Friday, November 15, 2013

Back to Santiago and on to Barcelona!

When we arrived back to Santiago from Finisterre, we decided to take a card recommending a pension from a woman on the street, like many of our Camino friends had done with success there.  We walked to the location and viewed the property and said "no" when we saw that it was a shared bathroom. By this time we were done with that.  When you don't pay that much more for private, that was where it was at for us.  We went across the street and agreed on a small room at the top of the stairs over a small cafe. Perfect.  Did some shopping and had a somewhat strange feeling not knowing any of the incoming pilgrims but also seeing how much the contingent had dropped off this late in the season. It was really bittersweet. We had dinner in our favorite Santiago haunt and it was nearly empty.

Went back to our place after securing tickets to Barcelona on the train for the next afternoon.  It has been so much fun just flying by the seat of our pants and planning as we go along.  I know this is not an easy feat for lots of people but the Camino did teach us to do this easier than we ever have.  John found a great apartment to rent for three nights in a great part of town so I was excited for what the next part of our journey would bring.  I was excited also to hopefully meet up with our friends we had met along the way who live in the Barcelona area, Arnou and Rita.

The next day, the pension gave us a late checkout since our train would not be leaving until later that afternoon. This gave us time to procure a great picnic dinner of one last bocadillo and wine for the train that evening.  We had a so so lunch in the cafe below our room but what made up for it was meeting Stewart from Scotland who I would have loved to meet walking. We did meet, if only for a short time. He reminded us of our friend Rod, back home, with his contagious smile and generally positive outlook.   He was just off of his fifth Camino, having walked different routes and even volunteering as a hospitalero at an  alburgue.  A very inspiring gentleman. Anyway it was fun while it lasted.

Made our train, saying goodbye to Santiago, knowing we would never forget this experience and wondering if we would ever be back here again.  The train trip was fun until it was time to sleep.  Oh well..... Barcelona, here we come!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

To The End of the World!!! Finally.

After a night of listening to John with the hairdryer in the bathroom determinedly trying to dry out our waterlogged clothing, we awoke the next morning all cozy and dry, afraid to look out the window.  My mind would not have me hold out the slightest bit of hope that there would be any sun or dry weather today. I knew I had a decision to make because I also knew that John's decision was made.  I seriously couldn't deal with another day like yesterday.  Oh well, breakfast awaits.

We made our way into the living/dining room of the small pension and looked out the deck doors into the foggy and wet coast that lay below.  As I watched the rain pummel the outdoor furniture, I didn't want to think of the inevitable so I sat down, determined to live in the moment of my much looked forward to breakfast.  I was asked by the amiable host if I wanted kiwi or melon.  Melon sounded good to me and as we have become accustomed to doing, John ordered the opposite just in case we wanted to share a little bit of variety.  I was brought two delicious slices of honeydew and I can tell you after just half of a bocadillo the night before, I was mighty hungry.  Envisioning some nicely sliced fruit also, John was brought two whole unpeeled kiwis on a plate.  The look on his face burst mine into laughter as I knew he was thinking, "what in the hell am I supposed to do with this?"  As we laughed and he tried to peel the damn thing with his butter knife, he wondered why the guy hadn't just tossed them to him from the kitchen testing John's catching skills, with a "here you go buddy" sprinkled in. We food goes to waste at this point of this calorie burning adventure.

The cafĂ© con leche was good and by now the pastries and toasted baguette with butter and jam had become acceptable nourishment in the mornings.  We finished up and retreated to our room to pack up last minute items in our by now semi damp backpacks. I mustered up the courage to look out the window and saw the soaked street but did not observe any raindrops on the windshield of the car across the street.  I had resolved to have the host call me a taxi and just wait for John at Finisterre but as I gazed out the window,  thoughts of how we had come all this way together started to chip away at that resolve.  I looked up and saw a bit of blue through the white hazy dreariness.  OK, I'm coming with you.  I knew he was fine with whatever I wanted to do, but he made me feel good when he said that he was glad I had decided to join him. I put on my dry socks and wet boots.  Would this be the last day that I would wear them?  I hoped so.

