Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shedding weight

On our previous two caminos Robin and I both have used Aarn, Peak Aspiration packs, (45L plus 12L in the pair of pouches). These are wonderful packs that fit and carry beautifully. The only downside is that with an all up weight of close to 5 pounds they are a bit overkill when your ideal base weight (everything carried minus consumables such as food, water, and fuel, if carried) hovers around 8-10 pounds. I never had a problem carrying the pack as our total pack weight was only around 18 pounds (maybe 20 if we carried more food than usual). The Aarn pack comes with waterproof liners in the main pack and in the balance pockets as well. The balance pockets replace the secondary bag that most people carry for sundry items. When one adds all that up, and factors in the comfort and convenience of the Aarn design, it is easy enough to accept the extra weight. However, I do admit that the extra pack weight would be easier to justify if the load carried was more in the 35-40 pound range, just as one could justify (and perhaps need) a heavier boot for a heavier load.

Walking the camino does not require a lot of stuff, even in the winter. Our next pilgrimage will be during the late spring and summer months, and will require even fewer things, or at least lighter versions of the same things (shirts, jackets, pants, sleeping bags etc.). As the overall carry weight weight deceases it becomes harder to justify a pack weight that represents 50 percent of your base weight. So, armed with this understanding, I started searching out other options. As I looked into ultralight equipment I happened upon a company called Zpacks (based in Florida). I did some research, and placed an order for a 45L version of their Arc Blast pack.
Arc Blast. 

This pack is constructed with ultra light Cuben fiber (waterproof and breathable) overlaid with polyester (for additional durability). The pack only weighs one pound. I also purchased 2 belt pouches, 2 side pouches and a chest pouch. The total weight comes to a very lean 21.3 ounces (1.33 pounds). This pack also comes with a carbon fiber external frame with a mesh back panel, that will be most welcomed in hot weather. There is a 3 week delivery wait. All packs are custom built, and zpacks seems willing to modify your specific pack anyway you want it. If this works the way I expect it to, I will place an order for Robin as well. This company sells a variety of other ultralight equipment as well (see link above). Robin and I have both used Altus ponchos for our winter walks. They were great in that environment. Now, as we face walking in much warmer weather the Altus, I fear, will be too hot. Zpacks to the rescue. The poncho shown below weighs 5.1 onces (the Altus weighs 16 ounces).

As I look at this poncho (which covers the pack as well), I am thinking that in the colder, earlier part of our camino, I could wear a lightweight jacket underneath to deal with the short sleeves. I will also wear lightweight gaiters, but there will still be a gap between the gaiters and the bottom of the poncho. So (now don't laugh) I think I am going with this option as well. Remember form follows function, so while from a fashion statement point of view this might be a stretch, but for ease of donning rain gear, and for comfort in hot weather this kilt seems perfect, and it only weighs 1.9 ounces.
So with this proposed rig I get the same rain protection for much less weight, more air flow, meaning more comfort, in hot weather, and more flexibility, but at a steep increase in price. Cuben fiber is quite expensive. Still, all in all, I am tempted to go for it. So, if you see someone walking around the gite/albergue, waiting for laundry to dry, wearing something akin to a short shower curtain, please say hello, it could very well be me.

I am still making adjustments to my packing list, but with the equipment above I feel I can get my base weight down to 10 pounds (a much lighter wallet will help drive that weight down as well).  I'll post more later once I am able to get out, and walk with this gear in the Pacific Northwest weather. Looks promising!  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

