Today, we met our fellow pilgrims: Cheryl, Lorel, Kathleen, and Paula. We also met Lighia and Samantha (Lighia’s nickname is Marly, and yes, she is the “Marly” in Marly Camino.) They were very warm and welcoming as they started us out on our journey. Our guide, Ignacio, joined us a few minutes later; the poor guy had just flown in from Santiago de Compostela this morning. He had just completed a group and now was heading out with our group, but his spirits were good.
We had a very long drive today, which took us through some of the most dramatic scenery imaginable. When we crossed into Gallicia the mountainous terrain was breathtaking and beautiful. (All the while I kept thinking to myself, ‘Wow, am I glad that I don’t have to walk these mountains.’)
About two and half hours after departing Madrid, we arrived in the city of Astorga, famous for its chocolates and home to one of the first buildings designed by Gaudi, the Archbishop’s palace. We walked around and viewed the pink granite facade of the Cathedral and then Ignacio showed us an anchoress’ cell with its grilled window facing the street. We ate lunch at the Hotel Gaudi Restaurant where we sampled a number of local delicacies, including octopus.
It was in Astorga that we began to see pilgrims walking the Camino. Our guide noted that Astorga was an important stop along the Camino and continues to be so today. As we left the city, our bus passed many pilgrims on foot and on bicycle. We also saw the distinctive yellow arrow and shell symbols which indicate the correct path to take.
Our bus climbed into the foothills of the mountains where we stopped by the Crux de Ferro, the Iron Cross. Pilgrims traditionally leave a stone at the foot of the cross and some recite a prayer as they leave their stone. I found a copy of the prayer used in the film, “The Way,”:
Lord, may this stone, a symbol of my efforts on the pilgrimage that I lay at the
foot of the cross of the Savior, weigh the balance in favor of my good deeds
some day when the deeds of my life are judged. let it be so.
Many of the stones had writing on them; in some instances notes had been left under the stones. We took a few moments of quiet reflection before continuing our journey.
As we moved into Galicia, Ignacio explained that this region had been first inhabited by Celtic Clans with the Romans expelling them during their time here. The mountains were steep and covered in green and colors of wildflowers. Ignacio said that this is the third most challenging point in walking the Camino as the grades are steep going up and down. We stopped in a tiny village to take a stretch break and there was a small Franciscan Church there. Ignacio said that one of the previous pastors came up with the idea in the 1980s of marking the Camino’s path by painting the yellow arrows and shells along the Camino. A bit later, I met the nephew of the priest who said that he had helped his uncle paint the markers.
We arrived at our lodging, Rectorial Gorian around 8:30 p.m. (Yes, it is an old rectory.) The rectory has been restored by a young couple with two small children; the rooms are comfortable and full of character. Each of us has a private bathroom and the stonework is beautiful.
We sat down to a lovely dinner, prepared by the owners, Xavier and Raquel (Javier is a pastry chef. He made a lovely birthday cake for the three of us who celebrated birthdays in May: Cheryl, Kathleen, and me.)
Ignacio briefed us on how the next day, the first actual day of walking, would proceed. We received our Camino Passports to receive the necessary stamps along the way in order to obtain our certificate or Compostela. He gave us our Marly Camino backpacks and went over their contents (they really do think of everything to make your experience more pleasant and comfortable).
Since we arrived later than planned, we delayed breakfast until 8:30 a.m. tomorrow with a 9:15 or 9:30 start time.
I’m having problems with the software for this blog. The photos won’t go where I want them!