Archive for December 2011

Finding a long lost friend in Azofra   Leave a comment

December 30, 2010

We left the albergue in Nájera after everyone else had left because we went to the post office to send more things to León. I decided I didn’t really need two pairs of pants and sent ahead my warm-ups and a turtleneck; I figure I reduced the weight by at least a pound! Before going to the post office, as the others were leaving, I saw Pablo making himself a hearty sandwich with the left-over chicken and thought that he maximized his cooking well. When we did leave, we walked following the arrows and found ourselves walking through a pine forest. We walked at a brisk pace since it was not too steep a climb. Soon enough we arrived in Azofra. Becky had been telling me about the place and wondering if she was going to be able to visit with her old friend, the hospitalero, Roque, whom she remembered so fondly from her previous pilgrimage. We walked into town and as we walked by a café where the Italians were; they invited us to join them–we declined. And instead walked into another quieter place where we inquired about Roque. No, the owner informed us, the albergue had closed and he was no longer an hospitalero. I sensed that Becky was a bit sad. The woman was very friendly and chatted with us; she  also discouraged us from staying in Azofra and insisted that we should get to Santo Domingo. We discussed our options: stay in an hostal, or walk the remaining 15 km to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The woman offered a third option: take a bus to Sto. Domingo! It seemed the perfect solution, especially because we did not want to be too tired the next day when we expected to walk to Grañon to be there for New Year’s Eve.

Roque and Becky

Roque and Becky

The woman also gave us information about bus schedules and where to go take the bus. When we walked over Becky spotted an elderly gentleman standing at the bus stop. It’s him! she exclaimed, as she dashed across the street to the bus stop on the opposite side. Sure enough. It was Roque! He regaled us with stories as we waited for the bus. He had come to wait for his wife. He told her about the nuns whom she had delivered a message to four year prior. They are related, primas carnales. I suspect it is the same as primas hermanas for us. It was a happy reunion.

The bus came and we said goodbye, but not before I got a good shot of them. It was just so good to see Becky so happy! Then as we drove away in the bus, she told me the story of how he had encouraged her to take a detour to Cañas. She leapt out of her seat, There, there it is, that’s where I went, she cried, as she pointed to the Abadía in Cañas in the distance. That is where St. Francis allegedly stayed when he walked the Camino in the 13th century. In our walking to Azofra we were passed by the Koreans who is walking with an Italian, but they are not in Sto. Domingo when we get there. No doubt they went on; it’s too early for them to turn in. The other men are here, a Belgian, and a Korean who forgot his diary in Nájera and had to pay 25 Euros for a taxi to take him back to retrieve it. There are two other Italians and a Basque.

In Azofra we met many “angels” people who helped us. First the woman at the cafe who gave us directions and urged us to take the bus–we wouldn’t have met Roque if we had not listened to her. When we were standing at the marquesina, the bus stop, a furgoneta sopped and a man got out and crossed the street to tell us that we had to stand on the other side or the bus wouldn’t stop. So many kind people. I have a mental picture of a woman who stands outside the second story balcony wearing a white dress and a bright orange delantal. It is striking because the building is also whitewashed and the orange apron stands out as if it were a splotch of sun. She folds her arms and leans forward, calling to some men who arrive below. Her bright orange apron flutters in the wind.

Entrance to the Albergue

Later that afternoon we arrive in Santo Domingo de la Calzada and go straight to the Albergue. It has been modernized and has all the conveniences although it is nondescript on the outside. There is a minor crises as there is no hospitalero and the local members of the asociacion are taking turns taking care of the pilgrims.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada

We rest a bit and then go for a touristy visit to the Cathedral with its many legends. Santo Domingo is known as the patron saint of engineers, especially bridge builders. The story I read is that he was denied access to the monastery because he was illiterate; however, he would not be dissuaded from a life of service, so he built many of the bridges that still stand in the region to make the pilgrimage easier for the pilgrims. One particular story that caught my imagination tells of a young man who was falsely accused of a crime and was hanged. But the saint interceded on his behalf to the King who had ordered the hanging. When the King refused the pardon claiming that the boy was already dead, the Saint said, he is as dead as the chicken you are eating. At which point, the chicken sprang to life and so did a rooster. So in the church we now see a white hen and a rooster. We pay 2.50 E to enter the cathedral and see a display of a “Belen Napolitano” and of course to see the chickens in their elaborate black wrought iron coop.

