We left Estella and sadly, we left behind Derrick’s pilgrim credentials. A sign he would have to return another day to finish the Camino. The time was coming up quickly that he would be leaving us and returning home. To stay on our schedule, we used a “fast forward” and took a bus ahead to Los Arcos and then walked an additional 8km to our albergue for the night.
I was on the Camino as part of my sabbatical season from my vocation as the pastor of a local church. I was given two months of time off and had planned for 3 weeks of that to be spent with my wife in some of our favorite places in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain. This influenced our walking schedule and some of the choices that were made on the Camino to “fast forward” in order to stay on this predetermined schedule when I would need to fly out of Santiago and onto Dublin to meet my wife.
This was not the reason for today’s fast forward but it was a reality that day by day was causing me to become aware that the walking schedule I had set was not a schedule that we would be able to follow as planned.
The issue today was that accommodations in Los Arcos appeared to be scarce or non-existent and I had taken on the role of sorting out our accommodations. You could always take your chances and there was usually a municipal albergue that would have beds without reservations on a first come/first served basis. But already on the Camino we had learned that my companions and I were not, let’s say…prepared for what many of the municipal albergues offered.
Bill and I were both on Vitamin I today and picked up some extra extra strength Ibuprofen at the Farmicia along the way. These were a gift. My feet were killing me and his toes, still black from being smashed, were bad – likely one (at least) was broken. It was still early in the day and the albergue in Torres del Rio had beds – and a pool. I stood in the pool and cooled my feet off. Bill soaked his foot in ice water to reduce the swelling of his toes. And at the pool we discovered Antony, our new friends, was also staying in this same albergue.
Derrick had been feeling badly that he likely wouldn’t see Antony again before he left for home and suddenly, unexpectedly, and very randomly, here he was. Another gift of the Camino.
We sat in the lobby waiting for cleaning to be finished for the day and beds to open. A man and woman walked in, pilgrims, looking for beds and after finding out they had room, the woman asked our innkeeper about getting rid of bed bugs. Our hostess stopped everything else she was doing and focused on the question by asking her own – “Have you been somewhere with bed bugs?” When the pilgrim said she had, just the night before and wanted to know how to kill them, the lady behind the counter came around and ushered them back out of the lobby and onto the patio outside. She gave them large, black garbage bags and told them to put everything – EVERYTHING – into those bags and sit down on nothing.
It became very intense, very quickly. She gave them all the instructions they need to de-bed bug but nothing of there’s could come inside the albergue that night.
In my diary I recorded the following:
“So much about this has reminded me of Bible College. I went with so many expectations, especially about the spiritual aspect of what I was doing and what we were doing together – only to have all those expectations quickly smashed. God does that, the great iconoclast. The Camino has been what it is and the way is full of people who come with as many motivations as there are stars in the sky.”
There were a lot of reasons people were on the Camino. Many were out for an adventure. Many were there for the challenge. Some were on the Camino again because, and I will attest to this, once you’ve walked the Camino it becomes a felt need to be on the Camino again. One peregrino called it, “Topping up.” And some of the pilgrims were there to connect with people – for dating, friendship or just as “people people” who loved the comradery of the Camino.
It was on our way to Torres del Rio that I developed very strong feelings about bicyclists on the Camino. Simply, why? I don’t object to bicycling as a way to do the Camino but I do object to the way some people ride. The only time I felt in danger walking the traditional Camino path was when bicyclists would go flying by at high speeds and had I slipped into their path or if they had accidentally veered a couple inches towards me, serious harm would have been done to one or both of us. Some on bikes were friendly, bell-ringing and practicing safety. Most, in my experience, were not.
At our albergue for the night I wrote this: “So many languages and people represented here. The value is on finding our similarities and not our differences. We exchange nods and smiles as we limp down the hall of our albergues to the bathroom.” The multi-cultural experience of the albergues was one of the many gifts of the Camino. The instant connection it creates with people you have never met before, whose language you may not speak but who limp like you limp, is beautiful.