Monday, October 31, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Olveiroa To Cee

I got up early.  It was still dark outside because of a low lying fog that hugged the hills.  I walked out of the albergue and ... there was the dog, as happy as ever.  I was happy to see him ... and I was happy that he didn't follow me as I left Olveiroa.

I walked along the path watching wind turbines turning in the fog.  I passed a small farm with a mare tied to a fence.  Her colt was nearby.  I tried to take it's picture but it kept walking up to me.  All I got were pictures of out of focus furry brown spots.  It must have been hungry as it nibble my hand.

The fog lifted and the day turned out to be a beautiful day to walk.  The Camino went up a little more.  Near the top I stopped for some breakfast of orange juice and toast.  Around here I ran into the man in the orange shirt and big hat.

I'd seen him in various places in Santiago de Compostela - from the tram ride, at the bus station, at Seminario Menor.  He always had an orange shirt and a large brimmed hat.  Here he was, walking to Fisterra.  I don't know what his nationality was.  He didn't speak much English.  We took turns passing each other along the trail.  We took pictures of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Snows.  He caught my attention for some reason.  I don't know why.

The Camino crested a hill and in the distance you could see the ocean.  I'm not sure I have ever smiled so much in my life.  It was beautiful.  It was so different from the rest of the Camino.  I wondered what the pilgrims of old, who may have never seen the ocean before, thought as they crested that hill and saw water as far as the eye could see.

From here the trail dove into Cee.  This was probably the steepest downhill since entering Zubiri.  I turn left at an intersection following an albergue sign.  The man in the orange shirt and big hat yelled and waved at me.  I yelled "albergue" and we waved as we parted ways.  I soon realized that the albergue was too far from Cee proper and walked into town to look for a more convenient place.  I never saw the man in the orange shirt and big hat again.

The signs in Cee were a little confusing and I was off the Camino soon after entering the city.  I used my GPS to take me to a private albergue that I 'd seen fliers for.  The albergue was locked and I followed a sign to the hotel next door.  The man at the desk said it would not be open for a couple hours but I could leave my bag behind his desk until then.  I thanked him, took my camera and journal and went to the hotel restaurant where I ate ... a hamburger completo (A pattern was forming).

I walked to the nice downtown area that borders the ocean.  I walked around and settled on a bench overlooking a white sand beach.  There was a cool off shore breeze and, for the first time, I used my sunglasses (not much use for sun glasses when you are walking in the morning with the sun at your back).  Sea gulls.  Palm trees.  So different from the past thirty-eight days.

I returned to the albergue, picked up my backpack and picked a quiet corner bunk and did my chores.  After an afternoon nap I went out looking for food.  The hotel restaurant advertised Spaghetti Bolognese but I discovered they didn't serve the good food until 8:00 PM.  It was 5:30 PM  I was hungry now.  I walked back downtown to a place called, and I kid you not, Mac Rober, where I bought a chicken burger.  There were a few places in Cee and Fisterra that ripped off McDonalds' name.  The chicken sandwich was pretty good.

The hospitalero told me that there was a festival the next night.  The festival of San Juan.  The festival was famous for its bonfires.  This may be a solution to a problem I had.  It was customary for pilgrims to burn their worldy possessions when they arrive in Fisterra.  Other stories talk of throwing these possessions into the sea.  I had a Columbia shirt that had pilled up and generally looked crappy and I was going to use it to symbolize my worldly possessions.  I also had a sock that GV had given me to be burned.  These bonfires might be exactly what I needed to dispose of the shirt and sock.

Day thirty-nine turned out to be a wonderful day.  The sun eventually came out right when I reached the ocean.  I liked Cee.  It was a little too modern but the ocean and the fishing boats floating in the bay made up for the lack of old architecture.  I had one more day of walking left.  It felt a little surreal but my adventure was approaching the end ... of the world.

Total Distance: 12.75 Miles (20.52 km)
Total Time: 4 hours 32 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 1,856 ft (565.71 m)
Total Elevation Down: 2,150 ft (655.32 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Negreira To Olveiroa

It was another rainy day and I didn't take many pictures.  I wish I'd taken a picture of the dog that followed me to Olveiroa.

Leaving Negreira in the early morning.  The Arco Pazo do Coton.
Along the foggy trail to Olveiroa.
A cemetery near the town of A Pena.
The fog was getting thicker and changing to drizzle.
Galicia is dairy country.  A cow watches me as I walk by.
These pictures have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Negreira To Olveiroa

Today I had two potential destinations.  The first was the small town of Maroña about 11.81 miles (19 km) from Negreira.  The second was the town of Olveiroa 20.51 miles (33 km) from Negreira.

I woke up, got dressed and put on my backpack.  As I was doing this I noticed that the bottom of the backpack was wet.  Since the backpack had been sitting on the floor I thought there might have been something spilled on the floor.

I left the albergue and headed out of town.  Before I got out of town, I thought of something and stopped under a streetlight.  I pulled stuff out of my pack and pulled out the water bladder.  Apparently when I filled it the night before the drinking tube quick release must have been pushed.  I reseated the tube and it stopped dripping.  I'd lost maybe a half liter of water over night.  Fortunately my clothes were in a dry sack so nothing important was wet.  Not too bad. There were places along the way if I needed to get more water.

