Thursday, July 02, 2009

Day 32 - Vega de Valcarce - Thursday, 21 May 2009

Cacabelos -> Vega de Valcarce = 25K (163.6K remaining on the Way to Santiago!)

When I slipped away from the albergue at Cacabelos at 0630, the over-flow crowds on mattresses outdoors were still sleeping. I walked up and down 2 hills (about 8K) before a fine breakfast stop in Villafranco Bierzo. What a wonderful community. If I had “do-overs,” I would have spent my night here instead of in Cacabelos.

Pilgrims who suffer from ailments and illness can walk through the Puerta del Perdon (door of pardon) on the north side of the Santiago church that perches above Villafranco Bierzo. Those pilgrims too ill to go on will receive the same indulgences as pilgrims who reach Compostela. The town is beautiful in the crisp bright morning sun.

The next 30K are the most physically challenging of the Camino. The total assent is 1280 meters.

As I walk along the Camino, my mind skips along. Movies and books and songs, memories, dreams all fill my head. I make a mental list of things that make me happy:
• Rose Arbors, Potted Geraniums, Wild Flowers and Flowerboxes
• Cats (Orange cats especially) and Dogs
• Cows and Sheep
• Parakeets and Chickens
• Blue Doors, French Doors and Split Doors (Dutch Doors)
• Rustic Benches
• Books, Films and Music
• Toast (With Butter & Orange Marmalade)
• Hot Showers
• Hammocks

I visualize different lives: should we go back to our cozy bungalow in SC or try a new adventure (a B&B in Malawi?) or maybe life in Minneapolis, Saint Louis or Albuquerque. Should we just stay in Santa Fe?

I walk and think. I weep when I am happy – my heart breaks open and all the joy spills out. I remember a quote from William Blake (I don’t remember the context): “…Excess of sorrow laughs, excess of joy weeps…” In m mind I hear my mother quoting someone (Frost?) about living by the side of the road and being a friend to all mankind.

I am happy.

My camera has fresh batteries, but now the memory card is full. So, again I have no opportunity to take photos of the beautiful scenery I travel through. Some images I wish I could have captured include:
• A German Shepherd dog and its’small friend on a tiny 2nd floor terrace eying pilgrims walking by.
• Grey stone buildings with slate roofs and rustic wood beams and doors covered in bold, bright blossoms.
• A pair of wooden clogs parked under a rustic bench.
• Beatific caramel-colored cows grazing on emerald-green, rolling hills.
• The babbling stream that snaked along the path during my post breakfast walk.

I enjoy the early morning walk and move quickly till about noon. I elect to stop at an albergue run by Brazilians. It is an older building, but clean and inviting. The hospitalero is so enthusiastic and happy, I cannot resist staying (even though it is a bit pricey). There are hammocks, there is lively music, it is quite pleasant and there is the promise of an al fresco Brazilian communal feast in the Camelot garden.

I am the first pilgrim to check in today. I find a hammock and curl up to write and think. Later I sip wine and have a long, interesting conversation with a Dutchman I met in Astorga (I call him “The Flying Dutchman”).

Dinner is pleasant.

At dinner I am amused when a fellow pilgrim (a German man) insists I look like Joan Baez. This is the third time on this trip someone has compared me to Joan Baez. I respond with a wisecrack about my singing – if they heard me sing it would certainly dispel any illusions that I might be Joan Baez!

After lights out, I fall asleep with the refreshing breeze from an open window (unusual at most albergues) and the pleasant sound of crickets singing in the night.

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