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Santiago de Compostela

May 27, 2010

I didn’t quite get to run into Santiago; in  fact to say I crawled into Santiago might be closer to the truth.  Tuesday night I came down with a stomach virus that had been making the rounds of the pilgrims.  Sleeping in a room with at least 50 of your closest friends for 30 nights tends to lead to sharing germs.

I did not want to spend a whole day just 20 km away from Santiago so I decided to walk in anyway – however slowly that might be.  David went ahead to find us a place to stay while I walked and took many rests along the way.  David and I met up in the plaza before the cathedral and waved to St. James rather than go in and hug him and visit his bones.  We went to the hotel and I slept for almost 15 hours.

Today we got up and went straight to the Pilgrim office to obtain our compostelas – our tickets to heaven as David likes to call them.  Then we went to the pilgim Mass at noon but it was so crowded, we ended up leaving.  I might go back later today to see if there is a quieter Mass.  The cathedral is amazing and very impressive and the biggest thing Iǘe ever seen, but the inside space for Mass is actually quite small.  I got in line to see the tomb and hug St. James (pilgrim rituals) but after waiting in line for half an hour, an procession of about a thousand priests started entering through the specials doors that are only open during a Holy Year. I left and will try to go back again later. Strike two! I have to keep reminding myself, it is the journey not the destination.

So what does it feel like to complete the camino? I was quite emotional when I entered the square and overjoyed to be at the end of the journey. I am relieved that we made it.  We were both so excited to be in a hotel with bathrooms and our own beds (not bunkbeds) and no snoring.  But when we woke up this morning it was kind of lonely.  Where are all our friends and what are they doing this morning?

We did see one of our favorite couples this morning.  Rick and Olga from Santa Barbara who we had not seen since the day we stayed in Foncebadon.  Rick had surprised Olga and proposed somewhere along the camino and they were meeting with a priest to see if there was anyway they could get married tomorrow. ( We were surprised because we thought they were already married.) They are firefighters in Santa Barbara.  We would love to attend their wedding in the morning but I doubt they are going to be able to get a priest to marry them on such short notice.

David says he will post his own conclusion some other time. He is being the responsible one and right now is trying to plan out our trip home from here!

Once again I will try to post a picture of us later today when I find a computer with port.

Thanks so much for sharing this time with us.  The comments have been so encouraging and made us feel so loved when we felt like we had wandered off the face of the earth. The blog was a last minute thing and I had no idea so many people would follow us.  It has meant so much to hear from all of our family and friends and all the Little Rock people.  The prayers carried us through the 30 degrees and the 90 degree day and all the blisters and traumas.  But mostly it was wonderful to be able to share our joy at what we experienced here in this magical land.  We would encourage anybody who is even remotely tempted to do this, please come to Spain.  First come see us and let us tell you what not to do!

love,

Re and David

Arca

May 25, 2010

Rainy windy day today.  We don´t want peregrino lite anyway.

20km to Santiago.  What more needs to be said? We are going to run the whole way tomorrow, backpacks and all.

God bless you all as He has blessed every day,

love,

Ann Marie

Arzua

May 24, 2010

We got so carried away today that we walked 30 km.  We started off early this morning to beat the crowds and there was no one else on the path.  We thought we must have wandered off the way.  We don´t know where all those throngs of people went but we did not miss them.  We think there must be some kind of weekend camino walkers.

First we walked by a wholesale panaderia (bakery) tht left its doors open while it was loading its trucks.  What a delicious aroma! We were so tempted to grab a loaf of bread.  Next we passed a big swamp with a chorus of frogs singing.  I have never heard anything like this – they were so loud and so many different sounds, but we couldn´t see a single frog.

There could not have been a better day for walking – overcast and warm. We just floated along all day.  Halfway through the day we walked out of Ireland into Northern California as the woods became full of eucalyptus trees.  We loved the scent and the change of scenery. the guide book said the locals like the trees because they grow so fast.

We spent the last few hours walking and talking with Patrick O´Grady who is making a radio documentary for the RTE in Dublin.  Of course, we were delighted to interviewed and had much to say.  I thought of a million more clever things I could have said after we finished of course.

Mostly I just wish I had told him about thow the walking just becomes a kind of a prayer after a while.  I don´t know how to explain that but it is true.

Two more days! 40.5 km left.  We are so excited and we don´t know what we will do to celebrate in Santiago.

We loved the comments today. Thank you Thank you Thank you! love, reand david

Palais de Rei

May 23, 2010

There are no palaces here or kings, but we are thrilled to be here nonetheless. What a glorious day we had today.  I couldn´t help saying to myself today is the Lord´s day. The walking was so easy and I  felt like a normal person with normal feet.  The temperature dropped just a degree or two from yesterday, but it was enough to make for another perfect weather day.  The promised cloudy weather did not arrive and we saw maybe two clouds in the sky the whole day.

