Thursday, 19 September 2013


I was soon joined in the dormitory by two men from Belfast, then Carlos appeared, finally the Austrian who had been in the previous Albergue also turned up. I said to Carlos that I planned to go to the monastery at Irache. He said that he would come as well. I checked with the wonderful receptionist and she said that there was a bus. She also booked the next three days for me. Carlos and I set off at 3.30, as we were too early for the bus Carlos suggested we have a beer. There was a very basic bar across the street. Before you knew what was happening I was talking with the barman about Pope Francis!  Back at the bus stop I asked Carlos if he was retired. He said that the company he worked for had gone bust a year ago and he had lost his job. He confessed that it had been very hard but his wife and children had supported him.
I forgot to mention that when we left the hostel Gony  was lying on the bench. He greeted us warmly and said that he would see us at supper.
There was an amusing moment on the bus as the driver went passed Irache. He simply pulled the bus into the side of the road and let us off. Sadly the monastery has not had a community since 1985 and the buildings are becoming derelict. The church was lovely with fantastic Romanesque carvings. We took lots of photos and when we were outside I suggested to Carlos that we visit one of the features of the Camino. At Irache the owners of the Bodegas have set up a fountain of wine for the pilgrims!  We both had a drink and then took photos. Since the next bus was not for an hour I suggested to Carlos that we walk back into town. In fact it was a mere 20 minutes stroll. Carlos was keen to visit the cloisters that I had visited this morning. I said that I would accompany him. When we got to St Peter' s church we found that it was closed. Carlos went to enquire and found that it opens at 6.30. I said that we should have a drink. We found another bar and I ordered a beer for Carlos and a glass of one of my favourite Navarrese wines as well as a ham and cheese roll. Later I had a second wine. When I paid the bill it was euro 5.50. In a London wine bar a wine of the same quality would cost at least £7.
After the bar Carlos wanted to take more photos. I stayed in the square watching children play around the fountain. I am glad that I waited to see the cloisters again because the sun was playing on them creating a wonderful light. I took some amazing photos. On the way back to the hostel Carlos said that Spanish people think of the English as rather remote. You have certainly disproved that he said. There was time for a break before supper.
When we went downstairs Jan and the others were enjoying a bottle of wine. At supper Carlos commented that he was the only Spaniard. I sat next to him with Gony in front of me and a lady from Washington State opposite Carlos. Beyond me were Jan and his friends and beyond Carlos a french party. Early in the meal Gony said that it was the first day of Succoth and so we toasted him. He spoke movingly about his family . He has two younger sisters. He also spoke about his time in the army. The lady from Washington is old enough to be his mother and I could tell that she warmed to him. I had to attend to Carlos but became aware of something extraordinary. The lady beyond Gony had clearly been drinking and launched into him quite aggressively about the Arab Israel conflict. I couldn't follow the whole discussion since I was trying to help Carlos and Aileen. What I did note was that Gony began with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in the first century. What was even more remarkable was his demeanour in replying to his interlocutor. His calmness and gentleness belied his age. It was remarkable. Later in the meal he told me that he did not believe in God but he did believe in spirituality. I commented that the fact that he was doing the Camino showed that he believed in something. He gave me a wry smile.
At the end of the meal Aileen asked me for a blessing. Back in the dormitory the two men from Belfast wanted to know what time I would be up. I said that it was impossible to walk before 7.15 and so I would be up at 6.30. They were very happy with that.
At breakfast Carlos and I were the first to arrive. The girl was slightly surprised when we said that we would sit together. Carlos explained that he was the only Spaniard and that he and I could talk. The girl commented that the French speak no Spanish and most English speakers are the same.
The walk today was very short. I stopped for coffee and then found myself singing the first verse of one of the songs of the St Louis Jesuits:You shall cross the barren desert and you shall not die of thirst. You shall wander far in safety and you shall not lose your way. You shall speak my word in foreign lands and they shall understand. You shall see the face of God and live.
It was overwhelming to reflect how much of that has happened these last five weeks!
  There was a lovely moment not long before I reached my destination at Los Arcos. I saw a walker coming towards me!  I thought I am now going to let this pass by. As she reached me I not only greeted her but asked her whether she was on the way back. She spoke impeccable Spanish and told me that she was now in the fourth month of her journey. She had set off from France journeyed via the Camino Primitivo (del Norte) and was now on her way home. I said that I had come from Le Puy. "Precioso" was her reaction. " The Camino del Norte is the same-few people, small Albergues, and you get to know everyone". I could tell by the way she wished me Buen Camino that she was thrilled that someone had bothered to stop and speak with her.

No comments:

Post a Comment