Camino countdown: 82 kilometres to go!

The Camino is a study of contrasts. At some points, I can find no solitude, but am surrounded by people at all times. At other times, I see no one for hours.
I have friendships with people from around the world, with deep and meaningful conversations, and yet I know that almost all these friendships are very short term and will not last beyond the Camino.
I have never felt stronger, and yet I am exhausted. When I am walking, I feel as though I could keep walking forever. And then when I stop I don’t think I will be able to walk another day. Or, depending on the day or den on the time of day, when I am walking I want nothing more than to stop for the day, but after a short break and rest, I feel fine to walk on again.

Yesterday’s walk was a very steep descent out of the mountains, finishing what was started the day before. Then, at Triacastela, there was an option. The northern route was 6 kilometres shorter but over a very big and steep hill. The southern route was mostly flat, but added 6 kilometres to the day. I almost took the southern route by accident, but correctly found he northern route after a little map checking and searching. Just before I arrived in Sarria, I met up with some of the Korean boys I used to see daily. They’ve been a day ahead of me since coming out of Burgos, where they walked in three days what I did in four. It was fun to catch up with them, and they were very impressed! I had intended to stay in the old city, but found a new albergue just before the river and old city walls, and was content to find a bed to rest in for an hour before continuing with my day. It turned out that I was the only person to book into that albergue, so it was a little like having a private room without the cost!
After a rest and shower, I went out to explore the city. I met up with friends old and new at every turn. I tried some pulpo a la galega, or octopus. Not the worst thing I’ve ever eaten, but I didn’t love it. Then went with friends to a little Italian place and sat in the courtyard enjoying sangria and tapas. We ended up staying there for hours, and as more and more people came, we kept pulling chairs over and expanding our table. It was one of those experiences that will be treasured my whole life.

This morning there was a notable change on the Camino: people. They’re EVERYWHERE. As I said, I’m used to having some moments – if not hours – of solitude, and being surrounded by people the whole morning was a little disconcerting. I ran into Vicky and we walked together for just a few minutes, and decided we would let it add to our sense of excitement instead of being frustrated or angry. The reason there are so many people is that Sarria is just before the 100 kilometre mark. If you want a compostela, you need to walk at least the last 100 kilometres. You can pick out the new pilgrims easily by their white and clean clothing, their unscuffed, not dusty shoes or boots, and once you arrive in an albergue, by their excessive limping. Ah, yes, that first day feeling. To get away a little bit, I walked on past the most popular stopping point, and am staying at Gonzar tonight. I also got the pleasure of walking alone in the afternoon after leaving the crowds behind.
It’s also interesting to see how many people, and particularly new pilgrims, are using the backpack transfer service. That is a very popular thing from her to Santiago. I am so used to the weight of my backpack while walking that it would feel odd not to have it. It can be hard not to feel superior or judgmental when passing people who aren’t carrying their belongings. But I try to remind myself that everyone gets to choose their own way on the Camino.
Ah, the supper bell rings. Time to go for tonight!

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