I hiked in the dark this morning with 5 other people who spoke French but that doesn’t mean they were from France. What I love about the Camino is you choose the language that most people speak and that’s what you speak. The other day I was speaking with an Italian who spoke French so that’s what we spoke together. I STRONGLY suggest you learn Spanish before you get to the Camino. Meeting so many people from different lands has inspired me to learn at least two more languages. Eventually, the guys in front took off and the older people were at the back so I ended up hiking down the mountain essentially by myself. Which was perfect and serene. I found the guys in the next town and I had coffee with them and then walked with them (fastest I’ve walked so far) to Ponferrada where I wanted to slow down a bit. I took it easy walking out of Ponferrada and threw on the head phones. I danced and sang at the top of my lungs the last 5Km. To be honest, when I do that under the sun by myself I feel so alive and in my essence. I love it. I’m in a little albergue in a room with two bunks and me and another red head named Katie from the USA are occupying the bottom bunks. We’re going to leave together tomorrow around 6:30am. We had some good discussion tonight about the USA political state. Very interesting. Also, Monica and Jörg found me and we all had dinner together. Tomorrow it’s a short day to Villafranca del Bierzo (15km and I’ll carry my pack tomorrow for the first time in a few days) where my package was delivered 2+ weeks ago and where I’ll find the love of my life around 6:30pm. Tomorrow is the last day I walk alone and then I will be in a team of two. I’m ready.
Day 33 – Camponaraya to Villafrance de Bierzo
First day of carrying my pack again. I haven’t had any discomfort and it was a smaller distance so I figured let’s go for it. I walked with Katie from the states. 24 years old. I really liked her. We started at 6:30am (dark until 8) and chatted the whole way to Villafranca where we parted ways around 11am. I love leaving early when it’s cool but I still have a fear of walking in the dark by myself so I usually asked if I could tag along with those who left early. Wow! Villafranca! What a great little town. I got the box I shipped a couple of weeks from the albergue I shipped it too. Took out what I needed/wanted and shipped it back to Switzerland 🇨🇭. I did laundry in a proper machine (had to be clean for when I saw Luc!) and then headed over to the hotel/hostel that I booked. It was a proper room with my own bathroom. It’s been a while since I’ve had my own room (hospital?) I had a lovely shower and then relaxed on the bed for a couple of hours. I maybe should have discovered the town but I was more content resting and enjoying the room alone. Then I headed for a drink and off to meet Luc at his bus stop at 6:30pm. It was hard to wait all day!! But oh man, so incredible that he’s here now. I feel this safeness, security and love wash over me. I guess that’s who he is for me. ❤️ We went back to the hotel room for him to shower and park his bag and then headed off for dinner. It was. nice to get reacquainted with him and share my experiences I’ve had. Also, the things I’ve learned about myself. I’m not the same person who started this journey. I’m more the person I want to be. They say the Camino is a metaphor for your life in many different aspects. From the people who I have talked to, my journey may have been the most challenging that they have heard. I also know that these challenges I’ve faced have created something new in me. I experience the upset less intense but the contentment and pure joy in my life is more accessible. Love is a constant and to have the love of my life by my side, is the most incredible gift.
Day 34 – Villafrance de Bierzo to Las Herrerias
First day hiking with Luc. It was a very flat, on the road kind of day. I’d say a perfect introduction to the Camino. I only wish it was so easy for me. 👍🏻 the weather was overcast (what?) I loved walking with him and hearing about violette and how she’s adapting to school in Switzerland and with her grandparents and making new friends. Luc was so curious about the plants and fruit and the cute towns. I realize that I had missed this along the way or I had forgotten and to see it through his eyes was beautiful. He asked a lot of questions about how things are and what I’ve experienced and I really enjoyed being able to share my experience. We stopped in Las Herrerias, this cute little town that had a tree where you could tie your dreams onto. And a beautiful little river where I cooled off my feet. Luc’s first experience in a bunk bed room and I have to say it was a pretty clean nice place. Although… there wasn’t a window and typically what happens is the door gets shut. So with 10 people in the room I woke up at 11:45 sweating and had to get out of the room. I sat on the stairs and shortly a man cane down from upstairs. I didn’t want to scare him but inevitably I did. He was heading outside to get some fresh air and smoke a joint which he invited me to partake in. I politely declined. I’m so enjoying Luc with me my pack is still heavier than his but that’s my choice. Tomorrow up and over the last mountain O Cebreiro and into Galicia.
