Day 11, April 15: Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado (24.38 km, 15 miles)

So… here it is the morning of the 16th. Almost 7:00 am. Perhaps you noticed that I did not post last night. I was so busy (and exhausted!) from the lessons I learned yesterday that I chose to fall into bed last night instead of sending a report. (Actually, the biggest culprit? A two-hour dinner with a young couple from Australia, which had me leaving the dining table at 9:30, and…a hostel which, though it has some very positive aspects, is cold. Climbing into bed and pulling the warm blanket over me trumped everything else.)

And so I sit now at the table where some hardy souls are fixing their own breakfast. I won’t get too far into yesterday’s summary because I have yet to pack up. Willing to do so, mind you, ready to see what additional lessons today will bring, but… after using the bathroom with its bright lights, I returned to the sleeping area where as many as half of the pilgrims were still sleeping and… I couldn’t see a thing in the total darkness. It was only by luck that I managed to find the correct bed under which I had placed the keyboard. (And you are right to think that if I had just begun with those lessons I say I want to share instead of blabbing away about things of no consequence, I’d be ready to send this post on its merry way, and then send myself on mine. But you are getting used to my word ramblings, even if they aren’t nearly as interesting as those done by my feet.)

Quick update

Barb: she made it to Castrojerez last night. Where is that? Who knows? Who has time to look at a map. The obvious: it’s a good day’s walk beyond Burgos. That tells me she is already in the famed–sometimes welcomed, sometimes dreaded–“meseta” (“high plain”), about which you’ll hear during our trek in and through it.

Ginny: she had a much better day yesterday (Monday) than the day before. This morning: too early to know. The cold of this albergue is not helping, but our hope is that when she and her muscles warm up, she’ll be as good or better than yesterday. Today, for the third day in a row, she’ll plan to send her bag ahead. We must look at the map and decide if we’ll do the 15 miles to San Juan de Ortega. Once we have made the decision, she can put the tag on her bag, attach 5 euros, and voila, her bag will precede us. Like yesterday, I’ll do my back a favor and put 2-3 pounds from my bag into hers. Yes!

Katy: my sore throat is gone. Hurray! My nose is busy running (no “plodding” for it; no, for my nose, nothing but “full speed ahead”), but that’s much better than the sore throat. The blisters don’t seem to be bothering me, though my big toe on the right foot was talking to me in my sleep last night. Hope it shuts up and behaves itself as we move forward today. The bruises from my fall on day #1 are barely visible. The set of fever blisters that followed are perhaps at their most visible now, but in a matter of days they will also be gone. Maybe then we’ll get some close-up photos!

To sum up: Onward! Ultreia! We’re making tracks. And if you want to have some interactive fun with our tracks, check out what Kevin, Maura, and Regina have come up with on the blog: an interactive map! You can see exactly where we’ve been if you are a bit tech-savvy. The map has its own “page” accessible from the same place where you may have clicked to find out “more about Katy” or to read about how you might “come with me!” I’m sure it’s more effective to see it on a computer or even a tablet rather than on a cell phone screen, but I know your habits and I won’t fight them.

I came up with a new technique to help me remember my thoughts and observations throughout the day, namely: record them as I walk along. It has been remarkably easy to dig out the phone, click on an app, and then click on the microphone before speaking. Of course, I’ve no time to stop and see how well the recording has caught my actual words, but hopefully the transcription will be close enough to what I actually said that it will jog my memory.

About those lessons…

Perhaps you’ll find TMI (too much information) in some of the following, but, as I’ve often said: I’m writing this for me; you’re free to move on to something else.

  1. Early in the day we spotted the sweetest miniature butterfly. A lovely pastel blue. Until it folded its tiny wings, at which point Cinderella turned into a little gray spot, nothing one would be inclined to call “beautiful” by any stretch of the imagination. The lesson, an oft-taught one: Don’t judge the book by its cover; beauty resides on the inside. Agreed!
  2. When you put your garments on in the morning, count them. When nature calls and you respond by relieving yourself, make sure you remove the same number of layers that you put on. Seems obvious enough, I know. Failure to follow the above advice may lead to …. Ok, you get the picture. But our mothers and grandmothers also knew this truth: clothing dries pretty quickly when exposed to fresh air.
  3. In a similar vein, when you choose a spot on the ground to sit and remove a layer of clothing that is no longer needed, choose your spot carefully lest, when you go to get up, your palm encounters a patch of thistles. I’m here to tell you that the sting can linger for more than 24 hours.
  4. Along the lines of lessons 2 and 3 above, I relate a story that Ginny heard at dinner last night–on the 15th which was my “thistle day.” An Aussie related to her that he had an urgent call from Mother Nature and took to the bushes post haste. So as not to offend passers by, he did quite the squat, whereupon, as I had done earlier–though with my hand–his bum encountered a thistle bush. I’ve seen the fellow today but I wasn’t too inclined to ask him if he was still suffering tingles and prickly sensations from his wound.

5. This lesson is as old as the proverbial hills, but because it pops up again and again as we muddle through various situations, I bring it up: “laughter is the best medicine.” Very curative, indeed!

