Tag Archives: Galicia

The spirit of The Camino lives on.

It’s now two days since we completed the Camino and I find myself missing a few things. It’s not the three course pilgrim menus, nor the questionably safe bunk beds in albergues. I miss the spirit. Sure I wrote about a lot of instances when good spirit was lacking but if you looked a little further you’d find it again. Maybe it was a familiar face that you walked with or met many towns before that said hello or asked how you were doing. Or a store owner who was proud to help pilgrims or point them in the right direction. A local that watched you pass and wished you a Buen Camino.

Whether you walked the Camino or not, we all look for the light or an air of good tidings that reminds you of the good in humanity not the selfish ‘every man for himself’ mentality. I am reminded that I may have to look a little harder to find the good at times. And to not get irritated at the little things, like 20 people rushing the door to get on a bus pushing people out of their way. That would be adults pushing others. Sigh.

I also miss the walking. Now I say this cautiously. I do not miss taping and treating my feet as a result of the walking. But I miss the fresh air and the movement. It must be the years of being trapped behind a computer. I hope I still can move like that when I’m 70 years old. I was so impressed by the strength of people much older than me.

Today we went to Finisterre “lands end”, which was a two hour bus ride from Santiago. This was our first time in a moving vehicle in over a month. The miracle of wheels. It was a perfect sunny day that was probably 80 degrees. We unfortunately forgot the sunscreen and got sunburned! Go figure, I was almost hypothermic a week ago.

After the bus dropped us off in town we hiked up the hill maybe 2-3km to el Faro (the lighthouse). Jonathan had matches and fire starters for our ceremonial boot burning. We took some photos and went down the hill behind the lighthouse which looked like a pilgrim’s belongings cemetery. Burned shoes. Abandoned shoes, clothing and bags. Even abandoned ladie’s underwear. Not really my symbolic choice for ending the Camino but…

I think I envisioned just singeing the boots some but Jonathan put in enough fire starter for a bonfire that could be seen across the Atlantic. One pilgrim had just finished burning his boots and came over to take pictures of ours. Soon we had quite a crowd.

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I felt a little guilty being so bad for the environment and all and put most of it out with my Aquarius drink. But then these two German girls (really, it’s comical at this point) jumped right in and put their socks right on top of our shoes that were smoldering trying to light theirs on fire. The fire that they just watched me try to put out. There was no exchange like “hello, can we add to?” or “nice fire” or “hey”. As far as they were concerned it was theirs. It was meant to be kind of a private moment but like moths to a flame. We ended up helping them while we waited for our shoes to cool so we could throw them away. I’m not sure if their socks ever fully burned but we left them.

It’s weird I didn’t think I would feel bad about burning those boots and tossing them but I do. A week ago they were the source of so much disdain and discomfort. I cursed them. But in the end I was grateful that they got me to the end. I think I felt like they had become a part of me. But as a pilgrim must learn on the Camino, we have to let go of such things.

Now a new pair of shoes await me. And a new chapter in life.

Tomorrow we are going to try the mass again. We went Saturday but they didn’t swing the botofumiero (the incense ball) that cleanses the pilgrims. I think they’ve done it at a few evening masses. I hope to see it. I will post more on that part later along with the Compostela and stamps.

We saw this RV parked near the edge of a cliff. I’m sure it was safe. Better be careful going out the door in the middle ofthe night.
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Someday came today.

I have a someday list. A list where wishes, dreams and aspirations go to die. Maybe you have your own someday list?

