A Travellerspoint blog

Camino Day 30: The End of the Road

JUNE 3RD, 2016 SARDINEIRO TO FISTERRA: 10 KM/6.2 MILES

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The long, past few days were rewarded with a short kilometer hike to Fisterra which was considered the end of the known world, that is, until ships that ventured further did not actually fall off the earth’s edge. We were gloriously sans backpacks for a day as we were to return to our quaint hotel that night. We walked along the beach when possible, but surprisingly and sadly, encountered a fair bit of rubbish en route. As we approached Fisterra, we noted the streets were far busier than our little beach town.

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We had not reached the end point yet, as there is the requisite walk to the western most point on the peninsula that ends with a lighthouse, “Cabo de Fisterra”, in Galician (Cape Finisterre) Every pilgrim that has made it thus far, continues to this final terminus.
There was a line up for photo-ops by the zero kilometer marker. Did one lose some of the Camino mystery in the push to the finish line as we click away, take selfies, do live video while not truly seeing or feeling anything at the moment? Had life become just a series of frozen photographed moments that encapsulates that time into a hard copy which ultimately keeps us constantly outside of the present? I stand guilty as charged and have a zero kilometer marker photo and thousands of other photos to convict myself over the years. That said, these photos do help jog the memory, especially since it has taken me several years to finish my Camino writings. More on this later.

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An old tradition at this furthermost point of the Iberian peninsula is to burn one’s clothing and boots as a symbol of purification or rebirth at the end of one’s arduous Camino journey. Being the thrifter and perhaps modest person that I am, I had no plans to strip down and have my clothes turn to ashes. I was no Lady Godiva. Additionally, this tradition was requested not to be observed in respect to Nature and the environment. Half burnt clothing items scattered about indicated that the ritual continued despite these environmentally conscious intentions.

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On return to Fisterra from the Cape, the town continued to buzz. I was ready to retreat and chill by the near deserted beach I called home for the night. We opted to take the bus back as the day had heated up and we had officially reached our destination. We did pick up our rather artistic certificate of completion of the Finisterre Route of the Camino. There was no waiting line for this paper Camino validation compared to the extended waiting line we observed in Santiago.
As we walked on our empty beach later that day, a local called out to us from an outdoor patio of a bar. We harkened to his call and realized once there that he was decidedly inebriated from drinking a yellowish liquor. He enthusiastically offered us a taste of the local nectar in his very broken English. A sip was all it took to know this was potent stuff. We tried to wrangle ourselves politely away from his repeated requests to drink with him, and were able to depart after he requested or shall we say insisted to have a photo op with him. Yet another hard copy memory obtained.

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We enjoyed a long leisurely “Peregrino Menu” dinner later at the hotel. Our biker friend had pedaled onward. The sky did not darken until almost 11 pm. The moon appeared again out across the water. My feet appreciated the light kilometer day.

Posted by Shantitraveler 21:56 Archived in Spain Tagged walking hiking beach trek journey camino gratitude caminodesantiago fisterra Comments (0)

Camino Day 29: Humbled by Indecision

June 2, 2016: Olveiroa to Sardineiro 26 km/ 16.2 miles

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Breakfast was taken at the hostel before we departed as we were unsure if we would find food elsewhere. The trail was quiet. We imagined most had exited the town already and we were bringing up the rear. Today looked like another long kilometer day with limited stops en route.

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A small mobile cafe popped up in the middle of a more remote section of the Camino path. The guy worked out of his truck and provided a variety of drinks and snacks along with some hand made jewelry. As is the true tradition of the Camino, he accepted donations for anything desired. No prices listed. Pay what you can and if you can’t, you can take freely.

I have to admit, I embrace this concept, but concurrently some discomfort arises in my monkey-brain as I contemplate what amount to throw in. I eyed a piece of jewelry yet had no idea what to pay. Silly it be, I worried about giving too little or too much. Prices went back and forth like a ping pong ball in my mind. Kashi on the other hand was chill and followed the tradition with ease and got us teas.

Undecided about the jewelry, I left empty handed. These small pop-up businesses really support the local community, so price or no price listed, supporting them is a great way to give back. I was humbled by my own indecision.

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As far as water stops go along the route, there are numerous stone fountains available to refill your bottles and sometimes cool your feet. These life giving sources provided clean drinking water throughout the Camino. We had a prolonged stop at one such Divine fountain dipping our feet in the icy cold, luxurious water.

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We reached a summit and beheld what appeared to be the ocean in the distance. This was our first view of what once was considered the end of the world. We actually posed our query to another Peregrino to confirm our navigational discovery.

