Day 6/Sept 17 El Camino/Astorga to Rabanal

I could not post yesterday in Rabanal with poor internet connection. The day started out well with 12 miles to Rabanal. We arrived exhausted and there was no room at the inn or any inn until we found albergue Gaucelmo Assoc. They are one of the first Albergues in Rabanal and run by volunteers who come for a two week stint from around the world. They are people who have walked the Camino before. We had Brits as our volunteers  so they offered tea and biscuits at 4. The wind was whipping up and it was getting quite cold.

It has turned cold which is great for walking but not for sitting around and most albergues do not offer heat. The day yesterday started lovely out of Astorga but we climbed 255 meters and the last 2.5 kilometers of distance through ‘Golgotha”  (our name) were exactly that. We climbed through paths of shale with a fence on one side that seemed to run forever filled with crosses made from sticks, branches, bits of cloth that pilgrims have left over the years.

Jonathan stayed last night and tonight at a Benedictine monestary in silent retreat. He will meet up with us tomorrow after walking the miles we did today plus tomorrows.  He is trying to discern becoming a monk. He has been a lovely young man to have with us on the journey.

We walked through miles of forest and farm land with the last bit being very rocky paths. As I say, we arrived exhausted and things are usually closed until dinner at 7. We had not eaten much in the day as there was little offering on the way. We sat in a bar cafe with a piece of cake until the owner said he would serve us early. Either sympathy or figured he could make a few bucks off our use of the table but we were grateful. I was feeling a bit tearful with exhaustion. I was able to get a lovely plate of Sauted veggie for the starter and fried eggs, potatoes and cheese for the main. The others usually choose the beef, fish, pork..

Just the facts today. It is getting hard to track especially when I miss a day. The sun finally came out so I am going to go out and soak some up.

I really count on these posts to help me reflect on the day.

Photos on face book. You will see different surfaces walked in the day.

Day 5/ Sept 16 El Camino/ Santibanez to Astorga

We are in Astorga. It is the end of Saturday, 8:29 PM. When I went up to bed last night there were people sleeping and it was dark and I did not set up for the next morning. This morning there were people sleeping in and everything was done in the dark and quick but then we went down for a lovely croissant and tea for me and cafe con leche for everyone else. We had a late start at 8:30 but we had changed our plans to a shorter day as Mary has a nasty blister and bum knee and Di has a bum knee. I was going to say today that my feet are fine but I discovered a blister tonight as well. We had a walk of about 6 1/2 miles through fields and did not see human life until about half way when we came upon David. He walked the Camino years ago and never left. He has set up a place to live and offers food, drink and rest to pilgrims on the way. (Leo, he is the guy in the movie we watched the night before we left. The guy living in the open with the hammock.) My sister, Di, is doing well but has that bad knee that started acting up before we left. She is slow and hobbling with a pack on her back and at best maybe two miles an hour, but she always makes it where we are going and with good spirit. She calls her journey the Camino stroll. I call her the grandmother of the Camino. There is undoubtedly older among us but with her white hair and slow stroll on a bad knee and her conversations with the young ones, that is what I see. I also saw my mother when she rolled over last Night. (Di wants everyone at home to know she is doing well and not to worry. She is handling well whatever shows up.)

I ate an empanada a tun for lunch. Tuna and veggie sandwich in a flaky crust. Very good. We arrived in Astorga at about noon and decided to treat ourselves to a hotel. Di, Chris, and I share a room with a bathroom, heat, and space, and a tub. We are across from the cathedral and took a tour of the Gaudi museum that is adjacent to the cathedral (was suppose to house the episcopal bishop until he died before it was finished and Gaudi was the architect) had a good dinner, went to Mass at the monastery, and toured the Cathedral.

I think my highlight of the day was kneeling at Mass after communion. There was an elderly gentleman sitting in front of me while I knelt so we were very close. Through the whole Mass the nuns cloistered behind us had done all the singing. Suddenly he burst into song with a beautiful tenor voice. My heart leapt and I wanted to cry it was such a surprising gift. Instead I sat and smiled. I wanted to tell him but could not speak it in Spanish.

