Tonight I’m in Portomarin. I arrived hobbling and sniffling. I’m afraid I’m getting a cold. I woke up this morning with a sore throat and a stuffy nose. The next several days will be long with over 20km each day. That’s a long day for me, at my pace. Most pilgrims seem to walk about 25km each day. That seems to be about the average, but I am much slower. I’m hoping to make it to Santiago de Compostela by Friday the 13th. I think I’m on track, as long as I don’t get too sick and have to take a day off.
Right now I’m in an albergue below a bar in Portomarin. This city has a very long bridge that you walk across to arrive in town and then they make you walk up a big staircase! Such cruelty.
In my little dorm room there are three bunk beds and I’m in this room with four guys from the South of Spain. They are all on vacation together and just set out from Sarria today. They all know of Albuquerque because of the show “Breaking Bad”. It’s the favorite tv show of two of them, apparently. It made me laugh. They’re a funny group. They are from Andalusia, which they say is the “True Spain”. There are 17 provinces in Spain and each are very different from each other. I have a feeling these four work in the tourism industry because they said they couldn’t come on vacation until now. They had to wait for the tourist season to be over. I can tell they’ve been friends for a really long time. I just had to referee an argument between two of them about which one is taller. It seems that these two have this argument every day, for the last twenty years. I believe one looked just ever so slightly taller than the other, but it was hardly anything. It might even be the hair of one that just sticks up a bit more. They are basically the same height, but it seems that they can’t accept that. This is definitely one of the liveliest albergues I’ve been in on my trip. I think it might have to do with the bar being upstairs, but also there are a lot of new pilgrims who have the excitement of starting their Camino today. Lots of new blistered feet and aches and pains around here. I thought by Day 6 on the Camino I would start to feel better and be doing this easier than I am, but I’m finding it to be tougher and tougher. Not just physically, with my feet and my shoulders hurting and losing weight, but also mentally with the constantly walking longer distances and all the things that are closed along the way. It’s just difficult.
Today when I left Sarria, there was a small stretch of the Camino that was absolutely perfect. It was so beautiful and serene and the sun was rising and there was a little fog in the valley and a chill in the air. It was so lovely. If I could have bottled those few minutes of walking through that place this morning, I would have. It was so peaceful and it made me so glad to be here, doing this, right now. Despite feeling poorly, there are these moments each day that make it worthwhile. There are the best moments and the worst moments of each day. Every day is like this. You want to quit and then you feel elated that you’re here and you’re able to do this right now. It’s a constant rollercoaster ride. I don’t know how many times I’ve caught myself, at random points in the day, wishing I were at home, sitting on my little purple couch, watching Inspector Lewis mysteries. And then I have to shake myself out of that funk, knowing that this is where I dreamed to be. Don’t wish yourself out of this moment. Try to enjoy it. That’s what I’m trying to do here.
After my wonderful stretch, I had a weird and uncomfortable stretch. It reminds me of what happened at the park in Bilbao with the man who made me really uncomfortable. This time it was a younger man, a pilgrim, who was walking at my same pace. I had stopped to go into a church and look around and when I came out, this fellow was walking by. I said Buen Camino as usual and walked on, but since we were at rather the same pace, he was walking with me. My internal ‘stranger danger’ alarm was sounding after just being around him for a minute or so. I started stopping a lot to take photos of random things to allow him to get further on up the road. He would do the same as the man in Bilbao. He would walk ahead and then stop and turn around and look at me before continuing on. He wasn’t waiting for me to catch up, he was just stopping every so often to turn around and look at me. I don’t know his name or where he was from because when he talked to me, he spoke not in Spanish, but I couldn’t actually tell what language he spoke. It didn’t sound like Italian or Portuguese, but I just couldn’t make out what it was. Maybe it was Spanish, but a very different dialect I haven’t heard yet? I really couldn’t make out a word he said, but he kept insisting on talking to me and walking closer to me. I tried to get him to understand that I preferred to walk alone. Eventually, he was ahead of me, but he would stop at each way marker, turn around, and shout at me. I mean, scream something at me that I could never make out. This continued for about 3km, until I had slowed enough for another group of pilgrims to catch up and get between he and I. It was as if he didn’t think I could follow the arrows and find my way down the Camino by myself or something. I have no idea. I’m in dairy country now and at one point while stalling for time, I spotted this cow and I took this picture because she was making the exact face that I wanted to make at that moment:
He was strange and I really hope I never see him again. I don’t know what his deal was, but it was really uncomfortable. This is the only really weird encounter I’ve had with another pilgrim. Far and away, the pilgrims on the Camino have been wonderful companions to walk with for a while. I’ve met so many lovely people that I wouldn’t have met any other way.
I feel pretty rotten right now, but I passed the 100km mark today, and that was a highlight. I actually got a little ahead of myself and celebrated at wrong way marker. So, I had to celebrate twice! I wasn’t the only one to do this, as somebody left their walking stick at the first 100km sign, I’m assuming as a signal that they didn’t need it any longer. Or maybe they left it on accident after celebrating at it.
I’ve walked something like 110km now from Ponferrada, so I’m over halfway to my goal. I will just get up in the morning and see how it goes. My roommates have all gone upstairs to party hearty at the bar. They only have a week’s vacation, so I know they’re pretty jazzed about being here. Three of the four have all done this Camino before. I’m hoping to get a little sleep before they leave the bar and come back down here, because once they are back in this room, I know I’m going to be woken up. I hope I don’t sniffle all night and I hope I don’t really have a cold, but maybe just some allergies from the stale smoke in the hotel last night. Maybe it just irritated my sinuses or something. Off to sleep!