Camino 7 - 2011


October 6, 2011

Back to Basics

From 2004 through 2010 I have walked the Camino Frances six times often alone in autumn and winter starting at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia and on to Finisterra at the Atlantic coast.

Fulfilling a dream held since university days, at 65 I first set out wanting to experience what so many had done across time and to see what had been built along the way while pondering the myths and ghosts of history. As most pilgrims do I discovered this endeavor to be hardly a walk in the park, but a unique mix of contemporary mundane chance and historic legend.

Emerson once wrote that the basics of walking are few "... endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much...." Indeed with time walking on an empty Camino path while hearing only the distinctive crunch of my boots became a true pleasure.

Kindnesses of strangers offering smiles, water, conversation, help and hospitality were a constant support. After walking two months when I first arrived at Santiago de Compostela in 2004 seeing at last the famous cathedral, touching the hallowed stones, and weeping with joy as the great bells tolled were special thrills. Overwhelmed with emotion I silently gave thanks for all that had passed. Later when sorting photos and memories, I slowly began to realize that my mind and heart had been deeply changed by this journey. Thus, I decided to try to return.

And so I have, five times in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.
Each Camino has begun with both anticipation and trepidation. As always I wonder how it all will go. My reasons include non-traditional spiritual ones giving thanks for each day lived and for my life with Bill which enables such a journey.

Walking alone day after day I 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..." Psalm 26:11 "I will walk in liberty for I seek thy precepts." Psalm 119:45 "...cause me to know the way wherein I should walk..." Psalm 143:8 "There are only two mistakes that one can make along the road of truth; not going all the way, and not starting. ....No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path." Buddha

For those who ask why yet another 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 ask why I do this at my age? My answer is why not?
"...For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." James 4:14
"...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

Thus thankful, respectful and humble, but curious and with an ever eager heart, now at 72 I hope to return once again for my seventh Camino starting from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on October 11.


.....Later in Comments

.......Briget wrote...Beautiful meditations on the eve of another Camino...bon voyage and bonne chance!

.......Jenny said...What a wonderful blog. I will be following it carefully and with enormous envy as well. I have to wait until October next year. Buen Camino!

.......John and Janet remarked...Meredith: Go with God!

.......Jan and Chris mentioned...Go well! We will keep up with your blog.

.......Kim noted...Hi MM, Have a beautiful road!

.......Nikola wrote...The thought of you always raises my spirit and gives me lots of motivation. You are a real inspiration and I admire you for your courage and energy that takes you on another Camino. I'll follow your blog closely and wish you all the best. Have a safe trip and lots of good experiences.

.......Dorothy said... I wish you warm sunlight upon your face, sureness of step to keep you safe, and welcoming lodging to rest your bones and spirit for the next day.Hats off to you and your next adventure. Take good care of yourself.

.......Ade asked...Ready?? Don't forget your sleeping bag and your Credential!!


October 11, 2011

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Valcarlos

I have only just begun yet already am ahead of schedule! Today, October 11, the date I long planned to begin the French National Railroads recently decided to hold a nationwide strike. Thus I quickly changed plans and left yesterday by TGV for Bayonne and eventually Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a major starting point for the Camino.

SJPdP is a picturesque Basque mountain town in the French Pyrenees. Beneath brilliant sun and clear cobalt sky I climbed the ancient rue de la Citadelle to the welcoming Amis du Chemin de Saint-Jacques. Outgoing and generous these volunteers provide pilgrims with necessary documents and info. Nearby was the famous red door of the municipal albergue. Pushing it open begins each new Camino adventure. Mme Jeannine, the wonderful hospitalero greeted me with a big hug saying You again! What is it now ? Seven times? Other pilgrims arrived; we all shared tips, tribulations, and a simple supper.

Early this morning as I started walking towards Valcarlos the sun rose majestically and the path dazzled. All was glorious!

.....Later in Comments

.......Becca and Rob...wished All the best with your trip. Travel safe and have a great time!

