Credencial de Peregrino: A pilgrim's passport.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Los Arcos to Logroño

Today was the longest stage so far: 28km. We walked through open countryside filled with vineyards and fields. Luckily it was a bit overcast and cool because there was not much shade along the route. As last night, we had no money to each, but we were able to scrounge up some money for coffee. After about an hour and half of walking, as our stomaches started to complain, we remembered our trail mix that we bought yesterday morning.

Midway along today´s journey, I had to perform a minor surgery on my foot. Against the advice of my doctor I decided to sterilize a sewing needle and thread it threw my blister leaving the thread hanging out. Introducing a foreign body isn´t the best idea, but it  is a traditional Camino cure. The thread is still there right now as the blister drains.

There are many more walking wounded along the trail than Heidi and me. I tend to be a bit competitive in general. I like being fast, but I´ve learned on the Camino that the fastest person is often the one in the least pain. You never know how much pain someone is in; how hard it is for them to take the next step. I have met so many with pulled muscles, tendons, blisters, arthritis. And, yet they are still walking everyday!

Today, my feet allowed me to walk a faster pace. It felt good to stretch my legs and let the road dictate the pace. I was soon out ahead and caught up to a man named Santiago. Santiago is from Madrid and didn´t speak English. Somehow, we were able to communicate about the important things in life--not just chit chat. Big topics about life and death, love and surrender. The Camino is good for these topics.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Estella to Los Arcos

We started our day listening to Bob Marley. The words were inspiring to us pilgrims, "Is this love that I´m feeling?" and many were humming the tune in different laguages--including Korean. We had a reprive from the sun today: high overcast with some mist and cool breezes. It was hilarious that as soon as the mist started, all of the pilgrims pulled out their ponchos. Heidi and I laughed in our shirt sleeves as we welcomed the cooler weather. Hiking in a ponch is like wearing a plastic bag, so I couldn´t understand why anyone would want to wear it for so little rain. We caught up to Livio from Italy--wearing his poncho, of course and carrying an umbrella.

I walked all day with a blister, but surprising not feeling as bad as it looks. For all you mother hens out there, don´t worry we´re doing okay.

We walked along some quiet back country trails for most of the day. Heidi and I spent most of the day talking about all the happy things we could remember about Anthony. I did not make this journey to purge Anthony from my memory, but rather to purge the grief and to make peace with the idea that my relationship with him died when he died. That is not to say that I will not continue to remember my relationship with him, I will always carry Anthony in my heart. All the memories I had today were happy ones thanks to Heidi.

We arrrived at Los Arcos around 1 pm just as the heat was starting, but prior to the rain. I´m having trouble finding a shop to reload my phone credit and a place to take out cash. Right now, I am completely out of euros. I had to rely on the kindness of a new Italian friend, Dimitri, to buy dinner. Somehow, needs get provided for on the Camino. Tomorrow I should be in Logrono 28 km from here. It´s a bigger town where I should be able to get cash and phone credt.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Puente La Reina to Estella

My ankle is feeling a bit better--I was able to lace my boot today. Minor victory. I have developed a few more serious blisters. One on the bottom of my foot that hurts with each step. Antother on the top of my big toe with is open and bloody. A kind Spanish man has offered to help tend my wounds. Luckily, Heidi´s blisters are starting to mend and she hasn´t developed any new ones since we got her new shoes in Pamplona a few days ago.

Speaking of blisters, this is a common topic of conversation amoung us pilgrims. Many opening lines are "how are your feet?" We have begun to bond over our shared suffering. We are starting to learn each other´s names and stories. There is Won Ho the Korean artist who is painting pìlgrims dreams. There are Tony and Eve from Yorkshire. Filippe and Elianora the Italian couple who are on their honeymoon, Liv from the Netherlands who told us a funny story about getting food poisoning and then having an accident in the back of a cop car in Greece once (glad to know her name now instead of calling her "The lady that pooped in the cop car").

Most pilgrims at this stage of the journey are limping around, in pain. Many are worse off than I am. I feel sorry for them as they try to manage their pain. All of us are walking around in bare feet trying to drain out and dry our blisters. Wish us luck.

