A Travelogue

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I promise that this is THE END

It turns out that my Camino trip was not quite over when I arrived in Fisterra, the day before yesterday, September 23.

Yesterday afternoon, after Markus and I had found a small hotel and had settled in I went to the local ¨Mercado¨to pick up some supplies. As I am walking down the street a car honked at me. Lo and behold it was Janos with his family. They had just arrived from Santiago (we had agreed to meet today at noon in front of the main church here in Fisterra when I had left him and Krisztina in Burgos almost 3 weeks ago). Not only that, but he had passed Krisztina on the highway about 5 km from Fisterra as she was walking from Santiago. She showed up about 30 minutes later and we had a joyfull reunion.

Later the four of us (Markus had been introduced to the group)walked down to the beach where Kriszrina went for a swim in the cold Atlantic and I dipped my toe in the water. We agreed to meet at 7:30 to walk the last 3 km to the "end of the world" to watch the sun sink into the ocean hopefully to return the next day. Afterwards we burned old and smelly clothes and other stuff as is the tradition for peregrinos and then walked back to town and had a late dinner.

So, the final chapter in my Camino has been written.

This afternoon Krisztina and I return to Santiago by car with Janos. She and I fly to Barcelona tomorrow morning. She then flys on to Budapest. Janos and his family and Markus fly home on September 27. We have all agreed to keep in touch. They have all been great walking companions....something that you need to have when walking the Camino.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I'm leaving, on a jet plane

As one adventure ends, a new one is being born.

Tomorrow I fly away. Can't wait, even though it's gorgeous here now. But I have new faces to meet and new places to visit.

It's been a busy month though I'm trying to think what I did and... nothing really comes to mind. Sure, I mowed the lawn (twice, even), cut down the dead and nearly dead plants and threw them over the hill into our handy compost "au naturel" - the ravine. Picked 5 flats of fat green tomatoes and tossed their smaller siblings into the above mentioned natural compost pile. Nothing else comes to mind. I must have done my few chores very slowly indeed.

So now the suitcases are packed and trimmed to within 2 pounds of their maximum load. By Wednesday afternoon I should be on the ship, enjoying the first of many wonderful days. Life is grand.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The End

After walking 29 days out of the last 30 my Camino walk is finally over. (I took the 27th day off to spend a day in the beautiful city of Santiago de Compostela before walking the 90km to Fisterra, the end of the world, over the last three days.

It's hard to describe the emotions that I have gone through over the last month.

Euphoria, after walking across the Napoleon Pass in the Pyrenees Mountains in sheets of rain with thunder and lightening and mud up to my knees (and that was only the first day!).

Relief, when I made it to Pamplona, knowing that I had about 10 days of relativley easy walking until I hit the mountains at the other side of the Meseta (Central Plains).

Concern, when I strained the tendon in my right leg and I was thought that I might have to restructure the trip to accommodate the injury.

Despair, just one day before the big climb to O´Cebrerio when I was unable to put any weight on my left foot. Joy, after climbing the two passes, Cruse the Ferre and O Cebrerio, knowing that my goal of walking every foot of the Camino was within my grasp.

Lastly, triumph, when I arrived at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela and received my certificate of accomplishment, the Compostela, at the Oficina del Peregrino.

The walk to Fisterra was actually anticlimactic and frankly I couldn´t wait for the last 5 clicks to finish!

For those of you (mostly engineering types), who are statistically driven here they are.

St-Jean Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela

26 days
776 km (although it is probably closer to 800
179:40 hours on the road

Santiago de Compostela to Fisterra
3 days
90 km
19:05 hours on the road.

This has been one of the finest things that I have done in my life!

I would recommend doing it to anyone regardless of your religious convictions. Just
make sure that you prepare properly, both physically and mentally because it will also be one of the hardest things that you have ever done. Will it change my life? Undoubtedly! On the other hand everything that you decide to do changes your life in some way. Its all a matter of degree. Would I do it again? Absolutely, under the right circumstances. Anybody for next year?


Finisterra - the end of the earth

I arrived here in Finistere (called Finisterra in Spanish - after all its their country!) at about 2 this afternoon after walking for 32km in about 7 hours and 10 minutes. It was actually a very pleasant walk considering that it was the last of 29 days of walking about 900 km over the last 30 days).

