Thursday, June 28, 2012


Emilene's collection of heart-stones

Since her decision to walk the Camino, Emilene has been picking up many heart-shaped stones on her walks to prepare for this journey.  Big, small, white, black, some perfect, some dented, but all of them unmistakably heart-shaped.

On the morning before her visit to us a couple months ago, she had time for a short walk on the beach.  She prayed that she would find a heart stone especially for me, and found one within a couple of minutes.  Two steps further she found another, and by the end of her walk she had five; one for each of us attending the meeting that day.

When browsing through Emilene’s blog, you will soon see that these heart-stones feature through out and have a special symbolic value for her; the blessings she receives from God everyday of her life.

On the Camino there is a special place, the Cruz de Ferro (iron cross), where many millions of pilgrims have left tokens of love over the centuries.  At the foot of this simple iron cross mounted on a wooden pole, the mound of tokens, brought by pilgrims from their homelands, has grown to impressive proportions; 6 meters high and 24 meters in diameter.

For months I have wondered what to send with Susan, who kindly offered to carry a token from me to this cross.  Although I treasured the little heart stone Emilene gave me and I really wanted to keep it, I knew that this is what I have to send to the cross as my token of love.  For me this stone symbolises the love I received so amply in my life since I have been diagnosed with MSA.  For the first couple of months my prayers were just cries of help shouted at God.  Then one day my eyes miraculously opened and I saw that He has sent help in the form of people.  Some of them, like my husband, my boys and some of my treasured friends, have been placed in my life a long time ago for the help I need now.  I am truly amazed though by the many people He keeps sending me to accompany me on this difficult journey.  From them I have learnt the true meaning of selfless care and unconditional love for fellow human beings.  Watching them has inspired me in many ways, and with their help and support my life has become whole again.

With this heart-stone I thank God for blessing me like this and for giving me a ‘new heart’ and thus healing me from my previously self-centred ‘stone-heart’.  The following verse was given to me by Emilene with her explanation of the meaning of these hearts in her life;

Ezekiel 36:26-2726 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

What my friends are doing now, this selfless devotion of their pilgrimage to create awareness for MSA, is AN ACT OF LOVE towards me and all the patients who suffer from this disease.  In the picture below, taken by Emilene who has the gift to see hearts everywhere, is a heart-stone permanently buried in the Camino path.  By laying my heart-stone at the foot of this cross, I pray to God that their efforts will also be permanently buried in the hearts of their fellow travellers and that the results will be blessed and fruitful. 

This week my heart-stone from South Africa was laid at the foot of this cross.  Communication with Susan is a problem, but I hope to get a picture of this event some time in future. 


All of the hikers are currently on the stretch between Leon and Santiago.


I just had a text message from Susan, who was waiting for Eddie to pass her. They passed the 30 km mark and are walking in lovely misty weather. The girls will sleep in Arca tonight and will God willing complete the last 20 km to Santiago tomorrow.

EDDIE will overnight 12 km from Santiago en hopes to complete his  Camino around 8.30 tomorrow. 


More photos from EMILENE - I love it that she has the time to show us all the little things on the Camino!

This is how the bikers travel on the camino...

Need new feet? Just look around you, the Camino will provide... 
EDDIE says the camino mozzies are a vicious breed and an American friend who got bitten on the eyelid needed 3 injections.

EMILENE'S post; "Once again my nose has led me to a lovely little oasis. I have it all to myself, soft jazz playing in the background, ice cold beer shandy and little snacks my reward for walking since 7am!  Hallo Ponferrada!" On this map (click on 'Ponferrada')Emilene is at C, Eddie at D, and the 3 chicas somewhere behind Eddie.

EDDIE stopped at Ribadiso to have a siesta - he hardly slept at all with all the snoring going on last night.


EDDIE had a restless night with some of his room mates snoring louder than vuvuzelas!

The rooftops of Acebo were a welcome sight at the end of Emilene's day.

