I am now in Santiago!

Hola!

I last spoke to you after the Cruz de Ferro…. wow seems so long ago now…. I have covered over 200k since then and added another 400000 steps along the way. I am now in Santiago and the end of the Camino for so many….. but for me ( and maybe some of my Camino family) another 90km before my journey ends….. another 90k of Camino moments, challenges and magic…another 90km to the “end of the world”…. another 90km to make a difference!

So here is a quick pictorial up date of highlights to Sarria ( 100k out from Santiago).

Leading up to a 1500 mtr climb to O’Cebreiro and the above sunrise!

The magnificent 12th Century Templar Castle at Ponferrada…. one of the finest examples in the whole of Spain.

Ever upwards to O’Cebriero.


And into Galacia


…..and finally sunrise from 1500mts….awesome!

O’Cebreiro’s Iglesia de Santa Maria dates from the 9th century and the oldest church associated with the Pilgrim Way…… over 1000 years old and still in use!

….. and surrounding village

Back off the mountain and on the way to Sarria…… 100 km from Santiago and a whole different Pilgrimage for some…. but more on that later.

Walking up the steep steps to Sarria…. the many very steep steps, which is just what you need after a long day’s march…. I was thinking about Meg’s Children…. thinking about my own children and how different life would have been for them if they had not been born where they where…..thinking about what an amazing job Meg’s Children Nepal is doing …… then I saw this painting on the side of a church….. pretty much sums it up….way better than I could put in words!

That night at dinner  I met a great Australian…. walking this challenging path with his lovely daughter…. thankyou for you generosity mate and bless you!

So amigos the next time we chat and I catch up again….. I will be ( hopefully) at the end of the world…. and sitting in a bar somewhere reflecting on what has been and what is still to come.

In the meantime Buen Camino everyone!

Oh that’s me icing my badly bruised toe!

Advertisements

Leon and beyond!

Leon (population 130000) was a Roman garrison and base for the 7th Legion…hence the name Leon. Subsequently conquered by Visigoth, Moors and finally Christian forces and all of these influences can still be seen in various Rui s and architecture throughout and seems to be meld together seamlessly.

By far the jewel is the Leon Cathedral…. simply amazing! It has over 1800 square meters of stained glass and is known locally as the Cathedral of light. One of the chief functions of the medieval church and its stained glass was to instruct the illiterate and give them pictures they could understand, to show them the story of the Gospels and the legends of the saints…. this magestic church does that perfectly!


At night I notice a queue …. must have been over 200 mts long…. so when it got shorter I jumped on the end and found myself in the Cathedral with maybe 1000 others and treated to an organ recital….. an amazing sound experience! I have a video which I will try and post here but not sure if it will load…. wifi is very inconsistent where I am now….in the mountains in a little village of Cacabelos.​

Sorry …. no download! You’ll just have to wait till I get home to play it for you…. it will be worth it!

Festivals seem to follow me! While I was in Leon there was a festival celebrating Spanish traditional music…. I have videos of that too but…. ! As I have said previously the Spanish know how to party and they party reeeeally hard. 



Still going when I left Leon at 7am! Good to see that the Spanish have also discovered the lamb sandwich as the perfect late night snack.


It was also market day…. people everywhere… the whole town was out!​



Leaving Leon I had the same feelings as leaving Burgos…. apprehensive and yet excited about what lay ahead…. missing family and friends wishing they were with me on this journey… so much to share…. looking forward th the end, whenever that would be! But this time reminded me of the lessons learned and that the end of this mystical journey will come soon enough! So off to experience more magic and find more new Camino family members.




One of the longest and best preserved bridges in Spain, built over a Roman bridge in the 13th century is in Hispital de Orbigo.

It is built over the Rio Orbigo



It’s myriad of Arches provide a passage called the ” passage of honour”. So called after a knight from Leon, Don Suero de Quinones, who scorned by a beautiful lady threw down the gauntlet to any knight who dared to pass as he undertook to defend the bridge ( and his honour). Knights from all over Europe took up his challenge but his successfully defended the bridge for over a month until the required 300 lances were broken….. and then off he went to Santiago to offer thanks for his freedom from the bonds of love.

