Left Bank Meets Nepal

Today is my last day as a perigrino, as I depart Cee and walk just  8 more miles to Finisterre.

 Finisterre is truly the end of the line. It sits on a jutting peninsula in Spain with the broad expanse of the deep blue Atlantic framing the backdrop. 

I have one big problem with being on this side of the Atlantic. I keep forgetting that over here the sun sets over the Atlantic rather than the rises as it does at my home in Lincolnville Maine. I have only been here three weeks, not long enough for me to get reoriented to this new reality.

There was a bit of road walking this morning.  

Despite the light rain and thick fog that came out way today, life still goes on for the rural folk that work the land here.  

Finisterre’s history dates to the Pagan era. 

Brierley’s Camino Finisterre Pilgrim’s Guide lists numerous locations and legends that are associated with points of history here.  He describes the Altar to the Sun Ara Solis and the sacred stones Piedras Santas as ancient initiation and ritual sites. I plan to visit those sites on our day off from hiking tomorrow, but I’m not sitting around at the end of the world.   I only want to hike more.  

The Roman reportedly built a legendary city names Dugio here, a place where legionnaires retired to live out their days. Brierley leans toward flowery mystic language frequently in this book. He waxes on with a suggestion that Finisterre may have even been the actual Elysian Fields.   

Other historians have gone do far to posit that Finisterre was the original and favored location for the burial of Saint James. 

No matter. We have not seen any of the spiritual aspects of Finisterre yet.  That comes tomorrow.

 So far, we have only witnessed a ragtag band of tattered and neon  bedecked Peregrinos limping past below our third floor window here at the best albergue yet,  Cabo da Vila. It’s the sort of place that is magic.  This place holds 52.  It is sold out every night all season, and then the owners take 4 months off. I love being here, now. 

I booked 2 nights’ here, at the recommendation of David Rooney, the Irish Hiking Machine.  I was initially disappointed when Marcia and I were led to two clean bunks, top and bottom, in a room with eight other people. I thought I had reserved a private room. But the friendly owner directed us us to this place and I accepted. It was clean and we need to stay somewhere. I struggled a bit about whether to speak up and risk putting myself into a conflicted relationship at the end of our trip with  or just grin and bear it, as I am typically used to doing.

I decided to go back down to the desk and inquire as to whether there were any options in the building that would leave me with a private room for Marcia and I. The owner opened her reservation book and said that she had one room available  but it had a queen size bed and a bathroom adjacent to the room. We’d pay just an additional €16 for our upgrade.  We quickly moved our backpacks up to a most enjoyable situation, on the third floor, with a homeward view across the Atlantic.  

Here are some representative samples of our day. 

I plan to build one of these outdoor ovens at our camp.
Entering Finisterre
Exploring the Winding Streets
Constant Temptation
Decent wine, price not mismarked
The view from our window

Accepting No Candles from the Holy Company

    elevation profile of today’s walk

Marcia I continue to make good progress in keeping our mileage reasonable, completing 12 miles by 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  This is a seriously rural  portion of the Camino. The best that Marcia could do last night in finding some ibuprofen was getting an offer of one pill from the owner of the of the hotel where we stayed.  I might add that we have been looking for three days for a place to purchase a bottle. Come up here,  you better be ready.

I can’t say enough about the quality of the lodging, meals, and the service that we received at As Pias in Oliveiroa yesterday. We saw this sign on the side of an old building on the way into town and when we got there we inquired about the possibility of renting a room.

    The main hotel was full above the bar but Yolanda, the owner,  told us that they had another building that they renovated where we could have a room but the bathroom was outside of the room. We went over to check it out.  It was superb, a stone building with impeccable appointments, cleanliness, and we also avoided the noisy bar that would’ve been below us if we stayed in the main hotel.

First class digs, happy hiker!
We ended up eating lunch there and then later dinner as well and they provided us with a early morning breakfast to send us on our way. Here’s a shot of one of the courses of our lunch.

They don’t believe in screens for the windows in Spain. Unfortunately this resulted in a single pesky mosquito that really plagued me for a couple hours before I resorted yo foam ear plugs that  enable md me to drift off to sleep.

People don’t understand just how reasonable it is to hike here, even staying in an extremely comfortable  hotel.  There appeared to be particular blessings obtained by our Peregrino status, like the bill I received at check out.

