Monday May 14 Porto to Vila do Conde (Day 1)

We left our Porto inn at 6.20am, heading for the riverfront. The plan was 34.9 km along the coastal route, per Brierley’s guidebook. The day turned out to be overcast, with isolated spots of drizzle (if you are used to Seattle’s rainy weather, this was like a little brother act). This unusual weather pattern made it cooler and created a subdued scenery all morning into early afternoon. I had anticipated about 9-10 hours walk, allocating a couple of hours for lunch and stops. So, we should have reached Vila Do Conde by 3.30-4.30pm.

Probably at least 10 Camino walkers passed us, only a few exchanged Bom Camino greetings. Everyone has their own pace, and we settled into our rhythm. We were willing to linger at various points along the route, as the Camino is about the journey, not the destination.

Landscapes in the morning, lose its harsh lines and tones that we typically see in the afternoon sun. The cool air also makes the going much easier.

River front in the morning. At one stage, it was difficult to discern the waters from the sky.

An area along river front set aside as a wild birds sanctuary.

Sanctuary area. At about 9 o’clock, you can spot someone hunting for clams/crabs?

As we walked further from the core of Porto, we started seeing several men fishing from the river Duoro. Further up, there were 4 men sorting prawns in some baskets. I guessed it was sorting by size, so they can price and sell appropriately. It took us about 2.5 hours to reach the river mouth with the sea. So, we were looking for a cafe before we got too far away from Porto, fearing there will be very few cafes. It took us a while, before we spotted one that was opened. After that breakfast stop, we decided that plain croissants with sesame seeds were the best option for breakfast. None of the sweet breads for breakfast (Portugal is famous for its sweet breads and pastries. Our favorite is the Portuguese egg tart that we had on Sunday).

While we both enjoying taking pictures of landscapes, we each also have our niche interests. Joon goes for flowers, trees and plaques. I tend to go for monuments, art and interesting street scenes. So, our picture taking complements each other. We probably took more pictures than the other Camino pilgrims that passed us! This is worth mentioning for reasons detailed shortly.

As we had mentioned in an earlier Camino post, we decided that we would focus on a daily objective. Strengthening our bonds and relationships was paramount for both of us. So, it made sense to ask how we could achieve that. Joon’s response to how I could better the relationship was for me to be more understanding and considerate. Innocuous adjectives, but it caused me to reflect on ways that I had not been so, and obviously, to imprint these requests internally within my forehead. So, if you see me hitting my forehead periodically, it’s to further imprint it as I probably slipped!

At Matosinhos, we chanced upon a Tourism Center at the corner, before turning onto the broad sidewalk along the ocean. Joao was extremely helpful. He pointed out where we could buy our Camino shells, showed us pictures on his monitor of various seafood dishes, and pointed out where we could have lunch. This center also has a great stamp, with an outline of the Camino shell! TIPS – Join the wooden boardwalk after the car park, as sections of the boardwalk before that, are covered with sand. Locals go for plain grilled fishes and the octopus rice. We enjoyed the latter at a great Yelp find in Porto, so, we heartily concurred with this recommendation.

We saw more sea gulls on the beach than people throughout the walk all day. The waves and swells were spectacular, crashing upon the rocks and beach. It was high tide, but the waves and swells were driven by persistent northerly wind. Brrr……our rain jackets acted as a wind breaker. While our bodies were protected, our faces were subjected to this wind. And its very likely this non-stop wind slowed down our walking pace.

At one stage, we diverted into the inner roads (as I used GPS to navigate). It helped a bit but the winds still blew at us as we were walking north on the inner roads. Eventually, we got back to the boardwalk along the ocean as the dirt path we got onto, ran into some impassable bushes.

Every Camino has its tests. On our first day, we faced a couple. On page 120 of Brierley’s 2018 CP guidebook, we thought we were following the Seashore Sendra Litoral route, which constitutes the 34.9 km that I had calculated. We were comfortable skirting the coast line and following the Yellow Arrows that we were on auto-pilot, never referring to the PDF guide during the walk. BIG mistake. After reaching Vila do Conde, we re-read the guide. On page 120, it’s clearly stated that the Seashore Sendra Litora is ‘distinct from the Coastal Way Caminho da Coasta’. Yes, we had walked the latter, not the former. We reached Vila do Conde at 7.00pm! We couldn’t believe how a planned 34.9 km could have taken us 12+ hours (perhaps 2.5 hours for lunch, breakfast, picture taking, cafe stops). Joon’s Fitbit estimated we had walked 56.0 km (35 miles) instead! Couple of learnings – not knowing beforehand actually allowed us to accomplish this distance. Secondly, slow and steady does allow one to finish the task.

This un-planned longer route imposed a greater burden than expected. Joon really showed her mettle, turning down my offer to carry her backpack in the later stages. She really wanted to make it on her own steam. Needless to say, I was extremely proud of her, though at times, it was painful to see how she was struggling. On my part, my left hip acted up (as noted in previous post on preparing for Camino).

Ben: Me thinks – “Wow, it’s great to be able to sit down without a backpack at lunch”.

Left Hip: “Hmm….we have to remind Ben to take care of us”.

Ben: Getting up to go to bathroom after lunch. Ouch….lurching back and forward between the 2 legs. Walking to the bathroom like someone who needs a crutch.

LH: “He better take care of us the next time round”.

Above scenario played out similarly after dinner too! 😦

Here are some pictures of the coastal scenery.

Imagine the winds driving that level of surf/swells!

Notice the smooth texture of rocks, not jagged/rough.

Nice mix of rockery and ocean.

Sylvia from Cologne, Germany took this picture for us. We traded picture taking services!

The beach stretched for km and km. We started from beyond the horizon part of the beach.

After such a gruelling day, we opted for an early night. We applied some muscle relaxing lotion that Joon’s aunt gave us. And we took an ibuprofen.

Next morning, both of us work up, refreshed and ready to go. The Camino Provides!

Tuesday May 15 Villa do Conde to Esposende (Day 2)

We slept very well, the aches and pains from yesterday were a distant memory. This doesn’t mean a sleep-in, as I got up from bed at 6am, washed up, prepared instant coffee in the kitchen and completed the previous day’s blog. A rhythm that seems to work, first draft in the evening and completion the following morning.

Today’s walk is 24.2 km. Based on our actual arrival time this evening, we are averaging about 4 km per hour. Lunch plus rest stops plus photographic lingering is adding another 2 hours. That’s how the numbers added up today. I am about to name ourselves the Strolling Camino Pilgrims, or the Ambling Camino Pilgrims!

Near our lodging was a sculpture park. We took the opportunity to pass through it. I am always in awe of the inspired works of artists. It’s a talent that I was not blessed with.

This was the piece that I spotted through the fence, that brought us into the sculpture gardens.

A cleaner noticed I was taking pictures, and pointed this piece to me at the end of a wall as we were exiting! How helpful of her.

Aqueduct for Vila do Conde.

We decided to get our Villa do Condo stamp at Igreja Matriz, which opened at 10am. Breakfast was at a nearby cafe, we tried rice cake which was sumptous.

Exterior of Igreja Matriz.

I was moved to take the interior pictures in B&W.

Oh, we should share that our Camino theme is Faith, Fellowship & Food. Why food? Because it reflects the cultures of the regions and countries we visit.

We set off at about 10.40am, a late start. The initial stages of the Yellow Arrowed Road were through residential areas. There are several common strategies that one can employ when walking through stretches of the Camino that can dull the eyes/mind. Especially when one goes through a part of the city that is largely non-descript, say an industrial or residential area.

