I had a motor in my legs today- there’s no other explanation. It was my best day of walking yet, though it wasn’t considered an easy one: lots of ascending, and a steady climb to reach Bodenaya, my destination for the night.
But the walking was great, it’s all I can say. I felt it from nearly the moment I set out in the morning (6:30), the climb away from the village of San Juan felt satisfying and good. That feeling continued for the entire day. After a few hours I heard someone approaching behind me and saw that it was Guillemette- we walked together for a bit, but later I passed her as she took a break in the middle of a climb.
I’d started the day with just a small cup of cafe con leche from a machine in the albergue, and during the morning I pulled out some leftover bread to eat as I walked. Normally I take multiple breaks throughout the day, and almost always one a few hours into the walk for my second cup of coffee (if there’s a town to stop in); but today, I just wanted to keep walking. I powered through nearly 20 kilometers before taking a break for coffee and tortilla, and once I refueled my legs were itching to go. The 7 kilometers from Salas to Bodenaya were mostly uphill and I was prepared for a challenging end to the day, but I sailed through them.
I’m really not sure what was going on- maybe it’s that I’ve been walking for three weeks now, and my body is strong. Maybe I got a really good night’s sleep, maybe I’ve been eating well. I’m not sure, but I can’t complain. The day was beautiful- sunny and breezy and around 70 degrees. I listened to music for some of my walk, dancing a little as I moved along. I’d made a Camino playlist for this trip, and I must have been in an 80’s mood when choosing songs; 80’s soft rock powered me through that ascent to Bodenaya (one could argue that soft rock can’t exactly power you through anything, but that’s for another time).
I arrived in Bodenaya to find the Polish group sitting on a bench in front of the albergue so I joined them. 20 minutes later one of the hospitalera’s came to let us inside, and the place was so beautiful. She told us to take off our packs and offered coffee, tea, juice. Later she was joined by the man running the albergue, David (he took over from a previous owner this year but as far as I can tell, has kept the spirit of the place going). I picked out a bed- a bottom bunk by a large, open window, a cool breeze blowing in.
The afternoon was so peaceful, with just 9 of us there for the first few hours. I sat and wrote, with a steady stream of Beatles music coming through small speakers in the kitchen. There were incense burning and later some soft guitar strumming from my Polish friend Simon.
I sat outside for awhile on a bench in the sun; a horse named Luna came by in the field next to me, to stand close as she grazed on the grass. David, the hospitalero, came over as well. “Close your eyes and hold out your hands,” he said. I don’t like when people do this but I obliged, and he handed me an ice cream.
Later we all sat down for a communal meal, maybe the best one yet: a salad full of veggies, an amazing lentil soup with potatoes and sausage, there was even a second soup of puréed squash that I tried a small helping of. The wine poured freely (maybe a little too freely for some of the Spanish men at my table), and there was even a large sheet of cake to celebrate one of the pilgrims’s birthdays.
The group here was almost entirely the same as the group I was with last night, and I’ve never wished there was a time when I could speak Spanish more than now. Everyone was having so much fun but I couldn’t understand a word of it. One of the guys at my table spoke some English, but I mostly sat there and observed, occasionally speaking some French with Frederique, the older French woman I met yesterday.
Language difficulties aside, there was one other thing that I didn’t really like. My friend Guillemette had tried to get a bed at this albergue but couldn’t, all the spots were reserved (all from people staying with me in the albergue last night). I wrote about my hesitation to put my name on the reservation list… in some ways it’s good that I did, otherwise I, too, would have been out of luck. Guillemette has rushed through her day to arrive at the albergue early but it did no good. Meanwhile, 10 of the others had stopped in Salas for a lunch that lasted 5-hours.
It all didn’t sit well with me but I know I need to let it go- it’s like I said yesterday, it’s just how things work on the Camino. In many ways I lucked out by getting to stay at Bodenaya, because it was truly a great albergue… even if it meant reserving myself a spot there, something I haven’t liked doing on the Camino.
But overall this was a great Camino day: feeling stronger than ever before, staying in a beautiful place.