Day 2 Rain and downpour

Thursday Sept 29, Pasajes de San Juan to San Sebastián, 10-11km (longer if taking the coastal option).

We had an excellent breakfast at Donibenea, where we stayed the night. Freshly squeezed orange juice, yogurt plus granola, baguette plus meats and cheese, fruits. We didn’t realize it but we needed it for the walk ahead.

Night view from the promenade outside our hotel

We took a small ferry boat to cross the port to the other side, otherwise it’s several kilometers to go around. The costs had gone up from 70 cents to Euro 1.10. Our hotel was about a minute walk away from the ferry point.

The rain started in earnest as we disembarked. It started pouring as we walked along the promenade to the lighthouse and the coastal route. Climbing the steps was walking up river. Water gushed downs and my boys were soaked. I needed wellies to get through this.

There were yellow arrows as well as a red and white bars. Latter denotes GR routes where there are downloadable GPX files to use with trail apps.

Coastal route from Irun to San Sebastián (left to right)

About 30 minutes into our walk, we mis-communicated and got separated. Both of us were wondering where the other was.

I walked faster thinking she had gone in front of me as I had dallied behind her for several minutes. As I navigated difficult stretches, I began to doubt she was in front of me. I flip flopped between walking fast and waiting. Finally I waited at a spot and twin sisters came up. They had not seen my wife nor passed her. I rushed ahead, and a couple from the other direction approached me. They too had not seen her and they had been walking towards me for past 30 minutes. There was no way she could have been walking 30 mins faster than me. This couple promised to let her know as they continued.

I waited a couple of minutes and decided that it would be better to walk backwards. At least, I would be walking towards her if she was walking towards me.

I caught up with the couple and we walked together as I updated them on the full story. Shortly afterwards, we saw an old man and his dog approaching us. Her only spoke Spanish and the young man translated for us. It seems the old man had seen and spoken with my wife. He recognized her picture on my phone. He had confirmed with her the direction to San Sebastián on a more direct non-coastal route. She was on a different route than me. What a relief!

Here are the views along the coastal route.

Coastal route
Coastal route
San Sebastián

When I was finally able to connect and talk to my wife, she was already in San Sebastián. She had spoken with a young man to confirm the route into San Sebastián. She never spoke with an old man and a dog!

Today is the feast day of the archangels. Gabriel is one of the three mentioned. Gabriel delivers messages. Did I meet Gabriel today?

Day 1 Rain, Wind & Sheep

Wed Sept 28. Irun to Pasajes de San Juan; 15km; 550 meters up & down.

It was a rainy start. Some lessons need to learnt again as I neglected to put on my rain gear before leaving the hotel. Putting rain pants and other gear on the street is a chore that takes more time.

We had figured out from Internet searches and guide book where the Camino trail started. We used Google Maps to get there and off we were. Seeing the first yellow arrow was very re-assuring.

Leaving any city is typically alongside a major artery, and this was no different. We had to tolerate the carbon emissions for about 15 mins.

We were crossing this bridge over the river when a flock of white birds caught our eye. We stopped, enjoyed the spectacle and took in the picturesque scene. The crossing of the major arterial road to the beginning of the natural trails was about 50 meters ahead.

The flying white birds caught our eye

The rain was on and off. It was not the heavy monsoon rain, but with strong winds can be a bear. Parts of the trail were muddy. With pools of water. That’s when you know if your boots/shoes are waterproof. And that’s why we do not wear trainers.

The number of pilgrims on Norte were much fewer. The first pilgrim to engage in a chat with us turned out to be from Washington State, just like us! What a coincidence. His name was Jay, from Tacoma.

After 4km, we reached the Santuario de Guadalupe. There were great views of the Bidasoa Valley. We spent some prayer time in gratitude for God’s providence in our son’s major accident exactly four months ago.

