Today I passed the half way point on my journey to Santiago. I have now walked over 400km (240 miles) since leaving St. Jean in France on the 24 of April. I have a lot of thought and reflections at this point – many still forming, but at this time all I can say is the I feel good and am glad to be here – although I miss my family greatly.
Please pray for me and know that you are in my prayers.
The last few days have been a long walk through wheat fields in the hot sun interrupted every now and than by a small village and the rare town of some size (think 5000 people – so not so big). The one thing they all have in common is the presence of a church. In fact most have a couple and I have even walked through a town of very few residence but with 7 – YES 7, large and beautiful churches. The other day over dinner a Canada whom I have spent some time with said, “Did you ever think you would find yourself saying?” – “oh look another medieval church – yawn?”
When I first got to Spain I was not sure I would have enough time to walk to Santiago seeing as I was taking out my camera every 5 minutes to take a picture of one more church or religious relic or statue, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Spain is a beautiful country full of amazing history, scenery, good food, better wine and loud fast talking people, but most of all it is a country deeply steeped in its Christian history. Some of this history is good and some not so. This is the country that birthed the Jesuits but also the inquisition.
Spain is a country of faith, at least historic if not front and center in it present.
The reality is, that most of these amazing churches and cathedrals that I have past are somewhere between historic ruins and museums full of priceless art, religious artifacts and spectacular, if not a little dark for my theological taste, architecture/statuary.
This day was different. As I write this, I am sitting outfront of a cafe/bar enjoying a beer and some olives in the town square of Carrion De Los Condes, a town with 3 active convents/monasteries, a couple of churches (one of which, Iglesia de Sta. Maria del Camino is a thriving parish), and a new and very large parochial school with teenaged boys playing football/soccer on a very well equipped field. I fact Carrion De Los Condes has five good sized pilgram’s hostels all either run by a convent or the local Church.
At home and in Spain at times it may feel as if religion and faith might be a relic of the past but when we allow God to be fully manifested in our lives in the here and now, it can still lift the hearts of the weak, give rest to to the weary, hope to the hopeless and joy to us all.
Today, I have discovered The Best Thing EVER, but more about that later. Today was a very different day then the ones before. After a rest day in Burgos I was very ready to get back an the road. My body and mind like the city, but my spirit is best in the solitude of the “Way.” And solitude is what I got. I walked all 20 miles by myself in silence (well there was quite a conversation going on in my head and I only a few times spoke to myself out loud – but you know what I mean), I did not run into a many people and no English speakers. The only sounds I heard for the better part of the day were my feet on the path, the wind and the birds – lots of birds. This solitude was interrupted a few time by a simple hola, buenos dias or the ever present buen camino as I passed a fellow pilgrim, was passed or walked though the few villages I went trough.
As I wrote yesterday the area I am now walking in is the Meseta (misspelled it in last post), think highland dessert (mesa) and turn it green and you will get the idea. Hot, featureless and boring.
20 miles of that and 6 more days to go – welcome to my world for now.
This is not a bad thing, lots of time to think and meditate or just see things. It helps you to understand Don Quixote that much better. He wasn’t crazy he had just spent to much time on the Meseta.
That brings me to The Best Thing EVER . I arrived in Hontanas after walking for 7 hrs, 5 in the heat of the day (I started at 6) and checked into a lovely albergue run by a Cuban couple that have restored an old barn and church into a great place to stay (7 euros or $10). After getting settled, laundry and shower, I discovered The Best Thing EVER , a foot bath fed by a ice cold spring.
I have not posted in a couple of days and that is due to a number of facts: A. wifi connections have been iffy. B. Tired at end of day. C. Not much to say – just walking and meeting many nice new folks. I have met some really interesting people in the last few days, young and old, from all over the world. Shared a meal and bottle of local wine with a 60ish year old man from Slovenia a couple nights ago and learned all about there resent history. It is amazing hoe faith, family and a strong community can get you through most anything – with a joy-filled spirit intact. After I heard about the trouble of the past all he talked about was the blessing of the present and future.
The Camino is traditionaly divided into three segment. As of yestarday I have completed the 1st and before I begin the 2nd or the Masada, I am taking a day off from walking and staying an extra night in the very busy and interesting city of Burgos. Burgos is full of pilgrims doing the same, all limping around enjoying not having a heavy pack on and the sites of this city that combines the modern, the old and the ancient together in that very typically Spanish way.
The two most notable things to see in Burgos is The Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the Museum of Human Evaluation. Both fascination and worthy of my staying in town to visit.
