Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Last Days Back to Santiago

 Our walk to the ocean at Muxia took 3 nights and 4 days. All together we have been on the Camino since September 6th. We have walked more or less 460 miles. Not total if you count the times we got lost and had to backtrack (not too many) and all the towns we walked around in to find a super mercado or a restaurant. Yes we will miss our friend, that yellow arrow.  Always a comfort along the way.

As John describes it, foraging for a place to stay each night as well as for what and how we are going to manage to eat, can be almost more exhausting than the walking.  Sometimes the walking feels more relaxing.  That's all that has to be done for now. Maybe it's a matter of the known vs the unknown and what type of energy each takes. Something to contemplate. While John agrees with this,  I find he is the more intrepid traveler. More comfortable than I am flying by the seats of our pants. That said,  I have learned that getting outside your comfort zone is where the memories are made and when the knowledge of self reveals itself more readily. Really everything works out if you let it. If you trust. I know being this way is easier for some than for others.
 This woman walking her sheep with one of their front legs tied to the corresponding back leg (don't know why ),  screaming at her chapeau donning husband to shut the door, him complying sheepishly. Hahaha  pun intended.
John at the end! !!!
Just one of the beautiful sunrises we experienced.  We were amazed at how amiable the weather has been this trip! Although I won't soon forget the heat wave we had the first week.
I miss my Granddoggy.  There were so many watch dogs thankfully behind fences. I was scared to the point of heart attack by their sudden barking a foot away more than once! Pit bull and beagle breeds were always the most friendly and least intimidating. Many friendly cats and some feral barn cats too. No stray dogs that I could see.
Trish from Canada and Stephanie from New Zealand.  Just two of the awesome pilgrims we met. Most people we met are adventure type travelers obviously.  Their stories are nothing less than amazing if you care to stop a moment and listen and maybe ask them a question. The young dark haired, dark eyed, Italian kid, Alesio (Alex in English) our sons' age who invited us to share his pasta in the alburgue one night. We offered to share our wine, which he refused saying "Crazy, I know. I am Italiano and I don't like wine!" About whose dreams we learned of owning a motorcycle shop in Sardinia where he lives. How he was in a horrible moto accident and severely broke his leg yet walks the Camino at sometimes 50ks a day! How he is a diabetic who has to inject himself with insulin everyday. Inadvertently teaching this mom not to worry too much about her own children. Because they have lives to live no matter what. The kindly hospitelero at the alburgue in Muxia who wanted us to feel so cared for and so special. She had two pots of soup on the stove and dessert made with Galician apples, "gratis"! (free!) The melding of so many different nationalities, languages being spoken, customs being observed and practiced. You cannot buy that. All part of Camino magic I suppose. Most people were at crossroads.  Divorce, death,  life changes. Others just here for the challenge of it. Everyone walking for insight,  awakening or perhaps to avoid those things. I do know that none of us will ever be the same for it.
Such beauty found in the decrepit. Ancient things intrigue me. They are unwitting masterpieces of art. There is a sadness in them. For things ending,  past their former glories. But also a richness, their unseen wisdom for all the time passed by them. Do you believe that there can be wisdom in a 'thing'?
Last time we were here it was hell to pay weather wise. I was glad not to have experienced that again. We would also not be walking on the Finesterre path to Cee. We were on our way to Muxia by way of Dumbria that night.
We go there.  Beckoning. ....... invitation to contemplation,  to meditation perhaps.  Sometimes I listened to my iPod, usually at times when the walking was particularly hard or my body was hurting worse than other days.  The music added depth and emotion to my experience.  I know it was the same for John.  "In restless dreams I walk alone, narrow streets of cobblestone. ~Sounds of Silence,  Simon and Garfunkel

