Tuesday, December 11, 2007

camino mysteries

pots on roof lines, bottles half full of water tied to pillars, or outside the entry door and single bottles hung in fruit trees ... why?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

punishment of the lustful

Sheela na gigs in Puenta Del la Rhiena (C, above),Green Men in Burgos (B), and in Santiago (A, above) - "Castigo de los Lujuriosos" (Punishment of the Lustful) removed into the museum beneath the Cathedral from the Portico de la Gloria - let that be our lesson. (Klick on the photo to enlarge - this and all others.)

arias of madness

Cees Nooteboom writes, pp 200-1: "The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is one of the arias of madness of European opera, a gigantic migratory flow, a movement of millions of extras, an unceasing stream of scallop-bearing pilgrims from all corners of Christendom, who found shelter and sustenance...on their way to the Pyrenees and beyond, until they reached the camino to Santiago. What that massive adventure signified in terms of religious zeal, political, social, economic and artistic influence is almost impossible to imagine. For centuries, a whole army was permanently on the move across Europe, where the foot was the unit of measurement. Everyone who joined...abandoned hearth and home to the vagaries of circumstance, the dream of every romantic soul, not in those uncertain times, but in later ones. Thus the pilgrimage became a myth in its own right, and the links between northwestern Spain and the European north continued to strengthen, the desire for reunification with the Arab-occupied parts of Spain deepened." from "Roads to Santiago", Harcourt, 1992 isbn 0156011581 Of this mad aria, we were drawn, became a part and cannot stop the dreaming - drawing bits of ghosts back to hearth and home.

Monday, November 19, 2007

eight tones to the palomars

At a distance, my first sight of what I was to learn was the ruins of a spanish palomar (above, 1-3) seemed a giant pine cone or pomegranate - a part of the larger group of fecund symbols that then reappeared in the hands of the Black Madonna and Christ Child in the Cathedral of Santiago - a group of symbols that may include the "pigeon pod" seating arrangement in the certainly phallic shaped jet airplane that brought us to and from Spain. For reference (I am only the messenger!): "Thyrsus" or espanol "Tirso" as in St. Thyrsus/Tirso, popular in Iberia.

The palomar is probably my most important "archetype" found walking the Camino - such information is proving very hard to find on the "information highway" and is yet outside my rational understanding - certainly, Jung and his ilk must have noted palomars - phallic cones full of nesting "seed" pairs. Having asked that evening in the refugio as to what it was that I had photographed, I understood that I had for several days collected photos of strange circular outbuildings with phallic points around the roof's edge (#4,7 crown of thorns and several following) with the Christian cross over the single door (#7, compare with #8 from Scotland).

Compare "dovecotes" with "palomars", specifically, "palomars of Palencia" and the "colombier" - a popular French surname as well as the name for towns. And the earlier egyptian dove cote - this reference mentions that "The dovecotes were often situated in an outlying farmstead, where they either occupied part of some outbuilding, or stood alone, frequently adjacent to a vineyard or garden. The latter was a convenient location, since pigeon dung was largely used to fertilize land used for these purposes." All the palomars we walked past were set off and away from any other buildings - in our unaware haste, I did not notice any adjoining vineyards or gardens, but I imagine there were or once was. A number of references point out that only the noblepersons were allowed to build and maintain palomars - too typical of sacred and semi-sacred inventions. (Strangely, as a child and not of noble birth, I keep racing pigeons for a dozen years - very curious.)

Says a Dutchman! from Wild Spain.com - "No flatter country than Zamora. And to see these remarkable buildings, pigeonries, 'palomars', in the quivering heat at these plains, that is really a first class experience. The pigeonries once were built for the manure, which was used as fertiser on the fields. Their shapes are mostly round, but also square ones exist in Zamora, and the latter ones almost look like chinese buildings..."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

duet "la flecha amarilla"

In many, many ways, to walk the Camino is to become a participant in some sort of grand everchanging orchestration that includes the sun and passing clouds, the fellow peregrinos - appearing and vanishing, the cold morning and its hot noon, the next village and following villager...and is there a director to this orchestra? Indeed! the yellow arrow - la flecha amarilla - in its ten thousand manifestations.

correspondence - melissa gravesen

Subject: the next crazy 'ventures beneath the skies...
Date: Tue, 13 Nov 2007 16:45:04 -0700

Gary, thank you for your greetings. I look forward to browse around your different blogspots and sites .

I decided not to check my email for a month - my month of "solitude" - but then I brought my cellphone, and I admit I sent more text messages then I had planned on. Well anyway, three more days to go. I'm in a hostel in Madrid (no sleep at all now), so I finally caved in for that internet. I hope that all is well and that you have adjusted somewhat of being back/off/on the track(?).

