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C#37 – 15th Oct, Fillobal to Sarria, 21.7kms

Having rested and caught up on blogging, it was time to head out. We marched out early and walked through rain and wind down the mountain. It was wild and black. No stars. No street lights. Just our headtorches to guide us. We met the Fire Salamander as we trod.

D945C355-D461-4F32-9B31-10D6D10B53BCThe weather cleared and the day became a lovely wander through farm and woodland. We met another bunch of cows walking down our path but we got out of the way in time!

So we arrived in Sarria. This was an important moment. We are now five days walk from Santiago. We now merge with many pilgrims starting from here to do the ‘short camino’- 100kms. From here on we must get two stamps per day in order to qualify for the Compostela – the certificate confirming a completed Camino. We stayed in a monastery – my bed was #233! Yep. It was crowded. Humanity in all its diversity and drive for basic needs. We had a group of Russian women (we think) who didn’t consider that their shouting might have disturbed others. At 10.30pm I turned the lights off. It quietened then a bit! The showers on the other hand were fantastic, hot and endless!

C#36 – 14th Oct, rest day in Fillobal, 0 kms.

Ok. I’m rested with time on my hands. Time to share my thinking. Meanwhile Tony is trip planning.

  1. The Camino as a string of beads

We are each a bead. We are strung across the north of Spain. The string is constant but the beads come and go (people drop out) and the beads change order. Some beads cluster together and then separate. Other beads stay close.  The beads have been coming and going for centuries. I’m one of the beads.

  1. The Camino grapevine

It is a little spooky. You hear about other people on the pilgrimage, mostly at dinner when you are eating with a new group of people. They tell you the story of someone. We all have a good laugh, and then the next day, you are having a nice chat with a seemingly nice person, when something they say, sets off a warning bell. O, oh. Is this the famed snorer? The man you never want to share an albergue with? Or, is this the pair with the stinky clothes? Or, so this is the pregnant, Danish woman walking on her own with hubby back. Wow, she looks so well and is so happy. She’s doing the Camino while she can before the baby. And as she says, pregnancy isn’t an illness. Go her! So I’ve decided to take all gossip with a grain of salt. Everyone, regardless of their gossip-able attributes, is just a simple person, walking their own Camino. Go all!

  1. The semiotics of sighing

As I walk I’ve been conscious of just how much I’ve been sighing. It started me down the linguistic path of the function of sighing. We wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t for a reason. This line of thought led me to think of Michel Halliday. He was my teacher  and has had a profound effect on the direction of my life. He died on my birthday 15th April at 8pm, only a few minutes after I had blown out my birthday candles. This hit me hard. As I celebrated, he passed away. My candles marked a milestone in my life (only a modest one of 57yrs) but the moment of death for Michael. I cried for him. Yet he was a man that I didn’t know personally. He was a quiet, thinking man who would think while lecturing and use his hands to emphasize the beauty and delicacy of language. He opened my mind to linguistics and it has directed my understanding of the world ever since. It is the science underpinning all of our social and individual living. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to put shape to our thinking or share our inner selves with others. So out of homage to Michael Halliday, here is my take on The semiotics of sighing. From my observations of myself, and from the following orders of existence,

  • physically, I appear to sigh at the end of some physical effort. It marks an end point and some kind of reset, probably related to the lung intake. After the sigh, I think my heart rate slows back down. Recovery mode.
  • chemically, I feel better after a sigh. It feels like it activates a chemical response to help manage the ongoing exertion. It probably activates endorphins thereby chemically giving me a boost to keep going. My very own drug induced euphoria! So I like to sigh.
  • biologically, it is an important regulatory component of the breathing process, ensuring that oxygen is converted, thus entering the blood stream to drive the circulatory system and perpetuate life. Probably, if we didn’t sigh we wouldn’t have a reset and we’d be unable to slow down, reduce metabolic speed.  It would be like living a constant amusement park ride that never stops. Exhausting. (All of this is just guessing. I’m sure medical scientists would be able to do a better job, but I’m enjoying the thinking process!)
  • socially, we all know that when someone sighs, that we need to note this. It indicates that someone in our group may need time to rest. As we function in social groups, the integrity of the group matters in order to achieve the group aim. So the furniture removal team would need to give the sigh-er a moments rest before continuing. If not, then the piano gets dropped! If you want to walk together, hunt together, sing together, paddle together – and you usually do because there is safety in numbers… then the sighing behaviour tells us to be alert to risks to social cohesion. Socially, sighing tells us that someone in our group indicates their need to rest.
  • semiotically, sighing can come to mean a number of things. When we hear it or when we do it, we can make it mean different things for us. Scenario 1: I’ve been listening to a boring monologue by a bore, and I sigh. My meaning? Enough! I’m bored. Trouble is, the bore is still going strong and semiotically the sigh doesn’t have enough punch. So I have to change the subject or leave the conversation. The sigh can be too subtle. Scenario 2: I’m strolling along deep in thought and I sigh. Tony says, What are you thinking? I’ve let him know that I’ve completed something in my head. It is ready to share. I’m then happy to share my thoughts. I’m not very conscious of this but it usually begins a subsequent conversation. Sighing can mean, at least in my semiotic repertoire, I’m bored and I’m happy to chat. I’m sure it has other meanings as well, but it is these two that I have observed.

