Friday, January 23, 2015

Linking my blogs

I now have five blogs on some of the lesser traveled Caminos.  So I thought I would link them all together in case you are looking for some suggestions.  Each of these Caminos is special in its own way, and I would happily walk any of them again.  If I am really lucky, I will! 

2010:  Via de la Plata

2011:  Madrid to Sahagun (Camino de Madrid) - Sahagun to Ponferrada (Camino Frances) - Ponferrada to Santiago (Camino de Invierno)

2012:  Santander to San Vicente (Norte) - San Vicente to Potes (Camino Lebaniego) - Potes to Leon (Camino Vadiniense) - Leon to Oviedo (Camino de Salvador) - Oviedo to Santiago (Camino Primitivo)

2013:  Camino de Levante (Valencia to Zamora) - Camino Sanabres (Zamora to Santiago)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Finally saw a sunset

I have walked the 3.5 km from Finisterre up to the lighthouse at least three, and maybe four, times -- just to see the sunset. But I have never actually seen a sunset because the cloud cover has been so heavy. But tonight was perfect. Clear skies, warm-ish temps. I walked up with some camino friends and at about 10:15 the sun dropped below the horizon.  This year's camino is officially over. Home in a few days. 

In Finisterre -- no more walking

The last day of walking always brings a mix of emotions. I think my body is programmed to know that it's going to be stopping soon, so those last few hills were just a little slower and more sluggish than usual. But I never really want to stop walking, even though I do want to see the family and have things I'm looking forward to doing back home. But no more walking.....

Today I saw a sign for a bar on the beach, about a km off the Camino. Now you might think it's silly to walk that far for a cup of coffee, but it's not every day I get to see this with my morning coffee:

And then reconnecting with the Camino took me along some other coastal paths:

Well worth the little bit of extra walking. 

Arrived in Finisterre about two pm

I am in the albergue with the group from several days ago and we have plans to walk up to the lighthouse tonight for sunset. Fingers crossed, it's very clear and sunny, so I may finally see my first Finisterre sunset! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Food appears

Last night as people's stomachs were growling, I went down to town with some others, with the hope that something would have magically opened up. A few villagers were out and about, and they again told us that everyone was at the fiesta. But then two women started talking and one thing led to another, and before we knew it we had a beautiful tortilla española, a dozen eggs from the chicken coop, a huge round loaf of excellent gallego bread, a bag of potatoes from the garden, and two bottles of wine. Only after much cajoling did we convince them to accept some money. As we arrived back at the albergue, a car pulled up with a young woman who had overheard the conversation, bringing some white asparagus, olives, fruit, some cookies for dessert. The result was nine well-fed and very happy pilgrims, blessed once again by the kindness of random strangers.

Left over potatoes became hash browns for breakfast and most everyone was on the road by 7. It was a very short day by recent standards, only 20 km, and by noon we were sitting in a cafe overlooking the ocean.  It was a very pleasant walk, nearly all off road, and for the last 9 km, we got frequent glimpses of the ocean in the brilliant sun. Rain has left us, hooray. 

My phone died on the walk, so I'm sure you'll be sorry to know I can't post any pictures of the beautiful Romanesque doorway in the Moraime church. But just to make up for it, on my way out to the church on the rocky point where Mary is reported to have appeared, a Romanesque church I've never been able to get into was magically open. Which means I can post a Romanesque picture or two after all! 

But the highlight of any trip to Muxia has to be a visit to the sanctuary of Mary. Mary is reputed to have landed here in a boat and the large rock you see sticking up is said to have been the boat's sail, which then petrified. Anyone who crawls all the way through the openings will be cured of many ailments. Whatever the truth if all if this, there is no dispute that it's an incredible place. Even a hyper-active person like me can sit and just enjoy the beauty for a long long time. It was a beautiful afternoon. 

Unfortunately, the church was struck by lightening on Christmas Day last year and many priceless statues and artifacts burned. But reconstruction is underway. 

Tomorrow is my last day of walking. Can't believe it. I hope that tomorrow, my fourth visit to the lighthouse at Finisterre, it will be clear so I can see the sunset. So far it's always been cloudy. If the weather holds, this could be my lucky year! 

Pilgrim as lemming

Today's stage has an important point:  at km 27, you must decide whether to go right and then walk 5 more km to Dumbria (and the next day to Muxia), or whether to go left and walk 11 more to Cee (and then the next day to Fisterre). Since I'm going to both places eventually, it didn't really matter which one I went to first, and I just decided to take the option that felt best when I got there. (Very unlike me to be so spontaneous!)

The day started out with a quick breakfast in the albergue

And then came many nice kms of Galician countryside. Even the eucalyptus and windmills look pretty in the mist:

(Point of information -- these groups of windmills are called parques eólicos, named after the Greek god of the wind, Aeolus. Pretty erudite, don't you think?)