  1. Talk to one’s walking partners/companions
  2. Listen to music
  3. Medidate/contemplate/pray
  4. Increase the walking pace to get this stretch over quickly
  5. Zone out

I am sure we have employed all or a mix of such strategies, depending on the stretch. How about augmenting this list?

Well, it took me a bit to trigger my creative juices, walking by all the various and largely non-descript houses. However, I noticed quite a number of houses displayed pictorial tiles on the walls of their houses. In addition, a number of houses also tiled their external walls facing the road. Net, I decided to start my own ‘collection’ of such pictures. I am putting a small sample here, as I am quite limited in the ability to post-edit these pictures.

While most tiles are typically 1.5 feet by 1 feet (guestimate), there were some were significant in size.

M

It was a sunnier day today, no overcast skies. Thus, the Atlantic ocean reflected the blue skies (that plus the setting on my X100F. It’s beyond comprehension how long the beach stretches, given this is the 2nd day of walking along the coastline.

Fortunately, the wind was resting today. The boardwalk stretches alongside the beach for the most part.

Wild flowers of various colors were blooming in spring. There were stretches with multi-colored flowers.

Unlike yesterday, we started seeing people sun-bathe today. Note the panels to help shield them from the wind (& sand blowing into them).

We have come across locks of love, padlocked on fences, bridges, etc. Here’s one of sea shells!

On the back, some of them inscribe their wishes/intentions.

At one stage of the walk along the coastline, I was reflecting on all the sounds I was hearing. The ocean waves, the blowing wind, the birds chirping. There was absolutely no man-made noise. And I was reflecting on how the people in the area, enjoyed such beauty but lived very simple lives. One did not see the massive condo blocks that one would see in Miami or Hawaii along these beaches. And the question formed in my mind, “How can we further simplify our lives?” Joon agreed it was a good question to contemplate for the walk today.

The stopping to take pictures was obviously slowing our journey. Even though I had said to myself earlier, that was the last picture of the ocean I was taking, below is the final picture that I took (that I recall, as I am working off two albums – one on the phone, one on the camera). I am wirelessly transmitting a subset of pics from camera to phone for this blog updates.

Every action, every thought on the Camino tends to raise more contemplation for me. This persistence to continue taking pictures of the same subject seems almost OCD-like. We may have different ‘subjects’ where we have OCD compulsions, but rather than psycho-analyzing this, I turned it around. How can I harness this same photographic mania/OCD for my spiritual life? How can I pray with the same OCD-like compulsion as I love to take photographs? This question need not be spiritual, it could be something as simple as deepening the relationship with someone, harnessing that OCD impulses that lie with most every one!

The final stretch into Esposende was along the sidewalks. We could see kite surfers taking advantage of the winds blowing in from the ocean. Harnessing nature, enjoying the winds.

Coming back to the theme of Fellowship, we met Andrea on the boardwalks along the beach. She engaged in a discussion with us. She requested two things from us, a small donation and a prayer (for a good man). We happily obliged.

Andrea & Joon on the boardwalk. She was an expressive character!

We also came across Petra, fellow Camino pilgrim. She was resting by the roadside, and we struck up a conversation. Petra is young, she’s doing the Camino care free, without a plan or schedule. Example, she took the time to sun bathe on the beach. The weight of her backpack floored me – 10 kilos or 22 pouunds! And she was wearing sandals to ease a blister that had formed. Needless to say, after chatting for a bit while walking together, she pulled away as we normalized to our usual pace. πŸ™‚

We checked into a hotel, where there was an elevator and an attached bathroom. We met an Australian couple, Tom & Debra. Debra advised us to soak into the bath tub of warm water. It forces the blood circulation to rise to the skin, and helps one recover and rejuvenate. Joon took the advice. I showered. It was a question of time efficiency. πŸ™‚

As I took off my shoes, I noticed the start of blisters being formed under both my feet, under the fleshy part of the big toe. I had neglected to apply Foot Glide like I did on the first day. I contemplated bursting the swollen area to drain the liquid, but Joon advised to sleep on it. Let’s see what happens tomorrow, but I made the decision to wear my sandals instead of my shoes.

I convinced Joon to venture a bit beyond the hotel for dinner. Our first suggestion from Senor Yelp was closed (this was after a 15 min walk). We were heading to the second suggestion, when Joon spotted a restaurant that was about 15 metres before it. It was filled with diners. In we went. We ordered a seafood rice and fried octopus. It was beyond our expectations.

Before ending today’s post, I am sure you are wondering how we will further simplify our lives. We had already downsized more than 2 summers ago. The question has also morphed from simplification to something more. Here are our thoughts from today:

  1. Reduce screen time. For us, it’s less the television but our electronic devices and phones.
  2. Live in the moment. The Camino is teaching us to appreciate every moment, every experience. It’s the journey, not just the destination.
  3. Commune with nature. Increase our outdoor time. City life can become the “matrix”, as we chase the latest restaurant, the latest in-thing, etc. As Neo was asked, the red or blue pill?
  4. Pray more as time frees up from some of above. You can interpret ‘pray’ as medidate or contemplate more.

p/s. The floor tiles in the bathroom were heated! How we are subjected to temptations, tsk tsk.

Wednesday May 16 Esposende to Vila do Castelo (Day 3)

I woke up and checked my feet. Happy happy, the swelling had disappeared. I kept to my decision to wear sandals. And diligently applied Foot Glide. The swelling didn’t not reappear at days end.

The distance today was 25.6km, similar somewhat to yesterday, Day 2. We had the best breakfast spread at the hotel, and chatted with Tom & Debra from Australia. They were on a 8 week extended holiday, having spent 2 weeks in Israel earlier. They opted for an organized itinerary for their Camino, since anyone would have difficulty trying to plan 8 weeks. It’s unlikely we will run into each other as their Camino is all along the coast, while we will head inland at Caminha. We started at 9am and reached Vila do Castelo at 7pm. We must have wandered into the Twilight Zone without realizing it! There’s a logical reason for the time – there were a few, no, make that, many uphill stretches. At least three of them were on hard tarred roads/concrete sidewalks. At least three of them were uphill on dirt trails, which are un-even. And of course, there were rocky down hill stretches that one had to be careful to avoid twisting the ankle. TIP: Check the elevation map for the day’s route. We knew beforehand this was an up and down walking day.

Within 5 minutes of leaving our hotel, we couldn’t pass up this photo-op.

Today is our lucky Irish Day. We met 3 different groups of Camino walkers from Ireland. A couple, a group of 3 ladies and a solitary guy. We need to phone our kids to buy a lottery ticket for us! More about some of them later.

We walked through a residential area for about 30 mins before reaching a cobble path with trees on one side, and open ground on the other. We took the opportunity to sun my socks which had not dried.

We finally used the safety pin that’s recommended in the forums! And yes, I am wearing the 4th pair (for the bean counters among you). πŸ™‚

This section is not a trail through a forest, more a cobble stone path. So, nothing really attractive and most would speed by it. But Eagle Eye Joon spotted two creatures on the trees. Here they are.

The only family members who will know the name of this green adorable Pokemon are my kids.

Hello Kitty, fancy meeting you here!

I am sure you can draw your own Camino lesson from this. The pace of life that we choose, can cause us to miss things.

As we headed into a residential estate, we could not avoid this chapel built between the entrance and exit roads. The residents probably contributed to it, a testimony of the community coming together.

Inside this tiny chapel.

We were looking forward to getting our stamp at Iglesia Marinhas, but unfortunately, there was no one around. It was a lovely church and I attach one of my favorite interior picture.

