Thursday, September 24, 2015


"Don't you think you've cut too much bread?" said Mrs Bossy this morning at breakfast.  "No problem," said I, smiling, "we can toast and left-overs tomorrow or have it for lunch."  There was none left over.  After breakfast, a small group of pilgrims were ready to accompany Angela and Kristine to the Convent for mass before continuing to Castrojeriz.

"No lavar los platos!" said Angela (do not wash the dishes).  I wasn't supposed to get the dressing on my finger wet but I pulled on a silicone glove and a plastic glove and was able to wash the dishes, stew the sheets and hang them, wash down the shower walls and floor and mop the two rooms without getting it wet.

Any water left over from the black shower bags or final rinse water went on the herbs and plants.  The herb pots contained rosemary, basil, Italian parsley, oregano and there were tomatoes on the vine, a couple of peppers, a large pumpkin almost ready to pick and zucchinis.  I also watered the Cyprus trees that had been planted in honour of Julian and Jose. 

I had to listen out for the bread van.  He gave a long hoot like a train whistle and if you didn't hustle he could drive off and there would be no bread for the pilgrims. 
" Con pan y vino se anda el Camino"  (with bread and wine we walk the Camino).
No bread would be unthinkable!  I had decided to treat the pilgrims and had ordered two large tuna empanadas (baked pies) for dinner.  

Angela and Kristine returned at around 1:30 pm and shortly after a car arrived with a special visitor for me.  I had never met Maria Alvarez but had heard about the angel who lived in Burgos and spent days standing at a crossroads directing pilgrims around a construction site.  Tom from Jenny's group had met her and when she met Moyra, she told her that she knew a South African called Sylvia from Facebook.  There are many unsung heroes on the Camino who serve pilgrims in their own way.  A cyclist pushed his bike through the gate and up the hill to the albergue.  He looked dehydrated.  "I've cycled too far with no water" he said. "But I have to go on and meet my sister in Castrojeriz."  I poured a glass of water for him and filled his bottle. "Its only 4km to the village" I told him.
"You shouldn't have given him our water" said Mrs Bossy. "The water is meant for us and our pilgrims." 
"All pilgrims are our pilgrims," I replied.  There was always water in the two carafes on the tables outside so giving the cyclist water wouldn't leave us short.  How could we refuse a thirsty pilgrim some water?  If we ever ran out we could boil tap water and fill the bottles for drinking.

The empanadas were golden in their boxes and we were able to heat them by placing them on upturned lids over pots of boiling water.   We decided on a tapa starter with bread, olive oil and balsamic mix to dip bread into, slices of pickled peppers and olives.  Empanada and salad would be our main and we were able to make a fruit salad from a large melon donated by Mau, plums donated by the sisters at the convent, apples and bananas, served with Convent cookies.

The pilgrims told us that this was the best meal they'd had on the Camino!  We told them that a meal like this was only possible through the generosity of the pilgrims who had stayed before them.  If they had been given lentil soup and bread, that might have been because the donations received the day before could not buy anything else! 
The great thing was that we had not had to dip into the donations once since I'd been there and all the shopping was paid for by the donation in the 'sello' cup on the table at the entrance, and from tourists' purchases of trinkets and cards. 

The table is laid out with a carafe of fresh water, a few pottery cups, bowl of fruit or biscuits and a 'sello' (stamp) and a pen to write the date in their credenciales.  Every night when I cleared the donations from the cup, there was always enough to buy at least 8 loaves of bread and eggs for the next day's breakfast.

Breakfast on the Camino usually consists of bread and jam and coffee.  When I did the hospitaleros course with Rebekah Scot, she suggested that we included eggs which were easy to buy and cook, cheap and always appreciated by the pilgrims.  Each morning we boiled eggs which they could either eat or take with them on the trail. 

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