Friday, December 13, 2013

A Camino Christmas

After you have spent nearly a year preparing to walk the Camino and then walking the Camino - you deserve some kind of recognition - a reminder of your efforts - a reminder of the blessings received - the inner peace and enlightenment gained.  To this point Arlene and I decided to create a permanent reminder of our Camino - thus this early Christmas present. Thanks to the folks at Hobby Lobby  and especially Kendra - who was particularly enthusiastic about creating this for us.

May each of you be blessed this Chistmas season - by God - by people such as Kendra - by all the people you met or will meet on your own Camino.

Merry Christmas - Happy New Year - Buen Camino
Dale & Arlene 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dale & Arlene's Camino - The Video

Finally - we have created a 30 minute viedo with pictures of our Camino from August 25 - September 30, 2013. It is posted on YouTube - either search under "Dale & Arlene's Camino" or just click this link:

And - just to inform you - today I told Arlene that I am seriously thinking of walking the Camino again in 2015 for my 70th birthday - God willing.

Buen Camino
Dale & Arlene 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Gear Reviews

When we began preparing to walk the Camino we went though a lot of trials and testing before we made our final decision on what gear to use. Now that we are back home - we can give a better review of what gear we decided to use.
                             Dale's Deuter ACT Trail 32L                                Arlene's Deuter ACT Trail SL 28L

The Deuter ACT backpacks were awesome - plenty of room for all our gear - very comfortable to wear - we both loved the hip belt which was wider than some we had tried. The hip belt is very important in displacing the weight from your shoulder to your hips.  The ladies is designed especially for women as their hips are different than men's - Arlene felt very comfortable since she is on the short side at 5'1" - both of us got to the point that we barely noticed we were walking with a back pack on. We saw many peregrinos with huge packs - we don't know what they were carrying - or hiding - but we were happy with our 32L and 28L packs.

PaceMaker Expedition Trekking Poles w/Cork Handles

The PaceMaker trekking poles we selected were excellent. They were not the lightest weight ones on the market - but we felt it was not worth spending an additional $200 to get ultralight carbon poles. Ours were made out of superior 7075 aircraft grade aluminum shafts with tungsten tips and weight of 10.5 ounces each.  The ultralight poles we compared these to came in at 8.5 ounces - not worth the money to save 2 ounces. The cork handles were much more comfortable than the rubber ones we had also tested and after 5 weeks look as good as new.

Vulcanized Multi-tip - Reminds Me of the Octopus We Ate

They also came with mud and snow baskets and two sets of vulcanized rubber tips. We used the multi-tip ones and after 400+ miles (650+ kilometers) still have 80% of their rubber. Many peregrinos wore out their tips in a week or two - ours are like the Energizer Bunny - still going strong.

Our Shoes After Walking 400+ Miles

The Patagonia A/C Drifter - Gore-Tex shoes proved to be excellent choices. They were much lighter than the ankle height boots we started with - had excellent traction - very comfortable. Arlene had zero blisters - I - on the other hand did have an issue with blisters. In retrospect - hind sight is always so much better and makes you look smart - erred and switched both my shoes and socks - not the best thing to do - one week before leaving. I should have either worn a  thicker sock - done the double sock routine - or perhaps bought the shoes a half size smaller - the toe box which gave me the extra room I was seeking - was actually too big - that allowed my feet to slip inside and create the scenario for blisters to develop.
After 400+ Miles Lots of Thread Left
Darn Tough - Darn Comfortable

At the beginning of our trek I was wearing one pair of Darn Tough socks - then switched to wearing two pairs - and ended up for the last week with one pair at a time. The good news is that I did solve the blister issue after the first 10 days and remained blister free for the remainder of the walk. Socks are still in great shape. Arlene wore only one pair with no liner socks and did just fine - no blisters. 

REI 55F Travel Sack

Instead of a sleeping bag - we chose a 55F travel/sleep sack which was more than enough. Most of the albergues we stayed in had wool blankets - yes they were clean and free of bed bugs - many nights we used the sacks like sheets with the blanket on top - some nights the sleep sack was enough.  Although not cold - there were multiple nights - particularly at the end of September when we slept inside the sack for extra warmth. The big plus with this sack was it packed down very small and easily fit lengthwise in the bottom of our back pack. If we had walked in warmer weather - June/July - we probably would not have needed this - definitely necessary in cooler months. 
                         Sierra Designs Rain Pant w/zippered legs          Patagonia Torrent Shell w/Hood & Pit-zips

After hauling the Sierra Designs rain pants and Patagonia Torrent Shell for the entire trip we began wondering why we had packed these two items - they took up space and added weight to our packs  On our last day of walking - it finally rained - we were not 100% happy with rain - but we were happy that we did have the rain gear. Both worked out very well. The torrent jacket had pit-zips to help keep us cool inside the jacket and the attached hood with the extended head bill kept the rain completely out of our faces. The pants were easy to put on over our shoes thanks to the zippered legs and were long enough to cover the tops of our shoes to keep water out. Unlike other rain pants we had tested - these were trim fitting - giving us less bulk to cope with. The questions now is would we carry a jacket and pants again or use a poncho.  The only down side that we saw with our jacket and pants was that - although our packs had self contained rain covers - the water running down the back of our jackets allowed the straps and front side of our packs to get wet.  A properly fitted poncho would not only cover us but the entire pack - straps and all - completely - but would we save on space and weight - probably not. 

