I dedicate this, my final blog, from the Camino de Santiago to my walking companion, my daughter, Emily, who let´s her Light shine.

I first heard this recited from Amy Rippe´s eighth grade class at Meadowbrook Waldorf School.  They are the words of Marianne Williamson, but they became famous in Nelson Mandela´s  FREEDOM SPEECH.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our LIGHT, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

Your playing small doesn´t serve the world.

There´s nothing enlightened about shrinking,

So that other people won´t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the Glory of God that is within us.

It´s not just in some of us; it´s in everyone.

And as we let our Light shine,

We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we our liberated from our own fear,

Our presence automatically liberates others.


Dearest Family, Friends and Pilgrims,

Thank you for joining us on our journey; a journey that is not over but continues.

Let your Light shine.

Farewell to the Camino de Santiago. Farewell from the Camino de Santiago.

mucho amor,

Donna and Emily xoxo




Posted August 16, 2011 by Pygmy Pilgrimage in Uncategorized


On Saturday August 13, 2011 at 8:45am, under cloudy skies, we entered the Praza do Obradoiro, the Golden Square of Santiago. Our gaze turned left and skyward and there before us in all its majesty and glory was the Cathedral of Santiago. Wide eyed, we laughed, we giggled, we hugged, we through our arms up in celebration and completion and then the photos. The square was quiet with a few small groups of pilgrims and a bike group of 4. It would change during the day with a continuation of pilgrims entering until the square was a giant celebration of music, dance, photos and pilgrims reconnecting.

It was only a 5km walk to Santiago Compostella from Monte Do Gozo and we ate only a couple of dried apricots and biscuit cookies. We began the celebration with the most decadant chocolate covered pastry and sat in the square opposite the Cathedral and watched elated pilgrims enter.

We were overwhelmed, scattered brains with what to do next. We found ourselves in the Cathedral but unsure to stay today or attend the pilgrim´s mass on Sunday. We got a tip from Brother Gabriel that possibly today they would do the Butofumeiro. (click the link) From the video, Our seats were nearly under the butofumeiro on the left of the screen. Can you imagine!!!

History (our guide book) tells us that the swinging of the giant incense burner Butofumeiro was originally used to fumigate the sweaty (and possibly disease ridden) pilgrims. The ritual requires half a dozen attendants (tiraboleiros) to perform it.

After mass we found our way to the pilgrim´s office where our compostelas are issued. Every pilgrim carries a pilgrim´s credential that every albergue, church and some bars mark their own individual pilgrim´s stamp and date it. It is your documentation that you walked the Camino, having a daily stamp. We eagerly waited our turn. They checked your credential for authenticity, where you began and how,  what country from, date began and then looked up your Latin name and wrote it on your certificate of completion, COMPOSTELA.  For Emily – AMELIUM  MARIUM  MIRZA. Just beautiful!!!! Donna is Italian and quite simply, my certificate is Donna M. Mirza.

So…. we´ve completed the Camino De Santiago. We were pilgrims for 31 days. We walked, 800km, westward across northern Spain. We are still pilgrims today and forever. We completed the Camino on a physical level, but is there still something unfinished or this the beginning of something. It is so difficult for me to articulate. I think, I hope that I will be able to find the words at some time.

Words – Emily and I reflected more on Audrey´s question of defining the Camino expereince in one word. We felt there were different words for the 3 different stages. Emily´s 3rd stage word is CONTENTMENT. The third stage, for me , was acceptance. And now with the Camino complete, ACCEPTANCE is the word I will say to describe the Camino de Santiago. Acceptance on all levels; mind, body and spirit. Accept what comes my. Accept that there is a reason and a lesson to learn. Accept that I may grow.

A hope for me with acceptance, will be to accept what comes my way with GRACE.

There are so many people and pilgrims yet to thank. After blogging on Friday I joined Emily at a cafe with pilgrims. We had seen Allister from Scotland that morning at a bar at 7am after walking for 2 1/2 hours. We laughed and rejoiced at finding a bar in the middle of no where open at 7am. Over a drink that afternoon, hearing about  the pygmies, I had 20 euros in my pocket. Thank you Allister. Many more pilgrims have asked and I feel confident that they will do what they can to help.

Our celebratory dinner included; Jean Jacque  and Etienne from France, Joke (Belgium), Emanuela (Canada) Franca (Germany) and Ricarda (Austria) Jean Jacque (68 y/o)deserves the courageous pilgrim award. He had a brain tumor that left his balance compromised. He has walked a number of pilgrimages. Emily and I always enjoyed his company despite our language barrier. Etienne, another wonderful and compassionate pilgrim was our faithful translator. Thank you guys for being apart of our pilgrimage.

