Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day 13 - Azofra - Sunday, 3 May 2009

Ventosa -> Azofra = 18.5K (575.5K to go!)

The 300 people who live in Azofra are all in the small, neat town plaza sipping wine, snacking on wonderful tapas and talking. Music plays in the background. The Mayor splashes more Rioja (regional wine) into my glass and insists I try his wife’s special Jamon Serrano (salted ham). I am delighted to oblige. Then he thrusts a plate of salchicon and chorizo (sausages) my way and splashes still more Rioja into my glass.

The Mayor dazzles his constituency with his (seeming) command of English as he chats happily with R. and me. We nod our heads and listen attentively and do not let on that his English skills leave something to be desired. Everyone is dressed up. I feel a bit out of place in my pilgrim clothes, but the locals seem quite happy to have us there.

What a wonderful thing it is to participate in a local celebration. We certainly did not plan this adventure, but it is one of the serendipitous things that happen.

How did it happen?

R. and I walked into the village just as the church bells were ringing. R. said, “I’m going to see if I can go to mass – you head over to the albergue and see that we are in line for beds.” She went left, I went right. In a matter of moments I entered the square, still toting my gear and looking sweaty and in disrepair when a local man happily smiled at me and literally thrust a bottle of chilled wine into my hands. Quite the welcome!

The celebration is the Fiesta de la Cruz (celebration of the cross) and coincides with Spanish Mother’s Day this year. The locals certainly celebrated and generously included us in their party. It was a lovely and unexpected end to our day’s walk.

Earlier in the day (about 9AM) we walked through Najera where we stopped for breakfast at a bar near the river. It was jammed packed with local and pilgrims. Since it was Mother's Day, women were dressed up and carrying flowers. I felt far from home and a bit lonely with no family to honor me on this special day.

After breakfast we headed through this delightful city. As we approached the old city, it was hard to keep going. I was sorely tempted to stop and stay the night. A full blown Renaissance Faire was in the process of being set up. The medieval town is just the right atmosphere for such an event. Venders were setting up, so I lingered, examining their wares and taking photos of the birds of prey and the chain mail work.

The city walls and beautiful old building are idyllic. Above, ciguenas (white storks) have built large nests atop every spire, chimney or tower in the vicinity. Their noise of their clattering beaks echoed through the narrow streets. The city was delightful.

But R. and I walked on. Once again we saw several pairs of abandoned leather boots as we strode up the steep climb beyond Najera. So many pilgrims come with heavy footwear and find it is better to walk in light-weight shoes. I have seen people walking in sandals and even in Crocs!

It was a beautiful walk and the weather was balmy and bright. We sang songs and laughed. I used my staff like a baton and did a little dancing and marching as we walked along on this fine spring day.

The albergue is quite pleasant, but modest. Only 2 people per room! What a luxury to have privacy! The patio is very nice too. There is a small fountain/pool where I soaked my feet in cool water.

The rhythms and routines of this life are getting easier. My feet are happy, but I may need insoles…walking on sealed roads is surprisingly hard on the feet.

Tomorrow, I hope to stay in Granon (to sleep in the bell tower). Or I may stop at Santo Domingo.

The moon is half-full.

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