Sunday, June 15, 2014

Some final thoughts on our Camino experience.........

Some people will ask us how the pilgrimage has changed us or if we felt anything spiritual. I think I will get answers to that only after some time of reflecting has passed. So, for, now I am going to list just a few of the things I am thankful for.

-no injuries or illnesses in 6 weeks
-stamina to walk 20 to 30 K everyday
-wonderful company of Bert and Diane and, often, Arlene and Joyce
-great people we met
-a new appreciation for bread, a staple at every meal
-a roof and bed and meal waiting at the end of each day
-the joy of picnic lunches
-incredible beauty of fields, mountains, woods, flowers
-the old, old churches and crosses representing the centuries old faith of Christians
-the yellow arrows guiding us on our journey
-Ken, the Franciscan priest, who demonstrated by words and actions the love of Jesus
-Compeed, a great product for blisters
-Spanish oranges and the juicers found in the humblest of bars
-the great weather we had for all but a few days
-the encouragement of friends and family back home
Prayer found on the wall of an eighth century church in O'Cebreiro.
Jeff, window shopping.
Arlene and I shopping for earings with Camino shells.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Santiago, at last!!!

Wow, what a day. So exciting to reach the end of the Camino. So many people from around the world walking into the city today. It was very warm and both my feet were hurting and very hot. I asked Jeff to touch the road to see how warm it actually was. Very!! First, we walked through lovely forests again and up and down a steep hill before we finally entered Santiago. My expectations were low because I just wanted to get it over with. But we felt lots of emotion when we finally entered the cathedral square. Six weeks is a long time to be walking in one direction. And for 800 K. 
We treated ourselves to a room at the Parador, which felt almost like heaven. After a shower and lunch (by this time almost 3 PM) we headed off to the pilgrim's office and stood in line for over an hour in the heat to get our compostela or certificate of completion. Then a glass of white wine before going to the cathedral at 6 PM to secure good seats for the 7:30 PM pilgrim's mass. And what an experience that was. It was mostly in Spanish but here and there there was some English. We heard "perigrino"a lot. The culmination of the service was the swinging of the botafumeiro, a massive incense holder that is swung by pulleys through the huge cathedral. What a thrill! Everyone spontaneously clapped when it was over.
We were joined by Joyce and Arlene for a fashionably late dinner. Hard to believe that we are not walking some more tomorrow and that our adventure is almost over. I will have to digest the experience a bit before I can decide what I learned or how the pilgimage has affected me!
Our shadows this morning as we set off on our final day of walking!
Just arrived in Santiago.
Unfortunately, lots of scaffolding around the cathedral.
Jeff's gear.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


We are getting pretty excited as this was our second last day of walking. Only 20 K to go. We had thought of getting an early start tomorrow to attend the pilgrim's mass in Santiago at noon. However, we just learned that the botafumeiro will swing at the 7:30 PM mass. So we will just take our time. It was very warm walking today. Tomorrow it is expected to be 36 degrees in Santiago. A good thing we will be done. We walked through many cool forests today, which helped a lot.
Something wonderful happened at our lunch spot today. While we were munching on our cheese buns and sipping freshly squeezed orange juice, a group of male hikers sitting nearby broke into song. We all clapped and enjoyed that special moment. The Camino is taking on the look and feel of a walk-a-thon. But we are embracing it now. Really a neat experience to be part of this.
How did we ever dare to walk 800 K across a country, over mountains, across plains, through woods and cities and villages. Always there was such good signage, usually the familiar yellow arrow, whenever other options appeared. And if you showed any hesitation about where to go, a local would eagerly direct you. 
We are glad we are coming to the end, dealing with blisters, unpacking and packing again, walking and walking and feeling tired. But we will miss the routine of walking for 6 weeks and being outside so much and experiencing the beauty, culture and people along the Camino.
Yesterday's pilgrim's meal.
We had to cross a busy highway three times today. Cars and trucks fly! And look at all the pilgrims.
Lovely cool walk through the forest.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


"Now, when it is almost on the horizon, I realized that, while I rejoiced in the achievement, I rejoiced even more in the achieving", Laurie Dennett in Ultreia! Forward!

