not too often I get an internet along the way -- they are there but mostly do not work or are so slow and archaic that it is just not worth the effort.
Not that there is not so much much to tell and write down --- rest assured -- it is quite obviously why everyone who does this pilgrimage feels the needs to write a book about the experience.
And tonight my fingers are completely frozen so the spelling may leave a lot to be desired..........
the temperature outside is way below zero and yesterday and this morning it snowed -- with a strong wind which is blowing straight off the snow capped mountains lying to the north and in front of me now ---
in a day or two I will be going up those mountains and it is quite interesting how it is an exciting rather than a frightening thought.......
the camino must be getting to me after all......
My one fellow pilgrim, Akira, is leaving tomorrow from Asturga to Madrid from where he is flying back to Japan tomorrow night --- we have walked together these last two days and tomorrow he will walk the last 15 km to Asturga ( Nici will no doubt correct the names as she follows my route on Google earth -- and I do so get the Spànish names completely wrong --- but really -- somehow it is just not important which town or village I am in, nor what day of the week or date it is.........) --- anyway -- he will walk the 15 km to there to catch a bus to Madrid and off to Japan tomorrow night... Most of the rest of the fellow pilgrims I have met on the way stayed behind in Leon two days ago to sight see and visit dentists and do all those sort of things..
I had to have my shoes repaired --- they started top show some wear and I was concerned about the snow and rain ahead -- and I was so lucky to find a cobbler who really knows his stuff --- he practically took my shoes completely apart and rebuilt them on the sides where the problem was -- 45 minutes he worked without a break -- and what did he charge me -- Euros 4!!! quite quite amazing! One never ceases to be surprised by the incredible things that happen on the way of Santiago.
I have to admit to you all that I have had two really bad days--- -- going into a city is never a pleasant experience, but going into Leon was a day in purgatory. Having to walk alongside huge national motorways with large trucks and cars going at 150 kph flying past one, is not an experience I wish on anyone --- especially when your feet are on fire and your legs feel wonky and you have just walked 30 km over stones and more stones and more stones.
And a lot of the way the ´way´was literally the ditch along the highway -- so a matter of balancing on one incline then the other, rubbish strewn all the way and often foul smelling water running in the ditch between your legs.
----I took pics --- yes, you know what that means --- I intend to write to the king of Spain and tell him what I think of this bad treatment of pilgrims.... Usually when one gets close to big roads --- fortunately not very often -- the truck drivers are very sweet and honk on their horns once or twice and wave to the pilgrims --- it is encouraging and heartening --- but when it happens along the national highways, it means the honking nearly deafens your right ear and leaves it singing for half an hour later and they are going much too fast and too close for you to take your eyes off the ditch for one second to wave back. Not good.
Then -- Leon was absolutely beautiful and I had a moment to go look at the most amazing cathedral there, -- and the refugio in Leon was a Benedictine monastery -- which meant curfew at 9pm straight after vespers -- and also meant women and men slept apart which was pure bliss --- no snoring!!!! --- but also meant breakfast at dawn -- before 6am --- and no talking in between lights out and lights on --- but once again leaving the city is nightmare. It takes about two hours to get out of the city -- and usually through the worst part of the city -- the industrial parts where signs are often difficult to find and one can easily take the wrong route. Fortunately I did not, but, immediately after the first village outside the city., I did take the wrong turn -- could not find a yellow arrow or a shell sign anywhere, and continued walking regardless -- as there were some footprints in the mud and that is always a sign pilgrims when that way before you. I continued walking for about 6 km and came to an area where there were a lot of new houses -- but obviously not a village -- no church or bell towers with stork nests and storks tuck-tuck-tucking away--- and when I finally found a person to ask where i was, the poor man was totally confused. I was so far off the Camino track he did not even know how to advise me to get back on it. The only thing I could do was turn around ---. the nightmare of any pilgrim --- and get back to the point where I had gone wrong. Difficult to explain what that does to ones spirit. The way is hard and demanding enough --- but to walk backwards is killing. And all of a sudden your 24 km walk of the day becomes a 34 km walk for the day --- a huge difference --- especially when you body is already sore and your feet already pulp.
Anyway, I got to the village where Akira and I had agreed to meet last night and there he was -- the only other pilgrim in the Refugio, with a glass of wine ready for me, a chair by the heater (the temperatures have suddenly fallen drastically and the streams are frozen and the hoar frost on my fleeece making long silver strands that are beautiful...) and he cooked the most amazing meal for the two of us ---a cauliflower and carrot soup (trust me, it was divine!) and fish and rice --- I went to bed last night and for the first time since starting the camino, slept right through the night. Bliss.
This morning he taped my feet for me --- Japanese style -- and how I wish I had known of this technique before!!! --- and for the first time in days every step was not pure agony --- and we walked at an easy pace the 18 kilometers to this refugio --- the oldest refugio on the camino, built in the 11 th century and just the most gorgeous little place. There are about ten other pilgrims, but it is one of those evenings where i cannot even be bothered to find out where they are from or where they started or who they are... The hospitalero, Freda, is a gorgeous vivacious dynamo of a woman, probably my age, from, Belgium, who did the camino and wanted to come back and go the job as hospitalero here --- charming and interesting and lovely. Akira and I shared our bottle of wine with her --- sitting outside in the freezing courtyard and sharing stories and friendship and wine. The way of the camino.
This continues to be an incredible experience. I realise more and more that one cannot -- not ever-- explain or describe to anyone else what the experience is like. Everyone´s camino is their personal pilgrimage. Everyone experiences different things in different ways. See different things along the way. Lives a different reality. Everyone understands different signs differently. Interprets different events according to their own frame of reference, to their own life experience and history.
But everyone´s life is changed by it.
I look forward to coming home and writing about my camino. and sharing with you all what it meant to me. What I experienced. What I lived over these five six weeks.
One thing I do know is that I so wish that everyone of my friends could live this camino with me. It is so incredibly wonderful --- such a unique privilege to be doing what I am doing.
It is something everyone should have the opportunity once in their lives to do.
For now, I think I must go warm my fingers and possibly go go to bed early tonight and hope for a quiet night with not too much snoring in the dormitory and too often that the blanket slides off the top of my sleeping bag and leaves my waking up a little ball of ice..... and tomorrow morning at 6 I shall bid a sad farewell to my fellow pilgrim Akira and see him on his way as he sets off with his torch, long before the the sun fights its way through the mist and the birds start to sing, and then later set off myself on the next wonderful stage of the Camino --- yet another day and another 30 km closer to Santiago.
and Keep the Spirit Alive!