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After much back and forth, we decided to cut out as many of the extras as we can and just focus on the Camino. The current version of the plan (such as it is) looks like this:


Fly out of Seattle on Easter Sunday and into Madrid.


From there, we go to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port by one of two ways, either flying to Biarritz and then taking the train, or taking a bus to Pamplona and then bus or taxi.


We will take rest days in (at least) Pamplona and Burgos. Possibly Astorga. We’ll play it by ear.


Then, depending on what day we arrive in Santiago, we will have some options: stay in Santiago a couple of extra days, or take a quick jaunt to Finisterre, or hang out in Madrid.


Pilgrim's ProgressYesterday at our parish adult catechesis session, I gave a presentation on Christian pilgrimage. Needless to say, the second half of the presentation was about the Camino.


It was well received, and the entire group was engaged with the topic. Normally, you’ve always got your folks who sort of just sit back and absorb, but last night everybody was jumping in.


It was a lot of fun – two people even asked if there would be a longer Camino presentation. Not, I think, as part of our RCIA / adult catechesis program, but I could certainly be persuaded to put something together.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

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One year from today, Easter Sunday, 27 March 2016, Francine and I intend to board an airplane and set out on our second Camino. Because next year is a leap-year, that’s 366 days from today.


Yesterday, I celebrated the tenth anniversary of my Baptism. A year from today, Easter will fall on exactly the same day that it did back in 2005, the last time it will fall on that date for at least the next hundred years.


So that seems auspicious.


Already, we’ve begun the hunt for new, lighter and more efficient equipment. I’ve got my new Aarn body pack, which is absolutely fantastic, and Francine has purchased a new smaller pack as well.


The Clymb is our friend.


Training is slowly coming together, and I suspect we will formalize it in the weeks after Easter. Now we just need to save up the money! In the past year or two, we’ve had to lay out for a new furnace and a new stove, so the coffers are a great deal thinner than I’d like.


Still, we will figure out a way.


That reminds me… I need to renew my passport. Perhaps I the time has come to start making lists.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

Arrow

It’s a truism that one doesn’t need a map to walk the Camino. After all, there’s a yellow arrow painted or printed or engraved somewhere every twenty yards or so. If you haven’t seen one in a while, you’ve probably wandered off the right path.


Having said that, I like maps. I especially like maps that represent terrain, distances, and directions.


I absolutely love Camino maps that tell me the distance between each village by every possible route, and the amenities located in each village, town, and city.


And throw in random cultural and historical notes? Absolute gold. No guide book required.


In short, I love this map:


largemap


It was absolutely invaluable. I talked about it in a number of blog posts from the Camino here and here, for example.


Sadly, I no longer have it. I’m pretty sure I gave it or loaned it to somebody with the idea that they would need it before I would, and that I could just purchase the new edition when it came out.


On my lunch today, I went by the site of the publisher, Pili Pala Press. Imagine my disappointment to discover this:


sad map


I’m fairly certain that my agonized, wailing scream could be heard as far away as Arzúa.


Needless to say, in my desperation, I’ve e-mailed the publisher:


Hello!


In 2013, my wife and I walked the Camino Frances with one of your amazing Camino map booklets. We had researched any number of maps, and yours was by far and away the best. Just knowing which towns and villages had which amenities allowed us to plan our days.


Sadly, that map is now gone.


My wife and I are now planning our second Camino for 2016. I immediately came to your site to purchase another (perhaps updated?) copy. I was devastated to discover that you were no longer selling them.


I’m writing now to beg. Surely there is at least one copy left somewhere that I could purchase? Did you check behind the sofa? Under the refrigerator?


Please help me!


cheers,


thom


Let’s see how they respond.


Meanwhile, 395 days to go.




Tags:

In theory, each pilgrim who completes the Camino de Santiago is a member of the Archconfraternity of Saint James the Apostle. Originally founded in 1499, the aims of the Archcontraternity are:



  • Promote honour of St. James the Apostle and encourage Christian pilgrimage to his Tomb.

  • Ensure that pilgrims are welcomed and looked after on their pilgrimage along the different ways leading to Santiago.

  • Offer help so that pilgrimage might be a time of personal encounter and commitment, working with the Cathedral of Santiago to help with the care and attention given to pilgrims.

  • Assist in the conservation of the religious-cultural heritage linked to Santiago and “its ways”.


APOC patchNow, I say every pilgrim is a member “in theory” because the Archconfraternity has officers and council at the Cathedral of Santiago, and they’ve developed statutes and such that most pilgrims don’t know anything about, or would probably much care for if they did.


The Archconfraternity is also an umbrella organization for various Spanish and international Contraternities of Saint James. Probably the most famous of these in the English-speaking world is the UK-based Confraternity of Saint James. I’ve ordered books from them, and they proved extremely helpful to me.


Enlisting on the rolls of any of these associated Confraternities enrolls you officially in the Archconfraternity. Again, in theory. Who knows how any of this works in practice?


Anyway, this is a long way to burble on by way of introduction to say that Francine and I have (finally) officially enlisted in the American Confraternity – APOC (American Pilgrims on the Camino).


Why?


Well, in a sense, it’s partially because we’re pilgrims, we’ve walked the Camino, and we’ve become evangelists for it.


And really, we got our first credencials from them, so it’s only fair that we should give back a little.


Really, though, it was prompted by a question put to us this weekend.


We took the weekend off – at a beach cabin on Vashon Island. Last year, we spent our anniversary there, but this year it was booked, so we were there this weekend.


We attended Mass at the local parish, Saint John Vianney, with some friends.


Rembrandt: Peter's mother-in-lawThe Gospel reading from Mark contained this:


Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up.


Then the fever left her and she waited on them.


The priest gave an intense homily, focused primarily on that part of that reading. Isn’t it funny how those who are helped – those who are healed – feel compelled to give back.


Simon Peter’s mother-in-law was healed of the fever, and she immediately began to wait on Jesus and His apostles.


Like recovering addicts, who often reach out to help those still suffering the worst of their addictions.


Like converts, who in their zeal preach, sometimes with words but often with their lives of devotion.


The priest asked us to remember a time and place where we were healed – and he challenged us to bring people to that same place.


I immediately thought of my baptism, and my subsequent life of working for the Church, first as an employee for the Catholic schools, and now as a volunteer in liturgy and catechesis.


And then, a fraction of a moment later, the Camino flooded into my mind, and I knew that at some point we would be hospitaleros.


Francine has often spoken of this, which is for her a natural outgrowth of her Benedictine spirituality.


I was less sure. Now I’m not.


Maybe it will only be for a week or a season, maybe it will be something more – who can know God’s plan?


But one way or another, today we took the first step towards that.


Approaching the Church of Our Lady of Eunate

Approaching the Church of Our Lady of Eunate




450 Days

1 Jan 2015 16:30
thomryng: A Sepia Man in a Hat (Default)

450 Days to Go

There’s a countdown app on my phone, silently counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until we leave for our second Camino.


In this new year, we have a lot to do to get ready.


Last week we tried out my new backpack bodypack, an Aarn. It was absolutely brilliant. Even fully laden, it was so light you could hardly believe it. The walk, just our usual 3.5 km around Snake Lake, did however convince me that I am badly out of shape.


Since it’s new year’s day, it looks like it’s time for some resolutions.


Resolutions. Everybody makes them, and most of them don’t last past the middle of January.


Given that we have but 450 days before we walk the Camino again in the spring of 2016, and given my impressive number of bad habits, here are my resolutions as they currently stand:



  1. Spanish. Learn some.

  2. Do more of the following: walk, pray, read, laugh, love.

  3. Finish writing one of the books I’m working on. In fact, just write more. And publish.


We’ll see how that goes.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

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The way that can be walked

is not the eternal Way.


(Lao Tsu)



Santiago de Compostela

Feast of Saints Philip and James


That last day was busy. After breakfast, we caught a taxi to the bus station to secure our tickets for Madrid. We spent some hours in and around the Cathedral. Then a little shopping. Confession, and then noon pilgrim’s Mass at the Cathedral. Second breakfasts and lunches and drinks with many old friends. The bus to Madrid left at at 9pm.


The Cathedral in the early morning light

The Cathedral in the early morning light


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The High Altar

The High Altar


Catedral de Santiago


Catedral de Santiago - chapels


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Lana, David, Radek

Lana, David, Radek


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One of many, many side altars in the Cathedral. Walking through them is like taking a history of art and architecture course, as each one seems to be from a different century.

One of many, many side altars in the Cathedral. Walking through them is like taking a history of art and architecture course, as each one seems to be from a different century.