"Leaves are falling all around, It's time I was on my way.
Thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay.
But now it's time for me to go. The autumn moon lights my way.
For now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it's headed my way.
Sometimes I grow so tired, but I know I've got one thing I got to do... " Ramble On ~Led Zeppelin  somewhere in Spain
Crumbling church at sunrise. The many many churches or Iglesias,  basilicas, cathedrals and Monasteries,  never ceased to simply astound me. To me they are definitely holy places.  Not because of their grandeur or the materials with which they were built or the guilding of gold and art work with which they are adorned. Not because of the magnificence of their sizes. To me, the holy energy came from the silence that was observed whenever we entered these cavernous places. It came from the nuns singing their daily vespers. It came from the single person sitting or kneeling in the pew, deep in prayer. Someone bowing on one knee and crossing themselves before sitting down. Such reverence. Just knowing how little we know about anyone's life but also knowing that we all want basically the same things. That's holy ground. ~Bom Caminho /Buen Camino

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

On Our Way to Muxia and Other Musings

Missing our fall back home but there are some beautiful fall sights here too!  
Loved these two Shepards guarding their castle. Thought of our friend Tank.
A story I had,  in my pilgrim weary brain,  forgotten to relay from the day we walked from Padron into Santiago.  We were in the throng of other hikers when we saw a church that was mentioned in the guidebook as a place we should stop.  It was a good time for a break anyway.  We walked into the typical cavernous space and there was a man right inside who started saying something to us in Spanish which we didn't understand obviously I guess because he then began pounding his fist into the palm of his hand.  I could see John reach up to his head to make sure he had removed his hat since he had already been chastised for this in another church before. No, it wasn't that. He was suddenly spun into an odd game of charades with the Spaniard.  John said later that things were crossing his mind as the man kept slamming his fist down into his hand over and over, in that moment he was like "sounds like... (I've obviously committed some transgression) you want to punch me!!!' No? okay,  bludgeon me! Yeah that's it! No? Okay....stab me!" Being ever the humble pilgrim thinking he was somehow at fault. Turns out he just wanted to stamp our passports. "Oh! Sellos! Si si!" That we understand!! Hopefully next time he might communicate with much less vigor. We love how demonstrative the Spaniards tend to be.  Just not what John thought.  Hahaha

It was hard leaving the peaceful three night sanctuary of our apartmento in Santiago in the misty rainy Galician morning. Lots more pilgrims on the path than we have seen since this thing began. I was excited to stay in the same hostel tonight that we found three years ago in a pouring deluge of rain where they dried our boots and put up with my manhandling the washing machine. They had very comfy accommodations.  We found it! For some odd reason, it didn't seem to take as long to get here as it did last time. They have added more choices for a bed than 3 years ago. Seemed also like we arrived much stronger this time  than last time but obviously the weather was better now.  And the guy checking us in wasn't the most friendly. So much for the differences.

Rested up, we ventured down to dinner and met Americans Liz and Jim who've been everywhere and done everything! They were just having soup so wanting the meal deal of the day,  we made our way into the dining room where we talked to the lady who runs the place and who we remember so fondly from before.  Delicious food just like we remember.  Caldo Galego soup for me which is served in a big serving bowl big enough for two people to have two servings.  We polished it. John had spaghetti with meat sauce as his first course.  As good as he remembered.  Then, of course,  chicken for John and I had carne asado which was like a pot roast. The ever present bread and of course dessert.  Oh yeah!  A bottle of wine too. All for 10€ each.  We could see grandmother cooking away in the kitchen.  Everything wonderful and comforting and filling.   Even though we are eating lots, either our pants need a really hot dryer or we are both dropping weight.  Who knows?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How Many Pilgrims Does It Take to Get to Santiago?

 This is the only picture of our day from Vilanova de Arousa to Padron.  It was a great salad with sashimi!
 The day into Santiago with our many Camino Portuguese brethren.
 Great café stop. The Galicia Estrella went down good.
 The line up at the pilgrim's office to receive our Compostellas.
The swinging  of the butafumerio at the pilgrim's mass. Never fails to move me.

