Jill on the Camino Portugues

Currently traveling
May 2019 - October 2020
Currently traveling
  • Day35

    Tierra Encantada

    June 26, 2019 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Back in New Mexico. I have a long story about airport horrors, but I bet you don’t want to hear it.

    Fine, I’ll tell it anyway. This is my blog. You can scroll ahead if you don’t care.
    When I landed in the US, I got in a fight with TSA in Dallas and I almost missed my connecting flight to Albuquerque. They couldn't figure out how to open the cordlock system on my Osprey backpack and I got a little sarcastic, I guess. Things escalated from there. The nerdy woman agent got all passive aggressive on me.

    I think it actually started before that when she overheard me complaining to the person behind me in line that I had to take off my sandals and walk barefoot through security. I commented that, while there has NEVER been a successful terrorist event involving shoes (somebody tried once, but it didn’t work), we are all demeaned, inconvenienced and delayed by this policy. Meanwhile, any violent, mentally ill person can legally carry an ASSAULT WEAPON into a bar in my state. The agent was so pissed off by the time I got there, she tried to take away my Spanish wine, all security wrapped by the DutyFree store in the Madrid Airport. She said “either I will confiscate it, or you need to put it in checked baggage.” Which meant a sky tram and two escalators to the opposite end of the airport. I put the wine in my backpack with no protective packaging and dropped it off. Desk agent gave the wrong gate for my connecting flight, so then I took the sky tram to the wrong terminal and had to run 3/4 mile back to my gate, which was just starting to close.

    People ask, "How was your flight" but Nobody wants to hear these stories, really. Someday I will learn to just say, "Fine" like everybody else.

    I have a couple of other smaller issues I want to explore and debate, such as why so many people walking the Camino wear convertible pants ("Shants" as I call them). The illogicality of those ridiculous pants will be outlined later with bullet points.

    The horrific bills are pouring in for Byron's cardiac care. Insurance is paying for a pittance of it. We are responsible for a sickeningly large percentage of the fees. The torn ligament in my left knee really needs to be repaired, but I can't afford the MRI test to evaluate it for surgery. Etc. Medicare soon! If anyone has suggestions about how to easily acquire EU citizenship, I’m all ears.

    I've got three Mosaic Art classes/workshops set up in late July and August. Those will pay a little for all of this.
    Otherwise, I’m sitting in a hammock under the back awning with a glass of wine, a fluffy chicken in my lap while a summer thunderstorm moves in. so I really can’t complain.
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  • Day31

    Madrid

    June 22, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    I missed recording a few days, including walking into Santiago de Compostella, a couple of days knocking around Santiago where I searched for a small statue of San Roque by day (on account of him being the saint for dogs and - with my background in epidemiology - his association with infectious diseases). It was harder to find Roque than I thought, but in the process, I got to see some parts of Santiago little visited by tourists. Like a back road curandera shop with magic candles, powders and religious relics, etc. I love places like that.

    By night, I lay awake in the hostel, unable to sleep because there was a street busker harpist under my window who played for 5 hours straight without a single break. I’m not making this up. A harp sounds great for about 20 minutes. After that, you start wondering if there’s a store open that sells poison dart guns. And hoping like hell you don't end up going to heaven if it sounds like that.

    Now I'm staying in an Airbnb in Madrid, on the border of an Islamic neighborhood, in a room in an apt. owned by an ebullient guy named Sergio who reminds me of the Italian actor, Roberto Benigni. If I leave my room door open, he rushes in bearing chocolates, with maps, enthusiastic advice about where I should visit next and to be sure I'm okay.

    Sergio says he needs to practice his English, but refuses to speak it at all. While showing me around, he opened a drawer in the bathroom and asked me how to say it in English. I said "drawer," and he tried to say it. I spelled it and that made it worse. He said English is too hard to learn and after that, I tended to agree with him.

