Today’s distance: 23.0 km
Total distance: 222.8 km.
Elevation gain: 199 metres
Weather: Blue skies; cool in AM/ warm PM
Highlight: Granon and the little brown rock
There were only seven pairs of boots on the rack when I left the albergue in Azofra this morning. Usually the zipping and unzipping of backpacks and rattling of plastic bags is what wakes us in a dormitory but, in a cubicle for two with a room mate as quiet as Annette, I slept until 6:50 AM – late for a pilgrim. Almost everyone was gone by the time I left at 7:20 AM. Then I forgot to start my All Trails app until I had walked for fifty minutes so I added three kilometres to the recorded stats.
It was a sunny, easy day for walking, starting cool and warming up through the morning. My feet still weren’t feeling great but I managed to go a pretty good distance in spite of them.
After 8.1 km I reached the suburbs of Ciruena which is described in the guidebook as “soulless, with a maze of empty apartment blocks.” That describes the town to a “T’! It is like a modern ghost town. The funny thing is, they are building more apartment blocks even though the many already constructed don’t look occupied. The only people I saw in Ciruena other than pilgrims was one person with two dogs, and a few golfers.
I stopped at a bar in Ciruena for an uninspiring breakfast of potato tortilla and cafe con leche and ran into Glen from Illinois whom I’ve seen now and again for the last two days. He told me the construction of this resort started about fifteen years ago and then the financial crisis of 2008/2009 happened. Someone must have lost a bundle of money on the project.
Glen and I talked about some of the beautiful stretches of the Camino and the red poppies that grow wild. He thinks about them whenever he experiences a storm on the Camino. Poppies with their delicate petals survive these storms no worse for the wear. Glen says to himself: “If the poppies can do it so can I!”
The 5.8 km stretch from Ciruena to Santo Domingo was stunning with more fields of yellow canola and snow-capped mountains to the south. St. Dominic dedicated his life to improving the route for pilgrims in the 11th century, building roads and bridges. His spirit is said to be alive today as the cock in the cathedral coop, one of the more unlikely exhibits at the rear of the cathedral containing a live cock and hen. When I arrived at the cathedral, bells were ringing and people were heading into the church for a special May 1st (May Day) celebration so I didn’t get to visit the church and St. Dominic’s spirit after all. Next time! So off I went to Granon, my destination.
As I approached the village I began looking for a little brown rock. I found a brown one but it was a little too large and wasn’t as smooth as I would like. Its redeeming feature was that it was warm from the sun. Why was I looking for a little brown rock, you ask?
When Tania was in Granon in 2013, a man placed a little brown rock in the palm of her hand and closed her fingers around it. He looked her in the eyes and said that if she needed help along the way to ask the rock. This gesture was meaningful and Tania treasured this rock.
It occurred to me after I found my brown rock, that even if it was the right size and perfectly smooth, it couldn’t possibly be as meaningful as Tania’s unless I received it in the same fashion Tania’s little brown rock was given to her.
I am staying here in Granon at the Iglesias S. Juan Bautista Albergue. It is in the upper floors of the annex to the Church of Saint John the Baptist. This atmospheric hostel which operates by donation (donativo) offers a communal meal which we all participated in preparing and cleaning up afterwards. This albergue is much treasured by pilgrims for the hospitality, cool interior and tranquil setting. There are 40 places on the floor (yes, the floor) in two rooms.
At dinner I enjoyed getting to know Ximena, a lovely, animated, young woman from Costa Rica. She is determined to reach Santiago in spite of a painful Achilles’ tendon. Everything else in her life has come together to make it possible for her to walk the Camino, something she has wanted to do for a long time. Nothing should stop her now.
Following dinner there was a gathering for prayers or sharing by candle light as we sat in carved wooden thrones in the choir loft. Heartfelt thoughts, feelings, experiences, a song, tears and hugs were shared and bonds were made. When I shared the story about the little brown rock, I heard at least one audible intake of breath, maybe several. By sharing, another Camino family came together.
I discovered at the end of today’s walk that I had sprouted yet another blister, now a grand total of four. I punctured this one with a needle and thread given to me by a pilgrim from Australia that I have seen along the way. As instructed, I left the thread in so that the blister would continue draining. She also gave me a sleeve for the toe. Feels cozy! I might need nine more at the rate I am going!
After showering and washing my clothes, there was another Camino to get to the place where my washing could be hung! (Tania, you didn’t warn me the clothes lines were so far away!)
Everyone in the small village was dressed up for the May 1st celebration – little girls in frilly dresses and bows, adults in suits, dresses, and jackets, etc. I felt rag tag in comparison. They had a procession down the Calle Mayor (main street) into the church carrying Our Lady. Children who were collecting money afterwards let me take their picture. When I asked about the procession they were in, they enlisted a boy they knew who spoke the best English. I didn’t understand all of what he said but my question gave him a chance to put his knowledge of English to use.