Monday, February 15, 2010



Continue walking toward the rising sun. In a place born from the ashes, a man with two gold teeth prepares a magic potion on nights when he feels like doing this. This potion has the gift of exorcizing evil spirits, and obeys a ritual where fire, water, earth and air are invoked.

Work there for a day. Shelter those who need shelter and care for those who need care. Convince the man to perform the ritual for you and for those who arrive on that day.

Your image with this man is the third test. The image of someone you helped is also the third test.

Before you leave the place, pick up a stone.

We arrived in VillaFranca which is a small remote town at siesta. I hasten to add this is a MAJOR reason I would love to move to Spain. The idea of a little nap half way through the day is brilliant! I have been joining in with where possible. As we drove through the town which reminded me a little of Geneva as it was immaculate and all one way streets. We stopped outside the library as we had noticed a tourism office next to a church that we started walking towards with the sun on our faces but with no idea what to expect.

The sign on the door said back at 2pm.

We were about to sit and wait when we turned to 2 men standing outside as well. I know if I was at home I would with out doubt think they were homeless. I now think that while they do not have a home they have hundreds and they have the freedom to travel from one to the other and loved by all. It’s possibly better than having a home of your own to have many and be free to choose freely where you stay and to be welcome each time you arrive.

It made me think of the many people I know who perhaps if they could realise the un importance of the structure of society and the way we have conformed to become homemakers would change their ways or at least give less importance to the superficiality of a home. I lesson I should also take into consideration for myself.

Tom and I spoke with them with a smile saying “This may sound strange but we are looking for a man with gold teeth who performs rituals. And somewhere to stay that may be called The Phoenix.” To our absolute amazement out of his pocket he pulled a piece of paper with the hostel address and explained that he stayed there the night before and offered to walk us up to the hostel.

At this point in complete shock we followed him laughing. He was German and explained to us he was a pilgrim on the Camino de Santigo trail. When we asked him how long he had been walking he said roughly 4 or 5 years he has lost count and has no watch! He said the only thing that matters in life is love and everything else was un important and useless. I added that I thought love was an illusion which he smiled at and didn’t comment on. He walked us to the church and pointed up to the left where ontop of a beautiful hill high in the mountains was the refugee house. We arrived and were greeted with open arms and smile. It was here that I started to learn about The Pilgrimage and the homage which thousands of people make each years from St Jean-de-Luz to Santigo de Compostela.

We were introduced to Jesu Jato he was up on a scaffold probably around 70 years old and welcomed us to his home.

He knew Paulo from his previous journey on The Pilgrimage here and we later found out is the oldest and possibly most respected elder on the road to Santigo. We were as instructed put to work. I was to clear the dormitories folding rugs and sweeping the floor. Later Tom emerged in blue overalls and bricks helping re build a wall. At around 6 I was finished and was asked to help with dinner. This was a great opportunity to go for a run as I needed to have a moment to reflect on the day and I am still training for the Bath Marathon in March (Yes Berney in these conditions I am still putting on my running shoes!)

I ran the St Sebastian river from Villa Franca del Bierzo as far as I could chasing the suns rays as they disappeared while the sun crept around the mountain. I felt so free I could have run forever there was not one person along my path and after about half an hour I stopped looked at the river and turned and ran back. I arrived back and showered they were the same showers you get in public swimming pools and schools which you have to keep pressing a button to get continuous water. I tilted the head towards the button and just lent back against it as the water rushed past me and washed off all the sweat.

Liberated I dressed and went to the kitchen. I didn’t realise that helping cook supper meant feeding 22 people and washing up however!

My maternal instincts during this trip several times have been put to the test…. More on that later. Tom and I had bought 3 bottles of wine that was from the region which incidentally is extremely cheep and I can understand why everyone drinks the whole time!

We were surrounded by “Piligrinos” These are people from all over the world who are all travelling by foot on The Camino de Santiago de Compostela, also known in English as The Way of St James, is a collection of old pilgrimage routes which cover all Europe. They all have Santiago de Compostela in north west Spain as their final destination. For more than 1000 years pilgrims have been walking along the Camino de Santiago.

The main Camino route is the Camino Frances. This part of the Camino de Santiago traditionally starts in St Jean Pied de Port and finishes in Santiago de Compostela about 780km later, after traveling the breadth of Northern Spain, (In Santiago you can collect your Compostela). However you can start anywhere and even continue past Santiago to the sea at Finisterre. Finisterre was thought to be the end of the world in medieval times.

At dinner alone there was people from China, Peru, Germany, Spain and The US. We felt quite special and flew the Scottish flag with flying colours. Following dinner Jesu joined the table and performed a ritual for us.

Part of me thought that the quest may be quite commercial and it all sounded so surreal but I was prepared for anything, just not the sequel of events that is unfolding every morning I wake up!

It is strange getting up and not knowing where you will be on where you will sleep the following evening but putting yourself into the hands of God knowing that you are on the right path.

The night was very cold and we woke to no running water as the pipes had frozen. I was restless and cold in the night and felt a little guilty as I had a sleeping bag and Tom had rugs!!! All of the pilgrims sleep this way though as many do not carry sleeping bags as all the hostels provide blankets. I woke a few times but I think partly from excitement than the cold. Then eventually it was time to wake up the sun was just rising we waved the pilgrims off on their journey helped clear the breakfast and then re joined our own. We dutifully collected our stone and headed East having completed quest number 3.

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