On 01MAR23, I will be flying from the United States to Gibraltar where I will meet my brother (VT class of 1986) and his wife on a 700-mile hike from Gibraltar through Seville (southwestern Spain) to Lisbon and Porto (Portugal) and on to Santiago de Compostela (northwestern Spain).
Each year 10s of thousands of pilgrims pass through Spain and Portugal on variations of the Camino de Santiago (which is Spanish for Way of Saint James). The cathedral within the city of Santiago de Compostela is said to contain the body of Saint James.
Our adventure is a rather significant variation of the Camino de Santiago. We have planned a route that passes through areas of deep historical interest, varied architecture and scenery, rich in culinary experiences and some pretty incredible wine.
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory which has long held a strategic role of guarding of the Straits of Gibraltar which connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It also hosts the only wild monkeys of Europe. Seville is where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel sent Columbus on his way to the Americas and just north of the city is the birthplace of the man who became Roman emperor Hadrian of Hadrian's Wall fame. Along the way, there are medieval castles, magnificent cathedrals, and examples of Moorish architecture.
This will be the hardest physical thing that I have ever attempted. My brother and his wife have done several long hikes like this, and I have followed their crazy "vacations" online and I have been intrigued. Part of the appeal of this to me is the challenge to do something exceptional and part of it is to see and experience new things. But perhaps the most appealing thing about this trip is its way of making things simple. I spend a lot of time following our Hokies, reading about politics, taking care of my responsibilities at home, etc. But when you are walking the Camino, all ... you ... have ... to ... do ... is ... take ... the ... next ... step. That simplicity has a lot of appeal to me at this stage of my life (76).
We will Vlog the entire journey at Rock2Santiago.com If you're interested in seeing what we're up to an all the amazing sites we'll see, please follow us and message us on that site – it really helps us navigate the many miles when we know folks are staying in touch back home.
Good luck. You should join my hiking, backpacking or trekking group on LinkedIn.
You're going to VLog it?!?!?! Haven't you watched a single movie about hiking in the woods with a camera? Spoiler alert, there is a murderer on the loose. I hope you brought enough rope and a Hatchett to have an epic hiking battle on the side of a cliff.
P.S The hike sounds really nice, have fun!
A friend of mine did this hike last year. You're going to be amazed.
Did you graduate in '76 or are you 76? either way, that's an impressive adventure. (I graduated in '76).
Which is your trip on Rock2Santiago?
I was referring to M and A or N and K. Figured it out from your photo.
Without knowing you, and thinking of my own dreams and bucket list, I'm impressed by your drive and passion. I've been wanting to do more hiking and this motivates me.
I'll be following.
Our trip starts in Gibraltar near the southernmost point of Spain.
I have a jpeg map of Spain that shows our route but could not find the instructions on how to post it. If someone can provide those instructions, then I'll edit the original posting to include it.
if it's this one, i took the liberty of pulling it from your website and embedding it here.
it's easiest to share images that are already uploaded to the web. generally, right click the online image and "copy image address", then come to TKP comment box and click the first icon on the top-left above the comment box and paste the link there. click "insert" and voila, the code will appear in the comment box
Thanks. That helps quite a bit.
The graphic I made used the same map but I annotated it to locate the major locations along the way.
I am 76 and graduated in 1969 ... yes, I'm an old guy.
Seriously, that sounds like an amazing trip. I'm only 52, and I would have a hard time with 10% of that. Looks like I got to put in some work over the next 24 years to work up to that!
Sounds fascinating! I have a good amount of Spanish heritage, both from Galicia and Basque Country. I got a chance to travel there back in 2011 with my brother and parents and we spent 10 days driving around the country. It was a tremendous experience.
I'll be sure to check out the website and do my best to follow along your trip.
Wow, that's is going to be incredible. I saw a documentary on this pilgrimage several years back, it looked amazing. This is going to be spiritual and life changing. How long will you take to do it (I expect your answer is as long as it takes, but maybe you have an estimate)?
