“And what is your reason for walking the Camino?”, asked the man in the Santiago Pilgrims Office.
“I would just like a stamp in my credential to show the date I arrived in Santiago, please.”, I answered.
“But senora, what is your reason? Was it religious or spiritual?”, he persisted.
“Spiritual, but I won’t be getting a compostela”. “Porque no?”, he questioned.
I told the young man I couldn’t have a compostela because I didn’t walk the entire last 100 kilometers. “I hurt my back. It’s okay now, but I wasn’t able to walk yesterday.
Please, may I just have the stamp in my credential? “This man tried to give me a compostela anyway, bless his heart.
He eventually stamped my credential, and as I turned to go, there stood Rebecca, grinning ear to ear, compostela in hand.
Sometimes things don’t work out as planned. No compostela, but a marvelous Camino. I can’t complain. It was a joy to walk to Santiago with Rebecca
What a wonderful Camino it was!
We travel light on the Camino. It’s what you do when you carry your possessions on your back.
Each day, after walking for hours, the first thing a pilgrim does is find a shower and then wash the day’s sweaty clothing. Some prefer to find a beer, but that could result in them neglecting a few basic needs.
We typically wash our clothes in cold water, often in a stone sink, then hang them to dry on a communal clothesline. I have had the odd item disappear on a breezy day or at the hands of another pilgrim who fancied something of mine, but never has a bra gone missing…
For centuries there have been communal, spring-fed laundries on the Iberian peninsula and we have seen many of them in recent days. Today we found our first warm water laundry!
We are spending the night in the spa town of Caldas de Reis. It is here that the women of way-back-when would gather around a covered laundry “room” to gossip and wash their clothes in wonderful 100 degree water. Imagine how nice that must have been on a cold winter’s day.
I wanted to experience this ancient ritual and took my dirty clothing to that giant tub. Unfortunately, laundry isn’t allowed on the weekend.
Friendships form quickly, and at times, intensely on the Camino. Today I had lunch with Alex and Monika, a young couple we met our first night on the Camino. We have shared several meals together and each time Alex remained rather quiet and a bit shy. Today he said he would tell me a story. Let’s see if I can retell it.
Alex was born in Russia and moved to Germany at age ten. His family was granted German citizenship because his ancestor was part of Catherine the Great’s entourage when the young princess was sent to Russia to marry Peter III in the 18th century. Fast forward…When things went south, Alex’ ancestors were banished to Siberia.
As a lad, Alex’s family suffered the privation that was common to everyone in his village. He remembers his first sweet. It was a Snickers bar that arrived from a relative in Germany. His mother cut it into four equal pieces and the family shared it. Alex said he still remembers the taste of his first Snickers. He kept the wrapper and would often smell it just to enjoy the scent of chocolate. Curiously, the children in his village traded candy wrappers the way Americans trade baseball cards.
Alex and Monica. [/caption]
Note: Three years ago Alex met Monica on the Camino. Next week they will be married in the cathedral in Santiago.
Such are the stories pilgrims hear on the Camino.
I'm walking the Camino with family this year and am excited that my niece, Rebecca, has joined me. We had too much fun in Porto before hopping on a train to Barcelos to begin walking.
It took us all afternoon to reach our first albergue, Casa Fernanda. Bec was excited. I was exhausted. Shame on me for not training. Fernanda treated us like old friends, took us in the kitchen and plied us with cold drinks. The refreshments were nice but I really wanted a shower and a bed. My rare display of patience was rewarded–Fernanda put us in a private room with private bath. Refreshed, we found seats in the sun and were warmly greeted by the dozen pilgrims who had already settled in.
There were sixteen of us around Fernanda's table at dinner and the chatter volume went up and down as the food came and went.
When the last plate was cleared, out came a half dozen bottles of assorted port wine as well as the opportunity to sing a song from each pilgrim's home country. Being the only Americans there, Bec and I ended up with John Denver's Country Roads (chosen for us!). Fortunately everyone immediately joined in, saving us from certain embarrassment.
Just one night at Fernanda's and we found ourselves with an instant Camino family. A dozen people from around the globe laughed and carried on like old friends.
I think this will be a wonderful Camino.
My enemy's enemy is my friend, so today I got friendly with my enemy's enemy. I hung my Tyvek sheet, sleeping bag and backpack on the clothesline and gave them all a liberal spray of permethrin. Within a couple of hours everything was dry and ready to be packed up for Friday's flight to Portugal.
Bedbugs are a common complaint among pilgrims but I have yet to meet anyone who has actually been bitten. That said, they are there and can hitch a ride on a nice, clean backpack, take up residence at an albergue down the way and make a few babies before hitching another ride. Here's hoping they don't ride with you.
Permethrin is the insect repellent that Ex Officio and other companies use to make the Buzz Off and Insect Shield clothing.
Whether you use permethrin or some other remedy, be vigilant, but don't obsess.
It’s only January and I already have my 2017 equipment ready to go! Yes, I love planning for the camino, but the real reason I’m this organized is because my APOC group has a “Packing for the Camino” class at REI tonight. I’ll be discussing ultralight equipment and talking about what worked, and what didn’t.
If you have any questions you can always email me at: email@example.com.
BTW: My feet are healing nicely and I will start hiking again in late February.
It’s never too early to prepare for Spain. After three different caminos over three consecutive years I had to take a pass on 2016 due to foot issues.
Too many years of wearing heels at the office caught up with my feet and left me with neuromas, left and right. A neuroma is a benign growth or tumor of nerve tissue in the foot that causes pain, a burning sensation, tingling and numbness between the toes and on the ball of the foot. I tried all the conservative remedies without success and finally decided to have them surgically removed.
To set a friendly tone for the surgeon I wrote a note for him on each foot. When the nurse saw it she had a good laugh and called the other nurses to have a look. Never underestimate the value of a little humor.
Two days post-op I had a first look at my feet sans bandages. They aren’t pretty but given time they will heal and the scars will fade. In the meantime, I’m keeping my toes above my nose and dreaming of a 2017 Camino, likely in late May.