Walking East Journal
Mar 2010 30
I am poised ready to move forward to Manzilla de las Mulas or beyond. I rested a day (I did get a movie and couple posts out here, but at least I haven’t walked). I have seen Leon, the provincial capital, several times before and am ready to walk through it tomorrow with only a short stop at the cathedral and whatever store grabs me on passage. I’ll stop when I get to Manzilla unless my feet want to move beyond.
In the last week I have walked 94 miles (152 km) and I am feeling like surpassing that in the next week. But if something interesting stands in front of me like the Palm Sunday parade in the last post, I shall stop to take it in.
That 94 miles might have been over 100 had I not have stopped before Astorga the other night. I walked past a small alberge in Murias de Rechivaldo. Something pulled on me. I walked back and talked a while with the hospitalero (the guy running the place). We hit it off. I had planned to walk forward but I stayed. He, his fellow hospitalera (the woman equivalent), and I talked until late in the evening on our path through life and so many spiritual subjects. It was no one-way street; we all profited from each others insites.
The next night held no less a deep meeting, this time with a Porsche race car driver on the Camino to regroup his life. We too learned from each other.
Two intense nights with others and now two days to reflect alone. What gifts! Thanks again, Universe. I am ready to move on.
Mar 2010 30
No, not us, Jesus. As I walk into Astorga around 10:30 last Sunday morning, I hear heavy brass band music. In time I come on the end of a parade. People are dressed in heavy black capes with tall conical hats covering their faces except for eye holes. In front of them is the band blasting and pounding away. Beyond the band a huge float with palm trees and statues sways from side to side. It’s a Palm Sunday religious procession.
On Palm Sunday Christian literature tells of the people of Jerusalem welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem as they would welcome a king, with palm and olive branches and leaves on the road in front of and beneath him. On the following Friday they crucified him.
This parade is a celebration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Heavy capes and pointed hats cover the walkers’ faces and bodies. As sinners they wear them to hide their identity. (Only much later did the KKK copy the hats to cover their identities in the southern US. The hats were religious first.)
I walk with the parade as if I am part of it on the sideline. It moves very slowly. Soon I am beside and then ahead of the band and then the float. I stop and let them pass. The music and drums are slow and deliberate and loud. It resembles a funeral march even though it is supposed to be celebrating a triumphal entry. I continue forward walking in step with the band.
I realize this ceremony is reenacting Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem 2000 years ago. I realize we will be arriving into Jerusalem in a year or so. I realize the two are entries into the same city. All goes together and pour into my heart. Tears flow. I let them flow. I let who sees them see them. Our path is one and the same. We are entering Jerusalem symbolically this morning.
I continue walkin at the slow pace of the drum cadence queuing the 80 people carrying the float. I walk through the streets of Astorga from the north to the south and back north to the Cathedral. I am entering Jerusalem this morning.
Below are links two videos. Use the first if you have a broadband connection to the internet and the other if you who are still on dial-up or are on a very slow broadband connection. The latter has much poorer quality; so retrieve the broadband version if you can or have the time to wait for it with your dial-up. If you are retrieving the small file, reduce the size of your viewer to see it more sharply. This is my first effort at cutting and pasting these together into a single file so enjoy but don’t expect Hollywood.
Be sure to have your sound on loud and use your best earphones unless you are blessed with good speakers on your computer and are ready to blast those around you. This was a loud experience; hear it that way. If you have any problems with either these files, let me know and maybe we both can learn something.
After you are done listening and watching, realize that you have just heard three minutes of this ceremony. The parade went on for better than two hours as I followed it around the streets on Astorga. I am so happy that I fell on this celebration. But then I suspect I didn’t just fall on it–the Universe had a lot to do with lining us up.
Click this for the broadband version (7.9 Mgs).
Click this for the dial-up version (about 1 mg).
And then I walked forward to Hospital de Orbigo, 9 miles (15 km) east. Thanks for the experience and joy.
Mar 2010 26
Light drizzle began as I left Molinaseca this morning. It came and went and the sun came and went as I climbed almost 1000 meters (3280 feet) on a road to cross the mountains to the Leon side. The views were great but I was really waiting for a view from the very top where I made a movie of thousands of flowers when I walked this way in 2003. Had I made a movie today it would be a recording of white and nothing more. I was met by heavy snow and wind on the top.
