Several days ago, I found myself by accident staying at a old farm house called Casa Camino in a small community called Riego del Camino run by three young women: an Italian who speaks with a remarkably Scottish accent, a Scots woman and an Irish woman. When I say by accident, I don’t plan where I am going to stay on the Camino. I just trust that I will find accommodation. For me, this is learning to trust the Universe for all that it will provide. It invariably has.
I’m one of four other guests staying – an Italian airline pilot, and a doctor and wife from British Columbia.
As I have mentioned in my book “My camino Walk – A Way to Healing,” the walking of the Camino is the major activity of the day – to walk perhaps 20, 30 or 40 kilometers. Then, secondary events such as meal times and social interaction take on an even greater importance. This is quite apart from the resulting increased appetite built up during the day. So, a meal, cooked with love and attention along with lively conversation becomes part of my voyage of the spiritual journey.
Another 40 kilometers down the road – allowing for the six in the wrong direction, finds me in a small town called Tabara. Accommodation, dinner and breakfast are again by “donativo” (by donation.) The hospitalero has prepared a Paella which, after the rigours of the walk, is fragrant and excellent. He makes his own wine which is natural – probably made without sulphur and other attention paid in commercial winemaking and it has a delicious acetone quality – meant to be drunk young. His piece de resistance is when he produces his homemade aguardiente – smoother than Italian grappa and maybe, just maybe, less lethal. He also offers me a variation of an aguardiente with milk – much more subtle than Baileys and with no overlying sweetness.
As per my usual regime, I usually walk alone. Setting my own pace seems to be my best way to avoid injuries. Lunch on the road is invariably some cheese, some bread, fruit (kiwis and oranges) sometimes some delicious slivers of Jamon Iberico. I also like to carry chocolate and one of my fellow travelers has told me that buying dark cooking chocolate is good because it withstands the heat better and less likely to form a molten mess in my backpack. Still, I look forward to eating dinner with others once I arrive at my destination for the night.
I find this enervating and it reduces me at the end of the day to a very slow crawl. Whereas the “Camino Frances” has places to stop during the day for a coffee or sandwich, the routing for the Via de la Plata seems to be that there is nowhere to stop for either food or water. You carry these in your pack.
I have been told to stop off at Rionegro del Puente where there is a well-trained chef of note who provides for pilgrim visitors with flare and capability. I’ll accept the invitation just on rumour alone. Besides, I have been invited to the celebration dinner party of a pilgrim with a birthday. I am not disappointed and am tempted to linger on for another day. The menu is Hobson’s Choice. Take it or leave it. Brilliant for 10 Euros including plentiful wine three courses, coffee and aguardiente including one of my favourites, Liqueur de Herbas.