Bill’s Blog Journal

Vairao to Barcelinhos

Today’s route is one that is considered a detour from the original Central route. It was created to take people away from their busier more dangerous highway walking route. Scenery and walking we’re both a big improvement with many of the paths leading through farmland and forest groves of eucalyptus. (The eucalyptus sounds lovely but they are not native and are very invasive, causing many problems. Many environmental problems, add to fire danger, and I noticed is that their root systems are pushing over many of the ancient stone walls.)

I will post a few pictures of farmland and of churches. They may all look the alike after a few dozen. Once again most of the local churches were closed. So I lit a candle at one of the many roadside shrines for all who are on my prayer list. However, in Barcelinhos many were open. I was able to visit and pray in three as I wandered around town

Below are a few of the lovely surprises I encountered on todays route which made me smile. A family offer water for the peregrinos and a rest area with shoe planters and free fruit! Best orange I’ve ever eaten 😎

Some random pilgrim offerings..

Today- 7:45 start arrived 3:30 to find my reservation had been lost and there was no room available. The Italians arrived as I was leaving having had better luck with their reservation. I was sent to a hostel which was more central, next to the River, and was empty. I was the sole occupant for the night! That Tapas restaurant next door was wonderful offering a very different but delicious pilgrims menu. Total for the day 16.9 miles.

Barcelos a 14th century walled city across the river offered some interesting sights. It seems they share the same miracle as in Spain. A roasted rooster coming to life on the dinner table to save a wrongly convicted young man.

I really enjoyed all the flowers and gardens I saw today. Some, especially the Bird of Paradise remind me of Madeira.

Selfies du jour. one of the Italians, Heather presented me with a cutting of Heather from along the paths. Both were soon lost..

Day 1 Porto to Vairao

I was very grateful to wake up in the correct time zone this morning. And to be in time for the wonderful breakfast presented by the hotel starting @ 6 AM. The young man who works nights does all the baking which included a variety of fresh croissants and other goodies. They even had a machine that makes and bakes pancakes on demand. I was his first customer for the day but it was filling quickly as I left.

I was on the road about 7:15 just as the day was beginning to brighten. Once I picked up the yellow arrow markers navigation was straight forward. The “trail” today was all sidewalk and streets, many of which were cobblestone.

I stopped for lunch at a very local restaurant where no one spoke a word of English. They only had two choices for their lunch special, fish or meat. I had the meat option which turned out to be a mixed grille, with dessert, drink & coffee 6.50 euros.

I may have been a bit slower after lunch. Plus endless cobblestone roads I had share with cars & trucks. Through slums, ugly developments, and some nicely remodeled homes attached to another about yo fall down. It was not until the last hour or two did the scenery begin to improve.

Of course there were usual quota of churches en route. All closed! Including a monastery which has a relic from Christs Cross.

I met my first pilgrims of the day about 1 kilometer from my destination. They were a lovely trio, a man and 2 women from Italy. He is an air force pilot about to retire, walking with his fiancé and her friend. Was sorry to part company so quickly. Hopefully I’ll run into them tomorrow.

Earlier in the afternoon I decided I needed to protect my neck & ears from the sun. I sat down at a bus stop to slit an OI buff and attached it to my camouflage Top Gun hat, which I got at the 50th anniversary celebration. A local woman waiting for the bus communicated that I did a good job and wished me a good Camino. She made my day. It is interesting how we can still be understood without language.

Staying in a large albergue which was originally a monastery founded before Portugal was a country. Only one other guest, a woman from North Dakota. We dined together at a local restaurant and had a dinner very similar to my lunch. It was great to have company and exchange Camino stories. She has walk many. Plus she had once built her own labyrinth!

I have a nice room with a lovely view. It is the end of a long day 7:15-4:00 15 miles. Good night.

Camino Porto…

My travel to Portugal was not my best planned trip ever. First the train to Grand Central, bus running to JFK not running so an expensive Uber, plane to Paris then Lisbon, a 3 hour train to Porto lastly a long walk to the hotel. Not far from the train station I got my first “Buen Camino “, nice feeling.

