Our last day

It was a typical day for us. Walked the kids to school. Worked on the last tiling and grouting and helped with babies and toddlers

I was able to meet Peggy today.

She is the lady that has been carrying $1000’s of unpaid debt for the milk that she supply’s every day. Through the fundraising from the most generous and amazing friends I was able to tell her that her debt is paid and there is money set aside to pay her to continue the delivery. It was a really special moment for both is us.

This is Natalya Bondar the administrator o Rehema. She has been here for 9 years taking care of this place and children.

This is Lauren Ouwenga. She also lives here and partners with Nat to manage this place.

And of course you know my shadow, Grace.

We had so much fun last night having movie night you can see by the shoes at our door we decided to host another night for the kids.


I start my journey home tomorrow to Nairobi and then to the states on Sunday. Please send prayers that I get home and that Mr Tom has a safe journey to Tanzania and home too.

The world I am going home to has changed and so have I. Will need some time to let these two weeks sink in. It won’t be a goodbye tomorrow-that I know-only until next time.

Life is still normal here

For the last two days we have been trying to stay in touch with the news of what is going on around the world. Tom bought a local SIM card and we turn it on a couple times a day to read email, txts and check the news. It is very bizarre watching the panic spread from a remote part of Kenya. It is like watching a movie that can be turned off when you get to the bad parts. It has not hit Kenya yet so I am confident that I will not have trouble getting back in the country. We fly to Nairobi on Saturday, stay over night and then I depart to home via Doha, Qatar. Tom is still planning on heading to Tanzania on Sunday. So back to here —- things are quite normal and I have two days to catch you up.

Yesterday, we had to go into town to buy more grout and sand for the tile project and the basics for the kids: sugar, flour, rice, oil and of course diapers. There is a little village of Bukura walking distance but for larger purchases we go to Kakamega. It is about a 40 minute drive away. We hire Jack the driver to take us to town, shop with us to help interpret. The cost – 1000ksh – or $10. This is a little bit of the town.

We also decided to treat ourselves for the first time this trip to an adult beverage. Mr. Tom comes through with to open up the bottle without a cork screw. Where there is a will……..

One of the sweetest times of the day is around 3pm. The babies are getting up from their naps – all 7 need to be changed and cleaned up, the toddlers march themselves to the potty and then all 10 of them are brought out to the blanket for afternoon air and sun. The younger boys are just getting back from school and join the younger ones on the blanket.

The older kids are always ready to help with the younger ones and they are so sweet and gentle. Tom and I are always commenting on how many kids you can get on a blanket

It is at this time that my phone is usually “borrowed” and this is the result .

Oh – this is Ronnie the pet dog. There is also Bob, but I don’t have a good picture of him yet. Ronnie is a lovable mutt and you frequently here in English and Swahili – Go Ronnie, Get out. He meets everyone at the gate and barks if he doesn’t think something is right as he overlooks the yard from above.

The other thing we decided to do is to treat the kids to a movie night. We bought each of them a soda and some cookies. This is all of them crammed into our room to watch Lion King on a small laptop.

And now the Mr. Tom report:

When we last left he was trying to figure out a way to cut the tile without a wet saw. He found a grinder with an all purpose blade and works like a charm.

Here’s is where we are as of tonight. Almost there – Mr. Tom has a few more pieces to cut, I have some grouting left to do and then we both will fill in the rim around the edge.

Tonight we had special guests visit and share a meal with us. Another friend of Mr. Tom’s from Tanzania came to see him. We had a lovely meal and conversation and they made us promise to return next year and visit their home. I said yes – so did Tom.

Are we making a difference?

