Galicia, silent and alone…

On first glance this may seem a negative title and quite a concern for any friend or decent human being, but please view it as sublimation; a form of alchemy if you will.

And so to Galicia...

And so to Galicia…

I have decided to take a vow of silence and continue alone from here, a tiny hamlet called La Faba on the border between Castille and Galicia. This may seem quite a dramatic gesture and strange for anyone who knows me. Certainly, the former is a first and surprising but really a culmination of events that came to a head in the large town of Ponferrada whilst staying at the Municiple auberge there.

Let me elaborate…

For the full length of the Camino I have tried to keep positive and view events and people from an objective and compassionate position, after all this is not an easy pilgrimage. I would give the clothes off my back for anyone who asks and has a genuine need. Certainly I have given far more than I have received; and have no problem with that for folk have been kind to me in the past and giving should never be done with hope of return; this is not giving at all, in my view.

So when someone steals my milk from the communal fridge and leaves it out to go off, I find myself wondering just who it is I’m sharing this Camino with, especially as fresh milk is so difficult to find here in Spain. Ponferrada was a real turning point for me, the place where all my repressed anger began to boil. An evening sing-along turned into a shouting match, so much so that I left early and went to bed, only to be woken up by loud talking later on.

The sun rises over the sad memory of Ponferrada.

The sun rises over the sad memory of Ponferrada.

Needless to say, as I left Ponferrada in the rain the following morning, I was in a murderous mood and sought my own company. Ramon, who has always been charming throughout, a perfect gentleman, realised that I needed my space and walked on with another group.

The rain continued all day and I plodded on with  the feeling of betrayal lying in my heart, not for the loss of the milk, but the act of theft. I would have given it gladly, had they asked. Sometime later I met Billy, a wonderful, gutsy American lady in her seventies who was walking alone. We had met previously on several occasions but this time we jelled and I listened to her mission to help the homeless and drug-dependent by starting a shelter in Arizona. Her take on the relevance of her faith was very touching and strangely uplifting on that darkest of all days. Later on that evening I reached the municipal auberge at Cacabelos and was amazed when she suddenly arrived in the bed next to me; even more surprising as they were two bed cubicles and there were over a hundred!

That night Billy’s story of her life and faith moved me greatly and I slept a deep restful sleep in the peace of this old albergue and a strange thought came to me… Or was it a thought? I decided to take a vow of silence… At least try to, because surely, it’s almost impossible in the modern world isn’t it? And I’ve often wondered if anybody ever listens to me anyway.

Am I being a hypocrite, or some kind of Pharisee, perhaps? Am I trying to draw attention to myself in some way? I don’t understand it with the mind, but there is a call from my heart to do this. I’m so tired of the modern world with all its vulgarity, rush, cruelty, ignorance and words… Millions of them.

Before crossing the mountains...

Before crossing the mountains…

When I left the little town of Villafranca del Bierzo, I was confronted with three options: firstly the simple route that follows the road, secondly the normal hilly route which the majority of peregrinos follow and thirdly, the mountain route through Dragonte which is seriously difficult and very rarely attempted. Now I know I have previously remarked that I wanted to follow the normal routes, but this time I felt the need to seek solitude; to get away from the throng and their constant noise and litter. Needless to say, I decided to cross the mountains and haven’t been so tested since my school days in the Lake District.

After a punishing first day, I camped beside a roaring mountain river in the rain and wind near a tiny village called San Fiz do Seo. I felt intensely humbled and invigorated by the mountain symphony. Awesome is a yet another one of those overused words, and yet no other describes my night above the clouds. Oh how I love the mountains… The tears were streaming down my face the following morning as I descended into the valley to resume the normal trail; like a penance had been resolved. What a glorious, albeit painful few days.

The solitude and beauty of the mountain route.

The solitude and beauty of the mountain route.

The following evening I reached La Faba and stayed in the auberge there with only three other folk. They soon realised I had taken the vow of silence and treated me with immense respect. I’ve never felt better about myself and quietly prepared my food, watching the sun set over the Galician mountains in tranquil contentment.

The peaceful little aubergue at La Faba. Far away from the madness of the 'funnel'. The main pilgrim route.

