About Me

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Author of Safari Jema, A Journey of Love and Adventure from Casablanca to Cape Town http://tinyurl.com/owdwvrp I write about travel and adventure from my home in California and from Africa. I've sailed a catamaran from California to Hawaii, trekked in the Himalayas, worked as a construction manager on a bridge project in Zambia, hiked 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago, (http://bootsbedouinsandabridge.blogspot.com/) and traveled in over 100 countries and all seven continents. Indie Book Award Winner for Best Memoir of 2012, New York Book Festival Honorable Mention for Non-Fiction, San Francisco Book Festival Honorable Mention for Non-Fiction, Travelers Tales Solas Award for Best Travel Writing Honorable Mention for My Gambian Husband. Indie Book Award Finalist - Best Travel Book 2013. BOTYA Honorable Mention 2013 - Travel Essay. Member of The Explorers Club since 2013 You can follow my current 2013-2014 expedition across Africa, this time in a 1973 Land Rover Series III 109 on http://teresaokane.blogspot.com/ and on facebook https://www.facebook.com/safarijema

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It’s a Chafing Thing - On the Camino de Santiago

I had to add men’s Lycra boxer shorts to my hiking ensemble. It’s a chafing thing.

Every day, we take anywhere between 29,000 and 36,000 steps, and that creates a whole lot of friction on the inner thighs. I walked like Tex Ritter around town, looking for something longer than bikini bottoms, but shorter than pantaloons, to wear under my hiking pants. But in Spain, where if a woman can’t wear a thong, she wears nothing.  I had to resort to buying men’s underwear.
The saleswoman in the men’s department at the sporting goods store wrapped my purchase in a brown paper bag, wrote down the name of some "anti-friction crème", and pointed to a pharmacy nearby.
After determining exactly where the chafing was occurring  (“Aqui?” the pharmacist asked, indicating halfway between the knee and the…not the knee. “Or Aqui?” she whispered indicating not the knee), I pointed to a spot nearer the knee, only higher, and explained through pantomime and Spanglish, that hiking the Camino all day, every day was causing the damage. “Ah!” she exclaimed with sudden empathy. Then she started doing the Salsa with incredible vigor in the middle of the pharmacy. Apparently, she had the exact same problem, but not from hiking. “Bailando!” she shouted. “Dancing!”

The men’s boots (read previous post), and the men’s underwear worked a charm. After walking 720 kilometers since leaving Pamplona on Easter Sunday, we arrived yesterday at the goal line, Santiago de Compostela and the Cathedral crypt that supposedly holds the relics of the Apostle St. James. My one desire, besides making two piles for the Laundromat in Santiago - one for the wash, one for the incinerator - was that the sun would be shining when we arrived at the Cathedral. I got my wish - on the weather at least. After a week of hiking in dreary rain, and one day in heavy fog and snow, the sun shone brightly.

Unlike in other cities along the Camino, once a pilgrim enters the city limits of Santiago there is no stopping for café con leche, a beer, or to empty boots of pebbles that have settled uncomfortably between toes. There was a strong drive to just get there. Few stop for a break on the way to the the goal.
I loaded my backpack from a top bunk one last time, and crossed one last roman bridge. We were on our way. I felt melancholy that it would soon be over.
The final kilometer to the Cathedral is perfect. It winds up and down and around, keeping the Cathedral spires hidden from view until you are practically standing below them.

Serendipity was with us. After 19 kilometers, we took a wrong turn and ended up at a little used entrance to the Cathedral. No backpacks are allowed so I said to Scott, “Why don’t you go in first while I watch the bags.” After a few moments he hurried back out saying, “Tris, you have to see this!”
I walked in to see the Botafumeiro, the huge incense burner passing (flying!) just over the heads of the congregation through the entire transept. Whoosh!
The Botafumeiro hangs from ropes and an elaborate pulley system near the ceiling, 150 feet above. The sound it made, as the burner passed just feet from me, was incredible. Historically the Botafumeiro was used in the olden days, to exterminate the funk produced by all the heavily clothed pilgrims--some of whom had taken a year or more to walk from all over Europe to see the remains of St James. But seeing the incense burner in action, and feeling it as it flew overhead, moved me to tears.

I left the Cathedral and sat on Scott’s lap, crying. Maybe it was dehydration. Maybe it was exhaustion from hiking every day for the last 38 days. But I was moved by the spectacle of it all. Scott was so sweet. He said, “Since you were raised Catholic, I knew you had to see that.” I hadn’t been to Mass in years, but he was right. There was just something about it that made me feel "home".

“Shall we go get our Compostelas? You’ve earned an indulgence, you know,” Scott said.
If you hike the Camino in a Holy Year the Church rewards pilgrims an indulgence meaning, in the eyes of the Church, all sins are forgiven. I would be leaving Santiago with a “clean slate” so to speak.

“Are you kidding? I’m not going to turn that down! Let's go!” I said and we made our way to The Pilgrim Office nearby.

At the Office, one of ten officials checked our credentials, our pilgrim passports with the many stamps we received along the way proving we had walked The Way of St. James, and issued us Compostela certificates. Our certificates are different, because Scott went for the "Cultural Compostela".
“How was your journey?” asked the Church official as she filled in my name, in Latin. “It was really great." I replied wiping my tears. I could not stop crying! "And we arrived at the Cathedral in time to see the Botafumeiro fly.”

“You were very lucky!” she said. “The Botafumeiro only makes an appearance during special Feast Days, or if a group has made a large donation.”

I walked out feeling like one lucky pilgrim. Then to top it all, as we walked away from the Cathedral, a jazz musician sitting in the square began to play Somewhere Over the Rainbow, the song played at my mom’s funeral. Mom has been gone more tha two years, but she was with me almost every day on the Camino. It was a perfect end to a perfect journey.

Scott and Tris
Celebrating with champagne, Ruffles and chocolate, (as usual).
Santiago, Spain