Platypus 1.8L Bladder & Tube

One of the best choices we made was to use an internal hydration system rather than to carry bottles of water. We had read on various forums how dificult it was to fill and clean these systems - we had no issues.  We selected the Platypus Big Zip 1.8L system. Early on Arlene noticed a dark spot on her sip tube - a quick cleaning with a very long brush got to the problem and it never returned. Some people felt it was a hassle removing the bladder every day to fill and reconnect the tubing - we left the entire system intact - and using the wide mouth on the bladder - simply unzipped the opening while still in the backpack and poured fresh water out of a large bottle into each bladder and zipped back to close. Never had to remove the bladder during the entire thirty days we walked. Since we were drinking it almost empty each day we merely refilled with fresh water and never worried about washing and cleaning - no issues - no hassle. 
Camino Cross

The remainder of our gear - clothing - toiletries - first aid - camp towel - all worked out well. We have determined that instead of three extra shirts we would only carry two - the undies would stay the same - instead of four pairs of socks we would use three. We would leave the spork at home - we never used it - the extra tips for our poles - we would not carry now that we know they hold up so well - the clothesline - although used twice - we would not bring again.  We also learned that your clothes will not dry quickly unless you stop early in the day and hang them out in direct sun with a breeze.  Most nights we ended up tucking an edge of our clothes under the slats of the bunk bed above us - so  they would dry overnight. Wool socks do not dry quickly - so we used safety pins to attach  them to our pack and let air dry while walking - eight hours in the breeze allows them to dry completely. We never had to pin undies to our packs as they are the only items that were always dry by the next morning or before. The technical shirts - shorts were not only light weight but very comfortable to wear and fairly quick drying. Instead of bringing a pair of shorts to sleep in we would either sleep in our undies or the shorts we would wear the next day. Everyhing was orgainzed into stuff sacks - color coded so we knew what was in each sack - green: rain gear - red: puffy - orange:toiletries & miscellaneous items and meds - white waterproof compression sack: clothes - blue: sleep sack. All the sacks were about the same size so we put the sleep sack in first - the clothes next - the muscellaneous next - then the puffy and finally the rain gear on top. The first aid kit went in Dale's pack since his was larger. In addition on top of everythig we carried oranges - apples - bananas - for quick retreival.  As mentioned above the only item we might replace would be the rain pants and jacket for a poncho - otherwise everything ended up being just what we needed. 

If you are planning your own Camino and would like to discuss this with us please send an email to either Dale at  or Arlene at

Buen Camino
Dale & Arlene

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Camino Spirituality

One of the major attractions that lures - beckons - entices - draws - people to walk El Camino de Compostela de Santiago - is the spirituality factor. The promise of quiet - walking undisturbed - being alone with one's thoughts - is very attractive.  For most of us - in our daily lives - the opportunity for quiet and seclusion - evades the majority of us - sort of like the tooth fairy that never shows.  Stealing precious moments when we may gather our thoughts - say a quick prayer - breathe a quiet breath - tend to be few and far between.  On the Camino there is plenty of time for the quiet that eludes us in our normal lives. The average peregrino walks six hours a day for an average of thirty days - presenting the pilgrim with almost one hundred and eighty hours of quiet time. If the pilgrim avoids other peregrinos almost exclusively - that number jumps to an astonishing five hundred hours or more.  From our experience - we valued the quiet time as much as the time we spent talking with the other peregrinos - the majority of whom lived somewhere other than the USA. Meeting and greeting peregrinos from countries other than our own - exposed us to new thoughts and ideas - old ideas presented in new light - broadened our horizons. These two factors led a lot to what we experienced in regards to spirituality on the Camino.

Who were these people who took the time to bake fresh bread daily and leave for peregrinos passing through this small hamlet? Was it Christian love and concern for their fellow man/woman - or was it a way to insulate themselves from the constant string of peregrinos walking through their backyards without personal involvement?.

 In The Past - Town People Left Bread for Peregrinos Here

The Camino winds itself through terrain that poses challenges to anyone walking or biking - many uphills and downhills - some with treacherous twists and turns - causing unsuspecting peregrinos many issues to cope with - who selected these trails - were they left completely natural - how does one cope not only with these issues but those that happen in our daily lives - do we cope well - or poorly?

