Once again, it wasn’t too difficult to wake up this morning. Unfortunately, it wasn’t out of excitement but because I didn’t get any sleep. It was an interesting and eventful night that I will briefly bullet point below.
1) Sleeping next to the bathroom door that was used ALL night and did not have one of those nice hinges that helps a door to close quietly. No, the door had a spring that would *slam* shut if the closer was not careful to close it quietly.
2) Outside voices. Somehow the voices out in the small plaza next to the albergue carried through as if the people were standing in the bathroom.
- This was especially disconcerting, while being half asleep and hearing the clear voices of men talking next door.
Anne’s head: “Men? What are men doing in the women’s bathroom? How did they get in there?!”
- I wish I had known the song of the group of people who stopped at the square to sing, as I would have been happy to join in since I wasn’t sleeping anyway.
Anne’s head: “Spanish song I don’t know…la la la la la….more Spanish words I don’t know…..la la la la la……yay for your team (or whomever)….la la la la la.”
- Children playing. This was truly throwing because it was o-dark-morning, and NOT a time when one hears children playing. I did hear correctly, though, because as I met other pilgrims along the way, they too commented about the children playing in the middle of the night at this albergue.
Anne’s head: “Children? What are….are they…playing?! What are they doing UP at this hour? Where are their parents?”
Thus, at 5:30 a.m., I joined the others and started to get ready for the day. I took advantage of the free breakfast of coffee and bread, and was out the door by 7:00. There weren’t many other pilgrims out walking yet, but the few I saw, I kept within eyesight so I wouldn’t get lost. Although, I know I am supposed to follow the arrows, I was not sure how many there would be or if they would be difficult to find. (As I would soon find out, this was NOT an issue.)
The first 8.5 kilometers wound through the industrial section of León, and as I walked I came across more pilgrims. Although I mostly walked on my own, I was never “alone”. There were always pilgrims somewhere in front or behind me, and many passing me by. How do they walk so fast?! I was a little tempted to try to keep up, but didn’t want to wear myself out. I hadn’t really “trained” for walking the Camino and didn’t want to do any damage at this point.
Not too far after the 8.5 kilometer mark, I realized I needed some sustenance. Coffee. Thankfully there was a small cafe not too far ahead. As I sat and rested, I realized that I needed to plan for my breaks a little better. Not every albergue will provide a breakfast, and I need to eat something within the first 5 or so kilometers.
The path was a combination of road and earth, and the scenery a combination of fields and ghost towns.
The day was beautiful. Sunny and warm, without a cloud in the sky! A perfect beginning to my Camino journey.
On one of the long roads, Juliet, one of the Irish ladies I met at the restaurant, recognized me and stopped to say hello. It seemed she and her friends got off to a good start, but she lost track of them somewhere when they decided to follow a group of cyclists and she chose to follow the yellow arrows. She figures they will meet up eventually, or at the very least, in Astorga where they were planning to stay the night. Juliet was feeling good for her first day of riding. She, too, enjoying the beautiful scenery and weather.
I was so flattered that she stopped to chat for a few minutes. That she even recognized me! Most cyclists don’t really do that. I am also a little sad that I won’t ever see her again, but enjoyed her brief and kind company while I had it.
I arrived in Mazarife around Noon, tired and ready to be done for the day. I decided to stay at the Albergue Jesus, and hoped I could get a room (again…I would soon find out that this was not that much of a problem), but I was a newbie and just beginning to learn the Camino ropes.
A small group of us had gathered in the small dining area, where the woman running the albergue was checking everyone in. A brother and sister from Canada, and a Swiss woman was in front of me, and the woman who ran the albergue asked if we wouldn’t mind sharing a room. None of us minded.
We were placed in a small room with two bunk beds, the brother and sister taking one set, the Swiss woman and I the other. Since I was the “younger”, I took the top bunk. The walls of the room were decorated with handwritten messages and pictures drawn by pilgrims before us. Some of the artwork was quite good and the messages heartwarming…others…well…not.
I headed down to the town store to pick-up some food for lunch, and returned to the albergue’s kitchen already bustling with other pilgrims preparing their meals. Some of the meals being cooked looked amazing. One woman was making a huge salad with onions, lettuce, peppers, and tomato’s. Another gentleman was cooking two huge pork or chicken legs on the stove. Another gentleman had just finished creating some sort of homemade stew.
Even at home I don’t cook like this! I swallowed my pride, accepted my non-existent cooking skills, and began boiling water for my pack of noodles.
Everyone in the kitchen was incredibly nice and helpful, as about three different meals were being cooked. When I tried to strain my noodles with the lid of a pan, one of the gentlemen saw my plight, and handed me the pasta strainer. The one I had unsuccessfully tried to locate a few minutes before. Then, to my surprise, he also handed me some bread and chorizo he was snacking on while cooking the meal for he and his friend. Unfortunately, he was Spanish and since my language skills rival that of a two year old, I smiled gratefully and simply said, “Gracias, esto es muy bien!” (Thank you, this is very good!).
The kitchen was very small, so I sat out in the little patio area and ate my lunch of noodles, cheese, and chorizo. Soon after, a group of college-age kids came in and sat near me, trying to find a good wifi connection for their phones. I knew that this was what they were trying to do, because they spoke English. (You can’t really help it when you are in another country. When you hear your mother tongue, you are instantly drawn to it.)
I can’t remember who initiated introductions first, but somehow we all realized we spoke English and began getting to know each other. I found out that they (Cody, Nick, Hanna, and Becca) were from a college in Missouri, and that they were on a mission trip walking the Camino. They, too, started in León, and their desire was to try and make connections with pilgrims, with the hope of being able to share the Gospel. Later I met the leader of their group, Chris, who sat and talked with me a while about support raising, the Spanish culture, my experience living in Spain, and the work with the Pilgrim House. As a thank you, he invited me to dinner with the group that evening in the albergue, which I happily accepted.
The rest of the afternoon I relaxed, read my book, and chatted with another woman (Susan) from Washington (Yakima) and her friend (Kyle). The albergue had a little bar inside, so everyone stuck around and sat outside, enjoying the sun and warmth. It was incredible seeing so many different people and nationalities come together in this small community. I loved it!
Dinner was homemade paella, and it was delicious! The Missouri kids and I shared it with two other women, one from France and the other from Denmark. The French woman had quite the interesting life, and spent a good part of dinner telling us all about it.
Later that evening, when I went to my room to get ready for bed, I found the Canadian brother (Steve…was his name as I later found out), knitting socks! How cool is that?! He said he liked it because it helped him to relax in the evenings. It was still fairly light outside (it didn’t get dark until about 10:30 p.m.), so we chatted until his sister and the Swiss woman came in to bed.
We all agreed that we wanted an early start, and decided to wake up around 5:30. It was nice to know that we would all be waking up at the same time. This would make it easier to get ready in the morning, and for me to wake up. I am NOT a morning person, and waking up at 5:30 is just….unpleasant.
Tomorrow is a long day. 19 miles. I hope I make it.