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The Apostle's Crypt

The Apostle’s Crypt


View from the Cathedral's portico

View from the Cathedral’s portico


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Me, Carlos, Charlie, Eamon - reunited!

Me, Carlos, Charlie, Eamon – reunited!


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Santiago and Francine

Santiago and Francine


Viola

Viola


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God’s communications with us humans are often subtle. As the Prophet Elijah discovered, the Voice of God is often to be found in the whispering wind (1 Kings 19:11-13).


Sometimes, however, God reaches out and whacks us upside the head, either physically or mentally.


Often times, I tell people of points in my life where God spoke to me in one way or another, and the immediate reaction from them is doubt. They suspect embellishment or coincidence. Or in one memorable case, hallucination.


Don’t get me wrong; a healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing by and large, but at some point you veer off from skepticism and right into making excuses for your disbelief.


I’m as guilty of that as anyone. Some days I can hear God on the whispering wind; some days I need a whack upside the head.


The object of the Camino is the tomb of the Apostle Saint James the Greater in the Cathedral dedicated to him in the city named after him, Santiago.


Everybody walks the Way for different reasons. I walked with Christians, with Atheists, with those seeking wisdom or answers or direction, and with those just out for a nice long hike.


At different points of the Way, I suppose everybody finds some answers, but these inevitably lead to more questions. At least for me.


I had prayer intentions for the pilgrimage, but mostly I was there seeking a certain spiritual clarity that typically eludes me in the bustle and busyness of the modern working world.


By the time we got to the end, I had learned quite a bit, and I’m still unpacking the experience. I remember sitting in the crypt, kneeling in front of the tomb of Saint James the Apostle and asking, “now what?”


The pilgrimage was over, the Way was walked. What now? I had finished the Way, and I was already missing it.


Apparently, God decided that He wasn’t going to be subtle this time.


We went to the Pilgrims’ Mass at the Cathedral. This is the feast of two more Apostles, Saints Philip and James the Less. The Gospel reading for this Mass is from the fourteenth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. It begins:


Jesus said to Thomas, I am the way and the truth and the life.


Sure, you say, “that’s just a coincidence, the reading mentioning ‘Thomas’ and ‘Way’ on the day you just happen to end your pilgrimage, Thom”.


Cross of Saint JamesRight.


I may be a little thick, but I know the Voice of God when I hear it. Usually.


The Way isn’t done – the Way continues forever. The Way isn’t just a walk, the Way is Christ.


Now that I’ve finished the Way to Santiago, my call is to continue walking with Christ, the Way and the Truth and the Life.


So, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.


(Colossians 2:6-7)


Goodbye for now! We will return to the Camino.


Last Photo from the Camino


Photos from day 32.


I also used some of Francine’s photos, since at some point today I had to recharge my camera.


The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say.


(J.R.R. Tolkien)




Tags:

(from my journal)


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Santiago de Compostela

02 May 2013


Praise God, at about 3pm we arrived in Santiago de Compostela. On the way into the city, we kept running into people we knew – people who had shared some portion of the walk with us – probably a dozen reunions before we even reached the Cathedral.


Entering the plaza in front of the Cathedral was an experience like no other. The emotions were overwhelming: gratitude, relief, wonder, the childlike excitement of Christmas morning all rolled into one.


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I have a feeling that heaven is a lot like that: constantly meeting old friends in an overwhelming place of wonder and delight.


We visited the Cathedral, of course. The traditional entry of the pilgrim is through something called the Gate of Glory. Unfortunately, it was covered in scaffolds due to reconstruction work.


The central image of Christ, however, was visible.


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We prayed. We clambered behind the high altar to hug the statue of the saint. Then we descended to the tomb and prayed before his remains.


I’m still overwhelmed by the whole thing.


In the evening, tapas!


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Three Musketeers Reunited at Last


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All the photos from day 31!


There will be one more entry in this series, I think, and then we’re done.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

Tags:

(from my journal)


O Pedrouzo

Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker


The pilgrimage is nearly done. God willing, tomorrow we will be in Santiago!


Today was an easy walk of 20km. We left Arzúa late, after visiting the lovely church there. It was crawling with cleaning ladies and the same little old church ladies you find in every parish. One of them very kindly gave me a tour of the church (in Spanish, naturally), pointing out to me the statues of Santiago Peregrino and Santiago Matamoros in the altarpieces. She was quite charming.


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Mostly forest walking, and numberless nameless villages that blend one into the other.


We meant to eat lunch in Brea but somhow missed it. Instead, we ate in a wonderful little place in Santa Irene with Patty, the Irish-living American.


We walked with her a bit, though she left us for a hotel in A Rúa.


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We then walked right past our destination, the town variously known as Arca do Pino and O Pedrouza. We had to strike the highway and backtrack about a kilometer. We’re done with albergues after our horrible experience at the Xunta Municipal at Palas de Rei, so we checked into a pension for the second night in a row.


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All the photos: Day 30!




Tags:

(from my journal)


Portomarín

28 April


So many pilgrims now.




That sentence was, in fact, my entire journal entry for today.


Starting in Sarria, the number of pilgrims on the Way increases by tenfold. I saw more pilgrims today than I probably had on the entirety of the Camino so far.


So there were new challenges. Chief among them were: dodging pilgrims, working out a new pilgrim-passing etiquette, and getting ahead of the large German tour group so that when we came to a bar it hadn’t been completely cleaned out.


As for the walk, I’ll let the photos tell the story.


Starting out in Sarria.

Starting out in Sarria.


Sarria


Sarria


Convento de la Magdalena

Convento de la Magdalena


Convento de la Magdalena


Convento de la Magdalena


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At the 100km Milestone

At the 100km Milestone


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More day 27 photos!




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

Tags:

(from my journal)


Sarria

27 April


The walls of the Monastery Albergue at Samos

The walls of the Monastery Albergue at Samos


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Some highway walking, followed by a beautiful walk in the forests of Galicia. Lots of rain.


Who's this shady character?

Who’s this shady character?


Samos

Samos


Leaving Samos


From Samos to Sarria


From Samos to Sarria


From Samos to Sarria


From Samos to Sarria


Wayside Shrine

Wayside Shrine


Francine, having had very little sleep due to a drunken Englishman snoring and occasionally shouting in his sleep, dragged considerably. By the time we got to Sarria, she was done.


We had lunch and bid Eamon adieu as he set out for Portomarin.


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Stairs up to the Old Town of Sarria

Stairs up to the Old Town of Sarria


When we decided we were done for the day after only 11km

When we decided we were done for the day after only 11km


Mass in the evening.


Dinner with Mia, who had taken a rest day in Sarria, and the rest of the Irish crew, who had caught up this afternoon.


Internet? Francine perks right up!

Internet? Francine perks right up!


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Our first taste of pulpo. Yum!

Our first taste of pulpo. Yum!


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We rented a room at the Café Escalinata at the top of the stairs. Started my third credencial.


Day 26: the photos.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

Tags:

(from my journal)


Sarria

27 April


The walls of the Monastery Albergue at Samos

The walls of the Monastery Albergue at Samos


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Some highway walking, followed by a beautiful walk in the forests of Galicia. Lots of rain.


Who's this shady character?

Who’s this shady character?


Samos

Samos


Leaving Samos


From Samos to Sarria


From Samos to Sarria


From Samos to Sarria


From Samos to Sarria


Wayside Shrine

Wayside Shrine


Francine, having had very little sleep due to a drunken Englishman snoring and occasionally shouting in his sleep, dragged considerably. By the time we got to Sarria, she was done.


We had lunch and bid Eamon adieu as he set out for Portomarin.


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Stairs up to the Old Town of Sarria

Stairs up to the Old Town of Sarria


When we decided we were done for the day after only 11km

When we decided we were done for the day after only 11km


Mass in the evening.


Dinner with Mia, who had taken a rest day in Sarria, and the rest of the Irish crew, who had caught up this afternoon.


Internet? Francine perks right up!

Internet? Francine perks right up!


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Our first taste of pulpo. Yum!

Our first taste of pulpo. Yum!


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We rented a room at the Café Escalinata at the top of the stairs. Started my third credencial.


Day 26: the photos.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

Tags:

(from my journal)


Royal Monastery of Samos

26 April 2013


We Happy Few: Leaving Fonfría (me, Iaian, Fraincine, Bob, Anja)

We Happy Few: Leaving Fonfría (me, Iaian, Fraincine, Bob, Anja)


Francine and I had a shorter walk today to Samos through beautiful Galician misty farmland and woods with Anja.


