For four days now, I’ve been tramping about the Camino Frances on my way to Santiago. You’ve already read – theoretically – about the desolation of Camino Madrid and the stark contrast to Frances in terms of amenities and pilgrims. I needn’t bore you with such details any further.
What I shall bore you with, howe’er, is about the day to day shenanigans I find myself getting in to as I slowly close in upon my goal of visiting the holy city and the splendid coast.
Do forgive the lack of photos as the internet at the albergue municipal is far from fast. It’s reminiscent of the dial-up I grew up with (kids, ask your parents).
After spending the evening in El Burgo Ranero, my old stomping grounds of hospitalero fame, I trudged onward to Leon. I stopped about 8km short of the city for I didn’t wish to walk near 40km in a single day, and bedded down in a rather humble albergue for the night. Alongside me were a couple of Germans, some Dutch, a Slovenian, an elderly Japanese couple, and the ubiquitous Spanish.
Over the course of several bottles of fine Spanish sidra, we schmoozed and regaled one another with tales from our home countries and our previous caminos. The Dutch were finishing where they had left off last year. The German frau was determined to walk Jakobsweg after years of excuses and putting it off. Now, at 52 and chain smoking far worse than I, she was halfway through. A laconic German gave no reason for walking; he was simply out here like the rest of us. The Japanese were retired and walking about 10km a day – they were celebrating 35 years of marriage.
After so many days and nights of being alone on the Camino Madrid, it was wholly refreshing to be able to sit about a table with several nationalities and languages, sharing and laughing as if we were already friends of old. The cider never ceased to flow, the plumes of smoke ne’er relented, and the laughter continued long into the night. The Spanish bartender mused aloud that we were having far too much sidra for simple pilgrims; we laughed and ordered more.
That is the beauty of the Way: everyone is out here just like you. Everyone has their reason for walking and it doesn’t matter, ultimately, what that reason is. They are out here, same as you, walking in the Spanish sun and miserable heat to a mystical city holding the bones of a long-dead saint. And why?
Fuck. It doesn’t matter why. What matters is one is out here.
Comrades, when was the last time you did something to feel alive?
And why aren’t you doing that now?
I’ll send more updates and pictures when I stumble upon a more stable connection, but for now, from San Martin, I’m out.