So I thank Michael Halliday for his role in my life. Because of his impact, I became a language teacher, a linguistics scholar and    a lover of language – words, language patterns, puns, humor and the awesome power of language. We live in strange times at the moment and I see language being exploited and manipulated by negative , geopolitical narcists across the world – US, Russia, China….and others. We need to guard language, understand it’s power, expose its abuse and use it for good not evil.

Amen.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Halliday

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C#35 – 13th Oct, Laguna de Castilla to Fillobal, 20 kms

So today was another day walking through the mountains. We are now in Galicia, and visited the oldest church on the Camino (9thC). The church was quiet and serene with a bookshelf of bibles in different languages.

We had our steepest (but shortest) ascent to the highest point to Alto do Poio (1,335m).

We are in very traditional country with farm practices dating back centuries. The farm houses still keep their animals on the ground floor and live above them. Yep. It is smelly. Loathesomely so. You can see the livestock housed in their stalls. We passed one farm where the cows were all eating their breakfast, tied up in their stalls, in rows, each with a bell around its neck. Each bell sounded at a different range and so every mouthful chimed a tune. Confined in the stable, the music was amplified. So beautiful. It will stay with me as the sound of the Camino. And then I met the Mountain dog.  A dog the size of a Great Dane but built like a fat Labrador!

We didn’t make it to our destination. All booked out, and I had decided I needed a proper rest. We decided to stop short of  Triacasetela. Instead we found a little private room where will we camp for two days of rest. A toilet and shower of our very own. (Communal showers and toilets lose their appeal pretty quickly! Oh, and dorms mostly occupied by men have a distinctive odor that I long to forget😅)

So we are staying here for two days. We hung out in a new flock for dinner – a flock of Europeans. Lovely evening.

C#34 – 12th Oct, from Trabadelo to Laguna de Castilla, 20.1kms

We left around 8.30 and headed out with Maralee, our London friend who stayed at Casa Susi’s. We walked with along the road through little villages. We said goodbye at the town at the foot of the mountain where she is planning to hire a horse to ride up the mountain! Her knees are bad and she is hoping this will give them a rest.

We headed on up the mountain, the last high mountain pass before the home straight into Santiago. We are two days away from Sarria – the starting point for the ‘short’ Camino.  It is a five stage, five day walk. Once we get there we will pick up loads of pilgrims doing it the easy way. 

Anyway, the mountain trail was beautiful. Very few others. Lots of autumn colours and ancient, moss-covered, dry rock walls. It was steep but the views were fabulous. We shared the path with the local farmers and their animals. In fact, as we entered our final destination, we had a herd coming our way. No where to go. Monsterly, big, healthy cows with horns plodded down onto us. They just wandered by. Tony’s clip is funny as he films and tries to get out of their way.

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We spent the night on the mountain. We could have gone along a bit further but I’m still not that well. But we are at the border town between Castillo y Leon and Galicia. Tomorrow we move into another flavour of Spanish culture. 

For the first time, I’m starting to smell the finish line and starting to believe that I can do it. It feels good.  We have seven days of walking left, less than 150kms.

So I’ve been thinking many things. Not sure if I’ll get the chance to write about them, but here are some topics that have occupied my mind:

  1. The Camino as a string of beads
  2. The Camino grapevine
  3. The social semiotics of sighing

 

 

C#33 – 11th Oct, from Camponaraya to Trabadelo, 24.2kms

When we woke up, it was raining. We were having to walk today in the rain. It would be a true water tight test of our gear. It rained all morning and we plodded through. It was nice.

It was a long day through lots of market gardens. My feet were sore and I was hanging out for finding this Aussie albergue. We weren’t disappointed when we got there.

