Written: Friday, May 18 at 18:10
It’s been a while since I posted. I’ve run into a few technical snags with my oh so carefully prepared iPhone. I couldn’t get it to connect with either of the SIM cards I tried and thought it was something I was doing wrong with the registration process. Then I discovered to my dismay in Santo Domingo last night that I also cannot get a data connection through WiFi anymore. There’s something more seriously wrong that is beyond my capacity to repair. I put some software on Kat’s phone and will rely on her good graces to allow me to use it on occasion.
We ended up picking up a bus for a hop this morning before walking the Camino for a bit. The area between Santo Domingo and Belarado trails along right next to a major and very busy highway, and we had decided a while back that we would avoid that section if possible. We rented a private room at a Palador (one of the slightly better private accommodations) last night and had the luxury of sleeping in till around 8 this morning. We rode the bus 22 km to Belarado, breakfasted, and then headed out around 10. The only problem, in some ways, with our plan was the remaining distance to get to the next major town along the way. We only walked about 12 km today, but it would have been another 12.4 to the next town.
So we opted to stay here in Villafranca, a beautiful little town with a number of nice accommodations. We are in the San Anton de Abad. It was originally a pilgrim hospital, created back in the day when pilgrims really suffered making this trek and needed both a respite from the road and often medical attention. It has now been converted into a first class hotel and an attached albergue. The albergue was full by the time we finished the lunch that was going to sustain us for the next bit, and we went ahead and accepted the kind offer of a room at a discounted rate. At 55 Euros, it’s more than we’ve spent anywhere yet, but the room and locale are absolutely marvelous. I’m sitting in a beautiful courtyard, paved in marble and with a mix of old and new pillars surrounding the porch. It was quite serene until a few minutes ago when some Germans decided to stop over and speak quite exuberantly in this echoing hall. They were just remarking on the strange site of a pilgrim sitting here typing away on an iPod – at least that’s what I think they had to say.
Kat’s feet are holding up, or at least she is managing to walk and struggle through the pain of recurring blisters. We do some nightly treatment rituals involving betadine, needles, and tonight, some thread as well. Mornings involve more needles, antibiotic, bandages, and some curious material made of silicone and cloth that, when taped to the outside of the blistered area, makes for some very nice cushion.
Ah, the Germans just left – peace again!
Now, back to that thread. Since a couple of the more persistent little buggers managed to fill up again within a short time, we opted for a method we read about and threaded through the blisters, leaving the thread in place to keep things open in a wicking fashion. So far, it seems to be doing the trick.
At any rate, that’s probably enough about the logistical details. We are truly very happy to be back on the Camino yesterday and today. There is something all together magical about the simple process of doing nothing more than placing one foot in front of the other. This trail is really quite well marked, even in the cities, that there’s no need to tax the brain overly hard at simply finding the way. Some of my long ago learned spanish seems to be coming back, at least in terms of comprehension. It’s still challenging to string more than a couple of thoughts together with fairly well known vocabulary to get my own point across. However, there’s not a whole lot that is absolutely necessary beyond inquiring after food, lodging, and occasional directions (comer, habitaciones, y direcciones).
The country through which we are traveling is stupendous – rolling hills of farmland planted mostly with wheat and a few other grains. There are occasional splashes of yellow with fields of what I think is mustard – need to ask “que es esto” sometime in the next couple of days. Copses of beautiful woods top the steepest hills, further developing a landscape that is both cultured and wild in its way. We see and hear many birds along the way, most of which are unfamiliar to me. We’ve seen more snakes of various kinds along the trail that I think I’ve seen in the last 5 years at home in Colorado. We cross small streams and occasional larger rivers, sometimes on modern bridges and sometimes over medieval stone arches that are beautiful and ancient beyond imagination.
We don’t even have to think very hard about food here along the Camino, so long as we are willing to settle into the routine of pilgrim’s menus at many albergues and local restaurants in the larger towns. They are changing slightly as we move along, but always seem to have three courses of some sort of salad or greens; a main meal with fish, pork, chicken, and occasional beef; and a postre of some sort (flan has been in style the last couple of towns). The only time it gets difficult and brings up conflict between us is when we get out of settling into the norm of pilgrim menus, usually in a larger city. Last night in Santo Domingo, we ended up wandering around for a while looking for something out of the ordinary that wasn’t a greasy spoon, fought about it for a while, huffed around and grumped a bit, and then decided to just eat bread and cheese and drink wine from the market. I’m looking forward to being back to the routine.
So, what am I going to do with all this extra capacity to think about other things beside the logistics of living? What kinds of issues do I need to spend time on in my life? What aspects of my arrogance do I need to work on before we come across the Cruz de Ferro where I plan to cast off my arrogance stone in a couple more days? What other things do I need to ponder as I put one foot before the other tomorrow over the 25 or so kilometers we need to cover before we can catch a bus through the busy and not so pretty suburbs of Burgos?
Our guidebook had an interesting statement about the cathedral in Burgos, which is reputed to be one of the most magnificent in all of Spain. It referred to the beautiful treasures contained within its walls as enough to impress even the most jaded. That struck a little bit of a chord with me. We visited the famed cathedral in Santo Domingo yesterday to view the live roosters maintained in a small habitat there as a reminder of a miracle that supposedly happened long ago. A pilgrim boy was wrongfully accused of a crime and hung. When his parents returned from Santiago – I can’t really imagine them continuing on – an already cooked chicken got up and flew from the bishop’s dinner plate, somehow signifying that the boy had been innocent – and I guess he was found alive still hanging from the gallows.
But I digress – about that jaded part. In the cathedral of Santo Domingo are found quite a few treasures of the Church, from ancient artwork to incredible works of gold and silver. Nearly every cathedral and chapel we’ve visited has been a marvel of artistry and architecture, the cost in treasure and energy of which really boggles the mind. It truly staggers me to think of that same energy poured into systems of belief the world over.
I am pretty jaded about the whole thing with religion. I understand the need for people to have something to believe in and to practice and live out that belief in a communal way. A benefit from almost all “Church” is a drawing together of a community and a focus toward growing societies. But something just seems out of proportion somehow when I think about the reasons that the Church has given for this pursuit and its characterization of God to suit its own inherently not godlike purposes.
At any rate, I need to ponder more on my jaded attitudes tomorrow and see where that leads me. The pilgrim menu is calling.