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Adventure Travel

    Adventure Travel  --  Inspire

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Memorable Moments of My Fab Fifties Life

    Yesterday we spent the morning on a private snorkel tour from our beach here in Ocotal in Costa Rica.  We had a very enjoyable time on what was a really good value tour ($65 per person), and even though we didn’t see a lot of sea life, we did see a variety.  The water was bit murky but we saw a dozen or more varieties of fish, one eel, one sea snake, a puffer fish, starfish and lots of interesting sea anemones.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Galapagos

    From the boat we also saw hundreds of “flying” devil rays, several dolphins and a turtle.  It was a lot of fun.

    It got me to thinking and comparing different snorkel tours we have taken over the years so I decided to  share about some of our various snorkeling adventures.  I’m not a diver but I really enjoy snorkeling and have enjoyed some

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Costa Rica

    wonderful opportunities in our travels.

    Here is our list of Snorkeling Around the World – Memorable Moments;

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Maldives

    Sand  Island Maldives – My favorite snorkeling day ever was our morning on the tiny (50×75 yards) sand island about an hour boat ride from the island of Huraa in the Maldives.  Known for the spectacular crystal clear blue water, the Maldives are a divers paradise.  Our snorkeling day rewarded us with a vast collection of sea life, but the more amazing part of this day was the stunningly beautiful coral reef.  I’ve never witnessed anything like it before or since.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Australia with Wally

    Great Barrier Reef Australia – Memorable, iconic and expensive, our day on the Great Barrier Reef out of Cairns was fun.  An overcast day made for some murky water and rough seas but we enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime experience with a nice selection of interesting coral and fish including the resident Maori Wrasse named Wally (see photo). Read more about it here.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Galapagos

    Galapagos Ecuador – Everything about the Galapagos Islands is unique and memorable – both on land and in the sea. One of our favorite trips of all time.  The day we snorkled in the Galapagos was the only time I have ever swam with seals who danced a playful ballet around us as we swam. We also encountered baby seals, beautiful turtles and small sharks.  Just one remarkable event in a very remarkable place.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Dhow in Zanzibar

    Zanzibar – possibly my worst sunburn in my life occurred the day I snorkeled with my sister in Zanzibar.  My sister’s first time snorkeling and in our excitement we both forgot to lube up.  The waters off of Zanzibar are incredibly beautiful, but we actually didn’t see that many fish. As memorable as the sunburn was the rickety Dhow boat (traditional Zanzibar wooden fishing boat) that took us off the beach out to the snorkel area.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Galapagos

    Hawaii – I’ve been to Hawaii so many times I’ve lost track and it’s here I’ve enjoyed some of the best snorkeling ever.  We went to Hawaii a lot when our kids were small, and for family snorkeling Hawaii can’t be beat.  Our favorites are;

    Molokini (Maui) – our favorite island is Maui and when in Maui snorkeling at Molokini is a highlight. Depending on the time of day you go, it can be pretty crowded but you will see such a great variety of colorful tropical fish it’s worth it. And if you can, book a tour that also goes to Turtle Island so you can see these magnificent creatures.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Australia

    Captain Cook (Big Island) – We have snorkeled in the Captain Cook bay on the Big Island twice. Once we came on a tour boat and once we did the steep hike down (and eventually back up) to the bay.  The bay doesn’t have much coral but lots and lots of beautiful fish make the bay their home.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Hawaii

    Kona Manta Ray Snorkeling (Big Island)– one of the funnest, most breathtaking and most amazing things I have ever done was the nighttime snorkel in Kona to swim with the amazing and giant (up to 20 feet wingspan) Manta Rays. These gentle giants are graceful and harmless and truly spectacular. Read more about it here.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Thailand

    Black Rock (Maui) – my son Dane and I had a remarkable experience at Black Rock while snorkeling

    just off the beach. We encountered a solo turtle which let us swim and follow him for more than half an hour.  Just me, my son and this beautiful creature.  I’ll never forget it.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Zanzibar

    Koh Phi Phi Thailand – very crowded and somewhat overrated was our snorkel tour adventure to Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. Although the beautiful blue water is warm and fun to swim in, we didn’t see much of a variety of fish and there were so many tour boats there it was ridiculous. We did enjoy the water though and most of all having fun with our adult sons in the gorgeous tropical Thailand waters.