It is thought that this story may have been the inspiration for Cervantes famous ” Don Quixote”.

Jousts are still held here to this day.

On the way to La Cruz de Ferro …. the 2nd highest mountain I will climb ( 1505 mt). 




Dawn and the last 200 mts  to the Cruz de Ferro.

The Cruz de Ferro is a humble monument where a simple iron cross stands atop a weathered pole….it is one of the abiding symbols of the entire Pilgrimage! 

Traditionally it is where pilgrims from all over the world leave rocks that they have brought from their homeland. There is literally a mountain of rocks here!

But for me it wasn’t a stone but it was where I left an Angel. An Angel who left us way too early…. an Angel who will now rest forever here… an Angel who’s spirit will talk to and encourage every Pilgrim as they pass by…. an Angel who will light the path for all of us from this high place as we continue our journeys without her laughter and sparkling eyes to brighten our days…… but who will forever be in our hearts.

Now back in the mountains and on to O’Cebreiro and a climb to 1300 mts. The terrain., the scenery, the cuisine, the houses are all beginning to change !

Oops…. another video failure! Immagine this very primitive Albergue playing Gregorian music… mystical? Spiritual…. more Camino magic!

Camino wisdom!

My 1 millionth step and a time to reflect with just 300 km to go!

Forever onwards….. one step at a time …. hoping all the way that each step will mean more donations…. each step will benefit Megs Children Nepal…. each step will make a difference to their lives.

Please dig deep…. help me help them!

Gracias Amigos!

Hola!

If you confused about that last post….. so am I?

For some mysterious reason the post ” Burgos to Leon” fell off? So I reposted a slightly different version…. maybe some different pictures too.

Hopefully I will post highlights of journey from Leon over the next day or two.

Adios

Burgos to Leon

I did promise on my last post that I would try and up date you all more regularly…. but try as I might it would seem that the life of a Pilgrim will sometimes not allow for that time at the end of the day.

My daily routine is up at 6 ( unless some who share the space decide to scratch around packing packs and the like at 5am….. zippers at that hour can sound like freight trains). Pack , a quick wash, dress, stretch and out to find a coffee…. most times that means the next village ….. 5 or 6 km away! Then follows another 15 or 20 km walk, find a bed, unpack, shower, wash cloths, find somewhere to eat and have a well earned frothy or two before falling into bed exhausted….most nights that’s about 8 or 9.  Sometimes I have wifi and sometimes it will work too!


Anyway I am now in Leon with a rest day…. so some time to catch up.

We last spoke in Burgos…. seems like a very long time ago now. Having spent a rest day there my Camino family had moved on and most were a day ahead of me now. It was tough to start again on my own. I knew I was about to start on the “mind” section of the Camino too where you get tested mentally as well as physically. It didn’t take long for tgat test to start. Apart from my pack ( who I have christened “Wilson”from castaway   fame …. Wilson goes with me everywhere… and I mean literally everywhere ) I was feeling very much alone.

Meet Wilson

With the odd tear rolling down my cheek I found myself desperately missing my beautiful family, my grandchildren who would be changing and growing and hitting tiny milestones while I’m here, my wonderful friends and extended family…. I have never really been homesick before but I was feeling it now.

I was beginning to think about the end of this journey…. imagining walking through the arrival doors into the arms of those that I love so dearly and just as the tears began to flow again I remembered the encouraging words of so many of you ” just put one foot if front of the other” ” take one step at a time”.

I began to think about that and what is really important in life. The Camino teaches you that it is not possessions. It’s not the big house or latest car. It’s not the size of the bank account or your position on some corporate ladder. It is love … love for family…. love for friends …. love and kindness for those less fortunate than ourselves….. and it is about receiving their love in return. I began to realise just how blessed I was….. just how rich I am to have love in my life….. and maybe it really is a case of reaping what you sow?

I began to think about what this Pilgrimage is teaching me …..that the journey is not about the final destination but about the journey itself ….it teaches you to embrace and live every moment in case those moments are missed and pass you by unnoticed ….. it teaches you that this is how it is or should be with life.


