Participate in a village festival in provincial Spain: Check
Get drenched by rampaging youth at said festival:: Check
Dance with a complete stranger at this same festival: Check, Check, Check!
These last few days have been fabulous, interesting….surprising.
A few days ago, the tribe split. We had spent a fabulous day in Los Arcos together the day before and the forecast had predicted three very hot days. In fact the thermometer in town the next day read 40 degrees C. So we set off early together before dawn with a view to hitting our destination before the day’s heat set in. With my perspirational giftedness I decided to push on a bit faster and I hit our destination town around 1030hrs. The refugio didn’t open for another 2 hours, so I thought this a good opportunity to press on, I rang the tribe and let them know and as a consequence I’ve been a further 10Km up the road and walking mostly alone the last few days.
That day’s walk, into Lagrono turned out to be pretty tough, and the hostel I went to first was full. In the end I went to another hostel that was supposed to be great, but ended up offering my worst sleep yet. The next day I headed out at 0530 and made it to Ventosa before lunch. This included time for a nap under some grape vines for an hour or so. It was beautiful walking through the dawn, and as the sun was rising I was walking around a lake. Very special.
You’ll see a photo of a bunch of rocks all piled on top of one another. These piles are all along the Camino, often at the top of big climbs. The tradition is to pick a rock that represents a particular sin that you wish to deal with and to carry that with you to the top of the hill or until you are ready to let it go and then to place it on top of these piles. It’s really quite beautiful imagery and I have certainly added to a few of these plinths.
The hostel at Ventosa is fabulous, and if you ever do the Camino I would recommend it. Friendly people, a small village, they ask you not to rise before 0600, and they do this so that they can wake you with beautiful music. So to paint the picture, I rolled over at 0610 to hear Gregorian chants drifting up through the stairwell. It was a mystical and glorious way to start the day. I waited at the café in the village, which is on the Camino route until the others walked in from the previous village, we had breakfast together and then headed off. I was only starting so I set a pace I liked and again found myself with the strength and energy to press onto the next village, and this is where the opening paragraph comes in.
The village is Azofra, and as I was walking in there was music and fireworks and people dancing in costume, you’ll see it in the photos. I of course assumed that this celebration was because I was entering the village, but it turned out I was wrong. It was their yearly thanksgiving festival, where the people get together and thank God in celebration for the harvest and the good things given to the village. It is a beautiful thing, and of course much in line with my recent reflections. It is a day and night of celebrations, indeed the party didn’t end until 0330 and even then there were some hangers on.
So as I have walked in, a statue of Mary and Jesus is being walked through the village behind traditional dancers, the village priests walk along behind this and the townsfolk take it in turns carrying the statue. After I had checked into my digs I went back out and shared a few beers in a street bar with some German pilgrims who have taken me into their tribe. As we are sitting there, the bar owner comes out and starts to usher us indoors with much concern. When we asked why we were told that one of the traditions is for the youth to come down the street with buckets and bottles and water pistols and to drench anyone they can get. Everyone heads indoors and locks the doors so these rascals can’t get in. I thought my clothes need a wash, it’s hot, this is fun and so I elected to stand my ground, alone outside, with all the other pilgrims and sensible folk watching from behind locked doors inside. You can imagine what happened, and I did get a fabulous drenching. I’m told by the Germans that there are a some good photos coming.
In the evening a band played and the village came together to dance. Luckily every third or so dance was a conga, so this gave me an easy, unthreatening entry. These people really know how to dance, which was fortunate because the lessons I took a hundred years ago took some time to find their way to my feet and when they did, they did so without much flare or confidence. My partners were very gracious and indeed I was lucky enough to have a pretty full dance card all night. I half suspected that I would wake up the next morning married and chained to a plow. It was one of my favourite nights ever! It has allowed me to check off some essentials from my life list. All that’s left is to eat a bag of M&M’s underwater and have a baby with an Eskimo, and I’m done.
I’m in Santo Domingo de la Calzada now, and as I write this the rest of the tribe are working their way here so I hope we shall be reunited tonight, even if only for a day or so. It is only 500Km to Santiago from here which is my first destination before I head on to the ends of the Earth.
I’ve had some more great reflections on the way, but I’m probably already boring you with my prattling. On the subject of which, for every photo that gets posted there are a hundred still to be shown. So as a heads up I should warn you to come up with an excuse as to why you can’t attend my slide night when next I see you.
My thoughts and love to you as always while I’m walking.