Tag Archives: Spain

Happy Feet: In search of some on the Camino?

Anyone who’s walked a week on the Camino de Santiago or maybe an avid runner knows—happy feet are hard to come by, but something you’ll do anything to pursue.

For some, their mental toughness can block out  the constant pounding and wear and tear. And for others, like myself, my mental toughness would take a siesta about eight  miles in. Sometimes 20 minutes in if it was raining. No matter how much I would envision fluffy slippers, feet massages and wheels my reality was to push on.

Before embarking on our journey I anticipated that there would be blisters and discomfort. I had walked two Avon Breast Cancer two-day walks, surely I was no stranger to this. And no offense my dear Aunt Leslie who walked them with me, I figured my feet were pretty resilient in comparison to her delicate tootsies. So yeah, I got this. Pack a sewing needle and thread and some band aids and I’m good to go.

Silly me.

It’s amazing how many tips and tricks we heard from others. I refused to believe or put many into practice. I was the skeptic. Surely, they were crazy or it only worked on their feet and would not be suitable for me. Like Jonathan’s duct tape method. Psshhaw! Not for me! Where in my family did I inherit this stubborn side? hmmmm…

Had it not been for my crazy hook toe and poorly chosen shoes, I think I would have been able to make it further and in far less pain, but combined with the torrential downpours starting Day 2 of the Camino, it was the perfect storm. Unfortunately, there is little time for healing on the Camino. Yada yada yada.

First Method: And fail (for sort-of-happy feet)
– Bandages of all shapes and sizes
– Blister cushions (These are the worst things ever. If you like keeping skin on your feet, don’t use these.)
– Alcohol Disinfecting Wipes
– Needle and thread: depending on size of blister the idea is to thread it and
leave thread in the blister for a few hours to drain it without exposing the skin or tearing it
– Multiple sock changes

Second Method: Partially successful. (aka, the Marabel method)
Backstory: We stayed outside Pamplona in Cizur Menor at Albergue Roncal. Great stay by the way. Marabel Roncal and her family run the albergue and she told me to come back after we settled in and she would look at my feet. I thought she would give me some crazy tiritas (Basque=bandages) and send me on my way. Instead she brought out this huge medical bag. She could’ve performed amputations for all I know with that bag. She pulled out a wrapped medical syringe and some iodine.

What?! I hate needles. I close my eyes when I get acupuncture even. I said to myself, it can’t feel worse than I already did. Surrender. At first I couldn’t watch, but then she said I needed to learn how to do it myself. She drained the fluid out of one blister and it filled a syringe the size of the image attached, not once, but twice. She went in once and then discovered another “Oh a double!”. It was disgusting but it was business as usual for her. I apologized repeatedly. She did two of my worst ones and then showed me how to disinfect the needle with the iodine. She said “only for you to use”. No worries there. It’s incredible the things we do to get through the tough times. By the end of the trip, I’m sure I could’ve become a certified nurse. This gave instant relief but also helped things heal enough to put shoes back on the next day. I used it so often, that the needle became dull, so I had to get another one from the Pharmacy.

Final Method: The ‘good as it’s gonna get’ combination.
– Marabel method at the end of the day
– Saturating your feet before and after and repeatedly with Alcohol de Romero.  (Rosemary Alcohol)About €2.50 and sold in the pharmacies. It has an antiseptic quality and encourages cell rejuvenation. This was a Jonathan tip from back in the day and his first Camino. It’s seriously amazing stuff and we converted several pilgrims along the way.
– Elevate the feet, 600mg ibuprofen and rest.
– In the morning: tape, tape and more tape. Yes, Jonathan even made me use duct tape which actually worked! (which we found surprisingly in the China Bazaar stores pretty cheaply). First, I would use the gauze, Neosporin and tape for a couple really sensitive spots or toes, then first aid tape over any bandages and extend beyond a little bit to hold things in place. Then for my heels I would put duct tape over the first aid tape. Only the edges would be on skin and it just kind of was another barrier against friction. I never had a tough time getting it off my feet at the end of the day.
– And the areas that weren’t covered by tape I used the Second Skin stick. It looks like a small deodorant stick and is a thin smooth lader that would glide on over my toes and feet. It sort of is similar to the Vaseline method that some people did. I didn’t want my feet sliding around all gooped up with Vaseline and two pairs of socks though. This was less messy and effective.

