Day 11/ Sept 22 El Camino/Pedrafita do Cebreiro to Sarria

We are resting with a cup of tea in Our apartment in Sarria after a trying day. We are living the Camino, no need to walk.

Chris, Mary and Jonathan started out early and Di and I went down for breakfast about 7:30 and met up with Rob and Bev our dear Camino friends from Vancouver. Rob had started having blurry vision in his right eye yesterday afternoon while on the camino. He awoke to continued blurry vision this morning so decided to go to the clinic behind the hotel and get checked. We sat and visited with Bev. After about an hour the clinic receptionist came and whisked Bev away. Di and I sat for another half hour then I went over to the clinic to check on them and give them my email address. The receptionist explained that they had been transported by ambulance to a hospital in Lugo about 60 K away. We struggled with how we could contact them with no phone service to even leave a message at the hospital. Then I remembered they had a room booked in Sarria tomorrow night and I had slipped Bev our address if they wanted to connect. So we shall see. We hope and pray for the best.

Di and I were taxied by taxi Ana today over to Sarria. She taxied us yesterday and we were pleased but today she let us down. She did not know our destination address and had her dispatcher look it up for her. She left us off over a mile away in the wrong location which by Camino standards is nothing but for a woman with blown out knees it was eternity. We had our two packs and afternoon heat and hills and stairs and circles as people did not know the street and on and on. Finally a bar owner knew and carefully directed me. I left Di, checked in 3 hours after the expected time went back and got Di and the packs and we both sat catatonic for a bit. After breathing, food was our only thought. All the restaurants were closed for siesta but we set out. We came upon a grocery and put together a very satisfying meal. Again we are very proud of this day with no English, and we did land in a very good place. We are happy to stay in one place for two nights.

I just read this to Di and she is laughing so hard she is crying. I think she approves this message. She said, “This is the strangest road to Santiago.”

Day 10/Sept 21 El Camino/Bierzo to Pedrafita do Cabreiro

img_2403We left Villafranca del Bierzo this morning about 10:30 and taxied to Pedrafita do Cabreiro, off the beaten path with no beds in 0’Cebreiro. We enjoyed a happy exuberant taxi driver who between Spanish, English and sign had fun explaining his beloved home region to us. We then dropped our packs at the hotel , explored the market and watched the boiling of octopus, a specialty in this region. We then taxied to O’Cebreiro. It is a small quaint hamlet with Celtic roots and the church of Iglesias de Santa Maria Real from the 9th century. The oldest church on the Camino associated with the pilgrim Way. Jon was the only one who walked this day with Mary and Chris taking a day of rest.

We ate our main meal and for two days were able to get paella as we start to enter the region of Galicia. We ran into the young ones, Corrine, Brendan, Molly and Phillip. Corrine suffered bad bed bugs and is on steroids and antibiotics.

4:30 pm We are now back at our hotel in the cafe and Bev and Rob just arrived so will be joining us for dinner.

Diane and I are making our plan for moving forward. She can walk with her sticks but slow and careful.

10:00 pm We are back in our room after 4 hours in the dining room sharing stories and laughter. Chris bought a large bottle of vermouth because she wanted the pretty bottle so we wished Bev and Rob goodnight with a night cap.

Chris, Mary and Jon are walking on tomorrow and Di and I are taking the taxi to Sarria. Our new plan is to find as many spots on the Camino that are surfaces Di can walk and try to finish the best we are able. Di and I will be alone in Sarria for two days as the others catch up. It will be a real test of coping with language but we have been getting by pretty well.

Peace.

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Day 9/Sept 20 El Camino/ Ponferrada to Villafranca de Bierzo

We gave buen Camino hugs to Mary, Chris and Jonathan this morning at 7:30 as they left Ponferrada. I felt some sadness not leaving on the path as well but I also feel content and in the right place staying with Di. Maybe there is another Camino in my future. Either way, all is well. Di is improving. She is on top of the pain and the swelling is going down. We sat and had tea and now went for a short walk to chocolate croissants and fresh squeezed orange juice, ‘Zumo, fresh.’

We have been calculating and making a new plan. We have walked about 55 miles so far and rose to the highest peak at about 5,000 ft and the iconic Cruz de Ferro. That is a third of our journey. I have looked ahead at the coming elevations and that will not be possible for Di with too many ascents and descents at high elevation. Di feels she would like to try the last 35 mikes into Santiago (and courier her pack) which has a few up and down but at a relatively level elevation. That would give us over half of the journey. It would be about a week out and I think she could be strong enough to do it or part of a day and taxi part.

Our new plan includes enjoying each day with each new location as we taxi forward. Walking on level surfaces we can site see, sit at cafes, read and enjoy in a different way.

