El Camino: Finisterre, Muxia, and Coast of Death

Zero Day: Travelling to the End of the Earth

We have come to the end of our adventure. Tomorrow we board flights and head home. 

Today was a relaxing, learn about Spain day. We took a tour to Fisterra and the surrounding countryside. 

When we boarded we each took window seats and therefore had strangers sit next to us. 

I sat next to Connie…from Honduras. We chatted rather superficially and be fore we knew it we were both crying. 

Our journeys when shared aloud to each other brought out emotions that perhaps we hadn’t really dealt with. 

The Camino did that to us. It broke us down to raw muscle and aches and blisters so that we would be present every step of the way. 

I heard a young man say the same thing.  “I thought my mind would race but instead I couldn’t hear a thing except my own foot steps.”

Thats what a journey like this does for you…it makes you pay attention. 

I will miss this most of all. But I plan on incorporating what I’ve learned into my daily life as well. 

I could make a list of all the things I want to change or want to continue practicing, but that would be in complete opposition of what I have learned. 

Thank you for reading my posts about our travels. I hope to embark on more adventures soon but for now I need some assimilation and incorporation of the lessons learned and look forward to a quiet holiday season. 

Love to you all and may you find your own path to be as wonderful. 

Buen Camino!!

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: Santiago de Compostela Zero

Zero Day: Santiago de Compostela

Yesterday we arrived at Santiago de Compostela  however we arrived after the pilgrims mass had been conducted. Naturally then we decided to attend today, Sunday. 

We were warned to get there an hour early to be able to get into the church. That was no exaggeration. We arrived before 11 am to a line wrapping around the corner and down the street. 

Luckily we were able to actually get seats just in front of the altar. I can only tell you that there was some kind of divine intervention because I was shooed out of an aisle and Judy as well. However both of us were given seats by generous women who made room for us. 

The mass itself was exactly as masses go. It was multilingual and yet exactly as heard around the world. 

The homily however focused on the pilgrim.

Father reminded us that Saint James is here to receive us. He wants us to unpack our mochilas and leave all our burdens with him. Leaving our burdens behind makes room for Christ and his love for us. 

We cannot live a burdened life and live like Christ. 

The highlight for the pageantry of it, is the swinging of the botafumeiro.  I honored the request that no pictures be taken during mass but I found this recent you tube video. 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6tubocIIycM&autoplay=1

Bottom line: We cannot live a burdened life and live like Christ. 

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: Rua to Santiago de Compostela

Today’s trek: Rua to Santiago de Compostela

We had only to walk about 18km or 11.25 miles. There was nothing to hurry for. Nothing to particularly see. As we walked we seemed to float along a path, not hovering, but somehow lighter on our feet than normal.  

The sky remained dark well into the 800 hour. The clerk at reception said it won’t rain. Maybe tomorrow in Santiago, and she shook her head knowingly. 

We scurried to eat breakfast and with one last adjustment I tossed my rain coat between my pack’s lid and the main compartment. 

People seemed to stream into the path. Laughter, singing and talking sounds filled the woods. 

The marker read: Silence, stillness, present, now.   I absentmindedly repeated it over and over.  I focused on my feet and my chant until everything else fell away. 

I was snapped into reality when I realized that the most we were walking through had finally turned to a true rain complete with wind and big drops falling off trees we pases under.

People peeled off the trail to swap shoes, find their weather gear, and even eat in the relatively dry patios the cafes provided. 

We walked in the rain rarely talking because the hood on our coats prevents you from hearing clearly. It’s just not worth it to say, pardon meover and over. 

We heard an airplane overhead and realized we were near the airport. We grew excited to see a carved Santiago sign. We took turns taking each other’s pictures with a South Korean couple. He was thrilled we agreed to be in one of his pictures. 

The city seemed to rise up round us. The population and city pace always a little getting used to after being in little towns and hiking back roads. 

Our arrival to the back of the cathedral seems a little anticlimactic. We soon realized that the rest of the pilgrim world kept walking to the front so we followed.  The shear number of people in the square was pretty amazing to see. 

