Uli and Julie
Since Mary and Susie were suffering from sore legs and blisters, they decided to hang out at Casa Magica a bit longer and take a bus to the next destination. Can’t blame them! But I’m walking this leg, 21km.
After a big breakfast and a bigger cup of coffee, about 7:20am I head out and down the road. Lyrics from the Green Day song, Boulevard of Broken Dreams runs through my head… “I walk alone, I walk alone,” and I’m OK with that.
In about 45 minutes I’m in Estella, the next town. Looks like most of the pilgrims who stayed here have left already and the streets are fairly empty. That is, except for one woman who is taking pictures of everything: the church on the hill, the shell on the ground, the river. When I walk by, she says, “hi!” Who says hi on the Camino? Usually it’s Buenos Dias, or Buen Camino. But hi? Is it that obvious I’m American?
I stop next to her and also feel compelled to take a picture of the shell on the ground. Turns out we are both photographically collecting the different way markers of the Camino, which are mostly yellow arrows or shells. It’s interesting how many different signs you can find to show you the Way. We start walking and talking. I find out she’s German, but lived in the United States for several years off and on due to her husband’s job at GM. She’s excited to revisit her English, and I’m excited because she walks my speed! (An unofficial observation is that the fastest walkers are German – still waiting to be proved wrong here.) Her full name is Ulrike, but her nickname is Uli (rhymes with Julie).
We start up the hill and begin to share our life stories. She’s been dreaming of the Camino for years, but has been busy raising her son and helping her husband recover from a brain tumor. Now Sebastian is 17 and has been a foreign exchange student in Texas this year and her husband is less needful of her, so it’s the perfect time to get away and meditate on life without worrying about if the dishes are done or not.
She is just a year younger and me and we have a lot in common: boys about the same age, husbands older, a love of travel and a wish to leave the world a bit better than when we found it. We talk through a hill village, where we stop for water, and down and through vineyards and fields of grain and asparagus. Turns out she knows quite a bit about that vegetable and I got the whole asparagus story from this former farm girl. We talked insurance (she works for an insurance company) and shared stories of how the economy has affected her friends from the US as well as her German ones.
We kept walking and only stopped to take pictures and pee in the bushes (no Port-A-Pots anywhere!) and before I knew it, we were coming into our destination, Los Arcos. It was 1:30pm. I called Mary to find out where they were and invited Uli to join us. Mary and Susie were just making lunch (pasta with tuna, cheese, and tomatoes – yum!) and were surprised that I had made such good time. Food never tasted so good. I checked in, was assigned the upper bunk, and lay down for a rest – I was whoooped. For 50cents I could throw my laundry in the communal washing machine.
Later, we visited the church next door, saw Morgan (who had a couple of blisters) for a moment before he went off with some friends for dinner, and had some local wine and a salad for dinner ourselves.
So nice to have a new friend!