The heatwave finally broke. I walked in the rain and felt refreshed and cool. That morning, I had not set my alarm as I didn’t have to wake hours before dawn, but all the pilgrim alarms started going off at 5am and it was pointless to try stay in my liner any longer. Jennifer had decided to take the bus to Santo Domingo De La Calzada where I would meet her at around lunch time. I made coffee, packed my bag and said my farewells.
When setting out, there had been a large bubble of pilgrims that eventually began to spread out before piling into a cafe in Azofra for breakfast. We were like a concertina squeezing up and out before squeezing in again. Inevitably, it was in the cafes and bars that the Camino concertina would squeeze up and it afforded us the opportunity to chat and mingle with our fellow travelers.
It was a strange feeling being so alone. Jennifer was taking the bus and I was walking without anyone. Just me and my pack. It was also interesting that the pilgrims with whom we had mostly hung out with were those that didn’t speak English. We talked in simple single words and with expansive hand gestures. I found a large number of the pilgrims quite dismissive, or maybe very reserved. Added to this, our original bubble had mostly walked on as we had reduced our miles. We had now fallen in with people who had begun the walk after us. I was not yet feeling a tightening of a community that I experienced on the Portuguese Camino. But I had more weeks of walking ahead of me and who knew what chance would bring. I had found that most of the pilgrims were friendly and I think everyone was tired. People were also walking for a variety of reasons and they may have been struggling with their own inner needs. I reasoned that to not take this into account would have been selfish of me. There was also a general language barrier that made people less certain of how to be friends. The English speakers were very much the minority.
The walk was beautiful and rolled through the La Rioga winelands before rolling me into Santo Domingo De La Calzada where I met up with Jennifer. After lunch, we paid €4 to explore the cathedral and climbed the tower which once also served as a defensive high point for the town. There are chicken logos everywhere and even live chickens in the church. It comes from a legend about a pilgrim who caught the eye of a local girl. Her desire was not reciprocated by the young man and, feeling spurned, the girl had hidden something of value in his pack. This item was discovered and he was hanged. Heartbroken, his parents had continued to walk to Santiago, but on their return to Santo Domingo, they found that their son was very much alive, although still hanging on the gallows. They ran to the mayor and asked him to cut their son down. The mayor did not believe them and said that their son was as alive as the two roasted chickens on the table in front of him. He was of course proved wrong and hence the town has had a chicken as its symbol ever since.
Although my feet hurt and I was very tired, I was still feeling very fit and strong and said that we could walk a further 7km to Granon which would get us to Burgos earlier. This would give Jennifer and me more time in the town before she would have to catch a bus to Madrid. My feet felt better after replacing my shoe inners in Santo Domingo.
Granon is a small, quiet and charming village. Here, there is a wonderful cafe called My Way run by a Peruvian couple. They said they came to study in Spain and ended up living there. Their food was amazing and they were so very friendly. Jennifer and I spent about three hours in their cafe before making our way to a bakery. I bought some pastries in order to get change to put money in the donativo box of the albergue.
The woman who runs this albergue prepared the pilgrims a large meal and we all converged at 8pm. The other pilgrims all knew each other and were a very large group. I felt very much on the periphery of this large bubble. They also didn’t aim to include Jennifer and me, so satisfied were they in their large community. Jennifer and I sat at the large table but soon found that we were taking up seats that the camino family needed. A couple of men hung about uncertainly and we gave up our chairs to sit at the other smaller table which consisted of older men who were also not part of this intimidatingly close group. The large table didn’t even acknowledge what we had done and I felt sad to be disregarded by this happy group who ate all the potatoes without offering any to us. Mostly I felt sad that they thought that that was acceptable. This was not the camino experience that I that had anticipated. I felt bitter to be so cast aside when I had anticipated everyone having a more open heart as had been my experience on the Portuguese Way.
One of the older men at our smaller table had bought wine and shared it with us. We chatted happily before helping to clean up and went into the garden where there was a young cat with five kittens. Here, there was finally an opportunity to try break some of the barriers between me and this large group and I joined in the songs that they were singing. Someone had carried a guitar out from the house and when they heard me sing, they began requesting songs. We quickly found the songs on our phones and sang together. It seemed my voice became a means to at least weaken the hesitant reserves between us. I didn’t need to be a part of their collective, but I was glad to be acknowledged as a fellow pilgrim. It was a long way to walk alone and unacknowledged to Santiago. I didn’t need to be a part of their group, but I didn’t want to be invisible.
10pm struck and it was time to head to our beds. I felt greater satisfaction with the day’s achievements.