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I'm spending all of 2012 learning and experiencing new things. This blog is my way of documenting it all, while keeping my family and friends back in the states in the loop. Here's to 2012. Check out my website- Kat Carney Photography

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's easy to get lost when you're finding your way

I started my journey on the Camino Ingles (English Way) alone.  I honestly don’t know what I expected. I guess I thought I would walk the entire 120 kilometers by myself, thinking about life and taking pictures. But in reality I spent about 2 hours of the Camino alone before I met a group of four people from Andalusia. I asked them where they were from and we walked together for the next 110 kilometers or so. None of them speak English although they had a lot of fun trying, and I was able to practice my Spanish a lot. It is a great feeling being able to make friends in a language that is not your own. It makes me so happy every time I do, because I know that if I would not have put forth the effort to learn their language we never would have become friends. And we certainly became friends. We struggled through blisters and exhaustion together. We laughed a lot. We saw a lot of northern Spanish countryside on foot. And we generally enjoyed each other’s company. One of the stereotypes of people from Andalusia is that they are always happy and singing. I have to say that this is mostly true. I don’t think I could have spent my five days on the Camino with a better group of people.

The Camino Ingles is one of the Caminos de Santiago that pilgrims from all over the world take every year. They journey on foot from France, Portugal, and all over Spain to their final destination- the holy city of Santiago de Compestela. A lot of people make the journey for religious purposes. For them it is a spiritual journey. Although I consider myself a spiritual person, I have to admit, for me, I thought of it as more of a physical challenge. It turned out to be spiritual though. I learned a lot about Spain, a lot about myself, and a lot about the kindness of strangers.

The Camino Ingles is the typical journey that pilgrims from the UK, Ireland, and the Scandinavian countries used to make when they landed at the port in Ferrol in the north of Spain. From Ferrol the journey is 120 kilometers through beautiful northern Spain.

I started in Ferrol alone and got lost before I had even left the city. A jogger ran by and yelled, “Peregrino, para ya, para ya!” Which means “Pilgrim, to the right!” I don’t know why but a lot of times instead of using “de recha” and “izquierda” (the words for “right” and “left”) they often say “para ya” and “para ca”. It seems a little crazy to do the Camino alone in a foreign country, but I have enough confidence in my Spanish now to get by with only minor difficulties. A lot of the frustration of not being able to communicate is now gone.

I met my Andalusian friends just outside of Ferrol. I was planning on staying in the albergue (backpacker’s hut) in Neda but we arrived there early and my friends offered to call and see if there was an extra room in the hostel where they were staying for the night. There was a room so I kept walking with them. When we got to Fene (18 km) we had a delicious dinner and did some sightseeing before going to bed.

The next day it rained on us almost the entire way from Fene to Betanzos (28 km). Luckily we all had ponchos. My new friends were two couples- Fernando and Loreto, and Tamara and Pedro. Loreto and I started getting blisters first because we were both hiking in new shoes. She taught me to puncture and lace them with a sewing needle so they didn’t keep filling up, and also how to clean them properly. That day there was a huge city party in Betanzos and we went out to look around. It was a beautiful city situated in a valley and it was buzzing with people.

Day three from Betanzos to Bruma (29 km) was basically a blur of pain, but I remember some beautiful sights as well. My feet were bleeding and oozing puss and I was overjoyed when we made it to the alburgue in Bruma. Bruma is home to about 40 people and there is not a store in all of the little village. We were the first backpackers of the day to make it to the albergue and the caretaker talked our ears off. Luckily we were able to order food from a nearby town and they delivered it to us for both lunch and dinner. That night we sat around the table, compared blisters, and chatted with all the other backpackers about the journey. I was the only English speaker, but they all thought I spoke Spanish really well. I still feel like I don’t speak it well, but I am overjoyed that people can understand me and I can understand them.

After Bruma we trekked to Siguiero (27 km). We had dinner and laughed a lot, bought more bandaids, and then prepared for our final stretch of the journey the next day. At this point my feet felt like death. So I constructed makeshift cushions from sponges and taped them to my feet the next morning. My feet felt better for about 6 km and then began to ache tremendously again. But it didn’t matter because we were almost there. We waltzed into Santiago at 11 a.m., went to Mass and received our Compestelas. I had one last dinner with my new friends before I caught the train up to A Coruña.

It was such a memorable and wonderful experience and even though there was pain, I got lost, and I had no idea what to expect, everything worked out for the best. It’s a strange parallel to life when you think about it. Sometimes you have to start the journey alone, knowing nothing and no one. When you take that step into the dark you can’t think about the what ifs and the maybes. There will be pain. There will be joy. There will be laughter and friends. Take the step. It will all be worth it.

In other news... The boyfriend made it to London and is now training with team U.S.A. in Birmingham. He throws the 8th and 11th of August! CHEER LOUD AND PROUD! USA USA USA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I go to Scotland in a week and then London on the 6th of August. Back to the states the 15th!
My friend Laia from Barcelona in A Coruña.
A Coruña at night.
Images from the trail. Mis cuatro amigos!
Pedro and Tamara

The beach I wake up to every morning in A Coruña. I left the Mediterranean for the equally awesome Atlantic Coast of northern Spain.