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To the End of the World
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a small town in
southwest France, sitting in the foothills
of the Pyrenees mountains.
It would be totally unknown if it weren't for the fact
that it's the traditional starting point for the
Camino de Santiago, a 540-mile historic pilgrimage
across northern Spain.
That's why I ended up there, anyway.
Okay, so I just got the pilgrims' credencial.
It's a passport that you use on the Camino.
Normally, my brother and I meet every year
for a backpacking adventure.
Hank: We've made it to the top of the North Rim
of the Grand Canyon on January 1st!
But he couldn't do it this year because he got married
and needed his vacation time for his honeymoon.
So, sad that I'd be walking alone,
I decided to head out on the Camino de Santiago by myself
with a plan to walk all the way across Spain
to a lighthouse on the ocean.
This is the door to Spain and the Napoleon Route.
So, onto the Pyrenees!
People come from all over the world to walk the Camino
and a lot of them want their Caminos to be inward, spiritual journeys
as well as physical ones.
(Brock Currie) I'm doing the Camino because
the Camino is happening from here to here.
And, walking the Camino with so many other international
representatives of the world gives me a great deal of hope.
And I find myself marveling at
the beauty of the common spirit.
I'm not exactly sure why I'm doing the Camino de Santiago.
Really, the main reason is just for the adventure.
So, I'm not sure if I really believe
in the transformative aspect of it.
On the first day, I took the Napoleon Route,
a notoriously difficult, 25-kilometer climb over the Pyrenees.
It is pretty tiring. It's straight uphill the whole way.
If it anyone tells you the Camino de Santiago is easy, it is not.
It's quite a view up here though.
And it wasn't long before my fears
of being lonely disappeared.
These guys are hiking with me. This is
Katie, Mosta, and Grant & Ashley.
And, we are halfway to Pamplona!
But, by day three, I realized that, maybe, sitting in an office
for six months wasn't the best way to train for this trip.
It's a beautiful morning here.
This is supposed to be the easiest day so far, so,
that should help because
I have horrible blisters on the bottom of my feet.
I'm on the way to Pamplona, and I have three blisters
that are like pressure blisters on the bottom of my feet
and they hurt like a-- like crazy. Ugh.
Why am I doing this?
I mean, if it's this painful the whole time,
there's going to be some serious questions that need to be asked about
whether I really need to go the full 35 days.
But, wow, my feet hurt right now.
But, I was almost to Pamplona, so I kept going.
So, I'm here with Ky, a friend of mine from Germany.
We're hiking here through the city of Pamplona.
The strange thing about this is that we've been hiking
across the Spanish countryside, now, for days,
and, suddenly, we've just walked right into a huge city.
And there's music everywhere,
and it's pretty jolting and strange.
But, my feet hurt like crazy.
But I was happy I made there.
We've been having a picnic in the Pamplona park here
with some tasty...
(Ashley) ...morsels!
(Hank) Grant, how excited are you about this sandwich?!
Grant: Aw, yeah!
(Hank) Ashley, are you excited for this sandwich?
Ashley: Oh, yeah!
(Hank) Katie, how is it?
Katie: Number one sandwich.
So, I'm here in a restaurant here in Pamplona,
and, as you can see, we've finished
one, two, three, four, five, six
pitchers of Sangria!
(Hank) Katie, how are you feeling right now?
Amazing!
Uh, yeah. We've been drinking sangria all afternoon and
suddenly we have more energy than we've ever had on the Camino.
We're ready to do a whole other stage this afternoon.
(Hank) Ky, what do you think of the--
what do you think of the sangria?
It's pretty good.
But, in the morning, my blisters were so painful,
I could barely walk.
There was no way I could keep up with
Katie, Ky, Mosta, Grant & Ashley,
and they quickly left me behind.
It's the morning of day four, and things are
not looking good for me right now.
My blisters on my feet hurt so much.
I'm not sure I can hike today.
I'm going to start trying to hike and see how far I can get.
One of the things that's really interesting about the Camino
is the transitory nature of the relationships you have with
the people that you meet on the trail.
You're hiking and everyone hikes at different speeds
so you might meet someone on the trail
and you really like them; they seem great. But,
turns out they're hiking a lot faster than you,
and, suddenly, you talk to them for 10 minutes, and then
you walk away ahead of them, and you realize you may
never see them again for the rest of your life.
But, I kept going.
My feet hurt so much that I was walking at a quarter
of my normal speed, but at least I made it to the next town.
