Sunday, 29 June 2014
I've arrived! After six weeks (exactly) and 1,000 Km of walking I'm here.
As with my previous Caminos, the destination is strangely not what's significant. Of course it's good to arrive, and Santiago is a most fascinating place. But, for me, the journey is what's important. And the Via de la Plata, with touches of the Camino Sanabres and the Camino Mozarabes, has been really something else.
I actually arrived here on Thursday. Due to various adventures (previously recorded) which resulted in me covering more distance some days than I had intended, I got to Santiago two days before the hotel booking I'd previously made. I decided to use the two days to visit A Coruna as I don't know when I might be in this part of the world again. But first, Santiago.
This, my third arrival here, also brought me into the city by a third different route. My first visit, in 2011, from the Camino Frances was perhaps the most impressive in arrival. Approaching the city from the East, one first sees the city, and the breathtaking view of the cathedral from the heights of Monte Gozo. I don't think I will ever forget that sight. Then, last year, entering from the south on the Camino Portugues, I came through more of the city's residential and commercial suburbs. This time the approach was from the south east. I seemed to be walking in the country almost until I hit the city's inner roads.
I didn't see the cathedral towers until I was almost upon them.
Sadly, the old girl doesn't look too good at present. She's shrouded in scaffolding and protective netting.
But still the crowds keep coming!
A very noticeable feature this year is that I don't know anyone here. Whilst I understand this because there are so few pilgrims walking the Via de la Plata, it's quite strange. My last contact with a fellow pilgrim was about one hour before Santiago when I walked with a young Spanish lady from Bilbao whom I'd met several times earlier.
Before heading off to A Coruna, I visited the Peregrino Office to obtain my Compostela (the certificate of authentication for the walk). This is, for me, perhaps following common practice rather than seeking recognition. I consider the value of the Camino comes to me from the walk itself and from my fellow walker, Jesus.
The queue, and the wait at the Peregrino Office was the longest of the three I've experienced. Perhaps this is evidence of the growing popularity of Camino walking, especially of the Camino Frances. I passed the time in pleasant conversation with a young American boy who goes home to begin university studies. His reflections on his Camino experience were quite deep and significant.
With the certificate firmly in my possession I headed to the railway station and the train, due in 10 minutes, for A Coruna. I mused that it would take me 2-3 days to walk there; the train took 28 minutes. I liked A Coruna. It's a big, bustling city with a port on one side of the centre, and a beach on the other side.
Gosh, it was good to see the sea.
A most significant event occurred at A Coruna - I buried my boots! I was aghast to find, when only 200 Km out from Sevilla, that they had started to die, first the right foot, then the left.
I prayed they'd get me to Salamanca. They did! I then prayed for them to get me to Santiago and, with the help of some black adhesive tape, they did!! But their job was done. I thanked them and let them go, peaceably, at A Coruna.
A Coruna was a deliberate choice. I thought if I buried them on the Camino they might have felt obliged to keep walking!!!
On my return, sin botas, to Santiago, I readily found my hotel and got settled in. The concierge was welcoming and extremely helpful. In addition to the cathedral Compostela she also told me of a certificate available at the Convento San Francisco, which is celebrating the 800 year anniversary of the saint's pilgrimage to Santiago. And so, 800 years later I follow in the footsteps of my illustrious namesake. I decided to visit the convent.
Francis is one of my heroes, and I'm looking forward to re-visiting Assisi on the Italian leg of this adventure in a few days time. (Keep checking the Blog!)
Let me state that I don't attach any great value to these "pieces of card" that I'm gathering, though I wish my schoolboy Latin was up to giving me a good translation of their content. But they are mementoes of some memorable times and may stir fond remembrances in days to come.
Tomorrow I head for Barcelona and a stay of two days. I now have time for reflection on this wonderful Camino. I hope to log some insights and understandings in the next few days.
After Barcelona, I move on to Italy for the final few weeks of this European Adventure '14. As always I commit each day to God, thanking Him for His company and praying that we will together enjoy the ongoing adventure.
Friday, 27 June 2014
I mentioned in my last posting one brief encounter last Sunday that was most amazing for me. It was one of God's "Suddenlies" that people who know me well will be familiar with.
