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Ages, Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, pilgrimage, Spain, Tosantos

September 12th, Day 11: Tosantos to Ages

Sunflowers directing us on the way.

I woke up early this morning, showered, had breakfast and hugged Jose goodbye, thanking him for his warm hospitality and words of wisdom from the previous night. Gill is at the table with his book and map out. He has plans to meet his wife near Santiago in a few days time, and is debating when he will breakaway from the group that has been solidly forming over the past week. He decides to walk one more day with us.

Gill and I just outside of San Juan de Ortega

Tammy joins us and we head out to Ages. As soon as we step out of the albergue, we are met with wind and cold temperatures. Since the cafe is open across the way, we stop in for a cortado – for strength and warmth.

Ramon waiting for us near San Juan.

We walk a couple of hours to a village where we can get a substantial snack: tortilla de patata, and another coffee. We find a market and pick up some fruit, bread, cheese, olives and wine. We have some climbing ahead of us today – three sections to be exact. We decide to break the journey and have a picnic lunch somewhere near San Juan de Ortega.

Tammy, Gill and I set out again, and Gill, our storyteller, shares his tales of basking in Wales and his dishwashing days in Ireland. We all decide we will walk the Highland Way in Scotland next Summer. We spend the afternoon walking, talking, dropping back and moving ahead so we all have time with each other.
Shortly outside of San Juan de Ortega, Ramon is sitting on a haybale in the field waiting for us. The four of us find a picnic table in the little village, with consists of a church and a cafe, and sit for an hour, eating, talking, laughing, and debating whether to stay or head on to the next town, Ages.

Gill, Tammy, Ramon and I picnic-ing in San Juan.

I tour the beautiful, old church in San Juan, and Ramon decides he is going to stay put for the night.
Tammy, Gill and I move on to Ages, arriving late, but securing the last three bunkbeds in the municipal albergue. We get settled in, start laundry and head over to the cafe. It’s our last afternoon with Gill, so we decide to do it up. I walk in to the cafe, order a bottle of Rioja, ask for three glasses and head back outside.

The rest of the afternoon continues like this, the group growing over the following hours, sharing vino, food and music. A Frenchman breaks out his guitar and plays for everyone sitting together.

Ages is old and charming. I take an afternoon stroll down a country lane. I am surrounded by sunflowers, and in the distance a farmer herds his sheep. The afternoon seems endless, and we wish for it to be, knowing that saying goodbye to one of our Camino family members this early on is going to be difficult.

Pilgrims enjoying the afternoon in Ages.

Tammy and Gill leave to get ready for dinner and I run into Pedro, who I haven’t seen since Logrono. We share a glass of vino tinto before I reconvene with Tammy and Gill for our last pilgrim’s dinner together.

We eat, we drink, we savor our last evening together, and we talk to Gill about a potential reunion with our entire Camino family in a couple of weeks time. We crawl up to our top bunks, sleep finding us quickly.

Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, Granon, pilgrimage, Spain, Tosantos

September 11th, Day 10: Granon to Tosantos – ‘The Camino Is Not About Being Alone’

Clouds parting just outside of Granon.

We leave Granon as a group and with renewed energy. The sky to the left is black and to the right, sunlight reflects on the mountains in the distance. Fields of sunflowers surround us on all sides.

Within minutes, the clouds begin to part. It’s as if someone somewhere is in control of them, winding them back and away to the west. The fields ahead now glow gold and the sky being unveiled is bright blue. Farmers are working in the fields below, planting new crops, but aside from them, it’s just us pilgrims and the sounds of our footsteps.

I have dropped back and have the path entirely to myself. I pass a few small, sleepy villages, and keep thinking I will stop for a coffee but can’t find an open cafe, despite it approaching mid-morning. Cats perch on windowsills and flowerboxes adorn every home.

I catch up with Tammy a couple of towns later and moments later we find Gill waiting for us atop a haybale. We stop for a coffee on the outskirts of town, but decide to keep walking to Tosantos before having lunch and calling it a day.

Ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Peña

I have to find an ATM, so Tammy and I make a detour. I make my withdrawal, but no money is dispensed. This detour turns into a debacle and we lose about an hour in town. I eventually get my money and luckily it’s a short and relatively easy walk to Tosantos, but when we arrive Gill is concerned as to how long it took us and whether or not we will get a bed at the donativo.

We fortunately get beds in the last room, settle in and make our way to the cafe across the street. Tosantos is the smallest village I’ve seen so far. It’s a blip on the map – There are a handful of houses, this one cafe and up in the hills above, an old church carved into the mountainside. We have been informed that we should attend Mass at the church before dinner.

We spend our afternoon at a table outside the cafe, soaking in the sunshine, and enjoying vino tinto and ham and cheese sandwiches. A few other pilgrims are nearby, and soon, Jacobo (the Italain) and his friend Clara (from the Canary Islands) join us.

The view from the hilltop church down to Tosantos.

We’ve arrived early enough that I take advantage of the daily stipulated siesta before Mass. Mass turns out to be more like a narrative on the history of the church, but it’s structure is impressive, and in the back pews, we’re showered with limestone dust crumbling off the ceiling.

We head back to the donativo and I help to prepare salads in the kitchen with a few French pilgrims. I pop over the street to buy some 3 Euro wine as a contribution and spend a little time writing before dinner.

Pilgrims helping to prepare dinner.

Dinner is a hearty lentil stew, enjoyed by about 25 pilgrims sitting at a long communal table. Afterwards, we head up to a small room on the second floor, and we all huddle in for prayer and reflection. Pilgrims are asked to take turns reading messages that have been written and left behind from previous pilgrims and the stories range from happy to sad. Some are about physical pain, some about emotional pain, and others are stories of happiness- of people letting go of things, overcoming hurdles, having personal revelations.

The pilgrim’s dinner at the donativo.

The man leading the activity, Jose,  reads a prayer, and the opening words are, “Do not be too proud and be alone.” It makes me reflect on my own Camino, which I set out to do alone. During the first few days, I was alone, but my Camino family was taking shape now and what I was learning about myself through my conversations with others and from hearing of their own trials and tribulations, was nothing short of profound.

Jose takes such pride in leading this lesson and he stresses that the Camino is not about being alone, but about the lessons we learn from other pilgrims. I am realizing how right he is. He ends our evening with a pilgrim’s blessing and asks that everyone hug him goodbye before leaving the following morning.

A few of us gather in the reception area afterwards for a nightcap. I find it hard to believe that ten days on the Camino have already passed. One phase, the initial phase, the one everyone calls the journey of the body is basically behind us. Blisters are healing, aches and pains are fading, and our bodies are now accustomed to the long distances we are walking. My pack no longer feel like a weight on my shoulders, it simply feels a part of me now.

We are only a few days away from the start of the Meseta- the section of the Camino people call the ‘journey of the spirit.’ I have no idea, here, on this tenth evening in Tosantos what lay ahead.