I take a photo of an impressive statue of St. Anne with Mary and Jesus. I don’t recall seeing too many of the three figures together either in paintings or in statutes.. I am attracted to the representations of Mary. She is everywhere on the Camino. I sense that she walks with us. It is a strong feminine energy that makes us strong. I draw from her strength.

MEDITATION FOCUS: Service. In the Camino as in yoga, I am often reminded of the rewards of service and feel drawn to such a life. I imagine Sto. Domingo’s devotion to the Camino, to the pilgrims. His reward. And I remember Xavier and his commitment to come back to the Camino. I think of all the hospitaler@s who come and give of their time to care for the pilgrims, for us. I am grateful and I offer my own service in whatever way I can to make life better for all pilgrims on the Camino of life.


Posted December 30, 2011 by normacantu in Uncategorized

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Nájera in La Rioja   Leave a comment

I am feeling a bit better; as I get over the cold that gripped me since Christmas Eve, my head is a bit clearer so I hope to remember more than I have the past few days of how it was for us walking the Camino. The weather here in San Antonio in 2011 is gorgeous, and I am sorry I have not been walking outdoors, enjoying the clear skies.

December 29, 2010

Leaving Navarrete we walk by really muddy fields. Our boots grow heavy with mud. The vineyards of La Rioja do not disappoint. We climb a couple of peaks but not very high, in Ventosa we stop to munch on cheese and bread. While the tour guide suggests a trek from Logroño to Nájera, we take shorter stages and stopped in Navarrete, so the trek from Navarrete to Nájera is short; still, it takes a long time to get into the town; just as with Navarrette, there are warehouses and industrial parks at the outskirts of Nájera; these mid-size towns are growing and are not the tiny hamlets where the Camino seems to be the only lucrative enterprise; here families are making their living in a number of industries, not just farming. We cross two rivers, first the Rio Yalde outside of town, and then Rio Nájerilla, the river that runs right in front of the albergue.

Rio Nájerilla

Arriving in Nájera we follow the arrows and the map on our tour guide past the old albergue; it is early evening when we drop off our backpacks in the albergue nuevo, a municipal albergue that only charges 5 Euros, and is already more full than any we’ve stayed at. The hospitalero is an Italian who stamps our credencial and charges the 5 Euros with a huge smile.

We went shopping for dinner at an Eroski, the chain grocery stores that are everywhere, and we bought cookies as a treat! To get to the shopping center, we crossed a bridge and ended up right in the middle of an open air market; must’ve been market day in Nájera! It reminded me of the mercadito in Toledo with the usual vendors with clothing, purses, toys, and such. Back at the albergue we fix a hearty salad and soup. I don’t mind the vegetarian diet we are on, but some times I wonder about the protein and hope I don’t end up anemic. But I trust Becky who’s been vegetarian for over 40 years and seems to be fine. The men are also cooking; one, a Spaniard is cooking chicken and shares with two others. I am tired but also curious about these men. I stay up listening to their tales of the Camino. Pablo, the Spaniard is bicycling and hopes to get to Santiago soon.They talk about a man who apparently is going around saying he was robbed in Burgos and is asking for money. It must be the man who met us outside of Logroño and who gave us that story. We felt sorry and gave him 5 Euros! One of the Italian pilgrims, later we will know he is Luigi, has long curly hair and asks Becky if she has a blow dryer. Of course, not, she says, it’s heavy! He understands, but thought he’d ask anyway.The town boasts of a great monastery, Monasterio de Santa María la Real, which we will not visit, and there are cave dwellings, which we will also miss. We are not tourists, but pilgrims. Still, I wish we had more time to leisurely visit these small towns and learn their history. There is more food brought in by a man who is with the association of albergues; he and his wife have come in to cook and eat with the pilgrims. The talk turns to issues of governance for the albergue association and I decide to call it a night as have most of the pilgrims.

Outside the Albergue Municipal de Nájera

It’s not as cold as in other albergues, but I still wear my wool socks and long-johns when I slip into the sleeping bag. I had picked up some Vicks at the albergue in Estella because Alba told us that it would help ease tired achy feet. I massage my feet with Vicks and find that it’s true! I thank my feet for not blistering, for not hurting, for carrying me and my gear every step of the way. I am grateful for so much! We fall asleep to the sound of snoring. At least I do, I’m not sure Becky is getting much sleep. She has her flashlight and I see her get up a couple of times before I fall asleep.