My destination that day was Ourense. Immediately before Ourense one passes through the smaller settlement of Seixalbo. It was lunch time as I approached Seixalbo. I entered the town through its ancient streets.
As I turned into the main square (Plaza Mayor) I was confronted by the most exquisite floral arrangement laid out in the ground.
I had barely time to admire and photograph the handiwork before I became aware of noise and activity in the distance. With music and singing, people started processing to the main square down the street from the hill above.
By now I had moved toward the procession. The voices sang in the sweetest harmony. I later discovered this was the Alfombras Florales Corpus which, as well as I can make out is a floral celebration and festival of Corpus Christi. By now I was alongside the procession. It seemed to me that the whole town was walking.
As the procession passed by me, I took off my hat. At that very moment a lady moving past me simply said - quietly and gently, "Gracias, señor."
Those two precious words got to me. I was totally undone. Instantly, immediately I was aware of a God connection. I started to weep. This was not mere crying, it was heartfelt weeping. But I know it came from joy and not sadness. I felt the most amazing and powerful sense of joy.
What had happened? What was I really experiencing? In the moment I felt incredible blessing. It seemed to me that God had arranged, since before time began, for me to be in that place at that time. Had I been a minute earlier it would have been too soon. A minute later and it would all have been over. No, the timing was impeccable. I was meant to join these precious people in their age-old celebration of their love for Christ. For this is what it was. Many might think this practice is out-dated, even inappropriate. I cannot now accept this because, that day, God turned up. He didn't think it inappropriate. He touched me, He blessed me. And I think He was enjoying Himself!
What I received from the woman's gentle words was a kind thank-you from a dear soul who recognised the action of another in showing reverence and respect to The Lord whom she loved. I have many times sensed in small Spanish villages the simple faith of believers. Outwardly, the people and their environments may appear poor to more affluent visitors, but I have seen the inner riches that cannot be matched by any amount of material wealth or prosperity.
The woman connected with me through the simple words of "Gracias, señor", and then she was gone.
In my tearful state I continued up the hill to the church from whence the procession had come. Wonderfully, yet of course understandably, it was open. I went in.
Thursday, 26 June 2014
Before leaving home on this adventure, I had a sensing, or maybe it was a hope, that I would enjoy connections with the locals along the way. The Via de la Plata virtually traverses the length of Spain from south to north. I would be passing through areas of diverse people groups. I hoped to interact with some of them and make a connection, however brief or transient.
It has happened, and I have a number of encounters I can recall and be thankful for. None have been particularly deep, because time and circumstances did not allow. But I have found, however brief, that we can be blessed by our meetings and interactions with others. (And hopefully we bless them through our connection.)
My first (brief) encounter came early on when the municipal officer, in response to my query on joining the Camino on the way out of town, led me out into the street, through to the main square, and directed me simply and clearly through the town. He even checked that I understood what he'd said.
I recall the beautiful Anna, the hospitalera at Aljucen who opened up the church for us - and something opened up for me! (Blog post: San Andres, Aljucen)
At Grimaldo, I had a special conversation with Cesar, the young owner of the Posada. He lived in Carceres. He was an architectural engineer by training but had lost his job due to the recession. He bought a dilapidated property in his parents' village (Grimaldo) and had renovated it himself into the most delightful stopping place. Somehow during the afternoon the question of my dirty clothes came up (not so much dirty as dusty), so he promptly offered to wash them for me in the posada's washing machine. He also took great pains to clarify the next day's walk for us. This was spontaneous hospitality beyond what was necessary.
My next recollection is of Angela, the young woman at Villanueva del Campean. When the only bar in the village closed suddenly and without any prior notice she, as mayoress, took it upon herself to open a bar in the Ayuntamiento - for the benefit of pilgrims and "the old men of the village who like to come in and play cards." She toils from 9 am 'till late (possibly midnight) most days. And she is delighted to be doing so. She is a qualified mechanical engineer who, due again to the recession, had not worked for 12 months. She was so grateful for the opportunity to put something into the community.
Another very special ( indeed quite amazing) encounter came with two brief words from a lady last Sunday (but more of this anon).
