Saturday, May 1, 2010

In reflection of our walk on the Camino de Santiago...

Life is Simple on The Way of St. James

We have walked now an ancient way
The Apostle seemed to walk along side us
My doubts as to its purpose are in the past
Inner feelings are now simple yet exuberant

I left wondering if this was a wise choice
One never grows without failure or trial
So many hills, rocks, and pathways to climb
Life seems to reflect itself in every step

You have time to question your life’s pursuit
Sometimes the answers are not always kind
Yet some answers will validate your quest
Truth will always be the victor in the end

We complicate most of the simple things
Life should be like the transparency of a child
It is in age that we transgress from what we know
The Camino takes us back to what is important

Reflections are best done in quiet solitude
This millennium path gives you all of its best
The heart is never more joyful or alive or free
It is with understanding that you receive its wisdom

I was never really certain what led me here
It was just something that empowered me
I am just thankful for its lessons of affirmation
As Life is Simple on the Way of St. James

DAK 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 9 On the Camino- The Last Day on the Trail

The emotions of today are quite evident in all of our faces. No one is saying much, but we all know today will be something special. How could it not be? We have walked with our new friends from O Cebreiro and now we will all, as a band of brothers and sisters walk together this last day into the center of the Cathedral Square. We have become as one now. Our thoughts are many as we look back over the last nine days and reflect on the real meaning of our pilgrimage. It is all different for each of us, yet the same. Most of us have a tiny lump in our throats. We are thinking of not only our accomplishment of this trek, but also how this has changed our lives.

We leave the confines of our Pazo this morning as we gather around the manor house's courtyard cross. I guess this is fitting, but also we found it had a clear wireless signal to update our messages, and for me to add another post in my electronic journal. We are greeted with the brightest of days and the sun will again warm us as we walk in the early morning. We still have some spring left in our walk, but more especially today we walk in victory.

We find ourselves leaving Arca and this millennium old trail and walk into the 21st Century. The sounds of the airport are close by, but only for a moment we catch ourselves back in the present. The last picnic of our journey is in the small village of Lavacolla, and is on the steps leading to the village church. Grand stately trees from centuries past put a welcome cover for the intense sun. It is also the last day for our coach driver, Celso (pronounced Thelso in Spanish) who was always been there at the end of our day to load us back up and shuttle us to our nights lodging and to check us in twice per day to make sure we were all still accounted for. He spoke no English, but by this last day he also became a dear friend.

We stop to regroup as our band of ten pauses at the Mount of Joy, we say a prayer in the little chapel of San Marcos, stamp our "Pilgrim's Passports" for the last time and begin our descent into Santiago. As we march towards the Cathedral, we pass Pilgrims washing up in the river just prior to our entrance into Santiago. We are now walking on modern streets and sidewalks for the rest of the way. The present day sights and sounds of a big city with all of its traffic and normal day functions bring us back to the reality of which we left over a week and a half ago. We search for the spires of the Cathedral as we walk, but they do not present themselves. The city is such that you walk in a continual downward path and through the ancient pathways on the old cobblestone streets, it saves itself until you can see her in all of her glory.

Our last passage way goes through an ancient tunnel where a bag-piper greets you with the sounds of Old Santiago. This sound only adds to the emotional state we all feel at this time. As we break through into the Square we are in awe of this magnificent edifice. It appears as large as St. Peter's in Rome or maybe even a bit bigger from its frontal view. We head to the exact center of the square and with tears filling our eyes we hug now as a large family finally reaching home. This day becomes a thanksgiving of sorts as we have arrived safely, all of us, along with our tired and weary bones, bandaged toes, but joyous hearts. It reminds us not only that we have arrived here in one piece, but how truly thankful we are for what God has given us. Words can not describe this journey, only our faces as we all look at each other with the same respect.

