Xie Xie Taipei 

What is bubble tea?

I am glad you asked. It is one of those must try items in Taipei and we we’re not going to leave without tasting it.  So, Thursday before our flight we went to seek this drink out.

Bubble tea is a Taiwanese tea-based drink invented  in the 1980s- of course the 80’s.  Most bubble tea recipes contain a tea base mixed/shaken with fruit or milk, to which chewy tapioca balls and fruit jelly are often added.

The first sip was quite the surprise when those jelly-tapioca-chewy-thingys hit your mouth. It was a nice send off for us as we depart on our 20+ hour trip to Chicago.

What is next for Chris? The team has a game against Czech Republic on Friday and South Korea on Saturday and then the final games where they will compete for a medal. There is a great explanation here.

It was truly an honor to be here for the first week of the games rooting on the Hawkeyes and the whole Team USA.  Tapei could not have been a more gracious host.  And, to experience this with my wonderfully, beautiful, and amazing cousin was priceless. We both leave with a new found respect and admiration for the country, its culture and most importantly its people.

 Xie Xie Taipei

License plate game

Remember when you used to play it in the car? Well, I find myself playing it on the Camino except with the people I meet from all the different countries.

20140610-214652-78412550.jpg There was a couple from Portugal who come the same week to walk, a group of family and friends from Ireland walking together to celebrate a wedding on Saturday at the cathedral, a father and son from the UK, and a man from South Africa walking by himself for six weeks.

20140610-222134-80494587.jpg. There were many highlights of the day: the scenery

20140610-222225-80545369.jpga blind man in a chapel stamping my credentials

20140610-222417-80657040.jpgand mass in Palas de Rei.



Pilgrims Ho

To get an official compostella you need to have walked the last 100km of the Camino. You can do it in 6 days start today, June 8, and reach the cathedral in time for the pilgrims mass on Friday.

The 100 km mark comes between Sarria and Portomarin and many people start here.

It was a bit alarming for us to all of a sudden see all these new pilgrims. The trail was now a bit more crowded but did not deter from the sites.

20140609-163516-59716123.jpg Yes, that is a dog on a roof. We also started to see a lot of these.

20140609-164520-60320422.jpg They are stone storage bins to keep the harvest free from rats and rain.
I have not been to Ireland but I was told that our surroundings were very similar.


I also came around the corner and found Elizabeth and Mary trying to skip out on the last 5 miles!

20140609-165458-60898168.jpg Of course they would have missed another village we went through

before we reached our destination

20140609-170057-61257967.jpg Portomarin is on a man made lake. In the 1960s the Miño River was dammed to create the Belesar reservoir, putting the old village of Portomarín under water. The most historic buildings of the town were moved brick by brick and reconstructed in the new town, including its castle-style main church: Church of San Juan of Portomarín.

In the seasons when the dam is at low level, the remains of ancient buildings, the waterfront and the old bridge are still visible.

20140609-171851-62331120.jpgThis the view from our Albergue ( which had a series of compartments with bunk beds divided by curtains – no doors – interesting to say the least!)

Entering Galicia

June 6
Laguna de Castilla is really the last town in Castilla. We quickly came upon another type of marker telling us that we are in Galicia. We will follow these markers all the way to Santiago.

It was a beautiful hike up high in the mountains and stopped for breakfast in O’Cebreiro, another significant gateway on the Camino because it has administered to the needs of pilgrims since the 12th century.



We stopped in Fonfria, a typical Galician village. When I tell you these are farming villages, take a look at what goes by behind us sitting outside having lunch at a restaurant.

Shortly after this it started to rain and continued until we got to Triacastela. Nearby are the quarries that provided the limestone used I the building of Santiago. Medieval pilgrims would carry as much as they were able to the kilns to help. We are hoping the packs we are carrying will remind us of their sacrifice.

Cows have the right of away

Meaning, it’s up to you to moooove. Sorry, if you were here after a long day of climbing you would think that was hilarious. Today (June 5) took us through small farming villages and up into the mountains. So different from the plains when we started. From long trails through wheat to quiet paths through the woods, it’s as if we started a whole new Camino.