And my final encounter, for now, happened just two days ago. It was the day I left Ourense. I was aiming for a stop on the national highway (N525) just a little beyond Pinor. The hostal was about 150 m off the Camino. I thought I'd be OK. I wasn't! When I turned off the Camino I must have entered the N525 beyond the hostal. Not knowing this I kept walking - away from where I wanted to be! All day the skies had been grey and a little threatening. Now the clouds overhead were darkening and loud thunderclaps were becoming quite regular. I stopped to put on my rain jacket and fix the waterproof cover to my backpack. It started to spot with rain - the first I'd experienced in 39 days of walking.
The road was rising gently. Ahead of me I saw what might be a bar. A large Spanish flag flew from the flagpole outside and a sign said what I took to be 'Association of Friends of the Spanish Flag'. I wasn't even sure if the establishment was open, but decided to try. I entered; a sole couple sat at a table finishing a meal. They looked like this was their place. After we exchanged greetings, I asked in very basic Spanish, "Are there any beds nearby?" They told me the next accommodation was just 5 Km away -and it was on the Camino. This sounded good.
The man asked me what I'd like to drink. Would I like a beer? The drink came with a dish of potato crisps, and the declaration that this was their gift to me. I was most appreciative. Of course, it took time for me to eat and drink. All the while the man, Miguel (who spoke a little English) kept making a series of phone calls. His wife, Neves, kept telling me, in Spanish, that a storm was coming and it wasn't good. At one stage the lights flickered. Neves was not encouraged. By now, I 'd finished my refreshment and felt I should take my leave of these good people. We went outside. The sky was not encouraging - nor was Neves!
It transpired that Miguel's constant occupation with his mobile was him ringing his friends to see if anyone was available to drive me to the accommodation, as he was presently without a vehicle. I was quite astounded at his extreme thoughtfulness and consideration -and for a complete stranger. Eventually, he contacted a friend who was free. The man arrived shortly, and his friendship with Miguel was abundantly clear. They greeted each other like long lost brothers. As we prepared to get into his car, the heavens opened, the storm broke, and it positively poured down. This continued for the whole of the drive to the next village. But I was delivered safely and spent a pleasant night in dry and comfortable surroundings. When I tried to express my heartfelt thanks to Miguel, he explained himself with a simple, "This is our Spanish hospitality." Wow, was it ever !!!
These are just some of the beautiful people I've met in recent weeks. And I've only mentioned "the locals". I have also met, walked with, and enjoyed relationship with a host of fellow pilgrims from many nationalities. I thank each one of them for the time (brief in some cases, sometimes extended when we've spent several days walking together) they have joined with me in my journey through this part of my life. I have received much blessing. I pray that I, in turn, have been able to touch others in the way of blessing, peace and love.
Saturday, 21 June 2014
"G'day! Greetings from El Peregrino Australiano (as someone referred to me) who is, literally and spiritually, on top of the world.
For the past few days I've been walking the Galician mountains. But before I could walk through the mountains I had to walk up to them. The ascent started on the morning I left Requejo. The guide book warned that there was quite a climb to come (over 300m). The early part was along the road (N525).
It was not a hardship. The rise, though definite, was gentle and the views made the effort worthwhile. In time I turned off the road onto a more natural way. This took me past mountain streams
And woodland settings. At one point I encountered some non-human fellow travellers.
I reached Lubian where, to my surprise and joy, the church was actually open and playing forth gentle music. I enjoyed a time of quiet and reflection.
The strenuous climb that dIdn't really eventuate in the morning waylaid me in the afternoon as I climbed out of Castilla Y Leon.
I climbed up and up, further and further. I thought I was going to expire. Eventually I got to A Canda, and entry into Galicia.
This is the last province of this walk. I'm beginning to feel that I'm in the home straight.
Yesterday morning, after overnighting in Vilavella, I walked on to A Gudina. I decided to continue on -what a challenge this turned out to be. I climbed, and climbed some more. The scenery was breathtaking, but the effort was telling.
I reminded myself that Jesus was with me. I wondered if He was as tired as I was!
The guide book indicated a steep descent into Campobecerros. I was ready for it -oh, was I ready! Just when I needed it most, the sign came - asking me to climb even higher !!!
Dear Lord, at this rate You'll soon be able to let down a rope ladder and I can climb up to heaven!
Well, I had no alternative, did I? The climb went on, but not for ever. Eventually I came to the most amazing site. There below me was my (absolute) destination for the day of Campobecerros but alongside it was the most amazing construction site for the high speed rail link from Madrid to Galicia.
