Thursday, December 13, 2007


Hi all friends and peregrinos

I have  managed at last to get the last part of  my Via del Plata walk - from Santiago to Fisterra, then on to Muxia and back to Santiago - onto the Amazon Books pages. You can 'Look Inside' them to see an excerpt on line and order a copy from them. If you are in Australia  you may email me.
 Here are the links:
Amazon USA:
Fisterra - Muxia

Amazon UK:
Fisterra - Muxia  

Amazon Spain: (There's no 'Look Inside' available on this page)
Fisterra - Muxia
While my next project is to do the same with my Via del Plata story, I hope soon to do the same with
This Ebro walk


At last my Blog has it all, it is now complete, each day is in date order. It starts on the

This is my story of my life on the Ebro Camino to Santiago in 2007. I do hope I have mentioned most, if not all the wonderful people I met, for without them I would probably never have made it, and certainly would not have had such rich memories to think back on as the time goes by. Dear family and friends old and new, I thank you all dearly including those that may have slipped from my memory at the moment. I'd also like to thank those that encouraged me to keep going on this my hardest Camino yet. I hope you enjoy the story and the photos I took, and that they give you some idea what it was like out there, the good and the bad times.
Amazingly just one word from a generous person can wipe the slate clean of a whole load of hardships, and for me they so often did. A cold wet night sitting up wrapped in a cape in a storm can be wiped away by the simple friendly interest and short conversation of an old lady you may be passing on the Camino later. I learnt a rose given spontaneously, or kiss on the cheek in Leon, can make your heart sing. A hail and welcome of a fellow peregrino that you saw perhaps a week ago and spoke but just a few words too. A lady's beaming smile as you struggle to find a word in Spanish. A simple text on your phone saying "Animo Michael". Words like "Come with us," spoken when you know you must look like hell and could be spreading flu germs by the million. Or maybe hearing in Spanish "Just give the Santo a hug for me when you get there"
I could go on for ages.
Am I a better man for the experience? I don't know but I hope so, who knows!

Well time is passing and I long to return but it looks a little unlikely at the moment so now it is your turn. There are many Caminos to try, my favourite would be the North Camino but the French Camino is the place to start I believe so start planing. If this old man can do it so can you.

Remember the story starts on the 14/05/07 see dates on the left of the screen
Hasta Pronto

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

24th My short holiday from Camino

My short holiday from Camino

The time flew. I was returning to my lodgings to sleep and rest often, while walking the town and trying to alter my ticket home. The days went by in a haze, I remember I saw two of the Spanish men, the one from Altea and Juan, so I know they made it there. No sign of Francesca!
I saw Horst and had a drink with him and met again the lady that I had got the taxi for.
It was wet and cold and I was having trouble keeping warm. When walking the streets again I went off on my own and found the Internet café and did my messages to everyone.

To show you what a state I was in, I left the computer open and had to change my password later after Maisie had got chatted up on the Internet from my account! I still can't remember what order things happened and spent a lot of time in bed sleeping.
I bumped into Barbara in Santiago. She was with a guy called Tomas. I didn't know him and to tell the truth I couldn't remember where I knew her from till she jogged my memory.
"You had dinner with Roser, me and the Italian girl in Molinaseca"
After several failed attempts at remembering her name she patiently said to me
"Think of Barbara Streisand."
Now I could get it in my befuddled mind! Ah! Barbara I will be forever grateful to you and your kindness on that last week!

I was now able to call her Barbara from now on chuckle. She took this old peregrino with the flu under her wing, as we English say, and I arranged to meet her later at seven.
As we parted a lady called out to me but I couldn't place her, it might have been one of the Spanish girls at Casa Domingo or one of the girls I had first met. I was feeling so awful and the mind would just not work that day. I also met Yollanda who had made it too but was catching the train out soon. I never even asked her to have a coffee and felt so guilty afterwards.
I had rung my old friend Lara earlier and had arranged to meet her in the square at 6pm but she never arrived, so at seven I went down the street and joined Tomas and Barbara and a American girl as I'd arranged with Barbara.

