Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Thursday, May 28, 2015

O Cebeiro to Sarria

Everyone had a nice time in O Cebreiro.

The weather has been HOT HOT HOT on the Camino!

But they made it to Sarria and tomorrow (today?) are on the home stretch from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela!

Seems decorations are picking up on the Camino.
Joe sent a photo of this witch!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Water on the Camino

Three common questions I get about the Camino Frances are about water:

1) Is the fountain water safe to drink?
2) Should I carry a bottle or a bladder?
3) Should I buy water along the route?

Fountain Water.
In answer to whether or not fountain water is safe, the answer is "almost always." Most of the fountain water comes from springs that are deep in the ground, fresh, and pure. The water in the fountains is tested often by the government since not only pilgrims drink it, but people in the villages still drink it.

There are two occasions when you may want to buy bottled water or get water from a municipal tap.

a. When it is raining so hard that the streams are muddy, I would buy water. This is because you are walking in agricultural land, and there is a lot of cow and horse and pig manure on the land. If the rain is so hard that it's causing a lot of runoff, then the springs could be temporarily contaminated for a few days until fresh water flushes them out.

If the water looks muddy like this, I would not use local fountains.

b. During a heat wave.  A heat wave may cause bacteria to grow in what normally would be good water.

Otherwise, I have never had a problem drinking directly from the fountains.

One time, by mistake, Joe drank from a fountain clearly marked "Non-Potable" which means the water was NOT safe.  We immediately hit a bar where he ordered a couple shots of whiskey to kill any bacteria and he never had a problem!

Bottle or Bladder?
This is really just a matter of preference.

I prefer a bottle.

First of all, it is lightweight and fits in my Macabi skirt pocket, so it's easily accessible.

Second, there are running fountains all along the Camino Frances, and so I drink my fill at the fountain, fill my bottle, and I'm off. It means less weight for me to carry.

Third, a bottle is more easily washed out each night so bacteria doesn't grow.

Joe carries a bladder.

He just prefers it.
He does have to wash it out each night (a pain in the kazoo to me).
I've heard people say, "You don't have to fill it."

Well, true.  However, the thing about a bladder is it would be too inconvenient to take off and fill at each fountain, so you're carrying the weight of all that water, when it is not necessary. And water is heavy!  Pick up a couple of 2 liter Pepsi bottles and you'll see how heavy they can be!

Purchased Water.
Purchased water is cheap and available all along the Camino Frances. That just seems wasteful to me. All those empty bottles that need to be recycled, and sadly, I see a LOT of discarded bottles all along the path.

The water in Spain is as safe or safer than the water in the United States.
It is NOT a third world country like Mexico.
Their infrastructure puts much of ours to shame.

So, as with shoes or boots, how you carry your water is a choice you need to make for yourself.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Found: April 21st (2015) at the Albergue in Ponferrada

Hello Fellow Pilgrims.

These items were left recently in the albergue in Ponferrada.

They appear to be in German.

Please share the photos on your Facebook pages, especially if you have international Camino friends, and let's see if we can find the owner.


To Molinaseca

The group is in Molinaseca tonight.

Here is Joe's note:

All are here safe and sound. We will take an early cab in the morning to Ponferrada and then walk to Villafranca from there.

Here are some pics:

Group shot at Cruz de Ferro: left to right: Pat, Janet, Kristen, Gretchen, Sharon.

Janet & Pat atop Cruz.

Pat & Kristen shopping at Manjarin with forest ranger looking on.

Sharon & Pat at Manjarin.

There were many appearances of Guardia Civil & the Forest Ranger ( 4 all total that I saw) all the way from Rabanal to the summit of Monte Irago. So the government is making a good effort to protect the Camino.

I also asked at Manjarin if Tomas was there and they said yes, but he was not around.

We were all too tired to go out for dinner.

It was a very long, HOT walk from Rabanal, so we are eating in here at Casa Reloj.

That's it for now.

Buen Camino!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Casa de la Abuela Cakes

Ahhh.... I missed having some of this lovely cake baked each morning at La Casa de Abuela, but Sharon had some for me!

A Camino Angel for Joe

Joe sent me this story this morning from LogroƱo:

Sometimes when things are not what they should be, something better happens when you don't get discouraged and you decide to follow the lead presented.

