18km as the crow flies; as Elena would say. Today we logged 20.1km; 27670 steps and burned 1153 calories. I guess the ham and cheese sandwich with fries counts as an experience only?! ; ) This was our longest scheduled walk for the Camino. We've two more days, each @ 9.5km. The last day takes us into Santiago de Compostella, which is July 24. July 25 (our first 'down day') is the Feast of St James (Santiago). For those of you in Canada, it is a celebration similar to Canada Day or May 24. For my American friends and family it would be....July 4, Friends and family in Mexico Mayo de Cinco and for the rest of my family and friends whose holidays I'm not familiar with, it would be similar to a national holiday in your area. I'd love for you to send me the names of holiday in your area though. What perfect timing for us!? Even better timing, remember the retired Irish music teacher I told you about...it will be his 70th birthday!!!! How brilliant would that be to celebrate your birthday after walking the Camino at the Feast of St James!!!! I´m excited for him!!!!!
There were a few things I wanted to share yesterday but forgot so I´m going to do it now. During the walk yesterday we often crossed under the national hwy by way of a tunnel (passage). When you walked under it, it would make you think of a small underpass. Because it is so small the echo is marvellous. So ever the mature person, it used my walking stick and started tapping out a beat. Keep in mind, I'm telling you....these tunnels are small and you enter and exit them at almost a 45 degree angle - got the picture how small this is? Coming at it head on MAYBE at Volkwagon beetle or Austin Mini or the small Fiat could go through so in my North American mind...I'm thinking I've this space to myself or with other foot travellers. HAHA it is to laugh. And my Canadian friends will get this for sure... All of a sudden, out of the blue in a deafing loud voice, Elena screams out ''CAR!!!'' I laughed (thinking El's being as mature as me) and turned around only to have Elena pull me out of the way of a car the size of a Toyota Camri. OMG...what in the world is a car doing down here.....I'm telling you...the paths - they refer to as 'roads' is really bizarre to me.
Remember I told you of the 'hill cafe' from yesterday...well at one point we heard these loud boom sounds! I thought a canon had gone off. An english male voice said to his group 'one pigeon down'. I laugh and thought that must be one big pigeon. For about 30 minutes you could hear these things going off. I've no idea what was happening but the sound was truly unsettling. Boom, Boom-Boom, BOOM Over and over again. Until it finally ended. Today, in the not too far distance, about the same time as yesterday, again the 'canons' went off. This time I could see the puffs of smoke in the sky. I still have not been able to figure out where the actual noice came from, or why it happens.
As for today. Elena and I knew it would be a long walking day and shortly after lunch it would start to get hot so...we planned to get up at 6:00am in order to get a solid start to the day. We may of had the 'quieter' side of the hotel because we didn't have the hwy outside our window but...we did have the cattle farm next door and the party animals outside directly below our window until 1am. Then at some point, tragedy hit a senorita. She was running around crying and a team of others seemed to be chasing her; some quietly and other not so quiet. Still, at 6:00am our alarms went off and we woke up. Can you believe this....someone had forgotten to wake the sun!!!! It was pitch black out. Not even a hit of a sunrise anywhere on the horizon. Elena and I looked at each other; neither wanting to say what we were both thinking until...''Elena, what do you think if we go back to bed for a bit - maybe half hour and we'll get going?'' says I. And so we did...well sort of. It was more like an hour an hour later we got up. No big deal; we got going fine.
The morning was cool and our walk was nice. In no time we were back in the country following at dirt path (or a 'country side road' as they call it - note to self, watch for cars, trucks, buses, bikes, cows, horses, etc) through the country side. Sometimes it was as if we were walking through a tunnel made of trees and vines. Other times as if two huge walls of rock and earth had parted, allowing us a place to walk and see what lies beyond the earth's surface. There were many foot bridges to cross as sound of babbling brooks filled the air with their laughter. Even the cool breeze seemed to gently tickle the leaves of the trees so we could hear them giggle and allow the sun to sneak through giving us a gentle kiss of warmth. From hamlet to village to country side again, the early part of our journey was filled with many opportunities to experience the wondrous beauty in nature.
Our path was splashed with a rainbow of vibrant colours today. So many flowers. Hydrainas, blue bells, bleeding hearts, roses, daisys, to name a few. The shades of green seemed to be never ending between the forests of oak, pine, and eucalyptus trees; as well as different mosses, vines and ferns. Fields of wheat and corn seemed to wave us on as we meandered our way throw the secrete passages.
As they day grew longer, the paths of shade grew shorter until finally we were walking along the hwy. Our soft paths of cool soil cushioned with fallen leaves turned to rough uneven ground littered with protruding rocks until we finally landed on the black tar of the hwy during the heat of the day. No shade and no end in sight. Each step seemed to steel all the energy we could muster. Mile markers seemed to stretching farther and farther apart. If we could only reach the 20 mile marker? I kept thinking to myself.
Finally a reprieve. The last cafe on our stop today. Elena and I agreed we NEEDED to make an 'official' stop. That meant we'd not only take a 'health' break (bathroom & beverage) but that we'd actually rest for a bit and get a solid bite of food.