After a couple of hours walking, the group of us that had set out at about the same time were spread out over a longish distance along a long, straight country road. The guy in the lead, French, turned and started muttering to me but I had no clue what he was saying. A few more minutes, and I realized I hadn't seen any arrows for a while, but I took comfort from the fact that there was someone in front of me and four behind me. At the next intersection, again no arrows, it became pretty clear we had missed something. So we stopped and waited for the rest to arrive. Consensus was clear-- we missed an arrow. The French guy just wanted to take a random left turn, the Spanish guy thought we should keep going till the next town and then figure it out, and the Spanish couple just stood their bemoaning their fate. The young Korean woman and I agreed the thing to do was to flag down a car and ask for help.  Quite a few cars ignored our waves --would you stop for a bunch of shaggy wet pilgrims with flowing ponchos and walking sticks (did I mention it was raining?). 

Finally a kind man stopped and told us we could get to our destination by staying on the highway, giving the Spanish guy a momentary triumph.  But when pressed, he admitted he had no idea if it was the camino, but it was 12 more km on the side of the highway. The second car we managed to stop was a local who knew exactly where the camino was and informed us we had missed a turn-off about 1 1/2 or 2 k back. Grrrr. What's hard to understand is how so many people missed the big granite mojón taking us off the road. I guess when you see one or several people walking ahead of you, and you know they're going to the same place you are, you just forget to pay attention. Hence the lemming reference. 

It was interesting to see everyone's reactions to the news that we should backtrack a few kms.  For the Spanish couple, it was cause for more bemoaning, for the French guy, it was time to bolt away and make up lost time. For the Spanish guy, it was an example of how the camino is a reflection of real life, and he began to draw out in great detail the comparison between missing an arrow on the camino and missing something obvious in "real life." For me and my Korean friend, though, it was something much less profound -- just what we needed to make our decision between Muxia and Fisterre. With these extra kms added to our day's walk, we knew we'd be turning right at the split. 

And so we walked together through more Galician countryside 


And made our way to the huge modern albergue in the town of Dumbria. The founder of the Zara stores is from this town and gave the money to build the albergue. Sheer albergue luxury. 

Only problem is that the 5 cafe/bars and two food shops are all closed. Not because it's Sunday, but because there is a big fiesta two towns away. A couple of us had the bright idea to call the one local taxi to take us to the fiesta so we could get something to eat, but we learned that he is also at the fiesta and is not interested in our business. Looks like a dinner of yoghurt, peanuts and raisins, and a sliver of chocolate. 

Tomorrow Muxia, one of the places most devastated by the Prestige oil spill a few years back. But also the place where Martin Sheen ended his camino in The Way. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Leaving in the rain

So I am walking again. I arrived in Santiago on Thursday morning before 9 and went straight to the pilgrims office to see all my friends and to get my first colorful compostela (new version printed this year, and it's quite beautiful, resembling an illustrated medieval manuscript).

I spent Thursday and Friday mainly doing one of two things -- writing compostelas or buying olive oil to stuff into my duffel. Both activities are quite fun. 

Since it's summer there are many more college age pilgrims, which adds a lot of spirit and fun lovingness to the camino. But there were plenty still walking in memory of someone or to fulfill a promise to the apostle. Though I didn't meet her, I heard of a young mom walking to fulfill a promise she made when her newborn was critically ill. Now the baby is 5 or 6 months old and the picture of health, so the mom walked while the dad and baby drove, making sure to meet up with mom for regular feedings. An 80 year old man walked in memory of his recently deceased wife and, as you might imagine, he was overcome with emotion in the pilgrims office. I wrote a compostela for a young woman who was born in my home town, and finally met a Camino Internet friend in person! Things like these made those days a lot of fun. 

So I woke up at about 6:15 to the sound of thunder and a hard hard rain. Back to bed. Up at 7:15 and nothing had changed, but I dressed and packed and stored my duffel with its 8 liters of oil and two kilos of beans at the front desk. After breakfast, I have to admit it, since it was still raining hard, I asked if they had rooms available for tonight. Negative. So, with the option of bailing out of the walk gone, I just put on my pack and poncho and headed out. 

33 km later, having put in and taken off my poncho at least a dozen times, I arrived with dry feet at Vilaserio. Nice private albergue and a few pilgrims for company. Not sure whether I'll go to Muxia or Finisterre first, but I will have 23 km of walking before I have to make the decision! 

Leaving Santiago

Even in the rain Pontemaceira is one of the loveliest little villages on any camino

Statue focusing on the human toll of emigration, always makes me sad (and particularly now with the huge waves leaving Spain for work) 

Pretty little church of Negreira

After fourteen years of caminos, I have found the best boots and sock combination ever!  Oh happy day! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In the Casa de Amancio

I have walked by this very nice place on several occasions, and have had a few cafés or Kas de Limón on their terrace. But since I'm finishing out my "albergue-free camino" (not exactly true but pretty close) I decided to spend my last night about ten km from the cathedral in the Casa de Amancio.

Here's the view out my window 

So I am quite content. I'll have a good homemade dinner (I've been told the food is a notch above the regular camino gruel) and be up bright and early for the last ten or twelve km into the pilgrims office and cathedral. 

Lots of good thinking time today. Even with the large numbers there's plenty of alone time and plenty of quiet time. 

Tomorrow Santiago!