Saturday, 20 October 2012

Laughing all the Way

I mentioned earlier that there was a good chance of crying on el Camino. The chances for laughter are much higher and lucky for us, that is how we reacted when faced with adversity. We also met so many wonderful people to laugh with each evening as we shared our Pilgrim's table. Laughter comes in varying degrees, from a slight chuckle to a full bodied belly laugh. Sometimes you get into a laughing fit where you can't stop and you are crying at the same time. This happened to me more times on this adventure than previously in my lifetime. Like a scenic picture on a grey day, it is hard to recapture the moments in words but I will try with one story.

When Lori and I realized our packs were way too heavy and we had expensive gear we could not throw away we went to the post office in Pamplona  to ship parcels to Santiago. Imagine two women with very little Spanish trying to buy two pack boxes, build them, sort our gear on the floor, pack the boxes as tight as we could, tape them with duct tape, figure out how to fill out the shipping documents and extra arrival time instructions with the help of an iPhone Spanish app., some kind locals and some very inpatient postal workers. We are also trying to beat the clock because the office was closing in one hour and every time you approached the counter you needed to pull a queue ticket.  Think Lucy and Ethel  but me cracking up in laughing fits on top of it all.  Happily the parcels were in Santiago on our arrival and were easy to retrieve, even though I managed to lose my receipt which meant iPhone translation work at that end.

It sounds like we are having a fantastic adventure and we really are but there is a lot of hard work and minimalism going on to swing this kind of a mega trip and it really helps when we can laugh our butts off when things don't work out as well as hoped.

Pilgrim A

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


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It seems like el Camino was a dream. Did we really walk across Spain? Do you remember that I found my life calling while on el Camino, to keep free range hens on an acreage and feed the hikers on the Canadian trail? That would be good for the summer; but for the winter I would like to live in Greece, ride a moped, and eat eggplant every day.
Our trip to Greece started with a red eye flight to Athens on Oct 8th. ;  cheapest flight and saves the cost of a nights accommodation. Lori googled for a good hostel during our early morning coffee in the Athens airport and found a very nice one. Happily this one does your laundry; always a treat.
We had two enjoyable days in Athens. We walked a lot as usual, including the Acropolis and surrounding area plus a hike to the top of a look out hill on the north side of Athens. We see a challenging hike and are drawn to it like a magnet. 
Our hostels on the Camino were pretty basic which was fine as they were so cheap and it was only a bed and a place to wash your few clothes each night.  We are amazed at how nice our hostels were in Lisbon and Athens. The only down side is that on the Camino, everyone went to bed at 9:30 and were up at about 7:00 to start walking; now the younger people are coming into the shared rooms at all hours. We got them back when we were exiting at 6:00 am to catch our ferry to Santorini.  :-)
The ferry ride was long, ( 7 hours); stopping at several picturesque islands. We were surprised to find that having a comfortable seat to nap in was 5E extra, luckily the ferry was half empty so we could pay this upgrade on board.
As I sit writing this on our hotel balcony ( on first morning in Santorini) I can see the strings of donkeys heading up for their days work. Our ferry arrived at the new port so we did not walk up the hill and hire one donkey to carry our packs as planned. 
We have a very economical hotel room just 3 minutes walk from the tourist core of  Fira  facing the backside of the island.  We were planning on looking for a hostel but a man on a moped enticed us to his Villa for the same price. A lovely little complex of the typical Santorini style with multiple steps up and down and a tiny pool. 
During our first night of roaming around and shopping we happened upon a Fish Spa, where the tiny fish suck the dead skin flakes off your feet. This was something we had on our list to do so were thrilled. It was delightful; we giggled like kids. My recovering feet were way too much of a challenge for the little guys but they tried their hardest. 
On our second day we went to Perissa beach by bus. We got very lucky while walking to the bus stop and finally found new bathing suits. We are still in Camino mindset of only packing what you can comfortably carry and don't buy anything until it becomes essential.  Bathing suits now fall into that category and we did not want to scare people on the nudist beach here.
Our little room has a small fridge so we are doing a little picnic eating again. 
On our third day we decided to walk down to the old port on the zig zag trail and perhaps ride the donkeys up. The Greek men are very persuasive here when it comes to releasing you from your Euros and one insisted that we ride down with his string. We thought that was the kinder alternative for the donkey as we now know the difference between lugging a heavy pack up hill or down. The donkeys we rode did not win however as they just got a double dose, as they normally go down hill empty. Sigh
We then walked up the hill for the exercise. Very interesting, dogging donkey dung, tourists riding up on donkeys, and returning donkeys heading back down in groups. Donkeys own the path, walkers take care!  I  ever tired of watching them going to work each morning and heading home every night with their bells tinkling. ( over 100 of them) past our Villa.
It is a key component of this Island's attraction. The donkeys trail through the town and all the shop keepers step out to sweep the dung ASAP. A community effort.
On our third night we decided we should dine on the caldera side and enjoy the Fira city lights. Lovely but expensive. 
On our last day we packed our bags and stored them at our Villa while we headed out to another beach. We went by bus, then took a small boat ride which we enjoyed and swam at a small beach. 
As I write this we are waiting for our midnight ferry to Venice, from
The port city of Patras on the west coast of Greece. We had a red eye ferry from Santorini to Athens last night and a 4 hour bus ride from Athens to Patras this morning. We have had a long day of walking around with our packs and killing time. The ferry to Venice will take two sleeps and one day. 
Stay tuned for the next chapter ; Capers in Italy!


