“The Camino is all about love and friendships.”

(Note: This should have been posted October 5 but in spite of repeated trys at the time, it didn’t work. Now at home on an actual computer I will post it late. I have made references to this posting before which might be made clearer now after you read it.)

We met Jaime in a small abergue over the table after a communal meal. It was clear that Jaime was a special person. The hospitaleros obviously knew him and respected him. He had been a guest in this albergue several times before for Jaime was walking his 10th Camino in 11 years. Jaime is 76 years old.

Jaime began walking the Camino shortly after his surgery. He was discovered to have a brain tumor and he went to Germany where an Iranian surgeon (“…with a German passport,” Jaime assured us) removed it. He began walking to walk away from the tumor. His wife wasn’t able to walk but would drive from town to town along the Camino to join him. He walked every year except one when his wife was ill and he needed to care for her. His wife died and he continued to walk from the tumor and from his wife’s death.

Jaime_1

Jaime was full of information about places to stay, places to eat, things to see, history, and much more. He was always helping people along the way. When anyone would thank him he would say, “Don’t say thanks. These are things friends do for each other and the Camino is all about friends.”

We had the pleasure of walking with Jaime for several days and staying at albergues that he recommended. He preferred albergues with “heart” to those, perhaps, with more modern facilities. Jaime is Catalan from Barcelona  and speaks Catalan, Spanish, French and pretty good English. When there was difficulty understanding something he and Per would talk in French to better understand each other.

Jaime_2

We spent a lot of time talking with Jaime on the trail and over the table. He was full of life and laughter.  We parted at Carrion de los Condes. Jaime needed to take a bus to jump ahead a few days of walking as he was meeting someone on a specific date. His bus didn’t leave until noon so he walked with us a couple hours as we left town. Then he turned back and we walked on. We had enjoyed the company of a good friend and “friends are what the Camino is all about.”

Sent from my iPhone

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Transition

When one has been walking every day for 36 days, it is very unsettling when one stops walking. When I wrote about decisions I noted that what to do each day was decided for us. Walk. Now we do not have to walk. We have to transition to days that are not filled with walking.

One consequence of that should already be apparent. You haven’t been seeing daily blogs. I hate to confess it, but it is relatively easy to write daily when I get 8 hours or so to think about things and when I am presented with so many stories on a regular basis.

After we finished our walk we tried being tourists. You know, we shopped, toured the cathedral and the Pilgrim Museum, tried eating in restaurants instead of bars…those sort of things. We planned to take the bus to Finisterre for people say it is amazing but we couldn’t see ourselves cooped up in a bus for 3 hours each way after being outside almost constantly for so long, so we did not make the trip. We bought some traveling clothes to wear home as a change from the same two changes of clothing we had worn for what seemed to be forever. We bought books to read, something we purposefully denied ourselves during the walk, so as not to insulate ourselves from the Camino experience.

Sunday we flew to Madrid from where we were booked to fly home. We had time and this was a great city so we successfully navigated bus routes and the Metro to visit the Prado Museum of Art. They had a display of Renoir paintings on exhibit as well as their permanent exhibit of art works of Goya, El Greco, Murillo, Vasquez, and others. It was amazing and we walked a lot in the process but we weren’t “walking.” it was different. I’m not sure when, if ever I’ll get over just walking every day. It is, as I said, unsettling.

I really don’t believe that our Camino journey has ended. We heard several pilgrims say that they don’t know why they walked the Camino nor what they would learn from it and they were not sure when they would understand those things — when they reached Santiago, in a few weeks or in a few years. They only knew that they would, when it was right for them, understand the why of the pilgrimage. I suspect you may be hearing more from me on the subject. (That is those of you who haven’t stopped reading my posts when we reached Santiago.)

My feelings right now are those of gratitude. I’m grateful that we were able to make this wonderful journey and to do it without significant injury. We appreciate all of the good wishes and prayers that were directed our way. I enjoyed the comments and feedback to my blog. A big thanks goes to Griff Wigley (http://wigleyandassociates.com/) for helping me set up the blog, for teaching me to post by cell phone, for fixing my photo orientations, and for editing out some of the duplicate postings that technology created for me.

What’s next? Well, while on the Camino on October 15, I was notified that I was accepted into the Master of Food Culture and Communications program at the University of Gastronomy in Italy for next year. That means that June and I will be spending a year in Bra, Italy while I complete those studies. We will need the next few months to prepare our lives and our minds for that. It is, in a sense, another Camino. It is another road to travel to learn more about ourselves and another culture and, of course, to share more stories over the table.

Intolerance

The Camino doesn’t just end so you may find me dwelling on parts of it for a while.

Today, while more rested, I began to think of those people on the Camino that triggered in me an “attitude.” I’ve already mentioned a couple– the bikers and the 100 km day packers. The list could include those that send their ruck sacks ahead by taxi those that take a cab or bus over many segments.

I was discussing this with a fellow pilgrim who had developed severe hip pain and had to seek medical attention. It turned out to be a problem with her back and she continues in a lot of pain. She still is carrying her pack though she walks shorter days. It made me hurt just watching her move. She listened to me talk about some of these pet peeves then said, “So you think that those with physical problems who can’t carry their packs are not “real pilgrims?” Of course not! It wasn’t those people I meant, it was the healthy, young day-trippers.

