Monday, October 31, 2022

Madrid, Spain to Tal Pietà, Malta   October 31, 2022

Once I found the check-in for Ryanair in terminal one at the huge Madrid airport, I settled in for a six hour wait. I read a book, I slept for a couple of hours and visited with a couple from Chile. Finally at 4 AM I was able to get in line and get rid of my big backpack. The flight was uneventful and I arrived in Malta at 9:15 this morning.  Malta is made up of three small islands south of Sicily and east of Tunisia.  It also happens to be the 100th country I’ve visited!


It’s been inhabited since 5900BC and has a population of  516,000 living in 122 square miles.  That makes it the tenth smallest country in area and the fourth most densely populated.  It belongs to the EU so they use the Euro, speak English, Italian and other languages.  The whole island is covered with buildings and so it’s known as a city state. It’s old and the older buildings are very white. It also has 365 churches!

I took an Ecab which is cheaper than Uber, to the apartment where I am staying for the next six nights-


My bedroom is very nice and I have my own bathroom –

M

There is a nice view towards the waterfront -



Out the living room is a nice big patio that gets a lot of sun –


I wasn’t really tired so I wandered around.  I’m definitely going to try the rabbit-


But probably not the horse!

I bought a few groceries; food costs more than in Spain.  There are a lot of small places to eat nearby and puff pastry is popular-


The parts where I walked today are quite a mess. There’s a lot of fixing going on of waterlines and sidewalks. They should’ve done it about 30 years ago by the looks of the place. They also drive on the other side of the road so I have to be really careful crossing the streets that I look both ways more than once.  I had considered renting a car to drive around the island but I definitely will not be now. I tried that in South Africa and it was horrible.

The enclosed balconies are called gallerias-




Saint Joseph Parish Church was closed but rings nice bells.  It’s along the waterfront-


I have washed all my clothes including my shoes. At first I thought I was going to have to throw out my socks but they don’t smell since they were machine washed. I’m looking forward to having a better look around tomorrow when I’m not so tired.

P.S.

Bernadette-

and Gary and Jane made it yesterday.  Unfortunately I had already left when they arrived. I hope to see them again somewhere someday –


I met so many interesting people during my walk.  Gary has done thirteen Ironman races and two Extreme Ironman races.  An Ironman is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles biking then a marathon which is 26 miles. The World’s Norseman is an Extreme Ironman in Norway.  It begins at 4:45 am when you are taken out into the ocean and you swim towards the bonfire lit on the beach. After the swim in 50 degree water ( yes you can wear a wet suit), you bike in 180 miles of freezing rain, sleet and snow.  The marathon run was flat for 13 miles then went 10,000 feet up.  Gary finished with 1.5 hours left in an 18 hour race. He competed in Switzerland in another race but because of a bike/motorcycle accident, he wasn’t allowed to finish.

He’s working on qualifying for winter ultra running in Alaska.  It’s 1000 miles and starts before the Iditarod race.  You have 28 days to get to the end and there are 5 food drops.  You pull a sled with all your gear.  You need a plastic whistle, 25 degree sleeping bag, a way to make water and a bivvy bag among other things.  At the end you have to have 2500 calories of food leftover in case you would have run into trouble.


So it’s easy to imagine that for him walking the Camino is like a walk in the park. His wife Jane is a huge supporter of him and his Ironman races and so she wanted to do this, therefore they are here. They are such a lovely couple and I will miss them.











Sunday, October 30, 2022

Santiago de Compostela to Madrid, Spain   October 30, 2022

I had my usual breakfast and along the way-

There was a time change in the night so I was concerned that my bus departure might be affected but it wasn’t and we were pulling out of Santiago at 10:45.  We headed northwest to A Coruña, a city on the coast then southeast towards Madrid. It was weird to be driving past places I had walked through not so long ago.  Galicia is rolling hills and lots of trees-






Astorga and the prairie-




After stopping at two different bus stations in Madrid, we arrived at the airport at 9 PM sharp. What a huge place!  I walked a lot until I found the bus to take me to terminal one which was at least a 10 minute drive.  I’m sitting with a couple from Chile who are also waiting for a morning flight. I leave for Malta at 6:25 so it didn’t make much sense for me to get a hotel room for six hours and lie awake hoping not to miss my alarm. I’m not sure if I’m going to get any sleep here either but I am certainly not alone.  It’s a popular place to spend the night!

I had a Whopper at Burger King and paid by putting my money in a machine-


I’m not sure if that started because of Covid or to prevent the staff from stealing.  

I’m looking forward to Malta!






Saturday, October 29, 2022

Santiago de Compostela, Spain  October 29, 2022

I’m a bit lost. I had my usual breakfast of bacon and eggs, then picked up my backpack that I had sent from Saint Jean a lifetime ago, took it to the hotel where I will be staying tonight, and then I didn’t know what to do with myself. For 37 days it has been the same thing – eat, walk, eat, sleep. Repeat. I feel sad, I feel empty, I feel lonely and it doesn’t help that it’s a very gray, rainy day.  I’m hopeful that once I’m in my PRIVATE!! room, I’ll be better.

