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Do You Know the Way to Santiago?


“What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.’

“Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”

–Paul Choelho

The Alchemist

Tomorrow I reach my destination: Santiago de Compostella. I will have walked almost 500 miles in the very footsteps of thousands of pilgrims before me and the path the Apostle St. James trod several hundred of years beforehand. And yes. The journey has tested me and my fellow peregrinos–otherwise we would be tourist and not pilgrims. It has been hard and challenging and defining and empowering.

The scalloped shell has been the waymarker throughout the entire journey.

The shell is on the backpacks of every pilgrim. It is the symbol of the Camino. 

The shell acts as a metaphor. The grooves in the shell, which meet at a single point, represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination: the tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela. The shell is also a metaphor for the pilgrim: As the waves of the ocean wash scallop shells up onto the shores of Galicia, God’s hand also guides the pilgrims to Santiago.

As the symbol of the Camino de Santiago, the shell is the waymarker on posts and signs along the Camino that guide us in the right direction along the way. 


Wearing a shell denotes that one is a traveler on the Camino. All along the Way, people call out, “Buen Camino!”


Under 20km to go!


Today we walked through grove upon grove of pine and eucalyptus trees. Cloud cover and no sun sure made the walk easier!


The hydrangea are amazing! Every color you can imagine.


Fields of maze (corn) are everywhere. The land is rich and small farms are plentiful.


And school groups doing the last 5 days of the Camino bring a different feel to these last few days. Those of us who started out in St. Jean have to realize that the Camino is not all ours alone. To qualify for a Compostello ( certificate of completion of pilgrimage), the minimum distance is 100km (60 miles), so many individuals and groups just joined the Camino a few days ago.

Proof of authenticity is kept by a passport that you get stamped in towns you stay in and at churches along the way. 

Here’s part of mine:


The front half:

So the walk into Santiago will bring with it all the days that have gone before: up and over the incomparable Pyrenees, down the hated hills into Zubiri, the big sky plains of the Meseta, the thought-it’d-never end days of walking next to highways, the steep up and down and up again in the hills and mountains–Spain has no flat land.

All this and more has gone into the struggle of being a peregrino. People along the way that I’ve shared stories and laughter with have each become part of the Camino mosaic. The landscape, the people, the villages and churches, the locals, the loneliness, the blisters, the food, the weather–everything has been an ingredient in making the experience, well, an experiencia…

Tomorrow the river that is the Camino will deposit me and my fellow peregrinos at the doorstep of the 900 year-old Cathedral of St. James in Santiago. 

It took more than 200 years for the Cathedral to be built. It will have taken me 34 days to complete my pilgrimage.

Each day, in itself, brings within it an Eternity.


–Don-Qui-Joe-te

Man of La Mancha Pilgrimage

Grandfather of the Camino

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One Foot in Front of the Other

He who limps is still walking. ~Stanislaw J. Lec


Walking is simple. It’s just putting one foot in front of the other. Today I did that 34,947 times. That equates to just over 13 miles. Not big by Camino standards, but the amount of miles I do each day depends on the amount if hills there are–and their steepness. And Spain is nothing but hills. Steep ones.

Before the Camino, walking 10 miles seemed extreme; now it is just part of the day’s journey. Some days the miles pass quickly, some are agonizingly slow and labored. The hills take it out of you. The uphills are, for the most part, just straight up, no switchbacks. That makes it feel like you are ascending Mt. Kilimanjaro. But it’s the downhills that get you. Long, long, and longer. Straight down. Your feet are crammed into the toe box of your boot. The pressure on your outside calf muscle is constant and immense. Add rocks, roots and slick shale to the underfoot and it can be quite treacherous. Add rain to the mix and it can be downright dangerous.

Today was a day when I walked mostly by myself, except for a few miles when I talked with a woman from Sweden, one from Arkansas, and another from Australia.  They all agree that the Camino is not the easy pathway it is made out to be.

But that is what separates us peregrinos from tourists. And it’s a mark we wear with some pride.

Here are some random photos from the day. I think they’ll be self-explanatory, fur the most part.


The same dog from yesterday. He’d pick up this stick, go running up to his master, drop it and look up at him, hoping he’d toss it for him to fetch. Half the time he just went ignored, so he’d pick it up again and race up to his side once more, drop it and look up, pleading with him to throw it. He’s the best dog.


High school sports team doing the last 5 days of the Camino.


Sometimes the Camino looks like this…


Sometimes a smooth gravel path…


Sometimes streams to cross…



And always the churches…











Here’s something for my Grandkids who take Spainish (Henry and Max; Liza, do you take Spainish?) to translate:


Two more sleeps until I reach Santiago! But who’s counting?

–Don-Qui-Joe-te

Man of La Mancha Mornings

Grandfather of the Camino

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Three Sleeps Away

I discovered that searching can be as interesting as finding.–Paulo Coelho

Today: 34,825 steps. 15 miles. Beautiful, clear sky. 

I’m in Palas de Rei for the night. Can’t get internet where I am, so sitting at table outside in front of a bar that has it.

Three sleeps from Santiago.

