Monday, September 30, 2013

On to Molinaseca

Today was a wonderful grace gift from God.  It was supposed to rain much of the day, but when we woke up, the stars were shining and the sky was clear.  Since we had a reservation for tonight we slept in a bit, lingered over breakfast and left at sunrise...about 8:15.  It was a little over a mile up to La Cruz de Ferro - a simple iron cross at the highest point of the Camino...4,934 feet.  The cross stands atop of a weathered pole that has become a symbol of the pilgrim way of Saint James.  Beside the cross there is a little stone chapel - Ermita de Santiago.  Unfortunately it is locked most of the time.  Many pilgrims bring a stone or token of love or blessing to add to the pile of rocks at the base of the cross.  Everyone seems to take pictures there as well.  We had beautiful clear blue skies for our pictures!

As we left I was thinking about the verses in Philippians 3:13-14

...this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

While I have been thinking about the past on the Camino, it has mainly been the good things The Lord has done in and through us over the past 44 years.  I have not dwelt on the negative, the regrets, the failures, but rather on the goodness and faithfulness of God in our lives.   And now we have a whole different stage of life to live with and for Him.  While I don't know yet what that looks like, I am looking forward to it and pressing on to be more like Him and to be faithful to Him to the finish line.

We were on a rough path much of the time today....going up and over another high point and then down down down into Molinaseca.  We really had to concentrate on where we placed our feet every step.  Some places we were walking through narrow gullies filled with rocks...rough going and hard
on the feet.  But I was able to pray sporadically at best for our kids, our grandkids and our own lives, committing each one to God...futures, relationships, finances, careers, husbands and wives to be, character development, growth, educations...laying it all at the Cross.  Good stuff!  And all while enjoying a beautiful, sunny, blue sky, warm day.  Thank you,  Lord!

We had a snack/lunch in a little town called Acebo.  A wonderful 77 year old woman from New Castle, England was at the table.  She had  walked part of the Camino years ago.  Now she and her husband were walking the whole way from St. Jean to Santiago!  She said the town of. Acebo looked much like Foncebadon when she walked years ago.  Now it is a beautiful, quaint, prosperous town.  So, I leaned there is hope for Foncebadon!  It can live again!

We arrived in Molinaseca at about 1:30 and found El Reloj, the Casa Rural.    There was some confusion about our rooms but we got it straightened out and have nice rooms in an amazing place...could be a museum or art gallery.  Really fun and interesting.  They even did our dirty laundry for us.  Went out for a walk around town...two pretty churches and a handsome medieval bridge coming into town.

Went to dinner with Dave and Barb and just now got home.  It started raining about nine and poured for an hour so we decided we had better make a run for it.  Didn't get too wet.  We have breakfast and then head out for a town called Cacabelos tomorrow.  In the guide the next 2 days would each be about 20 miles, so we are going off the plan and taking three days instead.  Rain continues to be in the forecast for 3 more days.  Praying it is just sprinkles, not downpours.  God has been good to us!

La Cruz de Ferro

A beautiful modern chapel for praying and meditation...closed...
A simple iron cross at the top...

Wouldn't you love to hike in these hills?
An eclectic cafe in the middle of nowhere!

Two churches welcome you at the edge of town....

One classy grocery store...

A beautiful old medieval bridge...several people were swimming in this part of the river when we walked by just before dinner.

Looking pretty good...feeling pretty good...

Rest Day Downer

It is probably a good thng we did not have WiFi was a downer of a day for us.  Now I have a little more perspective on it and can probably write about it easier.  We could not find a place to stay in Rabanal, so we had to leave the neat little Albergue after they shared a simple breakfast of fresh bread, jam, tea, and coffee with us...we bought bananas to supplement the meal.  It was very humid and there was fog and drizzle part of the way as we climbed up the hill about 4 miles to the town of Foncebadon.  We are pretty much back in the mountains again.

There was a beautiful sunrise over the mountains.  It was a bit cool but we got warm with the exertion of climbing.  I hadn't slept well and also had a headache (maybe from the altitude).  Andy wanted to hurry up the hill to beat the rain...I couldn't keep up with him.  We were NOT prepared for the teeny tiny town of Foncebaden.

There was not much to the town...4 Albergues, a restaurant, a small grocery store and a bunch of very old and very run down houses...most with boarded up widows and caved in walls and roofs.  It was depressing and a bit oppressive especially in the rain.  And this is the place we had picked to have our rest day...   The guide had said it was "stirring back to life with the reawakening of the Camino.  It was home to the 12th century hermit Gaucelmo who built a church and a simple pilgrim hospital here.  A stark wooden cross adds a haunting beauty to this isolated mountain hamlet."