In order to verify one’s walk and earn the compostela, you buy a passport at the start and your hostels stamp it verifying that you’ve stayed there.  Walkers have to complete a certain distance before they are admitted into some albergues and bikers have to go even further.  Restaurants, churches and even roadside stands offer “sellos”-


My first sello-


And my last-

Some of my favourites-

My hotel room in PR Pazo de Agra is perfect-


Lupper (lunch/supper) was a half order of pulpo-


and a half order of calamari. The pulpo wasn’t as good as in O Pedrouzo but the calamari was exceptional. I was charged half price for each which I appreciate.  It’s not like in Canada where you order a half order and get charged 2/3 price. How does that make sense?



After, I walked by the Cathedral for another look-



The rest of the day was spent lying on my bed, enjoying doing nothing!  My feet are happy too!
I met Helle for a drink and we said our goodbyes.  We met at the Biarritz airport September 20.  She was the first in line to take the next cab and I was about fourth. I looked at her and saw her backpack and thought “she’s a pilgrim and she’s going to Bayonne” so I approached her.  We shared a cab and I stayed in a hostal half a block from her hotel. We then met up again a couple days later in Orisson and then traveled together until Leon.  After Mirjanne went home, Bernadette, Helle and I split up but the last few days Helle and I have been passing each other on the path and ending up in the same restaurants and sometimes the same albergues. It was great to be able to truly end my Camino with her tonight.

Off to Madrid in the morning!


Friday, October 28, 2022

Day 37  I MADE IT!!!       O Pedrouzo  to Santiago de Compostela, Spain   October 28, 2022

The last 19.4 km seemed to fly by in spite of the fact I was awakened at 5 AM by four Spanish women who were apparently leaving and all they could do was zip zip zip their suitcases for about 30 minutes and talk out loud. It was very annoying. Usually a good hosteller will have everything packed the night before and sneak out soundlessly while everyone else is sleeping. Not these women! So many of the people the last few days are tourists, not Caminoers and so they treat the hostels like they’re their private hotel rooms.  Oh well, that’s all over now!

My intention for the day was of course gratitude for the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual strength to complete these 800 km, for the friends I’ve made, for the places I have seen and for the many insights I have had. My feet hurt of course but I persevered even though the last 2 km it was raining quite hard.

Along the way-


So many people but today the walk seemed quieter.  These tourists are probably exhausted-


So many of the 100kmers buy trinkets-


and they need 2 stamps each day to prove they have truly walked 100 km.  We get a stamp for our passport at every hostal and you can also get them at restaurants and churches-


Only 15 km to go-


Finally I came to Santiago-

but I still had about 2 km to go until-

I cried walking towards the cathedral.  There were quite a few of us together at the end and it was nice to be able to celebrate our finish together-


After, I went to get my certificates-


and then we had something to eat. The pilgrim’s mass was at 7:30 at the cathedral. It was packed and we were treated to the swinging of the Botafumeiro which is a famous thurible found in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Incense is burned in the swinging metal container also known as a censor.  It is suspended from a pulley mechanism in the dome on the roof of the church. The current pulley was installed in 1604.  The Botafumeiro was made in 1851 and is an alloy of brass and bronze and plated in  silver.  It weighs 80 kg and is 1.6 m high.  Eight tiraboleiros pull the ropes to make it swing and it can reach speeds of 68 km/h and heights of 21 m as it swings in a 65m arc.  It swings for 80 seconds and it costs €450.  We poor pilgrims thank the rich families who paid for it tonight-








It was great to be in the cathedral tonight because it was all lit up-


  The main altar-



The pipe organ-


Saint James’ remains-

A side room-



I’m staying at Albergue Linares-

in an 8 bed room-

Checkout is late tomorrow and the best thing?  I don’t have to walk…

P.S.

I’ve been thinking about the end of my camino and what I’ve learned.  I think that because of my other travels and life experiences, this particular trip wasn’t as enlightening for me as it might have been because…

I’ve traveled alone before.  I know what it’s like to walk into a hostel by myself and choose a bunk. I know what it’s like to sit in a restaurant and eat alone.  I know what it’s like to spend the whole day by myself and admit I like it.  I know what it’s like to wear the same clothes day after day after day.  I know what it’s like to pee in the bush and I know what it’s like to eat the same things over and over.  I know what it’s like to lose someone and to have relationships break down.  I know what it’s like to be courageous enough to overcome hardships.  My life is pretty awesome and I’m truly grateful.  


Physically the trip was strenuous but good. I lost some weight and got pretty fit. My feet always hurt after about 15 kilometers but the trouble with my IT band disappeared after my Physio treatment and once I got rid of my walking sticks my knee pain was gone too.  Mentally, I never felt like having a breakdown because the days were never too hard.  I always knew I could find an albergue if the day got too long and carry on the next day.  I didn’t have a set deadline forcing me on.  Emotionally the only time I cried was walking towards the Cathedral this afternoon.  I never felt alone or angry or confused - usually just happy to be able to attempt this feat.  Spiritually I’ve always had a connection with God and so this was certainly an opportunity to talk to Him - a lot!


I liked setting intentions and thinking about that specific topic for the day. Walking for six hours certainly provided enough time!  I made some great friends and we had a lot of fun. I met people from all over the world and heard many reasons why they were doing the camino, some for more than the first time.


Would I do it again?  Well certainly not the French Way but truly I can’t imagine doing another because I still don’t like walking but one must never say never!  


It was a great experience and I am very satisfied with my accomplishment.  I will hang my Compostela on my wall with pride!




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