    Snorkeling Around the World

    Maldives Sand Island

    There you go, our list of of favorite snorkeling around the world sites.  Some of our most memorable travel days have included snorkelin

    I hope you too will have the chance to visit one or more of these beautiful and amazing snorkeling places.  I have no doubt you will remember it forever.

    Fabulous!

    Manta Ray image from Pixabay

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    Adventure Travel  --  South America Travel

    Let’s Bungle in the Amazon Jungle

    A Brazilian Dream Come True

    Location: Amazon Jungle Brazil

    It’s  a gigantic place. Huge. Impossible to see it all. But the tiny piece of the Amazon Jungle we experienced was a privilege that will stay with us forever.

    Numbers

    First let’s talk numbers in the Amazon Jungle; 5.5 million square kilometers (2.1 million square miles); one fifth of the freshwater flowing into the Earth’s oceans comes from the Amazon River; there are more than 40,000 different kinds of trees and plants; 2.5 millions kinds of insects; 3000 freshwater fish; 427 mammals; 378 reptiles; 400 amphibians; and 1300 kinds of birds. It is the greatest biodiversity area on the earth.

    Multiple rivers feed the jungle emptying eventually into the giant Amazon, which can be as wide as 20 miles in some places. The Amazon is the greatest river of South America and the largest drainage system in the world in terms of the volume of its flow and the area of basin. The total length of the river from the headwaters in southern Peru, is at least 4,000 miles (6,400 km), which makes it slightly shorter than the Nile River but still the equivalent of the distance from New York City to Rome (source Britannica.com)

    Amazon Jungle

    So many birds

    The Amazon Jungle Basin can average rainfall of approximately 2300 mm (7.5 feet). In some areas of the northwest portion of the Amazon basin, yearly rainfall can exceed 6000 mm (almost 20′), often flooding the civilizations that make Amazonia their home. In 2012 the highest flood level ever recorded in Manaus reached 29.97 meters (93 feet).

    Mosquitos

    Amazon Jungle

    Golden Hawk

    A word about mosquitos.  We were prepared to take malaria meds the entire time we were in the Amazon Jungle.  We began our meds the day before arrival and immediately I suffered from stomach upset.  When we arrived at Manati Lodge we learned that this particular area of Amazonia on the Rio Negro is generally mosquito free.  Due to the decomposing material from flora (which also gives the river a coffee color thus the name) the Rio Negro is naturally acidic, with ph ranging 2.4 – 4.9,  thus preventing mosquito larvae from developing.  Although some people still may want to take the malaria meds, I chose to stop taking them as soon as I learned this information – and me and my tummy were both grateful.  Each person should make their own decision and consult with their doctor.  I did receive a handful of bug bites – unknown to me from what kind of bugs.  They have healed quickly.

    The People

    Amazon Jungle

    Colorful Chief

    Today at least 400 indigenous tribes live in the jungle, much as they have for millennia.  The Brazilian government works to protect the rights and traditions of these tribes, all while also trying to help them find diverse ways to earn and survive.  Additionally a handful of tribes still live untouched from any interference by the civilized world and they wish to remain so.

    Manati Lodge

    Amazon Jungle

    Manati Lodge

    For our visit to this fascinating place we chose to spend five days at the Manati Lodge, a simple but comfortable and very well run small lodge about two hours from the city of Manaus.

    Amazon Jungle

    Manati Lodge

    Manaus (population 1.8 million) is the major city of the state of Amazonas, and the jumping-off point for most visitors to the Amazon. From here you can begin your journey to multiple lodges and resorts inside the protected area. A variety of styles and price ranges are available for lodging. For us Manati was just what we needed. All inclusive (transport, comfortable room, all meals and all tours) for two people for five days cost $1100. We spent an additional $20 on alcohol (we did not drink very much by choice)  and $75 on gratuity. For what we got, an absolute bargain.

    Manati has 6 rooms that can sleep four each. During our five days, guests on two, three and five-day tours revolved  in and out.  We met a nice variety of world travelers from Brazil, Canada, England, Italy, France, Croatia and the USA.

    Our Guide

    Amazon Jungle

    Isaac, right, shows me how to weave

    Our guide Isaac was wonderfully full of enthusiasm, stories and wisdom about his native region. Some days we had Isaac all to ourselves and other days we shared him with other guests.

