“Every hundred feet the world changes.” –Robert Bolaño
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” –Anais Nin
Gracias a todos for your thoughtful comments and well wishes! Several of my friends have been concerned because I have not been posting very much but please don’t worry; all is well on the Camino. However, between limited internet access, 6-7 hour hikes, 3 hour lunches, and socializing, it’s difficult (I am happy to say) to fit in time for posting.
I am also very tired, in every way imaginable. From the beginning of this journey, I set an intention to spend the majority of my time with native speakers of Spanish and I am happy to report that I have succeeded in my goal. Consequently, my Spanish has improved considerably (although some of my new friends still laugh at my American accent). Speaking and listening to Spanish all day, however, costs me, in mental energy, adding to the physical fatigue of walking about 15 miles a day.
My day usually begins at 0500 when I am awakened by my alarm or a walking companion; since Rabanal, Antonio has been waking me up between 0500 and 0530. It is always my goal to start walking by 0600 in order to take advantage of the cool morning air as the afternoons have been sweltering; best to have the walking done by 1400. I also love watching the sun rise and we have been fortunate the past few days to see the moon setting as well, in the beautiful morning sky.
Breakfast usually takes place about an hour into walking when we stop at a cafetería for a café con leche, a fresh squeezed orange juice, some type of pastry, and/or when it’s available, a slice of Spanish tortilla, similar to a frittata, for me (my Spanish friends don’t understand my insistence on having protein for breakfast). We typically arrive at the albergue by 1300 or 1400, go through the process of checking in, then appropriate beds, whether assigned by a [email protected] or chosen by us. A shower almost always comes next (although if there is a river to swim in, as in Molinaseca and Villafranca we might skip the shower). Washing the day’s clothes must come next so they can be hung on the line to dry in the afternoon sun. Nothing worse than wet clothes in the morning!
By the time the the laundry is complete, I am usually famished. Typically we eat a three-course lunch in a restaurant that serves what is referred to as a “Pilgrims’ Menu”. I am always delighted when I can start with lentil soup or calamari. I am rarely thrilled with the second course which is is usually greasy meat and french fries. My face lights up when homemade flan is listed as a dessert option, although today I had an almond tart which was delicious!
These past several days, by the time we are halfway through lunch, the exhaustion has set in so I have taken to having an afternoon nap, on the grass in the shade of a tree whenever possible, often with friends. We while away the afternoon hours sleeping, chatting with other peregrinos (you never know who will show up and we are often surprised by a friend we haven’t seen in several days). For a few days, beginning in Rabanal, I was almost ill with exhaustion, I’m guessing from the heat combined with the walking or perhaps the cumulative effect of having walked so far, so many days, so went to bed by nine. The past few nights, however, we’ve been out and about until 2230 or so.
At this moment, a friend and I are lying on my sleeping bag which we laid out in a grassy knoll. There are a few puffy white clouds in the sky and a fair amount of wind ruffles the tree branches above our heads. As is often the case here on the camino, we are lulled to sleep by the sound of birdsong, the trilling of crickets, and the buzzing of bees.
I am not certain how many days remain for me on this journey but in the back of my mind, I know it is winding down. I try not to think about it but sooner or later I will need to make plans to get to Madrid for my return to the States.
For this moment, however, I will keep my focus on the mossy outcropping above my head, the flowers at my feet, the breeze in my hair, and the sun warming my skin. All is well on the Camino.
Route: Villafrance del Bierzo to O Cebreiro
Distance: 29.6 km (18.4 mi)
Accommodations: Albergue de O Cebreiro
Notes: There was a tough climb today, from Las Herrerias to O Cebreiro but it felt great to “work out”. I loved staying at the top of the mountain in O Cebreiro; I did not find it as “touristy” as many other pilgrims have felt. However, next time I do the Camino Francés, I will stay in the little town of La Faba halfway down the mountain, just for a change.