Camino Days: A Travelogue of More than 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances…

Laura Weber Garrison, Ph.D. writes about her pilgrimage across the Iberian Peninsula

August 21, 2021

My adjusted boots-on-the-ground date is August 22. I love my boots. Over a thousand miles and I’m still using them on all kinds of terrain. They are far more comfortable than trail runners; better traction, too.

Made it through all the weather delays… What was supposed to have been a 13-hour flight turned into 36+ hours of travel time which included a full day of being rerouted via the airlines to and through France. This also meant two more trips through immigrations, a missed flight connection in Spain that resulted in an overnight in Madrid, and an unexpected 3.5 hour train ride from Madrid to Pamplona.

It is all part of the adventure.

The viral absurdity and immigrations presented their own hurdles as well and athlete that I am, I almost find the hurdles amusing. I’ve had Covid and presented with a Recovery Letter per directives from the airlines. France had their own set of rules and the man at the gate barely gave the letter a good once over. Othere than that, no one, not one person, even bothered to check. Here’s what was a ‘must’: Spain demanded the special Spain Travel Health certificate of everyone. Baffling. It cost me $75 and was supposed to be, according to others, free. No matter. I cleared all the hurdles. The Atocha train station in Madrid, a veritable city within a city, was more difficult to navigate than immigrations (especially since parts of it were under construction). My Spanish isn’t fluent, and I am three days without sleep. I will get myself to Pamplona…

Alas, Pamplona equals wonderful! It’s clean and charming, walkable and friendly. I remember more Spanish than I thought, people are cheerful. There’s a beautiful trail full of Camino markers leading out of the City.

Here’s the conundrum: I have less than a hundred euros with me, leftover cash from a trip some time ago. I’m down to less than 20 euros.

Before I left the US, I’d talked with my bank about obtaining money in the form of euros. “Get them in Spain” two of the tellers inform me. The exchange rate is more favorable if I’m in Spain, I’m told. All good, I think.

And…All three of my ATM cards are declined as is my credit card when I attempt to extract euros from two different ATM machines. The banks are closed.

No phone service, nothing is open… traveling alone and now out of cash.

My Big Hurdle becomes how to navigate the 800 number maze of getting through to the bank in the US when I do not have phone service and am relying on less than stellar wi-fi connections. Evidently, my credit card was shut down after the purchase of train tickets in Madrid. “Ohhh, our bad,” says the credit card rep when I finally figure out how to make calls to 800 numbers via wifi apps. “I do see that you have an out-of-country alert set after all.”

Sigh. It is a push-button world and someone failed to push the correct button even though I’d thought I’d confirmed the button push repeatedly.

Day 1: 15.5 miles from one far side of Pamplona to Puenta la Reina. It was 90 degrees, today included a steeper climb than anticipated.

Lessons along The Way:

*Life is not a race; it’s okay to stop and admire the sunflowers.

*If your feet are grumpy wearing boots, don’t. Get yourself a pair of Tevas to change into. Lightweight, easy to pack.

*Even the young guys get tired and have to rest.

*Brierley’s–the Guru of Travel Manuals–estimate of sufficient water and time to distances is also skewed by the number of loose rocks on The Way and the altitude at which one is currently domiciled in their homeland. The Brierley guide, however, is an invaluable resource.

Day 2: Puente la Reina to Estella. 15 miles. There was the obligatory climb first thing in the morning and the mileage did not include wandering around the city in search of food.

Today’s lessons:

*Life is like a backpack; there is always, always something more to offload, release or let go of so that one may travel lighter. Even when we think we’ve pared down to our ‘nothing’, the pack is still way to friggin heavy.–so make the investment in a great backpack (I LOVE my Osprey.)

*Everyone’s load, at the end of the day, is so much heavier than we can see…even if they appear to be carrying next to nothing.

*Half of our ‘normal pace’ may be exactly what the Universe is telling us to do…and that pace still gets us exactly where we are supposed to go, when we are supposed to get there. My pace slowed to approximately 2mph as opposed to my usual pace of right around 4mph.

*Every person has a message are there are no strangers n our path; it’s our work to see that.

*Giving ourselves permission to be kind to our complex set of selves (our Self) and honor what our feelings are trying to say–yet cannot–creates a space of wonder and magic with regards to what we may be capable of if we can allow our Self the feeling of safety.

*Things are easier if we allow for support. Trekking poles, aka “sticks” were the best, ‘do I want to carry the extra weight?’ investment I made. Do yourself a favor and get some sticks.

Day 3: Estella to Los Arcos, 15 miles. And, once again, the obligatory climb first thing in the morning. Metaphors abound on the Camino.

Lessons from The Way:

People circle onto our path again and again. What are the lessons we have for each other? Will we be present enough to see, hear, feel, experience those lessons when they arrive?

*How can we lighten our load and move forward in Life when we think we’ve already offloaded all the minutiae and nonessentials…yet we still feel so weighted down?

*How do we help balance the fears others are projecting as they are processing from a compassionate AND truly detached place?

*Are kilometers really less than miles? No, not on the hills.

And a question…Is 7:30AM too early for Vino Tinto from the Irache Wine Fountain when there are another six hours of ascending hills…?

Day 4: Los Arcos to Logrono. 16+ miles The first stretch of The Way was splendid in the morning. Basically a flat track, light breeze, about 61 degrees. Just as part of me started asking for attention (I’m hungry! Are we there yet? Can we go barefoot? Why aren’t we on vacation?) the rollercoaster aka Brierley’s reference to ‘several short but steep’ ascents and descents presented themselves. WTF? Steep is relative.

Metaphors abound on the Camino. Just when we think we’ve hit a long easy stretch in life, the Universe sends us up those (insert noun abuse here) hills. And hey, when life gives you those mountains, put on your boots and hike, right?

Of note: There’s always another five miles to go when the Divine says so. No intention of going all the way to Logrono as I’m due for a rest after the hurricane delays. Planned on doing ten miles Day 4, five-ish the next with a designated rest day in Logrono. And, yet, that five extra miles is what I ended up doing Day 4. Universe also dropped a travel buddy in my path literally five minutes after I got the message that my booking in Viana wasn’t booked at all. So, off I go. I park myself long enough to divest my feet of the boots and he magically appears.

I saw him, oddly enough, thirty plus miles earlier when my toes demanded liberty from my boots. He is wearing Chacos and plans to do so, he says, the entire Way. This is his second Camino, he’s from San Francisco, lives in Canada now. Is a practitioner of Holistic Healing. Thoroughly enjoyed my time with him. We talked of trusting the flow of things. Of having adult conversations with people we love who are unable to meet us there in a space of being present or able. Of his kids. Of how the prime minister of his country is adopting a Hitler-like stance regards the viral absurdity. Of Big Pharma. Of trusting Divine Order when we–parts of us– are rebelling and of foregoing booking sites sometimes with the inner knowing that there will be a definite reason for the extra five miles.

