The undulating premise of purpose
To take time
A pilgrimage of contemporary
To walk the walk
Or to talk the walk
Of exploration along Spiritual time-honoured pathways
Haven’t written words for a while
Perhaps words have left
To venture ventures
Where lyrics flirt
With a sultry swirl
On shores of shifting sands
I’m left stranded
In solitude within the void
A vacuum filled by singing birds
At night’s end
Where twilight long
Over northern shores
I slip within the shadow
And sing the song
I am a pilgrim
Come with us on our journey. To be a pilgrim
Camino Franćes-León to Santiago de Compostela
1. Someone who journeys in foreign lands
2. Someone who journeys to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion
“A traveller is a human being on a spiritual journey, a pilgrim is a spiritual being on a physical journey”, read on a plaque along the way in the small village of Montán before reaching Serra.
Travelling the Way of St James. James, one of Jesus’ apostles
The Camino de Santiago
(Latin: Peregrinatio Compostellana, “Pilgrimage of Compostela”; Galician: O Camiño de Santiago), known in English as the Way of Saint James among other names, is a network of pilgrims’ ways or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedralof Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It’s also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts and organized tour groups. (Wikipedia)
Pilgrims, over the centuries have trekked routes from all over Europe, to pay homage, to St James, the patron saint of Spain.
What does it mean to be a pilgrim, a modern day pilgrim? For what reason do we walk?
An emotional journey perhaps through stress, loss or grief or a spiritual journey to follow sacred pathways.
We come from all walks of life, country, religion, agnostic, maybe for the challenge of the length of journey, perhaps to complete said journey in the fastest time frame.
We come with varying fitness levels; to walk kilometres each day, for days, weeks, perhaps months, perhaps fully prepared physically or perhaps fitness levels have not been considered. Many suffer injury and discover the journey becomes a painful reality, the feet hurt, the knees the…
We come with our physical and metaphorical backpacks, some light some heavily laden, our pole, poles or wooden staff, our pilgrim shell decorating and dangling from our packs; the shell, the designated symbolic icon of the Camino pilgrim. The shell has many interpretations…the bowl, the cup of the early pilgrim, the beach laden with shells where St James’ remains were brought ashore purportedly at Padrón enroute to Santiago. The scallop shell is engraved, in mosaics, wrought iron, cemented, painted, in relief, fresco, on pathways, walls, churches, countless signs, houses. A great myriad of representations, ancient and contemporary and along with the yellow arrow, our direction of way.
But what of our souls? The modern day soul, perhaps drowned in a noisy mess of infused takeaway, that includes excesses of modern living.
The static of constant noise, multiple appliance, and strived for ‘must have’ or ‘must do’, ‘the bucket list’.
Do we, in our modern pilgrimage appear to pay more homage to the modern conveniences of the available cafes, WiFi, decent coffee if it can be found and rioja vino and the rush to reach albergue accommodation before they are filled up?
There is, of course, the practical journey for consideration of distance, time frame, food, shelter, the weather.
But what of the mystical journey? To notice, to take time to notice, to stop awhile or more. To admire the tiny wildflower, shy amid the grasses of the way, to smell the proverbial but nonetheless bounty of beautiful roses adorning fences, houses, of the ancient abodes, hamlets, villages. To wonder at centuries old ruins, walls, villages, houses, farmyards, to wonder their story. To fully experience the farmyard smell of centuries practice, rich in aroma and microscopic life that is in itself a microcosm of that, that has stood the test of time. To walk through forests, shaded woodlands, over mountains, along valleys, alongside or across babbling streams. To be in joyful surrender, or attentive realization of a journey trespassed by centuries of pilgrim.
The Spiritual Journey. Within most villages, towns, cities, are the ancient temples; churches, monasteries, cathedrals of yesteryear, a catholic place of worship where centuries of the faithful have drawn comfort and prayerful retreat on an arduous journey, lacking food, warmth, decent footwear, clothing, relying on the gifts of kind folk along the journey, bread, soup, perhaps a vino, a place to rest.
Where hospital building remains and relics in towns and villages, bear testimony to the needs of the pilgrim of ancient yesteryear.
We are all on a journey. And on this journey, The Way of St James, Camino Francés, from varying starting points and for most, the destination is Santiago de Compostela.
