Saturday, November 26, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Recuperations

Wow.  We had a great time with all the in-laws on the day before, day of, and day after Thanksgiving.  Now that everyone has gone or are on their way home the house seems so quiet and peaceful, the aftereffects of such great company.

At the peak we had 27 people (this number includes two whole babies and two partial ones).  The Wife was afraid that we wouldn't have enough food for everyone but there was plenty.  The 20 lb turkey was stripped clean and a lot of the 18 lb ham, along with the remainders of three different types of potatoes, were consumed or left the house with guests/college students.

Football, talk, and, most of all, the giggle of little baby girls filled the gaps between meals making this long Thanksgiving celebration one of the better ones in recent memory (IMHO).  Those little girls are some of the best behaved children I have ever seen.

Despite all the food in the house I managed to keep my eating under some control.  Even the two pieces of ice cream cake eaten to celebrate the Altar Boy's Wife's birthday didn't make it to the scales (though my blood sugars were probably on the rise over the past few days, no doubt).  This may change after I open the Principe cookies that my Mother-in-Law (MiL) bought for me but I doubt one package will kill me ... I can always delay my next blood tests.

Now that the house is empty once again it is time to recuperate, redecorate (for Christmas), and to restart my writing.  The MiL let me know that I hadn't written anything in several days and that she was looking forward to my next post.  My next postings will be about our Route 66 and California vacation which I will start posting about on the the first of December.  It won't be as long as my Camino and will probably be done in twelve posts.

Onward to Route 66 ... and the continuation of my pilgrimage.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Rewards And Last Words ... For Now

This will probably be my last Camino post for a while.  There are other things happening in my life besides the Camino though at times it feels like the Camino is my life now.  So, for my last Camino post for a while I'll post three pictures.  They are pictures of the, for want of another word,  rewards of my Camino.

My pilgrim's Credential or Passport.
The stamps are from the albergues, churches, and bar/restaurants I stopped at along the Camino in 2011.
[Click on picture to see a larger version]
The credential is actually a long fanfold document.  This picture is a composite of the front and back of the credential (Two panels were left off to anonymize the picture).  The stamps, "sellos" in Spanish, start with the Saint Jean Pied de Port one on the upper left and end with the Fisterra ones of the lower right (The last panel on the bottom right are the stamps from the Fisterra legs of my Camino).  While I took a credential  I received from the American Pilgrims on the Camino organization with me, I ended up buying one (A 1€ donation) in Saint Jean Pied de Port anyway as the French ones were larger - I didn't want to run out of space.

My Compostela certifying that I arrived at Santiago de Compostela.
(I have anonymized the certificate.)
[Click picture to see a larger version]
You receive the compostela in the pilgrim's office in Santiago de Compostela.  They look at your credential.  They ask you the reason for your pilgrimage.  The certificate is given for people who do it for religious or spiritual reasons.  I don't know anyone who didn't say spiritual.  The compostela is in Latin and they look up your name in a book to find a latinized version of your name.  My name does not have a Latin version so she just wrote my name, last name first as is the custom, and handed me the compostela.

The certificate received when you finish the Camino de Santiago in Fisterra.
(I have anonymized the certificate.)
[Click on picture for a larger version]
I was surprised to find that you received another certificate once you arrived in Fisterra.  I'd stopped at the albergue (I wasn't staying there) to receive a Faro Fisterra stamp - When the lighthouse is closed, as it was when I got there, you could receive a stamp at the albergue.  After I got the stamp the hospitalera asked if I wanted a certificate and I said sure.  The Fisterra certificate is more colorful and in some ways more interesting than the compostela.

I've updated the Camino De Santiago tab adding a list of my actual stages (I did this as I've noticed that Homer's Travels is starting to receive hits from people searching for Camino information).  My credential and the Fisterra certificate have been framed.  The Compostela, my pilgrim's shell, a Fisterra shell, my albergue documents (I referred to them as my 'Bible'), a shell tile, and various cards and tickets I picked up along the Camino have been mounted in a shadowbox.  I will try to take a picture and put it on Facebook (It hasn't been anonymized).

I am already planning my 2013 Camino and I will share the plans here someday ... probably not soon though.  I want to post about my packing list, the lessons learned about what I needed to carry on the Camino, and how it will change in 2013 ... but that can wait until I've decided how it will change.

