Camino

Thankful for Memories

Cobble Beach

October 8, 2015

Happy birthday to my youngest brother and our wonderful daughter-in-law!

I have been closely following my friend, Fran, and her five female companions as they walk the Camino Frances. The Canadian Chicas are on Day 29 of their journey. One of the Chicas has been posting photos with one-liners to describe this awesome journey. I am basking in the memories of our trip as I watch progress toward Santiago, some 220 kilometres still to go.

They started with a more modest measured approach than we did, but then they also gave themselves forty-two days to complete their pilgrimage. Now at Day 29 they are where we were at Day 24, but they are picking up the pace. They completed twenty-eight kilometres yesterday, their longest day to date. I applaud them each step of the way. I think they have already dealt with more blisters than we did, but will not be defeated.

From the photos, it appears that they are wearing more clothing; thus, they have been experiencing cooler temperatures. They have already had more rainy weather but have not yet reached Galicia, the rainiest province. I wish them sunshine!

Whatever the weather they will continue to meet a host of international characters and they are participating in an incredible adventure. I still smile at the memory of ours, flip through our photobook, marvel at electronic images and forget about the aches and pains that formed some part of walking.

Next week we are going to visit James and Danielle, two of our Camino friends, in their home in North Hatley, Quebec. We are excitedly anticipating this reunion.

We had an email this week from two other Canadian Camino buddies. No dust is settling on Susie and Kanji. They walked 84 kilometres, paddled a canoe 450 kilometres then biked 880 kilometres around Lake Ontario, all in sixteen days. For anyone who thinks this type of triathlon might only be for a much younger couple, think again. Kanji and Susie are older than us. We are only as old as we think we are. Keep those bodies moving! There is much fun to be had!

I have renewed my weekly long walks of thirteen to sixteen kilometres with four friends. We have been hiking combinations of blue and white Bruce Trail sections in this area. I try to plan circular hikes and mostly this has worked. I am also trying to fit in completing other sections of the Bruce Trail, twenty or so kilometres at a time.

Inglis Falls

Inglis Falls

Circling the Slough of Despond

Circling the Slough of Despond

Still golfing

Still golfing…a practice swing…that is why the ball is still on the ground. 🙂 

Margaret and Rachel have been helping me complete parts of Iroquioa when Brian and I make our biweekly trips to Niagara. I would like to work on sections of Dufferin and Toronto. Any takers?

Happy thanksgiving to all! We have so much for which to be thankful!

Home Again

Home Again
May 11, 2015
Cobble Beach ( pop: 37)
Niagara to Cobble Beach via Toronto
9:15 AM to 4 PM
6 hrs and 45 min for 338 km

Avec Rachel

Avec Rachel

Hellebore

Hellebore

Tulips smiling

Tulips smiling

Georgian Bay is out there somewhere.

Georgian Bay is out there somewhere.

Brian and Kishu together again

Brian and Kishu together again

It is always a pleasure to visit new places and experience another culture. It is equally wonderful to come home again. I remarked today that Brian did very well negotiating traffic on the QEW and in Toronto after very little driving in the last forty-four days.

We left home on March 28th when all was deep in snow and the low temperature was -13C and the maximum was -4C. Today when we stopped for groceries at Zehrs on the east side of Owen Sound it was 26C. We were not a long time in the store but when we came out it was -16C. By the time we had driven ten minutes to downtown beside the sound, it was ten degrees Celsius, but we arrived home at Cobble Beach to 18C. Welcome to Ontario spring weather on the shore of Georgian Bay. The Bay itself was well hidden in fog.

We also experienced fog along the shore of Lake Ontario this morning. The skyscrapers in Toronto were exposing their tops above the fog. We went to Toronto to pick up,our cat, Kishu, who has been boarding with Brilynn since January. She did not greet Brian with, “Hi, Brian!”; so, he was disappointed. We were pleased that Kishu did not meow loudly all the way home. Once on the 403, she cut the volume and meowed less frequently.

Coming home also involved delicious coffee and a visit with Rachel and Andrew in St. Catharines. It was great to bookend our trip with a visit with Eliane at the beginning and a visit with Rachel at the end. We have known one another since our Africa days, more than forty years ago. One of these years we are all going to get together in the same place.

