Tough Day

After a full week on the Camino de Santiago I had my hardest day yet today, both physically and mentally.
We started as usual, up at 6 out by 6:15-30. Three of of us started out strong. The two young women I was walking with today are both very fast (fastest I have met yet) walkers. Heather is a resent grad from law school in Perth, Australia taking time off before her job starts (she also did the Inca trail before coming to Spain – what can I say the kid likes to walk) and the other, Katie, is from East London and is a parametric moving to the US to begin a job on a cruise ship out of California. Before we knew it we had lost the trail. That’s the problem with starting in the dark (although I have most days), first out and knowing it is a long day ahead. After figuring out what we had done and getting back on track we had “only” lost about 30mins. They were a little frustrated, I thought is was a little funny (“So what did you do for your sabbatical?” “Oh, I got lost walking in Spain”).
The day was the first really hot one and a constant up and down. While my legs and rest of my body feel great and are serving me well – my feet have decided to object to the walking with three large blisters. I had to stop a couple of times to deal with my foot issues and as you can imagine, I don’t like to stop other than to take pictures – but, quite frankly they hurt.
This was our second 30+ Km (~20 miles) day in a row, my feet hurt, it was hot……… But we made it into Viana (Spain, we didn’t get that lost) around 2:30. By 4:45 I was not feeling very good and realized I had not eaten all day other than some trail mix, water and some very strong coffee.
I ate and felt better. At the time I thought it might be the best meal I have ever had, but in retrospect and the clarity of being able to think straight again, I can say with out a doubt it is the best meal I have had since I have been in Spain – beautifully executed green beans and local ham and roasted chicken with perfectly fried potatoes and caramelized onions.
A long hard day, spent in good and interesting company and ending with a great meal – I am not complaining. Now just to deal with these damn blisters.












The Cathedral after dark – Pamplona

Three of us had visited The Cathedral of Santa Maria el Real in the center of the old city earlier in the day and had found it closed, disappointed we left.
On our way back after dinner, a few hours later, we thought we might try the Cathedral again, visiting hours were well over but we saw a few people coming out and found that there had been a private service that had just ended. No be deterred by something like a sign we went in. We had a chance to wander around for about 10 minutes before we found ourselves in danger of being locked in. While this might have been interesting we felt the prudent thing to do was to leave. Just before I left I wanted one more picture. As I was about to take the shot the lights went out and this is what I got – my flash was the only visible light in grand the space.


4/28/14 The road to Pamplona

Nice easy day, 13 miles in the sunlight – yes, no rain. This was the first time the trail has us walking through a city (two in fact). Evidently it takes very little time to forget how busy and loud some places can be. No matter, it was a fun, relaxing and interesting walk. While some of it was in an urban setting most of it was in the country side. We did need to deal with some slippery, muddy hillsides, but no problem.
I continue to feel good, but tiered at the end of the day. Life living out of a pack is getting more predictable. I think I know where I like everything and the rhythm of the day has become pretty set. Wake up at 5:45, check the weather, get dressed, repack from the night before and start walking. I tend to eat a snack of nuts or something on the way and walk straight for 4-6. After I arrive at my destination it is best to find a place to stay, I have not had a problem so far as I am usually one of the first into town. Then it is time to shower and wash clothes, get some lunch and then explore. Hang out till dinner, a group have been eating together since night 1, eat around 7 or 8 (early by Spanish standards . The day ends early around 9 or 10. Then repeat.
Pamplona is an interesting city with a very beautiful and historic center (think Hemingway and the running of the bulls). Next to Barcelona, Pamplona is one of the best places in Spain for Tapas.
Here are some pictures from the day.










4/26/14 – Roncesvalles to Zubiri

Today it only drizzled a little which was a nice brake and a real blessing (one among many). It was also the first day of the journey that was in and out of villages and without any really long climbs. There was some steep stuff but nothing to long. We walked 14 miles through villages, forest, farms and even down a highway for a short time, mostly through forests and farms. Although the distance was more than the past days it was easier walking, leaveing time to think, pray and visit with others on “The Way”. Again the countryside was beautiful and a true feast for the eyes. Having this time to be with self and God undistracted by nothing other then the sound of my on breath, a horse/cow bell in the distance or just around the next corner, or a bike passing you by – is a wonderful gift and a real rear pleasure.
I have also come to realize what a civilized country this – they have beer in the vending machines, cold and cheap.
Here are some pictures from the day

