For the first two to three hours there was a little hit and miss mist and drizzle.  I stopped at a bar and had some orange juice and tostada (toast with jelly).  After I left the bar the drizzle became a little stronger.

The stage seemed to be all uphill.  Looking at the elevation plot it was obvious that it was not but it sure felt like it.  The stretches of up were long and seemingly unending.  I talked with a couple pilgrims along the way.  It helped kill the time and distracted from all the up.

I reached Maroña and decided to keep going.  Not sure what I was thinking but I kept going.  After the town of Portaliña it really started to rain.  I passed a pilgrim going the other way.  This was very common between Santiago de Compostella and Fisterra.  On my first day I passed two Fins going the other way.  I'd seen them back in Logroño thirty-one days earlier.  This particular pilgrim was being followed by a dog.  A little farther down the road I realized the dog was now following me.

In the next town, Abeleiroas, a stopped to rest under a covered bus stop.  The dog sat down in front of me wagging his tail.  He had no collar.  He looked like a long haired dalmatian.  He was soaking wet.  He was also very happy to see me.  I wanted to pet him but, as I said, he was soaking wet.  I pulled out my principe cookies and ate a couple.  I broke off a little of the cookie and tried to give it to the dog but, to my surprise, it didn't seem interested.  I did not have the presence of mind to take his picture.  I regret that.

I started walking again and the dog came with me.  He would run ahead then run back to see what I was doing then he would lag behind a while before running to catch up.  All along he was just happy.  I think he was just lonely and wanted a friend.

The Camino then approached a busy road.  The dog had been following me down the middle of the dirt road I'd been on and really didn't seem to understand that roads could be dangerous.  When I reached the highway he ran into the road and I knew I didn't what the poor dog's death on my hands so I tried to shew him away.  When he kept coming back I picked up some gravel and threw a few rocks at him.  One connected, the dog yelped, my heart sank, but the dog ran into the grassy field instead of the road and he stopped following me.  I felt really bad and the rain, feeling my torment, started to come down even harder.

I reached Olveiroa and stumbled into the first albergue I found.  I walk in the door, I was dripping, I looked at the hospitalero and, without me saying anything, he said "Si!"  I paid him with some soggy money and he took me to a corner bunk.  He pulled the reserved sign off and put it on the upper bunk.  He then proceeded to move all the reserve signs to the upper bunks.  I liked this guy.  I stripped off all my wet stuff.  I'd actually used my camera bag's rain coat so my camera was completely dry.

I did my chores and gave my clothes to the hospitalero so he could put them in the lavadora and the secadora (washer and dryer).  I was exploring the albergue when I heard a commotion by the front door.  The dog had either followed me or, more likely, followed another pilgrim to the albergue.  The hospitalero chased him off.  I was happy the dog was unhurt.

I found a restaurant and had another hamburger completo, this time with fries.  I topped it off with an ice cream and went back to the albergue.  Other pilgrims were arriving including several Canadians.  I talked with a few figuring I could make a few friends but, after a short while it became obvious that this group of seven or eight had been walking the Camino together for a long time and they were very close knit.  I felt like I was out of the loop and intruding.  I stuck to myself and stayed in my bunk most of the evening.  After saying my Camino was a social experience, I found myself self-segregating, not wanting to meet new people just so I could say goodbye.

Another pilgrim of their group came in and before even telling me his name apologized in advance for his snoring.  This was not a good omen.  The guy was loud while he was awake so I can't imagine what he would be like in his sleep.  For the first time on the Camino I pulled out some ear plugs.  I had one of the most restful nights on the Camino that night.  Another late lesson.  Live and learn.

Day thirty-eight, my second longest stage, was another wet one.  What is it about long stages and rain?!?  The forecast for the next few days was dry so at least I could enjoy the weather for the rest of my adventure.

Total Distance: 20.88 Miles (33.60 km)
Total Time: 7 hours 19 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 3,477 ft (1,059.79 m)
Total Elevation Down: 3,159 ft ( 962.86 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

Friday, October 28, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Santiago De Compostella To Negreira

The way to Negreira was similar to the approach into Santiago de Compostela.  Quaint villages and eucalyptus groves.  Hills and rivers.

On the way to Fisterra, leaving Santiago de Compostela.
A look back at the Santiago de Compostela cathedral in the fog.
The trail to Fisterra.
Grapes hanging in front of a residence along the Camino.
An old bridge in Ponte Maceira.  The sound of the running river was very nice here.
Not sure what this place is but I want to stay here someday.
Monument of the Cowgirls.  The red hat was a nice addition.
This pictures and more have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Santiago De Compostela To Negreira

The first day of my trek to Fisterra started out foggy and it started out early.  I walked back to the cathedral where you took a ramp next to the Parador hotel down to the street below.

The Camino was not marked well.  The markers seemed to be spaced out farther than before.  I reached a point where I could either turn right or go up stairs.  Naturally I assumed the Camino went up the stairs.  For once this was not the right answer.  At the top of the stairs I wandered around a bit, looked at the map I'd picked up at the tourism office, and got myself back on the right path.  Not the best start.

