Day 16/ Sept 27 El Camino/Melide to O Pedrouzo

We enjoyed our morning Zumo fresh, croissant/Santiago cake(almond cake) bananas and cafe Conleche/te verde. We had exceptional hosts last evening at Hotel Restarante Xaneiro and on we drove with taxi, sweet and sassy. A lively fun young woman who has visited New York and Washington DC and about 10 other countries. “Travel is important!”

We have been naming our taxi drivers (quite the way to do a Camino) we have:

Joyful/Exuberant

Taxi Ana with attitude

Speedy

Speedy no hands

Gracious gentleman

Sweet and sassy.

Each unique and interesting and we are grateful for their assistance on the Way.

Diane is in a good amount of pain and we will be happy when she can deal better with this but she is not a complainer. She is so happy to be here and experiencing the Camino. She got roundly scolded by an Irish woman peregrino after dinner tonight (about Di’s age) for not finding an osteopath as she did and has her knees all taped up. “Jesus does not want you to suffer like this!!” She made her point but kept going on in a louder voice and repeating herself. It was humorous at first but then began to feel abusive and judgemental. A confusing moment that we then walked away from

Di found a book at the give away section at the last hotel and is delighted. She read The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coehlo. Now Chris and I are reading it as well, an excellent companion to our journey.

We are now in Pension A Solaina in O Pedrouzo. We have been very fortunate with very good, very affordable accommodations. You can feel the excitement of many as we near Santiago. I was able to walk out on the trail when Chris arrived to meet her, then this evening I walked toward Santiago and back. The path to Santiago starts out beautifully in a path of trees. I know the miles are not important for what we have been living through on this Camino journey, but both Di and I want to reach 100K and we have made it.

We found Taste the Way a very fresh, homemade restaurant with reasonable proportions with real vegetarian options. Very very good! While we were eating dinner a peregrino group of spirited young people came by, saw someone they knew and burst into song, Feliz Navidad with great humor, and to rounds of applause. It lifted us and all.

Photos: we saw cows being herded outside our Pension, an art installation at Taste the Way, I saw a man pulling his pack with a cart, and I got some country air on the Way.

Day 15/ Sept 26 el Camino/Palas de Rei to Melide

We arrived in Melide an hour earlier than expected with a gentleman taxi driver. Very kind and courteous. We picked up WiFi in the hotel cafe and ate too much toast and sweet rolls then the owner graciously got us checked into our rooms two hours early with free beverage and more bread.

Chris arrived about 11:30 with a short Camino walk today. The three of us then went out for a walk on the Camino that runs through the city then found paella, toured a couple of churches and walked a bit. It is disorienting being in a city with traffic, trucks and many peregrino walking through the city as three camino paths converge here before going on to Santiago. Again we have simple and lovely accommodations with husband and wife owners who are very attentive. Our room is a lovely respite from the outside busy activity.

We are all exhausted from being on wifi trying to book accommodations ahead. This is still high season here if just a bit lighter. It is hard to think. Chris and Di are resting in bed at 6:50. The good news is we are booked ahead through October 4th when we move to Madrid. Our only booking now is taxi and we were also able to book a tour to Finesterre.

Chris did meet up with Martha and Pedro from Merrit Island, Florida and enjoyed walking with them this morning. Pedro is origionally from Peru.

Besides eating too much bread, we enjoyed paella, vino blanco, hot chocolate that is like pudding, maybe all of that is having some effect on our brain as well.

The photos are from San Pedro church. You can see how the statues are dressed in real fabric clothing. The Sorrowful mother was the most heart touching as her expression captured the sorrow, loss, and mourning of a mother and all who loose a loved one. I lit a votive candle for all who mourn. Di shared with me that after our mothers death, she found in a box of sympathy cards and notes to our grandmother Regina, our dad’s mother, who received them at the time of our grandfather Adolph’s sudden death by heart attack, a note from dad’s Uncle Osias in Canada. The note told our dad, age 19, that he was now the man of the family, he had his mom and 5 siblings to care for. He put down his violin, never to be picked up again, and which he had played since a young boy classically and now fiddling for dances, and helped with the farm, started working for the Soo Line railroad, and then went off to war. He and his mother and all the siblings were present at Adolph’s heart attack with Regina holding him in her arms. All of us siblings know this grief story but hearing of this note confirming our father’s decision to set aside the violin sheds new light on this old story for this grief counselor reflecting on close to 30 years walking with others in grief.

Day 14/Sept 25 El Camino/Portomarin to Palas de Rei

I realize in my posts when I write about conversations I have with Spaniards, I write as if we are having a real conversational interaction. If I am lucky, the person has a little English. And if they are lucky, I can find a few Spanish words. With our apartment landlord, as with most, it is all sign language and the use of my translator at times which is helpful but clumsy. In the midst of it all we both have a look of “aye yai yai!”But then we understand and we are all smiles and Gracias! Gracias! Mucho Gracias!! When we started out we had Jonathan to rely on but I have had about 5 days being on my own with being understood. A good, if at times trying, challenge.

