Thursday, August 11, 2011

Muxia to Laxe

Today I rode with Marco from Italy, to Laxe. I was lucky to have a companion with a map because the route was not as clear cut as I had expected. The coast is rugged and beautiful. Laxe is said to be the spot where the Virgin Mary landed in a stone boat ( an apparently popular form of transport then ) to come to aid Saint James. Legend holds that the stone sail can still be seen on the beach here. I was told by a pilgrim from LA that if I crawled through the hole made by this rock ten times my back would be fine. I stopped at four because my knees were getting sore, but my back is fine.
My Bike Friday and I at the end of our Journey.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The End of the World as they knew it

Imagine before there were tomatoes, potatoes, and even chocolate: the world was a much smaller place. Finisterra was literally the end of the World until Christopher Columbus changed things. It was also kilometer zero of the Camino.

The locals no longer encourage pilgrims to follow the longstanding tradition of burning their clothes, and given the amount of synthetic fibers - I tend to agree with them. Gone are many of the other hardships for pilgrims in the Middle Ages, most importantly the need to now turn around and begin the long journey home.
What is unchanged is the throngs of pilgrims who make their way up to the lighthouse at the end of the point to watch the sun sink into a limitless sea.

As I was wandering back from the market earlier in the day (after consuming enough churros for a family of four) I ran into Gildas!! He and Maja were still in town after taking the bus there the day before. Suddenly we were invited for a home cooked meal by Maja and a concert on the point by Gildas. A small update is needed here on Grandma (his violin). Part way along the Camino Gildas picked up another credential and began collecting stamps for Grandma. Although he confessed his unorthodox behavior in full to the person at the pilgrim's office in Santiago they would not issue her a Compostela.

Monday, August 8, 2011

After Santiago - the best part of the Camino?

Gordon -
For most pilgrims the Camino ends at Santiago, but about 10% continue on to Finisterra. Those that do, such as ourselves, are rewarded with a green undulating landscape, charming villages and less crowded walking. With the mist rising off the land this morning, walking though a village constructed largely of granite, I felt this may be the finest part of the Camino.

The pilgrimage to Finisterra antedates the Camino to Santiago by at least a millennium. It was a holy place for the Celts and the Romans thought it was the end of the world. Today, it is an extension of the Camino frequented by a higher proportion of young furry people.

Ruth -
I decided to stay on the Camino rather than the roads for the last two days because the tiny lanes and paths are so pretty. Many sections are rideable but for much of the climbing it was a hike with a bike and a suitcase. At one point a tree was down and it took the help of Gordon and another man to get all my gear over it. Who knew I would develop such arm and shoulder muscles on a bike trip.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Santiago de Compostela

We arrived yesterday with just under one thousand others. In Santiago we wanted to see the Cathedral, attend the Pilgrims Mass, eat Coquille St. Jacques and reconnect with many of our friends from the Camino.

We were successful on all counts and lucky on many others.
The mass concluded with the swinging of the botafumiero, the largest incense burner in Christendom. Eight men must pull the ropes to make it swing the full length of the transept.
During the mass we also spotted Maja and Gilde, who had just arrived. We collected Tunga in the square and the five of us had a wonderful final meal together. It only makes sense that the Camino, which began as a wonderful moving community should finish with reunions and friendship.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Things Lost Along the Way

