Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Camino de Santiago Primitivo: Day 25

Bodenaya—Tineo     7 miles

18 October 2017 

After breakfast, but before some of us left, David told us more about Bondenaya. He lives in the hórreo next door to the farmhouse-turned-albergue and it serves as his bedroom and office. He gave us a peek inside and they are much taller on the inside than they appear from the outside. 

He showed us some of the artifacts on the walls of the albergue. The most interesting to me were the wooden shoes, called madreñas in Spanish. Similar to Dutch clogs, they are carved of chestnut wood and each shoe has three little pedestals. They were traditionally worn in the muddy fields to keep feet dry. 

Because David was so interesting to listen to, I delayed leaving such that in only a kilometer, I was ready to eat again. In a little bar, I got a tortilla (like our omlettes), bread, and café con leche for €2.30. How do they sell food so cheaply? 

The day started out with no rain, but the sky was gray and it was not long before a light rain commenced. I was resting by a fountain and an old man shuffled up to me with the help of a cane and umbrella. He was wearing a pair of madreñas! He rested for a bit on the bench next to me and then started back the way he had come.

You know—life is full of ironies…About 3-4 times a day, I need to find a good place to pee. Sometimes it is not easy if you are in wide open spaces, or in a heavily populated area. And public toilets are non-existent in rural areas. I heard rumors about a Camino guidebook in German that is called the “magic guide” because it points out all kinds of interesting and special places, including the best hiding places to “do your business.” 
It was not unusual for me to walk 2-3 kilometers before a place presented itself. Okay, call me a little over concerned with shyness. One day, I got so desperate that I just decided it did not matter if anyone saw me and squatted down to pee within view of about 6 farmhouses. But today, between two villages, I came upon this “porta-potty” in the middle nowhere. And guess what? I did not need to use it!!!

Reaching Tineo, I had the choice between the run-down pilgrim’s albergue for €5, or the fancy albergue attached to the fancy hotel in the town center for €12. After one look at the pilgrim’s albergue, I decided to check out the hotel. But first, I had to carefully descend quite a few steps to the street below. When I got to (what I thought was) the sidewalk, I stopped to get my bearings. Then, not realizing there was one more step, I walked forward and fell flat on my chest. Life seemed to swing into slow motion as I hit the pavement and then my pack crashed against me, crushing me harder to the pavement. My first fear was that my Camino was over. In pain, and cursing, I rolled over and unharnessed myself from my pack. The funny thing was, I had my trekking poles in my hands, but had not been using them for support once I got down the stairs.

I was lucky this time. I did not hit my head. Two men were walking up the street and they came toward me, so I thought they were going to offer help, but one got into a car and the other walked off. I was already mad and now my feelings were hurt. Tears welled up. I sat down on a bench and took a breath. Better…

Then a woman stopped her car, spoke to the man walking off, and got out of her car and came over to see if I was okay. By then I knew my injuries were superficial and the only harm was some embarrassment, so I thanked her and told her I was fine. I had a scraped up knee—a Camino battle scar. The worst thing was that my new hiking pants (that I had just bought in Bristol before I started the Camino!) were torn across the knee. I got mad all over again! 

Recuperated, I found the hotel. It was a bit weird. Everything was antiseptically clean and very quiet. Red drapes hung from floor to ceiling everywhere, creating the feeling that I was living in Cooper’s “Red Room” dream from Twin Peaks. The place was comfortable enough and pilgrims were given free use of the sauna between 5 and 7 pm. Sounded wonderful, but there were only mostly-naked Frenchmen in there and I just did not feel like I would fit in. Also, there was no kitchen, so most of us bought ready-made meals at the nearby market for dinner and breakfast.

I was glad to move on from Tineo the next day.  

Monday, January 1, 2018

Day 24: A Little Bit of Heaven—Part Two: Bodenaya

Day 24: Cornellana—Bodenaya      10.2 miles
17 October 2017

As I mentioned in my previous post, today was magical in so many ways.