Today was only a 14.3 K walk, to Arzua. It is finally full on summer, really glorious weather but not too hot yet. We sauntered more than walked and really took our time at our mid morning coffee break as well as lunch. There were lots of other perigrinos on the trail but we are getting used to this. We strike up a conversation with some of them.
When we enter a fragrant eucalyptus stand it feels like one is walking into a high end spa. Now there's an idea! First, a long thermal soak and then an hour long foot massage. This to be followed by lying on a bed for a few hours in a dark room listening to softly played New Age music. Dream on! We have about 40 more K to go, divided into two days. We are all really doing well now. Blisters have healed and are nicely callused and our bodies seem well adjusted now to walking 6 to 8 hours a day and tackling the constant hills. 
About 8:30 this morning we reached the 50 K mark. We are getting very close!!
I am learning how to ford streams but am hesitating because the next rock is much narrower!
The eucalyptus showing up everywhere now.
Jeff's shoes are almost done! The sole is coming off!
Having our drinks in a square in Arzua after the day's walking is over. We plan to have dinner there because the weather is beautiful tonight. And we can eat here at 6 PM.
These trees are everywhere in towns. I think they are plane trees but could be wrong. They serve as a canopy for shade.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


.Today was a great walking day with sunshine and lots of wooded trails. It was a much better day for me. I had lots of energy and nothing was hurting. In addition, we avoided all those other pilgrims because we stopped ysterday for the night at a very small place whereas the majority of walkers went on to the next place. So they got a head start on us this morning while we enjoyed peace and quiet. 
I have described lots of what we see along the way. What also needs to be told is some of the sounds and smells we experience. We have been serenaded by lots of different birds, including cuckoos, as well as frogs and crickets. Also, lots of wind swooshing in the trees. Not such pleasant sounds have been traffic rushing by as well as a few pilgrims loudly yakking or even playing music. As far as smells go, the good stuff has been fresh air, wild roses, pine forests and today the pungent and aromatic eucalyptus that has begun appearing. Not as attractive are the barn yard smells, an acrid fertilizer factory we passed and perhaps ourselves after a warm day on the camino.
We do sometimes step briefly into old churches we pass. Diane had read about a crucifix where Christ had one hand crucified and the other was held down in a beckoning manner. We actually found it today in Furelos just before Melide. It is a striking crucifix and we tried to determine what it could mean.
We are in a bit of a dive again and did not need to walk fast to get here. They serve dinner at 8:30, which is too late. There are several pulperias near by where they serve octopus whenever you want. Not sure we will do that!
Jeff, enjoying the camino!
The beginning of the eucalyptus forests.
The crucifix in the church in Furelos.


Today was a lot like yesterday with the camino taking us through fields, forests and villages as well as over hills. There are lots of other pilgrims now. We met one couple who have travelled all the way from LePuy, France as well as a young guy who started in Lourdes. So it is not just those who joined us for the last 100 K. 
This morning we got dropped off from our accommodation at the Camino by a dune buggy. Unfortunately, there were at least 30 to 40 other pilgrims just at that spot. The trail entered a woods and began a steep ascent. The four of us hoofed it up the hill just to get past the crowds. We are missing the solitude but are meeting a whole new set of interesting people.
I have read somewhere that everyone cries at least once on the camino. For me it has been twice, so far. The first time was in Leon when I gave myself two extra rest days after I hit a wall. I was in a wonderful hotel (impeccable timing) and sitting on a chair in my room, alone, feeling sorry for myself. The second time was today when I overheard Diane, walking behind me, telling an Irish lady about the English mass we attended in Hontanas in an ancient church and how inclusive and welcoming the Franciscan priest had been. My eyes welled up with that memory. 
My attitude was not good today. I am tired of walking and I want to get off the camino. My toes are hurting and I am feeling tired. All those people around me bug me, too. Then, just as I felt like stopping and leaning on my poles, we arrived at our destination for the day. It is a lovely old rectory turned into a small hotel. We have a small balcony overlooking gardens and distant hills. Really peaceful and lovely. And, soon, someone will provide us with a wonderful meal.  I have been looked after once again!
Four more days and 75 K left. 
Actually, we had a wonderful meal. We started with mushrooms baked in tomato sauce and cheese. This was followed by the best chicken so far. Then, for dessert, Santiago cake with icecream. 
Our accommodation  yesterday. Really quaint.
Our ride back to the Camino in the morning!
Lots of familiar ferns.
One of the trails today.
The crowds of pilgrims joining us on the trails now.
Diane and I digging into the slog at the end of the walking day.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


