Negreira to Oliveiroa

Day Eighty. 22.2 Miles, 35.8 Kilometers.

Written July 8, 2012.

We are very careful to follow signs and waymarkers. When we do not see a Pilgrim we ask a local resident if we are on the Camino.

A sign new to the area after Santiago.

There are very few bars or cafes today. We see Peter, Merle, and Shaunna at our first stop. I am ready for juice and a coffee.

We had walked half way. My feet were aching, I was ready for a break. We were in Maronas. I took my boots and socks off and put my feet up on a chair. After several minutes Danillo came over. He put my feet in his lap and proceeded to massage my feet. Danillo does not speak English and I do not speak Italian, but the gift he gave me that day will never be forgotten.

Vern and Danillo, the Masseuse.

After many miles of walking we came to the top of a hill and saw a beautiful, large lake.

Embalse de Ferrenza.

We walked for 12 hours was a perfect day for a foot massage!

Santiago de Compostela to Negreira

Day Seventy Nine. 15.8 Miles, 25.6 Kilometers.

Written on July 7, 2012.

This morning we left Santiago at our average time: 6:00 to 6:20 a.m. We are noticing that each morning seems to be darker than the morning before. Vern has his headlamp on. We are able to find the yellow arrows and Camino markers that are guiding us out of the City. The Camino between Santiago and Finisterre traditionally has a reputation for being poorly marked. We walked over a foot bridge in the small village of Sarela, proceeded up a mountain, and walked through what seemed to be a Regional Park. We expected the path to be poorly marked, and hadn't seen any markings in a long time. The path was now leading us into a village. It was raining. We saw two men ahead standing at the edge of the park talking under an umbrella. We asked them in Spanish if we were on the Camino. One man asked if we speak English and we said yes. He proceeded to tell us in his kindest manner that we were very far from the Camino. He indicated that it wouldn't be easy to direct us. He and his friend would show us. He said that they walk together every morning.

Aggajan, Vern, Fidio and Fidio's faithful companion.

As we were walking with these men we discovered that Fidio speaks six languages and is retired after many years in the hotel business throughout Europe. Aggajan speaks Russian and is in the process of learning Spanish. Fidio walked ahead with Vern. Aggajan walked and held his umbrella for me during the entire walk.

Aggajan and a Camino waymarker.

After at least one hour of walking Fidio and Aggajan had guided us to the Camino. As we approached the waymarkers of the Camino I thought I was going crazy!! This area was completely familiar to me. We had walked here 2 to 3 hours before this morning! I tried to convey this to Aggajan in Spanish, he smiled. I yelled ahead to Vern…we just went in a complete circle! Fidio was grateful that we were back on the right path. Aggajan and I had a good time practicing our Spanish.

The mileage shown at the top of the page does not account for the miles that we walked when we were lost. I don't have any idea how many miles we actually walked. What I will say is that : yes, getting lost and excerting precious energy was frustrating, but there is always a “bigger picture”. For us the bigger picture was that we were able to spend time walking and talking with these selfless individuals who gave us the gift of peace of mind. Also, we are now clear that the expectation of not expecting clear signage gave us exactly what we expected….poor signage! Thank you Fidio and Aggajan for taking the time to help get us back on the Camino!

Just a few minutes after we were back on the Camino we saw Dan and Ellen from Oregon. We met them several days ago in Azura. Thomas was walking quickly, he slowed down to give us a news update: Perrogrino, the Pilgrim dog that I wrote about here on June 28th was seen by Thomas at the Plaza in Santiago as Thomas was walking in! Pilgrims have been anxious to receive new information about Perrogrino…and now we have it!

Thomas and me.

Hours later after walking up steep inclines, through forest paths, and on the road we entered the village of Ponte Maceira. We stopped to take a break and met, Tony, from Slovenia. Many countries are represented on the Camino de Santiago. I am grateful for the opportunity everyday to learn more about the world we all live in.

Ponte Maceira.

The building pictured in the front is a mill. This area is one of the most beautiful spots on the Camino. Many buildings are well preserved.

Rest Day in Santiago de Compostela

Day Seventy Eight.

Written on July 6, 2012.

