The Enchanted Way and A Prayer

Mark 11:24   Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  

Day 33 — 14.18 Miles — Fillobal to Sarria, May 30.  Today was a special day. It is the last day before we walk into Sarria.  Beginning tomorrow, the number of Camino pilgrims will increase substantially.  We will probably not have quiet walks down the path together as The Way will become crowded with new pilgrims.  If one begins to walk in Sarria, the same completion certificate is issued as someone who begins to walk from St Jean Pied de Port, France.  Numerous people choose the easier Way. 

The Enchanted Way began within a few steps of leaving the hostel.  The sun was just starting to rise and shine a filtered light through the trees.  We were the only ones on The Way.  The majority of the path today was shaded.  The air was cool and fresh within the shade of many very large trees.  A chestnut tree in the village of Ramil caught our attention immediately upon seeing it.  The diameter of the truck is more than 8 meters.  There are many irregularities in the trunk.  It is estimated to be over 800 years old.

Green at the End of the Tunnel of Trees

We would walk through tunnels of green only to come out at the other end to very soft green fields.  This was repeated throughout the day.  We would walk for long periods of time and not see another person.  In the late morning, there was a split in the path.  A new option was to continue going straight down a paved road or veer right on the original Camino.  We chose the original Camino therefore we veered to the right and continued on a gravel path.  Again, we were alone.  We continued down the  enchanted Way for about two or three miles until a fork in the road occurred.  There was no yellow arrow to point us in the correct direction.  Should we take the left or the right fork in the road?  There were no houses or farms near the path and no traffic. Choosing the wrong path could add miles to an already long walk.

There were few boot footprints on the right fork.  Ron decided to walk down the left fork to look for boot prints while I stayed at the beginning and checked my feet.  After putting my boots on, I said a prayer asking for the Lord’s guidance in choosing the correct path.  I had no sooner said, “Amen”  then an elderly lady with two dogs walked around a curve in the road about three feet from me.  I said, “Camino aqui?” and pointed to the left.  She said, “Si, Camino” and pointed to the left. The elderly lady was given cross #38.  I petted her dogs and took her picture.   She smiled and walked away down the road. We never saw her again but she was heaven sent. We continued our on the Enchanted Way until we walked into the town of Sarria.

Sarria in the Distance

At the end of the day tomorrow, there should be less than 100 kilometers left to walk.  The next stop is in Portomarín.   Buen Camino.  Sharon and Ron

Rocky Road Anyone?

Luke 8:13   Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root.  They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.

Day 32 — 17.31 Miles — Herrerias to Fillobal, May 29.  The uphill climbing continued.  Just like life, the path was sometimes smooth and sometimes it was very rocky.  Today the walk was very rocky and steep. However, the scenery makes up for the rocky parts. 

After a three mile steep rocky ascent, the village of Laguna de Castillo appeared.  The cafe in town served very large tortillas.  Tortillas are an egg & potato casserole that is baked in a pie dish.  They were hot and good especially after climbing.  We crossed the border between the provinces of Castillo y Leon and Galicia.  There was a noticeable difference in the path maintenance and appearance.  Galicia uses concrete Camino markers that noted the kilometers to Santiago.  The path changed to small gravel that is much easier to walk on. 

Cross #37 was hung over a memorial cross for a pilgrim who died on The Way in 1991.

The village of O’Cebriero is before the top.  There are cafe’s and shops in the small village.  We bought two post cards.  Post cards are the extent of our shopping because of added weight. The uphill climb lasted most of the day until we reached Alto de Poio at 4,463 feet. The downhill started next and it was, of course, worse than the uphill.

The hostel in Fillobal was the first building that we encountered when entering the “village”.  The village appeared to only consist of the hostel and a restaurant.   Only two buildings in a village was fine with us!  We were able to buy dinner and had a decent room in which to sleep.  The world was good.  