.......Dorothy wrote...Thinking of the adventure that awaits you and wishing you Godspeed. We haven't had frost on the pumpkins yet here -- in fact the opposite -- today should reach 83 degrees. So, since I don't know the weather you will be starting out under, I will envision you embarking tomorrow on a lovely fall day. I hope you see your old friends and make new ones along the way. When do you expect to return to France? I will keep up with your blog. Safe home.

.......Julie & Sukhi stated ...Wish you luck for your trek! We will keep an eye on your blog to see how it is going. Take care.

.......Mayte said...Hello MM, Buen Camino!! I wish you the best and I hope you find more Angels like yourself on your Camino!


October 13, 2011


Yesterday as the sole pilgrim in the comfortable municipal Valcarlos albergue, I awoke worried regarding the long climb ahead. It was a ROUGH five hour slog up the 1060 meter Ibaneta pass. Twice I had to lie flat on the narrow verges to catch my breath. At last at the top exhausted and elated I then "floated" happily down to Roncesvalles. What a wonderful relief!

Roncesvalles monastery has been welcoming pilgrims since the eleventh century. On earlier Caminos I have always stayed here in simple accommodations which were very minimal in winter. Now however much has changed!

An old wing of the vast complex has been handsomely rehabilitated into a splendid albergue sheltering well over 100 pilgrims. Sleek stainless steel kitchen, large dining areas, computer and wifi facilities plus a reading room are all available. A huge coed dorm is divided into cozy four bunk units. In mine were men from Japan, France and Germany. None had walked up but had arrived by taxi!!

Later in the evening we all attended mass in the ancient Romanesque church. Pilgrims from more than thirty countries were gathered for the traditional pilgrimage blessing. May we all go safely and in peace.

.....Later in Comments

.......Briget said...Congratulations on soldiering (pilgriming?!) through that climb. I can see you in my mind's eye cruising DOWN. what a great feeling that must've been. Rock on MM!

.......Bill wrote...I climbed my own Ibanata pass today by washing, top to bottom, our big fridge/freezer. Ouf! Three guests tonight. All change with four new ones tomorrow. Ouf again !!! Hope your weather is better than in Champagne.


October 15, 2011

Down and out

For the past two days the path has led down and west out of the Pyrenees towards Pamplona. Slowly my pack is adapting to me (or vice versa) and all now feels "Camino normal". Some interesting fellow pilgrims have passed by. Yesterday in the handsome new private Zubiri albergue I shared a dorm and meals with four French pilgrims who started in Puy en Velay last year. They can only walk 3 weeks a year so hope to arrive at Santiago in a few years. Worried about the intense popularity of the Camino and the consequent possible loss of authenticity they were pleased to read my choice of smaller albergues offering true caritas.

Today the French planned to walk on to Pamplona while I stopped once again at Trinidad de Arre, another monastery which has received pilgrims for centuries. The present small albergue is set within an overgrown walled garden on the riverbank. Tonight the twelve other pilgrims form two groups; six South Koreans with piles of equipment and six Irish some of whom have special needs. At the moment all are trying to simultaneously use the kitchen. Bedlem!


October 18, 2011

Moving on

The Pyrenees are past and gentler rolling country lies immediately ahead. Simple endurance and not brutal strength now will be necessary. At Trinidad I met an American guy whose expressive face and blond mane were reminiscent of the wonderful lion in the Wizard of Oz. After crossing Pamplona we both stopped at the relaxed and relaxing Albergue Roncal at Cizur Minor.

Yesterday in glorious sunshine we climbed the infamous Alto de Perdon. Lower than Ibaneta it nevertheless is steep with a difficult descent down on scree. Glad that is it is finished!

Today I walked alone to one of my most favorite spots Santa Maria de Eunate. Here I will spend the night in the tiny albergue next to the church. More about this later.

.....Later in Comments

.......Tina and Martin noted...Well done you, keep up the good work! Safe journey. We are following your inspiring trip. You are a born trooper!


