Two New Hampshire girls hike the 500-mile Camino de Santiago to raise money for women around the world.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

SJPP to Santiago, Misc. Comments and Reflections, Part Two of Two. April 23, 2013

Seagulls. Haven't seen them since we left the States. Now here they are, in Santiago. The ocean beckons.

For me, Finisterre is the true end of the Camino. The Way was a pagan route before it became a Christian one. The original pilgrimage went all the way to the ocean, into a land that was once known as the end of the world. Pre-Roman peoples walked to what they thought was the last habitable piece of land in the west to worship the sun gods and watch the fiery orb disappear into the immensity of the sea. Those Camino shells now associated with St. James were once associated with the goddess Aphrodite. As with most Christian traditions, the Camino has pagan roots, so I'd like to follow this long walk all the way to its original end.

We went back into the Cathedral today; I wanted another look at the golden coffin that supposedly holds the the remains of St. James. I didn't feel anything profound the first time around, but I had just consumed a half bottle of wine that afternoon. I had only coffee in my system this morning when we stepped into the lower chambers. The girls and I stood and looked at the holy relic for a few minutes, but I still felt less than awed. I was, however, touched by the awe of others. There were many practicing Catholics milling about, and the vision of St. James' supposed remains obviously meant something special to them.

I'll answer two more questions I recently received, then I'll wax slightly (and briefly) poetic on four personal issues.

Answer number one, regarding water - there are many fountains along the way. No need to treat or filter the agua, it's safe to drink. Every once in a while, you'll see a water source with a sign saying "non potable" or "non sanitario." If you see that sign, then don't drink from that particular source. The vast majority of the time, however, you're good to go.

Answer number two, regarding accommodations - if you can, stay in a variety of places. Don't avoid the albergues - the albergues (especially the donativos run by the local parishes) are where you'll meet and have communal dinners with wonderful pilgrims from all around the world. Stay in Granon, Tosantos, and San Bol if possible. Don't avoid the hotels, either - you'll want the privacy and sound sleep from time to time. We're happy we did a mixture of everything. Also, we never booked ahead, since at this time of year albergues are rarely full. We just showed up and wandered into wherever we wanted to stay.

On to the four personal things...since is is a blog, I'll keep it short.

One - It's important for girls to see women getting out there with their daughters. Just this morning, an Australian woman expressed surprise that I had taken the girls on the Camino by myself. Yes, Hugh was with us for half our journey, but the idea, planning, training regimine, purchase of all gear and clothing, 90 percent of the fundraising for the charities, and the start-to-finish details were done by me and the girls. We are glad Hugh was able to be with us as much as he was, but this was primarily a mother-daughters expedition, just as our highpointing and NH mountain hiking has been and continues to be a mother-daughters thang. I write this out because it has been made clear to me by countless messages and emails that our mother-daughters trip reports are providing inspiration and encouragement for other mothers and young girls. Father-son outdoor adventure tales are commonplace (as are human-canine outdoor blogs). Mother-daughter outdoor adventure blogs/stories, on the other hand, are rare (outside of, practically nonexistent?). We need more mom-young daughter hiking/mountain climbing/outdoor adventure blogs and books. I'm getting tired of people expressing surprise when I tell them I take my daughters mountain hiking in all seasons without (gasp) a man. The attitudes are a constant reminder that we still very much live in a patriarchal society. I'd like that to ladies, get out there with your girls and write about your adventures.

Two - I was not a Christian when I started this journey and I am not a Christian now. I thought I might feel my childhood belief system tugging at my soul when we entered Santiago,, that didn't happen. If anything, I now feel a stronger aversion to Christian paintings and relics. I've seen one too many statues of a white guy on a horse trampling Arabs, and Alex and Sage have been slightly traumatized by the vivid crucifixion paintings. Fear, prejudice, and guilt, anyone..? Not for me, thanks, and not for my daughters. I know there are Christians out there reading this blog and I know your religion means far more to you than what I've just described. I respect that. However, the paintings and statues along the Camino depicting Jesus and St. James are often bloody and horrific, and they do nothing to inspire a desire to convert.

Three - My left leg...the one with the extensive, old blood clot, the one the doctors thought was clotting up again just before we left for St. Jean Pied de Port...that leg has not bothered me at all. Not once has it swelled, not once has it ached. I have circulation issues with that leg, but it handled the Camino like a leg with normal veins. I suspect this has a lot to do with my right leg, which was probably overcompensating for the right leg ached often...badly at times. Yet the right one is the healthy one and the left one has circulation issues.

