A Photo Adventure…

“I do not insist,” answered Don Quixote, “that this is a full adventure, but it is the beginning of one, for this is the way adventures begin.”

Here are some photos–many in B/W from the first half of the Camino that I haven’t posted. Or hope I haven’t!

Moo-over cows. All the cows in the Pyrenees wear huge bells. In the fog you hear them before you see them.

I love the design of the puentas. So gaceful.

A jamon shop in Pamplona. The Spanish love their ham. It may be a long time before I’ll have another ham sandwich when I get home, though.

Right off the hoof!

Spain’s amazing canal system. All concrete f0rm for miles and miles.

A fallen peregrino…

The old Roman road. Historic, but dreadful to walk on!

This statue of a founder of Estrella shows, in relief, the history of the town around the base.

This panel depicts the historic running of the bulls.

I love the symmetry of this scene. The evergreens, slender and growing into the clouds, the curve of the road, making you wonder what’s around the bend, the clouds creating a canvas on which everything is painted. This would make a wonderful oil painting.

The soil of northern Spain is nothing but rock. It makes for terrific red wine in the famous Rioja district which I walked through.

I stopped and walked into the vineyard and asked the workers what they were doing, since it was too early for grapes. She told me they were pruning the vines and showed me how. Plant by plant, one long row after another. I think I was the only peregrino to ever walk out in the vineyard and ask them a question. They seemed surprised. And amused at my interest.

More to follow later!


Man of La Manche Photos

Grandfather of the Camino


Channeling Don Quioxte 

“Destiny guides our fortunes more favorably than we could have expected. Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is nobel, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth.”

“What giants?” Asked Sancho Panza.

“The ones you can see over there,” answered his master, “with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long.”

“Now look, your grace,” said Sancho, “what you see over there aren’t giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone.”

“Obviously,” replied Don Quijote, “you don’t know much about adventures.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Man of La Mancha Blisters

Grandfather of the Camino


Don-Qui-Joe-Te: Halfway on the Camino. Still Vertical After All These Miles!

My weather app called for cold and rain all day today, so based on yesterday, I was looking forward to it as much as I look forward to new blisters.
At 6:30 a.m. it was 43 degrees F and overcast. I don’t much relish walking in the rain, but walking in 43-degree AND the rain AND the wind for 13 miles is something else entirely. Can you spell hypothermia?

But today’s route from Calzadilla de Cueza to Sahagun, for those tracking me) had villages every 3-5 miles so I figured I could take cover in a bar if things got worse.

I put on everything I had–thank heavens I had a fleece pullover under my rain jacket–and headed out with trepredation and a dose of Camino bravado. And a prayer.

The morning broke cold, but clear with a great sunrise. And coming out of Calzadella I met this wonderful young woman from Denmark who is in university studying law–the Camino is a 2-week break for her. She asked what I did and when I told her she said, “Oh, that’s a pretty good life!”

The sky stayed clear for a few hours and then turned to this:

It wasn’t a question of whether or not it would rain, only when and how much. Great. Keep your head down, Don-Joe, trust in the Camino, accept whatever comes, this will be a memory and a story for the blog in a few hours, one way or another.

But guess what? I somehow managed to get only sprinkles! Never doned the poncho. Others did and from the looks of water on the Camino, those ahead of me got nailed. The Camjno Rain Gods were smiling on me above the clouds. But just as soon as I got into Sahagun, it poured. Talk about timing…

Today was reason to celebrate: it marked the crossing of the Rubicon-/the halfway mark on the Camino!!! 250 miles down, only 250 to go!!!

 The bushes on the path helped me celebrate!

Finally! Across the puente and into Sahagun, a village that the Christians and Moors fought over for generations. Out of 9 churches, only four survived.

I got here just a few days after their Running of the Bulls festival–it’s not only in Pamplona, but travels from town to town–so, there’s still hope for my insanity to kick in!

The bullring and barricades from the running.

Sole, from Argentina, who lives in Boulder and works for a culinary tour company. The Camino is her gift for her 45th birthday. She’s doing a portion of it now and will return next year for more. You meet the nicest people and get to know them in the shortest amount of time! She’s catching a train to Leon and home today.

Finally! A. Real. Hamburger. Hello America, I can taste you now!

I stopped in her bakery twice today and each time she grabs me, tells me how much she likes me (well, that’s what I want to believe she says–I can’t understand a word she talks so fast). Then she gives me more free cookies! 

The evening thunderhead. It doesn’t get dark here until 10:00 p.m.

Who knows what the weather will be tomorrow? I will deal with it when it comes. That’s the way of the Camino.


Man of La Mancha New Blisters

Grandfather of the Camino

Design by Henry…


The Long and Whining Road…

If yesterday was one of the better days, then today was one of the not so better. Woke to ominous clouds, hit the road at 6:30 for a long walk on a straight and uninteresting paved road that turned into a straight and  uninteresting dirt road. The clouds couldn’t make up their mind and teased us with splatches of sunlight before closing the gap with low hanging grayness. The wind roared in my face at 20 mph, gusting to who knows how much and with temps in the high 4os it was a big change of heart from the sunshine of yesterday.