We made a stop in Oakville at Fogh Marine where Brian bought a jib kit for the Hobie Cat. Watch out, sailors, Brian only needs a job sail now to fly faster around Georgian Bay.

We arrived home to plenty of spring flowers blooming. The daffodils are fading but the tulips have taken over. The magnolias and rhododendrons are still blooming. Will took good care of our indoor plants. The violets are radiant, the agapanthus is still abloom, a new hibiscus is showing large pink flowers. The purple shamrock has come alive again.

On Saturday Margaret and I walked three and a quarter hours with her Niagara Bruce Trail Club on sections of trail around St. Catharines. Her friends gave her a hero’s welcome. The 32C temperature was a bit much for me; I was feeling faint by the end of our walk. A change for me though was that none of the hills felt like hills; they were certainly not as steep or as long as any in Spain. Bonus: my blisters did not reactivate!

We think we might be over our jet lag but our own bed looks especially appealing. We think we will probably hear the spring peepers. We hope Kishu will not be yowling in the night!

Homeward Bound

Sunset on QEW

Sunset on QEW

Homeward Bound
May 7, 2015

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The three of us were awake when our synchronized alarms sounded at 6:30 AM. Our routine is so well tuned that we were showered, dressed, packed and on the street at 7 AM and it was daylight! A month ago when we started hiking at that hour, we were going by starlight. We did not go far to get breakfast. Margaret’s tostadas were disappointing white sliced bread. Brian and I opted for bacon and eggs which also garnered us a basket of bread cut from a baguette. I mostly enjoyed my freshly squeezed orange juice.

There were not crowds of pedestrians at that hour but motor city was whizzing by: cars, bikes, scooters and buses. We had a shoe walk to our aerobus. Too bad we did not know this shortcut upon arrival. Yesterday we asked three people for directions and walked for half an hour or more to find our hotel.

I learned from google that the Palau de Musica across from our lodging was not designed by Gaudi but by someone else in 1908, whose name now escapes me. No free wifi here at Barcelona airport; I used it up yesterday; so, I cannot Google again. At any rate, the architect won a prize for his design and the Palau de Musica has since been declared a World Heritage site.

There was a concert there last night. We heard the orchestra warming up while the concert attendees were entering. The concert did not begin until 9:30 PM; so, too late for us. It would have been interesting seeing the inside this building. We contented ourselves with pressing our noses to the windows and seeing the shapely glass stair ballisters.

Competing with the orchestra were students practising the scales at the music school one floor below us. Their violin and saxophone practices did not compare favourably with the orchestra. Fortunately for us, lessons stopped by 9:30 PM. The German soccer fans blew fewer horns but still made a racket in the street sometime during the night. It is probably good for us that Germany lost.

There is an International Auto Show in Barcelona for ten days and a Formula 1 race this weekend. I think this city has a very active schedule. Our bartender confirmed that the streets are always full particularly from March until the end of October.

7:46 PM ( Ontario time- 1:46 AM Spain time)
We did not sleep on the plane, either of them. We watched three movies. Brian secured an extra leg room seat for himself, the last on the plane to Toronto; so, we did not see much of him.

Our flight was half an hour late leaving Barcelona but the pilot made up twenty minutes of that flight. We were an hour late leaving Paris but arrived half an hour early in Toronto then sat on the plane for an hour. There had been a medical emergency on our plane and Public Health had to thoroughly check an individual before any of us or our baggage were released from the plane.

Our dear brother, Jim, picked us up at the airport and drove us to his house in Mississauga where our dear sister-in-law, Lynn, had prepared a welcome home feast for us. We enjoyed their company as well as Stephanie’s and Brilynn’s as we munched through sushi and pizza appetizers followed by delicious roast chicken, potatoes and salad followed by delightful fresh fruit salad.

Much as we were enjoying the company, we had to move on to Niagara as we were beginning to notice the time change.

We are now zooming along the QEW in light traffic on a sunny evening with a temperature of 19C.

We will drop Margaret off at her house and stay at Brian’s parents for a few days before going home.

The end of a wonderful adventure!

Busy Barcelona

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Barcelona (pop: 1 510 000)
May 6, 2015
7:20 AM to 10:20 AM
1.5 hours for 900 kilometres

The taxi ride from our hotel to the Lavacolla airport took eleven minutes. There is no traffic in Barcelona before 8:30 AM. I think it took us almost two hours to walk into Santiago from the airport on Sunday.

