Friday, October 20, 2006

Link to selected photos

Here is a link to some selected photos of my walk in Spain. Hope it works.
My attempt to insert them into the entries didn't!

Monday, September 18, 2006


My walk is over! After walking westwards for the last 880km I cannot go any further. The last 3 days have been interesting. Day 1 was great after my rest day in Santiago. Walked over 34 km and apart from the last few I was in great form, was walking for the pleasure of walking and with nice people and was great. Didn´t arrive at the auberge ´till 7.30 though and the auberge was an old school so we were sleeping on foam sheets on the ground. And I was in the middle of my shower when all the water got cut off, there wasn´t even cold water so that wasn´t too fun... Didn´t sleep very well either as there was a mosquito buzzing in my ear half the night too. Bit nervous about them now after it looked like my 5 weeks were an excuse to get some liposuction done a few days ago. Got to use my survival blanket 5 years after I first purchased it. Not too much fun for the others in my dorm but going on this walk with just a sleeping bag liner wasn´t a smart idea on my part.

So that was Day 1, day 2 was soooo tired and had to walk, we thought 38 km, ended up being at least 42! Luckily we left some stuff in the pilgrim office in Santiago (just 1 euro a day and that was 3 person´s stuff) but my bag was still way too heavy for 42 km! Was sleep walking half the time but still conscious enough to know I was awake and had 2o+ km to go!! When we finally arrived the hospitalero had no food as we arrived so later so we piled all the found we had between us and had a mountain of pasta, a slice of cheese and tomato sauce. Not bad! Early to bed for me and just 18km to walk today, nice! Has been foggy since we left Santiago and so didn´t get to see a lot to be honest. The remains from the fire last month... but not too much sea at the end. And the lighthouse is a hornhouse... walk 880km to be almost deafened!! Some hasty photos later and we hurried back to the town to have a hasty meal before one of the French guys heads off to his holidays in Rome. So the rest of us will be here tonight, Santiago tomorrow to get my other two free meals from the Parador, have warned the doorman in advance! and get some souvenirs.

And the fate of the walkers, one speaks of writing a book, one is going to try and help encourage people to return to the countryside... one is retired but thinking of making the return trip, two will return to work in an oil refinery, one has returned to teaching, one to IT... some don´t know, one a nurse, three hope to make a documentary ( ) and one will study for the moment and see what doors open next

Friday, September 15, 2006


I´ve arrived!! In fact I arrived yesterday but am feeling it more today. The plan had been to do 2 tough days with an easy day in between but myself and Lucie had been having such an interesting conversation during the easy day that I didn´t feel the 24kms go by and figured I´d go on and do another 8 to have three equal days but 8 ended up been 16 as the village where I was meant to ask the barlady for a bed was a bit twilightzonish with an old man beckoning me around corners that I decided to press along in the downpour that followed. So I arrived at St. Irene to see other people standing in the rain at the door, but there was a bed... no food but a bed and a hot shower and I had 100g of chocolate in my bag, energy food for the final day.

Arrived at Santiago in the rain at about 1.30. The last few days were typical Irish weather, misty, overcast, drizzly, rainy... The walk into Santiago is like any other city-town, pretty ugly, but the old centre is lovely and the seminary where I´m sleeping is up on a hilltop with a fantastic view. Was so tired yesterday that I just got my certificate and spent the rest of the day in bed. Everything changed today though, woke up full of energy, still foggy here but so quiet, got to see the city before business began. Also got one of my 3 free meals (breakfast) in the Parador, most expensive hotel in Santiago. How it works is that you get a copy of your certifcate and then you go to the garage entrance and are brought to a special pilgram room for eating. Only 10 people can do this each time so you have to arrive early to get it or do breakfast like me and the 2 Americans this morning. Dinner probably wouldn´t work for me anyway. This "ritual" is a bit of an inconvenient transition for the hotel rather than a love for the pilgrim. I don´t think they´d appreciate my vegetarian requests!! Still interesting to partake in!

After breakfast I got my cert laminated as it was already getting destroyed and then the fun began, meeting all the people I had bumped into, walked, dined and made plans with in the last 30 days. Then the joyous feelings sprang and culminated at the pilgrim mass where a nun with a fantastic voice sang the opening hymm and the church crammed with people beaming all listening in wonder. I had squeezed myself into a bit of floor space beside the altar and felt the emotion finally rise as my eyes began to water and looked around to see half the congregation wiping the tears away too. They must have done away with naming the individuals, makes sense considering how many people, so they just listed the countries. 2 from Ireland I think. Met 3 other Irish people later, retired school teachers who did it for 4 days. At the end of the mass they burned incense in a massive burner which was swung by 8 priests to the ceiling! Amaziing to see. And then reunion again with more people, just after a massive buffer lunch for 7
euros 50 and meeting everyone again this eve in front of the cathedral.

