León – – – Villar de Mazarife

I spent 4 days recovering in Leon. I got to stay in an air conditioned hotel but no ice machines here – they are a thing of the past.

On my third day of rest I started to slowly go out and walk around to see the city. I got to see familiar faces which was great and also made some new Camino friends.

Leon was a beautiful city and one day when I tried to go to mass, I stumbled on the catedral doing a special mass for Corpus Cristis. It was a very beautiful public ceremony in front of the cathedral.

I ran into a girl Sara I met from Chicago and we spent the day together. As we were trying to find her albergue we made a new friend name Caio as we were lost. Caio is from Brazil and is an amazing person – really funny, friendly and has a lot of interesting stories about his country. We all spent the day by the river and then went out that evening with some other pilgrims for sushi! This was one of my best days in Leon!

Headed to Villar de Mazarife which was nice and I was able to meet back up with some of the other pilgrims I first started walking with. Although this was not a day of amazing sights or a lot of mileage but it was my first day back on the Camino with my pack and I felt really good.

Etapa: Rest, Ice, Elevate & Repeat

I was in my hostal en Carrion de Los Condes and had just sent an email to make an appointment with a physiotherapist in Leon. I decided to go down to the cafe to eat breakfast and wait for my taxi to arrive. As I sat down I met two women Veera and Grisel who were also doing the Camino. I inquired to see if they were not walking and heading to Leon…hoping to share a can with someone. Unfortunately they were not but then what happened I cannot make up.

I told them what was going on with my ankle and Veera was a physiotherapist! She looked at my ankle and said the tendon was torn but minor and nothing to worry too much about. She said elevate, ice, recommend compression socks, I showed her my ankle brace and said it was good and then proceeded to give me some pills for inflammation!! She also went over some foot/ankle exercises to do over these next few days. Grisel also was very helpful and gave me some other pills for inflammation as well! They talked with me about using the hiking poles and how to take the trail with going down and reminded me to go at my pace and no one else’s. It truly was a God send meeting these two and I canceled my appointment with the other physiotherapist. They helped remind me of the importance of going at your own pace. There have been times on the trial where I have sped up to catch up with the group or to try and race the sun. I have stepped in odd positions at times because although the trail is visible, the condition and terrain change frequently…so I’m sure I’ve rolled or strained my ankle somewhere along the way and of course it’s hard alone just with the amount of miles we walk and weight we carry. My brother in law talked with a friend who is a physical trainer and recommended very similar advice!

The taxi drive to Leon was interesting. I am sad that I did not get to experience the Mesita on foot but man oh man, it sure is empty and isolate and looked so hot. I do not think my poor ankle could survive it at this point and not to mention you do not have access to help for miles on some sections! My taxi driver was named Ivan. Ivan we a delight! He originally is from Bulgaria but has been in Spain for 20+ years. Now and then he would get phone calls from “mi mujer” (I never understand why the Spanish call their female partners/wife my woman) and speak in Bulgarian which was entertaining to listen to. He was a very open, religious man and talked with me about his faith. Then he started to talk about Bulgarians and a Russians and growing up in his country. He also shared with me about his life in Spain, a cab driver his whole life and loves it, about his wife, children and grandchildren. He was in a very good mood because they were having a party tonight at his house with his children and grandchildren who were visiting which then led into a conversation how he doesn’t like drinking but has a favorite wine and haha then ragged Russians and their vodka. It was so great to speak Spanish and we talked for the whole hour ride which made it go by so fast.

I arrived in Leon and hobbled my way to my hotel. I was very disappointed when I arrived to discover ice machines are a thing of the past! That was the whole reason I wanted a hotel so I could have easy access to ice. But I got them to bring me some anyways and put my other ice pack in the luckwarm refrigerator.

I got settled in and began the process of ice, elevate, rest, pills and repeat. I tried to do some of the exercises but was not that successful, my ankle was still too swollen.

I had the chance to check in with family and friends which was great to hear about everyone was doing and I got to see my girl Olive! I miss her and luckily she doesn’t look like she has put on some weight.

I am not in a puddle of tears as I thought I would be about this injury as the first one that happened. I am staying optimistic, using the time to read and catch up with loved ones. I went to get some comfort food last night, Mexican but it was the worst but at least my pineapple Jarritos was delicious!

