Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Today Robin and I are holding up in Villafranca Montes De Oca. We are trying to allow a large group of scouts to move on up the camino ahead of us. We will leave tomorrow for Ages and then on to Burgos after that. Our plan now is to spend a couple of days in Burgos before continuing on. We have struggled with photo uploading and internet service these last few days but hopefully the photo upload will get sorted out soon. These days since Najera have been great walking days with cold temps, occasional snow showers and gusty winds. We walked into Santo Domingo De Calzada on December 24th after a very cold walk only to find the albergue closed (just for that day). This was not a good scene. Fortunately we were able to convince someone to make a phone call and the doors were opened to our shivering group. We were eight pilgrims from Mexico, Germany, Canada, Korea, and the USA. We spent Christmas eve around a communal dinner table and had a truly marvelous evening. On Christmas day we made our way to Belorado where we also found the albergue that was supposed to be opened, closed. Luckily we discovered a pension nearby and booked three rooms there for what was now a group of five moving along the camino together. The days have passed filled with great walking weather (cold but nice) and warm beds at the end of each day (much luck there). Today with our decision to hold up at Villafranca we have separated from our group. They were all great companions on the Way, but now we have to adjust our schedule a bit to match our own timetable. We are not in a rush to complete the camino. We just want to move at a reasonable pace and enjoy our time together on this remarkable journey. I will add some photos as soon as I can find a computer that will allow me to do that (always blame the computer). Robin and I remain healthy with sound feet and legs (thank God) ready to continue our journey westward. Weather reports indicate a warming trend in the Burgos area over the next few days. We will see what that does to the walking conditions (mud?). Hopefully another post tomorrow from Ages. Bye for now.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
This is our 8th day on the camino. J and I have walked many cities and towns. If I am to summarize my experience so far, I will tell you with smile that I am incredibly happy. Though, finding ways to one´s inner self can sometimes be a tricky thing. For instance, we find ourselves completely relying on camino way markings, especially those arrows marked by fellow pilgrims who have walked before us. Sure, there are many official markings to direct us but in between those, I am convinced one can get lost without unofficial markings. It gets even harder in the big cities to maintain your focus (go figure) and find markings you need, as they are obscured by many traffic signs, business signs, etc. So we need to be vigilant. This not only applies to finding one´s way but also to other aspects of this experience. While I am not 100% clear on the reason for this camino, I do not wish it only to be a physical experience. I felt a welling of sadness when I started out from St. John on the first day. In my haste to leave, I forgot to sit and dedicate the day. How easy it is to ignore the really important part of the experience! Also, an aching body is a constant companion on the camino, especially, for me, those days with 15 miles or more. I was at the end of my limit this afternoon. The bodily pain feels so real and so urgent! Of course, you do everything that everybody tells you; drinking lots of water, take care that you sleep well, or, take a day off if you feel pushed, etc. I knew that the issue of bodily pain would be there until we reach Santiago; it is not a matter of choice but you just have to find ways to deal with it. I thought about what St. Paul had to say. He heard Jesus said ¨My Grace is sufficient for you´´ (2 Corinthians 12:9) upon asking his bodily infirmity to release him. I also thought about what Thomas Merton said that we should not reduce our identity only to our 5 bodily sensory system. So for now, this is how I deal with my aching body. I tell mysel that I am not just my body. As Jesus suggested to me that I shouldn´t get all worked up by it because a body is just a body. Instead, I wish to keep a constant vigil that I may hear God regardless on my bodily condition.
.....speak to me Lord, your servant is listening.....
.....speak to me Lord, your servant is listening.....
