Santiago de Compostela and Beyond

Holy mackarel! The Camino is the most intense experience I have had in my life. 

A few days ago I was offered to be a hospitalera (volunteer) in one of the albergues I stayed in. The offer apparently triggered some old longings in me. I went off track internally for a few days, although continuing the camino. Since I met reality again, I have been crying, more or less non stop, two days, stopping for photos and conversations. Learned a lot about myself, a bit painful. 

But again, when I was starting to loose heart, some camino friend would be around the corner. I was super glad to walk the last 10 km into Santiago with Paul from Australia. And when I sat down for an early dinner in Santiago, Ann and Fiona, who I had not seen for nearly two weeks turned up and joined me. 

My wooden staff has been and is still my very good companion. 

I had three rainy days in my 37 days on the Camino, one which got me completely soaked, but then the owner of the hostel had a shoe dryer facility and the sun came out in the evening and everything was dry again the next morning. The forcast for the next four days is excellent. 

Santiago de Compostela has not touched me so much, maybe because I was not open for more emotion. It seemed like a big show. Although the spectacle of the swinging of the botafumetorio in the Santiago Cathedral was breathtaking. And the voice of the nun singing, beautiful. I sang and cried …

I am glad to be out of the city again and on my way to Finisterre. Stopping in one of the smaller albergues which I have mostly chosen recently. We had dinner on a terrace with a view of a sunny green valley. Although I think I have to walk out of this valley tomorrow morning …

Arriving in Santiago

Reunion with Ann and Fiona from Australia in Santiago

Portomarin – some pre Santiago camino reflections

Last night I spent in one of the best albergues on the way. It is possible to find the perfect kind of pilgrim comfort I need. Good shower facilities, sun for drying clothes, garden to rest, vegetarian evening meal served in house, night with open window, breakfast with tea and müsli. 

I felt so well cared for that I left this morning in total confidence that there will always be enough for me. 

After Sarria a bit of a pilgrim culture shock. I had seen very few pilgrims on the trails the last few days as I chose small villages to rest, not the typical stopping towns. From Sarria it is around 100km to Santiago and a lot of people start walking here to collect stamos on the way and receive the Credential in Santiago. Many noisy groups with small backpacks, they don’t even know yet how to behave on the way 😉 and crowds everywhere in the cafes.

Lots of thoughts came up this morning what the camino is for me. And lots of dreams recently. I sat down in a cafe, waited for the crowds to pass and wrote some of them down. 

I’ll try a summary. As the Camino de Santiago has been walked by so many people with strong wishes or calling through hundreds of years it is loaded with energy that helps those who walk it now to align with their life purpose or soul or higher self, however you want to call it. It naturally brings one closer to or in the body because of the challenge of walking 25km or more every day carrying all you think you need for the time on the camino. And then there are the other pilgrims who can be delightful companions or triggering in the bunkbeded sleeping rooms. Soul, mind and body all challenged at once in different or similar ways. 

The closer I get to Santiago I feel the calling for alignment nearly physically like a stretching forward with a clear anchor in the beginning of the way.

I get to know myself better every day. I seem to digest 25km well, should not have more than one coffee, up to three fresh pressed orange juices, a good meal in the evening. I like to connect to people over dinner and spend the rest of the time by myself and of course sleep in a well aired room with friendly fellow pilgrims. 

Self care has manifested a six-bed room with only me in it for tonight! And a big window. And breakfast at 6am.

Back to the inner stuff. With my walking practice I think I am adding an extra dimension to this particular walk. While the camino stretches me towards my purpose, my practice of feeling the heaven under my feet is connecting heaven and earth or as it seems to me also the masculine with the feminine. Those two aspects in me seem to be in more harmony recently. And it becomes more of a focus for me to connect masculine and feminine in a more loving way. 

I could feel the cross in myself this morning. One part the camino, the other my walking practice, meeting in my heart. And then it seemed to me that it really is about love, the whole life. And although I use the image of the cross this seems to be beyond any religion. 

And more could be said that I can’t find words for yet.

Early morning walk to Samos

Pilgrim’s tools

Trabadelo

Life on the Camino has been good the last three days. I feel in tune and that I belong here. Often I was totally happy to imagine to not do anything else then feeling the heaven under my feet for the rest of my life and to keep on walking.