An itch to be scratched

Le Puy en Velay
Robin and I have been casting about trying to decide where our next camino journey will take us. We have twice been down the Camino Frances in winter, and have enjoyed both of those pilgrimages immensely. However, one hitch has always been Robin's choir schedule. She sings with St. Mary's Cathedral Choir in Portland, and has been there for close to ten years. We have tried to accommodate her choir schedule by nestling our caminos in between Christmas and Easter. Having said that, on our first pilgrimage, we did spend Christmas on the camino. This coming year Robin would like to sing straight through Easter Sunday. So, for the moment, our plan is to leave for Europe a couple of days after Easter, and head to Le Puy en Velay. We have conjured up an itinerary that has great appeal as it will take us through both France and Spain with lots of varied terrain, beautiful scenery, and will lead us back to Santiago. The route we are planning will take us from Le Puy to St. Jean Pied de Port, then via the GR 10 hiking trail to Irun where we will walk the Camino Norte until it intersects with the Camino Primitivo which we will then follow to the Camino Frances, then on to Santiago. This is, for us, an ambitious undertaking. The main concern, at the moment, is adapting to walking in hot weather. Robin definitely prefers cool weather to hot weather. In truth I do as well, but I know I can walk in warmer (even hot) weather. Robin is less sure. We will be leaving Le Puy late in April so that bit is okay. We will be walking the Norte, and Primitivo in June, and July. Our hope is that both of those routes will be a bit cooler due to proximity to the coast, and the higher elevations of the mountain passes. We will see. All pilgrimages have challenges to be embraced. I feel certain this one will be no different. The month of May on the Le Puy route will certainly be crowded (this will be new to us). The Norte and Primitivo routes are gaining popularity so there might be more pilgrims there as well. The heat, the rain, the cold (in the early days), even the crowds are all things that can lead to one of those "why am I doing this" moments. We all have them at some point in a pilgrimage. The trick is to acknowledge them for just what they are, then offer up a tip of the hat, and move on. Easier said then done? Of course, but still doable. That is the practice (learning to follow your heart, not your ego) of being on pilgrimage. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The restless heart

It is now six months since returning from the Camino, and our pilgrim spirits are still in full bloom. I was doing some reading this morning and was struggling to pay attention to the text. My mind was cycling back and forth from the book to the Camino. This then got me thinking about restlessness and yearning. Curiously, the book I was reading was about Catholic spirituality, and the section I was trying to focus on was explaining that the Spirit within us is always restless until the journey Home is complete. Many confuse this restlessness of heart with a general feeling of emptiness that they try to fill in the only way familiar to them, self indulgence. These superficial solutions always leave us worse off as we fail to understand, and properly respond to, what our hearts are truly crying out for. Our trips to the Camino have been motivated by a call of faith. This has not been a trumpet blast, but rather a more subtle sense of being lovingly guided. We choose to place ourselves on pilgrim roads to strengthen, and practice not only our faith, but also our humility. The journey's recompense is, hopefully, found in the incremental increase of love, wisdom, and courage sufficient for the journey Home. The restlessness Robin and I sense is the urgency to be closer to God, not just in thought or word but, more importantly, in deed. Walking pilgrim roads, in our experience, helps a great deal in this regard. It is simply where we feel we need to be, and want to be. BTW it is also a lot of fun.

Coincidentally, (but perhaps not) a hymn (Healing River of the Spirit) that was sung at mass this morning included (in part) these timely words.

Weary from the restless searching that has lured us from your side, we discover in your presence peace the world cannot provide.

All the world is torn by conflict; wars are raging at this hour. Saving Spirit move among us, guide our winding human course, till we find our way together, flowing homeward to our Source.

Finding our peace lies in finding the path to the inner door of our heart. In that interior silence we can awaken to a sacred space that enables us to hear the voice guiding us home to our Source. We just have to learn to listen. That is the hard part and, yes, it takes practice.

Peace, love, and buen camino,

John and Robin

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A good start to the day

I have always loved Willie Nelson's voice, and his music. This morning, over coffee, I found myself browsing music videos and came across some I really liked, so here they are. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

St. James The Pilgrim

Today we brought home an icon we commissioned with Mary Katsilometes, a Portland (Oregon) based iconographer. Mary has been working for years on several very large panels for a local Catholic church (Resurrection Parish), and her work caught our eye. Her work is breathtaking both in quality and in scale. We contacted her, and she kindly agreed to make time for St. James. We quickly reached an agreement, and set the process in motion. Today, some two months (or so) later we dropped by Mary's house/studio and picked up St. James. He is beautiful. Icons are to be blessed, and then are worthy of veneration. We will pursue this process with St. Mary's Cathedral in Portland. For now Robin and I feel blessed to have St. James under our roof. We have ongoing camino plans and as expected St. James will be asked to guide and protect us on our future journeys. St. James, pray for us, and for all pilgrims.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Winter Camino 2013 Slideshow

Robin finished this slideshow last night. It covers our walk down the Camino Frances, to Finisterre and Muxia, and the Camino Ingles. We started walking on Dec 31, 2012 and finished on Feb 18, 2013.

Enjoy the show.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Can you drink the cup?