What does it mean to me to be a
So much more than a ‘Halo’, ‘buen Camino’ platitude by travellers, pilgrims, a loose community of walkers who come from around the world are nonetheless united, thus so, in friendship fleeting, in common journey.
I feel blessed to walk the step of pilgrimage.
I feel blessed to contribute financially to local economy by my coffee food accommodation and yes vino, needs, I feel blessed when I slip into the cool quiet pews of the humble or the more decadently enriched cathedrals (despite my Protestant denomination), feel blessed by random people blessing our journey by prayer, by the gift of a small token, by a hug, a kiss on both cheeks, by a piece of mica from the land, by the offer of tea or coffee or a place to rest awhile, I feel blessed to walk a path so well trod, to smell the roses the wildflowers the wild herbs the pungent farmyards I’m allowed to trespass, to experience the cool woodlands, the beauty of early morning mists, to absorb the conversation of a countryside on a sunny day, to cope with the demand of inclement weather even though I still have kilometres to go before reaching designated destination. I feel humble when I hear stories from fellow pilgrims who have come with loss and grief, who are suffering personal relational loss and they’ve come…maybe not sure what the journey may achieve, but they have felt bound to come, driven by a deep personal or emotional need. I listen to their stories and I feel blessed to be entrusted.
I give thanks for this journey as part of my lifelong journey; I often feel blessed. I know I am lucky for whatever reason to come from afar on a sometimes challenging walk that is in itself a blessing to be physically capable with financial means, whether in mindful thought of authenticity or right of passage, I am a pilgrim, searching maybe, but in acknowledgement of a spiritual need, I am blessed that in the harmony of the moment I can just be, released of fervent emotion. I am blessed by the joy of the time to enjoy the simple wildflowers, the shy pretty commonplace wildflower, small and hiding amid the grasses of the way.
Notes, reflections from the trail, some long, some short plus a few photos, of course.
Day 1 Camino Leon to Villadangos del Paramo. 20km.
The sun greeted us warmly, stepping out on our Camino, day one, from León. So too did the very cool wind which kept pace throughout the day. My jumper stayed on despite sun’s best attempts to outdo the bite in the wind. How wonderful to have such fine weather though. “Buen Camino”, from some passers by and a few fellow pilgrims gave our walk a cheering official call. Some pretty birdsong every now and then, but it was the cheerful bright colour of the variety of weeds including patches of lavender growing along the path through an otherwise uninspiring landscape, that provided good cheer. Interesting underground hovels reminiscent of Hobbiton in Lord of the Rings had us speculating on type of habitation. Some still loved, others dilapidated. The way today was relatively uneventful, 20kms covered with one stop for “Dos cappuccino per favor” Meson el Yugo restaurant, and a reasonable cappuccino it was, served with a little muffin and costing €3.60 for the two.
Day 2 Camino Saturday 8 June 2019 Villadangos del Paramo to Astorga.
Breakfast of coffee and croissant. Sunny and cool at about 6 deg but no wind. Walk to Hospital de Orbigo along straight pebble pathway pass farm crops of maize and wheat and alongside the main highway to Santiago. The way became interesting turning into a cobblestone path leading across a pretty arched bridge and into a charming village Hospital de Orbigo. Bought fruit, yoghurts, nuts and ate in the shade of the little village. Further on and into quaint small Villaires de Orbigo where a welcome coffee awaited at one of the restaurant bars.
We’ve been fascinated by ancient brick belltowers that are home to storks. Their large nests atop the three points
Walked 30km and my feet felt it. Especially after 20kms yesterday as well.
Staying Astorga near the beautiful cathedral.
Had a warm bath after soaking feet in cold water first. Bliss. Slept for 30 mins then to the supermercardo for salad, cereal, fruit, tin tuna (atun), yoghurts cheese, biscuits, plastic plates and forks, red wine. Eating in our comfortable hotel room and resting.
Fennel and lavender adorned much of the way.
