Two different things:
First, today I got to witness the sweetest thing. One of my friends and sometime walking companion, Susan, was meeting up with her husband today in Astorga. We said goodbye in León, as we did not think we would see each other again. Just before noon, who should I see ahead of me? Susan! We spent some time walking together, descending from a high hill overlooking the city, eating lunch at a bar in the village just outside Astorga, and then heading into the city. Susan’s husband called just as we reached the city proper. We heard the bells ring from the cathedral, and she told me she could hear them over the phone, too. We headed right for the cathedral, rather giddy and excited. The cathedral had seemed so close from the outskirts, but the way wove through city streets. Finally we turned a corner, and there was the cathedral in front of us. Susan ran into her husband’s arms. I hang back to give them some personal time (but photographed the moment of course! Susan will appreciate getting that later!) and then got to meet Mr Susan. It was really an emotional moment to be a part of. So sweet!
There are only so many times you can give a rundown of the day. I walk a lot, people! That’s what my days are like! Each day is the same and yet different. Here’s a comparison for how things have changed from day 1 to day 22 (yes – I entered my fourth week of walking today!):
Day 1: in the evening I carefully repack my backpack. Each item is rolled and stowed just so, in an order I think will help me find things the next day.
Day 22: I repack my backpack before going to bed. On my bed are my clean clothes, freshly washed and dried. I take the stack and shove it into my bag. A backpack is just not big enough to get anything out without taking everything out.
Day 1: I take my backpack off often, to unclip a pocket and consult my guide. I want to know where I am and where I’m headed.
Day 22: somewhere along the way, I decided to jettison extra weight by ripping out the completed pages in my guidebook. Then I realized that if I was ripping stuff out anyway, I might as well rip it out at the beginning of the day and store it in my pocket. I do not like having to take my backpack off and put it back on. It stays on unless I’m actually going to take a break. My map comes out of my pocket occasionally – usually just to see how many towns we’ll actually pass through. I don’t even know the name of the town I’m staying in tonight. I could go look it up inside, but then is have to get up and go inside. And since the name won’t mean anything to you… I’m two villages beyond Astorga, okay?!
Day 1: walking is exhausting. Going up the mountains day 1 especially! But the whole first week, maybe ten days. At the end of the day I am stiff and sore. Walking up or down stairs is a challenge.
Day 22: walking 25 km is tiring briefly, but I am not really stiff and sore. And I have energy to do things in the afternoons and evenings. Underneath my energy lies a deeper fatigue, but I think it would be taken care of with a day of rest. I feel like I could walk forever (unless it’s a really hot day! See day 18 blog post!)
Day 1: I wonder who I will be friends with. I hesitate before striking up a conversation with others around me.
Day 22: I regularly see old friends along the way, and also fondly remember friends who have gone on ahead of me on this journey. I appreciate some of their advice facebooked back to me! I also do not worry about who I will spend time with. No matter where I am, there will be other pilgrims to talk to. Language is rarely an issue – charades is pretty fun to play when you have no language in common! There is a camaraderie amongst all pilgrims, no matter where they have started and how far they plan to go.
Day 1: the details of the day are a concern. Where will I get food? Where will I sleep? Will I get lost? I don’t know what I’m doing!
Day 22: there is not really much planning ahead. I might have a goal to make it to a certain town, but if I feel like stopping beforehand, that would be okay. If I would like to go further, then I go on. I know that I will find food in towns. There’s always a bar open. Pilgrims bring lots of money. (There was that one exception, when all those villages had nothing. But I survived!)
I would also like to take this opportunity to mention that I go to a bar multiple, multiple times a day. It’s quite the change of lifestyle for me, haha! (Lest new rumours spring up, let me reassure those of you who are worried: despite going to a bar sometimes 3 or 4 times a day, I’m not drinking alcohol all that often! But I have been amused that even at dinners served at convents or church-run albergues, wine is an expectation. No southern Baptists here!)
While I’ve been writing this, I’ve been sitting with three Italian cyclists. We’ve been conversing in a hilarious mixture of Italian, Spanish, French, and English. Spanish and French are our overlapping languages, but we don’t speak them well enough to stick to just those. We’ve been quite successful in our mix of languages, though! What I like most about cyclists is they also say walkers have a much harder time. Yeah we do!
One final note: approximately 10 more days of walking till I arrive in Santiago. How has that happened?!