Alchemy on the Camino de Santiago 2019. Let the journey begin!

What a joy to travel the way of the heart.

~ Rumi

Photos from some of my lovely group of first-time pilgrims ready to start their Camino from Astorga to Santiago!

Hello South Africa, Australia and USA. How exciting! And of course, the lovely Sylvie from Canada, adding her infectious joie de vivre to our party of discovery and personal transformation. 🎉👣
Let the fun begin!

Sue
Gary
Janet and Erica
Lisa
Gail
Darene
Sylvie

September 5, 2019

TOUCHDOWN! MADRID

Touch down in Madrid! 33 degrees and balmy. We’re all here finally after one backpack and a set of hiking poles going astray. The poles turned up an hour later from London and the backpack is flying in early tomorrow from Toronto. 

We’re rolling with it. No doubt the Camino will have other surprises for us. 

The early arrivals strolled through the city, sipped our first coffee, later our first sparkling wine and enjoyed dinner out at a locally recommended eatery. Brushing up our Spanish. 

Life is sweet on this street. Next stop Astorga.

Three amigos – 3 different flights and missing equipment!
Swish in Madrid
Mmmm that bakery (especially for Olivia)
Cappuccino time
Central Madrid
Sylvie and Gail
Palacio Real
Gail
Angel
Gardens
A-mazing
We find Lisa. We’re here!

September 6, 2019

ASTORGA. A PLACE TO BEGIN.

“And wasn’t it a story that brought millions of pilgrims to walk the Camino? True or false, in some ways it didn’t seem to matter whether people believed there was a saint or relics or miracles. A story of discovery and hope drew us to walk, a story written by millions of slogging feet and seeking spirits.” (Ailsa Piper. Sinning across Spain)

And so we arrived at our starting point today, in Astorga – one of the oldest dioceses of Spain. Oh the grandeur of the Cathedral Santa Maria Astorga and Gaudi’s Episcopal Palace. Chocolate, Maragato dishes and the traditional mantecada pound cakes are prolific. We buy our pilgrim shells. We clink glasses and eat Tapas. 

Now we just want to begin. To set foot on that beautiful way of the soul. But first we must prise ourselves from the world. Prepare. Set new routines in motion. Wrestle with a degree of vulnerability, unlearning and letting go, so we can find something new. So we can come back renewed. In full expression of who we are. Tomorrow is a gentle start.

Gail’s recovered backpack!
Leaving our hotel in Madrid
Gary and Sue enjoying their first breakfast in Spain
Bus ride to Astorga
The cathedral and the palace, side by side.
Gaudi’s Episcopal Palace
Cathedral Santa Maria Astorga
On the sunny side of the street
Arty
Lunch time in the plaza
Delicious squid for lunch
Food of the region
Light stuff
Yellow
Our hotel. Casa de Tepa
Giving my talk about FasterEFT Tapping
Erica and Janet
Gail and Darene
Lisa and Sylvie
Night garden at Casa de Tepa
History spills
Napoleon stayed here!
Ask for tea and the manager brings a tray
Tea in the lounge before bed

September 7, 2019

Astorga to magical Castrillo de los Polvazares.

That each step may be a shedding. 
That you will let yourself become lost.
That when it looks like you’re going backwards,
you may be making progress.
That progress is not the goal anyway,
but presence to the feel of the path on your skin,
to the way it reshapes you in each place it makes contact,
until the moment you have stepped out.

Jan Richardson

This is how our Camino began today. With presence. A moving away from the known. Bundles on backs. At last after months of planning. A wave of excitement and green, the day luring us into a warm embrace of newness, beauty, awakening and the promise of something wonderful. Because we were ready. 

And so it unfolded. An afternoon at Flores Del Camino in the world heritage listed 16th century Maragato village of Castrillo de los Polvazares was other worldly. We made a profound connection to walking this special way, understanding something about the sacredness of tradition and ourselves, and our place in the world. Tying meaning to this act of wandering and creating intention to be better, to germinate the purpose of our lives right here in this moment. 

The Art Of Pilgrimage as a rite of passage was presented in loving detail by honest, soulful Camino devotees, Bertrand and Basia, who sent us on a star-struck rendezvous with geometry and ancient symbolism, pouring meaning on our path. Sealed with a fire ceremony at sunset and intention setting. Powerful. Nourishing. Not to be forgotten.

