It was up and down hills covered in vineyards and olive groves, but mostly gradually down, all day. We passed through the pretty little town of Maimona, featuring a church with a beautiful plaster work facade in tones of cinnamon and warm apricot. Scallop shells and other symbols of the way were intricately carved, and it featured a puerta del Perdon, or door of pardon. Pilgrims of old who were too sick or injured to continue to Santiago could pass through the door of pardon and receive the same absolution as if they had made it all the way. It seems that it was the intention of trying, and making the journey with everything that you possessed, that counted for forgiveness. That is a good philosophy to remember.
We arrived in the small town of Villafranca de los Barros at mid day and set out to explore. We found hauntingly beautiful and soothing music in the warm yellow church at the heart of the village. In the small, shady plaza beneath the church, a friendly Spanish man and his wife greeted us. They were Friends of the Pilgrims, and they welcomed us to their town. They bought us a cool drink and asked if there was anything they could help us with. We told them we had been unable to find scallop shells, or conchas. They took us to the Pilgrims office and gave us extra credentials stamped by the archbishop of Merida, conchas, maps, and brochures on the area. They would not accept even a donation. They represent the sweet, gentle goodness and spirit of giving found along the Camino. It was quite simple yet heartfelt, one Pilgrim to another. Additionally, they informed us that our destination for the next day was having the annual wine festival and that every room in town was already booked. They recommended that we take the bus to Merida, as we felt it was impossible for us to walk 28 miles in one day. We were somewhat disappointed in having to take the bus, but it was the only sensible thing to do with our bodies beginning to talk back to us. Judy has blisters that she is treating. We all have swollen feet that have begun to burn and tingle.
Today was tough walking for me. I may have had too much food or water in my pack, increasing the weight. Perhaps I was not careful how I packed things into it, or it was positioned wrong. I developed a muscle pain that shot from my lower back through my hip, and all the way down my leg to my calf. My right foot began to tingle and I was just slapping my foot along the path by the end of the day. I came dragging into town like Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame. I was drooling pathetically. I felt like I had experienced a stroke. I asked my friends to monitor me , and by the end of the evening Judy confirmed that I was drooling but dismissed the possibility of a stroke and diagnosed mas vino.
We spent the warm, sun filled evening in the square visiting over a glass of the beautiful local wine. Julio, a Spanish Peregrino, Alan, Judy, and I played a pictionary version of trying to communicate. It was so much fun and truly exemplified the spirit and great joy of the Camino for me. We talked soccer (futbol), families, books, and a variety of other subjects. It is difficult because you have to listen and watch so intently, but it is very rewarding. I am understanding more Spanish each day. Who would have ever thought that I would have the job of interpreter? It is not that I know how to speak Spanish, but rather that I am unafraid to try. When I look foolish, people are very gracious and helpful. The words that I knew are now easy to recall, and I am learning new words each day. As the evening came to a close Julio went off to watch his futbol game and we returned to the hotel for dinner. I learned that Alan and I were on the Camino Frances 3 years ago at the same time and had met many of the same people. We met a 77-year-old German Pilgrim named Hubert. He has walked 8 Caminos and looks fantastic. He told us sadly that he can only walk as far as Salamanca this year. His wife won’t let him go for more than 3 weeks now, ” at their age.” He rings her each night at 10:00 and they plan the next day together. He laughed as he told us this sweet story of how they reassure each other so that he may continue.
What a day of contradictions: from struggling so hard physically on the trail to the wonderful emotional embrace of the other Pilgrims on this warm Spanish night.
Actual Distance Walked= 15.8 Miles / 25.5 Kilometers
Accommodations= We discovered the pensione was closed due to a death in the family. We checked into the very luxurious Hotel Diana in the Center of town: a very nice hotel with a restaurant and bar on the lower floor. 70 Euro for a room for 3 persons, or 23 Euro each, with a luxurious ensuite bathroom. There is currently no Albergue in Villafrance de los Barros.
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