We failed to contact anyone in Vilanova about the boat to Padron which was a huge disappointment.  The walk from here was a hard road walking slog, that frankly,  after I had gotten my mind set on a boat ride,  did not want to entertain. John checked a taxi to the bus station which would have cost in the neighborhood of 40€. What? It was 10k up the road.  At this point that's nothing right? And it was right on the Camino.  Once we got to the bus station,  we found out that the next bus was 7pm that evening.  That's not gonna work.  Trains run much more often.  The station was luckily just around the corner.  Next train to Padron,  15:20. We thought the guy was saying 15 to 20 minutes in our English speaking minds. Sweet! Then we densely figured out that the train leaves at 3:20 and it was only 1:20.  Okay,  we are usually always starving so we'll use the opportunity to eat the menu del dia! And we are right on time for once!

Filling lunch,  on the train, and our hotel Rosalie was right there as we exited the train.  Not the best hotel by far but it served it's purpose.

Our last day was over 24k or 15 or miles so we got up as early as the lacking breakfast service would allow, and on the road.  Into the throng of pilgrims like we have not seen on this entire route.  We did meet another Colorado couple from Ft. Collins at our first café stop. Walked behind a huge school group singing loudly in the early morning.  We took it all in stride trying to stay behind them and not overtake them, thus running from them the whole day. Much more peaceful, knowing we were reaching Santiago today.

Our arrival for me was not as emotional, at least as we reached the city, as on our first Camino but I can imagine that is like many different things you do for a second time.

It has not been without a deep sense of accomplishment. Speaking of accomplishment have thought all along that I would dedicate these pilgrimages to each of my children.  That means I'm done right? At least that's what I said after Jack was born. It is really hard to compare the two Caminos,  so immensely different they are. Both equally challenging,  both with enormous beauty.  It will take a while for me to reflect exactly what that means.

Thanks for following along.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Best Walk Makes Up for the Rest

The Route Of Stone and Water 
A strange little park with life recreated in cement sculptures. 
Pretty spider web with rain droplets. 

I've been drinking my share of Albarino. 

Coming up on Ria de Arousa Bay. Apostle James body was supposedly sailed up this way.

Today's walk started early but not before dawn since we knew we would be walking in the forest right away and didn't want to be fumbling around in the dark with headlamps even though we will have a 24k day to Vilanova de Arousa.  We did fumble around in the dark getting cafe con leche out of the cool but very loud machine at the alburgue for 50 cents. Little stir sticks and everything.  Nobody else was stirring until now but oh well,  that's the downside of alburgue life.  The hospitelero arrived shortly with some men who were helping to restock the soda machine that also contained what? Beer? Wish we would have known last night!  Oh well,  hugs and goodbyes to the other pilgrims and we were on our way in the morning's twilight.  We were really looking forward to today since it has been touted as some spectacular walking.  We received immediate gratification as soon as we followed the yellow arrow that took us off the street and onto the dirt path next to a pristine stream. This is the Route of Stone and Water.  Old water mills rest all along it's banks.  They were used to saw lumber using the current of the stream to power the saws. Dense foliage rich with ferns,  blooms, moss and trees all along the dark forest path made it all such a verdant fairy land. So quiet and alone we were.  I hate to say it but we hurried a little just in case Jost walked fast and caught up. I  rehearsed how I would be honest and tell him that I just wanted to meditate through this part.  The Camino apparently took care of us both in that regard.  It was definitely a highlight of this entire walk. A reward for so many, many miles of long noisy hard road. I just wanted to soak it all in. I will never forget it.

We looked forward to possibly taking a boat tomorrow up the river Ulla that takes an hour. It's supposed to be spectacular and the only thing of its kind in the world.  Since the body of St. James was transported through here, there are purportedly many cruzeros all along the way on little dots of islands in the middle of the river all the way to Padron,  our next stop.    We will have to go to the alburgue when we get to town and ask about tickets there.

