Camino de Santiago: Day 21 (Christina)

From Villafranca to La Faba (23.1 km)

Frances, Glenn and I wake up at 6:30; we are all feeling refreshed after a good night´s sleep.  Breakfast is included in our hotel rate, and I linger over a second cup of coffee, sending off a few emails before I start me day.  Frances and Glenn head off ahead of me and I am sure I will see them again.

This is the first day that I have no piercing pain in my feet.  It´s a bloody miracle and it´s about time!  I put on my shoes and walk a few steps – no pain!  I still have three festering blisters I must tend to and others in various stages of healing.  My feet still feel very tender, but there is no searing pain today.   I am beyond joy!

This is what a happy pilgrim looks like before she starts here day!

I set out on the Camino just after 8:00 and I am full of piss and vinegar.  There is a definite hop to my step this morning and I feel euphoric in this pain free state.  I laugh when I pass a man who says to me:  You have happy, energetic walking sticks.  He has been listening to the click, click, click of my sticks coming up behind him for a while now.  And they make him smile.  He is right, I am exuding happiness and energy right into my sticks.  Not only are my feet healing, but I feel a huge weight has lifted from my heart, and I feel an inner peace I have never felt before.

Villa Franca soon disappears in the distance.

There are three possible routes from which to choose today but I only see the signs for one route and that is the one I follow.  The path follows a roadway on the right and a river on the left.  I don´t like being so close to the road, but there are very few cars and the scenery is very beautiful now that I am back in the mountains.  Such a welcome change from the flat farmlands I have been enduring these past days.  I am happy to be in the mountains although the path is following the valley floor right now, still very flat.  I know it will soon ascend up a high, steep mountain and I am looking forward to the physical challenge of it.

At 10:00, I stop for my second breakfast – freshly squeezed orange juice and a tuna empanada.  Both are delicious but quite a lot more food than I am used to eating while walking.  Afterwards I feel sluggish as I digest my food.  At noon I take another break and when I take off my socks and shoes I am dismayed to see another blister starting on the side of my foot, a brand new location.  I hope I have caught it early enough as I bandage it up expertly.  When I start walking again, the familiar pain is back, and it takes me by surprise but I try not to get discouraged.  I have walked a whole morning without pain, and for this I am grateful.

And now the steep ascent begins, just as my energy is sagging and my feet are crying out.  I decide I will stop at the next town that has an Albergue that is run by German volunteers.  It is described as an excellent albergue in a beautiful location.  That will be home for me tonight.

When I arrive, I am relieved to find there are many beds.  There is an older German woman who is very much in charge.  She only speaks German and is quite frustrated that she can´t make herself understood to me.  I select a bed and put my sleeping bag on it, the usual routine, only to have the German woman come over to me and in a very chastising voice she makes it clear that it is she who assigns the bed.  She then sees my walking sticks and is aghast that I have not put them in the holder at the door.  I indicate I will fold them and put them in my bag but she seems to think they must be put in the hallway.  I don´t care, they are going in my bag.  She is clearly not pleased with me.

Peaceful surroundings enticed me into this Albergue.
Little did I know what was in store for me. 

The first bed I picked before being ushered to a bunk at the back of the room.

She then goes on and on about something about the shower and the light.  I don´t speak German so I don´t know what she is saying.  I shrug my shoulders and she gets exasperated with me, and seems to think that if she talks long enough, somehow I will understand.  Well, I soon find out what she was saying when I turn the light off in the shower. The door was partially ajar when I did this and she was standing right there as if waiting to catch me in the act.  She yells at me, clearly upset that I have disobeyed her.  She doesn´t seem to grasp that I have no clue what she is saying.

My final transgression, at least for now, is when I go into the kitchen and turn on the kettle to make myself a cup of tea.  She comes in and asks angrily who has turned on the kettle.  Everyone in the kitchen, all Germans, point to me.  Now what have I done?  Don´t I know that she has just prepared a pot of tea for everybody?  No, I don´t and by now I´m a bit fed up with this woman and her silly rules so I show her my tea bag and indicate that I am making my own damn cup of tea.

I am watching her now as she mills around the kitchen, fretting about this and that.  She seems to be on the lookout for the next pilgrim to break one of her rules.  I can see she is not mean spirited, she is just trying to run the hostel in the best way she knows how.  She even offers me a cookie when my tea is ready, a peace offering.

She reminds me of my mother and the way I was brought up.  There were many rules in my house, and I have vivid memories of being chastised constantly. How frustrating it must have been for my mother who was just trying to run a household in the German manner, where cleanliness and orderliness reign supreme.  With seven children under foot, there was always someone getting into trouble for something.  Watching this woman now, actually made me smile as I thought fondly maybe a little sadly too of my own mother.  I think we all might have been a lot happier, my mother included, with a lot fewer rules.

This place must be highlighted in the German guidebooks because it is a mecca for the Germans who are arriving in hordes.  And these Germans are a noisy bunch so I seek a little bit of peace and quiet in the church right next door.  Imagine my surprise when I enter to hear singing coming from within.  There are two young girls in the last row of pews, singing what I think may be the Vespers, although I don´t really know what Vespers are.  I remember Chris telling me he heard nuns singing in the evening and I think this must be the same thing.  I sit in the back of the church, careful not to disturb them.  They have voices like angels, singing in perfect harmony.  I listen for a while, and then I get up and head for the only bar in town, the physical body needs to be tended too as well.

While I eat and drink, the young girls come along with another women.  The girls are American, Dawn and Deana.  The woman is German, but living in Denmark, her name is Sabina.  I am so grateful they all speak English and we all talk about the German lady in the Albergue and we have  a good laugh as we share our respective infractions, of which we have all committed a few.

Later at the albergue, Deana gives me a lesson in tatting which is a technique used to make lace.  They are surprised that I know what tatting is, but I confess I only know this because of a visit to Colonial Williamsburg many years ago where I remember seeing a woman doing it.  Since I can crochet lace, I find this technique to be very interesting.  These girls are very religious but they are not nuns.  I am quite curious about them but don´t really have a chance to talk to them today.  Maybe further down on the Camino our paths will cross again and I can ask them about their singing in the church.

I go to bed very early, while everyone has gone to the church for what I thought was mass, but was actually a pilgrim´s blessing.  I am so tired today, but I am also feeling so at peace, like a huge burden has been lifted from my heart.  And my feet are healing too…..life is good again on the Camino.

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3 Responses
  1. Angus says:

    What a difference a day makes on Camino :)

  2. Jennifer Wells says:

    Oh Christina – I have just read your stories of the Camino and I am in awe of your strength and determination and ability to work through the difficulties and find the joy and peace that you are discovering. I feel like I am with you – each painful but somehow uplifting step of the way.
    I have been missing you ever since our short time together in Tuscany and can’t wait for you to come to Australia (I hear you have some new friends in Melbourne to visit too). Tony and I keep talking about our fun together and planning what to do when you come to stay with us.
    May you keep strong and safe during your walk.
    Much love, Jenny

  3. Pauline says:

    Well well what would the Frau do after a visit from Pauline, Patrick and Thomas? Haha I’d say she’d have some conniption! I’ve done it for one German hostel, I’d gladly rise to the occasion for another (I beg no pardon for that pun)! Pxx