 Meditating On The Roman Route - Bike Path on the Side

There are a lot of churches along the Camino - some open - others closed - many abandoned. Who designed these - what community worshiped here - who did they serve - were they faithful to God in their service - am I faithful to the God I serve - does all this gold make me feel better or worse as a modern day Christian - as a believer - an unbeliever?

Old World Churches - Modern Spirituality 

The Cruz de Ferro - one of the most spiritual sites on the Camino - an iron cross on a big pole - surrounded by thousands of small stones and rocks - left here by other peregrinos - symbols of prayers left here - sins given up - promises made - promises broken - eyes awakened to the possibility of maybe - and yes - hopes renewed - what is my own spirituality - do I worship God - do I worship something else - am I right or wrong?

Cruz de Ferro - One of the Most Spiritually Significant Sites on the Camino Frances

The Camino is Roman Catholic in formation and tradition - today it is walked by many who are not Catholic - many who are not religious - many who claim no spirituality - many out for a long walk - a goal to be achieved - a passing fancy - yet all who walk - are touched by the hand of God - whether they want it or not.  Nobody walks the Camino without experiencing a touch of the Divine - most know it - few don't.  The Camino has a spirituality that is special for each and every person who chooses to walk - The Way of Saint James.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Blisters - To Be or Not To Be - That is the Question

Will you get blisters walking the Camino - probably.  Do you have to get blisters - not necessarily. Nobody wants or plans to get blisters - sometimes it just happens - no matter what you have done to prevent them.  While preparing for our Camino - we walked over 125 miles (201 kilometers) - no blisters - until we did one final 26K training walk!  We could not figure out what changed.  The blister healed before we left but after a few days on the Camino - came back even worse. So we had to take some downtime to rest the foot and let it heal before we resumed walking. We know some people just keep walking - but we do not believe that is the smartest way to cope - no sense causing serious damage or risk getting a foot infection - downtime is good when needed - physically and mentally.  It is not a failure - we had to learn that - it is an inconvenience.

To prevent blisters one needs to consider three factors - shoes/boots - socks - wetness. On our recent Camino we saw heavy leather hiking boots - lighter weight hiking boots - lower cut hiking shoes - cross trainers - trail runners - canvas shoes - sandals - all personal preference. Sandals might possibly be a great choice to prevent blisters - they are airy - do not keep the heat in - allow your feet to stay reasonably dry - are lighter weight than other options - however - they allow stones, pebbles and dirt to get under your feet and socks - therefore not our number one choice for footwear. We wore lower cut hiking shoes with a good Vibram sole - never felt any rocks or pebbles that we stepped on. Foot gear must be properly fit - we observed one lady in sandals with the rear strap sliding over her heels like crazy - she was destined for a blister on her heels. Proper fitting footwear (for most) - in general one-half size larger than normal - to allow for thicker wool socks and the swelling that will happen to your feet over the course of the day - the extra length also will help to prevent toe blisters and "black toe" which happens frequently on the rough downhill treks - there are a lot of downhills - to match the uphills - downhills are worse on  the feet than uphills. Your foot should fit snug - not tight - the heel should stay in place. Shoes come in wide as well as normal sizes - take that into consideration. There are also different ways to lace shoes and boots - this helps avoid pressure over sensitive parts of the foot - also helps "lock" the heel into place so it fits snug and avoids heel blisters.  For a perfect fit - or close to perfect - visit a store - like REI - where the salespeople know how to fit feet properly - they even have a "rock" that you can walk up and down on to help you get the correct footwear. Try on your shoes and boots with the wool socks you will be wearing.

Merino wool appears to be the best for trekking and thru-hiking (the Camino is also thru-hiking) - select the proper sock - you have choices in thickness and length. We started with knee high socks and switched to ankle length during our training period - hot summer walking ankle length is best - early spring, late fall standard better - winter - knee length will work better. Spend the money and buy a good brand of sock - you will be happy you did. We tested Smartwool and Darn Tough socks and settled on Darn Tough - mostly for the length. Some people like to double sock - others wear a synthetic liner that helps wick the moisture away from the foot as a first layer in a two sock system - others prefer socks that are two socks in one - the inner part is the synthetic material bonded to a wool outer layer. New on the foot wear scene is "finger" socks - there are various brands - many swear that these completely helped prevent the sheer action on their feet which is what causes blisters. No one system is best for everyone - so you have to test and try.
As mentioned - natural sheer forces - the rubbing of your skin against the sock inside the shoe - is what causes blisters. In normal day to day walking - the foot accommodates very well with these sheer forces - in thru-hiking this sheer force is extended well beyond what the majority of people are used to - it gets to the point that the skin cannot tolerate this excess and the skin begins to break away and fluid enters the space that is formed - a blister is created. One major factor that contributes to the sheer force to create the blister - is moisture. With a dry foot in a dry sock - the surface of the skin glides over the sock fabric - when the foot becomes damp or wet and  the sock absorbs this moisture - the skin and sock begin to adhere to each other - the gliding between skin and sock disappears - friction sets in - creating heat - coupled with the moisture - the skin finally screams "uncle" as the blister is formed - the moment the blister breaks - you are the one crying "uncle" or worse.  As soon as you sense a "hot spot" you should stop walking - inspect your feet - socks and shoes. Damp socks should be changed for dry socks - hot feet should be cooled off - either in water or in a breeze - then dried completely before putting on the dry socks. Foot lubricants such as Body Glide or Vaseline should be applied to the foot before putting on the socks. If your footwear is notably damp - they should be aired out before putting back on - this might be an excellent time to stop walking for the day.