After a few words of  "thanks for the hospitality" and "late October is not the time to come here" from the host, thank you very much, we trudged though the town streets decked out once again for the possibility of rain.  Buen Camino. There would be none. We followed the familiar yellow arrows on what would be another 14k, up and out of town into a lovely trail that stretched up through the cloud cover and into the humid sunshine with the promise of drying things out.  I was now excited!  I'm doing this!  I can do this!  I'm going all the way!  I knew that if I trusted what was happening to us yesterday was only temporary, we would be promised something good.  Sort of like the old saying that just beyond the suffering is the blessing.  Hang in there, better times are coming.

We crested a hilltop and saw the town of Finisterre in clear view.  Energized, we walked down toward the coastline with sandy beaches in sight, and the smell of the ocean flooding our senses.  A moment I will not soon forget.  We walked for a while next to the seaside on the familiar sidewalks lovingly made for the pilgrims committing to this stretch. Although Finisterre held no religious significance to pilgrims, it did have sufficient symbolic attraction to justify the four to six day (make that ten days for us) roundtrip from Santiago for pilgrims who had already been walking for several months. 

We came upon an elderly Spanish man with a backpack on himself.  Maybe he was training for his own pilgrimage or maybe he was just trying to look friendly to other pilgrims.  We had a conversations with him as to the best accommodations and how to get there and we were on our way.  John ducked into a small tienda for a couple of cold Estrellas and our celebration was underway.  An attractive young woman jumped into the street asking if we needed a place to stay.  Remember, with our pilgrim regalia, we look like people who will eventually be needing a place to sleep.  I noticed the place was called Alburgue Cabo da Vila and was the very same one the old man had mentioned.  We took it as a sign that this may be the place.  We went through our familiar questions, tiene habitacion privado? private room? si! may we see it? si!  The little room at the top of three flights of stairs was cute and had a nice view of the sea. It had a shared bathroom but there was another bathroom on the floor so we decided on last night of camaraderie with fellow pilgrims would be worth putting up with this.

They took our dirty things and washed them and dried ! them for 6 euro.  Deal.  We were hungry again and walked out to look for something to eat.  We were so happy to see our friends johncasey and Brett and Barb standing in the street!  I asked Barb how here father was and he was stable so she continued her journey.  We talked about our plans and they were getting ready to head up to Muxia, a place we decided against.  We were both just tired. Maybe next time. It was good to see them once again. 

We settled on a seaside place where I had a bowl of delicious fish soup and John had the typical Spanish sausage hamburger and fries.  I don't know where we found the energy, perhaps it was the knowing that we would not be walking anymore after today, but we bought a bottle of wine and headed the 3k (6k roundtrip!) up to the lighthouse at lands end.  This is the place where everyone traditionally burns their clothing or things they hope never to see again.  We would not be doing this as it was so damp and the wind was blowing pretty good.  It was a beautiful walk in the twilight and we had hoped to be there for sunset.  We did watch the sun go beneath the clouds as we sipped our celebration vino and entertained a small sparrow that John called Jack Daniels after his good friend who passed away in the last year. Jack was an unofficial bird enthusiast and the thought that this was Jack's energy was very strong for John. The tiny bird was no farther from us than an arm's reach and just hung out so close to us flitting back and forth in that fierce wind that was blowing.  There was no reason for him to be sharing that space with us, but share that space he did. 

 Jack Daniels, our friend

 Jack Daniels toasting the moment with John.

We got pretty emotional upon the sight of the last yellow arrow.  We had followed them for more than 500 miles to this place. I also followed the directions on the 'seat' I had read a few days before, instructing me to throw my Camino shell into the ocean. I knew the truth of the statement that the Camino is now in my past.  I am also comforted by the knowledge that it is now a part of me and will never leave me.  

We donned our headlamps and headed back down to the little seaside town.  At dinner, we got to see our friend Patty from Canada one last time.  As some we have met have expressed, the Camino has not been about the walking and challenge of it all, it has been about the people we have met and the energy of the people gone before us and the people who will undoubtedly come after, their learnings and their experiences.  We are sure that the impact of this adventure will be continuing long after we have arrived back home.  We will long be thinking of and talking about our individual journeys and that of the one we embarked upon and completed together. As my friend Betsy told me, this is definitely the crown on our 30 years together. Indeed. Buen Camino!!!!


Friday, October 25, 2013

Days Three and Four..Hell to Pay

Day 3 and 4 to Finisterre

Since we were all sleeping together, we all got up together. Well most of us anyway. Some get up early but they turn on the lights at around 7am in order to kick you out and get you on your way.