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Hunger hit but no restaurants were to be found except a more posh one situated on the waterfront. Not wanting to gamble when the next food option might appear, we stepped the budget up a notch, disregarded if there was a dress code and sat down on the veranda. In lieu of the restaurants decorum we refrained from taking our shoes off as per usual with our stops.

After our “fine” dining experience we trudged onward. We had lost a little momentum from stopping. Instead of trudging all the way to Fisterra for the night we stopped short in a seaside village. As per our usual luck we discovered a lovely little hotel at the end of a long lonely beach. We threw our bags in the room and took a stroll barefoot in the sand to massage our sore feet while getting a cheap, sand pedicure. I splashed about on the shoreline while Kashi searched for shells.

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There was one other Pilgrim staying at the hotel from Denmark. He was biking the Camino, which was the other official way to earn the Compostela certificate of completion. We dined with our pilgrim friend, had another interesting conversation to add to the many already shared en route and most likely solved a few world problems.

This was a serene place to chill. The moon rose above the water as the sky darkened. I counted my blessings.

Posted by Shantitraveler 23:27 Archived in Spain Tagged hiking trekking spain tranquility spiritual camino caminodesantiago Comments (1)

Camino Day 28: Endless Walking

June 1, 2016: Negreira to Olveiroa: 33.2 km/20.6 miles

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The past few days I’ve woken up earlier than usual. It was still dark when I ever so quietly maneuvered myself off the top bunk, grabbed my clothes at the end of the bed and snuck out of the room. Luckily they had just started serving coffee downstairs so I propped myself up at the bar and used the time to journal. I imagined having more time to write on the Camino, but either we moved slowly and time ran away or I was too bone-tired to pull my thoughts together at day’s end.
Early morning is probably my most favored time of day. I savored my quiet, solitary time before the rest of the world roused. Only one other Pilgrim was up and huddled in the corner of the cafe.
Slowly Pilgrims trickled down, some taking coffee while others hit the road. No sign of Kashi so I headed back upstairs. The time was around 0700 AM. The hostel room was empty albeit Kashi sitting up in his bed wondering where everyone had gone. We laughed. Our timing was a bit off compared to most Pilgrims.
Despite being “late” we headed out for a morning cuppa. We found a cafe and settled in the corner table. Small numbers of Pilgrims started to stream in and soon the cafe was filled. We tried to calculate if these new arrivals were coming from the previous town as our hostel had emptied out at first light. We shrugged. Our activity level was not as eager nor fervent in these early hours.

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There were far fewer cafes or water fountains en route today. From our map, it appeared that we were going to be clocking the longest walking day yet on the Camino to get to a place where we could lay our heads. My feet were feeling the repetitious pressure on their padding and I felt I was regressing back to the first of the three parts of the Camino, that of the Physical. I should be at least attaining the Mental if not venturing near the Spiritual level by this stage in the walk. Would I not obtain enlightenment by walk’s end? I entertained myself with these pseudo aspirations.
The scenery was changing but the path was still covered by a canopy of foliage. We were walking slowly, like two kids on a summer day not having any plans, kicking the dirt as we went. We joked and poked around. Time was on our side and we relished it.

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We alternated passing and retreating with a few different Peregrino pairs during the day. We spotted the Korean couple, from yesterday, at the start of the day. They did walk at a fairly slow, sedate pace. Wondered where they may end up tonight?
We usually chose sleeping quarters that were distanced from the Peregrino bulk when possible. On the outskirts of the town where we were going to settle for the night, there was a hostel sign in the front yard of a house. We decided to check it out.

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We took beds in a multi bed room, but there were no other guests so basically we had a room to ourselves for the price of a hostel bed. Score! The rumors of bed shortages seemed overinflated and a needless worry but there were Pilgrims who would book ahead for security.
The hostel owner spoke German and a handful of English so Kashi held most of the conversation with her. She had worked in Leitchenstein for 23 years and thus had a good grasp of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language.
Dinner was served in the family dining room. There were two children present, but they kept mostly to themselves despite trying to engage them in conversation. With bellies filled, we were tired. Sleep followed quickly.

Posted by Shantitraveler 14:04 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Camino Day 27: To Oz

May 31st, 2016: Santiago to Negreira 22 kms/13.8 miles

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Our first stop after a coffee was to go to the Praza do Obradoiro, the center of the old town. In Gallego it’s called “Square of the Workshop”. This is Oz, where all Peregrinos finish their Camino. Selfies, group shots, hugs and rolling tears are shared while onlookers survey the impassioned scene on the periphery. We had made it to Santiago. The Cathedral itself was under construction and all the scaffolding made for a bad photo op. I pondered how I would have felt arriving on the square had we not arrived by bus as it felt anticlimactic at present.