So you got a blister - now you have to take care of it. Rule #1 - do not remove the dead tissue on top - it will protect the skin underneath. Although many might recommend not opening up the blister - the fluid inside is what causes the pain - walking on an untreated blister will only irritate it more to the point that the blister will rupture on its own and open up. Better to open it yourself - to avoid the pain factor - avoids a tear in the skin - creates a smaller clean opening - and treat it properly. One system used in European countries quite often is referred to as "needle and  thread". Basically the blister is wiped with a disinfectant wipe - the needle and short section of thread is also wiped with the disinfectant - the needle is then carefully inserted into the white dead skin on top of the blister all the way through - carefully pulling the thread through so that you have thread hanging out both puncture points - the thread is then cut - leaving you with a surgical drain - the thread acts as a wick to drain the fluid out of the blister - the dead skin on top is a barrier to protect the nude skin underneath. You may gently apply pressure to the blister to help the fluid drain.

The next day when you want to walk the blister should be flat - leave the thread in until completely healed - use moleskin or molefoam to "picture frame" around the blister - do not put on the blister - just around it - donut fashion - with the blister in the center - this takes pressure off that part of the foot.  To go one step further wrap some gauze around the foot - over the moleskin to keep in place - then - going for the gold here - take a strip of duct tape the length of the bottom of your foot and place on top of the gauze.  The duct tape holds all this in place - on top of the duct tape apply your Body Glide or Vaseline - then put on your sock. You now have treated and are preventing further damage to the foot and you have created a slippery surface on the bottom of your foot to almost completely avoid the sheer forces mentioned above.  Once the blister is completely healed you may go back to normal - or if you think it may happen again - just wrap that part of the foot with gauze and continue using the duct tape to create a nice preventative barrier for the remainder of your Camino. No - duct tape is NOT easy to find on the Camino so bring some from home in your first aid kit.  Carrying a small first aid kit - one for each couple - walking team - should be enough - band-aids - gauze - scissors - are the most common items used - you can also add antibiotic ointment - but these are readily available at the Farmacia. Current treatment for minor cuts and scratches is not to use antibiotic ointments - rather clean and cover with Vaseline and an appropriate bandage.

Remember these are only hints - you should only use those you are comfortable with - check with your doctor or medical practitioner if unsure - also make sure none of this conflicts with any medical condition you might have or medication you are taking. Common sense goes a long way on the Camino. 

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene 

Camino Hints

Arlene and I spent almost one year preparing for our Camino - we read many books - joined forums - read posts on facebook pages - yet were still not fully prepared for our experience. In the following notes  we offer these as suggestions - accept them for what they are - we are not experts - even those who have walked multiple Caminos are not experts - as what worked for one may not work for another. We met one couple from the USA who did not want their experience diminished by outside influence - so they read nothing - did no research - bought no guide books - simply showed up one day at SJDP and began walking. If they did no research at all - I am sure they were overwhelmed by their Camino experience - not necessarily in a good way.

                                                            Buen Camino

It is our opinion that anyone who is going to invest the time - money - energy - walking the Camino - needs preparation. The guide books are a good starting place - less reliable are individual anectdotes and posts on forums and social media sites - as these are opinions and comments - not necessarily filtered through the best analytical minds. 

Following  are common sense and not so common sense tips acquired on our Camino

                                                   Very Dry - Very Lonely

1.   The Camino will NOT provide - you are walking thru underdeveloped land - you will be in rural locations for the majority of your camino - be a good scout - be prepared.  Everyone focuses on ultralight back packing which we agree with - but do not expect to find a Decathlon (Spain's version of REI Sports store) in every village.  If you forgot it - lost it - broke it - you will have to make due until you do get into a town big enough to have a store.

2.   Most villages will have a mercado or supermercado but not a sports store - they will probably be closed when you are walking thru - Murphy's Law

3.   If you need to shop for food, water, equipment, medicine - they will be at siesta in the middle of the afternoon - continue walking or buy the day before - or after you stop for the day.

4.  Not all villages have an ATM - many do but they are not obvious - ask a local "donde es el  bancomat/telebanco" - carry at least 200 Euro on you at all times.

