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

Day 9 ~ It’s all downhill from here.

No matter how long it takes…if you take one step at a time…you will eventually reach the finish line.
Spain-1040292dmvBerlin stops to chat before we start down the hill.

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The name Santiago goes back to the Apostle James (Saint James = Santiago) who went to this most north-western part of Spain, called by the Romans “Finis Terrae “end of the world,” to preach and convert people to Christianity.

We see Santiago in the distance. So close.

The population of the city in 2012 was 95,671 inhabitants.

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Cars speed down the busy highway as our path blends with the city.

Spain-1040309dmv I think any day the sun shines must be wash day.

Follow the arrow…follow the seashell.

Santiago, Spain is the most popular catholic pilgrimage in the world after Rome, which was founded after the discovery of the remains of the Apostle Santiago also known as Saint James of Compostela in the 9th century.

Santiago, Spain is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia, in the northwest region of Spain in the Province of A Coruna. ~Wikipedia

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Randy is operating a Lost & Found on the Camino service. He found a nice glove on the trail and is trying to track down its owner. No success so we may be bringing a lone glove home. It would be a shame to throw away a perfectly good glove.

Spain-1040321dmvThis deluxe seashell is pointing to the real deal. Look closely and you can see the cathedral. Whoo-hoo! Excitement mounts as we envision the thrilling crowd ready to welcome us to the end.

Spain-1040324dmvShould we stop and get tattoos? We did keep our minds busy on the long days of walking the Camino by planning our tattoo design. I don’t think I would spend the money, so I’m merely dreamer.  Randy, on the other hand…

Spain-1040330dmvAren‘t you excited that we’ve finally arrived?  We don’t get much reaction from the locals as we stroll into the city center near the cathedral.

Spain-1040332dmvIs this the cathedral?  Nope.

Spain-1040335dmvThis looks like a church.  Could this be it?  Not very large, though. Hmmm…

Spain-1040336dmvThis must be the cathedral, but nobody is here. Where is the welcoming committee?   Where are the crowds of people ready to congratulate us on our feat? Why don’t we hear cheers of weary pilgrims, ecstatic that they’ve reached their final destination.

Blip…. Joan makes contact with the 2 way radio.  Where are you?

We describe our location and decide we must have come in on the back side of the church.  Sure not much action going on back here.

Spain-1040342popdmvThe sun continues to drop behind the steeples as we make our way to the front.

Spain-1040355dmvWe finally make our way to the front and meet up with Joan. We are thrilled that she is here to greet us and will forever appreciate sharing this moment with her. It would have been disappointing to stand there by ourselves and say, “Huh…there it is.”

But where is the rest of the gang?

Spain-1040359Next stop: turn in our stamped Pilgrim passports for our official certificate. On completion of your pilgrimage at Santiago de Compostela you can present your credential at the Pilgrim Office beside the Cathedral. You will then be given your Compostela certificate, the traditional document, in Latin, confirming your completion of the pilgrimage.
It is required that walkers and pilgrims on horseback must have completed at least the last 100km and cyclists the last 200 km in order to qualify for the Compostela.

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…and we STILL follow the yellow arrow. This time we go upstairs to look for the office.

Spain-1040362dmv50Randy uses the elevation map to show the official where we started. Randy has become quite adept at getting his point across with a vocabulary that includes, hola, adios, and vino.

Spain-1040365dmvWe sign in the distance traveled, and that we are from the U.S.A.  for their records.

Spain-1040368dmvThe final stamp.

Spain-1040369dmvThe official Compostela certificate in Latin.  Now we are legit.

Spain-1040363dmvWe put some money into the container and we head back downstairs.
We drag our weary, sweaty bodies to the nicest hotel of the trip and, low and behold, who should we find as we enter?

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We find the rest of the group is in the hotel bar with the Camino Celebration phase in progress. Excuse the noisy image since my flash didn’t fire, but you get the drift.

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Buen Camino!   El fin.

The following link is an interesting video of the Camino de Santiago from France to Finesterre.  The last half covers areas that we walked.

Video of a truly legit Pilgrim

Hmmm…Finnestere.  Maybe we should check that out, too?

Day 9… It’s what you CAN do…

…not what you can’t.

A man on a bicycle approaches us speaking Spanish and, through his photos, we understand his purpose.

