Camino de Santiago - page 8
Table of Contents:
A Pilgrim's Progress: Fr. Stephen Sanchez, OCD, on the Camino de Santiago – 2018 - page 8
Monday morning. After a difficult night - the locals partied most of the night at the albergue which also serves as their social hub - we got up at 5:30 - got everything packed and ready and left around 6:45 for another 27km day. Again it was brisk and chilly - should have brought a light sweater - BUT that would weigh more than a few ounces. Several pilgrims were walking - everyone wants to get their walking done early.
We walked and walked and walked... I thought about the tedium of it, how it can take up most of your thoughts and concerns. So I tried to focus not on the tedium nor the aching feet - they were not happy with me again - but chose to focus on the beauty of the countryside, the different fields of produce, or the different stands of trees.
Tedium exists in every life - it can become a distraction and an obstacle to what the Lord desires to do in our lives. As the cool of the morning began to fade we came upon a huge field of sunflowers that were just waking up to greet their Creator. The beauty of the field brought an inexplicable joy - I almost laughed out loud. Content with this little consolation we pressed on.
Deacon Peter was struggling with his right knee again - Ron and he taped it up with K-tape that very morning but we could tell he was in pain.
Since we had chosen an alternate route we were walking through farms and fields and dusty rocky roads.
We finally made it to Villavante - 7 miles out - for breakfast which consisted of café-con-leche and a croissant. As we sipped our coffee a small group of Danes (early 20's maybe) that we had chatted with the night before: Madison, Tobiah, Andy, Magnus, and a German girl that attached herself to them, Leia - came upon us and we chatted for a while. We left the albergue before them and they asked how long we had been at the café - we said just an hour or so (only about 15 minutes) - at first their eyes got as big as saucers then they realized we were kidding and started laughing with us. We made references to Lord of the Rings about 2nd breakfasts and elevensies. As they settled into their cafe con leche we strapped on our backpacks and headed out again.They joked that they were having a hard time keeping up with the 'old men'.
It would be another 7 miles of dusty, rocky roads with several hills to climb before our next break in Hospital de Óbrego where we crossed the remains if an old medieval bridge and sipped on very expensive cokes (2 Euros each) and the most expensive coffee so far at 1.75 Euros. We took up our packs and started walking again this time but Peter's knee was very painful and decided to take a taxi 4kms to Santibañez de Valdeiglesias - Ron wanted to retape Peter's knee but we couldn't find the paperwork with the instructions so instead Peter applied a liberal amount of analgesic cream, picked up our backpacks and soldiered on. More up and down hills on long winding dusty and rocky roads. My feet were aching again and were tender again so that I could feel every stone I walked on. I asked the Lord for strength - recalled my intentions for this trip and concentrated on simply putting one foot in front of the other. 5kms out we came to "Dave's" - an oasis in the desert! His ministry to the pilgrims is to provide, water, coffee, fruits, etc at no cost. We took off our backpacks and enjoyed a most delicious slice of cool watermelon and then I also ate a "paraguayo" - a peach variety, think of a peach that looks like a bulky flying saucer - it too was delicious. After our small break, we thanked 'Dave' and someone there said we were only 7kms from Astorga, so we started our last 7kms to Astorga or al least that's what we thought. At 7kms we came to a beautiful stone pilgrim's cross at the top of a hill in San Justo de la Vega, from there we could see Astorga in the valley below but we would have to walk another 4kms to get to Astorga. The heat continued to bear down on us and we started our downhill climb on stone, asphalt and cement. Reminding myself of the intentions. We trudged on in the heat - Tantalus, so near yet it feels so far! We got to the outskirts of Astorga and the Camino had us divert of of the main street - Thank you Jesus! - and we went in through back roads. We rounded a corner and saw the next obstacle - a pedestrian bridge to cross over train tracks. It was like those stadium ramps, several ramps at a 20 degree incline cross over the tracks and then several more ramps coming down. The design was overkill. Steps up to crossover and steps down would have been more efficient but the Lord obviously felt that I had to suffer a little more for vocations and directees - thanks guys! Got passed that little obstacle and continued up, yes up!, to Astorga. One 45 degree incline after another. On the third one that curved to our left - some older men, citizens, were strolling downhill and sad "Bravo!!! Les falta poquito!!!" (Yay!!! You have little left to go).
At the top of this last incline was the municipal albergue - a three story structure and yes steep stairs to climb up to the entrance. We entered around 2:30 pm beaten and haggard from the sun and began the process of registration - I translated - after all the passport and pilgrim credential stuff - the woman says your room is two floors up, and there is no elevator. Of course not! We took our baggage up the mountain and put our stuff down, put on our 'recovery' shoes and clothes and went in search of the bus station - which is on the other side of town. Why? Well we have to shave off 100kms on order to make it to Santiago de Compostella by the 9th. So we needed to find a bus to Triacastela so that we would have time to walk the final 117kms. We get to the bus station around 3pm and its closed and won't open until 5pm - siesta you know! We sat there for a few minutes feeling defeated then Ron said - "Hey we have time, the Cathedral is right around the corner, let's tour that while we wait for the bus station to open!" So, on stone-tenderized feet we climbed up a street to the Cathedral. The tour would be about an hour. Beautiful cathedral - again mostly museum - smaller than others we've seen but beautiful. We each walked through at our own pace with a recorded tour. We got out about 4:30 and went in search of the Tourist Information office. We found it and is was ... closed! It would open the next day. So we travel back to the bus station. After some difficulty in understanding what we wanted the bus official recommended we travel to Lugo then from there try to find a bus to Triacastela. So we get the tickets. We go back to the plaza where the tourist info office is and do a little window shopping at a pilgrim store. While Ron and I went on to browse through things Peter was online and on the phone doing research. He tells Ron and I that Lugo is too far!! We have to find a place as near as we can to Triacastela. So.....back to the bus station...after more time there Peter changes the tickets for tickets to As Nogais (Nogales). The ticket agent said it was a tiny town and we would have difficulty finding a bus the 12kms to Triacastela - we would risk it.