The choice to stay in Logrono was not part of my original plan and I didn’t have a reservation. However, beds were available in the first albergue we walked into anyway–in spite of them being full. We also talked of psychedelic medicines (poison toad serum?!), of traveling the world (he’s been to 45 countries; I’m not that far behind). Of wearing Tevas or Chacos instead of boots. And of the nice German guy, Martin, who was initially very much otherwise (note the fear projection note from earlier in this journal.) Martin calmed down as I spoke with him in at a true fork in the Way. He’s also the same German guy we ran into again and again over the miles enroute to Logrono…and who is also staying in the same albergue we are, two bunks over from me in the mixed dorm of 80+ beds. My understanding is that there are another 50 or so places to stay in Logrono. This is Martin’s fourth Camino; his first on the Camino Frances. He walked for nine months to heal a broken heart on his first Camino he tells me.

Day 5: I explore Logrono. I understand that a rest day means different mileage, not ‘no mileage’.

Day 6: Logrono to Navarrete. 10+ miles not including the mileage I willingly add in search of food. Elected to stay over in Navarrete rather than do the additional eight miles of this stage to Najera. Day 5 was supposed to be a rest day; I decidedly did not rest.

Musings from The Way today:

*My toes must be antennaes. Met my 18 year old travel buddy, Martina, when, once again, the toes demanded liberation about halfway to Navarrete. A side note: the boots fit great with plenty of toe room and have gobs of miles on them. So, not the boots.

Martina and I spoke of travel and college, of independence as women, of the unequivocal need for constant growth. Of required fortitude and heart-led spontaneity. Of perspectives and how influential a rigid, maligned and/or outdate/outgrown perspective can take its toll on one’s life. We spoke of her walking this walk because she feels so different from others and how she is walking to gain a better perspective–about herself and her place in the world at large. She shared her preference for girls over boys; of her parents and her grandparents, and we talked of always keeping a sense of childlike curiosity.

We talked at length about the absolute importance of joy and play.

She commented that I am the child she wants to be as a woman. I cried; that’s possibly one of the best compliments I have ever received. She cried when I commented on how really beautiful she is and how she just could not see that from her former perspective.

She practiced her English, I practiced my Spanish and we giggle for most of the four hours we walked together. She had to take a bus to go home as the The Great Almighty Universe handed her the additional five miles on this day. There were no additional buses running from Navarrete even though she had been certain of the schedules. She walked for two and half weeks; had to return on this day to make connections in time for her return to college as a sophomore.

And, being the inquisitive, joy-filled child that I am provided me with the opportunity to get an exclusive, behind the scenes tour with the owner of a 15th century castle turned restaurant.

Day 7: Navarrete to Najera. 11 miles (+ approximately 4 miles of lovely wanderings in this tiny town.  Found ahhmazing vegetarian comida yet again! This region has the best vegetables ever. And bread, lots and lots of simple, awesome bread. And no, I don’t generally eat bread at home.)

So, for me, today is what may be considered a shorter distance day as I felt I could have easily gone the extra six miles or thereabouts. I tend to wander off track  though (!big surprise there, right?!), enjoy taking in the landscape.

Is my pack lighter? Its said we carry our fears in our backpack. My internal clock has adjusted, which is helpful. Remembering to breathe and be in the moment is helpful. And learning how to watch for the Easter egg arrows (especially in the dark) has helped.

Wanted to break up the Brierley’s stages in order to explore these smaller towns, based, primarily, on the advice of veteran Camino-ers. For today, the boots stayed on for 7+ hours and I walked alone, listened to an audio book (Neurodharma by Rick Hanson) for the first time all week. I almost found Rick annoying. Audible is normally part of my daily commute in the US. 

A wonderful 3pm lunch found me a bit melancholy thinking of how I would have so enjoyed having a meal, laughing, cursing, and talking about food, the written word, creative cooking, and world travel with Anthony Bourdain.

Dammit. I wonder what he was so exquisitely angry about that he felt compelled to check out. I miss him.

I have not enjoyed savoring the expansion of time and gastric moments like this in years.

Why do we Americans feel so guilty as a culture when it comes to leisurely strolls, being in nature, midday wine or coffee,  truly savoring pinxtos (tapas/small plates/snacks) or languishing over three-course non-chemicalized, non-processed meals?

Peppers with pesto, cheese and a grape reduction…

The quote that showed up for me today:  “We are speeding up our lives and working harder in a futile attempt to slow down and enjoy it.”  -Paul Hawken

Day 8: Najera to Circuena: 11+ miles.

It has become apparent that I’m just not skilled at taking rest days– too much to see and do– and my designated down times turn into an adventure of exploration. Have covered more than 100 miles on foot (with my backpack, over hills, across towns, up endless flights of stairs) over the course of the past week, and have to honor the requirement of rest and recovery. Thought I’d compromise(?): shortened the mileage a bit between a couple of Brierley’s designated stopovers and today find myself in a town (village) with a whopping population of 100. It was stay here or go five more miles. After scaling the hill all day, this felt to be the appropriate choice.

Here I stay.  A little “mixed bed” albergue; there are only two other guys and me in an eight bed dorm with a shared bath. Communal dinner tonight (first thus far this trip; pre-virus the pilgrim dinners were an integral part of the Camino experience.) Hostess has vegetarian as an option!

Walked alone for all of about 15 minutes by choice; it was a personal processing day for me. No music, no Audible. Five straight hours going up the hill in moving meditation.

This showed up for me today…”My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations”–Michael J. Fox

Day 9: Circuena to Belorado. 18.5 miles. Began before dawn, a lovely day. One of the peregrinos noted that today was ‘Meseta like’. More on that momentarily– more on that when that stretch comes.

Along The Way today:

*First thing this morning, my Mom shows up. She left the planet, this month, in 2009. When I was about eight years old, my Mom was, once again, exceedingly frustrated with me. I was busy saving injured desert creatures and animals people had discarded in the desert. “You can’t save all the strays,” she’s insisting.

Me: “I can try and that will make a difference. We aren’t supposed to kill things. Not saving is killing.”

Aren’t we all strays?

*That 15 year old part part of me showed up pre-dawn and said f* it, let’s make it all the way Belorado so we have some extra time in Burgos, which is a bigger city.  Exceeded my best to date mileage AND stopped for breakfast (which I had not yet done) today. The caveat: do it without reserving a bed ahead of time. Given the viral absurdity, a number of the albergues are closed and/or at 50% capacity. 

What a great place I landed in.

*Walked alone all day, though tagged with the same six people over the course of the miles. So odd. The woman from Denmark I tagged with on the first day, and on and off today, sat with me outside the albergue as I was sitting down to journal. She said she walked with Martina the day before I did.  Of all the people on the Way at this time…

Day 10: Belorado to Atapuerca: 17 miles

Day 11: Atapuerca to Burgos. 13 miles and God knows how many more on the hunt for the pension that was supposedly easy to find. ‘Easy to find.” Ha. In a taxi, perhaps, or with working Google maps and a good sense of which way is up. Or north. Instead it was a veritable Easter egg hunt through curving streets that radiate around a convoluted plaza in Burgos of some historic origin.