Yesterday I was the last to leave the hostel at 7am and today nearly the last at 6.40am. Pilgrims start the day early. Which made sense the last two days because during the day it was hot (26 degrees Celsius).

Met N. and A. multiple times yesterday which was nice. So interesting that some people are always around. Otherwise I keep meeting new people every day apart from two Australian couples who I have seen for more than a week. They were around when I bought my new shoes which have become very good companions.

I sleep better as I have been able to manifest an open window during the night recently. One night I was right there at the window with an incredible view and yesterday I had to fight a little bit and was astonished about my assertiveness and then smiled at myself.

View from the upper bunk bed
Cruz de Ferro

Traditionally pilgrims leave a stone that they brought from home at the Cruz de Ferro. It was an important moment for me when I left mine. It had rained a little when I walked up the hill and I asked the universe to have a dry moment at the cross, which I had and then later the sun came out to shine on the colorful land.

Walking through Ponferrada I found the Castillo de los Templarios fascinating.

And today on the so-called ‘camino duro’ walking through the sweet chestnut trees which unfortunately caught two very cold nights recently.

El Ganso

Yes! My future is looking good. A nice path, beautiful surroundings and views, magic surprises on the way. I am also feeling lighter and I have accepted the weight of my backpack. I stopped comparing. 

I started early again. First breakfast was a banana and a piece of bread from last night. And as I was enjoying the early morning and noticing how happy I was that I stopped were I did last night and how well I detached from my needing green tea before I leave + congratulating myself for letting go of my resistance to using a microwave, around the corner a pilgrim’s paradise appeared. Somebody set up an outdoor shop with tea and coffee in the middle of nowhere. Fruit, even müsli and dried fruit in abundance. Also an oven to get warm – it is getting colder again as we approach the next mountain range. 

I let go and received in abundance. There was also a spiral that I walked in with a question. Already in the middle I received my answer. I will do some more research into spirals and mazes, the man from Argentine who started talking to me when I came out of the spiral gave me a few interesting hints. 

And then I moved my practice from ‘doing’ the connecting to feeling the heaven beneath my feet. Much more delightful! 

The weather was perfect, coolish but sunny. Finally I arrived in my prebooked albergue, a few steps away there is a shop that sells müsli in pilgrim’s rations and has dates and in general everything a pilgrim needs. And the albergue kitchen offers free tea and classical music is playing. Can’t think of anything else I might need now.

Oh and last night I had a happy unexpected reencounter with John who I thought I had left behind. We had another very interesting conversation over dinner. 

El Ganso

Yes! My future is looking good. A nice path, beautiful surroundings and views, magic surprises on the way. I am also feeling lighter and I have accepted the weight of my backpack. I stopped comparing. 

I started early again. First breakfast was a banana and a piece of bread from last night. And as I was enjoying the early morning and noticing how happy I was that I stopped were I did last night and how well I detached from my needing green tea before I leave + congratulating myself for letting go of my resistance to using a microwave, around the corner a pilgrim’s paradise appeared. Somebody set up an outdoor shop with tea and coffee in the middle of nowhere. Fruit, even müsli and dried fruit in abundance. Also an oven to get warm – it is getting colder again as we approach the next mountain range. 
I let go and received in abundance. There was also a spiral that I walked in with a question. Already in the middle I received my answer. I will do some more research into spirals and mazes, the man from Argentine who started talking to me when I came out of the spiral gave me a few interesting hints. 

And then I moved my practice from ‘doing’ the connecting to feeling the heaven beneath my feet. Much more delightful! 

The weather was perfect, coolish but sunny. Finally I arrived in my prebooked albergue, a few steps away there is a shop that sells müsli in pilgrim’s rations and has dates and in general everything a pilgrim needs. And the albergue kitchen offers free tea and classical music is playing. Can’t think of anything else I might need now.

Oh and last night I had a happy unexpected reencounter with John who I thought I had left behind. We had another very interesting conversation over dinner. 

Santibanez de Valdeiglesias

Today I started walking at 6am. It felt beautiful to walk into the day. Then in the next village on the way, after 10 km there was no bar open. A few of us had a break near the church, reflecting how we got on without coffee and enjoying our water. 

I felt great. Empty roads and a good atmosphere for my connecting walking practice. I worked more with my wooden staff, imagining to send love and light through the staff. It feels very lightful if I direct some of it through me. It brings a smile to my face. 

