On Hurricane Watch…2705 Miles Away

Ensconced in the anchorage of Prideaux Haven, British Columbia, John and I watch anxiously as the hurricane creeps ever closer, ever closer…to Hawaii. Our summer northwest cruises are always safe from the vagaries of hurricanes but our home in Hawaii suffers through five months of exposure each year.  Of late, the near misses are more frequent; this year, first Hurricane Hector and then two weeks later, Hurricane Lane come within striking distance of the islands.

CCE72A6E-F26A-4E70-A89E-47279A5303A9

As Hurricane Lane becomes a more imminent threat, we opt to shelter in place at Prideaux where we have access to intermittent, weak internet through our phone service.  Each day we watch Lane get closer, first to the Big Island and then to Oahu.  Our daughter Julia provides boots on the ground reporting from Hilo which suffers from three days of flooding and an accumulated rainfall of 42 inches.

27F37833-20F9-4040-952E-B1836C7EDCF2

Our neighbors and friends on Oahu and Maui provide updated texts of their preparations for flood and wind as well as the interminable waiting for something to happen, or more hopefully, not to happen.

In the meantime, John and I live the cruising life.  I pursue my passion for crabbing which nets on average about two crabs a day; plenty for crab cakes and hot crab dip.  During the day, John works on the boat, painting and waxing anything with a rust stain or a corrosion bubble. We take our minds off any impending disaster by hiking through the woods to isolated lakes and munching on peanut butter and honey sandwiches discussing what we will do if the hurricane hits Oahu.  After checking in to the 5pm hurricane forecast advisory, we embark on the one beer sunset dinghy cruise trying to imagine 120 mile an hour gusts hitting our south facing house.

0416EEE5-7E3D-4911-A89A-148F2F8764F2

26149D4B-FCD8-49F1-8F06-BF602FBE8ABC

0A88460C-BA3D-4DF2-86DC-E5A28A2364F7

C599472E-43C0-4C05-A1AD-04861845D21AAfter four days of watchful waiting, when the media turns its dire predictions of catastrophe to more hopeful commentary like “whew, that was a close one”, and social media roasts the poor weatherman with weather memes…I know we are out of the woods.

7AE28DCB-9A2A-4199-BBA3-7C08ADF3ABD6

Advertisements
Posted in Laysan: Northwest | 5 Comments

Angst and Adrift in the Haro Strait

After realizing the last couple of months have transpired in a near stream of consciousness sequence of rv camping across the great Southwest, cleaning and renovating the old family place, flying the 1965 Piper Cherokee, and visiting with family and old friends in Texas, Kathleen and I knew it was time to get on the boat because the summer cruising season was rapidly passing. Laysan had been waiting too long and the long days of the short summer in the Pacific Northwest were calling to us. After a few days of provisioning and checklists, we left the dock and made for the San Juan Islands. And that’s when it happened. There are two stories, one above decks and one below, one told by Kathleen, and one by me. Sometimes a learning experience is really unnerving.

Below decks

While crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca in rolling 3 foot seas, I decided to transfer fuel from the side tanks to the forward operation tank, taking advantage of the rolling sloshing conditions to suspend any particulate matter in the fuel so it can be filtered out. The mechanism for fuel management is a pump and manifold of valves directing the fuel through the Racor filters. After an hour of pumping and the starboard tank almost empty, I went to the engine room to switch valves over to the port tank. There the pump was happily clicking away as the fuel moved through the manifold, and surprisingly I thought I saw air bubbling through the main engine Racor filter. Not good.

The main engine, the Iveco that had rumbled faithfully for 3000 hours, 15000 miles, across the two seas, the Pacific Ocean, and half of the Northwest, suddenly surged and stopped, right as I sat there. This kind of silence slows down the senses, and I wondered both why and what now?