The destination for tomorrow is Sarria. There will be a little over 100 kilometers left to walk after we leave Sarria.   Buen Camino.  Sharon and Ron

The Trees and Life

1 Chronicles 16:33 Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the Lord, for He comes to judge the earth.

Day 31 — 14.75 Miles — Villafranca del Bierzo to Herrerias, May 28. Villafranca del Bierzo is a beautiful town. We would enjoy returning for a visit in the future. The morning was cold and the sun was rising as we were walking across the bridge in town. We stopped to look behind us. The sun rewarded us this morning as it was rising over the town. Most pilgrims stopped to look as they walked out of Villafranca.

Sunrise over Villafranca del Bierzo

The path was mostly flat today and ran parallel to a small road that was not busy. A river flowed next to the path. Woods surrounded the river, path and road. Birds were singing. All was well with the world. We saw and talked to the college students from Missouri again. We ate breakfast in the same cafe as the students later in the morning. We were so busy talking with them that we walked out of the cafe and did not pay for our food. About three to four miles down the path, we realized the mistake that had been made. The choices available to solve the problem were limited. We did not want to walk back three to four miles. Technology came to the rescue in the next town. We googled “Cafes in Pereje, Spain. Only one cafe appeared. It was Las Coronas. The phone number was listed so we called. After much back and forth with English and Spanish, I said, “Yo necesito pagar. Sin gluten.” He understood and said, No problemo”. Our food order consisted of a cup of americano grande coffee, a cup of tea and a donut. In addition, he was nice enough to toast two slices of gluten free bread that I was carrying in my pack. The “sin gluten” triggered his memory.

The remainder of our walk was peaceful and inspiring. The local dogs are well behaved but they do not understand English! The young children play and run. We walk past life as it is happening. The trees that are along the path are so big, they must be very old. We wondered about what the trees could tell us about the past if they could talk. We wonder about the other pilgrims that walk by who do not appear to notice the beauty around them.

Our hostel in Herrerias is located next to a fast running stream. The window in our room is just above the stream. The stream provided a foot soak this afternoon. It will provide a soothing sound while we sleep tonight.

We will walk into Santiago in one week. How the time has flown by. We miss home, our families and friends however we have made new friends here. Have we been changed by the experience? We think so.

Our next walk will be to Fillobal. Buen Camino. Sharon and Ron

Hallway WiFi

Matthew 9:17 People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.

Day 30 — 15.06 Miles — Ponferrado to Villafranca del Bierzo, May 27.   Ed and Melissa from Tennessee stayed at the same hostel in which we stayed last night.  We left the hostel together at 6:30 am.  The temperature was already in the 50’s so we wanted to leave Ponferrado as early as possible.  The four of us did not walk together all day as Melissa’s is having problems with blisters.  We did however cross paths during the day.

Breakfast was finally available after we had walked about 4 miles.  The cafe in Fuentes Nueva was crowded as no cafe’s were open in Ponferrado early in the morning.  Vineyards  and cherry tree orchards were surrounding us. The view is changing again and it is pretty.  The cherries on the trees were huge.  We were tempted to pick some but did not have the owner’s permission.  The cherries stayed on the trees.  

Gravel replaced the asphalt outside of Camponaraya.  We were walking through wine country again.  The grapes on the vines are just staring to grow so they are very tiny. 

At Pieros a choice had to be made.  Should we take the shorter path along highway or take a longer path through the vineyards.  We chose the longer path and were rewarded with beautiful scenery.  In Valtuille de Arriba,  we sat on a park bench that was at the edge of the street next to a pilgrim water fountain.  A pretty garden was across the street.  The streets in small villages are only wide enough for one car so the garden was close. 

Our hostel in Villafranca del Bierzo was in the 17th century San Nicolas el Real monastery.  The building looked like a castle on the outside and inside. The rooms were nice and up to date. There was even free WiFi in the hallways! The WiFi would not work in the rooms. Once you stepped into your room, the internet connection was lost. So…..we pretended that a time warp had occurred. We talked and socialized with friends. We ate dinner that night at the monastery with Ed and Melissa.  Technology is in most instances is good but we should not let it replace our personal interaction with others. We see other pilgrims walking down the path with phones to their ears. They do no realize the life they are missing.

