Saturday, October 22, 2022

And just like that, this magnificent experience is a piece of history

Alarm?!?!! What’s an alarm???

That’s when you tell your watch/phone to wake you up in the middle of the night. (Not technically the middle, but 5:30 am sounds like the middle of the night!)

And just what is this piece of madness for?  Why am I going to risk the ire of a room full of fellow pilgrims by waking them at that most unreasonable of hours?? 

Because, suddenly and inexplicably  this magnificent adventure has come to an end!  Only 4 short months ago Emily said, “Grandfather, I’d like to talk to you about doing a Camino together”.  I swear my heart skipped several beats when I first heard that, and very quickly the plans were finalized. 

And then someone blinked - maybe twice, but I promise you it was never more than two blinks. And during the space of time that it took to blink twice, somehow we both started AND finished the Camino Primitivo - and it’s time to go home. 

Asleep on airport floor - Madrid 

Leaving La Hospedería Hostel in Oviedo 

Rainy day 1 - leaving the Catedral in Oviedo

High on the mountains.
Puerta de la Pola, Asturias, Spain 

Km 0 - the end of the world - Finisterre 

¡Una niña y su abuelo!

¡Un abuelo y su nieta!

320 official km 

Probably 320 more 

9000 meters ascent.

9000 meters descent. 

Hello new friends. 

Goodbye new friends. 

Blisters. Pain. Laughter. High spots. Low spots. Long days. Short days. Rain. Sun. Wind. Mud. Dogs. Cats. Cows. Hills. 

Two blinks, and it’s gone 

In case I haven’t said it before, let me tell you what an indescribable blessing and privilege it has been for this grandfather to experience these two blinks of an eye with this granddaughter!  

The other day sitting at the end of world I spoke words of blessing and affirmation over her life. The next day all of my prayer steps were for her unfolding life. 

I prayed for healing from past hurts - both known and unknown. (We all have those things in our life that affect us on an inner level, even though we may not remember them)

I prayed for health and wholeness in the future, a life filled with hope, a life filled with  strong convictions and deep compassion. 

All along the trail people have said to me, “tu nieta es muy guapa” to which I ALWAYS replied, “Si. Pero mas importante, ella es muy fuerte.”

(“Your granddaughter is very beautiful.” “Yes, but more importantly, she is very strong!”)

Why?  Because anyone may be given beauty, but character is developed as you build your strength. Not just physical strength! (She showed that in abundance on the Primitivo)

But strength of conviction. 

Strength of compassion. 

Strength that builds not only your life but spills over into and blesses the lives of people around you. 

So those are the words I have prayed into her life these past 30 days. 

And just like that - two blinks of the eye - it’s time to say farewell to the magnificent adventure. 

At the most beautiful albergue of them all
The Villa Palatina, Paladín 

Somewhere on the way

Welcoming the day

Walking on the clouds

Somewhere on the way

Una niña y su abuelo. In case I haven’t said it before - this has been a privilege of the highest order for this viejo abuelo. Graçias Emily. Muchas graçias 

Now let’s go home!

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Racing the weather - and saying goodbye

 Racing the weather - and saying goodbye 

The 2 (short) days walk from Finisterre to Muxia was eventful in an uneventful sort of way. 

For those who may not know, the two coastal towns of Finisterre (or Fisterra) and Muxia have in recent years become towns that pilgrims like to visit when the Camino is done. Some walk (90 km), some bus, and some do a combination. The two towns are about 30 km apart so it has become increasingly popular to walk between them as well. 

In my times in Spain I have:

  • Bussed to Finisterre 3 times
  • Walked to Finisterre 3 times
  • Walked to Muxia 1 time
  • Walked from Finisterre to Muxia 2 times 

As I said this walk was eventful in an uneventful kind of way. 

Event 1 - I lost my Tilley hat. No big deal, but it’s been a friend on the last three Caminos, so I’ll miss it. Someone emailed me later that day and said “your hat is on a post about 4 km from Finisterre!”  Unfortunately by that time I was 17 km from Finisterre, and even a faithful Tilley hat is not worth retracing 13 Camino kilometres!

Farewell, old friend

Event 2 - lost my backpack - thankfully only temporarily. Apparently when the lady from Hostel 1 called the backpack taxi (yes there is such a thing) she told them the wrong address for Hostel 2. And apparently the backpack taxi driver didn’t read the directions I had written on the backpack. 

After figuring that all out the company owner very graciously brought the back from his house/office to my hostel (40 km) and all was well!

