Camino Graffiti: Walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, Spain

the tired pilgrim, Camino Murals, Cardenuela Riopico Spain.

the tired pilgrim, Camino Murals, Cardenuela Riopico Spain. 

One year ago we were preparing to leave for Spain, and to walk the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. While I had read plenty of books, researched websites, and checked out the images on sites like Flickr, there was nothing that really prepared us for the journey.

Walking and training at home a couple of hours in the evening, or 4 or 5 hours one day on the weekend does not really prepare you for walking day after day for 30 plus days.  For us the terrain and weather was different, if you can traing everyday for at least a short time and in all types of weather.

We were sleeping in a new bed each night, and for some of us that can be more difficult than you might imagine. After all, sleep specialist tell us our bedtime routine, and our bed/nest is very important to a good night sleep.  For some sleeping in an hostal/alberque, a dorm room full of strangers, some who snore, some who have to use the washroom during the night, and then some who get up even before dawn, to get an early start, all make getting a good night sleep a challenge.

These are not big problems, but not having a good night sleep can leave you looking like the guy in the wall mural above, and vulnerable to illness and or injury.  It is important when planning your camino to take these sleeping into consideration if you are going to enjoy the journey. An eye mask to keep the light out of your eyes will prevent you from being disturbed every time someone turns on their flashlight or the bathroom light. Ear plugs for the noise.   Don’t just try these things out, wear them at home and get use to them, so the feeling isn’t new, so you make sure you have the right fit and a comfort level with them.

We are planning on walking another Camino, so I have been giving all of this more thought. Bill and I didn’t stay in many alberques, mostly because sleeping in a room full of people was more difficult that we had thought. We simple could’t get a good night sleep. I am not sure if the next trip will be any different, but we are planning on walking the Via la Plata also referred to as the Silver Route, in the spring of 2014. We have read that this route is not as busy, and many of the alberques are smaller.  One Camino friend walked it last spring and there were times when he was alone or with a small number of pilgrims.  Again I research the books and websites, look at the maps and Flickr sights, I am sure that having walked one Camino we will be better prepared, but I am also sure there will be many surprises, things we hadn’t expected, and days when we look and feel like the guy above.



Walking the Meseta, Camino to Santiago de Compostela

Walking the Meseta; cool fall morning on the Camino

Walking the Meseta; cool fall morning on the Camino

I remember this morning very well, the day before had been rainy and wet, so we were happy to see the sun. It was a cool morning, and we had started just before sunrise. From this little creek we climbed to the top of Alto de Mosteleres.

Many of the people we met thought I was a little crazy, because I carried a full size DSRL camera with a couple of lenses. But having the camera with me, meant that as I was looking for images, I was more aware of my surroundings, rather than just walking along, lost in my thoughts.

I found that walking with my camera, thinking about how to show our trip to family, friends and blog readers, I was more aware of how the light changed during the day, as well as how the landscape, and our surroundings changed as we walked. I thought about how best to tell the story of our journey. I also tried to learn more about the places we were visiting, so I could pass along some of the stories.

Since being home I have found a couple of extra benefits to carryin my camera. The first is the friends that I made through the blog.  But the most unexpected benefit is having images for the stock photography. The image above is just one of the many images submitted to Alamy, and one of several images that have sold since adding them to the site. It is always rewarding when someone chooses one of my images to accompany their writing and or publication.

Yes the camera was extra weight, and there were days that were tougher because of that weight, but I am glad I had the camera with me.


Meseta at Dawn; Walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela

Growing up in the Canadian Breadbasket other wise known as Saskatchewan, miles and miles of farmland is not an unfamiliar scene. Walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela through the meseta was like a trip home.  The fields and  the road went on, seemingly forever. The crops a golden color, the worked ground a beautiful brown, the sky pink as the sun was rising in the east. The scene was as familiar as it was beautiful.

The challenge as a photographer is to see even a seemingly old familiar scene (and to show it to others) in a new way. I saw this scene as blocks of color, and the detail of each cloud, line in the field, the weeds in the ditch and rocks on the road all distracted from the blocks of color I wanted to emphasis. The light was low, so I set the ISO low, the aperture for a high depth of field, and a slow shutter speed, then moved the camera sideways to blur all the detail. The image now emphasises the blocks of color as well as the beautiful pink hue of a new day.

St. Jean Pied de Port, Camino Frances; travel photos

Rue de la Citadelle, St. Jean Pied de Port, France.  Camino Frances

Rue de la Citadelle, St. Jean Pied de Port, France. Camino Frances

St. Jean Pied de Port, France. The beginning of the Camino France for many pilgrims walking to Santiago de Compostella Spain. One of the many images, representing one of the many moments along our journey that is still very important to me. As it is the beginning of the camino for so many pilgrims it is a little town that many remember fondly.

Recently a fellow Calgarian sent an email, interested in learning more about the camino, and our experience, it is wonderful to visit those memories again, and to think that someday Bill and I will go back.

On a complete different note, this is one of the images listed with Alamy, an online stock agency, that has licensed recently.  While I haven’t been notified of the name of the publication, but I have learned from the sales contract that the image will be published as a 2 pages spread, for a travel guide with a print run of up to 100,000.  While this isn’t my first sale through the stock agency, it still feels awesome to have someone buy and use one of my images!

