Camino Day 5 – Writing from Santa Marina

Hola Amigos,

Sometimes I underestimate how hard something may be … it’s my nature and probably why I can take huge leaps of faith and am prone to rather BIG adventures. Lucky for me the luck of the Irish tends to be on my side! And today my luck literally came from meeting three Irish walkers from County Kilkenny.

An early start out of Muxia at 7am and the fiesta was still in full swing. Not kidding. The streets were full of people dancing and partying. They’d been there since the night before and it didn’t look like it was ending anytime soon. Oh the energy of young people. Me? I was happy to get out beyond the gaiety and into the bush under the moonlight.

As I mentioned I wasn’t super prepared given that I thought it would be a case of (simply) following the arrows backwards. Of course that sounds easy in theory except when there is a junction! And there were many. Thankfully, I had my friend Breda who I’d met the night before. She had a guide book that described the return trip and a head torch. We had to look for footprints, banana peels, toilet paper and any signs of the pilgrim path.

It was slow going as we had to take our time, not discounting any path that may be ‘the way’ and stop at each way marker. We knew we were on track when we came across this landmark, one of the longest hórreos in Galicia. A hórreo is the Galician style granary and the symbol of the Galician landscape. Every farm has one and often urban dwellings as well. They are spectacularly traditional and beautiful.

As the day got lighter we found a few more Irish hikers on the return walk to Santiago! Patrick and Catherine. They had taken three hours to find the trail out of Muxia. I think they nearly divorced in the process ;) joking. But getting lost hiking or not finding the trail is probably like navigating a car for your spouse … a recipe for niggling at each other. I really enjoyed walking with this lot and because the craic was so good we all found ourselves stopping to share breakfast together. Mine as always looked the same. Bacon and eggs. Camino routines, we all have our own.

On we walked, through the beautiful varied countryside, passing local camino characters along this ancient trail and past the 17th century church Iglesia de Santa Baia in Dumbria. Along the way we walked on from our new friends the Irish couple. They stopped for their next food break. Breda walks a bit like me, more walking less stopping. We all have different styles … it’s important to know yours, perhaps take the time to find yours but always to be walking yours (however that looks at any particular time on your camino).

We made it to Hospital. The 30km mark today and a bloody AWESOME milestone. Remember last time I was here, a few days ago? It was in the dark … I had to decide if I’d follow the guy with the head torch and go right or go left on my own. I went left. Today I returned via the trail the right (the road less travelled, cliche but true of this route). It’s also the point on the trail that someone started spray painting return arrows to Santiago. Life was about to get a whole lot easer. Well navigation wise! We still had 16kms to do today. First some chocolate and a cold drink to celebrate.

On we walked! Or perhaps plodded is a better word. The day was going to be a long one. We’d started at 7am and it was looking like a 7pm arrival in Santa Marina (SM) the village we were aiming for. It would take us just over the half way into Santiago. At about 5.30pm we stopped for another cold drink. The sun was harsh today (I drank at least five liters of water), the hottest so far and my feet were beginning to feel each step. Choice time. Do we stop here and put our feet up or make our way over the next hill towards SM?

We walked on. One of the great camino’isms for me was not to put off to tomorrow what I can do today. Especially if I’m already in flow and not harried, step by step, keep walking forward. I was hot, sweaty and yes my feet were sore but I knew I had the last 6kms in me to make it to SM. And if I’m honest I love to hike and I wanted the challenge. If I stuck with the flow I’d wake up tomorrow without a big hill to climb first up. Remember this is not a ‘normal’ camino. I’d made it to Finisterre and Muxia thus completing my walk across Spain to the sea. These last two days were purely about physical and personal challenge … could I walk back to Santiago? In a dress for One Girl?

One of the greatest sights on the camino are the plastic chairs! Seriously. When it’s time for a break or that time to hang your backpack for a night … those chairs are home. Oh man I was overjoyed to see ‘Casa Pepa’ in Santa Marina. We arrived after 12 hours of walking and there were two bottom bunks free. WINNING. There was really only time to shower, drink a beer (or two), eat a pilgrim meal and marvel at the day. We made it! We didn’t get lost and we were over half way back to Santiago. The WiFi was non existent so I excused myself from writing this blog post ;) We can’t do it all friends … can’t mess with flow. That would be counter productive. Right sleep because Breda and I have planned a 6am start tomorrow to find our way into Santiago.