Kathleen appeared at the engine room door with a look of concern, to say the least. I announced my plan to restart Iveco, thus reassuring everyone, and felt the boat settling in the troughs of the waves as we quietly drifted in the 2 knot current of the Haro Strait. Kathleen noted that the depth was 800’ and we were a half mile offshore, but that it was both downwind and down current from our position. Thus we were adrift off a lee shore, a sailors nightmare.

Wrenches to the rescue: Top off the fuel in the Racors, and prepare to prime the engine. Setting the manifold for priming, I slowly comprehended a double valving mistake, one that allowed the transfer pump to contribute air to both the transfer tanks and the engine. Argh! (Seems an appropriate time for that guttural response.) The “why”is now answered, but the “what now” is still a very real experience.

As the marine surveyor says, what’s wrong with this picture? (Answer: two valves for pump in.)

Valves all correct, bleeding the air out of a Diesel engine can be a tedious job. And now is not the time or place for tedious, as Kathleen is informing me of our ever changing position, and the related view of the picturesque rocky shoreline. Time to drop the anchor we agreed.

Engine filter spins off to release a shower of air and diesel mist, and still the manual lift pump feels empty when I furiously wiggle the handle to pump towards the injectors atop the cylinders.

A quick check of the engine technical service manual reinforces my steps thus far and reveals this foreboding quote: “ further bleeding of the high pressure side of the fuel system is both useless and extremely dangerous. Consult your technician.” Right. So I called Mark, my engine mechanic friend, who miraculously answered and absorbed my news calmly, as calmly as anybody not on the boat at that moment anyway. Tossing the “useless and dangerous” aside, he reinforced the obvious notion that the injectors must be bled with the simple procedure to loosen the B nut atop the injector with a 17mm wrench. The now familiar air and diesel mist sprayed the surroundings, me included.

Tightening everything up, I yelled to Kathleen: “Try again!”, and Iveco coughed and sputtered to life, sounding as if nothing had ever happened. Whew! And then I went above to see what Kathleen had seen. Near miss just doesn’t quite summarize the event as it continues reverberating in our conversation over the last few days. Experience is sometimes hard wrought, and a new checklist is in place.

Meanwhile, above decks in the pilot house, the story as lived and described by the ever lovely, and externally calm, Kathleen:

Above decks

Thursday was a fair day for crossing the Juan de Fuca to the San Juan Islands, moderate waves 2-4 which created a bit of a roll but not too bad.

We had chosen to go straight to one of our favorites, Westcott Bay near Roche Harbor, because winds were predicted in the next couple of days and Westcott is good holding for south west winds.  We had cleared the Juan de Fuca and were heading north up in Haro Strait when we had one of the more stress inducing events of my cruising career.

The waves had started to smooth out and we had a 2-3 knot current with us (this current almost proved our undoing later in the story). The turn for Mosquito Pass was within sight when John went below to switch tanks for refueling.  I was steering and watching at least four large commercial fishing boats that were placing nets along the shore when suddenly the engine rpms dropped, came back up, dropped, came back up, then the boat just died…total quiet (except for my interior silent scream).

We were in 800 feet of water about a half mile off a rocky shore, the ignition warning was going off and the auto steering was rumbling with the effort to keep us straight.  I ran down to the engine room, asked whether I could turn off the ignition (yes), asked what was wrong (obvious), then ran up stairs again. John came up, looked around, put us on hand steering and said he was trying to figure out the fuel problem.  Of course there was no steering to be done, we were just adrift in the 2 knot current. My initial concern was the trolling fishing boat down current of us, I was prepared to hail him on the radio to tell him we had no steerage.  Minutes passed and as the current took us parallel to the shore I watched as exposed rocks in Smallpox Bay (an apt name for a scary situation) floated by.  Every few minutes, John would holler up to try and start the engine, but to no avail. By this time we were in 200’ of water and picking up speed in the current. I started tracking our course.  The good news was, we were moving passed the exposed rocks and the fishing boat had moved out of our way, the bad news was, we were clearly drifting toward shore.