    It's hot and humid here, so I set out on foot, looking for a desk fan for my room. I've mentioned these little variety stores in Spain and Portugal called “Bazars de Chino” (and other similar names). They are, I'm not exaggerating, a fourth the size of a 7/11 convenience store and literally every single time, I have found exactly what I'm looking for there, no matter how esoteric. Check out the ambitious sign on this front of this tiny store. And yes, they had the desk fan I was looking for and also a duffle bag I can use to check my walking sticks and some other stuff when I fly home. The fan was on the shelf over bags of potting soil, citrus squeezer tools and a display of packets of googly eyes.

    Next I went to El Prado, one of the top art museums in the world. Mainly I went there because I figured it was air conditioned. It has your Goyas, El Grecos, Velazquez, your Rubens, Raphaels, Bosches, some Rembrandts, etc. Astonishing painting skills but, sadly, mostly religious themes that I think range from monotonous to morbid, so sue me. I focused on the minute, realistic painted details of the costume fabrics. Amazing. You're "not allowed" to take photos, so I did and then I let the security guard tell me I wasn't allowed to do it. And then everybody was happy.

    Today I went for a marathon walk in the heat, through the crowds to Plaza Mayor (practically ruined by large tourist groups and kitchy shops). Back in 1973, I remember sitting at an outdoor café in Plaza Mayor with a big glass of Horchata (I haven’t seen any horchata since I’ve been here), very relaxed with a local vibe. Not anymore. Then I walked around the old city to Plaza Chueca, the heart of the gay neighborhood that is gearing up like mad for Pride next week. (Last time I walked the Camino Frances, I ended up in Madrid for Pride week. I will never get over the fact that a group of 12 muscular guys wearing rainbow butt thongs and angel wings roller-skated by me and I didn’t have my camera with me.)

    Looking at my reflection in shop windows, in my cargo shorts and oversized tee shirt, I realized I resembled a middle aged man in Branson, Missouri. So I stopped in a boutique and bought a brightly colored linen shirt dress, that I looked pretty smart, and wore it out of the store. Now I'm walking around, noticing everybody else is in earth tones and I look like a circus umbrella.

    Whaddayagonnado.
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  • Day28

    Milladoiro, 8k outside of Santiago

    June 19, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    Milladoiro is a strange town, after walking through so many small villages or cities that evolved slowly from medieval times until now (with narrow cobbled alleys and stone bridges). Instead, Milladoiro looks like it was built all at once with only cost and convenience in mind. Lots of tall apartment buildings and straight plotted wide streets.

    As I neared town, I started looking for available accommodations to get out of the rain. One was called the "Venus Motel" and there was a pink sign that said "Si amor no existe, Hace lo. " I decided to give that one a pass.

    I walked in the rain all day and was so glad I was in sandals instead of shoes. Others squelched by in wet shoes and socks, stepping gingerly around puddles. Me and a Japanese guy who was also in sandals splashed through the mud and then waded through fountains to clean our feet. At the albergue now, everybody elses’ wet shoes, with insoles removed, are propped along a wall (not) drying.

    The albergue is nice, run by a young, very friendly Cuban guy and everything looks new and well-organized. Next door was a boring, pilgrim-catering café with the same usual food. I sat outside and eavesdropped on three pilgrims at the next table, two young men and a woman. One looked Asian, one who I met before I knew was German and I don’t know what the other two were, but I had the feeling they had recently met and what they had in common was Smoking Cigarettes. The only common language they had was something I didn't understand, so I had a hard time keeping up, but kept hearing them say “Chi-Bee-Dee.” Over and over, like little birds. What could that be?? Finally I heard the word “cannabis” and realized they were discussing CBD oil. So I butt in and forced them to speak English, while I held court on all I knew about cannabis derivatives.

    Earlier in the day, I ran into Father John, walking in the rain in his long black robe, which I doubt is quick-dry, tech fabric. He and his small group had earlier walked 5 kilometers off the route to the Herbo Franciscan monastery outside of Padron that offers lodging. They had been really looking forward to staying there. But a bus full of tourists arrived just in front of them and got all the beds, so they were turned away. I said, "So you couldn't even play the ‘Padre Robe’ card?" He said no, they'd already closed the door. Big disappointment and Fr John had been dying to see some Franciscans.