Bidasoa Valley
Altar at Santuario de Guadalupe

Shortly after the Santuario, a decision to be made between the low level variant or high climb. We opted for latter as the views were much better given we are climbing 374 meters (vs 157 meters). It was a steep ascent, and poles are a great aid. We counted our blessings too that it did not rain during this stretch, and there were no flows of water streaming down.

About half way up this first steep ascent

Here are the views that makes this alternative route worth it. Do note that one is more exposed to the gale winds, and wearing a poncho makes things more challenging in such winds.

View of Irun
Descending from the summit, 1730 feet

Our second son had messaged us his reflections on Psalm 23 yesterday. So, when we came on this herd of sheep, my thoughts naturally gravitated to Psalm 23. I wondered internally whether there was a black sheep among the herd. Joon pondered about the 99 sheep and the lost sheep. But when we did spot the black sheep in the herd, I loved what Joon said, “He belongs in the herd.”

The black sheep who belongs

We knew beforehand that for this first stage, we would not have any cafes nor villages. So we had prepared the day before, carrying enough water, protein bars, etc. One thing that seemed to make a significant difference was the electrolytes in the water!

Pasajes de San Juan is a lovely town by the water. Many locals visit. We noticed that even Victor Hugo, author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame & Les Miserables, had lived here!

Pasajes de San Juan

Tomorrow, we take a water boat across the port to walk to San Sebastián.

The day before

Tue, Sept 27 – Irun. This should be and is a short post. As we start preparing our minds and hearts for the Camino,.

We had acquired our Compostela credential in the cathedral in Bilbao. We opted not to stamp there as our start is in Irun. After checking into our Irun accommodation, Joon rested while I decided to start booking rooms a bit further out. It was fortuitous as sometimes it was the last available room in the lodging that I preferred at that town.

When the Parroquial de Santa María del Juncal opened late afternoon, we walked there. Massive altar piece with a number of statues of Mary (and baby Jesus). We found the office to get our first stamp in our passport.

The second important thing today is to find where the Camino path starts. Scouting the day before helps especially when one’s lodging is away from the route. In Irun, most refer to the start at the railway station. So, we make our way there in the morning (1km).

Dinner menu is typically available from 7pm. So, we are having some drinks in a quaint cafe that had good reviews.

When in Rome, eat as the Romans do!

Pimientos pardon (peppers) & pulpo (octopus)
Baby squids!

Two days before

Today (Mon Sept 26) we flew into Bilbao from London where we had attended our nephew’s wedding. We left a bag behind with Joon’s sister, which we will collect when we return to USA via London.

Preparing for a two month trip means it’s highly likely we will forget some stuff. My count is 5 so far. Fortunately, I was able to substitute or replace. Important thing is to keep oneself on an even keel.

Even though our Camino walking doesn’t start till Wednesday, it seems God has already signaled to us. A Scottish couple was in front of us in the Immigration line when the wife inquired if we were doing the Camino. When we responded affirmatively, she handed over a small memento which is not to be kept but passed onto the next pilgrim! See picture. It’s a tiny plastic green hand, with fingers spread apart as if waving at one.

We then took the bus from the airport into downtown (3 Euro per person). Our stop was the third stop which was beer our hotel. The 4th and final stop was in the bus depot. Well, because the bus had stopped on the 1st and 2nd stops, I assumed it would do so for the 3rd. Problem was that I never heard the bell being rung for the 1st and 2nd, and we were the only ones who wanted to get off at the 3rd. So, we ended up at the bus depot.

Part of the Camino mind set is to accept things as there might be “Easter eggs” in such events. So, we decided that perhaps this unplanned stop could benefit us as we now knew where the bus depot was (as we would likely catch the bus to airing from the depot). We then pop into a cafe to have a bite. Lo and behold, the same Scottish turned up and we were able to chat a bit as the table next to ours opened up.

One more sign. It’s very unusual in a Spanish cafe to hear songs in English. But this cafe was playing Bee Gees “How deep is your love?”

Here are some of the lyrics that was so full of Camino significance.

