I’ve been swamped with classes and getting back into the semester, so I have not kept up with this blog…a year ago today, we were walking from Samos where we stayed at the monastery; we had climbed to one of the highest peaks at O’Cebreiro, entered Galicia and . So, I will try to catch up, maybe write up two or three tonight and catch up with the rest tomorrow before I go to Laredo and get behind again! I am planning to present a talk at UTSA on February 8, 2012. I can’t upload photos tonight, but will update the post with photos later on.
So, a year ago, on the morning of the 21st of January, we had a hard time getting out of Villafranca del Bierzo. After eathing breakast with the other pilgrims at the albergue Casa Fenix, we sat and chatted with Jesús, who told us stories about his healing gift. How he, as a child, had learned the healing arts from his maternal grandmother, Genoveva (my saint’s name–her day is my b’day Jan 3). His paternal grandfather Domingo and grandmother Margarita were tall and big. He was killed by a bull. He was chosen to take over the albergue, but he was reluctant. Jesus drove a truck for 40 years so he knows the country well. He also joined a monastery and was a Capuchin Monk! His family has always served the pilgrims along the Camino. He travelled from Santiago to Rome on bicycle. He met Pope John 23rd–he loved it! He is getting old but he won’t quit the albergue; he’s afraid it will be turned into a money making enterprise and lose the focus on the pilgrims and the service to the Camino. Hilario,his helper, listened quietly. The dogs, an older one named Como tu and 2 younger pups played around us as we said goodbye. We quickly got lost. We kept getting lost! finally we ended up in front of a funkylittle shop where I bought some cards about the Camino and Becky bought a pendulum. As we stood outside the shop, an older woman stopped and began talking to us in French. Her name? Teresa. She’s a local who told us she always advises the pilgrims not to take the rougher trek up through the hills, but to take the path that goes along the highway. Especially in winter. But, we had already decided we wanted to take the former–in the past everytime we walked along the highway we felt we were cheating somehow.
Because we were the first customers of the new year at the shop (she’d been closed for the holidays) the shopkeeper gave us a stick of incense. I still have it. We left and got lost again! The shopkeepet had explained that Villafranca is like a hole, according to the game of La Oca, and as eveyrone knows it is a parallel to the Camino, she says. According to the her: Ponferrada is the labyrinth, Villafranca el pozo. No wonder! We are almost at the end. I feel sad when she tells us so. There is so much to learn about the Camino. About the characters along the way. About ourselves. Jesus told us that “el rencor” causes injuries. I want to learn more about the physical and emotional ties.
Finally, by 11:30 a.m. we were on our way. We stopped to eat a bite and rested on a rocky ledge. The view was beautiful with butterflies for company. The piece of cheese and bread fed our bodies; the view and the ley lines fed our souls! We went on climbing on a very rough Camino. At one point I remembered my neighbor in San Antonio, as I often did when the Camino was really steep. He had told me that he would help me with the mochila, the backpack, if I remembered him. And it seemed to work! We encountered an area where some pilgrims had painted stones with bright colors. We saw a sign as we climbed that read, “Camino solo para buenos caminantes.” It really was a rough road! We walked in brilliant sunlight. But we were in high spirits. Plus, we had a glorious sun, after days of walking in fog. The angels were watching over us! It was cold, but not unbearably so. In fact, for the first time, I removed my parka because I was hot, sweating under the hot sun! Two pilgrims passed us–a man and a woman–as we left Villafranca. We stopped at Pradela to have a juice at a bar; two Japanese women passed us. We kept on to Trabadelo. Everyone had warned us about the Camino through “el monte” but we found it marvelous to walk up in the wild.
We arrived in La Portela de Valcarce and stopped at the albergue that has private rooms with bathroom for 8 Euros. I was so needing to wash my hair! The hot water and good heating was such a luxury! We felt decadent and braced ourselves for the next day’s trek up to O’Cebreiro; we will leave Castilla y Leon and enter the provincia de Galicia!