Camino Angel

Estella to Los Arcos
Wednesday 5 November

I did not sleep. My feet hurt. I opened the door, and the rain was beating down. I was hungry. I left the hostel for breakfast in a local cafe. Some of that good Spanish coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, and tortilla. The day was looking better.

My Canadian friend, and another Canadian, were also in the same cafe, we walked together out of Estella. Our first stop was the famous wine fountain of the Camino. A wine fountain. Free wine! We obeyed the instructions, filed our cups and took a swig. Breakfast wine always helps.

Not far up the road was a church with a Benedictine monastery. This austere church also had alabaster windows rather than stained glass. It had an otherworldly sublimity. We were led through to the cloistered courtyard where we all spent some time in peaceful contemplation, before continuing on our Camino.

The sandpaper feeling in my feet had turned to broken glass. It was time to stop for a coffee, one of the group suggested a cup of tea would be nice. A cup of tea. I’m generally a coffee drinker, but sometimes a nice cup of tea can just hit the spot. We were walking through Azgueta, when we saw a woman putting out a sign in front of her Alburgue. She said she wasn’t actually open, but invited us in for tea in her kitchen. She was in the process of renovating, as only had a license to operate in Summer. She said she had previously been unemployed, but had taken up on offer from the Spanish government for this license, so she could support herself and her daughter. She made a great cup of tea, and gave us a tour of the rooms then insisted we didn’t pay, but we all left something ‘for her daughter’.

The rain had turned some of the small valleys into rivers and it was hard to negotiate without getting our feet wet. Suddenly ‘Jesus’ appeared and helped our older Canadian friend cross the waters. Later he was standing up the road with handfuls if fresh figs for us, then disappeared again.

Then the hard slog began… My feet were in pain, I started to have doubts if I would make it to Santiago. This was something I had never considered. I’m relatively fit, I walk long distances often, why was this so hard? I plodded on. The black dog started to bite at my heels. The rain continued. I pleaded, send me an angel. An image of the young Austrian pilgrim appeared in my head. She has an angelic kind, open face, and a soft and quiet quality. I hadn’t really spoken to her, but she always was the first person I’d see when I arrived at a hostel. Did she actually exist, or was she a figment of my imagination? I looked down at the ground, and there was a patch of cement in which someone had written ‘Buen Camino’. I felt inspired that I could continue.

The pain in my feet worsened, my doubts grew, the black dog had taken hold. There was no village in sight. The road seemed endless. My faith in myself was dwindling. It was a bad day. Again I pleaded for an angel, and again she visualized in my imagination, I turned around and a saw a rainbow in the sky, just when I needed it. I felt it was possible to make to the next village.

Arriving at the first Albergue we saw, Alburgue Austria, I entered to see my Camino Angel in person. The fire was roaring, the atmosphere was cosy, and some of my friends were here, some had continued onto the next village for the night. I showered and dried out my blisters by the fire, until we all went out for dinner, my angel, my friends and I.

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