Back a week now from our five weeks in Spain, we're finally getting a chance to sort through our photos. One of the recommended activities at our albergue in El Burgo Ranero had us as hospitaleros voluntarios leading our guests to the Laguna each night to watch the setting of the sun. We were blessed with few sunny evenings, but the few we enjoyed were recorded in many photographs. Each is unique, but the one above serves as a good stand-in for the others.
Somewhere recently I heard the sappy comment "People play golf to prove they aren't dead yet." I'm not about to (or able to) to offer any opinions on the merits of the game of golf or to draw any conclusions about why people take it up. Nevertheless something about the statement seems to have stuck with me, because it came back in the late morning of May 20, 2013.
I was walking on the Camino, working my way down the incredibly beautiful but punishing trail from La Cruz de Ferro (1,505 meters) to Molinaseca (610 meters), a net loss of nearly 3,000 feet in about 11 miles.
Spring's arrival in Spain was delayed this year, and that day the temperature topped off in the forties. A fierce headwind pierced windbreaker and the layers underneath, and numbed the fingers that grasped my walking poles. Rocks protruding from the path led to inevitable stubbing of bruised toes and occasional stumbles, and melting snow left puddles to be tiptoed around. Soles of both feet throbbed from repeated pounding on the earth, and legs felt the cumulative effects of many small shocks gotten on the long down-slope trek. Overloaded backpack was beginning to stress a neck muscle. Ears hurt, and nose wouldn't stop dripping. Lungs cried out for more oxygen to fuel the uncommon exertions of my seventy-year-old body.
Despite being surrounded by beauty, I couldn't stop pondering my many large and small discomforts. This surely was not for the faint of heart, I thought. Then the statement about proving you're not dead yet came to mind and helped me to understand. The proof was all around me! Aches, pains, struggles, doubts, and the beauty that couldn't be experienced any other way combined to remind me that I was indeed alive. The thought lifted the body and the spirit. At that moment I couldn't recall ever having felt so fully, wondrously, and gloriously alive.
Monday we organized ourselves for the return to the real world. Then we tried to forget about the return and went to spend more time with the Camino. We visited the Museum of the Cathedral and had a last lunch, at Cervantes Square.
Then off to the airport for Madrid, where we almost had to sleep in bunk beds because of some deceptive hotel advertising. But we negotiated our way into real double rooms and rejoiced over dinner, wine, and good stories until we had to quit the restaurant and turn in.
Now we are all four back home. Tomorrow, Pam and James are back on the job and Russ and I are back to working on Second Wind on the Way of St James. It will be out within a few weeks.
The last time Russ and I were in Santiago, in June 2011, it hailed and sleeted. We did not go to Finisterre because we decided we would not be able to see as far as the sea. This time, Pam and James brought good luck. It was a spectacular sunny day. We had gorgeous views all along the hike from town to the lighthouse and back.
Because it was the feast of Corpus Christi, we were treated to booming, midday fireworks raining down on us as we hiked the 3 kilometers back from the end of the earth to the town to catch our magic carpet (nee bus) back to Santiago. And, we had time for a seafood lunch at a restaurant overlooking the harbor.
I spotted a geological benchmark on the train station in El Burgo Ranero, and decided to take a photo of it for my USGS friends. Then I spotted two more as we walked across northern Spain.
Unfortunately, I didn't find any on the tops of the various mountains we climbed over. Not at the highest point we trekked over, but the sign below will have to do
Peg´s plantar faciitis and blisters required she take a magic carpet ahead while Russ, Pam, amnd James hiked the 13 miles down from O Cebreiro. The magic carpet was provided by Taxi O Rubio and was a major ripoff. Rubio stated a price at 15 euros and then demanded 50! I did not pay that, but more than the 15 he quoted. Avoid Taxi O Rubio!
Pam, James and Russ climbed down and up and down and up...starting in 34 degrees and clouds and ending in beautiful cold sunshine.
Enter here. Note the Camino shell in the stonework of the sidewalk.
This is the entranceway. The stairs go up to the sleeping rooms. To the left is the kitchen and to the right is the living room. The computer station is straight ahead. Boots go under the stairs.
One side of the kitchen.
And the other side.
Here is the living room. You can just see the wood stove on the left and one part of the chair in the foreground where we check people in.
Were now on the fifth day of our planned 15-day assignment in El Burgo Ranero, and we seem to be falling into the rhythm: Up at six; say goodbye to the departing peregrinos from six-thirty to eight; clean up the albergue, usually by ten or ten-thirty; and enjoy our free time until we open our doors at one when the next stream of peregrinos begins arriving. We check them in until the albergue is full, usually by four in the afternoon, but must remain open until ten in the evening if spaces remain available. As you might have guessed, some of our free time is devoted to napping, but we´ve also been able to walk around town, shop, or stop in to one of the local restuarants for cafe con leche or a glass of wine. In four evenings we have accommodated 111 peregrinos from many different nations. Most speak Spanish or English, and those who don´t seem resigned to making allowances.
The first two evenings were cold and wet, leaving all twenty-eight of us to huddle around our smoky and not-too-warm fireplace. Fortunately, the last two evenings have featured fine weather and have permitted us to watch the sunset over the Laguna Manzana, about a block from the albergue. More good weather is forecast for the next several days.
Our building was purpose-built as an albergue in 1991, reviving the adobe (sun-dried bricks made of mud and straw) construction methods that were traditional in this region, but which had almost completely fallen into disuse.
We are not actually staying in the albergue, and will show you our accommodations in a later post.
Reading from the Beginning to the End
If you'd prefer to read about our Camino trips from their beginning points to our return, rather than blog-style . . . from the most recent post backwards in time . . . go to the section labeled Our Caminos.
Peg and Russ Hall
- Second Wind
- Why Walk It?
- Step 1. Planning Your Camino -- What kind, Where, When, How far, Alone, Getting there . . .
- Step 2. Getting Ready -- Training, Packing, Gear, Clothes, Electronics, Passports, TSA . . .
- Step 3. Being There -- Money, Lodgings, Food, Language . . .
- Step 4. Adapting -- Guidebooks, Websites, Trail conditions, Schedule, Water, Weather, Pain, Hazards, Phones . . .
- Step 5. Being a Pilgrim and a Tourist -- Types of pilgrimmage, Roman roads, Medieval life, Wonders . . .
- Step 6. Living the Lessons of the Camino -- Once or again, Connecting at home, Being hospitaleros . . .
- Who Are We?
- All of Our Caminos