JIm keeps us updated from home with checks arriving in the mail. Thank you Beth and Andy and David. Thank you Cathy for donating a yoga/meditation class. The pygmies will be setting strong roots!!!

Love from the Camino and your pilgrims,

Donna and Emily xoxox


Posted August 14, 2011 by Pygmy Pilgrimage in Uncategorized

FRIDAY AUGUST 12, 2011 MONTE DE GOZO   5 comments

Rather trust fate,we took it it our own hands and left again this morning at 4:30 to secure a bed for the night in analbergue 22.6km away.  Trusting our yellow waymarks, we missed the detour to the albergues and did not realize until 3km away.  Tired, no water, hungry, 25+ km, should have been at our destinationand we´re not happy.  What to do?  As Mrs. Merner always tells her class; when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  So we eat the few pieces of chocolate, get some sugar into our brains and think more clearly. If we backtrack it will be an additional 6kms. Emily now determined, and it is only 10:30, she suggests that she would rather be 6km closer to Santiago and we continue to the next albergue for a total of 37.5km. Yes, this was our peak day of walking. The previous 29 days prepared us physically and emotionally, but first FOOD!!We stopped at a bar for the first real meal we had all daybesides fruit, nuts and chocolate.

Today´s walk was quite uneventful until our changed destination. The landscape began through some nice eucalyptas (?) forest and then ended with suburbs mixed with some quaint hamlets to a climb to our destination albergue, Monte De Gozo, (Mountain of Joy) for it sits above Santiago in the viewing distance below. we are only 5km awayfrom completing our pilgrimage of 800km. So much JOY!!! We have a bed, hot showers, just ate a huge meal of pasta bolognese, salad, bread and ice cream (saving the beer with lemonade for later) reconnected with Joke from Belgium. Remember we rode the train into St Jean with Joke and we will walk into Santiago Compostella with her tomorrow.


We invite you, tomorrow, Saturday, to walk with us. Maybe 5km or a distance of your choice to be with us in spirit. Maybe ride your bike, swim in the ocean or even drive in your car. But consciously travel a distance for 5km and Think of us and think of the Pygmies.

Sending so much love and gratitude  from the Camino,

Donna and Emily xoxox



Posted August 12, 2011 by Pygmy Pilgrimage in Uncategorized


New strategy for walking in a “relaxed manner” on the Camino. We began our day(29!!!!) leaving at 4:30am from Palas Del Rei. Over two hours, carefully guiding our footsteps by headlamp. Today, for the first time I felt a pull to Santiago, a drawing to and possibly a calling, but I do not know what.

Just about sunrise we crossed a medieval bridge  Punte Velhos Furelos into Melide, where there is a famous 14th century stone Cross reputed to be the oldest in Galicia, Crucero do Melide – Christ in his majesty on one side and Christ crucified on the reverse.

An easy day of 25.8km crossing 6 shallow river valleys to Ribadisio. Arriving at 10:45 to line up for the 70 spaces at a municiple albergue. We were numbers 7 & 8. As the morning progressed many backpacks lined up saving the space of a pilgrim. This is a wonderful reconstruction of one of the oldest pilgrim hospitals still in existence, peacefully sitting by a lazy river. It has a received an award for environmental architecture and we love it!!

After our check in routine we relaxed by the river, in the shade of sun dappled tree shadows. Living life on the Camino.

We continue to meet many new pilgrim friends. Even saying that is redundant because all pilgrims are friends. Connie, a lively 73 y/ofrom San Fransisco, kept us entertained into Villa Franca with her life´s work in communication. Presently a juror consultant for litigation lawyers. Seems they know the law quite well but do not know how to communicate the story to the jurors. She was very inquisitive about the pygmies and will be starting her our business. Wants to give back and and donate proceeds to worthy organizations and the pygmies has her attention. Thank you Connie.

Today while waiting for the albergue to open at 1pm, Peter from Slovakia asked about the pygmies. While I shared the story, a very sweet young woman,Tanya, from Denmark listened in. Peter totally understood how easy; 5000 people all giving $10 and said when he got home he would donate. Tanya, in the most humble sincere voice said that last night she stayed for free in an albergue and that she owes the universe 5 euros and handed it to me. This filled my eyes with tears and still does now as I write.  Betty sends emails with donation updates from home. Thank Marcia! And thank you for reading our blog.

