Day 20 – Rest & Reflection #2

If you wonder why I’m going on this Camino, here is a great blog post that expresses it better than I can. Enjoy.

PGS - The Way

Every morning for nearly three weeks now, I've got up before sunrise, in the freezing cold and the dark, I've put on my boots, I've hauled on my backpack, and I've set off to walk some 20-30kms that day, which will get me incrementally closer to a place called Santiago de Compostela.

In the gloom, and as the sun rises and it begins to get lighter, I see ahead of me a beeline of several dozen others like me. I turn and see more behind me.

Elsewhere along this well trodden path of some 800 kilometers, at this same moment, thousands of people are doing the same thing – we're all following little yellow arrows pointing us towards a distant cathedral on the west coast of Spain, where supposedly lie the bones of a Saint.

We're all walking the Camino de Santiago.


That's the question I ask myself each…

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Camino minus 22 – the X-Ray-ded edition, with a special warning for the faint of heart

Knowledge is power.

I mentioned yesterday that I had gone to the lab to get medical work done. I realize I’m not as young as I once was, although my Wii Fit instructor/avatar seems pleased as punch with the shape I’m in.  But in preparation for this trip,I knew I’d better find out anything and everything that’s wrong with my health before I go.

I especially wanted to make sure my leg is in good shape. Several years ago, I broke one of the most break-resistant bones in the body – the femur. The thigh bone. I did it snowboarding.

My DH had sent me off that morning with a cheerful “Ha,ha, don’t break your leg!” Well, within one hour of getting to the mountain, I was face down in the snow, unable to get up. Never having broken a bone before, it was an unusual experience.

Also, being in Japan and not speaking the language, it was especially unusual. I think the “rescue” people thought I was just an old American lady slacker, whining over nothing.

OK, here’s the warning. I’m OK with these x-rays of my leg. But others have turned slightly green at the sight. If you tend to turn green, I advise you to scroll down and avert your eyes for a bit.

Otherwise, here are some of the x-rays taken 9 hours after the accident, when I finally got to a hospital:

Side View - OUCH!                        Front View


No problem, though. The American military doctors were excellent. I never had a cast of any kind. Three tiny one-inch scars. My care was wonderful.  And, although I was NOT HAPPY at the time, the Air Force physical therapists had me out of bed and very gingerly back on my feet the next day.

      Kathy5                        Repaired, see the original break towards the top right.

As I recall, the PT to get the strength back in that leg was much more painful than the break.

Thanks to my PT wizards, my recovery was swift. Within a week, I was very carefully getting around on crutches, and, within months, had climbed Mount Fuji, pain free (except for the pain of climbing Mt Fuji, but that’s another story).

However, years later, the site of the break  occasionally gives me a little discomfort. So, I wanted to take a peek inside, before the trip, to make sure nothing weird was going on.

I suspected the discomfort was caused by my simply being out of shape and my poor muscles not being able to handle stress. But for an 800 km walk, I needed to  be sure it was just me failing my body, not technology failing me.

Well, I saw yesterday’s  x-rays. They looked excellent. Even better than they did years ago. No slightly jagged edges where the original break had been, everything looking clean and smooth, like a normal bone, just with a giant nail running from top to bottom. The medical people call it a nail, I think it looks more like a sewing needle.

The metal does not set off airport security.

So, one more hurdle jumped over. The leg is in technologically good shape. I can’t blame anything but my own laziness and “junk in the trunk” for any aches and pains.

Thanks to those amazing military doctors, nurses, and therapists, not to mention the craftsmen who kindly put in hours building structures so I could get around our house, I’m no worse off than before.

All of their names will go with me on my Camino, on a slip of paper, so I can remember them in my prayers along the way. My prayer list will be long, as I remember how blessed I am.

A big hug to my DH.

And, no, I no longer go snowboarding.

Camino minus 23 – Too Late

This is going to be quick. Several things have happened today and it’s just been busy.

1. Went to the doctor to get blood work and x-rays – no problems, just want to make sure everything is in good shape for the trip.

2. The shoes I wrote about a few posts ago came in. I barely had time to open the box, much less try them on. Tomorrow. I promise.

3. Found a new place to get really fine coffee. And I needed some this morning because I had to do the starvation thing before I got that blood work drawn (don’t eat for 12 hours, etc.), which I didn’t get done until about 1 p.m. No coffee until after lunch? Grrrrr. Found out too late that black coffee would have been fine.

4. IKEA didn’t have the stuff I was looking for.  BLAH   😛    (Are people still allowed to use manual emoticons?)

5. I learned that the library cannot keep track of the books I borrow (I knew that, of course; I was around for Bush II when librarians took the lead in standing up for privacy) but I can!!  Good news because I always borrow about 2,000 pages worth of books from the library each week, knowing that I can realistically read maybe 20 pages in that time. But I’m addicted to the “new non-fiction” book shelf at the library. Now I can keep track of the books I don’t get to finish.