We met in the bar for cafe con leches and toast and jam.  We would walk most of the day with our friends johncasey, Brett and Barb.  John and I were only planning to walk 14k today to a small place called Olveiroa.  The others were planning to push on to Cee. That would have been a 32k day and we were just not willing.  I was so glad john was on the same page with me.

We had such fun walking and talking and laughing, acting silly and goofy, putting on the ponchos for the occasional downpour that never lasted too long.  This was probably brought on by walking about 7k out of our way in the rain to walk close to some of those huge wind turbines that dot the landscape of Spain.  We stopped and shared snacks in front of an old cemetery. What a great time.

As we arrived in Olveiroa everyone stopped for refreshments and Barb received a call that her father had gone into the hospital with a possible heart attack.  Johncasey being the EMT firefighter that he is, calmed her fears as best he could. They would go on to the next stop and call for a taxi forward.  We said our goodbyes, wished he best for Barbs dad and checked into our small pensione.  After showering and retreating to the bar, ordering two glasses of vino tinto, the waiter pointed at the glasses and said 2 euro, as in one euro per glass.  Pretty typical as we have learned.  Then she pointed to the bottle she had just poured from and with a smile said 3 euro.  WHAT???  Ok twist our arms, give us the bottle! Another very good dinner and off to bed.

There are of course no pictures of this day due to the ipad being locked away and dry.

We listened to the rain fall and the wind buffet the building we were sleeping in all night long.  This was getting so old!  Sure enough, getting up the next morning, I knew this was going to be a hellacious day.  While it wasn't exactly raining when we left, it soon would prove to be one of the worst days of severe weather conditions I have ever found myself in.  And walking no less with absolutely no place to retreat to!

After walking 6k, we came upon a small cafe where the lady told us there would be nothing else for 15ks.  We ordered a bocadillo with egg, cheese and tomatoes.  I don't know why we didn't eat it there and then because I knew in the back of my mind there would be no picnic today.  The reason would be revealed later that day......

No sooner than we took off into the wilderness did the wind pick up and I mean pick up.  I don't know how many knots or mph it was blowing but blow it did.  Add to that sideways pelting rain that would not relent for what would be the rest of that days walk. There were times I cried out being so scared that I would be blown off my feet.  I had to dig down with my walking sticks, stop and steady myself more than a few times. If there were any other pilgrims on the way with us they'd have thought I was drunk...maybe not, they'd be in the same predicament.  I was afraid of debris that could be flying around such as trees and the like.  John as always was walking ahead of me....but not too far.  He would look around at me every so often to make sure I was still there.  This was every man for himself type stuff.

I kept thinking of the bible story of Jesus in the boat on the ocean with his disciples and the ocean pounding their small fishing boats and the doubt and fear that set in. It reminded me to just trust and have faith that this would all be ok. We would be ok. I knew somehow that we would, but the world I found myself in was not exhibiting that at the moment.  There was nothing to do but go into survival mode and put my head down and watch my steps putting one foot in front of the other on that rocky water swollen path, the rain hiding my tears.

After figuring out that crying was not going to help, I found myself having another Forrest Gump moment.  I remembered the scene when the legless and angry Lieutenant Dan was in the crows nest on the shrimp boat during a hurricane, shaking his fist at God.  I stopped and shook my fist and screamed out as loud as I could, above the blasting rain and wind, what were to be the first words John had heard out of me in hours. "IS THIS ALL YOUVE GOT?" And other expletives.  John had no idea I was just being an idiot and quoting from the movie when at that moment the wind and rain blasted us even worse than it had before! I learned later that John didn't know whether to think I was the most courageous person he had ever known in that moment or the stupidest and would I please just shut the hell up what did I think I was doing screaming at God like that?  I think God had a pretty good laugh.  I know I did.