Much later I received a text from Lara saying she was sorry but she couldn't make it, but by then I had arranged to go to Finisterre with Barbara so unfortunately Lara and me were never able to meet up. You see I had a lot of messages on the phone so to keep it working I deleted it only to notice it was a different number than the one I had used!!! Too late I could not even reply to her!
I was sitting outside the bar and shivering, Barbara knew a cheap place to buy clothes and they all came and helped me buy a big red woollen jumper. I was warm at last!!!! We had a meal in a good Spanish restaurant on the way to the train station and then we walked the American girl, Casandia, to catch the sleeper train to Madrid. Returning Tomas and I walked Barbara home to her lodgings in town then parted,

I was to meet Barbara at the bus station tomorrow to go to Finisterre. I've tried emailing since I got home, but sadly neither Casandia nor Tomas received them.

In the morning I walked to the bus station and there met Barbara and we found our seats. I slept most of the way except the last few kilometres. Arriving, we wondered what would be best thing to do. While walking away from the bus a lady stopped us and we went with her to look at a room. It was in a nice house with kitchen and lounge. Two other men were sharing another room. There were three beds in the room offered to us and Barbara said she was ok with that arrangement as it was no more than a albergue would be, so we took it. I collapsed into bed and slept most of the day only coming out later when I made myself walk round the beautiful harbour.

Here I met Richard again and we chatted over coffee.

The sun warmed me and the coffee con cognac so I set off up the road to the lighthouse.

Here I felt sad on being alone remembering Vigi, Conchi and Emmanuel my great companions of last time. Later coming down was easier with still those beautiful views.

I ate in a café somewhere. I can't remember where but I walked again over to the colourful boats. On seeing Barbara I joined her and was introduced to her friend Gert. Barbara said she'd spent the morning up there alone, writing up her 'End of Camino'!

Poor Barbara couldn't have slept much with me snorting and blowing my nose all night, but bright as a button next morning Barbara suggested we take a picnic to just above the lighthouse on the mountain.
"It will be sheltered up there and out of the wind, you will be warm enough and sea air would do you good! I've found another, much nicer way over the mountain by the dirt tracks to a lovely sheltered spot" she said.
True enough arriving there after a beautiful walk I felt much better.

We pushed through some prickly gorse bushes to get to a clump of granite rocks. The view was super, looking down on the lighthouse and the shimmering sea to the horizon. The weather was bright and sunny and the wind cool but here out of the wind even the rocks generated heat. We sat and had our picnic leaning back on a large rock together. We chatted away, both watching the shadows of the puffy clouds scudding across the silver blue sea. Our lunch was my favourite, Manchego cheese, stuffed olives, crusty bread and good red wine, with a young companion who's so sweet and nice. It was another magic Camino moment I won't forget in a hurry.

On the way back I suggested that I should cook an evening meal for us in the kitchen and we stopped in town and bought the ingredients, potatoes, onions, beans and pork fillets. We seemed to get everything wrong, there was much to much food and suddenly Barbara realised Roser would arrive on the beach at 4.30pm. We would not have time to eat before going to meet her! Plans changed, we hoped we would be able to warm dinner up later and hurried to the sandy beach on the other side of town where we would see her arrive walking on the sea shore.

Here came another happy moment as I saw the two girls run and clasp each other, tears in their eyes as I too moved to congratulate Roser.

In a cafe she later introduced me to her new companion Lydia, from America, but all three girls were speaking fluent Spanish. Walking back to town we arranged for them to eat with us and hopefully take the other room as the men we knew had booked out today. All was soon arranged and we ate a good meal of soup made by the Austrian chef, and beans and potatoes with pork fillets by the resident Australian cook. A super dessert course, (postre) had been supplied by Roser and Lydia from the local patisserie we had passed, but we saved it for later, to be consumed with a bottle of Cream de Orujo on the cliff top!

The girls now full of energy, naturally wanted to see the sunset at the End of the World like everyone does so off we went again! By taking the dirt tracks once more, we went over the top of the mountain to the Lighthouse. This side of the mountain was now in shadow as we came down to the lighthouse but that was caught in brilliant evening sunshine.

Here on the cliff top we watched the sun sink in its golden colours, while taking lots of photos,

we ate our postre and drank our fill of the Orujo, and joined the happy crowd singing. Next we made a fire and burnt a bra of Roser's and other symbols of the end of camino, mine being a handful of paper tissues!