Slept 15 hrs 💤 (my room looks like a hostel, 4 beds plus a trundle and 2 showers! I should have rented the extra beds.

I arrived to sad news that fellow pilgrim Phil Volker had gone to his final Camino 🙏. I will carry with me not sadness but his inspiration. ( to learn about him check out the documentary- Phils Camino so far so good)

Today started at noon with breakfast at a cafe nearby and a few errands. I intended to take is easy but nevertheless walk more than 5 miles.

I walked to the cathedral this afternoon where I received the 1st stamp in my pilgrim’s passport officially beginning my pilgrimage.

I followed the arrows cross town for about 2 miles, so I won’t have to retrace my steps tomorrow. I’ll start from my hotel and rejoin where I left off today. I had forgotten how hilly it is and how the streets zig & zag making it a real challenge to find and follow the markings.

The after was warm and sunny making this short hike a workout even without my backpack. However it is such a wonderful city to explore and the arrows guided me to new parts of town and, of course, past many churches. Many of the churches in town seem to charge for entry so I only visited the inside of the cathedral.

By the end of todays walking I began to feel the internal transition from tourist to pilgrim. Many emotions surfaced once again as body and soul begin to communicate, the physical and the spiritual which is what pilgrimage is all about.

Had to take a coffee break at Starbucks, only because it is the only place you can actually get a whole cup of coffee. Not just a shot of expresso. But they did have very good pastel de nata.

Followed this up with an early dinner at a nearby restaurant which only served pig. I enjoyed a perfectly cooked pork loin and salad.

Of course I grabbed a little gelato on the way back to the hotel. Looking forward to heading out tomorrow and praying that I wake up on the right schedule.

Leaving on a Jet Plane….

(I am reposting this because it did not load correctly due to bad wifi at the airport yesterday.)

On board so there is no turning back now. Seems like years since I was last on a train or plane. So much has changed for better or worse. I’m going to try to focus on discovering the positive changes in the world.

This year’s pilgrimage may be a more relaxed pace than my last. I have already decided to take an early detour to visit the city of Braga. This is literally the religious capital of Portugal but not on the Camino route. So I’ll take a bus and visit for one overnight. It promises to be an interesting visit.

I’ve gotten cross eyed from reading the tiny print in my guidebook. So I think it’s time to once again “ say yes to the universe “ and just see where my feet take me. My original plan has been to walk north from Porto Portugal to Santiago de Compostela Spain and then west to Finnesterra and the Atlantic Ocean. This will be roughly two weeks. I would like to walk at least two more weeks but do not have a firm idea of what trail(s) I may follow. There are many wonderful possibilities.

I am happy to have it weigh in at my target weight of 18 lbs. I’ve made reservations for the first couple of days to ensure accommodations, as many places are closed due to Covid, plus it is the end of the season and some are closing soon.

Thank you again to all who have donated to the fundraiser I have running on Facebook to benefit the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation. The response has been amazing and I haven’t even begun my pilgrimage. I will be keeping the fundraiser live until Thanksgiving do there is plenty of time for others to join in.

Once again I will be keeping a prayer book with names I will pray for on my way to Santiago de Compostela. If you or someone you know could use an extra prayer please send the name and I will add it to my book. 🙏

Days counting down…7,6,5…

As the final week before departure draws near there are so many thoughts racing through my mind. The todo list, packing list, logistics of travel all complicated by Covid. Vaccination document, getting an EU QR code, testing before departure, upon arrival. Then the need to make reservations a day or two in advance at many hotels, etc. Many are closed or reduced capacity and not all the online guides are up to date. All making this a very different pilgrimage from the one 4 years ago where I did not make one advance reservation.

I have started questioning myself, allowing little bits of doubt & fear creep into my thoughts. I have to remind myself to stay in the present. There is a saying “that the Camino will provide”. I certainly found that to be true in the past so I will do my best to have faith and trust in the future.