The fever began that dark morning when I last saw you in Triacastela. I was able to make those kilometers to Sarria, though - with those sad raindrops in mind - I realized that I had better to stay in bed for 48 hours with shattering teeth.

I made it to Santiago on Wednesday, the day that I heard that you left. Wandering - with those boots off - someone calls from the corner of the street, the part with sunshine, Hans!

So with the feeling that something had ended, and my Achilles tendons being too sore for another step at the moment, I took the bus to Finisterre. Ah the sea!

"Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow."

Two days of rest, and I was ready for the road again. Then I reached a point where the Camino had to end for me. But I guess that if I've learned something, it's that the road never ends.. (not to speak of that wandering!)

I guess all you can do is keep on striving for that "built-in happiness", as Dylan writes in his Chronicles (describing his wife):

"The one thing about her that I always loved was that she was never one of those people who thinks that someone else is the answer to their happiness. Me or anybody else. She's always had her own built-in happiness."

Give Susan my regards.
Best wishes,

Subject: under those feet?
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2007 00:58:24 -0700

Gary, nice to hear from you, a smile this tired morning!
just a quick line (for the moment), before continuing those last breaths of
Madrid's art, to tell you that you are welcome to add these lines..

Saturday I will be back in the north, hopefully beneath a diamond sky and on
to some sleep.

"sometimes you could be looking for heaven in the wrong places. sometimes it
could be under your feet. or in your bed."

Hoping for winking stars in Colorado and agreeing on no tiny specks receeding!


wiggle, wiggle, wiggle in your boots and shoes,
wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, you got nothing to lose

Thursday, November 8, 2007

home hills...Camino therapy

Back in the USA - deep in deepening Camino denouement - the unravelling of the knot! and that of the plot! The guide books all warn pilgrims about reaching their goal. Ten nights since reaching Santiago. Jet lag should be over. But my dreams still are only about the "texture" of the Camino- the walking surface, trees passing overhead, weaving dairy cows, faces of the village folk, cobbled lanes....finding myself lost.

So! for some quick Camino therapy, a three hour walk yesterday on my own home "texture" - "training grounds" for the Camino - photos above - and dreams last night? ...much better... or do I really mean that? Perhaps the Meigas de los Camino have placed their grip on me.

Monday, November 5, 2007

the Mad Compactor walks the Camino

No boots, no coat, no pants, no hat, no sleeping bag - Oh, My! Extreme Camino?

Having made one walk, what would I recommend to others planning to walk the Camino. My thinking might be a bit extreme - that everything should have a double or triple purpose and if not, see if you can lighten the load a little with that thought. I lecture to professional photographers on choosing and packing as much double purpose camera, lighting and support equipment into airline checkable cases so that you can re-create a full photo studio at your destination - more difficult now than before 9/11. My lecture has come to have the title "Gary Regester, the Mad Compactor".

So now the "Mad Compactor" has walked the Camino - what would I take if I did it again? For interest, my rucksack with water, but no lunch or walking poles, hung on the scales in the pilgrim's office in St Jean Pied de Port at 9 kg (20 lbs) - Some peregrino has said "your rucksack should never weigh heavier that 10 percent of your body weight" - a very VERY good rule - then I was about a kg too heavy - not bad. But I can do better.

Next time here is what I would take with some notes on why. This a list of a low maintenance male, walking in the cool of October, weights in at 5.5kg (12 lbs) including 1 liter of water, but without lunch or poles:

Rucksack - a German Deuter AClite 25 liter day pack. This was about half the capacity compared with most of the rucksacks on the Camino, but 10 liters larger than the Deuter AC Lite 15 which I first planned to use. I would use it again - very simple design - and with the Deuter label (vs the USA's North Face - also common on the Camino) I was assumed to be a German pilgrim (until I spoke) - with America's current reputation in Europe and Spain, this seemed a good idea. This rucksack also came with a rain cover. I chose a bright orange color largely for safety reasons. My sister loved her Osprey, I will get that model name.

Sleeping bag - no sleeping bag - instead two sleep sheets and added the refugio's blankets. In the very few refugios that did not offer a blanket - maybe three times - I nested the two sleep sheets and sandwiched my modified down filled vest - folds out as a blanket (see pic #3 + #4 above). My sister did take the lightest weight REI down sleeping bag available and it proved too warm throughout the walk.