I went to the TI in Viana during normal hours to get the bus times and parada location for the ride into Logrono. We had had a challenging walk through rollercoaster hills, some rain with cooler weather and most of us were looking forward to a warm bus ride that would cut off the extra 5 miles of our walk, and also deposit us at the station only a block and a half from our posh hotel with tidy modern rooms and bath tubs waiting .

But the TI was closed, with a sign in Spanish that said, go to the Ayuntamiento and find the office of revenios. Next door the TI was the Casa Consistorial, which I knew should be synonymous with the ayjuntomiento.

I walked in and found that the office I was looking for was on the 2nd floor. Luckily there was an elevator to carry me, in a wet poncho, with pack and walking sticks up those flights of stairs. Down the hall and around the corner from the elevator, there was an office with a short man, white-bearded and long-locked, sitting at a desk with his back to me and the door. He was concentrating on some papers at his desk.

I asked his pardon and explained in my broken Spanish that the TI was closed and I was looking for information about the bus. He said yes, he could help me. He put aside his work, took a scratch pad and wrote the two times a bus to Logrono would depart, the price of a ticket, and the names of the 2 operating bus companies.

When I asked where I could find the parada, he said in Spanish "wait a moment and I will show you". He closed the office and we walked the two flights of stairs to the ground floor and out the door into the church square. As we walked down the street past the church he told me about how significant this church was, with much information I did not understand. His voice was soft and calm, unlike much of what you will normally hear on the busy streets at midday. We walked 100 meters to the high ring road round the ancient hill-town, to the waist-high stone wall that overlooks the green valley into Logrono.

He explained the first bus stops next to the basura bins just below us; the second bus stops on the other side of the street below, and they go in opposite directions. " Dos paradas". He made certain I understood that although the buses go in opposite directions, that they both go to Logrono. He made sure I knew the names of both bus companies and that I knew which bus went in which direction, by writing the names and directional arrows on the paper he had given me.

" Si, claro, intiendo" I assured him.

I followed him back to the church and the square that separated the Casa Consistorial from the magnificent church. I thought myself very lucky that I had been able to get the information for our weary group and that indeed we were in time to catch either bus we chose. Many times you can find no help or it is already too late to catch the last bus.

Then, the best part, of what had been a somewhat worrisome situation, happened.

The gentleman told me he was the curator of the library of ancient books in Viana; that the library held books that were 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, and 800 years old, including the Codex Calixtinus--the first travel guide of the Way to Santiago.

Suddenly I became very interested in spending more time with this very kind man, as those who know me know I have a keen interest in books of this sort in any language.

I summoned what courage I had and in my malo espanol, I asked if someone like me would be allowed to visit the library and have a look at

los libros. He smiled warmly and said, yes. I told him I would certainly return, perhaps next year and do so.

With that, it was time for both of us to return to our individual responsibilities and we parted with a hand shake and my best attempts at expressing my sincere gratitude for his assistance.

I lingered in the square for a moment and watched my benefactor being greeted by three older men as he walked to the front of the casa consistorial. They engaged in lighthearted conversation and then I recalled that he had been greeted with the same warmth by virtually every person we had passed in the street as he had lead me to the dos paradas. Was this a man of some deserved stature in the town-- well-known, accessible and well-liked-- who had put aside his important business to assist a scruffy, mud-splattered wanderer with fewer than 100 Spanish words in his vocabulary? Perhaps.

And perhaps it was his admirable mix of training and knowledge combined with a genuinely caring disposition which made it easy for him to gain the respect and affection of everyone I saw him pass.

Sometimes when there is a hiccup in the system, and we resolve to follow the thread of an unexpected trail, we find something far better than what we were initially seeking. Sometimes we find an example of how to act in a better way and see the rewards for doing so, all in an instant. When these instants stick in memory like super-glue, challenges can sometimes be recognized for the presents they offer.

My benefactor in the man in the red jacket. Perhaps my interruption of his work, was a challenge he recognized could become a present he might offer to me. But I believe he gave no thought at all to it, and that it was simply his habit.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Camino Angel on the Aragones Route

I was walking the Aragones route, 

I stopped for the night in Sanguesa. 
I had broken a small bone in my hand that day and it was very painful.

The hospitalero showed up around dinner time, 

stamped our credentials, and took everyone's money.

After a bit, a dusty desert man came into the albergue. He was tanned as leather but clean, and his bright green pants and orange shirt made him look like a circus performer. 

When he smiled, his teeth were so white they threatened to blind me!

There was a problem with the hospitalero. 