4/25/14 – supplement: the Pilgrims Mass

Tonight I am staying in Roncesvalles, Spain. This is the traditional starting point of the Camino for the Spanish. Roncesvalles has a huge modern albergue (pilgrams hostel) biult on the grounds of the Church Iglesia de Santa Maria and ancient albergue. They offer a PIlgrams Mass nightly. This service is a pared down Eucharist with Pilgrims blessing at the end.
I went to the mass with a few people i have met while walking. It was nice and there was a good crowd. The mass was presided over by 3 very, very old clergy (read white guys) with little apparent joy for what they were doing. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fine service and I am sure they are great and faithful priests, but all I could think about was the lost opportunity.
Here we are in a large church full of many unchurched and non-believing folks (I watched and you can tell and i spoke with a number after) looking for something. Why else do you go on pilgrimage?
What a great chance to tell The Story – to show what the Good News looks like. Like I said I liked it and was very glad I went, but it made me a little sad.








4/25/14 – A Snowy Day

But first a disclaimer: As many of you who are wasting you time waiting for me to say something profound know, I am dyslexic and on top of that writing these posts after a long day of walk – so please excuse spelling, punctuation and grammar errors as well as rambling and not making a clear point. In other words, it will be just like my preaching.
Ok now with that behind us.
Today we finished are walk through the Pyrenees. They say the view in the mountains is fantastic; I would not know. The day and the walk started with beautiful weather. Quickly it became a frozen rain with very high winds in a very unprotected environment. The rain turned to snow and by the time I had reached the top of the mountain 2 inches had fallen. I thought I had brought everything I needed – but glove? who would have thought?
That said I loved ever minute of it. What I did see that beautiful and breathtaking, the challenge was great and I was up for it – I am quite sure that I had a stupid grin on my face the whole time. This has truly been one of the best days I have ever spent doing anything (excluding my wedding day, of course)
At this point in the journey things flatten out and get a little longer. I am looking forward to leaving the forest and the mountains and walking through villages and Hamlets.
Since I have been here I have noticed that no one uses the language of “planning” or “my plans,” the word used is “hope” like I hope to make Santiago by the end of the month” not I “plan to ……” and when people do, the response from other is something like (depending on the one of seven language that are what I am experiencing here) “that nice” or “we’ll see” or the internationally recognized eye roll.
I am having fun, meeting new people from all over, eating good food and being challenged at every turn – it is just about perfect








Day one 4/24/14 – crossing the Pyrenees – twice

Yes- twice. I got a ride from the small hamlet of Valcarlos, outside of Pamplona, Spain (where I stayed last night) over the mountains in a very scary drive, to the village of St-Jean-Pied-De-Port, France (the traditional starting point of the Camino). Then I went to the Pilgrim’s Office to see if the Napoleon Route up and over the Pyrenees the was open, due to the altitude and unpredictable weather, it was closed yesterday. Thankfully it was open and we walked through a good deal of on again – off again fog and only about 1/2 an hr of driving rain (no big deal, kinda nice in-fact). It was a short day, as I promised Priscilla I would take it easy the first day. It is however the steepest walk of the Camino, at times feeling straight up into the clouds, in-fact it felt that way the whole walk – straight up.
That said it was with out a doubt the most beautiful walk I have ever done.
As I walked the sense of awe and gratitude I felt was overwhelming. God has blessed me with an amazing family and parish that have made this possible and a wife that has been a blessing for so many years and continues to amaze me.
We have all been blessed with a creation, that in the places we have not messed up, gives us a glimpse into the “heart and mind” of a Creator that does things beyond our expectations and imaginations daily – and today was one of those days
Here are some photos of the day. By the end of this journey, at the rate I am going, I will have taken hundreds and will be more then glad to share them with whoever would like to see them. I will however for the purposes of this blog restrain myself.









Plains, Trains and Automobiles

After 2 car ride, 4 trains, 1 bus and a plane and and about 35+ hrs and about an hr of sleep I am now in Pamplona Spain. Spent the morning in Madrid and visited the Prado Museum – amazing collection of Spanish art and others. Walked the city waiting for train north – beautiful place Madrid is.


Train Travel in this country is quite civilized.


Just had a very good meal with the couple who own the place i am staying at tonight and a young women from Hungary and older pilgrim women from Australia – nice evening. Here is a picture from my room window.

Start walking tomorrow morning in the rain and very excited.

pray for me and i’ll be praying for you