That done we headed back to the albergue. We got to our room and I felt a sudden chill come over me...immediately i knew it was heat exhaustion! Lay down for a bit...then got up and took a shower. There was a lot of noise in the albergue. After the shower we went to the 8pm mass at the Church of St. Bartholomew. After mass we recieved the blessing for pilgrims and we ambled around the church admiring the sacred art.
We decided to have dinner then and try to have an early night. Tomorrow, God-willing, we will get to Vilacastela and begin the last section of our Camino. Pray for us.
Tuesday! Our alarm was set for 6:30 but we could hear people starting to mill-around starting around 5am. We got out of bed at 6:30 and started redistributing the weight of our baggage because we would be walking to the Astorga bus station trying to find our way to Triacastela.
At 7am the albergue host came through all the rooms and turned on the lights - everyone has to be out by 8am.
We were out by 7:30am. We lugged our things only about a block so that we could have breakfast. I had cafe con leche and a 6-inch sandwich of serrano ham and olive oil, plus a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. Before leaving we bought some sandwiches of serrano ham and cheese for the bus ride.
We received a message from Jamie who made it home but has an infected toe - glad we talked him into going home.
After breakfast we walked across the plazas towards the bus station and found ourselves walking through about a hundred vendors setting up for market day...cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, etc... After working our way through the merchants we got to the plaza near the cathedral and rested. The bus was scheduled for 10:50am so we had almost two hours to wait.
We basically loitered in the plaza for an hour, Ron and I did more window shopping and then we headed over to the station. We got the station and waited with our pike of backpacks. We had plenty of time so Ron and I looked around for a chocolate shop. We went into a store where an 81-year-old semiretired man welcomed us in. We looked around, Ron bought some and Ron bought a chocolate bar with almonds and I bought a turrón duro bar thinking we would share it on the busride. Made it back to the station with time to spare. As the 10:50 am departure approached we started getting our things together. 10:50, no bus, its 30 minutes late. It arrives and we are instructed to put our luggage on the right side of the luggage area under the bus. We are headed to As Nogais (Nogales) from there we have to find our way to Triacastela.
We clamber on and discover that our assigned seat numbers mean nothing - just find a space. I sit next to an attractive young woman who tells me she is getting off at Ponferrada. We begin our journey. At Ponferrada the young woman inboard and the Polish son and dad we met several days ago board the bus - the young son (16) sits next to me and tells me they are heading to Lugo to continue their journey from there.
We get to and get off of the bus at Nogales - now, how to get to Triacastela? Deacon Peter finds us a taxi (24 Euros to take us 12 kms) to Triacastela. We find out why it's so expensive - small narrow roads going up and down three mountains! It would have taken us days to walk those twelve kms!!
We get to the albergue and discover that they have no bar/restaurant as was advertised on the web - the main reason we chose it! Oh well! 'Blessed be the name of the Lord!'
We settle-in, Deacon Ron and I go exploring and find that the church is about 20 steps from the albergue and that we have time to prepare to attend mass!
We also discover a physical therapist's office - we'll tell Deacon Peter about that. We run into Peter in the street - we tell about the therapist and we go with him to make an appointment for 8 pm.
We attend the 6pm mass presided over by an elderly priest using two camels to get around. After mass we go for dinner to celebrate the beginning of our last section of El Camino. We start with some 'tapas' (appetizers), we have some olives, queso Manchego, and membrillo (quince paste) and a nice bottle of wine to go with our dinner. Our waiter, Gorka, was very attentive. I figured 'when in Rome', so I decide to have 'Callos Gallegos' (a soup of tripe, beef knuckles, and garbanzo beans), Peter had 'Caldo Gallego' (a type of vegetable soup made of greens), Ron had the Paella. For the next course I had lamb, Peter and Ron had beef.
Peter went to his appointment, Ron and I went back to the albergue to find a young woman sharing our bunkroom.
We had another community meeting to decide where in Sarria we would stay the next day. We also decided to get up around 6:30 and head out at 7 am. Trying to avoid the heat if the day for our 25km day.
I remembered our Holy Mother's saying that 'life was like a night in a bad inn' - meaning that life is short in comparison to the eternal life that awaits us. Well - this wasn't a bad inn as much as it was a noisy inn. Lots of open spaces that carried the slightest sounds throughout.
Another night of fitful sleep - all for You Lord.