Part 2

Di and I arrived at our hotel in Villafranca de Bierzo and as we were dropped off by the taxi at our hotel, Bev and Rob from Vancouver were waving at us and calling our names from the cafe next door. A welcome treat. After checking in Di and I had three hours with them with vino blanco, tapas and then paella. Lots of sharing of life stories. A Wonderful couple. Such excitement after meeting only two days ago. Mary, Chris and Jonathan arrived about 4:00 tired and hungry. The heat had returned, not bad in town but hot on the trail. Mary has a much worse blister and Chris is encountering some as well. The three did 15 miles today.

I took a walk around town here and found the correct adapter and some fruit. My Spanish is mucho limited but I am doing well with what I have. I came back and told Di, let’s stay here for a week and meet up wth the others later. Her’s was an instant yes but it was a fantasy, we will stay with the group.

You will be getting very different posts going forward. The other three declared needing a rest as well. So we are taking a taxi late morning to O’cebreiro. An important place they want to see with the oldest church associated with the pilgrim way is in this hamlet. The church marks the final resting place of Don Sampedro. 1929-1989. A priest who restored and furthered the Camino and adjoining hostel with a monastic settlement from the 11th century and Queen Isabella stayed here in 1486 on her own personal pilgrimage. It is hard to find a bed but our hosteler helped and found 5 beds.

I did promise more on Cruz de Ferro. I haven’t forgotten but again it will have to wait. I would like to say it well and the day gets so full it is hard to find the time for reflection.

It is 8 pm and the city is just coming to life in the cafe’. I am in my bed. Di is in her’s reading and the other three went to mass at the monastery next door. They also have one at 8 am which would be better for me. We shall see.

Photos: Di is getting her pilgrimage out of a book, our room across from the castle in Ponferrada, the square in Bierzo.

Reflection on Cruz de Ferro

My Cruz de Ferro reflection

Cruz de Ferro translates to iron cross. It is located at roughly 5,000 ft and for many on the journey a special place to reach. The cross is on a large mound of small rocks placed over many years by pilgrims representing letting something go or a blessing and reconnecting to the purpose of the journey. Most reach this height after walking about a month from St Jean Pied de Port, we reached it after 5 days. Chris has pointed out that we missed the month of conditioning they had when they did the full Camino 3 years ago.

My reflection actually began the day before when walking through the uphill section lined with crosses on our way to Rabanal. No matter who you go with, this journey is your journey. People are friendly, helpful, inquisitive but we all have only our legs and awareness to bring us forward. Even if one drops a pole there is no courteous spontaneous reach to bend down and grab it for you but everyone looking down at it assessing the situation. This is our life. We are all given tools to cope with the journey as best we can. We can assist each other, pray for each other, feel concern, but we cannot live another’s journey. We can’t protect each other from life. If we try, we only bring harm as we remove the struggle needed to learn and grow and thrive. The pain we feel in not being able to help is our pain to deal with.

My intention on the Way was to reflect on my service to those grieving loss, death, life changes and broken hearts. I listen, feel compassion, offer reflective questioning, witness, pray, encourage, laugh with, feel tears with, but I can’t fix or take away the pain. For the most part I feel good about what I can offer. At times I wish I could do more. In each of these encounters I also receive something, more life awareness, more awakening, more opening of heart, more opportunity for growth, gratitude for this work.

Walking past the crosses left by previous pilgrims I began to see and feel countless souls swirling around me. People I have encountered in some meaningful way whether I was aware of it or not. People who have died and people who are living but all people I have walked with and connected with on this life journey. This awareness followed me into the night and on through the morning’s journey to Cruz de Ferro. The feelings were of comfort, gratitude, peacefulness, inner smile with remembering, curiosity of souls I do not remember. At the cross, I offered a blessing to all these souls, wishing them well in life or in death as the case may be. As I left the cross I experienced a lightness as I am aware I will continue to move forward doing the work with an openness to where it takes me as this chapter with Hospice comes to a close. Individuals I meet on the Way offer me hints, visions of possibility. I need only stay open.

Buen Camino!

Day 8/Sept 19 El Camino/Acebo to Ponferrada

We are in Ponferrada sitting at a Laundromat. We taxied from Acebeo to Molinaseca as the path down the mountain today was to be just as treacherous as yesterday. We had a great breakfast there and relaxed. We then walked the next 7 k or so into Ponferrada. Di did well on the flat surfaces but then we got onto gravel again and that was rough for her.

It was a lovely day with sun and cool temps. We saw 18 Celsius and now it is a bit warmer. (In the mountains yesterday it was probably in the low 40’s F with wind chill.) We left Di sitting in the sun at a Cafe while we did the laundry. It was nice to get to a town, in this case city, early to rest and enjoy. We are staying across from the Knights Templar Castle in Hostel Virgen de la Encinitas which I sent a photo on Facebook. We are touring the castle when the laundry is done.

We got some more euros, vino blanco and tapas while charging phones and iPads and Jonathan showed up around 3:30. He walked our path from yesterday plus today but taxied his pack so made good time. He had better weather in the mountains. No wind and some sun which helped a lot.

I lost my hat somewhere yesterday and I really liked that hat. Now we need to shop for another.