Myself and at least 2 others are starting the 3-4 day walk to Finisterre tomorrow. That was slightly putting a damper on the whole arrival to Santiago experience too as I´m not finished yet and I´m always anxious about my feet but was talking to Lucie and this will not be the same. This is just an extra walk we´re doing by the sea. We can relax this time, we don´t have to pressurise ourselves with solitude or time limitations... We´ll see what happens. Was talking to a French guy last night who had returned who said that some of the way is burnt but not too bad. I saw some effects of the fire myself too the last day or two but nothing too devasting... well not along the camino anyway.

After Finisterre there´s talk of another place Muxia but I have a flight on the 20th so I think I´m just going to have to call a halt at Finisterre. Still have to go back to Santiago (bus) and buy all things yellow!

Monday, September 11, 2006

92 km to go

Passed the 100km mark today. Read in my book that they´ve actually made a mistake though and when you arrive at 12 km to go it´ll become 15 so I should have taken a photo at 97... ah well. Walking through Galicia is like walking through the Ireland you see in films, small green fields, stone walls, hills and drizzle. Nice short walk today (24km). The next 3 days will be sizeable and then hopefully just 5 km Friday morning to arrive early in Santiago to get the certificate and hear our names called out after the sermon at the daily pilgrim mass. Then off again for 3 more days to get to the end of the world, Finisterre... All going to plan. Been to the pharmacy again so hopefully I´m equipped for the days to come and nabbed some wool at the Cebreiro market which soothes all those infant blisters. I´ve been accused of doping because of all the products I´m using to keep going! Have developed an allergic reaction to all the creams I was putting on my legs so had to buy another cream to combat that!

At Portomarin, arrived at 12pm. Earliest arrival since I started, was like I was on holidays. Wondered around and finally arrived at the pool at 2.15 to see that it would be open at 3.30. Too lazy to move any further I just hung out reading until 3.30, 4.00, 4.15. A german girl then arrived and we decided to ring the number. Probably disturbed the guy from his siesta but I feel invigorated now. Swimming in the rain...

So, I´m glad I didn´t bring my psychology book that was meant to give me ideas for next semester. I barely have time to read the book I have... it´s amazing how much time looking after one´s feet takes! And am running into people from earlier too which is nice.

So since leaving Ruitlean where I was awaken to the sound of Ave Maria and freshly made toast we reached the caminos highest points, saw the Galician delicacy of boiled octopus, made a few diversions ´coz we love the challenge, walked together and apart, had to time to reflect and company to distract ourselves, converged and divided and converged again.

Now it´s all about the walk. Everyone at their own pace. Well that´s what it´s about to me. The end is nigh. In fact, the end has been nigh since September began. In August I wasn´t going home ´till Sept but since Sept began it´s been almost countdown. So these last few days are important.

Once again, have to acknowledge how good it is to be Irish because every other nation loves us. I obviously do not look Spanish and attract questions and generosity and friendliness.

Sarria, where we slept last night, is the last big town before the 100km and walkers need to walk at least the last 100km to Santiago to be entitled to get the certificate so it´s become a lot busier. The refuge where I´m staying holds 160 places and was full by 3. When I started people told me the opportunity of getting your bags carried for you and I was thinking I might do it for one day but now it really would be unheard of. There is a certain pride in being a ´real´pilgrim, to have walked about 700km now with my 11kg bag myself. It would be unheard of to get it carried unless something awful happened which hopefully won´t. So we´ve developed a bit of a superiority complex to those other day trippers who just carry their water and picnic bag but do appreciate when they offer us melon slices and olives from their bountiful supply of food!

If nothing else, this has been a great opportunity to practice my languages. I understand again why I studied them. It has also been an interesting study of self. I never noticed how important the fact that I am in the youngest determines who I am. The fact that I am often speaking French or German also affects my role, being less skilled infantiles me. Being less experienced... Whatever roles is the most dominant is determined and the hierarchy is decided and the leader - follower roles are distributed. But once the roles decrease in importance then the hierarchy reshuffles or I refuse to play the game and move on.

Friday, September 08, 2006

a little piece of heaven

Read in one of my guides about this place that gives shiatsu massages. Ok, have to pay for it and is pretty expensive but I´m going to get one ´coz my leg keeps giving away after yesterday´s exploits and I´ve got a 3 hour early morning climb ahead of me tomorrow ... and descent which could be all the worse!!! So only walked about 22 km today, or maybe more... there was a choice b-w 10km on road to a village, 12 km along the mountains or 18 km, opted for the 12 km path but lost the trail 2-3 way through and ended up ploughing my way through scrub until I came to a 3 metre drop to the road. Walked along the edge for a while looking for easier climbs but had to throw my bag, sticks and myself down in the end. About 50 m along the road I came upon the path... grrr... completely covered in dirt I stumbled up one of the German guys I met a few days ago... Well I guess I´m authenticising it a bit more for myself.

Anyway, I´m the only place here so far which is cool. Not a designated stop and might not appear in lots of guides so here´s hoping. Wouldn´t mind a bit of quiet time. Keep bumping into the Irish guys I met in Leon now and Irish girls yesterday. Didn´t appreciate the whole wooden cabin thing last night but it was kinda cool to wake up there this morning. What a difference a good night´s sleep makes and it actually was decent enough. Placed myself beside the yard opening which was noisy but at least provided some air.

