Day 31, about 36km
Had an excellent sleep in the ‘provisional’ but wonderful albergue and started the day in O Peregriño with cafe con leche and my standard breakfast which is soaked sunflower and chia seeds, wheat germ and a couple of dried figs, with a yoghurt and piece of fruit mixed in. Yum! Apart from my hearty healthy breakfast I’m on a true Camino diet which includes jamon ibérico sometimes, and local cheeses whenever we can find them, lots of coffee and red wine and bocadillos (baguettes) with tortilla and tomato and dark chocolate and ‘flan’ which is a sort of Spanish crème caramel and nearly always a dessert option as part of one’s Menú del día. And apples, figs, chestnuts, walnuts and blackberries and grapes found along the way. Letizia and I self-cater when we can which is dependent on whether an albergue has a kitchen and whether there is a shop, and a shop open, to buy supplies. We do pretty well! It’s still possible to eat out. Cheaply in Spain. Good coffee is about 1€ and tapas are often thrown in for free, a glass of wine can be about 1.50€ and a three course menú with wine and bread, between 8 and 10€. Yes, we do pretty well.
The first 20km today were up high, high in rippling mists and through empty stretches dense with heather and gorse and broom, watching valleys come and go on either side, each with their little pueblo nestled in the folded hills. It felt like we were on the roof of the world as the clouds enfolded us, rained around and on us, and passed, leaving jewel-like colours and full hearts. Once Michael pointed out two deer way down in a valley, nothing visible but their white tails bobbing up and down. He is ahead, setting the pace, with his red pheasant rain poncho and always cutting a dashing figure against the mist. We pass through four mostly abandoned villages: mucky central street, stone buildings in ruins with only a few standing and maintained. Barking dogs, vegetable gardens with cabbages and leeks, and cats crouched in doorways are pretty much the only sign of current occupation. It’s lonely and beautiful and wild up here.
Then at midday we’re at our just-past-halfway point, in Campobecerros, in the cosiest, sweetest little bar for lunch. Granny is sitting in an armchair by the stove reading the paper. Above her is an enormous deer head mounted on the wall and two budgies trilling in a tiny cage. Bottles, memorabilia, Camino bits and pieces, photos and trophies are all stacked behind the bar. The remake of the Karate Kid, the Jackie Chan one, is playing on the TV. A friendly Mr and Mrs provide coffee, ice for my leg, outstanding bocadillos, wine for Michael and Renato and then, to top it off, a homemade dessert of coffee creamy slice of deliciousness served with a thick wedge of Mrs’ quince paste. It is impossible to put into words but the simplicity of the hospitality here in these little places, the feeling of being invited to a warm hearth, the few words exchanged about the weather or the Camino, are such a delight. I leave feeling so warm, revived, full in the heart and just a bit more human.
In the afternoon we descended through a pine forest, down through the deciduous woods and to a lush valley where we will spend the night in Laza. It’s a new albergue all glass and slate with an excellent kitchen and all clean and modern. Is it strange, though, that these albergue’s all seem to be missing some of the intangible qualities? Clean and functional they are, but less welcoming and warm of heart. And disposable sheets? I’m sorry, but WTF? My favourite albergues and my criterion for judging a goodie, is whether it makes us more a community of pilgrims, whether we leave more generous and hospitable ourselves. This is the quality I’m looking for.
May your home be graced with the quality without a name,