Make Memories

October 27-31, 2019

Waking to a sunrise happens often when backpacking, as the brightening dawn brings color straight through tent walls. First light on the Camino requires the conjunction of a window facing east and a view unblocked by other buildings. The morning we woke in Casa Perdigueida, Castromaior, we were rewarded with a truly extraordinary symphony of color!


Walking the Camino brings many chances to eat locally produced food. From collard greens in a home garden to cheese from a local dairy, we enjoy eating our way across Spain! Here is a mosaic of pastoral scenery, often very close to cities, as well as two different harvest storage bins.


The Casa Perdigueida, in Castromaior, displayed an unusual tool upon the wall in their restaurant. Curiosity overcoming shyness from my broken Spanish, I asked the cook/waitress, “¿Que hace?”

With very patient Spanish, repeating the most important nouns several times, the woman conveyed that this yoke was used to harness a horse with a cow (caballo y vaca).

Encouraged by my success in communicating with this considerate local, I asked her the name of the flower painted upon a weathered board. I had noticed the same flower earlier, growing by the doorway.

“¿Que nombre?” My mangled Spanish assisted my persistent curiosity.

“Marguerite,” the woman smiled. Then pointing to the painting, and, with a mixture of slowly pronounced Spanish and extravagant gestures, she managed to convey that she was the artist! How awesome!


“Enter every church that has an open door.” Following this informal rule can bring adventure spanning a gamut of experiences from peace and beauty to confusion and simple bafflement.

As we entered the small village of San Xulian do Camino, the church’s open door beckoned. Jay and I stepped inside to see a small sanctuary with beautiful colors of wooden beams, whitewashed walls, and a rainbow of flowers. Soft music played over hidden speakers, adding to the contemplative atmosphere.

A volunteer stamped our pilgrim passports, then we slipped into a pew, happy to appreciate this meditative moment. Hysterical barking outside broke our reverie, followed by raised voices in various languages. We never learned the source of the muddle, but decided it was time to continue walking.


A café, O Fogar do Camiñante (Home of the Wayfarer), in the town of Casanova, enticed us with a sign advertising crepes. As we dithered in the street, a smiling waitress handed us menus and, with a wave of her hand, indicated our choice of outdoor tables. Who could reject such an invitation?

The trailside table allowed us to watch as dozens of pilgrims passed by, all seemingly immune to this lovely oasis. We also saw three sheep being urged along by a shepherdess wearing dress slacks and a chic Halloween sweater.

Our lunch consisted of crepes with champiñones y queso (mushrooms and cheese), followed by crepes topped with mermelada de bayas del bosque (forest berry jam). Everything tasted so fresh!

Once again, curiosity overcame shyness. “La comida es muy deliciosa. ¿De donde son los champiñones?”

The owner’s face glowed with pride at my interest. “Una granja a cinco kilómetres de aquí. Tenemos muchos pimientos, tomates, verduras…” Once again, eating local products proved to be an incredibly delicious choice!


Having time to stop and see the sights is part of the fun of walking slowly. In the town of Furelos, a sign invited us to visit the Casa Museo de Furelos.

Once again we stepped back in time, looking at relics of a not so distant past. The museum docent told us stories of his grandmother’s house, where the giant hearth always had a fire with a pot of soup simmering.

He pointed out the kitchen benches with nest boxes underneath. “Chickens roosted here,” he explained. “To get an egg, you just reached under the bench.”

Another display showed biscuit dough being mixed upon a board, instead of in a bowl. “Oh wow!” I exclaimed. “I can remember my grandmother mixing biscuits that way!”

I’ve got to admit, it’s rather amazing to find ones own experiences showcased in a museum!


Walking from Melide to Ribadiso, water streamed from the sky, thoroughly soaking everything, including us! Though my body and pack were dripping, I couldn’t help enjoying the sensation of tiny drops massaging my head through the rain hood. This video shows the day.

Meson Ribadiso, the only restaurant in town, banished our day of rain with Galician lentil soup, roasted sweet peppers, salad, and grilled hake, then tarta de queso and pastel de chocolate for dessert.

With stuffed stomachs, we wobbled along the only street, stopping at the edge of town to watch retreating clouds give a hint of blue sky for tomorrow.

I thought of two pilgrims we had met, Angela and Debby. Eight years ago, they sold their house and began to travel. Angela told us, “When an opportunity presents itself, grab the moment! There are no guarantees in life.”

Debby’s advice built upon Angela’s thoughts. “In the end, things are not important. It is your memories that stay with you. Make memories instead of collecting things.”

