Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Buen Caminho

Buen Caminho
I am using the Brazilian spelling of camino as I am about to depart from an incredibly festive and welcoming Brazilan albergue along the trail. I am in Vega de Valcarce, about 190 km from Santiago and will enter into Galicia today!!!  The mountains are huge and we had a grueling day over a pass yesterday in high temps...surely I thought I might just have a heat stroke as it was about 85 to 90 degrees and of course we took off at 2 p.m. (thier  is a reason for siesta) along a trail that was posted for only truly fit walkers...ha! We had just too much fun at a cafe along the way which looked like an oasis  after a 7 mile walk with no coffee or brekafast for the weary, and then passed a market ..so a litle shopping and we st off in teh ot sun! After a few breaks of laying down in the dirt...no shade...we made it safely down a steep descent and to our destination for the day!

I am now travelling with an American with family from Galicia and a Brazilñain guy..alot of fun! My friend Fatima returned to Leon and will hopefully appear ina few days!

I made an entry from Ortega, a few days back, but have not entered it yet ,,,so will do so at a later time. Needless to say I am doing fine and enjoying this changing landscape. Even the language is shifting to gallego...a mixture of latin and Portugese...different written and spoken language, clothing, housing, and different customs...how interesting!

Peace and love to all! Ultrya!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Recent Quotes of Interest

Recent quotes of interest... Enjoy!

  " Look well at every path and ask yourself one question: Does this path have a heart?"
 Carlos Castaneda

 " We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."
 T.S. Elliot

From Santo Domingo de Silos..south of Burgos....on a wall
" In the centre of the castle of Brahama ,our own body, is a small santuary in the form of a lotus flower, and within that thier is a small space. We should find the one who is living there and we should be aquanted with him." 
 Chandogya, Upanishand, a Hindi writing.

" Every man and woman has two journeys to make through life. There is the outer journey, with its various incidents,and the milestones of youth, marriage, middle age,and senility (¿what?). Thier is also an inner journey, a spirtual odyssey, with a secret history of its own."
W.R. Inge, 1931

Chanting Monks, Tapas, and a Bathtub

Hola to all
Saludos from the town of Carrion de Condes in the province of Leon. Internet access has been limited but is free here in the convent of Espiritu Santo where I reside tonight so I thought to give an update. A weeks walking has been filled with landscape variety, new friends,  a walk on the plains of Spain ie the meseta or flatlands, and a pass thru of two primary cities, Logrono and Burgos. Towns seem more inhabitated in comparison to the quiet amble on empty streets in prior days and frequent stops for coffee are made in the local bars and cafes.  For those unfamiliar to Spain the bar is a community center where children and adults linger as well as where icecream can be had, men play dominoes, locals meet to gossip, lottery tickets are sold,tapas of fresh food are consummed, and always always a blaring TV is to be heard !  Mardid and Barcelona,  rival soccer teams,  have been playing it out in the countrys dearly beloved futbol and makeshift games are often seen in parks, with backdrops of cathedral gates for goals, where even the toddlers play.

