......

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Camino 6 - 2010

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January 1, 2010

Happy New year!


As the Año Santo Jacobeo begins and all pilgrims
prepare to follow their Camino may I share with you
this lovely prayer from Santa Maria de Eunate

"May the way open to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rain fall softly upon your fields,
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand."

In five days I leave on my Sixth Camino!

Starting out again in winter, alone at 70 my
emotions include both anticipation and trepidation.

As always I wonder how it all will go. My reasons
for the journey include non-traditional spiritual ones
giving thanks for my life so far as well as the
excitement of another new adventure.

As it is written in Psalm 119:45
"And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts."


My shell, staff and backpack are ready.
As Sir Walter Raleigh wrote in the 16th century

"GIVE me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope's true gage;
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage...."


May we all walk in peace and good will.

Ultreia!


.....Later in Comments

........Sil said...Keep warm, stay safe: wishing you open, friendly albergues and winter sunshine. You are an inspiration. Abrazo,

........Sandy wrote...Hi, I'm looking forward to following along with you on this journey. My mother and I stayed at your B&B two years ago.

........Anon noted... The prayer from Eunate is an English translation of an old Irish blessing.Wishing you safe walking and Buen Camino.

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January 7, 2010

Away at Last

Yesterday was a crazy day! Bill and I got up well before dawn to drive to Paris and my TGV. It was minus 7 Celsius when we left home. After our saying goodbye and a cold delay the train eventually left. All went well through the frosty countryside until an unscheduled stop at Poitiers!

Either gas or ice was frozen on the tracks so the train waited for 1 1/2 hours until the all clear. Needless to write many connections were lost including mine! I missed seeing the rolling hills between Bayonne and St Jean Pied de Port in daylight.

Luckily the albergue was open until 10. The last bus from Bayonne SHOULD have arrived at 7 or so but finally arrived at 8pm.

I stayed at 39 rue de la Citadelle with the Amis du Chemin de Saint-Jacques. Unfortunately their regular Albergue is under renovation so Mme Jeannine, the famous hospitalero of the past years was not on the scene. St Jean Pied de Port just wasn't the same without her.

Four other pilgrims were there; all guys from Austria, England, France and South Korea. We shared the common dorm and breakfast this morning offered by the volunteer hospitaleros.

The photo is a view west along the rue de le Citadelle this morning before dawn as I started walking.

.....Later in Comments

........Sandy said...Well, in the theater they say that a shaky dress rehearsal ensures a great opening night...hopefully this sort of thing is in play for you, too!

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January 8, 2010

Roncesvalles


Last night I stayed at the very comfortable municipal albergue in Valcarlos. New and well designed it is great. I was the only pilgrim and slept for 12 hours!

Valcarlos, a Spanish village close to the border and within the Pyrenees, is named after a legendary battle. When Charlemagne (Carlos) fought the Moors and lost he retreated to a valley near here. Hopefully I will NOT need to retreat! On to Roncesvalles.

( Later) It was a 6 hour trek to get to the monastery at Roncesvalles. Wind, ice and snow made the climb up the Ibaneta pass extremely tiring. I am pooped!

A young guy from Hungary and 4 Spanish are also in the albergue. Outside is a winter wonderland and very cold.


.....Later in Comments

.......Bill said...Beautiful photo and how did you at age 70 climb six hours in the ice and snow up to Ibaneta? Amazing!

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January 9, 2010

To Espinal

Leaving the monastery at Roncesvalles early in the morning I walked only a few kilometers to Espinal where I am staying in the pleasant Casa Rurale, Cristobalena. All is very cozy except the heat! My pleasant single room is 20 euros and inexpensive meals are available on request. All is very relaxed. Outside, however, there is lots of snow Will I be able to continue tomorrow ?

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January 10 and 11, 2010

To Trinidad de Arre




Yesterday was 20 cold, lonely kilometers across the mountain on the road in a light snow. The Camino itself was far too dangerous hidden under ice and snow to even consider. All I saw were a few horses and snowplows. Arrived at Zubiri by one pm which was great time considering the weather! Stayed in the very comfortable Pension Usoa where I have been twice before. The kind owner hugged me tightly before she showed me a warm, comfortable room.

Tonight the monastery at Trinidad de Arre is another story. It is freezing! The monk hospitalero who met me a the door was wearing a quilted ski parka and knitted cap with ear flaps. He resembled a wintery Michelin man. I have a tiny cell behind the altar with blankets but NO heat. Arriving here was difficult for the path was slick with ice. Hopefully I will be able to sleep since the monks have just brought me a tiny heater.

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January 12, 2010

Cizur Menor

Last night five minutes after the monk plugged in the heater all the electricity blew! It was FRIGID and BLACK all night. This morning ice covered all of Pamplona. After a brief visit at the cathedral I slipped and slid across the city. Many local people were falling and so did I! While crossing a foot bridge leading west from the city I fell, luckily landed on my pack but slid on the hard ice. After pulling myself up I slowly continued to the Roncal albergue. There are a few Spanish men also here; we all ate together at the good Asador restaurant near-by.

.....Later in Comments

.......Kialoa3 wrote...Great to hear that you are moving safely along. Your camino wisdom and many prayers will straighten the way.

.......John and Janet said ...We are following your journey again this year. Best of luck!

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January 13 - 17, 2010

At last Eunate


From Wednesday through Friday I was alone in the Tiebas municipal albergue. Located on the Aragonés Camino, this is a very simple hill-top town with a huge open pit (magnesium?) mine. There is no shop but the town bar sells basics, meals, and drinks as well serving as the "urban" hub.

