Thursday night in Union! Camino Portugese

Thursday, April 13 at 7:00 PM
Illustrated Travel Talk:
Hiking the Coastal Camino Portugese

Vose Library, 392 Common Road in Union, Maine.

Telephone: (207) 785-4733


Tom Jamrog, Triple Crown Hiker ( Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail), will give an illustrated talk about his June 2016 hike of the coastal Portugal Camino, a lesser known pilgrimage route.  Tom’s 250 mile hike started in Porto, Portugal and ended on the Atlantic Ocean in Finisterre, Spain.

He will discuss trip preparation, the contents of his 10 pound pack, and the challenges encountered in walking this particular route, which included the Spiritual Variant or the Maritime Way.

This program is free and open to the public.

Support Walking!

Fat Tire Bikes Are Not Just For Snow

I prefer to ride my fat tire bike right now, leaving my full suspension 29″  Santa Cruz Tallboy and my converted Diamondback Apex “road” bike in the garage.

Why?  Because each and every bike has a personality and a bike’s personality speaks to the rider in a special language.

Do read Rebecca Rusch’s one page submission from Dirt Rag #189, just like I did this fine Maine morning.

Illustration by Chris Escobar
Illustration by Chris Escobar

Here it is:  RUSCH JOB: ZEN AND THE ART OF FAT BIKING | Rebecca Rusch .” Fat biking is not a fad. It’s here to stay and has opened the doors to a whole new…”

While Rush’s article reflects her impressions of riding on snow, it captures the essence of moving through the wooded trails here in Midcoast Maine, anytime of year.  There a bit more calmness to “riding fat”, as The Bubbas call it.  For me, at my age and stage of life,  riding on 5 inch wide tires sporting 5 pounds of pressure at 5 mph is fine.  I’m riding difficult trail sections that were impossible for me to clear on 2″ tires.  I don’t steer and aim so much when riding fat.  I let the bike slide and hop a bit until it finds it’s own line.  It’s intuitive rather than calculated.  These same trails are seen differently.  I like to notice that.

It’s been hot and humid here, since I have returned from hiking the Portugese Camino this June.  It’s still cool out here at 6:45 AM on this fine summer day, and I’m free to enjoy it right now.

I’m heading out the door to swing my leg over my Surly Ice Cream Truck right now : out the door, over the hay fields, rocky streams, and onto the snowmobile trails that I keep open to ride up and around Moody Mountain.   I’m happy to be riding fat again this morning.



My 10 Pound Camino Backpack Kit

Yes!  I am down 10 pounds on my back. Here’s the picture of all the gear that  I carried for the last 5 days of my 1 month, 250 mile ” backpacking” trip on the Camino Portugese this past June.

Stuff that mattered
Stuff that mattered

I started this trip with fourteen pounds of gear.

I was able to experiment with ditching numerous items for the last 5 day of the walk in Spain, at a distance of some 50 miles from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre. It was the perfect time to experiment with a minimally-prepared pack.

Ditching gear for this leg of the journey was not my idea. It was suggested to me by the “Irish Hiking Machine”,  AKA David Rooney, an important contact that I spoke with for just one hour on my pilgrimage.  After we parted ways I  never saw Rooney again.  Rooney was a three time repeat on the Portugese Camino, and knew the ropes.  At the albergue where we both had bunks, Rooney made a call ahead to his favorite hostel in Finisterre, the Cabo de Vila , where he helped arrange a private room for Marcia and I.  At his suggestion, we also booked an extra night there, in order to relax and enjoy the area.

Rooney encouraged us to further even plan ahead and reserve a night for when we take the bus back, returning from Finisterre to Santiago. We liked our room, and it was near the bus station, so we planned a return to the Hotel Cuidad de Compostela  (49.09 Euros), where we spent our last night before moving on to walk the “Camino Finisterre“.  Rooney’s reasoning was to leave any extra items from our packs at the hotel, where we’d be back in 5 days. The Hotel was very accommodating to this plan.

