Archive for the ‘Pilgrimage’ Category

courtesy Microsoft clip art

courtesy Microsoft clip art

I’ve been feeling a bit unmotivated lately.  Nothing’s “wrong.”  Life is good, in fact.   Well, except for the preponderance of weeds in the garden, but that’s for another post.

What’s been missing is having a goal. To be more specific, a travel goal.   Planning and training for my 2013 Camino consumed the better part of two years.  Rehabbing my foot and applying what I learned on my Camino took me through summer of 2014.   It’s now the end of summer 2015,  and I’m healthy and ready for a new adventure.

So where to go?  A few worthy suggestions have come across my Facebook feed over the past few months.  They include:

  • Norway.  A pilgrimage in Norway — in summer — sounds delicious!  And not because I’m a huge “Frozen” fan,  I promise!   I confess to having had little interest in, or knowledge about, this country until a hiking friend posted the information about pilgrimages.  Now I wanna go!  Beauty everywhere!  This is definitely on my bucket list.
  • Southern Colorado and the Camino de Crestone.  A Camino in the US?  Apparently so!  This 8-day journey features short walks  in an area of the country where I haven’t yet visited.  From the linked website: ” Amid some of Colorado’s greatest beauty, the little mountain town of Crestone is a magnet of spiritual presences.  Within walking distance of this small international village are stupas and zendos, ashrams, a Carmelite monastery,  Buddhist retreats and centers for sacred dance and voice, not to mention medicine wheels, sweat lodges and the labyrinth of Chartres in its exact dimensions.”    Bliss!  Here’s hoping this enterprise continues for years to come so that I can take advantage.
  • The European Peace Walk.  A long-distance walk through six countries:  Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy.    Be still my heart!   The website says this takes 24 days, with stages around 25Km per day.   This is definitely one of my “one day, maybe” trips.  Right now, however, I am currently reluctant to leave my dog for that long a time. She did not enjoy sleep-away camp while I was gone visiting family this summer.

In addition to the ones listed above, several other places have caught my fancy:  Scotland!  Montana!  Perhaps another Camino in Spain or Portugal!

All sound tempting, but for right now, I have settled on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in Wales.   I will only be walking part of the path, from St. David’s to St. Dogmaels, with a side trip to the Preseli Hills and the stones.  Departure date: mid-May 2016.  Time away from Meghan the dog, who will have her own personal pet sitter in her own house with her own crate and her own back yard and all her favorite toys: two weeks max.

So Wales, it is!  Now it’s time to dust off the hiking poles, buy a new pair of boots and get moving.


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5-5 to los arcos 25

On the way to Los Arcos – one of my favorite days on the Camino

I walked the Camino de Santiago this past spring, and was treated to an array of beautiful flowers. Below are some photos of what I saw, chronologically, starting in St Jean Pied de Port and ending in Finisterre:

walking out of St Jean

walking out of St Jean

4-28 to valcarlos 13 flowers

On the way to Valcarlos

4-28 to valcarlos 14 flowers

on the way to Valcarlos

4-29 to roncesvalles 5 flowers

Soil envy! On the way to Roncesvalles

5-1 to pamplona 1

On the way to Pamplona

5-1 to pamplona 4

On the way to Pamplona

5-3 to puenta la reina 30

On the way to Puente la Reina

5-3 to puenta la reina 38

On the way to Puente la Reina

5-3 to puenta la reina 48

On the way to Puente la Reina

5-5 to los arcos 18

On the way to Los Arcos

5-5 to los arcos 23

On the way to Los Arcos

5-5 to los arcos 24

On the way to Los Arcos

5-6 to viana 12

On the way to Viana

5-19 to calzadilla de los hermanillos 6

On the way to Calzadilla de los Hermanillos

5-20 to mansilla de los mulas 20

On the way to Mansilla de los Mulas

5-26 to acebo 5

On the way to Acebo

5-26 to acebo 19

On the way to Acebo

5-27 to ponferrada 2

On the way to Ponferrada

5-31 to linares 5

On the way to Linares

6-7 to arzua 2

On the way to Arzua

6-13 finisterre 5

On the way to the Finisterre lighthouse

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5-1o to pamplona 12

Conch shells and yellow arrows marked the way for pilgrims along the Camino de Santiago

I recently walked the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage trail in northern Spain.  While there, I took more than 800 photos with my sweet little point-and-shoot camera, plus another 150 or so on my iPhone.

