El Camino in Spain – 2004 Journal

Today Hurts – June 30, 2004

Hello, all.  Today hurt me.  So did the last 3 days.  Everywhere hurts except the fingers of my left hand.  I haven’t used them much.  I’m carrying 11kg of stuff, not much really.  I’ve been up hills and down hills and up a Sierra which I think counts as a mountain.  I’ve got blisters on top of blisters and a nasty sunburn on the back of my neck. I haven’t eaten anything but dry long bread and I’m not sure I will.  I’ve lost my towel (Arthur Dent wouldn’t be happy with me) got lost myself and been cursed by a gypsy.  She tried to sell me rosemary and read my fortune but when I wouldn’t give her any money I think she put a curse on me.
I’ve seen a lot of old stuff.  Having lived in China where things are thousands of years old it takes the edge off things that are ´just´ 500-600 years old.
My watch is broken again.  I brought the wrong kind of adapter for my PDA recharger, but using some stuff I bought I was able to rig one up that probably won’t catch on fire.  I also decided to buy a digital camera.  I looked at how much film cost and decided it was worth it.  It took me 20 minutes and 10 tries to take my own picture.
Its beautiful here with all the hills and flat lands.  It kind of looks like Alabama, only dry.
Spain is dry, sunny, and everyone speaks Spanish.  It’s like southern California with less Chinese people.
Spanish woman speak in normal voices no matter how much anyone wants to sleep at 430am.  So do the French.  I’ve seen just 2 other Americans, didn’t seem nice.
Somewhere there are church bells going off in a 13th century church.  Or the other 14th century church in town.  And its just a one street town.  There has been a church in every sizable town I’ve been in, and not just a little country church, a HUGE church in every town.
I’m getting sick of water so I started adding Aquarius, a sports drink, to it.  Helps a bit.  I found Gatorade today.
Sometimes its difficult to concentrate on my purpose for coming, but today was better for that.  Sometimes I pray the Jesus prayer as I walk.  Sometimes I sing.  Since I got my PDA charged I listened to Gospel music today.
I’ve not had too much trouble with the language.  Those Spanish lessons really helped.  I can’t talk much, but I can ask questions and have even been an interpreter for some Hungarians.  But if someone just starts talking to me I’m lost.  All people really seem to talk about is the weather anyway.
People are very friendly.  I’ve had two men shake my hand just because I was a pilgrim and a lot of people say ´Buen Camino´which I think means ¨Have a good way/pilgrimage.¨
Sorry, I know this is just random impressions, but as I said, today hurt.  Hope you are all well.  Hope I will be despite gypsy curses!¨

Bill

El Peregrino – July 2, 2004

Hello,
Thanks for everyone who wished the pain would go away.  It has in my legs and torso, but now my feet are bad off.  I’ve let one get a bad looking infection in the heel.  I’ve been pushing myself to go further so I can finish the trip.  Then I started pushing back.  Then I got into a shoving match so I hit myself over the head with my walking stick and I haven’t spoken to myself since Torres del Rio.  I’m in Viana now, which is like the town I grew up in with more bars and an extra ´a´.  I’m hoping to gone soon.  Well, got to go, I’m about to get run off.  Will write again soon.
Bill

El Peregrino II – In Sandals – July 3, 2004

Well, its been a funny day.  Since I got run out of the hostel by a police lady for staying too long and had to cut my e-mail short I’m going to write this one on this expensive machine where I only have 4 minutos left.  As I ran out of the hostel I forgot my Lonely Planet.  That’s bad, very bad.  But since God alone has got me this far I decided not to trek the 3km back for it.  I found one info sheet listing the distance between hostels, but without the Lonely planet its like having a bible without a seminary graduate from your favorite denominational tradition to tell you how to interpret it (I mean that sarcastically, but only to those who have no sense of humor).  When I was in that last town I got there pretty late and by the time I showered the shops were all closed accept the bars. So I went there looking for food and drink, but all they served had alcohol or caffeine, not good for a walker.  Luckily, I found one with a patient lady who gave me OJ and a finger sandwich and I’m pretty sure didn’t charge me full price.  Being a bumbling foreigner works here too, especially as this is a religious journey and the Spanish are a devout people.
As I said, I lost my Lonely Planet guide, and was about to make an ill advised trip to the next town to find a bed.  But, on the ground, I found a torn photocopied page of, that right, the Lonely planet.  And it just happened to be the page for the town I was going to.  And it said there were no villages between here and the next 16km off.  I don’t have time to go into it, but I worked out that going on would be a bad idea.  I didn’t want to stop as I need to make 30 km a day, and this cut me off at 21km.  But I need a rest.  My feet do.  Today I wore my sandals the whole way.  I think it helped.  I also got some new socks.  The blister on the back of my right heel looks worse, but the infection in both places seem to be gone. Well, almost out of time, so got to run again.  Hope all is well with all of you.

