(On Wednesdays I try to post another day from my Camino journey that took place September – October, 2019. It doesn’t always happen. These are crazy days. Today, Bill, Derrick and I are on the road from Puente La Reina to Estella.)
Almost every day on the Camino started in the dark.
Normally we shared sleeping quarters with several people and the goal was to get up as quietly as possible and allow those sleeping in to get their rest. Pilgrims started their day as early as 5 a.m. to make good distance for the day and beat the rush for beds that night. Others started at 6 or 7 and occasionally you met a pilgrim on the “how late can I sleep in before I get kicked out of the Albergue” plan.
When we woke up in Puente La Reina, it was dark and we packed, prepped and headed out for the Camino still in the dark. At the bottom of a stone tread staircase, my friend Bill’s foot slid on the step and slammed into the stone wall.
Being a health care professional, Bill immediately knew he had done worse than stubbed his toe.
He tried to inspect it in the dark but ultimately decided to put a sock on it and carry on. Despite the pain.
My first thought was that that was that. Bill would be going home with broken toes and Derrick would be headed back home soon after and I would be on the Camino alone.
Yes, I was thinking mostly of myself.
But I was also concerned about Bill and how he was doing. I was amazed at his tenacity and determination to just keep walking.
We walked up another hill to leave Puente. The day would be a lot of uphills. This early on in our journey I was still excited to be walking a long downhill section. Later, experience would make me wary of downhills because they always were promising us another steep uphill was ahead.
We stopped for second breakfast or first lunch and stumbled on our new friend, Antony. It was a gift on the Camino to keep running into people you were getting to know at just the right time. Bill’s foot was still in pain from the morning, despite the multiple doses of vitamin I. My feet were aching from blisters and my right knee had started to complain for the first time on our walk across Spain.
And all along the way, the beauty of Spain, the vistas on the Camino, were energizing me, inspiring me and provoking me to wonder and awe.
This was the day we walked on part of the ancient Roman Road. This was always a part of the Camino experience. Every day felt like we were walking in history and on history. Our feet stepped on a path that connected us to a human experience and a human journey that was full of meaning and the mundane. This particular stretch of this ancient road was mostly taken over by blackberry brambles and besides being the Camino path was mostly a footpath between farmer’s fields for the locals.
As we made our way into Estella for the night, we passed a woman, a fellow peregrino, sitting and looking exhausted on a park bench. She was worn out, over heated and I think she would have just slept there on the bench if it was a real option. We gave her a “Buen Camino!” and tried to be encouraging as we walked by – she just looked done. It ended up being much further from that point than I thought it was and when we finally walked into the heart of Estella, I found myself praying she had found the energy to carry on.
There were some days on the Camino where it seemed like someone kept moving your day’s destination just a little further away every time you paused to figure out how much further you had to go.
Our Albergue that night was fantastic and we felt very welcomed and living large as the three of us, Bill, Derrick and myself, got a room to ourselves. At the pilgrim’s meal that night, another happy surprise as we found Gema, the lady who purrs when she sleeps, at our table. As Derrick translated we learned more about her and the many Caminos she had walked.
As we retired for the night, it became clear how to tell who the pilgrims were when we all had our packs off and had cleaned up into fresh clothes. The pilgrims were the ones who were continually limping. That night we rested well, despite aches and pains but 3 of Bill’s toes were black and I worried he wouldn’t be able to continue.