Towns now seem  to be dominated by 15th and 16th century monestaries,  stone and earthen houses are common , medieval fountains are perched in the central plaza or square, villages have at least one church, the town shuts down for siesta between 230-530 p.m., and  cathedrals are  bulit in stages as far back as 1044. Favored places to stay have included an evening with floor accomodation in the attic of a 200 year old house complete with chapel and run by Franciscan monks. A communal meal preparation of salad, bread, and rice with sauteed onions, pepper,garlic, and a bit of chicken on Good Friday was enjoyed and a  shared meal by candlelight with an extra plate setting was memorable . A  true gentle ease of strangers coming together was happily experienced and I would love to return to volunteer someday. An optional service was also  attended where we read in four languages the prayer requests of prior pilgrims that had stayed in the wood timbered home. Burgos. a tourist destination with ultra moden new albergue, was finally reached after a 7 mile jaunt through the industrail zone; enough to make me consider takling a bus when arriving at the next city. We arrived on the eve of  Easter with Semanta Santa or Easter floats rolling thorugh this city known for its extraordinary Gothic catheral and tapas of morcilla, a grotesque  mixture of pig blood, rice,and sausage. I enjoyed the red pepper on top but tried it for the experience!  A true carnivore region! A tapa of egg, tuna, and white of balnco asparagus on a shish ka bob did me in ... or perhaps a brief stoamch flu..who knows..the city contamination of sorts after the open road...ah but with two nights of leisure at the Hotel El Cid on the cathedral plaza square I recovered rather quickly.  Nontheless, I spent two gloriouos  luxrious nights  with a bathtub, thank you, for soaking, and laid low subsiding on bannanas, rice, and bread until ready to travel on. The hotel  splurge from the 12 bed filled bunkbed accomodations I have become accustomed to on this journey was a welcome change! Ahhhh! Prior to this , however my walking partners  of Steve, the Alaskan,  Austrailan couple, Marc and Karen, and I took a diversion with a taxi to Santo Domingo de Silos while actually sitting in a car. HA! Roamanesque cloisters were toured and an abbey mass attended to hear the famous Gregorian chants. In exquistite sculpte Jesus is depicted as a pilgrim on the road to Emmaus...very interesting! An evening out with a family from Barcelona  (of three generations ) was loads of fun as we all chipped in and hit the local bars for  tapas of morcilla, Iberian ham, stuffed red peppers,and clams. Truly wonderful with laughter, an introduction to the different language of Catalayna, and a rush back to collapse at the albergua before the doors locked down at 1030 pm...ha when most Spanairds are only getting started.

 Since this interlude I have hiked four days passing pilgrim villages with structures and 14th century intact churches. ruined arches which cross the road, and stories of old pilgrim hospitals or alberguas where monks cared for pilgrims suffering from St. Anthonys fire, a form of  gangrene apppearing in Europe in the 10th century. Glad times have changed as I mostly see tendonitis and wobbling pilgrims trying to walk in sandles in the evening with horrendous blisters! Ruined 13th centry castles are seen on hillsides with towns built in layers of Roman origin  back to Julius Ceasars day by history I am told. The towns appear in the distance as an oasis off the frequent mesetas and barren and arid roads by narrow rivers which now line the more narrow trail. Arroya San Bol has been a highlighted overnight stay with supposed medicinal springs out the back door for what ails you. I arrived after a long days walk to a candlelight dinner in this brick rounded structure with a doamed roof and a small room sleeping 10 and adjacent kitchen and dining area! An  incredible sunset was seen with a multicultural table of Canadians,  a Spaniard,  a Norweigen couple, and me, the solo American.

The walking route of recent has been across more open landscape with little shade, windmills in the ditance, and open arable farmlands. Steep climbs are had at times with 12 percent grades  to reach the tops of walkways but primarily we now move along 2000 year old Roman roads which at times criss cross the national roadways with hermitages seen in the fields of greeen. Remote vineyards and more limited water are found however towns appear at least evey 5 miles or so. The red rich clay soil of Rioja which is beautiful in the sun , has been a slogging nighmare as it has rained overnight  at times making the trail seem like quicksand vying for my shoes. The barren Sierra Atapeuerca has passed away with peaceful valleys more frequent. Some seem to view the now never ending meseta as boring but I am finding the natural sounds, birds, and restful silence to be quite soothing. Today, the first experience of a modern senda or pilgrim autopista was experienced....ha walking on a souless road next to roaring two lane traffic in the heat. No thank you!Tomorrow we traverse what was known as the Via Trajana, a Roamn road that connected  Spain and France to the  upcoming area of Astorga. Other than sore feet when walking on asphalted areas my body is taking form. Ankles are no longer sore without the support of boots as I wear cross traiiners  on this trip and my only complaint is a jabbing knee pain on descents and occassional muscle cramps at night which are decreasing as well and often related to hydration.