Morning yoga at Casa de Tepa
First day!
Breakfast
Hmmm!
First yellow arrow excitement!
Leaving Astorga
Heading for Castrillo
First fountain
Amble on down
268km to Santiago. Here we go again, Sylvie!
Blue door and matching girls!
Beauty
I am here! Whoo!
Feline pose
Relaxed first day of 7km
Erica and Janet catch some shade
Entering the village of Castrillo de los Polvazares
Character door
Sylvie and Lisa are excited!
Flores Del Camino
An absolutely amazing experience awaits inside
Fruit, refreshments and a stamp for our pilgrim passports
Sunning boots
Studio accommodation and geometry artwork
A workshop of sacred art and wonderment for Lisa
Gail’s beautiful artwork enmeshed with pilgrimage
Sue and her sacred geometry
Afternoon view
Stain glass jewel
Earthly pigments
Our captivating Art of Pilgrimage retreat
Sacred connections made
The sight of our dinner table in the late afternoon Spanish sun
A refined dinner awaits resplendent with local delights
Bertrand and Sylvie sharing a French connection
Beautiful host Basia and her lively boys
Preparing for the fire ceremony and intention setting
An ancient goose symbol restored on the courtyard wall
Knight’s Templar Cross

September 8, 2019

A walk to Rabanal del Camino

Today we walked before sunrise so the dawn could share its secrets. What wonderment. We are fixed on intention setting as we proceed, after our fire ceremony at Flores Del Camino. Nature will forever be full of geometry and sacred meaning thanks to Basia and Bertrand. 

We walked 15km to Rabanal Del Camino to take up lodging at El Refugio Hosteria. The afternoon was spent snacking and lulling in the “green garden”. Yoga and Qi Gong followed in the lounge. We listened to the Vespers sung by the monks at the small parish Iglesia de Santa María then sat down to a chatter-filled 3-course pilgrim’s menu at El Refugio’s restaurant. We invited a lone French traveller to join us. 

Sylvie and I take a trip down the memory lane of our first Camino in 2017 whenever we can. She cried when we entered the Albergue we had stayed in where (now deceased) hospitalero, Wolf, had nurtured her after a gruelling day’s walk. We spotted the Korean priest that Kim, our Korean friend had excitedly conversed with. We asked him for a photo. 

The warmth and loveliness of our group is such a blessing! What wonderful people. They are delighted by pilgrimage after two days. We are the lucky ones witnessing their unfolding. Tomorrow, is 26km to the iconic Cruz de Ferro.

Early breakfast at the ever-nurturing Flores Del Camino
All the literature on pilgrimage your heart could desire
Leaving Castrillo de los Polvazares
The sun rises
Fields of gold
Onward we go
Day two joy
Walking a labyrinth on the way created by Flores Del Camino
Stopping to smell the roses
Rabanal Church
Those rustic old windows. A Camino companion.
Always arriving
Always a fountain
Famous blue door at Catalina de Somoza
Distance to Santiago
Bucolic entry
The famous Cowboy Bar
Coffee time
Cheers Gail
Rest stop in the town’s “The Green Garden”
Funky chair for Janet and Erica
Our night’s rest
Rabanal Church with nightly 7pm vespers sung by the monks
Exploring
The Stone Boat
Legsercise for Sylvie and Gail
Hello…was it you I’m looking for?
Wine time in the late sun
Peregrino wine!
Found! The Korean priest we met in 2017.

September 10, 2019

Rabanal to Molinaseca. And on to Cacabelos.

Day 4 

The steep, rocky climb and then descent from Rabanal to Molinaseca (about 28km) is a stretch of the Camino that places you in direct gaze of what it is to be here. 

Walking to the historic Cruz de Ferro is so atmospheric and at once physically testing. It is an intense day. 

The eight of us left in the dark of a chilly dawn with headlamps, for the highest point of the Camino. Five ahead and three behind. There is usually a lot of emotion expressed and intention made as pilgrims leave a stone or symbol from home to signify the intention to let go of something from their lives. People weep and often share openly. It is a place to release, receive, hug and breathe life into a new direction. It’s a place like no other to pay respect, feel and be free. Just another magical moment of taking time to be conscious on the journey. 

Gail, Sylvie and I completed our day at the late hour of 6.30pm, fatigued but nourished by so many traveller’s tales. Our day was buoyed, witnessing Gail’s steely determination to keep going. She is 80 years old, gorgeous, fit and invested in living her life fully. Our team ahead, created a guard of honour to congratulate her on making it to the iron cross and down again. Slowly and steadily she keeps on. We are in total awe of her and everyone offers loving support. 

Day 5

Today we walked about 23km to the character-filled town of Cacabelos, which was welcomingly flat and calm. We walked through the calm green of the Bierzo vineyards to finally arrive, do laundry, savour a tasty pilgrim’s meal, and share more of each other’s company. A few blisters, aches and pains have surfaced, but as Sylvie says, it’s all part of the game!

