Last night ended beautifully. I walked back to the albergue and saw Christine and the “French mom” sitting outside (I’d briefly met this woman earlier in the afternoon, she is walking short days with her 12-year old son). They invited me over and Christine poured me a glass of wine. We talked for awhile (in French! I think I’ve mentioned it already, but lets say it one more time: I’m doing a whole lot of French speaking here. There are tons of French pilgrims, and even though a lot of them know English, it’s just easier for me to speak with them in French. I can already tell that my French has improved in this past week, and the French mom complimented me on my accent. “It is very good for an American!”).
The two Austrian men walked over to join our group and the five of us sat outside, drinking wine and beer and whiskey (those Austrians sure do have a stock of alcohol with them!), blustering through the conversation with a mix of languages. Herman began talking about the Camino and how it was a chance to live, to really live life.
“Do you know my memory from today?” he asked us. He looked at me. “It is of you, standing far away on a beach, looking out to the sea. I saw you and I thought, ‘She is so happy.’ And that is the Camino, being in these moments.”
I went to bed with these thoughts in my head, that I wanted to take all the beautiful moments and try to live them as fully as I can while I’m here. Even the not so beautiful moments- the pain and the fatigue, even the loneliness- I want to really feel it all.
And on today’s walk I think I did. I started walking with the Austrians but eventually left them when I chose the longer route to Laredo. They stuck to the highway, cutting off about 6 kilometers from the day (but needing to do mostly road walking).
As usual, I was so happy to be off on my own. And boy, was I alone! After 16 kilometers I ran into a few pilgrims in the first town with a bar, but otherwise hardly saw a soul. I would walk for long, long stretches without seeing a single person, and it was beautiful. Parts of my walk were tough, since I was again climbing through the mountains, but it wasn’t as bad as other days. And the views were so beautiful… I sound like a broken record with this, but I’m not sure what else to say. I continue to be amazed that I get to be here and that I get to see the things that I do.
But as ever, the last hour of my walk was pretty awful. I lost the Camino as I was going through Pobena, but I just stuck to the promenade along the beach and knew that I would join up with the Camino eventually. But the promenade went on forever. Forever. It was endless. And hot and there was no shade and my foot, which had been feeling really, really good all day (it’s amazing how wonderful it is to walk without pain!), was starting to maybe redevelop its blister. Finally I got to the very end of the peninsula and took a ferry over to Santona. I knew that Christine would be there, and Annalisa too (an Italian woman I’ve gotten to know a bit over the past few days). I ran into them and a few others just in front of the albergue: they had all taken the short route and had been in town for a few hours, finishing up the last bits of a meal in the square.
But I don’t regret taking the long road today, it was incredible. The albergue is pretty great, too: La Bilbaina, a private one right in a busy and beautiful square in the city. Right now there are 7 of us: the 6 others arrived together and are all in one room, and I’m in a separate room. Fingers crossed that no one else shows up and I get it to myself!
I’ve found some quiet time for myself in a bar next to the albergue, and soon I’ll head back to look for the others any maybe scrounge up something to eat.
Day 9: a good, solid, Camino day. Beautiful walking, a bustling beach town, a comfortable albergue.