Ah well. The fearless 15 year old part of me was demanding to be fed (big lunch is the thing for me these days) and get the damn boots off so I finally asked a Spanish woman where the address of ‘the bed place’ was… the nice woman actually walked me to the very (ahem, obscure) street! We spoke in Spanglish (it’s working quite well with my incessant gesticulations– charades!) She explained that she walked the Camino 10 years ago. Life changing she said. I finally obtained a map. It does little good…

Burgos is huge, bustling, chaotic and busy; a true jolt after time on The Way. Majeed wrote that he “loves Burgos.” I thus am finding I do not. He’s an extrovert, I am not. He’s about a day and a half ahead of me, we’re communicating via WhatsApp and I find I am ‘holding space for him’ from the perspective of a ‘cherished and respected’ older sister as he works through the samskaras of aligning his current reality with that of a woman he is madly in love with– while navigating fallout from an ex wife, caring for beloved young children and balancing his entrepreneurial life.

He’s holding space for me in other obscure ways.

It’s said that our third love is the one that is our true, forever love. Our first is the teenage love. Hormones and blinding segues borne of a very limited set of tools and awarenesses in our search to find the unconditional love we inherently didn’t receive as children. The second is the hard, hard love wherein we learn how to adult and partner and seek to embody and make sense of those parts of us that are not yet healed. Our heart gets broken and more likely, shattered, and we grow or we become complacent, bitter, and perhaps lose ourselves in the process. The third is The One. Our forever, adult, partner.

Majeed believes this She is his One.

Ilona from the Netherlands, my roomie and intermittent trail buddy from a few days prior was 2 days ahead. We ended up staying in the same albergue in Atapuerca. Her knees are rebelling in a very big way which has slowed her pace. She has had to truncate her distances. She’s not so happy now. She’s in a rush and sending her things ahead, which she said she would not do, is frantically booking stays a week in advance. She’s a little bit hassled! She had chastised me earlier on The Way for admiring trees and rocks, taking odd pictures (way markers) and smelling flowers. I flinched at the time, acknowledged the trigger and said f* it and kept on doing me. She also ‘counseled’ me on being a tourist rather that a Pilgrim.  Hmmph. No triggers there.

Martin, the once grumpy German engineer from a few days ago (enroute to and in Logrono) was leap frogging me today for the past 10 miles. He would stop to rest (his pack must weigh 35+lbs, he’s got a huge pharmacy in his bath bag alone) or eat, I would pass him. Same, same. He’s on his own Camino, he walks alone as do I. I scare the crap out of him; got a genuine smile of astonishment from him as he recognized me, though. We tagged about the first time about 2.5 hours out of Atapuerca.

And food! Seems I have expert radar for finding veggie food in a country that places emphasis on pulpa (octopus) and meat. This particular tourist is splurging at lunch!! And why the f* not?

And yes, still sad/mad about Anthony Bourdain.

Rain is forecasted for the next two days.

Took a majority vote of my ‘parts’…I’m going across the Meseta and on to Hornillos anyway. 

Day 12: Burgos to Hornillos. 14+ miles

The cacophony from the chimps in my head subsided after I spied another peregrino making his way out of the City this morning. He was a quarter mile ahead, going at a pace I was comfortable keeping up with, walked with the attitude of someone who knew exactly where he was going and best of all, carried a bright blue umbrella so was easily visible in the rain. Hooray!

As vigilant as I was, I still missed an important turn coming into Burgos. Desecrated way markers (graffiti is worldwide) and found myself mapless given the construction. Admittedly, had some free floating anxiety about getting out after spending nearly an hour on the far side (read: industrial part) of the City yesterday going in expanded circles on streets that change names in various subsections.

Noted: Most drivers fail to stop and its common practice to use horns instead of brakes. Check. The rain, the dark, slippery surfaces+flashbacks of washed out, boulder-strewn trails in torrential rains in Nepal at night. Check. No offline Google maps nor international phone service. Ah yes. Check.

The Camino provides. A gentle to moderate rain for a few hours and I came prepared. No washed out trails, no missed way markers after Mr. Umbrella led me past the City limits. Breakfast in Tardos three hours in (alas! I caught up to Mr. Umbrella!), and arrived in Hornillos an hour earlier than I anticipated.

So yes, it rained and I let it r.a.i.n– and it was such a beautiful, peaceful, perfect morning for walking once out of Burgos. Think the chimps finally settled down to a dull roar with the multi-hour cadence of boots on path today.


Day 13: Hornillos to Castrojeriz. 14 miles. How odd ..”only” 14 miles…including the climb at the end of this stage.

Perspectives. 14 miles, in a foreign country, by one’s self, spending the first hour on the path in the dark can be, justifiably, considered terrifying and waaay outside of the comfort zone for some.

Alas, where do we place our attention?

Even though she stayed at another place last night, Ilona joined us for communal dinner at my albergue. I so enjoyed observing the banter and the opinions in multiple languages regards our collective pilgrimage. She is softening, smiling more, breathing deeper, and seeing the flowers. She’s my dorm mate here tonight in Castrojeriz.

I’m brushing my teeth last night and one of my roommates joins me in the boy/girl dorm shower bathroom. She’s from Cordova here in Spain she tells me. She’s walking with a Spanish man that she is no longer partners with after ten years of being a couple. They are walking with now, together, to preserve their friendship. She shares some tips on navigating the final stages enroute to Santiago given the albergue closures of the viral absurdity and getting a place in line for my Compestela at the Cathedral. She advises I stay in Lavacola. Its close to Santiago, I’ll want to go further she says. She tells me she feels compelled to tell me to stay there.

She’s done the Camino before. Life changing, she says. Ah yes.

Alignments in frequency: both her children were born in Sarasota (yes, our Florida Sarasota) and she lived there for eight years…

Indeed, We Are All One.

Today…the Meseta. Purportedly feared by some and revered by others. I am quite decidedly in the latter category.

The monotony manifests monsters for some people. For me, the constant cadence of my boots and the squoosh-squoosh of my backpack seems to lull my chimps to sleep. The cacophony in my head quiets, deeply hidden memories– which some may deem horrific and/or transcendent– show up and fade away.

Detached, observant, at peace and basking in forgiveness.

I missed the rain completely today on The Way. Cloud cover, cool temps, found my albergue, another great vegan lunch in a meat-centered country… Blessings abound.

Day 14: Castrojeriz to Fromista. 19 miles+  whatever I did as a preemptive mapping for the following day’s pre-dawn departure.