Bottom line is: do whatever works for you and your feet. It took me a while to get there but the method above and easier terrain helped my feet make it through the day much easier and faster. Sometimes, you don’t know what will work until you try it all, so I wouldn’t go to crazy before the trip stocking up on expensive methods. We stopped in pharmacies or restocked every couple days. You don’t want all that excess weight when you know it’s usually available in the next day or two.

As for post Camino? My feet still are slowly recovering. I wish I still had the alcohol de Romero. I will have to make my own I guess. They still feel bruised on the soles and I have calluses all over my feet like I never wore shoes in my life. Some toenails are greyish but still with me at least! Keeping active helps. And my acupuncturist turned me on to Kinesio tape which is miraculous! I really wish I had this on the Camino for my knees. I guess athletes use this stuff all the time. It really works.

And keeping moving helps too. Putting one foot in front of the other and repeating. Just in better shoes!

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If only this dog was on the Camino…

This story comes your way thanks to Jonathan. The dog ran 50-60 km a day keeping up with these cyclists! If Xiao Sa was on the Camino maybe we would have finished a couple weeks earlier. Amazing.

A dog with no home has run 1700km with some cyclists on their way to Tibet, after befriending them when they gave him a drumstick.

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We walked the Camino and all I got was this piece of paper.

We sure didn’t walk for the fame, the glory and definitely not fortune. That would be very un-Camino.

While I questioned my reasons for walking at times, I never questioned the desire to see it to the end. I cherish this simple piece of paper. Jonathan liked to point out that there is no Latin translation of Lindsay so he feels his compostela is better than mine. Not to mention the fact that he didn’t leave me by the roadside, means that he gets “an extra special place in heaven”. Oh, sweet husband. Whatevs, my awesomeness needs no documentation. This paper is a testament to never giving up and finishing what you start. I always can use the reminder.

It’s been fun to go through photos we took on the Camino. I realized taking pictures while you’re walking doesn’t result in very sharp photos, so there may be some blurry ones. I couldn’t stop. Jonathan wouldn’t let me out of fear I would never start back up again. I’ll have to get more descriptive on each, so I remember where they were taken, but that’s more time than I’m willing to devote at the moment. If you want to see a link to an abbreviated “best of” photos you can find them here.

I also put together a list of all the places we stayed. The pilgrim credentials were helpful since we got stamps at each place. I like to point out that my credentials wear the Camino well with the watermarked pages which I think happen to be symbolic of our rain-soaked Camino, aka “Rafting Trip 2012”.

Some people believe true pilgrims only stay in albergues and that somehow makes your pilgrimage more authentic. Kudos, if you are one of these pilgrims and choose to do it this way. This wasn’t our Way. We had some good stays and some not so good stays. In the end we were most successful with the private rooms in private albergues. I think the weather we endured could’ve earned us 5 star accommodations the entire way in my opinion. While I think it is important to experience the albergues, I think it’s more important to sleep well so you can make it through the next day successfully and maybe even enjoy some of it. Plus, with all the crazy things I had to do with my feet private rooms were more appropriate. I also think had it been nicer weather where you could spend more downtime outside, the albergue experience would’ve been dramatically different. We can count on one hand the number of times the weather allowed us outside at the end of the day to drink cervezas with pilgrims or enjoy a cafe con leche in the morning sun.