Our flight with Ryan Air was much faster than van or walking. It did seem to take an inordinate amount of time to pick up one checked bag. We took the bus into Barcelona. When the outlying areas of the city are counted, the population is four million.

We think all the people of Barcelona were walking in the city centre today. As well there is a very loud, very visible fan base from Germany here for tonight’s soccer game. It is quite overwhelming for Camino walkers who are not used to such crowds.

Barcelona is a pedestrian friendly city with many squares and narrow curving streets. There is quite a mix of architecture although Gaudi’s quirky designs leap out in many places.

We wandered the streets, past the cathedral, down to the harbour and around it ogling hundreds of expensive boats. We walked the length of La Rambla, people watching and savouring ice cream. We wore shorts! We had pizza at Via Margarita: an unusual one that had fresh spinach and honey on top instead of cheese. Tasty.

We have an unusual hotel room on the third floor. The whole hotel is on this one floor; Pensio 2000, and it is a full house tonight. The decor is hippie sixties style, high ceilings, orange walls, green couch and chairs in the living area, eclectic art, collections of a variety of small things on display. It is across the street from the Gaudi designed music hall. We hope that we will see the night lights on it, but we may be asleep before then. Wandering the streets is more tiring than walking twenty kilometres to a destination.

Our flight leaves for Paris then Toronto at 10:15 AM. We are homeward bound.

Costa da Morte

Costa da Morte
May 5, 2015
9:10 AM to 6:40 PM
9 1/2 hours for 240 km

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Vans move faster than feet. We took the Discover Galicia tour with our guide Martin and two other couples to the Death Coast of Spain. We had a fabulous informative sunny day!

We left our hotel at 9:10 AM in heavy traffic. Martin was twenty minutes late getting there. The streets of Santiago were not designed for two way car traffic. We could have walked to the outer edge of centre faster. It was a novel experience to get into a vehicle for the first time in thirty-five days.

Linda and Tony from England and Pauline and Willy from Scotland were on the tour with us. They had each begun their walk in Sarria, completing the last one hundred kilometres. Their accommodations and baggage carriage had been arranged by a tour company.

Some pilgrims, such as Susie and Kanji, continue walking all the way to Finisterra or Muxia. Both are the ocean end of the Camino. We do not have extra time to walk the 90 kilometres; so, we took this tour.

Martin, a Finn-Spaniard, started his tour company four years ago. He has three other guides with three vans and a Land Rover. He studied Political Science hub decided tourism was a more honest profession than politics. He is a great guide!

We stopped at the medieval bridge near Negreira. There was a beautiful new home built in granite in the old style, some political hand-shaking to get it constructed where it was.

We travelled through eucalyptus forests, that suck water out of the ground and destroy all other native vegetation, to Muxia. This was the end of the Camino filmed in The Way, an absolutely stunning huge rocky shore where there is a church called Our Lady of the Boat. Reportedly St. James was feeling discouraged that the Galicians were not listening to him. Our Lady appeared to him on a stone boat and encouraged him to continue preaching.

On December 25, 2013 lightning struck the stone church and fire destroyed the interior. On January 6, 2014, 28 metre waves, highest ever recorded knocked down the stone church walls. The church has been rebuilt and the interior is being refinished, but Martin said the locals are not at all happy as the interior is being furnished ‘IKEA’ style. The church was not open.

The power of the sea and amazing waves and many rocks make it easy to understand why so many shipwrecks have happened here. If I were walking to the ocean, I would walk to Muxia. The view is incredible. The 26 kilometre walk along the cliff face between Finisterra and Muxia is very beautiful but not well marked and dangerous.

We drove to Finisterra (Fisterra in Galician). It has more of a tourist look and feel. The cross that was there was struck by lightning a week ago and is no longer. Is there a theme here?? A message??

Martin told us there are three things pilgrims arriving here are expected to do: burn an article of clothing, often boots; argue with the local priest who does not like pilgrims or tourists, to try to get him to open the church door; and jump into the ocean as a form of baptism to begin a new life. In four years, Martin has never seen anyone do the last item. The water is not warm, but for we, Georgian Bay swimmers, probably doable.