Eight hours on foot enroute and walked alone all day. Admittedly quite tired. The steep incline was, thankfully, just outside of Castrojeriz and I began an hour+ before dawn. A good time to be scaling as distances, challenges, and obstacles can be distorted without fear in a dreamlike way if one let’s it r.a.i.n.

The downhill portion: 18% grade for nearly 1/2 mile. Thankfully, I did remember to lace my heels back into the boots beforehand. Flatlanders do tend to forget.

Day 15: Fromista to Carrion de Los Condes 15+ miles. Landed in a municipal albergue, the Espiritu Santo, adjacent to a monastery. Didn’t have ‘a reserve’, and yet,  the Camino provided. Mixed dorms are an interesting part of the Camino life. Europeans are so much less inhibited about their bodies. Spaniards want to sleep in and stay up late. The mixed shower thing, well…

Today I walked with Liz Beth, a nurse, from Holland. She stopped me from taking the wrong exit just before dawn (see the confusing picture of parallel paths…yes, in the dark) and we walked the remainder of the 14 miles to Carrion de Los Condes together. She and her husband are camping in their camper van across the Iberian peninsula. Her husband drives said ‘hostel’ and meets her at each next stop– a guaranteed bed and warm shower she told me. He says “You Go Girl!” In English to her each morning after walking the first.5 km of The Way with her. He has rheumatoid arthritis, is doing his own Camino alongside Liz Beth. He is her One, the partner, the adult real love she found later in life. He slowed, cheered and waved as he passed us 2.5 hours after we began together this morning. “First time he has seen me on the Way and it’s been two weeks!” She declared. We talked of compassion and healing, of her kids and old-soul grandkids, of Oneness, of going too fast and too hard at the expense of our own Self, of the body rebelling when we fail to listen, of sunflowers and the incredible Meseta, of losing ourselves in a first– and sometimes–second marriage, and of being raised as girl-children in a generation where men believed women to be inferior.

And of the absolute importance of stopping for a coffee 3-4 hours into our walk each day.

Day 16: Carrion de Los Condes to Ledigos.

16 miles today; it seems my feet know exactly when we are at 14 miles. Yup.

It was hot and windless, 85 degrees + little to no shade.  Brierley’s guide  notes that the land is ‘somewhat featureless’ and warns of zero food/facilities/fuentes (water fill up fountains) for –if we’re lucky(?) –17km (10.5 miles.)

(A side note: Spain seems to open late, close completely at midday, and reopen for dinner at 8pm. Kids play outside at midnight! Even if there might be a little Cafe, they may be closed.)

So, surprise! Here’s this lovely mobile food guy at the 10km mark with coffee and chocolate filled yumminess.

Landed in the tiny-tiny town of Ledigos at a great albergue, an oasis, truly. Cubicle bunks (like we’re sleeping in cabinets with a pull down shade at one end. It’s an awesome fort for the night), outlets for the phones in our cubbies, wonderful separate boy/girl bathrooms. And a nice restaurant adjacent! One of the peregrinos I tag with, an amazing young Israeli, Yarin, said he had to double check what he paid– this is a better place than many of the high priced hostels in a village with a population of essentially nothing. And  look at the salad they made for me!

Walked out of the City in the dark this morning with Nicole from Poland via Germany. She’s 27, type A, finishing her Masters degree. We spoke of depression and the 20+kilos (yes, that’s well over 40lbs) she packed on with the depression, of the pervasiveness of illogical fears– the viral absurdity included– and her struggles with being in the moment, of her thoughts of suicide and how being in therapy has saved her life, of her supportive boyfriend, and of her school work.

Day 17: Ledigos to Sahagun.

11 miles. Still on the Meseta and here in Sahagun.  An odd day of endings as three of the people I have tagged with and adopted as Camino Family are leaving. We form incredible bonds that I can only describe as ‘Divine rememberances’ Yarin, the sweet young Israeli… his grandfather died today. Ilona; her father has taken very ill. Linda is going with Ilona as she says her trip completed today.

Sahagun is the halfway point on the Camino Frances…some parallels there, no doubt.

Felt like I needed a bit of introvert space and manifested a fabulous private room with my own bath.  Next up, found a veggie lunch (the food!) Perfectly content to be alone, tucked into a corner patio, and quietly savor a most awesome lasagne-esque dish. Alas, the Divine intervened as hours of time spent with a cast of resolving peregrinos at my lunch table.

Today was a shorter ‘resting’ day of 10 miles vs 20 for me so why was I surprised at who landed at my table today?  Most said there were going past Sahagun, others have disappeared for daya… yet landed here. Like Linda from Norway.  She was my roomie twice within the past two weeks, has been on Camino 11 times. Lori Ann from PA, who magically appeared and walked me to the grocery store in Burgos when the reception desk had no idea where the closest one was. Yarin. Ilona. Linda from Germany who is leaving with Ilona. David the Camino Nerd from Ireland who is on Camino #12, albeit “only” 6 fully completed Caminos (he says the Camino is an addiction.) There were so many others.

And Yarin…while it may be completely inappropriate for us girls to hug him in Israel, he got huge hugs today here in Spain as he left to board the train.

Day 18: Sahagun to El Burgo Ranero

12 miles. A rest-ish day as the track was essentially flat and the temperature has dropped a tiny bit. While we hadn’t planned to meet up today, Liz Beth showed up 90 minutes into my walk. We walked the next four hours of The Way into El Burgo Ranero together.

We talked at length about healthcare (she’s a retired nurse who goes back as a University teacher) of messy, protracted, divorces; of loving those who are incapable of growing up, making adult changes or embracing the reciprocity that a partnership requires; and of finding the courage to maintain our equilibrium in the midst of the magnificent storm that ensues when we do finally leave.

It took her five years to leave her first husband after he moved his girlfriend in with them and their two small children.

We get to leave when our lesson is complete, do we not?

Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Puente Villarente.

15 miles. A long string of interrupted naps last night and so grateful I was able to obtain a solo room in Puente Villarente. An odd stop per Brierley’s guide as it doesn’t match his stages. However… I require a bit of real rest and introverted-ness time. My tonight-space is stunning, the staff is stellar, dinner is promised as vegan. $30!

And it’s raining such a lovely rain in town.

Walked alone for 8.5 hours today and it was delicious. Found myself deep in ‘steamer trunk’ processing conversations with my paternal grandmother who crossed the Oklahoma territories as a small child, uprooted from her Cherokee homelands. I honestly, at this moment, do not recall what year she left this planet. She was 103 when she transitioned, angry that we could no longer ride horses together. Nonetheless, she walked with me today. We spoke of our love of horses and how we are the beloved women-descendants of the clan of Chief White Horse, her grandfather. Of the Earth and our intricate, sublime, intrinsic relationship with our Earth Mama. Of science and the heartbreaking disconnectedness of humanity from Mother Earth. She (Mama Earth) is frustrated with the current state of how f*cked up things are and is doing all she can to get our collective attention.

