Fife Coastal Path: Crail to Anstruther, Scotland

9-13-2015: We hop on a bus in St. Andrews…

Crail-1110352… and get off in the quaint village of Crail, Scotland along the East Neuk of Fife.
Crail-1110349It’s a cloudy morning and the world is slowly waking up to ready itself for the day.

Crail-1110413The path follows the East Neuk of Fife with Neuk being the old Scots word for corner. The path is well marked and follows the coast along the former Kingdom of Fife. Our views are spectacular with the sea to our left and farm country with livestock on our right.

Crail-1110473Memorial flowers lead one to speculate… what happened?

Crail-1110512Interesting plaque in Anstruther. The Dreel burn divides east and west Anstruther and the song tells how in ancient times Maggie Lauder carried King James IV over it to keep his feet dry.

Crail-1110506We enjoy a beverage with the locals at the old Dreel Tavern. Sadly, it appears as though the Dreel Tavern has become a victim of the times and is now closed for business. Click on the Fife Today link for a little info on the current status of this historic pub filled with a unique ambience and character along with an interesting clientele. Visiting with the locals always seems to make travel experiences more memorable.

Below is a short video featuring our views along the Fife Coastal Path:

 

 

 

West Highland Way: Milngavie to Drymen

8-29-2015:  Our long awaited start to the West Highland Way has finally arrived.
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We stroll down to a cute little dining area with flags at the tables to identify our country. Kind of glad this part of the world isn’t upset with the U.S.A. right now as our flag towers over the table. 

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Living large at Best Foot Forward Bed & Breakfast this morning as we fuel up for our first day of hiking with granola cereal, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, toast, juice and most importantly… coffee.

The air is peppered with light conversation as we visit with neighboring tables with flags from Scotland, Germany and Holland. All are here for the same purpose ~ to hike the West Highland Way.

WWW_Day1_E-1090153eWe thank and bid farewell to our hosts and they seem to especially giggle when Randy tells them his name:  I’m Randy! 

WWW_Day1_E-1090167eReady or not… here we go!!

Destination:  Twelve miles down the trail to Drymen, Scotland.

A Map of the West Highland Way

 

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12 miles later… Ahhhh, home sweet home as we receive a Scottish welcome at Glenalva Bed & Breakfast. We discover that we may be able to eat our evening meal at the oldest pub in Scotland, but we’d better get our names in as soon as we can.

Can’t miss an opportunity like that, so we drop our backpacks and walk into town. Our list of B & B rules says we must be in by 10 p.m.

Not a problem.

Click on the link below and you’ll view a short slide show/video of the scenery on this day. Locals say the views the first couple of days of the West Highland Way are boring, but I’m quite enjoying the sights.

 

 

 

 

Camino Day #9 ~ Let’s get this party started!

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Image by Joyce Meyer

A lot of pilgrims use Sarria as their start point because to receive a Compostela you have to walk at least the last 100km, or cycle the last 200km and this is a convenient location.
Sarria-to-Portomarin-elevation-mapOur goal today for day #9 is Portomarin which should be about a 25 kilometers walk.  Pilgrim traffic increases tremendously as we leave Sarria.

Today’s section is along small country roads and paths.

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This is not a fashion statement – I am a walking clothesline drying laundry from yesterday.  Whatever works.

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A long walk for these doggies.

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Above is the very same spot that was flooded with rushing water in March of 2013.

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The blue line shows where the water was March 2013 when the Spanish Angels helped us across. It just covered the wall of rocks.

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Behind this local woman we see a horreo which is used to store grain off the ground away from rats, mice and moisture.

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The narrow sections of the trail are packed with school groups, moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, babies, dogs, bikes, strollers, as well as the typical backpackers.  Many are day packers and have very little gear to carry. I am beginning to feel like a martyr as I haul my backpack down the path.  I must be burning more calories than they are, so there!

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100 kilometer marker.  Yes, we can do this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prairie Whispers

The prairie softly whispers in hushed tones as the brisk air of night surrounds our world.
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Photo info: Canon 5d Mark 2 / 70-200 lens / aperture 5.6 / shutter 1/200 / Time of day – 11 a.m.
Blended with cloud images and snow added from Albums DS art

Camino Day 8 ~ Travel to the beat of a different drum

The 2-way radio comes alive: 

BLIP…Hurry up and get here.  We are having SO much fun!!  Ireland is here, the Dr. and his fiance are here, Switzerland is here, Spain is here, drummers are here…  (Apparently, everyone but us are there)

We hear the clicks of our walking sticks pick up the pace as we try and catch up to the fun.