As we take our family pictures with the backdrop of the Cathedral, we see more and more pilgrims entering the Square to celebrate in their joy as well. It is indeed a moment we will always cherish. We now have to finish the business of the day and report to the Office of the Peregrino. Here we will present our "Pilgrims Passports", which we have so dutifully gotten stamped over the past nine days with 2-4 stamps per day to this office for inspection and questions. In years past the questioning was extreme, but now the interrogation is on a more friendly basis. We are given our Compostelana, inscribed in Latin with our names proudly written thereon. It is a simple parchment, but proclaims to the world we have done it. Now we celebrate!

Tonight we have our celebratory dinner with our two guides, Alex and Jason and partake in an ancient Galician Feast. The wine flows, the reflections of the past week are openly shared, and we all look forward to a peaceful nights sleep with no major walking in store for the following day. How good can life be!

Tomorrow we will attend the Pilgrim's Mass at noon preceded by a tour of the Cathedral. We will visit the tomb of the Apostle and behind the High Altar through a small passageway we will be able to give a personal hug of thanksgiving to St. James as he looks out over the many pilgrims who sit in quiet contemplation. No one can feel this true joy unless they themselves walk the Camino de Santiago.

I hope you have all enjoyed the story of our walk that the ten of us took part in. It has been my personal pleasure to share this with you, our friends, family, and our dear loved ones. So as we leave you it will always be,

Buen Camino
Dave, Judy, Dan, Leslie, Monica, Maureen, Gertraud, Gail, Dot, & Misa...and of course our trusted guides Alex and Jason.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Arzua to Pedrouzo Day 8 on the Camino

We leave our beautiful country manor house this morning around 9:00 to head back to Arzua to resume our walk. We always start the next day exactly where we leave off even when we stay a little off of the beaten path of the Camino. Our guides make certain we are fulfilling the full intent and rules of “The Way”, especially during the last 100 km. There are no shortcuts at this point and no one would ever wish at this point to not fulfill those requirements.

The day is simply the best of the last week. We are again greeted with the morning sun. It feels so good as it warms your back in the cool morning air. I think everyone knows we are getting close and the emotions are starting to run high. I know my thoughts have run through every facet of my life. The good, the sad, the happy, the memorable, the kids, the grand-kids, the friends both new and life long, and those you love and those who made a difference in your life. It seems the Camino makes you think how very fortunate you are and what a gift it has been to share in this experience. Every thought conjures up an emotional state. I don’t know what it is, but you now understand how great life truly is. It tells you what you already know, but now it just brings it to some kind of spiritual fruition.

We pass through three and four house villages and wonder how they ever began and why they still even exist. We pass several alberques and refugios (hostels) for the weary pilgrims to spend their last night or two in ,who are also contemplating what soon lies ahead. The pilgrims are now much more in number, and you again pass by those you have met over the past days and begin to know bits and pieces of their story as well. Even that emotion stirs you more now because you all feel the same solidarity. You also question yourself why this particular experience has now captured your soul and your being. I suppose it’s just the magic of the Camino and what it does to each person. It is hard to put into any words that make any real sense.

We travel about 10 miles and are treated again by our guides to another of their gourmet picnic lunches consisting of a fresh fruit medley, a blue cheese, pear and walnut salad, local cheeses, a Galician type of salami, a wonderful pate on a simple bread cracker and of course a white Albarino wine.. This gets better and better. Why would you not want to do the Camino with this group with these wonderful little touches.

This evening we are transported to the Pazo De Andeade, a palace built in the eighteenth century by a Galician Nobleman and one which has been in the same family for 15 generations. The grounds are exquisite, stately, completely restored in 1995, and hosts a multitude of amenities such as a restaurant, a lounge, a library, its own chapel, outdoor sitting areas, and the private residence of the ancestral family. We are privileged to be domiciled in this natural, cultural, and architectural masterpiece. I will add pictures of this in the near future for you to enjoy as well.

Dinner was again a culinary work of art prepared and served by descendants of the original family. We were also treated to a mini concert by a quartet of Spanish musicians playing the Music of the Camino. Awesome!!!

Tomorrow we prepare for our final walk of 12 miles or 20 km. I am sure it is going to be a very tough day in many regards. I hope to share with you that last days walk (tomorrow) and our triumphant entrance into Santiago. I now must prepare for that walk by getting some much needed rest.

