I’m sitting at a wooden table outside the albergue in Sebrayo; with me are Carlos and Guillemette and Charles, and a German guy named Teto. It’s just the 5 of us in this albergue; compared to this afternoon though, it’s a crowd.
I arrived at the albergue just after 3, and the place was deserted. I looked at a sign on the door saying it opened at 3:00, and to come to house #7 for the key. I stood around for awhile, trying to decide what to do. My visions of a big Camino reunion with all the friends I’d met over the past weeks were dashed- clearly, the others who had been ahead of me on the path had passed this place and continued on. And I wasn’t sure how far back the others were, but I had a feeling I had gained a stage, and that they wouldn’t catch up.
This place is similar to where I stayed last night- just a building on a road surrounded by a few houses and not much else. After the past few quiet days, it would be nice to be surrounded by more- if not a busier town, at least a busier albergue.
So to reach this quiet building on a quiet street in the middle of fields and cows and horses… it felt too still, too isolated. I opened my pack and pulled out my guidebook, put the guidebook back, opened the pack again to check the guidebook one more time just in case I missed something. I didn’t have any good options- the next big town was about 6km away, which was do-able, but there were no pilgrim albergues and I didn’t want to spend more money to stay alone.
So I decided to stay here. Once I found the hospitalera and she let me in the albergue, she explained that yesterday, by 3:00, the 16 beds were full- people had been waiting at the door for the place to open. I picked my bunk and took a shower and washed my clothes and still no one else had shown up.
I decided to walk up to a restaurant 800 meters away; it was more than I expected since my guidebook warned that there were no provisions in town, only a food truck that came by in the evening. I had brought food with me and planned to cook a meal in the small kitchen, but it was 4:30 and I was alone and it seemed like a potentially long evening ahead.
The restaurant was a little bar that sat on the side of a small highway. The waiter asked if I wanted a menu del dia so I figured why not? A large salad with hard boiled egg and tuna, battered fish and french fries, rice pudding and bread and another bottle of wine.
It was just a strange afternoon, this Camino continues to throw different things my way. It was almost funny, being in the middle of a very no-where kind of place in Spain, all alone. Very alone- I think there is a large group of pilgrims ahead of me, a large group behind me, and in this middle place, this no-where kind of place, it’s empty.
I walked back to the albergue, down a long pebbly hill, and I saw Guillemette talking to the hospitalera. Behind her were Carlos and Charles- the three of them have been walking together for the past few weeks. They are all very young, in their early twenties, and ever since Carlos bought a tent in Santander, they’ve sometimes camped out. I figured they were at least a day behind me but this is always what the Camino does: it brings people to you that you think you may never see again.
I’m not sure what my feeling is about being in an albergue with this group. I had a nice night in Santillana del Mar with Guillemette and Carlos, but I could sort of feel my age with them- I felt like I was young enough to hang out with them, but too old to really fit in. I like them, but I’m not completely at ease around them, and I think that feeling is probably mutual. And it’s the same with Charles, maybe more so- I don’t feel comfortable around him and he notices and it makes me more uncomfortable. It’s fine when there are other pilgrims around, but now it’s just us, along with a young German guy.
But this night has been fine, and right now- 10:30 and the sun has set and the clouds are clearing and the sky has a pale purple tint- it is beautiful. We’ve been sitting at this picnic table for the last 4 hours- it is scattered with breadcrumbs and small chunks of chorizo, bits of cheese, empty beer cans, the stubs of several dozen cigarettes. Charles is reading a book and Carlos is smoking his last cigarette, Guillemette has already gone to bed. There are horses in the field just next to us, and two cats have just appeared. They sit just in front of us, on the road, as if they were drawn here. And I think how strange and wonderful this is, because we- myself and Carlos and Charles and Guillemette and the German guy- we were all drawn here as well. To the Camino, to the Norte, to this very spot, to this quiet albergue. For tonight, and only tonight, this is where we are.