A Majestic Day . . .

NOTE:  I re-read my last post and wanted to state for the record that after I am a sweaty mess at the end of the day, I do take a shower before crashing in my bunk . . .

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A personally majestic day for some reason.  I am thinking today as I walk (yes, there is plenty of time to do that) about the first week of the Camino, which breaks you down (well, at least broke ME down), and about the second week when I started to feel stronger, to notice something other than the heat, my feet, the struggle to just make it through the day, etc.  and now entering the third week . . . well, at least today, I feel as though everything I’m encased in during my normal life just sort of fell away after a fashion.  I’m not sure that’s really the correct way to put it, but at this point, I can’t do any better. I also notice I’m becoming mush-buckety, which generally is Neil’s role in this relationship.  But he is on my mind a lot as I listen to old music from our early days.  At any rate, as he always says . . . I digress . . .

I leave my rest day in Santo Domingo de la Calzada both refreshed and listening to my feet groaning, “Oh, no . . . that again!”  I start at 8:45, even later than usual, so I don’t stop for my typical café con leche on the way out of town.  Today’s path runs adjacent to the N-120 at times, and often veers off onto track that connects four small villages between Santo Domingo and Belorado, the next decent-sized town 23 km. away.

The first village is 7.2 km from Sto. Domingo, so I will wait until then, crunching on a bit of croissant as I walk, accompanied by sips of water.  On the trail, I have two “find a bush” moments, which I hate.  The track is right next to a major road, so hiding is less successful on days like this, though at least the cars are going fast enough that they probably will think they are dreaming if they glance across to the little bushes . . .

On the road, I meet Louise from Scotland, and we talk for a few minutes as we walk.  Her pace is faster than mine, of course, and after we establish that we both love doing our solo camino journeys, she clicks on.

I reach Granon (I wish I knew how to put that little squiggle above the Spanish “n” . . . ) and it is fairly small.  An Alimentacion (sort of like an Alimentare in Italy), a small local grocery, with fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, bread, just staples, nothing fancy, but it is the place to get nectarines, which I love.  So I purchase one for .33 Euro cents, and talk with the owner for a few minutes.  He has some grade-school children buzzing around, he speaks English, and offers to weigh my full pack (I’m wearing my boots) on his produce scale.  I am almost afraid to look.  11.7 kilos.  That’s about 25 lbs.  And remember that I already sent 3.6 kilos home.  So I was ridiculously overloaded and still am.  I give him my card, he says he will read what I have to say about the Camino, and I leave, making a “slow-beeline” to the bar down the street to get my much-awaited café con leche.

Louise is already there, as are several others trekkers.  Inside, I point to a bocadillo case and a half sandwich, toasted, mimicking a BLT, but it is ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and shredded crab.  Even has mayo on it!  That’s a first, and it is delicious not only with my café con leche, but with the fresh-squeezed orange juice the man hands me.  I watch the oranges topple one after another into his machine and now I have my hand around a tall glass of delicious juice.

After an unsuccessful attempt at the Albergue to unload a daypack full of things I won’t need for two days, I return to Alimentacion Piedad and speak again with the owner, Amadeo Vicente, who says he will be happy to make the arrangements to send the small pack (but with nearly six pounds of paraphernalia) to Villafranca Montes de Oca, where I plan to stay tomorrow evening.  This requires that I reach Villamayor de Rio (I realize there are many places called Villamayor fill-in-the-blank on this road) today, and I am 11.5 km from it.  It is 12:30.  Not a big deal, really, even with the pack, but it will require walking under a hot and cloudless sky for another three hours or more.

The path from Granon

The path from Granon

Relieved, nourished, and equipped with my large but slightly lighter pack, I head out of Granon into the countryside again.  Immediately I am surrounded by fields of sunflowers, all partially dry now, all with their heads bowed down for acres and acres, like fields of nuns praying.  However, some of the sunflowers have smiling faces . . . and I don’t know whether the seeds have fallen out in that pattern or whether some charming locals want to greet the peregrinos in this peculiar, slightly eerie, but delightful way.  I will include photos when I can load them, but right now I am smiling broadly and bow to the large yellow- and brown-headed field inhabitants.

