I woke up early the next morning, thanks to a lot of chattering and creaking. I was in a dormitory with about 25 beds.
My earplugs could no longer shut out the seven Spanish ladies who were chattering away. They were very noisy, packing their backpacks. Unbelievable. I had noticed before that pilgrims who were travelling as a group could be very noisy.
they didn't see and value their surroundings and took up all the space, often at the expense of the individual pilgrim
Strangely enough, I didn't dare to say anything about it. Instead, I just pressed my earplugs further down my ears and yanked my sleeping bag over my head.
Why didn't I dare to confront those ladies with their annoying behaviour? What was holding me back? I had always thought I could be quite tough. Or maybe I was too shy after all? Or maybe
I was afraid of being rejected?
After a while the ladies finally left the dormitory. I was glad to find the peace and quiet so I could get up at my own pace. I left the monastery and looked for a place where I could get some breakfast.
I spotted a nice, inviting bar and found a seat on the terrace in the early morning sun. A Spanish lady I had met before in another inn was sitting nearby. She recognised me too and she smiled
We started talking. She told me that she had to end her own Camino to Santiago. I was surprised and asked her why she had to do this. She didn't answer.
Instead, she pulled off her socks. I looked and got a huge shock, wow...I had never seen anything like this. Her feet were covered with giant blisters. As if she had some sort of scary disease. I suddenly realised that
my feet were still blister-free
And that this was clearly not so self-evident. Of course, I had suffered a painful shin injury, that hadn't been a joke either.
I was so grateful for my miracle
I told her my story about meeting the wise, mystical man with the grey beard. She was impressed. I wished she would have had such a special encounter as well.
She told me that she would leave the trail, and try again next year. I had a deep respect for her courageous decision.
After our breakfast, we said goodbye. When I continued my journey, I had some mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was glad that I was still blessed to be able to walk, but on the other hand I was kind of dreading the long, lonely and monotonous hike of today.
As it was already late in the morning, there wasn't another pilgrim in sight anymore. There was just the endless plain stretching out in front of me. In the meantime, it had become pretty hot as well. My overflowing backpack was ridiculously heavy with all the food and was really pulling at my right shoulder. And not a glimpse of any shade in sight.
I checked my route book and saw that I would have to walk for five hours before arriving at the next village, Calzadilla de la Cueza. Between me and the village, there was only one picnic spot.
Putting one foot in front of the other, I began today's hike. I slowly followed the trail, absorbed in my own thoughts. The sun burning on my head.
After a couple of hours I reached the picnic spot. Or rather...it looked more like an abandoned bus stop where you can wait forever for a bus that will never come. On one of the walls someone had written:
walk with the sun…till your shadow disappears
I wasn't alone at the picnic spot. A woman was sitting on the bench in the shade. We said hello. She came from Germany. She told me she had a boyfriend, but she explicitly wanted to hike to Santiago on her own, without a partner. It was obvious she hadn't regretted her decision for a single moment, she was enjoying herself immensely.
When she had finished her lunch, she got up to continue her journey. I stayed for a while to enjoy the wonderful shade. At the same time, I stuffed myself with all the food I had taken with me, if only to empty my backpack...of course I had brought way too much.
I continued on my hike and I finally arrived in the first village, Calzadilla de la Cueza. It was a small village. As I had more or less passed the village, I was suddenly overtaken by another pilgrim...the cheeky Spanish lady with cigarette passed me with a steady pace. She stopped for a moment and said with a smile:
'I am a marathon runner'
Great....I said, and couldn't help laughing.
'but I do not feel well today'
Oh, I said. We can walk together for a while, if you want to. I hadn't even finished my sentence when she suddenly started to throw up violently in the middle of the road. The vomit was flying around and even went on my hiking boots...
I was horrified as I hadn't seen this coming. And honestly, I wasn't feeling too good myself because of this. But I felt really sorry for her and said:
'you cannot walk on, I'll carry your backpack and take you to an inn'
Looking like a mule, with a backpack on my back as well as one in front of my body, I walked with the marathon runner, who was as white as a sheet, back to an inn I had seen along the way before. I made sure she was well taken care of. After this I winked at her and said:
'take care of yourself runner lady and slow down'
I decided to walk on for an hour or two, to the next village, Ledigos. Here I found a comfortable inn. And I even met the German lady again, which was very nice.
In the evening we got a table at the inn for a delicious dinner. There was also a cool Canadian guy, with a divine body, sitting at our table. Unfortunately he also had a shin injury. I asked him:
‘If you had to choose between arriving in Santiago with a very painful shin injury or a very special life experience during the journey itself, which would make arriving in Santiago more or less irrelevant...what would you choose?’
'I want to obtain the certificate and will arrive in Santiago anyway'
I respected his answer I suddenly remembered an earlier prayer by a monk in one of the parish inns:
'blessed are you, pilgrim, if what worries you most is not to arrive but arrive with the others'