Rest day in Leòn – Day 22
Another day began and what would be a day off in and around Leòn. Ricardo and me had a short walk-around with Daniela, before she took off. She would not stay in Leòn and that was the last time we saw her before Santiago.
We found some breakfast and checked-in to a cheapish hotel in town. Nice to have a real bed to kick back on as well as a private shower. We then took a short walk and guess who we stumpled upon?
Gemma, of course! And… Gary from Minnesota was also taking it easy with a cup of joe in front of the cathedral. Beauty is found in meeting great people at unexpected times!
It was a nice and relaxed day, Ricardo and me enjoyed our private space and as always had great conversation about this impeccable journey and much more.
León – Villar de Mazarife = 21,7km (Day 23)
The next morning, I started out earlier than Ricardo. Due to his feet he wanted to take it slow and take care of them first. We decided to meet at the same albergue though.
The walk out of Leòn was long and not the pretties of places. Industrial area and kind of a cold metal-concrete athmosphere, that made you just want to get out of there and into nature.
So I did, it was such a blessing and a total opposite place to enter Oncina de la Valdoncina, which was such a tranquil oasis of a village. Only a few houses that was leading up to a plateau. A totally secluded and quiet path lead the way – what a place and scene!
I had an orange on a rock and enjoyed the peace. An American woman whom I met the day before in front of the cathedral came by at the same time and we had a short conversation.
The day continued on the secluded paths and was alone all day, which is always a pleasure when you are in nature. It is like it speaks with you as you walk along side of it. The day in hours and kilometers was short and I did not take many breaks – my legs were good!
After a long stretch of road seeing Villar de Mazarife in the horizon, I got to the De Jesus albergue where Ricardo and me had agreed to meet. I checked-in and found a room of four bunk beds. It was still early and must have been the first pilgrim to arrive here. I walked around town after some writing, but Ricardo did not show up.
I bought some bread, can of fish and some cheese before I headed back to eat and dialed down until I took a long nap before the next day would come about, of course with the thought, will I see Ricardo again?
Villar de Mazarife – Hospital de Orbigo = 14,6km (Day 24)
I was not in a hurry the next morning. I actually took my time for once as I knew it would be a shorter day. Gemma, was at an albergue in Hospital de Orbigo not too long from here and was going to stay and help out for a few days, so I would go and visit her.
I walked out alone but met up with the Brazilian guy who was in the same room as me. He lived in France where he studied engineering. We had a great conversation for a while until we reached Hospital de Orbigo, unbeknownst to me, as I thought it was Puente, the one just before.
It was here we would get to the 300 m long and beautiful bridge made out of stone that went over the Río Orbigo, the longest on The Way. I had just written down a website-link for my new friend to look up some information and then… right before the bridge I saw a familiar backpack and person. I could not believe it – Ricardo! I quickly in a funky-chicken-walk kind of way parted ways with my new friend from Brazil and yelled “where have you been?”
He was with a chica that I had not seen before and apparently they had been at an albergue around that area. So yesterday he had walked further than I had, again… I was impressed. A hug and an update while we crossed the bridge. I began looking for Hospital de Orbigo. Ricardo´s new friend told me that we were here and as I was looking for albergue Verde, I had to walk backwards to find the sign going in that direction.
Ricardo reached out his hand to say goodbye for now, as I was about to walk back, as he wanted to continue, but did not see it as so and asked in a positive way; “dont you want to see Gemma?” He inclined to come along and so we all went.
We rocked up and I was the first one to walk up the wooden stair case and enter the lovely home-like type of albergue and said hello and was soon greeted kindly by Gemma – good to see her again.
Ricardo was not looking at staying at first, but I think the atmosphere as well as the environment made him want to. We enjoyed the beautiful garden and the kind people and place that all had an organic vibe to it. It was serene and I felt good about taking a half day off and just chill. I got into a book of Carl Jung´s named Man and his Symbols, fascinating stuff. I helped out a bit in the garden with Gemma and we all had a nice lunch in the afternoon (yep, lunch is afternoon en Españia).
