Recently John Oley returned from
a pilgrimage from St Jean to Santiago.
Whilst he was away he kept in touch with
friends by long emails. With his permission
I reprint them for you to enjoy.
They are unedited and as he sent them to me.
Date: Friday, 13 May, 2011, 11:12
John Oley wrote
Dear Friends, Hola Peregrinos, ( and especially Mike W. can you please forward to Liz-Anne as I don´t have her address in my BT mail system)
This feels like ´Captains Star Log 13 May 2011 from Captain Kirk´. Instead I can let you know that I have reached Santo Domingo de Calzada- having walked the first 200k of my piklgrimage. As some of you know the pilgrimage started badly as I got very sick . Thanks to the ministrations of the German Hospitaleros at Casa Paderborn in Pamplona I recovered well. Today was a short day of 21k and there is a festival here so I will not make this a long note. I am still wondering why I am hereas I rise and start walking each morning around 6.am. Carolyn keeps me going with our regular 8.15(UK time ) call but it is double edged as it makes me wish I were at home with her.
The Camino is very busy. Often the Albergues and refugios are full. Talk between Peregrinos is that there are more Pilgrims this year than last on this the Camino Frances. There was also a rumour that recently 600 pilgrims started on the same day! as most towns seem at best to offer around 180 beds I wonder what will happen. I have met many German peopleand made friends with some and with some Irish people. A couple of French Peregrinos greet me each day most warmly but my language skills are rather put to the test.
Weather has mainly been perfect for walking but the routes have become more made up with stone, or gravel, of tarmac. I fear none of this is good for walking. The Camino is now mainly suitable for cyclists, of whom there are many. I have yet to see any pigrims with donkeys or on horseback.
Dear friendsand peregrinos, I delight in your friendship, I feel sorrow for my times of being careless with any of you, I ask you to be careful of each other, and I hold you in my thoughts and payers, especially those of you who suffer.
Love and God Bless from the smiley English Peregrino. x :)
Subject: Camino Thursday, 19 May, 2011, 17:30
Dear Peregrinos y amigos,
I am well and wish you all blessings and happiness. Thank you so much for all your lovely greetings.
I have done 3 stages of my Brierley Guide to the Camino in the last two days.This was because the forecast was for bad weather and it turned out wrong. I had hurried to avoid rain. As I passed Castrojeriz I recalled Kimberley and Vivienne, this morning I remembered wher I had met Han and she had her herb tea, and Angela who was /is so smiley. I had breakfast at Fromista where I shared beers and wine with Paul of Tarsus and Gabriel. Tonight I am in Corrion de los Condes. Tomorrow night I hope to stay with Paddy y Rebekah. My legs are good. I am quieter and possibly less smiley than last year but it is hard to recall. I spend time thinking of you all. Some of this(as above) is remembering the past, BUT no-one in Spain can make Garlic soup like Ian.. I have to remind myself that the Camino is where I can stop being who I was and become who I am. I have had a lovely day of walking and talking and still find the German people so lovely. There are many German people and very few English. - Are we a Godless nation?
The one quote that I think of each day I leave to share with you and commend you to consider - ¨Am I a human being on a Spiritual Journey or a Spiritual Being on a Human Journey?"
My love and God Bless,
From: JOHN OLEY Subject: Re: Camino
Date: Sunday, 22 May, 2011, 7:23
Dear friends and Pilgrims, I am having 2 rest days in Moratinos at the home of Paddy and Rebekah who looked after me so well last year. I´m afraid I got the shin splints again but with the rest and the medication for the leg which Rebekahhas found and the tender care of my hosts and their guest Dael I am hopeful of continuing along the route. Today Carolyn and Sarah are off to Dubrovnik so my twice daily contact home will be missing.
The days are peaceful here , Bob the canary sings, Lulu one of Paddy´s dogs barks to keep me away and occasionally Murphy the cat meows to be admitted or allowed out. P and R have a great CD collection so I´ve had the chance to listen to some Beethoven. I´ve also had the opportunity to give everyone in the Albergues a rest from my snoring- If any of you know how I can stop this irritating habit do email or txt. I plan to continue on the Camino tomorrow and will go more slowly to preserve my legs.