Mists of Galicia


Mists of Galicia


Mists of Galicia


During second breakfast, who should come ’round the bend but Eamon!


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Lunched in Triacastela and the mist finally more or less lifted.


Arrived in Samos with Eamon and Francine and booked into the monastery albergue.


Galicia seems like home – almost a faerie-tale country – and the first view of Samos from the overlooking hill took my breath away.


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Royal Monastery of Samos


Toured the monastery with Eamon and Radek.


Beautiful chanted Mass and Vespers later with the monks (or some of them – I’m not actually entirely clear on how many there are) was a moving and uplifting experience, even if I understood barely a word (Latin more than Spanish). My overwhelming feeling as we walked through the great cloister was that I was made for the monastery.


Dinner – caldo Gallega!


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Even more photos!




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

Tags:

(from my journal)


Royal Monastery of Samos

26 April 2013


We Happy Few: Leaving Fonfría (me, Iaian, Fraincine, Bob, Anja)

We Happy Few: Leaving Fonfría (me, Iaian, Fraincine, Bob, Anja)


Francine and I had a shorter walk today to Samos through beautiful Galician misty farmland and woods with Anja.


Mists of Galicia


Mists of Galicia


Mists of Galicia


During second breakfast, who should come ’round the bend but Eamon!


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Lunched in Triacastela and the mist finally more or less lifted.


Arrived in Samos with Eamon and Francine and booked into the monastery albergue.


Galicia seems like home – almost a faerie-tale country – and the first view of Samos from the overlooking hill took my breath away.


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Royal Monastery of Samos


Toured the monastery with Eamon and Radek.


Beautiful chanted Mass and Vespers later with the monks (or some of them – I’m not actually entirely clear on how many there are) was a moving and uplifting experience, even if I understood barely a word (Latin more than Spanish). My overwhelming feeling as we walked through the great cloister was that I was made for the monastery.


Dinner – caldo Gallega!


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Even more photos!




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

Tags:

(from my journal)


Fonfria

25 April 2013


First Breakfast in Vega

First Breakfast in Vega


Today we traveled, on and off, with Ian, Anja, and a lovely Korean lady named Isabel (or, as I like to call her, Bob). The climb to O’Cebreiro was steep and rough, quite the toughest climb so far… but one.


Cows with Cowbells. Francine was so enchanted with the sound, that she recorded it.

Cows with Cowbells. Francine was so enchanted with the sound, that she recorded it.


Somewhere near Ruitelán

Somewhere near Ruitelán


Bar in Las Herrerías - Second Breakfast

Bar in Las Herrerías – Second Breakfast


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We lunched with Anja in O’Cebreiro, and also met Radek there. Radek is from Poland – an amazing and humble guy – who is shepherding two kids from Canada, David and Lana (who I sometimes call the Saskatchewan Kid and Canada Girl. It’s a superhero thing.)


We’ve seen them on and off since before León – possibly since before Logroño. A few nights ago in Molinesca, Radek helped me work out our remaining route. I hope to meet up with them again tomorrow in Samos.


The view from the top of the pass is amazing, and the village itself was the site of a Eucharistic miracle in the 14th century. In the 21st, however, at least today, it was overrun by two busloads of German tourists. We ate and stayed a bit to wait out the hottest part of the day, while a group of Germans at the bar sang songs in both German and Spanish.


Climbing to O’Cebreiro


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O’Cebreiro


Anja and Francine in O’Cebreiro

Anja and Francine in O’Cebreiro


The View from O’Cebreiro

The View from O’Cebreiro


On into Galicia! Such a beautiful country. We thought we were done climbing, but a series of rises brought us into a thin pine forest, where Francine, Anja, and I made the determination to finish the day in Fonfria.


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Alto de San Roque

Alto de San Roque


Cows on the Road! Hospital de la Condesa

Cows on the Road! Hospital de la Condesa


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The Way followed a highway, usually right next to it as a gravel path. Just before Alto do Poio there was a entirely unexpected hill – easily the steepest part of the Camino so far. At one point, I was nearly on all fours. It was a kilometer long, and the town was at the top.


More importantly, a bar was at the top.


When we came into sight, the peregrinos sitting outside the bar erupted in applause. We had some tonic there, and pushed on over a relatively easy road to Fonfria.


At dinner, Ian and a young Japanese kid named Su took turns singing and playing guitar. The company was excellent, and the dinner fantastic. A great night of food, fellowship, and fun.


Albergue in Fonfria

Albergue in Fonfria


Ian and Francine

Ian and Francine


Bob

Bob


Francine, Su, Anja

Francine, Su, Anja


Ian

Ian


Anja

Anja


Su

Su


Photos! All of them! Day 24!




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

Tags:

(from my journal) Vega de Valcarce 24 April 2013


On the Road Again! Where's the Coffee?

On the Road Again! Where’s the Coffee?


Fun hiking day in the morning, walking off and on with Smith and Tara, Santiago, and Stella and Diego.


A Beautiful Morning!

A Beautiful Morning!


WHERE. IS. COFFEE??

WHERE. IS. COFFEE??


Looking Like a Painting

Looking Like a Painting


Aaaah. Coffeeeeee.

Aaaah. Coffeeeeee.


Sculptor's Studio just outside of Cacabelos

Sculptor’s Studio just outside of Cacabelos


Sculptor's Studio just outside of Cacabelos 14015706973_fb339b6e07_b 13995722165_d6f8a890cb_b In Villafranca del Bierzo, I mailed a box home of souvenirs, the first volume of my journal, some extra clothing, and Francine’s extra knitting project. Smith and Tara also posted home a (much lighter) box.


Villafranca del Bierzo

Villafranca del Bierzo


Villafranca del Bierzo


Tara, Smith, Francine walking in Villafranca del Bierzo

Tara, Smith, Francine walking in Villafranca del Bierzo


Villafranca del Bierzo


Villafranca del Bierzo

Villafranca del Bierzo


Villafranca del Bierzo

Villafranca del Bierzo


Walking mostly on highway after Villafranca. Hugh sections of this are poorly waymarked, particularly between Trabadelo and Vega de Valcarce. Lunch in Pereje with Smith and Tara, Ian from Glasgow (who we met entering the village), and Anya from Nuremburg. 14015801243_c1767dee3e_b 13992635881_5732542c54_b 13996254764_ec818e0c3d_b 13996273264_e6bce9dcdc_b Then, the heat set in. Progress slowed to a crawl, and we finally settled into a bar in Trabedelo for several hours, drinking water and soda and trying to outlast the heat. At some point, we were joined by the vagabond Patty Kelley (of Ireland by way of Westchester – she apparently used to live right by Francine’s high school!) 13972741666_7b7ea46f74_b 13995846715_9470951e93_b 14015865363_4cb5389e34_b 14015867373_909d44acd1_b After about 4pm, we progressed by slow degrees to Vega de Valcarce, where we checked into a brand new, unlisted albergue. Dinner in town with Ian, Rose and Tom, Pippa and Ann. A great time.


Vega de Valcarce

Vega de Valcarce


Vega de Valcarce

Vega de Valcarce


Stayed after and had a whiskey and some conversation with Ian about tomorrow’s challenges and his work as an engineer in the oil industry.


Photos! Day 23.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

Tags:

(from my journal)


Cacabelos

23 April 2013


On paper, this should have been our easiest day. Unfortunately, it was 27° C.


We arrived in Ponferrada in good shape and only slightly behind schedule. But there was the Castle. We waited almost an hour for it to open at 11AM(ish), and we then spent over an hour exploring the structure and at the library display of medieval books and facsimiles.


The castle in Ponferrada – Castillo de los Templarios – is a Templar castle, eventually taken over by local gentry. It was originally built in the 12th Century, and expanded and modified over the next three centuries. Repairs and modernizations were carried out in the 19th and 20th Centuries.


It was a great deal of fun to explore, but it and a visit to the Basilica put us hopelessly behind schedule.


So we were walking in the heat of the day, and the heat was horrible. Francine proved quite susceptible to the temperature, and our pace, while never speedy, now became plagued with the need for constant breaks.


At one point in the village of Fuentas Nuevas, I became concerned that she might actually be suffering from heat prostration. We spent over 30 minutes in a bar while her temperature normalized. After that, it was an excruciatingly slow journey to Cacabelos, where we arrived at the albergue at nearly 7PM.


We showered and (for €6) gave them our laundry. At 8PM, there was a van pool to a restaurant for dinner. The food was terrible, easily the worst I’ve had in Spain. The first course was a tepid soup that was simply inedible, and the second was overcooked beef that was mostly fat and gristle. Apparently the hospitalero gets some sort of kickback for the arrangement.


