Today also didn’t quite go as planned, and I find myself in an albergue on top of a hill, next to an old church, in a “town” that’s not really a town- just a few buildings that are so still and quiet they could almost be abandoned.
In fact, I didn’t realize the albergue was the albergue until I walked up and down the street and saw two guys on bikes pull up in front of it and ring the doorbell. It’s a large, rectangular building; a woman opened a window upstairs and shouted down to us. Inside there is a long, quiet hallway, a small kitchen, a coffee machine (yes!!), and a few rooms with bunk beds. In the back is a yard enclosed by a thick brick wall, and if you stand up on the slope of the hill, just out of the albergue, you can see out to the sea.
Right now I’m the only girl here. This came in handy earlier when I took a shower; the bathroom has two toilets behind locked doors, but otherwise an open space with sinks and two showers. But bathroom privacy aside, I feel a little lost from everyone that I know- two days ago I walked a longer stage and sort of got away from a big group of familiar people and now, suddenly, I’m in this eerily quiet albergue with 6 other people I’ve never seen before.
Maybe it will change tomorrow in Sebrayo, the last stopping point before the Primitivo/Norte split. Or, perhaps, my separation a few days ago means it was the last time I’ll see the people who had become my friends here.
I was thinking about this a bit today, as I walked: how others have formed little groups, how they’ve found their people to stick together with, how they travel together even though they came alone. So many people do the Camino this way, but like last year- and even more so this year- I’m going my own way. And I’m happy that I’m walking in this way, even if I’m sitting here, now, sort of wishing there was someone familiar to talk to. I feel such great freedom when I walk, and lately my walking days have just been so good. But also, I’m seeking that balance, wanting some company in the evenings and wishing that I had a little group who would magically appear in the same albergues as me. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.
My plan had been to stop at Casa Belen for the night, about 13 kilometers back. It’s another albergue I had heard wonderful things about: a couple who have opened their home to pilgrims, offering beds on a donation basis, cooking a communal meal for dinner. When I walked by this afternoon, it was barely 1:00, and I wasn’t sure what to do. I lingered in the yard of the property and one of the owners came out. She told me to sit for awhile and rest, and decide if I wanted to stay or not.
And it was a tough decision. The property was beautiful, with tables and lounge chairs in the back, a view of the mountains from the yard, a small shed which had been turned into a “chapel”, lots of flowers and a garden and a few chickens and a white cat. I sat, ate some cheese and a few cherries, and tried to figure out what to do.
The house was practically in the middle of nowhere; there was no town nearby, no bar or restaurant, no little grocery shop. It was only 1:00 and not another pilgrim was in sight. I’d been feeling really strong on my walk, and wishing that Casa Belen were at least 10 kilometers down the road; I wanted to keep walking.
So I listened to that urge, because it’s what I’m here to do. I kept walking. It makes what was going to be another nearly 40 kilometer day tomorrow only 25 or so, which is very do-able and probably more practical. And the place I’m staying in now is decent- nothing outstanding, but nothing I can complain about (the hospitalera will order food for us from a menu and then the nearest bar, which is about 3 kilometers away, will deliver it here tonight. But there’s also a small kitchen, so if pilgrims have food with them, they can cook).
On my walk today I was also thinking about how the people I’m with on this pilgrimage changes a bit, every few days. First it was Elissa, then it was Richard and Iria and Amy, then it was Nicole, then an evening with Carlos and Guillemette, then a few days with Jenna. There were a few days I ran into the Austrians, and also a few days with a kind German couple. And for the last few days, I’ve felt like I’ve been on my own.
I think this variety has been good for me, and in some ways it’s what I might have sort of asked the Camino for: practice being with lots of different people, practice being on my own. Practice being comfortable with it all. I’m getting better at it, I think; it’s easier, maybe even easier than last year, to walk up to someone and start to talk. And it’s been easier for me to feel more open to the possibility of making new friends, every day. It’s also been easier to accept the times that I’m on my own. After a day and evening pretty much on my own yesterday, I’m ready for some company today. I don’t have it right now, but being alone is okay too.
So, those thoughts aside, lets talk about the walk today: it was another good one. The first 5 kilometers were a bit tough because they were done without coffee, and it still amazes me how different I feel once I have that first cup in the morning. I had been dragging myself along, each step feeling sort of heavy, and then I drank a small-ish cup of coffee and suddenly I was flying down the road, smiling, happy, awake and alive.
I passed an old abandoned monastery that used to house pilgrims, probably hundreds of years ago. It was a 5 minute walk from a small beach and right along the Camino route; tucked away just a bit in a large clearing at the base of a mountain. I walked around the crumbling buildings and tried to imagine what it looked like before it was abandoned, I tried to imagine what it would look like if it could be fixed up.
And then I started to dream, that I could buy this old monastery and live there, open up part as an albergue, run a writer’s/artist’s retreat in another part. There would be room for a large garden and fruit trees, long outdoor tables, benches under the large trees.
So check back with me in 5 years or so (or 10 years, or 20 years), and maybe I’ll be running an albergue in a monastery in Spain.
On the beach, a few minute’s walk from this monastery, I found another piece of sea glass, this one a deep emerald green, one of the most beautiful colored pieces I’ve ever found. A coffee by the beach, a walk surrounded by open green fields, a warm sun with a cool breeze; it was another beautiful day.