We arrived too late for the fun, but did catch some drumming on video.  We see evidence on the bar from the previous crowd:

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Ireland and Switzerland are still lingering on the steps of the bar enjoying the first consistent rays of sunshine that we have seen in days.  Oh, well.  Guess Randy and I aren’t having the MOST fun on the trail today.  We missed most of the festivities at the bar, including unique stamping techniques, but it is still a wonderful day to be alive!  Can’t complain.

Back on the road again.

Spain-1040024dmvThe sheep munch on the tender, sweet blades of new spring grass.

Spain-1040025dmvSome lucky critters will get a treat today!

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Yep, tail’s still there.

Spain-1040028dmvAlone and together at the same time… That kind of sums up the Camino for most of us, I think. Plenty of time for private reflection, but still try to watch out for one another.

Spain-1040037dmvTwenty kilometers to go to fulfill our goal!

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What does this say?

Although everyone, Nolle-guamos (tall branching leaves of trees used to shade coffee plants), bodies in souls become oars all.

Is it something to do with the fluid movements of our walking sticks as we flow down the Camino path of life?

May need to phone a friend and use a lifeline on this one.

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Clothesline in the old lean-to. Why not?

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This garden is way ahead of mine.

Spain-1040047kpsh50We see quite a few gardens with these tall plants.  Collard greens?

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Tall, tall trees remind me of what I envision of the California Redwoods.  I’m guessing these trees would appear dwarfed next to the Redwoods.

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It helps to look at things from a different angle, from time to time.

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Another one bites the dust… Memorial to an Irish pilgrim. By the grace of God…

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E.T., phone home?  Not sure what this is, but it may have something to do with the tub at the bottom.

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Busy traffic as we near our albergue for the night.

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This pilgrim from Chicago has decorated his backpack with the traditional shell, practical umbrella and the common yellow flowers we see along

the way.

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We find a nice albergue in Arco do Pino.  Large room full of bunk beds, nice hot showers and food/bar across the street.

A-h-h-h-h… a little bit of heaven here on earth.

Only one more day of walking… after laundry and sleep.

Camino Day 8 ~ Meet South Korea, poultry and more.

It’s the afternoon of Camino day eight and we continue down the path.

Spain-1030952dmvOur new friends this afternoon are from South Korea. (From now on referred to as Korea) One is a software engineer for Samsung (My tablet is a Samsung) and the other works at the Seoul airport. They requested a photo with us so we reciprocated.  They started the Camino at the border of France and have been walking for 37 days.  I don’t know how they did the Pyrenees during the winter let alone O Cebreiro.  Tough cookies!

Spain-1030964dmvGrapevines are found on many of the fences. Homemade wine, perhaps?

Spain-1030968dmvSmall, elevated buildings appear in this region. A horreo holds grain and some are quite elaborate with crosses on the top.

Spain-1030973dmvFamiliar scene for those of us from the farm.

Spain-1030977dmvSomehow this character trying to entice me into the bar creeps me out.  Looks like something out of a horror movie!

Spain-1030980dmvYep, still creepy.

Spain-1030983dmvAre you sure this is the way?

Spain-1030988dmvLeft or right?  Hmmm…

Spain-1030989dmvA quick shower of rain, but the temps aren’t too bad. The path winds through old, old buildings in a small hamlet.

Spain-1030993dmvI’m surprised to find so many trees and flowers blooming this early in the spring.

Spain-1030996dmvI tried to find information on Outeiro, Spain but all the pilgrims must be too tired, at this point, to care.

Spain-1030999dmvIt may not be raining right now, but creeks are still running at full speed.

Spain-1040004dmvcrPretty poultry brighten our Camino experience.

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My grandma would say that the Bontons live here. Must be an affluent resident to have a palm tree growing in the yard, landscaping, security fencing and a nicer house than the neighbors.

Randy and I are lagging behind the rest of the group, as usual.  Randy checks in with the 2-way radio.

Randy to Hot Cross Buns… bleep!  Nothing

Again he tries to make contact:

Randy to Hot Cross Buns…bleep! 

Contact is made:  Garble, mumble, rumble, waa-waa-waa…boom,boom-boom, boom… RANDY!!!!

Randy looks at me with a puzzled look,  It sounds like a bar…

Camino Day 8 ~ Walkin’ on sunshine…

Day eight…. really?  We’ve been walking THAT long!