We had a superb private room with  bathroom, lunches, afternoon drinks, wifi, dinners ( with the best flan on the walk), and breakfasts for two. We were also handed a couple of apples as to take on our day’s walk, all for €59 !

Marcia on our doorstep
Next up was a reasonable day’s walk back to the shores of the Atlantic.
Half the day’s walk was on natural pathways with a bit of road walking to be done.  The highlight of the day was one very interesting stretch across the high moors is that was 7 miles long – one of the most isolated stages on the Camino Finisterre.  There were no facilities whatsoever on the stretch with the last chance for food and water at the albergue at the little village of Hospital before we reached Cee.


Road Walk
Moor walk

Our Brierley guidebook notes that there are prehistoric stone carvings and monuments dating to 4000 years ago around this landscape that pagans walked centuries before the Christian era even existed. God was here before Christ.  

Two legends are reported. The first is associated with the mythical Vakner “…a terrifying creature, manlike, of a malignant nature, that lives like a troglodyte in the deepest in densest parts of the forest.”

And additional myth was referred to as the Holy Company by H.V. Morton in his book  A Stranger in Spain: Flickering lights dart over the landscape at night.  An invisible presence may try to place a lighted candle in your hand and should you open your hand and accept it you are lost-you have joined the whole company of souls condemned to wonder about purgatory holding a light a candle until you can thrust your candle of the hand of some new ones suspecting stranger.”

 So be careful if you walk in the dark mist here, otherwise you’re going to spend an eternity trying to get rid of your candle. It’s cosmic tag on an eternal scale.  

Our walk was made assisted by our contact with a family from Ireland that was also walking the same path. What are the chances that I should be walking beside Cormac, a gentleman from Ireland who happened to have the same unique profession that I had – a personal business administering and interpreting psychological assessments. 

The time went very quickly as we jabbered  back-and-forth while Marcia talk to his daughter Deidre who had just completed academic assessments as she was moving through the secondary education system in Ireland. 

Deidre, Cormac, and Auntie Mame
Soon 12 miles were completed the last two on a significantly steep downhill where we once again were able to see the broad vast expanse of the Atlantic a looming up in front of us as I felt we had to come home or at least as close to home as possible with this big water separating me from my house. 

No John Deer Gators in Galacia 

Marcia starts her hiking day

Today we further reduced our mileage to a single number, leaving Santa Marina  at 7:30AM and reaching Olveiroa by noon. 

We have discovered where are all the cows are. 

Right here, in the broad rolling farmlands where hay and corn are produced. 

 These farmers do not eschew modern diesel tractors, although we see plenty of wheelbarrow work taking place on the narrow roads and in farmyards this morning.

We have yet to see a single John Deere Gator being put to work.  People walk here, kids walk alone, and even very old men and women shuffle along, aided by canes when necessary.  

I need to either get an altimeter app for my iPhone or remember to bring along my Highgear wristwatch next time. 
It’s hilly, and I want to know here I am in my maps. Having an elevation function allows the hiker to further pinpoint a location on a map. Brierley’s Camino Finisterre Pilgrim’s Guide does a good job at this by listing section profiles that include elevation.  
Marcia and I are back on the same page today, after a real shakeup in my attitude yesterday. Here’s a fact about couples’ travel away from home when you also don’t know the language: it’s a crucible for kindling any interpersonal weaknesses that may have persisted over the years or decades of a life together. It would be the same for any friends, siblings, or even casual acquaintances. Pick your travel pal carefully, lest fractures forment and cleave the best intentioned partnerships.  Fortunately, this world has all we need to absorb those tears. 


 I treasure the few travel partners that I have been blessed to share the road or the trails with. 

 In long distance motorcycling, my friend Alan comes to mind. In long distance backpacking, the few individuals that I have spent months of constant movement, occasional pain, treacherous steps, and even impending drownings include my Triple Crown companion Dick Wizard, as well as the luminous individuals who carry the coat-of-arms of MeGaTex make that cut, especially General Lee and Train. Together we have experienced many thousands of miles and hundreds of days up and down the highest peaks and lowest valleys of both geographical and emotional terrain.  

No Gators here. Also no omelets, pancakes, butter plunked down with bread, salad dressings, salt shakers,  or takeout coffee. 

 This is the land of the Mediterranean diet, so it’s olive oil instead of butter, and while the meals are salted when prepared, these culinary practices are a likely factor in reducing the incidence of rampant cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure that we experience in America.  

