Saturday, November 7, 2009

Meeting The Locals

One of the little pleasures of the Camino, and an oppotrunity to take a break from walking, was when I had a chance to meet the locals.

It wasn't always possible when passing through the cities, as it seems cities all over the world, even in the timeless medieval cities of Spain, people are busy. But it was a joy when we went through Viana and they were celebrating their Patron Saint with a fiesta, complete with parades and a traditional running of the bulls. We could not stop long enough to enjoy a whole day of festivities, but did have lunch at a sidewalk cafe right in the heart of the activities.

In the rural countryside, in the small villages and tiny hamlets, where they live at a more leisurely pace, there were many days when I had an opportunity to talk to local folk, on their farms, in their gardens, or just relaxing in the sun by the side of the road.
I found that they have a great respect for Pilgrims and are warm and friendly, curious about foriegners and open to conversation.
It was a small part of my day that I remember often. One of those little gifts of the Camino that is still very much alive; that I can turn around in my mind, hold up and enjoy; and savor them as special moments in a never ending journey.

I wish you peace, love and laughter

PS-click on photos to enlarge

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Following The Signs

The tomb of  Santiago (Saint James) is most assuredly the most sign posted location in the world. With thousands of kilometers of paths from all over Europe, there are more signs and yellow arrows than one could ever count. I wonder if anyone has tried.

The signs range from large signs that can be easily seen to small and obscure, to faded yellow arrows that can be elusive to the eye.

They can be anywhere.

On a rock in the middle of a grape vineyard.

 On a sidewalk.

On a tree or stonewall leading into the forest.

In the middle of the road.

Just about anywhere that a yellow arrow can be painted.

And when there are no signs, Pilgrims make their own, just so the next person won't get lost.

It is easy to lose the way, by chatting, daydreaming, not paying attention, or paying too much attention to beautiful scenery.

One must be vigilant about looking for signs, and it is particularly important to look carefully for signs when walking in the dark.

Being attentive and looking for signs while walking the Camino,  again made me realize how true it is that the Camino de Santiago becomes that metaphor for life. Every day we must be attentive and look for "signs". The signs that keep us on the right path, that help us find our way when we have strayed, that keep us moving in a forward direction, that keep is mindful, helpful, generous and kind.

Call it what you will, intuition, gut feeling, grace. There is always that little "sign", that magic moment when we have a choice to act in a certain way to be more loving, more giving, more appreciative of the things around us, more attentive and more caring of our fellow human beings.

"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience."

There are opportunities to realize the truth of the above statement every day of our lives, we just have to be silent, watch, feel, and look for the signs.

I wish you peace, love and laughter

note: You may have to click on the photo to enlarge to see where the yellow arrows are.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Continuing on the Path

We have been home for a few days now but I cannot funtcion. I can't get the Camino out of my mind. It seems unnatural to just get back in the old routine of every day life.

I can feel the effects of the long journey physically, through the stiffness throughout my body, especially my legs.

But mostly the emotions of the journey are whirling through my mind. There is so much to digest from what we experienced that I can't let it go. I had so many profound lessons and peak moments that I have to sit with and think about. I need to make room to work on the things I have gleaned from the journey.

It wouldn't make sense to take such an arduous journey and then just let it go as if it were just another trip.
A very select group have the privilege, the desire and the ability of making such a trip. In my case it was more of a "calling". So I think that call was for a reason. That is the part I am still trying to figure out.

I do believe that the Camino is a methaphor for life. There are constantly lessons for us to learn from each other and teach each other in the course of our every day life.

Although I am still in the dark, I have faith that my messages and lessons will be revealed to me as I continue to walk this journey that we call life.

Blessings to all

Friday, October 16, 2009

Embracing Saint James

We spent our last 3 days in Santiago, exploring the streets of the medieval old town, and generally relaxing and enjoying good food, good friends and the city sights.
I spent a lot of time going back to the cathedral, the Pilgrim's office and the giant plaza, looking for friends and other Pilgrims and sharing the pleasure of their arrivals. And I loved going to the cathedral early in the morning and sitting quietly and having Saint James to myself.

One of the traditions is to go behind the altar in the cathedral and give Saint James an embrace. It was a special Camino moment for me, to finally greet the Saint that I had walked so far for.

I made sure I was early to attend the Pilgrims Mass, so that I could get a good seat in the cathedral.
The Pilgrim's Mass is overflowing each day with 800 to 1,000 including Pilgrims, other worshipers and tourists.
It was quite a thrill to see that even during the Mass the tradition of hugging Saint James continued and every now and them my attention was drawn to the rear of the huge gold and silver altar to see Pilgrims giving Saint James an embrace.

Another tradition is to walk or take a bus to Finesterre, which was believed to be the end of the world during medieval times. My journey was complete when I reached Saint James, so I had no desire to go any further. I did hear from fellow Pilgrims who made the journey that it did not have the same feeling as being on the  Camino; that it was not a the pilgrimage, but just a beautiful walk to the ocean.
I think that leaving Santiago de Compostela was more emotional than arriving, if that's possible. I felt like I needed more time to absorb and reflect on my experience before returning home. But when it came time, I was happy to return home to my family. I will have plenty of time to sit and contemplate the messages and lessons I received from the Camino.

I wish you peace, love, and laughter

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saint James

Day 33-Santiago

Even though we have arrived and the long trek is done, I was up early and anxious to go.
I walked to the cathedral, only 2 or 3 minutes away. To my surprise it was open.
Even better, I had it all to myself, except a very few other early risers.
I surprised myself. Instead of going directly to Saint James, whom I traveled so far to greet, I went to the Virgen Mary. I thanked her for her prayers along my journey. I think I said more Hail Marys while walking the Camino than I've said all my life.
Then I went to Jesus and thanked him for walking with me as my Savior and my brother.
When I finally sat down in front of the gorgeous gold and silver and bejeweled altar with Saint James in front of me I was awestruck.
No tears, no sound, no thoughts, just me and James.
We looked at each other for what seemed like eternity.
Silence, pure, gorgeous, beautiful silence.
Then I wondered...who had more for the Saint?...or the Saint for me?...and I recalled that the gospel tells us that James, son of Zebadee, was in his boat mending fishing nets when Jesus summoned him saying "Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men". James and his brother followed Jesus.
And if one considers that 100,000 people a year make the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela to visit his burial place, it would seem that James is still a "fisher of men" more than 2000 years later.
I smiled at the thought and it seemed like old Jimmy smiled back, and that is when the tears started to flow.