I won’t write descriptions for each (email me if you want more specific info), but this is where we stayed:

  1. St. Jean: Hotel Ramuntcho
  2. Roncevalles: Albergue (it’s huge, but not sure of the official name)
    The newly remodeled albergue is a must stay for any pilgrim. Just don’t expect the rest to be as nice. Bunk bed cubicles in groups of four. Hot showers. A little noisy, but nice.
  3. Zubiri: Zaldiko (Priv. Albergue)
  4. Cizur Menor: Albergue Roncal(Priv. Albergue)
    This is where magical Marabel lives. She runs this albergue and is a magician with feet. She showed me the best way to care for blisters which I’ll post on later. I’m glad we stayed here instead of Pamplona. On a nice day everyone was outside reading or doing laundry. Decent facilities but the highlight was the turtle pond.  
  5. Puente la Reina: Hotel Jakue
    Spent two days here to heal feet some. Worth it for the buffet alone. Nice stay. 
  6. Estella: Juvenil Oncineda (Muni. Albergue)
  7. Los Arcos: Casa de Abuela (Priv. Albergue)
    Great private room on the top floor. Nice kitchen. Near the church which is pretty incredible inside.
  8. Viana: Andres Muñoz (Muni. Albergue)
    Winner of the worst albergue we stayed in on the Camino. Bed bugs, gross laundry room, triple decker bunk beds, stuffy room, screaming neighbors, rude hospitalero.  
  9. Navarrete: (Priv. Albergue)
  10. Azofra: (Muni. Albergue)
    2 bed cubicles were a treat. Seemed newish. Co-ed bathroom. Laundry. During summer, the courtyard would be really nice with the fountain. Nice people running it.
  11. Castildelgado: Hostal El Chocolatero
  12. Villafranca: Hotel San Anton Abad
    Nice bathrooms. Private room through the bunk room which was a little awkward. Really nice pilgrim’s meal. The ladies running the place were so incredibly nice and accommodating. Geese outside.
  13. San Juan de Ortega: Alojamiento Rural-La Henera (Casa Rural)
  14. Burgos: Hotel Velada
    Where Martin Sheen stayed part of the time when filming The Way. Really great deal on a nice room. We had to do laundry here and they had it done in 2 hours!
  15. Hontanas: El Puntido (Priv. Albergue)
  16. Boadilla: En El Camino (Priv. Albergue)
    Family run operation. You can tell they enjoy what they do. Great family style dinner and breakfast. Again, in summer it would be nice with the little pool they had in the garden area.  
  17. Carrion de los Condes: Hostal la Corte
  18. Terradillos de los Templarios: Albergue de los Templarios (Priv. Albergue)
  19. Hermanillos de la Calzada: (Muni. Albergue)
  20. Mansilla de Las Mulas: El Postigo (Hostal)
  21. Leon: Hotel Paris
    Nicest room we stayed in on the Camino, after Hotel Compostela at the end. Slept great here. Good location too. 
  22. Villar de Mazarife: San Antonio de Padua (Priv. albergue)
  23. Astorga: La Peseta (Hotel)
  24. Foncebadon: Convento de Foncebadon (Priv. Albergue)
    This place was nice and clean. A little surly on the staff side but we ate the vegetarian meal at the wildly popular Monte Irago a couple doors up the hill. They were super nice there and the meal was amazing. Judith even got an hour massage for 20 euros! 
  25. Ponferrada: Hotel El Castillo
  26. Villafranca del Bierzo: Albergue de La Piedra (Priv. Albergue)
  27. La Faba: Parroquia de San Andres (Muni. Albergue)
    German run parish house. Nice man that was running it at the time. If the weather was nice, being outside would’ve helped. It was next door to a 15th century church. Worst beds though. And only 2 restrooms for 35+ pilgrims (women/men). Let’s just say we were happy that we were one of the first to arrive. After the muddy and wet day, there wasn’t any surface that didn’t have someone’s clothes hanging on it to dry. Lots of men’s bikini briefs and women’s granny panties. 
  28. Triacastela: Complexo Xacobeo (Priv. Albergue)
    Probably the best private room albergue. After a hellish day coming down O’Cebreiro this was a treat.  We had a private room on the top floor which had windows facing the hills and a small patio and spacious bathroom. Great restaurant too.
  29. Sarria: Albergue Ultreia
  30. Palas de Rei: Casa Benilde (Hotel)
  31. Arzua: Meson do Peregrino (Hostel)
  32. Arca/Pedrouzo: Albergue o’ Burgo (Network Hostel)
  33. Santiago: Hotel Compostela
    Great location and value for a nicer end hotel. The AC didn’t work in the first room we had and with the doors open we didn’t sleep with the partying going on until 5am. They upgraded us to another room with a private balcony which was even better. Only 5 minute walk to the Cathedral and steps from the historic district.  
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There’s no place like home.

