Australian Idol - Spanish Idyll

Villar de Barrio Travel Blog

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Water colour mornings
Walking is so easy - it´s just one foot after the other. A few steps make up 100m and 10 of those make up 1km. In no time the kms build up and then you have walked over 800km.

When I made the choice to walk this pilgrimage the Via de la Plata from Seville to Santiago (1000km) even I thought I was mad. I was starting in summer (over 30C every day) with limited knowledge of the Spanish language; and this route is one of the most difficult of all Camino routes to Santiago because the distances between towns are often long and water access can be scarse in places.

What I did have was a strength the Spanish call ´fuerte´. Day after day my walking companions call me that. Not only do I have the biggest mochilla (pack) of anyone but I am always at the front if I walk with others.
Walking in the clouds
The other reason I am fuerte is because I am ´solita´(walking alone). I have taken a lot of this for granted but today I was made aware of just how unique my journey has been.

Going back a couple of days, I was entering the region of Galicia and the land of rain and mountains. I have spent 3 days climbing (mostly) and sliding down steep slopes in freezing mornings and chilly afternoons. Yesterday morning I was actually walking in the middle of a cloud. I was the highest living thing for miles! It was 6.50 and the sun was just about to show me it´s morning gold. All around me was lit with pastel hues - pink hills, soft lemon horizon, pastel blue sky fading into the last fluffy grey of the evening.
Words cannot convey how I felt in this moment

I thought of the idyllic setting and my life in the ´big city´and was reminded of how it is easy to slip into the web of ´want´rather than ´need´. My life in the past 2 months has been idyllic to say the least. I have lived very simply and not been exposed to TV, newspapers or endless bombardment with advertisements and ´reality´shows.
I will write this in the first person as I am only speaking for myself. This experience is a clear choice of mine and I understand that I could not possibly live like this forever. I will take from it many lessons and hope that they are fuerte enough to sustain my life when I return to the city!

Two days ago I was climbing through a beautiful woodland forest very early as I left the gorgeous village of Lubián (one of my favourite little gems).
Ganeta (not my pic)
It was silent except for the soft tread of my boots on the forest floor and the occasional squeak from my mochilla. It was ´precioso´(as the Spanish would say). Moments like these are just beyond words but I am hoping you can go there in your mind and even smell the rich morning dew as I did. It reminded me of walks in the bush around Lake Taupo in NZ as a child.
Well, through the silence I heard a soft rustle and spied a movement on a nearby tree trunk. I became a statue, moving only my eyes until I could make out a sweet little Creature only 5 metres away from me. He was halfway up the trunk and riveted to the spot as I was, about the size of a Possum but clearly something quite different as he sported distinct spotty markings, big ears and the cutest bulging eyes, similar to a cat.
Simple life - every man's dream shed
We both blinked, the international animal sign for ´I am your friend´!

Moments passed and we just absorbed each other. He started to slowly back down the tree and I was hoping he would come to say hi. The size of a cat, he was of no danger to me. At the point of landing on the earth, he stood on his hind legs and wavered around like a Meercat deciding his options. In an instant, the choice was made and he scurried off to his home in the bush. I was so absorbed in the precious moment that I had to collect myself before I could move on. It was just precioso.

I spent the rest of the day curious as to what he was and then in the evening my questions were answered (I think). I had met up with a lovely family travelling for a week on part of the Camino. They are two brothers (Javier and Luis) from Seville and Merida.
Albergueria cafe - the scallop shell moment
  With them is Javier´s nineteen year old son, Javi. What a great experience for a young man to have, and he is part of such a lovely and loving family. It has been a joy to spend time with these caring people.
We ate together last night and Javier looked up the Creature on his Blackberry for me so I think I have had a close encounter with a ´Genetta´ the forest version of a tree climbing cat. He is my reality show and will be my idol for quite a while.

Today we all walked together and had a short day (22km) but a very difficult climb, one of the steepest to date. At the halfway point we stopped at a little pueblo with a solo bar, famous for it´s sympathetic treatment of pilgrims. The entire walls and ceiling are covered with Scallop shells, each one with the name and date scribed by pilgrims as they pass through.
The crew at Albergueria
Luis Sandes Fernandez is the owner and runs across the road from his other ´work´as soon as he hears your approach. The energy in the tiny bar is amazing, you can feel the love as soon as you approach. It is like someone´s home and for Luis it is just that. He lives in this lonely village on his own with a few elderly citizens for company and the excitement of every pilgrim reaching the summit of their climb.
His other ´job´is the conversion of a crumbling old 2-storey building opposite the bar. He is lovingly building a new albergue for pilgrims who are too exhausted from their climb to continue (or who just love being in this gorgeous pueblo called Albergueria!). The pueblo is perched atop a mountain range with views all around to Galicia and certainly deserves the descriptor - idyllic.
Luis showed us through the construction site and I can see that it will be one of those unique places that pilgrims talk about for a long time after. I have offered my services as hospitalera next year if he needs them fro a couple of months!

How do you top off a day like that? Well, lunch with Abuela Carmen is how. This wonderful old lady lives in Vilar de Barrio in a bar with no sign but is famous for her food. We had lunch there today - I´ll fill you in soon as the library is now closing!

besos, Grace

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Water colour mornings
Water colour mornings
Walking in the clouds
Walking in the clouds
Words cannot convey how I felt in …
Words cannot convey how I felt in…
Ganeta (not my pic)
Ganeta (not my pic)
Simple life  - every mans dream s…
Simple life - every man's dream …
Albergueria cafe - the scallop she…
Albergueria cafe - the scallop sh…
The crew at Albergueria
The crew at Albergueria
Villar de Barrio
photo by: Gracethepilgrim