Under-exposed to create the dark edges, and highlight Mother Mary.

We met the Irish couple at a cafe near this church (the first group of 3 ladies had zoomed by us on a hill earlier). Tom suffered from arthritis but had recovered sufficiently to do the Camino with his partner, Siobhan. They are cyclists but decided to walk. Siobhan promised Tom that they would stop every hour and a half, which explained our leap frogging back and forth. Mind you, despite his arthritis, they put on a mean pace while we tortoised on. They are both on the Camino for spiritual reasons but they were turned off by the commercialism they experienced in some pilgrimage sites and routes. And they are totally leaving their accommodation unplanned, trusting and looking forward to the adventures they will find.

My mother’s favorite prayer is the Divine Mercy, which we picked up two years ago when we visited her. I promised her that we would say it on the Camino for her. As I mentioned yesterday, my eyes have already become attuned to the various pictorial tiles placed on house and building walls. Imagine my surprise when Eagle Eye Joon (she was walking behind me!) pointed out this Divine Mercy picture of Jesus, which is the only one we had seen throughout these 2 days. Unfortunately, it was blocked by the lamp as you can see below.

Best angled picture I could take from the road.

As I was standing outside the wall taking the picture, a lady driving a car slowly pulls up and asks Joon who was further ahead at the house gate, what was I doing. Joon explained that I was taking a picture of the Divine Mercy tile. Well, it turned out that this lady was the house owner! I wasn’t going to be shy if the Spirit was intervening. So, I asked her if it was okay for me to enter the garden to take a close up. Now, realize I am speaking English, and she’s not entirely fluent in English. She nodded her agreement and opened the gate. I entered the house compound and approached the garden but I backed away as I realized there was no path to the front of the house without going inside the house itself. The owner kindly showed me how to get through her flower bed as there was one small section which had been pushed away. Here’s the close up of this tile.

The two rays represent the Blood and Water gushing from the heart of Jesus.

Is this just a co-incidence? If the owner was a minute earlier, she would be in the house, oblivious to us outside. If she was a minute later, we would have walked further away from her house, satisfied with the first picture. As we are on a spiritual pilgrimage, we believe its the Sprit that is accompanying us. Joon commented that this morning’s walk is unusual too, in that the bells have rung as we approached or were just minutes earlier. One church rang its bell as we literally pulled up at its entrance, at high noon. Discerning the Spirit requires Faith, but also an open heart, and open mind.

One thing I must highlight about some of these residential estates is this. They keep to their agricultural and farming roots. Namely, we will at times, see sizable vegetable plots among houses. In fact, the cobble stone road took us to a plot where sheep were grazing.

I did not carry a telephoto lens to take this picture!

Note the vegetable plots being grown next to residences, not farm houses!

In USA, we use the term, ‘curb/kerb appeal’ to denote the visual attractiveness of the house from the road. The Portuguese homes here win hands and feet down. And yes, you wine lovers, you spotted your favorite fruit.

This was actually taken the day before (Day 2) when we used Dr. Google Maps to navigate a shorter route through agricultural land than through residential streets. I was struck by the manual implement being used to bore some holes in the ground to plant the seedlings. As we walked further from here, we met a lady farmer on her tractor. She thought we had lost our way, and pointed to a direction back to the paved roads. We persisted with Dr G, and continued down more dirt paths. And shorten our route. And arrived to continue down the Yellow Arrowed Road.

This was our first wooded section (may add names of location/district after we return to Seattle). There was a nice monument to depict the Santiago route.

I am pointing to Porto, where we started from.

Talented Joon wrote on this nice pebble she found in the vicinity. We subsequently placed it in a niche in the monument (after adding the word ‘Seattle).

This stretch was no longer the Yellow Arrowed Road but the Dangling Caution Tape Paths as they were draped from trees, branches along the way to show the way forward. The trails reminded us a lot of the Pacific NorthWest trails. Lightly packed dirt trails, not much undergrowth hampering one’s walk, sunlight streaming through the trees.

This was also where magic occured. Magic as in un-explained, not as in sleight of hands illusions. Deeper into the trails, we came to a stretch where it seemed powerful magic had occurred before. The remnants seeped into my body. I was possessed.

As Beloved Joon caught up with me, I took her hands and looked into her eyes. And I apologized three times to her. Three times I asked for forgiveness, and three times she forgave. So, the slate is renewed as we approach our 34th anniversary, on the same day that Prince Harry and Meghan undertake their wedding vows.

To be truthfully, it wasn’t magic, but the Holy Spirit.

This stretch skirts along Rio (River) Nieve near the end. We could hear the river falling over. As we paused, Irishman Eamon turned up. We merely greeted each other before we moved on. We would chat more and walk together later.

This wooded trail ends in a delightful stone bridge. It’s really refreshing and we rested to have a snack, as we had powered on without lunch.

Extremely restful spot; budget time to soak in the beauty and tranquility of this spot!

It was probably 10 mins after we had reached this spot when Eamon turned up (by then, I had assume he had gone into the river at the spot we first greeted him). He took some pictures and laid on the bridge, sun bathing. Later we would find out from Tom that Eamon had a bad back, and needed to relax it.

Regardless whether Eamon’s back was acting up, this was a terrific way to do the Camino. Eamon lying on the bridge, with the sun, rushing waters, ionised air. Creating special memories, not achieving a speed record.

Tom & Siobahn properly introduced Eamon to us in front of an alberque further up, where they had a sign for a self service stamp. Eamon and us walked a bit together and chatted.

Eamon has the ability to travel now, and he had heard about the Camino from his sister who had done it two years ago. We got to chatting in general. Then without any prompting from us, Eamon brought up a point of view that for some couples, it’s better they do the Camino separately. That was an un-expected topic. I reflected on that, and responded as follows. It may be that couples might have to do the Camino separately at first but when each person changes as a result of the Camino, they should do it as a couple, to enhance the relationship. He reflected on what I said. My impression was he had other couples in mind, but Intuitive Joon thought otherwise. Who knows.

There was an uphill stretch over a pebbled path. If one is heads down or eyes straight ahead, one will miss this nice tiled picture of St. James (St. Tiago) as one has to look sideways/backwards to see it.

This is why I carry my point and shoot camera, as this picture is an aspect ratio of 1:1. In other words, Instagram sizing.

To end the Irish story, as we exited one of the forested trails, and rested a bit, the first lady of the 3 Irish gals bounded by. When I inquired, she said her two friends were behind. Those two other Irish gals caught up with us as we were re-filling our water bottles and water bladder. One of them provided us this great idea. TIP: Cool the water bladder in the refrigerator beforehand!

We chose an Airbnb for the night in Viana do Castelo due to its more central location. In addition, we wanted to meet some locals. This intuition turned out to be a blessing. Joanna the host was away in Italy and her best friend Guido hosted us instead. The house is a beauty, filled and decorated with art and artefacts. The wooden floors were covered with rugs and carpets. The fixtures were period pieces. It was a wonderul ambience.

Guido is an artist, a theraputist.

Guido near his ceramic art work.

Guido passed us some of his pieces to spread human caring. While we will keep two pieces for ourselves, we are to pass the others on via a hug and the story. How lovely.

Well, we have to hit the road….so, I will end today’s post though I may have more to write.

Blessings be with you, as they have been with us.

p/s. Joanna had walked the Camino several times. She had this book in the guest bathroom that we used. Co-incidence or a sign?

