Monday, June 10, 2013

Santiago to Madrid to Home in Anacortes

We left Santiago with mixed emotions as our new friends went their separate ways but we also looked forward to returning home.  The Camino was a special journey for us in that we often experienced the unexpected as we walked the ancient trail.  Trekking across an unknown landscape 12-15 miles a day for over a month in all kinds of weather conditions has its physical demands, but our emotional highs more than made up for the harsh conditions.  

 The towers of the cathedral were framed beautifully as we strolled through a park in Santiago for the last time.
 We gathered one last time with new found friends; Shin, from Japan, Richard from England, and Ed from Ireland in front of the Pilgrim office in Santiago.  Time to say goodbye. We left Santiago on a 6 hour train for Madrid, where we spent a day visiting the Prado (art museum) and walking in the peaceful Parque del Retiro.
 This towering structure,Puerta de Alcal, opens the way into the Parque del Retiro in Madrid.
 Ann and Camino friend, Linda from Texas, stroll through one of Madrid's larger parks (have to keep walking).

 Scene from a beautiful rose garden in Madrid.

A tea rose from the above garden which we took the time to smell the rich fragrance.  It's a good way to end our blog of the Camino journey.  We are unable to express in a few words how the Camino has affected us but we do feel blessed that we were able to complete the journey and gather what wisdom that it may have empowered to us.  Time will tell how we will live out the lessons we learned but we know for sure that we are better persons for the experience.  A lady from Holland who we walked with for many days reminded us that the Camino doesn't end when you arrive in Santiago, it is only just beginning.  She was 72 years old and was walking the Camino for the fourth time.  So, our parting words will be what we said to every person we met on the trail, "BUEN CAMINO."

Now we are back to real life in our hometown of Anacortes, dealing with piles of mail and messages.  One of our biggest challenges is getting over the 9-hour time change and the jet lag it presents.  From the time we left our hotel in Madrid until we arrived at our home, was a total of 28 hours!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Finisterre: The end of the earth.

June 3, 2013

Arriving in Santiago our plans were to take a couple of days to visit the church, see some fellow pilgrims, then walk on to Finisterre.  Many people who walk the Camino feel the trip is not complete until reaching the western most part of Europe which is another 100 km (60 miles) from Santiago appropriately called "end of the earth."

Due to rain, us both developing sore throats and symptoms of a cold, and feeling a lack of energy, we rested for a few days then took a bus to the town of Finisterre.  We stayed two nights there and hiked out to the lighthouse. Even though we had not walked from Santiago, we felt a sense of finality of our journey by sitting on the rocky shoreline, looking across the Atlantic Ocean towards the new world.

At the lighthouse, there is a "tradition" of burning an item from your pilgrimage.  Here is an example of a fire.  We did not feel the need to follow this trend.

Finisterre is a small fishing village with none of the hustle and bustle of Santiago, so it was a great place to gather our strength back again.

While there we met several hikers we had not seen in a while so we shared stories and caught up on Camino small talk.

Visiting the small church in the village, we noticed the close connection to the fishermen and their way of life.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Santiago: Goal Accomplished!

Day 29. Portomarin

Day 30. Palas de Rei (REI)

Day 31.  Ribadiso

Day 32. O Pedrouzo


New country. Colombia

We are here!  Arrived in Santiago yesterday in a blowing rainstorm after a short 20 kilometer walk.  Seeing the grand cathedral was a welcome sight on the 33rd day of walking.

After staring at the church for a few minutes we went to the pilgrim center and received our Certificate of Compostela which is written in Latin. We then checked into our albergue,  ate a bite and gathered in the catdedral 's main plaza to meet and congratulate the other pilgrims as they arrived.  Many of them were old friends from recent days and some we hadn't   seen for days or weeks.  Dinner followed in a noisy restaurant and we fell into bed at 10 pm.

