I never even gave it a thought before I left for my walk. I had travelled before and other than the annoying unexpected request for a few coins to use a public toilet, it was a non-issue for me. You just find a bathroom and use it. Once on the camino however, a few patterns start to develop, and one caught me completely off guard.
If you are lucky, after a few days, your body decides to cooperate and will empty itself out before you start out for the day. This will probably happen for you and it happened for me and I was grateful to my body for being so wise. Shared bathrooms are never fun but I always felt I had enough privacy to feel all right, but I am sure it takes some timing and alertness as to where everyone is to get the most privacy. Walking all day sort of coordinates things I found and it was all rather a quick affair as those things go anyhow after a few days.
Bars/Places to Eat
If you are going to have a “second breakfast” as folks tend to say, then you just use the bathroom then. You are going to sit for a quick tea or coffee and a nata or such foods local to where you are walking. Dragging your backpack into a tiny bathroom is always a bit awkward, but you can certainly see why everyone cringes if you put your backpack on your bed at the end of the day because memories of where one’s own bag was during the day is still a fresh image. As far as the bar itself, that is the social contract, you buy a snack and use the restroom, they all get it. I never had an issue related to using a small bar or restaurant’s bathroom, except for one day, one really embarrassing day, lol. I was waiting for a walking buddy who had stayed at a different Alburgue than I did one night. I tried to get her to stay at my Albergue which had a restaurant connected that was part of the price, but she stayed at a kind of commune that seemed challenging to me as too personal, too haphazard in its design, and cramped. That night caused her much complaining when I saw her the next day at our meeting place in town. As I waited the most charming scene unfolded around me. The glass counter was small but crammed with delicious pastries and behind the counter was a small staff making espressos and other drinks for the flow of after church families and children loading up small plates of treats. After a while my walking companion for the day entered and I used that moment to use the restroom and leave my pack under her care as she got some treats and a bit of rest. Now, this was just a couple of days into my Camino and my body and I had not quite entered into the social contract of starting the day on empty, if that makes sense. I used the facilities and walked back and sat down at our tiny table. But suddenly the atmosphere changed in the place, there was a tone of tension and movement that was not as harmonious as it had been and I looked behind me and there was a kind of quickly formed bucket brigard from the kitchen counter area to the bathroom. Already straining under the pressure of the heavy buckets the once happy servers looked worried and slightly annoyed and I thought that I better get out of there before the finger pointing began. So, in what can only be described as a skedaddle I said to my buddy, “I am going to wait outside” and I just picked up my bag and walked quickly up the street past the church to kind of hide out of view. I was half scared that someone would come and find me and yell at me, and my ego was not up to that so I just lurked around waiting. While I was hiding a young couple of walkers came along and they were smoking and walking fast and then we talked and I said I was waiting for someone and they asked if it was so and so and I said yes surprised that they might have guessed who it was. The camino has its own kind of internal messaging system and alertness about itself that I still do not understand fully and is a bit uncanny. They expressed their displeasure with her and said that she was too rigid for them that she was judgmental about how they were doing their camino. They then walked off and I never saw them again. I was however, a bit more nervous that she was going to find me and then tell me something related to the situation I left her in at the bar, but, when she did approach me she either had not noticed or was being very very polite, and I appreciated her regardless.
Before I left for the Camino I imagined that the natural world would be where I might need to relieve bladder pressure, but after the bar incident, there seemed to be an agreement with me and my system that the AM would be productive and that did leave me to rather not need a nature pee. However, both women I walked several days with were in fact very productive in the matter, frequently saying they needed to pee and going off the path to accomplish this. Me, always enjoying a rest in walking never was bothered and rather admired their deftness in taking care of such matters. Only two times did my bladder creak and moan and complain that the next bar or restaurant was too far off and need some outdoor relief. The first time I had just walked by myself along a stretch of paved road that had some bends and rocky outcropping that made me feel a bit nervous that a car might pinch me against the rocks if they saw me too late. I always had, if needed, a bright green construction vest with me and bright green gaithers to brighten up my outfit, but regardless, this patch of road was a bit dicey I felt and rural. Thankfully after a while the Camino arrow pointed into a wooded area on a good packed earth trail and the sun was fine and I relaxed getting off the road, and realized I needed to relieve myself. So, I walked up a bit, and felt a bit nervous to be indisposed as one says while alone, but all felt well otherwise. I located not too far up a huge boulder just off the path that would hide me adequately lest someone amble up the path, and I rounded to the back of it. It was in the act that I started to glance around and noted that this rock has appealed as the perfect place to pee to many Camino walkers, with little wads of tissue here and there. Humans are interesting in how we read nature, that bolder invoking the ancient language of bathroom. The second time I needed a nature pee was while walking with someone. We had just plopped ourselves rural roadside for a mini nap in a field of little hills and daisies. Before we started to walk i thought it wise to relieve myself and I squatted behind a little hillock where it seemed perfectly private. However, while low to the ground, a small group of high school boys rounded up somehow on a little unknown path to the side of me and walked right past me without much interest. Finally and this is kind of gross but again telling about what ancient bathrooms probably looked like in nature over time, I was sitting on a in retrospect kind of toilet height rock right on a boundary before the town edge starts. As I was sitting there I noticed that the rock was kind of split in two with a crack, and in the crack, yes you guessed it, had been used as a toilet. So, if you see a rock in the woods, and it looks a pretty comfy chair height, and has a crack in it, just keep walking.
Other than these issues, these parts of my days with bathrooming were not issues at all. Some women wear a thin panty liners so that tissues are not used, and I think that hack is probably super smart! Needless to say, pack it out people. So many complaints about toileting liter on the Camino paths.
In my video I posted (just below this post) you can just see by my facial expressions, that my muscle memories are very fresh still from my spring 2019 Camino and my body is never going to let me go without my mind putting up a fight and winning. I just watched The Way again, first mistake, because Martin Sheen never once looks worn out, nor slow, or physically discouraged the entire time and part of me starts to think, “hey, maybe it was not hard at all.” And then I recall a REI free seminar I went to in North Florida before my Camino and the speaker seemed so calm and ready to do “a Camino a summer” which made me feel really enthused that a Camino was really no big deal at all. Score a point of my mind over my body.
Also, lately, discussions around my abode have leaned towards a Norte in spring 2022. The Village to Village guide has been bought, I have of course figured how to cut some of the “stages” in half, 10K here and then 13 K the next day. My first Camino I really, and I swear this is so, just had the minimalist Village to Village book and found the first arrow in Tomar and walked along a muddy river bank. No phone apps, no walking buddy. I was lost within 2 hours and after about five minutes of despair, I considered just going back to Tomar and taking the bus to Santiago and patting myself on the back and saying to myself “At least you gave it a go.” I know, I might not be from hardy stock, but I did, to my credit, brush my ego off and reset my internal GPS system, and sort of guessed where to go and popped out right on a bright, blond dirt packed road with a brightly painted shell and arrow. So, that is probably the real start of my Camino, that moment I just dug deep for the will to correct my mistake and challenge myself to “do this Camino or not, because this is what a Camino is, so are you going to do this or not? And I did.
One early evening, when I was in high spirits because I had taken a bus from the Coastal Camino that is just south of Spain, into the central Camino Ponte de Lima. I was texting with my spirit guide daughter who was in her second semester at her elite college in Ohio. Without a doubt she loves me very much and knows me very well and somehow this alchemy translates into levity and trust and a lack of worry about me mixed with pitch perfect encouragement which is exactly what I find helpful. So I might have been texting her that night “Beryl, I am passed by everyone.” Or, “Beryl, my legs feel like they are curling up like the witches’ in the Wizard of Oz under the house.” And she would LOL and say something like “Well Mommy, you are kind of representing the below average Camino walker.” And just that thought, that adminsion to myself, helped me to put it all into perspective. If all of life somehow resides under a kind of bell curve, under a distribution from the very worst to the very best across the board, then I was to the left side of the bell curve and that was ok because someone always has to be there, that is what is normal about a normal distribution.
Now, that Norte is twice as long as what I did on the Portuguese, so that is already a mistake maybe. But the call of the Camino has been spoken of over and over by Camino walkers and bloggers. Even with the long stretches of paved walking, the industrial sidewalk half days, the miles of Roman laid stone paths, the scare of no or low food at times, the searing backpack induced pelvic bone pains at night, there is something undeniably compelling about the experience of walking such long distances. It is maybe in our DNA to walk long distances. Since the advent of cars and other forms of velocity is so recent, our own human condition still responds positively to the daily compulsion to keep walking, to be a traveller in a place, to meet a stranger and talk, to be fed by strangers who are curious about where you are from, and to even repair the bodily aches and pains each night so you can do it again the next day. Just remarkable.
Here, in my blog will be a series of videos that will also be in my Youtube channel called “Andorinha and the Camino.” I will also write from time to time of course. I need to talk myself into the Norte afterall.
I have been speaking to students and anyone who would listen, about how technology has altered our emotional worlds. That is, that I have experienced a new set of emotions due to the conflicts and frustrations of using technology, any technology really, FB, texting, reading the news, and so forth. For the first time in human history we have encountered the stressors of knowing someone is online but has not checked our message to them hours ago, or that my text was read but not responded to, or someone did not “like” my post but did “like” someone else’s post. Mostly I experience these new emotions in my dreams where I can hold them still the next day and try and understand them more clearly and learn to articulate them though we probably do not have much of a vocabulary as of yet to speak of them coherently. But, they are there lurking in our unconscious and probably directly some of our daily decision making, such as, who to speak to, who to connect with, and who to let go of.
Now, we sit at home, no Camino, not even really planning a Camino since walkers have to cross not just one country, but even cross borders. The lovely EU open border system is under stress to protect citizens from passing Covid from one country to another. So, the Camino could technically open in Spain but not Portugal or France, or Portugal but not Spain, which of course defeats the purpose for most of us who need to reach Santiago. This will play out how it plays out.
For now, we are only left to our technological anxiety and we are now only those emotions we are just learning to see and understand.
However, on Camino we are not really that connected to our phones, I know we see them and folks are looking at them perhaps here and there at a resting point – perhaps they need to connect home, or maybe they want to see the news quickly and go to sleep knowing all is well where their families are. I think there might be a tendency to overreact to the scenes of phone use on the Camino and forget that walking 18 K or more a day takes determination and not cell phone distraction. I found the pauses at night, 8 PM or so before most folks drifted to sleep to be a pleasant pause to write my child that I was fine, or tell family about what the day was like in my blog. But, other than that, why even check the weather if you were going to walk regardless of what it said. Why see what the stock markets are if you are dealing with painful night legs and just do not care right then.
So, what are we absorbing as we walk the Camino? I walked by myself, which is to say I did not need to organize with anyone on a day to day basis. But I did have few lovely walking friends for a few days stretch at a time, saving me from sleeping alone at a strange municipal albergue that had sheets no changed — although my Camino friend and I were reassured that we had chosen and spread out on the only two beds in the room with fresh sheets! lol
We become, I think, experts on aspects of the natural world however. We learn to how to judge a distance for example. I recall walking towards the Portugal /Spain border and being on a little rise in the woods near a map selling trips on the river for diversion I think to Camino walkers. I recall seeing the mountains of Spain ahead and know that the border was somewhere there. I then looked where my path might be leading me and how many small towns seemed to be needing to be unfolded between where I was and where I wanted to go. I was not using car measurements, but foot measurements, that is, how many towns might I pass, how many curves, if the walk was uphill or downhill and if the weather ahead was the same as what I was experiencing where I stood. I could smell the shift between pine needles to town, I could feel the wind on that hill on my neck and knew I would feel warming stepping out of the woods. I then descended out of the little shaded and wooded area with a sign proclaiming all the wonders of the river, towards the country border ahead. I began to walk down an extremely steep end of the town road into that place, past houses that rarely have traffic, and walked, and walked into Valenca which only appeared hours later.
So, while the internet and our online presence has deepen our emotional pockets in novel ways, the Camino does the same things by broadening our ability to read a natural and built landscape, not for a stroll, but for a long distance haul on foot. We learn how to contour land in our minds for the impacts on our bodies, to smell and taste the weather to see if we will be safe not just where we stand, but where will be be walking towards. I learned to listen to the sound of rivers while walking in the woods and knew that when the water started to quiet from raging whitewater falls to silent and wide streams that a town would be near. Towns, of course, would be near silent water, but learning that while walking on one’s own seemed deeply important to me. The interplay between nature and the built world I understood on my own terms, but was certainly a lost cultural memory amongst modern people.
Yesterday, while sitting in a some sun in this damp and slow spring part of the USA, I started to have thoughts I was surprised to be thinking. I recalled a memory from my childhood, not anything specific, but rather a memory of being a certain way, a particular and lost to me sense of myself not revisited in my adulthood. I started to really attend to this unfamiliar place I was in. I listened to the birds and bird calls, I watched and listen to a little woodpecker. I paid attention to the sound magnitude of cars on local roads and roads a mile away that I can usually hear since they drive rather fast on the road. I wondered if my cells where reading the amount of O2 that is certainly more than anytime in the past since I was a child. I wondered if the low density of car noise and low air pollution – which is already low in the this area – and even the early spring which most of us dread as a side effect of climate change was pumping out more O2 into the earth than maybe in the past 50 years when since I was 8 years old. While technology triggers new and unfamiliar emotions, certainly this new Covid 19 earth, a little clearer, a little less congested feeling could trigger a memory where the birds sounded clear, the air was cleaner, and the O2 was higher – a memory of sense of self from the our past. It did not remind me of it, I felt it.
I am extremely fortunate I live in a country place for now and I am not being insensitive to those struggling with city life, and Covid, and stark isolation. I am writing this for my Camino friends, and all of whom who have walked hundreds of miles in whatever capacity. I wonder if walking a Camino, or other forms of very long distance walking we can relearn basic human skills, basic to most of us until the past 150 years or so. We have learned to read a place for sound, smell, touch, vision and taste. The urge to return to a Camino after a Camino really is not logical, it is tough, and it is not something I wanted to do again until months after I returned. But, in light of my thoughts here, maybe we want to return to the Camino to retrain our sensory organs that were awakened in a “new” way on the Camino?
That I would be transformed in ways that now, I can connect with my past and reawakened knowledge of who I was before and while I do not understand why that might be important to the grand scale of things, I am sure it is worthy of noting.
I have written here before about the impact of the Camino especially for solo walking women. I have compared the dangers implied and the dangers real, the warnings for women vs men offered by others, and the way we all end up in Santiago anyhow.
But, now I am at home, as are most people in the world, waiting out the Corona virus and wondering if we are to panic or just let it pass, if there are any ways we can do anything smarter than we are already doing. I wondered, just briefly, if it might be better to be on a Camino than just being still and at home. I am reading the news every 20 minutes here, eating well, but more or less stationary. We live near Amish farms here and I have over the past few days just got an urge, almost an instinct to start walking their roads. To get up and pack a few things and walk all day long. I am not entirely sure where that instinct is coming from. Maybe it is some ancient part of my DNA code, that when a virus is rampaging we get on the move and keeping moving until it is gone for good. Or maybe I am just missing my walk which was a year ago – I would have been around Tomar now getting ready to leave, looking around town for my first “start” arrow – that actually took a while and shook my nerves. I visited the Templar Castle, I visited the antiquity of Tomar’s synagogue, and I slept alone in my own room for the last times for my Camino.
Maybe I do not want to actually walk the Camino, maybe my urge to walk is more symbolic, like a return to what I learned on the Camino as a form of reassurance that I am all right, that my family is all right. There has been much mention of hoarding of toilet paper and it really does deserve some analysis (excuse the word). In Freudian theory, anality and over concern about issues related to toileting have to do with concerns about one’s power. Are we all about to “lose our shit” over this virus? Related, I think, are the increases in gun and ammo buying. Both toilet paper and guns provide us with clues about how we cope with the virus and incumbent anxieties. The Freudian logic goes something like this. At the unconscious level we fear we are going to lose our shit over this virus, go crazy, we are telling others, go ahead, you can eat shit and die, but I will have this paper and you cannot and you will feel crazy. It is more the paper than the excrement for sure. I know how to control my excrement, more anxiety, and I can control you at the same time by hoarding. At the more conscious level, as usual, guns are bought to do exert the same effect – to have power over another and protect your family and your “stuff.”
