leave tomorrow by 6:00. Don said he will wake me at 5:00. I will start with them but if I cannot keep up they can go on ahead. We want to get to Burgos for 12:00 Mass at the cathedral - it´s about 25 km.

Sept. 10, 2010 - Belorado to Villafranca Montes de Oca

Was up by 6:00 and gone by 6:30. It was dark so I followed a group of people who looked like they knew where they were going. After about 45 minutes it was getting light. I got an awful feeling that something was not right. Came to a turn in the road and there was no marker. We all stopped (there were about 10 of us). There was only 1 guy and 2 other girls who spoke English. The 2 girls turned around and started going back. I was undecided. They guy who spoke English said I should stay with them, at least that way we would all be lost together. That did not make me feel better. I decided to turn back, they kept going. 45 minutes later (8:00) I was right back where I started at 6:30. I saw right away where we made the wrong turn. I carried on but only went 12 km. I was tired and discouraged.

I beat myself up all the way, I should have known better than to just follow. Finally once I reached Villafranca Montes de Oca I told myself to let it go. I need to slow down and if I don´t finish it is ok. I need to just pay more attention to what is around me and not just get from one place to another. Got a bed in a Hotel that had a section for pilgrims. It is very nice. Showered, washed clothes, and walked around town. Am now sitting on the hotel patio that is encased in stone walls and has a large beautiful garden. Chatted with a lady and her daughter from Denmark, a lady from Californica and a lady from Ottawa. We talked for quite awhile about our reasons for doing the Camino and where we came from.

In spite of my ¨not so great¨ morning, I am feeling very relaxed and am glad I ended up here. Actually feel like I am on holiday´s in a resort.

Two guys from New Zealand joined us, Bruce & Don. They have already been walking 25 days (from Le Puy in France). They took a train part of the way because they are meeting up with Don´s wife in Burgos. They were quite entertaining with their stories about their experiences in France. They walk between 30-40 km  a day (both guys are in their mid 60´s).

Visited the church and just sat for awhile. They had an amazingly huge shell for the baptismal font.

Dinner was fun (mother & daughter from Denmark, lady from California, 2 guys from New Zealand). The hotel dining room was very classy (Louis Armstrong was the background music - ¨It´s  A Beautiful World¨)

Was a good day. 9:00 to bed.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sept. 9, 2010 - Santo Domingo de Calzado to Belorado

Left around 6:30. There were several small villages along the way, stopped for a bit in each one. Got to Belorado around 1:30 (7 hours to do 23 km). I think I need to take a break, my feet are tired. Maybe I´ll spend an extra day in Burgos (that´s 2 days away - 25 km), I´ll see.

Walked on and off most of the day with Stephan1 & Stephan2. Chatted for awhile with Maria from Mexico and Gothar from Sweden (Gothar slept in the bed next to mine last night). Kept passing a guy from Switzerland who had 2 bad knees and could hardly walk. I thanked God for my good knees and wondered if I would continue if I was in his condition.

Had an interesting conversation with Stephan1 yesterday which I pondered a lot today. On the camino you feel like gypsies, always on the move and don´t have a place to call home. He says that to him the presence of certain people he continually meets everyday on the camino is to him his home. I was touched to be included in the circle of people he considered home. I knew exactly what he meant. Even though you meet many people and everyone is so friendly and helpful, there are a select few that you feel comfortable enough with to share what is on your mind, or you can sit or walk with for an hour or so and not feel you have to make conversation.

Think I´ll do the menu del dia at 7:00 (served in the albergue I am staying at), go for mass at 8:00 and to bed by 9:00 (Don´t know why I enjoy going to the mass so much - totally don´t understand a thing that is said)

Had dinner with Jolinda and Al from San Pedro California and Andrew from Germany who has been walking for 2 months from his home in Germany. Really enjoyed mass. They had a mass for pilgrims after the regular mass and actually attempted to translate it into several languages. I did the reading in English that talked about 3 reasons why people do the pilgrimage.

  1. One of the reasons given was to give thanks for all their blessings. This definitely can be one of my reasons because I have so very much to be thankful for!
  2. i)  Second reason talked about how sometimes we have to make a major decision in our life and walking the camino helps to sort out our options.
    ii)  Also included in this is that sometimes people don't know why they are called to walk the camino. They just know it is something they have to do (this also definitely fits with one of my reasons for doing the camino).
  3. Third reason was a little harder to understand. Camino de Santiago de Compostela - My understanding is that 'de Compostela' is field of stars (the route to Santiago follows the Milky Way - which is millions of stars). So according to the reading, each pilgrim is also one of the stars on the way to Santiago. When we are done the camino we are to go out into the world and let our lite shine for others.