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It was time to move onward. My hopes were that the Fisterra route would be less crowded than the increasingly larger numbers of Pilgrims we saw on the Camino the last few days. I was pleased to read that many Pilgrims opted out of the extra klicks beyond Santiago.
We did not have a guide book for this part of the Camino, only a rough map of where towns were located. Not having directions made this a refreshing element of the Fisterra route, as we just walked.

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My legs seemed slower and heavier than usual. There were not so many cafes en route so when one did pop up, we made a stop. The trail was mostly wooded with towering eucalyptus trees that provided a pleasant, shaded walk for a majority of the day. We had dropped elevation and the days were warming up.

We took our time today. There was no rush. Life was good. There were far fewer Pilgrims. We leap-frogged back and forth on the path with another meandering duo from Korea.

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A beautiful, dancing river materialized and we planted ourselves at a spot where the water melodiously frolicked and created small little fountains as it collided with the rocks. What precious moments to pass our time “adagio” as if this was the most pressing agenda item for the day.

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As we neared the end of our walking day we stopped at a local bar for a glass of wine which they served in small bowls and filled them to the brim. Our steps were lighter after the stop.

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We earned two top bunks at a hostel as most pilgrims had already arrived and were settled in by now. There wasn’t a self service kitchen so we did a walkabout town to find a place to eat. The choices were limited.

I picked up some socks at a Chinese store as mine were getting quite worn down. Chinese stores seemed to pop up like daisies in many of these small towns and carried a variety of knick knacks and an assortment of other odds and ends. The sun stayed up late, past 10 pm. Most Peregrinos were in bed by that time, some sleeping while others were reading off illuminated LED screens. I crawled up to my spot for the night and waved good night to Kashi atop the adjacent bunk.

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Posted by Shantitraveler 16:51 Archived in Spain Tagged walking trekking santiago spirituality caminodesantiago Comments (0)

Camino Day 26: Money for Cheese

May 30th: Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela By bus: 0 km

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Private room equals long, hot bath and a late start to the day. Forgetful of siesta time and how that may affect travel, we had a long wait at the station for the next bus to Santiago.
At breakfast we had decided to get to Santiago by day’s end and on the subsequent day commence the 90 km Finisterre Way to the said destination. This coastal town known locally as Fisterra was literally once thought to be the “End of the World”. Kashi was short on time, and Fisterra was also on my to-do list. The time to move was now.
I never quite mind getting “stuck” at a train or bus station. The people watching is always interesting and it’s just good old-fashioned down time. One can’t really go anywhere so best make the most of chillin’. I dug out my journal and started plugging away while sipping a coffee at the bus station cafe.
A woman approached and asked for money. We dug in our pockets and gave some small change. Some time passed and she reappeared showing that she had bought cheese with the money. I was humbled by the action. How many times have I pondered in similar situations whether the money might be spent on something less useful?
Kashi made a super mercado run for our lunch while I watched the packs. Traveling with someone can make life more effortless at times. The day was sunny and we picnicked outside the station. Another one of the many lovely al fresco lunches taken on the Camino.
People started gathering around the numbered door for departure to Santiago. I noted other Peregrinos taking the bus. I had a fleeting moment of guilt when I stepped up, but pushed it back out.
Sitting high up on a bus one could appreciate the rolling, hilly terrain of this more remote countryside. We had crossed the line to the Galicia region of Spain. It was this rough terrain that isolated Galicia from the rest of Spain and helped maintain the 600 BC Celtic culture that settled here. The Galicians have their own language Gallego and were granted regional autonomy by Spain. There are 17 autonomous regions in Spain which are given a varying degree of local control.
We arrived in Santiago as it was getting dark. We checked out a few hostels on arrival only to find them full. We rested with our packs at a cafe to figure out where to lay our heads while some Pilgrims still passed with their clicking sticks. I pondered if the sticks were really necessary in towns on paved roads as the constant reverberation was honestly, quite tortuous at times. There was a hotel not far away that we found online and decided to book as we were beginning to feel the days travel on us and the sun had already set. Dinner was late as is in Spain. We were in Santiago.