Thursday May 17 Villa do Conde to Camhina (Day 4)

The day started with some relationship moments. Both of us didn’t get the best sleep last night. In fact, as it neared early morning, around 5.40am, I could see Joon raise her head and looked at me. That was un-expected and gave a rush to my adrenalin system. Joon on her part was startled to see my head so near her, and she wanted to take a closer look (to verify its me?). We had a small laugh over it as we discussed this later in the morning.

The story about Guido, our Airbnb guest who gave us each a hug and those artistic drawn pebbles happened at breakfast this morning. I wrote about that in Day 3 post just for memory justaposition. Here’s a picture of the stones again.

Joon and I will keep two of these for memories and Guido’s blessings, and we will pass on 4 of these to other Camino pilgrims.

I love art. And the Airbnb house that we stayed in last night was a treasure trove of various art pieces. Even the furniture pieces i the bedroom was antique-ish. Here is a small collection.

This caught my eye, when we were first shown to our bedroom. In landing alcove, early morning, with diffused spot lamp lighting.

One of the many wall hung plate pieces.

If you read my piece on Porto, you will know about my purchase from Livraria Lello, a book by Paulo Coelho. Well, Joanna, the house owner had walked the Camino, and placed this book in the guest bathroom. Co-incidences or a sign for me to look for the English version of this book?

Diary of a Pilgrim.

How can a wonderful Portuguese house like this not have some decorative beautiful tiles? πŸ™‚

We left about 10am, intending to do the inland route, rather than the coastal route, as it was 2 km shorter and we had seen enough of the coastline. Today’s route was 27 km, a bit more than Day 3. But without as many ups and downs. Discounting the dinner prior to checking in, we would reach our accommodation at 8.00pm. According to Joon’s Fitbit, we would have walked 31 km (19.5 miles).

As with anything, plans get disrupted. And by the seismometer standards, ours was a minor blip. But it created some serendipitous moments and memories.

We had anticipated getting our stamps when we start walking at 9am. However, we find that while churches might be open at that hour in the morning, there’s no one around or self service stamp set aside (with one exception that didn’t achieve its self service as the stamp ink was dry). Daniele from Casulu, which is a non-profit for homeless explained that the Camino support was still in its infancy. We decided to adjust and get stamps when we can.

Daniele in front of Casulu premises. They have a FB page and web site if you are interested in supporting their homeless program. Latter is known as Metamorphsis, an expression of the change they wish to bring about for their clientele.

At Casulu, we also met two lovely dogs, mixed Labrador and a huge German breed, one white and one black. They were brothers and named Ying and Yang respectively. See their pics below.

Guido’s gesture that morning was the seed for today’s contemplation. I settled on the concept of giving. Initially, it was how could we give more after the Camino. But along the way, it slowly metamorphasize

There were many scenic and not the usual sights along the way. Here’s a compilation.

One of the hills we climbed today, looking down onto coastline. There was one occassion when the Yellow Arrowed Road led us down to a tap and then up again in a residential area, when there was an option to just walk on level ground above the tap. Other times, we wondered why we walked down and then up, is it because there were houses blocking a more direct route, or is it to build “Pilgrim strength”?

A row of majestic ancient-ish trees. There were other rows that lined the pathway on the other side. Unleashing one’s creative mind, it’s almost as if they were soldiers of the Earth, saluting you as you passed by.

Coming out of the trail across a small stone bridge, we came across this bubbling stream. If I was a home owner in the vicinity, I would have short picnics in the mornings or evenings here.

Quite under-exposed (to rectify post Camino). A forested trail.

Friday May 18 Caminha to Valenca (Day 5)

Distance and time wise, we are past the half way mark. Our feet have learned the hard way that the distances listed for vehicular traffic on freeways and tarred roads are meant to lull you into a false sense of anticipation.

The guidebook indicated today’s leg would be 30km/18miles. Joon’s Fitbit showed us that the distance covered was 34.7km/21.7 miles. We left our Caminha lodging at about 8.15am and reached Valenca at 6.30pm.

We met Marie and Piet in the lodging’s breakfast area. They are from Namibia, Africa and were on their 4th Camino. They were taking the ferry to Moledo, for the Spiritual Variente route of the Camino Portugues. They walked to enhance their spiritual selves and have grown in such. Joon and I respectively gave each of them a Guido-stone. Thus, all 4 stones with their blessed wishes and intentions have been cast into the Camino pool, rippling through other lives.

Marie & Piet, Camino peregrinos.

Getting to the Yellow Arrowed Road took us via one of the municipal albergues, with its dormitory bunk beds. We met Marina, camping on a piece of lawn outside the front entrance. They had no more room.

Marina was well prepared with her tent, and seemed none the worse for sleeping out. It had warmed up considerably since we left Porto. What an adventure for her!

We met Pawel from Poland on the trail (we chatted with him in Viana do Castelo city center) who too, faced a full house situation in the albergues as he had arrived late in Caminha. Fortunately, that albergue called around and found him a bed.

Walking on the bridge out of Caminha provided some scenic views of the waters and the distant hills.

Life abounds in this waters, but one must stop and observe.

We had been taking pictures of churches as we journeyed these past few days. We have started seeing tiles where Saints have started being depicted, such as St. Antonio, St. Bento, etc. For those not familiar with Saints in the Catholic world, we believe their saintly lives have elevated their souls and they are in heaven. We also believe they can ‘intercede’ on our behalf, which is why you see Catholics venerating and praying to them. Some Saints have miracles attested and verified. Despite me knowing this, I was surprised when I started seeing local provincial churches in Seixal region honoring St. Bento, one church figuring St. Bento in the main altar. That triggered a consultation with Dr. Google, and I found out that St Bento is St Benedict. Wow! Now, I have to really read out on St Benedict’s life when I get back to Seattle.

St. Bento/Benedict.

It seems appropriate that at this half point in our Camino, that we do a Mid-Term Examination of what we have learned so far.

  1. Greeting Others with Heart. We found that several elders outside the city center, greeted us (in exchange), with such gusto, some with smiles, that the spoken words carried a depth of wishes that positively touches our hearts. Side note: Check out Masaru Emoto’s research on how the human spoken words affect the molecular structure of water, or why people talk to their plants!
  2. Arrows and X’s in Life. As a Camino pilgrim, one quickly learns to scan down the road, especially at junctions and roundabouts, to know which is the right road to take. Seeing further beyond the immediate 6-10 feet ahead of you. Thus, seeing a X on a pillar 50-100 feet away on one of the roads in a 3 way junction, rules that out. Seeing an Arrow on the remaining option confirms that to be the route to take (the 3rd is the one you are on!). One could apply that to Life. For example, if I knew that this current discussion with Joon is going to lead to some emotional exchange, some hurt feelings, why then do I want to continue down this path, even though the ‘X’ is flashing caution, danger? Is my Ego or Pride more important than the Relationship that I committed to? One can apply that to other aspects of Life, e.g. a course of Action or specific Behaviors. After all, aren’t we all endowed/blessed with brains that out performed all other living creatures on Earth?
  3. Getting Lost Happens. Despite Eagle Eye Joon and my own pair of eyes, despite seeing Arrows and X’s for about 48 hours over the past 4 days and this morning, we both missed the turn off this afternoon. It was a painful uphill mistake. After a bit, Smart Joon asked why we weren’t seeing any more Yellow Arrows. Less Smart Ben responded, trust that we are on the right track. But even Less Smart Ben finally threw in the towel, and banged his hands on the wrestling ring mat. We consulted Dr. Google, and there was a forward path to the freeway. Or we could back track. Hmm….would the Yellow Arrowed Road expose us to vehicular risks? With my best Yoda voice, I boomed to Smart Joon, “Track Back, We Must.” And we located where we missed the turn off. Why did we miss it in the first place? I was heads down writing some notes, Joon was on the other side of the path focused on that side. Doesn’t this sound so like Life? That something takes our focus away, and, boom, we are ‘lost’. Some questions to ponder. What or who are the Yellow Arrows in our Life journey? What or where is our Safe Harbor where we can re-trace to resume our right path? Finally, for those of us blessed and with hearts large mmenough, how can we be Harbor Masters for those seeking Safe Harbors?
  4. Passing the Baton. I had to cultivate and nourish a Type A Personality to do well in my career. It’s my second skin now. Fortunately, Joon is not a Type A, and I won’t fall into a trap of classifying her. So, Type A will walk their normal pace uphill and wait for their slower partner. Rinse and repeat. I was guilty of that, and decided to walk behind Joon when we are going uphill. That way, she doesn’t have to feel a need to keep up. In Life, Type A should also let their Partner lead in situations that they agree upon.
  5. Purging Batty Conversations. Everyone instinctively ducks when bats are flying overhead. Joon and I had a great conversation on this topic during a walking stretch. She shared how a particular phrase I tended to use, gets her batty. So, we shared what words or phrases tends to evoke a response/reaction. Banish those phrases or words, and peace will reign in the partnership. And increase the ratio of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in our conversations!