We have been here a week and I continue to ask myself that question.  Today was a hit of reality in the heart.  There are three more babies that have been abandoned and the Rehema home is one of the two that take babies.  The decision would be “of course”, but here it is not that simple.  There are already 7 babies and three toddlers in addition to the other 15+ children.  One more baby means formula, diapers, a crib, medical attention and more importantly constant care by an Auntie who is already running a mile a minute with the other babies.  Where will the money come?  Where will the help come from?  Lauren and Natalie, the administrators of the home are truly super women.  They have to run this entire place and make these types of decisions all the time.  I see the difference they are making in these children’s lives.  For without them they would not have one.  But there is so much need here as there is all over the world.  img_0482Tom and I are called short-term missionaries.  We are only here for two weeks and can only do what we can within that short time.  We see all that needs to be done and wish we had the time and resources to do more.  We know the babies and toddlers floor will be tiled instead of an uneven cement floor. I know that the generosity of the money raised for the milk fund will continue to bring sustenance to the children.  Is it enough?  Will that make a difference in these lives?  I can pray that it does and continue to bring the plight of these children and the needs of this home back with me.  There story needs to be told and that might be the best way to make a difference. Blue_Starfish_PNG_Clip_Art-1718One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”  “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…”I made a difference for that one.”On the Mr. Tom front and the progress we are making on the room.  This picture sums up our day between tiling, grouting, babies and children. img_0510

Soaking In Every Last Moment….

Vilasari to O Logoso, October 19, 2016

Today was a 14 mile hike that started out in the mist of a silent trail through the hillside. It wasn’t eerie at all, but very comforting. Someone said it was like walking through a cloud and being hugged by God. 

The trail took us up through beautiful farmlands and sun came out to lift the fog away. 

The trail is much quieter and has a different feel. Not many pilgrims go on after Santiago so the towns and services are all a bit smaller. Here is our Albuergue and town for tonight. 

A nice meal together, just being, and anticipating a big and final day tomorrow.   (And the battle of the snorers-I swear I purr)

22.4 miles, Yup You Read It Right. 

Santiago to Albergue Vilasari, October 18, 2016

My dogs are not only barking, but howling!  We left around 7, with the first 1/2 hour walking through the quiet empty streets of Santiago. 

We quickly found a place open serving cafe. They aren’t typically open but on the Camino route you can find them open this early for pilgrims.  We walked out of town and looked for the familiar yellow arrows and markers. 

The difference is, is the the markers begin to count down the miles that you have to do to make it to the ocean. 

It was a very long day, a lot of ups and downs but the day was a beautiful day for hiking. We came across this wonderful water fountain for pilgrims to soak their feet. It was cold, but refreshing and helped us with the last 5 k. 

Our Albuergue was in a tiny town-an alburgue, cafe and……..yup that was it.  Going to sleep at 9 was not a problem.  Oh yea,  short day tomorrow, only 15 miles…on Ricardo Francais time now. 


Santiago, October 17, 2016

It was a sleep in and rest day……and guess who I ran into in front of the Cathedral?  This guy is everywhere!!

We met up with Rick, Kevin, Donna and Lainy. Had a wonderful time getting acquainted and heading out to the ocean in the morning. Going to try and make the 4 day trip in 3-which means 18 to 20 miles tomorrow. You’ll know when I do, if I make it!

Buenas Noches

Train to Santiago 

Burgos to Santiago, October 16, 2016

Today we left for Santiago on the train. It will take us about 7 1/2 hours to get there-the same distance it took me 3 weeks to walk on my first Camino.  My feet are enjoying the rest and It is nice to sit and watch the scenery go by. I recognize the stops: Astorga, Leon, Pomferada….and take the opportunity to read my blog posts when walking through the towns before. 

We will be meet up with Rick and his fellow pilgrims tomorrow. 

2 1/2 Years, 200 miles in 2 Weeks

San Juan Ortega to Burgos, October 15, 2016

Burgos is the end of the beginning and I now go onto the beginning of the end. It was May 19, 2014 when I last was here and it seems like only yesterday. 

The walk in the morning took us through Atapuerca. 