24km by bus. Every day that seems normal I am grateful for these days. Decided to take it easy today and rest the kidney. I hopped on a bus to Astorga after asking in broken Spanish where the bus stop was. Let me tell you: there’s no way you would know it’s a bus stop. Hop skip and a jump to Astorga. What took some people 6 hours, I was there in 20 mins. I visited the tourist info booth and got my bearings of the town. Super cute and not many people around. I headed to the albergue of choice, dropped my bag and set off for the chocolate factory. It was a little anticlimactic. Then to the palace of Gaudi. Gaudi seems to be a pretty regular name around these parts. An architect before his time that was taken out by a street car?! Seems so unfair. Did the slang term “gawdy” come from “Gaudi”? I wonder. Anyway, I took the side road back along the fortress wall. So quiet and peaceful and it ended up in a little park beside my albergue. I sat there for a couple of hours, eating, sorting out the next few days, watching Stephen Colbert (sometimes you just need a good laugh). I went back to the albergue and my kidney started aching again. Then I met up with Monica from Germany for dinner. We drank and ate and had a great conversation. I walked back and saw Pedro from yesterday in the park with Oscar. We had a wonderful conversation about the things we think we’ve learned along the way. I have a feeling I’ll be running into these guys again all the way to the end. Tomorrow I send my pack forward (first time) and I walk 19km. I am making sure I don’t do too much too quickly after passing the stone. Feeling good to be on my way to the finish line. I still amaze myself when I successfully navigate getting from place to place #thatswhatlucisfor Tomorrow Rabanal. #
Day 30 – Astorga to Rabanal
22 km. We packed up and took off around 7:30. Still dark. Guess who tripped and fell over a small raise in the sidewalk? Yep. Me. Landed on knees and hands and mouth. What hurts the most now is my lip. It’s puffy and turning a nice shade of purple. Sigh… I was thinking about SmashMouth earlier and the song “I get knocked down but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down…” definitely my theme song. just one more thing to add to the book I’m going to write. Luckily I sent my bag forward otherwise I’m sure with that weight I would have broken my nose. It was a nice walk today. Mostly flat. We passed a cowboy bar which was pretty neat. I’m seeing the same people over and over again. Got a new extended Camino family these days. I walked for a lot of the day with Monica and Jörg. We ended up in Rabanal. My kidney is aching still. Double sigh. I will send my pack forward again tomorrow and walk 20km to Riego de Ambros. 3 sleeps until I see Luc. I’m so excited! I’m done doing this alone and ready for some partnership and help. #
Day 31 – Rabal to Riego De Ambros
22km. Wow 30 days I’ve been out here doing this! Seems appropriate to visit the iron cross today. As you can see from the last photo it was an up and then down down down. Probably the worst down I’ve done. I walked with Monica and Jörg for a bit but then I left them at the iron cross and they are one town back. At the iron cross you leave a stone behind-it’s meant to represent whatever burden you want to release from carrying. I think I read somewhere to please only bring one rock. My rock was thrown out with the backpack so I got a new one to leave behind. I thought about if I wanted to share the burdens I released and I think I do. I’m not journaling anywhere else and I’m practicing vulnerability so I will. I sat in the sun and closed my eyes and held the rock. What came up for me was this: “I release the burden of suffering. I release the burden of shame. I release the burden of judgement both being judged and judging others. I release the burden of having to get it right. I release the burden of not being good enough. I release the burden of fear. I release the burden of the kidney stone. I release the burden of losing my backpack. I release the burden of my past.” As I walked down the hill, I felt an incredible peace and freedom come over me. I felt lighter and that I will remember this day as today was a day of peace and love and inner joy. Contentment. Today was a great day.