Sunflower faces #1

Sunflower faces #1

The music in my ears is a collection of old favorites, a playlist randomly chosen earlier today . . . Dan Fogelberg, Kenny Loggins, Pousette-Dart Band, Stevie Winwood.  Peter Gabriel, Steve Perry.  Familiar music and lyrics from decades ago, and I am singing, smiling, yelling into the sun that this is a spectacular day.  It is now that I envision this next stage, the stage of complete and essential decomposition inside me.  Tears that have been absent from my emotions for the past five years even threaten to erupt, for no apparent reason other than that all is free and floating in my tiny cube of space right now.  They still don’t show up, but they tease around my edges.  At this moment, I feel as though I could walk forever.  I could fly.

Sunflower faces #2

Sunflower faces #2

Sunflower faces #3

Sunflower faces #3

Part of me is still practical, out of necessity, and I stop frequently, drinking the water in my bottles, saying hello to those who pass me.  At the next village, Redecilla, I again assess my stamina on this sunny day that shows no promise of cloud cover.  My iPhone says the temperature is 72 degrees, though it feels hotter than that without respite from direct sun.  Recklessness will not get me to any destination in a healthy manner, so I call the albergue in Villamayor de Rio to make sure they will have a bed for me if I pursue my morning goal.  No answer.

After three rounds of no answer, I try the one place in the village next up the hill.  Viloria de la Rioja.  There is only one albergue in that village, and they do have a room.  I reserve it.  Worry about getting to Villafranca tomorrow . . . worry about it tomorrow.  I won’t make more than nine miles today, though my feet could have walked the larger distance easily.  But the sun, though lovely, becomes brutal in the later afternoon, and I know I repeat myself, but it is worth repeating.  There is absolutely no shade.  I’m old but I’m not crazy.

So another 3.5 km. and I am in Viloria de la Rioja, population 70 people.  The hostel is called Albergue Acacio and Orietta, Brazilian and Italian respectively.  I am grateful for my accidental re-routing.  Ten beds (I get an un-bunk bed!), lovely showers, an outside terrace and a communal dinner and breakfast (cost= a donation).   As I enter, I hear soothing music and smell incense.  There is a fire in the corner wood burning fireplace.  I’ve just dropped into the late sixties or early seventies, and the tranquility is so thick you could wrap yourself in it for the winter.  Hmm . . . maybe I’ll just stay and become a volunteer.

Brierly’s book says Acacio is a key figure in the Asociacion Jacobea, and he created the network association that has done so much to improve pilgrim facilities along the Camino. Paulo Coelho is a sort of godfather padrino to this place and his books are for sale in three languages in the reception area.

I get settled, take a shower, do my hand laundry and hang it up outside in the garden area.  Settle myself in to write this post.

I cannot tell you what it feels like to be here.  A young woman’s mouth is hopping around on a flute (Lisa P, where are you?), her boyfriend is strumming a guitar, laundry is flapping, cats are mewling, an orange bicycle named GLOBE TROTTER is parked in the bike rack in front of me.  Rosemary plants, lavender, and some sort of fruit tree (pear, I think) line the stone wall to my left.  A breeze helps the string of international flags flutter next door.  A young man in blue jeans sits on a green metal bench across the garden.

It is a surreal scene, but it is also real.  The incense wafts outside with the breeze.  I am in mini-heaven.  Soon I will go inside to see if I can do something useful before (or for) dinner.  For one night, this is my community.

About Woodswoman

Writer, educator, psychotherapist, woodswoman. Crave solitude and just walked the Camino de Santiago from the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. Long-term partner, Neil. Three grown kids, one traveling the world for a couple of years (see theparallellife.com), and two in other countries . . . Thailand and Texas! One Golden Retrievers and two cats. Avid reader, looking for 10 more hours in each of my days.
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21 Responses to A Majestic Day . . .

  1. ñ the squiggly on top of the n to make it an nyay – use option n a the same time on your Mac. Lovely memories of my camino. Gracias. Lose the headphones and listen to the camino, listen to your soul.

