The Camino and the Old Woman

I spot the old woman from a distance. Like a sniper ready for the shot I whip out the iPhone and in the blink of an eye the shot is made, seconds later it is framed.

When I walk by the old woman I ask show her the picture on my IPhone and asks her in Spanish if she recognizes this woman.

Her eyes suddenly begin to light up as she recognizes herself in the picture; a huge grin bearing but a few teeth. To me she is one of the most beautiful country grandmothers I’ve seen since this morning on the Camino.

The old woman says to me, you are “muy amiable” and reaches for a huge hug. No finer compliment could be received today. A special day for me on my first Camino.

And note all the happy cows passed as well. The Spaniards know how to treat the young and the elderly and as I continue to see their chickens, cows and sheep as well.

I could easily be sitting on a Moroccan beach writing a book now of stories that may only interest me.

Don’t ask where I am. It makes no difference. A walking trance of the Camino can take hold at anytime with only Santiago as the immediate goal in sight.

Buen Camino

Rafa

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Alice and Clover on the Camino

Today, If only for a few moments I felt like I was walking the Camino with my granddaughters Alice and Clover, Ages 8 and 10.

There are friends who come from far away countries to walk the Camino. Both arrive with the Camino bug. Raring to go. Can’t seem to get enough of the Camino they worked so hard to train for.

One of the two like our eight year old Clover back home quickly starts to question the reality of the situation as in:

Lack of sleep on the plane, train, bus and finally taxi before they find their way into an albergue. A medieval dormitory environment where bunk beds and bed bugs have found their way managed by a “warden ” literal Spanish translation.

And then the snoring starts and the their exhaustion goes on hyperdrive. If one of the two finds the rhythm of the Camino then all may be good for the two but, that is not necessarily the case.

Don’t misread here, once the Camino bug and I’m not talking real life bedbugs, takes a hold, they both get moving and are then well on their way enjoying the Camino experience.

An experience that can only be lived and not really explained in mere words alone.

The reason for the dual asses in the picture is because the two camino friends I witnessed kept fighting with one another to the point that I thought I needed to intervene like a Papa Ralphy does back home.

And that my friends is but, one mere reflection moment in time on my Camino.

Buen Camino

Rafa

To Alice and Clover may the Camino bug bite you one day for it I promise the experience will be truly life changing.

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The Pelegrino and the Budget

The words to a song, “I wish I knew now what I knew then” take a strong hold on me at my attempt at tackling the monetary part of the Camino, and possibly benefits vs the outcome.

And so I ask myself this fundamental question? Will a less than well funded camino do me more good than not.

And so let me now throw in a disclaimer on account of my precious wife back home possibly misinterpreting my thoughts and, charging ahead and putting me to the real test.

A test where the pavement or road hits my Solomon trail shoes within a confined budget a day to say 20 euros a day.

Possible yes. Do I want to do it. Yes but first, could you also roll back my body in years to say 30 or 40 earlier.

So, to clarify please don’t rush to cancel my credit cards just yet. I’m really only talking theory here and not practice.

Imagine waking up to a white Christmas on the Camino or of a sleepless night on account of the flu where antibiotics may be your only remedy or worse yet an injury that may potentially stop you in your tracks? What now brown cow?

Your opinions at your disposal are power through as the young or the Camino purists do or choose a more adult option now at your disposal as a result of past years of nose to the grindstone living?

And that my friends is the rest of the camino story that I’ve yet to write.

Buen Camino

Rafa

PS. Me. Not injured, healthy, even to the point of having lost a little weight. My stories are blended to the point that I may be writing about another Peregrino and their experiences or decision making process.

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What I am – Organized or Minimalist

Today I got caught in a really nice snowstorm on the Camino and by the time I came off that mountain I realized all I was wearing was a Mtn Hardware rain jacket, a Morino wool t shirt and my Prana hiking pants. The buff sort of rounds out the ensemble and nothing more.

No gloves, no wool cap, and not even a rain cover that seems to be the norm for packs on the Camino.

Just the way I like it. And also no hiking poles to burden me by. I do the monkey walk when the need is there for balance. Just stretch those arms out like a walking monkey.