October 20, 2011

Eunate once again

Tuesday was spent enjoying the small, perfect church of Santa Maria de Eunate and its surrounding. This thousand year old circular structure with an octagonal cloister is timeless. Set within a natural bowl the ocher sandstone walls blend into the almost sculpted nearby fields planted with corn and fennel. Here is found the simple peace of eternity.

In the evening four other pilgrims and I shared warm hospitality in the simple albergue. Our two hospitaleros from Strasbourg served an outstanding supper. Afterwards we held a simple candlelit prayer service in the mystic church giving thanks for our Caminos, our lives and our loves. Later as we each fell asleep we pilgrims remarked on our luck and pleasure in sharing such precious moments. ...Leaving in the opalescent morning I thought how wonderful it had been to visit this beloved place once again. May peace reign here another thousand years.


October 22, 2011


Ever since Eunate walking the Camino each day has been most pleasant. An easy broad path across rolling gentle countryside, Roman ruins, deep red earth planted with almonds and grapes all provided the background while meeting a handful of fellow pilgrims from Denmark, Wales, Canada, South Korea, France, Germany and Brazil provided some highlights as did the albergues and their gracious hosts.

At Cirauqui, a hill-top town, four other pilgrims and I enjoyed a generous dinner prepared by the owner and served in an atmospheric wine cellar. Sharing the meal was a 74 year old Danish grandmother hiking with her college-age granddaughter for a taste of the Camino. Granny was amazed by how cosmopolitan the group was.

Next at Villatuerta the albergue, a 300 years old farmhouse, had been sensitively renovated by the Spanish-Brazilian hosts. Originally grapes were crushed for the delicious local vino tinto on the rough pebble floor of today's main entrance hall. My sole fellow pilgrim was from Germany. Each of our beds was set within a cozy private alcove on one side of a larger dorm. How nice it was to have a "room" of one's own, even if miniscule, after sleeping in dorms! Best of all the showers were hot, drained appropriately and washed you and not the walls! Bliss.

Yesterday after an early morning walk through Estella and revisiting the nearby Irache monastery I stopped at Villamayor de Monjardin, another hilltop village. In the past I have enjoyed staying in the extremely basic but humanly warm parish albergue. Unfortunately, since the roof recently collapsed, it was closed. Thus I stayed with a Dutch fundamentalist group who offered hyper clean facilities plus delicious food and a completely different atmosphere. Nevertheless I missed the more relaxed yet authentic parish caritas.


October 26, 2011

Autumn tones

During the past few days the Camino has gently meandered through Los Arcos, Torres del Rio, Viana, Logrono, Ventosa, and Azofra crossing countless miles of red earth while passing through acres of recently harvested vineyards. The intense smell of grapes perfumes the air. Sunshine is milky and no longer brilliant while the sky is now the clear pale blue of late autumn and winter. A hat and gloves are needed walking at dawn each day and heat very necessary and welcome in the albergues at night.

During these past days I have been with a handful of fellow pilgrims from France, England, Holland, Sweden and Canada. We don't walk together but casually meet to drink a coffee or share a meal. Some will stop at the end of the month and continue next year; others like me are planning to walk all the way west. On the Camino each pilgrim finds his own pattern.


October 30, 2011


For the past few days I have been slowly walking towards Burgos. The earth is no longer the rich red of earlier lush vineyards, but is now a dry brown used for basic crops like wheat; jagged mountains cross the distant horizon; space seems vast and bleak.

In the same way that you may discern these contrasts between lush and basic landscapes, one can also note two distinct approaches to helping pilgrims. For example at Santa Domingo de la Calzada where the oldest existent pilgrim confraternity runs the recently enlarged albergue, the reception was brisk, banal and remote. All was similar to an airport check-in; nothing was gracious.