Finisterra is a lovely town and I am going to enjoy the next day or so while I explore the area on foot. Hopefully I will meet Janos on Tueday at noon as we had agreed previously. If not, I will have to take a bus back to Santiago de Compostela.

See you next week!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Rest Day before the final onslaught

This is the first day in 27 that I have not been on the road by at least 7:00 a.m.

The albergue here in Santiago allows pilgrims to stay until 10 as opposed to all the others where you have to be gone by 8. So, we lingered, had a shower (the first morning shower), ate some fruit, yogurt and a couple of "cafe con leche". Packed up and walked to the cathedral at 9:45 where we found a small hotel "Hospedaje Fonseca" with a room with two beds for 15 euros each. The best part is that it is right by the cathedral which is the center of all the action. Plan to spend the day doing tourist stuff (sightseeing, writing postcards, taking photos etc.). Tomorrow morning we start the 90 km 3 day walk to Finisterre.

The following anecdotes and comments are some I had written previously but which obviously disappeared somewhere into cyber space.

"Are you from Canada?"
I walk with a very prominent Canadian flag on the back of my pack. Several times as I passed someone I have been asked "Are you from Canada"? Reminds me of the time when Alethea was a little girl and she would ask someone walking a dog on a leash, "Is that your dog?". I have refrained from saying that I am actually an American posing as a Canadian.

As we were leaving an albergue early one morning the "hospitalero," who was Dutch, asked us why we were leaving so early in the dark. She said that this was pigeon hunting season in Spain and the "...Spaniards shoot anything that moves". I said that hopefully peregrinos weren´t on the menu. We did hear lots of shotguns going off for many days.

"Peregrino Greetings"
As you pass pilgrims on the Camino and they pass you, what you hear is the following. Hola! Buen Camino!

"Peregrino Questions"
Almost every conversation with a pilgrim goes as follows:
What is your name? (First name only)
Where do you come from? (Country)
Where did you start this morning?
To where are you going tonight?
Where did you start the Camino?
Are you going to Santiago de Compostela? (Many pilgrims do the Camino in sections over a number of years. I met a family from Germany who were in their 6th year of walking the Camino. They started from Cologne in 2002 and walk for three weeks each year).

A Typical Day on the Camino:

1. Get up early. This is typically driven by others who get up early and make enough noise with zippers and putting things into plastoc bags to pretty much make it impossible to sleep. In one place some idiots from a certain country that looks like a boot got up and packed and left by 4:30 a.m.

2. Do the normal ablutions. Pack and leave for the trail with a headlight to pick out the markers.

3. Walk for 1.5 to 2.5 hours and look for a bar where you can have a coffee and perhaps a croissant.

4. Walk for another 2-3 hours and find a place to eat lunch. Rather than going to a bar or restaurant we carry some food for the journey. I ate a lot of chorizo picante!

5. Arrive at an albergue after 7-10 hours on the road and check-in, showing your credentials which will allow you to get a bed and sleep overnight. You are limited to 1 night unless there are unusual circumstances such as illness.

6. Have a rest and then a shower and change into fresh clothes.

7. Wash your dirty clothes and hang them on one of the myriads of clothes lines.

8. Write journals and plan the next days walk.

9. Go shopping once the stores reopen after siesta.

10. Find someplace to have dinner such as a bar or restaurant or if the albergue has a kitchen and/or dining room, cook and eat there.

11. Get your hopefully dry clothes off the line.

12. Go to bed between 9:30 and 10:00.

13. Repeat the above 26 times.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

And now, The End is Near

I reached the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela at 11:15 local time this morning. The Eagle has landed!

Markus and I attended the pilgrim mass at noon (which lasted about an hour)and then we went to a bar to have some lunch and a celebratory drink (I drank for both of us). Didn´t get to the albergue until almost 3:30 and after getting cleaned up I headed into the old part of the city to try to find an internet cafe with some success as you can read.

The walk into Santiago was uneventful although it was really cold....probably no more than 5C for most of the morning. Now it is probably 25 and nice and sunny and hot.