God Bless you and may you be aware of His Blessings,
Date: Tuesday, 24 May, 2011, 12:34
Dear Amigos y Peregrinos. Have arrived in Mansillas de las Mulas,
My shin splints are a bit better today - I have put on lots of ibuprofen gel( I´d rather like to bathe in this), I have some more insoles(this makes 3 plus my boots insoles, I have prayed a lot- asked help from St James(Santiago) ;St Christopher, patron of travellers; St Thomas, ´cos he´s one of my heroes; St Jerome, ´cos I think he has something to do with medicine. I pray a lot for may people especially you lot that you will continue to be blessed and happy.
I would like to be able to sing as I go but-a) I was told I had no voice when I was at school; b) Can´t remember hymns- I stopped Catholic church age 19; After my flirtation with Buddhism I eventually realised that Jesus is God only about 22 years ago and became a committed Anglican but mainly since then I have played organ so haven´t learned the words and ; Bolton haven’t made it to the cup-final SINCE 1958 so I don´t even know the words to ‘Abide with me´ and I don’t recognise Jerusalem as a hymn. Am meeting some nice people and some who irritate me. Am sustained by the odd call from Anthony Heath but he doesn’t have email so can’t thank him here. Get texts from Carolyn and Sarah on hols in Croatia.
I was greatly sustained at The Peaceable Kingdom´ by Paddy and Rebekah- I cannot speak highly enough of them. I hope I didn’t drink too much of their wine tho´ I did get through buckets of ´Mrs Darby´(white wine ) at the local bar.
Tomorrow Leon and another rest day.
Love and God Bless you all.
Peregrino Ingles John
Subject: Re: Camino
Date: Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 16:41
Dear Amigos and peregrinos,
Have reached Leon, Shin splints still a pain in the leg but I shall see what happens. Many people have much worse - some stop some walk on. Been to Mass at Cathedral saw some old friends. Will attend vespers and mass this evening at the Albergue- (where I met Fabio and Junior last year.) This is turning into a Religious day.
Thanks for all the messages of support and your prayers and blessings. I will move on heavy in leg, light in heart and thunderously angry that BWFC managed to lose all their last few games.
Bless you all and my thoughts and prayers are ever for you.
PS Can´t recall if I mentuioned meeting Glenn as we left Zubiri in 2009. I am still drawn back to memories of friends. This year lots of really nice Mexicans along with the usual sprinkling of Fr. It. German. Dutch. Danish. etc. Still few UK peregrinos. I was told this was because when the Camino was really popular was when England and Spain were always at war. so blame Hy8 and ER1.
From: JOHN OLEY Subject: Re: Camino
Date: Friday, 27 May, 2011, 10:41
Hi Peregrinos and Amigos. Had an easy day today and will have an easy one tomorrow when I have booked a posh hotel room in Astorga. Shin splints much better- Thank you all for your prayers. Also helped by helping another shin splinted peregrino walk slower. He has moved on now. I think of you each day as I pray in the early morning. This is such a good time . Some refer to the Camino as your feet praying. My heart is light tho´I miss Carolyn and Sarah. I am supported by your messages.
At Hospital de Orbigo where a knight´s tale is said to have given Cervantes the idea for Don Quixote. I feel comfartable and rested and will think of knight´s tales as I have a beer in the sun.
God Bless you all,
On Sat, 28/5/11, JOHN OLEY Subject: Camino still going
Date: Saturday, 28 May, 2011, 11:50
Hola Amigos y Peregrinos.
I have arrived in Astorga and checked myself into an expensive hotel room and have had a bath!!!
Yesterday I got so down about the rhythm of the Camino, the shared dormitory, and the shower. I promised myself some luxury.
The shin splints were also a little worse today.