Some people have very strong opinions about taking photos on vacation.   I have heard more times than I can count, in very condescending tones, that taking photos removes one from the experience.  I have a different opinion.  Taking photos actually makes me more aware of my surroundings.  I notice the colors, the smells, the sounds, the sights.   In Spain, I really noticed the clouds.  I would walk along the flat parts of the meseta just staring at the sky!

I love taking pictures of landscapes and animals and flowers.  I also try to capture things that I find funny.   One of my favorite photos from a trip years ago was a sign in a petting zoo that said, “Bunnies can get grumpy, and grumpy bunnies bite.”

Now that I have a digital camera, I go hogwild with taking photos, as one might have already guessed with the large number listed above.   But for a long journey like the Camino, I just wouldn’t remember everything without my photos.

For instance, I would have forgotten about the inspirational signs I saw.   Those familiar with the Camino know that the trail has conch shells and yellow arrows showing pilgrims the way.   But there are also graffiti signs encouraging a weary pilgrim:

4-29 to roncesvalles 2 sign

I saw this sign after a particularly hilly stretch.

4-30 to zubiri 7 sign

At this point, I might have walked 20 miles, with about 480 more to go. Yep, gotta keep on moving!

4-30 to zubiri 25 sign

When showing a friend my photos, he asked why the stop sign was in English instead of Spanish? I don’t know.

5-30 to trabadelo 7 sign

This sign was further along, at the start of a long day of climbing.

5-31 to linares 1 sign

This sign was on the way to O Cebreiro and a beautiful church.

Besides the inspirational messages, there was also plenty of political graffiti, but I chose not to take pictures of that.

I also noticed signs that were amusing to me, for one reason or another. A few examples:

5-3 to puenta la reina 41

I’m assuming this was to warn people about dogs, but it must have been siesta time when I walked by, because not a pup was in sight!

5-5 to los arcos 28

The friend mentioned above said he wanted to go through this portal. I agree!

5-7 to navarette 15

In one area, I kept seeing these signs on businesses. Again, why the English? Still, they made me smile.

5-9 to santo domingo de la calzada 8

This man’s sons painted his shoes for him. Buen Camino!

I spent about six weeks walking, with four or five rest days here and there.  I loved my time in Spain, but was ever so glad to see the final marker in Finisterre:


I had originally planned to walk to to Finisterre and Muxia, but I was injured and needed to stop walking in Santiago.  So I took the bus.  Even though I didn’t walk those last miles to the sea, I still got tears seeing the marker above.   After two years of planning, countless hours of training, and six weeks of walking, I had achieved my goal of walking the Camino.

I don’t know whether I will have the opportunity to walk another Camino.   But if I don’t,  I will certainly have 900-plus photos, including those of few silly signs, to remind me of the journey of a lifetime.


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I made it into Santiago on Sunday!

Here’s a few more photos along the way. The one below is from a path on the way to O Cebriero:

Walking amidst the clouds in the way down from O Cebriero:

I made a little friend at a wonderful casa rural:

This puppy was very cute, but mouthy. He decided to use me as a teething toy. And yes, he bit my already injured right foot!

Somewhere along this stretch, I decided to make friends with the pavement. I figured my resistance to walking on pavement was symbolic of my resistance to the hard parts of life. Maybe I don’t have to resist so much, but it’s also alright to choose an easier option. No more needless suffering in my life!

I arrived in Sarria at the tail end of a festival. Some friends who got there the day before watched the artists make these beautiful flower pictures the day before:

The Camino starts getting really crowded at Sarria. Lots of people start here since it’s the last place one can start and still get the compostela (a certificate of completion).

This area of Spain reminds a lot of folks of Ireland. Some people I met said it looked like Washington State. The wooded area reminded me of an area in upstate Connecticut.


So, now I’m done with time to waste. No more walking; my poor foot and tendons are done! Plans are to take a bus to Finisterre and then Muxia, and hang out there until it’s time to go home.

The Camino has been the most intensely wonderful, emotional and challenging experience of my life. Call me naive, but I always thought that chubby, out-of-shape me could do the distance. What I never imagined was getting injured!!! Walking (or should I say limping?) in pain for the last 200 miles definitely added to the experience.

So I’ll sit by the beach, weather permitting, and try to integrate all I’ve learned. I don’t know that I can put it in words at this point. Plus, even though I came to do some life-transforming work, I think I got more than I bargained for!