Back in Boots – July 7, 2004

Dear All, The ‘enter’ button on this thing isn’t working so this will be jumbled.  It’s been a long time since I got to email, and my fingers are too cold to type much.  Yes, cold.  It is freakishly cold here. And this morning is the worst yet.  Anytime the sun is out or I stop in the shade and the wind blows I’m shivering.  But today its cloudy.  I hope it doesn’t rain.  I tossed my raincoat for the weight since it was so sunny.  Bad idea.  Maybe this is God’s way of getting me to focus.  People are so nice to me wherever I go.  I ended up in a Catholic albergue (shelter-hostel) by accident and the French lady who ran it gave me dinner even though I was late, and there was prayer later.  I’ve been going about 35+ km per day.  I’m hoping to be in Santiago by the 22nd or 23rd.  I have to make about 29km per day to do it by the 23rd but I’ve been pushing myself so I can get there early and rest.  I discovered I can go farther if I stop to take long rests in the middle of the day.  But then I get to town late, like 830pm and everything’s closed.

I think more than anything God is using this to teach me how to trust Him for all things. I’ve learned that I can’t rely on anyone else.  I remember being so thankful that in one town I had nothing to drink, but I had one orange.  I could have cried I was so glad just to have it.

Time up, take care.

Bill

Back in Boots, Pt 2 – July 10, 2004

Hey all,
Well, I’m on a good computer now, but its supper time and I have to run.  I should have explained the title before, I started wearing my boots again because my ankle had swollen from the sandals.  My blisters are getting better are aren’t causing much of a problem, just the swollen ankle now.  I’ve met some Catholics I’m asking a lot of questions to, but they aren’t actively trying to convert me.  I may convert to something before it’s all done.  All is well, but I’m hungry so I’ll write more later.
Bill

All Alone Again – July 13, 2004

Hey all,
Well, after a few days spent traveling with people, not always my choice, I have broken free and passed everyone.  And I’m glad to be.  While I enjoyed talking to some of the people I’d met, one reason I came here was for solitude.  I’ve also gotten into the ´big city´ habit lately where I lay back and enjoy the amenities of city life.  Luckily I only have a couple of hours to do that and it’s time for bed.  To everyone but the one person who supported the fact that I was talking to R. Catholics, don’t worry, I’m probably not going to become Catholic.  G. Orthodox maybe, but not likely Catholic.  But if God leads me there I will, and I do think He is leading me in these conversations I’m having.  I met 2 priests in training from Canada and met them again and again.  Even when I tried to loose them they’d catch up or I would with them.  I told one guy I should try to spit at him to see if he would flee.  (It’s said if a saint appears before you try to spit, if you can’t its real, if you can it’s the devil and he will flee)  But I’m not making any decisions soon.  I just came out here to listen, not decide on anything.  It will take a lot of convincing before I change anything.
These last few days I’ve felt pretty good.  My strength and endurance is getting better and I am going long distances sometimes with out any problem.  I often stop to have lunch, let my feet dry, take a long nap, and think during the middle of the day. And sometimes later also.  That has become my favorite part of the day.  I sometimes find a park outside the city or like today an open field.  Today wasn’t good, though, I got attacked by ants in both places.  Today I felt a little cranky because I haven’t slept well the past 2 nights.  Yesterday I was in one place and there was a LOUD group.  Silent time was 10, but they didn’t settle until about 1030-11.  And they took all the beds so I had to sleep on the floor.  Last night was okay but I went to a Pilgrims blessing at a church and it ran late and then another noisy group got up early.  So I got an early start and made up for it by making 2 stops.  Plus it wasn’t a very nice walk because the train ran right along the highway and it was loud.  But I’m not complaining, I got here in good time and I had a good rest in a field where the grass was as soft as a bed and I found a little bakery that sold chocolate donuts.  I’m in a brand new hostel and it looks really quiet and I’m about to go for dinner.
I can feel myself getting a lot stronger.  I don’t have as much fat on me anymore.  My feet are getting better and the swelling is almost gone in my ankle.  But since I would get to comfortable with no problems, my right pinky toe is hamburger.  I tried to do something with it but it got worse.  Today wasn’t bad and the swelling is better now.  Most of the bad blisters are gone now.  I’ve had a limp the past couple of days because of my toe, but it doesn’t slow me down much.  I’ve got a nice dark tan, too.  But the main thing I hope to bring back is the ability to be quiet.  I’ve listened not only to God but too myself.  I’m able to hear more clearly what I say, and why.  It’s good to be alone again.
Take care all, and pray for me that I get there on time.
Bill