About 10PM, I went in search of our laundry. It turns out the dryer is broken, and nobody bothered to tell us. Our clothes are damp, and all possibility of leaving early tomorrow to beat the heat is gone. The hospitalero merely shrugged, “is Spain”.


A terrible evening all around.


I despair now of meeting our schedule – we are only 193km from Santiago, and I now have no idea how to get there in time. We should have been at La Faba tomorrow night (the 24th), so as to crest O’Cebreiro on the 25th in the morning to reach Tricastela on that night. This is now impossible.


The best case now is to reach Ruitelán, and that’s only a vague hope. Trabadelo is more likely. Perhaps a bus from Villafranca to Trabadelo or Vega de Valcarce will put us back on schedule? I may just put Francine on a bus in O’Cebreiro to Triacastela to avoid the downhill trek. I just don’t know at this point what to do.




Oh, and tonight at dinner we met the Ugly American. His name is Rick (maybe), and he’s from LA.




The night manager put our clothes on a drying rack under a portable heater! Huzzah for Spanish ingenuity in adversity!




Santiago is with us tonight, as are Radek, Lana, and the Saskatchewan Kid.




Radek saves the day! We talk about geography and schedules over beer. He has convinced me that we can be in Santiago on the 2nd, just a day behind schedule.




Photos will have to wait. For some reason, I’m missing a week’s worth of photos on Flickr. Probably, “is Spain”.




EDITED TO ADD: SOME PHOTOS!


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ALL the photos for day 22!




Tags:

(from my journal)


Molinaseca

22 April 2013


Saying Goodbye to our Hospitaleros at Refugio Gaucelmo in Rabanal

Saying Goodbye to our Hospitaleros at Refugio Gaucelmo in Rabanal


Monastery in Rabanal


Leaving Rabanal


Too tired to think properly. Spectacular climb to Cruz de Ferro, Francine, Mark, and I. Saw some peregrinos there we had prviously met in Rabanal. Saw a forest fire in the hills – two helicopters put it out.


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Lord, may this stone, a symbol of my efforts on the pilgrimage that I lay at the foot of the cross of the Saviour, one day weigh the balance in favour of my good deeds when the deeds of my life are judged. Amen.


(traditional pilgrim’s prayer at Cruz de Ferro)


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A long, slow, and careful scramble down what appeared to be a goat trail.


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Francine and I lunched in El Acebo with Mark very late – maybe about 2pm. Mia and Cliff dropped by! They’ve already caught up.


Met with John and Heather on their bikes again; they’d stayed a day in Astorga.


Francine was a trooper, though she got a little crabby the last 5km or so. Who could blame her? My ankle is bruised and screaming. Lots of blacktop today exacerbated it, especially at the end where we took a long road detour to avoid a rough and rocky descent. Ugh.


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Dinner with Cliff, Volker, Alex from Brazil, some others.


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Teenagers running amok! A group of Spanish teens – barely restrained by one adult – have been cheerfully disrupting life on the Camino for two days now.


First constant talking at Vespers in Rabanal, then loud and raucous behaviour on the Way, now same at albergue at 10:30pm.


A pox on them!


All the photos. Day 21.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

Tags:

(from my journal)


Rabanal del Camino

21 April – Sunday!


Bishop's Palace in Astorga, by Gaudi. The Bishop never moved in, and it's a Museum now.

Bishop’s Palace in Astorga, by Gaudi. The Bishop never moved in, and it’s a Museum now.


Cathedral in Astorga - Apparently Closed on Sunday Mornings.

Cathedral in Astorga – Apparently Closed on Sunday Mornings.


Cathedral in Astorga


Cathedral in Astorga


What is this?

What is this?


Francine’s second day, and the Benedictine connection continues. It was a rough day, and we only reached El Ganso – our intended lunch target – at 2PM.


Walking from Astorga to El Ganso

Walking from Astorga to El Ganso


Walking from Astorga to El Ganso


A Hobbit Door?

A Hobbit Door?


Walking from Astorga to El Ganso


Walking from Astorga to El Ganso


Memorial. We saw many, many of these on the Camino.

Memorial. We saw many, many of these on the Camino.


El Ganso


El Ganso


El Ganso


Broad path between road and horse path gave way to walking beside the highway.


The views were spectacular – the mountains got larger and larger as we approached. Francine had the same sorts of pains, adjustments, and stops I had in my own early going, and I did my best to help her and encourage her.


As we gained altitude, it was easy to run out of breath, and I had to make sure that I regulated my own pace, difficult for me in the best of times.


We arrived in Rabanal about 4PM, sore but triumphant. Francine is starting to build confidence and stamina, which she will need in the days ahead. Not sure how we will handle the descent form Cruz de Ferro, but I hope we can make it to Molinesca tomorrow. Will stop in Riego de Ambrós if required.


We’re staying at the fantastic albergue of the Confraternity of Saint James in the UK, with a Benedictine monastery (just three monks) next door.


Francine enters Rabanal

Francine enters Rabanal


Rabanal del Camino


The view from our albergue

The view from our albergue


Washing Clothes in Rabanal, from top to bottom: Smith, Tara, Francine, Stella

Washing Clothes in Rabanal, from top to bottom: Smith, Tara, Francine, Stella


Benedictine Monastery in Rabanal del Camino

Benedictine Monastery in Rabanal del Camino


We had hoped to find a Sunday Mass here, after not finding an early morning Mass in Astorga – despite the schedule posted by the diocese – and just missing the one in Santa Catalina de Somoza. We did stop in the church there with the intention (at least) to pray awhile and venerate the relics of Saint Blaise there, but after only a moment we were shooed out by an officious church lady.


In retrospect, I believe she was deliberately trying to insult us, but of course I was too oblivious at the time, which I’m sure frustrated her to no end.


Met so many people today!


As I said, we’d hoped to find a Mass at Rabanal, as we had been told of a 7PM Mass, but in the event it proved to be Vespers by the monks – chanted in Latin, with the reading done in Spanish, English, and German. The monks, at least two-thirds of them, are from Bavaria. One of the German monks (Brother Marcus perhaps?) stopped by the albergue about an hour before Vespers looking for readers. So of course, Francine volunteered me.


There were three of us there, given no instruction, but sitting in choir with the monks.


It felt eerily familiar, and it felt right, if that makes sense.


Vespers was beautiful, and it was followed by exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. This, we had no fore-warning of, so there I was in the monks’ choir with two other pilgrims who had read the reading from Hebrews, each in their own language, none of us having any idea what to do.


We improvised by just standing amazed and singing what bits of O Salutaris Hostia we remembered, which as it turns out wasn’t much.


Even so, a sublime experience.


Afterwards, dinner with Smith and Tara, plus a new Irish friend, Mark Kilmartin. Then Compline. Now sleep.


All them thar photos – day 20.




Tags:

(from my journal)


Astorga

20 April


Breakfasted in the Benedictine hotel with Francine. We walked to the bus station – maybe 1.5 km – and caught the 9:30 bus to Hospital de Órbigo. Walked across town to Puente de Órbigo and walked across (and back across) the astonishing medieval bridge there.


Saint Benedict, Pray for Us!

Saint Benedict, Pray for Us!


My late, lamented hiking shoes. They got me through my training and as far as León before giving up the ghost. Francine brought my backup pair with her and I swapped out.

My late, lamented hiking shoes. They got me through my training and as far as León before giving up the ghost. Francine brought my backup pair with her and I swapped out.


Walking to the León Bus Station

Walking to the León Bus Station


A Blue Door in Hospital de Órbigo

A Blue Door in Hospital de Órbigo


Puente de Órbigo: Legend of the Knight

Puente de Órbigo: Legend of the Knight


Francine on the Puente de Órbigo

Francine on the Puente de Órbigo


Puente de Órbigo


Puente de Órbigo


Took café con leche (second breakfast!) at the bridge, and then to the Camino!


Second Breakfast at Puente de Órbigo


Iglesia de San Juan Bautista in  Hospital de Órbigo: Francine's first Spanish Church

Iglesia de San Juan Bautista in Hospital de Órbigo: Francine’s first Spanish Church


Iglesia de San Juan Bautista in  Hospital de Órbigo: Francine's first Spanish Church

Iglesia de San Juan Bautista in Hospital de Órbigo: Francine’s first Spanish Church


Met up with a delightful couple from Indianapolis, Smith and Tara. Walked with them on and off through the day, and they’re sharing our room at the municipal albergue in Astorga.


A fairly easy walk, and a good introduction to the Camino for Francine, I think.