Until I post about the Camino again, Buen Camino everyone!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Oh ... {S}hell!!!

Pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago carry a shell with them .  The shell is associated with Saint James.  There are many stories explaining the connection of the scalloped shell with Saint James but no one really knows which of the stories is true.  Today you can easily identify a pilgrim's backpack as it often has a shell hanging from it.

I received my shell in St Jean Pied de Port.  There was a large bowl of shells at the pilgrim's office and you could pick one out for yourself for a donation.  As soon as my bag arrived I attached the shell to the back of pack and it stayed there all across Spain.  You can see my shell hanging of my backpack in this picture (my bag is on the left - the shell is white).  I cut it off my bag in Fisterra when I reached the end of the Camino.  I didn't want the shell to be damaged in the bus on the way back to Santiago de Compostela.

My Santiago shell is now being put in a shadow box with my Compostela and a few souvenirs.

While I was in Fisterra I marveled at all the shells on Langosteira beach.  I picked up several to bring back home.  I have two small ones, a medium one, and a larger one about two-thirds the size of my Santiago shell.  One of the small ones is also going in the shadowbox.

Looking at the larger of the Fisterra shells I had this great idea of using it as my shell for my 2013 Camino.  All I needed to do was drill a hole for the cord to go through.  I went into my basement workshop, put a towel in the vise to cushion the jaws, and carefully put the shell into the vise.  Taking a small masonry bit I drilled a hole in the end of the shell.  I took the shell out of the vise and examined my masterwork.  The hole was a little off center but it was a nice clean hole.  It was also a little too small to thread the cord through.  No problem, I just needed to ream the hole out a bit.  I put the shell back in the vise and gave it a gentle squeeze ...

*CRACK*
... well, you can see what happened.  Almost brought a tear to my eye.  I was so disappointed ... majorly bummed.  Combined with the dreary overcast day outside (This happened a week ago), I was totally Blah for the rest of the day.  *sigh*

Monday, November 14, 2011

Movie: "The Way"

A few weeks ago I went to a movie about the Camino de Santiago called "The Way".  The movie, directed by Emilio Estevez and staring Martin Sheen, was filmed along the Camino de Santiago.  I ended up seeing it two times with two completely different impressions of the movie.

My first time, the Wife and I went with lots of anticipation.  I was ready to recognize all the places I walked through.  I was surprised when the movie started in Ventura, CA, near where I spent twenty-one years of my life.  The movie then shifts to Saint Jean Pied de Port.  The Martin Sheen character goes there to retrieve the remains of his estranged son who died on the first day of his Camino.  Sheen decides to finish the Camino for his son, taking his cremated remains along with him.  Everything started out well until I started noticing discrepancies.

One discrepancy wouldn't have been a big deal but there were at least three that I noticed.  An albergue in Roncesvalles that is depicted as a decrepit old building in the movie is actually a very nice bed & breakfast type place in real life.  The albergue Orisson is shown after Roncesvalles when in fact it's before Roncesvalles.  The "only albergue in Torres del Rio" (There are actually more than one) is shown to be run by a crazy man.  If I were the albergue owner in Roncesvalles or an albergue owner in Torres del Rio I would be pissed about how their places are depicted.  Now, I understand that these scenes were put in there to add some atmosphere and comic relief but there was no reason they couldn't use some made up names or use a town along the Camino without an albergue so that no one would be insulted.  I left the movie disappointed.  The Wife, not noticing the discrepancies, liked the story.  I couldn't get past the out of order editing and errors.

My second time was with my mom.  I went in with both eyes wide open.  I disregarded the errors that I found the first time and just watched the movie.  All of a sudden I was seeing things I hadn't seen the first time.  It was like I missed every other scene the first time as I grumbled about the discrepancies and now I saw the whole movie.  It wasn't half bad.  I began liking the characters and I saw how the friendship matured in a way similar to how it happened in real life.  I saw Sheen's character overcome the loss of his son and, in doing so, discovered how to live.  I left the movie smiling.

I'd heard a bit about "The Way" when I was on the Camino.  Pilgrims were worried about a flood of American pilgrim's after the movie came out.  Many pilgrims lament how crowded the Camino is these days.  Will "The Way" flood northern Spain with Americans?  I don't know.  I do know that if you walked the Camino or know someone who has, you should go see this movie.  It will be worth it.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Epilogue ... And Prologue

The return home was incredibly uneventful especially compared to the ordeal of getting to the start of the Camino.  I got home around 11:00 PM and sat talking with the Wife until 3:00 AM.  I was still a little pumped from the Camino.  I even managed to pull off another toenail while I was talking with her and showing her all my Camino treasures - my shell, compostella, and Fisterra certificate.

