Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 12 - slept in Santo Domingo - July 9

Up at 5:30, out of the alberge by 6am, Anton, Anna, Dee and I stopped for coffee and tea on the way out and hit the trail by 6:30am. Same morning ritual though, including one minute to dry heave and two minutes to slather Vaseline on the feet, ugh. At least the rest of my feet were nice and soft. The Compeed on my new blister had fallen off on its own but needed a new application as my foot literally looked like raw meat. I applied one to my old left foot blister too just to be safe, which looked like dried meat. Anton proceeded to sprint ahead, Anna was next in terms of a fast pace and Dee and I lagged behind. The morning sunrise was glorious behind our backs and we set off on a wide country road with medieval stone columns marking some kind of ancient border. The majority of the path today went through remote farmland and some vineyards. It felt good to be back on track!

At times you could see the Camino unfolding in front of you for many kilometers ahead, at other times it disappeared into the vines, or up the hill around the next corner. It was always nice to be able to see where you were headed, the blessed view of a town in the distance gave one the encouragement to ramble on. We passed through Azofra, a tranquil village, and opted not to take an "alternativo" route called the Monastery Route, but instead stopped in the vineyards for lunch. Someone there told us we were in the birthplace of the Spanish language (la cuna del Castellano) in Yuno. I had Dee in stitches when I told her I was in the birthplace of living out a childhood fantasy, that of drinking wine in an actual vineyard whilst on the Camino :)

We chatted with a few other pilgrims (known more by the Spanish name peregrinos) in the only shaded spot along that stretch of The Way, wished everyone a "Buen Camino," and then proceeded to head up yet another big-ass hill. We lost track of each other as I still had a faster pace than Dee, but by the time I got to the top and hobbled by the fancy Rioja Alta Golf Course, I decided I would seek out the first cafe with chairs and umbrellas to wait for her. The golf course was the first recreational place I had seen where people were all dressed up to play a civilized game. As I shuffled by on the outside looking in, I definitely had the feeling of being on the fringe and for a moment, I even felt like a homeless person walking by. Fortunately I didn't have to go far to have one of the best experiences on the Camino yet...

I came through the abandoned resort town and just as I thought I was going to have to leave it and wait for Dee somewhere else, I came across the two ruffian dudes I'd seen at the fountain in Logrono who were sitting in the shade of an old abandoned farmhouse. I sat my pack down near them and said "Hola." Turns out they were French so we could communicate, and one of them spoke a little English. They were Ben and Phillip from Paris and after awhile, we determined that Ben lives a block over from Rue Blomet, the street of my first apartment in Paris!  I offered them some wine and they gave me some nuts and we sat there talking for a good hour. They were doing the Camino with no money and they told me where to go in Finnesterre for the final party if I decided to go on past Santiago. Ben noticed that my shoe was falling apart and he drew a funny face on it, while Phillip gave me a black satchel of fresh lavender to sleep with to help keep the bugs away.

Dee finally turned the corner and I introduced everyone and we headed up to the only cafe in town. I offered to buy them each a beer and we proceeded to hang out for a few hours, drinking, telling stories, and talking about music. Dee's a huge music fan and her friend at home was having a birthday that weekend so Ben rapped this totally cool song for him and she videotaped it. It was awesome!! I still need to get a copy of it from her (I'll post the You Tube link here when I get it!). Ben used to be a rastafarian and when he cut his dreds, which were down to his ankles, he lost 3 kilos of weight. Some people would judge these guys just because they were missing teeth, but I loved them, they had great hearts, and we had the best afternoon hanging out the four of us. Dee also introduced me to Helen and Lawrence from Ireland at that cafe, a couple of retired schoolteachers who I immediately liked too. Later, we all headed on to Santo Domingo. On The Way, Ben and I met Bob from Arizona who was doing the Camino on behalf of all those who couldn't do it, namely his wife who had passed away, and all the people at his home parish. Ben was entranced by Bob, I went on ahead.

