It has been a long time since I posted. I assure you that it is not out of indolence but lack of opportunity to access a computer – none in the village, computer broken, cultural centre closed due to financial restraint, nothing open Saturday evening or Sunday etc.
I have been making good progress and am now in the village of Aldeonuevo del Camino. The albergue here is really quite disgusting, filthy and neglected so I am staying in a small hotel for the princely sum of 15 Euro for a private room with bath – very clean! Moreover, the proprietor has loaned me his personal computer and access to the internet.
Passing into A del C today I have now walked over 400 kilometres of the 1000 kms journey. It has not been easy. I swear that Spain is all uphill from the south to the north or so it seems. My leg muscles are beginning to resemble those of a mountain goat. And the weather has been a challenge. When I start in the morning well before dawn it is cool and wonderful but by late morning the heat returns and makes walking a real struggle. It is not as bad as the brutal heat of the first week but it is still really hot!
There are even fewer peregrinos to be seen these days. For the last two nights I have met up with a fine Irishman, Noel Brennan, from Dungarvin near Waterford. He is a retired principal of a school for special needs children and has been good company in the evenings and to help find trail markers in the dark in the morning. Then we have walked alone with our thoughts and prayers. The last two nights we have been the only pilgrims in the villages where we stayed. Last night we were in the large albergue in Olivia de Presencia and Noel had the entire first floor and I occupied the rest of the establishment. Our hospitalera, Monica, was particularly friendly and she made us a meal of homemade chicken noodle soup and poached fish with peas. You can`t imagine how welcome this was after a steady diet of oily meat and french fries!
Noel is feeling a bit pressed to reach Santiago in the time he has remaining so he went on to the next town 10 kms down the road today. I don´t envy him as it is very hot out there.
The scenery is not as spectacular as in the north of Spain with sundrenched hill following hill. The principal occupation is still raising livestock, now cattle being in the strong majority. I have seen some magnificent looking bulls, some of which I imagine are being raised for the ring. A few days ago I had in fact a too close encouter with such a beast. Walking down the trail I suddenly came face to face with a bull. We both stopped and looked at each other, me wondering at the protocol for such events when someone hollered and I saw his herder and dog following. So the bull just trotted by me without a second glance. I imagine that he was just being moved to another pasture. And Katie, I am glad that I wasn´t carrying the flare gun which you suggested; I might have been tempted to use it to my own peril! (Don´t know where the slant script just came from!)
People in this part of Spain are very friendly and helpful which makes th whole experience even more rewarding.
I have been fortunate to attend some wonderful masses and devotions in local churches. Last Thursday in Cesar de Caceres there was long and beautiful mass and devotions in the equisite 17th century church. The church was large and it was packed to the rafters. I believe it was a mission for the parish. The long and well crafted homily was on the duty of Spanish fathers to provide spiritual and religious guidance for their children. I know this because the priest spoke very slowly and repeated his main points several times. I appreciated this very much as my Spanish is slow.
I have arranged to meet my friend, Peter O´Carroll, in the town of San Pedro just south of Salamanca on Friday and am looking forward to walking with him for a while.
I have two special intentions which I am praying for this camino, the grandaughter of friends of mine Stan and Sandy Borutski of Round Lake. Little Grace is undergoing some very important medical tests tomorrow, September 29th and if any of you feel so inclined I would appreciate it if you would add Grace and her family to your prayers as well particularly tomorrow. The other intention is my wonderful family.
For those following this blog for information on the Via de la Plata because they are planning to travel this way in the future, I hope I am providing enough information to he helpful. I can summarize that at this time of year and maybe anytime this not an easy route but the opportunity to be alone in the countryside to meditate and pray is most rewarding. There certainly is no anxiety about obtaining accommodations at the end of a long day as there is sometimes on the camino frances. Offsetting this to some degree is the lack of villages between destinations to offer food, water and support, so good planning is necessary. Once I get home I plan to add to this blog more specific information on my itinerary and experiences to help you all plan your trip in advance.
To my friends and family, particularly my wife, Jane, and my children, Katie and Megan, you are in my prayers constantly.
I walk in Joy (even when hot!)