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.

Friday, September 19, 2014

I have finished hiking my camino trail. I started my hike on August 10th, and on September 10th, I made it to Santiago. This is where the camino ends for many. It is where the cathedral is, that holds the remains of Saint James.

The last couple days of hiking were spent with good friends: Paul, from Ohio, and Helen and Kat, from Australia. Kat had made plans to fly out of Santiago on the 11th for her next adventure, so we all decided to hike long miles the last few days, to be able to stay on her schedule and have a going away party in Santiago. It was mostly really nice hiking trail the last few days, and we "enjoyed" some of the regions specialty cuisine, pulpo, (octopus). I'm proud of myself for giving it a try, but I will probably never do it again.


The morning we walked to Santiago, we only had about 20km (12.5miles) to walk. We got up early and were on our way before 6am. Sunrise isn't until after 8am, so it was a cool dark walk in a wooded path. I took the opportunity to jump out of the woods and scare Kat, for an overdue payback a few nights back.
Once the sun was up, and after a quick coffee and breaky stop, Santiago welcomed us with a rainbow.

We walked into Santiago with fellow pilgrim, Jorge.
We didn't find out that Jorge was a priest until we were getting our compostela. The compostela is like a certificate of completion for the camino. Ones camino can start at a number of places, and sometimes someone walks thousands of kilometers. to earn a compostela, you are required to walk a minimum of the last 100 km. those last 100 km were pretty darn crowded, to say the least. We were lucky to have hiked ahead of where most guide books recommend, and stayed at less populated albergues.
Our group was picked out of a long line, to be fast tracked as a group. We might not have known that Jorge was a priest, but maybe someone else did.
After getting our certificates and patting each other on the backs, we quickly went to the cathedral to get a seat for the very popular pilgrim mass. We arrived at 11, and seats were already filling up for the noon mass. Since we hadn't showered yet, or rested from the quick mornings' hike, it was a bit uncomfortable sitting for 2 hours, but well worth the wait. The mass was almost entirely in Spanish, but at the end they lit up the botafumeiro, which is a giant incense burner. It was originally used to fumigate the sweaty, stinky pilgrims, and has become tradition. It requires several men to hold the rope and pull it at the right moment to get the large burner to swing across the cathedral. It swings so high, it seems it will touch the ceiling. It was amazing!
We had a nice evening all together, for a nice send-off for Kat. We also had a great time seeing all the familiar pilgrims come through.
The next day, I took a day off from walking for the first time since we started. It was well deserved, and I enjoyed sleeping in. We stayed at an Albergue called "the last stamp". It was very nice and we each had a personal locker beside our bed to lock up all our belongings while enjoying Santiago.
After a day off, I was more than ready to keep hiking. My camino was not going to end in Santiago. I had decided that I would hike to "the end of the earth", as the Romans believed Finisterre to be.
This was 89km (56miles) to be done in 3 days. The days were long because there aren't as many places to sleep or get food along this way. I was surprised, but quite glad that not many people walk to Finisterre. The hiking is beautiful, and finally not crowded. We met good friends, Christine & Jamie, from Canada on our first day out. We had not met them before because they had hiked another camino route, the "primitivo route". They were great company all the way to Finisterre. Angelina, from Germany, also joined us in our trek to Finisterre.

It was great to walk into Finisterre and view the ocean!
It is here that pilgrims once would strip naked, burn their clothes, bathe in the ocean, and walk away a new person. I suppose some still do.
As much as my shoes may need burning, my plan was to also walk to Muxia, which is another ocean front village where many pilgrims end their journey. I took a day off in Finisterre to enjoy it, and then walked my last 20 miles on September 16th.
I had a nice evening in Muxia, and it was a good ending to the journey. The next day, it was strange to get on a bus after only getting around by foot for the last 38 days. It was the first vehicle I had been in since I was in France.
Before catching the bus, however, I walked 2 km back to a nice beach with a little bit of a climb down to it from the road, but well worth it!

Now I am back in Santiago. Unfortunately, the cathedral is under renovation, but you can kind of imagine how beautiful it is.
Though it has been rainy since getting back into Santiago, it's a nice city to walk around and do some shopping. Christine and Jamie are here too. Overall, I feel great! I actually feel like I could buy a new pair of hiking shoes and keep walking. On September 20th, I will leave Santiago, and begin the next part of this adventure in Germany!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

I was having a bit of a pitty party today. I will be finished with the Camino soon, and well, I still haven't gotten my life figured out yet. Big surprise, eh? I didn't sleep well last night, wondering where I have gone wrong, and why I can't seem to be successful in my love life. I feel like I have had my fair share of heartache, so why again? I was hoping this trip would give me peace from those feelings, but they linger on. Sometimes I get angry at the camino for not giving me peace, and sometimes I get angry at God for not making this journey more spiritual. I go to mass, but alas, I don't speak Spanish well, so it ends up being an exercise of kneeling, sitting, standing, and having no clue why. I guess it would help if I knew anything about the Catholic Church, or if I had ever been to an English speaking mass before. I guess I'm a bit ill prepared. Ok, I agree....this pitty party is not the best party I have ever gone to.

