Santiago, here we come!

29 Jul

We finished Day Five, so we’ll begin the last day in the morning! It’s truly hard to believe that we are so close — it has seemed so far away for so long.

On the fifth day I can make some pretty accurate generalizations about my body; namely, I completely wear out after nine miles. At that point, my feet feel like they are encased in brick, my legs feel as though they will give out at any minute and my back feels like it might snap.

But the Camino provides for the weary. Just when I thought I couldn’t go on, we entered a magnificent forest of towering eucalyptus trees. So I was able to carry on to the outskirts of Arca, where we are staying in a pastoral bed and breakfast.

Our total today was about 12 miles. Based on what we gather from talking to other pilgrims, our pace is at the low end. Most people go between 18 and 25. Yikes!

Bottom line: I know now that I can make it. After five days, what’s one more?

We’re told you can see Santiago for miles, which makes the day seem faster or longer, depending on your perspective. For some, seeing the goal too soon can make the journey more arduous; for others, seeing the goal spurs them quickly on.

The path has definitely become more crowded the closer we get to Santiago. Everyone seems to have an extra lift in their step, as the excitement builds.

On to Santiago!

The eucalyptus forest seemed to energize us all! Caitlin mugs for the camera.

Arzua in the distance, shrouded by early morning fog.

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Rock on, pilgrims

28 Jul

We went to Mass Saturday night in Arzua in a beautiful stone church and at the end, the priest called up all the pilgrims to the altar. He asked each of us (25 or so) where we were from (Poland, France, Italy, U.S. and England).

Then, in the respective languages, he explained that he was going to give us a blessing for our journey and asked us to pray for the parish when we reached Santiago.

I guess we’re pretty much rock stars in Galicia. 🙂

Hills. Hills. Hills.

28 Jul

I should have trained more. I should have better researched the topographical features of the Camino. And then I should have trained some more.

The up and down of the trail day after day took me by surprise. It really is more like hiking in Colorado.

On the first day, at the base of yet another hill, I decided to pray a decade of the Rosary. This has now become a habit for me throughout the Camino. In most cases, the worst part would be over as I came to the end of the decade.

Today, a decade only got me a fourth of the way on most hills!

 

Day Four: Arzua

28 Jul

Not gonna lie: I was on the struggle bus yesterday.

I was so discouraged at the end of Day Three that I seriously considered riding taxis all the way in to Santiago de Compostela. (Interestingly, the taxi signs are in strategic locations throughout the trail — usually at the top of a very high hill far from the next town.)

My feet have several blisters the size of grapes. One of the most aggravating erupted on the side of the ball of my foot – and because of it, I think I had changed my gait, causing my hip to hurt like heck. I was a hot mess, as Caitlin would say.

But, as the three of us have concluded, the true challenge of the Camino is a mental one. Today, despite little sleep (boisterous dog fight down the street; boisterous Spaniards in the room above) I performed beyond my wildest expectations. My feet hurt – but I was able to walk fairly well, something I feared I wouldn’t be able to do. I was slow but steady. (I refer to myself as La Tortuga — turtle in Spanish.)

Four things contributed to our pleasant fourth day:

  • The weather is delightfully cool with overcast skies. The girls kept on their long-sleeved shirts or jackets all day; being the menopausal one, I, of course, was in short-sleeves.
  • The company was interesting. We met our first Americans (Alaskans) who were traveling with a very nice Polish priest. They had walked an amazing 42k (25 miles) the previous day! We had a wonderful chat with two Irish bicyclists at the top of the highest hill. They seemed like our friends until they practically mowed us over as they careened their way down. A woman from Madrid who had studied in California walked with us part of the way. She mentioned that the part of the trail we were hiking was called “leg killer.” Funny how the guidebook didn’t mention that! But it was indeed grueling, with some very steep inclines.
  • Mentally, I was in a better place. I think I had wallowed enough in self-pity and disappointment the day before and had decided that was enough. Everyone’s mood was good; we entertained ourselves with recollections of funny scenes from “Parks and Recreation.” In fact, the song of the day was “Get on Your Feet.”
  • Reaching Santiago is becoming more real. The Irish bikers we spoke with talked about how they would be there by nightfall. The Polish priest talked to us about the Pilgrim Mass and how his group had to make it there tomorrow. We’re eager and hopeful.

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Blessed are the angels

28 Jul

On the Camino, it’s the little things that make a difference. A shoe tied a certain way. A shady stretch of trail. A backpack cinched just right. A path without rocks.

So when a small act of kindness or generosity comes our way, we are so thankful. We have encountered so many angels whose seemingly small deeds made a big difference for us. Here are a few (I’ll be adding more I’m sure):

  • The considerate woman in Pamplona who walked us to our hotel.
  • The sweet man who drove us from our bed and breakfast, Santa Marina, to the outskirts of Portomarin, saving us at least 3k on Day Two.
  • The inn keepers of Rectoral de Lestedo who packed us a breakfast because we wanted to leave early.
  • The people of Melide who planted trees on the outskirts of town.
  • A farmer who laid down hay on the trail after it had stormed the day before.
  • The man from Hotel Carlos 69 in Melide who left his customers in the bar and came upstairs to help us figure out the washing machine.
  • The owner of Casa Teodora in Arzua who delivered our heavy suitcases to the second floor so we wouldn’t have to drag them up after a day of walking.
  • Caroline and Callum at Frontier Holidays who set up our great schedule and wonderful accommodations.

No wi-fi for three days

27 Jul

A lot has happened since I last blogged. We’ve been on the Camino for three days!

I may need to catch you up slowly – and in snippets here and there.

I believe it was the night before we set off walking that we had a horrible realization: our route would take six days of walking and we had been thinking all along that it was to be five! One day might seem like much more, but believe me, it is.

Day One was very strenuous and very hot. It being our first day, we left at a leisurely 8:30 am, which meant we were still walking at the hottest part of the day. And we ran out of water the last 3 miles. Not good.

But as with all things on the Camino, the bad always is balanced with the good. Our hotel was charming, and we were treated to a delicious family-style dinner. We were ravenous and devoured it quickly!

Our room is on the right under the canopy. The courtyard was very beautiful and relaxing.

First course: rigatoni with Bolognese sauce and bread. Second course was pork cooked in a light tomato sauce and a salad. We ate on a patio that overlooked their bountiful garden.

On our way to The Way!

24 Jul

As we ride the train to Sarria, we are treated to some beautiful scenery. In places it reminds me of Steamboat, Colorado, or near DeBeque, Colorado, with its wide, rocky rivers and scrub-oak covered mountains.

In other places the landscape looks like Sidney, Nebraska, with its high, broad plains covered with shorn hay.

I just finished a beautiful book about the Camino in which the author talks about how much the walk taught her. I’m excited to begin and find out what lessons are in store.

We will begin tomorrow morning on the feast day of St. James. How appropriate!