6. I had the most delicious pasta shells caprese at a snack bar on base. A new addiction.

7. Writing is more fun sometimes than watching Star Trek re-runs.

Sorry. I had hoped to make this a tidy list of ten but I can only come up with seven. This may be God’s way of telling me to call it a night.

8. Discovered that emoticons are a fun way to drive your spell check crazy.And that spell check cannot handle an emoticon with a tongue sticking out.

Camino minus 24 – a Heavy Religious Dilemma

A recent, non-scientific  survey found that the majority of  people who walk the Camino Frances believe they and their fellow pilgrims are walking for religious reasons. However, it also found that the overwhelming majority do not attend religious services on a regular basis.


I finally got to the local English language Church, which I had been told about a while ago yet never made it to because, well, who knows why.

When DH and I go to Mass, it is on base, a hefty distance for busy people like us to travel (too busy for God??!!)  Since most of the people who attend Mass on base seem to live on base, I feel disconnected with the parishioners. Since I don’t work on base and do not have children who go to school on base, I have little in common with them. I don’t run into them during the week, I don’t go to the same places they go, I don’t shop at the same stores.

Of course, Mass is about you and God, not you and the people around you, but it’s also a community effort. And, after a year, I feel like an outsider.

So, I was looking forward to this local Church. I was a bit taken back, however, to discover that this Church is –  dare I say it – Anglican!! Heavens! Heathens!!

Nevertheless, since I had raced out of the house to get there on time, I went in. It was a lovely, warm, friendly service, about 40 people of all ages and, different from my parish back in Virginia, lots of young adults, not so many wrinkled faces (not that there’s anything wrong with wrinkled faces, mind you, being a proud owner of one myself).

I had been to the local Roman Catholic Cathedral, right downtown, and asked about English language services in the area and hadn’t gotten an answer I could understand. This nearby Church was my last great hope.

The Anglican service is very similar to the Roman Catholic service – same structure, same prayers, same sacrament, same scripture readings.

But, Catholics are not allowed to partake of sacraments in Anglican services.

Darn you, Henry VIII!!!

The survey I mentioned earlier said that many of the pilgrims on the Camino felt left out of many of the pilgrim Masses they had been able to attend – they didn’t understand what was being said, and/or they couldn’t participate. That sense of loss and longing is one the Church struggles to address and correct. After all, the purpose of the Camino to Santiago de Campostella is to arrive at the Cathedral in Santiago de Campostella, the final resting place of St. James, a pretty holy, Catholic,  place.

Yes, I know about the ongoing questions of “who is REALLY buried there, how can it REALLY be St. James,” etc. However, belief  and faith are what it’s all about, right?)

Maybe my pilgrimage will find a local parish in Germany for me to attend?

It’s a strange day for me to be pondering these questions. Today is my Dad’s birthday, who passed away two years ago.  He was not a religious man, but his mother, my Grandmother, certainly was. Her Catholicism was strong but not overpowering to me, as a child. It was a source of mystery and strength, just the things an immigrant family needed in a new culture. You could always depend on it being there for you. Why Dad didn’t pick up on it is a mystery to me!

And I love being Roman Catholic. I love the rituals and the ability to question. I love the legacy of learning and the charity. In Venice a few months ago, I loved going to daily Mass at the  Church around the corner ( you know it was Catholic) and participating, even though I couldn’t speak a word of Italian. It was a beautiful place and a beautiful feeling. They had an English service every Sunday, and DH participated as one of the lectors.


Here, locally, something is missing for me.

Camino minus 25 – Wii train for the Big Day

The rain that was supposed to hit yesterday didn’t come in until last night. Today it is rain, rain, rain. So today I trained inside.

I use my Wii Fit program.

I start with 15 minutes of yoga. Yoga fanatics will be upset about my doing so little. But it’s beneficial, enjoyable, and taxing.

I like doing yoga in the privacy of my own home. I can stumble around and lose balance without losing face. I don’t have to worry about what view of me the tight bodies on either side (or, heaven forbid, behind me) are getting. And, sorry, I do feel badly when I can’t flip around and touch body parts in highly contorted ways like the people on the other mats.

They serenely breath in and out as if they are watching a movie. I huff, puff and sweat like a heavy smoker who has just lumbered up five flights of stairs.

And that’s just for the opening warm ups.

At one yoga class I attended, the teacher led the class in the cool down exercise which was –  of course, what else – standing on one’s head.  The few, pitiful,  beginners were allowed to use the wall for support. Crawling over on my hands and knees, with my fogged-up glasses slipping down my sweat covered nose and my vapor-filled water bottle clenched between my teeth, so that I could simply sit  with my back against the wall, was enough of a cool down exercise for me.