Posted by Shantitraveler 17:48 Archived in Spain Tagged walking hiking trek spain camino caminodesantiago ponferrada Comments (0)

Camino Day 25: A Night with a Knight

May 29th: Manjarin to Ponferrada: 22.5 km/13.9 miles

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Yesterday evening before complete darkness had shaded any more of the simplicity and perhaps cleanliness of this hostel, we were shown the bunk room. Bare mattresses lined both sides of the attic. I was already calculating how to keep myself fully intact nor make contact with my mattress. This was an accommodation stretch even for my meager comfort levels. I would be hard pressed to find many friends who would have stayed here for the night. Hence the reason I treasured traveling with Kashi. We had shared some rougher travel adventures together; sleeping in a car in Portugal at a remote beach, getting waylaid overnight on a bus in the middle of nowhere in NE India, due to a road blockade and walking for miles in Croatia as buses didn’t run on Sundays. But these were the times most remembered and tonight would not be an exception.
Tomas the caretaker and a Knight Templar was the owner of this donativo hostel. Templars originated to protect Christian pilgrims visiting holy sites during the medieval time. Tomas had been here for 23 years. After we “settled in” upstairs he led us outside and pointed across the road to the loo or in other terms a long drop. Another mental calculation was made that a midnight run to the loo could be a rather treacherous activity. I planned to go NPO (medical term for nothing per os/mouth) soon.
We were invited into the darkened kitchen and took a seat at the table. Dinner was already cooking. I couldn’t make out items that were stored on the counter and shelves. Maybe better left unseen. Tomas spoke little English. Later his comrade, Bruno entered and joined our round table. The conversation was stilted in broken English with the main theme being how much the Camino had changed and the sadness that came with that realization. This place was a rare glimpse into what most likely the Camino may have been like before the hoards of us comfort-loving Pilgrims took over the route. Seeing these kind of drastic changes in anyone’s life can be heartbreaking. My initial views of this place softened. I was quite lucky to experience such warmth and tradition.
The prepared meal of steaming stew and bread served so humbly to us was delicious. A mural on the wall depicted some sort of Templar scene, but I couldn’t quite make it out in the dim light. There wasn’t much more to do after dinner except retire to the attic. The creaky darkened stairwell was yet another calculated risk in making a pilgrimage to the loo that night.
We were forewarned that breakfast wouldn’t be until 0800. Tomas loathed early risers. That said, we were awaken by a ringing bell and tea was served by the wood burning stove. The Templar mural was quite impressive in the daylight.
Last night we got a good feel of what the Camino was once like as contrast to what we were about to experience as we tread onward. I was thankful we had spent the night here. The remainder of the day was to show the impact of the increased volume of Pilgrims over the years.
Our first tackle of the day was to climb to the highest point in the Camino. The day was misty and wet. One had to veer off the path to reach the altar-like spot. Most were passing on this option due to the weather. The wide vista was dampened with the fog, but the solitude and kisses of rain felt divine.
The walk was a slow downhill from here. Villages and shops were changing face, paralleling the increase of Pilgrims. Many pilgrims joined the Camino at later points on the trail. The increasing herd felt disruptive to the slowing-down process that we had acquired over the past few weeks.
The number of services and stores were becoming far more ubiquitous. The villages were still quaint and beautiful but the simple, quiet nature of the Camino seemed camouflaged. Almost all the cafes had tiendas (stores) to purchase anything you wanted. There was no need to pack food as it could be bought anywhere. Every need was catered.
There were dirt trails for walking but most stuck to the tarmac due to the rain. Those Pilgrims missed the tiny flowers struggling to find sunshine on the original path.
I bumped into a feisty, friendly Irish woman whom was a bunk mate at my very first hostel. She was accompanied by two other women. They had to be running this Camino as we had skipped three days by bus and they were already here. I admired their endurance, but knew that was not my kind of Camino.
We continued our slow walk downhill all the way to Ponferrada. The big castle stood tall and strong within the old city. Most things were closed as it was Sunday. The old part of the city was pretty, but I missed the countryside. We took a private room at a local hotel.
We would have another decision point in the morning as Kashi’s time was squeaking down and with what time was left, there was little interest in walking with the bulk of trekkers. I was opened to whatever we walked as I had made my plan to return to whatever sections we missed. Everything was going to work out.

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Posted by Shantitraveler 07:47 Archived in Spain Tagged spain spiritual camino spirituality caminodesantiago manjarin Comments (0)

Camino Day 24: Letting go...