Right now it is 9pm and we are tucked in our bunks and i can hear the bells clanging as the farmer brings his cows under our window and back to the barn. Most of the day was like this-quiet and serene – starting from Trabadelo and heading towards Laguna de Castilla. Our first village – surprise – had a statue of St. James that told us we are only 190km from Santiago!

Stopping in Vega de Valcarce, we found the village church open. We were the only ones in the church and Rick played his flute while we all took our own moments to appreciate where we are..

My moment was to light a candle for my family!

It truly is amazing how each of these tiny villages, most with a few houses and inhabitants, have these beautifully maintained churches. In Herrerrias, we came across another open church that we stayed for a few moments to admire.

Leaving the church we faced the beginning of our climb and an alternative to walking it ourselves. For only 10 euros we were offered transportation:

Next stop- La Faba. It was described as a hamlet. Not sure what a hamlet is, but if it means a store, an Albergue, a bar, and a church then this it it.

We stopped for lunch and visited the 12th century church that says mass at 8 pm every night from May to August including washing the feet of pilgrims.

From there we were less than 3km from our Albergue. We had a short delay because of local traffic.


But worth the wait.

This is what I can see from our room and I already told you what I can hear.


Pilgrim Down


Don’t worry, Elizabeth is ok. It is just this picture describes our day! We left Cacabelos around 715 and stopped in Valtuille de Arriba at a pilgrims fountain and had a breakfast of bread, yogurt, cheese and jam. We then went up and down and up and down through the vineyards. 20140604-185923-68363245.jpg. And came down to Villafranca for our cafe com leche.

20140604-211438-76478114.jpg. On our way out we passed a 12th century church with a door of forgiveness for pilgrims unable to continue to Santiago could receive absolution.

tonight’s dinner is dedicated to my brother – yummy trout!!



We stayed to tour the castle that opened up at 10am. It extended our rest day giving us the time to reorganize our packs and have cafe con leche before starting our day. Here is a picture from the castle looking down on our hotel.


Carol, this is where your first night wlll be! Here are a few more from inside the castle.



We stopped in Camponaraya for lunch and we can not seem to pass a Pasteleria-so don’t think of losing weight on this trip.


To be honest, today was hard. Even though it was only a 15 km walk it was on sidewalk and roadways which exasperated our aches and pains. To get us motivated, rick said there was a treat a mile ahead. There was two. Yup a vineyard to fast wine and to walk through.




We made it to Cacabelos. It was here that I took extra time to think and to thank for my friends and family back home. My love and respect continues to grow with each step.



Today is a rest day. We took a leisurely 6.5km walk into Ponferrada and treated ourselves to a hotel. It is a beautiful hotel right across from Castillo de Los Templarios, a 12th century Templar castle. It is closed on Monday so we are going to take the time to tour it in the morning.


We first had coffee out side the hotel at the tables you can see in front. The next two pictures are looking out from those tables.


20140602-160310-57790774.jpg. Took advantage of the day, walked around, ate and then ate some more.

20140602-221210-79930986.jpg. We attended the 8pm mass and at the end the priest called up all the pilgrims for a blessing-all in Spanish, but we felt every word.


What Goes Up.

Oh yea……..today (June 1) was a 7 hour, 20 km decent and we r still not completely down. For all my JOI family, take a little bit of Kili from base camp to millennium, add the 5 miles of Marcy and a pinch of the Canyon – without the hat and you got our day. For those of us with blisters it was a new experience and not a pleasant one, but the sights along the way helped a great deal.


We left Fancebadon around 730am to have breakfast at Cruz de Ferro- one of the symbols of the Camino



20140602-145828-53908090.jpgEvery pilgrim stopped to place a stone, say a prayer, and take a picture. The pile I am standing one is filed with messages written on stones. It was awe inspiring and little did I know how much I would need that for the rest of the day.
Our first stop was in Manjarin- ok wait for it – population 1.


You can see him in the white knight Templar robe talking to Rick. He serves coffee and sells some Camino memorabilia
We continued our decent down through the ullage of Acebo.

Yes, in the picture you can see our path below and the city of Ponferrada In the horizon. We decided to use a rest day and break up the next two days into shorter hikes and stay in the town before Ponferrada, Molinaseca


Surprises along The Way

The mornings are a very special time for me. This morning we woke to Rick playing Amazing Grace. You then here the rustling of the other pilgrims rising and packing their gear. We are all going in the same direction on the same mission. It is quiet and respectful. You then share some coffee, a good morning in a variety of languages and head outside. The town is transformed by the light and we begin to walk in silence not knowing what the day will bring. .

