My Camino: Day 12-Have a Rest Spain, I Can Fix All Your Problems

It’s Sunday here in Spain, the official day of rest and my second rest day as I attempt to complete the Camino Frances – a 500-mile walk across Spain.

I’m resting up in Burgos, one of Spain’s jewels – rich in religious architecture, especially its extraordinary Gothic cathedral – a majestic masterpiece that towers over the city and can be seen for miles and miles.

I’m sitting in the main plaza not far from the tomb of the city’s most roguish son, El Cid, and I’m enjoying the house Rioja – and I’m inspired – I’ve come up with a plan to save Spain!

After nearly a decade of economic crisis, Spain’s economy is finally growing again, but they still need my help.

To begin …. Make less spectacular churches. Seriously make ’em smaller and tell your faithful to have faith that they’ll be bigger one of these days. Why spend all that money and all those years building churches that look like they were made out of icing? And why make churches that last for 900+years, we’re now living in a disposable society – just give your tourists a set of virtual reality goggles and let them think they are seeing something remarkable.

Stop all this Camino nonsense. Really, only 250,000 people a year do it. Build a Minecraft “Camino” game and you’ll reach millions – and then you won’t have to maintain all those paths with glorious bronze shells and yellow signs marking the way – PLUS, just think, none of your townsfolk (from the elderly to the those little tykes on their razor scooters) will have to smile and say, “buen Camino” to all those passing strangers – think of how cold, and heartless, and MODERN your society could be.

And all that stamping the pilgrims “passports” nonsense – stop that immediately -OR- at least charge people to have their credentials stamped as proof that they walked the walk. Those gloriously designed stamps are worth money – they’re the ultimate souvenir so make those pilgrims pay for it!

Your bread can make French baguettes blush, so do what we would do in America – cut them in half, freeze, then microwave them the next day – and charge double. Why should anyone have freshly made bread – the size of a giant’s knuckle – with the crispiest crust, yet light as air, for mere pennies? You’re missing out on a lot of dough …

Get over your Italian inferiority complex. Your food, wine and long legged women are world class. I’m convinced I’ve seen Penelope Cruz in every town I’ve visited, or maybe it’s just that all the women look like her.

Start charging more for your hotels. Seriously $56/night for a four star hotel in the middle of your tourist destinations-build a Trump Tower and charge $1999/night it’ll be uuuuuge!

Don’t let tourists take up your outdoor tables relaxing for hours drinking only water, coffee or wine! Get em in and get em out. Those plaza views are priceless-charge ’em buy the hour and bug them every minute by asking, “can I bring you anything else?” – oh and definitely hand them the bill immediately, don’t let them daydream hours away, basking under your glorious sun for hours.

Start importing your fruits and vegetables from California. No one should be able to walk along farm fields and each fresh produce for nada! Oh, and make sure your peaches, plums and nectarines aren’t ripe – no fruit should burst with such flavor that people lick their hands for every last drop.

Your lifestyle, really??? Work doesn’t start until 10am? And you have a two-hour lunch…. with… your family and friends? What’s up with that?!!!! You gotta rewrite your labor laws! 12-14 hour days, no lunch, no dinner breaks, and trim that six-week vacation down to 10 days a year! Your employees will love you for it. Productivity, heart attacks, depression, and divorces will soar!

While we’re at it-knock off this afternoon siesta shit! I mean really closing down from 2-4pm to escape the heat, be with your family, or recharge the batteries. Open up your stores, restaurants and offices 24/7 that’s the modern way – how do you think you’re going to compete with Starbucks or Amazon? Why should tourists have to sit down and relax while your entire country is relaxing? You’re losing 10 billable hours a week every fucking week – my arteries are clogging just thinking of this.

Definitely show less passion. No one needs to see your lovebirds smooching in the sun drenched plazas – tell ’em to get a room – or get a job.

Spain, you could be a great country if you just changed everything

Or maybe, yes I’m pretty sure about this – you already know you’re a great country and you’re not gonna change one itsy bit!

Muchas Gracias!

Here are my stats

No Miles Marched Today-Resting

141.9 Miles Traveled So Far

363.9 Miles Left To Go

505.8 Total Miles to walk from St Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain

Tomorrow: Back on the Camino – Destination: Castrojeriz

My Camino: Day 11 – Look Who’s Walking

I’m about to enter Stage Two – aka the soul crushing stage – of the Camino de Santiago.

Over the course of about 500 miles, the Camino is divided into three infamous stages: The Physical, The Self Reflection, and the Spiritual stage.

Stage Two is a tad shorter than One but boring as ass! It’s a walk through Spain’s farm fields – the boring fields… hay, wheat, and sunflowers. And now that we’re in mid September, the fields are harvested so it’s one big ass vast land of nada.

