Por favor. Please. Could you do something before reading? Today’s update really would be best read in the shower. Turn it on to cold and fairly steady. Every so often increase the pressure to maximum. Twice you can almost turn it off for three seconds. At this moment…
So remember, everything you read is to be seen through the lens of constant raindrops. Because, yes, it rained all day…again! The fifth day in a row, and there are two more to come. Still no one has complained. But today we did start dreaming. We designed The Ideal Bar. It would have a large reception area to take off wet gear, hang up jackets, little machines to insert shoes into to dry them magically. A welcoming host would repeatedly assure patrons that the dripping water was no problem and he would issue us with blankets to wrap ourselves in after drying off with big fluffy towels, and there would be sheepskin boots for our feet. We would transfer into “the salon” where we would drink hot chocolate or have a big mug of pumpkin soup with fresh hot bread. A few kilometers later the kids were adding a spa pool, heated floors and clothes driers that would work in half an hour.
In reality, the only bar we came across had a tiny vestibule where we piled up our wet gear. The inside was heated and so we were happy. The host was exceptionally gracious about the puddles we left on the floor and gave us hot milk and a container of Cola Cao to help ourselves from. The other patrons were well-heeled folks with dyed hair and fancy clothes who arrived in cars with silver symbols on the front. They handed over more than sixty euros for a platter of the famous (expensive) black pig ham and a few glasses of wine.
We realised our ideal bar would have to have a time limit or pilgrims would never leave. We had to go back out into the fray, back into our own little bubbles of miserableness. When you are walking with a hood on and head down you don’t see so much, you don’t chat so much with those around you. You become intently focused on the orb of water gathering on the edge of your visor and you can’t help but measure how long it takes to drop off and the next one to start forming. Even when you don’t want it to, that blob just in your peripheral vision dominates your thoughts!
Then you hear a cuckoo. As you get closer, its call becomes louder. You pass and it fades. You think about the bucolic pastoral scenes you are walking through. If it weren’t for the rain, you just know that a young maiden in a flowing dress could come frolicking out of the flower-filled meadow with Don Quixote in tow. His poor horse Rocinante would be waiting patiently under a cork tree. If it weren’t for the rain, those cork trees could be sheltering Ferdinand the bull, who didn’t like fighting. But not today.
And so the day passes, from the beginning….oh yes, let me tell you about the beginning. Are you still in the shower? Are you cold yet? At the beginning of this section of the walk is a river crossing. Yesterday some people tried to do it, strong tall people. They got not even a quarter of the way across and the water was up to their mid-thighs and flowing fast. They turned back. It rained all night so we were not too hopeful that it would be better today. But we were keen to not take the alternative route at 12km farther! So even though a middle-aged man in the last house in the village came out to tell us “No passali”, we decided to go and see for ourselves. Besides, we had agreed to meet Sabina, the Polish lady and her Italian husband there to help each other across if possible……it was hard to believe it had been so high yesterday. It was not even mid-calf deep today! YAY!!!
Ella-Rose didn’t bother taking her shoes off – they were still completely sodden – but the rest of us went barefoot. Oh my! Was that water cold! Now if you’re in the shower, bend over, balancing your pack on your back and try to put your socks back on. Remember these are not any old socks – they have individual toes. Laugh.
Having kept his feet dry, Micaiah decided to try to not get wet feet all day. He took flying leaps at streams flowing across the path. He picked his way carefully through water courses that were too wide to jump over. He succeeded for quite a few kilometers while the rest of us went splashing like ducks through ankle deep crossings. And then there was the one that defeated him. It was a good three meters across and well over ankle deep. No detour was possible. I heard the moment Micki went through it. He had not understood why the rest of us were commenting on numb toes, but now he did. And he squealed like a black pig! Yes, it really was cold!
Shortly thereafter, the first “issue” occurred. For some reason the youngest of each gender found it necessary to splash each other and to take offense at it, in spite of being completely saturated anyway. I walked between them and peace reigned again. Five consecutive days of rain and only one issue, no complaining or grizzling or tantrums or sulking. I’m impressed and enjoying the peace, but the cost is great!
We thought of refugees today. They walk in the same rain. They trudge through the same mud. They have less food. And they don’t have a bed or shower (even a cold one like we got today) at the end of the day. They may not even have shelter. They are not carrying a set of dry clothes in their backpacks. Our walking clothes may be wet each day, but we have a spare set, including thermals which we have been most grateful for (actually, to be honest, the youngest has run out of dry underwear – all three pairs of undies are wet – but she’s got long johns!)
And on we walked. A fairly steady uphill. We cheered a couple of cyclists on as they passed us, and smiled when one got off to push his bike! We smiled when a farmer gave us a big wave and wide grin from the comfort of his closed tractor cab. We were spurred on by a honk and wave or a honk and quizzical look that said “you poor wet sods, I really do feel for you”. Honks. Honks from cars. Yes, we were walking along the road. After the bar we had seen a roadside sign declaring Monasterio was 10km away. By our calculations it was meant to be 9km by the proper Camino route. We had set out from the warmth of the bar with Oma Gertrud, and together we decided it was worth taking the road in the hopes that it would be easier walking. We watched the Camino go up and down dale, while we plodded steadily on up into the clouds. Estupendo! Within two hours we were dripping and dropping everything in the ablutions block of the Municipal Albergue.