Friday, April 26, 2013

Lessons from the Camino

Along the Camino are hints on the art of living.  Here are a few I have learned along the Way.

Open your heart wider.
Do the things that make you happy. 
Go with the flow.

Follow the yellow arrows.

Pay attention.
Look and really see.
Listen and really hear.

Listen to the chirping of the birds, the gurgling of the stream.
Feel the sun on your face, the cool breeze on your skin, the rain on your cheeks.
Smell the scents of the earth, the tilled ground, the wildflowers, the pine trees, the woodfires, the damp earth in the rain.

Be with yourself.
Be yourself.
Love yourself.
Forgive yourself.
Forgive others.

Do not judge.
Do not let others judge you.

Hug someone.
Compliment someone.
Be able to accept compliments.


Travel light.
Bring only what you need.
You need less than you think you need.

Sing out loud.
Listen to music.
Be with people you like.
Do not be with people you do not like.

Learn another language, or two.


Hold on.
Let go.

Listen and learn.


There are no shortcuts.
Enjoy the view.
Walk on.
You can do much more than you think you can.

Stop looking for happiness, it's right in front of you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Camino Finisterre: Day 35: Finisterre to Santiago by bus

I have breakfast at the albergue then leave my pack there for a while.  I chat a bit with Luisa, a German girl from Berlin, staying at the albergue, who is going to Muxia, and decide to walk with her to the starting point of her hike.  It is not very clear where that is so we ask in Spanish at the supermarket.  It turns out the woman giving us instructions in Spanish could actually speak German, as she had lived in Germany for some time.  She  tells us that the trail starts a kilometer or so out of town on a left hand side street going uphill and just right before a gasoline station.  After a few minutes we are there. At the corner is the Asador San Roque and a sign on the road to San Martiño. We part ways here and I wish Luisa a Buen Camino.

Afterwards, I walk to the bus station just a little way from my albergue.  Today is the first day I will ride a motorized vehicle in 35 days.  I have walked everyday with my boots and backpack for a little more than a month now.

A bus arrives from Santiago and I spot Bogdan, a Polish guy we had met at El Burgo Ranero.  My Polish has not gotten any better, nor has his English -- I am happy to see him and we say our hellos and goodbyes.

The bus stop is full of other pilgrims waiting for the first bus back to Santiago de Compostela.  It leaves at 8:45 am and is a comfortable modern doubledecker.  The 3 hour trip costs 13 euros.  I sit on the upper level on the front row to get a good view.  The road is very scenic but long and winding and soon enough I am feeling a bit dizzy and car sick. I had left my motion sickness pills at home and I am hoping I don't throw up. After 3 long excruciating hours, we are in Santiago.  I get off at the train station and walk towards the city center, stopping along the way to have lunch at a local restaurant.

I check in at the Hospederia Seminario Mayor where I stayed before -- this time in a single room for 25 euros.  After a shower, I head out and walk around.  I go to the Museo des Peregrinos-- quite nice, then I buy some souvenirs.

While walking around, I spot a few people I know sitting at a sidewalk cafe.   There is Holly and Lee, Ana, Maria with some other pilgrims Edward and Yoshi.  I join them for dinner at Casa Manolo.  Later, we walk to the Catedral plaza and see other pilgrims I had also encountered before-- Joe, Josef, Charlotte, Helen and some others I meet just now like Stefano and Lorena.  We are now a big group of about 10 people. We chat a bit in the plaza in front of the Basilica.  It starts getting a bit cold and we decide to move to the courtyard of the Hospederia Seminaria Mayor. Joe gets some wine for the group.  We all sit together and chat till almost midnight.  The group stays on but it is time to sleep for me as I have a flight tomorrow. I say my goodbyes.  

It is great to see the people -- pilgrim friends you have shared the Way with -- at the end of your journey.  Soon enough we need to go our separate ways and venture off on our own separate Caminos.

Sunrise backlights Finisterre cruzeiro

Finisterre town center

On the bus, Finisterre to Santiago de Compostela

Musician in Santiago de Compostela

Statue of Saint James at the Museo des Peregrinos
Another version of St James
Pilgrim cape and hat

Typical pilgrim wear of past times

Plaza de Obradairo fronting the Basilica

Cathedral doors

The Basilica at night

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Camino Finisterre: Day 34: Olveiroa - Finisterre (34.9 kms)

For my last day, it looks like I am the last one out of the dorm again. I have a a piece of bread, coffee and fresh orange juice for breakfast at the albergue cafe  and pack a sandwich for later. It is 8:30 am when I start my walk.

The trail immediately goes uphill through what looks like newly reforested pine forests.  It is another beautiful sunny day.  After a time, I realize I have forgotten my walking sticks. I think whether I should go back for them but decide against it as I am already 30 minutes away and I had planned on leaving them somewhere anyway.  Later, Nestor and Jose Luis, an Argentinian and Spanish who live in Alicante and who also stayed at the same albergue, caught up with me. I guess I was not the last out. I tell them about the sticks. Nestor offers to call to have them take it by taxi to Finisterre. I say it is okay as I planned to leave them anyway.  It turns out Jose Luis was having problems with blisters and had his pack taken by taxi. They ask me if Jose Luis can have the sticks as they are still walking to Muxia. I say yes and am glad that someone can make use of the sticks my sister and I had used.
Nestor and Jose Luis from Alicante

On the way, I also meet Mathias, a German from Chemnitz, who has mountain-biked the camino trails from Bordeaux to St Jean in 3 days and  St Jean to Santiago in 11.  He is on his last leg to Finisterre. 

