Tracking Gary and Frances on Their Journey

Tue, 5 Jun 2012 Frances wrote:
As the day nears its end here in Burgos, Spain I am happy to report that I am 1/3rd of the way done with the camino. I have lost track of time and days but know tomorrow is Wednesday, June something! I have been given a day off tomorrow which I sorely needed (literally). I was planning to go to Silos to hear the monks sing Gregorian chant, but it looks like that may not happen, in which case I will stay put and just explore the town and its churches. Even for those of you not too interested in churches, these churches are real works of art and true treasures of times past. It is unbelievable beauty from top to bottom, ornate and intricate. The cathedral here in Burgos is usually 7 euros but free for pilgrims. Thank you, St. James!
Anyway, for those more interested in my trek, yesterday was a day from hell. I literally started the day on the wrong foot and got lost for the first hour and a half. I started at 8:45 am and did not get to my hostel until 7:30 at night! It was not pleasant and I was not happy. Good thing none of you were here! I did much better today and managed not to lose my way. I make sure I see a yellow arrow or shell before I go too far. Another lesson learned, to always pay attention! I admit I was distracted with who knows what.
Well, thanks for your care and be well. You are not far from my thoughts.

Wed, 6 Jun 2012 Gary wrote:
As I write this from Belorado, it is towards the end of the day, and the people of the town all gather in the town’s square to be with family, friends, and celebrate the end of the day. Everyone comes, from the oldest to the youngest. It is a beautiful part of the day, and ones heart cannot help be lightened as the laughter and giddy shrieks of the children join in symphony with the animated conversation of the adults. This happens all over Spain. It is a glorious time of day.
Unfortunately, this pilgrim only gets to experience it occasionally.  With walking, washing clothes, finding somewhere to eat, to pray, to rest is a pretty consuming effort. The Camino consumes you, the Way is always before you, and as you just get settled, you are off again.
I have meditated over the path for the last few days. My path and yours are not so different. Each morning I dress, put on my shoes and head out the door. My path is clear ahead, and I have signs that point me in the right direction. Sometimes I can see far ahead, at other times it is sometimes difficult to discern anything but a short distance. And to find my way, at times it takes much concentration to discern the way markers that lead to the correct direction. Most of all I am surrounded by beautiful countryside, wonderful sunrises, spectacular wildflowers, and incredible views. But, do I see and appreciate it as much as I can. The answer, my friends, is no. On my path, I am bent over, mindful of my pack, and always looking down, watching for stones that may trip me, navigating ruts, muddy patches, and stumps, and moving my trekking poles to assure safe navigation.
Is it really so different on your path? Are you not carrying a pack of troubles? Are you not also missing the beauty of the day that surrounds you because you too are looking “down” at the problems and inconveniences that may “trip” you up? Do you question the markers that guide your way?
Let’s all try to observe and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us everyday, as well as identifying the “correct” way markers, and share it all with others.
I, for one, miss all of you, and you are constantly in my thoughts and prayers. While you may be wondering about me. I am wondering about you. I hope you are all well….
And so, I walk away from the town square, buoyed by the sharing, and prepare myself for my next destination, Atapuerca, then Burgos where I plan to take another rest day.
Hasta luego

(English – bye, see you later)

Sun, 10 Jun 2012 Gary wrote:
Well, after 2 great rest days in Burgos, I put this great city in my rear view mirror and headed for Hontanas.
Burgos has one of the most beautiful Cathedrals that I have seen. Simply stunning. The city has a rich culture and GREAT food. Hontanas offers a significant contrast to Burgos- it is a sleepy little village that is not frequented by other than pilgrims. A perfect place to rest up for tomorrow’s walk.

Tue, 12 Jun 2012  Gary wrote:
I am in Fromista tonight. A long walk, a little under 22 miles. The picture of the water fountain is representative of the numerous fountains along the way that the pilgrims, as well as the town folks, use to resupply their water.
The walk was very windy, and I faced head winds almost the whole day.
Oh yea, got rained on a bit too. How was your day?

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 Gary wrote:
Left Fromista this morning heading for Carron de Los Condes. A beautiful walk along a river, with shady tree groves and splashes of fantastic wildflowers. All is well, I am still breaking in a new pair of shoes. Ahh, the life of a Pilgrim.

Sat, Jun 16, 2012 Gary wrote:
I walked 2 stages yesterday, about 23.5 miles, which has allowed me a rest day in Leon. So, I am catching up on my email.
The life on the Camino is rich and varied. One meets people from all over the world, with vast differences, yet with a total communal spirit. Everyone is in full support mode. They will stop what they are doing in a heartbeat to help a fellow pilgrim. I never tire of seeing the love and charity between pilgrims.
Of course, everyone travels at their own pace and timetable, so you would expect to see someone one day gone the next. Even so, you may be around folks for a couple of days and then you may not see them again. Or as usually happens, out of nowhere, you will turn a corner, stop for water, etc., and there they are again. I have attached pictures of fellow pilgrims that I continue to see on the Camino.