The charts showed an area ahead that was potentially shallow enough for the anchor to reach, but it was off a steep, rocky shore so the holding was uncertain.  I ran down and reported that we were now in 70’ of water and definitely drifting toward the shoreline.  John told me to try and drop the anchor while he continued to work on the engine.  While anchoring is my forte, I was not feeling confident in this situation; I ran back up top, turned on the windlass, grabbed my anchor bar, checked the depth, now 64’ and proceeded to let the anchor chain out, the anchor hit bottom, grabbed, the boat swung sharply around into the current, jerked, more chain jumped the gypsy….and then the anchor held! We stopped moving! I nearly had a religious moment!

So now we were in 60’ of water about 250’ to shore (a mere 5 boat lengths). The current was moving past the boat with purpose and I watched the shoreline like a hawk, waiting for any perceptible shift away from my spot. The anchor held. John came up again and said he had tried all that he knew to do, so he called Mark, a mechanic we know in Olympia.  Luckily, Mark answered and gave John a couple of more ideas and he disappeared down below again.  A few more hollers for me to try and start the engine…nothing.  Then on the next try, the engine sputtered to life, more throttle and the engine came to its usual full throated life! Saved by John’s awesome mechanical skills! We pulled up the anchor, luckily it was not hooked on rocks, and nervously set off again, crisis narrowly averted.  We had been without engine power for an hour and had drifted about two miles in that time.

GPS track of our drift, and then our anchoring.

John’s theory involves manifolds, fuel lines, priming, air in lines, etc., I will let him write the technical explanation.  He assures me that “it won’t happen again” and “what a great learning experience “; I needed an extra glass of wine or two that night.  So all’s well that ends well (Shakespeare must have been a mariner).

Sucia Island Sunset. All is well.

Posted in Laysan: Northwest | 8 Comments

Anasazi Trail

Anasazi, the ancestral Pueblo people, were migrants of a different epoch. Transitioning from wandering hunter-gatherers to dry land farmers, they were the settlers of the first millennium in the high desert Southwest.

Between 500-1300AD, the Pueblo people developed a complex culture and sustainable agriculture in the Montezuma valley with a population of 35000 then, compared to a modern 24000 now. Initially simple pit houses on the Mesa tops led to amazing feats of masonry to build cliff dwellings complete with spring water and ample protection from weather and other enemies.

Then between 1300 to 1500, from Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon to Bandalier, they were gradually abandoned (which in the Pueblo parlance means currently unoccupied). Probably the Pueblo people were congregating in larger villages along the Rio Grande, but unfortunately this put them in easier view for the arrival of the not so friendly conquistadors. Now only masonry, petroglyphs and questions remain. It is a very interesting area to spend some time.

Antelope Island at the Great Salt Lake

Arches National Park

Mesa Verde

Cliff dwellings that you can explore

After a great week in Salt Lake City with Connor, we trundled through southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, and New Mexico. Master Muffler (Not!) failed to fix our exhaust leak, the rv air conditioner failed exactly upon entering Texas and its 98 degree heat, and we got a flat tire on arrival in Port Aransas. 3676 miles and six weeks on the road since leaving Blaine Washington, we are happy to be with daughter Sarah at UT MSI, for some rest and repairs. All good here as we settle into Texas for awhile.

Camping on the beach at Port Aransas

All the best,

John

Posted in RV | 5 Comments

Heading Out

Traveling out of the Pacific Northwest in our old rv these last 18 years, we have pushed into the Cascades and Rocky Mountains many times retracing the route discovered by Lewis and Clark in their Voyage of Discovery in 1804. Through the rugged Lemhi and Lolo passes they were trying in vain to follow Jefferson’s orders to search for a waterway from the headwaters of the Missouri River across the Rockies to the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. While their observations certainly added to the negotiations with the British for Oregon, it was the settlers that made occupation a reality and forced the British back to the 49th parallel. Finding a way that a Conestoga wagon could handle was the key, and the Oregon trail through the wide South pass in Wyoming opened the floodgates for hundreds of thousands of settlers heading west by the 1840’s. Coincidentally, that is the kind of route we need for the big old rv, our Conestoga wagon, traveling up the Columbia Gorge and across the Great Basin heading eastbound for Texas.

