Camino de Santiago

On May 16th, I will begin my Camino--a 500 mile walk that begins in France and crosses northern Spain. Before I leave, I hope that this answers some of the questions you may have about my adventure. While I'm on the road, I hope to occasionally update it with postings and pictures. (Note: I'm not good with technology post-1985, so don't count on seeing any pictures.) As this is a journey for my soul, I may not be as diligent as I could be in updating this blog or in keeping in touch with you while I'm away. My apologies in advance. I hope you, and I, enjoy my journey. Gina

Monday, June 25, 2007

Limping Across Spain

Well, I finally finished my big walk across Spain. (It would be more accurately described as a big limp across Spain.) Along the way I´ve met many incredible people and have had some incredible experiences. I was going to update my blog much more frequently, but I was always too busy popping blisters, drinking wine, or trying to figure out how to get my laundry dry by the next day.

I´ve met fabulous people from all corners of the world.

I wanted to tell you about my German friends, Sylvia, Annette and Annette, who I met on the second day of my walk and they invited me to walk with them until they had to go back to Germany. They were so much fun to travel with. Their backpacks were too heavy, they laughed a lot and they ordered extra wine at dinner. They traveled with expensive eye cream and collapsible wine glasses. I think they were equally amused by my general travel ineptitudes like my inability to button my poncho, why I couldn´t figure out how to stuff my sleeping bag in its stuff sack, my inablity to figure out how to use a calling card to call the United States, or why I chose to bring along white clothing on what was essentially a month-long camping trip. They also informed me that we have been pronouncing "Steimle" incorrectly all of our lives. Using my extensive Spanish skills, I always wanted to translate for them, but they did a much better job communicating with the Spanish in English than I did in Spanish.

One night my other German friend, Maria, and I had dinner with two gentlemen from Japan. We laughed and laughed, and surprise, surprise, we were the loudest ones in the room. For the past few days, people have been telling me, "Oh, Gina, I always know when you´re around, I can hear your laugh." All we need is Sherry Wilson and Arleen over here with me at the same time, and then Europe would be permanently closed to Americans.

For a while, I traveled with a church group from Ireland. They were all very nice and always made sure I was included in all their activities and the rounds of beer they bought. Eventually, they also had to return home (I´m very blessed to be able to have all this time to travel and to complete my Camino in one trip.) The priest they were traveling with, Fernando, almost brought me back to the flock, but miracles are hard to come by these days.

I´ve found on the Camino, it´s a very small world. Last week, I met two girls from Cape Girardeau (Heidi and Johanna Froemsdorf--I went to school with their sister Stephanie) and traveling with them is their friend Katharine who taught Spanish to one of my fríends´daughters in St. Louis. Traveling with the Irish was an American deacon who knows somebody in Jeff City that my sister Patty knows. I´ve also met a Spanish nun who taught for a year in Jennings and lived in Maryland Heights, and on Friday I met another priest from St. Louis. (And for four weeks I´d been saying that very few Americans have heard about the Camino and that I, Gina Steimle, was the only one from Missouri who had heard of it.)

Finally, I wanted to write extensively about how famous my feet are on the Camino--and not because I´ve been going around Spain drinking beer with them. (Yes, I still drink beer with my feet.)I have the most famous blisters in Spain. In the evening, people at the alburgues would always ask me how my feet were doing. If they didn´t know about my bad feet, they would quickly find out when I sat outside to pop my blisters. I can´t say I was too shy about my problems, either. One night at dinner with the entire Irish group and two producers from Hollywood, my blisters somehow came up in conversation, so I pulled my foot out to show everybody my feet. I am just delightful to be around.

I´ve wanted to write about all of this in great detail, but alas, I ran out of time. For more details, you´ll have to read the book. Gina

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My Trip By The Numbers

Days on the Camino: 36

Ponchos: 2

Hats: 3

Walking sticks: 3

Bottles of sunscreen: 3

Amount of red wine consumed: Gallons

Loaves of bread eaten: Ay, ay, ay

Number of times I´ve walked around with my secret hidden money belt showing for all the world to see: 45

Moments of enlightenment: 3

Moments of enlightenment interrupted by worries of getting laundry dry by the next day: 2

Days I´ve walked around with wet socks hanging off the back of my backpack: 30

Pairs of socks worn: 9

Pairs of socks that did not cause blisters: 0

Number of Americans I´ve met on the Camino: 50

Number of Americans I´ve met from Cape Girardeau: 2

Number of Americans I´ve met who know somebody who knows somebody I know (I know that´s horrible gramatically, but I don´t know how else to convey it): 4

Number of times I´ve thought to myself, "Oh, what stinks so bad?" then realized it was me: Several

Number of times I´ve cussed in front of another person: 3--at the most!

