Now for one of the best days on the walk, at Hornillos I met Matthew a fellow English pilgrim (not many of us around) and later had stopped for coffee at Hontanas. The walk from there was down a valley, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, it was absolutely stunning and so peaceful it touched your soul, truly unforgetable.
I had dinner in Castrojeriz with Tommy, Monica and Mark from Colorado/New Mexico. After Castrojeriz, I met Sue from Wales and her husband Francois who is French, lovely people whom I was destined to meet again. At Carrillon de los Condes I had dinner with Roberto last seen at Estella or thereabouts. Ukke and Aiya were at the albergue at Ledigos, as was Matthew, and we all ate together.
Julia from Perth, Australia and I watched the Palm Sunday procession together in Sahagun and then walked on to Bercianos and met Gabriel and his dog Carlo, the first pilgrim I had seen with a dog, we met again in Arzua. I also saw a lady who was to play a much more significant part in my Camino than I could ever imagine, this lady was from Namibia and her full name is Cornelia Margarita Langford, but more of “Connie” as I came to know her later. Uneventful from here on. I met Roberto again and we walked into Leon together where we parted company again as he was staying in Leon and I was pushing on to Virgen Del Camino. Here I had a pleasant evening with a new face, Serge from France. This day and the one following were wet wet wet, but brightened in the evening with the reappearance of Monica,Tommy and Serge for dinner.
I had another evening with Monica and Tommy at Santa Catalina, with Christina (from America, but studying in York) who I had last seen in Carrillon de los Condes. Jim and his daughter Maria from Montana were also there. I walked through more rain to Foncebaddon, and supper again with old friends Monica and Tommy, and Connie, they moved too quickly for me en- route but I usually caught up with them at the albergues and it was always great to see them. Now onto Pontferrada and an encounter with another lady who was to change my Camino; I had gone into town to find a cashpoint, the lady in front of me had a problem at the machine, we had a brief conversation and went our separate ways.
The next day I went to Villafranca and met Enrique from Spain and Patrizia from Germany en-route and was delighted to have a complimentary slice of empillada and a glass of wine in a lovely bar at Cacabelos. We arrived in Villafranca and went for a beer with Patrizia where I was pleased to meet Connie again. That evening Enrique treated Patrizia and I to an authentic Spanish meal in a beautiful restaurant and insisted on paying the bill in spite of our protests. Enrique you are a gentleman and one day if you come to England I will return the favour, thank you so much. The following morning Patrizia took a more strenuous route to O’Cebreiro and I didn’t see her again, hope you made it Patrizia.
I did catch up with Connie and after the usual Pilgrim chat “where are you stopping tonight and what chance of coffee on the way” etc, we decided to stop at Ruitelan. This is about 10 km short of O’Cebreiro, and we decided send our packs ahead as this is one of the big climbs on the Camino. Eventually we arrived at Ruitelan where lo and behold we met Hedwig (from Holland) the lady from the cash-point in Pontferrada! It turned out that Connie and Hedwig had met before. We checked in to the albergue and were given a stern warning by the hospitallero, Carlos, not to get up before 6.30am when we heard the music. We speculated whether we would hear the music and what sort of music it might be and then forgot about it. Connie, Hedwig and I had a very amusing afternoon and decided to join forces for the walk up the mountain, but none of us realised then that the partnership was going to endure for much longer than a couple of hours. We had a lovely dinner prepared by Carlos and went off to bed with the warning about not getting out of bed still ringing in our ears! At 6.30am we were woken by Ave Maria at 200 decibels booming round the albergue, followed by the Three Tenors and Nessun Dorme and various other classical pieces, we all laid back in bed and enjoyed the music until Carlos appeared in his apron to tell us breakfast was ready. Absolute magic!
We set off up the hill but progress was slow as we had to keep stopping for laugh breaks, that was a first for me, I don’t know about the other two. We were at ease in each others company, we walked at the same pace, we talked of our families, our problems, our joys and sorrows, life in general, about everything. I am sure we solved most of the worlds problems. There were many laughs and a few tears, not just from the ladies in the party. Whenever you meet a new face on the Camino almost the first question is “where are you from?” When Hedwig and I were asked, the answer “Holland” or “England” would usually produce a polite smile and something like “Oh yes I was there once,” but when they asked Connie and got the answer “Namibia” the response was always “NAMIBIA, WOW!” with eyes wide like saucers and mouth open. At that point we formed Team Namibia. Even though we live in a democracy I was appointed to lead, but I don’t actually recall a vote! Hedwig was in the middle, as she insisted that as she was only walking 350km she was a “student peregrina,” and Connie was at the back as rear gunner to watch out for enemy cyclists, a bit of a problem sometimes on the Camino. This is how it stayed for the rest of the journey.
We continued to meet old friends and new ones too, namely Michael from Perth, and Julia, also from Perth. In Sarria we met Paul from Cheddar, who I met way back with his wife, but who was now walking with his son Chris. We met new friends Eleanor and Phillip from Tipperary, and in Ligonde an amazing German girl, Gloria, who walked 67k on her first day from Leon, that’s worth a “WOW”. Another new face in Melide, Jody, another Aussie, who had been ill for more than a week but battled on to the end, well done Jody, and the reappearance of cousins Clare and Doreen from Holland.