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
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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.

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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
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, September 11, 2009

Entering Wine Country

Day 4-Puenta La Reina-Estrella
6 hours 14 minutes-21.1 km
Today's walk was through gentle foot hills and farmland. We are leaving the high peaks of the Pyrenees and entering wine country. The Camino passes through many vineyards and farms.
We had only a few steep climbs today, and the descents were not so bad. I did not have to resort to my knee brace.
The medieval villages along this stage still have some Roman roads more than 2,000 years old. The stone houses and churches are beautiful.
I keep falling behind, as I am always stopping to snap photos, then I have to hurry to catch up.
We have met so many wonderful people from all over the world. I am making good use of my Spanish and even my limited German.
Friendships are struck up in an instant and some times we walk together for a while or share some nuts or fruit when we rest on the side of the trail or at one of the many fountains where we fill our water bottles.
Then if we lose contact of our new "friends" for a day or so, and they show up at the Pilgrim hostal, everyone is all excited to see each other; as if we found our long lost brother.
If someone shows up late after a bad day of walking, hot, dirty, and exhausted, they get a big cheery welcome and a few pats on the back for there effort.
Today a girl from Brazil had to walk in flipflops because the sole of her boot fell apart on a part of the trail far from any village. Everyone was distraught. No one could help her out because we didn't have any extra shoes in our packs other than flipflops ourselves. But we all stopped to try and help by giving support and encouragement. I saw that she made it to town, but her feet were a mess.
My lesson for today is that humanity is so strong and precious. There is an unbelievable energy on this Camino. We walk in the footsteps of millions before us and their energy is almost palpable.
We may all have come to the Camino for different reasons, but in the end there is a camaradarie that is not divided by religion, nor by politics nor by prejudice.
We walk together with open hearts, and open minds, and we share a very special experience as one endless stream of humanity walking this ancient footpath and savoring every moment.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Queen's Bridge

Day 2- Zubiri -Cizur Menor
8 hours 40 minutes-26.7 km

Day 3-Cizur Menor-Puente de La Reina
7 hours 15 minutes-19.6 km

Today was another strenuous walk, with very few trees, so we spent the day in the blazing sun.
We had a steep climb to Alto de Perdon (the hill of forgiveness). The mountains here are covered with windmills. We had great views looking back over the valley and Pamplona. It seems like you can see for ever and it's hard to believe we have walked so far and so high.
Our music for the day was the gentle whirring sound of The giant windmills.
We walked for 3 hours before seeing our first person. Then we met Madas from Latvia. He doesn't stay in the hostals. He prefers to sleep at churches under whatever cover he can find. He has a huge backpack and says it weighs 40 pounds. He doesn't carry a tent.
He walks much faster than us, but he slowed down to walk our pace throughout the steep up and down
slopes. We had great conversation. He speaks many languages. We stop for a meal, Madas moves on. I hope we see him again.
We spend longer than usual for lunch and by the time we are back on the Camino there are many Pilgrims.
Another long and steep decent today, but the knees were up for the challenge and never complained.
Tonight we are staying in Puente de La Reina (Queen's Bridge). The town has one of the most picturesque medieval stone bridges with 6 arches which span the ever present Arga River.

I wish you peace, love, and laughter
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Powerfully Simple and Glorious

Again we started our day walking by the light of the waning moon, but we were under deep forest cover which made it very dark. We were walking on very uneven, steep terrain wit lots of loose rocks. It was a day to use headlamps and flashlights, and of course mine was at the bottom of my backpack. So I followed in the light of a few other Pilgrims.
It was very rough and rocky terrain with lot of steep ups and downs. But they were never too long, and the magnificent views made up for the rough walk.
During this part of the journey, the Camino crosses many times the Arga River, so we crossed over some beautiful medieval stone bridges and we always had the background music of the river song.
The last several hours of travel was on busy roads and through the city of Pamplona. The noise of the traffic whizzing by at what seemed like frightening speed after the tranquil mountain and forest trails. The noise of the city was sharp ana annoying, and the heat of the day rose from the pavement making for an unpleasant walk for an already exhausted body.
My feet didn't want to go any further and my knees were cranky all day. I had to put on my knee brace early in the day.

It was a much more physically challenging and tiring day than this old body cared for.
My lesson for the day was that our bodies are far more capable of the physical challenge than we give them credit for. And that if we concentrate on God's little treasures like birdsong and mountain flowers and the majesty of a countryside; that the physical pain and exhaustion is diminished and we are left with something powerfully simple and glorious.

I wish you peace, love, and laughter
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Peak Moments

Day 1-Roncesvalles to Zubiri
22.5km-7 1/2 hours
There are reports of 200-300 Pilgrims coming through St Jean and Roncesvalles over the past few days. There are so many Pilgrims on the Camino that beds fill up fast.
We got to Roncesvalles so late last night we had to stay in the overflow area. Six sets of bunks in container type trailers. The also had huge green tents for some folks. I am glad we got the bunkrooms.
It was a very rushed and unorganized night. As soon as we got a bed, we dropped our things and went to the Mass and the Pilgrim blessing. It was in a beautiful chapel that I believe is part of the ancient Monastery. Six priests officiated the Mass. They welcomed the Pilgrims and read the names of all the countries represented, it was an impressionable list. It brought tears to my eyes and I noticed that I wasn't the only one. Another emotional moment was at the end of the Mass when all Pilgrims were asked to come to the front of the chapel for the Pilgrim blessing. The priests prayed for us and wished us a wonderful and safe journey in many different languages.
We had a Pilgrim meal after Mass, then called it a night.
We were up this morning shortly after 6AM and walked in the dark by the light of the moon. It was cold enough to see your breath, but by the time the sun came up we saw many Pilgrims removing layers and we were in short sleeves and shorts long before noon.
Today's walk was mostly through green forest and mountainous terrain. A picture book scene around every corner.
For me, the highlight of the day was when we stopped for a drink of water at the top off a high mountain pass and looked back at the mountains and valleys we had crossed. The scene was majestic; dotted with herds of cattle, some close, some way off in the distance. But even better was that in the stillness was the distant symphony of cattle lowing and the many different tinkling sounds of cowbells combined with the gorgeous view. I was completely absorbed in the moment. No words are ever adequate to describe a peak moment, but this one was one that I won't soon forget.
I wish you peace, love, and laughter
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, September 7, 2009

