The town where I stopped today has a population of 50, if that. My plan was to walk 30 km to a hostel run by Italians that’s supposed to be very warm and friendly, but the relentless rain changed my plans.
It turns out that my waterproof jacket is not at all waterproof, and I got soaked to the skin. Also, my boots are not waterproof, and my feet were sopping wet.
There was no place to stop along the way for coffee or warmth, so I kept slogging my way through. I’ve never walked ten miles so fast under such dismal conditions–cold rain, wind, thunder, lightning.
All I could see were wheat fields and grey sky, with an occasional swallow or sparrow darting across the wheat.
A pocketful of hard candy got me through the morning. I gave one to an Englishman who was passing me, and he said, “Yesterday my feet hurt and that’s all I could think about. Today, I’m not worrying about my feet. It’s easy to walk when the sun is shining. Now we have to dig deep.”
At one point a sign in yellow letters painted on a bridge said, “Store, 6 KM.” When I saw a tower in the distance, shadowy in the rain, I thought,”Yes I can make it there and dry off a bit.”
My Dutch friend Andre said, “It was the Tower of Hope.”
But the tower turned out to be another kilometer off the path, and it did not belong to a town.
Another kilometer further and a hostel appeared at the edge of what looked like a ghost town–no people in sight except pilgrims in rain ponchos with backpacks like humps growing out of their backs.
Once inside the hostel, my hands were so numb that a young Australian girl had to unbuckle my pack for me to get it off. After I took off my wet boots and socks, I sat down to a huge plate of paella, and even though it was only 11:30 in the morning, I had a glass of red wine with it.
At home I would never drink wine or eat paella so early in the day, but after that walk, I didn’t care. It was good.
So good, I decided to stay at this hostel for tonight. My clothes and sleeping bag are drying, and I’ll rest up for tomorrow. It’s supposed to rain again tomorrow, but I’ll take it as it comes.
Tonight I had dinner with a huge group of pilgrims that I’ve met along the way: a German couple and many French people. One woman, Jacky, speaks no English, so she chatters away with me in French. I understand one or two words here and there, but mostly I just nod and smile.
After all the walking we did in the rain, we were still fortunate enough to be in a warm hostel with good food and friendly people. I wonder what it was like for medieval pilgrims. Hopefully they at least had some bread and wine at the end of the day.
A Spanish man told me this saying: “Con pan y vino se hace el camino.”
“With bread and wine the Camino is made.”