Event 3 - at our albergue in Lires (read “middle of nowhere”) the sign said “dinner served at 7:30”. We went at 7:35 and were told we’d have to eat in a hurry because tonight they close at 8:00???? (Apparently this is company party night, and they forgot to tell the people who make signs saying “dinner is at 7:30”)

Don’t trust everything you read!
Fake times!

Event 4 - since dinner time was confusing we made sure to check on breakfast time the next day. “Certainly sir!  Breakfast is from 8:00 to 11:00”. (It matters because this is the last cafe for 17 km and we have one banana between us.). 

Down for breakfast in the morning. Find one lone security guard to tell us “I don’t know why, but no one showed up for work this morning. Kitchen is closed”. 

Apparently people in Lires don’t handle the company party very well. 

Event 4 - the weather. 

Four (count them - four) major weather advisories for our area for the morning walk. Two major “damaging to life and property” wind warnings and two major rain warnings with accompanying flooding possibilities.  

So Wednesday morning we RACED the weather. 15 km hike in exactly three hours (in case you are wondering that’s fasssssst hiking times!  Muy rápido!!!!)

Screen shot at exactly 2 hrs in

We didn’t out run the wind, but we did manage to get to our destination ahead of the rain. In case you’re wondering winds with sustained gusts of 80 km/hr, when directly behind you make it fairly easy to walk/hike 5km per hour for 3 hours. 

We met many hikers going the other direction and believe me they were NOT doing 5 kph !! 

80 km/hr sustained gusts
Glad it was a tailwind!

So that’s that. Two days to walk to Muxia, an afternoon and morning to look around, and now we are in a Monbus hurtling/lurching along country roads on the way back to Santiago de Compostela. (It’s amazing how fast a bus hurtles when one has travelled at the speed of a slow walk for three plus weeks. 

Tonight we’ll sleep in a 254 bed albergue, (thankfully not all in one room) and tomorrow (Thursday) it’s off to Porto for the last leg of this magnificent grandfather/granddaughter adventure!

Monday, October 17, 2022

Dodging the rain

At the Faro de Fisterra - End of the World Lighthouse

Our two days in Finisterre have been good despite heavy rains
- substantial rains. 

Substantial enough that I felt zero guilt when we decided to bus to Finisterre rather than walk. 

Still required to mask for public transport in Spain 

Substantial enough that we feel zero shame in hanging out in the albergue for a good portion of the two days we were there. 

But as you may know, Finisterre is one of my favourite places in or around the Camino, and that means I have some things I like to do that could be seriously “dampened” by the rain!  (Do you see what I did there?  “Dampened by the rain?)

I have to admit the period of relative inactivity has us feeling a little lost. For the past 350 +- km we have had a daily goal. Get up, get ready, get going, and get there! (20 or 30 km down the trail). So to have those two days of unavoidable rest in Santiago, and then these two extra days in Finisterre have us feeling a little “restless”! (See what I did there?  “Days of rest” have us “feeling restless“)

Restless but not bored. Here’s some of my favourite places we were able to visit - relatively dry! 

My favourite places:

The Lighthouse!

Faro de Fisterra 

The symbolic “0 km” marker 

Emily - looking west 
  • Saturday afternoon - we got our 8 km walk to the Lighthouse!  Dry!  Substantial rain immediately before. Deluge  as soon as we returned. But 8km of dry walk! 

Restaurants that sell Paella Mariscada por dos!

Me encanta la Paella Mariscada por dos
  • Ever since we began planning this Camino I have been dreaming about the Paella. They only sell it in portions for two and the last two times I have been here I have been fortunate to have found someone who likes it as much as I do!  This time was easier because Emily was up for the challenge. But, once again the restaurant is a km away and we were in periods of heavy rain.  But (also once again) we had a dry stroll down - a deluge while we ate - and dry stroll home. !!!

Mar de Fora!

  • “Mar de Fora” is the beach on the west side of the peninsula- and again nearly a 4 km walk. 
Those are at least 20 ft waves 
  • I REALLY wanted to be able to do the closing ceremony for my Camino Prayer Steps at that spot. AND ONCE AGAIN we were able to find a break in the rain that allowed us to get there and back basically dry. (We would have been totally dry had we not tempted that one rogue wave - but that’s another story.)

And it’s stuff like that that make me realize that despite the heavy rains we have been able to have a good time in Finisterre!  

