Before I started the Camino, I’d done a lot of reading and research about it. One of the things I’d read was that the path was sort of divided into thirds: the first 10 days were mostly about the physical part of the journey. The biggest focus would be the pains and changes of your body. The second third was about the mind: you walk long, hot days through the Meseta, a region where this is no shade, a flat path, no distractions. A lot of time to spend in your head. I’ve heard different interpretations about the final third of the way: some say it’s about putting it all together. Some say it’s about coming to life.
I’ll be curious to see if my Camino falls into thirds, or into any kind of distinct sections. Already I can see how it might happen: today, for the first time, felt like I was moving into a different stage of this journey.
I’ve been around mostly the same people for the past 12 days, and it’s been wonderful. I guess this has been my Camino family, and it’s a large one. But it’s changing. Mirra will leave tomorrow and I know that this will affect my Camino. In some ways I’m excited for the change, even though I wish Mirra would stay and she and I could finish in Santiago together. But being on my own could be good heading into the Meseta. Even though I spend hours walking every day, I feel like there hasn’t been enough time to really think about this experience and process what I’m going through. I don’t regret how I’ve spent this first part; in fact, I don’t know that I would really change anything. I’ve been having so, so much fun.
And so far, if I had to pick a theme for the first part of this pilgrimage, I think it would be about fun and connection. I’ve definitely felt the physical part of the walk, but not nearly like others have. All the training walks I did before coming here definitely paid off, and my aches and pains (so far) have been few. So if this first section of the Camino wasn’t about physical hardship, then I would have to say it was about the people I’ve met, and the fun I’ve had with those people.
And maybe I’ll keep having fun, and making good connections- lets hope! But I also wonder if this next part of my walk will be more internal, if I’ll intentionally crave time to myself.
I walked to Burgos today, and the night we just had was a celebration: of beginnings, middles, and ends. Just as Mirra leaves the Camino, Adam (from Ireland) begins. Ibai found him sitting alone in the albergue and invited him out with us. We went out for tapas and sangria, 8 of us squeezed around a wooden table filled with plates of food. We toasted, we sang happy birthday to Ibai, we told stories about our walk, we took photos and talked about keeping in touch.
We walked out of the restaurant to the empty square in front of the cathedral to say goodnight and go to our separate albergues. Everyone hugged Mirra tightly, even Adam, whose walk is beginning just as hers is ending.
Mirra and I walked to our albergue together, talking about what a perfect ending this was for her, and the perfect transition time for everyone else. I can feel, so strongly, that my Camino is going to change tomorrow. I’m not sure who I’m going to walk with, who I’m going to meet, who I’m going to drink wine with and cook with. I don’t know who will be sleeping in the bunk bed above or below me, because for almost every night of my Camino, Mirra has been my bunk mate.
But I’m also excited for the unknown. Two days ago I discovered that I left my guidebook at the albergue I’d stayed in. I panicked for about an hour, not knowing how I would figure out my days and plan where to stay and know how far to walk. But I’m choosing to see this as a big sign from the Camino: time to just let each day unfold and let go of trying to plan. And I think this will be a good lesson for me.
Already, today, the Camino gave me what I needed, more than what I needed. I had no guidebook to walk me into the city of Burgos, but I ended up with something better. An old man with a cane was waiting on a bench, and when I walked by he motioned for me to follow him, and took me and two Lithuanian girls to a scenic detour. Our entire walk into Burgos- what many others referred to as the walk of hell- was through a beautiful park. As we approached the city another man explained exactly how to get to the cathedral and albergue and tourist information center. And as I waited in front of the small albergue for Mirra, another pilgrim sat next to me and told me how great the albergue was, then introduced me to the hospitalero (the man who runs the albergue).
Some people call these Camino angels, and maybe that’s true. I’ve experienced this so much on the Camino: someone is there to help or be kind just when I need it.
So I’m going to try to put my trust in the magic of the Camino. I’m saying goodbye to my best Camino friend, and even though I can’t imagine that the second part of this Camino could be any better than the first, I’m trusting that if I let myself see it, I’ll experience so much more magic.