Albergue Verde 

I’ve found a little slice of heaven in Hospital de Orbigo–the Green Hostel, located on the edge of town. 

For the first time since I arrived in Spain I took a yoga class here. We arranged our mats in a circle in the garden while the teacher played music on a drum he called a hand pan and led us through a meditation on the breath and on sounds.

Even though my foot was hurting, I could feel myself relax. Birds sang in the trees, sounds and smells of cooking came from the kitchen, and voices of people across the garden drifted by. Thunder murmured vaguely in the distance. 

Later we ate a vegan meal made mostly with ingredients that the hospitaleros (innkeepers) grow in their greenhouse: chard pesto, carrot purée, lentil hummus, roast squash, peppers, and mushrooms, and salad. 

The yoga teacher and owner played the guitar for us before the meal began, a song about being happy and loving. How could I feel discouraged here?

In the evening the western sun lit up the last of the storm clouds. People formed small groups in the garden to talk about their day. I rested in a hammock with an ice pack on my foot. Nuria, a nurse from Spain who’s walking the Camino, told me I probably just have muscle and tendon pain from over use. 

Today I’m going to the doctor to get her advice about my foot. I’ve lightened my pack as much as I can, and I’m hoping that tomorrow I can walk a short distance. I’m planning the rest of my pilgrimage around a list of vegetarian albergues on the way, so if I’m able to walk,  those are the places where I’ll stay.

If the doctor thinks I have a stress fracture, I’ll take the train to Santiago and then the bus to the beach. I’ve also found some hot springs in Ourense.

Later today I’ve offered to help with the meal preparations. 

Over Halfway Done … In

Today I’m wondering why I’m doing this Camino for a second time. News from home has been emotional, making me wish I were there to be a support. 

My foot hurts, possibly from over use or from carrying too much weight in my pack. I’m hoping it’s not a stress fracture. 

The mattress in this albergue is flat, and I can feel the metal bar from the bed frame under my back. 

The sun at 7 is still very hot. It’s a searing, dry heat.  After 10 or 11 in the morning, the sun is too strong to walk.

 I want to quit! 

La Meseta

Today I’m in Fromista, a town on the high plateau, known as the meseta. I’m staying at an albergue (a hostel) that’s behind the train station. It’s a quirky place run by a young woman named Tatiana who is giving me all kinds of advice.


I asked her for a lemonade and something small to eat, and she said no, if you snack now you won’t eat your dinner, and I don’t want you to waste food. 

She also told the woman I’ve been walking with that since she was done in from the heat, she should save her health and take the bus to the next town tomorrow. She reasoned that you can’t buy good health, and if you over do it because of pride, you’ll never reach Santiago. 

On the meseta it’s cool at night, about 45 degrees, and the cool air lasts through the morning, until about 11:00. The smart pilgrims wake at 5 am and finish by 11:00 or 12:00, but I’m so slow in the morning. 

Often I’m the last person to leave the albergue in the morning. I need to put on sunscreen, make sure my phone is in my right pocket, passport and money in my secret pocket, and my pilgrim’s credential in the left pocket. 

Once I begin walking, I take a while to warm up. I go slowly. I notice my surroundings, take pictures, and stop in almost every little town to have a cafe con leche or a snack. 

But by late afternoon, when I’m one of the few people left on the road, the sun beats down. It’s a dry heat, but there’s no shade on the meseta, and the sun crisps the skin and the air.

The way is flat. If you stand still, all you can hear is wind rustling the wheat and birds singing, hidden in the grass and shrubs. If you look out at the fields, it feels like you’re on the edge of a vast ocean of wheat. In the far distance you can see the last curl of the Pyrenees as it rolls into the northern coast. 

Burgos 

I’ve been staying in a hotel in Burgos for a few days to rest up. Right now it’s 10 am and I’m sitting in a cafe across from the municipal hostel.  

 People from all over the world are here having cafe con leche before they begin their day’s walk or start exploring the city. Others are having a coffee after putting their backpacks in a line to hold their place for a bed in the hostel. At eight euros a night, the spots fill quickly.  

 I had “café con leche grande con doble la leche,” a large latte with double the milk, and “tostada con tomate,” a slice of homemade bread toasted and served with olive oil and fresh tomato sauce. 

The body’s needs come to the fore on the Camino. While walking, I often think about what I’ll order at the next small town–sparkling mineral water, fresh orange juice, espresso, potato omelette, empanada, bocadillo (a kind of sandwich served on a baguette or a small thin roll).

Two children from Ireland are sitting near me while their parents sit outside. When I asked them if they liked the Camino, they said that their favorite part was the breaks! I told them that many of us feel the same way.

But pilgrims’ bodies give us other messages besides hunger and thirst. Many of us hobble into towns with blisters, strange insect bites, swollen knees, sore backs or shoulders, and colds. 

Today I’m resting and drinking tons of water. My nose is irritated from having a cold and being outside all day in the wind. It’s raining here, 48 degrees. A good day to write, sleep, and hang out at Babia. 

The Camino Provides

This Camino has been a bit different than the last time I walked in Spain. Two years ago I thought I would write poetry or memoir about my experiences, but this time I’m just letting myself live in the moment. 

I walk alone most of the time, but every once in a while I’ll meet up with someone who wants to talk, and so I listen. One girl from Canada shared a quote from Plato: “Be tender, because we all have battles to fight.” 

There’s a saying on the Camino that “the Camino provides.” People refer to this saying as a way of accounting for the little miracles that seem to happen along the way. 

For example, a woman whose hip was too sore to walk the last three miles to town happened to meet up with a young man who offered to drive her the rest of the way.

Another example happened with me and the Canadian girl, Miranda. She had passed me earlier in Cirueña ( a bleak town with zero charm). But after leaving the town and returning to the gravel road, I saw her sitting on the ground.

I recognized her black hair gathered in a top knot. Even though two other women had already stopped to help her, something drew me to her. She told me her feet were in pain, and I realized it was because she was walking in old trainers.

The day before, I had just mailed my boots back to the US because they were hurting my feet, but I kept the insoles for some reason. I don’t know why, because they wouldn’t fit the new shoes I bought.

Right away I pulled the orange shock absorbing insoles out f the bottom of my pack. My stuff was on the ground next to Miranda while she trimmed the toe part to make it fit. We walked together for about three miles and her feet felt great. 

I don’t think the Camino has magical powers more than any other path in life, but when we are all walking together, we end up making the little miracles happen. It’s a matter of noticing, of caring for each other, wherever we are. 

 

Murazabal, Camino Redux

I’ve arrived at Murazabal after five days of walking. I stayed here two years ago, and it’s just as beautiful as I remember–peaceful, birds singing everywhere, fennel growing wild. 

A few images from the last four days

Griffin vultures soaring over the mountain pass

An Appaloosa pony shaking her blonde mane

Wind running across a field green wheat