We had seen a not too old man pulling his pack on a cart behind him. I assume that there was some reason he couldn’t wear it. We met Pricilla from Georgia along the way. She is a elderly woman and was dressed in a cotton blouse with Capri pants (pink and green) and “grandma shoes” with socks falling down. She wore a black straw hat with daisies in it. She was pulling a roller bag. She seemed totally unprepared for this journey but was determined to make it. Those two pulling their packs got me thinking first about how they were taking the easy way by not having 20+ pounds on their back, and then of how terribly difficult it would be pulling the cart/bag over the rocky paths, not to mention the rocky ups and rocky downs (did I mention the rocks?). It would be awful! I bet they both had interesting personal stories that brought them here.

The point is there is not one Camino. I don’t mean the fact that there are several Camino routes (Camino Frances, Camino Portugues, Camino Inglés, etc.). Jaime on his 10th Camino said that all of them were different. People walk the Camino for lots of different reasons and none of those reasons are THE right one.

Some people come for the religious experience of following in the foot steps of thousands of pilgrims who have gone before to pay homage to St. James, to visit and worship in the holy places along the way and to be blessed when they reach the saint’s remains in Santiago. Others walk to test themselves physically. Many of the young people we have walked with do so as a time to think about who they are and what they want to do with their lives. Other walkers are tourists. They want to see the Spanish country side, the old buildings, and get some exercise but want to do it in a touristy way. There are many people who have a limited amount of time and have always dreamed of doing the Camino and cannot start in SJPP and who have to take a bus to be able to finish within their time constraints. There are people who get hurt along the way and have to bus forward a segment or two. The bikers…I don’t know. Maybe it is on a list of must do bike rides.

Even within these and other categories people bring many different things with them. The death of a loved one, recovery from a disease, confusion about what they want to do, and many other things. If the bikers ever slowed down enough to talk with them, I bet they have interesting stories, too. I started to try to think when I saw some young person bouncing along with a day pack or less, “I wonder what drew them here and what they hoped to get from the experience and I wonder why they chose that way to make the journey.” It is only when one doesn’t know their stories that one can be less tolerant of their presence on the Camino. Knowing peoples’ stories works against intolerance.

Of course you don’t have to walk the Camino to realize that. But you do have more time to think and talk about it and you are exposed to so many wonderful stories on the trail and over the table.

We are there now!

I told you I would tell you when we got there. Here we are in Santiago. We arrived at the cathedral just before 1:30 this afternoon (Spain time, 6:30 AM Central time). We met Herberto from Guadalajara, Mexico and his son (who lives in Madrid). Later we met Petra and Walter from Germany and Jason from California/Colorado who has been teaching in Costa Rico and Nicaragua all of whom have been fellow travelers with us from time to time.

We went directly to the Pilgrim’s Office to pick up our Compestela, certifying that we completed the walk. Then found a hotel (no shared shower!) to check into and to drop our ruck sacks. We then, of course, walked. We walked around the old part of Santiago. It is MUCH different walking without ruck sack or walking poles.

Now we are planning a bus trip to the end of the world (Finisterre) and will spend another day in Santiago before we head to Madrid to fly back to Minnesota on Monday.

Santiago is…nice. The cathedral is interesting. The walk was amazing! You know, there is a reason they do not call this La Destinación de Santiago. It is the Camino that is the important part. So remember back there, it is not what you achieve but the journey that counts.

Short and sweet

P419

We are in Arca/Pedrouza. We are 21 kms from Santiago. We have every intention of being there tomorrow just after noon. There is no wi-fi here so it is expensive to send data. I will save the last couple of posts that I have on my head until I get wi-fi.

Are we there yet?(7)

NO! (exasperatedly)! We are in Arzúa. How can you forget the delicious pulpo and the pimiento padrones? It was a tough day with lots of ups and downs. We pushed a little further so that the last two days will be shorter. We are very much on track to be in Santiago on Thursday barring unexpected circumstances.

I know that we are all eager the be finished at this point. Why don’t you, back there, think of the stories you can tell of what you have seen, the things you have learned from the people you have met, and what you have learned from the journey when you are together over the table. We have 42 kms to go.

Corn cribs

Galicia is farm country. We walk through small towns where we share the streets with cows. There are pastures and small fields of corn and other already harvested grain. The pictures are of horreos. That is the Galician version of a corn crib. There is a distinct smell of…cows in the air. It is a very peaceful scene. I’m certain that the reality of life here is more difficult than it looks.

We stopped for the night at Palas de Rei. We are 72 kms from Santiago. (To the front door of the cathedral including zig-zags). If things go well we should be there Thursday but the Camino will determine our schedule.

Tomorrow we plan to stop for lunch in Melide and specifically at Pulperia Ezequiel which has been recommended by several sources as being one of the best places to enjoy the Galician specialty of pulpo (octopus). We are looking forward to it.

I’ll try to write more and let you know how the pulpo was and how it compares to other pulpo we’ve eaten tomorrow. But for now…rock on!