Today I rested most of the day and then tried to help my friend Sonya get a print of the penguin from Billy Madison. One of the pilgrims we walk with Keith, who is just a lovely man, was the penguin in that movie! Sonya’s son happens to be a huge Billy Madison fan and is trying to get a picture for an autograph. I tried some online printing system here…hope it turns out.

I went walking a bit today to get it of the hotel because resting drives me a little crazy because I truly would rather be walking. I walked to the center area and strolled through the Saturday market to pick up some peaches, got some coffee and passed by the cathedral. I got lost trying to come back to the hotel but stumbled upon another pilgrim Nick I know who spotted me and shouted “JZ!” It was great to see him and meet another pilgrim Brendan from Chicago. They both looked exhausted and a bit delirious from the desert heat but they did it!!!

I came back to the hotel and iced, elevate, pills, rest and repeat. I also have been doing the exercises as much as possible but it is painful and super gross! I feel a weird crunching when I do the stretching and from what Veera explained that is breaking up scar tissue. Some of my other pilgrim friends arrived today as well and we may go out and get some sushi! While in the hotel I Skyped with one of my Spanish friends Jorge! We have not talked in awhile because we both have been busy but it was great to practice Spanish more and share about my Camino experiences.

So I’m off to do some more reading and maybe see if I can get my Netflix to work to watch something before trying to meet up. I wish I didn’t have this delay in my journey but this too is part of the journey and me having acceptance with taking care of myself.

Frómista – – – Carrión los Condes

Well today was an easier day in terms of kilometers but my damn ankle is hurting badly, now I am getting sharp pains.

We left early to try to beat the heat. It is very beautiful to see the sun hit the fields and the gold hues that are emitted. My pictures do not do it justice.

As I walked through this stretch I played some music  Xavier Rudd – Follow The Sun which only seemed appropriate. I have not listened to any music on the Camino until this morning and only this one song. Some people listen to music as they walk but I love to hear the surroundings sounds except the traffic of course but this song just captured the spirit and beauty this morning.

I tried to stay positive and very aware of my ankle. I got a brace the other day which helped but the sharp pains worried. We got into Carrion early and felt like pushing on but it would have been a long day. When we got to the main plaza an old woman grabbed Sonya by the arm and said she had the perfect place for us to stay. Maybe this was a scam or a rookie pilgrim mistake but she did take us to a very nice hostal and we split the cost of the room which was discounted. It was nice to have some peace and some space to ourselves. We had great food before I had to come to terms with my damn ankle/foot.

Well I am skipping tomorrow and the next two days and heading to Leon. My ankle is still swollen and in pain and I cannot continue to walk on it. Tomorrow is suppose to be the most grueling stretch of the Camino but I am heartbroken over it and had a feeling this is where I would find a lot of healing and strength. I thought about staying put and resting here in Carrion but I need a good rest, access to ice and medical care which is hard to come by here…and I would love to rejoin the group and other faces I walk with.

I am sad that I am experiencing this injury and having to skip stages again but I know this is not my last Camino and these experiences are part of my Camino and learning.
I cannot properly flex my left toes towar my knee or point my toes with ease…all painful.

I went to the farmacia and got some more meds and ice pack. I tried to go to their medical clinic but it appeared closed because the doors were locked but later told I should I have went around the building through a back entrance…who knew and that’s how bad this hurts…so Leon here I come.

Castrojeriz – – – Frómista 

O you who’ve gone on pilgrimage –

              where are you, where, oh where?

Here, here is the Beloved!

              Oh come now, come, oh come!

Your friend, he is your neighbor,

             he is next to your wall –

You, erring in the desert – 

              what air of love is this?

If you’d see the Beloved’s

              form without any form –

You are the house, the master,

              You are the Kaaba, you! . . .

Where is a bunch of roses,

              if you would be this garden?

Where, one soul’s pearly essence

              when you’re the Sea of God?

That’s true – and yet your troubles

              may turn to treasures rich –

How sad that you yourself veil

              the treasure that is yours!
-Rumi ‘I Am Wind, You are Fire’

Today I had an absolutely lovely day! I woke up feeling refreshed, although my ankle still hurts and then has a peaceful morning walk. The sun rises in the morning are magical!