Even a fourteen pound pack has things one may not really need, and I decided to be ruthless about reducing weight.  I left my summer down sleeping bag at the motel. Sleeping pajama style in my thin merino wool tights and long sleeve jersey worked fine. If I was not warm enough I was able to throw a blanket over myself.  Our lodging places had  extra blankets in the rooms.  It’s been perfect weather here in June, with just two successive days in the month bringing light intermittent rain, and with the five day forecast for clear skies,  I left my warm jacket, rain jacket, and rain skirt behind as well. Other extra items were souvenirs, pamphlets, guidebooks, a Portugese phrase book, and maps we didn’t need any more but wanted to keep.

So how did it work out for me with just 10 pounds on my back?   The bottom line was that I didn’t miss a thing. I had no spare clothes, but it was so warm and sunny during the day that I was able to wash out my shirt and underwear each day, and easily dry them on a laundry line out in the warm sun that lingered here past 10 pm each night.  I’m inspired to  keep my weight down when I return to backpacking at home as well.  It’s a welcome  experience with 10-15 pounds on your back, however, the move requires trusting that things will work out, or that it won’t be so bad if I’m lacking something that I might have brought along.

“The more you know, the less you carry”- Mors Kochanksi ( inscribed on the face page on my copy of BUSHCRAFT)

As for my final packing list:
1. Pack Group:
Backpack – Granite Gear  —-Leopard AC 58                49 oz.
1 Pack cover                                              3 oz.
Total……………………………………………..                            52    oz

2. Sleeping Group:
1 Ibex wool long sleeve zip T                                        5.8 oz.
1 Ibex long tights                                                      5.4 oz
1 headlamp w/ batteries                                        2.1 oz.
1 stuff sack sil-nylon………………………                                1.3 oz
1 pillow case                                               4.0 oz
Total……………………………………………                                   18.6 oz.

3.  Packed clothing :
1 pr. wool shortie socks                                           2.6 oz.
1  wool midweight long sleeve hoodie                             9.4 oz.
Patagonia Houdini wind jacket                                4.3 oz.
1 pr. New Balance Minimus shoes                            9.1 oz.
Total……………………………………………                             30.2  oz.

4. Kitchen Group:
1 qt. water bottle ( Tiki Mon)                                     5.4 0z.
1 1-liter Platypus                                        1.5 oz.
1 spork……………………………………                             0.3 oz.
1 cup, bowl=Orikaso                                             4.2 oz.
1 bandanna………………………………………..                   1.0 oz.
Total………………………………………….                          12.4  oz.

5. Hygiene Group:
1 small pack towel……………………………..                        1.3 oz.
1 bottle hand cleaner                     …………                    1.3 oz.
1 small zip lock………………………………….                                      1.3 oz
w/ floss, vitamins, ointment, emery boards
1 partial roll toilet paper……………………..                                        2.0 oz.
1 Baby wipes                                                                                  2.0 oz.
1 chap stick                                                                                     0.2 oz.
1 disposable razor                                                                           0.1 oz.
1 small child toothbrush……………………..                                         0.5 oz
1 small tube tooth paste…………………….                                         0.7 oz.
Total……………………………………………..                                 8.5  oz

6. Electronic Group:
1    iPhone with headphones,  wall charger and cable              6.6 oz.
1     Anker Charger                                        5.8 oz..

Europe Electrical converter box                                6.6 oz.
1     Wahoo Ticker heart rate monitor                          2.0 oz.
1    Kindle reader                                            6.7
Total……………………………………………..                        27.7 oz

7. Navigation Group:
Map/guidebook                                                   6.0 oz
compass                                                 1.6 oz.
pen                                                        1.0 oz.
Write in the Rain notebook                                    1.5 oz.
Montbell “chrome dome” umbrella                            5.8 oz.
Total                                                    15  .9

Passport                                                    1.4 oz.

