Today we submitted to sin.
We stole. Well, that's what my mother would say. But it was just a little steal, and we couldn't resist.
We'd left Ruesta quite early via a pretty forest path that first became a very steep pine plantation road, and then finally led onto open grassland. After two hours or so we started down an old Roman road descending steeply downhill just outside Undues de Lerda, lined on both sides by small orchards. At one such orchard that included a few scrawny almond trees we noticed among the newly formed spring leaves a few clutches of dry almonds from the previous season.
Next moment I was feverishly smashing almond husks with a moss-covered rock until we held about twelve lovely silky brown almonds in the palms of our hands. We skulked away from the scene of the crime, chewing and savouring fresh nuts that tasted as delicious as only illicitly picked almonds can.
There, I've confessed. I know, if every pilgrim pinched a handful of almonds or other produce the poor farmers would be left destitute. But not having tasted the buttery, aromatic taste of freshly picked almonds since I was about seven it was just to much of a temptation to resist. I'm sorry. I promise to go on pilgrimage in penance.
Once in Undues de Lerda we rested our feet under a clutch of trees after the stiff climb and quenched our thirsts with beers from the only bar in town. In the end we spent the best part of an hour watching life in the sleepy village go by - it seems everyone knew everyone else, as they all stopped and chatted when passing each other. We speculated on what they talked about. With only about fifty or so people living in here, news must be fairly limited. Perhaps they discuss the pilgrims passing through, comment on their huge backpacks, all the paraphernalia they were carrying, or their spending habits. Before we took off the bar owner asked us how many pilgrims had stayed in Ruesta the previous night. When we replied four, she looked dejected. Business will be slow today. I felt sorry we weren't staying over in this quaint town, even just for the sake of boosting the economy.
In sharp contrast to the last few picturesque villages we've walked through, Sanguesa, our target for the day is a very unassuming town on the face of it, even though it was a significant pilgrim town back in the day. We looked up the four major churches in town, all of them sadly in rather dilapidated state. Many of the town's stately homes lining the main street were, it seemed, beyond repair and will probably be demolished soon. Perhaps there's a mayor or other bigwig that needs to be fired here...
At the church of Santiago we waited for mass to finish before slipping inside, but could only spend about thirty seconds there before the church caretaker started jingling her keys and switching off the lights. I felt deprived.
Feeling a bit dejected (or rather, ejected) we took our Carrefour gaspacchio and natillas and parked on a bench close to the church for dinner. It hadn't been a particularly rich day culturally speaking, but we had lots of fun being scoundrels on the way. After all, what's being on The Way without fun?