Stage 11. Friday, May 31. Belerado to San Juan de Ortega. Hugs as I head out the way & she prepares to journey back to USA. I know the morning ahead will present a steep incline of 1,100 km and warm temperatures. Early in the climb a young USA man gives the ritual “buen camino” that we all salute dozens of times daily as he passes me briskly with his 6’3” (at least)frame, striding about double or triple for every one of my steps. He makes brief, genuinely cordial conversation heading up the hill, and slows a bit as our dialogue weaves its way upward. Jack slowed his pace to walk the entire day with me: he surely would have / could have arrived more than an hour before me. We wandered through our life’s questions large & small, new & old, to Alto Mojapan & Alto Pedraja and our meandering conversation led us all the way to the door of the only albergue in San Juan de Ortega, ( population 20!) a monastery with large bunk rooms. We landed bottom bunks by the coveted window. Before diving into hand washing laundry and finding the showers, Jack generously invited me to join he & his Camino friends for pizza later. So kind hearted. While waiting for laundry to dry and for the pizza hour to open, I found ice tea and a man accompanying the teens on the school trip I’d been keeping step with for past few days. While he finished his coffee, he told me all about his school and how the youth in 2nd year high school have a lighter academic load to pursue arts, travel, and “food for the spirit” - I will be learning more about that. Went back to check laundry and heard what I believed was an amplified recording booming from the church, only to step inside and witness a pilgrims choir rehearsing. Sonic spiritualism. Visceral awakening. ... alas, eventually the rehearsal ended. Oh yeah, laundry & then Mass. Priest invited me to do the reading in English. Several pilgrims read in a mosaic of languages. Finally, time for pizza. Jack introduced me to Tim/USA, Sara/Portugal-now in Germany, Kristi/USA, & Trina/Australian most of whom I would reconnect with here and there in coming days. I could not keep up with the beer drinking but kept even pace with the laughter. Hit my bottom bunk with fresh air window.
(Stage 10). Thursday, May 30. Walking out of Santo Domingo de Calzada into Belerado. About 22.5 km/14 mile walk, but for us it was almost 18 miles because when we stopped in a cafe in one of the little villages along the way for a delectable lemonade, we absentmindedly left our walking sticks there. (stupid human/pilgrim trick of pick-up-sticks). We did not realize it until we arrived in the next village, and we walked all the way back - and forth again! We mostly laughed about it, although it would have been easy to cry. Hot day, too. It really warmed up after the early morning chill, captured in the pic of pilgrims trekking uphill to Granon a favorite cafe stop on The Way. Stayed in a lovely room in Belerado and found a delectable pilgrim’ meal of fresh fish in an open air albergue dining patio just off the central piazza. Families with toddlers, teens with Coca Cola and many abuelos gathered around the central fountain in front of the church - as in every village through which we pass. The sun shone warm and bright late into evening (always good for drying laundry on the veranda). It is my last day to share El Camino with my dear walking companera who launched me on this journey. She heads back toward USA tomorrow, May 31, as I move along the trail. I will miss her constant caring camaraderie, her buoyant humor, her insightful encouragement (and keen travel advice!) Forever friends❤️
Posting )Stage 9)a week later...Wednesday, May 29. Azofra into Santo Domingo de la Calzada. I walked alone most of morning, and then met up with Heidi - a fellow USA pilgrim - with whom we had connected on our very first night on the Camino back in Orisson part way up the Pyrenees. Our paths have intersected often since that first day, but on this day we each found ourselves walking solo, and enjoyed each other’s company and conversation as we descended the hill into Santo Domingo. Since we were staying at different alburgues we said casual goodbyes with the confidence that we will likely intersect daily on the long journey. Since I arrived in the city so early, I reconnected with Debbie, and lunch was long and relaxing. Santo Domingo’s Cathedral and adjoining museum lifted my spirits. I will make no effort to explain or express the overwhelming and inspiring architectural and sculptural inspiration. Hungry again - despite the long lunch, and seeing that our alburgue had a lovely kitchen, we shopped for some simple dinner supplies. We intersected with the young couple from Japan of whom we’ve grown very fond, and agreed to share the cooking and the meal together. When we arrived to The alburgue kitchen with armloads of groceries, it was apparent that every other pilgrim in the city had the same good idea. The noisy kitchen bustle and search for pots, pans, dishes and spices was a cacophony of clatter akin to a Bode family holiday dinner with dozens of us jockeying the stove top, the cutting boards and sharing ingredients with friends, strangers who have all become “Camino Family.” The meal and the company was a panoply of taste, language and human connection. Our bunk room held 5 beds/10 people, which were filled by the two of us - and 8 men - all loud snorers of various tonal contributions to a chaotic symphony- not quite Nikolai Roslavets - Komsomoliya. ... I would have preferred John Cage 4’33. But we laughed ourselves to sleep to add to the snoring concert.The morning arrived quickly. We took one last glimpse of the cathedral bell tower our our bunk room window and headed out of Santo Domingo toward Belerado.
(Stage 8)Tuesday, May 28. Navarrete through Najera to stay in Azofra. ...posting a week later.
