Blustering, squally, tempestuous…the wind started about 10am and never let up. It blew from the side, it blew from the front, it nearly blew me off the trail. I walked like a drunken sailor, attempting to stay upright as the gale force pummeled me.
The day started well. I woke up late, taking advantage of the first private room I have stayed in since I started the walk. It took me awhile to actually get out of bed. I didn’t leave the pension until 8:45.
When I came to a fork in the Camino, again I took the alternate route. My guidebook promised that it was more scenic than the main Camino, which is along the road.
Before the wind started, I spent some time birding in the wheat fields and small drainages that lined the road, catching a few new species (that I have yet to identify, but intend to). The trail took a small turn, and I found myself paralleling the Ucieza River. And then the wind really picked up. What was a soft breeze became a gale. I zipped up my jacket and pushed on.
Not long after, I saw a small white truck headed toward me on the dirt road. Vehicles are infrequent on these side roads, but not uncommon, so I stepped aside to let it pass. As it approached, it slowed and then stopped, and an older man got out. I started to walk around the truck wondering what he was doing. As he reached into the bed of the truck, he motioned for me to wait. Hesitantly, I stood there as he grabbed a handful of something from a plastic bucket. He held his hands out and I did the same as he placed a dozen or so fresh almonds in my hands, patted me on the shoulder, looked me straight in the eye and said “Buen Camino.”
“Gracias, muchas gracias,” I replied. I almost broke down in tears; it was such a sweet gesture, and I was feeling very fragile at that moment.
I enjoyed lunch with a new friend, Todd from Australia and a 12th century Templar church in Villarcazar de Sirga, but these experiences were unfortunately overshadowed by the constant wind, which continued to blow hard, knocking me around like a rag doll.
Given the weather, I was thankful that I had walked the extra kilometers yesterday, making today a short one. I walked into Carrion de los Condes early in the afternoon, excited to check into the Albergue Parroquia de Santa Maria, run by a community of Benedictine nuns. I had read great things about this particular place.
I was greeted with hot tea, a welcome treat on this cold day. At 5 p.m., the postulate nuns gathered in the entry room with guitars, tiples (mini guitars) and tamborines. They handed out song sheets, and we were invited to join them in song. After a few Spanish tunes, they handed instruments over to the peregrinos for renditions of Country Roads, Ring of Fire, Amazing Grace and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
At the end, the nuns gave each of us a paper estrella (star) that they had decorated and cut out. They offered these with the intention that we would find light on this journey, and each of us with our stars would, as a community, form a compostela (constellation) on The Way.
As the nuns sang one final song, one nun came to each of us in turn. As she took my head in her hands, it felt as if she was looking into my soul. Tears streamed down my face as I looked into her kind eyes.
It is impossible to adequately describe this experience. Although I am not a religious person and do not believe in a Christian God, I cannot deny the presence that I felt in that room; I was overtaken by the power of commonality, of community, of tenderness for people that I don’t even know who are also undertaking this journey. We shared something very special in this little albergue, something we will carry forward on The Way, something I doubt any of us will ever forget.
Today I walked 13 miles.