Susi is so special. She has done five Caminos, and then decided to run her own hostel. She bought a 300 yr old farm house, renovated it by herself, grew her own garden and now offers Aussie hospitality to exhausted pilgrims. A home cooked vegetarian meal.

C#32 – 10th Oct, from Acebo to Camponaraya, 25.7 kms

I woke up feeling like my old self – chirpy, energetic and ready to go. The temperatures have dropped now so we don’t have to leave early to avoid the heat of the day. So it was a leisurely breakfast and then a brisk walk downhill into Ponferrada, we hoped.

As I walked I thanked all the kind people who helped me over the last three days. Mary for electrolytes, Oxanna for nausea pills, and Alison P for Gastro Stop.👍

And then as we progressed, we rounded the trail and ran into Mary, struggling with a sore shin, sitting underneath a wasps’ nest.

So we exited the location with her planted between us and meandered slowly single-file down steep rubble to the next town, Monlinaseca, where she decided to stay and rest. They say, ‘the Camino provides’ which indeed it does, for all of us when we need it.

So after a coffee stop with Mary we then headed off to Ponferrada, a town known for its huge Knights Templar castle on the top of the hill. Sounds so romantic and exciting but all I wanted was a toilet. Amazing how quickly one’s curiosity fanishes when dignity is at stake. Never found the toilet but did do a rushed tour of the castle. 

… And never did find the …. toilet but numerous trees sufficed (sorry trees) and a sneaky rose bush. It won.

We have now done 74%, 575kms in total, leaving only 197kms to go. What clever little vegemites. 

We didn’t stop in Ponferrada. We pushed through to Camponaraya. This positioned us well to walk tomorrow to the albergue,  Casa Susi which is owned by an Aussie. Looking forward to aussie-flavoured, Spanish hospitality.

 

 

 

C#31 -9th Oct, from El Ganso to Acebo, 24.4 kms

I woke up thinking I was good. Always optimistic. 

We decided to have a shortish day. Soon I wasn’t going so well. Fever gone but the second half (read lower-half) of the experience was about to play out. It was a delicate walk. Looking back now, it really was funny. One minute I’m fine, next minute I’m in the bushes swearing and cursing, horrified at my situation and nothing to do but live through it. My ex-Gatorade vessel was useless. Trucked out the loo paper😃.

We got to this kinda hippy village , Foncebadon, and I had had it. Ever patient Tony helped as much as he could. But my problems were all deeply internal. I was slumped over my arms on the cafe table, coming to the realization that this was my challenge on the Camino – how to prevent pooing my pants. My Camino was only ever going stay at the physical stage. No mental, no spiritual! ET stripped bare.

And then … they played the most moving Xavier Rudd song EVER. That did it. I crumbled. A rush of tears, tears of emotion. The pressure valve had activated. It was such a relief. I started to feel better. 

Enough drama. It was time to plod on. But I think it was my lowest ebb.

In my sick fog, I didn’t realize that we were approaching the Cruz de Ferro (The Metal Cross) at the highest point on the Camino. The place where you are supposed to leave a rock from home and say a prayer, make a wish, be spiritual…. and I forgot it.

We plodded towards the cross.

As we approached we ran into two gorgeous young women who were up for a chat. Steph was from Melbourne and Grace from the States. Steph was a great story teller and we were soon laughing about Crazy men on the Camino (not Tony 😉). One woman she met left her albergue at 2.30 am to shake the guy that didn’t take No for an answer! And this other guy’s come-on to Steph was, ‘Hi, Can I massage your feet’. So we laughed, and then we settled down so that each of us could do our little moment at the Cross … tony and I threw his rock together. What a champ. I love him.

But we were all up for more laughs, so sat and ate our lunch on the picnic table… and wait for it, a tour group gave us their left over gourmet lunch before they left so we had Goats cheese, pie, capresse salad and Gazpacho. 

I was so happy. 

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After about an hour Steph and Grace headed back to hippy town and we continued on but not before we exchanged contacts and found out that we shared a whole bunch of friends along the Camino … the Camino sisters, Deb and Al… they’d even been told to look out for us. We felt like family. And Emily, Steph is on her way to NYC. She is hoot. Look out.

Needless to say, I had a new bounce in my step and knew I could do the next 12kms😜. 

We made our destination, Acebo butnot before a steep, unstable decent.

Ps. Note to self. Find out the name of the Xavier Rudd song.