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.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Halfway to Santiago

Day 13 Hornillos
Day14  Castrojeriz
Day 15 Fromista
Day 16 Carrion de Los Cones
Day 17 Moratinos
Day 18  Calzadilla de Los Hermanillos
Day 19 Mansilla de las Mulas

We just passed the halfway geographical point  in Sahagun. That means we have about 240 miles to go. We are excited and looking forward to the next two to three weeks.

New countries of fellow walkers we have recently met: Finland, Mexico, Sweden,Norway, and Denmark.

For the past few days we have been on what's called the Meseta (table). It is mostly flat with little ups or downs. Wheat fields predominate as far as you can see. It has been an agriculture area for over a thousand years  supplying grain for the  Roman Empire.  Today we have been walking on an ancient Roman road, although it seems just like a dirt road without many cars. Tomorrow we will walk on the most perfect stretch of Roman road left in Spain,  following in the footsteps of Emperor Augustus himself. Our next big town will be Leon, which has a grand cathedral like Burgos. We will spend some time there seeing the city, then enter the Galacia portion of the journey which will be more mountainous. On we go!

Some more of our favorite photos.  (Puente means bridge)
 Virgen del Puente (1000 year old church)
 Puente Romano leaving Sahagun.
  Yellow arrow on post to show us the way as the path stretches across the valley.
 It's a long road ahead to reach Santiago
  Entrance to old church, Santa Maria la Virgin Blanca, and beautiful rose window (below)

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Trail Continues

We are moving along through Spain and enjoying the path as we meet people from many different countries and try to understand languages we have never heard before.  It´s amazing how much you can say with your hands and body language.  Some days have been a little rough lately with the rain and mud but as we say, it comes with the walk.  Every day is an adventure and we awake with the realization that we will take what the day brings.  So far, we will have to recommend to all our readers to put it on your bucket list if your knees will allow it.  The photos below are a few of our favorite so far.  We will update it as we can find the time and internet.  

 Early church in Formista
 Bodagos (wine storage areas)
 Bill looking out over a beautiful scene with miles to go
 Not all days are bright and sunny. Ann with all rain gear and unbrella on a very muddy road
 Example of sleeping area with clothes drying on a line
 Ann looking out over a vista to take your breath away and starting to go down a grade of 18 %
Stork in huge nest on top of a church.  A fairly common sight
Walking along an irrigation canal near Fromista
Drying clothes along with solar water heaters and panels

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Camino Continues

For those of you who are following our progress on a map:
Day 7 Navarette
Day 8 Azofra
Day 9 Granon
Day 10 Villafranca Montes de Oca
Day 11 Cardenuela
Day 12 Burgos
Day 13 Hornillos Del Camino
Day 14 Castrojeriz

We meet people from all over the world.  Here is a list of countries so far:
France, Spain, Germany, England, Ireland, Hungary, Netherlands, Korea, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Brazil, Finland, Mexico, and a scattering of folks from the USA.

By now we have fallen into a typical day.  We usually awake by the sounds of early hikers  packing their backpacks, around 6 a.m. By 6:30, we are up joining them. After getting our things together we will have breakfast of bread, marmelade, yogurt, and tea if a kitchen is available, finish our packing and start walking between 7 and 8 o'clock. We like to stop around 10 in the morning for a coffee con leche (milk) and a goodie. We then hike until noon and start looking for a store to buy something for our lunch. This usually will be bread , cheese, jam, some fruit, and a sweet item.  Our favorite place to eat is on the main plaza of a town or on a park bench along a river. The afternoon is again taken up with walking until 3 to 4 o'clock when we will look for a place to spend the night. On the Camino there are  Albergues where as many as 40-50 people will sleep in one or two rooms.  There are also smaller places run by private groups which offer more services. We shower and wash our clothes every other day, write in our journals and read a bit about the next day to see what we will be facing. In some of the Albergues, a communal meal will be offered where we all eat together at long tables. Otherwise we look for a restaurant that offers a Pilgrim Meal, a salad, main dish, dessert, bread, and wine or water for a set price. We sometimes join our old and new friends to make a simple meal if a kitchen is available. By 8:30, we are getting ready for bed and try to be putting in our ear plugs by 9 o'clock. We sleep well even in a room of snoring!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Day 7

We are staying at an Albergue in Navarrete, a historic Camino town. After walking 22 kilometers since 7am until 1pm, it is time to rest.

Crossed Roman Bridge, Puente la Reina.

Hiking path out of town.

Waking through town.

Getting wine from Fuente del Vino in Irache.

Church tower in Villamayor de Monjardin.

Flowers in same town.

Communal dinner with fellow hikers.

Started in rain this morning but stopped after a couple of hours. We are excited to meet people that we have gotten to know at the stopping places at night. Already we have made friends with some of them and shared our reasons for walking the Camino. More to come.