I have a new Camino theory, though maybe it only applies to me, on this particular Camino: every other day is a good walking day. It’s been the pattern, lately: I have one really strong day, then one day when the walking is tough. Then a strong day, then a tough day.
Today’s walking wasn’t the easiest. It wasn’t a difficult stage, but I think that after yesterday’s marathon, my body needed more of a rest. Plus the weather was hot and muggy and there was no nice breeze (as there so often has been here), so I pulled myself through the kilometers and looked forward to my destination, Padron.
I walked with Moritz for the last hour or so, and it helped pass the time. Moritz is young, maybe only 18 or 19, but I admire him. He’s polite and smart and friendly and can carry a conversation with just about anyone. If I ever have kids and have a son, I wouldn’t mind if he turned out like Moritz. We talked about American football and how difficult it is to get a driver’s license in Germany, and of course we talked about the Camino. Those last kilometers flew by, and I was happy for the company.
When we arrived at the albergue, Guillemette and Nicolas were already there, sitting outside. Moritz and I looked at Nicolas and he just smiled back at us. “I’m not going to Cadavo today,” he said. Nicolas had planned to walk another really long day to catch up to his friend, but had lingered through the day with us, instead. And maybe this albergue was just a bit too good to pass up: not crowded yet, a big open yard, a view of the distant mountains, a vending machine that sells beer and a snack machine that sells sardines and tuna. And us, his new friends.
So my new Camino family was going to have another night together. I smiled at Nicolas and then turned to go into the albergue when I saw Christine. She was standing on the stoop and we looked at each other and for a moment neither of us moved or said a thing. It was Christine! I hadn’t seen her since Guemes, which was nearly two weeks ago. She and Annalissa had started walking slightly longer days and the last I’d heard, Christine was thinking about walking the Primitivo, but I didn’t know for sure which path she’d chosen.
But now here she was, and it was that old Camino magic, back again: I hadn’t known if I would see Christine again, but I’d been hoping I would. I’ve lost so many others along the way, but Christine was someone I would have really regretted not seeing again. We gave each other a huge hug and started talking, exclaiming about how we were both here, how it had happened, where we’d each been. My French had gotten a bit rusty but nevertheless I heard Nicolas in the background, saying, “Wait, she can speak French??”
The night was perfect. I’ve had some great Camino nights in these past two years, and this one was up there with the very best of them. Nicolas, Guillemette, Christine, Jordan (another French guy we’d met that day) and I walked 1km back to the previous town to find a bar to have a drink. We stayed there for a few hours, drinking wine and picking at the pinxos delivered to our table. The conversation was entirely in French so I mostly just listened, but I preferred it that way. I marveled at the combination of people the Camino continues to bring together: old friends and new friends and everyone fits together so effortlessly sometimes, like we’ve known each other forever.
It was Sunday and we’d planned poorly. Shops were closed and we hadn’t been able to buy any food during the day, and had arrived in Grandas too late the day before to find an open store. Our food supplies were low, and our dinner was looking pretty meager: a couple packets of pasta and a few cans of tuna for 6 of us (well, for me that’s a solid meal, but the others weren’t as pleased). Nicolas had the brilliant idea of asking the barman if it would be possible for them to make us a big salad. It seemed impossible that it would work, but it did. We left the bar with a bag full of wine and beer, and another bag with a large, large container of salad.
Back at the albergue we pulled the table over to the lawn, positioned in the fading sunlight. We set out plates and poured glasses of wine and toasted being together. It was a beautiful meal and afterwards the guys played frisbee, neighborhood dogs ran through the yard.
Guillemette, Nicolas, Moritz and I had our own room- two bunk beds in a square room with a window that looked out to the mountains. Nicolas said how it was like a little home, and as we went to sleep, Moritz said, “It was really great being with you guys these last two days.”
And it was. If the day before- the long and crazy walk with new friends- was just what I needed, this day was even MORE of what I needed: to feel like I was part of a Camino family again. I had it briefly in the beginning of my Camino with Iria and Amy and Richard and Misako, but I felt it even more strongly this time: this was my group.
We’re close to Santiago now and we all have different plans for the next few days, so as it always goes here: this won’t last. But I fell asleep with a feeling of deep, deep content: this is a great way to be spending my time at the end of my Camino.