The Camino reaches a small park called the San Lourenzo Oak Grove.  At this point you see the first concrete marker with a distance marked.  The marker said 88,022 km - a scary number until you realize that Europeans use a comma for the decimal point.  (I briefly looked for a geocache near here but it was too dark and decided it would wait for my return to Santiago de Compostella).  The rest of the way to Fisterra would be clearly marked.

The Camino leaving the city is very similar to the Camino on the way in to Monte de Gozo - nice villages and eucalyptus forests.  I looked back at one point and took a picture of the cathedral spires sticking out of the fog.

It started to drizzle a bit so I stopped in a place for breakfast.  I had a fresh and hot bocadillo de tortilla francesa (a scrambled egg sandwich) and some orange juice.  It really tasted good.

The Camino was easy going until you reached the town of Aguapesada.  The Camino briefly takes you off the main road and has you cross a small roman bridge before taking you right back to the road you were on.  Then you leave the main road and go ... up.  The Camino here is a combination of steep sections and slow long inclines.  That hill took a lot out of me.

On the way down the hill I was passed by a Spaniard (I would see him on and off on my way to Fisterra).  He was walking a a much faster pace than I was and he was smoking.  I could smell him as he walked ahead of me.  I was a little pissed at myself that a smoker was smoking me.

At the bottom of the hill I crossed a cool old bridge in Ponte Maceira.  There was a large castle like building on the other side with groomed gardens.  Not sure what it was ... possibly a hotel?  Looked almost idyllic surrounded by it's groomed grounds.

I reached Negreira and then the search for an albergue started.  I passed one private albergue that was not open yet.  I went farther in search for the municipal albergue but turned around when I realized I was leaving the town.  I went to another private albergue which was open but expensive.  I finally asked someone on the street where the municipal albergue was.  His directions took me almost a half mile out of town before I found it.

I dropped my pack in line, removed my boots, and started writing in my journal waiting for the place to open.  As I did this I realized that the albergue was out in the middle of nowhere.  I made a decision, put my boots back on, put on my pack and walked back into town and stopped at the first private albergue I'd passed.  It was centrally located across from an internet place and less than a block from a grocery store.  I'd agonized over the choice of albergue for almost forty minutes and walked over a mile.  I never realized how much I'd delegated the albergue selection to GV.

The albergue, La Lua (The Moon), opened and I settled into a lower bunk in the back corner of a large room.  The place smelled of incense and the hospitaleros were a little on the hippy side which I liked.  I did my chores and went out to find a place for lunch.

I found a bar not too far away and ordered a hamburger completo.  To my surprise, it was an actual hamburger.  The 'completo' meant that it came with lettuce, onion, and tomato.  I forgot to order fries but that was okay.  The burger was pretty good and hit the spot.

I stopped at the grocery store on the way back and stocked up for the next day.  I went back to the albergue and took a long nap.  I made a turkey and tomato sandwich for dinner before crossing the street to the video/internet place to send out emails.  On the way out of the internet place I bought some red licorice which I downed back at the the albergue.  I wrote a bit in my journal.  I worried a little bit about the pain in my right heel (which I now know was related to the twisted pelvis issue I am currently working to correct).

That night I had some hard core heartburn ... damn candy ... it was the bane of my existence along the Camino.  Never again ... but it tasted soooo good.

Day thirty-seven ended with a first, a family walking the Camino.  A couple with three small children (I would say 2, 4, and 6-ish).  The children were well behaved and this albergue had a children's activity area.   While I didn't really talk with anyone, I was content.  I felt pretty good, my mood was upbeat, and my adventure continued a little longer.

Total Distance: 14.00 Miles (22.53 km)
Total Time: 5 hours 9 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 1,981 ft (603.81 m)
Total Elevation Down: 2,298 ft (700.43 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Monte De Gozo To Santiago De Compostela

I took quite a few pictures in Santiago de Compostela.  Here are a representative sample of what I think are the best.

The monument at Monte de Gozo commemorating  Pope John Paul II's pilgrimage.
The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
with a few of the tent protesters on the square and
the tourist tram on the left.
Santiago as pilgrim.
Santiago as killer of the moors.
Weathered King
The Botafumeiro swinging.
I was a little Mary happy in Santiago de Compostela.
The Seminario Menor albergue where I stayed in a single room.
A Portuguese Parade.
Gandhi.
The street symphony orchestra.
These pictures and many more have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Monte De Gozo To Santiago De Compostela

I slept in.  Maybe I didn't want it to end.  Maybe I was just tired.  GV and I didn't leave til 7:15 AM.  We walked up to the monument at the top of the hill so I could take pictures before we headed towards Santiago de Compostela.  The walk was short, the shortest stage of the entire Camino - 3.12 miles (5 km).

There was a little drizzle as we entered the city but it didn't last.  We arrived at the albergue GV had made reservations at, Seminario Menor.  We were going to stay in style in single rooms.  It wasn't open yet but we were able to check in and we left our backpacks in a locker so we wouldn't have to lug them around the city.