Someday I will:
• learn to play the violin
• finish that painting
• learn to speak Japanese
• create photo books of my travels
• hike Patagonia
• volunteer abroad
• run a 10k
walk the Camino de Santiago with Jonathan

Well, someday came today for the last one. I may not get to everything on my list but I know I can do anything I choose and dedicate myself to. I could not have finished the Camino successfully without Jonathan and his enduring spirit, compassion and patience. I am the luckiest woman to be married to him. It’s because of him and his first Camino experience that made me want to add this to my list in the first place. Of course Camino 1 could not be duplicated. This Camino did everything it could do to distinguish itself from Camino 1. Why the nerve…

I have to tally up the days but I think it was 34 days of walking. All of them in rain except maybe three. Coupled with painful feet and blisters the first three weeks, it was a tough adventure to love. While it was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life, I’m so glad that I did it. Now that it’s over, I can look back and reflect-and ponder over the good times. During…well you’ve probably read the blog.

Another pilgrim we met named Jay put it this way. He said that to understand the Camino to the fullest you need to be in it the good part of a month at least. He said it’s similar to the army.

The first part or week from St. Jean through the Pyrenees is tough physically. The camino breaks you down. You’re toughening your feet and strengthening your legs, etc. Long days of walking with blisters or bad knees and bad weather will take its toll.

The second or middle part through the Meseta is where you are pushed mentally. Walking mile after mile in a straight line with scenery that barely changes. You are in it and the end is still a ways away so you find yourself trying to mentally prepare for the second half hoping it will improve somehow.

The last stage is still a little bit of the first two but it’s mostly spiritual. You’ve made your peace with whatever you’ve been carrying emotionally or physically and you let it go. Like the rock on Cruz de Ferro. And now you are free to be welcomed into Santiago. Whether you’re religious or not, you can’t help but be humbled and moved by forces greater than yourself. All of which made themselves evident on the Camino. I have great respect for all those who triumphed to the end through the last month. I have an even greater sense of gratitude not only to my husband for helping me get here, but to be able to even have the opportunity to embark on such a journey.

As another reader mentioned, I have not fully conveyed my experience and observations yet so I will share more later. it’s off to get our Compostela and dinner with friends tonight!

No more ‘fixing feet’ in the morning! My feet ponied up the last week or two. So much better. Aside from the poor visual.

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Breaking records and taking names.

We heard on the news today that the sun today broke a rain record. It was the second coldest April and the eighth wettest since 1960 in Santiago. They were interviewing pilgrims that finished the Camino without having one day without rain. We feel you peregrinos. Yet we are pleased to announce our first full day without rain. I think it misted for a minute and was otherwise humid but no downpours or showers the whole day. It was even hot! We busted out the sunglasses and hat even. We hope it continues. We do see sun and warmer temps for Saturday and Sunday, which bodes well for a trip to Finisterre Sunday.

It’s amazing what a dry day will do. I cranked through the kilometers and wasn’t too beat up by the end of our 29km day. Thursday will be 19km and Friday will be 20km into Santiago. Woo woo!

We stayed at Hotel Benilde in Palas de Rei past night. It was a great find and I’d highly recommend it. The place was spotless. Being a dirty pilgrim, we tracked in a little mud and someone was cleaning it up five minutes later. The concierge was so friendly and spoke slowly enough for us to understand. He pointed out places to eat and the super mercado on a map and when the room was ready insisted on carrying my heavy pack to the room. Everyone was so nice.

Today was scenic with the sun and all the green rolling hills and little towns we’d pass through. We crossed a bunch of rivers and saw plenty of cows, horses, dogs and rude pilgrims. I think we have had our fill of mean people. How hard is it to muster an “hola” when someone says hello? Or do you have to scowl at people when walking by?

Jonathan and I are naturally fast walkers. This isn’t new to the Camino. Jonathan is even crazier because he’s one of those people that walks faster on the hills going up. I take the slow and steady approach, and I don’t mind that he zooms up the hills. He’s usually waiting at the top for me. We tend to pass a lot of people not because we want to race them but mostly because they just have a slower pace than us (or they’re smoking and we don’t want to breathe it).

