Tag Archives: Pilgrims

Saturday in Medjugorje – Apparition Hill

11/15 – another warm, sunny day, and my hip is feeling better. Today we will climb Apparition Hill, where the six teens first saw Our Lady, Queen of Peace. It’s a two mile walk to the base of the hill, past hotels, souvenir shops and cafes. We are concerned that there don’t seem to be enough pilgrims to keep all these places in business. There are several new buildings that look like construction was abandoned halfway.

On the road we spied this sign, which leads me to think that the Last Trumpet will not be blown here!

We reached the foot of the hill, and tried to determine the best route up. No clear trail has been established – people just start climbing from wherever they are.


Not too far up the hill are two blue crosses, which mark the spots where two of the children received their visions. Many stopped to pray their rosary here.



Despite the sharpness of the rocks, some, young and old, climb the hill barefoot. Many are assisted by their grown children or grandchildren. Many walk with a cane. There are reliefs depicting the mysteries of the rosary as we ascend.


At the summit is a life sized statue of Mary, on a base shaped like a star. Many are praying, kneeling and weeping here.




Behind the statue is a crucifix, where others kneel on the rocks.


We made our way back down the hill, passing those on their way up. I can feel my feet bruising from being squeezed in rock crevices and hitting sharp rock edges. I’ve turned my ankle, and can’t imagine what those in bare feet must be feeling. I consider that Medjugorje asks more of its pilgrims than the other Marian sites we’ve visited.

In the evening, we returned to the church. Jim wants to see if the Risen Christ statue is still seeping. He purchased some little cloths with the statue imprinted on them at the souvenir shop, sold expressly to catch this moisture. There are many more people now, and we have to wait in line for a turn near the knee. The knee is not seeping now.

The other Marian sites had large areas for lighting candles. We know there must be one here, but haven’t seen it. We walked all around the church until we found this little area tucked away in a corner, with a flowing fountain. Very pretty and very peaceful.


Friday in Medjugorje

11/14 – happy birthday Lauren! Love you!

Today is warm and sunny, a total contrast to yesterday’s grey skies. Shirtsleeve weather, no jackets required. My hip is still troubling me, but improved since yesterday. I plan to take it easy today.

After breakfast, we walked the half mile to St. James Church, in the middle of Medjugorje. This very modern church was built prior to the start of the apparitions in 1981. It is said that the building of the church, way too large for the size of the small town at the time, and it’s dedication to James, the patron saint of pilgrims, are part of the miracles of this place. IMG_4194.JPG

In the courtyard in front of the church is a statue of Mary. You can see construction of a hotel right behind. IMG_4174.JPG

Inside, a mass was in progress in English, with folk guitar accompaniment. The church is very plain, with arched windows and an arch over the altar, but no large crucifix or statuary. There is a Mary chapel off to one side, adorned with many flowers.


Behind the church is an outdoor amphitheater with a Jumbotron and seating for thousands. This was added once pilgrims started coming in large numbers, following the Bosnian War in the early 90s.




There are gardens behind the church with Stations of the Cross and walking paths with mosaics of the life of Jesus. Walking, praying and quiet contemplation are encouraged.


Water seeps from the knee of this statue, erected in 1998, considered to be a miracle of this place. You can see where the color of the metal has changed from all the hands that touch this knee. People leave pictures and written prayer requests at the foot of the statue. Yes, we saw water seeping from the statue.



On Friday afternoons, the faithful climb Cross Mountain, where they observe the Stations of the Cross. The large, concrete cross was erected in the 1930s, and is not connected to the apparitions, but the erection of the cross in this town is said to be part of the miracle of this place.

Unlike Lourdes, which caters to the wheelchair-bound, Medjugorje pilgrims must be fit. It is a two mile walk to the base of the mountain, and a steep, rocky climb to the top, which is more than my hip will allow me to do today, so Jim goes up alone. Some of the faithful go up barefoot, and many kneel on the jagged rocks at every station.



Here are Jim’s pix from the top of the mountain.



O Porriño to Cesantes to Pontevedra

10/6 – well, we’re not in Portugal anymore… How do we know? Rain, rain, and more rain. The rain in Spain falls mainly in Galicia, and our forecast is for rain every day until we reach Santiago. That said, it’s (usually) a nice, soft rain, and still warm (in the 60s). Our clothes and boots are starting to smell like wet dog again.

