Sunday, January 16, 2011

Our 300th Post: Anticlimax

Flying from Santiago that Friday afternoon to Madrid for a one-day stay just seemed anticlimactic. I mean, really – what were we going to do in Madrid that could possibly compare with what’d we already done? So when Kathie asked Jennie and me what we wanted to see in Madrid, all either of us could think of was Guernica.

We took a cab to the Reina Sophia Saturday morning in the rain. This sculpture greeted us in the courtyard. I want to say it’s an Alexander Calder but I have absolutely no basis for that other than intuition.

And these paintings I’m sure are of scenes along the Camino. Or was everything looking like the Camino by now?

Kathie suffered through the Picasso stuff until finally we came upon Guernica. For some reason, I remembered the mural from textbooks as colorful – you know, like Picassos usually are. The greyscale images were much more moving than color could have been. Sorry, no photos allowed in the Guernica gallery!

We had lunch in the museum café. Here’s Kathie’s desert. (It’s not a Kathie trip without food pics.)

Back at the hotel, Jennie snuggled in while Kathie and I took off to see the palace, which is right down the street from where we were staying.

We didn’t see King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia but we did explore the palace grounds a bit. As we were walking back along the street in front of the palace, we noticed some hubbub brewing. Apparently there was going to be a military band concert in the palace courtyard. A pretty girl in what looked like an usher’s uniform invited us to go in. I would’ve politely declined but Kathie’s always game for a concert. And a military concert? Kathie was not going to miss this.

As we waited, we checked out the spectators around us and noticed the peeps looking out from open doors on the upper floors of the palace. Who were all those people? The king and queen weren’t among them. Were they renters?

Finally, the show began. One by one, different bands came out to perform. By their uniforms, they looked like they represented different branches of the service. Check out this one though. What were they – the harem guards?

Before long, the rain returned, sending the performers running for cover. We found shelter in a breezeway behind our bleachers and waited for the rain to let up.

Later, Kathie and I hit a Greek restaurant for salmon – huh? – and went back to our room to pack up for the flight home in the morning. Kathie caught me snuggled in my fleece blankie finishing up Pillars of the Earth. (I’m only posting this pic here because she whined earlier today that I had posted the one of her by the Santiago marker but not the horrendously ugly one of me. Go figure.)

That’s it, kids. I’m all wrote out. G’night.

Another Crazy Adventure Comes to an End - Waaah!

Thursday, October 7th – Our last day on the trail. 13 quick miles to Santiago.
Friday, October 8th – Hanging out at the cathedral before flying to Madrid.

Jennie started out on her own with her flashlight early this last morning on the Camino. When Kathie and I headed out, it was still fairly dark.

We got a little disoriented finding our way around a school yard, and wondered if/how Jennie had navigated this area in the dark.

Later on, we passed a group of pilgrims on horses. The slackers. Their horses aroused the curiosity of a young horse in a field by the trail. Showing off, s/he went tearing around and through the bushes and trees in the field – fun!

Walk, walk, walk. Pose here and there.

After passing the huge development at Monte del Gozo, we rolled into the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela. “We’re here!” I thought to myself, not realizing there was another mile or three of urban confusion left to negotiate before we would find the Hotel Bonaval.

But find it we did. We cleaned up and had a lovely lunch in the hotel’s dining room, then came back up to our room to see this outside our window.

We found our way over to the cathedral – the ultimate goal of Camino pilgrims for the last 10 centuries. Truly a humbling and awesome experience.

The next day, we headed back over to the cathedral for the pilgrim’s mass. We took advantage of a little extra time before mass would begin to join the line of pilgrims going down into the crypt below the altar to see the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish).

The line then proceeded up some steps to a secret little place above and behind the altar where we could touch the shoulders on the bust of St. James that faces out into the sanctuary. Hugging the statue is a pilgrim custom; most pilgrims say a prayer of thanks for surviving the trek, I suspect. I gave him a big hug and – for some reason - mumbled a little prayer for all the animals along the Camino. (What can I say? I was delirious - it just came outta me.)

Back down in the sanctuary, the pilgrims were gathering for mass. It was a bit crowded so we stuck close to JJ – nobody cuts in front of him. Standing there listening to mass, I studied the building’s interior. When my eyes reached the highest point of the ceiling over the altar, I nudged Kathie and pointed up. Painted way above us was the eye of God, watching us intently. Dan Brown would’ve been gratified.

Then, as the pilgrims queued up for communion, I was highly amused to see my Protestant sister eagerly wedge herself into the line. What the heck – we’re all just pilgrims.

