Finally in the Albergue in Orense!

Hi All

I left you rather suddenly yesterday as I was timed out on the library computer. I am glad that I was because I left the town hall to visit the church next door and found out that the mass was two hours earlier than I thought and I walked right into the beginning. Who says the Lord doesn´t take care of lost sheep. More on lost sheep later.

I had a good supper at the restaurant run by the two ladies, Laurie, which for your record and for future peregrinos is called B&J´s. Maybe Bonita y Joven? Probably not, but the ladies were very friendly and attentive. While watching the tv and eating the Galician weather man called for rain in the north which had me worried.

However, today dawned bright and sunny but very cold. Once more we had frost. This time was all down hill 300 metres over 22 kms so not steep. The bad part was that 90% was on highway and 10 kms was through a very unattractive industrial zone. So no great sights today. The day was saved a little bit by the last 3 kms through an attractive village and some peaceful paths in Orense.

However, Orense is far bigger a place than I suspected. It is in fact a city. As a result I got lost – must have missed an arrow somewhere and wandered all over following vague directions from the citizens. Finally a young guy took it upon himself to lead me to the place even though he wasn´t sure himself exactly where it was.

I am now off to visit the Cathedral and the historic centre but I have a map provided by the hospitalero which makes me very secure.

To my friends travelling the camino and following this blog I want to give me address in Santiago. I have reserved a room in the name of William Beahen at the Hotel Miradoiro de Belvis at 5 Rua das Trompas for 25, 26 and 27 October leaving Santiago on the 28th. The website says that the hotel is only .3 kms from the Cathedral so should be easy to access. Ian on the camino Frances and Willem on the Via de la Plata and anyone else, I would love to meet you and trade experiences.

Via con Dios!

Bill

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The journey is still full of joy!

Hi All

I am now in a place with the called of Xunqueira de Ambia. Wrap that around your tongue a couple of times.

Since I last posted I left Laza on Sunday crossing over the first ground frost I have seen on the journey. But it warmed up to cool by the afternoon. I hardly noticed cool since I was engaged in climbing the 500 metres over 5.2 kms to the top of the next pass. This was tough work and at kept me sweating from every pore. At the steepest points you really have to lean into the hill to keep from falling backwards from the weight of the pack. But as Peter OCarroll has told me Poli, Poli or slowly, slowly which is what the guides told him when he and Finn were climbing Mount Kilamanjaro.

Near the summit there is tiny bar in a tiny village where the owner keeps a record of all of his customers by having them sign cockel shells which he hangs on the walls. There are hundreds going back years. When I entered he was playing Suzanne by Leonard Cohen on his CD, my favourite song by one of my favourite musical artists.  I  smartly said  Leonard Cohen to him and he said  Si  with a puzzled  look. When I signed the shell and marked my country the light dawned and he said Cohen Si Canada!

I stopped there for a can of coke and ate two petites madelaines to best remember this moment as I listened to the rest of the CD.

My next stop was Vilar do Barrio a delightful little town. Again I was wasted by dayś exertions and was rewarded by having some guy send  me four extra kms in a futile walk to an inappropriate albergue in a railway station far from town.

When somebody finally turned me around I went to a brand new albergue in the centre of the town only opened a few months ago which was delightful. Even more enriching was the company of two German peregrinos Lisa and Ludger Robben,  a brother and sister who are  walking the  camino as  devout  Catholics because it is the Holy Year. Ludger is police officer for the German national  force presently posted to Crime Prevention and loving it. It was Sunday and our options for dinner were very limited but our very friendly hospitalera sent us across the street to a private home, no. 17 where a wonderful elderly lady prepared us a very good dinner.

Put Vilar on your list of places to stay.

I have just been informed that I will be automatically kicked off the computer in the library in 3 minutes so must go.

Mass for pilgrims, maybe only me, at 7:30 then dinner at the restaurant run by the ladies, Laurie.

Bill

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Best day of all!!!

Hi Everyone

Yesterday I walked from La Gudina to Campobecerios 20 kms of the most beautiful vistas I have ever seen.

I thought that the day wasn´t getting off to a good start because just after I got up three Spanish cyclists the only ones left in the albergue turned on some sort of music device quite loud and sang along with what I took to be popular songs. They were good sized guys in their 20´s and 30´s and frankly I felt a little threatened by their behaviour. But then I listened to the words of the songs which I could make out and found that these were hymns hyped up somewhat to contemporary sounds. And these guys where not the least threatening, they were giving me big smiles. A lesson which keeps reappearing on this camino – don´t judge!

I walked out of town in brilliant sunshine and into some kind of paradise. Frankly before coming on this camino I felt that I would not experience the equal of the magnificent vistas of the mountains on the Camino Frances but boy was I wrong.