Halfway through our walk, about 8 miles in, the twinkie type processed pastry the alburgue so lovingly offered us for breakfast was wearing off quickly. As was the now mushy pear I stole from breakfast in Combarro yesterday with John's contribution of peanuts. We did enjoy those on a lovely bridge we came across as we walked through the Arousa estuary.  Did I say this day was beautiful walking?  The streams are teeming with fish,  crystal clear and the plants growing in them are not algae.  Herons are seen every so often. Beautiful birdsong can be heard. I'm no biologist but it looks extremely healthy like nothing I've seen anywhere in a long time. Makes my heart happy that there is a place such as this.

We needed sustenance soon. Just like that,  there was a café!  We dropped the packs in the outside covered area and ordered a carb replacing cervesa. Hey, that's a good justification for a beer before noon!  And we almost forgot!  A tapa is included!  These were some delicious hot fried hush puppy type of fish balls.  Pelotas fritos de pescados. (I made that up) And what I think was possibly shrimp.  Could have been fish shaped like shrimp and fried for all I know.  I  do know that it was good! Good thing we had these since it was too early according to the bar, for a menu for any kind of real food.  This would become a theme in this otherwise "pristine " day.

Went to the bathroom and to pay the bill. When I came out,  we were in the middle of a rain deluge.  No thunder rumbling to give some warning,  just torrents of rain being unleashed in an instant.  Oh how I remember this from our last Camino!  The men inside all came out to the covered area to smoke and watch the rain with a kind of excitement that felt like what we feel when we notice our seasons changing.  And they were all looking at John and I with such incredulity, like they were trying hard to understand why we doing what we were doing. We bundled up in our rain suits and headed out as the rain was only lightly falling.  We counted ourselves lucky that we had shelter when it started raining so hard. Because it stopped for the rest of the day! Thanks Camino!

Another 7 or so miles into Vilanova de Arousa and to the alburgue where we would ask about the boat tomorrow.  It was basically in a gymnasium.  No one was around.  We shouted hola! And the seemingly very hung over hospitelero came out.  He had obviously been sleeping.  Maybe he was just tired. We asked about the boat.  He asked if there were 5 more peregrinos behind us. Why yes, how did he know this? Apparently word came from Armenteira where we were last night. Evidently they must have called ahead to tell the next alburgue who to expect.  I guess the nuns in the MonasteryP called about George and Tina too. Anyway he said with raised eyebrows that there was only room for 5 on the boat but he was pretty sure it would go tomorrow maybe 11. Well we knew for sure that unless someone was paying for Jost,  he was not going.  (He told us he wanted to go by boat but couldn't afford it ) and the Germans were determined to walk the leg since they had only started a short time ago in Pontevedra. The two Portuguese women were the wild card.  Nevertheless,  come back tonight at 7. (We were not going to stay at the alburgue ).

Went to the bar down the street where we secured our hotel on line and had a great tapa of chicken and rice and bread.  Little did we know that this would be our dinner.

Checked into the hotel and asked why the grocery store was closed.  Spanish national holiday.  Basically Columbus day here.  Everything is shut down.  Alrighty.  Back to the alburgue at 7. No hospitelero and no boatman.  We did see that Jost had checked in. Oh well let's go find something to eat.  We cannot seem to get into the beat here.  No menu at the cafes if you are too early. Menu of the day if you eat between 1 and 4. That's usually when we are walking.  Then dinner is served in the restaurants around 8 or 9  when we are so tired.  Got potato chips as another tapa and then little sausages with bread as another and we called it good for dinner.  We'll try to figure out the boat tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Onward To Armenteira

Taking a break in the bus stop.

                                  Beautiful Vistas!
 Says we have 5k to Armenteira,  we were sure it was way more than that.
 Finally made it to the alburgue.
 Cafe O Comercio. Typical vino Tinto de la casa.
Dinner was filling and needed.  Pork, chicken,  fries and salad with a fried egg! Plates were cleaned!