The evening was spend together with all the other pilgrims to a an organic feast of a meal – wow! I was like a little kid as I love that kind of food. There was also music from Minchu and his two companions Eva and El before and after, and it actually developed into a lullaby when it got late – a nice way to finish a day which was in the sign of peace and relaxation.
Hospital de Orbigo – Astorga = 19,4km (Day 25)
The next morning started and at 7.30 there was yoga! Real nice besides I in additional to already having stiff legs know that walking is not the best way to become flexible. It literally felt like my legs were wood that I tried to bend in different ways, quite difficult if you think about wanting to solve that equation. 🙂
This morning was also going to be the last time I saw Gemma before Santiago, she was staying here and I walked on with Ricardo and some of the pilgrims who stayed at albergue Verde – probably the best albergue I stayed at on The Camino.
Today, we were heading towards the chocolate capital of Spain, which Astorga is known for.
It was also here we met one of the most special people on The Road towards Santiago. It is rare to meet a person who has find a calling to live in the middle of nowhere and just give out of his good heart to all the pilgrims crossing his path.
That was exactly what this guy did… (Ricardo is the one with the camera)
I don´t think we even got his name, but the guy on the right is that special soul.
He walked 15-20km a day to get clean water, buy snacks, fruit, tea and loads of other goodies for all the pilgrims passing by, and all he charged was kindness via donations. The ruin you see on the right is his “home”. He met a woman at one time who was also on pilgrimage and she made the ruin into an association in his name so no other can claim it, this is his now and always. He did not really care about that type of possesion he said, and in addition he did not have a phone or any technology. Writing this I get teary, because it was pure love and kindness from his heart.
“La llave de la essencia es presencia.” = The key for essence is in the present.
(I believe that it is more or less correct translation)
We stayed quite a while and when hugging him goodbye, it was like a heart of love and compassion warmed you like a blanket and lifted you up in new positive light. I will never forget his pure and clear blue eyes that shined with radiation of presence of who he was and why he was doing this – remarkable!
Astorga slowly got near in the horizon and when we got to the village right in the valley of it, Ricardo and the German girl Kristin who was with us from albergue Verde took a break. I walked on and waited for them when I got into Astorga, but I never saw them at the bar I had sat down and taken a beer at. It was down a street from an albergue and wondered where in the world they were, I could not have missed them sitting here?
I walked back, sat closer to where you came up the trail to the town, but nothing. I then went across to check-in to the albergue – it was enough now, I wanted to see if he was here or what. A guy named Ricardo had checked-in, but his age stood out to me, he could not have been that much older than me could he?? I checked-in nevertheless, found my room and then I wanted to find him if it took me to check all the rooms in the big albergue.
I walked out my room and I did not even get to the one next to mine, before I practically walked right into a hug with Ricardo, who came out of that room – I guess he was here! 🙂
We took a walk around town and walked into a tent of a wine and cheese festival. Trying the local cheese and got some wine for dinner. We bought some food to cook in the evening as well as some chocolate of course, the very dark kind.
We ate with a great view out over the hilly landscape in the back of the Albergue and ended with a little desert of a magic show by a fellow pilgrim who happened to be a magician and amazed people with his skills!
We finished and agreed to start out at 7.30am the next day and off to bed we went…
Astorga – Rabanal del Camino = 20,2km (Day 26)
We met in the morning and went on our way for some breakfast. Oh yea – chocolate a la tathe! Hot warm and thick chocolate with 3 different pastries for only a few dimes, heavy but solid energy to initiate today´s excursion towards the mountains, Cruz de Ferro and extraordinary landscape.
As we slowly exited Astorga, we gradually got into more hilly landscape on the gravel roads. It was always appreciated leaving the concrete jungle and enter nature with less noise, traffic and all the city-distractions.
