Ten months have passed and I have yet to complete writing about the last three walking days of my Camino 2018. Those days were powerful, leaving me doubtful I could ever give them their due justice. I was but a bystander, blessed to be watching as God used faithful servants to reach out to those in need. Thinking back on the impact of those days has motived me to have faith and finish these writings I started so many months ago.
2 Corinthians 8:11-12 “now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have.”
We would be entering the Meseta on this ninth walking day of our adventure. This calm yet, deceitful vast plane alters ones perceptions of time and distance. Lacking in the tall lush trees of the last several days the sun will loom bright overhead, following our every foot step. Anticipating what the day will hold for our planned nineteen miles we rise at two-thirty am, determined to beat the heat. Fortified with strong coffee and croissants we boarded our bus for the short drive to our starting point. The early morning air is crisp; the moon was full and glowing, seeming eager to lead us down our path. Walking into the moonbeams above, we recited the rosary, drawing serenity from both the tranquility of our prayers and our surroundings.
The cool morning air and flat gravel paths aided in keeping the pace quick and steady. The light of the moon was enough that we needed no other light source other than the occasional flash light to verify an arrow. Slowly the sun peeked through the horizon behind us, lifting the darkness, bring forth beautiful hues that danced in the sky. Such a amazing sight. Many steps were taken in reverse this morning allowing us to soak in those stunning rays of purple, pink and gold.
Lamentations 3:22-23: “The favors of the LORD are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent; They are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness.”
As the sun arose the invigorating cool morning air turned stifling, leaving us caked in sweat and dust. The day would include the anguish of blistered feet, along with the beauty of friendship, love, and kindness which glowed as bright as the sun rays above. The Pain and suffering of one can affect others profusely; I believe on this day God was at work, in the suffering of one the pains of many were healed. This day hearts were filled with acceptance, sadness opened to hope, strength was given where strength was needed and new friendships bonded. Those burdened with grief supported the strong, the independent strong were able to find grace in weakness; healing and growth was abundant in the face of pain and suffering.
As the mid day heat strip us of our energy the pain of one of our pilgrims became more apparent. Four remained in the rear supporting our friend who’s face was aways showing joy even though her eyes projected pain and suffering. At times I walked with the final four and at times I would walk slightly ahead always looking back. The path was endless, inches seemed like miles, seconds felt like hours. Signs were passed saying Hontanas was only a few meters away yet the horizon showed no sign of civilization. We had walked over twelve miles and we were longing for a break. A steep hill came in to view, despair was felt, there was no way our peep was going to make it up that hill. Suddenly in the valley a town appeared, within a few feet there were signs of life, of hope, of relief! This was a great reminder that Our Lord is always with us, if your heart has the desire He will come into your sight.
Hontanas sets in a valley, so grateful for it to come into view
Mathew 11: 28-30 “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
The day full of humility, suffering, and love, ended here for myself and my blister infested peep. Amazingly her face was still smiling, her soul every joyful, not one complaint, though her eyes clearly reflected her agony. The final four relished a cup of Café con leche as we tended to the feet of our friend. With the final destination a little over six miles further down the road the final four split. Two moved on to complete the days journey in Castrojeriz, the other two spending a few minutes in solitude at the local church. We headed to the edge of town where our bus was waiting, suddenly we started giggling like kids. This burst of silliness may have just been relief, but we felt a wild west cowboy vibe coming from this oasis in the desert and found it very entertaining.
Between Hontanas and Castrojeriz are the ruins of the San Anton monastery, built in the 12th century. Within the ruins is a rustic albergue and a small rest stop for pilgrims to relax and quench their thirst. The bus stopped here to pick up a few other members of our group allowing us time to walk around the premises. The monastery is a skeleton of what it once was. We walked to the back side where its openness gave some of our peeps the feelings of being on the set of Lord of the Rings. Once back on the bus an exhausted peep who had joined us asked if I thought I would return for Camino 2019, I adamantly said NO, the Camino was now checked off my bucket list and I was done, done, done! Funny thing is once rested any pains became forgotten memories and the body was left craving more of those dusty paths.
Indeed it was another great day on the Camino!