Monday, April 18, 2005

Angels and Demons

Ester once told me to be careful because you meet both Angels and Demons on the Camino. You never know who it will be. Well, perhaps both can be mixed in the same person. When I was in Rabanal del Camino, I met a very tall, Spaniard with a sharp, brooding face that was brown and creased like parchment. He had long black hair, and his skin, his pack, his teeth and his dog as well all appeared to be about the same color of grayish-black. You could tell he was a hard-core trekker, not one of those sissy's who take a taxi to the easiest spot in the Camino, walk for three days while sending the taxi ahead with their gear, and then find a hotel to shower in at the end. I'd heard about this Spaniard in Leon because he slept outside the convent walls with his big black dog. We started to chat outside in the courtyard of this albergue, and I asked him about the string of curious-looking earrings that peppered his ear.

"What are they made of?"
With a curl of his lip,he replied, "Dientes."
Great Scott. "Teeth?"
"—De niƱos."
"Of children?"

Well, I generally tried to avoid the risk of meeting him alone on the trail in some remote location. However, one grey day as I was tooling along by myself in a completely deserted area, who should I see standing and waiting ahead by the road, but the dark Spaniard and his black hound. I felt slightly uneasy as I approached, but he merely said in Spanish, "Don't take this path." He pointed to the clearly marked way, so I was greatly puzzled. He saw the look on my face and added, "It's a false marker. It will take you way out into the mountains for hours and hours and you will lose yourself." He had waited there to make sure that I didn't go astray, and then he strode off like Strider and disappeared. I trusted his advice, stuck to the common road, and made it to the next city in good time.

Well, I didn't see him again until Santiago where we ran into each other in the great square before the Cathedral. There he was sitting and resting with his trusty hound. When we said goodbye, he took my hand and kissed it most respectfully. Angel or Demon? I don't know, but I did learn on the Camino that looks can be terribly deceiving when it comes to the goodness and generosity of people.

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