I believe in you
You know the door to my very soul
You’re the light in my deepest, darkest hour
You’re my savior when I fall
And you may not think I care for you
When you know down inside that I really do
And it’s me you need to show

How deep is your love?

North Cascades National Park, WA

The North Cascades mountain range is also known as the American Alps. This national park was established in 1968. It has the coolest entrance sign, a mock up snowed mountain range. A favorite picture stop.

We first visited this park in 2019 with a one night stay. That was too brief as we had to prioritize the hikes and sights. This next trip, we set aside three nights, and lucked out with lodgings at the Colonial Creek South Campground. Yes, we camped as its biggest advantage was the proximity to the sights and trails. Thus, we were able to catch sun rises, sun sets at the various overlook points without having 45-60 min drives from Marblemount (where we lodged previously).

Diablo Lake

The Diablo Lake is a magnificent feature of the Park. The overlook point is 2-3 mins drive from Colonial Creek Campground! There’s ample parking and several picnic tables at this overlook point. There’s a natural ledge area off to the side where two parties were taking engagement-style pictures of couples. The lake has the wonderful glacial melt colors.

Same viewpoint, at night.

We were able to view the stars as it was a clear [second] night. We were the only ones up here just past 8pm. [This night photo was actually taken on the second night, but it’s placed here so that one can easily compare with the preceding daylight photo.]

Here are more pictures of Diablo Lake from various viewpoints.

Cloud formations were more prominent with this filter effect
Looking towards the central range that was in earlier pictures
The day before wildfire ash and smoke drifted into the NP

The Colonial Creek South Campground has a public parking area. A number of trailheads were also located here – e.g. Thunder Creek trailhead. The lake shore at the public area was stony/rocky with sparse plots of dirt ground. Folks were enjoying the water on their various watercrafts.

We lucked out as our camping lot was a lot away from the restrooms. While there were no showers in this campground, there were sinks and flushing toilets. There were minimal bugs/insects but our citronella candle definitely kept the bugs away.

Temperatures dropped below the 50s, which was lower than we expected in the week after Labor Weekend (9/6/22 – 9/8/22). A vivid dream which involved my mother and a freezing situation work me up. That was probably a subconscious prompt to get the portable heater going for a bit to warm up.

The next morning on Day 2 was an easy one, visiting the various hydroelectric dams (there are three of them on the Skagit River). We opted for relatively flat hikes and getting the sights in.

Given the relatively light day, we decided to catch the evening and sunset views. In particular, we drove to Washington Pass.

Path leading to the overlook for Washington Pass.
The camera captures this as gold, ala Yosemite’s “firefall.”

The mountain range really appeared to be adorned with a golden crown!

A less direct sunlight falling on mountain face.
Highway 20 below, this will lead to Mazama.

As mentioned earlier, we drove to Diablo Lake overlook in the night, to star gaze a bit, ponder the vastness of the universe, and prayed.

It did not get any warmer on the second night. We added the picnic blanket. A decision was made to go back on Day 3, skipping our third night. This turned out to be a serendipitous decision as the ash smoke had rolled in from the wildfires.

We nixed the plan for a more strenuous hike to Maple Pass Loop trail (7.4 miles) and opted for Blue Lake (4.6 miles).

Highway 20, heading from Diablo Lake towards Washington Pass

It was quite smoky at the Blue Lake trailhead parking. We started the hike up and midway the air cleared a bit. Hurray, ash particles were heavier and were sinking down to the ground!

Solitary tree trunk lit up
Trail to Blue Lake

Catching the morning sun breaking into the trees was cool. We were about to walk into a meadow.

Meadow partway up the trail to Blue Lake
Trail splits
Liberty Bell and the Spires mountain range (popular for rock climbers!)
Blue Lake, more ash was beginning to blow in.
Zoomed in of Blue Lake tree lined shore

After a tranquil 30 mins or so with the whole lake to ourselves (as a group of 4 left 5 mins after we arrived), we descended. Ash specks were beginning to accumulate on our bags/jackets.