Everyone was bundled up–Monica from Australia looked like a ninja Camino warrior:

The rain we’ve dodged all these days on the Camino finally caught up to us, so out came the ponchos. For 17km there were no villages to dart into. Another reason the walk was so bad.

Ran into Mary and her friend, camped by the side of the toad. They walked in the moonlight then crashed. They were counting the number of pilgrims who passed: I was #105…

I shouldn’t  whine about the weather, really been blessed up until now…yet the next couple of days are expected to be more of the same. Attitude, attitude now, Joe…

This part of the Calmino is the least attractive so it gives me plenty of time to think. When I’m not battling the wind. And rain. And flying poncho.


Man of La Mancha Wind

Grandfather of the Camino


Endings and Beginnings…

Today I walked 12 miles, from Fromista to Carrion de las Condes and it was like going through the flat wheat fields of western Kansas.  This area, the “Tierra de Campos” is the grain capital of Spain.

The morning started on a sad note–my walking amigos for the last few days–Deborah and Rod from Colorado Springs-decided to leap-frog ahead a few days to stay on schedule. I’ll miss their great company, humor and friendship. Wonderful Camino-mates! Buen Camino and hope we’ll meet again!!

I wasn’t on the Camino but a couple of hours until I ran into some folks I had met way back on the Pyrenees and beyond! The photo below shows Don (from Seattle) struggling up the Pyrenees and looking like he was complet-o when I last saw him. And then wa-la, here he was drinking a coffe con leche in a village bar! I thought sure he had thrown in the towel. He got his Camino legs and looks great now. Just shows the importance of sticking it out through the pain and not giving in. I know that feeling! Way to go, Don!

At Villamentero I ran into a slew of folks from earlier in my trek. It was at fun eclectic, 1960s looking hippie bar-albergue, even with a tipi and gypsy wagon, as these photos show:

Know how it is with some people–you can just feel that you have a connection with then instantly, before you even say a word? Well, that’s the way is it with Nadja (Swiss) and Choe (Korean). I met them two days ago and when we saw each other again here, it was like a long lost reunion. I call her Laura–she wears a bandana on her head that reminds me of Laura in Dr. Zhivago.

Amilee from France, serenading on a borrowed guitar. I played a clip of Max practicing for his talent show and everyone yelled,”Oh, young rock star!”

This is Mary from France, bidding me adieu! We call each other “Mary and Joseph.” Mary is a throw-back spirited hippie, full of life and energy. We only see each other in passing, but like she says, it seems like we know each other.

I just met these two on the Camino today–Frank is from Texas, 65, recently retired (against his will), but has found his calling as a tech teacher. He’s befriending this woman from Hungary, but lives in NYC, plays the organ for the Hungarian Church. Nope, she doesn’t know Adria. How can that be?

Saved the best for last: I’ve had enough walking! Meet my new mode of transport: Marian, the donkey!!! Love at first sight! For me, at least…now I have to figure out how to get her home…

Okay, Marion really isn’t mine–relax Barbs! She belongs to these two Spainards who are doing the Camino in reverse. Marion pulls a little red enclosed gypsy cart.

I met Marion, Tina and her husband by the side of the road and they shared their salami, cheese and bread with me and I shard my apple with them. I think I got the better deal. Such giving, kind souls with the heart of true vagabonds.

I stop in every church and light candles for my family and friends. The tall one on the left is yours. Now this is the eerie part: the rays of light were not visible to the naked eye…

There is so much more to say about today. It was one of the sadest and at the same time, one of the best days on the Camino–topped off by an organ concert in the Iglesias Church in Carrion de los Condes where I am tonight.

It was a sad saying goodbye to my dear friends, Deborah and Rod, and a happy day of renewing old connections and making new ones.
This is the way of the Camino.


Man of La Mancha Healing Blisters

Grandfather of the Camino 


Random Thoughts About Little Things

Today was a short day–the shortest so far, just 10 miles. I’m a slacker–the afternoon sun on the Meseta is brutal and I needed to pull up early. 

I’ve been 18 days on the Camino and have put some 229 miles under my shoes. Averages to almost 13 miles a day which is about what I intended to do, so I’m on schedule. This comes out to a tad over 30,000 steps a day. I’ve found that 16 mile days–especially when those are back-to-back–really wear me out.

  • Bathrooms in the bars along the Camino are, for the most part, surprisingly clean. But virtually none of them have a way to dry your hands.
  • Most of the villages have Mass each evening, but the only people there are older people and a smattering of peregrinos. I’ve yet to see any young Spanish people attend.
  • My greatest fear is getting nailed by a peregrino on a bike. They come flying around you with little warning many times, especially on the downhills. All it would take is a bell. 