These folks even drink lots of coffee, yet here, I have never seen it brewed in a Mr. Coffee-type machine nor does it sit in insulated pump carafes like I use when I am rushing over the roads back home. 

This coffee is think, and rich, expressedin gleaming banks of Italian machines, in little coffee shops that punctuate the footpaths on The Way. It is either served in the most functional little espresso cups and saucers, or as cafe con leche in bigger cups brimming with frothy milk. Some mornings when we are served a continental breakfast as part of our stay in an Albergue, we receive two steaming hot stainless steel pitchers: a larger one with steamed thick whole milk, and the other in a smaller unit that is brimming with pure espresso. All for €1 or less and when ordered in a cafe, and adorned with two tiny cinnamon/churros on the saucers as well. 

Here, you have to stop your multitasking, sit, and take the time to savor the moment.  

It is not possible to rush off with a coffee here, where farmers still choose to push a wheelbarrow full of cow shit that they dump near their vegetable gardens.  


Walking Again Toward The Atlantic

“There he is again,” exclaimed Marcia after we heard our first rooster crowing as we started walking today. It happens every day out here, no matter whether we are in a city approaching half-million like Vigo or if we are walking through the most rural little village by the sea coast.

The walking was hard today. We had constant uphills for the first part of the morning and it really showed by the end the day. Check out my Strava profile for the 15 miles that we covered today.

I would advise anyone who is on a restrictively diet to really consider their impending struggle in Galatia. For example, Galacian cafes lay out breakfasts with the best coffee, espresso (€1 or €.60), cream, butter, fresh breads, chorizo, and cured meats like bacon that you can imagine. Breakfast is usually under €7 for two. 

FYI, good wine is €1 a liter
The landscape is changing again. I am noticing broad expanses of wheat fields, cows in pasture, and corn.  We are approaching the sea again. There were over 50 modern windmills placed on the highest points of land. 

Our lodging tonight is the Albergue Santa Marina. The cost is $10 per person. We elected to have the fixed price meal complete with wine, two courses, fresh bread, and dessert for eight euros each.


Peregrinos, Ponte Maceria, and The Balrog

“Watch out now, take care

Beware of greedy leaders

They take you where you should not go

While weeping atlas cedars

They just want to grow, grow and grow”- George Harrison 

The concept that life is a repeat performance on a grand stage is expressed yet again today as I am walking this ancient pathway. 

Consider this stamp from my Pilgrim’s passport that I received here today. 

It portrays a local legend that is reported to have occurred on the now restored medieval bridge in Ponte Maceria.  

In the story, God destroys this bridge in order to prevent Roman soldiers (based in Fisterre) who were pursuing some followers of Saint James.  The forces of good escape darkness and death. 

Marcia travels the bridge
Most of the long distance hikers that I have encountered love the Lord of The Rings stories, expressed both in written word and movies.  

Did Tolkien visit here? Could this albergue passport stamp have inspired Tolkien to reframe the tale as a major scene in LOR, one that is particularly relevant to my own journey ?

In 1967, before I was given my trail name as Uncle Tom by Dave Palmer, I carried the nickname Balrog. I received that “nom de passage” when I was a fledgling member of one of the most important groups that I had the pleasure of being included in- The UMass Outing Club. It was there that my life as a backpacker began to develop and eventually take deep root. 

The Balrog was a fictional character in The Fellowship of The Rings, described as tall and menacing with the ability to shroud itself in fire, darkness, and shadow. 

Gandalf challenged the Balrog on the span of the Bridge of Khazad-dûm. In the course of the dramatic fight, Gandalf shattered the Bridge with his staff, allowing the rest of the Fellowship to flee while Gandalf was dragged into the chasm below with the Balrog.

At the very least, I consider Balrog to be my own personal shadow figure.  

I highly encourage the reader to further explore the psychology of The Shadow, expressed superbly by Robert Bly in his slim but very powerful book entitled “The Little Book On The Human Shadow”. 

I have been particularly moved by the brief section of the book entitled The Long Bag We Drag Behind Us.  Take less than five minutes to follow this link in order to understand the importance of  exploring and addressing your own darkness. 

“We spend our life until we’re twenty deciding what parts of ourself to put into the bag, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to get them out again.”- Robert Bly

Arriving at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

 It is with great satisfaction, considerable emotional upheaval, and deep gratitude that I have completed my Portugese  Camino.  


