Friday, June 17, 2016

Stage 28- Post camino...Spain to Italy

I have discovered that, important as self-discipline is to a child, it is increasingly important as one grows older. Then it is really essential for your well-being to regulate your life and habits in a sensible way. — Eleanor Roosevelt

I left Santiago this afternoon and flew to Bergamo, Italy.  I'll be in Italy for about 36 hours before flying home from Milan Sunday morning.  It was strange not walking long distances today, and sitting on a plane for two and a half hours.  I felt like a bit of a slacker today after only walking about 12,000 steps!! 

 I did have a laid back kind of morning, and I used the time to wash clothes, throw out some unwanted items, and get my bag packed for Italy.  I went to the market and bakery in Spain one last time, walked around the city Cathedral, and then caught a bus to the airport.  

I checked into my B&B in Bergamo and was given 4 keys...for 4 different doors to get into my building and room.  4 keys for one dwelling is a personal travel record for me.  I feel like I'm staying in Ft. Knox!!

  After spending so much energy on the key system, I decided I needed nourishment in the form of carbohydrates.  After all, I am in Italy.  I found a great little Trattoria about 300 meters down the street from my place, so I decided to give it a go.  I had the caprese salad, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, and tomatoes lightly doused with extra virgin olive oil.  My server also threw in a piece of highly recommended bordala...a sculpted block of mozzarella filled with cream.  As Emerill Lagasse might say, it was simply BAM!!  For the main course, I had the homemade pasta with cream and porcini mushrooms.  It was amazing.  I might need to start the Camino over again after what I ate tonight.  

Here are a few pics from today.

Lights out.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Stage 27- Pedrouzo to Santiago

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

- Psalm of David

Today was the final day of my Camino, and I'm delighted to say that I made it into Santiago and reached the end of my walk!  I felt like doing some cartwheels, but that would have required extra energy... so no cartwheels for me.   It was cold again, and it rained during about half of my hike.

 For the walk today,  I covered 19.8 km, 12.3 miles, and 27,109 steps.  During the 27 days that it took me to complete the Camino, I walked 776.2 km, 482.3 miles, and took 1,104,513 steps on the trail!!

When I got about 3 km out, I  could see the city of Santiago in the distance.  I began to get emotional, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude came over me.  I felt so blessed to have been able to do this.  After I got into the city, I located La Oficina de Peregrino, and got in line to receive my Compostela.  A compostela is a certificate you receive for finishing the walk.  The attendant goes through the stamps in your credencial to verify that you were in each of the towns listed.  Stamps are generally provided by the businesses you might stop in along the "Way" such as bars, alburgues, hotels, pensions, restaurants, etc...  I waited in line for about 2 hours to get my credencial evaluated, and then I was handed my compostela.  It was well worth the wait!! 

  My feet were in such bad shape back around Day 13 or 14, that I wasn't really sure if I would be able to continue.  I started looking at train and bus options one night in Carrion de los Condes, when I was having trouble walking from the bed to the toilet after one particularly hard day.  I was in so much pain and doubtful that I could go on.  I had to accept it.  I prayed that evening and asked God to intervene if I was meant to complete my journey.  I sought out a pharmacist that evening regarding the proper way to use the compeed blister strips, but I went to bed that night thinking there was a strong possibility that my Camino was over.  

The next day there was some major improvement, so I kept marching on.  Ultimately, this leads me to the last "baggage" or piece of stone that I released during my final day of the Camino.  That 3rd and last stone represented a lack of self-care for me.  In my life, that often means limited exercise, little sleep, and not eating the right things.  I made a commitment to take better care of myself, and place my health and self-care much higher on my list of priorities.

I will continue to blog over the next days while I'm in Italy with some post Camino reflections/observations. 

I've included some pics below of the last Camino stage, and also my compostela.  I also took a photo of my trusted Fila tennis shoes.  They are finally starting to come apart, but they held up fine on the rough terrain.  These shoes lasted me more than a million steps since I began walking nearly 4 weeks ago!

