Salamanca to Astorga

The one thing I remember most about this segment is all the friends I made (Neville, David, Carlos, Mary, Benno, Inger, Reverend David, Sebastian, Julie, Deborah, Liam, Leah and Martin) and how I then watched them scatter to the four corners of the Earth as each went off on their separate Camino. The major split occurred at Granja de Moreruela when most of my friends headed west on the Camino Sanabres and I and a few others headed north on the VdlP to Astorga.

Then there was Benevente. The walk to that town took far longer than I planned. I walked into Benevente at 4:00 PM on a Sunday to find the Albergue closed and no way to get a key. The town had no interest in pilgrims and I walked for hours looking for a place to stay for the night. Park benches were becoming an attractive alternative. After asking countless people in the town, I finally found a hostal for the night. It was exhausting, but I proved to myself that I could find my way around any town in Spain, even those who didn't particularly want me there.

Pictures of the stages between Salamanca and Astorga

Then there was the walk alone to Astorga on the last day on the VdlP:


Concert of Concerted Crows

May 9, 2013 (email to friends)

Yesterday I was walking out of the town of La Baneza - rain, alone, trying to see the next yellow arrow (flecha) on the path that would tell me that I was not lost. And then I hear them. Crows, scores of them in the trees. And they are all looking at me.

I've grown to believe that there are times when crows make a concerted effort to talk to people. They never say anything specific, except, "Something is going to happen" or "Pay attention!" That is when I start looking over my shoulder.

And here they were, scores of crows all calling to me. I figured there were a limited number of possible meanings:

1). "You're an idiot." That morning everyone else in the albergue had decided they wanted nothing to do with the rain and were planning to take the bus to Astorga. After my last experience taking a bus to avoid the snow and the nagging feeling I no longer could say I had walked the entire Via de la Plata, there was no way I would take the bus again. So off I went alone, the only pilgrim that day walking the 24 kilometers between La Baneza and Astorga - in the pouring rain.

I also believe crows don't have a sense of humor, so option 1). was unlikely.

2). "Things are going to change." That's old news. I decided a week ago to change my pilgrimage route so I could join up with the Camino Francais in Astorga. Instead of 10 or 15 pilgrims on the road each day, as on the Via de la Plata, there would be hundreds. Instead of only one albergue or hostel to stay in, there might be 5 to choose from. Instead of solitude, I would have crowds.

More importantly, a year ago at a men's spiritual retreat I picked up a stone and made a promise to leave it at the foot of the Cruz de Ferro (the Iron Cross) near Astorga. The ritual is to leave behind a small rock or other item at the Cruz de Ferro to honor someone or to release a burden from your life.

In my case, the rock has become a symbol of the burdens I carry. And trust me, as each day has gone by on the Camino, my stone has gained in weight. It is time to leave it behind.

3). "Things are really going to change. Something has to end." That possibility made me very uncomfortable. For one, I could hear the sound of thunder as the rain storm passed over the nearby mountains. I was the tallest object in the fields, and the threat of lightning kept me walking quickly. I welcome change, but not that kind of change.

But more likely, I knew that it is time for my experience on the Camino to evolve. The grinding down is essentially done. I can walk 18 or 20 miles a day, find a bed in a strange town, order a meal from a tiny cafe and sleep in a room of snoring Frenchmen. I've made more friends than I could have imagined. And I have had weeks of solitude to look at who I am. It's time to put the pieces back together.

I look in the mirror and I see this strange guy with a beard and an almost mischievous smirk on his face. He knows something. Now all I have to do is figure out who he is.

So I will walk to Santiago on the Camino Francais with this strange guy.

Thanks to you all.


Pictures of the stages between Salamanca and Astorga

The next stage - Astorga to o Pedrouzo