Ezaru waterfalls descending over the O Pindo cliffs is not Niagara, but certainly beautiful without the tourist decor around it. The falls spill out of a large reservoir and are part of a hydroelectric project. Forty percent of Galician power is wind generated.

We had lunch at Dona Teresa’s at the end of white sand Cartona beach, the longest beach on the Galician coast. Our pilgrim meals were delicious. I had seafood stuffed mushrooms, breaded hake, and flan cheesecake with bread, wine and water, of course. Included in our tour.

We visited the two longest corn cribs in Galicia. In the late nineteenth century, for twenty-seven years, two parishes tried to outdo each other, continuously making their crib bigger. Finally they decided they could each have the same size. The Galician storage crib is everywhere in Galicia. Souvenir stands sell models of it. One village we walked through had more cribs than any other structure. Some are decorative but most are used as some kind of storage. The oldest were made of wood, many of red brick and as we approached Santiago, most were of granite.

Martin took us to a lovely white sand beach at Lira. Worried about getting sand in my blisters, I did not take my shoes off and frolick in the ocean as Margaret did. I was envious. It was heavenly to walk on the beach, but yes, it was windy and cool, but sunny. Martin says that even in summer the beaches here are quite deserted as are the villages. This is the cheapest place in Spain to buy a home! We think Margaret should buy one here and we could visit!

We travelled along the Ria de Muros estuary to a Benedictine monastery where a small hotel had taken over the monk’s residence. The hotel has not been used for a year, but it is apparently a convenient expense to launder money. The small church and graveyard are still in use. The river and cascades race alongside. This would make a great retreat, well hidden from the road but on what was once a Roman road to Santiago.

It was a day of great beauty and lovely surprises. We ended it in the charming company of Jim and Marie visiting tapas bars in Santiago and staying up past ten, way past my bedtime!

One Thousand Cultures, Only One Humanity

May 4, 2015

Wandering Around Santiago de Compostela
Kilometres unknown

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It rained all night, except for a bit, and was still pouring when we awoke this morning. We did not rise before 8 AM. How do I know it was not raining all night? We are in the city on the third floor in a narrow stone street lined with stone buildings, we hear every night noise and its absence: seagulls squawking (closer to the ocean now!), church bells but muted, young voices laughing and shouting or singing at all hours, cars passing, garbage truck gathering, rain and then not rain. I had a good night’s sleep, but I heard the night noises.

I probably should not have worn my socks in my sandals. Fashion faux-pas aside, once they were wet, they just held in the cold. We scurried to the cathedral but still got very wet.

The original chapel was built in the ninth century but this cathedral was started in 1075, constructed largely in granite. The towers are undergoing a cleaning so one of them and part of the other is surrounded in scaffolding and blue plastic. There is plenty of granite in this area. The curbs here and in O Pedrouzo are made of grey granite.

The largest Romanesque church in Spain and one of the largest in Europe, the Cathedral of Santiago was proclaimed a world heritage site in 1896. We spent an hour or so peering at the many carvings in the central nave and the many side chapels, craning our necks to view the twenty-two metre high vaulted ceiling. Then we secured our seats and waited forty-five minutes for the noon pilgrim mass. The church holds a thousand people. It was full. There are no heaters attached to these benches!

A cheerful Spanish nun in black habit led us through singing practice. Even without understanding every word she said, we knew she was having fun with us, exhorting one side than the other to sing with more gusto and outdo one another.

It would have been great to hear the enormous organ, but, alas we had to be content with our own alleluias.

Several visiting priests con-celebrated the mass. A group of eight wine gowned brothers (or volunteers?) pulled the ropes that made the incense burner (botafumeiro) swing wildly back and forth across the central nave. Its original use was to disinfect and disguise the stench of smelly pilgrims. Fortunately hot water and daily laundering has brought most pilgrims to church in relatively pleasing odours.

After mass and lunch, Brian and I did some window shopping then came back to our hotel for a rest. Margaret is a more serious shopper who stuck at it longer but bought nothing. The three of us met James and Danielle at 4 PM for drinks at the Parador, fancy hotel, originally built as a hospital for pilgrims. If I were a sick pilgrim there today, I would not want to leave!

There was an elderly lady dressed in black wearing a sparkling black sequinned beret nodding off at the table next table. She was dripping with silver jewelry. Spread out on her table were handwritten notebooks and notes written on s napkin. James said she was at the same table yesterday. He figures she lives at the hotel. She awoke to answer her cell phone. All I got from that was she was Spanish. I would love to know her story. She was probably writing ours!
for a drink.

