Friday, June 2, 2017

Faro

Finesterre, literally translated as finis terrae, means Lands-End, or End of the World; that is precisely where CJ and I marched this morning. I'm not sure why all the best things require long climbs, but I suppose if these journeys were easier the sense of accomplishment at the end wouldn't be so great. So as many of our mornings do, we started our walk up up up along the coast and out onto the cliffs until we found ourselves on a secluded cliff peninsula jutted out into the ocean, standing under the shadow of the lighthouse. We had arrived at Faro de Finisterre, the 0,0 kilometer marker, the end of the world. 

Three years ago I had not known that the way continued to the coast, and I had not left myself enough time to complete the journey. Last year, again time got in the way, and we did not reach the coast. But this time; this time it was happening. This time we were trekking to Finisterre, to the end of the trail. 

On one hand, it felt like closure, like the completion to the journey I started all those years ago; as my life changes and I continue to grow, my life has become the pilgrimage -- I know that whether I'm walking the Camino in Spain with my backpack or the sidewalks in my neighborhood with Bernie, it's all about the journey, the experiences, and the opening of my heart to God's will and my feet to God's path. 

And on the other hand, I felt a little like Forest Gump after he decided to stop running: time to turn around and walk back home. And that's exactly what we did. 

CJ and I arrived at the lighthouse early enough to have the whole place to ourselves for a while -- free of other pilgrims, free of souvenir booths and music and tourists; just us and the peaceful present and the immense sense of history shared by pilgrims of the past. How many hundreds of thousands of pilgrims (if not millions) have walked the paths I have walked to stand in the very spot that I stood and look out over the ocean crashing into the rocky coast below. It is tradition to burn your boots when you arrive at the end, another symbol of cleansing and leaving behind your old self (much like the act of swimming in the Atlantic). CJ and I were adamantly anti boot burning ... so we skipped that tradition. When we had our fill (and as other pilgrims began to appear and vendors began to set up shop ...), we turned around and walked back the way we had came -- there is nowhere else to walk; we reached the end of the earth. Here are a few photos: 

We put our trust in the Lord -- and the signs He puts in our path. 

Views like this make morning hill climbing worth every step. 

Pilgrim statue on the way up. 

Selfies at the end of the world. 

There it is: faro y 0,0 kilometers. We did it. 

Breathtaking. 

Bronze boot overlooking the end of the world. 

Let peace prevail in the world. 😍✌πŸΎπŸ’š

Con mi amante. ❤


After we made our way back into town, we took a bus back to Santiago then walked from the bus station into the town, checked in at our albergue, did some laundry (you're welcome, fellow plane riders) and went out to do a little shopping, a little dining, and a little reflecting at the foot of the cathedral. 



And now, we are back at our albergue, getting ready for bed before a day of travel tomorrow (that starts with our ride to the airport at 4:30 am). 

Buen Camino. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Finesterre

Today may have been the best day yet! We slept in this morning until quarter to eight then rolled out of bed, packed our packs, and moseyed into the town of Cee to find breakfast -- no surprise that we had tostadas con marmalade y mantiquilla. After a little bit of a turn around leaving Cee (a sneaky albergue put up Camino signs that lead to their albergue instead of to the actual route) we were climbing up and into the mountains. The path was gorgeous, shaded, weaving in and out of the trees along old stone walls covered in moss and vines; the occasional waymarker let us know we were on the right trail. And then -- the ocean reappeared, at first only a glimpse on the horizon, then the whole horizon, then ocean for as far as the eye can see. We came to the first beach in Playa de Estorde where we stopped for Aquarius and tortilla. Here we ran into the pilgrim from Montana (today is her birthday) as well as a tourist group from Germany and two guys from England (we've run into them a time or two before -- they're pretty funny). We walked out onto the boardwalk, but not onto the beach; we wanted to get closer to our final destination before spending time on the beach. 

