NOTE: I re-read my last post and wanted to state for the record that after I am a sweaty mess at the end of the day, I do take a shower before crashing in my bunk . . .
Saturday, September 14, 2013
A personally majestic day for some reason. I am thinking today as I walk (yes, there is plenty of time to do that) about the first week of the Camino, which breaks you down (well, at least broke ME down), and about the second week when I started to feel stronger, to notice something other than the heat, my feet, the struggle to just make it through the day, etc. and now entering the third week . . . well, at least today, I feel as though everything I’m encased in during my normal life just sort of fell away after a fashion. I’m not sure that’s really the correct way to put it, but at this point, I can’t do any better. I also notice I’m becoming mush-buckety, which generally is Neil’s role in this relationship. But he is on my mind a lot as I listen to old music from our early days. At any rate, as he always says . . . I digress . . .
I leave my rest day in Santo Domingo de la Calzada both refreshed and listening to my feet groaning, “Oh, no . . . that again!” I start at 8:45, even later than usual, so I don’t stop for my typical café con leche on the way out of town. Today’s path runs adjacent to the N-120 at times, and often veers off onto track that connects four small villages between Santo Domingo and Belorado, the next decent-sized town 23 km. away.
The first village is 7.2 km from Sto. Domingo, so I will wait until then, crunching on a bit of croissant as I walk, accompanied by sips of water. On the trail, I have two “find a bush” moments, which I hate. The track is right next to a major road, so hiding is less successful on days like this, though at least the cars are going fast enough that they probably will think they are dreaming if they glance across to the little bushes . . .
On the road, I meet Louise from Scotland, and we talk for a few minutes as we walk. Her pace is faster than mine, of course, and after we establish that we both love doing our solo camino journeys, she clicks on.
I reach Granon (I wish I knew how to put that little squiggle above the Spanish “n” . . . ) and it is fairly small. An Alimentacion (sort of like an Alimentare in Italy), a small local grocery, with fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, bread, just staples, nothing fancy, but it is the place to get nectarines, which I love. So I purchase one for .33 Euro cents, and talk with the owner for a few minutes. He has some grade-school children buzzing around, he speaks English, and offers to weigh my full pack (I’m wearing my boots) on his produce scale. I am almost afraid to look. 11.7 kilos. That’s about 25 lbs. And remember that I already sent 3.6 kilos home. So I was ridiculously overloaded and still am. I give him my card, he says he will read what I have to say about the Camino, and I leave, making a “slow-beeline” to the bar down the street to get my much-awaited café con leche.
Louise is already there, as are several others trekkers. Inside, I point to a bocadillo case and a half sandwich, toasted, mimicking a BLT, but it is ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and shredded crab. Even has mayo on it! That’s a first, and it is delicious not only with my café con leche, but with the fresh-squeezed orange juice the man hands me. I watch the oranges topple one after another into his machine and now I have my hand around a tall glass of delicious juice.
After an unsuccessful attempt at the Albergue to unload a daypack full of things I won’t need for two days, I return to Alimentacion Piedad and speak again with the owner, Amadeo Vicente, who says he will be happy to make the arrangements to send the small pack (but with nearly six pounds of paraphernalia) to Villafranca Montes de Oca, where I plan to stay tomorrow evening. This requires that I reach Villamayor de Rio (I realize there are many places called Villamayor fill-in-the-blank on this road) today, and I am 11.5 km from it. It is 12:30. Not a big deal, really, even with the pack, but it will require walking under a hot and cloudless sky for another three hours or more.
Relieved, nourished, and equipped with my large but slightly lighter pack, I head out of Granon into the countryside again. Immediately I am surrounded by fields of sunflowers, all partially dry now, all with their heads bowed down for acres and acres, like fields of nuns praying. However, some of the sunflowers have smiling faces . . . and I don’t know whether the seeds have fallen out in that pattern or whether some charming locals want to greet the peregrinos in this peculiar, slightly eerie, but delightful way. I will include photos when I can load them, but right now I am smiling broadly and bow to the large yellow- and brown-headed field inhabitants.
The music in my ears is a collection of old favorites, a playlist randomly chosen earlier today . . . Dan Fogelberg, Kenny Loggins, Pousette-Dart Band, Stevie Winwood. Peter Gabriel, Steve Perry. Familiar music and lyrics from decades ago, and I am singing, smiling, yelling into the sun that this is a spectacular day. It is now that I envision this next stage, the stage of complete and essential decomposition inside me. Tears that have been absent from my emotions for the past five years even threaten to erupt, for no apparent reason other than that all is free and floating in my tiny cube of space right now. They still don’t show up, but they tease around my edges. At this moment, I feel as though I could walk forever. I could fly.
Part of me is still practical, out of necessity, and I stop frequently, drinking the water in my bottles, saying hello to those who pass me. At the next village, Redecilla, I again assess my stamina on this sunny day that shows no promise of cloud cover. My iPhone says the temperature is 72 degrees, though it feels hotter than that without respite from direct sun. Recklessness will not get me to any destination in a healthy manner, so I call the albergue in Villamayor de Rio to make sure they will have a bed for me if I pursue my morning goal. No answer.
After three rounds of no answer, I try the one place in the village next up the hill. Viloria de la Rioja. There is only one albergue in that village, and they do have a room. I reserve it. Worry about getting to Villafranca tomorrow . . . worry about it tomorrow. I won’t make more than nine miles today, though my feet could have walked the larger distance easily. But the sun, though lovely, becomes brutal in the later afternoon, and I know I repeat myself, but it is worth repeating. There is absolutely no shade. I’m old but I’m not crazy.
So another 3.5 km. and I am in Viloria de la Rioja, population 70 people. The hostel is called Albergue Acacio and Orietta, Brazilian and Italian respectively. I am grateful for my accidental re-routing. Ten beds (I get an un-bunk bed!), lovely showers, an outside terrace and a communal dinner and breakfast (cost= a donation). As I enter, I hear soothing music and smell incense. There is a fire in the corner wood burning fireplace. I’ve just dropped into the late sixties or early seventies, and the tranquility is so thick you could wrap yourself in it for the winter. Hmm . . . maybe I’ll just stay and become a volunteer.
Brierly’s book says Acacio is a key figure in the Asociacion Jacobea, and he created the network association that has done so much to improve pilgrim facilities along the Camino. Paulo Coelho is a sort of godfather padrino to this place and his books are for sale in three languages in the reception area.
I get settled, take a shower, do my hand laundry and hang it up outside in the garden area. Settle myself in to write this post.
I cannot tell you what it feels like to be here. A young woman’s mouth is hopping around on a flute (Lisa P, where are you?), her boyfriend is strumming a guitar, laundry is flapping, cats are mewling, an orange bicycle named GLOBE TROTTER is parked in the bike rack in front of me. Rosemary plants, lavender, and some sort of fruit tree (pear, I think) line the stone wall to my left. A breeze helps the string of international flags flutter next door. A young man in blue jeans sits on a green metal bench across the garden.
It is a surreal scene, but it is also real. The incense wafts outside with the breeze. I am in mini-heaven. Soon I will go inside to see if I can do something useful before (or for) dinner. For one night, this is my community.