Tuesday, October 22, 2002

The Camino Continues

ok. A few more phone calls, my luggage retrieved from my brother in law's father, backpack, boots and sleeping bag on their way to Sarah in Montgomery Creek. It rainied all afternoon yesterday, but today it is sunny again in Nice. Tomorrow I will be with Britt. She will be waiting for me at the airport in Coppenhagen, how nice to have a good friend waiting at the airport. She said it is getting to zero centigrate at night there, but promised to take me to lots of saunas and keep me warm. It would be impossible to be cold around her anyway, she is one of the warmest persons I know. Then I will visit Mother Meera, an indian saint near Frankfurt, then I will be with Cristina, finally. She has been trying to convince me to cut the camino short to stay with her longer and even not to go to Coppenhagen. It is nice to know she looks forward my company. And I will have the pleasure to help her hang a show/installation (she is a painter/artist) in Koln, then a few days in Stuttgard with her son and husband, Munich to see Amma and back to Frankfurt to depart to India after seeing Amma again in a nearby town.

Anyway, maybe I should write some more of my experiences during the Camino. Get comfortable again, this may take time.


When I arrived at Calzadilha de la Cueza, Guillerme, Erika (brazilians from Rio-husband and wife) and Aldamir also from Brasil- Brasilia were already there. I could hardly walk even barefoot, but I managed to get a bottle of wine to see if I could get a little numb and happier. We all set around some appetizers, wine and talked for a long time about nothing. How nice it is to be able to speak a native language, to share each others company. Except for Erika who had some minor blisters, the others had complete healty feet and no major problems. I guess we all have our lessons and paths. I probably needed to learn something from this. It is as well that I could not walk anywhere, the town only had half a dozen houses anyway.

The next stage the following morning was an easy 22.3 km to Sahagun. Easy if the legs are working, impossible if they do not cooperate. I told my brazilian friends to go ahead without me. I had a feeling this was going to be another hell of a day and I needed to be by myself. I managed to walk to Ledigos, a poor pueblo with adobe houses 7 km from Calzadilha. I stopped there for breakfast and at that point I was considering taking a bus or taxi to Sahagun. I asked the guy at the bar who told me there were no buses or taxis in town. I took out my journals and started to write and drink my cafe slowly. When I was comfortable, shoes and socks off (this is the first thing I would do everytime I stopped) writing away, the owner of the bar said that he was going to town to shop and would give me a ride. I gladly grabbed my shoes, journal and backpack and jumped into the car. From the road I could see a lot of the pilgrims I had seen and met before. Rachel who drained my blisters so lovenly a few kms from Boadilha del Camino where I first was aware of them. She gave me a lot of tips as she had already gone through it. She travelled with her brother Jeff, both from Portland, great kids. Jeff was talking away with Herman, a cute austrian guy who just turned 35 the day before-we had lunch together when I arrived at San Juan de Ortega and talked for a long time. Rachel, a little farther behing them but keeping up with her brother. I could tell they were very close. And so many more, it was a strange feeling seeing them from a car, they looked like an insane bunch, walking in the sun with weight behing their backs. It felt like I had died and was able to see my friends from space.

We arrived at Sahagun in no time. The bar owner let me off on the corner of the refugio so that no one would see I arrived by car. I told him it was not necessary, but he insisted- "es melhor" he said. I had medical reasons to arrive by car I thought.

The refugio was large and nice, it even had free internet, but I was so down I didn't want to do anything. My brazilian friends arrived later and I told them I was going to take a train to Leon the next day and rest for a couple of days in a nice hotel. We exchanged addresses and hugs and that was the last time I saw them.

Leon is a nice town, brighter and more open than Burgos. As I am getting off the train I see Vittoria waiting for hers. She was on her way to Italy. We had a few tapas and fresh zumo de naranja (orange juice) together, exchanged adresses and took pictures of each other. She told me that she saw Robert - he was staying at a hotel but was at the refugio asking for me. I left my "Roncesvalles class" so quickly and without notice, my friends may have wondered about me. She could not remember the name of the hotel he was staying, but I was so tired I doubted I could even visit with anyone.