We kept walking, climbing back into the mountains then down again -- and that's when we saw it: the perfect, secluded beach just waiting for us to climb down and explore. Now it was a bit of a trek down to the beach (read as: very steep beach on the bottom of a cliff) and it was off the trail a little -- but oh was it worth it! For a while, CJ and I were the only two souls on the most beautiful beach in Spain. The sand was the lightest brown speckled with sea shells, the clear blue waves crashed gently on the shore and danced among the boulders and rock formations. The only sounds to be heard were the sea gulls in the distance and soothing rhythm of the water. It is tradition for pilgrims to swim in the Atlantic when they reach Finesterre, to wash away the blood, sweat, and tears and be cleansed by the frigid, salty water. Who are we to break tradition? At first it was just our toes that were baptized in the ocean, but seeing as the beach was empty and the air warm and the waves inviting, we decided to go for a swim -- the coldest swim of my life! Refreshing doesn't even begin to describe the shock of the water! CJ was a real trooper; I told him we had to go out far enough to dive under water, that then we had fulfilled the tradition. And so we did. The next hour we spent sunbathing and drying out on a giant rock formation as more pilgrims began to trickle down the mountainside to join our private beach. 

I could have stayed on that beach forever -- but Finesterre was in eyesight and just three kilometers away ... so reluctantly we climbed out of the canyon of our beach and continued on our way. About one kilometer before Finesterre, who should we run into but the sweet old couple from Sweden! They had take a taxi the other day when we left them, but now they were on the mend and walking; and that's how it came to be that we walked into Finesterre, our final destination, the newly weds from los Estados Unidos and the senior love birds from Sweden. 

The views all day were amazing -- the mountains are gorgeous and the ocean is majestic, but when the two combine: be still my heart. Pope Francis was right to put forth his encyclical on the protection of our earth; God's creation is so beautiful, so breathtaking and inspiring. I want to be a better person when I am surrounded by nature, and I am my best person when I'm surrounded by nature. 

It took a few tries to find a place to stay for the night; apparently albergues and hotels and hostels fill up quickly here! But finally we found an albergue high up on a hill to drop our bags, hang our boots, and lay our heads -- we curled up for a well deserved nap, the deep sleep that comes after a day of walking cross country, treading through sand, swimming in oceans, and soaking in sun. We woke with a mission: get our Fisterana. (This is the certificate that declares you arrived on foot to Finesterre from Santiago.) There isn't s pilgrim office like in Santiago, but rather they are given inside an albergue. It took us a surprisingly short amount of time to find the correct albergue! And that was that: no line out the door, no waiting for hours; we walked in, walked up to the counter, and within minutes had our Fisteranas. 

(Insert deep sigh of satisfaction and delight.)

Next it was time for dinner -- we were famished! We found a place near the marina and ate dinner facing the ocean. After dinner, we went to get ice cream. And who should tap my shoulder while inside the ice cream parlor but the pilgrim they took to the hospital two nights ago -- she is feeling much better (though is finishing her journey via bus from here on out). I am so so glad she is doing okay! I was really worried about her. Such a sweetheart, her and her boyfriend saw CJ and I in the shop and wanted to stop and say thanks for all the help the other evening. I'm so relieved to know she is okay -- there are some stories we never know the ending to, but I'm glad this isn't one of those! 

And now we are back at our albergue, taking it easy and planning for tomorrow when we walk to Faro to the lighthouse: the true end of the world. 

Here are some pictures from today: 

I think I could walk this path forever. 

The first beach -- plays Playa de Estorde. 
The first glimpse of our secluded beach! 

These boots sure have carried me to a lot of beautiful places with a lot of beautiful people. #adventure #thirdcamino

I love this beach. 

Pre-Atlantic Ocean swim ...

☀️🌊

Post Atlantic Ocean swim! 

Cross at the top of the hill in Finesterre. 

Not a bad dinner view! 

Our Finsterans -- aren't they beautiful?! 

One last beach pic -- I loved that beach! 

And now it is time for sleep. More adventure awaits tomorrow. 

Buen Camino. 







Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cee

Oh my goodness -- another absolutely gorgeous day on the Camino!! A little toasty, but not too bad (and my generous application of sunscreen today prevented me from getting extra crispy). There is joy and laziness that accompany the knowledge that a shorter day of walking lay in front of you; CJ and I possessed both as we slept in until quarter past seven this morning, sat for breakfast at the cafe next to our albergue, and lazily made our way out of town at 8:30am. 

Of course there were climbs, but they weren't as steep and the views at the top -- be still my heart. My soul feels at peace as I walk amongst the mountains. As the trail climbed the first time, we found ourselves on a mountainside overlooking a river carving out the space between the peaks -- though we were at least four hundred meters above the river, the crashing and rushing of the water over rapids and logs could be heard amongst the birds' morning songs. To the right, hiding in the fog, were giant windmills only visible when you were within seventy meters. The walk was tranquil, the sounds of nature interrupted only by the crunch of our boots as they marched upon the trail. 

We entered a tiny town about five kilometers out and stopped for some water and a bathroom break. About three kilometers further was another cafe that read "last chance for food or drink for the next fifteen kilometers" 😳 Well okay then. We went inside, neither of us very Hungary after our breakfast of tostadas and colacau at the albergue, but the sweet lady running the cafe insisted we take sandwiches with us -- so we did. And we were glad we did! 

Up up up a little while further brought us to a long stretch of flat, sunny trail -- it was as if we were on the top of the world. Of course this resulted in some very hot and sweaty pilgrims, so we were extremely excited to see a shady rest area with stone picnic benches adjacent to a little church on a tiny hill in the middle of nowhere Spain. We ate and drank and soaked in the shade before venturing over to check out the church -- and wouldn't you know: it was Capilla da Nosa SeΓ±ora das Neves, the chapel of Our Lady of the Snows! Not only is the Shrine of our Lady of the Snows (in Belleville) one of my favorite places, it is also where CJ and I were engaged. How beautiful that this tiny chapel be here in the middle of our journey. It was unfortunately not open, but we said a prayer outside and continued on our way. 

After a few more kilometers up on the top, it was time to descend to the bottom -- but those views as we made our climb down! There is nothing like seeing the ocean on the horizon, the way the deep blue water meets the light sand before expanding out into deepness, darkness, as far as the eye can see. I couldn't help but stop to take photos every so often as we walked; each bend brought with it a new view! The climb down was pretty steep, but we made it without any tumbles (phew) and were at our destination for the evening: Cee. We checked into our albergue and took a nap; I think all the time in the sun is making me extra exhausted! Then we showered and went down to the beach. We spent a little time sitting on the beach, looking out over the Atlantic, before going back up into town to find some dinner. Ox burgers were on the menu, so ox burgers it was! Accompanied by croquetas, of course, and patatas for CJ. 

When dinner was finished we made our way back to our albergue where we played cards for a bit and visited with some girls from Italy -- their plane leaves for home tomorrow out of Santiago, and they want to walk all the way to Finesterre ... so they walked over forty kilometers today so that in the morning they can make it to Finesterre, catch a late morning bus to Santiago, and make their flight home. Phew. I'm glad we are able to take our time a little -- rushing is no fun, especially when there is so much to see! 

Here are a few pictures from today: 

This is the spring that runs near the convent of St. Lucia, the patron Saint of eye ailments. It is said that those who wash their eyes in this stream will have healing from their eye afflictions. 

Foggy view of the river below. 

On top of the world, out for a walk. 

Waymarker love! Who needs a guide book? Just follow the arrows! 

This is why you. We'd need a guide book -- sometimes the arrows want you to go all the ways! (Not really -- this is where the trail splits to go to Finesterre or Muxia.) 

Love of Christ in the middle of the forest. 

A sunny day on the Camino! 

The chapel of Our Lady of the Snows! 

Close up of the church

At the top, before traveling downward ... 

I see the Atlantic!! 


Ahhhhhh!! There it is. What a view! 

And our view from the window of our albergue. 

😍😍😍

Beach selfies! 

con mi amante 

And my bed for the night -- CJ is already in his bed! 

Tomorrow we walk to finisterre -- I'm so excited to reach the offices "end of the world"! 