An older German man caught up to me as I paused mid hill and pointed at Jonathan ahead and said, “speed is not good”. Not in a joking kind of way but in a matter of disapproval. Caught off guard, I just said that was his normal speed on hills. He walked by Jonathan a the top and said “speed is not alright” and walked past him. Was it really necessary to make such a comment? What if we said “your poor packing job is bad for your back?”. To each his own. Everyone is allowed their own approach to the Camino and should do what works for them. If it’s slack-packing (van transport of bags) or taking a taxi, so be it. There is no one right way.

In another instance today, we passed two more Germans (no love for the Germans today unfortunately) whom we’ve wished Buen Camino to before and received a harrumph in reply. We always pass anyone with a smile and hello or Buen Camino at least. These guys gave us the dirtiest looks. Then after we passed they sped up and walked right behind me as if they wanted to pass us out of spite. They eventually backed off. It was like road rage but on a hiking path. It was so odd.

Whatever. We try to look beyond the negative and mean people and embrace the true spirit of the Camino. We have met some really great people along the way. If you can’t find that spirit within on the Camino of all places, then best of luck to you in the world amigos.

I can’t believe the end is near! St. Jean seems so long ago and many of the days blur together. In spite of the oppressive weather and the weeks of horrible feet, I’m still glad we did this together. It has been unforgettable and pushed me well out of my comfort zone which I easily get stuck in. It has been a journey.

One I look forward to completing Friday and will post more on later. Thanks for all the well wishes and support along the way.

Pulpo and cathedral in Portomarin.
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Our first cafe con leche outside in partial sun! Day 33.

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Verde!

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Buen Camino!

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Cows. Dogs. Hill. Repeat.

Galicia has an amazing air about itself. Eau de Vaca permeates every little village we walk through. I guess it just adds to the ambience. We do enjoy seeing these cows though. We say “hola” to pretty much every animal we see along the way.

Like Norman, the baby laying down. He was not amused by us taking pictures. Norman #2, we saw earlier (not as cute) wanted to walk with us to Santiago but his mother had other plans for him. Sorry Norm.
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The best was this one huge dog that stood and waited for us to walk into his town. He was white and had muddy paws that looked like boots. He continued to walk with us through the little town and thought he’d stop like most of them do, but he kept going. We tried ignoring him but he sped up ahead of us. He had done this before. We thought maybe he was escorting pilgrims to his hometown. About 20 minutes later he pauses and then trots on over to the side of the road where his buddy (another dog) was waiting for him. We thought it was a romance but the they were two males and were out playing together. They were so cute. It was just funny the other dog was sitting waiting for him.
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The day we walked to Sarria was really scenic and beautiful, even in the rain. Rolling green hills, cows grazing in pastures, and old stone houses. Sarria was an okay town. We probably didn’t see it in all it’s glory because it was Sunday and everything is closed. Lots of new pilgrims start here because it’s 100km from Santiago and that’s the minimum distance required to walk to get your Compostela. It’s definitely getting crowded and we are having to plan out where to stay the rest of the week. Big tour groups are booking up the albergues and hostels and we already met another pilgrim who’s been walking as long as us, get turned away because of this. Usually you can’t reserve spaces in albergues except private rooms so this really upset the guy who was there early and before the group.

It’s kind of frustrating for so many pilgrims who have been walking for so long and try to treat themselves at the end to a nicer albergue, hostel or hotel and they can’t because of the new groups. We see tons of taxis and bag carrying vans too. And it’s amusing to hear them talk about their hard day walking when they took a taxi over the hardest parts. But as our guidebook reminds us, we should try not to judge, or resent these new additions. As long as it goes both ways. the albergues get bigger this week and more new people who don’t respect others and know the etiquette encourages us to spend lots of time finding alternatives. Let’s just say that the concept of the inside voice is foreign to many Europeans.

Tonight we are in Portomarin. It was a hilly day of walking and both our shoes are hanging by a thread. There is little or no support anymore. Jonathan has his wrapped with duct tape. After O’Cebreiro, my joints have yet to fully recover. I can feel my legs shutting down. What should be easy days of walking are starting to drag and I’m having to increase ibuprofen intake.

