Friday, July 03, 2009

Day 39 - Arco de Pino - Thursday, 28 May 2009

Ribadosoa -> Arco do Pino = 23K (Only 19K to go – I may be in Santiago tomorrow!)

Summer has arrived. It is hot! It’s hard to believe this 6 week adventure began with April snows in the forecast at Roncesvalles. Now in late May, sweat drips down my nose and onto my shirt.

My walking companions today (three guys from Germany) didn’t speak much so it was like walking alone. We maintained the same pace and stopped for café con leche and conversation along the way. I enjoy the steep climbs and sing even on the goat-like climbs. I feel fit. I am grateful for this – I consider what I went through recovering from surgeries back in 2005.

As I walk, so many things fly through my head. I wish I had stopped to write them down. Throughout this adventure, I have failed to stop and write. I have waited till days-end and then merely jotted down the bare bones of the trip and rarely any of the insights and lessons I have learned. At days-end, I am tired and forgetful.

I check into the albergue when it opens at 1300. When I arrived, backpacks were already lined up outside the door, designating the order of arrival. The sweaty pilgrims sat, shoes off, waiting to check in. I was among the first.

The hospitaleros give me a disposable sheet for my bottom bunk. There is a luxury here: a reading lamp built in the wall. I wish I had a book to read.

Once checked in, I cleaned up a bit. I have made-do on this trip; using bandanas as towels …cutting corners to keep the weight down. It will be so great to have real towels, nice clothes, cosmetics, shampoo & conditioner, curls, etc. It feels good to wash away all the mud. I apply some lip gloss, comb my hair (I’ve been washing my long locks with Castile soap!) and don my alternate walking clothes. I head out to find lunch.

I run into two old friends: the Flying Dutchman and the woman from New Zealand. We sit at an outdoor café and while away the hot, afternoon, siesta-hours, hoping for a breeze. It is hot and the humidity is much higher than it has been. I am so grateful I am not walking in the real heat of summer. We nurse our wine and talk about life, baring our souls in the way one does with a stranger.

At 1700, the stores open and I spend some time looking, but do not buy. I do not want anything enough to carry it, but I am drawn to all the little luxuries (scarves, cosmetics, cologne) like a kid in a candy store. I feel like a street person. I feel like a poor person. I leave the shops and walk a bit more.

These afternoons of just hanging out are difficult. There are days one cannot walk further because of the distances and days when the body will not permit it…and there is always the worry of finding a bed at an albergue. Language barriers, customs and culture and feelings of isolation can weigh heavy at times. People who walk with others may not feel this so much.

I wander into a supermercado (grocery store) and ponder what to eat for dinner. At 1930 there are pilgrim menus available at local restaurants (9 Euro) but I do not have the energy to go through the motions of dining alone in a restaurant. I buy some meat, bread, a piece of fruit and some wine and go back to the albergue.

The Asians who walk the Camino like to cook their own meals so as I walk in, the smells drift out to me. I enjoy watching them cook and share with one another. If my spouse were here, I am sure he would be cooking us a lovely meal, but I am not so inclined. On this trip, I frequently settle for yogurt or a sandwich or I stop in a bar for a racion of calamares or tortilla. I am not much of a “foodie”.

The sun beats down on the albergue. This is better than rain, I guess. I cannot imagine what walking in the summer months would be like. The alburgues would be like ovens. My sleeping bag and silk sack need airing and/or cleaning. I frequently sleep on top of my sleeping bag and use the silk bag as a modesty cover. Earlier in the trip, the sleeping bag was well used.

With only 19K to go, many pilgrims will end their pilgrimage in Santiago tomorrow. I plan to wend my way through the eucalyptus forest and stop just 4K outside town at the huge Monte de Gozo (Mount of Joy) albergue (the facility has 800 beds!). I want to arrive at the cathedral in Santiago in the cool, early morning hours on Saturday, before the city is fully awake and before the sun becomes my enemy. I also want to have the plaza fronting the cathedral to myself for a few precious moments.

I climb into bed early. I notice that two of my roommates have already gone. They slept away the afternoon and now are gone. Will they walk all night? I wonder.

I lay awake on my bunk listening to the sounds of 50 people settling in for the night. We are like cattle or chickens roosting. Each pilgrim has an evening routine or ritual. Many write under the glow from headlamps or flashlights. The man I dubbed “the Sea Lion” is among the 50 pilgrims – he has sleep apnea and snores in a frightening way. I have shared quarters with him several nights in the recent past. Many pilgrims swear by ear plugs.

I consider who among these pilgrims will be guilty of bag-rustling and noise in the wee, early morning hours. Can their evening behavior be a predictor of their morning routine?

The pilgrims who smoke emanate the odor of tobacco and smoke.

In only a few days, my albergue nights will be history. Living so closely among strangers has been an experience. Human behavior is frequently surprising, sometimes disappointing and inconvenient, but there are times when it is comforting.

It is time for this pilgrim to call it a night.


Rev. Sandy Brown said...

Did you ever finish your Camino? Am looking forward to a final post.

Sansthing said...

What happened next? Hope you made it.