Checkbook w/ credit card ( stripped)                        3.0 oz.
Flowfold Wallet                                            2.0 oz.
Total                                                    6.4 oz.

1  sunhat
1 pr. sunglasses
1 Ibex wool shirt
1 pr. synthetic underwear
1 pr. zip leg synthetic pants
1 pr.  socks
1 pr. On the Beach/  boots
1 pr. Leki poles
total packed weight, dry, without food                 10 pounds, 8 ounces

“Farm to Face” on the Portugese Camino

In September of 2013, I walked away from the treadmill at my local YMCA where I had been a faithful member for decades. An 18 mile round trip Camden and back to walk indoors on a mechanical device with all these TV screens on the wall in front of me blaring trivia and shock news seemed wrong.  Instead, I now walk or ride one of my bikes for 75 minutes almost every day. I also tend my vegetable gardens.

The best souvenir that I‘ve brought back from the Portuguese Camino is not my small wheel of aged Galatian cheese,  my tiny espresso cup/saucer, my scallop shell/cross tattoo, or my wool cap.  It’s this picture.

Typical Portugese veggie garden
Typical Portugese veggie garden
It was taken along the coast of Portugal on my first day on my month long hike.  It’s one of many hundreds of small summer family vegetable gardens that are the norm in this part of the world. All the basics are covered:  lettuce, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and the almighty collard green- looking like a morphed cabbage plant that also serves double duty as a parasol. These gardens sometimes are paired with a few chickens, in one of the planet’s mutually beneficent relationships.  The chickens eat the weeds, garden trimmings, and consume bugs, with the garden receiving nutrition from chicken manure.

That picture has framed my activity here at my home for the past week.  I have a renewed interest in elevating my vegetable gardening skills to a higher level.  I don’t just want to plant a garden, I  now look forward to tending it lovingly as well.

Last year was the first time I used an electric fence to keep the voracious deers from eating my food.  It worked, and now that fence is serving its second season of duty.

No more "Dear me.  They ate a row of lettuce last night !"
No more “Dear me. They ate a row of lettuce last night !”

I have purchased a new hose to water my garden, as well as successfully employing a drip irrigation line to carry us through the dry days.  We are limited to how much water I can draw from my dug well, so this week, I am setting up a system to collect rainwater off my roof where it can be stored in a large plastic tank and then gravity fed into the two plots below.

I am a bit behind in the planting schedule. I was able to plant leeks, onions, tomatoes, kale, and some lettuce before I went a way to hike in Portugal and Spain for the month of June. It was unseasonably cold here when we were away, so both the vegetables and the weeds held back a bit until I returned.   I had plenty of compost  to apply, under the plants, that had aged nicely over the last year from inside my two plastic bins.

Deer love lettuce, so I made a wire cage overlay to protect a small area of various leaf styles.

In the space of a week, seeded plantings of beans, beets, carrots, Chinese cabbage, bok choi, and salad mix are out of the ground and greening up under the sun.  My neighbor Bill had overflow plants from his own greenhouse that he shared with me:  cabbage, Brussels sprouts, summer squash, and zucchini.   I bought a few more plants to round out the garden choices:  eggplants, broccoli, peppers, basil, parsley.

Leeks, onions and lots of plastic bags.
Leeks, onions and lots of plastic bags.

I have a new experiment going with my brassicas.  I have been planting on this land for close to 40 years and in that time I have developed a serious problem with clubroot on my broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts plants. Clubroot is a soil born disease which causes grossly enlarged and malformed roots and stunted, sickly plants.  The normal solution is to use a 4 year rotation for those vegetables along with treatment of the soil with lime, but it’s easier to read about  this practice than carry it out.  I am trying out a new idea.  

Home Depot had 40 pound bags of topsoil on sale for $1.58.  I bought twenty bags. I planted a broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower seedling in each bag, which I perforated with 12 holes on the bottom.  My reasoning is that the plastic bag will keep the disease away from the fresh soil in the bag and I should be growing and harvesting some serious greenage this season.

