Today was a big walking day. When I woke up I wasn’t sure how far I wanted to go; the forecast was calling for rain and others were planning to do shorter stages: 15 kilometers, 20 kilometers. My guidebook laid out a 28 kilometer stage that would end in Colombres, but from what I could see there wasn’t a pilgrim albergue there (only a youth hostel or a private albergue, which can be hit or miss and tend not to attract the pilgrims walking this route).
So I sort of had my sights set on an almost 40 kilometer day, wanting to end up in Pendueles in an albergue I had heard good things about. When I started walking this morning (after a “cafe con leche” in a plastic cup from the vending machine in the albergue kitchen, and a little later a croissant I took to-go from an open bar on the way out of Comillas), a very light rain was falling. It was more of a mist, and it lasted for about an hour and then the rest of the day was just windy and overcast. Perfect conditions, it turns out, for walking a whole lot.
Yesterday I’d felt really good on my walk, and that feeling continued today. I felt strong. I’ve had my moments here, but so many days drain me. And some days I just don’t feel strong at all, and I can really feel the effort it takes me to get to my destination. Last year was completely different, I flew through so many of my days, never really wanting to stop walking. So to be feeling strong again, feeling like I’ve really got my Camino legs under me… it’s a good thing.
I think I knew I wanted to go for the 40kms after walking about 10. I’d only really seen one pilgrim on my walk, and otherwise was completely alone. And I loved it. It’s been several days since I’ve been away from all the other pilgrims, and it just felt so freeing and wonderful, the kilometers ticked by and I could just relax and settle into my thoughts.
And so much of the day felt strangely perfect: really needing to use a bathroom and walking next to a highway and then suddenly this little hut appears, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, with open toilets (except for a couple of times in a park, I’ve never seen anything like this on the Camino). Later, after walking for awhile, I knew I wanted to sit somewhere, take off my shoes, and eat some of my bread and cheese. And lo and behold, a few minutes later I came upon a small park area, with picnic tables and a fountain.
With 10 kilometers to go, I stopped in Colombres for fries and a coke, then continued on for the last stretch. And what a stretch it was: a rugged coastal route leading to Pendueles. For most of it I was completely alone, not another person was in sight, and I got to walk sometimes within just feet of cliffs that dropped down to the sea. The sky was gray with heavy, low hanging clouds, the area felt wild and vast. I passed through a group of cows, climbed up and over fences, stared out over the cliffs. I ate the last of my gummy bears and trudged into town around 5:30; a 10-hour day of walking.
The albergue I wanted to stay in had 4 beds left, and when I walked in I saw Richard and also Nia, who I haven’t seen since Day 2 (she has skipped ahead a bit, but I figured we were far apart from each other and I’d never see her again). Jill was sitting there too, an American from Chicago who I’d heard about a few days ago. Upstairs in the bunk room were all new people to me; I’ve just walked ahead of most of the people I know, so it might be time to make a few new friends.
Today felt a little like a victory, it was a good, hard Camino day. I was totally alone and I loved it, but what makes it so good is that I can settle into an albergue and share a communal meal and be surrounded by people. It’s a good balance. When I was walking today a local man stopped me to talk. I can understand just a bit of Spanish now- in any case, we were able to communicate a few things. He (along with several others), asked if I was walking alone, and wanted to know if it made me sad to be alone. I think maybe for some people this could be hard, to not see another pilgrim for hours or for an entire walking day, to spend hours with your own company. But this is part of what I was looking for on this Camino- to just go off and have this adventure and know that I can do it. So to be alone? It doesn’t make me sad at all.
I also have my walking stick with me, and that helps. I’ve been wanting to mention it, I’m already quite attached: I’d been searching for one a few days into the Camino and found it on the day when I walked with Richard and Iria and Amy out of Deba. I saw a group of good looking sticks up on a hillside so I climbed up a steep slope and tried to break one off of the large branch they were attached to. Other pilgrims walked by as I was trying to do this, laughing at me a little, as I struggled to find the perfect stick.
While I was battling with the branch, Richard walked ahead about 10 feet, pulled a perfect looking branch from the ground, and asked if it would be okay. It was. He cut the branch to the size I wanted it to be, and smoothed off the ends, carving two rings around the top. I’ve had the stick with me every since, and having it in my hand as I hike is natural and good. It’s a strange kind of company to have- me and my stick- but somehow it’s important on this Camino. My stick was important to me last year, too, and I was really sad when I left it behind in Santiago. This year? I think this stick has to come home with me (any advice/thoughts on how easy or difficult it will be to ship the stick home once I arrive in Santiago?).
Also, my blister is fine. Actually, it’s non-existant, which is the very best thing I could have hoped for. I had a couple of tough walking days with that thing, but lately my feet have been feeling great. In fact tomorrow, if the weather is nice, I’m thinking of doing a very short day (14 kilometers), and staying in a town close to a beach. I might go down and walk in the sand, something I hadn’t really been able to do earlier on the Camino because of that blister. Since the Primitivo is coming up in only a few days, I want to enjoy the coast while I can.
I know I’d mentioned this earlier on the blog, but here’s a refresher: in Sebrayo, pilgrims have a choice of continuing on the Norte, or branching off south on the Primitivo. Both routes lead to Santiago and take roughly the same amount of time. The Norte will continue by the coast for awhile before heading down through Galicia, and the Primitivo immediately leads off the coast and through the mountains. Everyone says how beautiful and wonderful the Primitivo is, and even though walking by the coast has been one of the greatest things… I really feel that I want to walk the Primitivo. A lot of the pilgrims I’ve met so far want to as well, though some will decide when they have to.
But for now, being by the coast is rejuvinating. Tomorrow’s walk is supposed to be beautiful, and I plan to take it slow: soaking in all the beauty, lingering in a spot with a view of the water, maybe hanging out on a beach for awhile.