The peaceful little aubergue at La Faba. Far away from the madness of the ‘funnel’. The main pilgrim route.

This feels so much better than the madness of before. I have nothing to say and only ears to listen. The beauty of the mountains caresses my heart, and my pack and staff keep me company.

It was lovely to see Kelly and her daughter from The United States again. She squealed in delight as I passed the little village bar. I smiled and we hugged. Then I pointed to my tongue and made a sweeping movement with my hand. She immediately got it and asked if I’d stopped talking. On affirmation, she squeezed my hand and nodded in encouragement. No words were needed…

Just love and an open heart.


About Viking Queen

I am a sailor and I live on my boat 'Free'. I have no home but originate from Tyneside. I have no allegiance, just a desire to do no harm and live with courage and an open heart.
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28 Responses to Galicia, silent and alone…

  1. Lynda Hulme says:

    What an amazing thing to do Poppy! A vow of silence is indeed a drastic step to take but how wonderful for you and what better way to calm yourself when stressed. Inner peace – a gift from God that brings forth grace (another gift from God) God Bless sweetheart. xxx

  2. christain says:

    silence is golden as your picture shows the lovely peep of gold in the morning, perhaps vow of silence is needed for the next steps of your journey and will give you more meaning of this path you are following. i am sorry to hear about your milk experience but that is life there are takers and givers. if asked you would have shared – feel these persons are not on the same journey as you or the true meaning of the camino. this is an adventure for you i am sorry others are not in the same mind frame or gaining feeling that the camino gives its walkers.
    take care if your silence includes your blog safe journey

    • Viking Queen says:

      Lovely reply Chris, I suppose we have different paths. Compassion for those is all I can offer, but it’s hard. Glad the flu is receding x

  3. Simona says:

    Sorry to hear not even on the Camino is one to be spared such negativity but you mustn’t take it personally, Poppy. On a daily basis we witness uncharitable behavior, anger, aggression, engrossed preoccupation with the self and the total disrespect of others. No need to travel far, a simple trip to the supermarket may suffice. Has the world gone crazy?

    Silence may be the medicine. I’m in awe of your choice.

    S. x

  4. As indulgent as this sounds, I was at the sauna yesterday and there was a note saying that someone has stolen the water bucket and ladle so now there is a cut out used plastic milk bottle to splash water on the hot coals. What possesses someone to do this, a lowly sauna ladle and bucket, for goodness sake?! No use to anyone, except the sauna users. It does seem that the world has gone crazy, but i feel indulgent even complaining about this, when there are so many other big issues. So, as I read recently, I have to think not of all the problems in the world, but rather that I have the strength to endure them. You have my respect and admiration, Poppy. I know that you too will endure.

    • Viking Queen says:

      Yes Amanda, good point… Everything here seems magnified for sure. Normally this kind of thing would be water of a duck’s back, but here it feels different.

      • You sound like you are extremely disappointed in the human spirit atm?

      • Viking Queen says:

        Not the human spirit, that is beautiful…

        The lack of it concerns me more.

      • I think that the sense of community in modern times has changed, and with it, some parts of the human spirit have disappeared. It can be a selfish world out there. Is that what you were alluding to?

      • Viking Queen says:

        I think so, Amanda. Selfish is a part of growth in a metaphysical sense; however, I would have thought a ‘Camino calling’ would indicate something a little more elevated. Perhaps that’s my optimistic heart refusing to be drowned in the cynical gloom of modern life. I consider this a blessing; to know the difference, if you will.

      • Some folks seem to be shallow for sure. Their mission seems to be get there, get it over with, and get back. They are locked into a future moment, and in that way, miss experiencing the present. I often wonder what led them to become like this, or is it embedded in their DNA?

      • Viking Queen says:

        I’m not sure, but my next post may be relevant…

      • cornishtim says:

        For many it seemed to be ‘the destination’ or ‘the arrival’ that was important. For me it was the journey or the ‘getting there’. You miss so much if you always have your eye on the horizon or beyond.