Today began with a lot of sleep! We slept until 8:30 a.m. We are looking forward to a cup of coffee and spending time In the Plaza. The Plaza is just a few minutes walk from our room. As soon as we arrived we saw Merle and Peter from Australia just arriving into Santiago. It was wonderful to see them and to share that profound time with them as they entered the City and reflected on what they had accomplished. Merle and Peter started their journey from Le Puy, France on April 19th.

Vern, Me, Merle, and Peter.

We walked with Merle and Peter to the Pilgrim's Office where they will also receive their Compostela. Just across the street we saw Remy and Anna. Marie saw us and we had a great reunion with her. It has been a few weeks since we have seen her.

I feel a strong connection to Pilgrims that I have seen along The Way and a connection to anyone coming into Santiago no matter how many days, weeks, or months they have been walking.

Vern, Remy, Anna, and Marie.

We were very interested in a large market not far from the Cathedral that we had heard about. We were getting hungry so it was time to find the market. As we were walking toward the market we saw Ana and her Mother, Consuelo. We couldn't believe it, we thought they were in Finisterre today. After we chose our raw food at the market we took it to a participating restaurant. For 10% of the purchase price of the food the restaurant will cook it. We had lunch and walked around Santiago with Consuelo and Ana.

Vern had heard a story about statues in a nearby park called Las dos Marias. We went to the park to find them.

Consuelo, Vern, and Ana with Las Dos Marias.

A photo of the actual Dos Marias.

The story we heard is that: The two ladies, both named Marie, were friendly to the University students in Santiago. They always said “hello” and spoke to the students. The students were moved by the women and created the statues of them.

We later had a fun dinner with a group of Pilgrims, including Tom, Kat, Merle, Peter, and two more Californians.

On our way back to our room we saw more familiar faces and good friends.

A group of Pilgrim friends including the California Boys!

Thank you to everyone who makes the arrival and time in Santiago so special!!

Molinaseca to Cacabelos

Day Sixty Nine. 14.3 Miles, 23 Kilometers.

Written on June 27, 2012.

This morning we passed an Albergue where there were many bunkbeds outside. It was warm throughout the night, outside would have been a great place to be. Many Pilgrims are starting is 6:00 a.m. We see Paul and Mary as we are leaving town. They show us a shorter way to walk into Ponferrada. it is important to save time today before the temperature rises.

Castillo de Los Templarios in Ponferrada.
The 12th century castle has been declared a national monument and has recently reopened after extensive renovation.
Mary from Ireland.
Three miles after Ponferrada we were in Columbrianos. There is a chapel that seems to be in the road. Ermita San Blas y San Roque is the site of the original Pilgrim hospices.

Ermita San Blas y San Roque.

We walked through a section of road today where the gardens are gated and have garden supply “Shacks”. They vary in style and age. I am intrigued by these gardens. They are fenced and gated, but the home does not seem to be nearby.

A gardener near Fuentes Nuevas.

When I asked the gardener if it was ok to take his photo, he seemed pleased and told me that he has walked the Camino twice.

At a pilgrim rest area for donation only we saw Scott and his Mom Kim from Windsor, California and Margaret from Switzerland. The rest stop was wonderful: sliced watermelon, cherries, orange juice and a crystal clear creek!

Scott and Mom, Kim.

Margaret and Louie sitting in the creek.

Louie and his friend set up the Pilgrim stand. Louie is also a healer and likes to encourage Pilgrims to sit in the shade and take their backpacks off. He also likes to see people cool their feet.

We arrived in Cacabelos, saw Margaret and had a cold drink with her. We are staying In the same hostal, later we will meet for dinner.

Rabanal Del Camino to Molinaseca

Day Sixty Eight. 18.2 Miles, 29.5 Kilometers

Written on June 26, 2012.

I woke up feeling rested and well enough to walk. I will walk to a village and then determine if I will stay there or walk to the next village. It is a miracle what a lot of rest, love, and nutrition will do to heal a body.

The first village we walk to is Foncebadon. It was the home of the 12th century hermit Gaucelmo who built a church and Pilgrim hospital there. In recent years there has been a lot of renovation of abandoned houses and of the main street.

A rest area with a palloza in Foncebadon.

Vern has a coffee, I have orange juice and then we continue up the mountain. It takes awhile to walk to an elevation of 1,504 meters, (4,934 feet) above sea level to Cruz de Ferro.

The “monument” at Cruz de Ferro.

