Black Magic, Angels, and Miracles on the CaminoBlack Magic- on a Friday, late afternoon – bad luck we ran into last week when we followed the advice in our guidebook and took the bus from Mansilla to Leon in order to bypass the heavy traffic coming into Leon, a large city here in the north of Spain. Michael in a moment of haste, left his “murse” (man’s purse) on the bus. He didn’t realize it until we were halfway to our albergue so we had to make the decision: return to the bus which most likely would already have left the station, or check into the albergue and ask for some help there. We decided on the albergue option. There, we met our first angels, Christina, Paul, & Jose, the hospitaleros at the albergue S.Maria de Carbajal, a convent in the old city. As soon as we explained what had happened, Jose was on the phone to the police in both Mansilla and in Leon. They recommended we take a taxi and return to the Mansilla bus station, so that’s what we did. No sooner had we started back in a taxi, than Paul called to say that the Guardia Civil had gone to the station to check and that it wasn’t there and that we should return to the Leon National Police to fill out a police report which we did. Not a word of English was spoken by anyone at the police station. The report we filled out was in both Spanish and English. Finished! We were sent on our way. The police couldn’t even send us in the right direction.
It was as we stood on a street corner looking at our map, trying to figure out how to get back to the albergue, that another angel popped up. He led us all the way to our abergue!!! (Meeting again two days later …he asked if we’d found the bag and when we answered NO, he said we should just stay in Leon!) We checked into the albergue and immediately Michael got on the phone and cancelled all of his credit cards. Thankfully, all of mine would still work. Thankfully also, Michael had his wallet and cash in his pocket. The passport and iPad were the issue. We could deal with a missing iPad but….the passport would be a very big issue … we would have to go to Madrid, to the US embassy there to apply for a new one AND that would take three weeks.
The bad luck wasn’t quite over. That night, unbeknownst to me because of my super duper Walmart silicone earplugs until 2 am, Michael was ferociously sick, vomiting violently all night long. I think the last episode being around 0530. I had no idea what caused it because we had eaten exactly the same thing and I was fine. Our three angels at the albergue insisted we stay another night and let Mike sleep most of the day.. they would clean and organize around him as he slept. I, on the other hand, had to leave.
Off I went, not dressed for the cold – armed with map and guide book. Within minutes I was totally lost without my trusty navigator (Michael). Seeing a woman walking by carrying a pack, I asked her if she was a “peregrino.” Indeed she was; Alicia arrived the night before from Menorca and spoke fluent English and Spanish. She became the next angel. She was headed for the cathedral and invited me to join. The cathedral was closed so she bought me a coffee and we sat in the freezing cold outside so she could have a smoke. She kept covering me up with her sweater. We went to the cathedral when it opened at 9am followed by another site, San Isadora, where I believe the Holy Grail is kept, but after that, she spent the rest of her time helping me by walking to the bus station, calling numbers for the bus line, the police (both in Mansilla and Leon), the Police lost and found ….. and so much more….she did so much for me. Finally, I bought her a smoothie before she had to catch her bus to Villafranca to start her Camino there, and returned to see how Michael was doing. He was weak but, much better than before.
Leaving Leon the next day, Sunday, Michael wasn’t able to go much farther than 8km. We got a private room in a Hostal. Mike still wasn’t eating much and I wasn’t too hungry either, having caught another version of my cold and maybe a bit of Mike’s flu bug. The next morning we tried to call the embassy to talk to a human….no luck there – only got the message telling us to write an email. USELESS! That was Monday morning.
We made the decision to walk on for two days, allowing time for the bag to be turned in. It had disappeared on the weekend when everything was closed…. maybe it still would be accounted for. With nothing else to do so we walked on, admittedly feeling despondent & considering throwing in the towel on this experience.
We walked and as we walked we started to feel better. We saw a sign asking, “Are you a pilgrim?” It was a rest area off the beaten path. Michael wanted to stop and I wanted to take pics of the stork’s nest on the church. What a delight. Fresh squeezed orange juice, chocolate, fresh fruit….lots of stuff all by donation. There we met are biggest angel of all, Manuel who ran the place, and Barbara, an angel who helped translate to Manuel what had happened. Manuel called all of the numbers that angel Alicia had written down for me, without luck. But, he wanted to know where we would stay that night, just in case something turned up; as he promised to ‘try’ again later.
Although we had planned to stay at Villavente; we ended up staying only a short distance further at Villar de Mazariffe. We went for a snooze and at 645pm were woken by a knock on the door to tell us that there was a man waiting to see us. Mike went up first. By the time I got there, I saw Manuel from the rest stop in Oncina, giving Mike his bag, with all the contents intac. From what we could understand of the situation, the bus driver had found the bag, contacted the Leon police who contacted Manuel.
Tears began to flow as we learned that Manuel had driven his motorcycle all the way to Leon to pick up Mike’s bag….drove to the village where he thought we might be staying….Not finding us there, he stopped at every albergue on the way back until he found us!!! I still cry to think of his great kindness…without any expectation of reward….just for the sake of helping and giving. We bought him a beer and then we met our next angels, Renata and Sylvia from Brazil. We wanted to know the details of what had happened and asked them if they could translate. So we told the story in English to Renata, who translated it in Portuguese to her sister Sylvia, who in turn translated it into Spanish For Manuel and that’s how we found out all the details.
And that’s the Miracle of the Camino for us.