In deference to Eva’s foot, we decided to keep the day short and only walk to El Buro Ranero, 18 kilometers or four hours out.
This gave us time to explore Sahagun and get the Compostela for the half way point. Eva was gone when we left the dormitory, emerging shortly after with croissants and Tarta Santiago. We ate, drank cafe con leche, and then set out to find the museum.
As luck would have it, it was located right at the Camino, open, and had someone present to sign our Compostelas and stamp our passports. We left the latter with the attendant and walked the museum, marveling over historical pilgrimage descriptions and depictions.
Eva, a few flinches aside when putting much weight on her foot, looked as if she could continue on. Inga, on the other hand, looked beat, unhappy, and not her usual chipper self. When Eva disappeared into one of the side exhibits, I asked.
“It’s… nothing. No, no, it’s something, but it’s not something you or anyone can change.” “Try me?”
“I came here to find something. And I found more than I wanted to find. I found company I love, and company I thoroughly enjoy seeing a few times a week. And then I found you and … Eva … and I enjoy seeing you all the time. But today’s the midpoint. It’s not that long ago, that I met you in a train, and now we’re already half done with it.”
I hugged her. Kissed her neck. “Didn’t you tell me, that the Camino is never over? Maybe this isn’t the half way point but an endpoint. To things you wanted to end before you arrived at the ocean… at the End of the World.”
Eva emerged. “And me?”
We hugged it out. And suddenly there were tears. From all three of us.
When we retrieved our Compostelas and Pilgrim Passports, the attendant smiling knowingly, a massive monitor showing the exhibit with a camera pointed straight at the spot we were standing.
We left, allowed Eva’s foot to rest for a few minutes over a cafe con leche, and then walked on. Our albergue in El Burgo Ranero called a few minutes later, explaining they’d received two backpacks (Eva’s and Inga’s) and that they were confused about two backpacks and three bunk bed reservations. We explained the situation, much to the amazement of the hospitalera who exclaimed loudly that she would have aborted with such an injury.
“Guys, I need to ask something,” Eva broke the silence of our stride along a freeway leading out of town. “Is it really OK for me to come with you?”
Inga told the story of meeting me at the Bayonne train station. And about how we “broke up” in Logroño and remet in Burgos. How we’d decided to walk to Muxia together. “And I want you to come with us,” she finished. “And Mikka will happily carry you there, if you need him to.”
I agreed. Eva smiled, hooked Inga under, and we spent the next hour discussing the finer points of boxers vs. briefs for the Camino, the weirdest Pilgrim, and German vs. Swiss cheeses.
We stopped in Bercianos del Real Camino for a quick lunch, purchased some food and a bottle of wine at a small supermarket because the dog outside looked so cute and Eva wanted a reason to pet him, and walked another hour and a half to El Burgo Ranero.
Our albergue was quaint, located a little off the beaten Camino, friendly and quiet with a nice back yard, and almost devoid of pilgrims. Eva and Inga were assigned one room with another peregrina from Lithuania, I moved into another with two Americans from New Mexico.
We took dinner at the albergue, our five Euro meal consisted of salad and a garlic soup, chicken, sauteed vegetables, and rice, pudding, a banana, and two bottles of wine per table. After filling up on all of the above, we retreated into the yard, chatted with the New Mexicans about motocross and horseback riding in New Mexico, and explained the concept of deep fried marsbars to the Lithuanian peregrina who turned out to be a nun in civilian clothing, walking the Camino to honor her recently deceased head nun.
The wine bottle circled, even the nun took deep swigs, and by ten I was tired and happy, despite the short distance walked. I fell into my bunk and dreamed of nuns racing motocross around a track.