Leon to Villafranca

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“Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives” –A Sachs

Or as William Wallace famously said in Braveheart “Every man dies, not every man really lives.”


I was reminded of both these quotes in the last two hours from different sources. I wonder what I’m being told? Any thoughts?


Today I am in Villafranca del Bierzo and I am about 185Km from Santiago. Most will end their journey there, but I intend to head on a further 100 or so Km to Finnesterre. It’s interesting to think that I am less than 200Km to Santiago having come so far.


Of my friends, one couple have caught the bus from Burgos to Saria, so they will have finished or will be about to. The other couple are four or so days back, so I might try and slow up a bit and either walk the last bit in with them or try to be there when they walk in, cheer them on.


Villafranca is a beautiful city with a fabulous history. It was known as the “Little Santiago” because pilgrims who were ill, if they could convince the monks that they were ill enough, would be given their Compostella without having to go all the way to Santiago. The architecture here is amazing and covers a whole range of eras and influences. The food and the wine here is also memorable. The region grows its own varieties and they do not export the ones they consider to be most special. I have been lucky enough to be invited by one of the locals to a winery here and I have tried some spectacular stuff. It is currently grape harvesting time and it has been fun to watch the activity as I have been walking through the villages and vineyards. Tractors with mothers and grandmothers hanging off the sides driving up and down the main streets. People bent over picking by hand, walking down streets and being overwhelmed by the smell of fermenting grapes and the castaways emanating from dark doorways. Fun stuff. I have decided that if I lived here I would be a fat, Spanish alcoholic.


My main travelling companions over the last few days have been two ladies from Ireland and one from England. They have been fabulous companions and have given me both great company and much to think about. We have covered pretty much all of the taboo subjects, religion, politics, death, relationships gone wrong. It’s been like therapy while walking. They have now continued on while I gallivant around this town of great wine and architecture.


It occurs to me that I have not really described what a day for me on the Camino looks like, so let me have a short go here. A true pilgrim would stay only in Alburgues or Refugios (hostels), I usually do this with an occasional hotel thrown in so that I can get a good sleep…and wash.


So these Alburgues would typically hold between 4 and 50 people in a room, usually bunk beds. We would typically rise somewhere between 0600 and 0800, although there is often some knucklehead who wants to head out earlier and makes a bunch of noise preparing. I’m usually out the door 20 or so minutes later and like to walk to the next village before I have breakfast, which is usually a coffee and croissant or eggs if I can. I will then walk a further 20 or so Km stopping for lunch somewhere along the way. A typical walk is around 25 Km a day give or take 10. Upon arriving at the next stop I will wash me, then hand wash my clothes and often have a short nap, then off to look at the town, maybe a snack and something to drink. The evening meal is often the Pilgrim Menu, which many of the local bars and cafes put on. It is a set menu with usually three courses, bread, water and wine and it is usually under 10 Euro. I have not yet had one that I did not enjoy, though often one that I would not have ordered. It is usually shared with other pilgrims that you have met on the day, sometimes with no common language. Then it is back the Alburgue where I stuff earplugs in my ear and am usually asleep by 2230. The next day, start again. Wake, walk, eat, walk, wash, eat, sleep.


Two days ago, upon waking I went to the clothes line to recover my clothes that I had washed the day before to find my shorts missing. I was miffed and had a bit of a sense of humour malfunction. The missing shorts created a whole gamete of issues for me. I would have to buy another pair, it was Sunday so nothing is open, I would have to sleep in the pants I walked in, etc. I was one of the last to leave the Alburgue and found a pair of shorts left behind which were similar to mine but about three sizes too small. I could conceivably have worn them, but probably only to a gay night club. So I set a plan, I walked further that day than I had intended with these shorts hung in open view on the back of my backpack. Sure enough as I was walking through a village about fifteen Km up the road, there was a short, skinny Frenchman wearing my shorts. I wasn’t sure, you can’t look too long at a man’s shorts without starting an interesting conversation, so I sat down at the next café and waited for him to come up the road. They were definitely my shorts and he looked ridiculous. I stopped him with the classic conversation opener “excuse me but I think you are wearing my pants”. It turns out he picked up the wrong pair, my excellent North Face pants and left behind his crappy, gay night club pants. We exchanged on the spot and so became pants brothers.


Tomorrow I start the climb into the final mountain of this walk, it is a two day journey over the top and the part of the Camino where I am most likely to see a wolf. I would so love that. I also find myself liking the climbs, the honest labour required to get to the top.


I’m loving the walking and thinking bit in all this and I feel like so much is getting both resolved and birthed. There is much I would share here, but I already admire you for having read so far.


I’m sending you a big hug.


About timeaside

I'm setting time aside to focus on the things I think are important. A life well lived, taking lessons from the past without carrying their burden, hanging out with God and seeing what He has to say about the whole thing.
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8 Responses to Leon to Villafranca

  1. Nool says:

    Loved the shorts story. And I can’t believe the end of the journey is in (distant) sight already. It’s a real lesson in what can be achieved if you’re prepared to chip away. Brilliant work! Hope you get to cheer on the ‘other couple’.

    • timeaside says:

      Thanks Nool,

      I’ve slowed up a day in Sarria and will try and do the same over the next week or so. Whoda thought perseverance could have paid off?

  2. lannalife says:

    Reminds me of the pants song – whose pants are these anyways?!!

    I must confess, looking at all your photos and reading your stories does put a longing in my heart to do something very similar! I just have this longing for more and am convinced that our pace of life robs us of enjoyment and time with the Father. The sad thing is, my current commitments will keep me from doing so!

    How ironic is that! – you go and live a life of serving Jesus and then get too busy and committed to “stuff” that to take time out would take a year of planning it in!! Not quite how we were designed to live me thinks.

    May your journey draw you deeper into his loving arms.

    • timeaside says:

      It is an irony mate. In fact I have been thinking a lot about how our world makes us so busy that we really have trouble being who we are made to be. Surely we’ve matured enough as a society that we can start giving value to things other than money and work. I fell your pain…really.

  3. Alister says:

    Hey Dave! Enjoy o Sobreiro. We’re a couple of days away from there. Vaya con Dios.

  4. Chris Reid says:

    hilarious……….as always are u man of great hilarity, laying in bed doing my utmost to not wake my wife as the bellyache of laughter physically challenges me…. “gay short analogies very entertaining” your perspective on joy and happy pants is quite the read……this is an invogorating read………..always refreshing to hear your thoughts…….as a true australian would say “on ya mate”

  5. Lexa says:

    Hello David,

    “Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives” –A Sachs

    This quote touched my soul so deeply, tears flooded my being refreshing my dream, I thank you for the reminder.

    Your writing is so pure and from the heart, such a pleasure to read.

    My name is Lexa, a friend of Lyndee, she sent me the link to your blog as she know this is similar to my own burning desire. It came at a pivotal moment.

    We have ‘stuff’ that gets in the way and it our own personal journey to rid our mind of them and live a life worth living as our heart directs us.

    I love quotes, they are so profound and inspiring, written by others who have and forged through.

    Again, thank you for the blog and reminder.

    My own blog is in its infancy: Bitten by a Hog on You Tube & bittenbyahog.blogspot.com.au
    yet the dream vivid, all I need to do is keep taking the steps and allow.

    Thank you once again David for a very timely connection.


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