Spain-1030867dmvWalking through Arzua takes some time with streets, traffic and so much to look at.  We stop at a grocery story for snacks and look forward to a short day of only 10 miles.

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The old kilometers marker contrasts the modern setting.

Spain-1030873dmvIt’s interesting that centuries old walls still stand and buildings are built alongside and  around them.

Spain-1030879dmvNot too many pilgrims this morning.

Spain-1030883dmvThe tired remains of an old stone building is a reminder of earlier days in this city.  Follow the yellow arrow…

Spain-1030884dmvMeet our new friends from Germany.  A mother, father, and two children in their late teens spend their holidays on hikes throughout Europe and the UK.  Favorite hiking destination?  Ireland.  That may be worth checking out!

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Finally out of town and enjoy the company of a few pilgrims this morning.

Spain-1030892dmvThe path takes us through woods reminiscent of old fairy tales with winding vines, while the countryside seems to explode with the vibrant greens of spring.

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Spain-1030907dmvcrWhy does the tractor have a 40 on the back?  Slow moving vehicle sign?

Spain-1030911dmvWe see a few modern Camino highway signs, but even these seem weathered.

Spain-1030915dmvThese connected buildings appear to be one home using the old stone walls, but installing modern doors and windows.  I’m guessing the round attached building may be a grain storage facility?

Spain-1030920dmvcr The street name is Preguntono, house number 15Bars on the windows… is that a security system?  Hmmm…not everyone means well on the Camino?

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Mo-o-o-o…

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Lugar means place,  and Pregontono, I believe, is the street name spelled slightly differently from the other house.  Albergue in the busy season?

Spain-1030926dmvThe yellow flowers are providing gorgeous scenery today and the sun is trying to shine.

Spain-1030928dmvLooking back over the village of Rua as we trek up the hill.

Spain-1030938dmvWe visit with the Dr. and his fiancé as we stroll along. Randy is answering their questions about farming / livestock and the Dr. is answering Randy’s questions about sore knees and the like.

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Looks like they didn’t use all of their chopped wood this winter.  Grapevine is ready to do its thing.

Spain-1030949dmvFollow the arrow to find the right path.  Some of the Camino markers don’t have numbers, so they just mark the path.

Spain-1030950dmvcrThis is the most pleasant day of walking so far. Temps are warming up, as well.

Maybe too pleasant…

Camino Day 5 …and the beat goes on…

The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.  ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Spain-1030694dmvThe challenging path continues to be flooded in areas and muddy at best.  I think all of us are beginning to wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into and what may lie ahead.  Water-soaked boots are heavy weights and pull on our tired, sore leg muscles as we schlepp along.

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We are now in Galicia and the scenery has blossomed into the emerald green of spring as we weave through woods and dale.  We crossed into Galicia on day four before crossing the snowy mountain and the village of  O  Cebreiro sits near the top.  I must have missed the sign.  (Better go back and hike that mountain so I can see the Galician border sign.)   I’ve read that in the Galician language,  O replaces El.  Our final destination, Santiago de Compostella, is the capitol of Galicia.

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Two languages are official and widely used today in Galicia; the native Galician, a Romance language closely related to Portuguese with which it shares the common Galician-Portugal medieval literature, and the Spanish language, usually known locally as Castilian. 56.4% of the Galician population always speaks in Galician or speaks more in Galician than in Castilian, while 42.5% speaks always in Castilian or more in Castilian than in Galician. ~ Wikipedia

Spain-1030704dmvOur path continues through a muddy, hilly wooded area and we come across a colorful, although tacky, looking memorial made of cast-off clothing, snack garbage, socks, hats…  It appears as though it is the  pilgrim dump.  I am not impressed with this area since it contrasts so starkly with the quiet, remote woods,  farmlands and small villages.  The site does kind of remind me of Jamaica with its bright colors.  Randy would like to take home that nice jacket on the lower right, but it’s not his size.

Spain-1030705dmvI have no idea what the pine cones are all about.  Any ideas?

Spain-1030707dmvcrRomanesque stone walls border our path as we cross through pasture areas, working our way down to the city of Portomarin.  The slimy mud pulls on our boots and the path is also mixed with  sweet smelling cow manure ~ Watch your step!   The farmer is getting the herd adjusted to their new pasture grounds using a stick and his dog.

Spain-1030712dmvRomanesque walls border the path and pasture and makes for an interesting cattle fence.