I was reading a spiritual reflection the other day from the Henri Nouwen Society, and it referenced a scripture passage (Mt 20, 20) where the mother of James and John, was asking Jesus for special consideration for her sons. He responded, knowing what his future held in store, by asking "Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?" This is an interesting question for all of us. Let's open this up a bit. As this blog is about our times, and reflections on the Camino, lets start there.

The Camino experience places a pilgrim in a new and challenging environment. It requires many things from those who walk it. These include a willingness to be open to change, acceptance of one's companions, one's surroundings, one's own shortcomings and those of others, tolerance of discomfort, pain, and adverse weather just to name a few. Pilgrims set out on this journey knowing the challenges, but most expect they will complete the journey, and enjoy it. This vision of success and pleasure are companion themes in most of our lives. We simply expect things will work out, and we will enjoy our lives to boot. Let's hope so.  But, what if that is not the case? What then?

 My point is that in life, and the Camino is a microcosm of life, we each have a vision of who we are, the things that we will do, and how we see our lives unfolding. It is a given that anyone can be cheerful when life favors them, and everything is going according to plan (whatever that is). We can easily drink that cup. But what happens when life becomes less certain, success eludes us, we lose a job, our health fails us, or some other disappointment befalls us. What then? How do we react to that change? Do we turn bitter and reproachful? Do we search for someone to blame? Do we feel abandoned? Does our faith weaken? We can conjure up many ways to proclaim and celebrate the joys, and successes in our lives, but what of those days when the clouds gather, and thicken. Are we pulled to change into different people? Do we forsake happiness, and succumb to despair? Is that all that is left for us? The "cup of life" that has been given to us is still ours to drink, but can we do it? Do we have the faith to joyfully follow, not just accept, whatever path has been set out before us, regardless of the outcome? All that we do in life celebrates and consecrates the life (with its joys and sorrows) that God has given us. This is true whether we are walking the Camino or living our lives at home. Life is a locus of change. Our constantly evolving world can be confusing, and disorienting if success is our only compass, and the sole measure of our happiness. Embracing the cup of life, our cup, the cup of our salvation, and all that comes with it, and drinking of it fully, proclaims to all, as a wise priest once shared, that we are not called to be successful, but are simply called to be faithful. This is where true peace is found.

Buen Camino

Monday, March 4, 2013

Botafumeiro - fly it once more!

The day we arrived at Santiago they did not fly the botafumeiro but they did the next day at the Pilgrim Mass. Perhaps that was due to the many priests visiting from USA, Italy and Germany on that day. Who knows? It sure was nice to hear the first reading proclaimed in English! We were sitting at the north transept so the view was a bit obscured but we were happy to see the botafumeiro flying again.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

My favorite Camino beverage

After hours of huffing and puffing over snow-laden trails we reached the albergue Monte Irago in Foncebadon on January 23, 2013. We were going to stay in Rabanal but decided to push on to Foncebadon to make the next day's walk a bit easier, knowing the descent to Ponferrada would be long and hard. We were very happy to see Philipe (the owner and the hospitalero) 2 years after we first met him. After dinner, he asked us if we'd like some after dinner drinks and I happily opted for a glass of pacharan while J and James from NY both opted for a glass of orujo, a typical but very strong Spanish liquor. We talked about our discovery of the carajillo, an espresso drink mixed with (a liberal amount of) cognac or orujo, and how much we've enjoyed it, especially on cold (and wet!) days. Philipe then decided to show us how to modify orujo with fruits and sugar to either drink it as is or make carajillo with it, instead of with just cognac or straight Orujo. Apparently, this is very common in Spain and many people in rural villages make their own versions. It was fun to watch Philipe adding apples, lemons, and coffee beans to the orujo, and then setting the whole thing on fire. The excess alcohol burned away as Philipe enlightened us on this small part of Spanish culture. We all shared a warm, and fun filled evening in front of the fireplace (with lots of laughter) knowing our soaked clothing and boots were being dried for the next day's walk, as we sipped Filipe's magical elixir.


Jan 22, 2012 Approaching The House of God

So we finally found David's house - The House of God, as he named it. It was much less than a shack that he hand-built off of a deserted barn. I know for a fact that most pets in America live in much better conditions than David. But, what about his beaming smile? What about his voice filled with genuine gladness when he shouted "Hey, where are you from?" And, what about his last words to us; "Just enjoy!" Meaning, 'you think you are lost but you are never lost'. Okay, here is the kicker... When we were saying good-bye to him, he said, "Okay, bye! but, I am always here!" and he pointed his finger towards my heart....