A part of me wanted to walk to Astorga today. Of course I had met new people and particularly A. and N., two men travelling together, I wanted to meet again. We ran into each other a few times during the last few days and spent our breaks together, a most delightful and funny meeting we had in Leon. It was so uplifting that I spent the rest of the day completely in tune with myself. Had a delicious lunch and then I visited the cathedral. A very powerful building. The next morning I felt a little disoriented and although I had to walk back, at some point I decided to go back to the cathedral and spend some time there. As if the cathedral had called me to pay respect. I felt blessed and could walk on more in tune again. That was yesterday, it turned out to be a very hot day. 

Yesterday while walking I felt into why I like A. and N. so much. I think it is the sense of humor and a wonderful attitude to be ready to like everything about the person they meet. I felt very empowered in their presence.

So today it started to rain around 13km into the day, strong rain, my first real rain experience. And it turns out my new shoes are not at all rainproove. I kind of knew that, but was hoping they would keep my feet more dry. 

Walking into the rain

I real fight inside me started, the part that was doing well and wanted to walk on, the part worrying about my wet skin under my feet and the part that tries not to overdo it anymore. And then I am very aware that according to my Camino theory I am very close to my current age, I walked 520 and a bit km. Very soon I will be walking in my future. Maybe it is good to go slow here and wait for better weather to continue 😁.

Well I found myself ask for a bed in a albergue on the way. And after having had my shower and while resting in the bar, A. and N. walked in. Another good chat. They later continued to Astorga. 

Puente di Orbigo

On the way we walked across another of these huge bridges. Also the Rio Orbigo carried more water in the past. 

A man from Germany I walked with reminded me how the Spanish people used a lot of their trees to build the Spanish Armada. With less trees the water levels sank and the rivers dried out. 

The rivers carrying little water is the most obvious effect on nature I notice. 

I do enjoy to see the many storks and their nests, often on the churches. Yesterday in a church a text suggested that the storks want to be closer to God. 

On the Way to Leon

Back in my bed in another room with lots of bunk beds. But some are empty, nobody sleeping above me. I had a really nice dinner with a couple from Vancouver. The Canadian people keep asking me where I got my Arc’terix gear. I bought it in Berlin. It is made in Canada and I can only agree it is the best. 

After carrying my old shoes for one and a half days just in case, I left them in Calzada del Coto today. 

Yeah. I moved from hard and slightly too small shoes to spacious, soft and comfortable shoes. 

I am enjoying the slower pace. I let all the fast people leave town and walk behind them, I stop in every town on the way and seem to be finding new friends. And then sometimes I do indeed meet people who I walked with 10 days or a week ago. Broad bandwidth of types and paces. This is astonishing me every day. If the Camino is a microcosm of life or/and the world it is bringing the similarities and the differences between people much more close and available.

This morning I had a big insight. I projected a feeling of not having taken a big chance onto somebody (who wanted to join me in Logrono and then did not). I seem to have been silently angry about him not coming for the past two weeks. This morning I asked myself which big chance was given to me in my life which I did not take. Something going back to when I had just turned 18 came up. Good reminder and lots to feel. 

And more about my staff. I love it. It is a constant reminder of the connection between heaven and earth to me and somehow it seems to do the connecting for me. Don’t know yet what that means for my practice. On one of my first days walking with the staff, I listened to somebody talking about his sick sister and had the feeling that with the help of the staff the holding container for feeling with him was bigger or softer or something like that. Beautiful!

Sahagun

In my new App ‘Camino Frances – the Wise Pilgrim’ it says that Sahagun has seen more than its share of battles between Christians and Moslems. It was an important town back then and everybody wanted it. 5 of the originally 10 churches are still visible, some as ruins. 

I feel this is a good place to leave a stone I brought from Sinai as a sign for peace between Christians and Muslims. I’ll find a place when I have finished my camomille tea in this comfortable bar.

Feeling much better, it is also good to not be too exhausted after the walking part of the day. I was curious and fit enough to discover the town.

I am really going slower, new experience. Something in me seems to be very different after recent experiences, can’t say what exactly. But for example I am sleeping on my back now after most of my life having slept on my tummy. In the evening I am listening to sound meditations created by Tom Kenyon. This also helps me to not be too upset about the many pilgrims who prefer to sleep with windows closed even with 20 people in the room. Well, I might have mentioned that most carry a very light sleeping bag.