Birch Bay, Washington. The beginning of many great trips.

Deschutes and Columbia River confluence.

Along the way, we spent a week in Reno, “The Biggest Little City in the West”, cleaning out my father and uncle’s motorcycle garage. A sure way to meet interesting people is to advertise a tool sale on the back streets of Reno. From survivalists to mechanics to 80 year old couples with 8 bikes, guys who know a good torque wrench and want a drill press make for a fun morning.

Reno garage sale.

Boondock free-camping towards Utah, we tried to keep a low profile, which is not easy in a Winnebago. And sure enough, after an enjoyable evening watching it snow, camping on an abandoned tunnel bypass road, we were awoken at 0630 by the I80 detour crew: “You’ve got to move along, we’re rerouting all I80 traffic through your campsite!” “Right, no coffee, just drive!”

Antelope Reservoir, Oregon

Carlin Canyon tunnel bypass road, Nevada.

And across the Bonneville Salt Flats we came. Rattled into Salt Lake City with a cracked exhaust manifold, so gratefully we can stay with son Connor while repairs are made. Nobody ever said a pilgrimage was going to be easy.

I-80, Eastbound.

Posted in RV | 3 Comments

Journeys of my father

With the recent passing of my father, I am reminded of my origins and the source of my motivation to travel, and so begins our cross country RV pilgrimage back to Texas.

Due to an uncontainable wanderlust, my father left school on his 18th birthday to enlist in the Air Force and see the world.

Having already motorcycled on an AJS and a Triumph through his teens in 1940’s Alabama and the South, I think he realized the limits of experience were not contained by his hometown. Stationed in Berlin for four years, he met my mother and they explored Europe by car across Germany, France, and Spain. Then he shipped that 47 Plymouth to New York and drove cross country to Texas and started a family.

As a long time airline employee with Braniff and American, he always had our family traveling to new places in the US, Europe, Mexico, and South America. His gift to me on high school graduation was an unforgettable trip together on motorcycles through Mexico to Acapulco in 1973.

In later years my father, his brother Charlie, my brother James, and I motorcycled together and separately in the Southwest, Mexico,and British Columbia. You just think that the days will never end. But those are the memories that fuel enthusiasm for another generation.

A private pilot all the way through his 85th year, he had flown all over Texas and the Southwest. Even just a few months ago, he enjoyed flying from his grass strip behind the house and checking out his beloved local area of Lake Grapevine.

And so now, 45 years since I left home, Kathleen and I are returning via a cross country drive to Texas to stay awhile and settle his affairs. This camping trip is for you Dad; I think you would have enjoyed it.

Posted in RV | 8 Comments

Walking the Camino in 13 Minutes.

While traveling the Camino, each day I would record a short 10 second video of the trail, the people, the weather, the cows, the scenery, or each other…walking. As it turns out, videoing 40 days of walking creates a rather long movie. So in the interest of modern expediency, I have edited a movie version into a svelte 13 minutes. All the clips are in chronological order to give a sense of the changing topography as we walked our 500 miles starting in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and ending at the end of the world, Finisterre, Spain. Enjoy! K

 

Posted in Camino 2017 | 6 Comments

It takes a long time to walk 500 miles.  Last stage: Pedrouzo to Santiago 22 km. 

Arrival Santiago!


Forty days and forty nights, that’s how long it takes to walk from St Jean Pied de Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. If you wander around a bit on side trips, see the towns and museums along the way, then it accumulates over 800 km, or 500 miles for the metrically challenged. It’s definitely not a walk in the park, but with a reasonable pace of 20 km (12 miles) per day, and the nightly rooms and meals, a nice walker’s rhythm develops.

Sunrise is always behind us on the Way

These boots were made for walking, and that’s just what they did.


