What is this blog about?

My name is Lori. In August, 2014, I plan to hike the Camino de Santiago trail. Feel free to join me on my adventure by following me on this blog.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

It's hard to believe that it has been almost a week since my last post. For the last week, the walking has been very easy. Easy, however, means walking through the flat mesas. I have to admit, I am yearning for new surroundings. In a couple days, we will be climbing mountains again, and that makes me happy.
We continue to walk through lovely villages. We have somewhat of a routine now. We start walking, usually between 6:30- 6:45 in the morning before the sun is up. We watch the sun come up every morning as we walk. After 6-10 km of walking, we usually make it to the next village, where we get breakfast. Usually this is a coffee and a pastry. I also buy a piece of fruit to have a later snack. Usually, we get to the village we will stay in between noon and 2pm. We shower, hand wash some clothes, and find a place for lunch. Usually we have a late lunch and eat a big meal. Later, we might have a snack. Along the Camino, restaurants serve pilgrim meals. I have to admit, they are getting a little boring, but are always welcome to our hungry bellies. There are three courses. I usually choose salad and pasta, or sometimes fish if the pasta has meat in it. Being vegetarian is not so convenient on the camino. Many times, fish is my only option, so I have had more fish in this last 3 weeks than I usually do in 6 months. The third course is dessert. That is usually flan, for me. My favorite meal, though, has been a home cooked pasta dinner with Italian friends.

It is nice to be at the Albergue early to relax. On Tuesday, we arrived early, and the Albergue had a nice grassy area. I decided to do some yoga. Sascha, from Germany, who I met during lunch, wanted to join me. Within two minutes, there were 7 of us. I was a bit nervous, because I have never actually lead other people in a yoga practice. I usually do it quietly on my own. It turned out very lovely. We all were in a big circle, facing each other. On one of the positions, balancing stick, some of our fingers met. I realized how much I enjoyed the companionship during the yoga session and how much it offered a little bit of a deeper connection to people who were otherwise strangers. Sascha was an interesting man, and I wish I could spend some time hiking with him, but he is hiking in the opposite direction. I won't see him again, but he will be one of the characters of the Camino that I won't forget.

On Wednesday, I stayed in an Albergue run by the church. We had a communal dinner, that involved a lot of singing. It was one of the pilgrims birthday, and she had happy birthday sang to her in 7 different languages. Quite amazing!

After dinner, we all went to enjoy the sunset. Though we enjoy most sunrises, I think this is the first time I watched the sun set since hiking. I'm usually relaxing in bed by then.

Yesterday, I stayed in Leon. Another beautiful big city in Spain. We decided to treat ourselves with a night in the well known Parador hotel. It's a beautiful building, and the original pilgrim hospital.

I wish I had taken the slippers as a souvenir! I felt quite pampered, and took advantage of the big tub, twice!

There is also a beautiful cathedral, which I toured. It was full of stained glass, and simpler than the cathedral in Burgos. I loved it!

Today, we walked about 21 miles so we can have a short day into Astorga tomorrow. I'm excited to be there because I am looking forward to a vegetarian cafe I have been told about. Seriously, Spain needs more vegetarians! I hope this place is as awesome as I want it to be.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Blogging is getting more difficult. I think all the walking has shut off my brain. I am, however, really enjoying myself.

After my last post, I had a great day. We had been hiking for days through hay fields and vineyards. As much as I love the vineyards, I was very pleased as we finally walked up a mountain and into the trees. I love that. There's something about being higher than everything else, and hearing the nothingness that puts me at ease. I love the trees and the shade! I kept a banana from breakfast, hiked ahead of my friends on the climb, and enjoyed it at the top with a view. Paul and I have been hiking with Aussies, Helen, Kat, and Ed.

They have been great company. I don't eat breakfast anymore, I eat "breckie". I also got "hangrey" the other day (a mix of hunger and angry), because we didn't have a place to stop for breakfast until after we had already hiked 11km (about 7 miles). Yes, we are very spoiled hikers!