An unexpected benefit from my work in the garden is the surprising degree of exercise that I have been able to derive from all the digging, tilling, planting, wheelbarrowing, hoeing, watering, pulling weeds, and removing rocks that are part of home agriculture.  Here’s a screenshot from Saturday’s Fitbit results from my iPhone 6, that sat  in my pocket in a plastic bag while I worked :

Eight miles of motion
Eight miles of motion

8 miles of movement, and it’s not just walking!  I can attest from the aches and pains in my muscles that I am  getting a practical “crossfit” experience in dealing with these two plots that are less than 100 feet away from my door.

Now that the chickens have moved out , I also have a greenhouse on the south side of my garage that can carry another whole bevy of fall and early winter vegetables that I can establish.  And there is that pine tree that I have to cut down that’s shading the greenhouse too much. And the grass needs cutting, and there is firewood to cut up from the six trees that Gary and I felled in May before I left to hike.

There’s also the satisfaction and nutritional benefit of eating real food. I give way a bit of extras.

And finally,  I am most interested in planting Padron pepper seedlings in the greenhouse and enjoying the experience of roasting, salting and eating those delicious appetizers in a couple of months.

Padron paradise on a plate
Padron paradise on a plate
 Who would have predicted that this “back to the lander” from the 1970’s would be leaning on the most simple of actions to improve his quality of life ?  

Maine is the real deal.  

Our Last Day in Portugal

My sister-in-law, V-8 , occasionally sends nuggets of true wisdom my way. We followed one of her maxims on our last full day in Porto, Portugal.
“Don’t do any more than three major tasks a day.”

Our Brazilian peregrino pal Heleno was here for three days before he started walking the Camino. Before we parted company, he adorned our map with some must-do locations that we decided to check out today.

First on the list was a visit to Bolhāo, Porto’s large open-air traditional market that opens at 8:30 AM.

It's huge!
It’s huge!

It was an easy uphill walk of a half-mile from the Yes! hostel. The market was loaded with vegetable farmers, grain vendors, florists, fishermen, butchers, wine and cheese merchants, as well as purveyors of traditional crafts and souvenirs.

The old and the young view the offerings
The old and the young view the offerings

I have a favorite place in Porto!
After doing a run through of the two story sprawling floor plan, we found a little café along the rows of booths where we sat and enjoyed our €.80 cafe con leches.  Little free pastries came with our cups.  I wandered off and bought Marcia a flower as part of our modest celebration of completing our Caminos.

We also had a purpose here at the market. I have been disappointed about my lack of success in ordering a traditional Portuguese soup so I decided that we could make it ourselves.
There was a well-appointed kitchen for resident use at the Yes! hostel where we are spending our last two nights.  We fleshed out a traditional list of ingredients for the soup: potatoes, collard greens, onion, shelled beans, a tomato, local chourico, and garlic. Fresh bread rolls rounded out our list.  I also purchased a bottle of white port from one of the vendors to bring home, plus three little bottles of various quality port wines to try out later today.

Marcia was interested in the chickens, perhaps springing the cage?

Interspecies communication
Interspecies communication

By this time, we were hungry for lunch and we just happened to be in the vicinity of the Majestic Café, one of the iconic establishments in Porto, and the second place recommended by Heleno.

Cafe Majestic
Cafe Majestic

•            “… it is in the country’s second city that we find the most stunning of all cafés in the nation and one of the most attractive in the world.”

We were given a small table adjacent to the piano in the center of the large café. Check out the stunning website.

This place is a gas.  It truly was a special meal. Marcia wanted a gin and tonic. The stylishly uniformed waitress, who spoke English, asked Marcia what brand of gin she preferred.
“ I’m OK with the house brand,” Marcia replied.
“The waitress retorted, “We don’t have house brands here, but we do have anything you would like.”  She steered Marcia to the Bombay Sapphire, and then brought back what appeared to be a stunning double.
We were provided with a few tapas dishes to start our brunch.