To fill in on the last few days. On route I had met Claudio a crazy Italian man with very bad shins. He said I look like John Cleese but all around thought not unless he was observing the way I walk. Despite my advice Claudio continued and I saw him again in eon. I stayed at the Albergue where I first met Emma(Amelie) and Alexandre. The crazy Italian rushed off in the morning and I found him by the side of the road in abject pain. A Columbian, John, and I tried to wrestle his backpack from him and Guida a very pretty Danish girl fed Claudio with drugs. I walked slowly with to Virgen de Camino and we engaged in theological discussions , later we discovered that this had been overheard and of great interest to some Americans whom we met later.. After a trip to the pharmacy we walked at about 4 k an hour- going downhill backwards if the surface were tarmac and singing ´somewhere over a rainbow´ and other show tunes. This also provided entertainment for other peregrinos. The pace suited us both and I amused Claudio with quotes from Mae West and WC Fields. We parted company at Hospital de Orbigo, he moved on and I took another short day. The Hospitalero Pedro spent most of the day (from 11.am) in the bar next door and in the evening was very keen that he should buy me pints and visit him in Belfast. I fended off his kindness. The day for me was one when I became aware of my solitude. I went into an eeyore state for a while and if truth be told am still there as I await knowing why I am on the Camino this year. I have been greatly helped by all your emails and texts. Chris- I know I moved from Catholicism to agnosticism, to Buddhism, to Anglicanism but I suspect to support the ´mighty reds ´this evening would need an experience a little beyond that of Paul en route to Damascus. I may cheer for your enjoyment tho´ Chris´- . Many here support Real Madrid so will be rooting for Man U.
Tomorrow I will start the last 167 miles, which spookily is the distance from The Green in Evenley to the Reebok!
Today on my short walk to Astorga I spent my usual time in prayer- thinking also of Tarryn and Rachel who get married today I think- Brian if you have there email can you bounce this on and wish them well. I also spent time considering the difference between mysticism and spirituality. Strange what the brain will do whilst the shins are hurting and the ‘feet are praying´ (another description of the Camino). I also was aware that many peregrinos carry such burdens- most of the women who walk alone are divorcees, some of the men have told me of the stress of their lives and their illnesses. It seems I am very blessed if my major pain is my shins and the usual worry caused by BWFC losing 5 on the trot.
Tomorrow starts with a place I had breakfast last year and then a climb and then the Cruz de Ferro the following day when I will leave the stones I have brought from home.
May your dog bring joy Natascha, the knees and hip heal well Dave, the heels get better Pete and you may find a partner for the Skye ridge.
Carolyn and Sarah are back in the UK today so I will be able to talk with them
My love to and my prayers for and my thoughts of you all.
JOHN OLEY wrote: Subject: Camino
Date: Monday, 30 May, 2011, 11:33
Hoal Amigosand peregrinos,
As I walk I recall that there are some chums I don’t have in my travelling address book so if any of you can please send my greetings and if you think appropriate this and any previous Camino emails to
Evenley- Ronnie and Patricia
Fiasco- FGF , Gill, and Kathy D
First Peregrino Mark Agnew and his chum from Malaga Jose
The following I met in the snow in Foncebadon :- France- Josion, Charles et Marie-jo and Jorge, Josep and Xavi the Catalans.
Norma from Germany who I saw from Calzadillos to Santiago
Also from Dresden the 3 friends- Brains, the chef and the washerman.
and those I met in O’Cebreiro- Bea and Claudio from Italy and Matthanais the Austrian tenor.
End of requests.
I am moving only slowly the last 5 k downhill to Acebo has taken it´s toll on shins and knees. Last night I stayed at the CSJ Albergue in Rabanal. I got to Mass before lunch, vespers and Compline. Carolyn called me during the latter which did not amuse the Benedictine prior but he still gave me a blessing! We had afternoon tea at the Albergue in their garden- very English. I’ve stopped early today after leaving my stones at the Cruz de Ferro- very small stones this year as I think I’ve been tolerably well behaved. Also left a Waitrose charity token that’s been in my pocket. It could represent my wish to leave capital behind. perhaps it fits as well as the car key fobs, socks, flags, rings, shoes and other paraphernalia that people wish to leave along with the stones which represent the sins we carry.
