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Showing posts from September, 2012

A Small Setback

  Fence, Samos  Samos Monastery When we arrived at the monastery of Samos we took the 3  euro tour, which was money well spent. A young woman showed us around the five storied cloister and the huge chapel with its statuary and relics and vast spaces. At the end a little monk in his Benedictine habit admired my staff, joking that it looked like a bishop´s crozier. I then showed him a photo of myself in the full rig, looking very episcopal indeed. "Oh", he said in Spanish, "you are a bishop! And you", he said, turning to Clemency, without the slightest hint of embarrassment, "you are the bishop´s amiga?" His reading of the situation was plain: some foreign bishop touring the world with his floozie. I responded quickly " ¡Oh no no no! Yo soy protestante! Esta es mi esposa !" and we laughed it off, but I was very surprised at his lack of surprise. It set me thinking for the rest of the day about marriage. Later we checked into the alberg


We rose fairly late, around 7.00 and didn´t start until about 8.00 as we were intending a fairly quiet day. O Cebreiro was about 10 km away and we didn´t think we´d go much further. From our bright spacious little albergue we began to climb up through the valley, past mountain hamlets perched on the side of the hill, through farmyards. We were following the road some of the way, but after a while branched off onto a track that I suspect was on old Roman road. The stones were large and regularly laid but 2,000 years of use had left them foot trippingly jumbled. The farms looked prosperous. For the first time since Navarre we saw cattle outside; beautiful sleek glossy cows that looked like jerseys only somewhat bigger, and with bells around their necks. It was harder than we had anticipated. The 10 km involved a 900 metre climb and most of that was during the last half. Somewhere around 11.00 we crossed into Galicia and it was midday before we wheezed our way into O Cebreiro.

Vega de Valcarce

Sitting in the municipal Albergue  in Ponferrada I knew I was probably in deep trouble. My achilles tendons had given me trouble before, and the healing period was measured with a calendar, not a clock. I sat at dinner with a Spanish woman and her English husband. I talked about my symptoms and she said to her husband in Spanish "Tendonitis. Well! His camino is over." I didn´t let on that I understood but my heart sank. She was telling the truth. After dinner I limped the 20 metres to the parish church for evening prayers. There were about 20 people there and I was the only man. The women included two religious sisters from Waikanae and the young Spanish hospitalera who led the service. After a fairly simple little liturgy a candle was passed and everyone who held it offered a prayer. When it was Clemency´s turn she asked everyone present to come and gather around me, which they did. Clemency prayed a simple prayer for healing and the other women present laid their hands


Last night was one of the classic albergue experiences. The place we stayed was pretty primitive, with a bunkroom, a dining room, three scruffy showers and two toilets. There was a family of long lean cats hanging around the porch. Ruined houses lay about on every side, some with goats clambering over the tumbledown walls to forage the remains of abandoned orchards. The tariff for the night was by donativo , or as we would say back home, koha. For the promise of what we thought the place was worth we were given a bed, a meal and breakfast. The meal was cooked by the hospitalero, an American with a gammy leg, assisted by whoever wanted to lend a hand. We had lentils, a salad a potato and egg dish, bread and that delicious fresh raw sweet Spanish wine which simply does not bottle well, so cant be sampled except in Spain. Seated around the long table were us, an Australian, some Italians, Spaniards, French and Germans. Three young Hungarians had just spent 3 nights in a tent with n


I am writing this from a disused convent in a derelict town on the top of a mountain in Spain. I  have paid good money to be able to write that sentence, and I will savour it for a while. There. The camino is changing. The impact of the movie, The Way , has been enormous. I am told that a few nights ago 1000 people passed through Roncevalles in one day, more than any single day in the recent history of the Camino, and this in the shoulder season. I am grateful I am a few weeks ahead of that lot. Most of the new flood of peregrinos are, of course, Americans and Irish. I hope, selfishly,  that this is a passing fad because the infrastructure of the camino simply won´t stand those numbers, but I suppose it will all sort itself out. For us, without the influx of people inspired by the film, we are still dealing with pilgrims we aren´t used to. From Leon on, there are a whole lot of people who don´t fancy themselves as fit enough for the whole journey so they´re doing the last bit.


Thunderstorms were forecast for today, so it was a good day not to be off wandering about in the Galician mountains. We thought we would go to church instead, so set off at about 8.30 am to find an open church. We had forgotten that we were in Spain. At the time decreed from the foundation of the universe as the optimum hour for consulting the Almighty, that is, 10 am on a Sunday morning, all the churches in this city were locked up. At the cathedral an old bloke was sweeping up the yard with a broom and a pan with a long handle but he was the only sign of life. It was time to go and ask the locals when the churches might be open. None of them knew but one asked a tourist who had a guide book, which informed us that mass was said hourly in one of Astorga´s many churches, and that there was a roster of where you might find the live action on any given hour. The roster was in the porches of all the churches, but of course the porches were behind the locked doors which were behind the