My Camino, October 2018

Roa to Santiago de Compostela, 10 October 2018

Today we make the final push towards the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

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The distance is too far to make it there for the Pilgrim Mass at noon, but somehow I have this idea in my head that I should try and meet Sandra from Saskatoon. Maybe I can still make it for when Mass is over? So instead of taking it easy today, I am pushing it. Problem is, I did not have a good breakfast. I only had a tiny slice of bread for breakfast and when my blood sugar starts to plummet, I buy two apples at a stall close to the airport. I even get a nice scallop ornament with my stamp as well. I hear the planes, but never see the airport.

So at noon I reach the Santiago marker instead. Two Asian ladies ask me to take their picture and they return the favour. None of us use one word of English; only a lot of smiles and gestures.

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By the time I need a break there is no café in sight. I sit down at the side of the road and eat the other apple. Beth and Cynthia pass me, restoring the natural order so to speak. Patti and Aquacena come by and we walk together until they take a wrong turn. No matter how hard I blow on the whistle to warn them, the wind is blowing in the opposite direction and they cannot hear me…

When I finally find a cafe, I see Tanja and Pam walk by. It is so weird, the stamp here insists on putting down April 2023 even when it looks like it should stamp the correct date. Later when I meet up with Laura she says she noticed it too. Camino magic?

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I eat mainly egg and no starch, so I stop again and this time I have a croissant. Not being able to speak Spanish is not helping at all… Patti and Aquacena stop by and eat some lovely soup and salad. Laura joins us as well and we have a nice long rest before continuing together.

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New Phototastic CollageMarina

At Monte de Gozo (Hill of Joy) we meet up with Marina as well as Wendy (with her umbrella) from Alberta. She is Marina’s guardian angel for today. Marina has had a tough journey. She was ill when we started in O’Cebreiro and her foot has been giving her trouble for a while now. Today her shoe seems to be giving in. My one day of relative suffering is nothing to complain about. She had no choice in her affliction, while I feel I did it to myself.

We all have different obstacles to conquer. I admire Marina for her steadfastness, grit, determination as well as her insight, acceptance and contemplative nature. She showed us that obstacles are just that. It does not mean they cannot be maneuvered, side stepped and overcome. Here we are defintely rewarded in that we feel stronger when we persevere and reach the goal. Funny how that works…

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We arrive at the Cathedral, the end point of our Camino by following the flags along the Rua de Entromuros. The size and age of the city is impressive and overwhelming. We are in awe and feel small and insicnificant.

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The Cathedral is basking in the evening light and the ‘El Obradoiro’ Facade looks fantastic without any scaffolding. We are so fortunate to be here. We are happy we made it, but also sad that this journey is over.

I kept up with the rest of my group today, but I am tired and famished. I can only grab some tea and doughnuts before collapsing on my bed. I am not able to be part of any pilgrim reunion tonight. I am missing out…

So I Skype my parents instead. Here we are in the same time zone. We feel so much closer. It is just amazing that they can share this fantastic moment with me. I show them the gorgeous view of the ancient Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela I have from the window and they can even hear the clanging bells. Live!

I have arrived and I am happy.

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My Camino, October 2018

Arzoa to Roa, 9 October 2018

Carpe Diem. Seize the day.

Last night we arrived in heaven. Our accommodations were at a place outside Arzua. It is breathtakingly beautiful with absolutely wonderful people. We all want to go back there one day!

I am part of a group of 11 ladies walking the Camino together. We are between the ages of 50 and 75 and come from a variety of countries. We get together in the evenings for supper and sharing. I am thankful for the support and friendships that are made. We are all walking our own individual journeys…

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I find out why pilgrims like to sit outside the cafés when taking a break! I catch up with Tilla and Fanie again and after a while an Italian guy called Luca starts talking about rugby to Fanie. I hook up with his companion Genevieve from Montreal, Canada. We end up having lunch together. They have been on the Camino Frances twice before and this time they are going to finish it. They share accommodation and meals and that way split the cost. They also help each other when needed.
Later on, I was just about to sit down inside Marela Cantina when Luca and I recognize each other and he invites me to join them outside.
Until now I did not realize that when you sit outside you can keep a lookout for fellow pilgrims that you have met before. That is how you stay in touch with each other.

