Today is an important day: halfway day!
It’s hard to know exactly how many days it will take to walk the entire Camino Francés, but if I stick to the plan, today is it. It’s also hard to be exactly certain of the number of kilometres left since every town seems to declare its own numbers and those are often different from the guidebook… but today we also crossed the halfway point of distance somewhere along the walk!
In some ways, a walk can still be hard. Today is a good example. We walked 17 km out of Carrión before coming to ANYTHING – no bathrooms, no vending machines, no water founts… not even a caravan truck coming to park along the path. There was no shade. It is ridiculously hot today, with not a cloud in the sky.
On the other hand, walking is in some ways the easiest thing to do. I don’t really need to coax my body into it; my body just knows what to do and my mind is free to think about whatever it wants. Even in the heat, and with pauses in the towns we eventually came to, we made it here in quite good time.
The days have a rhythm to them that is so familiar now. Get up early, pack and double check that you’re not forgetting anything, eat some fruit, head out. Stop at a café for breakfast (usually! not today!) and then walk some more. Arrive somewhere, find albergue, go get food before siesta starts, and then shower and relax. Eventually dinner, repack, bed. It’s a simple life, and there’s not a lot of wondering about how you’ll spend time. The one big difference between now and earlier in the trip is that earlier there was an extra step before get food and shower. That was “lie on the bed and recover until you can actually get up again”, at which point siesta meant all stores were closed! It’s nice to walk 30 km and be fine at the end of it!
My Brazilian friend Denize and I got some drinks to toast “la mitad”, the middle point of our walk. It’s lovely to sit in the garden of this albergue and just relax together, thinking back over all we’ve accomplished so far!
Okay, so I need to write a little about yesterday. The albergue was run by the most charming Augustinian nuns. They had the biggest servant hearts! There was tea served as we came in. They warmly asked each pilgrim how they were doing, and were genuinely interested in the answer. The nun who checked me in said she’s always concerned about pilgrims who have started in St Jean since we have come so far! I watched nuns tend to blistered feet and carefully clean and bandage wounds. Later they sang their evening vespers and then led a musical “encounter”, where they played guitar and led singing in a variety of languages. After mass there was a pilgrim blessing. The nuns spoke before we were blessed by the priests, and said that we were all looking for something, and that was Jesus, who walked with us. I was so delighted to hear them proclaim the gospel message so clearly in Spanish and English. We each had the opportunity to come up to have a priest lay his hands on us and pray for us, and then the nuns gave us each a paper star to remember that the light of Jesus goes with us and guides us.
After mass and blessing, we had a communal meal. We had each brought something to share – bread, wine, veggies, fruit – and the nuns cooked a big main dish for us. They served us with smiles and grace. Finally, they sent us to bed with a lovely song of blessing for our journey. (I don’t think there were many dry eyes in the room during that last song!)
My friend commented this morning that the nuns sure seemed happy and seemed to enjoy their work. Yes – that’s the light of Jesus shining through them! I thought.
And then there was the nighttime drama. Except for the night of my hotel stay, I have use my earplugs each night and slept very well. I don’t think I would hear an alarm ringing through my earplugs until everyone else in the room was awake, so last night I decided to forgo the earplugs and set an alarm. I often go to sleep before others, but last night’s late dinner meant everyone was going to sleep at the same time. There was a lot of banging and door opening and closing as some people REALLY took their time. Eventually I fell asleep. I awoke around 3:00, realizing that people were talking really loudly in the hall right outside our room with the bedroom door standing wide open. This made me irrationally angry, and I wanted to stomp over and tell them off. However, since I am not the kind of person who tells people off regularly, I seethed inside and hoped someone else would instead. Eventually I fell back asleep, although was awakened again as people loudly packed up and left (shining flashlights all around) at 4:30.
This morning when I got up, Ed said to me, “Marty said the ambulance was here last night.” Before I even thought about it, I replied, “Oh, that makes sense….” I’m not sure what my brain paid attention to while I was trying to sleep last night, but then I wanted to get the whole story to piece things together!
Apparently, a young Dutchman had started to feel sick during the night. He got up and went to the bathroom, and started vomiting so much he couldn’t do anything else. He was then too weak to do anything, and was just lying on the bedroom floor calling for help until someone came. (Marty said she actually heard him calling for a bit, and was feeling extremely guilty that she had done nothing, thinking that he was trying to leave early before the main door was unlocked!) Eventually Jaymie heard him, called the nuns and an ambulance, and thankfully could translate for him since he spoke no Spanish.
At that point, Jaymie said she kind of figured she was up, might as well leave anyway… until two other kids starting getting sick. There didn’t seem to be anything in common, they hadn’t eaten the same food in the day before, and the paramedic had told Jaymie he suspected a stomach bug and not heat exhaustion… Jaymie woke up several of her friends and said, “Time to leave now before we catch the epidemic! But nobody walks alone! You won’t be able to help yourself if you come down with it!”
Everyone who came down while I was eating breakfast with Marty and Ed was looking bleary-eyed and frustrated, but we all felt very sorry for the sick kids lying miserably in the hallway!
Thankfully most of us escaped and don’t seem to have gotten whatever was going around…
Of course this provided most of the pilgrim gossip along the way until our lunch stop!
Here at my albergue, I met a Spanish guy from Madrid. He was impressed to hear I have walked from St Jean and said most Spanish people do not walk the Camino all at once, but take several years to walk it, a few weeks at a time. “So respect!” he said. Nice!
Okay, I’m off to find some food and friends. Enjoy your days, and Mama, I’ll be home in as many days as I’ve been away now!