Its A Long Way From Tipperary to Santiago. Day 80 Puente La Reina to Estella
Yesterday I walked into Estella around 11:15 grateful that an early start got me there before the blistering 35C (95F) of the afternoon. I was winging it on where to stay and the Municipal Albergue was in a great location but it did not open until 12.
I noticed my buddy from Portugal , Duigo, in the bar across the street and sat with him to wait. He told me that he had left his backpack at Albergue San Miguel, a parish donativo, and that the people there were so nice he would stay there. That sounded good to me. Kindness and hospitality. So we walked over there at 1:00 and the three hospitaleros could not have been more welcoming; taking my pack and carrying it inside, offering cold water, cold juicy red ripe watermelon. It felt like we were in a 4 star hotel. Later after most of the pilgrims were checked in I joined two of the hospitaleros(and peregrinas); Ara from a village on the Camino Aragones in the Pyrenees and Susanna from Barcelona. We sat and swapped stories of the Camino. Our conversation got around to octogenarians on The Camino and then inspirational stories. I shared with them one of my recent posts on “Struggling on The Camino” about walking with Alain, a Parisian in a wheelchair and also Lynne, an Australian with stage 4 Cervical Cancer.
They were soon in tears and Susanna started writing into Google translate on her phone and took my hands and gave me her phone and I read a beautiful story about life and death. Her cousin and soulmate planned to walk the Camino last year but she was diagnosed with terminal Cancer a few days before they left. Susanna was going to cancel but her friend said, “No. You must go for both of us.” So Susanna did their Camino but on the day she arrived in Santiago she received a call that her cousin was dying. Susanna rushed home in time to say goodbye and her cousin told her, “Thank you Susanna. We finished The Camino together.” Then her cousin passed. And the three peregrinos were in tears as Susanna explained that yesterday was the one year anniversary of her cousin’s death.
Today walking to Torres del Rio I could not help but think of the Hospitaleros of San Miguel. I will not forget their kindness and hospitality and how they treated this tired peregrino. Grateful for their lesson of the joy of serving others, neither expecting or wanting anything in return. Beautiful! Ultreia!
Ara and Susanna are members of the Association of Friends of the Camino that has a volunteer program for ex-peregrinos to do two week stints as volunteer hospitaleros. These people give up their holidays to be of service to pilgrims. A huge thank you to all the volunteer hospitaleros!