Tuesday, August 13th
Walking past hundreds and hundreds of piles of stones. Prayer stones. It's magic.
Calling in at the church. Seeing the storks in their huge nests, walking past the refugio there, which apparently has the reputation of being the worst on the Camino.
From Najero, walking on the Angel Road, in the company of Hartmutt, the priest. I'm telling him stuff he didn't know, like the place where Roland killed the giant, how it came to be that this particular stretch of road was made by angels. After Santo Domingo himself realised that it wasn't humanly possible to fell the trees necessary to make this road, so while he prayed, the angels took his sickle and cut them for him. Felt the angelic presence at first myself, but somehow the overlaid bitumen didn't add to the angelic aura at all.
Translating the Castilian poem on the factory wall near Alto de San Antón, it was easy. It's in the Raju book:
Dust,mud, sun and rain
|Pilgrim, who calls you ?
What hidden force draws you ?
Neither the people along the way
nor country customs.
|I see it all as I pass along
and it is a joy to see,
but the voice that calls me
I fell more deeply still
|Pilgrim, who calls you ?
What hidden force draws you ?
Neither the Field of Stars
nor the great cathedrals.
|It's not history and culture
nor the cockerel in Santo Domingo de la Calzada
nor Gaudi's palace
nor the castle in Ponferrada
|The force that drives me
The force that draws me
I am unable to explain
Only He above knows !
|It's not sturdy Navarre
nor wine from La Rioja
nor Galician seafood
nor the fields of Castille.
Other stories. Hartmutt's been trying to resolve the question of what makes a spiritual pilgrimage for an Australian. To me, the answer was easy. Gallipoli.
Stories about my third night in France, then meeting Ana; about being depressed in Saint Jean Pied de Port, then meeting Philippe; about being angry in Logrono, then meeting Martin; about meeting Clementine.
Walking through huge landscapes, wheatfields and vinyards, the distant mountains clear. Through some fairly ugly areas, mainly the outskirts of Najero, then it's utterly charming centre ville with it's magnificent buildings, but then passing though, and out, again.
|I'm staying here, and already have a bed at the refugio. Arrived a little early, waiting outside, but a small Spanish lady saw me waiting, opened the door, led me in, showed me the room, then the washing area, then having the credential stamped, paying the 3 euros. And I can cook here.|
Azofra is much smaller, two bars (I'm in one at the moment), one shop, the church, houses. The town square has scaffolding, being erected for something, not quite sure what, the town is all kind of delightfully ramshackle. I don't know if 'comestibles' means 'shop'. I guess I'll find out in a few minutes. And there's a fountain by the Town Square. Four taps continually running. I think it's maybe flooding the street.
More pilgrims are arriving, I don't know how they're finding room for them all. Still, I'm in the 'Restaurante Camino de Santiago - Bar Sevilla', and was just invited to join three other pilgrims, I don't know why, as between them only one had a few words of English. The usual questions, but it made no sense, they were either coming from or going to Santa Domingo. It seemed like they were walking the Camino backwards. Whatever, it was a fairly tortured conversation. l still don't know what the 'comestibles' shop was, as the supermercado made itself obvious when I walked out of the . Bought a chocolate bar called 'Surreal'. Couldn't resist it, I mean, I once wrote a thesis on Salvador Dali.
And Martin's just arrived, and his feet are hurting. Must be the walking in sandals thing. Somehow I don't think that's wise. He has walking shoes, but apparently they hurt even more.
I'm finding that the Spanish idea of Siesta is something natural. Just lie down in the middle of the day and just sleep for an hour. Old Spanish guys, I mean really old Spanish guys, like the one standing next to me, consider it appropriate to talk loudly to any pilgrim within earshot. The small group of pilgrims flaked under the tree are trying to totally ignore him. he continues talking at them anyway, but, to me, it all sounds like "Where-o where-o hoy", over and over. Uh-oh, another pilgrim has decided to respond to where-o where-o hoy. They're done for.
Back in the Town Square, the Plaza España, and the scaffolding has become a stage.
