There has been a lot happening since I last reported in.
Last Thursday night when I last added an entry we had a tremendous thunderstorm with heavy rain and wind. Unfortunately it hit just before dinner at 8:30 knocking out the hydro. You and I know all about long power outages dont we,Jane. We worried for our dinner but luckily it was for only 15 minutes and once the cook arrived we managed to get food on the table by 10 pm and did we dig in!
I next day I walked with Willem because he is suffering so much from his blisters that he hoped that my slow pace (5 kms per hour) would help him walk with less strain. He is a big, young man and usually powers right along. It was a spectacular moring as for hour a storm swirled all around us with lightning strikes every few minutes and it seemed that we would inevitably walk into its teeth. But as we moved it moved and we got only a few drops of rain. This sort of experience was new to both of us – being on the flat and being able to see the weather from 360 degrees.
The gleaming silver lining was that the weather was cool and we could walk for nine hours and cover 40 kms stopping an albergue in the countryside, just before Villafranca de los Barros, which was beautiful and yes Laurie it lived up to your expectations when you stopped here earlier this year.
Joining us here was another peregrino, Jean Francois, from northern France near Brest. He is 53 years old and the owner of a tug business operating in the English channel. He is a huge and powerful man and walks slowly but with great determination and covers long distances.
He told us a remarkable, even miraculous story. Two years ago he was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer and his doctors held up no hope giving him one to two years to live. So right away he walked the Camino Frances in northern Spain and made it halfway before being forced to break off due to a back problem. He returned to France, received medical treatment and was completely cured to the amazement of his doctors. Last year he returned to the Frances and walked the whole way thanking God for his deliverence. Now he is walking the Via de la Plata to connect more closely with God through Christ.
Besides the obvious lesson he learned he also is reading the bible and taking to heart the lessons from Christ that the pursuit of riches and station in life in foolish. He is glad to have his pack on his back as his own belongings and money for basic food and shelter. This is a gift most of us receive from the camino regardless of reasons for walking. Jean Francois is in the process of divesting himself of management of his company and will devote himself to things in life which really matter.
Speaking of basic food, Willem and I had a different dish that evening, hog´s cheeks stewed in a mushroom sauce. Sounds terrible and looked bad when put on the table but was really delicious.
Unfortunately when Willem took off his shoes and socks after such a long walk that day his feet where a mass of ugly blisters. He spent a long time caring for them but finally sensibly concluded that he will have to take time off walking to let them heal.
The next day I stared off early in the dark to a dazzling area of stars unimpaired by any ambient light in the countryside and I expected a hot day. But within an hour heavy ground fog rolled in and after that was gone the sky was gloriously cloudy so I made ambitious plans for the day and ended up covering 35 kms in 8.5 hours. All of this through field after field of grapevines. It is harvest time and the workers were hard at it filling wagon after wagon with grape clusters the wagons being filled were carried off by tractors to replaced by empty ones. Despite the hard labour pickers and drivers alike took time out to wave and wish me a¨”Buen Camino” as I strode down the dusty trail. By one oclock the sun was out again and mercilessly beating down. But I carried on arriving much depleted but happy at the small town of Torremijia. I slept a solid two hours as soon as I could put my head on a pillow.
At eight that evening I went to the local church for Saturday night mass which I found began at nine. Waiting for the church to open I sat down beside and English man, Alex, whom I had not seen in several days and he opend with ” So I hear that you walked 40 kms yesterday”. I was astonished that he knew this. He explained that Willem had texted this to Ria the evening before and in eating dinner together Ria had told Alex. This is a new age of the mobile phone and text messaging. I was not surprised that I dreamt all that night of time travelling.
The mass was very nice and I was able to follow along much better with the Spanish mainly because I brought my daily missal this camino. However, I still could not capture the homily delivered at a rapid pace but it sounded very learned.
I got to dinner that evening at 10 pm and was ushered into a very beautiful dining room in the rear of bar and was the only patron for dinner with a large flat screen tv in front of me entertaining the the futbol match between Real Madrid and Barcelona (Madrid was winning 1-0 when I left with the game almost over). The food was exceptionally good and when the proprietor came to check on my satisfaction I gave him a rave review and we had a long conversation in French. It turns out that he is also the French professor at a regional college. I urge everyone passing by this way to try the “Asador: Puerta de Barros” dnner. Your hosts Alonzo and Fernandoa Paredes will treat you well.
I didnt leave Torremejia until 8:30 this morning partly because I couldnt find anyone to let me out the locked door of this hostal in which I believe I was the only guest. The day before I had seen nobody on the road and there were only three pereginos in town – Jean Francois, Alex and I all at different places to sleep.
Today the heat returned and though I only had 16 kms to cover until the next famous Roman town of Meride I really felt the sun. By the time I found something to eat here – nothing to eat all morning because it is Sunday and everything is closed and checked into a hostal I was very fatigued. I showered made some plans for the next couple of days and slept for most of the afternoon. The next few days I will be making short distances as it just not worth it challenging the sun.
Walking the Via de la Plata is certainly a different experience from the Frances. In 9 days I have met only 9 other peregino walkers and see less and less of them each day. Great opportunity for prayer and contemplations but if it continues will be a solitary experience in the evening.
I am on my way to try to find somewhere for dinner – it is still Sunday!
I am thinking about and praying for you all.
I walk in joy!