Omg I’m not sure if I should cry or laugh. Maybe both. Coffee (for someone with a kidney stone???) and 10 cookies with peach jam for breakfast at almost 10am (supposed to be served at 9 and I had to ask at 9:40 if I was going to get something). Also, a few other observations: no toilet roll holder in the bathroom, no soap to wash your hands IN A HOSPITAL??, they were going to give me morphine last night even though I was feeling no pain (thank god I asked).
Very uneventful day. Resting and being with where I am. I’ve been practicing just being in the moment. Knowing that the next information I get I can make choices from there and that place. I was completely at peace going home and ending early or continuing. Even the thought of going back to Canada I was at peace with. At 4pm I was taken to the master blaster (lithotripsy procedure). The urologist could see my kidney but was having a hard time seeing the stone. So 2 more X-rays and he still couldn’t see the stone. He asked if I would like to have a dye procedure where they shoot dye into you and can locate the stone easier with the X-ray. Yes why not! Was my answer. So 2 hours after that I was back on the X-ray table being pumped with iodine. 2 X-rays later and the stone is nowhere to be found. The doc said it’s not unheard of to pass a stone and not feel it but he’s fairly certain I should have felt that pass today. Anyway, I’ve got a clean bill of health and the doc said I can continue my Camino! Hooray! Since I missed the deadline to cancel the hospital bed I’m here again tonight but that’s ok cuz there’s no bed bugs, I’m all alone (no snorers), and I have my own bathroom and pjs! Bonus they’ve given my stuff to stop the itch from the bed bugs too! Tomorrow I’ll be discharged and I’m not sure if I’ll take off late morning or wait to see if some friends make it to Leon. I’d like to see them. I’m absolutely thrilled!! Taking it hour by hour has been a practice and a challenge but I know I’ve grown from this experience in so many ways. Thank you all for supporting me along the way. ♥️
Day 27 – Leon (Day 4)
I can hardly write this update cuz you’re not going to believe what happened today. I was discharges from the hospital around 10am. This first photo is Samantha. The last photo is Juan. I went back to the albergue and started organizing my stuff. I wanted to get my clothes in a washer and dryer to ensure there were no bed bugs in them. I let Juan know so he gave me some bed bug spray and I sprayed my pack and put it in a black garbage bag on my balcony. Then I grabbed my clothes to wash and I took off. 1 hour later and I’m back. But wait: where’s my pack in the bag on the balcony? So I ask Juan and his partner. They haven’t seen it. We look everywhere. I say: “any possible way you threw it out because it was in a black garbage bag?” “No no no.” Ok. So Juan has a camera that we can look back on the footage and see who came into my room. I spend 3.5 hours going through the footage (don’t ask why it took so long). Finally, I find the clip where Juan’s partner walks into my room and takes the bag out and into the hallway. Juan and I go to the dumpsters and the garbage has been hauled away. I had emptied the bag (mostly) as I was spraying it so I lost minimal stuff. And there is an outdoor store only 2 mins walking away that carries the exact same bag that I had. And Juan paid for the bag. His partner has apologized. I believe he just didn’t put two and two together. Practicing forgiveness. If there ever was a day of highs and lows this would be it. I enjoyed a nice dinner with Linda and Otto (so thrilled to see them again). I’m walking again tomorrow – finally back on the road. I can’t even express how I’m feeling about all this stuff happening. I’m trying to rise above, and sometimes it’s all I can do not to cry 😢
Day 28 – Leon to San Martín Del Camino