I am tired tonight. Di, Chris and Jonathan are down in the lounge enjoying wine. I am enjoying a peaceful moment. Chris has been a great guide to get us acclimated and we are all getting along well. It was a beautiful walk today with some challenging hills up and down. Tomorrow we start some elevation to prepare us for the ascent on Monday to close to 5,000 ft. We are going to see if we can make Rabinal tomorrow and then la Cruz de Ferro on Sunday. A very important spot on the Way that I will tell you about when we get there. We are discussing having our packs taxied for us on that day. That is another day.

Today I look forward to sleep. I know we will be going out into cold crisp air tomorrow as today but we have the clothing for it. I enjoy not sweating in the heat so in that way it is a plus and fresh and lovely. Chris said she hopes Di and I were not regretting our decision to come and it was a resounding “NO, that would not be possible.” If it ended tomorrow every minute has been worth it. I am not prepared to even say more as it is hard to put into words. I am grateful. More photos on Facebook. We are having technical difficulties. Peace and love to you all. Thanks for staying with us. Jan

Day 4 /Sept 15 El Camino/ Mazarife to Santibanex de Valdeglasias

We walked from the village of Mazarife 12 miles to Santibanex de Valdeglasias. We are checked into our Albergue for the night. We have a dorm room tonight. We left Mazarife about 7:30 this morning with wool layer, buff, gloves and wool socks. It warmed in the sun but is a bit cool. We arrived here about 2 and have had shower and laundry. Now enjoying a tonic and chips.

These two days of walks have reminded me of a poem by David Whyte.

“Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that first, bright and indescribable wedge of freedom in your heart.”

That has been these days. There is chatting with each other at times but then walking alone there is nothing but the field of sun flowers, the field of corn, the chirp of a bird., a purple crocus emerging from the rocky ground, a rosy sky at day break. The mind is calm, peaceful and free of lists, demands, chewing or stewing on things. There is nothing but the present and walking and seeing. Jonathan spied the wild black raspberries.

We ate dinner with Lucy from Switzerland and born in Spain, Jorgen from Germany and Corrine from Montreal. Not everyone could understand each other’s language so there was translation all around the table with lots of stories, jokes and laughter.

Corrine is notable as Di has adopted her as a camino granddaughter. Di could not get into a top bunk and did not know what to do. Corrine was suffering from her own camino health issues but offered Di her bottom bunk. We would meet Corrine many times over the next weeks. A delightful young woman.

Photos The bridge is in Puente de Orbit

Day 3/ Sept 14 El Camino/ La Virgen to Mazarife

Today we walked about 9 miles to the village of Mazarife. We are taking it light to break in but will need to do a bit more tomorrow to keep up. We walked on many surfaces and viewed fields, clouds, villages and pilgrims. The way is well marked with rocks, shells and arrows in many places and forms. I am learning to move quick and early. We had twenty in our room last night but I actually had a good nights rest. I awoke around 6, sat up and put my head in my hands for a few moments. Then I dressed, packed up in the dark and then when that was all set went and washed up. I have gotten quite proficient with my pack and sensitive as to how it feels. There is a sweet spot that I go for with my adjustments that feels quite right.

We had a light breakfast of nuts and fruit and beverage. We started out at 7:30.

We found the alternate trail we want that walks us through the countryside. An excellent choice. We each found our rhythm and would walk at our own pace sometimes together and at times alone. We stopped for a snack and when we put our packs back on I got distracted and forgot to buckle my pack. I tried over the next three miles to adjust my pack to the sweet spot but could not find it. Come to find out my buckles had gotten hidden under my hip back and I was walking without it secured. My poor shoulders will need some healing balm tonight.