Kathleen’s Latin Compostela, i.e. Pilgrim’s diploma


Attempting a difficult challenge together, like navigating across an ocean or walking across a country, reminds me how fortunate I am to be Kathleen’s partner. She is perseverant, patient, and seemingly impervious to pain. I love her.

Kathleen leading the Way


The Camino was her creative idea for us after Steven finished it in 2014. And while we may have underestimated its difficulty, we started and finished together smiling. As the philosopher said, “Solvitur ambulando”. 

Plaza de Obradoiro, notice the other pilgrims flopped in the center


Now we rest in Santiago a couple days before traveling the region another week via faster means. It has been a meaningful experience for us and we have enjoyed writing our thoughts. Thanks for listening. Hope to see you soon. 

John 

Posted in Camino 2017 | 23 Comments

Just a Couple of Old, Dusty Pilgrims. Arzua to Pedrouzo 19.6 km. 

My Mom, who is one of our avid blog readers, remarked that our pictures never have any other pilgrims in them, “are they on the Camino alone?” Well, I have never been very adept at getting things past my Mom and as she noted, our photos have been carefully curated to give the impression of the lonely pilgrim, struggling in solitude to a distant destination. The reality has always been that we walk with others, although up to now it has been fairly easy to maintain my bubble along a quiet pathway. However, the last 100 km of the Camino has become very crowded. Any pilgrim who “walks” the last 100 km receives a Compostela, an official certificate of completion. Since Sarria, we have noticed many new faces sporting brand new, clean tennis shoes and tiny, new day packs (their real bags are sent ahead each morning by Jacotrans bus). Pilgrim groups have sprung up like mushrooms, marching by us chattering like magpies to the click, click sound of their walking sticks with not even a “buen Camino” as they hurry past two old, dusty pilgrims.

​​​

But John and I still get our quiet moments and over a mid-morning cafe con leche we run into Gerhardt, our old Austrian friend from weeks past, and we commiserate together “how it used to be, back on the meseta”. 
Tomorrow we reach Santiago, the end of our journey; I wonder how I will feel entering the Praza do Obradoiro? 

Posted in Camino 2017 | 8 Comments

A king, a prime minister, and a president.  And the Celtics. Bolboreta to Azura 26 km. 

Albergue Bolboreta, our country manor for the night

Spain’s king, Felipe VI, is a worldly young man (49), and perhaps a calming influence on the escalating tensions between the prime minister of Spain and the president of Catalonia. The two latter elected officials are duking it out here for their political lives, when the ultra cool and very tall ex-Olympian king strides onto the scene and tells Catalonia: shut up and sit down. This kind of parenting is frowned upon these days but maybe it will work.

Buying bread on the Way from the roving Panaderia truck


Anyway, that’s the news from Galicia, which is an astoundingly beautiful, green region of Spain. Originally settled by Celtic tribes around 500 BC, and the last region of Hispania conquered by Rome, it retains a separate dialect and sometimes looks like the other Celtic landscapes in Ireland. There’s even some pagan and animistic cultural history persisting here. You have got to love the Irish. 

Galicia, the Celts were here.


Stone bridge; Oh so danger!


Lunch on the Way.


Kathleen’s requisite cow picture.


John’s requisite jamon picture


We walked a big day and arrived at our usual 4 pm. The Hostal has a restaurant renowned among the pilgrims, which can mean either quantity or quality, so hopefully both. All good. 

​​​Habla Espanol?

Blogger to Bloggee tip: click on last photo for video. Bonus points to Bloggees who find three previous videos. 

Still having fun,

John 

Posted in Camino 2017 | 5 Comments

Walking the Camino is the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done, Except for Crossing the Pacific in a Boat and Having Three Babies. Ventas de Naron to Remonde 20.4 km. 

A horreo, a Galician grain storage.