I walked all day at the height of 1,000 metres looking down at valleys several hundred metres below. And there was not just one valley. At times I was looking at valley meeting mountain giving way to another valley all in splendid succession as far as the eye could see. And everytime I would round a corner on the mountain ridge there was a completely new perspective.

The highlight of the day was when I came round a corner and to my AMAZEMENT there was a valley 400 metres below completely filled with an absolutely pristine lake with no sign of human activity and mountains rising from it on all sides.

Before I left Canada I copied some hymn sheets to bring with me in case the occasion arose when I would want to sing praise to God. This was the exact moment when it was completely appropriate. So there I was singing hymn after hymn on top of the mountain with this glorious sight and nobody to hear me but God! After that figuratively, emotionally, spiritually and truly I felt God holding the universe in the palm of his hand.

Seeing these vistas hour after hour made human crafted wonders of the world seem like pretty mundane things.

Arriving at the tiny village of Campobecerios I was absolutely beat – tired and sore. The last half hour I had been carefully picking my way down an very steep path towards the village and all day I had been climbing and descending. Walking mountain tops is not flat work.

There was a Casa Rural in this town which is a home or a bar with rooms or a dormitory attached. I found this one and entered to ask for accommodation and the man behind the bar said ¨None available¨ Well my face fell until it must have been close to floor. Seeing this he said ¨Momento¨and went into the back room to speak with his wife. Several minutes later they both emerged and said ¨Si¨and led me to a beautiful room with 2 three quarter wide beds, private bath and a balcony with a view of the mountains. I was in heaven. I don´t know what I would have done if they hadn´t relented because it was late and I don´t think I had it in me to walk on through the mountains for another 14 kms to the next town.

Anyway they took good care of me and served me a good dinner that evening which I shared with a couple of big burly men. This morning I went into the bar for breakfast before starting out and there were my two companions from the night before with six other men  all outfitted for hunting with  their shotguns on every table in the bar opèn at the breech. One of the men had a picture of a wild boar on the back of his jacket and there was also a boar´s head mounted in the bar. So I asked if that is what they were hunting and the answer was yes.

I then put two and two together and came up with what I think was four. My hosts at the Casa Rural are putting these guys up for the weekend and weren´t sure how to fit me in but sensed my plight and found a way. Angels abound on the camino and some of them live there!

This wasn´t the smallest town I went through this day but it wasn´t big. There were two bars in town but no tienda or market store of any kind. Vans drove in from the highways with all sorts of foodstuffs and other necessaries and sold from the vehicle. There were three streets in town but one was dead end.

I visited the little church and the larger graveyard and found that with very few exceptions there were only four families represented – Rolad, Castro, Nunez and Perez. When the married women died their tombstones always gave their maiden names before the married one. So there were a lot of Nunez Castro, Castro Perez, Nunez Rolad and so on.

This morning dawned another glorious day – actually cold but bright sunshine. It warmed up a little during the day but not a lot. It was another day of magnificent vistas and after about an hour of uphill climb the  rest of the day was downhill into a valley and turning another corner I was surprised to find that the mountains were completely covered with pine trees – a complete contrast to the scrubby grass and rock covering the mountains the last few days.

Tomorrow is a big challenge with a climb right away of over 500 metres of steep slope and over 20 kms to cover.

I am staying in Laza right now in a lovely modern albergue and so far am the only occupant. I haven´t seen a peregino in the last two days. I did a washing when I first arrived but I am concerned that there is not enough heat in the sunshine to dry the clothes. I may be carrying them tomorrow in a plastic bag in the backpack.

There is mass in the village church tonight at 8 pm and then dinner in the restaurant recommended by my Confraternity buddy, Laurie.

Thank you all for your interest in the blog and I will keep you informed at every opportunity.

Bill Beahen

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Happy in the valleys and mountains!

Hi All

I am presently in the town of A Gudina in Galicia finally. The last three days have been thru the valleys and moutains and it is a tiring but exhilirating (sp?) experience. Up a steep slope for several hours and then a steep slope into the next valley. The vistas are superb and the narrow paths and abundant foliage are wonderful.

Yesterday was the most challenging day climbing over 1,000feet ofpass called Portela de Canda. The path was straight up, very rocky with mud and streams running across and sometimes down the path. I loved it but was a tad tired at the summit.

Then going down the other side was a challenge too because the pitch was the same and so was the surface conditions. But the weather has been wonderful with sun and some clouds. This would be very tough if there was rain. On the down slope from Canda I was glad that I was watching my feet closely because I almost stepped on a thick black snack sunning itself on a rock. I jumped so high and yelled so loud that it slid away into the bushes. My eyes are really trained now.

