Day 21 — Walk through life

Crucero de Santo Toribio
Villavante’s water tower

As usual, the morning started fresh and cold and gradually got warmer with every waking sun ray. We left Villavante early, whilst walking along this long village we noticed a strange concrete mushroomed shaped water tower, bang in the middle of the village. What a weird view for some of its inhabitants.

Hospital, Suzanna and bridge without a river

It was a lovely walk, the last part of the flat Meseta was already beginning to transform into rolling hills, the Cantabrian mountains were looming on the horizon. We passed Hospital de Obrigo, a small town with a very imposing baroque bridge over a small river, which could be negotiated by a wooden plank. Either the river was larger in the olden days, or this exaggerated construction was there to impress the visitors, such as pilgrims. Yes, we were impressed! We had a tortilla lunch in a nice place overlooking the bridge, where we met Susanna, a lovely English girl from Southampton, bravely walking solo and discovering herself and her inner resilience. We had a great chat and walked on.

Sanchez at Villares

When passing Villares de Obrigo we were touched by a selfless hospitality from Sanchez — an elderly Spaniard, whose mission was to serve pilgrims. In winter he runs a small albergue for a handful of passing pilgrims, and in the summer he offers some snacks, drinks and use of bathroom facility. All out of goodness of his heart.

After Villares the majority of the route rolls up and down through mature forests. After a week spent walking on a flat terrain, it makes for a lovely change. At one point I saw a pilgrim’s figure with a Polish flag! That was a proud moment, the first Polish pilgrim encountered on the Camino! I guess the majority of Poles start in Portugal?

I loved walking the forest path, the sky above was crazy blue speckled with soft clouds letting the sun beams through. The sky and the beauty of the whole peaceful walk made me fill more perceptive to the nature around me. All of nature’s miracles were surrounding me: ants building their new home, melee of birds chirping in unison, trees looking at me sternly. Wait, what? Yes, I saw quite a few trees leering with their singular eye, as if judging our every step.

I am watching you!

This pleasant, bucolic scenery made me think of my childhood; the strength in the trees brought back a feeling of security from my youth. As we advanced through the forest the trees transformed, getting older and more crooked. As the light dimmed I felt that I was being stared at and judged. I felt the periods of turmoil in my life coming back to haunt me. But I pulled through, the trees began to thin and I felt the happiness of the sun back on my face. When we took a break in the woodland’s clearing awash in the sun I realised that it was like walking through my life, through ups and downs, darkness and light. The sunny clearing confirmed what I believe in: “Everything will be alright at the end; if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end!” — love this quote!

Laborious walk across the small railway track

We reached Crucero de Santo Toribio, a stone cross on the top of the hill, from there it’s all downhill till Astorga. Another exaggerated construction that day was a massive footbridge above the single track almost disused railway. This huge green bridge zig zagging up, across and then down the other side adds at least half a kilometre to an already long journey! A simple level crossing would probably suffice.

We stayed in municipal albergue in Astorga, the cheapest stay so far, 5 Euro per person! The albergue was in an old impressive looking building, a former convent or something, it had a chapel and you could hear a religious music in the background. We got a bunk bed in just a four persons room and stayed with a girl who we met before, but didn’t befriend, as our American friends called her a “cheer leader” probably due to her cheery and loud personality. She turned out to be very nice and once again I decided to make my own opinion about people, and not let others influence my judgement.

Astorga is a really lively and interesting town. Gaudi again was busy here, leaving another architectural wonder behind; there is a cathedral, churches, old town, but also a chocolate museum, which we didn’t have time to visit. We also bumped into an Australian/Dutch couple we met briefly in Villavante. They had actually met on the Camino and now became a couple, they looked so comfortable with each other, I thought they were together for years! What a wonderful story, wish this new budding couple all the best! Long live Camino romance!

Martin’s favourite photo of Camino! Wine price!

On the main square, when we had our meal and I opted for long missed grilled vegetable instead of pilgrim meal (I wonder why the vegetables are so rarely served? they grow them everywhere!) We started talking to two American couples, who were getting ready for their Camino. They were very apprehensive, wanted to get many information from us. They loved Martin’s clownish antics, he showed them his favourite spiritual photo of the Camino! (attached!) and entertained them with his Camino walk (oh yes, have I mentioned the Camino walk? where your muscles get stiff after a few minutes in sitting position and you walk funny for a while!) and some other jokes. I give up. I am trying to have a spiritual enlightenment, walking through my life, observe watchful trees and receive the Universe’s lessons and my walking partner is a clown! Next time I am walking solo!

Gaudi’s architecture in Astorga