The Archaeological Site of Atapuerca is a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site. The earliest human fossils and tools known in Europe were found in the nearby caves. The site was inscribed by UNESCO in 2000.

Here is a video on the findings. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=g5gMuMJYe60

Their are memorials built outside the town to signify the importance of the findings and honoring our ancestors. 

It wasn’t that much farther that I got my first glance at (almost ) final destination. 
The city of Burgos is magnificent with the cathedral at its center.

 The Albuergue was  conveniently located nearby as always. It was one of the most modern one we stayed in. The cost was only 5 euro but the view of history outside our window was priceless. 

The evening turned out to be one of my most favorite moments. All the women that I had been hiking with off and on for the last two weeks magically appeared and we gathered for one last time. We were from Germany, Canada, Denmark, Switzerland and the United States. Strong, beautiful and inspiring.  I could not have asked for a more perfect way to celebrate my little moment of history making in my life. 

From Wheat To Woods

Beldorado to San Juan Ortega, October 14, 2016

Today was a long 15 miler but the terrain changed so much it made it enjoyable. 

The trail went through a few small towns, and I mean small. Some of them with inhabitants of 100 people. At one point I came over a hill and heard Elvis music. I can upon this area with stumps of wood to sit and rest. 

On a women selling fruit water and of course wine. 

The nights albergue was in a monastery built by Saint John of Ortega himself, with the help of his friend and fellow saint, Domingo de la Calzada, around 1142 as a help point to the pilgrims. 

It had two rooms with 50 beds, a little cafe and a church. Mass was at 6 and the priest invited pilgrims to come up a read the readings and prayer of the faithful. When you walked in you could get a copy of the mass in your own language to follow along as the priest said the mass in  Spanish. So, when the pilgrims  came up to read it was said in their own language. It was truly wonderful. 

A simple meal was then served and off to bed before the lights go out at 10am sharp. 

Hey! Hay

Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado, October 13, 2016

Happy Anniversay Mom and Dad!

Today was a 14 mile hike through a lot of wheat farms. A lot of them.  

This was one of many stacks we saw. 

The weather turned to rain for the first time. So, guess what we couldn’t make?  A euro if you got that one. 

One of

Did You Hear The One About The Chickens In The Cathedral?

Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, October 12, 2016. 

Today’s 13 mile hike was through beautiful farmlands and vineyards. We are now in the La Rioja region, renowned for its superlative wines. And I will attest to that!  In fact, Kings and noblemen were proving the Camino through this region as early as the 11th century as a means of exporting its famous wine and wares through Europe-and a way to attract artists and stonemasons to build all of the amazing cathedrals and monuments I have been seeing along the route. It was in this region where the defeat of the Moors happened which gave a great boost to Christianity and by extension, the Camino de Santiago.  

Okay, I know you want to here about the chickens.   Well, The story goes that in the 14th century, a German 18-year-old named Hugonell, from Xanten, goes on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with his parents. A Spanish girl at the hostel where they were staying makes sexual advances toward Hugonell; Hugonell rejects her advances. Angry at this, the girl hides a silver cup in the German’s bag and then informs the authorities that the youth had taken it. Hugonell is sentenced to the gallows, in accordance with the laws of Alfonso X of Castile.

The parents sadly decide to examine their son’s body, still hanging on the gallows, but suddenly hear his voice –he tells them that Saint Dominic has saved his life. His parents quickly make their way to Santiago de Compostela to see the magistrate. The magistrate, who is at the time eating dinner, remarks: “Your son is as alive as this rooster and chicken that I was feasting on before you interrupted me.” And in that moment, the two birds jump from the plate and begin to sing and crow happily. 

And as early as 1350, it has been documented that there is  a cock and a hen in the cathedral. 

I could not get a good picture of them because of the light so I found one to show you up close. 

I have a great punch line for my headline, but since my Mom reads this blog I leave it just between us chickens. 