Portomarin bridgeThis long bridge over the rushing waters of the Mino River is the only thing between us and our destination for the day, Portomarin, Spain.  I hang tightly onto my walking poles as the strong gusts of wind push, tug and pull on me as if playing the old playground game, King of the Hill.    ~ Photo from Google images.

Portomarin is tucked in amongst the hills of Monte do Cristo and the river intersects the village.  During medieval times people lived on the right bank of the river, in an enclave (territory surrounded by another territory) by the Camino de Santiago.

The Portomarin we see today dates mostly from the middle of the 20th century with much of the old town now below the waters of the Miño.  In the 1950’s Franco decided he wanted to build a hydro-electric dam 40 kilometres down river and in doing so would flood the town of Portomarín.  The townspeople wanted to save some of their most important monuments and transported these stone by stone up to their new home, high above the river, which you see in the photo above.   Now, that would require some heavy lifting!  Parts of the old town resurface in the fall when the water level gets low.

As we first come across the new bridge, we pull our tired bodies up some steps to an arch where we see the Iglesia de Santa Maria de las Nieves, built on the site of a former pilgrim hospital.  The staircase is actually the sole remaining part of the original 2nd century Roman bridge, which was destroyed by Doña Urraca.   I would have taken a photo but it was raining.  Go figure…

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Wet, tired, stiff, sore, hungry… A-h-h-h-h…. home, sweet, home.

Camino Day 4: I walk slowly but I never walk backward.

Quote by Abraham Lincoln
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I literally crawl out of bed since my leg muscles are protesting the previous day’s events.  Steps are especially painful, but coffee gives me the incentive to go down the two flights of stairs to breakfast. We devour a filling breakfast of tostados, fresh squeezed orange juice, cafe Americano for me and a cafe con leche (with milk)  for Randy .

A 73 year old mother from Germany and her 2 daughters, who are also walking the Camino, were our breakfast companions this morning.  We share Camino experiences with each other since we feel so experienced having 3 full days under our belts.  We could have visited longer, but the day is not going to wait for us and the rest of the gang has left without us (Even Kathy with the bum knee is speedier than me!).  We strap on the backpacks and step outside.  Overcast but not raining.  O.K., …so far so good.

Spain-1030598dmvWe dodge puddles as we stroll down the quiet, Sunday morning streets of Cacabelos, Spain. The legs feel stiff and sore but seem to work just fine.

Spain-1030594dmvYour guess is as good as mine as to the meaning of this mural we see along the narrow street.  My guess is the gorilla in the upper left has something to do with evolution, Christ with the crown of thorns is in the lower right, and the soldier on top of the largest human could be Christians dominating the Moors.  What do you think?

Spain-1030596dmvWe remind ourselves to not get so wrapped up in the surroundings that we forget to follow the yellow arrows.  Follow the seashells…follow the yellow arrows.  All are determined to walk today so no taxi is needed.

Spain-1030599dmvThe plan is to meet the rest of the gang in Vega.  Too bad the town doesn’t have an “s” at the end of its name.  I could have had fun with that!

Spain-1030600dmvOn our way out-of-town we pass by a woman mopping and cleaning in front of a church.  It is Sunday so I don’t think anything of it since they probably have mass this morning.

Spain-1030601dmvActually, it’s an albergue.  Locals call Albergue de Peregrinos de la Augustina de Cacabelos  the Old Church, since the albergue was built around the church. Yes, around.  The rooms form a ring around the church, with a courtyard in between.  It has modern facilities including showers.  As nice as the heaters and cozy room were last night, it would be so cool to stay here.  Bonus points for only costing 5 Euro per person.  My socks and boots are dry right now, so I guess that means bonus points for  last night’s lodging, Hostal Gallega.

Spain-1030617dmvThe path turns to dirt and we enter wine country with the wet, muddy path winding through expansive vineyards.

Spain-1030609dmvcrAs I gaze across and ponder this panoramic view, I feel more of a desire to do the Camino de Santiago again someday…in September during grape harvest.

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Oh, no… it’s raining AGAIN!!   AARRGGHH!! 

At least today will be a shorter day than yesterday.  

Really?  Are you sure?  

The Road is Long…

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when…     ~ Rufus Wainwright

Thus, begins day 3 of the Camino de Santiago.

