My Camino

Day 22 — Hills, flowers and crosses

That was a beautiful day’s walk. We were entering the hilly Maragato region with quiet stone villages with tall bell towers- home to many storks. And with picturesque hills covered in colourful wild flowers giving out aromas of spring! Loved it!

I was again thinking of my Camino stages and decided that my third week was definitely for spiritual development. But I was just entering the fourth week, if I continue on this tack I may end up totally chilled out, light and ethereal and maybe even evaporate all together into the thin fresh air. And why not, I would not mind staying here forever amongst this wonderful scenery.

We walked beside a wire fence, there were many crosses made on the spot out of sticks and attached to the fence by the pilgrims. It looked like each cross was placed there due to some strong personal motive. I decided to make my own little cross too and leave it on the fence. When making it I dedicated it to all my friends who struggle with illness and hardship. Please, take the burdens away from them, please give them ease and peace, please give them health and hope — I chanted quietly. The medallion I carried around my neck the entire journey quivered slightly under my t-shirt. This necklace was made with my mum and my kids in mind. It is my talisman to protect my loved ones. I felt it worked, I felt that my well wishes were received.

After a short lunch in a beautiful spot with fantastic views of the mountains we carried on and walked via Rabanal de Camino, where we visited Santa Maria church. After that the path carried us all the way to Forcebadon, where we wanted to stay for the night. It was just over 5 kilometres away, but it seemed that we were climbing higher and higher up the stony path and the village was nowhere to be seen. We passed our German friends we met in Villavante, they were sitting by the side of the path looking fed up: “Where is the village?” I didn’t have the answer, normally you would at least see roofs of a distant hamlet, but this time we couldn’t see anything, but the endless uphill climb, boulders and colourful wild flowers smelling to high heaven. Ok, I was getting tired, but I didn’t mind this hard but pretty walk. And then, as if from nowhere the village appeared, nested somewhere in the hills. This village was abandoned in the 80’s, however with the increasing popularity of the pilgrimage, the village made its come back and the abandoned houses now rejuvenated made a welcome break for tired travellers.

We stayed in an old traditional stone house that was known as one of the hippy albergues. Our beds were located in the loft dormitory, accessed by a steep ladder.

Hippy albergue

This room with different mattresses, beds and bunk beds pushed under the slope of the roof definitely deserved a photo, otherwise my friends will never believe what kind of places I was sleeping in. I was so happy to find the vegetarian friendly place. Great, no animal cruelty supported here, but we were greeted by an albergue hospitalero, a young Spanish lady, trying to get rid of a huge hornet from the hall. She was whacking it quite ruthlessly with the broom (I must admit it was buzzing like a tractor!), yet assuring us that she didn’t want to kill it. I must quickly report, that the insect flew out of the window and wasn’t harmed.

We met two young girls — Julie from Alaska and Janina from Germany. We sat outside on the comfy pub benches, seeping beer and admiring lovely views, although the wind picked up and the sky was getting dark; the weather was changing.

We had a communal pilgrim meal consisting of vegetarian paella, humus and salad, which was really nice. However the atmosphere was more commercial than the free living hippy style that I had expected. My impression was confirmed by Peter, an Irishman who visited this place a few years ago and now was retracing his steps down the memory lane. He said that he remembered a wild jamming session in this place a few years ago and plenty of local wine. The owners had changed and were a bit more stingy on free stuff. So we purchased more drinks. I discovered a summer wine — on tap, very refreshing light alcoholic beverage, tasting like red wine with lemon and soda. We chatted with the girls and Peter well into the night until the stuff reminded us that lights out was 11.00!

We came to our dormitory, full of tired and snoring pilgrims, when the lights were already off and struggled to find anything using a small head torch. Thank God there was a small bathroom in our dormitory and we didn’t have to traipse down the ladder. I slept next to a young Japanese woman, she was actually sleeping in a bunk by my feet. I don’t know if she spoke any English. In the evening I was watching her with interest. She didn’t speak to anybody, after a shower she changed into her nighty, put some elastic stockings on her feet, then took a packet of crisps and munched on them constantly gaping at the screen of her phone. I felt a bit sorry for her, I wouldn’t like to travel and not speak to anybody. But maybe she was comfortable just being in her own company? When we woke up she was still sleeping soundly.

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Dorota Holmes

Dorota Holmes

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