Today we went to the pilgrim mass at noon which was attended by a crowd of at least 1000 people. At the conclusion of the mass, the huge Botafumerio, a giant incense burner, was lit and swung in a long arch just like in the movie "The Way." It was an emotional ending to the gathering.

We plan to take a bus to Finisterra tomorrow and do some hiking there for a couple of days before returning to Santiago to catch a train to Madrid for the plane trip home on June 6.

We are excited in many ways to have completed the journey on the Camino , but also sad that it's over. It was a difficult walk with many hardships along the way, but the friendships and experiences made it all worth while.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Two Days from Santiago

Day 29. Portomarin

Day 30. Palas de Rei

Day 31. Ribadiso

New countries:  Belgium and South Africa

We walked 25.8 kilometers today to arrive at the Albergue  Xunta in Ribadiso by 2:00 pm. The Camino is getting more crowded as we get closer to Santiago.  This albergue is located on the Iso River by a medieval bridge.  We soaked our tired feet in the ice cold river and they feel better.

Yesterday was a nice, warm rare day but today is cool and breezy again.  As we pass through small villages we are seeing unique grain storage structures and sheep in our path.

Two days ago we were in Portomarin on a lake, the largest body of water so far. Our Albergue had a view of the water. Also we attended another mass (misa) at the church there.

And here we are at a Camino marker. Cheers to you all!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Into Galicia

Day 23  Foncebadon

Day 24. Ponferrada

Day 25. Villafranca del Bierzo

Day. 26. La Faba

Day. 27  Villoval

Day. 28. Sarria

New country.  China

A lot has happen since our last blog, including walking through a blizzard in Foncebadon and going up to Cruz de Ferro (1504m/4934feet) the highest point on the Camino.

After the snowstorm, the weather has been nice. We left the wheat fields in the Meseta and entered the vineyards in the region of Bierzo.

 Now we are in the Galicia part of Spain where we hear the Galic language spoken quite often. Today we are in Sarria, a major starting point for pilgrims with limited time, but anxious to pick up a Compostela in Santiago. Starting from here will cover the requisite 100 km to the Cathedral.  Now the path will be getting much more crowded.

This is how we feel after a long day's hike. Ready for a rest.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Catedral de Leon

Day 22 Astroga

New countries:  Peru and Slavania

We just passed through the grand city of Leon with it's famous cathedral (church) and wanted to share a couple of photos. One of the outstanding features of the building is the stained glass windows of which there are 100's.

We are today in Astorga with the rain and sleet coming down.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Day 20 Leon
Day 21 Villavante

New countries:  Bulgaria and Astonia

Today we left Leon and walked 31.8 km (about 20 miles) to our Albergue. The last part of the hike was in a light rain but we arrived mostly dry.  Unfortunately the weather is deteriorating. It has been cold enough that we start each morning with long pants, thick socks,  insulated jackets, warm hat, and gloves. Some days we can start taking off clothing as the day warms but today we added!

Let's explain Albergues.  These are where we sleep at night. They are only available to Pilgrims who are walking the Camino and carry a passport called a Credencial del Peregrino, that gets stamped at each Albergue, and many Churches, restaurants, and points of interest.  Albergues can be run by the town (municipal), convent/monastery, or private.  Cost is usually 5 euros for the muni and up to 10 euros for the private ones.  The accommodations are bunk beds, 4-50 in one or more rooms. They are co-ed with privacy at a minimum and ear plugs a must!

Upon arrival in the afternoon we shower, wash clothes, and hang laundry out to dry.

After walking all day we are tired and glad for the rule that lights are out by 22:00 (10:00pm).  You are not allowed to get up much before 6 am, although stirrings, rustlings,and headlamps begin about 5:30. We have to be out by 7:30-8:00.  Often there is a Pilgrim meal served in the evening and a breakfast offered in the morning at 6:30.  Occasionally a kitchen is available so we can fix our own meals or we can eat in a nearby restaurant.