That snow didn’t get lighter. At one point late in the afternoon I heard what seemed to be a huge clap of thunder followed by an especially heavy dump of snow. Interesting, I have never been in a storm with only one thunderclap.
Just before that thunderclap I met a group of maybe a hundred school kids walking up the road to see the Cruche de Fero. They stopped and talked and a bunch had their picture taken with me. The excitement of youth.
I came down into Foncebadon, an almost ghost town, in close to a white-out conditions. When I saw the Hostel Convent, I thought it was closed and I would have to opt for the private alberge if it was open. But the Convent was open and I got a room with heat and a restaurant just downstairs. And it even has an Ethernet connection here in the middle of nowhere.
As I entered the hostel I met one of the dogs of Foncebadon. You have to read Paulo Coelho or Shirley McLane for the details on these dogs here if you don’t already know about them.
As I mentioned earlier, to see pictures of some of these places I am talking about, go to my 2003 writings on the Camino de Santiago
as I walked it then.
Mar 2010 24
Yesterday was the 300th walking day of or pilgrimage. It was the 414th day from when we began. That means there have been 114 days that we have not moved for one reason or another. This does not include the month we were in Germany but it does include the time we spent resting in Santa Fe, southern Illinois, Woodstock, and New York along with all the other days we have taken whether to rest or to wait for the weather to be more agreeable.
I’m staying in Villafranca del Bierzo tonight. I have liked this town every one of the other three times I have been here so I decided to stop even though it was only 2:30 as I arrived. Actually I argued with myself for half an hour on whether to stay or not before finally saying yes. It’s only a short 10 km (6.2 mi) down the road (three hours max) to Cacabelos, the next town.
In every place we stop for the night and in some others we just happen on, we get a stamp in our “pilgrim’s passport.” Tonight I got an especially well made one from the San Francisco Hotel. They are often quite simple line-drawn efforts, seldom half-tone as this one is. I saw the hotel as I walked into the main square and knew it was my place for the night even though I still had to convince myself not to go forward.
Mar 2010 23
[Wi-Fi is finally available. It has been absent from my stops since Sarria and I added nothing there. I added this and the next entries today.]
The wrong path
22 Mar – I walked from Alto de Paio this morning and stopped in O Cebreiro for a coffee and sandwich around 12:30.
As I am ready to continue, to walk down the deep valley east, someone tells me it was better to walk forward and take the first road to the right rather than taking the path I think is the one to take. I take that first road. It becomes a farm path that leads me steeply down to a barn. It becomes more grassy and less traveled. I think I am taking a path to get my cart around a bad part of the Camino. It becomes less traveled. Scrub brush is growing in it. By now I am far down and sure that the Camino is to my right. So I cross a field (very down also) and find a traveled path that I think is the Camino. It continues down until it becomes less used also. Farther on it becomes a creek. I am not in the correct location and I’m not going to find the Camino here. O Cebreiro looks a long way back up. In fact by this time it is invisible since I am down in a deep part of the valley.
I decide I have to go back up and try to find where the Camino is even if I have to go all the way back to O Cebreiro. I start. The path is steep and full of rocks and little bushes. I tug and drag the cart less than a step at a time. I stop often to catch my breath. A long way up I discover that where I got on this path, it didn’t continue up. I must have turned the wrong way when I came out of the field. I didn’t; that path ends too. So it’s back up the field of short grass. What a long walk and how steep it is. I continue shuffling up half a step at a time dragging the cart. By this time the backpack is out of the cart and on my back to make the cart more bearable. Then I am back on the original path struggling through the bushes again.
By four I am back on the top. It was 1:30 when I started down. I haven’t found the Camino. I put my pack in the cart and look farther along the road for that right turn. It’s only a few yards/meters farther. It’s well marked and clearly the place to go. But I am tired. I am beat actually. I get a room for the night and sleep a while. When I get up I have cramps in my fingers from holding the cart so tightly.
Tomorrow I’ll try the other path.