This year I called in on the knight templar at Manjarin. I won’t write this up.
I saw 3 of my Mexican friends en route and we discussed the football- sorry Chris but Barca were so much better than MU and Messi deserves his medal- for his display alone they could give him the World Cup. I’d quite like BWFC to sign him but not sure that Mr Gartside will have the cash.
Today no snow (I had last year.)
Will write soon but time running out on my connection.
Love and God Bless, to you all.
Subject: Camino break through
Date: Tuesday, 31 May, 2011, 16:24
Dear or hola Amigos and Peregrinos, Here I am in Ponferrada with sore shins. so I thought I’d update on the 6 or is it 7 or 8 previous notes from the Camino. I mentioned in the last 2 that I’d been thinking about mysticism and spirituality and I rather skated over the trip to Manjarin and the last or is it most high Knight Templar. Well I called to see Tomas and took him greetings from the rather drunken Hospitalero at Hospital de Orbigo.
This set my mind along 3possibilities.
Was I on a crusade- to beat my shins and knees into submission; or am I on a quest? I suspect Sir Gawain had influenced my wanderings perhaps I seek the Grail? or am I on a Camino seeking the Way , the Truth and the Life? I use the Brierley book as my guide and often he talks in personal reflections of having been reduced to tears- not me. You will recall my encounters with Claudio the crazy Italian from Bologna- with many people he met he recounts the tale of him at 6k+ an hour passing a distressed Peregrino moving at 2k an hour who gave him such a beatific smile that he sobbed and sobbed- not me. Last night I had my patata bravas with Christoph and Veronika, a German couple and we began to discuss their reason for being on the Camino. Well Amigos, I started to cry as I realised that I am on the Camino to say thank you. i am on a Camino odf thanksgiving- To God for His son Jesus and the opportunity to worship. And the opportunity to say thank you for all His blessings. The Blessing of Carolyn and Sarah- the best people in whom I delight. And the blessings of you lot my friends. Together you provide opportunities with you to run, to walk, to do crosswords, to watch football, to play music(organ or piano), to drink, to talk, to work. You provide me with concerts (I know some are simply Organ music), more football( I couldn’t let it pass), stimulating books to read( even if about Vietnam), Hospitality from bed and board to meals to wine and beer. You have shared your heartaches and your joys and triumphs, you have put up with my at times irascible and lugubrious nature.
In person and in text speak you have given me hugs and kisses and smiles.
I know if you have read my previous 6 or 7 emails you have got used to my whingeing about ´why am I here´¨ Now you know it’s to give thanks for my Wonderful Life- beginning to sound like a Jimmy Stewart line and I wasn’t thinking of a drunk and a 6 foot tall rabbit!
Anyway according to the sign at the Albergue here in Ponferrada I have just 202k to walk- so it’s taken me about 600k to work out.
Thank you- Thank God. I continue to pray for and think of you.
PS I forgot I think to ask - if any of you know Emma(Amelie) Ogden´s email to forward this to her.
JOHN OLEY wrote:
Date: Friday, 3 June, 2011, 14:45
Hola Amigos y peregrinos,
I am still upright though after a bottle of wine at lunch that’s a feat in itself.
Yes, my Camino is one of giving thanks and continues to be so. I pray as
I set off each morning and spookily my prayers are so often answered. Try it-
The night before last after a very trying day- the terrain was mainly tarmac and I suffered. On my way into Villafranca I had decided not to stay at the municipal albergue but was full of trepidation that later ones would be full. By the side of the road a man was handing out flyers to a relatively new albergue. ´Necessito una cama baya´I said si´´ was the reply- ´por favor reserva una cama. ´The Senor reserved a bed. Proper bed and only 12 in a room and then a very special shower with jets from practically 360 degrees and hot! I then poddled into town and found some S. Africans to chat to and then a lunch with Sopa de Ajo that was even better (sorry) than Ian’s. So I had now had an amazingly posh meal in Ponferrada and now a great soup.
