Jan 25, 2010

Sunny Sahagún

This morning there was frost on the parked cars in Sahagún, and not a cloud in sight.  So what am I doing sitting at a computer terminal instead of walking on such a gorgeous day?

First, I am waiting for a massage.  There is a physiotherapist with offices in Sahagún and Leon who specializes in pilgrim's feet.  Thankfully, I don't have any blisters.  What I do have is a sore foot, related I think to my fallen arches.  I figure that a professional massage and a rest day may help.

Secondly, I am waiting for my friends Antonio and Arancha to catch up with me.  The uphill slog through mud I wrote about last time left Arancha with some very nasty blisters, and the extra day of walking she did after that was probably not the best thing for them.  She and Antonio decided to stay behind in Carrion de los Condes and she sought medical treatment.  I really enjoyed travelling with them, and I hope they are only a day or two behind me.  Now that I've added more minutes to my mobile phone, we can actually contact each other again.

Since I've mentioned them, I thought I'd mention some of the other pilgrims I've met so far.  Carmina left Burgos with us, but the second day of walking from there she received a phone call.  Her mother had been in a car accident.  She was not seriously injured, but Carmina finished the day's walking and the next morning  caught a bus home.  I'm not sure how far she'd been planning to walk, but I suspect police officers in Spain don't get five or six weeks of vacation in a row.

I set out alone two days ago, and after a few hours of walking saw something about a kilometer ahead of me.  (Yes, the road is that flat and straight.)  I wasn't sure if it was another traffic sign or a person, but then I noticed the object had moved from the right side of the road to the left.  After walking another hour or so, I was close enough to see that, yes, it was another pilgrim.  I whistled and a few seconds later saw the figure turn.  I was still too far for my waving to register, though, but the pilgrim pulled over at a rest stop and got some water. 

Eventually I caught up with Javier.  He had decided to walk a section of the Camino on his vacation before returning to wife and work in Madrid.  For two days we walked and talked, or walked in silence.  At dinner in the evening our discussions were surprisingly wide-ranging.  Javier's English certainly improved more than my Spanish did.  This morning, he headed to the train station here in Sahagún.  In Leon he will catch another train to Madrid.

Another pilgrim who caught the train to Leon this morning is Alejandro.  I actually saw him in the café in Burgos the day I got off the bus from Paris.  He's been walking from Roncesvalles, but when he began his pack weighed 21 kg.  Since the accepted wisdom is that your pack should be no more than 10% of your body weight, he suffered quite a bit over those first few days as he shed more and more of the non-essentials.  He had been walking with several other pilgrims he'd met along the way, but decided to stay in Sahagún to rest his leg.  He's planning to stay in Leon for another few days of rest, so I may meet up with him there.

I've tried to make this experience more than just a long walk, so I've also been taking the time to poke my head into churches and museums along the way.  Friday evening, A & A and I were relaxing in the resto-bar attached to the hostal we had booked into for the night.  (The local albergue was closed.)  The bell in the massive 13th century church across the street began to toll, so Antonio asked the woman behind the counter why and she said there was going to be a Mass.  Friday evening struck the three of us as a rather odd time for that, but I hurried across the street anyway.

I really don't know much Spanish, but I do know a bit about liturgy.  It was fairly easy to follow the half hour long service.  The Great Doxology sounded the same, and of course the sursum cordum and the Lord's Prayer were in the expected places.  At one time, Villalcázar de Sirgar had been a major town and the size of the cathedral bears this out.  That evening, however, there were only eight or nine of the faithful present, along with the priest and one Orthodox pilgrim.  It was a very beautiful service.

Yesterday featured another evening Mass.  Sunday morning just after we'd left the village of Moratinos (pop. 84), the church bell began ringing.  Although Javier is not religious, he knew that I am and offered to wait for me if I wanted to go back for the service.  I considered it briefly, but decided to keep walking with him.  Since I wouldn't be communing anyway, it would basically be a chance for me to sit and pray surrounded by others doing more-or-less the same thing.  After settling in to the albergue here in Sahagún, I headed off in search of coffee and internet access.  I found both in a bar near the albergue, but both the internet terminals were in use.  While I was sitting there nursing a coffee and watching the football game (that's soccer in North America), Javier came in and told me that the church was open and they would be celebrating Mass very soon.  It was very thoughtful of him to tell me, and off I went.  Strange pilgrimage, to be dashing from bar to church....

I just received a phone call from Arancha.  They have arrived in Sahagún, so as soon as I've finished uploading the current batch of photos, I'm off to meet them!

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