23 Mar – It was the correct path and it went far above
the one I was on yesterday. It is not difficult at all. There are some steep and rocky places but nothing like the bushes and brambles of yesterday. I should have suspected things were wrong a long time before I got so far down. But I didn’t and the experience was not that bad.
Mar 2010 23
21 Mar – A blank white a hundred meters/yards away faces me as I walk out of the alberge in Triacastela this morning. I go to go back in to wait for it to clear off. I am about to climb the huge mountain side toward O Cebreiro. I want to see it, to enjoy its beautiful scenery. But I restrain my reaction and decide that the universe has something to say to me with this fog. This is the day I have been given; this is the day I will take. I will go.
I have decided not to pull the cart up the muddy stony paths of the Camino. Instead I walk to the regional highway LU633 just around the corner and turn right. I cannot even see a block up the street. But I can see far enough that I am sure the cars can see me in time to avoid running me over. I swing the cart behind me and begin to pull it up the hill.
As we walked to Rome in late 2006 we had a similar encounter with the fog. That time we continually looked for a town that was supposed to be ahead of us. It never came. We looked forward trying to see beyond where we were to something in the future, all to no avail. In our book Germany to Rome in 64 days (lulu.com) we say:
“We’re stuck in our immediate present, in our Now. Petra’s realizes that the fog is telling us that we have to look at and pay attention more to where we are than where we want to be later. We have to live Now, not tomorrow. It’s not a new lesson. But today a new teacher, the fog, retells it. Everything in the Universe has something to tell us. We only have to listen.”
And now the fog is back to talk to me, to tell me a similar story. Live where you are and don’t look far down the road to see what is there. But this time it also has a second reminder: What is so clear today may not be tomorrow. The opposite is also true: What is not clear today may be entirely so tomorrow. The world hides and reveals itself as it wills. What was enlightenment today often is only confusion tomorrow. The fog plays tricks. A tree appears. It disappears. It reappears. It lapses into a state of is-it-there-or-not. So it is that the enlightenment I had another time fades in and out today. It is like walking a labyrinth when one time you are so close to the center only to be thrown all the way out to the edge far from the center on the next turn and then as quickly back towards the center.
After the fog plays hide and seek with me a while, it totally covers and drizzles on me making me walk in the present, feel the rain, and walk, just walk. Then it parts and shows me the whole world, the whole valley covered with clouds, sun, and green pastures. It plays these games with me into the afternoon.
This fog is also like my dream from long ago where I am standing on a hill looking at the road ahead and below going through valley after valley and over hill after hill. Each valley is full of fog; each hill clear. I have always interpreted this to be telling me that there will be many valleys where I will feel very lost but the road will always come out again into the open and I will know just where I am. All will be clear again. I only have to remember that when I am in the foggy valley.
This walk is to be walked. Its meaning at times dwells behind curtains of fog. I will not always know why I am walking. This morning’s fog slowed me down to look at the flowers again, too enjoy the walk. It allowed me stop when I wanted to stop, to not be afraid of not covering my “required” 20 kilometers.
Mar 2010 17
I continue walking east. All is well with me–but the cart is hurting again. The other axle broke last night on the way into Hospital de la Cruz. Nothing there to fix it. This morning I walked the 13 km here with few problems. I walked on the road most of the way and the wheel stayed on except once when I walked a bit on a rough stretch of path. A repair shop has the good axle now and is sending it to Lugo to a machine shop to make a new one.
The axle is scheduled to be done sometime early tomorrow so I may continue on towards Sarria then. Or I may just rest. I have walked six days–it’s time for a rest day. Last two days were relaxed and slow, 16 and 13 km.
My feet are doing very well. As I noticed a couple weeks ago in Germany, their condition is dirrectly related to stress–when stress is up, they hurt. All I have to do is remind myself to relax when they start to hurt too much. It works. This morning on a tight place on the road, I was walking fast and hard. My feet hurt. I noticed it, slowed down, breathed a bit, and I soon was no longer noticing my feet.
As for the weather, Weather.com is calling for showers or rain in Lugo for the next ten days. I hope they are light. But this forecast is not completely correct since they are calling for clouds today. I have not seen many clouds in the sky and it’s already after three. The sun is very bright. The weather has been wonderful since Santiago. Maybe I can keep dragging the sun with me where I am going.