I´ve become very sensitive to the colour yellow. Yellow is the colour of the arrows we need to follow and the brown moss on trees is yellow from a distance, I can spot a yellow leaf 500m away, all the yellow warning signs jump out at me. A yellow arrow will never be just that again, it´s a lifeline, a symbol of hope, a restoration of faith, a leap of joy.

After 2 weeks of not using my sticks right I finally know how. Was following an adept French guy for a while who now tells me ´tu danses en marchant´.

And after receiving fierce slagging from all the Spanish and French meateaters I finally found a vegetarian restaurant and it was fab. Guy had been to Middle East and Asia too and could see its influence in the mint tea, multicolured bunting, tofu... Was a lovely setting with a view of the Galician hills to come and the echoing bells of the cows and goats. Doing this walk awakens memories of other walks I´ve done and forgotten in China and India. The mounds of stones that appear at intervals here are found on Tibetan mountains. It´s amazing how half way across the world never matter what the faith is similar rituals are performed.

Other people have arrived now so had better make myself off to shower and wash my clothes. Treated myself to a washing machine yesterday but after today will have 16 euros to get me over the hill and down to the next town where there´s an ATM. I´d better make it over in one day!!!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Week 4 Day 2

I think about 200 km left. One flat day and then a climb of 1500 m and down again. Just did that yesterday again. Great fun!

Spanish people finished in Leon so I have been travelling with some French people since. Left them in Pontferrada today as wasn´t in the mood for sight seeing but walked too much and am exhausted now. 40+ km... longest ever and never again!

It has been roasting the last few days. Very hard to sleep. Tonight should be a howl in a wood cabin stuffed with bunks...

Will be entering Galicia tomorrow or Saturday and from then on every 500m will be marked ´till 0. Was at a health centre just now as I´m been burnt through my clothes, blisters are multiplying too... The pharmacies are what are benefitting the most from this trek. I´m spending about 30 euros there twice a week.

So back to vineyards and blackberries. Sounds idyllic and is until 8km till my shower turns into 16! And all I want to do is stop!!!

Days are already noticeably shorter here. Was up at 5 am this morning, finished walking at 5 30 pm (see what I´m saying!!!) but it didn´t get light ´till 7.30. Used to be a lot earlier... was a full moon today though so could navigate well enough...

That´ll do for now. Need to go horizontal for at least 8 hours tonight!

Talk next week!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

to do or not to do

If someone asked me would I recommend that they do it, a week ago I would have said no but now I´m thinking, if you can accept that for the first 10 days 2 weeks things are going to be tough and you can cope with that and not loose faith and believe in the optimism of others and that you are as strong as the others and that if others can do it that so can you (there´s some people who started walking in Holland and Switzerland!)

Now I find myself, more so in the morning (late night) walking in the dark as it begins to get bright, thinking, wow this is cool, I am doing this, I have already done so much and hopefully I´ll get to do a lot more!


Arrived in Leon today after getting up at 5 am to avoid walking in the heat for too long. Arrived in the hostal at about 2 and will stay an extra day - my first rest day! Is roasting at the moment. Managed to take a little siesta of 1 hour and woke up sweating, at 6 pm! Will venture into the city later. Tonight there is no curfew for going to bed. Normally we have to be in the hostal and in bed by 10, 10.30 but not here. You also have to be out of the hostal by 8am in the morning but here it´s 10 am so should be good. Don´t know if I´ll actually sleep in though, considering I rarely sleep at the best of times I doubt it!

Tomorrow although we´re not walking anywhere we´re going to try to walk a lot around the city so that the legs don´t suffer withdrawl symptoms and won´t function Monday. It´s true!! Have to keep the momentum going!!

Going to explain a few things now. First of all the name of my blog. It´s because and forgive me if this is not entirely accurate, but years ago when the Catholic church recognised purgatory they said that if you walked the camino on certain years (every 4th one) you wouldn´t have to go to purgatory after you died. All other years, you´d be exempted half the stay. It so happens that I´m doing it on one of the other years so I´m only getting my term reduced by 50% but is there even a term anymore???!!!

Piercing blisters: never heard about this until here but apparently it´s the thing to do if you have them. I resisted for about 2 weeks and finally succumbed to a nurse who dragged me into a hotel to do it. What happens is that you, or the willing volunteer - and there was this Italian guy Marco, whose eyes used to light up everytime he saw mine, DYING to pierce them, so there are some - sterilises a threaded needle and makes a stitch through the blister, not touching the skin below but piercing the bubble. Some thread is left in the blister so that it will drain the fluid and dry it out. At the moment, I have three such artefacts on my feet, one with 3 pieces of thread the blister was so huge!

Not much else to say for now. The rest of the people should arrive tomorrow and all go again Monday. Will visit some sites tonight and tomorrow.