We had to climb a tough hill right out of the gate and when I got to the top I met up with a German man named Marcus who is such a great person! We had the chance to walk a couple days ago together and then twice today. I could see a friendship here. He is genuine, sensitive, talkative and very reflective of his journey.

Today we started to hit the plains of Spain and I finally started to feel at peace and very grateful today. I get nervous at times walking alone but today felt very safe knowing my friend Marcus was ahead, another friend Rasmus and Joe were behind me and also Sonya was kilometers ahead as well but I would meet up with at the coffee shop.

I am doing my best to stay mindful and reflective. It is amazing how much more present you become when you walk hours on end, have physical pain and need to be present of your steps and you notice things as if you saw them for the first time. However, every moment we ever have is for the first time and we truly do not have the same experiences repeat.

This flower today served as my meditation as I walked. I focused on its inherent beauty and wondered about each of our own inherent beauty as a human beings and in difficult circumstances.

In Sanskrit, Sri means “inherent beauty” and it is interesting how we can forget that there is inherent beauty in everything but we get so clouded with our own misperspections, societal pressures, technological distractions, etc. I am extremely guilty of this because I swear my mind is hard wired to go negative easily but I am working hard to rewire my brain towards another path. Even my difficult moments here on the Camino, when I look back they truly presented some beautiful lessons. I think that is one of the key lessons, the simple fact that we are imperfect human beings is the inherent beauty because we demonstrating the complexities of what it is to be alive which is a pretty great thing and for me, the concept of life, is pretty phenomenal thing.

I met up with Marcus at some point and he asked to walk with me. We talked about some of our favorite moments of the Camino and about life in Germany and Colorado.

We passed by this awesome albergue which has been functioning for many years and it is very small. I forget who exactly it is ran by, I believe nuns but they wash the pilgrims feet who stay here and you all sleep together in the same room and eat together in the same room you sleep in. We went inside and it was a pretty cool building. Next time I do the Camino I will try and stay here.

We crossed this beautiful bridge and continued to walk until we hit our first town for our cafe con leche (coffee with milk) and Spanish tortilla (potato omelet). I met up with Sonya and the rest of the people in our group walking together but they were on their way out already. They are so fast!!! I stayed, ate and Marcus showed me this awesome website called the heart of the Camino that has albergues that are vegetarian, meditation and yoga focused!! I am going to try to hit up one of these places at some point but a lot are off the path of the Camino.

I walked by myself for some time again and saw a weird gross bug, lots of butterflies and some snails. Not sure how well you can see but this guy is completely black with strange red markings. When I approached it very much did not shy away and headed towards me. I looked them up and they are called Red stripe oil beetle and can release something that makes your skin blister…yikes!

I ran into Marcus again on the path. This happens a lot, you run into a lot of familiar faces and depending on the person you may walk and talk or move along. My ankle was hurting me at this point and it was so hot that it was great to have company! We had amazing conversations about music and to our surprise we have a lot of similar music interests in common and he introduced me to two new musicians who now I really enjoy – Charlie Cunningham and Jesse Woods!
I was happy to get to Frómista and luckily had a cold glass of water waiting for me! The hospitalero Jose was a character and really enjoyed talking with him! 

Hornillos del Camino – – – Castrojeriz

We did not have good wifi so I am a little behind on posting.

One thing I want to clarify about the Camino….because I have gotten some questions. People do the Camino for many diferent reasons and one very common one is people tend to do it when their life is at some sort of crossroad and they are needing clarity. Most of the people I have met are working through some pretty big things like divorce, loss of a loved one, mental illness, recovering, job change and of course they are others who are doing it for exercise, travel, religious and spiritual reasons, etc. Most people are doing it for a combination of reasons like me but one of my biggest reasons is for healing.

I have shared some pretty personal and depressing information….go figure I struggle with depression. Depression is a brain illness and with the genetic defect I have, I will struggle with it my whole life. I have accepted this and I am doing my best to manage it. If my postings come off to melancholy for some, feel free to skip the words and look at the pictures.

Part of my healing process is being honest, open, vulnerable and processing things by letting go through writing. I do things very differently than my family and even some friends. But what I ask is that if you read my stuff and disagree with it remember this is my truth and I am writing it as experiences and feelings come. 

I am working on not caring what people think about me because that got me into part of this mess of trying to always please others and hyper vigilant about doing the right thing. 

