25 August, 2014 - Astorga, 10:00am
I definitely overdid it yesterday. I was walking way too fast in order to keep up with my Czech friend who I met in Mazarife on Saturday night. I also should have stopped at the town before Astorga. I even passed an albergue right on the road but I thought, "No, its only another 3 miles, I can do this."
It's pretty amazing how much the body can handle when you push your limits. It was a very long, very hot day yesterday and I did end up getting a couple of blisters on both of my heels. So I am going to spend today resting here in Astorga so I can be a bit more refreshed for tomorrow. Even though it was so difficult yesterday, there were some pretty amazing things along the Way as well.
I left at around 7:40am which was much later than I wanted to leave so I made sure to keep up my pace in the morning knowing that I had about 20 miles to walk. Although I couldn't help but stop a few times to take pictures of the sun rising over the farmland outside of Mazarife. It was glorious to stop and look around every so often and see the countryside bathed in the golden light of the rising sun...
It was also kind of crazy walking along in the morning on my own. I'm always hypersensitive when walking by myself so I starting psyching myself out when I saw this man on the isolated road ahead of me pull his car over. I looked to see if there were any other pilgrims ahead or behind me. There were two a ways ahead but I was pretty sure if I screamed they would hear me. Then I started thinking in how many languages I could say Help! I know, this is pretty morbid thinking, but being a woman in this world can be hard work sometimes.
I was especially glad of my mental recon work when I saw the man reach into the back seat of his car and pull out a shotgun. But then his dog jumped out and a more accurate picture started forming in my head. The man started walking away from the road into the corn fields. By this point, I was passing his car so I looked down the pathway he took and I saw him just before he ducked into a row of corn. As I was walking away I heard POP POP POP and a flock of ducks rose from the fields to fly away. It wasn't until later that I remembered a sign that Almu had pointed out on my first day:
She said it means private hunting land. All I could think of was that I hope that man knows not to point his gun toward the road where all the pilgrims were walking!
Anyway, along the Way to the first major town of the day, Hospital De Orbigo, my Czech friend caught up to me (he walks very fast). I call him my Czech friend because I never actually asked him his name. I found this realization quite odd. Usually, a name is the first thing you learn from someone but for most people on the Camino, you just fall into conversation with one another. Usually you ask where are you from? Where did you start the Camino? Where are you walking to today? And if you really get to know them, you ask What made you decide to walk the Camino or What do you want to get out of walking the Camino? Then, if you are walking a different pace, you say good bye and "Buen Camino". Oddly enough, asking someone's name is not an essential part of conversations along the Camino. I wonder why that is...well, whatever the reason, I want to get better at learning people's names.
A true legend of the Camino is the giving nature of those who live along the Way. But I hadn't really experienced it until yesterday. I was walking along a side street of Villares De Orbigo (just outside of Hospital De Orbigo) when a man comes out of his garage calling to me "un segundo, senorina, un segundo!" I stop and he invites me into his garage (which is wide open and I make sure not to go too far in). On the hood of his car is a pack of cookies and a bunch of papers. He offers me a cookie and asks me to write a message and sign my name and where I am from in his "guest book". After trying to make conversation (in Spanish so it wasn't going so well) he asked me if he could say goodbye the Spanish way with a kiss on each cheek. I say yes and thank you for asking. We kiss on each cheek then I go on my way. He truly seemed curious to learn about me. Such grace and love is expressed along the Camino.
Quite a bit further along yesterday, I just finished walking up a relatively steep hill in a very arid stretch of pathway with no shade. But the guidebook mentioned a "cantina" up ahead so I pushed doggedly on. It turns out this cantina was more like a large fruit stand with a covered and decorated bench for pilgrims to rest under.
It was run by a father and son and sponsored by the local diocese. It was such a welcome respite! I put my backpack down amongst the others and the man offered me a huge slice of watermelon - it was the best watermelon I had ever tasted! All of the food and drink were free for the pilgrims (there wasn't even a place for donations) and the man and his son were so gracious. The son in particular (who looked to be in his early 20s) seemed interested in talking to every one of the pilgrims. There was even a guitar there and two pilgrims - one from Italy and the other from Spain - took turns playing and singing while the rest of us ate, drank and enjoyed the much needed rest.
It's true that you don't really appreciate something until you need it. I felt like I was taking the kindness of the hospitaleros for granted because I had heard and read so much about it. But after yesterday, experiencing the kindness of those who live (not work) along the Camino, I will always take time to appreciate the kindness of others.
And this morning, as I sit on the Plaza Catedral in Astorga amongst fellow peregrinos, I feel a wave of gratitude come over me and tears come to my eyes. I am so so thankful that I can do this pilgrimage. I am trying to take any and all negative thoughts and feelings and turn them positive. I am not only learning about myself, I am trying to better myself. I only hope that I can carry these experiences with me after I finish the Camino.
Dear God, THANK YOU for allowing me to take this pilgrimage. Thank you for shining your light through the actions of my fellow humans. Please bless those who live along the Camino and continue to show support to the pilgrims. And bless my fellow pilgrims and keep them and myself safe and healthy. Amen.