From Honolulu to Santiago: Part 8


La Iglesia de San Salvador de Vilar de Donas is a few miles off the Camino and is definitely worth the extra trek.


The church dates back to the thirteenth century, and was a final resting place for Knights of Santiago, who protected pilgrims along the Camino.  The friendly caretaker explained the symbolism of the tombs: Dogs at the feet of the knights symbolized loyalty;  The lions under the tomb are positioned over a wolf, on the left, and a wild boar, on the right, to symbolize the protection the knights provided.


The original murals inside the church are pretty spectacular, especially given their age.  The history of the Camino is fascinating.

From Honolulu to Santiago: Part 7


The Castro de Castromaior ruins are just a short walk away from the main Camino path, but very few peregrinos seemed to be interested.  Maybe it was the early hour, or the light rain, but everyone seemed to be in a big hurry to get to their next coffee, beer, meal, or other destination.  Which was fine with us, because we were able to explore the Celtic and Roman-era fortress ruins at our leisure, with no distractions or photo-bombers.  It was a reminder that eras and distinct civilizations come and go.


And just about no one seemed to take any interest in a modest memorial to Rowland Ian Kitchen, a peregrino from West Yorkshire, England, who died in 2015 while walking the Camino for the eighth time, at age 68. It seemed like such a small effort to pause and pay respects to a fellow pilgrim who made such a significant effort himself and, as the memorial proudly notes, did not “go gently into that good night” of advanced age.

Your memory lives!


There were lots of sheep along the Camino…


… and plenty of random wildflowers to pause and admire.

From Honolulu to Santiago: Part 6

And there he is.  Or at least one iteration.  The kinder, gentler, pilgrim-spreading-the-good-word version of Santiago watches over Portomarin’s town plaza.  Another version is quite the enemy-smiting warrior.  More on that later.

Portomarin is a lovely small city, but after one night it was time to move on.


The old pedestrian bridge in the foreground has been closed off, but the one behind it had plenty of early morning pilgrim traffic.


More ruins were visible along both banks of the dry riverbed.


An abandoned brick factory on the outskirts of town carried a few nice messages.  Spain had a lot more graffiti than I expected, and most of it was just ugly crap that looked like it had escaped from 1982.


But that’s quite a different take on the broken windows theory.  And it kind of makes you wonder….


From Honolulu to Santiago: Part 5


The Camino passes through many charming villages that are picturesque but seem ghostly quiet.  You rarely hear the laughter of children as in so many other countries.



A newer bridge dwarfs an older one leading into the small city of Portomarin.


A close look reveals remnants of the village that existed before construction of a dam raised the river’s water level and forced many structures to be abandoned.


An old stairway leads from the bridge up to the city.


A steady stream of peregrinos makes the climb.


The fortress-like church was actually moved brick by brick to save it from the river when the dam was built.


It’s great to see some old folks enjoying the afternoon dancing to music in the plaza.  Hope that’ll be us some day.


From Honolulu to Santiago: Part 4


Timeless stone walls and gently rolling pastures speak to the deep agricultural roots of rural Galicia.


It’s a pretty easy life for some habitués, until that day when it’s not.


Apple trees are so prevalent along the Camino that a destitute peregrino could literally survive on them all the way to Santiago, at least in this season.


We wonder about the age and meaning of the strange symbol carved neatly into this rock.


The Camino is generally very well-marked, and random peregrinos often add mementos and commentary.


He didn’t start in Honolulu either.  Or in France, for that matter.

Just what was the intended point here?  An admonition to those who aren’t sufficiently pious in their purposes for undertaking the journey, or who didn’t take the longest route possible on foot so as to measure up to those who did?

If so, it’s exactly the type of self-righteous arrogance that’s always pushed me away from organized religion and those who use it to inflict themselves upon others.  And the fact that it’s in English strikes me as hugely ironic.

But maybe the meaning is something else.  Maybe it’s a gentle reminder that faith itself is ancient and broad, and an appeal to consider the roots of Christianity and not get lost in its subsequent imposition, trappings, and application.

I’ll just appreciate the ambiguity, embrace the latter interpretation, and be at peace with the world.



From Honolulu to Santiago: Part 3


A broad winding path through a pleasant forest…


… populated by chirping sparrows …


… leads to a crossroads village of old stone houses patrolled by a friendly dog.


In the morning, a pleasant fog blankets the hills …


… and cools the path.