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Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Obrigada Portugal

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View from our hostel.

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We have had a wonderful three days in Porto ( where Port wine is produced) and three days in Lisbon. These are both beautiful cities with grand historic buildings and monuments and picturesque rivers. We were happily surprised to find that most people in the service industries spoke very fluent English. All we needed was Obrigado for thank you and did not realize till today that we did not have that right. Apparently you say Obrigada to a woman and Obrigado to a man.  In any case people seemed genuinely helpful towards us throughout our visit.

We continue to travel lean with our packs; staying in hostels ( extremely nice hostel in Lisbon) and pensions and riding the metro.  It is nice to unpack for three days after 38 days of constant walking on the Camino but we just start to feel at home and we leave again.
As I write this we have happily landed in another very nice  new hostel in Athens. We are staying here two nights and have our ferry tickets purchased for Santorini Island on Oct 11th.  It is very easy here as well for us , as many people speak English.
You may have seen the news that Merkel was in Athens, Greece. We were amazed  when walking around today to see so many policemen in flack outfits on every corner . During our very late lunch we could see the news of the protesters on tv while hearing the shouts and gas canisters going off a few blocks away. Later when we were walking around we could taste the gas fumes of pepper in the air.
Tonight we had a bit of the old Camino experience sitting on the roof terrace talking to visitors from Switzerland and Holland with the fully lite Acropolis on the hill.

Here are some pics of Portugal.



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Wine cellar at Porto
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Murals at the train station

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Lori climbing the walls of a Moorish castle in Sintra, near Lisbon.
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Thanksgiving treat in historic Belem, outside Lisbon. Famous pastry with secret recipe. 
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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Wrapping up the Camino

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One more Pilgrim statue!

The Camino is now completed for us. We arrived in Santiago on Tuesday - Sept 25th. This is well ahead of our original expectation. Our last three days were in drizzle or pouring rain. We ended up taking a hotel with a bathtub! Fantastic! Our first order of business was eating, as we only had hot drinks all day to get in out of the rain. We then collected our big boxes that we had mailed from Pamplona and went to collect our Compostella and had a quick walk through the Cathedral.  In the evening we celebrated joyfully with about 40  pilgrim friends in a seafood restaurant.  
The next day we attended Mass in the Cathedral which was wonderful. I was so happy at the end I wanted to clap but thought it not appropriate. When the entire congregation started clapping I was happy to join in and clapped like seal. ( this is me very happy) . Before the mass began a singing Nun came to the dias and did a short singing lesson to prepare the congregation to sing the chorus of an anthem.  ( which was then very beautiful during the service with her singing and a choir and full congregation joining in) At the beginning of the mass, the priest did a Pilgrim's blessing which listed the Nationalities and number of Pilgrims from each country. This tally is from the previous 24 hours of  Pilgrims registering to receive their Compostellas. (certificate)
The swinging of the giant silver incense fumar over the congregation was very special.
We could not understand much of the service as it was in Spanish, but it was still a  beautiful experience.
On this second day we also moved to the Monastery for a room there. Wonderful beds with great linens, big treat. We will stay there for our last few days as well.
Many pilgrims go on to Finesterre  ( end of the earth), just like in the movie; and so must we.
I went by bus to a little town called Cee, 12km before Finesterre with a new friend Magdalen from Slovenia. We had the evening and our alburgue there and walked to Finisterre the next day. Beautiful coastal walk with a long stretch of beach in bare feet of course.
Lori  decided to walk the 120 km with the Australian family from Santiago. She was up for the extra walk but my feet were not, so we each went our separate chosen paths.  Funny enough we both thought we would be going to Moxia ( pronounced moo-she-yah) and we both did not make it. They finally decided it was too many long walks and for me the bus was not running to there on the week end.
We did however get to connect all together again for another slap up seafood feast in Finisterre. A surprise and happy reunion. Having iPhones and many WiFi spots has been a huge support for us. I would never travel without one. 
I did the walk to Faro for the sunset and ritual clothing burning with Magdalen and closed the local bar drinking hot milk and brandy. I am so happy I met her, and just in the bus station as I was leaving Santiago. This is the magic of " The Way". You make new friends every day. I would have otherwise found the Faro celebration lonely.
Lori did her Faro celebration with the Australians the next day while I was busing back to Santiago.

As I write this ( Oct 2nd) Lori and I are on a five hour bus ride to Porto, Portugal. It is raining, so a good day to spend traveling. Everyone gushes about how wonderful this city is, so I think we will stay at least two days.
Stay tuned for the next chapter of our European Adventure.
We had a late night out again with our  Pilgrim friends, including our dear Australians ( Julie, Collin, and their daughter Kelly). It is hard to say good bye. El Camino is bitter sweet for this reason only. Many email
addresses have been exchanged however, so hopefully we can stay in

Here are a few pics from both of our Finisterre  experiences .


photo (57) On the way to Finasterra

photo (59) Walking the beach to Finisterre with Magdalen.

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I waved to all my friends and relatives in North America while sitting on the edge of Europe.