So, what did I end up doing?  A few numbers ... Since I am a numbers kind of guy:
  • Total distance was 513.61 miles (826.58 km) walked in 36 days.  This does not include all the walking I did in each town I stopped at.
  • My average daily walking distance was 14.27 miles (22.96 km).
  • The longest stage was 21.40 miles (34.44 km) - Arzua to Monte de Gozo ...
  • ... which was followed by my shortest stage of 3.12 miles (5.02 km) - Monte de Gozo to Santiago de Compostela.
  • My average speed was 2.77 MPH (4.46 km/hr).
  • My maximum speed for a leg was 3.36 MPH (5.41 km/hr) - Frómista to Carrión de los Condes.
  • Total elevation up was 83,022 ft (25,305.10 m). Down was 83,006 feet (25,300.23 m).
  • The average elevations up and down per stage were essentially the same, 2,306 ft (702.87 m).
  • Most 'up' in one day was 5,450 ft (1,661.16 m) - Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles.
  • Most 'down' in one day was 4,852 ft (1,478.89 m) - Foncebadón to Ponferrada.
  • I took three breaks along the way: a two day break in Burgos, a bus ride between León and Astorga, and a day in Santiago de Compostela before going to Fisterra.
  • I ate roughly 23 ± 2 tubes of Principe (or equivalent) cookies (368+ individual cookies)
  • I ate an ice cream every day starting in Pamplona including two per day while I was in Santiago de Compostela meaning I ate at least 41 servings of ice cream while on the Camino.
  • I bought 5 rosaries and 1 Mary bracelet (in O Cebreiro) for the Wife, 3 t-shirts for me, and 14 magnets.
[Click on map for a larger version]
They say that the Camino changes people.  People talk about not being able to sit still, of having another outlook on the world, of changing in unpredictable ways.  I feel different.  I definitely feel more confident.  I went to Spain thinking I might last three or four days before giving up.  Giving up turned out to never have crossed my mind.  Getting up each day, hoisting your pack on your back, and heading out each morning just became part of the routine.

I discovered a routine that sounds monotonous to some - getting up each day, walking 14 miles with a backpack, checking in to an albergue, taking a shower, shaving, brushing your teeth, washing clothes, finding a place to eat, napping, finding another place to eat, going to sleep, and repeat - takes on a whole other dimension when you are walking the Camino.  The daily routine simplifies you life to its bare necessities and sometimes, in this modern world of ours, simplification is what we all need but rarely have.  The monotony simplicity gives you time to think about a whole lot of things.

I discovered that I can be quite happy away from the trappings of civilization and that sleeping in albergue bunk beds isn't that bad.  Staying away from guided tours, American-style hotels, and other travel comforts often leads you to more interesting places and people.

I discovered that I was a much more social person than I thought I was.  The Camino encourages the quick formation of friendships.  I met and talked with KSam for ... probably less than an hour total and now she feels like an old friend.  Facebook has helped enormously to keep in contact with my Camino friends.

Despite all the things I have learned about myself, I feel like the Camino gave me a test and I came up incomplete.  I still have more to learn.  I hoped my pessimism would not make an appearance on the Camino.  I thought I might become all Zen and positivity would rein as I walked - that didn't happen.  The Camino often brought out the curmudgeon in me.  So I didn't pass the test - at least not the one I gave to myself - and I can't help feeling like there was something else I was supposed to learn.  When you get an incomplete on a test there is only one thing to do - take the test again.

When I said goodbye to GV, I told her, when either of us got the urge to go back and do it again, we would email the other.  I was a little surprised to receive an email only eleven days after I'd returned saying she was going back to the Camino in 2013.  My first reaction was it was too soon but, after mentioning the email to the Wife and having her say "I told you so", I thought about it and decided that I needed to go back and 2013 was as good as any to 'retake the Camino test'.

