Day 16: Ermita de San Nicolas (29km)

Yesterday, I had found a green grocer near the albergue and bought a nectarine. The man behind the counter had very kindly added an extra one to may bag. I spent the day trying to find someone who might like the extra juicy nectarine. It was so ripe and ready to eat that I was afraid that it would spoil before it could be properly enjoyed. But nobody wanted it. Everyone kept turning it down. I was resigned to it possibly going to waste as I did not think that it would survive the hot day.

Dennis, a young German woman and myself had set out together that morning and made our way along the dusty path. While sitting in a bar drinking coffee, the day grew hotter, but Dennis and I needed to catch up some miles. Our travelling companion had decided to stay while we set forth to climb the Alto de Mostelares.

The climb was tough and my heart was pounding by the time we reached the top. With a deep sigh of relief we summited and sank onto one of the well placed benches. Sitting in the shade was a elderly man who spoke in short words and huge hand gestures. He showed us his phone which detailed his steps and distance and showed that he had walked over 2000km from Prague. He was walking to Santiago to raise funds for a children’s hospital. Along the way, he kept a log in lots of small books in order to later write a book. His bag was huge and from it he brought forth a carton of fruit juice and chocolate biscuits which he then shared with us. In return, I offered him the nectarine and he happily took it and bit into it with great relish. Juice ran down his chin and he closed his eyes, savouring its sweetness. I sat on the wall next to Dennis and bit into my own, happy to have shared this moment.

We were about 2km from Itero de la Vega, which had been our intended destination, when we came to a little chapel which has a long history of taking in pilgrims. They told us that all the beds had already been assigned, but mattresses could be placed by the altar if we decided to stay. They didn’t have electricity, but could offer us dinner cooked on a gas stove and good companionship. I hesitated, too focused on reaching my planned destination. I was being silly and decided that is was bound to be an interesting experience and should not be denied. I told myself to say yes and experience the unexpected of the Camino. Saying no closes you off to opportunities and you never know what the Camino is going to offer you. I want to get to Santiago, but not at the expense of these hidden opportunities to grow, learn and enjoy through the unexpected.

In the evening, we were gathered and first told about the history of the building which may have begun as a tax house for the nearby medieval bridge. It once served as the boarder between Castillo and Leon. But then the building was converted and sections rebuilt to serve as a chapel. It is now a place that the Italian branch of the Confraternity of St James run. Sitting on chairs nears the altar, our feet were washed, kissed and our journeys blessed. We then gathered around a long table and shared a meal and drank copious amounts of wine from jugs. Someone brought out the inevitable guitar and we sang for hours in Spanish and English.

I realised that, as a singer, I don’t sing enough. I experience such joy when I sing. Maybe this is what I had been denying myself. That this was where I lacked the balance that I sought in my life. I had come to the Camino to learn more about myself. I am a trained singer as well as a singing teacher. These are both parts of who I am and I need to make use of all these parts of myself. To not, denies a true part of who I am.

That night, we sang ourselves sleepy and I slept on a thin mattress next to the altar, watching the candle light dance on the rafters.

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