Sylvie and Gail at Foncebadon, before the Cruz de Ferro
Cappuccino at dawn
Ancient ruins and a spiritual landmark after Foncebadon.
Getting closer to the cross and a golden morning
Placing my stone
Gail places hers
Sylvie too
I thank Sylvie for our wonderful Camino friendship and adventures over the last three years.
The little church at Cruz de Ferro
Ultreia and the walk goes on in beauty
Fruit and refreshments for a donation
At Manjarin
Home…so far away
Our golden way
Are we there yet?!….Where?
Sylvie acknowledges Manuela who is walking with Parkinson’s disease.
Heroine’s welcome. Gail is a champ!
Lucky Gail gets a hero’s welcome and a foot massage from Gary at El Acebo.
Unbelievable Pilgrim menu meal at El Acebo – 3 courses including strawberries and cream.
Another derelict dwelling oozing charm
The three of us arrive in Molinaseca at 6.30pm
Swim celebration
Three amigos

Gary warms up after a very fresh swim
Gary poses with a local village lady in Molinaseca
Fresh again! Sylvie and Gail hand in hand off to dinner
Morning departure from Molinaseca
Into the dawn
Street art
Over the bridge at Ponferrada
The Castle Of The Knights Templar at Ponferrada
Breakfast opposite the castle in Ponferrada and Gail runs into Michael again who encouraged her on yesterday’s path to take her time as she navigates her Camino experience.
Sylvie and Gail. Cappuccino and pastries.
Lisa marks another milestone
Beautiful door
Arrived in Cacabelos and off to do laundry!
Sylvie’s dressed blisters. Ouch!
Rest at the laundromat
Balthazar at St James Way restaurant joins in Janet and Erica’s hug.
Half moon and the view tonight as we turn in after another satisfying, overflowing day on Camino.

September 11, 2019

Off to Trabadelo

“Next year I’ll be that guy I’m dreaming of. I’m not walking to find out who I am. I’m walking to find out who I’ll become.” Mike Posner

Day 6

We walked about 20km today to reach Trabadelo. Erica realised she had left her poles behind at our Albergue, so her and I turned back for one kilometre or so to retrieve them. This gave us a chance to chat and look back on our primary school friendship. Who would have thought we’d be connecting again here, walking across Spain! About 10km later of flat walking and sweet insights into those two little girls, we caught the group up for breakfast in Villafranca Del Bierzo – one of the prettiest towns on the Camino. We relished our usual Spanish bacon, eggs, fresh orange juice and hot coffee. 

Janet bought us all a sweet treat before announcing that she would be walking the tougher and longer mountain route into Trabadelo. The cafe owners shook their fingers worriedly, recommending the less strenuous road route. But Janet had made up her mind. I decided to join but give her space to set her own pace. Our group bid us a ceremonious farewell and we took off onto the steep path of unknown peril and pleasures. Today would be Janet’s day. One of facing her fear of hills and challenging herself. I was secretly excited. 

After a steep ascent the route revealed an exquisite view down green slopes to the miniature outline of Villafranca Del Bierzo. I came alive and imagined Janet did too, in this solitary marvel up high of nature colliding with crisp blue skies. 

Lisa and I had faced nature’s fury the night before when we’d learned that a bushfire had ripped through our small hometown in Australia, leading to the evacuation of her adult children. We were relieved to be walking this morning with positive news from home. 

Janet celebrated with soup and a reunion with a German Camino friend in a tiny town on the mountain before making her way down. The rest of us met up at our character-filled Albergue, run by Camino-walker, Nuria, where we booked in for her 3-course dinner of pumpkin soup, lemon chicken, ice-cream and Bierzo wine. We huddled round the fireplace in satisfaction. 

Each experience on this Camino knits our group tighter together. We look out for each other, we celebrate our wins, we share the fabric of our souls. It doesn’t matter where we hail from and what the status of our life journey is at this minute. We are joined by this vivid union on this historic undulating Spanish road.


Ready, set and let’s go. Morning team spirit.
Ahoy pilgrims
Sunrise over vineyards
Vines everywhere…Walking with the vines.
Villafranca Del Bierzo
One of the prettiest towns on the Camino Francés
Hearty breakfast. Observation: Don’t always stop at the first cafe!
Such an attractive town, nestled in the mountains
Ready for the second stage of our day
Janet and I get a royal send-off before moving up to the mountain route
A climb up and then Villafranca Del Bierzo below
Purple pleasures
Communing with nature and the gods
Sue and Gary in South African colours
Grapes roadside
A moving landscape
Lisa and Gail celebrate under the 200km mark
Merriment enrolee with Gary and Sylvie
Trabadelo Albergue and cosy home for the night
Our host – a four-time Camino walker
cosy at the fireside
Camino cross
Homely decor at Camino Y Leyenda
Dinner for eight
Rosé for Sue
Whispers
Team shoulder massage

September 12, 2019

Trabadelo to Laguna de Castilla

“When your world moves too fast
and you lose yourself in the chaos,
introduce yourself 
to each color of the sunset. 
Reacquaint yourself with the earth 
beneath your feet. 
Thank the air that surrounds you
with every breath you take.
Find yourself in the appreciation of life.”

