Camino de Santiago del Norte: Day 19

 Note: This is a camino of gratitude for me. Each day,
I choose something I am grateful for in my life and
think and journal about it throughout the day. I will
share an excerpt from my journal entries at the end
of each day’s post. 

Villaviciosa to La Vega de Sariego  10.8 miles
10 October 2017

I would have loved to stay in Villaviciosa another day, but I was pretty much caught up with work so I had no excuses—off I went. The walk out of town was lovely—an urban trail along the river. I met many people out for their morning walks and runs, with and without dogs.

“Today the mist from my breath is hanging on a little longer in the morning. Fall is truly here. It will get cooler as I walk up into the mountains.”

In a small village, I came across this pilgrim’s fountain where I dumped the city water from my bottle and refilled it. How special are these people who are looking out for us!

Soon, I came to the place where the Camino Primitivo splits from the Camino del Norte. It is a weighty decision for me to choose to do the Primitivo. Most pilgrims who start on the coastal path, stay on the del Norte all the way; some choose the Primitivo. The official start of the Primitivo is actually in Oviedo (two more days walking), but this is the place where pilgrims coming from the del Norte must decide.

I had chosen the Primitivo before I started because it would take me through the mountains and would probably have fewer pilgrims. This meant I would have more time to walk alone, which is important for me. For this Camino, I want plenty of time to think and meditate as I walk.



And here at the crossroads was a sweet little ermita (a small isolated chapel)—The Ermita of San Blas—and on its door, was this lovely poem recently composed. When I first read it, I could only translate it roughly, but even so, unbidden tears erupted. What I am doing is profound for me!

As you passed through the Village,

has estuaries and rivers
forests and also meadows
and here in Casquita
is a special destination.

You arrive here pilgrim,
In the morning and relaxed,
With a great emotional expectancy
From your accumulated steps.

Steps long and short
but always firm and thoughtful
and almost always accompanied
by the dust of the road.

And it is here in Casquita
where the farewells
arise and the emotions emerge,
As it is a symbolic place
of decision making.

Some decide the coast,
others the interior,
and behind these stone bricks,
silent and observant,
This our beloved San Blas
As…Elder Pilgrim.

I added the translation that I came up with later. But, of course, it sounds more beautiful in the original Spanish. I love the metaphor of the decisions we must make in life and how hard and emotional they can be, but also beautiful and fulfilling.

I began to flag and needed to rest and refuel. While hiking in the UK and here on the Camino, I wish I had kept track of the number of times that this happened: I begin to look for a comfortable place to sit—preferably a bench or table and in a few minutes, one would magically appear! Today it was a picnic table at the junction of two ways to travel on the Camino: The steep, hard, and 1.3-kilometers, shorter way with supposedly “impressive views” (according to the guide); or the longer, easier way that also takes you by the Monasterio de Santa Maria de Valdedios where I could sleep in their albergue. I chose the longer, easier way, mainly because I wanted to stop at the monastery.

As I sat down to eat, the local church bell tolled 12 times—twice!

Unfortunately, I arrived at the Monastery too early to stop for the night and decided it made more sense to push on to La Vega (and it was fortunate that I did as you will see). Once I left Valdedios, I began CLIMBING! (So much for the guidebook’s “easier way.” Glad I did not go the “hard”  route.) But the effort required me to stop regularly and look back toward the monastery.

In La Vega, the municipal hostel was adequate…I had to go to the grocery store to register and the hospitera there was as nice as could be. Because there were beds in different rooms, I had a room to myself. Turned out that only two other pilgrims showed up and they got a private room as well. And here is the fortunate part of my choice to push on at Valdedios: it turned out that they became quick friends. Caitlin and Gerry from Roscommon, Ireland were wonderful conversationalists.

As Gerry left for provisions at the store, I called down to him from my window, “Choose a bottle of wine—I’ll pay for it if you will share it with me!” I am such a baracha barrata (“cheap drunk”) that I am always on the look out for people to share a bottle with me.

We talked over dinner in the tiny kitchen until we could not keep awake any longer. (As you can imagine pilgrims tend to eat hearty and find their beds early.)

In the morning we started out early together in the cold—it was close to 0º C! Gerry walked  ahead and Caitlin and I enjoying a last visit  (or so I thought…) before she pushed ahead of me.


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