The following morning I embarked up the hill. I had coffee where I had met La di da Julia and then an Italian , Giuseppe, joined me . he walked me up the 20k of tarmac. We stopped to try to find where Mark had been ill with no success. We walked on, stopping for leg and foot maintenance. and then the climb to O’Cebreiro. My shin splints really only come into play downhill and on tarmac. I stormed up the hill 600+metres in 10k. I stopped always to await Giuseppe a young man of 32 and I called Sarah as it was half-way up she called last year to celebrate a best 10k run. The 30 k + (adjusted for climb as 37k was over at O’Cebreiro and passing Michael from NZ and Kari from Carolina with their `pints we headed for the Albergue. The queue was huge and as usual i worried about getting a bed. Some said that it was longer to wait in the queue than to climb the mountain. Eventually I was at the front- Una Cama baya es possible?- Si. I got a bed. Giuseppe got one in the same room and we later drank- the mass and the pilgrims blessing and then dinner with Michael and Kari and Stewart a 20 y old from Oz. This morning my shins hurt like hell. I was slow and suggested to Giuseppe that he went on. I stayed off the Camino to avoid having to lose height(see Pete Hodgson rule 2). I stayed on the road and said a sad goodbye to Giuseppe. I poddled along and eventually came to Carmen- the elderly lady who gives out pancakes and gets cross if you don’t give her money. Buenos Dias Carmen- she looked surprised and I explained I had been here last year. I gave my euro, took my pancake and she blew me a kiss. Arriving in Triacastela I got a bed( not a lower bunk) in a very nice Albergue. had a beer with Juan and Etio( from Spain) and settled down to lunch when Giuseppe in distress arrived. He has major leg problems. I delay lunch. which I’ve now had and wonder what will happen. All is well spiritually. God blesses me with so much- see last email- I get great messages from you all thank you and I continue to pray that God will bless you as he does me. I miss the lot of you and will be home soon when I will see some of you. I never finish my crosswords but I will I’m sure.
Love to you all, God Bless you,
On Fri, 3/6/11,
Dear Each, Forgot to say- O’Cebreiro was where I first met Beatrice and Filomena and Claudio and Matthanais. And that when people are aware of who she is/was they do like my Camino aphorism/motto from Mae West. “If it is worth doing, it is worth doing slowly!”
Love and God Bless,
Re: Camino break through
Saturday, 4 June, 2011 12:36
Hola Amigos y peregrinos,
I am now in Sarria in the same pension as last year. I may repeat some mistakes
but also can repeat good decisions.
Last evening I attended Mass in Triacastela.
Whilst the priest may have had a little showman in him it was a truly wonderful
service where each language
was represented in readings and the Pilgrims Blessing. It sounds a little trite but
the priest ensured that he encompassed the inclusive Christian spirit of the Camino-
he did not like the divisions in Christianity and talked of how we are here to find ourselves
and through that to find Christ and act as Christ wants us to. His inclusivity was also
represented at Communion , as I said No- Anglican- he ignored this so I was able to
receive communion with everyone else. I was thrilled to be the reader of the English
parts to the Mass- I had to read a passage from the story of the road to Emmaeus.
The most apt I think of the Gospel messages as we pass along the Camino. I have
been lucky to find old friends , some from 10 days ago, some from just 3 days ago.
What delight we have in friends we have made- just as I delight in your friendships.
Whilst I am not as noisy as I was, preferring to spend much time alone I still have the
reputation of last year. I was talking to some South Africans who had seen me greeted
by many at the previous coffee stop. The next pilgrim we overtook said ´Hi John´,
The South African just asked me - ´Do you know everyone on the Camino?´
I of course replied Yes´. In a funny way as we know ourselves more it is easier to be
open to others and therefore to know others. I do still work at trying to remember names.