On Thursday in the morning, while walking to Burgos, we walked through Atapuerca. The prehistoric caves of Atapuerca were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000 on account of their source as the earliest human remains ever discovered in Europe dating back over 900,000 years and providing an exceptional record of the way of life of the first human communities. It was discovered when cutting rail link to nearby mines. Pretty amazing to walk here. Lots to think about!
I absolutely loved Burgos! This is a town I will love to visit again someday, most likely, when dragging my nieces and nephew on the camino with me. I've decided, if I bring young people with me next time, I am guaranteed a bottom bunk every night! Getting out of a top bunk of a bunk bed at 2am to go pee is not an easy thing at the ripe age of 34. However, I am considered one of the "young ones", so there's that. So far, Ed is the only one who has fallen out of bed. That might have been due to some very low priced beers found on the streets of Burgos. It's good to laugh at bedtime!

The Burgos Cathedral is absolutely beautiful. I toured the inside too, and everything is so ornate.
The last two days hiking, we have been hiking mostly through fields again, but the weather has been cool and nice to walk in. We left Ed and Neils behind a bit. They had too much fun in Burgos and only hiked half the distance as we did the next day. They are sure to catch up soon. Poor Helen is having a terrible time with her feet. They are covered in blisters, and I feel so bad for her. We walked slowly today and took many nice breaks. I hope to carry some of the weight from her pack for a while to take some load off her feet.

Tonight, we are in a nice village with ruins in the mountain above, and music playing in the streets.
There is a place called "hospital for the soul" here. It is a very tranquil place to go in and rest. I bought a sachet of lavender to sleep with at night and hopefully give me better rest.
My night is ending with an adorable show, in Castrojerez. It is about the camino, but I don't understand most of what they are saying. That doesn't matter.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

So the running with the bulls went pretty well last Friday. It was actually pretty tame. There wasn't a large mass of bulls, just a small group. I was also a little concerned about how the bulls would be treated, and was assured beforehand that they would be treated kindly. Other than the teasing, they were treated fair. I even saw some glimpses of a wagging tail here and there when the bulls got close to pegging some crazy guys with its horn. Some of my fellow pilgrims got in the streets and ran/got chased. I preferred my place behind the safety fence to record the craziness. It was almost more fun to capture the running of the people!

The towns people continued with their celebrations until 5am but, as in most albergues, the pilgrim curfew was 10pm and thus is when our festivities ended. The streets were awfully quiet and bare as we set off hiking the next day!
We hiked 18 miles to Longroño on Saturday, where we stayed in a Parrish hostel connected to the Catedral de Santa María de la Redonda. We attended mass there. It was the first time I have ever attended a mass, and I was even asked to participate. I read 2 small parts in English, as other parts were represented by others in their language. Most of the mass was in language I couldn't understand, but it was still pretty special. There was even a "secret passageway" between the Cathedral and the hostel, which we got to use after a communal dinner, to go receive a special pilgrim blessing.
Logroño is actually famous for their wine. It was a pleasure and an awesome opportunity to be able to walk through its vineyards. We even got some samples here and there.

Sunday was not quite a day of rest for us. We hiked 19 miles to Nájera, on a hot, cloudless day. We hiked through many vineyards and fields, but not many villages broke up our day. We arrive to town a little after 2pm, and I was exhausted and had developed some heat rash. I opted for a relaxing hotel with a bathtub, rather than a hostel this night. The privacy and relaxation was much needed!  Aoife went back to her home in Ireland this day, and her company is surely missed. She gave me a parting gift of a nice bottle of sunscreen. I'm glad she did, because I think part of my heat rash was due to the unfamiliar sunscreen I had been using. I was glad to throw it out and use what she gave me.