Day 3 Camino Sunday 9 June Domingo nueve de Junio 2019 Astorga to Rabanal de Camino
Slept well in a huge bed and in a room with electric blackout shutters
After bags to reception and breakfast in our room, wandered around. Need to wait until 10am for the cathedral officio de tourista is open to get out Camino passport stamped. Cafe at Gaudi Hotel and met 2 Australian women from Sydney. Walked 3 Camino and gave good information about staying at albergues and transport arrangements for bags
An old woman stopped and blessed us as we were leaving Astorga, pressing a tiny icon into my hand then kissed both cheeks.
Gorgeous sunny day.
Loved walking up into the cobblestone paved village of Rabanal.
Attended Georgian chant by a handful of monks in the 13c Santa Maria church. Beautiful acoustics.
Ate at the nearby Albergue Hosteria. Delicious food.
Day 4 Camino Monday June 11 Lunes Once de Junio 2019 Rabanal de Camino to Molinaseca.
Beautiful day but cool. Left after breakfast; our cereal, fruit, yoghurt in the kitchen of our accommodation. Stopped in the Church of Santa Maria first. No one there, so sang. Beautiful acoustics in this 12c church.
Walked 5 km to the first village of Ruta Lafervencia for a much welcome coffee and toast with a delicious tomato topping. Gradually climbing to this point and the air was cool. Trail easy with pretty wild flowers blooming alongside the trail. The cloudscape came to play again adding drama to the freshness and colourful vibrancy in the mountains. The birds constantly sung and tweeted, butterflies danced playfully and plants were vibrant in colour and variety.
For a number of small villages along the Camino route, pilgrims are bringing in much needed revenue. Old abandoned stone cottages are being restored, allowing villagers to cater effectively in providing accommodation and meals for the pilgrims tourists, walking, cycling and those traveling by faster means. It’s wonderful to see the villages growing prosperity. The charming stone villages are a delight, some more so than others.
Met a delightful kiwi couple now living in Ruby Bay near Nelson walking from St Jean Pier du Port to Santiago with 10 yo Hunter, 8 yo Tui and 16 month old Bella. Hunter walked with John for quite sometime, deep in conversation.
Day 5 Camino Molinaseca to Ponferrada
7 km walk. Short day. Slept 1 1/2 hours then started writing for 2nd blog. Walk along river near nice arched bridge. Mediocre dinner in Square near hotel. More writing bed.
Day 6 Camino Ponferrada to Villa Franca de Bierzo
Great breakfast in hotel. Nicely presented.
Eventually walking through vineyards. A board offering smoothies had us stopping. John bought a leather bracelet with a silver shell from a man making leather articles.
5.3km before our destination, drawn by the beautiful music of Australian Aboriginal Geoffrey Gurrumyl, we stopped in the shade of a little bar for an iced coffee and a local red wine.
Reaching Villafranca Del Bierzo our gps had us on a merry dance. Finally found our accommodation, a b&b and here for next 2 nights.
Cigueña means stork. Pronounced thewenna
Beautiful village, in parts, centuries old.
Dinner in the plaza but a cold wind eventually came up. Had the 3 course menu on offer for €11 each which included a bottle of wine. Both wine and meal apart from the entree soup was uninspiring. Finished the wine inside the restaurant and watched women world soccer. Australia play tomorrow against Brazil
Day 7 Camino. Rest day in Villafranco de Bierzo
Reasonable sleep. Accommodation at Venecia b&b pleasant enough but some yoghurt at breakfast might have jollied that meal up.
Carlos our host is a most personable and helpful man.
Took the opportunity to write part 2 of Russia Scandinavian Tour. Huge effort. Difficult to write up on the phone and in selecting photos. So many places to write about too. Not the most succinct or inspiring blog but communication none the less for friends and family should they wish to look. At least a record for us.
Slow WiFi did not help. Where does my patience come from?! Ages to upload photos ages to update each time. Virtually spent the day on this. Mustn’t be disillusioned by my blog today. It was a mammoth task.
Lunched at La PetitPause. Quite nice lasagna and a very good glass of local red wine.
Tonight, the locals are out wining and dining in the plaza. Still cool tonight and we al wear jackets and scarves but conversation is flowing all around. We are at Sevilla and have ordered salad and pizza and local beer.
Day 8 Camino Villafranco del Bierzo to Les Herrerias
About 16kms Weather fine.