This is the other bar in town, for the traditional daily beer. San Miguel. There's a couple of girls playing a computer game, which sounds like Super Mario Bros; and there's the barman, the one who gave me the choice of either the huge glass or the just rather large - chose the just rather large. There's a cigar smoking man who's playing dominoes with a legless man in a wheelchair, while over by the door, it looks like a trio of grandfather, father, and son. Grandfather has a voice like Marlon Brando in 'The Godfather'.
Had a brief chat with a German girl at the refugio, we've both met The Priest, as she knew of me. later, she was joined by her friend, the one with rasta hair, and piercings above her top lip, and I think she may also have had a pierced tooth somehow. At least it looked like a pierced tooth. Usual pilgrim chat, "where did you start?" and "how are the feet?". She said her feet were really hurting after 10kms each day, and the blisters were like "walking on fire". Apparently, other pilgrims have described the section coming up, the Mesata, as like Kenya without the zebras. Hot, no shade, and long. They were thinking of taking the bus. Not me, I'm walkin' it.
Next door to the refugio is the church, and the undercover part of it at the front is wall-to-wall mattresses. I'm not sure is this is set up for the pilgrims who arrived after all the beds in the refugio were claimed, or for the Spanish pilgrims who are conditioned to the midday siesta. There seemed to be a lot of flaked pilgrims.
I'm hoping that the "Where-o where-o hoy" man has disappeared, and that it's safe to return to the refugio. It seemed that after all the flaked pilgrims, the sleeping, the unconscious, and those just pretending to sleep, had all utterly lost interest in the merits of where-o where-o hoy, he then went inside the refugio, in search of more victims. I'm wondering what he was actually saying. Maybe he was a personal friend of Saint Jacques himself, or maybe he's recounting his own pilgrimage of 1937, you know, when things were really tough, and like how all us modern-type pilgrims have it easy with hot showers every day and a bed, and a nearby supermercado. Not only that, but in the pilgrimage of '37, he had to sleep in shite, and only had raw dog to eat, and meanwhile dodging the bullets of the Spanish Civil War. Where-o where-o hoy.
Still in the bar, but everybody else has left. Maybe they know something that I don't. Wouldn't be hard, not here, anyway. I do have to remember that the day after tomorrow is a public holiday. A Saint's Day, but I'm not sure which one, there's so many. Maybe it's for St Ampoule, the patron saint of blistered feet. No, in fact it's the Asuncion de Mary. It's marked in red on the calendar on the wall.
Had tea, the noodle and tuna extravaganza.
I know that there;s a specifically German word for taking pleasure in the misfortune of others, nut I forget what it is. Yet, saw it in action, when the wine bottle that Martin was attempting to uncork just exploded, spilling the entirety of it's contents on the floor. Then the chorus of female German laughter. Bejaysus, he's cut his feet on the glass shards, there's blood, but their laughter just goes up a level. It's apparently hysterically funny. I'm yet to understand this. But I'd like to know why every German conversation sounds like:
"Und Donner und Blitzen schlagen ?"
"Lichen fuhrer overwurst !"
Chuckle, chuckle, her, her, her.
|Bejaysus, look at what just walked in. It's Where-o where-o hoy man himself. Apparently he's the other half of the hospitalero team. He's stamping credentials, and taking the money, which for some reason, seems to be going into his shirt pocket rather than the money box.|
a little later
The bells of the Azofra church are ringing. A deep one donging, then two, higher notes dinging.
An ice-cream from the supermercado. The Plaza España must be the meeting place for all the mothers with very young children, there's loads of 'em. Some pushing prams, there's a kid on a toy 'SuperTrac' plastic tractor, and there's another sitting on a skateboard who has his mother going frantic as the Plaza slopes down towards the road, not that there's much traffic, there's another kid on a small bike with training wheels, and another with a toy dolly and pram.
Front of the refugio.
Wuthering Heights continues. Heathcliff has just put Ellen into a compromising position; she has to deceive her master, and wait 'til he's out, so Heathcliff can visit the ailing Catherine.
Martin appears. I think he's kind of depressed. Maybe the laughter of the girls got to him, but he's vaguely disappointed that the enlightenment he expected from walking the Camino hasn't really occurred yet. He's not had any great revelations, yet. But then, neither have I. Maybe we both expect instant enlightenment, just add water. It's a pity that the Path of Enlightenment, for Martin, is paved with blisters. For me, the only vague revelation is that I'm enjoying this.