Early in the day, I walked over Puente de Casazorrina, one of the many old bridges on the Camino. This one was over 300 years old. How many other pilgrims and other travelers have passed this way?

About an hour later, I was felt like a little mouse as I walked under the behemoth legs of the modern highway overhead. 

Then through serene woods with the sounds of rushing water coming up from the gorge below.

Not too long before I arrived in Bodenaya, the fog moved up from the valley, and the wind turbines played hide-and-seek on the far ridge.

And then there was the magical-mystical Albergue de Bondenaya, which is one of the best albergues on the Camino.  David makes you feel so welcomed. “Sit down,” he says, “would you like some tea, coffee, a glass of wine? For tonight, this is your home and we are all family.” He explained the routine for the evening, and then told us that after we had our shower, we should leave our day’s walking clothes in a basket. They would be washed and ready for us to don in the morning!

We are close to 700 meters (2275 feet) here and the evening was cool. I had been longing for an albergue with a fireplace and David did not disappoint. So cozy to sit in the common room next to the fire writing in my journal. The albergue is a veritable museum documenting perigrinos who have passed before us. Covering the walls and ceiling are mementos that others have given to David as well as his keepsakes from his own Caminos.

The seven of us pilgrims staying here tonight were served a warm communal meal with two kinds of soup, artisan bread and cheese, and, of course red wine. David is very charismatic, draws everyone out, and makes everyone feel important. One request he has of the group is that we all agree for a time to wake up in the morning and that we all have breakfast together before leaving, “like a family.” As a group, we decided on 7:30 as a reasonable time in the morning. 

He told us a little about the albergue. He lives in the horreo next door (more about that in the next blog post). This building had been a barn and farmhouse. The common room downstairs was where the animals and farm implements were kept. The family lived upstairs where the dormitories are now. The body heat from the cattle in the barn, helped warm the upper story.

After one of the most wonderful dinners I experienced on the Camino, we were all ready to find our bunks…

…and in the morning we were gently awakened by a very quiet Ave Maria on the speakers—much nicer than another perigrino’s phone alarm.

We came downstairs to find our clothes washed, dried, and folded. What a luxury!

This albergue has no set cost to it. David asks the peregrinos only for a donativo (donation) as we see fit. We left what we chose in a donation box by the door.

David, on the right, and his friend (left) who visits occasionally to help David at the albergue. Smiles all around! David kept commenting on my smile. "You are always smiling, Cathy," he would say, "I love your smile." I think he finds something unique and special about each pilgrim in his care. 

I felt the sincerity in what David does and how he lives. It was not forced or a show (as I kind of felt at the Guemes alburgue). Of course, his is a much smaller and more personal establishment, which I like better anyway. It was difficult to say goodbye.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Camino de Santiago Primitivo: A Little Bit of Heaven—Ruminations

Day 24: Cornellana—Bodenaya      10.2 miles
17 October 2017

Today turned out to be magical in so many ways. It was showery and foggy as I left the monastery in Cornellana. I chose to walk back into town to eat breakfast. I spent some time writing before I headed out. From my journal: 
It occurs to me as I eat my breakfast of fried chicken bocadillos and sweet café con leche that this Camino is not (or no longer) one of perseverance. As I prepare for probably 10 miles today, I am looking forward to the walking. If someone were to say that it was time to stop, I would rebel. I am not read to quit. Will I feel the same when I get to Santiago? Or Finisterre?
Only a little way out of Cornellana, I walked past a house. There was a long woodshed behind it that ran along the fence line. Inside was an old man, who must have been recovering from a stroke, perhaps, walking back and forth. I recorded my thoughts:

After a few hours of walking I was ready to rest and eat a snack. I don’t know how many times in my walking—both here and in the UK—that I had experienced an interesting phenomenon: I would think, “I am about ready for a rest and a bite. A bench would be nice, or a table, or even a nice sitting rock.” And within about 5 minutes, one would appear—often with a view! Today, that phenomenon reached a whole new level. It was raining and to stop and rest would mean that, in unpacking food, stuff would get wet. It is also a bit difficult to eat in the rain. I was trying to figure out what to do when in front of me appeared not just a bench, but a bench with a cover! I could not help but laugh...and be amazed!