I found a really nice small hotel in town, only a block away from a physioteraphy office. This was my "hospital" for a couple of days. I took long hot baths, watched TV, ate at the hotel restaurant with some retired folks who lived there and called my best friends for support. Although they are spread out in 3 different continents they were faithful as always, some called me back almost immediately, giving me advise, empathy, support. Britt even felt my blisters on her own foot. Somehow she knew my boots were too heavy, without knowing what I had sent. That I call empathy, but coming from Britt, everything is possible. Cristina advise me to quit the camino all together and spend a month with her in Stuttgard. Beatriz gave me a lot of encouragement, love and health tips-"get some vitamins!" she said. "Multiminerals, zinc for the muscles, vitamin C"- which I did. Claudia was sweet as always, she put little David on the phone to talk to me which is always relaxing and refreshing. Julie talked about many things which helped me to take away the attention from my pains and ackes.

I left Leon on October 1st on a train to Ponferrada still cutting a few more kms. That put me in the Galicia region. From the train I could see that I would like this area. It had lots of mountains, green, and the weather was great. Actually, the weather was nice after Burgos, even a little too cold which is good for walking. But in Galicia it was consistently nice. A few storms every now and then that we were able to avoid for the most part. They would happen when we were arriving at a town at lunch time, or at the end of the day right in front of a great casa rural (sort of b&b).

I completed the way from Ponferrada, the last 205 km. In total, I walked about 500km out of the 758km from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela and I feel I've done my share of austerity.

My attitute was also very different from Ponferrada on. I still had pain on my back, I think from the two physioteraphy interventions I had the previous two days and the soles of my feet were hurting a lot the first day back on the road. They felt like popcorn in hot oil, hardly able to touch the ground.

I left Ponferrada really early on October 2nd aiming to arrive at VillaFranca del Bierco, only 22.5km away early in the afternoon. At lunch I met a couple of brazilians, Moacyr from Sao Paulo and another guy from Curitiba. We had a mediocre paella with pan (bread) and when I complained about my feet, Moacyr offered to give me a foot massage. He had walked the whole way so far whithout one blister. I took his offer and he was amazed at the poor state of my little feet. He applied antinfamatory (all of this at the restaurant by the way - this is pilgrims life, foot, foot , foot). Then he suggested I walk barefoot for a while. I thought this was a wild idea but I was desperate. "I will help you" he said. I wasn't sure what he meant so I took my shoes off and started walking with my backpack on barefeet. He started to shout behing me, "not this way, pare, pare!" ok, he was going to carry my backpack for me. Ok, thanks, that is nice. It felt really exquisite to walk barefoot, spreading the toes wide.

We walked together until VillaFranca where we said goodbye. He wanted to continue until Pereje, the nex town over, 6 km away. I was too tired, still recovering from my "hospital" days in Leon, so I went right to bed withouth showering.

The next day I am having breakfast in Pereje in a small bar and all of a sudden I see Moacyr and Lais (brazilian from Rio) at the counter. We were so happy to see each other! I thought I would never catch up with him again. They slept in, since they stayed in a small refugio they have some flexibility, otherwise, everyone needs to be out by 8am. Lais had some serious lung problems and had been resting in Pereje for 4 or 5 days. This was her first day back in the camino. We walked the whole day together and had a great time. They were such good company, we were all very happy to be together, there was a real harmonious energy among us.

The next day two more brazilians from Sao Paulo joined us for the up the hill journey to Mount Cebreiro-an incredible beautiful area. We all got there around 2 pm, had wine, local cheese (really good) with honey and Lais, Bianca and Daniele decided to stay there one night. I was under pressure to arrive in Santiago on the 10th since I made reservations at the Parador and also because I wanted to go to Fatima and Avila before going to Barcelona.

