Monday, August 1, 2016

El Camino del Norte Video Blog

Join us on our epic and fun 925km hike across northern Spain on the 1000 year old pilgrim trail along el Camino del Norte to Santiago de Compostela and then el Camino Finisterre to the far west coast at "the end of the world". We started in the town of Irun on the French/Spanish border and walked through Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia, "wild camping" the majority of the way. Our average distance was 20 miles/32 km per day and we completed the journey in 28 days. We hope this documentary done on a hand held Go Pro will give you some idea of these incredible areas and help any future hikers or armchair hikers with a little bit of insight on what to expect. Please feel free to comment. Enjoy the 2 hour video blog with us in one sitting or in sections. Aloha from Dreadknot and Two Feathers

Friday, June 10, 2016

To the End of The World: Camino de Finisterra

Day 26-28:
We left Santiago around midday and set off on the Camino de Finisterra, the only Camino that goes away from Santiago. By embarking on this second journey we will be able to say that we have walked the entire length of Spain non-stop with unbroken footsteps and no rest days.

For anyone who is thinking of walking any of the Caminos, I highly recommend completing your journey with this route which is 90km in length and very enjoyable, taking one through some very quaint villages, across rivers and past many cafe bars with names starting with an "O" prefix, just like in Ireland.
The Galicians are from Gaelic ancestry and bagpipes are their pride instrument, making their traditional songs sound similar to Irish and Scottish music.

Our first proper Albergue experience, where we stayed in bunk bed dormitories was in Negreira. I felt ill, went to bed early and slept like a log, whereas poor Josh was kept awake all night by the other hikers in the dorm snoring loudly. We were so glad that this had not been our experience the entire way and that we had camped most of the time in our awesome tent!

I figured out that the tight waist belt on my backpack aka "The Purple Monster" was causing my ailments. My abdominal organs felt compressed by the constant compression from the belt and weight of the pack, mile upon mile, day after day. After readjusting the backpack to sit lower on my hips, I started feeling a bit better with less pain and nausea.

Wild flowers line the trail everywhere and in this particular stretch Foxglove is in abundance as are roses in people's gardens as we passed by.

The Galician horreos ( grain drying houses) are present in practically all the yards of the homes we passed and walking through the four different provinces has been an interesting study in these unique little huts which differ in shape and style in each area.
As noted before, the Camino really seems to add greatly to the economy of the small villages it goes along throughout Spain. The Spanish people have done an outstanding job of keeping the different "ways" very well marked and providing affordable accommodation for peregrinos. We are in awe!

A village we went through that was particularly pretty and well presented was Olveiroa and we would have liked to have stayed but we pressed on to get better mileage for the day, stopping at O Logoso to eat pizza as a drizzle started early evening.
We left there around 8:00pm and everyone there (other peregrinos and the locals) were concerned about our wellbeing as it was late in the evening, raining and there were no accommodations for the next 25km. Once they heard we had a tent and were planning on camping, they all thought we were super hardcore!

We reached the split in the road after a village called Hospital were we met a group of walkers heading in the opposite direction who warned us that there was nothing but wilderness ahead for many kilometers. We thanked them for their warning and again informed them that we would be fine as we had a tent. 

An ancient way-marker along the way had messages, mementos, photos of lost love ones and stacking stones upon it's base. I placed a stone on it in honor of my lost brother.

By this time the rain had stopped and we enjoyed a fantastic walk until just after 9:00pm when we came to a church seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Sanctuary of A Nosa Senora das Neves (Our Lady of the Snow). On the side was a picnic area with tables and a lovely place to camp under a canopy of trees. This was going to be it! The last place we would camp along our journey. It was absolutely perfect and just as we zipped the tent closed, it started raining. It couldn't have been better timed!

There was an outdoor alter along the wall of the church where people had placed handwritten messages, prayers and wishes. I left my message there too, hoping for peace and harmony.

Further along the trail we came to the Hermitage of San Pedro Matir with it's miraculous healing water fountain where we both splashed some water on ourselves....we'll see what happens!

Soon the Atlantic Ocean came into view from the top of the hill and we became very excited about the prospect of reaching the "end of the world" so early in the day but it was a cruel joke because we soon found out that what we thought was Finisterra was actually the town of Cee. We still had 15 km to walk before we reached our destination of the lighthouse located on the far side and uphill from Finisterra ( also known as Fisterra).

"This Camino route pre-dates Christianity, as pagans would head to Fisterra on the Costa da Morte (Coast of Death) where they believed the sun died and the worlds of the dead and the living became closer. Prayers would be said and offerings would be made to please the gods. Fisterra is also believed to be the place of Ara Solis, a magical place and altar dedicated to the dying sun." (Wikipedia)

Fortunately it was a picturesque walk through a few more coastal villages.

Finally, after what seemed to be a never ending trail we reached Finisterra and the lighthouse, the place where in Roman times it was also believed the world ended. It was named from the Latin words " finis terrae", meaning " end of the earth".

What a great relief and feeling of accomplishment.
 It had taken 28 days to walk across the entire length of Spain without a day of rest and with unbroken footsteps.