Peace and Love to all
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, October 9, 2009

Santiago de Compostela

Day 32-Pedrouza-Santiago de Compostela
6 hours 30 minutes-21.2 km

We were all up at 5AM. I think the excitement of reaching Santiago today was somewhat like a child that can't sleep on Christmas morning.
We were walking by 6AM. It was still dark when we reached the Santiago airport.
We climbed our last hill Monte Gozo (Mount Joy), so named because atop the hill the Pilgrim gets the first joyful glimpse at the spires of the cathedral of the Saint they have walked so far to see.
Unfortunately for us the day was rainy and overcast so we couldn't see much through the fog and mist.
When we got to the outskirts of Santiago, the walk seemed interminable. Then about 5 km before arrival Heidi started getting severe hip and leg problems. I gave here my trekking poles to help and she hobbled slowly and painfully into the city and on to the cathedral.
I wept tears of joy when I came around the corner and there was the grand cathedral looming in front of me. I walked up the stairs weeping, and entered, but the Mass had already started and Heidi needed to get to our lodgings.
Once the girls got settled in, I went back to Praza do Obradoiro, the "golden square" in front of the cathedral where throngs of Pilgrims gather. The square was filled with excitement.
I saw many Pilgrim friends. We embraced and took many photos and even shed a few tears with some that had been with us from the beginning.
It has been a very exciting and emotional day.
My head is still spinning.
Blessings to all
(The photo only shows a portion of the magnificent cathedral.)
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mixed Feelings

Day 31-Arzua-Pedrouza
6 hours 32 minutes-21 km

A very relaxing walk today. The girls and Ron were out late last night, one of the drawbacks of staying at a hotel(or one of the bonuses, depending on how you look at it).
We got a late start, and actually started walking in daylight for the first time.
A delightful walk. Heidi and Ellen like to stop at every coffee shop!
Although the rain held off all day, it felt like walking through a rain forest. The air was heavy and thick with moisture.
The landscape is still lush and green and we passed through more eucalyptus forests, but now we have tropical climate and plants. There are palm trees, banana trees and even cactus.
And as always along the Camino the ancient medieval villages that time has passed by.
Most of the villages grew out of the need of serving the pilgrims and have changed little over time.
We went out for dinner tonight and had our best Pilgrim meal.
It has been an emotional day for me.
Tomorrow I walk into Santiago. I have mixed feelings.
It will be the end of a long hard journey....or will it?
How will I feel when I enter the city? Or when I finally greet the Saint that I journeyed so far for?
What are the lessons I have learned?
What does all the pain and suffering and struggle and perserverance signify?

Peace, love and laughter
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Eucalyptus and Torrential Downpours

Day 30-Palas de Rei-Arzua
10 hours-30.1 km
We started out in the dark, in the rain, and straight uphill. It was up and down hills all day and it rained off and on most of the day.
Some of the walk was along the roadside and through an industrial area going into the town of Melide.
But we walked through Eucalyptus forests off and on all day. And what a wonderful pungent fragrance it was.
Synthetic sports fabrics are marvelous. They are very lightweight, dry in a flash, easy to wear and durable. However they do hold body odor. And after 30 days of hand washing, no matter how diligent and thorough a job you do; in this humid, rainy climate of Galicia, you can smell the body odor at the first sign of dampness.
So, after 3 days or rain and dampness, today was a pleasure walking through the fragrant eucalyptus forests.
The above time for walking is a bit skewed because of 2 delays.
When the girls arrived in the airports of Madrid and Santiago, they tried to exchange dollars for euros, but unfortunately both airports money exchange systems were not functioning.
Today has been the first day we were in a town big enough to have a bank, and us being here during banking hours. I'll skip all the boring details and just say that after 1 1/2 hours, several banks and ATMs only one girl ended up with euros. It was very frustrating and a delay we did not need.
The second delay was when we had just stopped at a bar for a coffee break and no sooner had we ordered our coffee, we turned around to see that outside there was a torrential downpour that lasted over 30 minutes.
Heidi and Ellen were delighted to have such a long break but as soon as it slowed down we had to move on.
We walked in the rain for several hours more until we got to our destination.
It was a very long, very exhausting day, but so joyful and so rewarding in so many ways.
The girls did well and after yesterdays dingy hostal and cold showers they wanted to stay at a hotel.
So we 4 are cozily settled in a nice hotel room tonight and it is still pouring out.
Ron and the girls are downstairs in the bar having a well deserved bottle of wine.
Blessings to all
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Different Camino

Day 29-Portomarin-Palas de Rei
8 hours 15 minutes-27.1 km

We started of by the light of the full moon walking steeply uphill. It started to rain and continued to rain off and a good part of the day, but the countryside was filled with farms. We walked through several tiny farming hamlets. We met a few locals when passing through them and the girls had an opportunity to talk with them. They are amazed at the local hospitality and true warmth for the Pilgrims in this rural area.
One local farm couple were taking their herd of cows out to pasture and invited us to walk with the herd. We had a great conversation with the herdswoman.
We enjoyed watching the little dog work the herd and when one bull went astray it was amazing to watch the little dog take charge over the huge bull and in no time had the bull back with the herd.
Ellen and Heidi did great on this long tough walk today. They were ready to quit toward the end of the walk but we took a few minutes break and they were fine again.
I remember how exhausting the first few days were. I am really proud of how well they did.
Tonight we all had dinner with our Jesuit friend Philip; then we were joined by friends from Australia who will slow down tomorrow, so we won't see them again. So we stayed and had a farewell drink with them and Philip who we may not see again.
We talked about the feel of the Camino and how it has changed in the past few days.
One only needs to walk the last 100 km to receive a "Compostela" certificate so there are so many new Pilgrims on the road. We hardly see any of the Pilgrim friends we started with.
I am so happy that Heidi and Ellen are here to enjoy these last days with us.
Blessings to all

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, October 5, 2009

Taxi Anyone??