So what am I now a minimalist or just organized to the point that it works for me. And that my friends should your goal. No one can walk for you but, plenty will offer you their advice as to what you should and shouldn’t carry or use.

I say find your own rhythm and stick with it. I do credit the Camino and any other long distance hiking with an opportunity to provide that much needed through trial and error. Just like cooking. One day it all just works out to the point where the recipe is now-in your head and heart. Sort of like that but, a little more.

At about the time you reach the say 400 or 500 mile mark I believe if you haven’t yet gotten it then maybe you aren’t paying attention.

This pack is really twice the size needed for the camino but, I plan to use it on a future hike involving carrying tent, cooking gear and food. Unlike the Camino where 10 euros gets you a bunk bed and the bed bugs are free.

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The Pelegrino Menu on the Camino

On the Camino dinner can be as uncomplicated as selecting an entree item, followed up by the main course followed up by a choice of elegant desserts. And of course every meal includes a bottle of wine or water. All of this for usually the going price of 12 euros.

And of course losing weight on the Camino is a given provided you walk those suggested kilometers that are shown on this front/back sheet that shows a 34 day camino guide given to you at the start of the Camino.

Now I may be misleading you a bit. Some of those meals above are actually from local restaurants and not albergue meals. Several were nothing worth bragging about so I saved my film.

The only way you are going to know if you are gaining or losing weight is by your belt size. Obviously pulling it tighter to hold those sagging pants is the goal

Buen Camino

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On the Camino and a little music again…..

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing  absolutely nothing — half so much worth as music when walking a boring part of the camino or an an uphill climb.

Simply talking ……….about walking — or talking with a fellow Peregrino about the nexts day walk – but, wait. It’s not really like that around here. Just started the story with a boating quote and it took hold.

It doesn’t seem to matter to me, the only criteria is that no one else is around. That’s when I simply blast my little IPhone speakers a bit, nothing else seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. The walking pain of it is simply forgotten.

Also it just doesn’t matter the nationality, everyone loves American music. Eventually everyone knows and suggests a good walking song. When the tunes take a hold look out, soon we are lock in step pounding away the hill, the boring section or even just the days miles.
The 500 mile song makes the top of the list followed by the 25 mile song followed by my all time favorite due to the words, Vida La Vida by Coldplay.

I like to call it my Medieval music.

The lyrics start off like:

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
“Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!”

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells a ringing
Roman Calvary choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field

For some reason I can’t explain
Once you go there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

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What Good Will Become of This and the Camino

Before words are written or the story told I find myself asking the question; should I share this story? And, what good if any, can telling a story serve.

While on the camino my openness to speak freely with anyone within an earshot and ability to interact with the locals is an amazing experience.

Why I’d even accept the camino as a full time job; just as long as you wouldn’t make me sleep in albergue municipals.

On the camino I can at times, walk faster than your average Peregrino pace. By doing so it allows me to easily enjoy the company of more than one Camino family at a time. Some are lone wolf Peregrinos because they want to be and others because they can’t fit in just yet.

I am also left wondering if I chose the Camino or if it chose me. I say this because spirits seem to keep channeling their way through me. At times it has felt like I’m a sponge, at others like a priest, or an elder, or even a favorite grandpa type.

Age seems to encounter no barrier in this camino. Just as long as you can keep up walking and carry a “mochilla” backpack.

All one needs to do is scratch a little of anyone and soon a story will emerge. Sometimes what you hear is something that will knock your socks right off. Like a gal that postponed a vital organ transplant to be on the camino. Yet that is all that I now choose to share on that particular conversation.

.

Another crazy thing is that in my channeling like manner language is also not a barrier. Some have told me their most intimate, their most personal, oftentimes their most painful memories or experiences in their native language that I do not speak. The odd part is that I have totally understood.

Maybe a confession box on the Camino is in my future. And to that I could add maybe a donations jar to fund my next Camino. There is another camino in my future – dear? Only my logistician and love of my life will be able to say; if the benefits received upon my return home outweigh the efforts of the separation time for my first camino – then I see a second camino in my future.

If not, then there is always hiking with friends.