    Amazon Jungle

    New Years Eve

    Isaac made sure we saw and did so much. We began with a serene and beautiful tour by boat to enjoy the jungle from the water. There is green, and then there is Amazon jungle green – an indescribable range of hues I never knew existed on the planet. Throw in the remarkable rainbow and it was such a pleasant way to start our adventure.

    A special celebration on our first night for New Year’s Eve was totally unexpected and so wonderful. The staff decorated with palms and flowers we ate and toasted with sangria and champagne and even had midnight fireworks. Not at all what I expected in the middle of the jungle. It was wonderful.

    So much to see

    Amazon Jungle

    Piranha catch

    Over the next four days we had a huge variety of experiences, but also plenty of downtime to relax and read. I had neither WiFi or cell service over the five days which turned out to be a blessing – giving me a news and social media break I didn’t even realize I desperately needed.

    Surprise Encounters

    Amazon Jungle

    Sloth trying to hide

    A visit to a local village provided us our first spotting of a sloth in the wild – a lifelong dream for me.  Going piranha fishing had never been on my lifelong dream list but it turned out to be very entertaining and fun.

    Medicine

    Amazon Jungle

    Jungle hike

    I really enjoyed our three-hour jungle walk, where we were introduced to a fascinating variety of flora, including dozens of plants that are used in medicines we know and use regularly from Vick’s Vapor Rub to Milk of Magnesia. We saw wild acai, Brazil nuts, palms used for roofs, plants the indigenous people used for poison and hunting and other plants used for survival in the Amazon jungle.  And some in our group even ate butterfly larvae.  I declined the offer.

    Animals

    Later that same day, under thankfully sunny skies we swam with the famous Amazon pink dolphins.  The government allows the dolphins to be fed four days a week, this is how the tourists get to see them.  The rest of the time they are left alone so they do not grow overly dependent on humans.  They are not in a pen.  They swim freely and come to the platform when fish is available. They were large and incredibly strong, but also gentle.  They enjoy being petted.  And they smile.

    Amazon Jungle

    Pink dolphin

    I swam with dolphins once before, in Zanzibar.  But this was different.  In Zanzibar we did not touch them.  I enjoyed both experiences for different reasons. The dolphin skin is soft like a baby.  Their eyes are so tiny.  Also known as botos, they are born grey and become pinker with age. As they mature its skin becomes more translucent allowing the blood to show through. When excited, they will flush to a bright pink , like your face might when you get embarrassed or excited.

    After saying farewell to our new dolphin friends we took a beautiful boat ride to another part of the river.  We parked the boat on the river’s edge and watched as dozens of inquisitive little squirrel monkeys cautiously approached and then, when realizing we had bananas, jumped right on board.

    I’ve seen monkeys big and small all over the world, and generally am not a fan.  They can be mean and smelly.  But the Amazon Jungle squirrel monkey was by far the cutest and sweetest I have met.

    Amazon Jungle

    Squirrel mo key

    We ended this amazing day with a sunset swim in the warm Rio Negro before returning to Manati.

    The next morning we woke at 5am to clear skies so we groggily (before coffee!) headed out to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful and worth getting up for.

    Plants

    Amazon Jungle

    Water is life

    Amazon Jungle

    Sunset swim

    After breakfast we visited a local family home where we learned more about plants used for medicine in the jungle.  We also learned all about the staple native food of manioc, a tuber that is the source of tapioca as well as numerous other products.  Manioc is part of the daily diet not only of the indigenous people but nearly everyone in Brazil.

    Snake

    Amazon Jungle

    One big snake

    We ended this day with a visit to another local home.  Here an anaconda that was  accidentally caught in a fishing net is being nursed before being released back into the wild Amazon jungle.  Those who wanted to were allowed to hold the beast.  It was about eight feet long.  Damp.  And strong.  Another once in a lifetime experience.  I think once is enough.

    Indigenous Tribe

    Our final day dawned stormy so our hour-long boat ride to visit an indigenous village was down right painful as we crossed the giant Rio Negro in a healthy wind and serious chop.  But I’m glad we did.