He apparently didn't believe this was a pilgrim 
and was refusing to give him a bed. 
After a soft-spoken argument, he relented.
No, he wasn't a pilgrim in the normal way,
but he was clean, and weary,
and needed a bed.

And so the homeless desert man was given a space. 

The place was not near full, after all.

He was sooooo very lean! 

Like leather stretched over bones, 
but in a sunburnt, healthy way.

I was eating an orange, some bread and cheese.

The orange was juicy and sweet and I asked if he'd like some?
He nodded and I gave him half 
and motioned for him to help himself to bread and cheese.
We both laughed as the juice ran down our chins.

Later that evening I was sitting at the table, 

making notes in my journal.
My left hand hurt and I was rubbing it, absentmindedly.

The desert man came in and asked if I was ok?

I said, 'No, I broke it today."

He motioned for me to give the hand to him.

As he took my hand, 

the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I got chills all over.
He closed his eyes, 
and held my one broken hand between his two tanned hands.

Gently, he squeezed 

and I felt something happening.
He didn't rub it. 
Didn't massage it. 
Just gently but firmly held it with his eyes closed.

We sat in silence.

After maybe 5 minutes, he released my hand.
There were tears in my eyes.

My hand was healed.
It never caused another bit of pain.

I don't know his name.

I don't know who he was or where he was from.

But he was one of my Camino Angels and I wish him Peace always.

Buen Camino.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Trouble Between Astorga and Rabanal del Camino

It appears an attempted abduction of a local woman has taken place between Astorga and Rabanal. This is the third problem reported in the past few months. The first was actually a male pilgrim who was tazed and robbed as he went off the main Camino to take the alternative route to Castrillo de Polvares. The second was a German pilgrim (female) who was tazed in the same area. She managed to escape. Then Denise Thiem disappeared in the same section, and now a woman has escaped from two men again.

I've also read accounts of men flashing female pilgrims in this stretch going back to 2007. So it has a bit of a history.

I've always thought the Camino was perfectly safe, but until police catch these men, please consider walking with a group on remote stretches. 

I would caution you to not use earphone in your ears, to walk with a buddy, and NOT to take the Castrillo de Polvazares stretch until these men have been caught.

No need to be paranoid.

Simply be aware.  

Worrying too much about this event when you're anywhere else on the Camino would be like worrying about a kidnapping in Seattle, Washington when you are in Portland, Oregon. 

It's one very short 12 mile section of a 500 mile-long Camino. 

Be smart, use the buddy system in that section, and have a Buen Camino! 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

2016 Anniewalkers Camino Walking Schedule

We have set the dates for the 2016 Anniewalkers Camino walk!

The Best of Both 2016
May 17 - May 31
with Annie Carvalho

21 nights

(17 days of walking and 4 of touristing)

From €1200 ($1350)

Price INCLUDES: Lodging and Bus Fares

No racing for a bed!

If you'd like to walk the Camino
but don't want to go it alone...

If you'd like to join a small group
of 6-8 pilgrims ...

If you only have 3 weeks 
and want to walk the BEST of the Camino ...

and if you want to get your Compostella,
but don't have time to do the entire Camino...

Why not join us!

Check out the details on my website at 
Anniewalkers USA 2017 Camino Trip

Note:  If you are interested in an AUTUMN walk,
if you have other dates in mind
and can gather 6-8 people for a private group,
let me know.
I'm happy to plan and accompany private groups.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Camino 2015 - Joe is in Pamplona!

I just received this message from Joe:

"I just arrived at Pamplona. I had a 7 hour layover in Dallas instead of 1 hour. They had to change a tire on the plane and other maintenance. Arrived Madrid at 11 am , got bus to Pamplona at 1 pm for a 5 hour bus ride. 36 hours traveling with no sleep. So I am a little tired."

I'm glad he's safe and sound and now I don't expect to hear from him for a day or two while he sleeps.

If you're in his group, you can find him at the hotel.

Sleep well...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Camino 2015 - Buen Camino Joe!

Joe set out for Spain this morning about 7:30 am.
He will fly into Madrid, then bus to Pamplona to meet up with our group of 5 Ladies.

I'll post news as he sends it.

Buen Camino Joe and Buen Camino Peregrinas!


Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Waymarks On The Camino

Here are a variety of waymarks you might expect to see on the Camino de Santiago.

These photos have been taken from the internet and I apologize to anyone who'd like credit and didn't get it. As you can see, the way is well marked!