Last night, a period of lucid dreaming may have reflected movement along an inner path as well.  

    Two separate dream sequences occurred. The first took place at the Youngtown Inn, an actual place in the town I have lived in for the past 39 years. In dreamland, I was present at a service to commemorate the sudden death of a staff member from where I spent 25 years of my life (1977-2002) working at School Administrative District #5, or ” sad five”, as it was called. I was dressed as I am on this hike, wearing soiled, torn, ill fitting shorts, a worn blue shirt, and the boots. My friend for life, David H. was also there, sans beard, in a much more youthful form than the present. I only saw the back of his head. He was upset with my presentation, where the crowd was appropriately attired. I was also wearing ill-fitting knitted pink baby socks, which barely covered a couple of front toes. I was in a state of discomfort, shame really, about my lack of understanding of my ability to “fit in.” 

An additional dream had me walking on a green lawn in a small group through a village park in a much like my real life right here. I was not the main actor in the dream, but was one of a group following a man who was carrying some sort of mechanical device with short robotic arms. While he was holding it outstretched in front of him a gun appeared to morph from the end of one of the arms. At this point l became distressed that I would be complicit in an act of violence. Just at that moment a non participant entered the scene with one of those movie clipboards, and flipped the top and yelled “Cut” which conveyed to me that I was an actor in some sort in a movie. 

The rest of this most incredible day was just as ethereal and mythic. 

I was unaware that today, the festival of Saint John the Baptist was taking place. Unusual events occurred beginning at midnight last night. People in Galatia celebrate Saint John the Baptist Day by lighting bonfires and setting off fireworks. Some people dress as devils and carry pitchforks with fireworks attached to them. The costumed devils then set off the fireworks while dancing to drumbeats. We were unable to participate in last night’s activities because we were locked into the albergue at 10 PM. Several of us were interested in attending one of these ceremonies , which was held close to the albergue, but the manager would not bend the rules. We heard the explosions, which started exactly at midnight.  

Might there have been a connection between my dreaming and the activities honoring St. John the Baptist? 

     Earlier today, Our latest traveling companion, guide, and Spanish interpreter Maiike led us to a most unique little cafe adjacent to the cathedral.  

She made a phone call to the 76 year old proprietor, cook, and dishwasher in order to get us a little room for the night. Here is the view from our window.  

    Next, we attended the special pilgrim mass at noon. But before then, I decided to receive Confession as I wanted to be able to fully engage in the service and the sacrament of Communion. I am a lapsed Catholic who has not participated in church since my father, Chester Jamrog, died some twenty five years ago. I have my reasons for doing so, but that is another story.  
My decision to engage was influenced by some things the Irish Walking/ Talking Machine, David Rooney,  had shared with me. 

Confession in the Cathedral was facilitated by the fact that there were 6 confessionals manned by multilingual priests.

Each booth had a sign over it listing the languages that each priest was able to communicate in. There were two that could speak with me. I chose the younger, a decision influenced by Rooney’s advice.  
I was completely floored by my experience in that darkened booth. What was said to me by the young Spanish priest was far more than I expected. I was given absolution and then a penance that was nothing that I could have ever imagined. I was washed out, but at the same time felt uploaded.  

I went back to the room and picked up Marcia, who wanted to observe the Mass. When we got there at 11:45 AM there was no place left to sit and barely enough place to stand. The huge Cathedral was jammed, as there are approximately a thousand perigrinos a day who finish their Caminos during the summer. Normal tourists are there as well. There were a few rows of empty pews left in the very front of the church. 

 A group of perigrinos in identical police shirts  were filling them up. I asked a Cathedral security guard who understood English if there were any place left for Marcia and I. He walked up toward the altar, silently lifted a roped barricade, and pointed to two granite steps at the base of a massive column way up in the front that was as close to the altar as possible. We were stunned. 
      The service, including the mass, went on for an hour and a half, almost in Spanish. It was long but very special. Ten priests conducted the mass. I took Communion. And then at the end, we witnessed the ceremony of the ‘Botafumeiro’ the famous giant thurible.A ‘Botafumeiro’ has been used here since the Middle Ages, originally to clean the air when crowds of pilgrims having completed the Camino arrived in Santiago de Compostela after their long journey and has been taking place at least since the 12th century. This particular Botafumeiro dates back to 1851 and it’s made of silver-plated brass, weighing 115 pounds when empty and up to 22 more when full of frankincense and glowing coals. 