Cruz de Ferro is a place where Pilgrims seem to take time to honor their journey, or the “journey” of loved ones. Many Pilgrims add a stone from home or other token of love and blessing to the base of the cross or to the great pile that “witnesses” our journey. Vern left a shirt that he had worn while walking the Camino de Santiago in 2009 and now has worn this year to Cruz de Ferro. I left a Disabled American Veterans Life Member Patch in honor of Anthony, my son Jason's father, and in honor of all Veterans from around the world. At the moment of placing the patch I also “felt” a prayer for the healing of all civilians, everywhere, touched by any kind of violence.

The patch and other symbols of healing and love.

The next village: Manjarin, population of 1. Yes, I have read that the official population count of Manjarin is 1: Tomas, the hospitalero. I love this place. There is an outside toilet, solar panels, and an open fire.

The mountain refuge, Manjarin.

While walking around at Manjarin I met a couple on bicycles. They opened their front door and started riding toward Santiago, Spain on the Camino de Santiago from their home in Askes, Holland.

Janny and Janryn from Holland.

We took many breaks today. I walked slowly and felt good enough to continue. We walked through the mountain villages of El Acebo and Riego de Ambros.

Janice from Belgium.
When I saw Janice coming from the direction of Santiago I had to ask her, “Did you come from Santiago”? Right after I asked her I realized that talking while pushing a heavy bicycle up a mountain road is not easy. I quickly asked her if it was ok to take a photo, dropped my sticks, and pushed on the back of her bicycle for a short distance.
We continued down the mountain to the town of Molinaseca. We crossed the river and were looking for a place to stay when Irwin from Germany saw us. He began to let us know about the town and showed us where the market was. Vern wanted to get food supplies for the next day. Irwin waited for us and then led us to the Hostal where he was staying. What a beautiful place, truly a museum of art, artifacts, and a family's history.

“Rest” Day in Rabanal Del Camino

Day Sixty Seven.

Written on June 25, 2012.

Last night we prepared to start walking at 6:00 a.m. just like we do every morning. Water bottles and water bladder full, clothes are layed out. Our food is ready for tomorrow and we have done everything we can so that we don’t make noise in the morning.

At 1:00 a.m. I woke up. I definitely was not feeling well and went into the bathroom. It was obvious that I was sick. I will not go into details here but I was in and out of bed all night. I actually went online to see if I could figure out what was happening and then how to treat the symptoms. The best I could figure out is that one of my heart medicines was making me sick because of all of the exposure to the sun.

In the morning we contacted the owners of the Casa Rural to see if we could stay another night. Vern went downstairs to talk with the owners. They gave him tonic water with fresh squeezed lemon and tea for me. Vern went to the market and bought some crackers without much flavor.

I slept on and off for 12 hours! After a few hours I was feeling much better.

For dinner they prepared a salad and plain rice for me and a wonderful meal of paella for Vern. I am so grateful to be in this Casa Rural when I was sick. They treated me so well.

Miriam, Vern, Me, and Manuel.

Cruz de Ferro Casa Rural in Rabanal Del Camino.

Thank you Vern for taking such good care of me…I am really grateful!

Calzadilla de Los Hermanillos to Puente Villarente

Day Sixty Two. 18.8 Miles, 30.3 Kilometers.

Written on June 20, 2012.

Today we continue walking through the Meseta. Today’s path is considered the most perfect stretch of Roman road left in Spain. We are on the Camino by 6:20 a.m. We are walking toward the west so I keep looking back to the east. I want to see the first view of the sun. A bicycle rear view mirror would be perfect for this situation. We know that approximately fifteen miles today will be on a long stretch of gravel/rock road in the plains. We are prepared with sandwiches and plenty of water.

Another beautiful sunrise on the Meseta.

The Roman road that we are on is called the Calzada Romano. Vern is fascinated that we are walking in the footsteps of Emperor Augustus. The road is now in the middle of farmland and not far from train tracks. There was a two day variant option to take yesterday, we chose this route.

A sign at a crossroad in the Plains.

By the fact that we are not seeing many Pilgrims it seems that most Pilgrims took the other route. After many miles we met a woman from Belgium. Her dog has on “boots” and his own backpack. We see Barbara and Jordan from Texas and other Pilgrims who we recognize. We are all moving along quickly. The more that we can walk here before the sun gets high in the sky the better for all of us. After many hours people are checking with each other to see how they are doing.