We walked the last mile to the cathedral.  We took in the sights.  We listened to the sounds (As you pass through a tunnel near the cathedral you pass a man playing a gaita - the men are street performers and they take turns playing in this prime spot).  We watched other pilgrims walked in.  We also saw our friends, the tent protesters, who had been in Logroño, Burgos, León, And now Santiago de Compostela.

Pilgrim's mass at the cathedral was a few hours away so we went in search of the pilgrim's office.  You pick up your compostela at the pilgrim's office.  We'd heard that the lines could be terrible but when we arrived there was no waiting.  I walked up to a clerk, and handed her my pilgrim's credential.  She asked a few questions ("Where did you start?" is the only one I can remember) and she gave my credential a rather cursory examination before pulling out a compostela.  She looked in a book and was a little confused before she asked if I knew what my name was in Latin.  I said I didn't think I had a Latin version so she wrote my name (The compostela is in Latin and they write your Latin name if one exists).  She asked if I wanted a mailing tube.  Yes. One euro please.  And that was it.

GV and I left the office and kind of looked at each other.  It was a little strange.  We were smiling of course but, frankly, it was a letdown.  Where was the fanfare?  Where were the cheering crowds?  This was it?

We went back to the cathedral  and went in.  The cathedral fills up quickly and the doors are shut and locked once mass starts so you need to get there early to get a good pew.  I wandered around a bit taking pictures and taking it all in.  I went up behind the altar where you can hug the statue of Santiago.  I placed my hands on a large shell, as other pilgrims were doing.

I went down into the crypt where the relics of Saint James are kept in a silver coffer.  I prayed for the old ladies who had stopped me outside of Pamplona thirty-two days earlier.  I then went to the cathedral gift shop and bought a cool silver shell rosary for the Wife (number four).

As we waited for the mass to start we saw RT, who I hadn't seen since Atapuerca.  We exchanged hugs and congratulations.  She'd walked the second half of the Camino with HT.  We learned others had arrived a few days earlier and had all moved on to their homes or next destinations.  We arranged to meet her after mass.

Mass started with a sister with a magnificent voice leading the congregation in song.  The priest followed with a list of Camino starting locations and nationalities of pilgrims who started at each place.  RE, the Puerto Rican I'd met outside of Cacabelos, practically had his own shout out as he and his sister were the only ones who had started in Sahagún.  Parts of the mass were sponsored by Spanish Camino groups and a German church group.  They participated in the mass.

At the end of the mass we were fortunate to witness the swinging of the Botafumeiro.  The botafumeiro is one of the largest censers in the world measuring five and a quarter feet tall (though it looked smaller).  The botafumeiro is usually only displayed (and used) during holy days but, for €300, you can sponsor it.  This day we could thank the German church group for sponsoring the botafumeiro.  I heard that the Japanese television crew had sponsored it the day before.  The censer was lit and it was given a shove to get it swinging.  It was pretty incredible.  The censer almost hit the ceiling of the cathedral some 69 feet (21 m) above the heads of the congregation.  The pulley system is 407 years old and, frankly, I'm amazed someone doesn't get hurt when that thing is swung.

Outside the cathedral we met up with RT.  She hadn't found HT so she led us to a restaurant and we arranged to meet her and HT for dinner that evening.  GV and I ate at the Galeón restaurant.  It was a good restaurant with a brilliant marketing scheme.  On the backs of their menus was a map of Santiago de Compostela with the two Galeón restaurants marked on them.  These map/menus were all over the place.  Nearly every pilgrim carried the maps/menus.  A bonus was that the food was great and reasonably priced.

We headed back to the albergue.  Along the way we ran into a couple of pilgrims who looked confused.  We pointed them in the direction of the cathedral and pilgrim's office.  They called us pilgrim angels.  Ha ... me ... an angel.

Back to the albergue, we grabbed our packs, climbed the three flights of steps, and went way back into the far corner where the single rooms were and settled into our rooms and did our chores.  The rooms were spartan as I would expect but they were private and had their own sink and a very hard mattress.   Showers and toilets were shared.  The privacy felt luxurious.

We went back out to explore the city and to find the local tourist office.  GV needed airport bus information and I needed information about the next phase of my adventure.  The next phase.  When I originally planned my Camino I assumed forty days to Santiago de Compostela.  I soon realized that I was walking farther each day than I anticipated.  I ended up doing it in thirty-five days.  With the extra days I'd originally planned on (three days = four minus the one wasted waiting for my bag) I had eight extra days before I had to leave for Madrid and home.  Somewhere along the Meseta, maybe earlier, I decided to continue my walk to Fisterra (also calls Finisterra).  Fisterra is the traditional end of the Camino.  It is located on the western most tip of Spain and was once considered the end of the world.  Originally I was going to take a bus to Fisterra but, with the extra time, walking it seemed like a more interesting thing to do.

The Galician tourist office was closed when we got there but we were entertained as we waited by a parade put on by the Portuguese tourist office next door.  It looked so fun I think I want to go to Portugal.  The streets of Santiago de Compostela were filled with street performers and there seemed to be something to watch each day I spent there.  The tourist office opened and I got information about the walk to Fisterra including a list of albergues along the way.