I have left Leon. I repeat: I have left Leon! 6 days (I think) in this town and I’m happy to be heading out. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a beautiful town. But I’ve done my time there and it’s time to move on. Man! Can they party in that town. Doesn’t matter what day it is but people are up to the break of dawn hooting and hollering. I’m not exaggerating. So I headed out at 7:15 to catch a bus to skip the industrial part of Leon. About 6km. I’m pretty sure i was the only pilgrim in a bus full or Spaniards. I got out and looked for the yellow arrow. It wasn’t far thank goodness. Then I started walking. And it felt soooo good to walk. It’s been about 10 days since I walked. I felt strong, alive, well. I was walking away from everything that had happened and taking everything I learned with me forward. I met Pedro walking. That was nice to talk to someone only for about 20 mins. I gave away two oranges 🍊 at a coffee stop. About 13km in I stopped for a bathroom break. I noticed some discoloration. I also started to notice some discomfort in my kidney. I decided to cut my day short and head to this wonderful albergue in San Martin del Camino. I spoke with Samantha who spoke with a doctor and they said it’s normal for some discoloration and discomfort afterwards and to see a doctor in a few days if it persists. Phew! I spent the afternoon in the hammock, resting, talking to friends and family. Around 6:30pm I spoke with Davis who can barely speak English and me Spanish. We had a great time trying both languages, making sound effects and hand gestures. Then dinner. Big table of people who seem to have the same end date as me now which could mean I run into them a lot – bonus!! There was one comedian at the table (Italian) names michael. Him and a French guy picked up two guitars and started hammering out Cat Stephens, led zeplin, etc… it turned into a sing along. Super fun. Too bad I can’t post the video And then the most amazing sunset. All in all it was a wonderful day. Just what I needed to get back on the road again. I will be catching a bus to Astorga tomorrow to rest the kidney some more. Gonna eat chocolate Yo!!
I’m actually writing this the next day and I’m feeling a bit down. Found 2 bed bugs crawling on the wall beside my bed this morning and I’m feeling pretty lonely right now. I will continue. Yesterday morning I hopped on Angel and rode her for a really long time on the road. The sun was rising and I had so much joy in my heart. The photo with me on the bike was taken right after I had put out both my arms like I was flying and yelled out “woohoooooo!!!” I was feeling so good. The Meseta was a ton of fun, learning about myself, seeing old friends, singing with nuns. I’m so happy I did it that way. Every morning I passed many many people walking and I made it my job to spread the joy I was feeling by greeting them with a loud “Buen Camino” and a big smile. Almost everyone smiled back and it filled my heart and soul. I dropped off Angel after a big uphill and then downhill into Leon. I’m so grateful for the contribution she made to me over the last 4 days. I found my beautiful hostel and then roamed the streets looking for a beer and food. Leon is HUGE. I found out some other friends are staying in the same hostel and we planned to meet for dinner. So thrilled to see them one last time. What I knew would happen taking the bike is that the group of people I’ve been mingling with, I would leave behind and I would have to find some new friends. Even though I knew it, and just to acknowledge where I am right now, I’m feeling lonely. I’m about to explore this big city on my own today. I think I’m also missing my family a lot as well. I’ve been on this particular part of my journey now for 3 weeks. It’s a long time and I have even more than that to go. Jaedyn I won’t see until Christmas. 😭 so all of that is catching up with me. It is a beautiful day in Leon. I’m going to request to switch rooms (there’s no way I could sleep in that room again) and if I can’t, then I’m off to find a new place to sleep. Don’t worry everyone: not all days are going to be amazing. Some days will be down. I know this. I’m accepting it, giving myself extra care today and I know this is all part of what I’m meant to experience.
