2014 Camino Francés

After the Camino Francés 2014: Night Bus to Pamplona

July 24, 2014
empty two-lane highway stretches into the pink and orange horizon

Being on a night bus is kind of cool.

It’s 130 in the morning, which means we have been on the road for a couple hours. I have been cocooned in my sleeping bag in the very back seat, catching some z’s.

gray and green sleeping bag layed out in back seat of bus

It is, however, very disconcerting to be backtracking in 8 hours the miles that took me weeks to cover by foot. The wheels of the bus cover them with an ease and speed that my mind is having difficulty fathoming.

Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

At 3:15AM, the bus stops for 15 minutes in Astorga, a city I walked through over a week ago.

Why am I going backward?, I think to myself as I order a steamed milk and croissant in the over-lit, bus station bar that sports a slot machine and a large screen flat TV. It all feels so surreal. There are actual customers other than the bus riders in here. I am happy to return to my safe cocoon on the darkened bus.

The night bus stops a bus station bar at 3:15am

Bus station bar in Astorga where the bus takes a break from the drive at 3:15AM

croissant and warm milk on bar when the night bus takes a break

Middle-of-the-night snack

A couple of hours later, the tears that were missing in Santiago, perhaps because for me the Camino always more about the journey than the destination, begin to fall as I watch the horizon turn pink from behind the finger-smudged window of the Alsa bus. While I cannot tell you why I was called to walk the Camino, only the how, I can tell you that there is something so sweet about walking for days on end rather than being transported by vehicles, and I can’t help but wonder what what we as a species have lost along with all we have gained from the technological advances we have made. And yet, without those advances I would never have even known about the Camino, much less been able to do it.

The bus stops briefly in Burgos, the city that marks the beginning of the Meseta portion of the Camino. When we leave, heading due east, a glowing orb of light, bright pink and orange, pushes up over the horizon and I want to yell, “Stop the bus!” so that we can all descend the steps into the crisp morning air and, standing on our own two feet, which I realize only now as I sit on this bright blue bus seat, we are so fortunate to have, pay homage to this glorious sunrise that marks the beginning of another day.

Sunrise through bus window on highway from the night bus to Pamplona

Beginning of the sunrise

My mind drifts toward some of the sweetest moments on the Camino: an impromptu morning picnic of chorizo, cheese, and chocolate on my second day in the Pyrenees; my first encounter with the Spanish couple who walk part of the Camino every year in memory of their son; an afternoon nap in a cool creekside oasis. I think back to a sunrise just outside Najera and the sunset at O’Cebreiro, making a silly video with a friend in the empty streets of Boadilla on an undexpected layover day. There was a message left on a stone (the Camino’s version of voicemail), personal items lost and recovered, refreshing river swims. Too many sweet moments to recount.

As the bus approaches the mountains of Navarra, I am suddenly blown away that I walked this distance, through these hills, over these mountains. And that pilgrims have been walking these roads for centuries.

We drive through amazing craggy peaks and I see tiny villages and stone walls clinging to their jagged edges and I want to be out there, walking. What a beautiful world we live in.

What sweet moments, I wonder, will be created today?

Day +1 (Part 2): Night Bus to Pamplona

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