 Also included in the readings was Psalm 121. This is my favorite Psalm and the one I have chosen to be read at my funeral.

Sept. 8, 2010 - Azorfa to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Woke up at 7:10. Can´t believe I slept so long and so soundly. It was very dark and very quiet. Rachelle, my room mate has to take a day off. She went to the Pharmacia yesterday because her knee was pretty swollen. They said no walking for 2 days.

It will be a short day for me (16 km ). Only going as far as Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Quite cool today, makes for easier walking.

Took a one hour break in Cirinuela with Stephan1 & Stephan2. The more modern village seemed like a ghost town. Just about every house was for sale. Due to hard economic times these new houses are not selling.

Arrived in Santo Domingo de la Cazada around 12:30. We are staying at a monastery that was built in 1610. The Chaplains house is where the pilgrims sleep.

After a little snooze, shower, and washing clothes I took a stroll to the cathedral that housed the famous chickens. The Cathedral, built in 1098 was quite impressive, it has several chapels. I then actually paid an extra € to climb to the top of the 243 foot tower (with each step I thought ¨what on earth possessed me to do this!¨). Can´t even say the view was worth it because I just saw the same thing that I saw when I was walking all morning!

Went to vespers at 6:30 (sung by the cistersion nuns), went to mass at 7:00 and to bed by 8:00.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sept. 7, 2010 - Navarrete to Azofra

Left Navarrete at 6:10. It started raining shortly after ( I love my huge pancho that looks like a tent). Took a wrong turn and walked at least 20 min. before realizing it. Stopped for about 1/2 hour in Ventosa (7 km). By the time I left there it had stopped raining. The 10 km to Najera was a pleasant walk through vineyards. The rain made all the colours of the earth, plants and trees so vibrant. Ate some grapes from the vine, they were really good! Also couldn´t help but pick a couple figs off a fig tree that was in my path.

Walked the last 2 km into Najera with Maria from Mexico. Talked about why we are doing this and neither of us know why exactly. Just before we got into Najera there was a writing on the wall. That fit exactly what we were just talking about.
        Dust, mud, sun and rain
        Is the Camino de Santiago
        Thousands of pilgrims
        And more than a thousand years

       Pilgrim, who calls you?
       What hidden force attracts you?
       Not the field of the stars
       Nor the grand cathedrals

       It is not the courage of Navarra
       Not the wine of the Riohas
       Nor the seafood of Galicia
       Nor the plains of Castile

       Pilgrim, who calls you?
       What hidden force attracts you?
       It is not the people of the Camino
       Nor the rural customs.

       It is not the history and culture
       It is not the cock of La Calzada
       Nor the palace of Gaudi
       Nor the Ponferrada Castle

       I see them all as I pass
       And it is a delight to see everything
       But the voice that calls to me
       I feel much more deeply

       The force which pushes me
       The force which attracts me
       I cannot explain it
       Only He who is above knows it

It never ceases to amaze me how, since I have started this camino, the people who cross my path seem to be there just at the right time. They maybe there for a day or 2 or just a km or 2, but it all seems to be pieces of a puzzle, which I have no idea what it will look like when I am finished.

The albergue in Azofra is very nice. There are rooms with only 2 beds in each room (no bunk beds). There is a large patio with tables and a pool to soak your feet.

Had dinner with Stephan1 and Stephan2. I really do enjoy their company. Also still keep running into Liz & Jacques.
9:00 bed time.

Sept. 6, 2010 - Vania to Navarrete

Woke up around 6:00. Did not have a good sleep, was stiff and sore. Had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and left around 7:00.

Walked for two hours. Just before Logrono a lady was stamping passports and handing out figs from her fig tree - was a real treat!

Stopped in Logrono with Stephan1 and Stephan2 (both Stephan's are from Germany, but Stephan1 lives in England and Staphan2 lives in Austria) for a cafe con leche grande. Walked for another 45 min. then stopped for another 1/2 hour break.