  2. David and Peggy Lindstrom says:

    dave and peg

  3. Mary Montanye says:

    I was going to tell you what Julie did. hold down the option button as you type the “n” but you then have to type the “n” again and it will show up under the squiggle.

    Sound like an incredible day. Reading your post reminded me of a runner that finally gets into “flow.” You’ve hit flow, Girl! Enjoy. You’ve earned it.

  4. Kate Duncan says:

    I loved this post, Joannah! Carol and I just watched “The Way” so I’m picturing your days better. We pondered your progress at book group on Wed. Hugs!

  5. Kathy Perkins says:

    Hi J,
    I’ve been reading along as you hike along. I bet you aren’t missing the happenings in Colorado. Unbeknownst to everyone is that NM is having similar downpours, though not from the mountains. E. NM got about 15 inches.
    I write now to tell you how to do the n. If you are on an iPad or similar Mac device hold down the n when you type it and a list of symbols comes up above the letters. OR, like on my desktop computer hit option and strike n, like I am doing right ñow. You hit the n twice, first for the accent then the letter. Same works for c, ç.
    Happy trails, Kathy de Santa Fe

  6. jofadell@bex.net says:

    At last you are enjoying the beauty.. The tiredness is letting up a little, just enough for you to smell the flowers. Must be lovely. Think go you every day.

  7. Marilyn Milhous says:

    It’s good that your feet could have gone longer. I sure would like to follow along on a map. Do you have any websites to recommend to follow your particular path? i was looking at some and found out that there are many paths to Santiago, and that may be why the scallop shell is a symbol of the way. All the lines come to one point. You are an inspiration, I eagerly look forward to each posting.

  8. Gary Varner says:

    Just a quick note to say I’m enjoying your posts and living your travails and successes vicariously. Good luck!

  9. Pat McC says:


  10. While there is much depth to this entry, I have been laughing aloud as I read some of it, because I remember a very early post where you said you arrived at your destination feeling like you’d been punched and hung out to die, which had cracked me up at the time. Now you are laughing in the sun, singing, bowing to the tall flowers. Soon you may tell us you’ve seen the Scarecrow, and Toto.

    Also found hilarious your distaste for having to hide in the bushes, and your description of cars passing, people in them saying “Whaaaa?” But again, helpful tips to those who may follow you. Find a tree, a bush, or a shrub. Hide. You can be very funny, pilgrim.

  11. mary ann fox says:

    I agree marilyn. I keep wanting a map. How do you have energy to keep writing these tidbits? Carry on. May there always be a big bush when you need one.

  12. Woodswoman says:

    Thanks to all for the tilda instruction. I’ll try that next time. And as for a map . . . if the library has the John Brierly book about the Camino Frances, you can see day by day, though I’m not “making” the stretches in his stages exactly as he does them. Taking my time. Otherwise, you can look for a site that follows the Camino Frances . . . which goes from the French/Spanish border in St. Jean Pied-de-Port through Pamploma, Burgos, Leon, to Santiago de Compostela and beyond, to the Atlantic Ocean. And as Kate and Carol have done (and many many others, both on this trail and at home, you can watch the movie The Way, with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Some of you have seen it with me, because I’ve watched it literally 15 times!

    I’m ready for another day.

  13. Gail Baker says:

    I have enjoyed reading of your journey. With a little time on Sunday morning, I went back and reread your postings. You are changing, settling in, making your way. Thanks for letting us all share in your journey.

  14. I love the smiling sunflowers! Thanks for sharing them with us! Anyone have instructions on how to put the tilde over the n on a PC???

  15. So happy you are ennoying your walk. Today I trudged my way from Ronsevellas to Zubiri. It was a wonderful day but my feet, thighs, and calves are screaming. I wish I had known about this walk earlier. But I have to believe we find things at the right time..
    Buen Camino

    • Woodswoman says:

      Another killer, Donna. Tomorrow will be hard as well, but the sculpture at the top of Alto de Perdon is wonderful, with the backdrop of windmills in the distance. Take care, and take your time.

      Buen Camino to you as well. I’m in Burgos for another day and night, and then, the Meseta!

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