My Life as a Traveler

The Camino Provides

June 18, 2012

None of my English-speaking companions are up yet, just me, sitting up to reach my clothes left near my feet at the base of my bed, putting away my earplugs, slipping on my bathroom shoes and go to wash my face (without soap, always put that away the night before) and brush my teeth before dragging my backpack, sleeping bag and it's sack, toiletries, and other clothes into the main room filled with big, loud Spanish guys. I stuff my sleeping bag in it's sack here – it's really noisy and I try not to do this where people are still sleeping, stow the rest of my gear, tape my toes (probably I don't really need to by this point, but it makes me feel good), put on socks and shoes, double check that I have all my valuables in their respective places, quietly creep back into the sleeping room and check under my bed to make sure I didn't leave anything, and head out a bit after the Spanish guys.

It's foggy and dark. I've got my headlamp on and I check my book again to make sure I'm heading the right way. No spectacular sunrise today, just a brightening of the mist surrounding me. Since I've started from a small albergue instead of from a bigger town, there are few fellow pilgrims walking at this hour. A random girl who doesn't speak English is the only person I meet. The trail winds down through small stone villages. In the second village, about an hour and a half walking, there's a bar open for breakfast. I'm good and hungry.

There's a problem, however. Somehow I wasn't paying attention to money at the last cash-machine town and ended up spending my last bills on dinner last night. I have five euros in my wallet. Unfortunately, I order the fresh-squeezed juice (2euros) and coffee (1euro) before realizing that, and instead of my favorite potato omelet, all I can afford is toast (tostadas) and have one euro left over. At home, I would be freaking out at the thought of going out with an empty wallet, but here, I'm not worried. According to my book, Tricastela, the next town, is only an hour and a half walk away, and chances are favorable that it will have a cash machine. If not, well, in another 18km (a little more than four hours more walking) there was Sarria, the 100km mark from Santiago. In the meantime, I had cookies and sunflower seeds to eat, plus I would not feel the least bit strange about asking people for money, if I really had to. The Camino always provides. And sure enough, when I got to Tricastela, there was the cash machine right on the trail waiting for me. Thank you, Camino.

After Tricastela, the Camino splits into two trails – one that goes via Spain's oldest and largest monastery at Samos, 6.4km longer, or the one that goes via a more natural path through San Xil. I choose the shorter one, take a wrong turn for about 10 minutes, then pass through gorgeous woodland, through a stone village, and up a hill. Earlier, I am passed by a solo bicyclist, who meets me on the other side of this village. “Perro,” he says, very seriously, and points up ahead. At first I think he is afraid of a dog and wants someone not wielding a bike to wield a stick (because I am Superwoman), but then I figured that he saw the dog, knew I was alone behind him, and stopped to provide protection. You gotta love these Italians! We chat for a bit, I take his picture at the fountain on top of the hill, then he cycles on. The Camino provides.

I'm getting hungry and am ready to stop for lunch. It's around noon, and it's 9km to Sarria. I don't think I'm going all that way; there are several places to stay before there. There's a bar open, I peel off my pack, go inside and see my Brazilian friend, Jorge. As I greet him (we just say hi since he doesn't speak English), I hear a voice from his other side. “You sound American!” There's a woman the other side of Jorge. I ask where this woman is from. Virginia. Hmmm… I take a wild guess and ask her if she's Rolande, Susie's friend who started before us. Sure enough, it's her, and she knows me! I grab a sandwich and we chat, filling each other in on our respective journeys. We part, promising to meet in Santiago. The Camino provides.

So, now, how far do I walk before stopping? Question answered: coming out of the bar I see my Australian friends, Lyn and Kathy. I walk with them a bit to find out that they are ready for lunch and ready to stop for the night. I just had lunch, but according to the guidebook, there was a pension (small hotel) about half an hour's walk ahead. Could they wait and eat then, and I'll split a room with them? Sure! Although it's a little sooner than I had planned, I was happy to join my friends the “Hotel Tarts” in a room with a bed with sheets, towels, and no snoring men. At 17euros, it seemed like a steal. We watched the parade of cows coming home as we checked in. The Camino provides.

The ladies had lunch, I did some writing and listening to music, and Kathy introduced me to the 2euro foot/leg massage chair, which became my new best friend. Before dinner, we met for drinks and (Lyn's favorite) potato chips. We asked the waitress for something warm and she brought out a small, open pitcher from the back. Special chupitos made by her husband! It did indeed warm us down to our toes. Dinner was festive, sharing life stories, and we got to bed early. Thank you, Camino. Tomorrow, we're going to try to make it to Portomarin, almost 30km.






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