Christy Ann Martine

Today we walked about 16km from Trabadelo to Laguna de Castilla, a remote frontier town 1km from the Galician border. The last half would be a steep climb. 

Lisa awoke feeling ill and today became her trial as she decided to push through ever slowly, hoping it would pass. 

It was Sue’s turn to leave her hiking poles behind. We stopped for coffee at a truck stop and it wasn’t long before her and Gary caught us up. We wandered beside a stream of water dotted with villages, cats and cows in fields. The last stop before climbing up the mountain was Las Herrerias, where we decided to stop for a late breakfast. Alas, the town was out of electricity and cafés weren’t offering food. Then we found Miriam who obligingly made us omelettes on a gas cooker, with slices of cheese and tomato, along with fresh orange juice. I became the waitress, running out the food to the group, while she single handedly managed us and waiting customers. 

Fuelled, we started the steep climb. 
past Hospital Inglés and La Faba where we stopped for cold drinks in a bar full of ambience and producing vegetarian food. We arrived at Laguna de Castilla at Albergue La Escuela, with our group prepped for an authentic pilgrim experience in bunk beds. Once showered and clothes laundered, (and a half hour nap for me) we sat out in the sun chatting to pilgrims. 

Later we enjoyed the best pilgrim menu I’ve ever had! The lentil soup was incredible, as was the veal, accompanied by homemade wine. I chose tarta de Santiago for desert. Conversation flowed. 

Another remarkable day on the Camino de Santiago.

Pride and beauty
Tough stuff Lisa, feeling off but pushing through
Gary and Sue marvelling
Sylvie and I in front of derelict charm

Sue and her love affair with cats
Old beauty
Janet and Erica take a break
Erica’s foot woes
Breakfast stop and no electricity
Grand Spanish home
Cool greenery
Another milestone
Gary and Sue share a tender moment at La Faba cafe
Gail and Erica order drinks
Garden courgettes for the vegetarian menu
Climbing to Galicia
Keep on going

Third Camino for these shoes of mine and the last! I’m so attached to them – they’re a part of my incredible journeys. ❤️
Erica climbing away from Leon and towards Galicia
The end of a delicious dinner at Laguna de Castilla

September 13, 2019

Laguna de Castilla to Triacastela

“We exist because of you,” says Dosi the taxi driver, in animated broken English. “All the peregrinos that come through here make it possible for us. The taxi drivers, the pharmacies, bars and restaurants. Without you our economy is kaput!”
Suddenly he swings into O Cebreiro and says, “I give you five minutes to look around. You must. It’s beautiful.”

The Camino is a continuous unfolding of surprise. And that’s what you sign up for. The last 24 hours has been just that. As Lisa started to recover from her bug, Gail went down. After a difficult night we sent our friends ahead on their 22km walk and organised a taxi ride for Gail and I to our next night’s stop. 

Isindrin from La Escuela had brought us extra blankets and turned on the heating for Gail last night. This morning he called Dosi to taxi us to Triacastela. We thanked him and he kissed us goodbye. Gail reluctantly succumbed to the ride. It was her dream to walk every step. But the best plans come undone and we must adjust. Then we allow all the little miracles that follow. 

Like this morning’s kindness. Like pilgrim Michael popping up again in Laguna this morning as he passed through, just in time to lift Gail’s spirits. Like our excitable taxi driver and his impromptu diversion into O Cebreiro, insisting we take a look at the pretty hilltop town, steeped in Camino history. 

We arrived in Triacastela in beautiful bright sunshine (named after its pre-existing three castles), to be offered our accommodation three hours early. Unheard of. More serendipity. We picked up some remedies at the pharmacy (including rice crackers which we happened to be looking for) and an English speaking pharmacist gave us advice. Right next door was a supermarket for water. Sorted. 

Another block and we were at the Romanesque Church of Santiago de Triacastela, renovated in the 18th Century. Triacastela was the main quarry source for the Cathedral in Santiago. We sat on a pew inside in consideration of all. 

Meanwhile our marching friends were having their own steep adventures, slowly making their way towards us in very hot afternoon sun. Step by step.

Taxi driver, Dosi, and Albergue (La Escuela) owner, Isindrin
Michael from Germany pops up again to encourage Gail
O Cebreiro vista
Dosi stops to show us the view
Candles in the O Cebreiro church
Taking a look
chair and character
Arrival by horseback – an alternative to climbing by foot
O Cebreiro historic building
Shop wares
The rest of our group amongst the cows
Hot but beautiful day of walking
Pit stop
Another milest
Following the road towards Triacastela
Still smiling
Another milestone
Triacastela
streetscape in this small village
The Romanesque church
Picturesque graveyard
Gail hanging clean clothes. What a joy!
The Camino

September 14, 2019

Triacastela to Sarria

Mythologist Joseph Campbell identified the hero’s journey, depicted across all cultures. 