The descent was indeed sharp, and sudden. On the way down I passed a crusher plant and a concrete batch plant for the railway.
I entered the town in a state bordering on collapse. I found a bar for desperately needed liquid refreshment. I enquired of the albergue. There wasn't one, it closed! Horror! What am I going to do now? The bar lady asked me if I wanted a place "dormir" to sleep. She said her friend might be able to help me. And so I came to meet Maribel, a pint sized blonde dynamo with a house full of bedrooms. I had the most refreshing sleep.
And so to today. My walk started amidst mountain mist.
It was wonderful.
As the morning opened up so the mist cleared.
I've determined on a short (15km) walk today. I shall stop at Laza, catch up on washing, blog, and emails, and enjoy a relaxing afternoon. But first, I have a couple of mountain villages to pass through and then a descent into Laza. As I approached the second village, As Eiras, a sign informed me of a Ultreia stop in the village. This turned out to be the most delightful voluntary pilgrim support point.
Drinks, cakes and biscuits had been left together with a sello and lots of encouraging messages. I helped myself, relaxed and simply enjoyed the anonymous hospitality. I tended my feet, left a donativo, and resumed the journey. What a charming break. In just over an hour I was in Laza. The albergue is great and there's pleasant company here.
The climbing is not over. Nor, do I suspect are the challenges that accompany it. But I'm finding increasing strength with each passing day. Today is the first day of my sixth week of walking. It doesn't feel like it. I am constantly aware of His presence with me. I sense Him testing and stretching me. I feel Him alongside me when I need extra encouragement. It's like He's saying, "Come on, we can do it." And we do.
How can I not feel high in such elevated and elevating company?
Wednesday, 18 June 2014
In a church on the Camino Frances there's a poster depicting Jesus with the inscription: Yo soy El Camino - "I am the Way".
I want Jesus to be the way for me every day, wherever I am. To this end I invite Him into my day up front.
Early during this Camino walk, I developed a Camino prayer. As different experiences have occurred, additional petitions have been added to my prayer. A further addition occurred on Sunday.
For some reason I experienced a disturbed sleep on Saturday night at the comfortable accommodation I had at Tabara. Just after 4 on Sunday morning I was rudely and fully awake. Lying in bed with the window blind partly raised I saw that the moon was full. It was giving excellent light. I decided to get up, and get going. I was on the way before 5am.
I had noticed the Camino path out of town the night before so I was good to start. The light of the moon was wonderful, but I felt to take full precaution. My Camino prayer has always invited Jesus to walk with me. This time I added "and show me the way."
I did so very well throughout the moonlight and well into the dawn. Then disaster struck. Have you guessed? I encountered more of those wretched roadworks. In moments I was lost. The lovely way was gone, to be replaced by construction access roads and paths totally devoid of signage. I was close to a road heading north. As this Camino is directed totally north I decided to take the road. I have an app. On my iPad which told me, rightly or wrongly, that I was close to where I should be. After some distance I stopped for a further check. This time the app told me I was far, far away from where I ought to be. But is the app accurate? And where was Jesus? What about my prayer? And, it's Sunday. He can't possibly take today off!
My credencial (the pilgrim passport that gets stamped) has squares allocated for each stamp but, in addition, each square nominates the place where the stamp is to be fixed. Fearing I'd now missed a critical town, I got out my credencial to check. To my surprise, the relevant square had two towns listed. Apparently there are alternate paths at this juncture, and I was spot on for the alternative direction. Well, thank You, Jesus.
A difficulty was that my guide did not cover this particular alternative. The only information I had came from the credencial, and it was meagre. My best option was to stay on the road and be guided by the road signs as they occurred.
So, I walked, and I walked. As I walked I talked with Jesus. We did a great deal of talking that day. I felt good and the kilometres just passed by. Around lunchtime I found a little village just off the road where I took a longer break to rest my feet. The church in this little place had a most fascinating "bell tower".
Then I walked some more, passing ever changing scenery.
The guiding signage kept telling me I was heading to Mombuey. As this was on my eventual route I just accepted it, hoping - and praying - that my feet would take the distance.