May 28, 2016: Astorga to Manjarin 30.3 km/18.9 miles

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Great night sleep in our little hotel. Nothing could lure me out of bed early today. The day was misty and overcast and full advantage was taken of having a private room. Laziness spilled over and a coffee was taken in the room versus downstairs. Yesterday’s challenges morphed into a softened memory. I embraced my deflated ego of plans gone wayside.
We had all day to walk. We were entering the Maragateria region of the Leon Province. The culture of this district hung tight over the centuries due to the isolated, mountainous geography. The landscape was becoming more rolling and hilly. The air was brisk and foggy. The architecture looked alpine. The main thoroughfare of each village was cobblestoned.
The rainy weather hung in there, but walking was doable. More frequent breaks were taken to dodge the drops or take respite. Other Pilgrims encountered were in good spirits. The sense of community held us all together as we walked in this rather dismal weather towards our final destination, wherever or whenever that may truly end.
We stopped in one small narrow cafe where someone was playing a guitar. Others joined in singing in their native tongue. Everyone looked soggy. Eyeglasses were foggy. Hot drinks warmed up the cold bodies. Here was a roomful of strangers, where everyone’s status, profession and backgrounds were unknown, yet all were smiling and laughing. How often does this happen at home?
Further down the road, on the outskirts of Rabanal we met a man from the Czech Republic. He had lost his farm back home and as a result, decided to walk the Camino. He sat outside his tent with two dogs. From the looks of it, he had been camped out for awhile. One of the dogs was his traveling mate, and the other had joined them about a week prior. He shared that he had walked the Camino 20 years ago, at age ten, with his Father. He claimed that his Father took notes of all the Pilgrims they had encountered. They numbered 14 total, over the course of their seven month walk to and from Santiago. The Pilgrim head count had jumped markedly since that time.
The Rain had beaten us down and a lunch stop was due. We chose our restaurant in Foncebadon for the mere fact that it was the sole cafe with smoke coming from its rooftop chimney. We wanted warmth. Upon entering, we were transformed to days gone past with traditional, local dress worn by the staff and music with Celtic undertones playing overhead. The artesian bread was delicious and wine was served in goblets. The hot and steamy soup warmed the leftover cold spots inside me. I had slipped my shoes off for comfort and relief. I didn’t want to leave but we had wanted to check out a particular hostel further up the road. We slowly moved onward.
La Cruz de Ferro was a fairly significant stop on the Camino. This was a place to reflect on this long journey’s purpose. Tradition was to carry a small rock from home and drop here symbolizing leaving everything behind. The Pilgrims who had study the Camino prior to walking were well aware and prepared for this soulful stop. Since my Camino plans were last minute, I was unprepared and empty-handed. When we reached this high point of the Camino, we discovered stones, small treasures and mementos scattered around or secured to the centered pole left by Pilgrims past.
I pondered what I should leave here. Kashi suggested the Yantra necklace he had given me from India long ago. A Yantra is like a visible mantra and was used for meditation purposes. This was my travel necklace. I couldn’t imagine giving it up. I walked around the site quietly, devising what else I could possibly leave instead. Kashi gently challenged me to leave something of value, as otherwise the act was insignificant. Darn him for being so wise and unattached. He planned to leave the Shiva stone that I had given him from Nepal. I cringed with disbelief.
The sun was sinking low in the horizon and we still needed to reach our hostel. I slowly took off my yantra necklace and hung it on the pole. The Shiva stone was placed at the foot of the pole. How had I become so attached to one small item when the embodiment of that item stood next to me. With this truth, my angst was quieted.
Peace can be found in the moments where we give up the tangible items to gain the intangible wisdom. I stumbled upon most of my intangible gems when traveling and hence one of the main reasons I travel.
A different sort of heavy from yesterday’s challenges veiled my heart as we walked away. Yesterday’s challenges were of the ego nature, today’s was letting go. I had dropped clothes along this route to lighten my load, and now I was dropping attachments. I was reminded of the belief that one goes through three phases during their Camino: physical, mental and spiritual. I felt a transition taking place.
We reached our hostel right before sunset. Had we had more daylight to move onward, I may have shied away from staying here. But, we had chosen this interesting place from the guidebooks description and the Camino had spoken. We were grateful. This stay would be remembered.

A Stormy Day

A Stormy Day

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Posted by Shantitraveler 13:42 Archived in Spain Tagged walking leon camino transitions caminodesantiago lettinggo manjarin Comments (1)

