DAY 32

I am back on track for a short 9 mile day to Triacastela. We are really and truly in Galicia the province where Santiago is located.

Apparently Galicia is the land of one million cows and here are just a few.

It has been a rainy, misty day. I walked mostly alone. Time to think about the last stage of the Camino. On the one hand I am anxious to return to my bed and my own cooking. On the other hand what will I do each day when I don’t have to walk. What parts of the Camino will come with me and what will I leave behind?

It’s late and I’m tired despite it being a shorter day.

Buen Camino

DAY 31 ANOTHER DAY OFF

Today’s post will be very short. Once again I had to take a day off for my ankle. In addition it was a steep climb to the next hotel and by the time I arrived the altitude was really effecting my head. So I laid my pack on the floor, crawled into bed and slept. Tomorrow is a shorter walk and hopefully I’ll be back to 100%.

Thank you for all your prayers and support.

BTW I’ve been spelling Buon Camino wrong. It’s BUEN CAMINO!

DAY 30 OLD FRIENDS, NEW FRIENDS

Definitely out of the Meseta and back in the mountains

We are only 2-3 days away from Sarria which is the 100 kilometer mark from Santiago. The Camino seems more crowded but it’s not the same people we have been traveling with. The Australians, New Zealanders, Germans, Dutch, Norwegians, and French have gotten either ahead or behind us.

This fresh crop of pilgrims are newer to the Camino. We’ve seen the buses stop at the hotels and watched them debark. They’re cleaner and less worn looking. They smile brightly, wave heartily, and call out “Buon Camino” in a cheery voice.

Some of these pilgrims are rejoining the Camino where they left off last year. After all not everyone has six weeks to do this. Some of them don’t have the time but want to reach Santiago so they start in Leon or Astorga or even Sarria. And some are part of a tour trying to capture the Camino experience. They have smaller daypacks and the tour company provides them a gourmet lunch to have along the way. The sag wagon is available for pilgrims who get tired along the way. I’m not judging them. This is the way I bicycled through Tuscany several years ago.

I biked a few hours to the first test stop and then rode the sag wagon in to lunch and awaited the rest of the riders while drinking an aperol spritz and writing postcards.

It was the way I wanted to do the ride just like everyone does the Camino in his or her own fashion.

Buon Camino!

DAY 29 FOOD ON THE CAMINO

So there’s something I haven’t talked about yet on the Camino and that’s the food. Before coming on the Camino I researched Spanish food and tried out a few dishes with some success.

Garlic Soup

The first food we heard about on the Camino is garlic soup. Now to be honest my first impression was that I’d see a few garlic cloves floating in some broth. So I hunted for a recipe online and found one that was particularly good. Essentially it is the same form as French onion soup. The garlic and broth form a base, add in toasted day old bread, and then crack an egg and let it poach over the bread. Not to toot my own horn, but this was amazing. Garlic soup on the camino is a little bit different. The garlic and broth still make a base, but the egg is whisked into the broth like an egg drop soup. Bread is served on the side, usually not toasted, and you can dip it in the soup if you like.

Paella

This is paella and it’s wonderful. This guy works at the farmer’s market and every week has a huge skillet of this paella that he sells. Frequently in Spain you will see signs in front of restaurants advertising Paella Mixed, Chicken, Seafood, or Shrimp. This paella is pretty good. I had it twice on the Camino. Just don’t think that this is something the owner is cooking up fresh in the kitchen. These are commercial paella sold in individual servings that the kitchen heats up. It is good, but not as good as the picture above.

Fries

Fries come in all shapes and sizes. Ask for fries and you may or may not get something that looks like McDonald’s. And like all other fries it depends on how you like them cooked. I like my extra crispy which I didn’t always get. One thing I can guarantee is that these fries do not sit under a heat lamp. They are hot from the fryer.

Chili Rellenos stuffed with Cod

Finally you have to be willing to try something different. Chili Rellenos is not like the Chili Rellenos from your local Mexican restaurant. Spanish food is not terribly spicy. Having said that these Rellenos were among the best food I had on the Camino. Sweet red peppers stuffed with cod and smothered in a cheese sauce. Yes, I ate the whole thing.

