Thursday, March 20, 2008

Departures and Arrivals

The last days prior to may departure were all rather intense. I was not able to announce that I was leaving work until the very last day at 12-00. Everyone convened into my office, and i think it was a bit of a bombshell to everybody. Then I walked around the factory floor shaking hands and saying good bye. For the most part, I think i managed to keep myself together, but when i said goodbye to Jose Luis, the only thing he could say was "me parece muy mal, pero my mal " (over and over again and I couldnt keep the tears back. Jose Luis must be around 52 and is the best operator anyone could ask for in a factory, the sort of guy we always took the auditors to because he always explained his procedures perfectly. A sad day, at 5 Juli came to pick me up and off we went.

But the week wasnt all sad, since on the 13th Antonio arrived (Joey and Laura´s new son) and both Laura and Antonio were in great form. It was so relaxing to sit holding Antonio watching him sleep in my arms. Nora was delighted with her new brother. Antonio is lucky to have such a caring family around him.

A relaxing weekend, and then off to Roncesvalles, via Pamplona. I was nervous but happy to arrive in Pamplona, where I met Seamus at lunch, an Irish man who was having certain difficulty in understand the menu which was being rattled off to him at high speed by the waitress, who seeoing that he didnt understand just seemed to repeat the same only faster and faster. Under such circumstances, it is very easy to drum up conversation so I had a very pleasant lunch talking about the camino de Santiago and Seamus plan which was to go down and see the semana santa in Malaga.

Finally arrived at Roncesvalles at 7, just in time to get a bed at the hostel and then listen to the pilgrim´s mass, which was truly fantastic. The mass is a mixture of spoken and chanted in a wonderful church, a truly marvellous atmosphere where you really appreciate that you are about to set off on a journey with such a rich history and which for so many people has a truly spiritual significance.

During the night i could here rain falling and sure enough when we left the refuge at 1830 it was raining, so off we trudged on the first wet steps of the 750 km to Santiago. 1 km later most of us decided it was time for breakfast.

Most of the pilgrims i spoke to were planning to stop at Zubiri, but since i was feeling fine by the time I arrived, I decided to push on the next 6 km to the next village where my guide book indicated the recommended stage to finish. One and a half hours later, the village came into sight, and a warm shower and pilgrims menu beckoned me so I dragged my exhausted feet the last few steps into the centre of the village where i found 4 other pilgrims sitting on some wooden benches. Where´s the hostel I asked? It is difficult to describe how quickly elation plunges to despair when they replied that everything was shut, no hostel, no food, no nothing.

Pilgrim s lesson number one. Don t count on anything going as planned.

Pilgrims lesson number two. Don t consider what you have lost, consider what you have found. I had just found Xabi, Eva, Luis and Miguel, who have been my companions for the last 3 days.

Following a thorough appraisal of the options available to us, we decided to press on the next 10 km to the next village, Arre which is 5 km short of Pamplona. There our effort was reward since we found the most luxurious refuge which we virtually had to ourselves, warm, with washing machine, tumble dryer and even sofa... not exactly a typical pilgrim hostel.

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