I met and gave the high five to my friend Horst again and this time swapped addresses with him. Only one boot of Richards stood on the rocks near the fire! There was a stone cross nearby that we found, and by now the moon was sending a road of silver light across the sea to the heavens. We all tried to photograph that cross as it was silhouetted against this silver camino. Sadly we couldn't capture it with the silver moonlit sea beyond, that seemed to say,
"This camino has ended but one day you will continue."

After walking to here and back in the morning and out to here again in the afternoon, I was naturally tired. Now with the silver moon behind us, I hardly noticed it as we walked happily in the darkness back down the tarmac road the last three kilometres towards the glittering lights of Finisterre.

The following day was spent at the beach café and later we took the bus to Coruña on the top west corner of Spain and here we arrived fairly late and took a hostel. We then walked a long way to the beach and along the shore.

As it got dark the lights came on and we ate tapas in a bar restaurant. The seafront and the lights on the Pillar of Hercules looked great at night and we enjoyed ourselves immensely walking back, till suddenly we realised how late it was so the girls called a taxi.

Next morning we all met in the bar for breakfast. I was feeling good, my flu was much better and I was having fun now, but sadly time was running out for us. Today we had to find our way back to the bus station, where we sadly had to part company with Barbara. This was hard for us all as we said our goodbyes, but Barbara got her ticket and got on one bus and we three got on another heading for Santiago.

The journey back to Santiago was uneventful but walking from the bus station back to the centre of town
we stopped for a glass of wine in a wine bar. I asked for a (vino de verano) and the chap didn't know what it was and I got an awful mixture of red wine and something! Rather than spoil the moment I drank it and so I was never sure whether it was that, or the shellfish from last night, but as we were waiting for the monastery to open its doors it hit. I knew I had to go find a toilet rapidly and hurriedly tried to explain to the girls that I couldn't wait, I must find my lodgings that I had stopped in before. I left Roser and Lydia hurriedly, saying I'd meet them in the square later at six. Sadly I never made that meeting, as I was far too sick. I was rushing to the toilet all the time, I think I must have been fast asleep at six and anyway I couldn't go anywhere for two whole days.
I looked in the bathroom mirror at one time and have never seen myself before with a few wrinkles where my stomach should have been. I looked just like one of those photos you see of the poor devils coming out of a prisoner of war camp. The lady at my hostel kindly supplied me with herbal tea and later cooked some bland food, some of which I kept down. With this and the help of some pills I'd brought from home I got well enough to go again to the Mass in the cathedral.

Now I wandered around the town looking at the restaurants and seafood that I dare not touch, Percebes, grow on the rocks in Galicia and is considered a delicacy, many have lost their lives collecting them from the rocks

weak but glad now the time had come for me to walk to the station. Here I was able to catch the 10 pm night sleeper train to Madrid that arrived at 7.30 am.
02/07/07 I crossed town by the underground Metro direct to the airport. Now I had to hang about all day till eventually caught my flight home at 11pm. I was worried all the time travelling the pain would return to send me racing for the toilet. Yes, I was glad to arrive in Perth 22 hours later and to see Maisie's smile as she was waiting to take me home!

The End

Oh! A forgotten snippet!!!

Cyril's a young French man, I fell in step alongside him and we chatted, he was limping badly and I asked how bad were his blisters "Oh I have a permanent limp" he explained "but now I have a blister on the good leg's foot!" To make light of it I said jokingly "Oh! You should be ok now then!" He chuckled and took it in good fun and we travelled some way together till we came into a village where I remembered a house that had been in disrepair and now looked very nice and well restored. He stopped in the albergue here and I saw him in and I jokingly asked the girlsin there, doing their washing to look after him!!! I know he had a great time as we emailed each other later.
Bon Camino
Abrazos Mike

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

23/06/07 Arca to Santiago


Arca to Santiago

After leaving town it starts off with a nice walk through woods of tall eucalyptus trees Here I remember I met the lovely Patricia on my North Camino and couldn't help but wonder how she was today and if she walked this year, we had lost touch after arriving.

Later the airport noises, the flowers in the meadows all seemed so familiar, and kept old friends coming into mind as I walked sneezing and still feeling awful.