Terrain began as flat(ish) farmland, and gradually became hilly farmland and then vineyards. The hills got larger, and we walked through olive groves, then forests and lavender fields. Then, Astorga!


Hospital de Órbigo


Villares de Órbigo

Villares de Órbigo


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Lunch!

Lunch!


Our Lunch Spot... possibly in Villares de Órbigo, or possibly in Santibañez de Valdeiglesias.

Our Lunch Spot… possibly in Villares de Órbigo, or possibly in Santibañez de Valdeiglesias.


Tara and Smith

Tara and Smith


Francine and Thom

Francine and Thom


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Second Lunch?

Second Lunch?


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Astorga!

Astorga!


Astorga, the View from the Top

Astorga, the View from the Top


If Gaudi built a castle

If Gaudi built a Castle…


Bishop's Palace, Astorga


All the day 19 photos!




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

Tags:

(from my journal)


León

19 April


In León after a relatively easy 18km walk, made only slightly more difficult by the fact of walking on sidewalks for much of it.


To León


To León


To León


To León


Entering León


Entering León


Entering León


León


León


This is a fantastic city! It’s probably my favourite so far – other than Pamplona of course. Narrow, crooked streets, bursting with life and commerce.


León


A Lion in León!

A Lion in León!


Plaza in front of the Benedictine Albergue (and Hotel)

Plaza in front of the Benedictine Albergue (and Hotel)


León


León


León


León


León


León


León


León


The Cathedral is glorious. There’s an audio tour, of course, but unlike Burgos, they haven’t turned it into a museum. The liturgies are obviously still held in the Cathedral’s nave, with every portion fulfilling its intended function. Nor so large or grand as Burgos, it is nevertheless more harmonious and serene.


And the windows! Light pouring through jewels in harmony and balance. Just joyful.


Santa María de León Cathedral

Santa María de León Cathedral


Santa María de León Cathedral


Santa María de León Cathedral - Rose Window

Santa María de León Cathedral – Rose Window


Santa María de León Cathedral


Santa María de León Cathedral


Santa María de León Cathedral


Santa María de León Cathedral


Santa María de León Cathedral


Santa María de León Cathedral


Santa María de León Cathedral


Santa María de León Cathedral


Santa María de León Cathedral




Francine has arrived! Her first act on arriving in the city was to find two French pilgrims in need of assistance. We assisted them.


Checked into the hotel attached to the Benedictine convent.


Francine in León

Francine in León


Benedictine Convent in León: Medal of Saint Benedict

Benedictine Convent in León: Medal of Saint Benedict


Benedictine Convent in León: Medal of Saint Benedict (the other side!)

Benedictine Convent in León: Medal of Saint Benedict (the other side!)


Real beds!

Real beds!


Big farewell to my Camino family: drinks then dinner. Tomorrow, Francine and I take a bus about a day forward so her first day of the Camino is not walking through the city and suburbs of León.


The Big Goodbye in León

The Big Goodbye in León


Eamon and I

Eamon and I


The Big Goodbye in León


All the photos for day 18.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

Tags:

(from my journal)


Mansilla de las Mulas

18 April


Another long Meseta trek. Breakfast in El Burgo Ranero. Met a cat outside the bar who begged for food.


The Meseta approaching El Burgo Ranero


El Burgo Ranero


El Burgo Ranero


El Burgo Ranero


El Burgo Ranero


El Burgo Ranero


Power-walked after El Burgo Ranero – not sure why the energy. Met back up with Eamon at rest area about 5km before Reliegos where we lunched. Second half of lunch in Reliegos, where strange old woman attempted to re-direct peregrinos off the Camino for her own nefarious ends – presumably to patronize a family business.


Church in El Burgo Ranero


This way!


On the Meseta between El Burgo Ranero and Reliegos


On the Meseta between El Burgo Ranero and Reliegos


On the Meseta between El Burgo Ranero and Reliegos


On the Meseta between El Burgo Ranero and Reliegos


On the Meseta between El Burgo Ranero and Reliegos


Entering Reliegos


On the Meseta betweent Reliegos and Mansilla de las Mulas


On the Meseta betweent Reliegos and Mansilla de las Mulas


Approaching Mansilla de las Mulas

Approaching Mansilla de las Mulas


Mansilla de las Mulas


Mansilla de las Mulas


Municipal Albergue in Mansilla de las Mulas


Nice walk with Eamon to the Municipal Albergue in Mansilla de las Mulas, which appears fantastic – good amenities, great location.


At various points in the day talked with Owen (from Ireland) and walked with Santiago. At the albergue, met Mia and John, Owen, Cliff, and even Volker (last seen in Los Arcos).


Drinks and dinner with Mia, Eamon, and a father-daughter pair of Scottish bicyclists, John and Heather.


Walking around Mansilla de las Mulas

Walking around Mansilla de las Mulas


Ermita de la Virgen de Gracia

Ermita de la Virgen de Gracia


Ermita de la Virgen de Gracia, Mansilla de las Mulas


Ermita de la Virgen de Gracia, Mansilla de las Mulas


Ermita de la Virgen de Gracia, Mansilla de las Mulas


A Gracious Hospitalera working on Santiago's Blisters. Note the Hacksaw in the Background

A Gracious Hospitalera working on Santiago’s Blisters. Note the Hacksaw in the Background


Heather, John, Eamon

Heather, John, Eamon


Heather, me, Eamon

Heather, me, Eamon


All the photos, day 17!




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

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(from my journal)


Bercianos del Real Camino

17 April


Francine is in flight! Meanwhile, today was another introspective Meseta day – bleak, virtually unchanging scenery pushing thoughts deep within with little distraction.


On the Meseta


On the Meseta


On the Meseta


On the Meseta


On the Meseta


Entered the Province of León.


Just before arriving in the town of Sahagún, at a little place called Ermita de la Virgen del Puente, I crossed the halfway point of my Camino in terms of distance. There’s a monument there – supposedly exactly at the midway point between Roncesvalles and Santiago de Composetela – with statues of Bernardo de Sedirac (d. 1128?) who founded the local Cluniac abbey and became Primate of Spain, and King Alfonso VI “the Brave” (1047-1109) who founded the nearby city.


Halfway: Ermita de la Virgen del Puente


King Alfonso VI of León and Castile

King Alfonso VI of León and Castile


Bernardo de Sedirac

Bernardo de Sedirac


Halfway!

Halfway!


Sahagún was larger than expected, and the ruins of the great Benedictine monastery of Abadia de San Benito el Real de Sahagún are impressive. Lunched in the city.


Sahagún


Sahagún


Sahagún


Sahagún


Abadia de San Benito el Real de Sahagún

Abadia de San Benito el Real de Sahagún


Abadia de San Benito el Real de Sahagún


One of the Photos that Every Peregrino Gets

One of the Photos that Every Peregrino Gets


Abadia de San Benito el Real de Sahagún


And then there was the incident with the sheep on the bridge. Apparently they have right of way. It was like being subsumed in a tidal wave of wool.


Sheep in Sahagún


Sheep in Sahagún


Santiago in a Sea of Sheep

Santiago in a Sea of Sheep


Eamon Plays it Cool.

Eamon Plays it Cool.


Walked with Eamon and Santiago today. Tomorrow will be my last day with both of them.




Delightful albergue. Communal prayer, dinner preparation, and dinner. Caught up with Cliff again. Lots of brainwork today on a Sahûl board game.


[There followed in my journal some notes about a story/novella.]


Fun with a friendly goat wandering around the town and getting into the albergue. Great photos of a sheep flock. Spoke with their fascinating shepherd.


Bercianos del Real Camino


Bercianos del Real Camino


Bercianos del Real Camino


Bercianos del Real Camino


Bercianos del Real Camino


Bercianos del Real Camino


Bercianos del Real Camino


Bercianos del Real Camino


Bercianos del Real Camino


Bercianos del Real Camino


Bercianos del Real Camino


Bercianos del Real Camino


Bercianos del Real Camino


Bercianos del Real Camino


All the photos! More goat! Day 16!




Tags:

(from my journal)


Terradillos de los Templarios

16 April / St. Bernadette


Leaving Carrión de los Condes

Leaving Carrión de los Condes

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(from my journal)


Carrión de los Condes

15 April


A record-breaking 34km day. The walk to Frómista along the Canal de Castilla was very pleasant. It was not yet hot – we left at 7:30 – and a cool breeze blew through the trees beside the canal as Eamon, Mia, and I walked in the morning light.


Canal de Castilla


Canal de Castilla


Lunch in Frómista, where I spent some time in the Romanesque masterpiece of the Iglesia de San Martín, built in 1035. Mia continued on without us.