While waiting at the airport in Barcelona I started to think back on the last six weeks we’ve been in Spain. I was a peregrina for five of those weeks, and a visitor for the entire six weeks. As with anyone traveling abroad you immediately find the cultural differences and maybe even long for the comforts of home you left behind. While I love to travel and learn about life in the rest of the world, Spain is not my home. I’d like to think I now know the country a little bit better than when I arrived, and maybe take all that I’ve learned to make me a better visitor to the next country or city I travel to. It’s a good feeling to want to come back home and I’m thankful that home is the United States.

There’s no way I can recap all that I saw, people I met, and every experience but I occasionally think of a few observations I had along the way. Let me say this here first – these are my observations based on my own experiences. They may be considered generalizations and not representative of Spain in its entirety. Just like not all Americans sound like George Bush and are obese. I apologize in advance if I offend.

While in northern Spain (or specifically, the Camino) I noticed the following:

  • Many people do not cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing.
  • Soap and toilet paper in public restrooms is a nice to have but not standard practice. I tried not to think about the people handling your food using the same restrooms and not washing their hands afterwords. Let’s just say those two rolls of biodegradable toilet paper we bought at REI, were gone by the end, and we restocked with imitation Wet Ones towelettes several times.
  • Spaniards tend to speak loudly and closely. ¿Como se dice ‘space cushion’? I don’t think they are trying to be rude, but it just is part of being so social.
  • Spaniards know how to party. Many are quite social and boisterous in groups. With a daily siesta and late sleeping and eating schedules, the Spanish lifestyle is about family and friends and not ruled by timelines. I think Jonathan read somewhere that the Spanish sleep one hour less than other Europeans.
  • Religion is important. Even the tiniest of towns were built around the church. Old and new generations seem to respect and grow up with Catholicism and even churches that seem modest from the outside are rich on the inside; whether architecturally or by ornamentation. I’ve said this before, if Spain needs money, they need not look further than the church.
  • Dogs and cats are not pets per se, but usually are functional and serve as security or ‘free agents’. As an animal lover, seeing dogs chained up or left in the cold rain without food and water  or shelter nearby was difficult to see at times. In the rural areas this was really evident. I know some of the larger cities definitely embraced the little ‘handbag-sized’ dogs as pets but it was quite different from the US. Sometimes it was cute though. Like the time we watched this little dog help the farmer herd this cow. The cow looked so annoyed, but the dog was definitely the one in charge (or the cow at least let him think that).
  • Smoking is still cool? Catch my drift? I realize smoking is wildly popular globally, not just in Spain. I think Europeans seem to be more accepting of smoking and smokers than here in America. Like all the cigarette machines that have pictures of people running or being athletic which is amusing. I just wish people were more considerate of those around them when smoking. You aren’t allowed to smoke in restaurants, bars and public buildings but they don’t aggressively enforce that in the more rural areas. For awhile we were always running into this older couple who were always smoking cigarettes and a pipe. Even when walking the Camino. (They were not carrying packs.) When you’re wet, cold, tired and trying to get ready to walk another 15km you really don’t enjoy having smoke blown in your face. Or we’d get to the top of a long, steep climb and there they’d be in the one place you could sit and rest, puffing away–downwind.
  • Food is simple but good. We Americans love to add-on or accessorize our food. Whether it’s in the form of  hot sauce, spices, syrups, foams, sprinkles, coloring, etc. We like to make it our own and have it just the way we like it. In Spain, we never saw a bottle of hot sauce and if you wanted salt and pepper you had to ask for it, unless it was with the olive oil and vinegar for your salad. That’s right, there aren’t ten different salad dressings to choose from. Just oil and vinegar–why would you need anything else anyway? No mustard or mayonaise for your bocadillo. Just bread and jamon, and sometimes queso. No soy milk or hazelnut syrup for your latte. Just coffee and whole milk—and the biggest sugar packets ever. No artificial sweeteners, real sugar. I think it is so nice to have so many choices, but at the same time, it’s nice to not have to think about it. Why do we complicate things so much sometimes? It’s nice to go back to the basics every now and then. That said, I was happy to reunite with my Tapatio.