Day 28-Sarria-Portomarin
7 hours 50 minutes-24.4 km

Last night the girls arrived by taxi and got dropped off in front of an ancient stone church near our Pilgrim Hostal, to the sound of the church bells ringing, as if witnessing and rejoicing their arrival.
They only had time for a shower, a bite to eat and a visit to the beautiful church.
The walk today was equally as magnificent as the past few days with all the canopied woodland trails, open panoramic vistas, and peaceful country villages that time has passed by.
I am so happy that the girls' first day was so gorgeous. Their excitement brought back memories of y first few days. They oohed and ahhed and snapped photo after photo.
The terrain was not easy. We had a long steady uphill trek most of the day, with a very steep descent. At one point the girls knees were so bad, they tried walking down backwards.
Heidi is in the photo by one of the frequently seen taxi signs. I have seen many taking advantage of taxis or having a courier service carry their backpacks from one stop to the next.
The girls were on such a high with the excitement of being here and the beauty of the countryside that nearly 8 hours of walking didn't faze them.
I wish you peace, love, and laughter
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Enchanted Day

Day 27-Triacastela-Sarria
8 hours 6 minutes-26 km
We started our walk in the rain and it continued to rain off and on most of the day.
Our guidebook says we ascended only 200 meters, but we climbed up and down so many times, so I think we climbed the same 200 meters over and over again all day long.
Picture this: Miles and miles of trail canopied over with ancient ivy covered trees on one side, an 8 foot high moss covered timeless stonewall on the other side, a flowing river with several waterfalls and ancient stone bridges, little hamlets with tiny centuries old churches and one of the oldest most gorgeous monasteries in Spain.
That was our Camino today.
A long hard trek with lots of climbing, but the most enchanting day so far.
Now, in less than an hour, our daughter Heidi and our friend Ellen will arrive to walk the rest of the way to Santiago with us.
Blessings to all
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Three Caminos

Day 26-OCebreiro-Triacastela
6 hours 40 minutes-21.7 km

There is a saying in Spanish about the Camino. Loosely translated it goes like this:
The first part to tame the body. (Roncesvalles to Burgos)
The second part to tame the spirit.(Burgos to Leon)
The third part for the pleasure of the soul.(Galicia)
I think it holds pretty true.
The long hard days of trekking through the Pirenees certainly let's you know that your body is much more capable than we give it credit for and we push it each day beyond its limits.
Then there is the flat, hot, shadeless plains of the Meseta that seem to defy all rules of time. Patience is tried. It becomes a challenge of the will to endure the boring hot lonely landscape.
Now we are in Galicia, the final stage.
So far it has been magical and spirit lifting. Trekking hard terrain I still feel light and alive.
And the divine is revealed in these expansive vistas lifting my spirits.
I keep stopping, drinking in the unbelievable miracle around me.
The peace, the quiet and the beauty are overwhelming.
They bring joy to my heart and sustenance to my road worn body.
Peace, love and joy

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, October 2, 2009


Day 25-Villafranca de Bierzo-OCebreiro
9 hours 35 minutes-36.9 km

It was a very long, difficult day, but a very exciting and rewarding one.
In the morning the trail was along side a highway, but the bonus was that we followed along side a flowing river with several small waterfalls.
The sound of the rushing water and plenty of birdsong made for a very happy day, which just kept getting better all day long.
We walked steadily uphill all day. The first 5 hours were on good flat track.
But then we started our very steep ascent to OCebreiro.
The trail was very rocky and rough, but the higher we went, the more gorgeous the panoramic views that surrounded us were.
We passed through several Celtic villages complete with Celtic music. I expected my granddaughter Holly to appear at any moment doing the Irish Step Dance.
OCebreiro is like being on top of the world with 360 degrees of brethtaking views.
The village itself is charming with all stone buildings, some round with straw roofs.
We had originally planned on 2 days to make the tough ascent. But weather perfect, outstanding scenery and storybook villages kept our spirits high.
Ron said if you can't see God by looking at this magnificent mountain scenery, you never will.
A perectly magical day, even though my feet are aching miserably.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Celtic Country

Day 24-Ponferrada-Villafranca de Bierzo
7 hours 7 minutes-24 km

Our relaxing stay yesterday in Ponferrada was highlighted with a visit to the magnificent 12th century Templar Castle.
Another bonus was the big and modern Pilgrim Hostal we stayed in. We were reunited with many friends we had lost track of including Antonio and his adorable donkey Don PePe.
It was a long walk out of the city this morning then a long stretch along a busy highway. The noise and exhaust fumes were very annoying.
The morning was shrouded in mist and we had a light drizzle most of the day.
We are now entering Celtic country and it looks very much like Ireland, with lots of rock walls and green hills. Beautiful scenery of farms, orchards, vineyards and a spattering of sheep made it a delightful walk.
We had a long steep climb at the end of the day into the picturesque town of Villafranca de Bierzo.
Tomorrow we start a few very difficult days with our highest and hardest climb of the Camino.
Love to all
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sweet Treats

Day 23-Riego de Ambros-Ponferrada
3 hours 54 minutes-9.6 km
The first 2 hours of our walk was steeply downhill on a very rocky narrow path. As usual we started walking in the dark which made for a painfully slow descent.
But after a while in the early morning light, the mountain scenery was stunning and we found that we had descended into a deep beautiful gorge.
Off and on the Camino has had wild blackberries growing along side the trail.
They are a nice excuse to stop for a few moments and enjoy a sweet treat.
Speaking of sweet treats, we only walked for just under 4 hours today!!
Then we left our backpacks and walked around Ponferrada with its beautiful churches and an impressive castle.
How great it was to walk around without a heavy pack and to have most of the day to enjoy exploring, eating ice cream, and relaxing.
Peace and Joy
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In Memory of Scott Sargent