Back down the hill we walked to the Peregrino office to get our certificate for completing our second Camino. 

Now that our journey was complete we decided to go back to Santiago de Compostela and experience more of this amazing city that is obviously a huge energy center on the planet.

After a three hour bus drive from Finisterra and another one hour inner city bus ride we finally found a place to stay at 10:00 pm. The entire city was practically fully booked and we got very lucky finding last minute accommodation so late in the day.

I would like to send out my heartfelt thanks to the country of Spain for providing us with a fantastic experience. We learned so much and thankfully I kept this blog going or much of it would have been a blur.
Thank you to our family and friends who kept in touch and cheered us on. 
A huge thank you to Big Agnes outdoor gear company who sponsored me with our fantastic Flycreek UL3 tent, my "mother of comfort" sleeping mat and sleeping bag system which was exactly that and my awesome, comfortable jacket which kept me warm. I highly recommend their products all of which are top quality, durable and lightweight.
Muchas Gracias y adios.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Santiago de Compostela...We made it!

Day 24: Our journey began today with an Irish blessing bestowed upon us by our wonderful hosts.

The Camino then took on a pleasant turn after the highest point of the day at O Meson as it slowly meandered down to the only dam we've seen along the way which was created by monks in 1500 to help irrigate their crops and today it is classified as a protected natural reserve.

 Sobrado dos Monxes is home to an enormous monastery where the monks, among other things, evidently sing Gregorian chants.

Unfortunately it was closed for siesta time when we arrived, so we enjoyed the grounds and beautiful architecture and continued along our journey towards Santiago, arriving at a modern, state of the art Albergue facility in Boimorto. 

Nobody was there and a sign on the door said to call a number, which we did and someone came ten minutes later, let us in for 6 Euros each and we had the entire 34 bed facility to ourselves. So crazy!

Day 25: If we could find it within ourselves to hike 53 km today, we would make it to Santiago. Joining up with el Camino de Frances in Arzua put a pep in our step. Suddenly there were literally hundreds of other hikers. In order to receive a certificate of pilgrimage one only has to officially hike 100km, so many more people are in this last section of the trail which has a very pleasant gradient, mostly under the shade of trees.

After being on the trail for thirteen hours we arrived at the Cathedral at Compostela and it was a wonderful time of day to get there as people were out and about and the atmosphere was great!

By the time we had taken our "finish photos", we tried to find out where the office was located in order to get our completion certificates and "Compostela" and arrived at the office at 9pm just as they were closing.

Fortunately we were able to find a room in the absolutely beautiful Monastery attached to the Cathedral and celebrated with pizza and red wine, collapsing in an exhausted heap but feeling grateful and accomplished. Not only had we achieved our goal of backpacking such a long distance and wild camping along the way, but Dreadknot had also managed to quit smoking and he has discovered his inner endurance athlete. I have discovered a wonderful, kind, compassionate and considerate  partner to enjoy the adventure of life with and once again realized that you can "Dream it. See it. Be it."

It had taken us 25 days to walk 825 km with 12kg backpacks with unbroken footsteps and without a rest day. Although the Camino Del Norte is completed, our quest has not finished yet and tomorrow we head off to Finisterra at the western coast where it was once believed that the world ended.

Day 26: After a hearty breakfast at the Monastery we obtained our certificates for completing the journey and picked up new "credentials" for the next leg of the journey.

We'll be hitting the trail again this afternoon after checking out, doing laundry and getting some supplies.
To the end of the world we go!


Monday, June 6, 2016

Out of the fog and into Miraz

The Hungarians were singing sustaining songs amongst each other as they marched back onto the Camino in the thick early morning fog which took us by surprise and made us chuckle.

The town of Vilalba boasts a beautiful intact medieval castle and against the backdrop of the foggy ancient section of town, a theatrical mood was set as we walked through it's quiet cobbled streets early on this Sunday morning.

The nature of the Camino today allowed us to keep up a good pace and get our desired milage in.

The Galician countryside provided us with green pastures and forested paths lined with ancient stacked rock walls all overgrown with damp emerald moss.

This 1000 year old trail was originally marked with crucifixes to point the pilgrims of olde in the right direction towards Santiago de Compostela where it is said that the body of St James is buried.

Once again "the way" led us through villages and past such old churches that we felt like we could have been transported back in time more than a few centuries.

Our aim was to reach the little village of Miraz and see whether we could camp at the Albergue there.

In one of the tiny settlements an artist's house featured a few interesting stone sculptures.

On arrival at the Albergue in Miraz we felt so welcomed by three wonderful women who volunteer there, Liz, Therese and Paula.

It was blissful to be able to have a hot shower and set up our tent in the lovely grounds. 

Every day the Camino teaches us something new and provides us with unexpected surprises and the good fortune to meet the most amazing people along the way who have been incredibly kind.

Again, this long distance hike has highlighted the kindness which exists in humanity.

After a delicious and nutritious meal which included lots of fruits and vegetables we received trail magic in the form of a stash of Cliff bars from our fabulous hosts who have become our trail Angels.
Thank you. Gracias. Mahalo. 
Life is good!