My blisters are well under control but I have been having some significant pain in my right foot and it has been making going down hill very painful for the last few days. I thought I knew what was going on but had it looked at to confirm – I was right, I had broken the small toe on my right foot. Painful but not exactly life threatening. Ice and tape and tomorrow I will be good to go.
The Masada is a huge highland plateau representing some 40% of Spains land mass and known/feared/loved by centuries of pilgrims for its featureless landscape, hot sun, many colors and beautiful skis. This is the land that inspired “Don Quixote – The Man of La Mancha.” It is said to be a land that can both bore and inspire – I’ll let you know in a few day. Nice thing is the it is relatively flat which will help with the healing of my foot.
Here are some pics from the last few days:
Today was the first “boring” day of walking (not a bad thing). If the last couple of days have been about vineyards, today was about wheat fields. It was like walking through the mid-west but with hills. The sky was grey and I walked the whole day by myself. The solitude and lack of scenery gave me time to think and reflect some..
As those of you know who read yesterday’s post know, I was not in the best of places yesterday (not the physical place – the town was great) the physical and emotional place. My feet really hurt, I was tired, frustrated and I spent a good deal of time limping around town going from one door to the next looking for a place to stay but everywhere was pre-booked, which is unusual up to this point on the camino. The only place with a room was a rather expensive hotel, well outside of the budget I had set for myself. I such a busy city, with so many people, I was feeling pretty lonely. Quite frankly I was depressed and feeling sorry for myself, something I hate.
Priscilla and I have been communicating by wifi texting, which is free, versus calling, which is expensive. But now I pulled out my cell phone and called her. I did not get through and left her a message saying that there was no problem just wanted to say hi. I sat down on a bench and tried to figure out what to do next. Some folks had taken a bus a few days ahead to get some rest, but I did not want to do that unless absolutely the only option – Looking back I must have looked pretty pitiful.
Then the best thing that could have possibly happened – happened – my cell rang and it was Priscilla calling back. I spelled out my dilemma and she told me to check into the hotel, have a nice meal, put my feet up and get some sleep. As usual, I did what I was told.
Priscilla and I have been married for over 26 year and together for something like 34 years and it never ceases to amaze me how much I love her. Relationships are hard. Living with another person can at times feel like a lot of work. Now, while I am probably the easiest person to live with, I can’t say that about everyone. But I can say without a moments hesitation that my life is better because of the people who love me and who I love and I am a better man because of the woman I was lucky and smart enough to marry those many years ago.
And for that I thank God everyday – and if I don’t, I should
Today was a very different day from the last few. While I woke up around 5:30 and started walking before 6 as usual, today I walked alone. It was a short day of only 14 miles, my feet are not doing well. Everything from the ankles on up is doing great – far better than expected. Today I had scheduled a short day because I wanted to visit the Cathedral of Santa Domingo (St. Dominick) and visit his tomb.
and the chickens living in the Cathedral (google it, it is worth it)
While I did spend quite a bit of time in the Cathedral, I have also checked into a hotel to care for my feet and my ego. Humility is a hard learned lesson and today the Camino and my feet were my teachers. My frustration with my fragility has passed and I am enjoying both the rest and this beautiful city.
Please pray for my journey and know that you are in my prayers.
Yesterday (May Day), was a long walk on a beautiful day. Started the day in the dark and thought that I was the first out of town after a good nights sleep. That was until I came upon Ivano, a friend I have been walking and visiting with for a couple of days now. Ivano is from Milan and a recently retired officer in the Italian military’s Mountaineering corp. He is a very sweet man who is very excited about the birth of his 1st grandchild in October. Ivano kept me busy for a couple of hours working on his English. He has tried to help me with my Italian, but you only imagine how that is going, non va bene. After awhile we spread out, which is the way of most days. Pilgrims spread across the width of Spain, not just for 800km but for centuries.
Oh look, another vineyard – as the miles past so did the vineyards – for this is La Rioja, one of the finest wine regions in the world (take my word for it, the wine is good and cheap – a bottle included with most pilgrims meals (no cost)). Even though there is no fruit on the vines until the fall the air still smells of grapes – it is lovely. One vineyard after another as the path rolled on.
By 2:30 I was walking into Najera, just over 40km (right under 30 miles) from where I had begun my day. I was not the only person traveling the Camino that date day who did not realize that it was May Day, a national holiday and the day of a big Renaissance fair in town, fun, but also meant that not a bed in town was available except at the municipal albergue (never my 1st choose or 2nd for that matter – a couple of euros can get you much better lodging). So I spent the night in one room with four toilets and 89 of my closest friends, most of whom I will never know but I have heard snore, caught and fart in their sleep (did I mention snore – free wine and all). That said I was so tired I got a good nights sleep.