Camino or Coincidence

July 11, 2016

Cooper and I enjoyed the hotel’s buffet breakfast. It wasn’t the best but it wasn’t bad either and very convenient. I had lots of errands to run. I picked up the box that Cooper and I mailed from Pamploma of items we didn’t need. I had forgotten about some of the items such as wireless keyboard and uncomfortable neck wallet. I’m ready for a cleansing of unnecessary items at home also. 

Back to the hotel and Cooper and I just relaxed before heading out. This next series of events were so unplanned but the tummy was spectacular. We go to the cathedral and unlike yesterday we have to wait 15 minutes in line to enter. Then we wait to see the gilded St. James and hug him from behind. Service is going on and one can see arms reaching around the St. James statue and hugging it behind the priest. 

We go down some steps and see the crypt where St James’s body is supposedly.


 We are walking around the cathedral when I see the botafumerio being prepared. It is a 160 lb silver plated incense burner. A young man offers his place to us so that we have a better view. He doesn’t speak English but points to his heart and gestures for us to take his place. We get to see and smell the botafumerio. It is a beautiful ritual made even more beautiful by this stranger. If Cooper and I had been 2 minutes earlier or later we would have missed it. 

​Cooper and I continue walking around the church after the botafumerio is finished. We see one of the friendly Scouts from Paris that we saw walking 2 days ago and give him a bracelet. He beams with joy and several others ask for and receive bracelets from us. We leave the church at the side entrance and are greeted by Giaseppe. He is so happy to see Cooper. He says that he has been looking for us because he wants Cooper to sign the bracelet that Cooper gave him. Again, if Cooper and I had been 1 minute earlier or later, we would have missed him. 

On our balcony at hotel. 

500 miles complete

July 10, 2016

Cooper and I like to get up early and walk before the sun rises. We left at 6:40 and had no intention of getting to Santiago in time for mass at noon. But we started walking and people were saying we could make it by noon so we put the steam on. We were going on pure adrenaline. 

This is a sign saying we have entered Santiago proper. We had at least an hour walking to go to get to the cathedral. Cooper wanted us to wear our matching shirts and we each put a hikng stick in the bag so that we could hold hands walking into Santiago. 

First glimpse of the cathedral and I get very emotional. Tears trickling down; hard to put into words the feeling of seeing that cathedral after walking 36 days and 500 miles. 

We are 30 minutes early for mass and are able to get great seats. The choir sings before mass starts. While waiting, Cooper and I hug and shed a few tears. The realization that we made it is hitting.  One of the priest makes a welcome in English, French, German amoung other languages. After 30 minutes in only Spanish, Cooper and I are struggling to stay awake. We are drained emotionally and physically. I let Cooper decide what we should do and he says we should leave and go to the Pilgrim Office to get our Compostella while everyone else is in church. 

Filling out his paperwork. The volunteer was very impressed that Cooper walked from St Jean. He was the youngest on the sheet and only one who did 500 miles. 

Checked into Hotel Gelvirez. No more albergues for us. They weren’t bad just we are ready for our own space. 

Toast with Carmelized onion, homemade goat cheese drizzled with local honey. OMG delicious. 

Thankful for-

1.  My son, Cooper, who accompanied me on this adventure. 

2.  My son, Carson, who understood my need to walk the way. 

3.  My body – extra fat, herniated discs, displaced clavicle and covered with bed bug bites and all

Fitbit Stats

34,384 steps

14.8 miles

So close

July 9, 2016

This is Cooper with his new friend, Giuseppe from Sicily. We met him on the trail to Samos. He has a 12 year old son that he says would never do this walk. Whenever he sees Cooper, he says “Cooper is king.”  Last night, he gave Cooper his address and phone number in Italy to come visit and meet his son and family. 

Walking through forest which provides nice shade. There are many more people on the trail but we still manage to have periods of time alone. Half of the time, Cooper and I walk in silence. Today we talked about mortgages, financing cars and earning interest. He is an inquisitive little dude. Most of the time, I am in so much pain that I am not a great conversationalist. Constant pain in my ankle that 800 mg of ibuprofen only takes the edge off for a couple of hours. Knees are feeling the effects of the ups and downs. 

