Roman bridge at Hospital de Orbigo
Walk, eat, paint
Today was the first day we actually left from an albergue in the morning. We woke around 7:30 to eat breakfast and make sure our packs were ready for the day. The morning was much colder than I expected, so it was hard to climb out of my warm sleeping bag. Breakfast was simple but yummy…yogurt and fruit. Then we were all ready to hit the road! Today we walked about 15 kilometers for an easy 3 hours. For second breakfast, we stopped at a café/albergue. I had a croissant with ham and cheese…the most delicious thing I have had so far!
Today we stayed in Albergue San Miguel. It is in Hospital de Órbigo. There is a old roman bridge with 13 arches that marks the entrance to the town. I have really enjoyed this albergue. I had the chance to play in a river and paint a rock with a Hokie bird. A family dinner where we collectively cooked and ate was the perfect night cap to the day. Buen Camino!
No way to explain The Way
I knew before I began the Camino that there was a culture all its own. But I never could’ve understood it before I started on this journey. And even now, on day two, there’s no way I can begin to explain this way of life, the life of a pilgrim. Each pilgrim is traveling the same road, but each pilgrim has their very own journey; they’re all different. Yet the Way connects us all, for we are all on this road, seeking something to satisfy whatever longing we have in our souls.
And the pilgrims life isn’t a bad one after all.
This is Kat Kolton, signing off.
Choosing the right path
Today we completed day two of walking and it’s amazing how close everyone has gotten since we arrived in Spain just 5 short days ago. Walking the Camino is especially nice because it gives everyone a chance to talk in smaller groups of maybe two or three, really getting to know each person individually and more personally.
Walking and being surrounded by beautiful flowers, I especially love the Poppy flowers, and mountains in the distance is exactly how I imagined this trip. Somehow it’s even more beautiful than I imagined though, I have noticed that cameras can’t capture the raw beauty of the Spanish countryside that we walk along each day.
One of the most interesting times on the trail today was when the trail split into three paths, each marked with supposed yellow arrows, but some looking a little more fake or makeshift than others. We managed to find the right direction and forged forward, quickly to stumble upon the beautiful Roman bridge.
The atmosphere of today was much different than yesterday, at least for me. Walking I took my time, and stopped to take pictures and really enjoy the outdoors. At the Albergue it is much more relaxing, and I was so pleasantly surprised to find an easel with unlimited paint supplies and canvases. The Albergue is decorated with these paintings that fellow pilgrims have made, which I find to be very special.
Tomorrows going to be another long day, but definitely a fun one at that. I continuously look forward to getting to know the fellow Hokies and other Pilgrims as well as the Spanish culture.
Day 2: Villar de Mazarife to Hospital de Orbigo
Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres
Although we have been in Spain for five days now, today marked the beginning of our journey on El Camino. As the Camino runs straight through towns and cities, we began immediately upon stepping out of our hotel in Leon. As with most things, the best part of the Camino is the people. It takes a certain type of person to be a peregrino, just as it takes a certain type of person to be a Hokie. There is an old Spanish proverb that reads: “Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres.” Those who are both peregrinos and Hokies are people with whom I am very proud to walk.
But, of course, it is not just us walking the Camino this summer. It took me exactly one hour on the trail to make friends with a kind Londoner on a soul-searching trip across 3 continents by himself. He stuck with us for a few hours. After all, even the peregrinos who begin alone certainly do not remain so for long.
After checking into our first albergue, I was pleasantly surprised by the accommodations (think sleep away camp bunks). The coolest part, though, is the walls. Countless peregrinos have left quotes, messages, and more in almost just as many languages. I left my favorite Mark Twain quote. We even found a few messages from Hokies past. It is so humbling to see how many peregrinos have come before us and so inspiring to look at the remaining blank spaces and imagine the peregrinos to come.
Blisters for everyone
Today, on the first day of the Camino, I realized that the peregrinos bond mostly over blisters. The things that people remember the most are names and blisters. Of the 4 to 5 pilgrims that I spoke to today, the consensus was that most of the peregrinos are friendly no matter their cultural background. A Canadian couple told me of the dinner that they shared with a Korean couple, who didn’t speak a word of English. Together they enjoyed chicken curry with rice and, a Spanish favorite, potatoes. I think that experience speaks of the magic of the Camino. Personally, the day was fairly easy; I expect things to get a rougher as we get sorer. I got two blisters but they’re very small and tomorrow I will be using different shoes in order to see if that help. I’m both looking forward and nervous for what’s to come, but with every peregrino conversation my confidence grows.
When Dr. Hesp asked me to meet her in Bruggers just a couple hours after submitting my application to VT Camino, I never imagined that a couple months later that I would be experiencing what I have in the last 5 days of this program. In these few days I have gained a much greater understanding of the culture, society, and language of Spain and even Latin America as well. As a civil engineering major with additional minors in history, green engineering, and leadership studies, I have been able to expand my global understanding and comprehension in all of these fields in addition to making what I confidently believe to be life-long bonds with the other Hokie peregrinos of our group. I look forward to the next four weeks with friends in this wonderful country.
We arrived: Santiago, the destination
Meeting Our Families
After the pilgrims mass in Santiago , we all went out to our last lunch together before meeting our familes. Everyone was a little nervous during lunch. Only a couple members of our group had done a homestay before, and we did not know very much about our host families. After lunch, we waited together in front of the cathedral for our families to come pick us up. One by one, people started to arrive. As each new person walked up, I wondered if it was the person I would be living with for the next two weeks. I had decided to live alone, and I knew that my family had three kids, all over the age of 14. When my family finally arrived, I picked up my pack and walked with them to their car. Immediately, I knew that I had nothing to worry about. They were very welcoming and made sure that I had everything I needed. As they showed me my room, the bathroom, and the rest of their apartment, I realized that I had been nervous for nothing and was going to love staying with my Spanish familly for the next two weeks.
I couldn’t possibly think of a better way to celebrate the completion of the Camino de Santiago than with a permanent reminder of everything I experienced over those 800 km. I got this tattoo in Santiago the Tuesday after we arrived as a ‘trophy’ for what I had just accomplished. This was also important to me because just a week earlier, I had decided to return to St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, which is where the Camino Frances formally begins, to walk the first ~500 kilometers (to León) by myself. That made this tattoo not only representative of what I had already done, but what I was going to do. With each passing day this tattoo grew to mean more and more to me. It wasn’t until the day that I arrived in León that one of my friends shared with me what the owner of the albergue we stayed in the previous night had told him: “Your Camino starts when you reach your destination.” It’s what you do after you finish. It’s what stays in your heart when you go b ack to the real world. Every time I look down at my wrist I will be reminded that the Camino has changed me forever and I will remain a Peregrina for the rest of my life.
Hokie Peregrina: Kassidy