It was hard walking although it should have been easier because it was a paved path most of the way. I think it had to do with the lack of sleep and lack of shade. Walking through a vineyard out of Vania was beautiful and peaceful. The sun was rising and I was by myself, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Got to Navarrete about 1:30 totally whipped. The albergue didn´t open till 2:00, so I laid down on a bench to wait. When it did open, the hospitalaro was not very friendly. He was rude to a guy from Norway who was in front of me. I did not get a good feeling about this place so I went looking for the other albergue in town. It was double the price, but it was worth every cent. Compared to last night I feel like I am at the Ritz.

Giselle from New Caledonia (Island off Australia) is sleeping in the bed beside me, the guy from Norway is sleeping in the bunk above me.

Went for dinner with Liz & Jacques and Johnny from Ireland. After dinner Johnny and I visited with a few people who slept in the park all day (one of the guys was the young Irish lad whose name I now know is Brian). They decided to walk all night because they slept all day. Johnny & I then explored the cathedral and when they booted us out because they wanted to lock up, we sat on the steps and chatted (we did not have a curfew, we actually had keys to our rooms to let ourselves in whenever we wanted).

Was another late night for a pilgrim.

Sept. 5, 2010 - Los Arcos to Viana

Up at 6:00, gone by 6:45. Walked the first 8 km to Torres del Rio with Kieran. He is going as far as Lagronno today and I am taking it easy and only going as far as Viana so he picked up his pace and I slowed down.

Walked about a km then stopped and sat on the steps of an old church for about an hour pondering something Stephan said yesterday about how it is more important to ask the right questions because the answers will come if you know the question.

Got to Viana at 12:30 - 6 hours - actually walked 4.5 hours, did 18.5 km.

The refugio has 2 rooms with mats on the floor, a small bathroom that has a small shower and sink where you also wash your clothes. Only one person fits in it at a time. This totally made me aware of how we are definitely accustomed to comfort. Will be interesting. There are 9 people in a row on mats on the floor.

It is 3:30 and I am hungry. They are serving a meal for pilgrims at 8:00 so I will go for tapas.

When I first walked into town at 12:30 the street was croweded. Now there is hardly anyone around. It is siesta. I purchased some tapas and cafe con leche at the bar by the church and walked outside. Olga from Germany asked me to join her table. The tables are in the street and people walk from one bar to another visiting as they go. It feels more like a street party, but is is a way of life.

I have learnt that these are plazas. They are usually created around a large stone-concrete church and the buildings in the street are also stone-concrete and tall to keep out the sun. Went for a walk to the end of the street and through an archway. It was incredibly hot. It reminded me again of why there is siesta.

Dinner was fun, we laughed alot. Sat around the dinner table till almost 10:00.  Trying to sleep was a challenge. Michael from Australia was beside me. A bunch of young boys were playing some kind of ball game in the court yard under our window till midnight. Our host kept coming in and counting everyone (I think when Katrina the German girl left, she didn´t tell then she was leaving). Anyway, Micheal said he felt like he was in prison. The girl beside him (from Quebec) said she worked in a prison. We started laughing and it was awhile before I could quite.

Sept. 4, 2010 - Estella to Los Arcos

Woke up at 2:30, was wide awake and felt ready to go, however forced myself to go back to sleep. Woke up again at 6:00 and woke everyone else up when I walked into a metal ladder that clanged against the metal bed rail (it wasn´t there when I went to bed and I couldn´t see it in the dark). Stayed for breakfast which was served at 7:00 - cornflakes and granola, what a treat.

Left Estella 7:15, arrived in Los Arcos around 12:45 (took two 15 min. breaks), 5 hours to walk 21 km.

4 km outside of Estella there is a wine fountain - Bodegas de Irache - were pilgrims can drink their fill - can view webcam

I filled one of my water bottles half full. Walked a couple km to the next village and realized it was not a good idea because it was 14 km to the next place to get water and I really needed my water bottle for water. As I was about to dump it, the young Irish lad happened to come along and was obliged to drink it. He said when you are Irish you can drink anytime.

The path was fairly flat, but the sun was hot and by the time I got to Los Arcos I was more than ready to stop. Walked a bit with Mary from Dublin, she has travelled quite abit, even crossed Canada by train.

The albergue where I stopped today is an Austrian Albergue. It is quite nice. Am sitting on a couch in the court yard with Liz & Jacques writing this and watching people ring out their clothes with the top of an old ringer washing machine. Sure does bring back memories of laundry day when we stayed at Grandma and Grandpa Meisner´s on the farm. Most of the young people don´t have a clue what it is. It is very entertaining.

