The bridge over the river “Rio Pisuerga”
Route segment: 16
Thursday 12th October 2000
Thank goodness it is not raining today. It often rains in Galicia when I’m walking the Camino Frances. I start off with Thierry but he wants to walk fast and soon leaves me behind. The sun behind us is illuminating a large hill in front of us and I will have to walk over this hill today. It is a steep ascent and although it is not raining now, it was here yesterday and the soil is still damp so I start to pick up a load of soil on my boots again.
The clouds are strange here today and there is a very eerie feel to the hill. Like yesterday, there are a lot of stone piles here and at the summit I try to take a panoramic shot of the surroundings. But it has become misty and the photographs do not come out well.
Today will be a special day but I do not know that yet. Margaux and Ophelia come rushing up behind me and then race ahead so that I am alone again. The road crosses over the river “Rio Pisuerga” and there is a famous stone bridge over it.
Eventually I reach the village of “Itero la Vega” and it seems a dead place. There is a village square but the trees
here have no leaves on them. I will come across another similar village square in “Frómista” but the trees there will be covered in leaves:-
The strange village square
The village square in “Frómista”
The village although populated seems unfriendly and I move on to cross over the range of hills, “Alto Del Paso Largo”. There is no one in sight for miles ahead or miles behind. I have had a number of powerful and clear dreams at refuges on this walk
but today I have a very powerful vision and it is so strong that I nearly fall over.
Basically I experience an overpowering feeling that everything I see around me is an illusion. There is a basic premise in Buddhist teachings that this is the world of illusion. Although I have meditated on it before, when I was a practising Buddhist, it has never hit me with such force before and it leaves me with more questions than answers. The best way I can explain it is by comparing it to being immersed in a virtual reality apparatus.
The images and sensations that you feel come from a computer simulation. Depending on the quality and
processing power of the simulator, the simulation will be more or less believable. This simulation I felt would have to be the
best simulation there can be and it would take infinite processing power to generate it.
I have no trouble accepting that the “real” me is probably a being of unknown form wearing some fantastic apparatus which allows me to experience this universe. What lies behind the eyes of people who look at me is normally called the soul but I get the feeling that I am actually interacting with my fellow beings through the simulation.
I believe that but it immediately raised the question in my mind of what I really look like and what is the true reality. I seem to have forgotten those things due to the length of time I have been immersed in the simulation or it is a necessary part of the illusion that you do not remember these things. I believe that I will know the answers when I remove the apparatus. But I do not know how to do this either and I feel trapped in the simulation.
A side effect of this vision is that the compulsion which was driving me to walk the Camino path, has vanished
and I no longer feel the need to continue walking it. I understand now that the whole Camino has been leading me up to this point.
Shirley Maclaine in her book “The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit” describes a number of visions she had but I was not expecting to experience something similar myself. I turn around and the world seems to be running at an accelerated rate. I feel dizzy with the speed of it as the clouds above me race by towards the east. I turn back again and continue walking but all I can think about is that I am not really moving at all, it’s just the simulation which makes me think I am moving. I meditate on the nature of sensation and assume that the apparatusprovides a link to some of my natural senses to improve the level of interaction with the simulation to make it more real.
When I reach “Boádilla Del Camino” I find another bar and Thierry, Margaux and Ophelia are there. I have to tell them what has happened and for some reason Ophelia immediately relates to it. She asks me if it happened when on the first hill and I say no it was on the path afterwards. Margaux explains that the two of them had a similar vision some time ago, looking at the boundary between the sea and the horizon where they lived at the time. I am surprised but pleased that they understand me.
The canal on the way to “Frómista”
Just before “Frómista”, the canal goes down through a gate system
The refuge at “Frómista”
The church at “Frómista”
The typical “Meseta” path after “Frómista”
It is now the next day and I am finished walking the Camino and say goodbye to Thierry. He can’t make up his mind what
to do and the bus leaves in 20 minutes. I open the door of the refuge and who should be standing there but Ferdinand and the German girl. They have slept in a field during the night and started walking a few hours before. I am amazed they have done that and think that this has got to be some sort of destiny for them to help out Thierry when I have kind of abandoned him.
I tell them that I am going home and the reason and they seem to understand. At the bus stop later there are a group of folks from “Newfoundland” and one of them has a very bad leg problem. They are also getting the bus to “Palencia” so I will have good company today. When the bus arrives I say goodbye to Thierry who has decided to go with Ferdinand and I give him a long hug.
Ferdinand also gives me a big hug and I am close to tears. I have known both of them for three weeks and grown close to them and I will miss them greatly. I only shake the hand of the German girl, as I do not feel any connection with her.
This account of my first Camino ends here for a while and I go to stay with friends in England and think about my experiences. However I cannot rest and find myself coming back to finish my Camino after one week. I try and work out where Thierry and the otherswill be by now and arrange to go back there by train.
I decide that they will probably have reached “Ponferrada” by now and as it turns out I am almost right. I walk into the new refuge at “Ponferrada” and start chatting to another pilgrim there and he tells me that Thierry was there the previous night and is walking to “Villafranca Del Bierzo” today. So I decide to catch a taxi and tryand get ahead of him and then wait until he catches up.
The main reason I have not written about this part of my Camino before was that I will start to suffer considerable bouts of
depression from now on and even reach a suicidal point in “Ruitelán“. This depression will effect me until I reach “Arzua” where Istop my Camino and decide to drive back to the beginning again in a hired car and retake all the photographs which I have lost.
This period “reliving” a better experience sorts out my depression and I can walk with head held high again into Santiago. I refused to attempt the walk before because I though it was very wrong to be in that state of mind under those circumstances. It would have been better not to have returned to the Camino so quickly after my vision. Please bear this in mind when you read the next part of the narrative.