Sunday, July 13, 2008


Instead of being with the Camino walkers, I am now surrounded by the 'hill walkers' in Scotland. We stay in Youth Hostels, and on occasion , a bed and breakfast, instead of albergues, and pay three to four times what was paid in Spain, and the same goes for food. In Spain, you could live on $20.00 per day. Here, you are lucky if you can get by with $50.00-$75.00 per day. Lately I've been riding the bus and walking to the Youth Hostels in various towns, with a little walking about the towns. I've gone from 20KM a day to 2KM. My knee has improved a little, but not a whole lot.

My dorm mates pour over their maps, plan their walking day, jump in their car or on a bike, and, walk up a 'worn down' mountain for two to three hours, then back to the youth hostel. The walkers have large boxes of food that they carry in their cars, and can make quite good meals after their walk. When walking the Camino, this was not possible. The hill walkers seem to fit somewhere in between the Camino walkers, and the regular tourists. There is no 5:30 rising, or daily handwashing of laundry, but for me with only one change of clothes, I continue with the old routine. We are lucky to be in bed by midnight.

After Spain, I flew to Edinburgh, took a bus to Aberdeen, Wick, and the Orkneys.
This is a totally different experience from the Camino. My friend Jo, whom I walked with for a few days, has reached Santiago.
I will be in Scotland for another week or so, then hope to travel to Northern England. I haven't any definite plans.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Old age and disease

After walking 400KM, my knee became so painful, that I was no longer able to walk. At first I thought it to be a slight setback, but have had to accept the fact that my knee is worn out. I am presently in Edinburgh, waiting to see a doctor. If possible, I plan to see more of Scotland and spend time at Throssel Hole Monastery in England.
Here in Edinburgh,I was able to find some nice knitting wool and a good book to read.
I'm enjoying being in an English-speaking country again.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Pension

Today is my third day in Sahagun. I think that 27Km was too far to walk. Because my right knee was very painful I spent the last two nights in a pension, all alone. and I've had the best sleep since leaving home.
It was an unusual eerie situation at the pension. After walking 6Km and deciding that it was no longer possible to continue, I asked the woman tending the bar to call a taxi that would take me to the next town. How sweet it was, speeding across the meseta, seeing the pilgrims slowly inching their way across the land.
I arrived at #2, no name, and was met by a woman, who quickly showed me up to #16, a sparse tall room with two creaky beds and thin, tall doors. Every room (30 or so) had a large skeleton keys iserted in the lock. It was the kind of key you would see locking a jail cell. All of the rooms were vacant. The dining room downstairs was set up for twenty or so people but no one sat at the tables. While resting, I could hear the nearby church clock, which rang every quarter hour, otherwise there was complete silence in the building. Late evening was the exception, I could hear a man and woman shouting (everyone seems to shout here) and could smell food cooking.

Because I'd seen no one since arriving, I had not registered nor paid any money but this morning a man, knocking loudly at my door, stood rubbing his thumb and finger together, speaking something in Spanish.
Downstairs the woman who'd originally let me in, was sitting wearing a surgical boot. She'd obviously been away at the hospital. After the owner requested three nights pay for the two that I'd slept there, my stay quickly ended.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Camino Routine

We usually arise at 6am, sometimes to some rousting music, to get the pilgrims on the road, and always to crackling plastic bags, and the zipping and rustling of sleeping bags. At the same time, the keeners who have been up since 5:30am are packing up, grabbing walking sticks, eating, drinking, and slamming the bathroom door, while the others, still wearing earplugs, are trying to get the last few minutes of sleep in before being turned out.
Sometimes you can eat in the albergue, food that you've purchased the night before, or wait until, you reach the next village and have coffee con leche with bread, butter and jam. Then it's walking until the afternoon, with stops in small village bars on the way for drinks and something to eat. Most people arrive at the albergue by early afternoon, pay 5 or so euros, get your passport stamped, if possible, quickly choose a lower bunk bed against a wall, shower, wash your socks, have a nap, find the closest bar for food, use the internet, if there is one and then brush your teeth, put in earplugs and go to sleep at 10pm, In the morning it starts all over again,
You make sure that you have your rain gear, your sun hat, sunscreen,your map, water and some food, then off you go again and it starts all over again. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalk,Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalk,Waaaaaaaaaaaaaalk.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Meseta

Today I had to let go of my good German boots and the second pair of boots that I bought two days ago in Burgos. I thought the boots were the problem, but in fact it was my toes. They must be left free, or they will pain most dreadfully. I now wear only sandals. Again I am sending something away. Edwardo, from the Albergue en el Comino will ship them to Santiago for me when I get close to my destination. The Santiago post office will hold parcels for two weeks then return them to the sender.

Today was my third day on the meseta: miles and miles of wheat and barley and even when I could see a village, it was many kilometers away. The flat land seems to go on forever. Sometimes it's best to just look one footstep in front of me. People far ahead of me look like ants in the distance.
Yesterday was a stiff climb up the Alto de Mostelares. After 20km of walking in the hot sun and wind, I was met on the road, outside the albergue, by Jo, the English woman, whom I repeatedly see at various points on the way. Often she'll start out with me, but quickly leaves if I stop to take a photograph .
Yesterday I photographed a group of old Spanish women waiting for the bread truck. They loved the attention that they received from me, but would not be photographed unless they were close to their flower gardens. One old woman grabbed a potted plant to hold, as we would with a pet or baby, then allowed me to take a photo.
Today I was met on the Camino, by an 83 year old widower, who walks 4km from the town, asking and writing the names of pilgrims and their pñace of origin, and then walks back home again. I've hear that it has changed his life. He did ask for a kiss on his cheek.
Tomorrow, I hope to do another 20km. I have to make it to an albergue in time to get a bed.
There are approximately 449km left to walk to Santiago.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Acceptance and letting go

I've walked about one third of the way across Spain, and so have approximately 500km to go.
Doing a pilgrimage sounds very romantic, but truthfully, it's probably one of the hardest things that I've ever done, and it's not just the walking that's hard. I think it's the letting go that's the hardest: letting go of the familiar, privacy, comfort, letting go of ever again seeing those that you meet on the way, not pushing away that feeling of utter loneliness that you feel as you stand in the middle of nowhere, unsure of which path to take. Even letting go of my possessions, was not easy. Twice, I packed things up and sent them to Throssel Hole Monastery in Britian. There are many days that I have to walk feeling very cold, but it was necessary to send away things, and lighten my load. The Throssel guestmaster is wondering who this person sending these parcels, is. We've never met.
I've had to let go of my expectations, of how far I shall walk each day, and accept that I am walking this alone. I have to let go of comparisons. Often, I think that I'll be last arriving, only to find out that I'm ahead of those who seemed most fit. Those who seem most cheerful often have tragic stories, such as a child's suicide.

It wasn't until I'd been walking a couple of weeks, that I experienced this acceptance. Now I just walk. Sometimes I'll walk short distances with others, but mostly I walk alone. Some things that have helped with the walking are: drinking more water, wearing my sandals when out of the mud (my toes were very sore), taking an antinflammitory twice a day for my knee, stopping regularily, lightening my load and therefore not having to send my pack ahead, thus making it possible to stop at any point. Not comparing pilgrims, and going only as far as it is good to do, not even worrying about Santiago, or my lack of whatever, just walking is best. I don't know how I finally arrived at that point of acceptance, but it sure is a lot easier than holding on and pushing away the things that we love and dislike.
This too will change. I'm sure of that