We are staying at albergue Tio Pepe in Mazarife tonight and have smaller rooms. Di and I share a room with a private bath. A real treat. We went to a different Albergue for dinner. First course a lovely green salad fresh and beautiful presentation, a gazpacho soup that was creamy smooth with a hint of cucumber, vegetable paella remarkable, and a finishing with a crepe with drizzle of chocolate, strawberries and cream. All for 10 euros. We applauded the chef.

We are fortunate to have very pleasant weather to walk but I feel it in my thighs with some good hills today. We walked around the village a bit tonight. Just a humorous note, I have to always prepare myself for surprises in food as my “vegetable” sandwich was loaded with tuna and boiled egg. Differences of opinion and tradition.

Day 2/Sept 13 El Camino/ Leon to La Virgen

It has been a bit rough with the long flight and a cold virus setting in but things are moving in the right direction. Chris has declared we have officially begun the Camino even if it was only 1.7 miles from the train station yesterday to our first Albergue in Leon. Today we have moved on to La Virgen after hiking around old city Leon. We walked many narrow cobbled streets in the old city section of Leon. We went to Mass at the Basillica de San Isadoro. We then toured the Catredal de Santa Maria de Regla. We shopped for fruit in the open air market in the square. had a humorous and frustrating 20 minute walk to the bus to La  Virgen that took two hours to find. ( we took the bus ride as this area is all industrial and now we start moving into the country) Anyway, After getting a bit confused about location, 74 year old Gabriel offered to help. Instead of just pointing us in the right direction he walked along chatting with Jonathan and us through Jonathan for about 1 1/2 mile. He is a pensioner who grew up near our bus stop, moved away and now returned to care for his 96 yr old mother. Along the way we happened to come across his cousin. She had her opinion as well about where to catch the bus. Gabriel continued on until he saw us on the bus. We told him he was our angel Gabriel.

We are now at a very nice Albergue in La Virgen. They have co ed rooms here where as last night the genders were divided. The host showed us a bathroom as we looked around. Later when time to take a shower we all went off to the shower but when I looked around in the bathroom I wondered where are Di, Chris, and Mary? Did they go off somewhere? There was a man getting ready for his shower. I discretely went into the shower and adjusted the curtain so I could get my clothes off without getting wet. When I emerged later he was outside the shower drying his hairy bum. Another man came to use the shower, came in, saw me and turned around and left. I washed my clothes, face and finished up. I went back to the room and still did not see my group. When I walked down the hall I saw a closed door with a drawing of a woman on it. I opened it and there they all were. They were all laughing because Di had taken her shower and they found her dressing in front of an open door for all the world to see. I added my faux pas of taking my shower in the men’s room to the list and we all had peels of laughter.

There is much to acclimate to with sharing a sleeping room with so many. Lights, darkness, finding your stuff in the dark, flashlights, hand washing, snoring, early risers, later risers. We are learning.

We have to get some walking in as the pilgrim meals are three course meals and we have been eating those. An appetizer of a salad or pasta with red sauce and sometimes tuna or soup. Then a choice of a main dish and then dessert. I have been fortunate to have chicken both nights. Di had an orange filled trout and Jonathan had rabbit.

Tonight we decided to add yoga stretches to our daily routine.

We are all well and happy and tomorrow will be.

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Day 1/Sept 12 El Camino/ Leon

We met up with Chris and Mary in Newark and are now sitting in the train station at Pinar de Chamartin waiting for a train to Leon. We are tired from just little naps as we go but the flights went very well and we are beginning to deal with language and money.

I brought my drivers license for no reason as I have my passport but I needed it at MSP pre check as my passport was not signed and was not acceptable. I had to hold up the line while I unzipped my pants to access my license in my hidden hip pack (which I am so grateful I had on me) with the agent yelling to everyone else to make sure their documents are in order and their passports signed before they get up to him. He did smile upon my leaving.

We are all in good spirits and eager to see our bed for the night. We walked 1.7 miles from the train station in Leon to our Albergue at a Benedictine Monastery Santa Maria De Carbajal. Walking with the pack in a foreign city, paying for the bed, getting the bed set up in a room with a number of bunkbeds, all new experiences.

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