Just adding to my Diary

I spent a fabulous 3 days in Santiago and it still wasn’t enough. I love that place so much with its little laneways and tapas bars, but mostly love the energy of the town. It is a happy place. I really enjoy walking around at night and it feels so safe. 

This time I was lucky enough to be there at the same time as Andrew Suzuki. We went to the Friday night mass and he ‘worked’, filming and taking photos of the Botofumeiro etc. and then we had dinner. Conversation was mostly about travel of course. This is what brings us all together on the Camino, isn’t it? 

I was left humbled, admiring this beautiful man so much more. We all know his quirky side but underneath, he is very deep, searching like we all are.  He has taken a huge leap of faith in life and is doing what he is passionate about. His little documentaries give us pilgrims so much pleasure and what I admired most was that he has genuine appreciation for the support that people have given. He is off for new adventure after this, leaving the Camino behind and searching for more of life. Can’t wait to see what’s next. 

And so, I slept through my alarm the next morning because of a very late night. I sat up chatting to other pilgrims in the monastery albergue when I got back. I woke to find I should already be at the airport, so no shower and no breakfast but flying downstairs to get a taxi. I got there just in time. It took most of the day to get to Paris as I had to go via Barcelona. I had to wait an hour for my transfer ride and eventually got to the flat in Montmatre by 4. 

Gerard (from San Francisco)and Anne (a true Parisienne)  both of whom I met on the Camino Frances last year were waiting in a bar nearby -so exciting…. Just like we last saw each other yesterday. 

Paris has been a bit of a whirlwind of sightseeing, food, wine, walking and laughing. So good to be in the warmth of deep friendship-the kind of bond only forged on the Camino. 

I’m sitting on a train now with Gerard, on our way to Caen, looking longingly out the window wishing I was walking through those forests, but  I am feeling so much gratitude for everything. I am so lucky to be living the dream, travelling and sharing such wonderful experiences and meeting fabulous people from all over the world. At the same time, I feel almost guilty for this as New Zealand is being ravaged and raped by earthquakes. How scary. How sad. It is such a beautiful place. 

The River of Life

I’ve been too speechless and emotional to write my blog for the past two days. As we walked the last 16 kms into Santiago, we were quiet and thoughtful, reminiscing about all we have been through. I fought back tears all morning, just consumed with emotion. Whether it was exhaustion, joy, sadness…I don’t know, but I guess I feel all of these things. I didn’t feel like this last time.  I sobbed when I walked into the square, when Colleen and I looked at each other. I couldn’t speak.
It was a shock and I was overwhelmed with all the people around me, after such solitude.  I stood watching as each person experienced their own version of what I was going through. Some just stared at the sky or the cathedral. Others rushed to greet people they had met along the way. Some lay on the ground exhausted, and some just looked as though they were like me, in shock. I noticed the Indian man sitting cross legged on his mat in a far corner. He was meditating. I had heard of him but we had not met. He had taken a vow of silence for the whole VDLP!

I looked around at all the different people, all coming together because of one destination. Like the scallop shell with its lines all pointing to one spot. 

I’m so glad I kept a blog, my diary. Reading back over it brings everything back. I was led to believe that the VDLP was flat and boring but it is anything but. Yes, there were long flat plains, heat, flies and nothing much else for a while but mostly it was very scenic, hilly, mountainous and truly beautiful. The Roman ruins we encountered, although expected, were mind blowing. My feet absorbed the energy of those who have walked before me over centuries. The solitude enveloped me completely. This Camino was such a different experience. A friend told me of an ancient teaching about the ever flowing river of life carrying us forward and how you can never put your foot in the river in the same place twice… The water of the past has already flowed on. Seems very apt.

I’m  tired but unable to sleep right now. It’s 2.30 am and we are in an apartment near Finisterre (the end of the world). We went to watch the sunset at the lighthouse tonight. It was windy, cold and pouring with rain, but we went anyway. The sky cleared for a few photos and I walked down to the bronze boot which is soldered onto a large rock on the cliff top. I watched people come and go, standing perilously close to the edge of the cliff as they posed for photographs… Some elated and some deep in thought. I watched a sight impaired man just breathing in the atmosphere, probably imagining what was in front of him, and I envied his experience, wondering what was going through his mind. I sensed he was ‘feeling’ a lot more than most. 