But don’t get me wrong. I like yoga. I’m doing yoga to improve my posture and balance. I know it will help me very much as I make my way up mountain passes with an unaccustomed  weight on my back. I do not want to be one of those who twist an ankle, or worse, and have to call the whole thing off before I really begin.

After yoga, I move on to my least favorite exercises, Wii or no Wii – strength. Sadly, the Wii doesn’t really provide much for upper body strength. You’re mainly on the honor system.

Except for push-ups. Those you can do on the Wii and I do, although I skip the accompanying side plank. My excuse is that I don’t have enough room in the apartment to do push-ups and side planks together, but I know if I had an empty apartment, I still wouldn’t do it.

The rest of the strength work-out is good.

Then, aerobics. Unfortunately, I can’t do my favorite aerobic exercise on the Wii, which is running. Yes, running for the Wii. You don’t use the balance board but hold the controller in your hand and it keeps track of your speed. I can’t do it here, though, because we have the world’s squeakiest floors.

If you’ve lived in Japan, you may be familiar with the idea of  “nightingale floors.” The story is that, in the days of the Shoguns and the early Emperors, floors were deliberately left to squeak so people could hear someone (i.e. Ninjas!!) approaching. This could also serve as a great excuse for shoddy craftsmanship and/or high humidity on wooden floors and keep you from having to honorably kill yourelf.

As an alarm system, it certainly works in our apartment. The business downstairs knows when I get up, when I head into the kitchen, when I sit at the desk, etc. I can’t have them hearing me run with the Wii.

Instead I do hula hoops and step aerobics. Very, very silly and looks childishly easy. However, I have yet to get a perfect score, so I guess it’s harder than it seems.

Lastly, the balance games. They have several, The first is a soccer game where you head the ball and other things that your “teammates” hurl at you. Somehow, I consistently miss the soccer balls they throw and  always get konked on the head by the shoes they toss.

Another balance activity is the ski jump. Let’s not go into details, since it looks easier that sitting down – all you have to do is pretend to jump. Yet, I’m a total Olympic-sized weenie.

To finish off my inside work out, I found a step machine at the thrift shop about three weeks ago. It’s small but powerful, has hydraulic lifts, and an electronic counter. Also, it sways slightly from side to side, I guess to mimic your natural motion if you were actually walking up steps.

I step on and turn on the DVD player. I watch an episode of “The Simpsons” or “Curb your Enthusiasm.” Both work well to take my mind off the monotony of stepping in place in my apartment.

When I’m finish, I’m drenched.

I’m ready for a nice glass of whine.

Camino minus 26 – Now, with Pictures!

It’s promising to rain here so I have a “forced” non-walking day. Since today is the day I usually do all the laundry, it’s just as well, although the weather may impact on drying the clothes outside. Whatever. My DN uses her Friday to do all the household chores. I’m not as motivated as she is, unfortunately. I’m happy to just get laundry done.


Hiking socks, quilting materials, drying outside, waiting for rain.

The final reservation to be made in advance was made today. DH and I already had our train tickets to Paris, and his return to Germany, my one-way to Bayonne, France. I also already had my reservation for the first night of my trip in St Jean Pied de Port (SJPdP), on the French side of the Pyrenees in Basque country. Because  I expected that I would not be able to sleep the night before, I had decided a while ago to treat myself at a well-recommended albergue for that first night.

L'Esprit du Chemin-1

This is L’Espirit du Chemin in SJPdP, which will be my first stop and provide the first stamp for my credencial.

But it wasn’t until recently that I decided that I should make a reservation for the second night, also.

The entire route of the Camino Frances can be broken into “stages,” a very general break down of a day’s worth of walking. Using this measure, the 800 km  Camino Frances takes about 33 days (I’m giving myself 5 weeks).

The first stage is reputed to be the most challenging. It’s the beginning/end for pilgrim routes all over Europe and pilgrims converge, fresh off the trains, taxis, buses, airplanes, and by foot, at SJPdP. No matter what shape you’re in, no matter how tired or hungry you may be, no matter how prepared or unprepared you are, if this is where you begin, there’s nowhere to go but up and over the Pyrenees.

The nearest town is on the other side of the Pyrenees Mountains. And, although these aren’t the highest peaks of the Pyrenees – those  are to the east – the climb is formidable. The altitude goes from 200 meters above sea level to 1400m in about 20 km straight up. From that high point in the mountains, there is a steep descent of about 500 m in 5 km to the town at the end of stage one, Roncevalles, in Spain. This climb is done, of course, with a full backpack in unfamiliar territory and in unpredictable weather.