MEDITATION FOCUS: I bought postcards for my friend Olga Nájera Ramírez from this town that bears her family name. I meditate on how many of us, Chicanas, have roots in this northern land. So many Basque names, too, Anzaldúa, Izaguirre, etc. If there is cellular memory, we carry the memories of what has happened in these lands within our blood as surely as we carry our MeXicano memories. Someday science will uncover the mystery, the secrets of genetics and of blood memory. I focus on the interconnectedness of peoples across time and space. I keep predicting that that will be the next revolution and that it will change the way human beings are human–when we can explain ley lines, esp, energy waves. When we understand the connection between feeling and emotion to the land, we will understand our relatedness to the landscape and to the skies. We will understand how it is that we are ONE.

Posted December 29, 2011 by normacantu in Uncategorized

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Through Logroño to Navarrete   Leave a comment

The early morning departure from Viana was bittersweet…we so wanted to stay longer! But we continued our walk, taking our time leaving, following the yellow arrows that led us out of town. We had a bit of a steep climb, but nothing too difficult. We entered the Province of La Rioja and the vineyards were everywhere.As we approached Logroño we saw the distinctive black Osborne bull that graces many a hillside in Andalucia; I had never seen it in the northern landscape. It was a majestic sight that loomed over us as we approached the hillside. I wonder why it is called “Osborne” and what it advertises since it appears on many t-shirts as well as on ads for Spain.

Black Osborne Bull on a hillside outside of Logroño

We walked along the highway that leads into Logroño; for miles on end we walked by a chain link fence full of crosses that pilgrims have left behind as a testament of their passage.

Crosses on a chain link fence and a message

We entered the bustling city of  Logroño and had lunch at a contempo café La Granja on the main street–all black and red decor with chrome everywhere; we then walked on calle Portales following the yellow arrows that marked the Camino out of the city. We were looking for the post office so as to send some more foodstuffs ahead to León and asked a woman who was not able to give us directions, but asked that we pray for her and her child when we get to Santiago.

We arrived at the albergue El Cántaro in Navarrette where we wanted to spend the night, but there was no answer. A tailor who saw us walk by came out and told us that the man was there. And sure enough! A neighbor came and opened the door and went in. The hospitalero was asleep! It is a private albergue and charged the same as Alberdi, 10 euros, but it is vastly different: heat, hot water, quiet, clean, and a well-equipped kitchen. We did some laundry, performed the liver cleanse ritual and were grateful for our good fortune!

MEDITATION FOCUS: I ponder the miracle of being alive and walking on the Camino. I remember that a year ago, snug in my bed, not encased in my sleeping bag, I was thankful and I recall talking to Becky about how December 28 es el Día de los Inocentes and how when I was a child this was our April Fool’s Day. Today, I reflect on why I am sick. I ask: what is the lesson? I think I know that there is another answer, not just the obvious one that everyone reminds of: Slow down! Rest. Enjoy the present. Could it be that being vulnerable I succumb? I didn’t get sick on the Camino, but here in cozy, warm, sunny San Antonio, I come down with a cold!

Posted December 28, 2011 by normacantu in Uncategorized

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Los Arcos-brrrrrr   2 comments

December 26, 2010

Although we had promised ourselves that we would not do so, due to circumstances beyond our control, we walked in the dark for about an hour. It was spooky and a bit scary, especially because all we had was Becky’s small flashlight. I was afraid we would run out of battery. The chilly evening got colder and the crisp air under a waxing moon made it spookier. At one point we walked by some shrubs and a bevy of birds took flight, startled by us, they startled us! We walked into Los Arcos at around 7 p.m. An old woman carrying firewood greeted us, que tarde! she exclaimed…we found our way to the albergue Alberdi. the cinder block building was added on rooms behind a car port. The bathrooms were in another area, and we left our backpacks in the room where two Korean women were also housed. Rae, the older one is a grad student at Ohio State Univ. The other one is a student in London. They will not walk the whole way. Began in Pamplona and will only walk to Burgos. They had been at a party at another albergue that was closed with some other pilgrims. Becky and I went to the kitchen, in yet another area, to cook our dinner. The tiny electric space heater in the kitchen did little to lessen the bitter cold.

with Rae who is a grad student at Ohio Sate

I stood too close to it and burned the tip of my parka; I ony realized it when I smelled something burning. We slept fully clothed in our sleeping bags wearing hats and gloves!