Only one place was open when we arrived.  It was an An old Albergue with loud American music blaring, a fire going in the stove, funky stuff hanging on the walls, and a couple dozen people milling around to get out of the rain.  He said they had a double room for is but it would not be ready until 10:00, so we waited. Talked with an interesting older couple from Borneo who were taking their time doing the Camino...very interesting people.  We checked in again and were told the room would be ready at 11:00.  When Andy finally saw the room it was a mattress on the floor in a room with a shelf but no chairs and a shared bathroom/shower.  The second place was closed for the season.

The next place was in a very old run down church.  The bell tower looked like it could fall over any minute. It was a very basic  parish hostel with 18 mattresses on the floor in one room.  The last place didn't open until 1:00, so we sat in a bar and waited.  It was an Albergue and had room, so we stayed there.  Half of our rest day was not very restful, but we were off our feet!

We had lunch at a table in the grocery store, I walked around a bit, and Andy rested.  I worked on clearing a bunch of pictures off the camera and read a little.  Mid afternoon Dave and Barb arrived with some other folks we had met before.  We talked a while and together found a Casa Rural place to stay for the next night.  The gal who ran the Albergue was willing to call and make the reservations for us on my phone...worked well.  We haven't done that before, but we did want to stay in a nicer private room for a night, even if it wasn't on our day off.  As I understand it a Casa Rural is a home that has been made into a pension/small hotel.  We have stayed in one before and liked it....they usually set out a buffet breakfast as well.

Dinner was included in the price of the stay at the Albergue Convento de Foncebaden.  It was chilly and still a bit drippy so it was nice to stay in.  Went to bed at about nine....

When morning gilds the skies, my heart awaking cries...May Jesus Christ be Praised!

This used to be a church,,,now it is an Albergue, bit it was pretty rustic.
Kind of depressing, don't you think?

The cattle just wandered thru town...made themselves right at home.

The patio for the Albergue where we stayed.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rabanal del Camino

I am in a little bar slowly drinking a Coke and using their WiFi.  We are staying at Albergue Gaucelmo, administered by the London Confraternity of St James.  Volunteers come every two weeks from England to run the place.  It is small and they only take donations.  Tea and treats are at 4:30 and breakfast is served at 7:00.  Pretty nice and very cute from the outside.  There is a courtyard and little grove of fruit trees out back.  The town is overflowing with Pilgrims and they are letting some camp out there tonight.  The church on the square has been resurrected in recent years so there will be Gregorian chant and Vespers will be at 7:00 tonight with a Pilgrim Blessing at 9:30.  It is lead by a Benedictine missionary Monks.  Should be good...there is generally good attendance at these services along the way.

I was kind of grumpy this morning as we started off.  It was raining and I thought we had agreed to take our time, go to a little breakfast bar around the corner and have a hot breakfast and fruit and then start off.  The breakfast bar didn't open until 7:30.  Andy evidently had other plans to get going...
So off we went at 7:00 in our rain gear into the dark.  Had to have a little heart to heart with The Lord about my attitude...

Fortunately it was a steady light rain and we didn't get soaking wet.  It stopped about 90 minutes later and only sprinkled for a few minutes later in the morning.   We watched the sky change and develop over the morning....the forecast said there was 70% chance of rain all day, so we were grateful when the sun came out.  Andy laughed at me because I put fruit plastic bags on over my socks to keep my feet dry...held them up with rubber bands.  He thought they looked like the old fashioned white socks with lace at the top we girls wore when we were little.  Can you imagine it?

We walked mainly through open range today.  With the dark sky, then changing to white clouds in
places, and then the blue sky shining thorough it was quite a show.  The range had trees of all kinds, shrubs, grasses, but no tumbleweed.  There was, however, a Cowboy Bar in El Ganso.  It was quite the place...decorated much like the old west in the USA.  The funny thing was there were three men standing at the bar drinking and talking with the bar tender the whole time we were there.  We had a potato tortilla and topped it off with some chocolate with almonds that we had gotten in Astorga.  After being revived we had only about 5 miles to go go get to Radanal del Camino.  The last part was uphill (what else is new?) and about 1/2 mile of it was lined with a wire fencing.  Over the years Pilgrims have decorated the fence with wooden stick crosses....hundreds of the of all sizes.  Was very rustic but a good reminder of how much The Lord Jesus sacrificed for us.

We got settled into the Albergue and had showers.  I did a bunch of laundry and the set off to check with the four hotels/pensions in this small town to get a room for tomorrow night for our day off.  No such thing...every room booked.  One gal offered to call the two reservations and make sure they were still planning to come...the rest of the rooms were full already.  She is going to let us know tonight what she finds out.  Otherwise, we will have to walk in the morning until we find a place to stay.  I will have to update that later.  Time to walk around town for a few minutes and then think about supper before Vespers.

I wonder what's behind door #1!

This is door #2 and it's the back door to the Albergue.

Door #3 is quite pretty and well maintained!

Door #4 is the front entrance to the Albergue.
Some pretty houses in town...