The path was very soft today and in good condition.  Yesterday we had a few detours because the path must have flooded.  The detours took us through some ditches full of rocks and mud so we had to do some fancy footwork. Later on there were parts where you could see the government has been adding dirt and gravel to make the smoother and softer for all the crowds this summer.

David and I did try the octopus for dinner last night and it was delicious.  At first it was a little strange but after a few bites we decided we liked it.  There is no doubt what you are eating though – it looks just like a cut up octopus on your plate.  Maybe the octopus is why we felt so strong today.

The countryside is still beautiful but maybe just a bit more densely populated , so we don´t feel like we are in the 19th century as much.  The path is a bit crowded but all the extra people seemed to disappear around lunch time so we had some time to ourselves.

I went to Mass last night in Portamarin.  Each Saturday when I have attended Mass, the crowds have been small. No matter how small the number of people though, the singing is wonderful.  Every priest who has celebrated Mass has sung each song with such a strong and full voice and every single person in the pews sings along every word of every song.  The Spanish love to sing I guess. Even in these great big old stone churches, their voices fill up the church.  I am so sorry I can´t join in but I guess that is lucky for them!

We hope to be in Santiago on Wednesday – God willing.  Just a few more steps . . .

Portomarin

May 22, 2010

As you may have heard before, be careful what you pray for! We have just had our 8th straight day of sunshine with not a single cloud in the sky for days. After spending so much time studying the clouds for weeks, we can’t believe how much sunshine we have now. We are pooped! The sun is a bit of an energy drain. It was 30 degrees here today.

We started out early from Sarrria to try to get some of our walking done before the sun got too hot.  Much of our walk was down shaded lanes with big oaks on either side.  The path is also bordered by ancient stone walls as well as all the pastures. We were really only in the sun for the last two hours of walking today.

The path is getting quite crowded as we get closer to Santiago. Sometimes today, I felt like a racehorse jockeying for position on a track. We walked through farmyardS and gardens and many small hamlets and it all went very quickly until the last bit.

Last night I tried Galician soup, a cabbage, bean and potato soup. It was delicious.  The other regional specialty is pulpo.  Octopus served on a wooden platter with pepper.  We haven tried that yet!

As we were leaving Sarria we met a man who is walking the camino with 4 dogs! Only one of them is on leash, the rest just follow him.

The forecast is better for tomorrow,it will be warm but cloudy.  Then we are due for three days of rain. We are experiencing a little bit of everything. We are both running out of steam here near the end.  Nothing I’m sure that won ‘t be cured with a good nightś rest though.  Ultreia! On to Santiago.

Still trying to post pictures, but no luck so far.

Sarria

May 21, 2010

We are getting so close to Santiago but the temperature is also rising as we get closer.  We have many extra days to make it there so we may have to slow our pace down due to the heat. 

Today was a lovely walk much of it shaded and on soft muddy paths.  This our ideal path right now, trees above and mud below.  This must be a metaphor for something but I am unable to make it work right now!

David arrived in Sarria early today to go to a high school and speak English with the students.  He saw a sign in Triacastel and called the phone number and told them he would be there at 12:30.  He loved them and apparently they loved him back.  They just asked him questions about life in America, girlfriends, facebook food etc.  By the time I arrived, all classes were over.  He hopes to hear from the students on facebook sometime.

The first time I heard about the camino was in a book called Tumbling about a youg girl walking the camino to deal with her grief over losing her father.  There was a detail that I found charming about a woman who sold raspberries to pilgrims as they walked by her house.  I don´t remember where this was on the camino but I imagine we are too early in the year to meet the raspberry woman. However yesterday we met a lovely older woman selling crepes as we passed through her village.  She had a big smile for everyone as she offered them a crepe and sprinkled it with sugar. These villages are so small that the barnyard and the church and the cafe and the houses are hardly indistinguishable, but there she was right in the middle of the cows and heans greeting all the pilgrims. She  was so impressed with David for walking with his mother. Today an older man in one of the village stopped David to ask if he was German because he is so tall.ñ

We met a Canadian woman today who is also walking with her 21 year old son. She was very friendly and helped us find a place to stay.  She had heard that there was another mother and son walking together.  They have had bronchitis and many health problems so our trip is looking pretty good to us right now!

Some numbers for Bob: David has walked 368 miles  and I have walked 332 miles. It is over 85 degrees here and that is hot if yo are walking in the sun with a backpack. David and I dream about Seabrook for part of every day discussing what we will do, what meal we will prepare and how great it will be to do nothing!! We can´t wait to see everyone!

Triacastela

May 20, 2010

We arrived in Triacastela this afternoon around 1:00.  We continue to be blessed with abundant sunshine every day and today it was almost too much! The forecast is for 29 C tomorrow! I can´t believe it, after all our cold days. This part of the country is known for being foggy and rainy like Seattle.

