Saturday, May 26, 2007

Day 11: Santo Domingo de la Caldera to Beldora

Today had an excellent start. I stopped at the first bar /cafe that was open this morning. The woman behind the bar was lively, teasing. An excellent thing happened while we were talking. The talking turned to bantering, and I managed to make some jokes, exchange some wordplay. I don´t care if I never ever master the subjunctive mood in Spanish; as long as I can manage to trade barbs and quips, I´m happy. She gave me kisses and a special blessing and sent me on my way to wander by myself on well-packed dirt and gravel, through vineyards and wheat. The various green of the sloping hills, dotted by towns and climbing churches, is mesmerizing.

There were several teeny towns today and the second half of the day the Camino ran alongside the highway. The cars and trucks seemed so fast. It was funny to see the kilometers to the next big city, Burgos, count down as a I walked. Only 50 kilometers. A half an hour by car but two days of my life. It´s a strange juxtaposition as opposed to hiking in the woods. There are constant reminders of regular life while being trapped in this bubble, this alternative community. I am reminded of a time in Larrasoaña, an itty bitty town, where I asked the 20 something barmaid what she did for fun, mouth agape that she would want to stay there. She looked at me and said "We just go to Pamplona." It was a 20 minute car ride for her--a day long walk for me.

This terrain in Rioja is so different from Basque country. The land is flatter, and the road is almost always packed, easy to walk on.

Beldora is my least favorite town yet. It´s just odd. Flat and new-ish, kind of tacky in an inexplicable way. It is rotten with albergues. It seems a bit whorish. I was feeling a little sorry for myself in the gray, sad afternoon, feeling homesick for the first time, thinking that I should have kept on walking to fill the day, when I ran into some fellow pilgrims who I hadn´t seen in a couple of days. They grabbed me and took me with them. The sherriff of the town had offered to show them his sherríff´s star, so we proceeded to his dingy office. He showed us some posters of mushrooms and foraged around in his desk drawer until he found a ninja star and gifted it to my fellow pilgrim. Then he offered us a tour of the small theater in town, and I headed off to a bar where I wrote by myself for several hours until the other pilgrims returned and we drank wine and champagne and mysterious yummy shots and cider and some kind of bitters thingy and a local anise sort of thing and, well, you get the idea.

I had dinner with a German homeopath who lives in Valencia, and she helped me with my hip.

Once every five years, this town celebrates people who are going to have or have recently had a 30th birthday. Groups of people wear brightly colored t-shirts and wander the town in groups playing band instruments and drinking. There are orange people and green ones. The shirts say 18 with 12 years of experience. Fortunately, I was able to be here for this event. It´s like some sort of Battle of the Bands gone horribly, tragically wrong. They don´t even seem jubilant. They just wander about, dully and tunelessly playing. They have teams, but they don´t seem to interact. It´s just awful. An endless tailgate.

The rain, the gray continue.

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