Los Arcos had some interesting architecture and while in the last few days we’d been walking through non nondescript villages in Navarra, cold kitchenI had been looking forward to Los Arcos. I was not disappointed. I did consider the 10 Euros/person too much for the discomfort we endured. We could see Concha Alberdi, the owner in her comfortable rooms watching TV. She was described as welcoming and charming in the tour guide; to us, she was anything but. Liver cleansing proceeded as planned; the Korean women and one of the German men went off to a bar to warm up. We went to bed.

No time for meditation or for reflection. I was exhausted and cranky due to the cold. I do think that one of the greatest lessons of the Camino was that I can survive the cold, even if under duress and not very happily.

December 27, 2010

We breakfasted on a bocadillo de tortilla at a bar and walked to the bus stop; the night before we talked and  decided to ride a bus from Los Arcos to Viana mostly due to our lack of rest in Los Arcos and to give my leg a bit more of a rest although it was not hurting. Still, we were tired from the long trek the day before and from lack of sleep. The albuergue in Viana is run by the city and a police officer came and opened it for us when we called the number on our tour guide. My cell phone did come in handy on several occasions. But the albergue was still very cold. We shared the room with the bunk beds with some women who had arrived for a gymnastics workshop. The kitchen was much nicer than Albergue Alberdi’s, although it was just as cold, but it was only 6 Euros for the night!

Since we took the bus, we had plenty of time to explore the town that was founded on February 1,  1219, or so the plaque above the door though which the Camino passes declared. We went window shopping and we imagined what it would be like to live in an apartment in Viana. We found the locutorio and made phone calls and used the internet.  Yes, we had a great time in Viana pretending that Becky was already living there! The church bells, the doorways to the walled city, the supermarkets, everything was a sign for her: they even sold rice milk and the same brand of toothpaste at the German supermarket!

Kitchen in the Albergue Municipal in Viana

MEDITATION FOCUS: In Viana, I focused on change points and possible paths. If and when Becky moves here, I can see myself visiting and spending time here in this remote village in Navarra with the quaint main square and the church bells playing villancicos and the bustling city life outside the casco viejo, the old part of the walled city. And in the summer, throngs of pilgrims streaming through. Just like the Eastern European woman who works at the locutorio, we would be immigrants. Possible lives. Possible futures.

Viana's Main Square at dusk

Posted December 27, 2011 by normacantu in Uncategorized

From Magical Estella to Los Arcos   Leave a comment

December 26, 2011–I am feeling better and so I try to catch up with the posts….

A year ago, on December 26, we leave the apartment that Maria Josebe so graciously allowed us to use and walk to the Tourism Office to leave the key with Maria; Marian is on vacation. Estella was indeed magical! How else to describe it?  As we walk out of Estella, we go by the Bodegas de Irache, where pilgrims can help themselves to free wine.

Bodegas de Irache-free wine for pilgrims

It is a high, Alto where Albergue Monjardin sits. we don’t say there, but proceed to los Arcos. It gets dark early although it is already past the solstice.The leg pain is gone and I feel fine. we begin our walk out of town and walk continuously for hours and hours. We stopped in the middle of the pine forest to heal my foot and leg. As we finished two bicyclists sped by almost hitting us. They startled me. The forest holds secrets, I sense it. The lay lines that run through here are very powerful. In later posts I will talk more about the magnetic lines that undergird the earth’s surface and how the Camino runs along the lines.


I am tired. I must rest so I can continue posting. A year ago, on the Camino I was physically tired, but now I seem to be mentally tired. I have not meditated much, just focused on healing myself and others. It isn’t late, only 11:25 p.m. but my eyes can’t stay open. So unlike me to be sleepy so early. But I will listen to the body and rest. Maybe that is the meditation focus for tonight: Listen to the body!

