Postcard from Santa Domingo Spain

camino de Santiago trail

Finishing up the first 90 miles

I am so happy to not be walking today. This body has made it 90 miles in 6 days through rain, wind, mud, hail, and heat – I deserve a break. My Camino de Santiago journey is in full swing – however, my body still seems to be rebelling against the idea.

As you recall, I started this 450 mile journey knowing very little about what to expect and with very little preparation, but in 6 days I have learned a lot. I have learned what NOT to do with blisters (through my own trial and error unfortunately!), how to find my way on the trail, how to find lodging and food, how to know when I need a break, how to stay (somewhat) dry, and how to maintain a positive attitude when you feel like you can’t go any further. Rayo Travel has been a huge cheerleader for me contacting me daily and assisting me with anything they can. I’ve been utilizing their iphone application to find lodging, food, and pharmacies on the way as well as stay connected online. In addition, the wonderful men at JacoTrans who are transporting my luggage daily have been a God send. Showing up and having access to my bag and clean dry things at the end of a day is wonderful. Plus – lessening the weight of what is on my back is essential. I have an amazing team behind me!

arrow

To follow the trail, you simply follow the arrows...they are everywhere...

camino marker

Or you can follow the scallop shell markers through the towns which point you in the direction to Santiago.

arrow

Arrow made of rocks by a pilgrim

camino marker

Sometimes you get arrows and scallop shells at the same time!

camino marker

Scallop markers lead me through Estella

I won’t lie; it has been a struggle for me on a grand scale. As a pilgrim walking the trail in essence you are really stripped of your normal life accouterments and your life is simplified on a grand scale. I consider this a type of hard reboot of life– as if you were a computer humming along with a myriad of applications open and running and someone suddenly pulls the plug. Boom – darkness. Start over. Food becomes simplified and suddenly you get great joy out of eating tuna out of a tin can with bread. A shower is pure bliss and having a bed to lie down in is a whole new type of high.

This first week I have spent dreaming about all of the great gear that is perfect for this type of journey and thinking about how it is all sitting back in my storage unit in NYC. I have been walking in trail running shoes, which are ok for about 75% of the time. But the 25% through rain and mud leaves me dreaming of my hiking boots in storage.

Walking Progress

I’ve gone 90 miles in 6 days leaving from Pamplona. I shocked my body by climbing over Alto de Perdon (a historic high pass) the first day and if that wasn’t hard enough Mother Nature decided to throw hail down upon us and kick up the wind as we climbed. Gail force winds joined me the next day but luckily they were at my back most of the day pushing me along. I walked through fields and fields of green wheat grass that would blow as if it were a giant wave in the ocean – a mesmerizing sight. The following days provided a little sunshine and then a lot of rain. I realized the challenges of walking the Camino trail in running shoes as opposed to my hiking boots as the water soaked through. But – you make the best of what you have and keep going – with plastic bags on my feet! The rain left rivers of mud as an obstacle for the next day. The mud was caked on my shoes and I slipped along slowly trying not to lose a shoe. After two 20 mile days in a row in tough weather and trail conditions, my body was screaming for a rest in Santa Domingo and I happily obliged.

It feels as if my physical body and mind are no longer working together, instead they are struggling against each other in a battle of the wills. It’s as if they’ve gone through a messy breakup and are trying to sabotage each other in a myriad of ways.

yellow flowers

Flowers along the trail

camino towns

It never fails - the towns are always build on a hill it seems! So that means we have to go up and over!

tree line

It's not easy being green...views from the trail

 

Physical Hurdles

My body just aches. I walk gingerly and often find odd noises coming out of my mouth as I try to move through the aches and pains. It’s worse than when I used to run marathons as there’s no end in sight. My heels are screaming for me to stop – they have formed two big blisters on them in an attempt to try to convince my mind to stop. My mind isn’t listening though – it just keeps putting Band-Aids on the blisters and keeps going. I’ve actually developed a number of blisters and have to sit and try to treat them in the lovely process of popping, draining, and disinfecting them – a nightly ritual. If you want to actually see the blisters you can view them on my Facebook page – I’ve named them Jack and Jill.