My current walking friends of Fatima from Monzambique living in Lisbon and Brazil , and French Jean Michele from Bordeaux, have just come in to ask me to check the full moon prediction as we may walk at night in the next day or two as we will walk under a fullly visible Milky Way on this path of Estella, or path of stars. We have enjoyed each others company for the past several nights at mealtimes and at breaks during the day as they venture a bit ahead. It is quite hilarious this combination of languages but Fatima understands my Spanish and  English, and Jean Michele just communicates with laughter and gestures, and never ending French. Steve is a day ahead,  Aussie friend Inez is a bit behind I believe, Marc and Karin have bused to Leon due to leg problems, and olden frieds of Tamara and Daniel, the only other Americans I have met, have bused ahead  due to time constraints and to miss the meseta in favor of making it to the end. Juana, a younger student who has just finished university in Barcelona is also on and off with  us in the evenings. Email is amazing and I occassionally hear from Eugene, a chap from South Africa who I met at the beginning, who is also a few days ahead. What a small world!

Until next time....breathe deeply this brief thing called life,love profoundly, and a peaceful spirit to you this day! Next update in a week perhaps with photos! Ciao!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

La Rioja-alive and well

Greetings all!
I am now nestled in a hostel in the province of La Rioja in the town of Azofra, population 300, likely three days from Burgos, a metropolis of sorts, and now passing the  200 km mark. The trip has been eventful for beautiful spring flowers with fields of yellow , red and purple poppies, wheat grass, rows of grapès which flourish in the fall harvest, olive trees, and an everchanging landscape. It seems somewhat surreal that after an ovenight flight to Madrid, train ride to Pamplona, and then taxi to St. Jean Pied de Port, France I am now well into this adventure on the Camino de Santiago! A daily rhythm has been established ,always with spontenaity for unplannned suprises , and the persistent click of the walking poles has become quite natural  as a walking medatation of sorts.  The Pyrennes crossing offered sunny and hot temps with spectacular views the first day followed by fog and spitting rain  necessitating a rest in a warming hut with fire at 40 degrees with high winds on the second day. As we passed in the fog remnants of sheep bones were noted  with ravens overhead  and  wild horses floated across the trail creating  an image of Wuthering Heights or Warwolf in London scene! With a smile on my face and gitty excitement I experienced  an ever present sense of being alive! Interspersed in the first  few days days was a stay at the Orrison refuge at nearly 1450 meters with terrace overlooking the mountains and relaxing with new friends over a shared evening meal with Basque influence. Five continents were represented with many languages and reasons for taking this Camino. Although diverse, a roving community has been created as we all move westward,  each on thier own journey.  I tend to walk with just one or two persons and at times alone with overnight  stays in communal pilgrim hostels or albergues as they are called. Dinners are shared, a typical pilgrim meal with friends at the hostel itself or the local restraunt-bar.

Each region has been different with wind powered turbines aka windmills in Navarra, rolling hills, fertile plains, steep ascents and declines on loosely packed rocks or cobblestones,  ridge walks through birch and oak forest, flat street walks on cobblestone aside rivers and beneath numerous city portals connected to fortresses which protected prior kingdoms in medieval times . Scavenger hunts when following the camino markers in cities are at times challenging and the city insults  seem to bombard with sounds and traffic after being on an open road or natural path. We have passed  fountains to Roland, numerous cathedrals and ancient octagonal churches in fields, medieval stone bridges, ample statues of St. James, arid landscapes with rocky fields and farmers plowing after the bearing down of a  Siesta midday sun ,dusty roads, and plods along  200 year old Roman roads where I have an intense awareness of those that have passed before.   Initially wild horses of a short stature with long hair, numerous slugs,  and cows and sheep with bells were seen  wandering aimlessly in fields. Several highlights  have included  a wandering shephard on a dirt path heralding 85 trotting sheep behind  with staff risen in air, my adopted grandparents offering local libation from the back of a truck,  richly hued green lush landscapes of grass so green as I have never seen, and a stay on a mountain top arriving at sunset after passing through fields of grapes flanked by a rock wall for miles.