Everyone was very kind. When I arrived on Wednesday shaking from exhaustion an elderly local on a bike walked me to the bar so I could "sign in" before collapsing. The bar lady quickly prepared a hot meal. The town engineer came to the albergue twice to check that the heat was working properly. It was. What a welcome change from glacial Trinidad de Arre!

Relatively revived after two full days of comfortable rest yesterday I moved on towards Eunate and Puente La Reina where the Camino Aragonés will join the Camino Frances.

By the time I reached Eunate I was shaking with intense pain from the simple act of walking. Nevertheless coming along the Camino and catching the first glimpse of this wonderful circular church "lost" in the ocher countryside was as always a thrill. Unfortunately the church and albergue were still closed for the winter. (Both will reopen on January 20.) I sat outside in a chill drizzle, gave thanks for being able to see this beloved spot once more and for coming as far as I had and then I wept. ...

And so today in pain and sadness I had to leave the Camino. Physically I may not be there, but sentimentally I will always wear my shell. ... Thanks for reading my blog and offering your comments.

Ultreia!


......Later in Comments

...........Kialoa3 said...Margaret, who can fathom the disappointment you must be feeling, yet wisdom prevails and your well being is the foremost concern. Your gracious and courageous spirit will continue to inspire many current and future pilgrims. Thank you for that gift. Safe travels.

..........Sil wrote...You might have left the Camino in body but not in spirit - and, the camino hasn't left you. It will be waiting to welcome you back when you are ready. Hugs

..........Anonymous noted...Margaret, I followed you all last year, and you are an inspiration for giving it your all. I can certainly understand your disappointment. Hope you got back home safely and are feeling better. Please let us know with a post-camino post!.
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February 3, 2010

A Dream Postponed

.
Two weeks ago I had to leave the Camino since I could neither stand nor walk without assistance. After returning to France the days were spent flat on my back recuperating. Now all is MUCH better!

Thank you for your kind comments and queries.

I plan to spend the next months rebuilding my strength and hope to continue my 6th Camino in the autumn after the summer season at our b&b here in champagne. Come visit us!


......Later in Comments

.........Anonymous said...Sending a prayer for health your way.

.........Kialoa3 noted...That's the spirit girl!

.........Elizabeth wrote...Oh, I'm sorry you had to leave. I was wondering why you'd want to walk it in January though? Why not wait until May?

.........Jim and Beth mentioned ...Followed your blog with admiration at your courage and spirit. To even attempt this once is an idea far beyond most of us. Thanks for being an inspiration to us all. We hope we get to visit with you and bill again.

.........An Australian said...You're an inspiration! Hope for the rebuilding of your strength.

.........Pilgrim Nell said...Eunate is such a special place- I think it's worthy of being a pilgrim destination in and of itself. Whatever laid you out Margaret must have been very bad indeed as you are a heck of gal! Bonne route for your Autumn Camino.

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July 23, 2010

Feast of Saint James

Soon it will be July 25, the long awaited Feast of St James. Since the day falls on a Sunday, 2010 is considered a Holy Year; the next will be in 2021. During next weekend multitudes will convene and celebrate this historic Catholic event in Santiago de Compostela.

The Spanish monarchs, governmental officials, church dignitaries, ordinary citizens, and, of course, thousands of actual pilgrims will be present. They will assemble to actively participate in age-old ecclesiastic pageantry and tradition. Imagine if they could be magically joined by all past pilgrims. Such a super-giant throng of celebrants would stretch back one thousand years!

Whatever their ethnicity or beliefs, all pilgrims who have walked the Camino share common bonds. All surely remember the special thrill on arrival at last at the great cathedral, touching the hallowed stones, weeping with joy, and giving thanks as the great bells tolled.

Sunday at home in France I shall, as always, also remember and listen for the far-distant bells.

Ultreia!

.

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October 4, 2010

Continuing


Soon I will be back on the Camino!! Almost nine months from the cold January day when I first began this year, once again I will be walking.

Summer has passed and Bill and I have seen many old friends and made new ones here at our B and B. Without Bill's care and encouragement as well as kind comments from readers I hardly would have dared to dream, but now it is possible for me to go, to continue my sixth Camino.

As always I shall make my pilgrimage for non-traditional spiritual reasons, giving thanks for each day lived and for our life together which enables such a journey.

Walking alone day after day I shall ponder varied aspects of the thousand-year history of this beloved route as well as recall several quotations which help define my personal creed. "But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity..." "I will walk in liberty for I seek thy precepts." Psalm 26:11 and 119:45 "No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path." Buddha

For those who wonder why a sixth Camino? One answer is "le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas/ the heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing." Pascal, Les Pensées

For those who wonder why I do this at 71? My answer is why not? "what then? shall we sit idly down and say the night has come; it is no longer day? The night hath not yet come;...For age is opportunity no less than youth itself, though in another dress, and as the evening twilight fades away the sky is filled with stars, invisible by day." Longfellow, Morituri Salutamus

Stars shining over my route in Spain will be the westward leading Milky Way known in colloquial Spanish as El Camino de Santiago.

Thus thankful, respectful and humble, but curious and with an ever eager heart, I continue.

Ultreia!


......Later in Comments

...........Paula & Robin said...Meredith, our thoughts and hearts are with you as you begin again. Today, daughter Teagan will cup her hands, calling your name to Mt Hood, a mountaineering tradition...in gratitude that you continue your life's journey.

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October 7, 2010

Once Again a Pilgrim


Yesterday after Bill drove me to the TGV I set off. The train was late arriving in Bayonne so three other pilgrims and I missed the little connecting train to Saint Jean Pied de Port. Luckily the Station Master was able to produce and pay for a taxi which took us on our way!

The other three passenger/pilgrims were an interesting mix of two Koreans from Seoul and a Los Angeles movie wardrobe coordinator. None spoke French nor had ever walked the Camino, so I was kept busy explaining logistics. In Saint Jean Pied de Port at the office of the Amies du Chemin they received their necessary Pilgrim Credencials and we all found bunks.