Is it the journey or the destination? Right now I am looking forward to seeing the cathedral in Santiago rise above the city and standing before it having achieved a long walk, having fulfilled a promise made long ago, having stuck with putting one foot in front of another for 500 miles when the left foot shouted STOP and the right wouldn’t listen. Undoubtedly it will be emotional.

Today was a good, long day. Maybe it’s because I’m closer to the end. Or maybe because “El Diablo” (my major heel blister) isn’t hurting under all the bandages and tape.

Met this Spanish couple with their black lab–they just started in Sarria, two days ago. He’s the best trained dog-/sticks right with them. Sure makes me miss Buddy. I wonder if he’ll remember me.


And these two folks just met today, but they look like they should be a couple. Both from Spain, Nacha is translator, Javier works in a factory. What wonderful, outgoing individuals.

My dinner: salad, Caldo Gallego (Gallician soup), and a Cerveza.


Adrian shows me the finer points of a Cerveza:the foam can only be 1-inch high. What a great guy. I love the people of Gallicia–so warm and outgoing.


My phone is about dead so I’ll have to post this before it dies–sorry it’s so short, but spent more time today walking and less visiting and taking photos.
And then there was this 4-day old fella!


Santiago calls.

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Walking With the Masses


“I do not deny that what happened to us is a thing worth laughing at. But it is not worth telling, for not everyone is sufficiently intelligent to be able to see things from the right point of view.”
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

 I left Sarria this morning along with hordes of others–groups of teenagers, families, and church/organizational groups all with day packs and all giddy with enthusiasm and laughter as they set off on their five day adventure to Samtiago. It was hard to find some individual space for the first few miles as the path was narrow. At first I was irritated by their loudness and silliness, but then I reminded myself that, for the most part, these were just young uns being young. At least they were on a pilgrimage, albeit a shorter and different one than mine, but a pilgrimage just the same. Bless them.

Put in just under 14 miles today. I’m in Portomarin now–a town with a lake! 


First time I’ve seen water. They evidently dammed up a river years ago and they relocated the town on a hill. Literally dismantled a church and rebuilt it stone block by stone block. Here it is:


On the walk I met Kati, a young woman from Hungary, who is very sweet. 


We came upon this horse. She had never been around a horse before. He promptly nipped her on the arm.

And I chatted with these two cousins from California who are doing just the leg from Sarri:


You meet the nicest people, from all nations and walks of life on the Camino.

Like this local farmer.


And this statue on a peregrino. He didn’t have much to say.But he did point The Way…


And this Spainard and his black lab, one of the few dogs on the Camino.


The way marking in Galicia all show the amount of kilometers to go. When these showed 250 it was kinda depressing. But this one is a milestone I’ve been waiting for: less than 100 klicks to go!!!! That’s 60 miles!!! Three more days…If all goes well I hope to be walking into Santiago Saturday!


I can’t get wifi in my room in this pension so I’m doing this in their bar. Outside in the plaza with the same church pictured above a funeral is taking place.

Endings and beginnings.

Life is short. Remember to live while you still can. Remember to love while you still dare to.

–Don-Qui-Joe-te

Man of La Mancha Steps

Grandfather of the Camino

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One More Thought

One More Thought…I somehow hit the publish button before I was finished…

With Santiago being just 5 days away I’ve been reflecting on why I’m doing this journey in the first place, now that I’m on the homestretch.

There is a saying: one travels the world in search of happiness, only to return home and find it waiting there all the time.

But I am not doing the Camino in search of happiness. I am doing it to fulfill a promise I made to God 21 years ago…and to rekindle my Spirit.

I hope that is worthy enough.

But I also know that step after step is causing me to realize what really matters in my life:

Home. Barbara. John. Stevie. Jack. Henry. Liza. Max. Matt. Alycia. Felix. Charlie.

And Buddy. 

And Oscar, too.
Okay, even Wrigley.

And my extended family, my Sister and her family and my friends.

It also makes me to realize how often I do not let my actions show that. 

–Don-Qui-Joe-te

Man of La Mancha Thoughts

Grandfather of the Camino

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A Day of Rest

“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
–Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

If you substitute the word “walking” for the word “reading” in above, then that may be closer to summing me up yesterday.

So I took a day of rest today.

Whimp.

But it was the right thing to do.

Big whimp.

I gave “El Diablo,” my heel blister (I borrowed the name from Deborah’s evil blister brother), time to air out, ran errands (the bank, supermarcado, laundry, ate three square meals (well, if you count a peanut butter and jelly sandwich a meal (finally found a jar!!!), cleaned out my pack, ran into a couple of friends, rested and relaxed.

My blister feels much better–going to check it again tonight. Got some pads to put on it and my feet.

Sarria is an important stop for peregrinos who’ve been on the road as long as I have for it marks the homestretch to Santiago: it’s now just 5 days away, if all things hold true.

And there are lots of newbie peregrinos in town–tell by their new gear and wide-eyed looks. Many have their suitcases shipped to the next hostal/hotel and are only carrying a small day pack. Others have huge packs. Lots of groups–Italians and young scout types. This is a big jumping off place as it is 100k from Santiago, the min distance one has to walk for getting a Compostella. I think I’ve done a little more than that…

Sorry, no photos on the blog–the server where I am won’t let me download anything. Maybe tomorrow!