The Meaning of Life are the Moments in Your Life

Naverette to Najera, October 11, 2016

I had a wonderful conversation on a park bench tonight with Tamiara. It was after meandering through the town of Najera and we decided to sit awhile on a bench near the river. We talked about how the Camino represents life-your own life. 

You are always moving forward.  The miles have past and you don’t know what is ahead. The only thing you know is the road underneath your feet and in that moment there’s so much to look around and be thankful for – if you let it. 

If I only thought of the next town, the next albergue I would miss the moment the sunrise touched the hillside, the taste of fresh grapes growing on the vine just before harvest, the unexpected bench that appears to offer rest, and the opportunity to bless and wish everyone that passes me a good journey. 

There is a special moment that only comes with solitude when it’s just you your thoughts and with the Lord. For me it is the morning. It is quiet and the only sound you hear is your own footsteps. 

I’ve had some wonderful conversations with her and have experienced that moment where you knew you are exactly where you’re supposed to be. 

Yes, there are the struggles of hills, the pain of blisters and sleepless nights because of snoring and the wrestling of sleeping bags. My pack of burdens and regret gets very heavy at times. These too are the moments that give meaning to your life. 

Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise. 

Laura Song, Blessing

And, don’t forget to look for those funny times and laugh and smile as much as you can. 

Here’s the only picture of the day that I know you won’t forget. Even for a moment

Beun Camino

Navarrete, My Kind Of Town

Viana to Navarette, October 10

A  quaint, beautiful and lovely little Camino town that captured my heart. There was something so warm and welcoming about the town as soon as you started to walk down the cobbled streets looking for your albergue. 

The alburgue  for the night is the building on the right below.

Directly across from one of the most magnificent churches I have seen

But just as important, of course, the most wonderful cafe. I sat with a fellow pilgrim enjoying tapas, a glass of wine and each other’s company. 

We then toured the 16thcentury Church of the Assumption which we later went back for for 8 pm mass and a blessing from the parish priest. 

And here is the view outside my window for the night:

The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.   

Psalm 121:8

A True Camino Day: Carrot Cake and Jesus

Los Arcos to Viana, October 9, 2016

Yes, it was one of those Camino Days, starting one way, ending another.  It is early Sunday morning around 730 as we headed out on our 12 mile walk. And this is how it started. From behind me:

And ahead of me. The rising sun kissed the hills a beautiful red hue. 

I put in my ear buds, hit shuffle, and the song that started to play was the song  Good Morning, from Mandisa:

It’s a good morning!

Wake up to a brand new day

This morning,

I’m stepping, I’m stepping, stepping on my way

Good morning,

You give me strength,

You give me just what I need

And I can feel the hope that’s rising in me.

It’s a good morning

The path took us mostly on natural paths and dirt tracks through open farmland with little reminders along the way of how much this country cares for pilgrims. 

Our alburgue tonight was in one of the most historical places so far. It was originally a monistery right next to the ruins of the Church of St. Peter (damaged in a war in the 15th century). 

Ended up sitting in the shadows of the ruins laughing and sharing stories with other pilgrims from different parts of the world and finding a wonderful connection  with three wonderful ladies- Anne, Dawn and Jade. We were all going to go to dinner but the restaurants were closed until 8 and it was only 5pm. 

And as The Camino provides we saw this sign 

Ok,  I will be honest, the carrot cake, cushy chairs and candels were a big draw. We sat and meditated while our hosts read passages from the Bible about trusting in our path and place in the world. Afterwards, we sat, drank tea and continued to share, not as pilgrims, but as new friends. 

A Wine Fountain— Water into Wine? I Knew It!

Estella to Los Arcos, October 8, 2016

Yup, coming out of STELLA! I saw a sign. Could it really be? A fountain just for pilgrims that gives you wine?

Ok, it is only 830 in the morning, and there is a line, so I had better get in it!