Matthias from Chemnitz, mountain-biked the Camino trails all the way from Bordeaux

After that, I am all alone on the trails till Hospital at 10:30am where I have a drink and a snack at a cafe--  the only cafe for the next 15 kms, they claim.  It is also here where the Camino forks into 2 ways, one leading to Muxia and the other to Finisterre. 

I take the Finisterre way and again the trail leads uphill through dirt trails and pine forests with breathtaking vistas and clear blue skies. I am all alone with my thoughts and with nature.

Finally, at about 2:30 pm, I catch a first  glimpse of the sea from atop a hill I had been climbing. I am almost at Cee!  But it is  still about 16 kms to Finisterre.
From here, it is a downhill through rocky trails. I stop for a lunch of huevos con bacon at the first cafe I see, and then continue on.  I lose the trail of yellow arrows but find it again in Corcubion-- it leads up through small trails until Finisterre.

First view of the sea from atop a hill before Cee

 I reach the gateway to Finisterre at around 4 pm.  I stop at the white sand beach and soak my tired feet in the cold water.  I think about walking along the beach but decide on the regular Camino as the water is ice cold.  The trail follows beside the coastline until central Finisterre. I check in at Cabo de Villa Albergue at 6 pm and rest a bit.  The hostel owner offers some crabs and even cooks them for me. They are fresh and so reminds me of home as I eat with my hands with gusto,  cracking all the claws and digging out all the crab flesh. I finish 2 small crabs, newly cooked. Yummy!  I  then go to the Xunta hostel to get my Camino Finisterre certificate.

The beach at last!

From there, I walk to the Faro de Finisterre- the lighthouse-- the end of the world!  It is 3.5 kms away.  Along the way, I meet another German from Nuremberg walking with his 2 daughters. 

Along the road to the Finisterre lighthouse

Cape Finisterre Lighthouse

At the end of the world!
At the end of the world--I take a photo at 0.0 kms. I did it! I walked with my husband, my family, my friends, and my pilgrim comrades.

0.00 kms

I find a spot to sit among the grass and rocks, pick up some dry twigs and begin the traditional ritual.  They say one needs to burn a piece of clothing here at Finisterre, at the end of one's Camino.  I prepare my wool gloves - they were given to me, kept me warm, but they are a remnant of my past -- I must offer them and move on.  I crumple the paper printouts that led me to here, put the dry twigs on top and then my gloves over them.  I light this offering and watch as the flames catch and crackle and burn, amid the green warm earth, deep bluegreen rumbling sea, glorious clear blue sky and the fierce yellow setting sun.

I think how lucky I am to be here.  I started alone on my quest and end here alone and whole, maybe more complete than when I started.  I call my husband to share this wondrous moment with him.  Soon I shall be home.

I spot a familiar face as I walk around the Cap Finisterre. It is Jean Claude from Grenoble, France. He had walked the Camino for 50 days in 2 stages, from Le Puy to Sto Domingo de la Calzada then after a few weeks continued on to Santiago then here. We had last seen him in Calvor with Kathryn, a German he was walking with for a few days.

I stay to watch the sun set. It starts as a flaming ball silently slipping down into the horizon. The colors change and soften and I watch as the last bit of light slips into the ocean turning the sky pink. On the other side of the setting sun, a full moon sits. A truly memorable end to my Camino.



Jean-Claude from Grenoble, France




Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Camino Finisterre: Day 33: Negreira - Olveiroa (34 kms)

I was the last one out of the albergue at 8:30 am.  Had a fast breakfast at a cafe on the way and started walking.

The way went uphill through nice forests and sometimes passing through small roads. I did not see any other pilgrim on the way except when I got to Vilaserio 12 kms away at around 12 noon. Here I see Anastacia, the Russian girl we first encountered in Najera and met several times along the way. She always walks alone, is  a very strong walker and always has a ready smile.  I have a bocadillo francesa con jamon and an Aquarius sportsdrink plus a cafe cortado. I wrap up 2/3 of the bocadillo and walk on again in20 minutes.  Still a long way to go.  It gets progressively warmer as the sun shines stronger and I have only my trekking short sleeved shirt. Must be 20 degrees.

Next stop is Santa Mariña at 2:30 pm for another sportsdrink and portion of bocadillo.  Here I see the Dutch couple Ingrid and John.  They are staying for the night.  They had looked in before they left to see if I was up, but I was still sleeping.  The trail goes a long way uphill again, continuing on through farmlands and country roads sometimes with huge tractors rumbling through and passing uncomfortably close.

Next is a long downhill where I spot a large body of water in the distance.  It cannot be the coast yet but I am already close to Olveiroa.  I arrive there at 6 pm and stay at the Albergue Horreo. I meet Anastacia there again and we have dinner together.  The albergue is named after the storage granaries, the horreo that you see the entire way.  According to the hostel owner, they usually contain potatoes, grain, even dried meats like chorizos.  The cross in the front is like a blessing for the granary contents, and the lance at the back is like a phallic symbol.  I think that this cross in one end and a lance on the other is like trying to cover all the bases -- Catholicism as well as possibly, animism, or the belief of spirits in the physical world or nature. 

As I walk alone the whole day today, I think back again and process my whole Camino experience.  I think that it is today when it all comes together, and I have an overwhelming feeling that I have found the answer to my quest.  At some point in the day I also felt as if my late father was walking with me, which felt quite reassuring.  I basked in and felt the beauty of nature, listened to its sounds - the chirping of the birds, the gurgling of the stream, the rustling of tree leaves with the wind.  I listened to myself and my thoughts.  I prayed.

I also kept thinking about the line I had read along the way -- written on a particularly ugly potion on a main highway-- "open your heart wider".  I think that is what the Way teaches us.

Negreiro portal








Dinner at the Albergue Horreos