Discalced Carmelite Friars

Semi Province of St. Therese

Camino de Santiago - page 10

A Pilgrim's Progress: Fr. Stephen Sanchez, OCD, on the Camino de Santiago – 2018 - page 10

Aug 3rd

Leaving Mercadoiro to Vendas de Narón- Our alarms sounded at 5am - almost everyone's alarm: 8 out of 10.

Problem: eight strangers trying to share 1 bathroom.

We three more or less got ourselves together and downstairs by 5:45am. But I still had to tape my right toenail before putting on my silk liner sock.

NB: the faint of heart can skip the brackets below.

[My toenail: I'll just explain my toenail situation.

While doing our practice hikes in Dallas, I developed a hematoma on my left big toe and some blisters. We did some adjusting, went from plain silk liners under the wool hiking socks to toed-liners. That took care of the blisters and the bruising of the toe. Inexplicably on one practice hike I developed a large hematoma on my right large toe - the entire toenail was purple - a couple of days later it separated from the nailbed but was still attached. I decided to just let it be. One morning - a couple of days ago - I accidentally caught the edge of the toenail while lifting my backpack off of the floor. It came all the way up off the nailbed. I quickly took a deep breath and pressed it back down - hoping it would stay because I didn't want to hike with an exposed nailbed. So before hiking that morning Iput a piece of gauze on the nail and taped it down. I do that every morning now. Detachment comes in all forms.]

It was going to be a short day (17kms) to Vendas de Narón followed by a long day the following day.

It's going to be in the 90's the next few days.

We headed out into the courtyard to put on our backpacks and our headlamps - it was dark and misty. We were hoping for coffee somewhere along the way - this early walking with no coffee is extraordinary penance. We walked a good 4kms before stopping for a roadside breakfast. The evening before we had asked the waiters at the restaurant if they would be able to fix us a 'pilgrim basket' - since breakfast at the albergue was going to be at 7:30am and we were leaving at 6am.

We stopped finally! (yes, I'm whinning) in Gonzar for coffee and after this little charge moved on through Castromaior, and Hospital de la Cruz, to our destination - Vendas de Narón and our albergue O Cruciero. We were greeted by the friendly albergue dog.

Since it was only a 17km day we got there pretty early and did our shower, laundry, and nap. None of these albergues has had air-conditioning (except for the small albergue Pata de Oca - so long ago and so well remembered) or fans or screens. So you are always battling flies, biting flies and heat. Good times!!

There was a friendly grasshopper that kept Deacon Peter some company for a bit just to make sure he felt welcome in the agrarian community.

We were put in a large dorm room with 9 beds - no bunkbeds, so no trying to climb up on tender feet. We met later in the afternoon to decide our destination the next day. We wanted to get to a place large enough to attend mass either Saturday evening or Sunday. So we chose Melide as the next days destination. That would mean a 25.5km day! We decided to leave at 6am. It was only 6 of us in the bunkroom!! Thank you Lord!

Ventas de Narón dog
Ventas de Narón - dog
Yellow dirt road - in search of Vendas de Narón
Yellow dirt road - in search of Vendas de Narón
Our Lady of the Snows Chapel - Portomarín
Our Lady of the Snows Chapel - Portomarín
Between Portomarín and Ventas de Narón
Between Portomarín and Ventas de Narón
Peter's friend - Ventas de Narón

Aug 4th

Leaving Ventas de Narón to Melide.

We planned to leave at 6am for the 25km day. I woke up at 5am, looked out the open window above my head and saw a very thick fog, so thick that it at first it sounded like rain but it was just dew drops falling off of the trees.

The Italian couple and the three of us got up at 5 and got ready to head out. They left a few minutes before us. We took up our backpacks and our headlamps and headed out into a fog so thick you could barely see your hand in front of your face. Peter decided to use his backpack cover to keep his pack dry.

The thick fog and the incline made the 1st mile very slow and difficult. 'We walk by faith and not by sight' ... but we still strain to see the way.

We found our way to and through Serra de Ligonde, it was still sleeping, we found the hamlet of Previsa, we saw a small café but it was only about 15 steps from the cow barn. Ummm....not an option. We trudged on - the fog had cleared - we found Airexe and COFFEE and fresh squeezed orange juice. They had cute sculptures of ants on the patio.

