…at the end of Day #1.

Tired and hungry, we look forward to the Pilgrim meal at the end of day one in the Albergue Orrison.  The albergue host asks each group to introduce themselves, say which country they are from and where the Camino will take them.    We are fortunate to sit next to a delightful family (mother, father with four children) from Normandy, France.

At the bottom you will find a Youtube link that will feature my attempt at a video of the Pilgrim introductions. I apologize for always struggling to find the right spot on the camera to stop recording which results in some wild movements. (…and I can never keep my mouth shut!)

2014Cam-1060902I am amazed at how many people from other countries can speak English, while I pretty much mutilate the Spanish language in order to get my point across.

2014Cam-1060903Delicious vegetable soup and the next course was roast beef.  Excellent!

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Myth, Mist and Melancholy

It is often said the Camino de Santiago does not end at Santiago de Compostela, but at Cape Finisterre on the Atlantic coast. We are not true pilgrims today as we cheat and hop on the Monbus to go to “the end of the world.”  

Spain-1040561Finisterre (Fisterra in Galician) was both the end of the known world until Columbus altered things, and the final destination of many of the pilgrims who made the journey to Santiago in past centuries. There are various explanations as to how this continuation came about (one such is that it was based on a pre-Christian route to the pagan temple of Ara Solis in Finisterre, erected to honor the sun) but is it also known that a pilgrim infrastructure existed, with “hospitals” in Cée, Corcubión, Finisterre itself and elsewhere. Pilgrims in past centuries also continued northwards up the coast to the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Barca in Muxía, 29km north of the “end of the world” itself.  ~   http://www.csj.org.uk/route-finisterre.htm
Spain-1040384Our attentive bus driver pays close attention to the road as we cruised through towns and countryside, picking up passengers along the way. 24 Euro a piece for a round trip ticket from Santiago. The time each way varies depending on the number of people getting on at the stops along the way.  Our trip took about 2  hours each way. It would have taken 3 long days of walking, so that doesn’t seem to be such a long ride, after all.

Spain-1040403Dreary, rainy day the whole way to Finesterre.

Spain-1040410Our energetic friend, Jane, is taking in the scenery along the way.

The two South Korean gals are also on this bus and have reservations to stay in the hotel at the end of the world. That sound kind of interesting, doesn’t it!  They have walked ALL the way from France, which includes hiking the Pyrenees and O’cebreiro, so I’d say they deserve it.

Spain-1040462The welcoming committee is ready greet us at the bus stop.  Hey, guys!  We’re here!

Spain-1040458It is the kind of cold rain that chills a person to the bone, so we find a handy coffee shop to warm our insides before tackling our excursion for the day.

Spain-1040472Finisterre’s main industry is fishing along with tourism, but seem to keep it real rather than over-dressing the town for the tourists.

Spain-1040465Monument dedicated to Galician emigrants who, being dispersed through all world around, took part in creation of better world. This monument is not far from the Finisterre Bus Station.

Spain-1040470This anchor was spared from an old ship sent to the metal scrap and now is part of a monument near the fish market dedicated to the local sailors.

Spain-1040572Fishing nets are resting for the day.

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Closer inspection finds donuts in the nets.  Huh…I’m assuming the donuts are bait and they aren’t catching donut fish.

Spain-1040491Only one bastion of fort San Carlos survived till nowadays. It was built in XVI century to defend the city and harbor of Finisterra from pirates.

Spain-1040507There is maritime museum in inside the fort now, but it is closed today.

Spain-1040523Fisterra is on the rocky Costa da Morte which in Galician means “Coast of Death,” named because of the large number of shipwrecks along these shores.

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Pilgrims still leave rocks.

Spain-1040565Time to head back so we can catch our bus back to Santiago.

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We are here.  Due to the cold, sometimes heavy rain, we do not walk to the far tip to the lighthouse.

There is also another possible final destination, and this is Muxia. You can walk from Finisterre to Muxia along the “Costa da Morte” or walk straight from Santiago to Muxia.

According to the legend, Muxia is the location where the boat carrying the body of the apostle St. James arrived. One legend even has it being a stone boat. Don’t think I’ll sign up for a ride in a stone boat.  Doesn’t sound very seaworthy.

Spain-1040467We are cold, wet, as well as hungry and it is time to catch the bus back to Santiago.

Finisterre is known for its fresh seafood, but to Randy’s dismay we are short of time to sit down and eat a delicious meal and it is too early. We are starving since we haven’t eaten much and our time in Finisterre has been spent taking photos in the rain while trying NOT to ruin the camera. Wonder where our off the beaten path, menu de la dia will be tonight?  Pulpo? (octopus) We’ll find out in Santiago.

