October 17, ~32km
What a rich and interesting Camino it is! It never ever ever ceases to amaze me how ‘everything’ can change just around the next corner. The weather or the landscape or a word, a look, a smile, a reminder, and the whole mood changes…. or an arrival, an encounter, a meeting. Whatever it might be. And todo cambia.
We walked out of Extremadura and into Castilla y León the morning so we’re on the look out for castles and lions. The early Camino took us up a steep section of intact Calzada Romana – the road built over 2000 years ago. It was big flat flagstones, lovely to walk on, and a great big hill, just the thing to get us warm and in the chilly dark. Then we walked over a little mountain pass and down into a magical valley where we were suddenly enfolded in an Autumnal forest of golds and browns and bright spiky chestnut cases, carpets of leaves, and all trembling and warm in the morning sun. It felt like we’d stepped into a new province and a new world, a completely different Spain. My heart sighed and marveled and said I feel at home in this forest.
After crossing the river snaking along the floor of the valley, a proper river with clear rushing streams of water and pebbles and a wet clean cold in the nose smell, we were in an in-between landscape with the new forest on the eastern side of the path and our familiar dusty green oaks and broom, granite and faded grass on the west.
The albergue tonight is in Fuenterroble, one of the famous stops along the Vía de la Plata for the warm heart(h) and outstanding hospitality of Padre Blás who runs it with a revolving team of hospitaleros. We arrived red-cheeked for the wind and sore footed for the 30+km and were ushered into a room already brimming with pilgrims where a fire crackled in the chimney and hot coffee was being brought in from the kitchen. The living room – what else could you call it? – was one of those places that is worn and warm from a constant stream of guests, packed with books and memorabilia, pilgrim stuff, a mural on one wall, and calligraphy above the door. I cannot say just how it lifts the heart to arrive in such a place, but I’m sure you know, because you will also have experienced it at some time. There’s a kind of simplicity about these welcoming hearths. There has to be, because everyone is welcome just as they are. There are no airs, but many graces. You may get a chipped mug and you wouldn’t want to eat off the floor, but the coffee is hot, the welcome real and the company always outstanding because egos and agendas tend to get stuck in the door and therefore stay outside.
We are fourteen pilgrims and four hospitaleros here around the dinner table. Everyone eats together, whatever Paco has made, pilgrims bring the wine, there’s never any shortage of that, and everything else takes care of itself. We are from Switzerland, Belgium, France, Italy, Holland, Poland, England and Australia. Conversations take place in many languages and lots of them have more goodwill transmitted than comprehension, but over a glass of La Rioja that’s part of the fun.
A warm hearth to you, wherever you walk in out of the cold.
Love, and ‘salud!’