This blog is a record of my observations, experiences and crazy thoughts about my 800 kilometer pilgrimage across northern Spain: the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (April-May 2009).
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Day 17 - Villafranca de Orca - Thursday, 7 May
Belorado -> Villafranca de Orca = 11.5K (526.4K to go!)
Last night in Belorado I attended mass and the pilgrim blessing. Afterwards the priest asked (in Spanish) for volunteers to help return the icons to their proper locations. They have been out since Easter celebrations. While I was trying to decipher his Spanish, almost everyone else disappeared. People hear the word volunteer and stop listening I guess! So, the priest took R, and me by the elbow and escorted us through the serpentine streets of Belodorado to another church where he put us to work.
We were late for the group meal at the albergue but it was OK. It was called a communal meal, but really we were simply all dining at the same time and seated at tables of four as in any dining room. The meal was good and ended with a digestivo (strong liqueur, like grappa, designed to help with digestion). Baskets were circulated so pilgrims could donate money for the meal.
After a breakfast of cold bread, butter, marmalade and weak café con leche, I walked through two (or three?) small villages. One village had only 48 residents. I walked many kilometers of un-shaded, rolling farmland ending in a scary walk along the edge of a very busy highway. Large trucks whipped by, honking and kicking up dirt. I was hot and sweaty,so when I reached Villafranca de Montes de Orca I stopped for food and water. After consulting my papers, I decided to stop for the night. The next stretch of the Camino involved a steep climb and a walk of 12K to the next town (which has no stores!). One guide book describes the walk as “soul-less.” All of this at mid-day under the hot sun. Nope! I am staying the night!
Villafranca is named after the traders and others who repopulated this region during the reconquest (from the Moors). The community albergue in Villafranca is on an uninspiring (and dangerous) curve of a major road. It was a converted school. There are large windows and a nice view from the rear. The showers proved to have really hot water and room in the shower area to dress without being a dwarf with contortionist skills! I showered, did my laundry, and walked down to the only bar in town. Time for lunch. (Lunchtime in Spain is about 1400)
The bar is like a truck stop. The outside tables were flanked with about 20 big-rigs parked side-by-side. Pilgrims filled the table and sat in the dusty, parking lot passing the time. We watched local trucker downing wine and beer before they continue on the road. Familiar pilgrims faces pop up. Some people were slowed down by blisters, joints that failed, sunburn, etc. Others have picked up speed as they grow stronger. Some have learned to take buses and taxis or to ship their backpacks ahead. People play cards and while away the hours.
Most pilgrims were in bed before 9PM. The Snore-Corps (as R. named them) shared the room with us. I have shared rooms with these gents a few nights and they can really saw wood! They also like to keep the windows closed, so once again, it was humid and hot and noisy.
Friend Judy’s Christian Science Thought for the Day:
Science & Health: 514:6 Mind, joyous in strength, dwells in the realm of Mind. Mind's infinite ideas run and disport themselves. In humility they climb the heights of holiness.
In April 2009, I began my 500-mile trek across the rocky paths and mountains of northen Spain. I finished my walk on the the ancient Way of St James (the Camino de Santiago de Compostela) in early June 2009.
I consider this a pilgrimage of gratitude. Each step was an opportunity to express gratitude for the abundance life offers; each footstep, one of finding joy. It was a humbling experience. It was a character-building experience. It was a spiritual adventure and a physical one too - who knew I was such a mountain goat? I hope you will enjoy my rambling, stream of consciousness obeservations of my experiences as a pilgrim on this historic pilgrimage route that really is only the begining.
Of course veteran pilgrims know: the Camino never ends - once a pilgrim, always a pilgrim. So, wherever YOUR path takes you, I wish you "Buen Camino".