Friday, April 24, 2009

Santiago de Compostela - O km....El Fin

Ya llegamos!

We arrived in Santiago yesterday morning around 11:30 am, just in time to check into the hotel (which is an old pilgrim´s hospital built by Ferdinand and Isabel way back in the day) and attend the 12 pm Pilgrim´s Mass. We had planned two long days (28 km each!) on Tuesday and Wednesday, so that we had a nice and easy 10 or 11 km stroll on Thursday morning. The great weather stuck with us through yesterday (although today it is raining and cold again) so we are very pleased about that. Since arriving in Santiago I´ve seen a few familiar faces from people found and lost along the way, and gotten updates on others through the Camino grapevine. Last night we met Marcos and Andrea, a Brazilian couple that I had to part with while I was waiting for mom, and had a nice dinner with them before they left.

My friend Chema, who has doen the Camino 7 or 8 times, kept warning me that arriving in Sangtiago is the worst part of the Camino, and that 'when you get there, even though you think there should be, there is no band playing to welcome you.' Ha! There was a dude playing the gaita, a bagpipe-like local instrument, right as we walked into the plaza where the cathedral is! I took a picture to gloat to Chema when I see him in Madrid :) The mass was also very nice, and then later in the day we went and got our official compostelas, certificates that we completed the pilgrimage (and in Latin to boot!). We are VERY accomplished you know. I wish I could upload some more pictures but I have had bad luck with finding internet cafes that allow me to do so. I will send out a link when I am back in the US in a few weeks.

All in all, I´ve had a great time over the past month, walking alone, walking with new friends from all over the world, and walking with my mom. My feet and knees are sore, but I held up pretty well overall. I´m looking forward to going on a REAL vacation now! (And Krissy, if you're reading this, we aren't walking anywhere in Portugal. Anywhere).

In other news, I managed to walk 707 km without even one blister, and then last night in the hotel I fainted, hit my head on the toilet, and now look like I just lost the prizefight of the century (huge black eye, a couple of cuts on the face and forehead). Don´t worry, I´m completely fine, if a little swollen. I think Martha suffered more last night than I did, without that sweet motherly worrying. She is a star.

And with that, I think my blogging days are finished. See you all soon, I´m out!


Monday, April 20, 2009

Palas de Rei - 68 km

And weŕe down to the double digits! After four weeks (as of today) of walking, itś hard to believe that I will be finished in a few short days. Mom arrived to Lugo on Saturday, and we started walking from Sarria on Sunday morning. Luckily, she brought the nice weather with her; it had been raining for the few days before she came but it has been beautiful the last few days (misty and cool in the mornings, but sunny and warm in the afternoons). Hopefully it will keep up.

We hope to arrive in Santiago by Thursday in the morning, so two and a half more days of walking. Our feet and legs seem to be holding up for now so we are hoping we dont have any problems.

We have met some great and interesting people along the way, including today a 70-year old woman who puts us all to shame. I also ran into Pauline, a Dutch woman that I had walked with for a few days back before and up to Burgos, so it was nice to see her again. Hopefully I will see some more familiar faces in Santiago, as people seem to linger a day or two there.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lugo (off the beaten path)

I arrived in Sarria (112 km from Santiago) yesterday, the spot where my mom and I will be starting together, after two days of walking between 10 and 15 km and trying to slow down as much as possible, so as not too have too much idle time. Mom arrives tomorrow, so I decided to come to Lugo, which is an actual city, to spend a couple of days here resting while I wait for her. It´s not actually on the camino but was only a short bus ride away, and much easier for my mom to get to. The old Roman walls around the city are still intact, and today I walked around, and on top, of them, around the entire old section of the city. I am also in a hotel for the first time in a month, and it is very nice to have a real bed, a private shower, and no snorers around. There is even a TV, though I´m not really sure what to do with it...

This morning in Sarria, I went back to high school. I had seen a sign a few towns back advertising for native English speakers to come to this school and speak to the students if they would be in town, and as I had the time, I thought what the heck. It was hilarious. The kids (15 and 16 years old) basically just stared at me, and the teacher kept prodding them to ask me questions. They all were frantically looking in their notebooks for questions to ask me, but most of them were too shy. Or their English was terrible...I don´t think they understood a whole lot of what I said, even though they all began studying English when they were 7 or 8. The questions I did get were ´what is your favorite book?´, ´do you like music?´ and ´do you have to be american to be in the FBI?´.

I´m looking forward to my mom arriving tomorrow, and then getting an early start on Sunday as we start the final five day stretch to Santiago. It was sort of strange today, and I´m sure will be again next week, to wake up and not start walking for five or six hours. My legs are all ´okay, what do we do now?´

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Triacastela - 134 km

The theme of the last few days has been mountains, cold, and wet. Two really big climbs in the last two days, one with snow/hail and and wind and the second with rain (but luckily no wind). It´s not the best weather for walking, but in the end, it´s still beautiful, and makes the stops for tea every couple of hours that much more enjoyable. The biggest peak to climb was yesterday, O Cebreiro, and from now on it looks to be just some gently rolling hills (and mom, if you are reading this, you might get rained on but no snow for you...we won´t be that high up).

