Santiago was my goal last year, when I walked on the Camino, each kilometer closer to a spiritual quest and endless personal questions. Where do I fit in this puzzle of St. James, the stories, myths or truth? St. James with a sword, St. James with an open hand?
Last year in Finisterre. I hope to return to the lighthouse on a sunny day.
23 & Me reports that my long-ago ancestors migrated across the Iberian Peninsula. No wonder I feel at home on the Camino.
Santiago de Compostela seemed to be the right place to go to find a clinic for a Pilgrim who had hobbled off the Camino and into the city. I took the train from Ponferrada and even that was a challenge, as I had a ticket for a 17:00 train, and used it for a 13:30 train, which I thought the clerk said was fine.
And now, a journey with a window seat, watching lush and green Galicia speed by and a one hour connection in Ourense. Without being asked, the conductor on the first train escorted me personally to the desk and the generous clerk re-stamped my ticket without extra charge.
I want to say, “Más despacio, por favor,” when I ask directions or questions in Español. And sometimes, in my limited practice, I think I understand. Or I just nod and say, “gracias.” Lots of single word and sign language communication take place. And some misunderstanding. For me the Galician language, spoken in the autonomous community of Galicia, is challenging. It shares some sounds with Castilian, but isn’t easy for me to understand or speak, compared to Español on other parts of the Camino.
I know. This story is a long trek to Santiago. Luckily before I left Ponferrada, I made a two day reservation at Hospedería San Martín de Pinario for the pilgrim rooms on the fourth floor. After a taxi to the San Martín, through narrow and winding alleys of the city, I arrived and considered, literally, my next step.
View from my window at San Martín de Pinario
I found my way to Pilgrim House on Rúa Nova, where Faith and Nate and volunteers provide a host of services to Pilgrims, from spiritual/emotional support in groups or privately, to necessities like laundry or maps or printing flight tickets and everything in between. They have helped countless pilgrims who need everything from moral support to the practical. Nate suggested the local hospital clinic and a volunteer, Helen, from Australia, accompanied me, actually navigated with a map, out of the old city, to the hospital. We were greeted by Sandra, an international medical interpreter, who stayed with me until I left, at least two hours later. All Camino Angels.
I was informed in advance that Spanish citizens and others with EU cards are treated without charge. Can you imagine, just one medical card for services, as you travel anywhere in the U.S.A.? I can. My insurance will probably reimburse me, but the upfront charge was $320 for the consultation, a 10 minute exam (no tests or x-rays) with instructions and a complete medical report in español.
The diagnosis and instructions turned my Camino upside down. From just asking questions and manipulation, the doctor said I had torn some muscle fibers, but not “broken” them. Yet. He said if I had continued walking or continue now, I risk “breaking” the fibers, maybe Achilles, and that could/would require surgery.
See my doctor in two weeks, no hiking, stairs, slopes, for three. Rest, Ice, etc. etc. etc. All this from stepping off the train in Astorga and not knowing I was injuring that little “tweak” hiking down the slippery, rocky trails after Cruz de Ferro. The body is indeed mysterious.
I wanted to cry. Goodbye Camino. And two weeks left. I almost changed my ticket to go home, but took a breath, called some family members for support and advice, and I’m staying. Who knows the future? I could “rest” here or at home. Is there really a choice?
Adaptation is the key. If my ancestors migrated across the Iberian Peninsula, then I can slow walk Spain. I’m already here.
Stay with me and together we’ll discover, explore and maybe walk the Way again. It is a Buen Camino.
Gracias y Ultreia, Irene