As we wandered around the city, we ran into people we'd met along the Camino.  Each meeting ended with hugs, kisses on the cheek, and congratulations all around.  We ran into the Spaniard and his friends who were leaving later that day.  They were all aglow with huge smiles as we said our farewells.  I guess this is the fanfare and cheering crowds I'd been expecting.  Every meeting made me feel warm inside but was also a little bittersweet.

We met RT and HT in front of the cathedral  (there is a big square in front of the cathedral and not one place to sit - a travesty in my opinion - they've had over a thousand years to get this right and ...).  We decided to go back to the Galeón for dinner.  We had a great time reminiscing about the Camino.  Old stories about old friends, laughing at all the good times (On the Camino 'old' usually meant a few days old).  HT's story about losing his underwear and just how long it takes for underwear to dry ... hilarious!

After dinner HT led us to some of the best ice cream I'd had in Spain and we ate it in a nearby park.  The Dulce de Leche was awesome.  It was my second ice cream of the day.

We ended the day asking a reporter, who had interviewed GV earlier that day, to take our pictures in front of the cathedral with all of our cameras. (my Facebook friends have seen this picture, I'm sure).  We then went to our separate albergues for the night.

At the end of each day since Triacastela I would ask Gto tell me a story and she would take out her Camino guidebook and would tell me what I could expect the next day on the Camino.  Tonight GV said it was my turn to tell her a story so I pulled out the Fisterra material and she helped me plan out my route.  I originally broke it into five stages but, like my original Camino plan, I was too conservative and, while I was trying to sleep that first night in Santiago de Compostela, I decided to combine two short stages and do the walk in four days instead.

----------

The next day, Sunday, was GV's last day.  We stopped at a bakery and bought from a nice old lady some awesome chocolate cake which we ate for breakfast in front of the cathedral.  RT and HT took a bus this day to Fisterra.  Turns out the rest of the gang ... all but  GV and I ... were there celebrating GU's birthday.

I followed GV around as she souvenir shopped.  Since I had more walking to do I didn't buy anything but I was taking note of where things were for when I got back from Fisterra.  I took a picture of a street performer, a man dress like a statue of Gandhi.  I dropped a coin in his cup and he gave me a tiny scroll with a saying of Gandhi:
"La verdadera educación consiste en sacarlo mejor de cada uno."
"True education is getting the best out of everyone." - Mahatma Gandhi
The Square in front of the cathedral is defined by the cathedral, the Corona de Galicia, Hostal La Estela, and the Parador.  The Parador is a five star deluxe motel.  It used to be a hospital for pilgrims and now it's a place that only wealthy pilgrims can afford.  We walked through it and I decided it didn't feel like a place for me.  A little too frou-frou.  One nice thing about the hotel is they give free meals (breakfast and lunch) to the first ten pilgrims who line up there each morning and noon.  The sad thing is that the pilgrims do not eat these meals in the nice restaurant but in a room near the kitchen.

We spent most of the morning just walking around Santiago.  It was more crowded today with more pilgrims and more tourists wandering about.  Yesterday we were entertained by the Portuguese parade.  Today the special entertainment was a black tie symphony orchestra in the middle of a narrow street.

We ate lunch at the second Galeón restaurant.  GV and I reminisced some more.  On the Camino there is always something to reminisce about.  So many memories are made along the Camino.

After lunch we had some time to kill before GV had to leave so we went back to the cathedral to people watch.  Then we saw a tourist tram.  It had three cars with the first looking like a train locomotive.  It was touristy.  It was cheesy.  We looked at each other and said what the heck and rode around Santiago de Compostela.  It was cheesy fun and, frankly, I saw parts of Santiago that I might not have taken the time to walk to so it was worth it I think.  It was also fun to yell Buen Camino to the pilgrims as we passed them.

We went back to the albergue, GV picked up her bag that she'd stashed in my room, and I walked her to the bus station.  We said our goodbyes and I watched as the bus left for the airport.  (It turns out GV ended up sitting with the couple we had helped the day before who had called us pilgrim angels.)  As I walked back to the albergue a feeling of melancholy settled over my thoughts.  I felt like the last guy at a party, after everyone had gone home.  I was walking across the lit gymnasium floor with streamers and confetti swirling at my feet, my footsteps echoing in the empty space.

I did some laundry in preparation for next days walk and took a shower.  I headed back to the cathedral area and wandered around aimlessly.  I stopped in a restaurant and had a huge piece of tortilla followed by some ice cream.

I didn't know what to do with myself.  I headed back to the albergue lost in thought.  All of a sudden I stopped and looked around.  I had no idea where I was.  I was so deep in random thoughts that I'd missed a turn.  I retraced my steps for a couple blocks before I reached a familiar street and took the correct corner and returned to the albergue.  It was 6:00 PM.

I hadn't written in my journal since I arrived in Santiago so I sat down and wrote down everything about the last two days.  It was now just after 7:00 PM and I was feeling a little down.  I repacked my bag in preparation for walking the next day.  I seriously thought about going to bed but it was too early so I decided to go check email one last time.