I remember you all as I walk and pray. Another pilgrim said ´´we will soon reach Santiago
and I am starting to feel sad. I will maybe have some sadness but I still wait to see if my
legs will get me there.
Love and God Bless Señors, Señoras y Señoritas.
Camino: Perceptions, Memories, Dreams , and Reflections
Tuesday, 7 June, 2011 15:43
Hola Amigos y Peregrinos,
I am now in Arzua, Very close to Santiago and I will take the next 3 days to reach there
so that I may refect more and walk slower. The two days prior to today have been long
for me 32k+ as I had a strong desire to eat Pulpo at Pulperia Ezekquial. More of that later.
Prompted by my dear wife Caroñlyn and my dear friend Anthony let me describe some of
the perceptions of my travels.
The Atmosphere, meteorologically speaking. I have over the days had wonderful
weather in which to walk. Cool in the morning- I do embark before 6.30 most days
and watch the sun rise gently as I amble. I had one extremely cold morning as I left
Villfranca when the wind from the west and down the valley from O’Cebreiro was so
cold I donned hat, hoody, coat, scarf and gloves . The hills are so extensive there
that I knew it would be hours before the sunlight hit the valley floor. When it did the
sky was cloudless coinciding with the steepest of the 30k+ climb up to the ancient
stone and thatched village of O’Cebreiro . Arriving with magnificent views of the
mountains and hills and valleys of Galicia, the chill wind as we were high and the
the sounds of Galician pipes. Entering Galicia I am reminded in some ways of Wales
though the landscape is bigger to me, the hills greener and without slate and more rolling.
The houses are different either very old and in many cases in advanced decay or
new with bright red curved tile rooves and perhaps rendered in plaster/concrete
and painted in pastel colours. and I notice as all days the variations of temperature-
on the last couple of days the mist has been wonderful to walk in though not so good
for photos., I also particularly notice the terrain underfoot- I choose which optional
route to take based on this. My shins dictate I am afraid that I would opt for an
earthen path through an industrial zone rather than a pavement through the woods.
I have never had such stark options but have looked for earth on which to walk.
This has often been reddish in colour-though not the deep red of Herefordshire.
The paths almost always are undulating and often through wooded glades or with
trees alongside. One benefit of this is that the birds often fly beside one keeping
company and doubtless feeding on the insects disturbed by my boots and the tap
tap of my walking poles. The trees are and the foliage also now again like the
UK, oak trees and laurels often Today after my stay in Melide are many
Eucalyptus the scent of which clears my nose and lungs after another night
sleeping in very close proximity to 50 or so pilgrims(sometimes emphasize the ....grims.)
The sounds of the birds are those often like england, blackbirds and finches and
sparrows abound- not so many skylarks- these were more prevalent on the Meseta.
The foliage includes ferns and often honeysuckle and foxgloves with the occasional
very dark coloured squirrels or I thought a mink running about(could have been a
beaver running from a dam). I discussed with one of my friends whether
St Francis had written his Canticle of nature whilst on the Galician stages of his
Other sounds included a cyclist shouting at himself as he went up the hill, a little like my brother Louis used to shout as he ran uphill. I also today had my prayers and dreams interrupted by a young girl with ipod singing Hey Jude. I think I persuaded her to be quieter.
Other recent perceptions have included the contrast at Portomarin where last year
there was a huge lake, now the dam is drained and 80 feet below the road bridge
is a river with the old bridge and the remanants of houses of the old village.
As I passed by Portomarin, Gonzar(where I stayed the night) Palas de Rei and
Melide I recall my chums from last year Javi(Xabi) and his entourage with whom I drank some beer, Malte, Jan, Erdmuthe, andHerbert who I talked to for the first time with Emma and Norma at Porto Marin, Mona, completing her Camino in Crocs who I came alongside in
Gonzar and Natascha with her penchant for Sangria, Pulpo and photographing
food who we teamed up with in Palas. Tonight I am at the Santiago Apostal
Albergue where I snapped Filo ´being a real woman´ doing her washing and
Tomas, Henrik and Rudi who showed me how to operate the washing machines.
