Monday, July 31, 2006

Walking the Camino in Spring

The best part about walking the camino in the springtime have to be the weather and the flowers you see along the way. With birds chirping and good weather most of the way, what more do we need?

Flowers are most abundant in Navarra.

In all colors...

In patches...

Or in the fields...

Ummmm... poppies.

The canvas of life!

Even the drier mesatas are teaming with flowers this time of the year.

Imagine walking past this row of beauties...

In the hills (after Majarin).

And finally ferns growing in the wetter Galicia.

Death in the Camino

No, it is not the title to the latest triller novel set in the Camino. The sad fact is that people do pass on while walking the camino.

On the first day of my camino I witness a memorial dedicated to a Japanese pilgrim.

There were more to come, a German pilgrim...

And an English pilgrim...

While we try not to be reminded of our mortality, the camino has a way to remind us that we have to live in the present, if we are to live at all.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

On Signs and Waymarkers

You can't get lost on the Camino. Clam shells, signs, assembled rocks, and yellow arrows adorned the whole way in the Camino Frances, especially the ubiquitous yellow arrows sprayed along side the road, pavement, trees and anything the paint can stick to.

Here are some of them that I have collected along my Camino.

The first sign I encountered right after Roncesvalles directing me to the path, away from the road.

Claim shells on the fences.

Even on the wall of this house.

Saint James (cute) outside the gate of this house.

Nice caricature above the gate with yellow arrow in the middle.

A ad-hoc one done out of wood strips and rocks.

In LogroƱo, the shells looks like a bell.

Rocks piled on top of each other. This is actually a pagan practice in the pre-Christian past where one takes a rock from one place and another to appease the pagan gods or spirit.

A gold (plated) claim shell.

This one is probably from the kind townfolks of that area.

On the paved road for peregrinos to make sure we don't walk on the highway in the background.

This sign promotes the Camino as part of the European Culture Heritage.

A yellow arrow below a claim shell on the wall of the chapel with the path on the right.

In Palencia, they have signboards promoting the places of interests along the Camino.

Another sign promoting the Camino as part of the European Culture Heritage.

This one has to remind me that I still have a long to go!

The most common waymarker. This one's a bit worn out.

Wooden Crucifix along the fence.

Arrows and shell leading the way to Ponferrada.

In the albergue at Ponferrada. The waymarkers has begun to give the distance to Santiago from here.

The yellow arrows welcoming you to O Cebreiro.

Bridge near Samos with claim shells.

This is from the 100 kilometer mark before Santiago, probably the reason why there is graffiti on this one .

Unorthodox red claim shell in Galicia (most of them are yellow). Check out ferns around the marker. You can tell this is a wet region.

And the final waymarker at Monto do Gozo (6.144 km before Santiago).

I should be able to see the cathedral from Monto do Gozo. They lied. It was blocked by trees.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Culture and Lifestyle

Josephine's 4 attempts on the camino reminded me of something a friend who once told me...

"When it happen once, it is an incident. Twice, a coincidence. Three times, it a habit. Four times, it becomes a lifestyle."

(One down, three more to go!)

Friday, July 28, 2006

A Basque Wedding

Navarra, the first region in the Camino is part of the Basque country that stretches between France and Spain.

(the sign either says Buen Camino or please shut the gate so the cows won't escaped, I think?)

Most of the people here are Basque, and some of them speak this language which has no relationship with any Indo-European language (like Spanish or French). No one knows their origin although they are believed to be the first Europeans.

In Pamplona, I witnessed a Basque wedding.


(here comes the bride!)

(The drum music provide by a couple of sticks on the 3 planks of wood)

(a young girl dances with her legs in circular motion right in front of the couple... for good luck?)

Interview with a Peregrina from Canada: Josephine

1. How did you hear about the Camino de Santiago?

Long time ago when I was on my regular visit to our local Art Gallery there was a Spanish Artist from Toronto showing her oil paintings. They were all Spanish Images showing mountains and beautiful valleys. In the center of the showroom on a large stand under glass there was another display. I was fascinated by what I saw. There were very simple things. There were some cockle shells and a couple of note books. One looked more like a diary, and there were some photos. I was delighted with what I could read in the open pages of the diary. It talked about this long 800km walk. I was thinking then ,that would be something for me. I was immediately taken by all this so started a 3 year research.

2. What made you do it?

What made me do it ? My reason for walking the Camino was for my sister Helena. She had just passed away and I needed help to get over that pain. The Camino did help.

3. Four attempts! There is a lot of determination right there. You must be elated when you finally completed it on your 4th try.

Yes, I'm so pleased with having finally done the whole Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It was also important to do it alone.

4. The disappointment in the first 3 attempts must be devastating. How do you cope with it?

I'm only disappointed with my first attempt at doing the camino. A woman I knew casually wished to go with me. So I agreed but it was the biggest mistake I could have done. I never talk much about my first try because it was so nasty. We did do only 450 km then. The second and third try was with my daughter. She never got enough time off work so we did as much as possible.That walk was just great and we did 300 + 500 km.

(Wow, Josephine's Camino in 4 tries covers 450+300+500+around 800 which is just over 2000 km!)

5. For someone with a small stature, the feat must be extremely arduous. What do you do to prepare for the journey?

To prepare for the camino I go for long walks daily. I learned to train as a road runner. Yes Evan I used to run a lot. I used to train for Marathons and Triathlons. So every morning at 5 am I go out there and walk 10 km. I do 5km make a hairpin turn around and walk back home. This will prevent hip injuries. My husband then has prepared for me a lovely breakfast when I get in. Three weeks before going to Spain I walk with a full backpack. My backpack never exceed 10kg. I also swim 5 times a week and do a little weight training.

6. Any advise for would-be pilgrims?

My advice to would-be Pilgrims is that training is an absolute must. It will prevent injuries. I already train now for my next year walk. Also wear your favorite shoes and bring an extra pair in your Backpack.

(This is where I suffer the most! I am lucky that I managed to complete my camino -ed)

7. Finally, I see that you do art work on the Camino theme in your spare time. Can you share with us what are the things that you have created?

My art work has changed a lot since walking the Camino. Paintings of mountains in watercolor are right now a priority. On pottery I like to leave imprints of the camino shell. I actually use my own shell to press into the raw clay. I sell once a year In September at our park in Bright's Grove. I feel so privileged to have gotten to know and walk the Camino. The Camino has attached itself to my soul. I wish for everyone who tries it , to come out of it feeling good about themselves and their achivements. Buen Camino.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Camino on Horseback

The Camino can be completed either on foot, with a bicycle, or on horseback. According to the Pilgrim Office's May 2006 statistics, 56 people have done it on horseback.

I've walk for most of the camino without seeing anyone on horseback even though I have seen horseshoe tracks along the path in the camino.

Finally in Galicia, I saw these two horses that looked like they could be pereheeeenos! No humans in sight. They are probably having their lunch at the farmhouse behind.

The next morning, I found them, sleeping in the van. Uhmm.. the humans, not the horses as you can see below.

They told me these horses needed to be groom regularly, and on average only gives 35 km per day. Ha! That's not much more than a day's walk for a pilgrim.

Three days before arriving to Santiago, I suffered from a huge pain in my ankle which I believe to be tendonlitis. I met this horse here who is extremely friendly.

She walked with me along the wire barrier and sticks her head out many times for me to pat her. It looks as if she can feel my pain, and wanted to console me. I am so touched. If I hadn't grow up in a city, I would probably be working with horses. Such majestic creatures.