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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
I have not posted in a couple of days and that is due to a number of facts: A. wifi connections have been iffy. B. Tired at end of day. C. Not much to say – just walking and meeting many nice new folks. I have met some really interesting people in the last few days, young and old, from all over the world. Shared a meal and bottle of local wine with a 60ish year old man from Slovenia a couple nights ago and learned all about there resent history. It is amazing hoe faith, family and a strong community can get you through most anything – with a joy-filled spirit intact. After I heard about the trouble of the past all he talked about was the blessing of the present and future.
The Camino is traditionaly divided into three segment. As of yestarday I have completed the 1st and before I begin the 2nd or the Masada, I am taking a day off from walking and staying an extra night in the very busy and interesting city of Burgos. Burgos is full of pilgrims doing the same, all limping around enjoying not having a heavy pack on and the sites of this city that combines the modern, the old and the ancient together in that very typically Spanish way.
The two most notable things to see in Burgos is The Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the Museum of Human Evaluation. Both fascination and worthy of my staying in town to visit.
My blisters are well under control but I have been having some significant pain in my right foot and it has been making going down hill very painful for the last few days. I thought I knew what was going on but had it looked at to confirm – I was right, I had broken the small toe on my right foot. Painful but not exactly life threatening. Ice and tape and tomorrow I will be good to go.
The Masada is a huge highland plateau representing some 40% of Spains land mass and known/feared/loved by centuries of pilgrims for its featureless landscape, hot sun, many colors and beautiful skis. This is the land that inspired “Don Quixote – The Man of La Mancha.” It is said to be a land that can both bore and inspire – I’ll let you know in a few day. Nice thing is the it is relatively flat which will help with the healing of my foot.
Here are some pics from the last few days:
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.
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.
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
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.
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