There are many ways to expereince the Camino or expereince being a pilgrim. Of course you know walking. Some pilgrims walk but ship ahead their backpacks, some walk in stages completing the Camino over a number of years. Much easier if you are a European. Some ride bicycles. Each day anywhere from 10 to 40 bikes pass us by riding from 50 to 100 km per day. Hey Stedman´s, this is a great bike tour!!! And finally, this is also a great driving holiday through the ancient villages, towns and cities, stopping to see and learn the history; visiting magnificent churches, cathedrals, monuments, monasteries, quaint hamlets (don´t blink) to major cities, sampling the Spanish cuisine, and wines and enjoying the varied and magnificent landscape. Since Sarria, many pilgrims are walking the last 100km and having their bags waiting for them either in private albergues, pensions (B & B´s) or hotels. So many options, BETTY!!! And Margaret….remembering your hostel days!!!

So I leave you with this poem. Emily and I received this the morning we left our first albergue in St Jean Pied de Port to begin our pilgrimage.

Wanderer, it is your tracks which are the road,

and nothing else.

Wanderer,there is no road, walking makes the road.

By walking, the road is made, and when glancing back,

you contemplate the trail which you will trample no more.

Wanderer, there is no road,

Only the wakes on the sea.

by Antonio Machado

Posted August 11, 2011 by Pygmy Pilgrimage in Uncategorized


Pintin, a tiny hamlet, where we left in another cold starlit morning, two days ago. Having a private room and bath after 26 days with our pilgrim friends in all sorts of sleeping and bathroom facility arrangements was a piece of heaven. Clothes, plastic bags, toiletries, boots and poles spread out across the room with lots of space for just us!

Emily created a great idea for warmth after leaving the mountain top albergue the previous day. Getting in touch with her Arab roots, she suggrested to use our thin, black microfiber sleeping bag liners as a layer of warmth. We adorneded our heads with a turban wrap and leftover for a scarf, Camino Fashionista´s. Who said practical can´t be functional.

After our early morning tea we began to leave Sarria. Sarria is a very common starting point for the pilgrims who are walking the final 100km into Santiago to receive a compostepilgrim´s certificate. Rounding a  corner where another road converged,  we were met, at 7:15am, by a group of 100 lively and eager high school students. We were so not prepared for how this affected our emotional state. We instantly wanted to distance ourselves, eager for our solitude.  Fortunately, hills in the near distance and weeks of walking prepared us to gain some distance. (but not for long) many more pilgrims all day long who began in Sarria. We had to accept that this is now a different Camino.

Amidst this wave of students, we reconnected with our friend Albert, whom we shared our light with the previous day to guide his Way. Seeing our pygmy pilgrimage signs hanging from our backpacks, Albert asked what it was. After sharing Betty and Margaret´s story that the pygmies need $50,000 to buy land. “That´s just 5,000 people, each giving $10”.  Albert, without hestiation handed me 20 euros! Mucho, mucho gracias Albert!!!

Yes we have accepted that the last 100km will be different and how do we find our solitude and acceptance.

The last three days walking in Galicia have been our favorite. The mountains of Galicia are the first object in 5,000 km that the westerly winds coming across the Atlantic hit. Our guide book told us to expect an immediate change in weather with frequent rain showers and thunderstorms and thick mountain fog all feeding a maze of mountain streams and deep river beds. Not to worry, our royal blue ponchos are are the ready! And they are still at the ready. We have had the three most glorious days of beautiful scenary of mountains and pastureland, walking up and down to varied terrain, winding through tiny, quaint hamlets with bright blue skies and temperatures in the 70´s.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY……somewhere about 5km before Portomarin, we stopped for a photo at the 100km marker post to Santiago. 27 days walking and 4 to go!!!

Arriving as our usual, ahead of the crowd, into Portomarin, with many albergues to choose, after 3 long days of 29km, 35km and 28km, we were ready for siesta. BLINDSIDED…every albergue was completly full and the next albergue was 7km away and still no guarentee there would be a bed. We had been traveling with 4 of us. Emily and I and Albert and and Kristine from Seattle. Our friend Albert to the rescue. Asked the right questions in the right language and we had an albergue 3km out of the city that they transported us to.

This moment in Portomarin was kaotic. There were pilgrims everywhere in the streets in dismay, scurrying for answers, not knowing where they would sleep that night. This was our wake-up call. yes indeed a different Camino to Santiago. Upon arriving at our albergue, I was anxious and wanted to secure sleeping arrangements. Municiple albergues do not take reservation, first come first serve. private ones take reservations. We never needed to reserve but now I needed the security. Our firend, Albert to the rescue again. With his cell phone and our guide books we were able to rerve beds in a pension in Palas Del Rei. I felt instant relief. We may have been Albert´s angels sharing our lightthe day before, but he has been our in helping us find restful sleep for the last 2 nights. Mucho gracias, again Albert.

