These are posts in which I relate the story of my walk on the Camino de Santiago with my friends Bill and Derrick in September/October 2019.
Today we walked about 21km from Villafranca Montes de Oca to our stop for tonight in Atapuerca. The day started with a mountain and ended in this small, rural village. We made surprisingly good time. My feet and toes did better but I still have some pain. Bill let me borrow a pair of his socks and I think they help. I’m still not sure at this point if the problem is my feet, my socks, my shoes or some combination.
When we arrive in Burgos I plan to shop for a pair of hiking sandals.
Our breakfast this morning was café con leche and a croissant. Power flickered on and off twice because a storm was coming and that made me very anxious to get on our way. Off we went, up the mountain in the pre-dawn darkness.
Eventually rain fell but it wasn’t bad. I pulled on my pack cover and crawled inside my poncho. The rain became spotty and then it was moving away from us or we moved away from it. As we walked along the Camino we came across two prayer labyrinths that were made of loose stones.
Today was a day of connections.
Met fellow pilgrim, Anna Maria from Brazil along the way. These random connections have led to meaningful conversations. Often the very things I had just been talking silently to God about are the very thing another pilgrim will introduce into our conversation. They share some wisdom and insight with me without intending to.
In Atapuerca, I climbed the hill with Bill to and old church that was locked up tight. Bill walked back down the hill to explore the village and I stayed to look around the property and see if someone would show up so I could get in and pray. While I sat, a young man road up on a bicycle. A peregrino. His name was Alexander and he was from Germany. I told him my last name which is not a only a German name but a German word and that led to more conversation. We talked about how long I had been walking and how long he had been riding and we realized he had covered in 2 days the distance I had walked in 10. His plan was to finish the whole Camino in 9 days.
As Bill and I walked through town, back to the pub where we had lunch, a young woman staying at the same albergue as us ran up with her cell phone and showed Bill a picture of the back of one of her legs. Bill is a nurse practitioner and has “Helper” written all over himself. In her best English she asked for his expert opinion, “Is this bed bug bites?” Bill studied to picture for a moment and gave her the bad news that it did indeed have the characteristics of bed bug bites. She was disappointed and walked away with her head down. No one wanted to find out they had bed bugs.
We never had firsthand experience with bed bugs anywhere we stayed on the Camino. Perhaps because at our age and stage we didn’t always stay at the cheapest bed along the way. Or just God’ grace. But we met people along the way who had bites and some who looked like they’d been almost devoured while they slept somewhere along the way.
Our albergue had co-ed showers by which I mean that I was showering in one stall and a woman could be showering in the stall next to me. This meant doing my best in a very confined amount of space to juggle dry clothes, wet clothes, towel, washcloth and toiletries and using all of them at the right time without falling through the shower curtain and creating an international incident. Privacy on the Camino was becoming less and less a thing.
That night in our room we met Matt who was on his second Camino. He was there from San Francisco and he shared some insights with us about the Camino and getting the most out of our experience.
As I went to sleep that night I was thinking of a lesson from our first days on the Camino: eat before you get hungry, drink before you get thirsty and rest before you get tired. It’s really a recipe for self-care that I can apply to everyday life when we finally get home.