Just one minor incident on the way. I have walked for about 800 km without an accident! In the last half kilometer before reaching the cathedral I tripped on a curb and landed on my face. Just some scrapes to my right knee so not to worry. Markus claims that I was focussing on a couple of nice Spanish university girls who were in front of me. No truth to that at all!!!!

I did have another minor event a couple of days when we were walking through farm lanes in Galicia (this is the province that we have been in since O Cebrerio). All of a sudden something hit me on the top of the head.....it was an apple from a tree. I immediately thought that I was about to make a significant discovery. Alas none was forthcoming. Obviously my Tilly had absorbed too much of the force of the apple.

My leg is almost back to normal and since we are not walkng tomorrow I expect to be fully recovered by Friday when we start the walk to Finisterre.

I went to a bank earlier this afternoon and my debit card would not work as before. I ended up taking out 300 euros on MC. So much for the advice from the bank in Red Deer.

I forgot to bring my book with various emails. Could you please send an email to Janos advising him that I am in Santiago and that I arrived at 11:15 today. Also let him know that I expect to be in Finisterre by about 15:00 on Sunday September 23.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cruise News

On the day I meet Hans in Barcelona next week, we board the Emerald Princess for a luxurious cruise through the Mediterranean, ending in Fort Lauderdale 29 days later.

On a related note, Hans writes that he's lost 2-3 inches off his waist during the past 27 days of walking. So on the cruise I'll be bringing needle and thread to adjust his clothes, and a seam ripper to adjust mine

Oldest Walker

The oldest person that I have met so far is a man of 79 who was walking (albeit slowly) with his wife who is 72.

I also met a contingent of Irish folks who are walking from Astorga to Santiago with support. There is a man in their group who is 91 years old! He is not walking up the steep sections otherwise he will likley become another Camino statistic.

Nearing the primary goal - Santiago

I am in Arca, only 17 km from Santiago de Compostela. Should reach it easily by noon tomorrow (Wednesday).

Swelling in my leg decreased significantly overnight although it swelled up a bit during the 33 km walk today. Unfortunately, as I am getting better, Marcus is getting worse. He has blisters on both feet and has developed a new blister partially under another one. He also is having some problems with the muscles at the back of his left leg. I gave him some of my elixir, Ibuprofen, and hope that will at least help his calf. I think that he is going to struggle to Santiago tomorrow and I would be surprised if he will be able to walk to Finisterre.

The walk today was great. It was cool and breezy with cloud cover which made it very comfortable. Walked on trails through farmland and forests with occasional sojourns through small villages all day. Walked through groves of oak, beech and eucalyptus trees. At times it felt as if I were walking through a Vicks factory!

The plan is still to spend an extra day in Santiago before walking to Finisterre starting on Friday morning.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thank you for Ibuprofen

I met a young lady from Montreal about five days ago who had just graduated from medical school at Mc Gill in Montreal. She was doing the Camino before heading out to do her residency in Gaspe. Believe it or not, she was from Shawinigan. So we talked a bit as we walked along and she had a quick look at the leg and was almost positive that it was tendonitis.

I saw her later that day and have not seen her since. Since starting on the Ibuprofen I have improved.

Questions and more questions!

Q: You haven't said much about the albergues. Are they clean?

A: Yes, they are generally clean but it varies. The private ones and those run by church organizations are generally cleaner than the municipal ones.

Q: How many beds per room? Double of triple bunks?

A: I have stayed in 25 albergues so far. Only one was a triple a couple were single. Beds per room is highly variable: as few as 4 and as many as 110 in Roncesvalles.

Q: How's the snoring been? Have you had to use the ear plugs?

A: Use the plugs almost every night. I had 4 Italians surrounding me a couple of nights ago. They told me that I didn´t need the plugs. They snored as a quartet. Last night we stayed in an albergue with only 22 beds in one room. Only 5 beds were taken and I didn´t bother with the plugs.

Q: What do you do in the evenings? Is there a common room where you sit with other pilgrims and talk? Do you go out in groups to eat?

A: Some have kitchens and dining facilities which are great for conversation. Some of the private albergues offer a meal for a fee (typically 7-9 euros). These have been fabulous meals. Some evenings we go to a local restaurant which offers a ¨menu de peregrinos¨ where you may join a table with other pilgrims.