In the afternoon, enjoying a café con leche at a café in the quaint town of Salas, I wrote:
Funny—I could stop here. There are lots of options for albergues. But I am not ready to end the day; walking has become a way of life for me—for now.
I walked for a bit with one of the young American women who I had met in the monastery the evening before. She had a bad cold and wanted to just curl up in a warm bed somewhere. She was almost near tears. Their group was pushing through the Camino in 30 days non-stop, which in my mind is crazy. A few rest days here and there and time to savor moments is so valuable—not just on the Camino but in all living as well. It made me think of all the ways that people walk the Camino: 
  • The people who treat it like an extreme sport—30, 40, 50 kilometers a day, almost non-stop.
  • The people who get up and leave the albergue while it is dark so they can get in as many miles as possible.
  • The people who do little walking at all, but take busses more than walking.
  • The people who do it in big groups, chattering and chattering the whole way. (The Spanish say “habla-bla-bla-bla.”)
  • The people who have their bags carried via shuttle from albergue to albergue.
  • The people who carry everything the entire way.
  • The young couple I met who stop at about every settlement having coffee or wine or food all day and taking short hops each day, laughing all the way.
  • The people who stay in posh places every night.
  • The people who camp almost every night.
  • The people with huge, overblown packs and those with almost nothing.
  • The people who always stay in mixed-dorm rooms.
  • The woman who is doing it to lose weight.
  • The people who want a change in life.
  • The people who do the Camino a little at a time from year to year, as vacation allows them.
  • The young couples from different countries who have met on the Camino, holding hands and conversing in English, because it is the lingua franca.   
  • The people who stick to the guidebook stages like they were handed down from God.
  • The people who research every stage.
  • The people who just take the days and moments as they come.
  • Those who are looking for a spiritual awakening.
  • Those who walk the whole way silently.

So many ways; so many Caminos…

And so, what is my Camino—my Way?
  • My normal pace is slower than most people’s, so mine is necessarily a slow Camino, especially because of my pack weight.
  • I turn around often to see the view behind me. I stop to take photos and record my thoughts.
  • Mine is a Camino of gratitude. 
  • I enjoy walking mostly alone, only occasionally walking alongside other pilgrims. I want the time to think and meditate.
  • Rachel seems to come to mind often and I cannot figure out why.
  • I take regular rest days to enjoy the place I am in and savor the atmosphere, food, and sites.
  • I don’t care much for monuments, palaces, cathedrals. Museums are okay in moderation.
  • Each day, I prepare my little thermos of sweet tea and carry it so I have it to enjoy with my lunch while I rest. It is my little luxury.
  • I like the views and the little hermitas (chapels) and how many kinds of waymarks there are.
  • I like meeting so many kinds of other pilgrims at the albergues at night. But I only have a couple days at most to get to know people because they ALL are traveling faster than I am—even the 76-year-old lady I met at Guemes!
  • I like to take lots of photos.
  • I love sharing my experiences with my friends and family back home.
From my journal:
It has been such a Camino of tears for me. Emotions often run higher than usual and I am getting better at allowing them to. What does that mean for me and my future self? Buen Camino, Cathy!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Camino de Santiago Primitivo: Days 21–23

Day 21: Oviedo—Escamplero     7.4 miles

14 October 2017 

It was a bit of a walk just to get out of the city, but by late morning, I came upon this little Capilla (chapel) del Carmen with benches for resting facing a view of the village and valley. Since I planned on a short day, I stayed here quite a while resting and eating a snack. Actually, it was a nice excuse to pull out my new yarn and cast on!

But I got to thinking about how taking advantage of this refuge fit in with my gratitude choice for the daybeing appreciative of things that happen in my life. If you are appreciative for the offer of a gift or opportunity and accept it, then you honor the giver. I was honoring the intention of those who built the hermita and those who maintain it by using it as it was intendedas a resting place for travelers. They would be hurt/disappointed if no one ever stopped there.  

