Errata: on the blog post for the 17th …
The young 22-year old man with the mares named “moon,” Yuna and Euga, is Kiko, not Jose. The man we met in Pamplona is Pablo G. from Valencia, and he has to finish the Camino by January 10. The river in St. Jean Pied de Port is the Nive River. The alberque in France cost 10 Euros for the night and included breakfast: bread and jelly, coffee or tea, and a piece of fruit. I took an apple for the road but it disappeared during the walk.
We left Valcarlos Albergue after doing Reiki on the mare with the injured leg. Kiko had been in Valcarlos for a week, and his parents had just left after visiting with him. He took off before we did. The view from the albergue, spectacular.
We bought cheese and bread at the Venta where I bought my rain hat. At first the walking was pleasant–not too much snow on the path and clearly marked by the yellow arrows; the markers showed up well in the snow.But as we proceeded the path got narrower turned into a mere footpath and it was arduous with the snow. Yet at one point it turned magical.I stopped in awe to see birch trees under bright sun, shimmering leaves dancing as if greeting us. We walked thought a dark pine forest and at some point became confused and we went down the wrong path, as often happens in life. We back tracked and found our way and soon we were following a man and his dog, or so we deduced from the tracks on the snow covered path. It was slippery and my walk became slower than my usual gait. I stopped again in awe to see a young sapling still holding on to its leaves with snow cradled in its limbs. I didn’t take pictures because I was so intent on keeping my footing I didn’t want to stop to take the camera out of the case: I’ll keep a mental picture of the young tree that greeted us along the path, I told myself and stopped and memorized the scene with the quietness of snow and a bright blue sky and the golden red and yellow leaves dancing on the snow-covred branches. It was indeed MAGIC.
We continued walking and I felt as if the walk was interminable. As we arrived at the highway for a short stretch of about 50 meters, I gently fell on a snow-covered ice-on-cement driveway entering from the highway to the path. Nothing hurt but my ego; it’s taken so many beatings lately that I doubt it is what it needed. Becky also slipped and fell a little later so we laughed about being initiated by the Camino, comprando terreno as we say in Laredo when someone falls. I loved the view but suffered the trek. The last hill was almost my nemesis–but I dug in deeper and just kept trudging up the hill the way the arrow pointed; Becky assured me that the Roncesvalles albergue was just across the highway, but we had to get up to the highway! I grabbed onto a bush and pulled myself up as I used my walking stick to keep my balance; the backpack weighed me down and carrying all that extra weight made it difficult to balance.
Finally we arrived at Roncesvalles. But we couldn’t find a soul! We rang and rang as the sign instructed and we waited in the dark entry way to the church office, to no avail. Finally, we walked across the church yard, headed to the Hostal Roncesvalles. The snow glistened in the moonlight and the crunch of it below our feet reminded me of the many walks in the snow in Nebraska. We crossed the highway to the spot where we had been dropped off by the bus and where we took that taxi to St. Jean Pied de Port. I remembered the cab driver who drove us to St. Jean Pied de Port who told us he lived in the US for 10 years. In Idaho. No wonder he loved it–the snow must’ve been like home for him! He worked as a trucker who drove cattle to the slaughterhouses all over the west and into Texas, too, including San Antonio. He recounted stories of traveling the highways of Montana, Wyoming, Washington State, Oregon, California, and of course, Idaho. He knew the routes well–relived it all talking to us about it. We walked in and everyone stared at us. Here we were back in Roncesvalles, cold, famished and without a place to stay. Pilar had our belongings and we decided to splurge and get a room at the Hostal–we didn’t really have a choice since we could not find anyone at the albergue.
We had a dinner of “Menu del Peregrino” which consisted of scrambled eggs, French fries, tea and cuajada for dessert. We took advantage of having a room with a shower to wash our hair.We had hot water and while the albergues in St. Jean and in Valcarlos were okay, the showers were not much to speak of and I had eschewed washing my hair, after all I wore a cap, in fact, I wore a cap and a hat; I vaguely remember having some leg cramps that night when we slept in a real bed with regular linens and with a heater in the room. Por algo pasan las cosas. Had we found the albergue open, we would not have washed our hair! Sweet dreams!
MEDITATION FOCUS: Be in the Present! My father was always worried. I cannot remember a time when he was not perturbed about the future, never fully enjoying the present. I want to be in the present. I try not to worry about the path behind me or in front of me. On the Camino: I focus on where I will next place my foot, whether the boot will hold, how I use the bastón, the walking stick, to help me gain a footing on the rocky path, on the snow-covered path. I fall. I don’t worry about what ifs. I exist in time, but I am not of time. I am eternal. Just be, I tell myself while walking. Enjoy the experience, embrace the moment! Stop and look at the trees. The regal pines, birch, and others I don’t recognize, these trees are guardians of the Camino. We ask permission as we enter a forest: We request your permission to enter and walk through your forest. Keep us safe. And as we exit: We thank all beings who inhabit the space with us for allowing us to continue on our path safely. I am. I exist. I rejoice in life!