Thank God feelings, circumstances and so forth are not static and every day is different. I have had great days and hard days on the Camino. Please family and friends know if I truly need help I will reach out as needed and if you read my writing and hear about my struggles just send me a prayer or positive writings, I beat myself up enough already and truly need patience and kindness sent my way. Please remember this is my journey and I know that not all that I write people will understand and that’s okay with me.

Ok….well walking in the morning at 6:30am is my favorite part of the Camino. You get to see amazing views and colors. It is very quiet, cool, and listening to the birds chirp is a beautiful way to start the day.

There are many different flowers on the Camino but this poppy variety is everywhere! 

Each day we have a different route but a lot of it is passing through small towns and stopping at churches.

I forgot the name of this church but I burnt a blue candle for peace and dedicated to family and friends of mine who I know are struggling with one thing or another.

My ankle started to hurt yesterday and I had to send my pack ahead this day. Going up a little hill like this hurt and going down as well. Luckily it is more of the tendon that hurts and not the ankle bone itself. I considered not walking but until it is a sharp or unbearable the encouragement is to keep moving forward and many people are pushing through with more painful injuries than  this. I will continue to monitor it.

Burgos – – – Hornillos del Camino

We left Burgos around 6:30am. We enjoyed our time in our hostel just the three women in group and the three men in the other. We had a private bathroom, towel and all low beds. It is amazing the little things you appreciate on the Camino. The albergues we have stayed in have been great but vary from 5 to 20 to about 100 people in a room. The bathrooms often have little privacy and you typically sleep in bunk beds.

It was beautiful morning leaving Burgos but it was great to leave the city. They cities are nice but the small towns is where the peace is at. I easily could see myself living in one of these small Spanish towns with my farm of pugs. 🙂 Gosh do I miss Olive! Joel reported to me today my grandparents have now allowed her to sleep with them in bed! My heart could not be happier because she truly loves sleeping in bed and as close to possible to people. I think about my sweet girl every day, especially when I feel low about myself I remind myself how much she loves me and is always so happy to see me!

There was a small lake filled today with all the tears I cried. I talked with Sonya, an older woman from Australian about some of my pain today and it was nice to hear about some of our shared struggles and more about what brought her on the Camino. Although these moments are painful and vulnerable, they always serve as a good reminder that we all have a story and are dealing with something. She was very kind and just listened to me. I find a lot of peace around her. She is always in a good mood and is mother to twin boys! I think we were destined to meet!

Today’s tears had to do more with self-forgiveness. This is a very hard thing for me to swallow and to do. I have made some pretty painful mistakes in my life and some that I have felt as being unforgivable which then I inturn internalize into self-hate and saying violent things to myself. I know these things are forgivable and I have been forgiven by some of the people I have hurt but not by all, and the person’s forgiveness i need most is my own.

In yoga and meditation they talk a lot about trusting the process of self- forgiveness and directing on energy to the process of tapas. Tapas, not the Spanish kind, means “heat” or “friction” and as we meditate and practice yoga we create this heat to help clear the mind, body and spirit. I will keep this in mind as I cry, continue to breathe and walk. The days are getting hotter here and you sweat so much alone just from the amount of walking. I am going to keep the heat in mind with an open and kind hand. I hope that I burn away the things I need forgiveness from and that it gives space to good, kind and positive things to come.

Our wifi is bad so I will try to post pictures later. Sorry about all the grammar and spelling mistakes. Oh yeah, my left ankle is swollen… they say “your issues are in your tissues.” I’m going to have to look whatever that means up and what is the background info with ankles…never had ankle problems before.

Agés – – – Burgos

We had a short 13 mile today into Burgos but it was a very hot day! I did something to my right ankle or tendon and it is slightly swollen…tomorrow I will send my pack ahead 😦 I also have a horrible blister right between my toes which makes walking painful. Why am I doing this again?!

Today I was able to stay up with the group I have been walking with. I am the slowest one but I try to do my best and take my time with my heavy pack.

We got into Burgos at a good hour, did some laundry, walked around, visited the cathedral and then had a good meal. We are staying in a hostel which is a step up from our albergue life and it has been a nice treat!

The cathedral has been my favorite part of Burgos! It was beautiful and there was lot of really neat things to see!

Tomorrow we will try to get up early to try and beat the heat. The days are getting hotter and it is very tough on my feet.