How do I capture today in a blogpost? Where do I begin?
OK, the beginning. We did a walk. 18 point something km. Not far, but it did seem to go on and on. Although there certainly were moments of fun and beauty too (even if trudging through sand did not lead to a beach!)
The afternoon was spent online searching hostelbookers and booking.com and Airbnb and couchsurfing.com for somewhere affordable to stay tomorrow so that we can give the affected toes a limited-walking day. Nada. Unless we have hundreds of dollars.
What to do?
Make soup. Yes, as soon as I had seen the kitchen with a pot the size of a bath, I had offered to everyone who was around that I would make soup for a communal meal. So we got cooking. And while the mixture simmered I searched some more. Digger was playing an old out-of-tune guitar….”Hamburg”, a young German guy who is on Day 2 Of Walking was hobbling about asking if everyone else was as sore at the beginning and ended up with a bag of ice draped across his feet….various people wandered in and out (a Swiss couple, some Spaniards, a French couple, lots more Spaniards until the place was full, 30 pilgrims)….Liz, the South African volunteer hospitalera came and sat down with us. Now before I tell you her suggestion, let me tell you about her and her American-born but living in South Africa for forty years husband, Kent. They are angels. They are warm and welcoming. They engage. They are calm and unhurried. They had taken the time to put jars of wild flowers outside by the front door. They have water and biscuits and sunflower seeds and mixed nuts out for when we arrived. They promise breakfast – and not just coffee with a biscuit, but all that AND muesli and yoghurt and fruit and toast with jam and Nutella and a range of teas. They answer questions. Nothing is too much trouble for them. As I say, they are angels. Well, Liz came and sat down with us and started telling about a problem they’ve had. This albergue is run by donation and homeless people had been turning up wanting to stay here, or even just have a shower. This did not fit with the “rules” of it being for pilgrims, but these folk breathe the spirit of hospitality and so they did not want to turn them away. A meeting (or perhaps many meetings, I’m not exactly sure of the details) with the local council occurred…..and the upshot is that there is now a Refugio set up for homeless people to go and bunk down for the night on a mattress, in a room that is warm, safe and dry. Liz suggested they might let us stay tomorrow night.
When he realised that I was seriously considering this as an option, Digger checked with me that I was aware what kind of people might be there. The kind of people Jesus loves. Not the kind Digger likes hanging out with.
But Digger is an angel too. A few hours later he said he’s going to take a rest day tomorrow (he pushed himself too hard yesterday trying to keep up with the gazelles as he is fondly calling the kids) and he’s going to come to the Homeless Shelter with us. He’s rough, he’s tough, he’s loud, he’s larger than life and hates to let facts get in the way of a good yarn – and he’s got a heart of gold. Let me tell you a bit more about Digger. He knows a lot. He loves history. He reads. He watches birds. He is a mine of potentially useful trivia (did you know that when you see a building in the distance, if you can tell the roof apart from the walls it’s probably between 8 and 10 kilometers away? If you can make out windows and doors, it’s 4 to 6km. We had opportunity to check the theory today and it seems right!). He also loves poetry. Tonight after dinner he gave a stirring recital of Banjo Patterson’s Man From Snowy River, complete with facial expressions, pregnant pauses, hand gestures and thumping the table. Surreal. He then quizzed the kids on all sorts of Australian geography facts – with donuts for prizes. There was laughter, muchos laughter. Kent and Liz sat with us as fellow pilgrims rather than The Boss like some other hosts have been, and conversation flowed in and around and in spite of Digger’s Test/Quiz/Storytelling. And suddenly it was five to ten.
I snuck outside. The sun was disappearing, but the warm welcome we had received was shining on the street.
Distance: 18.8km Total distance:
PS To lovely emailing, messaging friends – we’ll catch up in the next few days. Thanks for your patience.