Day 22-Rabanal del Camino-Riego de Ambros
7 hours-23.7 km

We are back in the mountains. What a glorious day for walking.
The scenery was magnificent, and a few of the villages look like they were taken from the Swiss Alps and dropped here.
We had a steep long climb for the first 4 hours, then a very steep rocky descent. But surrounded by mountains, the tinkle of cow bells and the fresh mountain air made the strenuous walk a joy.
The first village we passed through was Foncebadon formerly an abandoned desolate place known for it's wild dogs that menaced Pilgrims.
Now some hippie types have settled in and run a Hostal and bar, and the only sign of animals was 2 small cats pLaying in the sun.
Our next stop was the important Camino monument in the photo, the Cruz de Ferro. A simple iron cross atop piles of small stones.
It is customary for Pilgrims to carry a few pebbles or other token of love from home and climb the pile of rocks and symbolically place our burdens and worries there, as well as memories of loved ones.
In April when I started my first week of training for the Camino, my son Eric's best friend Scott Sargent died of a heart attack at the young age of 42.
With the Camino only a dream sometime in the future, I promised myself that if I made my Pilgrimage it would be in Scott's memory.
So I placed my pebbles at the foot of the cross in Scott's memory, along with some rose pedals from a rose given to me back in April by my grandson James.
I have set aside part of my prayer time each day for Scott's 2 young sons, Eric(11) and Ryan(6) and the rest of Scott's family.
Maybe it is only my son Eric who can truly appreciate the significance of this, but when I am on a steep long climb, out of breath and cannot take another step, it is Scott's image with his scruffy beard and his easy going manner that accompanies me and my step becomes lighter and my burden is less.

Blessings to all
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gaudi Palace

Day 21-San Justo de la Vega-Rabanal del Camino
7 hours 28 minutes-26.7 km

We stopped walking just shy of Astorga by a few kilometers, but the beautiful architecture of the pretty little city of Astorga was golden in the early morning sunlight.
The photo is of a palace by Antonio Gaudi which brought back memories of a trip to Barcelona with our granddaughter Brittany and all the beautiful Gaudi buildings.
Today's walk was pleasant and easy. One long gentle uphill journey to Rabanal with a rather steep and rocky climb for the last hour. The day was perfect for walking, sunny and clear with a gentle breeze.
The landscape is changing. We passed through some very old and interesting villages.
This Camino is a photographers dream.
We are seeing a lot of new Pilgrims that just started their walk in Leon or Astorga. You can tell them by their new crisply starched clothes, white socks, new boots and spry walk.
The rest of us are a ragtag band, limping along, tattered and torn like a band of refugees.
The "newbies" haven't been toughened by the wear and tear of nearly 600 kilometers on their feet, tolerating blisters and aches and pains and swollen joints to slow them down.
We are 2 days ahead of schedule for meeting our daughter in Sarria next Monday. She will walk the last 114 km with us.
So for the next week we will walk much shorter days.
It means lagging behind our little band of Pilgrim friends and that saddens me to have to lose touch with them. But I am looking forward to the luxury of only walking about 18-20 km each day, especially since the Cantabrian Mountains are now looming right in front of us and we will have several difficult days.
I wish you peace, love, and laughter
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, September 28, 2009

Angels of the Camino

Day 20-Villa de Mazarife-SanJusto de la Vega
8 hours 20 minutes-28 km
Today we walked through endless cornfields for the first 5 hours, then we started our ascent of 3 long gentle hills. The climb up and down was not steep but the trail strewn with loose rock made it a miserable 3 hours of climbing with very little shade and a hot sunny afternoon.
When we got to the top of the last hill, a long slog, our feet screaming from all the loose rock; we met one of the wonderful Angels of the Camino.
David lives 15 km away but comes to that desolate spot where Pilgrims are ready to drop and he sets up his little stand of fresh fruit, homemade cake, juices, tea and coffee. He offers it all free to passing Pilgrims.
He tells me it is out of love for the Pilgrims and the Camino. He says he himself was a Pilgrim and knew the pain and exhaustion, so he wants to give something back to the Camino that means so much to him.
He is truly a Camino Angel for what he does, and there are many more like him.
There was Felicia who until she died at 100, sat in front of her little house and gave to passing Pilgrims the only thing she had. Water, figs from a tree in her garden, and love. Since her death, her daughter, now an old woman herself, has taken her place and greets Pilgrims each day with water, figs and love.
Then there is Marcelino who sets up a stand with fruits and cookies for Pilgrims. He also has a van and drives some of the road stretches of the Camino to help Pilgrims in need.
We also met Robert from England who walked the Camino and wanted to give something back. Each year he comes in his camper and sets up along side a lonely stretch of the Camino and offers English tea and cookies and first aid and foot care to passing Pilgrims.
These and others like them are truly "Angels of the Camino" and ask nothing in return for their love and kindness. They have a small donation box on their stand, but treat all the same, whether they give or not.
I know there are many more like them. And I know that I am very grateful to those that I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking with.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Day of Friendship and Laughter

Day 19-Reliegos-Villar de Mazarife
6 hours 12 minutes-24.3 km

Leon is an amazing City: The Cathedral is a work of art and the gorgeous ancient architecture and art filled churches of Europe still continue to amaze me. We walked around in the evening and it was a city of lights, sidewalk cafes, families strolling and of course Pilgrims. I wish I had more time to explore this beautiful city, but the Camino calls and we start our walk before the sun is up.
One of the nice things about ending our walk in a large city is that in the large Pilgrim hostels you are bound to find friends that you have lost track of. And this was the case in Leon. We are never far apart, but we just don´t know exactly where we will end up each day, as we all walk at our own pace. Ron lost me twice today while he was busy walking and talking with other Pilgrims.
Our little band of Pilgrims has turned into a little family of about 10-12 special friends. We always seek each other out and are so happy to be together once we find each other again. The reunions are a fun part of the day, lots of hugs and kisses, and lots of stories to catch up on.
Todays walk was marvelous. Sunny with a nice cool breeze. We are out of the flat boring area and are now entering a prettier countryside, with a few rolling hills. Even though we walk alone, at each stop our little band of Pilgrims ended up together for a bite to eat and something to drink. Today we planned to stop at the same place for the evening. Most of us are here now, oa few moved on to the next village. We will cook a meal together and spend time in the evening in the garden drinking wine and telling stories.
We chose a funky little place with a nice garden and pool and Ron and I got here earlier than the others and were given a private cool is that!
A very happy day!!