But, seriously is the way I look now the cause? A maturing age or old soul?

Is simply saying the Camino heals all sufficient? I think not. And so I say to myself, you are a warrior like the knights Templars of the past; ready to help in anyway possible so long as the mileage keeps moving towards 0 kilometers Santiago or the ends of the earth – Finisterra.

Usually a picture is sufficient but, how can a picture express the grief or recent painful memories shared? And, is sharing in a story really for the common good?

How can the recent death of a woman whom he loved, worshipped and cherished for over 50 years of marriage be filtered for common good?

Perhaps the words “they were married to their best friend ” can serve as a tribute to all happily together, married or otherwise couples.

No ones trust – I promise will ever be betrayed.

May the sun always rise for you and may you be able to take that next step always.

Buen Camino

Rafa

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The Iron Cross and the Camino

Today as I walked the Camino during a magical stretch of the trail, the spirits took a hold of me and for the longest time held on to what seemed like my very soul. Soon, nothing but raw emotions began flowing out of me.

Picture someone grabbing a wet towel and then squeezing it for all it’s worth before hanging it out to dry. It felt like that, yet different.

The area I walked through must be a resting place for spirits of the Camino, the not yet departed. I don’t claim to possess or inherited any special powers yet, these words now flow out of me believing them.

As I walk picture everywhere littered tree roots that jut out of the ground and ready to take you down at any moment.

Perhaps a large part that makes this place special is the thousands of wood branch limbs adorning a farm like fence to my right as I walk ever so slightly uphill. Someone must’ve started the tradition ages ago, as all I continue to see as far as I walk are wind, rain, or snow weathered crosses.

And so I once again ask; why me, why do the spirits hang out here and am I the only one feeling their presence? Am I that vulnerable in mind and soul now? Only once before have I felt this way. It was when I knew I found the final resting place for my mothers ashes.

My thoughts at the time; and from the heart, she is thanking me one last time before her spirit finally departs to that special place where spirits go once they are ready.

I sit now on a medieval looking rock, stone and tree bench spot. The pelegrinos walk by me to either the next town or to a nearby albergue. Much the same way as I see the spirits moving.

Numerous Spanish local voices are all around including some buzzing bees nearby.

The days walk is possibly over for me now but, the next town is so close I believe I will stop there. Any master plan even if in only in my mind is to walk tonight as there is a full moon out. Spend the night at the Iron Cross and let any spirit reach me. Tonight I shall be a conduit for the spirits of the Camino.

My mind body and soul is prepared to receive a message, if any. And me, I am prepared to deliver my rock, one that I have carried from my moms homeland to here – the iron cross.

I may cherish this moment till my dying day. Such is the way of the camino in the past as it is in the present.

Buen Camino

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Camino and Euros

My wife just sent me a bank charge that needed my verification. On that particular evening I recall the charge that paid for three Peregrinos meals.

The others usually pay their share in euros and me with a credit card. Isn’t that the American way? Bottom line is I started thinking about the pelegrinos i know that have now had stuff stolen (cell phones to tablet to even a second pair of pants).

Others with foot or shoes issues have had to purchase new walking shoes and either discard or ship their boots home. Yet others have even ended up in the emergency room or needed to lay up for an extra day, two, or even three.

In my justification mind I’ve had neither of those issues so I’m now euros ahead rather than behind. So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Buen Camino

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Camino de Santiago Daily Stages

This is just a brief primer to the uninitiated on what goes into planning where I start and end my days on the Camino.

For example take a look at my map above. .We stopped in Burgos for the night and then decided a rest day was in order on account of my friend Rick departing back to Southern California.

Today my sights are on the second town worth a zero day. On the PCT hike zero means there is no walking.

On the Camino if I were to call it a non walking day I would miss out entirely. While in Madrid Rick and I walked nearly 15 miles in one day.

While in Pamplona we did nearly half that much in the city. And once again while in Leon we will likely walk allot. There is a Camino family possibly even waiting on me. Possibly worthy of a party upon our arrival. Camino tattoos? Camino Peregrino massage? Definitely non Camino food to celebrate.

So you see you can’t really refer to a zero day on the Camino.

Buen Camino.

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