It is so evident on Camino, and expressed pertinently in Alexander John Shaia’s book, Returning from Camino. 

The first stage is the summons or call to adventure – to walk the Camino. 
The second is facing a series of trials and tribulations – physical and emotional difficulties. 
The third is receiving the gift – wonderful insights into living your best life. 
And fourth is returning to serve community – taking the insights home and applying them. Sharing the gifts you’ve gathered and the love you have encountered by being the best you. 

After 9 days of walking and an especially intense day of walking yesterday for most, I sense we are conquering the first stage. Blisters, rashes, tummy bugs, aches and pains are settling down. Feelings of vulnerability and high emotion are dissolving and being transformed. It is slowly being replaced by revelations, personal satisfaction, self mastery and a certain elation at what the human body and mind is capable of. This is a high point. 

Today we left Triacastela at 6am to walk about 22km to Sarria. We wanted to avoid a repeat of yesterday’s hot afternoon walk, by leaving early. Gail had recovered from her 24-hour bug and slotted back in with zest. Our group was complete again. Stronger. More resilient than ever. Soaking up the privilege of being here having this experience right now, plucked from life’s predictable routines. 

Gary was bowled over with appreciation and surprise when we were able to organise his lost shorts being retrieved from the previous accommodation and have it delivered to us in Sarria at no expense at all. 

The Camino kicks butt and the Camino provides lovingly.

Follow the yellow arrows to Santiago and certain transformation
Dreaming of how good life feels when you’re alive and in the moment on Camino
Dreaming of how good life feels when you’re alive and in the moment on Camino
Galician cows
Country idyllic
Misty morning
Group vibes
Breakfast of note for Sue
A line of pilgrims
Galician green
Old little church
A home
Lots of closely spaced villages today
Lisa and Janet
Janet and Erica – hugging zone in Montán
Lisa’s Camino rash
Geese in Sarria
Sarria Camino art
Old town Sarria
Drinks on the town
Sue and Gary
Out on the town
Sangria and paella
Our restaurant
The old town

September 15, 2019

Sarria to Portomarin

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
~ Unknown

So here we are exploring on the Camino. Sylvie and I are leading six special people who dared to dream, who signed up for an adventure and self discovery. We are so privileged to be experiencing another Camino with and through them. Two weeks of pilgrimage and intention setting in Spain. I couldn’t think of anywhere more mind and heart-opening than here to be on an inner journey. It is a physical journey one takes to Santiago and the nature of it creates a powerful pause point to consider where you are on your life path. To crack that open and look at it over hundreds of kilometres. It takes bravery and commitment. Commitment to yourself and your own journey. 

This Camino includes private Tapping sessions with me to identify for each person what they would like to change and let go of, and what they really want for their lives. And move towards it. All this is achieved with my guidance through this powerful therapy. We are identifying and transforming negative beliefs, childhood programming, memories and sabotaging patterns that are limiting and preventing full expression of a satisfying life. It is about taking back control and creating an authentic life. It’s backed by neuroscience and research, and gaining momentum as a powerful tool for change in psychology. So here we are on Camino, consciously moving forward, letting go, creating and affirming positive change on this sacred road. 

Today we walked about 24km from Sarria to Portomarín. We left in the dark and arrived by 2pm. What a beautiful day stepping out in the soothing greens of Galicia. We all made the distance. My star team. Each one is exploring, rising and conquering the path beneath them. The one that’s made by walking.

Leaving Sarria in the dark of dawn
Inspiration on our alchemy tour
Oh Galicia. A honeyed morning
Counting down the milestone markers with Gary and Sue
Sue and Gail step it out
Arrow love
Sylvie and I meet our matches. Another Australian and Canadian who Camino together!
The 100km marker!
The famous painted shells at Vilacha
Cosmos in a cafe garden
Portomarin
Three more angels for Gail! They helped her down the steep descent into Portomarín.
Gail is an absolute Camino wonder at 80 years old. She is so cherished in our group. So much respect and love for this wonderful lady.
Portomarin
The imposing Iglesia of San Juan. We listened to live medieval music there this evening.
Janet and Erica led the field today
Janet appreciating the 100km marker
Our beautiful hotel
A bit of luxury this time. Enjoying down time drinks and snacks.
Cheers to Erica and Janet
Sylvie and Lisa
Darene and Gail
Getting those feet up
Strolling to dinner
Day 10 happy vibes
Sue and Gary
Erica and Janet

16th September, 2019

To Palas de Rei

Be thankful now for having arrived,
for the sense of
having drunk
from a well,
for remembering the long drought that preceded your arrival
and the years walking in a desert landscape of surfaces looking for a spring hidden from you for so long that even wanting to find it now had gone from your mind
until you only
remembered the hard pilgrimage that brought you here,
the thirst that caught in your throat; the taste of a world just-missed
and the dry throat that came from a love you remembered but had never fully wanted for yourself, until finally, after years making the long trek to get here it was as if your whole achievement had become nothing but thirst itself.

