Day 22 - To Astorga

June 18, 2014 - Distance Traveled: 31.2 km -

Because we were separated from Sergio yesterday, we arranged to meet him him between 9:00 and 9:30 am at Hospital de Orbigo today. By 9:30, we had all had straggled into a cafe located just before you cross the bridge. Ten minutes later, in walked Sergio. It was good to be walking the same path once again.

Rachel, Emilie and Alison standing at the beginning of the medieval bridge which leads into Hospital de Orbigo. This 13th century bridge is the longest one on the Camino at 204 meters (approximately 670 feet) and has 20 arches. On July 10, 1434 Don Suero held a tournament on the bridge where he and 9 other knights were reported to have broken 200 lances and defeated 68 men. We neither defeated anyone nor broke any lances on this day, it was triumph enough to be back together and walking across it.

When we set out again, the pace was quite slow. Sometimes, it seems the hardest part of the day is walking right after a long rest. Today was going to be one of our longest of our journey. Rachel and I took the lead and she helped set a quicker pace. This was aided by picking up a conversation we had started earlier about how to walk in peace, even in the midst of hurt and loss. She is an old soul and has much to offer when thinking about such things.

Eventually, even good conversation could not insulate us from the impact of the distance. Just when we thought the length of the day's journey was becoming unbearable, there appeared a makes shift stand that was placed in just the right spot to lift your spirits at just the right moment.

If you look over Amy’s right shoulder, you will see an overhang which covers a bed that is open to the elements on three sides. A guitar, tie-dye fabrics and a blue tarp seem all the worldly possessions the people who inhabited this spot need. And they are willing to share all of those things.

There is also a stand which offers fruit and drinks to the passing pilgrims. They would accept donations, but were just as happy for you to take it for free. Hearts encircled the roof of the stand and written across the base in Spanish was the phrase, “The key to the essence is the presence.” This seemed particularly true of this section of the Camino. It was long and hot, the key to experiencing life in this difficult sections was the presence, loving-kindness, and conversation shared with our traveling companions.

This is the Cross of Saint Toribio. You see it as you approach Astorga. If you ever find yourself walking this section of the Camino and you come to this cross and you think to yourself, we must be close, you will be wrong. It was at least five more kilometers to where we would stop for the day. Rachel and I had walked together of and on all day, much of it had been filled with deep conversations. We would finish out these final kilometers together, but to keep one another going we shared riddles and played twenty questions.

When we finally arrived at the albergue, Rachel commented that on to the hardest days, our conversations keeps her going. I agreed. Though she was spent, she then turned around and headed back down the Camino to help the others make the final push.

Not long after we all checked into the albergue, Rachel left the room. She had gone out to talk to the man at the front desk. When she returned, she announced that she, Amy, Helen and Rolando would be staying an extra night in Astorga. They were not in a rush to finish the Camino and wanted to take the rest day they had put off in Leon. Our family would be splitting up in the morning. My immediate reactions was sadness, but buy now I had learn to also be open to what the space which would be created might bring. All we could do was enjoy the last afternoon and evening we would be together.

We found this very large backpack on our way to the store to procure the ingrediants we would need for dinner. Emilie volunteered to make us gnocchi for dinner, if they had the ingredients and we all needed to gets some snacks to tied us over until then. There was a fair amount to explore in Astorga (I hear there is a chocolate museum, that has to be worth seeing, right?), but given the fact our group would be splitting in two in the morning, I did not want to do anything but hang with them.

Rachel and I headed out to pick up some last minute items again later in the afternoon, Our our way back we found a spot in the park next to the albergue and spent an hour tieing up loose ends from our conversations. We ended by talking about forgivness and the experience we would have in a couple of days at Cruz de Ferro. This time seemed a fitting end to the conversations we had shared for the last nine days. Could it really be that short of a period of time? Time here on the Camino are like dog years. In one day you live what seems to weeks and month.

There were several groups shairng a large table at dinner. Each shared what they had with the others. Along with the varied main courses, there were bottles of wine and bread. The elements seemed very fitting given the fellowship we have come to share.

I will miss those we are leaving behind.

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