Met up with an American couple Bill and Anna, Anna is also Spanish. Enjoyed their company for the morning, then parted ways having reached our respite for night in Las Herrerias.
Lunch in one of the cafes. Mixed salad, vegetable pasta, glass of local red wine, a desert of crime caramel to share. Sat opposite a field with cows having their lunch!
Casa Polin. Tonight we are staying in a humble abode that is clean and comfortable and resides by a rushing stream. Mountains surround. There are cows with horns in a nearby field, stocky in build and, I think, one with calf walking somewhat ungainly and heavily. She has a bell around her neck. Birds are chirping outside the window. A peaceful pastoral village. Healthy vegetables are growing in various plots and so too are many healthy, beautiful looking roses adorning various gardens, houses fences. I stopped to smell the roses. Some of the houses are dilapidated, some in good repair. The village looks swept clean. A sense of pride in home and village. It feels like a blessing to come stay here a little while.
Day 9 Camino Casa Polin in Les Herrerías to Linar Do Rei –albergue with private room and bathroom.
Humble but comfortable at Casa Polin in Les Herrerías. Comfortable bed. Breakfast of good coffee and toast and jam.
Raining. Put the wet weather gear on but after awhile, felt like we were walking in a sauna. Overcast, misty in places, slight drizzle but as we made our way up the mountains we soon warmed and needed to take gear off.
Interesting village at Ò Cebreiro straw thatched round buildings, cobblestone village, church of Santa Maria.
Staying in linar do rei albergue with private room and en-suite. Modern plain building! Supermarket nearby but no cafe restaurants.
Had to ask 5-6 people talking and laughing outside our room, a common area, to go to bed at 11.40. They did.
Day 10 Domingo 16 June 2019 Linares to Triacastila Casa Simon 21 Km
Breakfast at Linar do rei of muesli yoghurt a peach. So happy to leave this accommodation. Did not like this albergue. It’s modern countenance was not charming, was acoustically challenged in that the walls were paper thin and chairs, tables, stools scraped the floor noisily and any conversation sailed through without muffle.
Beautiful day, wind cool initially, sunny and could see for miles over the surrounding hills. I chose to walk apart from the many loudly talking pilgrims who were disturbing the harmony of this beautiful day. The need to walk alone is necessary to reflect, to ponder the moment. Walking mostly downhill from Alto do Poio after coffee and toast ( nice Spanish bread)
The pathway followed the road for some while but eventually turned allowing the way to be edged with woodland flowers. In my solitude engaged with the beautiful conversation of the countryside, a smile of joy spreads and stays. The chirping insects dancing butterflies, tweeting and chirping birds, near and further, the slight cool breeze shifting shadows, trees shading intermittently, the sun warm and celebratory of this glorious day. The views far reaching over mountains, the closer dressed with broom, the yellow in serenade with the sunny day or fields of vegetables or jaw munching cows. It was a day to be walking the countryside.
Numerous little flowers, shy amidst the grasses. A multitude of colour and variety deserved my attention. More than weed, they are the wayside flowers of the Camino, their sweet beauty adding to the rich Spring conversation
Lunch of lentil soup, croquettes, bread and a beer each. Nice. At s wayside cafe with a welcoming outside area.
More villages passing between farm sheds, animal manure underfoot above the cobbled stone or stretches of concrete. The peace of passing through stretches of woodland avenues.
A chestnut tree guards the ancient pathway into the village of Fillolobal, it’s girth wide and gnarled with parts purportedly 800 years old. The tree grows ever strongly, her leaves green and vital. How many pilgrims have passed her way?
Triacastela is a pleasant town to wander into. Her church XIi c has three castle frescoes on the front, in reference to three castles that once stood bastion in the area. Now her church holds regular mass and the grounds hold some large ancient and contemporary family crypts.
Ate at Complexo Xavobea, a nearby recommended restaurant. Tried the local favourite Pulpo (Octopus) and pimentos. Both good and a mixed salad.
The town an important link in the Camino walk from St Pier du Port to Santiago.
Really like our accommodation at Casa Simon. First floor which meant John carrying suitcases up, yet again. Just as well he’s strong! Our room overlooking the narrow crossroad from an old small ironwork clasped balcony where double doors allowed entry onto. Our bathroom also opens similarly but without a balcony. The large bed was very comfortable. Access to the balcony, with thoughtful provision of a small clothes horse, allowed our washing to dry quickly in the sun. Donna, our host was most welcoming.