It is teaching me not to chase the future…. not to try and change the future…..but rather make the most of today, experience it fully……the future will come to me soon enough!

Wiping away the tears, smiling at the sun and the relentless horizon…. I was off to find additions to my Camino family who are never far away.

I was off to experience more Camino magic, look for more doors to open and more introspection.

…..more signposts and Way markers to follow.

at least there are no Golden Arches on this journey

In Hontanas I found a humble church with a poster of some of the worlds most inspirational leaders…. I thought it fitting to light a candle for those less fortunate than me…. for Meg’s children and for all the other disadvantaged kids around the world. I saw Gandhi looking down on me ….and it was Gandhi who said ” If we are to teach real peace in the world and if we are to carry on a real war against poverty we shall have to begin with the children”.

Walking through the mist to the ruined 15th century abbey of San Anton…… once a place of safety and healing to thousands of Medieval pilgrims in times past…. even recesses to leave bread out for them.

Through the mist to Castrojeriz and a Roman fort rumoured to have once been occupied by Emporer Augustus.

A hard climb back up to the Meseta…. before another Camino moment at San Nicolas

San Nicolas ….. an absolute gem on this star studded road. A restored 11th century church….. in the middle of wheat fields miles away from any village but a haven for body, mind and spirit for those lucky enough to find a bed there.


Run by the Italian fraternity del Camino and manned by volunteers there is no electricity or any real concession to modernity. They retain candle light as the only source of illumination and maintain the ancient tradition of washing pilgrims feet. Rarely do they celebrate mass there but on this night they did ….

Pilgrims from Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, The Dominican Republic and ,of course Australia all ate a communal dinner together under candle light.

One if there rules was no alarms. They would wake us at 7 o’clock for breakfast. Imagine when at 7 sharp we woke to a Gregorian chant while the candles where relit and breakfast prepared…. I was transported back 1000 years in an instant!

As I left that place ….. I could hear them playing ” imagine”……..only on the Camino!

I felt renewed that day as I set off again

From the very old to the brand new. Albergue Finca… all the mod cons including sleeping cubicles and even a washing machine ….. and I had it all to myself…. no snoring to keep me awake or zippers to wake me up! All alone……

Apart from Wilson of course!

That night I shared one of the best Peregrino dinners I have had with a really nice ( and generous) guy from Illinois USA. We share stories of life, family and adventure. Buen Camino Kenton!


Next stop Carion de Los Condes and the Albergue Santa Maria. Another gem of the Way. Run by the singing Augustinian sisters we were treated to a night full of singing and blessings…it was a special place. They asked us all to say why we were doing our Pilgrimages. The honesty and the emotion in the answers was just amazing. They gave us all a little star that they had made saying as long as we kept the star they would be with us on our journey no natter where it lead . I believe that they are indeed with me now.

I was woken early the next morning… those zips again! As I left in the dark I walked past the church of Santa Maria…. the same church where I had lit a candle for each of you the day before

The door was open and a candle threw a little light on the interior. Like a moth I was drawn in and sat for a little while to wait for the dawn. As I sat I reflected on what I was doing and why,. I reflected on Meg’s Children and what more I could do to get to our $100000 target. I wondered just what an amazing difference that money would make to those young lives.

Leaving the church I walked down the street about a block and randomly stopped to check my pack…. and there on the ground and in the early morning gloom I found 4×5 euro notes….. Camino magic or an even higher intervention? You decide but either way another $30 to the Children.

Along the way to Leon




Walking on 18 k on a 2000 year old Roman road…and still intact!

More on the way to Leon

Walking into Leon…. and a well deserved rest day and a private room….. with Wilson.

More from Leon and beyond later….. off to explore this vibrant city now.

Adios and gracias!

Viana to Burgos.

Sorry this has taken so long. It was my intention to write every 2 days so that I don’t leave anything out but…. sometimes I get wifi, sometimes I get wifi but it doesn’t work, sometime there is just nothing at all and sometimes the journey is just so full of awe there just isn’t time in case there is a “Camino event ” that I would miss!

