Snow – yes snow!!

The thing about hyperthermia is that it takes your mind off your pneumonia and your feet. But wait, so that you can better understand the last three days I need to take you back. Back to a time long forgotten in a place far far away – or about 6 days.
I was sharing a bunk room with the three Aussies, Stacy a nurse from Big Sir, Ca and Walter. Walter is the largest person from Holland I have ever met (not big as in fat), very tall, big hands, big feet and big heart. As we were waking up at our typical time of 5:30-6, Walter sat up and announced that he was having “angina.” At the word “angina” we all quickly woke up and Stacy was ready to jump into action. As it turns out “angina” sounds just like the Dutch word for sore throat. So Walter was not having a heart attack – he was getting a cold.
Two days later, Stacy was sick and the next day David and I were sick. Lots of congestion and as is usually the case when I get sick, is quickly moved to my lungs and I was running a fever and coughing constantly. So that is the background of the last three days. Sick, Sick, Sick.
Before you start worrying, I have gotten my hands on some amoxicillin (don’t ask) and I am starting to feel better – I plan to be back to my splendid self tomorrow.
The last few days have been interesting. We have climbed quite a bit and done a lot of miles, which is not easy when you can’t breath. That has not been the interesting part. Two days ago we walked through pouring rain, some snow (yes snow), and gale force winds. We walked along an unprotected ridge-line for nearly four hours in some of the heaviest (and coldest) winds I have ever experience.
Lots of fun and amazing things happened as well. At one point it had stopped raining and Stacy and I were enjoying a cup of coffee at a cafe in a tiny little town (I never remember the names of where I am or where I have been) we looked up and there were two huge pigs standing in front of us. One would think this was a strange but at the time it seemed so normal.

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A little while later I was walking up a steep, rocky and very narrow incline to be met as they were coming down by a group of 7ish very large cows being herded by a dog and followed by the cowherd. Again you might think it a little strange but at the time it seemed so normal. I have some great video of this but all the rain seems to have played havoc with my camera – hopefully I can share them later.
So you get the point, lousy weather interrupted from time to time by great views, funny happenings and good friends.
I have lots of photos to share of the last three days – hopefully later, maybe I should not be using my camera in so much rain.
The weather seems to be clearing as is my chest and we are only 100km from Santiago.
All is good and I am looking forward to seeing many of you soon, although I will miss this place, the walking (not the blisters) and my new friends.

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600 down and 200 to go

Somewhere between yesterday and today we pasted the 600km mark. That leaves us with 200~km to go. Today’s walk was really nice and easy. 24km (15miles) of rolling hills through small villages, family farm plots and vineyards. It was a nice break for my feet and a chance for some good conversation along the way. The weather was forecasted to be rainy, but it turned out to be a nice cool day. For those of you who have been wondering the weather since those first couple of days of rain, sleet and snow has been beautiful – far beyond anything that I expected or could have hoped for. The mornings and nights have been cool and the days warm and sunny. All that is about to change.
Tomorrow we begin 2 of the most physically demanding days of the camino, there are three mountain ranges on the Camino and the third starts tomorrow, and it looks like a big storm is on its way – in fact it looks like the sky is about to open up any minute now.
Tonight is the first chance I have had to cook since I have been here. I am making a basic pasta with meat sauce and salad with some good local bread and red wine for the folks I have been walking with. The kitchen is small and poorly equipped in the hostel we are staying in and is presenting a bit of a problem, but no worries – all is well. While it will not be the best meal I have ever made it will be nice to share it with new friends. We eat together nearly 3 times a day but it is always different when you can offer the fruits of ones labors to others and the kitchen table is where I am the most comfortable doing that. It is also always interested to cook for a group of people from a mix of cultures and with a mix of likes and dislikes. If it is not a disaster of a meal I might share some pic tomorrow or the next day.