But the miracle had come simply from allowing yourself to know that you had found it,
that this time
someone walking out into the clear air from far inside you
had decided not to walk past it anymore;
the miracle had come at the roadside in the kneeling to drink
and the prayer you said,
and the tears you shed
and the memory
you held
and the realization
that in this silence
you no longer had to keep your eyes and ears averted from the
place that
could save you,
that you had been given
the strength to let go
of the thirsty dust laden
pilgrim-self
that brought you here,
walking with her
bent back, her bowed head and her careful explanations.

No, the miracle had already happened
when you stood up,
shook off the dust
and walked along the road from the well,
out of the desert toward the mountain,
as if already home again, as if you
deserved what you loved all along,
as if just remembering the taste of that clear cool spring could lift up your face
and set you free.

The Well – by David Whyte – (in Pilgrim)

We left Portomarín in the early hours, covering about 24km to Palas de Rei. We passed many people we knew again and again. It was a long day but we all arrived safely. A new experience awaited. Sleeping in pods in a new Albergue. After settling in we went for dinner in the town. Erica and Janet popped into the church and received a pilgrim blessing from the priest. 

Another beautiful day drinking from the well dwelling in the miracle of being here.

Early misty morning
Those girls! Janet and Erica
Go Lisa
Sweet
Just keep following. It’s The Way
Present fields of green
Always a hearty breakfast after a big walk
Local village lady selling cheese from her window
Grandma working in the garden
Lisa stretching
Erica snacking
Gary and Sue shopping
Janet’s mirth
Sylvie and Janet taking an evening stroll
Our sleeping pods for the night

September 17, 2019

Palas de Rei to Castañeda

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.” 
Joseph Campbell

The last 200 metres to our guesthouse accommodation near Castañeda was through a eucalyptus lined grove, ending off our 24km day. We had the place to ourselves. An afternoon of drying laundry, tending to blistered, tired, remarkable feet that have carried us for 11 days. How remarkable is the body? We are immersed in a marathon a day, and no-one wants to retreat. Spirit and determination carries us to our goal, finishing at Santiago in a few days. 

Of course, it’s a fantastic ride. Coming alive. And life is just brilliant – traipsing across a beautiful land, connecting with fellow human beings. Connecting to ourselves. Giving ourselves the gift of time. We are steeped in the magnetic routine of preparing backpacks, the rhythm of eat, sleep, walk. The shared experience gives it a depth that lifts, marks the soul.

Design your story. It’s up to you.
Visions that place you in the present moment
First coffee stop in the dark
Breezing along
Always
Keep going this way
What opens the heart
Follow the green
Getting closer
Bridge into Melide
Through Melide
Pulpo (octopus) – Galician delicacy in Melide
Leaving Melide
Towards Castañeda
Drink stop
Horreo – a typical granary in Galicia
Camino symbols
Gail and I walking through the woods
Laundry pleasures
Evening view
Dinner for eight and lots of laughs

September 18, 2019

Castañeda to O Pedrouzo

Another big day of exceptional walking today from Castañeda to O Pedrouzo after overnight rain, has completed our second last day on Camino. We are 19km from Santiago. 

We are eight firm friends now bonded by this marching experience of trials and triumph, and exploration of self. 

We have been blessed with thirteen days of great weather. We are so lucky. We’ve made honey. We’ve set personal transformation in motion. 

Today was full of joy and anticipation of the end as we counted down the distance on the familiar camino markers. We had a delicious late breakfast with fresh orange juice and cappuccinos after 5 hours of traversing through little hamlets and fragrant forests of eucalyptus trees of merciful shade. 

We arrived early at our Albergue in O Pedrouzo, showered and washed laundry before eating out. Paella and pizza were the picks. The waitress arrived with complimentary glasses of creamy liqueur to complete a perfect evening. Sylvie, Janet, Erica and I then took off into the early evening to attend the pilgrim mass in the village church. 

It’s a wonderful moment to just be still with great reverence for this long walk. To allow the deep significance of the last few weeks in. To rest there, luminous. To let truths percolate from our journey of intention. So we can go home and live our best lives, wholeheartedly. 

This is my wish for this beautiful group.


May your destination be filled with exciting, purposeful truth
Exceptional nature
Our band of happy souls step out for one more full day of walking before our journey ends
Shoes with a purpose
Treasures
Where will you go next?
Passing through time
So many thirsts quenched. So many paused here
Band of Spanish walkers ask Gail for a photo. She is a Camino legend.
Blue and gold
Counting down markers
Eucalyptus forest
So much sharing and celebrating over good food. Life’s pleasures.
Our complimentary Spanish liqueur
Gary escorts Gail back to our Albergue
Take me to church
Specialty
Scallop shell backdrop in O Pedrouzo Iglesia
Last night of bunk beds

September 19, 2019

Santiago!