The fountain as you leave town
Keeping my feet dry...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Journey to Astorga

We left early this morning because we had a 19.4 mile hike today.  Got on the road at 6:20 and it stayed dark until about 8:20.  Fortunately we were on roads those first couple of hours so it was easy or see the road and the signs.  We made good time and it was pretty nice temperature wise.  We planned to stop at the cafe in Villavante....and that was a frustrating experience.  Signs for the Camino were confusing and/or non existent and there was not a cafe to be found.  Some times the guide lies!

Most of the morning we were walking through or by corn fields.  Looked pretty healthy....they have an extensive irrigation system that helps.  We ended up walking all the way to Hospital de Orbigo before we stopped for a snack.  A cute older lady who was running the place was so helpful and kind.  Before we left she handed us a guest book to sign. 

It started sprinkling about 9 or 9:30 and continued on and off all the way.  When we left the cafe and turned left! there was the amazing old Puente de Orbigo.  It is one of the longest and best preserved medieval bridges in Spain, dating back to the 13th century.   It was built over an old Roman bridge which formed one of the great landmarks on the Camino.  It is a beautiful site.

When you make your way over the bridge, you are in the delightful village and the church of Saint John the Baptist, as well as several really neat little Albergues along the avenue.  At the end of town you make a choice about which way you want to travel....along the road or over the river and through the woods.  I had read that the 2md choice was one of the most peaceful, serene, and naturally pretty paths on the whole Camino so we decided to go that way, even tho it had several hills to climb.  I was not disappointed.  We walked right through farm yards, past vineyards and into the woods.  We went through a couple of quaint villages, and enjoyed a short stop at an old stone cross and a funky pilgrim sculpture of sorts.  At the end as we came off the top, all of Astorga opened up.  There was another large cross overlooking the city...a beautiful sight - maybe one you have even seen in pictures.  The name of it is Cruceiro Santo Toribio.  Very pretty, even in the rain!

We came down off the hill and into San Justo de la Vega and stopped for lunch in a happening little cafe.  They had omlettes on the menu and that sounded like a great change of pace...and they were really good.  From there we still had 3-4 km to get to the city.  About half way, the rain started really coming down hard.  Yikes, suddenly we were soaked.  The Albergue was not marked well and we had difficulty  finding it.  Not fun after such a long walk.  Fortunately when we finally got there, they had room for us.  Showers and fresh clothes felt good.  The staff was helpful and nice, and we ran into some people we have been with before.  It was good to settle in and relax.

The history and the sites to see are would be fun to explore for a couple of days.  The cathedral is boxed in by other buildings but quite large and beautiful.  There is another Gaudi neo-Gothic creation here.  It houses a Museo de Los Comino.  There were several churches and historic buildings, an unusual bell tower, several statues and a wonder park along the old city wall.  We stayed in the Albergue Saint Javier.  It stopped raining about 5:30 so I walked around around for about an hour.  Pictures don't look so good with grey skies, but the buildings were fascinating.  I have been disappointed that many churches and museums have not been open at the times we are free to investigate, but you can only do what you can...

The Albergue offered a discount coupon to eat a Pilgrims Plate at the wonder Gaudi Hotel.  It was fun to eat in an upscale place for a reasonable price.  Frank, our new German friend came in right after we did and asked to eat with us again.  It was so interesting.  He shared so much about his childhood growing up on postwar Germany and the many difficulties they faced.  We talked politics in Europe, as well as family situations he faced through the years with family who immigrated to the States, an uncle who was SS in the war, people who died I the war.  It was amazing.

On the walk through the hills in the afternoon we were on one path that brought a childhood memory to mind....a picture in a book of Joseph and Mary on just such a donkey path, coming down a hill.  I began to think of their pilgrimage.  They thot they were going to be gone for a few weeks to register to be taxed in Bethlehem.  They ended up staying and then going to Egypt....they were on that pilgrimage for a few years.  The hardships of finding places to stay, food, water, work...all with a new baby and maybe more children along the way.  The dust and the dirt, the lack of showers, the smells and sounds.  It would be overwhelming at times.

Then my mind went to Jesus and the disciples during his three years of ministry.  They also were on the road, a pilgrimage of sorts.   People hated Jesus and wanted to kill him.  There were large crowds around that loved him and made requests of him, pushing and shoving just to be neat him.

It all kind of put our pilgrimage in perspective.  We have it all...we know where there will be food, water and beds.   We have resources and guides.  And we have Him along side us to encourage and renew us.  

I am running out of time, but that is the jist of my thots today....lots more to think about.  

The well preserved medieval bridge in Orbigo

The church at ten end of the bridge
Farmers busy digging up potatoes.

Beautiful cross with Astorga in the background.  There was a long stairway down over the rise.
I'm not sure this is the right place for this picture....

The cathedral in has a very small plaza out front so it is hard to get a good picture..
The museum...created by Gaudi.

Another nice big grocery store on the main square in town.
Much of the old city wall has been preserved.
The Albergue where we stayed...very nice but not well marked.