Such cool austerity contrasts greatly with the overwhelming kindness always felt at nearby Granon. Here everything is done to make each pilgrim feel at home. The hospitaleros are always warm and helpful while the communal meals are most pleasant. This is authentic caritas. Long may it last.


November 3, 2011

In and out of Burgos

One timeless Camino saying is if you can make it to Burgos you can make it to Santiago; after these past three exhausting days I would edit this to if you can make it into and out of Burgos ....

Walking into Burgos is always chaotic due to heavy vehicular traffic parallel to the path. From the village of Ages two ways exist; one which I just used follows a pastoral farming road up to the busy N120 highway. Then it is a long 25 km slog on an old path often shared with many racing bikers. These sleek speedy guys upon seeing my slow pace and white hair were often kind enough to stop and ask if I needed anything. All I needed was lots more pep! Nevertheless after six hours or so and two Cokes I finally made it into Burgos. No wonder that some pilgrims bus into the city. After crossing the eastern city what a wonderful relief it was to arrive at the busy sleek municipal albergue centrally located near the majestic cathedral!

Leaving Burgos next day was pleasant since the westward path follows the river. I planned to have an easy day stopping in Rabe de las Calzadas. Unfortunately the private albergue although marked open all year was closed. Thus late in the afternoon I had an uphill 8km climb on gravel in drizzle to Hornillos del Camino. The cozy renovated municipal albergue was booming with Scots, Australian and Brazilian men plus a Japanese woman.

Today our informal group crossed 20km along the top of the hills through wind, rain and a bit of sleet to Castrojeriz. All are tired, but will go on to the end.


November 5, 2011

From Russia with love

Walking along the lonely stoney spine of the area known as the Meseta has been rough these past few days. Cold, wind, rain and thick heavy MUD were prevalent passing through Hontanas and Castrojeriz. Yesterday after climbing the last high crest for the immediate future I finally arrived at Itero de la Vega, a farming village.

For the past few years I have always stayed here in a small tavern, Puente Fitero, which has a private albergue in cabins. Their food is not so great, but the 6€ price, cleanliness and HOT showers can't be beat! Each cabin has it's own bathroom and bunks for 8 pilgrims. However, by chance I was alone in "private luxury". I thought of taking two showers to celebrate, but was too tired to make the effort!

What was intended to be only a siesta before dinner turned into a long sleep until 11pm. Hungry I made a cup of tea using my invaluable portable water boiler and rummaged through my food sack for something simple to nibble. Hence I discovered the solid Russian chocolate. Given to me at our b&b by a kind guest who had gotten it on a Volga river cruise, these well-traveled sweets were the perfect finish to an unforgettable day!

.....Later in Comments

.......Andrew wrote...Hi,I've been following your blog with interest. I'm starting from SJPP on Thursday 10th November. Is it still easy to find accommodation now we are in to November? You seem to know the 'better' alburgues so I've been taking notes! All the best!


November 9, 2011


Since Fromista for the past few days I have been walking casually with a mix of men. Whether Belgian, Spanish or German all are generally in their mid-thirties, long distance walkers and very kind and protective of me. We often stop at the same bar for a coffee and sleep in the same co-ed dorm but in no sense do we move as a single force! Each of us creates his own pattern as he moves along.

And thus the Camino is composed of all pilgrims' patterns; the multitude of these individual units together form a whole. Our way has nothing to do with sending backpacks ahead, taking taxis or buses during rough patches, staying in heated hotel rooms or complaining. At the moment all of us are relieved and thankful to be out of the incessant rain and mud. We try to take it as it comes enjoying the good and bearing the bad. After all this is life. Thankful at the end of each day for simple shelter, a bed (preferably a bottom bunk for me), working toilet, hot shower, something to eat and if possible good companionship. Such is the pattern of these days moving westward towards Leon. Carpe diem!

.....Later in Comments

.......Bill wrote...This is one of your best posts yet. It gets right to the point about what the Camino experience is all about.