Yesterday we crossed the 400km point – half way done to Santiago. Sahagun is officially the centre of the Camino for people who started walking in Roncesvalles. 

Sahagun – Centre del Camino

Already around km 300 I had the thought that the number of km walked might mirror my age (and possibly of everybody walking the way), 300 = 30 years. Now in my early 40s again when I decided to start my own business. Maybe mirrored by my new shoes which are more spacious than my other shoes but not yet broken in. 

Ermita de la Virgen del Puente

Carrion de los Condes

I’ll stop counting days. Stepping out of these numbered etappes. 

My body does not seem to like it. After a seemingly beautiful day and some fun over dinner with fellow German pilgrims I fell ill with diarrhea. I spent a night mostly in the bathroom. Luckily there was a chair. My bed was in a seven-bed room and I had to walk through a room with 12 people sleeping. I walked past a few times when I felt I could and needed to rest in my bed. Interesting practice and experience.

During the short rests, I had a dream in which one of my teachers suggested to me to take a break. I needed another day to follow the advice. Yesterday I walked 15km, as after 5km I felt better than I would have thought. But around km 12 my force was not with me anymore and I walked the probably slowest and exhausted 3km of my life. Checked into a nice hostel at midday and slept most of the afternoon and the whole night. 

This morning over breakfast when I noticed that I was still not fit again I met two lovely ladies, they offered me to pray for me and I sat down in front of them and they laid their hands on me and prayed. Beautiful, I relaxed instantly.  For one of them also slowing down came up as an issue. 

So today I walked only 5 km to the next village. In the cafe I met John who I had met two days ago and when checking in to the highly recommended hostel led by nuns I met two other pilgrims I had seen before. Not everybody speeds ahead. And now I seem to be ready to meet the other people. 

A mystical trail where you have many mirrors in the people you meet.

I also went to the hairdresser, my hair looks a bit different than I wanted it, due to my little Spanish. 

And I bought new shoes. That is not recommended but I kind of did not like my other new shoes from the beginning and could not find more love for them on the way. The right shoe was a bit too small after walking for a while and they were hard. The new shoes are soft. 

When talking to Rita from Finland briefly while writing this, she mentioned that one has to buy the bus ticket for tomorrow now as the bus is selling out. So I did and got two tickets for John and myself. Three tickets left the lady in the bar said. Good to talk to people and receive important information! 

So tomorrow will be another restday! 

And I hope to be able to prepare more of my rice tomorrow. Super alternative to the daily tortilla and bread. Need to look out for hostels with kitchen. I got tired of the pilgrim’s menu anyway, and my stomach too. 

There was a vesper with our three nuns and then we sang together. I am doing much better. Also just discussed with John under which circumstances I can take communion in a Catholic Church. 

Out of Catrojeriz – on the way to Fromista
On the way

15 th day – Castrojeriz

Another sunny day on the Camino! 

The day before yesterday I had the impulse to reserve a bed to have a bit more ease of mind during the day. And when I was entering the little town of Hornillos del Camino indeed there was a small group of pilgrims who told me that all beds were taken in this town and in the next town 10 km further. Lucky me that I had reserved. I have not heard yet where the others found a place for the night. The hostel was pleasant, a modern pilgrim’s hostel, super efficient and there was a communal dinner. The cost for a night in one of these places is 10€ + 10€ for the meal and 3€ for a frugal breakfast. 

The tension that had been building over the last few days broke free after I left Burgos. Lots of time walking through the Meseta to cry, shout, pray and finally calm down again. In my outer Camino life I decided to cut back or stop drinking coffee and wine and I will look out for better food during the day.

Not sure if tense connecting of heaven and earth helped anybody … 

Today my practice felt delightful and I imagined that with every time I put my stick on the floor I planted peace and love on that spot. 

I don’t accept any offers to walk with others for the moment and enjoy meeting my new friends over dinner or in the breaks.

A friend I have been in email contact with reminded me that I am on a way to embody more of the feminine while I am walking. Sometimes I can feel how I put more emphasis on ‘being’ instead of ‘doing’. I walk softly, and also when I speak I try to speak from the soft part in me. 

And then life comes in the form of challenging daily etappes that are described in my guide book and the man in me 🙂 wants to be able to finish them, even tries to push myself with coffee and meat to pull through. I understood this more deeply now I think, will work on refining my masculine part to support me in new ways. 

Walking through the ruines of the old pilgrim hospital of San Anton