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
We left Cizur Menor, ay 9:00, under cloudy skies and temperatures around 40 F. It being a Sunday there was a rather large group of day hikers on the camino. We all got it in gear and started the long climg up to Alto de Perdon. The cool temps made the climb a lot easier to deal with. It is a long climb over a stony path that has some steep sections to challenge you. We kept at it and a bit under two hours later we were at the summit. Now the fun began trying to negotiate the decent. The trail down is covered with round rock that makes it hard to establish good footing. But, we got through without injury (thank God) and continued on towards Puente La Reina, our stop for the night. At a small village, Muruzabal, we took a detour to see a slendid octagonal church at Eunate associated with the Knights Templar. We arrived in Eunate under slendid partly cloudy skies and temps approaching 50. It felt like an early fall day. We took some great pictures of the church and as soon as I can figure out how to upload them, I´ll post them. We arrived in Puente La Reina at 2:30 and are now ensconced in the albergue run by the Padres Reparadores. It is well equipped and very clean. Robin and I will attend the 7:00 mass tonight. We have much to give thanks for and not just for this splendid day walking, but for all the blessings of this trip. We have been truly fortunate. Off to Estella tomorrow (21.9 kms). I´ll try to post again tomorrow.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
After 33 hours of travel we arrived safely, if somewhat weary, in St. Jean Pied de Port. During the train journey south we stared out at a rictus of hoar frosted fields and frozen ponds flashing past as the TGV sped towards Bordeaux. Our thoughts drifted to the Pyrenees and the cold climb ahead of us. But, as the kilometers clicked off the weather moderated and our spirits climbed with the thermometer. Upon arrival in St. John we departed the train station into a dark empty town. It was right around freezing but calm as we climbed the steep narrow streets searching for the Pilgrim Office. A well practiced Kabuki of gestures augmented my high school French and miraculously we were led through the shadows by kind strangers to an iron gate which in turn led to the only visible pool of light along the stone wall of what turned out to be the Pilgrim Office. A knock on the door ushered us into the presence of two very kind men who registered us and gave us our pilgrim credentials. Antoine then took us up to the municipal albergue where we were to spend the night. He also walked us down to a bar where he arranged a meal for us. The kindness of people in this town is remarkable. It is as though they keep a silent vigil, awaiting the next pilgrim to wander in off the road, anxious to answer their needs. It is now Wednesday and we are off to Valcarlos under a clear cold sky. The Port D'Espagne, our exit from the town, awaits us. Very soon the crunch of gravel under our feet will mark the start of our camino. What an experience so far and it has only just begun.
Monday, December 13, 2010
|Le grand sausage|
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
"A journey can become a sacred thing: make sure, before you go, to take the time to bless your going forth, to free your heart of ballast. So that the compass of your soul might direct you toward the territories of spirit. Where you will discover more of your hidden life, and the urgencies that deserve to claim you. May you travel in an awakened way, gathered wisely into your inner ground; that you may not waste the invitations, which wait along the way to transform you. May you travel safely, arrive refreshed, and live your time away to its fullest; Return home more enriched, and free to balance the gift of days which call you."
J has packed his back pack tonight and I am about to pack mine. It is time, to leave behind what is comfortable to us and travel into the unknown where everything will be shaped by the openness of our hearts. My friend D told me that every step I go forward will take me closer to the heart of Christ. So I repose, in thanksgiving for all the possibilities that reside in me.
"Hail Mary, full of grace, bless the journey, bless the place we go to and we leave." Pilgrim Prayer
Thursday, December 9, 2010
|A local path along the Columbia River|
|Mt. Hood from a viewpoint near our home|
Monday, December 6, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
In effort to maintain my pack weight at minimum, I have packed, unpacked and repacked many times already. I mean, I intellectually understood that the weight should be kept light (sounds logical, anyway) but I didn't realize how deeply I am attached to those little things as if my survival would depend on them. I have never been an outdoor person. I used to joke that my idea of camping would be to stay at the five star hotels. So it has been already a very interesting journey, to just pack my pack! For instance, I am not yet convinced that I can live without a stick of lip balm, Q-Tips, Kleenex tissues, etc. But as I, almost brutally, under the watchful eyes of J that is, list every single thing on the paper and weigh them, it is unreal how everything adds up so quickly to an intolerable number! Finally, I arrived at the point where negotiating isn't even an option. I just had to learn how to say no. I cut my hair short as I had to say no to the traveling size shampoo (for my dry scalp), conditioner, all make-up items, etc. I even said no to the neti-pot.... Well, I will just have to leave my allergies at home, won't I?. No to vitamins, and basically no to any and all things that have contributed to the comfort of my life. I am carrying with me two sets of base layers to keep me warm underneath the water-proof outer shells, three pairs of undies and sox, a very thin and rather small towel to dry my body (I am concerned about this...), one soap which will be used as shampoo, facial cleanser, body wash, and laundry detergent. Well, you get the idea. It is strange, though. I feel so happy about this. I am so excited that it is possible that I could be absolutely comfortable with how I might look without the help of all these things. I tell you, if nothing else, this Camino will be one heck of a stripped down wellness program!