Spain-1040239dmvRandy is signing the guest book of sales. This gentleman, on the bike, pedals the Camino selling t-shirts to fund trips to Para Olympic athletic events. His binder is full of news articles and photos of his participation to help prove that he is legit. Scam or not, we purchase a 10 Euro t-shirt and don’t regret it. You just have to trust once in a while.

Spain-1040242dmvcrPlus, he shares a cell phone photo of his baby AFTER the sale (Or, maybe he thought we’d buy more shirts).  I mention to Randy that it could be anyone’s cute little baby, but Randy chooses to trust that the story is all truth.

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I’m happy to discover that he is legit and our t-shirt purchase is going toward an honest endevour. Check it out at this website:  http://ionutpreda.com/

Spain-1040247dmvThe path is along the side of a tar road and the old wall has a sturdy appearance.
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The origin of the horreo is the horreum from the Roman Empire, and is an old technology that has nearly disappeared in the rest of the empire regions.

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A horreo is for storing grain off the ground to keep rodents out and the design dates back to the Celtic era. Some are quite substantial and made all of stone.

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Hmmm… So many signs to read. Oh, look left!! Oh, my goodness!!!

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This photo doesn’t really imply the height of this monument built to recognize the pilgrimage and a papal visit. We estimate it to be around 50 feet high.

Spain-1040262dmvMonte do Gozo (Hill of Joy) is a hill in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. It is known for being the place where Christian pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) get their first views of the three spires of their destination, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. At 370 meters (1,210 ft), it is the pilgrims’ last hill and last stop before reaching the cathedral, with about an hour’s walk still to go, and by tradition is where they cry out in rapture at finally seeing the end of their path.  ~Wikipedia

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Another pilgrim tells me that I should be able to see the cathedral from the monument hilltop area, but I can’t seem to make anything out.
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This modern sculpture utilizes all four sides in its design.

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The Capilla de San Marcos looks rustic, but isn’t all that old compared to what we’ve already seen.  Follow another path and it takes you to an albergue that has 500 hostel beds in rooms of 4 to 8 beds.

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We are not stopping here so I guess we’d better follow the arrow to the right and head down the hill.

One more hour of walking…

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 5 ~ Angels among us

All God’s angels come to us disguised. ~James Russell Lowell
camino-frances-26O CebreiroWe eat our normal breakfast of tostados with coffee or tea and hop in the taxi  at 8:00 a.m.  We are fast forwarding the mountain from Vega de Valcarce, and will go  about 30 miles to Sarria due to the weather conditions. The van is  large enough to hold all seven of us, plus the driver.Spain-1030656dmvThe treacherous roads are full of slushy snow and it is sleeting. The taxi driver is carefully maneuvering through the icy mountain roads and we are quiet, so we don’t disturb his concentration.  It would not be a pretty sight if we slip off the mountain road. We don’t see any other vehicles going over the mountain this morning.

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After about an hour, we arrive in Sarria and begin our 14 mile trek to Portomarin.  We tip our driver since he did such a wonderful job and did not charge as much as we had expected.  He keeps trying to return the tip.  No es necesario!  We finally convince him to keep the tip since he is very deserving and is well worth it.

Spain-1030668dmvWe begin our march through Sarria and grab a quick beverage and snacks for the road.

Spain-1030663dmvcrFollow the arrows and you can’t go wrong.  Rats!!  It’s starting to rain again.

We look ahead and see that our path has been washed out and fast, deep water is rushing across.  (It seems much deeper than the photo depicts and we don’t see the grassy area on the other side of the rocks, yet.)  I hear a gasp and discover it came out of my mouth.  How are we going to cross this mess?

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Listen… Do I hear angels singing?

Yes, I do!   Singing Spanish angels have appeared out of nowhere to save the day.  Randy goes ahead to crawl over the rocks and is ready to help the rest up and through to a grassy patch that wasn’t so deep.  The Spanish Angels take over the middle and rear to help us up and over the rocks.

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Now that we are all safely across, they proceed to splish, splash down the water-filled trail singing their happy Spanish camino songs.  Buen camino!

I wonder if we’ll see them again?

Spain-1030688dmv Stepping stones help us get through this flooded area.  The walking sticks are valuable to help keep balance with all the water rushing by.

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Kathy gets the prize for the most waterproof boots, but even her feet are wet now.

The cold rain continues to fall.  This is going to be another long day.

