EE Camino de Santiago is so beautiful. Parts of the trail are over 2,000 years old, built by the Romans in their quest for Spanish gold. We sail past fields of vineyards, our backpacks bobbing up and down—each foot placed carefully on uneven paths. Wheat, barley, and oats grow here—and as we pass out of Castille we see a surprising amount of sunflower fields. At dawn I walk in wonder at the tall gallant sunflowers framed by hills. On these spurs of the Pyrenees, rows and rows of wind turbines line the crests.
I love the thick rivers and the intricate irrigation system—lots of stone aqueducts form crosses over the fields. Some of the original Roman bridges have been maintained. The massive arches and stones are rounded and pocked by rain—they seem like calcified sponges.
We have seen many ruined hospitals for past pilgrims, unused wrecks with broken doors and old roofs where pigeons roost. Then we passed an intersection with the ruins of San Anton refuge, about 3 different buildings with huge 50′ gothic arches from the 12th century. It was a sanctuary for ill pilgrims, and so majestic. The cross of San Anton, shaped like a dancing T, is still carried as a cross of protection and prevention against sickness. This mammoth skeleton of a building gave me pause. I forgot my aching feet. What is my life worth? How much am I giving to the dispossessed and the hurting?
Practically speaking we’ve traversed through Burgos, Hotanes, Ortega, Sahagún, and on Sept 25 we reach Leon. Jonathan and I split up for 2 days to have alone time on this sacred beast we are riding. New footwear and bandages have eased our pains. Some say that there’s 3 stages to the Camino: the first 1/3 is physical (aches and worse), the second 1/3 is mental (what’s the meaning of all this), and the last 1/3 is spiritual.
Of course in the stark ‘Meseta’ of Spain (The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain) there is lots of reflection. Walking in beauty helps weave the practical and the sublime. Local wines are served at lunch and dinner. And what joy to have walked 15 miles and trade your pack for wine, fish/chips, and a siesta.
Last Sunday night we went to the Santa Maria church where the priest and Augustine nuns (who run a hostel), gave a special pilgrim blessing. About 100 pilgrims were invited to the altar. The nuns sang with a simple guitar. The singing was pure and simple. They had made tiny paper stars to give us. One explained how this was their way of describing how light shines no matter how small it seems to us. If the light is hidden from us, it still exists. We were asked to look for it in a smile, a bite of food shared, or a helpful hand. They encouraged us to write our prayers and email them, and they promised to accompany us till the end. Many of us were crying at their simple, sweet gift. No matter how hard the road, there is enough love and strength to provide for us.