Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Netherlands & Germany

With my friends in Europe,
pilgrims I met along the Camino de Santiago,
these folks have changed my life forever

Papendrecht/Dordrecht
I have been in Europe one week now and every minute has been magical. Connie met me at Schiphol (Amsterdam Airport) and the adventure started. We relaxed Sunday allowing for my jet-lag. I also relaxed at Connie's home on Moday while she went to work.

Haarlem
Tuesday I set off on the train from Dordrecht to Haarlem where I was met by Paula (Katie and Chris' friend) who was the perfect hostess for the day. With Paula I cycled and walked around Haarlem seeing the city's places of interest, the cathedral, cloistered apartments, shops, and canals. We finished our day sitting on the terrace of a Pub near Paula's home and enjoyed our conversation, lunch, wine, then went to Paula's home for coffee.

Duisburg, Germany
With the rest of the week a vacation for Connie we headed off to Duisburg, Germany, to visit with Rolf and Christine. The weather has been delightful since I arrived and Wednesday was no exception. When we entered into Germany the speed of the cars in the fast lane was incredible, whoosh they past us and then were out of sight. Wolf came to visit and the six of us went sightseeing in Duisburg Center ending at a quiet restaurant down on the restored docks by the river. I had enjoyed Schnitzel at this restaurant in 2007 so had another Schnitzel this year, it was just as delicious. Wolf left on Thursday afternoon and the group went walking through a forest ending at another wonderful outdoor restaruant at the edge of the forest. It was a relaxing quiet wonderful time with friends but on Friday we needed to head back to Papendrecht.

Utrecht
Connie had a long arranged seminar to attend on Saturday so I arranged to meet with Kim and Bauke in Utrecht. I first met Kim and Bauke on my 2007 camino walk. We met again a few months later when I was on my way to London, UK, for Gwen and Dave's Golden anniversary. I went on a camino reunion (of sorts) through The Netherlands and Germany on my way to London. It was as if we had not been separated for two years - the three of us talked and reminisced while sharing an English High Tea at a local restaurant. It was delightful.

Moving on
I now go to Nijmegen (The Netherlands) by train where Kees and I will meet for our long camper van journey to Alicante, Spain. Along the way to Nijmegen the train stops in Utrecht so I will spend an hour with Kim at a coffee stop ....

Such wonderful friends, is it any wonder the camino is so magical for me and other pilgrims?

Till next time .....

Friday, August 07, 2009

A camino of sorts ....

A new camino ....

I returned to Houston June 11, 2009 since then it has been hot here every day. The temperature has been in the 90's F. (30's C) for two months and it is getting hotter. Two days his week have been dangerously hot (99 F. with a Heat Index of 105 F.).

I am about to escape the heat ......

On August 15 I am on my way to Amsterdam. While in The Netherlands I will be staying with Connie in Papendrecht. During my visit with Con we plan on visiting Duisburg, Germany, on a mini vacation to see my dear friends, Christine and Rolf.

I have a meeting planned with Katie's friend, Paula, who lives in Haarlem. Paula has offered to show me around Haarlem on the day that we meet.

It happened again .....
Kees and Dorrith were to drive from Spain to The Netherlands in his new camper van after Dorrith's visit with Kees in Alicante. Then this week Kees wrote: "I don't know what it is with tripping over pebbles a few days before a holiday. Now it happened to Dorrith. Yesterday she tripped over a pebble of 5 cm. and dislocated a vertebra! She hardly can walk, lay down, or sit so she is absolutely unable to travel to Spain.".

When I received the above message I immediately thought, oh no, we MUST stop saying our camino continues. If you read my Blog then you know that my Via de la Plata camino was beset by injuries, one of them Kees.

Kees gave me some advice, "And Luiza....... don't you dare tripping over a little stone (or something else, a staircase or Twopence or Penny!!).".

I am joining Kees in The Netherlands for the return journey to Alicante. So Kees, I am being careful and hoping, with fingers crossed, for no accidents.

I look forward to seeing my camino friends again and will Blog when, or if, I get the chance.

Bye for now,
Luiza

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lisboa, Portugal

Roland
It is with sadness that I write this. Roland sent text messages to us all the evening before his morning departure, he was so happy that the next day he would be with us in SdC and "the family" would once again be together. Then he called early the next morning, overnight his uncle died, his mother's brother 53 years old, and a father of two. Roland our deepest sympathy for you and your family in Bavaria.

The BIG news
The penultimate day before Santiago was to be a 20kms day from Arzuá to Arca (now called Pedrouza) so we started walking at 7:00am. The cool morning air gave us a chance to get five or six kilomteres walked without the hot sun slowing our pace. It was to be a long hot walk this day when not in the pine or eucalyptus forests. I took every advantage of stopping in the shade that I could and simply sat and cooled off. It was Monday, June 1, and the first Bar at 7.8kms is closed on Monday's, just what a pilgrim wants to see, a closed Bar. However, we sat with Romero and Indiana (Italy) and cooled down in the shade of the big tree drinking a Coca Cola from the soda machine. Fortunately there were a couple of Bars open between this stop and Pedrouza and we were able to have lunch and Cafe con leche in Calle, again with Romero and Indiana. At this spot, Calle, in 2007 we had come across the Bar owner on the path having a diabetic attack, all along the way there are memories for me.

Walking in Galicia is beautiful and one does not hurry these last days, so I was on a slow walk to SdC not knowing what was about to happen. Actually, I remember going through the song in my head, Last train to Santiago. I was also thinking of David our friend who wished me well in 2007 at this point and who died in a helicopter crash just months later.


As I was walking through the last forest into Arca-Pedrouza I looked ahead and saw a backward walking pilgrim (usually a returning pilgrim from Santiago). At first I took little notice, but then I looked again, and noticed that he did not have a backpack, then I saw the smile, it was Rolf. Rolf! My buddy from along the Meseta, and the camino in 2007, and to whom I have dedicated this VdlP walk. We hugged each other with me in disbelief and we cried and were so happy to see each other, it was wonderful. I could not believe it, what a surprise. My friends had kept the secret of Rolf's journey to SdC since March. Roland did not know Rolf's plans so it was still to be kept quiet till Roland arrived in SdC, hence the news message on the last posting.


Rolf has fulfilled a long time dream by buying a new FIAT camper to travel around Europe. Yes Dawn, Rolf has the all clear from his doctors, so with good news he then drove over 2,300kms to meet us all in SdC for the first week of June. We walked into Pedrouza together and then sat at a new Rolf's Bar and celebrated. In between times we sat outside the camper with cheese, beer, and wine naming the camper, Rolf's Bar. We caught up on the happenings from our lives between then and the last time we were together when I visited Rolf and Christina in Duisberg, Germany. Rolf was to stay in SdC until the day I was leaving. We set the game plan for the next day, walk into Santiago, then go in the camper to A Coruña for an overnight trip.

As I sit here in Lisbon writing this Blog page Rolf is driving toward Germany. Last night he was 850kms from home.

We always remember that God laughs at man who makes plans. (Sigilinde)


Rolf and Wolf at Monte do Gozo

The walk into Santiago
A different journey
It started at Monte do Gozo when Wolf needed a bathroom. At first Rolf and I sat waiting for him, not thinking much about it, but then it became worse. We would find a Bar, walk some more, find a Bar, walk some more, and this continued at each Bar but he was getting progressively worse, sweating, fever, chills, and obvioulsy ill. I was walking well but I have walked into the city three times previously, these circumstances called for a different approach. 2.5kms from SdC I had a taxi called from the last Bar as this next stretch has no Bars, and with no shade it was very hot in the sun, too hot for a sick person to walk. Wolf collapsed as he got out of the cab in Praza Obridorio and does not remember his arrival in SdC. What a sad entrance to the destination.