Many of us sleep in the same dorm. Many snore. Some rustle around at 4 am. Getting to know people when they are tired, hot, sunburned, thirsty, in pain, discouraged is a quick way oflearning what kind of a person they are. People can endure a lot. I have learned that I can endure a lot of pain. I can also do way more than I ever thought possible. That is a very good lesson to learn indeed; although, I´m hoping some of the pain will end soon.

Cizur Menor to Puente La Reina

I walked today with my shoe lace untied to avoid ankle pain. Seemed to help. It was a short day (only 19 km). The first part ascends 1,000 feet to a hill with windmills. These are modern windmills, so I´m not sure what Don Quixote would have made them out to be. They were certainly giant. We left Cizur without eating or coffee, and came to regret the lack of fuel as we climbed to the ridge some 7 km later. At the top we were treated to little chorizo sandwiches and the worst coffee I have ever had, but drank it down eagerly.

When we reached Puente La Reina, we were treated to the sight of storks nesting on the top of the cathedral. The town is small, but we were able to find a bar to have salad and beer -- joined by our new Italian friend Dimitri.

The schedule of walking, eating, sleeping is such a simple one. I feel like I could do this for a while.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Larrasoaña to Cizur Menor

We walked along the rio Arga for most of the day, which gave plenty of time to think about Anthony. The river was strong and alive in places, quiet and still in others. When the water was rushing along so full of life is when I thought about Anthony rock climbing, mountaineering, and biking. When the river got quiet is when the tears would come. I walked alone for much of the morning alternating smiles and tears.

After the first few days of feeling strong, I thought this Camino will be a piece of cake physically. But, then the pain started. I have two blisters, but they are not excruciating. It is my ankle bone that has been severely bruised by my boot. I couldn´t continue in my boots and had to switch to my shower sandals...not ideal. Heidi and I must both be on the same page as she had to buy new shoes in Pamplona. We made to Cizur Menor in good time after fixing our feet by the side of the road.

I started this journey thinking I was fully in control in preparation and outcome. I´m finding that we can start a journey with certain intentions but they necessariily change each day when faced with new information. Exceptional things happen that we cannot plan for. I thought this journey was about me and Anthony, but he is not here. So, it is most definitely about me. And, others have joined my journey and my intentions have grown to include them too.

Pilgrims are  a friendly group. We celebrated a birthday dinner with Tanja from Slovenia who just turned 26 years old today. Dinner was mediocre fare, but we expect good food to come. We ran into "old" friends Tony and Eve at dinner, where Tony recommended I buy some cream for my sore ankle. Some of the frequent pilgrims we run into are from Korea. There is one Korean who is capturing pilgrims dreams about the Camino. He plans to draw these pilgrim dreams and lugs a portfolio all the way to Santiago in order to do so.

I went to bed humbled by the unexpected pain I am experiencing. The body and spirit are very strong right now. The pain will pass. I have faith.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Roncesvalles to Larrasoana

After such a strenuous day yesterday, I was expecting to be stiff and sore when I woke up. I was surprised to find that I felt fantastic. No sore muscles, no stiffness. I did have the beginings of a few blisters, but not hurting too terribly. I must have hit the sweet spot of training, fitness and enthusiasm to have avoided the dreaded first day Camino suffering and pain.

The hike today was much cooler and through terrain very similar in Washington State, so I felt right at home as my boots hit the uneven ground over rocks and tree roots. We passed many rivers on our route. Each river made me think about Anthony. As I would cross the bridge I would yell out his name to Heidi and we would both smile. There are so many beautiful medieval bridges here. Weary pilgrims must have been so thankful to have a bridge to cross over the river on their journey. Heidi and I spend a lot of time talking about many things. It´s good to have the time for reflection and conversation.

We had several fun stops along the walk. Mid-morning coffee. A cold soak in the stream for tired feet in Zubiri. An Internet session for catching up. Finally, dinner at a fabulous hotel in Larrasoana called Hotel Akerreta. We met several nice folks whom we dined with on local lamb and wine. A very good day indeed!

Tomorrow, I should be in Pamplona where I plan to get a Spanish SIM card for my tele. I´ll post my phone number in case anyone needs to reach me in emergency.