Unfortunately the forecast for the rest of the week (our last week here) looks like more rain followed by more rain. So we will probably have to find blessings between the raindrops over and over again. 

Sounds like a challenge to me. 

Good night from Lires, Spain (half way between Finisterre and Muxia - halfway through our last two day walk - in the rain!)

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Camino Primitivo Prayer Ceremony

 As I walked the CP this year with its many ups and downs 

- 9000 meters of elevation change - both up and down

- blisters that brutalized my feet

- a stomach bug that, while it didn’t delay the end, it did basically ruin any idea of a pleasant “stroll in the park” finale. 

I used the motto of “every step a prayer”. I sometimes felt that the pain I was enduring (especially in my feet) was somehow to be considered as vicarious suffering - my pain giving your pain a place to escape - at least symbolically 

Today - Sunday Oct 16, - I went to the Mar de Fora in Finisterre Spain and did this symbolic “casting into the sea” for your burdens - in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit 

May his peace be with you 


Friday, October 14, 2022

Lighting the candles

Another day in Santiago de Compostela!  A day to (basically) relax and let the body recover from the gruelling test we call the Camino Primitivo 

Yesterday we went to the Pilgrims Office and received our Compostelas. Although the process is different than before, it was an easy process at the beginning of the day with only a 20 minute wait. 

  • line up and receive a QR code with approx wait time 
  • If you don’t have internet access, fill out a piece of paper, line up and wait your turn. 
  • On this day at least it was seamless. 

The only other activity yesterday was noon mass for me, then a short walk to get supplies so we can eat in the albergue most of the time we are here. 

Today was not much more strenuous. Noon mass together. For those who know about such things, they used the botefumerio both times I was there!)

Then a walk to Terra Nova Pilgrim House to meet my friends who oversee this ministry, 

Nate and Faith - One Collective Ministry

a 1.6 km walk to the new bus station to get tickets to Finisterre tomorrow.  A great noon meal at Rua Bella restaurant. Then back to the albergue for some more rest and relaxation. 

My wife will know how very drained of energy we really are when I tell you that we are living within 50 m of this delicious (and decadent) treat and have not been tempted to take a bite.  

In fact, the only thing we have bought from that bakery is two loaves of sliced (yes, sliced) bread and 2 litres of orange juice. 

Tonight we are venturing out for a few moments after dark to see what musicians are in the streets of SdC. 

Yesterday I promised that I would tell you the completely non-Protestant act I did at the Cathedral. As you know, I have been praying for some people with deep needs in their lives.  Spiritual, marital, physical, emotional needs that threaten to break your spirits. In addition to the prayer steps (I’m not sure if that is a Protestant thing or not) yesterday while visiting the tomb of Saint James (Santiago) I passed display of candles - and I lit a candle on your behalf. 

As I did I continued to pray that God would “show himself strong on your behalf”. 

One of my favourite images from the Old Testament is found in 2 Chronicles 16:9 “the eyes of the Lord roam to and fro throughout the earth to show himself strong on behalf of those who hearts are fully devoted to him”

Good night from SdC 

Thursday, October 13, 2022

What did Yogi say years ago?

 “It AIN’T over ‘til it’s over”

The great Yogi Berra is credited with this witty word of wisdom.  In the same vein, but running a distant second in the “I know that saying” contest is the title of my last post a couple days ago: “Don’t underestimate the end”. 

Different views of the Catedral in Santiago 

Different views of the Catedral in Santiago

Different views of the Catedral in Santiago

Tonight I’m here to tell you that when talking about the Camino Primitivo, “it AIN’T over till it’s over, AND don’t underestimate the end”. 

Before I go on, this is not a plea for pity. It is not a appeal for “I’m sorry you had to go through this.”  (My mother’s job is to say and think those things and she’s still able to do that all by herself! And quite capably!)

This is just an attempt to be real, and let you in on the struggles as well as the triumphs of an undertaking like this. 

FYI - in case you forgot- the Camino Primitivo is consider by many as the most difficult physically of all the Caminos. It starts in the mountains of Asturias in northern Spain and makes it way 320 km west to the city of Santiago de Compostela. In this 320 km you will encounter 9000 meters of uphill and 9000 meters of downhill. I’m going to estimate that 70% of the elevation changes happens in about 35% of the distance. In other words the central 35% of this route is very challenging. 

Different mountains on the way 

Different mountains on the way 

Different mountains on the way 

But this post is not about that physically demanding portion. I knew those facts  before I left, and was fully expecting the struggles and challenges I wrote about earlier in this series. 