Four - My perspective on life has recently changed dramatically, but not because of the Camino. I thought I had a serious and likely fatal condition just before we left the States. I spent a week thinking I was possibly in my last few months of life before a second medical test cleared me of the original diagnosis. During that time, I learned that I am not afraid of death...and that nothing really matters. Ego, fame, fortune, gossip, money problems...none of it matters. We are here for such a short amount of time. We need to make the most of that time with the other living creatures who are also here on this planet at this particular point in time before we all disappear into the night from whence we came. There is no need to worry, hurry, or fret. Just don't waste your precious time with toxic people, do the best you can with what you have, and love as best as you're able. I won't go on and on lest the reader feel she's accidentally stumbled onto some New Age mumbo-jumbo blog...the above is simply the way I see things now, and that's a radical change from the way I saw things before.

We leave Santiago tomorrow morning; four days 'til Finisterre.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


MadRiver (Princess) said...

Well done ladies! I cannot wait for you tales around the campfire this summer!!

Jake said...

Congrats on Making it to Santiago! You'll be back home in time for Monorail season ;)

I have read a lot of these posts and many many of the NH48 and Terrifying 25 posts on the other blog. Hopefully, I can meet you guys out on the T25 trails some day.

I actually met Hugh once in MA climbing before I knew his story and was inspired. It is great that you, Sage and Alex are inspiring people in your own way. (reading the trip reports of them kicking butt on the NH48's is pretty motivating)

Enjoy your last few days to the shore. Maybe you can find 'The Restaurant at the End of the Universe'


Anonymous said...

I loved reading this post! You are a remarkable human being, courageous and a very wise and devoted mother. Sage and Alex will grow into women just as wise and courageous as their mother. I look forward to the rest of your journey. I'll be there in May 2014. Buen Camino..Patty

Greta said...

I love your comments about the importance of mothers hiking with their daughters, or in my case, daughter and sons.
I have 4 kids and hike with them weekly.
We do the majority of our hikes without my husband because we like to hike during the week when the trails are not crowded and he works during the week.
We often hike with other moms and their kids.
It is one of my goals to show my kids that the 4 of us, a woman and 4 small kids, can do any hike, and take on any adventure that comes our way.
Our gender, size, and ages don't matter.
On nearly every hike we do, we encounter other adult hikers who are surprised by us.
They can't believe I am out hiking with my little kids, and that my little kids can do the hikes.
It's always nice to show them we can!
I chronicle most of our hikes on my blog.
I don't get to blog regularly, I have 4 kids ages 8-2 and home school them so I don't have lots of spare time.
But I try to get the hikes in as often as I can on the blog.
You can feel free to take a look here:

I have loved reading about your journey, have ordered your book, and am very inspired to begin longer hikes with my kids and one day take on the Camino, the Alps, or the John Muir trail with my kids.
Or maybe all 3!
Happy Trails!

Anonymous said...

Patricia, Alex and Sage:

Congratulations, on a Camino well done! I so love the honesty in your comments. I live in Florida and the big children's rite of passage seems to be Disney World. You and your children lived the reality of the wonders of the world, not the fantasy. Thank you for being such guiding stars.

I am doing the camino in 2015, so thank you for the inspiration.


Patricia Ellis Herr, Alexandra Herr, and Sage Herr said...


Thank you so much for your comment and for posting your blog link. I apologize for my late response; I wanted to get home and peruse your posts before I responded.

I love your blog -- especially the recent one about wanting a clean house. I feel better about...well...everything when my hosue is clean. It's not clean very often, unfortunately, but we do what we can. I'm with you -- clutter and mess just plain get to me. There's nothing wrong with instilling a sense of order into the home.

I applaud your chutzpah and your energy -- absolutely yes, boys need to see their moms leading the way outside and into the unknown. You sound like a fantastic mother and you are creating memories for your children that they will forever cherish. You're also empowering your daughter and showing your boys that women as well as men can get out there and explore. You don't need me to tell you that, of course, but I wanted to give you my personal "Kudos!" regardless. :)

It's also nice to virtually meet another homeschooling mom. I totally get not having much time for anything -- homeschooling and hands-on mothering are both 24/7 jobs.

Thanks for ordering UP -- I hope you enjoy it. Perhaps my kids and your kids will meet on a trail one day. :)

Best Wishes,

Patricia Ellis Herr, Alexandra Herr, and Sage Herr said...

Jake, thanks for the congrats! We're thrilled you're doing the T25! We plan on chasing that list as soon as the snow finally melts (no more monorail for us!).

Patty -- thank you! Only one more year to go and you'll be following those yellow arrows too! I'm very happy for you, and I'm glad my blog was of use. I wish you a hearty Buen Camino.

Alder, thank you for your kind comments -- and I'm happy you're doing the Camino in two years! You're going to have a fantastic time! Let me know if you keep an online journal, I'd love to follow your adventures.