The computer was free so I worked on the blog for about an hour. Explored the town and went for tapas (realized it was almost 5:00 and hadn´t had anything to eat since breakfast.

Went to 8:00 mass with Mary. At the end when the priest called all the pilgrims up for a blessing, there were between 30-40 people. This priest talked to each person individually. Mary said, at this point, in Ireland someone would say ¨we have time to go for a pint¨. The bar was just across the street from the church and there were tables and chairs in the church yard where people sat and visited after the service.

Back at the albergue a bunch of people sat in the court yard talking and drinking wine. We actually stayed out there till just after 10:00, which is quite late for pilgrims, but the commaraderie was nice and no one wanted to end it till we had to turn lights out.

Chatted with Stephan from Germany who lives in England and Sho from Sooth Korea who is a student in Spain but was taking a vacation and walking the camino.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sept. 3, 2010 - Puente le Reina to Estella

Left Puente le Reina at 6:15, arrived in Estella around 2:00 (7.75 hours to walk 23 km).

 Took a 15 min. break in Cirauqui, had coffee from a machine. Took about a half hour break in Lorca, 6 km down the road (nice place, if I do this again, will definately plan to spend a night in Lorca). There was a cafe across the street from the bar. This is the first cafe I´ve actually seen, usually they are bars. Henry from Austria came up to me and asked what I would like. I said ¨cafe!¨ He said ¨let me help you with your pack¨and actually took it off my back. We went into the cafe and he ordered cafe no con leche. We talked while I finished the cafe then I asked for another cafe con leche this time (I didn´t want to leave, it felt good to talk to someone in English). This is the 3rd time Henry has done the camino. This time he brought a tent and is sleeping mostly outside. He was helping out at the cafe just because he wanted to. He assured me it will get easier.

Walked part of the way with Kieran from Iraland and met Katrina from Holland and Gil from Paris.

Was very tired when I arrived in Estella. There are 4 albergues to choose from. I decided to go to the Parochial albergai. Turns out this is a by donation only so you give what you want and it includes a bed, pilgram mass at 7:00, meal at 8:00, ¨silencio by 10 plus 30¨, breakfast at 7:00, and out by 8:00.

The mass was great (even though I did not understand a word), went for communion. It felt very peacefull.

Dinner was also very nice. There were 14 people in all (Italian, German, French, Spanish, Austrian, Hungarian, and me).

It has been a good day except for (Adam hold your breath) I broke my shock proof camera when I dropped it on a rock.

It is 9:00 and I am ready for bed!

Sept. 2, 2010 - Cizur Menor to Puente la Reina

Had a good sleep (in spite of the fact that women also snore). Heard the church bells ringing around 5 a.m. Got up shortly after and was on the road by 6:15.

Left with Hari from Finland. Walked with him for about 3 hours. He wouldn´t stop talking. It was very energy draining. We walked past a long row of windmills. He talked for about an hour about wind power, nuclear power, solar power and how he thought maybe they should experiment with water power. That was enough for me. I told him I enjoyed his company but I really needed to go on alone.

There was a light rain for most of the morning, but wasn´t to bad for walking. Stopped for a short break at Uterga with the Australian couple whose names I now know are Diane and Shane. They have been together for 29 years and are both retired military. Also at our table was Christine and her husband from California. The husband (didn´t get his name) had a huge black eye and cut on his forehead. In Pamplona yesterday he tripped over a curb. Couldn´t get his balance because of his heavy pack and fell head first into the curb (says he is telling people it happened at the bar last night).

Took the 3 km detour to see the church at Eunate. It was worth the additional 6 km! It was much smaller than I thought it would be. According to my guide book, it´s octagon shape suggests it is linked to the Knights Templar, one of the earliest Christian military orders that was formed to protect pilgrims on their journeys. While I was there a group of people came and sat in the pews. They started singing in Latin-Spanish (I´m not sure which). The acoustics were unbelievable. It sent shivers down my spine. A girl standing close to me started crying. It was really something that is hard to describe with words (for me anyway).

Got to Puente la Reina at 2:15. Walked for eight hours taking only about 1 hour break total. I was exhausted. Had to lie down before I could even take a shower. Found a Maytag washer with instructions in English (didn´t even need the instructions, I know how to work this one!).

I as sitting in the bar eating a piece of quiche and having a glass of wine while I write this. My clothes should be finished washing. I better go get them just in case someone else needs to use the washer.