Funny, Gram left abruptly as was always her way and I felt compelled to listen to Braiding Sweetgrass (yes, book bouncing). Out of the literally hundreds of titles on my Kindle that particular title appeared. I don’t even recall when it was added.

Alas, there are no coincidences. Appropriately, for this particular headspace that I’m in, I will be headed into the big city of Leon tomorrow.

Leon is a marker for many Pilgrims and I’ve heard so many stories from Camino-returnees. Brierley’s suggests taking a bus to avoid various challenges of desecrated way markers, industrial areas, aberrant traffic and so forth. Graffiti is a thing for me, as is the pasting of signage over our monuments or redoing the yellow arrows to point a walker in a completely incorrect direction. Yes, a trigger, a challenge. I still do not understand the reasoning behind the desecrations or the actions that intentionally cause harm, either.

I’m choosing to go into Leon; in and through the Darkness. 

It’s all part of the Journey, right? I crossed a suspension bridge 500 feet above and across a raging river in the rain at night in the Himalayas, utterly and completely by myself.

I can navigate Leon in the daylight.

And so can you.

Lessons and rememberings from The Way today:

*We can manifest so many things that others believe are impossible (Impossible is just an Opinion) if we just let it r.a.i.n. Ex: A huge three course vegan lunch with bread and dessert and endless wine if one so chooses (for $10!) in a teensy-tiny town in a country that shuts down (per the government) midday and is meat-centric. A perfect solo room when things are booked solid and our trail buddies insist otherwise. A Cafe con Leche when the whole damn village is shut and one has been walking for 3.5 hours straight–with a backpack. Healing in the midst of utter chaos. Angels when no one is present. I handed an electrolyte drink someone else had given me to a dehydrated and decidedly not-so-well peregrino yesterday. “Where [the hell?] did you come from?” he said in perfect English. There was no one else present for miles.

*Symbiosis is non-negotiable regards our relationship with Pachamama and each other.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
-Anais Nin

Day 20: Puente Villarente to Leon. Well over 12 miles.  I am officially more than halfway through my Spanish Journey…planning to arrive in Santiago on September 25.

Leon is a BIG, spread out city, a bit of a shock (understatement) after being on The Way. Only doing eight miles to get to the city limits seemed odd. The caveat: City limit. If you zoom in you’ll see what I mean about ‘spread out.’

So…about not having phone service nor a GPS app to find my hidden hostel …

Thought I’d rely on Higher help and an inner compass rather than the gibberish that Google maps had provided via spotty “weefee” (and foreign addresses) yesterday evening (ahem, Google indicates a mere 41 turns here in the City? Seriously.)

Nice police officer at the entrance to the City gave me the pink map and said ‘Go salida past Cathedral’ (salida meaning exit of the Camino path through City.) Hmm. Ok. Big landmark is good, albeit 2+miles from the entrance. My current challenge: Many of the streets don’t even have street names on them.

Figured worst case I’d find a taxi?

So, sat near Cathedral, had my Cafe con Leche, asked my Inner Compass and trusted.

Trudged seven blocks away in the other direction, took a right turn– there was a desserts shop! Had to look. Stood for a moment, drooled over the pastries and gelatos in the shop window, looked up, and there was the sign for my place (!!)

I still hadn’t seen a street name sign for this street.

Day 21: Leon to Hospital de Orbigo.
20+ miles. A personal best thus far. Whew and WTF.

Mileage necessitated by this being a Holy Year = more peregrinos. Shortages coupled with the viral absurdity…which has been reducing the number of available beds by half, if indeed, the establishment has remained open. 

No shuttles or taxis, either, here in the Great Wide Open.

An amazing and synchronist day, one filled with deja vu and WTF moments. Which, for me, means we are exactly where we are supposed to be…The albergue owner from Venezuela who talked of times in the Amazon, shamans and blessings and art from our hearts. He and his wife are also peregrinos, Pilgrims. I landed here unexpectedly. They bought this albergue just before the absurdity. Pictures of Pilgrims’ art from his beautiful establishment adorn the walls. It’s a really special and magical place.

The guy I walked with for four hours today…Scott from the UK… who told me of a young Polish woman whom he walked with two days ago after walking with her over a week ago. “She spent five hours walking with a woman she thinks is a doctor from the US a few days ago.. she had so much pain and fear…you know?  That woman helped her drop her “backpack full of fears” on The Way.  She’s so different now, Laura, you’d be amazed.”

And I am honored and humbled.

As I always have said, since my days working forestry as a teen, we do carry our fears in our backpacks, literally and figuratively. The packs are too damn heavy at the end of the day.

We do make ripples even when we don’t know and even if we are intentionally withholding the facts of what we do in our outside world.

Who we are is always present in the moment.

He was speaking of my Nicole.

So, I remain in the deepest of gratitude and in profound awe.

How I began at the same spot at the same time this morning in Leon with Liz Beth whom I haven’t seen in two days is mind blowing. Leon is friggin huge!! “I just knew we were supposed to have Cafe together today and I was so worried I’d never see you again!” she said

Her hubby drove the hostel on wheels to the exact place where I happened to emerge, post- industrial area, just outside of Leon before dawn this morning.

A stunning display of Universal directives.

She stopped for the night 10 miles ago today. I kept walking.

We collected Scott along The Way about 2.5 hours in; he said our laughter was contagious.  A second timer Camino Pilgrim, he walked the past 10 miles with me today.  The oldest 27 year old I have met in decades.

Not sure where he’s off to as he’s tent camping tonight.  He says he needs a blanket of stars, solitude. 

Alas, I must admit to being quite tired. An unwell family member has burrowed through a teensy-tiny little gap in my sanctuary of solace and has been feeding my chimps the equivalent of Red Bull and refined sugar.  Do I possibly need a day of rest? Definitely time for a shower (not my turn yet. Showers are a resource much like paper and midday lunches here.)  And I, evidently, still haven’t figured out that food equals fuel, either. Just not used to eating so damn much (!) 

Much love and starry blankets of wonder to you all. I’m immensely grateful you are sharing this Journey. 

Day 22: Hospital de Obrigo to Astorga. 12 + whatever miles I just put in exploring/overcoming Astorga for the past 3.5 hours or so in working through my City angst. 

Ah, the chaos, noise, bustle and busyness of a City that allows cars on pedestrian plazas!  After being alone for the better part of the day in the quietude and solitude of the scrublands and farmlands that are giving way to forests, arriving here was somewhat jarring.

Stefania from Spain and Turkey via Romania– someone who keeps magically appearing every 2-3 days–walked into Astorga with me and disappeared as quickly as she showed up earlier today. This is her fourth Camino; she speaks eight languages. Camino David, a rather legendary Way Icon, took this picture. He’s got a little stand of sorts about 6km outside of Astorga. He’s a Pilgrim legend in some circles, and, as I just got around to noticing, mentioned in the Brierley’s guide.

