I slept well the remainder of the night. People awoke at 530 and began to gather their things. They had switched on the light in the central room and left the door open to the sleeping area, so the light was shining in my eyes. I turned over to try to sleep longer, but they clattered on, came in and out of the room. So, when I couldn’t ignore them any longer, I just got up.
I slid out of my bunk, swinging my feet to the lower bunk, where Maria yet slept below me, since there was no longer a ladder. Perhaps you remember my last post?
I gathered my things and pulled them out of room and into the central area. There were so many there, that I went back, got my sleeping bag, and after stuffing and attaching it to my pack, dragged it, my poles, picked up my boots and went outside. The air was soft like velvet, balmy in this pre-light hour. Stars yet shone overhead.
Outside there was a woman with her pack and things on the only bench. Seeing me arrive, she apologized for taking the whole area and quickly moved her things before I had a chance to even say, “No worries.”
As I put on my boots, she watched at the amount of Vaseline I slathered on my feet and asked why I used so much. I told her it was my means of avoiding blisters. I stopped every three hours to rub down my feet. So far, it had worked for me. That satisfied her although she was using another system. That’s one thing always true, there are many ways, as individual as there are people on the camino.
She had her pack on already and complained of the pain her pack caused her neck and shoulders. I glanced up from the bench and noticed it was not adjusted properly. So, with my boots on now, I stood and assisted her in adjusting it, as Nannette had instructed me, showing her how to lift the shoulder straps so they were above the shoulders and adjust the weight to her waist and hips. Her immediate relief was expressed in this huge sigh and smile, and then in her gratitude, which she ended up expressing to me again and again throughout the day.
We chatted guidebooks for a moment, for hers frustrated her, and mine had been a similar frustration to me. But she was using what I had always felt was the ideal German guide! So much for ideals! She said she wanted to locate the coastal route.
I was intrigued that there was a coastal alternative, so said “How about we go together, then you can be my way?” So, soon after, Michaela, from Germany, and I left together.
We had gone the many of the steps down, down, down to the street level when I realized I’d forgotten my poles!! Again!!! http://wp.me/p6OKOz-gI
I ran back up, got them from where I had left them, leaning against the side of the building, came back down, down, down and then we were truly on our way.
We walked down the road in the dark toward the beach. But once there, we could no longer see what was called the palace, the landmark, for the way along the sea. As we were looking at the map a black sedan pulled up and stopped. The driver rolled down his passenger window and called across to us: “Are you walking the Camino de Santiago?”
“Yes, we are,” we answered.
“You are in the wrong place,” he told us. “Take this street up to the roundabout and take the right hand exit from there. You’ll see the palace,” he said.
Here we were at 6 in the morning and some random stranger stopped to give us directions. This Camino hospitality continued to astound me.
As we took the man’s way we went up to the palace, which actually was a cemetery, and then walked to coast, I told her as long as the water is on our right we are heading in the correct direction. My basic directional rule!
We walked along the bluffs above the coast. It was a stunningly beautiful day. The path took us down onto wet sand and then up again.
Eventually we came down into a residential area of a small town with a ocean inlet far below us. We could tell that there was no crossing of the water from where we were walking. As we were pondering this, again, a car stopped at the top of this road. Again, the passenger window was rolled down and this smartly dressed business woman, the driver, signaled to us.
“Peregrinos?” She asked. “Si!” We replied.
She rattled off in Spanish that we were on the wrong route. We needed to take the road she was on. Go straight and then to the right with the road to go over the bridge. She even offered to drive us, but we told her we could walk. So we followed her directions.
Before the bridge, in the town of St Vincent, we stopped for coffee. Michaela said, “I didn’t think you’d ever suggest it!” Apparently she had been afraid to ask. She bought my tea. Then we walked on over the bridge and up a hill and over other hills. What a journey. It was a great walk up out of the town into the countryside away from the coast.
As we walked up away into the hills, Michaela asked me about my work back home. I told her I directed a faith-based nonprofit, was a storyteller, and did counseling. She asked a couple questions and then exuded with joy: “What a privilege! What a marvelous privilege for your work to make such a difference in people’s lives.”