Number of times I´ve cussed to myself in my head: Not as many as you would think.

Number of Diet Cokes I´ve drank in Spain: Less than 15

Number of times I´d seen the same Shakira music video in a 2 day period: 5

Number of safety pins used to pop my numerous blisters: 1

Number of days using said safety pin before deciding to sterilize it: 14

Number of conversations which I´ve been actively involved in and have had no idea what was being said: 153

Really old men who´ve tried to kiss me: 2

Hot young men who´ve tried to kiss me: 0

Backpack weight (in kilos): 12 1/2

Backpack weight (in pounds): 26

Miles walked: 437

Pounds of fat burned off of Gina´s body: 1

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Gina Meets El Toro

I´ve now walked over 150 miles and I´m starting to get the hang of the Camino. But on the second day of my walk, I wasn´t so sure . . .

By the start of my second day of walking, I could swear I was the slowest, dumbest pilgrim ever to walk the Camino. Most of the other pilgrims were out of the hostel by 7:30 a.m. Many had left earlier. I wanted to go to 8:30 Mass, since I had missed teh mass with the pilgrims´blessing the night before. (After my first day, I decided I needd all the blessings I could get.) Mass was brief, and there was no blessing, but I felt optimistic about my start. I wasn´t too sore, I had only one blister, and the sun was shining all over Roncesvalles.

I had an easy 2 mile stroll through the woodland paths to the village of Burguette, where I stopped for coffee and toast. There at Burguette, the sun decided to retire for the day, and the rain started to take over. I had already torn my orange poncho trying to get it over my big head the day before, and I knew it wasn´t going to be sturdy enough to keep both me and my backpack dry. (Of course, I had purchased a backpack cover, but left it in St. Louis because I didn´t want to carry the extra weight.)

I, with my fluent Spanish, was able to ask the bartender if he had a backpack cover I could buy. (To say, ¨I need a backpack cover¨ in fluent Spanish is to make the motions of rain with your fingertips, spread your hands across your backpack a few times and cry, ¨Necesito. Necesito.¨ He understood my words, and kindly gave me a blue trashbag to use for my backpack.

Three Korean ladies of around age 60, (Sophia, Josephine and Sunny)arrived at the bar while I was debating whether to plunge into the storm or have a third cup of cafe con leche. Sophia had lived in Brazil for 30 years, and her English was very good. She told me she had walked the Camino six years ago and this year broght along her two friends from Korea. The ladies did not want to walk in the rain. I didn´t want to walk in the rain, either, but I also didn´t want to quit on my second day.

Sophia was much more enterprising than me. (As are most of the people I´ve been meeting on my trip.) The bar had gotten crowded with Spaniards, and she found out they were taking a bus to Zubiri, about 12 miles down the road. She and her friends were going on the bus, and she asked me if I wanted to join them. I moved my backpack to the adjacent gymnasium while I weighed my options.

Finally, I decided to walk, because I knew I wouldn´t melt in the rain, and if I´d given up on my second day, I might as well change my airline ticket and begged and bribed to get my job back.

With my trusty army knife, I made a few cuts in my trashbag backpack cover to fit my arms through the straps. Unfortunately, I didn´t make the cuts big enough and was totally unable to get my left arm through the straps. (I didn´t want to make the holes much larger, because that would have then defeated the purpose of the trashbag backpack cover.)

Josephine, who is about five feet tall and weighs 95 pounds, jumped in and kept trying to twist my left arm out of its socket to get it through the strap. Then a Spanish lady from the town also started to assist in twisting my left arm out of its socket. I then took off the pack and made the holes a little larger, but still not too large. Finally, the three of us managed to get my pack on without twisting my arm out of its socket. I was off.

The terrain started out well enough. For a while, an older Spanish farmer walked with me. We had quite the conversation. I have no idea what we talked about, but I´m sure it was quite the conversation. We parted ways at his barn with a friendly "adios" and I continued on my lonely way.

About a half mile after I left the farmer, I met my match. There, staring at me in my orange poncho was the bull--El Toro. Not safely inside a fence, but just grazing there along the road. Just us--me, and El Toro. Well, acutally, El Toro´s wife, Juanita, his son Junior, his neighbors Diego and Cesar, their wives, and his cousin Ralph Toro from the States. And did I mention there was also me, in my orange poncho carrying a backpack with a blue trash bag covering it?

"Angels, protect me," I prayed as I walked past my bovine friends. I know what those bulls were thinking, "Oh, with that torn orange poncho and blue trash bag covering her backpack, she´s too formidable a match." And the bulls let me pass in peace.

My guidebook advised me to walk to Larrasaña, which was 17 miles from Roncesvalles. I was going to shoot for Zubiri, a mere 14 miles from my starting point, but I knew that even that stop was going to be a struggle after my late start, the mud, and my overstuffed backpack.

