As I was leaving the town, it took me …
about 10 minutes to figure out it is raining outside.The reflection from the street lamp makes it look like a bigger downpour than what it feels like.
The Way out of town leads across a straight path that follow the road. Lots of snails taking a walk this morning … interestingly enough I am faster then the snails this morning.
I stop for breakfast in the next town … town Spanish name is derived from a phrase “the donkey saddle”. I run across Giulia and a Danish girl from the other day. Five minutes after I left the bar I head back … I forgot my hat. As we say back home … he who has an empty head still has working feet.
Camino continues through the town. At I leave the town Giulia catches up with me and draws my attention to some orange and yellow strips hanging from the nearby bushes … interesting story.
There is a French guy called Phillipe who appears to be a poet and philosopher who prepares these notes with short verses and quotes and leaves them on plastic strips on the trees and bushes near the road. I discuss modern art photography and the Camino with Giulia as we look for the next verse from Pierre.
With shorter breaks the rain is pouring the whole time. I let Giulia pass me be because for a city girl with a large backpack she’s got a pretty fast pace.
Before the bridge I spot a bench … great place for a brief rest. A Spanish group from the other day day passes me by together with Patricia from Argentina. As we pass the next town I chat with Jan from Australia … it took a bit to remember that she is Matt’s mother whom I met in Burgos. We soon catch up with Matt and his dad, Andrew. Soon enough I feel it time for another break and let the Aussies pass me by when Dilek (the undercover German Turk) pops behind the corner.
In a small town ahead, next to the fountain I ran (or hobble, more precisely) across Federico and Desire an Italian couple. We chat for a bit until I let them overtake me as well. (as if I had any choice, my pace is way slower then anyone else).
After yet another hill and a bridge over the highway there is Leon in the distance. At the outskirts Ginny (or Han Sun originally) from Korea catches up. If I don’t write them down immediately I have tendency to forget Koran names… I guess mine is similar difficult to remember for an average Western ear.
My feet are definitely feeling all the km so far, so I wobble into Leon very, very slowly. Shortly after reaching the old city I come across Steffi and Julia. For them Leon is the last Camino stop, after a day in Madrid the are heading back home. Dilek is heading back looking for a hotel because she feels total exhausted. She points us to the main cathedral to the left, because we thought … incorrectly it turned out …that the Benedictine albergue is got to be nearby. Although we are following the yellow arrows the path is leading us away from the town center … where are those Benedictines … It is time for Google Maps … which seems to indicate the location is 15 min away by foot. At this point I lost all faith in my navigational abilities so I turn on GPS. I ask a few people on the street for that address, nobody knows.
After 10 min I realise the navigation is leading me back the way I came, next to that Gaudi building … oh what fun, fun, fun is it to walk in circles … After another 5 min (I felt every second of that countdown) I finally reach that square …. but where is the albergue … maybe next to the church down below … not.
I am saved by the Australian family who just left the albergue for the tours of the city. Finally I get to the albergue … alleluia … at 14:40. Everyone seems to be here … all three German girls from today, Ray, Keith, the Italians …. and a bunch of other familiar faces.
Although I felt totally beat for today, a shower and a short rest perform their (by now) standard miracle.
Next step is find someplace to eat. The first restaurant I come across serves food (I may have mentioned those pesky dinner schedules) but the menu is too exotic for my taste. Just a little bit further is Peggy Sue diner, advertising “real American food”. Great place … it feels as if I stepped back in time into an American diner from the fifties. Small jukeboxes at every table and the black & white TV on the wall is running Ed Sullivan show with Elvis. The food is pretty good as well.
Totally recovered by now I decide to do a short walk, that only few hours before seemed completely out of the question. The cathedral is open so I take a tour. Impressive Gothic structure with quite a few stunning stained glass windows. There is even a mass service in a small side chapel.
Heading back I spot the Canadian sisters in a nearby bar and I join them for a drink. Cindy shares her Camino miracle story … As she was freezing on the Meseta she came across a warm jacket at the side of the road … her size. In the next town nobody reported any lost jacket. She also made a much longer detour. After almost reaching the top of the hill after Castojeriz, she realized she forgot the money and passport back at the albergue. Down the hill she want, fortunately found it all intact and up the hill again she went.
As we sit and talk …. first a wedding ceremony passes by … then a motorcycle rally, mostly large Yamaha’s with one red Vespa sneaking inside.
Back at the albergue, I just found a chair near the socket, so I can recharge my phone, when Ray shows up with a sad face. His mobile phone was just stolen. Some guy, not dressed as a peregrino, brazenly walked into a crowded albergue and took his phone, that was recharging about 5 m from where Ray was sitting. Ray is feeling a bit depressed, although his phone was insured and he managed to contact his carrier to block the number. I join him for dinner and he tells me how he bumped into Dilek recently and that she (seeing the look on his face) approached him, hugged him out of the blue, and said “you looked like you needed a hug” (they weren’t formally introduced yet).
Dilek is a girl whose “empathy radar” is fine-tuned to a very, very wide frequency spectrum.
Its 21:30, a nun leads us to a monastery right next to the albergue, for the Vespers. She distributes a prayers in several languages and after a short but moving ceremony the pilgrims receive a blessing and a small paper wrap with a quote from St. Benedict’s Rule.
The albergue is quite crowded so I put on my earplugs … I feel sure I’ll need them tonight.
That was day no. 23.
… the blues they sent to greet me won’t defeat me ….