A Pilgrim Tale: day nineteen


Bar Elvis is something of a legend on the camino. A quirky little bar with graffitied walls, inside and out, and a bustling proprietor who carves strips of salty, cured ham from the loin on the counter and piles them onto long baguettes, or stirs them into delicious, freshly-made tortillas. Johnny Cash is on the stereo and the music flows out the door onto the porch where we sit and eat in the sun.


We have lost track of the lads for a couple of days as they have been walking an alternate route, but our paths converge here and it is good to see them again. We also make a new acquaintance. Guido is a tattoo artist from Sicily. He is young, but already he carries the scars of war. He spent time in Afghanistan with the army and it has affected him deeply. He pulls out a square of paper and rolls a mound of dried leaves into a “medicinal” smoke for the road.


Most of our walk this day is on a gravel path that runs alongside the highway. Not especially charming, but easy and flat and comfortable underfoot. We pass a construction zone where road work is happening at a dizzying pace. Dozers and dumptrucks with familiar names like John Deere and Caterpillar whir in a cloud of dust, and I try to think of one time I have passed a construction zone at home when even half the workers were employed at once.

We find lodging at the municipal albergue in Mansilla de las Mulas where several buildings cluster around a central courtyard draped in geraniums and ivy. Guido is here. He announces that he will be making pasta for dinner and we must join him. And because we are not idiots, we say yes. ๐Ÿ™‚

Jan, David, Mike and I walk to the mercado to pick up wine, and provisions for a giant salad. On the way, we stop into a bar for a beverage and are happy to see Peter and Nicole from Germany. We have visited with them a couple of times along the way, but it is good to have leisure to visit long and easy. Peter’s first wife died of cancer a few years ago. Now he and Nicole are building a good and beautiful life together. They have traveled widely. And wildly at times. They are full of story.


Back at the albergue the kitchen is humming. People are chopping and sauteing, reaching over one another for pots and spoons, salt and the sink. We find a corner and begin tearing lettuce into a stock pot, the only container left. Guido sweats onions and garlic in a pan, the beginnings of pesto. Meanwhile, the hospitalero offers us a gas operated pot on legs that we can use in the garden for making the pasta, as the stove is all full.


Guido’s guests begin gathering. He has apparently been accumulating them all day. By the time we gather around the long table laid with olives and cheese, pasta, salad, bread and wine, we are a mini United Nations with folks from Russia, Denmark, Italy, Canada, the U.S., Australia, Argentina, Japan, and Poland. There is frequent toasting, and much talk and laughter. And Guido, who carries so much hurt in his body, has given all of us an exuberant and unforgettable night.


Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

*Thank you, David, for the photo of Guido at work. ๐Ÿ™‚