Pilgrim Wonder  

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Spanish people along the Camino have been helping pilgrims for over a thousand years. It is part of their culture. One feature of this is their albergues - hostels - where a pilgrim can get a shower, a bed, a place to dry the day’s clothes after washing, and a communal dinner. Often, breakfast is offered as well. All that for about $20-$25 per person.

A sumptuous dinner in Urtega: salad with tuna fish on top, chicken, rice, a fried egg and french fries! When you’re hungry, unusual is just fine.

Usually, one sleeps in bunk beds with others in a dorm room. Cynthia and I have stayed with as many as 10 in a room. The monastery in Roncevalles hosted 180. On our floor, modern cubicles containing two bunk beds gave a modicum of privacy, though snoring had no problem being heard across the cubicles!

On other nights, we have more luxury, having taken advantage of the gifts we received to book three private rooms so far. Last night we even had our own bathroom!

The view from our bathroom window last night

Tonight we’re in a six-bed room (no bunk beds!)

but will apparently be alone, so it’s like having a private room.

Our dorm room tonight - no top bunks and all to ourselves!

After a day of walking, arriving at an albergue is an incredible relief… to have a shower, lie down, and look forward to an evening meal with fellow pilgrims. In the early long days, we arrived between four and six, which gave precious little time for resting and washing, but we have shortened our days since and left early enough to arrive before two. Much better! We’ll need to bump up our mileage again soon enough.

Our hosts have been without exception incredibly welcoming and helpful. Though they make their living from it, they don’t make much. They are in it for the service, and it shows in their kindness. In Zubiri, Sarah provided a truly gourmet dinner. In Cirauqu, Juan served an excellent salad, a delicious chickpea stew, and a scrumptious custard for dessert.

Juan, our host in Cirauqui

Our dinner companions last night, eating in a four-hundred-year-old wine cellar

Tonight, at Casa Magica in Villateurta, we have signed up for massages from Maria, our young host, another appreciated gift.

Casa Mágica, our home tonight

I have had a lingering cough, which erupted this afternoon, undaunted by the cough drops I have with me. Shortly after I began hacking, our other host tonight, Alberto (Maria’s partner) arrived with ginger gum to soothe it. And it worked.

There is truly a beloved community here.

From Pamplona on Wednesday we climbed over the Alto de Perdón (Mount of Forgiveness) with its iconic sculpture of pilgrims on the way. I wonder how many of us seek forgiveness in this walk. Many have said they are hoping to be changed… to receive guidance for a new life direction. Does this not start in forgiveness?

We have made good progress since setting out Saturday, having arrived in Pamplona today, about 44 miles from our start in St. Jean Pied de Port.

It has been incredibly hard and incredibly rewarding. When I am at the end of my rope, if I can remember to open to the divine, inevitably something happens to help me move forward… some little joy… usually a glimpse of beauty, perhaps one of the countless little wildflowers on the side of the path, or a magnificent view. Here are a couple of photos of those.

No matter how hard, every day I am given multiple assurances that this pilgrimage is a blessing.