May - June 2019
  • Day18

    Astorga

    May 25, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Got here this afternoon and will wait til siesta time is over before I explore. Gaudi Palacio and Cathedral call me but I will not have time to take in much here. Tomorrow heading out for along hike up into the mountains so need to prepare mentally.
    Walked all day with young Abby, 22, who is walking with her dad and brother who are from the DC area so we can relate.

    I love talking with young people who are old souls, and I had a strong sense that I was intended to spend this time talking with Abby, as she opened up about her life to me, a stranger. It is often so on the Camino that we meet to share our souls and share solace and words of encouragement with each other. I felt honored to be able to listen to Abby’s story on this hot afternoon walk together.
    She reminds me of my dear Gwen at home, another young old soul.
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  • Day17

    Villares de Orbigo, Castilla y Leon

    May 24, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Staying at an albergue with famous hospitalera Christine from Belgium who has been hosting here fabulously for over six years. A documentary was filmed about her albergue, and indeed she deserves great praise. I’m so glad I happened to stop here and was one of only four pilgrims to share a wonderful homemade dinner with Christine, and a comfortable night in her spotless refuge. So grateful!Read more

  • Day17

    Hospital de Orbigo

    May 24, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Stopped here after a 15 km walk marking the end of the Castilian plateau. Tomorrow the landscape will begin to change on the gradual climb to Astorga and then up into the mountains again into the Maragatos region, a rather formidable and isolated reach filled with stalwart souls who weather deep winter snows up there.

    Today as I walked I laid upon the altar of my heart all those in positions of leadership in this world—Those who mentor others who are seeking, shepherds leading their various flocks in all walks of life, and those who are leaders of nations both great and small:
    Holy Watcher, uphold those who lead, help them to find their sovereignty that they may bear with Your grace the mantle and crown of Wisdom, and may they find their rest by abiding in the heart of Love. May they walk in Love and Wisdom all the days of their lives. Amen.
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  • Day16

    Vilar de Mazarife, Castille y Leon

    May 23, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    25 km walk today from Leon to this small village. Stayed here before but different albergue. Casa de Jesus this time.

    Today I was praying for those who suffer from depression, social anxiety and alienation. Holy Comforter, please surround these souls who feel lonely and isolated with your loving Presence and help them to find companionship, inner peace, and a sense of belonging and coming home to You. Amen.Read more

  • Day15

    Leon: roaring with beauty

    May 22, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    I had to pack a lot into the three hours left this afternoon after I arrived in Leon:
    I showered, had an early dinner, and explored the interior of the Leon Cathedral, which I missed on my first Camino as it was closed.
    I spent a few minutes taking in the Gaudi Casa Botines and finagled my way into the last guided tour through the Museo San Isidoro de Leon even though it was in Spanish... I feasted my eyes on the (alleged) Holy Grail and the Pantheon— fresco work oft called the medieval Sistine Chapel. I would love to see more of the San Isidoro Basilica as it resonated with me so deeply. The hints of Mozarabic art in the museum were tantalizing but I was forced to race through with the tour group. I’m so glad I saw this beautiful place and a bit of this extraordinary city.
    Back onto the Way for me tomorrow morning early.
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  • Day15

    The Mental Camino

    May 22, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Walking solo on the Camino has presented a unique opportunity for me to indulge my introverted side. (Some may laugh when I say that I am an introvert but I do test out as introverted on the Meyer-Briggs Test.)
    In my daily life at home I am only able to cultivate solitude in short intervals—in prayer, reading, walking or swimming perhaps.

    But here on the Camino I am truly alone for the first time since age 15 when I traveled alone to France for eight weeks. I was so homesick then! I wrote so many letters to my mother, but I didn’t feel lonely as there were one or two fellow boarders to hang around with.