The Great Outdoors truly is a gift.

Camino del Norte

This will be our third Camino. This route begins in Irun, northern Spain, and ends in Santiago de Compostela. It boasts amazing scenic views as it follows the coast for the better part of 620km (372 miles). There’s a possibility at Villaciosa to divert to the Camino Primitivo, but right now, the intent is to keep to the Norte. The total length of Camino del Norte is in the range of 825km, we will have ascended a total of 16,784 meters and descended 17,207 meters. To put latter’s total elevation gains/losses (33,991 meters) of Norte into perspective, a round trip to Mt Everest Summit from Base Camp is 6,972 meters! Of course, the thin air at Mt Everest is much more demanding on the human body!

We had not expected to undertake a third Camino after completing the Frances in 2019. But there were un-mistakeable signs, three of them actually, to consider another Camino. And so we did, and here we are.

We will be in London for a nephew’s wedding prior to this Camino (fattening up before the walk?). From London, we fly into Bilbao, after which we will catch local transport to Irun. Buses or trains are very convenient and cheap transportation modes within a country. The fact that the USD has strengthened significantly against the Euro over the past couple of months has helped (I did purchase some Euros earlier in the year, but given we will be on the Continent for two months, it will all be used!).

The preparation drill is per our other Camino blogs (Portugues and Frances). Hiking various trails and mountains, breaking in new shoes, getting some new gear, losing some pounds! One new preparatory element for this Camino is using GPX files which is read by Wikiloc on both my iPhone and Apple Watch. This allows us to divert from the yellow-arrowed routes into more coastline paths. Thus, it’s likely that we will end up walking more than the published mileage.

One thing we did learn from our preparatory hikes is the need to get some electrolytes. Joon had the misfortune to get heat stroke during a hike on the Skyline Ridge Trail in Mt Rainier National Park. Drinking water only in a dry environment just increases the amount of salt loss from the body!

Picture from a fellow pilgrim who walked the Norte, showcasing the beauty of the coastline

We begin our walk on Wednesday Sept 28, 2022. There are guidebooks and Internet resources. One such plan for the Norte breaks this route up into 32 stages, with the idea that one can walk one stage per day. Stages generally run from 25km to 32km, with the highest stage being 38km (latter would have smaller elevation changes). Pilgrims do plan rest days in between, to rest the body and soul, and benefit from that particular stop’s attractions.

We find it best to begin the Camino with shorter distances to get into a walking mindset and condition the body. Thus, we will take 2 days to cover the first stage. This works well too as the end of stage 1 is San Sebastian, a town that has much to explore. Thus, by spending the night at Pasajes de San Juan at the end of Day 1, we will only need to walk three hours the next morning to reach San Sebastian on Day 2. This leaves most of Day 2 free in San Sebastian. Contrast walking from Irun to San Sebastian in one day, and arriving in the evening. That hardly leaves anytime in San Sebastian (unless one opts to spend two nights) before departing the following morning for Stage 2.

Of course, some pilgrims have a different strategy to have their stage towns different from what’s commonly published. The benefit is there is less competition for lodgings in those in-between stage towns/villages.

If you tend to plan every vacation to the detail, it can be worrisome to not have reserved your lodging every night. But many pilgrims do just that, they walk with their backpacks, and go as far as they are ‘moved to’ that day. And then search for lodgings. There’s a common saying among pilgrims, “The Camino Provides.” And in 99% of the times, it does. When all fails, pilgrims either walk on or take a cab to the nearest available lodging. In latter case, they then cab back the next morning, and resume their walk.

Finally, we are really looking forward to the simplicity and spirituality of the Camino life. To leave our worldly concerns behind and be immersed in the One who has blessed us so mightily.

Santiago de Compostela reflections

Oops….below never got completed and published. Here’s a catch up FOUR months later! Better late than never.