Love to All

Friday, September 25, 2009

Oasis in the Middle of Termoil

Day 18-Reliegos-Leon
7 hours 30 minutes-25.2 km

The walk today was again on boring flat track with little shade. The approach to Leon was along busy highways with lots of construction going one. Dodging traffic and hearing the large construction vehicles noisily raising dust as they raged past us made the walk very frustrating. With a long steep climb and very long sharp descent on a washed out road toward the end of the day, made the walking not at all fun today.
But we had a gloreous experience that made the whole day worth while. When passing through one intersection a man opened the gate to his property and I got a strong whiff of onions and earth.
We exchanged  good mornings and I said "You must be working in your garden" at which he beckoned us to enter his garden. Ron and I are both suckers for a nice garden so I knew a glimpse would be a treat.
It was like noise, peace and tranquility and good old fashion Spanish hospitality. 
The man had a wheel barrow full of his freshly harvested onions as big as grapefruits. I commented how beautiful they were and he said this years crop was not so good. I asked to take a few photos of his garden and his flock of chickens and he went about his business of  working in his garden. At least that is what I thought. He came out of the garden and filled my wide brim sun hat with about a dozen small tomatoes and two huge green peppers. Then he tryed to give us more. I thanked him profusely and told him I could not take any more vegetables.
So all day we munched on fresh tomatoes, but we still have two giant green peppers, as there is no kitchen in the convent we are staying at tonight, so I could not cook something up using them.
So we will cut the peppers up tonight and have them to snack on tomorrow as we walk.
This kind gesture and the few minutes in the Oasis of the tranquil garden with a kind Spanish gentleman made our day special and the walk was not so bad after all.

i wish you peace, love and laughter

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Magnificent Night Sky

Day 17-Calzado de Coto-Reliegos
7 hours-26.7 km

Today we walked in the dark under a magnificent sky. You could almost reach out and touch the stars.
The Camino went through fairly boring, flat land with some farmers tilling fields. It was hot and sunny with very little shade.
We can now see the Cantabrian Mountains in the far distance. We will be climbing those steep hills in a few days.
We lost track of our Korean friend Su again. His young legs were restless and he had to move on.
Ron walked all day with Philip, but most of the time I lagged behind. It was great to walk alone in quiet contemplation and prayer.
I walked for a while with a woman from Germany who only knew a few words of English, so I struggled with my limited German and between us we managed to have a nice conversation about many things.
The photo is of Ron and Philip in from of a church in a small village we passed through.
I think if you click on the photo it will enlarge and you may be able to see a stork nest on the bell tower. There are giant storks nests in the villages throughout Spain on churches, towers, or any tall structure.
It has been a very relaxing and sociable evening in the Pilgrim hostel. Lots of new people here.

Peace, love and joy
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Reunions, Milestones, and Don PePe

Day 16-Caldadilla de la Cueza-Calzado de Coto
8 hours 45 minutes-26.6 km
Today we met Don PePe the donkey. He and his master stayed at the same Pilgrim hostel as us. Don PePe outdoors of course. It is not uncommon for someone to make their Pilgrimage to Santiago with a donkey. Traveling with a donkey, I am sure, has a whole set of problems of it's own which I cannot imagine.
One problem being that the donkey is the star. People are constantly running around Don PePe with cameras snapping away, causing a disturbance for the poor animal.
Everyone knows the donkey's name, but few ask the owners name.
We were happy and surprised to see our Korean friend Su last night. The little band of Korean friends split up, some had to go home, some took the bus ahead and our friend Su walked 3 long hard days and ended up at the same Pilgrim hostel as us. It was all big smiles and hugs and then the first thing he askedwas "How is your knee?"
This morning we walked in the dark with Su for a few hours before stopping in a village for breakfast.
In walked our friend Phillip who we had lost track of for a few days.
So another reunion with hugs of joy. Phillip is a Jesuit Priest who has wanted to make the pilgrimage to Santiago for many years but has always put it off. Last year he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and he decided to take a 3 month sabbatical to make his Pilgrimage and do some other traveling afer his Pilgrimage. He is a delightful man and we enjoy his company.
Today we have reached the halfway mark to Santiago. It is somewhere around the tiny village of Moratinos, population 17; 15 Spaniards and 2 ex-pats ( a retired American journalist and her Brittish husband)
Rebekah is a member of the same Pilgrim forum as I am, so I get to read her comments on line and I also read her blog, so I was excited to finally meet her.
She and her husband Paddy retired from the rat race and bought a house on the Camino and are in the process of renovating it. They welcome Pilgrims to stop by for refreshments or to stay for the night. They call it Peaceable Kingdom. The name suits it well, a very tranquil place with a nice garden, a flock of chickens and 2 dogs, and lots of warmth and hospitality.
It was a fun day filled with lots of people, lots of love, and one cute donkey.
Love to all
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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Pilgrim's Life