I am certain however, that I was very smart to push myself to walk my Camino, because my inner life is calm in many ways. As long as we stay away from the virus and healthy, this new kind of Camino does not seem very daunting. My inner Camino is written, and my learning from that knows how little we need to be joyful and content. Yes, we say this all the time as a platitude, that we should have less stuff, that need to connect to people more, and so forth. But all of us who have walked a camino really do know how little one needs to feel excellent and content. A bag on the back, fresh water, snacks, a meal couple of times of day and going to bed early knowing you can do the same routine for another week, month, year.
I am amazed still by the human kindness and even the camino gentle tricksters I met on The Way. But, I am even more amazed that all 300,000 or so who walk the Camino each year have this internal camino to rely on now, to keep them calm and their families content and know that this riding it out is in some small way stabilized by all who have ventured the camino.
I just returned from 6 weeks teaching in a study abroad program in Paris, France. This was my third summer doing so and recently I was asked by Go Global at the USG to open a new country for students to study abroad in and I, of course, said Portugal! So, next year Portugal 🇵🇹 will receive their first study abroad students from the USG.
But, this post is about Paris and how Camino arrows found their way into my consciousness after three summers! Pictured above here is one of the first arrows that made its way into my awareness a few weeks ago. I felt astonished.
I walked my Camino March and April 2019 – so in many respects I am freshly off the Camino. But I had been in Paris 3 weeks already and not noticed them at all. Then, my Camino friend (we walked in a pack together here and there for a few Camino days past Ponte-de-Lima) visited Paris to say hi and work on our Camino focused academic paper we present this Fall at a pilgrimage conference.
We met at the famed tower of Saint Jacques along Rue Rivoli in Paris. This is a picture of me looking up at the tower while waiting for Wilco. For over 500 years Camino walkers met here to journey to Santiago. The park is small but lively and you can get a ticket to climb it but we were just using it in Camino spirit to meet.
Wilco walked from Gare de Nord like his usual Camino self would do. As we were leaving we saw our first Camino scallop shell image! Together we started to make the Camino visible when just before he visited I saw no signs of it in Paris.
Together with my family towing along we ate huge bowls of Ramen at the famed Kodawari and then walked along the Seine and we saw our first, second and several more arrows. What a moment to follow the Camino along the river – that seemed impossible to me. Slowly I started to feel that that Camino was making itself visible, as if something had happened to earn the ability to see the arrows. The Camino tunnel to Santiago is somehow etched into Paris and exists as its own ancient path embedded in the Parisian grid-work.
Days later while accompanying students I again not only saw yellow arrows but also blue pointing to Fatima!
After teaching the students that we had unwittingly entered the Camino they loved looking for the next one and we ended up walking a 6 or so arrow mini Camino.
I think what struck me most was that amongst the packed streets around the Opera Garnier lay this idea of another time, of a simple but challenging offer to continue to Santiago written in the simplest of codes.
Right before we left Paris I offered my friend and colleague KK a mini Camino. He told me three years ago that the Institute where we hold our classes is on Rue Saint Jacques, an ancient roman road connected to the camino. While he was super excited about that, I have to admit that I only found that to make sense to me post Camino. But after seeing some arrows I thought he might like walking from where he has worked study abroad for 9 years and see if the area might have signs of the Camino on it. I offered him as part of this gift walk a tiny shell that I carried me entire camino. I just had a Camino feel about myself and took the chance it would work out. Just as we walked past the institute about 5 blocks, he shouted out that he spotted an arrow across the street! We were so excited!! And a little amazed – it had been there all along.
You can see him just taking the moment in. The arrows lead us to Luxembourg Gardens but once we arrived near the sailboat pond they disappeared. I had read the day before that nearby was a church with a red door that was the true start of ancient Paris Camino and I used my GPS to walk to it — it was very nearby. When we got to the red door we saw that it was open and — maybe it just felt Camino-like if that makes sense – that at this moment, for this gift for him, it would be open.
I lead us in and he walked to some Camino signage in the church on the walls. Some of the signage – it was all in French – KK who reads French fluently said that the templar knights had opened the church as a part of the camino. Since it was opened in 1100 or so the date makes sense – but Italian monks are also cited as part of the building. Next time in Paris I will take pictures of the info panels.
I saw a little office door open past some large doors and thought I might as well go past those carved wooden doors and see if anyone was there. Ahead a bit sat a man at a very simple desk in a tiny room and he did not look up for a few moments. He seemed to be fiddling with what looked oddly like the wires of an old ham radio on an old wooden desk. I spoke French to him and asked him if he had a stamp. He said yes, but he did not have any pilgrim passports. I asked him if he would please permit my friend to have a stamp on a made- up one for his first Camino — even though it was a small start.
I called for KK who came across the church to the office and I asked the man again and he just stared and contemplated the request. After a few seconds he smiled and said yes and he took my friend’s lined notebook and made a makeshift passport drawing little boxes, it was a warm and friendly gesture. He then took the stamp out of the wooden desk and stamped and dated it and shook our hands and let us look around for a few minutes until he said he had to lock up.
So, this is where you go to get your first stamp in Paris if you start a Camino there. I hope my friend and colleague KK continues on this Camino some day from this very exact spot.
I also went to an office in the Saint Sulpice cathedral and they also give out passport stamps there.
About 5K before O Porrino on the Portuguese Camino you will come across two official camino pillars. They are side by side and both very official. One points left to a path that leads slightly downhill, and another leads straight slightly uphill which appears to be a town. You will approach it and just try and figure out which way to go. Here are your two fates. If you take a left and walk slightly downhill you will enter the forest and a river path that you can follow – it will be in the same spirit as the beautiful paths with roman bridges that you followed earlier in the day. If you walk straight and slightly uphill thinking that option will lead to more nature, you are wrong apparently! I was informed at my albergue-mate that evening, that that way leads into town and to a 5K “concrete and road walking in an industrial area” trek — and he did not seem happy about it. If you need provisions, then you might go into town and then backtrack to the trail that leads into the forest and river.
I think these double official camino markers are there due to the tensions that can arise between town and camino path makers – I am sure bypassing camino walkers off the town path is not supporting their businesses and they found a way to perhaps compromise with the creation of two pillars and two arrows. I am not sure why he choose that path, but maybe he was not using a guidebook or maybe he just needed some coffee and walked that way not knowing how industrial his path would become. The book I was using, the village to village by Landis, Harms and Dintaman guide did have a little information that there were two paths that they noted on their elevation map, but I did not see anything in that book clearly explaining the consequences.
I must make a short statement about the various guide books. The orange one many European camino walkers used was followed very strictly from my observations – even to the extent of pushing stages past many people’s comfort levels. At the end of my camino in Santiago at dinner with some lovely young women from Germany, they noted that their orange book was borrowed from a friend and that on the page with instructions for walking from Porto to Vila do Condo there was a sad frowny face next to that page. They said after they walked that long stage they felt they understood that emoji exactly.
When I met the author of the orange book at the campground in LaBruge (as I talk about in my blog) he seemed really interested in my village to village book and asked to see it. He immediately remarked about how lightweight it was and he seemed impressed by that, but I was not able to engage with him much about his own book, and frankly the women who I walked with in the late, dark, night along the beach the night before was in fact late because she followed his book to the exactly details of even eating a fish he recommended along the way (she did say it was a very delicious fish). Many people find the orange book their perfect companion – it is however only printed in the German language.
My village to village book I can recommend for anyone who wants just the minimal path information, some elevations maps, and some recommendations for places to stay. I did think to myself a few times that maybe the guides of my book had not walked a section, for example, at the start of one day the map clearly points out more risky road crossings and narrow paths, but later in the day there were even more and worse issues to contend with with no mention of those at all. I am 80% sure I was just tired and grumpy, but I was also pretty sure there were earlier mentions and not later in the day mentions for safety lookouts. Once, I was walking with E. early on and she noticed her book (I am not sure what book she used) had some places to stay that in fact were closed down already for a full year. Therefore, the forum list of current albergues is much more useful in my mind that a printed book, but mine did work for a night to stay most nights. But, I just “followed the arrows” and always ended up where I ended up – and that worked fine for me.
A very kindly pilgrim took this and posted it on the Ivar Forum and said I could use it! Obrigada kind pilgrim :))
Jekyll Island 🌴 Georgia
Post Camino life is hard to fully comprehend – It is easy to return because you have a place to return to, a home, friends, family, my Ukulele bandmates! But you can still see the Camino, the walking path on Jekyll with its familiar looking packed dirt trail, a yellow arrow spray painted on the asphalt at a construction site, or the sight of a backpack on someone walking in front of you. But perhaps as the weeks go on other kinds of reminders of the Camino have presented themselves in eye opening and unexpected ways. Paperwork for my job, travel forms we use, I noticed have check boxes asking if you used a rental car, personal car, or flew on an air carrier. Nowhere are boxes to tick off you walked once you left an airport. Per-diems likewise no longer make sense if one walks long distances. What city would be used to choose a per-diem rate? How far must I walk before I am considered in another town that is on the official per diem calculation table?
But, certainly a walker and traveller is real, afterall a Camino permits walking vast distances with albergue pilgrim hostels, yet walking has been edited out of current history. I did not receive or even think of asking for a receipt for an albergue stay and I certainly never saw anyone ask for one. But one sleeps and eats just like the car driver or the person who flew from place to place. Yet walking from town to town or place to place long distance has all but faded from our collective memories — especially in the United States. No check boxes on forms, no way to calculate or standardize the experience in any way to document one used the earliest form of human transportation. So walking becomes a form of disruption. A rupture from the norm a return to an earlier time, perhaps one that seems backwards and maybe unimportant, at least unimportant enough to be edited out of a modernized world.
Walking offers a kind of time travel where one can witness surroundings afresh through the slowness of walking place to place.
Paul Virilio a French theorist, in his book Grey Ecology, explains how technology and speed and accompanying velocity has become akin to a spinning color wheel where all hues will merge into grey. Speed creates a kind of vision blending that can work at a metaphorical level. It is interesting to note how many dystopian films use muted tones merged with high technology such as high tech transportation and space ships and so forth. Velocity triggers grey and grey triggers fears of impending annihilation, anxiety, depression, and fear.
But, long distance walking, for me at least, awoke a world of sensory color. My first day walking I had the impression that my vision was primary, what was ahead, how does the traffic move on these smaller streets? Also, walking all day permits a kind of visual saturation impossible in faster modes of transportation. The orange trees ahead you might look at for 20 minutes until every hue grows deeper more rich as you continue slowly moving towards it. A day or so later I noticed how my sense of smell had become more distinctive, and there were so many complex layers of scents, floral, dust from the path, pine, decaying leaves, fresh sprouting greens out of the soil, fragrances of grass and whatever the wind carried. Next, a day or two later I recall telling a walking companion that I could hear again, hear wind, birds, a tree humming with bees, running water, and distant church bells. After a week or so my sensory system coordinated and worked in synchrony in a way that both enriched and altered the way I experienced both the natural world, but even small towns – like I was digesting these experiences in deeply aware ways and this enabled me to guide myself through each segment of the Camino in a holistic and integrated experience. No one sensory system dominated, but rather each place I was in was presented to me as a kind of symphony where no one sense/instrument outplayed another.
Non velocity returns to us a more basic and yet greater saturated world and it is important to reflect, I think, on how the loss of impactful “color” may be affecting us all.
One of my favorite books about walking is by filmmaker Werner Herzog. In the mid 1970’s he is made aware that his friend and film mentor Lottie Eisner is in a hospital in Paris and that perhaps she is close to death. He, rather spontaneously, sets out to walk from Munich to Paris thinking if he did that she would not die. Much of his walk is in sleet and snow and he resorts once or twice to breaking into abandoned buildings to shelter himself for the night. He wrote about road side trash, dead animals, birds in trees he felt mocked him, the miserable state of his feet, and the way his boots start to break down. Yet he begins, I think, a similar sensory blend into his environment making him feel more alive and merged with the world around him. He does make the walk to Paris and when he gets there and enters Lottie’s room she is healed and much recovered. Herzog is almost too overcome by his walk to admit he got there by foot and feels embarrassed to tell her. In a world of grey ecology, even then, he is unsure of how to make sense of what he has done. There is no checkbox to validate his experience, no way to explain to her what he did without looking foolish.
I will work on creating a front page here with easier clicks – but for now you can use this to scroll down and find what interests you!
Image from Coimbra
Here are three graphs from the https://americanpilgrims.org/statistics/ website.
My point here is you can choose how alone you want to feel (assuming you are a women and wish to walk alone, but also can pertain to anyone wanting to walk alone) . The first graph shows that men and women receive the Compostela more or less equally. When you are interviewed at the Pilgrim’s office in Santiago you have to go up to the interviewer by yourself, not as a group nor as a couple. The numbers in the first graph are equal for men and women, but do not reflect if a women walked alone, that might be impossible to tell. Most notable is the steep climb upwards year by year by both men and women completing Caminos.
The graph below, and I will just use year 2017 as an example, reports that 84,052 Compostelas were given to ages 0 – 29, 164,610 were awarded to people aged 30 – 60, and 52,344 to those over the age of 60 for a total of 301,006. That, by any means is an incredible amount of commitment at any age and gender. You have to recall, one can join the Camino, any of the numerous Caminos, such as French, Norte, Portuguese, Igles, Primitivo, etc 100 K out to qualify for the Compestela. The Camino can be interpreted as YOU like. Fly into Pamplona and watch the bulls run in July and then walk from there, or take a bus from there to Sarria, 100 K out, and walk in. Or skip the Compestela and just enjoy a taste of the Camino, walking a segment to see if you like it.
Finally, by starting in May, June, or July, you have the biggest concentration of people on the Camino, you will certainly be surrounded by many people on the Camino, and certainly have many people at Albergues, in town, or just around to speak with in the evenings.
In my opinion, unless you firmly want a highly comfortable and cushy evening bed (Booking.com makes that easy btw) I would highly encourage you to try an Albergue, private or municipal and see what it feels like to be a Pilgrim surrounded by other Pilgrims. It is a very intense and sometimes moving experience. There are tour groups really picking up on interest in the Camino, with meals provided, luggage transfers, and many starred accommodations. They seem outlandishly expensive to me. But, they may appeal to some who just want things done for them so they can walk and not worry.
Today, I mentioned to a woman I walked a Camino, she was not familiar. She predictably asked me if I went alone, and I said yes, and she asked if I went in the woods and towns and everywhere alone. I told her I had some company along the way but that yes, I went alone for large parts. She seemed frightened by the thought, so my mission here is still needed I think.
“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’
I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”
Here are a few blogs from adventurous women bloggers you might like to look over.
The first blog I recommend is by Kat, Following the Arrows is really good, I read her a year or more before I went on my Camino and she is straightforward and a great writer, I think you would feel inspired. I am reading her 88 Temple Pilgrimage she did in Japan now and it is so good and the walk is so long, 1200K. Since I have done a Camino I can really resonate with her, especially her wishes that maybe she could accidently lose her pack somewhere and not having to carry it, or that the days are too long and here is good enough for tonight, and that she walks alone, but she also walks with others she meets which is part of the adventure! She is also an uber walker, and gets the K’s done for sure.
Magwood’s blog is also really good, comprehensive, and she is a character and closer to my age which inspired me to walk. I also read her more than a year before I set out. You can read about her many very long walks here, and you see a bit about what her magical little town is like in her Andalucian mountain village. Her blog is called Trepidatious Traveler and I think you will enjoy the way she talks about her experiences, sometimes solo, and sometimes with a friendly pack of her Camino friends. I like how she often walks solo, meets others, and then maybe says goodbye and moves on from them. She is a great role model for middle aged women and I think gives USA eyes a view from abroad that one can compare and contrast from my blog even. 🙂
And, I have recently run across these two blogs and they are looking really good, I will place them here for you to check out if you are interested.
and her blogging friend – not in English, but really well done blog with great pictures.
The Stingy Nomads walk as a couple around the world and their website is very professional and has lots of suggestions and information.
This partner duo also post exacting images that are really helpful for more visual learners – I can highly recommend them and Ellie is reflective and inspirational I think for all, but also for women who walk with men – you can read and see for yourself!
I also suggest these tips for any solo walkers:
- Register with the state department, so the embassies know you are out there and have your emergency contact information.
2. Be sure that your USA passport has enough time on it, you should have a 90 or more days to spare before your passport expires before you leave the country. They can and will turn you back on the other side of the Atlantic if you do not have 90 full days remaining on your passport.
3. I suggest giving yourself two or three nights before you set out to get a little acclimated. I spent one night Lisbon and two nights Tomar and I think that was well used and I felt relaxed and happy to set out on my own.