We have been watching for pilgrims who did much of the way with us. We have not seen many but Brian and I were delighted to run into our Italian Swiss boys ( our age). Although we did not share much conversation along the Camino, we saw one another almost daily and greeted with smiles and ‘Buen Camino’. We did not send them yesterday but hugged Franco and Fausto today and met Franco’s wife who had come to meet them. She did part of the Camino with Franco last year but her artificial leg balked at doing more.

We also met our young bearded German smoker. Every day we saw him stopped having a smoke. We did not chat along the way but he greeted us like best friends when he arrived today. He had just asked someone what town this was and was surprised to learn he had arrived in Santiago. We are beginning to wonder what he has been smoking.

We just ran into Francesco from Valencia. We saw him in his long red raincoat on wet days. Until four days ago it was hard to get more than a grunt out of him, but that day I showed him where reception for an albergue was and he has been smiling and waving since. Two days ago we learned his name. Today he greeted us in the square with handshake and smiles and Spanish chatter from which we learned he is flying home this evening to Valencia where it is always warm! He was very happy!

This walk has not just been about endurance or the scenery or the history, but a lot about people and relationships, an inward journey as well as an outward one. A most rewarding experience. It has been fun sharing it.

The title today is from the quote as seen between two bronze hands on a windowsill in this hotel.

Buen Camino!

Santiago de Compostela!

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OPedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela (pop: 96000)
May 3, 2015
8:30 AM to 12:50 PM
4 hrs 20 min for 21.5 km

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We are in Santiago de Compostela! We did it! We have been in the centre for a couple of hours, long enough to wander around the exterior of the cathedral, try out our Spanish a few times before getting proper directions to Hotel San Bieito, close to everything.

We found the pilgrim office but when we saw the thirty or more people lined up, we decided getting rid of backpacks and ponchos was a better idea.

Our hotel room was not ready yet but we stored our bags. Margaret, fast change artist that she is, even changed from rain pants to her regular ones. I did not carry my pack today, but it had not arrived: so, no sandals for my aching feet.

We went for lunch at one of the closest establishments, La Fumaboteiro. We bought the pilgrim meal, which was good, although there was not as much variety as on any other Menu del Dia. We saw someone else receive a huge paella platter. That is what we should have ordered. We still left full again! Their sponge custard cake with chocolate sauce was the perfect ending.

We returned to our hotel to check in. The room was still not quite ready but my bag had arrived and our receptionist, Carlota, was charming. She checked us in and talked to us about excursions to the coast and showed us her favourite beaches on a map.

For those who wish to hear yet another weather report, yes, we were rained on for the first half of our journey but it was a warmer morning; so, we were soaked on the inside more by sweat than rain. The first half was through thick eucalyptus forest, very dark. I kept expecting to see Bilbo Baggins. The sun came out as we approached the cathedral.

We arrived at a small village, called Porto de Santiago, close to the ten kilometre marker from Santiago to the sound of a huge shotgun blast. Margaret leaped into the air. This was followed by at least twenty five more thunder claps and a flash in the sky. We figured these fireworks were for us. Why else would there be fireworks in the morning? We had been disappointed at the one hundred kilometre mark that angels and marching bands did not greet us.

At the same location was a tiny church where people were at mass. The overflow crowd was standing outside the entrance holding umbrellas. Around the edge of the churchyard several vendors had set up shop. We bought plain and chocolate churros and continued on our way. We stopped for coffee and a sock change past the airport. Those jets sure are big when you are walking past the end of the runway.

Now we are in our hotel room: our home for three nights! Unbelievable: three nights in the same room! We have a fridge stocked with juice and snacks and a lounge and kitchen downstairs where we can help ourselves to hot and cold drinks and ham, cheese, yogurt, cereal, toast, flan and fruit. All is good!

Noah’s Ark: Passage for 3 Please

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Ribadiso to O Pedrouzo (Pop: 5000)

May 2, 2015

7:35 AM to 12:55 PM
5 hrs 20 min for 23 km (1/2 hr less for Margaret)

Yesterday was rainy. Today we were expecting Noah and his ark. I am sure the amount of rain falling must have been 120 litres per square metre. The flood waters subsided after seventeen kilometres. Thankfully! I felt I had done more than enough penance. We were soaked inside and out. A new blister sprouted on my right heel and the one on the left grew enormously.