Camino Day 23: A Brawl with the Ego

Reliegos to Astorga: 6.2 km/3.9 miles and then the bus ride

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Coffee only taken at the hostel and then headed out. Memories of the laid back night still danced in my head as we passed the funky Reliegos monument with bits of shared wisdom scrawled on its exterior walls by the inspired. “The world is changing, how bout you?” Or “Together, we walk alone”.
The simple, local vino never dulled one’s head in the morning, compared to how a small glass of vino back home could knock hard at times. Guessing sans preservatives made all the difference.
I had been corresponding back and forth with my good friend Doc whom would be passing through Madrid around this time. We had strategized rendezvousing if my Camino and his visit synced. Doc was one of my traveling soulmate. We had traversed about as many countries together as I had with my other traveling soulmate Kashi. The thought of ticking off another country with Doc would be good fun. I considered myself quite fortunate having two wonderful compadres to share my passion of traversing the world with everything I needed in my backpack.
Nowadays, Doc’s present dream job took him around the world in first class style. His comfort level had been upgraded a wee bit since we had last traveled together, but his spirit was the same. The Camino hostels may present more of a comfort challenge for him now than when we hosteled it in England or backpacked through Vietnam. He wouldn’t miss a beat though, as once a traveler, always a traveler.
Past discussions with Kashi about the Madrid diversion left no conclusive answers to go or not to go. Kashi’s time was limited on the Camino and he wished to continue forward. The next village was about a 6 km’s walk. That distance would buy me time to find a peaceful resolution for this desire to be in two places at the same time. En route, we bumped into the Austrian woman from our hostel. She shared that she got sick on the hostel food last night. Condolences and Bien Camino’s given.
We arrived in Mansilla de las Mulas and looked for a breakfast joint since we were fueled solely from our morning coffee. Kashi studied the guidebook. Normally he scoffs at these helpful books. He was strategizing how best to use his numbered days left on the Camino. He was even routing out bus options starting from this village. No pilgrim dare talk out loud about utilizing means beyond one’s own feet to complete the Camino.
I was slowly coming to melancholic terms that two things I had imagined doing on the Camino may not materialize. Firstly, there was the realization that a Madrid diversion would shake up the peaceful intentions of the Camino. Secondly, the acceptance that I may not be walking the usual Camino route if I were to continue with Kashi. A second coffee was needed at this quaint little cafe to digest this new agenda. Parting from Kashi to do my own Camino made me sad. Since I didn’t have a plane ticket home yet, I reckoned I could return later to complete the skipped Camino sections. We had already encountered one woman walking the Camino to and in reverse, stating pilgrims had to walked both prior to buses and cars.
The book also recommended taking the bus from Mansilla de las Mulas into Leon describing the route as the ‘slog into the city center.’ The Camino aligned with two busy highways until one reached Leon. The author further challenged Pilgrims to assess their ego and their intention at this junction. My desire to walk every Camino step was total vanity, but was still very difficult to overcome. Kashi was intent on taking the bus, as this part of the walk would have been a time waste for him. He had no trouble letting go of his ego voice, as he never had plans to complete the whole Camino. My ego was not as tame.
The entire distance to the bus station felt like a walk of shame. My spirit hung low as we walked against the Camino flow back to the station. The ride into town was a quiet, pensive time. I struggled with the self important voices in my head demanding why I wasn’t walking.
Leon is one of the major cities along the Camino route. We had planned to visit the Cathedral at minimum if not stay a night, to explore the city more thoroughly. Everything was closed for the afternoon. Another minor upset, but the true art of travel is how well one rolls with the changes. Today truly challenged that art form.
Not wanting to wait until things reopened and being a big busy city, we decided to move onward. But first a stop at the Parador per my request. This was the fancy hotel that was featured in the movie, “The Way”. Many Pilgrims on the Camino upgraded and stayed here for a night. We just wanted to have a coffee and enjoy the high life for a few hours. Backpacks were acceptable as they welcomed Pilgrims here.
I always enjoyed walking into a 5-star joint in my backpacking travels around the world so that I could feel like a goddess for a few hours. This habit was especially relished in countries where a clean toilet was difficult to find. Surprisingly, in all my five star walk-throughs, I hadn’t been stopped at the door, excepting at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. They didn’t allow sandal wearing patrons at the front entrance. A fellow traveler later shared that I could have walked around to the side door. I had missed my opportunity to indulge in the infamous Singapore Sling.
We really hadn’t figured out where we would end up for the night as we sat, sipping coffee and vino. I did kind of thrive on the “not knowing where I would end up” notion. Per Kashi’s guidebook study, the next part of the Camino was also alongside the highway, so Kashi suggested we return to the bus station and see where a bus could take us before sunset. I surrendered my bruised ego as best I could and put my trust in the Camino.
Astorga was the decided upon destination. We jumped about two days of walking with this plan. So a grand total of three days walking were cut by the end of the day. I recognized the Polish man walking the Camino route on this busy road. Shame flushed through me again as I looked out.
We arrived in Astorga at dusk. We were tired. We passed the Gaudi designed Palacio Episcopal building with its Neo-Gothic style, en route to our hotel. The setting sunlight painted a threatening dark intensity to it’s walls. We had upgraded to a hotel tonight, as we needed the space and quiet to absorb the day’s changes.