Our nice hotel in Santiago, new clothes and shoes, burning the boots and the idea of not having to “fix my feet” every morning is motivating me to plug ahead. If we could, we’d run there.

Tomorrow we will be in Palas de Rei. We have 90-ish kilometers left!

Buen Camino

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Aseos: restroom guides. (Julia Roberts would be thrilled I’m sure)
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If I had a boat.

Welcome to Galicia.
Will you be continuing on via boat or Ark?

Just when you think you have the upper hand on the Camino and figured things out, someone lets you know otherwise. I really didn’t think it was possible, but we had our wettest day yet. I can’t comprehend how the clouds can hold so much rain.

We slept like a baby at an ACDC concert in La Faba and tried to leave early but it was too dark. We left around 720am under heavy rain. When you’re soaked 20 minutes in from starting you know it’s going to be a long day. It was about 5km to O’Cebreiro which is about 4300 feet in elevation. It was pretty steep over rocks and mud but we kept thinking still not as intense as St. Jean. Someone must of heard those thoughts because we got smacked down today.

We couldn’t see the amazing views from O’Cebreiro because of the fog and rain unfortunately. Instead we stopped for a coffee and toast and an attempt to dry out. The dry people that stayed there the night before did not look enthused to start their day after seeing us.

We left as the first wave from La Faba started to arrive. The rain just kept coming. A steady stream or river flowed down the path and when it stopped it left pools of mud. Our feet and shoes were so wet that water came out of our shoes with each step. After a while soap bubbles from the laundry detergent were foaming through even. There was no point in changing socks or clothes. I kept trying to rally mentally thinking I could power through 19 km more without stopping. Finally in Biduedo, about 6.6 km from Triacastela I had to stop. I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to warm up since I was soaked and couldn’t change. We even were hit with snow pellets for a stretch. We went into the bar and I stood near the fireplace trying to thaw out. When I could feel my hands and arms we left. Into another downpour. I was so cold. This was the second other moment during the Camino that I seriously considered taking a taxi or bus. If one rolled by and opened the door I would’ve gladly jumped in. I can say now (warm and dry in the albergue) that I’m relieved I didn’t give in. It may be stubborn, it may not have been wise, but I’m determined to finish this sans automobile. I don’t know why that is so important to me but it is.

Maybe it was the fear of hypothermia, or the hot coffee we just had but I got a second wind and channeled the inner fuerte and finished that last 6.6km like nobody’s business. I usually don’t end the days with such vigor but I wanted off the mountain and out of the rain. At one point I yelled into the heavens for mercy. It then answered with more wind and rain.

About 2km from town the sun came out. I said that when we were close to or in Triacastela it would rain again. Sure enough it did. Today felt like It was kind of this cruel joke. I can relish the fact that we survived and were humbled by it all now. At about 11am today, not so much. I don’t know how Jonathan stayed so positive.

Anyway, with all that hullabaloo my feet weren’t that bad. It looked like I had been soaking in a bathtub all day but no new blisters. We have a private room in albergue Complexo Xacbeo. At the top floor with beautiful views of the mountains we are so grateful not to be in anymore. The rain stops and starts every 20 minutes. Each time I think that I’m so happy to be inside.

The good news is that we are now in Galicia which means: pulpo (octopus), caldo (galecian stew), lots of x’s and z’s, and that much closer to Santiago. Jonathan says the forecast in Santiago for this Thursday is sun and 80 degrees! We arrive on Friday so we’ll assume snow of course. No seriously. I expect sun and warm weather in Santiago or I’m asking for a refund.

We are going to venture out again for dinner and some supplies. Tomorrow is an easy 18km to Sarria. Even if the weather is like today, at least it will be short.

I didn’t take many pictures today mostly because I was afraid to take the phone out of the Baggie.

These are from our albergue. The sunny one lasted about five minutes. Most of the day looked like the cloudy one though.

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