I should mention the importance of creating a walking rhythm. Rhythm through music is very beneficial, a great “pick-me-up” and motivator. No wonder that military armies had made use of this for centuries. I marched humming all sorts of melodies in my head including the British anthem – the German anthem is not suitable for rhythmic movements. I tried many other songs and compositions of which I knew neither the titles nor the words and also made up my own tunes. Melodies would start, persist for a while, and then fade away leaving a blank or a void in my mind. On noticing this fading away, often accompanied by body slackness, I picked up my sticks and boots again, raised the tempo and body swing with the onset of a new song in my head, only to find that after a while these melodies also disappeared. One’s rhythm fluctuates markedly when one becomes hot and tired.
I finally reached the village called Vilar de Mazarife, where I had a choice of three albergues. For the last hour or two there were signs promoting Tio Pepe’s hostel. He also owned the local bar. The advertisements gave me the impression that Pepe was the most influential businessman in this hamlet and I was not sure I wanted to support him.
As I entered Vilar de Mazarife, the first albergue I passed was a contemporary looking face-brick bungalow, not very inspiring, and I carried on towards El Refugio de Jesus, which was visible on the left at the far end of a field and was marked with large brightly coloured letters. The building, with some resemblance of a dignified villa of the past, had an entrance hall with two rooms on either side, followed by a courtyard with bathrooms, toilets, a kitchen at ground level and sleeping quarters on the first floor. There was a balcony on three sides of the first floor, or rather a deep gallery with mattresses laid out. Quite a few were occupied by pilgrims, so this was obviously a popular spot. I selected the first bedroom at the entrance, which I had to myself for the night. The only light was a bare globe hanging from a high ceiling in the centre.
This albergue was a hippy but pleasant place, with wise and less wise verses and drawings decorating my bedroom walls, some a bit shabby, some providing rather deeper thoughts, but all generally well-meant and not sleazy. The father of the refugio was very kind and accommodating, he complemented his surroundings well.
A group of girls invited me and others to share their dinner of noodles and vegetables. Our party consisted of various nationalities – from Poland, Germany, New Zealand, Italy, Walter from a small Canary Island and Audrey from America, the only American I met on this journey. We had a wonderful dinner with animated talking and exchanging of experiences – everybody was excited and happy. Some, like Walter, had walked sections of the Camino before; they were seasoned pilgrims who gave us ‘rookies’ good advice.
After dinner I explored the village, passing by a remarkable church with one side of the roof sloping almost to ground level. Unfortunately it was closed, as most churches on the way are these days, it appears that humans have become less trustworthy.
The buildings in the village are double-storied and painted white, which is quite unusual, they were built in a style I had not seen before. The atmosphere was lonesome, probably caused by the empty streets – the absence of traffic and people.
The first three or four days on the way had been more problematic than I had anticipated. While walking, my legs cooperated well, but after a rest they became stiff and rigid and needed a great deal of persuasion to continue. On arrival at an albergue after walking around 25 km, the legs ceased to cooperate, and any attempt to explore the village or go shopping was most painful. I must have looked like an old man in Bercianos Real Camino, swaying from side to side and hardly able to get up from a chair. That was after the third day – the worst I had experienced. After that my body and especially my legs adapted to the routine and I felt stronger and stronger.
I was not the only one with painful legs. Most pilgrims initially go through this experience, some with more discomfort and some with less. After such a day, continuing the walk the next morning is challenging. It takes a few kilometres to loosen one’s muscles, pick up speed and eventually enjoy the walk once more.