The rain bucketed down and everyone scrambled for shelter in the cafe. It was so noisy in there. A man asked Colleen if he could have the seat next to her because he had just walked 800 kms! She gave it to him. I couldn’t cope with it all. I waited for the others by the door, happy to breathe the fresh air and not the conversations. What has happened to me? Who am I to judge? We have all just achieved and experienced something wonderful  no matter how far we have walked and it matters not the way in which we did it. 

I have carried a few letters and talismans with me on this walk, hoping they will absorb the Camino’s gentle and humbling energy. I have held them in my hands as I sat in churches and cathedrals. I have prayed for these people, even though I am not Catholic or even Christian, but I don’t think that matters. The intention is set. I have prayed so hard for beautiful Jess and her family, for many of my friends who are going through hard times, and for people in my life who struggle daily with their various shit. And to my lovely friend Carlo, you have been a strong support for me with your kind and timely words. Keep doing the work you do. If only there was more people in the world like you. 

And lastly, my thoughts are with Will. I thank everyone that contributed to his worthy cause as he struggles to improve and adapt to his new life. You can still donate if you feel inclined. 

And perhaps it could be called littering, but I quietly left a fabric cornflower ( the symbol for Motor Neurone Disease) on top of a mountain the other day. As many of you know, my husband and his father both died from this awful illness. I hope the flower floats  away in the wind -free. 

And so it is, as my  Via de la Plata Camino is complete, I will return to my life soon, unsure of how I will have changed.  I will go to Muxia tomorrow and spend a couple more days in Santiago before moving on to Paris and Normandy,  where I will catch up with other Camino friends from last year (Anne from Paris and Gerard from San Francisco). 

Everyone walks for their own reasons whether it is for religious, spiritual, physical or emotional. Everyone has their own experiences, inner growth. That is how I feel right now ……. I feel as if I have finally grown up. 

Walking With Purpose (no pictures today, just emotional thoughts)

I took today as a rest day to gather my thoughts. I find myself avoiding people and have spent most of the day just wandering around the foreshore and resting in my room. This town is so beautiful and I feel as if I am in Cornwall with its stone walls and fishing boats bobbing happily on the water. It has rained very heavily this afternoon. Im looking forward to a decent dinner tonight. After being virtually without vegetables for the past 7 weeks, there is veggie soup on the vegan/vegetarian menu. So excited! I had an avocado for lunch!!!! 

Gerry and Colleen dropped me off here this morning and it took me ages to contain myself. I feel like I’ve lost a limb! I miss Colleen so much already.

The one thing I will never get used to is the ‘Camino goodbye’, leaving people who have shared  this extraordinary experience, who probably know your inner most soul more than some people you’ve known all your life, and who just accept you for who you are without question. 
Everything here is stripped bare; there is no fashion or no make up to hide behind; farting, snoring and teeth  grinding are part of a nightly chorus; there is very little privacy; men and women share bathrooms and dormitories; there is no room for modesty. Yet, these things are what makes the experience so rich and memorable. You have to learn to accept things as they come, you have to share, be considerate of others. You  learn about other cultures, their politics, their way of life, and you just humbly accept that everyone is different because of this. However, we are all the same underneath. We all want the same things out of life. We basically just want to be good people, accepted by others no matter what our foibles are, and we just want to be liked.

Sharing this experience with complete strangers from all over the world, struggling to understand each other’s languages, and also doing a crash course in Spanish along the way, makes this a tough gig. Again, I ask, why the hell do we do this? What makes a person remove themselves from the comforts of life as they know it and plunge themselves into pain, exhaustion and challenge? Perhaps that is it…. Challenge. 

I still feel a little in shock. It all started with a random decision. I read a book about the Via de la Plata, Colleen was wanting to do it, so I agreed to go with her. I wanted to see my friend again. It was as simple as that. I booked a ticket and found myself in Spain about to embark on a 1000 walk in extreme conditions. I seem to have this pattern in my life where I wildly jump into things and then have to cope somehow!