But my water bottles are filled with water!  What do to, what to do….oh, how nice of them to put a vending machine with glasses and bottles. So of course I bought one, it would be rude not to (ok the guy next to me demonstrated the water part)

Today’s hike was just beautiful and the wine fountain was just the first gift. Look at this scenery. 

Came across this cafe for breakfast. A cafe con leche and tortilla every day so far, but who is counting. 

And then I come around a bend and I hear music. The gifts keep on coming. 

Here was a gift of absolute beauty and tranquility. 

Hey! Hay!  Just wanted to show you the hay stack. 

Los Arcos is a beautiful town, with history dating back to the 900’s. In the main square is the Church of Santa Maria. 

After dinner I was able to sit out in the courtyard, listen to the belles chime and talk to my Mom and Dad. The greatest gift of all. 

Oh wait, there was one more. When I got back to my bunk I had a little gift of the furry kind. 

May your day be filled with gifts of beauty, family, wine and song…and a little one to snuggle with you in your sleeping bag. 


Puente La Reina to Estella, October 7, 2016

Our first few steps on our 14 mile hike took us over Puenta de Arga, Bridge of the Queen. In the 11th century there was only one way of crossing the River Arga, by hiring someone to take you across in their boat. Unfortunately, seeing an opportunity to make money, these people overcharged the pilgrims for the privilege of being ferried across the river.

Queen Doña Mayor the wife of Sancho III ordered a bridge to be built over the river and thus gave the town its name. I thought it was interesting to be standing on this midieval with a modern bridge in the distance. Which one do you think will last longer?

And if you think that is old. We walked on an original Roman road that is over 2,000 years old. Really?

Our path started taking us through beautiful vineyards and olive tree groves. Just add a wheat field and we have the makings of a party. 

We came across this man who was very happy to have us try this weird looking thing

It turned out to be a fig and quite tasty

Estella was a beautiful town founded in 1090! It has literally been a walk through and over history today. 

Donde se cruza el camino del viento con el de las estrellas

Cizur Menor-Puente La Reina, October 6

Where the path of the wind crosses that of the stars.

The first part of today’s hike was a climb up Alto del Perdon, the Hill of Forgiveness.  At the top is a sculpture depicting a number of Pilgrims either on foot or on horseback as they make their way along the Camino to Santiago. 

And if you look closely you may see one you recognize. 

The views were amazing giving us sense of just how far we have come. 

The sculpture shares the hill with wind tourbines. We were so amazed at the sheer size of them we followed them right off the path and in the wrong direction. 

After finding our way back to the Camino via highway and across a farm field 

We made it to Utera for lunch. When was the last time you got a Coke in a Coke bottle in a Coke glass?

We passed through Obanos, a tiny village with, you guessed it, a church……..and an interesting legend.  I will add it to the bottom of blog if your interested. 

Puente la Reina like many others towns and villages along the Camino owes its existence solely to the Camino de Santiago

Iglesias de Santiago was absolutely beautiful. It was built in the 12th century, and there is an altarpiece dating from the 18th century, and statues of Saint James the Pilgrim.

The legend of San Guillén and Santa Felicia.

Felicia was the sister of Guillén of Aquitaine who, following the family tradition started by William the 10th Duke of Aquitaine, decided to embark on a pilgrimage to Santiago. Upon returning from her pilgrimage she could not settle back into her life of privilege and wanted to help those less fortunate than herself. Leaving the French court she headed back to Navarra to live as a recluse and servant in a village called Amocáin.

Her family was understandably furious and her brother, Guillén, was dispatched to try and bring her back. After much searching Guillén finally tracked her down to the village of Obanos, but despite much begging and pleading Felicia refused to return to France with her brother. He was so angry at this response that in a fit of fury he stabbed his sister with a dagger. 