    I bought a big umbrella today at a "China" shop.

    The picture below of the water basin with slanted slats on both sides was built for women to meet and wash clothes. Each village has one. The Japanese guy and I, in shorts and sandals, splashed through it, showing off for the shoes and boots crowd.
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  • Day27

    Galicia!

    June 18, 2019 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 19 °C

    I walked from Caldas de Reis to Padron, mainly on a woodland track though meadows, gardens and more eucalyptus, pine, and oak forests. Mostly in the rain... classic Galicia weather. It's lush and green.

    I have a room at Hostal de Flavia, on the 4th floor overlooking Padron. This town was named after the "Pedron" Roman stone, now displayed under the altar in the Igrexa Santiago here. It was this stone, according to legend, that the boat carrying the body of St. James was moored to, before it was transported by oxcart to the site where the Cathedral of Santiago was built. Yep.

    Padron peppers (named after the town) are popular here, served roasted. They say one in ten is hot. "Os pementos de Padron uns pican e outros non." (in the local regional Spanish) They were brought from the New World (New Mexico region?) by the Franciscan monks at the nearby Herbon monastery, where they are still grown. I asked where I could get some seeds to take home, but was told they are only sold on Thursday, market day, in the square, so I missed that.

    Pictures below:
    That statue on the side of a small church is San Rochas. He is portrayed holding open his robe to show a plague sore and there is a dog next him. While he was ill, the dog brought him bread every day and licked his sore to heal him. San Rochas is the saint for people with infectious diseases and for dogs (What they didn't know was that that dog probably carried the fleas that gave him the plague. Oh well).

    The chalkboard sign was outside a "China shop" in Caldas. These tiny shops are found in towns all around Spain and carry a little bit of everything. I found needles and thread there and duct tape (cinta Americana). They are run by Chinese people, who you practically never see anywhere else in Spain. I loved this example of cultural pride and reaching out for connection.
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  • Day27

    Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis

    June 18, 2019 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 18 °C

    Yesterday. I walked with Tricia from Albuquerque for a while. She’s an interesting person; has visited and lived all over the world. Doesn’t live far from me. It was nice, but I talk too much.. I feel the urge to express every thought I have out loud. I point out what I think is beautiful and then explain why it is beautiful, in case the other person with me doesn’t appreciate it the way I do. It’s exhausting for me, not to mention whoever I am walking with. I miss what else is going on around me. I love walking alone.

    More tranquil forest paths and a great waterfall along the way.
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  • Day25

    Pontevedra, now we're talkin'

    June 16, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    The "cast of characters" has mostly moved ahead or I left them behind. I occasionally spot one of them from a distance or in a city crowd. I saw Jared, the Canadian motorcycle mechanic, walking with what looked like a Swedish girl, so that's nice. I’m walking alone, which I relish.

    Pontevedra is a quintessential mid-sized Spanish town, set up for wandering, browsing and socializing on foot. Narrow streets opening onto broad plazas; grandparents on benches, people drinking wine and having tapas at outdoor cafes, teenagers riding bikes and scooters, toddlers chasing pigeons, wheelchair riders chatting by the fountain, a busker playing classical guitar, and not a car to be seen. Bordered by historic buildings and a cathedral with a statue on top of a Medieval woman pilgrim (you don’t see that often).

    Down another stone alley to another plaza with an ice cream vendor and a shop renting pedal go-carts, bikes with sidecars, six passenger pedal carriages. Another guy rents remote control cars that can be driven/ridden by babies as young as a year old, parents holding the remote, laughing hysterically as their toddler drivers whip around the plaza and through the crowd. People walking french bulldogs and yorkies, taking them into bars.

    This is how city life for our species is meant to be lived and I think many Americans don't even know it.

    Long walk, about 14 miles today. Through eucalyptus forests carpeted with ferns, past big gardens and across rivers.