I shall remember David whenever any doubt creeps into my mind that I might be lost....

It was a memorable day, to say the least. I don't know why, but both J and I thought about St. Francis a lot on that day.


Jan 22, 2012 Walking out of Hospital de Orbigo - Lost in the snow

This video was made in the morning of the 22nd. We left Hospital de Orbigo, heading for Castrillo and soon afterwards we got lost because all the way marks were covered by snow! But, everything happens for a reason, right? Enjoy the rest of the story....

A Love Song - a video from Jan 8, 2013 Najera

This elderly gentleman came in when we stayed a night at the municipal albergue in Najera. I found out later from our hospitalero that he does this frequently. He simply enjoys spending his evening hours amongst the pilgrims. Luke, one of the pilgrims from Charleston, SC., spoke Spanish so our evening together convened. He said he has been a singer all his life and started to tell us some of his life's stories. Since I sing, this perked up my interest and he promptly seized the opportunity! He sang many songs including the one he composed for the Spanish Soccer team when they won the World Cup (sorry, I don't know when this took place) and sang at the local stadium. He even showed us a picture of him, singing at the stadium! I figured it was many years ago since the man in the picture looked very young...

I don't know if it was the wine we were sharing or perhaps, he just felt comfortable with us, for he offered to sing one last song, his favorite. I asked him if it was okay for me to video his song - he delightfully agreed.

Enjoy his love story.....

Friday, March 1, 2013


IPad mini with cover

On our previous Camino I kept our blog by using those coin operated computers that could be found in various locations. That was a very inconvenient solution. These days, with WiFi popping up almost everywhere, I chose to carry an iPad mini (10.25 ozs. including a magnetic cover). This worked out quite well. We were able to find WiFi almost every day except in the more remote mountains areas. Most municipal albergues do not have WiFi, but many private ones do. As I recall it was only the albergue in Burgos that had WiFi, but that was because the city provided the coverage. You have to go to the Tourist Office by the cathedral to register and get a password. But, many bars and restaurants now provide coverage. Always ask as many places that you might think would not have WiFi, surprisingly will have it.

I use Blogger as our blog platform. It's mobile application is not very user friendly, so I downloaded an app called Blogsy to create, and edit posts. Blogsy worked very well. You can do everything offline and save multiple posts, with photos, until you find a WiFi connection to upload them. I was going to try and add some video clips but Blogsy is a bit clunkier (as I recall) when it come to adding video to your post. Photos are a snap. I found that composing the post and placing the photos was easier with the WiFi turned off. If it is left on then you have another step to go through, uploading selected photos to a hosting site. I didn't spend a lot of time trying to see if I could work around that, as switching the WiFi off allowed me to place photos directly from iPad photo directory. I never had any bug issues. Blogsy worked as advertised. Initially I had some concerns over the extra weight of the iPad but those concerns faded almost immediately once I started using it. This is my posting solution until something better comes along. Just a short side bar on pack weight while we are discussing this. I can be obsessive about pack weight. However, I discovered on this Camino that carrying what you need is more important then shaving a few ounces here and here. Of course you do not want to wind up with a forty pound pack, but a couple of pounds here or there will not make any difference. The sooner you stop agonizing over pack weight, the sooner you will accept whatever it is, and just carry it. I always found that putting on the pack in the morning was the time I noticed its weight (18-20 pounds). Once out the door and on the Camino, other things occupied my mind and pack weight wasn't one of them.

I considered using Robin's iPhone, or the iPad, as our primary camera, but the photo quality I wanted called for a proper camera. One thing I have noticed is that the iPhone, and the iPad, take some pretty nice video. In the end I carried the same Sony camera I used on our last Camino and it was great. Again, it is a bit more weight, but it was well worth it. I used an SD card reader to transfer photos from the camera to the iPad. This is a very short and light cable that worked perfectly.

