Day 13: Azofra to Grañon

Distance walked: 13.9 miles
Song of the day: a shuffled playlist on my dying iPod, which randomly included Thom Yorke, Timbaland, Blitzen Trapper, and OutKast. Oh, and earlier, the sugar beet song.

This morning I ate a big portion of leftover risotto for breakfast and then headed to the nearby cafe to check my email and get a coffee. As I sat, I looked at the subject of a forwarded email in disbelief:

“Found lost camera with photos- can you identify subject?”

What followed was a description of a found camera in Ipswich, MA. The camera was found by the side of the road near Crane Beach by a couple walking there. They guessed that the camera had been there since September since that was the date of the last photos taken on the memory card. The camera itself was in bad shape, but they were able to view all of the photos, which included numerous travel and baby photos. They only clue that they could find as to the owner of the camera was from a photo of a female cyclist who completed the NYC Century Bike Tour: her race number was clearly visible on her bib. This couple emailed the race director from the NYC Century ride to see if she could track down the rider with that bib number.

I had bought a new Canon point-and-shoot in August 2013. Within a few days, I took it with me on my trip to Washington D.C. and New York City, where I stayed with friends and family along the way. I did the NYC Century Ride (or, 40 miles of it, sick as a dog and in a Sudafed-enabled haze) the weekend after Labor Day. And I hiked at Crane Beach with my friends the following weekend. When I returned home, there was no sign of my new camera. I was devastated. I searched all over for it. It was not just the loss of a new camera (which – although expensive- could still be replaced). On it were photos of hiking with my friends and their baby girl in D.C.; of my cousin Judy and me walking her daughters to the school bus in Virginia; of my German friend sitting in Prospect Park with her newborn baby in the sunset. It broke my heart to know that those captured memories were gone. So to hear after eight months that someone had found it… well, I sat there in the cafe in Azofra, sobbing with joy into my cafe con leche.

The Camino provides.

The blister surgery that Lynn provided last night did the trick. It was the first night in a long time that I could sleep without pain from accidentally bumping my heels against the mattress. Along with some ibuprofen and making sure to drink a lot of water, my feet felt better today than they have in days.

In the morning, I walked quite a ways with Gian Carlo from Italy. We spoke in a mixture of his iffy English and my iffy Italian. We passed through fields of greens. “Zucchero. Azucar” he said. “But not the top. Under.”

“Oh!” I answered. “Yes: sugar beets.”

And then this was stuck in my head for the next two hours:

We stopped for a snack break at a “rest stop” with surprisingly comfortable cement chaise lounge chairs. Gian Carlo declined my offer of dinosaur cookies because he had a carrot to eat. He was cracking me up because he kept saying the Italian version of “What’s up, Doc?” while gnawing on his carrot.

The road to Santo Domingo de la Calzada floated in a sea of green wheat fields that stretched as far as the eye could see. After a lunch stop in Santo Domingo, I pushed myself to make it to the next small town, Grañon, where I heard that the monastery offered a really interesting place to stay. I came upon it none too soon, since the sky was darkening and rain was beginning to fall.

The place, I learned from Mike, the American volunteer there, wasn’t an albergue, but instead a hospital, which not only offers a place to sleep (30 or so mattresses on the floor of a large room) for pilgrims, but historically has fed them and – being attached to the local church- catered to their spiritual needs. It is donation-only.

I threw my backpack down onto one of the many mattresses in the main room and began the process of unloading my belongings for the night. A tiny orange and white striped kitten came out from beneath a table and headed in my direction. Thinking that he belonged to the monastery, I was surprised that he bounded right up to the air bed on my neighbor’s mattress and began to play. Like I’ve said in previous posts, I’ve never considred myself an animal person, but this little guy was so cute.

My neighbor soon returned, a Spaniard who was completing the Camino by bike, having started in his home town of Girona. Here, he had found the kitten abandoned at the beginning of the journey and had been carrying him along on his bike for the last week.

The kitten had been named Santiago.

Other than a very warm and friendly group dinner provided by the hospital in their main room (pilgrims from each nationality were asked to sing a song from their country for the rest of the group), most of my time was spent playing with little Santi, who amazingly in the last week had been trained to take care of his business on the Spaniard’s sleeping bag. When I returned from dinner, I found Santi mewing in terror on the mattress. I didn’t realize what was happening until he squatted down and produced an enormous pile of you-know-what right in the middle of the bag. He then tried to drag the sides of the mat to cover his work. I scooped up the mess with a plastic bag-covered hand and tried to explain to the Spaniard what had happened when he returned, “Uh, señor, tu gato uso el baño en tu saco de dormir.” Completely nonplussed, he thanked me, wiped up any remnants with a wet cloth, then threw Santi into the sleeping bag, where he created a wandering lump beneath the covers for the next few hours.

Getting the cat to actually sleep when the rest of us slept was another issue. Pilgrim bedtime = kitten playtime. Santiago would scamper around the room, climbing into people’s bags and then ripping Kleenex into shreds with glee. The Spaniard basically had to throw him into a headlock under his arm to keep him in place. I covered myself with all the clothes I owned (monasteries do not make for the warmest bedrooms), tried to ignore the cat’s shuffling beside me, and went to sleep.

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2 thoughts on “Day 13: Azofra to Grañon

  1. Happy to hear that your blisters are doing better and that your decision to go at a slower pace has paid off. It seems that these smaller towns have as much to offer to pilgrims. Take advantage of it. Oh, and by the way, in the midst of all those lovely photos (above) is what looks to be a Microsoft screen saver. 😉

    Love,
    Mom

    P.S. Now *I’ve* got that Sugar Beet song in *my* head!

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