Tales from the camino: The Middle of the Road
The days passed one after the other, blurring into a series of moments, events without specific days, but falling instead into jumbled heaps of times, of waking, walking and life.
We rose every day before the sun, pulling on cloths and shoving sleeping sacks into bags, trying not to wake those around us as we slipped into that silent time before dawn. One day we walked with the moon as bright as a street light and on one it hid behind the clouds, leaving us in heavy darkness. One morning Ben lingered with me on the trail, listening in quite companionship to my stream of early morning consciousness, on another his light bobed ahead of me and I watched him shrink until he was but a firefly. One day I stumbled and bumped my knee and cursed the blinding light I was wearing and on another I taught Ben to walk by the light of the moon.
Each morning the sun would rise over a slightly different landscape. Sometimes it would sneak up on us and on other mornings it would paint the sky with brilliant colors. I would watch each morning for that moment when the light switches from dawn to day, when the world seems to jolt into the day.
After ten kilometer of walking we would stop for a 10k coffee break, though neither of us drank coffee. Ben would order a juice, sometimes orange and sometimes sticky sweet melocoton, though I suspect it was more because we both enjoyed the feeling of the spanish word for peach. I drank cola cao, the spanish version of a hot chocolate mix. We always ate something, sometimes it was just toast, sometimes it was a sandwich, once it was a decadent donut. We often ran into larger groups, sometimes we didn’t, but we always stopped to watch the running of the bulls during the Festival de San Fermin.
Soon enough we were off again, eventually pausing for lunch or to pee, either in a bar or wherever we could find a bit of privacy on the side of the road. We walked and we talked in groups large and small about everything and nothing. We crossed mountains and hot arid fields. We talked about life and history. Sometimes we talked just to push the pain of our various injuries out of our minds. Sometimes we said nothing. Sometimes we walked alone, lost in the our own thoughts or finding ourselves in that quiet meditative space that I have only ever found on long walks.
Sometimes there were events of note to break up the day. There was the time we missed the wine fountain because we were so determined to find white scarves to keep the aggressive July sun off our necks or the time there was no coffee but there were puppies. There were days when blister, tendentious and shin splints occupied our lives. There were days when we crossed borders between states and there was that one time I cried. But mostly there were the people you met along the way, like the man who was doing the whole thing on a push scooter, he was cool.
Eventually we would stop, never where the most common guidebook suggested. That was asking for higher prices, bigger crowds, and bed bugs. Sometimes the albergue, pilgrims hostel, was in a city, often it was in a small campesino town. We traded off who was bottom bunk and who played for laundry. While Ben ‘rested his eyes’ and I rolled mine at his inability to admit to napping, I would read or do laundry. When we were both rested we would explore the town, if we were in one, or simply enjoy the pleasures of sitting after so long carrying our lives on our backs. Sometimes we ate with other pilgrims and friends, sometimes we rummaged up some things from the local grocery.
Evenings were spent with the myriad of other pilgrims, both those we had come to know well and those we would soon know better. There were always stories and laughter and wine. Often there was a guitar procured from somewhere and then there was singing and there was, always, without fail, an in-depth discussion of the condition of everyones’ feet.
In the end we would all fall with the sun, exhausted from an honest days work, into exhausted sleep. Just to wake the next day and do it all again. All in the pursuit of finding ourselves one step closer to Santiago.
Until next time,
Buen Camino Ninja Turtles!