7th day – Los Arcos to Logrono

The day started out really nice. I had green tea and the rest of my müsli in the hostel kitchen and started walking at 7.30 am. People start getting up at 5:30, sometimes I manage to sleep until 6:20 am thanks to my ear plugs. I don’t get why people want to start to walk in the dark. I understood better when I got the last bed in Logrono when I arrived at 4:30pm. After that it is too late it seems. I was lucky, I heard about people who took taxis to other places to find a bed. Maybe my general confusion during the second part of the day saved me. And sure enough the two ladies from Holland and my Swiss friend were in the same albergo. I missed dinner with them as my confusion continued. A friendly red haired and bearded pilgrim from the North offered me some strawberries which I enjoyed. We discovered the local cathedral together. Then I went to buy some fruit, my plan was to go back to the albergo to meet my friends but I did not understand the map. By chance I found a nice restaurant that was offering a pilgrims menu. I joined two ladies from Australia and then later 3 Italians and a German lady joined us. I had more than my usual half glas of wine and felt a bit dizzy. But found my way back ‘home’ ok. The room had 20 beds, I had the lower bed right across (maybe 1 meter) from the door … Glad I had the wine and my ear plugs, slept ok. Interesting sounds and smells … I need some more getting used to the refugios. And maybe I will start to reserve my private albergo the night before which more and more pilgrims are doing. Not the traditional way though. I needed two days to manifest the letting go of a soft keyboard and a ‘Tupperdose’. Maybe somebody in Logrono can make use of them. The next thing I am considering to let go is half of my towel …

Right now it is already Sunday and I am sitting in a very small cafe in Navarrete. It is raining. After last night’s fight for a bed I checked into an albergo already at 11am, washed my clothes and resting my feet. Only 12 km today after 30 km and some slightly panicky running through Logrono yesterday. Today’s albergo offers only 16 or 18 beds and there is communal pasta dinner tonight. 

This morning when I started in Logrono the weather was still ok, nice actually not so cold. Oh, pilgrim’s told me about snow in the pyrenees a few days ago. The pass we crossed a week ago with wonderful sunny weather. 

I had envisaged to find a staff in Logrono and sure enough today half way to Navarrete a man was offering natural wooden sticks for a donation. Now I am properly equipped and felt that the staff which is much higher than I am is serving as another connection between heaven and earth. Maybe one reason why pilgrims traditionally carry a staff. I also like the rhythm it helps me to keep. And it makes a different sound than the many nordic walking sticks which at least 50% of the pilgrims carry. 

The Beatles are singing in the background and small groups of wet and cold pilgrims come in for cafe. 

Good day for a (half) day of rest. Also feeling talkative.

A thought this morning was that this trail is mirroring each of us how we are in life. For me it is easy to get to know people and enjoy brief and sometimes longer encounters, I am loyal to a group for some time and then move on to other groups. Some I am sure I will meet often. 

Los Arcos, 6th day on the Camino

A beautiful and often magical day. My feet are doing much better and my body seems to get used to carrying the backpack. The path was mostly flat and through breathtaking countryside. I often dived into my walking practice. So happy I arrived at this state again. It feels like through the practice I connect to the web of life and then many things fall into place. 

Yesterday in the early afternoon I felt more tuned in than before. I decided to stop early and stopped in a place called ‘Casa Magica’. They offered an in-house pilgrim’s menu which was wonderful. 

Also friendly people I shared the table with. I did some translation for a french lady with everybody else being from Germany. In every conversation it becomes clear that every single pilgrim comes with their own personal goal for the Camino or are waiting to be shown what it is. 

There was a couple from Germany who are going the Camino together with their dog. They had to book every hostel long before as often dogs are not allowed. 

Others have already walked parts of the Camino and the French lady has to go back in between as her husband misses her too much otherwise. 

I had a fun meeting with one of my Korean friends today and we shared a ten minute break on a piece of wood along the way. When I arrived in Los Arcos, where I will be staying tonight I also met J. and C. from Holland who I had met in Roncesvalle. Also my Swiss friend is here I have heard. 

Will be sleeping in the most basic albergo so far tonight, very small rooms with bunkbeds. I was the 3rd last person to get a bed. Filling up fast. The town plaza looks lovely for the pilgrim’s menu. Will go there after posting this, writing with my feet up outside the albergo. 

Hope to add photos soon.

Puente la Reina, 4th day on the Camino

This is fun. On the Camino life is answering quickly. After I applied cream and oil to my feet and legs things improved quickly. I had a good long break resting on my bed and a very good evening meal. I shared my room with three funny people from Korea. Over breakfast I took the decision to leave my thermos behind and some of the extra müsli I had been carrying. The Koreans loved at the weight of my thermos. They only carry super lightweight stuff …. 

I decided to trust that there will always be enough food for me at all times. Yesterday I had showers of joy over this decision and my now very carryable backpack. My feet are also more happy. And I learned that any amount of pain is strong enough to make use of my creams and oils.

I asked life for a good travel companion for the next one or two or more days and she joined me yesterday in the form of a woman from Switzerland after I had waved good-bye to my Korean friends. We have had two beautiful days. 

Now we are having tea at one of these big albergos which can host 100 pilgrims. Pilgrims Menu will be ready for us at 7 pm. 