After stopping at Rolf's Bar in Santiago we left Wolf in his hotel room and Rolf and I went to check-in at the camping ground, Camping Las Cancelas. Obviously we were not going to A Coruña this day, and later I would be happy that we did not. We spent the rest of the day visiting the cathedral and walking around town with Rolf and I just being together in SdC. Later we had dinner with Regina and Sarah who told us that eight pilgrims were sick with food poisoning from a Bar along the way, a Bar where we had all eaten lunch. Now it was nine sick pilgrims.

At midnight I said goodnight to Rolf and went to my hotel. Then it started, worse than any wheat/gluten attack I have ever had, it was bad. Ten sick pilgrims! I now call them the lost days .... Kees arrived sometime the next day and I remember him coming to visit. I remember contacting my friend Katie, a nurse, in Houston asking for help. I do not remember if I called Kate or sent a text. I remember Rolf bringing packets of electrolytes (Kate's prescription) and Spanish drugs, but mostly I remember sleeping or being ill and hearing the rain. On Tuesday it stared to rain, it can rain buckets in Sdc, and it did, it kept raining right up to the time I arrived in Porto, Portugal. It rained all those days in SdC, it poured, just like it did in 2007.

Kees told me they were going out to eat and asked if I wanted to join them. Well no, I did not want food but I wanted to be with them, so I asked the time. Kees said it was 9:30, so I told him I would join them in three hours, he knew then all was not right as he told me, Luiza that will be after midnight.


A Coruña y Fisterre
We decided to go on our overnight trip to A Coruña on Friday. A Coruña is a nice old city with a distinct style and of course, the Hercules Tower. We walked around the old town, had lunch at a nice restaurante, and then decided to visit Finisterre. What a treat riding around in the beautiful camper with friends who have all walked the camino and hold that special place in their hearts for the end of the world. It was like a tape rewind seeing the camino markers at various points, catching glimpses of pilgrims along the path and knowing that you also have walked this way. We went to the Cape and sat for awhile looking out at the ocean and contemplating these last days then went back to town for dinner. My mouth was watering for a lobster but when the time came I had to rethink that choice. What a shame, to be in Finisterre where the seafood is excellent and to simply eat a piece of Hake (Merluza).


Back in Santiago
Saturday night Kees wanted to treat us all to dinner. We still needed soft food so selected La Crepe which when we sat at our table Rolf pointed out that we where directly above Rolf's Bar, how appropriate. The crepes were beautiful, light, tasty, and the night was magical. With us four missing our fifth family member (Roland) and sad for him and his family. We called Andrée as she was also to be with us in Santiago but could not because of her fall which damaged her leg.


Kees, Luiza, Wolf, Rolf at "Rolf's Bar"

Sunday morning we said goodbye to Kees from Rolf's Bar as he needed to visit Hospital del Orbigo to check on a fair being held that weekend. We spent the day doing last minute shopping, having a Tapas lunch and dodging the rain. We went back to La Crepe for dinner as it was so good the night before we wanted an encore.

That is it ....


I am now in Lisboa, Portugal. I spent yesterday sightseeing and went on the open top tour bus. The people are tourists now, not pilgrims, things are changing for me, the transition from pilgrim to normal life has started. I wanted to visit Évora today but there are no tours on Wednesdays so I decided to Blog and this afternoon I will visit the Castelo Sao Jorge.

Tomorrow I fly home and Via de la Plata will be a wonderful memory.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Santiago de Compostela


Dear family and friends,

Thank you for following me along the camino, Via de la Plata. I have arrived in Santiago and will be partying with my friends until Sunday. I will leave for Portugal on Monday and fly home from Lisbon on June 11, 2009.

I will add photos and notes from the unfinished days on my return to Houston.

Look for BIG news on Friday (maybe).

Love,
Luiza

Arca O Pino (Pedrouza)

Santiago today.
So close that I must walk in. I will be tired but happy that I walked the 17 kms to my destination today. I walked from Arca in 2002 and 2007 so I know for me this is possible. The day is beautiful and sunny and it is 29 Deg. C. (90 Deg. F.). Walking through the eucalyptus forests there is pleany of shade so it is cooler. The air is electric with happy pilgrims knowing they have walked so far and their goal is near.

Kees is on his way. Roland has just called and he too is getting ready to be in Santiago and wants a space reserved at Rolf´s Bar. More later. It is almost 8:30 am which is my leaving time for a day´s walk.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Arzuá

37.5 kms to Santiago de Compostela
May 30, 2009


Yesterdfay I had a keyboard with a sticky space key, today all keys are sticky and dirty so I will just read the comments and try again another day. I am three days out of SdC with a stop tomorrow in Arca O Piño, then Labacolla, and next day ... Santiago.

This is the doomed leg camino.
Kees and Roland will be in Santiago. Kees was to walk the last 100 kms but last week while walking in Alicante with Jan and Elvira he slipped from the river bank into the river and has badly damaged his right leg. Andrée and Kees both with damaged legs.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Melide


50kms to Santiago de Compostela
May 30, 2009

Palas de Rei


63 kms to Santiago de Compostela
May 29,2009

Ventas de Narón


75 kms to Santiago de Compostela
May 28, 2009

Portomarin


89 kms to Santiago de Compostela
May 27, 2009

Punishment for the taxi? 24kms today but I took it slowly on mostly beautiful Galician paths. It looks like Ireland and I met Ray, an Irish man, probably in his 80s and walking slower than me. He is a delightful character as only the Irish can be (right Kim?) and we passed each other all day. He joined me at the Morgade Bar which is another of my favorite stops. Then I stopped at the new Albergue in Mercadorio, a very nice albergue folks. Ivan, the Hospitalero saves foreign notes,so I have promised to send him a couple on my return to the USA.

At Vilachá just 1-2kms before Portomarin I stopped for awhile and talked with Gordon who runs a little stand selling cold drinks to the pilgrims. I was delaying the inevitable, the long steep down hill, then the steep uphill to Portomarin. Sometimes it does not pay to know what is ahead of you. Gordon is actually a member of the Confraternity of South Africa and they are trying to get a Clean-up the Camino campaign going by giving out green plastic bags to albergues for pilgrims to carry on their way to use and discard at the end of the day. On that note, if you are to be a pilgrim on the camino, then ladies, please carry a plastic bag for your toilet paper and do not throw it where you pee. If I go behind a hedge there is evidence of women, everywhere, it is disgusting, and it takes so little effort to stop this.

Sarria


118kms to Santiago de Compostela
May 26, 2009

It is a long downhill walk to Sarria through Triacastela and Samos. There is no longer three castles in Triacastela, and in fact, it has little to offer other than Albergues, supermercado, Farmacia, and Telebanco. Samos has the beautiful old Benedictine Monastery but I had been there twice. It was raining hard so since this is the last chance before the last 100kms,I took a taxi to Sarria. No rain in Sarria and it was nice, although cold. I caught up with Ralph, my German buddy from Vega de Valcarce and shared a drink with him at "Rolfs Bar in Sarria". His cousin is due to arrive tomorrow and will walk with Ralph to Santiago.

It was here in Sarria that we shared a BIG party night down by the river at Mesón Roberto in 2007. It was a lovely warm night and the food was good with one exception, when Martin tried Pulpo (octopus) for the first time he did not like it at all, he jumped up from his chair and went to the river and spat it out (you had to be here). Many bottles of red later the night finished. The next day Maureen colored the camino pink!

We called Rolf to let him know that we were having a drink at this Bar. He is doing fine and has the all clear from his doctors. Good news to end the day with.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Biduedo/Viduedo

Two days of rain, mist, and fog. It was one of those days when pilgrims stopped at each and every Bar to get out of the rain and cold. Walking this day I was reminded of Roland and Wolf when we first saw the young handicapped man in 2007 at Hospital (yes that is the name of the village). Today as I stopped at Alto do Poio these are the pilgrims who passed me. Slipping silently by in the fog.



Down, down, and down .... I took the road as it is less stressful on the knees, harder on the feet, but better for the knees. Turn a corner and there she is, pancake lady. She was there in 2002 and again in 2007 and she is still jumping out at unsuspecting pereginros with the offer of a fresh warm pancake. Once you have the pancake in you hand, she say´s "1E por favor". The pilgrim would not have had the pancake if they knew it was not free. It is not warm, there is no lemon and sugar.... oh well. I only got caught once (2002).