After a month plus walking, John and I have a real rhythm that is not dominated by talk of how much “—–or —-” hurts. I know my backpack and it’s thin contents intimately; every piece of equipment has its place and I never have to search. Cafe con leche is my go to morning drink, lunch is best when we can picnic with chorizo, queso, olives and bread, and dinner is usually a lively affair with fellow pilgrims from afar. Our walk starts when it is light at 8:30, and by 3:30, I have put in my 20+ km and I want to stop.I know when I get to my albuergue a shower, short siesta, hand washing of the days outfit and a cerveza are the proper order of things. This is the rhythm I have learned after 37 days of walking. 

Cereveza, 1.20 Euro!


The daily rituals are not just habits,  but survival mechanisms in the face of constantly changing environments, situations, and people. The Camino has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. But as with the other hard things in my life, a little perseverance and good humor gets me through and I wouldn’t trade any of those experiences. Three days to Santiago. -k

Horreos come in all sizes!


Giant ants! More aggressive than the local farm dogs.


The farm dogs are ultimate chill.

My requisite daily cow picture.

Posted in Camino 2017 | 8 Comments

Did Caesar walk here? Morgada to Ventas de Naron, 23km (100 km to Santiago!)

The 100 km marker, 690 down and 100 to go


It is said that when Caesar was in Spain and saw the statue of Alexander the Great he wept. Supposedly this was because Alexander had accomplished so much before his death at 33, and Caesar was only a Roman official in Spain at the same age. He then left for Rome and greater things, e.g. becoming Emperor. Gazing upon history can be very inspirational.

As has happened before on the Camino, we came across an archeological surprise or two today. First was the abandoned underwater town of Portomarin, where they flooded a medieval village to make a lake in 1963. Fortunately, the drought has lowered the water level to see the old foundations. (The knightly fortress church was moved to higher ground brick by brick.)

Portomarin 1, Medieval


Portomarin 2, transplanted


Picnic lunch at church square, my favorite

Castromaior, Roman city from 200 BC-100AD


Secondly, Castromaior, one of the important excavations of Roman towns in Spain, was along the Way today in an unassuming little dairy cow village. I deviated from the path to see this remnant from 200 BC to 100 AD, and wondered, did Caesar walk here?

“Et tu?”  

Reviewing days pictures at the albergue bar


 Hasta la vista,

John 

Posted in Camino 2017 | 7 Comments

We Love Galicia!Pintin to Morgade 22 km. 


We are approaching the last 100 km…amazing! Tonight we are at a country albuergue and had a lovely dinner with a fellow from Spain. As it turns out, he is a kayak tour guide on the river Rio Mino. Two plus or minus bottles of wine later, I am only posting some pictures. That’s the way it goes. Ciao! -k

Posted in Camino 2017 | 6 Comments

Translation lost. Fonfria to Pintin 22km

Misty morning

Clear afternoon. Kathleen loves Galicia


What’s a person who can speak 3 languages? Trilingual. What’s a person who can speak 2 languages? Bilingual. What’s a person who can speak 1 language? American. Haha. 

The challenge and excitement of traveling is always enhanced by the translation experience. Unless the second language approaches fluency and our thoughts occur spontaneously in that context, we’re always just translating. This may not provide the information needed, or produce the expected results. Even with Google translate on my phone I am puzzled. 

Google not getting it

Yesterday we had to interpret Spanish tv advice on the wildfires. Inflammatory (pun) and not particularly helpful. Today I called a Hostal and requested un cuarto para dos personas, and arrived with their expectation that I had reserved four rooms for eight people. Lo siento mucho. 
Hiking down the mountains of Galicia, Kathleen remarked that this was her favorite path of the trip. Needless to say, rain all night means no fires, no smoke, and beautiful views. 

Amazing Galicia


Aloha to all our friends and family.
​​​​
Hasta pronto 

John

Posted in Camino 2017 | 2 Comments

Translation lost. Fonfria to Pintin 22km

Misty morning

Clear afternoon. Kathleen loves Galicia


What’s a person who can speak 3 languages? Trilingual. What’s a person who can speak 2 languages? Bilingual. What’s a person who can speak 1 language? American. Haha. 