4. Do not google about deaths on the Camino or violence against people unless you can do that and still feel ok. Very few violent episodes are recorded each year on the Camino. Keep it balanced if you google, like, do you know how many people a year die at USA National Parks each year (about 350, one per day). Most people in the USA have little awareness how dangerous it is to live in the United States compared to the Camino countries. You can use this website here, you will see that Portugal is the 4th (Spain the 30th) most peaceful country on the Planet – do you have any idea where the USA is on the list? You might find this interesting, and it is helpful to shed light on why so many people are fearful of the Camino, based on what we know here as our vector.
Or, check out world homicide rates, I think this list helps you to think about “tone” of a place as well as actual data based on statistics. The page reminds us that with good ER hospitals the number of homicides may not reflect attempts. Cheerful thought. But again Portugal in particular has just about lost all interest in killing each other. Spain also has very low numbers – and if there is a hike in Iceland you like by all means go – they kill no body, basically ever.
I will sum it up here, people might steal your stuff in an albergue, I did not experience that, but I was told by someone personally that they had 300.00 Euro stolen one Camino at an albergue. She told me she just figured a Pilgrim just really needed it, but she carries low cash now. I would guess this is not very common, but it has happened. You are around many people, so only keep 100 or so on you and spend it down to your last 20 or so before you get more. First, call and alert your bank you will be out of the country, and they will not freeze you out when you try to use your own card! The ATM’s work just like home, put in card, put in pin, agree to exchange rate they are giving you, take euros out. I put my money bag inside my sleeping bag with me if I was super sleepy and had a lot of cash. Just buy 100 Euros at the airport before you go, the exchange rate will be a bit high, but it feels good to have that cash on arrival. An American solo woman lost her life a few years ago on the Frances, a man changed the arrows to go to his house and he confessed and was sentenced. Many death stories are about men dying right after the Camino, even right in Santiago or on the way to the airport after. It is a rigorous challenge – so, my advice to everyone is to take it easy, find your pace and protect it firmly.
You have to, in my mind use common sense, how many people are on the camino and how many people have that level of violence. Use the “wise pilgrim” app if you like, that will show you if you are actually on the Camino if things feel weird to you – keep yourself safe and smart as you can be.
5. If you start at 630 AM you will be ahead of the EU crowd that usually starts out around 8 AM. So, if you are traveling at a crowded time, summer, then you just wait for people before you enter the woods etc, they will come along and you can join them for that segment until you feel ready to be by yourself again. Pilgrims help pilgrims, that is the code. Or, call a taxi and move down the Camino more.
6. Learn Krav Maga
I hope all of this has you smiling and feeling more confident about walking a camino with or without friends – but, you WILL make friends if you want —- I promise.
Even after my tough days, she told me I was “very cool” and remained my support ego throughout – she never doubted me, she was humorous, and reminded me the night before Santiago that even if I did not make it – I was still awesome and that I still did an incredible thing. ❤️ She is brave, confident, and a feminist in the best ways possible, she is always there to not judge me, but to show understanding, she is a remarkable person.
At times, the Camino reminded me of parenting a little child, it required my full attention, and so forth. But that it also reflects the joys of it all, and that nothing else could compare or really compete with the relationship.
And have I also been reborn in way? And you do change of course with a Camino, how do I know exactly how much or in exactly what ways? Do I feel differently about myself? I think I do. I feel much more confident in my body, that it can do what it did for me. I feel more calm, because you know that that hill will in fact end, or that town will eventually be there, so there usually is little to really worry about. Somehow, more healthy boundaries have emerged, that is hard to articulate, but that is there. And I am feeling a new expertise, a new field of study and contemplation. Now, I planned on that, but I am a but caught off guard by that also. The knowledge is more than cognitive, one’s usual approach to an academic idea or place. But, this new place for me, my new way of thinking, at least about walking, and nature, mingling with people in another land in their yards, front doors, streets, farms, and so forth, involves a integrated and holistic fresh newness and invites new thoughts and forms of imagination and ideas.
“It’s important that we leave each other and the comfort of it, and circle away, even though it’s hard sometimes, so that we can come back and swap information about what we’ve learnt even if what we do changes us and”
Notes on my Equipment – The Lighter the Better – Women and Men!
The lighter the better – no doubts about it. There is data from the Pacific Crest Trail that showed a direct correlation between finishing the PCT and the weight of pack. Only the people with the lightest packs usually made it the whole way.
My Gregory Jade 38 pack performed brilliantly, I never had one sore neck, back, or shoulder moment – not once!
My Ahnu boots 🥾 were rated always in the top few hiking boots for women I did not feel were up to the Camino. The average person takes 2000 steps to the mile, I walked 230 miles, ergo I took (just on Camino and I walked more of course) 460,000 steps. Of those steps probably half were on cobbles, Old Roman roads, tree roots, gravel and so forth. My soles took punishment for most of that, the soles were not rugged enough for what I was doing and obviously boots only have one Camino in them – but highly ranked or not – they were not up to it. So, for a quarter of a million steps I felt discomfort or pain to some degree. My next boots will still have ankle height but will have twice as thick soles and probably cost twice as much which is obviously worth it. There is no easy answer since the Camino is walking long distance, with some backpacking weight added, and some rough surface walking.
My walking poles were needed way more than I anticipated. My set only cost 20 dollars and performed perfectly – more lightweight ones cost more and might be worth it, but I needed them every second. Google how to use them by the way, it is not how you think! You do not hold the grips very much in other words, but it is how you let the straps hold your weight on your wrists and take pressure off joints. They also help you to set your pace, probe rocks for steadiness, push branches out of the way and so forth – just bring them. As far as taking them on the airplane, I read that TSA does not permit them, so check them separately from your backpack – do you really want to lose your backpack – no, no you do not, so take that on the plane with you. So, just wrap and check your poles. On the way back, I did not want to check anything, so I slid my poles apart and considered seeing if I could break them down enough to look harmless. But, at the last minute, I threw the carbide tips and last segment of the pole into a trash can and took the other parts on the plane which nobody seemed to care about. Next time, I might try and remove the little pointy tips that must be the issue and put them in another part of my pack and see if I can just reconstruct them when I get there. I will see what I decide, you do get a little attached to them after a long Camino.
I bought a cheap, 5 dollar on sale cell phone charger, that was supposed to charge just one time and is the size of a little pack of mints. But, it did not work, it would not charge my phone, it was too weak. So, next time, I will bring an Anker 3 days phone charger and not mess around with charging. I did not find there was competition to charge my phone, there seemed to be plenty of places and if in a pinch, you can ask a wait staff person to plug your phone in while you are eating. I saw someone do that once and they just said sure. Speaking of phones, while I do not love paying 10 dollars a day to Verizon for my unlimited plan (data, texting, and phone calls) I would always do this. It is not so much for safety, I felt safe and you will not always have a signal. But, if it gets dark and you need a taxi or a ride from an albergue (who might be able to collect you, no promises here but they can at least get you a taxi) – you want it. If you want to chat with your child or family member, you can, you just call and they can call you and it does not cost them anything extra. I used my phone to call ahead one Sunday along the coast because it occurred to me that all of Portugal seemed to be on the coast that day – and I got a reservation at an inexpensive hotel and could relax while I walked. Just do it, you will not be sorry,
I brought one pair of Columbia hiking pants with pockets and should have brought two which I would next time. My other pants I used to sleep I thought I would hike in but did not and they made a crinkle sound which was crazy sounding g at night lol. Next time two Columbia pants and I will splurge for a Hanro wool/silk long sleeved top and bottom to sleep in warm and clean each night – just do not google what they cost, haha.
Smartwool socks 🧦 yes! And one pair of thin women’s dress socks
I loved having polarized sunglasses, kept me safe and my vision sharp and eyes safe.
I brought a bright red waterproof bag that closed with Velcro and then snapped. It held passport, extra euros, my Pilgrim credential stamp book, and anything I just wanted to know where it was, because color coding is the way to go for an organized mind. I tucked that inside the top inner flap – and I never had to worry if it rained my documents would get wet.
My Portuguese scarf 🧣 I threw in last minute before I left served my so well! It dressed me up to go out in the evenings, it was helpful to give me privacy in bunk bed settings, and as you saw permitted me to elevate my legs as a sling at night! Hooray!
Two walking shirts – one short sleeved and one long sleeved. Next time both with be bright colors, I think bike wear is bright and probably a good choice.
I wore a crazy French bought bra lol and it did fine. Just wear what you usually wear, do you really want to lift a sports bra over your head over and over?
My fleece was bulky and annoying but I needed it (even though I left it behind in O Porriño), next time I will have a very firm fitting fleece, maybe a splurge for a wool one.
My puffer vest was essential to maintain core warmth – you can get in trouble I think without one. Plus, it is a nice pillow.
My silly looking puffer hood was awesome, probably prevented early stages of hypothermia in the boat ride and also was an excellent warmer in low or no heat albergues. Plus, it was black and made a good black out hood for sleeping – everyone is way too exhausted to look at you anyhow. Trust me haha.
I brought about 10 large (not huge) sized safety pins and they helped keep my laundry on lines in big winds or all the clothing pins had been used. Also you can hang socks off your pack to dry as you walk.
My super lightweight lime green sleeping bag was perfection. Sleeping mask is not optional in some situations, I used mine most nights. Earplugs, I had a little bag of them and shared them if someone wanted some.
I wish I had brought more of my elegant smelling Italian shampoo for mood lifting
I highly recommend taking a “foot repair kit” with Compeeds or mole skin and some antibiotic cream, anti-chaffing cream (if you get rain soaked, your pants, ouch) maybe an “ace” bandage or duck tape in case you roll an ankle. I got around TSA problems by squirting into a little zip lock bag creams and ointments – so, no bottles or tubes. Now, I might write on them what they are, because to be honest, it looks like you might have taken something from a fertility clinic if you get my drift. You can buy more there, but, have some with you in your pack, because you will probably not be near a Farmacia when you discover your problem.
Quip toothbrush worked excellently and the plastic version is brilliantly light.
Safety equipment I brought were Lifestraw (I nearly needed it a few times when my water was low but I found a good source before I used it) my emergency 🚨 blanket and my headlamp I did not use but I would take again for sure. I did wear the yellow safety vest more than once when I had to deal with some road side walking and I was tired and annoyed and wanted some space – it works.
My selfie stick I did not use enough to justify taking again, but when I used it it was fun.
I was super happy with my Laundress laundry bar for hand washing – it was small, got out all smells, and just amazing help to get stuff clean every late afternoon to dry over night.
My water bottle I brought was useless lol. You cannot reach it in my pack and I had it in my pocket a lot of the time which was awkward. So, I will 💯 have a camelback water pouch in my pack for next time – this was my biggest aggravation next to my boots.
My sun protection equipment was perfect – my lime green compression sleeves, sun hat with back flap to protect against the sun and SPF 50 rated with “sexy” chin strap lol was brilliant and made for a no fuss windy walking day. My umbrella was spf rated too and ultra light but I used it for rain and I was really happy with it. I used SPF rated lightweight gloves 🧤 to keep sun off backs of my hands exposed using walking sticks. I bought sunscreen in Portugal, it is expensive but has less harmful chemicals then USA.
The lime green waterproof leg gaiters were very important. Made for good visibility, kept pants clean, absorbed twigs and thorns on narrow paths – I really appreciated them.
My friend Amy 😍 lent me her Gore-Tex rain coat – it was my life or death barrier. In the future, I would buy one for myself that is ultralight and a bright color- it is worth the money. If anyone reading this wants to invent this I encourage you. I called this phenomenon “pocket confusion” I was always confused which pocket had phone or money or Kleenex etc – so, please invent color coded zippers on these jackets – spare our sanity!!
Something I did not bring but bought there, but should have brought – hairbrush! I just thought I would pick one up there, but, really, I had to use a farmacia to buy one. The pharmacist, yes, I had to ask a pharmacist for one, said he only had one and it was made out of a special kind of Portuguese wood and was 14 Euro. When I look dejected, he said “ok, special Pilgrim price of 10” and I bought it. 🙂
Do not judge lol, but I threw my “shower shoes” away in Tomar – they were the little pull on beach type because they were too heavy. I only had boots with me, that is kind of funny maybe haha. But, next time I will have one other kind of footwear – but I am telling you – it has to be ultra ultra light! Like lighter than flip flops -so if you know anything … and no, my feet did not get diseased (thankfully).
Some days my pack felt super heavy, some days crazy light, some days it switched hourly 😅 but I feel good I carried my own pack for every 460,000 steps.
Last night I officially counted my miles walked. These are not road miles, but camino miles, if that makes sense? I travelled more of course, recall my train and boat ride, but in real miles walked it was 230 miles or 370 K.
Such a lovely little quote from Canterbury Tales – just makes me smile!
“High on a stag the Goddess held her seat,
And there were little hounds about her feet;
Below her feet there was a sickle moon,
Waxing it seemed, but would be waning soon.
Her statue bore a mantle of bright green,
Her hand a bow with arrows cased and keen;
Her eyes were lowered, gazing as she rode
Down to where Pluto has his dark abode.”
These giant feet – an ode to feet- are outside the back entrance to the Cathedral. When I was walking with E. early on, I noticed at the end of each day she would sit down, take off her boots and thank her feet each evening for taking care of her that day. It is of course vital that feet stay healthy. I can vouch for the method of wearing a cheap pair of woman’s dress socks under your woolen ones as a way to protect against blisters. The idea is to not have any contact points between your foot and your boot, and the dress sock was used as the outer skin of your foot in a way and absorbed the blister causing friction. I did not have one blister which I think fellow hikers would say is rare. I did prevent them in other ways like inspecting my bare feet twice a day to see if anything was going on that I could not feel. That is when I caught, as you may recall, a small corner of one of my toenails getting red and swollen and I was able to take care of that quickly. I used Compeed “plaster” to cover one small area that I could tell wanted to blister near my heel and instep – a place my boot was pressuring I think. Compeeds are maybe not common in the USA 🇺🇸? I am not sure. But, they are more like waxy slabs that really stick well and create a kind of fleshy barrier – like extra skin melted into your skin. By using those I was able to grow a callous under the Compeed and after a week I did not use any other kinds of bandaids since I conditioned my foot in that manner.
A picture I somehow took FaceTiming with my dad and mom from Santiago square lol
Haha – that was a charismatic bird
More Hogwart’s students 🥰 at the Museum of the Camino in Santiago
This stone and flower image is from Padrón. At one point H. disappeared up it and I was not sure why are where she was. We were both at that point rather out of step with each other, maybe just more focused on ourselves with the goal at hand. After ten minutes or so I thought “maybe she is a kind of a purple fairy and flew off” — walking for weeks makes even the ridiculous plausible — even if just for a few moments. About ten minutes after that thought, she came back and I found her on the sidewalk in front of those steps. All she said to me was that she “made a mistake” and then she drank that 10:30 AM big Vermouth. I have to just say at this point that the Camino, due to its rigor and how one sleeps and how one eats, that it can effect different people in numerous ways. It tests your sanity, it tests your resolve and ability to mix and mingle in a foreign country for weeks, and it lays bare your weaknesses for you to deal with – on the spot and in intense ways. Think back to my day one being lost when I had to reverse and go back through the mystically scary vicious and chained dogs. That, for me, was digging deep, not quitting, correcting a mistake I made and not mentally cracking.
Finally, taken near back door (entrance used) of Cathedral
As you may recall, I was going to buy myself a new Uke from Braga Portugal after my Camino – as a kind of accomplishment gift. But, while in Porto I changed my mind and decided that I did not want another one – I already had one and spending money on a new one did not make sense to me anymore. But I still seemed to want to head to the string store. When there I realized that the best instruments indeed were not the Ukes but rather the grandmother of the Uke – the Cavaquinho. Similar in size but metal strings and tuning – it is a genuine voice of Portugal.
Tico, who owned the store said it could be tuned like a Uke and he tuned one and we played it — and it is magic sounding! The perfect reflection in sound of my Camino – Portuguese, unique, beautiful and challenging.
In Santiago there is a Museum of the Camino which is actually quite good. One section was about the role of music on the Camino.
Here is some signage
Now, when I play in my Uke band with the Cavaquinho it will incorporate the sound of my Camino 🤩, part of the soundscape of the landscape I walked in.
As a little postscript – I will tell you two musically related stories. First, while at the Porto string store, Tico suggested that I buy a CD by famed Portuguese cavaquinho artist Julio Pereira.
This is the cover image of his CD. Tico said it had the history of the instrument as part of the CD, but, I said no, mostly because I had just made a purchase, but I did think it was a good way to learn.