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Posted by Shantitraveler 23:05 Archived in Spain Tagged walking meditation spain peace leon camino ego mansilla_de_las_mulas Comments (1)

Camino Day 22: A Religious Night in Reliegos

Calzada Del Cota to Reliegos: 26.2 km/16.4 Miles

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The Romanian woman requested a second night stay at the hostel in order to rest her weary legs, since she had over-walked the past few days. This option is not always possible unless you have good reason, serving as a hinderance for people taking advantage of cheap accommodations or reducing the possibility they make their visit more a vacation than a pilgrimage. We departed before she received an answer.
We had stocked up on water and snacks for today’s long, lone alternative trek. No villages or cafes were en route per our trusty guidebook. The terrain remained flat, mostly treeless and dusty. One would imagine more tumble weed blowing across such a desolate terrain.
We took a rest at what looked like an old abandoned train stop. This platform was the only place to actually sit, grab some shade and eat our packed lunch. Our water supply was low. We had passed back and forth with a lone German woman as we walked. She was just departing the picnic site as we sat down.
From the vantage of our perch, a dusty road lead out, with a high likelihood that it lead back to the main Camino path and all the other Pilgrims. Kashi was dreaming of a cold beer, while I wistfully leaned towards the alternative path. Kashi’s thirst took over and he figured a cold beer could be found down by the distant grain elevator to the right of the road. We arranged to track each other down in the next village.
I was alone on this path, as the German woman had long since moved on. My adventurous spirit felt crazily free and my wanderlust was satiated. I had little water left, but the sun was no longer high in the sky and I reasoned it was a survivable distance.
In hindsight, maybe Kashi and I should have thought more often to occasionally separate. He had pondered aloud how the Camino experience might be on one’s own. We had discussed how at times it would be convenient to wear a silence sign so that you could be more meditative when walking. Others would be forewarned and pass respectfully. These alternate routes allowed for a more mindful state sans sign.
I did not encounter anyone on the last part of this leg. Soulful times like these are sometimes difficult to find in the regiment of life. At the present moment, my life was squished into one goal and that was to walk to the next village. The Camino was whittling down my fears, worry and stress to nil.
I arrived in the village of Reliegos. After filling my water bottle at one of the designated Camino water fountains in a little park, I strategically plopped myself down at a cafe table located on the road with the ubiquitous yellow arrows indicating the direction of the Pilgrim’s route. I somehow reasoned I had arrived first, so I decided I would just wait until Kashi walked past.
An Irish man whom I had met at a previous hostel, sat down for a chat. He shared that he had grabbed a room behind this cafe. He complained about the "Peregrino panic" regarding availability of rooms, stating, “ He had to lose these fearful folks or he would go crazy”.
The Camino spirit did seem to get lost with all the pre-bookings Pilgrims were making to ensure a room on arrival. In the end, the Camino if trusted, always provided. I ordered a vino and sat with the Irishman, while keeping an eye out for Kashi. The sun was setting and I wondered if I needed to change my post or walk further into the village. I was enjoying my conversation, so I delayed the search party.
Soon after, Kashi showed himself around the corner and said he had been waiting up the road at another hostel assuming I would pass there. My path had cut lower. He shared that he had met up with the Danes from last night, and they were recommending their hostel. I went to enquire about a room, only to find the hostel had filled. On my return, I followed a sign that read new hostel opening. The hostel hosted one other guest, an Austrian woman staying in a private room. We opted for the bunk room and gambled that at this point, no one else would be joining us and by default, hopefully have a private room at dorm costs. Kashi and the Austrian conversed in their Mother tongue. The hostel had a washer so we threw in our laundry.
We opted out of hostel dining and ventured into the village. A few hundred meters down music was pouring out of a bar that was painted white with graffiti and inspirational sayings written all over the walls. The deep, resonating voice of Johnny Cash sang out and I was drawn in like a bee to honey. We saddled up to the bar near the only other patron of the joint. He was a fellow US compatriot.
The beers were served in small glasses and anytime someone ordered a refill, a big slice of cheese or slab of meat was given with it. The bartender smiled often, spoke little English, and played great music. I liked his low-key style, home-like ambience and generosity of tapas. The Camino Spirit was alive in this beaten up place. Not knowing on arrival, we discovered that a segment of the movie, ‘The Way’ had been filmed here, authenticated by the framed photos of the movie stars at the bar. Although, maybe not so meditational as my afternoon walk, this night was spiritual and freeing in its own way, as the music, good company and Camino vibes refreshed my soul. We returned to the hostel and found we had a private room after all. The Camino had provided. Suffice to say, the room needed to be christened as we were the first guests.

