October 6, ~27km
I’m crouching outside the hospitalero’s door to get some WiFi as I write this, on a Saturday night here in Zafra, the first city we’ve been in since leaving Sevilla almost a week ago. Zafra was founded by the Muslim population of Spain sometime in I dunno, the 14th century? All around these parts are monuments, churches, monasteries and fortresses connected to or celebrating the Reconquista, when the Christians beat the Muslims back, basically. I wonder how things could have been different with the kind of peaceful cohabitation that has been beautifully managed in other times and places.
Letitia and I found a church open this evening and sat in on a Mass. Afterwards we had a little explore and my favourite part was the sepulchres as flagstones in the marble floor, with inscriptions as far back as 1695, and many baring intricate family crests and skulls and cross bones. Pirating families, perhaps? No, goose. This the wonderful Gothic reminder that ‘as I am so shall you be.’ I’ve always enjoyed the morbid imagery of that time… you’d better not invest too much energy on things that will fade and rust and rot, because guess what. You’re going to too! Well, something of what you think is ‘you.’
Anyway, back to cheerier subjects… here are some findings from this afternoon…
Today’s walk was fine… nothing outstanding about it except some lovely vineyards with the first Autumnal blush upon them. It was a long straight dusty road through mostly bare fields, and happily I was upon it in the earlier rather than the later hours because it’s been pretty warm. The awesome thing that happened today was catching up with two guys who have joined the long march: Vito and Manolo from Sevilla, and we walked together on and off for the 20 odd kms left. After mostly solitary walking it was really enjoyable to have a juicy conversation about everything from ‘la crisis’ here in Spain to Crocodile Dundee (it’s actually scary how often this is brought up when people hear where I’m from) to Bull fighting to the Spanish Civil War, to Erol Flynn. Yup. Vito happens to think he was a pretty great guy and he also fitted into the category of cool Australian connection.
When we got to this albergue there was a bit of frowny frowny going on from me because the hospitalero had given away some of the (few) pilgrim beds to tourists in town for the local festival this weekend, and also allowed our Spanish companions traveling in their group to ‘reserve’ beds by putting their backpacks in a taxi while they walked behind. It mattered because there weren’t enough beds for my friends following and the next refugio was fortunately 4 and not 24km away, but still an hour’s walk. I got a bit mother goosey and wrote my own note to put on the door under his ‘COMPLETO / FULL’ sign saying where the next albergue was and how to get onto the path there.
The other kerfuffle happened this evening when the hospitalero had his ‘back in 20 minutes’ sign on the door and had already been gone an hour while a bunch of pilgrims couldn’t get inside. Also three cycling pilgrims had shown up and wanted to ask if they could sleep on the floor. Eventually pilgrim with a key showed up and let us in, but not the cyclists – understandably. But another while later they rang the bell again. It’s dark by now, and they are saying please just let us in to wait in the entrance. What would you do? Letitia and I ended up allowing them in, and then debating whether we’d done the right thing. Finally the hospitalero, rather untrue to his title thinks I, does not allow them to stay and they are left to their own devices out there in the dark. Yeah grown men, I know, but somehow not in the pilgrim spirit. Food for thought. Hospitality. Refuge. Holding to vs bending the rules.
Well! Villafranca mañana and the to the wonderful city of Mérida on Monday where there is an Acquaduct and other Roman structures. Hooray!
Peace and refuge to you, and may there always be a bed in safety to those who seek one,