Camino de Santiago: Day 22 (Christina)

From La Faba to Triacastela (25.5 km)

During the night I decided to switch beds because I was surrounded by loud snorers, and there was no back support in my bed.  I’m sure I was breaking all sorts of rules but it was the middle of the night and the German lady was nowhere to be seen.  I went to the other end of the room where Sabina was sleeping – she had unwittingly settled into a bunk without the German lady’s permission and somehow managed to stay there even though she was asked to move.  I slept much better at that end of the room but I was quick to move back to my bunk at sunrise.

I still managed to get myself in trouble that morning when I had the nerve to put a bandaid on one of my toes in the kitchen.  German lady swooped in just before the bandaid went on and insisted I leave the kitchen.  I got rather annoyed with her because there was nowhere else to go where I could sit down and have proper lighting.  I told her this in English and with gestures and with a tone that made it clear I was not happy.  Well, to her credit, she found me a chair in the entrance way and made room on a shelf so I could put my medical kit somewhere.  Like I said yesterday, I think she meant well, she just came across rather rigid and harsh.

I am happy to get out of there at 7:30 when I begin my trek up the second half of the mountain.  It is a beautiful morning, the sun is rising and there is mist on the distant hills.  Absolutely glorious.  My feet are feeling good, only two bandaids on my little toes today.  Life is looking pretty damn good.  I reach the top of the mountain around 9:30 and stop in the town for a coffee. This little town is incredibly touristy with shops already open with all kinds of Camino souvenirs for sale.

In the coffee shop, I meet Dawn and Deana who are in a bit of a bind – they have forgotten their passports and all their money back at the albergue.  Well, we are sure their stuff will be safe with the German lady but they need to find a way to contact her.  They are asking if anyone has the phone number of the albergue but no one does.  Sabina arrives and she has the phone number and she speaks both German and English so she is the hero of the day.  Sure enough the German lady has found the girls’ belongings and she assures Sabina they are safe with her.  She even offers to bring them up the mountain at 11:00 later in the morning.  Sabina gives the girls some money so they can pay their restaurant bill, and all is good again.  The girls head over to the church to thank God for the angels that have been sent their way this morning.

While all this drama unfolds in the coffee shop, the weather changes dramatically outside; a thick fog rolls in and the temperature drops significantly.  The fog is like a wet mist, so I bundle up in my rain jacket before heading back out on the Camino.  I am on the top of the mountain now, but the terrain is still very hilly as I traverse the mountain to the other side.  The path is beautiful though, very lush like walking through a rain forest.  Now and then the fog clears, showing off spectacular views of the valleys below.  The cows have their bells on again, reminding me of the days I walked through the Pyrenees mountains.  I actually stop at one point and video tape the cows, their bells were making the sweetest melody imaginable.

Somewhere along the road, I meet up with Sabina and we walk together the rest of the way.  She tells me a little about herself: born in Germany but currently working in Denmark as a translator (her English is perfect), she is 43 years old, never married, no children, but adores her nieces and nephews.  She has recently quit her job and is planning to relocate back to Germany, closer to her family.  She was a little upset about the way the German lady was treating everybody at the Albergue, and she vents a little.  She didn’t like being made to feel like a child.  We both agreed that the woman was well intentioned, but really missed the mark in making people feel welcome.

We arrive in Triacastela around 4:00 which is a little later than normal (lots of breaks today) and we wonder if there will be a problem getting a bed.  No, there are lots of beds in this little town.  After the usual routine, we head down to a bar for a beer (guess that’s part of my usual routine too :) There we meet Alex from England and Angel from Spain, both unemployed and both are talking about doing another Camino as it is a pretty cheap way to live, under 30 Euros a day.  Arpod from Hungary joins us later at the table.  Sabina knows these guys, but this is the first time I have met them.  We end up having dinner together.  The food in this region of Galicia is markedly different, and better than what we’ve been eating so far.  Even the bread has changed and is now a lovely chewey texture.  The house wine is delicious too.

When Alex hears I have taken the bus, he tells me I´m not a real pilgrim and tries to give me a hard time, sort of joking but also a little serious.  He is definitely a purist and taking a bus is definitely against his rules.  I resort to humour to lighten the conversation, saying jokingly, show me the rule book, maybe we have different rule books.  Still I can see he thinks less of me because I have taken the bus, and I really don’t care.  I tell him that it is the journey that is important to me, not the number of kilometres I have actually walked.  I hold my head high and refuse to be intimidated or worse, shamed by him for taking a bus.  Frances has now joined our table as well (remember the brother and sister pair I met on the bus).  Both Sabina and Frances have taken the bus, but neither offer this information – maybe they’ve already had this conversation with Alex.