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Posted by Shantitraveler 12:11 Archived in Spain Tagged walking village spiritual camino mindfulness caminodesantiago reliegos Comments (1)

Camino Day 21: Extending the Olive Branch

May 25: Ledigros to Calzada Del Coto 21.7km/13.6 miles

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Morning coffee taken at the standing room only bar at the hostel. We offered up a coffee to one of the Musketeers who was waiting around for his compadres and in the meantime attempting to stuff a sweatshirt into the top of his huge pack. Perhaps this coffee symbolized an extension of an ‘olive branch’ in guise of an attempt to find our own peace with this Musketeer Ensemble with their tendency to disrupt the Camino’s generally tranquil energy. Most walked for some sort of personal or spiritual reason, and thus that in itself transformed the Camino into a more sacred experience. Peacefulness and respect go along with these intentions.
Despite my attempts to cultivate this Camino spirit, I felt slightly ambivalent towards the Musketeers up to this point. They hung by themselves, rarely interacted with other Pilgrims, and yet seemed to cause a bit of a ruckus when around.
This Frenchman whose backpack must have weighed near 50 pounds was the more quiet of the group. The recommended weight to carry was no more than 10% of your body weight with maximum of 10 kg / 22 lbs. He carried camping gear and what appeared to be a lot of other unnecessary stuff, at least for the Camino. My pack’s weight tipped over my 10% limit despite my trail of discarded clothing. We stood by the bar with our expressos and conversed in simple English, being the mutually known language of our trio.
Sombrero man entered and a coffee was extended as well to him. We found out he was from Catalonia, the province that has repeatedly attempted to break off from Spain, but has yet to gain the required vote. His given nickname morphed into ‘The Catalonian’ from here onward. Kashi held high regard for folks that fought the norm or were rebellious in nature. The Catalonians were on his admiration list. Hugo Chavez was as well, as he stood up against President Bush at a U.N. Assembly, however after Hugo slowly destroyed his own country, he lost favor. May other nonconformists could be added. So perhaps Kashi could understand the Musketeers with their avant-guard manners better than I.
Today was yet another beautiful walking day winding through several villages en route. Small little knobby hills located outside these villages had doors built into their grassy hillside. We learned that these were old bodegas used to store food and vino. Some were still in use.
We passed through the bigger town of Sahugan, but had little interest in lingering. We gravitated towards the quieter countryside. The calm of walking slowly and mindfully felt interrupted in these more populated towns with their city noises, trucks and cars.
Seems there is some wiggle room on exactly where the Camino half-way mark is located. Sahugan was listed by some as that point. A few villages passed boasted the same landmark. Officially therefore, I estimated the half way mark had been passed. My spirit jumped and my ego lifted. We were progressing, but the journey really was about the day to day, and not the finish line, wasn’t it?
By day’s end we would be coming to a fork in the road. A longer diversional route was possible that would later hook back up with the main route. I had decided that every diversion offered, I wanted to take. I like the solitude that these alternativo routes offered. There were times on the Camino that I didn’t always feel like saying Buen Camino to every person passed. I wanted to be in my own world. Not many pilgrims chose the longer alternatives. They may have had a stricter timeline or were just too tired out.
We ended up in small hostel in Calzada Del Coto just passed the fork. The day was sunny and we arrived earlier than our usual late afternoon arrival. The hostel was simple with one communal room that had a basic food prep area, a hot plate and a fridge with a long community table running down the center. The other room was a big dorm room with 30 or so bunk beds. A few people were sitting quietly on their beds. Everyone had spaced themselves out. After so many nights in a hostel, when space is available, it is usual taken.
An older Romanian woman instructed us on some of the rules of the hostel as the caretaker was not around. She had been walking over 30 km the last few days and shared she may have overdone it and needed a rest day. The book recommends rest days and I realized the only one I really took thus far was my day waiting for Kashi in Logrono. We were moving slow, so everyday seemed a bit like a rest day.
I had time to hand wash clothes, but was too lazy to carry out. This is what I should have been doing all along, but I was spoiled from the start when the Chilean gal, on one of the first days, suggested we all share a washer together. Since that time, I pretty much used washing machines. I would wait till all my clothes were dirty, then throw the load in and sit around in my sarong til completed. Most hostelers hand washed their clothes daily. Perhaps this meant I was carrying more than I should, but I didn’t want to part with any more clothes. I was unloading my brain, so why was it so difficult to unload clothes. Buddhist would say I had attachments. Slowly slowly.
The hostel didn’t fill and thus everyone was comfortably spaced. Funnily enough, the Musketeers showed up at day’s end. They sat on a picnic table in the park across the road while most of the hostelers sat at the big wooden table inside discussing world affairs. A Danish couple was strongly and proudly sharing how the Danish gov’t had perfected running a country and caring for the social needs of all. Their argument was sound, albeit with a higher tax rate and I was a bit envious as I mentally compared the United State’s approach to health care for it’s denizens. Several countries were represented at the table. Another United Nations hostel gathering passed the time quickly for the evening. No other noted dramas for the night.

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Posted by Shantitraveler 19:36 Archived in Spain Tagged walking trekking village camino caminodesantiago ledigros Comments (1)

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