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To enjoy friendships, relationships and special moments of synchronicity, you have to put yourself out there!

My Camino, October 2018, synchronicity

Melide to Arzoa, 8 October 2018

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Tanja, Laura and I are thinking about our families…

A lady from New Zealand took a picture of Diane and I just as we stepped into a pool of light. She had been waiting for the right moment. She used to be a professional photographer. We walk together for a little while and every now and then she stops to take a picture of the trees surrounding us. It is amazing to see how she can see light where we would not even notice it until she points her camera that way.

New Phototastic Collage I always loved to take pictures since the day I inherited my Dad’s old Brownie camera. When I met my husband his idea of a good picture was very different from mine. I would look at the expression on someones face or at the mood of the scene and he would look at the more technical aspects like focus and background. Early morning I meet a couple from South-Africa (the bandana is a dead give-away) who are following the Primitivo route to Santiago de Compostela. Tilla en Fanie. He has the same name as my husband.
I always joke that if my parents had not immigrated to South Africa I would never have met Faan. Today I realize something for the first time: If I had studied Horticulture like I wanted instead of B.Sc. which I was advised to do, I would never have met him either!

I met him in Physics class. Kind of… It was a huge class full of engineering students. At the end of the year the professor asked us what we were planning to do one day. There were two guys who wanted to be astronomers. One of them was Faan.
The following  year I was backpacking in the Drakensberg mountains and I could see the stars like I had never seen them before. I was fascinated and read a book about stars to learn more. Then I remembered those two guys… I really wanted to look through a telescope and Faan happened to have one.
We only started dating during the year after that, since he invited me to come to the Physics department where they were building a telescope. That is when we started talking and spending  time together and eventually fell in love.

I am very thankful to have him as my husband. He is my best friend and biggest supporter. He has always given me space to be me. Even going on this Camino is a gift from him, since it means that we are not going on holiday together this year and we miss each other…


Tanja, Laura and I are the Canadians in our group and all three of us live in the Toronto area. We did get together in Canada, but since I am pretty slow I have not been able to keep up with Laura at all. Tanja was kind enough to walk with me for quite a few stretches.
Laura gave me a tiny silver Camino scallop a few days ago and I am looking for a necklace to go with it. While Diane and I are in the jewelry store Laura and Tanja walk in. Laura helps me put it on and when we leave Diane managed to capture a picture of Tanja, Laura and me walking together. A precious Camino moment.

In Arzua we are picked up and taken straight to heaven. That is what it looks and feels like when arrive at our destination!

Disability, My Camino, October 2018

Palas de Rey to Melide, 7 October 2018

Be humble and receive with a childlike attitude.

Today is Sunday and before we leave Palas de Rey we decide to go to church. I come in at the side door and only hear the last part of the sermon. I am happy and surprised that the sermon is in English! The take-away message for me is “be humble and receive like a child.”

“Jesus loves you” says a sign over a bridge. We all see it. I think of it as a gift and I feel thankful.

Later at our coffee break I see a T- shirt saying “humility” and Pope Francis. I am curious what he has to say and I look it up: “God’s work is done in simplicity and humility through us.” Our ego has to get out of the way for God’s will to be done. It’s the little things that count.

We see two pilgrims with a donkey called Salomé that carries their luggage. I feel sorry for her, but she seems to be content. They do not travel too far in one day and she was braying after them when they left her in the paddock for the night.

We also see a group of visibly disabled people with their helpers walking the Camino. They are all wearing red caps, so to easily identify them.

They seem to be happy and upbeat, despite their difficulties. They make regular stops and have a bus on stand-by. Frequently we hear them singing.

It makes me think about all the things I can be thankful for. Things that I just take for granted. There are so many people affected by a disability. It can happen to anybody and families have to adapt to their unique circumstances. It is a humbling thought.