Of all the responses I had received, this was easily the most enthusiastic. Her response so encouraged me. “Yes,” I thought, “I do have a privileged work.” God had reached out to me through her to encourage me.
She talked about her work as an administrative assistant in a bolt factory and how meaningless it seemed. We talked about that, about levels of meaning in our lives, about the value of relationships and the spiritual life.
As we crested an especially long, arduous hill, I said aloud: “Oh, it feels so great to get to the top…!”
And this voice from a bush to our right finished my sentence, “…of a very long hill!” Up stood a woman who had been sitting on a bench hidden behind the bushes.
She continued, “Yes, getting up a big hill is an accomplishment! It seems the Camino gives us them at the beginning to remind us that we cannot do this really.”
She had surprised us.
Sabrina, also from Germany, spoke more as she joined us heading down the mountain. She was doing part of the Camino this year. She had walked Irun to someplace before and was so challenged by that first section that she started there again and is heading to Gijon. “Maybe I’ll return for more another time.”
She was carrying her own things and looked with disdain on those who do not. “The French!!” She said with emphasis; “They never carry!”
She worked as a life coach or something and yet, I noticed immediately, she didn’t listen. She was very opinionated. The more she talked with sarcasm, criticism and opinion, I realized that I had heard of her. When I had walked with Marg (from Australia), she had told me about this life coach from Germany who woudn’t listen. As we walked, all of Marg’s descriptions returned to me. Yes, this was a unique person, very full of herself with no room for others.
As we walked down the hill we spoke in English for the most part then she and Micheala would launch into German. I’d catch most of it.
When Sabrina asked what I did, she had no place to put it. She did not seem to even hear what I had said. And didn’t really care. She cared more about the fact that I was from someplace hear Portland, Oregon, for she had some kind of spiritual guide whose writings she was enamored with from around there. She had her own thoughts about faith and life and my life wasn’t going to impact hers whatsoever.
We walked into the tiny community of Serdio and had a drink together then they continued on while I made my way to the albergue. I had decided to remain there that night before continuing onward.
I arrived and rather than being locked up until 3 pm or something, it was open, indeed, all the doors and windows were wide open airing the place out. No one was there to greet me. A note at the desk just said to choose a bunk and the host would come back in the evening to check us in, stamp credentials, etc.
I walked into this vast white, stuccoed building and was alone. It felt so peaceful. I took off my boots, chose my bunk, left my stuff there, showered, mopped the bathroom floor, washed my clothes, got another shirt wet and put it back on that way to combat the heat and hung out my other clothes to dry on the line outside. It felt wonderfully refreshing to be alone.
A couple other guys from Portugal arrived as I left to make my way down the hill to the only bar that served food in town, connected to their wifi and ate. Others trickled in. I joined a table with Max and Lucas from Germany, and Maria from Korea, when they arrived. We talked about the walk, the meal, the place we are staying and shared stories of life. They looked at me like I was lying when I told them that my oldest daughter was 31. So I laughed and told them, “Well, I was 6 when she was born.”
“You could be in your mid 30s” Max said. Age is this ridiculous thing.
I told him how my second daughter, Grace, was coming to join me for ten days and had sent me a Spanish sentence saying “she is my daughter.” He thought that was so cool.
I came back up to the albergue. I stretched by doing yoga outside on the grass with Max for a half hour and then was so tired I laid down and slept for an hour.
I awoke at 7:20 pm and was still tired. I wanted, however, to go through the video again before uploading it, and that had to happen back at the bar. So, I went back there. I wrote my blog.
Then I sat at the bar talking to Max until 930 pm and then returned to the albergue to go to bed. Once there, sleep eluded me. The hostess came to count who was in bed at about 1030. She turned on the big overhead light for that. Having seen my eyes open, she asked if I understood Spanish. I told her, “un poco.” So she rattled off this long Spanish sentence (paragraph), which I totally couldn’t follow. “Si!” I told her. And she left. Which left me wondering what I had agreed to!
I laid there, looking at the stars, feeling really hot then cool again, awake until around 2 am. Then I finally slept. Everyone was up at 6:30 am the next day and so I got up as well and started walking about 6:50 am.