So…. the magic of The Way from  Viana to Burgos.


Leaving Viana I walked alone to the large, university city of Logrono ( pop 150000). It is the Capital of La Rioga region…  famous for its wine…… and its is good and there is muchos available at $1.50 a glass!


Along the way I met Tom from a small town ( Kimberly) in the East Kootenays of BC , Canada. 


We all have stories. We all have reasons for walking this route…. they are mostly very different and quite personal but they are all inspirational in a unique way. His was to learn how to live in the moment again. Something we could all remember to try and do in our fast paced world… to enjoy life for what it is now and for what it throws up…… to thrive on and accept the challenges and speed humps along the way.


Reached Navarrete, a small village, oozing charm, warn by time and millions of Pilgrim footsteps. With its narrow streets, it’s modest but beautiful church, it felt comfortable…  it was warm in its welcoming…as was the Albergue del Pelegrinos.




Run by Angel ( real name and quite fitting ) and his aging Mother and Father. Angel has walked the Camino 5 times and is still in awe of its spirituality. He believes, as do many, that it is the alignment of the Sun and the Milky Way that enhances and magnifies the mystery of this path. Just as we are today, people have been walking  this “way” for many thousands of years….. following the Sun and giving thanks for all it provides.


I met many more good people over our pelegrino dinner that night…. more to add to my Camino Family…. people like Annli from Denmark and Mario from Milano who I would walk with, people who I would share many Camino moments and life stories with, people who come and go but  who will stay with me in spirit throughout.


So on to Nagera. 


 Nagera and yet another beautiful church.



and yet another festival! This one? Wait for it…. the Rio de Nagera carnival!!! Ring a bell?


My Albergue was literally right next to the bandstand and the music went on until 5am…. up again at 6 to keep walking… no sleep that night!


Walking into Santa Domingo de la Calzada, feeling good in body and mind. Feeling so blessed to be able to do this when so many will never have the chance… determined to make every second count.

My bed that night was in a converted 15th century monastery ( Acadia Cistercienses) that I shared with 33 others. A wonderfully peaceful and calm place, it has been welcoming and providing safety to Pilgrims for over 500 years!

I shared a fireplace with other pilgrims from all over the world…. not many had English …. I only have English…. and yet we were all soon deep in conversation….so it is on The Way!


Santo Domingo is famous, amongst so many other things for its Church which houses live chooks to keep a ” miracle” alive.


The town has a drinking fountain…. but so does every town and village, this one though had a date of 1799….. just 29 years after Europeans discovered Australia ….made me think just how young we are as a  Nation…… and still to create our own history.


….. and next to it was this thought provoker! Is this what our journey’s are all about?


On to Belorado…. changing landscapes as we go.



And yet another Camino moment. A Pilgrim blessing with a difference!


…..immagine people from Spain, Brazil, Australia, Korea, Sweden, Japan, France, Peru, Germany, and Switzerland. All united, all saying the prayer of St James, one by one and in their own language then all, one by one singing a religious song in their own language then all embracing each other as one! Camino magic at its most spontaneous and unexpected!

By the way so glad I didn’t have to represent Australia in song. The only religious song I could think of at the time was “up there Gazaly”!

Then back to the Albergue and more wine and singing with more Camino family


A big climb to 1150 mts and the monumento de los Caidos, a reminder of the Spanish civil war. The monument marks the spot were people were summarily shot and buried in shallow graves.


Then on through the forest to San Juan de Oretaga and lodgings with 100 other very smelly Pelegrinos, 2 showers and 2 toilets…. just immagine…. the worst yet!


A walk of 28k ( plus another 11 around the city) to Burgos.



Burgos is s large sprawling city and at least 10 km of the walk was through the burbs. Has a population of 180000 and is an architectural wonder full of monuments and is often referred to as the Gothic capital of Spain. It is named after its heavy defensive towers ( burgos) and was home to the legendary El Cid .