May 6. Approx. 11.05am. Queuing to catch the bus back to Santiago from the airport, after returning the rental car. I was the last to board the bus in one queue, when I noticed a couple at the head of the other queue. They had about 6 medium to large luggage bags. I offered the lady to help and they were appreciative. It then struck me that we often see situations around us where others might appreciate a helping hand but we are sometimes too engrossed with our own life journey, that we do not take the proactive step to extend a hand. That’s when I decided I will try my best to assist in some way, everyday, someone who I come across that might need help. This attitudinal shift changes how one views one’s fellow neighbors around us.

May 7. Approx. 10.05am. Sitting in the apartment balcony, just before walking to bus stop to catch bus to Santiago de Compostela airport.

Just sitting still, ignoring any traffic noise below. Looking up, I noticed the winds were blowing the dark clouds in one direction. And way above were white clouds that appeared to be stationary. My brain worked out the winds were at a much lower altitude. As there was a gap in the dark clouds, I could see the evolving shapes of the white clouds above then. And I saw a protuding white ‘nose’ slowly forming. Pinocchio’s nose sprung to mind, unbidded. It slowly grew longer before it dissipated.

There was a message that I gleaned from this. I had been contemplating the insights from the Camino as I was just sitting still. And the message seemed meant for me. That I should not lie to myself. That while the nearer moving dark clouds might seem to indicate that I am making progress, the further stationary clouds cautions me not to fool or delude myself.

May 9. 4.33pm. 4 hours and counting due to flight delays. Learning patience. Learning not to waste emotional energy over this. Learning how to refocus the mind.

Sept 9. Here’s something I re-read since returning from the Camino. We can sometimes fall into a ‘trap’ where our thoughts and focus is either in the ‘Past’ and/or the ‘Future’. We reminisce about the happy and joyful times in the past, be it the Camino, vacations or celebrations. Sometimes, some even continue to hanker for the times of their youth. And such memory indulgences can sometimes put ‘blinders’ on us as we obsess about re-capturing these moments in the future. Which leaves the Present a step child of our attention and energies.

One of the significant practices that I put into place was more Reflection & Contemplation time into my day. On the Camino, this came about naturally due to the several hours walk. When one comes back to everyday life, one has to intentionally carve out time. Perhaps start with 15 mins or 30 mins blocks. The benefits cannot be under-played, and eventually, one will see that such Reflection & Contemplation time creates an ‘intentionality’ to how one lives. By the way, Carpe Diem really means ‘Pluck the day’, which lends a more thoughtful and respectful tone to one’s approach, than ‘Seize the day’.

O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela

May 4. Day 38. 20.6 km. Departed 0607 hours, arrived 1155 hours.

We decided to have a very early start to catch the sunrise. Not surprisingly, we came across several others starting that early. Torch lights/headlamps are needed.

The walk went through some forested areas early on. And then along paved roads and through villages and residential estates.

That’s how dark it was at 0616 hours as we reached the forested trail. The spot of light ahead was by other peregrinos who walked without any hesitation.

About 5 hours later, we lingered at Monte de Gozo (Mount of Joy). There was a fenced up monument as well as views of the city. We could spot the Cathedral towers.

Monte de Gozo (Mount of Joy).

As it was our last day on the Camino, personal contemplation was a priority.

We were able to make it in time for the 12pm Mass at the Iglesia de San Francisco. And confessional services too.

Facade of Iglesia San Francisco. Standing room at the back and sides of Church during the 12pm Mass.

We meet Roberto after Mass. He had arrived a day earlier and recounted his crossing paths with the same group of 76 high school kids that we came across yesterday. They were exhibiting their youthful exuberance. Roberto was on the point of fatigue as his backpack hip belt had broken at the start of his Camino in Lugo, and he had hip issues. But that exuberance motivated him to continue to be in front of this school group. He later thanked the teachers as he was initially annoyed. Strange how things worked out.

We backtracked out of the historic center to have lunch with Roberto at a pulperia that locals patronize. Great racions and riberio (wine).