    Amazon Jungle

    The tribe we visited

    The village of the Dessana people accepts visitors as a way to earn money and to share their culture.  Originally found in their ancestral home 600 miles (965km) away in the dense remote jungle of northwestern Brazil, they came to the Tupe region for a better life to fish and farm. Dessana began benefiting from tourist who were curious to see their ancient traditions (source theCultureTrip.com.)

    The Chief explained in detail (through an interpreter) many of their rituals about boys initiation to manhood, marriage, leadership, food, hunting and celebrations.

    Amazon Jungle

    Dancing with the Chief

    The Chief and about twenty-five people from the tribe including men, women and children then  performed for us several ritual dances and songs with handmade instruments.  We then were invited to dance with them.  The Chief took my hand and he was amazingly strong as he led (well, dragged) me alongside him as I tried to follow the intricate steps of the dance.  Arne was also dancing, although I was too busy to see him trying.  Luckily Isaac snapped a few photos.

    Amazon Jungle

    Arne dancing too

    Before leaving we purchased a few handmade items from the tribe and thanked them for sharing.  It was a great way to end our amazing Amazon visit.

    Farewell

    Amazon Jungle

    One of my fav photos

    After lunch we headed back to Manaus and civilization, forever changed by the experience.  Just one more remarkable memory and a spectacular way to begin 2019.

    Fabulous! 

     

    Adventure Travel  --  South America Travel

    Iguacu Falls- Brazil Side

    Worth the Effort to Get There

    Location: Icuacu Falls Brazil

    It was a two-hour flight from Rio.  An hour city bus ride packed in like sardines was followed by more than an hour in ticket lines and shuttle lines to actually reach the falls.

    I began to wonder if it could be worth all this?

    Yes. Yes it was. Totally worth the effort to get there. What adjectives to use? Stunning, awesome, powerful, beautiful. It was all that and more.

    In fact, once off the bus and on our own, the post-Christmas crowds didn’t seem a big issue, except on the one major platform that takes you out closest to the thundering falls.

    A stones throw across the raging river, it was easy to see the Argentinian side was just as crowded. Perhaps even more so. There are those who argue the view is better from Argentina. I can’t say. But the view from the Brazil side was incredible. And definitely worth the effort to get there.

    Ten dollar entrance to the National Park provides your park transport. Additional activities require additional fees including guided hikes, boat tours, kayaks and food.

    In hindsight the thing I would do differently (other than not come Christmas week) is stay in one of the hotels next to or inside the park. More expensive than our in-town Airbnb (which we really liked) but the convenience would be worth it. Especially since our time here was limited.

    A definite “I don’t have a bucketlist” bucket list item. Iguacu Falls Brazil Side. Entirely worth the effort to get there.

    Fabulous!

    Learn more at Iguacu National Park

     

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    Adventure Travel  --  Inspire

    Camino de Santiago Final Thoughts

    Enjoy our Fun Video

    Location: Camino de Santiago Spain


    We say farewell to the Camino de Santiago with this fun video we put together while walking the Camino Portuguese.  We hope you enjoy it.

    And we share with you some final thoughts.   If our blog, our travels and our Caminos inspire you in any way, to go do things you never imagined you could do, then we are fulfilled.  Because life is short, the world is amazing, and each one of us has a spark inside that, with a little bit of oxygen, is ready to flame.

    Don’t wait to find what makes you happy.  Go be Fabulous today.

     

    Our journey now continues with two more weeks in Spain and then on to Florida, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil and much more.

    Thanks for following.  Go. Be. Fabulous.

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    Adventure Travel

    The End of the Earth

    Ending our Camino at the Atlantic Ocean

    Location: Muxia Spain

    Over the past two years I’ve spent nearly three months of my days in the beautiful country of Spain.  I’ve seen a lot of it’s wonders.  And yet, here I am at the ‘End of the Earth’- totally surprised and in awe of this beautiful rugged coast – unlike anything else I have seen in Spain.

    I’m so glad we came.

    Finisterre.

    Bronze boot at the fini

    Finisterre & Muxia are located on the Coste de Morte (Coast of Death), at the most western spot in Spain (and some argue in Europe).  Located in the autonomous community of Galicia, both Spanish and Galician is spoken.  The Coste de Morte is named thus because of the countless shipwrecks that have occurred on this rocky coast over the millennia.

