No firefighters around, as I leave the building before dawn, around 5:30. In fact there isn’t a soul stirring in the entire town. With the exception of course, from the dog chorus with the usual morning routine.
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The Way leads uphill . . . again . . . but this time its a lighter version of yesterday’s mountain. I reach the top of another hill with a bunch of windmills. A wide path, well marked with arrows leads straight through the forest. From the forest to the road, where an older couple is walking the dog. Than another road… with quite a few cars for this time in the morning.
Finally a sign … Fatima. Another substantial section through the forest until the first houses. The Way leads to a large parking space. Only a few cars around and a bus full of singing Spanish youths.
Arrived at Fatima at 10:00 and quickly reached a major complex named after the St John Paul II. The main shrine is to the north of it. After spending some time wandering around I mange to find that special albergue for pilgrims who came on foot.
There I meet Jose the hospitalero… a most fascinating character. I came in and asked … is there accommodation for pilgrims.. “yes” says he … and than keeps looking at me … and I look back at him. Than he asks if I’m Polish … I reply… he keeps looking at me and I look back. Anyway Jose shows me around… great albergue, rooms with four beds each. I continue my slow motion chat with Jose… with him weighing my words.. analysing the non verbal resonance of everything I say. Jose has been s a hospitalero for more than 20 years … 16 of which he spent in Fatima. I explained to him my GPS file with the route and albergue info. Soon afterwards he sent two new pilgrims for me to install on their smartphones. Oswaldo from Peru and Adriano from Portugal.
I stepped outside for a stroll around the city. It appears I can’t fake a Portuguese accent as well as I thought because this was the second time I got an English reply to my question in Portuguese.
I ask a gent from the souvenir store where is the nearest supermarket. Step inside… says he… and Ill explain all. First he asks of I’m interested in something from the left shelf … no thanks … says I … “how about something from the right shelf” … no thanks again … says I … “how about something from the top shelf” … well only if you have a supermarket hidden there. The gent asks how I came to Fatima.. so I explain about the Camino. “By foot … you are walking!?! to Santiago de Compostela”… he looks at me strangely… “when I travel I go with the car”. I tried to explain about the Camino experience… unsuccessfully… “I still prefer the car”, says he.
Back at the albergue a bunch of pilgrims. Where did all those people come from … I haven’t seen a soul on the Way for the last two days. It turns out some started later in the day and some did longer stages. Jorge, Alessandra and Rafaela are also here. Jorge seems impressed by the sanctuary, although he is not muy religioso Fatima definitely left an impression on him … its an impressionable kind of place. They also stayed at Minde but didn’t know about the firefighters place.
Back at my room I got two new roommates, two French gents.. Francis and Jean, who is from St. Etienne… a scene of a major football defefat for a team from my hometown … that the French still fondly remember.
I went out again for a more detailed tour of the entire sanctuary complex. Impressive and … impressionable … only begin to describe it. I didn’t perceive it as commercialised … maybe because all the merchants are away from the temple area.
That was day no. 7.