Monday, September 14, 2015

Meeting new friends from Santa Domingo to Belorado, Villafranca to Atapuerca on the way to Santiago de Compostella, 2015, Log #5

By day five of the Camino, everyone was tired but enjoying the romp through history.  We woke up in Santa Domingo and made our way out for an early bite. 

Over breakfast, we laugh at the images of the crazy people running with the stampede of bulls through Pamploma.  This is the top story of the story. The bulls seem to be trying to get out of there, with the bystandards running for dear life.  Most find their way to either side before the bulls make their way out round the bend.  Some can’t get away and get trampled.  News reports show their limp bodies being carried away.  I love the Spanish news.  If it was in the US, someone would have sued the city.  But here, everyone in their white shirts and red bandannas, just shrugs as they report on the yearly carnage.

We’ll walk some 22.9 k that day, making our way to Belorado.  Signs of a changing world are everywhere.   There is no water under the 1000 year old Puenta Santa Domingo bridge.  Its the hottest summer on record.  And we see the signs of the heat on the road.  There is a lot to learn from this destination.  

All along the way, everyone is discussing the Greece bailout, structural adjustment plan.
“The German debt was bailed out in 1953,” noted a Brit we walked with. He was raising money for a charity for Tibet. ‘Ireland rejected their bailout plan.” 

The austerity plans seem unwelcome everywhere.

Number two and I walk some 10 k with the Brits before 9:30, finally stopping to rest and wait for Caroline and number one (our twelve year old).

We meet outside an ancient church in a village, grabbing a coffee and looking at trinkets.  A group of students walk together, college kids from Norway.  They planned the hike on a whim.  Everyone looks in high spirits.  A cat greets us.  Several of us say hello.  This is one of those magic moments on the road where everything is right.  The feel of the day, the light, the people, the beauty of the countryside and the villages, the people along the way, everything.

The afternoon hike to Belorado is long and hot, a final 6 K, one of many long afternoon hikes.
Finally, we see the signs for A Santiago, a municipal albergue located just outside the town of Belorado.  Clean and hotel like, it even has an outside pool.  Walking the Camino, cold water is perhaps the most coveted reward we can get.  Foot baths can be found all throughout the path.  But an actual pool where we can swim after hiking all day - what a reward after our 24 k walk.  That was our limit, or so we think.  So we all cavort there, strangers playing banjo, hanging out, Italians flirting, college kids sharing rooms, parents chatting, a few Brazilian travelers play guitar, and our German friends stop by.  Number two becomes fast friends with the young Brazilians travelling with Parisians after their junior year in college, inserting herself in their conversation, impressing them with her knowledge of trash culture, movies, and life.  Everyone in their bathing suits, she holds court at the pool. 

“Can I borrow that for a second,” one of the Brazilians notes nodding to my banjo. “Your daughter is so cool.  She knows so much.”  He starts to pull together a jam, his fingers forming chords on the new instrument.

“Do you play banjo?” I ask.
“No, just the guitar.”
But he starts to play, whipping up a tune out of guitar chords filling the night.  They stay with me through my sleep.

Day Six
We sleep well, no bedbugs, enjoying a healthy breakfast of Caroline's beloved boccadillos, between news reports about the running of the bulls, waking the next morning early to go explore the town, one of our first in the Castilla y Leon region of Spain.

At Bar El Costano, number one explains, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.”  She’s been quiet and walking peacefully, finding humor in countless moments of the every day.   Everyone from the night before, the Parisians, Brazilian, and Norwegians converge for a moment for an orange juice, fruit and a chat, sitting around the funky old coffee shop. Some wondering in and our of the church.

Number two greeting her friends from the night before and parting ways.
back on the road for an afternoon of walking. 

Enjoying a fanta after walking for hours. 