I felt like I could write a Stephen King novel while at Biduedo. The Bar has sharp farm implements as wall hangings and garden decorations. In the mist and the fog I thought that at midnight they would all come alive and I may not survive the night. But survive I did, and so on to Sarria ...

O'Cebreiro


A special day for all pilgrims ...
To walk over O'Cebreiro is a challenge that pilgrims look forward to and dread at the same time, but most are usually very happy upon reaching the little village of O'Cebreiro.

The day started with light rain, nothing to worry about. On the walk through the small villages I noted many new albergues and Bars, the camino is alive with new places for pilgrims to explore. Just as I got to the bridge where the steep climb starts Garry and his family called, so I got cheerios from them. Then it was time to tackle the climb and along came about thirty Spanish bus pilgrims. We all (pilgrims) know them, they travel with a light daypack while their very heavy backpacks are in the luggage compartment of a bus. This is OK, this is perfectly fine, except that sometimes they try to stay at albergues which is not acceptable. Jesús Jato is excellent at spotting them and does not allow them in his albergue. Some Spanish folks see the camino as a cheap vacation. Photo below.


They soon got sorted out, they had just got off the bus when I photographed them, they found their paces and even I started to pass some of them. Up, and up, and up the way goes. What a thrill to find that each little village along the way now has a Bar. I stopped at each one because now I was wet, it was raining, and a Cola Cao (hot chocolate) warms me up and gives energy.


Passing the 2 kms sign, then there it was, GALICIA. I am back in Galicia.

Vega de Valcarce


Camino Duro
On my three passes over Cebreiro I have always walked El Camino Duro (The hard way). I walked this way in 2002 on a delightful sunny day, and given the choice and with no rain, I could not walk through the river valley on the road. The views over the mountains are spectacular. (Below)



The walk through the chestnut woods is a tranquil moment along the way. I love walking this day. In 2007 I told Roland, and M&M, to watch out for the left-hand turn, they missed it and continued on (which is as an alternative). I went left and they were suprised to find me waiting for them at the Trabadelos turn-off (Luiza, the slow peregrino).



After the Chestnut woods the way goes steeply down to Trabadelos and then along the road to Vega de Valcarce where I stayed at Albergue do Brasil with the great Hospitalero, Cristina. It was a special feeling to have Cristina greet me as I came through the door, "Oi Luiza, como vai" and I easily slipped into Portuguese in response. Cristina was the Hospitalero on my pass through here in 2007, yes, I had a reservation, which would have helped her to remember my name.

Cristina cooked the meal for ten pilgrims (six Brazilians, two Americans, and two Germans). She made the best salad I have had in Spain with a delicous ginger dressing followed up with Beans and Rice, then dessert, all washed down with wine and water. To stay at this Brazilian Albergue is a treat for pilgrims and it should not be missed.

I have so many good memories of this way. In 2002 with Sheila, and then with Roland and Wolf in 2007, where we met Sabine on the way from Trabadelos. Betty was there already when we arrived as was Hilde, both special women that I met in 2007.

This year Ralph (Ger) shared his bottle of red that he had carried from Trabadelos, it was good, all the better because a pilgrim had carried it in his backpack to be shared.

The big day is next .....

Friday, May 22, 2009

Villafranca del Bierzo


Photo uploaded 26.05.2009

Short walk ... hot day
From Cacabelos to VF del Bierzo it is only a 10 kms walk but with the heat I was happy to be out of the sun before noon. Leaving Cacabelos the way goes up hill for quite away along the road, thankfully there is a soft verge making it better for the feet. Then the way divides with two options. I continue on the road (always) to pass the outdoor sculpture studio. This year I took many photos for my friend (and Blog follower) Edye who is a wonderful scupltor in New York, a true artist. Sorry my artist friends (Edye, Dawn, Katie, and Melinda) but again no USB port for photos.



Hospitalero
I checked in at Ave Fenix and then registered to be a volunteer Hospitalero next year. Jesús Jato gave me my Hospitalero pin, so I guess that I am officially a volunteer.

I enjoyed a wonderful Pizza Tropical in Plaza Mayor for lunch washed down with white wine. Tonight I am going to partake of the traditional dinner offered here at this interesting old albergue. The journey continues .... and tomorrow is Vega Valcarce which is at the base before the steep climb up and over O'Cebriero (next day).

Yes, I am on the journey ....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cacabelos


A short walk
Phew, it was a hot day, 34.5 Deg. C. (98 Deg. F. for the Americans). I left Ponferrada at 08:30am and arrived here in Cacabelos at 14:00 (15.5kms walked). I had many rest breaks in the shady areas. The walk to Cacabelos is beautiful once you get out of the suburban areas of Ponferrada. Passing through many little pueblos some with Bars and some without, I stopped at each and every Bar along the way. A Zumo da Piña (pineapple juice) at one, a Cafe con Leche at another, then back to Zumo.

(Below) A fellow pilgrim having fun at one of our stops ... just resting.



In the race
I had an ah-ha moment as Oprah would say when I realized that on other caminos at this stage I must have still been in the race. On my others caminos I have continued on another 9 kms to Villafranca del Bierzo as one stage, a full day´s walk for me. Today I have stopped in Cacabelos and I have been chilling out at a Bar with a Cacique y Coca Cola, a Spanish Cuba Libre. Not only today´s walk, but in 2002, I walked from Villafranca to O´Cebriero (32kms adjusted for climb) in one long day. In 2007 Roland, Wolf, and I, broke the journey in Vega Valcarce, which is what I will do in two days time.

Giving Back
Tomorrow I walk to Villafranca del Bierzo where hopefully I will stay at Albergue Ave Fenix, a famous old (somewhat hippy) Albergue along the way. Here Jesús Jato offers the pilgrim a real Brazillian experience, food, drinks, and massage (along with Reiki if you want). I have twice had Reiki from Jesús and twice I have walked beautifully to Santiago afterwards, believe as you will. Here, I want to offer my services as a volunteer in one of Jesús Jato´s albergues (there is a network of Brazillian albergues along the way).

Today at a rest break, Uli told me he was having big problems with his knees. Kees had told me that I would know when to offer Reiki, and this was one of the moments. Uli was very happy to receive Reiki, his mother-in-law gives Reiki so he knew what I was offering. I also gave Reiki to an Italian pilgrim along Via dela Plata who 30 minutes after I had finished came back and asked for more.

Roldan .... and Kees
Roland who on the camino in 2002 sometimes called himself Roldan (Spanish for Roland) is getting ready to come to Spain. Kees is on his way to join us and we will walk the last days together into Santiago. It is going to be so wonderful to see these two guys again.

Last Train to Santiago
In 2007 Maureen and Martin (M&M) taught us a song and the five of us walked into Santiago singing this song. Standing on the shell in Plaza do Obradorio we sang the song with the appropriate dance movements. When we finished singing a group of Spanish high school students came up and asked us to sing again so that they could video tape us. Then later, walking through the Cathedral the kids came past us singing the song. It was a cute moment.

M&M know what tune this is sung too ... I just know the tune

Last train to Santiago
Last train to Santiago
If you ... miss ... this one
there will never be another one
Biddy-biddy boom-boom
TO SANTIAGO

At 190 kms from Santiago this tune is going through my head, especially since M&M were already a part of my 2007 camino by this stage. BTW, this means it is over 800 kms now from Sevilla as coming through Astorga is longer than going through Orense.

OK, so I have been lucky and had a computer available for three days. I will try my best to get back regularly to the Blog. I have not been able to read email since leaving Alicante, but I will continue to try. Sorry no photo today as there is not a USB port available.