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What goes up must come down

The last 2 days have been very interesting (i.e.: hard as hell). We have walked nearly 60k and climbed 1505m, meaning we have also come down. I don’t mind climbing,I kind of like it, but I hate descending, it hurts my feet. Over the last two days the weather has been perfect, sunrises beautiful, mornings cool and afternoons hot, food really good (stewed pigs ears), the path has been narrow, rocky and steep and the company wonderful.
We spent last night and part of today’s walk with 3 retired British military officers (all dentist), 2 of which are treating the Camino like a military campaign and one wonderful guy who turned 70 on the Camino. Yes, 70.
My foot still hurts, but I have come to the place where I know it will for the rest of the walk – so be it. My biggest obstacle is that I miss my family terribly but that is also a blessing.
Tonight I will sleep in a room across the street form a Knight’s Templar Castle – How cool is that?
Pray for me and know that you are in my prayers.

Here is a bunch of pictures – enjoy, and yes that is my right foot.

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Quick and Easy – easing back into it

Today we were back on the road after a much appreciated and enjoyed rest day in Leon. Leon is a lovely city with a number of quite good museums, a beautiful cathedral, a bunch of churches (shocking!) and lots of good food.
It was a great day to walk. The weather was perfect, with the sun out and a slight breeze. The path rolled and was not to rocky nor did it spend to much time parallel with any significant roadways. As we began to walk the comment was made that it was nice to be easing back into being on the road. The response was something about how things/we have changed from the first days – when did 23 km become easing back in?
Not a lot to say about my time in Leon other than the day and a half off was a good idea and I saw many beautiful and ancient things while there. We even saw what is said to be (possibly) the Holy Grail.
Here are some pics:

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You Never Walk Alone – unless you want to

The last few days have been some of my best on the Camino so far. Yes, the weather was beautiful and the scenery interesting, but that has little to do with my enjoyment of the past few days. It is the people whom I have spent it with that have made is what it has been. For the past few days I have been walking with 3 Australian men, 2 my age and one, a catholic brother who is a little older , a young women from Dusseldorf who is a recent college grad (thankfully fluent in Spanish and English – our little roving bands translator) , another German – this one a man in his early forties who has the energy (and personality) of a 12 year old from Berlin, he is great fun and a young Japanese women.
While we walk in and out of the lives of the same 50ish people (our own little UN)- we have chosen to travel together. This happened without conversation or agreement – it just happened.

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Sometimes there are conversations, at other times we walk spread out lost in our on thoughts. We eat together and we relax together – but most importantly we journey together. Life stories have been told, jokes laughed at and sadnesses and joys shared. We are all walking our own Camino, but for now we walk it together.
Today was a rare day for me – my head and heart and feet were just not into the walking. Most days I love to walk, even with a few pains, but not today. I don’t know why – I just wasn’t. David one of the Aussies must have sensed this and made a point of walking and talking with me for hours, making the time pass much faster. A kindness that I had done for him a couple of days ago when his feet were not doing very well. Nobody says anything about it, it just happens. David is a great guy, funny, crass at times and very caring. After 25+ years of working for a telecommunications company in Queensland he has quit his job and is going back to school to become an elementary school teach (a life long dream). He is a big hairy man with a strong accent, loud laugh and will make a wonderful teacher of small children. This is just one example of the people I am meeting on The Way.

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Here it comes and you knew it was – This has, once again, all reinforced my faith and belief in the power of community. Life is full of these little moments – lives weave in and out of each other, effecting a moment, a day and sometimes a lifetime. God is alive and well on the Camino. In the simple hola, help with a blister, quick joke, coffee paid for or in a long silent walk.
God is good – Always

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Happy Mother’s Day

As this is my first Mother’s Day without my mother I have been thinking a lot about Mom today, as I have been for the last 3 weeks. Throughout this walk I have many times thought how much she would have loved to hear about every moment of every day and to see all of my pictures (so I have inflicted them on you) . I frequently will see something and think to myself- “I should take a picture of that and show Mom.” While I can not call her or text her I know that she is very much a part of this journey as she is very much a part of who I am.
So to all of you who who are mothers or play that role in the lives of others – Thank you and Happy Mother’s Day.
Two of the greatest blessings of my life have been the blessing of having Jan Hooper as my mother and Priscilla Hooper as the mother of my children – it does not get any better than that.