Distance: 27 km

Paris - Roncesvalles

Getting to the start of the route in southern France poses a problem for many pilgrims. It is easiest to approach from the French side of the Pyrenees, but usually cheaper to fly into the Spanish side, which is why I bought tickets in and out of Madrid. The logistical problem is how to get back in to France from Spain. The ideal solution was to get off in Paris but we didn´t want the airlines to charge us a fee or cancel our return flights. Turns out getting off in Paris was as easy as just asking. Thanks, Delta! We asked nicely,they obliged. No tears necessary. 
Once in Paris, we planned to take an afternoon train from Paris to Bayonne from Charles Degaule Airport, but the only high-speed train left out of Paris at 11:10 pm. So Heidi and I had the entire afternoon in Paris where we visited Notre Dame, walked along the Seine, and had lunch at a park in the Marais district. Sometimes it pays to hold your plans loosely in your hand – you never now when something exceptional will drop in your lap, like a day in Paris, as one example. 
We “slept” on the overnight train then got a connecting train to St. Jean Pied de Port at the base of the Pyrenees in the morning arriving in SJPP at 9:30 am. I had a great idea to send clothes ahead to Santiago so I´d have something clean to wear at the end of my journey when I meet a friend there. The postman helping me at the post office decided to put my clothes in another box. As he was removing my clothes, item by item,  he came across my underwear, which completely nonplussed him and he completely forgot to put my shoes in the box. Okay, so that was a bit embarassing having the postman handle my underwear, but there you go. This whole sending-clothes-to-Santiago deal took one half hour. By this time we were running really late, so we hoofed it to the pilgrims office before we begin. 
The town of SJPP is so flippin´cute. We could have stayed the night and started fresh in the morning. After sleeping on the plane, walking around Paris all day and sleeping on the train, we were tired. But, as will all new journeys, we were so eager to begin. The trail is steep and it takes 8 hours in the heat. Great…it was 11 am when we start. We decide to go for it because we´re so excited to start the journey. Due to heat, strenuouness and lack of water, Heidi got a bit overheated. We were not certain if she could continue for a while. In order to keep us going I decided to take the contents of her pack to lighten her load. It worked. I carried 30 lbs up to the pass, but felt super strong. It is funny that the post before this one is all about me trying to lighten my pack especially for days like this, but in the end I was strong enough to offer help to a friend in need some. We made it to the refugio by 7 pm (a full 8 hours), tired and ready for bed. Good start to the first day.
Having trouble finding free WiFi, so we´ll probably have to stick to Internet cafes. Will post again when I am able.
First day: 25.7 km

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Backpack Baggage

My plan is to post from my Droid using free WiFi along the route. So this post is brought to you today via my phone.  In theory this should work albeit tedious and slow to write this way. I'm guessing posts will be more stream of consciousness style rather than a more well-composed prose. For one thing it will contain a ton of typos and grammatical blunders. I appologize in advance for making you work harder than necessary for comprehension.

I wanted to share a pic of my pack weighting in at a whopping 18 lbs when loaded with two liters of water. My climbing friends will chuckle at how ridiculously light that is (How much was my pack up Mt Baker? 43 lbs!) Here's a link to my Google Doc spread sheet if you're interested in seeing what I'm bringing: LK's Camino Gear List

Keep in mind I will be walking 500 miles, so my pack needs to be pretty light. I'm happy to report I have decided to leave my sleeping bag (1 lb, 6 oz) behind in favor of a sleeping bag iner (5 oz), which is how I got my pack so light. Again, climbing friends who have seen me climb with multiple jackets may think it unwise of me, but I will trust that everything is in play and will come at pivotal points. Foregoing the bag has metaphorical significance for me.

So here it is my first mobile blog. Crossing my fingers this will work in Spain.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I am going on a journey. In fact, we are all on a journey. It is often said in Spanish, "La vida es como un camino" (Life is like a journey). As with all journeys, it has already begun with my preparations. And, as with all pilgrimages, the journey really begins when you step out of your house into the world. I will be leaving my house on May 23 for a 6-week journey across northern Spain called, "El Camino Francés" (that's the orange route in the map above), which traces a 1,000-year old pilgrim's path to the cathedral of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. There are many resources about the rich history of this 3rd most popular pilgrimage. Google it. For a more modern take on the Camino, watch this video:

First Steps
I first heard about this pilgrimage from Anthony. His mother gave him a book called, "To The Field of Stars" by Fr. Kevin Codd, which chronicled one priest's journey on the Camino de Santiago. Anthony loved the book so much, he made me read it too. I loved it: The journey; the intentions; the purpose. I briefly considered making the journey to petition for a cure for Anthony's brain tumor. He, of course, didn't want me to leave his side. I'm glad I stayed to spend as  much time with him as I could.