A ride back into town by the local priest to get supplies and I was able to visit the local church, an austere Romanesque church of San Nicolas XIIth century. This church was painstakenly rebuilt from its original site now submerged by a reservoir and is ascribed to the workshop of Master Mateo who carved the Portico de Gloria in Santiago.  (thank you, again John Brierley and his Guide Book)

Today: DAY 28!!!!!  Left the albergue by taxi to the start of the Camino. Another glorious day and we rejoined our friend from Austria, Ricarda at our tea break. With her new friend franca from Germany, the 4 of us enjoyed the day walking together. And because we had a reservation for tonight, we truly enjoyed the Camino for another day. The days roll by effortlessly, just simply walking, enjoying conversation or contemplatively walking. One short walk with Parco, from Seville, Spain, dreams of coming to the US  to ride across the country via Route 66. Of course he wants to drive it in  a convertible with the wind blowing through his hair.

So here we are in Palas Del Rei. Emily´s having her beer and lemonade while waiting for me and her turn on the internet. Tomorrow we will again walk without reservation to a municiple albergue and hope to be one of the first in line for the 70 beds. Keep us in your thoughts. THREE DAYS TO GO!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our FAITH was challenged yesterday. We must remember to trust the lessons that come our way on the Camino. My hope is that we will accept them and handle them with GRACE.


Donna and Emily xoxo

Posted August 10, 2011 by Pygmy Pilgrimage in Uncategorized


Final week!!!!! The previous 2 days have been nothing but spectacular in all areas. We left Villafranca on a cold clear morning following a river throughout most of the day. The sounds of the water steadily flowing, cascading over rocks was soothing. Prior to this, the only sounds of nature were the chirping of early morning birds and the occassional bleating of a sheep, mooing of a cow and a daily cock-a-doodle-doo from a rooster.  We followed this rver into the mountains where our map indicates it begins. And the mountains is where we climbed from 580 meters to our destination at 1300 meters. All day we passed through tiny remote mountain villages, neatly kept and all supporting the pilgrims with bars, restaurents and albergues. Prior to our final resting place we passed into the Galicia (pronounced, Galithia).

We arrived at our destination in O´Cebreiro, where their church is one of the earliest surviving buildings on the Camino. This church also marks the resting place of Don Elias Valina Sampedro (1929-1989) the parish priest who did so much during his lifetime to restore and preserve the integrity of the route – it was his idea to mark the Way with the familiar yellow arrow. And from a previous post, you know how valuable these arrows are! We could not imagine how we would survive one day without the yellow arrows.

Coming out of a wooded mountain path into the remote, and I mean remote, mountain village, we were greeted by dozens of cars, motorcycles and many tourist!! It reminded me of hiking of Mt Washington and after the long extant of the boulder fields you finally arrive at the summit greeted with 100´s of tourist who found another way to arrive at the summit. Nonetheless, it was exquisitely charming and after 29km we were happy to be at our resting place.

By now you know our usua. However, so happy to be there and hungry and some little shops to browse we walked the 100meters back into the village for an early dinner of veg soup, trout, fries and Santiago tart and vino!! After 2 glasses I was ready for siesta!

The municiple albergue slept 104 and some pilgrims did not arrive in time for a bed. Unsure where they went but it was 3-5km in either direction to find a bunk.

Today leaving our mountain albergue walking out into a cool 40´s and starlit morning we headed down and down in the dark. As dawn came so did the clouds rise up from the valley but as morning came so did a brilliant sun.

Last night I had a dream of a childhood friend, Albert. First thing out of the albergue we met a man from Spain, a professor at the university in Santiago, without a light. It would have been nearly impossible to find one´s way without a headlamp or flashlight. His name too was Albert! I think we were his angels to help  guide his Way.

As beautiful as the mountain walk was yeasterday, today´s walk surpassed it in beauty. All day just spectacular views of high green pastures and mountains silhouted in the distance, followed by narrow tree lined, moss covered ancient stone walls.

We passed through Triacastela, but from high above we could see limestone quarries. We have learned from our trusty guide and John Brierly that these quarries provided the limestone used in the building of the Santiago Cathedral. Medieval pilgrims would carry as much as they were able to the lime kilns in Castenada. Fortunately we escaped the extra weight!

Tonight´s rest, after an extra unplanned 13 km (total 33.5km)is in a tiny village, but maybe not even a village. This area has stone houses darting the way. They are livestock farms and we decided tonight to stay in a pension (B & B) We hear and smell the cows! yes it feels extravegant but a private room feels like a nice change for our FINAL WEEK!! I do like saying that!