Can you believe it! Left toilet paper in my pocket!! My clothes are a mess! Again, should have washed by hand (on the bright side - they do smell nice).

Cannot key this into my blog because computer ¨No Functiona¨. Will go have a glass of Sangria (yes Tammy, the real stuff - with fruit no less) then to bed by 8:30.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sept. 1, 2010 - Lorasonna to Cizor Menor

The albergue in Lorrasona was very noisy. There were 14 bunk beds and everyone of them squeaked. Between the squeaky beds, snoring people and barking dogs outside the window, did not get much sleep.

Left Larasonna around 6:00, got to Pamplona around 11:30. After walking for about an hour, we walked through a hamlet where a lady was selling coffee and fruit from her driveway. It was a refreshing break (she was playing lively music that made you want to dance). Walked most of the way to Trinadad de Arre with Liz & Jacques and a couple from Australia.

Walked with Harri from Finland from Trinadad to Cizur Menor. We stopped at a supermarket in Pamplona on the way and brought stuff to have a picnic in the park. Cizor Menor was only 2 km away from Pamplona. I like Pamplona, it is a bustling little city but I felt like I was in another time zone.

The albergue in Cizor Menor is the best albergue I have seen yet. A lady runs it in her yard that has a huge garden. There are only 5 bunk beds in each room and she separates the men from the women (she says she does this so we are not kept awake by the men snoring) It has a kitchen so I bought some eggs and will have hard boiled eggs for supper. It would be really nice to stay here for a couple of days, however that is against the camino rules.

Liz and Jacques just got back from the supermarket and bought some rice pilaf to go with my hard boiled eggs.

Dinner was interesting, what we thought was a microwave turned out not to be a microwave. We ate cold rice pilaf. Everything here is an adventure.

Chatted for a while with a couple guys from Ireland, love the accent could listen to them all day. One of the guys name is Kieren.

It was a good day. A little easier than the previous days.  Rumor has it tomorrow is rain and thunderstorms.
9:00 - time to turn in.

August 31, 2010 - Viskarret to Larrasoana

Took awhile to fall asleep. No more espresso before bed!! Got up at 6:30 and left around 7:00. Got to Zubiri at 10:50. Took me almost 4 hours to go 10.5 km, made 2 wrong turns. Probably walked at least an extra km. Have to be more careful and watch for the yellow arrows. Stopped at a bar and had a bocadillo and cafe.

Left Zubiri at 12:00. Arrived at Larrasona at 2:00, took me 2 hours to walk 5.5 km. Got a bed at the municipal albergue. By the time I got to the room there was only a top bunk left. This should be interesting, as soon as I stepped on the first rung I got a cramp in my foot!

Just wanted to go to sleep, but I remembered having to to shower in cold water. Took me till 4:00 to shower and wash my clothes and hang them out to dry.

Walked to the bar to buy juice and nuts for breakfast. Met up with Liz and Jacques. They bought me a beer and we chatted about how far we planned to go tomorrow.

Went back to the refugio to work on the blog. Was booked for the pilgram´s meal at 7:00. Ate at a table with 7 other French people. Even though I could not understand most of what they said I felt included in the conversation. To bed by 9:00

August 30, 2010 - Roncevallas to Viskarret

Between the cold and the 2 guys that snored all night, I didn´t get much sleep. Left there around 7:30. My clothes did not dry by morning. Because they were still wet, they were heavy in my backpack. My pack is way too heavy. I keep trying to think of what I can ditch, but I actually do use everything I brought.

I can hardly move, every step is excruciating. I feel like someone took a sledge hammer to my legs. I tell myself, the good thing about leaving from Orisson yesterday is that I don´t have to do it today.

Only did 11.5 km today. Stopped in Viskarret about 12:00 and got a room at Casa La Posada Nueva. It was built in 1860. Beautiful building and very well kept. I actually had my own room and the use of a large bathroom which had a tub. I slept for 3 hours, got up and soaked in the tub for half an hour which felt very good.

Dinner was at 8:30. It is hard to get used to eating so late and then going to bed right after that.  Ate dinner with Liz and Jacques from Quebec who spoke mostly French. Our server was Bulgarian who only spoke Bulgar and Russian. We laughed alot trying to make ourselves understood. I told them about the guy on the mountain who didn´t think Quebec was part of Canada. They also thought it was funny. It was a fun evening, we drank a bottle of wine and then had a cup of espresso. Turned in around 10:30. Wonder how I will sleep.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 29, 2010 - St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncevallas

The refugio I stayed in was very nice (build in 1860). Looked almost medieval. There were 5 bunk beds. I was lucky enough to get a bottom bunk. Jo, a 20 year old from London slept in the top bunk. Also in our room was the couple from New Hampshire, a couple from Switzerland and 4 other ladies who I think were from France.