The mountain began slowly and the peak was Cruz de Ferro, which on The Camino has much significance and a place I looked forward to see and experience.
I slowly got in front of Ricardo who was consistently slower because of his ongoing feet condition, but his heart and will to continue would never take an end. He was as tough as I have seen a person!
Along the path…. there was SHEEP!!! Watch out…
Rabanal del Camino was reached and we were getting closer to the peak of this mountain. Since I had walked for a while and wanted to keep sticking around my good friend Ricardo I sat down at the nearest bar and had an empanada and a beer without alcohol. That is much tastier in Spain and normal to serve in the bars and is a nice thirst quencher without the effects.
Ricardo arrived and we took a break together. He ate something and after a while we began walking again. Into what was such a pretty village with the most amazing views -a really mountainous village we both liked it a lot!
We sat down in a little green area on a alternative bench and enjoyed the view and began a long and great conversation about many different things.
We stayed for a long time and eventually decided to stay here. We had encountered Justin from Seattle who you might remember from my first days. I had also met him in Astorga actually when I was waiting for Ricardo. We followed his lead and went to the same albergue.
We checked-in to what was a nun-albergue and was based on donations and currently for a three week period run by a mother and daughter from England. A siesta in the garden, enjoying the sun and views and walking around the village made for purchasing some food and later I kicked a soccer ball around with two kids up in the mountains – I loved it!
A glass of wine before bed time and then it was over and out once again. This village could easily have been occupied by me for more than one day, to just enjoy the views and the quiet. Worth the thought at least 🙂
Rabanal del Camino – Molinaseca = 25,2km (Day 27)
I really looked forward to today, because it was going to be a big day. The reason was that I had carried a burden for almost three years. Do you remember, that I on the second day explained how my stomach of emotional pain was like a rock that had been sitting there for very long? Do you also remember the rock I found the morning starting The Camino?
Well… it was today that I would let this go and have the rock that I had in my little stash pocket on my left side and I looked forward to do so.
We headed upwards and got to Foncebadón much faster than we had expected as it said was more than 6km away. We took a break at the alternative albergue that offered yoga and organic food etc. just like albergue Verde.
We then walked on and all in all the journey upwards on this mountain was quite beautiful. We got really close to the snow capped mountains and was up in close to 1500 meters in altitude and that could be seen when it came to the views all over!
I arrived at Cruz de Ferro (1528 m) first as Ricardo had to sit down and take a break and look to his feet a little earlier.
The Lords Prayer: “Lord, may this stone, be a symbol of my efforts on the pilgrimage that I lay at the foot of the cross of the Savior, one day weigh the balance in favour of my good deeds when the deeds of my life are jduged. Let it be so.”
The above is a tradition to say out loud right before you toss your burden in front of the cross.
There are SO many rocks here and so many things that have been left behind. There are written on many of the rocks. People leave things for all kinds of reasons and when you try to imagine the variety of burdens we all carry the thought goes wide. Many people must also leave things for loved ones who has passed away is my thought.
Here, you really respect each others space, not to interfere and to be utmost compassionate towards all other pilgrims as everyone is here for a specific reason and many has an even more significant reason to take their time to leave what they need and want to move on, not only on this journey but in life.
The descent from Cruz de Ferro was long and had a VERY narrow footpath down the side of the mountain where you could only be one person most of the time.
Walking down is not dangerous, but it is not a lot of fun and you do have to be careful in how you walk as it can easily go wrong with knees and so on because of the weight and pounding they take when gravity pulls your legs down with as it descents.
I eventually got to Acebo and waited for Ricardo. I had already bought bred, cheese and tomatoes and waited on a bench, and when Ricardo arrived he bought some more stuff and without even talking we just split everything. It was like we knew each other so well and did not have to speak at times.