Beyond the blisters my heels are just absolutely sore. My knee was screaming in pain for the first couple of days, but with better stretching of my calf and hamstring it has seemed to fall into line for a little while. I’m sure I will hear from it again though. On day 3 my shoulders and back decided to make itself known to me and started screaming at the weight I was carrying. I tried to tell them that it could be worse if it wasn’t for JacoTrans transporting my other bag and then I satiated their hurt feelings with Tiger Balm. Yes, I’m back to using Tiger Balm and you can smell me coming down the trail. As a final blow, in the evenings my rash on my legs flares up caused from the constant friction burn from my walking pants – joy. I think my most visited shop is the pharmacy.

storm fence

Another stormy day ahead

church silouhette

The church in Los Arcos as I was leaving that morning

windmill

Walking past farmland

Mental Hurdles

The one thing to realize about such a physical, long distance challenge is that it’s 50% physical and 50% mental. Your mind will get you through many hardships and the mind is the most powerful and integral muscle in your body. My mind has been stretched to the limits and it has surrendered to the trail. It tells my achy limbs to keep going no matter what, and it provides me with lucid thoughts to get me through the times where I want to just give up.

My mind’s natural tendency is to worry. Worry about everything – my shoes, my feet, my knee, my gear, my lodging, my food, my lack of understanding of Spanish, my lack of training, and of course about what is ahead of me. But after 6 days it’s getting closer to kicking into ‘present’ mode – the mode where it just deals with the moment and doesn’t project. This is a good place to be. It simply knows that it has to keep me walking right now, right here.

wood pile

A wood puzzle along the trail

camino

Dark skies keep me moving fast!

camino trail

Surrounded by flowers and olives!

Social Joys

The beauty of the Camino is the variety of amazing people you meet along the journey and in 6 days I’ve made friendships which I know will last my lifetime. I’ve heard stories that have made me cry, gasp, and laugh. People are walking this journey for a number of reasons and no two seem to be alike. I love meeting/seeing people, checking in for a few miles, and then knowing that you will see them again sometime in a few days.  However a day doesn’t go by where I don’t wish I had brought my father to do this with me.  He would have loved it and I’m already plotting in my head how I can bring him ‘next time’.

I met a beautiful Spanish family (mother/father/daughters/son-in-law) from Madrid who are walking together for a week and doing the whole Camino trail in sections as family vacations. And it was a lovely German man, Manfred, who helped me treat my blisters and Sabina (Danish) and Larry (American) who brought my spirits up when I needed it most one night. Sue from San Diego has inspired me with her story and I look forward to seeing her along the trail every day to see how she’s doing.

Katherine (left) and the whole Spanish family enjoying a well deserved dinner in Santa Domingo

But it is one person who has lifted me up and got me through this week – Katherine from the UK. This is her 2nd Camino journey and her wisdom and humor is worth more than gold bars to me. We briefly met the first day I walked and then came back together on Day 4 and have been walking partners ever since. We have bonded in this journey and I wonder if I could have got this far without her support. Sometimes friendships just click and an immediate rapport is achieved – I feel like we’ve known each other for years, but it’s only been a couple of days. We take care of each other when we need it – and I am thankful that she was sent my way.

Tomorrow I walk on…and on and on. I wonder what and who this week will bring!

You can follow along in ‘real time’ on my Facebook page – OttsworldTravel

Please leave comments and questions as your support as I walk is greatly appreciated and just knowing people are out there following me keeps me going!

View my first week photography on the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage:

Your Comments

25 Comments so far

  1. It sounds as difficult as I thought it would be. It looks as beautiful as I had imagined it would. What a worthwhile way to spend time. Good luck!

  2. Backpackingteacher says:

    Bon Camino Sherry …it is all worth it. Wish I were back on the Camino.
    The first section’s always physical, the next will be mental ….the last is when you get to fly…. Enjoy the flying, it’s a special way of being.

    • Sherry says:

      So great to hear from you. I want you to know that it is you who introduced me to this craziness…so thanks…I guess!
      How are you doing – where are you – give me an update!

  3. Rebecca says:

    Fantastic photos. Are all these photos taken with that new camera who wrote about?

  4. Catherine says:

    this is truly a spiritual journey you’re on – what an inspiration you are. The photos are amazing and your comments and insights are priceless. Thank you for doing this.

  5. I’m loving keeping up with your journey on Facebook. It’s a wonderful reminder of this amazing world we live in and how theres so much more out there.
    Sending you good thoughts on your journey!