We could not post yesterday because we faced the fear of every peregrino.  We walked a little further than usual to get to O Cebreiro.  It is a very popular spot because it is at the top of an ascent with beautiful views in every direction.  When we arrived at 4:30 in the afternoon after a lovely day of walking that included some tough climbing , we were told there were no rooms anywhere in the town.  We had already encountered a few pilgrims who were heading back to the previous town 3km back.  No way were we heading back! A taxi driver told us he would be happy to drive us to the next town 10km forward.  David came to the rescue and grabbed the guide book and called ahead to the next town and reserved a room for us in a casa rural hostal.  Turns ou the n ext town was only a bit down the road

We had already walked 27km and I was exhausted but we packed up and headed off and were at the hotel in no time.  It felt like 1km instead of three. We were so relieved that we did not care that there was nowhere to have dinner; just a little grocery store where we bought cheese and salami and bread and sat and shared our meal and looked out at the view from the mountain.

We have spent the past two days in this lovely mountain country.  Yesterday our path kept right next to a river almost the whole day and it was so soothing to hear the rushing water all day.  We also shared the path with herds of cows many times yesterday and today. The herds are either going back to the barn or out to the pasture and they just stroll down the middle of the street on their way with a few dogs and the owners keeping them on the way.  We love seeing them just meander in their gentle way.

Although the sun has been strong, there is always a bit of breeze just when you need it most.  We are now in Galacia and it reminds me so much of Ireland (though I have ever been there).  Green rolling hills with purple heather in every direction.  We passed by three 12th century churches today – each one smaller than the last. 

We are getting closer and closer to Santiago.  David has a bit of a cold but it doesn´t seem to slow him down much.  We wish we could post more pictures and send you some of these mountain breezes and fresh air.  Thank you for all the encouragement.  We are excited but also a bit tired now, so the extra comments keep us putting one foot in front of the other.

Villafranca del Bierzo

May 18, 2010

We passed a big milestone today; we have less than 200km to Santiago.  Another incredibly beautiful day on the camino.  We are getting paid back in triplet for our rainy days.  The sun is glorious.  We left Ponferrada by 7:15 which is very early for us.  Many of the other pilgrims are out the door by 6:15. We walked along the road a bit but also through some small towns and vineyards.  The towns in this valley are much bigger and have much more activity than the small towns in the meseta. As in almost all the small Spanish towns, every house has an abudance of flowers and pots and gardens overflowing with flowers.  No matter what the condition of the house itself, there are always flowers. We walked through miles and miles of gardens, large and small, with everyone out working in their garden hoeing, weeding and planting.  We saw every size of tractor.  We heard all kinds of birds, roosters and cows and cow bells.  I think cow bells will always remind me of the camino the rest of my life.

We walked through many bigger vineyards the second half of the day.  This area is becoming known for its wine.  There was a time when I thought I would never get out of the vineyards. David was ahead and I had not seen a pilgrim or a yellow arrow in about half an hour and I was sure I had missed a turn.  When I got to town, a woman stopped me and asked if we were supposed to wander through that vineyard for so long.  I guess I wasn´t the only one who felt a bit lost for awhile.

I am the envy of all the adults on the camino for having a son who would accompany me. Every day someone says to me, in one language or another, how did you get your son to come with you?

This town is one of many that have a puerta de perdon.  These are special doors in very old churches for pilgrims who become sick during their journey.  They can pass through these special doors and be pardoned for their sins and return home.  With quite an assortment of blisters on my feet still, I am wondering if blisters count for illness.

We are staying in a slightly funky albergue.  David loves these unusual ones. His bed is a mattress on the floor of a loft that is directly under the roof.  He has his own small window in the roof to see the sun.

We are feeling more than blessed every day in so many ways – the riches of the natural world, the friendly people, the great food, the caring attitude in the albergues and all our support and comments from home. We know the rain may return any day so we are cherishing every moment of blessing each day. Meanwhile we are getting closer and closer to Santiago! God is surely with us every step of the way.

Tomorrow we have another big ascent up a mountain to cross over to Galicia.  This is Santiago´s province. 

Adios,

Re

Ponferrada

May 17, 2010

Dear Internet,

This song always puts me in such a great mood.

Wow. Just wow. The difference between the two weeks or so that we spent on the Meseta and the last three days is enormous. I was really excited for a moment when I saw that this computer had a camera card reader and I thought that I could put up pictures but it didn´t work. I can´t wait for you guys to be able to see this.