I walked this stretch solo, as my companera made her way to Santo Domingo. The sweet village of Azofra (approx 250 people) embraces pilgrims with a large municipal alburgue, a tiny convent and plenty of water streaming from fountains - as each village provides - for pilgrims to wash their feet and cool off. They post ample signage about which fountains are potable for refilling water bottles. I was in a 5-bed (ice cold) alburgue room, and two of my roommates were a couple from Denmark I’d met days earlier. We accompanied each other at the pilgrims dinner, which thankfully started with hot soup to warm our chilled selves. Another pilgrim - from Austria joined our table and we lingered through the evening learning about one another’s Camino. The couple announced that it was their 31st wedding anniversary, so I gave them one of Ryan’s Remember Love stickers.
Yesterday on June 3rd, I completed stage 14, but I’ve had tech difficulty I posting blog. I’ll try catching up here with Stages 7, 8, 9...
(Stage 7) Monday, May 27. Viana through Logroño to stay in Navarrete. Best tapas so far in Navarette - at a little bar in the shade of the church. In our alburgue bunk room, we met two women from Germany who have been taking their holidays/vacations to walk together in various countries on multiple paths for 13 years. Wow. I’ve only been walking 10 days. One does not need to be religious- and certainly not specifically affiliated with Catholicism to be moved by the dramatic tableaux in each church. Most pilgrims of all religious & non-religious beliefs visit the churches for their own reasons that the Camino provides. The church in this village brought me to tears. Each church I visit offers yet another avenue of wonder.
Stage 4, Stage 5 & Stage 6: (4) Puente la Reina into Estella on Friday, May 25; (5) into Los Arcos on Saturday, May 26; (started 6th Stage as a 1st leg) into Viana on Sunday, May 27.
Meandering up and down the overlaying hills and valleys, in a collage of mystic remnants of the Celts’ Druidic presence, intersecting with the Islamic influence of the Moors amidst the panoramic Catholic iconography and confluence of languages, I swim in a sea of cultural conquest, infiltration, losses gains - musical and linguistic mosaics and altruistic sharing. Today we walk through Logrono - crossing the border leaving this vibrant Basque region.
Los Arcos- tiny city of 1200 people has the most magnificent church I’ve ever seen (above). .... few more pics of next stage below. Mark’s friend Felix who visits the Long River Tai Chi community in Amherst, Massachusetts every year - and lives in Logrono Spain, brought his beautiful family to see us and share love and conversation at a cafe in Viana.
Stage 4: Yesterday we walked 23.6 km (almost 15 miles) from Pamplona to Puenta la Reina. The previous day painted an especially vivid contrast from the serene and isolated trek in rural Pyrenees to our walk into Pamplona, such a vibrant city. We drifted through the urban scape & stumbled upon Cafe Iruna - an exquisite setting and a savory dinner at Plaza de Castille - and later realized it was the storied hang out of Hemingway. Walking out of the beautiful sleeping city of Pamplona in the early morning hours and over the summit of Alto de Perdon brought me back to the inner journey as we climbed. The steep hike down and meandering through poppy fields and tiny villages occurred in an endless dream state. We found our albergue happily at the end of the day and extended our dinner as late as possible with our Camino sister who we had met on our first day in the airport and with whom we’ve been traveling every step. Many pilgrims walk one week- as their time allows and return back to the Camino to complete stages later in the year - as is her plan. It was a fond farewell, with a genuine sense of our profound enduring connection.
2nd & 3rd Stages PicsCamino - 2nd- Roncesvalles into Zubiri May 21 & 3rd Stage on May 22 Zubiri into Pamplona
Stage 1 of my Camino started May 19 from St Jean Pied de Port into the Pyrenees. Many pilgrims do the entire 1st stage in one day, but we divided ours into two days, to help prevent injury and more important - to focus on our inner journey. Our destiny was Orisson, only 8 km/5 miles. The skies dropped unrelenting freezing rain making it a soaked but not dispirited first day. I posted many of these pics on Facebook since I could not hold technological connections long enough to blog, but I’m adding this photo gallery again here, so my loved ones who are not on FB can see. We met many fellow travelers from every edge of the earth, including Northampton, Massachusetts. The dialogue with and sense of shared purpose with each propels us forward.
I brought the envelope that was mailed to me from “American Pilgrims on the Camino” when they sent me my Pilgrim’s Credential - and it turns out that their national office is in Olympia, WA - the place that Ryan chose as home. I added some scraps from the envelope to my opening page collage. Tomorrow I fly out of Dublin into Biarittz, France - moving closer to the gateway of Camino.
Landing in Dublin at dawn. How befitting to begin from this place from whence my ancestors journeyed to make home across the ocean - in a place that I call home. Here briefly - just this day & a night, then to France where Chardin wrote: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
...to walk El Camino de Santiago across the north of Spain. My flight lands in Dublin, Ireland on the morning of May 17th around the same time, my long-time friend Debbie Chizmar is arriving to Dublin airport. We will spend one night in Dublin and then fly to Biarritz, France and make our way to St. Jean Pied de Port by May 20th to start our Camino. You can follow me by checking my weekly blog posts here.