    For many pilgrims, this rocky coast is their final destination, after visiting the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.  It’s a three-day walk to Finisterre and another day on to Muxia.  For those who don’t have

    Camino de Santiago

    Santiago Cathedral

    the time, bus tours are available so pilgrims can come and see the historic and beautiful location.

    Final day walking

    Horreo a Galician corn crib

    It was Saint James who brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula. In 44 AD, he was beheaded in Jerusalem and his remains were brought back to Galicia. Following Roman persecutions of Spanish Christians, his tomb was abandoned in the 3rd century. In 814 AD, legends have the tomb rediscovered, and King Alfonso II of Asturias and Galicia is responsible for ordering the construction of a chapel to house the tomb, on the site where today’s Cathedral stands.  This created the gradual development of the pilgrimage to the tomb.  

    The beach at Finisterr

    As pilgrimage to Santiago grew, pilgrims also started arriving in Finisterre to worship and see the “End of the Earth”. The first hospital (hostel) was built in 1479.

    Sculpture at Muxia

    For the people of ancient times, the Costa da Morte was the last redoubt of explored land, the westernmost part of continental Europe, the final stretch of an itinerary traced in the sky by the Milky Way.

    Legend has this ‘End of the Earth’ also as the place where pilgrims would collect a scallop shell, to prove they had made the journey to the sea.  The scallop shell has many meanings to pilgrims and the Camino de Santiago, read about that here.

    Our Lady of d Barca Muxia

    So visiting Finesterre and Muxia was something we wanted to do.  We had the time and seeing the Atlantic Coast of Spain was high on our list.  Although the weather is cool and cloudy I’m still glad we came.  The stormy coast is a great place to relax and enjoy a few cozy days before we continue on our journey. The End of the Earth as we know it.  And I feel fine.

    Note: We continue our Spanish journey in a few days.  On to Sevilla, Malaga and Cadiz.  Watch for more

    The End of the Earth

    Many people don’t realize how far west Spain is. Finisterre is on the same latitude as Boston

    about those destinations soon.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    Adventure Travel

    Gotta Be Flexible in our Fabulous Fifties

    My Camino Week Two

    Camino de Santiago

    Location: Camino de Santiago Spain

    We had planned to walk from Santiago de Compostela on to Finisterre on the Atlantic and then on to Muxia.  That was always our plan.  But two major factors created a need for us to reevaluate our plans.  Gotta be Flexible in our Fabulous Fifties. Gotta be flexible on the Camino de Santiago.

    Camino de Santiago

    Santiago Cathedral where the pilgrims arrive

    The Best Laid Plans

    The weather of course was the first reason.  After walking in low forty degree temperatures and pouring rain we both agreed we didn’t want to do that.  We have some rain gear but not gear for the

    Camino de Santiago

    Cold and wet

    thermometer dropping into the 30’s…unseasonably cold for Spain in late October.  Our last day hiking left me stiff and sore and it took me hours to thaw out.

    The second reason came just as unexpected as the freezing weather.  We learned on the day we were walking into Santiago that the courier service we have been using to transport our bag only operates through the end of October.  Wait. What?  Shouldn’t they have mentioned this to us a little earlier?

    We can’t walk the Camino de Santiago with a roller suitcase, even though it’s not very big.  With at least five more days of walking, we sat down and reevaluated our plan.

    Camino de Santiago

    Approaching the Cathedral from the south

    Santiago de Compostela

    Arriving in Santiago was fun, although a bit anti-climatic compared to last year’s arrival after walking for 41 days. The best part was seeing the gorgeous cathedral sans the scaffolding it had been wearing last year. We took the time to do the cathedral tour (which we didn’t do last year) and admire the remarkable gold altar and the relics of Saint James, housed in the beautiful silver tomb. This 1000 year-old-cathedral is one of the most important in the Catholic faith.  And you don’t have to be Catholic or even religious to be in awe of the history that is housed here.  For me, the idea of the millions of people who have all made the walk here for all their own reasons is absolutely

    Camino de Santiago

    The gold nave

    fascinating, spiritual and worthy of respect.

    We took all the obligatory photos, picked up our Compostela (certificate of completion) and had a delicious dinner and lots of wine to celebrate and warm up.  While drinking wine and eating Spanish tapas we made the decision to take the bus to Finisterre instead of walking.