I've only walked half the day today from Pamplona,
but my feet just can't take it anymore; the blisters are so bad.
So, I'm going to stay here overnight and see how that goes.
I'm really pissed off and disappointed.
But my foot pain turned out to be a
blessing in disguise that day.
Stuck in town, I met up with Amalie.
I was really angry yesterday because
my blisters were hurting like crazy
and I only walked half the day.
But, I put threads and needles in my blisters yesterday:
tried to drain them out.
So, today I'm here with Amalie.
Amalie: Hi!
Hank: Who you can see right there.
And we're going to try to hike and see if my feet work.
Amalie and I walked together through rolling hills,
blanketed with thousands of green stalks of wheat,
shivering in the breeze.
When she told me that she was a medical student
walking the Camino to decide on her specialty
and to find an American's Netflix password to steal,
our shared sense of humor made us best friends
almost immediately.
(Hank) What are you eating?
Oh, you're video taping this?
(Hank) Mm hm.
I'm eating a snack pepper. That is some thing.
That's a thing.
(Hank) How long-- how many days have you been
carrying that in your pack?
I'd rather not tell.
But, with every step, my blisters only got worse.
Things have gotten pretty desperate here on the Camino.
We're taking these pads,
which are usually used for something else,
and we're trying to put them in our shoes
to make the blisters go away by reducing moisture.
I have no idea if this is going to work,
but, anything that could work, we're trying.
I'm here with Amalie.
I'm at the Centro de Salud which is the
health center here.
My blisters have gotten so bad on my feet that
I am ready to cut off my feet but instead of
cutting off my feet, I thought I would try
going to the Spanish doctor and see what
they want to do, especially because I want to make sure
it's not infected.
I have two nurses fixing my feet.
So, hopefully, I will be able to walk again soon.
But, boy, it hurts.
While the nurses worked to bandage and clean my feet,
the doctor was clear with me about one thing:
I had to stop walking for three days.
It's a pretty sad day on the Camino.
Amalie couldn't stop her Camino just because
my feet were hurting, so she had to hike out this morning.
And, so, I had to have a sad moment where
we said goodbye, and I may never see her again.
I meet people traveling all the time, but
there is something special about Amalie
that I can't quite quantify.
There's something pure about her spirit,
and inspiring about her that made me want to stay with her.
So, it's really hard to have to say goodbye to her.
Even though we only hiked together for three days,
it feels like we're already very good friends, and,
the idea of never seeing her again seems terrible.
It's very hard to let go of that feeling
of not wanting to let people go,
not wanting to let people get away.
I always have the sense of wanting to say,
"Well, if I never see you again for the rest of your life,
it was great meeting you!"
in a way that's kind of weird, and
you can't really say to someone you just met.
But, you want to because
you want to just appreciate the people in the moment.
The Camino really forces you to appreciate that moment
because that moment's fleeting.
In just a minute,
the person you're talking to will be gone,
and you may never see them again.
And, so, you just have to relish
that moment that you have.
(Gardur) This is the third Camino in three years.
I'm doing 1,800 kilometers
and that's because of my fiancé.
I did the Camino in 2007,
and, after one or two days, I met her.
I just saw her neck!
I fell in love with her neck!
I approached her, and
we walked the Camino together.
And then there was no contact in eight years.
And then we both decided to do the Camino.
Separately. So she contacted me on Facebook.
So, we said, "Let's see if the
feelings are still there."
And they are.
After letting my blisters heal for two days in Estella,
I started walking the Camino again by myself.
Well, it's a different kind of day on the Camino today.
I'm the only person I've seen hiking the Camino
the whole day.
And, I'm in tens of miles of wheat fields
that just go on forever.
And, it's a very different
experience, which gives me a lot of time
to kind of think to myself and relax.
I spoke to a man from Iceland, and
he has walked the Camino every year, I think,
for the past eight years.
And he says that every time he does the Camino,
he gets closer to his true self.
Hiking today through these miles and miles
of wheat fields by myself,
I can kind of understand how
maybe if you just do this a lot,
you become more and more at peace with
who you are, and you really get to understand
what you're thinking and feeling
and how that affects you.
This is one of the prettiest parts of the Camino so far.
I'm the only one out here today,
because I left very late because of my feet.
So, it's a little bit lonely, but it's just gorgeous.
It's been an extremely long day, but
I'm at Logroño, which means: 100 miles!
I've hiked 100 miles across Spain,
which means I only have about 450 miles to go.