Buenos Noches and Buen Camino…
Dave and Judy

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Melide to Arzua Day 7 of the Camino

We awaken with the sunshine today. This is indeed something unique this past week. I wondered now how do we dress. The Galician countryside during April has a fickle mind of its own when it comes to weather. But today is a treat and maybe we will get a perfect day after all. So we don the shorts and a light weight T-shirt, but never leave home without your rain pants, jacket, back pack cover, hat, and poncho…just to be safe. You somehow get used to the extra weight on your back and become again like all the other pilgrims putting one step in front of the other and walking with a smile and a purpose.

The Camino is starting to get more crowded as we are now only 45 km (32 miles) from the Cathedral. I think the weekend has added more travelers, as their clothes seem to be nice and clean and no major mud around their boots and other clothing to distinguish them from those who have come much further. Each person determines just how far they think they can walk, depending on time and circumstances. We fit the middle of the pack, but there are others and quite a few actually, who have walked from St. Jean Pied de Port France which when completed will have walked the entire French route which is approximately 764 km or nearly 500 miles. They are the ones I salute for such an incredible sacrifice of time and energy. I believe that our 160 km is about enough for those in their right mind. It does make you wonder however, if you could really pull off the entire Camino de Santiago.

We leave the big city of Melide after we watch the locals setup for their annual festival. We watch the bag- pipers practice their art and their melodious sounds ring out near the Church of the Holy Spirit…it just seems to go along with our mission and makes us start down that first hill with a spring in our step. We traverse mainly small country roads, wooded foot paths, and small streams with stone bridges I am sure were built by pilgrims from centuries past. We walk through the small hamlet of Boente and see the tiny Church of Santiago. I think every village, even those with four or five homes has a church within its boundaries. I think back to a time when most likely there was no shortage of priests and all had a resident pastor to tend to their needs.

We come upon the city of Arzua following another gourmet picnic lunch prepared by our guide Alex and consisting of a wonderful salad, olives, sliced pork, sardines, strawberries, homemade cheese from the local village and of course cookies and cake. And how could you do a Galician picnic without a glass of the local Albarino blanco vino (white wine). I can only say that I am glad we are walking some of these calories off.

I forgot to mention that our typical day begins with a small breakfast around 8:30 usually consisting of cereal, ham and cheese (home made of course), toast, bread, juice, coffee or tea. Lunch is usually around 2:30 as a rule and is usually a stop in a local village or a picnic prepared by our guides, with dinner at 8:30 and always a feast , and always prepared with local ingredients. It all seems to run about two hours later than we do things in America, so that was a little strange at first, but after a week or so you get used to it.

Tomorrow is Sunday and we will walk 11 miles or 19 km and we will again stay at another Galician Pazo (Palace)
which has been in the same family for fifteen generations. Check out the previous post for the link for the web cam in Santiago. Hopefully you will see us on Monday around 9:30 AM ET.

So again it’s…
Buen Camino

Dave and Judy

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Camino Entrance on the Web Cam on Monday at 9:30 AM

Hello All,
Hopefully these links will get you to our grand entrance into Santiago on Monday. I will be wearing the official "RED SHIRT" so look for us. You might see a Fresco Tours T Shirt too. Hope it works. Hope you are enjoying the blog. Thanks for looking in on us. We Love You All.
Dave and Judy

Here is the link to the webcam of the Plaza de Obradorio in Santiago!

I guestimate that we will arrive on Monday afternoon around 3:30PM or 9:30 Eastern Time




Almost there!

Dave and Judy Kinder
Led By Our Official Tour Group
Fresco Tours
Bilbao, Spain

Lestedo to Melide Day 6 of the Camino

We now leave Lestedo with renewed energy and purpose. I think most of the bugs have been worked out and the leg pains have subsided to a very tolerable level. Due to the pain and weariness from the daily grind , I decided that the mantra should be “There is NO Crying on the Camino”, as taken from the Tom Hanks movie about women in baseball during World War II…or at least until we arrive in Santiago. Then the tears of gratitude could flow unintentionally from this accomplishment of purpose.

