Here are the promised picture that would not load from the last few days.
Over and over again I hear of the culture and people of Galicia. Santiago itself is in Galicia, the region boarder is crossed about 2 k from the top of the mountain at O’CEBREIRO. Since I worked so hard in climbing this mountain, I was going to enjoy this little village situated on top of the world.
Brierly states that, “The mountains of Galicia are the first object in 5,000 km that the westerly winds coming across the Atlantic hit, so expect a weather change.” Indeed, the wind was howling, the sun was warm in the day, and the winds were bitter at night. In addition, one could enjoy both the sunset and the sunrise over the mountains that seem to go on forever. Once again, I was on top of the world.
The adaptation to the environment had the people build huts out of stone with a thick straw roof. (When I get a stronger Internet I will upload photos.) The people here in the Ancares mountain region lived off the mountain land by farming, raising cattle, sheep and planting big gardens. They have one of the huts open for visitation. In addition to being part of the Camino, this cute little village is also popular with tourists.
The church here, Santa Maria la Real dates from the 9 th century and is the oldest existing church associated directly with the pilgrim way. It has administered to the needs of pilgrims since the “twilight of the first millennium.”
An earlier parish priest, Don Elias Valina Sampedro is buried here. Much of his life was spent restoring the integrity of the Camino, and it was his idea to mark the path with the yellow arrows all along the way. It was largely due to his efforts that pilgrims can walk the route today, especially without getting lost! Can I tell you how MUCH I love those arrows?
Today I spent much of the morning praying in the church. It was good to be there. I had tears of gratitude as my time here is starting to wind down. It has been an exciting journey! I also spent time just looking at the mountains and giving thanks, with Psalm 148 taking the lead. I gave thanks for this sacred time on the Camino that has blessed me beyond measure. I hope my writing this little travel journal has enabled you to join me on this journey.
Since I have been walking to Santiago, but I know I do not have time to get there on foot, tomorrow I will take an early morning bus so that I can at least see the church and the relics that I have been journeying towards; yet the journey has been so much more. It has never really been about the final destination, but rather it had been about the journey itself. It is always about the journey!
Today I walked literally until the cows came home. (Picture to follow.) The internet connection is not good, so I will post pictures tomorrow. We are at 1,400 meters, and most of that climb over this mountain was during the last 5 k. There is a great commaraderie as people from all nationalities encourage one another for the steep climb. The saving grace was the little villages all along the way where one could stop for a snack or a bite to eat, and of course, the views. John Bierly’s guide book is often used by English speakers, and of the last 5 k he said, “gird up your loins!” For tonight, I am sitting on top of the world, and the view from my bed in the municipal albergue is spectacular! (I just heard they ran out of beds, glad I left at 6 am.)
I wanted to share about the basic needs along the Camino, toilets! Anyone who knows me knows that I drink a lot of water, consequently, I often need facilities. For the most part, there are plenty along the route. The other day there was a primitive hole in a wooden shack, which I will picturelater. Often you need your own paper, but what drives me crazy are the auto turn off lights in the toilet stalls. Most are timed to go off in a short time period. The first time I ran into that problem was when I used the stall after someone else had used it, and before I was finished, the light went out, and it was very dark. Sometimes your business takes a little longer than the auto timer thinks it should take, and once again, you are sitting in in the dark. This gives an entire new meaning to “Being in the dark.” Thank goodness for lights on cell phones!
Sunset from my window. There is a kind of freedom in waking up every morning and knowing that your only job is not o get up and start walking. You walk, find your food, and find a place to lay your head.
But today there was another decision on o make. My time on the Camino is nearing its end, so I must choose where I want to walk. Those who want to receive the Compostela, the official paper saying you walked here, must do the last 100 k. Those last 100 k tend to be more crowded and a little less pretty in scenery compared to other parts. I have already walked 200 k and do not have the need for a piece of paper, but I am jumping ahead a little bit today in order to experience another part of the Camino which is supposed to be another mountain of beauty. Villafranca del Bierzo is my destination. I hung out in the bus station with a German woman who is also limited on time and is jumping to do the last 100 k. We exchanged showing each other pictures of grandchildren.
