These days we have more and more Peregrinos. They come after 14:00, usually having travelled from Portomarin on foot over 35 kilometers, uphill. Sometimes even further. Just until 21:00. By this time, the tents are all occupied. Those arriving late often have their own tents. Or they just want a place undercover to sleep. Jeff’s rigged up blue tarp over the wire grape arbor works perfect for that.
‘What is the name of this place?’ They ask, amazed to find a spot to safely sleep for the night. ‘So I can let other people further back know about it.’
We don’t really have a name. There is my crazy made up name that is just for fun. But we do have the stamp for their Pilgrims passport for my future food truck that Jeff 3D printed. The Happiness Café. Jeff usually explains our plans for next year. So it seems our no-name free pop up campground is on social media now. In multiple languages.
‘My friends are asking if you will be here next year. They are walking to Santiago next summer’.
So a campground is a new addition to our plans. Who would have thought?
It’s been such a gift. And even though the crowds are getting bigger, they can all safely stay the night behind the gate on the lawn. On warm nights like these, Pilgrims talk to each other at a safe distance. I love listening to the sound. Like an international bee hive. It reminds me of that first night in Orisson in the French Pyrenees all those years ago. Laying in my bunk after a shower, exhausted, listening to the cacophony of languages being spoken at once, down below,
And now, we are invited to homes all over the world. Every day we are told we must visit our new friend’s and be their guests. This is not meant as a nicety you say just to be polite. We exchange info. Last evening, a man from Tenerife (The Canary Islands off the coast of Africa) told me he was sending us a letter with all the details of a visit. ‘I took your address off your gate. You guys must come. 100%’.
None of this is necessary, of course. But the Camino magic is rubbing off on us.
On my walk into Melide today I got a late start. Not ideal on such a hot day. When I approached our gate to leave, a woman was filming the homemade sign on the gate, our house and the tents. She quickly scurried off when she saw me. Back to join her husband who was waiting up the road.
I was on fresh legs and caught up to them when they stopped to point at the cows – yes, those cows – and to take their photos as the big blond beauties lounged under an ancient oak tree in the tall grass on the other side of a low stone fence. Trying to stay cool, like all of us on this hot sunny day.
The woman said something to me. I’m pretty sure it was along the lines of ‘Would you look at these cows!’ I laughed and explained we live in la casa blanca back 100 meters. The one with the bright colored geraniums im the window boxes. These are our neighborhood cows.
She stepped into pace with me, as did her husband. They had zero inglés but I am finding that my Spanish conversational comprehension is getting much better, and I can fumble my way to expressing myself. People correct me constantly. For which I am eternally grateful.
The woman asked if she could shoot some video talking to me, since she had already filmed the B roll of our house. We had a little conversation, took some selfies. And then I said ‘hasta luego’ and made my way on down the trail.
The detour as you arrive towards Melide seemed longer on this hot day. There was the old man with the weathered, smiling face on the bench in the village. The one sporting the black beret, with whom I exchange a Bon Dia each day, is the demarcation point where all shade ends, until you get into the town of Melide. It’s 10 minutes up hill from there to the round about in the center.
In the heat, I reached back to pull on my wide brimmed hat. It had been hanging on my back from the laces and dongle around my throat. This is the hat I have worn on each Camino. It got me through the Meseta on blistering hot days without a tree in sight. But, after stopping and checking again, I realized it was gone. It had fallen off my back somewhere in the 5 kms I had just walked. I was not going to see it again.
I was immediately sad walking up that sunny hill. Remembering all the places I’d been so grateful for it. Days of unbearable heat when it absorbed the sweat pouring off my head. And others of rain falling so hard that it was soaked through but kept the water from going down the neck of my jacket. We’d had many adventures together. No one else would appreciate it’s significance. It was like losing an old friend.
Was it a ratty hat? The rattiest. Was it my favorite hat I’ve ever owned? Hands down.
Jeff was waiting at the top of the hill by Diego’s hardware store. He needed a hammer and a pry bar for a project he is tackling on the farm.
‘Where’s the hat?’ He asked, as I approached, red faced and tired from the walk up the hill in the hot sun.
‘I lost it.’ I told him. He knows how much that old hat means to me. ‘I have no idea where.’
We purchased the stuff Jeff needed, Then he asked if I wanted to go to my friend, Conchi’s for lunch before I headed back. We walked to her restaurant 5 blocks away, when I spotted the couple I had met by the cows. I called out to them to introduce them to Jeff. And when she turned around, she held up my hat!
‘We saw it on the Camino. I told my husband ‘This is Kelli’s hat.’ We came to look for you but had no idea where to find you. I thought you might have walked straight into town, but my husband said you would take the detour.’
I would have hugged her, except Covid. I introduced them to Jeff. Then we introduced them to Conchi and they will enjoy their dinner under the shade of her kiwi arbor. Like the Garden of Eden.
Miracles do happen. Don’t ever let anyone tell you different. Because impossibly, my beautiful worn out ugly hiking hat is mine again. Maybe, just maybe, I cashed in some karma points for this today. But one thing I am very sure of. The Camino is working her endless magic on us. Each and every day.