I walked down the four flights of stairs to the basement where the computers were.  When I got there all the computers were full and there were a couple people waiting.  I sat down at a table (The computers were in a large common room/kitchen/laundromat).  As I waited I kept looking at a couple sitting at one of the computers.  She looked familiar.  I couldn't see his face.  I got up and walked around trying not to look like a stalker while I tried to get a better look.  Finally I just blurted out "KV".  It was KV and MC !!!  I met them way back in Bayonne before my Camino even started thirty-seven days ago.  I'd seen them briefly in Puente La Reina and I'd seen their names in the Grañon registry book.

I spent the next hour and a half or so talking with MC (KV was on the computer trying in vain to find a cheap place to stay in Paris).  They'd had as many adventures as I'd had and we were all incredibly happy with our respective Caminos.  Meeting KV and MC here was exactly what I needed.  They nicely bookended the Santiago de Compostela part of my Camino.  My mood was lifted.  I was not alone.  The Camino had provided me with the perfect distraction right when I needed it most.

Days thirty-five and thirty-six were a roller coaster of emotions for me but it ended in a high note.  My adventure was far from being over and I was ready to head for the End of the World.

Total Distance: 3.12 Miles (5.02 km)
Total Time: 1 hours 10 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 418 ft (127.41 m)
Total Elevation Down: 749 ft (228.30 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Like Running A Marathon ...

First, I would like to apologize to anyone expecting another Camino de Santiago post.  Normally there would be one on Saturday morning.  I really don't have any good excuse.  I hardly wrote anything this week.  I have been writing so much lately, seventy-six posts in eighty-two days (92.68%), that it's started to feel like I've been running a marathon.  I needed a little sanity break.

I will start posting again on Monday - that will be my Santiago de Compostela post - and I hope to complete my remaining seven Camino de Santiago posts (including Madrid) without further interruption.  There will probably be other Camino related posts after that - lessons learned, revised packing lists, revised stages, stuff like that.  These will probably come after I've completed my telling of our Route 66 vacation.

So, again, I'm sorry for not posting about the Camino this weekend.  I hope you all understand.  I will be spending this weekend writing posts and, very excited about this, will be going to see a movie about the Camino called "The Way".  Please stand by ...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Arzúa To Monte De Gozo

Sounding like a broken record (a corrupt MP3 file for you young'uns), I didn't take very many pictures along this stretch.  This time I had an excuse - it was raining and I didn't want to get my camera wet.

Out of Arzúa and into the forest I go.
The Saint Irene chapel.   Reminded me of my Grandmother Irene who passed back in the 90s.
An Iconic Camino marker.  I'm getting close!!!
A little guy wishing me Buen Camino.  I wonder who drew him?
These and a few more pictures have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Arzúa To Monte De Gozo

I woke up to a guy whispering loudly to his friends.  I said "Shhhhhh"  to which he replied, rather loudly "Sorry" to which I responded "Shhhhhhh" to which he responded even louder "Sorry" to which I responded "Silencio Por Favor" to which he responded "Sorry" ... even louder.  He left the room but, in this albergue, the walls didn't go all the way to the ceiling so you could hear him talking loudly down at the end of the hall and pilgrims in the other room saying "Shhhhhh".  Heh.  Some people.

The day was overcast and a little misty.  This part of the Camino was rural, forested, and kind of nice.  The mist became harder.  I decided to space out my principe cookies - two cookies per kilometer.  I would use the markers as a guide to when to eat the cookies.  A great plan until the markers stopped having distances marked on them after 12.2 kilometers.  Talking with other pilgrims, and consulting my GPS, we decided that whom ever had marked the distances realized at this point that they were off by several kilometers and simply stopped marking the distance instead of correcting their mistake.

I passed a pilgrim that I hadn't seen since Zubiri - a Buddhist nun and her companion (or attendant ... not sure). I smiled and said my Bonjour as I passed them.

I passed by the little church of Saint Irene.  It reminded me of my Grandmother Irene who passed years ago.

I reached the town of O Pedrouzo, about half way to my destination, and the mist became drizzle.  At this point I stopped at a bar and bought an Ice cream bar and put my jacket and pack cover on.  As I was doing this GV showed up.  She asked if I'd slowed down to let her catch up.  I hadn't.  I think she was walking faster near the end ... and I was unintentionally slowing down a little bit.

We walked together for the rest of the morning.  I had to push myself to keep up.  We passed the Spaniard.  We passed through a couple towns looking for a place to stop for a snack.  We finally found an open bar in the town of Vilamaior.  We had something to drink (we were within Coke distance so I had a one).  We got our stamps here and them moved on into the slowly strengthening rain.

By the time we got to Monte de Gozo (Mount Joy) we were thoroughly soaked.  (I was, my jacket not being very effective.  GV was mostly protected by her purple poncho.)  We passed the big monument of Pope John Paul II's pilgrimage and headed for the gate of the albergue. As we got closer we were met at the gate by ... the Japanese television crew.  Not happy with footage of my butt, they also needed footage of me soaking wet.