Santiago! We did it ❤️
14 days and 265km.

Hands in for luck
Happy hearts
Gail
Gail’s angel, Michael, meets us again for a final bit of inspiration
Guard of honour
Mount Gozo statues
Santiago sighted from this hill
Sylvie is here
Sue is here
Erica is here
Gail is here
Janet is here
Darene is here
Lisa is here
And Gary. We are all here!
Walking to the cathedral
Yippee!
Let’s go
Closer we go
Here we are 💚
The soul of our feet
Pilgrim blessing here
San Franciscan Church
Yay!
Here
Again
Wow!
Gail is a champion
Our biggest inspiration

21 September, 2019

A beautiful ending

Our Camino came to a close with two days of celebration in sparkling Santiago. Boutique hotels, gourmet Tapas bars, relaxing massages and souvenir shopping were all delights. Australian author, Margaret Caffyn met and took us to the outdoor terrace of the Parador Hotel, from where we sipped drinks and stared in disbelief at the early evening, sun-drenched grand cathedral. Margaret shared her intimate stories and the following day we became the first group to take her secrets of Santiago meander. What a reveal! We discovered places we would never have known about. Margaret’s passion for pilgrimage and all things Santiago made this such an authentic experience. 

Today the eight of us parted ways. Some flew home. Sylvie and I started our own walk to Finisterre, a stretch we never did in our 2017 Camino Francès. 

I like to think the experience over these last two weeks enabled not only a real connection to nature and this extraordinary stretch of earth, but to self. Resilience. Gratitude for the incredible physical body we inhabit, gratitude for our ability to heal emotional disconnection within ourselves. The realisation that we have the power to change things. Separate our conditioning from our authentic selves. 

I heard about a pilgrim who came to walk after a breakdown, and had an epiphany on the Meseta. This person realised that for the first time, they could love and accept themselves. Herein lies the greatest healing of all. I see it time and again in my work. When peace is made, the past is put to rest, stress is cleaned up and there is radical self love and acceptance, everything changes. The way appears before you, and you walk out onto it.

Sunset drinks on the Parador Hotel terrace
Margaret Caffyn reveals her secrets of Santiago and we say hi to bar owner, Gonzalez.
The ghost pilgrim
Secret Cathedral viewpoint
We learn the history of the two Marys of Santiago
The best chocolate shop in Santiago
Dinner at the ultimate Tapas bar in Santiago
The cathedral by night
Last night celebration
Taking home the tool of FasterEFT Tapping
What a city
Backpack and birthday rose ready to go
Here we go again. Off to Finisterre
The Galician word for Finisterre
89km to go
Scallops
Counting down again till we reach the ocean
Hamlet on the water
Ponte Maceira
Bridge love
Negreiro
A fine bakery
beautiful farmhouse accommodation
After dinner tea and chat under the night sky

September 23, 2019

Santiago to Santa Mariña & Mazaricos

All along this road

not a single soul—only

autumn evening

– Basho

The walk to Finisterre is a gentle release after the buzz of the busy road into Santiago, the build-up and the mixture of emotions. It is recommended by so many that you take time to process your Camino before re-entry into everyday life. Psychologist, Alexander John Shaia says you are “psychologically naked” after the long journey, and he also recommends that you have one person to share your reflections with on your return. A few days of integration and relaxation is also ideal. 

Two days on the Finisterre route has been so relaxing on a whole new level. After the excitement of Santiago and the successful arrival of our group, Sylvie and I have had time to process our achievement, the learnings and recall the highlights of our trip. It is so great to be able to reflect and allow everything that has happened to land and settle. We feel so fortunate to have led such an amazing band of marching souls, who bonded and delighted in each other along the way. The inner Camino was always my goal and passion. 

Two from our group are walking to Finisterre independently and what serendipity to all be booked at the same hotel tonight! So we all went out to dinner. 

Yesterday we walked 22km in driving rain. The first rain of our Camino and not pleasant. My cheap Santiago umbrella ended up a mangled mess. Our shoes sloshed. Each cafe became a point of relief. We watched many decide to taxi on. Who could blame them. Sylvie and I put heads down for the last painful 8km to our destination for the evening. Host, Maria placed a big air blower in a room for our clothes and boots, lined with newspaper to absorb the wet. 

Today was clear and we moved ahead appreciatively through fresh forests to Cee, on the ocean. We have met new pilgrims along this route, each with unique distances travelled and stories to tell. We dipped our feet in the cool ocean at a nearby beach, and I had a swim. Tomorrow is Finisterre.