Several days back, I did a long day from Hontanas to Fromista. It was made difficult as a result of several tough ascents, a full day of head winds, and a little rain.
I must confess, that I listen to my ipod at times while I am walking. It helps with the rough spots, and frankly, music lifts my spirit.
On the last ascent of the day, the road was climbing upward, but straight ahead, the rain clouds were starting to move in, but there was still patchy sunlight.
As a result of the strong head winds, from the top of the road, coming directly at me, were the shadows of the clouds, and then the patches of sunlight. From my perspective, I would be engulfed in the shadows of the rain clouds causing everything around me to turn into a foreboding grayness. But I could see up ahead, rapidly approaching, a patch of sunshine, which, upon its arrival, would bathe me in glorious sunshine, returning every bit of beauty around me, but because of the contrast, amplifying the beauty and the experience. I was laughing out loud and could only explain it only as a state of ecstasy. I clearly identified it as a manifestation of God’s grace made visible.
Oh yea, on my ipod, was my favorite musician, Van Morrison. The song:
Have I told you lately that I love you?
Have I told you there’s no one above you?
Fill my heart with gladness, take away my sadness
Ease my troubles that’s what you do.
Oh, the morning sun in all it’s glory
Greets the day with hope and comfort too
And you fill my life with laughter, you can make it better
Ease my troubles that’s what you do.
There’s a love that’s divine
And it’s yours and it’s mine
Like the sun at the end of the day
We should give thanks and pray to the One.
Say, have I told you lately that I love you?
Have I told you there’s no one above you?
Fill my heart with gladness, take away my sadness
Ease my troubles that’s what you do.
Well, there’s a love that’s divine
And it’s yours and it’s mine
And it shines like the sun.
At the end of the day
We will give thanks
And pray to the One.
Have I told you lately that I love you?
Have I told you there’s no one above you?
Fill my heart with gladness, take away my sadness
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do.
Take away my sadness
Fill my life with gladness
Ease my troubles that’s what you do.
Fill my life with gladness
Take away my sadness
Ease my troubles that’s what you do.

So, I left Carrion de los Condes and headed for Moratinos. It was a little over 30 km. Once again a long but beautiful walk.
From Moratinos to El Burgo Ranero was about a 24 km walk. While the walks are all beautiful, some are long, and others not so long, they start to blend together. The pilgrims when they get together at the end of the day, find difficulty remembering the past stages. The focus is clearly on moving forward, honoring the Camino, and making a successful pilgrimage. Some are starting to feel saddened that they can see the end. The highlight of the walk was the city Sahagun. El Burgo Ranero is really small and not much to see, but I was able to find a nice Hostal to lay my weary head.

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 Gary wrote:
I hope you folks are doing ok. For me, its been a bit strenuous with several long days. So let’s catch up, starting with leaving Hospital de Orbigo and going to Rabanal del Camino. This took me through the beautiful city of Astorga. You could feel the shift in weather as it was getting a little cooler, as we started back into the mountains.
Rabanal del Camino was a quaint little mountain town. Perfect place to rest before the climb up to Cruz de Ferro. Here a simple iron cross stands waiting for pilgrims to pray and leave their stones from home. This is a major icon of the Camino.
Yesterday, I walked from Rabanal del Camino to Ponferrada. Another long walk encompassing part of a second stage.
This walk was fantastic! The climb was invigorating, the weather was perfect, and it felt great to be in the mountains. It was strenuous, so the pictures were few and far between. I prayed and placed my 2 rocks at La Cruz de Ferro. I left Rabanal at 6am, and did not get to my hotel in Ponferrada until 6pm.
So today was a short walk in preparation of a big climbing day tomorrow, which will put me in O’Cebreiro and Galicia.
I left Ponferrada this morning and I am now in Villafranca del Bierzo. As I write this it is raining, which is something I don’t want to see for tomorrow’s climb. The pilgrim walks rain or shine.