The newly renovated albergue looks great and is now VERY comfortable; it was completey full with thirty-two pilgrims. The wonderful Hospitalero, Mme Jeannine, is back once again; she remembered me from past visits which I found extraordinary since thousands of pilgrims have passed during this current Holy Year.

Before dawn this morning I wished Buen Camino to my new friends. They planned to follow the classic Route Napoleon directly up to Roncevalles monastery today while I have followed Charlemagne's path of retreat stopping today in Valcarlos and aiming for Roncevalles tomorrow.

......Later in Comments

..........Dorothy wrote...Hi Meredith, My friend, I admire your courage and energy as you begin the adventure of your sixth walk. I will ask the angels we know to watch over you. And, I will follow your progress. Take care of yourself.

..........Robert Simpson noted...Will follow you with great interest and admiration. Buen Camino from Colorado

..........Jan and Geoff said...Our very best wishes for your Camino!Take care of yourself and we look forward to seeing you in February 2011.

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October 8, 2010

Up to Roncesvalles


Climbing up to Roncesvalles monastery today was, as usual, exhausting! Following the road's many switchbacks took me 4 1/2 hours to attain the 1067 meter height; finally pooped but proud, I staggered in. What a great pleasure it was to remove my pack and only sit! (If you have never hiked wearing a pack just imagine carrying 15 pounds of potatoes continually for half a day.)

By evening there were many pilgrims; some even arrived by bus! In the albergue last night there were 84 others besides me. Two reasons may account for this surge. October 12 is the Spanish National holiday. Many will walk only this weekend and next Monday before the holiday. Others are starting a mad dash to arrive at Santiago for the Pope's scheduled visit next November 6.

We all attended the traditional evening pilgrim Benediction and Blessing in the monastery church. More than 25 countries were represented! May we all find our way in peace.

......Later in Comments

..........Bill said...Amazing what you achieved already, and with so little prep for the ascent, not to mention being 71! Take it easy for a day.


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October 10, 2010

Down to Zubiri


Saturday night it poured rain. However much of Sunday was simply moist as I hiked 20km, half up/half down to Zubiri where I stayed in a new private albergue, El Palo de Avellano, next to the church. Several small traditional stone structures have been nicely converted into the multilevel space.

Rain teemed just before arrival and never ceased. Hiking in a downpour is NOT fun; since I wear glasses there is an equally unsatisfactory choice between not seeing through wet lens or not seeing because I removed the glasses. Decisions, decisions!

The albergue is packed with four-day pilgrims or those who will stop on the holiday. Easy to spot they all have small packs, often carry umbrellas and are hyper clean! To each his own.

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October 12, 2010

From my House to your Casa


Up early this morning to do about 15km crossing Pamplona to Cizor Menor where I am staying, as usual, at the private Roncal albergue. Construction is continuous here so the place is always quasi-chaotic but pleasant.

En route I drank my first glass (first for this camino) of freshly squeezed zumo naranja or orange juice. No champagne has ever tasted better!

Also en route I took the attached photo of a poster in a realtor's office. I wonder if Hugh Laurie's character House is called Casa in Spain?

......Later in Comments

...........Lorraine Royall wrote...Hi Meredith,I am so happy to see you on this Special journey and I am so uplifted and encouraged by you. Thank you for sharing this beautiful experience and I look forward to keeping up with you through this wonderful medium.I have an American friend here in St. Lucia who also enjoys hiking and exploring. I have shared your blog address with her. I know she will enjoy it also. Take care and May God Speed.


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October 13, 2010

Cresting Alto del Perdon


Today beneath clear windy skies I crossed the Alto del Perdon. This stage on the Camino truly shakes out the hardy. Climbing up is no worse than the Ibaneta into Roncevalles, but descending is pure hell across scree for a couple of unforgiving km!

Gone are all the holiday walkers; the rest are out for the long slog west. Tonight I am in a pleasant private albergue in Ulterga. My dorm-mate is a Quebecoise who has been walking since mid August. Eight weeks ago she started from Puy in France and will stop tomorrow but plans to continue again next year. Thus we who love the Camino forever dream of another stage.


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October 14, 2010

Return to Paradise


Earlier this year on January 16 I staggered into Eunate. Unable to walk further without assistance, I canceled my winter camino vowing to return. Today walking easily yet weeping with joy I came back to this beloved place. From the depth of my heart I offer sincerest thanks for such a possibility.

As an architectural historian it has been my professional privilege and personal pleasure to visit some incredible structures, but Eunate is beyond them all. Here set within a natural bowl unknown craftsmen using ocher sandstone have crafted a small circular church surrounded by an octagonal cloister.

Here pilgrims have worshiped for one thousand years. For me, as for those multitudes, Eunate is close to paradise on earth. May peace in this timeless place always continue.

......Later in Comments

...........Bill noted...Nice photo of Eunate framed by the trees.

.

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October 16, 2010

Passing by Puenta La Reina


Yesterday I passed through Puente La Reina walking west to the hilltop town of Cirauqui where the private albergue was very pleasant and hyper clean. The efficient Hospitalero is excited to begin her Camino in two weeks when her season ends. Other pilgrims were generally middle aged Germans and French plus a Swiss couple who began walking eight weeks ago in Geneva.

However the only pilgrim in my dorm, a Swede, became a problem in the night drinking far too much "under the covers". Hard liquor is a no-no in albergues, but he was oblivious to any rule. In nervous desperation at midnight I moved into a "dry" dorm of middle aged snorers. What a relief!

