21k was just the right amount of walking after a 30k day. We took a leisurely pace after a somewhat unsatisfying breakfast at a crowded bar. The poor bar staff of 2 was swarmed with about 30 hungry pilgrims longing to be caffeinated before they left on their way. However, our late start allowed us to join up with a very pleasant and very tall French couple for the first hour or two of our way. We had a nice conversation about humor, fear, economics, and politics. They said they were walking to find their sense of humor, which I thought was brilliant. It is imperative to find humor along the Camino.
They asked me about our plan if we encountered aggressive stray dogs. We joked about sending positive psychic light to ward away stray dogs, while still carrying large sticks. This was the first time someone mentioned the possibility odogs along the Camino — I was hoping they were more folklore than fact. Time will tell.
Melissa, Mandy and I took lunch in a town called Ciruena, which seemed to be a prime example of the economic downturn it Spain. It was equipped with the first golf course we have passed, and rows of empty new houses that were probably built before the global recession hit Staips housing market. Still, the local bar served an absolutely delicious veggie sandwich for only 3 euro. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find satisfying food. I´m becoming convinced everything besides bread and cheese comes frozen in a box.
We arrived at a lovely albergue in Santa Domingo run by a confraternity of past pilgrims. As we were making our way through to the center of the city, we crossed the street in front of an elderly gentleman driving his car, who immediately rolled down his window and offered us a handful of candy before driving way. They were individually wrapped, so they seemed okay. It was our first pilgrim gift. It was a small reminder of the beauty of human hospitality and kindness. As a pilgrim, it is only natural to accept candy from strangers. There are many who believe they are earning good favor by helping the weary peregrinos on their way.
At the albergue, the shower was heaven, and there was a chicken coop next to the laundry yard. Cocks are apparently very important to the history of Santa Domingo, as it relates to one of Saint Domingo miracles. I hope to go visit his catherdral later this afternoon.
My favorite moment of today (besides being handed free candy) was after we exited Ciruena from lunch. I was overcome with an intense feeling of familiarity, as I realized that we must we walking on the very stretch of the Camino that has served as the background to my computer for the last several months. It was a perfect reminder that I am actually here, on my way to Santiago and the sea, and I was momentarily filled with joy and gratitude.