Q: Did you buy another golf shirt to replace the forgotten one?

A: No....didn´t need one more shirt.

Q: Since you're walking faster than most, do you find fewer and fewer pilgrims ahead of you or are there more up front? Those would be ones who started days or even weeks before you and who aren't as fast.

A: See new people every day. Might see the same people for half a dozen days and then not see them ever again or they may pop up unexpectedly. The number that you see on the road stays about the same but seems to be getting to be more as we get closer and close to Santiago. Remember that to get the compostela you only have to walk the last 100 km!

Q: How much weight do you think you've lost?

A: Haven´t got a clue but my waistline is down 2-3 inches. Thank God for the cruise !

Q: Are your shoes holding up well? Have you walked any portions in your sandals?

A: Shoes have been great. Tried walking with sandals about 3 days ago because of the swelling of my ankle. Gave up after about 3 km and went back to the hiking boots.

Q: How's your shin now, still hurting?

A: A bit, but under control. It seems to be the worst on steep downhills. I am managing and think that I can walk to Finisterre.

You´ll have to wait to see me to see if I am shaving or not.

I had the library bring in a book for you to read about a guy who did the Camino on a donkey...!! He's a UK humorist writer called Tim Moore, but so far he's nothing like Bill Bryson. I started it last night and the beginning is more about the history of the Camino but I hear the book gets quite witty once he's actually doing the walk. I hope you'll enjoy it. I copied this review from Amazon:

"Like many travel books and books about anything to do with places and the people who inhabit or frequent these places, there is an added benefit to having experienced it yourself. To get this book, you don't have to have walked the Camino but it most certainly adds flavour if you have. Or more specifically there is an added glee when you witness Moore's beautiful slapstick unravelling as he makes his way across northern Spain to his final destination of Santiago. His struggles are your struggles, the people he
encounters you've encountered, and best of all he gives voice to the secret thoughts that played over and over in your mind as you wandered along the way. So if you've walked the Camino I urge you to read Spanish Steps. If you're thinking of walking the Camino I urge you to buy it and read it as soon as you return home, and if you have all ready read it I urge you to walk the Camino and read it again and finally if you have no intention of walking anywhere farther than the corner shop or the bus-stop I urge you to read it and laugh yourself silly. Above all Enjoy."

50 Km to go to Santiago

Sorry for not having replied for 4 days. Have been unable to get internet access since last Thursday when I wrote from Villafranca.

Today is Monday September 17 at 3:30PM local time. I am in Melide having finished my 24th consecutive day of walking.

* The good news is that I am only 50n km from Santiago de Compostela and expect to arrive there on Wednesday morning. The plan is to walk the 34 km to Arca O Pino tomorrow and then the last 15 or so km to Santiago on Wednesday morning.
* The bad news is that my left ankle and shin area is badly swollen and has been quite painful from time to time (especially during the huge 4.5 hour down hill from Cruze de Ferro and the 3 hour downhill (600 meter drop) from O Cebreiro to Triacastella. Have managed to survive with liberal doses of Ibuprofen which was supplied initially by a nice gentleman from Ireland until I managed to get to find another pharmacy and stock up.
* The other good news is that I still have not had a single blister. You should see the state of some of the feet that I have seen. I can´t comprehend how some of these people are still walking.

After getting to Santiago I plan to stay for an extra day and if the medical situation doesn´t deteriorate I will walk the 90 km to Finisterre (September 21-23). I´ll stay there for a couple of days until I meet up with Janos on the 25th. He will then drive me back to Santiago where I will stay in a hotel until my flight to Barcelona on the 26th.

I have been really fortunate with the weather. Since the terrible weather over the Pass Naploen on the first day I did not experience any rain until yesterday when it statred to rain shortly after leaving Sarria. I put on my poncho and after 15 minutes it stopped and the poncho went back in the bag. Arrtived at the overnight destination (Hospital de la Cruz) at about 3:05 and shortly after it started to rain. Overnight it rained hard with thunder and lightening and when we left the albergue at about 7 this morning we were surrounded by thunder and lightening but starngely it did not rain and as we progressed during the day the weather continued to improve until there was some sun as we arrived here in Melide at about 2:15.