Bye for now,
Love to all,

Luiza

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ponferrada


Today I am in Ponferrada where I first learned about the Templars in 2002 and have since then been on a journey of Templar discovery. I read what I can, have visited Tomar, Portugal, the home of the Templars in Portugal. It has been a fascinating journey for me, which Garry has also joined. So, Ponferrada. There is a magnificent Templar Castle here which I will visit tomorrow as this is one city where I have always stayed two nights. The day is bright and sunny, it has been the best weather I have ever walked in from Astorga. So let me go back to Astorga and come along the way ....

Astorga to Rabanal del Camino
Sorry pilgrims you will just have to come along and be reminded of your journey. In Astorga there were more pilgrims than I saw along the entire Via de la Plata. As I sat having breakfast in Hotel Gaudi countless early birds were headed along the way but I remind myself that I am not in the race, I am here for the journey (we old hands all know this, it is something you get wise to along the way). One young couple were pushing their toddler in a purpose built stroller, the kiddo was sitting up enjoying the bounce along the road.

Leaving Astorga you are out of the city fairly quickly going along the highway for quite some way. Soon enough you are on the path toward small pueblos and the scenery changes to snow covered mountains in the distance and wild lavender at your feet. I have been amazed at the number of new Albergues. So much reconstruction and purpose built places. In 2002 there was not a choice, it was go all the way to Rabanal but not now, each pueblo has at least one Albergue. I was very impressed with the Albergue las águedas in Murias de Rechivaldo where I enjoyed a zumo (juice) and Cafe con Leche (coffee). The way to Rabanal rises gently, but go up it most certainly does, and you are going up hills all day.


I came across my first Completo (no vacancy) in Rabanal at both the Hotel I wanted to stay in (where I met Maureen and Martin in 2007) and the new Posada just up the hill. So I went to the Albergue Peregrinos Nsta. Sra. del Pilar which I visited in 2007. Isobel, who runs the place, is wonderful and she greets all pilgrims in a friendly happy manner and farewells each and every one in the morning with a Buen Camino and a hug. The Albergue is large, it has a cash Bar and offers an evening meal and also breakfast, making life very easy for tired pilgrims. The day was lovely and it was a good walk. Germans, Germans, Germans, yes they are still on the way but I have met a wonderful French couple (Chantal and Jorge) and also a few Aussies.

In the evening I talked with three guys from Flanden, one being Mark, who lives now in Rabanal. Kim, I know you will be interested in this .... in May 2008 they found what is beleived to be two Celtic Labrynth stones some kilometers south of Rabanal. Then word of mouth starting doing its job and slowly the shepherds were telling about what they knew (petroglyphs in caves etc.) and now they believe that they may have found the old Celtic route. In other words they are connecting the dots. It has always been understood that Rabanal is not really on the path .... I had the most fascinating evening and had to immediately SMS Kees who has a connection to this area.

Rabanal del Camino to El Acebo
This is one day that all Camino Frances pilgrims look forward to, oh, is that correct, maybe not. The energy one feels from this area is intense and my knees were not a problem and have not been since leaving Astorga. The way goes up, and up, and up, until you reach what was in 2002 an abandoned village where only a shepherd and his mother lived. Foncebadon was famous for the wild dogs that Shirley McClaine wrote about. In 2002 as I walked through Foncebadon all the dogs lay sleeping at doorsteps, then I realized I was with Deben and Shanti, two very calm people, so the dogs sensed that, how lucky was I? The shepherds mother is now in a retirement home and the shepherd has moved on. I do not blame him ... the village now boasts one hotel and three Albergues. We stopped for a coffee and it was like Times Square, busy, busy, busy, with pilgrims going on or taking a break. After Foncebadon comes one of the highlights of the journey, Cruz de Ferro, where I was to leave the stone that I had carried with me from Texas and a stone that I had picked up for Kees. It was bright and sunny and the views the best I have ever seen from CdF.



The way still goes up, and up, and up, and then down to Manjarin where one of the camino celebrities started an Albergue many decades ago. Tomas, the Last Templar. The local authorities wanted to close the Albergue down but Tomas protested, to the point of now having a Decree from the King for his Albergue´s survival. Here, in 2007, Roland bought the bracelets that Kees, Wolf, Roland, and I wear.



Leaving Manjarin the legs and knees start to feel the downward slope, and it is a steep down over slate and rocks all the way to El Acebo where I was stopping for the night.

El Acebo to Ponferrada
Today was quite beautiful and the walk hard, but delightful at the same time. Here the scenery is superb and the fragrance of the wildflowers was powerful. Again, I was blown away by the changes to this area. El Acebo, Riego de Amros, and Molinaseca, were (in 2002) lovely to walk through but they were poor mountian villages. Now, with new paint work and the amount of reconstruction they are quite vibrant places. Each has more than one Bar and Albergue´s, along with Casa Rurals and Hostels. Amazing!


From Rabanal del Camino the way takes a pilgrim up to the highest point along the camino and then down steeply to Molinaseca, after that on to Ponferrada where I am now. This year I broke the journey into two days for physical necessity, I am amazed that in 2002 I walked the 27 kms in one day, I could not do that now.

What is coming up?
Leaving Ponferrada pilgrims head to Villa Franca del Bierzo where the slow climb toward O´Cebreiro starts. If you take the Pradella route (which I have twice) the climb is not slow, it is immediate. So, in four days I should be over O´Cebreiro and if an Albergue along the way has Internet I will get back to y´all.

Ponferrada (the capital of El Bierzo) is the last big city before Santiago de Compostela, for me at least, as I do not call Sarria or Portomarin big.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Astorga



The Palacio Espiscopal, Astorga, one of Gaudi´s better works (in my humble opinion). This is the view from my room at Hotel Gaudi where I stayed in 2007 to recover from blisters. I am here again and this time with no blisters, what a blessing that is. I seem to have been a slow learner as it has taken me five camino walks to solve the blister problem.

The Route Changes
After a long walk I am in Astorga one of my favorite cities along the Camino Frances. The journey along the Via de la Plata (VdlP) was not without its problems, both physical and spiritual, and thankfully my family, Melinda, Katie, Dawn, Caroline, Andree, and Kees are all helping me here. I thank you all who are folling and keeping me in your thoughts. The VdlP is from Sevilla in the south to Astorga in northern Spain and meets the Camino Frances (CF) here so all will change (more later).

Karen
We had over a week of worries about Karen who was suffering from a collapsed lung. Sometimes seemingly better and at other times Karen was not good at all. Then came the horrible night when I was staying at an Albergue, and all pilgrims know, lights out at ten and cellphones off, when Garry called after nine (all pilgrims in bed) to let me know that at that moment Karen was undergoing surgery on her lung. I was awake all night night worried about our beautiful daughter-in-law. I could not turn my BlackBerry on in fear that an SMS would arrive and with the high-pìtch tone the BB has I would have been booted out of the Albergue. So it was wait until two or three the following afternoon to call Houston at the appropriate time. Karen came through surgery fine with the ruptures in her lung repaired and suffering a lot of pain when trying to breathe. The thought of having a tube stuck down her throat to help her breathe made her breathe deeper and now she is at home recuperating. All the best wishes come your way Karen. Love, Ma

Andrée
If you have been following my Blog then you know that I was to meet my good friend, Andrée, from Canberra, Australia, here in Astorga on May 20. Andree was all prepared with backpack, walking sticks, sleeping bag, headlamp and other necessities for a pilgrim and she was diligently practicing walking with her backpack and sticks. Unfortunately one day Andrée fell and damaged a knee. SMS message to me that all was well, no broken bones, so full steam ahead. Then bruising set in from the top of her thigh to the ankle and she has major damage to that leg. Andrée´s doctor has advised against her walking the camino this year. It is sad but best this way or she could have found herself in a Spanish hospital somewhere along the way. For me, we were ahead of plan and walked into Astorga yesterday and will walk out tomorrow gaining three days to allow a slow walk through Galicia. All the best Andrée for a speedy recovery.

Rolf
I have spoken with Rolf almost every week and he is doing well. He had his last chemo two weeks ago and sees his doctors again at the end of this month. As always Rolf I am thinking of you.