Early morning breakfast at a beautiful Casa run by brothers Jesus and Juan.
Coffee with Tanya in between the rain
Tanya from Germany’s immaculate Camino tattoo
Ready to brave the rain again
Washed homes
Sylvie keeps going
Wet cows
Sloshy feet
Australian sisters Kim and Kerrianne travelling with their Dad’s marathon medal.
Leaving our rural accommodation today, hosted by Maria and Antonio
Pilgrim art
Nature’s artwork
Near Logoso
Wet forests
These shoes are made for walking
Coming into Logoso
We bump into Erica at Hospital
Last coffee stop at Hospital, 15kms from Cee
The Great Divide. The road splits to Finisterre and Muxia
A yoga pose
Another yoga pose
The road goes on
And on
Oh delicious sea water on feet at Cee
Sylvie
Darene
Meeting up with our crew and dinner out

September 24, 2019

To Finisterre

Finisterre
~ By David Whyte

The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken,
into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you
as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way
to your future now but the way your shadow could take,
walking before you across water, going where shadows go,
no way to make sense of a world that wouldn’t let you pass
except to call an end to the way you had come,
to take out each frayed letter you had brought
and light their illumined corners; and to read
them as they drifted on the western light;
to empty your bags; to sort this and to leave that;
to promise what you needed to promise all along,
and to abandon the shoes that had brought you here
right at the water’s edge, not because you had given up
but because now, you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all, part of you would still walk on,
no matter how, over the waves.

And so our Camino ended today just like that. Such a beautiful, broody, momentous last wander – along the coastline to the end of the world and our journey’s end, while the sky cried in ceremony. Nineteen days of extraordinary adventure, exploration and connection. 

A gift. Sealed with love.

Leaving Cee this morning
A big fat arrow
Cobbled streets of Corcubión
Leading into forests
And out over hills
This way then
A home in Estorde celebrating pilgrimage
Sardineiro
Finisterre in the distance
Windy, wet beachscape
5km to go
Just before the rain comes down
The weather closes in as we reach our destination
The town of Finisterre
Salon de les Flores
Between buildings
Pilgrim statue before the 0km marker
Zero kilometres. No more steps to take.
The end of another joyful Camino
A kiss of happiness. We’ve arrived
The end of the world
The most Westerly outreach of Spain.
Finisterre lighthouse
Bumping into Gail’s angel, Michael again.
Time for a cup of tea and a rest
Testimonium

28 September, 2019

Muxia, and farewell to my trusty boots

“Travel compels you to discover your spiritual side by elimination: Without all the rituals, routines and possessions that give your life meaning at home, you’re forced to look for meaning within yourself. Indeed, if travel is a process that helps you ‘find yourself’, it’s because it leaves you with nothing to hide behind – it yanks you out from the realm of rehearsed responses and dull comforts, and forces you into the present. Here, in the fleeting moment, you are left to improvise, to come to terms with your raw, true self.”

Rolf Potts ~ Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

When a journey of a thousand miles – or 350km – ends, it is fertile ground for contemplation. The set walk and all its wild and wonderful happenings is over, and now is the time to reflect on what it meant to you. What was your intention for the trip? How did it unfold? Have you set intentions in motion for the future? We are on this planet to grow and create. To look at ourselves. And as they say, nothing changes if nothing changes. 

On this journey, what did you learn about yourself, and what can you take away? We are always understanding more of ourselves – and a Camino is a powerful stage for self discovery. 

I met a young man on the road this year who set off with 40 questions he was seeking answers for. He had already found them. When you decide you want to reap something particular on this journey, you enter dynamic creative territory. As you walk with present moment awareness for days on end, and with growing clarity and specific intention in mind, answers may start to land, and you start to draw your dreams closer. (In FasterEFT sessions with my group on Camino, we first cleared the obstacles from past experiences or negative beliefs held.)

I set my own personal intentions during our stay at Flores Del Camino, at an atmospheric evening fire ceremony under the stars, along with my fellow travellers. The last time I did this with such intention was a few years ago. Most of what I wished for came to fruition. It must be said that it came with necessary work and self application. And it was welcomed. 

I couldn’t think of a more pertinent place than the unfettered stillness of a sacred road to disrobe from routine, reaffirm joy and create your life with purpose.

A pilgrim’s reflection
May it be a good way!
A sad moment. Farewell to my broken, trusty boots three Caminos later across Spain and Italy.

The Invitation. A poem

Some beautiful words about meeting your heart’s longing❣️ One of my FAVOURITE poems about showing up in the Universe. I’ve just shared this in a personal development group and thought I’d share it here. 

The Invitation

By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know 
if you will risk 
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesnt interest me
what planets are 
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you 
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know 
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone 
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

2 thoughts on “Alchemy on the Camino de Santiago 2019. Let the journey begin!

  1. I went straight back to every single day! Those are memories for life. Beautifully portrayed Darene.

    My heart aches with joy to have met and walked with all of you…

    Like

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