Day 23 – Leon (Day 1)
This was a day. Let me tell you. As you know, I spent the day feeling lonely but it was ok. I embraced the feeling of lonely as I don’t get to feel that very often. I went to mass in the big cathedral and sat and meditated. Then I walked over to the MUSAC museum (contemporary art). It was provocative. Then I hopped on a petit train that went around Leon. And on the way back had a glass of wine with two fellows I met on the meseta. Everything seems so normal right? Well I had an amazing conversation in there with my coach… I realize how much I’ve learned about myself in this journey and what I’m up to creating in the next three weeks. I spent a lot of time crying today both for sadness and utter joy. Deeply moved. So, fast forward: I go to bed. I’m lying there and my left side starts to hurt. And it gets worse-and worse. I sit up. I need to get out of bed. I call Luc. The thing that was the scare a week ago reminds me… there was blood in my urine. It hurts like when I had a kidney stone when I was 8 months preggo. I start to panick. How do I get to a hospital all alone? Luc looks up the hospital. I call on the two guys I had the wine with, pls call me a taxi. A French woman helps to find the number. Taxi called. I head downstairs and pop an ibuprofen. As I’m getting into the elevator Nadine from Germany is getting out. I ask her if she will wait with me (i met her 2 hours ago). Yes of course she says. We decide to walk to the hospital (3mins away). She speaks fluent Spanish so she helps me to translate everything. When I finally see the doc the pain has subsided and she waits for me in the waiting room. Then we get into a taxi to go to the pharmacy (it’s 11pm when all of this is going down). She translates everything in the taxi and when we get to the pharmacy. And then back in the cab to the hostel. I can’t believe it. This angel landed right in my hands when I needed her. Tears continue to run every time i think of this generous soul. I now have painkillers and need to wait for the kidney stone to pass 1-2 days. So I stay in Leon. As expected, plans change yet again. And that’s ok. I was ready to walk tomorrow but the universe has an other idea 4 me.
UPDATE: in the hospital in Leon. Going to be here over night I think. Going to see the urologist this afternoon. Woke up this morning in pain. It only got worse and worse. X-ray showed the stone high in my right kidney. They hooked me up to drugs and eventually the excruciating pain went away. And i slept a bit. Please send me love and strength. Your messages keep me company and help me to feel a little less alone. I’ve been talking to Luc a lot on WhatsApp. I have had a lot of feelings about wanting to go home and be with him and violette. We’ll see what happens today after the urologist.
Day 24/25: Leon (Day 2 and 3)
Day 24 passed without much incident. No pain. I even got a hair cut! I had to move albergues but I think the new one was meant to happen because the man who runs it was exactly who I needed for today. Another angel sent to me to help me along this journey. He’s done the Camino 17 times. He has so much incredible love in his heart and wants to help everyone. And he speaks great English. Yesterday he checked on me while I was resting, brought me ice cream and was always so caring. So today (Day 24) when I woke up in pain, i knew who to turn to. I was in agony and about to puke and he hugged me and sat with me while I cried and moaned. Eventually I puked (this would not be the only time). When I finally decided to go back to the hospital he wasn’t around so I left my number and walked the 5 mins. When I got there, wow, there’s a story there. Essentially let go of all expectations of how a hospital operates. At my lowest point I was sitting in emergency in a wheel chair with a garbage pail in my lap, sobbing and in agony about to puke. And Australian woman was telling me it would be ok and rubbing my back. I got an X-ray and then a lot of drugs through IV. Here at the hospital is another angel named Samantha. She works here and speaks almost perfect English. She’s helped me understand everything all along the way. She’s so kind and patient and is trying to work with our insurance to pay for tomorrow’s procedure. So what they want to do is blast the stone with sound waves. The procedure is estimated at 10,000 euros. Hence why we need our travel insurance to kick in. They moved me upstairs and now I’m in my own room with my own bathroom!! Woot woot! And no bed bugs I’m sure! I’m overcome with all the beautiful messages of love and strength. It means so much to me. Thank you. The stone is about 7.3mm. I had an ultrasound tonight and my kidney looks good. Juan came and visited 2xs and he even came back and brought me my tooth brush. He said tomorrow night I can stay for free at the albergue. I’m overwhelmed by all the kindness that people are showing me. I even got a chance to talk to my work peeps today. ♥️
As you can see I got my bike! Ok let’s back up… I woke up this morning and had to say goodbye for the last time to Feena. I think I’ve only known Feena for 6 short days but her and I got along fabulously. She makes me laugh all the time and her Irish accent is beyond cute (sorry Feena!) definitely NEVER say “top o the morning to ya” to an Irish person. It’s incredible the friendships you make along the way. Nothing I ever could have imagined. Now I absolutely must get to Ireland to visit this beautiful soul again. After parting ways, i got my bike! Fat tires and a heavy back end. I was nervous to ride it and you should have seen me ripping up the trail later in the day. The morning I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. I was having so much fun! The wind in my hair, it was cool out, I was using different muscles, everything was a little different. My butt and wrists are sore but she’s my Angel. That’s her name. Today was HOT. 30+ degrees slogging away on the trail. I walked up some hills (it actually felt better) and I walked down some hills (they were incredibly steep). I stopped in at a place 10km before my end stop for my daily tinto de verano to give me one more push to the end. I found my albergue, showered and rested. I was exhausted!! We had a beautiful pilgrims meal with all the pilgrims: green salad, homemade bread, houmous, chicken legs and a paella with noodles instead of rice and a chocolate mousse. Now I’m freaking out about bed bugs as I just looked down and noticed the base boards are falling apart. Usually where they hide until 2am. Please no! I’m going to put on some essential oils to keep them away and climb into my silk bed liner (my mom says they don’t like silk. Hope she’s right).