Buen Camino dear ones … catching up now and a snap from dinner that I think shows my (big day) tired but happy eyes. Till tomorrow from Santiago (hopefully ;)),

Fran xx

Camino Day 4 – Writing from Muxia.

Hola Amigos,

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

Another day another 30kms! I earnt myself another Compostela today by walking from Finisterre into Muxia. A small coastal town with a long, long history! The Virgin Mary, Napoleon’ forces, Germans, Moors, Saxon’s, Norman Pirates, the remains of St. John the Apostle a few of those who it’s said have been here.

An early start with my new friend Jisca. And yes she dunks her croissant into her hot chocolate for breakfast. She also always asks when someone moves house or talks about where they live ‘how far is it to get a clossant’? She figures if she knows how long it takes you to walk, ride, drive to get a croissant she can create a picture of the kind of life, village you live in. Oh the French and their obsession with the boulangerie (bakery). Today Jisca finished her camino in Muxia … one she started in Paris six years ago. What an incredible commitment. Each holiday walking a little closer to Santiago.

The buildings in this countryside blend so beautifully with the landscape. I never tire of admiring them and taking yet another farmhouse photo. Every farm currently has at least a field of corn and a patch of some sort of cabbage. I’ve seen many a skythe being sharpened, beans laid out and onions hanging to dry. You get the sense that seasonal traditions are how life is lived here. Farmers farm as we wander through narrow lanes that pass alongside their work sheds and homes. Old metal beds are repurposed as gates and the unmistakable Galician granary’s with their unique architecture never get old. We walk under washing lines and smell the tortilla cooking (or the over-riding smell of cow shit). Sorry! did I just take away a little of the romance … there’s a lot of cow shit in Galicia.

There’s a fiesta in town and it’s party central … in Spanish style it’s only kicking off now at 9.30 pm. I ate in tonight … pasta for the long day tomorrow. I start walking back to Santiago. As luck would have it I met an Irish girl who is also attempting to walk back over two days. Some may say that’s the camino providing! I literally ran into her at the tourist office as she walked into town. Aside from the distances walking back with the arrows pointing the other way it going to be a tad challenging (my sense of direction is not always trustworthy) … I seem to enjoy sitting these for myself! I walk for the solitude and spirituality but also for the physicality. Hiking is my love and my sport.

And again I’m loving how the camino unfolds with each unknown step. The people, the landscape, life along the trail, the lessons, the challenges, the character strength you can’t not develop. My feet are beginning to hurt but any discomfort is far outweighed by how much the experience gives.

On the camino yesterday’s long gone and tomorrow is an unknown exciting promise.

Buen Camino and thanks for writing back! I love reading your thoughts. I’ll reply when I’m not walking, sorting food, washing clothes, hanging with a fellow hiker or writing here. Probably at the airport on Monday ;)

Fran xx

Camino Day 3 – Writing from Finisterre.

Hola Amigos,

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

And here I am! Finisterre. Where the Roman’s considered the world to end. If you see a sunset here and you’ll understand why. This final leg that had taken me across the country! I’ve literally walked across Spain.

I hiked out early under the moonlight! It was something … spectacular. It was much darker than yesterday and I may have walked a bit slower knowing there was a pilgrim with a head torch 200 metres behind. Walking in the month where daylight savings is ending – a head torch is definitely worth packing.

BUT! So you know I practice what I preach … I stood at a crossroad this morning. Finisterre to the left and Muxia to the right. I will hike to both this trip so the order didn’t matter. The ‘head torch’ pilgrim was going to Muxia. Do I take the scarier path on my own in the dark or do I follow the head torch? I nearly followed the torch and then I turned walked my own walk. Fear did not make my decision. I think when your ‘adulting’ you need to know when fear is stealing your freedom. Somewhere along the way we get some conditioning and it’s nice to stare in the face and consider if we need it. (Fear of security, change, image, failing, control, trust ya da ya da.)

I walked 15kms without a soul in sight until I hit the town of Cee where I stopped for breakfast. It’s quite something this contrast on the camino – to walk hours through the country side and then all of a sudden to be wandering through a charming village. How about those bench seat tiles!

At the 28km or so mark there she was … the ocean. Staying on the path was not a consideration, not for me and not for any pilgrim walking the camino. Zero consideration was given … taking your shoes off to walk with your feet in the water was instinctive. A celebration of feeling alive and connected with nature. Did I even mention pagans once walked here to worship.

