Did I ever tell you the story about the time my friend Isabel and I got lost in rural Spain and wound up hitchhiking with three male midwives and a pair of Korean schoolgirls to a tiny church on a mountain?
It was a true redditor’s pilgrimage— a quest borne of artistic curiosity and maybe if we’re being honest a slight desire for upvotes. The plan: visit the church of Santuario de la Misericordia in Borja, Spain to see the botched Jesus fresco. I’d admired his doughy monkey face all over the internet. I loved that Ecce Homo like he was my own potato baby.
The 2-hour ride from Zaragoza to Borja went by in a flash. We made friends with two girls from Seoul who shared our Christly mission. The four of us nearly skipped off the bus. It was the golden hour and the town felt like a storybook. Isabel pointed to a flock of ragged sheep backlit by the waning sun. They looked like saints, silhouettes ringed in radiant gold. We followed the winding streets in a dream state.
It should have been a simple trip. Not short, but straightforward—follow the route on foot to the church, behold the breathtaking depiction of JC in all its lumpy glory. But like, fuck Google Maps if you’re in a tiny town in Spain, yo. The map said Santuario de la Misericordia was a brief 15 minute walk from the bus station. The map was wrong. There was a church at the end of our stroll, but it was abandoned and empty. Before we could reroute, my phone died. So did Isabel’s camera. Out of spite, probably. The dream was officially over.
Afternoon bled into dusk, and I looked out at the black sands and barren fields with despair. What next? There was no comfort in Zaragoza’s oddly lunar landscape. Isabel and I turned to the two Korean girls who had joined our pilgrimage pack. We all had heavy bags. None of us knew what to do.
But we knew we couldn’t give up. We’d come all the way from California for this shit. They’d flown from Seoul. We traced the curving, lone road ahead of us, and saw through the haze of dusk that it led to a small mountain. Spotting a few lights, a hint of life on the hill, we decided to keep going.
We underestimated the distance. After another 30 minutes of trekking, the mountain appeared not an inch closer to us. Weariness, frustration, and disappointment were sinking their claws in when we heard a rumble of a car on the road behind us. I whipped around. There it was! A tiny green thing heading in our direction. For the first time in my life, I stuck out a thumb. The car skidded to a stop. Inside were 3 jolly Spaniards in their early 20s, grinning from ear to ear.
JOLLY SPANIARD #1: HELLO?? ARE YOU GOING TO THEE DE ETHAY UOMO?
JOLLY SPANIARD #2: DE FRETHCO! ARE YOU GOING TO THEE IT? WE CAME FROM THARAGOTHA TO THEE IT!
The Ecce Homo fresco! Of course. Turns out that’s all anyone is ever in Borja for.
ME: Oh! Yes! Do you know where it is? We’re lost.
JOLLY SPANIARD #1: EET ITH UP DE HILL! COME! WE WILL TAKE YOU!
We piled in and began our ascent. The driver of the car was a 22-year-old midwife in training. He proudly showed us pictures of the black twin babies he had delivered that morning. I couldn’t believe any of this was happening. But I was ecstatic.
We made it up the hill and entered the church with our crew: 2 boisterous California girls, 2 quiet Korean students in their uniform skirts (seriously), and a lispy trio of doulas from Zaragoza. And there He was.
TL;DR: A+ would hitchhike to see Jesus again.