5.  English is the universal language around the world - except in Northern Spain - learn basic Spanish - do not try to bully your way through and speaking really loud and slow will not make them understand your obnoxious yelling any better - instead try hand gestures and patience - they are putting up with you - remember you are the intruder not them - learn their language

6.  Carry Euros - credit cards are not used in the small villages on Camino - cash is their bread and butter                                                   € = $

7.  You do not get butter with your bread in Spain - maybe olive oil at dinner - at breakfast "desayuno" - if you order toast bread "tostada" you will get butter and marmalade and a knife and fork - in Spain you eat breakfast foods - toast, croisants, donuts - with a knife and fork
8.  Do not expect eggs for breakfast - eggs are only served as a lunch, snack, tapas, raciones, dinner choice between 10:30 am and 7:30 pm.

9.  Menu (pronunced men-new) means a specific type of meal - "the Pilgrim or Peregrino Menu" - a three or four course dinner served after 7:30pm consisting of 1st course (starters such as soup, salad,pasta) - 2nd course (fish, meats, pasta, eggs) - 3rd course (desert - ice cream, flan, tart) - included in "menu" is bread/wine/water - depending on area can cost from 5€ to 15€ per person.

10. The "menu" varies from village to village - you usually have 3 options for each course and as you move towards Santiago you will notice regional changes - so reading that somebody got sick of eating pork night after night was their fault - there are plenty of options to change your evening meal.

11.  If you do not want the standard 3 course menu and want less food you have that option - just request "la carta por favor" and you will be handed a printed menu of food options - tapas/raciones.


12. Albergues all seem to follow a standard system - municipal, private, hostel - when you request a bed/bunk they will let you know if one is available - if you hear "completo" - they are full and you have to find another albergue. Sometimes all the individual bunks (2 & 3 levels in some places) are filed - they may have multiple person rooms available - at a slightly higher price. Before they sign you in they will walk you to  the bed/bunk to get your approval - if early enough you can request upper or lower - by a window - away from the bathroom door etc - once you agree to the bed - you walk back with them to register and pay the fee in cash - present both your international passport and pilgrim passport (credencial) and make sure they apply their personal stamp and the date on your credencial - if staying in a "donativo" you will make a donation rather than pay a set fee - prices for us in Sept 2013 ranged from 5€ to 15€ per person - private double rooms with private toilet/shower ran 40€) - after you pay you may move yourself and equipment to your bunk.

                                                               hoe Rack

 Note - almost every albergue will have you remove your boots and leave in a common area, likewise with hiking poles. One church run albergue also made us leave our backpacks in a common area which made it difficult. That was not the norm. One peregrina was heard to say after showering and washing her clothes and rearranging her bed and backpack - "I finally I have my house in order - for today" (and you do exactly that day after day). One "trick " that we utilized is that when not in use - our trekking poles were strapped to our backpack and  when we checked in at an albergue - with our poles attached to our packs - we were never asked to leave in the common area. It makes it a tiny bit easier sleeping in a strange place if you know where most of your belongings are.
                                                                Bunk Beds

13. Albergue etiquette - only occupy your bed - do not put your backpack, poles, clothes or a nearby bed - you are invading somebody elses space.  Bring earplugs - people snore - loudly - especially after drinking a full bottle of wine (that you got on the menu) - do not wake a person that is snoring - it is not their problem - it is yours - cope with it like an adult - you did pack ear plugs didn't you? Don't use all the hot water - that last person in deserves a hot shower too. If you want/need to wash clothes-stop walking early and do your wash immediately - if the sun is out and if you have a breeze - your expensive technical shirts and shorts might be dry by morning - but don't bet on it. If you bought the  expensive technical undies they will be dry by morning but your wool socks will never be dry - bring safety pins and pin your damp socks to your backpack and they will dry as you walk - assuming it is not raining. Most of the clothes dryers available do not work very well except at using up Euros-best to line dry.  Here is one trick - since you have a bunk bed and you took a lower - you will be able to tuck the edge of your socks, undies, t-shirts under the slats above your head at the end of the bed and they can hopefully dry during the night. If that girl - with ice in her veins - who took the bed next to the window - is polite enough to leave the window open during the night so you get fresh air and don't have to listen to everyone coughing due to poor air circulation - leaves the window open your clothes should dry overnight. To that girl or guy who insists on closing the window - you paid for one bed not the entire room - who gave you permissuin to make 20 other people suffer because you don't want the window open - if that is your concern then take the bed in the far corner where nobody will bother you. If you want to leave at 5:00 am in the morning do not wake everyone else in the process - sleep in your clothes for the next day and have your backpack packed and ready to go - if you need to adjust something do it outside the sleeping area - better yet do it outside in the street. No matter what you think plastic makes a noise no matter how slowly you fill that sack so do that the night before. If you need your headlamp to see in the albergue - use the red lens not the white one - unless you want to wake everyone and then they will be seeing red. 