Tapas, the lily, and one big gin and tonic
Tapas, the lily, and one big gin and tonic

I had seafood soup and a chicken Caesar.

Rich and thick
Rich and thick

Marcia preferred a seafood salad.

Artistic presentation
Artistic presentation

All concerns about costs went out the window,  to the tune of €78 for drinks and lunch.  Other couples who sat around us were content with a couple coffees and their selfie shots, as they rolled their eyes at the menu.

With two down, I had one more even to go today.  We parted after the meal, with Marcia content to wander the shops on the Rua de Santa Catarina while I headed back to the hostel to drop off our purchases and then walk down some twisty steep streets to take in the third of Heleno’s recommendations, the WORLD OF DISCOVERIES, an interactive museum and “Theme Park” that re-enacts the adventures of Portuguese navigators as they crossed oceans to discover previously unknown worlds.  Around 1500, Portugal played a leading role in this process, creating new maritime routes and circulating all around the world.

At 14 Euros, the entrance fee is over priced.  Billed as an interactive theme museum, it’s a bit weak, but my frame of reference is Disneyworld.  I was able to get into the 4 pm English-guided option. There were two parts, billed as a 75 minute experience that stretched to an hour and three quarters due to a bit of waiting around.  The story was narrated by on young bearded man who was dressed in period. There was considerable money and design to the place, which had replicas and some historical objects, as we were led through a half dozen rooms that were illustrated with standard mannequins and replicas. The data we were getting was not 100 percent. For example, I liked the part of the tour where we were shown models of the half dozen types of sailing vessels that cruised the seas in the late 1400s.

Portugese ships/ narrator
Portugese ships/ narrator

I asked our guide how long the biggest one was- the gunboat. He told us it was appointed with 360 cannons.  He first said it was much smaller than our present ships, but I pressed him:
“How many meters long ?”
When he replied, “ Ten to twelve,” every one of the four other guests looked as shocked as I was at what was obviously an incorrect figure. I knew that Columbus’ Santa Maria was the largest of his three ships and that was just under 20 meters (58 feet) long . A couple of folks even challenged him but he held firm.

The boat trip was disappointing. The cheap headphone only produced sound out of one side, and that was poor quality. The audio portion was laggardly, with periods of silence that were too long as the boats weaved in and out of the different rooms of the voyage. The gift shop had the expected nautical puzzles, magnets, etc, but there were also some strange things offered for sale. When I was looking around there were many middle school aged students in the shop and they were tittering at something on one of the sales tables. After they moved on I went over to see that they had been checking out a box of embossed chocolates that depicted 12 Kama Sutra couples actually coupling. I did not check out the dining room, which received great reviews.

So three events were enough for me today- almost.
I’d call our supper collaboration a success as well.  A good kitchen make it easy to whip up a good meal, this one with local ingredients that we purchased this morning for very low prices- 5 Euros or so.  I did get my Portugese soup, on the last day.

Our last supper !
Our last supper !

We had to come though, and we did, together.

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. 

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.  

Camino: Vigo is the World’s Tiny Dog Capital

We made our miles today without too much effort. After a quick breakfast at the hotel we started our first leg to Vigo. Half the population of my home state on Maine would fit in the greater Vigo area. It was easy getting through the center of town when the Atlantic was right on our shoulders.
The air was crisp and cool. Marcia was a powerhouse today,as we made 16 miles between 8:30 am and 4 pm. She also did better than me at finding the yellow arrows that are sometimes a bit dodgy to see.