Jam bread and coffee were served at 6:30. Jo and I started walking just before 7:00. It was an uphill climb right from the start. After 10 min. I thought there is no way I can do this! I stopped for a break. Jo talked continually. She was starting to get annoying. I stopped every 10 min. I told her she didn´t have to wait, but she did anyway. When I started stopping to take pictures, she got annoyed. By this time I wanted to yell at her to just keep going. After awhile she finally did go on without me. It was then very peaceful, I could hear the birds.

I got to Orisson about 10:00. It took me 3 hours to walk 7.5 km. I didn´t know what to do. It seemed way to early to stop for the day, yet it was 18 km to Roncevallas. They did not have an internet so I would be sitting there doing nothing. Had a cup of coffee and chatted with a lady from New Zealand that used to live in B.C. About 11:00 I decided to cancel my reservation and go on to Roncevallas. Started walking with the lady from New Zealand. She told me it was ok to go ahead because she had bad knees and couldn´t walk very fast (she ended up getting to Roncevallas way before me!).

It was very difficult (1440 m. up). I probably should have stayed in Orisson. Halfway there was a French man in a van selling juice and fruit. He was marking the number of people going by and where they were from. He said I was the first person that day from Canada. He did have 3 people from Quebec. I told him it was the same country. He laughed. He actually thought I was joking. Shortly after that started the decline. It was a very steep decline. Going down was definitely not easier than going up!! Just before the decline there was a little stone hut where people could stop for a break. There were 2 French men who had stopped to make themselves some coffee. They invited me to join them. It was very nice of them and very much appreciated (I think they felt sorry for me, I must have looked pretty ruff). I got to Roncevalles shortly after 6:00 and I could hardly walk, my legs were like jelly (took 7 hours to walk 18 km). The refugio was full so I had to sleep in one of the trailers. It was sooo cold. Had to have a shower and wash my clothes in cold water. That night I slept in every piece of clothing I took with me except for the ones supposedly drying on the line.

August 28, 2010 - Pamplona to St. Jean Pied de Port

Woke up at 6:00 and was ready to go by the time the refugio alarm went off. Purchased a ticket for Roncesvalles (bus comes at 10:00).

Rode the bus to Roncevalles with Martinas from Portugal. He has walked the camino several times, however this is the first time he plans on walking from Roncevallas to Santiago, unless it rains more than 2 day in a row, he is retired now so he has the time.

Shared a taxi from Roncevallas to St. Jean Pied de Port with a Lynn and Hugo from New Hampshire, USA. This is also their 2nd time doing the camino.

Going through the mountains was breath taking, not only the scenery but also the taxi driver drove very fast up and down and around the hair pin curves. He was French and talked most of the time with his hands. Almost thought my journey would end before it began going over the cliff of a mountain. In spite of a few anxious moments, the ride was very entertaining and fun. The driver took us to the pilgrams´office where I got my passport stamped. Was planning on going as far as Orisson today, however they said the refugio was full and it was too late to make it to the next place so I am staying at a refugio here in St. Jean Pied de Port, France. It is a beautiful village and I am kinda glad that I now have time to explore it.

Bought a wooden walking stick and stopped for lunch/supper. Had the pilgrams´meal which, for 14 € includes a large bowl of veg soup, 2 lamb chops, french fries, a salad, a basket of bread, a 1/4 litre of wine, a huge slice of some kind of awesome almond custard pastry and a cup of cafe for dessert. The cafe was actually espresso and served in a cup that looked like it belonged to a child´s tea set. Pretty powerful stuff, my head was buzzing after the first sip. I guess they think Pilgrims are hungry. Certainly couldn´t finish everything and I can see why pilgrims usually only have one meal a day. (Probably not the kind of treatment pilgrims received a thousand years ago).

After five hours of walking up and down the steep hills of this beautiful village, it didn´t take much for Lynn & Hugo to convince me to go back to the pilgrams´ office and book a spot in Orisson for tomorrow (the steep hills were very challenging). As I was walking down the street I heard someone call my name. It kind of startled me because I didn´t know anyone besides Lynn & Hugo. I knew it wasn´t them because I had just left them behind me at a cafe. It was Gaston from Brazil standing in line to sign up for a credential.