As we walked through this stretch, we observed that dogs tended to bark more as we neared and passed, especially the tiny ones. This was not the case in the earlier stages. Some dog lovers say that if their tails are wagging while they bark, then, it’s a friendly greeting. Perhaps some humans behave this way too?

Jose was sitting on the steps of the Yellow Arrowed Road. He was delighted when asked to be photographed. He invited Joon to sit, and we will send him a print when we are back.

We passed a stretch of homes where every house’s garden was planted with vines. My theory is that they have grapes with every meal during harvest time.

Here is a close up of the grapes forming.

I love this tile of Mother Mary with thorns around her heart (message from Fatima). I found it when we were ‘lost’ at one stage. Was that the reason for straying off the Yellow Arrowed Road?

A tile of St. Bento. He’s quite popular in the Seixas region.

The missed turn off to the left. We went right, and uphill for about 10 mins before back tracking.

Views from the hill top. What struck us was that it was not over-built. There were many areas where the houses were spaced further apart.

It was another serendipitous moment. We stood in front of a church, St..Pedro, discussing whether we should try a side entrance to see if it was open. A gentleman approached us, and spoke in Portuguese. He invited us into the church and explained they were busy decorating the church for a festival this weekend. Here are some pictures.

Altar being decorated with flowers.

A favorite.

It was the second longest day, on a much hotter day. We realized that while wearing sandals allowed the feet to ‘breathe’, it was harder on the legs. Joon felt some calf cramps coming on as we were in front of the lodging. A shower freshen her up, and we adjourned for a Portuguese dinner (somehow, the meals in the smaller towns are better).

The next day will be the start of several short stretches, a welcome change from these past 5 days.

Saturday May 19 Valenca to Porrino (Day 6)

This was a easier day from a distance perspective, though the temperature climbed to 84F as we reached Porrino in the late afternoon. The clock also jumped one hour ahead in Spain.

Our lodging was 5 mins from Valenca’s old fort, where the Yellow Arrowed Road led. The scenery from up there was spectacular.

These pictures from top to bottom, are from north to west.

Valenca (Portugal) and Tui (Spain) are sister towns across the bridge-border over the river Minho. We headed towards the Tui Cathedral.

This picture shows the height that we will climb towards the Cathedral (these are always up on a hill).

Note Tui Cathedral on hill.

I addressed commercialism before in my post on Fatima. Unfortunately, it reared its ugly head twice today. We secured our credential stamp from the desk inside the Cathedral. We then wanted to go to the pews and altar area to pray. We were asked for Euro 3 to be able to do that. Even St. Peter’s Basilica doesn’t charge one to enter the altar area. As a Catholic, it was embarrassing that the Cathedral did this.

While our posts has not been on route guidance, we will make an exception for this sector. This is because unscrupulous merchants had re-painted over the Yellow Arrows to re-route Camino pilgrims to pass by their businesses. There are billboards put up to warn, but some/most may not see it.

Here are the guidance. Look out for this stand with this notice.

This map highlights the 2 areas with exclamation marks that one has to take extra care.

This is the detailed explanation of where there had been tampering of the true Yellow Arrow signs.

When you exit the forest trail, you will see the mentioned artwork.

This large art reproduction is worth a stop, read and picture.

Approximately 130 metres from said art reproduction, you will see this turn off to the left.

Note the black paint on the road. The original Arrows pointing to the left were painted over to re-route pilgrims straight to pass the merchants’ businesses.

TAKE this turn off, when you come to the first 4-way junction, go straight (12 o’clock). You will then come to a T-junction. Go right and you will see a bridge over a stream. Go over the bridge and you are on your way. The reason for above details is that for some ways into the turn off, these merchants have continued painting X and blackened out the original Yellow Arrows.

Don’t worry, push ahead. The merchants had tampered with the true original signs for a bit, but after a certain point, you will see the original Arrows leading you into the trail.

A much better route than on tarmac!

In Life, unscrupulous bosses and companies will ask you to trade in your integrity for some monetary compensation. That will take you down a different road in Life. Learn from your Camino experience.

Since today is our 34th Anniversary, we will end this posting by sharing what we would attribute to a long and happy marriage.

  1. Evolve your love as each evolves. I change, my partner changes. Love evolves to embrace these changes, and not remain rooted in a past remembrance.
  2. Build a shared foundation or vision. This is our shared faith, this is our shared dreams for our family. Engage in shared activities.
  3. Laugh & cry with each other. This is never at the other partner’s expense, but always on the same side of the table.
  4. Exercise tolerance, forgiveness and patience. Prioritize the relationship over pride and ego. Live out the wedding vows.

It is not difficult, it is not impossible. One’s desire for a long and happy marriage must overcome, must overpower fleeting moments of tests and temptations.

Blessings from the Camino.

Sunday 20 May Porrino to Redondela (Day 7)

First time we used the alarm clock on this Camino. Reason is we wanted an early start. Our Airbnb host, Miguel kindly agreed to have breakfast ready for us at 7am. We had initially requested for 8am until we met a group of 8 (East) Malaysian women at dinner, who said they will start walking at 6am. We brought forward our planned breakfast by an hour, which turned out to be so beneficial to our walk.

A delicious and ample breakfast spread prepared by Miguel, our Airbnb host in Porrino.

We started our walk at 7.31am, Joon put on her jacket while I walked with just the dry wicking polo shirt. It was a bit chilly but I figured the walk will generate some body heat.

We had only walked this early on our first day out of Porto, which was at 6.30am, and it was an overcast day with some light drizzle. Compared to Days 2 – 6, today’s walk was so much easier with the cooler temperatures. It took us 5 days of slogging in the afternoon sun to figure this out. Due to the distance to Redondela of 16km/9.7miles, we reached latter at 12.15pm. What a delight today’s walk was.

We love dogs, and both Joon and myself had dogs during our childhood days. Malaysian dogs are the barking type, while American dogs are non-barking. By the way, if a dog barks and his tail is wagging, he’s being friendly. Anyway, we realized that we can’t classify Spanish or Portuguese dogs in either category. Rather, the barking or non-barking character seems to be a localized and not, national trait. I am not sure if it’s the water or the micro-climates within the provinces/towns.