Lights out.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Stage 26- Melide to Pedrouzo

Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds.  See the world.  It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.
- Ray Bradbury 

Today I walked from Melide to Pedrouzo covering 33.9 km, 21 miles, and 48,601 steps.  All the dry weather that I experienced during my first 3 weeks on the Camino has vanished.  Over the past 3 days, I have experienced the wrath of the Galician weather.  Today was very cold and rainy.  So far, I would sum Galicia up in 3 words.   COLD-RAIN-FOREST...sort of like Seattle on steroids.  The trails were very slick and hazardous again today, so I had to really slow my pace down, especially on the descents.

For the first time today, I really found myself wanting to be done.  Aside from hiking in soaking wet shoes all day, my feet are hanging in there.  My back has started to ache over the past 3-4 days, and my body is feeling the effects of 26 consecutive days of walking 8-10 hours a day.  I'm worn, but hopefully a bit wiser as well.  I learn lessons out here everyday, and I'm very grateful for that.

If all goes well, I will set off in the morning and try and complete my final leg of the Camino.  Santiago awaits me!!  It is only 20 km away.  The trail continues to get busier as I close in on the destination city.  Most places were full again in the town where I'm staying tonight.  Santiago will be even busier, so I've already reserved a room there for tomorrow night.   It is time to sleep a few hours before I set off.

Here are some pics from the last few stages.

Lights out. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Stage 25- Porto Marin to Melide

"I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life."
- Henry David Thoreau

Today on the Camino, I traveled from Porto Marin to Melide.  I walked 39.3 km, 24.4 miles, and 54,888 steps.  The weather was brutal today in Galicia, with lots of rain, cold temperatures, wind, and slippery/muddy terrain.  I'm now understanding why this part of Spain is so green.  The mountain ranges I'm hiking through are really the first barriers to storms that have been building for some 5,000 km across the Atlantic.  With less than 100 km remaining when I started out this  morning, I literally felt like the Camino threw everything at me today to hamper my progress.  I was slipping and sliding all over the place, and I fell to the ground on two occasions.  It felt good to finally reach my hostal late this afternoon.  I splurged tonight and spent 25 euros to get my own room in Melide.  The little inn is right off the Camino Trail, and near the downtown area of this little city.  I plan on getting an early start tomorrow, especially since the forecast is calling for steady rain in this region of Spain over the next several days.

Yesterday, I cast my second stone into the river on the Camino, and I have one left to get rid of.  My second stone represented the "self-doubt" baggage that I've carried around for way too long in my life.  The idea that I'm not good enough, worthy enough, smart enough, etc... has plagued me for quite some time.  I went through a lot of my failures and short-comings in life, and came to the conclusion that these thoughts/perceptions have been like an anchor, just weighing me down.  I let go of it all...determined to move beyond these kinds of self-limiting beliefs.

Finally, one of the most liberating things about being on this journey for me has been the absence of "stuff" in my life.  There is a Pilgrim Camino saying that goes like this..."The road is my job, the bag is my home, and the Pilgrims are my family."  The backpack that I carry out here everyday really is my home.  It contains everything that I need to survive out here on the Camino.  It is easy to keep track of and take care of.  Part of what I struggle with in the states is how messed up the work/life balance is in our society, and how there is such a focus on consumerism (stuff), materialism (big stuff), and labor (working to buy stuff).  What I've observed out here on the Camino (and a number of Europeans have brought it to my attention as well) is that most of the Americans on the trail are either college students on some type of school sponsored trip, or retirees who don't have to rush through the Camino experience.  There aren't a whole lot of Americans in their 30's, 40's, and 50's out on the trail because we have one of the worst vacation/leave policies in the world, and many Americans are too busy working so they can buy more "stuff."  I have lived with lots of stuff like a nice home, 2 family cars, toys in the basement and garage, and I have lived with no stuff.  When I was 10 years old, my families home burned to the ground, and we essentially lost everything that we owned (all our stuff).  It was a scary day, but our family survived, and it didn't take us long to get a new house, and a lot of donated and brand new stuff.  I ultimately believe that stuff will come and go in and out of our lives, but our families and friends are the only stuff that matters.

Problems with posting pics again.  Hopefully, I can get some up tomorrow.

Lights out.