Laurie, ad others looking at a camino soon. Here are my experiences for your record. I stayed in Requejo three nights ago I think at the Casa Cervino and it was wonderful. Only two of us there – other was Lizbuth, Peter, and yes I continued your tradition of taking care of her. She is now walking the cyclist route on the highway instead of the camino path because of a sore foot. This means that she crosses the valleys via huge high overpasses and goes thru the mountains by tunnels instead of over them.

And Laurie like you said the charming hospiteleros in Requejo sent me to to the Hostal Tu Casa up the road where I had one of the best meals of the camino for 6 Euro, the cheapest I have paid.

In contrast when I arrive in Lubian it was the festa of the Virgen de Pilar and the last day of the 4 day Spanish long weekend. So the Casa Pachaca was closed while the senora was away on holiday. And the bars were also closed so no meals out. So I was forced to stay at Casa Irene which provides dinner. As warned the senora is quite a bit rough along the edges and serves a less than acceptable meal. The good news is that the room she provided was very comfortable and clean. More details on demand for those who may need it.

I had a very interesting experience today. On my way along a truly delightful valley path I came upon a tiny village and stopped at the church sitting on the porch praying and reading my daily missal. A lady came along and asked me about my camino experience and when I told her that I was travelling alone she became concerned and said I shouldn´t do that because if I became ill or injured there would be nobody to help me. I told her that I wasn´t really alone because God was with me. This mollified her somewhat but there was a large PÈRO (BUT) as she walked away. 30 seconds later I heard her talking to someone and ten seconds later she cam back around the corner with my friend Willem Bakker in tow. I haven´t seen Willem in three weeks because he came down with horrible blisters and had to stop for awhile. Senora was very happy at our reunion and delighted to tell me “No solo ahora” you are not alone now. And even stranger still Willem said that for the previous half hour walking he had been thinking about me and wondering if and when he would see me again.

Weather reports for the area for the next few days are for sun and clouds, no rain. This should make the valley and mountain experience continuing delightful. There are many more peaks and slopes ahead before I reach Santiago in about 10 days.

Here is a strange thing. Although it is true that I on the whole I haven´t met many pilgrims on this camino it is still amazing to me that all except one have been from the European Union. The only exception was Michica from Japon. Where are all the North and South Americans, the Aussies and Kiwis who were so numerous of the Camino Frances two years ago?

Also, for the strange but true file there are tens of millions of oak trees everywhere along the camino. Why?

Love to my family and friends for whom I walk the camino and all the best to the camino followers of this post. I hope that you are learning something from the brief information I am providing.

Bill Beahen

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Wet but wonderful in the north-west!!!

Hi All

First of all Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian family and friends. I had occasion to celebrate with you last night Saturday. Wait for it – believe it or not one choice for first serving last night (Saturday) was pumpkin soup and of course I and and all of my companions had it in honour of Canadian Thanksgiving.

The last two days since Santa Croya has been a radical change in weather. It has been cold with rain and strong wind and lots of mud around from previous storms. It is a taste of things to come as I move into Galicia and the mountains in the next few days. I have been travelling fast with my younger friends from Austria, Germany, England and Japan – 38 kms yesterday and 32 plus today and I am getting tired. I have lots of time to make Santiago which is now only 240 kms away and I don´t fly out to return home until October 28th so I will slow down tomorrow and enjoy slow progress for awhile.

I had an interesting experience today. Last night I arrive in Mombeuy after a ten hour day and was diappointed to learn that there was no mass in the village on Saturday night or Sunday morning the only one being Sunday at 2´30 pm. So I put my hopes in finding something on the way on Sunday.

I left our very basic Algergue at 8´30 that morning and got lost due to hydro construction on the camino route but finally arrived in a small village two hours later. I was cold and tired from the previous days exertions so I sat down on a bench facing the sun to relax and after a few minutes I heared church bells – not unusual on the camino but these went on a lot longer than usual and were followed by Gregorian chant from loud speakers and people began filling the streets. I followed along and sure enough I was led to the church for 11 am mass which was very special as usual but even more so because I believe that Jesus led me here for that particular opportunity. Amazing but this is a pilgrimage!

Later today I needed the special strength this gave me as I missed a particularly obscure trail sign to turn left and continuing on I used up an hour exploring five different possible trails which all ended in nothing and one which had me rolling down an embankment through thorn bushes which ripped the back of my left hand. No serious damage.

Finally I worked myself farther enough back that I picked up my mistake. Although the time lost meant that I had to walk the last hour of the the day through a cold rain and arrive at a surperb albergue at Puebla de Sanabria which raised both my spirits and body temperature considerably.

I will be supplying more details on poor signage at this stage of the camino to my friends who are planning to walk the Via de la Plata in the future shortly after I return home.

Best to all my friends who follow this blog.