GV and I have already started to plan our next Camino.  Facebook have been very helpful in this.  Our plans are still very tentative.  We seem to have tentatively agreed on a few things:
  • We both agree the route will follow the Aragonese way.  We are thinking of starting it a few days into France along the Arles way ... possibly Orolon-Sainte Marie.
  • We will probably do it in September-October.  While Spring was beautiful, I want this Camino to be different and going in the Fall will add some variety.
  • We also agree that we will stay away from the big cities this time - Logroño, Burgos, León, etc.  The small towns have so much more character.
The rest of the route will take some work.  We want to make lists of places we want to stay at, places we want to avoid, and then somehow reconcile our two sets of  lists.  I actually think it will be fairly easy.  There will be some places that just won't work.  La Faba and O Cebreiro, San Antón and Castrojeriz - these places are too close to each other to stop at both.  I'm sure some of the decisions will be heartbreaking.   We still have a lot of time to put a detailed plan together which is good as I haven't really even started to think about the details yet.

A day hasn't gone by since I've returned home that I haven't thought about the Camino.  It's become somewhat of an obsession.   It was hard and yet so easy.  It was one of the best experiences I've ever had and I can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Madrid

On my last day in Spain I walked the tourist bus route taking pictures of statues, fountains, buildings, and gardens.  The shear number of statues was overwhelming.

Plaza Mayor.
Carlos III.
A symbol of protest - the Guy Fawkes mask.
Fuente de Cibeles, Madrid
Fuente de Neptuno, Madrid
Lago de el Retiro.  Monument to Alfonso XIII
Plaza de Colon.  Monument to Christopher Columbus.
Metropolis Building, Madrid
Egyptian Temple of Debod,  a gift to Spain.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
Plaza de Oriente and the Royal Palace of Madrid.
Shiny butt.
These pictures and many more have been added to my 2011-06 Madrid Google Photos album.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Santiago De Compostela To Madrid

Note: I suppose technically this not a Camino de Santiago post.  My Camino ended once I got on the train.  I'm still calling it a Camino post though.

The train was on time, leaving Santiago de Compostela around 10:30 PM.  The train cars have seats that face the front except for the first two seats that face the rear.  Like on the train to Hendaya, I was stuck in one of the rear facing seats.  I talked with my seat mates including a Canadian.  As the train pulled away from the station, the feeling of leaving the Camino was palpable.

Not wanting to think about what I was leaving, I hoped to fall asleep.  The back facing seat was a little inconvenient because you were limited on how you could lean the seat back.  The seat rolled forward but, since you were facing another passenger, if you did this you would end up playing footsy with the other passenger.  So, for most of the night I struggled to get comfortable and sleep while trying to avoid the dreaded whiplash head bob ... of doom.

The train did not announce the stops and some passengers were worried about missing their stops if they slept. I wasn't worried as the Madrid station was the last stop of the train.

The train arrived at the station around 7:00 AM or so.  I headed for the metro station located under the train station and made my way to the hotel.  I exited the metro and walked a kilometer (0.6 miles).  The walk was through a residential area with a few hotels, schools, and strip malls.  I found the hotel (Thank you GPS) and tried to check in.  It was way too early but I payed the early check in fee and got moved into my room right away.  A shower and a shave later and I felt human once again.

The desk clerk had said there was a shopping center not far away that had restaurants and that I could take a taxi. Psshhhaaaww!  I'd just walked 510 miles.  How far could it be?  I headed in the direction the GPS said it was.  It took a few failed attempts and a real close look at the GPS map to realize that I had to cross two major freeways to get there.  I eventually made it after taking a roundabout path over one crosswalk and under another underpass.  Of course it was Sunday and everything was closed.  The doors to the mall were open but all the stores were closed ... except McDonalds.  Them mcnuggets tasted mighty fine.

Back to the hotel and then ... sleep ... nap like I'd never napped before.  Slept like a baby.  I tried to watch television but the only English channel was ... Russian News Network (WHAT!?!).  Bought a sandwich in a store in the hotel lobby and then ... went to bed.  It felt like a long day.

----------

The next morning I slept in a little.  I went down to the lobby, reserved my spot on the airport shuttle the next day, and headed for the metro.  I took the metro down to the Opera station.  From there, after passing a McDonalds and seeing that they didn't have hotcakes, I walked to the Plaza Mayor.  I arrived there just as the tourism office was opening.  I went in and got a map of Madrid and a copy of the tourism bus route (the one I'd ridden oh so long ago).

I stopped at a cafe just opening for business near the tourism office and had my last piece of Tortilla Española and Zumo de Naraja (Orange Juice).