I was laughing about talking to a taxi driver on the phone trying to set up a time for pick up. I was using my hands to explain Di’s bad knees so he could understand why we needed a ride .7 kilometers away. Of course he could not receive any of my sign language. Today we are barreling down a winding mountain road with our taxi driver doing the same thing on the phone, talking with his hands, sometimes both hands at the same time. Poor Di gets placed in the front seat and is putting her hands out in fear as he runs a stop sign.

Every day holds a surprise and lately it is our accommodation. The Camino is getting very crowded and getting a room is challenging. We have been booking ahead by at least a day. We have been using booking.com and while we have somewhat of a picture we don’t ever quite know. Last night it was the surprise of our Albergue being on the opposite side of the river from a town in the hills which is a challenge for Di. Today it was to find our cottage in Palas de Res practically the last house on the edge of town. Both have been the perfect place to have landed offering beauty, comfort, and interest but the first sight is usually “oh, no!” It lasts a minute or two and then we see why we were guided here. Today you will easily see the beauty in the photos of the cottage which is a converted grist mill including the cottage being built over running water, as well as the walking path next to the cottage that Chris and I walked 3 miles round trip.

Di did walk into the square with us in this our new town for lunch, getting about 4 K on the Camino. It is hard on her but sitting is equally hard with arthritis, so she is opting for walking when she can. We are slowly increasing our Kilometers on the Camino.

On the way back from the square, Chris and I took a little detour onto the Camino path leaving Di to walk a couple blocks on the sidewalk. After I startled some sheep a Spaniard man about 70+ came out of his basement home to talk to us. It was hard to tell his age due to some missing teeth and old weathered skin. He invited us to take a picture of the walnuts he was drying in the sun then wanted to know where we were from. When he heard USA he was very excited telling us in broken English he had worked on a ship and had been in New York, Montreal, and New Orleans and bouncing around on a ship during Hurricane Katrina. He told us he was willing to sell us his house for 15,000 euros and would like to move back to New York if he could find a good woman. He was a sweet man enjoying an interaction but we quickly told him we needed to move on. In good cheer, he wished us a Buen Camino and I think enjoyed the interaction, it gave us a good chuckle.

We looked today for a couple from Florida, Martha and Pedro, that we met in the laundromat in Ponforrada that we very much enjoy but trust we will see them in Santiago.

Tomorrow Chris is going to walk to Melide while Di and I taxi and then walk.

This is a very different Camino than Chris, Di, and I ever imagined but we each marvel at what a perfectly wonderful Camino this trip holds. We have time to see and experience where we are, meaningful conversation, space to reflect and write, and time for laughter and stories.

Day 13/Sept 24 El Camino/Sarria to Portomarin

Chris, Di, and I taxied to Portomarin along with Rob. After clocking the driver at 115K per hour down a mountain road, the driver dropped us at our Albergue and we were surprised to see it was across the river from town. We lost the taxi but checked in and asked the person here to call us a taxi to town for Di and Rob. The dispatcher thought we were crazy. Who needs a ride for a mile when he is so busy? He did not show so Di decided she wanted to walk the distance. She did well with her pain meds, knee brace and support socks and poles and it was on the Camino.

We sat in the square and had a pilgrim meal waiting for Bev to arrive. She was the only one who walked today, 22.7 K in 6.5 hours. Rob and Di cannot walk, I am here for Di and Chris decided to take a break since she did the full Camino already. Mary and Jonathan split off and walked to Samos yesterday to a monastery. They will probably catch up tomorrow night.

The pilgrim meal is always five choices for first course and five for second with wine and dessert. All for 10 euro. Way more than we should eat when not walking but some days it is the best option.

Another couple we have enjoyed and met at the laundromat in Ponferrada, walked by and we all reconnected with hopes to all see each other in Santiago.

We are running out of room on our compostella so bought another one at the church. We walked around the town and headed back to the albergue. Everyone is really tired tonight but it was a good day with a good meal and we scored with this lovely accommodation. We are on the river. Stunning.

Tomorrow we head to Palas De REI. Many people are starting in Sarria so the sleeping accommodations are getting booked out but so far we have been doing well. We walk a little every day.

Not enough power tonight. Photos on Facebook.

You will see the sweet town in the photos and the bridge we crossed, Di walking past her age she is celebrating, and a photo of Rob and Bev.

Day 12/Sept 23 el Camino/Resting in Sarria

Di and I had breakfast in the apartment, oranges, croissants and tea. We then proceeded to do our laundry and re pack. Di’s knees are really bad from yesterday’s track through the city so sit is all she can do. She was back in bed at 10 and slept hard until noon and I enjoyed my time writing. By the time I got the laundry complete and we were eating lunch, Chris arrived. She also had trouble finding the apartment but in the process ran into Rob and Bev. Rob had a torn retina and they repaired it at the hospital in Lugo. He cannot walk el camino and will need to go back to the hospital on Monday. Bev found someone to walk with and will continue on for the both of them. We will taxi today to Portomarin with Rob. Chris and I went out and had lunch. We found a great little place with very fresh salad and pizza. It was so large we brought some back to Di then added roasted veggies to it and had it again for dinner. Chris and I then searched out a church, groceries, ATM, then back to Di. Rob and Bev found our place and showed up for a few hours. All in all a good day, good spirits and looking forward to a new day of Camino adventure.