Posted December 26, 2011 by normacantu in Uncategorized

December 23, 24, 25, 26   Leave a comment

On Friday, December 23, 2011 drove to Laredo and arrived just in time to help with the tamalada that was in progress. I had hoped to use the internet at my niece’s to post the blog entries while in Laredo, but instead I came down with a terrible cold and couldn’t drive to her home; so I stayed put and rested and tried to get better. My mom’s house has not internet access, but even if she had, I was in no condition to write anything. In fact, I am still a bit woozy and not quite all here. But I don’t want the backlog to be too great. I remind myself that everything happens for a reason as I learned on the Camino on Christmas Eve. I will write summaries of the missing dates in this post…

December 23, 2010

We left Obanos and were lectured by an old man out for his morning walk. He talked about the sembradillos de maiz, the corn plantations on either side of the path and how Navarra was resisting the US interests that would have them use genetically altered strains. He also told us the legend of Sta. Felicia and San Guillen a  play that is performed during the town fiestas on the third Sunday after Easter. It was a short trek to Puente La Reina and Becky and I talked of many things as we walked. We stopped at a cafe and had lunch, a bocadillo vegetal and an an orange juice; Andy Warhol reproductions and 8X10  photos of Michael Jackson, Mohamed Ali, and Mick Jagger graced the walls.The place was smoke-filled as all the customers, mostly men, were smoking. We get to the albergue. we decide today we rest, it is our th16th day on the camino and it feels as if we’d been on it for months! We talk about books, Becky recommends the Saturated Life, I can’t recall if I’ve  read it. I fall asleep praying for good walking weather tomorrow as we have along 17 mile walk to Estella. that is our goal; if we get to Ciriqui or Lorca that would be good, but arriving in Estella would put us right on schedule. In Puente La Reina we visit the Church of Santiago and Pedro. The Dark Christ is not very dark, I note. we buy groceries and cookies for dessert. it is my second night of the detox treatment. A couple of days before I found a mechanical pencil on the road. All along I have been saying that I don’t want to write, that I want to experience el Camino. But when I saw the bright blue pencil against the pristine white of the snow, I heard a voice saying if you pick it up it means you will write. And I did. And I am now writing about it.


December 24, Christmas Eve

A year ago and thousands of miles away, I had occasion to remember that things happen for a reason. a problem as my plans went awry. On Christmas Eve, 2010, Becky and I walked out of the albergue in Obanos and walked the short 2 kilometers to Puente la Reina, where we had a light breakfast and began walking across town headed out of town on the Camino. But, as we took photos at the bridge that gives the town its name, I realized that the slight pain on my right leg was getting worse. The only option was for me to take a break. I didn’t want to stay behind, so we decided that I could take a bus to Estella and Becky would meet me there at the church-sponsored albergue. Thus, I would rest my leg and we would decide what to do once we met there. It was Christmas Eve and Xavier had told us only one albergue was open in Estella, the albergue parroquial. And so it was. but before we get there, I must tell how it was that having the sciatica pain on the right leg proved providential.

When I left Becky at the bridge, I went looking for a place to take the bus to Estella. I had timed it right and only waiting about ten minutes.

Becky and Norma’s shadows at the Puente La Reina Bridge

I was quite upset with myself and I kept blaming myself: I could’ve trained better, I should’ve taken precautions, and so on and so on. En fin I was so upset I forgot my walking stick at the café where I asked about the bus schedule. Luckily, I remembered when I crossed the street to the bus stop in the rain and ran back to retrieve it. Be present, I kept telling myself. My backpack seemed to weigh even more. The bus came right on time; the trip was brief. I wept sitting in my seat surrounded by folks who knew each other and I was struck by an octogenarian who joked with the driver and whose gnarled hands gripped a handkerchief where she kept her Euros. The tears were of regret and worry. What if I couldn’t go on with the walking? If the pain persisted, I would be forced to stop walking, delay or even just stop entirely. Finally in Estella, I looked for the Tourist office so that they could let me know what there was to do, where to go use the internet, and where the albergue was located. In most towns, the public library had free internet access, but I never got there in Estella. Instead I was serendipitously discovered that my bad luck was really good luck and it was all meant to be as it was. I met Marian and Maria, there. They fixed hot tea and we chatted over chamomile and Marian gave me a reiki treatment that eased the pain considerably. Then she taught me a few stretching exercises to keep the leg flexible.