It’s like walking through fucking Kansas only there’s no Dorothy, Toto, or wicked witch.

Veterans of the slog say it’s mind numbing. Yeah, yeah there are those who just lovvvvvvvve it, but do they? I mean, do they really… I doubt it – just like I doubt anyone truly, and I mean truly, enjoys cleaning toilets.

Having just completed Stage One, I gotta tell you, I’m as shocked as you are that I’m still standing!

Stage One, the physical stage, is about 150 miles of fierce winds and endless mountains that no guide book can adequately prepare you. It’s a grueling grind for the average American – the Germans, Swedes and Dutch are athletic gods so they have no issues with this stage AT ALL!

It’s full of breath taking scenery (not really what you want when you’re struggling for every breath, but it all works out), rich food, fabulous wines, and pilgrims.

I’ve met some incredible people during the 11 days of my Spanish Schlep including Ron the spook.

Ron’s a retired CIA guy who worked in the back office coming up with “nasty tricks.” I said, “you mean you were the Agency’s ‘Q’?”

To which he said, “yeah, back when there was an Agency.”

I begged him not to kill me now that he had told me his secret, but there was no fear of that as Ron’s killings days were long gone – I killed him on those first climbs over the Pyrenees. I lost him in the fog and clouds that first day and haven’t seen him since which is a shame cause I wanted to find out more about his heydays and heyyyy, what really happened at Dealey Plaza????

I’ve found that you’re drawn to your own people here – I’ve met several women from my home state and Sergio.

I was basking in my accomplishments of having made it over the first day’s hurdle, and drinking a cold one when Serge sat down and we began talking. One thing led to the next and wouldn’t you know it – we’re both tv journalists – he’s a video photographer from Canada and I was a former producer for pick-a-network. We shared some laughs and realized we probably worked on some of the same stories – small, small world. He’s long passed me (Uhhh, he’s Canadian, they’re healthy- they walk) but I hope to see him again and hear his new stories.

John from Perth is a wee bit unusual. We shared a taxi from Biarritz to St Jean Pied de Port and we were both filled with nerves and anxiety as it was the night before we were to begin our Camino.

We were also shot!

He had just flown in from Down Under and I had just arrived from the US. John looks like a leprechaun-I kid you not. White hair, white pointed beard, and a hint of mischievousness. We wished each other well and went our separate ways that night, but I’ve met him several times along The Way and he’s now full of the spirit… praising the Lord for this and that and, it seems, mostly for running into me again.

Dorothy from Italy is fast becoming a Camino legend.

A young, beautiful Italian (aren’t they all beautiful?), she blew my socks off with her roadside mangia know-how.

As we walked, she grabbed figs and walnuts off trees, grapes off the vines, and pulled what I thought were weeds up from their roots. “This is going to make an excellent salad,” she told me as she offered me a sampling of her on the go salad bar. I bit into this wild plant and it tasted like salted licorice. “OMG, that’s insanely good…your mom must be so proud of how resourceful you are,” I told her. She said she grew up eating off the land, I told her I grew up going to grocery stores where everything is labeled.

Dorothy is a bit of a celebrity on the road – everyone marvels at her Peregrino culinary arts and we all want to be invited over to her place for dinner.

I’ve met too many people here who are suffering: deaths, divorces, cancer, or trying to make good on a promise made years ago.

There are a lot of 20-somethings on The Way looking for their way. They don’t know what to do with their lives and are hoping this road to Santiago de Compostela will provide them with life’s great road map. I bite my tongue so that I don’t tell them that there is no road map, it’s like this walk – one foot in front of the other every friggin single day. I figure they’ve got to realize that for themselves.

I’ve also kept my mouth shut when someone talks about their relationships – they’re so desperate, they’re asking a total stranger if they should stay with their man. Note to self, if you’re asking a total stranger on the fucking Camino if you should stay with a complete prick, ummm, NO, dump the dude.

The Camino is full of all kinds from all walks of life. Now that we’ve completed Stage One and are gearing up for Stage Two, the self reflection stage, I hope those who ask strangers for advice find the answers from within, I hope those who are grieving can find solace, and I hope I can find a path with fewer hills and more fabulous wine.

Here are my stats

0 Miles Marched Today – Rest Day

141.9 Miles Traveled So Far

363.9 Miles Left To Go

505.8 Total Miles to walk from St Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain

Tomorrow: Another Rest Day in Burgos!

My Camino: Day 10 – All She Wants to do is Dance!

As we pilgrims marched out of Santo Damingo de la Calzada I was looking up, seeing all the giant stork nests built on top of the village’s light poles. The sun was just starting to come up, and the light was beautiful- soft blues, pinks – and a whisper of orange.