City observations: The masks that local folks are wearing everywhere here in the City seem to cause substantial hearing loss, visual impairment and acute regression with regard to common courtesy and grown-up manners. Other maskless alien-peregrinos and I watch as masked people bump grumpily into each other, cut each other off and step in front of oncoming vehicles. We agree to remain maskless unless required to don within the confines of an interior space. We gleefully find that cars and people avoid us.

Restaurants here are somewhat open midday unlike other smaller towns. A good thing. Watching as employees handle money and then food and then money again without washing their hands, though…and establishments leaving perishable foods sitting out, uncovered and unrefrigerated (and deeming said items perfectly edible) yet demanding (quite determinedly) the masks… a challenge for me to comprehend.

Oh, and the corralling of incoming patrons to the grime covered bottle of hand sanitizer…?

The incongruencies are baffling.

Certainly it’s my perspective…so, evidently chocolate must be in order. Astorga is famous for such things as having a huge Cathedral (built in 1471), a wall around the City, and a regional dish concocted from seven types of meat with compensatory bits of chickpeas and cabbage thrown in.  The bigger deal: a chocolate museum! Chocolate was a thing here during the 18th and 19th centuries.

And yes, finding I’m still a bit pissy at Bourdain.

Tomorrow we head for the mountains. The highest point, Puerto Irago, where the Cruz de Ferro is located, is the day after tomorrow.

Day 23: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino. 15 miles and more than a 1000 feet of elevation gain today.

Tiny village yet landed in a nice hostel that, incredulously, has an amazing Vegan menu, big, fluffy towels, a memory foam mattress and real sheets, and hot-hot water! As an aside, we use our own sleeping sacks (a sleeping bag liner thing) or bags at the albergues who may or may not supply blankets.  We also supply our own handy-dandy quick dry chamois-esque towels.

Rabanal del Camino is said to continue a centuries old tradition of caring for Pilgrims before we take the steep path up and over Monte Irago (Puerto Irago, where the iron cross is, is 4,934 feet above sea level.) The place has an air of reverence and is, for me, the antithesis of yesterday’s vibe. It’s calm, welcoming; a bit like a big, warm hug. Two Pilgrims I hadn’t seen or met before today just addressed me by name (!!) as I wandered back from taking some pictures. I can hear the staff here at this lovely, comfortable hostal singing Happy Birthday in English downstairs.

The Church: the Knights Templar are thought to have had a presence here as early as the 12th century, ensuring the safe passage of Pilgrims over this remote mountain terrain, too– the small parish Church was reputedly built by them.

Processing day today, over seven hours alone, enroute. Mileage like this on an intermittent basis is one thing; day after day with a backpack on uneven terrain at elevation is another (…and about boy-girl dorm life and the not- so- great sleep. Tonight, my very own room!) Yet, the Camino provides and I remain in a state of immense wonder and gratitude.

Day 24: Rabanal del Camino to Acebo.10 miles, to and through the highest point on the Camino Frances today.

As an aside: O’Cebriero is steeper, albeit at 1300 meters (4265 feet)– that’s on the agenda in a couple of days.

High points are relative, no doubt. As is mileage.

Less mileage overshadowed by uphill first thing in the morning. The caveat: the turtle pace of slow-go downhill on gravel and rocks.

Funny how folks think that getting past the summit of something means life will coast. Ha! Down can be challenging. Today, well… the wind, the rocks, roots, the super-stealth and super thorny wild raspberry bushes and the shardy shale were all demanding respect. Shale is slippery enough without the addition of moisture. Just add rain…which Mama Earth did. Rain is still happening.

My goofy-soled, zero drop boots have truly earned their keep today as have my sticks (aka trekking poles.) My pack was lighter after Cruz de Ferro, though, figuratively speaking.

Ah, the Camino and its metaphors.

The contrasts and parallels…stopped for lunch since my albergue is on Spanish sleep-in time and its not yet the ‘open at 3pm-ish hour’. Acebo is the highest town in this region and has two streets. I’m at the main restaurant(?) There’s the snarky server in the main restaurant in Acebo who, quite obviously (and flamboyantly) prefers serving single men. The famished, rain soaked and exhausted peregrinos are shuffling in. The tinny, screeching rock music is blaring from a small radio– pathetic in the 80s, more so in Spanish and 40 years later. The bemused local dude is going from outside bench to inside bar to bano (toilet). The liter of vino tinto said server just placed on my table as I’m having the Menu del Dia (a la vegano) which, here in many places in Spain, is included. The annoying Italian guy that has been tagging with me today eyeing said vino and the open chair across the table from me. Nope.

Cruz de Ferro…In addition to my own contributions to the pile at the base of the cross left by thousands throughout the centuries, I left a small heart from the office there for my beloved patients– the symbolic release of a burden of a least a small part of the heaviness that each of us carries.

Day 25: Acebo to Camponaraya

15 miles. Whew. The first two+ hours were an absolute bitch.  A 100%, WTF set of conditions and continued moments…wet, steep, slippery, full of rocks and not fun.

Even the peregrinos from mountain countries had words.

That noted, the rest of the six+ hours on The Way today, albeit quite hilly, slow, and definitely challenging in spots, was lovely and doable at the turtle pace I’ve adopted.

As one of my teachers says, “We can do anything two minutes at a time.” Most of us process in two minute increments.

Beat the promised thunderstorms –thank God– they are here now; big, wet and monstrously loud. Found my hidden hostel with the help of a French guy that appeared out of nowhere as I was on the Easter egg hunt for yellow arrows coming into Camponaraya. “Today I am your Camino angel,” he says. He’s on his 25th Camino. “I am looking for an American millionaire wife. Are you millionaire and get rid of husband?” Oh lawd! Cannot even contain myself with that comment! 

Day 26: Camponaraya to Trabadelo. 15 miles. Took the alternate route through the hills outside of Camponaraya this morning. Longer by several kilometers; serene, peaceful, and idyllic in the vineyards and farmlands above the clouds. Staying at a three bedroom hostel in Trabadelo tonight (population has to be <50) owned and operated by a woman, Ellie, originally from the Netherlands. Awesome, all the way around– including vegetarian food that she has made herself. She even made me a Mexican birthday lunch, complete with a loose interpretation of a “margarita”. Delightful!

Day 27: Trabadelo to Hospital de la Condesa.15 miles up, through and over the steepest place on the Camino Frances: O’Cebriero.

As a lovely French couple I keep tagging with noted, we have had more difficult days. A matter of opinion. They live in the mountains of Frances, I’m a bona-fide flatlander. Had thought of sending my backpack ahead via transport (as I had been advised to do on numerous occasions) and did not; had hoped to take a horse up the  two-plus hour incline and evidently missed the saddle up as the ponies were headed back down right as I approached the summit. A small snag with the place I pre-booked (gut said no stay) sent me on the hunt for a bed which landed me another 2.5 hours past O’Cebriero. Another eight+ tough hours on the track.