Those new to the blog: Please click “ABOUT” or read our earlier posts to learn what the Camino de Santiago is and to learn more about the Pygmy Pilgrimage.

Dominique Bikaba is the contact person in the DR Congo for the Pygmy land Project and friend to the Pygmies. Click the link to learn more about Dominque. Go to the ABOUT page of our blog to learn more about Empower Congo Woman. They are the non-profit organization for recieving donations for the Pygmy Pilgrimage.

Emily is on her 3rd book. I barely finished one tiny book, “All God´s Children Need Walking Shoes”, by Maya Angelou. Thank you Carol for giving this book to me just prior to leaving for the pilgrimage. In the first days, I´d read before siesta but only get through 2 pages before “crashing” into a deep sleep. That night I´d re-read those pages and maybe get one more ahead. I was exhausted those early days. Finally I was able to read more pages and remember what I read and finished the book. I mention this book because it was during Maya Angelou´s time in Ghana during which Dr Martin Luther King´s march was in Wash. DC.

So much time during the day for reflection and contemplation. Dr King, among others, were the voice of the African Americans. Dominique Bikaba is the voice of the Pygmies. So  fortunate that Betty and Margaret heard that voice and began the Pygmy Land Project. Thank you again to all; family, friends and pilgrims who also heard that voice.

Buen Camino and much amor,

Donna and Emily xoxo



Posted August 8, 2011 by Pygmy Pilgrimage in Uncategorized

SATURDAY AUGUST 6, 2011 TRY AGAIN!!   1 comment

Hello Friends,

I finished the post and didn´t even mention”Faith on the Camino”   Faith – The confidence or trust in the belief of a person, place or thing.

The experience on the Camino is an experience of FAITH. Each day we have faith in our bodies serving us to walk. We have faith in the “Waymarkings”. Can you imagine for 800km that there is some kind of waymark,  that indicates the Way of St James to Santiago Compestela. Examples of waymarks: classic is the 3 feet high, cement rectangle with a concha (scallop shell) tile embedded in it, like a small monument along the Way often times with an addition arrow painted on it. In the cities there are brass seashells embedded in the sidewalks or tile squares with shells plastered on buildings.  Arrows, arrows and many more arrows. Picture school bus yellow and these arrows are everywhere marking the way; on trees, logs, telephone poles, guardrails, and curbstones, on houses in small villages, on walls, roads, sidewalks, and park benches and on churches. Yes, this caught me by surprise. An ancient church in the town square had a yellow arrow pointing the way. Think about this. In any given day, from the first day, sometimes hundreds in a day, we have faith in the yellow arrows  pointing  the Way to Santiago.

We have faith in the albergues. Once our bunks are chosen, we unpack our back packs. All of zip loc bags are toss  onto the bunk and head for the shower and then into town.  Never have we ever had anything less than faith that when we return all is there.  Our boots are often stored on shelves outside the dormitory. Yes they are there in the morning. Walking poles are  put in a barrel for our retrieval in the morning.

Standing at a crossroads and not sure which way to go (sometimes we may have been lost in thought or conversation and missed a waymark), we have faith that without even asking, a local Spaniard, will point the way or maybe another pilgrim saw us miss the mark.

Faith has been comforting on the Camino.

Over dinner we were planning our final days and distances into Santiago and realise we had made an error on our expected arrival day. So the real arrival will be Saturday, Aug 13th for a total of 32 days to walk the Camino. Surprisingly, I accepted the extra day quite well.

Getting back to Audrey who asked Emily and I to describe the Camino expereince in one word. Already, those who know me will know that one word will be a challenge. Well Audrey, we did reflect on your question and at this time we feel that there have been 2 words to describe the Camino for the different stages of the Camino and both were suggested by Emily and I agreed. At the beginning of our pilgrimage the word is RHYTHM: establish a rhythm of walking, packing, planning, eating, sleeping. Our second word is EMPOWERMENT: once the rhythm is set, knowledge was acquiredthrough experience that we had the confidence and strength; both physically and emotionally to successfully complete the Camino. We feel EMPOWERED. And it is a great feeling!  Now in our final third of the Camino, we´ll have to reflect more. I think it will come to us this week as we near Santiago. I also imagine once our pilgrimage is complete, then we maybe we will be able to describe the pilgrimage in one word.I think that it will be a challenge.  I wonder then if we will agree on the same word???

So….7 days to go!!

Buen Camino and mucho amor,

Donna and Emily xoxo

Posted August 6, 2011 by Pygmy Pilgrimage in Uncategorized