.......Leen and Gwen noted ...Last weekend, my boyfriend and I went to France and stayed at the B&B you run together with Bill. It was a very pleasant stay! Bill told us from your trip and I must say that we were really impressed! :) So Meredith, we wish you all the best on your trip and hope you have a nice time!


November 12, 2011

Food on the Camino

Since several readers have queried me about food on the Camino, it seems appropriate to discuss when and what I usually eat. Breakfast and a big late lunch after walking are my norm with periodic bar stops throughout my walking day for coffee, hot chocolate or fresh orange juice and the loo.

In those albergues which offer kitchens many pilgrims for either dietary reasons and/or to cut costs prepare their own meals; except in emergencies I generally don't. However we all realize that today's food provides the fuel necessary for tomorrow's walking. Furthermore basic rations are always carried since the only shop or bar in town may NOT be open! My basics include tea bags, packets which make a cup of soup (even including croutons), firm cheese, small sausage, simple cookies and some chocolate. Often these same ingredients serve as a predawn breakfast hours before any Spanish bar would dream of opening!

Some hospitaleros provide delicious dinners; communal meals at Eunate and Granon are always memorable feasts. Generally for lunch or dinner many places along the way offer a standard three course Peregrino Menu (Pilgrim Menu) for 8€ or 9€. Although edible these often are only basic courses. A better alternative is the Menu de Dia (Daily Menu) which costs a bit more but provides much better quality and choice.

Two days ago at La Curiosa in Mansilla de las Mulas I enjoyed an outstanding daily menu for only 10€. It included creamed cauliflower with bacon, grilled salmon and scalloped potatoes, lemon pudding, rosé wine and coffee! Wow! The Michelin inspector should visit soon!

.....Later in Comments

.......Bill said...You forgot to mention that essential coil immersion heater we searched all over Paris for. Without it no tea, no hot soup with croutons. Not heavy and worth every gram.

.......Thomas wrote...I follow your blog since the day I returned to Berlin. I was just reading about your delicious meal in Mansilla de las Mulas. I hope you are all right and your bones are as strong as your mind!


November 16, 2011

Alternative steps

Leon this past weekend was hectic and the Benedictine convent albergue booming. To avoid the crowds my new Antwerp friends and I eventually followed a peaceful alternative camino route out of town slightly southwest towards Villar de Mazarife. It was very pleasant to escape the N120 highway noise and suburban sprawl; nevertheless, the mud path crossing wide flat plains planted with corn was slick from incessant cold rain. From time to time hunters' shots could be heard, sometimes a bit too close for comfort! At Villar de Mazarife we three were the only pilgrims at the Tio Pepe private albergue, yet we were welcomed like royalty and their copious dinner was most delicious!

Next day our alternative steps continued but, now to the north across flat fens and through heavy downpours of rain to Hospital de Orbigo. Each time I arrive in this historic town I cringe remembering my most unfortunate 2004 arrival when after falling in front of the church I received a giant Cyclopean "shiner"! (See Camino 1 for more detail) Fall free we all stayed at the pleasant parish albergue. The night was COLD so wearing a wooly hat, thermal top and polar pants to bed was necessary for the first time this camino; how cozy it was to have such "luxuries"!

Yesterday as the rain continued we also continued our alternative path slightly north to Astorga. En route we stopped at the wonderful goody shelf set up with great care for passing pilgrims by David just east of the Cross of Santo Tonbio. David was absent but the thermos of coffee was hot and his cookies most delicious! We left a donation and a brief note of thanks. Despite the cold rain this was a most welcome stop and a perfect example of yet another of the varied alternatives available along the camino.... To each his own.


November 18, 2011

Brief encounters

Yesterday was perfect for walking; golden autumn sunshine, pale blue sky, snow visible on distant mountains and a continuous rising path as the highest elevation on the Camino Frances, Monte Irago, slowly came into view. In the evening at the mountain village, Rabanal del Camino, I planned to attend a Vespers service in the parish church conducted by monks from the adjacent monastery.