Later that week, I was at the Lisboa airport at my gate (and yes I was supposed to fly out of Porto, but that story is so long and tiring still I am not sure I will ever even relate it here) but, I saw a man carrying two cavaquinho cases and I wanted very much to show him that I was carrying a cavaquinho also, but he just seemed a tad bit unapproachable, and I was recovering from the relocating of myself late at night from Porto to Lisboa. But, later, when I got back, I googled history of cavaquinho and his image came up and I realized that man at the airport had in fact been Julio Pereira, the same musician that I was recommended to buy his CD. I related this to Tico in an email and he said “well, you should have said hi, he is a really nice guy.” lol
You can hear him play the magical little cavaquinho here
Second, story 🙂
Along the path, I encountered a father and son from Ireland walking together, maybe the dad was in his 60’s and the son in his 30’s. The dad asked me where I was from, and I told him that I was born in Boston and he began to sing a song, and he walked with us and sang the entire song. Here is a video with the song he sang for me.
I was born and raised in Boston
A place you all know well
Brought up by honest parents
The truth to you l’ll tell
Brought up by honest parents
And raised most tenderly
‘Til I became a sporting lad
At the age of twenty three
My character was taken
And I was sent to jail
My friends they came and tried in vain
To get me out on bail
The jury found me guilty
The clerk he wrote it down
The Judge he passed the sentence
I was bound for Charlestown
They placed me on an East bound train
One cold December day
And every station we passed through
You could hear the people say
There goes the Boston Burglar
In cold chains he is bound
For one crime or another
He is bound for Charlestown
All you who have your freedom
Take a warning if you can
And don’t go round the streets at night
Breaking laws of God and man
For if you do you’ll surely rue
And find yourself like me
Serving up for twenty years in a penitentiary
After that, while walking along up in the woods, up a hill, around a bend, there was a little congregation of people, a funny lot. A husband and wife couple with big packs with him carrying what looked like a bag full of groceries from Target or something, you can imagine. It was strenuous in there so that seemed fun and funny and they laughed too when I remarked on their plastic grocery bag. Also around that time there appeared, very Grims’ fairytale like, a women in old time Pilgrim clothes with a little pop up tent selling hot tea, cold cokes, cookies, and other assorted snacks. There were two tables there and a little crowd gathered, the father and son from Ireland, a group of four Irish women, a couple that seemed from somewhere in Europe, and a few others gathered to buy a few treats. At that point, of course being song minded already, the Irish dad and I sang a few lines from the famed pub song “Wild Rover” making the Irish women laugh out loud.
Once you are done absorbing the square and absorbing your accomplishment there are two choices as part of the arrival – one is to walk down the street to the Pilgrim’s office to stand in line with the other fresh off a Camino walkers – all with their bags and walking sticks etc – pretty interesting collection of long distance walkers. Or you can go into the back of the Cathedral and find in the center of it the statue – or really to back of the head and upper torso of St James. You walk up deeply rutted red marble stairs and take your turn hugging or touching him. Then you walk down the other side and take another narrow corridor to when there is a gold box with I am guessing some of his remains inside.
The Cathedral was under renovation but it was busy with Pilgrims and other visitors. I lit a candle there too.
And took a few pictures
The next day I went to the Pilgrims Mass to see what that was like and it was interesting – they hold a Pilgrims mass every day at noon. At one point a very old man walking half steps walked past me with a hiking pole. I later learned he had walked the Frances Camino and was 93 years old!
Again, this is another way to stay in the Pilgrim tradition.
After H. went her own way to take a bus to Finesterra (end of the world in pagan days) I went back to the square to experience it on my own for a while. My mother FaceTimed called me and they watched with me for a while. And then suddenly, in walked the family with the toddler and young boy! I was so surprised, they had just walked into the square and walked up by me. With my parents on the phone still I hugged them and then offered to take their picture.
She latter sent me the image as it looked on her FB page – how cool is that!
Thanks jk Rowling for living in Porto once upon a time, dreaming of a small boy under a staircase and spending time to absorb this beautiful and inspiring city that, at least in part, provided imagery for your equally beautiful and inspiring Howarts series of books. ❤
I was in wrong line of course ! Used to walk right in – the owner is a genius!!
And finally inside
Your view is uncrowded lol
Imagine JK sitting here years ago in a sleepy bookstore in Porto just imagining
Luiz and Ana and Ana’s mom drove me to the bar/cafe where my fleece was stashed and I popped in and it was there, they all knew and collected it right away for me. And! All items were in pockets still – including a gift Beryl gave me for my Camino. My sweet Portuguese friends / pick-up team drove two hours north of Porto to Santiago to collect me. I did not tell them, but I got car sick on the ride home, not the whole time, just the last hour. I never get car sick, but after walking for a month, the velocity of a car was almost upsetting. By the time we got to their house, I was ok and super hungry and ate what Ana’s mom prepared for me, my favorite food. Then I slept until past noon the next day, and these wonderful people brought me out to eat where we had scrumptious Portuguese foods, and even a live song sung on guitar by one of the talented woman who worsk there. Sweet Portuguese family thank you!!
Obrigada does not really cover it – but 😍😍😍
I can see how you could just stay in Santiago for a week – walking back into the square to see new arrivals, knowing how they feel to some extent and being a part of such a long tradition – it’s your end point and it is not easy to leave.
Remember Don? Well, he stayed in Santiago long enough to greet me on my arrival at the Pilgrim’s office. After I checked into the Last Stamp hostel we met and talked a while. That’s the Camino for you! And remember Wilco? Well, sitting in the bar was a couple who was on the Camino and said that Wilco needed my contact information and if they saw me to give me his contact info. AND, they took this photo of me and Don, so, that is a mash up for sure.
I go Porto tomorrow and into a hostel for a few days and I will write more !
You wait for this marker, the under 10 K to go, that is the one moment of celebration I permitted myself. Not long after this photo, just a couple of minutes later was a woman walking alone, I would say she was in her late 60’s or early 70’s. She only spoke French, so I was happy to have some time for me to speak in another language. The common language in Europe between strangers is English, so you hear a lot of English on the Camino and it is rather charming actually, to hear the thoughts of everyone around you in your own language.
That women was not going to Santiago that day, but the next day. She walks while her husband drives their little motor home about and meets her after their planned meeting place along the Camino. She has done several Caminos that way over the years. They were so lovely, and helped to find a little coffee spot and sat with us and showed pictures of their children and we shared a bit about ourselves. It was just a warm and shared Camino spirit meeting. She was going to go to the Pilgrim’s Mass in Santiago the next day and I thought I might try and say hello to them there again.
It is emotional in ways that are still sneaking up on me. I can relate to the signage below in that to achieve this goal, one must suffer some the physical efforts, the shortage of normal beds and foods, and the heartaches that one is still to move on, that there are still vast ways to walk. But this place, formally know as Obradoiro Square, possess it’s own power to permit you to sit or lie down on the old cobblestones and relax and join the collective efforts unfolding minute by minute around you as walkers enter by two’s or small group, or solo walkers. It is this square where you let go of whatever forces you used to propel yourself there and reaffirm that you were able to find your way.
For my initial thoughts the physical effort is tremendous of course, the mechanics of walking and the architecture of one’s joints being a non compromising reality. Entering the square in Santiago Cathedral cannot be experienced alone – it is a spectacle and daily ritual – early arrivals and later arrivals must have occupied 5 to 6 hours daily for 1200 years. Can that human activity of post Camino gathering imbue a place with human spirits, memories, and collective efforts? Can the ground absorb that and after a thousand years change you in any way, exuding something unnamable back to you? I am not sure, but, that place feels different than other places, in ways I do not think humans retain the vocabulary to explain, nor any convenient cultural memory that could be easily passed on over the last 1000 years. To see the entire cathedral front one must lie down or squat since it is so towering above you. So, it is from the ground I think one takes in the moment, sitting or lying back, like looking at drifting clouds in the sky and like reading clouds you see the Cathedral in the way you are meant to see.
You WILL see a Pilgrim in the Cathedral square you know from somewhere along the Camino and you will be amazed and it will feel hard to part – but one of the Camino lessons is the constant stream of motion and that you will part from everyone you see, but there is an insistence on taking a photo together and sending it to them – because you are more than acquaintances.
I think I expected my body to change more, or lose weight, or something remarkable physically but I think bodies do not get a chance to rest and heal and rehydrate enough to go through those normal processes equated with extended physical exertion. (as a post-script, after some days of real rest and healing, I am finding that my body did change more than I initially thought – more muscles and changes – almost like the body waited to do its changes and that I am actually morphing now more than on the trail)! I do have new muscles that propelled me up a hill. My torso seems more fit, but if you cannot rest and sleep where and when you want as in hiking and camping where you set up your tent at will – I think your body just interprets the experience almost neutrally which is a bit surprising to me considering the physical discomfort – my feet hurt everyday and some toes are still a bit numb from some swelling – but I think that is abating today with some non-walking.
I would say if you are a European woman reading this, just forget about the K’s -how old everyone is compared to you – and “where you started”? Stop powering through pain and disability and doing more than you physically should. Your worth is not based on your K’s!
To non Europeans reading this – I saw people of all ages and ranges of motion walking. I saw at least a dozen solo women walking and I saw not one threatening person or felt anyone or anything was going to do me harm – even when walking alone for days in a forest. The people I did see were busy, on tractors, farming, or even sitting in a tree. 🙂 But, you also grow in your confidence after 10 days or so walking, the roads feel like they belong to you, you feel surrounded by the natural world and you feel as if you can defend yourself. It is hard to describe, but that place, wherever you are, is something you would defend with words or other means. You feel confident and strong, you feel as if you are both too tired to deal with interference as well as sure that you can take care of yourself. I am not speaking of a false sense of security, that is not what I mean, what I mean is that you are there for a purpose and a goal, and you feel steadfast to protect that at all means possible to you.
Your fear bubble, the one you are trained on in the USA at least, may be preventing adventure and meeting people you should meet – who will speak your language (for the most part) and be cheerful to see you. You will be physically below average however – so expect that. You will be passed by by others who move faster than you, you will be last to the Albergue, or first if you cut the usual stage in half. 😉
There must be a solemn and terrible aloneness that comes over the child as he takes those first independent steps. All this is lost to memory and we can only reconstruct it through analogies in later life….To the child who takes his first steps and finds himself walking alone, this moment must bring the first sharp sense of the uniqueness and separateness of his body and his person, the discovery of the solitary self.
I think it is sleeting out, but I got wet today and my hands are cold and my core is getting chilled. Just exposure, walking so many hours in the rain in the cold. We pulled into a kind of residential / hotel to get warm and eat. It was a cheerful feeling with local folks at the counters. I noticed on the menu that was on our table that they rented rooms also and I decided at least for myself that I would stay there. It was safe and food was right here and the I was done. I told H. I was not heading to the Albergue but if she wanted to go in to it I would wake up early and meet her there. She had a list with her plan with her so I was not sure she would deviate from it, but she also decided to rest our legs for tomorrow. Santiago ! Hard to believe of course but I still have to walk it in rain – but there are other Pilgrims out there and that is always a good feeling. A little ant 🐜 stream of Pilgrims as everyone else goes along their way.
In fact at dinner tonight at our place were four pilgrims, I would say all in there 60’s sharing a 🍕 pizza. I knew some other Pilgrims would cave and stay here lol. The Albergue is 1.8 K Away but in this sleet it would feel like 10.
That group of women sadly headed upstairs to the unheated rooms E. and I checked out and I just could not bare the thought of staying in it. We were both pretty wet and with no heater in the room and no private bath at 10 E each – I just sprung the extra 20 to put us in a regular room with heater and private bath and less suspect looking bed spreads. I had budgeted at least 4 rest days that I did not use – so why not use the money to bail us out our night before Santiago. Yay
But, I do feel happy that those women are here and ready for their last stage into Santiago also. I hope it is not too freezing and raining too hard. If all goes well, we get into Santiago about 2 PM and stay at the famed “Last Stamp Hostel” – will I see the frisky Irish quad? Will I see the blustering pink Scotsman? Where are Wilco and Thaty? Where is Belgium 🇧🇪 Mark? Did the Aussie pack really walk at all with those little day packs?? Tomorrow might reveal those answers.
In the AM we will drink coffee at the place here at 8 AM and get our sello/stamp and head into the day – I feel happy and excited to know more about what this has all been. I have been in another zone – I stopped reading the news three days in, stopped playing WWF with my father soon after that. I gradually stopped knowing what day it was and so forth until you are only doing one thing – getting up and walking to Santiago. After a while even at the Albergues it is normal to be in a huge bunk bedroom sleeping with strangers- because you live in a culture where you keep walking to Santiago.
“One thing that comes immediately to mind, an easy way and probably an enjoyable one, for so many people would be to keep a blog as one travels. It forces the travelers to evaluate and interpret what’s going on as they record details of it for later use, maybe even for posterity.” William Least-Heat Moon
The boat ride was on an exposed kind of supported raft with ridged pontoons. I was not afraid to go in it, but it was still almost dark at 745 AM and it was really chilly and it seemed pretty adventurous to be climbing into this open raft when it was still dark.
This is when I really started to worry about not having my fleece with me. You are really on your own, because other people needed their gear and looked overall better prepared than me. I just had my long sleeved shirt, with my compression sleeves for some extra warm, my puffer vest and the Gore-Tex. I did have with me my Portuguese scarf and my puffer hood that I had been sleeping in. So, that added warmth around my neck and the hood probably saved me from the early stages of hypothermia. The ride was 90 minutes and started basically out at sea, it was lightly raining and then sleeting some as he sped across the open water. Fog clung to the shore and I was surprised for some reason that we came upon so many fishing kinds of boats, there were suddenly just dozens all around us as we headed towards the Ulla River. You can see here I just happened to be recording and swung my camera around and realized the luck that our boat had been piloted right up to another boat. The Captain asked the people on the fishing boat if we could see one, you can hear him say “solo”, clam. He, as you can see, tried to show us what it looked like and then, and this seemed sweet to me, handed the clam back to the boat fishers.
I am not sure if you can see this or not on the video, but there was a man sitting around two seats away from me towards the bow who had no hat, no gloves, and I think he had shorts on, but I am now not sure about that, maybe pants, thin pants? After this was filmed, I started to realize that I was getting too cold and pulled my sleeping bag out of my backpack and wrapped it around me and that made all the difference. I was a little self conscious, but next to the man with no hat, I had the least amount of warm gear on. Sea sprays dotted my lime green sleeping bag once in a while, but I was at least not getting panicky about the cold. I felt so badly for the man with no hat though – later, much later, like this week, I thought I should have given him my safety blanket, those thin but thermal emergency blankets. But as I write this now I think he could have taken his sleeping bag out and used that for himself, unless he was only using a liner which would have made almost no difference to his situation. At one point the boat Captain stopped in the calm waters of the river that we were now in and gave us all a little muffin to eat and some hot tea in little Dixie cups. The Captain of course pretended that it was just a normal day, he had taken our 20 Euros and was playing it really cool I thought. The cold man asked for several cups of tea which I think we all just pretended not to notice, considering how cold he must have been.
The legend holds that after St James was beheaded in 44 AD in Jerusalem, his friends and fellow disciples went an collected his corpse and secretly brought it back to Galicia where they boarded a boat and went along the Ulla river into Padron. Bringing his bones back into Galicia under the cloak of mist – probably a lot like this.
I am not sure if you have seen Herzog’s film Aguirre, the Wrath of God, but my little film here reminds me of his opening sequence. In the Herzog film it is the arrival of foreigner conquistadors in search of gold in Peru who snaked along in fogged craggy mountain passes. But the mood of this boat trip and that scene from Herzog had a similar, perhaps Jungian feel — moving into the fog along a river is perhaps a Jungian archetype where secrets are carried out, where one moves in ways that will eventually change the entire world.
This picture, while burry captures the feeling of movement in the water, I never felt all those swells in the ocean, but I can see now that they were there.
When we got to Padron there was the arduous adventure of stepping off the now seemingly squishy pontoons onto a dock. Nobody but a few of us (not me lol) had enough strength to do that without lots of laughter and grunting and heaving and hoeing of each other and the pushing and shoving of the Captain with our packs on our backs. The very cold man left extremely quickly and I saw him only at a fantastic distance and I thought he was trying to warm up by walking fast. One thing I learned on the Camino is how much you can regulate your body temperature by walking fast and how cooperative your body is in helping you maintain core temperatures through movement. I once read a story, maybe in Outside Magazine about a reporter who was going to walk across some of Nepal’s mountain passes following some monks. Before he went he bought about 1000.00 dollars worth of REI warmth gear, and when he got there and walked with the monks they only had on robes and shawls and sandals, and they would walk fast and when they stopped they would drink tea to stay warm. Even the literature on the esoteric topic of “wild children” — those raised outside by animals perhaps — are reported to be indifferent to cold suggesting that much of what we feel as cold is psychological in nature.