14. Trekking poles are used to help you keep your balance and for help going up and down hills - they are not rhythm instruments - use rubber tips when walking on hard surfaces - your pilgrim friends really do object to listening to your constant tappity-taping and they are not joking when they mention that you walk to the beat of a different drummer.

                                                                   Holy Mass

15.  If you have the opportunity to attend evening Mass in the villages - do it - you do not have to be Catholic to attend Holy Mass - it will be in Spanish - you most likely will not understand the readings or prayers - if Catholic do receive communion - if not Catholic stay in the pew at communion time - do make the sign of the cross - Catholic or not - stand for the final blessing and dismissal - sometimes you will also receive a special pilgrim's blessing - you will know when you hear the priest say peregrino. Cry when the old fellow assisting the priest sings a song at the end of Mass and although you don't understand the words - his devotion and sincerity will touch your heart - this is one of the special Camino moments you have heard about.

16. Wi-fi (pronounced we-fee) is available at the majority of albergues and bar/cafe/restuarants - some are open - you do not need a password - set your wireless to automatically join any network - and you will - the remainder will have a password - in the albergues that password is normally posted on the wall by other information posters

                                  Donativo Albergue - Community Meal Included

17. Some albergues offer a community meal in the bed price - eat there - help with food preparation and clean up - take part in the community conversation - get involved.  Many other albergues have no community meal but do have a kitchen to use - play nice with others and share - your other option is to eat at a restuarant - you may be seated with other peregrinos - talk to them

18. If doing the camino on a bike - use the bell to warn those walking that you are approaching - and warn early enough so they know which side of the trail to step to - if you have no bell - then raise your voice and give a verbal warning. **Special note to bikers - many parts of the trail are filled with rocks, stones, small boulders, ruts, roots - if you are not use to dirt biking or trail biking it might be better to stay on the asphalt rather than take a nasty spill or bend your wheel - there are no bike repair shops on the camino - you are your own mechanic - carry the proper repair kit

                                                 Fair Warning - Be Prepared

19. On that stretch of 1050 meters with the 12 degree incline - you will struggle walking or biking - many bikers end up walking their bike up that hill - you can rejoice at the top that you made it up - unfortunately the downhill which comes up quickly is 18 degrees and smooth concrete - walk slowly and don't fall off the edges and bikers resist the urge to free wheel down - there is a quick turn near the end that will be dangerous at high speed
20. For those who are unable to walk with a backpack and use a transport service to move your backpack from albergue to albergue - please don't be so smug about how many kilometers you can walk or how easy the camino is - carrying 10-20 pounds on your back and coping with the rough terrain is a challenge you will not experience - be mindful that many peregrinos will be struggling with their daily walk in a way that you will not know - you do not want them resenting you.

21. Walk on the left when walking the asphalt shared with cars and trucks - you want to see what is approaching you - for safety sake - especially when walking in the rain.

22. Learn the proper way to use trekking poles - you can find videos on You Tube - they are not part of the peregrino costume - they have a purpose - when you start to trip they will help you avoid falling on your face if your reflexes are good and you have practiced with them.

23. Walk a lot before you start your camino - get good hiking shoes/boots - break them in - wear merino wool socks - when your feet start to hurt it is time to stop for the day.

24. Learn how to treat blisters - prevention is best - bring a small needle and thread for treatment - carefully insert the needle into the white dead top layer and go all the way through - pulling the thread through - cut so that the thread sticks out both openings - leave the dead tissue in place - do not remove - you have just created a surgical drain - the lymph fluid will easily flow out - your blister will heal quicker.

25. Carry oranges - apples - bananas with you - they provide needed electrolytes lost while perspiring - now is not the time to diet - eat your bread, meats, sugars - you need to "carb load" so you will have reserve energy to walk each day **Hint- you will lose weight anyhow.

We could go on - but these hints address the most common issues discussed between peregrinos on our camino - common sense and good manners apply always.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dance Line

If you have ever watched a musical - on television or in person - one of the most intriguing parts is when the cast forms a long line - the dance line - and performs in unison with each other. It is impressive that the choreography is so well timed that the people on the ends and in the middle have their movements synchronized exactly - moving as one body - with dozens of arms and legs. As individuals - each one is an excellent performer - as a group - as one body - astounding.

While walking The Camino - we passed by so many dance lines of trees - bushes - shrubs - rocks - that much of the beauty of the moment escaped us - eyes focused downwards - watching each step - avoiding - rocks - roots - ruts - attempting to walk without falling - attaining our goal for the day - the next albergue - the next rest stop - an open cafe or bar - our bed for the night. The idiom - not being able to see the forest - for the trees - so true on Camino - so sad.  It was not until we had finished our Camino - riding on a bus or train - that we became fully aware of what we had just done.  On the surface - we walked kilometers or miles - past thousands of trees - rocks - bushes - in reality - we had walked through the garden that is - Northern Spain - through towns - villages - through entire communities - one person - one place at a time.  During our month in Spain - we had walked through valleys and hills - we had climbed mountains - from the base - to the peak - one step - one rock - at a time. Our eyes saw each tree - but missed the forest - viewed each pebble - but missed the rock formations - until we  stopped - dared to look up - or down - at where we had been - where we had arrived. Then - only then - could we comprehend - what we were doing - still - on a larger scale - not apparent - until we left the Camino.