But my fellow trekkers seemed to all be looking down, not basking in the beginning of a new day, rich with possibilities.

As I passed a sunflower field I thought the dried up flowers looked like my fellow Camino walkers; heads down, dutifully waiting to be harvested. You could almost hear them chant, “time to make the donuts.”

We’ve left the rich Rioja vineyards and are making our way into the high plains of Castile Leon – Spain’s largest province and its bread basket. Gone are the lush greens and purples, now we’re seeing field after field of wheat and hay – AND the farmers have done their jobs; the fields look like they’ve all had a buzz cut – #2 razor!

And then there’s the highway! Yep, today’s route follows the national highway into Burgos. It’s a busy road – imagine walking along side I-25 or the NJ Turnpike. Cars, motorcycles, RVs and those damn semi trucks – oops, sorry they’re called lorries here in Europe. The noise was deafening as we plowed along the pilgrim highway only to take brief detours to nameless medieval towns that by now are all starting to look alike, and they’re all propped atop more fucking hills.

So fuck it-I’ll create my own magic!

I plugged into my iPhone and let my music take me away… and boy did it.

I rocked out whether there were people in front, behind or beside me… and the music took me away from this Spanish highway to memories that fill my heart.

There was Saint Motel blasting their not very Christian but oh so damn good, “Born Again” and their anthem “Move” that got me to move. It reminded me of this summer’s concert I went to with my daughter, and I can still see the sheer joy on her face as we inched our way closer and closer to the stage.

As Joe Cocker belted out “Delta Lady,” it reminded me of my sisters and the concert we went to at Red Rocks. We got plastered, sang, and danced … and we cried – you know – that ugly face cry, cuz that’s what we do… we drink, play, cry and save “I love yous” like ALL THE TIME! But seriously, can you ever tell those you love you love them too often?

I’m sure the truck drivers called me in to dispatch as they roared by as I was doing great majorette moves with my hiking poles to Joe Cocker’s “Cry Me a River.” I bet the drivers were like, “Uhhhhh, we’ve got a special needs case on Route 120, please send the mini bus.”

I tried a little salsa as Ricky Martin sang “Pegate” and “Vente Pa’ Ca,” and all I could think of was my other daughter who loves to dance and can shake her hips better than Shakira. And those hips don’t lie.

But as Belorado came into focus I cranked up U2 and cried without any inhibitions as Edge began his riff and then Bono began singing, “Where the Streets Have No Name.” It’s been years since I’ve been this happy and felt so close to those I love even though I’m thousands of miles away. I know I was making that ugly cry face but as Icona Pop would sing , “I don’t care, I love it!”

On one of the many hills I climbed today, in the middle of a farm field, stood a lone tree completely out of place… just like me. My fellow pilgrims may have felt like dried up sunflowers, but I was that tree/fool on the hill.

Devout pilgrims love to say, “The Camino provides,” maybe so, but today I wasn’t taking any chances – I provided my own fun, my own memories, and my own Way!

Here are my stats

14.5 Miles Marched Today

(Santo Damingo de la Calzada – Belorado)

141.9 Miles Traveled So Far

363.9 Miles Left To Go

505.8 Total Miles to walk from St Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain

Tomorrow: Rest Day in Burgos!

My Camino: Day 9 – I’ve Got This Itch

Faithful readers will know that before I took off for my Spanish Schlep, I did some Camino grooming – getting my hair done, a pedicure, and a waxing – like the Full Monty or as I call it, the Telly Savalas. Yeah, a tad pervy but – pristine for my plans to walk some 500 miles across Spain.

So here I am on Day 9 and wouldn’t you know it – the Camino had me by the short hairs! The nibs are starting to rub. Any woman who has ever waxed or shaved knows how irritating that is (for you guys, it’s like that 3 day-old beard it itches like hell).

So there I am on the holiest of holy trails dying to scratch – but the path was full of pious pilgrims and I didn’t need their judgement. So I did the “cross legged walk” it’s kind of like a drunk swaying side to side – didn’t fix the itch – nor did the dropping the hiking poles and sneaking in a quick scratch.

It was getting unbearable so after about a mile I just said fuck it – judge away I gotta scratch this itch.

As I stood there scratching away in front of God, the vineyards, and the entire world I giggled at what my mother would have thought.

My mother was one uptight English broad. She would never had said “fart” instead it was “passing wind,” she would never had said “sweat,” instead she would say girls “glisten,” and she would never ever evah admit to having an itch “down there.” Like never! I don’t think my mom even had a “down there.” No one ever saw her go to the bathroom. For the first two years of my parents marriage, he was sent to get milk in the morning so that she could visit the privy in private.