A smile, a greeting and a bit of patience can make such a difference to anybody’s day. Disabled people are no different.

When we arrive in Melide I see a group of four helpers that use a bicycle/wheelchair contraption to move a blind and lame man. Where there is a will there is a way…

Give and take. We can be the humble helpers and sometimes we are the ones who have to receive help with childlike acceptance.

My Camino, October 2018

Portomarin to Palas de Ray, 6 October 2018

Today we are walking 25 km!

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Today Tanja and I are walking together in God’s presence. God is always with us and cares for us wherever we are. Also here on the Camino.

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Early on it starts to drizzle. I use my Magdalena jacket and feel like I am walking inside a tent. Protected from the elements and feeling very cozy.

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I take a picture of a little red bird on the bramble berry hedge. There are so many birds and butterflies accompanying us along the way. It is especially noticeable when the path goes through a forested area. For some reason I would then think of my grandmother. I eat some of the bramble berries every day and the taste brings me back to the last time I had them: I was 5 years old and visiting my grandparents in The Netherlands.

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I meet Jack from Australia for a brief moment when we are changing some warm clothes for cooler ones. He is wondering what he is going to tell the people back home when they ask him what he gained from the Camino. I tell him about my health journey. He thinks about it and then says: “I will tell them that I am walking myself well.”

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Today my focus is on reverence, not perseverance. At one point Tanja tells me that somehow I look different today. Later Pam tells me that it looks like a light is shining behind my eyes. I share my belief in God’s presence and how “we are divine light” at circle time with the ladies – especially since some have so many questions…

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I was walking in His light today, surrounded by His presence and not leaning on my own understanding.

Contemplative, My Camino, October 2018, synchronicity

Sarria to Portomarin, 5 October 2018

They say that the Camino provides…

Today I decide to do some sauntering. Some members of our group have seen the explanation for sauntering on Facebook meaning “Holy Land” travelers:

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I don’t have any bananas for the road today. I have learned that to avoid cramps, I need to eat a banana at the start of the day and again at lunch. Next thing I know there is a bunch of bananas outside a café on a table. The server comes outside just as I am looking at the bananas and I ask if I could buy some. I pay 2 euros for 2 bananas, but they were there when I needed them!

I am about to start climbing the stairs toward the Magdalena monastery and I see a store that sells hiking gear. Ever since I arrived in Spain I have been looking for a ponchetta. (I have a rain jacket and rain pants, but they are heavy to carry and the pants are uncomfortable.) I go inside and I see some blue ones, but they don’t have sleeves and in the end I buy one that looks exactly the same as the one that Magdalena (my camino guide in Canada) owns. I am so happy, since now I have my very own “Magdalena” jacket.New Phototastic CollageJacketNot far outside of Sarria I meet Sandra from Saskatoon who is having some foot issues. She has walked all the way from St Jean Pied de Port! My sauntering happens to match her pace and we spend about 2 hours in each other’s company. She stops at 12 o’clock for lunch. I am not ready to stop yet and she insists in wrapping up a sausage and bread for me. She stresses how important it is to eat. I stop for lunch at a cafe about an hour later. I am halfway towards Portomarin at Mirador da Brea and I have 11,7 km left to go. I have a lovely long break before continuing on my way. By now I have completely forgotten about the food in my backpack.New Phototastic CollageSandra2Here on the Camino people (pilgrims included) kind of disappear from the road at about 2pm. All of a sudden I am walking all by myself through a town with only some locals sitting outside and not another pilgrim in sight… I see this quaint-looking old man closing his farm gate and walking towards me. He has this kind of face people like to photograph. He is friendly enough and talks a lot while pointing up the hill. I tell him that I don’t understand him and he takes me by the hand and starts to walk with me up the hill. He is very happy that I am so friendly and we are walking arm-in-arm while he is talking non-stop. I do understand him when he starts pointing to his house and saying something about “Mi casa” quite a number of times and becoming more and more animated. I am not sure if he is the artist people are talking about, but as a girl alone on the road I cannot take him up on his offer without feeling unsafe. I say “Sorry, but no.” He repeats “ No?” I confirm. He makes an abrupt 180 degree turn and stomps back down the hill…

I am starting to run out of water and just as I filled up 2 bottles of water from a fountain two people come by and point out the big red X that somebody has painted above it. I have already taken two sips, but hopefully no damage was done.

