Just when you thought I was going to lighten up a little fer Chrissake, I go off on a killer pilgrimage.
I´m leaving tomorrow to start on the Camino Salvador, one of the really minor pilgrim trails that cover the map of Iberia like so many varicose veins. This one´s just 120 kilometers. Four or five days´ walk.
But there´s a mountain range right there in between. It´s one of the hard ones, I am told.
The trail goes straight north, from the city of Leon to the city of Oviedo, where a great hoard of old Christian relics was taken to hide them from the Arab invaders coming up from the south. Back a thousand years or so. You may wonder why Oviedo never gave the stuff back after the Arabs went back to Africa -- .And the caminos would be part of your answer. Pilgrims went way out of their way to Oviedo, where they could see a thorn from Jesus´ crucifixion crown, or the burial cloth he was supposedly wrapped in (with his full-body image miraculously imprinted on both sides!) It was a sort of theme park for medieval Christians, full of amazing and mysterious and exciting things that made you realize Jesus really did live and breathe and walk on the earth, just like us, except with crowns of thorns. And angels. And virgin birth and all that.
So sure, what´s a couple of extra days of mountain climbing? Millions of pilgrims have walked the Camino Salvador on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Nowadays, just about nobody does. There are no maps or guidebooks to the route. Places to stay are irregularly spaced, and you have to carry in your food and water a few times. And lately, one section of the trail is almost lost to memory. The painted-on yellow arrows that guide hikers and bikers safely to the next coffee bar are faded away or covered-over in sagebrush and scrub, I am told.
Somebody needs to find that trail, and take its picture so the pilgrims to come can walk it, too. Otherwise, it will be abandoned after a millenium of use, left to the wind, the wild thyme. The bears, even.
So sure, I´ll do it. I´ll give it a shot, anyway. There can´t be THAT many paths out there. And I have a compass, and a Michelin map, and a really good sense of direction... and a note from a Spanish guy named Mario that says you´re never out of sight of at least one of the several towns in the area. There´s the website from the Leon-Asturias Friends of the Camino group, with a crude sort of map...
And then there´s Piers, an English guy who´s dying to know where that Lost Path got to. He sent me to Google maps of the area, and suggested I walk the whole way down the path, and if it dead-ends I ought to double back until I do find the right path, or walk the long way ´round via the highway and find where the Real path meets the road, and then WALK IT BACKWARD. Oh, and take at least 10 photos of each landmark. For the website, OK?
At 1400 meters altitude. With a 6-kilo pack on my back. Yeah, sure Piers, old friend! Shall I pick you up a fruit basket while I´m at it?
But seriously folks, I added an extra day to the trip so I can get lost if I have to, and find my way back out. If the weather is questionable I´m ditching Adventur Trails and following the highway. And if I get lucky and find the right path straight away, I have some yellow paint in my pack, so I can double back and freshen up the old, lost waymarks. So maybe the lost old path isn´t so lost after all. It´s just waiting for me to find it. (famous last words of amateur mountaineers everywhere.)
And if I do find it, and I do end up in Poladura de la Tercia, I have a reservation at La Posada del Embrujo for Thursday night!
On Friday I will follow a gas pipeline up another mountain to the Pass of Pajares, where there´s a ski resort and an abandoned fancy hotel straight out of "The Shining." Up there I will meet up with Javier and his sister Nieves. We´ll walk down the other side of the mountain on Saturday, and into Oviedo on Sunday. God willing. If anything is open on Monday I will go see the Thorn and the Shroud and some churches that date back to 800 AD! I will update you on the trip as I find computer access. IF I find computer access.
So now that I´ve gotten my gardens dug and my flower seeds planted and a new telephone (my new Spanish cell number is 648 854 765. Write it down. There will be a quiz later), I can leave this workaday world behind and once again don my scallop shell and backpack and take to the trail.
Because if the truth is known, Peaceable Kingdom and hospitalera stuff notwithstanding, I really am nothing but a pilgrim down inside. An aimless hobo drifter who can´t stay at home -- no matter how wonderful Home may be.