About a month ago, a pilgrim was tragically killed while making the hike on this first day over the mountain. Apparently, he simply took a wrong turn and walked off a cliff (in serious snow conditions, which I don’t expect to meet in May, so don’t worry). If you see the movie, “The Way,” you’ll know that this was the opening scenario which propels the entire story. When I saw the movie, I thought the pilgrim dying on the first day was a little over-dramatic. Now I know it was not.

There are no places to find food, shelter, or warmth in the mountains. There are only two places along the way for the weary to find a bed and a meal during that first stage and they are both closer to the starting point than to the mountain. I’ve decided I would stop  at the one about 7 km from SJPdP at the end of that first day’s walk, making it very short but a final place to prepare for the next 750 km.


This photo of the Refuge Orisson, where I plan to spend the second night, is for the benefit of my friends living in the South Pacific. That white stuff is not cotton but a cold, icy thing called snow.

My goal is not to get to Santiago de Campostella first, or fastest, but to get to Santiago de Campostella. Providing a bed, dinner and breakfast may well be a welcome relief and, if not, well, it will be a pleasant final kick-off point for me.  My poor, old bones will probably enjoy the day off to re-evaluate my packing and walking strategies, re-adjust socks and boots, do everything except re-consider walking in the first place. .

Of course, there’s always the possibility that my staying an extra day on the French side of the Pyrenees will mean I miss a beautiful hiking day and end up having to make the trek in wet, windy, miserable weather the following day. Ah, well, I’ve never had any luck trying to second guess God’s plans for me.

It still hasn’t rained.

Camino minus 27 – Holey Soles

Today I tracked down another sporting goods store. My dear friend had told me about two stores, one in town, one about 10 minutes outside. I found the one in town a few days ago and drooled over the nice equipment. Today I went to the other, smaller, less fashion conscious store. More boots, backpack, MUCH bigger catalog.

I also corresponded with an on-line Camino Forum friend who has a pair of tech pants to sell. Those are pants designed for outdoor wear. Not denim, nor any kind of cotton, which has become anathema in outdoor wardrobe. Actually, there is a difference between tech clothing and “normal” clothes.  Tech clothing, usually a combination of polyester and other stuff, is lighter, yet not lightweight. The fabric wicks moisture (formerly known as “sweat”) and dries quickly. These materials can comfortably handle a day of outdoor activity. I wouldn’t wear them to chop logs, but for hiking, sure.

Unfortunately, I had to do a fast 180 on those pants when I ran into the boots crisis I wrote about a few days ago. My on-line  friend is on her way out the door to begin her adventure and wants to know if I’m still interested. I asked her about the length of the zipper in the front. If the zipper is short, I’ll know they are women’s pants designed more for fashion than for practicality and are designed to sit, sexily, at the hips. If the zipper is long, I’ll know they are designed to head up to the waist and will stay put in spite of all the things I’ll need to pack around the waist – belt, power bars, euros, Kleenex, and my own personal “muffin top,” and I don’t mean Betty Crocker, although that lady may have had something to do with it.

I bought some tech wash and “Impregnator” from the second store. Tech wash is the special laundry soap you use on those pieces of outdoor clothing you spent tons of money on – or got a great discount on – and don’t want to have disintegrate too quickly. Fancy fleece, down, socks. “Impregnator” is the stuff you spray on your formerly waterproof items to make them waterproof again. I have a beloved red rain jacket that has seen me through miles of adventure and will go with me again this time. However, I think I’ve washed it once in ten years.

Hey, it doesn’t really get dirty.  Don’t judge me!

But I don’t think it’s waterproof anymore. I’ll find a German friend who can translate the directions and I’m sure my jacket will turn out great. Or it may simply dissolve as I spray, like sneezing on cotton candy.

Imagine my delight in announcing to DH when he got home, “Guess what, honey? I was hanging around in town and found a spray impregnator!”

Downstairs of today’s store brought me face to face with a rack of Crocs. Those ugly, plastic shoes. People who wear them swear by them and Camino people have praised their comfort at the end of the day when they need another pair of shoes for tired toes to retreat into. I had walked to the store in my old, worn out pair of low tops. The sides are bursting, the toe stops in the front are peeling away from the shoe, there are holes in the soles so water cannot stay out. They are, of course, as comfortable as a pair of slippers. And as 800 km trek worthy.

Perhaps I should take those instead of the sandals I bought a month ago.

This second store also had a sleeping bag liner, 100% silk, for half the price I’ve seen anywhere else.

Tempting. Silk. Ahhhh.

But the more I spend on this side of the trip, the less I’ll have available when I hit day 14 on the Camino and need to spend a day in a luxury hotel, with room service and hot showers.

I need to do more walking outdoors and less in sporting stores.