I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartanlike as to put to rout all that was not life.
Read more at:
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartanlike as to put to rout all that was not life.
Read more at:
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartanlike as to put to rout all that was not life.
Read more at:
I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartanlike as to put to rout all that was not life.
Read more at:

Monday, June 13, 2016

Stage 24- Pintin to Porto Marin

" Love knows not it's own depth until the hour of separation."
- Kahlil Gibran

Today, I walked my 24th stage on the Camino from Pintin to Porto Marin covering 28.7 km, 17.9 miles, and 41,505 steps.  

The route today took me through a number of dairy farms, the bustling city of Sarria, and then about 20 km of gently rolling hills and wooded trailways.  It looked as if it would rain early in the day, but it never did materialize.  The weather was partly sunny and pleasant during my entire walk.  I did notice the extra traffic on the trail as many new and "fresh" pilgrims join the Camino for the final 115 km from Sarria to Santiago.  I saw more tour groups, and larger numbers of hikers not carrying bags, so it certainly had more of a commercialized feel to it today.  I rolled into Porto Marin around 4:30 today, and struggled to find a room.  The extra volume on the Camino created a shortage of bed space in Porto Marin, but I was able to find the last bed in an alburgue for 10 euros.  I was delighted that it worked out because I really didn't feel like walking another 8km to the next town in search of a bed.  I reached a milestone on the Camino today as I finally hit the under 100 km mark.  If my pics post, you will see them below.  I remember a sign not all that long ago that said something like 780 km, so it was really rewarding to hit that milestone today.  I have 93 km left, and 3 more days to complete my walk.  I'm still just taking it one step at a time.

After this experience, I'm certainly ready to rest my body and try to apply and practice what I've learned.  I'm sure there will be more adventures waiting for me down the road.  There always are.  I've determined that I suffer from chronic Triptilitis.  This condition is marked by an insatiable wanderlust, a tendency to daydream about turquoise waters, rugged mountains, red rock canyons, and clear running rivers.  Other symptoms include an elevated sense of excitement in airports and hotels, and a persistent habit of planning my next trip just as the one I'm on is coming to a close.  Yes, I've got this sickness real bad!!  There is no known cure! 

 Another idea I'm toying with is playing a little airline roulette with Estalita some day in the future.  This is something I've always wanted to do.  Free up 3-4 days, pack a small bag, head to the airport without tickets, and then spin the wheel.  Wherever the wheel lands is where we go!!  Hopefully, she'll be game for this some day.

Don't know if these pics will post because of the weak internet here.

Lights out.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Stage 23- O'cebreiro to Pintin

" I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."
- Mother Theresa

Today I walked from O'cebreiro to Pintin and covered 32.8 km, 20.3 miles, and 46,784 steps.  Much of the early part of the walk involved climbing, and I spent most of the last 15 km dropping back down to lower elevations.  The weather was overcast and chilly most of the day in the mountains.  There was also some light rain in the afternoon.  

Tomorrow, I will make my way towards Sarria, a popular starting point for hikers who want to earn a compostela.  You must complete at least 100 km on the Camino to get a compostela (certificate) in Santiago, so many pilgrims actually start their walk in Sarria, which is about 115 km from Santiago.  I expect the traffic on the trail to pick up a bit when I reach the city, and prices for meals, lodging, etc... are also higher the closer you get to Santiago. 

I thought I would share some of the things that I actually do and also some things that I've learned while walking the Camino.  First off, I spend my time in a number of different ways.  I talk to other pilgrims, take in the scenery, and also pay close attention to the yellow arrows and scallop shells that mark the direction of the Camino path.  Much of the time, I walk alone.  During those solo stretches, I will often pray, reflect on the past, think about family and friends, and set goals for the future.  If I'm hungry, I might also think about some food I'm craving when I get home.... like tacos/chicken enchiladas or one of my favorite pizza places.

Now, I will share a handful of things that the Camino has reinforced for me.