Herrerias is the next town where we will be stopping for the night.  Buen Camino.  Sharon and Ron

Cruz de Ferro

I John 4:8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Day 29 — 17.08 Miles — Foncebadon to Ponferrada, May 26.   We finally reached Cruz de Ferro today at approximately 8:00 am.   We continued to climb after leaving Foncebadon in the morning.   The air was cool when we started but started to warm quickly.  The unimposing cross appeared in the distance at a curve in the trail.  I have been waiting for this day since 2011.  The cross is surrounded by a mound of rocks placed at its base by an untold number of pilgrims.  The metal cross is mounted on what looks like an untreated telephone poll.  The cross is believed to have been erected in the 11th century.  The Camino tradition is to bring a rock or other memento from home and place it at the base of the cross. The items from home may have a letter, words or message to a loved one on them.  The item could represent a journey in one’s life.  

As it was only 8:00 am when we arrived, there were few people at the base.  Backpacks were removed and placed along a fence. The mood was quiet and respectful as each person walked up to the base of the cross alone.  It was a difficult walk up to the cross and an emotional walk down.  No one stayed long at the top of the rock pile.  I left a small rock from Idaho.  Tyee Mountain 7-17-11 and a name were written on the rock.  Cross # 35 was left with the rock. Tears were quietly running down my cheeks as I walked away from the cross.  Ron left a rosary with a laminated picture. His eyes were moist at the base also.  

In addition to our personal items left at the base, a small hand made wooden cross was placed at the base also.  The cross and many others like it was made by a man from Illinois.  He was a friend of Pastor M from my church.  

We put our back packs on and continued to walk.  We were quiet for some time as we each thought about the cross and what we had left at its base.  The walk continued through the Leon Mountains.  Along the walk, we found Yukiko eating lunch while sitting on a rock. We had not seen her for about two weeks. The climb took us to 4,983 feet on rocky paths.  Going down from that height was on a rocky uneven path again.  By the time the next town appeared, we had walked nine miles.

Before the walk was finished today, cross #36 was left on a memorial for Michael Cura.  The inscription was reflective of a pilgrim walking the Camino.  “The boat is safer anchored at the port but that’s not the aim of boats.”

We head to Villafranca del Bierzo tomorrow.  Buen Camino. Sharon and Ron

Across the Valley

Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Day 28 — 16.58 Miles — Astorga to Foncebadon, May 25

The days have been blending together in our minds.  We write notes in our journals at night after each walk.  If we did not make notes each night and have photos to reference, this blog would be impossible to write.  People walking through our days are having the same problem. We smile when the young people in their twenty’s are concerned about their inability to keep their days clear in their minds.  Is this a new type of sensory overload for the Camino pilgrims? The views, sounds, smells and interaction with people from all over the world seem to be difficult to organize in one’s head.  

When thinking about the people walking and living on The Way, I cannot recall a single incident of anger, hostility or unkindness.  Even in the large cities, kindness and concern are everywhere.  Looking for a yellow arrow brings out the local residents to help.  In Madrid, before we had started walking the Camino, Ignacio helped us find our train, got us on the correct bus to the bus terminal and paid our bus fare.  In Pamplona, a woman stopped riding her bike to tell us where the Camino path was located.  In Burgos, a woman, put her hand on my elbow and kept saying, “No, no, Camino, Camino” while pointing in the opposite direction.  We were off the Camino path following Google Maps to our hostel.  We showed her the name of the hostel and the street.  She smiled and pointed the way.  In another smaller town, we were on a side street and highway corner looking for the arrow.  A man in a car pulled onto the highway, honked his horn and pointed in the correct direction.  One can only imagine how life would be if the whole world were like the Camino.  

This day became interesting when we stopped in Murias de Rechivaldo for coffee and tea.  Ron stayed at the table and I went into buy our drinks.  There was a long line.  When I finally brought the drinks out to table, another pilgrim was sitting with Ron.  This is normal on The Way.  Tables are routinely shared with strangers.  Norbert was the pilgrim’s name.  He was walking with a group of Boston College students.  Norbert, from Harvard, is researching the differences between Christian Pilgrimages and Muslim Pilgrimages.  He is also a Jesuit priest.  Norbert received cross #31.

