Friday, June 05, 2009

Day 3 - Trinidad de Arre - Thursday, 23 April 2009

Zubiri -> Trinidad de Arre = 17K (703K to go!)

I cross over the Zabaldika bridge and see the 16th Century monastery perched on the riverbanks in Trinidad de Arre and I know I want to linger here. My walking companions decide to continue on to Pamplona, so we part company. I check into the lovely albergue (the monastery serves as a pilgrim place!)and spend some delightful hours in the flower-carpeted courtyard before I call it a night.

Of course I have a list of tasks to accomplish before I can catch some much needed sleep. After a long day of walking in the hot sun I need to buy batteries for the camera, find a phone card, buy some snacks for the next days walk, find Internet, wash out my clothes, shower and find a meal. The simple life is not always simple.

I am worn out. The walk from Zubiri was lovely, but more demanding than I expected. The elevation maps indicated a fairly flat walk, but the terrain was hilly. The mild humor among the pilgrims was "aren't you glad we are walking on flat terrain today?!" There were valleys, mud, streams to ford, a long detour up a mountain in the blazing sun. But the villages I pass through are beautiful. Spring flowers decorate the land and old Roman bridges and other architectural elements make a picturesque panorama, enhanced by the prolific sheep, goats, horses, cats and dogs. (FYI: One French pilgrim was bitten by a dog as he walked through the forest - the same dog had befriended me, even licked my hand.)

The village of Larrasoana has lovley ruins - a monastery and hospital. I see a pilgrim lingering in the shade, reading and resting in this lovely place. People are fishing. I cross the Puente de los Bandidos (bridge of the bandits) where pilgrims used to fear they would be robbed. These days it is merely a beautiful site on an ancient path.

I stop at a small bar to breakfast on toast and cafe con leche. Outside the door, among the pilgrim backpacks stacked along the wall, is an adorable little puppy. I play with the little guy and soon the owner arrives and I learn the dog's tale.

This little guy had been wrapped up in a plastic bag and thrown in a dumpster to die. The good pilgrim discovered him and rescued the little brown dog.

This is all good and well, but having a dog on the Camino raises significant problems. Dogs are not allowed in most accommodations on the pilgrim path. This particular pilgrim is walking home from Santiago, retracing his long journey east and north along the Camino after initially walking all the way to Santiago. Since he took on the pup, he sleeps outdoors or relies on the kindness of strangers to meet the needs created by the rescued dog.

Following breakfast I put on my pack and walk alone. Pilgrims frequently walk alone for long stretches of the day and intermittently join others to walk and talk for a bit. It is a lovely mix of time alone and camaraderie. "Spaces in our togetherness" as Kahlil Gibrahn words it.

As I walk along the river today, a Knight Templar with the red cross emblazoned on his garb appears astride a horse. These men patrol the area, making sure pilgrims are safe. I also met with a pair of Guardia Civil on motorcycles patrolling another stretch of the Way.

I hope to see the young women I had met (Mikey, from Denmark)on the bus to Roncesvalles. I have not seen her since early today when she stopped along the path to rest her bruised and aching toes. She has already developed some serious blisters. I wonder if the Guardia Civil or the Knight Templar may have come to her aid.

Day is done. And I am comfortable in my digs for the night. My lovely accommodations in this historic monastery cost only 6 Euros and the pilgrim dinner is 7.5 Euros.

The pilgrim meals usually consist of three course (salad, meat or fish, dessert, bread and bottle of wine...yes, a bottle!). In Spain, dinner is usually not available until after 9PM, but pilgrims receive their meals much earlier in most places. Staying in an albergue also means being locked in at 9 or 10 PM. Early to bed and early to rise is the rule of life on the Camino.

The monastery is lovely, tranquil. The people I have met here are delightful. One of them celebrated his 40th birthday today - his gift to himself was meeting a special challenge: he walked the 40 kilometers from Roncesvalles to Trinidad de Arre in one day. My legs ache just thinking of walking 40 kilometers in on day, especially over such rough terrain. Pilgrims gather to help celebrate the man's birthday and his achievement.

Faces are becoming familiar, friendships are developing. There is some lovely magic in the air.

I fall asleep breathing the sweet smell of flowers from the courtyard.

I am another day closer to Santiago de Compsotela. It still seems like a very long way to walk. I will do it, one step at a time.

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