We continued on tree-lined pathways, many of which had become rivers or seas of mud. Churches were scarce. There was one as we left Arzua and none after that.

We have a private room with bathroom and shower at Pension Pedrouzo. This is right on the N547 going through the newer commercial part of town. Not especially enchanting from the outside but it is easily the largest room we have had: about 20′ by 24′ with three large singles and a big purple velour couch. No art on the white walls. Margaret and I are especially looking forward to a good night’s sleep after a poor one last night.

Margaret and I just walked around the back streets to find Santa Eulalia, but the church was closed. We learned from a sign on the door that today was a 96 year old man’s birthday and his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren wished him well. In the street beside the church a man was herding sheep. Margaret tried her hand at herding; the shepherd had to chase his sheep to regain control.

There were only four bar/cafes all day. Brian and I stopped at the first one for a coffee and had hugs and a visit with Danielle and James. They got ahead of us by taking a taxi one day. Margaret was walking ahead of us and did not stop until the second place where she had bacon and eggs.

Brian and I met Danielle and James again just before our destination of O Pedrouzo; so, they walked into town with us. They were stopping for food before continuing nine kilometres to the edge of Santiago. They want to have a short walk tomorrow to get to the noon mass at the cathedral.

We just had lunch at the CHE4 cafeteria: we shared pizza, an empanada and melon with prosciutto. Brian, who does not like melon, declared this white melon to be the best, sweetest melon he had ever had. We sampled a sweet each. You know the bite-sized chocolate eclairs were delicious since Brian said he could have eaten two.

Only one more day to walk. We are ecstatic…and very tired! We can do this…flood or no flood!

Raining in Galicia

Biiig croissants

Biiig croissants

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Palas de Rei to Ribadiso
May 1, 2015
7:40 AM to 2:30 PM
6 hr 55 min for 26.52 km

I ask you, “How is it possible to get a blister on Day 30 when I never had one before this???” I discovered one on the edge of my heel sometime in the night. That and today’s all day rain slowed me down. Margaret went ahead of us throughout the day. We did not have our breaks together today although Margaret waited for us to catch up for our 11 AM break. She was happily finishing a glass of wine when we arrived here at Ribadiso. Margaret was not sure where our albergue was but she intuitively picked the right one to stop at: Los Caminantes.

We spent a long time yesterday trying to find a private room for today, but May 1st is a national holiday in Spain; so, places are booked even for a rainy long weekend. This albergue is nicely done and sits beside a Roman bridge and a good restaurant, on the edge of town. We are in a room with four bunk beds and we share a bath that has two showers and two toilets. The sleeping bags are out again for the first time since the first week. So far only a couple from Seattle are with us. They have been hiking in France two to three weeks a year for the past ten years.

The good thing about today’s weather was that it was warm, 14C; so, not as cold as our last full day of rain. We were walking through forest trails quite a bit; so, that also protected us from the harder downpour. Occasionally the rain became more mist like and for the last kilometre it had pretty much stopped. A good thing because I was about finished myself. The description for today’s walk made us think there would not be any big hills. Not true! The biggest hill was at the end followed by a steep descent. You can guess what awaits us first thing tomorrow.

The forecast calls for rain e dry day until Wednesday. There is supposed to be more rain this weekend than there was in all of April. I will leave it to brother Jim to figure out what they mean when they say we will get forty litres of rain per metre squared. We think it means we will be wet.

Green was the colour of the day. Galicia is very green thanks to all the rain. The brightest colours were pilgrims in pink or red raincoats although we still saw splashes of flowers: wisteria, beauty bush, rhododendron, calla lilies. We saw lemon trees with lemons almost ready for picking. Large Palm trees and giant cacti are happy here. We passed through fifty foot tall eucalyptus forests and through many mixed forests where trees were moss or ivy covered with ferns at their feet.

We passed Manuel and his little brown donkey, Marina, carrying Manuel’s possessions and their friend, Scottie, the dog. They had gone from Bilbao to Santiago and were on their way back to Bilbao. I regret I did not get a good photo of Marina, but I took the photo in haste because of the rain.