After we warmed up a bit at a little café – the owner took a picture of us and said she put it on her facebook page, but I did not see that, but I think it is there somewhere. I had some hot toast and butter and a cafe con leche, and H. ordered a big vermouth drink with an orange slice and wanted me to have one too since it was “a specialty of Spain.” She seemed disappointed I would not also have one, but it was 10:30 in the morning, and she sat at the counter and drank the large goblet.
After some not sure where it is moments, we found the church with the ancient stone mooring that was used in the legend to tie the boat carrying his remains. What do you make of this photo I took of it? Is looks alive to me here. I do not have the translation of what was written on the stone, but I recall it was Roman made and I think was about money or maybe even taxes, I will try and find out.
H. threw a euro coin onto the top of it, but I felt uncomfortable with that and slightly confused about why such a holy relic, an ancient Roman one, had money tossed onto it. When I was growing up and living near Plymouth, Mass we used to go and watch people toss coins onto Plymouth Rock. Some kids used to get rakes and rake the money towards them through the little iron bars that protected it until they were shooed away. So, for me, tossing money at something implies it is not very authentic or original, but what can I say, this photo is alive in many ways I think.
After this I had to face the fact that I had to walk a long way already too chilled for the rest of the day. It was freezing rain and wet, and the Camino went along a nasty busy road for a while with challenging roundabouts to cross. But, eventually it went off the busy roads on the usual array of tiny stone hamlets and narrow and pretty roads. And, even though it was cold, and I was tired out by the morning adventure, I trudged on knowing that Santiago was nearly in reach.
“I experienced that sinking feeling you get when you know you have conned yourself into doing something difficult and there’s no going back.”
Just saying – it was NOT 5 K to that albergue — much more like 10. Beware of posters and advertiser’s distances on the Camino – usually what they are advertising is further away than they say because they want you to go there. After one fruitless climb up a steep hill for a “bar 500 meters” that was not there, I never trusted those handmade signs again. Use the legit Camino markers and they have distances left on them, especially in Galacia. Arrows too, those are good also. This picture was taken at the top of a 10 K uphill climb.
Walking and getting to the Monastery was the goal and it was not even on this map, although it was in Armenteira. We transversed the top of the huge hill we had previously climbed and I was grateful there were no thunder clouds because we were so exposed. There were also hoof prints in the sand along some trails up there, and I figured people bring their horses up there for recreation. I did know that you could ride a horse into Santiago and earn the Compestela, but Ana, who had investigated that for her horse in Portugal, told me that it was really hard on the horses and that it took a lot of effort to get all of the stables and rest spots aligned and that not many people did that any more. Signs, like the one pictured above, wear you down some because psychologically you keep anticipating you are getting close at any and every bend in the road. The road itself was a kind of logging road maybe, packed dirt and easy to walk on.
Eventually we picked up the river moving down stream and it became more twiggy and mossy as we walked down hill and eventually we came upon these old “gates” that would lead to the monastery – it made me feel transported into ancient times. I think this video gives you a feel – and for me, the feel I am always waiting for is the feeling that one is finally arriving at the destination.
Before I went to sleep I fretted a bit that night. Earlier in the day, after we stopped for the day at the Monastery, and then subsequently at an albergue, I thought I saw a yellow arrow pointing up the large hill and I was thinking we had another strenuous day ahead of us, but I was wrong. In fact, right off the back of the albergue was a pillar with an arrow pointing downhill! We then entered the most enchanted part of the Camino, perhaps the entire Camino, the path of stone and water- it was so beautiful I could have walked it 100 years and never tired of it. It was a spectacular walk along a gorgeous pristine river with old grist mills lining the walk you can look over, go inside if you dare to trust the floors, and walk past until you see another one.
We inspected several of them and I thought about how they worked with the water flow and how amazing it would have been hundreds of years ago, 50 some gristmills working and people traveling to the river to grind or buy their flours. There was also a kind of mystical feel of the place, I swore some of the bigger rocks looked as if they might spring alive as beasts, gentle beasts.
Daylight sleeping beasts that roamed around at night with pure clean water running fast enough to make little bridal veil falls all around them.
Here I climb over this big rock. 😉
The rest of the walk, after it leveled out, was filled with beauty and ran between the miles of vineyards and the river. After a while, and it already seemed a long day even though we had only gone 12K I was hungry and we both decided we needed a meal with some rest. Again it seemed like a quiet Sunday and I think were caught in the midst of another siesta time and places were closed up. But a man who could speak French with me directed us to a restaurant and we went in. There were little empty plates of eaten tapas and empty beer glasses on the outdoor patio and I wondered if another group of Pilgrims had eaten there; maybe not long before we had gotten there. Inside the restaurant a customer who could speak English helped the waitstaff to translate the choices and we ordered. It was really slow food service, with courses, and dessert. The food was pretty good, and it was not expensive, but it seemed to take hours to be able to leave. That really set the last 12K up to feel incredibly long.
After a couple of hours there was a town and we sat at a bus stop so I could take off my shoes and check my feet and a woman came out and spoke in Galician pointing and gesturing down a little road. I have to say I felt impatient, tired, kind of not polite feeling and just kind of looked at her and nodded. After a minute or so, I suggested to H. that I guess she was telling us a short cut maybe. I was at that point, really the only time I felt serious about this, but I was very close to pulling out my cell and saying to H. that I was just going to walk into town using my GPS. I knew it would not take very long because I saw the center of town in the distance from a rise in the road before we entered this village. The thought of the big loop I saw on her cartoon-like brochure map looked torturous at the time and I was not sure I had it in me. But leaving her like that seemed babyish and I put my boots back on and suggested we just walk where the women had been pointing. She agreed and we walked only about a quarter of a K. and an arrow appeared and that cheered me up considerably for some reason.
After 20 minutes or so more of village walking we sat and had some cokes and pretzels and hung out in the sun that had peeked out. Groups of men sat inside and played cards and drank beers. Amazingly two people that had stayed in the albergue with us the night before appeared looking puffing and worn. So, the women pointing the short cut really had been a short cut, enough to get ahead of those two 20 somethings.
Yet, we had a long way to go and we finally hit the beach and coastline that wrapped us around a peninsula, it was a beautiful place, like a sleeping summer time beach destination. Hotels small and quaint still closed. There were a few women walking dogs who I asked if they knew where the municipal albergue was, and they said “sporting center” but I could not see around the bends of the peninsula and I felt slightly panicked. I even called the people who ran the boat rides for the next day and asked them where the albergue was and tried to explain where I was. Everyone kept on just saying “sporting center” which would not google properly for me. H. kept saying “bridge” and “cross a bridge” and I was losing patience because there were bridges to other islands, long bridges and again, I was not sure I had it in me. Also, and this is unfair of me I know, I was frustrated at the language gap between us and felt at odds with working this out together. But, SHE was the one who had learned English, and I had to stay aware of that fact and not aim too much malcontent towards her. At one point we were walking in deep beach sand and we had only about 40 minutes of light left and I knew H. did not have a headlamp with her. Finally we rounded the beach and the town came into view and I could have cried with relief. Then H’s bridge came into sight, it was a pedestrian only walking bridge and had dog walkers and some baby strollers. I felt badly I had not been more cheerful company for H. and I tried to correct my mood and help us find the “sporting center.”
We ran into a few familiar pilgrims one of which was a Portuguese man who happily approached us and said when he came around that beach corner earlier in the day he was so worn out that he just lay down and napped for a while. He pointed us to where we needed to go and yes, it was a YMCA kind of community center. We entered and there was a basketball 🏀 game going on and we walked two flights upstairs, ooooph, to the albergue corridor. Nobody was there so we just grabbed those paper towel disposable mattress covers and picked beds and lay down, finally still, until the volunteer running the albergue that night arrived shortly after.
The basketball refereed games downstairs lasted until midnight, and the upstairs Zumba class ended at 11:30. Pilgrims, sandwiched between the leisure classes and we just had to laugh and pretended for a while we were taking the Zumba class and danced around the bunks.
Now this idea would sell!
Left by another Pilgrim in the bunk bed area as my “ceiling” for tonight.
This is me protesting the high price to stay at the Monastery! 55 euros for a shared room. This is the second Monastery in two days, the first was back in the coastal village this morning, I am finding not very cooperative for pilgrims. What the heck – I walked here and we are not tourists!
Here is E. at gate.
Then a nearby cafe served us a three course meal while the 2 pm men and gossip crowd gathered and snuggly high school kids on a field trip hung outside.
Then the Albergue opened and we got 6 buck beds and a nice view
I have to tell you that I feel most comfortable with these pagan mixes – sparks the imagination.
I told H. that I needed a rest day with still legs – I have a couple of numbing spots on my feet and wanted to stay still. At night I have what I called “dog legs” – that I have to moving them at night like a dreaming dog and if they stop moving the muscle pain is terrible. Pontevedra is a big town with many stores and shops but on a Sunday like this it is very quiet and shuttered.
We stayed at a crowded 60 or even 80 bed Albergue along with a family with a toddler and boy who is about 5 years old. He walks up and down the bunk bed room just for fun I think.
This is how I created privacy in this huge room. I must say nobody gives each other more than a fleeting look. These are not places to socialize, just to eat a bit and sleep. But, my scarf hanging relaxed me and gave me a little space in that huge room. It was really quite full by “lock up” time of 10 PM. Seems the other Albergue had not opened for the season.
The little boy slept with his dad next to me. The toddler slept with her mom and woke up a few times and yelled “momma” but I think she was breastfeeding and the baby went to sleep quickly. I am not sure why that family was walking, even the toddler had a little backpack and a shell. I have a feeling they were in a major life transition of some sort and on the Camino as a family for their own intentions.
H. asked me to do the coastal spiritual route with her while we ate breakfast and I said sure with a couple of conditions. One, that we split the first day of 24K into two days. I was going to stay another night in Pontevedra, rest and heal before heading straight up the Central Camino Route. But, I had already split from two other Camino friends and she asked me to join her and I said I would. She agreed to the shorter days and I thought I would feel ok with the reduced K’s.
She said we take a boat for the last leg of the spiritual route and I am a little fearful that they will not give us a Compestela since we did not walk that part. But, the walk was considerably longer and I think the mileage was about the same?
It was a tough decision and I do not want to sacrifice that goal – that piece of paper. The only way to earn it is to walk from Tui to Santiago – you can walk from Africa but only that last 100 K matters to the Cathedral people who give the Compostela based on that last 100. All I can think is that this route via water counts – but I think having a friend and committing to her and being her company is what matters most in the long run regardless of what they decide at the Cathedral on Sunday when we arrive there.
All is well.
My feet were a bit in tough shape today – but we stopped at Combarro and are staying at a simple but super clean hotel in this cool old fishing village.
These are typical storage units for Spain.
They like witches in this town – all the tiny shops sell witches, on brooms, printed on tiers, to hang on your doors and the like — they are more pagan connected here I think there other places so far. Spain is a little hard for me to fully appreciate some times, it seems more urban, less light hearted than Portugal, but this coastal town is calm and happy seeming.
Tomorrow we continue the spiritual route. It will be a day of up a 10K hill 😜 but once up top I think the views will be great.
Notice how the old coastal rock bed flows around the side door to this church
The story is that St James’ remains were brought by sail boat near here in 44 AD. That his bones were delivered to Padrón and then to Santiago. I can tell you this, the winds here in this town are highly unusual. The jet stream comes ashore through mountains in a way that I can only describe as up lifting, like they are lifting your body and making you feel refreshed and encouraged – I can see how the air moves has become a part of the St James legend.
Me flying into town
Fisherman would drag their boats up natural rock areas into town to park their boats overnight. The town pulsed with the tides.
I also got to play with this funny parrot earlier in the day that tossed a bottle cap down at me for attention. Then climbed all over me lol and snapped at my finger when I tried to leave.
The road from Tui so far, has me thoughtful about the many uses of the Way. Certain years are penance years and walkers who want some forgiveness still can do that. I read that one might have been told by a priest to walk to Santiago and bring back a Compestela as evidence that you had. Originally one was asked to bring back a Scallop shell from Finestera the “end of the world” to prove you made it there.
Then people just started selling the shells road side to pilgrims offering a nice out. Then the paper Compestela was needed and those after a while became forged – and then the sello stamps were added, and I think that is a pretty good system and needing proof is still a part of the ritual but I doubt it is assigned as a penance anymore.
But, thinking about maybe 500 years ago if one was thinking of leading a sinful life, then the best place to live would be Tui – the 100 K limit to earn. Now, historically I am not entirely sure one needed the 100 K for forgiveness, but I would assume some effort was required for forgiveness. The walk out of Tui is a town to town affair mostly, not entirely because I walked along a river for a few hours, but towns, villages, roadsides and so forth characterized the walk making me feel that public scrutiny was part of the penance – a kind of walk of shame where you could not really hide the fact that it was you walking to Santiago.
In Pontrevedra I will take a rest day and write more tomorrow
Road side nap image for now. Sometimes you just see a place where you can lie down on some grass in the sun and maybe almost doze off for a while.
And I made a third Camino friend – Elena from Czechoslovakia! Another Chemist!
I had a fun walking day with her 😊
I scoured our this town of Rondondela – where Portuguese Camino’s merge – to see if I could see the Frisky Brisbane women or the three German man from the Coastal Route. But there were just pleasant Spanish people starting to meet at cafes and little restaurants to enjoy a soccer match and eat. Adult men helping their grandchildren to ride bikes along the fish filled river.
When I first crossed the bridge into Tui yesterday (after I ordered a cafe con leche) I noticed the historical and very early churches, some dating to 1100. The Spanish are excellent at signage and I will study the signs more when I get back, but the gist is that Tui identifies itself with Santiago de Compostela more fully, it is in Spain after all. Tui has a Jewish quarter marked and the role of the churches in town regarding what time in history they were from.
But I think apart from the usual signs and signage there is more to be said about the transition from Portugal 🇵🇹 into Spain 🇪🇸. You might know this already, but Spain was recently ranked the most healthy country on earth. And while I did not think I would notice any distinctions quickly simply by walking in the country, I was surprised to notice immediately one glaring difference that might single handedly set Portugal 🇵🇹 as lower ranked as Spain health wise.
You can see the world rankings here
Maybe you have guessed?
Much of the Camino as you know is set along road sides and dirt patches. And I have walked many miles of course and there really is a certain amount of attention that you have to focus on the road and road side. European cigarette packages are extremely graphic – glaring medical journal like depictions of oral cancers, lungs blackened, tumors, premature infants, and even one with a cigarette burn where the genitals would be. They are horrible to look at littered across Portugal 🇵🇹 roadways. It’s a disaster.
Here is a quote from the WHO regarding the use and effectiveness of graphic images on cigarette packs:
“Hard-hitting anti-tobacco advertisements and graphic pack warnings – especially those that include pictures – reduce the number of children who begin smoking and increase the number of smokers who quit. Graphic warnings can persuade smokers to protect the health of non-smokers by smoking less inside the home and avoiding smoking near children. Studies carried out after the implementation of pictorial package warnings in Brazil, Canada, Singapore and Thailand consistently show that pictorial warnings significantly increase people’s awareness of the harms of tobacco use.78 countries, representing 47% of the world’s population, meet the best practice for pictorial warnings, which includes the warnings in the local language and cover an average of at least half of the front and back of cigarette packs. Mass media campaigns can also reduce tobacco consumption by influencing people to protect non-smokers and convincing youths to stop using tobacco.”
But, as soon as I entered Spain the cigarette packages start to be very widely spaced out – sometimes nothing for a kilometer or so. Maybe they trash clean more, but there is still road trash – they just smoke less I would guess and are healthier. Tonight I saw many families walking the river here in town that is so clear with happy trout and ducks.
PS I found on a website that Spanish people smoke more than Portuguese – so I will keep thinking about this). You can see from this Wikipedia page (fine for our purposes here) that Spain is ranked as more smokers than Portugal.
However, nobody I saw was smoking and nobody was using a cell phone while with another person. They were helping small children to ride bikes or sitting at a cafe – the place I ate only had two smokers sitting outside.
I ate these delicious foods by the way
So socially they seem connected and value their time with each other. Every third store is a fruit store, and I saw several herbologist stores and not many pastry stores either.