    But here on the Camino I can truly be alone and I am enjoying it very much. I have not bonded with any pilgrims except perhaps with Neii, the 72-year-old Brazilian man who has shared several kilometers and shelters with me over the last ten days. Neii is a gentle, sweet soul and I truly enjoyed his easy company and conversation. But I found myself yearning to be alone again after two days of companionship, and have left Neii for the second time to walk his own Camino apart from me.

    I have met several pilgrims with whom I have whiled away a meal or a morning together, but I am always relieved to be on my own again after an interval of interaction. Socializing requires an energy that I would prefer to not expend right now, as if it were a precious life force which I am guarding for my own use at present, and am loathe to share it, and perhaps that is the reality of the Camino at present for me. Funny how we tend to think of the Camino as a time of fellowship with other pilgrims all sharing the same direction and intent like a large school of fish, but not always is the introspective side expressed in accounts by pilgrims, I suspect.

    While walking I am enjoying a new depth of contemplation in the rhythm set between breath and footfall. I hear the birds and especially love the sound of the swallows, the cucus and the twitterpating sparrows. The swallow song I associate strongly with Spain and their song keeps me company in the cities as well as in the tiny villages. I stand in awe and watch the storks feeding their fledglings in their huge nests on top of the churches, usually the highest point in any village.
    I savor walking alone through the cathedrals, spending as long as I want in each chapel, retracing my steps whenever I want more detail. Having no companion, I am delving more deeply into the history, culture and religious iconography all around me. It has been wonderful.

    I have not really bonded with any Camino family which is interesting as I thought being a solo pilgrim I would surely gather like-minded pilgrims around me to share this experience. Not so, and as I move deeper into the Camino I suspect the desire for solitude will grow stronger, and I begin to see how one might evolve into a hermit. I think I am a hermit right now on this Way, but I am only halfway through this pilgrimage, so how my mind unfolds going forward will be interesting to observe.

    Watching the hypnotizing scenery of the Meseta as it passes by the windows of the bus reinforces in my mind the reasons I did not want to walk it. I know for many pilgrims the Meseta is the mystical, magical walk through endless prairie where one gets to explore the inner landscape because the outer flatness of the landscape offers no stimulation or distraction for the mind. But I don’t need that outer reinforcement in order to go inward. I’m already there in my state of solitude.
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  • Day15

    The Physical Camino

    May 22, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Burgos to Leon by bus: time to reflect and assess.

    Crossing past the physical midpoint of the Camino Frances, Sahagun, by bus. I am bypassing the Palencia region, known to pilgrims as the Meseta, for several reasons; among them concerns about water quality, sun exposure, grass allergies, and time constraints. The last time I walked the Camino Frances, my body was stressed severely and so this time I am taking greater care, walking less ambitious distances. I know the Meseta is beautiful and I am sorry to miss it, but know that the walk from Leon to Santiago is full of challenges yet.
    I have so far walked 210 km (126 miles).

    Note: long essay on the physical aspects of walking the Camino ensues and may bore the bejesus out of many readers, so feel free to tune out here.

    Mastering the physical Camino is what occupies the pilgrim for the first week or two:

    The Camino Frances is really a long series of day-hikes: for most 30-40 days of this routine.

    It may not seem like a big deal, but learning how to efficiently pack your mochilla (backpack)
    without losing stuff and memorizing where you have stashed your stuff is critical. The mind gets foggy with fatigue and you need to have developed strict packing habits to avoid frustration and confusion.

    Navigating uphill climbs and downhill descents according to conditions: uphill seems more intuitive but requires pacing your cardio/vascular energy. Your knees and ankles are mostly flexed so you use your leg muscles properly automatically.
    The downhill runs are where pilgrims sustain the most injuries to their knees, shins and ankles. It’s crucial to keep your knees flexed and springy, using your upper leg muscles to balance and learning to zig zag, changing your pattern often to avoid fatigue, with concentration on each footfall. When slippery after rain, the downhills can be treacherous, so creeping down with utmost caution can be taxing for both body and mind.

