Day Twenty-Eight: Camponaraya to Las Herrerías

I don’t know which wild donkey rode me, but I am sitting in Las Herrerías, 39 kilometers from where I started this morning. Today is day one, Inga is one day behind me, Eva two, and most of the pligrims I’ve met on the Camino are further than that or ahead of me.

I am tired, but happy. And this is how it started this morning…

I got up early and left the albergue, again, before breakfast. In Cacabelos, an hour and a half later, I found coffee and food, spent a few minutes rearranging my hastily packed backpack, and found myself unwilling to relax. I wanted to walk, felt unencumbered and free, and the mostly flat area made it easy to walk in big strides, let my body do its thing, while tending the mind that, until a few days ago, I had considered done.

Many things clogged my thinking. Inga was right, it would all soon be over. Two weeks, fifteen days at the max, and we’d be in our planes and trains home. Rainer, the Swiss, Alyssa, even Inga and Eva would be stories from the Camino, no longer familiar faces greeting me when I rose. I’d be back in white, tending to people as transient to my life as the bars and villages on the Camino were, all leaving their mark, but without the calm of the Way allowing me to decompress.

I’d also come to find something else: health. And while my pants sagged and my belt needed a new notch, I wasn’t sure if that was all. I hadn’t smoked much, lately, but drank a lot more, not the best of trades.

Lastly, I’d neglected those at home, not writing much. All this would have to be done, but not today.

Before I knew it, arrived in Villafranca del Bierzo, stopping long enough to buy two power bars and a coke and take a picture at the famous “door of forgiveness,” a place for pilgrims too sick to continue on to Compostela.

This would have been my stop, but I wasn’t done thinking. Villafranca del Bierzo is large, a few thousand people, and busy, and I didn’t feel like dealing with the bustle. So I kept walking.

The next fifteen kilometers went by in a hurry. Flat and comfortable to walk, I stopped only once more to refill my water at a fuente along the Way. When my stomach started to growl, almost seven o’clock in the afternoon, I realized that I’d walked thirty-four kilometers and was five from Las Herrerías. So I finished the walk, arriving in town just as the last albergue was about to shut down for the night. Since I’d be staying for at least one, if not two, more nights, I opted for the hotel, negotiating a good price due to “waiting for stragglers.” At five Euros more per night I, again, had a shower and bed to myself.

Now I am here, on my own balcony, writing and smoking my last smoke from the pack. I wonder where Eva and Inga are right now. I hope they’re happy and safe.