Racked with guilt Guillén decided, as a penance, that he would follow in his sister’s footsteps and make a pilgrimage to Santiago. Once he reached Santiago he now understood why his sister had felt the way she did and he too decided to dedicate his life helping others. On returning home and still inconsolable over the death of his sister, he returned to Obanos and built the shrine Nuestra Señora de Arnotegui where he lived out his days helping other pilgrims and dedicating his life to prayer. Both brother and sister were made saints.

And on the 5th day, we rested.

First, thank you for all your birthday wishes. The Camino has caught up to us, so we thought we would catch up to it by taking a rest day. I have come down with a cold and Tammy has some good ole blisters, and as God would have it there is a Marriott a little over a mile off the trail. We have built in a few days with the anticipation of needing a day like this.

It gives me the time to refect on just how fortunate I am for my family, my friends and my faith, each giving me the support and strength to live my life’s journey.

I also have been thinking of those that have recently died and prayed many times on the trail for them and to them.

My Aunt Pat was a vivacious women with a strong love of family, especially her sister, my Mom. When the two would be together the giggling and the laughter was contagious. I will never forget our time together at the shore or visits to Chicago.

Marie Tumalo was the daughter of my fathers best friend from college. Our two families grew up together as kids spending time together at their place in Sea Isle City.   Before she died, she hosted her own birthday party. I have sent many prayers of thanks to her for having that get together and feel selfish doing so. Yes, it was sad to say goodbye, but it gave me a chance to say hello again to others in her family that I know will be in my life forever. Hmmm, maybe she had that in mind all along?

And to Cal, may you continue to climb the highest peaks and bless us all from above.

Tomorrow, we head to Puente La Reina, a 12 mile walk. With a good nights rest and a renewed spirit we will once again be on the trail with the other pilgrims.

God bless you all and a very Happy day to you too. image

A day in the life of a pilgrim 

Larrasoana to Cizur, Tuesday, October 4

We are looking forward to a shorter 14 mile walk. The weather has been fantastic and today will be the same. I thought I would share with you a typical day.  

We try and rise about 630 to 7. It typically is not a problem since the other pilgrims are doing the same. And, since you are sleeping in a room with 15 – 25 other people once one person starts to move around everyone begins to follow.  We get on the road by 730 and would like to start earlier but it does not get light out until after 8, the first part is in the dark. 

In 2-3 miles you begin to pray for a little town to come your way. Today we came around the corner and were geated by a little oasis. 

Sitting there are familiar faces of folkes you had dinner with the night before or others you have been walking with for days. A typical breakfast would be tortilla and cafe con leche   

You are then back on the trail and sometimes come across some wonderful and amazing sites. Our path today led us straight past a church that was open to view and pray.

There was these two lovely women inside passing out information on the church and inviting you to post a prayer. 

They also passed out prayers to pilgrims. 

Sometimes you come across a place where someone died and it reminds you of those that have traveled this path before you. 

You start out with a full bottle of water and can fill up along the way with water stops that have been provided for pilgrims for centuries. 

The trail took us through Pamplona. This is pic of the Portal de Zumalacarregi, also called Portal de Francia. It was built in 1563 and it was where all pilgrims from  neighboring  France entered and welcomed. 

After a nice lunch and rest, we headed passed the town hall and out of town. 

We then headed to our destination, Cizur Menor and found Albergue Maribel Roncal. 

A little about where you stay. There are Albergues along the trail every 5-6 km. Some are private and some are run by the municipal. The municipal is less expensive are first come first serve and cost around 10 eruo. You get a bed, typically a bunk, and a pillow. 

There is always an outdoor sink for washing clothes and lines for drying. The private ones are a bit more and you can make a reservation. Since we are off season we have luck with the municipals. 

The first thing you do-take a shower and get your bed ready. There is always a restaurant nearby that will serve pilgrim meals starting at 7.   After dinner folkes read, journal and chat using whatever language you can to have a conversation. Lights go out at 10 though most pilgrims are in bed way before then dreaming of the day ahead. 

What goes up, must come down, until you go up again….