Day 14-Itero de la Vega-Villasirga
8 hours-30.4 km
Day 15-Villasirga-Caldadilla de la Cueza
7 hours-23.3 km
Today was easy walking, but only one place to stop in the morning, then endless flat monotonous golden fields with no place to stop. It seemed to take forever to get to our destination.
A Pilgrim's life is much more than a long hard walk each day. Once at our destination we must find a Pilgrim hostel to stay at, which is usually easy as most are right along the Camino.
We get our credential stamped and dated and then claim our bed; almost always in very crowded bunkrooms.
A good hot shower is next, but sometimes it is a cold shower. None the less, we are grateful even for a cold shower to wash off the hard work and the dust of the trail.
Because we only carry one change of clothes, each day we hand wash our clothes outside the hostel in cold water.
We hope for sunshine and a breeze to dry them, but if not, the next morning we pin them to our backpack and become a walking clothesline. We are always walking westward with the sun on our back, so they dry quickly.
The next order of business is to tend to our tired, aching, blistered and swollen feet. Some Pilgrims have such severe feet problems that I don't know how they make it from one day to the next.
If we are lucky there is a Pilgrim meal. If not, we try to find a place to buy something to cook. Sometimes it is very limited, other times there is nothing. If there is a kitchen in the hostel it has only one stove or no stove and just a microwave. And everything is first come first serve. So we may not get to use the stove or micro or all the pans are in use so we can't cook.
But we all go with the flow and somehow we all manage.
By now we're are exhausted and ready for a good night sleep, but not before some good conversation and stories and some good Rioja wine.
We are up long before the sun to start all over again.
We are grateful for small kindnesses. We share in each others pain and sorrow and joys.
Two days ago when we were with two young girls from Slovakia, they got the tragic news that their 19 year old cousin was killed in an accident. We wept with them and shared their grief.
Today while we had lunch with a young girl from Ireland, she received news that her friend just delivered triplet girls. We wept tears of joy with her.
So today my prayers have been for the soul of a young Slovakian whose life has been cut short and who l will never know and for the joyful beginning of the lives of 3 little Irish triplets who I will never meet.
Life is a precious thing and we are all part of one human family.
I leave you with one beautiful word
(It means "When the God in me greets the God in you, we are one"
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Relaxing Day

Today we slept an extra hour and had breakfast before starting our walk. It is the first we started walking when it was already light out.
A very pleasant day for walking.
We are now entering into the "Meseta", similar to our midwest in the USA. No hills! Just wide flat paths through flat open fields as far as you can see, with an occasional village to stop in.
We walked a leisurely pace today, a good part of the day along a pretty canal. We stopped to take pictures of the locks and a shepherd came through with a huge flock of sheep.
We stopped a few times at outdoor cafes for food and drink
I found a pharmacy and bought some electro-lite packets to add to my water. I had been using them, but ran out and neglected to replenish them. I guess I had to learn the hard way, but it won't happen again.
Our little group of friends walked on another 6 km to the next village. We opted to stay here. Now we have met a whole new group of Pilgrims and we are fast becoming friends.
It has been a very good and relaxing day.
Love to all

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Monday, September 21, 2009

I Burned Out Today

Day-13-Hornillos del Camino -Itero de la Vega
8 hours 10 minutes-33.2 km

I think that every village is at the bottom of a long steep hill, as it seems each morning we have a good climb, with the light from our little headlamp bobbing along in the dark.
We walked to what we thought would be our next destination and arrived before 11AM and the Pilgrim hostel would not be open till 3PM.
The next village was about a 2 1/2 hours away.
It is Sunday and nearly everything is closed. We got a bite to eat and decided to push on.
We had the toughest longest climb and a very steep descent. It was longer than we thought and seemed like it took forever.
We found the place we intended to stay and there was nobody there and it looked dirty and uncomfortable. We backtracked through the village and found a private hostel.
When we got there the man was explaining in Spanish and I couldn't talk to him in English, let alone Spanish.
I completely shut down. I plopped down on a chair and started crying. MELT DOWN!!
Ron arranged for our stay, I flopped on my bunk to take a nap. I started to shake uncontrollably.
I knew my sugar levels and electro-lites must be out of whack and I was having symptoms of hypothermia.
Ron got me orange juice and water, and I took a very long, and very hot shower, then slept for about I hour. Then I has some tea and a sugary pastry and another bottle of water.
I am fine now.
The high points of the day were the beautiful medieval churches, the ruins of a 14th century convent, and the ruins of a castle high on the hill above a village we passed through.
My lesson for the day is as Joyce Rupp recommends in her wonderful book "Walk In A Relaxed Manner". The title says it all.
No more rushing. Normally we stop for a break and eat something and drink plenty of water and juice, at least every 1 1/2 to 2 hours. But today we slogged on too far and too fast on a strenuous terrain without breaks.
Tomorrow will be a slow and leisurely walk with lots of breaks.
Love to all

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

I Burned Out Today

Day-13-Hornillos del Camino -Itero de la Vega
8 hours 10 minutes-33.2 km

I think that every village is at the bottom of a long steep hill, as it seems each morning we have a good climb, with the light from our little headlamp bobbing along in the dark.
We walked to what we thought would be our next destination and arrived before 11AM and the Pilgrim hostel would not be open till 3PM.
The next village was about a 2 1/2 hours away.
It is Sunday and nearly everything is closed. We got a bite to eat and decided to push on.
We had the toughest longest climb and a very steep descent. It was longer than we thought and seemed like it took forever.
We found the place we intended to stay and there was nobody there and it looked dirty and uncomfortable. We backtracked through the village and found a private hostel.
When we got there the man was explaining in Spanish and I couldn't talk to him in English, let alone Spanish.
I completely shut down. I plopped down on a chair and started crying. MELT DOWN!!
Ron arranged for our stay, I flopped on my bunk to take a nap. I started to shake uncontrollably.
I knew my sugar levels and electro-lites must be out of whack and I was having symptoms of hypothermia.
Ron got me orange juice and water, and I took a very long, and very hot shower, then slept for about I hour. Then I has some tea and a sugary pastry and another bottle of water.
I am fine now.
The high points of the day were the beautiful medieval churches, the ruins of a 14th century convent, and the ruins of a castle high on the hill above a village we passed through.
My lesson for the day is as Joyce Rupp recommends in her wonderful book "Walk In A Relaxed Manner". The title says it all.
No more rushing. Normally we stop for a break and eat something and drink plenty of water and juice, at least every 1 1/2 to 2 hours. But today we slogged on too far and too fast on a strenuous terrain without breaks.
Tomorrow will be a slow and leisurely walk with lots of breaks.
Love to all