Bill Beahen

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Happy and healthy in Santa Croya!Cc

Hi All

It has been an exciting few days since I left Zamora with Peter O´Carroll. First we walked a long day of grinding up and down without much to see in the way of landscape except a very large water reservoir (artificial lake) which we walked around for hours. Finally we arrived in the town of Fantanillas de Castro where my guidebook told me to expect an albergue but unfortunately no such establishment existed. So we soldiered on for another several kms to the town of Riego del Camino for a total of close to 40 kms where indeed there was an albergue. There was some initial confusion as to whether there were enough beds for all peregrinos sending Peter and I out in the streets in a futile search for alternative accommodation. Back to the original albergue where it turned out there were exactly 15 beds for 15 peregrinos. Then the senora hospitalera warned us strongly that the single local bar would not be able to serve dinner for so many. So Phillip our man from Tunbridge Wells England who spent 13 years in Spain volunteered to sort things out at the bar and so he did and we were instructed to turn out at 8 pm.

When we arrived at this less than awe inspiring bar two very capable ladies ushered us into a backroom which was part storeroom and improvised dining room, We were served a most delicious and warming (it is cold here now) lentil soup and then pork and fries washed down with rose wine. The group which included two Irish ladies, a celebrity German lady (more later) three Frenchmen, two Spaniards etc, really bonded at this meal and we had a great time.

The next day we proceeded on for another 32 kms to the town of Tabara. This took us nine hours because we walked through some amazing scenery around a lake and river climbing eventually a very steep slope to a high point where we gazed down at as scene more reminisient of Norwegian fiords than of Spain – very beautiful! Arriving in Tabara we found a nice albergue with again exactly enough beds for all of us. And again we all ate together in a dining room of a local hotel which was very good. My first dish was a potato and ? other ingredients stew which was great and stuck to the ribs. Again another great bonding experience with our very compatible group communicating thru several shared languages.

This was where I found that we had in our midst a celebrity of sorts. Our German lady is Cordula Rabe who has lived and worked in Spain for the last 12 years. She is the author of excellent German guidebooks of the Via de Plata and the Camino Frances and is updating the former guide on this trip. So she has been a mine of information and helpfulness,

Today she advised us to travel a short distance of 22 kms to the town of Santa Croya and we wouldn´t be sorry. So we plodded on over hill and dale sometimes in sunshine and sometimes in light rain. But the landscape was dramatically different from everything I have seen until now.  We are definitely entering the north as trees and shrubs abound all a very healthy green shade which suggests frequent rain. It is a welcome change. The weather is decidely cooler and we wear a couple of layers of clothing during the day and cover our sleeping bags with blankets at night.

Arriving in the lovely town if Santa Croya, Cordulla lead us to a very nice albergue Casa Anita where she was instantly recognized by the proprietor and we were recipients of great hopitality – welcoming glasses of wine, free machine laundry and much expressions of friendship. We are happily settled here for the afternoon relaxing and waiting for dinner at 8pm which will be cooked and served on the premises.

I asked about mass this evening but unfortunately the parish priest is currently on a visit to Rome and nothing doing.

Peter is leaving us tomorrow and making his way back to Madrid for a 4 pm flight on October 11th. It is not an easy journey because he has to walk 25 kms tomorrow before picking up a series of two buses and finally a train to get him to Madrid. He had enjoyed getting away from the pressures of work for this camino and I and the other peregrinos have really enjoyed his company.

That is all for now and I will post again when I can.

I walk in joy!

Bill

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Greetings from Zamora

Hi All

Peter and I have been on the move and are in the last city before Santiago – the medieval Zamora.

The weather has dramatically changed in the last few days to definitely cool. Some heat in the afternoon which is welcome now. It is certainly great weather for walking. In northern Salamanca province the signs for the camino faded right out and we were left to guess several times which resulted in getting lost for short periods of time. But now having  crossed over to the province of Zamora signage is much better. Rain is forecast for tomorrow and beyond which is to be expected the nearer we get to wet mountainous Galicia.

Peter and I were just at the tourist office trying to work out away for him to get back to Madrid to fly back to Ireland on October 11th. News was not great. We had assumed that he could catch a bus from any village on the trail but not so. So he will have to spend a least a day walking back on the trail to find a bus stop. Nobody said the camino was easy.

Thanks to all of you for your prayers for little Grace and the news is wonderful! The MRI revealed that three doctors were wrong and she has no brain tumour!

Peter and I are off shortly to attend a pilgrims´ mass just down the street and I have all of you in mind in my prayers.

Peter and I are really enjoying walking together and I will miss him when he goes home. But the camino is about taking every moment in stride and making the most of it. I am really looking forward to climbing the Galician mountains which will lead me to Santiago. I am right on schedule.

All the best to you and I continue to walk in JOY!

Bill

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