 Day 12 has now passed without a break and I move slowly averaging around  12 to 15 miles  with new friends from Alaska and Australia that seem to be on a similar timeline without the urgency that befalls some that are walking by 630 a.m.  How unnatural! First days were spent as well with a couple from Chicago, a pilgrim from Berlin, and many others of mention and unique character from Belgium, Netherlands, South Africa, France, and Spain.I feel alive and well taking in 12th century monestaries and churches as I pass through towns roughly each 3 hours, supporting the economy with many a cafe con leche,  exploring local specialties while tapa hopping in Logrono and Pamplona, basking in the sun  with locals in a Palm Sunday artisan festival , a part of the Semanta Santa-Easter week celebrations with huge floats carried by the townsmen through the streets, and enjoying  Basque dancing with costumes of sashes and high kicks that leave the head spinning while observing small community pride.

The church bells have just rung as I will sign off for now.  Ear plugs are a womans best friend, feet to be elevated, and dreams to come. The winds blew hard today and I am hoping for a dry manannna after a good nights rest! Wishing you peace on the road!
Hasta leugo!

Saturday, April 2, 2011


Greetings to all!
I am navigating the world of blogs and have decided to give this a try as a communication venue to chronicle upcoming travels and tales. "Ultreya" is the given title of this first posting, a Spanish word derived from the original Latin meaning of "Onward". It was enthusiastically  shouted one to another to offer encouragement or perseverance to continue onward and upward as medieval pilgrims slowly approached their final destination to the town of Santiago de Compostelo, located in the lush green and wet environs of the  northeastern province of Galicia. 

 I leave in short few days  to commence on what will likely be a  bucket list adventure of cultural discovery and spiritual contemplative walking along the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. True to nature I am finalizing my packing and route selection after just returning from a jaunt to Peru and will  likely select the "Camino Frances" route which begins in St. Jean Pied-de-Port, France and concludes in Santiago de Compostelo, Spain...roughly 800 km or 497 miles away. In naming this blog, "One Foot Sojourner" has been chosen as I believe the act of placing one foot, however so slowly, in front of the other begins a journey of discovery of unknown lessons, truths, insights, and adventure that seem to shape experience and perspective. The word  Sojourner derives from the late 13th century French definition to stay or dwell for a time. 

 The seed for this upcoming walk was planted some 13 years ago while working in southern Spain and traveling on holiday to the north.  A posted yellow scallop shell, the Camino directional waymarker , was spotted along several roadways as well as immeshed into the cobblestone bridge crossings and building facades in Burgos, Spain. A wandering and following of this shell off a sidestreet near the main cathedral in Leon, famous for its artistic stain glassed windows, led to a darkened , dusty, and miniscule bookshop where an elderly man generously gifted me  a small four page book of meditations along the trail. A purchase of a guidebook including history and routes and a butchering of the Spanish language led to a discourse on what the shells might communicate . The curious idea had been set in motion. In later years while working in Atlanta a patient also provided a brochure as we discovered our common bond of living in Spain and love of long distance walking, journeys, and nature. The root was taking hold.

So... onward I go as to finalize preparations for  departure ... selection of items for the backpack for "simplified" living including earplugs and sleeping bag for dormitory or refuge communal dwellings with fellow pilgrims, tent if needed, maps and itineraries which remain to be deciphered which will  chart the course for the next month or so,  a breaking in of shoes, organization of household matters that will be put on hold until my return, last day of work, a kiss to the cats, and I am off.  The list seems rather practical but a bit of trepidation ensues as I've not particularly trained for this outing other than copious reading , scouring of the internet on forums of fellow travelers, and an active last week roaming around Peru with about 3-5 miles walked each day. From prior experience I must believe that with positive spirit and slowly taken, one foot in front of the other and an opening of the door will be enough.  The trail seems to toughen one up, gently or otherwise by default....hmmm..ah well slowly and tranquila I will amble along. Initial goals of perhaps 12 miles per day will be set with frequent rest breaks for cafe con leche with a lengthening of days as fitness levels increase and feet toughen. We shall see !

I invite you to stay for a bit and check in as able as I share these musings and tales of my temporary dwelling on the road to Santiago! Bienvenido (welcome) and Ultreya to you whichever road you may travel. Peace this day !