Today after climbing an ancient Roman bridge and following antique cart routes I am just east of Estella in Villatuerta. This new private albergue is in a three hundred year old house! The on-going adaptation is charming. Family furniture, bits and pieces, plus Ikea basics are well mixed together. One unique feature is a shady loggia strung with colorful hammocks for siestas out of the summer sun! Such a simple practical idea.

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October 18, 2010

Albergue Breakfast 7am


Sunday after walking through Estella I stopped at the recently restored Irache monastery. The white interior is now splendidly pristine. Then through vineyards planted in red earth under cold autumn sunshine I trudged up to Villamajor de Monjardin.

Stayed at the parish albergue; small and cosy it is in an old storefront. We were six pilgrims; two Germans, one French, one English, and one other woman, also American. Over welcome cups of hot tea all shared multilingual travel tips as well as many philosophical musings. Up for breakfast at 7am we all set out as dawn broke.

Today it was cold, but beautiful walking through more vineyards and almond trees to Los Arcos.
Here I am staying in a new private albergue. Imagine my surprise when into the dorm walked a Quebeçoise pilgrim who I had met on my first Camino in 2004! Then she worked with the Inuit; now she is off to work in a Borneo orphanage. What a small serendipitous world!


......Later in Comments

..........Anonymous said ...Amazing. Work out the odds of meeting like that 6 years later !!!

..........Gerry wrote...Delighted to see you well underway again Margaret. Buen Camino!


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October 20, 2010

Santiago Matamoros, Logrono


Walking to Viana yesterday was cold but beautiful across vineyards and almond groves. My woolly hat and gloves were truly needed. Nevertheless the American woman from Florida with whom I walked wore sandals! Br-r.

Last night the Viana albergue was booming. Bunks in tiers of 3 were all filled! The actual effect was similar to movie scenes of a tightly packed troop ship! Slept soundly, however; nothing like exhaustion to induce solid sleep.

Now I am in Logrono which is a bustling hub for Rioja wine similar to Epernay for Champagne. This municipal albergue used to sport handsome contemporary art with a Camino theme as well as cosy dark blue polar blankets on each bunk. All are gone now;it is clean but anonymous. How sad it is when what once provided a specific identity disappears.

One identity which still is very visible within the city is the distinctive sculpture of Santiago Matamoros above the main door of the majestic church dedicated to Saint James. Here he is depicted victorious in battle riding a great steed with heads of slain Moors beneath. In today's world such a symbolic sculpture is of course politically loaded.

......Later in Comments

..........Evelyn noted...Godspeed, Meredith! Have finally caught up with your blogs. Glad to know the camino is going well! Sending warm wishes -- will keep following your progress. Evelyn (a B&B guest in Sept)

..........buckarooskidoo said...Hear you about the incendiary sculpture!


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October 22, 2010

Towards Najera


Early Thursday morning in gentle lemon yellow sunshine I crossed Logrono using the magnificent city park/promenade protected path system ending on the west in a large bird sanctuary. Many urban walkers were about as well as a few pilgrims. Eventually a young Scot from Glasgow walked with me into Navarette. Most of the other pilgrims in that municipal albergue were Korean. One girl had very bad bed bug bites from Estella;the very idea of the little critters made us all nervous and itchy.

Today was tiring walking 17km out of the vineyards towards the magnificent red cliffs here at Najera. On the way nestled in the woods was a strange cluster of stones purposely grouped and resembling surreal gourds.

First to arrive at the municipal hostel I quickly took a hot shower and now anticipate a very long siesta, perhaps until tomorrow morning, while I ponder those stones.

......Later in Comments

..........Amanda said ...Pleased to see you are making good progress. Wishing you continuing good health and energy. Love Amanda & Terry (the bikers

..........buckarooskidoo wrote...Bedbugs on the camino?! is NOTHING sacred?!


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October 23, 2010

Najera to Ciruenla


Climbing out of Najera through the red cliffs as dawn broke this morning was both beautiful and tiring; a full moon was setting in the west as the sun rose at 8am. It was cold; a hat and gloves were a must. Dashing for an open air loo was most invigorating. I met a few curious goats en route!

By noon, however, it was very hot climbing up the pass to Ciruenla where I stopped for the night in an ad hoc albergue. A basic room with a PRIVATE BATH cost only 15 euros. To celebrate such luxury I washed both technical T shirts which are pivotal pieces in my skeletal wardrobe. After more than two weeks in crowded dorms the single room seemed very spacious but a bit lonely.


......Later in Comments


..........Bill wrote ...That is a beautiful image!

..........buckarooskidoo added...I'm not even a skilled photographer but I echo Bill's sentiments l00%!


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October 24, 2010

Granon Albergue


For the past days Camino circumstances have been quickly changing, almost moment by moment brilliant sunshine, pouring rain, singular solitude, and bounding mobs have passed. Today I quickly moved through Santo Domingo de la Calzata en route to Granon. The fierce west wind made the going tough.

Alone for the first few hours in the Granon municipal albergue which is always open and located within a church tower, neither any hospitalero nor other pilgrim was about. By late afternoon, however, all was bouncing. Twenty-five pilgrims shared chatter, music, and dinner. Some had traveled a very long way including one couple from Poland and two young men from Israel who were remarkable musicians.

After dinner a short prayer service was held in the adjacent church; the magnificent baroque retable or altar screen was lit; all was golden. Now after such a glorious vision we pilgrims all have gone to bed or more accurately to floor mat and the cosmopolitan snoring has just begun!!


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October 25, 2010

Acacio & Orietta


At Viloria de Rioja east of Belorado Acacio and Orietta have a wonderful refuge for pilgrims. On my 2009 Camino I stopped for a hot tea en route for Belorado. They were so gracious that I vowed to return and spent the night; Monday I did.