The little villages on the way are caring nicely for the pilgrims with little shops and friendly cafes for rests with coffee, freshly pressed orange juice, cake or tortilla. This is also where you keep meeting some of the people over and over again. One big moving family.

On the Camino

So here I am walking on the Camino Santiago. So far so good. The weather has been very good for the first two days and also getting to the start was pleasant. I flew into Barcelona, spend a night in an airbnb, then the next day I took the train to Pamplona and the bus to the traditional start of the Camino: St Jean Pied de Port. Every day between 300 and 400 pilgrims start from there. My first evening meal opposite my hostel was fun. I shared the table with a young man from France and a Basque couple. Next day up at 6:30 am, quick breakfast and then 27 km and 1200 metres up a pass over the Pyrenees. So happy when we finally arrived at the old monastery in Roncesvalle. Impressive organization and logistics to get 300 people a bed (in compartments of 4) and sell tickets for the pilgrims menu. Beautiful meal at a long table with fellow pilgrims. We had paella and trout and a dessert. Pilgrims eat well it seems. 

Today I walked ca. 20km mostly downhill to a little town called Zubiri. Found a small hostel and am sharing my room with 3 pilgrims from Korea. 

Yesterdays climb I can still feel in my legs. My new shoes are not as comfortable as I would like them to be. I have a blister under my foot. And I find my backpack too heavy. Still dealing with wanting/needing some luxury stuff … have to let go some more.

Not much heaven and earth practice yet as my feet and legs were hurting. I did practice the Padmasambhava mantra though to get me up and down the hill. Works really well and some friendly chats with new friends on the way.

Interactions

I am delighted that the blog seems to inspire interactions. I love your comments to my posts. Thank you and please keep them coming!

Also when I sold my racing bicycle in February Nana, the woman who bought the bike and I came up with the idea to have her create a piece of art in exchange for part of the price for the bike. She is a musician and when I listened to her music on youtube I thought it would be nice if she created a piece along the theme of connecting Heaven and Earth.

And she did. Here it is:

There is also a little story about the title photo that I am using. It was created during a short meditation workshop around the topic of connecting Heaven and Earth about a year ago, in Berkeley, CA, when I first started to play with the idea of my project. After a short meditation I sent the group outside into the street and discover situations, moments that for them represent the connection between Heaven and Earth. And Stig came back with this photo.

Reflections about Sinai from Northern Germany

Three weeks ago I came back from Sinai. Since then I have spent a few days of organizing in and around Berlin, a weekend in my home town Kiel with my brother and friends from school and now I am in Lübz, at another friend’s place, in an old farmhouse, lovingly renovated. One of my intentions for my time here, besides walking in the countryside was to start to digest and write about my Sinai experience before I continue my next part of the project, the Camino de Santiago.

I had anticipated that the time in Sinai would be intense which it was. At the same time life there was flowing beautifully and it was full of mystery. Most of the time I was too involved in everything to sit down and write about what I felt. The landscape, the mountains and rocks, the climate and the people are deeply resonating with me. It is the place in the world where I am most happy and where I feel in tune. At some point I want to live there again, it feels like my spiritual home.

Some of you might be interested to hear more about the situation in South Sinai: despite current events in Egypt, South Sinai seems indeed to be safe enough. I spoke to some of the Europeans living in Dahab and things have not changed a lot for them.

Once in St. Katherine I and many others, I have talked to, feel safe and very well cared for by the local bedouin tribe. As if a layer of protection is put around myself when I enter the area. And on the other side the bedouin many of whom are either working for the monastery or in tourism (as drivers, guides, etc.) suffer from the dwindling streams of tourists coming to the area. These days most tourists, many from Indonesia and Brazil only come to the area to climb Mount Sinai and to visit the monastery. They don’t normally stay longer than a day. A new development are Egyptian visitors from Cairo and other big cities who come for the Mount Sinai and monastery experience. Some of the Egyptian visitors are travelling financially supported by the government, in an effort to keep tourism alive in Egypt.

It seems to be difficult for the bedouin to direct their attention to other means of making money. Some bedouin, representing the old ways of life suggest to their friends and family to move back into the mountains and gardens where until 50 or 60 years ago many were able to live more or less self sufficiently. They used to exchange fruit from the gardens for tea, rice and clothes. As indeed in the city of St. Katherine life becomes more difficult without money and money is scarce for many. Prices for food are rising as the value of the Egyptian Pound is sinking.

Looking at the situation in this small city it seems like a microcosm of a very general situation.. Wondering how moving back to the wadis is possible without having to give up all that was learnt during the ‘living-in-the-city’ phase. I am starting to dream of a cooperation between European ecovillage experience and the expertise of the bedouin.

Another very interesting aspect of the region are numerous holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, The area is dedicated as Unesco World Heritage and all three religions can be practiced here side by side. My feeling is that something can be found here that goes beyond the different religions and a sense that searching for it, is part of my life mission. Many people who are visiting the region are deeply touched. On one of my walks I had the impression that the mountains are holding the light and love of hundreds of thousands of years of sunshine. I was so mesmarized by my visit this time that I stayed in a kind of trance for about a week afterwards. And still I am feeling back to Sinai with love.