Unexpected Encounters

October 26, 2019

Much of the Camino de Santiago leads a peregrino (pilgrim) on country byways, walking past scenes of bucolic tranquility. Cows graze in green pastures, sheep nibble on hummocks of grass, chickens scratch near vegetable gardens, and apple trees often line the lanes.

Unlike me, these cows were not impressed with the view!

This morning, as we walked beside a huge field occupied by a small herd of cows, we were astonished to see one bull acting downright frisky! He leaped and pranced and bucked and charged across the grass. He ran up to other cows and pushed against them, sometimes poking at them with his horns. I was reminded of a puppy, trying to engage older dogs in play. And, much like a puppy with aged companions, this bull only met frustration. The other cows moved slowly along, heads down to the important business of grazing, often obliquely managing to get a tree between themselves and their playful mate.

Jay and I stopped walking, watching the far off cows in fascination. Suddenly, the bull raised his head and looked across the field. “He’s noticed us,” Jay observed.

The bull lowered his head, pawed the ground, then charged towards us, running flat out down the hill!

I quickly checked the fence, made of only a single strand of wire, certainly not enough to stop a bull, bolting at top speed! To my relief, I also noticed a long row of round hay bales lining the fence, each about five feet in diameter.

“He can’t jump the bales, can he?” I asked nervously. Just to be on the safe side, I edged myself behind a stout oak on the edge of the road.

The bull continued his charge, looming larger and scarier with each heart beat. He no longer resembled a frisky puppy to my mind! Jay and I watched, frozen in the moment, as a ton of muscle, bone, and horns streaked across the field toward us. Just a few feet from the protecting hay bales, he skidded to a stop, hind feet slewing around as his forefeet braked mightily.

For a long moment, none of the three of us said anything. Jay, recovering first, joked, “I wonder if it was my red coat?” But the bull had given his all in his long dash, and merely snorted, then ambled slowly away, looking like any other grazing bovine.

A farmer walked towards us, checking the fence with a wooden club. He looked out at the bull and muttered something that sounded like, “Toro tonto!” (Silly bull!)

I couldn’t resist asking what the bull had been doing. I’m afraid my mangled Spanish wasn’t at all grammatically correct as I stammered, “Hola! ¿Que hace, el toro?”

The farmer good-naturedly let out a stream of Spanish, of which I only caught the words “quiere” (wants) and “corre” (run). I figured maybe the farmer was telling me that the bull was just in the mood for running!

Another pilgrim, a couple of hundred meters down the road, came up to us, his face alive with wonder. “Wow, I wonder what set him off? Was he charging right at you?”

“Well, it certainly felt like it. I’m glad I’m not a matador,” Jay laughed.

“Yes, and I’m glad of the tree!” I added, heaving a sigh of relief. One never knows what will happen on the Camino!


We reached our hostel at the small town of Castromaior with enough of the afternoon left to go adventuring. Half a mile uphill lay El Castro de Castromaior (the hill fort). This archeological site of a Celtic town/fort showed habitation for 500 years, from 400 B.C. to 100 A.D.

A sign gave an aerial view of Castro de Castromaior, with a large grassy enclosed space, a corner given over to dwellings, and several surrounding trenches which could have provided boundaries for livestock (according to Wikipedia).

I entered the dwellings through the single opening, tall walls which might have sported a wooden gate long ago.

Jay chose to walk atop the large inner wall first, circling around to look down into the rock homes. This picture, taken from the “gate”, showing Jay as a tiny figure on the skyline, delineated the huge area of this castro.

Enchanted, I threaded my way through the maze of rock walls. My imagination once again leapt into action, picturing thatched roofs, clucking chickens, children calling to one another from rock doorways!

Jay, too, enjoyed contemplating the ruins up close.

I was intrigued to see that each circular room had its own fireplace. This room had two!

We wandered for well over an hour, the only two people on this vast hilltop. I looked into each room, peered between walls, circumnavigated the outer edge, and climbed stairs to the tops of walls. Near the end of my explorations, Jay patiently waited for me on stone benches designed as part of the walls. Amazing to think that he could sit where inhabitants might have carded wool or shucked peas over 2,000 years ago!

From being frozen in the moment by a charging bull to sharing a seat across two millennia, one can never predict what the Camino will bring.

Pilgrim Philosophy

October 21-26, 2019

The sun played peek-a-boo behind clouds this morning as we climbed 2,000 feet towards the town of O Cebreiro.

Andre, an Austrian in his twenties, fell into step beside us, remarking cheerfully on the beautiful weather. “All days are beautiful,” he declared. “There are no guarantees in this life. One must seize the moment.”

I looked thoughtfully at this young man, wondering what experiences had taught him this piece of wisdom. It didn’t seem polite to ask, though, and our conversation continued with much laughter and good cheer.