We had a really great day of walking.  We could take our time and stop to see local petroglyphs. Got in fairly early to the small town of Armenteira.  After a beer at the bar, we walked to the alburgue which we thought was the only choice for accommodation in the town.  We got there and it looked deserted.  The door was unlocked and there was a note on the table that the hospitelero would be back,  so we made ourselves at home.  We picked the room with a door and the showers and private toilet.  There was mattress and pillow covers which we availed ourselves of. The hospitelero showed up, took our info, gave us a stamp and took our 6 euro each for the beds. Then she left again.  It was very nice with coffee maker micro, everything you need for a very basic night.  We were glad to have that much since the skies opened up and began to pour.  You've never seen rain until you've been to Galicia Spain.  I'm not kidding about this.  Talk about torrential downpours.

Another pilgrim,  Jost from Amsterdam came through the door, dripping in the doorway.  He proceeded to tell us his "story ", of how he is doing the Camino with no money and all the times people gave him what he needed.  The last was a poor Spanish person who gave him 20€ so he could escape the rain, stay at the alburgue and buy some food.  Otherwise he has been sleeping in the fields. The hospitelero returned to collect his 6€ and we could hear him telling her his "story ". Wonder if she comped him the 6€. John says not.

We made 7:00 vespers at the Monastery where the nuns live and care for this place as opposed to monks. What a beautiful singing and meditation.

We left to go back to the bar who were offering a pilgrim dinner for 7£. We pigged out.  I didn't realize how hungry I was. We ordered the house red wine and it was a homemade red served in bowls. Very interesting, very grapey, dense wine. My tongue might even have been purple.

Decided to stop at the only other bar across the street and have one more glass of wine instead of sitting in the alburgue.  Met George and Tina from Cologne Germany also walking.  We discovered from them that we could have stayed in the Monastery for  £25 each,  breakfast included.  They said it was very nice.  Although they had to be inside by 10 or be locked out.  I hope they made it.  We also sat there with Jost who we gave our tapas to, since we were stuffed from dinner, which were made up of some kind of pig innards.  You never know what you're going to get. Jost seemed to like them.

Walked in the pouring rain back to the alburgue and said hello to the two other peregrinos who had shown up, two women from Portugal. Bom noite!   G'night! Tomorrow we have 25 k to Villanova de Arousa.  Almost done. I can do this.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Day One of Our Little Detour Variante Espiritual

 Let the deviation begin.
 I thought this lone rose was lovely.

Someone took the time to hand make all these signs for the Variante Espiritual. 

Sweet tiny lambs! 


Monestery of Opoio

Coming into the town of Combarro.  Our stop for the night. 

Touristic town of Combarro 

Following the yellow arrows 

For future pilgrims planning to walk this detour,  it can be nicely done in 3 days instead of two. If you have the time, we recommend it.  We leisurely left our hotel in Pontevedra this morning,  stopping at the café Acuna, which is excellent,  for cafés served with churros! They also had lots of sandwiches and croquettes and other things that would be good for lunch.  I picked two bready like dumpling things,  one stuffed with bacon and one stuffed with chorizo.  John got a sandwich that was called mixto and you could see veggies and ham and cheese sticking out.  Looks like a good bet. 

About 2k out of town we came to the plainly marked detour. The way marking is excellent so far.  What a lovely days walk! Took us a good 4 hours with stops wherever we wanted like the huge Monastery at Poio where the docent didn't seem to want to let us visit even though the time was clearly marked that it was open.  Oh well,  we had our lunch on the grounds there and John found out his mixto sandwich had tuna in it! Okay,  I'll trade ya. Then to make matters worse,  a big chunk of tuna fell out of my sandwich and into John's boot. It was then he became tuna foot. You gotta get your laughs from somewhere. 

