May 16, 2011 Puenta la Reina to Cirauqui

Church door near Cirauqui

Slept until 08:30, then downstairs to have breakfast and meet with Luke and make plans. Went to Farmacia with him, bought his drugs and some white tape for my toes, which had developed blisters. Decided Luke would stay at PLR with Gal and Lila, rest a day, make plans, and then connect via Internet/cell to stay in touch. Recognizing his slower pace and his growing interest in the two young ladies I realized I potentially will not see him until journey’s end at Santiago.

Decided on a short walk today in order to slow down, relax a bit, and enjoy one of my favorite little towns. So I walked only 7.5 km to Cirauqui and am on porch overlooking church as I write this, visiting with Kim and Janie from Arkansas. Very nice day with clear blue sky. Cool breeze. I washed laundry then wandered the town. Found bowl of fish soup at bar feeding about 20 workmen. Good soup with lots of bread to dip. Back to albergue for laundry and conversation, then Mass at the church at 19:00. Energetic and enthusiastic older priest who seemed much loved by the elderly ladies.

Dinner at 19:30. At first I was nervous that there were few English speakers at table. Kim, Janey and me, plus 3 Basques, one Korean, one Hungarian. The Basques were very interested in talking, so I had my first experience as an interpreter. The Basques were curious why I had done so many caminos. Told them I was a priest and a friend of Santo Santiago. The middle one said, “Es claro!” After a great dinner and enthusiastic conversation headed to bed in the same bunk I’d enjoyed 3 years earlier — looking out toward the south, seeing nothing but green hills with vineyards in the distance. Cirauqui was great international experience. Met Americans, Dutch, German, Korean, Spanish, British, Hungarian, French.

August 21, 2008 Sarria to PortomarĂ­n

By this time the effects of the walking were taking a toll on Gail and I was puzzled about why she wasn’t feeling stronger the farther we walked. Gail was complaining of extreme pain in her foot and she was walking very slowly with a barely noticeable limp. I offered to call a taxi and meet her at the next day’s goal, Portomarin, but Gail was insistent she would walk it — and a little insulted that I’d consider calling her a cab. We both recognized, too, that, if Gail didn’t walk the last 100 km from this point on, she would not qualify for the compostela, the completion certificate at the arrival to Santiago.

So we set off from Sarria, stopping regularly at sites along the way to take photos. Over the next km we saw a Dutch man whom we’d met climbing to O Cebreiro, and we spent a lot of time with Christian, an Austrian man who wanted to practice his English and who was delightful company. We also met an Austrian woman who spoke only German and her daughter who spoke English well. Also we met two young Swedish men who wanted to celebrate the birthday of one, so they’d bought two boxes of wine and were carrying them to share with pilgrims along the way.

I usually walked with Christian, pausing each time Gail was out of sight behind us and then allowing her to catch up. At one point just before Portomarin Christian and I were deep in conversation and missed a yellow arrow. Gail called to us from behind and let us know we’d missed the turn.

We walked down into the valley where the town of Portomarin had originally been — it had been moved in the 20th century when a dam had been built, creating a reservoir over the town’s ancient site. We crossed the new highway bridge high above the lake and climbed up into the new town on the hillside above, noting the Romanesque church that had been moved stone-by-stone from below to the new town. Gail sat on a bench in the square while I hunted with Christian for a hotel room. When we got to the room Gail collapsed on the bed. I told her to stay put and I would bring her dinner. I found a restaurant, explained in Spanish that I wanted a dinner to go, brought it to her, then returned to the restaurant for a meal with Christian, Jake and Carol who’d by now met each other. When I returned to our room Gail had fallen asleep with the dinner half finished beside her. I lay down next to her, hoping her camino would become more joyful in the days ahead, but thankful that we could be here together to experience these days of walking the Camino de Santiago.