I wrote to the author of that book and asked her if she would mind us ‘borrowing’ her idea of taking people’s written or verbal hopes and prayers with us. We gave it a twist and decided it would be a good idea to raise money while we were doing it, and thus ‘Walking With Purpose’ was born. Between us we raised about three or four thousand dollars for some very worthy people. And here, I want to thank you all for not questioning this and generously donating. You will help to change people’s lives by doing so. It could be any of us in this desperate situation and you have been so kind. I am sure that the MND Association and Will Murray are most grateful, as are Colleen’s causes. 

This trip was never about me. I did it because I wanted to help someone. I had time up my sleeve and I was going to make use of it. I am so much fitter now -an added bonus. The thing that kept me going was the fact that I was carrying people’s worries and fears with me. I was surprised by the depth of grief and sadness people carry around and it made me a little sad that we hide it so much. I have determined to be more considerate and ‘care-full’ and ‘self-less’ from now on. The strongest thread of concern was health and  it made me realise just how lucky I am. I am not a Christian or a Catholic, but I have prayed so hard on behalf of these precious people in my life who need some sort of hope. If that hope and comfort reaches them, or if their prayers are answered, then I am complete and have done my job. 

I’m left now consumed by emotion as you can probably tell. I consider myself very lucky to have such supportive friends and family. Thank you all for your timely messages which kept me going. This Camino was very different and I doubt if it has had anywhere near the same effect as the last one, but it does feel very meaningful, and so worthwhile.

I’m so looking forward to coming home to my beautiful and caring friends and family. I am indeed a very lucky girl💜

Coming Down from the Camino….

Although I reached Finisterre, my travels have not yet ended. We rented an apartment for two nights nearby in Corcubion, so we could drive the coast and have a look around. Got up early this morning and went to Finisterre again to watch one last sunrise, and the rain cleared especially for us. The crazy mass of people from yesterday had gone and it was so peaceful and meant so much more. Whilst waiting for the sun to peep from behind the clouds, we sat in the car to warm up a bit. Gerry nonchalantly commented that he could see a goat in the rear vision mirror, and I turned around to be greeted by this beautiful face! It’s like he was surprised to see us and was quizzically saying WTF?I wandered over to him and found a herd (about 6 or 8 of them ) climbing up the cliff to get some greenery for breakfast. Such a random and unexpected gift!

Satisfied that Finisterre was done and dusted, ticked off the list, we went in search of breakfast and drove to Muxia. What a beautiful place. I hadn’t been there before. We walked over the rocks towards the church and bumped into the Korean  girls once again. We hugged and said goodbye for probably the last time. Colleen wandered off to sit on a rock and do her ritual with the pebble she was carrying for a friend, and the notes she carried for others. I wandered off to climb to the top of the hill and take in the view. I sat amongst the ancient Celtic ruins and sent my thoughts and love with the wind. I prayed for those whose hopes and wishes I carried with me all the way from Australia. I cried again and felt the power of the ocean below, the gale force wind and the energy of the earth.

We then moved on to Cee and further around the coast to find the ‘whale beach’. This place has special meaning for Colleen so we stopped and spent some time there. We picked up some tiny scallop shells on the beach. 

And then we moved on to the waterfall. 
Colleen and Gerry are heading home tomorrow and I must say goodbye to my constant companion for the last 7 weeks. We met on the Camino Frances and only spent 10 days together, yet we have managed to have such a wonderful time and so many laughs. I am filled with respect and love for this strong and beautiful soul and I feel really blessed to share this experience with her. I have been so lucky. I cannot imagine what it is going to be like not being able to sit and chat over lunch or something, as she lives on the other side of the world and who knows when or if I will ever see her again…. Such is the Camino. 

I have a day to fill in tomorrow so I will go back and stay a night in Muxia. I feel a need to spend more time in this magical place and I need a day alone before I hit the hustle and bustle of Santiago.