My feet hurt like crazy, but
I'm glad to have made it.
So, I've made a decision.
After hiking maybe 20 miles today,
I'm still having blister problems,
so I've decided:
I'm going to try for new shoes.
I'm going to switch from boots to trailrunners
and we'll see what happens.
Jerzy: We are doing the Camino the second time,
because we forgot how the first time was painful.
Sylwia: Yeah, we are doing this from the sentiment.
Jerzy: And just to be here. Because
we don't know why we are here, but
we know that we need to be here.
So, after about a day and a half or two of bad weather
the sun's finally peeking out from these clouds.
There's a beautiful lake here just above Logroño.
And, things are looking up.
My shoes -- my new shoes
are working way better than my old ones.
Oh my God, my feet feel like they're walking on pillows.
My new shoes made it possible for me to keep pace
with Hannah and Arnaud, an adorable couple
who'd been walking 1,000 kilometers together
after starting their Camino in central France.
They were clearly in love, and even though
they had been walking for over a month
and still had nearly a month to go,
their enthusiam for their journey was infectious.
This is a five to six week walk across a country
and when a trip is that long, you can't really see
the end for so long.
The length of the Camino makes you
shift your thinking to just living in
the moment and thinking, "This is my life now.
Walking everyday on the Camino
is my life." Because, there's nothing else.
You can't see anything else.
After overnighting in Nájera,
I joined forces with Australians
Christianne and Claire until I received a text
message from an old friend, telling me to
meet her in the next town.
♪ Reuben: ...I've got a love that keeps me waiting... ♪
♪ ...I've got a love that keeps me waiting... ♪
♪ ...because I'm a lonely boy... ♪
♪ ...I'm a lonely boy... ♪
Reuben: My reason to do the Camino is just
to meet new people -- just want to
play some songs for myself and to all the pilgrims
and that's why I've got a
guitar, carrying with me.
It's heavy though.
I see the smiles on people's faces.
It has helped them a lot
to get through -- to get to Santiago.
And that really means much to me.
It's the morning of day 13.
Last night, I got to hang out by the pool
and listen to some nice guitar playing.
I'm here with Amalie this morning
whose foot was hurt, but now she's
going to try to hike for the first time in two days.
Reunited, Amalie and I continued together
across the Spanish countryside.
Soon, we reached the city of Burgos,
where we decided to take a day to relax.
So, I'm here on my rest day in Burgos,
and I'm at one of the most beautiful
churches that I've seen on this whole
pilgrimage so far.
So, we're at the Rice Palace Hotel in Burgos,
and I really wanted to have a nice hotel room
and some good breakfast.
I'm eating my first donut ever.
(Hank) In your whole life?
Yeah, I think so.
(Hank) Are you scared?
A little bit.
Good.
(Hank) Why'd you eat it with a fork?
Because I'm so sophisticated.
I'm supposed to do it like this?
(Hank) Exactly.
And that is what happens when a Danish girl
eats a donut for the first time.
After Burgos, we began hiking across the Meseta,
Spain's hot desert highlands.
On the way, I began reading a book
about a couple on an epic journey,
whose love is tested when they have to
individually recount the most cherished memories
of their relationship.
(Amalie) We're about to dip our feet
in the magic fountain of San Bol.
And, apparently, if you do this,
all your feet pain goes away.
I joked to Amalie that we had better
be sure to have memorable adventures,
in case we were tested at the Camino's end
like in my book.
But, we already seemed to be
well on our way.
(Hank) Ah! It's so cold. It's so cold.
I can't do it. I can't do it.
Let's stop. Let's go home.
I don't wanna do it anymore.
It's freezing! It's like ice!
(Amalie) Come on you wuss, suck it up.
(Hank) I mean, it's fine.
It's restoring me to health.
(Amalie) Oh yeah, it's feels magic.
Because of the nature of the Camino,
people become very close very fast.
If you spend a week with someone
on the Camino,
you can end up spending 70 hours with them,
which is a lot more time than I've spent
with most of my best friends
in the last six months.
Along the way, we devised a condiment strategy.
Although there are french fries all over Spain,
they're, for some reason, never served with ketchup,
which seems like a big waste and disappointment to us.
But now, something very excited has happened.
Amalie has purchased a bottle of Heinz ketchup
and has been carrying it with her
for miles and miles and miles.
Oh yeah. This is the purpose of fries.
We figured out how to stay in shape.
And one. And two. And three. And four.
