29 May 2015

Pilgrims Progress 4

We sometimes feel you have to be crazy to walk the Camino! It may not be a necessary attribute, but it helps when like minded pilgrims meet and journey together. Our BBF after walking most of the Camino alone, walked most of one day with Pat and Dan, a lovely couple from Canada and Lisa, their adopted Camino daughter from W├╝rzburg. He then decided that he so enjoyed their company that he wanted to walk the rest of the way with them. Pat writes a daily blog of their journey which you can find here www.patanddanmakingtracks.com 
We rather feel that one of the reasons Alan did this was because of the emotion he had left at the Cruz de Ferro. The other was because Pat and Dan were just that little bit crazy, like he is. They sing a particular sea shanty along the way to motivate themselves, called "Barret's Privateers." Then when they passed the kilometre stones making the way, they sang a bottle on the wall song to mark the count down of the kilometres left to go to Santiago. But even before they start in the morning the ritual is to adopt the "Superhero " pose before setting off. And do you know what, they do not even feel stupid doing it! Alan said it was because one can only be truly happy in the company of friends, and he had had enough of sorrows and grief and wanted to enter Santiago on a happy note.
Walking now in a group of six (bears included) is slower than when alone, but oh so much more fun. On thelast day we knew we would be passing the 1km marker, so Alan bought and carried a bottle of beer, plus some biscuits to have with the tin of Sardines he had been carrying since St. Jean Pied de Port in France! We did say it helps to be a it crazy didn't we?
So here we are with only one kilometre to go.
The crazy humans danced a sort of jig and sang the bottle song and then drank the beer and ate sardines on toast to mark the occasion. We should also mention that along the way we had picked up another like minded soul called Kim, another lovely Chica from Germany.
Pat and Lisa had heard Alan sing the hymn "to be a Pilgrim" in the church in Portomarin and had asked if they could sing it with him. He loved this idea and so gave them a copy of the words, but Pat being a Superhero, was able to download the music as well. These two chicas had lovely voices and so it was that on the way into Santiago at the chapels they found open they sang the hymn to great acclaim from those who heard it. Alan said it was a joyous moment and one not to be forgotten. The last chapel they found was at Monte do Gozo.
We went directly to the Pilgrims' Office on our arrival and queued for some two hours to get our Compostella. In Latin Alan is called "Alanus"!
Then everyone departed to go to their various hostels, hotels and Albergues promising to meet up later for a meal.
Kim had researched a great Italian restaurant, they were all fed up with Pilgrims Menus and Lisa had said she wanted to eat pasta, but had a pizza instead!
Our first rest day since starting on 23rd April was taken up with some necessary admin as Alan's boots were beginning  to come apart at the seams. He also wanted to send back all the stuff he had carried and not needed!!!!
The gang met again at 11:00hrs to get good seats for the Pilgrim's Mass at 12:00hrs
Here we were joined by Judith, yet another nice Chica from Germany. Kim sat in front of us so missed out on the photo. 
The service was needless to say in Spanish, but we were all able to follow it more or less. During the Communion itself Alan admitted to being a bit tearful as he found it a very moving moment. Some of the others did too, so he was not alone. At the end they swung the Botafumerio which was used to get rid of the stink of the Peregrinos in the Middle Ages but now is just for show. 
We bears were a bit worried as we had heard it had been shot out of the Cathedral a number of times in the past!
Lunch was called for after this moving moment. The chicas then wanted to do shopping so Dan and Alan went for a beer, well they said they needed an isotonic drink, over which they set the world to rights.
The evening was now spent in a Tapas Bar.
Where the best Tapas we have had so far was consumed to great acclaim by all. Not cheap, but, oh so delicious. Lisa though needed chocolate.
The others much to Alan's delight wanted ice cream. Bed was at around 23:00hrs which is very late on the Camino where normally the humans are in bed by 21:00hrs!!!
Today our last day in Santiago, we had to visit the shrine of the Saint. We started early and so Alan had another tearful moment when he laid the funeral card for Hanna at the shrine. 
This is us hugging the Saint and makes the official ending of our pilgrimage.

We toured the Cathedral Museum and Pat and Alan sang the Hymn in the Cloisters.
Pat and Dan two of the nicest humans! Pat understands us bears too.
We are off to Finis Terrae and Muxia tomorrow and so we must leave you there as there is much still to do.
Buen Camino!

