I didn’t get my own room last night after all; three Spanish bikers showed up around 9pm. I knew it seemed too good to be true!
My walk today was… just okay. The beginning was amazing but right from the start I felt sluggish. Sometimes I just know that I have good energy or am feeling strong, and I just didn’t feel this today. By the end I was moving so slowly, and it wasn’t even a super tough walk. Maybe it’s just the accumulation of all of these miles, all the ups and downs, all the blister woes, all the rocky terrain.
But the first several hours of the day- despite feeling a little weighed down- were like a dream. I got to walk on the beach! It’s just such a beautiful aspect of this Camino- the coastal views, the beach walking. It’s an incredible thing to get to experience. After the first beach I climbed steeply up a hill and then followed an equally steep descent back down to a second beach. I roamed around the rocks, searching for sea glass and finding a few small pieces. And then I walked on the hard sand for several kilometers into Noja, where I stopped for a cafe con leche and a tostada con tomate (a first for me on the Camino, but something I’ve wanted to try: just a large piece of toast, covered with tomato, a little salt, and olive oil. It was delicious). I ate this breakfast at an outdoor table with a view of the beach, tourists at the tables around me, but no other pilgrims.
The rest of the walk was long, and I just wanted the kilometers to pass by quickly. I took a lot of breaks, including a nice long one for a lunch of a grilled chicken sandwich and a coke. My eating habits have been a little strange on this Camino; yesterdays’s lunch ended up being a large scoop of ice cream (great, but maybe not quite enough). By the time I arrive at my destination it is usually too late to find a restaurant for a good menu del dia (the Spaniards usually eat their midday meal between 1-3), and the evening meal is too late for my pilgrim schedule, not served until 9pm or sometimes 10. On the Frances this wasn’t a problem, the route catered so much to pilgrims that it was rare to not find a bar or restaurant serving a pilgrims’s menu, at pilgrim hours. Here, it’s different.
So I think I need to make more of an effort to carry back up food with me in case I can’t find a place to eat. But today, it wasn’t a problem. I ate well at breakfast and lunch and then arrived at the albergue in Guemes, a place I’d heard about from multiple past pilgrims. Even my guidebook calls this albergue the best on the Norte.
And having just finished my evening here, I can see why. I was greeted with a glass of water when I walked in (my peregrina friend Nicole was also offered cookies… not sure why I missed out, hmm…), I was asked if I needed to eat lunch, I was shown to my room which is set up a bit like a cabin, with a pitched roof and wooden bunk beds. I took a took a top bunk gladly because for the second time on this Camino, the bunks were in tiers of three! And these were even better than the beds in Islares!
This place is almost like a compound; Ernesto is the owner and we were told about his history and the history of this place during a community meeting just before dinner. If I remember correctly, construction on the property took about 33 years and it has offered beds to pilgrims for 16 years. But we were also told that it’s not really an albergue for the Camino de Santiago, it’s an albergue for the Camino of life. Anyone who is working to help others, to help take care of the earth, who is trying to make the world a better place… this is their home. I liked that.
There are probably about 20 of us here tonight, and we sat at two long tables for a wonderful communal dinner: two different kinds of soup (sopa de ajo again, and an amazing vegetable purée), a dish of potatoes and chorizo, fruit, bread and wine. All around me were people I’d met in the past 10 days, and a few new faces as well. Not long after I’d arrived this afternoon I saw Richard walk by- I haven’t seen him for almost a week and assumed I wouldn’t see him or the others again. I hoped to also see Iria and Amy and Misako but Richard explained that they were all further back. Still, it was good to see Richard, and it felt like this was the sort of place that could reunite you with old friends.
After dinner Nicole and I wandered around the property; after a day of mostly overcast skies and still air, the evening felt cool and fresh. A soft light was covering everything- the buildings of the property, the big green lawn, the lone towel that hung on the clothesline.
So this is the end of my day 10, as I finish typing out this blog post from my perch high above the others in the room. A beautiful morning walk on the beach followed by a tough journey to my home for the evening… but what a home it is. It was worth every step to get here.