Memories have linked me to dreams- Mine seem to come from earlier and earlier.
2 nights ago they featured a ´Flash Gordon´ sequence which must have come from
Saturday morning matinees I saw as a 10 year old. These dreams
get me to recall early moments in my life - guess I process lots as I walk.
I concentrate on praying for those I recall whether included in my circulation list or not.
I reflect on the people I meet the way everyone becomes open to each other.
I was thrilled as I entered Melide to see Thomas a young, dreadlocked Frenchman with
whom I had in Leon listened to a Spanish guitarist. Thomas was outside the pulperia ,
beamed a smile and hugged my as he said ´my friend´. Because of my lack of French
I guess our words to each other before was less than 30 and we had not met since
Astorga some days and days ago. What is it that makes people so welcoming?
Other have also been quick to engage with me. Last night I spent eating pulpo with
some 9 Italians , two of whom could say more than a couple of English words.
They decided i was muy sympatico´´ - there becomes a kind way people engage-
the longer they have been walking often the more open and friendly they are. why?
One other reflection has been that the more ornate and golden the altars in the
churches often the less I have enjoyed the masses. Perhaps when there is
less ´physical history´ to protect the more the priest engages with us all- I wonder.
I hope I am changing for the better.
God Bless you all, I will continue to think and pray. I will be in Santiago on Friday, God willing.
your amigo peregrino,
JOHN OLEY wrote:
Date: Wednesday, 8 June, 2011, 14:14
Hola peregrinos y amigos,
I am now in Pedrouzo, What can I say? Yesterday I learned about me and remembered some more.
The memories where more charming as I stayed at Albergue Santiago Apostal and recalled the morning, hotter than today when I observed ´cats being herded´ by Marlene from Utah who had talked with me at Portomarin.
Today I walked through ancient oak woods and many plantations of Eucalyptus, and also pine and fir trees. I was feeling rather ill and dreading the return of my earlier sickness but was helped as usual on my way...by an Angel, this one a Catalan called Angel´ who I had met before and despite having to go slow on hills kept my spirits high. I also had a lovely conversation with a young man from Hamburg who is considering reading Social Work at Uni. As you know I and Carolyn between us spent many years in Social Work. One experience of yesterday had left me angry, maybe a cause of my sickness. (Please read Paolo Coelho The Camino if you wish to explore inner and outer demons and dogs).
Meanwhile back en route the birds continue to accompany me, the roofs of the little and grander houses in the pueblos remind me of Southern England , curved tiles but these are more orange in colour. I continue to drink coffee, but still prefer Italian and French.
I decided on Sopa Gallego today for lunch as I was feeling very cold. Last year here the temperatures were in the 90s. this year I have seen little sun since entering Galicia. I still delight in seeing old faces and receiving greetings and hugs. The cry of ´John´ as some person I saw days ago spies me in a supermercado lifts me. I am staying at the same place as last year a private hostel where Sarah the Hospitalero and her buddy Jose- Ramon recognize me. The Albergue has much green paint and a little water fountain which produces wonderful restful sound as J-Ramon puts on CDs including Mozart and obviously a little Spanish Guitar!
With the people as a developer I sometimes feel I could do much to improve their lives and self- images, but I have no contract and my mission is not social/psychological but spiritual and thankful. Maybe I will get the opportunity.. I don’t know if I will arrive Santiago Friday or tomorrow, if the latter I could bus to Finisterra. I see what happens, I am trying to be slower, I am trying to be tolerant and continue to pray for you all. Will I be the same or different. I still thank God for my life and thank you all for the parts you play. I anticipate this will be my last Camino to Santiago but the Camino0 goes on. If I get a chance I will email from the final resting place of the bones of Saint James? When home I will put some more photos on my Facebook site.
Thank you as ever for the messages, the prays, and the love I receive from you.