Continue reading “Day 12/Sept 23 el Camino/Resting in Sarria”

Reflections on the Journey

IMG_2397I awoke this morning thinking of all I have learned and remembered so far on this journey.

By day three my pack was part of my body. I knew the rhythm of my walk and felt the comfort of the pack as we reached higher elevation. We each have to assess our own pack, our pace, our rhythm. No matter how many people you attach to even if you do this journey alone or with a group you alone know your capacity and must respond to this awareness. This is a life lesson as we find comfort in relationship with one person or a group of friends. Taking the time to be with the inner voice of guidance and trusting the ground of knowing advances us in ways that support our whole being.

We know and we don’t know. As I think back on my first introduction to this trip,

I remember my “No” to the invitation. A year later, with the reduction in miles I decided I would go for Di but also for myself. I had to make the trip for me to be satisfying. And I did, but I rarely told anyone I was going. The trip had an unreal feel. A month before we left, I told Di that whenever I thought of the trip I saw us in hotels with a suitcase not a backpack. My intuition initially said, “no” but then it said, “yes” as I could not let Di go alone. I feel I am exactly in the right place and fluidity, adaptability, trusting, rather than holding on to my original belief have allowed me to be here.

“Keep you thoughts raised high.” From the poem Ithaka which spoke to me for the journey. Each day we are surrounded by people who are helpful, caring, eager for connection, and add joy to our spirit. It is not everyone but to those I offer a silent blessing and move on. There is something special about the Camino. There is an energy that moves you along with the blessings of many who offer greeting along the way. If we could bring this spirit of greeting each other, acknowledging the pilgrim, peregrino, that we each are, could we not uplift the face of humanity? We have met the face of Korea, Australia, Japan, Germany, Peru, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, and many more from around the world. These are the real people, this is the real energy of life and love, not the face of the angry politician. Whatever our religious or spiritual beliefs we are all traveling the road of life and we forget that we are all in this together. We need each other to bring us along.

Choose your companions wisely.

Spiritual masters encourage carefulness in who we travel this life path with. People who allow you to follow your inner guidance, help ‘keep your thoughts raised high,’ support you in finding and being your own true self. In the challenging moments it is good to find what we can be grateful for and allow laughter and song to keep us willing to continue on. We don’t want to be traveling with less. We have had good companions on this journey.

There is no one sure pure way to walk the Camino.

As I read forums to prepare for this trip, there were individuals who offered their way of doing the journey, how to pack, how to carry your pack, where to sleep and on. There are discussions that anything less is not the true pilgrim way. We do the same thing with religion, states, countries, clothing, whatever the object might be, what we know appears best for all. Diane’s legs no longer work to move forward on but we are moving forward with all the Camino has to offer. We have met daily people who have started and ended the journey in various locations. They are all headed to Santiago whether this year or another. We meet people who pack a suitcase and have it portered, those who carry everything on their back, those who do not want to know where they will sleep and those who book a year ahead. The Camino is not about the pack or the road or the bed but what is in your heart and how you offer that heart to others. How we care for each other and serve in our own unique ways. My son, Brian, reminded me this morning in his response what my dad, his grandpa, an old train master, would say, “life isn’t about the tracks, but the switches that move us forward, one track to another.” Thank you dear Brian for this reminder of words that had deep meaning to your grandpa but we only now profoundly understand.

What I brought has served me well.

I gave a lot of thought to what I would carry on my back. I eliminated some items I wish I had but knew weight would be important for me. There is nothing new about thinking about excess but it is so very evident when you are perfectly happy with 16 lbs on your back to meet your daily needs besides food and water. Some have gotten that down to 10 lbs but I am not going there. We have met people who have now moved into a small condo so they can keep walking the world. There is some comfort in feeling the freedom of less and knowing it is possible whether we live it day to day or not.

Walking the world

It is quite amazing to make the statement, “We are only doing 12 miles today.” When there is a destination, when there are stops along the way with food and water and people wishing you well all along the way and you have a bed to sleep in at night with a good meal it is very possible and desirable. Being out each day in nature and walking, not being the one zooming down the road at 70 mph feels so very good. Surprisingly good. One step after another. Looking. No thought of to do’s. It is a good way to live. I am a novice and watching people prance up and down these hills is humbling, not just the young but in years greater than mine. People who walk.

The Blessing of Patient People

Each day we have been blessed with people who are patient in our fumbling with language. From finding out what happened to Rob and Bev, to finding our lodgings, to calling a taxi, on and on. There is no greater gift than being patient with each other and no greater challenge at times. It is a virtue that drives everything and allows for compassion and resilience as we are first patient with ourselves.

Finally, from Frederic Gros, when we walk, “None of your knowledge, your reading, your connections will be of any use here.” This knowledge might help me identify the bird or tree or use a phone in a foreign land but it will not give me presence, awe, gentleness, compassion, patience or peace of heart. For those, I need the space and the willingness to allow the “still small voice within” (Gandhi) to guide and uplift from “the spring of life,” the heart. “Wherever I am there is God.” (Eckhardt)