My mother spent every penny she earned trying to forget her scarring childhood. She grew up in England during World War II and her father was captured at Dunkirk and held a prisoner of war for the duration of the war. Her mother did what thousands of others did during that time – she sent the children away “to the countryside” where they thought the kids would be safe from the bombs and air raids.

They were and they weren’t.

My mother built a fantasy, glamorous world for herself once she was safe in America and raising two kids of her own.

Whether it was cereal or sirloin, we ate off the Wedgwood. She never owned a single paper plate and she washed her Irish linens by hand – and ironed them to perfection. Hell she even ironed my dad’s boxer shorts – she wanted, she needed the good life.

I met my Spanish mother last night when I bedded down at her B&B in Ventosa, another medieval village that populates el Camino from St Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain.

Her house like ours, was decorated with antiques. Her curios cabinets were not full of silver or china like ours, instead hers had Pre-Colombian pottery, and when we tired pilgrims sat down at her dining table for a home cooked meal of salad and paella- her fine china was laid out set upon her Irish linen table cloths and yes, her napkins were ironed, and like my moms, with starch.

My Spanish madre was so like my English mum that she even took my iPhone off the table – with such grace and politeness- that I knew I had been reprimanded yet, I didn’t mind it one bit.

So when I got up this morning after sleeping in a freshly made bed with sheets that had been dried on the line – I was totally refreshed and decided to spoil myself with a taxi to cut off a few miles from today’s hike.

I felt a tad guilty but didn’t know know enough Spanish to tell the driver, “find somewhere out of the way so these judging pilgrims won’t see me.” My Spanish is limited to being able to order off the Taco Bell menu.

On the trail, I was like a new pilgrim refreshed; energized, and happy to be slogging up yet another series of fucking mountains in the bitter cold rain.

Today’s rain was like Forest Gump rain – it was coming down in all directions, pelting me on either sides, and yes, it was even coming up from underneath. Unlike yesterday when it was in the blistering high 80s, today it was in the low 50s.

And then……

What the friggin fuck is that?!

As I’m trudging up the muddy inclines, following some English guy who’s wearing shorts for God’s sake and who’s pasty fleshy thighs are quickly turning red in the cold and rain, there’s two enormous tourist vans pulled over serving their Italian clients sandwiches and espresso! ESPRESSO on the fucking Camino out of the back of a van!! Those fucking Italians know how to make everything better.

So if they can get catered lunches and fucking espressos on the fucking Camino – I can take a cab for nine miles and scratch myself like no ones looking – and if anyone has a problem with that, well as my oh so proper mother would say – “Tell them to go scratch themselves!”

Here are my stats

9.38 Miles Marched Today

(Ventosa – Santo Damingo de la Calzada *Note cab ride was 9 miles)

127.4 Miles Traveled So Far

378.4 Miles Left To Go

505.8 Total Miles to walk from St Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain

Tomorrow: On to Belorado!

My Camino: Day 8 – There Are No Shortcuts

Who had “She’ll get lost on Day 8?”

I had made a deal with myself today – promising a light, easy, take it slow, and relaxing day. I really needed it. Yesterday’s 17 mile march was too much – I mean, I’ve signed up to walk The Camino not the army.

And to be honest, it’s felt like I’ve enrolled in the army lately. I’ve been marching like I’m going off to war – not totally giving myself the opportunity to enjoy the Spanish Schlep.

So this morning I slept in until eight and set off on an easy 10 mile walk from Logrono to the small village of Ventosa.

The guide books promised a day of walking through city parks, olive groves and vineyards…. sounds perfect.

As I left my hotel in Logrono though, I became acutely aware that I was in a city. And the sounds of the city coming alive were an assault on my senses. Cars were whizzing by, kids on their way to school we yelling at each other on their bicycles, moms were yelling into their cellphones.

I needed a quick escape – so I found an open bar to order a coffee but I found myself nearly screaming at the half awake barista, “how long does it take to make a fucking cup of coffee!!!!”

So I left before he could serve me in hopes of avoiding an international incident.

The climb out of town was on a pedestrian walkway full of suburbanites who were walking the “Cholesterol Camino” – mom groups, retired folks, and young parents pushing their newborns in their oversized prams. It was crowded and pounding the pavement was starting to cause me foot problems again.

By the time I got to the actual dirt paths snaking through the vineyards, I was exhausted and I was tired of other people.

And then came VJ, the angry 26- year old nurse from California. He was pissed off – at the world, at his patients, at his lot in life. He was dropping more F-bombs than Stormin’ Norman and it forced me to realize – I wanted lightness …. AND to find out which hospital he works at cuz I’ll be goddamned if I want him to treat me in my hour of need.