All told/tolled, a rite of passage for me today in numerous ways: I’m well, found a great vegetarian lunch, found a place to sleep and had a nice, hot, very long shower. A quintessential Portuguese “Fabio” is here for entertainment (ah, the menu).

Things are good.

Suffice to note, I am awfully dang proud of my current fitness level.

One more segue. That’s the second floor window at street level… something I would have done as a kid. 

Zoom in on this one…we have a Greeter!

Day 28: Hospital de la Condesa to Triacastela. 12 miles and four weeks on The Way today.

Galicia is gorgeous: mountains, valleys, greenery, moisture, a different dialect and a decidedly different vibe. 

That’s a picture of the ceiling at my albergue. The wood creaked and groaned with expansion and contractions all night– it was under 50 degrees here. Hugo, the darling Portuguese Fabio, completed the chorus with snoring that resonated to the level below the sleeping plato (floor) where the restrooms were located (!!) We’ve tagged for a couple of days. He’s funny, verbose, friendly and handsome; this is his fourth Camino. A drifter in most every definition of the word.

Such is boy-girl dorm life. I’m looking forward to my own room tonight.

After the obligatory steep ascent first thing out of Hospital this morning, the track was glorious. While rolling, it was essentially earthen, flat, well-marked and serene– unlike yesterday. Tree and earth tunnels today as well. Places every two hours for Cafe con Leche, too. A big plus. Tomorrow is the leg to Sarria  which means a big influx of tourists and those who are coming to walk the last 100km to Santiago.

Ah yes, and now, here is the Galician rain…beat it by a couple of hours today.

Day 29: Triacastela to Sarria.

In a personal quiet space, so will just share moments from the track today…

12+ miles today. Steep, rolling, gorgeous, challenging.

In Sarria…Camino time distortions are very present…not sure of the day, the date, why I even might want to be around people or the City or phone the USA today…

The highlight for me along The Way was stumbling upon Terra de Luz. A wonderful young couple have created a lovely oasis in the midst of kilometers of nothingness to offer us peregrinos a place to stop for coffee, fruit and rest.  They’ve created a labyrinth, too. Magical.

Day 30: Sarria to Mercadoiro. Just over 13 miles. Foggy, a bit of uphill in the beginning. Beautiful, hilly and green. So VERY happy to leave Sarria! Sarria, for me, was like an itchy wool sweater in the midst of summer in Florida.

Stefania, my trail buddy from Romania via Turkey whom I haven’t seen in a few days, magically reappeared today and we zoomed along for a couple of hours together on the flatter parts of the track.

Thus, I arrived in Mercadoiro two hours earlier than I anticipated (!). Being here early is like a quasi-rest day.

In a dorm–so far, so good: Adult girls only in said dorm room; clean sheets and a big blanket, a hot shower. Wifi in the common areas. Great staff, good food.

Stefania calls the masses that are joining us now “Tourigrinos”. Gobs of newbies, brand new by the tour bus loads at Sarria, here to do the ‘bare minimum’ of 111kms (200km on bike or horse) on The Way to obtain a Compestela at Santiago. I now understand why many veteran peregrinos stop at Sarria and why Brierley’s guide cautions to maintain equanimity. Its a very different experience: packs of fast movers, endless chatter, brand new backpacks and super clean shoes, little to no common sense with regard to pilgrim etiquette. Posers getting their pictures taken and taking pictures of each other. The lack of commonsense: For example: stayed in a less than desirable hostel in Sarria with a shared bath…which ended up meaning one toilet in a room with the only sink and a shower as a shared bathroom for those of us that occupied six sleeping rooms. Most of the rooms had multiple occupants (at least four in the room– with loud young Italians– adjacent to mine.)

And a Tourigrina is showering (a looonng shower) this morning before hiking!! I rattle the door, mention that there is no other bathroom, and she mutters. She emerges almost an hour later, fully clothed with a face full of makeup as well.

A true observation vs judgement moment for me on this particular morning.

This tiny hamlet, Mercadoiro, purportedly, has an official population of one and this albergue and its small restaurant represent what appears to be the entire town.

Stefania noted that Tourigrinos act like they are on Big Holiday (‘drunk’ too much) until they are about three days in, have hurt their feet, and finally realize they must walk to Santiago to earn their Compostela.

It definitely looked and sounded like a very successful party here on the patio when I arrived midday.

Sellos on the Credencial

Day 31: Mercadoiro to Gonzar
Approx 8 miles. Yup, hills. Counting today as a ‘Rest Day’!

A couple of heavier and hilly (8-10 hour walking) days ahead, so elected to back the mileage up a bit today rather than do 20+ miles on not-so- much sleep (ah, dorm life!) It was either/or regards the mileage today given the influx of Tourigrinos and the viral bed reduction. I really feel for the albergue and hostal owners who have been forced to cut the reservations in half…and for the folks who find themselves trudging further to find a bed. 

Staying in the odd little village/hamlet of Gonzar tonight. Enforcement of resting per the Universe, it seems. Absolutamente nada but fields and track and this hostal for another couple of miles. A nap is in order!

The Ways across Spain–the Camino de Santiago

Day 32: Gonzar to Palas de Rei.

13 miles + a couple hundred feet of elevation gain.

There are little villages all along The Way today and it seems I have finally, after a month of being out here, given myself full permission to stop for coffee (or to rest with my boots off for a few minutes) more than once a day.

An odd energetic knot. I’m pulling continuous, weighted mileage–especially for a flatlander. It’s not a time thing as there is plenty. It stays light here until after 8pm.

Seems that this particular snag goes all the way back to being constantly rushed as the eldest and a parentified child. My folks had more kids than hands; both were addicted in various ways.

Where was the space and peace and quiet? Constant chaos and noise leave no space.

Intentionally wandering off into the desert or, later, the vast alfalfa fields, for alone time as a child would mean strict disciplinary repercussions yet that is where Earth art and magic were present–and my connections with the Higher resided–so off I went, walking for hours.

How many of us forget how necessary that connectedness truly is? The space. The peace. The quiet.  The walking until we connect with our personal ‘Higher’ and until, indeed, Solvitur Ambulando (Latin–‘It is solved by walking’.)

Maybe The Way will now be ‘The Big Wander’ for me.

Kids need space and time and peace to grow and flourish. We all do, always.

Day 33: Palas de Rei to Ribadiso de Abraxio

20+ miles. Detours on the track, thanks to roadwork…an extra couple kilometers here and there in several places…it adds up quickly!

A big, full day of remembering to breathe and stay in my moment: Loud, obnoxious, languishing groups of Italians hogging the track and ignoring those if us who wish to pass. Squealing teenagers in the full regalia of brand new matching tights and trail runners (girls and boys) pushing past everyone to get their sellos. Guys flying by on mountain bikes on the track when they are supposed to be on the road, people yelling and whistling in the early morning hours when I would so prefer to hear the birds.

