Day 18: Taking care of pilgrims

Just the facts
Day 18: Hospital de Orbigo to Santa Catalina de Somoza
Distance: 16 miles / 26 km
Time: 5.5 hours
Total to date: 324 miles / 522 km

This was a relatively easy day, made easier by a stop for a tortilla in a cafe in Astorga followed by a visit to the cathedral.

I didn’t realize it was Sunday until someone from my albergue asked the bartender in the restaurant to switch the TV to the men’s final at Wimbledon. To our disappointment the guy refused because Formula 1 was on! Soon he’ll be channel surfing trying to find those ersatz wrestling matches.

Along the way I have seen many Camino kindnesses. In Mansilla, there was “Santa Laura de las Ampollas”. For years Laura has been taking care of the blisters (ampollas) that plague so many pilgrims. She assists with so many other things that it’s hard to keep track of her. Laura has been doing this for fourteen years, all as a volunteer.

On my way to Astorga this morning I came upon a little shop with drinks and snacks. It was strategically placed on a little plateau at the end of an uphill hike. There were several people milling about quenching their thirst and enjoying snacks. I heard a woman ask of there was hot milk for her coffee and the proprietor told her to wait just a minute. Lighting a crude propane burner he heated some milk for the lady. Then he poured me a glass of lemonade. “No charge”, he said, “Everything is free”. During a brief lull in business this man explained that he has been a pilgrim and knows what pilgrims need: food, drink, rest and shade. So he set up a place to meet those needs and does it year round at his own expense. When asked why, he just shrugs.

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There have been several albergue operators who have taken my backpack from me at the end of a long day, and with a pat on the arm, carried it to my bunk. One woman even took the dirty clothes I was about to wash and did the job for me.

Such are the many kindnesses of the Camino.