Outer rain/wind jacket - again, no outer rain/wind jacket. With the idea that everything is to have a double use, we chose, and would choose again, to use a lightweight fabric rain poncho (Sierra Design) as both a windbreaker and rain protection. As pic #2 above, the waist strap of the rucksack was very effective in closing the poncho from flying about in the wind. This poncho also can be tied open as a rain fly (never used this way on the Camino), but did use is as an extra layer blanket on a couple of colder refugios. Color: yellow and red for safety. Also, many peregrinos were also carrying rain pants - problem with rain gear is that your sweat working uphill stretches will make you more wet inside the rain gear than just to go with a well ventilated minimal poncho cover.

Coat- no coat. Prefer the flexibility of two down vests - one down vest with other layers as below, proved fine on 0c (32f) freezing mornings. Both are modified to be used as blankets by adding detachable coat zippers from the arm hole to the waist.

Sweater- black CRAFT pullover with zippered turtle neck - this CRAFT pullover proved slow to dry but worth the trouble in warmth and seem to be warm even when still damp. Also looked nice enough for the menu peregrino in the evening.

One long sleeved vented fly fishing shirt- easily washed, quick drying, good sun protection and turned out to be good wind protection as well. These shirts seemed popular on the Camino as they stay looking quite nice throughout the abuse.

Two long sleeved "lycra" type shirts - easily washed and dried, but with two shirts, no need to wash every day - the shirts I used had some antibacterial treatment which proved very socially acceptable to myself.

Pants - no pants. One pair walking shorts - easily washed and dried. As pic #1 above, the flat zippered leg pockets proved to be a better and safer place for currency, passport, credential, etc than the flat pouch that most pilgrims carry hidden around their waist.

One pair of black long nylon loose fitting long underwear - my secret "long pants" but also proved comfortable and modest to sleep in, washed and dried easily - did scare small children when worn in public when my walking shorts were drying. As pic #1 above, I wore these longjohns under my walking shorts on cold mornings - this too frightened small children and adults as this "layered look" may not have reached Galicia yet - though not uncommon here in Colorado.

Underware - no underware. OK, maybe one or two pair, but my hiking shorts had net version of this idea. Maybe a pair of Speedo swim trunks would serve as a double use alternative - though still frighten small children.

Sockings- two pair thin "silk" and two pairs thicker tech hiking socks. This combination allow for adjustment of thickness against blisters in the first ten days. Also used the second pair of thicker shocking as mittens when using the walking poles in freezing mornings.

Boots- no boots. I chose "vegan friendly" Merrill low top water shoes - the low top proved controversial - a number of the Australians and many of the Spanish walkers were using low top running shoes instead of high top synthetic or leather boots as the lighter weight low top uses arguably less energy per step. The surface of the Camino varies greatly from very rough large stones, uneven cobbles, gravel and long stretches of paved street and I think I might add more thicker insert for greater cushioning in the future - still the water shoe was fine in the rain and kept the socks dryer on hot days.

Hat - no hat. Will plan to double use my shower towel as a hat (next) which with very small modification is an warm hat with warm coverage for the neck on cold mornings. Also wear a bandanna for sun coverage of my bald head on hot days. Again, a hat is a hat and a hat only!

Shower Towel - an REI synthetic chamois skin - 15 x 27 inch (38 x 70cm size)

Alternate shoes for round town and refugio dormitories - one pair of "flip-flops" are probably the easiest and lightest solution.

Walking Poles - LEKI brand, these proved necessary on heavy blister days, hard downhill or uphill sections or during painful shinsplints or kneebrace days.

Wrist watch or similar - one with glow-in-the-dark function for learning what time it is in a dormitory at 4am in the morning. Altimeter and barometer functions would also be fun as you are crossing mountain passes and are very concerned with incoming weather.

Guidebook - very controversial - to keep things lightweight we chose the English Confraternity's Guide to the Camino Frances. But used the maps and refugio lists from the Spanish Tourism Office which also offers the heavier, but free, "Pilgrims Guide, The Road to Santiago" by Jose Maria Anguita Jaen, published by Editorial Everest (everest.es). Check Amazon.com for further review and discussion.

Notebook - tend to use "post-its" inserted into the guidebook rather than a notebook, but same weight.

Camera/telephone - 2007 trip, I used a Samsung Blackjack mobile telephone which, sacrilegiously, gave me access to the internet - oh the sacrilege! - all across Spain, full keyboard, and 1.5mb camera with photos uploads to this blog. Camera proved to have too great a compression ratio for a quality greater than stamp sized photos but was great for blogging. Also its very short range of shadow to highlight meant too high contrasty in many situations. If I was not blogging while walking, I would take a compact digital camera with at least 4 1GB of memory - at present my choice would be the Samsung NV10 - tiny, 10MB still camera and full frame 30fps video.

