Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lisboa, Portugal

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).


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.