Camino to Santiago de Compostela, a journey not just a destination

Rock Bridge, Galicia Spain

Rock Bridge, Galicia Spain

“Focus on the journey not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it”        Greg Anderson

One of the things we found while walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, is the same thing we have found and experienced in many other areas of our life. People are goal oriented and want to reach the next destination. On the walk people were getting up well before dawn and walking in the dark, little headlights on their forehead, trying to find the next arrow or marker.  This is fine if you have spent some time the day before surveying the route out-of-town. But why walk in the dark.  Yes it is a quiet time of the day, and you can be out-of-town before the traffic gets bad, but in the small town on the country road that we were walking traffic was never a problem.

I do understand that the summer heat of Spain can make walking in mid afternoon difficult, so that might be a consideration during the summer months for some people. But walking in the dark means that you really can’t see and enjoy the town, or the countryside, the signs, the shrines or farms that you are walking by.

It isn’t reaching our goal or destination that shapes our journey, it is each mile or milestone along the way that shapes our soul.  It it the sights, sounds, people and experiences we have along the way that is what we, what I wanted to remember.  I would say to anyone planning this journey to take your time, enjoy the sights, the sounds, get to know the people along the way, live each moment of the journey.

The Camino to Santiago de Compostela and Thich Nhat Hahn…..

“The mind can go in a thousand directions. But on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.  With each step a cool wind blows. With each step a flower blooms.”  Thich Nhat Hanh 

I have been reading poetry by Thich Nhat Hanh and it often reminds me of the quiet days of walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. My mind could wander in a thousand directions, but it wasn’t until I focused my thoughts on the path before me, on the beauty around me that I truly began to enjoy the walk.  But if I wasn’t in the present moment I could walk and not see a thing, not remember the road I walked.

While on the Camino I learned that I had to stay conscous, I need to be thinking of what is in front of me, how it was shaped by the light, I and to think the story I wanted to tell, if I didn’t I was just getting snap shots or passing events. But it wasn’t work, I somehow managed to make it sound like work, but it wasn’t, it make the Camino, our journey, more enjoyable, more memorable.

This is a bigger problem for me at home, driving to work, thinking about all the things I have to do that day, and before I know it I am at the office, and I don’t remember the trip, what did I miss?  Did I miss waving to a friend, or the beauty of the sunrise.  Or while at work, getting caught up in the job, the chaos, going through the motions, and not really being engaged.

How about you, are you on a beautiful path, is your life blooming before you, are you finding small nugets of joy in your day/chaos?

Dancing to Basque Music in Pamplona Spain

While walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, Spain we spent a couple of days in Pamplona, visiting the Cathedral and historical attractions. While out walking we walked through the Plaza de Castillo we heard the music, noticed the Basque Musicians.  There were dancers in the square, but it was the little one that captured my attention.  He seemed to have all the moves, but then the little ones always seem to know how to capture the attention and the hearts of those around them….

Notre Dame, Paris France; Angel and Shadow

Notre Dame_Paris France_Angel and Shadow

Notre Dame_Paris France_Angel and Shadow


I am preparing a slide show; on Saturday Mar 16, 2013 I will be showing some of my work to the Calgary Chapter of Pilgrims about the Camino to Santiago.  An 820k walked from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela Spain.

The Spring Meeting of the Calgary Chapter, Canadian Company of Pilgrims
will be held at Good Shepherd Anglican Church (408 – 38 Street SW, Calgary)
on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30).

Everyone  welcome – light refreshments served – tapas/wine gratefully accepted.

If you have been following the blog for a while you will remember that Bill and I walked the Camino in the Fall of 2012, there are many stories and photos already on the blog.  If you are in the Calgary Area, and interested in learning more about the Camino please join us.  There are many people who attend these meetings with knowledge that is both interesting and helpful if you are thinking of doing the walk

Vanishing moments – and the Camino to Santiago

”We photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory.”     Henri Cartier-Bresson

travelling the Camino to Santiago, walking the many miles, brought the point of Vanishing moments back to me every so clearly…….

Camino way marker, yellow arrow

Camino way marker, yellow arrow

scallop shell marker

scallop shell street marker  

PilgrimYield Sign

Pilgrim Yield Sign

Pilgrim at the Cross

Pilgrim at the Cross

once we passed a sign, I wasn’t in a hurry to walk back again to take a picture; if I thought too long about what caught my attention I would miss the moment that spoke to me. These are just a couple of the sites and signs we saw and photographed while on the Camino to Santiago.  The were route markers everywhere that was needed, not so often they cluttered the view, but often enough we knew which road to take.  In Pamplona we saw the steel scallop shells every 100 feet, other cities were equally well-marked; we saw the yield signs when we had to cross a major road or highway where we might encounter vehicle traffic;  and we saw the long rock arrows on the Meseta, the flat plains of Spain.

The Church of Portal of San Juan Bautista_Obanos Spain, along the Camino to Santiago de Compostella

Church Portal, San Juan Bautista_Obanos Spain

Obanos is about 20 kilometers from Pamplona, along the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, the French Route. I learned recently that the French Route of the Camino to Santiago has the UNESCO World Heritage Designation. Every year thousands of people from all over the world travel the camino.

It was mid afternoon when we arrived in the little town, the streets were quiet and I am sure the local people were all having their siesta. The beautiful old Gothic Church sits in the main square, in front of the Nuestra Señora de Arnotegui Shrine. The sculpted portal depict stories from the Bible to the pilgrims who walked the Camino a thousand years ago, now worn by time and weather speaks to the heritage of the church in these communities.