October 2013

What a beautiful day on the Camino.

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Last night I stayed in Foncebedon, a tiny village in the mountains after Astorga. Because I was concerned about my ankles, I decided to taxi up the hill to give myself another rest day but still make some progress. I enjoyed sitting in the front seat conversing (barely) with the taxi driver, who was a Bono lookalike. He very graciously stopped to check that my trekking poles indeed made it in the trunk.

I got to Foncebedon early and hung out all day. It’s a tumble-down village of slate stone. Lots of it has fallen down or is in the process of falling down. It reminded me of the song our son played on the cello from the Suzuki method: “Moon over the Ruined Castle.”

But there are 4 Albergues which are bringing the village back to life. I stayed in Monte Imago, run by a small group of yoga enthusiasts. Their shared paella dinner was fantastic. And there was a cozy vibe. I slept straight through the night and didn’t hear any snoring.

This morning I had my pack transported to Acebo, about 10k away, to be conservative on the mileage. It’s still a little unnerving to hit the trail and know that my pack is sitting there at the place I’ve just left. It’s a good illustration of faith.

The pack transport firm, Jacotrans,hasn’t let me down yet—I put 7E in the envelope and write a destination, and it magically shows up further down the Camino.

So off I went in the fog, towards Cruz de Ferro, one of the landmarks of the Camino. It’s a cross on a tall pole around which pilgrims have left stones and momentos that symbolize what they would like to leave behind on the Camino, or something in memory of loved ones. And many other things in between. People bring stones from home and other small items. The fog

was so thick I didn’t see the Cross until it was right in front of me. I left a stone and said a prayer, though, I confess, the Cruz de Ferro did not move me as much as I expected. It was right on the road, not as isolated as I had pictured it.

The fog and sun made for beautiful light the next few hours. It was totally silent and there was a timeless feeling—I would not have been surprised to see people in medieval garb or even fairies.

I got to Acebo early, and my pack was there, but I wasn’t ready to quit for the day. So I repacked everything in the main pack and went on, another 10k . Ankles are doing well, and I felt so energized by the scenery and the experience of walking today.

The last 5k to Molinoseca were tough—all downhill on rocky ground, but I felt confident about continuing on to Molinaseca..

I’ve picked up a bit of a Camino tribe: the Hungarian sisters, the Finnish woman, Austrslians, and the 70 something siblings are here at the Albergue. I’m getting to like bunk bed life—as long as I get the lower bunk.

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Categories: Camino, Favorite Albergues, October 2013, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Astorga Sabbath

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Yesterday I took a serious rest day, not unlike a Sabbath.

I’ve been staying at Albergue San Javier a block from the cathedral, in a 300 year old house that’s been converted into an Albergue: two floors of bunk bed rooms, a downstairs common area with an open kitchen, sunken seating area, and a back courtyard with a balcony overlooking it from the second floor. Laundry hangs above the courtyard. The place feels homey.

After Camino 1.0 I am taking the rest thing seriously to keep the ankles happy. Staying “home” slowed me down enough to have conversations with fellow pilgrims from Korea, Spain, Finland, Hungary and Denmark. I went to the grocery store and bought eggs, cheese, good Spanish wine for 2E and made lunch in the kitchen. It’s was a nice break from coffee bar food. I sat in the sun and read, and had a restorative foot massage. In the evening, I had dinner in the kitchen with two sisters from Hungary. At 10:00 I climbed into my cozy lower bunk and slept 8 hours. Truly a Sabbath. Slowing down has brought me deeper in touch with my fellow pilgrims.

This morning I’m eating another omelette and sharing the rest of my groceries with other pilgrim cooks. It feels good to see the rest of the eggs get cooked, and leave the spaghetti for someone else to boil up another day, and to give back to the Camino.

I’m going on up the Camino towards the Cruz de Ferro today, after checking out the ancient hospital where St. Francis stayed on his Camino in 1212!

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Categories: Favorite Albergues, October 2013, Uncategorized, Wisdom | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Third day, with Senior moments

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Last night’s Albergue San Miguel was a real find. They had art supplies available to guests so you could draw or paint, and the walls were hung with pilgrim artwork.

In the evening, I visited with three French guys about my age in the garden, and then we went out to dinner. Only one of them, Jean-Paul, spoke English, and he began his Camino from his home in LeMans! He’s walked 1,000 kilometers. The other guys were from the South of France and the West. I was supposed to hear their three different accents, but couldn’t really hear them. They left very early and were off to do 40 kilometers today!

The sun comes up at 8:15 this time of year, and I waited to leave until then so I could see. It was 41 degrees F , and my two wool layers were just right until the sun warms up.

Walking out of town, I met a guy who grew up in Danville, and then ended up walking mostly alone today. I’m enjoying the solitude, and listened to my epic playlist.

Today the Camino wound through hills and fields, and the light was golden. The countryside reminded me of the Contra Costa county hills with a little Sonoma County thrown in.

Then out in the middle of nowhere, we came to a concession stand where everything was free. There was an encampment near it with a real hippie vibe, like Isla Vista, in the 70’s.

Soon after, there’s a giant cross and a view of all Astorga spread below, with its Cathedral—kind of a mini-Santiago moment. A path appeared from the left, and some pilgrims approached. Turns out they were on the Via de la Plata, one of the other Camino routes that merges here in Astorga, with my route, the Camino Frances.

In short succession, I had a series of encounters with senior citizens.