Also remembering that I have committed myself and dedicated this pilgrimage to raising money for the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation is keeping me back on track. I have been uplifted by the generosity of friends & family who have in just 3 days reached 50% of the initial goal! This was based on the total we raised on my first Camino. I will be keeping the Facebook campaign open until I return at the end on November. I know that my beautiful poster girl Charlotte has touched many hearts.

I’m sorry that I cannot host a get together of friends before I leave. Please know you will all be with me in spirit. As I did last time I will take along a prayer book listing names I want to pray for. I stop at almost every open church’s along the route to light a candle a say a few prayers. If you would like to add a name yo my list please let me know. 🙏

All for now. I have to get back to packing…

Support OI Foundation

Once again I have decided to dedicate my Camino pilgrimage to supporting the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation and the work they do helping people born with Brittle Bones. This is dear to me because my nephew, Eric, has OI. His daughter Charlotte has agreed to be my poster girl for this campaign has it as well.

Charlotte has has benefited from the research into the cause and treatment of OI. As a result she is able to walk. She has the most remarkable personality. Not only is she a very happy girl, she is very funny. She has been making jokes since she could first talk.

I am sure to add to the story in the coming weeks.

I am going to do all the fundraising this time through Facebook. I was pleased to learn that do not take a percentage. It will run from now through Thanksgiving. I appreciate your support.

A New Beginning…

I just completed a “bucket list” hike with my friend Steve. His blog had inspired me, 4 years ago, to hike the Camino de Santiago. Earlier this year I suggested that we hike Mt Washington via the Tuckerman’s Ravine trail and he agreed. The day we chose in mid-September was glorious and we were very grateful. We agreed that it was the most challenging hike we had ever done. I can’t imagine what it would have been like had we encountered some of the severe weather Mt Washington is famous for.

I stayed with Steve & Dianne at a beautiful lakefront house not far from Wolfsboro. They went off to explore town and I elected to stay home in order to gather my thoughts about what lays ahead for my life. Perched on the boat dock in the sun and listening to the sound of the gentle waves just the peaceful setting I need.

I have recently been thinking a lot about doing another Camino, this time from Portugal. The past 18 months have been challenging and frustrating. Not being able to make plans and set goals has led to bouts of depression etc. The Tuckerman’s hike is helping to solidify my thinking. Or perhaps it was wearing my Camino backpack. I will, of course, keep an eye on the Covid situation and hopefully get a booster shot.

I checked my frequent flyer account and discovered I had enough for a free round trip to Lisbon. So I’ve booked flights for 10/10-11/21. My initial plan is hike for 4-5 weeks then find a cheap Airbnb in southern Portugal for a couple of weeks. The latter had been my plan in 2017 at the end of that Camino. However, as many of you know, instead I flew off the the Netherlands following my heart. I will just see where the Camino leads and do my best to remain open ans Say Yes to the Universe.

I will once again get to celebrate my birthday on the Camino. Last time it was the day I reached Crux de Ferro. That evening I stayed at a guest house in the next twin were wonderful couple made dinner for me🙏🎂. Where will i celebrate this time?

I would like to, once again, use my pilgrimage as a vehicle to raise funds for Osteogenesis Imperfecta. I will announce how this will work as soon as I figure it all out. Likely i will set up a link to donate via Facebook. I am very happy to report that my nephews daughter Charlotte is going well due to all the advances which have been made through O/I research. He and Janine are expecting daughter # 3, Helen, about the time I will depart for Portugal.

I am grateful to all my friends and family for their support and am very blessed with the good health to attempt another pilgrimage. 🙏💕🙏👣

Where does joy go?

Does sadness push its way in so slowly we don’t notice until it’s flooded our soul or does joy move away leaving room for the sadness?

I’m not sure I really want an answer. I only know that I miss the joy. Just as it’s arrival took me by surprise it’s absence has left me gasping. Not knowing if is has left forever or temporarily only adds weight to the sadness.

The horizon of the future is shrouded in doubt.

Trusting requires practice & patience…