After breakfast I began walking the tourist bus route.  I walked the route taking pictures and admiring the architecture.  I passed the tent protesters (think Occupy Madrid though they predate the Occupy Wall Street protests).  Walking the route allowed me to see the city much better than riding the bus.  I didn't go in any place, including the Prado.  Most of the places you would go in are museums that aren't on the top of my list of places to go.  I'm sure I'll be back with the Wife someday and we can hit the museums if we feel like it ... though the Wife is not a museum person either.

Madrid was just as hot as Santiago de Compostela had been on Saturday.  I found some shade in the Plaza de Retiros (I think it means Retired Park).  I bought an expensive can of soda, relaxed by the large pond, and watched people rowing boats in the pond.

I passed the statue of Christopher Columbus and walked through an exhibition of art along a main boulevard.  Except for the heat it was quite nice.  I ended up on the Via Real, a main drag and a shopping district.

It was lunch time so I went to a big McDonalds (I was trying to re-acclimatization my body in preparation for coming home ... or so I told myself).  I ordered two quarter pounders.  The person taking my order suggested a "Menu" (a meal) would be cheaper so I said sure.  I expected two burgers, a large fry, and a large soda.  I watched as she puts two quarter pounders on the tray ... followed by two large fries and two large sodas.  I didn't feel like arguing so I took my double order and found a place upstairs to sit (This place had marble floors and very nice decor).  Next thing I know I'd finished everything.  I even got two commemorative coke glasses (which I carried home).  I guess I was hungry.

I walked around a market, took pictures of monuments, fountains, and statues.  I visited an Egyptian temple that had been a gift to Spain (It was closed ... naturally) and the national palace.  The last place I visited was the cathedral.  I was a little disappointed with the cathedral as it was fairly modern.  I was turned off by the gray, concrete-like exterior.  I bought a magnet and the last rosary for the Wife (number five).

I headed back toward the Plaza Mayor stopping in souvenir shops looking for magnets.  I stopped at a food market and bought an apple which I ate on the way back to the Opera metro station.  I took the metro back to my hotel.

I decide to skip dinner.  I was instead going to pig out on ice cream.  I left the hotel and went in search of ice cream.  It was surprisingly hard to find.  I did find a small grocery store but all they had was 900 ml (0.95 quarts) containers.  I figured if I ate that I would give myself the shits ... not a desirable thing.  I headed back towards the hotel feeling extremely hot and a little dejected when I passed a candy store that had a cooler in one corner.  What did I find in that cooler?  A pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie -  this happens to be my favorite flavor.  Woo-Hoo!!!

I hurried back to the hotel wondering if I would have chocolate soup by the time I got back to the room.  I get to my room and ... the key card doesn't work.  I go down to the front desk, get a new key, and get to the room.  Fortunately, despite the heat, the ice cream was mostly intact ... and I had a spork.  It tasted wonderful.  I think I could have finished a quart of that stuff.

I had trouble falling to sleep that night, my last night in Spain.  I was still on the Camino in my head.  Once I did fall asleep I slept well.  (The stats below are for the walk around downtown Madrid.)

Total Distance: 9.55 Miles (15.37 km)
Total Time: 5 hours 22 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 654 ft (199.64 m)
Total Elevation Down: 656 ft (199.95 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Fisterra To Santiago De Compostela ... By Bus

The last pictures from along the Camino (though I still have a batch from Madrid to post).

Early morning in Fisterra.
Pilgrims waiting for the bus in Fisterra.
Seminario Menor Albergue.
A walking stick left by a pilgrim at the base of the cathedral.
HT's Birthday ... bread.
Children in a parade.
These pictures and more have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Fisterra To Santiago De Compostela ... By Bus

I slept in a bit since the bus didn't leave until 8:20 AM.  I walked down to the bus stop that already had a crowd of pilgrims gathering.  I took a couple pictures of the early morning sun over the ocean and the fishing boats heading out for their next catch.  I talked with one of the pilgrims I'd talked to on the way to Olveiroa.  He said it felt weird to be waiting for a bus after walking so long.  It did feel a little strange.

The bus arrived and everyone piled in.  The bus was full - standing room only - filled mostly by pilgrims.  The ride back was more scenic than the walk to Fisterra.  The bus route followed the coast a lot longer before turning east to Santiago.  The bus ride was about three hours long and dumped me off at the bus station in Santiago de Compostela.  I walked to Seminario Menor, checked in, put my bag in a locker, and headed for the train station.

