Category Archives: Self Reflection

My reflection of the Camino Journey

Santiago – end of the pilgrimage

After 44 days (which includes 5 rest days), we concluded our Camino journey today by reaching Santiago. As you may recall our journey began in St. Jean Pied-de-Port on August 14th. After traveling for almost 500 miles (790 km), we arrived this afternoon at the Cathedral in Santiago. We took the most popular route of the many Camino paths, the Camino Frances. Along the way we traveled through 4 major cities (Pamplona, Burgos, Logrono, and Leon). We traveled through various regions beginning with the Basque region of France and Spain and ending in the fertile and moist region of Galicia. We were able to enjoy the grueling climb of the Pyrenees, the flat and heat of the Meseta, and the rain of Galicia.

We went through falls, sprains, blisters, pains, bug bites, cold and sniffles along the way. In the end the Camino made us stronger than we thought we were. Every time any one of us had doubts, the other members gave him strength. If this rag tag team can do it, any one can do it!

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Since we had 20 km to make it to Santiago, we left later than usual after 8 am. While all of us were excited about completing this journey, no one wanted this wonderful journey to end. Our steps were deliberate and slow as if we were trying to relish every moment, every last step.

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Stay tuned for the conclusion… I am unable to upload any pictures so will need to post the rest next time. I guess I am not ready to stop blogging, also!

Mixed emotions…

Our travel today to Pedrouza brings us 20 km from Santiago. Our plan for today was 20km. All this translates into a simple fact. The end is near. Today was a day of relishing all the rituals, joys, pains, and ecstasy that we have enjoyed for last 6 weeks. We started this journey in France exactly 6 weeks ago. Today would be the last full day of travel and the last night in an Albergue. Tomorrow, God willing, we will be in Santiago de Compostela completing a 500 mile journey that has been in the planning for 2 years. So many of you have given us encouragement, good wishes, courage, and prayers. We could not have undertaken a journey of this magnitude without that support. Thank you all.

We started this morning just like many mornings, in the dark. We were out and walking by 6:30 am.

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This was the coldest morning yet. We started by climbing out of the city in mist and fog.

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The route once again was lush and green but this time full of eucalyptus tree and it’s fragrance.

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After a nice breakfast and later a break we continued on, making great progress.

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We gathered again for a relaxing lunch before finishing our walk for the day.

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View of our last Albergue as we settle in.

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Team Camino sends our best birthday wishes to our family and friends. This week we have 4 birthdays. Sanam, Taimour, Irfan, and David Rovner are celebrating their birthday this week. Here is a montage of flowers from today’s hike in their honor.

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Next stop Santiago!!!

Rain in Spain…

Today we were planning to officially enter Galicia by climbing through the most strenuous climb of Camino. Our hike was supposed to be flat for first 5 and last 8 km and the rest was supposed to be a climb.

We left Vega de Valcarce at 6:30. It was an overcast day with slightly warm breeze.

I have attempted to load pictures with no success so far, so this post will have to be narrative with pictures to be added when I have a better connection.

We went through the first two towns fairly quickly as it was still dark. We made out first stop in La Faba after a slight climb at around 7 km. From there we walked up steadily for 5 km for our major climb of the day. At around 10:30 it started to rain and the the wind picked up, and at the time of this writing, neither has stopped.

The view was gorgeous with lush green valleys all around us. Rain and climbing were a constant but those did not dampen our spirits. It was almost a repeat of the ecstasy and agony (previous post).

On the way to the top we were greeted by the welcome sign for Galicia, welcoming us to our 3rd and final phase of the Camino. One awareness I had, as we were climbing in the rain and wind, is that I used to think linearly about these phases. The reality is, we constantly evolve and these phases are more circular.

The town of Ocebrero sits at the top. The next 10 km was supposed to be flat, but the books were misleading! The whole day turned out to be hilly. By afternoon we were dodging puddles and cows along our path having a grand time with pain and pleasure. We have met so many folks who have done Camino multiple times. They all cherish the razor’s edge of beauty coupled with rigorous workout along with the camaraderie as the reason they keep coming back.

After 22.5 km and 343 ( a new record) floors of climbing we are in an Albergue at the alto de poio where there is not much to do but mingle with strangers. We are chatting with an Irish student on one side and a couple from Denmark on the other. Lunch and dinner menus were the same but after the hard day still tasted delicious.

It’s time to sign out for tonight! I will post the pictures from today as soon as I get access to a better connection.

Elegance of Leon

Leon is the fourth major city in our path to Santiago. We loved Pamplona and it’s wild bull. When we made it to Logrono, we fell in love with its life, especially after 8 pm. Burgos was pretentious and loud (especially the Cathedral).

