My Dr delivered the most unwanted, and yet not unexpected, news. My knee will not be heading back to Puenta la Reina to resume it’s Camino this year.
It’s not that in my heart I didn’t already know this. But I preferred living in la la land with the fantasy that included images of me heading out across the Meseta on a crisp late fall morning. Perhaps the end of October. No longer bothered by the heat. Hands snug in my neoprene gloves as they grasped the poles. It appears it is not to be.
But that doesn’t mean Jeff can’t go have a bit of fun. Today, before sun up, we drove an hour and a half to Cacabelos (just this side of Ponferrada) and met up with some Camino friends from Orisson from less than a month ago. If you remember, Chris was the guy with all that camera equipment who continued to Roncesvalles on that first 30+ degree day and nearly gave up the ghost at Roncesveaux Pass. He shipped it all to our house from somewhere near Logroño, and we will meet him in Santiago when he is done so he can take it with him on his next post-Camino adventure to Morocco later this month. But right now he’s made it all the way over Cruz de Ferro and is nearly in the home stretch.
Dropping Jeff off as the sun rose was harder than I thought. He’s a big boy. I’m not worried about him. It’s that these are folks I should be walking with right now. Its a reminder that I would be in Cacabelos after tackling the previous 600+ kilometers. Healthy and strong. Ready to take on the last climb to O Cebreiro.
I waved them all ‘Buen Camino’, then got back in the car to make my way home. But then I realized I am in no hurry. Rushing back to ??? So I turned the car to the right over the old stone bridge. Then drove on past the Municipal Monastery Albergue where Emilie and I stayed. On the road to Villafranca del Bierzo.
Its a stunning little town perched high above the river. Single-lane old stone bridges crisscross under the medieval castle with the fairytale turrets. Driving across them took a little courage with potential oncoming traffic around blind corners. Weaving through the very narrow, mostly deserted warren of streets brought back memories. So I stopped in a square and bought myself a coffee. They were filming a movie in front of an old church so I enjoyed watching the action. But I didn’t recognize anyone in it.
Moving on, after my descafeinado con leche I hopped on the A6 pointed over the mountains and toward home. There is a detour heading west on the A6 that forces you off the Autovía and through a small village, before allowing you to rejoin the motorway. At the village I saw a sign for O Cebreiro and Triacastela. Jeff will be there in two days. So I made a sharp left and took a very long detour home.
Its not as steep a climb as it is on the backside of that mountain. On foot. The car did it in less than 10 minutes. Soon I was turning into the historic village at the top.
I parked my car and went into the church. To say a few prayers and to light candles for my family and for Jeff’s journey. I placed a very large red candle on the old wooden rack, to add my own little light while praying for peace in the world. Its was pouring rain and the vestibule of the church was clogged with Pilgrims struggling into rain gear.
Driving out of the village, I took the long way down to Triacastela, through Samos and eventually, Sarria. At Triacastela, I realized that when Emilie and I walked it we accidentally did a variant, which added many kilometers to our trek to Sarria. Funny, it took driving it in a car to see that.
The town of Sarria is the demarcation point for me. It means I could pretty much walk home from there.
Crossing over the Portomarin bridge was a shock. There is almost no water in the river. It looks nothing like it did in May. The electricity and energy crisis here has had the electric companies draining all the reservoirs to unprecedented lows. I have read about it, but seeing it first hand? Devastating.
More old villages are visible from before the reservoir and dams were built. But the first thing I thought was that it’s fall. Time for salmon to spawn. Atlantic salmon spawn in the streams and tributaries of this river. Where are all the fish? Because there is zero water. It’s heartbreaking. Human beings- what are we doing to our planet?
I’m home now. It’s monsoon raining outside. Jeff and our friends will be getting very wet today. He texted me and they are on the way to Las Herrerias after stopping in Villafranca del Bierzo, just like I did for my coffee. My contribution to their trek today was booking them beds. We do what we can.
I am sitting in front of our new fireplace, nice and cozy. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t rather be out in it. Walking with everyone else in the pouring rain. The knee will heal and the time will come. Because in that church at O Cebreiro I lit a candle for that too. So along with all the others I offered up, I know in my heart that little prayer will come true.