To the Ends of the Earth!!

Unbelievable how time flies!  Especially as I get older, and find more interesting things to see and do, time goes too fast to do them all.  Such was the case this year, and I apologize that my blog suffered.  So what happened?…..Yes, I went to the Ends of the Earth…will explain that later.

Some of you know that my “hobby” when I’m not doing the Curve Master tour is spinning.  No, not cycling…making yarn from fiber.  I love all of it, from selecting a fleece right off the sheep or llama or whatever, or choosing a really gorgeous processed hand-dyed roving, and sitting at the wheel rhythmically drafting the fiber into a “singles” (one strand) of yarn and the perhaps plying it into a two- or three-ply yarn.  What do I do with it all?  Well, just like us quilters with fabric, I admire it, stroke it, pet it, and stockpile it!  Sometimes I actually knit with it, and here is where my story advances.

I enjoy the company of a few knitters once a week when I am home from my gypsy travels.  One of these lovely ladies, Ann, was turning 70 in May and decided she was going to walk the 500-mile Camino de Santiago to achieve her 50-year dream and celebrate her birthday watching the botafumerio .  (Don’t worry if you don’t already know what that is…here is a link to a YouTube video and there are many others to choose from!)

She had not been able to find anyone to go with her however.  Until she mentioned it to our “little old lady knitting group” (ages from 58 to 69-1/2) and the four of us instantly said, “I’ll go.”  This was in early February 2012, and preparations took the place of all other activity.  Walking in 95-degree Texas heat, getting boots, backpack, making reservations, etc.

Just a brief history:  The Camino de Santiago is a 1000-year-old pilgrimage to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain where legend has it the remains of the Apostle James (the Greater, the brother of John, of the Sons of Thunder reputation) are interred.  James left Jerusalem to preach in Iberia, somewhat unsuccessfully some might argue as he allegedly had only 6 or 7 converts.  He returned to Jerusalem, was martyred, and his remains were placed in a stone boat which made it all the way, unpiloted, back to Spain where they were found and buried.  Thus, a cathedral had to be built and devotees began the long walk to visit his shrine.  It is the third most popular pilgrimage in Christendom, after Jerusalem and Rome…I had never heard of it!  To embrace the role of pilgrim, one walks with the barest of necessities (try just one change of clothes for 6 weeks!) and stays in alburgues or refugios with the barest of accommodations and no amenities.  More on that later!  But for those of you who can’t wait, enjoy the movie made by Emilio Estevez, starring Martin Sheen, “The Way” for a bit of background and preview of what we are facing.

Mid-May we all departed for Brussels, Belgium to visit Ann’s daughter (from left, BJ, Cindy, Barb, me, Ann) before taking a train through France to begin the hike at St. Jean Pied de Port, France at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains.

Note to self:  When raising the hem of trousers, do not simply fold over the existing hem!  First order of business after seeing this photo:  release the makeshift hem and wear the pants as purchased; the boots take up the height that flat shoes didn’t.  (From left: Ann, Barb, me, Cindy, and BJ)

Yes, we had to walk up and over the mountains the very first day of our hike!  It was brutally hot, murderously steep, my pack weighed more than 200 lbs (or so it seemed!) and not a lick of shade.  We fortunately arrived at the mid-point alburgue which still had vacancies, and put in for the day.  I quickly inquired as to the availability of motorized transport to our second-day’s destination.  The alburgue served a delicious and plentiful “Pilgrims’ Dinner” to all and we met our first Camino companions:  Amrit, a Sikh, and some Dutch hikers whose paths would separate from and meet up with ours many times over six weeks.

The next day, two of us took a taxi AROUND the mountain and arrived clean, refreshed and ready to rise on the third day,  leaving Roncesvalles entering the Basque country, whose inhabitants are quick to tell us they are not in Spain.  Just a short distance to go….

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