By the time we went back outside, it was raining cats and dogs…and birds and mice and fish…again. We, and all the rest of Christendom’s pilgrims, headed for the shelter of a portico lining the front of a public building across the Praza do Obradoiro from the cathedral. From there we studied the cathedral’s very busy western façade.

Here are the happy hikers…

…and the traditional end-of-trail boots photo. I was not about to take mine off on that cold, rainy day, however.

After a bit of souvenir shopping, we caught some lunch and went back to the hotel to get packed up for our flight to Madrid. (Elene and JJ went to do some laundry; they would take a train to Paris the next day.)

So, it was over.

The skin on the bottoms of my feet peeled for weeks after the end of the hike.

I’m ready to go back, Kath – how ‘bout you?

Pat and Kathie’s Camino by the Numbers
200 miles
1,056,000 feet
442,400 steps
14 cans of tuna
1 lost toenail
A gazillion blisters
3 packs of moleskin
4 Vicodin (8 halves)
Almost 100 ibuprofen
Countless towns, villages, puentes and fuentes
15 pounds lost (7 for Pat, 8 for Kathie)
Pat’s feeling of accomplishment for not throwing in the towel – unquantifiable

Saturday, January 15, 2011


All kinds of signs direct the Camino pilgrim along the way. Some are easy to see; others…well, not so much. The ones lurking on the vertical face of sidewalk curbs and the little ones painted on the side of a brown building (“Where? Which building did you see the arrow on?”) are especially tough to spot. And some are just kilometer markers that let you at least know you’re not lost.

Here are some examples of what you’ll find when you walk the Camino.

See what I mean?

(Not) Jumping the Curb, Groupies, Catnip Sandwiches, Tribbles, and Bagpipes – Oh My!

Day 13 – Monday, October 4th – 17.5 miles to Palas de Rei
Day 14 – Tuesday, October 5th – 16.8 miles to Arzua
Day 15 – Wednesday, October 6th – 13.8 miles to Rua

You might want to get some coffee. This is gonna be a long one.

Or you could belly up to this Coke machine…specially designed to appeal to thirsty, caffeine deprived pilgrims.

Another door…

Kathie took this cool pic. It looks like a bunch of churches huddled together, doesn’t it? Actually, those crosses are on graves.

We kept wondering what these things were and pretty much settled on grain storage as the most likely explanation. This one is a bit shabby but there were some made of stone and quite beautiful.

On Monday evening, Kathie and I were coming back – in the dark – from the grocery store to our hotel. Suddenly, the sidewalk dropped off in front of us down to a driveway crossing it and sloping steeply down to the right – Kathie’s side. Have you ever watched something happen – like in slow motion but so fast you can’t stop it? As Kathie went over the curb, I reached out and gasped “Kathie!” but to no avail. She landed on the drive below; how she wasn’t seriously hurt I will never understand. (Guess the Spanish aren’t as litigious as we are over here; the risk manager at the hospital where I work has the Engineering guys smooth over quarter inch grade changes in the sidewalk so visitors won’t trip over them.)

Throughout this week of walking, Elene shared with us spiritual/thought-provoking readings from books she had brought with her from home. On Tuesday morning, I found this in our guidebook and thought it was so appropriate I shared it with the rest of the group:

Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. “Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.” Linda Hogan

Nice, that one.

Another door to add to Kathie’s collection.

Can you see the group image in the convex traffic mirror at the right side of this photo?

And yes, that lady is herding her sheep along the lane, coming right at us.

As I said in a previous post, JJ is like Kathleen in that he knows no strangers. He has a great sense of humor, a genuine interest in others, and a big ol’ smile that could melt Scrooge’s heart. EVERYONE along the trail knew him by name. As Kathie and I were coming out of the hotel the last morning on the trail, a lady pilgrim we’d seen several times over the past few days approached us. (Pilgrims can’t pass each other without a little chitchat.) She didn’t seem to recognize us until we mentioned we were with JJ. “Ohh, yes – you’re with JJ!” she smiled.

What were we – chopped liver?

But I digress – here’s JJ with his Polish pilgrim pals in Melide. They insisted on a pic with him.

Here JJ demonstrates filling up your water bottle at one of the many fuentes along the trail.

On Wednesday morning, Kathie stopped and stooped down to get a photo of this light ginger tabby cat and his spunky canine sidekick. That cat was on top of Kathie so fast you’d think she had a dozen catnip and tuna finger sandwiches stuffed in her pack or something.

Here and there we saw these fuzzy balls lying on the ground – oodles of them, in fact. Kathie thought they looked like tribbles from the old Star Trek series. (I believe they’re actually chestnuts. The fact that they were clustered around chestnut trees was kind of a dead giveaway.)