First Camino Angel

We finally arrived at Roncesvalles at 7:30, after a very long trip to get here. We had a great flight to Madrid. Got in early AM and headed for Av de Americas to get the bus to Pamplona, but the taxi driver told us that the buses to Pamplona left from a station across town. After a very long and expensive cab ride we found out that he was wrong. So we took the metro all the way back across town and missed the early bus to Pamplona. We got the noon bus and got to Pamplona one minute after the last bus to Roncesvalles left. The next bus would be tomorrow evening at 6PM putting us a day behind schedule.
I asked at the ticket counter if there was any other way to get here. He told me to we could try a taxi. He mentioned that a man ahead of me had just gone out to look for a taxi.
When I was leaving the station a man approached me and asked if I was headed for Roncesvalles. I guess my backpack was a dead give away.
He started making calls on his cell and found a van service to take himself, us and two others to Roncesvalles at a very reasonable price.
I thought all was lost and we would spend the night in Pamplona and get a late start or figure something else out.
But as luck would have it, I met my first Camino Angel who helped us out and how surprised I was when I asked him his name and he told me it was Santiago. They say don,t worry, the Camino will provide everything you need. I guess I am already finding that out.
I wish you peace, love, and laughter
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, September 5, 2009

We are on our way!

The next time you hear from me, will be ...Live from the Camino
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The Journey Begins

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step"
Lao Tzu

Yesterday we took our last long training walk. Our next long walk will be on the Camino de Santiago.
It was low tide, so we took our river walk. I tried to walk in my husband's footsteps as we walked along the riverbed. He has such a long stride, it made it almost impossible to do without falling in the muck. Now I know why he is always so far ahead of me and I have to work at it to keep up the pace.

Tomorrow we will be on a plane on our way to Spain. Today I am in a thoughtful mood, full of trepidation and questions.
Will I be able to make this long journey? Am I prepared enough? Physically, I think yes. But what about Mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually?
I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I have the greatest family that any one could ever ask for. Every day I give thanks for the abundance and beauty in my life.  So, why do I wander so far? Why take on such a grueling challenge, both mentally and physically? What do I expect I learn, if anything?

They say I will walk one million footsteps on my journey across Spain. But if the saying is true, that "we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience", then wouldn't it be right to say that our life IS the journey?
So many questions swirling in my mind....
I only know that I will walk consciously, and joyfully, and thoughtfully, greeting each day as a new day, a new experience; a new adventure of my mind, my body and my spirit.  I will walk in the footsteps of all the millions of Pilgrims who have walked before me and I will be giving thanks for all that I have been blessed with every day of my life.
I wish you peace, love and laughter

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two Nice Surprises

Early this spring, when I started my training for the Camino de Santiago, one of the first climbs was beautiful Mount Major in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Although it is not a big mountain, hikers flock to it for its gorgeous views and it's "big" mountain feel. By that I mean it is a short climb, less than 3 hours roundtrip, but it is steep and somewhat challenging for the moderate hiker, both on the way up and the way down.

Here I am with my daughter Heidi and our friend Ellen at the summit. They have walked and hiked with me from the beginning, when the Camino de Santiago trip was only a dream. Their phone calls at the crack of dawn got me up and out the door for our early morning walks. They have added a playfulness and some humor to our walks and have made them fun and interesting, and both have been an inspiration to me.

During that first spring climb, I huffed and puffed on the way up and had to give up my backpack before reaching the top. And on the way down my knees were red and swollen and screaming with pain. I hobbled most of the way down the mountain. My knees are one thing that has had me worried about my journey along the Camino, as I know there are some really steep descents.

The first surprise is that we just climbed Mount Major again on a gloreous crystal clear morning. And what a difference! I climbed to the summit with full backpack with ease, not even slightly winded and the real miracle was the descent. Not even a whimper from my knees. No swelling or redness and no pain at all!!

I guess all my long hours of hiking and walking with full backpack have paid off. I also now use trekking poles, which at first I found very cumbersome; but on the descents they are a blessing.

The second surprise was that Heidi and Ellen have been saying that they would love to join me on the Camino. They each run their own business and have a house full of kids and men to take care of, so being away for more than a month was impossible. So I resigned myself to thinking that it would never be possible. Well, they did it. They just purchased tickets to Spain. They will meet me to walk the last 5 days with me (114kilometers or 68.5 miles).

Here I am with my husband on our second Mt. Major hike. He will walk with me the first 12 days, but then must return home, and since he cannot be with me till the end, I cannot think of two better people to have with me than my 2 faithful and encouraging walking partners. They have been with me from the beginning and I think it is so appropriate for them to be the ones with me when I finally arrive at the tomb of the Apostle Saint James in Santiago de Compostela.