The place was cool, but not airconditioned, and they offered a variety of menu choices. Shortly after getting settled at a table, I man came over with the menu and took our drink order. In no time he was back with our drinks and a young girl, who took our food order. Minutes later our food arrived. It was delicious!!! We sat and chatted a bit, about nothing really until we thought we should get going again. We had 4km to go and our day would be done...or so we thought.
Finally we hit the 20km mile marker. This was both emotional and exciting for us. At the 20km mark people often leave a small note - their intentions if you will. Elena and I were prepared for this. We had special papierus we wrote our 'intentions' on. We kept them secret. This marker also means Elena and I have walked 91km!
91km!!!! The next step we take means we're less than 20km from the end of our journey, Santiago de Compostella. That is HUGE!!!! It seems like only yesterday we had 91km to go. In spite of my horribly blistered feet we kept on trekking; one step at a time. In the heat of the day when silence seemed to be the only thing that kept you sane...we kept on trekking; one step at a time. When we knew the kilometers we understood we'd be walking were less then we were actually walking...we kept on trekking; one step at a time.
Tomorrow we are treating ourself. We have an 'expected' 9.5 distance to walk so we are going to ''sleep in'' until 7:00am!!!! I'm going to share a paragraph from our walking notes with you: ''The next point of interest is Lavacolla, where traditionally, pilgrims washed themselved in the river before reaching Santiago de Compostella. Rows of tall eucalyptus trees line your journey to Monte del Gozo (Mount of Joy, 368m) and it is from here that you can catch your first glimpse of the Cathedral of Santiago.'' How excited do you think I am!!!! And, I have to share ''Lavacolla''. This means 'washed neck'. Our taxi driver from the first day...remember the lady who studies the Camino and has walked it herself a few times...told us this; The city was named Lavacolla to recognize/honour the pilgrims who washed their necks and faces in this river, but the water made them stink horribly and that is why so much incense is used during the celebration during the mass at the Cathedral. Interesting hug!? Tomorrow night, we are sleeping in Lavacolla. If the water smells that bad...maybe I'll not bathe or maybe I'll wash my neck and face when we arrive but shower in the morning before we leave for Santiago?! ; )
I wish there was a way to add my photos so I could share them with you as I blogged, but I promise I will get them up as soon I can and let you know.
I haven't writted too much about the churches and religious markings along the way. Part of that is because, most of those are in the cities and I only see them in the morning when I'm leaving or late in the day after I've blogged. So I'm going to try to share a bit of those, I've seen so far.
Over the past few days I've seen and been able to go into several very old churches such as Santa Maria and Mary Magdeline (that I remeber their names). The churches are VERY small and maybe would hold 30 people at best. They each have their how masses, which means every church does hold a Sunday service for their community. The churches in the hamlets, if they are open when we're there, set out baskets of bread for the pilgrims to enjoy. As well they have small information materials (most all in Spain, some in French) and little charms. They are free to anyone who wishes them. Most often there is a nun there to welcome vistors, encourage them to take what they offer and ensure photos are not taken inside the church. That is the sad part, because if you're not there you won't see how simple these churches are.
Many of them have a 'wagon' wheel hanging from the ceiling with candles placed around the wheel. You can see the rope that is wound and unwound to lower and raise wheel. The walls are thick stone and bare. The wooden benches are just that. Some have a back but most don't and there is no padded anything or a kneeling bench. The alter is marble, as is the vestibule. There is a crucifix, scared heart, Madonna & child and maybe two other saints and/or paintings. And yes...candles you can actually light are at the front of the church too. In the cities you drop in a coin and an electric candle or more (depending on how much money to drop in) will light BUT...in these small older churches...it is the real candle rack with a wick, sand tray and a place to leave a donation.
Along the actual Camino there are many individually made crosses and alters. Many of these are decorated with personal items such as photos, clothing, etc. Randomly along the path are stone statues many of which have softened in appearance by the weather over the years. The Camino de Santiago de Compostella is a Christian pilgrimage and yet, along the actually path...more people seem to be on a spiritual journey; beyond religion - if you will. There have been people saying the rosary as they walk. I've seen several walking sticks decorated with saints, crosses, rosaries and other items. Funny thing...these people have HEAVY feet and seem to be on a determined mission ''Santiago de Compostella or die!'' is the motto I've given these people. The don't seem to notice all the beauty that surrounds them; the smells, sounds, the images, the wind/sun, etc.
We stopped at a cafe somewhere between Calle and Salceda that was really cool. People who´d been there while on the Camino were encouraged to leave a message. I didn´t leave a message but I did leave the following three words ''Chelsea'', ''Courtney'' & ''Cadie'' in BIG BOLD RED letters across the back of the chair I was sitting on. Later on as we came into a small hamlet, we were greeted by a motion activated message. It was in Spanish but I think it said, 'Welcome to village name have a safe Camino'. After my heart fell back to my chest...I thought how nice that was! Early in the morning...near the beginning of the day...I heard the a lovely song being song by a bird. I couldn´t see the bird to see what it looked like but hear is the best way I can share with you, it's song. First think of music class do ri mi.... ok?! [It was a Sound of Music sort of day today] So as a bird singings...the tone seemed to go mi, do, hi do and then a bree getta bree getta bree getta sound. It was so cool. There was this other sound. Again I couldn´t figure out what was making it but it sounded like a person snoring. Perhaps it was a critter?!
Ok well,´I'll close for now... Blessings and until tomorrow... Ciao Carleana
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