Now for the VdlP ...
If I lived on the memory of the last four days of the VdlP my view would be strange. Small pueblos with no real food available. A Bar in one pueblo opened at noon and closed at six offering only Bocadillos (sandwiches). The way was flat and shadeless with two of the days along tarmac most of the way, which is tough on feet but the knees liked the level surface. For one kilometer there was no choice but to walk on freshly sprayed tar, oh the boots at the end of that, they were a sticky mess. The last three Albergues there were only three of us, one I understand why, the guidebook mentions cold showers. However, when we arrived the showers were hot, a new hot water system in place, GREAT! The Alija albergue has to be the oldest albergue that I have stayed in, and quite strange, the women in charge insist on holding your credential until 8:00pm to place the sello (stamp). Oops, like your USA Passport you do not like letting go. In La Baneza the Refugio had hospital beds, not bunk beds, and they were comfortable. A 40 bed albergue and only three of us.

From Sevilla to Astorga the way has been delightful with many birds of prey and when in old woods the cuckoo can be heard, and seen. This always makes me think of Roland who said his camino was going fine when he heard a cuckoo. I adopted this for myself and always smile when I hear a cuckoo. To place the Astorga photo I surfed through some of the photos that I have taken and gosh it seems so long ago that I was in those various places. The beautiful National Parks in the early days, the two very different reservoirs that you walk around, tranquilo and relaxing but you know you have some kilometers to go so must continue on. The cities, Zafra with its wonderful food (Torta de Queso and the best Jamon) and Salamanca the most beautiful city in Spain with its grand Plaza Mayor (with many cafes and restaurantes).

Camino Frances (Via de la Plata)

My Credential (Pilgrim Pass) from Sevilla is completely full of stamps so I needed a new Pilgrim Pass from Astorga. A Credential is what one needs to stay in Albergues and is a record that you are a pilgrim along the way. Last year Bev M. told me she thought this an absolutely ridiculous idea in a conversation but sorry, this system has worked well for many years, if not centuries. I have my new Pass from the Astorga Cathedral and a beautiful stamp from the Pilgrims Tienda where I bought a new shirt. I have shopped at the supermarket for supplies (Shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste) and at the Farmacia for more Voltarem (for my aches) and Pentoderm (blister protection). So I am all set to continue on to Santiago de Compostela (SdC) - although as all pilgrims know, my pack is going to be heavier with the new supplies, YUK.

I will walk out of here tomorrow and be reminded of the two previous walks from Astorga, the people I met and walked with in 2002 and 2007. Tomorrow night I will be in Rabanal where I met Maureen and Martin (M&M from Yorks., UK) with whom I walked into SdC in 2007 along with Roland and Wolf. M&M some days the song goes through my head and I have difficulty letting it go. It´s a long way to Santiago ....

There are many more pilgrims along CF and they just keep on coming into Plaza Mayor but I have managed the CF before and will do so again. I see many injured pilgrims, limping, bandaged ankles, blisters, knee braces and more. Hopefully I will not be the slowest along the way.

Well folks this has to be it for today as my brain is fried. I´m sorry folks, I do not have time to check email and my pilgrim brain does not want to go there, sorry. I send love and best wishes to you all and sorry if I have not mentioned your kindness to me.

Luiza

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Salamanca

Karen
Karen is still in hospital with a collapsed lung that is not inflating. We should know on Monday if she will require surgery. Stephen tells me that Karen is fine but she is uncomfortable and in quite some pain. Hang in there beautiful girl. Mummy must miss her little girl´s birthday party today at Little Gym. Daddy and Vana Pa will be there to make sure that Charlotte has a good party. These parties are so nicely organized that I know our little girl will have fun. Gran sure wishes she was with her.

Walking out tomorrow
We have all decided that tomorrow is the day to walk out of Salamanca. The group arrived at various times on Friday and stayed at the Albergue. I could not stay at the Albergue because I was here four days already. So, I found myself in an expensive hotel because there was not another option, all 2 & 3 star hotels were booked solid. Caroline tells me that the three days of NH Puerta de la Catedral would be her budget for some time on the camino. However, by cancelling one night (tomorrow) it brought the cost down considerably.

I love Salamanca.
Salamanca is reputed to be the best city in Spain and I would agree. The buildings are a lovely golden sandstone (I guess, because you can easily carve your name on the stone blocks and it feels sandy - I did not carve my name). Salamanca is a university town brimming with places to eat and drink. Young people walking everywhere, Pilgrims arriving, and Tourists in groups with their tour guide cluster in the Plaza Mayor. At lunch there was a commotion off to my right, I looked, a group of young men were coming into the Plaza Mayor chanting, with two male brides. It was a Gay Marriage demonstration. Go guys!

With a little, well BIG, tip from Caroline I found the astronauta carved into the portico of the cathedral and I also saw the coelho (rabbit) but Caroline, no frog! One my way home after dinner I will look again for the elusive frog. Oh, and I did find them myself, not because of others.


On the phone

I have spoken with Stephen and will continue to call him until our girl is safe and well. It was great to talk with Charlotte on her birthday who was excited with the gift that she had opened, a catepillar farm. Charlotte loves burretflies and I guess she will breed her own. Although Daddy tells me she is going to have to let them fly away.

Garry called to let me know how things are at home and with Karen, also Charlotte and Katie´s birthday celebrations. Garry leaves for Australia next Friday and will be there three weeks.

I called Gwen for her birthday tomorrow (May 3) and all is well in London. I chatted with Sophie who was not quite sure about having to go into a cavern with a torch (flashlight).

I stopped Andree from going to sleep at 1:00am Australian time but that was okay with her. Andree is getting ready to join me in Astorga in 17/18 days. I am looking forward to experiencing Camino Frances through a newbies eyes. I know Caroline, the way through Ourense would be great, but it was my decision to walk Astorga to Santiago de Compostela thinking that it would be best for Andree a first timer. The Via de la Plata has been busy with albergues almost Completo every night, this has suprised me very much. I was expecting the VdlP to be much quieter.

Well folks, I am off again .... now it will probably be May 20 or thereabouts before I get to a computer again.

It is across the Meseta for me. Byeee

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Salamanca

Happy Birthday
Best wishes to Charlotte, Katie, and the Queen of the Netherlands for their April 30 birthdays (official day for the Queen).

Karen
First to the most important issue. Karen was stable but uncomfortable when I spoke with Stephen late last night. There is a tiny hole in her collapsed lung which will need to heal, or it may require surgery, and we will have more information today. My family are hopefully sleeping so I am unable to talk with them right now. I feel very fortunate for the friends whom have been in contact with me over the last twenty four hours, all wishing Karen a speedy recovery. Thank you all for your SMS messages and telephone calls.

My knees
Tanya offered me her knees but was certain that I would fall over using her bung leg. I am not sure if I mentioned that I fell off the bus when I arrived in Salamanca. I tripped on a step, grabbed an arm support to stop the fall, the arm rest went down and I twisted my left arm, for a couple of days I could not get my arm above shoulder height. This is great when you have to put on a backpack many times a day.

This morning Kees gave me a clue to help myself and I am putting the clue into practice. I am walking well without a stick and smiling as I walk. I am thinking positive thoughts of getting to Santiago with the legs/knees that I have and I am looking forward to the wonderful times ahead with friends.

Where is Rolf?
This could be Rolf´s Bar in Salamanca.

Last night I enjoyed dinner at Meson Don Pepe which has quickly become my favorite Cafe/Bar in Salamanca. I love the fact that Meson Don Pepe serve their entire Menu all day, this might be common in Salamanca but as all pilgrims know it is not the case throughout Spain. I have a passion for white asparagus and so Primeros was Esparagos con dos salsas (Asparagus with two sauces) one of which was mayo and the other a green/red pepper and onion salad. I have also discovered San Jacobus along the VdlP and do not know how I have missed it along Camino Frances (if it is offered up north). When ordering I asked for San Jacobus sin patatas (San Jacobus, no fries) because I have had enough fries to last me for the year. So my meal came with a little salad on the side, huh, I have found the trick to eliminating fries.

