a special day

This week has definitely had many ups and downs. At times, my days went by quickly, while other days seemed to drag on and became mentally difficult. I will talk about my challenging days in another post, this post is about a special, wonderful day. Two days ago we set out for the city of Astorga from Villar de Mazarife, this travel day may have been my favorite day on the Camino so far!

I walked most of the day with my wonderful friend Hannah, who is sarcastic, quiet, and extremely easy to talk to. Our journey of around 18 miles began around 7:15am. As we were walking up the interstate, I noticed a skinny, stray dog was following us. Every time I tried to walk towards him, he would run away, but he always came back. We decided to name our new friend Rigoletto, it seemed fitting to both Hannah and I. He followed us past San Martin del Camino, the first town we passed, then ran away before we entered the town Hospital De Orbigo.

As we entered Hospital De Orbigo, a small cat began to follow us and she allowed me to pick her up, we named her Posie. As we were having our breakfast in the picturesque city of Hospital De Orbigo, Rigoletto came running up to us at the restaurant! As we continued on towards Astorga, Rigoletto began to follow other pilgrims, and he then disappeared again.

As Hannah and I walked onward we passed a beautiful sunflower field. We then came to a small farming area, where we saw baby cows! I actually got in the fenced in area with one of the cows and the sweet little cow kissed me, it was such an adorable moment. After spending time with the baby cows we headed off, with much excitement and energy since we were having such a wonderful day. When we were about 5K outside of the city, we came upon this adorable little food stand and hut, we decided to stop by. The donation based stand happened to have fresh juice, tahini, peanut butter, soy yogurt, and other vegan treats! It was a dream come true! As a vegan on the Camino I have been mainly eating salads and fruit, so this stand full of other food I could eat, was so exciting to me!

I met one of the people who ran the food stand, his name was Andre. Andre told me that over three years ago when he did the Camino he came upon the stand and he fell in love with the place. He ended up quitting his job, selling everything he had, and moved to this remote area outside of Astorga. Andre, 28 at most, explained to me that he chose to move to a place with no electricity or running water. He leads a simple life, meeting pilgrims, spreading love and living in the small hut (which is pictured below). After over an hour of talking with Andre, we decided to head out to the city. I can’t wait to lead a life similar to Andre’s: simple, full of freedom and joy, always helping and reaching out to others.

On arriving to the city, none other than Rigoletto met me there! This friendly stray now found a new home in this city, a safe area where he will definitely be fed. I hope and pray that someone falls in love with him just as I did and decides to adopt him.

After we checked into a large municipal albergue, Hannah and I ventured off into the city. We stopped by a market and got gazpacho and lentils for lunch. As we were sitting outside the market, our friends Eva from Quebec and Andrew from Germany came and visited with us for some time. An elderly man discovered that we were pilgrims and took out his guitar and played us a song he wrote about his time on the Camino. That moment was so precious. After lunch, Hannah and I went to explore the city.

We came upon two amazing buildings, first the Bishop’s Palace Palacio Episcopal and then the beautiful Cathedral. Though both buildings were closed since it was Monday, we definitely enjoyed seeing the beautiful architecture of each building. I also found a small church near the cathedral that was open, it was stunning, pictures are below. We explored the town and I fell in love with the small, quaint city. My journey to Astorga and the time I spent there will always be special to me. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.20140716-213354-77634568.jpg

20140716-213353-77633722.jpg

20140716-213352-77632763.jpg

20140716-213351-77631940.jpg

20140716-213351-77631232.jpg

20140716-213615-77775054.jpg

20140716-213616-77776304.jpg

20140716-213615-77775688.jpg

20140716-213616-77776943.jpg

20140716-213856-77936693.jpg

20140716-214840-78520563.jpg

20140716-214857-78537833.jpg

20140716-214957-78597347.jpg

Advertisements

the meseta

The meseta is quite different from the other areas of Spain we have traveled through this far. The beautiful mountain, rolling hill, and vineyard filled landscapes of both Navarra and La Rioja are not at all like the shadeless, wheat filled, flat lands of the meseta. The meseta, a high central plateau that makes up around 40 percent of Spain’s land, is a fairly flat region in central Spain. The meseta ranges anywhere from 400 to 1000 meters high, and is relatively treeless. The Sierra de Guadarrama and the Sierra de Gredos split this region into northern and southern halves. In the north this region is boarded by Cordillera Cantábrica and in the south by the Sierra Morena. Throughout this region one can find many grazing sheep between the abandoned, scarcely populated towns and villages. This region is filled with various uninhabited homes, and the cities are mostly populated by an older generation as many young people left this region in the 1960s to pursue opportunities in the larger cities.
This region has played a large role in the history of the Iberian Peninsula, as well as the development of Spain. When the Moors attempted to overtake the Christians, the meseta was one of the first areas the Christians were able to reconquer. When the Christians reconquered the region from the Moors, the meseta became apart of the Kingdom of Castile. This Castile region eventually became the Crown of Castile and was later known as the Kingdom of Spain. The meseta, in contemporary Spain, is apart of the Castile and León region in the northwest, while the central and southern regions of the meseta are apart of communities in Castilla-La Mancha and Madrid. The meseta is also known to be the home of the Castilian language, now known as Spanish.
The culture throughout the meseta is fairly diverse, as the region is so large. Some say the people of this region are quieter and not as friendly as other regions. I did not find this to be true, most people I encountered were kind, helpful individuals. Many of the original buildings in this region are built from mud and hay, as this area did not usually have access to stones or bricks in the past. The diet of the residents of this region is extremely meat dense and caracole soups are popular in some areas. When visiting various towns throughout the meseta, I noticed that the fruits and vegetables were more fresh than they did in other regions. Some albergues even had their own gardens which was great, there definitely are perks to traveling through this area.
Many of the people throughout this region are kind and genuine, despite what others claim about the residents of this region. I found the locals I have met to be just as kind and caring as those from the previous regions I have walked through. While in a private albergue in Hornillos, I met a kind couple, who ran the establishment. The couple was inviting and told us they wanted us to treat their albergue like “home”. This inviting couple encouraged me to practice my spanish with them which was kind of them, as my ability to speak spanish is not one of my strong points. I also met a kind man at El Nogal, an albergue in El Burgo Ranero, whose name is Christian. Christian let me play with his adorable cat and precious kitten as he talked with me about his childhood in Barcelona. Christian told me stories about his time in Spain and I also told him stories and information he wanted to know about America. I am so grateful that I met kind people like Christian and the couple in Hornillos. The locals throughout the region are extremely kind and welcoming, just as they have been throughout this entire journey.
The meseta is very different from both Navarra and La Rioja. The walks through the meseta were not as exciting as when we traveled through other regions. The flat lands, spread out towns, and not so scenic routes did provide me with time to think and reflect though, which was beneficial. When traveling through the other regions we walked on many woodland, populous city paths and we did not walk in shadeless areas or walk up busy roads very frequently. However, when in the meseta, we traveled mostly in shadeless, desolate areas and often traveled up roads and on gravel and cement rather than forest paths. The meseta was not as exciting as the other regions that we walked through, however, even though the land was flat and desolate, it was a vital part of my journey. For me, the meseta represents the times in my life where my faith will run dry, the times where I can’t feel or see God’s presence. The times that I choose to trust in God, and carry on, even when life is difficult. The meseta was just what I needed. The time we spent in the meseta provided me with time to think and reflect on my life. Though mentally and spiritually difficult at times, walking through the meseta enabled me to grow in faith and taught me how to trust in The Lord in a deeper way.
Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and love.

20140711-132302-48182195.jpg