I officially entered Galicia yesterday, and for a minute there I thought I had made a wrong turn and walked straight to Ireland. It is green, wet, gorgoeus, there are lots of sheep, and the music is very similar (it makes sense, considering this is Celtic land, after all). I´m also much closer to Santiago, and to Sarria, where I´m meeting my mother, than I had anticipated. I am going to need to take a forced furlough (like a CA state employee!) for a couple of days because Martha arrives on Saturday and I will be there either Wednesday or Thursday, if I go slow and take a detour. Guess I either did the math wrong or walked faster than I thought!

Was hoping to upload some photos today, but this computer is pretty old and doesn´t seem to have the capacity...perhaps before the weekend I will get to a more modern internet cafe.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

San Martin del Camino - 280 km (ish)

Yesterday I was in Leon, which is really a beautiful city. Lot´s of narrow windy streets, and a beautiful cathedral with some amazing stained glass. There is also the barrio humedo, where you can walk from bar to bar drinking wine and having tapas at each one...hacer tapeo. Delicious.

As it´s Semana Santa, we´ve also been seeing lots of processions in the towns along the way. Almost everyone has at least from tomorrow to Sunday off, and a lot of people the whole week, and apparently the whole country just moves around for the week (everyone in Madrid goes to Seville, everyone from Seville goes to Barcelona, everyone from Barcelona goes to Leon, etc. etc.). Last night in Leon we watched a very somber procession, with drums and the different colored robes and the Klan-esque hats, and they were all going to the cathedral to free a prisoner. Apparently it´s been a tradition for 8 centuries or something and the still do it (although now there are rules that it can´t be a murderer or anything else serious).

Today the walk out of Leon was pretty ugly, through an industrial zone, but tomorrow and onwards will be pretty much away from any major cities. The meseta is ending and I can see the mountains ahead that I´m going to have to climb over in the next few days. Been having great luck with the weather so far so let´s hope it continues!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Terradillos de los Templarios...382 km

Today was a 27 km day, 18 of which were without seeing towns, no houses, nothing. Very beautiful, but just empty.

Last night I was in Carrion de las Condes, where we stayed in an alburgue run by Augustine nuns. The sisters gathered us all around 9 pm for a little pilgrim farewell session, where one of them played the guitar and sang songs about the camino, and another gave a little speech about their mission on the camino, etc. Like any good nun, she told us to PAY ATTENTION. This is a very loose translation of what she said:

Pay attention to the nature around you, that you are passing through every day. Pay attention to the pilgrim walking next to you every day, whether you know him or not. Pay attention to God. And pay attention to your own story.

I tried to upload a few photos, so you can see some of what I see every day. If it doesnt work, I will try again next time Im at an internet cafe...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Burgos - 490 km....A Day Without Boots

Decided to take a rest day in Burgos today, not only to give my feet and legs a small break, but also to see the city. The cathedral is absolutely amazing, and this morning I visited a really old monastery (where 30 nuns still live, cloistered) that was just incredible. It´s been very cold (which is great for walking...the backpack is so light when you´re wearing all of your clothes!) but it´s supposed to warm up in the next couple of days. Tomorrow I start the meseta, which is basically flat and full of nothing from here until Leon.

Now, as promised, here are some of the people I´ve been spending time with:

Jose Maria, aka Chema: He´s a ¨professional pilgrim,¨ has done the camino every year since 1993 either on bike or on foot or as a volunteer in one of the hostels, and is basically my tour guide and my ¨padre espanol.¨ He´s a retired bank director and seems to just spend all of his time having fun and traveling. His wife is coming next week to walk with him for a few days. It´s really hard to describe him, but he´s hilarious. And, without meaning to, we´ve had more than a few people thinking that we actually are father and daughter.

Paco and Coldo: Father and son, Basques, so funny. Paco is 60, has had a knee replacement, and walked WAAAYYYY faster than me for the week that he was doing the camino (a lot of people, Spaniards especially, do just a week or two at a time when they have vacation). I could hardly understand anything they said because of their accents, but I think most of the time they were just yelling and swearing and telling off-color jokes.

The Four French Ladies: They´ve been doing a week at a time every year for ten years, starting 2000 km away in France. Woah.

JeanClaude: A French millionare, very jolly and rotund, except when he´s yelling at someone for not understanding his French. He started in January in France also, has already done 1400 km. He says that it makes him feel less masculine when I walk faster than him, but I told him that when I´m 61 like him, I hope I can walk at all, never mind 2000 km...

Jose Antonio: Brazilian guy that spends his summers in Bar Harbor working in a hotel. He´s very sweet and funny, but a little bit dangerous with the vino, always pouring more and. Chema and I named him El Peligro for this reason.

There are many more, but I don´t have much more time now. If you want to try to picture what our dinners are like, we´re all yelling at each other in 4 or 5 languages, those who can trying to translate, and using a lot of pointing an gestures, everybody enjoying the food and company. Somehow, it works.