Sony DSC-HX5

I will close with a final encouragement to document your Camino in some way. Whether you choose to blog, or keep a journal makes no difference. You will be drawn back to what you have written time and time again. Also, take lots of photos. You will be surprised how much you will enjoy looking at them long after your Camino is over.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Robin and I are now back home from our pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The trip went smoothly and we made all of our connections, despite the labor problems at Iberia airlines. It is now just a few days later, the Camino gear is stowed, and we are already fully engaged with the life we left behind seven weeks ago. It is amazing just how quickly we transition from pilgrim to whatever it is we do at home. But, notwithstanding this, the processing of a pilgrimage is an issue apart that requires patience, and time to accomplish. It simply cannot (and shouldn't) be rushed. I have found that quickly drawn conclusions on the merits of a pilgrimage, at least for my part, emerge as glib summations that hold few, if any, essential truths, and are shockingly distant from what surfaces after more careful consideration. But, without fail, some friend or another will reasonably inquire as to what was learned from this journey, and without fail I will say I am not sure, at least not yet. I suppose some might say that I over think these things. Perhaps they have a point, but I come at the answer in my own way, guided by the Spirit within me. Certainly there are obvious lessons learned regarding equipment, weather, lodging, food, airlines, trains, and buses. But, how a pilgrimage transforms us, encourages us to grow in new directions, or strengthens or perhaps challenges our faith is another matter entirely. Robin and I set out, as before, ready to embrace the inner journey the Camino can readily provide. Along the Way the daily physical challenges often intervened, and challenged or subsumed our earlier resolves. It is just what happens when walkng such a long distance with varied terrain, and weather. The pre-Camino plan often gets modified as you go along and deal with each day's imperatives. Consequently, on any given day it is easy to feel as though you have drifted off course, lost your focus. A "please remind me why I am doing this" kind of feeling rises up. We walked trying to be mindful of the joy of faith, and the peacefulness of prayer. We tried to understand how the events of each day were opportunities for personal growth. We tried to keep our hearts open to better understand (and hopefully forgive) the venality of the few, while cherishing the grace of the many good people that we encountered. But, despite all of this, there was always the reality of the pure physical challenge of walking many kilometers each and every day that loomed over us and, in truth, some days were hard enough that we could only deal with that.

As one can see there can be a lot more going on beyond simply putting one boot ahead of the other day after day. The difficulty is in trying to link up all these different elements so that a picture of one's Camino can be formed. I suppose you could say that these elements are like single frames of a film. They contain information but do not convey any meaning until the film is viewed in its entirety. This can only be done retrospectively, after all the pieces are in hand and laid out. Once the journey is over, and I am back at home, I can slowly reflect on these details. This process enables me to gather the many thoughts that eventually get distilled into the essential truths of our Camino. These are not typically grand or lofty revelations, but are more likely to be simple truths regarding faith and human behavior, that needed to be reaffirmed and recommitted to. This "newness of life" is the joyful change that always comes to me when all is said and done. It is, for me, why the Camino always beckons, and why a pilgrimage never really concludes. It just seems there is always something that needs a bit of touching up, and the Camino helps me do that.

Thomas Merton, Trappist monk and priest, writes in his book, No Man is an Island (a favorite read of mine), about the challenges we face understanding and accepting God's grace. Merton writes eloquently about the power of faith, but also reminds us how daunting that journey can be. This passage struck me as an essential reminder of the fleeting nature of good intentions, and of the need to ask more of ourselves as we seek God's grace for the strength to complete the journey down the pilgrim road and home to God. Merton writes.
....It takes more than an occasional act of faith to have such pure intentions. It takes a whole life of faith, a total consecration to hidden values. It takes sustained moral courage and heroic confidence in the help of divine grace. But above all it takes the humility and spiritual poverty to travel in darkness and uncertainty, where so often we have no light and see no sign at all...

Our journey continues. Peace be with you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Feb 18, 2013 Seguiero to Santiago Day 5: Today it was uphill

Joining the Camino at Segueiro

We finally got to bed about 11:00 last night. We were trying to get our laundry dried and the dryer had decided that it would not be before eleven. Who can argue with a machine? The laundry finally arrived still warm from the dryer. We sorted it out and tried to get some sleep. Today was to be a short day at approximately 16 kms. Unfortunately, Robin just couldn't fall asleep. I caught a few hours. We were both up at 6:00 to be on the Camino at 7:30 (it turned out to be 7:45). Our intent was to arrive in time to go to the Pilgrim Office, get our Compostela (certificate of completion), go to the 12:00 mass, and then check into our hotel. So, understanding we did not have a lot of distance to cover the lack of sleep should not have been a problem. But, as it turned out, it was a day of mostly climbing (somewhat of a surprise), and that taps pretty heavily into your energy reserves when it goes on for a bit, which it did.