Our journey takes us through the city of Palais de Rei. Little has changed over the centuries in this little corner of Spain. We see farmers with their cows as they plod down stone streets. Everyone seems to be at peace with life. Their fathers and forefathers before them had lived pretty much similar lives. At times the trail gets a little mundane, but at that point a new waterfall, or a new landscape of green hills and farms owned by the same Galician family for 15 or 20 generations appears as if on cue and taken from the palate of the Grand Architect of the Universe. And then just as quickly, we find slippery footpaths covered with mud and uneven rock and shale, or maybe a torrential down pour of rain and hail. Sometimes the trail becomes unknown and a bit of anxiety runs through you and now a new concern becomes attached to your being. These sights appear again and again, yet seem to put a smile on our faces, as we realize what life is all about. It appears, after all that the trail does mirror life itself, and just as we become comfortable and satisfied with life, out of nowhere we are given a new perspective.

We finally arrive in Melide which is a modern city while keeping a touch of the past running through her veins. Life, it appears seems to be the same now as it does back home. But just as we move to the 21st Century, we are again transported back to another era in time. Our home away from home tonight is found in a Galician country manor house dating from the 16th century. It is called the Pazo de Eidian and was built on land once owned by the Knights Templar, and from whose time only the chapel remains. The premises are totally enclosed by a stone wall and encompasses around 15000 square meters. The palace has been restored with period furniture and is most definitely a diamond in the rough. The original coat of arms is still engraved in stone as you pass through its portals and become part of the Lopez de Basadre Family for two nights.

I feel I must add to this… just in case you think we are totally roughing it (and we are at times), the Palace Eidian does also have a pool, a spa, a masseuse (who is now coming back to America with me), a restaurant serving authentic Galician faire, 12 beautiful rooms with again hot showers to die for, a gathering room, and a walled courtyard to enjoy Galica’s finest white wine called Albarino in. Maybe I should have left that part out.

So tomorrow we transport back to Melide and trek on to Arzura. Yes, we are getting closer and continue to fill our “Pilgrims Passports” with stamps from many villages, churches, and restaurants as we inch closer to Santiago and the tomb of St. James. This will be our shortest day which only involves 9 miles and at this point a piece of cake. Did someone mention Tarta de Santiago? OMG…unbelieveable!

We found out that there is a web cam in Santiago that films the pilgrims as they enter the City Square, so hopefully we will have that web site for you to check out as we march in on Monday afternoon around 4:00 PM, which is 10:00 AM in Indiana (ET), and 8:00 AM on the Pacific Coast. Stay tuned for updates on that.

Buen Camino
Dave and Judy

Friday, April 23, 2010

Portomarin to Lestedo Day 5 of the Camino

The wet weather clothes were all brought out today. A sea of ponchos, rain pants, and hats dotted the entire trail today. This seemed to be the wettest of days so far. The pilgrims seem to increase as we get closer to Santiago. After today we will have traveled 87 km or approximately 51 miles. We are now half way home.

The days are starting to become easier for some and yet harder for others. Our group consists of ten pilgrims. We are 8 women and 2 men, along with our two trusty guides Alex and Jason. Our ages are approximately 28 to 72. Everyone still marches on with conviction and staunch determination to hold in their hands this Compostelana which written in Latin proclaims to the world they have succeeded in their Camino. At this point, there is no turning back, no doubts, no second thoughts…well maybe a little wondering of “and tell me again, why am I here?”.

Twelve miles today seems easier than yesterday. The sun did make its appearance during our late morning break and rain gear was shed and bare legs and T-shirts again presented itself to the trail. Many common faces appear all throughout the day. You start to know some of their story as well. Even with the language barrier the messages seem to come across. One lady is meeting her sister in Santiago along with the entire family to celebrate her wedding. She even picked some fresh evergreen as a simple gift commemorating her sacrifice and remembrance of this special time.

Tonight’s dinner will again be a feast.

Buen Camino