Where Am I?  July 18, 2004

Hey all,
I don’t know where I am right now.  I know the name of the town is Samos. It’s off the list of stops, but still on the train.  The trail forked and I had to choose which way.  The name Samos had just been on my mind, but I didn’t know how far it was, it could have taken me twice the distance out of my way.  I sat down and prayed for which way to go, and chose this way.  I still haven’t found me yet, but I think this way just went around a mountain.  I stuck mostly with the highway even though it was off the trail, but it was easier walking on my sore feet. My feet are actually much better and I’m hardly limping at all now.  I’m getting some trouble in my legs, a little stiffness, but I got something for it.
The other day something weird happened.  I was going up hill between two towns and I was praying because it was the last stretch and I was tired. Suddenly I felt a surge of energy and started going fast.  I was racing downhill and charging uphill.  I even passed a group, something I seldom do because I’m slow.  I continued at about the same pace until I got into the next town, 3km away.  I felt like every step was a prayer & I was praising God for the energy.
Yesterday I had to sleep on the floor again.  I was thankful it wasn’t the grass outside again.  I was assigned the kitchen, which had people in it until 11pm and again early.  As I was sitting there a Spanish lady came up and offered me her place downstairs.  That way I got to go to bed earlier and sleep later, though it was colder down there.  I thought she might have been an angel, but maybe not because if so I think her English would have been better.
There are so many people on the trail now.  Before I had it all to myself, but not now.  The albergues are so crowded.  To get the certificate, one needs only to do the last 100km, so a lot of people are starting just now.  100km? fe, I could do that in 3 days.  Since I will likely have to sleep on the floor more I prayed God would show me a place to buy a sleeping mat that would be soft and keep me from loosing heat. In a small grocery store in a small town I found one, the last place I would have expected it & I griped I had to go uphill just to get a cold drink.  God is good.
I do have to sleep on the floor again.  I got a place in a tent on a wood floor, but at least I have my own space this time and can spread my stuff out and work on my feet & not roll over on someone.  I hope I sleep better because I didn’t feel too well. I felt I should have kept going after lunch, but I was led to the most beautiful little spot by a stream with a waterfall behind a shade tree in a field overlooked by green mountains.  I decided it was better to rest here than rush to town.  I was right, but I think I shouldn’t have had nachos for lunch.  Yesterday I found a nice place by a stream also.  The most beautiful places are in the mountains.  I guess God only wants those who are willing to go through the effort of climbing through them to see it.  I hope I can live in a place like this one day.  The best times are when I can stop and just lie back and look at the sun filter through the leaves.  Is it worth it to get to town late and sleep on the floor?  Sometimes, but not everyday.  Where He leads me I will follow.
Well, it’s almost dinner time.  Most of the café’s start serving at about 7-8pm.  It’s easier to order food than I thought, most places have a set menu outside the door.  The food is usually good and about UA$6-7 with all the wine or water you can drink.  I get water, I don’t know how all these French & Spanish go on so much wine.  They give you a whole bottle per person.  Take care all.
Bill