Iglesia San Martín, Frómista.

Iglesia San Martín, Frómista.


Iglesia San Martín, Frómista


The Lock on the Door.

The Lock on the Door.


Iglesia San Martín, Frómista


Iglesia San Martín, Frómista


Iglesia San Martín, Frómista


Iglesia San Martín, Frómista


From there, a straight-shot walk by the highway, which brought home the reality of the Meseta.


The Meseta West of Frómista


In Población de Campos, I saw a lamppost I had seen in my dreams, in Carcosa. I’d sketched it perhaps twenty years ago.


Carcosa bleeds into Población de Campos

Carcosa bleeds into Población de Campos


At Población de Campos, we took a slightly longer alternative route, rather than continue next to the highway for another 9km. This route started out unpromisingly, but soon began running next to a tree-lined river, which was every bit as pleasant as our earlier canal walking.


From Carcosa bleeds into Población de Campos


From Carcosa bleeds into Población de Campos


Ermita de Nuestra Señora del Río near Villalcazár de Sirga

Ermita de Nuestra Señora del Río near Villalcazár de Sirga


Ermita de Nuestra Señora del Río near Villalcazár de Sirga


Eventually, the Way left the river to return to the highway, and the full strength of the afternoon sun bore down upon Eamon and I.


To Villalcazár de Sirga


We each had a cola in Villalcazár de Sirga while we evaluated our determination to go on today. finally we decided that we’d rather do the long stretch after Carrión de los Condes in the morning.


Villalcazár de Sirga


Villalcazár de Sirga


Villalcazár de Sirga


Villalcazár de Sirga


The last 5.5km to Carrión was the now familiar dead straight shot along the highway, with oceans of grassy Meseta to each side. We soon separated, Eamon surging forward and me walking with a more deliberate pace. We walked alone, each of us enveloped in the Meseta and alone to struggle with our own thoughts.


To Carrión de los Condes


To Carrión de los Condes


To Carrión de los Condes


Carrión de los Condes


Carrión de los Condes


Carrión de los Condes




Big news was the catastrophic failure of footwear. The heels in my shoes are deteriorating, and as a result I’d pounded both pairs of hiking socks to dust – heel holes in both right socks. Also have my first proper tiny little blisters, both on my right foot.


Both feet swollen and bruised for the first time in a week. Was able to purchase two pairs of hiking socks and compeed here in Carrión de los Condes.


Dinner with Eamon and Santiago. Briefly saw Cliff.


All the photos for day 14.




Tags:

(from my journal)


Itero de la Vega

Third Sunday of Easter


Hot. Dry. Sunny. The Meseta – at least what we’ve seen of it so far – has not, however, lived up to its reputation for “flat”. We had two trying climbs today, one before lunch, one after.


We left San Bol early, partly with the idea of getting to Castrojeriz in time for an 11AM Sunday Mass.


Just after dawn at Arroyo San Bol

Just after dawn at Arroyo San Bol


Approaching Hontanas

Approaching Hontanas


The Tiny Ermita de Santa Brigida, Hontanas

The Tiny Ermita de Santa Brigida, Hontanas


Statue of Santa Brigida inside the Hermitage

Statue of Santa Brigida inside the Hermitage


Ruins of the castle of San Miguel

Ruins of the castle of San Miguel


Santiago on the road between San Miguel and San Antón

Santiago on the road between San Miguel and San Antón


Along the way, we passed the enormous ruin of the 12th Century Monastery of Saint Anthony. Its arches – which used to connect the church with a pilgrim’s hostel – tower over the road. The church is a ruin, and the old hostel is long gone, but a new albergue is nestled into the ruin.


San Antón

San Antón


San Antón


San Antón


San Antón


San Antón


Castrojeriz surrounds a tall hill, atop which sits the ruin of a Visigoth castle.


Approaching Castrojeriz

Approaching Castrojeriz


We made for the largest church, only to discover it was locked up. We’d have missed the Mass anyway, so we stopped for lunch and tried the other churches we passed in the town, five all together.


Castrojeriz


Lunch in Castrojeriz


Castrojeriz


Castrojeriz


All of them were closed.


One, in fact, was under reconstruction, and one small church appeared to have been converted into a government building.


We passed out of the town and back into the Meseta.


It was a rough afternoon, where I stopped several times for water and the reapplication of sunscreen. And that final hill was a killer.


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The dreaded Alto de Mostelares

The dreaded Alto de Mostelares


Not thrilled about climbing the Alto de Mostelares

Not thrilled about climbing the Alto de Mostelares


View from the top of Alto de Mostelares

View from the top of Alto de Mostelares


Going down!

Going down!


Going down the Alto de Mostelares

Going down the Alto de Mostelares


Looking out across the Alto de Mostelares

Looking out across the Alto de Mostelares


Puente de Itero del Castillo

Puente de Itero del Castillo


We left Burgos Province behind and entered Palencia Province. Five different signs told us so.


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Entering Itero de la Vega

Entering Itero de la Vega


All the photos for day 13.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

Tags:

(from my journal)


Nájera

09 April


La Rioja: Somewhere West of Ventosa, Early Morning

La Rioja: Somewhere West of Ventosa, Early Morning

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(from my journal)


Ventosa

Annunciation of the Lord


Short, difficult day today. The roads were actually fairly easy, but all of us are still feeling yesterday.


Cliff left first, and he was soon out of sight. Charlie is taking a rest day or two. Ali, Eamon, Patrick, Petra, Viola, & I set off together. Breakfast in Logroño and then a long city slog. Ali stayed behind in the city after breakfast to find a bank, and she told us she would only go as far as Navarrete today.


A Hidden Jewel: the Church of Santiago in Logroño

A Hidden Jewel: the Church of Santiago in Logroño

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(from my journal)


Mañeru

Easter Friday / Noon


Seven AM wake-up call and on the Road. Ali and Cliff remained in Puente la Reina. Ali is getting some help for an allergic reaction to her socks. Cliff’s blisters are getting worse, so he’s planning on resting a few days and taking a bus to Logroño.


Morning in Puente la Reina

Morning in Puente la Reina

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Puente La Reina

Easter Thursday / 7pm


Arrived exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally.




9pm


Showered. Clothes washed. In a bar looking forward to food and wine. I’m utterly wiped out. My feet are numb and my shoulders ache.


This is the day my pilgrimage actually began.


Fortified and Ready to Start Walking!

Fortified and Ready to Start Walking!

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(from my journal – the day by day account continues!)


Irotz

Easter Wednesday / 11AM


This morning about 8AM we left Kristof behind and set out for Pamplona! No coffee or breakfast until now.


A Farewell to Zubiri

A Farewell to Zubiri


Walking mostly with Eamon or by myself. Ali has lagged behind out of sight, and Cliff has pushed ahead, not wanting to stay still for long.

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Yesterday, Francine posted some very good ruminations on her blog about her time on the Camino.


She was far more eloquent than I on the experience, and particularly the post-Camino experience.


Honestly, after more than half a year, I’m still trying to process it. I haven’t even been able to post and catalogue all my photos yet – although I’ve finally gotten to the point where most of them are up. Every time I look at them, I get homesick for the Camino.


It was a joyful, purpose-filled time full of wonder and friendship.


It was both the deepest, and most fun experience of my life.


Hard to top that. Hard to walk away from that. Even harder to live like that every day in the so-called real world.


Francine on the Camino




Santiago Apóstol

Santiago Apóstol


Today is the feast of Saint James the Apostle, son of Zebedee and Salome of Bethsaida, brother of Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist.


One of the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).


Santiago.


On this day last year, I wrote about what we know of Saint James from scripture and tradition.


That was before I had walked 500 miles to his sepulcher in Santiago de Compostela.


That was before I knelt before his mortal remains.


Sign above the entrance to the crypt at Santiago.

Sign above the entrance to the crypt at Santiago.


Here’s the thing, the tradition has it that while he was in Hispania, the apostle made only a handful of converts. He returned to Jerusalem about a decade after Christ’s Crucifixion, only to himself be martyred on the order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea (Acts 12).


By any standard James was a failure as a preacher.


But look at what he’s done in the centuries since his death.


Santiago Peregrino

Santiago Peregrino

According to the Pilgrim’s Office at the Cathedral, in 2012 192,488 pilgrims walked some portion of the Camino.


That’s just last year.


How many millions of pilgrims over the centuries have walked the Way?


Make no mistake about it, the Saint is watching over every one of those pilgrims every step of the way.