The last thing I want to say about food on the Camino is this…frequently I just didn’t know what I wanted to eat after a long day of walking. I’m not even sure I was really hungry. Often what I craved is protein. I ate eggs every chance I got and I would be willing to bet that most of the eggs I ate were retrieved from under a chicken 🐓 a few hours earlier. Most of the time breakfast is coffee, juice, and toast. Those carbs burn off quickly and don’t really get you up any hills.

In no way did I cover all the food I had in Spain but I hope you’ll find some Spanish recipes to try out.

Bon Appetit and Buon Camino

DAY 28 1 SHIRT, 2 SHIRT, ORANGE SHIRT, BLUE SHIRT

I had a little melt down today. I was trying to get dressed. I have two shirts, orange and blue, and two sports bras, orange and blue.

I got all confused because the shirts were both dirty and I ended up wearing the blue shirt with the orange sports bra…

It was a mess. Tonight there was a washing machine at the hotel and I got things straightened out.

Phew!

Buon Camino!

DAY 27 TWO THINGS

There were two things I was particularly looking forward to on the Camino. The first was to take part of the drinking of the wine provided by the monks at Irache

The second was to visit the Ferro Cruz (the Iron Cross) and lay down my burden as symbolized by the rock I got from Zanesville.

I know I had expectations and that’s how we are disappointed but I couldn’t help myself.

I expected to see a tall cross anchored into the ground with stones piled around it and up the base of the cross. I wanted to take some time and reflect on all those burdens that pilgrims had carried with themselves and finally laid down at this cross.

Instead I found a small mound of dirt between 15 and 20 feet tall with the post holding the cross anchored at the top of that mound of dirt.

People were climbing up the hill in order to make a Rocky-like victory pose waving their trekking poles in the air.

I’m trying not to judge. I just wanted a moment to connect with all those who came before me and laid down their joys, illness, futures. And I didn’t want to walk upon those sacred stones. So I found a spot along the side and laid my stone down.

It’s the small white one.

So I have to trust that even though this moment didn’t deliver the spiritual high I was looking for that God received my burden with the same love that God receives all our burdens.

DAY 26 I MET A MAN ALONG THE CAMINO

Last night was spent in Astorga, a beautiful town that’s actually quite large but has the feel of a small old town. The cathedral is imposing, the shops are quaint, and the cafes on the plaza were meant for having a leisurely cafe con leche or a vino tinto and watching people. Since I didn’t walk yesterday I did not get a stamp in my credential.

About three miles out of Astorga this morning we came across this charming little chapel.

It’s right there on the side of the road, nothing around it. And there is a man standing at the door. He has one arm and one leg. He smiles at everyone and greets them as they enter the chapel. His bright blue clothes are a sharp contrast to the muted colors of the chapel.

He doesn’t see our new backpacks, iphones, or fancy earbuds. He just sees pilgrims who have stopped at this chapel.

There are old photogapahs along one wall of the chapel and I ask him who the people are. They are just very old photographs he explains. And yet those faces in the pictures seem to fit very well in this simple chapel.

Afterwards I go out to get my credential. I saw there were two stamps on the table at the entrance. He followed me back in and asked which one I wanted. He didn’t just nod his head toward the stamps as if to say, “Help yourself.” I chose one and he balanced himself on his crutch and placed a beautifully inked stamp on the paper. Then he put the stamp down, picked up a pen, and wrote the date.

I think of all that I have and all that I could do for others, and this man is serving me with grace and dignity. It was a beautiful moment for me to receive the gift of his effort.

In front of the chapel there is are several signs with the Pilgrim’s Prayer in several languages.

Jesus, my Lord, my friend,

You, the icon of God,

You, fountain of communion,

Of freedom and love.

You, who are my servant,

Walk always with me.