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Magical Day

Day 12-Burgos-Hornillos del Camino
4 hours 45 minute-21.2 km

Today's walk was short (less than 5 hrs) and very pleasant. The morning was very foggy leaving the city of Burgos. The scenery covered with fog made for a magical morning.
We were accompanied on our journey all day by the singing of the birds and the tinkle of sheep bells as they were shepherded through the hills.
We are staying in a small medieval village(population 100). The little old ladies are so charming sweeping the sidewalks and tending their flowers in front of their century old homes.
Last night in Burgos we visited the second largest Cathedral in Spain. With it's tall spires and 21 chapels it is an amazing and gorgeous example of architecture and spiritual beauty.
We went out to dinner last night with the couple who started to walk in Vienna in May, the Germans who started their walk in Bavaria in June, the man who started his Camino in Lichtenstein in July and a young girl from Hungary. At the next table were friends and fellow Pilgrims from Spain, England and France. We were a real united nations. It was a happy and jovial evening.
The good news of the day is that Ron was able to change his ticket and will walk to Santiago with me. I am sooo happy and Ron's back is improving.
I wish you peace, love, and laughter
PS- the photo is from the Rioja wine district
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Friday, September 18, 2009

Camino Angels

Day 11-Atapuerca-Burgos
5 hours 25 minutes-20.4 km
We started off in the pouring rain, Pitch dark and had a steep rocky climb for the first hour. The path was all ledge and loose rock and with our already muddy feet it was treacherous.
It rained all day till we got to Burgos.
Today was to be my husband Ron's last day of walking. Tomorrow he would take a bus to Madrid and fly home from there and I would continue on the Camino.
For the last few days he has been saying that he would like to change his flight and continue to walk with me all the way to Santiago.
Then yesterday he had a very bad back problem and nearly couldn't walk to our destination. By the time we got there he could hardly walk and he almost dropped to his knees with back pain when taking off his backpack.
The hostel we stayed in had bunks for 6 people. Ron went off to the shower and 3 Spanish that were sharing the room with us came in. One couple and a man we had never met.
We started talking and I told them about Ron's problem and how he wanted to change his flight and continue walking but now it was almost certain that he had to return home.
Well, it turns out that the man was a military doctor and had some special anti-flammatory cream that works wonders for bad backs.
The woman with him, wife of the other man rubbed Ron's back with the cream.
There was much laughing and fun. As Pilar gave Ron's lower back and buttocks a massage. Her husband took photos with their camera and ours and we were all laughing hysterically when he kept shouting " I have the evidence for divorce, for 2 divorces!"
Ron's back felt great in no time. I asked to write down the name of the cream so I could buy some at the next pharmacy. The doctor told me that I could not buy it in any pharmacy because it is a special cream for the military. But he just happened to have an extra tube of it and a much as we tried to decline his offer, he insisted Ron take it as a gift.
Later in the evening Ron went to the restaurant for wine and saw that our 3 roommates were there and he had a bottle of wine sent to their table. Pilar came over to thank him with hugs and kisses.
They say that no matter what happens, the Camino will provide whatever you need.
So, as it turns out we have met another Camino Angel, and hopefully the special anti-flammatory cream will help Ron's back and he will change his flight and continue on to Santiago with me. Stay tuned....
Love to all
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Challenging Day

Day 10-Belorado-Atapuerca
8 hours 11 minutes-33 km

A very challenging day. We walked up hill nearly all day, with a few steep declines. The Camino passes through open fields and pine and oak forests.
It was cold enough for a fleece jacket and gloves this morning in the early morning.

An overcast day meant we didn't see our shadow much today. Always moving west, we are accustomed to spending time with our shadow, literally and metaphorically. As I walked alone in silence I cannot help but look at my shadow in front of me and contemplate my "shadow self".
It is a wonderful exercise in looking inward at ouselves..."warts and all"

A great day for walking, when we got to our planned stop for the day we still had plenty of energy and walked another 3 hours longer than planned.
It is very strange...if someone told me a month ago it was only another 3 hours further after walking a strenuous 5 hours, I would have thought them crazy.
But walking 3 extra hours after a long uphill slog seemed natural.
My feet are constantly in pain, my back and shoulders ache, but miraculously my knees are fine. I don't use my knee brace or my Korean patches.
But we humans can reach beyond the pain and the aches and we find the inner strength to keep on keeping on.
God Bless
Love to all

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dark, Cold, and Rainy

Day 9-Santo Domingo de la Calzada-Belorado
7 hours-25.4 km

Today we started by getting lost. We walked in the dark, in a downpour, walking directly into the wind and rain. We had a difficult time finding the way markers on the way out of the village of Santo Domingo and we strayed away from the track a bit, but then found our way.

We walked for 2 hours into the wind and driving rain. When we got to the first village everyone stopped for a hot drink and a bite to eat. We all lingered longer than our usual 10-15 minute break. Nobody wanted to go back out in the rain. But by the time we left, it had stopped raining. It was an easy walk today through golden wheat fields and gentle rolling hills with giant stacks of hay bales at least 3 or 4 stories high.

It stayed windy and cold and we never saw the sun till afternoon, just before our final destination. I am still chilled to the bone.. And it just started raining again!!!

The hostel we are staying at offers a Pilgrims dinner. I asked the price and was told that after we eat, we can donate whatever we think the meal was worth. The generousity of some of these hostels is amazing. In some places you stay for whatever you care to make as a donation.

I like when we have a communal meal at the hostel. Although Pilgrims see each other during the day off and on, we usually chat just breiefly then move on, as most Pilgrims prefer to walk alone in silent comtemplation, prayer or meditation. Even my husband and I drift apart on and off during the day offering silent time to make an inward journey, which is very much a part of the Camino.

But at night, when we are finished with the job of walking and taking care of our daily needs,  it is time to celebrate, our accomplishment, our new friendships and cmaraderie. It is a delight to enjoy a good meal and drink some wine with Pilgrims. The conversation and stories are lively, and the evening is full of laughter and joy.

I wish you peace, love and laughter

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Meeting Amazing People

Day 8-Najera-Santo Domingo de la Calzada
5 hours 45 minutes-22.5 km

To date:202km-126 miles

Wonderful wide country tracks through golden hay fields, farms and vineyards. We had one very long steep climb today, but at the top was a perfect picnic spot with marvelous views. It was very cloudy with a brisk wind whcih made for nice walking weather.

Each day is a gift. The views, the people, a bed to sleep in after a hard day of walking.

