It seems the Camino likes to test you early with a hill when you leave, and that is exactly what Ponferrada did. I slept quite well last night and so my Camino legs were ready for the day. My poles were moving with a boing-boing-boing as the rubber tips bounced off the asphalt. The skies were threatening and I popped into a cafe quickly to avoid the large droplets. In 10 minutes, it was over and so was my café con leche. Heading out of Ponferrada was lovely. You follow the river and today many of the locals are already out for a morning stroll before the heat of the day hits.
Up ahead, crossing the road were two men. They looked like they were struggling and I offered my assistance. Jay was from Hawaii and Nick was from Colorado. We walked at about the same pace so we joined up for a while. It is amazing how time passes and how you forget about your aches and pains when enjoying a lovely conversation. Turns out Nick is an Augustinian brother. We chatted about life in general, stopping to wonder at our Maker’s miracles (those were Brother Nick’s words). We ambled through little towns that almost ran together. Cafés dotted the roads with metal or plastic beads dangling in doorways, beautifully carved doors and in between moss and ivy-covered stone walls. I can’t leave out the fields of poppies.
The conversation turned to why we were doing the Camino and I have to tell you, I have been struggling with this question. I wasn’t planning on confession today but suffice it to say that Brother Nick had a way of getting you to talk. I even tried a deflection question, “and what about you?” but he wouldn’t let me off the hook. It was pretty funny and very emotional. We explored faith, love and forgiveness. It was sort of humourous because Jay, Nick’s friend, was walking along and never said a word. I even asked him direct questions, no response. Maybe there was a vow of silence. LOL Nick blessed me and I went on my way. I’ve left my burdens at Cruz de Ferro, I’ve done my penance on those Spanish rocks, and I’ve been blessed three times now.
My goal today was Cacabelos (pronounced ka-ka-bell-os) and I was outside the town limits when I came across this bus shelter made of stones that peregrinos before me had signed. I needed a snack and saw a picnic table with a man preparing his lunch. I asked if I could join him and he said in his smooth French accent, “But of course, this table is for all.”
His name was Eric from Leon, France. He camps outside very night and makes his own meals. Eric had his single propane unit and made himself a pasta with mussels in a butter sauce! I was drooling as I was eating my little boccadillo with chorizo. We chatted about our families and of course the camino experience. We had a chuckle about the French translation of Cacebelos (beautiful poo) but I did find out later it means cabbage. Brother Nick and Jay caught up and joined us for a few minutes, and then Eric offered to make me a cup of Earl Grey. A beautiful way to end the day.