By late afternoon I was installed in accommodation in Mombuey. I had covered (unintentionally, albeit) two days walking in one long day. Again, I felt a sense of achievement at the end. Altogether that day I clocked up 44 Km, something I would not have believed of myself.
When I look to Jesus to be the way, I need to be ready for such surprises, and for the most amazing results.
Tuesday, 17 June 2014
My luxury stop at Zamora was not totally blissful. I'd been there just a short time when ugly and painful insect bites appeared on my arms. I was puzzling over where I'd encountered mozzies when the wretched truth dawned on me - the origin of my bites were probably the dreaded bed bugs, and the scene of the crime was likely the albergue where I thought I'd spent the night in splendid isolation. Splendid isolation, my foot, I'd obviously had quite a bit(e) of company!!
Fortunately a few measly (but grossly uncomfortable) bites were not going to detract from my enjoyment of a taste of luxury. After my two days of luxury I awoke to find that the bites were now complemented by an upset stomach. What next? Previous Camino experience had taught me that minor ailments are not to interfere with the day's progress. This day I had hoped to move on from Zamora to Riego del Camino, a major effort of 31 Km. Well, let's get on with it!
By lunchtime I had reached Montamarta. I took weak tea at the bar in deference to my delicate stomach. I also decided against cutting short my day at Montamarta. I would continue on a further 11.8 Km to Fontanillas de Castro. I set off out of the town and past the Ermita de la Virgen del Castillo.
The scenery was quite beautiful but, alas, there was absolutely no shade and the afternoon sun was beginning to bite. I met up with a South African pilgrim and we walked together. He was concerned that his diminished water supplies were fast reaching boiling point in the scorching heat. The temperature was surely around the 40 degree C mark. Making some comment about idiot walkers, we simply had to keep going, there was no option. We literally crawled into Fontanilles. It was a one horse, one very poor bar town/village. As with most small Spanish centres at that time of day there was absolutely no one about, and all was well-and-truly shut, shuttered and bolted. Eventually we found a Spanish pilgrim who was doggedly determined to walk a further 4 Km to Riego del Camino where there was an albergue. The South African thought to accompany him. 4 Km is no great distance but at that time, it was utterly beyond me. I said I would trudge back to the bar and enquire of any bus services. I did this. There was a bus, but I simply couldn't understand the barman's instructions. Two young men outside the bar showed interest and, in time, I understood the bus would stop further down the road and to the left. I trudged to what might have been a bus shelter. I couldn't sit inside it -it was like an oven, literally. I sat on the ground outside in the shade. In time, (and not a short time) a bus came along. Despite my most vigorous gesticulations, it sailed right past. Now, what would I do? I can't spend the night here because, once the sun goes down, it could get quite cold. By now I was utterly exhausted, so what did I do? I fell asleep. Right there in this odd, little Spanish village, propped up against a bus shelter, I slept for at least an hour. When I woke, I felt a little better. The sun was still strong. I wandered further into the village and found shade outside the building where the doctor visits twice a week. I slept some more.
On next waking, it was getting on in late afternoon. I had to do something. My state would probably now allow a further 4 Km walk. I set off, but this time I followed the road. I hitch- hiked as I walked. No one stopped!! I trundled into the village of Riego del Camino, my original destination for the day. How about that? I scoured the village looking for an albergue. I asked, and followed the directions I was given to the best of my understanding. And still, no albergue. I acknowledged that my bed bug encounter had certainly made me wary of albergues, but surely not to the point of denying their existence. Yet I could not find any accommodation in this place.
The next town was Granja de Moreruelo. My guide book told me there was both a local shelter (albergue) there and a hotel. Granja was a further 6 Km. What was that after what I'd already covered? I set off for Granja. It was now 7 pm. Surely I'd get there by 9. It is still light until after 10, so I should be OK.
I easlily found my way out of the village and made good progress. Unfortunately the Camino runs through an extended region where major roadworks are underway. It seems to me that road builders show little respect for yellow arrows. They quickly disappear and, within minutes, the pilgrim can be totally lost. And this is what happened late in the evening to me.