After my encounter with El Toro, I found the terrain less friendly. It was downhill with seeminly constant mud. Oh, and there was some uphill, too, which is always nice.

Finally, I reached Viskarette, a one-tavern town with an unfriendly bartender. It was also a one hotel town and a one store town which, being Sunday afternoon, was closed. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon and I decided I shouldn´t walk farther because it was late in the day and path was treacherous, so I booked a room in the one hotel.

Except for the bar with the surly bartender, the town was shut down. I did not have:
--A private bathroom
--A TV set
--A book to read
--A pen to write down my profound thoughts.

The town also did not have a pay phone, internet service or a bank and I was running short on Euros.

Ay, ay, ay!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Still Alive

Hola Amigos!

10 days into my walk, and i´m still alive! (Good for me!) I have lots of stories to tell, and will write soon. I´ve been having problems finding . . . internet, ATMs, public telephones and a good looking Spainiard to massage my feet at the end of the day. Asi es la vida! (Oh, by the way, this blog is hard for me to keep up with because when I sign in, it´s all in Spanish, and my Spanish is worse than anyone thought. Thinking of you. I´ll try to write soon. Gina

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Pyrenees Ain´t no Ozarks

So, I underestimated the Pyrenees a bit. I thought they were similar in altitude to the Ozarks. What did I know? First, let me say, the walk across was absolutely stunning. The smartest thing that I´ve ever perhaps done in my life is paid a service to carry my backpack across the mountains for me to my first stop, Roncevalles, which was about 18 miles away. That was the best 8 euros I´ve ever spent in my life!

To summarize my first day:
--I walked up a mountain
__I saw some horses just grazing on the side of the road--it was cool, they were like wild horses because they weren´t fenced in, but they belonged to someone because you could see their tags
--I kept walking up the moutains
--I saw flocks of sheep grazing on several different occasions
--I walked thru fog
--I kept walking up the mountain
--Saw some cows
--Helped several Europeans practice their English (because of course I didn´t know a word of their languages)
--Made these two nice Dutch ladies who I had met the night before laugh: Thru the fog, all they could see was my orange poncho, so they called me ´Caspar´the orange ghost. Then they said that pèrhaps I was their angel, but really, I think that ´Caspar the orange ghost is more áppropriate.
--Kept walking up mountains
--Walked thru mud
--Started walking down the mountains
--Walked thru a beautiful beech forest
--Walked thru even more mud ( I won´t be able to return my boots now)
--Kept walking
--Arrived Roncevalles around 6 p.m. I was so tired I didn´t even make it to dinner (and we all know that is a first.)
Having fun, Gina

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

24 hours, 35 minutes to departure

In case anyone was worrying that I had given up my procrastinating ways, you can take a deep breath and know that the earth still revolves around the sun and I still wait to the last minute on everything.

I am happy to say that this morning I finally booked a hotel for my night in Paris, so my travel arrangements are looking pretty good. The footwear issue, however, is a different story. I'm still working on that one. I'd like to thank all of the many Von Steimles (you know that outdoorsy, tromp around in the Alps family from the Sierras of Cape Girardeau) for all of their fabulous and contradicting advice about my footwear. A special shout-out to Mom for suggesting I get a pair of those old lady SAS shoes. I think that would make quite the fashion statement on the Camino.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for your prayers and help and advice and presents. It has been greatly appreciated.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Ay, Ay, Ay!

"Ay, ay, ay!" I'll be leaving in less than 10 days and I have so much to do. I did manage to finally get a backpack I'm happy with today. It's nice and big and pretty and expensive and it should fit everything I'm taking along. If not, I'm going to have to leave stuff behind. As most of you know, I'm a packrat and one of the many challenges I will face on this trip is learning to do with less stuff. When I finish the Camino, I hope to be able to come home and finally clean out that basement.

My zapatos , alas, are a different story. I bought a pair of hiking boots last week and I'm not so sure they're the perfect fit. I want them to feel like butter, but they don't. I'll make one more trip to the store to try on boots, and if I don't find what I want, then I will make do with what I have already purchased and go on a mad dash to break in the boots.

Does anyone want to go hiking with me this week? If so, let me know.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Welcome to my blog

I've threatened to do a blog about my trip, and here it is. I've got about 329 things I must do before I leave on my trip, but instead, I'm wasting time with this blog. This is much more fun. If you're really bored, you can click on the pictures on the left-hand side of the page. These are videos created by people with even more time on their hands than I have. The top one is in Spanish (and of course after studying Spanish for one year, I have absloutely no idea what anyone is saying; the second one is a brief, factual presentation on the Camino--it takes about two minutes to watch and gives a good overview of my trip; the third one is inspirational sayings; and the fourth one appears to be be someone's pictures put to music. Enjoy.