With this caffeine charge we took up our packs and began again.

We went through several small towns - yes - up and down hills.

Over all we have been descending but there are large hills that have to be climbed and descended. Some are killer 45 - 75 degree ascents and descents, others less punishing.

We went through several small hamlet-ettes and finally we saw, from on top of a hill, the city of Palas de Rei.

We read that one of the routes to Palas de Rei was dangerous - taking into consideration my hip, Peter's knee, Ron's feet and the fact that if I died on this trip at this date in my tenure the Province would have to convene another Chapter -- the friars would refuse me Christian burial if they had to go through that -- so, we opted for the 'safe' route. Well, as we got closer we had to descend a very narrow and steep 'gorge'. I said out loud 'This is the safe route!!??' After getting past this obstacle we caught sight of Palas de Rei. It would be a hard climb up some switchbacks just to pass through it, so we skirted the city entirely. After a kilometer or two we stopped off of the Camino for our 'pilgrim bag lunch', we each had a slice of tortilla, a small bottle of juice, bread, and a banana. With this, we began the next climb up (a 200m ascent), it was a difficult climb for me even though in the back of my mind I was telling myself that we crossed the Pyrenees! But just like in the spiritual life, we tend to forget obstacles/impediments conquered and the present situation seems to take up our entire horizon. This ascent took up my entire horizon - under my breath I said "Okay Lord, remember this is for vocations to our province and the spiritual wellbeing of my directees!"

We stopped in a tiny little town and visited the church of San Xulian do Camino, we bought some fresh blackberries from a woman just past Casanova.

It seems as if there are endless hills to climb and descend, and the heat of the afternoon can be draining. Yet, inthe midst of it all, beauty continues to surround us if we would take the time to notice. That would mean that you would have to intend to take your attention off of your discomfort.

We finally made it into Melide and our albergue Pereiro.

We booked a 'private' room - two bunkbeds - but we had to pay for the fourth empty bed. We figured we might be able to get some rest that way. It was late afternoon - we asked about mass - we had time to shower, do laundry and get to the vigil mass at you 6pm - of course it was only 'ten minutes away'.

Well it seems to be that in Spain '10 minutes away', just like 'two kilometers away' means "Its not far" - it's not a real measurement of time or distance. "10 minutes away" could be a 30 minute walk; "just 2 kms" could be 5 or 6kms.

So the trusting trio headed out for mass. We went down the street for '10 minutes'...nothing...kept walking...found a church - it was closed. Peter went off for info while Ron and I kept walking down the street. Ron and I turned back but we couldn't see Peter. Kept walking back towards the albergue. Ron gets a message from Peter "Its the other way". Ron's phone is down to 3% battery. Which way is "the other way?" It was already 6:15 so I told Ron "We tried - let's go back to the albergue." Ron gets a text that the next mass is at 8pm - I'm exhausted and say to Ron "tomorrow is Sunday - I'll try in the next town - I'm too exhausted to try again."

Peter gets back from mass and tells us that it was apparently a funeral memorial mass because they didn't use the Sunday readings and there was a group of people there that were family members of the person for whom they were celebrating the mass. So none of us got to go to the Sunday Vigil.

Our laundry wasn't fully dry so we hung it on our room and turned--in. Our private room was just off two courtyards. There was a German woman on the phone, crying to someone on the other side of the conversation, so there was that whole emotional contentvdrifting into our room plus all the noise in the other courtyard right in front of our door. We had to keep the door cracked to try to get a cross breeze into the room - which also meant flies and stray conversations.

Some woman and three younger women (daughters?) came into the patio at 11pm and they chatted for what seemed like hours. I don't know what time they left but I got out of my top bunk and closed the door. Which meant no cross breeze.

Another little splinter to carry.

Walk in fog - leaving Ventas de Narón
Walk in fog - leaving Ventas de Narón
Limited visibility – where
Limited visibility – where's the path?
Leaving Ventas de Narón
Leaving Ventas de Narón
Along the way
Along the way
Unexpected beauty - a rose blossom
Unexpected beauty
Ant sculpture - Airexe
Ant sculpture - Airexe
Airexe garden - ant sculpture
Airexe garden - ant sculpture
Narrow is the way - to Palas de Rei
Narrow is the way - to Palas de Rei