The Camino teaches you to be present. Present to each footfall, present to watching the way-markings so you don’t take the wrong turn. Present to your thoughts, present to what you are doing each moment. It us a blessing and a curse.

Each day I try to be present with my thoughts and to spent 15 minutes thinking about only one thing, or one person, such as one of my grandchildren. My goal us to do this for each member of my family. I certainly have the time! It’s an interesting exercise that I do when I am walking alone. Often I  speak it to the plains of Spain. It seems to have more intention that way.

Or maybe I am becoming Don Quxiote…


Man of La Mancha Blisters

Grandfather of the Camino


A Day in the Life of a Peregrino.

The last view out my window from the hostal in Hontanas last night:

And the first view at 6:00 a.m. this morning:

The next few days will take me through the infamous and often dreaded “Meseta” region of Spain. This is the land of Don Quixote, endless plains of wheat and no shade. In fact it’s a lot like my home: Oklahoma! Except with hills.

Poppies are everywhere along the Camin0, and an endless color of wild flowers brighten every step of the path on both sides.

As do fellow peregrinos I meet along The Way–like Deborah and Rod from Colorado Springs. We’ve been pretty much on the same pace for the last few days. What a great couple, terrific sense of humor and enthusiasm. Really great to be a tag-along with them. Deborah is a real trooper–she has a blister they named “Diablo” because it just won’t go away. Even with that pain and knee issues, she marches on! Rod has a bucket list–it’s even on his iPhone–the Camino is one, next year it’s two weeks on the Appalachian Trail!

Just when I said I haven’t met any peregrinos from Texas, these two sisters from the Lone Star state appeared…bearing a gift of much needed moleskin, no less!

An Americano, a Swiss and a Korean. The Camino is a melting pot of nations and people. Two young nurses from Belgium who I met earlier just call me, “Hey, American Guy!”

The proprietor of the hostal in Rabe gave us each a small medallion of Saint Mary and sent us on our way with a good omen to guide us on our Way.

This couple from Sweden is laughing at a happy birthday greeting their grandkids sent them via video. Makes me long for my kiddos!

Angels of the Camino! This couple from Poland walked the Camino and now they drive from spot to spit handing out much needed treats to peregrinos at key places on the road. She had made the most delicious chocolate crisp that brightened my walk just at the right time–see the steep downhill and uphill on the next photo. As my grandson Jack wrote me, “The Camino provides…”

And the sunset view out my window tonight!

Did 12 miles today, weather has been wonderful, but getting warm (hot!) in the afternoons. Blisters come and go.

I keep putting one foot in front of the other. What more can I ask?

It’s good to be alive. And living!


Man of La Mancha Blisters

Grandfather of the Camino


The Comfort of Repetition: Listening to the Silence Through the Meseta…

The Camino is an endless repetition, a universal calling, a prayer: Walk. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
The Camino is not what you think it is.

And not what you think it should be.

It is everything and it is nothing.

It forces you and moves you, teases you and slams you, questions you and fights you.

It blisters you, depletes you, weakens you and at the same time toughens you, builds you, strengthens you.

It questions you, talks to you, listens to your silence.

It is the outside of the inside of you and everything in between.

The Camino is sinner and Saint, history and legends, believers and non-believers. It  is scores of nationalities all marching in the same direction, all for different reasons, but each following the same road toward the same destination.

The Camino is 500 miles of sorting out, taking in, letting go.
It is a physical, mental, and emotional reality check of what you think you are and who you are.

The Camino fills you, then empties you. It teases you and calms you.

And does it again and again with each coming day.

Walk. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

There is comfort in repetition.


A Look Inside the Cathedral of Santa Maria

Since I didn’t walk into Burgos in time to tour the inside of this magnificent cathedral, I decide to do it this  morning and just get a late start on the Camino. It didn’t open until 9:3o a.m. I think I was the last peregrino on the road. The Camino is teaching me to show down. It’s in cohorts with the blisters…

Some facts:

The cathedral was designed by a Frenchman, named Enrique, in the Gothic style, in 1221. It wasn’t finished until 1565, under the German architect, John of Cologne. Nothing like a deadline.

It is the only stand-alone cathedral to be named a world UNESCO site.

It soars almost 300 feet tall.

There are something like 14 chapels inside and scores of renowned works of art.

El Cid is buried here, among many church officials.

Looking at it try to imagine how in the world they could build such a beautiful structure. For a good understanding of how they built cathedrals then, read Ken Follet’s series of books, starting with Pillars of the Earth.

Enough. Let’s go inside:

It was great running into my Korean friend in the square. We met in Orisson at the start of the Camino. He had considered stopping due to foot problems, but I’m glad to see he’s stuck it out. Inspiration for me!

Tonight, I’m on the edge of the infamous and feared Meseta–the hot, empty high plains, Don Quioxte land of Espania! My namesake, thanks to Henry!


Man of La Mancha Blisters

Grandfather of the Camino