Buon Camino

DAY 25 THE BEAUTY OF THE CAMINO

I took the bus into Astorga today because the tendons in my foot were bothering me again. In fact it seems that the Walking Wounded are coming out again. Yesterday I met a woman who was recovering from a knee injury and this morning as we walked over to breakfast I saw our Cincinnati friends that we met on the shuttle from Bayonne to St. Jean Pied de Port. She had a cab waiting to take her to the hospital up the road. The woman with the knee injury and I rode the bus in to Astorga.

It feels good to take a break from the Camino. We have a very nice room in Astorga and since I was here early I had time to find a laundromat and wash clothes in a real machine. After writing some postcards to our grandchildren back home I found a sunny spot in a cafe to have my lunch. I’ve been looking through my pictures and basking in the more beautiful moments on the Camino so I thought I’d share a few.

After seeing field upon field of sad sunflowers turned away from Santiago it was a joy to see these little ones growing and searching for light.

On a Saturday we walked through this town while the local farmers market was in full swing. These peppers were incredibly huge. This was also the day the we ate lamb stew in a little restaurant and the waiter told us his mother had made it. Delicious!

The view of the sky through the double arches of the ruins of a convent.

We suffered through some rain and were rewarded with the most vibrant rainbow I’ve ever seen. I was absolutely taken aback when I saw this.

There is truly so much along the Camino to warm your heart and take your breath away.

And God said it was very very good.

Buon Camino

DAY 24 CAMINO FATIGUE

“Just once I’d like to wake up when I’m done sleeping”

Anna, Downton Abbey

If the Camino mantra is Walk, Wash, Eat, Sleep, I have to say that after I walk and wash my clothes I barely have the gumption to wash myself. Dinner is never before 7:30 pm and by 5:00 pm I could care less about eating and often just lay my head on the table praying that I can go to sleep.

I forgot to relate to you all what happened yesterday morning. After we left our hotel we stopped at Cafeteria Alfonso for breakfast. Don’t let the name fool you this is not a cafeteria like we know it. Nonetheless the cafe con leche was excellent and I had a great pastry filled with lemony cream for my breakfast. I ordered at the bar and the bar man served me. Usually I ask “how much?” and pay, but for some reason I didn’t do this. When we were done we left. Later it occurred to me that I hadn’t paid so I asked Glen if he did. The answer…no. We were so tired that we just didn’t think.

So today I did a little research and while I didn’t get the full address I have the street name and the name of the cafe. I’m going to send the owner a note and 20€ to more than cover our bill and to cover whatever other pilgrims might have forgotten to pay with the rest.

As I’m writing this it’s 4:40 pm and I’d really like to lay my head on the table and close my eyes. Maybe I didn’t train enough, maybe I’m just not young enough…but like I said on Day 1, I don’t know if I’ll make it, but watch how good I fake it.

Oh, BTW I bought some new shoes and a new hat last night in Leon. I lost my green hat and my blue shoes had lost all their tread and cushioning. The good news is that all was 40% off 🤗

DAY 23 RANDOM RAMBLINGS

Today is a dry day spiritually. It’s cold, dreary, and gray.

We are walking into Leon which is about 13 miles but a lot of it is along the highway. Of course the last couple days have been along the highway so it’s not a new scene just not pleasant.

My feet, legs, and back feel good, but my heart feels uninspired.

I’ve been listening to some Taizé music and on a sunny day it feels like the whole camino is my chapel to worship in. But today it’s not working.

As I walk along the path I’m remembering the Scottish man who was walking barefoot and I wonder where he is and if he’s been able to keep doing the Camino in his bare feet.

I’ve begun to identify backpacks like cars, by the logo on the back. Maybe I could create a camino bingo game and market it.

Graffiti along the Camino has change quite a bit from the beginning. This is what I used to see…

Discern the truth, achieve the good…The Alchemist

For many days now this is what I see on the Camino…

So many of the signs along the camino are scrawled with this vitriol. Others come along and try to add their own take by changing the letters. And it looks like the same handwriting. It doesn’t strike me as being of the Spirit and I feel tired and beat down just seeing it.

So how will I make it to Leon today? By putting one foot in front of the other until I arrive.