Off to Hotel San Anton Abad Hospital 4, Villafranca Montes de Orca.  The day feels lighter.  Butterflies flutter, flying along, accompanying us as we wander, encountering the magic of the countryside and the fatigue, with towns that feel like the shier village of Middle Earth. The wonders of the walk continue and continue.  Between inclines, birds seem to greet us, along with lots of flowers, friends in their own civilization in the forest.  A breeze blows.  The present feels like a present, full of wonders.  Birds chip in the distance, as if talking with the faeries contemplating what fools these mortals be in Mid Summer’s Night Dream.

Foucault suggests our challenge in modern living is to create new models of ethics.  On the trail, we see examples of this, the sharing and stories, as well as the reminders of the bloody past here.
The trees remind me of battles past that have taken place here, the bloody battles that have torn at the continent.  God knows what they have seen, what the world has shown them.
We make our way Villafranca Montes de Oca, only a 12 k walk out of town.  There we stay at a quirky hotel/ albergue at San Anton Abad, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  We sit outside for hours chatting with our German friends after dinner.  She tells us about her former husband, who used to play music for her.  She sighs and wonders if she walked out too fast.  The question is where we forgive the limitations of our partners as we walk? 

“Please don’t remind me of my failures, I’m well aware of them,” I lament, quoting Nico, as I sing to the girls.

 The elder lady who runs the hotel, her husband created the space as a gift to the Camino, but she seems unfriendly, scolding us for walking through the hotel.  The lesson of welcoming from the Camino eludes many, including some of those businesses benefiting from the path.  Its best to laugh at the grouches along the road and keep on walking. 

Day 7
The walk out to Atapapuerca begins up hill.  The German son is waiting for a car out of town.  It’s the last time we’ll see them. He’s sitting, and we start walking up.  Trees line the path up.

We pass Iglasia d Santa Maria, a 13th century church in the middle of town and get our credentials stamped by an elder woman.  She smiles and greets us. She is reserved and kind, wearing a dress from another time.  So many of these elders have a similar look. Walking with cows or stamping passports, they seem outside of this moment.  We wonder what they saw in the years of Franco here.  It seems the ghosts of Spain are everywhere. Later in the morning we cross a monument to the Civil War dead here, found right here, decades after their deaths.  

The Monumento de los Caidos, ‘monument to the fallen” is 15 k into our walk.  It memorializes Franco supporters disappeared and dumped into the valley below.

Everyone is battling something to get through this.  People are fighting all sorts of things.  The German woman without hair hiking with her husband, cancer eating at her, our girls walking together.  Everyone has some challenge. 

We'd hike another 12 k   to San Juan de Ortega and Ages.  

That afternoon, we stayed in Atapuerca, a town famous for its prehistoric humanoid artifacts, including a prehuman species, the homo antecessors, cannibals. 

The inn we find stands on a field, just outside a small medieval village.  Everyone hangs their laundry on laundry lines and drinks beer in the garden on our arrival. Its picturesque and peaceful.  We have a room to ourselves in a little cottage with a common room.  The space is ideal.

Yet, instead of just staying and enjoying the scene, somehow I feel compelled to go see the architectural site at Atapuerca, without knowing that most of the findings are in Burgos and Madrid.   The girls remain behind while I take part in the three hour tour in the burning sun. We would not get back till 7:30 PM.

I could not have been happier to see Caroline on my return, thirsty and hungry, one too many hikes and trips for a day.

A group of Canadians accompany me on the excursion. In their 70’s are full of energy.  One of the group walked the complete Camino two years prior.  

This year they are only walking a stretch.  Two from Sweden, others from Canada and the US, the four of them have been travelling together for years.  This is their final night.  So they linger at dinner long after we depart to walk outside looking at the sun on the countryside.

A peaceful night in the Spanish sun after a long day on the road. 

We leave the window open again and a mosquito joins us in the night.  By the time we arrive in Burgos the next day, hives have broken out all over my body, some from the bedbugs over the previous nights, others ostensibly from this late night culprit.   

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