Sat, Jun 23, 2012 Gary wrote:
This morning’s walk started out misty and cold. It was the first time I had to layer up to stay warm in the morning. The sun finally came out, burned away the mist, it warmed up, and it was a beautiful walk in the mountains.
Early in the walk, I met Marco (from Brazil), we had a fine conversation, and he moved on.
At the top of the steepest climb of the day there was a bar/restaurant. I don’t usually stop because:
1) I prefer to keep moving, and
2) I have never had anything that good out of these places.
However, Marco was there, and told me that I have to have the bacon and eggs- that they were the best. He told me how to order them, I did, and they were fantastic. I had not had bacon and eggs since before the Camino, and that meal brought on a strong longing for home. It’s funny that a simple meal like bacon and eggs could trigger such a strong emotional response.
These recent walks are spectacular as a result of being in the mountains with lush surroundings. Unfortunately, with the mist and the early morning light, the sheer majesty is hard to photograph.
Today’s walk was from Tricastela to Sarria. At this point, I am 5 days away from Santiago de Compostela.
Upon reflection, it seems like months that I have been on the Camino. It is difficult to put into words the feelings and emotions I am experiencing as Santiago gets closer. For the moment, I am not going to try. I will simply let the experience wash over me and let God help me bring a focus to it all.

Life on the Camino. In my haste to get out my Sarria email, I missed the festival shots. The main street is closed to traffic and is set up like a carnival. The Camino has merchants selling their wares dressed up in full Renaissance fashion. I focused on the Camino. The festival, plus Spain playing France to advance to the second round in the 2012 Euro Cup had the town rocking. There were fireworks at midnight. I only know that because the explosive launch was right outside my Hotel.

Sun, Jun 24, 2012 Gary wrote:
Today’s walk was flawless. Mountain air, blue sky, no clouds, warm not hot, shaded pathways; a gift to the pilgrim. This is how the guide book describes it: “This is rural Galicia at her best; wet and green with the sweet smell and squelch of liquid cow dung underfoot.” Not my first thought, but it does capture the very rural, basic heart of this walk.
Pictures and words just can’t capture the true spirit and beauty of this part of the Camino. You must walk it.

Mon, Jun 25, 2012 Gary wrote:
Portomarin to Palas de Rei –

Spain is having a heat wave, so I am out early to escape the heat of the day. Today’s walk was similar to yesterday, but not as majestic or beautiful. We also paralleled a lot of roadway.

It was made memorable, however when Danny – England, rolled up next to me. I met Danny with Frank on the first day. I spent some time with him in Burgos. His feet were bothering him too. We shopped for new shoes, and parted company. He was taking another rest day. That was the last I saw him, until today. Turns out he has been putting in long days to catch up. However, the miles are adding up and his feet are starting to bother him again.
Yesterday, I also caught up with David – England. We also started the Camino the same day! Also, met up with Marco again, and got to meet his son Paulo.
The Camino truly is amazing!

Wed, Jun 27, 2012 Gary wrote:
Arzua to Arca O Pino –
The weather continues to be hot. This morning as I left, it was raining. I went back inside, put the cover on my pack, and put my waterproof jacket on. This pretty much guaranteed that it would stop raining. Sure enough, when I went outside, the raining had stopped, but now it was muggy and hot. By the time I finished the first km, the jacket was off and the cover was packed away. Welcome to steamy, hot, Spain! By the time I got to Arca O Pino, I was sweating from head to toe.
All the pilgrims are walking earlier and earlier to escape the heat. It was dark outside when I left this morning.
The good news: I should reach Santiago tomorrow!
The Camino is crowded right now. It is virtually impossible to be alone on the path. Many new pilgrims started in Sarria, the last place you can start your pilgrimage and still get a certificate in Santiago. We can expect more people on the Camino tomorrow as a number of people will join along the way to participate in their own way in Santiago.
The anticipation of the pilgrims for reaching Santiago is palpable. All along the Camino, Santiago is the topic of discussion, with everyone curious about where you are going to stop for the day, where are you staying in Santiago, how long will you be there, etc.
I can’t wait to come over a rise, or come around a bend and get my first look at Santiago and its Cathedral!
It is a great day to be on the Camino!

Thu, Jun 28, 2012
Gary arrived at Santiago!

Mon, July 2, 2012
Well, I leave Santiago today. I have spent quality time with, and have said my good-byes to, just about every pilgrim I encountered along the way. I took a tour out to Finisterre and Muxia, and I continue to reflect on this wonderful amazing journey.
Most of all, I realize how fortunate I am to be able to make this journey, and become part of the pilgrim family. One cannot be on the Camino for very long without feeling the support and enthusiasm from the other pilgrims, as well as buoyed by their tremendous, ever present smiles.
This is really not very different than what I receive from your support, enthusiasm, and your smiles.
At the end of the day, the Camino de Santiago was a renewal for me. It focused me on the pilgrim nature of our faith, and gave me the realization that the pilgrim in us all needs to be nurtured and restored. Not just for us personally, but to give us the ability to pass on and share the insight, grace and joy of our faith. What better beacon can there be than the pilgrim demonstrating grace and joy while enduring hardships and difficulty?
For me, at the heart of this, is how we live and what we share. We must all bring forth our inner pilgrim and share. And do it with enthusiasm and a smile.
Let your Camino be through your heart.

July 9, 2012
Welcome home, Gary and Frances!

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