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When I last wrote, I was experiencing intense foot pain. It appears to not be a stress fracture (yay!) but a combination of painful bone spur, plantar fasciitis, and achilles tendonitis, topped off with a big blister!

I’ve been doing a lot of stretching, taking anti-inflammatories, drinking more water, and attempting to stay off my foot as much as possible.

Staying off my foot has included taking a taxi twice – once for the whole stage, once for half. I took a taxi to Astorga and stayed an extra day there at a hotel across from the Gaudi Palace (pictured above). One was allowed to take photos inside without a flash, so I snapped a few:




The next day’s walk was fairly flat. About four miles in, I saw a sign that my destination for the evening was nine miles away, and I knew I could make it!
The beautiful scenery helped:

The next day’s walk included a bit of a climb and a visit to the Cruz de Ferro. Pilgrims traditionally bring a stone from home to leave there as a symbol of something they’d like to release. (I added physical pain to my request!)

Going up the mountain wasn’t hard, but coming down was a bit tiresome. I met a wonderful gentleman from Australia whose presence helped me tremendously! Angels are indeed everywhere, as is beautiful landscape!

Next stop was Ponferrada. The Templar Castle was quite imposing, but also not open the day I was there. The history of this area includes a lot of fighting over religion. I hope one day we won’t do that anymore!

Yesterday was a walk halfway, taxi halfway day. Walking on pavement hurts the most, so it was a smart choice for me. I am taking another rest day before some more mountain climbs, but am optimistic I can walk the rest of the way.

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When last I checked in, I had just began my trek across the meseta. Seemingly never-ending fields. Some find it boring; me, being a wanna-be farmer, loved it. Well, except for the long stretches imbetween servicios!

The weather in Spain has been colder than normal, as I understand. Snow in towns I’ve passed. Snow in towns ahead. I’m luckily missing the bad weather! Though the photo above was taken right before a sleet/hail event. Made me laugh to think of that kind of weather in May!


For several days, a small group of us took the road less travelled. The picture above doesn’t capture it well, but I kept thinking I was walking through a Monet painting.


Above, I am at the town that guidebook author John Brierley says is the halfway point.

I’m almost to Astorga now and having some intense foot pain. It feels like a stress fracture, but I’m hoping for tendonitis, as that would mean I could continue.

Today I took a taxi out of Leon and walked only six miles to a lovely casa rural. The very simple walk took me five hours! I must have looked a sight, hobbling down the road, since pretty much everyone asked if I was alright.

This sweet, young, gorgeous Frenchman told me he was jealous of me because it was obvious I was suffering for the Camino. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I’ve suffered enough in my 50 years and the Camino was supposed to be fun … I guess we are all here for different reasons!

So I’m taking a bus or taxi to Astorga tomorrow and staying there for two nights. Probably the only sightseeing will be to the Museum of Chocolate. Yum!!!

Then, depending on how things are, I either continue walking or come home. I kept telling myself today that it’s about the journey, not the destination. And even if I don’t end up being able to complete my walk, I’ve had a life-changing journey.

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One of my pipe dreams before starting the Camino was to buy land over here, amd have a little farm and casa rural. The place for sale pictured above was located right next to a monastery outside Najera, surrounded by mountains. Incredibly beautiful!

I love it here, but don’t think I’ll be buying land here. The dream has shifted to creating a similar space in the U.S. But that’s for later…


More countryside on the way to Santo Domingo de Calzada. It poured this day, but luckily we got to our hotel before the deluge really hit. Got to hear the nuns sing vespers.


The road to Burgos was quite rocky in several respects… We missed a cut-off and had to literally walk on the highway for awhile.


The famous Burgos cathedral was huge. I was too tired at this point to do a tour, so just admired from outside.


Instead of tours, I sat outside by the river and watched people go by.


We are now in the meseta, lots of fields of grain. Surrounded by green!


There was an area where people made cairns from all the rocks.


This is a ruin of a monastery of monks following St. Anthony of Egypt. The guidebook talked about him being a patron saint of animals and of his followers using the healing power of love to ward off evil and cure illness.

I’m currently in Castrojeriz, and wide awake at 2:30 in the morning… Hoping to get back to sleep as tomorrow is close to 16 miles of walking. Did 19 miles the other day. I know some folks begin with high mileage, but I’m glad I didn’t. My feet are also glad to not have to do 19 every day!!!

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