Yes, you are right, i.e., as long as it takes. It is planned as a 70-plus day hike with some zero milage days built in.
My brother's youngest daughter is graduating with her doctorate in Physical Therapy in mid-May, so he and his wife must get back for that.
My youngest sister and her husband are taking a more traditional Camino de Portugues and meeting up with us in Lisbon. Her oldest daughter has a baby due in mid-May so she must get back for that birth.
My wife is going to join us in Porto and walk the last 125 miles. We do not have the deadlines that my other siblings have. How her hip (hip replacement surgery in December 2021) holds up will determine our pace.
this is absolutely awesome!!
will you be backpacking/camping along the way? or finding accommodations wherever possible?
We intend to stay in Pilgram hostels (known as alburges) when we can because the cost, but sometimes (especially early in the trip) we will be in hotels. Because we are not starting on an established Camino route, the infrastructure is not nearly as well established.
Camping was considered but our packs, about 20 pounds each, are heavy enough without including tents, sleeping bags, cooking gear, etc. Twenty pounds does not sound like all that much, but my shoulders can really feel every gram toward the end of a hike. Plus. in some parts of Europe, the refugee problem has created ill will toward those that wild camp and campgrounds were not easy to find along our chosen path.
Spain is amazing. I have been to both Gibraltar and Seville - though via riding in a car. I can barely imagine the amount of sights you will see and stories you will hear. And the wine is fantastic and cheap. It has been 5 years and I still predominately drink Spanish red wine, when I drink wine. Enjoy!
Do you have some favorite wines or wine regions you would like to share?
I tend to lean toward the tempranillo which is in the Rioja region. Bodegas Santa Rufina is one of the wineries that stood out to me, but it is north of Madrid and not on your route. I am also not a wine enthusiast and I found it all very drinkable. There were maybe one or two the whole time we were in Spain I did not like. Salut!
We finished a bottle of tempranillo earlier this week. Looking forward to more soon!
What about sherry and brandy? You will be passing through sherry country on the way to Seville. I lived in Spain for 3 years when I was growing up. It is great.
Wow, this looks like a lot of fun! I can't wait to see how it goes and hope my future retirement is filled with such adventures.
Me and the wife did 56 miles in three days on the West Highland Way back in the summer and I thought I was a badass. This sounds fucking awesome man. We'll be keeping up!
We had made plans to hike Hadrian's Wall last summer as prep for this Camino but my wife's hip had not healed enough from her hip replacement surgery and had to cancel.
I have family in Scotland and love the country side throughout the UK. I'll bet the West Highland Way was fantastic!
Nice. last year I visited Sevilla, Lisbon and Porto, but I rented a car and drove between them..
enjoy the walk!
When I get tired and / or the slope is hard, I tend to let my eyes focus on the ground four to five feet ahead of me. I am hoping that I will be in good enough shape to "look around and smell the roses" as we go.
I was not in good enough shape, sad to say. There are many, Many, MANY slopes that seem only to go up. And "every'" final destination of the day seems to be at the top of a hill.
However, I'm glad I'm here and I'm gradually walking my way into shape. My brother and sister-in-law have been very patient.
"When I get tired and / or the slope is hard, I tend to let my eyes focus on the ground four to five feet ahead of me"
That is the exact same thing that I would do on long distance runs back when my knees allowed me to do 10K-half marathon on a regular basis + the 1 marathon.
You will make it!
Bon voyage, VTCC-69!
First time logging in since arriving.
We have made it to less than 80 km to Portugal. I gone through a bad cold, blisters and sore legs but things are looking up. If folks haven't looked at the vlog (Rock2Santiago.com), you are missing a treat. There is a video clip of one of the monkeys jumping on my brother's back that is quite humorous.
Bon Camino and Go Hokies!
Awesome! Its good to hear you are in Spain and on your way. Sorry to hear about the blisters though - to steal Frank, they will get after you.
I tried to find the monkey clip. Can anyone tell me where it is?