Like any country the food varies by the Cafe/Bar/restaurant but one can certainly enjoy a huge variety of Tappas. Along the way I started to see Hay Migas (we have Migas) signs on the Menu boards. I wondered what this could be so I ordered a small Tappas prepared to take what came. Turned out to be fried crumbed bread with chorizo y huevos (sausage, egg) and a few other things combined. Quite nice but it is not gluten free. The mussells are simply superb and the gambas (shrimp) are usually great. Kees taught me how to look for a good Tappas Bar in 2007 - by looking at how fresh the Tappas on display appears to be. I do not accept Tappas at just any Bar.

Throughout Spain Flan is the most popular dessert. It is a nice cold egg custard covered with a caramel sauce, ooh, and it goes down so easy even if you could not eat all your dinner. Light and lovely.

Eating times in Spain are tough for pilgrims. I have existed on Tortilla Francesa sin pan (omlette, no bread) for days when nothing else was available to order. Not being able to eat bread a bocadillo (sandwich)is out of the question. Jamon y queso (ham and cheese) are always on offer but when it is hot they make me all the more thirsty .... plus I am not supposed to eat cheese.

Most Comedor´s (Dining rooms) are only open for an hour or so around 2:00pm and again at 9:00pm, which is late for a walking pilgrim when albergues close by 10:00pm. And they do close. There were six of us nearly locked out of the Monastery (I believe it is Aljucen or nearby village) at 9:59pm, the monk was ready with the key at the door.

Shopping
Small things make a pilgrim happy. Today I found in town (without having to go to the shopping center) new walking socks. I also found lined with fabric insoles for my boots. Up to this point I had to make do with unlined gel insoles, which smell. A lesson for Andree and other potential pilgrims .... do not take your insoles out of your boots to dry once they have firmly established themselves in place. I did this and then my left insole kept slipping down the boot, it would not grip, this could cause blisters or other foot problems. So with shopping done I am a happy camper.

The Festivities in Salamanca
I am off now to the Turismo (Tourist Bureau) to see if I can get a plan for what is happening in Salamanca over the next three days. If there is fireworks like there was in Caceres then I want to know. I do know that all shops are shut tomorrow but I am not sure about Saturday and Sunday. It would seem rather pointless to come for vacation/festivites in Salamanca if everything is closed. With all hotels Completo (full) there must be many people here over this weekend.

Regrets
As I look back over this camino so far, it has been wonderful, I have enjoyed every minute of the journey that started in Alicante with Kees. I am a little sad at what I have missed by the need to get to Salamanca for this R&R break. The symbol for the Via de la Plata is Arco de Caparra and all the way markers have the Arco chiselled into the rock blocks, so it is something you get well used to seeing. This Roman arch is in a remote place and I have missed it, perhaps Caroline has a photo, I do not! I tried to take a photo off the web but using a PC is not one of my specialities, it is easier on a Mac (I have placed a link to a photo on this page). I also have missed walking past the half way point between Sevilla and Santiago de Compostela. No big deal but they are benchmarks for the pilgrimage.

http://www.godesalco.com/imagen/plata/caparra_arco

Email
I am still unable to interrogate my Mac.com account. So if you want to email me privately please use my Yahoo account. This account was opened as Quokka_gal@yahoo.com but I noticed yesterday that I have a second address for it, lois.karner@yahoo.com However, tomorrow this place will be closed and I doubt that I will be able to email again until Astorga (around May 20).

Bye for now
Thanks again for your interest in my travels along the Via de la Plata. I am ready to walk on towards Zamora on Monday. The next section is the Meseta, a section I enjoyed in 2007.

I met Rolf on the first day of the Camino Frances Meseta section and we soon became camino friends. We shared a drink in the rain, under cover at the Bar (not yet a Rolf´s Bar). I stupidly walked on while he decided to sit the day out in that tiny place (pilgrims, it was that little church refugio). I got drenched to my socks and ended up with many blisters, lesson learned, keep out of the rain when you can. Ashley that was the day the lightening struck the tree.

Rolf is mending ... I have spoken with him a couple of times and he is feeling good.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Salamanca

Dear friends and followers,

This is not a good day for me as I have just received the news that my beautiful daughter-in-law has been taken to hospital with a collapsed lung. Hopefully Karen is in good hands and will recover quickly. Tomorrow is her daughter Charlotte´s 4th birthday, which is a very important day for the family. Tomorrow is also Katie´s birthday .... Happy Birthday Charlotte and Katie. Get Well Karen.

Caceres to Casar de Caceres
I will not trust my guidebook again, Cole/Davies, Walking the VdlP, it is full of errors and leads me wrong again. I believe it was Lillian who posted updates and I thank her for that. Cole/Davies write that the first 6 kms out of Caceres is the most horrible stretch of the Via de la Plata, walking along the busy highway. So I jumped in a taxi, lo and behold, there is a new path out of Caceres, a lovely wide sandy path that I could only look at as I sped by. Cars are not permitted to stop along the highway so I had to be let off at the roundabout. What should have been a beautiful walk was spoiled. However, the rest of the way into Casar de Caceres was spectacular especially along the tree lined boulevard. Torta de Caceres is a wonderful warm sheep cheese dish ... ooh, lovely.

I was given the key to the Albergue by the Barman at Restaurante Majuca and had first dibs at a bed, so chose back of the room on a lower bunk. It is a well appointed albergue and totally free, they will not take a donation. WOW! The Barman at R. Majuca is a happy cheerful man who likes to tease and be funny, made for a wonderful stay in this little village. Again I did my washing, with my one on, one off, I have to keep up with clean clothes. 20 pilgrims in the albergue this night. Also 4 cyclists who were at first refused beds, then at 6:30 were given mattresses for another room. I always feel sorry for the cyclists especially if they have come a long way and are deadbeat, just like walking pilgrims, however they must wait till all walking pilgrims are given a chance to arrive.

I met a lovely lass from California who is cycling the VdlP and will then cycle back to Granada. She simply decided that this is her time so she gave up her job, booked her ticket, and here she is in Spain. She was continuing on for another 50 kms or so (Galisteo).

Dinner at R. Majuca was excellent, although I am getting tired of patatas fritas as the only vegetable ... K8 you better get over here.

Casar de Caceres to Lago Tajo
Walked on the next day to Lago Tajo and stayed at Hostal LindaMar. Linda and Martin are ex KLM flight attendents who started this nice private albergue. Good thing about private albergues is that they allow reservations so you can walk that day knowing that you have a bed for the night. This 22 kms did me in, the first 15 kms were okay, mostly along a sandy path with up and downs, beautiful views, cuckoo´s, birds of prey, fragrant wildflowers, and the big blue sky. Then comes hell. 7 kms along the road or the alternative, steep, rocky, up and downs beside the N630 (the main highway the VdlP follows). About 1 kms before the camino comes down to meet the highway I wanted of the rocky stretch so took the opportunity when I saw a small path to the road. Walking along the road is hot and horrible but at least the pavement is flat. I saw the others on top of the hill and called out to them. They dropped their packs and started running to help me ... I felt so bad causing them to panic. Oops, I yelled that I was on the road, it was a relief as they thought I had fallen. Dinner at Hostal LindaMar was a wonderful soup but followed by a not so nice brocolli-cheese dish, then yoghurt for dessert. After dinner we sat outside until it was too cold. So much for the HOT Extremadura.

I have a hole in my sock, worn away by my sandals, uh oh. My USA socks shrank in Teresa´s washing machine to kiddo size, small, so small that I could not get them on. So, I am down to two pairs, now really only one. I will get socks in Spain. My best walking socks, as Garry knows, came from Ponferrada. For non pilgrims what do I do, well I simply put tape on my foot where the hole is until I get a new pair of socks. Problem solved.