Almost before we realized it, our light hearted chatter brought us to O Cebreiro, a town full of tour buses and many, many people! Much to my delight, we were able to observe some men repairing a thatched roof.

First we watched them toss the bales of thatch up to the roof. When all had been thrown and caught, I couldn’t help but break into a cheer, clapping and calling, “Bravo!” The man on the roof looked startled, then grinned at me bashfully.

The man then carefully inserted the new thatch, using a wooden paddle to hammer and smooth the roof surface. Jay took two short videos of the process.

First, thatch was thrown.

Second, thatch was placed and smoothed.

After watching the thatcher, we walked inside the Iglesia Santa Maria de Real. A Gregorian chant played softly over hidden speakers, creating a meditative atmosphere that was rather disrupted by the sheer numbers of tourists walking through the sanctuary. Since I was one of the tourists, I couldn’t complain. Instead, I slowly walked the perimeter, contemplating a display of Bibles in numerous languages, a poem by a Franciscan brother, and a whole corner of votive candles. In this glowing corner, I found a bit of the peace the music was striving to create.

Peace, and a good bit of joy, often called us to stop and contemplate as we left O Cebreiro. Flowers, trees, mushrooms, they all echoed Andre’s message – “Live in the moment!”

Or, to quote an English pilgrim who passed us, “It’s a cracker of a day!”

I reflected how each person on the Camino brought his or her own life experiences and beliefs to be tested and refined. Listening to others and sharing our thoughts has become part of the joy of traveling near so many people. Conversation with a pilgrim, Isabel, sprang to mind. We had been discussing philosophy as seen on the trail.

“I agree it’s important to live in the moment and focus on being,” she told me. “But I’m much happier doing.”

I smiled at my new acquaintance. “What do you find yourself wishing you could do?”

Isabel looked at me wryly, and gave an impish, yet lovely, answer. “My soul longs to create art. I just need to find the medium that will allow it to design the beauty seen.”

Each day I am stopped in my tracks at the beauty there is to be seen. Purple blooms scattered along the roadside puzzled and charmed me. Didn’t crocus blooms announce Spring?

A passing pilgrim from Switzerland solved the mystery as she commented, “Isn’t the saffron pretty at this time of year?”

“Saffron?” I blurted. “Wait, these are the flowers that cost an arm and a leg to buy as a spice? Just growing by the roadside?”

“Yes,” the woman stooped to pick a blossom. “The spice is made from the stamen. It is harvested and dried.”

Another man stopped to see at what we were peering so intently. “Ah, saffron!” He smiled and nodded, moving on down the road.

That evening, a bit of research in Wikipedia confirmed that we were probably hiking past wild saffron, not the commercially grown blooms. Even so, these flowers had been used for four millennia! Truly, we live in a wondrous world!

Each day part of the Camino uses country lanes hidden beneath towering forests of oak, chestnut, pine, and recently, eucalyptus. Often Jay and I are alone on these paths.

One day, we met two women from California, amazingly walking our slow pace. The four of us began talking, and quickly discovered we were, perhaps, kindred spirits. Chris and Janet had recently lived through separate traumatic events, just as Jay and I had. Through the months, we had come to some conclusions which were strikingly similar. Janet summed it up for all of us when she said, “I now know the importance of seeking moments of joy every day.”

Indeed, joy jumped at us in many guises that day! From a deep russet carpet of pine needles to a silly fish shaped door handle, not to mention crossing a tiny stream, admiring a passion flower, and taking time for a hug – the day provided many memorable events.

Near the town of Samos, one antique display which brought a sense of wonder to Chris, Janet, me, and Jay showed headgear for oxen, made of dangling rabbit skins and fringes, worn to keep flies out of their eyes.

One evening, having dinner in the small town of Castromaior, we began talking to the two other patrons in the restaurant.

Juan, from Brazil, had broken his hike of the Camino into five stages, pausing often to savor his experiences. “The Camino has things to teach. It is important to take time to learn those lessons,” he explained.

I couldn’t help but think wryly of my own adventures. When it comes to life lessons, learning slowly means life just keeps giving me the same assignment, again and again!

Baxter, from South Carolina, had a different plan of action. He was hiking the Camino in thirty-three days, about two times faster than me and Jay. “The Camino is magical. It’s like no other place,” he told us. “I deeply value the time I’ve had to hold my friends and family in my mind, to think of the love that’s out there.”

Room for contemplation …
… and magic … and love.

After all, as one man from Houston told us over a pilgrim breakfast, “When I get home, I won’t remember the money spent, but I will remember the experiences from the Camino!”