Some readers may think that I am buttering Joon up by calling her Eagle Eye Joon. That’s so not the case, as illustrated by below:

  • A couple of mornings ago when we were walking a forested trail, she spotted a black cat sitting among some tall weeds looking at the pilgrims passing by. She mentioned to me after I had passed, and I could just see the cat’s head and green eyes.
  • Yesterday, when we were walking up a dusty trail uphill, she mentioned the large metallic goat structure up on a distant hill. I was definitely not looking at the hill. I was hunched over, counting the pebbles on the path. πŸ™‚
  • Today, we overlooked a beautiful valley (pictures below). As we were strolling on the valley floor, she mentioned she had noticed the blue railed road from that viewpoint and had wondered whether we would be walking towards/on it!
  • Today as we were walking out of Porrino, she found an Euro 1 coin on the street sidewalk.

Well, I learned something. I am definitely not doing anything naughty within sight of Eagle Eye Joon! πŸ™‚

A couple of nice monuments before the trails today.

Here are the pictures of the lovely valley.

The guidebook had highlighted that today’s walk to Redondela, while shorter compared to other sectors, is actually harder due to the uphill climbs. We found the early morning fresh air really helps with this.

An observation about approaches in using walking sticks. I tend to alternate the sticks and place them a bit beyond my feet. I came across two other styles. The first was by a lady (who was probably German due to the efficiency of the style), who placed the sticks alternately forward as far as the mid-point of her forward feet. It was a very brisk style and one can hear the click clacks in synch with her foot steps. The second style was by an Austrian couple, especially the man. He place both sticks forward at the same time ahead of his feet, and seemed to pull forward and push himself off. I tried both of these two styles, and they both work. Due to my left hip, I found the Austrian style more effective in going uphill, or when I need to catch up with Joon (after lagging behind for some picture taking).

I observed too that some house owners along the Camino route, had decorated certain aspects for us Camino walkers. I appreciate their gesture, and thus, highlight a couple of these.

Notice the figurines placed on the exterior window sill facing the Camino walkers!

I wonder whether this pair of boots belonged to the house owner, or was found discarded. It now has a new purpose in life for the Camino. Some of us may experience that in the future!

I love playing detective, especially when I travel. It’s discovering the cultural, societal and national peculiarities. Here’s a selection of sights that’s a bit unusual.

A clothesline covered under a shed. Perhaps it’s not sun power but wind power here that dries clothes?

The size of this ash tray was the standard for all the outdoor tables in this Cafe.

Football mascot as the Guardian of the gate.

Balloons for children reveals a lot about the type of programs they watch and identify with.

These images are so animated unlike those in USA. Running to, having fun in school.

We spotted this pair of leather boots on the bridge. Hmm.

Despite the fact that we have passed many churches during our walk, we ended disappointed that we could not find a service on Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit was breathed onto the Apostles. In speaking with some nuns, the services were only at 10am and 12pm. 😦

So, we end this day with quite a bit of time. At an albergue, with a total of 16 beds. We were the third and fourth check in, and we selected these bunk beds in the corner. Much later, we realized we were next to the single bathroom serving all these beds, and we could hear the tap pipes as they ran. Joon had her ear plugs and I can sleep through almost any noise.

p/s. As we walked back after dinner, we came across this street scene. Mad Max had made a guest appearance here in Redondela.

Monday May 21 Redondela to Pontevedra (Day 8)

Last night’s sleep at this modern private albergue, Santiago Apostol de Redondela was restful for both of us. Joon had her ear plugs, and I have this innate talent that I can sleep anywhere, sometimes instantly (I have been known to drop off to sleep at times before the plane even takes off!). I did get a couple of bites during the night, but Dr. Joon diagnosed it wasn’t bed bugs, probably some small insect. Small matter.

When I woke up a couple of times during the night, I didn’t hear any snoring. Most of the beds were occupied by ladies, and I guess there were at most 3 other males in the 16 beds. You know the game, if you can’t see the tag, you are probably ‘it’. Hopefully, my snores were not excessively loud to my neighboring fellow pilgrims!

TIP: Pack everything in your backpack before you sleep, except for toiletries, clothes for next day’s walk and shoes. That way, you minimize disturbing your fellow pilgrims when you leave early in the morning.

Today’s route is 20km/12miles from the guidebook (22km/13.8 miles Fitbit). While the distance is more manageable, it’s the two uphill climbs that would be challenging.

I woke up just before 6am. I think we were either the first or second to start getting ready. By the time we were downstairs away from the beds, there was 2 other individuals and a couple that were also ready to have their own breakfast and depart from albergue.

This albergue, Santiago Apostol de Redondela, impressed us, opening up in 2017. A short description for those who wonder what an albergue is like. Per previous day’s post, the bunk beds basically are outfitted with foam mattress pads and one pillow. On check in, the staff handed us single-use mattress sheet and pillow cover. One takes the blanket or a comforter from a shelf (some pilgrims bring their own treated sleeping bags or liners). The incidence of thefts probably follows Haley’s comet appearances but it is best to be prudent. This albergue even had lockers so that pilgrims could lock up their stuff before heading into town. It had 2 shared shower stalls for men and women respectively, and one full bathroom per 16 bunk bed dormitory. 2 dormitories in the building. A kitchen area, a washer, an outdoor drying area, an eating area, a coffee machine. The charge is Euro 10 per person. Pilgrims are allowed one night, and one must have a pilgrim credential to stay in. We booked this via booking.com as it’s privately operated.

TIP: Figure out, or ask beforehand where the Yellow Arrowed Road runs the evening before. We probably wandered the streets for 10-15mins today before we were able to ask some locals and get onto the right route.

Walking uphill in the hot afternoon is like having a tooth drilling without anesthesia. In the mornings, the drilling is with anesthesia. Comprehendo? πŸ™‚

The views today were spectacular, with the waters, the boats, the homes on the hill and the stone bridge in Arcade/Ponte Sampaio. This was the location where there was a major battle whereupon the Spanish troops allied with local militias defeated Napoleon’s troops led by Marshal Michel Ney. Such history deserves some lingering time, no?

Our first ‘peep’ at the beautiful scene that will unfold shortly.

How idyllic and tranquil a spot for reading a book.

A wondrous bay to behold.

We are used to seeing 3:2 aspect ratio pictures. Above is 1:1 aspect ratio.

I wanted to figure the bridge more prominently in this shot. My camera strap seems to have snuck in front of camera lens. Rookie mistake!

The bridge where the famous battle was waged. The middle section was destroyed during said battle.

During our walk so far, we have come across one other couple who are as photographic oriented as we are. Like us, they stop, pause, appreciate and capture a picture. Others prefer having picnics in serene outdoor settings. Others rest by streams and brooks. One girl even read a book under a tree. The destination town/city will always be there, but only you determine the quality of the journey. Don’t let the pace of fellow pilgrims detract you from your own desired journey.

As we came down the forested trail, we found this entrepreneur offering a stamp (‘sello’) as well as fruits, Camino shells/momentoes, snack bars. etc. I love it!

Location, location, location. The secret to earning the pilgrims’ business!

Creative marketing. The distances to respective destinations are marked on the soles.

I have noted this before in earlier postings, that not an insignificant number of homes have vegetable plots, even in city residential estates. This is obviously more pronounced when we are outside the cities. Here’s another picture in the outskirts today.

This home has allocated half of the front garden for a vegetable plot!

To Americans, this seems a way to have more organic vegetables for one’s meals. Its fresher and healthier, from garden to kitchen. There’s also personal satisfaction in growing some of what we consume.