It wasn’t long before I had my first surprise. She poked her head out and gave me a sniff and a lick.


Little did I know that animals would be a theme for the day. We walked through farm lands and was greeted by another person with a wonderful cart of fresh fruit and drinks.



We then came across the Cruceiro Santo Toribio stone cross where we said a prayer and headed down down down the valley to Astorga. You can see it in the background.



Astorga is another beautiful town where we enjoyed a lunch in the main square listening to the bells every 1/2 hour.


It was here where I saw my first donkey!!


As i said before the sight of your Albergue after a long day is the best and this in the village of Santa Catalona de Somoza did not disappoint.

Maybe one of the most beautiful yet. Oh yea, the animal theme. When we went in the back courtyard to do our laundry look who was there to greet me.



Enough said.

On the Road Again.

Leaving Leon we passed San Isadoro an 11th century Basilica Church. There was a Door of Forgiveness through which medieval pilgrims, too ill to travel on to Santiago, could still receive forgiveness.



We also passed the Leon Museo and stopped to sit with a pilgrim of old resting.



After our morning ritual of stopping for cafe in La Virgen del Camino we were soon off the hard surface of the streets and back on a dirt trail. Even with the rain, there was something comforting about it.

We came across a man selling fruit,coffee, nuts and chocolate to pilgrims for a donation.

20140528-184005-67205567.jpg<It was a fairly short day of 22km to Villar de Mazarife, but blisters are really getting the best of some of us.


We are staying at Tio Pepe- Uncle Peter and have a great room for just the five of us.


Of course right next to a church dedicated to St James.


I have to share my journal with you. Debbie, Lindsey and Jenna gave me a journal with a saying or note for me to read every day. When I opened today’s day I found this note and had to share. It made us all laugh.


We had another nice dinner after we used our dictionary to find out what are choices where on the pilgrims menu.


Leon, Spain

Today I put down my pilgrim backpack and picked up my tourist camera and spent the whole day exploring the city of Leon. It began at 10am with breakfast at an outdoor cafe and ended with mass at 6pm said by the Bishop of Leon. It was a glorious day and I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Mom, the St. Francis statue is right next to our Albergue.










100 miles.

After 7 days we have settled into somewhat of a routine. Lights go on around 615am and we start to get ourselves packed before breakfast at 7am. Breakfast is comprised of bread, butter, jelly and coffee for 3 euros. Some places you can buy some fruit or yogurt for a couple more euros. After breakfast we pack up and head out between 730 and 8am. Today we traveled from Calzadilla de Los Hermanillos along the oldest Roman road in Spain. I was thinking that it was actually built around the same time that Jesus was alive.



We walk for a few hours until we hit a town and stop for coffee and a snack. Lunch is a few hours later at the next town. Today was a long stretch with no towns so we stopped along the trail and made sandwiches from the bread, cheese and avocado we bought the night before. Always taking a stretch before walking again.


We then walk to our alberque, check in and get shown to our bunks. The first thing we do is shower and laundry. Each of the albergues have an outside sink with actual wash boards and clothes lines. So you find a space for your underwear next to all the other drying socks, pants and shirts.

Dinner is always at 7 so we have a few hours to journal, nap or explore the town before dinner.



Tomorrow will be a different day touring the city of Leon

Ooops. Lights just went out. Good night.

Pilgrams old and new

At 615am, they usually turn on the lights to wake you up. If for some reason that doesn’t do it, we have the Rick alarm. It is a gentle shake of the shoulder and a soft voice saying “wakey, wakey”. I gathered my stuff and headed down the back stairs across the courtyard to the bathroom and came across a group of pilgrims singing. In front of them was a man that we had been walking with for a few days in a white vestment saying mass! I stayed to participate with toothbrush in hand. Come to find out he has been saying mass every morning wherever he is staying.

After our typical breakfast of bread, fruit and coffee we discussed as a group that today maybe the day we take a rest and only go as far as Sahagun. We were all pretty sore and after all it was the Sabbath. In Sahagun, we stopped for more cafe and a pastry.


followed by a rest in the main square:


We decided to take it slow and headed for Calzadlla de Los Hermanillos along a road built by the Romans 2000 years ago.


