And my theory continues to work: today was a really, really strong walking day. I did about 30 kilometers, and a lot of the walk was challenging: big ascents, long descents, early afternoon walking in the hot sun. But the morning was so, so beautiful and I took pictures every few steps: as I climbed up a mountain I rose above the clouds, a blue sky above me and misty fog beneath me. The sun was rising and throwing filtered light through the clouds and when I turned around to look behind me, the world glowed.
It was so breathtaking, and yet again, a very different kind of scenery from anything I’ve seen yet. My ever-changing Camino.
I powered through another day, staying mostly alone because the walking was so good and I felt so free. The Primitivo is definitely a more crowded experience than the Norte was, because even though I stayed alone, I knew there were always pilgrims not too far ahead or not too far behind. I passed my friends at an outdoor table, stopped for a coffee/beer break, said hi, and kept walking. I went at my own pace today- my own walking pace, my own “break” pace. I found a bar in a town that was just a bit off the Camino, and there wasn’t a pilgrim in sight. I ordered a coke, and the barman brought out a plate of small tuna empanada squares, told me to take one (I’m assuming, since he was speaking Spanish and I didn’t quite understand), and then said something else. The only word I understood was ‘pollo’, which is chicken, so I nodded my head and said, “Si, pollo!”. He nodded back at me, and a few minutes later appeared from a back room with a small plate of some sort of grilled chicken that was hot and delicious and the perfect snack for a long day of walking.
The albergue here in Castroverde is decent: a new one, with a kitchen (but the kitchen comes with two plates, three glasses, one pot and no fridge, so not the most well equipped). But the best part of this albergue is that we’re all here again: me and Guillemette and Moritz and Nicolas and Christine. Nicolas really isn’t supposed to be here: he said goodbye last night and gave us his contact info and said he was waking up at 5:00 and would be walking at 6:00. But when we all got up at 6:30 he was still in bed, and even though he planned to walk a 50 kilometer day to Lugo despite the late start, he made it to our albergue and couldn’t go (didn’t want to go) further.
I think he doesn’t want to say goodbye just yet. His friend is just 20 kilometers ahead, so he’ll surely catch up tomorrow, and I think could have caught him today if he really wanted to. But I suspect that he feels what I feel- and the others might feel- too: that it’s special to find a group that you connect with and want to spend time with. It’s so easy to meet other people on the Camino, it’s easy to form connections and to make friends, but sometimes I think the “family” aspect isn’t so easy. To find a group that gets along and works well together, who maybe has a similar walking pace, who walks similar distances… it’s hard to find. It seems like the four of us came together very much by accident, but I think that’s how it happens. Something brings you together, and once you find yourself part of something, you want to hold on just a bit longer.
We cooked pasta and tuna in the meager kitchen, pulled two tables together on the outdoor deck, and opened another bottle of wine.
So one more time together- and I’m convinced that this time really IS the last time we’ll all be together. There was a lot of talk about where we’ll be walking tomorrow; I have a plan to do a 40km day, Nicolas might do the same but I think so much depends on where he catches his friend, Moritz is ending in Lugo and Christine probably will as well, I’m not sure about Guillemette. But who knows what can happen: two of my Polish friends are here, and they gave me news of Simon, who I’d talked with a lot in San Juan and Bodenaya. He is a full day ahead, in the albergue where I hope to stay tomorrow. When his sister told him that I was here with her, he offered to make a reservation for all of us; the albergue is private and there are not too many beds. I declined the offer- I don’t want to do any more reservations on this Camino- but it made me a bit nervous about being able to get a bed if I walk a really long, 40km day.
But I’m leaving it all up to chance: where I end up tomorrow, where I sleep, who will be with me, who won’t. Santiago is only days away now (125 kilometers… which I’m tempted to do in three days, finishing with a 55km day from Melide to Santiago. Everyone, feel free to tell me that this is a crazy plan. I’m basing everything on how I feel, nothing is set in stone. I’d love to try to do the long day to see if I can, plus it would give me extra time to squeeze in a bus trip to Finisterre and then a day’s walk to Muxia. We’ll see, we’ll see…)
But the end is close, and I have thoughts about it but I’ve written enough for tonight and I want to go to bed. But sometime tomorrow I’ll cross the 100km mark, and then we’re really down to the final stretch. Even though my first day out of Irun feels like a lifetime ago… man, this has gone by so fast.