Although I have enjoyed walking with Ellen and Cameron, I am enjoying alone time with my Cooper. We had some conversation with a Spanish Mom walking with her family but rest of day was just Cooper and I. The end is so close. Cooper and I made a promise that we would walk into Santiago alone and holding hands. 

We were walking out of the forest when we heard tons of honking. Driving by, was at least 30 truck cabs. They were decorated with flags and honking down the highway. They were on their way to a church to get their trucks blessed. It was so cool. I was clapping, jumping up and down and waiving. 

We opted to not spend the not in the crowded hot albergue and paid 10 euro more to stay in a pension. We had our own bedroom with shared bath and air conditioning. 

Abbey Road

July 8, 2016

Way overdone but couldn’t resist 

Ellen, Cameron, myself and Cooper

Lots of gorgeous old bridges. Usually I’m too tired or in too much pain to stop and take pictures of every bridge but managed to get this one around Palas Del Rei.

Interesting and beautiful structures that use to contain grain

Fitbit stats 

40,927 steps

17.5 miles includes walking around town

150 floors


July 7, 2016

Today was a difficult day for me. Although we are not climbing anywhere near the altitude, it is almost consistent up and down. 

After 16 miles of walking, Cooper and I got to our town that we were spending the night and somehow we had missed any signs to the albergue. Ended up there were no signs. So Cooper and I go into a bar and ask all non- English speaking patrons for directions showing an email with the albergue’s address. Lots of waving and we are sent on our way. But after taking just a few steps, we are called back. The chef/owner of albergue had walked into the bar. He gives us a ride which was fortunate as there were lots of twists and turns. We would never have found it. 

The albergue is new only 11 days old. All of the beds are built into the wall with a curtain that can be drawn. We each had our own little cubbie. 

We were so hot that going to sleep was difficult. 

Fitbit stats

42,677 steps

17 miles

Reunited and it feels so good

July 6, 2016

Since Cooper and I walked 6 kilometers extra yesterday on the alternative route to Samos, we justified taking the bus 6 kilometers to the point of rejoining the main route. Quick 10 minute bus ride that would have taken us over an hour and a half. 

Sarria is the closest town to the minimum starting  point for the Camino where one could still earn their Compostella. The minimum to walk is 100 kilometers or around 62 miles.  It took Cooper and I quite a while to get through city especially since it was built on a steep hill and we had to navigate to the top. 

About 45 minutes after leaving Sarria, who do we see eating breakfast outside a cafe in a small village? Ellen and Cameron. The 4 Hungry Bandito Bandits are reunited and walk all day together. 

Building that use to store grain. 

Under 100 kms to go!!!

We were not paying attention and accidentally took the short cut into Portomarin. I was mad at myself because I read about it and it said that it was dangerous. We were very lucky that the pass was dry. It still was difficult coming down and were lucky no one fell or twisted an ankle. 

Beautiful little town overlooking a reservoir. 

After checking in and paying for the night, we were shown to the room. There were at least 25 bunk beds so 50 people in one room. The only 4 available beds were all top bunks. Ellen and I could not imagine sleeping up top with my ankle and hip and her chins and foot so we said that we wanted our money back. After much negotiation, we still were going to leave but the owner offered us 3 beds in the basement. It is not finished yet just meaning there are no shower doors on the showers. We would have the basement to ourselves and they would add another bed. We took it and had many laughs trying to shower and not flood the room; lights going on and off and no doors to block the notice. As Ellen said, we won’t remember all the different albergues but we will remember the one. 

36,863 steps

Little under 16 miles

155 flights of stairs

Best meal ever!!!

July 5, 2016

Cooper and I were out walking at 6:40am. It is our favorite time to walk. It is quiet. The sky has beautiful colors of yellow, pink and orange. This morning there was a mist high up with us. We finally did descend low enough to walk through the mist. Very cool. 