I faked a need to check my boots and told him I’d meet up with him later, and as he walked ahead I took a deep breath and thought to myself – I’m in fucking Spain walking the Camino – chill the fuck down!

And then I saw them – migrant workers from Senegal, Mali, and Guinea harvesting the grapes from the vines. They were laughing and chattering, and seeming to be enjoying the lives they were living, far, far from home.

I stopped to chat with them – only one could speak, but in his broken English he wished me a “buen Camino” and said what a blessing it was to meet me on such a beautiful day and how grateful he was to be able to practice his English.

Wow – he was grateful for our brief encounter. He’ll never know how that little human interaction changed my day.

My feet were screaming for attention – they couldn’t care less about this cultural exchange so I looked at my GPS only to find that I had walked three miles in the wrong direction.

So much for my short, easy day. I had to hoof it back, through a farm field, up yet another fucking hill, and down a busy highway to my hotel. The sun was beating down, it was hot and there were no trees to offer any shade.

It’s as if fate knew I wanted to slack off today, to only give it maybe 50percent – and fate wouldn’t allow me to cut any corners. This Camino wants me to give it my all – each day, everyday.

Tomorrow tho – I’m cheating fate – the forecast is calling for rain, the trail goes through an industrial park, and the daily planner says it’s a 29mile walk – I’m calling a cab….. or – maybe not??!!

Here are my stats

13.6 Miles Marched Today

(Logrono – Ventosa)

114.4 Miles Marched So Far

391.4 Miles Left To March

505.8 Total Miles to walk from St Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain

Tomorrow: On to Santo Damingo de la Calzada

My Camino: Day 7 – The Bulls are Running

I had something to prove today. As I hobbled into Los Arcos yesterday familiar pilgrims offered their kind words, concerns, and doubt – AND this was after my hilltop rubdown.

My feet were dying as I struggled with four blisters – and the six days of non-stop walking since I started my Camino in St Jean Pied de Port were really destroying the balls of my feet. My legs were as hard as rocks and every time I sat down, excruciating pain shot through my thighs when I stood up.

I was a mess – which, for someone nearly 60 is nothing to be proud of.

But c’mon, why were all my fellow pilgrims so concerned with me – I mean I had passed Slow Sarah and the Korean gang – surely I wasn’t to be pitied by that many AND that publicly.

Many asked if I was going to take a rest day or cut the next day’s trek in half. “Princess Kate” and Dominick gave me their most concerned looks while reminding me that the next day’s leg was more than 29kms/17miles.

I managed an unconvincing smile and waved them goodbye saying, “we’ll see!”

So when I checked in to my hotel, I took a scalding hot bath for 45minutes! It was glorious. I rubbed my legs and massaged my feet like no one’s business.

This morning, I set out not sure where I would end up.

The Way has brought us deep into wine country. The paths are lined with generations-old vines. The grapes are the most spectacular shade of deep purple, so yes, I grabbed a couple of bunches here and there and gorged on my luscious loot.

The crowds have thinned out and for miles and miles I was alone – just me and my stolen grapes. (Oh right, like you wouldn’t have grabbed some off the vine!)

I put mile after mile behind me as Spain opened up to reveal her true self.

I watched a young shepherd tend to his flock – his whistles and calls to his obedient dogs filled the valley.

I saw a man riding on his white horse way over there on the hilltop surveying his fields (Thank goodness I didn’t take any of his grapes)

Around noon I was hiking up into Viana – a delightful medieval walled town sitting on top of yet another fucking hill.

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

What the fucking hell! Had the Basque started another war?

With great trepidation I walked towards the center of town following the shells and yellow arrows that line the roads and guide us pilgrims along our routes. The explosions seemed to be fireworks and as I turned into the plaza I saw why. There was a festival – Viana’s own running of the bulls.

Children , grandparents, parents – all decked out in their traditional red and white colors, climbed up and sat on special wooden fences and in temporary arenas to watch, tease, and cheer on the bulls and those crazy enough to run with them.

This was not in the guidebooks-this was a fantastic discovery of simple, rural life in northern Spain.

I joined the kids and sat on a fence cheering for fellow pilgrim – “Cal from Calgary” – as he joined the locals in their stupid ass run for their lives.

After the bulls had chased the idiots around town, fireworks were set off again and the local brass band paraded thru the poop-filled streets—can’t say if it was bull shit or it was a token of those like Calgary Cal who were thrilled but scared shitless.

The whole experience was brilliant and it was my reward for pressing on, not giving up, and doing what I’ve done since I was 10 months old – putting one foot in front of the next …. and then repeating.

