Back on the camino now I was ready to reintegrate myself into pilgrim life and was determined to make friends along the way toward Santiago. After an overnight at the Santo Domingo Parador I headed out to walk the path to Burgos that I’d seen from a taxi window over the previous days.
After Santo Domingo the camino rises up from the vast fields of grain toward the Montes de Oca. I walked along the path and took photos of the steeple at Grañon that rises just above a ridge, seeming to sprout from the earth like the grain itself. After Grañon I came to Belorado and considered stopping there at the albergue with a swimming pool. Instead I trudged farther, to Tosantos, and there had one of my most delightful albergue experiences.
As I walked into this three-story, parochial albergue in the quaint and tiny village of Tosantos I was introduced to Tomás, the hospitalero. He began to lecture me about the history of the region and about the camino. My college Spanish skills allowed me to catch about 1/4 of the words, but the general impression was that he was very excited about the camino and proud of his albergue. He instructed me to leave my boots on the main floor and choose a sleeping pad in the main sleeping room on the second floor, then told me all pilgrims were asked to help cook the evening meal and were invited before dinner to tour the cave above the town that held its statue of the Virgin Mary.
I finished my laundry out on the albergue’s grassy lawn, hung it up to dry, then joined other pilgrims in peeling potatoes and cutting up carrots for our dinner. At about 18:00 we headed across the highway to the parish church where a kind woman walked us up the hill to the cave chapel. The interior was quite chilly, and we pilgrims shivered as she gave us a lengthy explanation of how the Virgin is carried into town in the spring and returned to the cave in the winter (or vice versa). We were all happy to excuse ourselves and return to the sunshine outside and the warm stew awaiting us at the albergue dining room.
When we arrived we sat down to a delicious and plentiful meal of stew and salad, followed by cups of yogurt, all accompanied by loud conversation and the sounds of Taizé music played on the boom box on a shelf near the table. I learned from this experience that it is a great joy to share in cooking and eating a meal together with other pilgrims, and I appreciated the care and pride with which Tomás carried out his role as hospitalero.