We congratulated ourselves and headed off to see about our certificates.   It wasn’t long before we came across many of our Camino friends; some of whom we met on day 1!  

Snacks and beer; sharing stories; making fun of each other; and clapping loudly for anyone walking by carrying a certificate created an afternoon and early evening of great fun. 

Of all the lessons this road has taught me, the value of friendship. 

The people sitting round our table has become our Camino Family. There are very few people that can relate to walking 799 km across someone else’s country. 

This bond will never be broken.

Tomorrow Finsterre. 

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: Arzua to Pedrouzo

Today’s trek: Arzua to Pedrouzo

Today’s walk was not remarkable other than the knowledge that it is the second to last walk of our trip. 

I spent the day with Lisa from Switzerland laughing and encouraging each other to go just a little more. We rested once but spent most of the time in line waiting to use the bathroom. 

The last few days have been much more crowded on the trail than any days prior. There were school groups (30-12 year old boys), groups of women traveling as family, buses of people walking  only portions of the days schedule then being driven to the next convenient crossing of trail and road so they can walk a little further, and people being followed by support vehicles so they can have food and drink at will. 

The silence of the trail is practically gone. 

Each rock represents a sorrow left behind by a pilgrim.

Tomorrow we will walk into Santiago.  I don’t know how to describe my feelings because I don’t know what I’m feeling. 

Curiously, I am (besides incredulous that we are about 18km away from our goal destination) still missing that feeling of transformation. 

I think in part I feel a sense of confirmation about being a person that is goal oriented. I feel mentally healthier than I have in a very long time. I have met and had very, very deep conversations with a few young people (mid twenties) that reaffirm my affinity for working with teens and young adults. I have reconnected with my spiritual (probably religious) side.  Overall, I’m proud of myself and in awe of Judy. 

But it’s not over yet. We have one more day. There’s no celebration yet. But tomorrow..?  

Oh, tomorrow!

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: Palas de Rei to Arzua

Today’s trek: Palas de Rei to Arzua

A few days ago I told a fellow pilgrim who was planning to get up super early to walk (in the dark and fog) that she should be cognizant that it would all be over soon and that in fact we would miss being on our adventure. 

We do hurry a lot don’t we? We hurry our babies to walk and talk. We rush them and ourselves off to schools and work. We rush around hurriedly seemingly all the time. 

And for what? The end of each day bring us a day closer to the end of our lives. Is that what we’re running toward?  

This journey has been a little like that. Each day we rush to make our distance goal knowing that at the end of the day we are one day closer to finishing our trip. 

The melancholy is starting to come up in conversations. Just like our end of life conversations we seek to make ourselves feel better knowing we aren’t alone.  

But we kinda are, aren’t we?

We walk for hours, sometimes chatting with others, mostly walking quietly thinking, we are focused on the present. This luxury is about to end. 

I will not waste a minute of it. I will rely on my prayer life to convey the gratitude I feel for this adventure. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity and the support of my family. 

There is so much more I haven’t thought about.  But worry about the lack of time left will not be my focus. I will enjoy the present and let time wash over me slowly and gently. 

Marker by marker. 

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: Portomarin to Palas de Rei

Today’s trek:  Portomarin to Palas de Rei

Three more walking days. 

As we arrived at Palos Del Rei we stopped to eat and sit for a minute. Judy had picked a restaurant for its view of the Camino so that she could easily spot me as I made my way to the accommodation. 

As we ate a very early dinner, we spotted and talked to a number of peregrinos that we have become friends with throughout our journey.  

It seemed when we last saw them that we would not see them again. We wondered about their feet, knees and if they might have had to leave because of them. 

But here they were! Smiles, jokes, lost toe nails, sunburnt, knee braces, bad hair and all. 

The people that are meant to be in our lives will be.  They will be there during our most vulnerable and equally during our most triumphant times. 

If people are only there during the great times they really don’t know us.

It’s important not to mistake fun times as interchangeable with triumphant times. The former can happen anytime; the latter usually are at the end of some sort of struggle or endeavor. So if those fun friends are never around for the struggle/ endeavor can we really call them friends?  Not likely. At least not great friends. 