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
As part of our physical preparation for the Camino Robin and I decided to replicate the crossing of the Pyrenees from St. Jean (France) to Roncesvalles (Spain). As one learns more about the Camino concern seems to grow about that first day, or two, crossing the mountains into Spain. There are a great many posts on a variety of forums where others have recounted their struggles. We wondered just how bad this was going to be. The closest local hike we could find that fit the bill was the Larch Mountain Trail. We drove to the trailhead at Multnomah Falls Lodge, just east of Portland, and set out from there, in fine weather, at 9:30 one Saturday. We returned at 5:10 after a 14 mile hike that gained 4,000 feet in the first 6.8 miles. Surprisingly all went well. We were pretty much done at the end but we carried our Camino packs at 20# and 16# respectively and survived. No blisters, used the Pacer hiking poles (couldn't have done it without them). I also will confirm that the downhill trip is the worst. It really does affect your knees. I will be looking for some kind of wrap or elastic bandage to help with that. Gorgeous hike through something that looks like a Lost World set. Paths that varied from cushy pine needles to sharp broken rock to boulder fields (yikes). Robin did great. No blisters, but she was a little sore the next morning. We now know we can do the mountain pass crossing from France into Spain (we have done it - sort of). At the end of the hike we celebrated with an icy cold beer at the lodge and then shuffled (did I mention the knees) out to the parking lot for the trip home and more celebrating. Great day.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
As one prepares for any Camino the question of what to bring and what to leave behind looms very large. It is all about the weight of your pack and the effects of that weight on your body as you continually walk 15-20 miles per day. Recommendations suggest limiting your pack weight to no more than 10 percent of your body weight. In the end my pack weighed in at just about that but Robin's was a bit more. This included allowances for food and water. I have linked our pack lists to this post. Robin and I managed to keep to the bare essentials. Mine included two sets of long johns (one capilene 3 and one power stretch fleece), two capilene T shirts, two pairs of underwear (ex officio), three pairs of Smartwool hiking socks with three pairs of liners (Injinji), one pair mid weight softshell pants (Marmot Scree), one pair waterproof softshell pants (REI Taku), and a waterproof shell jacket (Marmot Genesis). What we aren't wearing along with the usual other odds and ends are going into Aarn (NZ company) Peak Aspiration backpacks with the sport balance pockets. These packs have been on our backs for many months loaded with training weight and fit and carry beautifully. Our sleeping system is a down quilt made by Nunatak called the Back Country Blanket. This has a full length velcro closure instead of a zipper (lighter). It has drawcords that gather the bottom together and the top around your shoulders to form a sleeping bag tube out of the flat quilt. Weighs 1.5 pounds and is good to 20F (so advertised). We will use a Sea to Summit premium silk liner (4.5 ounces) with it for extra warmth and to keep the quilt cleaner. We will also carry the altus rain poncho which seems to be a staple on the Camino. We both will be using Pacer poles. One tip of the hat to technology is my Kindle which has my reading material as well as guide book information on it and weighs less than the print guidebook. Robin will carry her iPhone. On our hands we will wear waterproof Marmot Precip gloves with optional liners. I should also mention we will be using Hikers Wool (an NZ product) as a blister prevention product instead of the frequently recommended vaseline under the liner socks. We have been using the wool for months and love it. But in the end, as with all this gear, the Camino will tell us whether we have made the right choices.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
And that is exactly what I am about to do. Sure, I could list a few reasons why I am doing this; why I am leaving the comfort of my own home, those familiar faces with whom I share laughs and sometimes a few tears, and, ah...that endless list of things to do..... What would those reasons be you might ask? I could say as John O'Donohue put it, to explore "the invisible geography" of my inner self or, to walk with silence to taste what it is like to be in profound repose. But in truth, I really don't know why I am doing this Camino. Perhaps, it isn't important to know why but I dare to say that it is significant, at least for me, to feel, for the first time in my life, that I am okay with the unknown, I am okay without having any plans, and I am ready to experience what might be, without exerting so much effort so as to understand 'why'. Of course, one does not have to leave one's own home and set out a long journey to do a pilgrimage. As J and I have been training for this since last Christmas 2009, I became more aware that the life itself is a pilgrimage. I wonder if this endless list of earthly desires we've created, and strive to accomplish, have anything to do with The Destination we hope to reach one day. Yes, you guessed it. The more questions I ask, the more confusion gets on my nerves, yet the more comfortable I become with who I am. So while my body travels through the terrain of Spain for next 54 days (or so), I am mindful of the fact that those questions are blessings and all I have to do is to simply trust, trust what is. It might take the Camino de Santiago to know 'why' or, perhaps, it might take multiple life times. But, I do know one thing; my longing has brought me to this point. And for now, I am happy with that simple truth. Okay, I know I am rambling on so I will offer some wisdom from Thomas Merton who has articulated some of these things much better than I ever could in this life or the next.
"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone." Thoughts in Solitude
Thursday, November 11, 2010
|Click to enlarge|