Camino Day 4 ~ The road less traveled

Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason. ~ Jerry Seinfeld

There is a spot in Villafranca del Bierzo where the path forks and Kathy, Lori and Jane are standing there contemplating which Camino arrow to follow.  They attempt to take the strenuous climb up the mountain, but 4 women (angels?) sternly send them down the path following the road.

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Meanwhile, Joan and Diane get bonus points for choosing the True Pilgrim route up the mountain instead of the “Camino Lite,” which goes along the highway you see in the distance.  Click on the True Pilgrim link to see a comparison elevation map so you can see how high they are really traveling today.

During medieval times the “Camino Lite” that the rest of us took along the main highway was extremely dangerous with murderous thieves.  However, those that chose the “True Pilgrim” route faced a financial mugging, too.  The Castle Auctares stood on the exit from Trabadelo and the lords supported themselves by taxing (eg extorting) the Pilgrims until King Alonso VI put a stop to the practice in 1072. ~ Eric the expat.blogspot.com

Nobody messes with us since we are such a tough looking group.  It helps to look homeless.

The True Pilgrim route is marked as strenuous on the map and involves a steep, muddy path. The constant rain continues to dampen spirits, while temps are getting colder and it starts to feel like it could snow.

Joan_1dmvTurn around, Diane!!   You are missing the beautiful, panoramic view.

Listen carefully and you may hear Diane humming a song by the Carpenters:

I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation… 

Meanwhile, Randy and I are shlepping our feet along in the rain on the lower route and the miles to Vega de Valcarce seem to go on and on.

A taxi goes by with a passenger violently waving at us.  Wonder what that’s about?

We continue to walk and walk and walk some more until we see a hotel.  Better turn the radio on and try to make contact.  Nothing…

O.K., we keep going for, what seems like, forever. We go through town and we appear to be leaving the village.  This must not be right; better go back.  The rain, blisters, and the walk begin to wear us down as it takes all of our effort to put each heavy, soaked. foot in front of the other.

We eventually make radio contact and discover the mountain path meets up with our path at Trabadelos.  Joan and Diane had found a taxi to take them from Trabadelos to Vega de Valcarce, since they were exhausted from being real pilgrims.  So that’s who was waving…  We live on the South Dakota border where EVERYONE waves, so we are accustomed to friendly motorists.

Good news ~ they have found an albergue.  Yay!!  We describe our location and Joan estimates that we need to walk about 15 more minutes. Hoping our home for the night would be just around the corner, 15 more minutes of walking seems like completing a marathon.  Fifteen more minutes?!!  N-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O!!!!!

Randy and I drag in last to find a nice albergue with 10 bunk beds, nice showers,  heaters, a little fireplace heater and a bar/restaurant a few short feet away from our beds.  Plus, we have the whole place to ourselves.  Bueno! 

I don’t take any pictures tonight or grab a business card, but my research tells me we may be at Albergue La Mochila.

Let’s just say we will sleep in the bar tonight.

Longest Day EVER!

camino-frances-24Day 3 continues…

After a quick lunch break at a cafe, we attempt to wind our way out of Ponferrada.  It is a busy city so we step lively as we cross streets to follow the Camino path.  Follow the sea shells, follow the arrows… and, if all else fails, ask someone.  It is obvious to the locals that we are walking the Camino de Santiago, so they are helpful if we appear lost.  Muchas gracias!

We walk and we walk and we walk…

Ponferrada is one of the larger cities we pass through on our walk with a population of  68,736 according to the GeoNames geographical database.

We walk and we walk and we walk…

We exit Ponferrada without getting lost.

We walk and we walk and we walk…

IMG_6595to ponferrada

This stage of the Camino is a good section to make up time due to the relatively flat terrain, but the rain does not help our cause.  It starts raining at the edge of Ponferrada and continues to rain thoughout the rest of the day.  (Which is also why I have very few photos today since the camera stayed dry inside my pouch).  Our rain ponchos keep us relatively dry, but water starts seeping into the boots.  The lotion/vaseline between my toes will only do so much to prevent blisters.  We can feel the hot spots on our feet as the blisters threaten to inflict their pain.

…and then we walk some more. 

It is 6:30 p.m. and we finally drag our wet, exhausted bodies and blistered feet into the town of Cacabelos, a city which dates back to the 10th century.

Am I dreaming? Do I really see a hotel?  We stop to inquire about hotel rooms and discover they do not have enough beds for us.  We must look quite sad and pathetic as the hotel clerk offers us free samples of wine and snacks.  She is such a wonderful person and recommends a hostal and even offers to call them for us.  They do have vacancies.  Hooray!  Away we go in search of Hostal La Gallega. Click on the link for more photos and info about our hostal tonight.

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After close to 12 hours of walking our prayers are answered.  Hostal, restaurant and bar are all inside under one roof for 17 Euro each.   Hallelujah!!  Praise the Lord!  God sure knows what we need at the end of a tough day.  Now it’s time to start drying our boots and socks while we hydrate and refuel our bodies for another day.  The hostal even has a pulperia which means a small grocery store.

