Today was Easter Sunday and we were in Santiago witnessing how the Catholic Church firing on all cylinders does it. Many words can describe it: spectacular, rich, all involving. The ritual was dramatic and beautifully presented. The robes were rich, the processional figures spectacular and the story well told. People of all ages were involved. The Bible story was told in detail.
With my very limited knowledge of Spanish, it was obvious that the gospel was proclaimed. But something was missing. I’ll write more about that later.
Then we started for the south via Portugal. We camped north of Lisbon.
Today, Monday, we marched on south as we want to see the southern cities of Seville, Cordoba, Cadiz and Granada. We went via a town in Portugal called ” Elvas” with a most amazing viaduct. We have arrived in Seville after finding a camping ground. The gps worked well but the camping grounds didn’t exist with our first two tries. Tomorrow we will visit Seville.
Another Camino Flashback:
At 5:30am we gathered our things, crept downstairs and readied ourselves for another day’s tramping. It was going to be a very easy, very short stint, or twice the distance. Our usual 20 something kilometers wasn’t going to work today because of a lack of albergues at that point. It seemed especially dark, and the path treacherous and unclear. But we were enjoying the solitude. Until we reached a main road and there was no indication of the pilgrim route (yellow arrows and signs). We asked at a petrol station however the attendant just ignored us when we said we couldn’t understand Spanish. On and on he went, gabbling and pointing. We turned away none the wiser and decided to retrace our steps. A few hundred meters along we reached a fork in the road and there was the yellow arrow painted on a tree. Once again we were on the right track.
We arrived in Ribadiso at 9am and Arzua at 10am. We made the decision to keep going. Which meant another 15 kilometers and a total of 30kms for the day! Could we do it? At Al Calzada we stopped for lunch (leftovers from last night), and then we pushed on. Knowing there were limited places in the albergues at Santa Irene spurred us on. Just before 3pm we got here. We have more aching bits than we thought possible!
The following day I added:
Last night we had to add 3kms to our days tally to find somewhere to eat. We wound up in a proper little restaurant and had a three course meal, ordered with help from a young woman from Minnesota. Then we hobbled back to the albergue. During yesterday both my knees started to ache terribly, especially on a downwards slope.
Now things are working again here are some more thoughts and experiences.
The day began late by recent standards – tumbled out of that double bed with its polar fleece sheets at 7:20 am. Left Portos soon after, which required a lot of self talk aimed at the aching joints, calf muscles, and blistered tootsies. Tramped through forests, beside main roads, along tracks warn down meters deep. There seemed to be a lot of stone today – rocky paths and paved roads. It was very hard on my feet. Not surprisingly my blister count went up. I now have three toes with blisters surrounding the entire toe, even under the nail! Ouch! Mister Veane’s advice and my Chemist shop in-a-bag is coming in handy. We passed through the town of Palas de Rei and took a wrong turn so we had to back track a bit. Then we did a bit of filming around the town San Xulian. Breakfast was a “muesly” bar, and some chocolate sustained us until we arrived weary and footsore in Melide. The Alburgue will be home for the night. Lunch was olives, Brie, bananas, grapes and yoghurt. And a chocolate croissant. There is a service at the nearby church tonight which we will check out. Buon Camino.
We also went to Mass last night in preparation for Maundy Thursday. The church was packed. I was the only only one in shorts! On either side of the door, inscribed in the windows was “Word of God” in Latin. During the church service that evening I prayed for the people and the priests. “That this Word might be a living reality in Melide.” There had been a funeral, that afternoon and it impressed on me the need for a living relationship with God.
Back in Santiago. Due to 3G problems I’ll write some catch up blogs later. But for the moment there is free wifi in the bus station. We have walked up hill and down rocky dale for over 120 kms with our heavy backpacks. Finally we are here and have earned our Compostellas. But I have much to say about that in the future.
We went to the Cathedral which was having a service but it was inundated with tourists. As we were leaving there was a medieval procession coming down the street. White and black hooded people in bare feet dragging chains were in front of a Pieta like statue. It was somber and bleak.
Last night we stayed in a seminary. Hetty said it was like being an orphan at St. Augustine’s. It was a large dorm with rows of beds and vey noisy plumbing.
There is much I want to reflect on. The good, the bad and some of it down right ugly. However in the meantime, I want clean clothes and my own tent with my own bride next to me.
I have come to the conclusion that Spaniards, although lovely and friendly people, have a national sleep apnea problem. Sleeping in the same room as 30 of them is proof enough. After a sleepless night Hetty and I crept out of the Alburgue at 6:00 waking up all the dogs as we went along. Quickly we were in a forest. The sun wasn’t going to rise for anther 21/2 hours. Slowly we saw the sun rise in the west. Hey, are we going in the wrong direction? No, the km posts were winding down. It didn’t help when we saw two pilgrims heading towards us.
Soon the strange phenomena was revealed. A genuine Spanish bush fire across our path. We couldn’t travel any further. So we sat freezing in a bus shelter with growing band of pilgrims. Cars, trucks and a couple of buses had to stop as well. When the fire was reduced, we piled on the local buses to the friendly welcome of the passengers and we escorted by the police through the remnants of the fire.
We continued to Portos, a small two house town. Hetty asked in the cafe if any one had rooms for hire. Which they did. So we stayed in and old Spanish farmhouse. It also gave us an opportunity to go on a side trip (5kms) to Vilar deDonas. A place where the headstones of the local,kings were preserved in an old romanesque church. Well worth the trip.
That night we have relief from snoring Spaniards
We left Sarria very early this morning. The German couple in our room were still sleeping. They obviously needed the rest. The streets were still, dark and the air foggy. The day began with a mysterious feel. We headed down the road confidently, only to find pilgrims going in the opposite direction. So we checked our map – and turned around. Later we met other pilgrims moving through the darkness and fog with their head lamps shining in our eyes. “Are we going the right way” they asked, “No, you need to turn around,” we replied piously. It is good to learn a lesson you can pass on to others. We walked through little farm hamlets made up of stone buildings. Farmers were milking. Overall, the morning stillness was breath taking. At one stop we read Psalm 84 and a passage where Jesus calls Andrew and Peter. We prayed and moved on. It was too cold to stay. We needed to move.
The countryside although shrouded in fog was green and pretty. When sun came out it transformed the place. It feels alive and exciting. It is fascinating walking with a group of people in one direction. All heading for the same destination
Now we are in Portomarin. Our accommodation is an Alburgue. The dorm has about 30 young Spanish people and us. Tonight should be interesting. The picture below is of a little chapel in Portomarin.
Currently I’m sitting in the Santiago Bus Station. I’m engaged in one of my favourite activities – people watching. Some are lying on hard benches, others are wandering about in a regular pattern and another is writing a blog and fending off his wife’s requests to play Scrabble.
This must have one of the highest ratios of back packing people – especially older ones, in the world. They are either going to or coming back from the Camino to Santiago. You can tell those who have been. There is less of a spring in their step. They have a more jaded look. But this doesn’t hide the fact that they have achieved a personal goal. Those going are still bright eyed and bushy tailed.
We are waiting to get tickets for a bus to our starting town. We’ve missed the the previous bus and are hoping there are enough seats left on this one.
We have made a decision to roll with the punches and enjoy our time together whatever obstacles come along. We have a daily plan of prayer, Bible reading and reflection. So hopefully tomorrow the real journey begins.