After Anthony died on February 7 this year, thoughts of the pilgrimage returned to my head. Now my purpose was not to petition for a cure—he is already free of his debilitating illness—but, to give thanks for our relationship, thanks for the many life lesson I have learned through his life and death, and to move forward in my own life without him—keeping those lessons in mind.

There are so many lessons. Lessons on fear, loss, anger, patience, guilt, authenticity, relationships, love, and surrender. If you are the praying type, please consider that I write these lesson on my heart in order to share them freely with all those in my life as I move forward.

A wise friend recently told me that exceptional things come to us, for whatever reason, at points in our life when we are least expecting them. That to me is the perfect picture of surrender. It is in surrender when we are able to receive. Life will be over sooner that we think. If we have journey's to make and people to love, the time is now!

I will be following the route found in the guide book, "A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago: St. Jean - Roncesvalles - Santiago" by John Brierley. Below are my 33 days of walking, plus two rest days:

33 Stages
01) May, 25: San Jean Pied-de-Port, France - Roncevalles 25.1 km
02) May 26: Roncesvalles - Larrasoaña 27.4 km
03) May 27: Larrasoaña - Cizur Menor 20.9 km
04) May 28: Cizur Menor - Puente la Reina 19.0 km
05) May 29: Puente la Reina - Estella 21.9 km
06) May 30: Estella - Los Arcos 21.1 km
07) May 31: Los Arcos - Logroño 28.1 km
08) Jun 01: Logroño - Nájera 29.4 km
09) Jun 02: Nájera - Santo Domingo de la Calzada 21.0 km
10) Jun 03: Santo Domingo de la Calzada - Belorado 23.9 km
11) Jun 04: Belorado - San Juan de Ortega 24.1 km
12) Jun 05-06: San Juan de Ortega - Burgos 25.6 km
13) Jun 07: Burgos - Hornillos del Camino 20.0 km
14) Jun 08: Hornillos del Camino - Castrojeriz 21.2 km
15) Jun 09: Castrojeriz - Frómista 25.5 km
16) Jun 10: Frómista - Carrión de los Condes 19.7 km
17) Jun 11: Carrión de los Condes - Terradillos de los Templarios 26.8 km
18) Jun 12: Terradillos de los Templarios - El Burgo Ranero 30.4 km
19) Jun 13: El Burgo Ranero - Mansilla de las Mulas 24.5 km
20) Jun 14: Mansilla de las Mulas - León 18.6 km
21) Jun 15: León - San Martín del Camino 23.1 km
22) Jun 16: San Martín del Camino - Astorga 30.1 km
23) Jun 17: Astorga - Rabanal del Camino 21.4 km
24 )Jun 18: Rabanal del Camino - Molinaseca 26.5 km
25) Jun 19:  Molinaseca - Villafranca del Bierzo 30.7 km
26) Jun 20: Villafranca del Bierzo - O Cebreiro 30.1 km
27) Jun 21: O Cebreiro - Triacastela 20.7 km
28) Jun 22: Triacastela - Sarria 25.0 km
29) Jun 23: Sarria - Portomarín 22.9 km
30) Jun 24: Portomarín - Palas de Rei 26.1 km
31) Jun 25: Palas de Rei - Ribadiso da Baixo 26.4 km
32) Jun 26: Ribadiso da Baixo - Santa Irene 19.5 km
33) Jun 27 or 28*: Santa Irene - Santiago de Compostela 22.1 km
Total distance: 800 km.

*I may take unplanned rest day ealier along the route, so I am not sure which day I will arrive in Santiago.

After I reach Santiago, it is my hope to continue walking to Finisterre, or "Land's End" with my dear friend Alessio who lives in Rome. More on that adventure as it develops.

So, here I go...I will try to update this blog frequently as I travel as I am able. So, please feel free to subscribe to this blog.