They have created a comfortable oasis from abandoned animal sheds; there are 10 comfy bunks in a dorm heated by a wood burning stove and great showers that water you and not the ceiling, walls or your clothes. Wifi is available as is a multilingual library specializing in books by Paulo Coelho.

But best of all are the wonderful conversations with this Brazilian/Italian couple; I wish them every continued success and hope to return again next year!
.
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October 27, 2010

Tosantos Hermitage


Early Tuesday morning was COLD! Puddles were frozen and hoar frost covered the ground although it still is 'only' October. Everyone that passed, pilgrims and locals, remarked that it was "frio". I am so glad that I brought my standard winter kit! Nevertheless, the weather was and continues glorious with brilliant sun and clear azure sky.

After crossing the rather depressing town of Belorado which resembles a deserted village in an old western movie I stayed at the pleasant parish albergue in Tosantos. The young hospitaleros, a Spanish guy and Belgian girl, did their utmost to make pilgrims feel at home. Late in the afternoon we all climbed up to a nearby hillside hermitage built into limestone strata. In the evening a simple communal dinner was served; then all twelve pilgrims 'hit the mats' to sleep on the rather frigid floor.

Today I moved on to Villafranca Montes de Oca. Every Camino I have stayed at this pleasant municipal albergue in an old school. Here, too, the door is always open. Each visit I recall being snowbound here for three days during the now famous 2006 blizzard; then this truly was a most welcome shelter! For tonight I am glad that there are bunk BEDS on legs. Floor sleeping isn't easy, or more accurately getting off the floor in the dark of night isn't that easy.


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October 29, 2010

En Route to Burgos


Thursday I covered 15km in 5 hours to arrive at Ages after crossing an atmospheric Narnia-like wood but without any faun in sight. The weather continued glorious and the path was all mine. What a simple pleasure it is to walk on an empty path hearing only the distinctive crunch of your own boots. At such times the world is yours; perfection!

En route was the monastery of San Juan Ortega where I once stayed during my first Camino. Remembering how frigid it had been I opted to stay at the nearby Ages municipal albergue which happily was heated. Only three other pilgrims were there in a space for thirty-six, so we each had our own 'wing' of abundant space.

Today the weather changed to windy and cloudy; so did my luck. I got lost! Walking into Burgos has always been tedious since it entails paralleling highways . This time I chose the old N1 which mid-route suddenly became the brand new super highway A1 prohibiting pedestrians! In a frenzy I jumped a few barriers wildly crossing nearby pastures to continue west towards Burgos. When at last in the distance the windsock at the small airport could be seen I felt nearly 'home'. What a relief! Did more than twenty-five km and am truly pooped.

......Later in Comments

.......... buckarooskidoo asked ...How far are you on your journey now? How do you occupy your mind as you walk each day? I know I sing songs when I do my longer runs, but I bet you need more than songs for 8 plus hours a day!


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October 31, 2010

Heading for Hontonas


In an attempt to regain a bit of energy Saturday I walked only a third of what I did the day before. Simply went west from Burgos as dawn broke towards a new private albergue in Rabe de la Calzada. Unfortunately intense blasts of rain and wind did not aid progress.

Most of the other pilgrims in Rabe were young Koreans; in fact the guy from Seoul with whom I shared a taxi day one to Saint Jean Pied de Port was also there! To explain this Korean surge everyone assumes that a new Korean specific Camino book must have been published, but no one can identify it!

Hontanas tonight has a different mix since tomorrow, November 1, is a holiday, All Souls Day the Catholic day of Atonement when one remembers the dead. Thus tonight several male pilgrims are 'professional walkers'; these Spanish middle-aged men are usually in great shape, have very good hyper lightweight kits and often spend every holiday weekend covering great distances along the Camino. They also LOVE to recount their adventures loudly to each other as well as the rest of the dorm.

Earlier in 2004 I stayed in this attractive municipal albergue; within a small historic structure much has been built using basic plywood. Not an Ikea bed in sight! All is natural wood, terra cotta, or stone and very effective. Heated and with appropriately designed HOT showers it is a bargain at 5 euros. Now after walking 18km much of which was through VERY heavy mud, I am delighted to be so comfortable!

......Later in Comments

.......... Bonnie said ...Hi Meredith!I just checked on your adventure for the first time. Glad to see it is going well. I will look more often now that I have the link on my computer. All the best.

..........buckarooskidoo wrote...You are half pilgrim, half infantrywoman, soldering on through wind, rain, mud...very impressive!


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November 2, 2010

Emptiness, Via de Vida


Up early with the long distance 'boys' I arrived at my favorite bar, La Taberna, in Castrojeriz for a mid-morning breakfast. True hot chocolate so thick that the spoon could barely turn and thick slabs of buttered toast were delicious! The gracious owner/barman remembered my past visits and requested that I return again. Might it be so.

Well fortified I slowly climbed onto the high barren Mostelares plateau to continue alone along the Via de Vida or Way of Nothing for 10km or so. Apparently only the singular ribbon-like path of the Camino crosses this vast emptiness. For several kilometers neither no built thing nor no one else could be seen. During such moments one feels truly alone and minute, nothing more than another blade of grass.... Eventually I stopped at a private albergue in Itera de Vega.

Now I am in Fromista. Today the sun was brilliant, the sky cobalt and the terrain became flat. Much of the route followed the waterworks of the 18th century cut of the Canal de Castille. All was almost tidy and domestic in scale; what a change both in the physical world and hence one's mental state from yesterday! One can MAKE a difference and, thus, meaning. Two vastly different philosophic views within only a few hours or kilometers; much to ponder while walking.

......Later in Comments

..........Paula and Robin said ...Meredith, excited to read of your progress with each entry. We've followed since day one and have a map to chart your trek. Your descriptions and photos are lovely. Way to go pilgrim!