Ok so for those of you who love the people I meet along the way story … here you go. Once in Finisterre I found a bed at an albergue. I have to say (and there’s a photo up there, it’s dark I just took it) this is a luxury. That’s my bed with the light. Each bed has its own light, power supply and locker. Also sheets, a towel and a doona are supplied. No chance of bed bugs here. And all for €13 per night.

Sorry digressing. After securing a bed I walked in to get my Finisterre Compostela and who do you think I saw? Yes, you’re correct – Christian. We had a beer and and chat about our walk. He hadn’t yet found someone to write in his diary. And then … Jisca walked past. She was the French lady from the pilgrim meal at A Pena. She joined us and of course wrote in the diary.

Eventually a German girl from the next table also joined and also wrote in the diary! And then three super interesting Portuguese women sitting at the table behind us joined the conversation. They had just completed a different camino – the primitive way. I WISH I’d hiked a day with these adventurous women! There are some people you meet that you wish lived in your hood or that you’d see on the trail the next day so you could talk more. These three were those people.

I watched the sunset on today across the Atlantic. For many that sunset signifies the end of the camino. Not yet for me … I’m only halfway. Tomorrow I’m meeting Jisca early to begin walking to Muxia together. She started her camino in Paris seven years ago and each year she does a little more. She also speaks a number of languages, I don’t know much about her but I like that we ran into each other again … I’m interested to hear some of her stories. Tomorrow.

Buen camino friends,

Fran xx

Camino Day 2 – Writing from Logoso.

Hola Amigos,

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

When we travelled our big camper trip last year I remember writing about how I was growing strength. Growing by running in each new town down unfamiliar paths in unfamiliar countries. I didn’t want to be scared anymore. It has taken me a long time to realise what facing fear means. But I’m getting a grip on mine … the more I practice the more I understand where it’s coming from. It takes a lot of our energy this fear, being scared caper … and honestly who has spare energy to give away?

Like anything we don’t learn without trying, living, practicing. Holy crap look at me now. Solo hiking in the darkness of the morning, on an unfamiliar trail, in an unfamiliar country – IN a dress. True, there were a few people about, people who had already left the albergue but in this morning’s darkness I walked alone. Alone without fear.

Hmm perhaps that’s the theme of this camino? What am I scared of? What is it in life that I’m wasting my energy on because deep down fear is driving how I act, respond or make decisions.

I walked to my first coffee stop this morning at the 4.5km mark. Christian the German hiker I sat next to last night’s pilgrim dinner was there. I ordered my cafe con leche and sat with him. It would have been easier to sit on my own but hey it’s the camino and I’m doing that thing where I make an effort. It turns out Christian has kept a diary and each day he asks someone to write some words in it. He has entries from all over the world and I think a wonderful book of both his and others thoughts documented – his camino experience. Clever! Obviously I could never do it … ask someone everyday, ha ha no way I have trouble enough asking for what I need (there’s some scared for you right there). When he asked me to write in it of course I was awkward but I decided hey what does it matter! I wrote a page.

We ended up walking the entire day and in true German super hiker style he walked fast and referred often to his guide book often ;) I now have a grip on the distances and towns along the rest of this trail. In one town we walked past Skye from yesterday. It’s happening, the random familiarity and coincidences that the camino brings. We talked a lot of the day and while part of me missed the solitude of walking alone it was nice to share some camino thoughts. And our walking pace matched.

At the 32km mark I decided I was done and stopped for the night. Christian walked on, he’s walking 45kms today. I was first to arrive at the Albergue (€12 per night/€9 three course pilgrim meal) which is always a bonus because I got to choose the first bed! I chose the only non bunk bed. I also got to indulge in some introvert time after the jobs were done. It’s always the same routine shower, rinse the clothes, roll the feet, offload photos, write in my journal … eat a banana sometimes a beer although not today, I want an early night.

When it was time for dinner I ventured out into the cafe. The albergue is now starting to fill. I noticed a lady I was sure was on my plane from Amsterdam … we got chatting and shared a table for dinner. She had walked the camino from Porto in Portugal last year and is also here to finish the walk the the coast from Santiago. Actually she is from Amsterdam and we’re on the same flight home. We will probably have a coffee and a debrief together at the airport on Monday. I had an early dinner and as I was finishing Skye walked in! There’s a big group of pilgrims but I’m ‘people’ spent. I need some introvert time. So here I am updating y’all and getting cosy on my own for an early night.

