Tag Archives: Benedictine Monastery

The Wrong Path is the Right Path

Triacastela to Barbadelo
Saturday 29 November

Out of Triacastela there were two routes, one via Samos, and the other six kilometers shorter, and supposedly more rural. I had decided on the shorter route, as I had planned to walk to Ferredios which was about thirty two kilometers the shorter way. I turned right at the turn off, as instructed, but after a while was following the river. The other route follows the river. The walk was lovely, along a narrow leaf strewn muddy path. Delightfully soft underfoot. Gnarled twisted trees, covered in mosses and lichen, dappled sun through the almost bare branches. The cool clear river crisscrossing my path. I soon passed a town that I reccognised from the map that was on the other route. I was definitely on the wrong path. However it seemed right for today. I wasn’t going the turn back, via Samos it was to be. Vamos to Samos, as the graffiti read.

As I approached the town of Samos, I could see the huge Benedictine Monastery in the valley below through the mist. It looked eerie and spectacular. Yes, I had chosen the right wrong path. I continued down the steep road, entering the town. I circled the monastery, to see if I could see beyond the walls. There was a door open, and I saw a couple of pilgrims. I entered a small shop, and asked if I could go inside. There was a tour starting in ten minutes. I waited the required time, then the lady closed the shop and led me through the large double wooden doors. I was the only person on the tour, and she spoke good English. She led me through the two large cloisters, and upstairs into the church. Explaining the history, and many details. There are now only fourteen monks living here. Upstairs one elderly monk approached us and asked if I spoke Spanish. He then spoke to my guide who explained that he had been talking about the young monk in the garden below who was picking the last of the persimmons from the many trees, and doing some pruning – apparently he was ‘doing it wrong’. Young monks, like young people anywhere.

The tour finished and I went in search of coffee. Another pilgrim I had previously met was in the bar, so I joined him for a sandwich and a glass of vino. My quick stop extended to two hours, I better get a move on. The afternoon’s path continued to delight.

The fools in my head were presenting all sorts of possibilities today. I was unsure of whether to believe them, and asked for a sign. I hadn’t noticed any reference to owls for a few days, which seems to have become a totem of late, and thought that I might see one along the path. I came across a house, with all sorts of strange dolls and objects around the garden. I pulled out my camera, then noticed it right in the middle – a large cement owl staring right at me. Perhaps the wrong path is the right path.

Later I saw a flock of sheep, and a sheep dog sitting in a nearby car. Dogs don’t usually faze me, so I said hola, and he jumped out of the car. I though he was coming over for a sniff, but he circled me, then gave me a nip on the leg. I was more shocked than anything, and concerned about rabies. I pulled up my leggings, but it hadn’t really drawn blood, just scratched the surface, more like a bruise. I applied Bettadine, and will keep an eye on it.

Moving on, I thought I saw the man I had had lunch with earlier, but as I approached realised that it was not. This man had all sorts of anti abortion posters and information hanging from his pack. There was prolife graffiti all along the path today, perhaps he was responsible. I quickly moved past, not wanting to engage.

I arrived in Sarria later than expected, and I was getting tired. I didn’t want to stay in this large town of thirteen thousand. I wasn’t sure I had the energy to make it another twelve kilometers before it got dark. There was another small town about one hour away, hopefully they would have an alburgue open.

It was five o’clock by the time I arrived in Barbadelo. I walked through the town, but couldn’t find a alburgue open. I would have to trudge on for another two hours. Luckily it wasn’t raining. As I left the town, I noticed an alburgue and went to see if it was open. To my delight it was. They said they had no food, but there was a nearby Resturant that would open at seven. I settled in for the night.

Camino Angel

Estella to Los Arcos
Wednesday 5 November

I did not sleep. My feet hurt. I opened the door, and the rain was beating down. I was hungry. I left the hostel for breakfast in a local cafe. Some of that good Spanish coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, and tortilla. The day was looking better.

My Canadian friend, and another Canadian, were also in the same cafe, we walked together out of Estella. Our first stop was the famous wine fountain of the Camino. A wine fountain. Free wine! We obeyed the instructions, filed our cups and took a swig. Breakfast wine always helps.

Not far up the road was a church with a Benedictine monastery. This austere church also had alabaster windows rather than stained glass. It had an otherworldly sublimity. We were led through to the cloistered courtyard where we all spent some time in peaceful contemplation, before continuing on our Camino.

The sandpaper feeling in my feet had turned to broken glass. It was time to stop for a coffee, one of the group suggested a cup of tea would be nice. A cup of tea. I’m generally a coffee drinker, but sometimes a nice cup of tea can just hit the spot. We were walking through Azgueta, when we saw a woman putting out a sign in front of her Alburgue. She said she wasn’t actually open, but invited us in for tea in her kitchen. She was in the process of renovating, as only had a license to operate in Summer. She said she had previously been unemployed, but had taken up on offer from the Spanish government for this license, so she could support herself and her daughter. She made a great cup of tea, and gave us a tour of the rooms then insisted we didn’t pay, but we all left something ‘for her daughter’.

The rain had turned some of the small valleys into rivers and it was hard to negotiate without getting our feet wet. Suddenly ‘Jesus’ appeared and helped our older Canadian friend cross the waters. Later he was standing up the road with handfuls if fresh figs for us, then disappeared again.

Then the hard slog began… My feet were in pain, I started to have doubts if I would make it to Santiago. This was something I had never considered. I’m relatively fit, I walk long distances often, why was this so hard? I plodded on. The black dog started to bite at my heels. The rain continued. I pleaded, send me an angel. An image of the young Austrian pilgrim appeared in my head. She has an angelic kind, open face, and a soft and quiet quality. I hadn’t really spoken to her, but she always was the first person I’d see when I arrived at a hostel. Did she actually exist, or was she a figment of my imagination? I looked down at the ground, and there was a patch of cement in which someone had written ‘Buen Camino’. I felt inspired that I could continue.

The pain in my feet worsened, my doubts grew, the black dog had taken hold. There was no village in sight. The road seemed endless. My faith in myself was dwindling. It was a bad day. Again I pleaded for an angel, and again she visualized in my imagination, I turned around and a saw a rainbow in the sky, just when I needed it. I felt it was possible to make to the next village.

Arriving at the first Albergue we saw, Alburgue Austria, I entered to see my Camino Angel in person. The fire was roaring, the atmosphere was cosy, and some of my friends were here, some had continued onto the next village for the night. I showered and dried out my blisters by the fire, until we all went out for dinner, my angel, my friends and I.