      • Viking Queen says:

        I agree Tim. Did you do the Camino del Norte? I’ve been well over a month now. Speed to me, means living in the future…

      • cornishtim says:

        Yes. Walked the Norte this time last year. Am slowly ,retrospectively blogging my memories. Wanted to do the Primitivo but my friend got sick at the start – just after Oviedo – so I went back to Gigon to get him to a doctor and continued the Norte. He had to give up after a few days and I finished it alone. Thankfully no negative events but very few other pilgrims/walkers until the last few days.

      • Viking Queen says:

        Good for you Tim… You’ve gut guts, it’s not easy.

  5. What a moving picture,Poppy,of recent days. You are truly uplifted and long may this be with you.
    Thank you for sharing so much. Inspiring too. Ruth

  6. cornishtim says:

    I hope one person’s selfish act won’t spoil your journey. Your silence ( thankfully NOT in your blogging) may have the effect of preventing some of your generous wisdom being heard by someone who may need it. However, if it helps you cope with your rightful anger, it is a price others will pay with understanding. Good journey.

    • Viking Queen says:

      Thanks for a wise reply Tim. No thief can ever stop me from my journey. I doubt I have that much to offer really. It’s all been said before by millions of more eloquent folk than I. Sometimes silence is more wise than uttering forth… Who listens anyway? Not many, to be sure.

  7. Tim says:

    Can’t believe someone stole your milk from the fridge! Typical! That’s the trouble with these foreign places! Would never happen in England, especially Northern England….
    …they would have nicked the whole fridge! 😀

    Could be worse. They could have run off with your tea bags!

    • Viking Queen says:

      By ‘eckers lad… Now yer talkin’. How I’d love a good cuppa right now! Glad to see you’re following still. Thanks for the feedback!

  8. Michael Murphy says:

    One word can have more weight than many, for sure.

    Yours, Mike

  9. niamh says:

    Poppy, I never post on blogs…NEVER…awhile ago ran across your blog on the Camino forum and thought, “wow this gal is living the life I would want to live IF I didn’t have six kids and was married”…I capture life’s moments BUT am in awe what you capture.
    I have not even been able to find the time to follow any recent blogs including yours BUT had sent yours to my email a few weeks ago as a reminder that when I have the time THIS is what I want to read! So today I log in and read your post. For anyone who says the World is changing for the worse where I live people were HUNG just years before my lifetime for the color of their skin…so not certain I buy that the World is changing for the worse (though I am guilty of saying it is changing all of the time) . I read a post before my Camino that said Ponferadda gave them some negative energy,and you know I walked last year knowing I chose to avoid it for some weird reason. I walked into it and used a cash machine where the machine literally ATE my debit card and dropped it to the floor (vs a carriage inside the machine). The bank was trying to convince me that innocent people who were trying to help me stole it when I went inside the bank and it came back out of the machine. An hour of a HUGE crying meltdown (no money= go home) AND a Spanish speaking pilgrim telling them to take the machine apart presented my card…OHHHH it was the only minutes where I licked my wounds. BUT when I got thru those days HUGE rainbows awaited me. Did I mention my backpack came up missing in Burgos ???? Even that didn’t deflate me like the card eating machine
    I know deep down you are being called to not speak and I say do what feels right…BUT I hope that deep down that changes as I fear OTHERS (and yourself) might miss some great conversation. You keep saying, “who is listening?” in this one post I have gotten to squish in here and I will be honest I would LOVE to get the chance to listen to your story and your travels and your BOAT!!!! …what a sad Camino it would have been for me IF I passed you in your silent mode…
    Buen Camino Poppy!!!!

  10. Viking Queen says:

    Wow, what an amazing post Niamh! Thanks for taking the time to read. I didn’t find Ponferrada bad… The people were lovely and so happy. No, it was the out of town folk… Supposed pilgrims that is. No one local stole anything from me, they just helped and were lovely. I’m liking being silent… It certainly opens your eyes to the nature of conversation…
    Ironically more people are interested in me now I am silent than they ever were when I spoke.

    I do feel that the world is changing for the worse but in a strange way there are amazing changes afoot too. We could be on the verge of an incredible spiritual breakthrough… But quite often there has to be a huge shakeup for this to happen.

    Thanks again for your intelligent and heartfelt feedback. It’s always a great pleasure to hear from you.

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