I'd seen the train station on the way in on the bus.  I followed my GPS map to the station keeping track of how long it took me to get there.  It wasn't that far - twenty minutes or so.  I bought my ticket to Madrid and then went in search for another geocache.

The geocache, San Lourenzo, was the same one I'd tried to find in the dark on my way to Fisterra.  It was much easier to find during the day.  I placed my remaining two travel bugs, Dirty Red Plastic Monkey and the revived The Walking Sister (that had officially been lost last year), in the cache.

At this point I officially marked my Camino over so I now allowed myself to eat fast food.  I'd seen a Burger King earlier when I road on the tram.  I had  a rough idea where it was but it still took me a while to find it.  I sat down and discovered that Burger King in Santiago de Compostela tastes exactly the same as Burger King in Omaha.  It tasted like a little bit of home.  This was, of course, topped off with some ice cream.

Filled up, I walked to the cybercafe a couple doors down from the Burger King and completed my travel arrangements.  I made hotel reservations in Madrid.  The hotel was near a metro station and had a free airport shuttle.  Just as I finished HT showed up.  We said our hellos and we arranged to meet for dinner that evening.

I spent the rest of the afternoon souvenir shopping - a couple t-shirts, some magnets, and a bag for the wife which would also serve as my carry-on on my way home.  In my wandering I ran in MA and his wife.  I hadn't expected to run into anyone I'd met on the Camino (except HT).  We agreed to meet for Dinner - I was going to introduce them to HT if they didn't already know him.

I went back to the albergue, picked up my bag and moved into my room.  I did my chores including a load of laundry.  Then back out to meet up for dinner.

I went to the cathedral which seems to be the place to meet up and waited.  MA and wife never showed but HT arrived and we went to the Galleon (the fourth time for me in seven days).  We had a good meal over conversation.

---------

I got up Saturday morning and realized that I needed to do more laundry if I wanted to fly home in clean clothes so I went down to the basement and washed a tiny load.  While the machines were running I talked to a couple guys who were staying at the albergue but were not pilgrims.  It sounded like they'd been traveling a long time.

I packed my backpack, stuffed it in a locker, and headed back to the cathedral area.  On the way I stopped and bought some more of the chocolate cake I'd had a week earlier.  It was HT's birthday today and he needed some cake.

I got to the cathedral and waited around to see if he would show.  I walked to the cybercafe and looked there.  I think I walked from the cathedral to the cybercafe four times without seeing HT.  Finally I realized it was possible that I wouldn't even see him today.  We really hadn't set up a time to get together ... so I ate my piece of cake.  Yeah, I know.  I should have waited longer but I was hungry.

Finally on my fifth or sixth circuit between the cathedral and cybercafe I ran into HT.  I wished him a happy birthday gave him his piece of cake.  We headed back toward the cathedral area.  Along the way he bought a Torta de Santiago.  His plan was to cut it up into bite sized pieces and give them out to pilgrims as they arrived to the cathedral.

I spent the next hour or so wandering around the cathedral square waiting for HT to give away all his torta which, turns out, is not an easy thing to do.  Few of the pilgrims would take food from a complete stranger.  I think he ended up eating quite a bit of it himself.  As he wandered around I found a shady spot on the steps of the cathedral next to some women from Ohio that HT had mentioned.  They had invited him to lunch.  I chatted with them a bit and sort of invited myself to lunch with them.  They mentioned a nice couple from Canada that sounded a lot like AL and JT, who I met back  in Fromista.  No more than a  minute later, AL and JT show up.  Another strange reunion.

HT finally gave away the last of his torta and we went to a nearby restaurant.  We had good conversation.   One of the women lived in Spain and knew a lot about the business side of the albergue business having worked setting one up.  This interested HT a lot as he'd said he wanted to set up his own albergue.  HT surprised me by saying he was going to join the seminary - I hadn't known this.

I mentioned it was HT's birthday so we asked the waiter for a candle.   Unfortunately they didn't have cake and the ice cream they served was a bar, not a bowl, so we had nothing to put the candle in.  I fixed it by grabbing a piece of bread and sticking the candle in it so we could sing happy birthday and have a decent blowing out of the candle.