The big hearted Emile spotted this huge heart in her path;

EMILENE'S NEWS; "Today I will finally reach the Cruz de Ferro, the famous cross on the highest point of the Camino. Here, for centuries, pilgrims have left little stones from home. My two little stones will find a special place there as well, one dedicated to my parents, two of the most special people in the world! Rabanal del Camino has been the most special on the Camino for me. Last night after dinner as I walked to my hostal I walked past a little girl - she had set up a table next to their house and on it she had displayed a collection of small stones that she had painted names, numbers and little animals on. I was immediately drawn to the names. True to my experiences so far, the first name that jumps out at me is that of my husband. Not a common name, but there it was... I looked at the others and these on the photo where other people in my life. I bought them all from her and will take it home for each of these people - I truly believe that, if you're open to it, you will receive these little gifts for people near to you. I feel truly blessed today..."


EDDIE arrived in Portomarin by 11.30 and joined in the festivities after Spain's victory over Italy in the Euro cup final;

EMILENE watched the game in Rabanal, which she says is the most beautiful town on the Camino so far.  She also attended a service in a beautiful little stone church.

SUSAN reported by email that the last 100 km to Santiago is very crowded and they had to get out of the way to let a school group of 100 pupils pass.  Under these circumstances it’s difficult to squat behind a bush!  They are all missing their nearest and dearest now, but are still enjoying the hiking.  The sleeping is the biggest problem with the albergues stuffed to the maximum and they often share with others that don’t have the same standards of hygiene.  

EDDIE AND THE 3 CHICAS met up on the trail on Sunday 1st July. The 3 chicas heard a loud 'GOTCHAA!! from behind when Eddie, known as RUNNING BULL because of his fast pace, stopped to pose with them for this unique photo. From left Esther Nieder-Heitmann, Susan Albertyn, Gerda de Villiers and Eddie.

Esther, Susan, Gerda and Eddie

Gordon, a fellow South African, confirmed their reservation at Casa Banderas in Vilacha as Cortez tonight and kindly offered to cook for them. Susan reports that now that they have reached the 100 km mark from Santiago, rates at the albergues are increasing while conditions are deteriorating, with up to 100 people squeezed into shared accomodations.  They hope to find suitable 'casa rurals' from here onwards.


Is aiming to reach Portomarin by Sunday afternoon, where he hopes to watch the Euro 2012 final of Spain versus Italy.  There will of course be a BIG party if Spain wins!  He is on the heels of our 3 Chicas, Susan, Gerda and Esther and I hope they will run into each other today.


In EMILENE's own words;

"Passed the 500km mark today! Here I am with Senhor Pepe at the albergue where I slept last night, with Silvia Nilsen's book in my hand. Sil is the South African expert on the Camino. The book was left there for them by an American - go figure!"

Senhor Pepe deserves a special mention; When our friend Ermanno Aiello, the author of ‘FOREVER A PILGRIM’, walked the Camino in 2007, he was most severely handicapped by plantar fasciitis, a foot problem that started during his training for the pilgrimage.  At a stage when he felt extremely discouraged by the severe pain that slowed him down to a snails pace, he met senhor Pepe.  I quote from his book; “Pepe had been diagnosed with incurable lung cancer and had been given 6 months to live.  He had decided to go on the Camino and had made God the promise that if He cured him, he (Pepe) would devote half of the remainder of his life to serving others, for no reward, in gratitude to God.  Well, he had walked his Camino, had been cured and there he was – fulfilling his promise.” 

Pepe, a trained physiotherapist, leaves his practice to do voluntary work at the private albergue, San Antonio de Padua in Mazarife, for a couple of months every year.  When he inspected Ermanno’s badly swollen feet and told him; “I’ll quickly fix it for you”, my friend naturally had his misgivings, for he had been told by his doctor and physiotherapist back home, that this can only be achieved by a long period of rest.  Pepe proved them all wrong when he strapped my friend’s feet in such a manner as to allow him to complete his pilgrimage without any pain at all.  A miracle best described in Ermanno’s own words; “God, I believe, when He deems it to be necessary, sends His special angels to help us…Pepe is definitely one of God’s special angels.”


I had a text message from Susan asking me to make a reservation for them in Casa Banderas for Sunday 1st July.  They are walking in the rain with leaking ponchos and will be in Sarria tonight.  