My mistake was in expecting that the end would be easy. You see, I had done this last 50 km section twice before. A couple days ago my brother wrote and said “enjoy the walk in the park”. And to all intents and purposes that’s what it should have been. 70 km broken into three 20 km days and a 10 km finish stroll!  Minimal elevation change on any of those days. Feet were (presumably) healing well. 

Who knew that since the “bad foot” was healing so well and no longer an issue, that the good foot would mount a campaign of envy and cry out, “enough is enough!  You’ve paid attention to bad foot long enough, and I now demand equal time.”  

Two things for you and I to both be thankful for here:

  • 1. good foot started too late to get as bad as bad foot, so couldn’t mount a strong enough campaign to become truly equal
  • 2.  I’ve got good enough sense to not post pictures. 

But there’s more. In addition to good foot trying to become bad foot, good stomach decided to become bad stomach. We both encountered a stomach bug two days ago that has not been easy. I was up all night on night one with multiple “visits to the facilities”, and it hit my granddaughter as we started to walk the next morning.  We WERE able to finish on schedule yesterday morning, and we both are truly on the mend but these last two days have been less than stellar.  Much less

But here’s the good news. 

It was a struggle, but we are here!  

A great blessing  on the wall at
Terra Nova Pilgrim House 
(One of my go to places in SdC)

We, at two totally different stages of life, have completed a huge challenge together. She’s beginning her working career (actually has a job interview the day after we return to Canada), and my public ministry career is barely a blip in the rear view mirror any more.  She’s wondering about family and life and perspective - and I’ve raised 4 beautiful women and now enjoy 11 wonderful grandkids.

In many ways this was three caminos - Hers, mine and ours. But the beauty is that all three of these caminos were down TOGETHER,  and to this grandfather that is a huge privilege. I’ll not say anymore about that now so I can devote an entire blog to it later. 

So for now - rejoice with us. We have arrived. Tired (both of us) beaten up (me) but triumphant and happy. 

Tomorrow is another slow day in Santiago de Compostela, and then we have lightened the schedule for the next week before returning to Canada. 

I’m still prayer stepping for those of you who asked for prayer. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the totally non-Protestant thing I did on your behalf today.  I hope you don’t disown me!  

Monday, October 10, 2022

Don’t underestimate the end

 Don’t underestimate the end 

The Scripture’s say “weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.”  Today I almost made the mistake of “rejoicing in front of someone who wept”. 

I was walking down a hill in the early morning rain, and I suddenly realized I was “walking”. I wasn’t limping, I wasn’t over-compensating, I wasn’t wincing or excruciating. I was simply “walking down hill”. It’s been over 200 km since I walked naturally downhill. So I was rejoicing. 

Walking down into Ribadosio

I started to shout to Emily in front of me, “Hey Em!  Look!  Grandfather is walking downhill”. But just as I started to shout I noticed the unmistakeable sign of the beginning of a limp - in her leg.  270 km behind us. 200 or more up mountain hill, down mountain hill, and everything in between, and NOW (of all times) the rolling hills of Galicia were starting to take their toll. What looked like it should be an easy finish suddenly has a new dimension. 

An albergue named “Heidi’s Place”
demands that at least one pic be taken.  
Unfortunately, it was closed so we had to carry on 

We’ve been enjoying the company of a couple from Finland for the last week. Ilka and Seneca are a strong seafaring couple and covered those 200 + km of mountain hills valiantly. But tonight when we arrived at the hostel, Ilka told us his wife had gone to the hospital this morning and had a toe nail removed. She may or may not be able to walk tomorrow. What looked like an easy finish has suddenly taken in a new dimension. 

Moral of the story??  I have no idea, but that’s what happened today. 

I guess the moral is: don’t underestimate the end. (Blue Jays fans may have an idea what I am talking about after this weekend’s tragic collapse.)

Today’s details. 

24 km from Melide to Calle

Hard rain (we ARE in Galicia) for most of the day. The sun broke out to warm the day at the end. 

280 km behind us. 

31 km left. 

Tomorrow the plan is to do another 20 km to Labacolla, and then finish before noon on Wednesday

Thanks for following

Thanks for praying

Thanks for sharing your prayer requests with me. 

Everyone tells me “tú nieta es muy guapa”.
And I always reply, “¡Ella es también muy fuerte!”

It’s nice to be guapa. It’s more important to be fuerte