- I am fully capable of pushing myself past what I think I can physically handle.  This has happened just about every day on the Camino.  I have pushed through rain, cold, heat, fatigue, falls, multiple blisters, and immense discomfort on a daily basis.  Whenever I've felt even a little bit sorry for myself out here, I tend to think about things like my Syrian friend Fari who walked for 9 months across 5 countries to search for a better life for his family.  I think about many of the people in India who die each year from foot infections because they can not afford shoes, or basic antibiotics to treat the infections they acquire in their feet.  I think about my mom and her courage and strength to be her own advocate during a very serious illness.  She had to fight cancer as it ravaged her body and began to steal her voice away from her.
- The process or journey is almost always more significant and life changing than the destination. Santiago and the compostela are the prizes for finishing, but all of my learning/changing/growth has occurred during the journey.
- People from around the world have far more things in common than differences.  Despite speaking different languages, growing up in different cultures, having different views on politics, religion, etc... we can look to the common ground that we all share.  I believe in general... people want something meaningful to do, something to believe in, someone to love, and something to look forward to.
- I am actually drawn to the solitude of the Camino.  I love interacting with people, but I do enjoy the quiet time and solitude that the Camino can provide.  I really don't ever get bored out here.  I've always been the type of person who has no problem playing golf by myself, or going to the movies alone, etc... I have treasured all of the time that I've had to be alone with my thoughts on the Camino.
- I need to be more sensitive to the needs of others, and act with more assertiveness when I feel that somebody needs help or is hurting in some way.  On the Camino, I have seen so many acts of kindness.  People offering food, water, a kind word.  One retiree from Ireland just randomly gave me support strips to use for my plantar fasciitis.  My friend Lauralee gave me Compeed strips for my blisters, and has helped provide many helpful suggestions for taking care of my feet.  I have seen complete strangers helping others work on their feet, care for blisters, etc...  Today, I actually thought of the lesson that Christ taught when he washed the feet of his disciples.   It is a great example of the importance of serving others.
-   Last but not least, I really love and appreciate my wife!!  It didn't take the Camino for me to realize this, but I continually marvel at all the sacrifices she had to make for me to take this journey.  She made similar kinds of sacrifices when I did my month long ESL course in Prague two summers ago.  She is supportive, and unselfish to say the least.  Many people probably have trouble figuring out how we can make something like this work, but we just do.  I know she will support me and my goals, and I am committed to doing the same for her.  If she called me tomorrow and told me she wanted us to move to Timbuktu and sell frisbees to Eskimos, I'd go do it... because it would involve her.  I might question the practicality/feasibility of it, but I would do it nonetheless.  Thanks Estalita for all your loyalty, encouragement, love, and support.  I am truly blessed to be married to my best friend.  I love you.

Here are a few pics.... (the rest wouldn't download), from this stage of the Camino.

Lights out.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Stage 22 - Pieros to O'cebreiro

"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; The wise man grows it under his feet." - J.R. Oppenheimer

Today I walked from Pieros to O'cebreiro and covered 34.6km, 21.5 miles, and 50,332 steps.  My alburgue last night had no Internet and very limited facilities. The evening meal was a fixed vegetarian menu for 10 Euros.  I was totally on board with that until I saw about 50 flies buzzing around the kitchen and the main cook slice her finger while cutting vegetables for the soup. I opted to eat at a small bar about a quarter mile up the hill because that was my only other choice.  Once you've  walked about 50,000 steps for the day, the thought of walking another half mile round trip for dinner just isn't  all that appealing!

The other interesting thing about my alburgue last night was their protocol regarding our backpacks.  Upon entering  the alburgue, the attendant made everyone staying there put their packs into a large garbage bag.  The explanation was to safeguard against potential bed bugs. I've not had any issues with bed bugs at any of the places I've stayed.  Hopefully, it remains that way.

I also met a German lady at the alburgue who was doing the Camino with her three year old son.  She had a stroller and a small bike for him to ride from time to time.  She said they generally covered about 5-7 km per day.  She had a pulled muscle in her leg, so they had been stuck at the alburgue  for 4-5 days until she recovered.  I guess that's not too bad at 5 Euros a night.

My walk today was mostly next to a highway with intermittent rerouting into shaded and wooded areas and small villages.  The trail also cut through a beautiful section of vineyards with majestic mountains in the background. A crystal clear, fast flowing river was alongside me most of the day.  The last 10-12km of the day was a tortuous climb, until I finally reached O'cebreiro shortly after 6pm.  Tomorrow, I get to walk down these mountains.  Hopefully, my brakes will work ok.

Here are some pics from the last two stages.

Lights out.