Monday, October 10, 2011

Day 11: This little figgy went to market...

I loved my little walk through very picturesque Portugal.  If I searched to find something negative, it would only be trying to escape well-intended country women with less than 2 kilos of fruit and nuts from their orchard trees.  Although I anticipate a good frost one of these evenings to put an end to the swarms of gnats, the benefits of the autumn harvest are delightfully manifest.  Apples, pears, quince, chestnuts, walnuts, almonds, grapes, more grapes, grapes red and white, and my favorite of all, fat tender figs.  And, bonus, the region is plump with big rounds of sheep cheese - yum.

On my first night off the pilgrim super-highway, as I've come to think of the camino, I made my way over pastural hill and dale unfettered by road or even a path to a small town just as Mass was ending... it's uncanny how a pilgrim can so often beat the odds of stumbling upon a Mass when there is only one per 12 days.  A short conversation with the grateful priest, who thankfully was fluent in Castillian, got me not only an invitation to his mother's house for the night - an a great cook indeed - but also guidance for the remainder of my walk through Portugal... names, towns, off-road paths, two monasteries, and a google-map.  What a gift!

The days are warm, overly sunny with vast areas of little shade, and full of necessary kilometers.  I'm still averaging that marathon distance of a bit more than 40 mountainous kilometers every day.  Although I've got absolutely nothing to complain about - nothing, nothing, nothing.  After the fourth day, one which involved quite a lot of asphalt and long hilly distances without shade or water, I was internally beginning to whine a bit, quite truthfully.  My attitude was put to rights when a kind family driving home stopped me at the entrance to the town to offer help.  I'm so happy they did as the priest was away and it was a weekend, so the mayor's office was closed.  With a number of phone calls, the father of the family, who considered the honor of the village at stake, got things arranged for me to spend the night at the facility run by the Sisters of Mercy.

A geriatric facility, sure, but what a great experience.  Invited to the dining hall for a dinner of Portugese specialties, I saw dozens of residents shuffling with the aid of walkers and canes, progressing three inches for as many steps... my aching feet still throbbed from the pounding of the day's 45 kilometers, but I was reminded by the experience of how fortunate I am to be able to earn my pain with a great deal of gain.  I recalled an Islamic proverb I recently came upon: 'I  cursed at God because I had no shoes and then saw a man who had no feet.'   Doh! how true.  And how interesting we stumble upon such experiences just when we need them.  St Jerome's handiwork?

The next day, refreshed and facing only 35 kilometers of gorgeous and deeply gorged landscape, I entered a village celebrating in large form the feast of St Barbara.  I was invited to join in the procession through the winding village cobbled streets behind the shoulder-mounted tableau of the venerated Saint and in front of the marching band.  (I switched from boots to sandals, of course.)  What a treat for the heart and soul/sole, and stomach enjoying more of the local specialities.  {Note that every culture I've visited on all my pilgrimages seem to relish tripe soup.  Don't chew, just swallow.}

5 comments:

The Solitary Walker said...

Beautifully and entertainingly written, Ann, as always. Oh, and the figs ... yum! My own favourite food-for-free on a recent short pilgrimage. Love your enthusiasm and positive attitude - again, as always. A really heartfelt Buen Camino from me, the Solitary Walker...

Anonymous said...

45-50 kms a day! Oof!way out of my walking league! You really can clock up the ks!
And yes, we find much kindness on the way, outside of the 'superhighways'.

ksam said...

Happy to hear your being provided for so wonderfully!

Sheila Phelan Wright said...

Your writing makes me want to hop a plane and start a pilgrimage, but then the 45-50k helps me decide to walk to Cherry Creek for coffee or tea. However, I'm with you, as I'm sure many others are, via virtual camino.
So glad to hear that the world and people open their arms to you. Thanks for keeping us updated.

Compostelle 2008 said...

Ann, you write beautifully! I love to read your blog entries. I can picture everything you describe. Keep trekking and writing and I will be eternally grateful.

Michèle - Ottawa (ON) Canada