EDDIE was unwillingly sent to bed at 21.45 by the German boot camp albergue manager, while it was still light outside!  

EMILENE'S message read; 

"Funny thing about the camino - you can't seem to stop walking! My day off lasted till exactly 12 noon. I realised it was a public holiday in Spain and the post office etc. was closed anyway. So I checked out of my hotel and hit the road after attending a lovely mass at the Leon Cathedral. The walk out of the city was nothing special, except for the BEAUTIFUL Parador San Marcos! The countryside past Fresno del Camino was really special, I think today I took some of my favourite pics ever. Finally cought up with my Friars Balsem, dankie Susan!! Met the famous Pepe, staying at their albergue tonight, managed to negotiate a deal, so I have a room with 8 beds all to myself!! Ermanno, he says you must send him a copy of your book!! Sil - I found your book on his bookshelf! So - another 22km behind me, home tonight is called Villa de Mazarife."


With a long queue behind her waiting to use the internet, she had little time to compose her email to me.  They were in Triacastella on Friday 29th and will be in Sarria on Saturday 30th.  The three of them visited a little church in La Faba yesterday, where the priest washed Susan's feet.  It was an emotional moment for them when they told the priest about me and MSA.


EMILENE reached Leon and have two weeks and plus minus 318 km to go to Santiago, where her husband Oscar will be waiting for her on the steps of the cathedral on her 50th birthday.

EDDIE spent the night in Villa Franca and predicted two more tough days of hiking through the mountains, before he reaches Santiago.  This was his best day on the Camino so far, as he spent it having lunch, a wine tasting and a swim in the lake, and all of this in the company of two beautiful lady friends.  He posted the following photos of his day there;

Emilene posted the following photo and comment;

“Sent my bag on to Leon today, walking with a little backpack and wearing my crocs - bliss!! Sitting in a little restaurant along the way listening to Beethoven's 'Pastoral' - they're going to have to drag me out of here!! Loving the photo opportunities along the way, wonder what this old shoe would have to say if he could talk... :)”


Emilene wrote the following message on the doorpost in the famous Bar La Torre in Reliegos;

Thank you for spreading the MSA message Emilene!!

She was looking forward to spending a night of privacy in a little pink and purple room in Mansilla de las Mulas.  Tomorrow she hopes to reach Leon, where she might spend an extra rest day.

Eddie reported that a Korean chic cooked him the best seafood curry in the world!

The following from Emilene;
“In Bercianos del Real Camino in an albergue tonight - oh my word, I think it's time for private rooms only from now on. So many stinky shoes, coughing, shared bathrooms, noisy people from 5 am, etc... I think dealing with blisters and walking an average of 20 plus km per day is more than enough!! I am still loving this experience but I am at the stage where I need my space at night!!”

Susan reported by email that she too wasn’t looking forward to another night in shared accommodations in Molinaseca and the pilgrim’s meal is no longer appealing either.  They are currently walking in a mountainous area and it is extremely hot.  They rise at 5.30 in the mornings to walk during the cool of the early morning and sunset is only at 22.00. 

This morning I was surprised with these beautiful photos from Emilene!

This message came with the photo; "This beautiful little purple flower flourishing atop of what seems to be a bed of thorns reminded me of my incredible friend today. Sonja, you are being sent buckets of love from those walking with me every day! — at Camino de Santiago." 


"I've passed the halfway mark now, more than 400km's behind me! Did 30km today, in Moratinos - population: 20 + me... :)"

Well done LITTLE SNAIL!  Your getting to fast for this name now and I'll have to think of a new one.

NEWS FROM EDDIE; He was at Foncebadon at midday, walked 26.5 km
uphill in 5.25 hours and is looking forward to enjoying paella tonight.  Well done RUNNING BULL!

Photo posted by Emilene's new friends, showing her 4th from the left

Photos posted by Emilene;

"One of the most beautiful little churches I have ever seen! Even though it was locked, I was able to take this through the keyhole..."

"Lunch!! Very hot here, going to have a little siesta under a tree now before walking the last bit for the day." 

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