These were the observations that were top of mind. I’m sure I’ll remember more later on. I knew we were close to home when the man across the row from me on the plane starting coughing over the rows in front of him and not covering his mouth and immediately the flight attendant scolded him, “Sir, please cover your mouth!”. Ahhh…home sweet home.

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Trading boots for flippers.

Now this is what I’m talking about. Rooftop pool in sunny Barcelona. Not as crowded as the beach. (sorry Reagan)
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Buenas noches Santiago.

Tonight is our last night in Santiago. We board a flying machine tomorrow morning to Barcelona for one night more then we are homeward bound Wednesday.

We had an easy day and a late breakfast with fellow pilgrim, Judith before she left. We then went back to the cathedral for mass. We asked one of the priests if they would be using the botofumiero today and were told not until Thursday. There was no talk of a refund.

We did get to see the Arbol de Jesé where you can see the imprint of the hand from so many people touching the same place. It was roped off but at least unobscured this time. The photo is on my camera unfortunately. I will have to post a best of photos gallery when I get home.

We also visited the university of Santiago courtyard which was quite beautiful. They have a nice little gift shop and two small art galleries with really talented artists.

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Also we came across these two opera singers in the street. They had quite the voices and were singing the greatest hits operettas. WordPress isn’t letting me post the video yet so you’ll have to use your imagination. Trust me. They rocked.

We will wave at the peregrinos on the Camino as we fly over them tomorrow. Buen Camino!

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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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You like walking. I like walking. What a small world.

About seven years ago, this was the email subject line I had written to my now, husband after we met electronically via match.com. That’s right, we’re one of those couples. I was training for my second Avon Breast Cancer Walk. His profile listed several great “walks”.  I think a walk is something you do over a few hours or a few days. This is a pilgrimage. The one on his list that interested me the most was the Camino de Santiago. A friend of mine had written a novel based around his experience on the same walk. It was moving, inspiring, sad and beautiful all at the same time. I thought to myself, anyone who has walked the Camino has to have a good story and would be great to meet. Needless to stay, our stories have merged and we continue onwards together.

So here we are, married over four years and close to our anniversary of when we met seven years ago. It seemed fitting to embark upon this adventure that had initially helped bring us together. Our first four years of marriage haven’t been a walk in the park (pardon the pun) but it’s life, and it isn’t always rainbows and ponies. The most important thing is that we have each other. We’ve fought through Lyme Disease, selling a depreciating condo , moving to Seattle, and my employer filing bankruptcy. It’s time to take a break, and literally walk into a new chapter in life. Hopefully, a sunnier one.

Now walking an average of 20 miles a day for a month may not be for everyone. It will be both mentally and physically challenging, but we’re up for the challenge. I think I look forward to stepping out of the everyday routine. No Facebook, Internet, phone…and instead meeting people from all over and hearing their stories. To see a part of Spain I’ve never been to. To really understand and get to know the landscape and its people. Also, after years of being beat down by Lyme disease I really want to regain a lot of that strength and mental energy I once had. We’ll see…

As with many great adventures in life, there never really is a perfect time to embark on one. Whether it’s a trip, starting a family, a new job etc. There will never be enough money in the bank account. There will always be millions of reasons to hold us back from what we want to be and do — this is our attempt to leap fearlessly. Being a freelance designer and starting a paper goods company is a daily commitment and it will be difficult to put these things on hold for such a long time. Will it all be waiting for me when I return? Who knows? It’s all a part of the journey.

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