Enter a crew of eight men, dressed in wine colored robes who were the professionals, one charged with lighting the botafumerio. The cathedral soon started to fill with the distinctive fragrance of frankincense.  According to Matthew’s Gospel in the Bible, the three Wise Men brought it as a gift to the infant Jesus. Gold: for a king. Frankincense: for God. Myrrh: to embalm Jesus’ body after death.

At the time, frankincense was a commodity that was worth its weight in gold.  Frankincense has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine and for the first time is being taken seriously by medical science. 

The researchers were able to show what boswellic acids are responsible for the interference of the inflammation process. Frankincense is now identified as a one of a kind treatment for conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and atopic dermatitis. Studies also have also found anti-cancer properties along with the anti-inflammatory properties. It is now one of many natconsidered a treatment for could be reborn as a treatment for cancer

Researchers have validated that  boswellic acids in rank incense are responsible for the interference of the inflammation process. Frankincense is now identified as a one of a kind treatment for conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and atopic dermatitis. Studies also have also found anti-cancer properties along with the anti-inflammatory properties. The tree resin could also be reborn as an effective medical agent used to cure cancer.

Then one of the men initiated the swing as the rest got into position. Then they pulled downward with mega force on the two inch thick rope to create the soaring pendulum effect. The mass of glowing, billowing incense then travels at an astonishing speed on a double arc that results in the botafumerio almost reaching the ceilings some seventy feet high. 

Here is a YouTube video of the actual ceremony. 

 All this time an huge pipe organ is belting out towering expansive tones that are punctuated by the masterful Latin hymns sung at top volume by a very talented nun supported by a superb sound system. 

      Understand that Marcia and I are seated as close as the public is possible to the center of this action with the power emitted by this icon of immolation flying back and forth with astonishing speed. Many of the folks near us were as overwhelmed as I was to witness this very, very old ritual. 
Lest you think that life is 100 percent spiritual 24/7 around the cathedral here in Santiago, there is plenty of shifty work being done in the many alleys and doorways that surround the Church of God.  

In the morning , cleanup crews shovel down the roads before the street washing trucks wash the phlegm, cigarette butts and late night vomit and worse down the city’s aged sewer system. 
For example, they have the usual painted aluminum human beings that act like statues right outside the cathedral. There are plenty of beggars both sincere and fake plying their trade from their established slots .

Over the last couple of days that we were in Santiago we became familiar with some of these characters. I saw on of them come into the small café/bar just just below our room on a regular schedule to get himself a dram of the blasto. 

Our 76 year proprietress was busy cooking us up a mess of octopus, pork, bean salad, and roasted Padron peppers at around 9 pm. 

When she observed this same ne’er-do-well talking her very reserved adult son, who was tending bar, into shoveling out some cured olives on a plate she went through the freakin’ roof.  

She threw her spoon down and ran over there, screaming at the guy in Spanish, who immediately started high tailing it, but not before she gave the con man a swift and forceful boot in the ass out the door.  

Today truly was a day that could have come out of the pages of Chaucer; full of ritual, symbol, purpose, and real life, the ass kicking and all. 

 Apps I Use On My Camino

 June 23     Today we enter the mainstream of perigrinos as we approach Santiago where my traveling pal Heleno will travel today and complete his Camino.  

     It is fortunate that we have cushioned our schedule with adequate time to not only cut the typical last 19 mile stage to a more comfortable ten today but have also reserved a room in a hotel for two nights there. The elevation profile also shows a bit of an uphill ascension.  

           I’d like to mention apps on my iPhone that I have used here. 

       I was not able to procure an app for the Portugese Camino. If I were on the French route, I would have been able to use Guthook’s Hiking Guide for that.   

      I have been very happy with the MAPS.ME app. MAPS.ME offers offline maps of all the cities, and of the countries of the world for free. MAPS.ME helps to locate yourself on a map, find the nearest restaurant, hotel, bank, gas station etc. It also doesn’t require an internet connection once you have downloaded the particular maps that you require. I required two downloads: one for northern Portugal, the other for Spain. They take map data from OpenStreetMap, a mapping project similar to Wikipedia, which allows users to create and edit maps. It is a miracle. 