The other thing that happened when we crossed the border was a time zone change of one hour. Now, instead of the sun not coming up until 7:30, it doesn’t come up until 8:30! We early morning hikers will have to get used to walking in the dark…

There are more statues along our path today. Here’s a few I snapped when there was a break in the rain. That’s Saint James, with his big hat and walking staff. His token is a shell, and many pilgrims carry a shell tied to their backpacks:



11 miles to Cesantes, a good night’s sleep, and another 12 to Pontevedra. We started out at 7am, and were soon beyond the streetlights of the town. It was so dark, we had to use our flashlight to see the path ahead. Here’s a shrine we saw on the side of a house in the early morning:



We continue to see more pilgrims each day, some of whom just started at the Spanish border. One has to walk at least the last 100 kilometers to qualify for an official certificate of completion.


Pontevedra has a church shaped like a seashell, with a (rather effeminate) statue of St. James on the altar. We must be getting close!



Vilharino to Barcelos

9/27 – 17 miles today will get us to Barcelos. image



Many pilgrims start their journey in Porto, and today, for the first time, we met others walking the same path; Martin from London, a couple from Poland, a man from Hungary, a girl from Germany, and a couple, Patricia and Ray, from Sacramento! We walked with Patricia and Ray into the city, and met for a drink in the evening. So nice to share experiences, and to communicate in English!

For lunch, we stopped at a pilgrim-friendly restaurante where the proprietor’s picture was in our guidebook! We asked him to autograph his photo, and he was happy to oblige.

By 3pm we walked over the bridge into the city: image


Throughout our travels in Portugal, we have encountered the image of a colorful rooster on many shops and souvenirs. Now that we are in Barcelos, here is the story of The Cock of Barcelos:


If you look closely at the cross, you will see St. James holding up the feet of the hanging man.




Tomorrow, a day of rest.

Mealhada to Agueda

9/18 – 16 miles today, with grey skies and lots of rain, so no pictures. The walk was mostly flat, and mostly asphalt. At midday, we bought tuna and bread from a mini-market and looked for a place to sit down and eat lunch. We sat under the portico of a church, just before the sky opened up, drenching all the passers by, while we were sheltered from the storm. Pretty neat.

When we reached Agueda, there was a tourist office, so we stopped in for directions to a place to stay. Turned out that the alburgue in our guidebook was closed, and the other residencial in town was “not of good reputation”. We ended up walking another mile and a half off the trail to reach the Residencial Celeste, which is also acting as an alburgue for pilgrims. It had no restaurant, and the rain was pouring down, so the receptionist called Telepizza, and we poor wet pilgrims all had pizza and beer for supper.

We ate with two young women from Germany. Ruth is an IT professional, on six month sabbatical from Bayer Pharmaceuticals, and Annetta is on one month’s holiday from her job as a criminal judge. Annetta brought her little dust mop dog along, thinking she would enjoy walking 20 miles a day on those itty bitty legs. Annetta has to carry the dog and her backpack too!

Of course, their English was excellent, so we had a wonderful conversation about many things. Pilgrims could solve all the world’s problems, if given the chance!

Santarem to Vale de Figueira

9/3 – our original plan for today was to walk 15 miles north, which would give us a short 5 mile walk the following day. Our host Mario suggested a different plan: walk 7 miles north today without our packs, take the train back to Santarem, then reverse the process tomorrow, giving us a 13 mile day. This sounded like a good idea for us, plus it would give Mario another night of our business.

Santarem is a confusing town with many little alleyways, and the maps don’t show all the streets, so we had a challenging time getting out of town in the morning. This is the last time we will see blue arrows for the pilgrimage to Fatima, as those pilgrims are now walking in the opposite direction:


There are several old churches with interesting architecture:




The cathedral had an open square inside, with palm trees growing within!



It was a foggy morning, and the view from the summit of the hill, where the old castle walls stand covered in morning glories, was breathtaking:




We shared the path for a while with Robert, a Pilgrim born in the U.S. but lives in France. Then we were back on dusty sand tracks, looking at today’s crops of peppers, corn, grapes and olive trees:

We reached the sleepy little town of Vale de Figueira by 11, and assumed we would be able to find the train station, either by hearing trains, seeing tracks, reading a sign, or asking helpful townfolk. No such luck! Google Translate gave us the Portuguese for Train Station, but the townfolk looked at us like we were speaking Martian. Then we tried making Choo Choo sounds, but that really didn’t help. Jim determined from our small map that the station was on a different road than the Caminho, but as soon as we turned left, EVERYBODY became a Nice Person of Portugal; pointing, prodding and gesticulating that we were going the WRONG WAY!

We found the station eventually, and in a half hour we were back in Santarem. Here are some of the lovely tile mosaics at the train station:

Tomorrow, we hoist our packs and head for Golega!

Morgado to Santarem

9/2 – after a hearty breakfast of ham and cheese sandwich, juice and coffee, Mario drove us back to where he found us yesterday so we could complete the remaining 10 miles of our walk to Santarem. This will be an easy day, as our heavy packs are at the hostel, and we are just carrying a camera and a canteen of water.