After which we walked back to the Cathedral, sat in the courtyard, and visited with St James/ Santiago inside.

Us with our friends, Josephine and Richard.

A panoramic view of the Cathedral from courtyard.

There were a lot of emotions. We saw tears, hugging, shouts of recognition, taking off boots/shoes, peregrinos lying flat on their backs.

Reaching Santiago is a triumph of will power over the physical, mental and emotional challenges. But the transformation (metamorphosis) had only just begun.

Most, if not all, in the Camino forums and groups agree the Camino continues when one goes back to one’s life. Many also wonder how to retain their Camino-self.

Me thinks there are several challenges post-Camino.

1. One’s mind begins to fill up with everything that one emptied during the Camino.

2. One begins to revert to past reactions, perceptions, behaviors, etc. as these lie just under the surface.

3. One neglects to spend time alone or in contemplation.

I found that putting a ‘big and long pause’ between the triggering event and my normal reaction, helps me maintain that inner peace. And sufficient time for me to prioritize what I desire as an outcome. When words quickly fly out of my mouth, the odds are high that I will regret some words used. Keeping and nurturing the vision of my Purer Version requires discipline and spiritual assistance.

There’s more to process from this Camino. Let me close this post with some pictures from Finisterra and Muxia.

0.000km milestone marker in Finisterra. May 5.

Cabo Tourinan, Muxia. May 5.

Sunset at Cabo Tourinan.

Short video clip.

Arzua to O Pedrouzo

May 3. Day 37. 19km. Departed 0745 hours, arrived 1310 hours.

The numbers of peregrinos on the walk today is several multiples higher than previously experienced. We ran into a high school group of 76 students with 6 teachers. We were pleasantly reminded of the exuberance of youth (where did those days go?). I got to chatting with one of the students too. They were walking the Camino to Santiago, from Sarria.

Today’s route was quite pleasant, especially through the forested trails. There were several inclines that got our hearts pumping, which I am sure, some will relish/enjoy.

Eucalyptus trees were introduced into Spain from Australia in 1865 with the intent for use in construction. If you see the picture, on the surface, this tree appears ideal, with tall tree trunks and minimal branches. Unfortunately it was unsuitable for such use, drives out local species and consumes lots of water.

Tranquil forested trail. Consider that some of these trees took 20-30 years or more to grow to the size and height that make up these forested trails. Who are those in our lives with those years who we should treasure more?

Morning sun beaming into forest – 1.

Morning sun beaming into forest – 2.

On our penultimate day, what has been our Camino experience? Our Camino experience unfolded over three stages.

1. Emptying Out & Pouring In of Inner Peace.

Solitude. Quiet. Stillness. Serenity. Calmness.

Being dis-connected for many hours every day for weeks has a therapeutic effect on one’s mind and soul. The world has continued on without skipping a beat. Our minds are slowly but surely being drained of worldly concerns and issues that we have no control over. Using social media to update others of our journey kept ‘social media’ in its proper servant place. These and the same daily routine, help create an emptying out of our thoughts, of our hearts from trivial and superficial concerns. We become more detached from the external during the Camino (some peregrinos go to the extent of not bringing a smartphone).

We begin to focus inwards. On our lives, our hurts, our pains, our joys. We slowly see our own imperfections and warts. We slowly see the hurts and pains don’t really matter. We learn to forgive ourselves and accept who and where we are. And we forgive others, even from decades-old events that we no longer recall with any clarity (or certainty). There is a un-burdening. An un-winding. There is a lightness. And slowly but surely, Inner Peace flows in.

Inner Peace of the mind as we let go of the past. Only the present and future matters henceforth.

Inner Peace of the heart as we let go of expectations of others and how they should respond. Only how we want to feel and act now and in the future matters henceforth.

2. Relationships, relationships, relationships.

As Inner Peace reigns, we come to realize that relationships is the crux and heart of our lives.