Then at 2 p.m. we walked over to an enoteca and had wine and cheese—I had not had wine in over 6 years because I get migraine headaches, but David, the son of the owner assured me I would not get the migraine and I didn’t! It was not a Rioja wine, it was from El Bierzo where we would be walking later on. I felt right at home with Marian’s friends and the nochebuena good cheer made it all even more pleasant.A discussion ensued when I asked about the Olentzero, the figure I’d seen all over Navarra. Oh Yes, El Papa Noel Basco, Marian answered. The various legends confirmed for me that the folk story has currency and the variants intrigued me.

Marian turned out to be a treasure trove of information; her area of specialization is the region and the Camino, and she has written several tracts, and a book on the art at the Cathedral.

Olentzero, Basque Santa Clause

Marian’s friend Maria Josebe had also come over and we hit it off right away; she got her PhD in San Diego and knows the border literature–knows my work! She gave me the key to her apartment for us to use on Christmas Day advised that we not walk since everything would be closed.She and her husband, also a professor at the Universidad de Vittoria would be visiting family and wouldn’t be back until later in the week. But, I was still not sure. I wanted to consult with Becky so I waited for her at the Albergue Parochial as we’d planned and then we’d decide whether we would take the offer or not. So, after hours and hours, chatting with Alba and with the priest and a woman who was the one in charge when there was no hospitalera/o, David, a cyclist arrived. I asked about Becky. Yes, he had seen her and she was right behind him.He was trying to get to Santiago by the 30th because he had to get back to Madrid by the new year. Since he said Becky was still a while away, I went tot he church basement across the street to use the internet. the place was full of kids playing games. Still, I was able to log on and wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Shortly after I went back to the Albergue, Becky arrived drenched! Her green poncho and all she was still soaked. We quickly got ready for mass and I put on my pink turtle neck knowing that my sisters were all wearing pink for Christmas this year.  (my sisters and I take turns choosing, and Marisela had chosen pink! this year, in 2011, Leticia chose Christmas green; next year, Elsa chose turquoise.) I was struck by an image of La Virgen del Ariche–an Ecuadorian Virgin–dressed in pink, “She’s the patroness of all who are in Spain without papers,” a man informed me as I stopped by the side altar.

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner

After mass, we gathered back at the Albergue for dinner. Alba had received a care package from some pilgrims who had come by earlier: sushi, jamon serrano, and other delicacies.

At the Albergue that night were two Spanish peregrinos, Moises and Belén. David, the cyclist, Becky and I and of course, Alba the hostelera who is from Valencia and is not really trained–she just happened to be walking back form Santiago with Xavier and the priest asked if she could stay for the 2 week period until they sent someone. She agreed and here she was making us feel at home and sharing her bounty. David names us la hermandad de Estella and tells us of his travails: newly divorced worries about his little girl. Belen and Moises are teachers and reassure him.

They are in their 7th year of marriage but have been together for 18 years. They are in their 30s. They are walking the Camino during their winter vacation; they come from a small town in Alicante. They just started walking in Pamplona due to the short time they have to make the pilgrimage. She’s getting a degree in Physcal Education; he is a Physical Education teacher. They bemoan the fact that their field of physical education is so discredited in Spain.

David, Norma, Becky, Alba, Moises

December 25, 2010

On Christmas Day indeed everything was closed, so we stayed in Maria Josebe’s apartment, we did laundry, cooked, read and just rested. The view from the apartment was picture perfect. The river Ega courses through town meandering its way past the convents and churches.  We made phone calls from a locutorio. I talked to Sandra, my sister and to Mami. Elsa says all is well. My leg felt fine and I was sure I could continue walking the next day. And so it was…

Posted December 26, 2011 by normacantu in Uncategorized

Everything is closed for the winter….where to sleep?   Leave a comment

A year ago today, I walked and remembered my friend Annie Serna on her birthday. We stayed at an apartamento turísitico, Casa Raichu, and quite a welcome site it was–a small miracle, really!

For Koks Frans Belgie who passed on this spot

Here’s what happened: as we left Hostal Roncal in Cizur Menor we headed to Uterga where we planned to stay–that was where Becky had stayed four years before. We went by beautiful country with several markers, descansos they call them in New Mexico, along the Camino. Some are in memory of a person who died while on the Camino others are erected by pilgrims in thanksgiving and are dedicated to certain saints, the Virgin Mary being the most common object of veneration.

