Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Making My Way

While walking the Camino and following the Camino trail markers, I fancied that it would be nice to have one of them.  Being too heavy at over 100 pounds and to large to fit in my backpack, I opted for some ceramic tiles with the arrow and scallop shell.  Now over a year after completing the Camino, I have put the tiles to good use. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015


Yes, I'm doing it again, I have been bitten.  This time my wife Cathie will also be going, so if you enjoyed this blog, please sign up for the new on at: WALKING OUR CAMINO

Thursday, July 16, 2015


I've been meaning to write a final post here on the blog since I arrived home over a month ago.  I've sat down at the computer several times do to so, but just couldn't formulate in my mind what to write. I took over 1500 photos on the Camino and I will be sharing some of them.   So, in an effort to get the post behind me, here goes....


First off, I've probably said it before, but the walking the Camino was the best thing I have ever done for myself.  Words can't describe how I felt when I completed my journey in Santiago.  The only way for you to know the feeling is to walk yourself, and I encourage those with the desire to do it.  When I arrived in Santiago, I was satisfied with my accomplishment.  I thought at the time and said so to fellow pilgrims, that I would not want to walk a second Camino.  But in the two months that have passed since completing the Camino I've changed my mind.  It won't be soon, but I do want to walk again.  I hope that Cathie will want accompany me and experience the journey with me, so we shall see.


Besides the change that occurred in me while walking to Santiago, it was the people that I met, walked with, shared personal stories with and shared meals together that I will remember the most.  I knew before going to Spain that I would meet people from all over the world, but I didn't expect the bond that was formed between many of those I met.  I have mention some in a previous post, but there were many others that I did not mention.  Some our interaction was fleeting, lasting just a few hours or perhaps a day.  They were all a part of my Camino and I am enriched having met them.  Some I will never see or hear from again, but others will remain in my life if only on Facebook and via e-mails.  Two, Ivan from Australia and Kerstin from Germany have already stopped by for a visit  and over time I hope there will be more.



I've been asked many times since arriving home if I had walked with a group as in a tour.  The short answer is no, I went by myself.  That having been said, most days I walked with someone.  It was the nature of the Camino, if you wanted company, there was always someone to walk with.  If you wanted to be alone, you could chose to walk by yourself.  So here's some interesting numbers.  When a pilgrim arrives in Santiago, most if not all go to the Pilgrims Office for their Compostela, which is a document which one receives after walking at a minimum the last 100 kilometers.  The Pilgrims office keeps a record of the numbers of pilgrims who complete the Camino.  There are many routes to Santiago and the totals include all who arrive, irregardless of which route they take.

In May, the month I arrived in Santiago, 31,078 received their Compostelas
55% were men
86.7% walked (others rode bikes, horses, and 3 arrived in wheelchairs)
27.5% were over 60 (so see, you can do it)
9,033 were from Spain (the most for one country)
3,671 were from Germany (the most for a foreign country)
2,033 were from the U.S.

6883 started in Sarria, Spain the minimum distance to obtain a Compostela
4,400 started in Saint Jean Pied de Port (where I started.)
66% walk the French Way (the route I followed)
237,799 Pilgrims arrived in Santiago in 2014

So, now you ask, Was it crowded?  Well, not really.  The last 100 kilometers was busy so I made reservations a couple of days in advance for lodging, but we weren't tripping over each other.

Most of the time I did not make reservations and never had a problem finding a room.  I stayed in a few albergues, but after experiencing the snoring, I opted for a private room.  More expensive than an albergue but with the exception of the Parador in Leon, I never paid more than 50 Euros and usually closer to 30 Euros.

I haven't done much walking since returning home from the Camino.  It was a simple time in my life. Each day for 34 days I walked, ate and slept.  Each day the same, but still so different with the changing landscape and the  various personalities who shared the journey with me.  Sometimes we hardly said a word and at other times we carried on deep discussions about our lives and our hope for the future.  I will miss the Camino, but most of all I will miss those that I shared it with.


Thursday, May 21, 2015


I wanted to make one last post, at least for now, to thank all of you who made comments on the blog, in e-mails and on Facebook. I meant a lot to me that you would take the time to do so. Words of encouragement were especially appreciated. I've probably said it before, but deciding to walk the Camino de Santiago was the best decision I have made in my entire life when it came to wanting to take a hard look at myself. Besides the personal nature of my Camino, I met people from all over the world and from different walks of life and some will friends forever.