Imagine my surprise when entering the small Romanesque sanctuary to be greeted by cozy heat as well as the Abbot who smiled as he directly asked Do you speak English?. When I nodded he then handed me a selection on St Elisabeth and love to read aloud during the service. After briefly scanning the passage, smoothing my hair, pulling down my anorak, and worrying that my wooly pants might look too messy, I went "live" in front of the assembled other pilgrims and parish members. After the service we all filed out into the frosty night.

This morning cold fog swirled white and dense throughout the village. The local bread delivery truck was parked where the camino continues westward. Dressed in "civies" the Abbot was buying two huge loaves for his monastery. As we nodded to each other I thanked him for the past evening's service; he wished me a spiritual Buen Camino and then disappeared into the white. After these brief encounters each of us would follow his own path alone into the fog blanketed unknown.

.....Later in Comments

.......Chris wrote...Have been enjoying your posts since I came across them a couple weeks ago. Be safe!

.......Eunice noted...It's so inspiring what you're doing. Glad to see you're keeping well and conquering the world!.


November 23, 2011

High country

Crossing the high country of the Camino Frances during past days has been VERY strenuous but the roughly 100km were majestic; the mountains are SO beautiful! At the Monte Irago albergue in Foncebadon, where in 2009 I spent 2 days snowed-in during an early spring blizzard, the morning white-out due to thick white fog brought back memories. The owner recalled me from that year of the big storm; and his cozy open fireplace and delicious meals were just as pleasant as previously.

The fog continued all the next day as I passed the mythic Cruz de Ferro or Iron Cross where for centuries countless pilgrims while saying a silent prayer have left a stone carried from home. So did I. Tired after crossing fog wrapped Monte Irago, the highest point on the Camino Frances, I eventually arrived at El Acebo, a picturesque mountain village where the single street is the Camino. Weary and wet it was great to stop at the simple albergue atop the bar/restaurant, Le Meson El Acebo, where once again the staff remembered me. As always the welcome and food were great!

Sunday it was 18 km down to Ponferrada with the weather warming and the sun appearing as the path descended. At the centrally located municipal albergue although the toilets and showers were coed by chance I had the "luxury" of a dorm for myself. How nice it was to spread out and not worry about disturbing anyone or vice versa while thinking of the route to come. Heard no snoring but my own!


November 25, 2011

Some miracles

Even today miracles can still occur on the Camino; it all depends on one's viewpoint. Tuesday while walking along the Valcarce River towards Ruitelan a car tooted; the driver was Carlos, the hospitalero who runs the delightful Pequeno Potala refuge. Margaret! he said with a big smile I heard that you were coming back. What a happy welcome!

Each time that I have stayed at this Buddhist place has been a true pleasure. Carlos is an outstanding host and chef who puts pilgrims at ease creating a special peaceful ambiance while he serves a copious dinner. We were eighteen unexpected drop-in guests at table yet the ambiance was most serene. He answered questions, offered advice and quieted jitters while simultaneously from a few jars, bottles, cans and boxes created a modern day miracle of the "loaves and the fishes" to feed us all.

Next day after the steep climb up the mountain to the village of O Cebreiro traces of other miracles both past and recent could be felt. Arriving at last and entering the tiny Romanesque church is always memorable. The magnificent silver chalice commemorates the famous Medival miracle of faith when a parishioner saw the transformation of wine and bread into blood and flesh. Outside in the garden more contemporary panels commemorate the visionary work of the 20th century local priest Elias Valinas Sampiedro who recreated the idea of the camino with its network of supporting albergues and even painted the now famous first yellow arrows which mark our way. ...Never underestimate the strength of personal conviction!

.....Later in Comments

.......Tina said...How good it is to read your blog, it gives us heart and inspiration. Can't wait to see you and hear all about your pilgrimage. You go girl!


November 29, 2011

Is this for you?