                                            The Garden of Northern Spain

It is amazing what each of us - each peregrina - each peregrino - did on our Camino. Where we walked - what we saw - what we experienced - who we met - residents - visitors - young - old - cannot be explained - defies description. We dared to leave the comfort of our homes - schools - offices - to walk with the angels - to experience the presence of God -  to experience each other - to experience self - one step at a time. We did it as individuals - in our own way - in our own time - starting at different points - taking different paths - yet in unison with each other - forming one beautiful Camino dance line.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

End of the World

At one point in time the Earth was thought to be flat - and the farthest western point was thought to be a land mass in Spain. Technology and adventurous sailors proved both to be wrong - the Earth is - of course round - the farthest western most land mass of Europe is in Portugal.  Not wanting to ruin a good story - the land area of A Coruna - known as Finisterre or Cape Finisterre ( in Spanish ) or Fisterra or Cabo Fisterra ( in Galician ) is still promoted as "The End of the World" - for many peregrinos who walk El Camino de Santiago - the final leg in their journey to Santiago. Finisterre is approximately an additional 90 kilometers from Santiago - having walked to Santiago - to reverence the bones of Saint James - the journey reaches completion - at "The End of the World".

Not all pilgrims walk to Finisterre - a large number - for various reasons - elect to take a bus from Santiago to make this journey - some spend a few days - some a few hours - to stand at the edge of the world and the ocean.  To make our Camino to Santiago complete - we likewise - went to Finisterre - the frosting on our cake - the foam on our beer.  Arlene and I did not travel alone - each of us had carried with us - personal artifacts - of three special people who are no longer alive. Arlene brought with her - a rosary - that she had given to Susan - our sister-in-law - my twin's wife - a Lutheran who Arlene had taught the Divine Mercy devotion - prayed on a rosary - which Susan did devoutly - and which was being prayed at the time of her death - at 3:00 PM in the afternoon - the Hour of Mercy.  With love for Susan - Arlene very reverently interred that rosary into the ocean - at the End of the World - very significant as Susan and Dean had spent their honeymoon in Spain. For my part - I had carried with me a small portion of the cremains of my twin - Dean and my older brother - Dennis - both who like Susan - had died much too early in life. The container with the cremains was opened and in two loving gestures - interred into the ocean - a significant end - and final gesture of good-bye to two brothers who were both very special to me. 

                                            Finisterre - Fisterra - Your Choice

                                                 Goodbye for Susan

                                              Goodbye for Dean and Dennis

                                                   The End of the World

Thus marks the official end of our Camino. In a few follow up posts - we will present some comments and hints for those who are considering walking their own Camino. 

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Friday, September 27, 2013

Compostela and Credencial

Walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela was both a religious and spiritual journey that Arlene and I shared - although we walked side by side - sometimes following one another - at times as far as 50 meters apart - we each walked our own journey. Sometimes we prayed together - many times by ourselves - but we prayed daily - multiple times daily - for multiple people - for ourselves - for each other - for our families - our sons - daughter-in-laws - grandchildren - brothers - sisters - nieces - nephews - friends - the people at church - at the diocese - for our priests - Father Matt - Father Michael - Father Andy - Father Jerry - Father Doug - Bishop Conlon - Pope Francis - Sister Kathryn - The School Sisters of Saint Francis of Christ the King - for the diocesan agencies - for those we met on the Camino - for those who were "not" religious - for more people than we can ever remember.  Those prayers have been offered up - they are in God's hand now - to do with as He will - in His time - in His way.

We leave the Camino with a few pieces of paper - our Compostelas - the official documents that say we walked from Pamplona, Spain to Santiago, Spain and our Credencials - the Pilgrim Passports on which we collected stamps - sellos - that prove we either slept in that place or ate a dinner or snack along the journey. These are pieces of paper - of no material value - but a memory of a very special time in our lives when we dared to say - we can do this!

At 67 and 68 years of age we accomplished - not the impossible - but the possible - we proved to ourselves - to others - that at any age - all things are possible - with God. We were never alone on the Camino - Jesus was there with us the entire time - giving us the strength - the courage to do one simple task - to walk with Him.