And at times sharing the Camino with the locals



We found out that the markings on the back are caused by a bag of chalk the males wear on their chest. You figure it out :-).

There are constant reminders of the care given to the pilgrims long ago and to us still today. Our trail went past an old pilgram hospice


and to the fuente del peligrino in the middle of a five mile long trail through the countryside. Here is where you are to drink water from your scallop shell and taste the sacredness of what you are doing.


Some time the day gets long and we end up getting a bit silly. Most days we start to sing but today Monica taught us a marching step to keep us moving.


We were thrilled when we got to our Albergue, Via Trajana for a few reasons: it was right off the trail, hot showers, beds with sheets, and only 3 of us in a room.


buenas noches, my loving family and friends.

Wheat Fields, And Then Some

Today is a short blog for a long day. Our first 17km was through endless wheat fields.


The sun shone again and was actually warm. At one break we were greeted by Rick in his usual fashion. We purchased food for our trek the night before and we were surprised by a little beverage truck in the middle of no where.


So we stopped and enjoyed our fresh bread,cheese and chorizo.


We were very excited to get to our Albergue- Jacques de Molay in Terradillos de Templarios because after 27 km all of our dogs were barking. Well, we found out that they cancel your reservations after 330. The bad news was we did not have a room but as Rick said our walk would be shorter the next day. Yup, 3 more km down the Camino was a place- actually not as bad as it looks. They fed us a wonderful pasta dinner downstairs.


After 30km, we r going to see how we feel in the morning and decide where we go from there.


Fromista – Carrion de Los Condes. 20.5 km. Thank you all for your prayers. It worked. The sun was out all day. Now if you could work on the wind and temperature. It was 46 when we started out and maybe got to 60 by days end. We didn’t really mind because we were dry. Today was a shorter walk, which was welcome since we were all a bit soar from yesterday. We decided to take our time, and truly enjoy our ever changing surroundings even stopping to take in a swing.


At a crossroad in Villovieco. we met two pilgrims. The older gentleman did not speak any English but his companion was able to tell us he was 80, did 1/2 the Camino last year and was completing now. Embarrassed to say he passed us about an hour later.


We found a beautiful church to take a break and enjoy the sun and then headed to Villacazar de Sirga for a tortilla lunch and to see Santa Maria la Blanca. Many of the churches are not opened in these small town but this one was and we took the time sit in silence.

On our way out of town we thanked St. James for our journey so far and headed to our final destination of Carrion de Los Condes.
I must have been getting tired because I think I saw two of Rick.



Our alberque is Spiritual Santo run by the brothers Hijas de San Vicente de Paul. Mom, you would of loved it when a sister came out to greet us, walk us by Mary

And then check us is.



There is a pilgrims service at 8 and then to bed for tomorrow’s journey to Terradillos de Templarios, our longest walk yet- 26.8 km.

It is becoming harder to find wifi so will blog when I can.
Hasta lugeo…

It was an “er” day

Castrojeriz to Fromista-26.4km + a 1.5 km detour.

Why “er”. Today was colder, wetter, and windier. The walk was longer, our feet sorer and our packs a bit heavier. But by the end of the day a little smarter and heartier.

The day started at 630am when our hospitaleros came into the sleeping area turned on the light, came up to each of us and woke us with “Buenos Dias” and then put on Gregorian Chant music. A few minutes later he gave us a gentle reminder that we had to “vamos”. The rain and wind had already started when we began walking a little before 8. We were soon met with a climb up another Mesa.


20140522-213035-77435309.jpg Yup that’s me coming up the hill. With every good climb you are rewarded with a view, and we were. Look real close and you can see the town we left beyond the valley floor.

20140522-213516-77716298.jpgThere are not a lot of pics for the next several hours because it was too wet to take out the camera and in fact hard to steady the camera because of the wind.

Though the rain did stop and we enjoyed the rest of the walk with other pilgrims into Fromista stopping for lunch and cafe when possible.



We learned that the municipal alberques do not take groups more than three but you can call ahead and reserve beds at the private ones. The difference is only 3 euros and knowing we were going to have such a long day we had beds waiting for us at Estrella del Camino.