Readers often wonder if the Camino is appropriate for them or more accurately if they would be able to endure such an effort as walking every day, carrying a full pack and staying with a group of strangers in albergues each night. Here are some additional alternative views to help clarify any decision.

1 This is NOT a walk in the park! Just because so many pilgrims have been successful does not guarantee that you will be. Anybody any moment can fall or pull or break anything. The most common injury is the result of trying to walk too far too quickly carrying too much! Easy does it. Be a snail; slow but, determined, like me.

2 To get an idea of how it feels to walk for a day with a loaded backpack carry 6 kilos or 13 pounds of potatoes continually for at least six hours around the house rarely sitting down.

3 Do bugs, dust, dirt, mud, rain or snow bother you? Can you pee in the woods? If you need a sanitized toilet seat and/or spotless surroundings this is definitely NOT your thing!

4 Can you share a dorm with others and/or sleep next to a stranger? Do you tolerate snoring? Or do you snore? What about smelly socks, garlic breath or worse?

5 Do you need hot water for a shower? Can you balance soap, shampoo, and sponge in one hand while trying to regulate water temperature and/or flow with the other? When done can you put your clean clothes on while balancing on one leg to avoid puddles on the floor?

6 Can you be up, dressed,packed and walking by 8am in summer or dawn in winter? Such are the rules for using municipal albergues.

7 Can you accept that nothing you carry on the Camino is ever truly clean or dry or tidy? Reality is a gradation of grey and damp and mess! Nevertheless that's life.

8 Do you meet people easily? Can you chat and share ideas, food, or help? Are you ready to smile and offer your hand in friendship? A smile returned by a new friend is one of the Camino's many joys. Just try it!


December 4, 2011

At last!

Saturday began by my sitting in a rural workers' cafe filled with Guardia Civil police;we were all eating breakfast. I was waiting for dawn in order to do the last 24 km to Santiago de Compostela since you can't walk through a forest in the dark no matter how determined you might be. As light arrived the police wished me Buen Camino and I started. So did the cold rain and thick fog unfortunately.

I plodded along through huge puddles, heavy mud, giant fern and groves of eucalyptus. Five hours later and very wet, but crying with joy I climbed the last hill. There was the cathedral! Santiago de Compostela at last!

As always what a shock it was to see in the narrow historic streets of the historic district all the impedimentia of mass tourism as well as so many ordinary people without backpacks! While obtaining the treasured Compostela, proof that I walked with good intentions, I met again a few other pilgrims from these last days. Common final pilgrim greetings include a hug, a high five, or both thumbs up.

Later in the evening I went to the cathedral to sit in peace and offer sincere thanks for all that has been these past eight weeks; another incredible journey of strong mixed emotions. Of course like most pilgrims I too hugged the statue of Santiago before leaving the church.

.....Later in Comments

.......Bill wrote...Wow ! Yet again. Never underestimate...I'll see you in mid-December on the Portuguese border. New adventures, but together.

.......Ade exclaimed... You have arrived in Santiago! Congratulations! AGAIN! I am so proud of you.

.......Joan Wells walker said...Congratulations Margaret. You are an inspiration for all us pilgrims. My friend and I met you at your B&B in April 2010.--two Canadian women, and we have been following your trek. Next April my daughter and I will start from Le Puy en Velay. Thanks for your hospitality and inspiration!


December 7, 2011

Back into the countryside

Never wanting to be lazy after two days of the bustle and high prices of Santiago on Monday I started another camino walking towards the sea at Finisterre. It felt great to be back in the more relaxed countryside once again; there locals take the time to say Hola, point out the route, and wish you Buen Camino.

However, the weather was not very relaxing with many drenching downpours over 22 km crossing the hills to Negreira where the albergue was quite busy with 18 pilgrims for 20 beds. One Dutch family on bikes included Grandma and a toddler traveling in his own little covered cart pulled behind his Daddy's bike. Much of their baggage was diapers!