  6. Nic Freeman says:

    Thanks so much for sharing Sherry. It sounds like the journey is both hard and rewarding. I can’t wait to begin but also feel a bubbling nervousness. As you said, it’s 50/50 mental and physical. Usually it’s the mental that gets me through, so I’m hoping that will be the case on the pilgrim trail. Your story and fb updates are inspiring. Hope you had a great rest day. Happy walking. Nic

  7. Dalene says:

    So, so, amazingly impressive. Pete and I have been dreaming about this for awhile now (I’m one year over an achilles tear so could just begin to think about it), but you are setting an incredible pace.

    And your pictures!! Wow.

    • Sherry says:

      Thanks Dalene! It’s been a blistering pace alright…all pun intended on that. My rest day went fast today in front of a computer…off again tomorrow for another 24 k…what an adventure!

  8. Alison says:

    Congratulations on doing this, I’ll definitely be checking back here to see how you get on. I’ve been fascinated with the Camino ever since watching the film, The Way. I’d love to take on the challenge someday. Your pics are great and the people you have met have friendly faces!

  9. Katie says:

    This sounds miserable, yet magnificent at the same time. It’s now on my list of things to do someday. :)

  10. Sherry,
    Be proud of yourself. You are a true JourneyWoman and I think you are absolutely fabulous (there’s a book in this experience – are you doing any voice recording to help you remember?).
    xox
    Evelyn

    • Sherry says:

      Thanks Evelyn! No – I haven’t been doing much recording of anything yet…my thoughts are as jumbled as my muscles at this point! But you make a very good point…I need to start taking better notes. Maybe it will keep my mind off of the blisters! Thanks for your support as always!

  11. Tina Herald says:

    I’ve always wanted to walk this pilgrimage but hadn’t thought about it for a while. Then just recently I saw the movie “The Way” so I became newly enthralled. Then I found out you were walking. The photos are fantastic. I have millions of questions about how you’re going about taking & uploading photos & what’s the best way to go about planning ‘the walk’ so I’m really enjoying your posts.

  12. Crystal says:

    Oh MAN, those blisters sound awful! Have you tried just covering em w/ duct tape? I’ve found that works better than everything else (moleskine, band aids, etc) I’ve tried. Surprisingly, I find it even works well (and non painfully!) with open blisters – I feared the duct tape adhesive on an open sore, but the serous goo sticks to the tape and the whole thing detaches easily once you’re in the shower.

    Wishing you strength and peace. (PS: OMG Gorgeous shot of the 2 green fields and the tree, WOW!)

    Looking forward to gear review – I’m considering a long walking trip of my own…

    All the best,
    Crystal

  13. Steve says:

    Keep on going. This will inspire me to undertake the walk.

  14. Sherry! Glad to hear you got a rest day in Santo Domingo…it’s my favorite town on the Camino…well, one of my favorites anyways!

    When you get to another big town (Burgos) try to find some Mefix tape for your blisters. Put it on your feet when you feel a hotspot…it will reduce the friction and it’s not as sticky as duct tape. Compeed is also nice but can get rather expensive and is quite sticky.

    Also, Burgos will have an outfitter shop like Decathalon or a Cortes Ingles if you feel you need better shoes…perhaps something waterproof? Spain has been unseasonably rainy this year on the Camino. I walked two years ago and it snowed in the middle of May at Cruz del Ferro…so be prepared!

    Enjoying reading your updates. Hang in there and remember to walk your own walk…slow down if you need to! It’s not a race.

  15. James Abroad says:

    Awesome pictures! You’ve got some excellent photography skills. Santa Domingo looks beautiful.

  16. Annie says:

    GORGEOUS PHOTOS.

    congrats on the accomplishment. Trekking is no joke!

  17. Sandra Kennedy says:

    I love reading about your journey! You are inspiring me and plenty of others to reach out beyond their comfort zone to follow their dreams. Your writing is truthful and beautiful. Your photos are excellent. Two friends of mine are planning to walk the Camino de Santiago in October. Buen Camino!

  18. Carmel says:

    I just found your blog and am so excited to follow your journey on the Camino. It’s a lifelong dream of mine that I hope to accomplish when my husband and I travel in 2013-14. Buen Camino to you!

  19. Dottie says:

    Hi Sherry. It is my understanding that many folks experience horrible diarrhea. Can you tell us if this has been your experience on this journey? Do you have fresh water? Would it be a good idea for all of us to send you supples?

    I’d be willing to accept donations from everyone and send you supplies. We’re all so proud!!!

    Mrs. Dottie


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