So here are the statistics through 24 days.

Distance walked: 725 km (This is based on my guide book which states that the
total distance from St. Jean to Santiago is 776 Km. All of the other guide
books that I have seen show the distance as between 800 and 810 km. I´ll stick
with my guide book for now)

Distance Remaining: 51 km

Time on the Camino: 167:40 hours

People met: 31 countries with the most recent being Austria, USA, Norway, Finland, Slovenia, Sweden, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, Faeroe Islands and Puerto Rico. Terchnically the last two are not independent countries but I decided to give them international recognition as independent countries!!!

How do I feel: Priceless!!!!

I have been walking with a German fellow, Markus (Age 33), for the last 8 days i.e. since Leon. We walk at about the same pace and we meet for coffee in the morning somewhere along the way and then later for a bite of lunch and lastly at the albegue in the town where we have planned to stay. To say the least my German is getting better. It was his 33rd birthday last Friday (September 14) and since he doesn´t drink any alcohol I drank enough for both of us. I think it also dulled the pain in my leg. I seem to keep running into people who are having their birthdays on the Camino.

Give all my best to everyone. I appreciate all the encouragement that I am receiving.

Great to see that Alethea is back at work and slowly recovering.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

It is 3 PM On Thusday, September 13 and I am in Villafranca which is about 130 km past Leon.

I have had no internet access since Monday night when I think that I mentioned that I was having some problems with my left leg. The problem has persisted and has gotten worse to the point this morning when I left Molinaseca to walk the 27 km to here, that I might not be able to continue without perhaps taking a few days break to rest the leg or even to take a bus to the 100 km mark and then hobble the last bit to Santiago.

In any event I managed to slowly improve during the day and some Spaniards told me about a cream and a spray to buy at a pharmacy that was very helpful. It turns out that I have tendinitis in the area just above my left foot leading in to the area towards the knee. It was the long uphill to the Cruz de Ferro (where I lightened my load by leaving a small stone from home) followed by the 4 hour downhill under very difficult conditions to Molinaseca that exacerbated the mdical problem. Tomorrow is a very tough day with the big climb to El Cebreiro and then the long downhill to Sarria.

So in summary, I am going to continue with Day 21 tomorrow and I have 182 km to go to Santiago.

Day 18: Hospital de Orbigo to Rabanal: 37 km
Day 19: Rabanal to Molinaseca: 27km
Day 20: Molinaseca to Villafranca: 29 km
Tomorrow: Villafranca to El Ceberio: 26 km all uphill!!!

Got to give up the machine. Will try to write some more.

Love to you both!

Monday, September 10, 2007

500+ Kilometres done!

I am in a lovely town called Hospital de Orbigo about 35 km west of Leon where I stayed last night and about 16 km from Astorga which I should reach early tomorrow. All is well other than a slight nose bleed this morning (the toilet paper that I brought has finally had some use!!!!) and the first sign of leg problems with some pain in my left shin. Not too much of a problem as yet but I need to be careful.

I am staying at a lovely albergue called St. Michael where I will partake in a communal dinner tonight and breakfast will be provided in the morning.

Here are the statistics.

Have completed 501 km with 275 to go to San Tiago. Almost 2/3 done.

Pretty sure that I will also walk the 90 km to Finisterre in good time to spend a day there and then go back to Santiago with Janos to catch my flight to Barcelona.

I am 4 days ahead of the 31 day schedule to Santiago as previously mentioned.

Weather contimues to be great.

Am finally heading out of the Meseta (the plains of northern Spain) where the walking has been generally flat and somewhat boring although I have been averaging close to 40km per day. As I head into the mountains and into Gallica there is a stgronger chance that I will finally see some rain after 15 days of generally great weather.

Any other news of significance? I have heard nothing in 3 weeksa as to what is happening in the rest of the world. Somehow it doesn´t seem important.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Wasn't that a party!

Favourite Daughter's blog about the evening: http://sweetlethe.livejournal.com/38671.html?view=63503#t63503

The Last Party has come and gone and in its wake left a swirl of memories for me to re-visit.

