A Pilgrim Tale: day twenty-six

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Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes…

~Elizabeth Barret Browning

Breakfast at our albergue is delicious and fortifying. While eating, we meet Susan who was a late arrival at the albergue the night before. She had been having a frightful time finding any place that could accommodate her. Jose had prevailed upon our young innkeepers on her behalf and they had pulled out a cot for her and allowed her to sleep in the lobby, at the base of the rock. She will become a fixture of our merry band from here on out. (Thanks, Otto, for reminding me of this part of the story.)

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We head out into the darkness and promptly make a wrong turn. Happily, we discover our error before too much damage has been done and are able to make correction. Much of today’s walk is along the road, but on the other side of the path is a gurgling river which makes us mostly forget about the road. There is a remarkable irony as we walk past ancient, sometimes derelict, buildings, while in the distance, towering modern bridges convey commuters crossing the country at break-neck speed.

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We are just getting into cattle country when we stop for lunch at a lovely outdoor cafe overlooking a pasture, and the river beyond. Trees are being felled on the heavily forested hill just above the river and it makes the cattle dogs nervous. We feast on fresh, beautiful salads and fortify ourselves for the big climb that awaits us.

salad

Most of our friends stop in La Faba for the night, but we decide to press on to Laguna de Castilla. We are very glad of this next morning when we already have an extra 2.3k of hills out of the way.

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We lodge at Albergue La Escuela, right smack dab in the middle of a dairy farm. We even watch them drive the dairy cows to and from the milking barn. In some ways, this is all very familiar as my grandparents made their living milking cows, and I saw this scene played out more times than I can remember in the mountains of my childhood.

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Here we have Galician soup for the first, but thankfully not the last, time. Potatoes, kale, beans. Hearty, warm, and delicious. We visit with Boyd and James, a father and son from Australia. And we meet “Martin the Healer”. An odd bird, he is walking the camino for the second time, is covering long distances (40k/day) and claims to have healing powers. He trys them out on James who is having difficulty with his knee, but the jury is still out on his effectiveness when we leave them.

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There are autumn blooming crocus everywhere, mallow and foxgloves growing along the fence, and some other scrumptious wild flower I don’t recognize growing in profusion with deep purple buds that open to dark pink blossoms (see top of post). I can’t stop taking pictures. I know I will never capture what it is to stand on this mountain with these bright blossoms all around me, and the lowing of the cattle and the earthy smell of them, and the good, wholesome fatigue in my legs and feet, and the deep peace inside me. But I know that when I look at the images, I will remember.

And that is enough.

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Travel Note: At this point in our journey, we have begun making advance reservations at albergues most days. Opinions are divided on whether this is appropriate. Some albergues do not even allow them. But, the number of pilgrims grows daily as we near Santiago, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find rooms at the end of a long day. So we are buying ourselves a bit of insurance. Each pilgrim must decide for himself. It does require having a phone with cell service (thx David), or a kind innkeeper who will call for you. You can, and should, cancel if you see you are not going to make it that far or decide to go farther. There is usually a limit to how late they will hold a bed for you before giving it to someone else.