    Drinking water in proper quantities turns out to
    be a matter of personal style:

    The Camel: I spoke to a German pilgrim whose method was to drink a half liter of water just before setting off, drinking no water at all during his hiking, and filling up on a full liter at the end of the day.

    The Sipper: Using an internal water bladder in the pack, you can sip water as you walk through a tube attached to your shoulder strap, thereby constantly hydrating as you go.

    I’m now opting for the Camel method modified by occasional water breaks. I left my water bladder behind as it was too heavy and made the water taste bad.

    Learning to turn off the world at will to get your rest: wherever you make your nest, whether on an albergue bed or on a park green in the shade, it’s important to tune out your surroundings with ear plugs and eye coverings to withdraw the senses and restore. It is the height of rudeness to disturb pilgrims who are resting mid-afternoon in the dorms...they are recuperating from their strenuous efforts that day.

    Learning your limits:
    I like to walk between 15-25 km (9-15 miles) per day depending on the elevations of the terrain.
    Some pilgrims clock in 30-40km a day, with mileage on the body varying widely. By now, most blisters are becoming calluses for these pilgrims but they are often wearing knee braces, I notice.

    Some send their packs ahead everyday and walk short distances. I carry my pack everyday (7-8 kilos) which limits my distance as I have decided to try to stop walking by 3-4 pm, so I have time to take care of laundry, shower, and bed setup.That is 4/5 hours per day of walking. This allows me time to slow down, take in my surroundings, enter a church here and there, and change my socks at least once during a break. No blisters for me so far and I still have all my toenails! Grateful for favorable conditions.

    Everyone walks their own Camino.

    Such a long essay! It’s a long bus ride to Leon and I’m so happy to be resting.
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  • Day14

    Tosantos, Burgos Castille y Leon

    May 21, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Met up with Linda from Montreal when Neii and I checked into a parochial albergue in Tosantos. I had met her earlier on the Way. She told me I really missed out on the famous Granon hospitality by checking into the weirdly situated municipal albergue. Sounded like a unique experience. Poor Neii—the blind leading the blind to the albergue off the beaten track.
    But as always it probably turned out for the best, as Neii slept from 8 pm until 7am the next day...he needed some rest in a quiet place.

    This parochial is very spartan: vinyl mats on the floor for bedding, no hot water or heat, a bland meal with not a trace of protein, but a nice yard with grass which we stayed in for several hours waiting for a late dinner because the rooms were cold. Temps in the morning are 35F/2C to give you an idea.
    About the Spanish food: the most curious thing is that the homemade food here is never salted, so pilgrims, losing salt all day through hard walking, find themselves passing one precious salt cellar from hand to hand at the table, as we all are craving and trying to replace salt in our systems.
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  • Day14

    Burgos, Castille y Leon

    May 21, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    Made a decision to take a bus to Burgos for a rest day. I have not taken a full day off walking in two weeks and it’s time.
    So today I’ll visit the Burgos Cathedral which Stuart and I dubbed “Disneyland for Jesus”
    Burgos Cathedral is just over the top—overwhelming—I spent two hours there.
    It’s like an archaeological dig with layers of Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance and Roccoco architecture and art so rich I feel like I ate an entire chocolate ganache cake at one sitting.
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  • Day12

    Ermita de la Carrasquedo, Granon

    May 19, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    Settled into a municipal albergue which is basically empty. We have a room with 10 beds all to ourselves. Only two other pilgrims here on another floor.

    This hermitage is one km off the beaten path of the Camino, in a small isolated forest, but that suits me perfectly right now. I’m really enjoying the quiet and lack of jostling with other people for one night.
    It has been rainy and cold for three straight days now. Today was 16 km. We are hoping for some sun to break out tomorrow, but Neii heard that it is snowing in O’Cebreiro, a mountain we will be climbing in a couple of weeks.

    Onward to Belorado and Tosantos (hopefully) for the night to allow for a fairly big climb over a hill the following day. So glad to have the elevation profile to plan our walks.
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