..........Joseph said...Remember me? I am from Hong Kong and we met near Viana. I was fortunate enough to have a taste of the thick choco at La Taberna in Castrojeriz as well!
.
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November 8, 2010

Progressing


Sunday I trekked 20km across the last flat plain from El Burgo Raneros to Mansilla de Las Mulas. Now the mountains were closer and a new cold wind was blowing sharply from the northwest. Upon arrival at the cozy municipal albergue the helpful hospitalero happily remembered me from past years. She always keeps the place immaculate yet homey which is no mean feat! I took my 'usual' bunk and the dorm quickly filled with shivering Korean and Spanish pilgrims.

Today walking the last 20km into Leon was COLD; the unceasing wind took one's breath away. Because of the wind I had much difficulty crossing two major bridges. At Puente Villarente the historic bridge is presently too narrow for two lanes of traffic plus pedestrians. After an oncoming truck ALMOST pushed me off I shook with fear for quite a while! Closer to Leon amidst industrial sprawl a new pedestrian bridge carries pilgrims high above the auto-route. When I got there the wind was so terrific that at first I could NOT MOVE! Seeking help but seeing no other pilgrim I backed down the ramp and calmly walked into a nearby BMW car showroom. After I explained that I needed assistance to cross and that we had a BMW in France the slightly astonished but very elegant manager put on his coat and took my arm. Eventually we both made it across, wind-blown and breathless! With a casual 'Adios' he further added that he had never walked the Camino and if it was all like this crossing he certainly never would!

......Later in Comments

..........Bill wrote...Incredible!

..........Paula said ...I second Bill's comment. Your request for BMW's legendary service was probably a first. We're taking cars in for winter service this week and I am tempted to recount your incredible experience. Bravo Meredith

..........Joseph noted...I had 2 trucks passing me at Puente Villarente! I hope that more could be done to ensure the safety of pilgrims and pedestrians alike in the future.

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November 9, 2010

Leaving Leon


Dawn broke as I left Leon; then the sky was clear and the wind only brisk. However, by day's end the wind was brutal and rain teemed. Thus, it was a long slog to the municipal albergue at Villadangos del Paramo.

Eventually four other pilgrims arrived to share the unheated space.One was a young Quebeçois man who had many foot problems. The others were a French couple traveling on bikes plus their two year old son who clad in a snowsuit rode in a enclosed little wagon pulled by his biking Daddy! Having been issued his own Credential, just like a grown-up, the little boy, too, was a bona fide pilgrim. His family had been traveling by bike throughout northern Europe including the wilds of Iceland for over one year and were vaguely headed towards north Africa after Santiago. It was fun to hear of their adventures and share their dreams.

Nevertheless we all went to our bunks quite early in order to get warm or at least warmer! Luckily there were plenty of blankets available. By folding one in half and inserting my sleeping bag between the halves all was quite toasty. Wearing my 'evening dress' of socks, fleece pants, technical undershirt, and long-sleeved winter undershirt plus my woolly hat I was snug enough. However, I did dream enviously about that little boy's cozy snowsuit!

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November 12, 2010

Towards the Mountains
Friday, November 12, 2010


After the rain Wednesday dawned clear, but cold. Late en route I met again a Mexican mother and daughter who now live in Paris and have been walking since Le Puy in France. We three had a welcome hot coffee in Hospital de Orbigo where I planned to stay.

Newly redone the parish albergue is very pleasant and the priest always most pleased to greet pilgrims. One other pilgrim was an Australian woman who had also walked from Le Puy to Roncevalles and due to time constraints taken the bus to Leon where she continued trekking. On the Camino everyone moves as he wishes; only the last 100km MUST be walked in order to receive the treasured Compostela or pilgrim certificate in Santiago.

Yesterday's path gradually started to climb crossing the red earth towards the mountains on the western horizon. Snow covered and beautiful to see from afar I wonder how difficult they will be to cross THIS time. During my 5th Camino a few pilgrims and I were snowed-in at Foncebadon for 2 memorable days of pure white-out when the drifts reached over a meter! Last night about 30 pilgrims were in the well renovated albergue run by the Amigos on the eastern side of Astorga. As we were leaving the city at dawn this morning a glorious golden light lit the majestic cathedral.

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November 13, 2010

En route to Rabanal


Friday I quickly visited a nationally protected village a few kms off the Camino, Castrillo de los Polivares. Unfortunately these small rural sandstone buildings roofed in tile ALL now have the same green painted trim ! The effect resembled a stage set; No evolving village EVER looked like that. Much of my professional life I worked for building preservation; both in Canada and NYC we opted to leave buildings 'in their own juice' and not gussy them up.

Back on the Camino I stopped at the authentic mountain village Santa Catalina de Somoza where a small private albergue is over a bar. The barman/owner gave me a big hug of recognition when I entered. Four men were my dorm mates; one monolingual Spanish, two multilingual Germans, and one French working in Dubai as a lighting specialist for the Cirque de Soleil. We all shared tips but had to walk this morning without any breakfast since no bar was open for 11kms! Eventually I ate some of my emergency rations, processed cheese and chocolate cookies. With a cold water chaser it wasn't cordon bleu but it sure was welcome considering the lack of any options!

Now I am in Rabanal del Camino. Got another big hug of welcome from the owner of this crowded private albergue. Since it is Saturday there are many weekend walkers as well as lots of Koreans. We all hope for good weather tomorrow crossing Monte Irago the highest point on the Camino.

......Later in Comments

..........buckarooskidoo said......You are the Camino equivalent of an infantry soldier, always prepared and ready to walk an infinite distance at any time.