Day 20 – Castrojeriz to Carrión de los Condes
Nothing like getting woken up at 5am when you don’t have to leave until 8am. I had ear plugs and something for my eyes too. Didn’t help. Anyway, after a great albergue breakfast I grabbed Angel and we took off for the alternate route around the massive up and over. There I was, in the middle of no where, no cars, no towns, no houses, no people. All alone on the road. It was peaceful for about 5 mins with the wind in my hair until I started getting weirded out by it. Then I wondered if I was going the wrong way. So I checked my google maps and called Luc to keep me company. After some confusion I was back on track and cruising along on the Camino again. Not gonna lie: my crotch hurts. And as you can see by the photo, my hand is bruised (too many bumps I think). I had some snacks in the shade. Then for the last 19km the Camino was tight beside the road so i picked the smooth road of course. Arrived at my destination at 1pm. I met some old friends on the trail and they suggested to stay at Albergue Santa Maria. And there I found more old friends!! So cool. This albergue is so cool. More on that in a minute. The bonus to riding is that your feet aren’t exhausted so I spent a good portion of the afternoon exploring the beautiful town. Then I came back for the nun’s singing. We went around the circle and said our name, where were from and why were doing to Camino. So beautiful. I had my daily tinto de verano with Maria and then headed to mass. Afterwards there was a very special pilgrims blessing where they gave us all stars to represent light. It was so beautiful. The nun that is glowing in the photo had such a beautiful loving energy about her.
Day 21 – Carrión de los Condes to Bercianos del Real Camino
Another beautiful day in Spain 🇪🇸. For up, talked to Luc and Vivi and took off on my bike. This morning the first stop was 17kms away. The longest stretch without a town on the Camino so far (dare I say the entire walk?). On a bike it’s not too bad at all. I forgot to mention yesterday that it was my first day without bandaids on my feet in 2.5 weeks! That’s big!! After the 17k the trail was again right beside the road so to save my saddle I rode the smooth road. I flew down the hills. I had my music on and I sang at the top of my lungs while I stood on my pedals. The meseta has been so much joy and fun for me on Angel. I have to part with her tomorrow. By 11am I was at my destination. So I opted for going another 10kms so I could reduce my ride tomorrow. I need to be in Leon by 1:30pm to return my bike. I found this tiny albergue (see the hole in the wall) that went to a wonderful garden area, nice big bathroom, and only two bunks to a room. Heaven. Albergue Santa Clara. So the annoying thing is this: I signed up for something called Step Bet where you pay $40 and if you make the 6 week goals then you have a crack at the pot. I thought “no problem, waking the Camino will be a breeze and I’ll get rich at the same time”. Well after the bike ride yesterday and today I was only at 2000 steps of 13,653. So yesterday it wasn’t so bad as my feet aren’t tired after biking (bonus) and the town was super cute to explore (double bonus). Today though the town is so strange. On my walking tour I took a lot of photos of doors. And I walked around and around while I talked to Brianna on WhatsApp. Seems strange to ride almost 50km and then walk almost 8km. Anyway the pot is $40k and week 3 of 6 so we’ll see what happens… Today I think I’m at 413km accomplished. Over half way. That feels good. I’m so looking forward to Luc joining me in less than 2 weeks. Can’t wait.