Going up, again

But, despite the up and ups our plan came together, and we stood in front of the cathedral at 11:10. The weather was warm and dry. The trail conditions for this last section were quite good. There were a few low wet spots but they had workarounds readily available. I guess we were thinking today would be a coast into Santiago, but it wasn't. The long climbs, just shy of steep kept us working to get to Santiago. No free lunch today. However you approach Santiago arrival day has its own unique excitement. Today was no different. So knowing that a nice hotel was awaiting us, and that we would be in our own beds by the weekend, we kept huffing and puffing to the finish line (smiling all the way). After mass we wandered over to the bar at the top of the Plaza Quintana, had a cold beer at an outside table, and just soaked in the warm sun. We are now back at the Parador with some champagne chilling in an ice bucket. Robin is having a long soak, in a hot tub, as I write this post. This chapter of our Camino life is now officially over. However, even as we long for the comfort of our own home, we understand that we will be back. So, I guess it is time to head for the ice bucket....

Cheers from Santiago and thanks for being with us on this (always remarkable) journey,

John and Robin

Back again
Which way?
Robin navigating
Finally a peek at the cathedral


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Feb 17, 2013 Bruma to Sigueiro Day 4: A downhill day (well, mostly)

Today we had a quick breakfast at the Pension O Meson Novo, in Bruma, confirmed it was raining, albeit lightly, made our goodbyes, and hooked it around the corner, and eventually joined up with the Camino path about 1.5 kms later. We wore our ponchos as we left and never took them off. The rain was light all day, but steady. Temps were around 45 F to start and notched up a bit as the day wore on. I'm guessing that they never got above 53-55 F. Today's cooler weather helped offset walking in our ponchos. The actual route for this stage was very nondescript. It was quiet, and repeated many of the themes we have come to enjoy on this Camino, but there was nothing particularly special about it. Sorry. It was nice that the terrain was mostly downhill (or level) to Sigueiro.

We walked along rural country roads a good bit, there were a few "woodland paths" tossed in for good measure, and we spent a lot of time passing through forested areas. As we approached Sigueiro we spent about 45 minutes walking along a straight, but undulating logging road, that never seemed to end. In truth, I didn't really enjoy that part very much. I found myself just wanting it to be over. I guess I needed a change of scenery. On the plus side most of the off road trails were well drained with good walking conditions. We squished around a few low lying bogs, but never had to become too creative to find a way through. We were able to make good steady progress as there were not many places to stop (make that none, but it is Sunday). We shoved off at 8:40 this morning, and were sitting down for lunch in Sigueiro at 2:00. We opted for a room at the Hotel Santa Cruz, about 4.5 kms back the way we came. We took a taxi, and asked the driver to pick us up in the morning, and return us to Sigueiro. Once again our plan is to arrive in Santiago in time for the 12:00 pilgrim mass. I think we only have 16-18 kms left to go, so that should not be a problem. After tomorrow we are truly done with the Camino for this go around. But, it is hard to believe that we will not be back. For now we are only thinking of arriving in Santiago. I'll post from Santiago, and then Robin and I will gather our thoughts and post a recap of this journey once we get home. Off to do the laundry (one last time). Trash can after that. We are smiling.

The end of the logging road
Entering Sigueiro
Take me to the hotel


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Feb 15, 2013 Betanzos to Bruma, Day 3: Climbing to Santiago


Robin and I enjoyed a relaxing breakfast at our hotel (Hotel Garelos) in Betanzos, and then pushed back for another on time pilgrim departure. We were heading uphill, and out of Betanzos, by 8:30. The weather continues to favor us. Today was dry with a high temp of 62 F. Robin and I quickly shed our base layers and walked all day in t shirts. As it turned out the climbing and the warm weather made that a good choice. Today's route offered more of yesterday's paths through eucalyptus forests, and along rural roads that kept us clear of traffic for most of the day. The one belated change for today was the move inland that gets us headed to Santiago, but also (and sadly) turns our backs to the sea. We shall miss contact with the water, but we do want to get to Santiago.