Cathie arrived in Madrid safely, although a bit late, and we have started our 3 week trip to Northern Spain, France and the Black Forest in Germany. So I will put this blog to rest for the time being and I will be switching to www.gassawaysadventures.blogspot.com if you care to follow along.



I will keep www.walkingmycamino.blogspot.com alive as you just never know, there might me another Camino in the works.



Sunday, May 17, 2015


As I rode a taxi to the airport in Santiago early this morning, I felt a real sadness as I was leaving my Camino Family behind and would most likely not see most of them ever again. I felt closer to some, but all of them will be remembered with great fondness. Each will be remembered for different reasons. Some just for being helpful, directing me to the next yellow arrow, the closest bar, albergue or hotel. There are others who I shared a day or more of walking and talking about or lives, family and the Camino. Then there were some who I shared with and they with me, their reasons for walking the Camino. Sometimes these were very personal conversations and we shared our deepest feelings. I can't explain it, but it was easy to spill one's guts to a fellow pilgrim you had only known for a day or two. Everyone on the Camino is there for some reason, either for the physical challenge or for personal reasons. For many it was because of a major change in their lives. Loss of a job, choosing a new direction in life, in remembrance of a loved one, to honor their God. We discussed these things openly, while walking or over a meal. It was the best of times. This is my Camino Family.

Ursula is from Germany and I met her in Orrison on the first day of the Camino. The alburgue was in the shade of the mountain and it was cold, so Ursula and I took a walk down the road to a sunny spot to warm up. Ursula doesn't speak much English, but she spoke more English than I do German. This was her 4th time walking the Camino, once being on a folding bicycle. On the Camino, I kept finding Ursula ahead of me and as it turned out she sometimes took the bus, jumping ahead. I don't know how old Ursula is, but I hope I can walk as far as she can.


Lee and I were in the same room on that 1st night. In the morning we crossed the Pyrenees together and walked together off and one the 1st couple of days. Lee is from Singapore and told me that last year only three people from his country walked the Camino. He is the 1st person to do so this year. Pretty much from the start, Lee has had issues with his feet and blisters. It has been said by other pilgrims who have seen it, that Lee's blister on the bottom of his foot is the worlds largest. He also damaged his toes walking down hill so he has resorted to going down hills backwards. He fell way behind me, but we stay in touch. He has had to bus ahead for medical treatment for his feet and now his knee. Lee arrived in Santiago today and after two days of rest he plans on walking another 90 km to the end of the earth at Finisterre.

Charlotte, from Denmark, walked with me for several days. The Camino being a new experience for both of us, we learned from each other. Charlotte recently lost her job and was walking the Camino to help sort out a new direction in life for her. We had some great conversations as we walked along. After a couple of days of walking together, Charlotte told me she wanted to walk alone. This is understood among pilgrims and there is never any hard feelings because of one's decision. I saw Charlotte a couple of more times, but I ended up several days ahead of her. She arrived in Santiago on the day I left the city.

Kevin is from the United Kingdom. I've been told that he is an Irishmen with a British accent. Kevin and I walk the last bit up and over the Pyrenees and down the other side. We didn't talk much then, but later about five days before arriving in Santiago, I heard someone behind me call my name. It was Kevin and we walked together the better part of two days. I was great talking with him, and as a former military helicopter pilot he had some storied to tell. We shared a great, and the most expensive of my Camino I might add, meal together.


Kelly is from Taiwan and we walked together for 5 days or so. She was a pleasure to be with as she is always smiling and laughing. She has one of the most positive attitudes that I have ever encountered. If you recall, it was Kelly who had to go to hospital adding another dimension to my Camino. Kelly had taken a leave from her job and was trying to figure out what route to take forward in her life. We separated in Burgos and I never saw her again as she had to arrive in Santiago several days before I did. When I talked to other pilgrims, everyone seemed to know Kelly, she was so outgoing.