And while not every pilgrim walks the Way as a Conversatio Morum, in my experience most do in some form or another. The Way of Saint James forces us to “a continual change of heart, a daily reshaping of the mind and heart according to God’s plan for us”.


When faced with some difficulty or need, every Peregrino who I encountered took to heart some form of the phrase “the Camino provides”. This is, of course, only an inch away from Deus providebit – God provides.


James, through the Camino, is a much more effective evangelist now than in life.


It’s instructive, I think, to note that along the Camino, James is depicted in one of three ways: as Apostle, most popularly as Pilgrim (with shell, staff, and hat), and as Santiago Matamoros – Saint James the Moorslayer.


In these very PC times, that last title gives many pause.


Let me set the scene: Christian (Visigothic and Roman) Hispania had been occupied by the Moors for about a hundred years. In the south, much of the country was Islamic, but in the north Christianity remained firm. The Moslem armies could conquer the north with relative ease (and indeed, they did several times), but they could not hold it. The locals rebelled just as soon as they could and re-established their churches and monasteries.


Finally, some of the northern Christian landowners got their act together and started raising some proper armies. They formed principalities and tiny kingdoms: Asturias, Navarra, Aragon.


Santiago Matamoros

Santiago Matamoros

They mostly lost battles, waited for the Islamic army to withdraw, and then overthrew the regional and town garrisons. The Moors weren’t their only enemies, however: in Asturias they also had to contend with Viking raiders.


Legend has it that on or about 23 May 844, the army of King Ramiro of Asturias met a considerably larger (and better disciplined) army led by the Emir of Córdoba (or possibly his son; accounts vary).


The Christian army was going down to its inevitable defeat, when, according to the legend, Saint James appeared riding a white horse and bearing a white standard. He rallied the Christian forces and led them to their first major victory at the Battle of Clavijo.


Now, many historians will point out that the battle is not well documented. Some go so far as to say that it is definitively “a legendary battle that never took place“. Most think it’s a confused retelling of the second Battle of Albelda (AD 859), where the combined armies of King Ordoño I of Asturias and King García Íñiguez of Navarra defeated the forces of Musa ibn Musa ibn Qasi.


Regardless of what may have actually happened, the incident entered the emerging Spanish national conscience and proved a rallying cry for the forces of the reconquest.


Sightings of Saint James in this guise are documented throughout the medieval period and even later. Rather than leading an army, he usually defends a village from Moorish raiders, or carries a pilgrim through bandit-infested countryside.


Now, mind you, “Moorslayer” is probably not an appropriate term for our times, but the idea of defending the oppressed very much is. If this aspect of Saint James had first become popular in the twentieth century (rather than the tenth), he very well might have been called “Saintiago Superman”. He’s even got a cape.


So the three aspects of Saint James that you see depicted on the Camino – Apostle, Pilgrim, Moorslayer – are really just three aspects of what each Christian is called to: to preach the faith, to continually turn towards God, and to protect those in need.


Faith. Hope. Charity.


The Tomb of Saint James

The Tomb of Saint James


On this day, Saint James Day, let us pray with the whole Church that we can learn from his example of teaching, prayer, and service in life, death, and beyond.


Almighty ever-living God,

who consecrated the first fruits of your Apostles

by the blood of Saint James,

grant, we pray,

that your Church may be strengthened

by his confession of faith

and constantly sustained by his protection.


Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.


Amen.


Saint James, pray for us.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

"The Incredulity of St Thomas" by Caravaggio

“The Incredulity of St Thomas” by Caravaggio


God’s communications with us humans are often subtle. As the Prophet Elijah discovered, the Voice of God is often to be found in the whispering wind (1 Kings 19:11-13).


Sometimes, however, God reaches out and whacks us upside the head, either physically or mentally.


One such time in the history of the Church is the famous story of my name saint, Saint Thomas the Apostle, whose feast is today.


Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,

was not with them when Jesus came.

So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

But he said to them,

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands

and put my finger into the nailmarks

and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”


Now a week later his disciples were again inside

and Thomas was with them.

Jesus came, although the doors were locked,

and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,

and bring your hand and put it into my side,

and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”


(John 20:24-29)


In Thomas’ moment of doubt, Christ invited him to touch the reality of His resurrection in the marks of His crucifixion.


Sometimes, folks see the evidence and don’t believe it. God blessed Thomas when he accepted the evidence of his eyes and hands.


Often times, I tell people of points in my life where God spoke to me in one way or another, and the immediate reaction from them is doubt. They suspect embellishment or coincidence. Or in one memorable case, hallucination.


Don’t get me wrong; a healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing by and large, but at some point you veer off from skepticism and right into making excuses for your disbelief.


I’m as guilty of that as anyone. Some days I can hear God on the whispering wind; some days I need a whack upside the head.


At the start of my pilgrimage

At the start of my pilgrimage

Recently I returned from a pilgrimage, a 790 kilometer walk through northern Spain called the Camino de Santiago – the Way of Saint James.


The object of the pilgrimage is the tomb of the Apostle Saint James the Greater in the Cathedral dedicated to him in the city named after him, Santiago.


Everybody walks the Way for different reasons. I walked with Christians, with Atheists, with those seeking wisdom or answers or direction, and with those just out for a nice long hike.


At different points of the Way, I suppose everybody finds some answers, but these inevitably lead to more questions. At least for me.


I had prayer intentions for the pilgrimage, but mostly I was there seeking a certain spiritual clarity that typically eludes me in the bustle and busyness of the modern working world.


By the time we got to the end, I had learned quite a bit, and I’m still unpacking the experience even two months later. A book is forming in my head – several, actually. I feel like my brain was jump-started.


But I remember sitting in the crypt, kneeling in front of the tomb of Saint James the Apostle and asking, “now what?”


The pilgrimage was over, the Way was walked. What now?


I had finished the Way, and I was already missing it.


Apparently, God decided that He wasn’t going to be subtle this time.


We went to the Pilgrims’ Mass at the Cathedral the next day, two months ago today, May 3. This is the feast of two more Apostles, Saints Philip and James the Less. The Gospel reading for this Mass is from the fourteenth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. It begins:


Jesus said to Thomas, I am the way and the truth and the life.


Sure, you say, “that’s just a coincidence, the reading mentioning ‘Thomas’ and ‘Way’ on the day you just happen to end your pilgrimage, Thom”.


Cross of Saint JamesRight.


I may be a little thick, but I know the Voice of God when I hear it. Usually.


The Way wasn’t done – the Way continues forever. The Way isn’t just the walk, the Way is Christ.


Now that I’d finished the Way to Santiago, my call was to continue walking with Christ, the Way and the Truth and the Life.


Since my return, I wear a pilgrim’s emblem: the Cross of Saint James. It reminds me of my pilgrimage in Spain, but also of my continuing pilgrimage on earth. And every time I put it on or catch sight of it, I remember the Way.


Pilgrims along the Way (town of Azofra, La Rioja, Spain)

Pilgrims along the Way (town of Azofra, La Rioja, Spain)




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

My post-Camino reintegration proceeds slowly.


Today, I got the first seven days of my Camino posted to Flickr and tagged. Day 8 is loaded as well, but I haven’t tagged the photos yet.


LINK


Enjoy!


More to come as I am able.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

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Praise God, yesterday at about 3pm, we arrived in Santiago de Compostela. On the way into the city, we kept running into people we knew – people who had shared some portion of the walk with us – probably a dozen reunions before we even reached the Cathedral.


Entering the plaza in front of the Cathedral was an experience like no other. The emotions were overwhelming: gratitude, relief, wonder, the childlike excitement of Christmas morning all rolled into one.


I have a feeling that heaven is a lot like that: constantly meeting old friends in an overwhelming place of wonder and delight.


We visited the Cathedral, of course. The traditional entry of the pilgrim is through something called the Gate of Glory. Unfortunately, it was covered in scaffolds due to reconstruction work.


The central image of Christ, however, was visible.


We prayed. We clambered behind the high altar to hug the statue of the saint. Then we descended to the tomb and prayed before his remains.


I’m still overwhelmed by the whole thing.


Today will be a busy day. We need to taxi to the bus station to secure our tickets for Madrid.


Then a little shopping, I think.


Confession, and then noon pilgrim’s Mass at the Cathedral.


Lunch with many old friends.


Post office to ship home our walking sticks.


The bus to Madrid leaves at 9pm.


A whirlwind.


Thank you so much for reading our adventures so far, and for your support on our way!


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Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

An easy walking day today of only about 20 km. Once again, Francine has been powerwalking in the mornings and slowing down in the afternoons, which is fine as this is my method as well. I try to plan our lunch stop for about two-thirds or so of the way through the day’s distance.