Descending down to the water,  we came to the little port town of Combarro.  Checked into the nice one star there.  It's really two star worthy.  Nice,  clean, modern and friendly!  Cleaned up,  rested,  walked out to the little touristy part with tiny winding streets along the waterfront lined with the stone corn crib looking structures that were used to store fish, grains and other things back in the day.  Really picturesque.  Lovely little bars and restaurants right on the waterfront to have a beer or a glass of wine.  Lots of souvenir shops all seemingly selling the same things.  There were a lot of witch related things for sale and we learned that in old times,  this place was considered very pagan in nature and so the religious powers that be at the time placed cruzeros  (crosses) all over. They are on almost every corner.  They thought this would counteract the heathen energies and activities apparently. Stopped at the supermarket for salad ingredients and a bottle of vino and made a fresh salad for pre dinner appetizers.  Later we ended up at the restaurant across from the hotel and had a huge bowl of caldo soup and camarones. Which are usually shrimp.  Here we got a plate of what we would consider crayfish. They were good but not what we expected. Is anything? Tomorrow we can get up at our leisure once again since we only have another 4 hours walk to Armenteira.  We will be in an alburgue, the only place available there. We've had great weather all along but it is looking like the typical Galicia fall rain will be descending upon us upon tomorrow and future days.  Only 3 more days and we will be in Santiago! 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Pontevedra Let's Take a Break

Lots of Scallop shells all written on by passing pilgrims. 
Dos perigrinos!
Pilgrim Church in the shape of a scallop shell!
Main cathedral 
After taking the lovely meandering creekside but longer 'road less traveled ' yesterday,  into Pontevedra,  to avoid walking the road, we finally made it to this award winning city for design.  What a pretty place!  Checked into the Hotel Madrid,  an adequate two star. We cleaned up and rested as is our daily routine if we can, and headed out to find the tourist office.  We've been in touch with our German friend Sebastian who is now already home and back to his regular life.  I refuse to call it reality! He had some information for us and we are seriously considering walking a route called the Variante Espiritual. A two day bypass of the regular route that joins the Portuguese route and the "Sea Trail", the Source of all paths. In 44 AD the estuary of Arousa was crossed by the ship carrying the body of the apostle St. James. His remains were taken by his followers,  who "led by an angel and guided by a star" arrived at the coast of Galicia and climbed the bed of the river Ulla until reaching Iria Flavia  (now the village of Padron and our last stop before walking into Santiago.)

Typically it's two 25k days but John has found a way to make it in three. It sounds like quite the adventure. That taken into mind,  since we like Pontevedra, we decide to take a much needed break and stay two nights.  What luxury to have the time to just do what we want.  No schedule to meet.  It feels a little like freedom!

After getting the information at the tourist office,  we wandered around this vibrant Saturday evening watching everyone out and about just enjoying. Children playing, people out walking their dogs, cafes and bars filled to the brim. We went into the main cathedral.  John says that this is one of the most beautiful he has been in. Lots of stained glass and three crypts.  Not sure who is in there.  They are typically nicely carved stone caskets of the likeness of whoever is in them resting peacefully on top. They were a couple,  most likely royalty.

There was also a church of the peregrina. An entire church dedicated to the pilgrim.  The huge structure is shaped like a scallops shell!

Had a delicious piece of pizza then found a menu of soup, salad, broasted chicken and dessert and coffee.  Really hit the spot.  Well the coffee kept John up half the night and I woke up with a bit of intestinal issue BUT neither of us opened our eyes until 8:30! Much needed.  John went on to sleep until 10:30 while I worked on updating the blog.  He had some meds for my stomach that we picked up in Mexico that took care of my problems.  Spent the rest of the day wandering the city,  getting a picnic from a gourmet food store and eating in the park. Tomorrow is a new day and another adventure.  So glad for the rest!  We met Bill and Gina on our second night here and had a glass of wine with them before hugging them goodbye.  Told them of our plans to take the detour and since Gina has prebooked their hotels all the way to Santiago, we promised to stay in touch and try to visit each other in the future either in Canada or the US.