In the afternoon, I approached (uphill!) Escamplero, where the albergue was open, but completely unattended. I was the first one there and made myself at home. The albergue was very clean with a nice little kitchen/sitting area.

It is common for albergues along the Camino not to have linens. We are expected to have our own sleeping bags. Some provide disposable sheets and pillowcases! 
Soon a young woman, Astrid, from Estonia appeared! This is the first Estonian I have ever met and I showed my delight, which made her laugh. (I am hoping to visit Estonia before I leave Europe to meet some of the lace knitters there.) Her English was impeccable and we enjoyed our visit. 

We were supposed to go down to the local butcher shop to register, but it was closed up tight on this Saturday afternoon on a holiday weekend. In the morning, we decided to leave registration information on the table along with a donativo, since there was no hospitera around.  

Day 22: Escamplero—Grado     8 miles

15 October 2017

I knew that there would be a Sunday market in Grado, so I left early in order to make it there before it closed. (In case you hadn’t noticed—I think markets are probably the most delightful thing about traveling.) 

In the guidebook, I had read good things about about the café Casa Dylsia in Premoño, so I decided to put off having any breakfast until I reached there—about 3 miles. I was so glad I did…I got a huge bocadillo con guisada (stewed beef sandwich) created by the mother and served by the daughter, with smiles all around. The beef was piled on and made a mess on the plate, but perfectly delicious and just the protein boost I needed to hoof it to Grado in time for market.

The crowded market was as amazing as I hoped for. Lots of artisan cheese, chorizo, sausages, bread, and, of course, fruits and vegetables. And there were street performers, including a puppeteer with marionette playing a violin, and another bagpipe band. It was too early to check in to the albergue, and I was challenged to maneuver in the crowd with my pack, but its presence told everyone I was a pilgrim. I almost got tears in my eyes every time someone wished me “Buen Camino!” the customary greeting to send pilgrims on a “good trip.” It always made me feel like I had a kinship with thousands of years of Camino pilgrims. A couple vendors insisted that I take the vegetables I had picked out.

After over an hour in the market, I still had time before the albergue opened, so I sat in the park writing in my journal. All of a sudden, the day felt hot and people were slowly disappearing from the streets. Time for siesta on this Sunday afternoon!

The albergue was just across the park and the volunteer hospitera welcomed me with cold lemon water before registering me. This is a great municipal albergue—clean, clean, clean, nice kitchen, great outdoor laundry area, beautiful showers, breakfast included! It is also a donativo albergue, meaning that you give what you can afford/wish/feel it is worth.

Day 23: Grado Cornellana   8.5 miles

16 October 2017

Today was such an uneventful and short walking day that I did not take one photograph!

We had to leave the albergue by 8:00 am. (Each albergue has its own rules, but most allow you to stay at least until 8:30!) Spain uses the same time zone as the rest of continental Europe, even though it is in the same general longitude as the UK. As a result, as we approach the end of daylight savings time, the mornings remain darker later each day. Add heavy fog, and you have a bunch of lost peregrinos wandering the town, huddled under misty lamps trying to make the maps and the streets agree. We could not find yellow arrows anywhere. Eventually after several wrong turns and backtracking, another peregrino (who happened to be a Korean from Texas) and I managed to find the way about the time it began to get light.

My albergue this night was on the grounds of the Monastery of San Salvador de Cornellana, which is mostly in ruins, except for the area which housed the albergue. It has a great kitchen and sitting area. I was the first one there and made myself at home. The only other guests to arrive were a group of six students who were beginning a gap year and their teacher. They happened to be from Bellingham, Washington!

The monastery is in the foreground and the area that houses the albergue is behind the wall on the left side. The village of Conellana can be seen behind the monastery. 
Our hospiteros at the monastery gave each of us a yellow arrow pin, which I promptly added to my hat. 

Pins from the Camino. Next to the yellow arrow pin
is the wee lamb given to me by Gerry Brown, the
organizer of the Roscommon (Ireland) Lamb Festival.
I met Gerry and his wife, Caitlin, earlier on the Camino.