The Monte de Gozo albergue is huge, housing at least eight hundred in some thirty buildings (Here is a picture).  We checked in - I paid in soggy Euros.  The pilgrims were put in rooms of eight.  This albergue put people who reserved beds ahead of time in top bunks - Fantastic - so I got a bottom bunk.  My jacket was soaked through (it had apparently lost it's waterproof-ness years ago) as was my hat.  My camera was also damp but not too bad - my bag had kept it protected (I should have used the rain jacket that came with the camera bag ... I didn't).  By the time we did out chores and were clean and in dry clothes the rain had stopped.

We walked to a small restaurant we'd passed on the way in and had a good lunch and we checked email.  GV asked if I had a reservation in Santiago de Compostela.  I did not and she was nice enough to make one for me.

The albergue had a small store, bar/restaurant, and a laundromat.  We went to the bar as our clothes were drying.  I was a little weirded out that we would be in Santiago the next day.  I downed a coke and GV downed something a little stronger.

We spent the evening in the small kitchen area in our building talking with a brit getting ready to enter the seminary and a brother and sister from Portugal.

Day thirty-four, my longest day on the Camino, was also my wettest.  Not only was this stage the longest one but it was also the longest one day hike I have ever done.  I think I could have made it to Santiago de Compostela - it was only 3.12 miles further ahead - but I'm glad we stopped - I was very tired when I got to Monte de Gozo.  The adventure was almost over ... one more day ... or was there more?

Total Distance: 21.4 Miles (34.44 km)
Total Time: 7 hours 51 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 4,626 ft (1,410.00 m)
Total Elevation Down: 4,642 ft (1,414.88 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book: Stieg Larsson's "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest"

My latest read is Stieg Larsson's "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" the third book in the Lisbeth Salander story.  We learn quite a bit more about the girl introduced in "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo".  The story builds on the events that took place in the second book, "The Girl Who Played With Fire", which left the protagonist being taken to the hospital after being shot in the head.

I liked the book but it had the same flaws as the second book - It started off way to slow.  Another flaw was the introduction of superfluous drama and action that really didn't connect with the main story line.  It was like the author thought the main story line didn't have enough action and suspense so he threw in a few more story lines to beef it up a bit.

I would rate this one on par of the second book, namely good but not as good as the first book.  This is usually true for many series.  In the first book everything is fresh and new.  The sequels then struggle to introduce new, fresh material that is consistent with the original and they rarely succeed one hundred percent.

The book ends with all major loose ends, including many from the second book, nicely tied up.  I liked this book enough to want more.  You can tell that there are more stories around Lisbeth Salander.  Sadly, Stieg Larsson is not with us to give us those stories.

Recommended if you liked the the other two books.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Palas de Rei To Arzúa

I didn't take many pictures along this leg.  I think I was slowing down and everything was looking the same.

An hórreo, church and cemetery in the same shot - Score!
An old bridge.
Stepping stones.
Around here the Eucalyptus trees started to appear.
These pictures and a few more have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Palas De Rei To Arzúa

Note:  Arzúa turned out to be similar to Estella for me ... It didn't make much of an impression on me.  When I was thinking about this post I couldn't remember anything about the city.  I had to ask GV to remind me about the place.

The walk this day was long but went fairly well.  I got my second daily stamp in the albergue of Casanova Mato.  In this part of Galicia the Camino passed through eucalyptus forests.  The smell was a welcome change from the dairy cattle smells in most of the small towns.

I passed a lot of people carrying day packs.  This would characterize the typical pilgrim after Sarria.  These pilgrims, who sent their big bags ahead by taxi, walked with a light pack with food and drink mostly.  They wore clean, well fitting clothes, and their shoes were practically free of Camino dust.  While I was always nice to them, wishing them a buen Camino, I was always irritated by them.  My shoes were properly dirty.  My clothes were ill fitting and looked slept in.  My pack was heavy.  I was a proper pilgrim.  'Day Packer' became a derogatory term.  Day Packers irritated me the most when they complained about how hard it was - Boo Hoo.  Carry my pack for 12 miles and then tell me how tough it is ... sheesh!.  Instead of the Camino making me all Zen, it was turning me into a curmudgeon - not an improvement, I would say.

I didn't stop much on this stage.  I just passed day packers like they were standing still.  I stopped at a small church in Furelos and got another stamp.  I only stopped for a rest once and that was for an ice cream break.  I stopped at the entrance to Arzúa to wait for GV.

Arzúa was just an average little town.  Like Palas de Rei, it didn't have very much character.  We checked into a private albergue (Via Lactea - Milky Way), did our chores.  We went out and found a place to eat.  I ordered a hamburger - I missed a good hamburger, not having had one since Logroño.  What I  got was a plate with two beef patties and some fries.  Not a sandwich as I was expecting.  Not the best meal I'd had on the Camino.

We went back to the Albergue and I settled into an afternoon nap as I waited for the laundry to get done.  I can't remember what I had for dinner.  Gmade something for herself and I think I made myself a sandwich or something.

Day thirty-three was a nice walking day that ended in a rather ordinary town.  I wrote very little in my journal about Arzúa and I took no pictures in the town.  A weary footnote of my adventure.