We walked along the levee until we left the river:




Then we had nine miles of dusty dirt road, with tomatoes, squash, corn and grape vineyards lining both sides of the road. And yes, we sampled both the tomatoes and the grapes – sweet and tasty, although a bit dusty!





Finally, we saw Santarem in the distance, and knew we were only an hour’s uphill climb from home.


Here are the first citizens of Santarem to greet us:


Halfway up the hill, we stopped at a cool fountain to clean off some dust before walking into town:



There is an American pilgrim from California, Anita, staying at the hostel tonight, and we had a nice chat while we cooked our respective suppers. It’s nice to be able to communicate without a language barrier!

Azambuja to Morgado

9/1 – when we arrived at the cafe at 7 this morning for our coffee, it was full of English-speaking men! Four Americans and two Canadians had arrived late last night, and, of course, they were responsible for the chorus of God Bless America that we heard in the wee hours. They are all veterans of other caminhos, and are all walking the 20+ miles to Santarem in today’s 93 degree heat.

We have opted to walk 10 miles to Morgado, and Mario, who owns the Santarem Hostel, will pick us up. We will spend the night in his hostel, then he will drop us back at this halfway point tomorrow so we can complete the segment. We want to walk every step of this Caminho, taking time to enjoy whatever there is to experience.

We were on the road as the sun came up, as we wished to avoid the heat of the day.




We walked along the water, along a path that was part of an old Roman road:IMG_1600

The path took us through miles of tomato fields:IMG_1606IMG_1605

We got to watch as the tomatoes were harvested by a big machine that sucked up the tomato plants, separated the ripe tomatoes down a chute onto a waiting truck, ground up the rest of the plant and returned it to the field as mulch, along with any unripe fruit. Darned if we could figure out how the the machine knew the difference, but only the red fruit went onto the truck!IMG_1607IMG_1609

We walked through the little town of Valada, with its 16th century church, and viewed the River Tejo from the levee that we walked along for several miles:image



Mario came for us at noon, and he stopped and offered rides to the other pilgrims on the way to Santarem, but they all opted to walk in. We were grateful for the private room, and I loved the artwork displayed throughout the hostel of cows engaged in very human pursuits:




Alverca to Vila Franca de Xira

8/30 – today we planned an easy day of just 7 miles. Our guidebook recommended a 19 mile day, but we split it, as we are taking our time, and wanted to enjoy the town of Vila Franca de Xira. Tomorrow we will walk the other 12 miles.

We met two pilgrims from Brazil, who have completed six different caminhos. They arrived in Lisbon yesterday, walked until 10:30 last night, and would walk another 20 miles today. Everyone walks their own Caminho.

We walked some dusty early morning trail, and got to see some roses and morning glories in bloom:



We spent an hour on a nasty road walk along highway N10, but during this stretch several bikers wished us Bom Caminho, and an old man waved his arms to slow down the traffic as we passed. Nice People of a Portugal! We are asked if we are walking to Fatima, as both pilgrimages share a trail at this point. As Fatima is on the way, we are considering going there too. Why not?

Finally, the path took us back to the River Tejo, where we enjoyed walking on a multi-use track with bikers, joggers and families enjoying a Saturday outing.





We got to see our first bullfighting stadium, from a distance, there are posters of matadors all over, and bull is on the menu, so we think this is a bullfighting town:



We had another mystery lunch, as this is not Lisbon, so there are no tourist menus translated to English. We asked for the specials of the day, and the waitress asked lots of questions, to which we replied Yes. I ended up with codfish soup (delicious!) and a pork sandwich. Jim got fried pork loin with (the now expected) rice, fries and salad. This really isn’t hard, if you don’t care what you get!

Here is our hostel, where we have a private room, and our own bathroom across the hall. We just did some laundry – see Jim’s red shirt hanging out to dry?


A lovely afternoon in a lovely town.




Sacavem to Alverca

8/29 – we caught the 7:30 train out of Sintra, and were back in Sacavem in an hour, right where we left off the other day. Our walk today is 11.5 miles, mostly on dirt or gravel paths, occasionally on a busy highway, and a beautiful stretch along a boardwalk overlooking the River Tejo.

We met two other pelligrinas on their way to Santiago, both young girls moving much faster than we. We exchanged the pilgrim greeting, wishing them Bom Caminho! (have a good journey!) because we are pilgrims.

As we walked down a busy street, a car leaned on the horn. I looked up to see the female driver waving and blowing kisses to us, because we are pilgrims.

As we reached our room for the night, a car stopped in the street and the driver leaned out and asked in English, “Are you okay? Do you need any help?”, because we are pilgrims.

It’s good to be back on the Caminho!IMG_1542.JPG