Roncesvalles-Larrasoana, Monday October 2

It was another long day, logging in over 17 miles, that’s about 55,000 steps for you Fitbit folks. It was a trail that took us through some beautiful towns where the only place open is a cafe for pilgrims to stop and grab some tortilla and cafe con leche. 

The towns appear and disappear every few miles, each with a church that still rings a bell at the top of the hour. 

In between towns the trail went through lovely woods, over hill and dale-a lot of over hill! We are anticipating our visit to Pomplomatomorrow and took advantage of a friend we met on the trail. Literally on the trail. Instead of running with the bulls we decided to walk with the cows. 

We finally came to larrasoa and room at the municipal  albergue. 

Wow, now that’s a climb

St Jean to Roncevaux

Let me see how to tell you about the climb today with out swearing or adult crying. There was both. All from me of course. How about if I can actually get you to experience it. Ok, go to the gym and get on a treadmill. Crank to the highest setting, sling 25 lbs on your back and start to walk for, oh let’s start out slow–3 hours. Any adult tears yet? No, how about 7 hours. Here is a visual:

And here are better ones:

It was a cloudy and rainy at the top

But like anything in life, the clouds pass, the sun come out and you realize that you had to go through all that pain to get to where you are. 

We were rewarded with an amazing hostel. If any one has seen the movie “The Way”. This is where there are 140 beds in one room. Same room used in medieval times. 

There was a lovely mass at 6 – yes in Spanish- followed by all of us pilgrims sitting at large tables eating a meal together. Tonight, we dined with people from Japan, France, and Canada. 

Lights out at 1o and for me, no more tears, just pure exhaustion and gratitude. 

Merci Beaucoup, Madam

I am a bit late on blogging. It has been a bit different this time- navigating the distances and where to stay, but our first night was planned ahead of time and a great send off. 
We left Rochester on Friday to Paris, and after a 4 hour lay over flew to  Bairtz. A 4o minute car ride later we were in St. Jean de Pied Port. It is a 16th century walled city at is the foothills of the Pyrenees. It was the defensive foot-hold with wars against Spain. 

Today, it has a population of 1800 that serve tourists, hill walkers, and pilgrims. It has become the principle gateway to the Camino and the tradition starting point for pilgrims all over world. 

We got our Credential del Peregrino and welcomed advice – in mostly part English part french- on directions out of town, water stops, and a limitless speech on how steep the climb is and to take it very slow. I was asked by the elderly women that was helping me if I understood anything she said. I reached back to 8th grad french class and shyly admitted “un peu, madam, merci beaucoup.” I received a warm smile and my first “Beun Camino”. My first gift of the journey. 

20 km To Go

The 14 mile walk today from Ribadiso to O Pedrouzo seemed longer than usual. Maybe it was the heat of the sun or our tired feet. Or, maybe it was because it was our last day before getting to Santiago. There seems to be a mixture of sadness and excitement that this journey is coming to a close. We went out for dinner in the town and were reunited with pilgrims we had met early in our journey. We said goodbye but only until tomorrow when we will all make our final 20 km to the Cathedral, get our Compostella, and attend the pilgrims mass.


Oh Sure, This Is Good Idea

20140610-223856-81536218.jpgOn our way from Palas de Rei, there is an opportunity to take a detour off the Camino to see Castillo Pambre- a 14th century castle. Now, Rick did warn us that there was a chance we could get there but maybe not our way back to the Camino. It started off with a beautiful hike



20140610-224510-81910678.jpgwhich led us straight to the castle.


20140610-224850-82130447.jpg. Now the fun began and it began with a little bush whacking:

20140610-225047-82247815.jpgYes, that is an actual path we were following, needless to say we did not run across any other pilgrims on this trail. Hmmm, wonder why?

20140610-225312-82392654.jpg Our adventure added on an extra 8 to 10 k onto our day and we were so happy to get to our Albergue in Castaneda.


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.