20140522-215211-78731167.jpg It is a beautiful place and I am secretly hoping we do this a few more times. Though I will miss the Gregorian chant in the morning.

20140522-215529-78929999.jpgA shorter day tomorrow but heard more rain. No worries, looking forward to what tomorrow will bring.

The Rain in Spain Does Fall Mainly on the Plain

And boy did we get it. It started even before we got our packs on. In addition the heavy wind was against us making the rain feel like pebbles being thrown at us. Oh yea, add 50 degree temperature in the mix! We all had a jacket to help keep our tops dry except “she who must not be named”. Within minutes the realization set in that Elizabeth brought a windbreaker and not a rain jacket. So Rick took out his tarp and tied it around her. It did very little for her, but gave us the giggles every time we looked at her keeping our spirits up. We took a detour after a few hours and found refuge at San Bol alberque to try and get the feeling back in our hands and feet. When we left there the rain stopped for a bit but left behind a Camino of mud. More laughing ensued as we tried to navigate through the mess. When we came out of lunch atEl Puntido , the sun was out. We came across San Anton, an ancient monastery and hospice where bread was left for pilgrims in two alcoves. We got to Castroojeriz and found some beds at the municipal alberque- the cost- a donation of your choice. We were told when shown our beds that we were not allowed to get out of bed until 630am. I don’t think that will be a problem. Tomorrow we head to Fromista, 25 km.







Burgos to Hornillos

What a great first day on the Camino. I was excited when I saw my first scallop shell, the first of many that will guide us for the next 4 weeks. Today took us through quaint little towns and beautiful country side. It was cool in the 60s but the sun was always with us. Tomorrow expecting rain, and not looking forward to that at all. We stopped for lunch in Rabe de las Calzados where the owner gave each of us a St. Mary’s medal for our backpacks. This time Rick had to order since the owner did not speak English and there were no menus. All I can say is that there was some part of an animal we ate and was told better not to ask. The trail to Hornillos del Camino was picturesque taking to the high point on the Meseta and then down the other side called Mule-killer Slope. Unfortunately, the municipal alberque was full when we got there, but in true Rick style and after some conversations in Spanish with a variety of people he pointed to a van and told us to get in. We were driven to a bed and breakfast outside of town where we dined family style with other pilgrims. Between Spanish, French, and English, we were able to wish each other well. Tomorrow’s destination is Castrojeriz, 20km.



<img src="https://karensjoi.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/20140520-183622-66982128.jpg"



To Burgos and Beyond





We all made it safe and sound to Spain. We flew from Rochester through Philadelphia and onto Madrid. In Madrid, we were met by Jutta, Monica’s daughter who lives here . She helped us program our phones while we waited for Elizabeth. We then took about a 3 1/2 hour bus ride to Burgos. We toured the Catedral de Santa Maria, built in the 13th century and is one of the beautiful and largest in Spain. My first mishap, of which I am sure there will be more, was at our first dinner. After a quick lesson Rick of course had us order in Spanish. I ordered asadurilla. What looked like beef was not, but I got the vino blanco right. We are already tucked in at the Hotel Alda Entrearcos and looking forward to the start of our Camino tomorrow. Goal is Hornillos del Camino 21 km.

Welcome to my journey.

Welcome to my journey.  I started this site in as a way to capture my pilgrimage, in 2014 to  Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain.  I wanted a way to share the experience with the people I love so much, my family, my friends and those I serve.   As I began to build it, I realized I had so many more experiences to share with others of places that humbled me and people who transformed me.  Many of you have heard my my own story of how my cancer brought me JOI (Journey’s of Inspiration).  JOI has taken me to Africa to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and camp on the Serengeti, to a week in the Grand Canyon, to the Camino of Santiago, back to Africa to build homes, and recently to Peru to hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu.  I have also ventured out to Europe on a trip on my own and the most amazing trip to Taiwan with my cousin. 

Traveling and seeing the world is extraordinary.  The ones most dear to me continue to be the ones that I am called by God to do  – to live my faith and serve others. This blog is a work in progress and I will continue to build it with stories of my journeys and the people I have met along the way that have inspired me to be the best I can be – and I hope it does the same for you.

Beun Camino, 我的自由年代, bonne faço,njia nzur, buon mod