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November 15, 2010

Up and Down the Mountains


Heavy rain in the night resulted in a very sloppy path for leaving Rabanal at dawn Sunday; more rain while walking so I was soaked upon arrival at Foncebadon. Drank several hot teas at the same albergue, Monte Irago, where I sheltered 2 days from heavy snow during Camino 5. The hospitalero remembered me and that storm. Met a few young Spanish pilgrims who had begun walking at Astorga and were suffering from trying to walk too far too fast.

We all continued to the famous Cruz de Ferro or Iron Cross where as have pilgrims throughout time I threw my stone carried from home onto the mound and gave my thanks for getting so far. Near-by we crossed the highest spot on the Camino, 1439 meters.

Later I was snugly installed in a small private albergue over a bar in the mountain town of El Acebo after savoring a fresh trout stuffed with air-cured ham in butter sauce. Delicious! Other pilgrims included 3 Koreans, 1 Brazilian, 1 sick Australian, and a Polish photo-journalist with bad knees.

One basic problem is that most guidebooks divide the Camino into set stages which most novice pilgrims consider 'sacred'. As long as accommodation is available everyone should walk the distance that feels most comfortable. For me now that distance is roughly 20/22 kms per day.

This morning we seven walked down the mountains to the Ponferrada albergue through light snow, rain, fog and a bit of sun. Tomorrow we will go up again, but further west towards the last mountains.

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November 17, 2010

Back into the Mountains


Life in the Ponferrada albergue was not the greatest. Thirty pilgrims crammed into seven small, hot dorms with only two working toilets! Chaos! It made the corner bar's facility, in marble no less,seem like five star luxury.

The path out of Ponferrada after crossing many industrial zones eventually reached the rolling countryside densely planted with Bierzo grapes; hillsides in late autumnal tones of russet and gold stretched to the western horizon.

Spent the rainy, cold night in Ave Fenix albergue in Villafranca del Bierzo. Neither heat nor hot water, but plenty of atmosphere!

Today the path followed the white water of the Valcarce River deeper and deeper into the mountains. At Ruitelan I am staying at the Buddhist Pequento Portala albergue, one of my favorite Camino spots. Small, soothing and simple it is a very special place. Their dinners are always copious and delicious and served with true caritas.

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November 19, 2010

Mists of Time


Leaving the peace of Ruitelan I walked alone through timeless mists to O Cebreiro. Slowly following the old NVI route and not the actual Camino mountain path, after climbing 4 1/2 hours there at last was the tiny stone chapel and the little hamlet almost hidden in the dense fog mixed with sleet; one could easily imagine all the phantoms from the past close-by.

After paying my respects at the tomb of Elias Valinas, the local priest who mid twentieth century renovated the idea of the Camino and painted the first yellow arrows, I offered my thanks for coming so far inside the church. It is always kept spotless by his relatives who live near-by.

Then I took the first bunk at the albergue; by night the dorm was crowded with fifty pilgrims and NOT very comfortable due to the mob. Since this is a famous spot and the frontier of Galicia many pilgrims with limited time choose to begin here.

Today through unending rain, sleet and fog a small group of us climbed up the last steep mountain pass and then descended 20kms to Triacastela. Now in a private albergue I have a small room to myself; what luxury! Outside, however, it is now sleeting so tomorrow's plans are uncertain.

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November 21, 2010

Further West


Saturday I left Triacastela quite late after wondering if more rest was needed; I felt exhausted at 9am! The morning was cloudy and damp, but much less cold. The Camino now crossed wooded hills and dales which in turn were crossed by low stone walls, ivy, green fields and many types of fern, reappeared. At times walking down rocky spots covered with wet leaves was extremely slippery, but I did 19 km to Sarria.

At the very comfortable private albergue, Durminento, as I opened the door the hospitalero/owner happily remembered me and quickly prepared a welcome hot lunch. I was alone in one of many small dorms. Each bunk had a clean, crisp duvet; my siesta lasted until dawn!

Next the Camino continued across gentle farm land. Today under gray clouds, a bit of rain and often along a flooded path eventually I stopped at the small municipal albergue in Ferreiros. After a wonderful Sunday lunch at the good restaurant Millaros, down the hill and by the cemetery, I am cozy in my sleeping bag happily writing while outside it is pouring rain. How wonderful to be dry indoors!

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November 23, 2010

Nearing the End


Monday walking in the early morning chill and fog I had my first battle on this Camino with diarrhea. Yikes! This can be particularly unnerving when crossing open country without any visible shelter. In desperation a large log served as an temporary screen. At such times it important to remember that sooner or later everybody has this problem!

Trudging on I decided to stop at the attractive private albergue in Gonzar where I stayed last year. This is a successful re-use of old farm buildings; natural wood, slate and field-stone have been handsomely blended. Little has been left to chance except the heat; there was none and all was FRIGID. Of course I wore my woolly hat to sleep. Since I was the only pilgrim there were plenty of blankets for tucking below and above my sleeping bag.

Going to Palas de Rei today was happier since the sun finally shone again. More little lanes, many puddles, much mud, and several new "pilgrims" who while only walking the final 100km, send their packs by taxi and, hence, bounce quickly past the rest of us trudging along.

My fellow long haulers are now collectively rather shabby. We all need haircuts, the guys need to shave and everyone's clothes need to be boiled clean! Several are nervous about reaching Santiago within the next few days and wonder how will it be to be off the Camino and back in ordinary life. Personally I always have found re-entry difficult; it is depressing to stop following the yellow arrows.

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November 25, 2010

To Melide and Arzua


In milky sunshine beneath the first eucalyptus trees Wednesday I walked alone to Melide. Mid route met a nice Quebeçois retired couple who had been walking since September when they started from Le Puy in France. Weary, as we all are, they were determined to reach Santiago within the next two days. I will take a bit longer and hope to arrive by mid-day Saturday.