So many people were a huge part of my life these last 21 years at the library. That so many of you are still here is a testament to the harmonious and extraordinary workplace we all enjoy. Even a few who left made the journey back last night.

  • Scott and his wife Cheryl drove up from Calgary, to my great delight.

  • Paula came. She brought me into the library and was there last night to watch me leave.

  • There were a few who retired before me or changed careers, like Violet, Lois, Frances and Heather.

  • Leslie read from "A Minor Planet for You", a book she dedicated to me and Glen (not together). I was so overwhelmed when she did that. My name is actually in print. Well, shockingly it's quite widely in print on the 'net as Dean told the crowd.

  • Ann, hired fresh from the UK way back when, was startled to learn that she was coming into a library peopled by women with tarty names

  • Tom, a long serving board chair and fellow gardening enthusiast welcomed me into retirement with a membership to the Friends of the Library

  • Hazel, board chair when I joined the library and Nancy, our most recent chair, were there as were several members from the current and past board. Thank you!

  • Lesley, who runs the fabulously successful booksale, helped me fill my new library bag with contraband books to fuel my leisure time for when I officially lauch my retirement in an upcoming long day Mediterranean cruise

  • I was delighted to see Paul and Lyndal, friends who share our love of travel and who gave us the link that led to our recent trip to Thailand

  • Glynis and Paul, artists who do so much for the library, wished me well

  • My friend Gail, with whom I was supposed to share a recent holiday but who instead lent me a shoulder when I cancelled due to Alethea's surgeries, came by

  • My friends at Dawe, Jill, Sharlene and Celia who reminded me not to forget Dawe on my visits to the library
  • the wonderful commissionaires Jim and Irene, who have promised not to ticket me if I park overlong in the library's 10 minute parking zone. Remember, you read it here so it must be true! And they brought along our commissionaire Patrick from long ago.

  • Dean, who put together the entertaining powerpoint presentation with statistics that sum up 20 years: 200 board meetings, 1000 Mondays, 1000 complaints fielded, 1000 compliments shared, and delivered it with his trademark witty commentary. You can see it if you copy and paste the following link into your browers: http://www.rdpl.org/documents/Bye,%20Lo.pdf

  • Vanessa, with whom I probably shared more awake time than with Hans, and who encouraged my humour

  • Mayor Morris and Hazel who made this one of their 3 stops for the evening, which really touched me.

  • And finally, all my many co-workers who have made my years at the library so wonderful. From those who knew me near the beginning, to those who joined along the way, to our most recent additions: you gave me a theatre in which to practice my wit. I loved it. Nothing made me happier than when I made you laugh.

To the Ladies from the Social Committee: How can I begin to thank you? From start to finish you turned this into such a classy affair. Your fine touches transformed the Art Gallery and Snell into such a warm and beautiful venue. From the crisp white cloths to the flickering tea candles and twinkling fairy lights, the room was magical. The food was simply amazing; as picture perfect as anything I've seen and so very tasty. I think it's time you put together another cookbook as a fundraiser! You know I'm after some of those recipes and I await them eagrly. Thank you so much for the huge effort you put into making this evening so special. I loved the punch fountain. It smelled so deliciously fruity I was almost tempted to try it. But you know it was overshadowed by my favourite beverage right beside it.

And then came presents!

"Look! You got presents even though you've been bad," said Alethea, which I shamelessly plagiarized when I got on stage to open the gifts. Alethea was my beautiful date last night, filling in for her dad who's trekking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. She was also my driver and photographer for the evening.

The beautifully melodic windchime. I didn't realize until today when I hung it on the deck that when the breeze tickles it just right, it plays the beginning chords of "Amazing Grace". That's one of my favourite melodies of all time. How did you know? I am SO enjoying it right now.

The beautiful birdbath with its spinning ball fountain. Later I'll put it together and invite the birdies. We have a huge variety of pretty birds that flit through the trees and shrubs between our deck and creek and they will love this.

Your gifts show so much thought. Clearly, I have been an open book and you read me very well. Thank you for giving me these additional memories by which to remember you.