Burgos Cathedral… oh my! The 2nd largest and best in Spain. It is overwhelming…. you would need days to see it all and take in what it has. The detail and workmanship of the artisans of the medieval time is just amazing…. something that could not be repeated or replaced.



Did you ever wonder where all that Inca gold went ?





Today is a rest day for me …. they say that the Camino is made up of 3 parts. The 1st about the body ( mine hurts… right knee and quad, left calf and foot, neck and back), the second ( the Meseta…. which I am about to walk through) is about the mind and will power and the third is about the Spirit. Time to rest the body, do the washing, explore this city and find the best Sangria and Paella a few Euro can buy.

Siesta time in Burgos!


……And in the words of El Cid himself ( who, by the way is buried in the Burgo Cathedral), Adios Amigos…. please don’t forget the Children at Meg’s…… it is way better to give than it is to receive…. for, as I am finding, it is in giving that you truly receive.


Talk soon….. off around another bend on this intriguing journey.

The missing pictures!

Los Arcos Church of Santa Maria….. what a gem!

But wait there’s more 

……. and more!

Now to Viana and the running with the bulls festival ​


and so the sun sets on Viana and the Camino for another day.

Oops! 

My big fat fingers pressed publish before I had finished and added the pics….. I will add them tonight!

Logono Cathedral having breakfast! Another 15 k in front of me.

Till tonight!

Pamplona to Viana!

What a journey…. 156km in and this ancient path never ceases to amaze …. to teach … to test and to delight! There is magic it would seem, around every bend, in every village and city. Just when you least expect, just when you begin to tire, just when you think it couldn’t get better, it turns on a spectacle as if on cue and as if it is just for you!

It has only been 5 days since my “rest”day in Pamplona but so much had happened in that short time I would need a full day to write it! Do this will be a quick pictorial update.

From now on It will  be easier for me to blog every couple of days or even every day…. hope it won’t bore you though! Let me know if it does.

My body is holding up…. apart from my ever present tight calves, a strained quad that I did on day one and a painful neck at days end from the backpack…. all is good! Just hope it stays that way and my boots hold out! Already I have seen countless Pilgrims have to pull out due to everything from broken ankles, torn Achilles, knees strains…. etc etc. This is no walk in the park!

So to my rest day in Pamplona saw me walk the entire city and click up 14 km in the process!!! 
Started at the Cathedral of Santa Maria ….. there are so many churches in Spain…. most are amazing . This in no exception ….. 

…. the interior is exquisite!

Even the cloyster!

Next I followed the route of the famous running of the bulls…. all the way from outside the city gates, through the narrow, cobbled streets to the Plaza de Toros ( bull ring)

I walked the old city fortifications…. 

and the Plaza del Castillo and a medieval festival in full swing…. complete with 2 Euro beers a tapas! I have learnt already that the Spanish people love to celebrate……just about anything really!​


Next day off in the dark and the drizzle to climb the 750mt Alto del Perdon to Ulterga.

……and this is why people break ankles. The photo doesn’t do it justice but this track is almost straight down and those rocks are big and lose!

Next day off in the rain again! Set off in search of a little church ( Santa Maria de Eunate ). While it’s not on the main Camino it’s worth the extra 5 km to see it.

Set in the middle of a corn field lies a 12th century Knights Templar gem….. immagine!

There are thousands of beautiful bridges in Spain and the bridge at Puente La Reina is the best I’ve seen yet……there is a custom that if walk across it bare foot ( or in six) your Camino will be a success…. so far so good!

Stayed in a delightful Albergue in a part Roman part medieval village of Cirauqui…. walked in on a wine festival….. can you believe it …. the whole village gathered in the small plaza filling up on the local red!

Opposite where I stayed was the village church. Note that this village has a population of around 400 and falling as are most villages across Spain ( across the globe I guess) as the youth move to cities for work. I can only immagine what it must have been like to have a church with such detail.

I left early that morning via a Roman gate and road….. here I am walking a road that was laid down over 2000 years ago!!!

Past an abandoned church ……in the middle of an ancient olive grove….