Santiago de Compestela – July 21, 2004

I did it, I Made It, I´M HERE!!!  After 3 mountains, 1000 hills (with cattle), 5 nights on the floor, one night on the stairs, one night under the stairs, one night one the grass, 7 bug bites, 16 blisters (including 4 serious, 2 healed, 3 infected), 2 sore ankles, a sun burn, a tan, 4 Twix bars, 20 Cokes; a lost walking stick, hat, and travel guide; 15 tuna sandwiches, a quarter-inch of hair on my head because I stopped shaving it, 5 times ordering food I didn’t understand, 2 new friends trying to convert me, 50 Aquarius sports drinks, 18 oranges, 3 times getting lost, 11 showers in cold water, 85 photographs, a gypsy curse, and 735 kilometers…..I have arrived.  I’m so tired, I’m so happy.  I don’t know what else to say really.  I’m sad it’s over.  At first, I couldn’t stand the idea of getting up and walking another day. Now, it’s all I’ve known for the past 25 days.  I can’t believe tomorrow I don’t have to go anywhere.  I’m disappointed.  No more stopping in a shady place for lunch.  No more thanking God for bringing me to that place.  No more looking for a vending machine in little villages b/c I’m thirsty.  No more rushing to the albergue to get a bed, then remembering that this isn’t about getting a bed and taking a nap in a field.  Just getting up and turisting for a few days, then back with the kids again in Taiwan.
I can’t remember what happened last, this last week has been a sleep deprived, overcrowded blur.  To get the Compestellum certificate (and for Catholics, an indulgence to wipe away a lifetime of sins) one needs only to walk 100 km.  For the past week the way has been crowded.  I spent one night in a gym crammed with about 300 people.  The next day, it started raining.  Galicia is wet and hilly.  I had a chance to stop at a hotel for maybe E20, but prayed and waited and felt I should go on.  I had itchy feet anyway and it was early, though it would have been so nice to stop so early in the day.  I went on to Melide, a total of 40 km (around 20 miles), my record for one day.  I went to the albergue, figuring I’d sleep on the floor.  God alone knew that there was the only mattress left in all of Galicia, and let me there.  I didn’t understand what the lady was saying, she just kept saying ‘arriva’ or ‘up.’ So I signed in anyway.  I found on the landing of the stairs one mattress, a beautiful sight.  I couldn’t believe it, I thought someone else must have claimed it.  I put my things around it and hung my stinky bandana on it.  I went for dinner, and when I came back it was there.  I guess no one else wanted it, but it was the best night I’d had in days.
It’s been such a nice place for walking in Galicia Prov.  Unlike the bare wheat fields of Castillia y Leon, most days I go through thick green forests.  But I’ve traded the wind of Castillia for the wet of Galicia.  The tan I got in Navarra Prov. has faded from lack of sun.  While this has been the most beautiful, there are disadvantages, like because of the cattle industry in the little villages, there’s cow pies everywhere on the roads.  Cows are herded right down the street.  So were sheep in Castillia, and sheep don’t stop pooping, but cows are bigger.  There are more small towns here, but less services.  I get the feeling Galicia is a poorer area.  Not a lot of towns have fountains.  Some have put them in, but before Galicia almost every town of any size had a fountain, some Medieval, others from Roman days.
The next day I had a paper with phone numbers for 2 albergues.  I phoned and in stuttering Spanish made a reservation.  It was just around the corner, though.  I considered going on, itchy feet again, but felt I should stop for the day.  I usually make around 30km a day, but was only 22 away from Santiago.  It was by far the nicest, and at E10 most expensive, albergue I’ve stayed in.  I didn’t even need my sleeping bag, they had sheets!  So today was a good day for walking.  I had called and reserved a bed in Santiago and was elated to get it.  I was worried I’d have to spent up to E100 for a hotel room, but I got this for just E15 for 3 days.  It’s not a nice place, but it’ll do.  I’ve already got my Compestellum certificate (no indulgence for me) with my name in Latin.  Villelmum.  There were two Japanese guys in front of me, I wonder what their Latin names were.
So I’ve got three days here, then back for the long flight home.  I’ll get back late in the day, then straight to work in the morning.  And I’ve got the little kids for a month.  After working I’m just going to hobble home, eat chicken wings and sleep a lot.  I can’t wait ´till I can drive everywhere again.
I often say this, and never do it, but I think this time when I get back home I’m going to nail my feet to the floor.
Well, other than a really good breakfast this morning (which I could barely order, in Galicia they speak Gallego, a dialect of Spanish but not the one I learned) I haven’t eaten.  I didn’t stop bc the weather was bad and I needed to get here before 1 anyway.  It’s just 4pm now.  Since I only walked 22km today I got here quick.  I think there’s a Pizza Hut here.  Maybe it’s time to indulge again.  I need to go hug the Apostle in the cathedral sometimes later, too.  There was a massive line for it.
I don’t know when I’ll write again, maybe not till I’m back in Taiwan.  So if I don’t, thanks so much for all the prayers.  I have arrived.

Bill

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