We had a very quiet, and pleasant day roaming through the countryside. This Camino has been well routed to keep pilgrims in a quiet rural setting in between major towns where services can be found. Despite the concern that surrounds the climb to Bruma, today turned out to be a pretty average day as far as exertion was concerned. We had a little huffing and puffing climbing out of Bertanzos (nothing serious), then we went up and down and finally over a couple of ridges. It was now about 11:00. At this point we seemed to be mostly in a descent, albeit interrupted by occasional climbs. We arrived at the Bar Julia (18 kms from Betanzos) at 12:50. This was the only bar open along today's walk. Robin and I walked in just as they were opening. They said food was available, but after taking our drink order all hands returned to cleaning and prepping for the trade of the day (I thought that included us). One lady had about 50 gallons of crepe batter and was cranking out finished product using a gas fired pan that cooked several at a time. She kindly slipped us a few to stave off our hunger, but we could not get anyone to stand still long enough to take our order. Finally, we trapped one lady and she agreed to make us a couple of sandwiches. Wow, what an effort. We wolfed down the food, as we were anxious to get going and see what the dreaded climb to Bruma had in store for us. About ten minutes later we were looking uphill to where we had to go. It looked steep, but no more so than what we had already experienced on this Camino. It was steep enough that we had to short step our way for the first km, the path then gave up some of its pitch and we could lengthen our stride, but just a bit. As we rounded bends there was always more uphill work to do. We clomped along and about 35-40 minutes later we were in much flatter terrain (normal walking gait). There were a few more small elevation gains, but "the climb" was behind us. In retrospect it wasn't that bad because it was so short. I was expecting unending kms of uphill work, but the bulk of the huffing and puffing was finished after 45 minutes of climbing. This was a very pleasant surprise, and gave us little kick to the finish, at the albergue in Bruma, where we arrived just before 4:00. We had arrange to be picked up there and brought to Meson Novo (a nearby pension) where we are spending the night. Tomorrow we are expecting rain to move into the area. We have had a good run of luck with the weather lately, so a bit of rain is what it is, and we will deal with it. No fine dining tonight, just hamburgers at a local cafeteria. We are tired, but far from total collapse. Another day and a half and we will be in Santiago. Plans are already brewing for a little celebration. All is well (thank God). Ciao.

Which way to Santiago?
Albergue in Bruma
Robin and Main Street in Bruma


Friday, February 15, 2013

Feb 15, 2013 Pontedueme to Betanzos: What a gift

Pontedueme in the rear view mirror

Today began as usual with two pilgrims trying to get sorted in a small pension room as the growing daylight reminded us that we should already be on the road (or path). We have practiced our preparations to the point that stage directions are no longer required from either party. We just do what needs to be done and somehow get out the door (smiling). Today was no different. We popped out into the morning half light and bolted for the nearest bar for a quick desayuno (breakfast). Toast, coffee, and juice and soon thereafter we were ascending the narrow streets of Pontedueme. The Camino Frances is replete with hills and valleys. The Camino Ingles is as well, but everything just seems a bit steeper. My guess is that the terrain is reminiscent of the Camino Norte's first days (from what I hear). So, my point being, we started burning through breakfast about 5 minues after we had eaten it.

We climbed out of Pontedueme and were rewarded with some spectacular views. We moved onto a variety of trails, paths and roads throughout the day, and all were quiet (some sepulchral). We stayed dry finding ways around the few bogs, found the ever present scent of eucalyptus very settling, enjoyed the elevated views of bays, rivers, estuaries, and the pleasant towns and villages we passed through. It was a beautiful day weather wise (and on all other accounts) and that certainly added to our enjoyment. Locals have told me that the warm, and dry, weather (almost hot) is not the norm, but that is what we had. I walked into Betanzos wearing just a t shirt. My base layer was slung over the back of my pack. Temps were in the mid 60's F. An interesting anecdote, Robin and I were perhaps 2.5 kms from Betanzos when we passed a beautiful orange tree whose limbs were bending with ripe fruit. The branches were overhanging the path, and I commented on how great one of those oranges would taste. But, we didn't reach up, and help ourselves. No more than 10 minutes later, perhaps less, we passed a woman leaving a gate with a full plastic sack in one hand. She said hello and asked if we would like an orange. She gestured to a tree, just to her side, and said "from there." She reached into her sack for the fruit, we accepted, thanked her, and continued on our way (simply wondering). We arrived in Betanzos at 3:00, and found our way to the Hotel Garelos. We are now booked in there and enjoying a cold beer on their sunny (at least for today) patio. The owner's daughter, Adriana, who speaks excellent English, has been very helpful. Good spot (recommended). Off to Bruma tomorrow to see what all the fuss is about the hill. Stand by for an update. Beautiful day, today. Robin and I both loved it. This is a pretty part of the world.

Ciao for now

Camino Ingles
Arrival Betanzos