On to Estella and a Pilgrim Hostel run by volunteers and where pay by donation…. just what you want to pay….. could only happen on the Camino. I found it by chance after climbing to the highest point of the town….. probably 300 m to get a room in a convent I had heard about where there fed you and treated you to a service with full choir ! I reaching the door puffing and panting only to be told by a Nun behind a grill ” no men “….. but the hostel I stayed at was the best yet….. learnt how to make Hungarian potato and sausage soup and also had an origami lesson….. the Camino works in strange ways!

Set off for a long march from Estella over Montjardin to Los Arcos. But then a fountain appears…. nothing outstanding about that because there are thousands of fountains across Spain. But this one ….. this one pours red wine….. and as much as you can drink!


Los Arcos has Roman origins and is another classic Spanish village with Plaza next to a church…… but the church of Santa Maria…. wow! It’s absolutely amazing ! I ask what is such magnificence doing here?Another Camino surprise!

Pics

Another long, hot walk and hills to climb to get to Viana. Very tired today…. maybe a bit dehydrated? Can see Viana in the distance.

Pic

Another walked village set high on a steep hill. I get why they did that but hard on a weary Pilgrim having to climb a steep hill st the end of the day….. but what do I find? Another Camino surprise waiting for me …..today is Viana’s running with the bulls festival!! That’s the Camino…. just when you least expect, it offers a gift!

Pic

That’s it for this night

Pic 

I wonder what is in store tomorrow?

Buen Camino!

Hola!

I write this as I am sitting in a lavenderia in Pamplona washing some very smelly clothes and so grateful that I have made it this far ( 77km). Apart from every muscle and bone in my body aching …. no serious injuries or even blisters ( Gracias a Dios).

I have so far walked across the Pyrenees ( they don’t call them mountains for nothing!) from France into Spain.

Slept with 14 other Pilgrims in a Monastery in Roncesvalles.

Walked through beautiful deciduous forests in the drizzle and mist into Zubiri.

Slept in an Albergue with 10 women I had only just met…… oh and 17 other men in bunk bed dorm full of Peregrinos just like me and from all over the world.

…..and I have showered with 5 others all in the one cubicle ( sorry picture censored).

I have been blessed to meet some truly awesome people from right across the globe…. from Sweden, Holland, Germany, Japan, UK, Luxembourg, Puerto Rico, Brazil,  Australia and, of course the Montana Kid and the retired philosopher postman from Utah….. a fraternity of like minded individuals who genuinely look out for each other.

It’s like John Lennon was here when he wrote ” Imagine”.

“Imagine all the people living life in peace “…..well they do here!

All of these people have suddenly entered and enlightened my life in someway and will most likely move on and leave it just as quickly….. that is ” The Way”.

This Camino is a microcosm of life really. It tests you and teaches you…..

It  will push you to your limits but it will also clear your mind, open you up again to experience and appreciate all the good in the world ….all the good in people.

Every bend in the road provides a new challenge of some kind…. physical sure but also mental, cultural and spiritual….. every bend a new thought.

It opens your eyes so you can see just how beautiful this planet is and it reminds you that as a temporary custodian we are duty bound to do what we can to care for it and the people in it.


That way, future generations ( your children and their children ) will be able to walk these same paths, put their footsteps over old footprints just as I am lucky enough to be doing.

The Camino reminds me every day to keep trying to give back to the world that has been so good to me ( and you).

I am climbing these mountains, real and metaphorical, for me and for Meg’s Children Home Nepal….. hoping that with step I can raise some money for these little children who, by a quirk of fate are quite desperate for things we take for granted.

So far ( according to my Fitbit) I have taken in excess of 120000 steps…… and only $10 raised since I took that first step….. please help me take the next one…. help reach my geographic and monetary targets.

Yesterday I walked along the river Arga and entered Pamplona through the medieval fortifications and the Portal de Francia.

For over 800 years Pamplona has been  place of sanctuary and respite for Pilgrims…and so it is for me.

Today I will take a long hot shower ( alone ) and explore this beautiful city. Maybe I’ll walk the famous route of the running of the bulls….

and reflect on what has been and what is still to come.

Adios! Hasta luego.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