The improvement in the weather really changes everything. When we started out in San Miguel three days ago it was the first day in a long time that the sky was clear in the morning, and it stayed that way all day. The walk to Astorga was nice because the land was starting to become interesting again. It was just the complete opposite of the day before when we spent the entire day in the rain walking a flat, straight road right next to the highway. It was exciting to arrive in Astorga and be at the foot of this huge, snow-topped mountain. And the weather just kept getting better. The next morning I was in shorts and a tshirt for the first time in weeks. We were having a really nice walk that day, and when we got to Rabanal del Camino we decided to keep on climbing up the mountain to stop at Foncebadon for the day. I can´t tell you how glad both of us are that we made that decision, I really had an amazing experience in that place. (Hopefully Mom will get on here later and post some pictures).

The town is very small; the buildings are stone with slate rooftops. Only about half of them have anything inside, there are a lot of ruined buildings. It sits on the side of this mountain near the top and has a priceless view of two different valleys on either side and ranges of mountains lined with windmills on the top. In the albergue the shower had a little window which I opened to let out steam and looked out onto a great view of a mountain and windmills (Best shower ever).

The people who ran this albergue were kind of hippies, they had a big tapestry of some Hindu deity and lots of books about yoga and stuff like that. It was a really charming, comfortable place. Every Sunday a German woman from another village comes there to sing songs from all over the world with pilgrims and a group of some other people from nearby. That was a lot of fun, like Dad said we must have been just singing these songs for about two hours. One of them was Israeli, another was South African, and a lot of them were Indian mantras. It was very relaxing and enjoyable.

This morning I looked out the window next to my bed and saw an incredibly colorful sunrise. We arrived at Cruz de Ferro pretty shortly after we started walking. It wasn´t as big as Mom thought it was going to be. It was nice though, we climbed up on the big pile of stones and took some pictures, but it was very crowded. I left my stone there and put on a bracelet that I bought in Foncebadon to remind me of that wonderful place and the peaceful experience that I had there. I had been carrying that stone in my hand while we walked all day every day for a couple of weeks so it immediately felt weird not having it anymore, but I guess that was part of the desired effect.

I really don´t have enough time to say everything I want to say about how amazing the rest of today´s walk was. The funniest thing kept happening. The path down the mountain was pretty treacherous at times and there were a lot of big stones. I would spend a long time looking at my feet to make sure that I wasn´t going to step on one sideways and twist my ankle. And then every once in a while I would look up and the landscape would be different and even more astounding than the last I was looking at. It is an awesome feeling to look over this mountain chain and be able to see the huge distance you have crossed. I have seen a lot of cool natural wonders in my life, but this feels different because of the manner in which I arrived in this place to see it. Sometimes I am just like, “Damn I carried myself here with my feet to see this view. I am the man.” It just makes me feel like I can do anything.

I have also been very pleased about the past couple of days because, after a little while of walking short distances while Mom´s feet improved, we have been making some really great progress for the past three days. Today we did about 27 km, which took a lot longer than the past couple of days because we were going very slowly down the mountain. It was exhausting toward the end of the day but we pushed on to get to Ponferrada. It is neat the way that the weather and the scenery effect your ability and outlook on the whole experience of the camino. I can tell that it has an effect on Mom because her feet have been doing better as the conditions improve. Even when we are walking down where the path is so steep that it is hard to stand up straight and with every step your toes are mashing into the front of your boots, it is okay because the sun is shining on this hill that is dotted with bushes of red and yellow and purple flowers. It is unreal to look at.

Well, today was pretty exhausting, and there is still walking ahead. Can´t wait to be able to show you guys what it looked like today. Hope everyone is doing well. Less than three weeks until we come home! (Not that I am counting the days or anything…)

Love, David

BREAKING NEWS! some photographs from Mom´s camera…

Foncebadon

May 16, 2010

Re and David on the Camino

Friends,

This is Jim, posting for Ann Marie and David, who are in a village where there is very limited connectivity (but lots of cows, horses, donkeys, goats, and roosters!).

The good news, though, is that the ascent up the mountian today went very well, and they both described the day as “perfect”!   Actually, Ann Marie described the day as “the best day of my life…for the days when I wasn’t with my husband”.   I’ll admit that confused me, but I still took it to mean that they had a wonderful day!

The albergue for the night has a “bit of a commune” feel, including an afternoon “sing-along” with folks from around the world – David says that it was a two-hour blast. 

The town is about 2KMs from Cruz de Ferro, the site of a large iron cross near the top of the mountain…and the spot where Pilgims traditionally leave a rock or a stone that they have carried along the camino.  Some say the stone symbolizes the pilgrims burdens…or intentions…or perhaps their supplications.  In any event, the mountainside is covered with stones – I’m sure that it will be a beautiful and emotional day.

Ann Marie says that her feet are doing well…tomorrow’s steep descent will test that theory!

I thought you might want to see this picture.  I’m not sure when it was taken, but I love it!

All in all, a super day for our pilgrims.  With a forecast of good weather, we should be in for more in the week ahead.

Thanks

Jim