Here are my stats

17.1 Miles Marched Today

(Los Arcos – Logrono * Longest to date!)

101.1 Miles Marched So Far

404.7 Miles Left To March

505.8 Total Miles to walk from St Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain

Tomorrow: On to Ventosa

My Camino: Day 6 – Free Wine and a Hilltop Rubdown

There’s nothing like the promise of free wine to get me up and out of bed and back on the Camino de Santiago.

I’m not going to lie, It’s been a rough couple of days. My feet are a disaster; I’ve got three known blusters and more are on the way. My right big toe is looking dodgy, I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose that toenail, and then there are my thunder thighs – there’s an epic storm brewing under my skin. My muscles seize up the minute I sit to have a snack, drink or pee.

I’m walking like a hobbit and not the cute ones – more like those old ones Peter Jackson needed to show the Shire has been around a long, long time.

But today, I wrapped up my feet as best I could, drank some water with electrolytes, and made a beeline to the pilgrim trail – cuz the guide books say there’s free wine and damn it, I want me some.

I joined my fellow pilgrims as we marched out of Estella – a simply stunning town with four massive churches, former king palaces and Roman architecture to boot. Our destination today – Los Arcos! We are supposedly leaving the mountain areas and making our way down into the hill country – vast rolling hills with wheat fields and olive groves and vineyards.

Just outside of Estella is a Camino legend – the Irache wine fountain. It’s just outside the gates of the monastery which dates back to 958 – and the wine has aged well.

There’s a plaque on the wall reads, “Pilgrim, if you wish to arrive at Santiago full of strength and vitality, have a drink of this great wine and make a toast to happiness.” – All I need to hear – pour me a free one, I’ll toast to happiness!

The spigot turns on at 8am and I was there bright and early. But there were others ahead of me. God people it’s only free wine….but there was no shoving or pushing – these are pious people.

Now, I’m a cheap-pink-box o wine girl myself so I can’t tell you if the tannins were on target, or if you swirled the wine in your glass you could smell the rich dirt and essences of peaches and herb – but, IT WAS FREE and it went down and stayed down.

I’d give it an 86!

With our morning excitement behind us, we slogged our way up the never ending “rolling hills.”

My Irish friend “Mary” who I’ve met here on the Camino Frances came up behind and asked if the wine had helped my feet and legs. They were still hurting but I told her – “Right now, it’s not my legs, it’s my damn fanny pack giving me trouble.”

“Jesus,” she said taken quite aback, and then whispered “you know we call a woman’s ‘privates’ a fanny pack I hope that’s not what you’re talking about!”

Jesus, Joseph and Mary, don’t you know we howled about that one.

The landscape is dotted with abandoned churches, palaces and fortresses – it’s truly divine. And somewhere in the middle of the olive groves – I thought I was having a religious experience or suffering a stroke – I heard music, like real music.

Rounding a corner, there on two fold up chairs was an elderly couple playing Brahms Hungarian Dance 5 – him fiddling away, and her on the squeezebox. It was surreal. I clapped along, a nutty German danced by herself, and we all took pictures and tossed them a few coins.

By lunchtime my dogs were aching and I hobbled to a picnic area where some industrious Spaniard had set up a food truck complete with sandwiches, burgers, wine (not free tho), beer and foot cream! GENIUS.

My Irish friend surrounded me and tsk, tsk, tskd my condition. “Oh Hilda, you’re doing so poorly, can’t you put your feet up for a spell?”

Who the hell is Hilda?

Seems Mary thought that was my name. So I said, “yep I’m gonna sit a bit, but I’m afraid my thighs will seize up again – it’s the worst.”

Well then doncha you know – Mary comes at me, hands me some cool cream, says to rub it in – THEN – in front of God and everyone, Mary starts rubbing some muscle cream onto my thighs. Like, a perfect stranger is giving me a rubdown right there in front of all the pilgrims and the olive trees.

I laughed self consciously and said, “Mary what are you doing – we’ve only just met!”

And she looked up at me and said, “Who the fekk is Mary? My name is Shirley!”

Here are my stats

13.42 Miles Marched Today

(Estella – Los Arcos)

84.07 Miles Marched So Far

421.73

Miles Left To March

505.8: Total Miles to walk from St Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain

Tomorrow: On to Logrono – the capital of the winemaking region of La Rioja!

My Camino: Day 5 – Mutiny on the Mountain

Something very subtle but drastic happened today on the Camino de Santiago.

I’ve been marching along now for five days and for the most part, I’ve seen the same people.

It’s a mixed bag of the odd walks of life – the Ozzies, French, Koreans, Italians, Dutch, Germans, Irish, and Americans. I get all excited when I meet someone outside of our pack – today two new pilgrims from Cape Town AND Japan came into my Camino Zone.

