November 3, 33km
This morning we did what we thought we had to do to join the monks for their dawn Eucharist – ie. Be at this door at this time. It was raining and we rang the bell and no one came so we found the door to the church and knocked. Not long later two monks come: a young and flustered one and an older and grumpy one and it turns out that their Mass was half way through when we had been banging on the door. yikes! So I’m all anxious, Letizia’s cool, and Renato is saying loudly ‘pellegrino! Misa!’ Anyway, we’re ushered in and have to walk across in front of the altar to get to a spare bench. Thankfully there are a bunch of other guests there and not just the monks. It’s a sung Mass and there are about ten monks. We’re up in the choir of the church and sitting quiet as mice, well, Renato is following the liturgy loudly in Italian, and okay, I’m trying to sing along with the plainsong, but you know, mostly quietly. Somehow we four bedraggled pilgrims are here plunged into this wonderful, old, precious monastic stream.
Afterwards grumpy monk, who turns out to be one of those with dry dry humour and warm kindness that leaks out of his gruffness, tells us that the Father Superior would like to invite us for breakfast and we are taken to a small room for just us, and a jug of hot milk, and chocolate and coffee and fruits and bread, butter and jam are brought in. Grumpy monk, who is Padre Gerardo and another, Padre Alphonso then keep popping in and out, being very friendly, asking us where we’re from, talking about the Camino and answering all our questions. It’s just simply lovely monastic hospitality and we are made to feel like honoured guests not some more bloody pilgrims who disturbed their Eucharist. When it’s time to go, they take us the special way through stone corridors with old paintings on the walls and are gracious with all our requests including, like, a photo with everyone’s camera. From our time with them you would imagine that the monks just sit around waiting for pilgrims to entertain, so spacious and generous was the spirit with which they welcomed us. I found it very very touching. I learn so much from people, especially… hmmm. Especially people who are living a strong and clear vocation of service.
After breakfast we were obliged by a prior commitment to back to last night’s bar for another cafe con leche and by the time we were ready to leave the weather had settled into a heavy soaking rain. The path lead immediately off the road and was uppy and downy through forest and between tight stone walls. It had become a river! It was kind of peaceful for me because my boots let in so much water from the holes that it’s not worth trying to keep my feet dry. It was so wonderful to have Alberto with us. He is a true pilgrim adventurer with a big warm heart and the best of the Extremeño spirit. He is always doing things like meeting someone extraordinary in a doorway and having a four hour lunches, or arriving soaked and grinning several hours after nightfall or capturing the attention of the whole room with an amazing tale or giving an impromptu history lesson about the Spanish flag. Today he is leading the way through the river path and talking on his phone and making videos and talking about the nobility of the Corrida (bull fighting).
Another long day but well punctuated with vittals and good conversations. And at last we’re in Laxe. Don’t pronounce the x like we were; in Gallego it’s like a sh or a soft j. Lashey. There you go!