The Melide albergue has been completely redesigned and refurbished. However, the work is not yet quite finished. We pilgrims that were there slept amidst fresh paint and plaster dust, LOTS of plaster dust.

Today a guy from Seville, one of "my" group of long haul pilgrims, and I walked through forest to Arzua. This handsome albergue with great showers has always been a comfortable favorite. What a surprise to have it quickly fill with a Spanish Marine brigade walking the final 100kms as a training exercise! Forty good looking guys, but with many blisters and lots of camouflage, are about the place; it should be a vibrant night!

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November 28, 2010

Santiago de Compostela !


Yesterday, Saturday, I walked into Santiago de Compostela finishing my 6th Camino! As always it was a day of mixed emotions, of euphoria and exhaustion. Finally arriving at the northeast corner of the great cathedral I paused weeping, placed one hand on the ancient stones and silently offered my heartfelt thanks. All was good....

All was also crowded! Down in the Praza de la Quintana crowds waited to enter the Puerta Santa, open only in Holy Years. Many, many people milled about. Surprisingly at the nearby Pilgrims' Office there was no line so the treasured Compostela or pilgrimage certificate was quickly issued. Almost staggering with fatigue I went to my favorite small hotel in the shadow of the cathedral on the Paza de Fonseca and fell asleep listening to the beloved bells.

After sleeping for over 12 hours within the delicious comfort of clean sheets, today I re-met 'old' Camino friends and we all attended the special mid-day Pilgrim Mass. It was packed so we stood shoulder to shoulder. In conclusion the great botafumero or giant censer was lit, impressively lifted and spun high above the congregation producing whirls of incense! ...Thus,today's pageantry has already become a timeless memory.

......Later in Comments

..........Bill said...My immense admiration for accomplishing this 6th periple, an amazing feat, once again! Two months walking is a long time. It will be SO good to have you back.

..........Joan wrote...Congratulations Margaret,I am so happy that you were able to do your 2010 Camino.You are my role model for my second Camino sometime soon. We met this spring at your B&B; perhaps we will meet again on the Camino.

..........Adelardo noted...Hello Margaret! Thanks again for your company and for teaching me so many things!

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December 5, 2010

To Land's End


The last five days have been spent walking in winter conditions further across Galicia towards the sea at Finisterra. On Tuesday after a quick final breakfast with Adelardo I slowly made my way out of Santiago in steady rain to Negeira. It was a long, sloppy slog of 22km across many hills through eucalyptus forests and much mud. Walked on and off with Anita, a young Korean girl with very sore feet. We two plus a Quebeçoise and an Australian girl were the only pilgrims at the municipal albergue. Luckily it was well heated and there were many blankets since outside it was getting very cold.

On Wednesday Anita and I continued crossing the cold, bleak forest landscape to Vilaserio where we stayed in an old school which is now a minimal albergue. (The only alternative was to walk 20km further to the next accommodation.) The school had a toilet, shower, floor mattresses and NO heat! Outside it was sleeting; inside on tile floors the constant cold was hardly bearable! Of course I wore my woolly hat plus gloves to try to sleep, but there was no relief. Frankly I am surprised that we even made it through the night! By dawn a thin layer of treacherous ice stretched to the horizon outside.

Thus Thursday walking carefully through sleet, snow and rain Anita and I followed many wet, narrow lanes crossing 23kms of higher and higher hills to eventually arrive exhausted at the wonderful albergue complex at Oliveroa. Here were cozy blankets, working radiators, and hot water, plus the kind hospitalero who remembered me from past years. What welcome comfort in contrast to the previous frigid night ! Many other pilgrims were fully exhausted since they had done the total 33kms under severe conditions.

Conditions were to get worse, however. Next day, Friday, all awoke to a thin layer of brittle ice covering most surfaces; this was especially slick on rock and stone and the Camino would now climb up over stone for several kilometers. What to do? Luckily an Australian pilgrim, Liz, a trained trail guide came along and calmly walked and talked me up the icy trail!

After climbing an hour or so our path, now descending, became unfrozen mud. I never really appreciated walking on mud until AFTER trying to walk on ice! What a relief! At last it was easy to hike down through pine and eucalyptus forests towards the now visible sea and land's end at Finisterra.

Liz and I plus a French guy spent the night at the welcoming albergue at San Roque above Corcubion. In the dark from the dorm window we could see the last lighthouse beacon shining out to sea.

Yesterday, Saturday, I walked alone the last kilometers down into Finisterra and out to the lighthouse. The rain was cold, the wind was brutal and the surf rough, but it was wonderful to feel alive! Here the land's end was my journey's end.

By the old stone cross near the marker for kilometer 0 while looking out to sea, I offered heartfelt thanks for life, for strength, and for determination to have successfully walked all these thousand kilometers. ...Weeping I wondered about the journeys yet to be. ULTREIA!

......Later in Comments

..........Bill wrote...Wow! What a journey! Felicitations!

..........Jan and Geoff said...Warmest Congratulations on completing your 6th Camino and then taking the journey to to Land's End! Reading your blog makes us feel like complete lounge lizards. Your daily notes are certainly very evocative- we could feel the cold and the wet, but also the inspiration to keep going. There's certainly no stopping you as we got the impression that this Camino was particularly fulfilling!.

..........Rebecca noted...Margaret, much congratulations for your completion of your walk. I had come across the website to your B&B when I was researching France, routes, and places to stay. I chance upon your blog a couple of hours ago and had spent the time since, avidly reading and following your walk, from when you started in Oct. Brought back so much memories for me, it had me in tears!I walked Camino Ingles from December 7 to 12 and seemed blessedly to have missed the cold. Once again, congratulations, and thank you for sharing your journey!


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