We set out alone – but together – five days ago from St Jean Pied de Port, France climbing up over the Pyrenees’s to Roncesvalles, Spain. The weather was awful, it was cold and rainy and none of us saw the mountains-we were all in a state of shock at what we were doing to our bodies and it was cold as ass.

If any of us virgin pilgrims did speak, it was mostly a grunt or a desperate plea, “how much further?” or in my case to anyone, “WHY the fuck are we doing this?”

Today though – things changed.

Today we got the gossip!!!

When I made my plans to come here and do my Spanish Schlep, I made the deliberate decision NOT to stay in the Albergues (Pilgrim Hostels). These modest resting places are kind of like barracks; they have bunk beds, they’re often co-ed, and they can pack em in – sleeping anywhere from six to 300 people.

They’re cheap, communal, and have lined “The Way” since the Middle Ages, but they didn’t have to compete in The internet Age.

I specifically chose not to stay in one of these places because frankly, I’m a world class snorer – I can shake the shingles off the roof – AND I know I’m not alone!

Today as we pilgrims marched along the holy trail to Estella, the chatter on the path, and at the bars, and in line for the bathroom, AND even, God forbid, in church on a fucking Sunday for Christ’s sake, was about the woman who snored last night in the Albergue.

The stories are – wait for it – legendary! And of course I added to it by dubbing this nameless/faceless sleep depriving diva ….. Ivanka the Inhaler!

Every person who had slept with Ivanka had a complaint, a story, and a haggard look. Our band of soul searchers seemed to have lost its soul. Ivanka the Inhaler kept them up all night with her earth shattering snoring and – yep, you know it had to get better – her farting husband. (I didn’t give him a nickname – it seemed unseemly at the time.)

Windows shook. The air turned green. Efforts to get her to turnover or for him to tighten up – failed.

It was a symphony for the devil!

There was a mutiny on the mountain – it didn’t matter that we were walking on ancient Roman Roads surrounded by olive trees and grape vines – that the sun was chasing away the rain – nope, these pious pilgrims were plotting revenge.

I laughed and egged them on, feeling holier than thou, knowing that I had escaped a bullet – I had done a divine service to my fellow walkers – I had booked myself in a quiet little hotel where I was free to snore away – safe from gossip, glares, and the pilgrims who will again, tonight, be sleepless in Spain.

Here are my stats

13.5 Miles Marched Today

(Puente la Reina – Estella)

70.65 Miles Marched So Far

435.15 Miles Left To March

505.8: Total Miles to walk from St Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain

Tomorrow: On to Los Arcos

My Camino: Day 4 – The Day I Lost My Shit

When I arrived at the Denver airport to fly off for my Spanish Schlep, there was my brother, sister, and niece waiting to surprise me with a lovely send off.

I was overwhelmed by their generosity, thoughtfulness, and their love.

My little bro bought me a gift and I was so touched. He’s not a religious man and neither am I. I’ve put him through hell (typical bossy pants older sister) and yet he always has my back and my love.

He handed me something wrapped in tissues and said not to look at it until I was on the plane.

It was a St Christopher charm. Now my brother is no patron of the saints but I was touched because I knew the lengths my sibling sinner went to to find this symbolic gift.

Little did he – or I – know just how much his gift would save me as I try to walk some 500 miles across Spain on the Camino.

Today is Day 4 of my trek and here are my stats:

Miles Marched Today: 14.8

Total Miles Marched: 51.27

Miles To Go: 409.83

I knew today was going to test my physical abilities – a long slog up yet another Spanish mountain in the rain from Pamplona to Puente la Reina – a destination for pilgrims since the 11th century.

I have three huge fears of this trip: flashers, not finishing, and “having to go” like, out in the open on the holiest of holy trails.

So I’ve been careful – no coffee, no fatty foods, no bathroom on “The Way” left unused.

13.5 kilometers into my journey I lined up with my fellow pilgrims at a local hostel to use the facilities. We stood in line for 45 minutes but to me, it was better safe than sorry.

Once it was my turn though, nothing! A major case of performance anxiety. I begged and pleaded and even offered a small prayer for something. Nothing. I began to panic, I knew the line was long and getting longer – and I had just had a cappuccino.

Finally nature answered the call- a little widdle, but it was enough to get me back on the road.

Once finished I looked for some TP- none could be found. No problem I have my emergency “go bag” in my backpack – shit, I had a cab take my backpack on to my next hotel. Ok don’t panic there are some Kleenex in my fanny pack. Nope! Double shit! Rifling through my fanny pack for something for my fanny – there he was, my St Christopher still wrapped tightly in tissue paper. Thank God my brother hadn’t used lime green tissue.

