Written: Thursday, May 31 @ 18:56
A couple of days ago, we were making our way from Cacabello and our wonderful night at the Moncloa. We’ve been avoiding the bigger cities that are often the milestones at the end of the sections in our guidebook, trying for some of the smaller places in between. With blisters and still being sick (dagnabbit!), we’re making around 20 km per day now, and it’s likely to be that way through to Santiago. We’ve also found that 2:00-2:30, typical starting times for siesta, does also seem to be a good stopping point. That should be okay timing wise, but it will be getting a bit tricky after tomorrow when we hit the 100 km mark and start picking up quite a few new pilgrims all competing for places to stay.
But I digress. We passed on by the milestone town of Villafranca del Bierzo, choosing the easiest of three possible routes given our physical condition. This took us along a fairly major road, though traffic has been significantly reduced from previous times with a massive new raised superhighway that we crossed under quite a few times through the day. Contrary to what we thought might be a bit of a different sort of walk along a highway, this route ended up being quite lovely in its way – following a river up through the valley and clearly separated from the roadway, keeping us safe from the relatively scant traffic.
We started hitting a wall near our 20 km mark and began thinking about where we might light for the night. About that time, we passed a road off to our left that mentioned a place called Iriabella with food and beds. The sign said it was only 400 meters up the side road, it looked quite lovely along a tributary stream, and we opted to give it a shot hoping for the best.
400 meters ended up being about a kilometer – the 400 meters took us to the sign announcing that Iriabella was somewhere ahead. We trudged on in the heat with me way out ahead trying to determine if it was going to be a good gamble or not. I finally got past the less than promising signs of what the place might be to find a truly lovely spot with modern looking buildings in amongst the restored ruins. It looked like the proprietors were out enjoying a nice lunch at the typical Spanish time of around 2:30.
I inquired about a room for the night, and the guy that owner paused for quite a moment before letting me know that alas, he had a group coming in for the night and all rooms were booked. I suppose I looked quite crestfallen as he quickly offered to give us a ride back up the road. Kat arrived, and quite to my surprise, she was really very tranquilo about the whole thing and didn’t mind having made the extra hike out of our way.
Not wanting to interrupt lunch between the owner and his wife and another friend, we got some water and hung out in the shade for a bit. They invited us to join them in lunch, but we were quite uncomfortable being the unanticipated guests at that point. The owner, whose name turned out to be Masi, put together a plate of food for us and brought it over to our shady spot, at which point we decided it would be quite rude to eat off by ourselves and trotted on over to the table.
We enjoyed a delicious meal of fresh trout caught from the stream just across the way, goat cheese from the area, fresh bread, fried peppers, salad, and some wonderful chorizo (spicy sausage). Masi brought out another bottle of wine, which we learned through broken understanding of Spanish to come from his family’s vineyards in the area rich with them that we’d just passed.
This ended up being a wonderful experience despite the language gap that sometimes had us in our own worlds. We sat in the shade, and enjoyed a fine meal and wonderful wine with some newfound friends who were the epitome of hospitality and grace. We wanted to ask so many more questions, but we settled into tranquilo in the quite magical place of Iriabella.
After lunch, Masi disappeared into the kitchen, letting us know that he would indeed still drive us up the road in just a bit. He emerged with another bottle of what turned out to be a liquer of his own invention, Afrodix, bearing the Iriabella label. It was a wonderful infusion of ginseng from Asia, extract of the maca plant from Peru, and a whiskey from Galicia in Spain. We sat around and downed half the fairly big bottle in multiple fillings of our little cordial glasses. It’s amazing how a little liquor and fine food can help break down all kinds of language and cultural barriers. We had quite a nice time before loading into Masi’s little truck and shoving off.
Masi gave us a ride a little further up the road from where we’d left off, taking us to a little casa rural, owned by a friend of his, on the edge of the next town of Ambasmestos. That’s where I sat and wrote the last couple of articles. We had a nice night there in Ambasmestos, and ended up sampling another of Masi’s Iriabella inventions: an herbal liquer, rich yellow in color, that was a quite fine aperitif to dinner.
I experienced (can’t quite say I learned them yet) a couple of lessons from this experience. Sometimes, it’s okay to go with my gut feeling on something we ought to do like trailing off a side road in hopes of a room for the night. Even though I’d also had an experience earlier the same day that dissuaded me from taking risks where our feet and ability to get to where we needed to be were concerned, not taking this particular risk would have kept us from a wonderful experience. I also recognized (again) a need to not second-guess or try to anticipate Kat’s reactions to situations. She’s on her own journey of finding tranquilo in all things, and despite my personal aversion to being responsible for creating a circumstance that forces her to seek that inner tranquility, I need to not shy off from making decisions that might do just that.
The other thing I experienced was the joy of stepping into a situation that was socially and personally uncomfortable to me. Masi and his wife and friend had set up another table with their’s for us to join them. They asked us to join them. I tried to tell them that we didn’t want to interrupt, but my Spanish is insufficient to convey the meaning behind my words. The bottom line is that it’s hard for me to graciously receive the simple hospitality that was shown to us despite the fact that I would do exactly the same thing in their place. Why is that? I need to ponder that some – what is this innate thing I have about not imposing? What am I missing sometimes through that attitude? How do I change?