I headed out around 6:30 this …
… morning. As usual, not a soul in sight. The dawn is slowly breaking as the path follows a river channel all the way to Formista. By the time I got there, my feet are already beginning to protest, but a short break quickly returned things back to normal.
In front of a cafe a group of peregrinos is getting ready to start. I bid Guten Morgen to Jens and Sarah who is still having knee problems. As I leave them another peregrino calls … “hey mister” … and point the right way … naturally I was about to take the wrong one.
For a couple of minutes I experience an almost forgotten feeling … lack of feet pain … fascinating. As I leave Formista I stop for quick breakfast at the last bench in town. Everyone passes me by including Jens (Sarah took the taxi to the next town).
The path leaving the town is a bit tricky … over the roundabout …. followed by the wide path near the main road. Straight ahead even I can’ miss it … nonetheless they placed 4 Camino signposts every 500 m. Another bench …. time for a break.
Tess comes along, she is from Florida, and Colorado … and Arizona (she’s got four houses in 3 states). We head for the next town where I resupply at a small bar – market. As we leave the town the Camino path has another fork. One follows the main road for about 10 km and another is more typical, through the countryside. One of the things you learn on the Camino is that walking on paved road is more strenuous, soft, short and thick grass is the best. This time I manage to select the right path.
Tess has a diverse background, she started off in education than worked as part time therapist and now she plans to start a business with herbal creams and ointments.
The path follows the river until we reach the picnic zone with a playground. A couple of peregrinos ahead warn us that the bar is closed, but never mind … there are nice stone tables and benches and we have enough supplies for a snack. As we were about to leave … a nice older gent shows up offering candy and Camino stamps. Tess also gets a line in her Credential … something along the lines of … Camino es come vida, somos todos peregrinos (Camino is like life, we are all pilgrims) … profoundly true.
The Way continues along the road. Tess is slightly concerned due to absence of Camino markers but I put my trust in my offline Camino map and GPS. Sure enough, we are soon greeted by yellow arrows. Short break at the bar at the edge of the town and we move on.
Its 6 km more to Carrion de la Castillo which seem a lot easier as I’m writing this, then when I actually did the walking. Finally arrived at 14:45. In the town we came across a lady offering private accommodation. No thanks, we are looking for albergue Santa Maria … “ooo, but albergues have a lot of people who snore” … hey, its all part of Camino experience …
Albergue is right next to the church of Santa Maria … tiny sign at the door … I nearly passed by. I aimed for this one because my guide says “the nuns are very hospitable”. Naturally when I entered … not a nun in sight. Three guys are standing in as hospitaleros while the nuns are attending some kind of spiritual retreat. They are Neocatechumens from Madrid – Javier,, David and Daniel.
Some familiar faces are already here, Bepi, white-bearded Peter, Ray …
After a standard routine I go outside looking for a store. I went around the town to find everything closed because its siesta time. On the next corner there is a Spaar billboard … c’mon Germanic efficency don’t let me down … and it didn’t. It is one of rare stores I found in smaller towns that works 9-20h. I resupplied for today and tomorrow … warned by my guidebook that tomorrow its 17 km to the next village.
I got lost … again … in the labyrinth of small narrow streets. It took me a bit to figure out that albergue is 500 m away from the supermarket.
Back at the albergue I settled for improvised lunch. I was just finishing when I heard to beginning of a impromptu concert. David and Javier are taking turns on the guitar while the rest of us provide the vocals. By “us” I mean Bepi, Daniel, Giulia, Patrica and me … soon joined by Federico and Desire. The repertoire includes Quantanamera, Amazing Grace, When the saints … , Ode To Joy, Che Sara, Bella Ciao … with a slight mixup of parmiganio (Parmesan cheese) and partigano (guerrilla) … La Bamba and a few others. As a finale they play a Spanish song dedicated to Our Lady of El Rocio – Salve Rociera, that I recorded live. I liked it so much that I’m also including a YouTube video with lyrics.
After the concert … pilgrim introductions … first the hospitaleros than the peregrinos … where are you from and why are you on the Camino. All three Spanish guys make their introductions and all end up with … and I’m single … while the Italian girl gives them the Mona Lisa smile.
Bepi is from Holland, happily married for 40 years whose husband was recently diagnosed with a major degenerative illness. Patricia is from Argentina and she is doing the Camino for personal reasons as are Federico i Desire from Italy. Giulia offers a more detailed response, freshly graduated from nursing school she decided on the Camino as a graduation gift, although she is a city girl who never walked more than few km before (and she averaged about 30km on the Camino). Giulia is also a passionate idealist, self described Marxist who believes that world would be better off with less worshipping of money and material goods … Imagine that.
As for me … since I expected to be asked that question a lot, I’ve worked out a diplomatic answer that goes something like this … in life you have goals, but its difficult to know how far you advanced each day, or whether you are on the correct path … on the Camino you have clear goal, and helpful yellow arrows showing you the way. Its also easy to calculate how far you advanced. So Camino serves as a real-life reminder that goals are reachable, no matter how long it sometimes feels it takes. … (Camino ended up being way, way way lot more than that for me, but that’s another story).
In this town there is a mass on weekday … a miracle (although there are several churches and monasteries). Even greater miracle is that I find the church to be packed (with few peregrinos as well … first time since Roncevalles) … Although my Spanish is not good enough to catch every word of the sermon, I get a sense the packed church has a lot to do with a local priest.
Back at the albergue, the dinner is communal … which works like this. The hospitaleros make the soup and the peregrinos contribute food from their backpacks … canned tuna, cheese, ham, olives, chocolate, nuts, tomatoes … everything is mixed and combined in several dishes.
After dinner we were promised a surprise gift. The hospitaleros gathered us all at the benches in the lobby before they started off with the story. It began with a tale of medieval pilgrims who used the stars to find their way to Santiago … than a star that guided three wise-men to Bethlehem … then a star representing the light of Christ. The story ended when, on the behalf of the nuns, they gave us all a small paper star as a gift together with an individual blessing for each of us.
Quite an experience … to say the least …. I noticed it left quite an impression
All in all, my best albergue experience so far.
That was day no. 19.