Nájera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Hey, Ma! I learned a new Spanish word today: calambre. It means
cramp, and I had several in the night — in both hamstring
muscles and my forearms. The ones in my forearms were extremely painful
and it was all I could do to keep from crying out (in a dormitory room
full of soundly sleeping pilgrims). And with my legs, I was afraid to
bend them at all for fear of setting one off. So, I lay there, stiff
as a board, with an occasional roll from one side to the other. Once
I even got out of bed and went downstairs to walk around until the pain
went away. I suspected that the cause was the excessive amount of sweating
I had done in the heat that day which had made me lose a lot of electrolytes.
I think that some of my hypertension medicine (the diuretic) also contributed.
I don't mind adjusting my insulin, I've been taught how, but I don't
want to mess with the blood pressure meds, especially since walking
up and down hills increases the heart rate. When I mentioned my problem
to the Irish woman, she gave me a packet of powder she uses to balance
her electrolytes. Her name was Hannah.
We had breakfast listening to Gregorian chants. Since we were in a renovated
wing of an old monastery, it seemed appropriate. Breakfast was the typical
café con leche with bread and jams or shortbread cookies.
I chose the cookies, guessing at the proper insulin dosage.
Left the albergue in the dark — heard the church bells chime
eight as I was going up the hill. Fortunately, I didn't need to see
yellow arrows. The dirt road was very obvious. It was the first time
I had walked in the dark and the effect was surreal. I think the bat
flying over my head had a lot to do with it.
Soon overtaken by a man from Holland who was walking with a funny gate.
Asked him if his feet were sore. He said no, why do you ask? I said
that I thought he was limping. "No," he said indignantly,
"my feet are all right. It's my hip, I had a replacement."
(Oops, it was my foot that was the problem — it was in my mouth.)
Then, as if to chide me, he quickened his pace and left me in the dust.
The dawn was beautiful. There were streaks of red and pink all across
the eastern sky. Then I remembered the poem my father often recited:
Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors
take warning. I wondered if the same caution applied to Spanish
Later as the sun came up I saw a beautiful arco de iris (rainbow).
Then something happened that took my breath away. The sky began glowing.
There was golden light in the sky directly ahead of me. Then an oak
tree also began to glow. Suddenly a well near the tree shone like it
was in a spotlight. I turned around and saw what appeared to be the
sun in a notch of the mountain, as if in the sight of a rifle which
was aimed at the well. The glowing tree was awe inspiring. If I had
been a pilgrim a thousand years ago, I would have built a chapel to
the burning tree and the golden well at that spot.
Then the rain came. Not much, but enough to dampen my moment of awe.
I stopped at a bar to have breakfast and dry off. Inside there was the
Dutchman and a woman from Austria who invited me to join them. I had
a real breakfast for a change — ham and fried eggs. I was able
to adjust the insulin to make up for the under dose of the morning.
Later, I came to a place where the route diverged into two directions.
While I was studying my guidebook, trying to make up my mind, I was
joined by Hannah, Rudy, and a German woman. A discussion then ensued
as to which would be the best route. I decided to take the more direct
way, while the others took the more traditional path. I made some pretty
good time on the right fork. Then the path ended and I had to walk on
the edge of the highway. I only walked there for a few minutes before
I quickly realized that if I stayed on the highway, I would never get
to Santo Domingo (or anywhere else for that matter). Thus I went through
the fields parallel to the road. That slowed me down considerably since
the terrain was very irregular and I was fearful that I would twist
my ankle. Also, the recent rains made the footing slippery and downright
muddy. I got to town about the same time as the people who went the
long way. So much for short cuts.
Got to the albergue in Santa Domingo de la Calzado at about 1:30,
which means I did the 20 K in about 5 hours — pretty good speed
for me. However, as I was unloading my pack, I heard a cock crowing,
which is strange because we were in the middle of a pretty large city.
Since Santo Domingo de la Calzada is famous for being the location of
the milagro de gallo y galina (miracle of the cock and the hen)
I thought that the crowing seemed a good omen to me.
[Editor's notes: According to legend and James Michener, in his
book Iberia, Santo Domingo was sainted because of what he did
for the pilgrims as thousands passed through this town in the mid 11th
Century. He lived near the camino and built refuges to care for the
sick, built kitchens to feed the hungry, and paved roads (calzadas)
to speed them on their way. In fact, he is considered the patron saint
of all those who work on roads.]
The story of the chicken miracle is what Santo Domingo is best known
by even though there were other events attributed to this place. The
story occurs in several forms throughout Europe, but all basically tell
the same tale. A German family was passing through the city on their
way to Santiago and stayed at a local inn. The innkeeper's daughter
became enthralled with the young man of the family. Since he was on
a pious journey, he spurned her advances. Being a scorned woman, she
framed the man by hiding a silver cup among his things. Then she went
to the authorities and denounced him. When he was searched, they found
the goods on him and he was taken to be hanged. Santo Domingo kept him
alive while hanging there by supporting his feet. The parents heard
that their son was still alive. They went to the head honcho and begged
the important personage to release him. The official said that the boy
could no more be alive then the roasted chickens on his dinner table
were alive. At that point the poultry sprang alive as full-fledged cock
and hen. As the cock started crowing, the official ordered that the
boy be cut down.
Thus Santo Domingo has become associated with this story and is pictured
with a white cock and hen. In fact, inside the church, high on a shelf
is an elaborate pen where a live rooster and hen are always kept. (For
those of you who are PETA advocates, they change the animals every 21
days — what happens to them afterwards, I do not know.)