The elevation of Astorga is 2,850 feet above sea level.  This is about 200 feet lower than our home in Boise.   Another climb on The Way, had begun for us.  By the end of today, we climbed up to 4,647.  The scary thought for us is now we will have to go down.  Going down on The Way has always been difficult.  Even the young people are having issues with knees and feet due to the steep descents.  

A memorial for Trudy Boukas was on The Way to Foncebadon.  It was not a simple stone or cross like the other memorials we have seen.  She was a pilgrim and apparently she had a pet tiger.  There was a picture of Trudy with a tiger on the memorial’s cross.  Cross #32 was hung over Trudy’s cross.  There were two more memorials not far after Trudy’s. Cross #33 was hung on a memorial for Luis Hinejesa.  Cross #34 was hung on a memorial for Uberlinda Cortez.  

Trudy’s Memorial

When we arrived at Foncebadon, we turned to look back at the direction from which we had walked.  An large valley lay below us.  The valley we had walked through for the past few days extended back as far as we could see. It was a very humbling feeling for us to look back on such a large valley and realize that we had actually walked across it. We then checked into our hostel only to discover that Ed, Melissa, Amelie and Rachel were also staying there.  We had all found rooms for the night.  

Ponferrado is our next stop. Buen Camino. Sharon and Ron

Out of Nowhere

Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

Day 27 — 19.94 Miles — Villandangos to Astorga, May 24. 

We had to walk about one mile before reaching the town of Villandangos this morning.  The hostel that we stayed in last night was located just before the town.  The “hostel” was called Hotel Aviendo III.  The location added another mile to our walk today but the food was good. Maybe the extra mile was worth the good food.

The walk out of town took us through a wooded area covered in cottonwood snow.  The cottonwood snow is pretty but it still causes sneezing.  The remainder of the walk was on a gravel path that ran a fairly close parallel to the highway. Along one section of the path, Ron found plants that seemed to attract snails by the hundreds. Will the plants survive the ravenous snails?

The Way occasionally has alternate routes to chose. The alternates routes are usually longer and sometimes are more difficult. We choose to take a slightly longer scenic route. A gravel path was still on the scenic route but the road noise was gone.  We came across another Camino Oasis. Out in the middle of nowhere, strangers provided food and drink for a donation.

We were ready for a break when we walked into the town of Hospital de Orbigo.  There is a bridge in the town that was  built over a bridge constructed by the Romans in approximately 489 AD.  It 1939 the bridge was named a National Treasure by Spain.It is now a pedestrian bridge as cars are no longer allowed to use the bridge. Tomorrow the town will hold a jousting contest in a large field next to the bridge.  The very old and the new continue to coexist in Spain.  We also spoke to Toby while we were in the town.

After leaving Hospital de Orbigo, we came upon another stone. It was inscribed with the scripture Mark 12:28-34 engraved on it.  The greatest commandment is written in Mark 12:28-34. Cross #30 was hung over the rock that was shaped like Idaho.

Just before the town of Astorga came into view, the Cruceiro de Santo Toribio appears.  The cross commemorates the 5th century Bishop Toribio from Astorga who fell to his knees on this location after he was banished from the town. From the base of the cross, Astorga can been seen below (in the distance).  Our hostel in Astorga was finally reached about 5:00 pm.  We could see the beautiful buildings and cathedrals as we walked down the hill and into the valley. The buildings and cathedrals in Spain continue to amaze us.

Showers, shopping and a haircut were our next objectives.  My hair is now shorter than Ron’s.  (I can see the shocked look on your face!)  A “pixie” cut is much easier to maintain and hair grows back.  We also purchased a suitcase in Astorga to ship items ahead to Santiago that we are not using such as sleeping bags, shoes and other miscellaneous items that add weight to one’s back pack.  The hostel in which we have a reservation in Santiago will hold it until we arrive.  

Foncebadon is our next stop. Buen Camino. Sharon & Ron