Ah yes, equanimity…

Today is my last big mileage day unless I walk from Finesterre to Muxia after Santiago (20+ miles+ hills).

Not sure whether or not I am going to that do yet. With the three day flight setback in the beginning (God bless those hurricanes) it was either up my daily mileage during my pilgrimage or be ok with taking the bus to Finesterre.

I would like to be a tour- taking tourist and manifest a couple of vacation days before I return to the States. The bus is looking just fine.

Either way, my feet are going into the ocean at Finesterre.

Steep uphill + three “shallow” (hahaha, relative!) river valley crossings per Brierley’s about an hour out tomorrow. After the descent into Molinaseca, and the climb at O Cebreiro, there is zero concern.

Alas, I suspect it’s further, kilometers-wise for tomorrow… seems I have oftentimes stayed on the fringes of places as isn’t as reliable as one might hope. Case in point: Palas de Rei. A full two hours of walking before I got to the other side of town yesterday!

To quote the beautiful young woman at the Tourist Info center recently: “We have many places here in Galicia with the same name. Towns named the same can be 15 kms apart.”  (And that’s why we have taxis …)

Day 34: Ribadiso to O Pino.

14 miles. And yes, it was further to Arzua  than noted in Brierley’s. All good, though. Took me almost seven hours today. Kept wondering if the “steep” incline was yet to come and lo and behold, here I am just shy of Pedrouzo. Not O Cebreiro by any means.

About 15 miles left to walk to get to Santiago.  I have chosen to break this mileage up and stop for the night in Lavacolla tomorrow.  Doing so was one of those recommendations that was right in my face (from the woman, multi-Camino Hillary, who lived in SRQ for eight years) with the intentions of 1) getting into Santiago early enough to not have to wait three hours at the Pilgrim’s office; 2) arriving in enough time to attend the Pilgrim’s mass at noon; and 3) having time to explore Santiago.

So, landed at an obscure off track location for tonight in O Pino. Back at it in the morning from Pedrouzo– which, I’m told, is also O Pino.  Feet, feat. Hare, hair. Ate, eight. You get the idea, ¿si? See?

Hard to believe I’ll be back in the US a week from today.  Camino Amnesia is a real thing.

Day 35: O Pino/Pedrouza to Lavacolla

8-ish miles. The miles seemed very short, comparatively. I guess when one is used to going uphill repeatedly, especially first thing in the morning, and losing track of time in the Camino Amnesia of walking in the pre-dawn hours, getting to Lavacolla two hours earlier than expected shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. I walk fast at home, on the flat. Have adopted a lovely turtle-pace here and I’m damn proud of my current fitness level (frigging earned it!) Do know that I could have easily walked the remaining six miles to Santiago today and am consciously choosing not to.

Alas, have heeded the advice of Veteran Camino-ers and am staying here in Lavacolla.

When several people say the same damn thing, without solicitation, on different days at different times, it would seem that the Universe is sending a bigger message.

So, hard-headed me is listening. Don’t get why just yet…

Segue: I so want to tell this Tourigrino I just spied across the patio to tighten his pack load adjusters. That would  be unsolicited advice, however, and he didn’t ask. He’s a big, burly, manly-man with a giant (gross understatement) backpack. And, unlike yours truly, all shiny, super clean and nicely put together. Looks like he shopped all the next-season, not-on-sale gear at REI.

Ah, and there she is! He’s got a matching mate!  They are dressed almost exactly alike!!

Just an observation…

The nice couple I saw two days ago with the sweet pit bull just showed up. So strange how we tag over the miles here.

I did hand a youngish guy (in a group of noisy Italians!) a sheet of moleskin patches yesterday. I wanted to cry watching him pop multiple blisters on both feet at lunch. He was attempting to be discreet…those of us with hundreds of open track miles behind us have radar for such maladies.

Alas, he’d only gone less than 15kms.

It’s noon here. The Tourigrinos and the rain have cleared. It’s calm and Galicia- gorgeous. And mostly quiet since the gaggles of Tourigrinos that were here are off and racing to Santiago.

Someone I love back home is WhatsApp texting “real world” crap that I don’t give a half a rat’s ass about (read: exaggerated negativity as reported by the local news– “Its life!” says said person) in (subconscious?) attempts to hijack the happiness and celebratory spirit of my arrival and accomplishment of tomorrow. Five weeks and said individual– who professes great love–has not asked, not once, “How are you?”

We cannot change another person. No amount of love or compassion, sacrifice or personal suffering will make ever make a difference if they have planted their heels or their butt. Or both.

It is their journey; we merely walk with them for awhile.  We simply cannot force them up off that rock or tree stump they have planted their ass on, their perceived comfy spots on the side of the path, if they are content and want to stay put. “The world is big and loving and fun and full and connected and did I mention loving and has so much to teach us!” we shout…and the answer we receive is anchored in fear, mistrust, doubt, paranoia.

What do we do?

Some things—and people we love– never change no matter how we wish and fret and pray and hope they might.

And isn’t it odd how we leak our power to and for them sometimes?

Fuck it.

My 15 year old self says languish in the sunshine, enjoy the calm, find some adult-denied calories (eg, sugar and empty carbs) and fuck being an adult for a minute or three. And let’s do so for most of this glorious afternoon, says she!  My eight year old self says I wanna go cuz we’re not there yet. 

15 year old wins…

Here is a really damn good place at the moment.

Much love and being here now moments to you all. Thank you for doing the hard, hard work of picking your asses up off of the trail side rocks and stumps and moving forward on your journey.

Day 36: Lavacolla to Santiago de Compostela

Made it! And understand why I stopped in Lavacolla yesterday.

A mere 6 or 7 miles… plus all the mileage Nicole and I put in after arrival.

The Camino provides:  blessed and grateful to walk the final 5kms with her after making an odd detour to get a coffee this morning– the same odd, off the track, detour she made. We hadn’t seen each other in nearly two weeks.

The Cathedral at Santiago

Day 37: Santiago to Finesterre/Fisterre and Muxia

And so I have completed some exquisitely cherished and long-held ‘future memories’ …

*A Compostela… it’s in Latin.

*The “Ends of the Earth”– Muxia and Finesterre/Fisterre.

*The 0.00km markers, the completions and the beginnings.

*As this Camino is, and as it has been.

Muxia…the end of the Earth

Fitting (for me) that Finesterre is shrouded in this incredibly surreal and dreamlike mist today… a void unto itself. Ubiquitous and feminine; whispering volumes, obliterating any view that may have once been, what I thought “should” be. The siren song of the sea.

Do we stay ashore or dare to navigate the rocks, the depths, the currents?

Diving in, of course.

Much love and manifestation of future memories to you all. Thank you for walking with me in Spirit on this journey.