    The End of the Earth – Finisterre

    Finisterre was where the devout pilgrims to Santiago came to collect the proof of their pilgrimage in the form of the scallop shell. In medieval times this rock was the end of the known world, where the sun set into what was then thought of as the end of the earth. The word Finisterre derives from the Latin finis terrae, meaning “end of the

    Camino de Santiago

    Arriving in grey Finisterre

    earth”.

    So a four-day walk became a three-hour bus ride. We are here in Finisterre for two days and will walk and see some of the Camino sights here, as well as enjoy the bounty of Galician seafood. With the weather forecast improving, we plan to walk on Friday the 20 miles to Muxia and send our roller bag via taxi to meet us there.

    Camino de Santiago

    Tapas in Santiago

    Hopefully this will work out, and given our extra time, we can relax and enjoy a comfy Airbnb in Muxia for five nights. I’ll certainly be blogging on how these plans unfold. Fingers crossed.

    Our Journey Continues

    In the meantime, feeling accomplished to have made it this far.  I have no need to prove anything to anyone including myself, so I am perfectly happy with our current plans.  And watching the weather forecast with a hopeful heart for a warming trend in the days ahead.

    Buen Camino!

     

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    Adventure Travel

    Comparing the Camino Portuguese to the Camino Frances

    My Camino Week One

    Camino de Santiago

    Location: Camino de Santiago

    Here we are.  Walking our second Camino de Santiago.  Why you ask?  Why not?  It just seemed like we should.  Six months ago when we were planning our fall itinerary we were looking at being in Madagascar in October.  Until we looked at the airfare. Yikes.  Madagascar will need to stay on theCamino de Santiago bucket list for a while longer.  So we turned our attention back to one of our favorite countries, Portugal.  And well, here we are.

    Having completed the 486 mile Camino Frances last September, I wasnt sure if the Camino Portuguese would be different.

    It is different. While also being somewhat similar.  One week into the Camino Portuguese, I don’t think I can say I prefer one over the other (yet), because each is special in its own way.  But I have found  myself during week one on the Portuguese Way comparing it to the Frances Way.

    Here are my thoughts so far after one week of walking;

    Distances are Different

    Of course the biggest difference between the two walks is the distance.  When setting out to walk the  most popular Camino Frances many people begin in Saint Jean Pied de Port in France.  This is where we began on September 1, 2017. Forty-one days and 486 miles later we arrived in Santiago, Spain.Camino de Santiago

    On the Camino Portuguese we started in Porto, Portugal on October 21, 2018.  We plan to walk to Santiago and then beyond to  Muxia on the Atlantic Ocean.  This walk will take us about 15 days and will be 217 miles.

    It is a significant difference in distance and days walked – making some of the comparisons here not really fair.

    We are Different

    We are not the same people we were a year ago.  And so this is another major difference.  A year ago we had never tackled anything like walking the Camino de Santiago.  We were a bit frightened, naive and apprehensive.  I think we over trained and over planned and over stressed.  I spent too much time reading what other people thought Camino de Santiagowas best.  Ultimately most of that wasn’t best for me.

    This time we hardly trained, barely planned and did almost zero research.  In fact I stayed away from the Camino Facebook pages (which I found last year too judgmental) and just went with what felt good for us.  We did use the John Brierley books again – a valuable resource for any Camino pilgrim.Camino de Santiago

    We also don’t feel any pressure this time to “succeed”.  We are just enjoying it.  If we don’t finish – no worries.  If it pours down rain and we hop on a train, so be it.  If we get sick or tired and decide to sleep all day – well Buen Camino.  Our Camino, our way.

    Our Bags are Different

    Last year I walked the first 100 miles with a 15 pound pack.  But eventually it was too much for my plantar fasciitis and I began shipping my pack ahead each day.  This year I decided to do it from the very start.  It’s so much better.  I last longer and feel better at the end of the day.  My Camino, my way.Camino de Santiago

    The Terrain is Different

    Over these past six days we have seen quite different terrain than what we enjoyed walking across Spain.  We have spent a lot of time in beautiful wooded areas of eucalyptus, cork and pine trees. We have also spent a lot of time on rocky paths climbing over mountains.  In Portugal in the suburban areas, and even on country roads, we were forced to walk on difficult cobblestones –  both ancient and new.