We were glad to leave Sarria because of the cramped room we were in. The day was cool and sunny and we meandered through meadows, dark forests filled with ancient oak trees, quaint stone villages and up and down many steep hills. We also crossed a very long bridge over a dammed river and had to walk an extra kilometer up another hill away from the camino to get to our accommodation. But it was worth it! We are in charming cabins and the dining room overlooks the water. 
One of the highlights today was watching a dog herd a bunch of cattle to a barn. It seemed like they were coming right at us and they sported impressive horns. 
Because we are now within 100 K of Santiago many more pilgrims are joining us on The Way. This is a bit of an irritant because they tend to talk loudly or take up the whole path. They also look clean and well groomed, unlike us. No tanned legs, either! Also bugging us today are the number of cyclists scooting by at great speed seemingly from nowhere. We have to practice patience and grace.
It was a long, hard slog today even though it was only about 24 K and our feet hurt. 
We celebrated the 100 K concrete marker by enjoying some sangria. Our first on this trip. We are now about 90 K away from Santiago. Five more days of walking. 
We have reached the 100 K marker, a significant milestone.
Circumventing a creek.
Cala lilies at our lunch spot.
Looking an aweful lot like England, with the stone fences.
Impressive horns, as I said!
Entering a very quaint stone village today.
Crossing the river in Portomarin at the end of our walking day.
Our delightful lunch of lentil soup and bread today. It was a lovely spot!

Saturday, June 7, 2014


"How good it was to be alive. The pain in my feet had eased considerably, and this allowed me to concentrate on the beauty of the surrounding countryside", David Gibson from Ultreia! Forward!

Today was a lovely day walking through woods and farmland. It is very lush and green now, reminding us of BC. There are ferns, mosses, foxglove everywhere. We even got rained on a bit. There was more climbing and descending today than we expected but the trails are improving. Less rocks!  Sometimes we walked through tunnels of green and felt like Hobbits. Other times we were led through barnyards where we dodged cow pies. Always, the yellow arrows lead us along. Sometimes you wonder if you are on the right road and just at that moment a yellow arrow is painted on a rock, tree, fence post or road. Now that we are in Galicia we are treated to kilometer markers every half kilometer. These seem to fly by. We are now something like 112 K from Santiago.
Sarria is the starting point for many pilgrims because you can earn a Compostela by walking just the last 100 K. to Santiago. So we expect to be joined in the coming days by many such short term pilgrims, even bus loads. Not everyone has six weeks to walk a pilgrimage.
On a more practical level, this has got to be the smallest room we have been in yet. On the positive side, there are two big windows that can be opened! And it is quiet!
There is an albergue somewhere near by.
The camino is now going through a barnyard where we are trying to keep our shoes somewhat clean.
The markers we see everyhalf kilometer now. It tells the distance to Santiago. Notice the shell and the yellow arrow.
We were walking through a lot of these tunnel like trails.
Diane and I hamming it up on a small bridge.
Lovely old Hobbit woods.
Lupines, my favourite wild flowers.

Friday, June 6, 2014


We woke up to wind a dark clouds but we were blessed today with no rain while we walked. The Camino followed the tops of mountains for most of the day. And we were buffeted by strong gusts. But, of course, eventually we had to come down. However, the descent was much easier than several days ago. Down below we could already see Triacastela, nestled in the hills. There once were three castles here but no trace of them is left! 
As soon as we had checked into our rooms there was a heavy downpour. We can't believe how lucky we are to have missed that. The rain was coming down sideways. Soon we will have a cosy peragrino dinner with Arlene and Joyce who are in town, as well. Hoping for some of that Galician soup!
The white broom/ gorse we see above the tree line.
Coming upon a small village with a typical bell tower.
The camino nearing a paved road where cows have just crossed!
Starting our descent at last.
Negotiating a very rocky trail today. Getting better at it!
Scenery we were looking at most of the day.
Diane and I are thinking this might be an orchid.