      I back up my daily MAPS.ME route plan by checking Google and IPhone maps as well. Each day, I use their route planning feature, select the walking rather than driving route and compare it to the route in my Brierley Camino Portugese guidebook. Sometimes it is useful to know that there is an alternative route that is more direct for the walker, particularly if the Camino route is in sight of boring industrial zones or places where the forest has just been harvested and is cut over. It is also often distressing to me to walk south, east, or west instead of walking north to Santiago.  

    I check local weather with Dark Sky, as I do at home.  

    I log each day’s mileage and actual track on a map with Strava, my daily habit. I have yearly fitness goals for hiking and biking and use Strava to not only allow me to monitor my weekly goals but also to stay in touch with the social network of my friends and family who value the motivational aspects of this brilliant application of digital magic. Someday, Strava will aggregate data and personal goals for walking sports but right now only gives you those sets for running, biking, and swimming. That is why I have to tag my walks as runs.  

     I don’t need a wrist strap to engage Fitbit, due to the full functionality of the mobile track on my iPhone, whose motion sensor does all the work. It’s revealing that I walk an additional 20% mileage on most days on the Camino. Fitbit is picking up on my trips to pee in the woods, walk around getting food, moving about the albergues, etc. It all adds up. Check out the activity summary for last week here! 

    One app that has found its way into my daily practice for the last three months is SweetbeatHRV. For that, I am carrying a 1 ounce Wahoo chest strap that pairs via Bluetooth that enables me to take a 4 minute time pulse/ HRV recording right after I wake up each morning . The following chart summarizes the status. It now clear that my most favorable HRV readings are coming from these longer hiking days, another testimony to long and slow training. It is also clear that the last month (May) of my professional job as a school psychologist resulted in diminished heart health due to the much longer hours and stressors that I was experiencing at work. If there is a message in that finding, it to be that a stressful 40 work week schedule may predispose one to a heart attack.  

     If you haven’t yet explored HRV, do so.  Here’s a place to start.  

    Lastly, I also carry a navigational backup. It is a $10 Silva compass. I had it in my side pocket on my pack’s waist strap. If I came to a fork in the road I chose north.  

    Our own navigation through life is another matter. 






Amazing!  Spirtual Variant completed! 

June 22

      Our final day on the Spiritual Variant was yet another challenging and rewarding experience. We completed this stage in Pontecesures, where the trail merges again with the Camino Portugese, after 15.5 miles of fort travel from The albergue in Armenteria. 

    In 44 AD the body of James the Apostle was transported by stone boat along the Arousa estuary toward his final resting place at Compostela. 

    James was the first apostle to be martyred, by beheading in Palestine. His remains were carried by the apostles Arhanasius and Theodore. This route was the initial route of all the Santiago trails.  

The first three miles of the walk today were what I call ” work class hiking”. The phrase refers to a segment of a trail where just everything is correct: the slope of the land, the light, the presence of large stones ok, sinuous pathways, and the landscape architecture. This was it today. It is clearly the most beautiful hours and a half of hiking on this entire Portugese Camino. Maliaake had completed the more traditional Portugese Camino two years ago and said that,
   “These is nothing like this on the other Camino.”

    Today was so much richer an experience than was yesterday, although there were still stretches today where we walked along wooded areas that had been clear cut. It is also quite discouraging to witness copious piles of trash along section of the Camino today. This is one aspects of the trip that directly contrasts with the super well kept walkway in Portugal.   

      It is also important to note that the hiking here is hard now. The heat is increasing and it is only the third week in June. I can’t imagine what it must be like in July or August. It would be prudent to do some research that might lead a person with a free schedule to consider an October or even a November Portugese Camino.   

     The sunlight here causes the ground to warm up starting at noon and curiously does not diminish in intensity as the day goes on. It stays hot late here. The heat issue would also suggest that one should consider getting an early start. We have been leaving around 8 am. Today it was an improvement to have started by 7:30. It would be even better to get to bed early, and be walking by daylight which is now around 6 or 6 :15 AM.  

    We find that it is easier to keep moving when hiking with others. We are fortunate that both Heleno and Miaake both speak Spanish fluently. Marcia and I feel like dweebs, due to our poor mastery of foreign languages. Heleno speaks French, Spanish, Portuguese and English. Here, numerous Spaniards do not understand a word of English. Our ability to communicate with out here is painfully limiting.   