Relationship with our own selves. Being our own best friends. Knowing how to be a Purer Version (or Best Version).

Relationship with our loved ones. Choosing to express love vs satisfying our Ego. Tilting the scales of our focus, efforts and time to the former at the expense of the latter. Both of us struggle with the Ego, as we perceive that we are not being listened to with full attention, with empathy, and so on. This will be a work in progress until we learn to fully let go and accept without any expectations or perceptions. Expectations/perceptions is what potentially hurts the inter-personal exchanges

Relationship with our God. For us, this ultimately is the bedrock that all other relationships rest and build upon. We discuss the Spiritual within the Secular and our faith has been mutually strengthened.

3. Life with Meaning

In my first Camino, I desired to discern the purpose of my life from God. In this Camino, I have started to get glimpses and insights. I use the label, the meaning of life. It’s no longer checking off a bucket list that will satisfy my soul. The right purpose gives meaning to one’s life. It’s right when it resonates deep inside.

Thus, we begin. Living purposefully. The days of unconscious drifting is a luxury we cannot afford as the prime years of our lives are trickling away like the sand in an hour glass.

Tomorrow as we walk, we will figure out how to stay on course.

Melide to Arzua

May 2. Day 36. 14.5 km. Departed 0730 hours, arrived at 1315 hours (after a one hour lunch stop).

Here are some pictures of Melide from yesterday evening when we walked up to a scenic viewpoint.

In the distance is the Iglesia de Santci Spiritus. One will see its bell tower as one walks into the town.

Part of Melide. Following two pictures taken from the grounds of Iglesia del Carmen, west end of town.

The upper part of the main altar of Iglesia de Santci Spiritus depicts the Assumption of the Virgin contemplated by the 12 Apostles in a composition that gives a sense of upward movement.

A shorter walk today due to some steep uphill stretches (latter emphasized by Roberto, our Camino Spaniard).

There was no fog, and getting out of Melide into the countryside was relatively short. We definitely came across more peregrinos since the Frances route converges with Primitivo (Joon made an excellent point that the Primitivo was the original route into Santiago). Thus, Frances converges ‘into’ Primitivo.

As we walked out of Melide, we came across this which we had seen on our Camino Portuges.

It’s set up and fed by a river. All four sides have sloping ledges. In the center is where the body of water pools. What do you think this was used for? Answer later.

A great forested section of today’s walk.

As you exit Boente, you will pass the Iglesia de Santiago de Boente on the right. Given the Camino is because of St James, and a sello is available, it’s worth dropping in.

Much further away, we opted for the alternate non-road route, and were treated to amazing views.

The trees and skies were a real treat.

Remember the uphill sections mentioned earlier? That’s how one gets amazing views like this!

Puente Ribadiso over the Iso River. Pilgrims, punning on it, called it Puente Paradiso (Paradise Bridge). A bridge has spanned here since 572!

Anticipating the last uphill challenge, we were swayed by this persuasive poster. And had lunch before reaching our destination (atypical for us).

Rather than opting for any set menu, given there were 4 of us, we decided on ala carte. We had pulpo, calamari, padron peppers and spaghetti. This approach worked out very well.

This final uphill stretch was ‘played up’ by Roberto. It was very manageable and easier than yesterday’s uphill. And that picture was a communal lsundry washing structure!

We are not relationship counsellors. But we do know that one important aspect of our Camino is to strengthen our bonds of love. So, I created a special memory event for Joon in the Mesetas. Walking together, walking separately but within sight, is our Camino approach. Talking about stuff that we normally don’t, expands our togetherness. Expressing feelings and love more openly is a joy. Praying together is our offering.

Two days to Santiago. Buen Camino.

Post Script: We are lodging at Apartmentos Arzua with our friends. We are using only two of the four bedrooms. There is a well equipped kitchen with washing machine and a comfortable furnished living room. It’s costing us Euro 70. A fantastic deal. Especially since we were able to make our own dinner.