18 May 2015

Pilgrim's Progress 3

Today, Monday 18th May 2015, we reached the Cruz de Ferro, at 1528 meters, in perfect weather for walking just as the sun was kissing the earth. As I approached it, a line from a Cliff Richard song suddenly went through my head, "Lord you have so many angels in heaven, why did you have to take the only one I have ever known?" and the tears began to flow!
I dropped my pack, had a short drink of water, took my hat off and stood before the cross and sang in a clear voice the whole three verses of the Pilgrims Hymn. When I got to the last line I cracked and began to weep in earnest. After a moment I grabbed the Bears and said," come on bears, we've come a long way to do this, let's do it!" I went to the foot of the cross and sat them there and then placed the  stone from Hanna's birthplace on a rock in front of them and then read aloud the necessary prayer, amending it as follows: " Lord may this stone, a symbol of my and my dear departed soul mate, Hanna's, efforts on the pilgrimage that I lay at the foot of the cross of the Saviour, one day weigh the balance in favour of our good deeds when the deeds of our lives are judged. Let it be so. Amen."
Unashamedly I wept, took a quick picture of the Bears then we sat by my pack and cried.
When I'd recovered my composure I had one last act to perform for a friend who had given me an envelope with a letter she wanted burnt somewhere on the Camino. I said that I would do it here. I found a young German pilgrim to take a photo of me while I was doing it. Quietly I prayed that what every she had wanted to unburden would be granted her, as I burnt the envelope.
Our mission accomplished we could continue and so without further ado we set off down the mountain. 
I did not feel relieved or have a religious experience, I now just felt drained and very weary. Each step seemed hard, yet the going was easy enough at this stage. Not until much later when we got to El Acebo and stopped for coffee, orange juice and a tortilla did I feel better. The route was steep in parts and so one had to take extra care not to twist an ankle or a knee. 
On the way down an Irishman "M" stopped as he passed me to shake my hand and thank me for the wonderful singing at the Cruz de Ferro. A little later a Frenchman I also knew stopped and thanked me for the very emotive singing!
For my part I was rewarded by the views of God's Earth in the warm sunshine.

                      The Roman bridge leading into Molinaseca
By the time we had got across the bridge in Molinaseca we had had enough and on the way to finding the municipal Albergue, "M" the Irishman stopped me to invite me to have a beer with him later at 18:00hrs. 

I must have looked all in when I got there, for the hospitalero carried my bag up the two flights of stairs to our bed. We were the first to arrive too.
It's been an emotionally charged day, but one that has exceeded my expectations. God's Earth is good and the people on and along the Camino, also!
Buen Camino

7 May 2015

Two weeks according to the cuckoo.

The 14th century albergue in St Juan de Ortega

The cloisters where my washing is hanging on the left 

The dormitory 

Our bed, typical of all bunk beds along the Camino 

St Juan de Ortega 

We have been underway now for over two weeks and we have to report that all things considered we are doing well. Our BBF, Alan is holding up well. We think he still walks too fast, but then that's just us, bears of little brain!
All along the way, from the very start in St Jean Pier de Port, in France we have heard a cuckoo. The bird song too is one of the marvellous things we have heard every step of the way. There seem to be many Larks as well as many other birds we do not recognise, but their voices are marvellous and delight our every step. May be it's just because we are up early, either way we are thankful. Now we are also in the area of circaders so the air is never silent. Nor are we alone on the Camino. There are many hundreds of walkers from all nations, which is perhaps why it is so unique. The reason they are here is as diverse as the nations represented. There is though universal respect for each other as they are all doing it, each carrying his/her own burden and walking at their own pace. It is always a pleasure when we see a familiar face at the next overnight stop. Today, Thursday, 7 May, we even met two perigrinos on bicycles who had been in the same Spanish course with Alan, way back in February!
Alan likes to walk alone. He is happy to converse with pilgrims in passing, but prefers to remain silent as he journeys. So it is that when the chattering masses, as he calls them come up behind him, or he overtakes them, he does his best to keep away. It is not just the women  who seem to talk all the time either, the men do it too. Some of these conversations are not worth the breath either. A couple of German men were being very arrogant about what was necessary to walk the Camino, for example and a couple of young women were chatting for chatting sake about clothes and men. One young woman's voice was so loud that as they passed, Alan could not resist asking them to moderate the tone!

They say that it is during the third week that pilgrims experience strong emotions. Alan has done so from the start. In Roncesvalles at the pilgrim's mass when the blessing came and he was thinking about Hanna and why he was there, he experienced a feeling of such joy that he wanted to cry.  Then when we left Zubiri early in the morning he was thinking about Hanna's last days and was so saddened by the memory that he just wept for the next kilometre! Then  the feeling he had was of calm and peace. About three days ago now
he again was thinking about Hanna, but of the life and love they had shared and was overcome with saddness and loss that again he wept for quite awhile and thereafter was filled with peace and calm.

We have done our best to visit all the churches in the towns in order to pray for the family and friends who are in need of God's help and support. Alan's view is that is what we are here for and so we must make the best of it. In the monastery in St Juan de Ortega all the pilgrims after the blessing were given a cross to hang around their neck. Alan wears this outside of all his clothes as a sort of badge of office now.
This gesture is typical of the friendly nature of all the Spanish we meet along the way too. At no time have we had the feeling that they want to exploit us. When having a pilgrims meal, which are at so reasonable rates and include water and wine, the host never expects a tip. The cost of most things is reasonable and certainly cheaper than Germany. As are the hostels where we stay. Some pilgrims are so worried about finding accommodation though, that they spend much time trying to book ahead. Alan works on the basis that God will provide. 
The weather has been good to us too. We have had a couple of really cold days but now the sun is shining and the forecast looks good for more of the same. As we write we are in a small town called Hornillos del Camino. There is very little here, but our hostel is comfortable and we have made some new friends and so all is right with the world.
Buen Camino!