We did the right thing by checking in at the Info booth on the waterfront. With the help of the attendant, we modified our original plan to stick to the coast as long as possible. She highlighted a direct street route to connect to the more interior option, rather than subject us to what she described as an excessively steep climb from the seaside route later on in the morning. The walk today included 10 miles walking along on an elevated contour interval at around 400 feet in elevation. We alternated between verdant shady gravel paths and small settlements of houses.
It is Sunday today and there were so many mountain bikers, hikers , dog walkers, and runners moving with and against us.
I thought of my pals, The Bubbas, who were also riding the hills outfit New England this morning. I my bikes and their company.
Did you know that this area is also the tiny dog capital of the world ? It is. We saw a half dozen JacK Russel and many dozens of Yorkies moving determining along their own caminos.
Staying in a 16th century stone albergue for €6 each tonight where we met and then went to dinner with Julia ( Germany) and Karen ( Ashville, NC). We hope to walk with them tomorrow.

Camino Portugese-Where Even the Sun Stays Up Late

We successfully managed to reduce longer hours spent walking to a much more reasonable 11.5 miles today. This was all made possible by two decisions.  

Number one – we headed back to the coast, rather than continue to follow a route that was situated in more mountainous terrain approximately a kilometer away from the Atlantic.

Number two – I finally figured out how to use Strava in airplane mode so that I was more accurately able to track how far we were walking each day . Thanks to my two sons Lincoln and Arlo, I followed their suggestions to enable background apps like voice, wi-fi, and data roaming but to slide the airplane mode switch on. The Strava app is not able to function in map mode while I’m walking like this but as soon as I finish and reach a Wi-Fi spot I am able to successfully convert all of the data into a normal Strava feed including a nice map to use as a souvenir of my track for the day. 

We were able to walk with Camino pals Sherry and Mary for the whole morning which really helped to pass the time. Unfortunately they are on a scheduled trip supported by Camino Ways which is moving their luggage each day to a prearranged hotel that they have to reach. They had to reach Vigo today which was a bit longer then we will willing to walk. We hope we may see them at our home in Maine sometime in the future. Both Mame and I clicked with them.

Our walk today started along the shore front right outside our hotel window on the harbor and after working a bit east. 

We turned directly north along the interior route toward Vigo which has a population of 300,000 people or a half 1 million in the general area. It will be a true challenge to get through there but with our new plan to stick with the shore we should be able to eliminate at least half of the hassle that would be coming out us from the west.  

Today had moments of what I would call tedium as well as some very beautiful travel through some forested areas that gained a bit of elevation in two instances.

The tedium was the zigzag nature of our path as we wound back and forth through what probably could be called suburban areas. We definitely passed along the edge of a good size industrial park in the Nigran zone. 

Despite being amidst many houses it took us almost until noon time until we found a small coffee shop where we could stop and take a break to eat our packed lunches. 

We then went up and up through two wooded areas where we encountered a woman named Ann and who was walking her four dogs. 

Ann had walked the French Camino two years ago. She had a lot to say about the crowds that she heard are populating that path this season. Ann clued me in on a little known hike across Europe that one of her friends just completed where he saw less than 150 travelers. It is also a pilgrimage path. Ann made me promise that I wouldn’t out give any details about it but I’m definitely going to check it out as a possibility in the future. 

Ann asked us where we were going to be traveling and when I showed her a map she strongly suggested that we are off our intended route and turn west to the seaside all away into Vigo. Mame and I decided to do this but Mary and Sherry had to continue on with their scheduled route. Sad to separate.  

Mame and I ended up walking approximately one additional mile before we found this super interesting and very well outfitted seaside motel in Samil- Hotel Playa de Vigo. We took the last room available for €55. 

Even better was the dinner spot that the owner recommended- the Mara del Plata right down the street. €27 bought us an astounding seafood array: full salad for 2, pitcher of Sangria, pablon peppers- roasted, a free tostada, a huge serving of hake with red peppers and potatoes, and 3 free home -made coffee flavored aperitifs.  
First course:

Then this: 

I am now waiting to take a sunset photo if the view across the Atlantic. It is now 9:48 pm and there is still a half hour to go. Even the glorious sun doesn’t want to go to bed here on this Camino by the sea.