Day 11 Monday 17 June 2019 Triscastila to Sarria ( Casa Simon, High Rentxaobeo)
Very comfortable in the massive bed at Casa Simon. Lovely old room with fold out shutters to both bathroom and bedroom. The bedroom had a small old balcony where we were able to dry the washing on a provided small clothes wrack. First time this has happened. Usually we convert the bathroom into a Chinese laundry using our travel clothesline.
Breakfast at same nearby restaurant we ate dinner at. 6€ for fried egg, toasted ham sandwich bread orange juice(fresh) and coffee.
Stepped out into a misty morn
We walked across a babbling brook, ‘twas in a rush in reality, along fields of nettles and wild grasses until the mist obscured the view
Walking into a misty world where birds chirruped in serenade
Not sure about the electric cutter disturbing the tranquility but I guess people have work to do.
Down Through then up the quaint farm village. Rustic, aged barns emitted clucking and mewling sounds. As we climbed further, roosters in competition, the alternating cockadoodledoo echoing, the mist occasionally thickening, lending ethereal to the mix.
One must be wary at times for cyclists suddenly coming from behind. Not always do they call out or ring their bells.
Respira y disfruta. Simon originally from NSW 5 years here. His rambling home and permaculture garden, a refuge, a place to stay and work. Teaches meditation and yoga. Interesting calm man. Made us most welcome.
Ditte from Denmark composing music as she travels each day on her ukulele. I told her that I loved what she was doing. Later we talked when we met up again at la Casa del laquinista (where we bought a small crystal art piece. The crystal is ground, separated from the quartz rocks in the area and used to make art.) Her mother died a year ago. This journey is about recovering from the death of her mother, composing a song about her drawn from her pilgrimage.
Mia made Malissa herb or Melissa tea for our refreshment at La Casa del Laquinista.
Angsts of the heart released and maybe songs of the soul, melodies drawn from the moving landscape will fill the space, the experiences gained through people met, the meditation of opening up to new and different, seeing purity in the gifts of kindness, grace in simplicity, back to nature with time to relax, relate or just absorb the now, this moment.
High Rentaxaceaobeo apartment in Sarria took awhile to locate. An apartment building that is immediately alongside a similar development that must have suffered during the gfc financial troubles, and ground to a halt. Luckily some people from America were also trying to bk into another apartment. They had a phone but no contact number. We had a phone number but no phone. Al sorted including luggage. Lovely spacious three bd apartment with balcony views both sides. Large supermarket across the street. Bought groceries and stayed n enjoying our own company and coming. Did a decent wash in the washing machine. Very comfortable for two nights.
Day 12 Tuesday 18.06.2019 Sarria Rest day.
Washing onto a clothes horse inside as it looks like rain. Nice day although raining. Walked the local sights. Met up with various people we’ve previously connected with including Andrea, her father Trevor and family friend Gaye all from Melbourne (travelling through Raw Travel) Invited them to bring and share dinner at our place at 7. No contact, just arranged a time. They came. Good evening and we were all were pleased to share a meal not restaurant provided.
Day 13 19.06.2019 Wednesday Sarria to Portomarin
Food left over from previous night so ate bounteously at breakfast. Had coffee at nearby cafe and set off at 9.15. Had rains earlier but fine but cloudy for our walk.
Many more pilgrims today. People walking the last 100kms to Santiago can receive their Camino passport certificate with the collection of 2 stamps per day. So Sarria is their set off point.
Coffee along the way but we had plenty of food and picnicked when ready for a break. Rain held off.
Portomarín interesting. Reservoir created in 1960. All buildings of note moved to higher ground before the valley was drowned. Extraordinary to look at the cathedral having been moved block by block and rebuilt in its current location, block by block.
Day 14 Thursday 20.06.2019Portomarin to Palais de rei 25 km
Enjoyed staying at Casa Maeson. Modern interior small room but nicely equipped with delightful small balcony overlooking the tourist street and next to the main cathedral. Very well positioned. Breakfast provided. Met Breda and Mary from Ireland and Kwan and Mimi and friends from Korea but now living in Calgary in Canada, at breakfast.