Woman and dog Pilgrims from Belgium.

As we enter Mansilla de Las Mulas we agree to take a break, take our boots off, and see how we are feeling. We decide to continue on to Puente Villarente so that we can arrive in Leon earlier tomorrow. We walk another 3.5 Miles to an Albergue

The entrance to Mansilla de Las Mulas.

A view of the wall at Mansilla de Las Mulas.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado

Day Fifty Three. 15.1 Miles. 24.4 Kilometers.

Written on June 11, 2012.

We stayed in a municipal Albergue. There were 10 bunkbeds in a room. The price was good…donation. There was a place to hand wash clothes and a line for drying. There was a computer room, kitchen, and a large area with tables and couches. A Doctor was donating his time, supplies, and knowledge to help many Pilgrims. We heard that he had created shoe inserts for people who needed them and treated many blisters. When we arrived we saw him treat a bicyclist with bruises and a face injury. This Albergue is a refuge for Pilgrims.

Everyone must leave by 8 a.m. We left and found a bar close by to have coffee. We are waiting for the post office to open at 8:30 a.m. I will be picking up another package of supplements that has been mailed to me. Also, I decided that my socks are too thick and heavy for the warmer weather that we have been walking in and will mail them home. There were other Pilgrims sending items home or sending them forward.

We left Santo Domingo at 9 a.m. There are many villages to go through today so we can carry a limited amount of water knowing that we will be finding water along the way.

A field of white poppies with a hint of lavender.

A beautiful home on the way to Belorado.

There were high winds today. Some bicycles seem to be struggling, and the walkers are doing the best they can.

It is beautiful with the shades of green, wild flowers and villages in the distance.

Camino wall art as we enter Belorado.

Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Day Fifty Two. 14 Miles, 22.5 Kilometers.

Written on June 10, 2012.

Sometimes I wonder how do we know if we’re on the Camino de Santiago? Yes, there are yellow arrows pointing the way and since 2009 there are added manufactured signs that are very easy to follow. But today when I saw this ancient marker I knew that we were walking exactly where pilgrims of centuries past have walked.

Ancient way marker.

We steadily climbed today from Azofra to Ciruena. Ciruena seems to be an attempt at creating a suburb. There is a golf course, condos and apartments.

Pilgrim sculpture in a roundabout in Ciruena.

Many days ago between Ronscavalles and Zubiri we had to walk on the highway. As we started to walk on the highway I heard singing behind me. I turned around and saw a group of Pilgrims pushing a man in a wheel chair and walking beside him for traffic “control”.

Not shown: two women with waist straps ready to pull their friend.

As we entered Santo Domingo de la Calzada we heard a marching band and saw a crowd of people. We learned that it was a Corpus Christi festival. Many children participated. Girls were throwing rose petals through the crowd.

The Corpus Christi Festival.

In St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France we stayed in L’Esprit Albergue. That is where we first met Ali and Maire. Later the next day we saw them as we were all making our way through the Pyrenees. Today we celebrate with them their determination and achievement of walking from St. Jean to Santo Domingo in 11 days. They walked in joy, love, and laughter. We are grateful for time spent with them.

Ali and Maire. The best of friends.

Estella to Los Arcos

Day Forty Eight. 13.1 Miles, 21.1 Kilometers.

Written on June 6, 2012.

Every evening we look at our guidebooks to see how to prepare for the next day. We determine where water fountains may be and how far apart they are. If I know there will be water fountains I can have a lighter load that day. When looking over today’s route we realized that there was an alternative that offered more shade and a shorter route. I am glad we chose this way. Once we moved from the alternative route and rejoined the main route we walked hours and hours without shade. There was one water fountain so we filled up. I now put a buff (scarf) on my head and pour water on it.

Bodegas Irache Winery Wine Font.

This wine font is not far from Estella. The wine is free. Many Pilgrims put some in a small cup. It is a big attraction and talked about for miles.

There were so few places for shade today that many Pilgrims told each other where to find it and many people huddled close under the shade to make room for others.

On the hilltop in the distance is: Ruins of Castillo de San Esteban.

Every few miles there was a complete change in scenery from cliff walls, poppy fields, hay fields, castle ruins and small villages.