There are signs, then there are SIGNS

When I left Hontanas I didn’t really think of much but tried ro simply enjoy the scenery. Soft rolling hills of shades of green and tera cotta with loads of wild flowers gave me much to enjoy.

There are so many yellow arrows and Camino signs that one really cannot get lost. Those signs even when there are no other roads to take are welcomed signs.

At many locations people have opted to write something of their own which is disconcerning. However, we ignore and walk on. On one sign that wasn’t quite parallel to the road was some writing. I glanced at the writing briefly and then stopped suddenly in my track

I took a few steps back and got closer to the writing, and at the bottom was faint letters that spelled Chibougamau !!

To most, this name means nothing, nothing at all. To myself and my siblings it happens to mean a lot! Chibougamau is a remote northern Canadian town (quite remote) where we lived in the early 60s when Dad was still in the Air force.

To say that I was totally stunned is a complete understatement! So, faced with this word, I opted to try to remember as much as I could about that early time in my life. Siblings, I DID take pictures but on my camera!

Sanctuary of Serenity

Sunday May 15
When I left Hontanas I expected to walk about 12 k or so but I felt so good I opted to continue. There one special location I wanted at the very least to SEE. I didn’t expect to stay there since space was very limited.

It truly was my lucky day as I approach the unassuming structure I could see pilgrims walking in and quickly coming back out. I wanted to at least see this quite famous Ermita de San Nicholas. My first encounter was with Brother Bruno that I nicknamed “papa Noel”. he stamped my Credential and asked if I was staying. I was surprised to hear that there were two spaces left, mattress on the floor at the front.

I quickly took off my pack and my boots. Papa Noel asked me if I had any blisters since Brother Luigi was known as doctor Luigi. I was advised to first soak my feet in cold water to cool them down.

I then met Brother Luigi who had a corner set up and tended to those needing care. I then sat quietly in the herb garden area and read about the history of the building. The Italian confraternity restored the 13th century ruins to what it is today.

Just before 7:30 we were asked to meet inside where the table was set and we were invited to take part in the “washing of the feet” custom which the brothers did in the same way Jesus did with his disciples. One brother poured water over one of our feet, another dried and kissed it while another recited the benediction for our safe travel.

We all enjoyed a great meal of salad, spaghetti tossed in oil and peppers, wine and some type of cookies – all by candlelight since the only power was generated by a solar panel and was for the smaller building housing the bathroom and showers.

After dinner they set up the extra mattress (4) and we all settled in for the night. It was an amazing way to fall asleep as the candles burned out one after the other

It was quite unreal to be in such a serene location so early in my journey. No doubt this was a very special Camino gift.

For whom the bell tolls

Do not ask for whom the bell tolls it tolls for everyone in the village! The norm is that every village has a church whose bells ring at each hour and half hour; from 6 AM until 11 PM each and every day.

This tiny tiny village of 40 people is home to 4 albergues, two restaurants and one little store with assorted meats, cheeses, fruits, drinks and breads.

I spoke to an old farmer at the store who told me the Camino is why this village still exists. I imagine there is enough business to help the villagers managed during the winter months. I am reminded each time the bell tolls of a quaint lifestyle I know not of but hope that by the end of this journey will become an integral part of my Camino history.

Hontanas

Hontanas – 3:15 pm
I’m resting in a top bunk in a room for 8. Today’s walk was challenging. I was very happy that most of the morning was overcast but the wind was quite strong from the north.

I left Rabe at 7 after a nice light breakfast. I walked
mostly on my own with the occasional short conversation with pilgrims passing me, or at times I passing them. I arrived in Hormillas at 9:30 I was surprised to see that the cafe owner had different clocks on the wall and one of those was for Ottawa!

My feet seemed fine so I decided to go ahead knowing the next stop was 10 mm away. The scenery was so amazing! At one point I could see lines and lines of wind turbines (?) that didn’t seem very far yet they appeared and disappeared as the road winded around.

The wind was strong and I was very happy to use the hood from my micro fleece. At km 14 or so, I had to let my shoulders carry my pack as my hips started to be a bit sore.

I remembered reading somewhere that many often sing to offset the soreness so I sang mostly old Spanish songs – “Y viva Espana” at least 20 times.

There were a lot of bikers on the road today. I even saw a woman on her bike with her young girl following her on her own bike, both bikes bound by some rope of sorts.

The fields were simply beautiful – a canvas of various greens dancing in the wind. The winding road (and winding it was) reminded me of the red dirt of Colorado or Hawaii..

Wild poppies, bright yellow flowers and white tiny ones lined each sides of the road. At times the poppies were predominant and at other times a single one was found amongst the bright yellows.

The landscape was a series of rolling hills. In fact this was a pretty consistent uphill walk until the entrance to this tiny village nestled in a steep valley. This was a truly welcomed sight!

I am tired. sore but very happy to be doing this incredible journey. Life is great!

Three Germans a Canadian and an Austrian walk into an Albergue…

Friday May 13th

No, this isn’t the start of a joke (although it could be) I had a great afternoon and evening communicating with the other pilgrims of the albergue
.
it is amazing how we can connect without knowing each other’s language. We sat together at one of the tables – four Germans, one French, an Austrian and I and we laughed the entire meal trying to get our thoughts across.

Our pilgrim dinner tonight consisted of soup, salad, Spanish tortilla (egg with potato), yogurt, bread and wine. We managed to figure out where everyone started, and where everyone was headed as their final destination. We laughed trying to describe “feeling full” after the meal, all in different language, a few really liked the “food baby” expression!

My favorite expression of the day came from Monika from Germany who tried to explain she used a security needle for her socks – which after a few minutes was determined to be “safety pin”

All the rooms had at least one available bed and when a late male pilgrim walked in and we wondered whose room he would end up in; after we heard he wanted to get up early a few suggested the other guests’ room so we somehow decided to spin the wine bottle since we had no short straws!!! (which caused another 5 minutes of laughing) – all without really understanding each other’s language!

What an incredible first day from walking to sitting and talking to other pilgrims, from seeing a gigantic stork nest with both parents and two little ones to being shown around the 4 streets by a sweet old man who lives here.

It’s now 9:15 PM and most are already in bed and I will soon join them. Tomorrow is a short walk day but mostly uphill. I’m looking forward to seeing the large fields of poppies and whatever else awaits me! Life is great!