What seemed to be an even longer trip down to the next village which was Molinaseca, which supposedly was a marvelous little village and area in the valley. I had taken the “wrong” way down on the actual road instead of the gravel food path. I did discover that I probably made an unknown good decision as the foot path was the same type of descent as from Cruz de Ferro and the road was quite easy to walk on in comparison.
Walking over the bridge of the river and into Molinaseca was such a quaint sight. People sitting on the grass next to the river with a drink or eating at the nearby restaurant. It was time for a beer and break and I did not want to walk more today.
I waited for Ricardo who came with Justin and after a break where I was and a check-in at the albergue that was famous for its owner as he had done the pilgrimage 12 times and been honored by the Spanish King.
Some personal stuff was nagging me today and Ricardo was a good person to have next to me during these days and it was nice to have a room with many more bunk beds than people, it made for a quiet place that night and that was needed.
Molinaseca – Villafranca del Bierzo = 32,5km (Day 28)
I started out by myself. The inner storm that I had going was understood by Ricardo and he knew I needed space and said to just walk on, so I did.
The first main stop was Ponferrada and a big castle was the main attraction there.
I basically just walked through Ponferrada, stopped to just take a quick picture and help a pilgrim out with one before I was gone. I just felt like trotting out there! I walked by myself all day and it was a long one, but VERY beautiful. Know that we were around the Galicia area in the North West part of Spain, which is stunning!
It was hilly and impeccable views of nature and vineyards shaped the landscape more than anything else.
They were all over the place as far as the eye could see and so was the mountains. It was one of the more beautiful days as well as tough, because it was long, up and down all the time.
Entering Villafranca was long awaited – I was smashed! It seemed like that path kept going. You could see the village down in the valley, a marvelous one by the way. It looked so good tugged in there. In addition I managed to pass the albergue that was in my guide book, (great Gideon, especially now) but after being guided by a cherri-salesmen and in exchange for his help, I bought some and found the albergue.
Here, I saw a few familiar faces, my friend Troels from Denmark, Els who I met some days ago. There were 5-6 people waiting to check-in and I joined the cue.
I caught up with Troels and after we had checked-in we found a bar to get a beer and kick back. He had gotten clear on continuing his education, which was why he walked The Camino and now just wanted to get to Santiago and finish!
Ricardo I had not seen and it took a while before I did. All of a sudden as I was sitting writing near the entrance to the albergue, I saw a guy on the outside with his video camera filming me, Ricardo had arrived!
He wanted a siesta a little later and while I wanted dinner and he was still in siesta-land I took a walk around. I found a nice little restaurant, with a nice menu.
Later I saw from my seat that Ricardo had come down to the square of where the restaurants were along with two German girls and as you see on the picture, opposite me I was joined!
Great times to be a pilgrim, great times to be alive, great friends and people to be around!
Reflections and Insight of the day
“Awareness of change leads to detachment and is the way to joy, inspiration, humor and love.”
This sentence sums up what I got out of walking The Camino… it is truly essential to be aware of the idea around change and detachment.
Word number three in the above sentence was the word of the day. When passing all the vineyards, the beautiful landscape and looking back at all that had happened over the course of this magical voyage, I began to think about change. That change is inevitable, that everything changes in you all the time and at the same time everything around you changes as well. Everything is change! Nothing stays the same and you can not do anything about that!
I kept saying that I was walking change around living change and that it was all moving and being different all the time. A conversation with Gemma a week before we split up grew the quote you read above, because it just made sense that when we are aware that everything is change and that we are never the same and always evolve and much more, then that automatically leads to the fact, that we cannot hold on to anything or control anything whether it is people in our lives, experiences or even WHO we are!
I connected those two ideas with the outcome that I had come up with much earlier on the journey, around when I first met Gary actually. Since then it just made sense to me that when being aware of change and detachment literally everything comes to you.
Joy of life is the fuel to create through inspiration and in humor we find not to take this mystery of life so seriously and all combined with living a life of awareness that is full of love and compassion.
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