Tueday through more rain and mud I walked on to Vilaserio which always seems extremely remote. Since last year it was bitter cold in the old school used as a temporary municipal shelter, this year I chose a new private albergue which had many blankets but no heat where I was the only pilgrim. Nevertheless I put my sleeping bag within a folded blanket and slept snugly for 15 hours; I was pooped!


December 9, 2011

As the days dwindle down

For the past two days it has been raining heavily on and off. Only a few other pilgrims were walking to the albergues at Oliveiroa and San Roque, but all arrived soaked. Since everybody was unsuccessfully trying to drip dry themselves and their pack, many puddles appeared on the floorboards!

Today just after dawn I walked alone the final kilometers along the sea to Finisterre. Rain and tears were pouring down when I finally reached kilometer 0 at the old iron cross by the famous lighthouse. Yet nearby the sky cleared for a bit at the new marker for peace.

Since there at land's end my 7th Camino ended after 1000 kilometers and nine weeks walking, silently I gave my heartfelt thanks for all that has been and for all that have helped to make it so. Indeed, thanks for the memories!

.....Later in Comments

.......Bill said...Congratulations. Now let's have some holiday, kiddo! See you in Portugal!

.......F.G. noted...Great job! I'm sure it's not your last walk though..

.......Doug and Sandy wrote...Congratulations Meredith- what a wonderful achievement!! We have been following you all the way and hope you have a happy homecoming and a well earned rest now. Best wishes!

.......Dorothy said...What a great pleasure it is to know you have faced this challenge and succeeded! Safe home and enjoy some rest and the upcoming holidays..

.......Chuck exclaimed...Marvelous! Marvelous!

.......John remarked...Just caught up with your blog. I was wondering whether you would try again. Should have known better than to raise that question. Loved all your posts. Thank you and well done! Now its time to get your feet up.!


December 15, 2011

Postscript: Backward to Portugal

Since Saturday I have been slowly walking towards the Portuguese border to join Bill, my husband, for a holiday. Hence for me this Galician section of the Camino Portuguese is in reverse as pilgrims usually walk to Santiago. To go backward is more complicated than one might think; since this path is hardly well marked, searching for the famous yellow arrows now pointing opposite my direction isn't easy. Viewed backwards the arrows resemble anchors. Thus it's all been a bit of a treasure hunt!

Saturday's walk crossed much of old and new suburbia plus a few vegetable gardens to finally arrive at Padron where Santiago's stone boat is said to have originally landed. The albergue although a handsomely renovated stone townhouse, had little heat and no blankets. Thus I wore my hat to bed.

Sunday morning when I had breakfast the barmaid, fascinated by my stories and age, asked to take a picture of me and add some bio info for her bar's web page. Next came a long cold slog through much foggy forest to finally reach Caldas das Reis, a Roman thermal town. Much was closed for siesta; I was pooped and could neither find the tourist office nor the albergue. Asking at the local police station pointed me in the right direction for the albergue which was next to the thermal fountain. Without heat it did have plenty of hot water. Naturally.

Monday after a happy hour of walking on the path, in dense fog, I lost it and had to nervously walk along highway verges to finally arrive at bustling Pontevedra. The handsome albergue was new with wonderful HEAT. What a treat for the one other pilgrim and me! While I was en route a car stopped and the driver said to me in French that he had seen my photo on a Facebook page! He and his companion were both Amigos of the way; their car trunk was full of info about Portuguese camino routes which he happily gave me. Such is the power of publicity!

In constant rain Tuesday I walked on to Redondela mostly on highway verges. Nothing like giant trucks whizzing past to make one move fast ! Since I was truly soaked upon arrival at the very comfortable albergue, the cozy heat, hot shower and sophisticated accommodations were most welcome.

Although Wednesday was generally dry and walking to O Porrino much more comfortable, it still was not easy due to missing markers. And today through the last downpours, following muddy forest paths and urban sidewalks I finally reached Tui. Across the River Minho lies Portugal. Now it is time for me to rejoin Bill for our life together.



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