In Galicia they put salt and pepper on the table. We have not seen that anywhere in Spain. One day we were offered ketchup for our fries. We think a pilgrim left that behind. We saw one pilgrim with a big bottle of ketchup in one of his water holders.

We just finished our big meal. Brian made a pork sandwich with the piece of pork I could not eat. He has it in his pocket for later. I wrapped up my Santiago cake to share with Margaret when we have mint tea before bed.

We are sitting on the patio catching a few rays of sunshine. Three Spaniards who have three different bottles of liquor on their table are enthusiastically singing a variety of songs very loudly with their rich bass voices.

Sam and A Unique Journey

image image image image imagePortomarin to Palas de Rei (Pop: 3600)
April 30, 2015
7:30 AM to 1:30 PM

6hrs for 25.1 km

We entered Palas de Rei about 1:10 PM, saw the closed Casa Curro where we had booked and decided to look elsewhere. It looked like it had rooms above a cafeteria/pool hall. The rooms might have been nice but we did not want to wait for someone to open it. ( we have since learned we were standing in front of the wrong place!)

We went up the street and entered the enchanting San Tirso Church. Only the front archway is still remaining of the original eleventh century Romanesque church but the newer stone church was built in the simple elegance of the original style. It has more modern stained glass windows. The volunteer who was there to stamp our Camino passports was happy to point out the Alpha and the Omega and the symbolism of all the other windows. Beautiful recorded music was playing. How peaceful!

We exited the church and went across the street to the ultra modern San Marcos Albergue which also has private rooms. We have now had a rain shower and I am reclining with my feet against the forested wall mural. Margaret went downstairs to use the wifi and Brian put our clothes in the coin operated washing machine.

We were the first customers for breakfast at O’Mirador. But like many establishments they were not open at 7 AM when they were scheduled to be. I peeled a clementine outside while Brian looked down and Margaret up the street for an alternative since outside town would have meant a ten kilometre walk before breakfast. At 7:05 AM a server arrived and the lady in the kitchen opened the door. Coffee and chocolate croissants awaited. We still had to walk the ten kilometres to get our egg protein but that was okay.

Rain threatened all day, but we only had a light sprinkling at the outset, just enough so that we covered our packs with rain covers.

We travelled on tree lined paths, often on the Senda near the highway, more country road than highway. The busiest traffic was Polish-manufactured white Skota taxis going back and forth. Perhaps they were trolling for collapsing pilgrims or maybe they were ferrying backpacks. Certainly there were plenty of backpacks sitting at reception although we were among the first people to arrive.

It was a rather odiferous morning, not good smells. We saw a number of low pig buildings. We did not see any pigs but we heard them and smelled them. But the worst of the day was walking beside a fertilizer plant. I thought some of you would have to come and erect memorials to the three Canadians asphyxiated there. I was surprised there were not already some cairns to other casualties there.

We climbed the first fifteen kilometres (climbed!) but on less rough trail, fewer toe stubbers; less pavement than yesterday. Margaret prefers the more rugged terrain. I was happy not to walk on as much pavement nor in mud.

We passed groves of eucalyptus. You would think this would be a great smell, but we could only smell this if we tore a leaf.

There were gardens with large calla lilies and others with huge rhododendrons: fuschia, pale pink, red or white.

The highlight of our day was meeting Sam, the donkey, and his owners, Anna and Johan, who had already walked for nine weeks from the south of Portugal to Santiago and had at least nine weeks to go to arrive home in Germany. They had been working on a farm in Portugal and spontaneously decided to buy a donkey and walk home. They were camping and had to be careful that Sam did not eat too much grass. Johan is planning on writing a book about their adventure. I said we would be watching for that.

Brian told us we walked almost 8 km in the first 55 minutes today. We did not believe him. He rechecked his GPS and corrected himself to say that our maximum speed was 7.8 km per hour but we did not keep up the pace. In the first 55 minutes we only walked 5.5 km.

Yesterday Margaret and I walked around Portomarin. We thought it had a good feel to it, a place we could live. A good portion of the town was moved up to the hill before the reservoir was filled. When the water level is low, you can still see some of the town underwater. The twelfth century San Xuan Church was rebuilt brick by brick!

We finished yesterday with a delicious ham and olive pizza and a game of rummy. Our lodging last night was the first that had NO heat. A good thing there were extra blankets.