Camino Day 4 ~ Every rock has a story

It is  Camino day four and we are just leaving the hilly vineyard region past Cacabelos and discover a touching memorial along the side of the path.

Spain-1030606dmv Another pilgrim must have passed away near the vineyards.

Spain-1030606-2dmvI hope his daughter was able to finish the Camino and fulfilled his dream, as well as her own.

Spain-1030628dmvI don’t have many photos in Villafranca del Bierzo due to the constant rain, but I just can’t resist strolling ladies.

In the Middle Ages, the town of Villafranca del Bierzo is first mentioned in 791. The origin of the modern town is connected to the Way of St. James as a rest place for the pilgrims which started to reach  Santiago de Compostela from the 9th century.  ~Wikipedia

Spain-1030630dmvcrIf you want clean clothes you need to do the laundry, rain or shine. It is going to take some time to dry if the weather stays like this in Trabadelo, Spain.  The village is in the region of El Bierzo and Galician is spoken here.  It is still the province of Leon but we are getting closer to Galicia.

Spain-1030641Our Spanish is limited and her English is, too.  We still managed to have a wonderful conversation.

Spain-1030639She has to be one of the cutest ladies I’ve seen.  Her twinkling eyes and warm smile can sure brighten up a dreary day.  “Buen camino!”  are her parting words.

Spain-1030642dmvThe 17th century Parish Church of San Nicolas is in the background. This simple church contains a small seated image of the Virgin with Child dating from the Middle Ages.

Our gang is now traveling in three groups.  Kathy, Lori and Jane are together;  Randy and Joyce are bringing up the rear; but where are Joan and Diane?  Are they pursuing an alternative camino experience?  Are they sitting in a bar somewhere, too exhausted to go another step?  Have they been abducted?

Hmmm…

It’s not the same road…

We all have our own roads to travel, don’t we?

It's all the Same Road

It’s Not the Same Road

The good thing about starting a new year (at least in our minds)  is the opportunity to evaluate life and how we are living it.  Resolutions, lists of things you wish to accomplish or goals to attain may have occupied your thoughts the past 24 hours.  How long the effort to work on these items may waiver as the year goes on, but we still must live our life until the end.  We can make all the plans and goals we want but sometimes life can make the decisions for us and we just have to roll with it.  So here’s to the new year and may your path be easy and smooth.  Hopefully, we don’t trip on our own feet!

It’s Photo Friday and I’m lovin’ summer!

Warm tones at twilight.

This is a blend of 2 images.

♦ The background is of prairie grass near a small slough facing the sunset during the last minutes of the summer solstice.  Camera was set at aperture priority 2.8 / 70-200 Canon L lens / Canon 5D Mark 2 and focused on the grasses in the foreground with flare from the setting sun.  The background is straight out of the camera with no editing.

♦Top image of the child was taken earlier in the same evening as she was walking on a gravel road using the same camera at aperture priority 2.8 with more direct side lighting.  I did some touch-up with the face blending and softening the highlighted area on the side of her face, lightened the shadow detail and used Kubota action, Golden Delish.  Dragged image to the background and opacity was decreased to allow the background grasses to show through and used the eraser tool to blend the transition between the two images.

It’s Photo Friday!! Photo Etiquette 101

Looking for tips to stay within photography etiquette guidelines when traveling.  I love exploring cultures with my camera, including my own rural environment, but don’t want to be offensive at the same time.  Often times I find that we are “same but different” in many aspects and appreciate the uniqueness of experiences.  I have found that purchasing or tipping generously will often provide plenty of photo opportunities, but my experience with a variety of cultures is limited.

I’m reaching out to others in the world that have travel photography experience to offer suggestions to best document the experiences but be within the realm of common courtesy.  Which cultures are particularly difficult or easygoing to document?

It’s Photo Friday!!

I’ve been working on a coffee mug design featuring the local cattle drive through the little town of Gary, South Dakota.  It will be the “end of an era” since this was the owner’s last drive from pasture west of town to the home place and the herd has been sold.  I found it ironic that a farmer was going through town with his huge equipment just as the last cowboy was trying to catch up with the herd. Out with the old and in with the new…

Shutter 1/2000 ~ Aperture 4.0 ~ ISO 400 ~ Canon 5D Mark 2 ~ Canon L 70-200 IS lens

Sepia toned with warming filters and texture layer added.  Texture layer is another image I took of the dried up path in my woods, toned with warming filter, layered on top and opacity decreased.