We finally made it down off the mountain ridge and started to descend, knowing we would be seeing the ocean soon. And see the beautiful sea, we did. It motivated us to keep going.  We came to the gritty seaport town of Cee. Maybe it wasn't gritty but with all the rain and wet it sure felt that way to me.  We ended up losing the yellow arrows for the first time this entire journey.  We walked in circles in the pouring rain for an hour.  Once we asked a couple of people to point us in the right direction we found ourselves in the even smaller town of Corcubion.  We mistakenly thought here would be plenty of accommodation choices here which there were not.  Remember we had just come through an entire day of hell and no food, the bocadillo still tucked away in John's backpack.  Sorry for yelling at you like that earlier, God.  After wandering around in that town in a straight downpour for an hour we went back to the only pension we saw.  They had a room.  I was never so thankful for that room and that bocadillo in my life.  There was no way to go back out and try to find something to eat.  John did think it worth it to go out and get wine. You gotta do what you gotta do.

By now I had had it! I meant it this time.  I am getting a taxi tomorrow even though we are getting to Finnesterre tomorrow.  I'm just not doing this any more. I quit! Good night.

The Second Day To The End

Finisterre day 2

Since we were only going to walk 19k on this day we decided to sleep in.  The bed was SO comfy.  Listening to it pour rain all night, I just didn't want to get up and the thought of putting on all that damp stuff that just does not dry out in this weather was beginning to test my mettle.

Because we had all moaned and groaned together about the rain the day before, when we finally did get up and come down for coffee, we met our friends, johncasey, Brett and Barb who had devised a plan.  Guide book out, johncasey informed us that the way to the next stop would be mostly along road with no shoulder to speak of.  He had it on the good advice  (another Camino rumor) of some other pilgrims he had met that you should just taxi through this certain section.  That it would be too dangerous to walk, especially in the rain.  This sounded good to me.  John was not having any of it and really unbeknownst to me was personally committed to walking all the way.  As for me... It really wasn't that important.  I seriously considered going with them until johncasey heard that John was walking and said if he was walking, he wanted to walk it too.  Barb had been having some stomach issues and was struggling with her thoughts out loud to me as to why she wanted to taxi forward.  I looked at the partly cloudy sky and said, well hell if you guys are walking, I'm walking! I thank (or curse) my brothers for making me this way.....Damnit it all!!!

We packed our packs and their contents with plastic trash bags the guys had bought to keep things as dry as we could in case of what seemed to be, inevitable rain.  I'm finding that my pack cover is just not cutting it in these kinds of deluge.  I always end up with a puddle in the bottom of my cover no matter how tight I cinch it.

Ok we are all set.  Johncasey said he was going to the room to pack up.  About 25 minutes later and much pacing back and forth, John and I decided to leave.  I hoped no one would be offended and I wasn't when I learned later that it would be about an hour and a half until they finally shoved off. And I thought women were slow to get ready.

It turned out to be a really great day with overcast skies and no rain.  Perfect walking weather!  The sections of road we had to walk were minimal and even though it was pretty scary with little to no shoulder, it was a Saturday and the traffic was light.  We had plenty of walking on pretty forested paths and empty country roads. At our usual midday stop, we met an Ozzie walking back to Santiago, a round trip that is done more than I had first imagined and would come to learn is quite a common exercise. No thank you very much. He informed us we would be better off staying right there for the night as he had not noticed an albergue at the town the guide book had us stopping in 7k down the road.

When the day is done, I am usually pretty spent and wanting to be through.  This time, with it so late in the year, I also worried that the lone albergue in town would be closed for the season. The Ozzie was coming back to haunt my mind.  Sure enough it was pretty quiet when we got to the town of Maronas and I was hoping and praying the place would be open because the next town was another 13 kilometers away and I just couldn't do it.  As I clicked along, paranoia had me looking seriously at empty barns and chicken coops as possibilities for down for the night.

You can imagine by now that I would be ok with one last dorm situation. Sure enough Casa Pepa would be the place.  We walked in and the only person there was an old man sitting at a table in the bar.  I asked "albierto?"  Open?  He called for someone and a person I bet to be his son appeared and said yes he had two beds.  12euro. Done.  Picked our bunks, took showers, went to the bar, ordered vinos.  Typical is the routine we have become so comfortable with on this journey.  It was then our
friends johncasey, Brett and Barb ambled in along with Suzanne, a German girl we had walked with since the very beginning in Orrison! Always such a fantastic homecoming. We truly have become "family".

We all had a great pilgrims meal and I really tried to savor the experience of one last night in a dorm, with all my equals slumbering and snoring around me, knowing it would all too soon be just a distant but profound memory.