Nina, also from Taiwan is Kelly's friend and she came all the way to Spain just to walk with Kelly for 3 days. It helps of course if you work for an airline. She arrived the evening the Kelly was taken to the hospital, so I met her and we took a taxi to the hospital the following morning. Although somewhat slower than Kelly and I she walked those 3 days with gusto. One evening in our albergue, she and Kelly fixed us dinner, not allowing me to help as thanks for helping Kelly when she became sick. It was a pleasure to have met and walked with her.

√úlle, from Estonia, owns her own business designing log homes. She is walking the Camino in sections, taking time from work, two weeks here and there. She said she recently checked her in box and realized that she had two weeks free so off she went. I only walked with her a short distance, but we would end up in the same town at night and we and others would get together for dinner. Though very athletic and walking fast, in the middle of the day, she would go off the trail a bit and lay down and take a 2 hour nap. I caught up with her one day at a bar and she told me that she had seen the highway sign giving the kilometers to Santiago as 460 Km. She said she had 10 days left and was going to try to walk 46 km a day and reach Santiago. Although she didn't make it, she did walk three consecutive days of 46 km or more.

Len is from Canada and everyone knows it. That's because if you meet Len your are going to get a small Canadian flag lapel pin. I don't know how many pins he had but just about everyone he met got one. You could always tell if a pilgrim had met him, because, usually on their hat was a Canadian flag. When he reached Santiago, he was still giving them out. Len gave his life to Christ long ago and is walking for his beliefs and having recently retired to get closer to his God. Len and I became close to the point where I had no reservation in confiding in him. He was a tremendous benefit to me. We didn't ofter walk together as he was a lot faster than me and there was no way I could keep up. I credit him with some of my blisters when I tired to walk as fast. I believe that someday, Len and I will see one another again.


Alex is from Brazil and he and Len walk almost the entire Camino together. He was actually faster than Len, but not by much. Trained as a chemical engineer, Alex is currently out of work and is walking the Camino because now being out of work he has the time. Although Alex and I never really discussed his reasons for walking, he was a great listener. You could alway count on him for some words of wisdom. His way of explaining things about life always made sense. In true pilgrim style Alex got down on his knees and bandaged the blisters on my foot. I will never forget the kindness he showed. In the morning, I would usually start walking around 7 am. Alex and Len would leave around 8 am and would catch up to me around lunch time. Then they pulled ahead of me after lunch and I would find them at the end of the day sitting in the town square enjoying a beer. Oh, and Alex is a three ice cream a day man, weather permitting.

Howard and Joy, from the central coast in California are walking together along with their adult son Eliad. We rarely walked together, but often finished our day with dinner together. Howard recently retired as a lawyer, but we won't hold that against him. Both Howard and Joy had a sympathetic ear and Howard told me he was working on some of the same issues as I was. If you were walking behind them you would often see them holding hands or stopping for a kiss. As for Eliad, he met a girl from Austria and hasn't been seen much, except when mom and dad were buying dinner. Actually a bright young man.


Ruth from Tasmania, is the bravest woman on the Camino. I was introduced to Ruth by Howard and Joy, and we all shared dinner several nights in a row. Ruth was mentioned in a previous post about crime on the Camino. I won't repeat the story here, but if you missed it, go back and take a look. I only walked with Ruth the day after her court appearance as I believe she may have been worried that the bad guys might still be around and asked me to walk with her.

Ivan is from Australia and had worked previously as a European tour guide. Well traveled before the Camino, he left his job to travel to various spots around the world. He is really into photography and has recently started drawing. I've seen some of his drawings and he does have some talent. He is always happy to see you and walks with a smile on his face. But when asked to pose for a photo, he has a particular smile.


Lastly Isabel, a young woman from the Netherlands. I met Isabel towards the end of the Camino and I walked with her on the two last days. I had met her over dinner with others, but on the next to the last day, she either caught up with me or I her, I just don't remember. As it happens often on the Camino, you just start walking together. This has happened many times in the past, and it did with Isabel. The last day of walking, I had started out alone, but caught up with her at a breakfast stop. We just started walking together. As we got closer to Santiago we discussed whether or not we wanted to be alone upon arriving at the cathedral. We both agreed the the end needed to be shared with someone. We put our heads down and walked fast for the last 12 miles arriving in Santiago at 11:30. I was great to be able to share my achievement with Isabel and for that reason I will never forget her.

There were many others that I walked with for short distances or shared a meal. I remember them all and will always have a place in my heart for my Camino Family.