However, I venture that for the Portuguese and Spanish, there’s a deeper and more significant aspect of these vegetable gardens. It’s their way of being ‘connected to the land’, to Mother Earth. It’s not just stocking one’s kitchen pantry with one’s own produce, but having a mind set, an attitude of gratitude and harmony with Mother Earth. It creates a kinship with Nature, and therefore, taking care of Mother Earth. It’s almost akin to how Native Americans live on the lands, before the Mayflower Pilgrims arrived. Imagine if every household could have a vegetable plot, what a revolution we would have!

There was a photographic moment when the sun was breaking though the clouds on a misty valley. I tried to photograph it with both my cameras, but failed miserably. Perhaps some scenes are never to be captured.

TIP: Have your walking partner, companion check how the backpack is sitting on your body. After Mr. Left Hip complained incessantly this morning, Eagle Eye Joon commented that my backpack wasn’t entirely centered on my back. I had adjusted my side straps to account for a camera that was on my left shoulder strap, but that caused the backpack to be off center. After some strap adjustments, the backpack sat better.

Today was Aussie day as we met and chatted with a number of Aussie pilgrims. One couple, Steve & Dee were holding a similar guidebook to Andrew & Debra that we met in Esposende. Turns out they both used the same company and know each other. We met three Belarus girls at a spot where I volunteered to take their group picture. The girls gave us a nice momento and we reciprocated with needed ear plugs for one of the girls. It turned out that our 8 Malaysians had left their flag at this spot and we ran into the group later. Small world indeed.

A group of Malaysian ladies on the Camino. Malaysia Boleh.

Our stay tonight is with Rosa, our delightful and warm Airbnb host. Her place is just 2 mins from Iglesia de la Peregrina, where the Yellow Arrowed Road runs by. The historical center of Pontevedra is a quarter that is adjacent to this Iglesia.

Rosa is a fount of knowledge about the area. She could recommend the restaurants and dishes. She could highlight the places to visit/sight-see. We have not regretted our Airbnb choices except for the one in Valenca. She went out of the way to get us some fruits too! Contact me if you wish to have her property details.

TIP: As pilgrims, we sometimes get the impression that the Pilgrim’s Menu at restaurants are the best deal. That is not always the case. We spotted an Asian restaurant near the railway station, and went in, based on the Pilgrims Menu @Euro 7.50. However, they had a buffet spread for Euro 10. No prizes for guessing what we ended up with!

This was truly an extensive spread, that we did more than our best!

Since Food was the 3rd theme, here’s our dinner dishes.

Grilled peppers, Padron style.

Pan grilled scallops. Yummy yummy.

Calamari, as good as it gets.

One of the special visits was the Sanctuary of the Apparitions. Those who visited or read about Fatima know about Sister Lucia, one of the three children who met with Mother Mary. In 1925, Sister Lucia was visited by Mother Mary and Jesus in the Dorothean Convent in Pontevedra! We were able to pray in the actual chapel where Mother Mary appeared to Sister Lucia. A very special spiritual moment for us. We didn’t make it to the garden where Jesus appeared to Sister Lucia, but it’s in the same Sanctuary.

Pontevedra will hold a special place in our Camino.

Tuesday May 22 Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis (Day 9)

Today’s route takes us to Caldas de Reis, 22.2km/13.3miles, which is in the same ball park as Fitbit’s measurements. We started at 7.30am and arrived at 2.15pm. We had a longish lunch stop as a threesome from Nestle were interested in conversing on tech and USA.

The realization hit that we have only 3 more days of Camino. We see more pilgrims on the trail as we near Santiago. Many start from Tui, which meets the minimum of 100km for the Compostela certificate. For our schedule, that’s six days of walking from Tui to Santiago. We even met someone today, who was jogging on the trail, albeit with a day pack.

There was one major uphill trek today, which we managed to reach them summit by 11am. Fortunately, this was largely via a forested trail with lots of shade.

There was a smallish section when we had to walk on paths near a major arterial road that was leading out to town. Cars were zooming by at 45-55mph. I have a simple proposal. All drivers before getting their license, have to walk by an arterial road so that they ‘feel’ the jet stream hit them as cars zoom by. Also, how scary it can be when such cars are typically passing within 2-3 feet away. Or trying to cross such an arterial road, be it at pedestrian crossings when cars don’t seem to slow down when they are 30-40 feet away! There was even a driver accelerating down a slope, when I felt compelled to signal him to slow down as there were walkers behind me around the bend.

I had noticed this several days ago, but will share in today’s post. We were passing a wooded section when there was a cacophony of chirping birds. To most, it’s pleasant background noise or music. I asked Joon a simple question – how many different varieties of birds do you think are chirping away? We think it’s likely to be 4. Trying to answer this, requires one to really ‘listen’ as birds do call to one another. If we practice this skill on the Camino, perhaps we can better hear each other when we converse.

The thought occured to me, what happens if a bird loses its voice box, as humans sometimes do. How would the bird communicate with its brethren birds? Would its purpose in Life be comprised if it can’t chirp and sing?

Walking the Camino is a great way to connect with our fellow creatures. I stopped by a pond that had concrete walls, as I was taking something out of the backpack. There were frogs in said pond croaking away (though this was high pitched, and not deep and low as ‘croaking’ would imply). As Wing Woman Joon caught up to me, I noticed a frog making its way towards me, croaking all the time. He/She probably made its way about 5 feet towards me, when I took the below picture. It stopped, and all the frogs quietened down when a large group of pilgrims neared the pond, as they, the pilgrims, made a racket.

Frog is about 12 o’clock from the top of the three green shoots at bottom of pic. Use the ripples in the water to help you locate the frog’s eyes.

Thought provoking question – Do we ‘scare off’ other people as we live our lives in our usual way, without being aware?

We had seen horses on several days of our Camino. One day, there must have been some form of competition as there were horse riders along the trails, along the roads, and horses tied up around trees. Obviously, there were horses in pastures. This was a lovely horse, that just stood by the path and wondered why there was a procession of pilgrims walking by.

He/She could be sleeping since he/she didn’t move much as I approached and passed. Being in Spain, it could be on siesta. Horses can sleep standing up, they can also sleep with their eyes half open, open or close. So, Dr Google informed me.

This goat is a ham. He actually approached the fence as we were walking past it, and showed off the best side of his face for the camera!

As we passed farms, it was clear that the elderly continued to be active maintaining their lands. They were not in their rocking chairs. Rather they were:

  • Clearing the weeds.
  • Tilling the land.
  • Pushing a wheel barrow with fertilizer (old lady in her 70s?)
  • Chopping wood (wife was holding one end of the wood, husband was wielding the axe and chopping the wood on the block).

I love how the farm equipment seems custom made. You cannot walk into a town dealership and order something as shown below.

Does this generation have anything to teach us? Do they stress over waking up on Mondays? Does the labor give them a sense of Purpose?

We passed a stretch when a motivational coach was in the vicinity. See his/her handiwork below.

Isn’t it great to point out this sign when we have someone in our company that is losing it? But perhaps a better way, is the sign below.

Let’s share about dreams, past & future.

Cyclists have been passing us on the trails with some regular frequency over the past few days. Some are on the Camino, others are day cyclists in their group outings. We share the trails with them. NONE of these cyclists have the traditional bells to ring and warn us walkers. Since when have bicycles stopped being equipped with bells, and bells became an optional attachment? I informed Soul Mate Joon that she can use this cycle bell learning to warn me when I raise my voice with her.