I’m counting my friends as true blessings these days. I love them. dearly. 

Three more walking days.  We keep pinching ourselves. 

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: Sarria to Portomarin

Today’s trek:  Sarria to Portomarin

Walking among people from all countries and backgrounds is very interesting. The variety of sounds and languages my attention. 

The one constant throughly out this process has been the sound of my footsteps. There is no music nor are there phone rings beyond the occasional local who responds apologetically and scurries off to speak to their caller. 

Now that we are closer I find I sometimes can’t hear my footsteps over the pounding of boots and the soothing sound of mumbles, punctuated by laughter or a shout. 

That sound is soothing. It’s nice to be alone but after a month, having people around is comforting. 

I wonder if we come out of the wilderness on our own no matter where or what kind of wilderness it is.   If it’s a sign of health the timing of which is determined by the state of our mental health. 

All that to say, we’ll be ready when we’re ready. 

The 100Km marker.

We’ll get there when we get there. 

I had a great walk, although I took much longer than my feet would have liked. Dinner was delicious and with no WiFi, I slept extra long. 

I woke up on my own…the best way to wake up. 

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: Triacastela to Sarria

Today’s trek:  Triacastela to Sarria

Oh what a glorious morning!  We left Triacastela just as the sun started to peek past some rather dark clouds but I held my ground and didn’t toss on a jacket. We started walking ready to face another set of hills and eventually a long slope downward. 

What we were not completely cognizant of (and why would we be?) is that the trail is at the point where many people are just starting their journey.  

You see, the requirement for a certificate, if you are walking, is that you must start at least 100 km from Santiago. Sarria is the starting point for many pilgrims for that reason. 

We were kind of a curious as to why there were so many hikers and more importantly, why do they all smell good? 

So today it seemed as a parade exited little Triacastela. Many if not all of our rest stops were crowded and wait staff rushed around to serve everyone quickly. I guessed they might be used to it, given their location. 

Like me at the beginning of our journey, the new pilgrims took pictures of every building and animal they saw. They had big smiles on their faces and walked without limps. They talked…loudly to each other as they faced their first 12 miles. 

Ok, I still take animal pictures.

Their energy is palpable. And transferable. I walked a long way with a very young lady from Finland. Later crossing paths with old friends and acquaintances; we chatted and talked as we went. 

When we reached Sarria everyone was surprised at how quickly the time passed and how seemingly less difficult the climbs were than anticipated. 

As usual I walked in to find Judy waiting at our accommodation and I felt hungry. 

I felt hungry. 

I haven’t really eaten anything solid for 6 days. I had white rice and a little salmon for dinner the night before.  I asked for a piece of meat and a boiled potato. It was delicious, though I ate only a tiny portion. I am happy beyond belief. 

We have 5 walking days. Imagine what that sounds like to us. Please keep us in prayer. 

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: O Cebriero to Triacastela

Today’s trek:  O Cebriero to Triacastela

Morning came a little too soon for me but I decided I felt well enough to walk. I packed a light day backpack my genius daughter gave me and carried the equivalent of pedialyte (gross doesn’t describe it well enough), my camera and vital papers. Everything else went on to Triascastela. 

The 12.5 miles (or so) took a very long time to traverse but it was well worth it. 

I stopped very frequently to dig pebbles out of my sandals, take pictures and catch my breath. I thought my tired disposition was the result of my illness but come to find out everyone else thought it was a strenuous hike. 

Remember that O Cebriero was such a steep climb that I decided to taxi it after seeing a doctor for my stomach issues.  Well in our crazy heads we thought that today would be the downhill side of that story. 

Nope, we climbed for another four or five miles.  The last of the steepest climbs looked at and winked. I sat down and drank my Pedialyte. 

As I took a few steps I could see umbrellas at the top. A bar and restaurant. The hill laughed and faced its next victim. 

We walked in beautiful, cool air through little villages where cows were being miles or were in small pastures grazing. The rock, moss covered walls kept us on steep down slopes and kept us vigilant for loose gravel. 

