On this, our penultimate day on the Camino before reaching Santiago, we are heading for Pedrouzo on a short stage before our final push to our destination.
We left town amidst a large group of Belgian school students who were walking from Sarria. One young student spoke with us for part of the way – it passed the time – and she shared a delicious Belgian chocolate bar with us! A rare treat 🙂 They were doing some solid distance – around 35kms per day. Perhaps they figured that tired teenagers wouldn’t get up to mischief! Some, however, were already walking with bandaged knees. I wondered if an Australian school could get away with such a hike. And decided that health and safety concerns would probably prevent such a healthy activity.
We stopped for coffee on the outskirts of the town and found this ancient Camino marker.
As we left the town we found an old fountain – one of the more traditional ones. But we had filled our bottles at the albergue and did not need to replenish yet – and anyhow, there was no sign saying it was potable. So this one was probably for animals to drink at along the way.
There was a pilgrim memorial – one of the more established and official ones. A priest had passed away on the Camino in 1996. The memorial had a plaque with the priest’s likeness, and the text as follows (with rough translation from Google translate):
“Terminaste to corto ministerio sacerdotal haciendo el Camino con nosotros, entragando tu vida al servicio de los demas, hasta el ultimo momento!
La parroquia de S. Eco. Javier de la Coruña nunca olvidara tu paso entre nosotros las huellas del señor no son invisibles, tu via es una de ellas! 22 de Julio de 1996.
“El que pierda su vida por mi, la encontrara”
Ramon Pazos Seaje “Moncho”
You ended your short priestly ministry doing the Camino with us, putting your life at the service of others, until the last moment!
The parish of St. Eco. Javier de la Coruña will never forget your steps among us. The footsteps of the Lord are not invisible, your way is one of them! July 22, 1996.
“Whoever loses his life for me will find it”
Ramon Pazos Seaje “Moncho”
Here is a close-up of the plaque:
The sunrise over the misty rolling hills was inspiring.
And we passed another memorial to a pilgrim as the terrain opened out onto farmland. He was only 49, and had passed away just one day out from Santiago.
Soon we were back among stunning woodlands, and I half expected a deer to run across our path, or perhaps a squirrel. It was a landscape of dreams and it well suited our reflective mood. We considered the highlights of the Camino, including the wonderful dinner at Orrisson, the feeling of community among our new-found Camino friends, the spectacle of O Cebriero, the moving moment at the Cruz de Ferro and so many more.
Near the start someone – I think it might have been Claude Tranchant, the Australian author of ‘From Boots to Bliss‘ – who messaged me to say, that though we walk together, we each walk our own Camino. And that is so true. Of course, some take a cart…
Then more woodland with the trees embracing overhead, as though protecting us from harm – indeed the shade was most welcome!
This last 100kms is really among the most picturesque on the Camino, and is the most gentle of paths, in contrast to earlier stages.
The eucalyptus forest towered beside us and the scent reminded us of home – ironically, so close to the end of our Camino. The eucalypts were first brought to Spain by Dom Rosendo Salvado – the Benedictine monk who founded the Australian monastery of New Norcia just north of Perth in Western Australia. Sharon and I used to spend weekends there when we were first together. Dom Salvado was a Galician, and brought the eucalypts to Spain for possible use in furniture. Actually, gum trees are not great for furniture, despite my dining table being constructed from Ribbon Gum (a long story involving the Great Fire of Canberra aka the 2003 Canberra Bushfires). And in Spain, with no natural predators or parasites, the eucalypts thrived, even driving out the local native oaks and chestnuts. Today, the gum trees are farmed and harvested for paper-making.
Anyhow, it turns out that next door to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was the Benedictine monastery of San Martin Pinario. And this was the monastery from which Salvado originated. He came to Australia in 1846 following the closure of the Spanish monasteries by the anti-clerical movement, where he was assigned to the Bishop of Perth. So in a great cycle of events, our visits to New Norcia perhaps portended that we would end up walking to Santiago de Compostela some 36 years later. And so the wheel turns and the eucalypts rustle above us and tantalise with the scent of home.
At Brea we had coffee. The roof beams were quite spectacular, festooned with loose wiring for the lights. Michael Matynka, the author of the Wise Pilgrim app and guides, was there doing a photo project photographing pilgrims. Over coffee, he seemed to be studying us, and we, him. Once our coffee was finished, we got up to go, and went outside. He had examples of his portraits up and the work looked very good. So we went back in, paid the €10 and had our portrait taken for his book, and we will get a hi-res version in return.
We talked with him for nearly an hour, and at length, it was time to continue.
Outside, a bored bus driver was checking his phone – the bus bore the sign: Servicio Discreción – which appeared to sum up the Spanish approach to hospitality and service in some of the towns.
We walked on to Pedrouzo – but not before passing through more hamlets
And another memorial – a pair of bronze shoes set into a niche, and a plaque to accompany it. This time for a pilgrim called William Watt.
Other pilgrims had left offerings and tokens and perhaps a prayer or two.
And then we encountered another Camino marker with a message written to brighten the day, or perhaps just to leave their mark – a tag by another name – in aphoristic form. The message was at least a positive one about taking responsibility for one’s own happiness. It was something I had thought about along the Camino. I thought of the Nirvana lyrics in their song ‘Smells like Teen Spirit‘ along the lines of: “here we are now, entertain us.” as we had encountered people who expected us to carry them psychologically along the Camino. It was a bit like those whose religious faith was transactional, or that all they had to do was pray and x would happen, without taking the necessary steps to help whatever x was, to happen. We do walk our own Camino, sometimes in company with others, but like life itself, it is in the end, up to each individual to make of life what they can. And part of that is indeed to take responsibility for the attitude with which we address adversity, or indeed our own happiness.
As we came to the outskirts of Pedrouzo we found a fountain – potable water (agua potable) and we refilled our now diminished water bottles.
These fountains continue to sustain pilgrims all along the Way.
And finally, we entered Pedrouza itself.
According to our Bierley’s Guide, “Pedrouzo is a satellite of Santiago straddling the busy N-547 with a variety of shops and restaurants”. We stopped for the night, to prepare ourselves for the final push into Santiago. We had considered stopping at Monte del Gozo to meet up with an American Camino friend, but decided that we would make tomorrow the final day of the main journey.
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