Thursday, May 22, 2008

From Villar de Mazariffe

These photos relate to the blog post following. They are in the (chronological) order of the post's narrative. That post covers the journey from Leon to Villar de Mazarife on 22 May 2008.
249. Leaving Leon before sunrise, outside the ancient monastery of San Marcos, now a luxury hotel
250. The modern church at La Virgen del Camino
251. The Camino en route to Chozas de Abajo
252. More rich red mud
253. Icing the tendon at Chozas
254. Michael from Siegen at Chozas de Abajo
255. The storks make themselves and the family at home in the bell tower at Villar de Mazarife
256. The bell tower without the stork focus
257. Ah! The perils of pilgrim life. St Anthony never had it so good!

This post is sent from the Albergue San Antonio de Padua, in Villar de Mazariffe, 23 kms from Leon. If you think that I have chosen this refuge for its spiritual connections (St Anthony was a great Franciscan saint, the great aid in finding lost objects), its main rival in this pilgrim town is El Refuge de Jesus!

Today´s journey

It was such an unexpected joy to be back on the road again today at 6.30, walking through the streets of suburban Leon to the outer suburb of La Virgen del Camino (we don´t do suburb names well in Oz, do we?). There was a striking ultramodern (1961) church there on the site of a C16 pilgrim apparition that itself became a pilgrimage destination. The church was so interesting in its architecture with large bronze statues of the Apostles above the church door. The altar paid artistic homage to traditional Spanish retablos (altar pieces) but with a distinctly modern slant. It is under the care of the Dominicans. When I think of the ugly churches built in Australia in and around 1961 ....

The Camino followed the road for quite a bit until the quieter route that I chose lead through rich red-soil fields from Oncina de la Valdocina to Chozas de Abojor where, resting my Achilles tendon on a bag of ice kindly supplied by the bar (I had the bag!), along comes the delightful young Michael from Siegen near Koln whom I had not seen for several days. We had said goodbye in Hotonas, I think. He is about to start a career in teaching, at 25 in the German system of lengthy academic preparation. He had welcome news of other young friends not far away.

We walked on together to Villar de Mazarife where the voice of discretion told me to stop for the day. He planned to go on to Hospital de Obrogo, 15 kms away, since he has to finish the Camino by 2 June. I might break the 30 km next stage to Astorga there tomorrow night. Again, discretion rules. One of the lessons belatedly taken from the Camino.

This evening´s meal in the Albergue is salad for primero followed by paella. It will be a communal meal, at 7 pm. With vinotinto, agua, pan and postre, of course. We´ll fall happily into bed by 10 pm, ready to rise at 6 for tomorrow´s walking. It´s a medieval, monastic life in many ways. No one will go to the pub afterwards. There´s no disco in this town. Just a church with two nests of storks in its tower. The storks were stalking the noisy frogs in the pond as we walked into town. Other life goes on and on.

The future outlook

The montes de Leon, with snow on their peaks, beckon in the distance, about 50 kms away. Santiago is itself about 300 kms away. There are two ranges to cross, the second into Galicia wiht a climb on one day, to O´Cebreiro (from memory), from 600 m to 1550 m.

The next big town is Astorga, 30 kms away. It is where the Via de la Plata (or the Camino Mozarabe, the route taken by the Australian author Tony Kevin) from the south joins the Camino Frances for the journey to Santiago. The pressure and pulse will quicken with more and more pilgrims on the Way. Astorga also has a famous Gaudi building and other great religious and cultural sites.

I´m being strategic about my resources and will not rush the rest of the journey. It has 12 natural stages but I may subdivide some, if necessary. I do not want to risk permanent injury. I´ve promised Ana not to overlook the bus and I won´t. I´m also conscious of the disappointment that many fellow pilgrims have suffered in having to pull out, and my relative good fortune in continuing.


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