Eating the last power bar from my backpack and drinking water from the tap, too tired to get dressed and visit the local bar, I fell into bed last night, unshowered and without brushing my teeth. I woke at nine to fix those omissions, then went back and slept until room cleaning knocked at almost noon the next day.
Rising from the dead, I decided to find food and a place to wash my clothes, both of which turned out to be managed exclusively by the owners of my hotel. Strengthened with bread, cheese, and salami, in possession of a new pack of cigarettes and a new supply of power bars, I explored town, all seven houses of it, all along the Camino.
One of the final houses on the left must have been what Inga meant when she asked if we were scared of horses. A man, introducing himself as Victor, tended six of them. All of them rescues, as he explained, earning their keep by taking pilgrims up onto the peak of O Cebreiro. Victor himself walked the distance at least twice a day, never one to not do what he asked his horses to, and definitely not one to trust pilgrims alone with his animals.
We talked about the Camino and he revealed that, aside from his horse rescue, which was more a hobby and didn’t quite pay for itself, he also rented bikes to ride down the Alto do Poyo, which we’d have to cross tomorrow, and planned on installing a zip line business along the Way as well.
“If you go, horse or not, let me know,” he demanded. “I’ll have your backpacks at the next stop in no time, five bucks per, and you won’t have to carry them up the Alto or O Cebreiro. Plus, it’ll get you a bed.”
We finished our beers, Victor headed for dinner, and I joined a group of hippies camping at an albergue at the beginning of town, to play bongos and pass on the passed joints. Leaving the albergue I spotted a small group of pilgrims coming down the hill in the distance. A red shirt and green backpack made my heart jump a little… Inga.
Soon after, having hugged and kissed it out, Inga followed me into the hotel, we added her as a second to the room, and called Eva. She’d been recovering well, and would take a cab to Las Herreiras the next morning, bright and early, to ascend O Cebreiro with us.
Inga had stories of Lilly, who now had left her Camino Family and was contemplating returning to Roncesvalles to restart her Camino there, alone. She’d quit her job, planning to walk until her money was gone, then fly home to find a new one. Francis, the Belgian pilgrim we’d met in Leon had been robbed at knife point the next morning and left to go home. “I feel good when I can walk alone,” she confessed, “but I feel happier and safer when you’re nearby.” adding that, “I know that the Camino is safer than my home town, but the stories here are closer, more personal, when they happen.” She was right.
She fell asleep early, curled up into a ball on my bed, and her breathing guided me into the same.