From Honolulu to Santiago: Part 2

We rolled into Sarria shortly after dawn on the overnight train from Barcelona.  The landscape was dreamlike as the sun rose while the train sped alongside the Rio Sarria and we rubbed our eyes after a long night of not much sleep.

We started walking in Sarria, Galicia, about 70 miles from Santiago.  Purists and those with a lot more free time typically begin walking this particular route, known as the Camino Francés, about 400 miles further away, on the other side of the Pyrenees mountains in France.  That’s awesome.  But they also don’t come all the way from Hawaii.

Some hard-core types might begrudge us for taking a truncated route, but I’m not concerned and we didn’t encounter any overt hostility about it.  Anyway, we didn’t walk the Camino to impress anyone or prove ourselves.  Many peregrinos start the Camino in Sarria, and it worked out great for us.

Sarria’s tiny train station is just a few blocks from the Camino.

The Camino follows a series of old stairways that lead past the Iglesia Santa Mariña de Sarria.  We arrived on a Sunday, so attended the noon pilgrim mass, along with a few other peregrinos and many more local residents.

Iglesia Santa Mariña de Sarria

Been a long time for us.  The most recent was a peaceful Christmas Eve mass in Mexico more than a decade ago.  Mexico’s a lot less peaceful these days.

Mural outside the Iglesia Santa Mariña de Sarria

The mural depicting medieval peregrinos on their way to Santiago was a poignant reminder of the Camino’s history.  It was striking but subtle, not overly dramatic or too bright, and it had a weathered look that evoked authenticity.

Sarria Castle

Ruins of the old town’s crumbling castle can only be viewed from a distance.


The castle was largely destroyed during a peasant revolt against the aristocracy in the fifteenth century.  Should it be viewed as a proud symbol of cultural history or a legacy of oppression?  You can ask that type of question about so many things.


An old stone cruceiro marks the way …


… toward the bridge out of town.

From Honolulu to Santiago, Part 1

Lonely road through a peaceful Spanish forest.

I’ve been very remiss at updating here but I do have an excuse: we had been training for the Camino de Santiago, a beautiful multi-day trek through northern Spain, from which we recently returned.

Needless to say, recounting that adventure here will have everything to do with Spain and very little to do with Oahu, but such is the nature of this blog.  I’ll focus on landscape, history, and general observations, rather than lodging and dining reviews and the like.

The Camino passes many centuries-old stone chapels and other reminders of the past.

Also, although we’re not terribly religious, especially not in the strict organizational sense, the Camino is of course based on a medieval Christian pilgrimage route that ends at the purported tomb of Saint James the Apostle, so there is much religious art, iconography, sentiment, history, baggage, and even graffiti to ponder along The Way.

I’m certainly not here to preach or proselytize but I do respect the beliefs and the history in which the Camino is undeniably steeped, while retaining a healthy sense of modern realism and an appreciation for the wine and other worldly pleasures that were also to be found.

So read on if you’re so inclined.  There’s a lot to see and think about, and a lot to (metaphorically) unpack.  I’ll add new segments in the coming days.

Croppped grafitti
Spanish speakers will appreciate the mix of sacred and profane here.  Suffice to say that the sentiment expressed in the lower right corner is a crude rebuke to the pilgrims who follow the much-celebrated Way of Saint James and collect stamps in their official credencial del peregrino, or pilgrim passport, as proof of their journey in order to receive a traditional compostela, or certificate of completion, upon arriving in Santiago.




Ala Wai Canal ramble


The Ala Wai Canal in Waikiki is surrounded by good walking paths that link several decent-sized parks.


Canoes line the shore at Ala Wai Community Park.


Lots of history here.


It’s a short stroll to the McCully Street Bridge and a view of the slopes of Diamond Head at the end of the canal.


Then it’s over the Makiki Stream Bridge.  The stream is not much to look at, but the view is interesting.


The Kalakaua Avenue Bridge is next.


Lots of jellyfish appear as the canal nears the ocean.


And lots of tilapia.


Back toward the other end of the canal is the mouth of Manoa Stream after it’s been joined with Palolo Stream.


I think that’s a goose snoozing along the bank.


And some goslings!


The view’s a little different from another angle.


Lots of ducks near the mangroves.


Some sleep with one eye open.


A friendly bulbul makes an appearance.


A waxbill finch turns up too.


Great way to spend a morning!