The Camino was meant to run parallel to the road into Granja. This made sense. When the yellow arrows disappeared, I found myself on a track getting further and further away from the road - and there was major motorway construction between me and the road. I determined I needed to get onto the road and stay with it. I was faced with a deep cutting excavation separating me from the road. There was nothing for it but to go cross country. I slithered down the embankment on the near side, crossed the somewhat muddy, rough and unfinished motorway formation, then I was faced with scaling the far embankment. Despite my weary state I battled on. I'd make good progress, ascend so far, then miss a foothold and slither downward. I could only see the funny side of the situation. Here I was, doing a geriatric Bear Grylls act for all the world to see - and no one was watching! (This was probably just as well!) I lost a precious small bottle of water, but there was no way I was going down after it.
Finally I surmounted the crest. I ploughed through a cereal field and clambered up the small embankment to the road shoulder. I had about 5 Km of road walking before Granja. I entered the town around 9 pm (my latest arrival time yet). I made to go through the town to seek out the hotel. A family on the roadside bailed me up, pointing to the albergue I'd deliberately passed. To reinforce the point, the male kindly led me across the road and into the establishment. Ah well, I was too tired to argue, and probably grateful to have the decision made for me. As it happened, the albergue was excellent.
I had the most wonderful sleep, and rose surprisingly fresh and early the next morning.
This has been a mammoth entry, and for those readers who have stayed with me, I say, "thank you". I would also record that, with the whole experience, I feel WONDERFUL. I can't explain it. It was truly a gruelling day, but I learnt so much from it. The sense of achievement I feel at overcoming so many obstacles is something most precious. God is teaching me much in this Camino. I have more to say about this. I hope you stay with me.
It is said that the Camino is a profoundly personal experience. Each person walks "their own" Camino. This day I think I might have walked a Camino that no other person has, or ever will, walk. And I thank God for the opportunity and experience.
Thursday, 12 June 2014
The contrasts that I noticed in Salamanca last weekend have arisen again in Zamora, and with a strong personal experience. I've scheduled another rest day. This is perhaps not the best planning because I've only walked for three days since my last rest day. Still, it will be at least 11 days before I can sensibly take more time out, so I shall enjoy another short break.
I liked the look of Zamora from my first sighting in the distance. As I approached the city, my liking got stronger.
When I checked into my hotel and entered my room ( actually a mini suite) my liking was absolutely confirmed - and "Contrasts" came clearly to mind.
Let me illustrate. On Tuesday night I stayed at the village of Villanueva del Campean. On first arriving there appeared to be no facilities whatsoever - not even a human to enquire of. In time, I found the municipal albergue and a bar run in the local Ayuntamiento by the town mayoress! I had the albergue to myself ans spent the night in splendid isolation (and quite enjoyed it!).
Compare this with my present environment:
Need I say more?
I think I must have had a rush of blood to the head when I booked this hotel some months ago. It is SO luxurious. Still, I can handle it! For two days I shall switch from spartan Peregrino to relaxed traveller and sightseer. The change will not be difficult. I plan to enjoy two days of rest (minimum walking) and recreation (in essence, taking it easy). Yet when I resume walking in two days time it will be no hardship. I can readily make the change and, likely, I'll be ready to embrace it.
I think I'm beginning to get what Paul refers to as "being content". In his letter to the church at Philippi he says: "...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Phil. 4.11b - 12).
I'm not sure that I'm yet fully there in a state of contentment, but I'm getting there.
Paul follows his declaration with the words: "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (V13).
This is surely the truth!
Wednesday, 11 June 2014
Monday was a day not to be forgotten. As Sunday was a rest day (which I thoroughly enjoyed), and especially as I had a room to myself, I decided on a deliberate late start from Salamanca - a touch of sheer indulgence.
The day's walk ahead of me gave two options, either a short walk to Calzada de Valdumciel (15.5 Km) or an extended walk to El Cubo de la Tierra del Vino (35.5km). In my mind I'd more or less decided on the shorter option. But, on waking, I realised that to get to my hotel reservation at Zamora on Wednesday would require either the longer walk on Monday or a 33 Km walk on Wednesday. I really didn't want to arrive at Zamora weary after a long hike, so the thought entered my mind to pull a naughty today - and catch a bus ("Oh, horror!" Cry the Camino purists!) If I could get a bus to cover the first 10 Km, then I'd give a go at the longer walk.