When you're on the Camino,
yep, you're walking about 15 to 20 miles a day,
but you gotta keep those arms in shape too.
Gotta get in shape!
It's the only way I'm going to make it to the end.
On this machine, whatever it is,
I need to exercise the muscles that
this machine exercises.
Okay, well, I think I got it finished.
Oh, Jesus.
We found singing nuns.
♪ (Nuns) Now, I'm found... ♪
And we celebrated a special milestone.
Amalie: We're halfway to Santiago!
Hank: We made it halfway! Halfway!
Hank: Cartwheel!
Hank: Oh jeez, that's hard.
(Hank) Buenos dias.
And all of that was before we landed for a
sightseeing day in the city of León.
They have ham chips.
Like Pringles have a flavor that is ham.
Everything in Spain is made out of
some kind of pig meat.
I found a store filled with many wonderful things,
including this magical hat.
After leaving León,
Amalie's dream was to visit the chocolate
factory in Astorga, which our guidebook
said was open until 4 PM in the afternoon.
So, we walked faster than we ever had
to make sure we'd make it in time,
practically running through the medieval town
of Hospitál de Órbigo...
Just when my blisters are feeling a lot better,
now I sprained my ankle. I think I've
pretty much gone through every possible
foot injury that you could have on the Camino.
...eating a lightning fast meal...
We found this little fruit stand.
What an amazing treat to have a
yummy nectarine and some watermelon.
Now we have to head off as fast as possible
to get to that chocolate museum before it closes!
...and tackling the mountains above Astorga.
(Hank) What just happened?
We just walked for 30 kilometers
and we walked really fast because we
wanted to get to this chocolate museum in Astorga,
that, according to the guidebook we have,
is open until 4 on a Sunday.
We're here, and it's 3 o'clock now,
and they're closed damn it!
They've been closed for an hour.
Aw, that is so typical.
No chocolate for us.
But I wasn't too disappointed.
Creating another cherished memory with Amalie,
sprinting across the Meseta over medieval bridges
seemed just as good.
(Father Dave Nix) I'm a priest from Denver, Colorado,
leading a group of students from
Colorado State University.
I think we're supposed to have one main
reason we know we're walking.
Even people I meet who don't really have
faith in God.
I heard of one guy who is walking for his wife
who is blind who
doesn't really have faith but still hopes
for some type of healing.
My answer is I haven't internally figured it out.
I still don't know why the Lord wants me
to do it.
I know that a lot of people are doing the Camino
because they feel like they're at a crossroads
in their life,
and they're here to figure out which direction
to go in with their life or to make an important decision.
Or, they have a huge problem in their life that
they're trying to solve.
And, I feel a bit disingenuous because
usually when people ask me why I do the Camino,
I say it's because I go on a lot of adventure hikes,
and this is one I hadn't done yet.
But, the fact is, you know, my life isn't
perfect at all.
Sometimes I wonder whether the job I'm doing
is the job I want to be doing for
the rest of my life.
I'm not married.
I don't have the amount of money I'd like to have.
So, there's all these open ends and questions
about my life, and I have no idea what to do about them.
It's about 4:30 in the morning,
and this morning, we're off to Cruz de Ferro,
but we're doing it in the dark so that we can
see the sunrise
from the top of the second-highest point,
almost the highest point,
on the Camino de Santiago.
I'm here with Amalie
and a man I know only as "Sensei."
(Sensei) I'm the Camino with three other people
and two of them I met on the Appalchian Trail
from Georgia to Maine (in six months), and that was
18 years ago.
I'm doing the Camino because I thought it was a
good time, now, being 58 years old
to decide what I want to do with the rest of my life.
So, I'm looking for inspiration.
As the sun began to rise, Amalie, Sensei, and I
climbed toward the iron cross at the top
of the mountain, with stones in our packs.
For centuries, pilgrims have carried the rocks
representing their burdens,
all the way from their homes, to Cruz Ferro.
Where, in a ritual both literal and figurative,
they leave their stones and burdens behind,
before continuing back down.
We've made it to the Cruz de Ferro,
which is the second-highest point on the Camino.
It was a very nice hike coming up here.
At the top, Amalie told me that our
sunrise climb to Cruz de Ferro was one of the
most beautiful adventures of her life.
And, as we stood together on the
huge mound of symbolic burdens, shed by
pilgrims on the Camino over thousands of years,
it was hard to deny that the mistakes and failures
of my own life seemed a little bit smaller.
For me, as we began descending the mountain,
it felt like the start of a brand new day.
