Merida to Embalse de Alcantar

Two days on this portion of the Camino stand out:

  1. Alcuéscar - There is a Convent and albergue at Alcuescar (Casa de Beneficiencia de los Esclavos de María y de los Pobres) with a home for mentally handicapped men beside the convent (Casa De La Misericordia). We were invited to a pilgrims mass at the little Catholic church in the Casa De La Misericordia. During the mass the priest described the home as "simple and poor". Maybe in terms of funding, but not poor in spirit. The men in the facility were well cared for, involved in the care for each other and content. We were all moved by the mass and by our hosts.
  2. Embalse de Alcantar - It was a gorgeous 33 kilometer walk from Carceres to Embalse de Alcantar (the Alcantar Reservoir) along a ridge with beautiful views of the mountains beyond. Then there was the modern albergue at the reservoir with spectacular views across the water, including our own private sunset.

Pictures from Merida to Embalase de Alcantar.


Quarter of the Way

April 18, 2013

I write this from the little town of Aldea del Cano, which is 275 kilometers from Sevilla or a little over a quarter of the way to Santiago. I'm sitting in a bar (one of the only places with Internet access in town) having successfully ordered a cerveza with complimentary tapas and a bocadillo (sandwich on a roll) made with the local Iberian ham. I am not starving, even with my limited language skills, but I have been surprised on several occasions over the past two weeks with what arrived on the table.

In my last email I talked about my fear that the Camino needed to break me down before it built me up. Let's just say that a few days ago I prayed to the Gods that maybe we could stop with the heavy grinding, at least for a few days. Thankfully they relented. But both sides acknowledge there is still a lot of work to be done.

And, oh, the opportunities for introspection. The number of pilgrims has thinned out and I now walk for hours completely alone. It is divine. Divine. Except for those moments when I realize I've been so swept up in inner thought that I can't remember the last time I saw one of the yellow arrows that points the way to Santiago. What follows is anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour of growing fear that I am truly lost. I press on. And then an arrow appears and everything is back to normal. Trust.

I continue to meet fascinating people. A charming German couple who invited me to their homemade dinner at the Albergue. Even though no one spoke much English, I was clearly welcomed into their impromptu family. Then there was the German girl who made up a song especially for me entitled "Bill Is on His Way" with several verses and the ending phrase, "Bill has found his way."

I spent two days in Merida to give my feet a rest and to tour the Roman ruins. So there are plenty of pictures of the aqueduct, stadium,  and amphitheater. And endless pictures of quiet mornings on the Via de la Plata.

Thanks again for all your blessings, prayers and encouragement. There are moments when I question whether I have the strength to take the next step, and then I think of my friends and family - and the next step seems far lighter.



The next portion of the pilgrimage: Embalase de Alcantar to Salamanca