I will keep contemplating all of this.
The Irish old guys who ate all the soup are staying here in this Albergue. 15 Euro for my own pod of 4 bunks and a curtain that closes me off. Albergue are like acute care hospitals, you do not talk in them, lights are off for resting, and everyone is asleep by 9. I heard one of the Irish guys earlier trying to urge his friend to get out of bed and “see the trout in the river.” I had already passed their room and said if they would like to make a soup confession that they could come down to my curtain later haha! But his friend was already in his bed reading and seemed he did not want to get out of bed – he did drag him out by saying to his friend that he “just had to wrap his head around” getting out of bed. But it is so easy to sleep after walking 8 hours lol!
It was about this time, that my pack seemed a bit more manageable and made me suspicious. At that point I figured out that I had left my blue fleece at the Albergue in O Porrino. This was not good, since it was getting chillier as I moved north. When I tried to understand what I had done to lose it, I recalled that in the AM I had been completely startled by something and left abruptly. Right as I was ready to leave the Albergue, before my last check to be sure I had everything, I was in the common room by the front door and one wild, pink, and robust Scotsman burst from where our bunks were with only the tiniest pair of navy underwear on. When he saw me he said in the deepest Scottish accent you can conjour, “I am sorry, I thought you had left a wee bit ago” and he turned back to where the bunks were. Then I did leave rather quickly lol and forgot my blue fleece. Later that day or the next I emailed that place in O Porrino and they said that I left it on my bunk. I might have considered not worrying about it, but I had little treasures on the pocket given to me by both John and Beryl, and a gift I had bought for Beryl. They said they would leave the jacket at the bar/cafe they ran across the street and said I could to stop by and pick it up after Santiago.
I think taking the river might have been fun.
One of the two older Irish ☘️ guys who walk together told me, as he was leaving the cafe that “you should try the soup, it is just excellent here” and he walked off down the lilac strewn path. When I asked the women if I could have some soup she said that the people who just left had eaten it all!
When I saw them later sitting at a bus stop to rest and get some shade and I sat near them to rest. When they asked me how the soup was and I told them there was no more they laughed uproariously that there was no more soup for me. Camino trail justice lol !! What tricksters! But, they are a reminder that a Camino, like life, will present to you all forms of archetypes, tricksters, jesters, songsters, braggers, the aloof, and the clingy. Just to torment them I asked them if they wanted some fresh squeezed orange juice 🥤 and they both roared in protest to even think of that trail nectar being brought up in the absence of it. More Camiño justice haha.
I did eat this though
And in this video you can see my only other Albergue mate tonight heading in to get a bite to eat of whatever is left 😜 I hope there was some egg omelet left, I know I did not eat it all.
Later in the day I came across a familiar female walker taking a boot 🥾 break near these three strange markers – one has a rose 🌹 on it and we know from Dan Brown – the Rose always means something – how would you put these three signs together?
An open border is the best kind of border – and yes, you just walk across and enter another country – no walls, no guards, no tension!
And the coffee is yummy in Spain 🇪🇸
And I love doors 🚪
Roman everything today – it was so interesting today. This (pictured above) is a Roman bridge over a river.
This sign was at the end of Tui the city and starts the nature part of the day – Spain 🇪🇸 I think merges their National Park 🏞 Services with the Camino so you see people both on and off Camino enjoying these amazing walks along rivers and in woods.
Roman roads were both publicly and privately funded. Many hundred thousand miles I would guess through Europe. Mostly for trade, and there were tolls and bridge fees also. Military uses also of course. Roads were engineered in much the same way they are engineered today – multiple layers to build stability and was for water to drain. Concrete fill was used to make them as flat as possible. The concrete is mostly gone but the roads in most places remain which is remarkable. I tried to image a chariot coming around the bend towards me sometimes for fun. The techniques to build the roads mostly disappeared during the Middle Ages, gradually resurfacing – over time.
I was low on water and this beauty saved me!! (Not sure about that design however 😳)
Yay yay!! A 12.6 mile day and the man from Scotland 🏴 I think slept next to me two nights ago in the Bunk bed Albergue is sharing laundry with me which is nice of him to offer. I know what his snore is like so later I will know if it is him, hehe. I can close my door here to my little bunk bed land – he is right across hallway.
I told Beryl I am 75 percent sure I am wearing someone else’s 👖 pants!!
Good night 😘
Last night I dreamed I was wearing glass flip flops, lol
Feet become your most common source of anxiety on the Camino. Legs and other sore muscles tended to repair themselves every night, but feet will stop your progress all together, and maybe even send you home.
I have been thinking, but I am pretty sure there is really no way to adequately train for a Camino. You can walk with your pack for a month or so before you go to test your equipment and see how your body reacts, but really, you cannot walk all day every day for 20 plus days as practice. I would say on average I walked 7 hours a day on this Camino with only two non-walking days (my extra night in Coimbra and my short (one hour or so) bus ride day from Coastal to Central Camino). So, I think, even with good physical conditioning, you enter the Camino physical fitness blind, unless you have walked one before, which many people I spoke with had done. Eva, for example, had walked the French, the Primitivo, and one other I forget for now, and the Portuguese. Last year she bought a really expensive pair of boots and they wrecked her feet, she even brought them back to the store and asked for her money back. This year, when I was walking with her, she had a “cheap” pair. To me, they looked a bit loose on her, but she seemed fine until she did get on small blister on her big toe.
My feet, just the 460,000 steps with boot soles that were not, in my mind, up to the task I think did effect me psychologically. Feet are central to our feelings of personal agency and stability. Think of the many expressions with feet as central to mental well being. “I can stand on my own two feet” “She did not even have a leg to stand on” “Get a foot in the door” and so forth. Feet that may have felt “under attack” for example, may have triggered or compromised my state of mental health to some extent triggering that dream. I am not saying that it is inevitable that sore feet will trigger an anxious dream – just that one may need to be aware of the connection.
My dream, at one level, may have been about walking with glass flip-flops because indeed at a deeper level I was worried that my feet felt like glass, delicate, fragile, and so forth. And if so, that would trigger, I would think, or be a reflection of a kind of anxiety about that was more about physical anxiety – such as that I was in fact causing myself to become injured.
But, if we return to the more deep seated and psychological meanings about feet, perhaps I had started to doubt my ability to stand on my own two feet, or that at that point of the Camino I really had become dislodged from my “real life” and entering a life of just the Camino, me walking in a foreign town, talking with nobody (both of my walking companions that I spent 4 days with at different ends of my Camino were not native English speakers, so silence was common on those walks) not knowing what was my bed for the night etc. At a conscious level I was feeling secure and well, but, certainly under the glass surface anxieties at that point could have arose. It is worth mentioning that later that very day during a foot check, I found my corner of my toenail starting to act up a bit, which I caught. So, perhaps it was a warning of sorts too from an unconscious helper to be careful of my feet.
Finally, the dream could also be one about power, value, and discovered worth and not anxiety but rather a form of healthy narcissism. We are all familiar with the most famous of all glass slippers! There is reason to also suspect that being on my own, making my own decisions, choosing my own path, and having agency over my entire experience meant that I had “found my glass slipper.” And while the fairy tale promotes the age weary trope that the glass slipper was awarded to Cinderella for being the “belle of the ball” in my dream I award myself with glass flip flops – because I was learning my own self value for being brave, tough, independent, valued, and enjoying bringing those parts of myself to the surface and exposing them to myself and others and being powerful.
Blisters, for many long distance walkers, are the biggest problem I think on the Camino, they bring you down and for one of the Camino friends I made, sent him home one year to heal and he had to return another time to complete his Camino. I saw many people at the end of the day trying to work with their blisters, rearrange blister bandages and otherwise deal with covering them. The array of ways to deal with them was sometimes a bit shocking and maybe a bit humorous to see. One women had wrapped her foot in paper towels. But if you have ever had a blister you know the pain and to the extent the pain must be abated – even with the most primitive attempts. While it might not be everyone’s choice, you can google how Camino walkers deal with blisters, threads, needles, draining, and so forth, it is not for the faint of heart to view, however, they are informative if trying to really see the impact of blistering.
Shoes and boots that do not fit properly are said to be the cause or main reason for blisters. I also think there are psychological reasons for blisters, I am not aware of any literature on the subject, but I can certainly guess that blisters may be a bigger sign of “not listening to your body” or rather not attending to the boundaries of what your body can handle – a form of denial about one’s limitations. Blisters seem to me to be a symptom of a battle between your physical and cognitive self – your body is developing a blister – a warning that you are moving too fast, or not in a correct rhythm, but maybe somebody else’s rhythm? Yet, your cognitive or emotional self keeps pushing you ahead. As a cognitive problem, one’s mind is judging your worth on how fast and how many K’s one has travelled for the day. “How many K’s was the common refrain at the end of the day?” I heard endless conversations about how many K’s were walked that day with a relative “Camino worth” score mentally recorded. I know personally because I was laughed at least twice for “only walking” a 17 or 20 K for the day. One time a man and I waited at an albergue door to be unlocked who spoke some French. He told me in French he had walked twice as far as me that day. When I told him, in French, that I did very well actually, he smirked as if to say, no, you are wrong. He had walked that day 41K by the way, that is 25 miles, hilly miles! Other men talked of their 40 plus days, some had good reason to speed up, but the feeling was one of superiority usually. I found the women (they were all European) to posses the same pressures. Where is the Camino for them? What is a Camino for them? One man told me that his next Camino would be the Norte and that was a “real Camino” because it was over 800 K.
E, who was honest about this with me, said her FB friends were always asking her why her “K’s” were so low and she was always having to defend herself. “It is not a race” she would say to them! At that point I was walking with her and she had a “plan” that she followed. She had an injury that kept her “slow” which happened to be a pace where I was comfortable with. She was also patient with me on those level three (the toughest of the tough) difficultly days out of Tomar, that was really lucky of me to have met her that first day. Or, as she said to me once using a google translation app on her phone “there are no such things of coincidences.”
Evidence that one is not following “one’s own rhythm” is abundant. I recall a blog written by a woman who has walked maybe all of the possible Caminos with her husband wrote that her husband was plagued at one point with huge blisters – she on the other hand, complained that she felt alone on the Camino and pushed to the limits of her physical abilities. Here, I think we see two forms of being “out of rhythm”. But, what are we out of synch with exactly? Certainly, ourselves, that we do not find our own internal pacing due to cognitive pressures mentioned already. Walking not your own pace, walking to impress, walking to deny pain, walking with others out of sheer fear to not be alone, and so on. Blisters may also become a kind of symptom of insecurity that your walk was to feel your walk was a “real walk.” Perhaps other reasons to walk a certain pace and out of one’s own rhythm may be pressures to keep up with a companion or group, or even anxieties that if one does not have blisters, then they have not tried hard enough.
In 1982-3 William Least Heat-Moon wrote his famed travel book “Blue Highways.” In that book he took the blue roads on the map across the United States and visited small towns, drove along streams, and otherwise, stayed within the places he was visiting and not around them as the major freeways provided. His descriptions fascinated a “highway” generation and I think still stimulate decisions many make about how to drive a long distance. I recently saw an advert, I think it is a car ad, that is about a family driving the back roads to visit a family member. The voice on the phone asks why they just do not fly? The commercial shows the family driving past wildlife and other local attractions, not shying away from the “kitsch” that in part also defines America – and is also fun for many still to visit and explore. Later, Least Heat-Moon developed a method to measure a place that he calls “deep-mapping” where he analyses a prairie town in Kansas in the central USA. Through deep-mapping he looks at the totality of experience in a place, the flora, fauna, views, smells, social structure, and so forth. In a youtube video, he speaks of concluding that if one does not attend to the actual earth one is standing on, that a great imbalance emerges. He traces most social, economic, and human ills occur when nature is out of balance with a place. That really looking at a place, opens up a bounty of joys based on nature, that all places deserve a deep-mapping, that all places are valuable is sustaining a joy derived from the natural world.
Here, I am suggesting that blisters could potentially be symptom of missing a “deep-mapping” of the Camino, of not using the natural ebbs and flow of rhythm set by the trail itself. Wilco is a graphics expert on maps, and he and I will see if our shared experiences, through a deep-mapping exercise, can actually provide evidence that Camino walkers do or do not, or to what extent they attend to nature and people on the Camino.
Of late, in particular, there has been a expanding body of research on the topic of walking and related health benefits. The Patel et al, study (2017) in particular suggested that walk was associated with longevity and overall health. Other, more psychologically focused research, has suggested a negative correlation with walking and negative mood states such as depression (Harvey et al, 2017). While my walk was not assessed in any medical way, I can certainly understand the health benefits from my 21 day walk of 7 hours a day. My skin felt healthier, more pliant and waxy, my leg pain while very pronounced during the first 10 days, settled and perhaps reflected a kind of growth of capillary, muscle, and artery capacity. My reflexes seemed heightened and my vision had much long distance practice perhaps exercising my muscles controlling the lens and acuity.
However, for me, the most pronounced effect of walking so much, 230 miles, was more how it affected my mental state. After I returned I was asked by a colleague what I thought about all day. Before I left I thought that maybe I would day dream, and I did do some of that of course, and I think once on many K’s of cobbles and the rocking sensation they provide, I might have almost dozed off which seems unbelievable, but I am sure I was starting to drift off.
“Walking causes a repetitive, spontaneous poetry to rise naturally to the lips, words as simple as the sound of footsteps on the road. There also seems to be an echo of walking in the practice of two choruses singing a psalm in alternate verses, each on a single note, a practice that makes it possible to chant and listen by turns. Its main effect is one of repetition and alternation that St Ambrose compared to the sound of the sea: when a gentle surf is breaking quietly on the shore the regularity of the sound doesn’t break the silence, but structures it and renders it audible. Psalmody in the same way, in the to-and-fro of alternating responses, produces (Ambrose said) a happy tranquillity in the soul. The echoing chants, the ebb and flow of waves recall the alternating movement of walking legs: not to shatter but to make the world’s presence palpable and keep time with it. And just as Claudel said that sound renders silence accessible and useful, it ought to be said that walking renders presence accessible and useful.”
Rather, I was extremely heightened and aware of my natural world surroundings. I was completely in the present. For me, there was no past per se, no rumination of work or bills or other stressors, but rather, a complete focus and positive flow of the “here and now.” That state, for me, opened up a array of new ideas, new emotions even, that of freedom plus imagination to understand the natural world. In fact, this blog is very much a statement of where I was at during the days.
“The walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours… but it is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day.” Henry David Thoreau “Walking”
One time on the Camino, another walker told me that they were always thinking of the future, that they could not get in the present moment. They were, for example, planning their next Camino. I was always thinking about that exact moment. “Where do all of these Eucalyptus Trees come from?” Or, “I can tell when another town is coming up by the sound of the water running in the rivers, quiet rivers mean a town is ahead.” I thought of the Romans, I wondered about the legends of witches in Galicia as I walked for weeks along their ancient lands. I looked at every flower, smelled every orange blossom as I passed a tree, and I thought about what I eventually would write here in this blog each evening. The blog became my recording of my immediate thoughts that day, even if I could not write them all out, I did the best I could.
So, for me, long distance walking, from a psychological standpoint was both physical, and opened up my consciousness and imagination. I must admit, and I do not think from what I saw that this is by far any means typical, but I never really knew where I was. I simply followed the arrows. It is both mindless, and highly engaging because your focus can shift from “where am I” to “what is around me now to interest me”? As long as I knew everyone I cared about was fine, I was completely free to think original and creative thoughts unfettered by conversation or otherwise sorts of intrusions on my stream of consciousness.
“We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return; prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only, as relices to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave mother and father, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again; if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all of your affairs, and are a free man [woman]; then you are ready for a walk.”