As I was waiting I got in the bus station who walks in but the dad of my Swedish friend with whom I had dinner the other night. They were the Sam ones who jumped with me before. His son is running today, and he is taking the bus. (We could not hav planned these meetings, even if we tried!)
I have not talked about the music one hears on the Camino. The Spanish love their music, but I have not heard any Spanish music. It seems each albergue owner and each bar plays what they like, very loudly. One place I stay d played classical music, and in the morning he played songs that I knew that were done almost in a style of Gregorian chant. You have not lived well until you have heard “Bridge Over Troubled Water” slowed down and sung in a very different style than originally created. And when the song “We Are the Champions” came on in the same style John and I just could not stop laughing.
That same day I stopped in a bar for lunch and they were blasting Handell’s Messiah. I came in just when they were playing the Hallelujah Chorus, and I did not know if I should sit or keep standing. Later, on one of those long, hot stretches where an entrepreneur put up an “oasis” they were playing “I Got a Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas.
The other night in Rabanal, there was an evening service in the church and the monks did sing the liturgy, it was true Gregorian Chant. Thanks hat night a German woman and I were invited to read the scriptures for the day in our native languages.
Not all 18 k hikes are the same, especially if there is a big difference in elevation. Another famous “landmark” of the Camino is the iron cross. At 1,505 meters high you do feel like you are on top of the world. It was a great hike.
Pilgrims from all over the world bring stones from home to lay down a sin or a burden or a hardship. I brought a stone from home, but on today’s hike I also collected stones to lay down for others. By the time I got to the cross I had a pretty big pocket of stones. I marked several of them: for my family, for our MUMC family, for friends, for the folks on the prayer list, and one for Claire. There is a stone here in Spain at the Cruz de Ferro for Claire. I spent about an hour praying here. There is something special about praying where many others have prayed, especially the Saints of long ago.
The scenery was spectacular! It truly was on top of the world!
Part of my daily prayer is that I would have Godly encounters all along the route. Today there were several that were divine appointments. (A woman from Poland, the hospitality of the British who had apples and peanut butter for breakfast, chats with folks from South Africa, and all over the world!)
Now I have a top bunk in an albergue tucked away in these mountains that cost me 6 Euros. The woman on the lower bunk is French and we are going to have the pilgrim meal together, for 11 Euros we get a three course meal!
Last night when I got off the train in Astorga I was surprised to see a Swedish young man and his dad get off the train. I had walked with them earlier and they, too, had jumped ahead. (They figured out how to take two trains to get there.) We had dinner together and enjoyed the local specialty meats of the area.
Astorga leads into a new set of high mountains. (By the way, the huge cathedral here is also beautiful and has the Bishop’s house next to it. The Bishop’s house looks a little like a castle) Francis of Assisi walked through this city and stayed here on his way to Santiago!)
Today’s 20 k walk was not hard, but it was windy and cold; Think beach front in October. I was grateful for my green jacket that does a good job of protecting from the wind, and it was still cold!
Today I met Mojo, a four legged friend walking with her person. Her person said it was actually a little hard to find places that take dogs. That dog has walked all the way from France! I also saw my first rainbow on the trail.
As we started going up into the hills there was a long fence upon which people had weaved crosses made out of sticks into the wire. (Picture below.) I wondered about those who are “simply searching” and what that cross means for them, or if they even put one there.
Last night’s albergue held 95 people in two rooms. There were a lot of beds and the old building near the cathedral creaked every time someone walked. Tonight I am staying in an Albergue run by the British confraternity of the Camino. Volunteers run the place, and tonight’s volunteers, who all do two weeks at a time, are all American. I am looking forward to high tea at 4:30.
(Sorry pictures to come later)