We have been planning out a new Camino in the last hours. Di got to the hotel, walked up the stairs to the room we are sharing and declared exhaustion. I left the room to get something and when I returned she said she could not walk. Her knees are swollen and would not hold her up. She brought one sleeve for one knee and we bought another for the other knee on the way in but the swelling is too much. She ran out of her ibuprofen in the gel caps and nothing else is working. Jonathan is out scouting the farmacia’s for her but so far only the tablet form is found. Her body does not process that form. Jonathan did find a liquid form so will give that a try.

So, new plan. I promised Di before we left that we would stick together so she and I will let the others go on tomorrow and we will taxi to Cacabelos and meet them at a hotel. The goal is to keep Di off her feet as much as possible. She is in good hands with Mary, a Dr. and Jonathan a Nurse Practitioner and all of us who care.

I assured Di it is all Camino, it does not matter how we move. It has all been a joy, even the challenges. To Di’s familia, She is in good spirits, literally and figuratively with her vino blanco. Her only concern is holding the rest of us back. Everyone agrees it is not a problem. And it is true.

Everywhere we are we meet people who are walking the Camino. Many ways and many forms, different start points. Where are you from? When did you start? Buen Camino! Buenos Dias! Hola! Blessings! Are you okay? The locals are so friendly and helpful and in these small towns we are the economy. We meet our fellow pilgrims, share stories and move on. Then we meet again further along and everyone is thrilled, like meeting an old friend or at least familiar greeting. We met a couple from Florida while dong laundry. They fled the hurricane then returned quickly to check on things, get their luggage for the Camino and dashed off to catch their flight to Spain. They are doing it in sections and started this time in Leon as did we. They are carrying their packs but set up every hotel before they left so they need to keep on schedule but always have a bed ready.

I realize I forgot to write about Cruz de Ferro, a very important place on the Camino. More about that later.

9:30 pm we toured the castle and had a festive dinner in the square at a pizzeria.

Di is doing much better. She was able to walk the half block with a walking stick and the pain meds and ibuprofen are doing the trick. We will evaluate as we go but the plan now is for the three to leave tomorrow morning and leave their bags to taxi with us at noon for a hotel named San Francisco above the San Francisco Monastery in Villafranca del Bierzo. We shall see how Di is doing after another couple of days but when I look at the elevation map we have many hills to cross. It does not look promising.

Gracias amigos for your love and care in reading and comments. Enough for

tonight.

Diane Hughes approves this message.

PS. Leo , Di sends a huge thank you for the Penetrex cream. It was a blessing until the inflammation got out of control. She would not have gotten this far without it.

Day 7/Sept 18 El Camino/Rabanal To Acebo

The day started in the dark and moved most of the day in clouds. We had our first 6 k in high winds and light rain and cold. It seemed to go on forever. Chris and Mary are fast walkers and were way ahead of us. I kept thinking this has to be it soon. At the same time there was such beauty I stopped to snap a pic. Big mistake. I sweat so heavily I immediately felt the chill down to my bones. I kept moving. I came to a ridge and the wind was whipping harder and I started to feel a bit of fear. Kept going. Finally there was a town of 5 people and a place to stop. A fire was burning to our relief. I had an orange, and a protein bar and trail mix but still felt off. I added a banana and that did it. My clothes were still wet but my inner heat returned and we were able to keep going. We kept going up. We finally came to a town of one after another 6k. Enough to stop and rest for a few moments and relieve ourselves but he had not much to offer and we kept going. After more climb we finally came to the descent where the prayers started, you can see in the photos. Continually moving and trying to slow down as we try to find purchase and not break an ankle. This went on for about most of the last 6k. Our longest and hardest day. We arrived at ACEBO and again no room at the inn. Tour buses kept passing dropping off and picking up people who are here for a few miles of the Camino. That is where all the rooms went. We found beds at an albergue. One with three to a room and Chris in another. At dinner we compared notes on when the prayers started for all of us. We were very hungry realizing we had gone the day on juice and bread and nuts. The good news was Di’s knee was much better at the start of the day. Now, not so good. Blisters are getting better. And, we are all so proud of what we accomplished and amazed at ourselves. We all agreed we could not do that again the next day. Chris re read her notes from her Camino in 2014 and realized the next stretch out of ACEBO was more of the same down the mountain. We called a taxi and are taking a ride tomorrow to Molinaseca and then will walk into Ponferrada. We are getting the best hotel we can find and washing everything and regrouping for the rest of the journey.

The comic relief was when at one point the trail down crossed a road and we decided to stop for a moment for some chocolate and water. I looked back at the path of our descent and saw a man emerge carrying a shopping bag with a painting of a woman with a parasol. I got the giggles as he seemed so out of place. Mary looked and said, ” what in this picture does not belong?” We kept returning to the image as we struggled our way down. He offered us the comic relief we needed to keep our spirits up.

Hugs to all of you out there.

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