Lago Tajo to Canaveral
I could not walk so Martin drove me to Canaveral and we took the others packs in the car. It gave them a nice day of walking. It is only a short walk but with a very steep climb, 11-12 kms depending on the book. Here, on the advice of my book, the Internet, and Caroline, we all had reservations at Hostal Malaga which proved to be an experience. Caroline tells me that Lillian named Alfonso, the manager of H. Malaga, Mr Grumpy, and it is easy to see why. He scowls around the place grumping all the time. He plops your order (food or drink) in front of you, maybe without knife, fork, or napkin, then he comes back and just plops those in front of you. The Bar is dark and dirty but the dining room and rooms are clean, sparse one star stuff but clean.

The four German women and I decided to take the bus to Salamanca the next day. I knew that I needed to get to a clinic for treatment. Carolina needed treatment and the other three simply needed to rest for awhile to give their various ailments a break. The four men are walking to Salamanca and going well, they should be here on Friday night.

While waiting for the bus Mr Grumpy came out and accused me of not paying for my accommodation, food, or drinks. Excuse me Alfonso, but you are not the only person who takes the money at your establishment. He puffed off swearing that I was getting away with it ... but folks, I did pay my bill and would not hand over more money and double up, not me.

May 1, 2, and 3 happens to be a holiday weekend in Salamanca (if not the country) and there are Fiestas (celebrations) planned. All two and three star accomodation is taken and only four star accommodation is available. However, we want to see the festivities so are sharing expenses and will be here to enjoy the celebrations.

I went to the Clinica San Marcos yesterday and was treated with injections in both knees so hopefully this will help, along with the break from walking with a pack. I want to walk ... I will walk!

I am still having trouble with getting into my email, but will respond to any emails as soon as I can. My next chance at Internet could be tomorrow. Then the next city with Internet will probably be Astorga (where we meet Andree on May 20).

Thanks again for the comments, the SMS messages, the email that I can´t read, and the telephone calls. All these communicatons give me encouragement, thanks.

Thanks also for following me and please put Karen in your thoughts and prayers.

Love,
Luiza

Thursday, April 23, 2009

First Internet in Caceres

Many, many thanks to Caroline for updating the Blog for my family and friends. Caroline and I have been Camino Internet friends for ten years and met in London to chat about all things camino. Caroline has walked this way many times and I thank you Caroline for your advice on my upcoming daily walks. Also, thanks for sharing your photos on my Blog so guests can get a view of where I am, a wonderful touch.

I am in Caceres (city)and have the tough section of the Via de le Plata ahead of me. I am walking through the knee pain and have sucessfully treated my only blister with REIKI. Thanks Kees. By this time, 300 kms, on Camino Frances I would be loaded with blisters (perhaps would have eight by now). This time I am using a different technique, boots two sizes bigger, socks one size smaller, and I creme my feet with Flexitol every day. Kees is going back to Alicante for awhile as he has some Fairs to work on and he will rejoin us along the way.

The different way. The VdlP is known as a tough walk with long distances between villages and no water possibilities along the way. Two litres of water is a heavy load to carry. Hence I have lightened my pack considerably by sending along all things not used so far. Also I am using the one on, one off, rule. I pray it does not rain and that I will always have a change of clothes. Andree, take notes ...

The way has been scenic and the wild flowers are beautiful and fragrant. Coming out of Sevilla the smell of orange blossom was very strong. The road has been rocky, sandy, grass, tarmac, mud (yuk, sticks to the boots). Many up hill and down dale walks, yes even steep with the steepest climb on the VdlP just ahead.

There are many more storks along VdlP than Camino Frances and for the first time they have been low enough for me to hear the clacking sound they make. There are also many different birds but I keep my eyes on the swallows. For, if the swallows fly low then rain will follow. No snakes, YET. Rabbits, cows, sheep, goats. dogs .... what one would expect to see along the way. Even had one sheep yesterday that was frightened of me and kept running ahead, stopping, looking back and as I would get closer it would run again. But it got stopped by the cattle grid, looked at me and bolted past bleating as it went.

Of course the food has been great and the best coffee. However, this comes at a price as in all Bars there is always a television, sometimes three on different channels. I have seen enough bull fighting to last me a year. It has been explained that the Spanish men come to the Bars to watch the soccer or the bull fighting because of the giant screen televisions .... I guess it is the Spanish equivalent of a USA Sports Bar.

Semana Santa (Easter) preparations in Sevilla were beautiful but we were out of town before the processions began. The Bar televisions were always tuned to the procession station so yes, I saw them. The Roman ruins in Italica and Merida were spectacular.

I want to close here as I do not have much more time and I want to read your comments. Thank you for following me along the way. All goes well ....

I thank you for your comments and for the SMS messages and telephone calls. My buddy Rolf is doing well and it was wonderful to hear him and Christina last week. Roland is gearing up to meet us and it will be wonderful to see him again, thanks for the Easter cal Roland. Dawnie has called, and I have needed the services of Nurse Katie, thanks K8.

Please excuse unedited Blog

Monday, April 13, 2009

Castilleblanco to Zafra.

Since the last posting, Luiza has walked as far as Zafra, where she is taking a day of today. There has been no internet access so she has asked me to transcribe her SMS messages over the last week.

I have listed them in chronological order and her replies are in blue.


The refuge at Castillblanco


7th April 11:37

Now we are 4.2kms in El Berrocal sitting at a stream on a break. Fernando/Barcelona fell on a cattle grid yesterday, broke his arm, had a cast pt on, returned to Castillblanco and we are walking together with his wife, Alicia.



The entrance to El Berrocal


There is a ridge before reaching Almaden such that you cannot see the village:-

7th April 16:18

Enjoying hot celery soup and coffee before at the base of steep climb. Sunny, few clouds, strong cold wind. Last night 32 pilgrims in town.


The ridge before Almaden


Luiza has a camping stove with her to make hot drinks because there are no bars during the day.

Then later:-

What a climb and down, like Alto del Perdon and down to Zubiri. Saw buzzards, grouse, pigs. Cold wind made for a nice walk on a cloudless day.


The refuge at Almaden


I then asked Luiza if she had stayed in the refuge in Almaden and she said no. Some of her new companions (that she has met on the way) were staying there and apparently the upstairs roms have been sadly neglected. But downstairs was fine.


Almaden


8th April 12:08

Am 5kms from El Real de la Jara having picnic lunch. It is a journey!


El Real De La Jara


I asked her more about the refuge state in Almaden and she replied:-

I did not go in but Siginde said the upstairs room was horrible. She was happy to be downstairs. Pork last night was delicious.

I reminded her that the best restaurant in El Real was called La Cochera and was around the corner from the private refuge at No 70.

8th April 15:52

Eating at restaurant, La Cochera now. Seems to be excellent. Fernando made a reservation at Alojamiento Turisticos "M" Carmen. Albergue was closed when I walked by.

C/70 is clean and good but I knew Fernando was making a reservation at below. C/Cordobaa 2 is very good 20 Euros per person. Bano Privado.

I mentioned about internet in a back strret of Monasterio the next day and Luiza replied:-

I will look but probably Merida before I get internet opportunity. Will report along the way. SMS messages arrive even when blackberry is turned off. Let's me know when I am in range. :)

The next day was a walk to Monasterio which goes through countryside at first but then crosses over the N630 where they have been doing rebuilding work for the new motorway for years and the route markings are confusing there.

9th April 13:10

Sitting amonst the mess now at tienda for meat factory. 11kms down, 10 to go. Now in Extremadura. Thanks for the info.

Then shortly afterwards:

3km to Monasterio. It is hot with cool breeze at my back. Kim's Irish wish works!

She didnt elaborate about what Kim's wish was! I mentioned the steep climb up to a picnic area just before Monasterio.

9th April 17:07

Yep, a wee steep climb. Now enjoying Mejihones mussels and a Cuba Libre. Well deserved. :)

Being told about the Spanish player with The Lakers and also about the Houston Rockets. :)

Hotel Moya, Monasterio is 19 Euros for one. Menus Diarios 7.80 Euros. Clean and comfy.