(Min) I walked the Camino in 2007,
and, I never thought I could do it again.
But now, I'm in a divorce.
So, suddenly, I could.
And, back then, I fell in love
with someone from Iceland.
And, when my divorce was there,
Gardur, is the guy from Iceland,
he came in my head because
we fell in love back then.
I found him on Facebook,
and then we made an appointment to meet
the 5th of May in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
and, now, we are walking again.
We're being followed by, I don't know,
10 Spanish guys who are singing childhood
Spanish songs which we don't know,
but, they're very entertaining.
And we continue on, on the Camino, on
one of the most beautiful days.
We've had direct, super hot sun for the last
five days or so, and now, it's nice and cool,
and misty and mysterious. It's like we're
in a mysterious medieval kingdom.
(Hank) We're at a hotel in Galicia,
and there's a crazy rainstorm which
turned into a huge hailstorm.
You can see huge pieces of hail everywhere.
(Owner) I need to close the door, young man.
(Hank) Whoa! That's crazy!
Despite everything we were sharing together,
there was one thing Amalie and I both knew
but wouldn't talk about.
We were closing in Santiago very quickly,
and our Camino was about to be over.
The Camino is interesting because it structures
your life in the sense that everyday you wake up
just about the same time,
and you start walking.
Only 100 kilometers left! We've done almost 700!
...and you walk for about 8 hours.
Then, you stop. You relax for a little bit.
You eat dinner. You go to sleep.
You wake up. You do the same thing all over again.
You just do it for five or six weeks straight.
As you do it more and more,
you start to forget what your life was like
before you were doing the Camino...
We are 30k from Santiago,
and we're trying pilgrim beer here.
...I can't remember what it was like
to not wake up everyday
and walk and walk and walk.
I'm not sure how I'm going to handle it
when I get back to Los Angeles,
and my life is completely different.
No longer will it just be getting up and walking.
It's hard to imagine life not being like that, now.
This is it. We're on our way to Santiago.
We're going to get there in about three hours.
This is a very exciting day.
There's lots of people on the trail.
Amalie: It's like this is Camino Christmas.
The number of people is growing as we
near Santiago. We have about 12 kilometers
remaining, and we're walking by the
Santiago airport right now.
We're walking down the street in Santiago!
Okay, I see two towers
with crosses on them!
(Amalie) So, it might be the top of the cathedral!
But, we're only just looking in bakeries,
because the bakeries look like --
We just are so hungry!
(Amalie) But we can't stop, because
the pilgrims' mass starts in half an hour,
and we have to be there.
(Hank) We have to get to the mass.
We met a nun in Santiago who told us
that she thought the Camino is God's dream
for how people should be
when they're with each other.
And, I couldn't help but notice that we were
watching 1,000 people, all share the best
moment of their lives together,
right before our eyes.
To my surprise, the clerk in Santiago
didn't even ask us to describe a single
cherished memory from the trip.
(Clerk) And, your motivations for walking the Camino:
were they religious or spiritual?
(Hank) Spiritual.
Ta-da! I have got my Compostela certificate.
But, my dream was always to walk
to the ocean and lighthouse in Finisterre,
a Latin name for the end of the world.
And, so, we kept walking.
So, this is it.
This is the last night on the Camino.
I'm in Olveiroa, which is the final stop
before reaching Finisterre.
And, um, it's just, uh, I'm,
I'm happy to not have to walk for a few days
after this, but I'm very, very sad that this
trip's going to be ending.
It's been an amazing trip,
and the only thing I can think about is,
"How do I do this again and again?"
I can't imagine a life where I'm not doing this
as much as I can,
because it's just a beautiful night,
and it's been a beautiful adventure,
and I can't believe it's going to be over tomorrow.
But, I'll make it to the sea,
and to the end of the world.
So, we're walking down the trail here,
we've walked close to 880 kilometers,
about 550 miles.
It's a lot of rain today,
but, suddenly, woo!
We've got to the ocean!
Check it out!
There's the ocean in front of us!
We've walked across all of Spain
and we've made it to the sea!
Amalie: Woo!
(Hank) Woohoo! The ocean!
I'm not religious, but
when I looked out at the sunset with Amalie,
I knew that the nun was right about
the Camino being God's dream
for how people should be when
they're with each other,
and I was heartbroken
that we were about to wake up.
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To the End of the World (on the Camino de Santiago)

2494 Folder Collection
Precious Annie Liao published on January 26, 2016
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