With one day to Santiago its important to consider things lost along the way.
Ruth -
1. I have lost the ability to multi-task (Gordon claims he never had it.) I have no interest in listening to music or language lessons while I am riding, walking or hanging out. The only exception is talking, but then that is kind of like breathing for me.
2. My breasts. Every morning I put on my bra but I am not sure why anymore. I am using the recently vacated space to carry my extra pairs of socks and snacks, but there is still room for a puppy if I find one.
3. My need for speed. My average speed on the bike has been dropping like a stone. Today I averaged nine kilometers an hour, with a third of the ride on the road. I am delighted to now be on the trail most of the time. It is mostly like a hilly, recovered rail bed, slow going but beautiful.
Gordon -
Every passage has its fare, and on the Camino it is payable partly in pounds of flesh. As well as Ruth's breasts (I remember them fondly) we have both lost our bellies (unlamented), and my butt (this may be a deal breaker for our marriage). The Camino presents entrepreneurial opportunities for weight loss/fitness programs. Despite burning over 4000 calories each day I am rarely hungry and I am eating less than I do at home. Perhaps it is the slow burn that comes with walking, but it seems to be a painless way to lose weight. I am sure that at some point my appetite will return with a vengeance and I will have to be chained to a stake, and thrown loaves of bread, wheels of cheese and small animals. Maybe it is time to finish this walk.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Green (and crowded) Spain

Gordon -

Yesterday we came down from the mountains and entered well-watered and hence green Spain. We are enjoying the change immensely. The Camino in this region is typically a cart track between stone walls wending it's way through a series of small hamlets. Perhaps it's just the contrast, but we both feel this is the most beautiful section of the Camino.

It is also increasingly crowded. We passed though Sarria today, which is the last major town before the minimum 100 km required to earn a Compostela. It appears that the number of pilgrims has doubled. Our new companions are easily identified by their sprightly step, clean shoes and coiffed hair. Many of the veteran pilgrims speak derisively of those
walking only one hundred kilometers but we are enjoying the injection of energy and enthusiasm.

Today there was a huge contrast between the road and the trail. After a few kilometers of what could have been a section of the Island Highway I went back to the trail even though I had been warned that sections were pretty rough. It was so beautiful! I kept pace with Gord all day either cycling, pushing or on two occasions carrying my bike while Gordon carried my trailer. What a guy!

I have been reading the 12th century Codex Calixtinus which includes a Pilgrim's guide to Santiago de Compostela. It makes for very entertaining reading but perhaps not the best choice if you are only taking one guidebook. It is full of beautiful illuminations and strong opinions about different groups encountered on the way. For example:
"The Navarrese also have sex with their farm animals. And it is said that they put a lock on their backsides of their mules and horses so that nobody except themselves can have them."
It actually gets considerably more graphic after this but this blog is rated PG so I'll spare you the details. (Sorry Blair.)
Sadly one of two remaining copies of the original Codex was stolen from the Cathedral in Santiago this July.

Location:Loyo, Spain

Monday, August 1, 2011

No room at the Inn

We have heard many stories about pilgrims having problem finding accommodation on the Camino. We are now in the last two-hundred kilometers( the minimum distance required for cyclists to receive the Compostela). The number of pilgrims has swelled considerably and in addition we are at a very popular town, O Cebreiro . After a climb of over 800 meters, many pilgrims have arrived here to find that every bed in town is already occupied.

We were fortunate to have reserved a lovely room in advance, but our friends Gilde and Maja are jealously guarding a small sheltered ledge attached to the church. We are in a col in the mountains and the wind is bowing. We shared a picnic together on their ledge before I took Grandma (Gilde's violin), back to share our room. She's is too old and frail for open air camping.

O Cebreiro is the Baniff of the Camino. It is popular not only with pilgrims, but also with Spanish tourists. It is stunning and has the oldest fully enact church on the Camino, dating back to the 9th century. The holy grail itself is believed to have been hidden here during the middle ages. With all these things to offer it seems pilgrim weary and less welcoming. In all the other towns locals and even the Mayor will find places that pilgrims can bed down for the night. Here, this was not the case even for a family with two tired children who have walked from Belguim ( not all today).

It appears that at least twenty people are without shelter tonight. I tried to ask our host if it was possible to share our space but she was adamant that this was not permissible. I even approached the monks on behalf of the Dutch family and they ignored me and walked away ( I hope it was just my poor Spanish).

Bedbugs: nature's class leveller.
At one thirty Gord woke me up with the news that our bed was crawling. Argg! We spent much of our night washing our clothes in very hot water and then had a fitful cold sleep out in the living-room. Grandma slept though it all.