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Hump Day

Today I passed the half way point on my journey to Santiago. I have now walked over 400km (240 miles) since leaving St. Jean in France on the 24 of April. I have a lot of thought and reflections at this point – many still forming, but at this time all I can say is the I feel good and am glad to be here – although I miss my family greatly.
Please pray for me and know that you are in my prayers.

The Church Alive and Well in Spain – in some places

The last few days have been a long walk through wheat fields in the hot sun interrupted every now and than by a small village and the rare town of some size (think 5000 people – so not so big). The one thing they all have in common is the presence of a church. In fact most have a couple and I have even walked through a town of very few residence but with 7 – YES 7, large and beautiful churches. The other day over dinner a Canada whom I have spent some time with said, “Did you ever think you would find yourself saying?” – “oh look another medieval church – yawn?”
When I first got to Spain I was not sure I would have enough time to walk to Santiago seeing as I was taking out my camera every 5 minutes to take a picture of one more church or religious relic or statue, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Spain is a beautiful country full of amazing history, scenery, good food, better wine and loud fast talking people, but most of all it is a country deeply steeped in its Christian history. Some of this history is good and some not so. This is the country that birthed the Jesuits but also the inquisition.
Spain is a country of faith, at least historic if not front and center in it present.
The reality is, that most of these amazing churches and cathedrals that I have past are somewhere between historic ruins and museums full of priceless art, religious artifacts and spectacular, if not a little dark for my theological taste, architecture/statuary.
This day was different. As I write this, I am sitting outfront of a cafe/bar enjoying a beer and some olives in the town square of Carrion De Los Condes, a town with 3 active convents/monasteries, a couple of churches (one of which, Iglesia de Sta. Maria del Camino is a thriving parish), and a new and very large parochial school with teenaged boys playing football/soccer on a very well equipped field. I fact Carrion De Los Condes has five good sized pilgram’s hostels all either run by a convent or the local Church.
At home and in Spain at times it may feel as if religion and faith might be a relic of the past but when we allow God to be fully manifested in our lives in the here and now, it can still lift the hearts of the weak, give rest to to the weary, hope to the hopeless and joy to us all.

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The Best Thing EVER!

Today, I have discovered The Best Thing EVER, but more about that later. Today was a very different day then the ones before. After a rest day in Burgos I was very ready to get back an the road. My body and mind like the city, but my spirit is best in the solitude of the “Way.” And solitude is what I got. I walked all 20 miles by myself in silence (well there was quite a conversation going on in my head and I only a few times spoke to myself out loud – but you know what I mean), I did not run into a many people and no English speakers. The only sounds I heard for the better part of the day were my feet on the path, the wind and the birds – lots of birds. This solitude was interrupted a few time by a simple hola, buenos dias or the ever present buen camino as I passed a fellow pilgrim, was passed or walked though the few villages I went trough.
As I wrote yesterday the area I am now walking in is the Meseta (misspelled it in last post), think highland dessert (mesa) and turn it green and you will get the idea. Hot, featureless and boring.

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20 miles of that and 6 more days to go – welcome to my world for now.
This is not a bad thing, lots of time to think and meditate or just see things. It helps you to understand Don Quixote that much better. He wasn’t crazy he had just spent to much time on the Meseta.
That brings me to The Best Thing EVER . I arrived in Hontanas after walking for 7 hrs, 5 in the heat of the day (I started at 6) and checked into a lovely albergue run by a Cuban couple that have restored an old barn and church into a great place to stay (7 euros or $10). After getting settled, laundry and shower, I discovered The Best Thing EVER , a foot bath fed by a ice cold spring.

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