Buen Camino. 






Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Olveiroa

Another beautiful day on the Camino!! But before I start with today, I'd like to talk about last night. A younger pilgrim (early twenties maybe) was already asleep in her bunk when CJ and I arrived to the albergue yesterday afternoon. She would moan from time to time and then started puking. She had a fellow pilgrim who seemed to be tending to her, so I offered her the tissues I had and left things alone. After her third round of puking, however, I felt bad for her (and the rest of us ... she was puking in a bucket in the room full of bunks) and decided to see if I could help. I asked her if she knew why she was puking (something she ate / drank) or if was random, if she was dizzy, etc. I also noticed she was really weak and a little spacy -- she hadn't peed all day and was super dehydrated. I gave her some Dramamine to help the room stop spinning and told her it was really really important that she try to drink water / sports drink and eat something salty. I showered and left for the store and cooked dinner, and when CJ and I returned to the room she was sleeping -- which is better than puking. But the poor kid got worse as the night went on and around eleven she fell out of her (bottom) bunk and got sick again. Thankfully some Spanish speaking pilgrims stepped up to help out, because this girl needed IV fluids and antiemetics. By about midnight they took her to a hospital -- the point of all this is twofold: First, if you could all keep this girl in your prayers; I'm not sure where she started or where her home is, but being so sick when your not with your family or in your own bed is miserable. I hope they got her feeling better. Second: this is why CJ and I were not up early this morning -- we were up late with all the commotion. 

So, this morning we got up a little before seven, ate some fruit for breakfast that is picked up the night before, packed up our packs, and headed on our way. Today was a long day with many many kilometers to cover, but we did it AND we did it without getting grumpy. ☺

After leaving our albergue around eight, we quickly knocked out about twelve kilometers through forest paths and pastures finally arriving at a cafe for breakfast. We spent some time resting (frequent breaks are the key to covering lots of ground!) and playing with the kittens before going back out on the trails. 

The weather was perfect for walking: cool breeze, sunny enough for the sky to be a brilliant blue but enough fluffy clouds to ensure the sun didn't get too hot. And though there were more ups than I like (I mean, I really would prefer no ups at all -- which makes accessing my favorite mountain trails a bit of a conundrum), the inclines were steady. We ran across many more pilgrims today: from Germany and Czeck Republic and Italy and the United States; we also ran into the nice couple from Sweden; CJ and I stopped to rest at a bench where they were resting, too. She gave us a handful each of salty pub mix; she said we were losing lots of salt walking in the afternoon sun. haha We stopped at a second cafe for a drink about ten kilometers after the first then powered through the last thirteen kilometers. Sure If we had woke and left earlier we would have arrived at the albergue earlier, but as it was, we checked in right around five pm. Not too shabby for a thirty five kilometer day with two hour long breaks and lots of mini breaks in between. 

After we checked in we assessed the damages: a few blisters, some sore feet, and sunburn. Could have been worse! After a shower, a foot rub, and hanging up clothes to dry, we went down to the cafe for dinner: finally, a pilgrim menu!! With full bellies we returned to our room -- CJ is already sleeping; I'm not far behind him. Some pictures from today: 

Statue when leaving Negreira this morning -- it is meant to represent immigration. 

Hello beautiful Camino!! 

mi amante 😍

I love those waymakers!! 

You can see a huge lake off in the distance. Such a beautiful day for a walk. 

Gorgeous green pastures; we also saw a lot of cows today -- I think we got moo-ed at more than we got barked at today! 

Lentil soup -- one of my Camino favorites! 

Tarta de Santiago -- breakfast staple, pilgrim menu desert. 

And my bed for the night. 

Tomorrow is not such a long day of walking -- our feet will be glad for that! And tomorrow I think I will remember to put in the sunscreen. Until then, I shall sleep. 

Buen Camino. 