And here’s Kathie with her new boyfriend. I was half way to the next town before I realized that she, Elene, and JJ were chatting with this gentleman way behind me. Seems the old guy was quite taken with Kathie and wasn’t going to let her get away easily.

There were lots of eucalyptus forests along the way.

On Wednesday afternoon, we thought we heard bagpipe music floating on the breeze. Huh? Kathie’s Celtic ear led her into a pub alongside the trail. Inside, a young boy – was he 12 or 13, Kath? – was playing a bagpipe for the customers. You’re likely to see (and hear) just about anything on the Camino.

Here’s Jennie all bundled up and ready to go out to terrorize Rua. We persuaded her to stay and have lunch with us on the sunny porch of our hotel instead.

If you walk the Camino, you’re going to develop blisters on your piggies, heels, soles – just about anywhere and everywhere on your poor feet. So bring a LOT of moleskin and a little pair of scissors to cut it with. Kathie and I spent a bunch of time every morning getting our padding/bandages just right.

Tomorrow – on to Santiago.

P.S. Somewhere along the way, I came up with my own spiritual saying:
The advantage of rain on the trail is that you can pretty much pee anywhere because your poncho covers everything, even your naked tushie. Pat of Pat and Kathie

Friday, January 14, 2011

Driving Rain, Collard Soup, and Never Giving Up

Day 12 – Sunday, October 3rd – 15 miles of rain to Portomarin

Here’s our little group of pilgrims, posing in Sarria before taking off in the rain for Portomarin. This is the only photo we have of that Sunday. It rained like a mother so not a one of us wanted to get our cameras out of our packs to snap pics.

Of course, this would be the day that my right ankle tendon decided to develop an itis.

Kathie and I tried covering it over with moleskin.

We tried wrapping it with gauze and padding.

We tried switching shoes…just one, mind you, so that each of us looked like we’d dressed in the dark.

The rain kept coming.

Finally, in front of a little café/pub on the trail I whined, “Can we stop here for some soup?” Kathie took pity on me and we went into the nice warm pub – warm because it was filled to overflowing with other soaking wet pilgrims seeking refuge from the driving rain. (And I mean driving sideways rain – right up under the ol’ poncho.)

We sat and enjoyed our collard soup. Oh boy, did we enjoy that soup. While we ate, we pondered what was really causing my tendonitis. Finally, I just gulped down another half of a Vicodin - the first one in almost a week - and we got going again.

Before long, the tendonitis and the rain let up and the sun came out for a short while – just long enough to dry our clothes out a bit before the clouds opened back up to soak us again.

As we walked that last bit of the trail on Sunday afternoon, I told Kathie that if she hadn’t been there with me, helping me figure out what was wrong with my ankle, and generally just not giving up on me, I would’ve thrown in the towel and called a cab. (Of course, how a cab would’ve reached us in that muck I have no idea.)

“How do you just keep going like that?” I asked her.

“Throwing in the towel is not an option.”

‘Nuff said.

Next – on to Palas de Rei.

Grave Apartments, Pinching Bottoms, and Wandering Horse Toddlers

Day 11 – Saturday, October 2nd – 15.5 miles to Sarria

We left the Casa David in Triacastela on Saturday morning for Sarria.

Check out this cemetery. As in many of the cemeteries we passed, the graves are all above ground. In multi-person units. Like apartment buildings.

Here’s a cool house – literally, I bet.

I liked the cross on this churchyard gate.

OK, so it was a day of cemeteries and churches.

And here’s the Benedictine monastery at Samos, one of the oldest monasteries in Spain.

It sits on the Rio Oribio. I loved this bridge with the scallop shells – the symbol of the Camino.

Kathie, Elene, and Jennie went to check out the monastery. When we met back up in front of it, there was a group of runners taking pics of themselves. Kathie leapt at the opportunity to be their photographer.

This group runs 20 miles a day on the Camino, 3 days at a time. Nifty idea. Don’t think I’d want to try it, though…especially in the rain. What am I saying? It could be a sunny cool day and I wouldn’t want to try it.

The guys insisted Kathie pose with them in the pic above. See the little black-clad woman in the front of the group? That’s Kathie. She’s probably pinching bottoms out of sight of the camera lens.

After all that excitement, we stopped at a little table on the sidewalk in the center of town to eat lunch. Then on the way out of town, we posed for photos with this pilgrim.

Notice how my photograph of Kathie got a little of the winding street and the girl pilgrim sculpture in the background. For once, my composition was perhaps an iota more pleasing than Kathie’s. Just this once, though.

This little guy was out roaming by himself on the path, hitting pilgrims up for apples. Wonder if his mom knew where he was?

Next - swimming to Portomarin.