    There were firecrackers/fireworks popping in small towns and in the village of Arcade (Ar-Cod-Eh), a little brass band marched through. Dia de San Juan? I don’t know.
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  • Day24

    Lookin' good, Redondela (not)

    June 15, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Maybe it's an unfair first impression. I don't know.. after a long strenuous walk, I had a hard time finding a place to stay and the weather is grey, so I'm a little grumpy.

    Spain is very different, not as tidy and manicured as Portugal. More rustic. Don’t get me wrong; I love Spain, but after guidebook descriptions of Redondela being "delightful" and "charming", when I got there, I just wasn't feeling it. Too many cars and grimy buildings decorated with graffiti. A slight whiff of spoiled fish. The people are unattractive. Even the PIGEONS... take a look at this piece of work sitting on my table like my new BFF. Looks like he got dredged in hot grease. He's also missing some toes. Then another pushed him off, looking to get into my tapa-action. Feathers are a little smoother, but missing parts of both feet!

    Getting outa here first thing tomorrow.
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  • Day23

    Lugar de Corgo, Portugal to Tui, Spain

    June 14, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    After the communal dinner with laughing and singing at Fernanda's and her big breakfast spread the next morning, I headed out.

    The path passed through old oak forests, vivid green meadows and small villages, each big white house with an immaculate vegetable garden and grapevines over arbors. Everyone must make their own wine. At times, the trail followed 2000 year old Roman cobblestone roads, picturesque bridges over streams.

    The next town of some size was Ponte de Lima, a part-Roman, part-Medieval bridge connecting the two parts of the city over the Rio Lima. A small city with fortified towers and lots of narrow, cobbled alleyways, mostly just for strolling. I'm not sure why I don't live there. If you ever visit Ponte de Lima, you will wonder that, too.

    When I arrived, sitting at a cafe table outside the municipal albergue were John, the New Zealander water activist having a beer and talking with Jared, the Canadian motorcycle mechanic, debating the merits and pitfalls of different sources of alternative energy. They had just met. Two of my favorite pilgrims so far, so I crashed their party. I learned that electric cars are not really sustainable because of the batteries (wasteful to produce and to throw away), and that it's not that hard, with some new parts and tinkering, to adapt an inner-combustion engine to run on hydrogen.

    I slept in the "municipal" albergue where one of the Austrian stork sisters poked me twice during the night because I was snoring. I don't want to be "that guy" (I too hate people who snore in the albergue) so I've decided to seek out private rooms after this. Not much more expensive for vastly improved comfort and often a private bathroom and shower!

    Leaving Ponte de Lima, I fell in with Sean and the Dutch couple, Frank and Gabrielle. The three of them had developed a series of inside jokes and I was quickly brought up to speed. Together we climbed steeply 575 meters (almost 2000 ft.) on a rugged, rocky trail through pine forest up to Alto de Portela, the summit, and ate lunch. Many of the pine trees have a section of bark cut off and a bag attached below, catching the fluid. Turpentine? Sean commented that, without some level of fitness, this climb wouldn’t just be a piece of cake for a lot of people.

    Throughout the climb and the long steep decline, Sean mewled about his blisters. No one wanted to hear about my knee, though.

    At Rubiaes, I peeled off from my friends and found a comfortable hostel outside of town while they continued on. I think I was the only person staying there. I asked the hospitalero in Spanish about dinner options and, as usual, he understood me but I couldn’t understand him. But with some words in common and sign language, I figured out that I was to meet him in front at 7pm and he would drive me somewhere to eat. He drove me to a café down the road a ways, which apparently is his place too, because he went to work at the bar while I ate and then drove me home afterwards. I spotted the German amoeba pilgrim group at another table and they waved.

    Leaving the next morning, next to the church in town I found an ancient Roman mile marker! These stones were placed by the Roman military to mark each 1000 paces (counting steps by the left foot). Later on the walk, I passed another one.

    I hiked on alone through more gorgeous, rural Portugal for about 23 kilometers, meeting up and walking with Father John for part of it. I like that guy.