Before leaving Arzúa this morning, we visited the local church. It was a very nice little place, crawling with cleaning ladies and the usual sorts of little old church ladies one finds in every parish. One of them gave me a brief tour, pointing out the statues of Santiago as a pilgrim and Santiago Matomoros in the altarpieces.


We meant to have lunch at Brea, 15 km on, but we somehow missed the village and ended up lunching in Santa Irene 2 km further on.


After walking through a series of impressive little forests, we also somehow managed to miss our final stopping point for the day, a town variously known as Arca and O Pedrouzo. We had to find the nearby highway and backtrack about a kilometer.


Tomorrow, God willing, we arrive in Santiago, the object of our pilgrimage. There’s a strange sense of unreality about the whole thing settling on me at the moment.


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Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

We’ve made excellent progress the past two days through the undulating farm and forest lands of Galicia. We’ve certainly had our share of weird weather en route, from sudden hailstorms to today’s gale-force winds, but overall it’s been sunny and cool.


In my experience so far, there are three basic kinds of people walking the Camino: pilgrims, tourists, and hikers.


Most people, of course, have all three tendencies at some point or another, but they tend to revert to type eventually. One hopes that all will become pilgrims in the end.


Early on in the Camino, pilgrims predominate, with hikers probably coming in second. Since Sarria, however, we’ve been overwhelmed by all three in (as far as I can tell) roughly equal numbers. It’s kind of a shock to the system.


I should explain about Sarria.


The Cathedral in Santiago only issues a Compostela certificate to those who have walked at least 100 km. Sarria is the town closest to the 100 km milestone, so the vast majority of those walking the Camino start there.


On an average day, you might see 40 to 50 pilgrims, more in the cities. In the last two days since Sarria, we’ve regularly seen groups of 40 pilgrims. For the first time, it’s crowded here. The albergues are full.


We’ve seen German walking clubs, Scottish tour groups, and American day-hikers. The entire tenor and tone of the Camino has changed.


They’re all fresh-faced and eager, with not a smudge on their new day packs and no mud on their shoes. They’re boisterous and they walk fast, carrying their poles rather than using them.


Some of the Germans even have pressed pants.


As I said, quite a shock to the system.


Meanwhile, my body broken by Navarre and Rioja and my mind broken by the Meseta, I am exquisitely conscious of my soul being built up in Galicia.


For one thing, churches are open. For some reason, in Castille y León, it was impossible to find an open church. Here, it’s very different.


For another thing, I’m seeing representations of the Blessed Sacrament everywhere – it’s depicted on the coat of arms of Galicia. Every place sign, every government or tourist office, every trash can, has it.


At first, it was difficult not to resent the people I’m meeting now, but this morning I realized it’s the parable of workers in the vineyard, and my attitude turned around immediately.


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Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

21 April 2013


Francine´s second day, and the Benedictine connection continues.


We were misinformed about the local Mass schedule, and it briefly appeared that we would have to wait until 10am for a Mass, meaning we wouldn´t be on the road until 11 or later.


Fortunately, we were told that there was an evening Mass (7pm) at our intended destination, so off we went.


It was a rough day, and we reached El Ganso – our intended lunch target – only at 2pm. We started with a broad, easy path between a blacktop road on the left and a horsepath on the right. Eventually, everything sort of merged, and we were walking beside the highway.


This is, for me, the most tiring sort of walking. Asphalt just doesn´t do it for me.


The views, though, were spectacular. The mountains got larger and larger as we approached them.


Francine had the same sorts of pains, adjustments, and random stops that I suffered through on my first days. I did my best to help her and encourage her.


As we gained altitude, it was easier to get out of breath, so we had to adjust our pace accordingly.


We arrived in Rabanal about 4pm, expecting to find a 7pm Mass, only to discover that this was not the case.


At 7pm it was chanted vespers with the local Benedictine monks. Francine volunteered me to read, so I sat in the choir with the monks and two other laymen. Each of the three of us read the short reading in our native language: German, Spanish, English.


Afterwards, we had dinner with Smith and Terra, and a geeky Irishman named Mark.


Then Compline, then bed.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

20 April 2013


After breakfasting in the Benedictine hotel, we walked to the bus station – maybe 1.5 km – and caught the 9:30 bus to Hospital de Orbigo.


We walked back across the town to Puente de Orbigo and walked across (and back across) the astonishing medieval bridge there.


There´s a jousting field next to the bridge. Jousting is something of a local tradition (during fiestas), to commemorate an actual event.


Seems a local knight was wronged by a lady, and he decided that to satisfy his honour, he must break 300 lances against any and all challengers.


So he held the bridge, and knights came from all over Europe to challenge him. He defeated them all. Once he had broken his 300th lance, he took up the pilgrim´s robe and set off for Santiago with his friends.


An easy walk today, over undulating ground with some new friends from Indiana, Smith and Terra.


The hills got larger as we went, and farmland gradually gave way to vinyards, and then to olive groves, and then to forest and lavender fields.


Arrived in Astorga, a city famous for its chocolate, and more or less immediately found a chocolatier. The city is full of them.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

19 April 2013


Arrived in Leon after a relatively 18 km walk, made only slightly tiring by the fact that much of it was on city sidewalks.


This is a fantastic city, probably my favourite so far other than Pamplona. Narrow, crooked streets, bursting with life and song and commerce.


The cathedral is glorious. There´s an audio tour, of course, but unlike Burgos, they haven´t turned it into a museum cum tourist attraction. The liturgies are obviously still held in the main part of the church (again, unlike apparently Burgos), with every portion fulfilling its intended function. Not so grand or large as Burgos, it is nevertheless more harmonious and serene.


And the windows! Light pouring in through jeweled windows, in harmony and balance. Just joyful.


Speaking of joyful… Francine has arrived!


We checked into our one and only hotel for the trip – connected to and run by the Benedictine convent next door..


A big farewell to my Camino family, with drinks and dinner, as tomorrow we will take a bus for a bit so that Francine´s first day walking isn´t through the industrial and suburban blah.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

It seems like I´ve been walking the long, straight paths of the Meseta forever, though in truth it´s only been six days. Less than a week! But many of the photos taken are of the road I´m travelling, generally a straight line to the horizon.


There´s a lot of time to think on the Meseta while you walk through the virtually unchanging scenery day after day, pushing thoughts deep within with little distraction.


My thoughts ranged everywhere, about what comes next, about various relationships with people in my life, about literary projects and games, about my sins, obsessions, and demons.


So, a light, fun-filled couple of days. Photos as wifi becomes available.


Yesterday, just before the town of Sahagun, we arrived at a small hermitage undergoing renovation. Ermita Virgen del Puente is the halfway point of the Camino, measured from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela.


That was a fun moment, getting my photo taken halfway through my Camino – well, in distance, anyway. It´s very difficult to believe that I´ve been on this road as long as I have.


Certainly, despite the large amounts of local Spanish food (and wine) I´m consuming, I´m tightening my belt week to week. I feel like I´ve lost fifteen pounds.


I´ve been walking quie a bit with Eamon, but also with Santiago from time to time. For great stretches, however, I´ve been alone with my thoughts.


Tomorrow, God willing, I will reach the great cathedral city of Leon and meet Francine! We will continue our Camino together.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

15 April 2013


Today Eamon and I walked a record-breaking 34 km.


The walk to Fromista along the Canal de Castilla was very pleasant; it was not yet hot (we left at 7:30), and a cool breeze blew through the trees beside the canal.


Lunch was in Fromista, where I spent some time in the Romanesque masterpiece of the Iglesia de San Martin.


From there, a straight-shot walk next to the highway that continued to the horizon, which brought home the reality of the Meseta.


This pattern would be repeated during the day, as we later walked for a while beside a small river, lined with trees, only to be followed by a razor-straight road going to the horizon like some sort of illustration of the vanishing point, with nothing but oceans of grass to either side.


Eamon typically pulls ahead of me on these long straighaways, and we are each enveloped by the Meseta, left alone to struggle with our own thoughts and our own demons.


The big news today was the failure of my footware. The heels in my shoes are rapidly deteriorating, and as a result, I´ve pounded both pairs of hiking socks to dust – heel holes in both right socks.


Also had my first blisters, both on my right foot.


Both feet are swollen and bruised. I was, however, able to purchase new hiking socks in Carrion de los Condes.


Today in Poblacion de Campos, I saw a lamp post I had seen in a dream in Carcosa and sketched perhaps twenty years ago.




Originally published at Another Pilgrim on the Way

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