After walking 6 miles, Cooper and I had 2 routes to choose from today. 

Option 1 – not nearly as steep, not as many up and downs, shorter but along some road

Option 2- lots of inclines and declines, steep, 7 km or 4.5 miles longer, some road but reportedly very gorgeous with a monastery at the town. 

Cooper and I must have been delusional because we choose the harder but prettier route. Analogy for life maybe???

There was a stretch along the road but then it finally cut off and headed in and up the mountains. Many times it looked and felt like you were walking in a tunnel of trees. The birds chirp so loudly. I made an audio tape of them and hope it turns out. 

Cooper and I were talking about how many millions of people of walked on this path. Every person that walks on it changes it whether it is pounding down the dirt or carrying off some dirt that over many people lowers the trail. I feel a special bond to others that have walked down this path. 

How have we been finding our way across a country walking with no map, people ask. We follow the arrows. Sometimes they are official arrows but most of the time, they are sprayed painted on the back of a sign, on rocks, or on the street. Most of the time, it is clear which way to go. Other times you have to take a step of faith. Once Cooper and I were in a vineyard and came to a fork in the gravel road. Both paths looked equally “gravelly”.  I saw a pile of 6 rocks on the right hand side and took that as our sign to take the road on the right. It is common to see people make big stacks of rocks. By the way, that was the correct way and about a quarter of a mile down the gravel road there was another yellow arrow on a fence post. Is this just a simple example that I need to listen to my gut more?

Back to our day, we saw the monastery from above and it looked grand. 

We opted not to stay at the monastery’s  one big bunk bed room and got a Hostal for just a few euro more across the street. 

Had the best dinner that I have had in months. Cooper ordered a T-bone steak   The waiters indicated that it was big enough for us both. They come out with a huge platter of home cut French fries and the tbone sliced up with a hot stone. The meat is cooked table side on this hot stone and sprinkled with flake salt. It was  not only entertaining but absolutely delicious!!! Cooper got to try cooking also. 


1- my feet are hanging in there

2- good chats with Cooper

3- good food

Horses and Mountains

July 4th

Happy 4th of July. 

We started celebrating by riding horses up one of the longest mountains. It was only 6 miles that we rode but boy was the terrain steep and never ending upwards. I could appreciate the scenery more than walking since I didn’t have to watch and navigate every step. I rode the lead horse and the guide held on to my horse’s tail to help pull him up the mountain. There were 7 of us total in the group. The ride lasted about 2 hours. Worth every cent of the $38 per person. I did have some guilt as I passed by pilgrims walking. 
After the ride, we had a quick lunch with E&C before saying our goodbyes. Ellen has horrible chin splints and is hoping that bicycling down the mountains will not be as painful as waking. Plus, they needed to cover more mileage to get back on completion schedule. After parting, Cooper said that he doesn’t think that was our goodbye with them. We have been traveling together for about 2 weeks. Although we don’t always walk during the day together, we meet up usually for lunch and have always stayed together. 

Sure enough, over an hour later Cooper and I come over this hill to see a pilgrim statue and who are sitting there? E and C. Cameron’s bicycle chain had broke so they can coast down the mountains but must push bikes up. 

Off we walk and off they bike. Again an hour passes and we see them sitting along the road waiting for the bicycle man. And then again, an hour later, we are sitting in a cafe alongside the road having a cold drink and here they come pushing their repaired bikes up the mountain. We all had cold waters and then did separate for the day. Hopefully, we will see them in Santiago. 

Cooper and I continued on walking and dreaming of a convertible taxi. Although Cooper wouldn’t take it, I dreamt about it. We finally arrived to our correctly reserved albergue at 4:00. We left this morning at 7:40 so it as a very long day. We splurged and spent the extra 8 euro and got a private room with bath in the albergue. Good choice as the bunk bed rooms were pretty full. 

Internet is not strong enough to add my other pictures. 