And finally, it was my plan to be the last to leave. Totally impossible. You not only dress up beautifully but you certainly have stamina for partying! Sorry, I just couldn't keep up and bowed out before the end.

Thank you all for a beautiful night. I hope I left you laughing.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hi Favourite People

I am in a little town called El Burgo Ranero which is about 40km from Leon which is the next big city that I should reach eithe tomorrow or on Monday morning.

Yesterday I passed the half way point to Santiago. I am currently 3 days ahead of the 31 day schedule as posted on the Canadian Copany of Pilgrims website. The weather has been great for the last 6 days and should continue at least through Monday: very cool early in the morning (you can see your breath) and then gradually warming to the mid to high twenties by the afternoon. Lots of wind but it has been either from the north or the east and thus a help.

Over the last three days have walked 103 km. No health or medical issues except for chapped lips and wind burn in my face.

Here are the stats to date:
  • 427 km completed
  • 349 to go to Santiago
  • Time on the Camino over 15 days is 98.5 hours.
  • am averaging about 29km per day.
  • Have met people from 25 countries, the most recent being Austria, USA, Norway, Finland, and Slovenia.

At this rate if I feel like it I have time to walk the 90 km to Finisterre over 3 days.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Some answers to earlier questions

With all of the money stuff going on I haven't had much time to think aboutother things but here are my thoughts regarding the questions from FD.

Where does your mind wander when you walk? What does it make you think of? What do you ponder, step after step in that zen-like place that exists when all that really is, in your world, is one foot in front of the other?

Answer: It wanders everywhere. When you have hours of walking in soliude you think about everything immaginable. You think about family, friends, the past, the future,where the next village is, where you hurt and so on.

How is the scenery changing?

Answer: This is the best part. You leave in the dark and your focus is on not missing the signs that guide you. Several times we have had to retrace our steps becausewe missed a sign in the dark (sounds a bit like missing the signs of life.) This morning I left in a brisk wind with stars everywhere. It was magical. Slowlythe sun rose behind me and I could see my elongated shadows. I have great shots of my shadows. As you walk across the Meseta, the plains of Northern Spain, the sun lights the valleys in front of you. It is stunning! This vista will continue for about a week as I make my way to Leon.

Are you happy?

Answer: Absolutely, this is one of the greatest adventures of my life. Yes, it has been difficult and challenging at times, but it is marvellous.

How is it different than you expected?

Answer: Not sure what I was expecting, but it is fullfillig in every way. Have met great people, seen wonderful things and am very happy that I decided to do this. Its not easy but very rewarding.

Emergency Situation

Hope that got your attention! I am currently in Castrojeritz which is about 40km west of Burgos after my 12th day.

I have a minor emergency in that I am unable to get any money from the bank here in Spain. None of the bank machines (I have tried half a dozen banks) will accept my debit card. The card will not be sucked in by the machine. I have even had bank employees trying to get it to work without success. So, I went to option 2 which was to get money using my MasterCard. The bank machines accept my card but then request a PIN number and I am not aware of a PIN number for my MasterCard.

~ This emergency has now been resolved after my phone call to MasterCard. Hans is back in the money. And had that not worked and found himself in really dire straits, he was going to contact someone in Rotary in Leon, the next large centre, for some assistance. We know we can always count on a Rotarian for help. Isn't that great? ~Lo

Health is fine. No problems with feet or anything else.

Currently in Castrojeriz with 452km to go to Santiago. Have completed 324 KM.

No rain since the first two days. Expecting to travel 30-40 km tomorrow but will be dependent on finding a place to stay that has internet. Will try to write more later in the day but need to have a shower, wash some clothes and have something to eat.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Answers to earlier questions

What kind of food do you get at the albrgue? You mentioned that last night it was fabulous - so what would that include? Details, details!

The typical perregrino menu will consist of three courses. The starter is a choice of a salad, pasta, soup or paella. The main course can be any variety of meat and possibly fish. Dessert can be ice cream, yogurt, cake etc. I have only been disappointed one time, I ordered soup and it was a pasta soup where they either forgot to use stock or they decided to serve pasts without using a collander!!! The main course was meatballs....unfortunately they used more salt than meatballs. I was so hungry that I ate it regardless.