Monday, May 29, 2017

Negreira

Today was a beautiful day on the Camino de Santiago! Hm -- is it still the Camino de Santiago if I'm walking towards Finisterre? We got a much later start than intended this morning; much much later. We were going to rise at five thirty and leave by six ... we rose at seven and left at eight ... and stopped for breakfast, putting our official "leave Santiago" time at 8:40am. Eek. Finding our way out of the city and onto the path was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be; usually we get a little turned around coming in and out of the bigger towns. We climbed up and out of Santiago, took a look back at the city from the top of the hill, and kept on climbing. 

About this time it started to drizzle. I didn't want my pack to get wet at all, so I put my rain cover on -- smart move: putting on the rain cover at this point; dumb move: not putting on my rain jacket. About five minutes after the rain cover was in place the skies opened up and buckets poured from above. God is in the rain. I actually love hiking in the rain. I prefer it to hiking in the sun, even if I don't have my rain jacket on. With the rain falling, CJ and I pressed on up hills and through little towns until we got to our first cafe where we dried off and ate a (second) breakfast: tortilla and tea for CJ, tortilla and colacao for me. I really do love Spanish breakfast. After a bit of a rest and fueling up, we went back to the trail -- a big hill was yet to come. 

While approaching the start of the incline, we met a nice couple from Switzerland -- they started in Santiago and are just walking to Finesterre; they have walked caminos in their past. They soon let us pass them and veered off at a cafe while CJ and I walked on. Hills are not my favorite, but this one was made less terrible by the tall sheltering trees surrounding the path: the damp ground, the cool breeze, the smell of eucalyptus -- if I must walk up, this is how I like to do it! After a three kilometer climb to the top, we started to make our way back down, crossing over a really neat old bridge and a beautiful waterfall. We stopped at a cafe right before the waterfall for a cold drink before pressing on. 

And finally we made it to Negreira, a tiny city boasting four albergues and two grocery stores. CJ didn't feel well when we woke up this morning (stuffy nose, sneezy, headache) so when we got to the albergue he went to sleep while I showered and went in search of groceries. I found the store, grabbed some veggies and noodles and milk, and came back to the albergue to make us some dinner. By the time I got back, CJ was awake and getting ready for a shower. I joined the rest of the Camino chef pilgrims in the kitchen and got to work. 

CJ and I enjoyed our dinner in the company of a pilgrim from Australia and a pilgrim from Montana -- both were excited to share of their adventures prior to Santiago on the French Way; it was fun reminiscing with them about the French way, comparing different albergues we stayed at and delighting in the times we stayed in the same albergues. I forgot how much more busy the French Way is than the other routes -- this walk to Finisterre is much like that: packed with pilgrims, filled albergues, pilgrims cooking and taking up every corner of the towns ... On one hand, it is fun: it is social and conversational and familial. But on the other hand, it is noisy and exhausting and busy. There is something to be said for the smaller, less populated routes. I think the part of me who does the Camino to find peace and prayer and wholeness prefers the smaller routes. The part of me who enjoys meeting new people and learning from the stories of others is very much enjoying this section, the route to Finisterre. 

And now CJ and I are in the bunk room amongst already sleeping pilgrims and those preparing to settle in; I think if the sun set earlier I could be sleepy, but because the sun stays bright until after ten (the sun sets at 22:04) it is hard to think about sleep. So instead we are exchanging foot massages (CJ is the best -- my achy feet have received massages almost every day!) and playing cards. 

Here are some pictures from today: 

Breakfast: chocolate and chirps!! Churros ... not chirps. haha

The first mile marker!! Just ninety more kilometers to Finesterre! 

Looking back towards the cathedral spires is of Santiago. 

A little hamlet to venture through ... marine imagine hearing clicking chickens and bleating goats as you walk through ... 

I love forest paths! 

Bridge!! 

Water!! 

On the bridge!! 

I'm a Camino chef. Tune in tomorrow for my other specialty: rice. haha 

All the boots lined up at our albergue: Albergue Lus. 

And my bed for tonight -- CJ gets the bottom bunk. 

Tomorrow is a loooooong day: 35 kilometers. We plan to get an early start (though as you can read, we haven't been very good at early rising ...). Maybe tomorrow will be different. Pray for small hills and strong feet!! 

Buen Camino. ❤