Date: Saturday, 11 June, 2011, 9:48
Hola Peregrinos y amigos.
I am in Santiago. Since my last note to you many have sent me the most lovely messages THANK YOU. I will reply to you each individually when I get home. I have been so pleased to hear of your lives, successes, and the support you have given me in thought and prayer has been wonderful.
I left Pedrouzo very early on Thursday and walked at a for me, ferocious pace. The landscape at the start was still old oak woods and then a little farmed fields, There were lots of Eucalyptus trees which give a great freshness as I walked. Then the real signs of ´civilisation´(not sure if that’s the best way to describe the modern world. The Camino runs parallel for a while to the runway of Santiago airport and then rounds the end. I continued to see people I had met and still meet new people. There are a couple of villages between Pedrouzo and Santiago, I was so early that the re was little going on.
I had decided to reach Santiago that morning so I did. The last few kilometres are through modern outskirts before eventually crossing the road into the older and then the very old city centre. I walked in alone and through the gate/arch next to the Cathedral and then I was here. The large Plaza Obradeiro with the huge Cathedral. This year the square is occupied by many tents as were the squares in Burgos and Leon. Young people are permanently camped there to protest at the national and European economic malaise , they are quite angry about the reactions of the powerful to the difficulties and feel that it is the young, the old, the poor who are bearing the cost of the financial crises across their and other European countries. The square does therefore not feel as peaceful. Nevertheless, I pose for photos to commemorate my arrival. I move quickly to the Office to have a lovely conversation with the girl who gives me my Compostela, the certificate to show I have made it. I then depart for the bus to Finisterra. The 3 hour ride feels most peculiar but the scenery changes as we come close to the sea,. There are little villages and towns, many with houses of granite and tiled red roofs,( the tiling reminds me of Kent). There are again whitewashed and pastel painted houses too. As we reach the seaside there are huge white sanded beaches with no one on them. Arriving in Finisterre I got a room and walked down to the harbour. I found a chum to walk down to the sea. I discovered why the beaches are so empty- paddling did my shins good as this was like putting on an ice-pack.. We then walked up to the lighthouse and I called Sarah from the end of the world. It is true that it looks like the world stops a mile or two away. After a quick beer in the bar there we returned to town- the flow of pilgrims was in the opposite direction. Couples hand in hand and young people all carrying bottles and bottles of wine where intent on watching the sun sink into the sea. It looked that this was a place for romance-(my love is in Evenley) or a place for a young party(I am too old for this). I found a great place for dinner and then was thrilled to meet some of my Mexican friends. The journey the next day by bus was quicker and I was able to go to the pilgrim mass yesterday. The singer again led by the nun with the voice of an angel. The Cathedral was packed again and I look forward to today and tomorrow- Pentecost- when I will be at the mass.
I had my regulation glass of Rosado to toast Carolyn by the little bar outside the magnificent Hostal de Los Reis Catolicos- Once a refuge now one of the grandest Paradors. My afternoon and evening have been spent meeting, greeting, and hugging many people. I will very much miss the cries of hola John´´ I think people have remembered my name better than I have theirs. I have met many of the people who have helped me physically, emotionally, and spiritually on this way. I have again felt how blessed and lucky I am. I really want to be home but am trying to remain open to being here. Over the last couple of stages my perception was that many people having opened were closing down ands some were I think already home. I have met spouses and partners of some of my friends. These had come to welcome their pilgrims. It has been lovely to see how the can discern the changes in the pilgrims and their delight.
Last night was great chance meetings with the people who have and will continue to be important to me. Especially all my Italian friends, German friends and Canadian friends who suddenly appeared at a very out of the way bar where I was awaiting a restaurant to open. Today will be great too.
I will write a final note when I get home. And today and tomorrow I will pray again for you all as I enter the Cathedral- Oh yep I did thinks of you as I hugged the apostle.
Love and God Bless,
John. Soon be home to Carolyn, and will see Sarah at the next weekend for the Fiasco!(some of you know what this means) xoxox