Spain-1030590dmvMeet our neighbors.  (Backyard view from our hostal balcony)

Oh, my sore feet and stiff legs! 

Time to say our prayers and go to bed after walking over 20 miles today.

Maybe it won’t rain tomorrow… z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z

Manjarin, Spain ~ Commerce on the Mountain

camino-frances-23_Rabanal to MolinasecaDay two continued…

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A short walk of about 2.5 kilometers downhill from Cruz Ferro, we find the closest thing to a shopping mall for pilgrims in the deserted looking village of Manjarin.

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There are signs of Roman mining activity in this area, but the city of Manjarin has its origins linked to the 9th century.  The Manjarin economy was based for centuries on the livestock, the benefits of trade due to road and subsistence agriculture. During the mid 20th century, like many other mountain villages, the city was depopulated, until in 1993 a hermit named Tomas Martinez, resumed the work of “hospitaleros” Camino de Santiago.  ~ Wikipedia

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I’m assuming Tomas is in the photo above.  One of the Camino Forum posts said this, “It is said to be about the most basic albergue on the Camino. No showers, only cold water from the fountain outside, and you sleep on some boards which are more or less loosely just above the main room. There were some foam pieces, not really mattresses.”   Another post mentioned there was no plumbing so you use an outhouse, which would be quite inconvenient when you need to climb a ladder down from the upstairs of the shed.

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We donate to the cause and pour a cup of hot coffee, look around to absorb the rustic ambiance. Randy does consider buying a shell but decides he doesn’t want to carry it and will wait until the end.

Spain-1030478dmvAnother customer (India) is contemplating his purchase.

Spain-1030475dmvcr Disappointed that it is too early in the day to find lodging, we finish our break and move on with only 222 kilometers to go…

Spain-1030490dmvWe leave Manjarin and find our path to be quite muddy going down the mountain.  (Note to self ~ waterproof spray the boots next time.)

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The path may be muddy but the views are spectacular today!

Spain-1030492kpWe often find crosses in random places.  Did another unfortunate pilgrim die here?

Spain-1030498dmvGoing down the mountain proves to be treacherous as we carefully place each foot forward, trying not to cause an injury.  The above image shows our path as it snakes its way down and we get a glimpse of what is ahead. Our goal is still Molinaseca, but it is taking longer getting down the mountain than anticipated.  We soon find that the mountain descent threatens to claim a victim among the members of our group.

It’s Photo Friday – Bliss…

My world, my bliss

My world, my bliss

Bliss is a viewed as a positive term and something we are constantly searching for.  How far do we need to look?

My guess is bliss is there as long as I pay attention.

  • spending the day doing something I love
  • sipping wine on the deck, overlooking my palatial estate (the cowyard and back pasture)
  • appreciating God’s creation wherever we go
  • volunteering to help someone in need and feeling good about it
  • eating a meal with the primary ingredients coming from my garden and meat raised locally
  • remembering road trips
  • when my grandaughter smiles at me
  • my cozy bed at the end of the day
  • a warm house during a raging blizzard and knowing your family is home and safe inside
  • feeling as though our kids are doing well even if one lives in a college “Animal House” from the John Belushi era, another lives on the other side of the planet in another culture and the other is discovering the joys and challenges of parenting

I’m sure younger people, such as the young man in the image,  have a list that is much more exciting than mine but this is my life and my list.

What’s on YOUR list?

It’s Photo Friday featuring the Old Cupola


I have walked and driven by this barn with its majestic cupola countless times as it slowly sinks toward the ground and usually think only of its decorative features, not considering that it once had an important function. Since the construction of the first cupola they have had a vital purpose to the function and contents of the barn. Barns contained hay stacked in high towers in order to accommodate greater amounts in less space. Cupolas on top of barns contain holes that provide light and constantly draw in circulating air, which dries the hay stored nearest to the top of these stacks.

To me the cupola evokes a sense of nostalgia and and appreciation of the hard work involved with farming in the past. I imagine how hot, sweaty and dusty it must have been back in the days of farming with horses and when daily life of a farmer involved hard physical labor. It was also a farm kid’s playground for games that may or may not have involved broken bones or wounded egos at some point. The barn is a symbol of farming in American but is a vanishing site as they become too expensive to repair and modern technologies have deemed them impractical for present day use.

There may be fewer of the “old style” barns as we drive through the rural regions of our country but you can’t help but have a “Norman Rockwell” moment you when you drive by an old farmplace after a fresh snowfall and see the cupola on the barn roof jutting into the skyline with its majectic features as if to say “Remember me?”

Photo information: Canon 5D Mark 2 / available light with reflector / Aperture priority 2.8 / Edited with Photoshop CS5