The women left to catch their train.  HT went off to Skype with his family.  I spent the afternoon wandering around an increasingly hot Santiago de Compostela.  It was sweltering.  Probably over 90°F (32°C).  There turns out to be little shade in that city that isn't occupied by bar/restaurant tables.  You want the shade?  You have to buy something.

I did run into another street show.  A parade of musicians and children that ended in a theater.  I think I was probably part of the theater show.  They were a nice distraction.  I ended up on some hot stairs of the cathedral.  They were in the shade but had obviously absorbed a lot of heat earlier in the day.  But it was shade.

Later that day I met up with HT again and treated him with dinner at his favorite restaurant, a Doner Kebap specializing in Kurdish food.  This was followed by watermelon (yes, you can cut watermelon using dental floss) and my second ice cream of the day.

8:00 PM arrived and we said our goodbyes.  HT went to the bus station.  I went to Seminario Menor, picked up my pack, and headed to the train station.

Days forty-one and forty-two were like a period at the end of my Camino.  This night I would take an overnight train to Madrid, officially leaving the Camino.  Not sure how I felt about that.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Cee To Fisterra

I took quite a few pictures in Fisterra.  It was a nice little town.

Early morning, entering Corcubión, boats floating in the harbor.
Early morning fishing.
My ultimate ending - Faro Fisterra
The last pilgrim statue on the way to Faro Fisterra.
The last cross at the end of the world.
0.000 km - End of the road and the end of the world.
Letting the Atlantic wash over my feet.
Langosteira Beech.  All those things that look like rocks are shells.
An old derelict boat where I sat and wrote in my journal.
Castle of San Juan.
These pictures and many more have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Cee To Fisterra

My last day of the Camino.  My last day of walking.  It felt a little surreal.  Today was day forty which I found a little ironic as I'd originally planned to do the Camino in forty days.  I just hadn't expected that would include a rest stop in Burgos, a day in Santiago de Compostela, and a walk to Fisterra.

I followed the arrows to the next town, Corcubión.  The markers took me to a church and then ... I lost the scent.  I assumed that they would take you back to the main road but, after walking along that main road for a while I realized I wasn't on the Camino anymore.  I looked at the map on my GPS and realized if I stayed on the road I was following I would eventually reach Fisterra.  I also guessed that the road I was on would eventually have to be crossed by the Camino.  It turns out I was right and, after a short distance of walking and worrying (I always fret about something), I reached an intersection of the Camino with the road and before you could say Buen Camino, I was on the Camino once again.  I celebrated by downing the chocolate bar I was carrying in my backpack.

The rest of the walk to Fisterra was gorgeous.  Forests.  Ocean views.  A nice village or two.  I climbed a hill and turned a corner and there it was in all its glory: Cape Fisterra.  The view wasn't perfect - the skies were overcast - but that did not diminish what I was feeling at that moment.  In a way it was more satisfying than reaching Santiago de Compostella.  It had a more final look to it.  You couldn't walk farther west if you wanted to.

My first view of Cabo Fisterra.
Faro Fisterra (Lighthouse Fisterra) can be made out of the tip of the cape on the left.
[Click on picture for a larger view]
The Camino took me down to a road, then detoured a bit as it headed down toward an isolated beach ... steeply .. before climbing ... steeply ... right back up to the road.  The Camino redeemed itself for this strange detour by following Langosteira Beach - a beautiful 1.2 miles (2 km) stretch of white sand.

The view of Langosteira Beech from Fisterra.  The clouds that were there earlier were long gone.
[Click on picture for a larger view.]
I entered Fisterra and followed the main road to the albergue.  It was way too early to check in, naturally.  I debated what to do for the three hours before it opened and decided to finish the walk once and for all.  I walked back up the street and followed the signs to Faro Fisterra (Fisterra Lighthouse).  The lighthouse was another 1.86 miles (3 km) up the road.

As I got closer I stopped to look for a geocache (Finis Terrae - Cache at the end of the world) on a side road within sight of the lighthouse.  It took me a while but I found it.  I'd carried four travel bugs with me and I dropped off a couple of them - Pilgrim's Companion and Hazard - Perry County Tour III Geocoin.  Both of them have since returned to the North America (the first is in Canada, the other in the United States).

I returned to the Camino and ran smack into the Canadian and his Japanese Girlfriend.  We talked as we approached the lighthouse.  The lighthouse was ... closed of course.  It's only open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  It was Thursday.