Total Distance: 17.23 Miles (27.73 km)
Total Time: 5 hours 50 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 3,242 ft ( 988.16 m)
Total Elevation Down: 3,763 ft (1,146.96 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Portomarín To Palas de Rei

I didn't take many interesting pictures this day.  I guess I was distracted by the blood pooling in my boot.

The rickety bridge on the way out of Portomarín.
The metal decking bounced a little as you walked across.
A chapel door.
An old cross from Ligonde.
A Mary and Jesus in Palas de Rei.
These pictures have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Portomarín To Palas de Rei

The weather in Galicia had been overcast the last few mornings and the sunrise felt like it was getting later and later even though days were getting longer.  I left in the early twilight and headed back down the hill heading for a foot bridge that the Camino followed out of town.  The metal foot bridge creaked and rattled as you crossed the river.

I reached into my backpack and pulled out the candy I'd bought in Portomarín and munched on it as I walked on the Camino.  It didn't last very long but it had a profound effect on me.  I had a sore spot on my left foot.  The day before I'd trimmed dead skin off the large blister on the bottom of my foot.  This was probably a mistake as it exposed another smaller blister that had been cushioned by the dead skin.  The blister looked blood red.  I wondered if it was actually a blood vessel instead of a blister.  A few miles out of town the blister/vessel popped.

Okay.  Imagine this.  I'm all hopped up on sugar ... big time.  The pain in my foot and the buzzing of my brain combine into this paranoid delusion that my boot was slowly filling up with blood.  Finally, as a approached the tiny burg of Hospital de la Cruz, I came crashing down from the sugar rush I'd been experiencing for the last two and a half hours.  I felt weak, faint, and my knees were wobbly.  "Surely this was because of blood loss", I thought to myself.   I found a rock to sit on and pulled off my boot and found ... nothing of course.  My sock had a small wet spot consistent with a popped blister.  Nothing was bleeding.  When I recounted this story in my email home, the Wife's niece said:
"[Y]ou should stop snorting pixie stick dust when you're on the camino."
The Canadian and his Japanese Girlfriend came along and asked how I was.  I told them I was a little light headed but I was starting to feel better.  A few minutes and an apple later I was feeling better and I continued on the Camino.

This stage felt like it took forever.  From here on, the days, while they took no longer than previous stages, felt very long.  Time felt stretched.  I think this is where all the walking started to wear on me.  My feelings were a mix of "I want this to go on forever" and "I can't wait to get home".  It was a strange part of the Camino.  Things were winding down and I was missing home but the freedom of the Camino - however temporary and illusory - and having the time for reflection and contemplation, were intoxicating.

I reached the outskirts of Palas de Rei, sat on a bench, wrote in my journal, and waited for GV.  The municipal albergue was way out on the edge of town so we skipped it and went into town and found one closer to the center of town.

As we were checking in one of the old lady hospitaleras pointed at me and said in Spanish "Give him a lower bunk because he is older."  ?!?!?  An Australian guy looked at her and said "He isn't old." to which she responded "I said older not old."  While I appreciated the lower bunk I'm not sure I appreciated the older comment.

This albergue was run my the Xunta and like all Xunta albergues was a little sterile.  One thing that was odd were the showers - no doors or curtains.  The toilets had doors but the showers didn't.  All the guys (except me ... too slow) went in and took showers first.  I stood to go in after the guys came out but was stampeded by all the women.  In our room I think I was the last to take a shower.

We explored the town a bit and found it ... a little underwhelming.  There were churches and the like but we decided not to go see them as we both had a long day walking and everything of interest seemed up hill.  By this time along the Camino we had seen so many churches that they didn't hold their mystique anymore.  All in all the town had little character.

We decided to swap things around a bit and have our large meal for lunch.  It was a late lunch but I cleaned my plate ... something I rarely did when I ate my big meal at dinner.  It only took thirty-two days to figure this out.  I have to confess, AL and JT, way back in Frómista, had told me that they always ate their big meal at lunch and had recommended that I do the same.  I foolishly dismissed their advice.  AL was just too irritating to me for me to listen.  Live and learn.

After Astorga I ended up meeting a lot of people.  I guess once I realized that the old gang was gone (except for GV) I became more open.  There were the Canadian and his Japanese Girldfriend (from Astorga).  The German brother and sister (from Triacastela).  The Spaniard and his friends (from Pereje).  Three Canadian Filipinos (from Foncebadón).  The Australian walking with is 80+ year old mother.  A couple college girls from Chicago - one had awesome painted nails ... wonder how long those lasted.  I never really learned any of their names or them mine.  Some of the people we talked to were people GV had met on the Meseta like NL, an Irish girl.  Sadly, Palas de Rei was NL's last stop.  She'd had leg/feet problems and a doctor, who knew few English words, examined her and said "No Camino".  She went home three days from Santiago de Compostela after having one more night on the town.

Day thirty-two, a day of mixed feelings and unwelcome paranoid sugar rushes.  New friends.  New habits.  A new weariness.  A new adventure.

Total Distance: 14.79 Miles (23.80 km)
Total Time: 5 hours 11 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 2,676 ft (815.65 m)
Total Elevation Down: 2,030 ft (618.74 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]