Yesterday, we slept in, then hiked 13 miles to Santo Domingo. We stayed in a hostel run by Cistercian nuns. I was humbled to watch as one of the nuns washed the feet and tended to a mans foot blisters. What amazing service they do in this place run by donation only. I was able to experience a lovely hand scrub that one of the nuns made, and invited me to indulge. I wish I had been able to spend more time observing their service, but instead, I walked through town and took a tour of the cathedral.

There is actually a small chicken coop in this cathedral. As the story goes, a couple and their son were walking the camino and stopped in this town. An innkeepers daughter had her eye on the boy, but when he didn't return her affections, she was angry, and hid a silver goblet in his backpack. When she reported him, the boy was sentenced to hang. The parents continued their way, and after reaching Santiago, returned to the city to find their son alive, still hanging in the gallows. They rushed to the sharifs house to report Gods will to have their son alive. The sherif was sitting down to dinner and replied that their boy was no more alive than the chicken on his plate. Just then, the chicken stood up and crowed. The sherif took it as a sign from God, and rushed to the gallows to free the boy. They keep the chickens in the cathedral as a reminder.

 Today was a 14 mile hike to Belorado. Other than some quaint towns along the way, the hike was somewhat uneventful. We arrived just after noon, which is nice. In Spain, there is siesta from 2-5. During those hours, almost everything is closed. It's nice to get in early, and be able to shower, and go to a market to buy lunch. Lately, my lunch has been fruit, a raw bell pepper, and a hunk of the oldest looking cheese they have in the case. Yum! Our hostel has a nice garden area, with a pool. It also has a large area with chickens, bunnies, and a peacock. It was hard to get a pic without the photobomb rooster. He is quite the center of attention.


I almost forgot about all the smiling faces we had along the way today!

