He´s Going the Distance

Today I walked 42 kilometers. That´s 26 miles. The longest I have walked in one day in my entire life.

That distance is equivalent to walking from Sabanillas to Marbella. Ann Arbor to the Detroit Airport. LAX to Malibu.

Except for two Spanish grandmothers that bought me breakfast, I did not come across any other pilgrims for 11 hours. I had the whole cloudy day to myself and it felt a bit strange. So much walking. So many thoughts, dreams, songs, steps. It was slightly surreal.  After not speaking to hardly anyone the entire day, it felt incredible to have a long conversation with the receptionist at the hostal when I arrived. Sometimes, when you don´t do something for such a long time (even as simple as having a conversation) it feels very powerful when you do it again.

Currently in Villaviciosa. A lovely little town with stone streets, smily faces, and a bed with my name on it.

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Misty Mountain Hop

 

I broke from the Camino; broke from my peregrino friends and took refuge in the Asturian mountainside. There my friend Michelle had been helpx´ing (a work exchange program where one works for roughly 5 hours a day whether it´s farming, cleaning, cooking or what-have-you in return for food and shelter… visit helpx.net for more). I went to visit and lend a hand.

Today my mind is tired, and I can only string together a series of images from this experience. So here it goes…

Potato harvest sunburn sensation of hot coffee and chipati bread. Simon the Irish sage leads meditation and yoga sessions as I transcend into Indian fantasies. Flip,the Austrian helpx´er scales with Simon as I sit watching the lazy waves roll onto the powder white sand of this celestial cove. Skinny dipping in the Bay of Biscay and frozen rivers that shiver the soul. A long way from Kansas as the Picos de Europa stretch to the stone colored sky above. Sleep. Glorious sleep. Finally sleep comes as the stars above burn with intense longing to be seen. And we see them. We sing to them with guitars and flutes. Sipping on sidra as Spanish soccer hysteria is blared on screens left and right in the town below our isolated stone haven. India again wraps around my mind as I hang our wet clothes by the awkward cat in the yard. Planting beans and corn in the garden. Pulling garlic with girth. Fresh-from-the-tree elderberry tea pleases our needs as Michelle feeds us fajitas that send me back to America in a flash them I´m back in the forest as the sun sinks into the west.

Today I returned to the Camino and it feels great to be back. There is always a German to practice the language with and out here there is plenty of open road for solitude. I´ve heard stories of how The Way changes into a touristic wonderlandas  Santiago de Compastela nears, how the Camino explodes with day trippers, bocadillo stands, and gigantic prison-like albergues. I´ll just tune that out for now and enjoy Ribadesella with a bottle of sidra. El camino sigue…

Colors

Imagine your Self as a canvas.

What does it look like?

Imagine your canvas being painted

By the world around you.

By those you encounter.

The sounds and smells that expell

Colors.

Every new situation

Every conversation

Or meditation

Fills our canvases with life and meaning

But if there is no space to paint

There is no room to grow

Constantly clear your canvas

Stretch it wide and listen deeply

So the world has room to

Draw on it

Challenge it

Fill it

Then you must clear it.

And repeat…

(San Vicente De La Barquera, Cantabria)

The Roñas

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Within an hour I went from jamming with the lead guitarist of a heavy metal band to eating cookies with a nun in a Church. Oh, life… how do you do it? The 8 hours prior were filled with intense walking in intense heat with intense sunscreen and sandwiches, water and will`power. Coming into Laredo I had barely enough steam, but when I came across the long haired Frederico playing his man-made ´sardine box guitar´ new life kicked in within. The eccentric musician invited me into his garage to reveal a full-on music studio heaven – packed with shining electric guitars, a celestial drum set, and countless posters that covered every square inch of wall and ceiling. Instantly, we kicked out an epic improvisational jam (which is recorded on video), a raw power guitar and drum duo. As they would say in Spain, yo flipé. After the jam, Frede´s buddy Javi drove me into town where I found a bed in the San Francisco church Albergue, then we walked over to a truly underground Laredo phenomenon, a workshop of 6 dedicated artists designing a huge flower float for the town´s summer parade. They explained their work process and invited me to a coffee. Somehow, I landed right in the heart of this town.

I think I was rewarded for following my heart. Two hours before I met Frederico, I arrived in in Liendo, a tiny middle-of-nowhere town with no life whatsoever. I could have easily stopped for the day. My feet were burnt out, but my heart was set on getting to Laredo, a much bigger livlier beach town another 2 hours away. If I didnt go on, I probably wouldn´t have met Frederico, experienced the epic space jam, seen the local culture, or chatted with the nice nun. I knew what I had to do and pushed myself hard to get to my goal. To sum up my thoughts: the truth lies within, we just have to listen and be honest with ourselves. By making the extra effort, we can discover the unexpected…

Check out Fredericos band: THE ROÑAS

He´s the one on the left…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKoe26Dok0I