    Camino de SantiagoSimilar to the Frances we have also spent a lot of time in bucolic farmland with cows, sheep, horses and goats (there is a distinct Camino aroma!).  Most enjoyable is passing miles of vineyards, corn fields, chestnuts, vegetables of all kinds and many fruit and nut trees.  Here along the Portuguese way these things are grown altogether.  In Spain there were more distinctive sections of types of agriculture.

    We left Portugal and entered Spain on day five. Here the path meandered through lovely creek-side Camino de Santiagoshaded paths before we had a major climb with a very steep descent into Redondela.  We are now in Spain’s Galicia region, one of our favorite areas last year on our walk. The mountains bring cooler weather, and marine air from the ocean just 8 miles away.

    On both routes we enjoy the incredible medieval villages, most fully functional and still living, breathing towns – on the Camino Frances it felt like many of these towns were only there because of the Camino – not so much on the Portuguese.   For someone from the USA where old is 200 years, seeing 900 year old villages and 2000 year old Roman bridges and roads still in use is just mind-boggling.

    The Portuguese People are Different

    Perhaps because the Portuguese Way is not as popular as the Frances, or perhaps because the Portuguese people are only beginning to learn how to be Camino entrepreneurs as The Way becomes more popular; for whatever reason there just are not as many businesses catering to pilgrims.

    The accommodations are fewer, the food is definitely not as available and we never encountered anyoneCamino de Santiago just trying to make a buck off of the pilgrims.  Last year in Spain it was a normal sight for someone to be set up on the side of the road selling things to pilgrims.  Restaurants, bars, cafes were abundant.

    But we have found the Portuguese Camino much less developed for pilgrim services.

    The Portuguese people are a bit more shy and quiet.  They nod and say Bom Dia but keep more to themselves than most of the Spanish we encountered on the Frances.

    We expect this to change now that we have arrived in Spain.

    Vandalism is Present

    The first day we entered Spain our guide-book gave us a choice on routes.  We could take the shorter “industrial” route or the slightly longer “scenic” route.  We chose the scenic route.

    Immediately, and for the first time on either the Portuguese or the Frances, we began to see a clear Camino de Santiagoeffort to vandalize signage, misdirect pilgrims and disrupt progress on the “scenic” route.  Beautiful granite markers splattered with paint, arrows blacked out and other arrows trying to get walkers to go another way.  We stayed the course using the map on our phone.

    Our assumption is there are locals not wanting pilgrims to go this way.  I’m sure it’s not all locals, but it was a disappointment to us.  On the Francis we always felt welcome.

    The Pilgrims are Fewer

    The most striking difference to us in week one is how few pilgrims there are.  Last year we found ourselves on the Camino Frances during Camino de Santiagoits busiest September ever.  We had chosen to walk in September because we had read it was a time with fewer pilgrims than in summer but still with good weather.

    Well clearly we were not the only ones who had read this recommendation.  It was very crowded.

    Most days it didn’t matter, but as we got closer to Santiago it was busy and not very peaceful.  Rooms were hard to come by and so we started booking several days and even weeks ahead.Camino de Santiago

    Late October on the Portuguese Way is very quiet.  On our first day we did not see any other pilgrims.  That night at dinner we met a man from Holland.  We have now seen him several times.  We also have often seen a young couple from Italy/Australia and  few others along the way.  But until day five the total number was only about a dozen.

    Camino de SantiagoOn day five we began to encounter more Pilgrims.  We learned many start walking in Valenca, the border between Portugal and Spain.  We met a woman from Seattle (who had heard about us), another woman from Ottawa and another woman from Russia.  We met a group from Australia, a couple from Germany and a couple from Mexico.  We have also seen two young men walking with a dog, several cyclists and a handful of people walking the other direction.  The Portuguese Camino also supports the route to Fatima going south.  Some people walk south from Santiago to Fatima Portugal, a town between Porto and Lisbon where an apparition of the Virgin Mary was considered a miracle and brings pilgrims.Camino de Santiago

    We have enjoyed week one.  We feel healthy and capable.  The forecast for the week ahead has much rain, and we will take it day by day to see how we proceed.  Meanwhile,  I am very happy to be here, experiencing once again the magic of the Camino de Santiago.

    More soon, from the Way of Saint James.  Buen Camino!

    Read about our Camino Frances last year here.

     

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