Today I feel as though a pilgrim… Of sorts.
It will come as no surprise whatsoever to hear that upon my return to the Plaza Mayor in Zamora this morning I bumped into Dirk, the German guy who I have been bumping into all week and who I thought might be a priest but who turned out to be a tabloid newspaper journalist. We agreed to cycle the first few kilometres together as we were both heading in the direction of Benavente.
Dirk, who can class himself as a pilgrim (although not really a religious one – is that possible?) in that he has lots of stamps in his Ruta de la Plata ‘passport’, has been trying to follow the actual track of the Camino de Santiago ever since Seville. I, on the other hand, having no such stamps or indeed a pilgrim’s passport, have been merrily cycling my way along the N-630 Tarmac road all week which heads in the same direction and gets me to the same places as Dirk just in a more comfortable fashion. Was it, however, time to experience life as a pilgrim by following the rough pilgrim’s track with Dirk? It wouldn’t be an opportunity that would come my way again as after today’s cycle I would move away from the Ruta de la Plata in the direction of France. Would he mind if I followed him? Of course he wouldn’t. I became a pilgrim for the day.
Compared to the very short stretch of the walking route that I had followed in the outskirts of Seville where I had all but drowned in mud, the surface quality was OK. Not always easy to cycle upon but sufficiently solid as to not cause too many problems. Although much of the route followed the path of the new motorway that is being built, it was at least empty of traffic. In other places we were able to move well away from any roads and benefit from simply being in the countryside with its vast fields, swooping birds, abandoned castles and disused railway line:
It was alway’s Dirk’s intention to stay at the Pilgrim hostal in Benavente but not mine. To access such places you need the stamps to show that you are indeed a pilgrim and not someone wanting to free load a bed for the night. However it became apparent after Dirk’s visit to the tourist office that he would be the only one at the hostal. They gave him key. Wouldn’t it make sense for me to stay there too? Of course it would and tonight I have taken my second step into being a true pilgrim by making the most of an offer for free accommodation for the night.
Tomorrow it’s back to the non-pilgrim lifestyle, a cycle to Palencia and my first WarmShower’s host.
Update: It’s Wednesday morning and my next destination is 100km away to the east in Palencia. It will be first day not cycling on the Ruta de la Plata (in its N-630 incarnation). I haven’t seen Dirk this morning. I think the two large gin and tonics he drank yesterday evening may have taken their toll. Another pilgrim did arrive at the hostel last night – a much older German guy – who I’ve just seen leave trundling his things behind him in a little chariot. I suppose he must be a real pilgrim, not like either Dirk or myself who are just using the route for other, less spiritual, purposes… Onwards!