Camino de Santiago Day Twenty-four to Twenty-six

Villadangos del Páramo to San Justo to Castrillo de los Polvazares to Rabanal del Camino

On our way up out of the meseta we passed through the medieval festival in Hospital de Órbigo, which celebrates the story of the knight who defeated the other jousters and got the girl. Apparently this is the inspiration for Cervantes’ Don Quixote. A priest stopped to tell us the story while we were caring for our feet at the end of town. It was actually very sweet. He wrote a book on the Quixotic pilgrim who, like Cervantes' dreamer desires a better life for society, and for him or herself, and endures the pain to get there. The Camino is a quest inward to make a difference outwardly. He said the pain in our feet makes the Camino mean something to us. He blessed us.

As we crossed the mountain pass of Santo Toribio toward Astorga, with the red soil and blue-blue skies, we came across Diego who has provided pilgrims free food and drink for eight years. A shop owner in town provides him with fruits, vegetables and other treats. He takes a donation but makes it clear that this all comes from God. He makes his own bread in his ovens and his friend made us soup. “The key to the essence is the presence.”

We spent the night in San Justo and walked into Astorga in the morning to reload on toiletries, enjoy the best tortilla española yet (made with home grown eggs!), attend mass at the Cathedral and admire one of Gaudí’s works: the Bishop’s Palace.

I’m enjoying mass as often as we can to reflect on the suffering of Jesus and his body broken, his blood poured out for us. Fortunately, we have had good health on the Camino with the exception of unavoidable blisters. I have calloused heels which makes it more painful. I soak them in cold water each night and goop them with Vaseline before putting on my socks.

It’s not life threatening, but I feel the pain with every step.  It has given me/us a chance to reflect on those who suffer everyday through physical pain and disabilities, mental illness, poverty, and refugees who walk in pain all over the world looking for home. Jesus walked the road of suffering and Paul had a thorn in his side which somehow brought glory to God. We don’t preach ourselves but Christ crucified, he writes, “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6 NIV) We preach Jesus’ suffering for the life of the world, and his light of suffering is glory shining through us. Ironically we spend our lives avoiding suffering, but it’s inevitable.

We walked a few miles to Castrillo de los Polvazares. The rain held off till we stopped for lunch. It was a downpour we just missed. We checked into Flores del Camino, a retreat house and art studio. Basia and Bertrand (from England and France) provide hospitality for pilgrims and lead retreats to teach and experience ancient sacred art. Fifteen years ago, Basia walked a tranformative Camino. Later Bertrand walked it alone. Together as a couple and parents of 3 and 4 year olds, they are called to share a deeper experience of the Camino explained more fully at

They restored this 500 year old house in town so that it can be a quiet, reflective space and art studio. They teach others to write icons and create stained glass in the style of the medieval art of western Christianity that reflects the geometry of nature and brings alive ancient spirituality. We really admire their passion, calling and gifting as a couple.

They served us home cooked meals for dinner and breakfast and joined us for dessert and conversation, telling and listening to each other’s stories of this Camino and the Camino of our lives.

The town itself is so well preserved because of the pride of the people. They didn’t allow the highway to bisect the town, in spite of its historical significance in trade and the war of independence against the French in the 19th century.

The town has kept its stone walls and stone paved roads. And the Plaza Mayor has a cross—now an alternative route, it was once directly on the Camino.

Bertrand and Basia inspired me to look more closely to the actual flores del Camino on our walk this morning.

And the mystery of why one plant is gray and dead when the one adjacent is brilliant and yellow. 

We arrived in Rabanal just before the storm and caught the 7pm vespers and 9:30pm compline, sung by the Benedictine brothers, in the church built by the Knights Templar during the Crusades. 

It’s clear that we are out of the dry, flat meseta and entering into the Galician mountains. It’s 50 degrees and the air is wet. It’s unseasonable for this region—last year in May they were in a drought, this year they’ve had two months straight of rain. 

Not only are my heels hurting but also my lower back. I stopped along the way to reapply Vaseline (our second best friend on the Camino) and some Recup balm “with essential oils and arnica extract” and walked the last two miles. My backpack pressed right where it hurt and gave me walking therapy.

Tomorrow we have a large, significant climb to the Cruz de Ferro, where we leave a meaningful rock behind to symbolize our commitment to transformation. Then we cross over two passes for a total of a 600m increase, and then down the other side to our next stop.

Last night Basia shared with me a poem by Thomas Merton which captures much of what I’m experiencing on the Camino.



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