We thank those who took the time to talk with us - to help us - to check up on us when we had our little medical issues - for encouragement from home - for Ryan/Sandi/Matthew tolerating Bene's barking - for Monsignor Michael checking in with us to see that we got that finger issue resolved - and especially for all the volunteers and people in the albergues and the small cafes along the Camino - for your help and smiles and your pleasant  "buen camino" day after day and pilgrim after pilgrim - we know we put you to the test very often - you never complained - you "the residents of the camino" made this possible for us and every other Pilgrim/peregrino who will walk The Way.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Pilgrim Mass

Today we attended the 12:00 Noon Pilgrim Mass at the Cathedral - it was very special with the Cathedral filled with pilgrims from yesterday and those just arriving today. There were about eight priests at the Mass - at the end of Mass the Botafumeiro was used - the Santiago de Compostela Botafumeiro is one of the largest censers in the world - weighing 80 kg - measuring 1.60 m in height. It is normally on exhibition in the library of the cathedral - during certain important religious occasions it is brought to the floor of the Catedral and attached to ropes hung from the pulley mechanism. It takes a team of eight men to properly get the censer moving. It is an awesome sight to see - the congregation applauding when it is finished.

                                  Arriving at Catedral for Holy Mass for Pilgrims

               Outside the Catedral - always crowds of pilgrims and tourists

                                              Getting Ready for Mass

                                         The Botafumerio - Silver censer

                                               Getting Ready to Swing

Holy Mass at the Catedral at Santiago was the crowning point of our Camino - marking the official journey to Santiago. Now we have the add- ons - then we return for home.

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Por Que?

Por que - why? 
Two days ago I mentioned my little fall and my injured finger - yesterday morning I woke and it was still bothering me - so we decided to go to the hospital and get an x-ray - simple enough - right? Not if you are not fluent in Spanish - it seems that nobody at the hospital could speak English - they were very polite - took me ahead of the locals at urgent care - moved me from room to room - all with big smiles and "sorry no Ingles" - in the end I did get the x-ray. We - the doctor and I - decided that we could see no fractures - just a "bump" on the one joint - so they treated my upset stomach and gave me an IV for the pain and sent me on my way - five hours later. 

                                              Finger Splint From Farmacia

We are happy that this did not happen on the Camino - not tickled pink that it happened at all - considering some of the injuries we saw walking the Camino - I will accept this smalll battle scar. When it is finally healed in a few more days - there will only be a memory - and that too shall pass. It makes me think of all the people - on Camino - in regular life - who are the walking wounded - hurting inside because of organic problems - silent diseases - arthritis - PMS - depression - diabetes - coronary artery disease - hurting because of emotional or spiritual trauma - walking alone in life because of an inner emptiness - nobody knowing - nobody caring. 

Truth be told - God knows - God cares. He may not make it known to us directly - but He will send a messenger - a fellow pilgrim - some brothers from Idaho - a Monsignor - a NICU nurse - a tatoo artist - when you least expect it - to remind you that He does care.

Next post the pilgrim Mass

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


The one thing we feared the most on the Camino was rain - rain produces mud - rain makes smooth rocks slippery - rain makes clothing damp and sticky - rain is not a trekker's friend. This morning - on our final day of walking the last 20 kilometers - we got rain. On the one hand - that did not make us happy - on the other - we were finally able to justify hauling rain gear with us for the entire Camino. At one point I was able to make Arlene realize how much lighter her back pack felt since we were wearing our rain jackets and pants rater than hauling them on our backs. 

Although we had to cope with rain today - we made very good time and were standing at the cathedral in Santiago by 3:30 PM in the afternoon. Neither of us believes that we have actually done this - this is the most adventurous thing that we have ever attempted - just living in a foreign country as long as we have -  has been an amazing experience.  The adventure does not end here as we still have to visit Finestre and Muixa before we return home.  When we got to the Cathedral - we were going to get our Compostelas but noticed a security sign stating we should not bring our backpacks- so we decided to check into our hotel room first - on the way - in the rain - Dale took a fall on the wet slippery rocks in Santiago and bruised his knee and hurt a finger - we are praying it is only a bruise - tomorrow will tell. After showering and cleaning up we returned to the cathedral to get our Compostelas - a procedure that took over an hour as the line was fairly long. On the Camino - we learned patience - Spain does not move quickly - the Spanish people do not move quickly - there is more to life than moving quickly - everything is to be savored and  enjoyed.

                                                   Old Pilgrim Marker

                                                Rough Terrain to the End

                                              Unusual Reddish Colors

                                             Putting on Rain Gear in Tunnel

                                                            Camino Ninja

                         Daily Lunch - Coke with Lemon Slice + Bocadillo 

                                                           Last Stop Over Before Santiago  

                                                              Another Hill

             We Started With Camino Shells in Sidewalk and We End With Them Also

                                            Arlene Cathedral Side Entrance

                                                 Arlene and Dale in Front of Cathedral

                                                           Pilgrim Office

                                                  Waiting to Get Compostela

                                                          More Waiters

                                   Still Waiting - About 50 People Inside

More to come - check back tomorrow

Buen Camino
Dale and Arlene