The challenge and excitement of traveling is always enhanced by the translation experience. Unless the second language approaches fluency and our thoughts occur spontaneously in that context, we’re always just translating. This may not provide the information needed, or produce the expected results. Even with Google translate on my phone I am puzzled. 

Google not getting it

Yesterday we had to interpret Spanish tv advice on the wildfires. Inflammatory (pun) and not particularly helpful. Today I called a Hostal and requested un cuarto para dos personas, and arrived with their expectation that I had reserved four rooms for eight people. Lo siento mucho. 
Hiking down the mountains of Galicia, Kathleen remarked that this was her favorite path of the trip. Needless to say, rain all night means no fires, no smoke, and beautiful views. 

Amazing Galicia


Aloha to all our friends and family.
​​​​
Hasta pronto 

John

Posted in Camino 2017 | Leave a comment

Fire! Hurricane! Revolution! …. No Pestilence!Las Herrerias to Fonfria 20.1 km

When we woke this morning in the tiny hamlet of Las Herrerias, we could smell smoke and the early morning sky was hazy. At breakfast, the bar tv was showing constant news of the fires in Vigo that had killed 4 people, about 80 miles away. Ok, another Camino day, we do what we do, we headed out on one of the biggest climbs of our walk, about a 2,000′ climb in 8 km. 
As we climbed, we saw one lone pilgrim and then a group of three; that was it, very quiet. Eerie. The sun never rose, instead the sky was a sickly yellow/grey and the smoke completely obscured the mountains. After a two hour climb, we arrived in the rustic pilgrim village of O’Cebreiro. It was a weird scene. Pilgrims were everywhere, getting out of taxis, getting into taxis, talking on the phone, huddling in small groups. We saw several pilgrims we knew; Jesse from Minnesota, Gerhardt from Austria, and Miss Sweden and her German boyfriend, everyone was talking about the fires and wondering what they should do. Apparently, fires were directly below us around Triacastela, 12 miles away, and the winds were blowing our direction, fanned in part by the unusual hurricane passing the Iberian peninsula on its way towards Ireland. John and I ducked into a little bar to partake of the amazing caldo gallego, Galcian soup, and to discuss our emergency response plan. We also had a cerveza, because nothing says crisis like a cold beer at lunch. Continuing to check the internet and watch the news, we decided to push on. This plan came to a screeching halt when we mentioned to our bartender, in his hip outfit, that we were walking to Fonfria; he freaked out and insisted, we think, that it was not safe. To allay our worries, we called ahead to our albuergue in Fonfria to check on the fires…the hosteleria, said it was fine, we think. So, we headed out in the smoke and the gloom, alone on the trail. The trail was really quite nice, exciting, a bit mysterious and mostly empty of pilgrims. We arrived safely in Fonforia and settled into our private double with bath; oh so danger. Tonight at a huge pilgrims’ diner we exchanged tales and plans for tomorrow, we think. 

PS. And yes, there is an almost revolution here in Spain, ever since Catalan is keeping everyone on the edge of their seats as to whether they have declared independence from Spain, the big news in these parts until the fires captured the news. -k

Posted in Camino 2017 | 7 Comments

Spain is the New France; Villafranca de Berzios to las Herrerias, 22km

Cool morning departure

Off track through the chestnut orchards

Spain’s population of 47 million may be decreasing back to 90’s levels of 40 million due to emigration and low birth rates after the long financial crisis. This is compared to 60+ million each in France and Italy, thus making Spain the least densely populated western European country. 

Armorial crest, flowered balconies; check check

Couple that with centuries old architecture, friendly people, great wines, good food in tapas portions and affordable prices , I consider Spain to be the New France, so to speak. (And did I mention the jamon?)

Long way down


Hard climb today but it took us into the country and away from the road for the first half day. Then back down into the valley for the village of las Herrerias with a 5 E bottle of hyper local wine and dinner. Another mountain tomorrow. 