Then something happened. It started raining. Hard. This is the first real rain I have had while hiking the trail. I have plenty of time left to finish this hike, and I could have easily stayed in the town I was in, under a roof, drinking some fresh squeezed OJ, and eating an ice cream bar (a very acceptable afternoon snack. Quit judging). However, this party of mine was going downhill fast. I decided to put my cute new raincoat on, and go out in the rain. I hiked the next 13 km in sloshing wet shoes, and rain dripping off my hood. Helen, Paul, and I hiked near each other, but individually alone, at a fast pace, passing many other soaking wet pilgrims. By the time we got to the Albergue, we were soaked, pruned up everywhere, and I got my first blister. All my kind pilgrim friends got a lot of joy out of my blister since they have been plagued with them and I have had none. I named it "pebbles", because it's the pebbles I didn't want to stop in the rain to get out of my shoe, that created it. We caught up with one of my best pilgrim buds, Kat, who got ahead of us when we took an alternate route. I was very happy to see her! I was also so happy for a hot shower and dry clothes to change into. I was happy! If I had stayed out of the rain, in the town I was in when it started, I probably would have cried my day away. I'm so glad I walked in the rain. You know how when life gives you lemons, you are supposed to make lemonade? Well, I discovered that when life gives you rain, you should make prunes (out of your fingers and toes). I guess the Camino did help me today.

A couple days ago, we took an optional detour route that added about 7km to our hike. We stayed at a restored monastery just a bit off the main trail, in LucĂ­o. Because of the detour, adding extra length to the hike, and the fact that this place is also on a different path off the trail, many people pass it up. Me, Paul, and Helen had the entire place to ourselves. It's a beautiful building, clean, and luxurious. What an amazing place to stay, and for only 6 euros! Future pilgrims should make note of this, and not miss it. A lady who lives next door to the monastery with her son, cooked us a lovely meal, family style, in their home. This is one if the best meals, and most memorable experiences I have had on this trip.

We stayed here, so that we could visit one if the oldest and largest monasteries in the western world. We arrived at 8am, had a long breakfast break, and waited to take the first tour at 9am. The Benedictine monastery in Sarria has 14 monks who live there full time. The grounds are beautiful, as well as the endless murals painted in the hallways. Well worth the wait, and the extra 7km walk! We were lucky to have a tour guide who also spoke English
The camino trail has been most beautiful lately. I hope it stays this way through the end!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

It seems for the last few days, we have been walking through much medieval history. It's pretty awesome to walk through areas and imagine what has gone on there in the past. Don Suero, a scorned knight defended this bridge for a month until the required 300 lances had been broken. It was fun to cross the bridge while imagining the jousting tournament! Together with his comrades, he then proceeded to Santiago to offer thanks for his freedom from the bonds of love and for his honour, now restored.

Yesterday, in Ponferrada, I got to tour an actual castle, Castillo de Los Templarios. It was pretty amazing! Ponferrada came under the protectorate of the Templar order by decree if King Fernando II in 1178, until the order was outlawed in 1312 and disbanded by a church fearful of their increasing power and esoteric tradition.

I finally found an Albergue that catered to vegetarians. It was awesome to eat good food! So far, the food has been overly fried for my taste, and not many options for a vegetarian, besides fish. The food seems to be changing as we get further south, though, and I am liking it better.
This hostel also offered yoga and massage. The yoga was only done at 8am, so they let me use the room to practice on my own. Paul and Helen both joined this time, and I think it was the first time either of them have done yoga. I got a relaxing massage afterwards.
Yesterday, we hiked back into the higher elevations, and though I am more sore now, it was my favorite hiking day so far. So beautiful!

Early into our hike, we came across the Cruz de Ferro. It stands at the highest point along the Camino, at 4934 ft. Pilgrims are to reconnect with the purpose of their journey here, and add a stone or other token of love and blessing to the great pile. I added a stone myself, while making a promise to myself. I have to thank my friend, Alberto, for the nice picture, as he passed through the day before me. When I passed, it was very early, and too dark to photo. Beautiful, nonetheless.

Tonight, I am in Villafranca. The Albergue I am staying in is very neat, and has been built around the rocks, which have been included in the interior for a very peaceful, nature feel. This is going on my top favorite albergues list.

I will be climbing again tomorrow, including a climb that is supposed to be the toughest on the trail. There are three route options (before beginning the big climb). Easy, difficult, and very difficult. I've talked Paul into doing the difficult route with me, but I had no takers on the very difficult, also called "Dragonte" route. I wish I had a better sense of direction, otherwise I would do it solo. The Dragonte trail is rarely used, not marked well, and the trail gets overgrown. I would surely get lost by myself. I know I am going to love tomorrow's hike though!

More fun photos from the week:



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.