The hotel concierge confirmed that there was a bus to Castellanos de Villiquera (10km). She wrote a name on paper for me, and pointed me to the Gran Via, literally around the corner from the hotel. I found Gran Via to be littered with bus stops, but I couldn't find the one I needed. I went into a bar for breakfast. The barman responded to my enquiry by directing me up the Gran Via. There I found a number of stopping places for "out of town" buses, but not mine! Bystanders directed me down the Gran Via. Here I found other stops - other than the one I need. This time I'm directed up the Gran Via. At this point I could see myself endlessly tramping the Gran Via like a lady of the night. I decided to begin walking out of Salamanca, and see if I found a bus stop on the way.
When I was virtually out of the city, and with no sign of a bus stop, I finally got it - and cried out, "OK, Lord, I've got the message. You win. We'll do it Your way. You obviously don't want me to catch a bus today so -I'LL WALK!"
The walk was pleasant, off the road and through open country.
After about 5km I stopped at the first village, Aldeaseca de Armuna, for refreshment. The ego had obviously not given up because I asked in the supermarket if there was a bus to the next village. To my amazement they didn't know! Then I twigged, "Right, Lord, You're obviously making sure I walk today." As I left Aldeaseca, I had a thought to carry on to the shorter destination of Calzada de Valdunciel and then take a lengthy stop - maybe even have lunch. After some time out I could then decide whether to continue to El Cubo. When I stopped briefly at the next village, Castellanos de Villiquera, I discovered that Calzada was a mere 4 Km away. I quickly reached it.
After the anticipated "long" lunch stop (during which I enjoyed an excellent meal) I decided to continue on to El Cubo. And so it was that at 2.30 pm I set off for another 20 Km. The walk was pleasant enough and the after noon slightly overcast which made for ideal walking conditions. I was particularly challenged at one point when the way involved considerable up-and-down, repeatedly. Eventually I lobbed into El Cubo de la Tierra del Vino at 7.15pm - my latest finish yet. I was weary yet, surprisingly, not over so.
The albergue was great, and the hospitalera an absolute delight. After a most welcome and refreshing shower it was not long before I was in bed. I totally crashed, and slept well, content and feeling "oh-so-good" after my mammoth 37km walk. What a day!
Sunday, 8 June 2014
Today is a rest day in Salamanca. I have walked "seriously" for the last thirteen days. I'm hoping today to walk only those distances that are necessary for physical and spiritual sustenance, and give my feet a rest.
Salamanca is a beautiful old city with many fine buildings.
Arriving yesterday (Saturday) the weather was fine and sunny but a little windy.
Earlier in the week we passed from the province of Extremadura into that of Castilla y Leon. This change was accompanied by a noticeable change in landscape. The wide, flat, high- country plains
Have given way to undulating ground with hills and mountainous parts.
And slowly, small towns and villages are becoming more frequent along the way.
Yesterday's entry into Salamanca brought a change that was almost a shock to the system. From days of seeing small villages and, literally, a handful of people we were catapulted into a busy and - compared with tiny villages - a "big" city bustling with people.
The contrast was clear and most arresting. In some respects it felt wrong to be here. The city and it's bustling, preoccupied inhabitants and visitors seemed almost a rude interruption to the calm and leisurely Camino journey. This was clearly brought home with the local "Blues Bros" entertainment.
However, after my "still" day today I shall continue on the road tomorrow and, in the shortest time, I'll be back to my peaceful and idyllic rhythm.
But I will be minus some precious companions I have come to know and love in the recent past. Several of my fellow Caministas are departing from Salamanca for home and work. We have walked together, shared meals and enjoyed multi- lingual conversations together. I shall miss them. I hope they have received something good out of my company along the way. I know I am the better for meeting and knowing them.
But life goes on and, like many of my recent Camino experiences, the changes that are now happening mirror the incidents of life. I see us, in life, walking into and out of each other's journeys. Sometimes we travel long with another. At other times the sharing of the road may be brief. In this, the Camino is a very real and personal illustration and imitation of life. In all journeying, whether I'm on a transitory Camino walk or the longer journey through life I endeavour both to receive good from and impart good to my fellow travellers. I trust this has been the case with my Camino amigos. I pray it continues through the whole of life.
I thank God for the beautiful people I've met in recent weeks. Indeed I thank God for all the beautiful people I meet. I commit each one of them to Him for His protection and blessing.