Awoken by a torrential downpour and wind at about 5:15 this am, so I was dressed for the elements – waterproof pants, waterproof jacket, and poncho to cover my vest and pack when I hit the road at 8, but by then the rain had stopped. The sky behind us was black, but the sky ahead mostly clear. What surprised me most this am was how still it was. It has been very windy for days, but today not a leaf was stirring. At one point the options for the camino split, one along the highway, one along roads through small towns. I decided to check in with my guide book and it recommended a 3rd way along side a river. Guess what I did.
The sun finally put in an appearance. When it did the views were absolutely spectacular, dark and light. The wind also began again when the sun came out. It smelled fresh and earthy and herby. The path mostly on soft grass. Followed the river to another sun-highlighted hermita – Virgen del Rio. Surrounded by dramatic patterns of sun and shade and clouds. Hawks circling over head, lots of hidden birds twittering in the trees surrounding the river. Picked a couple of tiny gold apples. First fruit for days. They were sweet, crisp and delicious. (And set off surprising memories of the hostel where I lived in Kinshasa and the tiny pickled crab-apples Aunt Faye received one year instead of applesauce.)
At the hermita took the road about 1k back to the junction with the primary path at Villacazar de Sirga. Another amazing (open) church. Love the light. Just sat a while and rested.
Of course, this small town was absolutely deserted at this time of day. Everything looked closed, but in fact the bar across from the church was open, and I went in and was much surprised to see André, the vintner from Beaujolais quietly, contentedly, harmoniously taking tortilla and chocolate with a Brazilian woman named Shirley with whom she said she had been walking the last couple of days, even though they don’t share a language. Quiet, content, harmony, these are 3 words I never thought I would use when describing André! She has been discontented much of the time, and inclined to share it, a bit difficult to be around. I was so surprised I sat down with them and ordered tortilla and chocolate. The bartender was distressed because tortillas are preferred served at room temperature, and the only one available was currently being cooked. I assured him that didn’t matter, and was delighted 5 minutes later to get a hot slice fresh from the pan, delicious.
The last 6k of the day to Carrión de los Condes was an uninspired path along the road, but the continued dramatic play of sun and clouds made it exciting, and the threatening rain never actually materialized.
In spite of the carnage suggested by the name of this town, it is a beautiful place with churches from the XII c.
I am staying at the Monesterio de Santa Clara, still an active convent. St. Francis stayed here when he did his pilgrimage to Santiago. The nuns who live in the convent have a gatekeeper who handles interactions with the guests. He communicates with them via an intercom on the external wall.
I seem to be suffering a nasty cold, and I am very tired. I didn’t really feel like going out for dinner, so when I passed the small farmers market in the central square I bought 2 tomatoes, a small head of romaine, and a carrot for a salad.
Back at the monasterio I found no oil, vinegar or forks, so I went to the local supermarket and the kitchen now has all three. I also bought a small can of white asparagus. The resulting salad was much too large for one person, so I offered some to the only other person in the kitchen, a japanese man – maybe in his 50s – who was eating bread, cheese (la vache qui rit), and wine. He accepted. (and took a photo of it) and offered me all of the above plus a lemon yogurt for desert. It was a relaxed and very comfortable meal. His english comprehension is very limited, but when spoken very clear. I’ve seen him on and off since Agés, but have only exchanged one or two word sentences. Tonight I learned his name was Tsuda, and that his flight on the 1st of November is from Madrid to Tokyo. When I asked how he was liking the camino he indicated I should stay seated, disappeared, returning with a small book filled with sketches, mostly churches, one per day, all stamped with the stamp of the albergue where he stayed and most colored with water colors. Totally unexpected, totally blew me away.
If I didn’t feel so lousy, this would rate right up there with the near perfect days.
8 Oct 2009