Four "Ditty Bags"- all in clear plastic bags - easier to find things - and to stay dry during rain - sorry, very noisy in the morning wake period.

#1 bag located in outside pocket, items easy to get while walking.
Small head lamp - the only time you need a head lamp is waking up in the morning and beginning to assembly your things in the dormitory in the dark - until a enough headlamps are glowing that someone will turn on the overhead lights. Is is very unlikely that you need this for walking in the morning, even in October, by eight am, there was enough light to walk.
Swiss Army knife - smallest one with cork screw - gives you scissors, knive blades, can opener (spain is now largely pull off lids on canned food)
Spork - spoon and fork combo "Light My Fire" Swedish spork - one euro
Lip balm with sunblock
sunblock - high SFP
10x monocular - used more than I expected.

#2 Bag - semi accessible - blister kit
Sewing kit with needles and thread for draining blisters.
moleskin variation - Johnson and Johnson "Compeed" brand blister protection available in all Spainish pharmacias (which outnumber grocery stores) were wonderful, though a bit expensive, but easy to find when and if you need them.
liquid second skin - seemed to help on the worst blister days.
antibiotic ointment - for cleaning the needle and the blisters.
KY Jelly Lubricant - don't laugh, for between the toes, ball and heel of foot - worked great, got some strange looks, works better and better as the foot sweats (and possible second use?)
toilet paper - for absorbing a draining blister and also readily available for its more traditional purpose.

#3 Bag - everything needed for a shower and washing clothes
toothbrush and toothpaste, floss
biodegradable laundry soap (could use for body as well)
bar soap in small plastic box
deodorant - which I repackage by re compacting into small lipbalm tubes
small magnifing mirror - (optional) as all refugios seemed to have large regular mirrors

#4 Bag - everything else - first aid, medicines, spares - not needed in a hurry
short rope for drying clothes inside the refugio - as on rainy or cold days
two USA/EC electrical plug adapters - two because you will loose one - available at airports, but I also luckily found in electrical supply shops in larger cities on the Camino.
600mg Ibuprofen - reduce swelling and pain - easy to find in Spain.
500mg Cipro antibiotic or similar - ask your doctor for a script
vitamins tablets
antifungal creme
6 or more moistened hand towelettes - might need on the Camino between showers
condoms - yes, but not to worry - "if you take an umbrella, it will NOT rain" - though the Camino does come under the will of las Meigas from Astorga through Galicia - beware.
assorted bandages
mobile telephone recharger
USB memory chip reader for digital phone/camera - many refugios now offer internet access
extra batteries for head lamp
three reading glasses - I am old.
spare writing pens - tend to lose one a day

So what did we NOT recommend:
no hat
no coat
no rain/wind jacket/pants
no long pants
no sleeping bag
no gloves
no boots
(too extreme? probably)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

miracles - thanks to Hans

up the camino high route out of villafranca del bierzo

deflecting cattle away from a frightened german peregrina

camera repair 101

bandage for a fallen knee

this walk was fraught with miracles - when we needed a translator from american english to spanish, an american living in spain was walking next to us. when we fell sick, a taxi cab driven by a former pilgrim appeared out of the mists.

but the most curious of all the daily miracles was falling into step for the entire month with Hans Schreyer - who engaged not only all fellow pilgrims - many at a moment of need - but all strangers - policeman and farmer alike - as well as small cats, all dogs, cows and sheep - often calling out to sparrows as we walked the hedgerows along the Way - and as Hans casts no shadow - it was a little like walking to Santiago with St Francis - without the stigmata problem (or at least, i think so).

more curiously, susan and i were originally planning to walk the camino with our maternal uncle who was instead called out of retirement to teach this fall's session when his university colleague fell sick. strangely, the camino provided our uncle - one that spoke all the necessary languages of the camino - yes, ok, german and lots of english and italian - some spanish as he invented it - but more by smile, hug and handshake - just so, the camino opened up before us - thanks to Hans.

by the time we arrived in santiago, familiar pilgrims would salute me and ask only "Where's Hans??"

Saturday, November 3, 2007

susan suggests a few more photos of refugios


puente la reina, albergue santiago apostol

puente la reina dinner

municipal albergue in estella

kitchen in estella

breakfast in estella

rooms in estella

sahagun, albergue municipal


Najera from Hans

all 1345 photos are now on flickr-sampling below

All 1345 "postcards" are now uploaded on Yahoo's Flickr - click here. Note you can view as a "slide show", individually or as groups of 18 photos. Below is sampling of some of the better ones that did not get uploaded as we walked. In the 1345 pictures, you will also note my interest in sheela-na-gigs, posts with pebbles, strange bottles hung in trees or tied to porch pillars and other folk symbols.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007