I met Renate somewhere and we walked together chatting. I soon realised she would never become such a good friend as those I was remembering but she was a very nice person and good company and I needed that as we went along, I would not arrive alone now. We passed through Cimadevilla, San Paio and Labacolla where the plane noises come from, as near here is the Santiago airport.

Then, after six kilometres of mostly gentle climbing, we came to the heights of Monte de Gozo at 11.47am.

We took an awful coffee from the stall there and went into the little chapel where I lit a candle. We walked up to the monument and further over to see if you could really see Santiago cathedral from here but we found that today this is just not possible. Renate met a young friend here and he joined us as we left. They spoke together most of the time in German and I tended to walk in front now. They were banking on me knowing the way and I told them what we normally did on arrival but neither seemed to show any excitement, which I thought strange. They were more worried about finding lodgings and I said I could help find that too once we had arrived. I had to stop and buy more tissues on the way into town as I was still sneezing.

We arrived and went down the side of the cathedral into the square that was busy as usual and I took them over to the shell

but still neither showed any excitement at arriving! This was something I could not understand for I have cried every time I stood here and laughed and shouted too sometimes. Now deflated I never even got out my camera! Ok I had a horrible cold so maybe no big hugs!

"Ok we have (llagado) (arrived) now we go in the cathedral and complete the ritual" I said.
Leading the way we climbed the steps and joined the crowd entering. It was packed with people near the door and I pushed over to touch the marble pillar that to me was what I had been dreaming of doing for so long. As I got near I was amazed! Around it and the base now stood a stainless steel barrier keeping everyone more than arms length away from it.

"How could they" I gasped as I stood there unbelieving! "For a thousand years pilgrims have knelt and put their hands in those stone lions mouths to see if they are possessed by the devil and banged their heads for knowledge on that stone head

and then reached up and touched the marble pillar where you see it's worn away to fit your hand!!!!!!"
I felt so terribly cheated. I had suffered and walked all this way for nothing! I felt this ritual was made by the pilgrims, for the pilgrims. Sure I could, and still would embrace the gold and silver statue of Santiago and say my thanks but that was what I have always thought of as basically a Catholic church ritual! I was told later it was to allow it to be restored! What utter rubbish, do they cut out the stone and replace it I thought!!!!!

Now I can't remember if we did go hug the figure of Santiago then or not, but I did later. I hugged him and thanked and remembered all those wonderful people that had helped me on my way. My wife, my camino friends, the man who gave me an orange, the lady who fed me and would take no payment, the help to find a bed for the night in the town lock up, and all the others over the past six weeks.

Now I am outside with Renate and her young friend. We decided to find lodgings before getting the credential. We walked to the bar but new owners now ran it and he only offered a flat for 70 E in the another part of town and none of us wanted to be far from the centre of town.
"We'll try down the street" I said out of his ear shot and we went down to the place I had stopped in last time and I rang the bell. The other two saw that next door was a small hotel and just left me standing there after I had rung the bell and went in. I couldn't leave! The intercom asked what I wanted and I explained who I was and asked had she any rooms for the night. The door lock clicked and I entered and went up the stairs where the lady I knew waited for me. She showed me the little room I had used last time and a bigger one with two singles in it. I said I'd go tell the others but finding them in the hotel next door they said they had booked two rooms at 50E each. I said I had one at 25 and one at 35E
"We've booked" they said.
"Ok I'll see you in the square for dinner about seven"
I went back and took the small room for myself. I had a shower and unpacked a bit. I slept and later got my credential and text Maisie at 7.30 and she rang me back and we arranged to try to alter my ticket home. I met Renate and we ate some tapas in a restaurant, but it was a pretty unexciting meal.

Walking in the square later she recognised some tall chap and we went over and it turned out to be Richard Gere the film star! He seemed a nice chap and we met on very even terms, congratulating each other on the walk. I told him of some of the things that had happened on my trip. He seemed to take to me as I did him and we were to meet several times later.

END DAY 39 = approx. 20.3 km Sub Total = 615.0 km Total = 947.1 km [Total should be 952.9 km so somehow I’ve lost another 5.8 km !!! chuckle,]