As of today, we have hiked 148 miles. 342 miles left to Santiago!
Buen Camino!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Camino De Santiago is a pilgrimage trail. Traditionally, people would walk this trail to become closer to God by leaving their comforts and material possessions to walk with only their burdens (backpack) on their back. Now, there are many reasons that people walk the trail: spiritual, social, cultural, sports, mental, travel, fun. When I planned this trip, I really wanted to do it for fun and travel, with the hope of a spiritual experience. A week before I left for Europe, my life situation changed. I no longer came to this trail with total happiness and  bright future ahead. Unfortunately, I have come with a broken heart, and an unsure future. I've lost a best friend and a wonderful dream of future, for reasons I will never understand. It is a much different hike for me now. I pray that it is just what I need. As I walk, I see many people, and talk with those I am able to communicate with. Sometimes it is with my broken Spanish, and sometimes with their broken English. I can see those who are here for sport, holiday, and travel. I can also see on the faces, those who are here with deep thoughts and struggling hearts. I'm sure they can see the same on my face. I wonder to myself what each of their stories are. Sometimes the walking is difficult with mountainous climbs and steep descents, and sometimes the walking is flat, but emotions seem to be climbing Everest.
I really appreciate the beauty of this trail. Sometimes the beauty, itself, makes tears fall down my cheeks. I learned about many styles of cathedrals in art history class my first year in college, and I try to point out to myself when I see the difference between romantic and Byzantine architecture. It is all beautiful.
On Wednesday, I arrived in Puenta La Reina. It had been a very hard day for me emotionally, and the first person I met in the hostel was Gaiel, from France. He was one of the happiest people I have ever met, and spoke English wonderfully. He has already travelled 500 km, starting from a point I cannot remember. He talked to me a while, got me to open up, and then congratulated me when he got me to cry, saying that it was what will help me heal. Mantas, from Lithuania hikes with meditation beads on his wrist and in his hand. We talked about yoga and meditation, and I think I will try to do more meditative hiking. I have never been good at shutting my mind down, so it might take me a month to get it right.
Yesterday, I arrived in Estella. It was a small town with loads of architecture! My feet were already sore from the days hike, but I spent several hours walking the town anyway. We had a late start yesterday, because Paul and I decided to ship some items ahead to Santiago to lighten our packs. Since it is easy, cheap, and convenient to stay in a hostel every night, I shipped my tent and sleeping pad ahead, along with some other small items I don't need. My pack is now closer to a "pillow", as Aoife calls hers.
Today, early on in the day, we came across the Fuentes del Vino (wine fountain), where pilgrims can fortify themselves for the journey ahead at the generosity of the Bodegas. This definitely never happened on the AT! Haha
We arrived to town by noon. We took a wrong turn somewhere, got a little lost, ran into a shepherd herding his sheep down the road, then followed some road signs to get back on track. It must have been a short cut, because we beat many others to town.
As we arrived in town, we noticed a parade going on. For the last few days, we have seen festivities going on and everyone seems to be wearing white and red, especially red scarves. I asked the Albergue host about it and he said it is festival, and today was the most important day. Apparently, the bulls run through the streets of this town too, and it will happen tonight! He told us that he will be closing the hostel for two hours this evening, and to be careful. Thanks, dude! (No really, he did show us where to stand, and that there will be a protection fence in place. Whew!)
I guess you will have to wait for the next blog to see what happens during the running of the bulls in Los Arcos!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Today was my 3rd day hiking the camino. It has been wonderful, and nothing short of an adventure, so far! On Saturday, Paul and I had a long day of travelling, about 9 hours, to be exact. From Paris, we took two trains and a bus to get us to St. Jean. The passes were all in French and not many people at the train station spoke English, so I really wasn't certain until about 4 hrs into the first train ride, that we were even on the right train! Thankfully, we were, and we made our next connections easily. On our last connection, on the bus, there were several people with backpacks on their way to the Camino. I met Kyan from UK, Alex from Austrailia, and Aoife (pronounced Afa) from Ireland. I haven't seen Alex again, and Kyan stopped short of us the first day. Aoife is hiking with us still.
As the bus was nearing St. Jean, it began to rain. Paul mentioned that I had just recently commented that it had not rained that day. I told him, anyone who has ever watched young Frankenstein, knows not to say something like that. He goes on to say, "could be worse, could be hailing". Not 3 minutes later, our bus was under fire with bolts of large hail. There was nothing to do, but laugh hysterically!
You see, we had not made any accommodation plans for the night. We thought we would get there early, but the first two trains were sold out. We were going to get in at 10:30 pm, and all the albergues we had called were full. We were facing our first night in our tents. I was a bit worried about Aoife, though, because she was not carrying a tent.
Paul mentioned that maybe we could fit 3 people in our tent, if we needed to. This bought us to the realization that we had had a bit of a miscommunication. I thought we both had a 1 person tent, and as he understood it, he thought I had brought my 3 person backpacking tent to share. So here we are, three people and a 1 person tent, laughing hysterically in a hail storm in the middle of nowhere, Spain, in the dark!
As fate would have it, though there were no available albergues to stay in, there was vacancy at the hotel. The three of us shared a room, and got to know each other. I think there was a festival going on, and there was a lot of party noises most of the night, so none of us got much sleep. I was pretty excited to start hiking though.
Our first days' hike was long and probably the most difficult of the entire trail. We hiked over the Pyrenees mountains and crossed over from France to Spain. About 17 miles for the day, and mostly uphill. We finished at an original medieval hostel Itzandegia, in Roncesvalles. There are 110 beds in one room! The new hostel has 183 beds, and both were full!

