Henri Craemer | Stage 22 part 2: The Tree, the Snake, and the Valley
The 2nd part of Stage 22 of the Way of St Francis covers a visit to Faggio San Francesco – the beech tree of St Francis, the last stretch to Poggio Bustone, and spectacular views of Valle Santa – the Holy Valley.
Faggio San Francesco, beech tree of St Francis, beech tree, beech, asp, snake, venomous snakes, St Francis
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Arch across the road after we enter Assisi (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

Clarity and Forgiveness Among Friends

It’s 17:32 of 6 September 2017 on my hike with Niels Troost on the Way of St Francis. Walking through the St Giacomo Gate into the older part of Assisi, we pass under an arched crossing. It doesn’t matter how tired I feel, I still appreciate the beauty of the town. It’s like stepping through a time portal, going back many centuries.

Inside the St Giacomo Gate, Assisi. (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

The slog up to hotel La Rocca di Assisi feels almost as long as the ascent from the statue of Padre Pio to the St Giacomo Gate. We check in. Our room is two floors up by lift, and a half storey down by stairs. I better pay attention, or I won’t find my way out or back.

I can’t get over how warmly we are welcomed in the places we stay. Is it because we are pilgrims?

What a day! I think, as I ponder today’s trekking. It was as if I hiked three stages and not two: Stage 14 up to Valfabbrica was the easiest. Stage 15 part 1 to the watering point after the pilgrims cross was the hardest. I cracked. Stage 15 part 2 was the breakthrough and regeneration that followed the breakdown.

Thank God, tomorrow is a day of rest. I let the life return to my exhausted body. Physically and mentally I feel in surprisingly good shape.

 

Clarity

While Niels has a shower, I wonder how to deal with the fact that he lied to me about overnighting in Valfabbrica. I decide to check the list of towns for our trip booked by Camino Ways. Why am I not surprised to see that Assisi follows Biscina on the list? I kick myself mentally for not paying closer attention to the detail. I was looking at the info in Sandy Brown’s book. He gives Valfabbrica as the destination of Stage 14, and Assisi of Stage 15. That’s why I expected Valfabbrica to be our overnight stop. My reasoning was one stage equals one day. Even he mentions that one can combine the two stages.

Activity log Stages 14 and 15 as per Niels’ iPhone.

I take my turn in the bathroom – most probably the smallest one I’ve ever seen. Barely larger than an average shower, but it also has a basin and a toilet. I also do my washing. We get ready to go to supper.

 

“Today we walked 37,3km.*” Niels shows me the display on his phone.

I check the distances in the book. “That is nearly 8km more than the two stages put together.”

“Well, Henri, you did it!” He sounds proud of me. I’m a bit surprised.

“Not without God’s help.” I tell him of how my gratitude chant helped the last bit.

 

Answers and Forgiveness

We decide to dine in hotel Rocca di Assisi. The al fresco view opens out on the upper reaches inside the walls of La Rocca di Assisi. I have the best cannelloni in the history of pasta. After a bottle of frizzante, I realise that I’ve had more than five litres of water today.

Now is the time to get things straight with Niels.

“So,” I begin, “you lied to me.”

“Yes, I did,” he replies absolutely candidly.

“Why?” I ask. He’s usually so honest with me he can be quite crass.

“It got you here, didn’t it?” He is completely unapologetic.

I just shake my head. I’m surprised that I am not angry with him at all. In spite of hating it when people lie to me, it’s almost as if this is the easiest thing to forgive.

“It’s OK,” I say. “When I accepted your invitation to do this cammino, I did so on your terms.” After all, he asked me to come.

What makes this acceptance and forgiveness also so much easier is the breakthrough I had earlier today. It’s as if all the effort and the breakdown opened a new door within me. I find myself in a state of awareness where there is no anger, regret or remorse. It is simply a state of grace and peace.

The view from inside La Rocca, Assisi as we await our supper. (Photo: © Henri Craemer)

 

I wonder why he didn’t arrange to have packs ported from Biscina to Assisi as we did on the stage from Città di Castello to Pietralunga. It’s practically the same distance.

“Assisi and the Vatican are the two places you should walk into with your full pack as a pilgrim,” he answers as if he’s reading my mind.

We sit in silence as we enjoy the peace of the evening. It was a big day on The Way of St Francis. The physical has certainly taken its toll, but the mental and spiritual side has made it all worthwhile.

 

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*Conversions from Metric to Imperial

 

37,3km = ~23.2 miles

8km = ~5 miles

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