Wednesday, April 16, 2014


It is very easy to be superficial on the El Camino because of the language difficulties, but I hope that I meet Dennis and Mick again (and all the other 'peregrino's) somewhere again on the trail. I don't know when exactly, and I don't know where, but I will be on the El Camino again.

The most important realization about doing the El Camino is how much that I enjoyed the experience in its totality, how  much I accomplished as a cancer survivor and how far I went physically, mentally and spiritually during the hike.

I began the adventure with some concerns. I believe that there is more to come with anticipation.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Reflections on Walking the El Camino

  • The feet felt okay in the a.m., but by the end of the p.m., it was tough to keep hiking.
  • The blisters and calluses were manageable, especially as I learned to take better medical care of them.
  • The infection was the show stopper, but I made appointments with my PCP and podiatrist upon return to the states. I could see how it could have become worse, waking some morning and having had it spread. That made prudence the wise course of action.
General Thoughts:
  • Spain is such a beautiful country with such gracious people.
  • Spanish people dress classy; they don't dress like trash.
  • Would I live in Spain? It's possible, but ...
    • The politics are wrong for my outlook.
    • The economy is bad.
    • Spain has a weak foreign policy, it's not a world player.
    • I guess I'm a born and bred Yankee.
It all came down to completing 80 miles (120 km) in 6 days (plus 1 rest day) for an average of 12 miles/hiking day at 5 - 6 hrs/day.

There were several moments where the El Camino experience led me to consider what I had taken on.
  • My first order of coffee con leche and toastada in Camas brought back a ton of memories about breakfast in Spain.
  • Meditating with the "Our Father" on the way to Real De La Jara.
  • Taking my day off and wandering along the calles (streets) of Monasterio
  • Sharing jokes and experiences with Mick (Leeds, England) along the hike
  • Lunch with Dennis (the Canadian) in Almaden
  • All the breath-taking hills, mountains, pastures, farms and fields that I never enjoyed when I was driving instead of walking
  • Making it up hill after hill, climb after climb, slope after slope in an almost never-ending ascent
I have so many things to think about over the next year
  • Have I changed somehow? It's hard to see yet, but time will tell.
  • Maybe it's not the 'change', but the 'alterations' that a peregrino feels
  • I chased away a lot of ghosts, and opened new doors in the process
  • What will I be when I return to my previous life?
  • Will the El Camino create a new life or was it an interruption in my life?
  • After 2 - 3 days, the Via De La Plata became more than a vacation; it became a vocation. And so I regret that it came to an end prematurely. But that would imply that one is only a pilgrim while walking the El Camino.

The Way Home

Jorge has arranged to meet me at the bus station when I get to Sevilla. I will spend the night at his sister's house.  Being Semana Santa, Sevilla is impossibly crowded.

Then tomorrow he will get me to the airport and I will be headed home.

Leaving Fuente De Cantos
In the bus station of the last town to which I hiked, I walked outside in the morning sunlight.
I looked out to the horizon and realized how truly much that I had challenged myself on the El Camino Via De La Plata.

On the Bus
I saw three peregrinos walking along the El Camino, headed north, just like I had done days earlier. They were headed uphill ... a feeling with which I could now totally empathize.
Only by traveling back in the bus, could I realize just how many mountains, hills and uphill climbs I had completed, and how incessant they were along the trail.
I remembered that the trail went along roads in some places, and now I was able to see parts of the El Camino from the bus.

Back in Sevilla
With some time to kill before Jorge picked me up, I took another walk around Triana and Seville. I made it to the La Catedral and found my start point nine days earlier. I spent a few minutes just thinking about all that had happened and all that I accomplished.

Dinner at Berta's
My thanks to Berta, Sara and David for opening their home to me. I had a warm and heart-felt evening the night before my flight back to Rochester.
David gave me a tour of their hometown. We visited the church to see the "paso" (float) for the upcoming Holy Week parade.
Berta made an outstanding typical Spanish meal: sopa, tortilla, fried calamari and other courses. Topped off with Cruz Campo, it was fantastic.  And in typical Spanish fashion, we ate sumptuously around 10:00 pm.
The night was filled with warm conversation all around, and as always when in Spain, it is the night that matters, not the next morning. LOL, I made it to bed around midnight.

Jorge picked me up at 4:45 a.m. and off to the airport we went.

My sister(-in-law) shared some wonderful words of wisdom to consider at the end of this journey.
" ... nothing is wasted in God's economy.... and this is Lent... may your pains make you more compassionate, the slowness of the journey make you more patient with yourself and others, the obstacles keep your heart, mind and eyes open to whatever you must learn. Mash Allah ... " All things considered, I say that I had a good journey.

Semana Santa Holy Sunday

I am so glad that I walked to Fuente De Cantos today.

It gave me one more day in the province of Extremadura.

The scenery was simply gorgeous.

By hanging in there, I showed that I could face up to a physical, mental and spiritual challenge and carry forward, even if just 'a bit'.

By doing it, I got to spend part of Holy Week in a land where Easter is more than chocolate bunnies, Easter Eggs and dinners. I watched people of deep faith relive the passion thru hard work, lots of practice and building a team.