The refuge at Monasterio in the Red Cross (Cruz Roja) Building


The next day was a long walk to a place called Fuente De Cantos.

10th April 18:25

A long hard slog, walking injured. Started with rain then a frigid wind from the NW lasted ALL day. Many steep hills on the flat Extremadura.

I asked her if she had left a note in the video box at the pilgrim cross:-

I was too full of self pity to see the cross let alone a little cassette box. I also think we got a liittle lost. Left at 8:30 arrived La Fabrica at 16:30.


The pilgrim cross on the way to Fuente De Cantos


La Fabrica was a hotel I recommended. I have stayed there several times now even though there is a new refuge there. I thought that 8 hours was probably quite normal for that particular section and said so.


The Hotel - La Fabrica


10th April 18:54

BTW it is my problematic right knee causing problems becuase of the cold. Supposed to be hot in Extremadura.

I suggested a long hot bath to relax and to help the knee.

11th April 00:32

A long hot bath. An excellent dinner at La Fabrica and a late start tomorrow. Thinking about walking 7km to Calzadilla. OK or no? Blackberry off till morning.

She obviously did walk only to Calzadilla De Los Barros:-

11 April 15:18

Enjoy lunch (?) Tripe, Ensalada y pan, vino blanco at only bar open in Calzadilla. Woman at bar is getting key for albergue. Everything shut for Easter. Did get pan y bisoltos at Panaderia.

11 April 17:00

Finally in albergue juvenil. Happy easter all. Spanish family with dog in other room.


The Albergue Juvenil at Calzadilla


11 April 19:16

Washing done and dry on this sunny and windy day. Have provisions for dinner and a camping stove.

The next day was an even longer walk to Zafra but walking to Calzadilla shortened it somewhat. Still it was a long way.

12th April 18:07

Stayed Albergue Juvenile in Calzadilla, a long way out of town. Only pilgrms there. Hotel Rodriguez looked very closed. In Zafra now and am shattered (she used another word, but I don't want to use it here).

I was telling her about the nice refuge there and the parador and the shops. I had mentioned that I often stay there two days, as it is a good place to have a rest day.

12th April 20:17

We will stay here 2 days. We have not had a rest day. I will look for internet tomorrow. Shower then dinner. Was so hungry coming into Zafra had pizza and melocoton - was exhausted.

13th April 15:25

Rest day is beautiful. Walked all over Zafra did not see internet. Oh well, Merida.

I asked her how it felt to have no access to the internet where she was staying and her reply was:-

Actually it is OK being internet free. I am lucky I have you and Blackberry is easy to type on. Hotel Victoria, Plaza de Espana, with restaurant Gabi directly accross street.

For non vegetarians restaurant Gabi has the BEST jamon in Spain! A delicious presa (steak and fries) last night and for lunch today. Torta de Casa whch turned out to be a cooked cheese, oh it was wonderful. Highly recommended.

Great rest day. Reiki on the knee and then kept it warm like friend, Nurse Katie, suggested.

Which brings us up to date to Monday night.

Caroline.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Castilleblanco

So far I have that wonderful camino feeling.

Although the heat at the beginning is different, I am more used to heat after Alto del Pardon.

Should have started March 1st. Camino Frances is rain, rain, rain and VDLP is sun, sun, sun (hot).

Have lost count of different pilgrims but must be near 20.

Mas Tranquillo.

Luiza.

(transcribed by caroline from an SMS)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Next stop Alicante, Spain

My backpack is ready, all work is complete and I am ready to leave Houston.  In twenty-four hours I will be in Alicante with Kees.

More late hopefully ......

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fun with family and friends ...




For my birthday Dawn presented gave me the yellow arrow pendant above.  It was made by a local artist and can be attached to my pack. The next photograph shows the tadpole from Katie representing the metamorphism that can take place when walking a camino.  Melinda sent the heart with the word DREAM to remind me of the Shake Russell song, Dream Big. Charlotte made her Gran the sparkly heart, this little girl is the light of my life. I will carry these items with me along the way.

Oops, my pack is heavy it weighs 10.2 kilos without water. My hat will be on my head, the fleece could be on my back, and the stick will be in my hand .... all weight out of the pack. Dream Big!

Farewell's continued..... when Rochelle and I relaxed at the New York Diner sharing 'girl time'.  Katie and I cooked an encore Paella and Coeur à la Crème for family and friends, Elise and Dale.  Wednesday night, Katie and I were having a girls night out at Mama Ninfa's Mexican restaurant then Chris and Garry decided to join us.  Thursday night, my little family enjoyed a lobster fest at Red Lobster for a final farewell.  Tonight, we (Katie, Chris, Garry, and me) had dinner at Brisket & Barb-B-Q and followed up with a game of Mexican Train.  I lost!  With all this eating I am going to roll along the camino for the first few days.

I have received Buen Camino emails and telephone calls from friends, thank you.  I also read the messages on Ultreya! from fellow pilgrims.  I am ready to leave knowing that I have the support of many.  When possible, I will pick up emails from lkarner@mac.com but please be aware that the Internet is not always available.

Buen Camino to those folks I know through Ultreya! who will be walking the various camino paths over the next few months.

Thank you all for your support.

Luiza

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I have my stone .....


Talking with Dawn last week she reminded me about carrying a stone.  I have a stone from our garden for leaving at Cruz de Ferro (above) which is something pilgrims have done for centuries.  In 2001, Benny and Bonita picked up a stone at the Grand Canyon and gave it to me for the camino.  I put all my sorrows into that stone as I thought it was the only stone I would leave along the camino.  It was forgiveness I needed in 2007 and that was the energy I put into my stone.  I wanted folks to forgive me, and I forgave them.  This year I go with Brian L. Weiss' book in mind, Only Love is Real.  So Andrée, read about the carrying of a stone and if you wish, pick up a stone to carry along the way to leave at Cruz de Ferro.  As you are starting in Astorga you will only have to carry your stone for two days, lucky duck!

3, 2, 1 .........

 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cajun Country, Louisiana


Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana

A farewell visit with Dawn, Danny, and Lisa in Louisiana.

Since moving to Houston I drive Louisiana regularly to help Dawn with the data input at The Harrington Gallery. Last summer I experienced a hair disaster from a salon in Houston. Dawn made arrangements with the stylists at her regular salon to correct the problem. Now I get to visit my friend every six weeks, work for her and have my hair done. What a great way to see old friends. I bring goodies from Houston that are not available in Sulphur and get to feast on Danny's Cajun cooking, yum!

It was to Dawn and Danny's that we (Kees, Andrée, and me) went to escape the wrath of Hurricane Ike in September, 2008. Well, that did not save us from the Category 3 storm as we were in the outer band.  However, it did teach me what we need to do when preparing for a hurricane watching Danny prepare their home by boarding windows and moving all possible flying objects outside. Friends in Houston could not believe that we hightailed it to Sulphur stating that Beaumont, Texas, and Sulphur, Louisiana (TX/LA border towns) are usually within a Gulf of Mexico hurricane path. Sulphur took a direct hit from Hurricane Rita in 2005 three weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.  Just two weeks ago Dawn drove to Georgetown, Texas, a 12 hour drive for her that night running for Hurricane Gustav. Yes, we live in a hurricane zone.

Thankfully, we all came through Ike with minor damage to our properties (only garden debris and fence damage).  When it was all over Andrée, Kees, and I, had experienced our first hurricane and tornado watch.  We returned to Houston two days later to a home with no electricity and the power outage lasted for fourteen more days.

Today the weather is beautiful.  It is the first day of Spring.  The azaelas and blossom trees are flowering and the town of Sulphur looks very pretty.

I have had my first "hug or kiss the Saint for me" request, something that I am very happy to do for those folks who request it.  Many times while walking the Camino Francés a Spaniard has offered me fruit or candy and then asked me to kiss or hug the Saint for them.