This is the last part of my one week trekking tour with photo and word. First - i will tell you how it went. Then - I will give some advice.
In the middle of the week in my guide I read about one very special albergue in Güemes that every pilgrim has to visit on her or his way. It’s the mekka of all albergues, with a fireplace, a chapel, a library and Ernesto - the catholic priest who has seen the whole world while traveling everywhere in his land rover. Back in the day, Ernesto's grandfather has extended his house to built an albergue - La Cabaña del Abuelo Peuto. Many come and stay there for a few days to rest and recover physically and mentally, some stay longer to volunteer and help out with the household. Ernesto, as a true maintainer of the albergue, has become a father to many young people around the globe and dedicated many of his photography walls to remember his children.
When I came to Güemes I instantly decided to stay two nights for the very same reason like many - to relax my sore leg muscles, write letters and easily meditate at the fireplace. But coincidentally this was the evening when an old friend of Ernesto’s, the painter Maximino Cerezo Barredo, had arrived for a brief visit. He had painted the albergue’s chapel with his interpretation of what pilgriming on the Camino Santiago is all about. So, instead of a calm recap with my thoughts, on the next day I got very lucky to join Ernesto, his current volunteer Rafael and Maximino on their visits around the local churches, to discuss old monumental constructions, architecture and symbolical art behind some of the oldest altars of Cantabria.
While you watch - listen to this wonderful song Pilgrim that was constantly in my earphones that one week.
The wonderful dinner on the first evening with other pilgrims, Ernesto the priest and Maximino the painter. All pilgrims have their stories and a reason to walk. In mid November you only meet a few pilgrims walking the North path. So very often you may even end up dining and breakfasting alone. But as most of them meet up in Güemes it felt like an unexpected cheerful family reunion.
One of the very many photographs that Ernesto has taken on his travels.
Ernesto - a priest with a wonderful sense of humour, father to thousands, inspiration, spiritual guide and an excellent host.
Finding a singing bowl in the chapel, filling the room with vibration. Everyone is impressed and curious what an impact the sound leaves starting on the palm, the arm, the space around.
A book with Ernesto's photographs - Los Últimos Pastores de los Picos de Europa.
Once a week Ernesto and his colleagues organise a charity lunch - everyone taking part at the lunch can donate an affordable amount of money for their meal. The won amount goes to charity projects in Africa that Ernesto is currently working on.
One of the church in construction that we visited.
My only two night sky shots of the trip - the sky was rarely dark enough for star photography.
Ernesto's slide archive of his all around world travel. One can only realise what he has seen in world only after entering his library. Dawn at a morning mass where Ernesto brought us to discus the paintings of Maximino with his community.
It was time to leave Güemes to continue the road. Horses are frequent fellows all along. Following the yellow arrow road as a Dorothy going to Oz.
These relaxed surfer beach captures were the last ones on my camera. I guess from that point on I wanted to enjoy the walking with free hands much more. Nevertheless, other adventurous things happened after - I met a lithuanian pilgrim on a way and we couldn't stop chatting about the world in a bitter sweat lithuanian manner; I turned around to go back to Güemes to meet a new friend and spent the last night after my week of walk where it felt more like home before jumping to the plane to face the same ol' every-day.
There’s something else I’ve been feeling to write about on this last part. Concerning peoples reactions and some questions I got when I told I want to be walking for a week, I want to write some advice for those who are interested to walk on their own.
Time: I’ve heard of people who walk for three months. There is no certain point to start the route - you can start in Norway if you want to. But the infrastructure and rather cheap accommodation will be found on the spanish trails. On the way I actually met a guy who was walking from Italy to Santiago and back again with his dog companion. I chose to walk for a week starting in Bilbao to where ever I get to in this one week (I made around 120km). Some were sceptical to hear of the “only one week” plan, which I find is ridiculous. Some people imagine that the ones who are walking the way are looking (or desperately need to be looking) for some ultimate enlightenment, for which “of course” you have to be walking for weeks and weeks. In my opinion, no matter how long you walk - it is OK. The fact that you actually found time and a little bit of cash for the flight is a good kick off to discover what the way has to offer for you. No matter how long you walk - it brings a certain light to ones mind. It rather depends on the season and the route you choose (never take the main route in August) than the time you are able to dedicate.
Thoughts: At the beginning I was constantly writing imaginative letters to my friends. With every new impression, new hill, another horse on the roadside, smell of a forest or a meadow. After some time, I started having conversations with the universe, admiring her creations and the universal order. I was singing in my mind and quite often out loud for myself. I got into some kind of a calm flow of simple deep happiness. Everything went on in it’s natural way and I took things as they came to me with a simple silent joy. This pretty much was my enlightenment - freedom to move and feel in my comfort zone, travelling along the ocean.
Go Alone: This is very individual. I would advice to try walking alone. I’m sure it’s wonderful to have company. And I’m willing to go with a bigger company some time. But for some who are longing some time off or just to remember her/his own thought flow- this is the ultimate possibility to enjoy some peace of mind and choice. For me it’s a good decision, because my purpose also was to practice photography, which means stopping where ever I want to and for how long I want to, preferably without any bad conscience for someones impatience or time pressure. I used my freedom to experiment with some self portraiture, which was great.
- A good backpack: I got one for small female shoulders and this was one of the greatest investments I have ever made - no shoulder pain AT ALL. I was using the Deuter ACT Lite 45+10 SL pine green.
- Thermo Leggings: I love leggings for every occasion - as pyjamas, for jogging, for a day in the office and anywhere else. So obviously I wanted leggings for trekking because it has to be the most comfortable piece I wear. I got some for 15 € from Decathlon and they were ok. But I’d love to invest into some more qualitative ones with the hope that they could feel more elastic and comfy around my legs and buttocks, maybe with some pockets.
- Merino T-Shirt and Long Sleeve: best investment into a piece of clothing I have ever made. They keep warm when it’s cold, they keep cool when it’s hot, dry fast, don’t stink if you simply air it out. If you sweat a lot you won’t feel cold afterwards (unlike with the synthetic stuff).I got three pieces from the brand Icebreaker and that was enough.
- Shoes: they have to be comfortable and durable. I tried out a pair of Jack Wolfskins and they are fine, I actually like to wear them every day. But they aren’t the best - they’re a bit heavy, yet not as water resist as promised in the product description and in general too bulky.
- Camera: Fuji X-T1 with a Fujinon 18mm f2. Still figuring out though how to optimise the editing process.
All together try packing as little as possible - if you need anything on the way the circumstances usually provide more than enough. Or just contact me for advice.
Here is one very advisable german website that I was using for my almost complete preparation: http://jakobsweg-kuestenweg.com/
Book: Raimund Joos ‘Spanien: Jakobsweg Küstenweg’
Now quite a few weeks past and all I can think about is how and when to get back on the way again. I got hooked.