I walked past the lighthouse and walked out to the farthest point of the cape.  There was clothes, boots, walking sticks, and other stuff all over the place.  As I mentioned before, the custom is that the pilgrim is supposed to burn or throw into the ocean, their worldly possessions.  I didn't have any matches or lighter but when I got out to the end I found some matches beside some clothes.  I pulled out my Columbia shirt and GV's sock.  I wondered how hard it would be to burn them since most clothes these days don't burn well, especially merino wool.  I looked around and realized that the brush on the cape was all burnt.  It was windy up there.  In my head I saw the headline: "Crazy American Pilgrim Sets Faro Fisterra Ablaze."  I thought about the festival later that night.  I was concerned that, if I was wrong about the festival, the clothes would never be destroyed.  I put rocks in the sock and the sleeves of my shirt.  I swung them around my head (the image of David slaying Goliath passed through my mind). With a mighty heave I threw them at the ocean ... and missed (the image of Goliath pounding David into the dirt passed through my mind).  Neither the sock or the shirt got even close to the water.  They just fell down the steep cliff side and were probably sitting on the rocks below.  *sigh*  Not exactly the end I was hoping for but it would have to do.

I asked the Canadian to take my picture beside the last marker (It's on Facebook).  The marker said 0.0 km.  This was the end on my road.  I headed back to Fisterra.  The Canadian and his Japanese Girlfriend convinced me to stay at the hotel they were staying at.  I'd passed it on the way up to the lighthouse.  I checked in and plopped down on the bed.  The toilet ran.  The place was a dump but it was cheap.

I did my chores and then headed to the albergue.  A sign on the lighthouse had said, if it was closed, you could get a lighthouse stamp at the albergue.  I stood in line, got my stamp, and was asked if I wanted a certificate.  I hadn't heard anything about certificates so I said sure.  She gave me a really cool certificate saying that I'd reached the Costa da Morte (Coast of Death - what they call this part of Spain) and had completed the Camino de Santiago.

I crossed the street to a German restaurant and ordered a plate of pasta and some ice cream for lunch.  It tasted good.  I wandered around the town.  There was a small beech where pilgrims were wading in the waves.  I took off my sandals and let the Atlantic ocean wash over my feet.  It felt like I'd made it.  As I left the beech an old pilgrim stripped down to his skivvies and went for a cleansing swim.

During my wanderings I ran into the Canadian and His Girlfriend again and I showed them my certificate.  They got excited and went to the albergue for their own certificates.  They were heading for the beech (the one I passed on the way in) and I tagged along.  We took the hard way over the rocks along the water.  I'm amazed I didn't hurt myself, especially since I was wearing sandals.

The beach was amazing.  At first I thought it was covered with stones but on closer inspection they were shells just like the pilgrim's shells.  Thousands of shells as far as the eye could see.  I picked up a few as a souvenirs.  The Canadian and his Japanese Girlfriend were having fun in the water.  I walked over to a derelict fishing boat, sat down, and wrote in my journal.  I walked back to the hotel.  I forgot to give them a card with my contact information - They lived in Japan and they could have watched for my butt on Japanese TV.  I never saw them again.

That evening I had ... a hamburger completo (yep, one each day on the way to Fisterra).  I bought a shirt and a magnet and went back to the hotel.  It is customary to watch the sunset but I realized that sunset was at 10:00 PM and it was on the other side of the cape.  To see it, I would have to walk back to the lighthouse.  I decided against it and went to bed at 9:00 PM.  Another underwhelming ending ... but of my own choosing this time.

Day forty - the last walking day - the end of my Camino.  My adventure wasn't quite over yet, I had four more days in Spain, but the walking was over ... and I would miss it very much.


Total Distance: 11.30 Miles (18.19 km)
Total Time: 3 hours 41 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 1,639 ft (499.57 m)
Total Elevation Down: 1,333 ft (406.30 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Pictures - Olveiroa To Cee

No rain equals more pictures and there were many opportunities for pictures.

The fog settled into the valleys.  Fortunately the Camino went up above the fog.
I kept trying to take this guy's picture but he kept wanting to snuggle.
The Church of Our Lady of the Snow.
The first view of the ocean along the Camino.
Sitting on the bench looking out to sea writing in my journal.
The town in the distance is Corcubión.
Fishing boats.
The Whale's tail.
These pictures a more have been added to my 2011 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.