Alex then tells us  a story of how he walked the 8 km into Burgos after a long 32 km day only to find all the beds were taken when he arrived at the Municipal Albergue.  He says bitterly that all the cheating pilgrims who took the bus got the beds and there wasn’t a single one left for him.  He actually walked on to the next town.  I asked him why he didn’t take a bus. He replied that when he began his pilgrimage he made a rule that he would walk every kilometre, no matter what.  He admitted it was his pride and ego that day that prevented him from bending his rule.  Now he is bitter and resentful towards pilgrims like us at the table.  I look at him squarely in the eyes and suggest perhaps the Camino was trying to teach him something.  He gives me a strange look but the moment is lost because of what happens next.

I suddenly feel a dead weight push against my chair – an older Japanese pilgrim has collapsed right behind me.  I feel the full weight of his body pinning me against the table.  A rush of people come to his aid.  He tries to stand only to collapse again, this time scraping his legs on the pavement.  Someone calls an ambulance, and a few minutes later, he is able to get up and they take him into the restaurant to wait for the ambulance.  Frances astutely observes there are signs that he is having a stroke.

We are all shaken by this incident.  We have seen the crosses along the Camino where people have actually died during their pilgrimage and we are hoping we haven´t witnessed yet another fatality.  Alex now tells us another story of man who died on the Camino (I don´t remember when this happened).  The man had been walking for several days and was telling people how happy he was.  At the age of 50, he had just completed his psychology degree and was excited to be embarking on a new career.  One night on the Camino, he went to sleep and never woke up again.  What did he die of, I asked.  Alex suggested he either died of too much happiness or old age.  And he was dead serious.

At this point, I am feeling quite fatigued so I make my exit and head back to the Albergue where I get ready for bed.  It has been a good day for me, the first day where there have been no new blisters.  I figure my feet are going to be perfect by the time I stroll into Santiago.  I notice that not only are my feet healing, but my heart and spirit are healing too.  I feel a deep inner peace that I have never felt before.  I don´t know what the next few days will bring, but I feel like the hardest part is now behind me.  I think (hope) it will be clear sailing ahead.

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5 Responses
  1. sonja says:

    hi chris,

    I will write when I have some more time with regards to your recent posts – pretty heavy stuff going on. I just wanted to send a quick note though to say i hope you are ok!! It seems to me that the Camino is a teacher and that you learn so much about yourself each and every day.

    About this fellow Alex (I’d have to go back to read earlier posts to remember who he is) – my hope is that the Camino teaches him many things, but most of all to be less judgemental and rigid…two traits that if he changed would serve him well for the rest of his life!

    Don’t for a minute think you are less a pilgrim because you took a bus or two!!!

    cheers,

    sonja

    • christina says:

      Hi Son,
      I am doing great – only 3 days away from Santiago is all goes well. My feet are healing nicely, no new blisters in several days now. Still quite tender in places, like deep bruises, but no really bad pain anymore. I feel very much at peace and feel like the hard part is over now and now I can just enjoy these last few days. I´m even pampering myself a little with private rooms the last two nights. I feel I need the good night´s sleep.

      Alex is a new Camino friend who I just met a few days ago….don´t worry, I didn´t let him rattle my chain, in fact I think he was more rattled by what I had to say to him and by my not accepting his rules. Thanks for your ongoing support….it has been the most incredible journey on this Camino.

  2. Marc says:

    Hi Christina,

    I’m amazed at what you are experiencing and very happy that you are sharing it with all of us who are following you along the way… I have really been touched by your encounter with the old woman and also by your mention of feeling like you don’t belong in this world, that you don’t fit in… gave me goose bumps because I have had this feeling myself on many occasions in my life, about not fitting in, not knowing what I want and feeling like I’m just doing everything with no real purpose… I still feel it! I really hope we get a chance to meet up again some day and talk.

    I have great respect for your accomplishments!
    Safe journey

    Marc

  3. Lilian D'Auria says:

    I recently met a gal who walked the Camino and shared your blog. I’m leaving the states Aug 27 and will start my journey Aug 30th. I’ve been training since January of this year after I decided to move trip from 2013 to this year. After 2 months wearing what I thought were the hiking shoes I will wear, I’ve developed toe issues and just bought another pair (Keen). If these shoes don’t work out, I’m thinking of simply wearing my Teva sandals, but after reading your stories, maybe it’s not a great idea to wear them. I am starting in Pamplona. I’m enjoying reading your day-to-day stories and so looking forward to my own journey. Thank you for sharing your camino experiences. Hope your feet get better and stay safe. Buen Camino.

  4. Colleen says:

    Hey Chris and Chris,

    It’s been a while since I last read your blog (was in N.Ireland visiting Andrew then very busy with work) so missed the explanation as to why you are walking and blogging separately. Sounds like lots of interesting characters and adventures. Hope your feet hold out.

    Colleen