Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The Salvador is Callin´ My Name

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.


Virginia said...

Buen Camino Rebbekah!

I am eagerly anticipating your next posts...

Home from the Annual Gathering

PL said...


laurie said...

Hi, Rebekah,

I'm eagerly awaiting news from the Salvador! Hope you answer all Piers' questions and find that lost trail, because walking on the N-630 up to the pass at Arbas is not one of those magical stretches.

You probably won't see this in time, unless you found the internet spot downstairs from the albergue in Pola de Lena, but in Oviedo, the Hostal Arcos is a good place to stay. It's right on the path the Salvador takes into town. Clean and about 30E. It's right before the arch leading into the Plaza del Ayuntamiento -- Calle Madalena 3, tel: 985 214 773

And there's lots of free internet at the Oviedo public library, which is very close to the hostal. Located right next to that old market area, Mercado del Frontan.

Can't wait to hear all about it! Laurie

poetaloca said...

buen camino peregrina!

Amawalker said...

Unless Jesus of Nazareth was a midget, that shroud could never have been wrapped around his body! I've seen it (the Sudarium) and it is the size of a dishcloth. It is actually the cloth that covered his face as he was dying on the cross. We are told that they were allowed to do that to people who were crucified in order to spare the sensibilities of those who were watching!
There is no image on this cloth. Only stains are visible to the naked eye, although more is visible under the microscope. Such a cloth is known to have existed from the gospel of John, chapter 20, verses 6 and 7. These verses read as follows, "Simon Peter, following him, also came up, went into the tomb, saw the linen cloth lying on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloth but rolled up in a place by itself." John clearly differentiates between this smaller face cloth, the sudarium, and the larger linen that had wrapped the body.
According to this history, the sudarium was in Palestine until shortly before the year 614, when Jerusalem was attacked and conquered by Chosroes II, who was king of Persia from 590 to 628. It was taken away to avoid destruction in the invasion, first to Alexandria by the presbyter Philip, then across the north of Africa when Chosroes conquered Alexandria in 616. The sudarium entered Spain at Cartagena, along with people who were fleeing from the Persians. The bishop of Ecija, Fulgentius, welcomed the refugees and the relics, and surrendered the chest, or ark, to Leandro, bishop of Seville. He took it to Seville, where it spent some years.
Saint Isidore was later bishop of Seville, and teacher of Saint Ildefonso, who was in turn appointed bishop of Toledo. When he left Seville to take up his post there, he took the chest with him. It stayed in Toledo until the year 718. It was then taken further north to avoid destruction at the hands of the Muslims, who conquered the majority of the Iberian peninsula at the beginning of the eighth century. It was first kept in a cave that is now called Monsacro, ten kilometres from Oviedo. King Alfonso II had a special chapel built for the chest, called the "Cámara Santa", later incorporated into the cathedral.
The key date in the history of the sudarium is the 14th March 1075, when the chest was officially opened in the presence of King Alfonso VI, his sister Doña Urraca, and Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, better known as El Cid. A list was made of the relics that were in the chest, and which included the sudarium.
Anyway - enough of all that. My favorite item on the list of relics was "crumbs from the last supper". (I wonder who had to sweep them up and put them in the chest?)
Enjoy your trek Reb. My friend John will be walking el Salvador in September so I'm looking forward to your report back.

Anonymous said...

Hurray, Rebekah...

I'm a bit envious of being able to just get out and walk on an ancient Camino...but now its my allergy time to show up...

Still planning on a May arrival

Kathy (also home from presenting at the Gathering

claire bangasser said...

Way cool, Rebekah!
An aimless hobo drifter: I can relate to that.
Can't wait to read the results of your adventures.
Ultreya et suseya, always!