As I hobbled into Santa Domingo I saw Anna at the first cafe who was diligently waiting for me and Dee. She told me to check in at the Municipal Alberge run by the Catholics, the first donation-only alberge I encountered, and so I went to find my bed. My feet were absolutely killing me and there happened to be a former pilgrim there in the alberge who was giving people foot rubs and bandages and advice. I waited in line and when it was finally my turn, he wound up being somewhat of an asshole. He didn't like Americans and I said "oh that's a shame have you ever been" and he said "NO." I said "the landscape and the architecture in this part of Spain is very similar to California" and he said "you know nothing of Spain." I said "actually I do, I've been in the South, to Granada and Sevilla and Alhambra and Marbella," I said "it is you who knows nothing about California." I couldn't believe I spoke up like that, it's usually my nature to let people think they're right and not say anything. I like the maxim "Those who know do not say, and those who say, do not know" but for some reason I found my voice and I wasn't going to let this guy bully me. With that display, he sort of sat up and respected me then. Men. He bandaged my feet and told me where to get my hiking boot fixed, which yes was coming apart at the seams, then charged me an astounding 10 Euros for 5 minutes and a couple of bandages. I set out to get my boot glued. The alberge was already very loud with peregrinos and music and roosters crowing (they don't just cock-a-doodle-do in the mornings, they do it during the day and during the night too).

The town was super cute and the cobbler man was helpful in fixing my boot. Eventually Dee arrived and we settled down with Anna for a meal in the main square Calle Mayor. I veered off the usual pilgrim fare and had a fantastic plate of pesto pasta. Afterwards we met up with Esther and Yenny from Holland and Brian from Ireland (in the picture) and later met Alan from Denmark and Paul from Holland who was doing the Camino on bike. Paul was cute and he was checking me out but we just shook hands and said hello. Later when I was back in my bunk, he came in and smiled and it turned out he was sleeping on a bunk in the same dorm as me. I was in a room with about 14 other souls, Dee was in another similar room and Anna was in another similar room. I had walked 21 kilometers today and we were preparing for an early start tomorrow so in went the ear plugs, even though I could hear a large group of Italians partying until all hours of the night, accompanied by the cock-a-doodling of the roosters. "What's with the chickens at a place where people sleep," I thought. I noticed on my passport the Catholics even put a chicken next to St. James on their stamp. Turns out there is a legend in Santa Domingo about chickens, and yes it's even called The Miracle of the Cock! I reprinted the story below...

"The winding streets of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, an ancient town, evoke a sense of history that is intimately linked with the Camino. It owes its inspiration to Saint Dominic of the Road, so called because he effectively dedicated his life to improving the physical route for pilgrims and was responsible for building many of the roads and bridges that we pass along The Way. This was in the 11th century, so they have been rebuilt several times since then but his spirit is as alive today as are the cock and hen in the cathedral coop. 

The chicken coop relates to the story of the Miracle of the Cock. Embellished over the years, it has become one of the more endearing legends along The Way of St. James. Legend has it that a pilgrim couple and their son stopped at an inn here on their way to Santiago. The pretty innkeeper's daughter had her eye on the handsome lad, but the devout young fellow thwarted her advances. Incensed by his refusal, she hid a silver goblet in his backpack and reported him for stealing it. The innocent lad was caught and condemned to hang. Some accounts suggest the parents continued on their way, oblivious of the fate of their son and on their return from Santiago, they found him still hanging on the gallows but miraculously still alive thanks to the intervention of Santo Domingo. They rushed to the sheriff's house and found him just about to tuck into dinner. Upon hearing the news, he retorted that their son was no more alive than the cock he was about to eat, whereupon the fowl stood up on the dish and crowed loudly. The miracle was not lost on the sheriff who rushed back to the gallows and cut down the poor lad, who was given a full pardon. Indeed so many miracles were ascribed to the intervention of Santo Domingo that the town that came to carry his name was also referred to as the Compostela of Rioja." 
- John Brierley