After we made it into Triascastela we learned of a woman who fell and cut her head potentially requiring stitches. This is the second person we know of that took a hard fall. The first was early in our trip and it turns out she required 60 stitches. She continued to walk after a rest period. 

I think the highlight of the day for me is being able to witness and 800 year old chestnut tree.  It’s trunk is 8 meters wide. Just amazing. 

I walked with a man named Paul from Plymouth, England.   He is 71. We talked about a number of things and eventually I needed to rest. He said, “Rest.  Never walk faster than your soul’s pace.”

I love that. 

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: Herrerias de Valcarce to O Cebriero

Today’s trek: Herrerias Del Valcarce to O Cebriero

Today was the trek that wasn’t. At least for me. Judy got out there and conquered the five mile climb with no problem. She even took pictures so I could use them in my post!!

Dream Tree

Traditional home

View of rooftop and cross on hill.

I on the other hand stayed in bed as long as I could and called a taxi to take me to a small town that has a medical clinic. The doctor there confirmed I needed some medicines immediately and also prescribed medication for the next two weeks. It’s now a nine hours later and I have eaten a bowl of soup.

I keep reminding myself that our bodies tell us when enough is enough. I’m feeling though that this is a lesson in competition or ego.

There really isn’t a reason to feel bad about being sick is there? Yet I do. I missed out on walking 5 miles today. I missed out on the hot sweaty exertion that is signature of pilgrims making their way to Santiago. I missed out on making more memories with Judy.

I guess though, this memory will serve me just as well won’t it. That time in Spain when I got so sick I could eat or drink water for 4 days?!

Yup. Everyday has a blessing and a lesson. You just have to look for it.

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: Villafranca del Bierzo to Herrerias de Valcarce

Todays Trek: Villafranco del Bierzo to Herrerias de Valcarce.

Yesterday was not a good day. I’ve been fighting something. It’s either food poisoning or a virus which has affected my gut.

I haven’t eaten, can’t sleep through more than an hour at a time, and I’m tired. We walked 13 miles to Herrerías del Valcárce. The longest and slowest 13 miles ever.

You can’t imagine how much bread we have consumed.

Judy has been a blessing and has hung back to walk with me. But she put her foot down and let me know I would be taking a taxi for the next section which while only 5 miles is straight up a mountain.

The struggle to complete this pilgrimage has intensified and I’m beating myself up over this. While I’m not looking for sympathy I am wondering again why I have to be so competitive.

It’s not done unless it’s done all the way. It’s not ok if it’s not perfect. Everything has to be just right.

Pilar, the lady proprietor at our last hostal scolded me. She said, “when you get to Santiago that priest is t going to ask if you walked every inch of the way. He doesn’t care. Only God knows what’s in your heart.”

I will be seeing a doctor in the morning. Yikes.

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: Molinaseca to Villafranca del Bierzo

Today’s Trek: Molinaseca to Villafranco del Bierzo

Knowing you have to walk 19 miles can be a little daunting. As we walked I seemed to be stuck on a repetitive chant: Just focus on getting through today.

A castle!!

Yesterday I ate a big bowl of pasta carbonara. You guess it. I’m the mascot for a very unsettled stomach.

The whole day I begged that i just make it to the hotel. My focus narrowed and I simply forgot any other thoughts.

Until we made ten miles and stopped for a beer for Judy and some rest for me. The rain had finally caught us and we sat outside enjoying a short respite.

Earlier I stopped to ask a couple of women we had been leap frogging how they were doing. This was probably at mile 8. They asked if we were taking a taxi to Villafranco. I pulled my map and we talked about how it wasn’t that much further. Then we said buen camino and I went on to try and catch up to Judy.

When I found her she asked, can your stomach handle a beer? I passed but we talked. Then she said it.

Should we take a taxi? I said, well we could but we’d have to return in the morning to finish our walk. She looked at me like I was crazy. We talked some more and agreed that to be bad asses we needed to continue walking.

Eventually we made it to our accommodations and we sat in silence.

I was given everything I asked for.

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca

Today’s Trek: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca

Today started well with a great breakfast and an early start in the trail. I think everyone walking on our schedule might have been. Little more excited today than other days because we would be walking past the Cruz de Ferro.