Henry David Thoreau “Walking”
Patel, Alpa V., Janet S. Hildebrand, Corinne R. Leach, Peter T. Campbell, Colleen Doyle, Kerem Shuval, Ying Wang, Susan M. Gapstur. “Walking in Relation to Mortality in a Large Prospective Cohort of Older U.S. Adults.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine (Published online: October 19, 2017) DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2017.08.019
Harvey, Samuel B., Simon Øverland, Stephani L. Hatch, Simon Wessely, Arnstein Mykletun, Matthew Hotopf. “Exercise and the Prevention of Depression: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study.” The American Journal of Psychiatry. (Published online: October 3, 2017) DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.16111223
Fielding, Roger A., Jack M. Guralnik, Abby C. King, Marco Pahor, Mary M. McDermott, Catrine Tudor-Locke, Todd M. Manini et al. “Dose of physical activity, physical functioning and disability risk in mobility-limited older adults: Results from the LIFE study randomized trial.” PloS One (Published online: August 18, 2017) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182155
Nicole L. Spartano, Kendra L. Davis-Plourde, Jayandra J. Himali, Charlotte Andersson, Matthew P. Pase, Pauline Maillard, Charles DeCarli, Joanne M. Murabito, Alexa S. Beiser, Ramachandran S. Vasan, Sudha Seshadri. “Association of Accelerometer-Measured Light-Intensity Physical Activity With Brain Volume: The Framingham Heart Study” JAMA Network Open (First published: April 19, 2019) DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.2745
Nicole L. Spartano, Jayandra J. Himali, Alexa S. Beiser, Gregory D. Lewis, Charles DeCarli, Ramachandran S. Vasan, Sudha Seshadri. “Midlife Exercise Blood Pressure, Heart Rate, and Fitness Relate to Brain Volume 2 Decades Later” Neurology (First published: February 10, 2016) DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000002415
Katrina L. Piercy, Richard P. Troiano, Rachel M. Ballard, Susan A. Carlson, Janet E. Fulton, Deborah A. Galuska, Stephanie M. George, Richard D. Olson. “The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” JAMA (First published online: November 12, 2018) DOI: 10.1001/jama.2018.14854
Today was the first flat walk since the coast – some ups but mostly flat Roman roads.
I felt slower than usual and my merry pack moved ahead – two nights in an Albergue together bind you, and I think they crossed over the Tui Spain 🇪🇸 today but I wanted to spend tonight in Valenca Portugal. I will see them tomorrow. Wilco and Thati I got to know best, and there is something so creative and looney that happens when you are silly and walking all day – even if you walk together only part of the time. At one point we wished that around the next bend would be a Banana Wizard 🧙🏽♂️ who would cross his walking poles and magically provide bananas 🍌 to us lol. Another time after two small and vicious dogs charged us, we started joking about a “water dog” that carried our water and would protect it from anyone who tried to take it and that morphed into a water toddler that needed a Doby-like sock to be freed etc etc. Before the climb of the day approached, we saw a middle aged woman carrying out of a field and up a steep incline what must have been a 200 pound bag of sand up to the hatchback of her car. She was wearing sturdy, but certainly dressy boots and a tan skirt and top. I was mesmerized by her strength, it was extraordinary. When she plonked the bag into her car the three of us just clapped and cheered and she threw her arms up into the air accepting the accolades laughing. That become the “valley of extremely strong women.” Of course!
But, my pace was slower than usual today, or they were just faster, and I quickly lost the pack. In their defense I told Wilco the day before that I usually just went my own pace and I was not bothered if they moved ahead and that was completely true. I had read an article one night that walking both too fast and too slow for yourself is bad for your body – both putting stress on your joints and feet. So, faster walkers may in fact need the speed to keep their joints comfortable. However, as a post script, I never saw any of that pack again. Yet, my slowness permitted me, — even though I enjoyed that joyous feeling of that particular pack of walkers — to once again, be alone with my experiences and think my own thoughts.
“Slowness means cleaving perfectly to time, so closely that the seconds fall one by one, drop by drop like the steady dripping of a tap on stone. This stretching of time deepens space. It is one of the secrets of walking: a slow approach to landscapes that gradually renders them familiar. Like the regular encounters that deepen friendship.”
Yesterday I lost 5 Euro pulling my phone in and out of my pocket to take pictures and 5 Euro is enough to buy you really whatever you want for food and a nice hot meal. I had enough coins to make the 5 Euro bed 🛏 fee, and 3 more for some night snacks
But after a day’s walk it was a bit low perhaps – but I felt good. This AM the little store by the Camino entrance took my debit card so I bought breakfast items and some fruit and just headed towards Valença the next town with an ATM and the border with Spain – about 10 miles I think. Some Camino buddies appeared here and there walking up – Mark from Belgium 🇧🇪 came past and took a picture of me “as a memory” and moved off saying he “thought he might have been last” (I actually play an important sociological role for the Europeans – that of last- thank you very much)!
At one point I took a boot break and noticed an issue with a corner of my toe – kind of swollen a bit but I think the antibiotic cream applied took care of it. But, this is how it happens I thought. This is how Camino’s end – things can go wrong quickly. Things look good tonight, but I might have needed that scare to remind me of how well I really was doing and to keep taking good care of myself.
At one point, Belgium 🇧🇪 Mark appeared out of nowhere and told me there was another American woman behind me from California that was 60 years old. I told you the Camino has its own communication system. Lol. He waited until she caught up to me and he took a picture of us and moved ahead and I never saw him again either — Spain had obviously swallowed all of my Camino comrades.
This woman had gifted herself the Portuguese Camino for her 60th birthday and had started her Camino in the town before Ponte de Lima – she was dressed like Isek Dinesen in Out of Africa, safari like hat, flowing broad pants, white blouse. She had only a stylish leather lime green day pack with a studded rhinestone pineapple on for some water and looked positively dry cleaned and pressed. She told me that she was booked completely only in “5 Star Hotels” and her luggage was brought there ahead for her and could never stay in an Albergue. I looked a bit wild of course, crazy hair, hand washed clothes, and Albergue bags under my eyes. She told me she was recently retired and had been an interior decorator and I told her that I saw psychology as a kind of interior decoration where people’s inner worlds could be rearranged and she seemed really bored by that idea.
After I bothered to keep up with her “day pack” speed she said “well, I have to pick up the pace now” and I said sure and it was a funny little spot, mildly town/small city like. We both ended up at little rotary with chicken 🍗 Churrasco restaurants on each corner. This is my favorite kind of food and I said to her that I was going to get lunch and I kind of needed an out from her at that point too and I veered off into a dirt parking lot of a restaurant. Just after I walked away from her she called out to me and pointed her high tech walking pole towards the traffic and said to me sounding a bit aghast “am I supposed to walk down that busy street?” and I shouted to her “just follow the arrows” and headed into the restaurant.
When I got to the door I realized this place was packed packed! Rows of family style tables with workers and family groups and the best kinds of professional waiters moving plates and foods. Fries, chicken with Piri-Piri sauce, and rice. I was so hungry. But I had no cash and needed help knowing if they took cards. So as usual I asked the youngest person near me, now I am not looking like a lunch companion, I am dusty, have my poles and pack and floppy hat, and I think I had a little nectar spill on my shirt and my sleeve ends might have been a bit unclean — well, they looked like dust for sure. But, the young man I asked said to please sit with him and gestured to the seat in front of him. He helped me to stash my poles and pack near the counter and I asked him if he would ask the staff there if I could use my cards. He came back to the table said it was ok and said he would help me order which he did and he started to talk with me about the Camino. He was the best dressed person in the place, very attractive, professionally dressed, just a nice guy. He showed me pictures of his Camino and how he felt it changed his life very deeply. He got a great job after he did it and felt his Camino was life altering in several ways. He seemed so gentle with me, I think he was very aware of the physical state I was in, he knew how it felt to walk the Camino, to be hungry, and how others might view such a person.
He showed me his pictures, of his little brother with him and his mom and it was just a warm and lovely interaction – something meaningful. He asked me my intention for walking and I told him sincerely. After my food was there and we talked a bit more and I had eaten a bit he said he had a meeting to go to but that he lived in Porto and gave me his phone and email address and said to contact him if I needed any help. Then he went up to the busy counter and came up to me and Portuguese style kissed me on both cheeks and told me he had paid for my meal and told them to give me their great chocolate pudding for dessert because it is so good. I am pretty sure they only used cash there and he just told me they used cards so I could eat. Or he just felt moved to help a pilgrim. I cried a bit when he told me that, and I felt so grateful, and he kissed my cheeks again left me to feast on that favorite food.
Boa Noite – tomorrow is Spain
ps when I got to Valença I saw two German friends who I saw at the Albergue last night – they might have bought a private room – I am not sure. But they were sitting on a sidewalk area with with shoes off fixing crazy bandages for blisters and that made me so happy because that is what we look like, lol, not 5 star American accommodations. And I told them I was so happy that I saw a Multibanco across the street and that I had been cashless for 2 days because I lost some money – and one of the girls said she found 5 Euro on the Camino lol!! And she felt badly and we laughed and I asked her if it made her happy because Wilco said whoever found it was probably a poor pilgrim – and they said she bought Cokes for her and her friend and they were so excited. I said, how many times in your life do you find money and how many times do you find out who found it and we laughed – and I told her not to feel badly because having no money had provided me with a humbling pilgrim experience and someone bought me a lunch. And then I asked them to tell my Camino buddies that I was staying the night in Portugal 🇵🇹 and that I would catch them tomorrow. Then I crossed the street and pulled out 100 Euro out of the ATM.
Tonight I am in for more of the same I am sure. First it sounds like theme song from The Sting – snore snore, snore snore, snore snore etc – then there are the snore soloists and snore backup players. Then the bed bouncers and rollers chime in, then after two hours or so they settle into softer Brahms and then you can fall asleep pretty well. All works out haha. Plus, I have been told that I snore too sometimes – so it all evens out in the wash as they say. I read this section from an article on snoring as a selective advantage. “Snorers in herds may have a selective advantage, sleeping soundly while the rest are disturbed.” That would imply that snorers are trying to wear out the others and will have an advantage during the next day, for everything that needs to be done the next day. So, I will not be so afraid to snore next time maybe and just think that I am snoring due to a positive trait I have been given.
I am a hand wash pro now! And for the record, I did see a little town that was still using their stone hand wash area and people were hanging out when the woman where taking care of the clothes.
I saw signage I can share from somewhere in Spain.
This is what last nights snoring sounded like
But, there is an interesting legend regarding the Romans and the Lima River. Rumor has it that once you crossed it you lost all of your memories. So, a group of soldiers came up with a plan to send one over, call back and say they were fine, and asked to send one more over by name proving they had memories until they were all safely across.
So, I am starting a rumor that this is how the game Red Rover got started 😜
And here is what the town hand wash areas look like (this one was in Tui Spain) but this one is not in use apparently.
I finally enjoyed the act of walking today – even though there was a long part technically tricky uphill. Felt Like my pack was being held up by some magical string!
This is typical footpath.
Steep grade today – something again to ponder is that it is hard to tell if a path is heading uphill or downhill – almost like the photo reuses to reveal what kind of effort was exerted.
This is steep incline.
View from the top – I might be only American on Camino Portuguese – none spotted or heard about by other pilgrims.
This water is freezing cold and fresh and I sat up there alone for a while just hanging my arms inside of it.
as I started to head down the other side of the mountain there was this lovely art piece. Art 🖼 in nature, made of nature, after what is known as the most difficult segment of the central Portuguese Camino refreshed your sense of humanity, brings you back into the human fold, and engages you from such a unique point in the Camino or in one’s life really.
And sometimes a road side meal on the other side of the mountain is the most delicious food ever!!
Great roadside meal with some other pilgrims.
It is so nice out, perfect blue sky, gentle sounds of the Lima River and I am lying on this bench with my head on my backpack with the sun on my entire body, it is perfectly warm/cool out. My goal is to stare at this door and or doze until someone comes to open it up. This is the municipal albergue in Ponte de Lima and I am not entirely sure if they will let me stay. I do have a pilgrim book with many stamps and over, maybe well over 100 miles walked, but, I heard tales on the internet that sometimes they do not let you stay if you have not walked in that day. So, my plot is to be first in and just be first in! Then if I get turned away I can find a hotel and it will still be early. I just lie on that warm bench and doze and listen to a few voices that will become my albergue mates for the night. There seems to be a couple from Finland, I said hello to them before I lay down. It is so nice to be by oneself and lie on a bench in a foreign land and wait for a 5 euro bed. Just relax, enjoy a no walking day, heal, and feel happy and at ease.
At one point I dozed off and then I looked at the door which was still closed and a man was next to me shaking the dead flowers off the little potted trees in front of his restaurant. I said “I am sorry” in Portuguese and smiled and he said “it’s ok, just stay there” and that just reinforced the feeling that this was the most perfect spot to wait for an albergue to open.
Then a man and a women sat and joined the married couple and they chatted and I dozed a bit more listening to their carefree and happy conversation. A young couple I spoke with earlier in the day near a café walked past, they were hitch-hiking around Europe and had bed rolls and more equipment than Pilgrims carried. When they walked past me I was lying there they asked me if I was good and I said, still lying on the bench, yes and that I was practicing looking sad so the albergue would let me stay. They laughed and walked towards some road somewhere to start hitch-hiking again.
I am in a 17 or so dormitory – in an attic of an old building – the curfew is 9. I was permitted a bed no worries and just put 5 euro in the donation box and up I went. After others checked in she gave us a little tour, “these are the bathrooms, this is the kitchen, here is the place to place your boots and walking sticks.” There is just a good feeling about this old attic.
The kids are out back talking – I am next to an open window – I am queen of this window. I am the only person with nobody in a bed next to them – they must be respecting my queenliness. Or suspect I went for the Pilgrim special meal 🥘 of suspect freshness.
Picture was taken earlier before place filled up. Even at Girl Scout camp there were only 4 to a tent!
Well, for 5 Euros 💶 it’s a bargain. And the people seem nice here. A couple from Finland, one man Netherlands, a man from Belgium 🇧🇪, two men with an Irish accent who told me they walked from Lisbon but oddly told the man from Belgium 🇧🇪 they flew into Porto yesterday. A mystery whispering couple in the corner taking flash pictures of each other. Some assorted other people I am sure I saw but looked solo walking and young. Average age in here about 50 I would say and that is just because of the kids here.
After I got my bed and opened the window, I noticed that on the patio on the roof, up where we were was an ideal place to hang clothes to dry. I grabbed a few things and my laundry soap and went out back where someone said there was a hand washing station. It was clean and airy and sheltered and I met Wilco there and while we both scrubbed our clothes in the sink, we talked of great abstractions, time, space, walking, maps, psychological approaches to understanding coincidence and synchronicity on the Camino. He has walked so many Caminos and Pilgrimages already and has expertise with map graphics and ideas about impact of past on the future events on the Camino and how they were intertwined. Well, as a post script, we already, since we have been back collaborated on a paper for a Pilgrimage Studies conference at the College of William and Mary — that is making me feel happy, so fingers crossed.
Yesterday during my mega walk, when I was still working my way up the coast, an older than me German couple went sticking past. The woman flashed two fingers at me as she brushed past my shoulder on a cobbled and hilly back street. Ola I said and she said to me – “two days from Porto.” What the heck? Ultimately it is a stamina race for people I think. Two nights ago at Hostel 11 a young women from the Netherlands 🇳🇱 told me that she was feeling pressured to do big K’s. In addition that orange Camino guide guy I met at the campground in LaBruge sets the stages crazy long and German readers do what he says ! Even my German friend on that day she was late on the boardwalk admitted she was late because that author said to eat a fish at a particular restaurant and she did! Making her late to the very campground the guy was already at and probably fast sleep in his plastic bungalow!
Beryl said, and lol 😘❤️❤️ that I should write a Camino book called “Portuguese Camino for the Below Average” and write from my travels a guide for normal humans who will in fact feel below average but in a humorous and respectful way – at least to themselves and other followers. It might say things like “when you get to the Lisbon airport follow the signs to the metro, avoid the complicated looking ticket machines, the below average person always needs help from another human to buy a metro ticket.” Or, “while most people will rise at 8 and have a leisurely breakfast and race at a break neck pace to the next Albergue, the below average enjoy a early rise, slow packing and repacking, then unpacking and repacking, then deciding to move bowels now, thinking about that for a while, and then dithering over how incredibly heavy water is like “could it be any heavier”!!! The below average person is always last into town and has thought things along the way like “I would probably only turn back to pick up my big toe but not my pinky finger.” “I would not turn back to collect an ear, no way!” We think things like “omg that bus looks so nice.” But we still walk and walk and do this miraculous thing called the Camino.
“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
Well, it’s going to be a below average sleep for sure – they are starting to pile in! I did see those three German guys, and the priest who let me into the monastery last night at breakfast this morning before I caught my nice bus from the Coastal Camino to the Central. They were eating sandwich’s and coffee and pastry and studying their orange travel Camino guide to plan their way above average day.
Not sure – but I love ❤️ it here! This Camino gives me a fresh adventure, not feeling very Hobbit-like any more happy to say.
“Sorry! I don’t want any adventures, thank you. Not Today. Good morning! But please come to tea -any time you like! Why not tomorrow? Good bye!”
