Another update from the Camino de Santiago…I felt like it must happen.
Today we were slated to walk only a short distance–18 km. I woke up early, just after 5 a.m., and I packed my bags in the hall of our hostel joined by my sister and Bob.
Around 5:30 Christine and I hit the road, ready for the day. We´ve been starting around this time every day, so it wasn´t too unusual. Usually, though, we are joined with a friend with a flashlight or we´re walking through a city with street lights. Not so today, though. A few meters out we were out of city limits, on a path in the dark. Today the path was supposed to split somewhere. We weren´t sure where, so we were a little nervous. Plus, the night was dark. VERY dark. In places trees shaded the road, making the road impossible to see which is dangerous since much of it is uneven and rocky.
We came to a fork and, without a flashlight, we couldn´t find an arrow to point the way. So, we were stranded. We decided to wait, hoping Bob would pass us. Eventually we saw a flashlight shine approaching us from the distance. It was a lady pilgrim. She found the arrow and we set out after her. She was fast, though, very fast…and Christine felt ill anyway so about fifteen minutes in we had to fall behind that woman. We stopped outside of a small “town” made up of an old barn and maybe two other buildings. There was a single street lamp where we stopped and caught our breath. Then, we heard it: angry dogs barking in the distance, up the path a little bit.
We´re currently surrounded by mountains. The farm dogs on these mountains are generally harmless and friendly…but not always. And I think that some may be feral. Also, none of them exactly know us.
We stared down the road. The closest I can compare this to is when the father in the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast” peers down the road with Philipe the horse and the woods is creepy and there are wolves. This is essentially where we were. We didn´t have lights. We didn´t have staffs. All we had was a vague idea of the road in the dark, dark of the morning.
The dogs quieted down a bit and we started walking hesitantly.
Then we approached another small ten-house farm-town. There was a dog. He wasn´t chained.
He saw us and rose, barking.
Christine started running and I said, “Stop. Don´t run. Don´t run. Walk slowly and carefully to that car. We´ll climb on top.”
We approached the car, but the dog had stopped, too.
So, now we were stranded with a dog barring us from the path…with countless other dogs ahead.
“I guess we just need to wait,” I said, “We need to wait for Bob.”
Then we saw a flashlight coming. But there were two people.
“I´ll pretend like I stopped to adjust my pack,” I said, “and we´ll follow them in.”
It was two Spanish men out to walk the Camino. They were probably in their late thirties, with hiking clothes and packs on their backs. They carried walking sticks and a flashlight and were marked with the pilgrim´s shell.
In broken Spanish I asked if we could walk with them, that we feared the dogs. They obliged and we started.
The town had several dogs, all came out to bark…but the Spanish men would chide, “Sch!” and we passed through.
They made a motion to indicate, “All bark, no bite” and we kept on.
Then, from no where, two other men joined us from behind. I believe they were Spanish too, also with staffs.
We continued up and around a hill. There at the top was the largest wolf-dog I´ve ever seen. And he was angry and bouncing, ready to attack.
The guys then made a shield around us, shaking their sticks as he bounced forward, ready to bite. They shone their lights in his face and chided him, unafraid. Around us still, they ushered us further up the hill.
They were fast for us, too, though, and eventually left us behind.
Right then I turned to Christine and said, “I think we just met our Guardian Angels.”
She said, “Too bad they only spoke Spanish.”
I believe they were, though. We wouldn´t have made it through safely without them. I never saw their faces, either. Plus, I know many of the other pilgrims on the route, now, as we walk with eachother over the days. I have never seen them before.
So, that´s that. I recounted the story to some of the guys in the group (without the personal reflection) and they said, “I think that was your Guardian Angel.¨”
And I agree.
The guys promised to give us flashlights and walk with us from now on, too.
So, yeah. Camino.