That’s the thing about the camino and challenging ourselves to do scary things and face what makes us nervous. We can’t change ourselves and become someone we are not … that will never work. It’s about striking the balance. Knowing where we need to try a bit harder, do a little more, or perhaps a little less, the areas we need to put some effort in but ALWAYS keeping it at a pace we can manage. Walking our own walk. Building our strength, our character.

Buen camino,

Fran xx

Camino Day 1 – Writing from Alto da Pena.

Hola Amigos!

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

Oh my what a start!

I am so glad many of you are back again reading along and joining me on this adventure to continue where I left off. So today … today I was thinking about how exciting beginnings are and the anticipation of great things happening. And then I thought as I climbed a hill and my heart was beating and my head was sweaty (you know that hair clumpy, humid, sticky feeling, can I smell myself crap I’ll defo have to shower don’t stand near me kind of sweat) this IS greatness. GREATNESS is living. And all of this is enough, where I am, what I’m doing, the people in my life. I have enough. So everything else – is all a bonus. And the second thought I had was that SO much time gets wasted because we are looking for something … that most of us already have and we have it IN abundance. Freedom. Freedom to choose trust over fear. JOMO over FOMO.

Sure BIG cool things happen like getting accepted into a Masters, yep that happened yesterday (still not sure if I’m going to do it). And getting some of the kindest messages from people who read your stuff – really read, read because they love what you write, they get you, yep that also happened. And then there’s your daughter biking to the station with you and telling you she’s proud that you’re wearing a school dress and isn’t embarrassed of you because she thinks you’re doing ‘cool stuff’. And the big fear you had of being noticed in a dress is actually more liberating than awkward! Yes friends the heart beating, the sweat, the kindness, the love and the liberation of doing my own thing, my own way that is GREATNESS. And it’s freedom – freedom from fear.

Right I guess you want to hear about the camino. Oh wow – I love it. You probably all know by now that my mate Frank the Tank missed his flight yesterday. That was a complete bummer because you know how much we enjoyed walking the camino with those Texan Crackers! But it happened so it has became a solo adventure and I’m ok with that challenge. I’m good with hiking alone and now I won’t be able to rely on having a friend to hide behind. I’ll have to be there … at night with all the people at the pilgrim meal. Plus I’ll convince him to do a hard one like TMB with me!

I spent the first night in Santiago. I’m not gonna lie I was a little out of place. Generally, people here have just finished their camino they’re in a different space to a new arrival. I stayed at an old monastery I had pre booked for €17 a night and it was kind of spooky and lacking in that feeling of ‘connected’ walkers. I had a single room and wondered if I should have booked the dorm. Dinner was a few bits from the supermarket. I ate as I people watched in the canteen. I can happily report I did sleep!

I needed to find a map last night as I wasn’t sure how to get myself on the camino today. After a nice sleep in (8.30am) I set off to begin my first leg of this hike the Camino Finisterre. I managed to find the trail and enjoyed walking the first 12kms to cafe for my morning coffee. This was a favourite camino habit from last time. I must take it on board at home. Rather than a coffee when I wake – move first! The Galician countryside is like walking through a ‘move to rural Spain’ travel memoir. I could see all the characters come to life as I walked.

I had spent a bit of time wondering how far to walk … how will I know when to stop? How do I fit in 240kms in six days? I decided I’d just walk … walk until I was ready to stop. And what do you know it worked … I actually felt the need for lunch. So I stopped. I ended up in a bar with old men and the only thing on offer a bacon sandwich but hey I’m not gonna go chasing … I’m going to roll! And it was all I needed. The half I couldn’t eat was wrapped as a take away and after a 1/2 hour rest of the feet I was ready to walk on towards the unknown.

Last night I felt like a stranger rolling up in town whereas today I was among fellow pilgrims and hikers on the camino. I walked solo. There were people on the trails but not so many. I enjoyed being in my own company and giving time to the how and what this camino is for me. I had a brief chat with Skye from Canada. I wasn’t sure where I’d stop … and at the 28km mark (same as last time) I felt ready. So when I reached A Pena I decided to take a bed at the first albergue. I’m in a dorm of four (€12) and I sat at the pilgrim meal (€9 three courses) amongst Italians, French and of course a friendly German.

I feel a sense of home here on the camino. I think most people who have walked it do. Many return. All are changed. I’m glad I’m back for whatever greatness unfolds especially hearing the trees who in the Galician winds with their huge bendy boughs talk. Truth.

Buen camino dear friends,

Fran xx

A commitment to kindness, adventure, travel and charity

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