Are you still walking with your Hungarian companion?

Here are some details. Janos and I met on the pass on the first day. The wind was howling, rain was coming down in sheets and I was trying to put on my cape withour success. I had just passed him and waited for him to catch up and he helped me. We met later that after noon and had dinner together. He is 41, doesn´t speak much English, is married with A 1 YEAR OLD SON. Conversations are short and sign language and paper and pen help.

At the end of the third day at Cizur Menor, a young lady was there just before me. I asked where she was from and her name. She is Christina (31) from Hungary and she spoke a bit of English as well as very good German. This was a miracle!!!! Janos and I could now converse! In any event we have been walking together ever since. We start in the morning and walk together until we stop to have coffee and breakfast. After that we agree to meet at some place down the road as I am quite a bit faster. Then we stay at the same albergue each night and get together to have dinner. We are all going to Santiago ( Many people that we have met and meet daily are just doing portions of the trip this year).

Tonight we are going out for tapas at a local bar.

9 days on the Camino

Haven´t had access to internet for three days. Hope you weren´t getting worried.

Here is the present situation. Health is fine. No problems with my feet or anything else of significance. A bit of soreness in my shoulder are from carrying the backpack. You might want to fine Don L. at your meeting on Tuesday since he forgot a very important wish for my trip.....¨May your backpack be lighter every day."

Am presently at the end of Day 9 in Belorado (about 2 days ahead of the schedule as posted on the Canadian Pilgrim Site to get to Santiago in 31 days). At this rate if there are no other problems I should make it to Finisterre.

So far I have walked 235 KM of 776 to Santiago. Weather has been good over the last few days. No rain, cool morning conditions with mostly cloud and more sunny conditions later in the day. Couldn't ask for anything better to this point.

The albergue here is really nice with a beautiful garden in which I was writing in my journal while having a bottle of Rioja with Janos and Christina. It´s festival time here and later this evening we are going to go to the main square and check things out.

Today we passed from the province of Rioja to Burgus. We expect to pàss through the city of Burgus on Tuesday.

Camino anecdotes

You can add the Czeck Republic and Slovakia to the list of countries from whom I have met peregrinos.

When I flew from London to Toulouse, the plane was delayed because of some mechanical problems. This meant Iwas on a very tight timeline because if there were also delays at passport control in Toulouse I would miss my shuttle to the hotel across from the train station. As it turned out I got out of passport control barey 10 minutes before the last shuttle.

But where to go and how to make sure it was the correct shuttle? I got to a small bus but the driver being French ignored me. Then a young black lady stepped up and confirmed that it was the right bus and that the fare was 4 euros. She was on her way from London where she worked, to spend a few days with her family near Toulouse. We chatted as we proceeded into the city. We got off at the same stop in front of the train station. As she proceeded to catch her train she turned arounbd and called ¨God bless you......and you too¨. She was a saint!

The albergue at Cirraqui (end of day 4) was very nice but unfortunately very hot. We left the window open to provide some relief. Earlier in the evening Janos and I had gone shopping for some bread, cheese and hot (picante)chirozo sausage for the next day's lunch along the way. During the night a cat came in the window and stole our sausage which Janos had left under his bed. I hope that cat suffered from kaka picante!!!!

Everyone who walks the Camino is obsessed with weight. I'm talking about the weight of your backpack! At the albergue in Villamajor de Monjardin, which is run by a Dutch Christian organization, we ate our pelegrino meal in the albnergue. It was prepared by the Dutch volunteers. Before the dessert there was a little speech during which they told us about their Christian organization and handed us a small brochure which they asked us to take with us.

¨How much does it weigh?" I asked to the amusement of all the pilgrims.

The Camino has many memorials to the pilgrims that have died over the centuries. Nothing is more poignant that the individual memorials from the last 5 years or so. On day 1 there was a memorial to an English man aged 61 who died over the pass. (Ed note: I read about this - he got caught in a blizzard and died of exposure. ~Lo)

On day 2 there was a memorial to a Japanese man aged 58. On day 4 a Belgian man, age unknown and most tragically a young Canadian woman who died 3 years ago when she was hit by a car. This was on my 5th day. I hope that there aren´t any more.