There are a lot of pilgrims on the road but there were only six others in the small alberge in Hospital last night. In Palas de Rei, they told me there were no lower beds left in the municipal arberge and directed me to a private alberge down the road. It was good and clean though a bit cool. I enjoyed the evening even though there were many others there also.
I changed the statistics spread sheet to include walking totals for North America and Europe together. Before the only totals included the flight miles also. Now you can see just the walking totals.
Mar 2010 14
I am walking against the traffic. Even though there are many on the road, I am not in contact with any for a very long time. It is a good way to be alone while being among many–when you want to do that.
Santa Irene – 13 Mar
It was a pleasant, easy walk today to this municipal alberge. I wanted to go to the new private one but it is closed. So I have settled for this noisy place on the road where I stayed once before as I walked in 2003. The next place is a long 15 km (9 mi) up the road and it was already four when I got here. At 3 kph (2 mph), my average speed today, that is five hours, well after dark. So here I am and here I shall stay.
For the six hours I walked today, I counted fellow users of the Camino: 16 bicyclists, 48 long distance pilgrims, and 71 day pilgrims, 135 in all. For me the difference between the distance walker and the day walker is the backpack the distance walker has and the day walker does not.
Ribadiso – 14 Mar
The weather remains ideal in the mid-60s (16 C) with bright sun most of the day and light wind. As I approached this Ribadiso alberge late in the afternoon, I knew I had to stop and rest beside a calm river and sit in the sun at its inviting restaurant patio. Tomorrow I can go farther. Tonight I am here.
As for my experience in the the alberge last night, it was livable. The windows were closed through the night but there was little traffic sound and the dead air was not all that dead even though we were five in a room fit out for six.
I didn’t count those passing me today, but the numbers were likely similar to yesterday.
Mar 2010 12
This evening I sit in the cafeteria of the alberge (or is it refugio–I don’t know the difference) on Monte de Gozo, the Mountain of Joy. Pilgrims coming from the east for the last 1200 years have had their first view of the Cathedral of Santiago from here. So the name; they have always been joyful that they have arrived so close to their goal.
I only got lost once today as I made my way out of Santiago going backwards along the Camino. The arrows point you to the city. You have to infer where they are coming from by watching the way they are painted or better yet seeing other pilgrims coming from the other direction at critical intersections (a much preferred way not requiring guessing). It is a different task from that of simply following the arrows as we do when we go with the flow.
Today’s walk was only 6.1 km (3.75 mi), a short start, but a start. Tomorrow holds several more kilometers. It feels good to be moving.
Before I left around two I had a number of last minute things to do in the city: attend the Pilgrims’ Mass at noon in the Cathedral and watch the Botafumero swing smokily across the church; say good buy to Santiago the statue and Santiago the bones as well as Santiago the city; buy a new watch (with yellow Santiago shell on it); stop in a optica shop and have my glasses put together again; stop in the official Camino office and make sure our personal credentials will allow us to stay in alberges across Spain (they will though westward pilgrims have priority); buy tooth paste, bananas, and a corkscrew (Petra has our only corkscrew and the bananas were super green, Petra.); and put the cart back together again. (How’s that for a long English sentence, Petra? Almost as long as a good German one?)
If you missed the change I made to the end of the last post, all pictures for Portugal are now on line.
Mar 2010 10
I am sitting in Frankfort Hahn airport tonight ready to fly back to Santiago tomorrow to continue walking east. It’s time for me to get “On the road again….” Petra is staying back here in Germany while I walk east on the Camino Francais to Puente Reina or so. The Camino Francais is the main Camino de Santiago route. My earlier Camino de Santiago pages give much detail about this route. Click the link to see where I’ll be walking in the next month.
We both have walked much of this path three times, the first time all the way. Petra doesn’t want to walk this section again now. I am quite keen on walking it. Our differences here give us a chance to honor each others’ wishes as well as to walk alone for a few weeks. After all, we have been together day and night for the last 14 months consulting each other on so many details and decisions. This will be an interesting change for a while.
The picture gallery now includes pictures of Portugal up to the Spanish border. Click the Pictures
tab to see them.