A credential is a pilgram´s pass port that you get stamped at each place you stay. You can´t stay in a refugio/albergue unless you have one. You also need it when you reach Santiago in order to get a certificate saying you walked at least the last 100 miles.

Anyway, it was really good to see Gaston. He greeted me like we were long lost friends. Even though we met only briefly the day before and could not understand a word each other said. There was a couple standing in line (from Chicago) that spoke both Portuguese and English and translated our conversation. He is also going to reserve a spot in Orisson.

I have taken over 45 pictures today. Everything is so beautiful. I want to capture it all even though pictures really do not capture everything. Martinas told me this morning that he doesn´t bring a camera anymore because he claims you can´t really live in the moment if you are trying to capture it for the future (not sure I agree with him).

In the evening, sat in the garden and chatted with Lynn & Hugo (couple from New Hampshire). Interesting people. They are couch surfers (

August 27, 2010 - Madrid

Very frustrating not being able to understand the language. Bought a bus ticket to Pamplona. Misunderstood the instructions. Thought the bus left terminal 4 at 11:15, however was supposed to take the shuttle to terminal 4 where I was to catch the bus at 11:15, so I had to buy another ticket. Next bus didn`t leave till 3:15.

While I was waiting for the bus, Gaston from Brazil and Gerhart from Germany came along. Gaston was booked on another bus but Gerhart was also going to Pamplona on the same bus as I was taking. He spoke English very well and we talked all the way to Pamplona (5 hours). This is the 2nd time he walked the camino. He shared his lunch with me which was very good and the healthiest meal I had in 2 days. Before he came along I was starting to think maybe this wasn´t such a good idea but he reminded me that on the Camino, God provided what you needed when you needed it. He helped me find one of the albergue/refugios. There was a festival in the street, a German band was playing umpapa music and people were dancing and drinking wine. He said it was a grand welcome on my first night -- and so it was! I didn´t have to wash my clothes by hand because this refugio actually has a washer and dryer.

The court yard I am sitting in writing this looks really spooky, but it is very peaceful and it is a very beautiful evening. After awhile a guy came out. He was looking for a light switch because he didn`t want to sit in the dark. I saw a square button that looked similar to the light switch beside my bed. I told him maybe that was it, so he pressed it. It actually set off an alarm and scarred the shit out of both of us. We laughed and he accused me of telling everyone to press the button just to see their reaction.

It was almost 11:00 and I figured I better go hang up my clothes and go to bed. However, the washer was still washing. It had been 1 and a half hours since I start it. I obviously didn´t do something right. I had never seen a washer like this before and the instructions were in Spanish. Ended up taking my clothes out and ringing them by hand.

August 27, 2010 - Flight

The flight to Minneapolis went quickly. The flight leaving Minneapolis was late, therefore arrived a few minutes late into Atlanta. It was rather a panic getting the connection in Atlanta. Didn`t know where I was going. The guy sitting beside me was very helpful, and patient. He had to explain the directions twice on how to get to the gate where I was to catch my flight to Madrid. There were a few of us that had to catch that flight, so most of the people waited for us to get off first (was sitting at the very back - economy class - row 44 - second last row). About half way down the isle there was a gentleman who was not impressed with having to wait. He stepped out in front of me. I had to stop short and my backpack threw me off balance. Didn´t realize it, but the top was open on my water bottle. Water splashed all over the back of his jacket and computer bag. Two ladies still sitting thought is was funny. Wouldn´t have wanted to be around when the guy realized his coat and bag was soaked.

When I finally got off the plane I had to run quite aways. In spite of being given the directions twice, after the 2nd left turn and down the escalator to my right, I was confused and had to ask an attendant for directions. The gate number had actually been changed and I had to take a trolley (reminded me of the LRT in Edmonton). Was the last person to board! Had to tell myself to chill out, wouldn´t have been the end of the world if I missed the flight, could have caught the next one.-- Did get a good workout running with my backpack. Haven´t even started walking yet and already I am thinking it is way too heavy.

Service on this flight was great. Even in economy class we were served dinner (with wine), free movies, T.V., pillow, blanket and continental breakfast.

Somewhere in the scuffle getting off the plane, I lost the light that was attached to my hat.