Duty done, I turned and there on top of the bowl – a new package of toilet paper – where’s the fucking patron saint for idiots?

Flushed and furious I took off to conquer this latest mountain where, there among the windmills atop Alto de Perdon, is one of the highlights of the Camino Frances – a group of pilgrim statues erected by the local power company to, I guess, take our minds off the 40 massive whirling windmills.

I made the summit and did my silly poses, took my selfies all while basking in glorious self confidence.

I then had to make the descent- a descent so treacherous they have three ambulance crews assigned to this stage.

Deep breath, one step at a time, use your fucking poles, and go!

Within 30 seconds of my descent a woman fell. Then another, then another. This trail is not a trail its some sadistic test for us sinners. The “path” is made up completely of river rocks. It’s slippery, it’s dangerous (OSHA would have a field day) and it’s scary as hell.

Just ahead another women had fallen – and she had broken her ankle. She was part of an Irish tour group and her guide had her covered in an emergency blanket, was on the phone getting an ambulance, and all those around were praying for her – and – thanking God it wasn’t them who had fallen.

I instinctively felt for my St Christopher and sidestepped the growing crowd.

Isn’t that just like life – you think you’ve made it and then bam! you fall on your ass.

I don’t know why my super talented friend can’t find a job, or why my friend’s baby died, or why our friends are getting a divorce, or why Trump is the president or why this fucking gnat won’t leave me alone – but shit happens. One day you’re on top of the mountain – the next, you’re trying to claw your way back up.

But – if you’re lucky, you’ll have your own “St. Christopher” in that your friends will have your back, and your family will have your backside – and love you until the end of days.

My Camino: Day 3 – The Day I was Told to Shut Up

What is the proper response when you’re told to be quiet while walking the Camino?

When I signed up for this, Martin Sheen was plowing through Pamplona and not even breaking a sweat. Trust me, his movie and my inspiration for this, “The Way,” was a total Hollywood hoax.

It’s Day 3 of my Spanish Schlep and here are my stats:

Miles Marched Today: 9.5

Total Miles So Far: 36.47

Miles To Go: 461.1

Sheen’s movie never once showed the hills and the mountains, it only showed panoramic plains sprinkled with red wines and lamb cutlets.

Where the fuck is that “way” cuz I’m on the wrong way.

Each incline is a heart attack inducer, followed by descents that make your knees scream out in agony and your toes beg for mercy.

All of this while terrified that nature will call while I’m out in nature with no WC to be found anywhere in this country.

So there I was facing yet another monster aka “fuck me” mountain, trying to figure out if I should call a cab when the Irish came rushing by. Three women all decked out in matching hot pink spanx compression shorts flew by my tired ass as if the devil himself was chasing them – AND…. AND – they had the nerve to be singing.

Singing!!!

I’m breathless in Navarra and they’re belting it out.

“Hey Irish, where’s the fire?!,” I yelled out. The shorter blonde turned around and with a huge smile yelled right back, “I’m too stubborn to let this mountain beat me!”

To which I laughed and said, “Fuck me, that’s the spirit.”

Just then a very proper Dutch woman said, “You’re American aren’t you?”

“Why yes, I am. How’s your day?”

“You Americans are always so loud on the Camino. This is nature, you need to respect it and be quiet.”

And then as if on cue the entire pack of pilgrims heard, “Well, what the fuck do you want me to do about it? I’m walking the fucking Camino!!!!”

It was the Irish again – a lone straggler wearing her hot pink shorts screaming into her cell phone.

She looked at me and said, “It’s me fekking husband, he’s out of dog food.”

I love her diction distinction – it’s ok to call this holy trail the “fucking Camino,” but it’s going too far to use that to describe her needy/incompetent husband.

As she hoofed it past me and ran up the mountain to join her group, she looked back at me and yelled, “I need a fucking drink!”

So I took the cue and turned to the Dutch master, smiled and said, “Oh, and I’m half Irish, too!”

Buen Camino indeed.

Tonight, I’m in Pamplona, where as luck would have it, they’re celebrating their 900th birthday.

The town is full of people and market stalls line the ancient, winding streets. A band of minstrels is dancing through the alleyways and I’m watching fellow pilgrims filter into this medieval carnival. It’s quite the show-and it’s loud, just the way I like it!

Tomorrow – more mountains and rain is in the forecast. I took this picture to show you the climb. There on the horizon NOT the grass and scrub covered hills, but where the windmills are and to the left where it looks like it goes straight fucking up – yep, I’m heading there tomorrow.

Someone better warn my fellow travelers I’m gonna be really, really loud.