This is where I eat 100 olives haha
Moving onto Central Camino!!
I was one of the few people I spoke with who switched from one Camino path to another as much as I did and did not worry – Central, Coastal, Senda Litoral, and Spiritual. And I took a bus laterally to change paths from Coastal to Central. You can also arrange a boat ride, or, if it appeals to you a rowing adventure into Ponte de Lima. You can check tour companies if that appeals to you as a start. I think there is a kind of reluctance to do so, I am not actually clear about that. In Santiago you can ask for an official mileage certificate, so if you wanted that maybe you would not switch Camino courses. I walked some of the south of Porto for 60 miles, probably more miles than that on the Coast after I took a train to Porto and walked North, and then felt happy and excited to rejoin the central Way in Ponte de Lima. Then I walked the “Spiritual Way” with H. which is longer than the central and provided a sea Camino. At my interview in Santiago I explained everything I did and earned the Compostela. They are very careful about issuing that credential.
While in Ponte de Lima I felt reconnected to the Camino paths most commonly walked – I bought new insoles for my boots and passed other shoe and Camino gear stores. There I had more Camino services and I felt more of the local culture was aware of and understood Camino walkers. The coast, while spectacular, was more about Sunday drives along the beach and services for tourists – all of which supported me also. But, in Lima I was merged with Camino culture and I felt very happy and secure and it just felt right to me.
I write at that time.
“Ancient paths with Roman bridges and cool river breezes. Rest day here and then the notorious “climb out of Ponte de Lima in the early AM. So happy to be here this AM.”
You can see the Roman bridge here and a Camino walker with orange backpack. He was so cheerful as he passed this beautiful place I was sitting.
This video was taken from the roof of the albergue – you can see some forest fire smoke. That is a fear I had, walking in the bone dry forests. But I was fine and I hope the rains dampen it all soon.
It was hilly today with varied experiences.
Took me about 8 hours I would say after I left Esposende. The Camino heads you onto the Coastal Route and off the beach for today – hills resume and basically the first part of the day is town to close by town and neighborhoods – even this pink house.
After a while the Camino cuts into a forested area.
Church bells when you are alone in the woods are interesting. Clearly towns wanted you to find their church’s at least.
This pilgrim church was empty and dramatic
I was in a path near a river for a while And saw this interesting marker
And had to cross this bridge which was really fun and adventurous feeling hehe
The guys across spoke German and one of them had gone into the freezing water.
Maybe they ended up here at the place for Pilgrims only (15 for big single room and private bathroom).
When I rang this doorbell (pictured below) I was not sure where I was staying that night – he let me in and gave me a room. After walking this long I felt really like a “Pilgrim” – there must have been hotels in that big town, and I had a credit card with me of course. But, almost as if I had time travelled and had tunnel vision of some sort I was fearful of not getting a bed that night at an Albergue or hostel. I actually experienced ringing that monastery bell as if it was the only building in town – just the Camino and that place existed and how much I was worn out from such a long walk and how much I needed some help. Maybe that is it, that a hotel would never offer me the kind of help I needed, someone to check me in quickly, and carry my backpack 🎒up the wide marble staircases for me.
When we got upstairs to where the rooms were, the priest, I assumed he was some kind of clergy, pointed at each closed door 🚪we passed and said “Peregrina” or “peregrino” until he came to what was my door 🚪paused and said “Peregrina” and smiled at me.
He gave me a room key 🔑 and the key to the heavy monastery front gated door and said (he spoke no English actually) I could go in and out as much as I wanted.
I went to eat at a modest cafe/bar next door with a women running it and her two daughters doing their homework 📚 on one of the high top tables. She spoke English and tried to goad her daughters to saying something which was funny and fun – they seemed like nice kids. She made me a grilled cheese and brought drinks etc and I ate fine and felt safe and happy.
The next morning as I was leaving I entered a little, what seemed alcove off of the corridor I stayed in. And I realized that my room was across the hallway from a balcony over the church interior.
The church was getting many mostly elderly people entering and sitting down. I started to think about how much this religion has meant to so many people, but I have to say, for me, it all seemed, at that moment, static and passive. I am not of the Catholic faith, so, I am just responding from my experiences on the Camino, and my insights on the Camino regarding thoughts as I walked this historic pilgrimage.
I think, for me, St James set into motion, or his original followers did, such a dynamic and fruitful enterprise such as the Camino. His legacy works for all of humanity and all religions I believe. The humbling hard walking (I mean, it is required for the prized Compestela), the carrying on your back just enough provisions, the meeting and conversations of all kinds and ages of people, and the civility one has towards others since you do not want to enter Santiago with bad karma – to have a cloud over your experience of entering the square. So, for me, St James Way is a model I can deeply respect – even without a Catholic faith. I think the Camino, in fact, helped to make Europe what it eventually became today – peaceful boarders, tolerance and respect for a multitude of languages, and a common knowledge of those who might otherwise have seemed too different.
In the USA 🇺🇸 we have a tremendous network of super long paths, the AT, the PCT etc – but the impact is barely the same – even though the rigor one needs to accomplish them is phenomenal – it takes, for instance, at one go, six months to complete the 2100 mile Appalachian Trail! Incredible. But I think all of these phenomenal trails are mostly hidden from public view and reflect a more “American” if you will sensibility, less social, less part of the world, and more demanding technically – excluding all but the most physically fit and affluent who can capture the prize of completion.
No doubt on a hiking scale these trails are world class and wild and true challenges – but the Camino is about staying humble, sleeping side by side with strangers in bunk bed rooms where you are going to whether you like it or not see and hear the human condition, of not sharing a common language, sleeping when the Camino says it is time (wild camping is outlawed in Portugal 🇵🇹 and Spain) and walking with the most young and most old – each strata of society is invited to join the Camino and eventually all meet from all the vectors in Santiago with that being a shared and publicly verified and public goal.
image of a eucalyptus seed capsule – you will walk on a million of these roly-polies on the Portuguese Camino. The tree itself is an invasive species, but, it is everywhere and it is actively harvested and used for its pulp. While you know it should not be there and that you can only visualize creatively what it might have been by what is left over, the smell from these trees is so inviting, and so fragrant, and I felt very grateful to them many times for the aromatherapy they provided.
I have no idea how, but the coastal area has about 80 miles of boardwalk right above dunes or along beach. Every living soul was enjoying it today, small dogs, big dogs, older people and couples, lime wearing joggers- and suddenly Camino Pilgrims!! At least 15 or more I saw in the AM.
A woman who had whisked past me yesterday walking so fast that she was quickly lost from my sight came up from behind me today! So, there is an illusion of speed and getting ahead maybe – while we all actually sleep in the same town. I am slow though – everyone passes me, even the “old old” on occasion. But my Austrian friend knew her speed and it was steady and reasonable and I think she was about perfect in that regard.
Lol – maybe they are just running away from this!! (But I tell you – I am NOT going to fry up out here) but lol
That photo was taken by a group of Camino walkers from Brisbane. A group of about 12 middle aged and frisky women. They started asking about me from all sides to get my story – and when I told them about my knee one of the women said her knee hurt already (I think they started at Porto) and when I said my Austrian Friend gave me a bunch of her Ibuprofen 600’s they all shrieked “wow, those are hard to get” and “the last time I could get those was in South Africa”!! I felt very proud of myself (but later I worried these pills 💊 were somehow illegal in Portugal 🇵🇹 or something). But omg they work so good. Haha
I walked the beach way until it stopped at a town and I stopped at a little mom and pop grocery and got some fruit and crackers. The Aussie group had already taken up half of the beach side cafe and I knew they might just drag out every last life detail out of me if I stopped. Oddly, the Camino then changed character completely. It swept out into onion fields, tomato 🍅 Quonset huts, and back field roads all cobbles. After a while I realized we were being off routed from a huge beach side golf course. The Camino seems to be – at least around the coast- whatever works best for business at times. Recall, a Camino traditionally meant leaving your front door and walking to Santiago – so where towns and municipalities direct the Camino you just go where the arrows point. My assumption was that not all of the Camino on every path at every minute is going to somehow “be authentic” but rather you were being guided in ways in may instances to be safe and be off roaded to protect you.
Other times it was deeply clear that road had always been the Camiño and that is why I wanted to try a variety of Camino’s or at least not to feel restricted to one perfect one etc. just get to Santiago was my goal – though I must say, unless I veered off the path by mistake, that I followed every arrow.
The cars were a bit active but no worries – I just kind of kept an eye on them. A fitness instructor couple breezed by me – only he had a pack on and she looked like she had just stepped out of an advanced hot yoga class. A younger looking couple passed me and she had duck taped her shin splints with blue tape and used both her poles but whizzed past me with an enchanting “Bom Camino” and somehow there was another young woman ahead of me using both her poles sticking them madly, and although she seemed clearly injured she took one look back at me and flew into the distance!
Finally I crossed some woods and came into a little town that had a church with toilets in a little building in their parking lot.
The toilet building cannot be seen in this picture – but that is the church.
I used the facilities and was completely awed by the amount of emergency 🚨 wire in there. Like the kind of distress wire you can pull in some hotels in the bathroom. But this wire looked straight out of a James Bond movie. Not only did it hang by the toilet but literally ran along the entire wall about 5 inches up from the floor. As if, and just in case, one somehow fell anywhere in the bathroom lower than five inches, help could be summoned – from whom I know not. These towns all seem empty to me.
I took it easy around that church in the sun for a while and aired my feet and boots. Inspecting my feet for anything looking like it was going to get angry and debilitating.
As I was getting close to my 4 K left dragging along time, I slipped into a restaurant based solely on the fact I was out of water and that the high school aged kid behind the bar looked really kind.
I had only some change in my pocket and three 50 Euro bills that are useless in small places like this (stupid ATM next to the beach Casino doled those babies out)!! So I had to count my change on the counter and basically ask what I could afford while I tried to detach my hat from a knot in my hair. But to their credit, these sweet souls, at this point the dad was helping me, gave me extra coffee and the best treat I had eaten almost ever. It turns out that this special pastry was his specialty and he was famous for it. He showed me the magazine he was featured in and stood by his certificates of recognition for me to photo.
The filling is made out of a special kind of pumpkin squash
And they are light and crispy and fruity and squashy and so good – puts the ubiquitous Nata to shame frankly.
(Sorry this picture is foggy)
Such a great stop and I felt really happy and energetic after that too.
This town i ended this stage at is hip and cool and I like the vibe very much. Tonight, at Hostel 11, I spoke with a Pilgrim from the Netherlands and she thinks there is tremendous competition on the Camino about how many K’s and how fast one can go – so, I think I can feel that of course too.
Boa Noite friends!
1) eat more – my Austrian Friend was trying to trigger ketogenesis (she said it was good for her cells) and fasted for 16 hours a day meaning I simply either kept up with her or stopped and ate when I wanted to. I ate breakfast etc that she skipped of course. My German Friend ate a lot and ate slowly but walked faster than me to make up for slow eating.
2) regulate my body temperature better – walking alone should let me add or subtract layers exactly when I want and that should add comfort.
3) use one hiking pole instead of two along these flat parts to avoid random person yesterday who approached me and said “you must have courage.”
4) try to pack my back pack carefully to keep it even and easier to manage.
This is a tougher thing to do than you can imagine. My airport friend I met at the Lisbon Airport abandoned carrying his pack after day one and is using a backpack service now to transfer his bag town to town, it costs about 6 Euro and they drive your pack to your next hostel. He had stopped his French Way Camino last year due to an infected blister and returned to the states, healed, and then flew back to complete it- he is a medical doctor. My Austrian Friend said she loses one toenail each Camino and had developed a blister while walking with me.
My feet are healthy and I am kinda slow, but “keep on trucking”!!
Tonight I will stay at a mixed-sex bunk bed hostel – more later!
OK – for 10 Euros and no roommates! This is the best!
After some thought – mostly out of concern for my hurt knee I decided to take a train north an hour from Coimbra to Porto and continue my walk on the ocean Camino route where it is completely flat and entirely along the beach, most of the way north to Spain. I began to walk this 24K day in perfect weather. After a quick stop at the Cathedral to get my stamp, my second stamp from the Cathedral since Beryl and I bought the credential there last summer and it came with a stamp already.
Image I took of the famous tile work at Porto’s Sao Bento train station.
I walked from Porto train station to the Cathedral and then past everything I love about Porto ! Past the river front restaurants, past our favorite tram ride, past the 500 bus stop, past everything until I reached the neighborhood Beryl and I lived in in 2014. I ate lunch at our favorite place in Foz and kept walking. I went past the alley we lived off of, walked past the stuffed animal store Beryl and I always “saved one” by buying. I walked and walked and about the time I was to visit with one of my Portuguese friends she called that her child was sick and needed to attend to him, of course!
Then my cell battery died and I was not sure what to do. If I went into one of the small beach bars I might get a little cell charge, but I would lose daylight and maybe gain nothing. I sat near the boardwalk and thought I better just keep walking – just keep the ocean on the left and see what happens.
It was about 6 PM and just as I set out towards the boardwalk I saw a woman coming up towards me. I was so surprised – people always say that the Camino provides and when I think of that I do not know how to understand that – yet there ten feet away from me came someone in Camino gear. I did one of those secret happy smiles you keep inside. It became quickly apparent she was running a little behind herself and we started walking together. She was from Germany and taking a solo walk on the Camino (not entirely approved of by her support network). She has a PhD in Chemistry and laughed at my jokes lol.
She had a reservation somewhere about 10 K north and I figured she would get caught by the dark and I did not know what I was doing so, might as well get her to her place and hope there was room for me too. I think I felt more familiar with Portugal and I was older, and I had a feeling it was best to see her through to her hostel. We walked and walked and the sun went slowly down and we joked a bit and generally had a fun time. There were some people out and walking on the boardwalk with their dogs. When it was very dark we decided it was not wise to walk in the dark on small streets towards her reservation. I knew there was a place with cabins and she said she place had cabins so I kind of knew where we were going to end up, or guessed it was the same place. When we got about 2K away from where she thought her place was and we sat on a little wall near a bus stop and I suggested she call the place and see if someone there would pick us up. I learned that service back at Amigos and that people along Camino really do help the pilgrims and they might even pick us up. I was happy I had a helpful suggestion. 🙂
After 10 minutes or so, right about the time we began to get a bit nervous that the women was not going to show up, a woman pulls into the beach parking lot next to us and we piled in. She said I could stay there too which was a relief. I was in the front seat and was trying to get my seatbelt to lock, it kept bouncing out. She told me to forget about it and that it was ok, but she was driving crazy fast and had sped through 3 stop signs – ok, at one I give her credit for flashing her lights a few times before she zipped past – but I got my belt to click in tight finally.
It was like a little campground with “plastic bungalows” yurts, private RV’s and maybe other types of housing. As she was checking us in she looked up at us from her chair behind the counter and said with meaningful eyes that there was a very famous person staying there that night. I immediately said to myself “oh my god Tom Cruise is here!!” Then she said that the German author of a Camino guide book was staying there. My German Friend was using that book actually but said she was not a “fan girl” and knew from his facebook page that he would be there that night. I was still a little sad it was not Tom Cruise.
We walked around the dark campground and eventually found our cabins giggling because we were more or less lost in a sea of little plastic bungalows. I noticed my cabin had a heater and her’s did not but I was really chilled and felt reluctant to trade, but she said she has a huge sleeping bag with her and was good . . . Camino justice I guess, but I took that cabin and cranked the heat up big.
I slept with extra gravity and woke up to see that the plastic bungalow was kind of cute!
I used the shower bunk house in the AM and we headed out around 915. We stopped to eat at a beach restaurant. We had another incredible day to walk weather wise. The folks at the restaurant had water bottles and I bought two for the day.
And we had fun trying to both take a selfie each holding our own phones to make sure we looked cute lol!
And we took the same pictures of the ocean!
But I needed to stay in the coast to keep my pace and keep healing and she wanted to explore the inner Camino and headed onto to the Central path.
So we said goodbye and Boa Camino!
These items I left in the room, even a candy bar and can of fish seemed overly weighty – it is hard to explain now – but then made perfect sense. Before I left for the Camino I went to an American’s on the Camino meeting and the women presenting said “even an Apple can seem too heavy” and I totally get now.
plus, you can always get food before you walk – this is from the train station cafe. The pastry is a Nata – one of the most famed Portuguese treats. The recipe is old and began when some nuns at a convent tried to find uses for the yolks after the whites were used for a wall plastering recipe. And, the Nata was born. Sweet custard with a crunchy flaky cup-like crust.