Fitbit stats – horse gets credit for half

35,461 steps

15 miles

331 flights of stairs

Highway but hamlets

July 3, 2016

The day’s trail started through vineyards and up and down. It was so pretty and peaceful. Then the walk took a turn  and was along the highway with a concrete barrier between the path and highway. It was hot walking on the asphalt. 

The nice part was that the Camino passed through several little villages or what is called hamlets. Cooper had the best ever beefsteak for lunch in one of the hamlets. 

We have been deciding where to stay the day before and emailing the albergue to make reservations. I had not heard back from today’s albergue but that was not totally uncommon. After walking 7 1/2 hours and 14 miles, Cooper and I enter town before E & C. We stop in a grocery store and ask where Albergue Vegetairno is. The owner says that it is closed. I attempt to explain that I wrote  the name of that albergue on my backpack transport envelope. Thankfully, I had taken a picture of the envelope and showed that to her. She was  so very kind and called the transport service and asked where my bag was. He had left it at the municipal albergue back and up off the main street. Back Cooper and I go to find bag. We arrive at municipal and it is full of young loud people. Cooper checks out the rooms and says no way. I write a note and leave it on Ellen’s bag; grab our bag and go in search of lodging. Supermarket owner directs me to a nice private albergue. 

There are 5 different sections  and I snag one with only 2 bunk beds. People have to walk through our area to get to their room but we have a place to sleep. 

Back to center of town, to wait and direct E and C to our place. Lots of extra walking added. There was a little stream right behind the albergue that we put some chairs in and soaked our tired hot feet in as long as we could stand the cold. 

Fitbit stats

40,460 steps total

17.3 miles

120 flights of stairs


July 1, 2016

Mist in the mountains
Today was the day that we got to drop our rocks off at Cruz de Fero. It is a big pile with a cross on top surro derby a big pile of rocks. Pilgrims are suppose to carry a rock from home representing your worries and then leave the rock and your worries there. Cooper has been carrying a rock since day 1. I lost my initial rock but replaced with one that I put all my unnecessary worries. It was a long climb up. 

As soon as we left there, we were swarmed with flies. Looking up the trail, no flies, but all around each of us was at least 30 flies. If I stopped to take a picture, they would swarm my phone. The aggravation of the flies buzzing around your head was extreme. We could not enjoy the gorgeous mountains because of them and they stayed with us for MILES. I managed to get one picture of them riding on Cooper’s hat. 

Besides the annoyance of the flies the ascents and descents today were steep. Trail was covered with rocks of all sizes some slabs of rocks. We had to watch every step that we took. My ankle immediately started throbbing and then shorting pain up my leg. 

At lunch, I really wanted to quit and take a taxi. E, C and Cooper were supportive of whatever I wanted to do. I said that I would commit to walking 3 more kms to next village and reevaluate. Ice cream was promised. Well, I made it there and halfway enjoyed ice cream.

 Then headed out for the last 7 kms which is roughly 4.2 miles. I immediately regretted it but had no choice as was too far to turn back to town. Ellen was perceptive that I needed to be quiet and with just Cooper so she and Cameron hung back and gave us some privacy. I appreciated that and it helped.I would have hitch hiked if the trail would have been by a road. At one point, I tripped and barely caught myself before falling. That scared me so I got teary eyes then Cooper got upset seeing me upset. I really wanted to just sit down and spend the night on the trail. As that was not an option, I got Cooper and I taking turns saying things that were good that was happening. Our answers ranged from being together, being healthy, not doing the Camino on crutches like a man we saw earlier in the day, it is not raining, the flies finally left to no volcanos were erupting. 

I tried to point out the beautiful scenery to Cooper and be excited but he saw through that act and just wanted me to concentrate on being careful. 

Fitbit stats

44,556 steps

18 miles of tough mountains

161 flights of stairs

Left at 6:35am. Arrived at next albergue at 4:10pm. 

Almost 9 1/2 hours walking and did I mention the heat?

Albergue costs 7euro each. We are in a room with 8 non bunk beds and all beds are taken. 

Cooper and I eating dinner on the albergue’s patio of  leftover steak sandwich from lunch, hard boiled eggs, Apple, banana and chips.