Cantabrian Consciousness

I made it to the province of Cantabria! Specifically I sit in a town called Castro-Urdiales, almost a quarter of the way to Santiago de Compastela. To paint a picture of The Camino for you, it is like walking through an oil painting. The landscapes change with shades of green that scream with silence. The sky changes from blue to rain and stains the soul with somber pains. Everywhere there are hills to climb and you quickly fall on your behind. There are always dogs on chain leashes that bark and bark and bark and bark and want to kill you, but can´t. Actually, my friend Emily got bit by one that ran loose and damn was she in pain. The urge to stay on the Camino is always there and us peregrinos are constantly aware of what we put in our bodies. Actually, I have stopped eating the crummy white baguettes that are strangely so popular here in Spain. I search primarily for multigrain nutrient goodness. I´ve stopped eating beef. The cows I come across on the Camino are immensely adorable. Yesterday I saw a calf run and I was stunned. I had conceived cows to be so slow. No…

Anyways, the life of a peregrino is this. We sleep in shacks called albergues, a stuffy room filled with snoring boys called men that pretend to be interested in you. We pay by donation, usually 5 bucks for a bed and hot shower, and if you are lucky, some sorry excuse for a breakfast. I have gotten used to preparing the day before with fruit and fresh bread, vegetable spread to fill my head with healthy thoughts to start the day. Many peregrinos are German and I am really improving with the language, taking it to the next level learning conjugations and simple conversation. Always a word here and there to create a laugh. Speaking of laughs, I have been walking with my main man Rob from Holland. I convinced him to stay on the Camino for a couple more days and there has never been a dull moment between us. I am sad he will head to Salamanca tomorrow, but he invited me to stay with his sons in Amsterdam after all is said and done with this Camino fun… We´ll see… Besides Rob, most of the peregrinos have been quite boring, however there are a handful that are lively, merry, witty and wise. When we get together, the energy is contageous. I love them. I love the Camino.

So it goes. The road stretches on and the beautiful Cantabrian beaches await for us to penetrate their clean clear waters. It´s getting hotter if it doesn´t rain which remains a constant thang. I´ve been in the habit of walking 15 miles a day. Taking my time to enjoy it all. I am actually better at climbing mountains than walking on flat ground. When the road is flat, my mind races with thoughts and I unconciously walk slower. When I have a challenge, I buckle down and push through it. No blisters so far, but a few scars on my feet. That´s another story for another time. For a good one, read the post below.

Go peregrino!! Buen camino!!

Knife Life

My name is Opinel. I am a knife. For the past three months I have been sitting in this stale hardware store, unmoving behind a cracked window.  Everyday I watch as tourists eagerly walk past me, anxious to see the famous Guggenheim museum. I am not famous, I am just a lonely knife.

Beside me are other dismal daggers. To my left rests a weaker version of myself, an unhandy switch blade. To my right lies an awkardly bulky piece of plastic. A wannabe Swiss Army, made-in-China cheap couterfeit. Our futures are dark are dreary in this depressing store of broken dreams.

But WAIT! Can it be? A scruffy boy of 23 looking down at me?!? Maybe he can truly see that I can be so sharp and keen. He smiles at me! Holy moly boy, I´ll make you guacamole soley for thee! He points at me! Jeez laweez don´t be a tease, unfreeze me from this hell hole, please!

The elderly employee with withered hands, hands me to this American. He´s holding me with such delicate care, he´s got me in his patient glare. He eyes me up and down, no doubt, his air says yes, but not sure about… if I´m too big… if I´m too sharp… if I´m really what he wants in his heart…

With a final decision, he decides with precision, and into his wallet he makes an incision.

Call it magic. Call it fate. But boy I´m sure we´ll get on great. I´ll make you a man. I´ll cut your steak. You´ll understand that I´m no fake. So let´s go kid! No time to waste. Out there for us, The Camino waits.

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The Lost Art of Getting Lost

I love getting lost. I love the fear. The excitement. The blood that rushes through your body. Getting lost is something that us humans are not as accustomed to now-a-days. We have GPS devices in our cars, in our smart phones, and Google Maps for precise directions. But where is the mystery in all of this?

Most peregrinos have detailed guides and maps but I don´t have anything like that. I just go. The road is marked with yellow arrows, and you must be aware of them or you will lose your way. This is not always a bad thing. Losing your way brings you into unfamiliar territory, and you will come across things you didn´t expect, for better or worse.  For instance, a couple days ago, I started the day by accidentally climbing the wrong mountain. I hiked through a jungle of ferns and when I reached the top, low and behold, THERE WAS A YELLOW ARROW! I was so happy I shouted with joy that rang through the hills. But when I approached the arrow, I realized it was actually a yellow fern in the shape of an arrow… Damn. I continued ahead where I met a farmer who described a route back to the Camino. Although I went the wrong way, it was ok. I enjoyed climbing that hill. It had a beautiful atmosphere that the other pilgrims cannot say they experienced.

There are times when I walk with extreme mental clarity – head down with a good rhythm – a peaceful state of mind and body. However, when I am in this zone, I sometimes miss a sign post.  The idea is to be completely alert – outwards and inwards. To recognize the movement of dark clouds in the distance, the viscosity of the mud below, and of course the hidden yellow arrows, but also the soreness of the body within, hunger, thirst, and fatigue. If you are aware, you are present.

I am now in Bilbao. I have been walking through the forest for the past week, and coming into a big city was very strange at first. I felt intimidated, empty, and alone. However, after walking along the river, I have found this place to be quite pretty. I look forward to strolling around, finding my way around, visiting the Guggenheim museum, and discovering new people and things. On this note, I urge you to do something different in your daily routine. Drive a new way to work, eat at a restaurant you´ve never been to before, or walk without a destination in mind. See what you´ll find.

Siempre adelante…