Maaike and Marcia

Miaake descending near grain mill from Middle Ages

One of 33 ancient grain mills on this segment
Not a reconstruction
Authentic spirituality
ancient Viking defense
Finishing up our day

Why is The Spiritual Path so Painful? 

Today we we’re close to walking the exact number of miles that were registered on our first leg of the Spiritual Variant, a merging of the Portugese path and the original Sea Trail. We walked 15 miles from Ponteverdra to Armenteria.
From the pamphlet ( direct quote) : “Follow the same route as the remains of St. James on his journey to Compostela. Cross a place of great natural beauty. Discover water mills, fountains, chapels, and monasteries. Walk through many vineyards and beaches. Travel the only maritime Via Crucis in the world, where you can admire the 17 centennial cruceros (calvary) identifying this part of the Camino de Santiago as the ‘Translatio’ THE ORIGIN OF ALL ROADS.”
Somehow the description of this segment as a ballbuster is lost in the literature.  
First, there are three of us in the albergue here tonight and all three of us got lost trying to find the start of this variant coming out of town. Mame and I were preceded by our new Dutch perigrino pal Maaike. 
Next, we went from sea level all the way up to 1,800 feet on a climb above a village that was graced with a multitude of vineyards but that was also the recipient of the most direct, clear and brutally hot sunlight that I’ve experienced since my walk through the “godless expanse of desert in Southern New Mexico on my CDT thru hike in 2013. I consumed 4 quarts of water in three hours today. I was a drenched sweat ball, and only survived by judicious use of my Mylar chrome dome umbrella and dunking my bandanna in every pool of cold mountain water than was collecting in algae covered holding tanks that we passed.  
Poor Auntie Mame was my fellow wreck today, as we trudged up the inclines that stretched for much too long.  
Which bring up the issue of this Spiritual Variant. If it is truly spiritual, today’s ordeal leaned into the suffering aspect of spiritual life. Today’s segment was a mini-purgatory, a testament of the value of suffering on the path to enlightenment.   
I spent the bulk of the day “offering it up” for the better good of my life. This could of been my Ultimate Stoic test!

Spiritual Counseling from The Irish Hiking Machine

We walked 14 miles, meeting dozens of perigrinos as we left Redondela and reached Pontevedra today. These albergues are set up so that each evening’s visitors check out by 8 AM. A little army of walkers exits these ancient stone refuges each day as we try to cover our miles before the heat of the sun makes travel miserable. The days of sparse contacts with other walkers are passed as we near Santiago. 
We walked all day with Karen, from Ashville, North Carolina.  She is a physical therapist who has the summer off and started from Porto as well. Today, I picked up a few key Spanish phrases from her, as she speaks that language pretty well. I wish I could.   
We had two steady climbs today, and ended our day earlier than ever. It helped. 
Marcia and I made excellent time, reachinge here at 1 PM, just as the Albergue was opening.  
When we settled into our €6 lodging, I was pleasantly surprised to find a vending machine in the lobby that not only offered fresh brewed cups of espresso, but also tall chilled cans of German beer. Would you believe €1.60 each?

 When I was thru hiking the Appalachian Trail and rented my weekly motel room, I picked up a habit of purchasing a beer and taking it into the shower with me and extending the ecstasy of rinsing off a week’s worth of grime down the drain. While I have been no where near as slimy of this trip, it was a real treat.  

I ventured out into the busy city and struggled around to find a supermarket where I bought veggies, spaghetti, cheese, and eggs, along other items for our dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow. Thankfully , we secured lower bunks right next to each other even with a dozen people already ahead of us. This alberge is modern, clean and huge. Unfortunately, the guy who was above me was a serious professional snorer and I was woken up a half dozen times.   

Wifi has been a bust in our lodgings. They say they have it, passwords connect l, but then the download speeds are so slow that nothing really comes through. We do better at the little coffee shops. I am so careful with accessing international data after racking up ,$75 in overage fees. I called Verizon again and hope to do better after my plan refreshes again in 2 days.  
I had great contact in talking with David Rooney, the Irish Hiking Machine. He is 73 and is on his 4th Camino. We clicked. He told me that his life finally came together after quitting drinking 30 years ago. He is one of most witty, perceptive, and funny guy. He shared how to get the most out of our Santiago stay, offered some spiritual insights, and advised me in how to make to most out our side trip to Finisterre.