Near Puente La Reina

As we walked we also saw huge wind turbines, the giant windmills so unlike the ones of Cervantes’s day. These are giants with elises that make an eerie sound as they gyrate producing electricity for the region.  We walked practically under the giants and the sound was such we could not carry on a conversation. They are magnificent and I am inspired so I compose a poem to them; but I don’t write it down and forget it except for the line: “Que capacidad de transformar al viento! Que talento.” It makes sense to have them here with the winds as they are…but even as they are elegant and majestic, they do mar the view and disrupt the peace and tranquility of the Camino.

Windmills for generating electricity

Becky talking to man from Pamplona; wrought iron statues in the background

Becky talking to man from Pamplona; wrought iron statues in the background








At the Alto del Perdón, the highest peak since Roncesvalles at 950 meters ( by walking to Roncesvalles via the Camino by the highway we avoided the highest, the Col de Lepoeder at 1450 meters), we meet a man from Pamplona who comes to walk “para despejar la mente” ;indeed walking in the wind along the hiking paths will clear anyone’s mind. He says we are muy valientes to do the Camino in winter. It is something we hear often. Someone sent me an email calling us “Brave.” I guess that is the translation of “valiente.” Either that or mad, Becky and I joke.

Becky's boots


The mud was deep and clayish and our boots were heavy with it. Becky’s new boots held out and she was very happy to have them. As we walked, I thought of many things and had many insights. And I kept Annie in my heart. Walking in solitude, I get many ideas for poems, novels, books, plays, stories, and I also think of my nephews, my nieces, my students, my friends and family, and I send them energy. Everyone–que valientes! They are so strong, they struggle so hard to reach their dreams. I thought of my tocaya, Norma Alarcón when I see a rock that is the exact shape of a turtle. I make offerings along the way: my walk, my energy, my gifts I offer to the universe to take and use– ” I am an instrument of our peace…the prayer of St. Francis. He made the pilgrimage too! I think of Xavier the pilgrim who made the onion soup and his desire to live a life of service to others. Everyone is a pilgrim. we are all on our own paths. I am grateful that it has not rained as was predicted and that despite the mud and the rocky path, we are safe and sound in Casa Raichu, Apartamento Turístico.

Oh yes, I was going to tell  you how we got here. We did get to Uterga, but when we arrived, at the albergue, it looked abandoned. So we went looking for the man with the key. An elderly woman came to our aid: she had few teeth and her auburn red hair contrasted sharply with the two-inch roots of grey, but she was a kind and generous host. She let us into the plant-filled foyer of her home to get out of the cold, while she called the man who had the key. He came with the stamp,  stamped our credenciales and informed us that the albergue had been closed by the municipio since August after a bed broke;  now it was being used to store all kinds of things used for the town’s fiestas. No way anyone could stay there.

View of the countryside on teh way to Uterga

They both insisted that we should head to Puente la Reina, 7 km away. It was almost 5 p.m. and the sun was making its descent rather quickly. We knew we would never make it. But we went on, after all there were no albergues or other lodging possibilities in Uterga. So we walked to Obanos in the dark and knowing–from the guidebook–that the two albergues there closed for the winter. We sat on a bench to have a bit of bread and cheese and despair as much as we gave ourselves permission to. Then, miraculously a sign appeared announcing Casa Raichu. We called the number and Raichu–nickname for Raimunda– met us at Casa Raichu on calle Larrotagaña in Obanos, Navarra. There is one other pilgrim staying the night. Pleasant man who make small talk. Can’t recall his name. The room was fabulous: embroidered cotton sheets, real soap in the bathroom, all the hot water we wanted and nice comfy beds–no bunk beds tonight!

We began a nine day cleansing of my liver, detoxifying and clearing at the higher level as well as the physical and energetic. I attribute my migraines to a lazy liver that does not detoxify properly. I am working on it during the Camino. Also the ringing in my ear. I want it to stop!

MEDITATION FOCUS: The universe works in mysterious ways. As I contemplate the prayer of St. Francis and why it has been my favorite prayer at different times of my life, I come to the realization that I am of service. That I set myself up so that I take care of others; tend to others; become the big sister. I am learning to let others take care of me. Becky has become the big sister. I let her.



Posted December 23, 2011 by normacantu in Uncategorized

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