Moacyr decided to join me and we walked together the rest of the way to Santiago together. It was so nice walking with him. My ackes and pains were either gone or numbed by all the wine and liqueur we drank. I was able to see and enjoy all the fruit trees on the way: pears, apples, figs, grapes. The trees would be right by the road and we would gather the ripe ones and eat on the way. The way was one big forest with creeks, waterfalls and small rivers along the way. The weather couldn't be better and the paths perfumed with local herbs. Galicia is truly beautiful and the spanish spoken there is almost the same as portuquese from Portugal. There were even rainbows on the way, filled with gifts and treasures. So many little stories and human exchanges. Spain is a much different country than when I visited in 1986. It is much more developed and there is construction everywhere.

As in life, the Camino contained all kinds of people who walked the camino in a similar way they "walk" their life. Some very anxious to get to the refugios early, on a regular routine of washing clothes, taking care of the feet, getting a nice bed, making dinner arrangements, avoiding the afternoon sun? Others would take their time, arrange the few items in the backpacks slowly in the morning, go with the flow. We would also reflect our nationalites a little, the french always carrying a baquete across their backpacks; the germans anxious to get to a supermarket to shop for dinner, buy a beer? and wash their clothes throughly; the americans with everything they could need, first aid kits and all. I inherited many blister apparatus from americans- always so generous. The brazilians and spanish more free flowing...the japonese really prepared and disciplined.

As in life, I fit in a lot of different combinations of "paths". I was anxious at times, disciplined, goal oriented then free flowing, open and relaxed. It was so much nicer not to have an agenda--things would never happen the way I planned anyway, so there was no point in planning anything. Make plans, make God laugh Britt would always say.

Letting go is always much easier than being anxious when we figure out how to do it. I would never make plans of how many km I walk anymore. I even let go of my reservation at the Parador. There were too many gifts and treasures on the way, I could only see if I was open to the grace required to feel it. All I could do was to say thanks for the fresh air I was breathing, the beautiful landscape I was able to enjoy, for the legs that were taking me to all the places. Everyhting started working out as magic. We would be always at the right place at the right time. My feet never stopped hurting, but my attention was not so much in them anymore.

After mass on the 13th of October, Vittoria was there outside the church. She was restless at home in Italy and had to come back to be among pilgrims again. "The Camino is over" Moacyr said when the three of us were standing there still in awe by our recent experiences. No, "the Camino is just starting", Vittoria replied. I think the Camino goes on, it has no begining it has no end, it is a continum of life experiences and growth.

Right after mass in Santiago, Moacyr and I took a train to Corcubion on the west coast, very close to Portugal. The sun was shining when we got there and after a great meal we walked barefeet on the sand, boots in hand, backpack in back. How nice! I have been dreaming about touching the sand and cold sea water with my poor barefeet. It would be more natural for us to go to Finsterra where most pilgrims go after the camino to burn their clothes or throw their walkking stick into the ocean. Since we left our sticks at the church and still needed our few pieces of clothing to go to Madrid and get home with, we thought it was perfect to end our camino at Corcubion, a beautiful beach resort, where we ate great seafood by the sea. Cote D'Azur may have been like that in the 50's.

The main reason I wanted to go there was to check out Claudia's grandmother's castle- Castelo do Principe, donated to the catolic church in the beginning of the century. She wanted to know what happened to her grandmother's paintings that used to be hanging on the castle walls. As it turned out, the castle is still there, beautiful, in a a great location, by the ocean, with a forest behind, but the paintings are gone. The church sold the castle 15 years ago to someone who recently re-sold to a doctor from Madrid. I took lots of photographs for her and I was glad to be there for her.

From Corcubion we went to La Coruna where Picasso lived for 4 years (uninteresting town), then Madrid where Moacyr and I said goodbye, he flew into Zurich and then Sao Paulo, I flew into Barcelona where Amma hugged 6,000 people overnight and I re-visited the Museo Picasso and some of Gaudi's works.

A thousand kisses to all of you. Thanks for your encouragement to write. Maybe the next time I write I will be in India. It looks like my schedule is northern Europe is really hectic, filled with beautiful adventures.

Until then, be well--peace,love and light to all, Marisa


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