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.