6. And this quote of Rumi is one I’ve mentioned before, but I was reminded of it today due to a couple of “sightings” that I will explain in a minute. First, the quote, which seems so very relevant to this journey:

There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground

But kiss it we must. Meant to be applied to people and our approaches to life, but here are the two images that brought it to my mind today (well, you know, on the 15th which is the day I am attempting to describe here): 1) I turned around to take in where I had come from after leaving Santo Domingo and what did I see? A hot air balloon, seemingly just “sitting still” as if in contemplation of the grandeur below. Soaring and yet very still. In awe. Kissing the ground with a stamp of approval; 2) somewhat later I spied a snail sliding along at her patient, bear-it-all-sostoically pace. All the time in the world. Kissing the ground. Trusting that she will arrive where she is supposed to arrive and that the point isn’t speed at all. A long languid kiss that tells the earth: “Earth, you are beautiful. I am grateful.” As pilgrims, on any given day, some of us soar, some of us creep, most are somewhere in between. I think we are, for the most part, kissing the ground, grateful. And speaking of being grateful, can I share here the “word of the day” from for April 16?

Happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us happy. –Brother David Steindl-Rast

Beyond “lessons”

Let me see if I can wrap up Monday the 15th and get on to a bit of sharing from the 16th. A few highlights from the day:

  • I managed to find the correct bed the night of the 14th after finishing my post and heading into a pitch black room. From the snoring sounds emanating from several beds, I could probably have crept into the wrong bunk and its occupant wouldn’t have noticed…
  • Heading out of Santo Domingo: we still had a view, to our left, of those snow-capped mountains we’ve been following for days; on our right, some major foothills with mist in the valleys between them. Impressive!
  • I crossed paths with a young man from Poland who was returning from Santiago and heading back to Poland! He is only the second pilgrim I have encountered going the opposite direction. Back in the Middle Ages, of course, all pilgrims returned to their homeland by foot… were they lucky enough to have survived the pilgrimage in the first place. (If a pilgrim died on the journey, he was given an indulgence forgiving all his sins rather than just some of them.). This Polish man I met was accompanied by a dog, so I can only imagine that he has camped for this journey because the albergues do not accept dogs. (Later I learned that he did not set out from Poland with a dog, but had occasion to save the dog’s life along the way and then did not feel he could simply abandon him.)
  • We began our day with breakfast foods we had picked up at the grocery the day before. Really nice not to have to load up our packs, set out, then stop again very shortly to pick up something to eat.
  • Our first stop of the day was in the village of Grañón, and what a delight to head up into the village and hear some very calming, relaxing music to greet us, compliments of the owner of the food truck. The buzz was all about the music, so familiar, yet no one in my range was able to place it. I said: “Pachelbel’s Canon,” but I was told “No.” Ginny suggested “Fleuer de Lise” (please don’t judge me here for spelling or for lack of musicality), but the same woman shook her head. A survey of surrounding tables only proved that we are better at hiking than at playing “Name that Tune,” but whatever, it was soothing and beautiful, as were the selections that followed during our rest. I had my pilgrim’s passport stamped by the proprietor of the little bar. “Es el major del Camino” (“it’s the best of the Camino”), or “at least,” he continued, “my abuela” thinks so because it’s an image of me.” I looked up at him and then at the stamp. Indeed!
  • Our second meal of the day was a sweet picnic at an actual picnic table in front of the XIth-century church in a town whose name escapes me at the moment [it was Viloria de Rioja]. The town is famous for being the actual birthplace of Santo Domingo de la Calzada and the church boasts of still having the font in which Santo Domingo was baptized in the year 1019. Notice: they are celebrating the milenario of his birth. Just across from the church are the ruins of the house in which he was born. It collapsed in the ’80s and a sign in front of it begged for funds to restore it in honor of the saint. Picnic: Ginny and I had some cheese from the groceries purchased the day before. We planned to buy bread from a bakery in one of the small towns through which we passed in the morning. Oops! These town were really small. No bakeries, no stores, very few people! When we arrived at the church we realized that in a few more steps we would be out of town, not having found anything to supplement our cheese. I walked back to the entrance to town, picked up a morcilla bocadillo and a couple of oranges, returned to the picnic tables, and our sweet lunch in the sun was perfect!
  • Just for the record, I want to clarify: on Palm Sunday (the day before the one I am now describing) neither Ginny nor I had even a droplet of wine. By choice. Resting on the Lord’s Day. We bought some mango Kefir at the grocery and enjoyed it.

It does seem to be all about the eating, doesn’t it? It’s just that there are only so many ways of describing the process of putting one foot in front of the other, which is how we spent the bulk of our days. You can probably identify more readily with the way we put one fork or spoonful in our mouths, one after another. We ate dinner last night in the albergue. With thunderstorms expected in the evening, staying put seemed the wisest choice. We made a dash to a farmacia, a droguería, and a small grocery store between storms and then, chilled to the bone, returned to the albergue for a delicious dinner. I sat with a young couple from Australia. They left home on New Year’s Eve and spent the intervening months in Asia before taking on the Camino. Next they’ll head to England and see what kind of jobs they can come up with for about a year. Very interesting conversation. The usual meat and potatoes for the second course, but first course was a fabulous bean and sausage soup; just what this pilgrim needed to warm up a bit. (Prior to dinner, I heated water and had a package of instant chicken soup; anything to warm up. Missing central heating! Or control over thermostats….)

After the two-hour dinner with the Aussies, a Benadryl and bed were just what this pilgrim needed. Was it the Benadryl that made me immune to the snoring or is it possible that we were lucky last night with our 14 or so roommates? Either way, I am happy to report an excellent sleep.

And so ends my report of Monday, April 15. It is being released to the world, if internet cooperates, at 10:55pm Spanish time on the 16th. As always, no proofing. Sorry about that.