After crossing the bridged reservoir, our trail traversed woodland but mainly alongside minor roads. Also through a few villages. Walked quite fast. Many more pilgrims and at least 3 large groups of Spanish students, teenagers and early 20’s.
Day 15 21 June 2019. Jillian’s birthday. Palais do Rei to Melide. 14kms.
Beautiful stone bridges
Serenity in the old small church
Day 16 22.06.19 Melide to Azura
Best coffee n Spain
John swimming with kwan at accommodation in Melide
Walking through Eucalypt woodlands.
Day 17 23 June 2016 Arzúa to O Pedrouzo
Today was walking a Eucalypt woodland way, made us feel at home although interspersed with oak trees, it wasn’t quite like walking, say the Bibbulmun Trail in Western Australia.
My senses are alive. Perhaps days and days of walking through countryside, heightens the sensory receptors. Olfactory, particularly, heightened by the countryside smells…the Eucalypt trees through the shady pathway, roses, jasmine, the sun dried grasses, the yeasty aroma passing barnyards, the tang of cow dung, the light rain-dampened underfoot, the freshness of the fusion of country; an olfactory delight that centres the moment.
The birdsong a constant, often a gentle surround sound that may not be noticed unless attuned. Rarely jarring except when a crow like cry might question the moment. The singing & tweeting birds, a beautiful accompaniment to the day’s venture, peaceful, joyful, delightful. Not often seen but for a quick flitter here and there, the little songsters sit hidden in the canopy of shrub, bush, tree, of the way, singing the joy of the day. So too the rooster coralling attention or the clucking egg-laying hens in villages passed through.
Yesterday and today, the country soundtrack was punctuated with sounds of gunfire or fireworks. This area is celebrating a festival over the weekend and the firework explosions are related to this. Glad to find out; it is disconcerting to hear when the sounds and their reason are unknown.
The fruits of this season in this region are bountiful, purchased in local town supermarkets or small kiosks along the way. Plums, peaches, oranges, bananas, cherries, berries. They taste so good. We are enamored too with the various cheeses, soft and hard, goat and cow. The wines of the region and we’ve sampled only reds, are full bodied and cheap. Poupo (octopus) and pimentos local specialties of Galacia are tasty.
Day 18 Monday 24 June O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela
Lovely cool sunny partly cloudy morning with birds exquisitely singing as we set off for Santiago de Compostela our destination! 315 km plus.
Walking the Eucalypt way again
Lovely walking through many shaded avenues of Eucalypt and oak woodlands to a birdsong chorale.
So many small hills! Was surprised by this. Had heard that the last 100kms into Santiago was relatively flat. Certainly not that. Not difficult for us and the hills were not mountains. Nonetheless, the people starting their 100km walk from Sarria to Santiago, unprepared physically, would not find it a comfortable walk.
Arrived! Arrived into Santiago de Compostela, Spain, that is…end of our Camino from León on 7 June to Santiago de Compostela today. 315kms plus. Feeling pretty good, we are. No feet, knees or other issues. Walked in with a few ‘walking wounded’ though.
Felt emotional…Such a wonderful feeling coming into the main square. What’s more, the cathedral no longer covered in scaffolding as it was in 2015.
However, the interior is now being refurbished. No mass for pilgrims in the cathedral for a few years. (We were blessed to attend a mass in the Cathedral here in 2015 following our Portugués Way Camino. We heard mass in Latin joined the soloist nun in refrain and watched in awe as the mighty botafumeiro swung to and fro with trail of incense smoke to bless all.)
Thank you for ‘walking’ Camino Francés from León to Santiago de Compostela with us. We’ve loved the experience of walking another Camino in Spain. We take with us countless memories, photos, new friendships, renewed bodies and souls. To walk, one step at a time, on a journey of our choosing and to be enriched physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually is a blessing of which we have immense gratitude.
We are now enjoying a return trip to Oporto in Portugal. 💗 Porto! We loved going to Barcelona too prior to the start of our Camino. We visited Sagrada Família many times, overawed by Gaudi’s fantastic vision. The interior is just beautiful also. But that’s maybe another blog post. Adios my friends. Nancy & John