The River of Life

I’ve been too speechless and emotional to write my blog for the past two days. As we walked the last 16 kms into Santiago, we were quiet and thoughtful, reminiscing about all we have been through. I fought back tears all morning, just consumed with emotion. Whether it was exhaustion, joy, sadness…I don’t know, but I guess I feel all of these things. I didn’t feel like this last time.  I sobbed when I walked into the square, when Colleen and I looked at each other. I couldn’t speak.
It was a shock and I was overwhelmed with all the people around me, after such solitude.  I stood watching as each person experienced their own version of what I was going through. Some just stared at the sky or the cathedral. Others rushed to greet people they had met along the way. Some lay on the ground exhausted, and some just looked as though they were like me, in shock. I noticed the Indian man sitting cross legged on his mat in a far corner. He was meditating. I had heard of him but we had not met. He had taken a vow of silence for the whole VDLP!

I looked around at all the different people, all coming together because of one destination. Like the scallop shell with its lines all pointing to one spot. 

I’m so glad I kept a blog, my diary. Reading back over it brings everything back. I was led to believe that the VDLP was flat and boring but it is anything but. Yes, there were long flat plains, heat, flies and nothing much else for a while but mostly it was very scenic, hilly, mountainous and truly beautiful. The Roman ruins we encountered, although expected, were mind blowing. My feet absorbed the energy of those who have walked before me over centuries. The solitude enveloped me completely. This Camino was such a different experience. A friend told me of an ancient teaching about the ever flowing river of life carrying us forward and how you can never put your foot in the river in the same place twice… The water of the past has already flowed on. Seems very apt.

I’m  tired but unable to sleep right now. It’s 2.30 am and we are in an apartment near Finisterre (the end of the world). We went to watch the sunset at the lighthouse tonight. It was windy, cold and pouring with rain, but we went anyway. The sky cleared for a few photos and I walked down to the bronze boot which is soldered onto a large rock on the cliff top. I watched people come and go, standing perilously close to the edge of the cliff as they posed for photographs… Some elated and some deep in thought. I watched a sight impaired man just breathing in the atmosphere, probably imagining what was in front of him, and I envied his experience, wondering what was going through his mind. I sensed he was ‘feeling’ a lot more than most. 

The rain bucketed down and everyone scrambled for shelter in the cafe. It was so noisy in there. A man asked Colleen if he could have the seat next to her because he had just walked 800 kms! She gave it to him. I couldn’t cope with it all. I waited for the others by the door, happy to breathe the fresh air and not the conversations. What has happened to me? Who am I to judge? We have all just achieved and experienced something wonderful  no matter how far we have walked and it matters not the way in which we did it. 

I have carried a few letters and talismans with me on this walk, hoping they will absorb the Camino’s gentle and humbling energy. I have held them in my hands as I sat in churches and cathedrals. I have prayed for these people, even though I am not Catholic or even Christian, but I don’t think that matters. The intention is set. I have prayed so hard for beautiful Jess and her family, for many of my friends who are going through hard times, and for people in my life who struggle daily with their various shit. And to my lovely friend Carlo, you have been a strong support for me with your kind and timely words. Keep doing the work you do. If only there was more people in the world like you. 

And lastly, my thoughts are with Will. I thank everyone that contributed to his worthy cause as he struggles to improve and adapt to his new life. You can still donate if you feel inclined. 

And perhaps it could be called littering, but I quietly left a fabric cornflower ( the symbol for Motor Neurone Disease) on top of a mountain the other day. As many of you know, my husband and his father both died from this awful illness. I hope the flower floats  away in the wind -free. 

And so it is, as my  Via de la Plata Camino is complete, I will return to my life soon, unsure of how I will have changed.  I will go to Muxia tomorrow and spend a couple more days in Santiago before moving on to Paris and Normandy,  where I will catch up with other Camino friends from last year (Anne from Paris and Gerard from San Fransisco). 

Everyone walks for their own reasons whether it is for religious, spiritual, physical or emotional. Everyone has their own experiences, inner growth. That is how I feel right now ……. I feel as if I have finally grown up. 

Stairway to Heaven

What makes a person want to do this? I have no idea, but it is so exhilarating, so adventurous and it makes me feel alive.

It is with such mixed emotions that I write today. 16 kms (4hrs walking) tomorrow will end with us standing in the square in front of the Cathedral in Santiago. 