We found Leon to be graceful and elegant. As we entered the city, we were greeted by the river.

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The 13th century gothic cathedral is nothing like the cathedral in Burgos. While the cathedral in Burgos was huge with 23 chapels, the cathedral in Leon was simple. Elegant, and graceful.

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The stained glass inside the cathedral was breathtaking, giving the cathedral a peaceful feeling, leaving us in awe.

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Our hotel was close to the cathedral and afforded this view from one of the windows.

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In the morning after our customary coffee, orange juice, and pastry/croissants , we went on a 45 minute bus tour of the city.

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The tour took us past the cathedral to the first century roman wall, to the basilica, and to plaza San Marcos.

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We then decided to go on a walking tour of Leon.

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11th century San Isidoro basilica church was peaceful.

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The 12th century plaza San Marco Monastery has seen many faces through times. It is now converted to a fancy parador (hotel) but has served as pilgrim hospital, prison , concentration camp, and headquarter for knights of Templars protecting the Camino pilgrims.

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We had stumbled upon the organ playing and singing at the cathedral mass the previous night. The voice was heavenly so we decided to go back to the mass a second night for the beautiful and heavenly voice. At the end as everyone was leaving we were still huddled around this man and he did a virtuoso performance for us the likes of which I have never witnessed. As we have 3 new comers joining us tomorrow for the rest of the Camino, we get to enjoy yet another rest day and may be listening once again a third night to the singing and organ playing.

Feeling of Gratitude

2012-01-14 10.43.04All the work responsibility and loose ends are taken care of as we pack our backpacks for the final time.  I have had a chance to mediate for over an hour the last two days and I feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude toward so many people and the divine.

Usually I take vacation and never think twice about it, but this is the first time in my career that I have taken a two-month vacation.  I have had to structure and organize the teams so that they can operate effectively and successfully without my interference for next two months.  Everyone at work has been so supportive and  gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable about the time off.  I am so grateful to all my co-workers and teams for allowing me this luxury to go on this dream pilgrimage.

I am so grateful to the universe for conspiring to make it possible for me to experience this upcoming journey. I feel so blessed with a wonderful family, great friends, great relatives, wonderful co-workers, a great job and an absolutely wonderful life.  I am not sure I can wish for anything more and am in an state of awe and wonder at how life can be so beautiful and simple if we choose to embrace things as they are presented to us without judgement and bias.

 

The Camino – a journey of the body, nah – of the mind really … actually of the soul!

I have been wondering if everything I have done in my life up until now has been leading up to this adventure. But no, that cant’ be – I doubt there is anything in life (at least not in mine) that can have prepared me for what I am about to undertake – a 12 to 20 mile per day walk for a total of more than 500 miles over 45 days – with no material possessions except what can fit in a small backpack (hopefully no more than 12 lbs). I cannot recall anything that I have done that can have prepared me for this – not even in the past year and a half that I have had the Fitbit to keep track of my steps – I think there was only one single day (in Japan) where I even managed to walk 12 miles. I cannot even imagine walking this distance for so many consecutive days.

Not sure what I am thinking but there is no backing out now. the airline tickets are confirmed and today I even bought some pants and shirts that supposedly will make my walk comfortable- that is, if there is anything that can make walking such distances comfortable – let alone pleasurable – but we will see once we are on the Camino. I am sure there will be surprises, pleasant as well as unpleasant but in undertaking this, we have all agreed to complete surrender to whatever will be – there is really no other way to undertake a journey like this. There is consolation of course – in the bus rides that might be available and tempting – wonder if that will feel like cheating and take away from the glorious feeling of achievement that hopefully will come with completion of this journey.

I remember as a kid when my dad used to make us walk the 10~ miles to Patanga beach in Chittagong and we would be so worn out and unable to take another step and he would say, ‘oh it’s right there – we are almost there. I can even see the ocean’ and we would trudge along – what other choice was there. Years later, this training would help me complete the marathon and I am hopeful will keep me going on the Camino.

I started to read Enayet’s write-up about the camino and he talks about the 3 sections – first with the body, then the mind and then the soul. I think it is funny that my title of this post also refers to the same – I started out thinking this was a challenge for my body, then realized my mind had to be the driver if I was going to make it; but as we get closer, I think ultimately, it will be my soul that benefits – at least that is what I can hope and pray for, the rest will be up to God’s Grace. Since this past weekend, I do already feel detached from my worldly possessions – maybe I am ready for the Camino?