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Although the day begins with pleasant weather, the path is not so pleasant.  Not only is it a steep descent, it is extremely rocky and water is running across the trail in several areas.  At one point I lose my footing and land smack dab on my back.  Luckily, the backpack makes a wonderful cushion and the fall on the wet, rocky path is not painful.  Getting up isn’t a pretty sight, but I eventually make it to an upright position.  O.K., let’s try this again.  It was challenging enough to stay upright so the photo above is borrowed from another blog site (Thank you diegoapereda.wordpress.com), but it shows how rocky the path is this morning.  Now just imagine cooler temps with rushing water running though the wet, slippery rocks.

Spain-1030522dmvThe path improves and we stay to the left just as the Way marker says.  We pass a dead sheep that my experienced sheep farmer husband determined had recently died.  This is a long stretch of downhill mountain road.

Spain-1030524dmvTaxi?  Call Luis.  You can find his number on signs, benches or whatever was handy to write on.  We did see a taxi go up the mountain and later saw it go back down with hands waving at us.  Hmmm… Do we know you?

Spain-1030531dmvThe path finally arrives at Molinaseca which is in the region of El Bierzo and still the province of Leon.  The steeple is San Nicolás church and was built in the 17th century.

Spain-1030535dmvWe pass many gardens and flowering trees on our way into town.

Spain-1030543dmvThe creek is rapidly flowing today as we cross an old, Roman bridge.

Spain-1030548dmvAseos, por fa vor?  A-a-a-a-h-h-h…  Gracias!  Bathroom stop and we purchase bread, nuts and water for the road at a shop in Molinaseca

Molinaseca_puente_romanoAs early as the Roman era Molinaseca served as a checkpoint on the way to the gold mines. ~ urcamino.com 

Spain-1030557dmvWe leave Molinaseca and find flowering trees and new growth of grass that appear to be nudging the vineyard out of its winter slumber.

Spain-1030563kpWe pass a memorial to a former pilgrim.  This man would have been 78 when he died.  I’m assuming he met his demise while at this spot on the Way of St. James.  He almost made it to Ponferrada.

Ponferrada lies on the Sil River, a tributary of the river Miño, in the El Bierzo valley, completely surrounded by mountains. It is the last major town along the French route of the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago) before it reaches its destination of Santiago.  ~ Wikipedia.  Yup, surrounded by mountains.  They aren’t kidding, either!

It is generally cloudy now as we approach the outskirts of town and we turn the 2 way radios on.  Hot Cross Buns to Joan…  Do you read me?  (Pause… blip…)  Hola!  We hear the welcome reply and they are waiting for us in the town plaza.  Hooray for the radios!!

Spain-1030572dmvcrWe find many gardeners out today as we continue on through town.

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We cross another old Roman-style bridge as we enter into the busy city of Ponferrada.

See the steeple in the distance on the left side of the photo above?  We assume that is where Joan and Kathy are perched as they wait for our happy feet to approach the plaza.

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We continue on through the narrow streets as we get closer to the city center.

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Kids are kids the world around ~ always curious and will play with whatever is available.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first records of Ponferrada are as a former citadel in Roman times. From the 11th century, the rise in pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela spurred the appearance of the hamlet of Pons Ferrata, located on the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela and named in this way because of the building of a bridge reinforced with iron. In 1178, the King Fernando II of León placed this flourishing settlement under the custody of the Order of the Temple. The Knights Templar used the site of a primitive Roman fortress to build a castle in which they settled and which, at the same time, protected the passing pilgrims. This favored demographic growth and led to the commercial development of the area. ~ http://www.spain.info

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I notice that Joan is clutching the 2 way radio.  What a slick way of communication on the trail and she does NOT want to lose the radio.

Spain-1030588dmvJane, a member of our group with an interesting Boston accent, is ordering a lunch-time snack. Being  a native of Minnesota  (pronounced Min ~ uh ~ soh ~ Duh), I just love listening to her speak.  She is the Energizer Bunny of the group because she can just go and go and go without seeming tired, while the rest of us are ready to drop from exhaustion.  A wealth of information is stored inside her head and she was the one that alerted me to the historic importance of the Knights Templar to the Camino de Santiago.

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The clock says 12:36 p.m. and we have a lot of ground left to cover today.  Kathy is determined to NOT let the trail beat her so she is hoisting the backpack onto her back and it feels like an old friend.  Down the path we go, and Randy and the Hot Cross Buns are all pedestrians again.  Destination is Cacabalos which is another 15 kilometers.

Click, Click, Click… our sticks resume their rhythmic cadence.