1,000 kms….so much laughter, pain and tiredness, so many photos, blisters and aches! We have had such a wonderful time and it has taken us 6 and 1/2 weeks to walk from Seville to Santiago. What a blast, what a trip and what an experience! 

I have been fighting back the tears all day today. I feel very emotional. This has become my ‘normal’ and it will be strange stepping back into my life again.  My breath has been taken away by the scenery.  I’ve walked days on long stretches of road in 40 degree heat, been dripping wet in soaking rain, I slipped and slid over mossy, wet and muddy rocks, I’ve been confronted by large dogs, bulls and pigs. I’ve climbed huge and steep mountains, having to come down the other side, (which is even tougher) I’ve  met people from all over the world and slept in some incredible places (the damp old monastery being the most memorable). Yes, I’ve stayed occasionally in a Parador or two, but until you have done this, you will not understand how luxurious and decadent it feels to use a fluffy towel and wash your hair with real shampoo instead of using a small shammy towel and a cake of soap. Nearly 7 weeks of living out of a backpack with one change of clothes! 

Tomorrow, I have a small suitcase waiting for me at a luxurious hotel. I sent it forward from Seville. I cannot wait to wear sneakers and jeans. It will be interesting to see how much weight I have lost ( it was 11kgs last time!) 

It rained today-all day! We trudged along silently for much of it, not really even looking at our surroundings. The guidebook promised a cafe at the 12km mark, but our hopes were shattered as we struggled up to the door only to find it bolted tightly shut! Oh how we needed a hot coffee or soup at that stage. So we sat miserably under the shelter of a bus stop and shared meagre rations from our packs. I shouldn’t really complain. This is Galicia. It rains a lot here. That’s why it is so green and beautiful. We have only had about 6 days of rain. We are lucky. 

We are in Ponte Ulla, where we stopped for a hot lunch and ‘dry out’. We had planned to walk another 4 kms to a modern albergue in the middle of nowhere but the lovely owner of the bar here offered us rooms upstairs and we decided to stay. She showed us our rooms, we left our back packs with her and walked to the next point. She gave me her phone number and asked me to call when we got there and she would come and pick us up. Tomorrow morning, she will drive us back  to that point to continue our walk into Santiago. We skipped up that mountain without our packs, she came and got us, and we are now showered and cosy in our rooms. 

Her offer of a room upstairs was so welcome – a stairway to heaven in fact. 

Another Great Day…

When we got back last night, everyone else had gone out and were at the other bar in town. We had dined on beautiful home cooked fare, drunk too much wine, and were in bed by 8.45. I pretended to be asleep when they came in, and they were telling Colleen what a great meal they’d had. It was evident later, as the chorus of snoring and farting began and continued throughout the night! That and the mosquitoes buzzing around my head kept me awake much if the night😜

Anyway, we waited for them all to leave in the morning, and then we went back to our bar for breakfast. We had a late start because of this and even though we only walked 16 kms today, it took us ages, as we sauntered along more beautiful lanes lined with oak and chestnut trees, apple trees, blackberry bushes etc. we passed farms with loads of chooks, dogs, horses and even a few donkeys. And there were arrows on this overpass….why? Where else did they think I could go?which one is Colleen? 

At one stage we found ourselves on another Roman path and bridge.  

We stopped for lunch in a really rustic and quaint bar, and then moved on to find the scenery changing again into a Galician wonderland. We felt like we were on a movie set, expecting dinosaurs to appear, or perhaps in a novel where goblins would dart out in front of us. The woods are dark and the trees are gnarled. It is not hard to imagine their long boughs and branches turning into fingers that could reach out and touch you. They have lumpy bits on their trunks that look like fairy faces or sometimes dragon faces. It is fascinating!

It was warm today. It rained a little and then turned humid. The path became quite muddy and slippery, so we had to take our time. There was also a bit of road walking, which is really hard on your feet. As with much of the VDLP, there is little opportunity to sit and rest. The only place we could find was a drain. Gerry said it had been such a ‘draining day,’ so it seemed appropriate. 

We marched on to find our bed for the night, and just as we reached the door, the heavens opened and thunder roared! Hopefully it is over now and we can enjoy our second last day on the Camino tomorrow!