Buenas noches 

John 

Posted in Camino 2017 | 2 Comments

Hiking with a Camino Professional. Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo. 21.5km

Sadly, we departed Ponferrada this morning after a lovely three day visit with Steven and Bruno. However, the day held a pleasant surprise, Steven planned to join us in Cacabelos to hike about 10 km into Villafranca del Bierzo. 
After three days of living with the locals, sleeping late, siestas, and 10 pm dinners, John and I were feeling a little rusty back out on the Camino but the morning went quickly and we banged out about 12 km before cafe con leche time. Steven joined us and as we walked, he regaled us with stories about when he was a pilgrim…back in the day. We stopped for our traditional lunch of bread, cheese, ham, and olives in a quiet, secluded grove of trees. While we napped, golden leaves rained down on us, a sure sign of fall. Tomorrow, we tackle some mountains and stay at a casa rural high up in the hills. By our back of the envelope calculations, we have about 9 days left to Santiago. I am keeping my fingers crossed that all of our body parts keep working! -k

Posted in Camino 2017 | 4 Comments

Penalba de Santiago, another zero day (sort of)

On the road up to Penalba

The driver and the navigator

Kathleen near the top


Waking late and multiple coffees is an unusual Camino morning , but that’s the rule in Ponferrada. Bruno picked up the picnic empanadas and Steven drove us into the mountains for, you guessed it, more walking. Even on our zero day we walked 7km up the valleys among the craggy peaks reminiscent of Switzerland.

Penalba is way in the background


Penalba


Fortunately, a village made entirely of stone provided cold beer for the end of our hike to go with the empanadas. The weather, the terrain, the food, the people of Spain have all been great. And tomorrow, we walk again. 
John 

Posted in Camino 2017 | 1 Comment

Zero Day…Excellent! Ponferrada. 

So, you have to love a zero day! Sleep until a civilized 8:30 am, have more than one coffee, and no furious jamming of gear into a dusty backpack to beat the dawn pilgrim parade. No, we have fried churros for breakfast, followed by a drive to the mountains to visit Las Medulas, an ancient Roman gold mining site that is now a UNESCO world heritage site. After stopping at the chestnut roasting stand, we tour the ridge and visit the mines complete with hard hats in case of …. hitting our heads on the narrow tunnel passages or in the event of a mine collapse … not sure which! In any event, great fun. So pushing the one activity a day envelope, we next stop in at Castillo de Cornatel; an amazing 12th century castle ruin atop a precipice with absolutely no people! We have lunch of jamon and queso bocadillos perched like Knights of Templar above the heights…excellent. 

And to push the boundaries of a zero day, we go into the old historic Ponferrada for a pincho pub crawl. Muchas gracias to Bruno and Steven for a fantastic day. -k

Posted in Camino 2017 | 4 Comments

Iron Cross at the Punta, Rabanal to Ponferrada, 13 km (uphill only)

Leaving the Meseta, entering the Montes de Leon

Leaving Rabanal, passing through Foncebadon


Today we climbed from the small village of Rabanal, known for the red- haired Maragato culture with a curious custom of leaving their keys in the door to let people know that they were not at home, and their numerous dry-stacked rock walls. They are a genetically isolated group of Moorish ancestry with red hair, sure enough. 

Iron cross at the Punta


A pagan offering for the ancestors


After climbing to the highest point of the Camino at 1515 meters, we came to the Iron Cross where everyone leaves an item they brought from home, in our case two shells identical to the Camino symbol that we found on a beach in the Philippines. And then, magically, Steven appears in a Fiat waving and yelling “Hola!”

Bruno, Steven, and Kathleen


The Fiat, a pilgrims dream


We meet Bruno, all hug, and then drive in the glorious Fiat all the way down the mountain to Ponferrada. (no shin splints that way). To top it off, we tour a fantastic medieval castle from the Knights of Templar, have a few pinchos, and call it a night. All good, anticipate a nice zero day tomorrow. 

The Knights of Templar knew how to build a fortress in the 1200’s


Easily defended for centuries, until gunpowder that is, in the 16th century

Buenas noches 

John 

Posted in Camino 2017 | 6 Comments