Day Twelve: Belorado to Ages

A shitty day that ended amazing.

I woke up late, a bad thing if there are 30 kilometers ahead. My breakfast was good, but the coffee was essentially mildly flavored water.

From Belorado to Villafranca Montes de Orca the Way followed the freeway, dust and cars, few pilgrims (being late doesn’t pay in the “walking in company” department). I didn’t stop for food or drink, planning to have a good lunch in Villafranca.

When I arrived, only one bar served anything, ran by the embodyment of “Asshole” if I have ever met one. My food thrown at the table with a spat “do not eat too slow and leave” as a chaser. I took my sweet time.

After Villafranca the way pulled up steeply, but I realized something: I’d passed the “Body” aspect of the the Camino. I was just walking, functioning, finding time to concentrate on its “Mind” facet. Cleaning it, making up, contemplating. Free from having to “walk,” leaving my body to do its thing, I’d withdrawn more and more into my own head, busy with its nooks and crannies, dusting, sorting, and jettisoning things.

St. Juan came and went, an hour later, in time for dinner I made it to Ages. This is where “amazing” starts…

My albergue was right at the Camino, a small house with a bar in the basement. Its purveyors, an old couple, greeted me like an old friend, showed me my room, and handed me a bottle of water. I showered, washed my socks and underwear in the wash sink, sent Inga a message about arriving in Burgos the next day, and then settled in front of the house. The hospitalero joined, produced a pack of smokes, and we, using my rudimentary Spanish, his rundimentary English, and many gestures, spent the evening laughing and drinking red wine from a carafe that, magically, seemed to refill itself every time he went inside to get more cheese and bread to go with it.

After sunset, the air still warm and heat radiating from the road and the houses nearby, other locals joined. One was a young teacher whose English was almost accent free and who told stories from Burgos’ past, the nearby Atapuerca Sierra where archeologists found skeletons and tools of the first Europeans, Burgos’ “Evolution Museum” and then, upon learning of my profession, took me for a short stroll down a side street to show me the birth place of Ramon y Cajal, my personal medical hero and founder of Neurology.

Another, a farmed, complained bitterly (it almost didn’t need much translation from the teacher) about the last three years’ harvest, being mocked by other old men about his planting habits. Wine refilled itself, someone produced a guitar, and I felt something I had never felt before: absolute welcome, happiness, contentness, and safety.

I fell into bed after midnight, the old men still arguing the finer details of cheese, wine, and agriculture, and happy-cried myself to sleep. I dreamed of stone age men plowing a field of wheat.