Amazing trip. I'm envious.
This is incredible. Love all the orange and maroon as well. Thanks for sharing!
Good luck, hope we get to see more.
Doh. Skipped right over the first post thinking the monkeys wouldn't be in the city area. Didn't know the history of the Barbary macaques.
I was getting vertigo watching the walk down Gibraltar.
My thighs were sore from all that continuous downhill/down steps that it affected me for days after.
We passed the 150 mile milestone are in the town of Aroche. In two days we should be walking into Portugal., about 40 kilometers away.
Keep it up Rodney! You're doing great! I've been following your family's vlog and am really enjoying the descriptions and photos. You got this buddy......it's all about the journey!
Congratulations Rodney! Glad to see on your vlog you finished in Santiago today! Well done buddy- 740 miles is a hell of a hike. I really enjoyed following you and your family's journey. I hope it was everything you thought it would be and more.
Also....am I correct that the shirt you were wearing in front of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was Chicago maroon and burnt orange? I couldn't see a logo but that may have been because of your backpack strap....
Once again, congratulations!
A heart felt thank you to you and everyone else that followed us.
As I said when I started, I believed that it would be the hardest thing I ever attempted and it was. Early on, I was not sure I was going to be able to finish it because I was nearly as well prepared as I needed to be. And when I got dehydrated and got sent to the hospital, I feared my Camino was over. I got through it all through the grace of God and my family's help.
No, it wasn't a VT shirt, sad to say, but I did choose it because it was the closest color combination I had to the goals of light weight and non-cotton. My brother constantly harped on fast drying (hence non-cotton) and as light weight as possible (he weighed safety pins and his credit cards to find the lightest of each). For a one day hike, it doesn't matter very much but as the miles add up the wear on the body does also.
I am still in Spain doing some sightseeing but leave in a few days.
I will make a short report after I get back and have a chance to process all that has happened.
That's awesome!!!! Congratulations!
Congratulations! What a great accomplishment.
I needed some time after the Camino consider what the Camino meant to me. To that end, I would like to cover the end of my time in Santiago, my trip home and a few reflections on the trip overall.
While in Santiago, Mark, Allison, and I were walking around being tourist when I heard my name being called out. Anja and Bert from the Netherlands who I had met on the trail walking out of Lisbon were participating in the international tradition of the Camino (sitting at an outdoor café having coffee and pastry). It had been 30 days and yet this delightful couple had remembered me. It was one of the moments that my brother had talked about – a bit of Camino magic, that is, people making personal connections that last beyond the days on the trail. We have already exchanged emails and pictures.
Porto panic, 23APR23 (recap and happy ending)
My wife had flown from the USA to spend some time with me before I finished my Camino. On 23APR23, I took my wife to the airport starting from the Sao Bento Metro Station. While we were getting our Metro tickets, a beggar tried to get us to give him money. He stayed at our elbow making us nervous. We hurriedly grabbed our tickets and rushed off to the Metro.
After dropping my wife off at the airport, I traveled back to the Trinidad station, the Main Metro station, to make a connection to the bus line to restart my Camino. Panic set in when I could not find my credit card. I feared that the beggar may pickpocketed us or it had been lost. I went through all my pockets and my backpack twice with no results. It was then that I approached a Metro employee. I explained what had happened and asked him to call the Sao Bento station to see if it had been found or even left in the ticket machine. He called but my credit card was not to be found.
The Metro employee's calm, professional manner helped calm me and I was able to begin to plan what to do next. I did an inventory of what I had (just over 40 euros and an American $50 bill) and a previously purchased bus ticket to Vila Nova de Cerveira where I could hike to rejoin my brother. I called my brother Mark who had gone ahead on his Camino and he graciously offered to cover my expenses during the rest of our Camino. The Metro employee later gave me a Metro ticket out of his own wallet which I used to check the Sao Bento station myself (same results) and to get out to the bus station. Although I had thanked the Metro worker, in my confusion and the rush to get to bus station I neglected to get the name of the man who had been so helpful.