I see a ‘bruja’ (European witch) hanging on one of the balconies and now I am not so happy about today’s “Holy Land” walk anymore.

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After walking about 6km by myself I unexpectedly catch up with Petra from our group. I think for a moment it is Sandra again, since I had taken such a nice long break. They look a little bit the same from a distance. Petra is in really bad shape. Her feet are hurting something terrible and she is saying how she has not stopped anywhere to eat yet. Pam is also walking slowly to keep her company. It’s about 3pm by now. I am grateful for the company as we “saunter” towards Portomarin together.

I am pretty thirsty by now and the nice house at the turn in the road looks like it might be a pit-stop. It turns out not to be the case. Petra has had enough. She just collapses and is crying that she cannot go on unless she gets something to eat. Then I remember Sandra’s gift from earlier. I still have my second banana left and also some bread sticks and a muesli bar. The house itself is gorgeous. They have made a little rest stop in their front yard complete with guest book. You can sit down on the stone wall or lie down on the grass which we did after we ate. So we have a lovely long break before moving on again.New Phototastic Collage4Just when we leave I see that somebody has written “We are Divine Light” on one of the pots. I think of Thomas Merton’s saying “Life is simple: We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and God is shining through it all the time.”

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After a real coffee at the next cafe in Mercadoiro we keep moving towards Portomarin at a painstakingly slow pace. During the last 5 km of the day I end up talking to Pam and Patti alternatively. Normally I am so slow that I end up walking by myself. I really appreciate their company.New Phototastic CollagebridgeLater at night, Tanja and I talk about how God provides for us. I do not need to come back and do the rest of the Camino Frances. Just like I am only doing a part of the Camino Frances, this pilgrimage is just a part of my life’s journey. God is always with me and cares for me wherever I am. Also here on the Camino.

 

Contemplative, My Camino, October 2018, synchronicity

Triacastela to Sarria, 4 October 2018

Sometimes things do not have to make sense.day2dSarriawalkThis morning when I changed my profile picture on Facebook to the metal “see-through man” from O’Cebreiro, I cut off the head by accident. The WiFi connection disconnected and I now I do not have time to re-adjust the picture before we leave. So I feel that maybe the message for today could be that I should not do so much thinking and try to find explanations for everything.

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Today we all leave together to make sure we are all following the San Xil path which is shorter than the path through Samos. (I am not ready to walk 30 km yet!!)day2aI keep catching up with Dianne who is stopping to take pictures. She has some trouble with her shoe rubbing against her heel. While she is sitting in the middle of the road inspecting her foot, a Belgium lady comes by and tells her to get some Compeed. That reminds me that I actually have something similar with me, so I share some with her.

I see the Belgium lady again where the forest path meets the roadway.  She has missed a turn-off, but is quite happy that she ended up with the longer winding road instead of the steep up and down hills that we encountered, since she is having some toe trouble.

These events of synchronicity I call Camino moments. Many people experience them here. I think that everyday life is like that too, but that we are so pre-occupied that we do not notice them as much. On the Camino these connections happen all the time.New Phototastic CollageColleenI met Colleen from Buffalo, NY yesterday at a nice look-out point where she wanted me to take her picture. Today I talked to her companion from Belgium. He was so happy to speak Flemish that he wanted Colleen to take our picture together. “She speaks my language!” (I was speaking Afrikaans, but kept switching to Dutch for some reason.) I forgot to ask his name though… New Phototastic CollageSarriaFootnote: A week later when I was almost at the end of my journey just around the corner from the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, I saw Colleen all dressed up carrying some shopping bags and I asked her his name. “Francois!”

The same name as my brother-in-law who died about 10 years ago….