Because I had made it to the small pueblo of Fuente De Cantos, I felt the emotion of the spectators for the 'confradia' up close and intimately. I was in a crowd of hundreds rather than thousands (like in Sevilla). As the "paso" aka float passed by me (mere feet away), I saw the artistic and exquisite detail and painstakingly created float; it was very artistic. During the music and the procession, I was close enough to feel "the passion", to indulge in it and to let it move thru me and produced a deep emotional impact on me.

As you watch the video, understand that the 'paso' is being carried by a group of young men (approx 50) who move forward in unison, inches at a time.

Palm Sunday in Fuente De Cantos

Monasterio to Fuente de Cantos

Well, unfortunately it had to come to an end.  The infection that I picked up three days ago does not seem to be getting better.  It's not worse, but it's not better.  I'm making the arrangements for travel now.  I expect to be back in Rochester Tuesday at 5:00 pm.

I still had a wonderful time and did things that I have never done before.  If I had to do it all over again, I would change little things, but that is all.

I am glad that I got one more day in.  It was 12 miles in 5 hours and I was cranking all the way. The blisters and calluses were manageable; I learned a lot of medical skills in the past couple of days.

I saw some more beautiful sights, and had one more beautiful Spanish sunrise before cruising into town. The hostel is gorgeous, just absolutely beautiful and the dueno is 3rd generation.

Day 7

Friday, April 11, 2014

Monasterio (Rest Day)

So this day is about flexibility.  This was not in my plans to spend a rest day in Monasterio.

But now that I am here, it reminds me of an old Navy (military) joke.

  • The key to victory in battle is flexibility.
  • The key to flexibility is having several options. 
  • The key to having options is not to decide on one. 
  • Therefore the key to victory is indecision. 
So today I will not make any decisions. Instead I started my day by crossing the street and having 'churros' (like waffle cakes but tubular), Cafe con leche and pineapple juice.

Given that I was remaining here for the day, I had hoped to see some peregrinos pass by my breakfast location, leaving for Fuente de Cantos (20kms), but no such luck. Obviously the pilgrims had already left, given the hour.

Clothes are washed and hanging on the line to dry.

Reflections on goals and accomplishments:
challenge long-term fortitudehiking preps, Spanish practice, physical training
handle the unknown w/o helpcommitting to the plan, making the reservation, getting on the plane, completing each preparation
survive on my own in a foreign countryordering food, drinks, room, directions, health concerns, casual conversion
preparation match realitysuccess
cultural experiencegood food, drinks and friendly people, but no time for music or dance
met interesting peopledone
cancer survivorhiked 60 miles in 80+ temperatures over 5 days

I was taking a practice walk around the town of about 2 km. This little ditty, to the tune of 'Leaving On A Jet Plane' came into my head. Kind of sums up the tug of war going on in my head right now.

I'm a hiking El Camino.
Leaving Monasterio.
Santiago, I have to go.

One more stage is all I need,
One more stop is all I want.
When I go back, I'll do my usual things.

Final Report: feeling better. Aiming for Fuente de Cantos.

A Day in Monasterio

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Real de la Jara to Monasterio

Due to the condition of my feet, today is going to be painfully slow.

20 km or approx 12 miles.


By the time that I got to Monasterio, I had some feedback from stateside supporters.

Here is what Holly sent: "It's a quest and a spiritual journey. Keep your eyes open. It's about more than chalking up the miles. Maybe there's something you need to do or someone you are supposed to meet or something you are supposed to witness. What are you supposed to learn or experience on this day or in this moment?"

From Carol: "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."

At my first rest stop, I felt the urge/need to meditate and it seemed appropriate (on a pilgrimage) to recite the Our Father prayer. And since I had it in Spanish that was how I meditated for 10 minutes along a quiet dirt road with farm fields on both sides.

Later I found the most beautiful vista, and again I was able to just enjoy the spectacular scenery. So Holly's and Carol's words may have been quite apropos.

Unfortunately,  I had to visit the urgent care clinic here in Monasterio. The doctors said that it is heat related. Although I was ready for New York, my body was not ready for Spain.

The clinic in Real de la Jara was already closed by the time that I arrived there.  So I had to make the hike here. I did it but it was not enjoyable.  However the slow pace that I was obliged to follow opened up other possibilities.

I had the strong feeling that I would not continue tomorrow and that would mean letting go of some very interesting people that I had met over the past five days.

Mick: an irrepressible  Englishman with a great sense of wit and no end of amazing stories with which to regale you.

Dennis: a charming and generous Canadian who brought me many laughs and with whom I had a most fascinating lunch in Real de la Jara.

Paola: a gregarious Italian who did not speak Spanish but did understand it.  Yet somehow he communicated within our group of 4, bringing laughs,  smiles and warmth.

Ushi and Bruno: an open and interesting Swiss couple with whom I shared my first meal in Spain that warm summer evening in Galena. I went on to cross paths with them at least five more times as they biked the El Camino.

Chistine and Stefan: a welcoming Belgian couple whom I only met tonight over dinner. But we had a very interesting conversation about music like the Beatles,  the Monkees, Fldeetwood Mac and Tom Jones.

On the Road to Monasterio