After completing my Camino, I came back to Porto for my flight home. Despite having a morning flight, I made sure to make time to return to the Trinidad station to look for the man who had "saved" my Camino. I saw him and he recognized me. I was so glad to find him. We had a brief reunion where I was able to get his name and again thank him for the timely help and encouragement he provided.
Hugo was an incredible encouragement in my time of panic. He was a fantastic good-will ambassador for the Porto Metro System. I was able to write an email to the Porto Metro system detailing how helpful Hugo been and how I felt he had saved my Camino. I don't know the end result of my letter, but I hope he received the recognition he deserved.
My flight leaving Porto to Munich was a new experience for me. I have been on international flights many times over the decades, but this was different. In the past, my reserved personality would keep me from engaging in anything but the briefest polite conversations with my fellow passengers. Perhaps I was influenced by my brother's willingness to talk to anybody or perhaps it was some of the Camino magic, but I started talking to my fellow passenger, Vali from Croatia. During the 3-hour flight, we talked with each other about many things – family, why we had been in Portugal, books that we liked, etc., Despite the difference in age, background, and beliefs, we made a connection and exchanged emails and have begun a conversation.
I had two specific goals when I started this Camino and some less well-defined ones as well.
· I wanted to spend time with my brother who was just learning to walk when I left for Virginia Tech. Although, we had time together in short spurts over the decades, I wanted to know him better. I saw a faithful Christian, a loving husband, a resourceful pilgrim, a patient brother, a risk taker witness, and an occasional goofball – in short, a man I proud to call my brother.
· I wanted to attempt the hardest physical and emotionally challenge thing of my life before it was too late. At 76 years old, I know that I may not have many "next year, I'll do it" opportunities left. That I was successful, maybe in spite of myself, was a blessing beyond my understanding.
· I hoped to accomplish some spiritual goals also, but these were not well defined in my mind or heart. I spent a lot of time along the way praying for family members and reminding myself that I belong to my God. I was crushed in late April when I thought my Camino was over, yet hope was restored in the end.
· I was also intrigued by the stories of people from very diverse national and ethnic backgrounds cooperating and enjoying each other's company. I had glimpses of that in the time I had with Anya and Bert, Vaile, and especially my Metro man hero, Hugo. Those people and others I met along the way were all a blessing to me.
And there is one more question that I have been asked, would you do it again? It was an incredible experience that I love being able to surprise folks that an old guy like me could accomplish. The time getting to know my brother (and other family members, as well) was invaluable. However, the more than 60 days I was away was too much time away from my wife. Since her hip replacement surgery has not healed in a way that would suggest that she (a two-time marathon runner) could tackle such a task; without her the answer is "No." ... but if circumstances change, maybe.
Rodney, it was a lot of fun reading you and your family members vlog during your trip. I'm so glad that you completed your trip despite some hardships, and that you found so many unexpected yet fulfilling things during your journey. Kudos my friend, you have my everlasting respect for your perseverance on such a physically and mentally demanding excursion.
Thank you for sharing your journey and story with us. I enjoyed checking the Vlog and seeing the pictures. I am glad that you achieved your goals and grew and learned so much. You are an inspiration. I'm sure it was an experience like no other. I only know you from here and one Lot 18 tailgate, but I am proud of your accomplishment.
** You said that it was hard being away from your wife for so long (understandable), just out of curiosity, how long have you been married/been apart in your marriage?
We got married in 1991 a few days after I turned 44. She is more than a decade younger than I am. The longest we had been apart before that was two weeks, twice.
I was on a business trip to London when the volcano in Iceland erupted shutting down all air traffic, so I got to stay in England for an extra week basically on vacation at the government expense.
The other time was when she went to a painting class out in Wyoming for two weeks.
I maintain that it is always harder on the one who stays home than the one who goes. The one who goes is often on an adventure and/or facing new things. The one left behind is dealing with (boring?) every day life. On this trip my wife had to deal with backed up septic system plus other issues.