Good afternoon my fellow travelers!
As I begin to write the time is 2:15pm and I am in the town of El Burgo Ranero. I completed my walking some 2 hours ago, having done 17.1 km in just under four hours (including a stop to snack and air out the feet).
It's been more than 2 years since I've had a second date. (I've been married for 3mos, and with my husband for over 2 years, just in case I needed to clarify.) And although its been a while, today felt exactly like a second date...with the Camino.
All of the excitement and anticipation was there, but so too was the second-guessing and wondering if the second time would be as good as the first. Would I still feel that special connection? Would it make my heart skip a beat again?
I planned to do the 17k today knowing that more than 20km would likely be too hard on my body and not knowing how my feet would fare in hiking sandals. The truth is that thanks be to God, the day couldn't have gone any better.
After I signed off last night the Italian woman and I headed out for dinner. She ran into some pilgrims she knew and we all sat and had something cold to drink while we waited for the restaurant to begin serving dinner at 8pm. Once we made it to the restaurant (a fancy place with tablecloths and obviously patronized by locals) we found two American women seated at the table next to us. It was a mother-daughter team, mom from Tennessee and daughter from Wisconsin. We sat eating a delicious 3 course meal (I opted for a veggie pasta, pork chop and watermelon) and enjoying some vino. As we paid our check (12 Euros each) it hadn't even occurred to me to check the time. It was still plenty light outside but I was shocked to see my phone report a time of 10pm. "No beuno". I barely recalled the woman at the monastery pointing to a sign when I checked in which read "22:00 CLOSE". We hustled down the street thinking surely we wouldn't be locked out for being just a few minutes late. We were wrong. We were six minutes late to be exact and everything was locked down and lights out. We banged on the door and nearby windows for another 10m before the woman (ya know...the woman with the sign) slowly opened the door. I do know how to apologize in Spanish and so we did and scurried off to our room.
I climbed into bed, downed a TylenolPM, and set my alarm for 6:30am. I slept...poorly. I slept that shallow kind of sleep you have the night before you know you have to be up early and are afraid you'll oversleep. And at 5am when the bag-rustlers awoke my case became hopeless. I laid in bed looking out the window gauging the light and trying to decide when it would be light enough to walk without missing any waymarkers. I have a headlamp and that's all fine and well, but have one bad experience getting lost because you started too early and took a wrong turn, and you too will want to wait it out. It turned out the answer was that it's plenty light enough to walk by 6:30am. So my game plan for tomorrow is to be up at 6am and gone by 6:30a. That'll put me a full hour ahead of what I did today.
So at 7:20 I texted my husband that I was setting out and I'd keep him posted. My plan was to hopefully reach my 10k point by lunch and finish in the afternoon. So it caught me by surprise when I had done 10k by 9:15a. I took advantage of a shady bench in front of an ancient hermitage and slipped off my sandals for the all important Inspecting of the Feet. Socks are a little damp, I observed but no hot spots, not pre-stage blisters and they felt pretty good. So I stayed there for a few minutes and enjoyed my 2 nectarines and one plum that I purchased at the grocery store yesterday and watched the world go by.
And what a gloriously beautiful world to watch. The weather was ideal: Sunny, 65, and a light breeze. They don't make better walking weather than that. My path was flat and paralleled a small road on one side (no traffic at all, just the occasional pair of pilgrims on bikes) and crops of various types on the other. There was wheat and young corn, but my favorite was a field of young green grass (no clue what it will become) but it flowed ever so softly in the breeze and made for the most beautiful contrast against a rich, cloudless blue sky, whose only interruption was a waxing moon still visible in shades of grey. I walked for a mile along side this combination just awestruck by the beauty. All I could think was, "You do good work, God. Well produced."
As I approached my destination for the day I began to fervently hope that Mass would be available before the day was out. I passed up the opportunity to attend an 8:30am mass back at the monastery deciding that 9:30am was entirely too late to start the day. I'd be stuck walking in the hottest part of the day and being unsure about my capabilities, I had no idea what time I would arrive.
Rolling into town at 11:20am I beelined for the church. (Almost every town on the Camino has a church. After all they were the first albergues and a pilgrim is always welcome in a Roman Catholic Church on the Camino, no matter what the need: rest, shade, a place to bandage your feet, or time with God). The church was open (no surprise) so I went in and said a prayer of gratitude for the safe, swift, and healthy travels of the day. As I began to exit the small church a young man appeared and I asked about Mass. He told me that yes, there would be mass at 12pm today. JACKPOT!
I wandered around the tiny town and selected a place to stay. A restaurant that also advertised being a "hostal". Creeping inside the dark cool building I was greeted warmly by an older woman...and Ellen the American from yesterday! For 20 Euros (a real splurge on the Camino), I could have a private room with a private bathroom, and access to the washer and dryer. SOLD.
I was shown to my room where I dropped my things, slid off my shoes, and plopped on the bed throwing my feet into the air...where they stayed for the next 10 minutes. I can't even begin to describe how grateful I am for unscathed feet. All I needed to do now was let the blood drain back into the rest of my body so that I can rid myself of the tingling sensation that comes from pounding on a dirt trail for several hours.
At the end of my 10minutes playing Dead Bug (y'all remember Dead Bug, right? At the roller skating rink? I think you know what I'm talking about) I hopped up, put on my sandals and headed back to the church. In my enthusiasm I forgot one minor detail: I smelled. I smelled like sweat and dust and although I'm sure God doesn't mind me showing up like that- and hell, neither do fellow pilgrims, I was going to feel bad if there were locals at this church. But even if there were locals, surely it would be just me and a handful of people whom I could sit far enough from the avoid contaminating their fresh air with my stench.
Fast forward 15m and I'm in the tiny church and it is now slam-packed with locals. I'm the only recognizable pilgrim. Sorry folks! Don't mind the smelly, blonde girl with her little notebook trying to follow along with the mass in Spanish. (I downloaded a side-by-side translation of the mass and taped it into the same notebook where I keep all my go-to information for the Camino). I foolishly thought I would be able to keep up. Mass is available to pilgrims a lot- not always but very frequently- on The Way. At so many masses I attended on my last Camino I wished badly I could have a better sense of where we were in the run down and be able to at least make the responses. So I came prepared. But nothing could have prepared me for how fast the speaking parts would be. I didn't have a prayer. Ironic, huh?
After mass, I found a small market. Let's be honest, market is a generous term. It was on par with most American gas stations. I'm not talking a Wawa or a QT, I'm talking a plain run of the mill gas station. And that's par for the course in my experience. I was able to get 2 more nectarines for tomorrow (with any luck I can repeat today's routine) and a can of Pepsi for 2,40 Euros.
I returned to my digs, showered, checked in on a few things on the home-front and am now going to take a nap. Once I wake up, I'll do laundry and repack my bag to set up a swift exit in the morning, and see about dinner. I'm aiming for an early bedtime and a good night of sleep.
Today has been an excellent day and my goal is to do 25k tomorrow. I'm feeling hopeful but taking nothing for granted.
After all, we are literally walking by faith.
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