    Finally, I entered the walled, Portuguese border town, Valenca, passed through the fortress tunnels to emerge onto a long bridge over the River Minho into Spain. Along the Camino, there are hand-painted yellow arrows to help with navigation. However there were long stretches without them, including at forks in the road and it’s not hard to get lost. So I thought it was funny that there were yellow arrows painted every few posts along the high bridge over the river, like there was anyway to make a wrong turn?
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  • Day23

    Cast of human and animal characters

    June 14, 2019 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    I've walked 57 kilometers since I last posted (80 before that) and have crossed the border into Spain. Am taking a rest day in Tui.

    Animals seen so far, besides the usual domestic ones:

    Starlings like we have, but with bright orange beaks I rescued one baby off the road and put it on a limb where its mother could find it.

    Small nondescript brown birds with a beautiful, varied trilly song, magpies, seagulls, herons, and many other birds I can't identify

    A small brown vole ambled across the trail in front of me

    Green, whiptail-style lizards

    A dead grey-brown snake (about a meter long)

    Small tree frog-size brown and green frogs near springs, Larger Leopard frog-size green frogs in rivers and ponds. I followed the frog-song and grabbed a tree frog to show Sean and he squeaked like a little girl. Apparently he has a frog phobia.

    Human Cast of Characters:

    More people are showing up on the road and I've gotten to know some of them a bit as we leapfrog past each other walking and meet up in cafes and albergues.

    Sean, the British ex-policeman who drives a London cab. We keep meeting up again and again.

    The Czech woman with her 3 1/2 year old son

    Tricia, who lives 1/2 mile from me in Albuquerque

    Father John, wearing his long black robe and carrying his backpack containing - along with his regular walking gear - props used for saying Mass along the way. He's from New Hampshire and belongs to the Brothers Fraternity of St. Peter. He was invited to walk the Portuguese camino with an American family as their spiritual adviser; he’d walked the Camino Frances a year ago. Before I met him, Sean and I were walking along and he was describing this priest in a long black robe he saw and just then we turned a corner and came upon Father John sitting on a step. Sean said, “Wow, I was just telling her that I saw a priest in a black habit walking down the trail!" Fr. John replied, "that sounds like the start of a joke."

    The next day I walked with Father John for a while and I told him about the Virgen de Guadalupe mosaic mural I worked on for the Franciscan friary. He said, " I'm surprised we haven't run across any of them. This path screams Franciscans to me." We ate dinner together; I had a glass of wine and he ordered a Mojito. He wasn't walking with the family for a few days because he's required to have a 5 day solo retreat every year and he's taking that now. Apparently drinking and goofing around with me during his retreat is ok!

    Richard Parkes, the New Zealander writer and water activist who I pass every few days, sittting outside a cafe pounding away on his solar powered laptop.

    Two impossibly tall, thin Austrian women I call “the stork sisters.”(to myself, not to them)

    The group of Germans who are absorbing other Germans as they go, like an amoeba on the trail. They greet me but usually don't invite me to sit with them, because they don't want to have to speak English. One of them whistles constantly, which I really think is worse than snoring in the albergue.

    Xiao Yin, the Chinese man who lived in France and doesn't have a plan after this. He envied my poles, so tromped down into the forest and broke a couple of sticks for himself.

    A sister and brother from Mexico, across the border near South Padre Island. They are in their 20s, she wanted to walk to Fatima, so she brought her brother along and after Fatima, they are now walking to Santiago. So nice to hear and talk Mexican Spanish! They were at Fernanda's albergue, too. Buena gente.

    Older South African couple who are forever indebted to me after I gave them my Brierley guidebook to the Camino Portugues, when they lost theirs. I keep thinking they will give up, but they are real troopers, walking some good mileage each day and I run into them again and again.

    Jared, the young climber/motorcycle mechanic from Alberta, Canada who was living in Peru and then found a cheap flight to Europe and started walking the camino on a whim. He only follows the route sometimes, then gets lost for a day or two. He has a knee injury from bull riding. We talk motorcycles whenever I see him, which turns out to be often.

    Frank and Gabrielle from Holland, with fine-tuned sarcastic senses of humor.
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