We have lost contact with some of our friends but were reunited with others that we lost track of. Of the hundreds of people that we have met, only 5 are Americans. We have met so many wonderful people from every where that are amazing. They  have walked from very far. An Austrian couple started their Camino in Vienna in May and will walk all the way to Santiago. We met 2 Bavarian couples, one from Munich and the other from Chemsee, each couple started in June. And one man from Lichtenstein who started from his home in July. They call the way Jakobsweg (The way of Saint James) and they must walk over all the high Alps and the very high peaks in France to get to where we started. I find it just amazing.

This journey is much more than physical strength. It is a challenge of body, but when the body is spent and I must go on for another several hours, the mind takes over and I find an inner strength to carry me on. My inner strength comes from the thoughts of my family back home. I visit in my mind each one and pray for them and think of all the beauty and love and laughter that we have shared and I am carried by these thoughts.
Love to all of you

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Very Long Day

Day 7-Logrono-Najera
9 hours 10 minutes-29.4 km

Last night we found out that the Pilgrim hostel in Narjera, our next stop was closed. There was much confusion. Everyone trying to figure out new plans for their walk. The village 10 km before Najera would have been a great stop and not such a long day. But that only is a small stop with a Pilgrim hostel with only 50 beds., and with so many Pilgrims on the road it would be nearly impossible for us to compete for a bed and it would have put us behind out planned schedule.
Some pilgrims took the bus to grab the first beds, others got up and left by 5AM to get there early.
We decided to stick to our planned schedule and come to Najera anyways. Most every hotel was filled with Pilgrims.
What a luxury to stay in a hotel. complete privacy!! A BATHTUB...which I hogged for at least an hour!! and a hairdryer. My hair, which my lovely niece cut real short and very retro looking, for convenience has seen neither comb nor hairdryer for over a week. It feels wonderful after 7 days of hostel living with no privacy, very cramped quarters, shared baths and showers, and snoring in 20 different languages!!!
This old body was not made for 2 nine hour hikes back to back though mountainous terrain.
So I am feeling pretty great even though very exhausted.

I wish you peace, love, and laughter

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Boy Named Su

Day 6-Los Acros-Logrono
8 hours 55 minutes-27.8 km
We walked through wonderful natural paths, again through endless vineyards, always surrounded with gorgeous views.
The sunrise today was spectacular. We only had one long steep climb and a very steep descent.
There was a fiesta in the town of Viana with religious processions, bands and a traditional running of the bulls.
We had our lunch at a sidewalk cafe and watched some of the festivities, but opted not to stay for the running of the bulls, which would have put us 2 hours behind schedule on an already very long day.
Today I walked with a heavy heart and a heavy backpack during most of the morning.
Knowing that today was Sunday, and that everything would be closed, and also that on this stage of the journey there are very few fountains to fill our bottles; we had to carry our food for the day and extra water. When you are already carrying 15 to 20 pounds on your back, every added ounce is a burden. You learn to choose you food not by how enjoyable it will be to eat, but by how much it weighs and how much energy it will supply.
I can still feel the extra weight I carried in my sore shoulders tonight.
We have made friends with many on the Camino, but none so much as a group of 5 or 6 young Koreans. They all just met each other on the Camino and became quick friends.
We always stay at the same hostal each night and we spend time together either walking or sharing food and stories.
I told them my sister-in-law is Korean and the like that we love Korean food.
The photo above is(left to right) Pom, myself, Young, and Su.
Su always asks how my day went with my bad knee. He has some special Korean patches that look like big square bandaids that he uses for pain in his neck. He has been offering them to me for my knee, saying they take the pain away like magic. I thank him and tell him I will tough it out with my knee brace.
Yesterday was to be Pom's last day of walking with us, as he must return to Korea for his job.
This morning when we got up Pom had decided to walk part of just one more day and stay in Vianna, the town before our already planned stop. And of course his new young Korean friends decided also to make the early stop to spend the day and evening with him. That would put us several hours in front of them and almost certain we won't see each other again.
So it was all hugs and kisses and goodbyes. We took lots of photos and exchanged email addresses.
Just as I was leaving to start my walk Su told me," Because I won't see you again, I want to give you a gift, but this is all I have" And he gave me a package of his Korean "magic" patches.
It was a small thing, I know, but the gesture as well as the moment and the way it was given was so precious. I think I cried off and on for the first few hours, knowing how much I would miss my new friends.
I wish you peace, love, and laughter

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Scallop Shell

Day 5-Estella-Los Arcos
6 hours 10 minutes-21.7 km

Today was a perfect day for walking. Overcast all morning with a cool breeze made it just right, as there is very little shade in wine country.
We walked steadily uphill for more than 2 1/2 hours. Again we walked through rolling wheat fields, olive groves and ever more vineyards.
There was always the occasional shepherd with his sheep dogs directing their herds over the hills.
First you hear the distant tinkle of bells, then you see them coming over the rise in the distance. As the tinkling bells get louder and the sheep closer, you can hear them chewing their way across the countryside in unison. Marvelous!!

Our first stop this morning was at the Irache Winery. They have 2 Pilgrim fountains. One to fill our water bottles and the other is a wine fountain . Although the sun had not come up yet, we all had our traditional drink of wine from our scallop shell that we wear on our backpack to distinguish us as Pilgrims.
The scallop shell has always been the symbol of Saint James. I have heard many different versions of how it became the symbol. Here is just one of them:
When Jesus was crucified his Apostles went forth to spread the Word. The Apostle James went to Spain and when he returned to Jerusalem he was quickly beheaded by Herod Igrippa in 44AD, becoming the first Apostle to be martyred. James' followers stole his body and took it back to Spain by boat, they landed in Finisterre, the then known end of the world.
There was a pagan wedding going on and as the boat approached, the groom's horse spooked and fell from a cliff into the sea. Both horse and groom were presumed drowned. Suddenly, the horse and rider emerged from the sea alive and well and covered with scallop shells.
It is the first miracle attributed to Saint James (Santiago) and the scallop shell became the symbol of Saint James and those who make the Pilgrimage to his tomb in Santiago de Compostela.

I wish you peace, love, and laughter
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