We went to a restaurant for dinner, sat at a table, and they just started bringing food. No menus. Apparently, most restaurants near the albergues have a set pilgrim menu. He brought us water, bread, a bottle of wine, then soup that was amazing, then duck (for me he brought potatoes and eggs), then some delicious flan for dessert.  Surprisingly, it was a quiet night. Curfew was at 10:00 pm, the doors lock, and the lights go out. Lights came on at 6:00 am sharp, with loud boisterous music playing to wake us up and get us on our way.
I was surprised how good I felt the next morning. I wish I could say the same of today. Yesterday's hike was also 17 miles, but a less difficult trail. It ended at a hostel with a throng of middle aged Italian men who don't speak English, but talked my ear off all night. I guess they don't care that I don't understand anything they are saying.
I am surprised that I have only met two other Americans. Most pilgrims seem to be Italian, but I have met French, Lithuanian, Spanish, Irish, Austrailian, Amsterdam, German, Columbian, Canadian, England, and I am sure many more that I couldn't break the language barrier enough to find out where. My Spanish is getting me by just fine, as bad as it is, but I must admit, I haven't eaten anything that I thought I was ordering yet. Every meal has been a bit of a surprise!
Today, we hiked through Pamplona. We are staying just on the outskirts of town, which contains a lot of history. I would never want to be on those streets while the bulls are running, but it is interesting to see it in person.

We have been told by a few, that we are NOT in Spain. We are actually in Basque. It has never been part of a map, but the people are very proud. They also speak Basque which, I am told, is nothing like any other language.
We only had a 12 mike hike today, so we were really able to enjoy Pamplona. Our hostel tonight has 50 beds in 5 rooms, and it is not full. Sleep should come easy. I am on the top bunk tonight, so hopefully my legs work in the morning when it is time to climb down. The hostel owner stated that she puts the young people up top. I am assuming she believes I am under 25, and I won't argue.
So far, it has only cost $5-$6 for a bed in a hostel. I did buy some towel fabric at a fabric store today, because towels are not provided. My tent, however, is probably useless weight at this point. A bed and shower is nice after hiking!
Though not many speak English, there is a common greeting among us all. Buen Camino! It means, good journey. Everyone, pilgrims and locals, say it in passing. Buen Camino!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Being in Paris for just two days, is a lot like being on the amazing race. However, we've decided that we would probably be in last place by now. Despite walking aimlessly several times, trying to find something that is right under our noses, we have been able to see a lot in the last 36 hrs.
I learned a good word today. Sortie. It means exit. It would have helped to know that the first time we were in the underground metro station, trying to find our way out. I love learning new things!
Within a few hours of being in Paris, I got a great surprise. My friends Renate & Klaus, AKA, Turtle & Snail from my Appalachian Trail family had told me they had a friend who would be in Paris, so if I wanted to bring an extra suitcase with me, he would come get it and take it to them in Germany, as I will be visiting them after I complete my camino hike. Turns out, they tricked me, and they drove 10 hours to Paris to meet me. It has been wonderful to spend time with them here! Last evening, the three of us took a nice walk to Notre Dame. It's about 3 miles from our hostel. It gave us time to catch up.
Paul has been an excellent travel partner so far. We have gotten lots of practice walking here. The four of us went to the Eiffel Tower today, then walked to the Arc de Triomphe, and then to the Louvre.
Renate & Klaus chose a nap over walking through through the Louvre, Paul and I tackled it together. We spent about 3 hours in the museum and maybe saw 10% of it. It is hugely magnificent! It made me wish I had my Art History notes with me from college.
The most guarded piece, was the Mona Lisa. This is as close as I could get without being thrown out.
For some reason, I really love naked baby statues.
Everything was amazing!
It has been a very rainy day. We ultimately decided not to go back to the Eiffel Tower tonight to see it lit up, because we were ready to stay dry for the night. I guess I will have to visit again someday when it is not so gloomy.
Though we have been too busy to stop and eat much while we have been here, I have managed to get in a crepe, creme brûlée, and croissants. Yum! Comment if I need to get any other French-centric foods in. I think I will buy something with brie tomorrow.
Tomorrow, we will have a long day of travel by train and bus to St Jean Pied de Port. Our tickets are in French and we have 3 connections to make, so hopefully our amazing race skills have improved!