Yesterday, there was a route option, by the river along a forested trail or along the tarmac roads. There was a big signboard outlining the options and trade offs, as the river route was 1km longer. The choice would seem a no-brainer, yet we saw a couple of guys, opt to go via the roads. One definitely can walk faster on tarmac than over dirt paths, and thus, one arrives earlier/faster. In Life, when there are options, what ‘signboards’ can we refer to help decide between the options? If signboards come in human form, do we recognize them? If signboards are our intuition, our inner spiritual compass, can we hone them to serve us well? Or is it a throw of the dice when we come to Life’s cross roads?

Walking the Camino is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. There are loose gravel stones, rocky paths, the heat of the sun, the coastal winds, the steep climbs. There are stretches by freeways, up and downs among residences, past bleak industrial zones. The tough sections can wear one down especially when one’s body suffers physically. A group of 5 Polish Camino pilgrims were leap frogging us over the past 3 days. They walked briskly, and yesterday, we were encouraged by their example to say the rosary during the walk. Today, the group passed us, and I asked the last person, what happened to the 5th person in the group, a tall sturdy guy that was typically the lead walker. His feet were worn and bloodied, and he remained behind to recover. Here’s a prayer that he will regain his health soon, to complete the Camino.

Our Polish pilgrims that kept leap frogging us (we start earlier, we have shorter breaks!).

In Caldas de Reis, we couldn’t help but notice and appreciate some of these art murals on building walls.

At the Iglesia de Santo Tomas Becket, there was this angel sculpture holding this Madonna picture. It’s something that my mother had in the house that I grew up as a child.

Our walking tips:

  1. Start as early as you can in the morning.
  2. Have a decent breakfast, and enough rest stops to fuel and rest your body.
  3. Go at your pace, never mind that everyone seems to pass you. I would estimate that at least 100 people have passed us, if not more. We don’t sweat this, we greet everyone.
  4. Engage all your senses, your mind and your spirit.
  5. The Camino is your walk and contemplation, not carrying a backpack. Carry as light a (day) pack as you wish.
  6. Apply sun block on the back of your neck too!

That’s my chain mark.

Fellowship on the trail itself is difficult to find. We engage in fellowship when we see people resting by the trails, when we stop at cafes. Expecting to strike up a camaraderie while walking requires two to tango, and the majority are not expecting to, as it requires synchronizing the pace. But if the chemistry is there, the synchronization will happen.

Finally, the Spanish siesta means that most businesses are closed in the early afternoon till 4.30pm, so that employees can go back home and have lunch with their family. Rushing to one’s destination allows one to avoid walking in the heat of the day, but most business and sights are closed. Balancing the time to enjoy the journey is also important.

Happy Camino Walking.

Wednesday Caldas de Reis to Padron (Day 10)

Today’s route was 19km/11.4miles, with a slightly higher summit at 160meters. We are getting into a rhythm, leaving at 7.30am. Because it was a pension stay at Caldas de Reis without breakfast, we decided to buy provisions for our own breakfast, as well as for rest stops. Our home made jambon (serrano ham) and cheese sandwiches provided more than adequate fuel for our body during today’s rest stops. We arrived at 1.15pm in Padron.

Getting out of Caldas de Reis was a breeze compared to the larger towns. We crossed a bridge, which provided a photo opportunity.

Bridges over rivers and streams, especially those scaled for pedestrian traffic, do add character to a town. I will miss this when I am back in USA.

The morning walk out into the wooded trails was especially delightful this morning, as we could see distant hills. There was a light mist with the morning light. We could differentiate about 4 different ‘layers’. A way to train the eyes is to imagine one has to paint the various green hues and shades, from the grass to the shrubs,, to the trees in the various layers (at different distances). Even within a single tree or shrub, one can detect various hues of green.

Contemplative Joon made the point that it was light that enabled us to see these trees and layers. Spiritually, our heart enables us to see others with compassion. Religiously, our faith enables us to see the hand of our God in our Lives.

We had touched on hearing in yesterday’s post and seeing in the preceding paragraph. As we were walking this morning, an elderly Italian man came up to me as I had paused on the road for Photographer Joon. He passed some green ‘leaves’ in his hand into my hand, and motioned for me to smell them. It was mint-like in smell, and helped invigorates one for the walk. We learned it was ‘fennel? Here’s a picture of him and Joon.

Fennel?

An unexpected reach out added smells to our walk. Is there a hidden hand ensuring all our senses are ‘activated’ on our Camino walk?

We have started encountering more cyclists since yesterday and today, a mix of those on Camino with their packs over the back wheels, and those that belong to a cycling group for a days outing. On an uphill road, a latter group appeared, wishing us and the other Camino pilgrims, “Buen Camino”. The leader in the group was an obvious extrovert and ham. He cycled towards me as he saw me standing ready to take a picture of this group. See below picture.

He actually cycled within 3 feet of me with his hands up! Love his personality!!

It’s hard cycling uphill, and most of us will have two hands on the handles as we push ourselves. I will describe this as I was not able to take a picture as the group passed us, but I saw a couple cycling next to each other. The man had one hand on the handle, and other was on the back of his partner, supporting and pushing her from the back. That’s love.

As we were walking down a dirt path next to a freeway, I noticed there was a single man walking by himself. We slowed down to allow him to catch up, and just had a chat. He’s Tim from Germany, and we recognize him from yesterday when he was walking with his partner. Thoughts that a relationship argument flashed through my mind, as I had just read recently on a FB Group of such a break up. Fortunately, that was not the case. Tim explained that he and his partner that today was the day that each would have individual time to walk the Camino alone, so that each can reflect and contemplate. With that known, we wish him well, and he sped off as we resumed our tortoise-pace. What a priceless gift from and for each other.

Everyone decides their Camino experiences and moments. There’s no tour guide, no detailed map. Carpe Diem.

Three German ladies enjoying the sun and valley views.

We had been eating pretty well the past couple of nights. But the rich and ample portions were getting too much for our stomachs. Thus, our home-made sandwiches of jambon and cheese was the perfect antidote for today’s lunch and rest breaks. We felt better, and walked just as well. On reflecting, the same could apply to Life too. Too much luxury, too much self-indulgence over an extended period, damages one. Perhaps such damage doesn’t manifest itself immediately or in the short term, but like a tooth cavity/rot, it insidiously works itself deeper. When the tooth rot reaches the nerves, the bill needs to be paid. Be it yourself, or your loved ones.

As we near Santiago, we are seeing more discarded items left by backpackers. I won’t honor them with the pilgrim label as they could have left these in albergues or in trash cans.

A pair of shoes, a fleece sweater, etc. We sometimes carry more than necessary. Perhaps there’s another un-seen monument, piled with emotional baggage, relationship hurts and grudges. That will be a most beautiful monument indeed, one that cannot be photographed but is just as real.

Gadget Joon loves her Fitbit. It tells her the distance throughout the walk, and more importantly, the amount and quality of her sleep. It would be suicidal of me to try and pry this from her wrist. The ear plugs that I provided to her, has saved my bacon too!

I must report a mini-miracle. All of you following the Camino posts, have read about Mr. Left Hip. We have been taking Ibuprofen since the start of the Camino. And I had been adjusting the straps to center my backpack. Well, other than a one second twitch on an uphill climb, I absolutely and positively did not hear any squeak from Mr. Left Hip. I wonder.

Today was a relaxing walk, despite some higher heights. The early arrival allowed me to catch up and finish the book that I bought in Porto. The resolution in the story didn’t augment my Camino reflections, and perhaps a second reading at a later point in time may.

Spanish food is plain and delicious. Our taste buds adjusted to not having chilli sauces/paste with every entree. And with that, bon appetit.

Jambon (ham) on melon.

Calamari.