Most of have been carrying a rock or pebble from our homes to drop off at the foot of this cross, symbolic of releasing ourselves from the sins we have committed.

As we approached people took turns going up to deliver their stones and take pictures. Many became quite emotional. Others were there simply because it is the highest point on the trail; yes, higher than Orisson in the Pyrenees.

After a bit we began walking in earnest knowing our day would be long. We climbed down rocky, uneven trails that slowed me to a crawl.

I caught up with Judy at the ten mile mark in El Acebo. After a feeding frenzy we forced ourselves up to conquer 6 more miles. Almost everyone else were finished for the day.

We walked at a better pace and found more ups and steep rocky downs. There might have been some complaining but we managed.

As we left the mountain path and found ourselves on city streets. As we approached pilgrims sat enjoying meals and beverages along the river banks. We alas, knew we had to go to the end of town to find our accommodations!

But we made it. It was a tough day emotionally and physically. But we made it.

It’s simply amazing.

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

Todays Trek: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

We are all children of God.

I went to evening vespers at a little church in Rabanal del Camino. I met the priest in the tiny gift shop and asked when the doors would open.

He said, “Si ya esta abierta.”

“Oh?” I answered, “I couldn’t open the door.”

I thought about that this morning as we walked. Sometimes you have to walk in the loose rock (which hurts my blisters) rather than hop around and take a chance falling or twisting an ankle. As we got closer to our days destination the path became a sloppy, stone laden dry creek bed under the shimmering shadows of trees swaying in the breeze.

I pushed through and talked myself up to the hostal where Ms. Judy waited at the bar.

During vespers sung in Latin, the priest talked to us as pilgrims. He reminded us that we are all children of God. He described that perhaps we were walking with others from other countries or of other traditions and that at times we might find that our grace isn’t long enough.

Perhaps we find ourselves seeking quiet, and the other wants to talk. Perhaps we don’t like how they see things. Perhaps they like to argue.

He reminded us to be strong and push through. He reminded us to use our Christian strength to spread our grace beyond what we thought it could be stretched.

It might not be comfortable or pleasant. It might hurt our sore spots. But it’s what we are called to do.

Our personal grace is meant to be pushed, challenged, and stretched until we think we can give no more, then stretched a little further.

Sometimes the length of our grace isn’t long enough.

So God gave us a human to helps us understand how to stretch it to cover others. We were given a model of grace so that when we forget we are all children of God, His way can become our way.

It won’t always be easy or painless but it will help us push through. We are all children of God, and sometimes our grace doesn’t seem long enough. But it is.

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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El Camino: Villadangos del Paramo to Astorga

Todays Trek: Villadangos del Paramo to Astorga

The walk from Villadangos to Astorga was predictably long and hot but surprisingly fun.

As we walked out of Villadangos we came across a man and I began to speak to him. Immediately I concluded he was from Mexico. We talked quite a bit and I learned a lot about him including that he has run two 3 hour full marathons. He and three friends are walking the camino while a fourth (5 total) drives a rental car in support of them. They sometimes separate and walk alternate paths but the eat and sleep together.

We separated when he joined his pals for a late breakfast. We saw them later when they caught up to us at the Rio Orbigo.

We continued on and eventually we caught up to one of the men who chose not to walk the alternate route with his pals. We talked and laughed and I learned a great deal bout his family business. he is a chemical engineer.

My new friend took this picture for me.

We parted after catching up to Judy at the statue of a pilgrim whose gourd pours water into his mouth if you close off the faucet on the potable fountain. He was happy taking pictures and waiting for his friends as I walked on thinking I was closer to Astorga than I actually was.

I thought a lot about these gents whose wives will join them in Santiago on October 6. I thought about how easily they laughed and how their camaraderie made them so happy. They are having a blast.

I also thought how they travelled to France to start their trek and crossed into Spain without a border check and into the open arms of a country that only wants you to enjoy your adventure whether it spiritual or athletic.

St James

The world should not have borders. God made it for all of us.

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Siempre pa’ adelante!

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