A guy was playing Flamenco guitar with a donation box right there overlooking the view. I gave him some change and he asked if I was German or Dutch. When I said I was from Los Estados Unidos, he asked if I had a dollar. Turns out, I did bring a couple of dollars and gave him one. He was very pleased.

Just down the road there were three people of mature age sitting on a bench. “Buenos Dias, Peregrina!” It occurred to me that they came there for entertainment, since there’s a constant stream of pilgrims coming down the road. They interviewed me and it was fun to converse a little in Espanol. They did not like the fact that I was traveling solo. I told them my Mother doesn’t like it either.

Not five minutes later I had another conversation with someone of my parents’ generation, in a coffee bar. Jose was a native of the neighborhood and grilled me about where I lived, and where I’d walked. The guy behind the bar rolled his eyes a bit, it must be a regular thing.

Made it to the Albergue and I’m relaxing on my lower bunk, trying to decide my strategy tomorrow. It’s my first bunk bed experience of the trip. So far, I’ve had single rooms, which are still a good deal in the albergues.

Wish me luck with sleeping tonight.

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Categories: Camino, Conversations on the Camino, October 2013 | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

A mellow mood

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Yesterday I walked part of the way with a dentist from New Hampshire, who’s been on the Camino for three weeks. He and everyone I’ve met so far have said last week was a nightmare: 5 days of walking the Meseta in pouring rain.

One of my goals for the Camino is to be mindful of my blessings. The autumn sunshine so far is something I’m saying thank-you for throughout the day. It’s very similar to Alameda, but colder at night.

Enjoyed solving the problems of the USA with Edwin from NH over dinner last night.

This morning I had my pack transported via Jacotrans to my next stop. What a difference that makes! I may have found my pace: 15k a day with a daypack. I arrived pleasantly exercised but not hurting at 12:30 and there’s time to relax and explore the town.

I walked most of the way today with Petra, a nice woman from Bremen, Germany, who’s been on the Camino three weeks.

She was continuing on to Astorga, another 15k, and it would have been fun to keep talking, but I was sure I wanted to limit my mileage. As we crossed the bridge into town she found a note for her under a rock from a friend named Dave. Very romantic!

My pack was here when I arrived, and I’m settled into Albergue San Miguel, one inviting place. They greet you with a glass of local vino tinto, and it’s full of original paintings.

I discovered a blister on the usual spot on my 4th toe. The Albergue owners sent me to the Farmacia and I had personal treatment by a lovely pharmacist. It was fun to practice Spanish with her, and she got a kick out of my being from San Francisco. “Señora de San Francisco!” She said to her coworker in the back.

Some towns are just friendly, and Hospital de Orbigo feels that way. On to Astorga tomorrow, blister and all.

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Categories: October 2013, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

First Day on the Camino 2.0

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One of the perks of jet lag is waking up early. So when festival revelers woke me up singing drinking songs in the street at 5:00, I was ready to go. After much internal debate about where to start and how far to go, I did my online morning prayer and came up with the following: walk through Leon to the Parador, where I left the Camino in June, and then call a taxi out if town, skipping the suburbs and sparing my feet on day 1. It always feels good to have a plan.

So I left Hotel Q after desayuno in the dark at 8:00, and walked the Camino route through the medieval city. From all directions there was the tap tap of hiking poles. My fellow pilgrims were also headed out. I have been so consumed with travel arrangements and whittling down the contents of my pack, that had forgotten the impact of common purpose and fellowship between Peregrinos. “Buen Camino!” We said in the dark as we converged on the Way. That was my first tearing up episode. Then, a few minutes later as I paused in the Plaza San Isidore searching for which way to go, a guy standing outside the church pointed the way the Camino exited the irregularly shaped plaza. That was the second tearing up, followed by approaching the Parador, where I had decided to go home after my ankle injury. I asked a fellow pilgrim to take my picture by the statue, then went inside to have them call a taxi. All was the same as June. The taxi came and I started I Virgen del Camino, where the path leaves the suburbs. Suddenly I was back on the Way, and inexpressibly happy. The weather was clear, about 65, beautiful walking weather. A high point of the
day was talking to an old shepherd who had three German Shepherds herding gigantic cattle, in my rudimentary Espanol.

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Categories: Camino de Santiago, October 2013, Return to Camino, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Leon again.

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Yesterday I arrived in Leon by high speed train, pretty knackered from my journey. But Leon gave me a second wind. HotelQ, which I’d booked online, turned out to be one that was full last time when I was hobbling looking for a room in June, so there was a certain sense of closure there. Tons of people out in the evening for a street festival with Bagpipe bands, dancers, and booths set up along the way to St. Isidore’s, people of all ages together, and kids playing everywhere. It felt like coming home to Spanish life. Though reveling went on outside all night, I was able up sleep 7 hours, and feel ready to do some walking this morning to Villar de Mazzarife.

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Categories: Camino, October 2013, Return to Camino | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

A good day to start

I began Camino 2.0 today, taking off from SFO in the morning light. Out the window across the aisle I could glimpse the City shining in the sun, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Always a pang leaving the Bay Area. Hale got up way too early to drive me to the airport in the dark. No traffic at 4:30 a.m., and the lighting of the new Bay Bridge Tower and cables was stunning.

Today is the Feast of St. Francis, Patron Saint of San Francisco. It seems like a good date to start. I just read that Francis himself walked the Camino!

I will remember him and the 13th century conditions when I start to complain about the bunk beds in the albergues.

I’m doing laps in the Atlanta airport before my flight to Madrid.
Buen Camino! Here’s some art in the airport of some very American Saints.

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Categories: October 2013, Uncategorized | Tags: | 4 Comments

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