Camino Day 7 – Monjardin to Viana

[unedited]

At breakfast, the salt-n-pepper haired German, who’s walking backwards on the Camino, says that Steve, the loudest complainer about the Italian’s snoring, was himself quite a dramatic snorer. The German was further enraged by that group’s rustling around in the morning before their early start, and says he sat up in bed to glare silently at them. One of them looked back, shining their headlamp straight into his face. He’s pissed, and not just in a normal “isn’t that annoying” kind of way. There’s murder in his eyes.

Dorcinda tells the story of her argument with Masha, and the German man, suddenly pious again – transformed, I’d say, but the Holy Spirit –  says that Dorcinda should have told her to keep on walking the Camino until her attitude changes. Dorcinda asks the German if that’s what he told the British guy, and he admits that he said no such thing, and just seethed in silence. (Steve later disputes this, blaming Jeff for looking at the guy with his headlamp on and a sinus problem for the alleged snores).

We pass a woman on the side of the road with a stand selling soda and knickknacks. I get a stamp and Doricnda thinks about buying a notebook, annoying the woman by taking the book out of the plastic cover to see if it is lined or not. The woman asks what she’s doing, and I tell her she’s checking for lines. There are no lines, she said, annoyed. Later we see a reference to a similar woman in the Brierly book and I wonder if its the same one. Brierly loved her.

We pass Los Arcos, and get a photo at an ancient Moorish fountain with two arches.

The day takes us through Torres del Rio, where we stop for smoothies. This is the town where the legendary El Ramon, from the Hitt book and the lame movie, supposedly lives. We read on camino forums that someone stayed at his house as recently as 2013, but rumors from 2014 and 2016 say he’s died or ceased to run a casa rural. We hear that Steve, Brenda, Maddy and Jeff are staying at an albergue with a pool, and that sure sounds nice in this heat.

This heat does odd things for your sense of spirituality. On the bleakest stretch of road, the sudden arrival of a small gust of wind or a few trees to offer momentary shade can seem like a gift from the universe. On the other hand, our patience for signs from fellow pilgrims grows very short. We pass each other with mere grunts or sullen stares instead off the cheerful “Buen Camino” and occasional conversation we find on better days. Yesterday we passed an area where prior pilgrims had placed papers with prayers, well wishes, and other messages under small piles of rocks. “What’s this?” I asked Dorcinda, who was walking ahead. “Probably some prayer shit,” she answered. A few paces later, I confirmed, “Yeah, some prayer shit. Let’s keep moving.”

In Viana, we’re beat, so we stop at the first hostel we see. It’s been a 19-mile day, our longest so far. Brian and Mary, an elderly Canadian couple that we met earlier on the road, are there as well, arriving just after us. After getting situated, we go into town to find a bar and write. I sit at a bar, and Dorcinda decides instead to check out an ecumenical tea house for pilgrims. I make good progress, she gets recommendations on a few places to stay on the road ahead and learns of the Friday night pincho notes at bars around town. Basically its a drink and a tapa, for cheap, 1.5 to 2 euro.

We try pincho potes for a while, but are too hungry to make that work without getting extravagantly drunk. After two drinks, one at the hotel, and one at the restaurant recommended to us, we return to the hotel for the pilgrim’s dinner, which is the only real food option this early (it starts at 8). At the hotel, we see Brian and Mary at another table, and settle in. There’s a lonely looking old man who smiles at us as we enter, and Dorcinda, sensing that he wants companionship, invites him to join us. He gratefully accepts.

His name is Terry, and he’s a bit of an eccentric, a retired museum curator with a literary bent, on Camino alone. His wife is at home, decorating, after walking with him for a week. We talk about poetry, and I recite Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art. He tells us about a rap version of Canterbury Tales, and we talk about Hamilton, which we failed to get tickets for, so popular that nobody can see it (like that Yogi Berra joke, no one goes there any more, its too crowded). He has books on tablet, including Roland. He talks about lies he’s told, and a riddle about walking to St. Ives? Dorcinda actually did that walk, from Penzance to St. Ives.  I can’t think of any lies I want to confess, so instead I tell the worst thing I’ve ever done – throwing Pattie across the room on a dare, when drunk. I could’ve hurt her seriously, and for what?

Terry also talks about how his fat brother has motivated him to stay in shape, though he’d never say it to his brother and he’s somewhat ashamed to admit it to us. He speaks with sympathy, rather than judgment, about his brother’s health problems and mobility, saying “my baby brother” can’t even walk up the stairs. He himself planned to only walk 5km the next day, to Logrono. I think he’s the slowest pilgrim we’ve met, Dorcinda says.

The food is extravagant, compared to what we’re used to. We get melon con jamon as an appetizer, and it is massive. Dorcinda can’t finish hers, so I swipe a roll, a few pieces of jamon, and a napkin to wrap it in, making a sandwich for tomorrow. She also snags the kiwi, given for dessert, for later. We’re not above hoarding food and stealing napkins; we’re pilgrims.

At the end of the dinner, Terry says he’s grateful. He was just joking to his wife about how he didn’t want to be like a cartoon character, Billy No Mates, and now we’ve gotten him off to a good start on his solo camino.

In the middle of the night, I wake up and can’t sleep. I’m itching and hot. I refrigerate my water bottle, so it will be cool when we start out tomorrow. Maybe its the regular routine, or maybe its the physical exhaustion that comes with walking more than 15 miles a day, but this is my first bout with insomnia, a regular occurrence back home, since I started the Camino. I go out to the terrace, and look up at the stars.

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