This was a sad day. I had to say farewell to my friend Jennifer and I felt heavy with loss and loneliness. I hugged her outside the hotel in Burgos and watched her turned right towards the bus station while I walked left to cross the street and follow the Camino. I had not seen her in over a decade and was not sure when I would see her again. Life propels us forward and sometimes it’s hard to not buck against the tide. But the Camino had already proven a constant lesson in acceptance and this was no different. I felt sad and I had to accept my loneliness, while still moving forward towards my goal. Who knew what I would discover along the way as I had many miles still to walk and many days to traverse them. I knew that I should not close myself off to those experiences.
As I walked out of Burgos, feeling sad and alone, I became aware of someone practising the clarinet under a tree in a park. He was playing Que Sera Sera and I began to sing along. He stopped, putting his clarinet by his side, and waved at me in greeting as I continued walking.
Que sera sera Whatever will be will be The future's not ours to see Que sera sera.
I tried to take the words of the song to heart as I continued alone through the dry landscape of the Meseta. Farmers ploughed the ripe wheat and storks flew overhead. Finally coming into Tardajos, I found a cafe that served fruit and yoghurt, something that I had actually been craving. The cafe was empty except for one cyclist and we sat in the welcome coolness of the covered outside seating area.
I had planned on walking more miles, but I met up with Mia from Croatia on the way into Hornillos del Camino. She said that she had heard that her friends were all staying there in an albergue and wanted to see them. On arriving at the albergue, we were told that there were only two beds left. I was undecided, but the day was extremely hot and the courtyard was cool. They also had a fridge full of cold beers and wine. It was far too tempting and we took the remaining beds. We sat in the shaded courtyard, drinking cold wine and shared a packet of crisps that I had brought from Burgos. Here is where I met Dennis who soon became my friend. I think the fact that he got my jokes and we had a similar sense of humour was what cemented the friendship. That, and we both loved our cats. If I had not stayed in that albergue, we may not have met and we may not have clicked. I didn’t realise it at the time, but he was the German that had come flying into the cafe looking for another German on our twelfth day walking towards Villafranca Montes de Oca.
One of the guests was Spanish, an actor and a wonderful cook who made us an amazing Valencian chicken and rice dish. We sat in an outside communal area and passed around wine, bread and salad while the Spaniard dished up the food. We then finished it off with ice-cream and liqueurs. I shared out my rooibos tea bags and we chatted for hours. The Spaniard told us that he was walking the Camino for his friend who had died just prior to leaving. He began to cry and a little girl came and hugged him tightly. She was walking the Camino with her older sister, her younger brother and father. The Spaniard’s eyes were red with tears and he hugged her tightly. It was so spontaneous, sweet and real. This little girl had acted out of unabashed intent and love.
Supper had been very early and the wine ran fast. Wanting to sleep, I showered and changed but was soon invited to rejoin the party. They were hungry again and wanted a snack before bed. So the Spaniard went back into the kitchen and made toast and a huge pot of garlicky tomato salsa. One of the pilgrims tuned the albergue’s guitar and we sang around the table. The guitarist even sang a couple of his own compositions with his daughter singing the harmonies. It was beautiful and special and well worth me stopping a few miles short of my intention.